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Government gives go-ahead on satellite project

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U dIIJ ii LyJ uu ™ l J \MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS LEADER OF THE HOUSE6 May 1982■ FOR MEDIA: GOVERNMENT GIVES GO-AHEAD ON SATELLITE PROJECTThe National Communications Satellite System which will revolutionise communications in Australia was given the go-ahead today with the Government authorising the placing of contracts for the System's, space segment.In a statement to Federal Parliament today, the Minister for ' · Communications, Mr Sinclair announced:. Hughes Communication International has won λ the major contracts for three satellites and two ground control stations.. Australian industry could receive orders worth more than $120 million ' from associated space segment and probable earth station contracts.. Australians, particularly in remote areas, would benefit greatly from vastly improved TV, Radio, Telephone and other communications services through the satellites.Mr Sinclair said that in the near future AUSSAT Pty Ltd, the company the Government formed to own and operate the Satellite System, would let the System's major contracts to Hughes.It was important to note, .Mr Sinclair said, that the contracts with Hughes were for fixed prices and were not subject to adjustments for inflation. He said the Hughes organization had a proven track record in developing satellite systems. Its tender met the demanding require- jnents for the Request for Tender and was the lowest priced offer.The three satellites, two ground control stations., launch arrangements and launch insurance were estimated to cost $166 million in 1982 dollars. Additional expenditure would be incurred in the contract envisaged for major city earth stations, the acquiring of land for them and the construction of necessary buildings. Details would be announced in due course by AUSSAT Pty Ltd. 'AUSSAT would finance its capital expenditure on the Satellite System, . and its initial operating-costs,by a mix of commercial loans and an equity con triblit ion from the Commonwealth estimated at $75 million ■ spread over five years. This contribution.would be reduced by the introduction of private equity capital in AUSSAT.

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AUSSAT had had offers from local and overseas lead banks which

would ensure bridging loans for the project, pending long-term

funding arrangements. As a consequence of these loan and funding

arrangements the call on the Federal Budget would be kept to a

minimum. ·

Mr Sinclair said negotiations were continuing on the subject of the

major city earth station segment of the Satellite system. Details

would be announced in due course by AUSSAT. Any contract would be

subject to further Government decision.

Mr Sinclair said that AUSSAT sought the .building of major city earth

stationsin Brisbane, Darwin, Perth,. Adelaide, Hobart, Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney. The two ground control stations for the System were planned for Perth and Sydney.

It was envisaged that AUSSAT Pty Ltd would establish and own eight

major city earth stations. The siting of these stations would take into account access for all users, particularly for the ABC which

subject to its decision was expected to be a major user.

The Minister said: "AUSSAT believes it is the appropriate organization

to ensure the.establishment of a system in which all major cities

are linked to the Satellite System by mid-1985, the planned .

operational date."

Mr Sinclair emphasised that private sector organizations would be

free to establish their own earth stations to access the Satellite System on the same basis as AUSSAT. These would require radio­ communications licences and would have to meet necessary technical

specifications. The ABC . (and other Commonwealth users) would be

able to submit proposals for the establishment of ABC-owned earth stations, including those at Rockhampton and Townsville, where it

considered this necessary for its reasonable operationa.1 needs.

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Mr Sinclair said it was planned to have two satellites in orbit

and one spare on the ground to be launched as required. Launch

vehicle reservation payments, each of $200 000, had been made to

Arianespace for the European Ariane rocket and to NASA for

launches by either the Space Shuttle or Delta rocket.

Services, which could be provided through the Satellite System

included: ·

. the interstate assembly and distribution of television and

padio programs for the ABC and commercial operators;

. transmission of'ABC television and a minimum of two radio

services by relay to regional transmitters, and by direct

transmission from Australia's satellites to remote homesteads

and communities and other underserved areas;

. aeronautical and maritime communications to meet Department of

Transport operational and safety requirements; ·

. an automatic telephony service to remote Telecom subscribers,

as well as provision for emergency and temporary main trunk

route telephone services.

The Minister said that expenditure by the *Government on these

services would be considered in the context of annual Commonwealth

Budgets for the years concerned. ·

The System also had the capability to provide voice and other

telecommunications services - including distance education and

telemedicine services - to meet requirements of scientific,

commercial and mining interests, and various State and Common­

wealth Government departments and authorities.

The System's design would also permit broadcasting and telephone

services -to be provided within Papua New Guinea. The PNG

Government had announced an "in-principle" decision to use the

Australian satellites to provide these services, and a Memorandum

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of Understanding was being negotiated between the Australian and

PNG Governments.

Mr Sinclair said that the Government had declared on a number of

occasions that Australian participation in all stages of the System would be maximised.

"The overall system design and technical specifications were

developed by Australian engineers and our preference and offsets

policies have been clearly stated and firmly implemented", he said.

"Every effort has been made to create opportunities for Australian

industry in terms of transferring technology to Australian firms, developing new techniques and processes, and enhancing job . ·

opportunities in these areas. The prospects for significant contributions to be made by Australian firms are high."

As an example, Mr Sinclair said Australian industry could benefit

from orders worth more than $120 million stemming from the space segment and probable earth station contracts to be let by AUSSAT and the various public sector users.

The Minister noted that the decision to implement the Satellite

"System was the culmination of some five years of intense planning

effort by people dedicated to the realisation of this major

national undertaking. He thanked AUSSAT Pty Ltd, OTC (A), the ABC,

Telecom Australia, the Department of Transport and his own Department for the parts they played in bringing together the many issues

involved in keeping the project on schedule.

In particular I would commend Mr Stan Owens, Chairman, and the diverse

representative Board of AUSSAT Pty Ltd, reflecting all potential user , OTC

and viewer groups, as well as Mr Bob Somervaille and his /Commissioners

for the roles they have played in ensuring the satellite project has reached this stage of decision.

The task had been facilitated by the ready co-operation offered by

the many organizations, groups and individuals who had been consulted

in the course of developing the system concept.

The Minister added: "My thanks go to all of those people in Government, industry and the Australian community who have contributed to this

demandina process."