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Thursday, 19 March 1987
Page: 1137

Ms JAKOBSEN —Is the Minister for Communications aware of criticisms of Telecom Australia's party line service which is currently on trial in Perth? Can he inform the House of the changes Telecom has initiated since this service began?

Mr DUFFY —I thank the honourable member for her question. Telecom introduced its party line service on a trial basis in Perth on 14 July last year. The party line is essentially a service concept whereby users dial a special telephone number and join an ongoing group discussion. A similar service is presently operating successfully in overseas countries including France, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Some criticisms have been made of the service and, in response to findings of an independent market research study, a number of changes were made to the party line service in December last year.

The main changes are that the teenage line has been cancelled; the number of callers on each circuit has been reduced from 10 to seven; the number of Telecom monitors has been doubled; and the operators have been given wider scope to remove troublemakers, prevent the exchange of personal information and clamp down on obscene language. Telecom believes that these changes address the major complaints raised about party line, while keeping faith with those who support it. Telecom users who wish to have the service barred can do that but there is considerable difficulty with that, to say the least, because if they do that they will finish up having their STD and ISD services barred as a consequence. At this stage Telecom is examining an alternative solution which may allow the barring of the party line service without barring any other service to the customer.