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Thursday, 1 June 1972
Page: 2467

Senator COTTON (New South WalesMinister for Civil Aviation) - in reply - I thank the honourable senator for his observations and note that the Opposition is not opposing the Bill. I had proposed to take some time on this matter but as 1 think there is quite a lot of work ahead of the Senate yet I do not think that it is justified. I think that Senator Wilkinson and other honourable senators will know that this is a second loan from the International Bank. It is fundamentally a telecommunications loan although there are some port associations. The first loan has been mentioned in the second reading speech and the present loan specifically covers most of the foreign exchange cost of a second project which is designed to expand and utilise the facilities provided in the first project by the extension of telephone facilities and the installation of modern telex facilities. Work on the project will commence fairly soon. Telecommunications, both rapid and reliable are quite essential in Papua New Guinea. Honourable senators who have been to Papua New Guinea understand the remoteness of the Territory and its inaccessibility. This is one of the reasons why civil aviation has been so important to communications in New Guinea. It is one of the reasons why telecommunications are so important and need to be safe and reliable.

I shall not seek to add to what the honourable senator said about some of the partners involved. However, I want to make one or two observations because 1 thought that some of the things that he said were worthy of being directed back to the responsible department. He was quite correct when he said that this is sophisticated equipment, lt was equally correct for him to say that it is very important for this kind of equipment to have good service, good maintenance and great care. This, normally, is associated with what, might be called a 'higher level of technical competence' than, perhaps, one might find in an emerging territory. 1 think we would have to accept the proposition that the Bank has been wise - and so has the Administration - to seek to develop a fast, safe, reliable telecommunications network in this emerging country with which we ourselves have so much to do. This is such a country that one has to have communications. I regard the air links as something to which it has been necesary to attend. The honourable senator's observations about training and the need for good maintenance and the difficulties connected with this sophisticated equipment were very true. They also apply in the aviation field. I am informed that the posts and telegraph people have had advice from international consultants and have resorted to overseas recruitment including staff from the Australian Post Office in order to ensure that maintenance schedules are properly carried out. The Posts and Telegraphs Department and the World Bank are aware of the difficulties involved in maintenance and the Department is planning further training facilities. The type of equipment to be used has been specifically selected so as to require the minimum amount of skilled maintenance although, without doubt, some will be necessary.

Senator Wilkinsonhas referred to the ports that arc specified and I shall not go over that matter again. I think that his observation is adequately answered by the comment that the credit will be guaranteed by the Commonwealth under section 75a of the Papua New Guinea Act 1949-71. The form of guarantee required from the Commonwealth by the International Development Association for credit to Papua New Guinea does not require specific legislation. This subject has been covered so honourable senators will be aware of what is involved. I think that Senator Wilkinson's comments on the interest rates were perfectly correct. It is an appropriate rate. 1 think this is a sensible thing to have done. I will see that the observations that Senator Wilkinson made as a person with his own skills in this field of telephone maintenance are directed to the responsible people in the administration.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.

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