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Thursday, 31 March 1966

Mr COCKLE (Warringah) .- I wish to deal with a matter which is perhaps a little more palatable than that brought forward by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones). I direct the attention of the House, on humane grounds, to the parlous and alarming position which exists in my electorate in respect of the shortage of telephones. It is a position which is actually getting increasingly worse. I believe I would be remiss in my responsibility to my constituents, and to other people who are in such dire need of telephones, if I did not bring this matter before the notice of the House. I refer particularly to the situation in the suburbs of Neutral Bay, Cremorne and, more particularly, Mosman. In these three suburbs there is a tremendous demand for telephones which cannot be met. Apart from the people who have submitted applications to the Postmaster-General's Department, there are many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people who have not submitted applications because they know that it is no good doing so because at this point of time they have no chance of getting a telephone. 1 believe that the shortage of telephones in the three suburbs to which I have referred constitutes the greatest shortage in any area in Sydney, and perhaps in Australia. I thought that I may have been challenged on that assertion. As no one has challenged me, it would seem that I am correct. I can give strong support to my argument, because I have in my office a very large file of correspondence with people who have brought their telephone problems to me. The documents I have, of course, are additional to the applications that have already been lodged with the Postmaster-General's Department through the normal channels.

The factors contributing to this serious position are very largely outside the control of the Postmaster-General's Department. The three suburbs - Neutral Bay, Cremorne and Mosman - are of a high residential standard. They include the harbour foreshores and they are close to the city and to the beaches. They are all well served by public transport, both ferries and buses. Over the last four years, each of the suburbs has had a tremendous home unit development. This applies especially to Mosman. The development has been so extensive that now the ratio of people living in normal houses to people living in home units substantially favours those living in home units. The influx of people who come from all parts of Sydney to occupy home units in these suburbs has created a situation in which the residents are predominantly elderly or living alone. It is essential that they should have an outside line of communication, especially as many of them are not in the best of health. Some of them have obtained medical certificates showing their state of health. But the demand for telephones in this area is so great that the priority established by a medical certificate is really of no advantage The priority means very little. me <>ive an instance. A gentleman came to see me and told me that his wife had given birth to a baby whose heart had a hole in it. It was, therefore, most desirable that the child be given as much hospital attention as possible. In fact, the doctor would not let the child go home because no telephone had been installed in the home unit in which they lived. I made inquiries and I found that in this very small area every one of 11 people who had applied for a telephone had submitted a medical certificate and obtained a priority. Unfortunately, the gentleman to whom I have referred was unable to have a telephone connected to his home unit, but I am pleased to say that we were able to make alternative arrangements.

Honorable members will realise from the information I have supplied that the installation of telephones for so many elderly and sick people in these suburbs is a matter of extreme urgency, amounting to a dire necessity. To have or not to have this means of communication with medical assistance can mean the difference between life and death. Real estate agents have told me that numerous clients who wish to come into the area cannot do so because they cannot get a telephone. To those who are elderly or not in the best of health, a telephone is essential and the shortage of telephones in these suburbs means that these people remain where they are instead of moving into a home unit.

A considerable change has taken place in the population of Neutral Bay, Cremorne and Mosman over the last few years. Not only has the population increased, but the population now contains more people to whom a telephone is essential. The telephone facilities available in the area are far below requirements. I understand that the amount of street cable that has been laid is not adequate. But more important is the fact that the Mosman exchange is very nearly the oldest in Australia. It is completely inadequate. I understand that provision for 200 telephones will be made this month, but this will provide only temporary relief. It is true that a new telephone exchange is in course of construction, and this is all to the good. However, I ask the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Hulme) to try to find a way to expedite the supply of telephones to the suburbs I have mentioned for the reasons I have given.

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