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Tuesday, 18 March 1980
Page: 708

Senator ARCHER (TASMANIA) - Is the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications aware and concerned that after adequate trials, the three telephone book system for Tasmania is still proving costly and wasteful and provides no advantages to the users? In answer to questions asked two or three years ago the then Minister promised a review after a reasonable period. Does the Minister see the period of trial now as reasonable? Will he undertake customer research to confirm the general desire for the previously used, tried, proved and preferred system involving one book only?

Senator CHANEY (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs) - I understand that this matter was raised by Tasmanian senators in about 1 978. They saw the Minister for Post and Telecommunications then and discussed this problem with him. I assume that is the discussion referred to by the honourable senator in his question. The difficulties in the way of giving the answer that the honourable senator wants are that the information which has come to hand since that time seems to indicate that there is not a very substantial demand for the consolidation of the three books into one. The attitude of Telecom Australia is also affected by the fact that the estimate of the cost of combining the three directories is that the cost would rise from about $0.85m for the present directories to about $ 1 . 85m with the consolidation.

The statistics on this matter which have been made available to me are quite interesting. A recent traffic dispersion study of Tasmanian calls shows that fewer than four calls in 100 in Hobart are made to outside the immediate area. Three subscriber trunk dialling areas are involved. Each book covers one STD area. Four calls in 100 from Launceston and Burnie subscribers are to areas outside those covered by the local directories. So relatively few non-local calls are being made. In addition, even though that is the case, the number of calls per service made to directory assistance in Tasmania is the lowest in Australia. Notwithstanding the three telephone books, in fact fewer people are seeking directory assistance in Tasmania than anywhere else. One would have thought that if there was substantial inconvenience caused by the present format the reverse would be true.

The other factor that is influencing Telecom is that in 1971 when the three book arrangement was brought in, 68,000 other area books were supplied to subscribers. The following year the number dropped to 30,000 and currently there are even fewer. So in fact the number of subscribers requesting books has dropped away. My further information is that remarkably few representations have been made about this matter. The Tasmanian Tourist Council has been making representations but there have been few other complaints about the matter. Currently there are no plans for further customer research although Telecom is constantly monitoring community acceptance of its directories. It regards the present situation as indicating that there is good community acceptance of the Tasmanian arrangement.

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