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Thursday, 6 September 1928

Mr PARKHILL ("Warringah) . - Generally speaking, the postal facilities in the Warringah electorate are quite satisfactory, and I desire to compliment the Postmaster-General on the administration of his department. The service is satisfactory, it is true, but one must admit that many of the offices from which the service emanates are not so satisfactory as we should like. The offices are mostly situated in general stores, and where there are a number of stores in the one town the storekeepers do not like to go into a competitor's premises to conduct their private business. The department should give consideration to the building of post offices so that the public utilities controlled by the Commonwealth Government may be placed on the same footing as those controlled by the State Governments. In every town there are to be found substantial public buildings belonging to the State Governments, whereas the postal services are conducted in buildings which are not in accordance with the prestige of the Commonwealth. Applications are frequently made for the erection of telephone boxes in the streets, and the usual stereotyped reply is that if some private individual will guarantee the necessary revenue the department will place the telephone box in position. It is absurd to expect private individuals to guarantee a public utility. If they were to have an exclusive service from such telephones there might be some justification in the request. Of every twenty applications, nineteen are met with the request that the public should guarantee the necessary revenue. That appears to be a polite way of saying that the facility will not be provided.

Mr Gibson - The public have not much faith in their own judgment when our conditions are declined, because, if the takings reach the required amount, the guarantors will have nothing to pay.

Mr PARKHILL - The point of my objection is that the department asks an individual to guarantee £25 or £26 a year, and one does not find in these days philanthropists who are prepared to do that for the sake of providing the public with a telephone. It would be better if the department said straight out that it would not do the work, for that is what its answer amounts to.

At the top of each page of the telephone book a limited space -is available for advertising purposes.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr Makin - That matter might be more suitably dealt with when the general Estimates are under consideration. The committee is now dealing with works and buildings to be constructed out of loan fund.

Mr PARKHILL - I shall not trespass unduly. One such space has been let to a business man, and on the same page, in the list of subscribers, appears the name of a competitor starting with the same alphabetical letter. The former uses the whole of the advertisement space to set out in large figures his telephone numbers; thus he defeats the alphabetical arrangement of the list and gains an undue advantage over his business rival. I quite understand that I shall be told that the Sydney Telephone Directory weighs 20 tons, and that the telephone rates are lower here than in New Zealand, Canada, and Great Britain ; but that is not the point. I submit that whilst the Government is entitled to reduce its costs by selling advertising space, it should, in the control of a public utility, protect is citizens from injustice. This is

An elementary principle of British fair play that should be rigidly observed in Government actions, lt should be a comparatively simple matter to protect a subscriber against such unjust preference in connexion with the advertisements published in the public telephone book, and I strongly press this matter on the attention of the Minister.

I again urge the Minister to make available more money for postal purposes, and I remind him that money spent now in providing reasonable accommodation for the public may obviate the need for larger expenditure at a later date.

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