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Thursday, 27 April 1972
Page: 2081

Mr CORBETT (Maranoa) - I wish to make one or two comments about coal. I had not intended to speak about coal, but I wish to say something in relation to comments that have already been made. One honourable member said that Goonyella is connected by a railway to Hay Point. That is correct. However, nothing was said about who built the railway, and that is part of the whole contract. When this situation is being examined, one must look not only at the royalties and freight rates that are being paid but also at the whole concept of everything connected with it, including who built the railway. I do not have time- to enlarge much on that point, but from listening to the debate as it has occurred in this House this morning one would have gained a wrong impression of the value of the coal industry to Queensland and of the benefits that accrue from the agreements that have been made.

This morning I should like to talk about the problems of rural industry. I make no apology for talking about these problems because there is a great need in the community today to ensure that rural industry is kept viable. The industry is slowly recovering from a period of droughts and low world prices. It needs all the assistance that can reasonably be provided by governments. Export income from rural industry still is a vital part of our national economy. Unless we give consideration to this aspect of national life we will find that a falling off will occur in this field. I stress that the export income earned from a rural industry is a continuing thing; it goes on. It is not an industry which in the course of time will give out, as mines will. So, it is necessary to maintain rural industry in a viable way, with assistance which is within reasonable limits of government endeavour. I feel - I hope that this proves to be correct - that rural industry has reached the bottom of the trough into which it has fallen and that it will arise from that trough. Indeed, indications are fairly clear that it has reached the bottom and is starting to rise. This is the time when assistance is sorely needed.

Something which must be provided is adequate long term finance. This is a prime aspect of rural recovery and its full development, lt is said that there are avenues by which this long term finance might be obtained, but my experience is that it is very difficult to obtain. I believe that the situation should be examined with the objective of ensuring that this finance is provided in some way or another if it is not otherwise readily obtainable. Another aspect of this problem relates to government charges. Because of the special circumstances which I have already mentioned, I believe that it is necessary to examine government charges in all sections of the rural economy, including those charges on residents in country towns, with the object of easing the burden on those people of rising costs, which in rural industry generally cannot be passed on in the way that they can be passed on in so many other industries. Of course, this is what causes costs to continue to rise.

As the time available to me is limited, I must now turn quickly to another factor which is contributing to the drift of people to the cities, namely, the lack of amenities and satisfactory communications, particularly in outlying country areas. The long time that elapses at present between an application for a telephone and its installation must be reduced. The Government deserves full credit for the conditions under which rural telephones can now be installed, but the difficulty of obtaining equipment, materials and technicians to enable telephones to be installed results in the wait being too long. Every effort must be made to find some solution to this problem. Again, I think it is largely a matter of finance. I feel fully confident that if adequate finance were made available for the installation of telephones, a better utilisation of the manpower presently available could be made and better planning of operations would result. This is an area which must be examined. While I concede quite freely that it is not the only problem, I believe that within the aspects and planning of government it is essential that more finance be provided for this particular area. I ask members of this House and the people listening to this debate how they would like to wait for years before a telephone was provided. The running of a property today is a fairly highly specialised business. Would anyone be prepared to say that a business could be handled successfully without a telephone? I do not say that a solution can be found overnight, but I suggest that everything that can possibly be done should be done to enable these telephones to be provided where they are required.

In addition to that, there is the human element. For example, there are available to people ambulances which they are not able to call because of the lack of telephones. I could go on in that vein to emphasise the need which exists, but I do not think that I should take up any more time to emphasise the real need in this field. The problem will be solved only if the planning is done at this stage and more finance is provided in this particular field. I have been given 3 reasons for the delay in the installation of telephones to country areas. One reason is the lack of technicians, another is the lack of such things as automatic exchanges and equipment, and the other reason is the lack of cable. Here, again, I believe that if finance were made available, although it would not solve that problem completely it would enable forward ordering and, therefore industry probably would be stepped up to meet the orders for equipment needed to solve this problem. I know that, to the Government, it is always a matter of priority of expenditure. There never is sufficient money to provide all the needs of a community. However, 1 stress that the order of priority in the case of telephones should be lifted.

There are one or two other points that I would like to make in relation to people in rural areas. I mention first education and health. These are 2 matters which are very important to people living in rural areas. In the matter of health, people who must obtain specialist attention cannot get it in many rural areas. They have to travel to capital or provincial cities to receive this attention. The problem with which they are confronted should be carefully examined with the object of providing them with the facilities to enable them to make the journey without undue financial burden to them. This would not cost the community a great deal and it would provide a service which would enable people from country areas to remain in the city while attending their doctors for the special treatment that they require. I believe that there is a very just claim for that and I would like to see this situation examined.

Another aspect which is contributing to the drift to the cities is education. The cost today of education for people in rural areas, particularly in the outlying areas, is getting well beyond them. This has resulted in the formation of the Isolated Childrens Parents Association, members of which have made great sacrifices and have travelled hundreds of miles to try to prepare a case for State and Federal governments to examine with the object of obtaining assistance. I concur with the objectives of that organisation. A striking illustration of the intensity of this need and the determination of the parents is that, at the annual federal conference of this organisation in Bourke, people from as far away as Western Australia attended. Many of these people can ill afford the time and :he cost of travel to get together to prepare a case to support this very deserving cause. J hope that this matter also will be given serious consideration by the Government and that the Government will help to provide these people with the assistance which will enable them to have what should be the birthright of every Australian child, namely, a reasonable education.

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