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Thursday, 11 November 1976
Page: 2662

Mr MARTIN (Banks) -Mr Speaker,I wish to speak tonight in regard to proposals by Telecom Australia to emasculate the present successful telegram service which has for many years provided a fast, efficient and reliable service to the public I did inform the Minister for Post and Telecommunications that I would be raising this matter tonight and I should have thought that he would have been in the House to listen to me. At the present time there are throughout Australia 798 post offices with a teleprinter connected to the teleprinter reperforator and switching system which is known as 'TRESS'. This system has been in operation successfully since 1959. The advantage of the system is that from every one of the 798 post offices in Australia there is a direct entry into the Australiawide network. What Telecom Australia is proposing to do it to discontinue the direct teleprinter network service in respect of 258 post offices throughout Australia. The post offices affected are those which do not have 40 operations per day or 10 000 operations per year. It is proposed that the telegrams from those 258 post offices will be rung through to the nearest central post office which is connected to the TRESS network.

It so happens that most of the affected post offices are in country areas where people rely on telegrams as their only means of fast communication. To date I have heard no complaint at all from the National Country Party supporters of this Government in regard to this lessening of service to their constitutents. If the National Country Party members of this Parliament are not interested in their constitutents I, as a Labor member of Parliament, must accept their mantle and attempt to protect the interests of country people.

In Australia one person in six does not have a telephone and does not have much prospect of obtaining one. There are also very many people who cannot afford a telephone and if this proposal of Telecom Australia is instituted they will have a less efficient service than is now provided. I ask the Minister why this new system is being proposed. Surely it is not because Telecom is making insufficient profit. The recently published annual report of Telecom Australia for 1 975-76 disclosed a net profit of $ 1 52.4m.

Mr Bryant - How much?

Mr MARTIN - It is $ 152.4m which is not an inconsiderable sum. How can the Minister possibly allow this present efficient telegram service to be further emasculated? Surely those people who use the telegram service have been slugged enough already.

Telegram charges were increased on 1 September 1975 by the Government of which I am proud to have been a member. They were increased from 6c per word to 9c per word. I have vivid memories of the present Government supporters when in Opposition decrying this increase. But what did they do when they became the Government? On 1 September 1976 the present Liberal-National Country Party Government increased the charges from 9c per word to 12c per word. But it did not stop at that. In April 1976 it introduced an additional charge of 40c for delivery to an addressee's street address. It is not everybody who can afford to have a phone connected. Not everybody can have a service connected because the services are not available in many areas. So much for good government. We are told time and time again that the Liberal-National Country Party Government provides good government. If this is an example of it I do not want to see a repetition of it in the future. I again ask the Minister, who still is not present in the chamber, to look seriously at these matters that I have raised and to prevent any further deterioration in what is now an efficient reliable telegram service.

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