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Tuesday, 13 November 1973
Page: 3261


Mr KEOGH (Bowman) - Quite often these days it seems to fall to my misfortune to have to follow the clown - I mean the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron). He passed some remarks this evening about how he threatened the former Postmaster-General and told him that he could not count on his support if he continued to raise the postal charges. I will have a few words to say about that later on. I remind the honourable member for Griffith that he is lucky that he is on that side of the chamber and not on this side, because if we had the misfortune of having a continuation of the previous style of government he would have had the avertion laid on the line and he would have been forced to prove whether his deeds were as good as his words. I remind honourable members of what the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Lionel Bowen) said when he introduced the documents relating to postal charges at Budget time this year. I quote from the 'Post Office Prospects and Capital Program 1973-74'. He stated:

It has been decided that the drain on taxpayers and other Post Office customers in subsidising a number of concessional and uneconomic services could be reduced substantially. The priorities which must be given to other Government programs affecting social welfare, education, and urban development, as well as the heavy demands for Post Office, services, especially in and near the metropolitan areas of the capital cities, are such that there must be a substantial redistribution of and increase in both the income and expenditure of the Post Office. Because these demands for service are urgent, these changes must be made quickly.

I congratulate the Postmaster-General for saying that. I congratulate him for realising the urgency of these demands in the metropolitan areas of the capital cities. Quite frankly, one of the gravest problems I face and one of the most extensive problems I face throughout my electorate-


Mr Giles - Is the Liberal Party.


Mr KEOGH - That has not worried me one bit. The most extensive problem I have faced in the last couple of years has been the irresponsible attitude of the previous

PostmasterGeneral in respect of the metropolitan areas where people have been demanding telephones and finding that their demands are not being met. Let me refer to the introductory remarks of the PostmasterGeneral when he spoke of the commission of inquiry that he set up earlier this year. Before the honourable member for Griffith leaves the chamber I suggest that he listens to this. He will hear what his Government had in store for the country if it had remained in power. A Press release issued by the Postmaster General stated:

Mr Bowensaid that the previous Government proposed in its plan to increase postal charges and telephone charges by a further 20 per cent to 25 per cent in 1974 . . . Elaborating on the uneconomic service, Mr Bowen said that in 1970 the then Government recklessly adopted a policy of providing uneconomic telephone services.

It is that policy that has caused this problem in my electorate and in other electorates on the fringes of metropolitan areas. The article continued:

The Cabinet of the day was warned that unless special Treasury resources were provided for this purpose there would be most severe repercussions in all activities of the Post Office.

Earlier tonight I heard the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) talking about rural telephone services. It is well that he paid some attention to the brainchild of the Australian Country Party that it fostered and foisted on the last Government and forced the Liberal Party to accept. How well did his electorate do out of this service that the last Government provided, to the detriment of the metropolitan telephone service for which people are waiting 2 or more years to have connected, under the plans put forward by the previous Government?

At Miamba near Miles in the Maranoa electorate, an automatic exchange was established for 1 1 new applicants and a total of 52 subscribers at a cost of $216,000. The revenue was estimated at $8,000 or less than 4 per cent, and this would not even meet the interest charges on the capital, let alone its operating costs. At Taroom, in the same electorate, it will cost in excess of $200,000 for 19 subscribers and 18 applicants, with a revenue return of approximately2½ per cent without operating costs. The Government does not deny that these people should receive telephones. The PostmasterGeneral has made that plain. But what he has made clear is the totally irresponsible and dishonest policy that was maintained by the previous Government because it was not game to let the taxpayers know that they were paying for these things. They should have been provided for out of money that should be available for people now being denied their telephones in the metropolitan areas.

I congratulate the PostmasterGeneral for tackling this problem which hundreds of people in my electorate face, in finding that telephones that they should be able to have connected to their homes in metropolitan areas, just as easily as water or electricity services are connected, are not available. If honourable members want further proof that this is one of the reasons why the people in metropolitan and outer metropolitan fringe areas have found themselves without telephones, I will quote from a letter that 1 received from the Acting Director of Posts and Telegraphs in Queensland. It was not sent to me during the short life of this Government but it was sent to me on 13 July 1972. Mr Hosken said in reply to some of the matters that I raised:

The position is particularly acute in Queensland -

He was talking about the lack of telephone services in my electorate - in comparison to other States as we have had a relatively high level of demand for telephone service over a lengthy period. The recent legislation governing the provision of rural telephone services has also resulted in a huge departmental commitment in Queensland relative to most other States.

There are the facts. That is the truth of the situation that has been revealed in figures which show that at 30 June deferred applications in Queensland numbered 6,415. Of course, these are only deferred applications where new lines and equipment are required. This was an increase from 3,734 in the 1971- 72 financial year. The estimated demand for telephone services in Queensland in 1972-73 where new lines and equipment were required was 41,000. The actual demand was 53,949. That was an increase of demand over estimated demand of more than 31 per cent. What do these people do? Their telephone services, as estimated in the figures given to the Parliament by the Postmaster General (Mr Lionel Bowen), cost the Post Office some $1,600 to provide.


Mr Corbett - Are they profitable?


Mr KEOGH - Some of the telephone services in the electorate of the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) cost up to $10,000 to provide. A prominent official of the

Country Party had a telephone connected - I do not know whether it was in the electorate of Maranoa, but it was certainly in Queensland - and it cost more than three times $10,000. That is the roguery that the previous Government got up to, conned by the rump party, the Country Party, that supported it. Hundreds of people on the fringes of the metropolitan area of Brisbane and throughout the areas of the capital cities and major cities and towns, particularly along the eastern coast of Australia, wait for their telephones.

I believe that the urgent action which has been taken now by the Postmaster-General is very timely. I congratulate him on facing up to the responsibilities that the previous Government was either unable to face up to or unprepared to face up to because of its dependence upon the Country Party to keep it in office. I suggest that certain action in addition to what has been done can be taken to assist further people in the metropolitan area. One of the things which the PostmasterGeneral can do is take action - I hope he will - to contact local authorities where subdivisions are put on the market so that he can prevent the subdividers from hoodwinking the people into believing that a telephone service is available.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (DrJenkins)Order! The honourable member's time has expired.







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