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Wednesday, 12 September 1984
Page: 1093

Mr IAN CAMERON(10.38) —In speaking to the estimates for the Department of Communications I would like to support the remarks made by the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom) regarding homosexuals working for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. At least Neville Bonner, one of the commissioners, had the guts to disagree with the decision. I am quite sure the Aboriginal community does not go along with and support homosexual behaviour within their laws. I believe that if more commissioners had the guts of Bonner this decision would not have been made.

I am not very supportive of the Minister for Communications (Mr Duffy) today when he says that there is some doubt about the legality of the decision, yet he is not prepared to reverse it. Surely, when we are spending $392m of taxpayers' funds an organisation like the ABC ought to have the choice of not employing these sorts of people because they are in a tremendously advantaged position to get to the hearts and minds of people across Australia. We have only to look at some of the programs on the ABC. There is talk within the Corporation and by the people of Australia that the ABC needs to be totally revamped. I hope that the Minister, while he is heading up this Department, has the guts to clean out and reorganise the ABC and get it back to something that we regard as Australian. We are sick to death of being--

Mr Fisher —Not Pommies.

Mr IAN CAMERON —I am not too sure of the word I should use. I am sure that most decent living Australians are totally disgusted with the way that this decision has been taken. What happens is that it spreads into all other departments in the Public Service. Surely, as taxpayers, we deserve better than this.

The debate today is on the appropriations for the Department of Communications. An amount of $426m of taxpayers' funds has been allocated to the Department. Telecommunications is a tremendous asset in the outback areas and is something that we get very involved with. The Minister attended a meeting the other day which dealt with telecommunications in the outback. I congratulate Telecom Australia for conducting this seminar. I was pretty disgusted that I did not get an invitation. For some reason or other Telecom always breaks down in its public relations department. It conducted a seminar which dealt with telecommunications in the outback, and not one back bench Federal member of parliament was asked to attend. I represent an area that covers 42 per cent of Queensland-quite an area, about four times the size of Victoria.

Mr McGauran —Hear, hear! And well represented.

Mr IAN CAMERON —It is well represented. Yet when Telecom held a seminar on matters that are of vital interest to us we were not invited to attend. It is we who cop the crow. We are the people who continually work with Telecom's regional managers, et cetera, and with the Minister for Communications, who I must say gives us a good hearing. Public relations is our job and it is our job to liaise . Yet when Telecom held a seminar that was of vital importance to us we were not even sent an invitation. I think that is poor. I say to the Minister that next time Telecom holds something of vital importance such as this seminar, which was held in Canberra at taxpayers' expense, he should make sure we get an invitation to attend. I am totally disgusted.

Mr Duffy —At Telecom's expense.

Mr IAN CAMERON —I do not care. The Minister is the boss. He ought to see that we get invitations to such things. He knows that we want to know what is going on in his Department. I think it is disgusting that we were not invited, and I hope the Minister feels the same way. Although I did not get to that seminar, I have read a bit about it since it was held. Things at long last are starting to move.

We were promised that we would all have a subscriber trunk dialling telephone service by 1990. I hope that the Minister sees that that promise is carried out. The in word in Telecom during the last few years has been 'slippage'. It promises communities automatic telephones and we wait for the day, but nothing happens. Telecom then says that it does not have enough telephones, that it does not have this, that it does not have that, and things are let drop for two or three years. Telecom said at the conference I mentioned that it hopes to have the whole system completed. It has been experimenting with the digital radio telephone in my electorate of Maranoa. It has been running a link between Charleville and Cunnamulla for 18 months or so. It now has let a contract to Australian and Japanese companies to manufacture this telephone, which will be of tremendous benefit to people who live in very isolated parts of Australia.

I am sorry that the Minister for Science and Technology (Mr Barry Jones) is not here today. I am a good friend of his and give him a bit of support. The link between Charleville and Cunnamulla is being driven by solar-powered panels. Telecom is at the forefront of this technology in the world. It was among the first to use solar-powered panels in Australia and certainly was the first to use the solar-powered panel in communications. When the digital radio telephone is perfected it will be unique. It has been designed for certain conditions. Those conditions of isolation are unique. Telecom is certainly at the forefront of this scientific endeavour. I think that every encouragement should be given to it. I certainly support it as much as I can. I do not believe that it is perfect. It is a very big organisation. It now employs more people than the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd. It is the biggest employer of people in Australia and the biggest corporation we have. I think that overall it is doing a reasonable sort of job.

I make a suggestion to the Minister for the next time the Remuneration Tribunal meets. I note that Telecom is to make it much easier for mobile telephones to be used. I believe that every member of parliament ought to have a mobile telephone . I think it would be of tremendous assistance. I am the only person in Parliament who has a high frequency radio in my car. It is hooked into the Flying Doctor base in Charleville. I can ring anybody in Australia or, if need be, around the world, although I like to confine myself to Australia and preferably to the electorate of Maranoa. The mobile telephone is a very useful tool. I believe that the Minister ought to help us to extend the use of that facility to members of parliament, because I think it would be of tremendous benefit to them in keeping in touch with their constituents. As the Minister knows, we are very busy people. We waste a lot of time sitting in motor cars when I believe we could be using a telephone and getting on with our business.

A few areas in my electorate are desperate for STD telephones: Condamine, Moonie and Durong South. The Minister might note down those three areas in his pad while he is sitting at the table. I would like him to see that some funds are channelled into those areas. Perhaps he can hurry along an STD installation.

In regard to the satellite, the money allocated to the Department of Communications has been increased by $33m. However I note that $16m of that is going towards setting up the Aussat Pty Ltd project. I will support what I hope will come out of the satellite decision. I believe that the regionals ought to be given the 30-watt transponders. I know that the shadow Minister for Communications, the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd), has spoken at length on this matter. It is essential that the satellite and communication systems remain as regional as possible. That is the only way we will help people communicate with one another. We must do it at the grass roots level. We cannot have Packer and his boys transmitting signals from Sydney and telling people in Charleville and similar places what is going on. They are not the least bit interested. I say to the Left wingers and some Australian Labor Party members in New South Wales who want the big networks to get the 30-watt transponders: People in the bush do not want that type of television; they want a regional- type service. I will certainly support the Minister in his endeavours to get regional television stations in each State combined so that people in isolated areas of Australia can at long last get a television signal.

Of course we are waiting for the satellite. My good friend said that when we were in government we were a bit slow. I remind him that the satellite has not yet been launched; it is due to be launched next July. Let us hope that it is a successful launch and that we do not lose it. I am pleased that the last launch of the American space shuttle was successful but the previous one was not so successful. I just hope that this one is not lost. I think the most interesting thing about Aussat is that it is going well. We are looking at bringing forward the date of the launch of the second generation of satellites by about 12 months .

I say to the Minister: There is an allocation of $85,000 in the estimates for an ABC radio station at Charleville. I ask the Minister to see that that program continues because the people of Charleville are really looking forward to hearing ABC radio for the first time.

The CHAIRMAN —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.