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Wednesday, 4 June 1902

Mr WATKINS (Newcastle) - I recognise that in connexion with the administration of this department the' Minister has had a great deal of work. Following up the question which was raised by the honorable member for Macquarie, I wish to institute a comparison between the different rates charged upon telephonic lines in the various States. Looking at the reports before me, I find that between Melbourne and Ballarat, a distance of 75 miles, there are two services. I understand that the rate charged upon these lines is ls. 6d. for five mintues' conversation ; whereas between Sydney and Newcastle, a distance of 102 miles, it is 2s. 6d. for three minutes' conversation. There is thus a vast difference between the rate charged upon lines of somewhat similar length. The revenue from the Ballarat lines about meets the expenditure, whereas during the first year in which the Newcastle line was established, namely, 1898, it realized a profit of £200. In 1899 the income from the latter jumped from £779 to £1,143, thus yielding a profit of £569. The loss upon the telegraph service during the first year was £351, but in 1 899 it was only £292. Deducting this loss I find that there was a total increase in the revenue of £126. Last year the revenue from the telephone line, so far as the Newcastle end is concerned, was -approximated £900, or only £200 short of the total receipts for the year previous. It seems to me that if the charge levied in one State is ls. 6d. for five minutes' conversation, it is but fair that other States should be similarly treated. If ls. 6d. is too low a rate, then -a margin should be struck which will permit of the lines being made reproductive. I notice that the number of messages transmitted daily between Newcastle and Sydney is in excess of the number transmitted between any other two Australian cities. A second service to Newcastle is urgently required. It frequently happens that business men have to wait half-an-hour before they can get access to the single line which at present exists. If a second service were established it seems to me that move business would be done, because the-inconvenience of waiting would be obviated. Up till a month ago the charge levied upon the Newcastle line was 3s. for three minutes' conversation. If the line between Melbourne and Ballarat is paying, it necessarily follows that the charge levied upon the Newcastle line is excessive. I think that we should have uniformity in this connexion.

Sir Philip Fysh - The latest regulations made the rates uniform over all telephone lines, and reduced the charges.

Mr WATKINS - If that be so, no objection can be taken. I hope that the Minister will take cognisance of the fact that the line to Newcastle is a profitable one, and that the establishment of a second service would result in an increased re'venue.

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