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Thursday, 14 May 1970

Mr Allan Fraser (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Monaro) - The Australian Broadcasting Commission is considering a takeover by Sir Prank Packer of the Australian Broadcasting Commission's weekly journal 'TV Times'. Sir Frank Packer is a very amiable, very astute and a most brilliantly successful newspaperman, but 1 would hate to sec him extending his newspaper empire to include any other journal, particularly 'TV Times'. Several proposals are being examined and the one that I have mentioned, the Packer takeover, should certainly be vetoed. It includes the bait that there would be guaranteed publicity for ABC programmes, but no such guarantee could possibly be made effective. "TV Times', instead of being an ABC journal, would inevitably become a medium for boosting the programmes al Sir Frank Packer's commercial television stations. 1 believe that most members on both sides of this House would be very much against the ABC giving away control of it.' own publication. I say 'giving away control', but I should modify that because, as I understand it, there is at present some kind of joint organisation of the ABC and Australian Consolidated Press Ltd, but with the ABC having the editorial management. TV Times' is a nourishing and profitable publication. The Broadcasting Act invisages specifically that the ABC should produce its own publications and empowers it to do so. Not only is 'TV Times' a source of monetary profit but, more importantly, ii is of immense value in making ABC programmes well-known and in attracting and holding audiences for those programmes against the competition of the commercial stations. I think that the circulation of 'TV Times is well over 300,000 copies a week, and the profit at the present time must be several thousand dollars a week.

I do not know anyone who would seriously contemplate doing away with the public broadcasting system in Australia. With all the ABC's faults, 1 think we love it still in comparison with its commercial competitors. The maintenance of a medium of publicity is essential to the continuance of the ABC. I think ABC programmes are better than commercial programmes, just as I think 'TV Times', with all its popular appeal, is far better than Rupert Murdoch's TV Week'. Since the newspaper proprietors have a firm grip on commercial television, the ABC has no assurance of fair play in metropolitan newspapers if it does not possess its own voice through its own medium of publication. The ABC and Sir Frank Packer are at present having an exchange of views. This is an opportunity for the ABC to take complete responsibility for its own publication, with Consolidated Press perhaps continuing to print and distribute it on some contract basis - perhaps similar to that operating at present. I hope the Government will convey to the ABC that in the public interest this opportunity for the ABC to have complete control of TV Times' should not be missed and that in no event should a takeover by Sir Frank Packer be permitted. 1 refer now to another matter. The decision for a select committee to examine the need for a Commonwealth wildlife conservation authority is, of course, splendid. However, the mandate given to it is so wide that it will be many months, perhaps years, before its investigation is complete, its report made and the necessary action taken. Its comprehensive survey is to embrace birds, mammals of the land and water and reptiles, and to include the effect of the. trade in kangaroo meat and bides. 1 see much danger that threatened species will be further depleted while demands for conservation are fobbed off indefinitely, month after month and perhaps year after year, with the reply that the report of the select committee is awaited. If it is correct that 40 million kangaroos have ben destroyed in 40 years and that up to 1 million kangaroo skins are now being exported annually, some positive action is needed now.

Appointment of the Committee is a warning to the industrial exploiters of wildlife that they may be eventually stopped. But in the meantime it is the. green light to them to ply their evil trade to the utmost in the time remaining while the Committee is investigating. I put to the House and the Government that the Committee should be required to produce an interim report on the most urgent aspects of wildlife conservation, particularly the effects of pesticides and the slaughter of the kangaroo population.

I turn now to the inadequacy of the Postal Department's engineering organisation in country areas and the disastrous effects of this inadequacy. The organisation is inadequate because of the vast change which has occurred in country areas over the past 10 to 15 years. The types of equipment and plant now used for communications are far more complex and need much more engineering. Also, their quantity has grown enormously. But there has been no increase in all that time in the size of the engineering staff of the PostmasterGeneral's Department. For many years, therefore, the Postal Department has been attempting to engineer and manage much larger and more complex systems with vastly increased responsibilities but with fewer professional officers and no change in their status. In brief, the present organisation is still geared to the 1950s and not to the immensely expanded era of 1970.

Other public bodies employing professional engineers in the country have long ago taken action to bring their organisations into line with modern conditions. The Postal Department lags far behind. In view of the urgency of the situation, which is daily growing . worse, and in view of the failure of both the Public Service Board and the postal administration to take any corrective action, I ask the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) to intervene and have the whole situation examined. I shall supply to both of them details of the measures considered necessary by the professional engineers concerned. The unprecedented fact that on a recent weekend 58 of a total of 68 country Postal Department engineers travelled up to 500 miles to a conference convened on their own initiative to discuss this desperate situation is a measure of the complete frustration they have experienced in persuading higher management to recognise and correct this situation.

Finally, I ask the Government to take into consideration some remarkable figures that have been prepared by the Returned Services League of Australia showing the erosion that has occurred in the compensa tion value of pensions over the last 20 years. I have time to quote only one or two percentages. The basic wage, which is now the minimum wage, increased between 1950 and 1970 by 207%; average weekly male earnings by 246.5%; the earnings of a private soldier, one star, by 213%; and the earnings of a base grade clerk in the Commonwealth Public Service by 215%. Let us compare these increases with the increases of pensions. The special rate or TPI pension increased by 157%; the general rate 100% pension plus the special compensation allowance increased by 143%; and the general rate 70% pension increased by 71%. I believe that the Government, which is constantly voicing its concern for the men who are fighting for this country, should take the opportunity before the Budget is presented to rectify the situation.

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