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Wednesday, 15 September 1971
Page: 1386

Mr HAYDEN (Oxley) - I want to speak tonight about telephone services in the city of Ipswich. I should point out that the city of Ipswich is a fairly substantial section of my electorate and that the people there have for some years now voted very wisely at each election. The main point of concern for the citizens of Ipswich is that there has been an extending delay period for connections of private telephone services. About 12 months ago the delay was about 3 months. This distressed a number of persons who had sound reasons for wanting an early connection of the service, more especially as the Government usually propounded that the average delay was 3 weeks. But as the months have been rolling along the period of delay has been extending to 6 months, 8 months, and now I find myself in alarm because the delay is about 12 months in many parts of the Ipswich city area. This seems to be an intolerable and inexcusable situation and one for which there has been no explanation so far coming from the Postal Department.

There was a suggestion at the beginning of this period that the delay arose because there was a diversion of facilities and resources to central north Queensland following on cyclone damage. Surely one could not possibly attribute the extent of the delay to this cause some 12 to 18 months later. One could reasonably expect that with proper programming and planning the postal authorities might have anticipated the sort of demand development which would take place in Ipswich over the period about which 1 am speaking. What is giving me even more concern is the possibility that this extending delay period which started off at 3 to 4 months and extended to 6 months and is now around 12 months - to ail intents and purposes 12 months means indefinitely - may continue to worsen. To this point the Postal Department has given no assurance that it will take steps to eliminate the delay.

There are people in Ipswich who have set themselves up in business privately, with the sort of enterprise which one would expect would attract commendation from the 'free enterprise' Liberal Party. Accordingly, these people deserve every assistance which can be reasonably extended to them when they are setting themselves up in this sort of enterprise. They must, of necessity, have telephone services. I know of a number of people who found that when setting themselves up in business they could not obtain a telephone service and as a result were experiencing serious difficulties in operating their businesses. In one or two cases the difficulties are so serious that bankruptcy may ensue. This is perfectly unreasonable. I hoped that the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme) would have been present in the House tonight seeing I conveyed word to his office that I was going to discuss this subject.

Mr Howson - Did the honourable member warn him?

Mr HAYDEN - Yes, very early in the evening. In fairness I ought to add that I know him quite well and if he is not here he will have a good reason for not being here. Nevertheless I hope that tomorrow morning I will receive some report from him explaining, firstly, why these delays have occurred; secondly, why they have worsened; and thirdly, what precise action he proposes to see that they are eliminated.

In conclusion on this point I think it is worth putting on the record that the telecommunications services in Australia are being bled to support the overall activities of the postal services of the PostmasterGeneral's Department. There will be a loss of SI 7m this year on postal services but telecommunications will provide a profit of $53m. The expected outcome is that there will be an overall profit of S3 6m. Perhaps I also should write into the record - because it bears some significance to what I am talking about - that in fact a cost of near enough to SI 42m is also borne by the Postmaster-General's Department as interest charges. This will be paid this year to the Treasury under the arrangement whereby money from Consolidated Revenue - that is, money provided by the taxpayers to the Treasury - is lent to a public instrumentality so that it can provide a public service to taxpayers who, in turn, have to pay a higher rate again for the services provided with money they have surrendered already as taxes to cover not only the repayment of that money but interest charges also. So they are paying a double tax rate through this particular policy being pursued by the Government. The figures I quoted indicate the financial strength of the Postmaster-General's Department in spite of the peculiar book keeping systems it operates. On this basis there can be no argument that there is a shortage of funds on the telecommunications side or in the overall activities of the

Post Office. If we include that enormous sum I mentioned - S142m - there is no shortage of funds at all and that could not reasonably be used as an excuse for this quite unreasonable and inconveniencing delay in the provision of telephone services in Ipswich which is, after all, the second biggest provincial centre in Queensland, with a population of over 60,000.

The final point I want to raise is in support of the Ipswich District Development Board. This is an association of people headed by Mr Peter Ives, its manager, and is dedicated to the economic development of the city of Ipswich and the surrounding district. The population within a radius of 150 miles of Ipswich is over 1,250,000 people. The Development Board believes that if the Commonwealth Government was prepared to offer special tax concessions for decentralised development in places such as Ipswich the city of Ipswich would have a much stronger local economy. In Ipswich we suffer from fairly serious disadvantages. Some of the industries which have been the traditional back bone of the city have entered a state of decline. For instance, in the mining industry, where once we had some thousand of employees and several hundred mines, we now have only about 1,000 employees and fewer than a dozen mines operating in the area. Admittedly they are producing more coal than ever before but the fact is that there are far fewer job opportunities for these men. They have to search further afield than Ipswich to obtain work. A similar situation has arisen in the Railway Department because of technological change. There is very little opportunity for job absorption in the Railway Department in that city. This is a section of industry which once employed several thousand people. In addition there has been a rundown in the woollen textile industry, again because of a number of developments - changing demand and improved efficiency leading to a fewer number of mills operating in Australia with a greater turnover and so on.

I have put forward very quickly the reasons why the people of Ipswich and the Ipswich Development Board feel justified in their claim that if the Government was prepared to provide taxation concessions as an incentive for the decentralisation of industry the city of Ipswich could expect, with the sort of potential markets I have mentioned, a blooming of economic development which would be advantageous to the city. This development would offer additional opportunities for employment and more importantly it would relieve the stress and inconvenience on people, young people especially, who at present have to travel 30 or 40 miles to Brisbane each way daily in their pursuit of employment. To be effective this would have to be dovetailed into a system of national planning which, again coming back to community needs, would involve the co-operation of the State Government with the Federal Government in promoting this sort of activity on a regional basis. I would like to develop this argument at some length later, but unfortunately my time in this debate has lapsed.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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