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Thursday, 11 September 1958

Mr J R FRASER . - I refer to some policies and activities of the Postmaster-General's Department which, I fear, affect in an ad-, verse manner the development of the national capital. The concept of this place was that of a garden city, and right from the commencement of construction and in all developments through that period until very recent years, it was the practice that there should be no poles carrying wires in the streets. That was a distinctive feature of Canberra as the national capital. Indeed, I think, one of the most pleasing features of the place was that whereas , in other cities' streets were marred by little forests of poles and masses of overhead wires, Canberra was a" city where the streets were free of obstruction. It was hoped that policy would be continued.

There, are. two authorities here responsible, for the dispersal of power, and other services. One is the Canberra- Electric Supply and the other is- the Postmaster-General's Department which provides telephone and telegraph services. Admittedly, the Canberra Electric Supply has, in some areas, used- wire-carrying poles in' the streets, butthey are. placed there as a temporary measure, and in the future the wires will be placed, underground. Those unsightly features of the- landscape will then disappear. But the Postmaster-General's Department, apparently as- part of the policy it has implemented throughout the Commonwealth, is proceeding in Canberra with the* erection of poles in the suburban parts carrying telephone wires for distribution to homes, offices and other places. There have been protests by a. number of people in the Australian Capital Territory and I think it is right that I. should voice some of those protests here and seek to have the original concept of this city adhered to so that these unsightly features will be removed.

The Postmaster-General's Department naturally seeks to operate with the greatest possible economy and that, in itself, is commendable, of course; but we have here a planned city - a city designed to be a place of beauty, a garden city, a symbol of the nation and one of which I think the whole nation should be justly proud. It would be a shame if the departments I have mentioned were to impair that concept. At present, many of the telephone services - certainly those- in- all major areas and thoroughfares and in the principal residential streets of the suburbs - are carried underground. The services to and from the houses are taken along the street by underground cable and the distribution to the homes or business places is underground. But recently, as a measure of economy, the Post Office has adopted the practice of taking an underground cable along one side of the street and erecting at intervals what are termed' isolated distribution poles from which ten sets of wires go out to serve ten subscribers on both sides of the street.

There- are some 350 of these poles- atpresent in- Canberra, and; my inquiries fromthe department indicate- that' its policy- is to continue; with that form of development.. I suggest- to the- Minister, for Social . Services (Mr. Roberton), who is. at the table, and, through him;, to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson)- and the- Minister for the Interior- (Mr. Fairhall) that this is, a- wrong policy. It gets, right away from the- concept of. Canberra, as. a beautiful city, and this policy* should no longer be., continued. We should follow, the- practice- that is. adopted by the- Canberra. Electric. Supply. That authority, when iti is. necessary to: carry overhead' wires, takes, them, behind; thehouses, between the- streets: and.', then carries its- supply underground, to the homes.

It may be argued that the PostmasterGeneral's, Department is charged with effecting this work, with the greatest economy, and that- it could not. embark on this more expensive procedure at this time. I suggest that, as this is a planned- garden city and the national capital,, and because we do undertake expenditure which normally would not be undertaken in a city of this size and population, if it is beyond the functions of- the Postmaster-General's Department, to follow the plan, take all its wires underground and remove its poles from- the streets where admittedly they are marring some beautiful aspects, it should be possible by consultation between the PostmasterGeneral's Department and the Department of the Interior, to see that funds are made available from votes, for the development of the national capital to the extent that they are required to meet the additional expenditure and the costs of proceeding with this development, as originally planned.

I know that the Postmaster-General's. Department, where it extends telephone services through country towns- or municipalities, sometimes meets the same objection from the local government authority, and does have consultations between officers of the department and the authority concerned. I suggest that in Canberra there is great need for consultation between the PostmasterGeneral's Department and the officers of the Department of the Interior and, indeed, with the National Capital Development Commission so that we can halt this practice now, get rid of the poles which are already marring some of the most beautiful streets and vistas in this city, and so that we may continue to build the city as it was designed to be built and as the recent confirmation of the Holford report has suggested. This is a matter that could well be resolved between the two departments concerned.

There is another matter relating to the Postmaster-General's Department to which I wish to refer. That is the practice that has developed within that department in recent years of getting away from standardization in its motor vehicles. It was quite easy to pick out postal vehicles in years past because it seemed to be the practice of the department to standardize on one or two makes of vehicles. That seemed to be a very sensible proposition because it enabled the department to carry in its own workshops the spares needed for those selected vehicles. But in recent years the department seems to have embarked on a policy of purchasing vehicles of many different kinds. I do not know the reason. Perhaps, it has been good salesmanship on the part of the representatives of the various automotive firms; but whatever the reason, the fact is that economy in operation and in the servicing and maintenance of these vehicles suffers because of the multiplicity of parts that must be carried and because of the different types of vehicles with which its mechanics and experts must become familiar.

Perhaps, it is open to question whether the department should concentrate on one make of vehicle as that would be a matter for selection; but what I suggest through the Minister at the table to the PostmasterGeneral is that the department should ascertain what type of vehicle is suited to its several needs. Admittedly, it has to have several. Having decided . which type of vehicle is suited to its needs, the department should concentrate on the purchase of that type of vehicle alone by calling tenders and perhaps by accepting tenders of the firm most nearly approaching in type and price the vehicle that is required. The department would then be in a position to stock its workshops with that type of vehicle and parts and have its workmen trained in the operation of those vehicles. It would thus effect economies. If it is felt that there should not be a concentration on one make, or one type, or one brand of motor vehicle, I suggest that, as there are six States, each subject to the control of a deputy directorgeneral, it might be well worth while considering that when there are several or more makes of a particular type of vehicle available, one type should be selected for a State, together with spare parts, spare engines and accessories; and the same principle should be applied to the other States. The department would be improving its service and effecting a saving to the community if it got away from the multiplicity of vehicles it is operating to-day. I suggest to the Minister that that might well be considered by himself and by the officers concerned.

There is one small matter to which I want to refer, in relation to the provision of television services. There has been considerable talk in recent years of extending television to this city, and various estimates have been given as to the cost that would be involved in providing such a service here. Speaking of this, I point out that in the coming year there will be transferred to this city from Melbourne some 1,100 public servants, many of whom have wives and families. They will be coming from a community in which television has been operating for some time and where it has become quite a familiar form of entertainment of the family circle. It may well be that the transfer of those people to Canberra is an added argument for the claim that television services should be extended to this city as rapidly as possible.

The Postmaster-General has not as yet given us an estimate of what the cost would be to establish television services here. I can tell him that to establish a complete television service here - that is an originating station, complete with studios, mobile vans, transmitting masts and all the equipment needed - firm quotes can be given in the region of £95,000. Even with that quote, some reductions could be made with economies paring down the cost. I hope to have an opportunity later in this session to develop that theme.

If the department is not prepared to face that expenditure at this stage, perhaps it could consider the establishment of what have been referred to as booster services, so that the people of this city would have an opportunity to view programmes that were being relayed in Sydney and in Melbourne. I understand - I have not any detailed information on this - that that would require an extension, of the micro-wave link from Goulburn to Canberra and that there would be some expense in the establishment of a transmitter here to beam that picture to this area. But I am told that, given an extension of the micro-wave link to Canberra, it would be possible to use the existing transmitting station, the existing studios and the existing masts at Belconnen for the transmission of this television programme and that it could be done with an expenditure of between £5,000 and £6,000. I have made that statement previously, and it has not been denied, nor has any information been furnished by the Postmaster-General's Department as to whether that statement could be correct. But to the best of my advice, it is correct to say that, granted the extension of the micro-wave link - I am not including that in the cost - the use of the existing transmitters and the existing towers, we could have a booster station provided here for an expenditure as low as £5,000 or £6,000. If- that is not so, I should like to be told what the cost of providing a booster station here would be.

I hope at a later stage to be able to give details of the cost of establishing a full station here. We must remember that these items can be purchased in other countries over the counter. Package television stations can be purchased, and even to-day there are firms in Australia prepared to quote a figure of £95,000 for establishing a complete station in this city. That is less than one-half of the previous estimate I have heard given in this place.

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