25th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
” VOYAGER “ ROYAL COMMISSION.
Senator MURPHY. - My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Was Mr. Smyth, Q.C., at all times during the recent Royal Commission on the loss of the “ Voyager “ acting on instructions given by the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor and his officers? Is it a fact that apart from Senator Gorton no member of the Ministry has disagreed with the praise of Mr. Smyth expressed by the Royal Commissioner? Does the Government associate itself with the attacks that were made on Mr. Smyth in this chamber by Senator Gorton? If not, will it take steps to vindicate the character of Mr. Smyth and his conduct before the Royal Commission?
Senator PALTRIDGE. - The question involves the Attorney-General and officers of his Department as much as anyone else. J should like them to have a close look at the question before an answer is provided. If the honorable senator places his question on the notice paper, I shall get an answer for him in due time.
– Can the
Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research say when he expects to receive the report of the committee which has been inquiring into the future of tertiary education? Can he indicate whether the report will bc made available to honorable senators?
– Yesterday the Prime Minister and 1 each received an advance printed copy of the final report of the Committee on the Future of Tertiary Education. The report has been prepared for the Australian Universities Commission, and I understand from the Chairman of the Commission that it was finally approved by him towards the end of August. In the meantime the report has been in the hands of the printer. As yet the Commission has not copies of it in bulk. As soon as copies of the report are available the Government will give careful consideration to its contents and will decide how it is to be handled. At this point of time I cannot say when the report will be available to honorable senators, but I can say that we will release it as soon as we are able to do so, bearing in mind the necessity to examine its contents and to discuss them with other interested bodies such as State Governments.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Can the Minister inform the Senate whether the Japanese trade mission which is at present in Australia is to be taken to the Mumimbidgee Irrigation Area in New South Wales? In view of recent statements that Japan may have to buy rice from Australia, will the Minister do everything possible to include the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area in the places that are to be visited by the trade mission, as it is the main rice growing area of Australia and also the main canned fruit and main wine producing area of New South Wales? I can advise the Minister that this area, is intensely interested-
– Order! I ask the honorable senator to conclude his question.
– Can the mission be brought to the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area where the primary producers are intensely interested in building an export trade with Japan in both fruit and vegetables, thus helping not only that area but Australia generally by increasing our export trade?
– I would like to assure the honorable senator that the Minister for Primary Industry is just as anxious as he is to develop export markets for Australia’s primary industries. I am quite sure that the Minister would not fail to seize every opportunity that presented itself to him to display our wares before people of other countries. However, I shall bring the honorable senator’s representations to the notice of the Minister for Primary Industry.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer by saying that a number of senators from all States will probably be retiring from the Senate at the end of next June, some voluntarily, some compulsorily. These honorable senators have paid into a superannuation fund since its inauguration. Therefore 1 ask the Minister: 1. ls it a fact that the Federal members’ superannuation fund is in a better than healthy financial state, as it has over £600,000 in contributions by members? 2. If the Treasurer cannot see his way clear to accept the advice of the trustees of the fund and increase the retiring allowances of members, will he call a meeting of members of all parties and obtain their views in respect thereto? 3. Will the Treasurer give the Senate information on the retiring allowances of State members as compared with the retiring allowances of Federal members?
– I understand that the honorable senator’s statement that the fund is in a very healthy state is correct. The other parts of the question raise matters of policy and I ask the honorable senator to place them on the notice paper so that they may be brought to the attention of the Treasurer.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry and is based on a report which appeared in the “ Australian “ of 28th September.
– Order! Senator, you are not reading from a newspaper, are you?
– It is a report, Sir.
– Order! The honorable senator may not read extracts from a newspaper when asking a question.
– My question is based on a current report which, I believe, has been commented on by a number of people. The report states that foot and mouth disease was introduced into Australia presumably by migrants at Alice Springs. Because of the comment raised by the report and because it is a matter of great concern to Australia. I would like to know whether it is correct.
– I have seen the report to which the honorable senator refers. If my memory serves me correctly, the report stated categorically that foot and mouth disease had been introduced into Alice Springs by passengers on a British Overseas Airways Corporation aircraft, which normally puts down at Darwin. On reading the report I immediately asked my chief quarantine officer in Darwin to investigate. He has advised me definitely that there is no foot and mouth disease in the Northern Territory, or, for that matter, in any part of Australia. I would like the honorable senator to be assured that the passengers who were put down by B.O.A.C. at Alice Springs were subjected to the same rigid tests as are applied to any other people entering Australia at any other port The passengers passed the tests and were cleared. I remind the Senate that no new Australians are permitted to enter this country by air if they have departed from a country or an area which has been infected with foot and mouth disease. As a Government and as individuals we realise that foot and mouth disease would possibly destroy our rural economy quicker than any other economic factor that could come our way. We are determined to use every means at our disposal to prevent this disease from entering Australia.
– My question is directed either to the Leader of the Government or to the Minister representing the Minister for Supply. Has the Minister’s attention been directed to Press reports from London sources, attributed to the Director of the Engineering Division of the European Launcher Development Organisation, indicating that studies were being made of alternative launching sites to overcome the limitations of Woomera? Is the Minister in a position to give any information on this matter?
– Having regard to the nature of the question I suggest to the honorable senator that he place it on the notice paper. There is some information available and the question lends itself to a detailed reply.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry inform the Senate whether the Bureau of Agricultural Economics has made investigations into the possible supply of water for irrigation purposes in the lower midlands of Tasmania? Were these investigations, if any, carried out at the request of the Tasmanian Government? If so, has the Tasmanian Government received the report and when it will be made available?
– At the request of the Premier of Tasmania the Bureau of Agricultural Economics undertook an economic survey of a proposed irrigation scheme in, I think, the southern regions of Tasmania. As I understand the position, the investigations have been completed. The report also has been completed and will be available to the Premier of Tasmania in the very near future. I imagine it is for the Premier to decide whether he will make the report public.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Defence by stating that it relates to a question asked in this chamber last week by Senator Branson, who inquired about the TSR bomber which is being produced in England. From the tone of Senator Branson’s question it appeared that he was quite delighted that the project had failed. He congratulated the Government on ordering the counterpart of the TSR2 from the United States of America, making the statement that the TSR2-
– Order! The honorable senator’s question is too long.
– I am coming to my question. Senator Branson said that the TSR2 would not be flown. I now ask the Minister whether he will make some comment on the article which appeared in the “ Canberra Times “ this morning stating that the TSR2 is now in the air.
– Yes. Like everyone else who follows aircraft development, especially military aircraft development, I, of course, can only express the greatest pleasure that the TSR2 has flown. It is a matter for regret that it has flown many months after it was originally scheduled to fly. Commenting, if 1 may, Mr. President, on the tone of the question asked by Senator Hendrickson, I did not detect in Senator Branson’s question any delight in the fact that the TSR2 was so far behind schedule. The purpose of Senator Branson’s question, as I interpreted it - and as was generally understood by most members in this chamber-
– On your side.
– By most members in this chamber who are reasonable and capable of making an objective judgment on anything. Their understanding was that, in view of the criticism made by the Opposition, and its advocacy of the purchase of the TSR2, he wanted to know how the performance of the TSR2 compared with the performance of the aircraft ordered by the Australian Government. To that I made the factual reply that while the TSR2 was behind schedule as to production and trials, the aircraft ordered by the Australian Government was on schedule and that the Australian Government expressed satisfaction with its choice of a bomber.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Has the Minister’s attention been directed to a statement by the General Secretary of the Australian Council of Retailers, Mr. W. D. N. Johnson, that retail programming for conversion to decimal currency was at a standstill and that the Decimal Currency Board, by failing to announce details of cash register conversion and compensation schemes, had thrown a spanner in the works of the project? Does the Minister agree with Mr. Johnson’s views? If so, what steps are proposed to enable the process of conversion to proceed smoothly?
– I am not in a position to agree or disagree with the views given by Mr. Johnson. I do not know exactly what stage the conversion of cash registers has reached. I understand that that matter is in the hands of the Decimal Currency Board which is advising the Government. If the honorable senator will put his question on the notice paper, I shall obtain the information he requires.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Is it not a fact that because of this Government’s policy of subsidising the building of ships in Australia, there is currently prosperity in the shipbuilding yards of Australia which will be fully occupied with contracts for the next two years? Is it not a fact that one shipbuilding yard in Queensland is spending over fi million to enlarge its facilities so that it can cope with current orders?
– It is a fact that for many years now this Government has subsidised the shipbuilding industry in Australia with great benefit to the country, as I am sure all will agree. Indeed, the establishment of the shipbuilding yards at Whyalla in South Australia is an outstanding example of what can be done when Governments undertake sensible subsidisation with a view to the decentralisation of industry. Happily, one can look forward to the future of the shipbuilding industry and envisage continually full programmes again because of the policies of this Government in respect of the provision of tanker tonnage on the Australian coast. I think it can be said that for a long time ahead now, the shipbuilding industry and those employed in it can look forward with confidence to continued employment.
– The Minister for Defence has just stated that the TSR2 was flown some months after ils first flight had been scheduled. I ask the Minister: Is it not true that the TFX is already one year behind schedule? Can he inform the Senate when the prototype of the TFX will be in production? Does he know when it will be airborne?
– No, but I can assure the honorable senator that I will get the particular information for which he asks, and let him have it. Let me assure the honorable senator, in turn on the assurance of the United States Secretary of Defence, Mr. McNamara, repeated publicly on many occasions and repeated privately to the Australian Government, that the TFX is on schedule. I regret very much that many people - and I hope they do not include the honorable senator - are trying in vain, but still trying, to derogate from the performance, the trials and the development of the TFX. As I say, this is in vain. The TFX as we have been advised at the moment, is on schedule, and the Government is completely happy with its purchase.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is the Minister aware of the present disagreement between the Government of South Australia and the Government of New South Wales, concerning the refusal of each Government of the free passage of fruit - destined, in the case of South Australia, for export - over their respective borders because of alleged infestation by fruit fly? Does he know that in no case has infected fruit from South Australia been found in any of the export markets enjoyed by the citrus industry of that State? Can the same bc said of bananas from New South Wales? If this is the case - that is there is no infected fruit from New South Wales - will the Government act as a referee between the two States in question for the purpose of ironing out the disagreement that exists at the present time?
– The control of the passage of fruit interstate is a matter for the States themselves.
– This fruit is for export.
– I appreciate that point. This is a matter in which, possibly, my colleague the Minister for Primary Industry and, I think, the Minister for Health are interested. I do not know what the actual situation is in respect of citrus fruits from South Australia or bananas from New South Wales. I will refer the question to my colleagues. I am sure that if there is anything they can do within their constitutional powers to alleviate this situation which is apparently giving considerable trouble, they will do it.
– I desire to ask a question of the. Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry. Is it a fact, as reported on the midday news bulletins, that the amount of copper exported from Australia is seriously depleting the supply of copper available to local industries? Is it a fact that if the present export trend continues the rationing of copper to Australian firms will have to be introduced? Will the Minister investigate the position to ensure that adequate supplies of copper are available to the local market?
– I think that the potential of copper supplies in Australia has never been greater. I am not aware whether there is an immediate shortage, or whether there will be a shortage in the immediate future, of copper. I will ask the Minister for Trade and Industry to make an investigation into the particular aspect of the matter which the honorable senator has raised.
(Question No. 172.)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions is as follows -
Research into the field of computing and electronic data processing falls into two categories which overlap to some extent - research into computer design, components and languages, as such, and research into the application of these methods. The Government is active in both categories of research and it would be reasonable to suggest that it has been in the forefront in this type of endeavour in this country. Research into computer design components and languages is mainly undertaken by the Weapons Research Establishment at Salisbury and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. Some 80/90 man-years of research effort has been spent by C.S.I.R.O. over the past 15 years at a cost of about £150,000, excluding materials. No information is available of the costs’ incurred at W.R.E. but the establishment has been working in the computer research field for some ten years.
(Question No. 256.)
Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice) -
– The Minister for Trade and Industry has furnished the following replies to the honorable senator’s questions - 1 and 2. Earlier this year following the conclusion of the Meat Agreement between Australia and the United States the Chairman of the Australian Meat Board made a statement in which he expressed the opinion that the Australian meat export industry should not be pessimistic about the future. At the same time, however, he emphasised the need for the industry to do everything possible to develop and diversify its overseas markets to avoid undue reliance on markets such as the United Kingdom and the United Slates for the disposal of our increasing meat production. Since the honorable senator asked a question related to this matter in October last not only has the Government concluded an agreement with the United States but legislation has been passed giving effect to industry proposals for a plan of meat market development and diversification.
(Question No. 227.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and
Industry, upon notice -
– I am informed that the Automobile Technical Congress was a meeting of representatives of private enterprise. The Commonwealth Government was not involved in any way. Accordingly, the information given below has been obtained from an unofficial source.
Austria . . . . . . 4
Belgium . . . . 12
Switzerland . . . . . . 11
Sweden . . . . . . 1
Federal Republic of Germany . . 67
Spain .. .. .. ..28
France .. .. ..115
England . . . . 25
Italy .. .. .. ..21
Morocco . . . . . . 1
Portugal . . . . . . 1
Thailand .. .. .. 1
Netherlands . . 7
Canada . . . . . . 2
United States of America 31
(Question No. 276.)
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following answers -
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till tomorrow at 3.30 p.m.
Debate resumed from 24th September (vide page 707), on motion by Senator Wade-
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The PRESIDENT__ Honorable senators being in agreement, this course will be followed.
.- On behalf of the Australian Labour Party 1 move -
Leave out all words after “ That “, insert “ this Senate condemns the unnecessary and unjust action taken by the Government to increase the charges imposed on telephone users “.
In opening the debate on this question for the Labour Party, I should like to refer the Senate to some of the statistics in the report of the Postmaster-General for the year 1962-63. The report for the year 1963-64 is not available. That is a pity, because in a debate like this it would be good for all of us if we had the latest information. I realise that possibly printing difficulties and the like have delayed the presentation of the report, but it is regrettable that we have not the document in front of us.
The 1962-63 report states that the earnings of the Post Office rose by £11,263,472 to a total of about £150,500,000, which was an increase on the earnings of the year before. To my mind that represents big business and a lot of money. I do not want to deal fully with the fact that the Post Office now has to pay interest on the Government funds that it uses, whereas formerly it was not required to do so. I suggest that possibly the Department would not be chasing money at the present time and increasing telephone charges but for the fact that it now has to meet the interest bill. If it still did not have to find interest, as it did not over many, many years, it would be making very handsome profits and there would be no need to increase charges.
The Post Office has assets amounting to £500 million and it has a staff of about 87,000. Postal articles handled run into billions. Rural automatic exchanges number about 1,500 and telephone services throughout Australia number nearly 1,750,000. All branches of government services and all sorts of private industry do business with the Post Office. Wherever one looks, one secs that the Post Office is doing business wilh somebody and providing services. Yet this vast organisation, this tremendous financial institution - that is what it is - this great branch of the Commonwealth Public Service, searching round for a way of balancing its budget, finally settles on increases in postal and telephone charges. The people affected are probably the easiest to affect. By spreading increased telephone charges all over Australia, in both city and country areas, the Government is able to avoid affecting people that it does not want to affect. There are some great inconsistencies. On the one hand, the Government is not separating the pensioners, saying: ‘” We will not attempt to tax you “. This is a new form of taxation. The Government is imposing an additional tax on people who use a telephone, lt is not differentiating. It is imposing on the most lowly and poverty stricken pensioner the conditions that it is applying to big business. The Government has announced that it is not differentiating between big business and the private user. In other words, the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. will pay the same rate as the pensioner.
– It has more telephones.
– That may be so, but the pensioner cannot pass on the charge of 4d. per call. If honorable senators study the figures they will find that the extra 5s. a week which was granted to the pensioners in the Budget will be eliminated by these extra charges. That extra 5s. pension will exactly pay for the extra charges that will have to be met by any pensioner who is fortunate enough to have a television set and who has had a telephone installed for medical reasons or for any one of a dozen other reasons. So what the Government gives with one hand it takes away with the other.
The Government is not differentiating between the pensioner and the general public on the one hand and big business on the other hand in relation to telephone charges, but it is differentiating in its provision of a rebate of 30 per cent, for certain postal charges. Apparently the Department is not exactly bankrupt because, whilst it proposes to take extra money from pensioners and other people who can ill afford to pay more for their telephones, it is going out of its way to assist big business materially by granting a rebate of 30 per cent, on bulk postage charges. Who are the users of bulk postage facilities? Big business, of course. The brochure addressed to the householder is coming back into use as a medium of advertising. The Government is now agreeing to remit 30 per cent, of the cost of bulk postage to the big advertisers, the patent medicine people, and those who operate mail order systems. I. have not been able to work out the cost of this concession - 1 doubt whether anybody in this chamber could - but probably it will offset the extra money that will be provided by telephone users.
We must consider another aspect of this proposal. The Post Office has been loaded with extra charges. I cannot understand why the Government or the Department has agreed to this concession, because in the handling of bulk postage articles the Department will be loaded with still more charges. The staff will have to work overtime to cope with this extra work. Honorable senators will have read of the dozens of disputes that occur between the union and the Department because postal officers are overloaded with this cheap form of advertising material addressed to householders. This is a new development in commerce, and it will grow. I believe that the Government will find that it will lose a lot of money as a result of providing for this 30 per cent, rebate, to say nothing of the industrial disputes that will be caused. I repeat that the overloading of delivery mcn with this cheap form of advertising material which is delivered into the letter boxes of the householders and which in any other country would be regarded as being almost an illicit form of advertising, is a continual source of friction within the Department. The Government is showing great inconsistency in granting the rebate. That is particularly true when you remember that the charges arc being loaded onto the general community. If one concession could be justified, I think the other could be justified, too. Surely to goodness if you had to raise an extra income of £9 million at the expense of telephone users you were not entitled to write off a proportion of your income from major advertisers. Probably the Minister has an explanation. 1. hope he has, because we are very much concerned about it.
The Government’s leaning towards big business is shown in an aspect of the second Bill introduced by the Minister last week.
I refer to the Minister’s announcement that the duty on television receivers is to be foregone. In his second reading speech the Minister explains that because of departmental difficulties, other difficulties related to control of various sections of the television industry, and possible difficulties in collecting sales tax on television, receiver tubes, the Government has decided to eliminate that duty. As a result, £6 comes off the cost of every tube. It is strange that in one Bill before us the Government should bc so tough on the people who use telephones - the general community - yet in another Bill the Government goes out of its way to grant to big business the concessions I am pointing out.
– What about the little business man? Where docs he come in?
– I am leaving that subject to other speakers. I am speaking of the big organisations. I know what you say is true, senator. The Minister expresses the hope that the people who get the £6 rebate on each television tube will pass it on to the community. Well, well. That is a pious hope if ever there was one, because there is not the remotest possibility of that happening.
– There is, you know.
– I would like to know that is true. I would like to see it. I hope you will be able to tell me how it will happen. I cannot sec the television people passing the rebate on to the people and I think that the Minister has expressed a very pious hope. I appreciate the difficulties involved, but T do not know why he cannot take some action to see that the benefit is passed on. A Government which can treat people in the way that this Government is treating the general public ought to be able to deal with these manipulators, because they are manipulators.
Fortunately for the pensioners, many of them have telephones today, whereas 20 years ago pensioners probably did not have telephones. But that is because of the economic circumstances that have existed. So often - always probably - Government supporters talk of passing on increased costs. They say: “ You can be priced out of business. If the basic wage goes up too far you only finish up by hurting the employees and you reduce the number of jobs available “. A Government whose supporters always talk like that - particularly to the employee side of the community - surely should be able by example to demonstrate to the business community that it is not prepared to pass on costs.
The Government is passing on increased costs in the case of telephones. In any event, I doubt very much whether the costs quoted arc there to be passed on. For example, the Minister quoted a cost of £570 to install a telephone, to make a new connection. 1 know that the Postmaster-General would not mislead members in another place, nor would his representative in the Senate, but 1 cannot understand that figure. When my telephone was connected about three years ago it was a two and a half minute job. It is the easiest £570 the Postmaster.General’s Department ever received, if that is what it cost the Government to provide me with a telephone. By a system of arithmetic the Government has totalled the investment in telephones and divided it by the number of people who have had telephones connected. 1 think that calculation is fallacious. If somebody lives out in the backblocks and half a dozen telegraph posts must be erected before he can have a telephone service, that service will cost the Department a lot more than it would cost to give a service to people living in West Sydney or East Sydney. There is inconsistency in the Government’s approach to this matter. 1 am not saying that country people should be charged more for their telephone calls or for the installation of a service, but there is no justification for the Department charging city people more than it costs to give telephone services to them.
The Government has decided to charge people living in capital cities and in the Newcastle area a rental of £20 a year because, according to the Government, they can make more telephone calls than people in other areas. Who makes a telephone call just for fun? I do not think people make calls unless they have to. No matter where you live, whether in the country or a city, you make a telephone call only if you have some reason for doing so. Nobody rings up just to give revenue to the Government. Members of families who put money in a cash box each time they make a call do not regard it as a privilege to be able to ring 20 people an hour. Who wants to ring 20 people an hour?
In another part of his speech the Minister spoke about how quickly a person can get in touch with Moscow, London or cities in European countries. The only people interested in that sort of thing are the people who have commercial reasons tor getting into touch with such places. The average Australian does not want to do so, although it would be thrilling to ring London. This is obviously just a sop to big business. The Government should not average the costs of telephone services. It should not put the costs of providing telephone services throughout the world into the melting pot and average telephone costs out amongst all subscribers. It is essential to have international services, but. I think it would be fairer if the Government were to separate all costs and charge the cost of these extra facilities to the people who use them. It is indefensible for the Government to average out all costs and make the woman who lives at the back of Bourke and who has a domestic telephone pay for these international facilities. It ought to be possible for the Government to do justice to the various groups of citizens, lt is on this point that the Government has fallen down. It believes in the principle of averaging but it forgets that (here is always a group of people who will suffer under any system of averaging.
The other day I received a letter from a woman who said that she will have to have her telephone cut off as she will not be able to afford to pay the new charges. The same sort of thing will happen throughout the community. The Government will lose a lot of the existing telephone subscribers. 1 do not wish to be uncharitable enough to suggest that the Government might be making this increase in order to have more equipment available and thus be able to cut down the waiting time for telephones. I would not like to make that suggestion, but it is apparent that the Government’s action will cause the number of applications to fall off and also will cause existing subscribers to hand in their telephones. Pensioners will not be able to afford telephones. If the Government believes that the recent pensions increase of only 5s. is justified, it ought to agree with the proposition that pensioners will not be able to afford telephones. I think that is a reasonable proposition.
I pass on to another aspect of the Bi]]. The Government has decided that coloured telephones are to be dearer than black telephones. It seems that, with coloured telephones, the Government has fallen for the gimmick. Once, all telephones were black and they were rented at a set price. Then the gimmick people decided to make pink telephones to tone with the bathroom or a colour scheme in some part of the house. But the pink telephones cost the subscriber more. The Government has accepted this gimmick reasoning without the slightest investigation. It costs no more to make a pink or white telephone than it does to make a black telephone. Yet the Government has accepted the proposition of the commercial houses which manufacture these things without making a real investigation. If the Government had investigated this matter thoroughly, it might have found that the added cost of coloured telephones was just a take by the manufacturers and was not justified in any circumstances. I am surprised that the Government has accepted this sort of thing. It is actually written into the Bill. The provision of coloured telephones is held up by the Government as something of which it can be proud. It implies that we are really up with the times and are quite modern because a subscriber can obtain a coloured telephone if he wants one. But the price is higher and this is sheer profiteering. If the Government were to look into these matters thoroughly, possibly it would find that money was being wasted in the Postal Department and that it might not be necessary at all to increase charges.
There is a remarkable thing about Post Office finance. I have already remarked that the Past Office has an income of £150 million yet in this Parliament we talk only about telephone charges. This is the smallest part of Post Office revenue. Nobody rises to ask whether money was wasted in connection with the contracts to establish a radar set-up in Canberra or whether money was poured down the drain in the laying of coaxial cables. Nobody asks whether the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is justified in expending money on 20 new television stations in the fourth phase of television. We go on with heavy expenditure of this kind. I suppose these things eventually get to the Public Accounts Committee or somebody else but we never hear them discussed in the Parliament. Yet there could bc £140 million of the income of £150 million 1 have mentioned that never has a tooth comb put through it. All we seem to be interested in on both sides of this chamber and in the other place is whether the additional charge to pensioners for telephones is justified. If the Government had a thorough look at these matters possibly it would find that £25 million or £30 million was going down the drain every year. If we examined Post Office finances, we might find that the proposed additional charges are completely unnecessary. I do not want to criticise the Post Office which is a wonderful institution and does marvellous work. It has contracts with the Army and the Navy and every one around the place. But 1 imagine that if expenditure had to be pruned, there could De pruning in some branches of Post Office activity so that the pensioner would not suffer from increased charges and could have a telephone. More often than not, a telephone is a life line for a pensioner. In this modern world, it is very necessary that pensioners should have a telephone. Most applications for a telephone which are referred to me come from persons who are sick or away from the family. They are in the sort of position that has developed out of our new mode of life in which the old people leave their families to live by themselves and yet should not be isolated. This Government is isolating them, in effect, by heavy impositions such as the increased charges for telephones. There is more I could say on these matters but I have no intention of delaying the Senate. I ask honorable senators to support the amendment.
– I rise to support the Bill. In doing so, I would like, first of all, to answer a few of the questions raised by Senator Ormonde on behalf of the Opposition. In the latter part of his address, Senator Ormonde stated that people who wished to have coloured telephones would have to pay extra for them and that the charges are enumerated in the Bill. I gathered it was the intention of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme) to cut out the extra charges now payable by people who require a coloured telephone. To make the position clear I refer to the second reading speech of the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) in which he stated -
For new telephone services and new extension services, coloured instruments have been available nl a “ once only “ of £2 or £3, depending on the type of telephone; this charge will be removed, giving all new subscribers the widest possible choice of a modern instrument without any extra charge. 1 invite the next speaker on behalf of the
Opposition to tell me from where the Opposition gets the information on which it bases its claim that increased rates for coloured telephones are included in this Bill.
Senator Ormonde also has said that it cost roughly £570 to connect a new subscriber to the telephone network in Australia. He has discussed certain rates of charges. The position is that in country areas where there are up to 2,000 subscribers, who will be able to talk over a telephone at a public rate of 4d., the rental charge will be £8 a year. Where the rental applies to areas which have over 2.000 subscribers - and capital cities and Newcastle are not included in this category - the annual rental will be £12 a year. In capital cities and Newcastle, the annual rental will be £20 a year. Senator Ormonde asked why a person living in a capital city should have to pay £20 a year for telephone rental while a person living in a country area should have to pay a rental fee of only £8 a year. I. in turn ask the honorable senator to remember that a person living in Sydney or Melbourne, or any other capital city, can ring up, from his home, more than 100,000 subscribers and talk to any one of them for as long as he likes for a cost of 4d. per call. No additional charge is imposed for the length of the call. Yet, if you lived at Marble Bar where there are probably only four or five subscribers and you wished to talk to Port Hedland, the cost of the call would be, not 4d. but probably in the vicinity of 4s. for the first three minutes. For each extension of three minutes that you wanted, you would have to pay an extra 4s. Therefore, I believe that the Postmaster-General is right when he distinguishes between people living in different parts of Australia. I think the honorable senator will agree with this action.
Senator Ormonde, early in his speech, referred to the magnitude of the Post Office as a business undertaking. The Post Office is probably the biggest single business in Australia. At present, it has fixed assets of some £600 million. Its annual revenue is in the vicinity of £160 million. The capital expenditure of the Post Office is going up year by year. Last year, capital works cost the Post Office £68.5 million. It is estimated in the 1964-65 Budget that some £77 million will bc spent on capital works, which represents an increase of £8.5 million, or some 12 per cent., on the expenditure in the preceding year. Of that amount, £70 million will be devoted to the telephone network in Australia. That amount is made up of £40 million for materials, £24 million for labour, and £6 million for land and buildings. It is estimated that this year some 1 15,000 new subscribers will be connected and approximately another 80,000 services which were disconnected after cancellation will be reconnected in the ensuing twelve months. A further 115.000 services which were relinquished will be re-allocated before disconnection. These figures give a total record figure of 310,000 applications which will be satisfied during the ensuing twelve months.
It is estimated that, by 1965, Australia will have some two million telephone subscribers. We can bc proud of our record or having 24 telephones for every 100 people. In this regard, we are running fifth in the world. Of the £40 million allocated for materials, £30 million will be spent in Australia, lt is interesting to note that, some 25 years ago, practically 95 per cent, of the materials purchased for our Post Office were imported. It is also interesting to note that the Post Office today provides employment for a great number of people who work in private factories which supply equipment to the Department. I think some 1 2,000 or 1 5,000 people are fully employed in this way.
I come now to the reasons for the alterations in postal charges for the next twelve months. In his second reading speech, the Minister said that the Post Office has been losing at the rate of approximately £5 million over the last three years on its telephone services. He said that the recent increase in the basic wage will add approximately £7 million to the costs of the Department in the next 12 months. So the Government decided to increase the telephone rental charge. This has not been increased since 1959.
Over the years the Government has been looking at the capital structure of the Post Office. Following the advice of the Public
Accounts Committee in 1953 and the recommendation of a special committee which was set up in 1960 to inquire into public utilities and Post Office charges, and the question of whether interest should be charged on capital, the Government felt that it should receive some reimbursement for capital expenditure in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department so it decided to charge the Department interest on capital advanced. This amount must be found. In addition, owing to increased costs over the past few years, particularly in the price of various materials such as copper, lead, zinc and tin which the Post Office uses extensively, the Post Office, to meet the levy imposed upon it, was compelled to increase certain charges.
We ask: “ Why did the Government decide to increase the telephone rental instead of the cost of a telephone call? “ 1 believe that the Government decided to increase the rental rather than the cost of a call because by increasing the cost of a call you have no criterion for assessing whether you will receive the increased return that you require. People might not use the telephone as extensively as they had done. But the Government believed that very few people would want to have their telephone disconnected. In any case, in view of the large number of people in Australia who have been waiting for lengthy periods to have telephones installed, the Government believes that it will be assured of the return that it requires.
This debate also covers the proposed increase in the television licence fee. Senator Ormonde, who led in the debate for the Opposition, believes that the Government is sponsoring big business by removing the excise duty on cathode ray tubes, commonly known as picture tubes, and by increasing the licence fee from £5 to £6. I understand that the Government has decided to do this because of the serious difficulties involved, administratively and legally, in collecting the £6 excise duty from the purchasers of the tubes. In addition, the Government believes that it will receive almost the same return by increasing the licence fee.
Very shortly we hope to be able to extend television coverage to approximately 90 per cent, of our population. At present about 60 per cent, or 70 per cent, of our people can view television programmes. The Government has already received a good return from the £6 excise duty on picture tubes. A television picture tube lasts between I year and 25 years. I see Senator Ormonde shaking his head at that remark, but the other day I was told by an expert who came to my place in Perth to repair my set that he had had a television receiver in London for 15 years and that the set had never required a new picture tube. So it would seem that these tubes can have a long life. In addition, they can be insured. I do not believe that the Government will lose any revenue by increasing the licence fee by £1 and foregoing the present excise duty. We must remember that a large number of people, particularly those living in the cities, have already purchased their television sets. They will be required now to pay an additional £1 licence fee but, when they purchase a new set, they will not be required to pay £6 excise duty to the retailer.
Looking at the manufacturing side and the way in which the excise duty is imposed and collected, we find that not only is the £6 added to the cost of the set but the retailer also adds his profit margin to that £6. The purchaser pays up to £12 or £15 to cover the excise duty, although the Government collects only £6. I believe that this proposal will not help the rich. I believe that it wm help the poor.
I regret that I must oppose the amendment proposed by Senator Ormonde on behalf of the Opposition. I advise all honorable senators on my side of the Chamber’ to reject it and to support the Government’s proposal.
– Senator Ormonde covered fully the details of the increased charges and rental that the Government will unjustly inflict upon the population of the Commonwealth on 1st October. Senator Scott also covered the ground but kept very well wide of the real cause of the proposed large increase. He referred to some increase in capital expenditure this year. From my knowledge of the Post Office, I understand that at the commencement of the financial year there were works in progress which will cost £5 million to complete, and that works will be commenced which will cost another £6 million, making a total capital outlay for this financial year of £11 million. But Senator Scott did not tell us where the money will come from. It will come from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The Treasury will make £11 million available from the Consolidated Revenue Fund to the Postmaster-General’s Department. The Consolidated Revenue Fund is comprised of direct and indirect taxes paid by the people. The money is made available by the Treasury to the Post Office so that it can carry out its capital works. The Post Office has to pay interest on the money.
Let us analyse that position. The people pay taxes and the money goes into the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The Government authorises so much of the taxpayers’ money to be taken out of that Fund and made available to the Post Office so that it can carry out its capital works. The people are asked to pay interest on the money that is provided to the Post Office for capital works. The increased charges envisaged in the Bill would nol be necessary if the Post Office was not charged interest on the money that is made available to it. A ridiculous basis is reached when one examines this situation. 1 am not going to deal with this measure at length. As I. mentioned before, Senator Ormonde dealt with the details of the increased charges- I propose only to outline, as clearly as I possibly can for the benefit of the people of the Commonwealth, the Government’s financial philosophy in respect of the Post Office. I cannot think of anything more idiotic than the Government’s action in inflicting high interest charges upon the Post Office. I shall refer to the annual report of the Postmaster-General for the year ended 30th June 1963, so that honorable senators will be able to see for themselves exactly what this financial situation is. At page 29, under the heading “ Interest “ the report states -
The total interest charge in 1962-63 on the funds provided by the Treasury was £22,698,995 - an increase of £2,613,409 over 1961-62. An important change made was the capitalising of interest on funds used for major works in progress. As the Post Office is a constructing authority with a large volume of major works under construction at all times, it was decided that the amount of interest accruing on funds invested in such works should be charged to asset accounts instead of the profit and loss account as previously. The amount so charged in 1962-63 was £1,520,688.
In consequence, the amount included in the profit and loss account for interest charges was reduced to £21,178,307, an increase of £1,092,721 on the previous year. mie value of construction in progress, £35,978,849 at the 30th June 1963, is such a significant figure that it is now shown separately in the balance sheet.
One can see the real reason why Post Office charges are to be increased by the Government on this occasion. The significant amount of £35,978,849 was provided for capital expenditure in the financial year ended 30th June 1963. That amount could not be allowed to be balanced, as it were, with the ordinary Post Office charges for that year.
I shall give Senator Scott a little more information about the Government’s philosophy in respect of the Post Office because that is the real reason for the increased charges. I think I have already satisfied him on this point, but if I have not, I. hope I will have satisfied him by the time I have concluded my remarks. I refer to page 18 of the annual report, to which I have referred, under the heading “ Financial Results “, where it is stated -
The financial result of Post Office operations for the year was a loss of £762,981, compared with a loss of £1,961,718 for the previous year. Before interest was taken into account, there was a surplus of £20,415,326, which represented a return of 4.05 per cent, on the average funds provided by the Treasury. After bringing interest to account, the result for each trading activity was -
If the Government wants to overcome the difficulty with the Post Office, why does it practise extortion on the people of Australia? I want to state this matter in simple terms for the benefit of the people outside so that they will see the Government’s policy in regard to the Post Office. The people pay direct and indirect taxes which are paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The taxes consist of sales tax, excise duty, customs duty, income tax, payroll tax and all the other taxes. Money is taken from that Fund by the Government and made available to the Post Office for expenditure upon capital works, equipment and the like.
The Post Office is charged interest on the money. As a result, at the present time the Post Office is faced with an increasing interest bill.
Senator Scott stressed that no major changes in Post Office charges have been made by the Government since 1959. I ask: When is it proposed to introduce major changes again, because the changes that are proposed in this Bill may have to tide the Government over for a period of five or six years? I know that it is not popular for any government to be continually increasing postage rates, telephone charges, telephone rentals and the like. I pity the poor people who will have to pay these increased charges. As I said before, I cannot think of anything more idiotic than the Government’s financial philosophy in respect of the Post Office.
– I listened with a great deal of interest to the speeches that have been delivered on the bill, particularly that which was made by Senator Ormonde, who led for the Opposition. I think it is fair to say that had a strange figure from Mars landed in this chamber when Senator Ormonde was speaking he might well have drawn the conclusion that the Government found great joy and comfort from increasing charges. I think that on reflection the honorable senator will agree that governments do not stay in office for 15 years plus by inflicting unnecessary and unjustifiable charges on the people whom they represent. I should like to assure honorable senators opposite that this Government derives no pleasure whatsoever from increasing charges or taxes in any form, but any government which does not face up to the realities and which hesitates, as a matter of expediency, to make unpopular decisions is not worthy of the name of a responsible government. In that field, this Government has never been found wanting. We have always been prepared to make decisions that we think should be made in the interests of the nation, regardless of the immediate reactions.
Speaking now in a more conciliatory tone I should like the honorable senator to know that I have made some inquiries concerning his criticism on the non-appearance of the 1963-64 report of the Post Office. The report is in the hands of the AuditorGeneral and, because of the magnitude of the work involved, it cannot be produced as the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme) would like it to be produced. I can assure the honorable senator that there is no undue delay. He went on to say that the new tariffs were a new and more vicious form of taxation. It is a rather odd form of taxation, when one analyses the relevant figures. The honorable senator was referring, in the main, to telephone rentals when he made his point. When it is considered that revenue from a residental service is £25 per annum and the cost to the Government is £57 per annum, it can be seen to be an odd form of taxation. Revenue from business premises is £78 per annum, and this service likewise costs £57 per annum. How can the Government be charged with inflicting a new form of taxation when it is providing a residential service which, with these increased tariffs, will return £25 per annum for a cost of £57 per annum? Surely it is a bit illogical to argue that these increased charges represent a new form of taxation. If the honorable senator thinks that the new tariffs are vicious and unnecessary, I ask him to spend a little time making comparisons with the rates for equivalent services in other free countries of the world. If he does that, he will realise that even with these new rates Australian tariffs are most attractive by world standards.
The honorable senator has made some play of the fact that under the system adopted by the Government some few years ago interest has been charged to Post Office accounts. This is merely a matter of ideology. It can be argued for; it can bc argued against. I do not contest that at all. This Governemnt says that the people who use the service should pay for it. It is just as simple as that. Taking the argument of the Opposition to its logical conclusion, one could say that the people should be taxed to provide a free telephone service and a free mail service. It is just as logical for the Opposition to argue that as it is to argue that there is no valid reason for the charging of interest on Post Office accounts.
The Opposition talks about Consolidated Revenue, but honorable senators opposite know as well as I do that the Government can only take out of Consolidated Revenue what is put into it. If, for argument’s sake, the Treasury did not receive from the Postmaster-General’s Department £24 million by way of interest for the past 12 months, the Government would have to impose taxation in other fields to replace that £24 million.
Do honorable senators opposite argue that the person who has no telephone should bc called upon to pay increased taxes to provide me with a telephone service, or to provide honorable senators opposite with a telephone service, or to provide General Motors-Holden’s Pty. Ltd. - the company of which honorable senators opposite are sometimes critical when they talk about big business - with a telephone service? All this debate and argument about the charging of interest relate to a matter of political ideology. The people of Australia know where we stand in this field. We say categorically that we believe that the people who use the service should pay for it. I was rather interested in Senator Ormonde’s claim that the £570 cost of installation of a telephone service was somewhat hard to accept. In a rather cynical and humorous vein he said that some three years ago he had a telephone service connected, which took some two and a half minutes.
– That is right.
– I am not contesting that at all. I take what he said in the same spirit as I hope he takes what I have to say. Surely the honorable senator was not serious. If that is his contention, he is hardly well equipped to be critical of big business or business methods. Had he stopped to think for just one moment, he would have realised that the mere connecting of a telephone service is a drop in the ocean of costs involved in providing the service - the laying of the cables, the switching equipment, the trunk line equipment and, above all, the salaries and wages, of which 1 am not critical and I hope he is not critical. I remind him that the basic wage increase accounts for some £7 million of the additional revenue that the PostmasterGeneral intends to collect under the new tariffs. I suggest that the people who challenge the average connection cost of £570 should do a little research. I am quite sure that officers of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department will be very happy to supply minute details of the components of that figure. Responsible public servants do not just pluck figures out of the air. They have to be in a position to substantiate and support all their claims.
There was some cynicism concerning coloured telephones. The Government is deleting the £2 charge that has been payable by a new subscriber for a coloured handset. Subscribers will have absolute freedom of choice of black or the other five colours. There will be a charge for changing a black handset to a coloured handset. Conversely, a person who has a coloured handset and wants to go back to a black handset will pay an extra charge of £4. One cannot quibble at that charge of £4, because the cost of transport and the services of a skilled technician is involved. Is anyone suggesting that the Postmaster-General’s Department or the taxpayer should provide a free or cheap service to people who may, for mere fancy, want to change the colour of their telephones every second day of the week? I suggest that £4 is a nominal charge and that no-one can really quibble at it.
There has been some criticism of the removal of duty from television receiver tubes. In my second reading speech I expressed the hope that the manufacturer would relieve the purchaser of an equivalent amount. Senator Ormonde suggested that that was a pious hope, that it was quite unrealistic. 1 should like htm to know that I have seen an advertisement by one of the biggest manufacturers of television sets indicating that that firm would be reducing its prices by £6. As Senator Scott so ably pointed out, the Government has concluded that by increasing the cost of a viewer’s licence by £1 a much better equity will be provided for all concerned.
There has been some criticism of the reduction of 30 per cent, in charges for the householder delivery service. One just cannot win, Mr. President. In one breath we are criticised for increasing tariffs and charges and in the very next breath we are criticised for reducing others, the suggestion being that there is some sinister motive behind the reduction and that it is in the interests of big business. It is nothing of the sort. The Postmaster-General’s Department has noticed a rather serious falling off of this type of business. Today a lot of give away newspapers are thrown into back yards and front yards. For years the householder delivery service has been one of the means by which the Department has obtained revenue, but now it is losing that business. What would the honorable senator do if he were interested in protecting the revenue of an organisation to which he belonged? He would meet the challenge. That is exactly what the Postmaster-General is doing. He is reducing his charges by 30 per cent, and he believes that by doing so he can retain present business and recapture that which has been lost.
Businessmen all come back to the view that the service provided by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department offers the best medium of advertising. We suggest that the reduction of 30 per cent, will attract back to this field those who concede the value of the Department’s service. Cost is a vital factor when businessmen decide what medium they will adopt. I suggest that the reduction of 30 per cent, announced by the Postmaster-General indicates that he is a businessman and that he has made his decision only after a great deal of examination and consideration of all the factors involved. There has been no thoughtlessness in deciding to increase certain of the tariffs. The Department and the Postmaster-General have examined systems here and elsewhere throughout the world to make quite sure that what we propose to the Senate today is fair, just and equitable.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Ormonde’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I want to obtain a little information from the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) who represents the PostmasterGeneral. Reference is made in the second reading speech to increased charges for telephone services. 1 want to bring to the Minister’s notice the increased charges that will apply to a broadcasting station. The particular station to which I refer has three land lines to the exchange and the annual charge for each line has been increased from £3 14s. to £15. The station also has a land line to the sportsground, for which the annual charge has been increased from £4 12s. to £15 5s. For two further land lines to the exchange the annual charges have been increased from £3 14s. to £15.
The annual charge for a land line from the broadcasting studio to the town hall has been increased from £4 10s. to £15, while the annual charge for a programme line which runs from the broadcasting studio to the transmitter has been increased from £30 12s. to £35 5s. I would like the Minister to tell me the reason for the increased charges. They are not referred to in the second reading speech.I would also like to know in how many other instances increased charges apply.
. I assure the honorable senator that in spite of charges which are sometimes laid against us by Opposition members, we have no special preference for television stations or newspapers. They receive exactly the same treatment from us as does every other section of the business community. I am sorry that I cannot be more explicit, but I think that a case of the isolated nature raised in this instance might be taken to the Postmaster-General. I could do so on the honorable senator’s behalf, if he wishes.
– Does this apply to all radio stations?
.- From time to time we hear criticism of increases in the cost of Jiving. The Bill before us relates to an instance where charges for essential services are being increased. Could the Minister inform us whether an assessment has been made of the relationship between increases in the basic wage since 1 949 and increases in postal charges? It seems to me that now is an appropriate time to check whether there is a direct relativity between increases in wages granted by the somewhat arbtirary decisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and consequent increases in such charges as those for postal services. I am not sure whether it was in the Minister’s second reading speech or in the Treasurer’s Budget Speech that reference was made to the proportion of the increased costs of the Post Office caused by this year’s increased wage costs. It occurred to me that the Minister may be able to inform the Senate on this matter, which has exercised my mind, concerning the degree to which increased wage costs have been reflected in increased charges for telephone and postal services.
– I should like to obtain some further information from the Minister. In the Auditor-General’s report reference is made to outstanding accounts. The report states that 190,472 telephone connections were terminated in 1963. Looking further along (he column in which that figure is included, one sees that an amount of £.1,100,292 is owed to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. Can the Minister inform the Senate of the action taken by the Department to collect the money owing to it? Before us is legislation to increase the charges for telephone services so that extra revenue may be raised. Yet year by year the sum owed to the Postmaster-General’s Department increases. In 1961 the Post Office was owed about £651.000 by people whose telephone services had been terminated. This sum has gradually increased until the Department is now owed over £1,100,000. I would be very pleased to hear the Minister explain what action is taken to recover the money outstanding.
– The increases of wages is used by Government supporters as the reason for increased telephone and postal rates. At the same time, the Government is able to give to users of the householder service and bulk and prepaid postage services, a rebate of 30 per cent. The householder service constitutes an invasion of privacy of the home. Its users do not even have to know the names of householders in order to send out their material. It is a complete invasion of the privacy of the home. A study of the amendment to the Second Schedule shows that the charge for every word over 12 words in a telegram is increased by 100 per cent. Previously each word over 12 words cost 3d., but now a charge of 6d. is to apply to each two words or part thereof, the charge for 1 3 or 14 words in a telegram is 3s. 6d., so that for the use of one word over 12 words there is an increased charge of 100 per cent. I should be very pleased if the Minister would explain why a privileged section of the community which invades the privacy of the home is entitled to a rebate of 30 per cent., while people who send telegrams are subjected to an increased charge of 100 per cent.
– Senator Wright has raised the interesting point of a comparison between basic wage increases and increases in telephone and postal costs in the period from 1949 to 1964. I shall refer very briefly back to 1939, in order to give an even better coverage. The figures revealed are most interesting. In 1939 the weekly basic wage of 79s. paid for the postage of 474 letters at 2d. each. In 1959 the weekly basic wage of 276s. paid for the postage of 662 letters at 5d. each. In 1964 the weekly basic wage of 308s. paid for the postage of 739 letters at 5d. each. In 1939 the basic wage paid for 758 telephone calls; in 1959 for 828 calls, and in 1964 for 924 calls. This analysis shows that the PostmasterGeneral, whether consciously or unconsciously, has established a very favorable comparison between increased telephone and postal charges and basic wage increases since 1939.
asked a question about outstanding accounts. I suggest with great respect that this is a subject he might pursue more adequately when the estimates for the Postmaster-General’s Department are being discussed in the Senate. However, I should like him to know that the Public Accounts Committee will be inquiring into this matter at its October hearing. The honorable senator asked, in general terms, what policy the PostmasterGeneral’s Department pursues in collecting outstanding accounts. I have no personal knowledge of the matter but I do know that if a person’s telephone account remains unpaid he loses his service. The Department does not make a harsh approach to this problem but it certainly makes a determined one. The stage is reached where the Department terminates the service and, of course, a reconnection fee is charged if the subscriber wishes to have the service reconnected.
– Surely the Department could take legal proceedings to collect an outstanding account.
– The PostmasterGeneral’s Department should have had the experience the Minister and I had on municipal councils in collecting dues for sanitary services.
– I suggest that possibly telephone accounts are harder to collect than were accounts during our lime on municipal councils. I assure the honorable senator that the Postmaster-General’s Department is very much alive to its responsibility. In the policy adopted it demonstrates that it has a soul, but at the same time it makes an overriding business approach to the problem.
Someone said today - and the statement has not been challenged - that the Post Office is the biggest commercial undertaking in Australia. The outstanding debts of the Department might be quite insignificant when compared with the outstanding debts of some lesser business undertakings. However, I hasten to assure the Senate that it is the objective of the Department to have no outstanding accounts. Without being harsh the Department is determined to collect outstanding amounts, and I think it is adopting a very wise approach to the problem. I am not familiar with the details of the policy pursued, but I know that in most cases it is effective. Senator Cant had some criticism to offer because the Department was reducing the cost of the householder delivery service by 30 per cent. I have nothing further to add to what I said a little earlier, namely, that the Post Office has been losing a certain amount of revenue to other competitors and is determined to try to recoup that revenue. This is one method that it is adopting.
– Is it not a fact that the figures which the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) just quoted demonstrate conclusively that the productivity per head of postal employees has increased markedly over the years from 1939 to 1959 and up to 1964? In view of that, when are steps to be taken to see that the employees of the Postmaster-General’s Department receive a fair reward for this increase in productivity?
– The figures that I revealed to the Committee indicate that there has been a great increase since 1939 in the productivity of the employees, of the management, and, what is even more important, of Government administration.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wade) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 24th September (vide page 709), on motion by Senator Wade -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Senate adjourned at 4.22 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 29 September 1964, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1964/19640929_senate_25_s26/>.