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Wednesday, 19 September 1973
Page: 1303

Mr KING (Wimmera) - I apologise to the House for rising to speak at such a late hour on a matter which could be classified as a domestic case. However, I am pleased that the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) is present. I believe in the old principle that one must pay for progress. I believe one of the most urgent issues of the Postmaster-General's Department is the upgrading of telephone services. This is most desirable and I do not wish to put anything in the way of such a development. However, I am a little concerned at some of the things that are going on concerning the upgrading of telephone services. I refer to the manually operated trunk line exchanges that have to dismiss staff because of progress. They are the Maryborough exchange in the Wimmera electorate, the Kerang exchange in the Mallee electorate and the Castlemaine exchange in the Bendigo electorate.

I am informed by the mayor of one of these cities, telephonists and local newspapers that these telephone exchanges will close next April. As from that date all trunk line services will be directed through the Ballarat and Bendigo exchanges. The Department has offered staff alternative employment in Ballarat and Bendigo but many of the telephonists are married. In Maryborough 5 members of the staff of seven are married and naturally enough they cannot accept a position in Ballarat or Bendigo. I have always had a great admiration for officers of the PostmasterGeneral's Department. I appreciate that the girls in this case have been given the opportunity to transfer to another exchange if they so desire. I am concerned that this is one of the few occasions that I, as federal representative, have not been notified of a major operation within the Postmaster-General's Department. The honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher) informs me that he was not notified.

The honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bouchier) knows nothing about the exercise. I do not know who is at fault.

I am sure that the Postmaster-General will look into the matter. I wish to know when there have to be alterations and upgradings in the Department. The Department can depend on me to support it in principle. I will show no objection provided that I know that the closure is for the betterment of the area concerned. If I am not informed of action taken by the Postmaster-General's Department I wish to place on notice that I and some of my colleagues will, from time to time, make our presence known to the effect that the Department need not automatically depend on our support. I hope that the PostmasterGeneral will have a look at the situation.

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