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Wednesday, 19 November 1986
Page: 2452

Senator BROWNHILL(10.12) —Last night we were talking about the annual report of the Australian Telecommunications Commission. I would like to elaborate on some of the things Senator Mason said last night. He said that he received something like three calendars every year from Telecom, which is probably very nice. I did not receive three calendars, but I did receive three annual reports. I think there is a little waste associated with that. Being from the country I thank Telecom for the services it has given us over the years, but the amount of money being wasted, such as that spent on annual reports, worries me. Being a member of the Standing Committee on Publications, I am very mindful of the amount of money being spent on publications. Also of concern to me is the amount of money being spent on overtime and travelling allowance by Telecom. I would like the Minister for Community Services (Senator Grimes) to supply me with those figures-maybe it is a matter that should be taken on notice. I will definitely be putting a question about overtime on notice. Quite often telephones are installed at the weekends when I think they could be installed during the week. I know this happens quite regularly in country areas.

Telecom is advertising a lot on television at the moment. That is all very well if the advertising is to tell us to use telephones more often, but when the advertising is not for that sort of reason I do not think it is quite within the charter of the Australian Telecommunication Commission. If it were advertising to tell us to use telephones more often and we were to do so, it would make ringing up, especially on Sunday nights, even more of a problem than it is now. In the country areas we quite often get that `try again in a little while' response as the number of calls being made at that time cannot be handled. I would rather that some of the money being spent on advertising and on the production of these annual reports be put into improving the facilities we have now. The Telecom annual report states on the front page:

The functions of the Commission are-

to plan, establish, maintain and operate telecommunications services within Australia;

to operate such other services as the Commission is authorised by the Telecommunications Act to operate;

to provide at the request of the Australian Government, technical assistance outside Australia in relation to the planning, establishment, maintenance and operation of telecommunications services in countries outside Australia; and

to do anything incidental or conducive to the performance of any of the preceding functions.

None of those functions is to become an advertising agency. I ask Telecom not to spend so much money on advertising and to spend a little more on upgrading its facilities in country New South Wales.