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Tuesday, 16 October 1956

Mr DAVIDSON (DAWSON, QUEENSLAND) (Postmaster-General) - As the honorable member for Robertson has stated, he has approached me several times in the last few months about the difficulty prevailing at the Dora Creek unofficial post office. Similar difficulties occur from time to time in unofficial post offices in country areas, and sometimes they are hard to remedy. Actually, the volume of business at the Dora Creek exchange is such that a continuous service is warranted, and a continuous service was provided there for a considerable time. However, some time ago the present unofficial postmaster became ill and his daughter, who had been helping him, married. She is now able to assist him only for limited periods. Therefore, it became necessary for the unofficial postmaster to notify the department that he could not provide a continuous service. No action has been taken by the department to curtail the hours of attendance at that post office. The department, in order to keep a continuous service in operation, if possible, has conferred with the postmaster and has tried to assist him to obtain a suitable attendant to help him with hh duties. So far, the efforts have not been successful. The department is prepared to continue its efforts and, if necessary, to attend a meeting of subscribers in the area so see if something can be worked out. I point out that the department is not in a position to instruct an unofficial postmaster to give a service extending beyond certain hours, if the hours proposed are outside the normal scope of the position. The department has had to accept the present position at Dora Creek. I saw a statement this morning which described the present hours of attendance as useless. I point out that they are from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., with an hour's break for lunch, from Monday to Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday. I submit that those hours could not justifiably be described as useless, lt is the department's desire to provide as effective a service as possible. If there is any action that we can take in co-operation with the subscribers in the district to overcome the difficulty, we shall be only too pleased to take it. The honorable member for Robertson has been making quite strong representations to me on the matter for several months. The suggestion has been made that the installation of a rural automatic exchange would provide a remedy. That is so, and investigations have been made to see whether it would be possible to install an automatic exchange at Dora Creek. An application has been approved, but it is not high on the priority list. There are 104 approved applications for rural automatic exchanges in New South Wales, and this application is about half-way down the list. I do not intend to attempt to persuade the department to give this area, which has a reasonably efficient service at present, priority over other areas not so efficiently served. I should like the honorable member for Robertson to inform the residents of the district that the difficulty can be overcome, not by taking telephones out or doing anything that would be an offence against the post and telegraphs regulations, but by co-operating with the department, which desires to do all that it possibly can to provide a continuous service in this area.

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