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Wednesday, 10 July 1946

Mr BARNARD (Bass) .- This measure is of tremendous importance to the people of Australia. As the Minister for Immigration and Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) stated in his secondreading speech, and as the hill provides, the agreement is one between the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, India, and Rhodesia. It covers practically the whole of the British Commonwealth. I do not know of any legislation placed before this Parliament which has had such wide ramifications and implications. I take it that the operating company is to be adequately compensated. Indeed, if we accept the statement of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited is to be more, than amply compensated for the assets that are to be acquired. The adoption of an anti-Australian view in regard to the problems of Australia and their solution seems to be commonplace among members of the Opposition. The Leader of the Australian Country party has just given us a demonstration of it. It may be argued that the proposed compensation for the assets that ' are to be acquired is too high. That, however, is a matter which can be decided only after investigation and assessment by competent persons. I accept the assurance of the Minister that the employees referred to by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) will be properly protected and compensated. These may be regarded as the domestic aspects of the transaction. There is a much broader aspect. The bill provides that the assets of the operating company shall be acquired by the nation. An agreement is to be made between the countries I. ha ve mentioned.

As previous speakers have pointed out, this subject was first canvassed as far back as 1926. In the intervening period, it has been considered by governments of all shades of political thought. The present La bour Government is once more making history. Ever since it has been on the treasury bench, it has tackled the internal and' external problems of Australia in a manner that has done credit to itself and given satisfaction to the people of this country. The bill is designed to deal mainly with communications within the British Empire. I should like the Minister, when replying to the debate, to state .what effect the termination of the agreement with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited will have on the services that are now operated by that concern on behalf of the Postmaster - General's Department. These services increase its revenue, and concurrently add to the costs which have to be borne by the people who receive them. I have in mind the Flinders Island radio service, concerning which I have made representations to various Ministers over a period of years. A surcharge is levied on all telegrams to and from the island, and this imposes an unfair toll on the inhabitants of that isolated area who have had to use the service provided by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. The injustice of the impost has been most apparent since the provision of a radio telephone service to the island. I should like to know what effect the termination of the agreement with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited will have oh the people of that part of my electorate. Will the Postmaster-General's Department be able to control entirely its own business to that and other remote localities? Will the surcharge be removed, and will the residents of the island be placed on « basis similar to that of the great majority of the people of Australia ? The bill seeks- -to give effect to an agreement that has wide ramifications. Australia has everything to gain and nothing to .lose by the Empire agreement -for which the measure provides. ' , -

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