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Thursday, 27 September 1973
Page: 1686

Mr SINCLAIR (New England) - The Opposition accepts the amendment, which was referred to in this place and made by the Government in the Senate. The Opposition was concerned at the impact that the increased charges that were originally proposed would have had on the dissemination of information, particularly in the rural areas of Australia and in the isolated areas of Australia. There are many communities around our country which are extraordinary dependent on the availability of newspapers sent through the mail. The increases originally proposed were such that it seemed that many of these newspapers either would have had to increase their charges beyond a reasonable rate and so people would no longer have been able to afford to purchase them, or the newspapers themselves would have had to go out of business.

It is recognised, however, that the Post Office is facing increasing costs of maintaining services. The amendment that is now before the Committee represents some variation of the Government's original proposal and yet still makes some increase in the previously existing position. During the course of the debate here at an earlier stage, very real concern was expressed at the degree to which a significant increase in charges denied the right of those who operate newspapers and other periodicals to carry on the task which had been their lot. Part of the problem, which is being answered by this amendment, is that there needs to be recognised by the Government that if it is to change overnight and in a radical way charges that are made - in this instance to newspapers and in other instances to commercial broadcasting stations and elsewhere - there needs to be an examination of the impact on communities and a consideration of the way in which the organs of publicity will be able to undertake their traditional role.

The Opposition believes that it is essential that there should be some reduction in these areas. The Australian Country Party, having as it has particular concern for some of these isolated communities, believes that if these changes had not been made there would have been quite disastrous effects in many areas and on many local journals. For that reason the Opposition accepts the recommendations made to the Committee by the Government. It believes that they will help to some degree to alleviate the penal increases originally provided for by this legislation.

I believe that this is an area in which the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) is to be commended for recognising the problems that arose and accepting the arguments that were presented in this chamber. It is a pity some of his colleagues do not similarly look at and examine the merits of arguments put forward by the Opposition. On too many occasions a reasonable case which is put forward is rejected purely on a political basis. I believe that there is in this area a valid social and economic reason why the Committee should accept the Senate's amendment. I believe that the Postmaster-General is to be commended for having accepted the merit of the arguments that have been put forward. For that reason, the Opposition supports the Government's proposed variation to the original Bill.

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