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Tuesday, 29 November 1938

Mr RIORDAN (Kennedy) .- I wish to refer again to the establishment of an A class broadcasting station to serve western Queensland - a subject which I have raised in this chamber on a number of occasions. During the term of office of Senator A. J. McLachlan as Postmaster-General, about 300 letters were sent to him on thi3 subject by representatives of every section of the community in western Queensland. Recently the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), accompanied by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Foll), visited certain towns in north-western and central -western Queensland. While there, several deputations waited upon them, and presented the case for the establishment of an A class station to serve that area, but their request was refused point blank. When Senator Foll was receiving a deputation at Hughendon in north-western Queensland, I suggested that the application for an A class station had been rejected because the population of the district was too small. Senator Foll replied that that was contrary to the policy of the Government. But within a week of the Prime Minister and his party leaving western Queensland the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs announced in the press that northwestern Queensland would never be given an A class station. Naturally, the people in that area are agitated. They will be called upon to contribute to the largely increased expenditure on defence, yet when they ask for some consideration in respect of their radio licences, their application is refused. The exPostmasterGeneral (Senator A. J. McLachlan) said that he would improve the short-wave stations in Victoria and "Western Australia in order that the western portion of Queensland might be given better radio service. "Whenever I am in my electorate I listen to various programmes on all kinds of wireless receiving sets, in order to find out for myself the nature of the reception. For four months the reception is only fair. For the remaining eight months of the year all that can be heard consists of howls, squeals and noises indicative of static. It is the responsibility of the department to arrange for the erection of a 7,000 to 10,000 watt broadcasting station in the central west of Queensland to serve that area and the north-western portion of Queensland. Longreach is about 500 miles from Dalby, where an A class station has been erected, and I have been informed that the erection of that station will definitely improve reception in western Queensland. From Townsville, which is 350 miles distant in a direct line, the reception in the central west and north-western districts is practically impossible, but it is contended that the station at Dalby will be of benefit to the people in these areas. I received a letter from the Postmaster-General in connexion with this subject in which he stated that the limited population to be served made it economically impossible to provide a broadcasting service for western Queensland on exactly similar lines to those provided in the more populous parts of the Commonwealth. 1 remind the Minister that it is not economically impossible to impose taxes on those people in the remote parts of the Commonwealth who produce wool, beef, mutton, and minerals, and who, leaving behind them all the comforts and conveniences of civilization, carry on the important work of developing this great continent. Notwithstanding the valuable service which the people of western Queensland are rendering, the Governnent contends that it is economically impossible to erect an A class station to serve them, and thus enable them to receive much more suitable programmes than they receive from the short-wave station in Victoria. Even those who are fortunate enough to possess a short-wave set are not satisfied with the service they receive. The news service which is relayed to them, and is supposed to be of great benefit, usually concerns events in the Darling Downs district, or in areas close to Brisbane. Sometimes they hear something concerning the Burnett River districts or districts to the north of Brisbane, but they hear little or nothing concerning western Queensland. The programmes transmitted from the short-wave station are obviously useless to the people of western Queensland.

There is a 400- watt B class station at Longreach, the transmission from which is received exceptionally well even in the Cairns district; in fact, on the Atherton Tableland the reception is better from Longreach than from the national station at Townsville. "When the Longreach station sent a representative to Canberra to interview the Postmaster-General to ascertain if he would make available free of charge to the Australian Broadcasting Commission a land-line from Rockhampton to Longreach, he was told that he should interview Mr. Malone, the radio inspector in Melbourne. He interviewed Mr. Malone in Melbourne, who informed him that he should confer with the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in Sydney. He was pushed from one official to another, and eventually was advised by the Postmaster-General that the line could not be made available. All that was required was the use by the Broadcasting Commission, and not by a B class station, of a land-line from Rockhampton to Longreach. Had that been made available, the commission could have relayed free of charge through 4LG at Longreach, items of general interest to the people of western Queensland. The request was rejected by the Postmaster-General on the ground that, if the concession were granted in that instance, similar facilities would have to be afforded to other B class stations in the Commonwealth. That may have been considered a reasonable explanation, but the conditions in western Queensland are totally different from those in any other part of Australia owing to the vast area which at present is not served by any broadcasting station, with the exception of this small station at Longreach. Broadcasts from the national station, through 4LG, would give the service to which the people are entitled. Although 4LG offered to relay the service free of all cost to the department, the Postmaster-General turned down the request. If this Government wishes to assist residents in the outback area - the Country party Ministers in the Cabinet should be anxious to do so - it should remove some of the disabilities under which these people labour. They are, to use their own expression, becoming " fed up to the back teeth " with the treatment they are receiving from this Government. This subject has been under consideration since 1932. Now that we have a PostmasterGeneral who represents a country electorate, I earnestly trust that people in the more remote parts of the Commonwealth will receive more consideration rhan they have had in the past. I believe that if a more satisfactory service is not provided, many holders of wireless licences will decline to renew them, and will dispose of their wireless sets. Surely, people in that locality are entitled to more consideration than those living in metropolitan areas who have many comforts and conveniences. Those living in capital cities have morning and evening papers from which to obtain all the information they desire, whereas the settlers in Western Queensland have to depend almost entirely on radio transmission for news. I appeal tq the PostmasterGeneral to reconsider his decision and to authorize the erection of an A class wireless broadcasting station in western Queensland.

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