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Wednesday, 13 July 1921

The PRESIDENT - It is the Standing Orders governing this kind of debate that confine the honorable senator. My duty is merely to administer them as

I find them. The subject to which the honorable senator is confined is the shortage of telephone instruments in Australia.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I propose to try to prove, with regard to the argument I was, about to introduce, that if the present system of recording telephone calls continues, the shortage in the Commonwealth will soon be made up, because the extraordinary charges imposed will compel subscribers to discontinue using them.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - -It is strange how many people are anxious to be connected. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) informed me that there were sixty- four in his constituency.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The shortage can be made up by continuing the system of imposing charges for extraordinarily large numbers of calls that are never made. I have received a letter from the secretary of the Australian Mutual Provident Society - a society which I think honorable senators will admit is a credit to Australia - in which he directs attention to the extraordinary manner in which his society, has been charged for calls, and says that, if the present condition of affairs continues, serious consideration will have to be given to .the matter. I have also received a complaint from a constituent of mine - Captain "Vine Hall, of Chatswood - who states that owing to the extraordinary manner in. which he has been charged for calls - inconsistent altogether with the real amount of business he has transacted - he will have to discontinue the use of his telephone, and thus make available an instrument which may be a means of relieving the shortage. The secretary to the Australian Mutual Provident Society states that for the half year - from December, 1919, to May, 1920 - his society was charged £28 17s. 4d.

The PRESIDENT - I cannot allow the honorable senator to continue discussing charges for calls, because if he does so other honorable senators will seek a similar privilege, which will result in extraneous matter . being introduced. Senator Thomas' motion was moved for the specific purpose of discussing the shortage of telephones, and the debate must be confined to that subject. Standing order No. 64 reads: -

A motion without notice, that the Senate at its rising adjourn to any day or hour other than that fixed for the next ordinary meeting of the Senate for the purpose of debating some matter of urgency, can only be made after Petitions have been presented, and Notices of Questions and Motions given, and before the Business- of the Day is proceeded with, and such motion can be made notwithstanding there be on the Paper a motion for adjournment to a time other than that of the next ordinary meeting. The senator so moving must make in writing, and hand in to the President, a statement, of the matter of urgency. Such motion must be supported by four senators rising in their places and indicating their approval thereof. Only the matter in respect of which such motion is made can be debated.

That is specific.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I quoted the case of a telephone subscriber who said that he would give up his instrument rather than agree to pay what he thought was an improper charge. If that person gave up his telephone some one else would be glad to accept it, and in that way the shortage would be relieved. I was merely giving an illustration of the complaints made in regard to telephone calls, an'd the justification some of my constituents have for discontinuing the service.

The PRESIDENT - The specific motion before the Senate is the alleged shortage of telephones in Australia, and it is not fair to Senator Thomas, and to other honorable senators, if the discussion is dragged away from the specific subject. I cannot allow the honorable senator to proceed to discuss the question of telephone calls, but the honorable senator can avail himself of the opportunity of bringing the matter forward under another motion if he so desires.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I certainly shall obey your ruling, Mr. President, because I have every respect for the Chair; but I shall take another opportunity of placing the information at my disposal before the Department. In connexion with the shortage of -telephones, my colleagues in this Chamber, and iu another place who are representing New South Wales, have received scores of serious complaints during the last two; or three years regarding the lack of supplies; and I desired to show what, in my opinion, was the cause of the shortage. I have no desire to accuse the officers of the Department, because I believe the present situation has arisen owing to the short-sightedness of the Treasurer at the time, who reduced the amount that was necessary for keeping our telephone services up to date. If anything of this sort is attempted again, I trust the Postmaster-General willmake it public, so that attention may be directed to the possible consequences.

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