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Thursday, 11 September 1958


Mr DUTHIE (Wilmot) .- In the time at my disposal, I should like to refer to three matters connected with the Postal Department. The Postmaster-General's Department is the largest business undertaking, private or public, in Australia. It is even bigger than the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited in its capital investment and turnover. It is also the biggest socialized enterprise in this country. It renders a unique and remarkably varied service to the public of Australia. Further, the strength of the Postmaster-General's Department lies in its nearness to the public, especially through the operations of its thousands of official post offices and 9,000 unofficial post offices. Its staff carries out a tremendous range of public services, and it is a unique example of human relations work on a large scale. The Government requires its staff to carry out all sorts of jobs, especially in times of crisis. The strength of the Postmaster-General's Department is also manifest in the extreme courtesy of the officers of the department. In my twelve years as the member for Wilmot, I have had more to do with postal and telephone matters than I have had to do with any other phase of a federal member's activities. My electorate covers onehalf of the island of Tasmania and comprises 13,000 square miles. Probably more automatic exchanges have been installed in my electorate than in most of the other electorates.


Mr Hamilton - How do you do" that?


Mr DUTHIE - That is a secret which I will not divulge now. From my personal experience, from tours of my electorate and so on, I know that the courtesy of the employees of the department is great, from the hard-working postmasters and postmistresses, the postmen, technicians, line staff, engineers, inspectors, right up to the Director himself.


Mr Hasluck - What about the telegraph messengers?


Mr DUTHIE - The telegraph messengers, too. These men are the basis of the strength of this great department. Its weakness is not to be found in the human factor. In that respect, it is as strong as any other government department or public utility. Its weakness lies in the shortage of finance. Lack of funds has resulted in leg irons being placed on this great utility, which is strained to the utmost to-day due to the rapid development of new housing and industrial areas in our towns and cities and their demands for postal services of all kinds.

This shortage of finance means fewer phones, fewer cables, fewer post offices and fewer mail contracts. Where mails should be going in five times a week, they are going in only twice a week. The service to the community is slashed because not enough money is made available for the department to do its work. You cannot blame the human factor; this is purely a financial problem. I criticize the Government for shackling a department that has the technical and engineering skill necessary for it to do its job. It would have all the equipment it needs if it had enough money, and it has the facilities to use the equipment. What is happening now is like putting a motor car on the road but not putting petrol into the tank.


Mr Daly - What are they doing with the profits?


Mr DUTHIE - That is a point. The department made a profit of £5,000,000 last year. That should have been churned back into the department, not paid into Consolidated Revenue. The basic weaknesses of the department can be removed only by the allocation of more finance. The department has had to put men off from the line staff, which, to my way of thinking, is the very nerve centre of the department. The line staff put in new lines and the cable jointers make it possible for new trunk lines to be put down.

I shall not take up my full quarter 3 of hit television programme, which reminds me of the American three-stage rockets. I hope that the Postmaster-General's Department will have better luck with its three-stage television than the Americans have had with some of their three-stage rockets, which exploded at the second stage, and did not reach the third stage. I am afraid that we will get lost in the limbo of forgotten things before we reach stage three of the Government's television programme.

Stage 3 concerns the vast countryside of Australia, which will never get television unless programmes are relayed by the microwave system or the booster system. I have been on the back of the PostmasterGeneral for nearly a year now, endeavouring to get the Government to make up its mind about what it is going to do in relation to booster stations. Let me give one illustration of how the booster system works. Latrobe, in northern Tasmania, 7 miles from Devonport, is surrounded by hills. It would not have television reception even if a television station were installed in Launceston, only 55 miles away. The reason is that Latrobe is amongst the hills. However, a man in Latrobe with great technical knowledge has put up a little li horse-power transmitter on a hill 2 miles out of the town. In effect, he has erected his own booster station. On a clear day he receives images from Melbourne - 300 miles to the north - as clearly as they are received in Melbourne itself. He- has his reception set in the town. He cannot get a licence to operate a booster station, because the Government has not yet made up its mind as to its policy on booster stations. It did not think about them when television legislation was brought down two years ago.

Tasmania will have, during stage 2, a television station at Hobart. That is all we shall- have, apparently. Launceston will be, so to speak, in no man's land unless it can receive programmes from Melbourne or Hobart. Melbourne is 300 miles away and Hobart is 123 miles away. The only way to ensure that television programmes transmitted from Hobart would be received in Launceston would be to put a booster station at Oatlands, half way between the two places and the highest point between them, or on Mount Barrow, 25 miles to the east of Launceston.

The north-west coast of Tasmania is one of the most important parts of the State. This area, which includes Devonport, Ulverstone, Burnie, Penguin, Wynyard and Stanley, will never have television unless we can put a booster station nearer to the north-west coast. I would suggest that such a station be placed on Mount Roland, which is over 3,000 feet high, and is situated 50 miles south of Devonport. It is the most northerly point in the great western mountain system of Tasmania, and would be an ideal site for Tasmania's north-western booster station. This is the first time I have put this suggestion forward, but I shall continue to press it until stage 3 of the television programme is completed.


Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes - Is there not a microwave system from Arthur's Seat, on the mainland, to Tasmania now?


Mr DUTHIE - No, not for television.


Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes - I am not referring to television, but to telephones.


Mr DUTHIE - There is a telephone microwave system across the Bass Strait. We think we could receive television programmes transmitted from Melbourne if we had the correct site for the equipment to bring the images from the mainland to the island.


Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes - The present site could be used.


Mr DUTHIE - If the same site could be used for television as is being used for telephone messages, that would solve our problem to a great extent. In case the images cannot get across to the north-west coast of Tasmania, I am suggesting that a booster station be erected at Mount Roland, which is going to become in a year or two one of the greatest scenic attractions in Tasmania. It will out-Wellington Mount Wellington at Hobart. We are battling for a road to be built to the summit of this flat-topped mountain, from which you can see the complete range from the entrance to the Tamar down to Launceston and right through to the north-western corner at Stanley. A vast area of about 100 miles along the north coast of Tasmania can be seen from this one mountain top. It is a glorious view indeed. If we can get a booster station erected on that mountain, sending images along the north-western coast, it will be a tremendous help to people living in that area. The station could rebroadcast programmes from Hobart, which is 120 miles to the south-east, or programmes from Melbourne brought to Tasmania through a microwave set-up, coming via King Island. Whatever system the department finally decides upon - the microwave or the booster system - I hope that the northern part and the northwestern pant of Tasmania will be covered adequately and will receive programmes from the main station located at Hobart.

The Queen Mother's visit to Canberra illustrated a remarkable thing. It was found that we could send to Sydney images of the proceedings in King's Hall, on the night of the State ball. They were received by people in Sydney as clearly as if they had been receiving the pictures from their own stations. The intervening stretch of 200 miles was spanned with the aid of two booster stations. It proved what could be done in this country with the aid of such stations.


Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes - Television is carried right across Canada by the use of micro-wave and booster stations.


Mr DUTHIE - That is a distance of 3,500 miles, so. honorable members will appreciate what can be done in Australia. In the beginning we thought that television could not be taken, very far beyond the capital cities, but now, we can accept the fact that it will ultimately go out to the country dweller also - if he can afford a set! My colleagues and I will keep fighting for the implementation of the third phase of television development so that country folk will benefit from it also.

From what I have seen, of television, and from what I have learnt from friends who have television sets on the mainland, some programmes still leave very much to be desired. The choice of programme is still very limited. I. do not think that the television stations are observing the full spirit of the act - whatever the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) may say to. the contrary. I still feel that they are getting round the law, and are putting over cheap and nasty programmes merely to fill up their transmission time and to capture the interest ot people who may be susceptible to sensationalism. The Postmaster-General might well have another look at the standard of television programmes.

Interestingly enough, 35- television licences have already been issued: to folk at Burnie, Devonport and Launceston. On a clear day they can. get perfect television images from the Melbourne stations 300 miles to the north.







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