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Wednesday, 22 August 1906

Mr JOHNSON (Lang) .- I heartily sympathize with the desire of the honorable member for New England to obtain greater facilities in connexion with telephonic communication and a cheapening of the service. But, whilst I admit that the Postmaster-General has made very great strides in that direction, there yet remains a good deal to be done, particularly in the matter of securing an alteration of the existing regulations, whereby the charges levied in the metropolitan area may be extended to populous centres just outside that area. I have conducted lengthy correspondence with his Department ' in connexion with this question, but with very little prospect of success. I have received several communications from Progress Associations in my own district bearing upon the matter, and particularly one in which the township of Sutherland - which is only just outside the metropolitan radius - is interested. I understand that the reason Why the regulations have not been amended so as to make the metropolitan rates apply to populous centres just outside the metropolitan area is that Western Australia stands in the way.

Mr Austin Chapman - Western Australia is always causing trouble.

Mr JOHNSON - Western Australia is a stumbling block to the granting of necessary telephonic reforms in New South Wales. I have been urging an amendment of the regulations, with a view to extending the radius of the metropolitan area to populous centres immediately outside of it, but I have always been met with the objection that to bring about such a reform would involve a loss to the Department of £5,000 owing to the circumstances of Western Australia.

Sir John Forrest - I do not understand how that can be so.

Mr JOHNSON - It has never been explained to me. I am quite willing to believe that it is a libel on Western Australia. But, if so, the Treasurer shouldhold the Postmaster-General responsible for it, because his Department is the author of it.

Sir John Forrest - In Western Australia the zone in which the cheap rates operate extends only about two miles from the metropolis.

Mr JOHNSON - I ask the PostmasterGeneral to seriously consider the advisability of altering the regulations in this connexion, despite any small loss which may result. When I see him so cheerfully agreeing to sacrifice a revenue from another source of about £200.000 annually, I cannot help feeling that in this particular he is " straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel." One of his first considerations in telephone matters ought to be the convenience of the people, just as it is in postal matters generally. The telephone has become practically a necessity of modern times, and it is therefore necessary that something should be done in. the direction of cheapening the cost of the service, and especially of extending facilities for telephonic communication to persons who are resident just outside the metropolitan area.

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