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Wednesday, 7 September 1983
Page: 528

Mr HOLLIS(7.43) —The south coast, particularly the area around Jervis Bay, is facing an extremely dry summer. This is especially so of the Culburra district. The local bushfire brigade has 15 men attached to it and all are volunteers. All costs are met by them; they pay their own way. They pay for their equipment by door- knocks, raffles and donations. The brigade covers a large area comprising small villages and large stands of eucalyptus. The local population comprises only a few hundred people, but during the summer months thousands visit the area. Although the Culburra Fire Brigade is magnificently supported by the small local population its immediate problem is raising enough funds to maintain and keep its telephone system in operation. An emergency telephone number is connected to the bushfire shed and to four private telephones. When this number is dialled the four telephones in the houses plus the one in the station ring. If one of the private house phones is not answered in 45 seconds the cut-out line or siren control line automatically activates a siren which rings until someone goes to the station and answers the phone. For this service the volunteer bushfire brigade pays rental on the emergency phone and on the phones in each of the private houses. This is despite the fact that the individuals already pay rent on the private phones.

Telecom Australia is double dipping. It costs the Culburra volunteer bushfire brigade $220 for two private lines to the station and last year telephone rental to the houses amounted to $450, a total of $670. The actual connection consists of a small piece of flex which is connected to a button. For this connection Telecom charges the outrageous fee of $22. Members of the volunteer bushfire brigade already pay rental on their phones and they should not have to pay additional rental. Telecom should not charge it. Bushfires in Australia cost the comunity millions and State and Federal governments have to contribute to the cost. If Telecom is so enthused with the profit motive that it must charge I believe the Federal Government should pay the account. It is totally unacceptable that small volunteer groups, such as the Culburra Bushfire Brigade, should have to pay this impost. Members of the brigade give up their time and save the community and the Government millions. Indeed they save Telecom many hundreds of dollars, for without the brigade many telephone poles would be burnt down. Surely they should not have to pay double for providing this vital and valuable community service. We as a government should be encouraging this volunteer service, not permitting Telecom to add to its considerable profits by charging double.