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Tuesday, 8 November 1977
Page: 3028

Mr KING (WIMMERA, VICTORIA) - As this is the last opportunity that an honourable member for Wimmera will have to ask a question, because of the disappearance of the seat of Wimmera which has been in existence since 1901, 1 should like to direct a question to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Has the Minister noticed an advertisement in the daily newspapers indicating the achievements of Telecom Australia? Is the Minister in a position to indicate whether the information in the advertisement is correct? If so, does this mean that the actual trading surplus- interpreted as profit in some areas- will assist in the development of improved telephone services, particularly in country areas where the present service is anything but average?

Mr Eric Robinson (MCPHERSON, QUEENSLAND) - The advertisements do demonstrate the contribution that the Australian Telecommunications Commission is making to communications generally throughout Australia. What has not been recognised by members of this House and indeed by the community at large is the substantial number of initiatives which Telecom Australia is taking to improve services throughout the country. When loose comments are made as to the so-called profit or surplus of Telecom, people lose sight of the fact that under an Act of this Parliament there is a need for the Commission to find at least 50 per cent of capital works, long service leave and depreciation allowances out of revenue. That is a decision of this Parliament. The capital requirement for Telecom Australia this year alone is over $900m. If we talk of the capital involvement in Telecom we are talking of the order of $6,000m. So the surplus has to be seen in relation to that.

Generally speaking, I think that the Parliament and certainly the Government are very pleased with the relationship with the Telecommunications Commission. I know from my discussions with the Commission that it is seeking and will continue to seek ways and means of improving communications, particularly in the rural areas of Australia. We have a vast island continent. Regrettably in some parts of it the population is shrinking and it is terribly difficult to maintain the services that Telecom would wish. I believe that a greater acknowledgment by members of this Parliament and by the community as a whole of the immense contribution Telecom makes would be helpful. After all, all surplus is ploughed back for the benefit of the system. The Australian community owns Telecom and any surplus that is made is of course used for the benefit of increased communications.

In this growth market members of the Opposition would do well to seek to use whatever influence they have to get people in the trade union movement to co-operate in the use of the technology that is available. Regrettably at the moment some members of the trade union movement want to set their face against technology. If we are to have the best possible communications in Australia we have to use technology and we have to pursue development. I hope that each and every one of us will make a contribution in that way.

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