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Tuesday, 28 April 1987
Page: 2135


Mr SIMMONS(10.31) —Last Wednesday, 22 April, was a very historic occasion in a very small centre within my electorate of Calare. Last Wednesday the people of Dunedoo which is a very small centre in the northern part of my electorate were connected to the automatic telephone exchange network. It was a most significant occasion for them because the old manual exchange was the second largest telephone exchange in New South Wales prior to the switchover. One of the interesting statistics about that changeover was that for the area concerned-Dunedoo and Cobbora, a very small village up the road-the total cost of that connection was $2.1m for approximately 500 subscribers to Telecom Australia. If one does some simple mathematics one can work out that the approximate cost per subscriber of the automatic service for that area was about $4,000. When one relates that to the total area of the 063 telephone district which includes most of my electorate, that is a cost of some $4,000 compared with an overall cost of $389 that is represented by the cross-subsidy in the 063 telephone area.

I make those points simply to stress the importance of the telephone service and the cross-subsidy principles that apply in Telecom's operation.


Mr Hollis —Which they would sell off.


Mr SIMMONS —One is never quite sure exactly what the Opposition would do, given the current state of its parties. The year before last I was the Chairman of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Expenditure. We were looking into the zoning and charging principles of telephone services throughout rural Australia. One of the interesting points that came across in that inquiry was that Rolleston, a little centre west of Rockhampton in Queensland, was the first service to be connected to the new digital radio concentrator service. Some 72 people were connected to that service and the approximate cost per subscriber was $25,000.

I think people will appreciate the enormous cross-subsidy that is provided by Telecom. It is able to provide that only because of the very efficient operation and the very significant revenue that is generated in some of the more profitable areas. For example, honourable members may not be aware that 20 per cent of the total revenue of Telecom Australia comes from one square mile of the Sydney central business district. In other words, one could assume that 60 to 70 per cent of Telecom's revenue comes from the central business districts of the major capitals in Australia. It is important for people in country areas to know that they will not be left out in the cold and be expected to pay some exorbitant amounts. If-I was going to say `the coalition'-the conservatives, the Liberal Party of Australia and the National Party of Australia, are ever able to get their act together again some time in the distant future, we can listen to what a lot of people, amongst them some of the economic rationalists, have been saying they will do to the operation of Telecom.

The other important aspect to which I would like to refer in my comments about the automation of the Dunedoo telephone exchange is that today marked the retirement in Dunedoo of the senior technical officer, a gentleman by the name of Mr Ted Mate, who has been in Dunedoo since 1963. The locals tell me that he intended to stay there only for some 12 to 18 months, but he managed to last there until his retirement today.


Mr Milton —He loves it.


Mr SIMMONS —Exactly, and the people loved him. That was very clear at a significant community function to honour Mr Ted Mate last Wednesday in Dunedoo and to mark the changeover to the automatic service.

In conclusion, I would like to wish Mr Mate and his wife and family well in their retirement. They have served Dunedoo extraordinarily well in their 24 years in that community. I take this opportunity of congratulating Telecom, with the co-operation of the Dunedoo and Cobbora communities, for the very efficient changeover to the automatic system.