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Wednesday, 31 May 1972
Page: 2375

Senator WILKINSON (Western Australia) - The question I wish to raise here is a very difficult one to raise at this stage, but I do not know how I can otherwise deal with it. When we look at the second department covered by Estimates Committee B, the Postmaster-General's Department, we find that the appropriation is for radio broadcasting and television. There is no appropriation for the PostmasterGeneral's Department in relation to telephone or postage activities. Yet this is a question which, with your indulgence, Mr Temporary Chairman, I would like to raise. The Department is all the time spending money that it receives in revnue. It is a rather awkward situation that we have no access to information on this. I crave your indulgence, Sir, because we are not dealing with this matter although it is covered by the Postmaster-General's Department. It is not in this appropriation. The Minister may not be able to give me an answer on this, either. But I want to put the point forward.

In the workings of the PostmasterGeneral's Department a large amount of money has been used during the past 12 months and is continuing to be used for the installation of telephone services to country subscribers within 15 miles of exchanges. The Senate agreed to this. The Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme) said last year that subscribers in country areas who were within the 15 mile radius would have their telephone connected free of charge. I wonder whether it is possible for the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral is this place to give me an estimate of what this has cost up to the present time. I felt at the time this scheme was announced that the proposal by the Postmaster-General was not a fair one in the sense that, although it was a simple and straightforward gesture, he did not tell us what it would cost. I take it that the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) will speak for the Postmaster-General.

Senator Cotton - This was dealt with in Estimates Committee B.

Senator WILKINSON - I presume the Attorney-General heard my earlier remarks when I said I had some doubt about bringing the matter forward. However the Temporary Chairman has permitted me to do so. I doubt whether the Attorney-General can give me an answer but I ask for the indulgence of the Committee. Perhaps the Attorney-General can give me an estimate of what this cost in the last 12 months.

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