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Tuesday, 16 October 1973
Page: 2219

Mr MORRISON (St George) (Minister for Science and Minister for External Territories) - The Australian Country Party tonight has made a valiant effort to make a mountain out of a molehill. Tonight we are considering a very simple Bill which has been described by the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Ian Robinson) as a savage impost. The savage impost amounts to raising the licence fee from $50 to $200. A little later in his remarks he admitted that it was only a very small amount. So one wonders what the charade this evening has been all about. When one thinks of it, a broadcasting station has to pay only $200 for the right to transmit; broadcast listeners have to pay $26 for the operation of a transistor radio. Let us start getting these things in perspective. A licence fee of $200 being paid by a station which operates in a monopoly situation represents $200 being paid for the right to make a profit. This to my mind is a really absurd situation. But in the interests of the country radio stations which the Labor Party has very much in mind we have kept the licence fee payable to only $200.

One of the interesting features of this whole debate, apart from the contributions made by Country Party supporters, is that both the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) and I as the Minister representing the Minister for the Media have not received one protest about this increase from the Federation of Australian Broadcasting Stations and we have not received one protest from any broadcasting station throughout Australia. One of the reasons for this is that radio broadcasting is a very profitable enterprise. There are some 19 stations which, according to the report of the Broadcasting Control Board, are not making a profit, but 5 of these radio stations are relay stations, the parent companies of which are making handsome profits. Of the others most are new radio stations, and I am sure that our colleagues opposite would realise that in the initial years of operation it is expected that they will make a loss and that they look to three or four years hence when they will make a profit. I can assure members of the Country Party - this is very much in the mind of the Australian Labor Party because' we hold as many country seats as the Country Party - that no increase is proposed in the scale of rates applying to all the country stations. The provision for one per cent of gross earnings up to $500,000 is exactly the same as that contained in the previous legislation, and it covers all the country stations. So we can give the assurance to all country stations that the scale of rates that they have to pay will not change whatsoever.

The honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) referred to the land lines. On the second occasion that this matter came before the House I cannot recall the Country Party Party opposing the increase in land line charges. 1 think it ought to be recognised that there was no opposition from the Country Party on the increase in land line charges. So this evening we have had this charade on a Bill which is very modest in its provisions. It provides for the raising of an additional $120,000, $60,000 of which would be paid as a normal accretion from the increase in the profits of the broadcasting stations. In view of the lightness of the arguments that have been put against this proposal, I move:

That the question be now put.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Remainder of Bill agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.

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