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Wednesday, 13 July 1921

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I am pleased with the reply given by the Minister. I took the precaution to inform Senator Russell of my intention to move the adjournment of the Senate to-day for the purpose of pointedly directing attention to this matter. Yesterday I also telephoned certain postal officials in Sydney, to whom I intimated my intention, so that they might be prepared to supply the Minister representing the Postmaster-General with all the information "Bearing upon it which is in their possession. Of course, I quite recognise that to- provide complete telephone communication something more is required than the mere instrument itself. I did not ask that the Government should purchase the 1,900 telephones to which I' had previously alluded if they are not required. But I have in my mind several cases in which only the telephone itself was required to complete the desired telephone connexion. Honorable senators are doubtless aware that if a man rents a house which is connected by telephone, and if that telephone is in his own name, when he quits the premises he is entitled to take it with him to his new place of abode. Thus it frequently happens that the ingoing and outgoing tenants of houses in Sydney fight for the possession of particular instruments. In cases in which only the telephone is required to complete the connexion, a private company would probably say to the incoming tenant. "If I can obtain elsewhere a telephone for you at a fair figure I will purchase it . and install it." That is what the Government should do in similar cases. The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) stated by implication this afternoon that no conditions were inserted in the contract which has been entered into with the Commonwealth for the supply of telephone instruments because of the abnormal conditions which obtained at the time that contract was made. He argued that if arbitrary conditions had been insisted upon no tenders would have been forthcoming. I take it, however, that in their tenders tenderers were asked to say when they would be in a position to fulfil the. contract.

Senator Duncan - There must have been some provision of that kind in the contract.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Not necessarily. I understand, however, that the Chicago company undertook to deliver instruments within a specified time. As Siemens Brothers have not done so, I hold that the Government should be 'at liberty to purchase telephones which . are available in Macquarie-street, Sydney, assuming that they can do so at a reasonable price.

Senator Keating - At what price can they be purchased ?

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I asked the gentleman who represents the firm in question whether he was prepared to sell instruments 'tothe Commonwealth at the same price as that at which he had tendered for their supply, and he assured me that he was. If the price is a reasonable one, and the shipment of telephones to which reference has been made does not speedily arrive to afford relief to the public, I hope that applicants for telephone . connexionwill not' be longer denied the f acilitieswhichthey seek., I ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion, bv leave, withdrawn.

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