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Tuesday, 18 November 1986
Page: 2431


Senator MASON(9.39) —I listened to Senator Kilgariff with interest because I respect his view of the world. But I cannot agree with him if he says that Telecom Australia is considerate or appreciative of this country. When we look at Telecom's last annual report we find that something like one half of what it cost it to provide services was, indeed, the cost of providing telephone services to this country. I would have thought that Telecom has a basic function to provide a telephone service to the Australian community. Apparently Telecom is not there for that purpose. It is there firstly, to provide, a telephone service to this country, and secondly, to provide free diaries to thousands of people all over Australia at Christmas time. It is there to provide community services-

Opposition senators interjecting-


Senator MASON —In fact it provides not only one but two free diaries. Senator Puplick surely has got them. I have asked Telecom not to give them to me. This is Telecom I am talking about.


Senator Kilgariff —What does it do between Christmases?


Senator MASON —I do not know what it does between Christmases. What I am saying to the honourable senator-this is a serious comment-is that something like 14,000 selected people in Australia are provided with not one, but two, free diaries by Telecom.


Senator Brownhill —I do not get them.


Senator MASON —Does the honourable senator not get them? I get them and I have asked not to get them any more.


Senator Brownhill —Maybe you are getting my share.


Senator MASON —Maybe I am getting the honourable senator's share, but I have no wish to get his share. All I am saying is that Telecom is grossly transgressing its functions. According to the last annual report, something like a quarter of a billion dollars went on executive costs this year. I would like to know where those costs come from. Telecom's job fundamentally is to provide telephone services to the citizens of Australia. What it actually does is provide one of the most inefficient and most expensive telephone services in the world. Let us face that. We have a bureaucracy of incredible power-


Senator Archer —A what?


Senator MASON —A bureaucracy of incredible power. Does the honourable senator want me to write that down? I hope he will agree with me.


Senator Archer —I just wasn't sure what you were slurring.


Senator MASON —I am sorry, that was my view. It is something which I think this country can tolerate no longer. I looked at Telecom's last annual report only today and saw that Telecom's profit for the 1985-86 financial year was $80m more than for the previous year. In addition, Telecom's profit was something like one half of the cost of providing telephone services to this country. How long can we go on tolerating this kind of nonsense? Telecom is a thoroughly inefficient bureaucracy with, I think, sufficient voting power to influence the Government because it does not want to disturb it. It is inefficient compared with the telephone services provided by other countries, and frankly it is indulging in this country in a rort so inefficient and so bad that it should no longer be tolerated by us. I have hesitated to bring this forward. As I have said, I would have approved of Telecom if it had carried out its ordinary function of providing a telephone service because that is what it is there for, but it has abused that function grossly.

I gather some 14,000 copies of Telecom's last annual report have been sent out. I was most distressed to see the report. It has in it a grossly unnecessary colour photograph element. I counted today 64 photographs of Telecom's administration and staff. I cannot see-I ask honourable senators to agree with this-that there is any necessity for that. Somewhere a photo- grapher was let loose around the staff of Telecom to take pictures and put them in the annual report, which is a very expensive document.


Senator Brownhill —I have it. Have a look.


Senator MASON —Senator Brownhill has a copy of the report. Look at it. I shall show it to the chamber. It has colour pictures. What is the necessity for having pictures such as those in an annual report?


Senator Archer —Does it comply with the Publications Committee recommendations?


Senator MASON —I do not care what it does. Here we have pictures of lots of ordinary people. I cannot see why Telecom should spend public money in that way.

We are here on a gut issue, discussing the provision of telephones which is putting a cost on the average citizen of this country. Everybody has to pay for his telephone. It is a fact that people pay a damned sight more for their telephones in this country than they should. I am going to send a letter to Telecom stating: `Please do not send me expensive desk calendars-not only one, but two-with little brass corners on them'. I cannot see any virtue whatsoever in that being done.


Senator Puplick —Tell them to send it to Ms Kirkby. I am sure she could make use of them.


Senator MASON —Ms Kirkby is getting younger with every day that passes. Do not underrate Ms Kirkby. Ms Kirkby can deal with Senator Puplick any day of the week. Let us get back to the question of Telecom. This is a serious matter and one which I think is of some concern. Telecom's total revenue is something like $5 billion. The annual report for Telecom last year shows that the cost of providing telephone services to the Australian people was something like $1.5 billion. I ask honourable senators to check my figures on that. I may be out in fine figures but I think they will find that I am pretty right. In other words, here we have an organisation which is incurring a cost of $1.5 billion, and it is charging this community $5 billion for its services. This is not good enough. It is something we have to look at. It is not good enough to say that this is merely the Public Service carrying out its ordinary rorts. It is something which affects every Australian. This has been a public scandal in this country for many years and I think it is time we came to grips with it. I would be glad of the Minister's comments.