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Thursday, 24 August 1972
Page: 408

Senator GREENWOOD (Victoria) (AttorneyGeneral) - Of course, I speak on this matter as Minister representing the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme) in the Senate. I have read the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Environment and I know that the PostmasterGeneral and his Department have given attention to the recommendations which it has provided. I think that it is noteworthy that the Committee found there was little public concern about the contents of the information pages of telephone directories. It is significant that in several places the Committee expressed its surprise - a surprise contrary to its anticipation - that there was very little public response to the Australia-wide call for persons who wished to make submissions to the Committee. The second point to be acknowledged from a reading of the report is that the Committee recognised how very much one's impression of the information pages of the telephone directories is dependent upon the subjective view of whether or not at a particular time those pages give readily the information one is seeking. I suppose all of us have had the experience of checking whether the telephone directory information pages contain information about telephonic, telegraphic or postal services, at which time we have experienced varying degrees of annoyance according to whether or not we have been able readily to locate where such information is to be found. I suspect it is this form of annoyance which we have all occasionally experienced that gave rise to the concern which prompted the reference of this matter to the Committee. The Committee has acknowledged, however, that it is a matter of a time to time experience as to whether or not we regard the information pages as adequate. This is probably the way in which the whole problem is to be viewed.

The third point is that the Committee on its own assessment and appreciating the subjective character of that assessment, did make a number of recommendations, all of them of course designed to improve the presentation of information in the directory. The Committee acknowledged that a considerable amount of work has been done, including obtaining the services of a graphic design consultant in 1968 - long before this Committee was suggested, of course - from whom the PostmasterGeneral took advice on the best form that these information pages could have. The work of that consultant has found its way into those pages. Nevertheless the PostmasterGeneral has viewed the recommendations as worthy of action, and action has been taken on many of them. If 1 deal with the recommendations seriatim the Senate will understand the way in which the work of this Committee has been accepted by the Postmaster-General's Department. The first recommendation was:


(a)   Only essential and frequently sought information such as (i) index; (ii) emergency services; (iii) directory map; (iv) instant call guide services; and (v) STD codes, be provided at the front of directories.

(b)   All promotional material, charge information, telephone use instructions, postal, telegraphic and similar information be placed at the back of directories.

Action was taken this year, particularly in the 1972 issue of the Canberra telephone directory, to provide material at the front of the directory and the other information at the back. Of course, there had to be some recognition of the fact that a separate 16-page section was necessary for binding purposes. Therefore items such as Using your telephone', 'Telephone call charges', 'Trunk and international calls' and 'Abbreviations of exchanges and place names' were included in the information pages at the front of the directory. The Postmaster-General's Department will utilise both the experience and the convenience of what has been done with the Canberra directory this year as a guide to the extent to which it can be adapted for directories in other places.

The second recommendation was that an index be clear and complete and that alphabetical key letters be used. It continued:

(b)   An exhortation he given at the top of the index page to encourage the use of the index.

(c)   A separate index, suitably mentioned in the main index, be provided for general Post Office material located at the back of the directory.

The first 2 of these recommendations are being acted upon and will be incorporated in all telephone directories in all States. The third recommendation - that a separate index for general Post Office material be provided - has not been adopted for the current Canberra directory, the only one to which it could have conveniently applied this year. The Department believed this recommendation would have been impracticable because that index would be superfluous. For example, if a subscriber had consulted the main index on page 1 without success, then a second index at the beginning of the section containing information on charges, appearing at the end of the alphabetical section, would appear to have dubious value. One may suppose it would seldom be consulted.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Lawrie) - Order! Three hours of sitting having elapsed since the time fixed for the meeting of the Senate, the Senate pursuant to order will now proceed with other business on the notice paper.

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