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Thursday, 4 May 1961

Mr COSTA (Banks) .- As this is Grievance Day, I should like to take the opportunity of discussing the important matter of telephone communications as they affect the electorate of Banks. There can be no denying that those whom I represent, as well as those whom other honorable members represent, have been very tolerant about this matter of telephone communications. We all expected that there would be shortages of equipment and apparatus immediately after the war, but the PostmasterGeneral's Department has now had fifteen years in which to overtake the lag in telephone installations. It is disgraceful that every field of industry, whether it be primary, secondary or retail, and pensioners who are sick and whose doctors require them to have telephones installed in their homes, are unable to obtain this necessary service. They have been waiting far too long for telephones now, and the position has reached serious proportions in my electorate where some people have been waiting ever since the war ended. I have brought the matter to the notice of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) repeatedly. The last communication I had from him was in 1958, when he said that in the three main exchange areas of my electorate - Peakhurst, Revesby and Bankstown - there were 1,010 people waiting for telephones. These people are still complaining to me that, notwithstanding a promise by the Postmaster-General's Department that telephones would be installed this year, they are still waiting for the service. And the waiting list is growing in the meantime. The position now is that, instead of 1,010 applicants waiting for service, we have 1,510 people waiting in the exchange areas to which I have referred. The Hurstville exchange does not serve all my area, but the post office itself is in my area and about 260 people there are waiting for telephones. I had a reply from the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) about these areas, and with regard to the Peakhurst exchange area he said -

Practically all of this exchange area is in the Banks electorate. Altogether, 90 applications and 78 telephone orders are outstanding. All of the orders and IS of the applications will be satisfied during the year and the remaining 75 applications will be relieved in approximately two years.

That period has now elapsed, but the reply which I received from the PostmasterGeneral on 2nd May indicates that 435 people are still waiting for telephones, so the number has increased considerably. With reference to the Revesby exchange area the Postmaster-General said -

All of this exchange area is in the Banks electorate. There are 585 applications and 51 telephone orders outstanding. All of the orders and 82 of the applications in the northern area will be cleared during the year.

That was 1958. The Postmaster-General's communication continued -

Relief in the Panania-East Hills area depends upon major cable works (approximately £58,000) which will be commenced this year-

That is 1958- and completed in 1959-60. That promise has not been fulfilled, because the Postmaster-General's reply of 2nd May indicates that 886 instead of 585 people are now waiting for telephones. I pass on to the Bankstown exchange area. Promises were made that the outstanding applications there would be satisfied by 1959-60, but 189 people there are still waiting for telephones. So a total of 1,510 people are waiting at those three exchanges. In my opinion there is no good reason for this shortage of telephone communications, because the last annual report of the PostmasterGeneral's Department indicates that the department does not lack revenue. It makes so much profit that it is not only able to repay capital expenditure but also to pay interest on it, as if it were a private business.

The department, on the one hand, has plenty of revenue, but on the other hand plenty of people are wanting jobs and are available to do this kind of work. On the admission of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), 81,000' people are looking for work at the present time, and we have plenty of material. There is no need for any restriction by the Government on the expansion of this service. I think it is just a matter of the department having an effective plan. I know the department has a planning committee. I donot know whether it is the fault of that committee or whether it is due to lack of support from the Government that the department does not overtake the lag. I have pointed out that we have both primary and secondary industries which want to produce goods for export but are hampered by lack of communications.

One other matter to which I wish to refer I brought to the notice of the PostmasterGeneral the other day. I refer to faulty junction cables in the metropolitan area of Sydney. As I pointed out, almost daily when one dials a subscriber, instead of getting through to the number, one strikes a crossed line due to faulty cable. My information from the technicians is that in such circumstances the call registers against the subscriber. One makes contact by dialling and although one does not get the service, the call is registered against the caller. The Postmaster-General's reply to me on this matter was most unsatisfactory. I have a letter from a person who heard the question which I asked the Postmaster-General in this House, and he had this to say -

The Minister's reply was, I thought, not only very casual but equally as evasive and I together with many others, trust that you will not allow the matter to rest until you get a saner and more concrete reply.

Wilh that thought in mind I have taken the liberty of setting out hereunder a few facts which may prove helpful.

Over the past three (3) months the number of wrong numbers we have encountered at our office would average 6 per day. The girls at "COMPLAINTS" are most efficient but all tell the same story, - on wet or humid days the number of complaints is indeed very high as the cable is apparently affected by such conditions.

Mechanics on visiting your office or home to check up on your complaints, all say the same, "Cables are so overloaded that they are more or less helpless.

On quite a number of occasions when you dial out a number CORRECTLY, the mechanical voice comes on the scene to tell you that the number you are dialling is no longer existent and to telephone COMPLAINTS. On other occasions you dial the first four or five numbers and you are automatically cut off and back to where you started.

Either the P.M.G. is not conversant with the true state of affairs or he is just another example of a Minister of this present Government who couldn't care less. Perhaps it would have been more to the point if your question, Sir, had been put thus: " Is it a fact that the half million profit recently made by the P.M.G.'s Department came mainly from the wrong numbers charged and paid for by suffering subscribers."

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