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Thursday, 24 November 1927

Mr MACKAY (Lilley) .- It is pleasing to know that the Commonwealth and States have entered into a satisfactory agreement with regard to transferred properties. Judging by the liberal areas of land in which most of our public buildings are placed, there were very far-seeing individuals in our early State departments; I refer particularly to the post offices in suburban areas. It is quite a common thing to see our post offices standing in areas of about two acres of land. I do not suggest for a moment that that land should be disposed of, but I consider that it could, with advantage, be let on building leases for a number of years. In many cases the properties are situated on important street corners, with from one to two chains frontage either way. All that land is lying idle, and, if building leases were granted, a satisfactory income would be derived from them. Many congratulations have been showered on the PostmasterGeneral in connexion with the administration of his department. I do not wish to detract from those compliments, but the honorable gentleman must agree that ho lias been extremely fortunate in having inherited a progressive policy, his predecessor having authorized a loan of £9,000,000 in order to overtake arrears in telephonic construction and to increase country postal facilities. It is very creditable to the Government that it has pursued the policy of the honorable gentleman's predecessor and made that amount available for postal and telephonic works, which affect more closely the lives of the people than do the activities of practically any other department. I regret that recently there has been a change of policy in connexion with the provision of public telephones. I think that honorable members receive more correspondence relating to pensions and postal matters than to anything else. When we send communications to the Postal Department we frequently receive replies saying that the requests cannot be granted. I would like the Post.mosterGeneral to instruct his officers to investigate thoroughly the charge of £23 that is made for the installation of a public telephone. I consider that the amount is excessive. It certainly results in many applications being turned down because estimated receipts in suburban areas fall below that sum. I congratulate the Postmaster-General upon the prompt way in which his department replies to correspondence, but these continued refusals to erect public telephones in suburban districts are' becoming monotonous, and I believe that there is some reason for such refusals other than that advanced.

I congratulate the Postal Department on the progress that it has made in the erection of automatic telephone exchanges throughout the Commonwealth. Although the cost of an automatic exchange is from £50,000 upwards, we have evidence that the expenditure is warranted, and is profitable to the department. There are quite a number of small centres, not sufficiently large to warrant the installation of the usual standard automatic exchange adopted to overcome the difficulty associated with what is termed " unattended " telephone exchanges. But I understand that the department is experimenting with a . type of unattended automatic exchange that will provide a satisfactory service. I recently made strong representation to the Postmaster-General in reference to several centres of population in the Lilley electorate, such as Bald Hills and Nudgee. Bald Hills is a progressive district with a growing population, and is partly within the metropolitan area of Brisbane. The telephone subscribers are connected with the Strathpine exchange, some miles further away, and they are compelled to pay trunk line rates on calls in the metropolitan area. I am told that no relief can be granted. I now ask the Postmaster-General to accelerate the inquiries into the new system of unattended exchanges so that centres such as I have mentioned may be provided with satisfactory telephonic facilities. I congratulate the department upon the excellent work it has performed, which has been greatly appreciated by the community, and particularly by country residents.

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