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Wednesday, 9 March 1977
Page: 12

Mr LUSHER - I direct a question to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. He will be aware of the record surplus achieved by the Australian Telecommunications Commission in the last 6 months. I ask the Minister whether he is in a position to have discussions with Telecom with a view to seeing whether that organisation is prepared to take a more lenient attitude towards charging for the provision of services, particularly in rural areas. He will be aware of the significant concern expressed by so many people who live in -

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable gentleman is now providing information. I call the Minister for Post and Telecommunications.

Mr Eric Robinson (MCPHERSON, QUEENSLAND) - The likely result for the Australian Telecommunications Commission for the full financial year will probably be a surplus of about $ 1 50m. If one wants to gear that to the capital invested, one is talking about a return of just below 3 per cent. I know that a lot of people say that Telecom ought not be looked at as if it were a business undertaking; it is really part of the government. The Commission has a responsibility to administer its affairs in accordance with the Act. It has to fund at least SO per cent of its capital requirements out of internal revenue. This year the capital requirements of Telecom are about $9l0m. Therefore it must find more than $450m out of internal revenue. All the surplus is allocated to the extension of the network and the creation of facilities for communication for Australians. The Australian community owns Telecom. Any surplus goes back for the benefit of the Australian community. Of course the Government is concerned about costs in rural areas. So is the Commission. The honourable member may know that a committee of Government members and I have had substantial discussions with Telecom. We have taken a number of initiatives to try to improve the service and to reduce costs. I would like him to know that, as a policy attitude, the Telecommunications Commission is determined to try to improve services and to reduce wherever possible costs throughout the Australian rural community.

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