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Thursday, 1 March 1973
Page: 191

Mr FULTON (Leichhardt) - I wish to deal with communications in the electorate of Leichhardt. My remarks will be on lines similar to those of my friend from Wimmera (Mr King). Since the reorganisation of the Postmaster-General's Department, the situation in regard to telephone, radio and television services in my electorate has worsened. One person in Kuranda, who has a very sick wife and a doctor's certificate stating that the provision of a telephone service to his home should receive priority, applied for the installation of a telephone 2 years ago. This man, Mr- Mason - he will not mind my mentioning his name - has not had a telephone connected as yet. But a community of Aborigines near Redlynch engendered a lot of newspaper publicity and a public telephone was installed in their area immediately. It is not right that people should be required to wait for the connection of telephone services because, after all, revenue is gained from these services which are necessary especially for people living in far flung places.

Kuranda is only 12 miles by road from Cairns. These people have been waiting all these years to have the service connected. A telephone is necessary for them to conduct their business as well as to look after the family when the husband is away from home. The same circumstances apply to a fellow named Christensen who lives at Kings Plain, outside Cooktown. He has a very sick wife. He has a cattle property and he is away from home for long periods. Yet he cannot get a phone connected to his home. Why? I cannot get a satisfactory answer from the Department. I have not yet mentioned this matter to the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) but I shall. I have informed him that I will see him about it. But why should I need to see the Minister? Why cannot the officers of the Department rectify these mistakes? They have told me that the reorganisation of the Postmaster-General's Department has meant that the telephone division in the area is now centred at Townsville rather than Cairns. Cairns is neglected because there are no engineers in the area. Money has not been allotted to Cairns as it was when Cairns was the centre of a telephone division. The money is now allotted to Townsville. This shows a lack of concern for the area north of Cairns - 220,000 square miles of country including Cape York Peninsula - which is crying out for development. It will be developed irrespective of governments and other factors. The area has the natural resources and its development will proceed. Our communications system should be well advanced so that it can assist the prawning industry, the minerals industry and the cattle industry.

Recently a television transmitter . was installed on Mount Bellenden Ker. Each night the television station advertises that 90,000 people are now being serviced by it. They are not. Thirty thousand, people are not; receiving a picture now, whereas when the station operated from the flat land in Cairns they received .a picture. I refer to people in the Babinda, Redlynch, Freshwater and Mossman areas. It is true that outback areas around Herberton and Ravenshoe are receiving a picture for the first time, but people who previously received a picture when it was transmitted from the flat land in Cairns are not receiving a picture now. This matter has to be, investigated. I . ask the Minister to look into -it.; I was assured by the previous PostmasterGeneral that when the transmitter on, Mount. Bellenden Ker was in operation the areas that did not receive a picture would be serviced by translators which would be installed so that the people in those areas could receive a picture. This promise has not been honoured. I hope that the Minister will honour the promise given by the previous government. Except for Mount Bartle Frere near Babinda, Mount Bellenden Ker is the highest mountain in the area.

When the picture was transmitted, from1 Cairns, people in the Babinda area were receiving a clear picture and clear sound.. I do not know the technicalities concerned. Today they are not receiving a picture. People living in the Freshwater, Redlynch and Mossman areas are not receiving a picture either. Quite a number of people live , in these areas. The television station advertises that 90,0.00 people are being serviced by it. This is not correct. Thirty thousand people who previously received a picture are not receiving one at present. They have spent a lot of money on having their antennae extended. Some people have had their antennae turned round. Some experts advise that the antennae should be turned round so that a picture can be received. This is not correct. The desired result has not been achieved. Therefore, I ask the Minister to have an investigation made o£ the position in the Leichhardt electorate so that it will not be too long before these areas are serviced by translators.

I will see the Postmaster-General later about the matter of telephone services. The position is worse now than it has ever been. More than 800 applicants in Cairns, in the surrounding area and in the Leichhardt electorate are waiting to have a telephone service connected. This should not be so. The Department should be looking for customers. They pay the rental and for their telephone calls. They are helping to develop this country. People in the backblocks are the salt of the earth. They deserve a telephone service at least, or radio communications, so that they can get in touch with a doctor or the ambulance if things go wrong at their homes. That is their right. I think the Parliament should take notice of the plight of these people in the Leichhardt electorate.

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