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Thursday, 6 October 1983
Page: 1476


Mr TUCKEY(5.5) —The honourable member for Stirling (Mr Ronald Edwards ) is attending his first Parliament. Of course he has not had a term in opposition. I am interested to hear the view of his colleagues and him. It is amazing how people can change their view. I have, of course, sat very close to the place where he is sitting now. I find myself on the opposite side of the chamber. But I am quite surprised at the extent to which people can change their views. It is quite clear from a statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) this morning that the Government has even changed its definition of tax avoidance. Any means by which one did not pay tax once was a rort when it was stated from this side of the House and by a particular person. But apparently that is all to change now. Apparently the Government has even got around to positive thinking. I congratulate it if that is a fact, but I ask what its positive thinking is on Aussat Pty Ltd, because it is just a great big vacuum. The Minister for Communications (Mr Duffy) was reported the other day as saying that he could not tell us what his position is to be-


Mr Chynoweth —Vacuum? That is where it goes.


Mr TUCKEY —I was referring to the physical parts of certain people when I referred to the vacuum, and not to outer space. In fact, what we are talking about are the people who have to make quite large capital decisions about whether to purchase equipment, and they do not know whether they will be able to or not. Companies that are probably very effectively running themselves as a private enterprise do not know what will be the situation in the future. They do not know whether they will be dragged into the bureaucratic sausage machine.

But more importantly, while I am touching on that subject, let me speak for the people in the country whom I represent, people, for instance, such as the Isolated Children's Parents Association. Such people are adamant in their view. They have been cajoled by the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Campbell) who tried to convince them at the Australian Labor Party's Federal Conference and at other times that to pass Aussat over to Telecom would be in their interests. Those people listened politely, but their view has not changed. Those people do not want Telecom to take over Aussat and they have very good reasons for this which I will tell honourable members now. Let me start with the fact that they know that once Telecom has control of Aussat all communications again will be locked up under the control of a single union. They are terrified as to what might happen. I have listened to senior people in the Telecom unions telling us of their wonderful record of industrial relations and how infrequently they strike. I accept that. With the control they have over Australia today they do not have to strike. They ring up the boss and tell him what they want. This Minister may put his name down in history as the man who takes away from us our first opportunity for decent interstate and intercity communications, the opportunity to have an alternative, by throwing Aussat into Telecom. If he throws Aussat into Telecom, he will go down in history and he will be cursed by Minister after Minister in future governments when they see that the business of government can be completely stopped by one union which can turn off its communications.

The situation is bad enough today, but as time goes by we will find that, as data processing increases and data transfer is necessary, business and government will stop. I drew the attention of honourable members previously to the huge expenditure of the Australian Taxation Office on an integrated data arrangement whereby it will be reliant to a greater extent on the communications provided either by Aussat or Telecom. There is a real need to give people an alternative. We know how industrial relations work. It is on the Minister's head . I hope that he will take that advice as it is meant-constructively and positively.


Mr Young —I am not taking it.


Mr TUCKEY —Congratulations. Maybe we do not have to put the honourable member for Port Adelaide down in history for that particular reason. The problem in the electorate of O'Connor in the area of communications relates mainly to the fact that it still has inadequate telephone services. I have found the Telecom staff dedicated to providing a service and only constrained in the amount of money they can spend. The Telecom staff in my electorate do everything in their power to accommodate my constituents. I congratulate them for their work. Nevertheless , we must look at expenditure priorities. I still wonder how they are worked out .

We have money to give metropolitan consumers more government television services, yet the Minister has not been able to find the funds to erect a promised television station at Mount Marshall. He came into this House and said that it was not promised; it was just in a five-year plan. A lot of people out there know it was promised. Unfortunately, it was promised by a previous Government which did not deliver. That Government spent some $150,000 in a previous Budget to get planning under way. Those funds are lost now because the plans are in limbo. The people of Mount Marshall will receive their first television transmission when most of Australia has been receiving television transmissions for nearly 25 years. The point was made earlier that the parents of John Fitzgerald can get some television but the programs are not to their liking. I have constituents who get no television. Many of them live within 200 miles of the city of Perth. That is disgraceful in this day and age. If the Government has not the money, those people should be given priority when funds are available. My constituents tell me that they wish they could all change their names to ones of European origin, as then they might get ethnic television ; but ethnic television is being provided to city people and to a large degree, from my advice, to city people who have no ethnic origin. It has become upmarket to watch the ethnic television service as it was to go to European movies. European people, to a great degree, are not availing themselves of that wonderful service because many of them appreciate good Australian movies and are practising at being good Australians.

I refer also to the self-help program which was instituted by the previous Government and which is still in place. I asked the Minister in a previous speech whether we would be able to get the Department of Communications to assist people in country areas, to give them the necessary information and preliminary planning that would encourage them to spend money on consultants to finalise a program of self-help television. The Minister said: 'Yes, I will improve on that'. I said I would only be too happy to congratulate him in this place if he did. The Minister might comment on that matter because there are people in my electorate who would spend money on self-help television. With the advent of Aussat Pty Ltd their properties are sufficiently close that there are advantages in collectively putting up a self-help television station and each person individually buying a dish to get direct access to the Aussat or Domsat satellites. So these sorts of matters count.

The Government has delayed in the area of supplementary television and radio licences. I do not know whether there is any positive thinking in this area. I get constant communications from people in my electorate complaining about the programs they are forced to see because of the lack of television channels. One person wrote to me and said that there is not enough sport. Another one wrote and said that there is too much sport. I agree with both of them. I appreciate their points of view. It depends on what one likes. I agree with their opinions. The point I am making is that that problem can be clearly overcome by additional channels. In fact, supplementary licences were created for that purpose. We recognise the economics of another television station. I sincerely hope we will shortly receive an additional television channel in Perth. But the question that has been raised in Perth is: When viewers receive the transmission, what will be the difference? We will get a different brand of soap opera at a given time and we will get a different quiz show at another time. A further question is: How many television stations do we need to give a broad choice? That naturally will not be achieved by granting additional licences; the economics of such action eventually defeats the purpose. If supplementary licences are granted, capital costs contained and all the administration remains the same, this is a possibility. The principal commercial station serving my electorate is anxious to obtain a supplmentary licence to enable it to give the constituents of O' Connor better television viewing. The sooner the better! Legislation was passed in the last Parliament. There is absolutely no reason why it cannot be acted on even if this Government believes it wants to fine tune it in some way.

Let me address myself to radio frequencies. A survey is being conducted into radio frequencies. Band 2 has to be removed from television and made available for FM so that the FM program can be advanced. In Western Australia, those decisions can be taken now. I see no reason why Western Australia should be held up while the national survey is being completed. The issues in Western Australia are more simple and can be resolved immediately because we do not have neighbours who would be affected--


The CHAIRMAN —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.