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Thursday, 18 September 1958
Page: 1375

Mr DAVIDSON - Replying first to the last question asked by the honorable member, the answer is, " No ". The action that has been taken in this regard does not amount to a selling out of governmental interests. The Government has not at any time sold out interests in the way suggested by the honorable member for Hughes. Explanations have been made in this House as to the sound policy pursued by the Government in any matter which comes under this heading. The installation of what we call P.A.B.X. exchanges in large buildings is a subject concerning which I made a lengthy statement at least twelve months ago, explaining the reasons for the department's action. I shall recapitulate the various aspects. There were large numbers of applications from firms for P.A.B.X. installations which would have entailed capital expenditure by the department in excess of the fair share of the amount available to the Postal Department for all its capital works. The installation of those exchanges would have delayed other essential works.

The honorable member for Hughes is very insistent about the need for new telephone services in his own electorate, and claims that such work should receive more consideration. If that claim is justified, and if the honorable member makes it sincerely, as I believe he does, he should acclaim any action that we take to provide a proper proportion of the funds available for capital works for telephone services as distinct from P.A.B.X. installations. As what may be termed a compromise, in order to ensure that business firms that require them may obtain these large installations, some of which cost as much as £50,000, the Postmaster-General's Department arranged with about four reputable firms to produce this equipment and to enter into better arrange ments, on a basis to be determined by the department, under which the equipment will be either purchased by the business requiring it or else leased from the manufacturing company. Any such installation, of course, is subject to departmental investigation, supervision and maintenance, and the subscriber is subject to a certain rental or charge commensurate with the work done by the department.

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