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Thursday, 9 December 1971
Page: 4581

Mr Whitlam asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice:

(1)   What is the estimated cost of extending the telephone and teleprinter charges in the Melbourne metropolitan area to each of the places which on 26th September 1967, the Victorian Decentralisation Advisory Committee recommended for accelerated development.

(2)   Has he received the report from his Department on the possibility of having a single charge covering local calls and truck calls throughout Australia (Hansard, 8th September 1971, Page 904); if so, when will the report be presented to the House.

Sir Alan Hulme - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   Some limit has to be placed on the distance over which local calls be allowed, having regard to the economics of plant provision and the costs of operating and maintaining the telephone network as a whole. Adoption of the proposal recommended by the Victorian Decentralisation Advisory Committee to include Ballarat, Bendigo. Latrobe Vasey, Portland and Wodonga Albury in the Melbourne metropolitan area for call charging purposes would entail an extension of the limits of the existing Melbourne local call area which simply could not be justified on economic grounds H .would also entail a heavy increase on the rentals for telephone services in those country areas, which, although offset lo some degree- by a reduction in call fees, would be objected to strongly by those subscribers who did not have a marked community of interest with the metropolitan area and therefore did not call Melbourne subscribers very often. Moreover, the granting of any preferential treatment to. the centres mentioned would have far reaching repercussions so far as the Post Office is concerned since 01 ner centres - not only in Victoria,' but also in the other States - would seek similar treatment in respect of telephone calls to their capital city. similiar comments also apply in the case of telex charges except that the charging districts are somewhat larger. Ballarat, Bendigo and Latrobe Valley telex subscribers are already included jin the Melbourne charging district and, consequently, calls between these subscribers and Melbourne are at the minimum rate. Calls from Portland and Wodonga.'Albury te'ex subscribers to Melbourne fall within the 101- 200 miles category and because nf the distance involved their inclusion in die Melbourne district could not be justified. In any case, such action hardly be taken without due cognizance being given to the claims of other centres.

(2)   No. the many implications of the proposal to introduce a uniform charge for all telephones are still under examination by my Department.

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