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Tuesday, 26 November 1985
Page: 2252


Senator WALSH (Minister for Finance)(4.21) —I have here a document in relation to the matter raised by Senator Colston which I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows-

DEBATE OF THE COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE OF 14 NOV. 1985-SENATOR COLSTON QUEENSLAND RACING SERVICE-ESTIMATE OF SAVINGS FOLLOWING THE DECISION TO TERMINATE DIRECT RACE CALLS BY LARRY PRATT

Senator Colston requested full details of how the ABC estimated that by terminating the services provided by Larry Pratt on radio, it would save $11,642 in 1985-86. The details are:

$

$

Radio share of Mr Pratt's salary and relief for a full year...

21,700

Salaries savings in Radio Operations penalties and overtime...

3,245

Savings in broadcast lines costs...

5,762

30,707

Less

Salary, leave bonus and recreation leave to 10.10.85...

9,803

Long service leave payment to Mr Pratt...

9,262

19,065

11,642

It is envisaged that there will be a weekly Artist Fee of $35 to $50 payable to a contributor to provide inputs to `Turf Talk'.

Therefore, the estimated total savings of $11,642 in 1985-86 may be reduced to $9,763 if $40 p.w. is paid in Artists Fees for `Turf Talk'. The savings for 1986-87 are estimated to be in excess of $31,892.

Senator Colston's calculations on the possible extra costs do not accord with the above: the use of network studios is not costed against particular programs and a Sporting Assistant is not rostered for studio duty in Brisbane on Saturday afternoons. No additional announcers are involved as two have been rostered in the past; but for current purposes the duties have been re- arranged to make more efficient use of the shifts.

Further, it was only from 1 July this year that Mr Pratt was required to do ``on air'' general sporting reports at 6.30 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays-this regular pattern did not apply prior to that date. The Queensland Branch has changed the general sporting format that was previously broadcast at 6.30 p.m. Information is now provided in the morning by the Sporting Department and no additional staff have been taken on to cover the 6.30 p.m. time-slot. Music is played at this time.


Senator WALSH —I also have about 10 pages of replies to questions which were tabled by Senator Vigor a few weeks ago. This document is rather lengthy. If requested to do so I will seek leave to incorporate it in Hansard; otherwise I will table it.


Senator Vigor —I would be very pleased if it could be incorporated.


Senator WALSH —I seek leave to incorporate the document in Hansard.

Leave granted

The document read as follows-

SENATE COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE HEARING OF THURSDAY, 14 NOVEMBER 1985

Questions on Notice

Question by Senator Vigor

Will the government consider making it a statutory obligation upon Telecom to foster research and development in Australia and to encourage the development rather than the modification of communications technology here?

Answer

Telecom's buying power and Research and Development (R &D) resources have contributed significantly towards developing a telecommunications network which provides modern, cost efficient, telephone services to the Australian community, in accordance with its charter.

Telecom's purchasing policies have also assisted in establishing a strong, local, manufacturing industry. Telecom will purchase approximately $1300 million worth of telecommunications technical equipment and material in 1985-86. About 90% of this equipment will be sourced from Australian industry.

It is not possible in Australia to emulate the massive R &D expenditure of Japan, the United States and Europe in developing new technologies. Nevertheless, Telecom is working towards arrangements with industry to increase the level of R &D pertinent to our local capabilities and commensurate with the Australian component of the world telecommunications market.

In 1984-85 Telecom Research Laboratories spent around $32 million on R &D programmes. In addition the engineering Department spent about $10 million on design/development work undertaken by Australian industry to meet Telecom contracts. This figure includes a contract let to L. M. Ericsson for development, over a three year period, of a digital rural exchange specifically for the Australian environment. This development is anticipated to have considerable export potential. Apart from direct expenditure on external R &D there are other ways in which Telecom provides support for local companies. Examples are:

the licensing of the Australian manufacturer Design 2000 to produce the Telecom designed Telephone Apparatus measuring System 4 (TAMS 4) for use locally and for sale overseas.

the development and supply under contract of Individual Circuit Monitoring (ICM) by J. N. Almgren Pty Ltd.

the involvement of AWA in engineering design contracts for system adaptations and enhancement for the Digital Data Network.

Telecom announces plans as far as possible in advance of tenders to give local manufacturers the opportunity to participate. Briefings have been given to industry on such topics as Cellular Radio and Optic Fibre Cables. Because of the long lead times involved in developing products these briefings are given as soon as practicable after firm plans have been established.

Telecom's charter demand that Telecom conducts its business in a manner which would best meet the social, industrial and commercial needs of Australians for its telecommunications services. In meeting that charter Telecom will maintain its policy of ensuring a high local content when purchasing equipment for use in the telecommunications network of the future.

And further, Telecom is committed to fostering R &D in Australia and will continue to encourage local industry to play a greater role in design and development of products.

COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE

14 NOVEMBER 1985

QUESTIONS TABLED BY SENATOR VIGOR CONCERNING AUSTRALIA POST

Question

Are there any remedies in Australia Post's contractual arrangements with the airlines that cover non-compliance on the part of the airline?

Answer

There are no penalty provisions in Australia Post's current contractual arrangements with the two major domestic airlines.

Question

If so, why has the management done nothing about the 31% and 25% respective later delivery figures for Express Courier deliveries in Western Australia and Victoria? Surely no private enterprise would allow that situation to continue if competitors were getting an advantage in a tight market, as is the case with competition between Australia Post and private courier services?

Answer

A range of factors was responsible for the unsatisfactory service performance for Express Courier articles delivered in Western Australia and Victoria during 1984-85. In the case of Express Courier articles of interstate origin, delays in air conveyance from Eastern capital cities to Perth constituted one of the factors which contributed to the problem. (Very few instances of avoidable delays were recorded in the air conveyance of Express Courier mail to Melbourne.)

Delays to Express Courier and other mail on the Perth routes have been represented vigorously to the airlines on many occasions. Australia Post's dissatisfaction with the service it receives on these routes was also documented comprehensively in a submission in June 1985 to the Independent Review for Economic Regulation of Domestic Aviation.

The standard of service for mail conveyance to Perth has improved considerably over recent months, due to continued pressure from Australia Post, an increase in the air cargo capacity provided on the routes and an agreement by the two major domestic airlines to consign mail for Perth on international air services when demand for cargo space on their own services exceeds available aircraft capacity.

Question

If there are no penalties for non-compliance, when do the contractual arrangements end, and what encouragement will the Government give the negotiators to ensure that the airlines cannot walk away untouched, from failures to deliver as contracted?

Answer

Largely because of the unsatisfactory service on the Perth routes, negotiations on revised contractual arrangements with the two major domestic airlines have been in progress for some time, and are now close to completion. It is intended that the revised arrangements will include a penalty provision which would be applied in the event that Express Courier mail is not uplifted to destination on the flight(s) nominated by Australia Post, except in circumstances beyound the control of the airline concerned.

Question

Will the Government, in the mean time, legislate to permit Qantas to carry mail throughout the country, thereby adding further incentive for the domestic airlines to honour their agreements?

Answer

I have referred this question to the Minister for Aviation.

COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE

14 NOVEMBER 1985

QUESTIONS TABLED BY SENATOR VIGOR

Question (Pages 2204/2205 of Hansard)

Australia Post: Industrial Disputation

We have just seen a major dispute that arose when New South Wales management tried to gear work practices to peaks of mail throughout. In response to a question by Senator Parer, Estimates Committee C discovered that last financial year it cost 11 million dollars in additional overtime to clear New South Wales mail backlogs caused by industrial problems.

I have had Question on Notice No. 113 on the Notice Paper since 19 March, dealing with how disputes arise, and what sort of planning has gone into the establishment of new mail centres. There is no indication that an answer is anywhere in the offing. I am happy to modify the question if a particular part has created compilation problems in answering. I would like to get an answer. I am sure that honourable Senators and the general public would very much like to know what management is doing to settle matters before they develop into disputes. It is in Australia Post's interests to release this information to the public. I hope that the interest of the Minister for Communications will help get this information into the open so that the mail situation in New South Wales can be properly assessed.

Response

A draft reply to question on Notice No. 113 has been prepared and will shortly be submitted to the Minister for Communications for consideration.

COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE

14 NOVEMBER 1985

QUESTIONS TABLED BY SENATOR VIGOR

Question Page 2206

On behalf of public broadcasters and participants around the country, I ask the Minister whether there is additional information available on Government attitudes towards a one-off endowment and sales-tax exemption for public broadcasters and public television.

Response

No. The question of an endowment is one for consideration in the budget context, and sales tax exemption is a matter for the Treasurer.

COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE

14 NOVEMBER 1985

QUESTIONS TABLED BY SENATOR VIGOR

Question Page 2206

Forward Development Unit

The Forward Development Unit has been given substantial new staff resources.

When it was established in February, its terms of reference were to deal with the medium and long-term future for commercial television-and to look closely at opportunities brought by advanced delivery technology.

At the end of April, the Minister reaffirmed that equalisation was a long-term objective. Yet the report of the Forward Development Unit dealt only with the short-term, and was quite nebulous about how many longer-term rearrangements might occur. Did the Minister for Communications modify in writing the terms of reference, or did the Unit reinterpret the terms of reference in the light of policy announcements made in May? Is this a case of ``Yes, Minister''?

In the light of strong statements in favour of giving the supplementary licence scheme a fair trial-these have come from within the ACTU and public interest groups-can the Minister say whether any part of the supplementary licence approach will be retained?

And if so, what will be done to get the Department to process material more quickly? Only 4 of the original 98 applications have gone to the Tribunal, and the television one in Canberra has been put under pressure by both commercial interests and the Minister.

Answer

(1) The Forward Development Unit (FDU) has an establishment of only six and the staffing level has been consistent with this.

(2) The Terms of Reference for the first FDU study were originally directed towards the future direction of commercial broadcasting in Australia. The Minister subsequently modified these both by separating commercial radio into a separate study and by his statement of 23 May 1985, establishing equalisation no later than 1990 as the Government's highest priority. If the Honourable Senator cares to read the first FDU Report, a copy of which was sent to him on publication in July, he will see that this sequence of events is meticulously recorded there.

(3) The supplementary licence scheme has been given a considerable trial already, since it has been in operation from November 1983. The scheme has proved to be complex and rather unwieldy, involving both existing licensees and independent applicants in considerable expense, yet with meagre results. Accordingly, the Minister has taken a variety of steps to facilitate procedures-including amendments to the legislation. While it is too early to be definitive, it is expected that the scheme will continue to have a useful role in commercial radio (for which it was designed) even if equalisation supersedes it in the area of commercial television.

(4) The major delay in processing supplementary licence applications to the ABT, occurs in arriving at draft technical specifications for each service. These specifications form the basis upon which a station will ultimately be established; they also allow independent groups seeking to oppose the supplementary licence to make submissions based on equivalent coverage of communities within the defined Service Area for the service. While applicants are required to provide full technical details in the Application, most proposals are deficient. Typical deficiencies are:

inadequate coverage of communities within the Service Area;

failure to provide adequate interference protection to other established radio and television services.

The Department's technical analysis of proposals is further complicated by the shortage of available VHF-FM channels, and the associated issue of Band II clearance to release spectrum for FM radio development.

In the past, deficient applications or planning proposals have been routinely returned to the sponsor for revision. This process has proved very time consuming, particularly in the case of supplementary licences. Accordingly, where reasonable efforts have been made by sponsors, the Department now prepares a detailed commentary on the proposal and, where relevant, specifies alternative technical details. this then forms the basis of detailed negotiations with the applicant. While additional Departmental specialist resources are used in the analysis stage, there are significant savings in the negotiation/final specification stage. Without these steps, delays would be longer.

Planning for new services is continuing, in so far as present uncertainties surrounding the timetable for clearance of television services from Band II (channels 3, 4, and 5) permit.

Additional planning resources have been authorised to assist the Department in dealing with an increased planning workload; however, staff experienced in this specialised activity are in very short supply. New graduates have been recruited, and continue to be sought, but such recruits require a minimum of twelve months experience before becoming effective; during the learning phase, training of these graduates places additional demands on the time of experienced staff''.

COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE

14 NOVEMBER 1985

QUESTIONS TABLED BY SENATOR VIGOR

Questions on Page 2206 of Hansard

``Licences for New Stations

According to page 436 of the Estimates Hansard, there are currently 835 Expressions of Interest (not all compatible) from people hoping to obtain a broadcasting licence awaiting processing by the Department of Communications. In addition, the Department is currently assessing 128 firm proposals for broadcasting licences, plus more for supplementary licences. Clearance of television stations from Band II will take up additional Department of Communications resources. Only about half the planning resources will be available for broadcast station planning, and consequently they expect to process only between 15 and 20 of the proposals before them this year.

The Department of Communications is being given additional resources, but not the Broadcasting Tribunal. The Tribunal gets very little advance notice of licence applications.

The Annual Report of the Department of Communications indicates that low-power community stations are being planned for the Melbourne metropolitan area. But in answer to my question on notice No. 193 in Hansard of March 29th 1985, the Department could not predict how many new pubic stations might be licenced over the next three years.

Will the government be setting priority areas for the Station Planning Branch to tackle, or will we continue the very slow progress of the previous years on a large number of fronts?

In a letter dated the 28 October, the Minister for Communications has indicated to me that he is aware of the planning delays, and that he has asked his Department to examine ways in which some of those delays may be overcome. Has the Minister given the Department a deadline by which it is to report on these matters? Can the Minister tell me now how the Department plans to overcome those delays?''

Response

There are very few clear channels available for broadcasting services in any of the populated areas of Australia. The introduction of new services thus has the potential to cause interference to existing services, and technical planning has thus become increasingly complex. To cope with this complexity the Department is developing automated planning systems which relieve planning engineers of routine computation, allowing their resources to be more effectively applied to examining the potential consequences of decision options on both short and long term.

The slow initial rate of processing supplementary licences has been the result of:

The need to develop systematic strategic plans for spectrum utilisation;

Band II television channels obstructing FM development, and the need to commit scarce resources both to planning around these obstructions, and to finding alternative channels for the television services which need to change channels;

Implementation of the LAGE decision to relocate Departmental planning resources from Melbourne to Canberra, and the attendant short-term loss of productivity while new staff are recruited and trained, and functions are consolidated in Canberra. Some benefits of these organisational changes are already evident, particularly in the improved management-control arrangements which are assisting the Department to cope with the current major expansion of services. There are also significant advantages flowing from having policy and planning resources co-located.

Once these problems are overcome and the foundations for future development are firmly established, accelerated progress in processing proposals for new services is expected to be realised.

Several steps have been taken, specifically to reduce planning delays for new services:

regular liaison between Station Planning Branch and the ABT has been established so as to improve coordination of activities, and to allow better forward planning of resource allocations by the ABT and the Department;

a substantial rewrite of the broadcasting planning guidelines has been undertaken, primarily to assist groups in preparing technical proposals;

internal Departmental procedures are again being reviewed, to reduce processing requirements to the minimum necessary to ensure compliance with statutory requirements;

considerable resources have been applied to technical studies and negotiations associated with the development of National Spectrum plans that will form the basis for Band II clearance, detailed planning of new television services, and FM radio development.

Considerable attention has been given to the question of priorities for the application of limited resources. Work is currently being undertaken to review the real demand for new services in each category, and to develop project scheduling systems. When these systems are in place, it is hoped that a smaller number of projects will be in progress at any time. However, by reducing the loss of resources involved in staff switching their attention between projects, the overall throughput should increase. In order to do this, sponsors of proposals will need to accept certain fixed delays in the processing of their proposals.

Methods of ensuring appropriate allocation of resources across all sectors, consistent with government priorities, are also being examined by the Department.

Committee of the Whole

14 November 1985

Question Tabled by Senator Vigor

Question Page 2206

Licence Fee Collection

Last year the High Court ruled that the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal could not ask for extra financial documents where it wasn't satisfied that figures presented as a station's gross earnings, were actually a fair reflection of what was going on. Has the government examined simplifying the process by basing licence fees purely on advertising revenue?

If so, when can such a change be anticipated.

Response

To date the Government has not examined any changes to the licence fees collection process, although the Department of Communications is considering the matter in consultation with the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal.


Senator WALSH —In relation to the program the National, I am advised that section 6 of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Act provides, among other things, that the Corporation shall take account of the services provided by commercial stations. It has not previously been suggested that this provision was calculated to prevent the ABC from presenting programs of a nature similar to those on commercial stations or any other radio and television services available in Australia. Senator Puplick also referred to the Carleton-Walsh Report and alleged that the National had been sabotaged in order to expand the Carleton-Walsh Report. The response provided by the Minister is that the Carleton-Walsh Report will continue to be presented next year on three nights a week, as has been the case this year. The suggestion of the sabotaging of the National is a serious assertion but there is no evidentiary basis to support it; at least none has been presented as yet. As to the internal memorandum about the National, there is continuing discussion internally about most ABC programs, not only the National, and some of this discussion is conducted by exchange of memoranda. They are written for the purposes of thoughtful professional analysis and the selective leaking of such documents can inhibit the legitimate and necessary process by which programs and program series are reviewed within the Corporation. On the question of ABC orchestras, I have a response from the Minister but I think I can update it a little. That question is under consideration by the Government at the moment.