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Wednesday, 13 November 1974
Page: 2340

Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) - I would like to say a few brief words about the Postmaster-General's Department. I want particularly to refer to the people who cannot get a continuous telephone service and people who cannot get a telephone. I was told, as appears at page 228 of the report of the proceedings of Estimates Committee F, that the number of small automatic exchanges to be installed in Queensland has been stepped up from 9 a year to about 12 a year. I was told also, as appears in another part of the report, that in Queensland there are still 330 non-continuous telephone exchanges. It is a simple matter to work out that if the rate of installation of automatic exchanges in Queensland is not stepped up people there will have to wait until the year 2000 or thereafter before they can get a 24 hour a day telephone service. Mr Chairman, I do not believe that it is good enough in 1974 that we have to wait at least 27 years, according to the Department's calculations, before getting continuous services.

There are a lot of people who cannot even get a telephone. They are not allowed to build their own telephone lines but have to provide money for departmental lines built by the Department. In many cases the cost is prohibitive. Those are two of the things I would like to touch on. The departmental officials who appeared before Estimates Committee F were most co-operative and answered questions as best as they could. However the position is that the Department does not have the money or the facilities and a lot of people in Australia will have to wait a long time for a telephone or for a continuous telephone service. When the Postmaster-General (Senator Bishop) replies I would like him to tell the Senate what will be the position when the 2 proposed statutory corporations are established, probably some time in the next year or so. Will there be single line estimates for them? Will they have to account to Senate estimates committees for their expenditure, or will they be like some of the other statutory corporations we have in Australia and be outside the control of the estimates committees?

There are a couple of other things that concern me considerably. One of them is Saturday morning postal business. Business on Saturday looks to be a thing of the past although we have heard of a proposal to provide services on 2 Saturdays before Christmas. I do not know how it is to be worked.

Those are some of the things that concern me a little in the set-up of the Postmaster-General's Department so far as our telecommunications and postal systems are concerned. Also, will the Minister tell us how the new courier service is going? I notice that he made an amended estimate and said that it will cost $900,000 for the balance of this year in order to enter into competition, at least in the city areas, with private enterprise. I would like an answer to those questions.

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