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Thursday, 9 December 1971
Page: 4492

Mr CORBETT (Maranoa) - I want lo make some comments on the statement made by the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme). I was one of those who pressed him very strongly into endeavouring to provide television for the western areas at the earliest possible moment. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) said that he had made representations to the Postmaster-General in this connection. If everyone had made representations to him on these matters as often as I have, his life would have been a pretty hard one. The honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) and I really did press to get some statement from the Minister on this matter. 1 draw attention to the fact that he could have made these investigations and not made the statement that the stations' were to be provided until the investigation were more advanced. He would have been under less criticism for the delay that has apparently occurred as a result of his having made early the announcement that these 38 low-power stations at relatively remote centres will be provided. I give the Minister credit for having given us this information as early as it was possible for him to do so, under the pressure that was put on him for the statement to be made.

I for one will give him credit for that. I have heard very little credit given to the Government for the fact that these 38 stations are to be provided. As the Minister said, this virtually doubles the number of stations in the national network, bringing the total to 82. It is a very big step forward. I appreciate very much, and I am sure that those people who have been advocating this have appreciated the fact that these stations are to be provided in those areas where television is very sorely needed, and where this benefit will be of much more importance than it is in areas which are provided with a number of channels and which have alternative means of entertainment and education. I will continue to ask the Postmaster-General to expedite this programme. I was pleased to note that in the last paragraph of his statement he said that he has, in addition to the programme mentioned there, asked the Department to remain alert to take advantage of any possibilities which may arise that could lead to earlier completion dates.

One of the reasons why this is important and why we appreciate it is that there are still some areas which have not been provided for or which are not in the programme and which deserve to have television. Let rae mention Quilpie, a town of some size in my area, which is so far west that it is not able to be included in this programme. No doubt television for that area will be provided only when this programme is completed. The statement of the Postmaster-General gives an indication of his anxiety and that of the Government to expedite the provision of the stations that are to be provided under this programme. Already, as he stated, there are five which have come into operation. He gave the reasons for this.

The need for television is very great. I have mentioned the different way of life of people living in remote areas and people living in the metropolitan areas, in regard to the amenities that are available and particularly education. Television helps to bridge this gap. The Government is to be very warmly commended. I appreciate the fact that the Postmaster-General has taken this step to promote this programme and to do all in his power and that of the Government to bring it to a conclusion and to provide these stations. In my area there has been agitation for a high-power station at Roma. Quite a number of representations have been made to the Minister along these lines. But the argument has been the cost related to the number of people that would be served. These 38 low-power stations are to be provided at a cost of some S5m. The cost per person has been pointed out by the Postmaster-General to be relatively high in comparison with the cost of providing television in the more closely settled areas and in the provincial and capital cities of the Commonwealth. At the same time I believe that there is a responsibility which the Government and the Postmaster-General have accepted, to carry that cost and to bring television to all towns of reasonable size right throughout this country. This is a very big step forward.

The thing that was worrying us was the amount of delay that could occur. I think it can be understood that because of the difficulty of surveying and the amount of time that was taken a delay would have been possible, and that with the manpower problems that have been met with it would be quite understandable that a programme could get a bit behind. Those of us concerned with this matter have been striving very hard to get a programme completion date. Once again 1 express my appreciation for the fact that a target completion date has now been provided, and we will look forward to seeing that that target completion date is met if possible. The honourable member for Kalgoorlie suggested that he had some doubts about whether this would be met. I think all the PostmasterGeneral can do in this direction is set a programme and endeavour to do the best he can to expedite it. It is true that the honourable member for Dawson and I mentioned places that do not have television reception, but we know that the percentage of people who are being served by television Commonwealth-wide is very high.

I welcome the statement by the PostmasterGeneral. I am sure it will be welcomed by all those people who will benefit, and I hope that we will see a further pro gramme on the completion of this one to provide those services which are not included in this programme. I congratulate the Postmaster-General and the Government on the steps that they have made, and I trust that the programme completion date se! out by the Postmaster-General now will be achieved.

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