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Thursday, 10 March 1977
Page: 145

Mr COTTER (Kalgoorlie) -I have

Kat pleasure in supporting the motion of thenourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom) concerning the Address-in-Reply to the Speech of Her Majesty on the occasion of the opening of the Parliament. Her Majesty spoke of the great development opportunities in Australia and of how much this country had progressed since her last visit here. It is true that we have continued to develop in recent years at a rapid rate, at least up until 1973 when the poliCies of the Whitlam Labor Government stifled development. It stifled development in the mining industry to the extent that between 1973 and 1976 hundreds of exploration crews were disbanded and many left this country for places which were considered to have a more stable form of government. Places like Indonesia, the Philippines and the South American countries were regarded as being more stable, and some of those crews are only now beginning to return to participate in the next great surge forward in this country.

The Whitlam Government crucified the rural sector and put the industry back 20 years in terms of real progress. It seemed to have a special hate for the rural industry. It discouraged investment in the fishing industry and stopped oil exploration in its tracks. The oil industry is indeed fragile, but we can now see a steady revival of interest with more wells being drilled this year than for the past 2 years. Whitlam plunged this country into financial chaos, near bankruptcy, and was then flung out of office in complete disgrace in November 1975. That brings me to what is known as the leadership stakes. We have seen this week what has been a quite remarkable circus on the Opposition side of the House- a circus that has kept us enthralled, a thrill a minute merry-go-round, a parade of potential Leaders of the Opposition. But more of that a little later. We have commenced the long, slow, hard job of putting this country back on its feet, as we promised we would. We said it would be a slow process. We said it would take 3 years, and if we stick to our program of financial recovery, if we stand resolute in our plans, then we shall have this country back to the road to progress and prosperity in the next 12 months or so. But we must not weaken.

Mr Hurford - You will not be here to see it.

Mr COTTER -I will be here a lot longer than you, my friend. The signs of a soundly based recovery being well on the way are clearly emerging. However, despite this , recovery, despite the huge development that has already taken place and will take place, I should like to draw the attention of the House to an anomalous situation. I refer to the inadequate communication facilities in a very large part of Australia. I speak of telephones, of radio and of television. Telephones are accepted today by the vast majority df people as being just another everyday aid to living, taken for granted in most households. They are used freely in business, they provide a link with one's neighbours, and in many cases they offer a tremendous security to lonely and isolated people.

In remote areas telephones provide a vital and often life-saving link which gives the people living in those areas communication with the outside world. Telephones give families, particularly the women and children, a sense of security so necessary in remote areas. It is relatively easy for men to live in the bush, but for our women and children it is a lot harder. There is a very real fear that a simple accident or an illness can be fatal for a loved one. I know these people. I have lived in the bush all my life and I can appreciate their very real concern. I know the comfort and the feeling of security that a telephone or a 2-way radio brings to the people in remote areas. But so many people do not have a telephone and are now being prevented from having one, either because of the high cost of installation or the lack of forward planning by the Telecommunications Commission. I know of people who have waited patiently for 8 years and more and who have tried all means to have the telephone connected. They are willing to pay the huge capital sum required. Although they are only a few miles from the existing cable, there is still no program to connect the telephone for them and Telecom is unwilling to make any firm commitment to do so.

I turn to radio. I refer to the ordinary broadcast band radio of either the Australian Broadcasting Commission or the commercial radio networks. Most of us have scant regard for the magic of radio. We have seen it grow from very small, static-plagued beginnings to the modern high quality reception we enjoy here in Canberra and in other capital cities. We have multichannel ABC networks and a good spread of commercial radio programs from which to choose. Now we have embarked on frequency modulation transmissions. All of this magical stuff we take for granted. With the flick of a switch we are able to enjoy the radio waves and add to the tumultuous din that pours out in our cities from the modern and sophisticated radio consoles or from the simple transistor sets. But alas, many people are not able to receive even a basic radio signal from either the ABC or any other network. Not for them the joyous music, the mid-morning serials or even the daily national news programs.

There are vast areas of this land of ours where no satisfactory radio program is available. Also there are vast areas where very expensive shortwave radio sets may give a scratchy reception. Some of these people, who have endured this situation for long enough have decided that they would like to have a single channel transmittera very modest request- to keep them in touch with the outside world. On approaching the Government to have this deficiency rectified, they have been told that they can have radio but only if they pay for the total cost of installation and the running costs of the transmitters, the maintenance and the rental of the line from Telecom. This would necessitate an outlay of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

I ask: Is this fair? These people are pushing out into the frontiers of Australia or pushed out there some time ago. They produce a great part of the wealth of this nation. They produce the wool, the meat, the fish, the iron ore, the coal, the nickelthe produce which makes life comfortable for city people. These people who endure real hardships to produce that wealth are now called on to pay totally for the extension of a service which everyone else enjoys as of right. Is this equality.

Furthermore, I know of several large towns where people are unable to receive a television coverage of any sort. Not for them the pleasures of watching some of the excellent programs available to the great majority of people. Large towns, small towns; it matters not. Unless these towns had a television coverage before 1976 the residents have been told that they themselves must pay the many thousands of dollars to have the coverage extended. Why should we have 2 classes of people in Australia? Two classic examples are worth quoting. Both are in Western Australia. The first to which I refer is a small settlement called Salmon Gums. The community there is in the line of the present microwave transmissions running south from Norseman. These people were aware early that they might have to pay to have television coverage extended to their town. They understood that their share of these extensions would be in the vicinity of $26,000. They set about raising that amount of money. This they did. They now have it in the bank. Now they are told that they will have to find the total capital cost as well as the maintenance and running costs of the extension of the television coverage to their area. Yet that very same television transmission passes over their heads day and night in the microwave link.

A further example is the town of Exmouth in Western Australia. I understand that it has the largest concentration of people in Australia not yet enjoying television. There are approximately 3000 people in Exmouth; yet there is no television. Another anomalous situation exists in this town. The town virtually exists because of a Commonwealth Government agreement. In effect the Commonwealth Government is the developer. Who should pay for the television coverage in Exmouth? We are asking that the developers of other towns, such as mining towns, to pay for television and radio extensions. It seems that we have created 2 sets of rules- one for the establishment of telephone, radio and television services before 1976 and another for the establishment of those services after that date. These facilities are supplied free, or almost free, to people in the metropolitan areas, the earlier settled areas or areas which are fortunately located geographically. For those who are participating in this great development drive, those who are producing the greater part of the gross national product and a very large percentage of our total export income, there will be no telephones, radio or television unless they are prepared to pay one way or another for these facilities. I sincerely ask the Government to reconsider this decision and to treat all Australian taxpayers on an equal basis. We are moving towards a new era of tremendous development, of a great surge of development that can take place only under the stewardship of a free enterprise Government. We have a proven track record of good management; sound and respected, leadership; strong, long term leadership unlike the temporary, fragile leadership we see in the Opposition.

This week the temporary Leader of the Opposition has treated us to some of the most rude and ignorant actions and words we have ever witnessed. Whitlam has taken a hypocritical stance as regards our beloved Governor-General. One day Mr Whitlam says that he will ignore the Governor-General but because of his egotistical desire to meet the Queen, he depends on the Governor-General to introduce him. He insulted the Queen and disgusted all Australians by making a reference to her as a possible Queen of Sheba. He tried to denigrate the magnificent reception for the Queen yet he partook of the victuals.

Meanwhile, back in the House we have been subjected to this charade of strutting and pouting of potential leaders of the Labor Party. We have witnessed the dismal performance of the honourable member for Werriwa who could not get a seconder in the Caucus for his latest move to be elected to something longer term than a temporary leadership. We have seen the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) performing like a trained Rosella parrot, his red breast flashing. We have noticed the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), lurking in the shadows; waiting, waiting. We saw the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) yelping like a trained seal: 'The economy is doomed. More taxes are needed. We need more of "Mudibank" '. We have watched the meteoric flop of the honourable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr Lionel Bowen) who cried out for a republic. 'We need a new Constitution', he says, and 'Do away with the Senate'. Still the honourable member for Hindmarsh waits and licks his chops. It is going to be a delicious massacresome blood letting.

I am aware of one Government supporter on this side of the House who likes a bit of a gamble. I believe he has suggested the running of a book on these latest leadership stakes. I believe he is accepting bets from all comers. But he is undecided as to who should be the favourite, whether it should be the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) who is the most consistent speaker in the House- Mr Rent-a-Mouth himself -or the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James), the man with the brownest arms in the business.

Mr Scholes -Mr Deputy Speaker,I rise on a point of order. I realise that the honourable gentleman is not treating the chamber seriously but he is not entitled to refer to an honourable member in that manner.

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