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Thursday, 26 February 1959

Mr DAVIDSON (DAWSON, QUEENSLAND) (Postmaster-General) - I shall try to answer the last part of the honorable gentleman's question first, because it is a general question and one that I can reply to immediately. He has asked whether I am satisfied with the attention being given to the outer metropolitan areas in the expenditure of money available to the department for capital works. My reply is: Yes, I am satisfied that proper attention is being given to the rapidly expanding outer metropolitan areas, such as the area that the honorable member represents, and other areas, which constitute a very great problem because the department realizes that its function is to attempt to keep pace with the demand of our rapidly expanding economy and to supply telephones which are so essential to that development. I point out, however, that a great deal of work is involved in meeting this rapid development in the outer metropolitan areas. A great deal of engineering work has to be done, and in many cases new exchanges must be provided. A great deal of new cable work, and also aerial work, is involved. Therefore, the department is, -in common parlance, flat out in attempting to get ahead of -the demand that it sees .developing in the various areas. I am satisfied that the department is expending the money available to it in a creditable -fashion. The Government realizes the need to keep pace with development, and in the last three years it has annually made available to the department an increasing "vote for capital expenditure. For instance, this year in the engineering vote there was an increase of £1,500,000 over the vote for the previous twelve months. 1 have only just received a report of the operations for the first seven months of this financial year, ending 31st January last. The report discloses that deferred applications in that period have been reduced by some 2,800 from the figure for the 30th June last. That is one indication-

Mr Whitlam - Are there only 47,000 outstanding applications now?

Mr DAVIDSON - I am citing the figures up to 31st January, which have not been available previously to honorable members. They are not included, for instance, in the report recently tabled.

Mr Thompson - What is the total number -of outstanding applications?

Mr DAVIDSON - I am speaking from memory. I have not got the total, but it is down in the 40 thousands. I do not know the actual figure. Current telephone applications are some 3,000 more than at the end of June last year. These are indications of the work that the department is doing. The honorable gentleman asked, in the first part of his question, for a detailed statement of the position prevailing in his own electorate. I shall consider that request as being on the notice-paper and shall give him a detailed reply.

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