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Thursday, 26 February 1959

Mr DAVIDSON - In common with all the other services demanded of the Postal Department there is a great demand for the provision of rural automatic exchanges. As a country member myself I can quite understand that demand. But of course, proper attention must be given to all the different phases of demands on the department in planning each year's programme. Consequently, we plan for the installation of a certain number of these exchanges each year at a figure which is consistent with the other proper demands and with the total amount of capital available to the department. Last financial year a total of about 149 rural automatic exchanges were installed throughout Australia, which represented just about a record. This year the target is slightly, though not much less than that. My latest information is that the target figure for this year will be reached, with the result that at the end of this financial year somewhere in the vicinity of 1,200 of these exchanges will be in operation. This is a very great increase on the number in service when this Government took office.

The position is not that the supply of these exchanges is in any way restricted1. Various manufacturing companies in Australia are making these units for the department, and if the department required more I have no doubt they would be able to supply the extra numbers ordered. It is a question of spreading over all the demands on the Postal Department the available funds for capital works which, as I indicated in reply to a previous question, have been expanded by the Government in 'each of the three years that I have held the portfolio of Postmaster-General.

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