Page 2670 - Week 08 - Friday, 1 July 2005

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to the television industry and aim to be financially self-sufficient. Technically the aim was to allow the station to operate on TransACT, GrangeNet and the wider internet and, after the regular flow of television material was up and running, to apply for the free-to-air community broadcasting licence in the ACT.

Groups such as TransACT, CSIRO, the Australian museum, the war memorial, the city’s universities, arts and community groups, and even some aspects of government itself, including the ACCC, the tax office and the ACT Multicultural Council, have expressed interest in supporting the project since its inception in 2002. So it was surprising that, when promoters of Canberra community television took up their proposal to government after they sought advice from the Chief Minister’s office—they took their proposal to Business ACT in December 2004 and Business ACT said, “This is the place you need to be,” and the proposal for their pilot was put forward—many months later the government rejected the request, saying it was prepared to put up $25,000 in sponsorship money but only if the project got up and running and they found their start up funds elsewhere. The government gave no reason for this decision.

On the face of it, the response is not only disheartening but also inexplicable. Here is a project that encapsulates all the things the Stanhope government claims to hold dear—community, innovation, education, job development and the promotion of Canberra as the country’s centre of creativity. Contrast this decision with some of the activities, if not virtual activities, the government is prepared to finance during the budget. Perhaps I should not labour the arboretum. We all know that we love the arboretum.

In addition to the $2.1 million of strategic projects in the Chief Minister’s Department there, $2.3 million is earmarked for the Chief Minister’s communication output class, aka the Chief Minister’s propaganda unit. Leave aside what is covered by the $34 million devoted to the Chief Minister’s strategy policy which the budget papers tell us used to provide ongoing advice in relation to whole-of-government policy development and implementation. We have a whole range of other things. There is, as I have said, the minimum of $14.1 million for the arboretum, which we know is nothing like the costs for this vanity project which, if it goes ahead, will cost so much that the government does not dare tell us what that will be. We know that ACIL Tasman says it will not work.

We have $7.3 million for the Human Rights Commission; the cost of the Chief Minister’s decision to intervene in the bushfires, which is so far $1.5 million and climbing; the vanity project of the Belconnen busway at $100 million; and a smaller vanity project for Mr Corbell of $6.7 million for real-time bus information. All of these things could have been provided. I wonder why the government does not want to sponsor this organisation and sponsor this great community innovation.

Yesterday the minister said he did not know anything about it but he was “sure that we would look favourably on it”. I think perhaps Business ACT has rejected it because the station might be too independent and the venture would not necessarily support the sectional interests of the ALP but rather the whole community; and heaven help anyone who might be critical of the Stanhope government. I suppose the other possibility is that supporting such a project would be too close to endorsing Liberal Party policy, which was lampooned by the Treasurer before the election. He was always quick to say that film and television was not the way of the future, and he now means to prove it.

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