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Friday, 16 October 1970

Mr TURNBULL (Mallee) - I will not be very long. I wish to say one or two things. The first thing that 1 should say is that I. have stated - and this has been printed in the newspapers in the electorate that I represent - that I think that the highlight of the Budget is the section relating to the Postmaster-General's Department in which the assurance was given that 15 miles of telephone line in a direct line with the nearest telephone exchange would be built free of charge for rural subscribers. Since I came into this Parliament many years ago the farming community and rural residents generally have been saying that it is costing far too much for them to get telephone communications. As compared with the cities this was very apparent, but it was a difficult position. In the cities there are so many people close together that probably telephone connections could be made much cheaper, whereas for the long stretches in the country the cost was very high. A cost of up to $2,000 or $3,000 was' generally mentioned and people had paid that much to get the telephone onto their farms. Without the telephone they could not very well leave their families on the farms. This became a very acute problem.

The Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) some time ago decided to provide a further mileage of telephone line for farmers but it was not quite enough. Tn this Budget he announced that telephone line would be erected at the expense of the Postmaster-General's Department for a distance of 15 miles in a straight line from the appropriate exchange. Farmers throughout the country have been delighted with this. As a member of the Australian Country Party I want to say that all our members in all States wish to thank the Postmaster-General for the manner in which he has handled their deputations and the result which has come about. This has pleased so many people who are worthy of the best deal we can give them. These people live way out in the country and play their part in the pioneering of districts. This service should bring us a step nearer to decentralisation. We cannot expect people to live in isolated places without a telephone. The man goes away to the markets and the wife and children are left alone on the farm. With a telephone they feel some security. In addition, the amount of money spent by farmers on the additional telephone line since 1st January 1969 will be refunded by the Department. This is one of the outstanding things that has happened since I came into this House.

I want to pay a tribute to the officers of the Postmaster-General's Department. I know when one starts to mention names that it is very awkward and one is bound to forget someone. The Mallee electorate is covered by 3 districts. They are the offices of the Postmaster-General's Department at Ararat, Bendigo and Mildura. I do not do much business or need to have much connection with the office at Ararat but on one or two occasions I have arranged meetings and the officers there have come along and spoken to subscribers. They have been most helpful and courteous. I want to mention the other 2 offices because I know their officers better than I know those at Ararat. I will refer to Mildura first. It covers a vast amont of the Mallee electorate. The district telephone manager is Mr Gilshenan. He is a most progressive citizen. Not only is he the manager of the district telephone office but he is a colonel or major in the local branch of the Citizen Military Forces and a man with great public endeavour who wishes to do what he can. Mr Thornton is the next man to him and both these gentlemen have come along readily when I have called meetings of subscribers. We have had no trouble at all. They have met the constituents and perhaps they have not always been able to do what the constituents want. But now with the extra 15 miles of line being provided they will be able to satisfy more people. Nevertheless the people were satisfied that under the policy at that stage these officers did what they could.

Bendigo is the other telephone office that covers part of the Mallee electorate. I pay a tribute to Mr Madden, the District Telephone Manager, and Mr McGregor, who is, I think, second in charge. I could not ask for any better service than they have given. It is the same with Mildura. I am not leaving out Ararat because the officers there have given great service too. I am not sure whether there has been some change in the district telephone manager there recently. I do not do as much business in that area. As far as the postal business is concerned we also have a district postal manager at Mildura, Mr Harry Allen. No-one could expect to get a better man anywhere to give service. He gives great service. If I ring and ask him to come to a meeting because the people are perhaps dissatisfied, he will come at the first opportunity. He handles the meeting in a workmanlike manner and it is appreciated not only by me as the representative of thousands of people but by the people with whom he comes in contact. It may seem to some that I should not say these things in the Commonwealth Parliament but I believe in giving honour where honour is due and the work that has been done is remarkable. 1 wish to refer to Wyperfield Park in the Rainbow-Hopetoun district where there is a lot of work done on wildlife conservation. There is an increasing number of tourists visiting this park. All sorts of native bird life and animals arc being preserved there. People go there with children in caravans and for picnics and outings. They may stay there over a period so that they can go through the park and see what is happening and what is being done to preserve animal life. It may seem that this has not much to do with the Postmaster-General's Department but it has a great deal to do with it. I am advocating - I have been asked to do so by the residents in the district - that the Postmaster-General's Department install a telephone at an appropriate place in this park so that when people go there they can go to the telephone, for example, in the case of an accident and ring a doctor at Hopetoun > or Rainbow. A telephone gives a feeling of security which without it the people do not have at all.

Other honourable members wish to speak so I will say finally that we appreciate the way the Postmaster-General has handled things generally. I know there is some feeling about, the rise in the cost postage of letters and of bulk postage for newspapers and periodicals. Throughout the country people are talking about the marvellous . profits made by the Postmaster-General's Department. But the mere fact that the Department will provide 15 miles of telephone line for rural residents will absorb much more than all the profits that are made in a year. It will cost a tremendous amount of money. In the electorate which I represent there have been renovations to post offices in modern times at Robinvale, Mildura, Kerang, Swan Hill and many other places. New telephone boxes have been installed and the general expense of this type of work is tremendous. I know the Government makes a very big grant to the Department each year but we cannot judge the solvency of the Postmaster-General's Department by the amount of money that is in the trading account. I speak with appreciation of the Department and the man who is at its head.

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