Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 16 October 1973
Page: 2213

Mr CORBETT (Maranoa) - While listening to this debate I have been wondering where the Country Party comes in on a consideration of the remaining clauses of the Bill. In the contribution made by the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry), who has just resumed his seat, I heard very little other than what the attitude of the Country Party is to this Bill. The remaining clauses of this Bill deal with the fees and charges to be imposed on commercial broadcasting stations. I emphasise that these stations form a most important part of the life of the community throughout the whole of Australia. I inform the honourable member for Franklin that we are concerned not only with country broadcasting stations. But if a disadvantage is applied to a country broadcasting station, in spite of anything that he or the Government might say, we will defend their position and we will endeavour to see that all country broadcasting stations are permitted to provide the services that they have been providing down the years. If the increased fees have any effect on the services provided, we will raise our objections here. It is on that basis that we oppose the charges proposed by this Bill. The honourable member for Franklin said that these charges are to be raised from $50 to $200. I point out that this is the basic charge but that other charges are involved. The honourable member referred to the fact that there are not many country broadcasting stations with a revenue of more than $500,000. That is perfectly true. At the same time, we look at the whole concept of the increased charges on commercial broadcasting stations. I refer now to the part played by those stations which are facing difficulty in continuing operations in present circumstances. These commercial stations do play an extremely important part in those areas, particularly where television is not available and where telephone services sometimes are non-existent or are often very unreliable. In such areas, commercial broadcasting stations are an invaluable medium for advertising. They provide information as to the sudden postponement of any function. They broadcast local news and descriptions of sporting activities in these areas. Unless these stations can continue to operate profitably, they cannot provide these services indefinitely.

The financial position of many of these broadcasting stations is precarious. That would not worry the honourable member for Franklin. He would not be concerned about that fact. That is typical. I might tell the honourable member that it is predictable, too. Rising costs have created a great problem for many of these stations. The phasing out of cigarette advertising has reduced their revenue to a considerable degree so that profits have been .adversely affected from the aspects of income and expenditure. The rising costs which must be faced continually by many of these stations are highlighted in an article in the Australian' of yesterday's date. It is headed: Threat to State's radio, TV, phone services'. I must read the full heading although I relate my remarks, for the purposes of this debate, to the radio aspect only. The news report states:

.   . radio . . . services in Queensland could be disrupted. . . .

It states further:

The technicians will decide whether to accept wage increases of between 8 and 10.8 per cent offered by the Public Service Board.

The offer represents increases of S300 to $1,000 a year for technicians, and follows increases of 12 to 16 per cent to clerks in the Federal Public Service.

It is against this background that we should view the increased charges that are to be imposed.

I remind the honourable member for Franklin of one part of the report which he seems to have studied very carefully. He did not mention that, in the 5 years covered by the report, with regard to revenue or profitability for 1971-72, the last financial year quoted, more commercial broadcasting stations showed a loss than for the whole of the 5-year period mentioned. As a consequence, fewer stations showed a profit. If the honourable member for Franklin is the expert in this field that he pretends to be he will know that the indications are that the figure for the next financial year when made available to us will demonstrate that a considerably greater number of commercial broadcasting stations will show a loss. It is this point that concerns us. The disturbing factor is that many of these broadcasting stations were not formed with a view to making a profit. They were put there by dedicated-

Mr James - Were they formed in these areas for the good of the community?

Mr CORBETT - Look, Government members just show their ignorance. The stations were put in these areas to provide a service.

Mr Daly - Yes, Jim.

Mr CORBETT - Government members do not know anything about this matter. These country broadcasting stations were provided by local companies to provide a service to the community. Profitability was a secondary consideration.

Mr Sherry - Oh!

Mr CORBETT - These are the stations which are showing a profit now. We hear hyena laughs from honourable members opposite. These only demonstrate the lack of understanding of the problem that we face. They show also the attitude of this Government. My claim is perfectly true. There are stations which have great difficulty in carrying on because they must meet difficulties resulting from decreases in revenue in addition to the problem of increased costs. They are small stations. They will find these new charges difficult to bear. The point raised by the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) was well taken. He pointed to the increased charges for broadcasting stations. The amount equal to one per cent of gross earnings is limited now to stations earning $500,000 or more. Studying the scale set out on page 53 of the report, one sees that a considerable amount of revenue is being raised from these stations.

Perhaps there are some stations which will be able to meet the increased charges, but there are others which will not be able to do so. I hope that the Government will show interest in the next point that I mention because I do put this argument pretty seriously to the Minister for Science (Mr Morrison). I hope that he will not join in the laughter which has occurred while I have been speaking quite seriously and quite factually. I know what I say to be true. I hope that some consideration will be given to a broadening of the national advertising program to take into consideration the problems that these stations face so that perhaps the national advertising program may be spread much more widely among the stations which now face serious profitability difficulties.

I return to the subject that caused all the laughter earlier. I was told by the manager of one station that it would not be able to pay the increased landline costs and that it would need to discontinue some of the news services that it was providing. The company forming the broadcasting station was established in a country town; none of its shareholders was from outside that town or that district. So, when I say that nobody has ever been associated with a commercial broadcasting station for reasons connected only with the profit that might be made, I throw back into the teeth of Government supporters their laughter at my remarks earlier. These stations undoubtedly are the ones that will feel the extra charges to the greatest degree. I ask the Government: Is it prepared to see these stations go to the wall? Will it base every law that it introduces in this Parliament on economics entirely? Or is it prepared to provide some sort of service for those in that vast area of the Commonwealth which is already handicapped very greatly as a result of-

Mr Whan - That is socialism.

Mr CORBETT - You would not even know what socialism is, and socialism is a subject that you ought to know something about. These stations which are scattered around the Commonwealth provide a service and some sort of entertainment for the section of the community that is responsible for a large portion of the export income that is being earned. Yet in every instance the Government looks at whether or not these stations are making a profit in their own right. Surely there are other considerations apart from simply deciding that a service that is provided to the community must stand fairly and squarely on its own feet, irrespective of the part it plays in the national development of this country and in providing a service to people who deserve well of the rest of the community and of the honourable members on the other side of this chamber. Honourable members opposite would be paying a good deal more for the steaks they are grumbling about paying for now if it were not for the people living in that part of the country.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Thehonourable member's time has expired.

Suggest corrections