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Wednesday, 22 August 1906

Sir JOHN QUICK (Bendigo) .- I desire to bring under the attention of the Postmaster-General some representations that have already been made to him by the City Council, the Stock Exchange, and the Chamber of Commerce of Bendigo, respecting the inadequate and defective telephonic service existing between that city and Melbourne, and also between Bendigo, Eaglehawk and suburbs. For upwards of twelve months, these complaints have been pressed upon him by myself, as well as by the representative bodies I have mentioned. The honorable gentleman has received them sympathetically ; he has expressed his desire to attend to and, if possible, remove them, but although many reports on the subject have been received, these grievances have not been removed. The Stock Exchange, as well as the numerous, traders carrying on business in Bendigo, which is a great centre of commerce, have been greatly inconvenienced by the fact that there is only one trunk line to Melbourne. During business hours, when communications are running at high pressure, there is a complete block of business. At the very time of day when the Department should be able to earn a considerable income by transmitting telephonic communications, and giving the people the accommodation they require, a block occurs, with the result that those who wish to communicate with Melbourne often leave the office without patronizing the service. It is all very well to say that these communications should be spread over the whole day. That is impossible.' If the Department desires to extend and popularize the service, it must provide adequate means of communication. When the people find that the means provided are defective, they do not patronize the Department, and revenue is consequently lost. There are already two main trunk lines between Melbourne and Ballarat, ana I believe that there are three between Melbourne and Geelong, whereas there is only one between Melbourne and Bendigo. Bendigo is quite as important a centre of population as is either Ballarat or Geelong. Owing to this lack of accommodation and want of speedy communication, the number of subscribers to the Bendigo Telephone Exchange has been declining. The subscribers to the Ballarat Exchange now number 433, that at Geelong has 387 subscribers, whilst that at Bendigo has but 244. Formerly it had a larger number of subscribers than had the Ballarat Exchange, but owing to the defectiveness of the service, the number has been reduced. There are other districts where the Department, instead of popularizing the telephone system, has provided an inadequate service, with the result that it must lose subscribers and revenue. The refusal to duplicate the trunk line between Bendigo and Melbourne is a penny wise and a pound foolish policy. I would urge the Minister to grapple with this question. It has gone beyond the reporting stage; there is nothing more reportable. If the honorable member wishes to increase the business of the Bendigo Exchange, he must duplicate the trunk fine, and must also improve the installation of the local telephone lines. He must make the communication swifter and more complete than it is at present. I am also told that defective instruments are in use. Recently Mr. John Hesketh, the Commonwealth electrical engineer, was sent by the Minister to Bendigo to inquire into the condition of the lines and instruments in use there. He reported that the great bulk of the instruments were obsolete, that Berthon-Ader telephones were in use, whereas the best instruments were those known as the Ericsson telephones. The bulk of the subscribers complain that the Berthon-Ader instruments are out of date, and cannot do the work that is expected of them. The time has arrived when many of these instruments ought to be thrown, on the scrapheap. It would pay the Department to treat them in that way rather than to have an obsolete plant, earning only a small revenue. If the honorable gentleman wishes this service to earn the revenue that might well be expected of it, he must see that there is a proper supply of up-to-date instruments, and that the whole service is modernized. I fail to see why Bendigo and other inland towns should not be supplied with as good am installation and with as up-to-date instruments as are supplied in Melbourne or Sydney. The inland towns are just as much entitled to art uptodate service as are those cities ; but I believe that there is a tendency to send the best instruments to the metropolitan centres, leaving, the country districts with an unsatisfactory service. For years the complaint of Bendigo and other inland towns has been that! the service is inadequate, and unless their requirements are fully considered the Department will lose revenue. I once more publicly urge the Minister to deal with this question. He ought to take the matter into his own- hands ; it is useless to refer it to officers for further report He should place on the Estimates a sum sufficient) to provide for proper instruments, for increased trunk lines, and & general improvement of the service. I thoroughly agree with the views expressed this evening} by representatives of New South Wales with regard to similar complaints on the part of residents of that State. The time has arrived when this service ought to be placed on a proper basis. It is useless to tinker any longer with it. It must be dealt with boldly, comprehensively, and in a scientific manner. I agree with the contention that it would be well, as far as possible, to establish the metallic circuit system. I hope that the representations of honorable members from New South Wales, as well as the complaints that have been made by my own constituents, will receive attention. My desire is that the Minister will not saythat " this matter will be inquired into," but that " this matter will be attended to and the grievances rectified."

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