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Wednesday, 9 November 1983
Page: 2487

Mr HICKS —Is the Minister for Communications aware of the widespread resentment that the introduction of countrywide calling has caused in the remote areas of Australia? Will he personally investigate the legitimate complaints of these people, particularly that they have lost their access to an untimed local call, which is the accepted right of all other Australians? Will the Minister instruct Telecom Australia to reinstate this fundamental right to these people? Can he deny that the introduction of timed local calls in remote areas is the start of timed local calls throughout Australia?

Mr DUFFY —As the honourable member is aware, I organised through Telecom a meeting at Parliament House, which I think he attended and at which a Telecom representative explained the impact of countrywide calling developed by Telecom to overcome the problems associated with the provision of services in sparsely settled areas. The main features involved were the need for larger zones to provide customers with access to a reasonable number of people at lower call charges and the need to consider the carrying capacity of the digital radio concentrator service. Anomalies which have developed have been drawn to my attention and the attention of Telecom by people such as the honourable member. The honourable member for Maranoa was particularly concerned about certain areas in his electorate. Those matters are presently being looked at by Telecom and some alterations have already been made.

In respect of the general thrust of the honourable member's question, I assure him that Telecom is looking at the problems, but in overall terms it is still the view of Telecom, as it expressed earlier, that the benefits to people will far outweigh the problems that have been raised by honourable members such as the honourable member for Riverina. I repeat: The matters raised by the honourable member and those raised by other honourable members, particularly from country areas, are being examined by Telecom.