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Tuesday, 22 July 1902

Sir JOHN QUICK (Bendigo) - Actual experience has disclosed a number of serious anomalies and absurdities in connexion with the regulations of the 5th June, 1902. We must, of course, give credit to the Postal authorities for the best of intentions in promulgating these new regulations. No doubt the variety of conditions which had to be dealt with account for some of the complaints which have been made. The honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. O'Malley, has drawn attention to an anomaly which requires some explanation. In the regulations there does not appear to bc a definition of what is to constitute a trunk line or long-distance telephone. The distance may be a mile or two, or 25 miles - there is no limit. Some effort should certainly be made to attain uniformity, and a definition given of what is to constitute a trunk line, on which these special charges are made. It does seem absurd that the line between Queenstown and Gormanston, which are only two and a half miles apart, should be treated as a trunk line, while the lines in other States between many towns which are five or six miles apart, come within anothercategory. I have no doubt that now attention has been drawn to the matter, steps will be taken to rectify the anomaly. I take the opportunity of reviving a question which was brought under the notice of the Postmaster-General a fortnight ago by a large deputation, representing the people of Bendigo, Ballarat, and Geelong, in regard so the time limit on trunk lines. Hitherto in Victoria the time limit lias been five minutes, and the charge between, say,' Melbourne and Bendigo, ls. 6d. That five minutes has now been cut down to three minutes, and the view of the deputation was that the latter is utterly inadequate when it is desired to conduct important business transactions. The brokers of Bendigo and Ballarat, and the merchants of Geelong, pointed- out that in many cases it was utterly impossible to complete a conversation and make it effective within that time.

Mr Watson - The time limit on the trunk line between Newcastle and Sydney is three minutes, and there is a big business done.

Mr Deakin - The limit is three minutes everywhere, except in Victoria.

Sir JOHN QUICK - In Victoria the people have been trained, and are accustomed, to five minutes. I believe that in many cases it is difficult for a subscriber, say, in Melbourne, to get in communication with a subscriber in Ballarat. It may happen that the business man at Ballarat is in the exchange, and by the time he has been found and ' brought to the telephone, one or two of the minutes .have elapsed, with the result that the conversation is rendered abortive by its being cut off in the middle. I am aware that the PostmasterGeneral said that in other countries the limit is three minutes ; but, as a compromise, the deputation suggested a regulation to the- effect that a subscriber might have the option of extending the conversation for five minutes, on paying an extra proportionate charge. The Postmaster-General took a note of the suggestion, which he promised to consider.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Does the honorable and learned member say that a subscriber is arbitrarily cut off at the end of ..three minutes, whether or not the conversation is finished ?

Sir JOHN QUICK - Yes. There is no desire on the part of subscribers to monopolise the wire, and hence the suggestion to the Postmaster-General. In all probability three minutes will be sufficiently long in many cases ; but it is desired to have the option of extending the time to five minutes on the condition I have indicated. I hope the Attorney-General will support the view which I am now presenting, or, at any rate, bring it under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral. As a result of the reduced time limit, business on the long distance 4.1 u telephones has fallen off considerably. If the public demand increased time for the discharge of business and are prepared to pay for that time, their demand ought to be met, and if one line is not sufficient, another ought to be erected. There are many points in the regulations which require revision, and the Postmaster-General ought to welcome these observations and criticisms, which are intended to meet the requirements and the convenience of the public.

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