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Thursday, 1 December 1960

Mr TURNER (Bradfield) .- The matters I propose to raise this morning are small. When considered in the national perspective, they might be thought to be trivial, but nonetheless they are matters of great importance to the people concerned, and they do illustrate what I feel is a too-ready acquiescence on the part of Ministers in departmental gobbledegook which gives rise to a sense of overwhelming helplessness in the citizens concerned, who feel that in making representations they are faced with a blank wall. I raise these matters in the hope that the Minister will endeavour to alter the attitude of mind of his officials.

The first matter to which I refer relates to the firm of J. G. Denson Proprietary Limited. On the 8th January of this year, this firm sent a letter to the Commercial Branch at the General Post Office, Sydney, confirming a recent change of address and telephone number. The name of the firm and the telephone number were omitted from the new telephone directory. The Postmaster-General's Department does not deny that this omission was in no way due to any late notification or other fault on the part of J. G. Denson Proprietary Limited.

This firm supplies sheep dips and drenches, blowfly dressings, sheep marking and branding fluids, weedicides, herbicides and so on. Its customers are storekeepers in country areas and some graziers. It has about 700 customers in the country and about 100 in the metropolitan area of Sydney. It has also an advisory service which employs an entomologist, an agricultural chemist and other experts to advise customers who meet with technical difficulties. Often its customers have occasion to telephone not only to place orders, but also to consult the experts about difficulties which they encounter in using the chemicals supplied by the firm.

Since the name and telephone number were omitted through the fault of the Postal Department - and I repeat that this is not denied - the firm asked the postal authorities to notify all its clients of the change of address and telephone number. The reply received from the department was -

As there is only a small percentage of subscribers in the country areas who obtain a copy of the Sydney Telephone Directory, and as they rely mainly on the information service when calling Sydney subscribers, the department feels that circularizing as requested is not warranted.

J.   G. Denson Proprietary Limited wrote back saying -

We are well aware that it is only a small percentage of subscribers who keep a Sydney telephone directory, but can assure you that most of our clients do so and that we feel we are undoubtedly losing business by having our entry deleted from the new book.

Since most of this firm's customers are storekeepers, it is highly probable that they would have Sydney telephone directories. I think it is fairly well known, too, that copies of these directories would be used by many people in the country for the purpose of obtaining addresses. The reply received from the department was -

It is considered that your clients will have no difficulty in booking a call through centralized information. While the department is still prepared to circularize your metropolitan clients it cannot grant your request to do likewise for those in the country.

The milk in the coco-nut is that this firm has been taken over by another firm, and the same telephone number should have appeared in the book for both firms. Perhaps I can explain the situation better and more briefly by reading the following letter which I addressed to the PostmasterGeneral: -

I have been in touch personally with the Commercial Branch, G.P.O., Sydney, and it appears that the attitude of the 'Department on this matter is adamant. It is under the impression that, since the telephone numbers are shared, this firm is very small, that the number of clients is therefore probably less than claimed, and that the request is merely an attempt to gain free advertising.

I have been in touch with J. G. Denson Proprietary Limited who advised me that the reason why the telephone appears to be shared is that the firm of J. G. Denson Proprietary Limited is now .a subsidiary of Lane's Proprietary Limited whose name appears in the telephone directory as subscribers for the telephones mentioned. However, J. G. Denson Proprietary Limited still carry on with their business under their old name. They manufacture and sell sheep dips, sheep drenches, sheep branding fluids, blow fly dressings, weedicides, &c. Their customers are country storekeepers and individual graziers.

I submit herewith by way of evidence a price list of Lane's Proprietary Limited from the inside front cover of which it plainly appears that J. G. Denson Proprietary Limited is a wholly owned subsidiary, sharing Lane's telephone numbers.

Since the firms employ entomologists and other technical staff, they are frequently consulted by people on the land about particular problems and often receive orders by telephone. Furthermore, they assure me that the country clients listed are all current customers who have had occasion to communicate with them during the past twelve months or so.

I feel very strongly that, since the error is due to your Department and since the rectification of it is within the power of the Department and does not involve heavy expense, this application should receive much more sympathetic consideration than has already been given to it, and I ask that it be re-examined in the light of the facts and circumstances set out in this letter.

Here we have a plain, straightforward case in which some tinpot Caesar in the Postal Department reached the conclusion that this was simply a matter of a firm trying to deceive the department. In the face of conclusive evidence that this was not the case, the tinpot Caesar continued to adhere to the attitude that he adopted originally.

My complaint is that when 'I wrote to the Minister he simply wrote back to me a letter prepared for him by the department, a letter which set out the same old stuff that had been stated previously, despite the fact that I had been at some pains to show that the omission had been made, that the department was at fault and that the error ought to be rectified. I hope that the Minister will look more carefully into departmental letters that are put before him by members of Parliament, especially when they are accompanied by conclusive evidence that an error has been committed by an official. A citizen should not have to put up with such mistakes in order that officials in the department may save face. It rs the Minister's function, as I conceive it, to see that this kind of thing does not happen.

There is one other matter about which I should like to say something if I have time to raise it, Sir. No doubt most honorable members from time to time have received from constituents complaints that they have been given misleading information at the General Post Offices in the various capital cities as to when they might expect telephone installations to be made. I imagine that most honorable members who have received such complaints have felt, as I have done, that sometimes constituents draw the long bow when talking about the inquiries they have made and the answers they have received. However, on this occasion I wish to mention the case of a most responsible man who came to me and gave me the fullest possible particulars of precisely what was said to him when he went to the General Post Office in Sydney to make inquiries about a telephone installation. In view of the standing of the man himself, whose word is not to be doubted, and the particularity of the information that he gave about his interviews with officers at the Sydney General Post Office, I am quite convinced that there is something the matter with the system under which advice is given at the General Post Offices about the times when particular telephone installations will probably be made.

The man I refer to is Mr. L. H. R. Laurent, of St. Ives. In a letter to me, he stated -

I am Investment Manager for New South Wales of the National Mutual Life Association and as such am also Manager in New South Wales of National Discount Corporation Pty. Ltd., a short term Money Market Company authorised by the Reserve Bank, and also Secretary and a Director of National Mutual Development (N.S.W.) Pty. Ltd. Consequently a phone is important in many ways to me from a business viewpoint.

It will be seen that this man is a very responsible person. I have not time to go into further details.

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