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Tuesday, 13 November 1973
Page: 3268

Mr MacKELLAR (Warringah) - At the outset I would like to thank the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Lionel Bowen) for giving me the opportunity of saying a few things before the closure of this debate. I am rather reluctant to say this, but he must feel very sad in presiding over the demise of what was once a very proud area of ministerial responsibility. There is probably only one area or group which has a lower popularity than the Australian Labor Party in the eyes of the general public and that is the Post Office. Unfortunately the Post Office is seen very realistically as being unreliable, expensive and subject to crippling industrial disputes. This is reflected very clearly bv the growth of alternative services, particularly courier services, simply because the Post Office can no longer be relied upon to do the job it was set up to do, and that is to get the mail through.

I want to speak very briefly about an aspect of the work of the Post Office which has concerned me greatly for a number of years; that is the provision by the Australian Post Office of a domestic communication satellite system. I have noticed that the Minister has spoken about this communication satellite system. I want to draw his attention to the fact that I mentioned this matter first on 17 May of last year. Since that time domestic communication satellite systems have been put into operation in such countries as Canada. The previous Postmaster-General pointed out to me that one of the most technologically advanced nations in the world, the United States of America, did not have a communication satellite system. Since I raised this matter in the House early last year the United States has moved very rapidly towards acquiring a domestic communication satellite system.

Professor Downing recently spoke of having a communication satellite system in operation which will be able to beam directly into the houses of outback properties. I think that Professor Downing is probably excessive in his interpretation of the possibilities of the technology available to Australia at this stage. I seek once again - for the third time in 2 years - to obtain the assurance of a PostmasterGeneral that he will place before the Parliament and the people of Australia just as soon as he possibly can a complete analysis of the alternatives available to the Australian Government and the Post Office and a cost analysis of a. communication satellite system. I believe, for reasons that I have mentioned on previous occasions, that Australia would be greatly advantaged - not only those remote areas of Australia but also the communications system as a whole - if the existing communications sys tems were enhanced, upgraded and added to by Australia seeking actively and as quickly as possible to acquire its own communications satellite system. I again thank the Minister for giving me the opportunity to bring this matter once more to his attention. I seek from him an assurance that we will see as soon as possible a. cost benefit analysis and a statement on the state of the art in relation to this proposal.

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