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The need to overcome long distances contributed to the development of transport that has evolved rapidly and Australia has made many advances in this field. About 810,000km (503,010 miles) of roads and 40,000km (24,840 miles) rail networks span the continent. The first passenger flight in Australia took place on November 2, 1922 operated by Qantas, the first airline to be registered in the country - now a specialist long-haul operator recognised by the flying kangaroo on its red tail. Other airlines formed in subsequent years and today, Qantas, Ansett Australia and smaller, but significant regional airlines maintain an unsurpassed reputation for safety, comfort and service. Scheduled domestic services carry more than 18 million passengers a year. About 9 million vehicles use our roads and Australia is among world leaders in road safety. The wearing of seatbelts, safety helmets, strict drink-driving laws, random breath testing of motorists and constant improvement of roads have contributed to the reduction of road accidents. Trains operate in all states except Tasmania and there are interstate lines offering exciting journeys into the Outback or along the lush east coast; as well as commuter services in most capital cities. On the Indian Pacific, a trans-continental railway journey, that bridges the distance between Sydney and Perth, you can experience the famous "Long Straight", 478.4 kilometres (297 miles) of unbending track between Ooldea and Nurina on the Nullarbor Plain. This is the world's longest straight stretch of railway. National Rail, jointly owned by the federal government and the governments of New South Wales and Victoria is providing a nation-wide service. Australia has about 70 ports of commercial significance and it trades with about 200 countries around the world exporting almost 320 million tonnes of freight by sea annually. Communications and Media
Telstra Corporation operates more than 8.5 million telephone services, and following deregulation was joined by Optus competing in the long-distance and mobile telecommunications sector. A third player, Vodaphone, carrier of public mobile telecommunications services is rapidly expanding its services. Australia is a major investor in Intelsat, the international telecommunications satellite co-operative of 129 nations and is a major user of its 17 satellites. Australia Post provides a domestic letter service and a range of associated postal services handling more than four billion items of mail a year. Australians are news-hungry and newspaper readership ranks among the highest in the world in proportion to population.