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Tuesday, 13 November 1973
Page: 3254

Mr DOYLE (Lilley) - A perusal of the annual report of the Postmaster-General's Department discloses that the Department has planned well its important operations. It has done this with a view to making use of the improved techniques that are available in order to maintain a high standard of service and to provide such service through a government department that has a tremendous growth in its operations. The conduct of Australia's largest business operation places a heavy responsibility on the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) and the officers of his Department. The report to which I have referred records the success of their endeavours on behalf of the people of Australia and it reflects the efficiency of the staff from the top administration level right through the various staff grades.

I am aware that there are knockers of the Postmaster-General's Department and that in this House there are some quite vocal knockers of this important department. I point out, however, that the Opposition in this Parliament says on one hand that the Government should curb government expenditure, and on the other hand it argues that the Government should finance, subsidise and carry the people in country areas in the provision of telephone services. Rather than pay attention to those who are in the minority, I will deal with facts and pay tribute to those who deserve credit for a job well done.

I have mentioned the growth rate of activity in the Postmaster-General's Department, and I refer to just a few items in support of that contention. First, there has been an increase in earnings from $858.5m to $937. lm, or a growth of 9.2 per cent over the financial years 1971-72 and 1972-73. The remarkable increase in telephone services provided in the same period represents a rise of 23.2 per cent. Increases in telephone calls ranged from 5 per cent for local calls to 24.5 per cent for international calls and there was an increase of 13.4 per cent in national telex calls and 32.8 per cent in international telex calls. All this, has been achieved, I point out, with an increase of only 3.2 per cent in full time official staff. From time to time one hears comments from honourable members opposite about the activities of those who work in the Australian community, but when one finds this remarkable growth in the operations of the Postmaster-General's Department and then comes to understand that all this has been achieved with only a slight increase in the official staff, I would submit that one must agree that it is an outstanding feat.

I listened to the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes) speaking about the alleged effect of Government policies on country people. What he failed to state or make reference to was what effect the policies of previous Liberal-Country Party governments had on city dwellers. His contribution illustrated his attitude towards city people, whom his Government fleeced in order to provide and maintain services in some country areas. I submit that members opposite should come clean in regard to this matter. I ask: Do they want the Government to conduct the Postmaster-General's Department as a business operation or as a service subsidised in order to maintain sectional services? They cannot have it two ways. They cannot object to the Government's spending generally and then press for government expenditure in a selected area. I believe that any great problems that exist within the Postmaster-General's Department were inherited from a lazy, incompetent, don't-care government, which was thrown out of office on 2 December 1972. We now have a government that is tackling the problems and, under the sound management of the PostmasterGeneral, will succeed in putting the operations of the post office on a sound level.

Most honourable members would be aware - although perhaps it is not generally known - that the staff of the Postmaster-General's

Department, numbering 115,420 persons, represents about half of the total staff employed in the Australian Government service. The magnitude of the operations of the PostmasterGeneral's Department is reflected in its financial turnover. In the financial year 1972-73 earnings were $937.1m and expenditure $895.9m. The net value of the Department's fixed assets at 30 June 1973 was $3,012m. I believe, therefore, that the efficiency of the postal department is outstanding. When one considers that during the financial year 1972- 73, 2,828 million postal articles were handled, one comes to realise that very few complaints are forthcoming about the postal services, and the efficiency of the staff becomes most evident. From my own observations and experience I cannot recall having received a complaint about mail going astray or about bad service from the Department.

Mr Giles - You must be joking.

Mr DOYLE - I may be fortunate in that the people who have been directing correspondence to me are intelligent enough to address the mail correctly, and I have found that if that is done, the postal staff carry out their duties very well. I pay tribute to the people who work in the Postmaster-General's Department, particularly in view of the great volume of work that goes through that Department and the efficient way they carry out their duties. I know that a lot of comment has been made about the Redfern mail exchange in Sydney, which was established some years ago in an attempt to make inroads on the cost of mail sorting operations. This was a move to endeavour to tackle a problem that was facing the whole of Australia at the time. The mail, exchange demonstrated that some aspects of mail handling could be mechanised and it was, in fact, the testing area in this country for this, sort of operation. It is important to realise that experience gained from this operation has proved to be of great assistance in planning for future mail handling operations, not only in Sydney but also throughout Australia. The size of the Redfern exchange operation is to be limited as a means of bringing about a more economical arrangement in the area of mail handling.

I was pleased to learn that an interim mail handling centre is to be provided at Artarmon on Sydney's North Shore. According to reports it is likely that several other mail handling centres will be established in the Sydney metropolitan area. It will be interesting for the other people throughout Australia to learn that improvements in mail handling operations have occurred following the establishment of 15 letter preparation lines in the main capital cities. These letter preparation lines take away much of the tedious work formerly performed by trained and knowledgeable staff, and permit those officers to carry out other responsible duties for which they are qualified. The Labor Government is moving in other areas of the Postmaster-General's responsibility to provide the maximum benefit from improved technology. This is being achieved through improvements in day to day organisation. Computer based management information systems include the computerised analysis of faults in external line plant and radio telecommunication installations. Through the use of technology and the productivity of the PostmasterGeneral's staff, better services are being provided for the people of this nation. I pay a tribute to the men and women of the Postmaster-General's Department who work by day and night on behalf of this nation and its people. I congratulate the PostmasterGeneral who has shown in less than one year that he will prove to be the best PostmasterGeneral that this country has ever had.

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