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Thursday, 13 September 1984
Page: 1237


Ms FATIN(1.36) —I am grateful for the opportunity today to raise in the House the problems being faced by residents in two areas in my electorate. A reliable telephone system is for most of us an essential part of our business and social lives, so much so that it is usually taken for granted. For the people in Byford making phone calls can be an expensive, frustrating and time- consuming procedure. While the system is more reliable in the Rockingham area, there are still enormous problems presented by the fact that Rockingham is excluded from the Perth telephone district. Rockingham is about 43 kilometres south of Perth by road. It has a residential population of over 26,000 people, which rises to more than 35,000 in the summer. It is a designated growth area which was hit extremely hard during the economic recession. It is part of the Perth metropolitan area and includes the HMAS Stirling naval base within its boundaries. The Shire of Serpentine-Jarrahdale consists of the towns of Byford, Mundijong, Serpentine and Jarrahdale. The whole shire down to Keysbrook is part of the Perth metropolitan area and Mundijong, where the shire headquarters are based, is 48 kilometres from the centre of Perth. However, except for a small part in the north of the shire which is connected to the Forrestdale exchange, the whole area comes under the STD system for calls to the metropolitan area.

It became very clear to me over recent years that the telephone service provided in the areas I have just mentioned was presenting major problems to the local communities. Earlier this year I invited the Standing Committee on Expenditure Sub-Committee on Telecom Zonal Charging Policies to come to Western Australia so that the various interest groups from Byford, Serpentine, Jarrahdale and Rockingham could present their case on a formal basis. The fundamental problem, at least as far as Western Australia is concerned, is that the boundaries of the zones covering the capital cities have remained substantially unchanged since the 1960s. Telecom, not surprisingly, has received a large number of requests for changes over the years and has responded so far with two new schemes-Community Access 80 and Countrywide Calling. While these significantly improve the situation, there has been concern expressed for some time that a more adequate response is needed.

The Committee's report, which is due to be released very shortly, will address itself to the question of how Telecom's charging policies can be made more equitable and responsive to the needs of the community. The Sub-Committee held a hearing in Perth on 12 June 1984. A considerable amount of time was spent discussing the situation in Byford and Serpentine-Jarrahdale and Rockingham, and tribute must be paid to the men and women who proposed and presented the submissions. One of the main anomalies which emerged from the hearing was that, while Telecom's charging policies are based on radial distances, the development of Perth has taken place in corridors. Mr Bill Mann, the Serpentine-Jarrahdale Shire Clerk, made the point that Perth developed in fingers rather than rings, making the problems in Western Australia quite unique. Councillor Ray Baker, who is the Chairman of the Serpentine-Jarrahdale Committee of the Armadale and Districts Chamber of Commerce, spoke of the inadequacy of the Access 80 scheme and described the quite serious technical problems associated with the local exchanges. Mr David Gorham, the General Manager of the Rockingham Chamber of Commerce, told the inquiry that the Chamber had been discussing zonal policy charges since 1952. Both Mr Gorham and the Rockingham Shire Clerk, Mr Gary Holland, pointed out that Rockingham is joined socially, economically and in terms of unbroken development to Fremantle and Perth.

Mr Alec Wood, Director of the Armadale and Districts Chamber of Commerce, must be congratulated for his efforts to co-ordinate submissions from the Byford area , and Mrs Orlando, from Orlando Realty and Travel Service in Byford, in her submission mentioned the cost of the STD phone calls and the problem of not being able to check on the costings, even though people often felt they were overcharged. Mr Ross Smith and Mr Robert Maxwell, both members of the Executive Committee of the Rockingham Chamber of Commerce, spoke to the inquiry about the grave difficulties of running a business with the STD system. Mr Des Mays, the Rockingham Shire President, gave details of a recent study which showed that more than 80 per cent of the business contacts made from Rockingham go outside the local call area. He said that the STD charging system was a significant factor in keeping new developments and business enterprises away from Rockingham . All the witnesses spoke about the psychological barrier attached to giving an STD number to anybody when people either make a call or speak to people outside that area. This is particularly important when we think of the effect on potential employees. This was a point that came up repeatedly during the inquiry . The unemployment rates are very high in the areas I have mentioned, particularly amongst young people. Many employees hesitate to ring someone who is automatically assumed to be in the country, even though they might in fact be only a few miles down the road.

The same situation applies to businesses. Mr Phillip Davies, from the Small Business Development Corporation in Western Australia, spoke of Rockingham being a glaring example of an anomaly and described some of the significant benefits that would be associated with Rockingham's inclusion in the untimed call zone. Apart from the restriction on STD calls which many businesses place on employees , there is the added difficulty of Rockingham not being included in the Perth telephone book. The same problems apply, of course, to the Byford area. Telecom is, as I understand it, the only authority to treat Rockingham as being outside the metropolitan area, and it has been a constant frustration to the people there that all other authorities-local, State Government and Federal Government- include Rockingham in the metropolitan area. It is when people pick up their telephones that they know that as far as Telecom is concerned they are considered to be living in the country. Yet, as I have already stated, 80 per cent or more of these people ring into the city or go to the city or surrounding areas for employment. As far as everybody who does that is concerned, they are in the metropolitan area and, I believe, have had justified complaints to make for many, many years now about this problem.

Mr Deputy Speaker, as you will have gathered, the Sub-Committee's visit to Perth was extremely productive, and I pay tribute to my colleagues on both sides of this House, as well as to the witnesses concerned, for their contributions to the hearing. The release of the Sub-Committee's report is being eagerly awaited by many people in Western Australia. I know that this Government and Telecom will be strenuous in the search for ways to implement new arrangements to bring our telephone service into line with the requirements and priorities of the community.