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Wednesday, 22 August 1906

Mr LONSDALE (New England) . - A portion of the surplus revenue of the Post and Telegraph Department could not be better spent than in the direction suggested by the honorable member for Parramatta. I think that some of it might also be devoted to improving the telephone facilities available to residents in the country districts. It is proposed to throw away a considerable sum of money in the purchase of a trawler, and in establishing the penny postage system, and I am afraid that the position of the people in the country, who desire to share in the benefit of telephone communication, will in consequence be rendered more difficult than ever. Some honorable members have had very strange experiences in connexion with applications for the extension of telephone services. I have succeeded in obtaining what I have desired for my constituents only after a severe struggle. I think that telephone facilities should be provided at very much cheaper rates than at present. I understand that the Postmaster-General now has before him a new regulation, which will provide for a reduction of the charges now levied upon residents in the country districts who enjoy the benefits of telephonic communication, and I trust that it will be brought into force as scon as possible. Some of the charges which are made are simply enormous. A man who lived six miles outside a populous township, and desired to obtain telephonic communication with it, was asked bv the Department to pay £15 a year for the maintenance of the line, and to .guarantee that amount for seven years. It would have been much better if it had plainly intimated that it could not undertake the work. It would be in the interests of such persons if the new regulation to which I have referred were brought into operation at as early a date as possible.

A somewhat similar occurrence took place in another portion of my electorate. A man who lived twelve miles from a town desired to secure telephonic communication with that town, but the price which the Department demanded from him for the erection of the line was a prohibitive one. He saw me in reference to the matter, and I suggested that he resided only three miles from a receiving office in which a telephone had been, installed. I pointed out that by erecting his own line to connect with that office, he could secure communication with the town by transmitting his messages a distance of about twenty-five miles. The Postmaster-General lias always prided himself upon the fact that he looks after the interests of rural districts. I desire him to act up to his professions. There can be no doubt that, under the telephone system as it exists in Sydney, a person can Rear " the other fellow's " business, but cannot get his own transacted. This, I understand, is due to the want of a metallic circuit. Yet only ,£5,500 has been provided upon the Estimates towards the cost, although £8,000 was spent in that direction last year. In my opinion it would be much better to expend in improving the Sydney telephone service the £8,000 which the Government propose to spend upon the purchase and equipment of a trawler to exploit the fishing grounds round the coast of Australia. I trust that the Postmaster-General will bring the new regulation to which I have referred into operation as soon as possible.

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