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Tuesday, 17 May 1960

Mr DAVIDSON - I assume that the honorable member refers to the fact that since the introduction of the extended local service areas system, which is commonly known as Elsa, a channel has not been available at times for the carriage of a conversaton. That is a problem which the Postmaster-General's Department knew would develop as a result of the introduction of the Elsa scheme. It flows from the fact that, in many instances, people calling, say, friends in certain localities previously had to make a trunk-line call and, consequently, confined their conversation to three minutes because they were advised when that period had expired. In many cases, such subscribers are now able to make an untimed call on a local fee basis over a much wider radius. As a result, the conversations have been extending over a considerably longer time. We feel that this is partly due to the novelty of the new system and that it will wear off after a while. But the delays are considered to be only partly due to that, and therefore the department has planned to provide more channels in order to enable the extended services to be provided without subscribers having to wait for too long.

It will interest honorable members to know that a survey, not only in Australia, but also overseas, was made by departmental officials in order to determine the percentage of extra time that resulted from the introduction of automatic untimed services such as we are dealing with. It was found that the time increased by about 25 per cent. Therefore, the department has planned the extra channels which it proposes to introduce on the basis of providing an increase of 25 per cent. A great deal of the necessary work has already been done, and I have sent letters to a considerable number of honorable members telling them of the additional channels which are being provided in their areas. The work is not yet completed, but that is the plan which the department is carrying out. I believe that it will be successful.

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