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Tuesday, 13 November 1973
Page: 3265

Mr MORRIS (Shortland) - I have to pay a tribute to the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) for coming to the defence of his country cousins. But, alas, where was he when the Post and Telegraph Bill, which provided for the increases in telephone charges, was being debated? On that occasion the whole of that section of the chamber where the Liberal Party members reside on odd occasions was vacant. I think one member of the Liberal Party was present and a few honourable members were in cockies' corner. I have to acknowledge that. Let us have a look at the increase in telephone rentals about which the Country Party members are making so much noise and have waxed so eloquent. Why do not the Country Party members really tell the truth to their electorates and to their constituents? They should have a look at the increase in telephone rentals-

Mr Corbett - We do.

Mr MORRIS - I doubt their capacity to do so. Telephone rentals have been increased from $27 to $55, which represents an enormous increase of 52c per week! I know that there has been a slight increase in the price of wool! There has been a rather larger than normal increase in the price of meat.

Mr England - What about the pensioners?

Mr MORRIS - I will come to the pensioners. I am very interested in the pensioners; I know that honourable members opposite are not. In spite of these relatively minor increases in the prices of primary products, this enormous increase in telephone rentals of 52c a week seems to be the major concern of the members of the Country Party.

Mr O'Keefe - Thirty cents for pensioners.

Mr MORRIS - The pensioners' share of that is about 17c a week. But the honourable member is not interested in the pensioners. He should tell the truth. Let us have a look at the other telephone rental, which went up from $38 to $55. That represents an increase of 34c a week. I hope that members of the Country Party can manage on that; otherwise we might have to increase the subsidy on wheat or pay a further subsidy on wool to make up the 34c a week for them. Why do honourable members opposite not do some thing about the position of the employee on the farm of the primary producer? He pays a higher rate of registration for his motor vehicle than does the primary producer. The primary producer pays a concessional rate. What are the State governments of the political persuasion of honourable members opposite doing about that? It is a terrible shame.

Mr McVeigh - I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Chairman. I would ask you to adjudicate on whether-

Mr Keogh - What is the point of order?

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Lucock) - Order! If the honourable member for Bowman would cease interjecting we might find out.

Mr McVeigh - I will start my point of order again in case honourable members had difficulty in hearing above the chatter. Mr Deputy Chairman, will you adjudicate whether it is fitting and proper for a Government supporter to say things in this place which obviously are untrue. I refer to the remarks of the honourable member for Shortland about having to increase the subsidy to Australian wheat growers.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! There is no substance to the point of order. I suggest to the honourable member for Shortland that he should address the Chair. I also suggest to him that I would not like to live on 17c a week, as he suggested at one stage.

Mr MORRIS - I thank you, Mr Deputy Chairman, for your very wise ruling, but I think you misunderstood me. I referred to the increase in telephone rentals and said that the increase for a pensioner would amount to 17c a week. I am sorry that that was misunderstood. However, I do appreciate the point of order taken by the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh), because he does have difficulty in knowing what is and what is not relevant. At the same time I was having difficulty in bringing to the notice of the people of this nation the truth of what members of the Australian Country Party are really saying. As I said, the reduced telephone rentals were applicable to country areas, and a large majority of telephone subscribers were asking why they should have to pay a higher rental than people in the rural areas who were receiving and benefiting from the best year ever in the history of this nation.

Mr McVeigh - That is not true.

Mr MORRIS - I do not know whether it is true or not. The honourable member for Darling Downs may stand and tell me that it is not true, but I can only relate to him what people I know in the country have said. I realise that the honourable member for Darling Downs has a limited capacity with figures and has difficulty in understanding what is relevant and what is not relevant. I take all those things into consideration. Is it not more reasonable that there be a general rental rate for all telephone subscribers? If it is a requirement and if it is in the national interest that certain rural areas should have a lower telephone rental applied to them because of a lower rate of telephone usage than the urban areas, would not one have thought that, after almost a quarter of a century of Country Party dominated government, that policy would have been evolved and put into operation rather than honourable members opposite imposing upon other telephone subscribers a higher telephone rental so that they could buy more votes? Is that not really what honourable members opposite have been doing in the country? We would have bought the farm but instead honourable members opposite bought votes with public money.

On the same point, in a long term evaluation of telephone usage and technology, would not one expect that, with progress in the field of radio and radio telephony, a better, more efficient and more economical method of providing communication to outlying areas would have been evolved? But honourable members opposite do not want that. They want to stand and scream about the telephone charges because they think it sounds good back home. What they are screaming about are increases of 34c a week .and 52c a week. I would hazard the guess that probably half of the people affected claim that increase as a deductible expense in the operation of their farms. They are not all pensioners, paying the increase out of their pockets. The taxpayer is still paying half the increase imposed in these areas.

Let us move on a little further to the night that this debate took place. I know that it is difficult for honourable members opposite to remember, but there were a few members present over in the Country Party corner of the House. Members of the Liberal Party were absent because they were not interested and they did not have the courage when they were in government to do anything about the situ ation. When members of the Liberal Party were missing, the Bill went through this House and little was said about telephone charges but a lot was said about postal charges. Certain members of the Country Party, I think, in one way or another are connected with country newspapers. The Bill went over to the Senate and it returned to this House in an amended form. When ft came back amended I can recall the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) standing and saying: 'Well, we have to accept that there are increased charges'. The Postmaster-General was congratulated on his reasonable attitude. He was told what a fine gentleman he was, and it was said that these charges had to be accepted. But, stranger than fiction, during that second debate no mention whatever was made of telephone charges. Not one member of the Country Party opened his mouth that night when the Bill came back for further consideration. The honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) and other honourable members, including I think the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett), were so anxious to support that Bill and rush through this place the reduced charge for country newspapers that they completely forgot their concern for telephone charges. Is it truthful for Country Party members to tell country people that they fought against increased . telephone charges?

Mr McVeigh - We did fight.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Lucock) - Order! The honourable member for Darling Downs will cease interjecting.

Mr MORRIS - He has difficulty with his vocal chords from time to time, Mr Deputy Chairman. On that occasion the Country Party was mute for once. Its members were not concerned about telephone charges then, but they want to say now that they fought against them. They did not. They put up a sham. They were putting on an act.


Mr MORRIS - The honourable member for Patterson says 'Rubbish'. That is the attitude of the Country Party to telephone charges. According to the Country Party, they are rubbish. They do not mean one word they say about them. Country Party members were not interested enough to open their mouths about this matter. They were so anxious to get through reduced postal charges for their friends who operate the country newspapers that they forgot about telephone charges. What are the country newspapers? They are nothing but a propaganda organ. Honourable members should get away from the cities and see what is published in them. Country Party members were concerned because they that their avenues of propaganda were being cut off. I only wish that the country people could come here and see the humbug being indulged in by representatives of the Country Party in relation to telephone charges. If they did so, they would realise their faith is being placed in the wrong people and it was time they put into the Parliament people who are genuine in their attitude.

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