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2013 Magazines

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Amateur Radio August 2013

Delivery expect from July 25

      WIA Member Digital Edition Download


A last minute rush

It seems that regardless of the amount of planning in the lead up to an event, some things need to be done in a rush at the last minute!

Such is the case once again here in Gippsland – I prepare this Editorial on the last possible occasion to have it included in this issue, on the day before the start of the annual GippsTech technical conference. First run in 1998, it is organised by the Eastern Zone Amateur Radio Club Inc., with me as the Conference Chair/Organiser. We have run the event every year, and even ran an extra “Special Edition” for the WIA Annual General Meeting in 2009, which represented the first occurrence of the newer formation for the AGM – a relatively short formal meeting to meet the legal requirements, an Open Forum for more general consideration of the many reports and finally a Conference considering aspects of amateur radio.

With any such event, there are many individuals who contribute to pull together all the details, from larger tasks to undertaking small tasks on the day. The end result is the product of the input from all involved: organisers, helpers, caterers and participants.

For this year, we have a record number of registered amateurs – 110! We also have several people registered for the Partners’ Tour. For most of the amateurs the forecast of rain from late morning will not be much trouble, as we will be inside all weekend. I trust that the Partners’ Tour does not suffer too much from the rain and hope that they all have included an umbrella in their bags! Such weather is always possible in Gippsland in July.

Hopefully we will be able to include a report on the event in an upcoming issue of Amateur Radio.

Organisational glitches

In preparing our July issue, I decided to modify a contribution from a Club. I deleted a small amount of text without consulting with the Club concerned. I would normally consult an author before any major editing of text, but as I recall, we had little time available between the receipt of the material and the deadline for preparation of the July issue.

I apologise to the WA VHF Group – it was not my intention to “censor” your material. From the information that I had to hand, it seemed as if an organisational glitch was being blown out of proportion. In my opinion, it did not warrant airing in this our national journal. I have since learned more about the events, and still feel that the issues should be sorted out between the parties involved. However, I do feel the need to make some key points clear on behalf of the WA VHF Group.

In the planning for the WIA Conference in May, the WA VHF Group was identified as the Host Club for the Friday evening opening dinner and supper event at the Club base on Wireless Hill. The Club believed that it had all the necessary arrangements in place for the event. With about a week to go to the event, the catering arrangements were taken over by another party. Thus the WA VHF Group was not responsible for the resulting faults in the catering arrangements, which resulted in around 20 people missing out on their evening meal and their supper. Clearly, this was a major organisational glitch!

From the information that I now have at hand, it is clear that further discussions need to occur to resolve issues that arose following this chain of events. I trust that all involved can work toward achieving a satisfactory outcome.

Cover photos

As I noted in my Editorial last month, we are looking for good quality, high resolution images as candidates for the cover of the 2014 Callbookor for this journal. If an image is to be considered for the cover of Amateur Radio, then it should ideally have an accompanying article.

You can find guidelines about both articles and images on the Amateur Radio pages on the WIA website, under the “For Members” tab.

Until next month….


Peter VK3PF

This month’s cover
This month’s cover main image is a view to Mt Pelion west from Pine Valley Moor, one of the many excellent views experienced by the team tackling the Overland Track in the Cradle Mountain – Lake Saint Clair National Park. Photograph by Gerard Warrillow VK3GT. See the story commencing on page 6. Inset photos show the portable equipment used on the Overland Track trip (left) and a view of the MST400 QRP SSB transceiver.

WIA President's Comment

Licence Fees

One of the recurring themes in member’s correspondence to the WIA is the level of fees charged by the ACMA for the renewal of Amateur licenses. Invariably the question also arises “why do we have to pay licence fees at all, when other countries (such as New Zealand) have abolished theirs”.

Let’s take the first question first – it’s is a perennial question, much the same as asking why we pay the government taxes that we do for all sorts of things. Recently, WIA Board member Roger Harrison and Secretary David Williams wrote to a member regarding licence fees and charges, and I’ve used much of their reply in this President’s Comment:

The WIA is acutely aware that the current Amateur licence fee of $73 (indexed by CPI) can be quite a bit to swallow as a lump sum payment, especially for pensioners and others on modest fixed incomes. Naturally, the WIA is not a spokesperson for the ACMA and the Institute is not able to explain on the ACMA’s behalf why it charges $73 for the Amateur licence, other than to state the obvious, that it is government policy to charge a fee for apparatus licences.

However, the ACMA has released a publication titled Apparatus licence fee schedule 5 April 2013,(i) which describes the rationale for apparatus licence fees.

Quoting from this publication:
The ACMA uses a system of apparatus licence types to apply common licence conditions to categories of radiocommunications services. Most licence types have associated licensing options suitable Licence Fees for specific purposes. Fees charged vary according to the licensing option.

Then, on the matter of taxes and charges, the publication states:
There are two types of fees applicable to apparatus licences:
administrative charges to recover the direct costs of spectrum management, and annual taxes to recover the indirect costs of spectrum management and provide incentives for efficient spectrum use. Indirect costs are those that cannot be directly attributed to individual licensees. These activities include international coordination and domestic planning and interference management.

On a current Licence Renewal Notice, the ACMA breaks down the Amateur licence fee into two components: (a) Total Charge, of $28; and (b) Total Tax, of $45.

So, from the above quotes (a) is the annual administrative charge to recover the direct costs of the ACMA’s role in spectrum management, while (b) is an annual tax “to recover the indirect costs of spectrum management . . . that cannot be directly attributed to individual licensees”, including planning within Australia, interference investigations and management, and international coordination (e.g. planning for and attending International Telecommunications Union meetings, World Radio Conferences, etc.).

Of course, we amateurs enjoy the privilege of considerable access to bands across the LF, MF, HF, VHF, UHF and microwave spectrum (determined by licence grade), to pursue our individual and collective interests as we see fit. In that context, the Amateur licence may be considered very good value for money.

In relation to the lack of pensioner discounts, many statutory costs (and regular increases) are a fact of life and, sadly, pensioner discounts relating to them are generally difficult to find. Our taxation system makes little or no provision for pensioners, especially where the costs are associated with a hobby (as distinctly different to medical treatment, as an example).

As a matter of interest, it was opposition to the licence fee of three guineas (63 shillings) for an experimenter’s licence charged by the Federal Government in 1910 that led to the creation of the “Institute of Wireless”, which subsequently became the Wireless Institute of Australia.

In 1910, the average weekly (skilled) male earnings were 60 shillings. The federal government in 1910 was charging more than the average male weekly wage!

Translated to this era, based on average weekly male earnings today of $1489.10, the 1910 licence fee equates to some $1560! No wonder amateurs of that era were outraged!

For those able to afford a licence, it was a rich man’s hobby. The age pension for males 65 years and older was then 10 shillings a week.

An amateur licence would have cost more than 10 weeks pension. No wonder there were many “pirate” operators experimenting with wireless telegraphy.

In 1945, the Amateur licence fee was one pound 10 shillings, which, compared to 1945 average weekly male earnings, equates to $406 today! Likewise, in 1964, the Amateur licence cost two pounds, which equates to $194 today! (ii)

To the second question, “why do we pay any fees at all”, all I can say is, be careful what you ask for. The category of radiocommunications licence that Amateur licences fall under is called ‘Apparatus Licences’. That is the same type of licence that covers other services such as land mobile, maritime, broadcasting, fixed point-to-point services etc. etc., and we amateurs are afforded the same legal status and protections under that licence category.

If the amateur service was changed to say a type of Class Licence Service (similar to the NZ General User Radio Licence), where no licence fees are payable, we could eventually find ourselves in the same status category as remote controls and garage door openers, which operate on a non-interference / no-protection basis. This to me sounds like a very slippery slope.

So, we at the WIA fully understand the difficulties many members face with increasing fees and charges from all quarters. Rest assured the Board monitors the licence fee issue very closely and the WIA will act in the interests of its members if licence fees escalate out of proportion to the CPI, but it is very much a double edged issue.

Phil Wait VK2ASD

<em >(i)
(ii) Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS); and
University of Melbourne Archives, Buchanan and Brock Wages Books (1870-1921).

Table Of Contents


The Overland Track- HF QRP in the VK7 World Heritage Wilderness Stephen Warrillow VK3SN
Allen Fairhall VK2KB (SK) – a notable Australian amateur Peter Wolfenden VK3RV
Bird proofing the cable John Drew VK5DJ
People in amateur radio: Greg Sargeant VK2EXA Graeme Scott VK2KE
Royal Navy Key Type AP7681 Rodney Champness VK3UG
Michael (‘Mike’) Bazley VK6HD John Drew VK5DJ Steve Ireland VK6VZ and Brian Machesney K1LI
Gridsquare Standings at 14 June Guy Fletcher VK2KU

The OzQRP MST400 SSB QRP transceiver kit - A user review Peter Parker VK3YE
Rapid deployment ground systems for short vertical antennas John Morrissey VK3ZRX
InnovAntennas Brian Morgan VK7RR/4
A very strange circuit Jim Tregellas VK5JST

Plus all the usual Club news and columns

The Overland Track- HF QRP in the VK7 World Heritage Wilderness

Stephen Warrillow VK3SN

Once again Stephen VK3SN, together with family and friends, heads into the wilds to commune with nature and to also play amateur radio.

In this article, Stephen reports on a multi-day trip through the beautiful Cradle Mountain – Lake Saint Clair National Park in Tasmania.

Allen Fairhall VK2KB (SK) – a notable Australian amateur

Peter Wolfenden VK3RV

The author is a great proponent of amateur radio history, and this article is a brief introduction to one of Australia’s highest ranking amateurs, Allen Fairhall VK2KB, who rose through the federal political ranks to serve as a senior minister in both the Menzies and Holt governments.

Also included is the text of his opening address for the 1967 RC contest.

Very interesting reading indeed.

The OzQRP MST400 SSB QRP transceiver kit - A user review

Peter Parker VK3YE

The reviewer is a well-known and enthusiastic builder and operator of home brew and/or QRP equipment, and thus is well qualified to review the equipment presented.

Those particularly interested in this facet of amateur radio activity will appreciate the opportunity to read the review, and some well may be drawn to obtain and operate the same piece.

Rapid deployment ground systems for short vertical antennas

John Morrissey VK3ZRX
This article investigates the effect on performance of various vertical antenna configurations when the ground system is changed to some alternate configuration to the system’s radials/counterpoise structure – and will make interesting reading particularly for all those amateurs who venture HF mobile/portable in their amateur radio endeavours.

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