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Wednesday, 25 February 1987
Page: 748

Mr BRAITHWAITE(7.18) —During this sittings period I have been presenting petitions to this House on behalf of the constituents of Dawson, and more particularly the City of Mackay and the region, about the lack of Australian Broadcasting Corporation FM radio. This matter has had a sorry history. In about 1981-82 the Department of Communications not only proposed that the FM service be available in Mackay but also actually allocated funds. To my knowledge, the required equipment was able to be acquired by the Department for that transmission. In the meantime, the Department of Communications has been very tardy and slow in making the necessary arrangements. At the moment the FM signal comes through the Mackay translator on its way from Rockhampton to Townsville. Both of those centres receive the FM service but Mackay misses out. Quite a few years ago the Department of Communications said that it would move on this matter. At that time the Department said that a conflict of channels existed. This was even though that conflict was with a station as far removed as Gladstone in the south. All we are looking for is a line of vision frequency. The Department of Communications suggested that we would have to wait until the channels were altered to the ultra high frequency band before the very high frequency band became available.

It is distressing to think that a community the size of Mackay, which is made up of about 90,000 people, is being denied a service just because of procrastination and lack of interest within the Department of Communications. Many people are complaining that the ABC is causing the delay. That is not the situation. The ABC would be more than happy to take the service and transmit it from Mackay if only the people within the Department of Communications would come up with an answer.

This is not the only problem for the ABC within that region. The ABC station 4QA has equipment that was installed in 1949. Honourable members would have a fair idea of how ancient that would be-it is about 40 years old. That equipment is continually breaking down and there has been no effort to replace it. When it was put into service in 1949 there was almost line of vision reception.

News items broadcast from Mackay are often about events in Clermont, Dysart or Middlemount, the mining areas of the Bowen Basin. But the irony is that they cannot be heard in those centres. Areas 70 or 80 kilometres from Mackay find it easier to get transmission from Townsville or Rockhampton because of the stronger beam. If the ABC is intent, under its new plans, upon giving more local content to people, particularly in new items-especially now that it has taken away the local and regional television news-this is the wrong way to go about it. I was quite surprised within the last week to find out that this is not peculiar just to Mackay. Cairns has the same complaint.

Mr Cunningham —So has the Latrobe Valley.

Mr BRAITHWAITE —I suppose that the Cairns hinterland would be a good example and the honourable member who has just interjected has other examples. I think it is a real tragedy that the Minister for Communications (Mr Duffy) is saying that we are expanding FM services and radio services when some places do not even have the proper facilities and services in place but have been languishing for the last 40 years. I have asked the Minister about this, and I have taken it up with the officer responsible for liaison between the ABC, the Department of Communications and the Department of Local Government and Administrative Services. For goodness sake, somebody should get out and do something.

Only yesterday in this House the Minister indicated that by 1988 an FM commercial service would be available in Mackay. All I can say is that if the Department of Communications acts with the same speed as it has in connection with these complaints I have raised perhaps by the year 2000 we might be getting close to it. There is a real concern and there is a real suspicion in the city and in the region about whether the 1988 performance on FM commercial radio can be fulfilled, particularly when these other matters have been in the pipeline for the last six years and nothing has been done. I am speaking tonight to support the petitions of those people in Mackay. I ask the Minister and, in particular, the Department to come to a decision quickly so that those services can be properly offered.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Leo McLeay) —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.