Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 9 December 1971
Page: 4488

Mr COLLARD (Kalgoorlie) - I wish to make a few comments in relation to the seventh stage television development programme in what the PostmasterGeneral (Sir Alan Hulme) referred to as relatively remote areas of the Commonwealth. Naturally I am mainly concerned with the programme as it applies to Western

Australia and, more particularly, to my electorate of Kalgoorlie. I do not consider some of the Western Australian areas in the programme to be relatively remote and this is one of the reasons why I am critical of the delay that is being experienced in the provision of a television service in those areas. I must express my disappointment and concern that, with the exception of Carnarvon, the Western Australian stations in the seventh stage will not come into operation until June 1973 in the case of the first station to be completed and until July 1974 in the case of the last station to be completed, that is, at Esperance. The PostmasterGeneral has informed the House that in regard to Esperance it has been found necessary' to provide a special trunk line and television relay system which has meant a delay well beyond the date first expected.

The people at Esperance have become completely confused about what are the real causes of the delays and how far the delays will eventually extend. A public meeting in Esperance in February 1969, if my memory serves me correctly, was told by representatives of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board that a service should be available during 1972. Since that meeting many representations and inquiries have been made to both the PostmasterGeneral and the Control Board in an effort to obtain a firm completion date. The early answers we received soon made it quite clear that the date given in the first instance as a probability was in fact never even a possibility and should never have been suggested as such, lt was quite unfair and rather cruel to build up the hopes of the people in that way on something which could not be achieved in the time and which, it would now appear, was never intended to be achieved in the time. Subsequently, further inquiries were made and 1973 was given as the year in which the station could be expected to commence operations. Then at about the middle of this year we were told that it was unlikely that a service would be available before early 1974. Now we are told by the PostmasterGeneral that the target date is to be July 1974, almost 3 years away. Is it any wonder that the people of Esperance are expressing concern and resentment at the continual extension of the completion date? lt is no wonder that they see them selves no closer to a service today than they were led to believe they were over 2 years ago. 1 am far from satisfied that the station will be on the air by July 1974. J hope 1 am wrong. 1 am not satisfied because I have been told by both the PostmasterGeneral and the Control Board that the main delay in the establishment of this station results from the delay in obtaining broad band equipment from overseas. This delay is claimed to be 2 years. While the delay in the construction is blamed on the 2 year lag between ordering and delivery of equipment, the fact is that the equipment has not yet been ordered and, according to the information I have received, an order will not bc placed until early next year at the very best. I have been informed also that there is a 1-year delay in the importation of television station equipment which in tura, I understand, cannot be ordered until it is quite certain what is actually required following the establishment or receipt of the special trunk line or broad band equipment. If this is correct, and 1 have no reason to believe it is not, we have the following situation in relation to Esperance: If the broad band equipment is not ordered until early next year, say March, then delivery cannot be expected until at least March 1974.

The distance between the existing microwave link at Norseman and the station site at Esperance is approximately 120 miles, and therefore quite a bit of work will be entailed in covering that distance with the building of towers or the laying of cables as required. From what I have noted in relation to other extensions it will take much longer than 3 months to carry out that work. Therefore, because of the continual changes in estimating the completion date and the advice in relation to delays in delivery of equipment, and the fact that that equipment will not be ordered before early next year, I still remain to be convinced that the date given by the Postmaster-General tonight will be met.

With regard to the line to which the Minister referred as necessary to serve Esperence, I had hoped he would have given us something definite in regard to what is intended towards providing a television service to those centres along the line between Norseman and Esperance; places such as Salmon Gums and Grass Patch. I had hoped to hear whether the line could or would carry the facilities or equipment required whereby the centres referred to could be connected directly to the line or whereby a separate service could be provided. The station at Esperance will, I understand, be of very low power sufficient only to serve the town area. If this is so, it is a great pity and something needs to be done immediately in the planning stage at least to ensure that outlying areas will not suffer the same delays and frustrations as experienced at Esperance itself. I notice in the statement that Mingenew will not gain a service before May 1974. This seems to be rather ridiculous, as I see it, because Mingenew is situated right alongside the coaxial cable carrying television to Geraldton which has been in operation now for several months.

Surely there can be no good reason why a service cannot be established reasonably quickly. We were told 3 or 4 years ago that places like Mingenew, Mullewa and Morawa would have to wait until an experience was gained as to the extent of the signal from the Geraldton station. This was fair enough, but surely it does not take 5 years to gain that experience. If the Postmaster-General, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board or the Government - whichever is responsible- really wished to establish these stations as quickly as practicable, as the Postmaster-General has told us, they could have done so in a much shorter time than the statement proposes. Wc were told that Morawa, which is approximately 35 miles from Mingenew, would have to await the experience of the Mingenew service in relation to radius. Does this mean that Morawa will have to wait at least 3 or 4 years beyond the middle of 1974? That certainly seems to be the pattern which the Government is following. We were told a booster station would be provided for Mullewa as soon as the Geraldton area of service was known, and yet the Postmaster-General makes no mention of Mullewa at all. Does this mean that Mullewa is to be disregarded until after 1974?

These delays are just not good enough. In addition, insufficient information is given to us in relation to the real causes of the delay.

I notice that the Moora and Carnamah services are also in the 1974 period and yet they, as with Mingenew, are situated close by the coaxial cable. Three Springs, which is also on the cable route, will be a 1974 model. I would like to know whether this delay is also due to the delay in delivery following the ordering of equipment. Is that the reason? If so, it would be interesting to know whether, as with Esperance, the necessary equipment has not yet been ordered. Dampier and Port Hedland are not to be served before the middle of 1973, and most likely the end of 1973. I understand that the coaxial cable is all right, and if this is correct, why must there be a 2-year delay in establishing the stations? ls it again because the equipment has not been ordered? If this is so, we are entitled to know why it has not been ordered.

I note also that the Southern CrossBullfinch station completion target is not until lune 1973. Because that centre is right on the link between Perth and Kalgoorlie it seems quite unreasonable that whatever is required to connect Southern Cross cannot be quickly carried out. Kollyanobbing, an iron ore town some 30 miles from Southern Cross, can apparently, on the information I have received from the Postmaster-General, forget all about television unless its population, presently about 350, is substantially increased. It is only 30 miles from where a station will be set up, but there is no chance of a service in the foreseeable future under the approach of the present Government. According to what the Postmaster-General told me just recently, no plans, no surveys and no investigations have been made beyond this seventh stage programme, so therefore it is pretty clear that any area which will not be served by this seventh stage can forget its chances for several years to come, and at least until the very late 1970s. Naturally enough, I am delighted that such centres as Kalgoorlie, Kambalda, Norseman and Geraldton now have a station, and that Carnarvon will be serviced by the middle of next year.

I know from my own experience that until a person has a television service he does not realise what he is missing in relation to the several programmes and the information contained in some of them. Because of this, every possible action should be taken to extend the service as quickly and as widely as possible. I notice that the Postmaster-General does say that he has asked his Department to remain alert to any possibilities of advancing the completion dates of these other stations, and I sincerely hope that this can be attained and that in fact the dates will be advanced very considerably. As I sec it, they should have been and would have been advanced had not it been for the fact that in February this year the Government instructed all departments substantially to reduce their expenditure. 1 believe this was the real cause of the delay and the real reason why orders were not placed.

In conclusion, I take the opportunity of pointing out to the Minister that the service which Merredin people receive from Mawson is far from satisfactory resulting, I believe, from a weak signal. T hope that the PostmasterGeneral will take up this matter in the appropriate quarter to try to bring about a very quick improvement. It may be that the signal from Mawson could be strengthened, but this would perhaps only improve the picture at Merredin and do nothing to extend a satisfactory service east and north of Merredin. Therefore, as Southern Cross is to have a station at some time in 1973, if I remember correctly, and as it is 70 miles from Merredin it could well mean that the area between a few miles west of Southern Cross and a few miles east of Merredin would be no man's land. If this is so, then the proper thing to do would be to establish a station at or near Merredin. As I have just said, I hope the Postmaster-General will take some heed of what I have said in this respect and that in addition he will let me know as early as possible what is intended so that I can pass on the information to those people who at present are ruining their eyes trying to look at a picture on a snowedup screen.

Suggest corrections