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Wednesday, 24 October 1973
Page: 2578

Mr O'KEEFE (PATERSON, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I ask the PostmasterGeneral: Is the increase in country telephone rentals causing great hardship to pensioner subscribers? Have they now to pay, with their one-third concession, $36.60 instead of $18 - an increase of 100 per cent? Will many pensioners find it most difficult to maintain a telephone service under these circumstances? Can the Minister inform the House of any provision by the Government to give assistance to these people so that they may be able to maintain essential telephone communication?

Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The facts of the matter are that pensioners throughout Australia receive the same rate of pension. It matters little whether they live in the metropolitan areas or in the country, so the question of hardship would not be related to telephone rentals because they would be paying the same rentals now in view of the recent adjustment. There has always been the problem in the telephone revenue position that the Post Office has to live within its own revenue. The plain facts of the matter are that it costs about $1,600 to provide a telephone service in the metropolitan areas and $3,600 in the country areas. Accordingly, the Postal Department having to pay interest on the capital outlay, it follows that the rental paid goes nowhere near meeting the interest charged on that outlay. The question of concessions generally comes within the administration of my colleague the Minister for Social Security. Further to that the whole question of tariffs is under consideration by the Commission of Inquiry, and I am certain that it will take this matter into consideration when it produces its report.

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