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Thursday, 9 December 1971
Page: 4487

Sir ALAN HULME (Petrie) (PostmasterGeneral) - by leave - Mr Speaker, in May 1969, I announced the Government's plans for the seventh stage of television development, involving the establishment of 38 low-power stations at relatively remote centres throughout the Commonwealth, at a cost of almost $5m. It was generally accepted that the stations would be provided by mid-1973 although it was realised at the time that, in view of the .great amount of work involved, this goal might be difficult of achievement. As honourable members may recall, the stations were to be established on the basis that programmes would be provided by stations utilising, wherever practicable, Post Office broad-band communications systems, either existing or proposed, and that where such links were not available, special minimum- type micro-wave links would be specially provided to carry programmes to the areas concerned. It will be appreciated that the task of establishing the 38 stations concerned in widely separated areas throughout the Commonwealth is one of considerable magnitude, involving not only the planning and establishment of the television stations themselves, but the construction of the various programme relay links required over long distances. In fact, this project virtually doubles the number of stations in the national network bringing the total to 82. The project has involved the carrying out of extensive engineering surveys by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in conjunction with my Department in each of the 38 areas concerned, in order to obtain the basic information for determining technical operating conditions. In addition, it has been necessary for my Department to conduct detailed field surveys along the lengthy routes over which the micro-wave links are to be established. lt has, however, already been possible to bring 5 of the 38 stations into operation, namely those at Cloncurry, Julia Creek, Richmond and Hughenden in Queensland, and Norseman in Western Australia. The Mary Kathleen station will commence service shortly. The earlier establishment of these stations was made possible by the fact that these centres were situated along existing Post Office communication links with television programme relay capabilities. The present position with regard to the remaining 33 stations is that most of the technical specifications for the stations have now been determined by the Board and action is being taken by the Post Office towards obtaining the equipment for the establishment of the stations and associated micro-wave links. It must bc pointed out, however, that some of the specialised equipment required for the project must be obtained from overseas.

Due to the complexity and great extent of the work involved, together with shortages of key staff, it became apparent earlier this year that the project could not possibly be completed by mid-1973 and that unless special procedures were adopted, a delay of some 2 years on the originally expected completion date for the project might be involved. Accordingly, I directed my Department which, as I have indicated, is responsible for the actual establishment of the stations following receipt of the technical specifications from the Board, to examine the possibilities of reducing any delays to the minimum practicable. The Post Office has now completed its studies and I have received from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board a revised timetable showing the dates by which the various stations are expected to be completed. I seek leave to incorporate the detailed schedule in Hansard. i\fr SPEAKER-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-


Sir ALAN HULME - In summary, and providing no unforeseen difficulties arise, particularly in relation to overseas equipment, it is expected that all of the Queensland stations will be completed by the end of 1973 and that the Western Australian stations will be established progressively up to July 1974. If should be noted that a special trunk line and television relay system must be provided for the Esperance station, hence the expected completion date for this station is July 1974. The 2 South Australian stations, namely at Woomera and Ceduna, will be completed by October 1973. The Alice Springs (NT) station will operate with the use of taped programmes because of the lack of a Post Office broadband communications link to the area, and will be completed by December 1972. The King Island (Tasmania) station will commence operations in February next year.

Honourable members may be assured that the Government, the Board and my Department all fully appreciate the desire of residents of relatively remote areas to have television available to them as early as practicable. The time-table which has now been determined is the most expeditious that can be arranged on the basis of present expectations. 1 would point out that it has only been possible to achieve these targets by the adoption of certain special procedures which, although involving some additional expenditure, will enable earlier establishment of the stations. 1 have, in addition, asked my Department to remain alert to take advantage of any possibilities which may arise that could lead to earlier completion dates, especially for these Western Australian stations presently scheduled for completion in 1974. I present the following paper:

Progress with Seventh Stage of Television Development - Ministerial Statement, 9th December 1971.

Motion (by Mr Garland) proposed:

That the House take note of the paper.

Suggest corrections