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Friday, 25 September 1970

Mr HULME (Petrie) (PostmasterGeneral and Vice-President of the Executive Council) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Mr Speaker,the Bill which I now introduce seeks to give effect to the Government's intention to increase the licence fees for radiocommunication stations. In order to give effect to the proposed fee structure it is necessary to define clearly in the regulations the types of stations which require a licence and to amend the present station definitions to accord with modern concepts.

There are 5 basic categories of stations - land, mobile, fixed, amateur and receiving. Land stations are the key, or base stations for mobile stations which are usually installed in aircraft, ships or motor vehicles. Fixed stations are those established for communication between fixed points. Amateur stations are those stations operated by hobbyists, sometimes referred to as 'radio hams'. Receiving stations arc those land and fixed stations not licensed to providetransmitting capabilities. The types of licences to be issued are set out in the schedule to the regulations. They all fall within one of the broad categories approved. There has been no change in the level of the licence fee since it was set at $2 in 1924. Until about 1950, however, the disparity between costs and revenues was not large enough to cause concern since stations were few in number and in any case were provided primarily as a means of emergency communication. Since 1950, however, the situation has changed very rapidly and the number of licences issued has risen from 5,115 to a present day total of 136,000 by increasingly large annual increments. This growth has added greatly to the costs of administration and technical supervision.

A comparison of these costs with licence fee revenues reveals that there has been a persistent deterioration which has led to the. present annual deficit of $0.8m. It is proposed, therefore, that the fees for licences be adjusted to a more appropriate level which will return an extra $460,000 in 1970-71 and $620,000 in a full year. These new fees do not seek to recover costs associated with Commonwealth Government services and certain services deserving of special consideration because of the community interests involved.

For land and fixed stations the fee will be $10. For those stations with capacity to receive but not to transmit, and for mobile and amateur stations, the fee will be $6. The different fee levels reflect the variation in administrative and technical effort involved. The existing fee of $2, however, is to continue to apply in respect of stations operating as outpost services. In the outback areas of the Commonwealth there are 5,000 such stations which provide services associated with Schools of the Air or the Flying Doctor and aerial ambulances or are providing the only means of public communication and as such are required to handle telegraph traffic. Australian outback missions come within this group.

It is also considered that as the regulations apply in Papua and New Guinea, missions in that Territory should obtain similar treatment and be licensed for the present fee of $2. There are approximately 500 such stations. Ambulance services which are not included as outpost stations and rural fire brigades will also continue to be licensed for the present fee of $2.It is also proposed that stations which are established to provide speech connection to the public telephone system both in Australia and Papua and New Guinea will be licensed free of charge because the operators are required to pay the appropriate telephone tariffs. This will be achieved by the issue of special licences already provided for in theregulations and which may be issued without charge.

It is proposed that the new fees will operate from 1st November 1970. I commend the Bill to honourable members.

Debate (on motion by Mr Stewart) adjourned.

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