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Tuesday, 20 October 1964

Senator CANT (Western Australia) . - in reply - I shall be quite brief in my answer to speakers in opposition to the motion. Both the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) and Senator Scott were critical of the Australian Labour Party and myself in particular for postponing this debate. They accused us of trying to make political capital because of the is in the same stage of development as is doubt that when an election is pending, anyone in this place endeavours to make political capital, but that was not my main purpose in moving for the disallowance of certain amendments of the telephone regulations. I did prepare some material on increased Post Office charges for my speech on the Budget, but because of the limitation of half an hour on speeches on Wednesdays, I was not able to use it. Had I used it, it would have been only a mass of words in " Hansard ", which would not have had any purpose. It would have done nothing to prevent the implementation of the increased charges.

Then the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill to increase charges on telegrams and to give a concession to the Home Delivery Service came before us. That Bill in no way dealt with increased telephone charges, although the Minister for Health (Senator Wade), who was in charge of the legislation in this place, referred to them and they were referred to elsewhere in the debate. Those references were out of order in view of the ambit of the Bill. This is the first time that any positive action has been taken to increase telephone charges and this is the correct time - whether or not it gives a political advantage - for the Opposition to express its displeasure with the action taken by the Government. I do not accept as valid the reasons stated by Senator Anderson and Senator Scott for our proposing the disallowance of the regulations. Senator Anderson was critical of the fact that I used the 1962-63 financial report of the Post Office in preparing my speech. I remind him that although the 1963-64 report is now out it has not yet been tabled in this chamber, and it was not available to me when I was preparing my notes for the speech., This is one of the matters in which the Government is lacking. Constantly it brings down legislation when up to date information is not available to honorable senators to enable them to speak to the Bills.

It is said that the matter of post and telegraph rates was available for debate earlier. It is all very well to debate matters and fill "Hansard" with words. That does not get you anywhere. In reply to my criticism of the Government for taking this action by regulation rather than by legislation which could have been debated in this place, it was said that a government had decided that regulations should be used for this purpose. No one doubts that a government did provide in the parent Act a right for regulations to be made to increase charges, but the Minister did not say which government did that. I suspect that it was a government of the same colour as the Government which is in office today. If that is a fact, obviously we on this side of the chamber do not accept any responsibility for the situation.

Senator Andersonalso said that I built criticism of the service connection cost of £570 on the Talgarno installation. That is not quite right. I used Talgarno as an instance and I asked a question about it which, in any case, the Minister did not answer. Nevertheless, this is the type of developmental line, the cost of which is loaded onto service connection costs and which builds the average to £570, to which I referred. My criticism is that these are developmental works and should be charged to the development of Australia and not simply to the users of telephones.

The Minister for Customs and Excise also said that the charges were not severe in comparison with those imposed in other countries. I do not think one can properly compare Australia with any other country unless, perhaps, it is New Zealand which is in the same stage of development as is Australia. If you compare postal charges in Australia with those in New Zealand, you find that the charges in New Zealand are much more favorable to telephone subscribers than are those imposed in Australia.

The only matter I want to raise with Senator Scott is in relation to his statement that an increase of £1 in the basic wage would raise the wages bill of the Postal Department by £7 million. I do not doubt that, but I remind Senator Scott that we are dealing with increased telephone charges. The Telephone Branch of the Postal Department is not a labour intensive part of the organisation. The bill for the whole of the Postal Department might amount to £7 million if the basic wage were increased by £1 but a very small percentage of that £7 million would be spent in respect of increased costs connected with the Telephone Branch.

Question put -

That the motion (Senator Cant's) be agreed to.

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