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Wednesday, 28 March 2001
Page: 25929

Ms O'BYRNE (7:31 PM) —This evening I wish to raise an issue of great importance to people within my electorate: the completion of the television tower on Browns Mountain. I wish to tell the House of a story of hard work, of tenacity and of community, a story of a local community and their triumph over privatisation. This is a story of a small community's battle to receive that most basic of communication infrastructure needs—television services. I hasten to point out that this community is not hundreds of miles from established services but is in fact only a few minutes from my home town.

Lilydale is located just 20 kilometres from Launceston and the problem faced by nearly everyone within the greater Lilydale community is the poor quality of television reception within the area. This is an issue that I have brought to the attention of the House on a number of occasions—namely, occasions filled with government inaction which have stalled the construction of the tower upon Browns Mountain. This tower, for which I now understand construction is to commence tomorrow, will deliver to the people of Lilydale something that we all take for granted—basic television service. We must be very careful not to trivialise the issue of television services. Each time I am in Lilydale, the issue of the tower is raised with me. It is raised not only by the residents of Lilydale, by the parents and by the children but also by teachers at the Lilydale district school.

Teachers at the local school have been continually concerned that the lack of television reception within Lilydale was having a detrimental impact upon the education and social development of the children who live there. The teachers simply are not able to ask the children in their class to do any homework that is based upon television news or current affairs portrayed on television. This is a picture of a community, just 20 kilometres outside of Launceston, without any television service to speak of. In this House in June of 1999, almost two years ago, I raised this issue and said:

The community of Lilydale in northern Tasmania is a privatisation casualty. Lilydale has been unquestionably adversely affected by the federal government's failure to ensure the continuation of a partially constructed television transmission tower.

I might remind members that this was a tower which the government had already invested substantial public funds towards developing. Unfortunately, the rapid growth in the number of transmitters—from 826 to 1,197 in the years 1992 to 1997 nationally—is unlikely to grow with the sale of the NTA to the NTL. I know the residents of Lilydale would have liked to have seen the number of operational transmitters in that financial year grow by at least one. Lilydale is a Tasmanian example which illustrates the implications of privatisation. The federal government must attempt to discover a sense of fairness and equity which extends to regional areas.

The impact of the privatisation of the NTA upon Lilydale was devastating. The National Transmission Authority had planned for the construction of the tower on Browns Mountain. However, no provision was made for its construction within the sale of the authority. This meant that the NTL, which purchased the National Transmission Authority, were under no obligation to commence the construction of this vital service to Lilydale, despite promises by the previous member, a member of the current government, to ensure that this service existed. After the federal government finally agreed to provide additional funding to the ABC for the construction of the tower, the community were hopeful that they would be at the end of their battle. Unfortunately, this was not the case.

The delay caused through both the privatisation of the National Transmission Authority and federal government inaction in providing funding for this construction has denied the people of Lilydale this most basic of connections to the world. The government speaks so fondly of all it has done for communications in Tasmania yet these people do not even have television. The delay resulted in the planning permit, which the National Transmission Authority had received for the construction, expiring. This, combined with the time taken to receive the agreement of land-holders for the construction, caused further delay.

During this time the community of Lilydale continued to fight strongly for the service that they deserve. This was a David and Goliath fight. The small community of under 1,000 people felt forgotten, let down and particularly very angry with this federal government. But the passion the people of Lilydale have for the construction of the tower remained. Not a week went by without my office being contacted by residents of Lilydale for advice on the progress of the tower. It was impossible to visit the town without this issue being raised again and again. I am very pleased to inform the House that, in spite of the federal government actions, or inaction, the tower is finally going ahead. What a victory for this wonderful community—a small local town attempting to gain what many of us take for granted.

During the last year my office has been in regular contact with the ABC on the progress of the tower construction. I wish to note for the record my personal thanks to Craig Todd and Denise Musto of the ABC, who have worked so professionally and so tirelessly on this issue. But my real congratulations go to the community of Lilydale, who have worked so hard in gaining this for their community. The tower will be operational later than they expected, and certainly much later than they deserved, but through their hard work the tower will soon be delivering to this terrific town the quality of TV signal it so richly deserves.