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Thursday, 6 May 1915

The PRESIDENT - I should like to ask the honorable senator how he connects these remarks with his motion ?'

Senator KEATING - I said that I referred to this illustration incidentally, and proposed to connect it with the motion. I can deal with this matter at any time, and I mention it as supplying one of the reasons which led me to give notice of my motion. It seemed to be in the minds of the authorities of the Department to increase the telephone charges, and. I believed that if we had a proper stock of telephone equipment there would be no necessity to do so. I direct the attention of the Department to one or two remarks made by Mr. Goldman, who is competent and qualified to speak upon this subject.

It will save a great many words from me if I quote from this article statements which he has put succinctly concerning the British Post Office, and which I consider apply with equal or greater force to the Post and Telegraph Department of the Commonwealth. He says -

The present arrangements are hopelessly unbusinesslike. The finances of the system are involved and obscure to a degree which would not lie tolerated in the ease of any commercial company.

He was dealing with the British system and comparing it with systems in force elsewhere, where a proper stock of reserve equipment is kept. He says, further -

The business organizers of the Bell Telephone Company have now got in stock $25,000,000 worth of reserve plant waiting for the- development of the service to require it.

When we consider that the telephone system in America is up to date and far ahead ┬░of any other system in the world, and when we find a man in the position of the Chairman of the British Parliamentary Telephone Committee pointing to this fact and indicating it as one of the causes why the American system is up to date, I think it is desirable that we should have in Australia an extensive stock of telephone materials held in reserve. If we have such stocks it is advisable that members of this Parliament should know what they are. Mr. Goldman says -

Even in the city of New York one-half of the cable ducts are empty, in expectation of the greater city of 8,000,000 population which they expect in 1928. Money invested in developing the service is well invested, since by the second principle of telephony, every extension adds to the value of the whole.

I contend that we should know what stocks of telephone material we have in reserve here.. As a parliamentary body having some power and opportunity for criticism of the administration of the several public Departments, it is desirable that the Post and Telegraph Department should give us some information on this point. To give an illustration of what might be done in Australia, if we had these reserve stocks, I quote the following from an earlier portion of Mr. Goldman's article : -

The United States adds in one year to- her service as many telephones- as are comprised in the entire system in Great Britain, and increases the mileage of her telephone circuit each year by more than the distance between England and Australia. In the States every alternate family possesses a telephone. There the low charge of Od. to ls. a week for a private instrument has enabled two and a half million farmers to be in telephonic touch with each other and their markets.

There is much in the article which I hope to bring under the notice of the Department on another and more appropriate occasion ; but I might mention that he says -

The rate of expansion in England, as shown in the hist annual report, is only about onehalf what it was in 1U06, and, even so, it exceeds the power of the Post Office to cope with it. In America a new telephone can be installed in four or five days, whereas in this country it will take as many weeks, and, in some cases, almost as many months.

Later on he refers to the unbusinesslike nature of the administration in Great Britain and to the fact that the accounts are not kept in a proper way. Any one who reads his article will see that one of the essentials of a successful policy is the holding of a great stock of reserve materials to meet future requirements as rapidly as they arise. We constantly heard from our Post and Telegraph Department that the telephone system was not paying. I am very glad to know that quite recently, from the returns up to the end of last month, it appears that when the telephone system of finance was separated from the post and telegraph systems it returned a larger profit than was previously anticipated. I have also noticed since this motion was tabled more than one statement in the press, purporting to come from the Postmaster-General, to the effect that the Department had not been keeping proper reserve stock. I assumed, if these statements correctly reported what the Postmaster-General told the press reporters from time to time - and I have not seen them contradicted - that possibly that was one of the reasons why the Department was not in a position to permit this motion to go as formal . From the experience and evidence of an authority such as I have quoted, it must be clear that an ample reserve stock of telephonic equipment is an essential of any up-to-date telephone system in respect to which there will practically be no grumbling on the part of subscribers and no recriminations between them and the Department. It is for this reason that I think it is desirable that the Department should have these reserves and that this Parliament should know what they have in stock in the different States - the quantity, general nature and purpose, and the value. If upon this in- formation it is the opinion of the Senate that the equipment in reserve is short of what it ought to be, it will be open to any honorable senator, or any honorable member in another place, to comment upon the fact. I personally see no reason for secrecy in this matter. I have explained that I do not intend to reflect upon the administration of the Post and Telegraph Department, not during any recent period, but during the whole period since Federation. I speak of it generally throughout the whole period. I am inclined to think that it has been lacking in this regard, and the only way we can be sure on that point is by getting a return of the nature I ask for. I think that if the Department can see its way to give us the information, we shall be in a position to criticise it if we think that it is shortcoming, and, if we do not form that view, the Department will be in a position to vindicate itself. So far as I can see, there is no reason for any secrecy, and in all sincerity and frankness I ask for the information, in order that the members of this Parliament may be able to take into consideration what the Department is doing by way of development, and by our own argument and persuasion, if we can, urge it to more activity in this direction if it seems so desirable.

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