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Wednesday, 31 May 1972
Page: 2418

Senator WHEELDON (Western Australia) - I apologise for detaining the Senate at this late stage, but the matter about which I wish to speak is one which has aroused some concern in Western Australia, as did a similar matter in other States, particularly Tasmania as was evidenced by a question asked a few days ago by Senator Devitt. I refer to the practice, adopted for the past 2 years by the Postmaster-General's Department, of issuing separate telephone directories for different areas in Western Australia instead of one directory for the whole State, as was the case until 1971. I raise the matter at present particularly because I received from the Deputy Premier of Western Australia, Mr Graham, who is also the Minister for Development and Decentralisation, a letter asking me to do so. He has been corresponding with the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme) about this matter as a result of a number of complaints he has received from various people in Western Australia. 1 should like, if I may, to read a letter dated 29th February 1972, from the Chairman of the Political Liaison Committee of the Farmers Union of Western Australia, Mr D. T. Eckersley, because I think the letter that Mr Eckersley has written to Mr Graham, Deputy Premier of Western Australia, does indicate some of the concern which is felt by people, particularly in the country areas of that State. In his letter to Mr Graham Mr Eckersley says:

On behalf of our organisation I would like to say how much we welcomed your criticism of the new telephone directories, in the 'West. Australian' of February 24th. j .The Farmers Union has written to ; numerous parliamentarians both State and .Federal, complaining df inconvenience to members. Some took the matter up on - our behalf and made direct approaches to the Director of Posts and Telegraphs and to the Postmaster-General:

All received the same unsatisfactory reply to the effect that the decision to split the W.A. Telephone Directory had been made after a study of subscribers habits, etc.

Those of us who felt we were entitled to the full range of directories were advised to make application for same and this we did.

Most of us received copies of the full range yet a senior member of our Executive who applied was told he was ineligible, apparently because he did not use his phone enough or as the refusal put it, he did not have a high enough call rating to warrant a free directory but could buy one if he wished.

The statement by the Director of Posts and Telegraphs in the 'West Australian' on Saturday February 26th is blantantly untrue and we have the evidence to support it.

There is obvious discrimination in the issue of free telephone directories. We submit that every subscriber is entitled to the same treatment. This is a service that is paid for and it is completely unacceptable to us to tolerate the existing state of affairs. lt is obvious that the change to the new form of directories was made without any prior consultation with, and with complete disregard for the views of the subscribers. Most country directories have pages and pages of unnecessary duplication of farmers names in the pink pages. We seriously doubt the economies of this, lt would be an interesting question to find out the extra cost of printing the 'bits and pieces' directories as against a concise single directory without all the unnecessary duplication of pink pages, post codes etc.

At the last General Executive meeting of the Farmers' Union strong criticism was levelled at the administration of the PMG.

The recent postal strike was blamed not on the strikers but on the maladministration that allowed it to happen.

If I may interpolate, that seems an unusual letter from the Political Liaison Committee of the Farmers Union, which has not usually identified with trade unions. It continues:

The unjustifiable steep increases in rents, telephone und postal charges in recent years was also strongly criticised. inefficiency of operations in the field (many instances were quoted), mail delays, all came in for their share of criticism.

The Executive of the Farmers' Union are of the opinion that a strong case should be made for a full scale inquiry into the administration of die P.M.G.

It was subsequently resolved by the Executive that we would support any such inquiry.

Your views on the matter would be much appreciated. 1 do not want to go into the matters raised in the latter part of Mr Eckersley 's letter, but I think that it does indicate some of the dissatisfaction felt in Western Australia by a body which, I am sure Senator Drake-Brockman would agree, is not notoriously in opposition to the Federal Government. In fact, 1 think that Senator Drake-Brockman is a member of this organisation. 1 do not think it is correct, as I hear suggested, that he moved the resolution that the letter be sent, but nevertheless I understand that he is a member of the organisation.

The position in Western Australia is that we now have not only the metropolitan directory but in a State which has a population of only 1 million people we have also directories for the South West area, the Great Southern-South Eastern area, the North Central-Eastern area, the MidlandsNorth West-Northern area and the Bullsbrook East-Pinjarra area. Some of these areas have very small numbers of subscribers and it would be seldom that any person wishing to make use of his telephone would confine that use to telephoning people living within the same area. In fact, if one looks at the maps of the telephone areas which are provided by the courtesy of the Postmaster-General's Department on the front covers of some of the directories that are available, one can see that some of these areas have extraordinary shapes. In fact, the BullsbrookEast Pinjarra area, which attracted the attention of Senator Georges, has a most extraordinary shape.

Senator Poyser - It looks like Senator Withers.

Senator WHEELDON - No, it does not look like Senator Withers; it has quite a different shape. It is a semi-circular area.

Senator Devitt - It has a big bulge at the back.

Senator WHEELDON - It has a big bulge to the right. It is a semi-circular area stretching from the Indian Ocean, that sea so infested by Russian submarines, north of Perth, around the east of Perth and through to the south. It is a thin strip. It is a sort of--

Senator Devitt - A veneer?

Senator WHEELDON - lt could be either a gerrymander or a local version of the Polish Corridor. But it consists mainly of the outer suburbs of Perth, stretching right from the north of the metropolitan area to the south of the metropolitan area.

Senator Devitt - Don't tell me?

Senator WHEELDON - I do not need to tell Senator Devitt because he has already had unfortunate experiences in Tasmania. But 1 am sure that he. with his lively imagination, can picture the sort of thing I am describing to him. It stretches right around the metropolitan area with no community of interest whatsoever between those people living in the south - that is the Pinjarra part of the area - and those living in the Bullsbrook East part to the north of the metropolitan area. Clearly this telephone directory is virtually useless to those people who have to make use of it. Another directory which I think could also be referred to with some derision is that of the Midlands-North West-Northern area which stretches from Moora which is a little over 100 miles from Perth right up to the Kimberleys. I imagine that there would be very few occasions on which somebody in Moora would want to telephone someone in Halls Creek, Wyndham or Cockatoo Island.

Senator Drake-Brockman - Only Labor Party blokes.

Senator WHEELDON - As Senator Drake-Brockman reminds me, conscientious representatives of the Australian Labor Party would do that but probably nobody else from the State would. It is very rarely that anybody in the Moora district, which is the southern part of the wheat belt, would telephone anybody in Halls Creek, Wyndham or Cockatoo Island but frequently they would wish to telephone people in Perth and the metropolitan area. These people are placed at considerable inconvenience which becomes all the more annoying when one discovers, as the Farmers' Union of Western Australia reminds us, that so much of the space in these telephone directories is taken up with the largely unnecessary advertisements in the pink pages. As Senator Wilkinson was able to elicit from the Minister only recently, the pink pages contract is held by the International Telephone and Telegraph Company of the United States of America. It does seem rather unfortunate that the people of Bullsbrook East, Moora and other areas of Western Australia should be inconvenienced in order to subsidise the already large resources which are available to International Telephone and Telegraph.

In the directory for the metropolitan area there are 488 white pages. This includes a lot of material other than the names, addresses and telephone numbers of subscribers. There are 512 pink pages. If one turns, for example, to the Bullsbrook EastPinjarra telephone directory one finds that there are 64 white pages and 96 pink pages. lt seems most inconvenient for people who have to buy other directories that these pink pages are inflicted on them. The total number of pages in the metropolitan directory which, apparently, is regarded as a convenient size is 1,010. The total number of white pages in all directories for Western Australia is 1,008. So if the pink pages were eliminated and all the white pages were amalgamated there would still be 2 pages less in a State-wide telephone directory than there are in the present metropolitan telephone directory. To me this seems to be quite a scandalous waste. Is it felt that the size of the directory is too large? Certainly there are many much larger telephone directories than the metropolitan telephone directory in Western

Australia or, indeed, the old Western Australian directory which covered the whole State. But one finds, as is the case here, that if one eliminates the pink pages and amalgamates all the white pages with all the necessary directory information in them one would still have a somewhat smaller volume than that which is now issued in the metropolitan area. It goes without saying that the people of Western Australia, particularly those living in areas outside the metropolitan area, are entitled to feel some annoyance. There have been repeated complaints which have been made by all sorts of organisations - certainly a number of non-partisan organisations and others which, if they were partisan would show their partisanship generally by supporting the Government and not by opposing it. Although 1 have been critical of the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) in the past, I must confess, I do not expect him to be carrying all the information about the Western Australian telephone directories around in his head, but I ask him to convey to the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme) the very strong resentment that is felt by a number of people in Western Australia and to ask that this series of anomalies be corrected.

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