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Friday, 24 August 1923

Mr FORDE (Capricornia) - I am very pleased that the PostmasterGeneral has introduced this Bill. The amendment to allow the construction of low-level telephone lines is very necessary. As a representative of a country constituency, I have often wondered why such very expensive lines, costing up to £60 per mile, have been built when more cheaply constructed lines would serve equally well. The Postmaster-General has been an advocate of reform in this regard for some time, and I am glad that he has now embodied his idea in this Bill. Another way in which people in the country districts can be further assisted is in regard to the maximum cost of a line for which a guarantee is not required. At present the amount is £1,500, but I think that might be extended to £2,500 or £3,000. That would enable the Department to build much longer lines without calling upon the persons benefiting to guarantee any proportion of the cost of the service. I have in mind many places, 30 miles or more from the nearest post-office, which require telephone lines. For instance, Byfield, which is 30 miles from Yeppoon, has sought for some years to get a telephone service, but until recently it was refused on the ground that the cost was so high that the line would not be a payable proposition. It is true that there are only about forty settlers at Byfield, but they are cut off from civilization, and I am glad that recently, as a result of representations I was able to make to the Postmaster-General, approval has been given for the erection of a line of cheaper construction. I again urge the PostmasterGeneral to take into consideration the advisability of increasing the maximum cost of unguaranteed lines from £1,500 to £2,500 or £3,000. By affording telephonic facilities to country centres at a minimum of cost we shall encourage people to go into the remote parts 'and do the pioneering work. The Labour party will always indorse any measure that tends to make the conditions easier for those who live in the outback districts. I personally welcome this Bill, and hope that further amendments will be proposed in the next session for the liberalization of the provisions under which people in rural areas may get telephonic facilities.

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