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Wednesday, 20 February 1980
Page: 172

Mr Innes asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 9 October 1979:

(1)   How many pensioners received the telephone rental rebate allowed by Telecom Australia, during (a)1976-77, (b) 1977-78 and (c) 1978-79.

(2)   What are the conditions and restrictions applying to the availability of this rebate.

(3)   How many pensioners had telephones in (a) 1976-77, (b) 1977-78 and (c) 1978-79.

(4)   What was the complete range of charges (a) reduced and (b) remitted under section110 of the Telecommunications Act 1975, during (i) 1975-76, (ii) 1976-77, (iii) 1977-78 and (iv) 1978-79.

(5)   How many cases were in each category of charges referred to in part (4).

Mr Staley (CHISHOLM, VICTORIA) (Minister for Post and Telecommunications) - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   According to Department of Social Security records the number of social security pensioners and supporting parent beneficiaries who received the one-third reduction in telephone rental charges is as follows: 30 June 1977: 410,000 approx. 30 June1978: 459,000 approx. 30 June 1979: 510,000 approx.

(2)   The availability of the rebate is restricted to the following persons:

(a)   Blind Persons

(b)   War Widow Pensioners

(c)   Age, Invalid and Widow Pensioners and Supporting Parent Pensioners or Beneficiaries who qualify for Commonwealth fringe benefits

(d)   Service Pensioners or TPI Pensioners under the Repatriation Act

(e)   Recipients of a Tuberculosis Allowance, a Sheltered Employment Allowance or a Rehabilitation Training Allowance who, but for the receipt of that Allowance, would be eligible for an Age, Invalid or Widow's Pension or Supporting Parents' Benefit and who qualify for Commonwealth fringe benefits

(f)   Recipients of a War Widow Pension under the Seamen 's War Pensions and Allowances Act

(g)   British Commonwealth Veterans in receipt of Service Pensions under Division 5a of the Repatriation Act.

In addition to these requirements, to qualify for the concession a pensioner/ beneficiary must be living either alone, with another pensioner or beneficiary who qualifies for Commonwealth fringe benefits or with a person in receipt of an income not exceeding the permitted weekly amount, this amount being adjusted periodically in accordance with movements in the Consumer Price Index. Currently the amount is $84.40.

(3)   Details of the number of pensioners who had telephones in (a) 1976-77, (b) 1977-78 and (c) 1978-79 are not available.

(4)   and (5) Telecom provides a reduced rental concession to certain classes of charitable organisations. This concession, the cost of which is borne by Telecom, now applies to some1200 organisations representing revenue foregone of the order of $ 1.3m per annum. A further concession affecting many thousands of outback residents is the reduced rates for telegrams transmitted over the outpost radio network. The cost of this concession- about $0.45m annually- is borne by Telecom, as is also the 50 per cent concession on the standard charges applied by Telecom for the cabling of Housing Authority blocks of flats, and charitable organisations' flats and dwellings.

The Commission has exercised its powers under Section 110 of the Telecommunications Act1975 to vary prescribed telecommunications charges on a number of occasions since July1 975. The powers have been used to: waive the connection fee for ex-Darwin subscribers who were victims of Cyclone Tracey and who desired to reestablish their service elsewhere (1975-76); reduce the private line connection fee for an individual lessee to overcome an anomaly in the connection fee schedule not previously encountered (1975-76); reduce or waive certain rental and installation charges for TV broadcasting or other organisations engaged in fund raising campaigns in return for Telecom promotional publicity (1976-77); and waive the additional annual rental of $24 for Touchfone telephones for certain classes of handicapped people who are in receipt of prescribed social security allowances (1977-78); reduce certain charges for promotional purposes such as the commemoration of the four millionth telephone etc

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