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Wednesday, 22 August 1906


Mr BROWN (Canobolas) .- Within the last few years telephone communication has been rapidly extended in the country districts, and in my electorate, where not long ago there were very few telephones, there is now a complete network of lines. Not only have we the condenser system, but we have also town systems constructed by the Department, and private extensions carried out at the expense of the subscribers. Upon .the inauguration of Federation, the Department was very conservative with regard to telephone extension, so that it was almost impossible to obtain its sanction for new works ; but its views were revolutionized by the honorable member for Macquarie when PostmasterGeneral, and I am pleased to find that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro is following in his footsteps. I do not agree with the honorable member for Robertson that the condenser system is a failure. In my electorate it has, in many respects, worked admirably, supplying a long-felt want, and the people would be loth to forego the advantages which they get from it. There are defects, but these, I am told, are due partly to the vibrations caused by trains where the wires run parallel to a railway, or bv the want of sufficient " crossovers." which. I understand, could be supplied at very small cost. As the use of more "cross-overs" would greatly improve the efficiency of the service, it is a penny-wise-pound-foolish policy to economise in regard to them. It would be better to incur a slightly increased expenditure, in order to insure an efficient service, than to make a saving upon an imperfect service. I wish to refer to the subject-matter of the guarantees that are demanded from persons who require telephone extensions. The general understanding is that if the estimated revenue falls short of the estimated cost of working and maintaining a proposed line, a guarantee will be accepted from the local residents in respect of any deficiency that may result. Most of these estimates are based upon what I may call conservative lines. Generally speaking, the revenue is underestimated, and the expenditure is overestimated - that is to say, a liberal allowance is made for contingencies. In a great many instances the departmental estimates have proved entirely misleading, because from the very outset the business has shown a profit, and the guarantors have not been called upon to make good ,any deficiency. For some time past I have been worrying the Department in connexion with an application for the extension of telephonic communication to a very promising settlement known as Yeoval, between Cumnock and Obley. I cannot understand why it is impossible to obtain a satisfactory decision from the Department. Yeoval is in the midst of a splendid agricultural area;, which is being steadily developed. Nearly two years ago the residents communicated with me, and intimated that they desired to be brought into telephonic communication with Obley. Cumnock, and Molong. I obtained an estimate from the Department, but under the old conservative management such a large deposit was required that the construction of the line was out of the question. Later on, when the new and more liberal regulations were introduced, I. obtained a further estimate, and the residents were prepared to enter into the necessary guarantee to make good any deficiency. To my great surprise, however, the Department refused to accept the guarantee, and stated that the line was one that the residents might construct for themselves. I should like to know upon what principle guarantees are accepted in some cases and declined in others ? At first I thought it possible that the Department were not satisfied with those who were willing to join in giving the guarantee ; but I found out afterwards that they were content if the guarantee were signed by substantial men, who would, in all likelihood,- meet their obligations. There was not much fear of any default in the case in question. I would ask the Postmaster-General to look into this matter, and ascertain why the Department have refused to comply with the request. When I noticed that the amount of £16,000 voted last year for the construction and extension of telephone lines had 'been exceeded by £3,058. I thought that in all probability the officers of the Department were unwilling to trench to any greater extent upon the Treasurer's advance account, and, if that is the explanation of their action, I shall have nothing more to say. I hope that the proposed vote of £27,500 will prove sufficient to meet all requirements in connexion with such cases as I have mentioned.

Mr. DUGALDTHOMSON (North Sydney) [8.52j. - I agree with the honorable member for Parramatta that if there is to be any additional expenditure under the head of conduits and metallic circuits, the latter item should receive the greater amount of attention. In some parts of Sydnev the telephone service is becoming almost unusable owing to the lack of a metallic circuit. The electric trams interfere verv seriously with the conduct of business over the telephone lines, and I think that an increased expenditure might very well be incurred in rendering the means of communication available to the residents of Sydney more effective than at present. It is no doubt convenient that some of the telephone cables should be carried underground ; but it is of the utmost importance that something should be done to make the telephone service more useful than at present in certain localities, and particularly where the transmission of telephone messages is interfered with by the electric tram service. . I see that there is a considerable reduction in the amount proposed to be devoted to the establishment of metallic circuits, as compared with the sum spent upon similar works last year. I should like some explanation with regard to that matter, and also with regard to the portion of the metallic circuit system that is to be covered by the proposed expenditure.

Mr. JOSEPHCOOK (Parramatta) [8-551- - It occurs to me, upon looking at the Estimates, that there is nc provision for any new work of the kind referred to by the honorable member for North Sydney. £27,500 is to be appropriated for the construction and extension of telephone lines, and only £5,500 towards the establishment of metallic circuits in connexion with the telephone system. The latter amount will not more than cover the new work provided for, and therefore the construction of return circuits will really be at a standstill. I consider that this matter should be regarded by the PostmasterGeneral as one of the greatest possible urgency, and that at least £100,000 of the surplus revenue of the Post and Telegraph Department might very well be devoted to this purpose alone. It would be far better to spend the money in this direction than to fritter it away in the manner proposed bv the Treasurer. It seems to me that the Postmaster-General has presented to him an opportunity to convert the telephone system, and to give the people what they have never had in Australia, except perhaps in Brisbane, viz., a really efficient telephone service. The telephone service must be made more private than at present, in order to induce the public to make full use of it. When you are endeavouring to send a message you can hear conversations relating to every one's business but your own. I hope that the Postmaster-General will endeavour to induce the Treasurer to make available more money than is now proposed to be devoted towards the establishment of metallic circuits, and that hie will be able to do a great deal towards removing the cause of the present trouble.







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