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Monday, 17 September 1973
Page: 1100

Mr NIXON (Gippsland) - That the people of Australia were misled during the last election campaign and the period preceding it oan be easily demonstrated by this piece of legislation. It is typical of the whole anticountry people approach taken by the Government. The Labor Government has taken the opportunity to vent its spleen on all people living outside Melbourne and Sydney. When in office we lived through the pretence of great concern being expressed for people in country towns and country areas by one or two of the rural rump of the Labor Party - and pretence it proved to be. The Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) and the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) were the greatest pretenders of all great pretenders - no more, no less. This Budget is full of attacks on people outside the big metropolitan cities. I do not know where the Minister for Immigration was during the Budget discussions - he must have been representing the electorate of Riverina by hiding behind the door somewhere. It must have been the only time in his life that he could not find his tongue. That he has accepted these Budget impositions on country people so easily must disturb the people he represents. (Mr Lionel Bowen) has displayed in the House a certain amount of joy that country newspapers are to be affected so heavily. The fact is that the increased charges will be a direct impost on people who live in areas where posting is necessary. They will carry the load of these exorbitant charges. The newspapers will be affected seriously by cancellation of the subscription by the reader because of high postage rates. The PostmasterGeneral's blatant attack on country people by means of postage on newspapers will mean that the postage will cost more than the newspaper itself. This will cause some newspapers to close down. I know that the Labor Government will get joy from that. One of the great aims of a socialist government is to control the media, and if a whole host of small newspapers are forced to close that job is made much easier. Country newspapers are entirely fair in their political reporting and are completely politically independent.

Mr Hurford - That means they support you, does it?

Mr NIXON - I hear cracks from honourable members opposite. I wonder what the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) or the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) or the honourable member for Eden Monaro (Mr Whan) think of a statement of that nature. Why do they not get out in their electorates and defend this legislation? Are they so lacking in stomach or support , for their electorates? Where are these silent people from the Labor Party? Where is the rural rump? What has happened to it? The people who comprise the rural rump have taken a beating in caucus and they are prepared to take a beating in the House. The Postmaster-General demonstrated in this House that there was no doubt that this move was made for purely political reasons. In answering questions he has shown more concern about the politics of the situation than the economics. The extraordinary fact is that in the same Budget the Government proposes to spend more than $1.5m to bolster the Government Publishing Service. This will become no more than a propaganda factory putting out material to suit the Labor socialists. They will vote unanimously to use the taxpayers' money for their own selfish purposes. But now they want to abolish every incentive for people to stay in country towns. They want to destroy every prospect of developing the nation as a whole. They want to increase the inequities which face people living outside Melbourne and Sydney. They do not want a national goal of parity for those living in

Melbourne and Sydney with those living in towns and cities outside Melbourne and Sydney.

The Labor Party pretends to be a Party interested in decentralisation. The very thrust of this measure demonstrates how shallow that interest is. The local newspaper is a decentralised industry in itself and there is no greater vehicle for the promotion of an area than the local newspaper. That an action to destroy both a decentralised industry and the voice of the local people is being taken by the Labor Government demonstrates its insincerity and shows the Government in its true light. I wonder what people in country towns would say if they were told that when a newspaper fails it will be replaced by governmentrun media. Such a proposition is not beyond the bounds of possibility. As I said a moment ago, the Government has already started procedures for the publication of the Government's story. A similar proposal* in Germany led to Goebbel's full control of information prior to the war. If my memory serves me correctly, the last Labor government saw merit in government control of information.

Country newspapers play a unique role in communications in country towns. They are vital pieces of machinery for the dissemination of local news, markets, sport and social happenings. They are the only medium that can be interested in or available for the carrying of advertisements for the local chemists or shops or garages and the prices obtaining for fats and stores at the market on Monday. They are a vehicle for appeals by local charities, for accounts of shire council debates and for advertising of meeting dates for local organisations. Even the local Labor Party branches advertise in country newspapers. At least that is the case on rare occasions the local branch holds meetings in the Gippsland electorate, which occurs about 3 weeks before an election campaign. Apart from that it is flat out getting a branch meeting together. At the time of an election the odd senator might attend a meeting.

The local newspaper can tell the community what is happening in the way of romance and births and deaths. It can tell of the clash on the football field and whether the fish are biting. The local newspaper does not compete with the metropolitan dailies but if both arrive at a house at the same time, in most cases it will be the local newspaper which is reached for first. The local newspaper binds a town together, gives it a sense of cohesion, and gives the people a sense of belonging in a community. It cannot be replaced. Any government which is interested in decentralisation, national development or the people would set out to encourage local newspapers. One would have thought that a Labor government, of all, seeing that it has expressed concern about the media being in the hands of a few people, would have set out to encourage competition in the newspaper world. The fact that it is not doing so causes me to be concerned about the motives of the Labor Government in setting up its Government Publishing Service.

This Bill affects almost everyone. It affects every householder in Australia because it relates to the cost of postage. Whereas previously, as was pointed out so ably tonight by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen), a 28 gram letter cost 7c, from now on it will cost 15c for everything in excess of 20 grams. This is nothing short of a confidence trick because as the Government converts to metrics it picks up a handsome profit on the way past. The sad thing about that is that although the Government has been appealing to the community at large not to increase charges while converting to metrics, the Government has set a very bad example itself by making profits in excess of 100 per cent on metrics alone.

Similarly, the Treasurer (Mr Crean) in his Budget Speech misled the nation by claiming that there was no change in postage rates when in point of fact the changes are immense. At the present time a parcel of 906 grams can be sent a distance of 50 kilometres for 35c. After this Bill is passed the postage on that parcel will be 45c, or an increase of 29 per cent. Beyond 50 kilometres the cost will increase from 45c to 60c, or an increase of 33 per cent So the sad story goes on. Postage on books coming into the country will be the same, but postage on books printed in Australia will increase from 31c for 750 grams to 85c between Melbourne and Adelaide.

But it is in the registered publications section, which affects newspapers and periodicals, that the biggest slug will come because the abolition of the various categories over 3 years will seriously affect all publications from charitable, welfare and religious organisations as well as from scientific, educational and technical organisations. Postage rates in this category will increase by 400 per cent by 1 October 1976. Category B relates to metropolitan newspapers, trade and employer organisations, professional and academic organisations and social, recreational, motoring and other commercial publications. In that category there will be an increase of 150 per cent for a 6 oz publication. Category C publications, for which the postage has been high enough, will suffer a further increase of up to 20 per cent by 1 March 1974.

It is completely objectionable that the Post Office should make a profit out of metrication, and it is of no use to say that the previous Postmaster-General had the same thing in mind. Such a proposition had never been before the previous Government and therefore it had neither been discussed .nor agreed to. The Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) alluded to this in the House and tried to pretend-

Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is not so.

Mr NIXON - The Postmaster-General can find the Hansard and correct me in his reply.

Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I will give you Sir Alan Hulme's minute. Read it yourself.

Mr NIXON - It is not the minute that I am concerned about; I am concerned about the facts.

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