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Thursday, 24 November 1927

Mr BELL (Darling) (7:38 PM)

Like other honorable members I give the Postmaster-General credit for what he has done to extend telephonic communications iu the country districts, thereby providing better facilities for country people, but I am not yet fully satisfied. I want him to extend the hours during which telephone offices in country districts remain open. It is an old matter I dealt with years ago, but I have to say again what I said then. The present office hours in most country districts are from 9 o'clock in the morning till 6 o'clock at night, with an hour off in the middle of the clay. It would be a great boon to country districts if the closing hour could be extended to S o'clock. The only objection to the extension of hours I suggest is that it would cost more money; but I think that the benefit the community would derive by extending the hours during which the telephone could be used in country districts should be the main consideration, and not the actual amount of revenue to be received by a country telephone exchange during the extended hours. There are two ends to a telephone. It is not only tlie man at the distant end of a country telephone who benefits by its construction. Every one in the State who uses a telephone benefits 'by it. I believe that the increased business which would come to the telephone department from the extension of the hours of country offices would nearly make up for the additional remuneration which would need to be paid to those in charge of the office.

Mr Seabrook - An extension of hours would induce more people to make use of the telephone system.

Mr BELL - It would. I do not think the department appreciates the amount of extra business that would be done between 6 p.m. and S p.m. in country districts. Farmers are usually at work during the ordinary telephone office hours. It is only in the evening that they can be found in their homes. I believe that there would be a tremendous increase in business in telephone calls in country districts, if use could be made of the telephone between 6 p.m. and S p.m. I urge the Postmaster-General to give further consideration to this matter. He controls a department which can do a lot to provide people in outlying districts with those, facilities which tend to make their lot more comfortable when they are engaged in the task of developing the land and increasing its productivity. I give the Postmaster-General full credit for going carefully into every matter put before him. Whenever it is possible to do so, he will give the people the benefit of the facilities which his department can provide, and it is only with regard to the telephone office hours that he has failed. to do so. He knows all about the post office troubles in my district, and I am satisfied that he will cope with them. But I wonder what he is going to do about telegraph rates. I wonder if he intends to maintain existing State boundaries as telegraphic boundaries. It is not quite fair that it should cost more to send a telegram from Wodonga to Albury than to send one from one end of Western Australia to the other. I believe that the Minister is giving consideration to this question. For my part I should like to see the telegraphic rate fixed on a radial basis according to distance. If that could be done I am sure the alteration would be appreciated. The same thing applies to the rates for parcel postage. I can quote an instance in the Darwin electorate showing the inequity of the present system. There is a bi-weekly mail service from Kang Island. A parcel sent from King Island to Melbourne pays a much higher rate than one sent from King Island to Hobart, although the latter might be carried first to Melbourne and sent from there to Hobart. The Postmaster-General must appreciate the unfairness of a system that allows that to happen. I trust that at an early date he will provide a remedy for the grievances I have ventilated.

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