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Tuesday, 24 September 1974
Page: 1305

Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) - I wish to state that the Australian Country Party does not oppose this Bill. Like the previous speaker, I would like to mention 2 or 3 small matters. First of all, I should like to refer to the matter of refunds. There has been a bit of confusion about this. I believe the post offices have been told not to collect any more licence fees but some people have complained that the post offices have not been told that the people who paid in advance will get a refund. Surely, in the telegram sent to the post offices telling them not to collect any more fees, they could have been advised to give refunds to those people who had paid their licence fees in advance. I have had several complaints and I have also seen several letters in the newspapers on this matter.

There are a couple more problems. I refer to the people who have been booked in very recent weeks for not having a radio or television licence. I would like the Minister to state, if he can, the Government's policy on whether his Department intends to proceed with prosecutions of, say, a person who was booked the day or the week before the 17th of this month. I should like to know whether the Government intends to prosecute those people.

Senator Milliner - Do you think they should, Senator?

Senator Chaney - Grant an amnesty.

Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) - There are lots of ways of looking at this particular question. In some cases I think serious consideration should be given to not proceeding with prosecutions. If the . licence fees for television and radio are to be dropped completely, consideration should be given to dropping prosecutions. Radio fees have come a long way in Australia since the very early days in Sydney and Melbourne. I remember that the radio station 2FC which was then owned and established by Farmer and Co. Ltd of Sydney sold sealed sets which could not be tuned in to any station but 2FC. I think when one bought a set one paid £5 for a licence but could only listen to the programs from 2FC. It was not long, of course, before sets that could be tuned to various stations were introduced and then the stations were licensed. At that time for 2 periods of about 5 years each the national program was allocated to a company called the Australian Broadcasting Co. In or about 1930 the present Australian Broadcasting Commission took over and carried on from there. We now have a new concept in broadcasting. We have new programs in radio and television, the introduction of coloured television and frequency modulation. The establishment of many new stations has been announced by the Government.

I think one point has been missed. We are exempting the great bulk of the Australian people from paying radio and television fees. Up until this time the people who were out of the range of television and who would not have a receiver were not liable to pay a fee for a television licence. Those people who live in remote areas will now have to contribute through being general taxpayers. Many Australians will come into that category. Also, people in the big cities who have access to television but who do not want to buy a set will have to contribute, through general taxation, to the upkeep of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Up until now a person who was not a television viewer has not been liable to pay for a licence but under the new system, as part of a general taxpayer concept in Australia, he will have to contribute very directly to the cost of the Australian Broadcasting Commission's national television and to a lesser extent, radio stations. But apart from mentioning those considerations, as I said earlier, my Party does not oppose this Bill,

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