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Wednesday, 20 April 1966

Mr DUTHIE (Wilmot) .- I make only one comment on the speech of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). The difference between our system and the Communist system was summed up perfectly by the gentleman to whom the honorable member referred. That gentleman, when witnessing the horrifying - I use the term lightly - demonstration last week outside the Parliament, said: " This could not happen in Moscow ". That is all that need be said about the two systems. He gave the answer in his statement.

Mr Fox - Because there is no Opposition there.

Mr DUTHIE - That is right. Opponents of the system are either in the cemetery 01 in Siberia. I make no bones about my attitude to the Communist system.

The matter 1 wish to raise may not be as serious or as heart rending as that referred to by the honorable member for Mackellar. I wish to deal tonight with four aspects of Post Office policy. Unfortunately the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Hulme) is attending a Cabinet meeting tonight and cannot be present in the chamber. Most Ministers do come into the chamber when they know that honorable members intend to refer to matters affecting the departments under their control.

The first matter I raise concerns the provision of public telephones at airports throughout Australia. There are 10 public telephones at Melbourne Airport. They are constantly in use when passengers arrive from other parts of Australia. A sixpenny coin is needed to operate them. Many people do not have the necessary coin, and they line up at the various shops in the terminal or at the counters of TransAustralia Airlines or Ansett-A.N.A., seeking to obtain two sixpenny pieces for a one shilling piece. I appeal to the PostmasterGeneral to use some of the huge profits of the Post Office to provide change machines at airports. We have so many wonderful things in this modern world; surely we can have change machines at our airports so that people wishing to make a telephone call may obtain the required coin without worrying the business people or the staff of the airline companies.

Mr Turnbull - There is a machine at Essendon aerodrome into which a 2s. piece may be placed and four sixpences change obtained.

Mr DUTHIE - 1 have been passing through the airport for years and I have never seen one.

Mr Turnbull - I used it myself recently.

Mr DUTHIE - I was standing alongside one of the shops only yesterday morning on my way to Canberra and in the space of 45 seconds two people came to the counter and asked the girls for change, lt is not fair that the staff of these shops or of the airline companies should be pestered in this way. The public telephones at airports must be one of the Postmaster-General's Department's best income earners. People wishing to obtain change in order to make a telephone call should not have to worry the business people.

The second matter I raise concerns profiteering by one section of the PostmasterGeneral's Department in the changeover to decimal currency. We know that this kind of thing is happening all over Australia today. We do not seem to be able to track it down but we are paying more, overall, for goods as a result of the changeover than we were before. Here is a good example of what I regard as callous, gross, profiteering by somebody or by some authority. It is hard to track down who is responsible for it. Before decimal currency was introduced, the rate for an airmail letter to the United Kingdom was 2s. 3d. After decimal currency was introduced, the rate was 25 cents which is the equivalent of 2s. 6d. This represents an increase of 3d. in the cost of sending a letter to the United Kingdom by airmail, on the same aircraft travelling the same distance.

Again, aerogrammes which are used extensively by people writing overseas have become more costly. Before the introduction of decimal currency, they cost lOd. each. Now an extra stamp has to be attached to get them to their destination. This is all part of wicked, gross, calculated exploitation and profiteering on the part of either the Postmaster-General's Department or the airline operators. 1 should like the Postmaster-General's Department to clear the matter up and to tell the people of Australia why this gross and wicked increase was made necessary.

Mr Curtin - Ned Kelly was a gentleman compared to them.

Mr DUTHIE - He certainly was. I am glad my friend brought him into the debate. Ned Kelly would be invited into the best drawing rooms today before some of the people who are running certain sections of our economy. I have in mind certain branches of the Postmaster-General's Department.

The next matter to which I wish to refer relates to the new telephone directory in Tasmania. At this time of the year I think the new directories for all the States are being printed. We in Tasmania have found the old 1965 directory very inconvenient. Many complaints have been made to me and to others about the confusion that has been caused because of the way in which the directory is laid out. I agree with those who complain. I have already taken up with the Postmaster-General's Department in Tasmania ways in which I think improvements can be effected.

As an example, I point out that the directory first contains the telephone numbers for Hobart. About three quarters of the way through the directory the Launceston numbers appear. Between the Hobart and the Launceston numbers the country exchanges are set out in higgledy piggledy manner. I suggest that the Hobart numbers should be followed by the numbers in the Launceston area which should then be followed by the numbers for Devonport, then by the numbers for Burnie. This would bring all the principal cities of the island together. The country exchanges could then be listed in alphabetical order. That is one change that I think is absolutely necessary.

Another change could be made with respect to the numbers for the extended local service areas which are known as " E.L.S.A.". I do not know whether honorable members opposite who live in country electorates use the E.L.S.A. system much, but when one examines the directory to find out how to get on to a country exchange, one finds that one is required to ring 974. That connects the caller to the country exchange. The caller then asks for the required number. For the country exchanges, one has to look somewhere else in the directory to find the E.L.S.A. number. I suggest that the E.L.S.A. number should be placed beneath the name of the relevant country exchange. I make that further suggestion in an effort to make things easier for the business people who use this directory.

I should like to suggest also to the Postmaster-General's Department that the charge for trunk line calls throughout Australia on Sundays should be reduced by half between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. I make this suggestion for a specific reason. It would enable private users to ring their relatives throughout the Commonwealth at a time when the telephone service was not being used for business purposes. They would take advantage of the cheaper rates on Sundays and thus reduce the pressure on the telephone exchanges on week days when business calls should probably predominate. I suggest that the PostmasterGeneral should look at this suggestion as one good way of building up revenue in addition to giving the business people a better service on week days.

Finally, I refer to the blind pensioners who have been trying to get a 17 per cent, reduction on telephone rentals. I suggest that the Government should take into account the fact that all blind persons, by reason of their blindness, have needs which are additional to those of a seeing person. I think it is of great psychological advantage to a blind person to be able to use the telephone. I submit that blind persons have a case for special treatment. There should be a reduction in rentals for blind persons throughout Australia. I ask the PostmasterGeneral's Department to examine this matter when the Budget is being framed. 1 think ail members of this Parliament received a letter last February from Mr. H. G. Wilston, President of the Commonwealth Blind Communication Committee, which is acting for the blind people of Australia. I am sure that all honorable members present in this chamber tonight will agree that helping the blind people by means of this reduced rental would be a great boost to their morale and of great help to them in very many ways.

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