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Thursday, 15 October 1970

Mr Allan Fraser (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Monaro) - Of course the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) is right in asserting the obligation of the Parliament and the Government to control the amount of public funds to be provided to the Australian Broadcasting Commission or, for that matter, to any other public authority. Where be was wrong was in directing not only a reduction in the total allocation of funds but also the programmes which should be cut. Once that was established - 1 am glad it has not been - then any independence which the ABC possessed would be at an end. I congratulate and commend the Postmaster-General for the decision to provide rural subscribers with an additional 15 miles of telephone line to be constructed and maintained by his Department. This is very important in rural areas, it is action which has been long deferral, but at last a decision has been taken. I take hope that other proposals which I advanced for the improvement of postal and telephone services in rural areas will be adopted by this Government, and 1 hope sooner rather than later.

The cogency of the arguments presented by the Postmaster-General in defending the increased rates of postage on magazines and other periodicals was very impressive. Taken from a strictly accountancy point of view 1 should say that it would be impossible to fault it. But the farther one goes into this matter the more one realises that there are anomalies and difficulties which can react adversely to the interests of Australia as a whole and to the interests of the Postal Department. Already we have the most unfortunate situation where more and more Australian books are being sent abroad to be printed. I am told on good business authority that if an Australian magazine is printed in New Zealand, not only can it be printed more cheaply but also it can be posted from New Zealand for 3c a copy whereas, with the new rates of postage on periodicals and magazines, it would cost 17c or 18c a copy to post in Australia. If we force Australian publishers into that position it will be very injurious to the Australian nation as a whole, but will it not be injurious also to the Australian Post Office which, in fact, will be carrying these magazines and periodicals throughout Australia for no revenue?

Mr Hulme - We get revenue.

Mr Allan Fraser (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But not nearly as much.

Mr Hulme - We do not do all the work.

Mr Allan Fraser (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If this material can be posted in New Zealand for 3c and if the Post Office charges1 8c for it to be posted in Australia obviously the Post Office must lose a great deal of revenue if the magazines are sent in bulk or printed in New Zealand and then posted from that country. I hope that the Government will have another look at this matter. Now that the postage rate on letters has been increased by 20 per cent - this is the second increase in so brief a period - will the Postmaster-General please restore the twice a day delivery, the absence of which is causing such inconvenience and, in fact, loss to very many people? If this service cannot be restored all over Australia, surely it can now be restored in the larger centres of population both in the metropolitan areas and in the country districts.

I turn now to a matter on which I have been corresponding with the PostmasterGeneral but chiefly with the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in increasingly bitter terms since June. I refer to the failure of television reception in the Araluen Valley which is not very far from Canberra. Because of alterations made to the television transmitter on the Wandera Mountain improved service has been given to a considerable part of the south coast, but the effect has been to destroy practically the entire television reception in the Araluen Valley. This is recognised by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I have been in touch with that body by letter, by telephone and by many telegrams and eventually I received from the Board an assurance that temporary measures to restore the service in the Araluen Valley would be completed by the end of September. We are now half way through October and up till 2 days ago the reception In the Araluen Valley was worse than ever, if that is possible.

If the television service to which the people of Canberra or any other large centre of population had been accustomed over a number of years was suddenly cut off, why would it not be possible for the resources of the Postmaster-Generals Department to restore the service in less than 4 months? Why, just because a community is small, rural and isolated, should a less urgent view be taken of its needs? The people of the Araluen Valley, many of whom are elderly, have become accustomed to television. They rely on television very largely for their entertainment and leisure. That it has now been 4 months since the service broke down and that it has not yet been restored.I think, is a great reproach and I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he will intervene in this matter and see what can be done quickly towards restoring that service. I appeal to him with great confidence because I acknowledge that he has acted swiftly on many matters I have taken to him and the result has been favourable to my constituents.

Finally, I refer to the transmission of Radio Australia' programmes to Asia. This matter was mentioned by the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder). According to my information the 2 transmitters built near Darwin should have been in operation many months ago. I do not know why they are not yet in operation. I do know that the result is that both America and China are gaining a very large share of the Asian listening audience. The transmitter at Shepparton is too weak these days to compete in the short wave broadcasting field. Radio Australia used to have a very large share of that listening audience. It is very important, lest we lose it altogether, that the 2 transmitters at Darwin, for whatever reason their operation has been held up, should be placed in operation as soon as possible.

Progress reported.

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