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Tuesday, 6 April 1965

Senator MCCLELLAND (New South Wales) .- Having regard to the late hour I will not delay the Senate at any great length, but I wish to raise the question of the enormously large number of outstanding applications for telephones and the great increase in the number since I last made an inquiry of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme). On 26th August last - I refer to page 241 of the Senate "Hansard" - I was told, in answer to a question, that as at 30th June 1964 there were 50,340 deferred telephone applications throughout Australia. Today, in reply to another question which I asked, the Postmaster-General informed me that in the period of nine months from 30th June 1964 the figure had jumped from 50,340 to 93,067. This is quite an astronomical jump, bearing in mind that on the introduction of its last Budget the Government said it was going to devote more money towards telephone services. Considering the number of outstanding applications in New South Wales I think it is my duty, as a senator representing that State, to bring this matter to the notice of the Senate. Let us go back three years. At 30th June 1962 the total number of outstanding applications in New South Wales was 13,317, but today it is 53,366, out of the Australian total of 93,067. In 1962 Victoria had 15,556 deferred applications and today it has 19,846. There are more people in New South Wales waiting for the installation of telephones at present than there were throughout the whole of Australia some nine months ago.

Frankly, I doubt whether this Government cares two hoots about finding a solution to this problem, and I feel that it should be condemned by the people of Australia for its failure to provide this essential service for Australians generally. I know there has been an increase in the number of outstanding applications for telephones in most of the States, but that is a reason why this matter should be of particular interest to ali senators from all States. I suggest that in the interests of their own States - not only the interests of New South Wales - they also should take this matter up with the Postmaster-General in order to ensure that something will be done to provide an adequate service to the people. The increase in the number of outstanding applications and the great lag in providing telephone services in New South Wales are such that either the Commonwealth is discriminating against the people of New South Wales or the development taking place in that State is so great that the Postmaster-General's Department just cannot cope with the demand. Telephone rentals are so high these days that I think it is fair to say that practically everyone who makes application for a telephone has an essential need for it. The figures produced by the PostmasterGeneral show that in the period from 11th August of last year to 28th February 1965 the number of telephone services cancelled was 52,919, or over 13,000 more than in the corresponding period of 1963-64. A great many people are affected by this problem. Shift workers are inconvenienced because they do not have telephones; the extension of decentralisation throughout the State - which is so desirable - is greatly impeded; management costs become greater because of the inability to communicate by telephone in an expeditious manner, and the increased management costs are passed on to the consumers.

I have in my hand details of a case in which the Assistant Under-Secretary of an important State Government Department in New South Wales made application for a telephone in December of last year. When the Minister in charge of that department communicated with the Director of Posts and Telegraphs in New South Wales, he was told that this request for a telephone by a senior executive could not be complied with before the end of May. I took the matter up and the earliest I could hope to achieve anything was the end of April. This man is an assistant permanent head of a large Government department and the permanent head is about to go overseas so one can understand that there are great problems in this connection.

I do not intend to say any more about that subject, but it is obvious from the figures supplied by the Postmaster-General himself that the needs of the people of Australia, and more particularly the needs of the people of New South Wales having regard to the figures supplied, have been and are being overlooked by this Government. On 26th August 1964, the PostmasterGeneral stated in a reply to a question asked by me on notice -

Special efforts are being made to accelerate the installation rate and the Government has allocated £77 million for capital works in the current financial year, representing an increase of £8.5 million over last year.

All I can say is that the budgetary allocation obviously is not enough to meet the needs of the people. In the matter of. telephones, the Commonwealth Government cannot pass the buck to the States. This is one case in which it must accept full responsibility. The Government's record in the light of the figures supplied to me by the Postmaster-General indicates that it should give more attention and higher priority to efforts to overcome this important problem.

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