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Tuesday, 13 November 1973
Page: 3263

Mr GILES (Angas) - I had some regard for the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh), but after tonight's performance I think he is a fool. Surely the honourable member would not dare for one moment to argue against someone of real competence. I refer to Mr Giles, the Chairman of Directors of Elder Smith Goldsbrough Mort Ltd. He is a man who lives in a city and has mainly city interests, but he has some understanding of the interests of the nation. He is not the petty, parochial, mean, miserable and little type such as some members opposite. He is no relation of mine so I can be left out of this. At some time or other in this place members have to stand and speak on behalf of the nation. I am fed up with the determination of the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen), nice and ineffective though he is, to get stuck into my colleagues from the Country Party at every available opportunity. I want the Minister to know that the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes) and I and a lot of other people on this side of the House believe in exactly the sort of things that my colleagues from the Country Party have been saying. We are equally fed up with the determined attack by members opposite on the Country Party for their own cheap political purpose. Honourable members opposite seem to think that by attacking one group they can gain some advantage from another. They are adopting a mean and despicable tactic. Members on this side of the Parliament have no time at all for the sectional politics that bears no relation to the interests of the country whatsoever.

We have heard the Postmaster-General in the last few months, when answering questions, say in some cases that it would be cheaper to buy the farm than to connect the telephone. I am not sure whether that statement is correct or incorrect. But I am concerned when any political leader or any Minister of the Crown suggests that that is a proper and decent method of judging who should have the telephone connected and who should not. Does it never occur to members opposite that the very people they are abusing are the ones who have to put up the majority of the line themselves and pay for it. Those who live in isolated areas - not living cheek by jowl, as the honourable member for Barker said a little while ago - are prepared to put down real cash, even in this day and age, in an endeavour to have a telephone connected, yet the Government, in a supercilious fashion, refers to the fact that it would be cheaper to buy the farm than to connect a telephone. What a despicable method of trying to get equity across the board in relation to these matters. I do not blame the Country Party or my own colleagues for taking the attitude that they have taken to this matter.

I want to run over one or two matters of concern to me in relation to the estimates for the Postmaster-General's Department. Firstly, I refer to the attitude - an example of which I have already given - of the PostmasterGeneral to an area of the nation in which the previous Government had an unrivalled record. There are not many rural areas today whose telephone exchanges have not been it least programmed for rural automatic facilities. What does the future hold for them? The Government has said that funds will not be made available to outlying areas, some of which were programmed for conversion quite soon from manual exchanges to rural automatic exchanges. On behalf of the people of my electorate, which is nothing like as outlying as those of some of my colleagues, I would like to say that many of them are fed up with having to pay full fees year in and year out while getting only a limited manual telephone service.

Mr Lloyd - A few hundred subscribers.

Mr GILES - That is right. I must say that in many of the areas of which I am thinking there are a lot fewer than 100 subscribers. No doubt the Postmaster-General will ultimately tell us how uneconomic it would be to provide the service for them. But I get back to the marvellous speech tonight by the honourable member for Barker, who pointed out that one basis of evaluating how charges are to be imposed should be the extent of the availability of opportunities for people to telephone on local charges. Many of these people have to go hundreds of miles before reaching an area where they could number more than 20 or 30 people on a local charge rate. Surely to blazes that is one factor which should be taken into account in any consideration of equity as to who should or should not be programmed for help.

Perhaps I should demonstrate the point I am trying to make. The availability of services to the cheek by jowl section compared with the availability to many of those who live in the areas which I have in mind is amply demonstrated by the actions of the previous honourable member for Sturt. Many honourable members might remember him as being a somewhat riotous individual who left the Parliament for a very good reason, that is, he was defeated at the last election. He sent me a 40-line telegram from his office, which was next door to my office in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices in Adelaide. That shows how wrong it is to take the attitude that apparently the Government has taken, that somehow or other the previous Government deprived people who lived in capital cities of access to the facilities that people expect in this day and age. If the sending of a 40-line telegram to me from an office next door to my office in the Commonwealth parliamentary offices does not show not only how cheaply some people take the telephone charges and the balance of help afforded to them but also how cheaply members of the Opposition in the last Parliament took the entire process of the connection of telephones, I would like to know of an example that does. That shows how artificial and stupid really is the form of logic that the Government is trying to impress upon the Parliament tonight.

I must move on to another subject because there are several things that I want to say. I want to ask the honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis) and the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby), as well as the other honourable members opposite who represent country electorates, why they, together with the honourable members of the 2 Parties on this side of the chamber who represent rural seats, are not at least voicing their objection to the increased charges that are being levied in almost every way on the communications structure of people who live in outlying areas. It is a shocking thing to me to think that they are running quiet. I have no doubt that the electors in their areas eventually will balance out the situation. I have no time for people who do not at least try to put forward the views of their own electorates. I am shocked when I look around and see how many honourable members are keeping quiet tonight on this topic. When I say that, I might qualify it by saying that, if the Government did not have every intention of gagging this debate shortly because it is running scared, another 3 hours of debate would be available to members on this side of the chamber in which to punish the eardrums of Government members on what we regard as the injustice that is being visited on a sectional faction.

Before I sit down tonight there is one most serious matter to which I should like to refer, namely, that the South Australian Director of Posts and Telegraphs, Jack O'sullivan, who was known far and wide, died quite recently. He was a fine, affable, very sincere and highly respected man. I hope that the PostmasterGeneral, if he can and if he gets the opportunity, will pass on to the other directors and to anyone else who might be concerned the deep respects of honourable members from South Australia on the Opposition side. Jack O'sullivan was a man who had the complete confidence of members of all parties in the State in which he was Director. As I said a little while ago to one of my colleagues, he was so good at his job that I do not believe that any member of Parliament in South Australia did not privately believe that Jack O'sullivan was on his side, no matter on which side of the political fence he happened to be.

I regret that there have been real complaints which I have had to voice tonight, but perhaps I should conclude on that somewhat inconsistent note.

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