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Tuesday, 24 March 1987
Page: 1364

Mr DONALD CAMERON —I direct my question to the Minister for science, prices and consumer sovereignty. Will the Minister accept as perfect information that in the last two years the Department of Communications has increased the licence fee for the base station of VHF radio or two-way radio from $185 in 1985 to $240 in 1986 and then to $380 in 1987-an average increase of more than 100 per cent? Is the Minister aware that mainly small businesses, such as real estate agents, plumbers, electricians and the like, are the main users of two-way radio for commercial purposes? How can the Government justify an abhorrence of rising prices applied by the private sector when the Government itself is obviously very much to blame for cost increases and pays but lip service to leading by example?

Mr DUFFY —There has been a deluge of correspondence in recent times regarding the increases in charges for the use of the spectrum, which may well have been motivated in some ways by the honourable member. Whilst it is recognised that what he says is correct-that the spectrum is put to use businesses and that it is necessary to keep charges as low as possible-from recollection, the increases referred to are in the order of 33 per cent. When one looks at the question of cost recovery for the management of the spectrum, the charges are considered to be reasonable. In regard to the litany of Opposition cuts, which the Prime Minister so graphically outlined today, as did the Treasurer yesterday, it would be interesting to know whether the Opposition will not be saying that this is another area in which it is going to cut expenditure. That is, will we have no management control of the spectrum and have the sort of chaos which some of the more ridiculous proposals in the Opposition's communications policy, if it ever surfaces, would be likely to cause?