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Tuesday, 7 May 1968

Mr WEBB (STIRLING, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - I ask the Postmaster-General a question. I refer the Minister to reports that his Department will withdraw from service telephones recurrently damaged by vandals. I further refer him to reports that all public telephones are vulnerable to this type of damage. 1 ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he will agree that a majority of Australian households still depend upon public telephones to summon essential services in emergencies. Will the Minister say at what point he will call a halt to developments that threaten to isolate such households? - Mr HULME - I am sure that the Australian people are disappointed at the vandalism that takes place in our community, especially as it relates to public telephones, which are available especially to people who do not have private telephones, particularly for use in emergencies. It is to be regretted that the repair of damage caused by vandalism is costing the Post Office about S2m annually. The Post Office docs not intend to remove public telephones merely because of vandalism, but many public telephones have been damaged so frequently that the Department must look at this situation and take it into account when assessing the requirement of the community for additional public telephones. At present there is a backlog of 284 public telephones in Sydney and 66 in Melbourne. The supply of these new telephones can only be delayed if the Department is to repair the telephones that are being damaged frequently by vandalism. It is a case in some instances of offsetting the situation in one area against the wishes df. the public for public telephones in another area. As a result, policies will be developed, having regard to these particular facts.

Last Friday no fewer than 134 public telephones in New South Wales were found to be the subject qf vandalism, with instruments damaged or stolen. The rate of damage beyond repair to public telephone installations in Sydney is 90 per month. I would mention that in Victoria there are no fewer than 700 technician calls per day in relation to public telephones, most of the damage to which results from vandalism of one type or another. The Post Office is undertaking research continually. There is continuous consultation between the investigating officers of my Department and State police. In the last 3 years, 150 people have been charged with this type of offence. I make an appeal to the public of Australia to co-operate with the police and with the Post Office and that .where they see any evidence whatever which leads them to suspect vandalism to report it in the hope that wilh their co-operation we can reduce the vandalism, reduce this cost to the Department and perhaps finally remove the necessity for increasing charges for public telephones as these of course are part of the economic requirement within the Post Office.

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