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Friday, 25 May 1973
Page: 2681

Mr MORRIS (SHORTLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - My question, which is directed to the Postmaster-General, concerns telephone rental charges. Having in mind the present concession on telephone rentals allowed to pensioner subscribers which, in the Newcastle region, means that the rentals still amount to about 75c a week, I ask the PostmasterGeneral: Has consideration been given to the total abolition of telephone rentals and the substitution, in lieu of the present system, of a higher charge per call only? Could such a charge be based on a reducing scale according to the number of calls made? If he has not given consideration to such a scheme, will he arrange for a study of it to be made?

Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - A number of submissions have been made that people, particularly those in receipt of pensions, should be exempt from paying rentals because they are deemed to be a financial burden. With that everybody would agree. To some extent concessions have been granted, but the pressure continues. The royal commission will be looking into all aspects of tariffs. One of the things which it certainly will look at very closely is the question of rentals as against perhaps a usage charge. The honourable member also asked whether there would be a free call area. This has been tried overseas; but it is a very limited area and, in fact, other charges make that system even more expensive than the Australian system.

The matter contained in the honourable member's question has a lot of merit in it. It is rather attractive to think that the costs would be on the basis of usage rather than a hiring on a rental basis. It is of some significance to say that the average cost of installing a telephone in Australia is $1,200. As the previous Government's policy that interest must be paid is still obtaining, it is also significant that the interest bill paid by the Post Office is $151m. Because of these financial aspects, no matter which way one looks at the financial structure, if one were to remove the rental system completely one would have to increase substantially all call charges. The matter will be the subject of a report by the royal commission. Until such time as that is done, the Government will take no action.

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