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Tuesday, 6 June 1989
Page: 3455


Senator PANIZZA(5.39) —I wish to be excused for entering the debate at this late stage. Having been in my office and listened to the Australian Democrats' version of the 008 system, I thought I had better come into the chamber and throw in my bit. From what the Democrats have said about the 008 system, it is obvious that either they do not know what they are talking about or they have never been in areas where they need to use it. The Democrats have no representation from remote areas, and that is quite obvious from what they have said about 008 numbers.

Contrary to what Senator Powell has said, the 008 system is far more widespread than she imagines. She spoke about technology coming on, but what new technology is involved with the 008 system? As far as I know, it has existed in the United States of America for the last 30 years, and in Australia for 10 years or more. It was brought in mainly by private enterprise in the first place. The big hotels in the accommodation industry have had it for a long time. Even Government departments have had it for a long time. Parliament House in Western Australia has had it for at least five years. One can ring one's member of parliament from way out in the country at the cost of a local call. Even the State taxation department in Western Australia has had it for many years. It was always a pleasure to ring at government expense that Department to complain about one's tax valuations.

Living in a remote area, I know how important that is. The Australian Democrats have tried to sell us the idea of the reverse charge system, but they have not told us about any costings of their own and they want to know whether we have done any costings. Living in a remote area, I have had plenty of experience of paying phone bills. I know that any operator connected calls made through the reverse charge system, or calls made through the operator as opposed to using subscriber trunk dialling (STD) cost nearly twice as much. There is a minimum time charge of three minutes. The person wanted may not be available. On a reverse charge call, the receiving end does not have to accept it. In the reverse charge system, one cannot nominate the person to whom one wishes to speak. If a reverse charge call is made to a government department, that department will probably accept the call and then it has to start hunting around looking for the right person.


Senator Sheil —If it is paying, it will do that more quickly.


Senator PANIZZA —Senator, do not go on about that one too much. The departments still take their time. He is probably at his morning or afternoon tea break. By the time it is discovered that he is not there, a bill would have been run up for a minimum of three minutes; if one slips over that three minutes, one has to pay for six minutes. That would be far beyond the cost of a call to a 008 number, which costs the subscriber the price of a local call, the rest being picked up by the department. The cost of a call to a 008 number starts from when the phone is picked up, not from when someone has run round looking for the person the caller wants to speak to. It is far less costly to have a 008 number than it is to receive reverse charge calls. Further, having a 008 number with STD dialling is far more convenient.


Senator McGauran —What about the wheat farmers?


Senator PANIZZA —What about them?


Senator McGauran —Do they need 008?


Senator PANIZZA —I consider ringing a government department to complain about various things as being very necessary. I do not want to waste the time of the Committee. However, I did want to throw my bit in on the 008 numbers. I have had a lot of experience in using them. They are very useful and efficient.