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Friday, 22 July 1921


Senator DUNCAN (New South Wales) . - I have one matter to mention under this Department. It is an old grievance, one that has been raised before, but without any great amount . of satisfaction, either to the Department concerned or to thefirms who are continually complaining. I refer to the registration of telephone calls. In this connexion I have been supplied with certain information by the Australian Mutual Provident Society, of Sydney, whose complaint is supported by a great number of leading firms in Sydney today. The Society protests against what it considers is undue laxity on the part of the Department in this matter, as a result of which it is being mulct in the payment of certain moneys not owing by it to the Department. The Sydney office of the Australian Mutual Provident Society has kept a careful record of its telephone calls from 1st November, 1913, to 30th April, 1921. During that time, according to the record, the calls numbered 9,247, whereas the departmental charge is for 13,668 calls, representing an overcharge of about 50 per cent. In a communication to me, the Society states -

As a result of a protest, in the half-year ended October, 1910, the line was "observed" by the Postal Department, and the result for that and the succeeding half-year suggests that our protest had some effect. -Before, and subsequently, however, there has been a considerable overcharge. Our record is carefully kept, but, while it may not be absolutely accurate, I am loath to believe that there can be so many mistakes as the comparison of calls recorded and charged would suggest. You will notice that this record has been kept for a period of over seven years. I may also add that since the end of 1918 the telephone switchboard is locked up during non-business hours.

It will be seen that it is not possible for any one to get at the Society's switchboard outside of actual business hours. In a subsequent letter the society points out that the record of the calls made upon the ordinary department telephones is not so complete as is that of the calls made upon the industrial department telephone, but the figures for the last three half-years are as follow: - For the half-year December, 1919, to May, 1920, the society was charged £28 17s. 4d, whereas by its record it should have been charged only £238s. 5d. For the half-year June, 1920, to November, 1920, the society was charged £33 18s. 3d.; whereas by its record it should have been charged only £25 12s. 6d. For the half-year December, 1920, to May, 1921, the society was charged £38 9s. 2d.., whereas by its record it should have been charged only £266s. 7d. The manager . of the company goes on to say -

If when a line was placed under observation a list of the numbers called were made and at once supplied to the subscriber, with the date, there would be some . sort of a check on the subscriber's list; but simply to say that the line has been under observation and that everything has been found in order, is most unconvincing and most unsatisfactory. It is not suggested that there is any wilful fault or neglect on the part of the officials, but that the system under which they work might easily be made to conform a little more closely to the requirements of the subscribers, and probably, would be made to do so -if those requirements were better known tothe responsible officials.

If thecomplaint of the Australian Mutual Provident Society can , be established - and it seems to me that upon the facts it does establish a pretty fair case - it is extremely probable that quite a number of other subscribers are resentful of what they believe to be imposition on the part of the Postal Department. It is not in the best interests of the Commonwealth that such a feeling should exist. There should be some means of keeping an official record of the calls actually made-


Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - There is. But the honorable senator is not satisfied with that record.


Senator DUNCAN - There should be some method of keeping anofficial record of the calls made which would be satisfactory alike to the telephone subscriber and to the Department. In this connexion, the Australian Mutual Provident Society makes a suggestion which the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) may well convey to the PostmasterGeneral. It suggests that some method might be adopted whereby the society could, be immediately made aware of the calls being registered against it, so that it might have some better check upon those calls than it has at present.


Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is any period suggested ?


Senator Duncan - No. The manager of the society writes -

If - when a line was placed under observation a list of the numbers called were madeand at once supplied to the subscriber, with the date, there would be some sort of a check: on the subscriber's list.

He would then know in what respecthis own. list differed - f rom the record kept by the Department. I have brought this' matter- under the notice of the Minister in the hope that he will refer it to the Postmaster-General, with a view to meeting the very reasonable, requests which are being- made by big business firms in Sydney, who feel that they are- suffering an injustice.


Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I shall have pleasure in acceding to the honorable senator's request, and if he will let -me have a. copy of the letter from which he has quoted, I shall be thankful.







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