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Tuesday, 26 October 1971
Page: 2490

Sir ALAN HULME (Petrie) (PostmasterGeneral) - by leave - Mr Acting Speaker, on 16th September 1971 I informed the House of the decision to reorganise the telecommunications services of my Department into 32 management areas, 6 metropolitan and 26 country. I have since received many inquiries and representations from honourable members,town councils and others concerning the economic and social effects of the withdrawal of staff and their families from country towns, some of which are already quite seriously affected by circumstances within the primary industries. I have therefore explored ways in which area management headquarters staff might be decentralised without serious loss of efficiency in that organisation. I would like to explain the change in arrangements which has been decided on. At the same time I would like to remind the House of the principles of area management and to clarify one or two points which may have been misunderstood.


At present the telecommunications service is represented in provincial and rural areas by 2 relatively small and quite separate units - the district telephone office responsible for commercial and customer advisory functions and an engineering unit responsible for the technical aspects cf the service. As I explained previously each of these district units has limited authority. There is shared responsibility for some activities and official co-ordination and final authority rests at State headquarters in the capital city. Under area management co-ordination and authority in respect of most of the functions involved in providing and maintaining the telecommunications service will be transferred from the capital city to area headquarters. Thus those activities, instead of being managed by 6 very large State units at capital cities, will be largely managed in a town within each of the 32 areas. I will not repeat the advantages of this change except to say that it is designed to improve the quality, the efficiency and the economy of the service and it has been developed in the public and national interests.

To obtain the full advantages from decentralisation of authority, responsibility and accountability, it is necessary to place a management unit in an area geographically larger than existing districts. In general, a new area embraces two or three districts. A small proportion of existing district staffs would need to be grouped eventually at area headquarters. It is this factor which has given rise to most representations. It is on this point also that there could have been some misinderstandins Staff responsible for commercial and customer advisory functions are not affected by the establishment of area headquarters. That is. almost all members of the district telephone office - telephonists, lines staff and installation and maintenance staff - will remain in their present locations. Engineers and some supporting staffs, and a small commercial group would be concentrated at headquarters. On this basis the original plan would have involved the eventual movement of about 25 to 35 staff positions from a district centre not selected as area headquarters over a period of several years. This was clearly stated by me on the 1 6th September.

As I mentioned at the outset in this statement, the matter has been further investigated to determine whether or not it would be both feasible and practical to decentralise within each country area some of the positions carrying out area head- quarters functions. 1 have concluded that decentralisation of a high proportion of these area headquarter functions would be possible without too significant an effect on the economic benefits and increased business efficiency which would have resulted from the original scheme.

The results of this change will be fourfold. Firstly, approximately two-thirds of district staff that was proposed to be transferred or moved by promotion or otherwise will remain where they are at present located. They will operate in circumstances or in a situation similar to a business branch. Secondly, the effect on the town not chosen as the management centre will be minimal, both commercially and socially. Thirdly, it is expected that all staff changes that do occur will be achieved by normal promotions, voluntary transfers, normal staff wastage and by local recruitment. Fourthly, personal economic problems of most members of the staff who are not promoted will be overcome or certainly alleviated in substantial degree. in addition 1 should again explain that the changes even on the new basis will be gradual and spread over several years. The decentralisation of authority, responsibility and accountability for telecommunication services to 32 business units of adequate but manageable size is in harmony with the modern business practice for the control of large organisations. I am satisfied that the introduction of area management in the Post Office will have considerable advantages in terms of service, efficiency and economy. The modification to !he original arrangements will enable the benefits and advantages of area management to be substantially achieved whilst ensuring that community needs are met. I present the following paper:

Australian Post Office, Telecommunications Activities, Reorganisation - Ministerial Statement, 26 October 1971.

Motion (by Mr Howson) proposed:

That the House take note of the paper.

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