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Tuesday, 18 October 1983
Page: 1872


Mr TUCKEY(9.33) —I want to raise only a couple of small matters in relation to these Bills. The first matter relates to the fact that in this legislation, for the first time in Australian history-and, some of my constituents advise me, for one of the first times in the world-we are going to license receivers. The Minister for Communications (Mr Duffy) has assured us that such things as private television receivers and, presumably, our transistor radios are not to be included. But my constituents have asked me to raise with the Minister the question of where the line will be drawn. They point out to me that many people use sophisticated receivers for very many reasons and that, in fact, their very sophistication guarantees that they will not create the type of interference that could have been common in times gone by. The technology of today has raised the standards.

Some of these people of ethnic origin have bought and operate high standard receivers, as compared with transmitters, so that they can access national programs emanating from their own country-for instance, from Europe and other places. Some of my constituents feel that these people will be disadvantaged if they are required to pay for a licence for just that simple purpose when, in fact, they will be buying equipment that is sold by reputable retailers. In fact , in their view this equipment really does not need to be licensed. Maybe the Minister will assure us that the line is to be drawn at a much higher level than that. Apparently such items as general coverage receivers have a huge band in which they can receive. In some cases these receivers are quite large and sophisticated. Probably the persons concerned would not be so worried about paying a licence fee for the very large models.

On behalf of my constituents I call on the Minister to clarify somewhat more exactly what type of receiver will have to be licensed. I think the public is entitled to know. I do not think that should be a grey area. I ask the Minister to clarify in particular just how the Government proposes to police such a matter. We well remember the days of licensing of television sets when people were confronted with a knock on the door. They were somewhat embarrassed. Inspectors went around. My constituents say that unless some action of that nature-some quiet attack on privacy-is carried out, such a requirement will be difficult, if not impossible, to police. I think we have to be very careful about this particular aspect. A receiver is not a transmitter. It is not one of the things just referred to by the honourable member for Grey (Mr O'Neil) which could be used to interfere with an aircraft, to trigger a bomb or anything of that nature. It is purely an implement to hear what somebody else is saying. My constituents who are ham operators, amongst other things, tell me that the present level of technology is such that the concerns of the Department of Communications in this area probably are based on history rather than on the future.

I point out to the Minister for Communications that it is not a criticism of the Bill. It is an issue that has been raised by people in my electorate who think that the Government has gone a little too far with that. In fact we may be able to overcome that problem by giving some clear definition of the type of receiver that has to be licensed so that many people who do use fairly sophisticated equipment for their private enjoyment will not have to pay for a licence or go through all the bureaucratic arrangements associated with that.

The other issue which I have raised previously relates directly to the spectrum that these two Bill cease to licence. We still have difficulty because of decisions taken many years ago when we did not adopt in its entirety the international guidelines relating to the use of this particular spectrum. We still have difficulty accommodating frequency modulation radio and television transmission because these two particular means of broadcasting tend to clash in the same area. In Western Australia we are still experiencing some difficulty in getting into operation particular FM radio stations which have been provided because all the frequency changes that are necessary have not yet been made.

Although I noted that some of these matters are being addressed in the Budget we have a situation where, I gather, the final Australian report has not been made on how the frequency should be administered in the future. This is creating a problem for Western Australians, although I do not think it is of great difficulty. I understand that on the east coast there are many more stations which conflict with one another. I understand that a problem exists with places such as New Zealand and other countries. If that is a major problem and if it will take a long time to resolve, I believe that the Western Australian area is sufficiently remote and remote from other countries-we can basically say that the next country with which our transmission could interfere would be Africa-for the frequency arrangements to be treated separately. This should be resolved. The Government has promised to establish various FM radio stations and television stations but they have been held up because of this frequency problem . These problems could be addressed immediately. If these matters are not dealt with immediately we will know that it is as a result of some other decision-for instance, there may be no money-or that the Government does not want to establish the stations. At the moment if any project is not going ahead it is blamed on the inquiry into the frequency arrangements in Australia.

I do not think that Western Australia should be included in the Australia-wide inquiry. I believe that separate arrangements can and should be made for Western Australia. I ask the Minister to talk to his Department and to look closely at whether Western Australia can be treated separately in this national inquiry unless, of course, the Minister can point out to me that there are special reasons why activities in Western Australia would have an effect on the frequency spectrum in the eastern States. They are the two matters I wish to raise. I am pleased to conclude on that note.