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Thursday, 6 October 1983
Page: 1479

Mr IAN CAMERON(5.25) —I commence by pointing out to the electors of Maranoa and people at large in inland Australia, where communications are so important, that the Government has allocated $288m for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio and television network. Of that, approximately $ 280m is spent locally and $8.6m is spent on Radio Australia; that is, the radio network that spreads the message of Australia overseas to all our near neighbours and friends. Of course there are many good things in this allocation for inland Australia. One is the remote underserved community scheme which received an allocation of $330m this financial year. I believe that this is an excellent program. It is an initiative. It is something that we in inland Australia certainly support. Many areas outside the capital cities of Australia are underserved both by television and radio. Of course most of these funds will not be spent in the capital cities.

We have seen the allocation of funds for a second network for regional television stations. This has been welcomed by most. I add that an awful lot of provincial stations cannot fully use their existing capacity for advertising, let alone compete with a second network and expect to recoup advertising income. Most of those stations are looking at a pay system. The second regional radio network is also to be welcomed. This is something that has been in train within the Department of Communications for a number of years. I do not believe it is something for which the present Government can take credit, but at least it has been prepared to initiate the move. This will give an extra radio service to four million Australians, again outside the capital cities. I welcome that move.

Ethnic radio received a Budget allocation of $6.7m. Multicultural television received $24.9m. The total for the Special Broadcasting Service was $33.7m. I will come back to that matter later. I have never been all that keen about this concept. I cannot see why we cannot all be classed as Australians and all listen to the same radio and television stations, without having to give something special to these people. I think we have reached a stage where those of us who live in the bush are referred to as an ethnic class. We are completely forgotten and we do not have any decent services given to us. I think we ought to do away with ethnic radio and television before they completely encompass us and we, as taxpayers, have to spend millions of dollars. Previous speakers have pointed out that it is not the ethnic people who are watching the television or listening to the radio stations but the trendy Australians.

Mr Lusher —Probably the socialists.

Mr IAN CAMERON —Probably the socialists in and around Canberra and those sorts of people would be watching those programs. There is a Budget allocation of $245 ,000 for testing the homestead and community broadcasting satellite service. Of course we all welcome that. We are looking forward to the launching of that system in mid-1985. It will bring television to approximately 300,000 people in outback Australia. This money is being expended to test the small receiving dishes required to receive the signal off the satellite. I am one who supports the concept of Television Australia. I put it to the Minister for Communications (Mr Duffy) now that I do not believe that the ABC should receive the second HACBSS system, which it is mooted will be a pay system. I put it to the Minister that we are entitled to receive a second system that we do not have to pay for. Those of us who have not been getting any television up until this stage hope to receive a signal. Obviously we will receive an ABC signal on the first HACBSS system. I believe that the ABC should not have the second HACBBS system if it is going to be a pay system. If it is good enough for the ethnic communities to have that $33.7m spent on them it ought to be good enough for the Minister to direct the ABC to give people in inland Australia a second commercial channel, if that is what one likes to term it, but certainly a second channel they do not have to pay for.

Mr Reeves —Television already is a pay system.

Mr IAN CAMERON —I do not support a pay system if it is to be given to us by the ABC-a network supported by the taxpayer. If the only way we can get it is through the concept of Television Australia-a pay system, a commercial operation , with people having to pay-that is not quite so bad. But I am totally opposed to the ABC going into pay television and the taxpayers in remote areas having to pay to receive their signal. Every other taxpayer in Australia gets his ABC wireless and television services for nothing. The Minister and the Department are trying to tell us that the only way we can receive the second channel is by paying for it. In that case I am dead opposed to it.

Of course, Aussat Pty Ltd has been set up. I only hope that the Minister can make sure that those in Caucus and other places have the present proportion of private enterprise involved in Aussat as it is. It is a new medium. Surely, if it is going to work, the public ought to be able to buy into 49 per cent of this great company that has been set up to manage the television network that will be conducted through the satellites. Of course, satellites are the new and ongoing technology. We will have not just one or two satellites in 10 years time. We will probably have half a dozen satellites. I think it is important that we let private enterprise get into this system and that we let private enterprise throughout Australia get some experience in it.

Before I leave the communications section of the Budget I would like to thank the Minister for including Charleville in the Budget and allocating $210,000 to commence building an ABC radio station there. It is the only allocation for radio in Queensland. I and my predecessor, Mr Jim Corbett, have been pushing for many years to have this station established. I hope that Jim is still around by the time the station is completed. Let us hope that it is completed by the turn of the century. It is scheduled to be completed by 1985. That sort of allocation ought to buy the land and get the station going. Hopefully, we will see it completed.

I would like to move on to Telecom Australia. From the figures released today we see that Telecom's profit is down $12m. I think it is important to point out to people that the revenue of Telecom is $3.6 billion. It is one of the biggest organisations in Australia today. I support the comments of the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) about Countrywide Calling. I point out to the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Ronald Edwards) that some of us on this side of the chamber have been constructive. At my initiative and that of other honourable members we met with the Minister and we have achieved some changes in that concept. We met in one of the party rooms. Most people in inland Australia are most concerned about the cost and the fact that they now have to pay by time for a community call to the nearest business centre. I support the concept of the honourable member for Murray. Surely to goodness, in this day and age every Australian is entitled to be able to ring his local business centre for the cost of a local call. He should not have to pay for a time call.

We see mass discrimination being established by Telecom and by the Australian Labor Party Government whereby people living in the Countrywide Calling zone, the most disadvantaged people, will be the first in Australia asked to pay more for a local call. This affects only the isolated zones in Australia. They will now be on a time call system. I must say that through the efforts of Mr Keith West of Telecom, Murray Brodrick, the area manager from Toowoomba, and Geoff Johnston, the area manager from Roma, we have achieved something. We have had meetings in Goondiwindi. Barbara Mailer was very helpful in this regard. Last week Mr Keith West, on behalf of the Minister, was able to announce that Mundine , Toobeah, Lundavra and The Gums now have local call access. I am sure that the people in all those places are very happy now.

Mr Saunderson —Wonderful country.

Mr IAN CAMERON —I say to people such as the honourable member for Deakin and others that people in other areas in Australia ought to apply to Telecom and see whether they can get back their local call access. Surely, those of us who live in inland Australia should not be the first to have to start paying for a time community call. We ought to be the last people to pay. I have Australia Post mentioned in my notes. There are mail strikes in Canberra at the moment. None of us can send anything anywhere. That is probably a good thing. We are not receiving anything either. Our work load has slackened off somewhat, so that is good for us politicians. Australia Post is continuing to downgrade services. I would like the Minister to look at this facet of communications. I ask him to make sure that country people continue to get the services they deserve.

The CHAIRMAN —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.