Mr HUSIC (Chifley) (16:50): Madam Speaker, you know winter is coming, and you also know what comes around the corner with winter. On 5 March the NRL season begins again, and I think I have spotted you once or twice wearing the jersey of a team that we both admire, the Parramatta Eels! In early April, another game that apparently attracts the attention of people like the member for Higgins will start—and I refuse to name it here at the dispatch box, but that starts on 2 April. There is a lot of excitement. People like to go to the games. I certainly love watching the Eels play, and I have seen the Wanderers and the Kings and many other teams participate in sport. Live sport is one of the great experiences you can have.
But not everyone can get to a game, and they prefer to watch on TV. Certainly I remember when I was watching the grand final last year. In 2014 I was staggered that you still could not get, on your primary channel, the main sporting events of this country on high definition. It is something that I raised publicly at the time, and I was very critical of the fact that free-to-air channels do not do this, but they commendably and patiently explained that it was not entirely their fault.
They certainly do feel the anger, the ire, of footy fans. In particular I note this one on the fan site BigFooty, who said:
In this modern era with billion dollar TV rights it is nothing short of a joke that our sports biggest day is shown in SD.
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Some might say "get over it" or "not first world problem" but this is a massive industry and the great game is let down by not being telecast in HD.
Fair call! So why are we being so poorly done by?
If you go to the industry group Free TV, they will explain that the reason for this is that there is a requirement that the primary channel be in standard definition in this country and, under the anti-siphoning laws, you have to show a lot of these big events straightaway on that primary channel. That has an impact in terms of what people can watch. Some may say that not everyone is capable of getting an HDTV. That does not appear to be the case, because if you look at nearly every single capital city in this nation, over 90 per cent of homes have a high definition TV. It is not the case that people will miss out if we change this over. It is also probably worth noting that analogue TV is being switched off in this country; it is the equivalent of putting E10 fuel in your car when 98-octane is freely available.
In December 2013, Free TV Australia wrote to Minister Turnbull requesting a change to the law to allow HDTV on the primary channels. They have proposed to the government that we get rid of the restriction on HD on the main channel. This is a quote from Julie Flynn. As she rightly points out:
This is something they could do tomorrow. Just do it. It’s bleedingly obvious.
This discussion paper was released in January and they are asking the industry to respond by March. As the industry association rightly points out, this could be done tomorrow. You do not need a discussion paper and you certainly do not need the red tape of a discussion paper to do it.
Self-made, or self-described, Messiah, the Minister for Communication, has been talking about a lot of things outside his portfolio and gracing us with his wisdom. He has also shown that by all accounts he is able to bring people of all different walks together. In fact, he can bring together people who do not actually like him to agree with things he is proposing. Given that he has these great persuasive and lobbying skills, you could expect that he would be able to deploy them in a way the public would appreciate. I certainly think the public would appreciate it if we were able to change the law, cut the red tape and make sure our sports are in high definition glory. It is the least we could expect in this day and age—particularly when we are able to see, for example, sports like the World Cup shown on SBS and ESPN subscriber TV in high-definition. Certainly the bulk of the public, and those who do not have subscriber TV, should be entitled to see something that in this day and age, in other parts of the world, is freely available. You would expect a country as great as ours to be able to show the sports the public love. Go the Eels and enjoy the rest of 2015.