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Wednesday, 5 October 1910
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Senator CHATAWAY (Queensland) . - There have been so many wrecks on the coast of King Island that if tombstones were erected there to the memory of those who have perished in those wrecks, it would make the place a very fine cemetery. I wish to know if the Government are prepared to undertake the trifling expense of erecting a wireless telegraph station on

King Island? We know that the cost of such a station must be comparatively trifling, because nearly every steam-ship of any importance is now provided with the necessary apparatus for wireless telegraphy. There are about 800 people on King Island, and there are 40,000 or 60,000 acres of land there suitable for settlement. But I speak in this matter, not on behalf of the residents of the island at all. I have recently met men who have lived there for the last twenty years, and they say that what prevents settlement on the island is the fact that there is no means of communication with the mainland or with Tasmania, except by a steamer or sailing vessels. I should like to know whether the Government intend, even though it may be difficult to decide whether Jones' system or Brown's system is the best, to establish a wireless telegraphic station on King Island as soon as possible.

Senator Guthrie - We must have uniformity.

Senator CHATAWAY - I like to hear the president of the Seamen's Union asking for uniformity in this matter, when the lives of seamen are frequently sacrificed or endangered as they were the other day in connexion with the wreck of the Carnarvon

Bay.If the honorable senator were dropped in 10 feet of water, and could not swim, he would not be anxious for uniformity if any system of wireless telegraphy might be made use of to rescue him. A boat containing a number of people may be set adrift off King Island, and the people may be lost through lack of a means of communicating with the mainland. It would not cost more than £30 or £40 to establish a wireless telegraphy station at King Island, and I ask the Government, in the interests of humanity, to see that this kind of communication is established at the island as soon as possible. Senator St. Ledger has referred to the Vancouver mail service, and in this connexion I must admit that what I saw in the newspapers came to me as a staggering surprise. I went over to Sydney to interview the present Postmaster-General on the subject. Later on the honorable gentlemen went to Queensland, where he was interviewed by the Chamber of Commerce and other bodies. I admit that the interviews were of a confidential nature ; but if there was one impression conveyed to us it was that if any proposal were submitted in connexion with the Vancouver service under which Brisbane would be placed at a disadvantage as com pared with her position under the present arrangement, the Commonwealth Government would not entertain it. I hope that that is so. From what I subsequently learned, I understand that the Ministryhave abandoned all idea of making Auckland the first port of call en route to Vancouver and thus allowing New Zealand butter and frozen produce to be sent to Canada at the expense of the worst or last port of call, namely, Brisbane. If, under any new scheme, the Government propose to sacrifice 'Queensland, or any other part of Australia, in order to give the New Zealand Government a better chance than they now enjoy, I shall strenuously oppose it. No Australian Government will be discharging their duty, if for the sake of saving a few pounds a year, or of doing a good turn to their fellow Britishers in New Zealand, they give the latter a better chance than they give to Australians. There is one other matter to which I desire to refer, namely, the new telephone rates. I am not one of (those who is prone to believe every word which appears in the newspapers. I run a newspaper myself, and therefore I ought to know the value which attaches to newspaper statements. But according to a statement in the Melbourne daily newspapers, there has been a falling-off of 30 per cent, in the number of telephone calls recorded during the past month. I have no objection to that falling-off j indeed, I have contributed to it. I am a small telephone user, and naturally the members of my household during the past month have used the instrument a little less frequently than they used it previously. But I cannot understand the statement in to-day's newspapers that the Department has decided that the small user who wishes to have a telephone installed in his house must pay for two years' service in advance.

Senator Keating - Four years.

Senator CHATAWAY - The statement is that he is required to enter into an agreement for four years, and to pay two years' rental in advance. We know perfectly well that to a concern like a bank or a shipping company or the Mutual Store, or the Civil Service Co-operative Store, a payment of £8 for installing an extra telephone is neither here nor there. But to an insignificant person like myself it is a very serious matter. When an individual who leases a house for twelve months with the right of renewal is asked to pay the Department £fi down, and to agree to occupy his house for four years, what does it mean?

Senator McGregor - As a pressman, the honorable senator ought to know better than that.

Senator CHATAWAY - I am not saying that the statement is true. I have only read it in the newspapers. Will the Vice-President of the Executive Council say that it is untrue.

Senator McGregor - Yes.

Senator CHATAWAY - I accept his assurance, which will be 'recorded in Hansard. He says that the statement which appears in the newspapers to-day is not true.

Senator McGregor - It is worse than not true. It is one of those half truths which are intended to deceive.

Senator CHATAWAY - Supposing that truth is represented by 100 per cent., the Vice-President of the Executive Council says, in effect, that the newspaper statement to which I refer represents only about 40 per cent. If that statement is a lie, we ought to know it at once. Do not let us have it repeated day after day for a long time. I hope that it is a lie; but from the silence of Ministers I doubt whether it is not partly the truth - whether it is not a qualified lie. I hope that the Government will give us an assurance that they do not intend to introduce a system which will press most heavily upon the small user of the telephone, and most lightly upon the big user. If I establish a factory for the manufacture of matches, or of pants, it will not matter to me if I have to pay £& in advance for the installation of a telephone. But to the small suburban householder it will be a very serious matter. It seems to me that the Postal Department, in its efforts to make the large user pay in proportion to the benefits which he receives, is making a grave error, inasmuch as it is putting him in a better position than that occupied by the small user. It is the latter who will suffer all the time. It is the small man who runs a boot shop or a fishmonger's shop who will be compelled to pay through the nose, while the big man will escape.

Senator Keating - The small business man does not use the telephone now to obtain orders. He sends his boy out upon horseback.

Senator CHATAWAY - No doubt. During the past month the telephone calls have dropped 30 per cent. Can the Government show that by way of compen sation they have received a reasonable increase in the number of subscribers? The telephones were made for the public, not the public for the telephones. During the past month the members of my own household have used the telephone as little as possible in. order that I may have to pay as little as possible. But it takes us just as long to get a call answered now as it did previously. I have attached to the wall alongside the instrument a pencil and paper, so that every person who uses the telephone and gets an effective call may make a record of the fact. We thus know exactly how many effective calls we have had during the month.

Senator Blakey - The Department has an automatic meter.

Senator CHATAWAY - Where ?

Senator Blakey - At the Windsor Exchange.

Senator CHATAWAY - Has the Department an automatic meter in Melbourne or Sydney?

Senator Blakey - It will have in due course.

Senator CHATAWAY - But what is happening meanwhile? Some time ago I wrote to the Department and suggested that a certain system should be adopted by means of which it might be easy tor the Department and subscribers to check the number of calls. But the Department replied that it did not see why subscribers should be provided with facilities for checking calls. I do not blame it for that.

Senator Keating - There is such a thing as an automatic meter. It is in use in Grand Rapids, in America. But the Commonwealth authorities do not seem to know anything about it.

Senator CHATAWAY - The measured system has now been in operation for a month, and the Department is gloating over the fact that fewer calls are being recorded than were recorded previously. As a subscriber, I wish to say that I am getting no better service than I formerly received. I have nothing to say against the measured service system, though I may have something to say about it later on when I learn how the departmental method of measurement compares with the householders'. But what happens? You call up the telephone attendant, you get your man, and the moment after you are cut off ; then you ring for three or four minutes and get him back again. I do not know how many times one is to be debited for that one effective call.

Senator McGregor - I wish the honorable senator would ring off now.

Senator CHATAWAY - As a matter of fact, this telephone business has not been discussed in the Senate, and I am doing nothing unreasonable in discussing it now. Would the Government mind looking at the telephone system from the point of view of the public, not of the officials? I would give this much credit to the officers - that one can look through their official reports from beginning to end and find no indication that they advised the Government to adopt this new system. We are now being faced with a most extraordinary proposition. We do not know how we stand. I came in under the measured system and thought I knew exactly where I was. But after four or five weeks I discovered that if I happened to move from my present house to another I should have to guarantee the Government to stand by the telephone for four years and to pay for two years in advance. When I first had the telephone installed I was Government Whip, and I suppose that I was furnished with the service just about as promptly as anybody could be. I have no complaint to make on that score. But how long would an ordinary suburban resident be kept? He would be called upon i0 PaY m advance, and it might be five or six weeks before he got his telephone. In addition to that, he would have to give a guarantee to keep the telephone for four years. No such condition as that has been previously laid down in Australia or in any other part of the world. I venture to say that the Government cannot find a case in the world where it is demanded that a telephone subscriber shall not have an instrument put into his house unless he guarantees to pay for it for four years, and, in addition, to put down two years' subscription in advance. Whether these statements that have appeared in the newspaper are correct or not I do not know, but I shall be glad to listen to a Ministerial explanation.

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