House of Representatives
14 August 1902

1st Parliament · 1st Session



Mr. Speaker. took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.

page 15107

QUESTION

CUSTOMS DUTIES

Mr McDONALD:
KENNEDY, QUEENSLAND

-I desire to ask the

Minister for Trade and Customs whether the alterations which have been made in the Customs Tariff will come into operation at once?

Mr KINGSTON:
Minister for Trade and Customs · SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · Protectionist

– To-day,I think.

page 15107

QUESTION

STATE IRON WORKS

Mr THOMAS:
BARRIER, NEW SOUTH WALES

– I rise to askthe Minister for Trade and Customs whether he has noticed, from the telegrams in the press today, that Sir John See has stated that he will shortly give the. Legislative Assembly of New South Wales an opportunity of discussing the desirability of establishing State ironworks?

Mr KINGSTON:
Protectionist

– No; I had not time to read the whole of the news this morning

page 15107

QUESTION

PUBLIC WORKS

Mr WATSON:
BLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES

– I desire to ask the Treasurer whether he is able to give any information as to what course the Government are taking with respect to the works proposed to be constructed out of loan account 1 If their construction is being held in abeyance pending a decision on the Loan Bill, when do the Government expect to be able to bring the questionbefore the House with a view to a definite conclusion being arrived at? I also wish to know whether any works which were authorized on the Estimates to be built out of revenue are being held over pending the decision of Parliament as to the Loan Bill ?

Sir GEORGE TURNER:
Treasurer · BALACLAVA, VICTORIA · Protectionist

– Certain works were authorized to be constructed out of revenue ;but the authorization ceased on 30th June last, and the money will have to be re-voted this year. With regard to ordinary loan works, Iam simply paying out of the Treasurer’s advance for those which are absolutely necessary until the House has an opportunity of deciding whether it will authorize the floating of a loan. It will not be in a position to decide until I make a financial statement, and show how the works which we propose to build out of loan account will affect the revenue of the various States. I have not yet received the estimates: from all the States, but I hope in the early part of September to be able to make a financial statement, and the House can then deal with the question of constructing new works out of loan account or revenue- whichever course the state of the finances may then appear to render expedient.

Mr Watson:

– Is it a fact that the Estimates will not be ready till the third week in September as stated inthe press yesterday ?

Sir GEORGE TURNER:

– I do notthink it will be so late as the third week in September. I hope they will be ready early in themonth. I had hoped to deliver the Budget speech in the middle of this month So far as the Treasury Estimates are con cerned, I am now prepared to deliver the Budget speech, but there is some difficulty in getting the estimates of expenditure from the various States, and after their receipt from the departments Ihave to take a hand in them, and that takes a little time.

page 15108

QUESTION

PAYMENT OF WAGES

Mr BROWN:
CANOBOLAS, NEW SOUTH WALES

– I wish to ask the Treasurer whether he is aware that men who have been employed by the Postal department in constructing telephonic lines have been kept out of their money for a considerable time? It is alleged that the delay has occurred in his department, and I desire to know if he will take steps to expedite the payments?

Sir GEORGE TURNER:
Protectionist

– I know of no delay in the Treasury department. Although I may refuse to provide money for material to a large extent, I always find money for wages immediately it is asked for. If my honorable friend will tell me of any specific cases I shall take good care that the difficulty is remedied.

Mr Brown:

– What about contracts for the construction of telephonic lines?

Sir GEORGE TURNER:

– I have had no such cases brought before me. The only cases I know of occurred in Queensland, where the constable was overrun to the amount of £15,000. I provided that money early in July, immediately after I got the Treasurer’s advance. I know of no cases in New’ South Wales, and I can only ask my honorable friend to mention to me any specific cases of which he is aware.

page 15108

QUESTION

PRIVATE MEMBERS’ BUSINESS

Mr HENRY WILLIS:
ROBERTSON, NEW SOUTH WALES

– I wish to ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he will set apart a day towards the close of the session for the resumption of the debate on the motion of the honorable member for Coolgardie, respecting the ill-treatment of the aborigines of Western Australia?

Mr DEAKIN:
Attorney-General · BALLAARAT, VICTORIA · Protectionist

– I cannot make any promise of that kind at this stage ; but fully admit the importance of the question, and the necessity of dealing with it. A chance for discussing it may offer, but if it does not we shall not be prevented from entertaining any representations which may be made to us on the subject.

Mr POYNTON:
SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

– Has the Acting Prime Minister considered the advisability of setting apart a day for the consideration of my motion, which is a very important one, relative to the general elections of members of this House and the Senate being held on the same date ?

Mr DEAKIN:
BALLAARAT, VICTORIA · PROT; LP from 1910

– I do not know that it will be necessary to discuss that motion much, or at all. It is a matter of administration which will be fully under the control of the House next year, on which I think the honorable member will have a very considerable body of support.

TRUMPETER ANDERSON.

Mr WILKINSON:
MORETON, QUEENSLAND

asked the Acting

Minister for Defence, upon notice -

  1. Has any inquiry been made into the circumstances surrounding the death, on the 9th June last, of Trooper John Anderson, of Silkstone, Ipswich, Queensland, through poisoning by eating tinned fish purchased from the canteen on board the transport ship Custodian, and if not,wny not?
  2. Is the Minister aware that several similar cases (one fatal) of poisoning occurred on the troopship returning withthe Fifth and Sixth Queensland Contingentsfrom South Africa ?
  3. Has any inquiry been made as to how the poisonous foodwas obtained, by whom it was Supplied,and whether that supplied as rations or obtainedby purchase on board these ships was subject to any inspection ?
  4. Does the Minister intend to take steps to punish those responsible for supplying such unwholesome food to men going to or returning from serving the Empire on the battle-fields of South Africa ?
  5. Is the Minister aware that, though Trooper John Anderson died on the 9th June, and the ship arrived at Capetown on the loth June, no official intimation of his decease had reached his parents up to the 2nd July, and will he explain why and now this delay was occasioned ?
  6. Has the property left by Trooper Anderson been returned to his parents ? If not, will the Minister cause inquiries to be made as to its disposition, with a view to its return?
Sir WILLIAM LYNE:
Minister for Home Affairs · HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES · Protectionist

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. Trumpeter John Anderson died at sea on 9th Junelast, on board the transport Custodian en route to South Africa, the medical certificate showing cause of death as fish-poisoning. No inquiry was held, the medical officer’s certificate of cause of death being deemed sufficient.
  2. There is no record as to death of any member of Fifth or Sixth Queensland Contingents from similar causes.
  3. It is stated that inquiry was -mode showing that the food (tinned fish) was ship’s stores purchased by deceased from the purser. All rations prior to issue were inspected daily.
  4. This a matter in the hands of the Imperial authorities in South Africa, to whom representations will be made.
  5. Thefirst intimation of death of Trumpeter Anderson was received by the Commandant, Commonwealth Forces of Queensland, on 1st July, and on same day particulars of death were wired to parents of deceased. The transport did not call at Capetown, the first port of call being Durban ; date of arrival there 18th June. The death of Trumpeter Anderson was reported to the authorities there immediately on arrival.
  6. As is customary in such cases, the clothing of deceased was sold on board ship, the money realized and cash found in his possession having been remitted by bunk draft to his father on 21st June; his watch and ring being forwarded through the Customs at the same time.

page 15109

QUESTION

VENDING OF STAMPS

Mr POYNTON:

asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General,upon notice -

  1. Whethera regulation has been made restricting the commission payable by the department to licensed sellers of stamps bo £78 a year, or 5s. per day ?
  2. Whether this means that if a licensed seller of stamps buys stamps on any one day which will entitle him to a higher commission than 5s., his commission will be reduced to as., though he or she may have purchased no stamps on the preceding day ?
  3. If this interpretation is correct, what are the reasons for this regulation ?
Sir PHILIP FYSH:
Minister (without portfolio) · TASMANIA, TASMANIA · Free Trade

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. . It has been approved to make a regulation restricting the payment of commission on the sale of postage stamps as indicated.
  2. It means that a licensed vendor of postage stamps will not be allowed commission exceeding 5s. per day throughout the year, and arrangements will be made to adjust the stipulated amount of commission monthly.
  3. The reasons for the regulation are to confine the vending of stamps under licence to the legitimate requirements of the public, and to prevent a division of the commission with large purchasers of stamps, who, it is considered, should purchase directly from the Post-office.

page 15109

QUESTION

CLEARANCE OF SPIRITS

Mr MAUGER:
MELBOURNE PORTS, VICTORIA

asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -

Whether the following statement, appearing in the Age of Tuesday last, is correct, viz. : - “ A law exists - and a very excellent one, too - that no spirits, either manufactured in Victoria or imported from abroad, may go into consumption until they have been six months at least in bond. But the wording is such that spirits distilled in the other States of the Commonwealth cannot be excluded under existing regulations, and can and do come in here bran-new, to the detriment of the public health, and in unjust competition with other spirits which have to bear the expense and loss of six months’ storing before they can be marketed” - and, if so, what steps he proposes taking, in the interest of the public health and of fair play, to apply to distillers in the other States similar regulations to those now applied in Victoria ?

Mr KINGSTON:
Protectionist

– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -

The department is advised that the Victorian legislative prohibition of the issue of permits for the clearance of spirits from distilleries before the spirits are six months old is superseded by the Federal Distillation Act, and consequently Victorian distillers are now being allowed to clear as in other States where no such prohibition exists. The matter will be further considered in connexion with the intended amending Distillation Bill.

page 15109

CUSTOMS TARIFF BILL

Consideration of committee’s report on the requests made by the Senate.

Motion (by Mr. Kingston) proposed -

That the following report be adopted, and the Bill be returned to the Senate accordingly : -

The committee has agreed that the date of any of these amendments shall be the date of its being made in the Bill by the House of Representatives.

The committee has agreed that the amendments requested by the Senate be made in regard to -Requests Nos. 3, 9 (as to part), 17, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24, 27, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 47, 48, 49, 50, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57 (as to part), 65, 68, 69, 70, 71 (as to part), 73, 76, 77, 78, 87, 89 (as to part), 91, 93.

The committee has agreed that the amendments requested by the Senate be made with modifications in regard to -Requests Nos. 6, 9 (as to part), 13, 18, 28, 38, 57 (as to part), 71 (as to part), 75, 79.

The committee has not agreed tomake the remainder of the amendments requested by the Senate.

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN:
Wentworth

– I am sure we are all glad, at any rate so far as this side of the House is concerned, that at last we have reached the end of our labours. We are sorry that more liberal concessions were not made, so that we might have reasonably hoped that when the Bill left this Chamber we had reached absolute finality.

Mr Watson:

– We hope so now.

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN:

– Sanguine as I am in my disposition, I am afraid that it is too much to hope. It is now a question between the Government and their followers and the Senate. Our work is done. We can only look on and wait. No matter what view may be held on this side or on that side, I hope that the final result will be satisfactory to us as a Parliament, even if it is not satisfactory to the country as a whole.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

page 15110

POST AND TELEGRAPH RATES BILL

Second Reading

Sir PHILIP FYSH:
Tasmania · Free Trade

-I move -

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Honorable members will recollect that on a former occasion they assisted me to pass through the House a Bill relating to the administration of the Post and Telegraph department, and the construction and maintenance of telegraphic and telephonic lines. One of the clauses of that Bill provided for the making of regulations by the GovernorGeneral in Council, and the PostmasterGeneral proposed under it to frame a regulation in relation to postal and telegraph rates. The House deemed it desirable, however, that those rates should be embodied in a Bill, with the result that we have before us the measure of which I am now moving the second reading. I regret that there has been apparently so much delay in introducing it. That delay has not been due to any fault on the part of the Government. Theabsolute settlement of certain points of administration relating specially to the carriage of newspapers in New South Wales, and to the cable rates to be charged between the mainland and Tasmania has only just taken place. Although the Government were prepared to proceed with this Bill at an earlier date, those two points necessitated delay. Irrespective of their existence, however, the House, since re-assembling on the 22nd ult., has been fully engaged upon the Tariff. At last we have before us the Bill which I had hoped to introduce very much earlier, but which for the reasons I have stated could not have been brought forward before. I regret further that it has been to some extent delayed because it has kept in existence an incongruity in regard to certain rates, which it is advisable should be removed. We have still in force in the various States differing rates for the carriage of newspapers, under which advantages have possibly been reaped by one class of newspaper proprietors over another. It would have been far better in the interests of the Commonwealth, as a whole, had we been able earlier in our Federation to bring these varying rates into line. Honorable members will recollect that three out of the six States have been carrying newspapers through the post free of charge, and that they are still doing so, while in the remaining three States a charge is and has been made. That state of things must continue until we have passed this Bill, and therefore I venture to disagree with some of the observations which were made on a former occasion by the honorable and learned member for Werriwa, who expressed the hope that this measure would be delayed for some considerable time. I hope we shall find that there are several reasons why no further delay should take place. The Bill itself contains only eight clauses, and with the exception of clause 8, which provides for a new regulation, they are comparatively unimportant. The power to make regulations under the Post and Telegraph Act does not enable the GovernorGeneral in Council to make any arrangements for the limitations and the rates to be prescribed with respect to town and suburban telegrams or letters. It is proposed, therefore, in clause 8, that the Governor-General in Council shall have power by regulation to prescribe the limits within which the rates for town and suburban telegrams and letters shall have effect, and for prescribing charges for the porterage of telegrams. Special necessity for such a regulation arises from the fact that we have not a uniform regulation in existence in the various States. While, for example, we have in five States a suburban or a town rate of 6d. for certain telegraphic messages, and a State rate up to1s., we have in Victoria a uniform rate of 9d., whether in relation to city, suburban, or State messages. Therefore it becomes necessary to make special regulations prescribing the limits within which there shall be varying rates for letters and telegrams. There is a provision in clause 5 in regard to which only a word or two is necessary. It relates to the rates for telegrams and postal matter which have not been exempted by some Act, and it reads as follows : -

Telegrams, letters, and postal articles trans mitted or posted on behalf of the King, the Commonwealth Government, or any State Government shall, unless exempted by some Act, be subject to the postal and telegraphic rates for the time being in force.

Sir John Quick:

– Does the clause refer to a federal Act?

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– Yes. I am reminded by the Attorney-General that under section 38 of the Acts Interpretation Act, an Act passed by the Commonwealth may be referred to by the word “ Act “ alone. We know, therefore, that the provision applies only to that which the Federal Legislature does.

Mr Glynn:

– When it is applied to a State by a federal Act.

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– Yes. The most important features of. this Bill are to be found in the schedules, and I have no doubt that when we reach them we shall come to the more controversial matter. Dealing with the first schedule which relates to newspapers, I am instructed that the present revenue from postage on newspapers in the three States, which do not carry them free of charge, amounts to about £25,000 per annum. There are three States - Tasmania, Western Australia, and New South Wales - which carry all newspapers through the post free of charge. The new rates provided for in the 1st schedule will enable the Postmaster-General to increase his revenue from this source by about £40,000, bringing up his total revenue from newspaper postage to nearly £70,000. I am only giving these figures approximately. Whether the Postmaster-General puts down his total, anticipated increase at £42,000 or £45,000, it is a matter of speculation, and for my purpose I shall allude to the anticipated increase as being about £40,000. That sum is divided in various ways. For example, I find that Queensland, instead of gaining additional revenue on the postage of newspapers, will lose some £2,800 under this arrangement, whilst all the other States, except Victoria, will gain very considerably. I am happy here to notice that Tasmania - which for the purpose of enlightening the public mind and conveying literature into our country homes, so it has been . said, has been carrying newspapers free to the detriment of the service - will now be recouped to the extent of about £10,000. New South Wales will also gain under this schedule to the very large amount of about £27,000.

Mr Batchelor:

– What will South Australia gain?

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– It is estimated that she will gain only a trifle - about £200. Victoria will stand practically in the same position as she was before.

Sir Malcolm McEacharn:

– What will be Queensland’s position ?

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– She will lose about £2,800. This legislation will liberalize postal regulations with respect to the carriage of newspapers in the three States which have hitherto been imposing a charge upon them. The loss occasioned by liberalizing the rates in those three States will be more than made good by the additional revenue collected in the States which have heretofore carried newspapers free.

Mr E SOLOMON:
FREMANTLE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · FT

– How will the schedule affect Western Australia ?

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– Western Australia will come out about £6,700 to the good. I shall have to return presently to the question of newspaper carriage. I see that the honorable member for Macquarie is following me closely, and I shall take care to give him, and those who think or do not think with him, all the information they desire, remembering that on a previous occasion questions were asked which I was unable to answer so satisfactorily as I hope to be in a position now to do. If I forget to return to this subject, no doubt the honorable member for Macquarie will refresh my memory. I desire to pass on to the 2nd schedule which deals with ordinary telegrams, and introduces a new system and a new tariff with respect to telegrams of a private or business nature and press messages. Under the 2nd schedule the Government desire to give an enormous benefit to the people of the Federation as a whole. I think I may allude to it as a considerable, if not an enormous, benefit, for whereas there has been a charge of 3s. or 4s. each for messages between Western Australia and Queensland - the western and the north-eastern boundaries of Australia - which have to be transmitted through five States, this Bill provides for a Commonwealth rate of 1s. for all messages consisting of a certain number of words that are sent to any part of the Commonwealth. This, I hope, will be regarded as a great boon. It will, however, lead to a loss in the telegraphic revenue equivalent to that which the PostmasterGeneral hopes to gain in his postal revenue. I desire honorable members when dealing with these rates, to remember that the Commonwealth is not in a position to give up £40,000 worth of revenue now collected upon telegrams unless it can in some way be recouped for that loss of revenue. We therefore propose to set against this reduced revenue from the Telegraphic department the profit we hope to realize upon the carriage of newspapers. With respect to these two points, I should like, first of all in connexion with the charge for the carriage of newspapers, to refer to a question asked a few evenings ago by the honorable member for Macquarie. That question had special relation to the position of newspaper proprietors in New South Wales. They have had an advantage over the proprietors of newspapers in some of the other States in that they have been able to send their papers by morning trains at the cost of the Government.

Mr Deakin:

– Of the Post-office.

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– At the cost of the Government while they were States, but at the cost of the Post-office now. Their newspapers have been carried by early trains for which the Post-office has paid.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– Did the honorable gentleman say at the cost of the Post-office now?

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– Yes, because it must be remembered that the Postal department has been taken over by the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth has to pay this sum of£2,500.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– Arethey paying it?

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– No.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– Then it cannot be said to be a charge upon the Postal department.

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– No; but if the systemhad been continued, it would have been a special loss. The Government, however, have deemed it desirable to put a stop to that arrangement for the present, and until Parliament has had an opportunity to deal with the matter. As a result of the action taken, I presume that the newspaper proprietors concerned, or some of them, are up in arms. Because their gains have been to some extent arrested, they feel themselves aggrieved, forgetting that they have had an advantage which the vendors of newspapers in other States have not had. I say advisedly that they have had an advantage which the vendors of newspapers in other States have not had, because although I gave certain information to my honorable friend the honorable member for Macquarie on a previous day, with respect to what I believed had been taking place in Tasmania, I was compelled to give him an answer to the question he put recently upon the motion for the adjournment of the House, which was not as complete as ‘I should have liked to make it, nor was it as fullas the honorable member andthe House were entitled to receive it. But there were extant at that particular time messages from two States, at any rate, and from each of two departments in those States, which, if they were not absolutely conflicting replies, were yet replies which needed further explanation. In the meantime, I have armed myself with further information, so far, atall events, as Tasmania is concerned. While, on the one hand, I have to reply that in Tasmania newspapers had been carried free by the Postal department for a great number of years, and that the Railway department, which was also a Government department, had been carrying free parcels of newspapers sent by the publisher to. the railway office, and delivered by the railway authorities to the publisher’s agent elsewhere, I now find that although the circumstances warranted that reply - a reply which reached me from the Treasurer of Tasmania - there were other circumstances which, perhaps, he had overlooked. Though I had myself been a party to the arrangement made, I had not refreshed my memory with respect to it, and I also had forgotten it for the moment. While our newspapers in Tasmania were being carried free, if delivered at the post-office addressed by the vendor to private individuals, parcels of newspapers sent by publishers to the railway stations were also being carried free, as a matter of compliment, by the railway authorities.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– Were they carried free ? We do not require to know anything about the compliment ; the question is, what was the practice observed ?

Mr Fowler:

– It was a very substantial compliment.

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– They were carried free. I do not know that I should speak of it as extraordinary as far as Tasmania is concerned, that the General Manager of the Railways, knowing that there was free postage of newspapers, accorded to the proprietors of newspapers the privilege of sending their papers in bulk to the railway station, without having previously passed them through the post-office. This has been the condition of things in Tasmania.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– Are newspapers not being carried free on the railways in Tasmania ?

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– Under the same circumstances.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– Have not the Government withdrawn the concession in New South Wales?

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– We have only just had our attention called to the concession given in Tasmania.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– Then the honorable gentleman must know very little about the department.

Mr Deakin:

– The Postmaster-General does not pay for it.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– I understood that the Post-office is paying a lump sum.

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– The honorable member for Macquarie is right and wrong - right in his statement, and wrong in his conclusion. The Tasmanian Government controlling both the Postal and Railway departments, passed no money to the Railway department for the carriage of mail matter, but they did make a cross entry so as to give the Railway department credit for what it claimed to earn, and charged the Postal department with the cost of certain deliveries. The arrangement was that the postal matter should be carried by the Postal department for the lump sum named. Let us draw a distinction, if there be a distinction, and I do not desire to make it too arbitrary : The Government assented to the two departments making .in arrangement under which, by a cross entry, the Railway department debits the Postal department, and the Postal department credits the Railway department for certain services rendered. The Railway General Manager, knowing that newspapers were carried free throughout Tasmania under the Postal regulations, drew no distinction between newspapers addressed by the proprietors to individuals, and the bulk parcels of newspapers which were sent to the railway stations.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– Therefore my contention that they were carried free on the railways of Tasmania was absolutely correct.

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– My telegram tells me that there is no record in the department of any such arrangement. This is the statement made -

The Railway department states that, as newspapers were carried free to country districts, they undertook to do the same on their lines. This office was never referred to in the matter.

The office referred to is the Postal department, and that bears out my statement that the General Manager of the Railways took it upon himself to do this without any reference to the Postal department.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– How long has this been done? Since the Postal Act came into operation in 1881 ?

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– No, because it was only within the past few years that Mr. Back, the General Manager of Railways in Tasmania, on finding that the revenue of bis department was not sufficient to meet the interest charge of 3 or 4 per cent., made the claim that the department should be credited with the cost of all services rendered. This is on the principle upon which we are now acting, that every department should get credit for the services which it renders. Speaking from memory, and I think my recollection is accurate upon the point, that has been the practice within the last ten years.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– He made a claim for it ?

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– He made a claim for credit for services rendered to the Postal department.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– Including the conveyance of newspapers on the railways ?

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– My information is that -

There is no agreement, direct, or’ indirect, or any correspondence upon this matter between this office and the railway.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– That is a very strange thing, when the arrangement has been in force for the last ten years.

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– And so the Tasmanian Treasurer stated in his reply that he understood it was included in the lump sum. I can assure the honorable member for Macquarie that there is no reticence on our part. I am giving the fullest information I can give. I have tried to look to the end of this matter. Mr. Bird did say in his telegram that he thought the total amount paid by one department to the other-

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– Did he say he “ thought “1

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– Well, he said it did embrace the work which the Railway department did for the Postal department, and the carriage of the bulk newspapers from the vendor or publisher to various parts.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– That shows that the Government understood the arrangement.

Mr Deakin:

– No, the Post-office knew nothing of it.

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– I do not desire to make too much or too little of. this matter.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– I only desire that there should be fair treatment all round. It is strange that the concession should be withdrawn in one State and not in another.

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– The facts are before honorable members, and they can judge for themselves. Notwithstanding interruptions I have tried to let honorable members see exactly how the matter stands. When the honorable member talks of dealing with one as we deal with another, he must bear in mind that in several of the States a charge has been made for the carriage of newspapers for years past, and we are only now bringing the equity of the matter into force.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– Under the law the previously existing arrangement should have remained in force until the passing of uniform legislation ; but the Government have withdrawn the privilege previously existing in New South Wales, whilst it has not been withdrawn in Tasmania.

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– The moment it is brought under our observation that such a privilege is in existence there that privilege will be withdrawn. The amount now appearing in the books of the Government of Tasmania to the credit of the Railway department for these services is being paid by the Postal department, and that brings the matter within the ken of the Federal Postmaster-General. He can now deal with it as he has dealt with the system in force in New South Wales. It is within his power to do so, and I have no doubt he will see that a uniform practice will be observed.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– Would the honorable gentleman mind reading the telegram from the Treasurer of Tasmania 1

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– I thought I had done so, but I shall read it for the honorable member. Mr. Bird, the present Treasurer of Tasmania, states, in reply to a telegram sent him -

The Postal department paid railway for all mails carried, including posted newspapers.

Honorable members will mark the expression. That is a complete sentence in reply. He goes on to say -

But parcels of newspapers sent to railway from newspaper offices have hitherto been carried free.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– What does he say further ?

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– He says further -

When postage is charged on newspapers, we will probably charge for carriage of newspaper parcels by railway.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– Showing that the privilege has not been withdrawn in Tasmania, though the Government have withdrawn it in New South Wales. It is all made up. I know all about it.

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– The honorable member ought not to speak in that way. We want to be as open as the day. The House is entitled to know everything, and I am quite sure from my knowledge of my colleagues that they want to be as glass that can be seen through, with respect to everything.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– “ As through a glass darkly!”

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– No; we do not love darkness. But the honorable member for Macquarie must not say that this privilege is being continued by the local Treasurer. The Treasurer of Tasmania is no longer - as I used to be - the Postmaster-General of that State. There is a Commonwealth Deputy Postmaster-General there, acting under the Postmaster-General in Melbourne. Therefore, the privilege to the Tasmanian newspaper proprietor no longer comes from the State ; it is a continuation, tinder circumstances which have only recently been brought to light, of a privilege which the proprietors of newspapers obtained from the manager of’ the Tasmanian railways by reason of the fact that newspapers were being carried free through the post.

Mr Glynn:

– No special subsidy is being paid, I suppose?

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– None.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

-What about Western Australia ?

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– I am informed that the privilege referred to exists in Western Australia, but I have no further information on the subject.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– The same privilege as exists in Tasmania ?

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– It appears so to me.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– That privilege has not been withdrawn, has it 1

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– I am not aware of it.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– It seems strange that it should be withdrawn from New South Wales,’ but not from the other States.

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– When it came to the knowledge of the Government that there was a special payment of £2,500 in New South Wales for a special train service in the morning for the benefit of the newspapers, they determined to stop it.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Will the honorable gentleman explain why the Government discontinued that privilege at once, instead of waiting until this Bill was passed t

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– There was no authority for us to pay £2,500 for the carriage of newspapers in New South Wales ; and I trust that the Commonwealth will regard it as a righteous policy on the part of the Government that, as from time to time it discovers an abnormal condition of things in any State - such idiosyncrasies, for instance, as the carriage of parcels in one State under special circumstances which do not apply in another State - it will effect a remedy at once. The Government are not capable of undertaking Ministerial functions, and are not worthy of their position, if, when they discover such discrepancies and anomalies, they do not do their duty in remedying them.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– They have been a long time in discovering them in some States.

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– So much the better for the honorable member’s clients.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– They discovered them very quickly in the State of New South Wales.

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– The honorable member may take credit to himself that he has been instrumental in bringing into line the people of two States, which together number 350,000 - Tasmania and Western Australia - and who have been enjoying this particular privilege, whilst another State, containing 1,400,000 people, has been enjoying the same privilege for a very long time. The matter is not a very serious one afterall. It practically resolves itself into this - that the proprietors of newspapers in New South Wales have been almost alone in enjoying this privilege for so long a time. Now I come back again to the schedule of the Bill. After having pointed out what are the probable profits and losses, I come to the point as to whether, in connexion with telegrams, we should continue the system of not charging for the words that are used in naming the addressee and the sender. No doubt, honorable members are aware that in the United Kingdom, Canada, and the; United States the words relative to the addressee and the sender are charged for. If they are not charged for in the Commonwealth, it means that the Postoffice sustains - a heavy loss. I am aware that an effort will be made in this Chamber to secure the continuance in Australia of the system of charging only for the number of words used in the body of a telegram, and not charging for the address and the name of the sender. If that effort is successful, it will mean a cost to the Commonwealth of £90,000 per annum.

Sir John Quick:

– The present system has worked very well hitherto.

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– But why, at a cost of £90,000 a year, should the department telegraph for nothing the name and address of the sender and receiver ?

Sir John Quick:

– Because by that means we get more business.

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– No ; the Government are now going to give the public messages for 6d., 9d., and ls. per telegram.

Mr Glynn:

– The honorable gentleman assumes that there will be the same number of words used under any circumstances.

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– You cannot very well assume the same number of words. It is estimated that the average number of words contained in the address and the name of the sender is about seven.

Mr Glynn:

– The £90,000 to which the honorable gentleman has referred assumes that the messages sent under the new system will contain the same number of words in the body of the telegrams.

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– Possibly.

Mr Glynn:

– That is fallacious.

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– .Suppose the public attempt to meet this change in the system by curtailing the number of words contained in the name and address ; we shall then find the difficulty which was discussed at a conference of the PostmastersGeneral a few years since, when they arrived at the conclusion that it was exceedingly unwise to invite the public to curtail the number of words used in the address, or even to ask them to codify the names and addresses. This body of experts, whose special business it was to attend to such matters, gave expression to the opinion that the practice of permitting the public to use as many words as they thought convenient in regard to the names and addresses on their telegrams was so much the better for the receiver, and rendered the carrying out of the duties of the Telegraph department so much the more easy. The proposal of this Bill is to charge the rates set down in schedule 2 with respect to telegrams. It is proposed to charge £d. per word for town and suburban messages. Here the question will arise, so far as Victoria is concerned, whether this State is to come into line with the other five States, all of whom have their town and suburban rates, or whether the other five States are to be drawn into line with the one State of Victoria. I hope that in connexion with a federal proposal like this a federal purpose will be observed .throughout, and that we shall establish uniformity. If so, we shall have to establish this town and suburban rate of £d. per word. The rate for telegraph messages within a State will be $d. per word ; and the rate for all messages sent from one State to another - whether from New South “Wales to Queensland, or from Queensland right through to Western Australia - will be Id. per word. Surely for so great a boon as this some of us ‘ will be quite willing to give up some of our present privileges. It must be borne in mind that under a Federal Bill all the States must be brought into line. The question then arises as to whether one State should give up its privileges, and join the other five, and whether by so joining the other five, the system thus inaugurated will lead to cheaper telegraphy on the whole. I have pointed out that, as a whole, the people of Australia will gain from £40,000 to £45,000 a year by this re-arrangement. When a message contains a fairly large number of words, the sender receives an immense advantage in being charged only %d. for each word for telegrams within a State, whereas at the present moment Id. per word is charged. Certainly, so far as the shorter messages are concerned, the sender will be under a small disadvantage, but in regard to messages containing more than eighteen words, a great advantage lies with the sender. The Stock Exchange of Melbourne, and the Stock Exchanges of Tasmania, have made a special request with respect to charging for telegraphing names and addresses. I have had a conversation with the Postmaster-General on the subject, and have arrived at the conclusion, which I trust the House also will adopt,’ that while in the smaller number of instances a few persons may be disadvantaged to the extent of a few pence per message, yet. a greater number of people throughout the Commonwealth will be immensely advantaged by the reduced rates offered by this schedule. The minimum rates are - town and suburban, 6d. per message ; messages within a State, 9d.j and Commonwealth messages - that is, telegrams from State to State, from the extreme at one end of the continent to the extreme at the other - ls. To my mind there is only one blot upon this Bill, and that is with respect to the position of Tasmania. When the Bill was sent to the Senate it contained a provision that to the charge of Id. a word there should be added the cable charges. I was very much in sympathy, as, I hope, other honorable members were, with the senators who objected to that provision. Any one, on first reading the Bill, must have been startled to find that, while a telegram could be sent from Cape Leuwin, by Cape Howe, to Thursday Island at a minimum charge Of ls., although hundreds of miles had to be traversed over wires in Western Australia and South Australia, the people of Tasmania, on sending a message 180 miles across the Straits, were left out of the Federation, and treated as a separate community. That anomaly arose from circumstances which I shall briefly relate. The Tasmanian cable is owned by the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company, who contracted with the Tasmanian Government to lay the cable on receiving a subsidy of £4,200 a year, in addition , to a guaranteed revenue of £5,600 for services rendered. For many years the .messages passing between Tasmania and the mainland left a large deficiency on the guarantee of £5,600, but the development of the mines on the West Coast, in consequence of the enterprise of the Tasmanian people, and also, of course, the enterprise of the people of the mainland, brought up the revenue, until last year it amounted to nearly £10,000. “Under the contract the Tasmanian Government are entitled, directly the revenue of the company exceeds £5,600, to reduce the present charge of Id. per word, and I do not know why that part of the agreement has not been carried out in the past few years, during which the telegraph company have been receiving more than they agreed to accept, and have been making a considerable profit.

Mr Brown:

– The company exists for the purpose of making a profit.

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– That may be! so ;

I but the present number of messages may be regarded as representing an established business, and there is little doubt that the reduction of the charge from1d. per word to½d. per word will give to the company all the revenue to which they are entitled. When this Bill has passed, the PostmasterGeneral will soon be able to complete an arrangement, already agreed on with the Government of Tasmania, for a reduction of the rate to the extent I have indicated, and will do so without, I believe, creating any important loss. If, however, there should be any immediate loss, it will very soon be compensated for, owing to the supply at the lower rate creating a larger demand. I am very sorry that Tasmania should again find herself handicapped with this responsibility. Many years ago an arrangement was made by the various State Governments to pool the subsidies to the various cables. That, however, was only for a period which expired about two or three years ago ; and Tasmania is now responsible for a subsidy of £4,200 a year, and alsofor a guaranteed revenue of £5,600. I hope that we shall be able to arrange, as between the Tasmanian Government and the Federal Government, for an alteration of the cable rates. If that be so, I shall propose, in committee, to re-insert the words which were eliminated by the Senate, through, I believe, a mistake ; and when that proposal is made we shall know that the charge will most likely be½d. per word, instead of1d. The words to which I have referred were eliminated by the Senate on the representations largely of the senators representing Tasmania, who believed that the Bill lost its federal character by containing such an incongruous element, and urged the desirability of making a uniform charge throughout the Commonwealth. When some objection was raised by the Postmaster-General, the senators for Tasmania undertook that the Government of that State would take the responsibility for the elimination of the words. Circumstances have shown, however, that the Tasmanian Government are not in a position to assume such a responsibility ; and I am sorry tosay that my latest communication from the Treasurer of Tasmania is to the effect that the rate hereafter must be a matter of arrangement, although at the present time he agrees that it should be½d. per word. The result of the conference of Premiers and Postmasters-General, held on 15th and 16th May last, was very unfortunate. At that time a conclusion was arrived at which left the Tasmanian Treasurer in a hopeful state of mind ; but circumstances subsequently arose which showed that the agreement was premature, or, at any rate, was qualified by some of the parties concerned. Sir John See, speaking on the Federal Postal Bill, said -

I think that any loss caused to aState in consequence of the alteration of an agreement in connexion with cable rates should be a federal charge. I think it is absolutely fair that where a State is under an obligation to carry out a contract it is to its advantage, as well us to the advantage of the Commonwealth, that the Federal Government should meet the deficiency. This concerns all the States.

Thereupon the conference unanimously agreed to the following resolution : -

The conference is of opinion that any loss caused to a State through the cancellation or alteration of an agreement in respect of cable rates should be borne by theCommonwealth.

I need not say that in that opinion I thoroughly concur. I am always hopeful that in time we shall become a Federation in reality, when nothing shall remain to indicate that any one State receives differential treatment.

Mr Glynn:

– We cannot expect federation to pay for the disadvantages of geographical position.

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– I do not think that the question of geographical position ought to enter into the discussion. The question is whether we are one people ; if so, there should be one purse.

Mr Glynn:

– There may be one uniform law, but we cannot cancel distance.

Sir PHILIP FYSH:

– I have told the House that in committee I propose to move the re-insertion of the words eliminated by the Senate. I recognise that the Tasmanian cable is under different conditions from those which govern the wires through Western Australia and South Australia. The Tasmanian cable is, so to speak, rented from a company, whereas the wires through Western Australiaand South Australia belong to the State, which has incurred capital outlay on their construction. The interest on that capital is a charge on the people generally; and we must not forget that the loss on the Post and Telegraph department arises largely from the fact that in carrying messages for a minimum charge of1s., nothing is charged for interest on the construction of the wires through the mainland States. That loss is borne by the people generally, whereas in Tasmania the rental is borne only by the people using the cable. There are only one or two further points with which I wish to deal. The cost of press telegrams will, by the Bill, be brought into line, uniform charges being .provided throughout the Commonwealth. In committee, however, it will be my duty to call attention to an incongruity which arises in this part of the Bill by reason of the action of the Senate. The Bill as sent to the other Chamber provided charges within any State, as follows : - 25 words, 6d. ; 50 words, 9d. : 100 words, ls. 6d. ; and every additional 50 words, or portion of 50 words, 9d. That was a sliding scale, advancing by proper degrees ; but, for some reason or other, the Senate thought it advisable to make the charge 6d. for any additional 50 words, or part thereof. The result of the amendment is that the last 50 words are charged only 6d., while intervening 50 words aid charged 9d., and the rates are taken out of line so far as press telegrams from State to State are concerned, the charge in the case of the latter being ls. 6d. for every additional 50 words, or part thereof. In committee I propose to make the charge 9d., as before. I do not think I need keep the House any longer on this measure. I have no doubt that when we get into committee a great number of points will arise, but these I shall not anticipate. I have a mass of papers here, but I think the House will regard what I have said as sufficient for a second-reading speech, further opportunity being afforded in committee for considering details.

Sir JOHN QUICK:
Bendigo

– I think that the honorable member for Tasmania, Sir Philip Fysh, is to be congratulated upon the clear and satisfactory explanation of the Bill with which he has favoured us. Upon an occasion like this, we should not forget the Postmaster-General. Although he is not a member of this House, and we have therefore not been brought into immediate contact with him as we have with other Ministers, we can all bear testimony to the painstaking manner in which he has discharged his duties. There can be no doubt as to the great responsibility attaching to the discharge of those duties, and the immense labour involved in it, especially during the earlier period pf the history of the Commonwealth. The Minister has been called upon to deal with many serious and knotty problems, and to reconcile and harmonize the conflicting interests arid laws of six States, and although there may be in the Bill many provisions in regard to which there will be differences of opinion, I think it must be regarded upon the whole as an honest attempt to promulgate a uniform postal system applicable to the whole of Australia. Our Post and Telegraph department is an institution of great magnitude and importance, and affects the commercial, social, and domestic life of the whole of our people. It must, however, be regarded not merely as a taxing department, but as a department established to render services’ to the public. The public should not expect to receive those services gratuitously, however, but should be prepared to pay reasonably for them. Unfortunately there has been a tendency to look upon the Post-office as an institution which should give almost gratuitous aid to many of the ordinary occupations of life. In my opinion, those who use the Post-office should pay for the services rendered by it. But while we should demand fair and reasonable remuneration for the carriage of mail matter and for the transmission of telegrams and telephone messages, we ought to remember that if the charges imposed are excessive, or are regarded by the public as excessive, there is a danger that the facilities provided by the department will not be as fully used as they should be. Therefore, the great problem with which we have to deal is, how can we secure fair payment for the services rendered by the department, and at the same time provide that the charges imposed shall not be such as will drive away business, and prevent the proper utilization of the facilities offered. Clause 4 sounds the right key note in regarding a postal rate as a fee or charge for the performance of a postal service, and clause 5 gives effect to that principle by providing that all letters, telegrams, and postal articles transmitted through the post on behalf of the King, or of the Government of the Commonwealth or of a State, shall be subject to postal and telegraphic rates. The Postmaster - General is to be heartily congratulated on that provision. The Postal department is held in trust by him for the people of Australia, and for the Governments of the various States of the Union. The States Governments are interested in the revenue earned by the Post-office, and consequently it is only right that they should pay in cash for the services which it renders to them.

We should hail with satisfaction this provision for the abolition of the vicious franking system which has existed in the States for so long. It is a most welcome reform in the interests of the department, and will afford us better means for ascertaining the real value of the department. So long as the franking system remains in force, it will be impossible to know what is the real value of the services rendered by the Postal department. But it is important that we should have that knowledge, for this reason : It is often stated that the postal and telegraphic services are losing concerns, and thatfact has been urged as a reason for reducing salaries, cutting down expenses, and increasing rates. But if we knew exactly what the department earns by the services it renders to Government departments, as well as to private individuals, we should probably find that it is not alosing concern to the extent which it is held to be. I therefore hope that clause 5 will be agreed to as it stands, and that no exceptions from the operation of its provisions will be allowed. Every particle of mail matter conveyed through the post, and every message transmitted by telegraph or telephone, should be paid for in cash or stamps. That arrangement will place this great revenue-earning and service-rendering department upon a sound financial basis, and enable us to deal with it hereafter with a full knowledge of its utility and its cost. In conformity with the principle laid down in clause 5 we must necessarily adopt the reform provided for in clause 6, which provides that newspapers shall no longer be carried through the post free. I regard that as a wise change.I am aware that hitherto newspapers have been carried free in some of the States, and I have often wondered how the system came to be adopted by the Governments of those States. It has been argued, forsooth, that postage upon newspapers is a tax upon knowledge. Postage is not a tax, it is a charge for a service rendered, and no publisher should object to pay it. If daily and weekly newspapers are to be carried free, because they disseminate knowledge, why should not monthly magazines, which often contain scientific information and literary intelligence of even greater importance, also be carried free ? No doubt the newspaper proprietors who have hitherto benefited by thisarrangement will feel a little irritated by the proposed change, but I hope that they will speedily become reconciled to it as a natural and inevitable one.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– The newspaper proprietors do not object to having to pay postage, but they object to the way in which the former arrangements have been changed.

Sir JOHN QUICK:

– I am glad to hear it. I understand that when it was provided by statute law in New South Wales that newspapers should be carried through the post free, it was not contemplated that that provision should apply to newspapers posted in bulk. It would have been a monstrous expectation to think that the Act would allow that. I understand that the Postal department is still carrying newspapers free in New South Wales when they, are posted in the proper receiving boxes and pillars. But for some years past an arrangement has been in force between the New South Wales Postal department and the Railway Commissioners of that State, under which the latter have been receiving £2,500 a year for undertaking to receive and transmit newspaper parcels and packages delivered at the Redfern railway station.

Mr.Deakin. -by one particular train.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– By more than one train.

Sir JOHN QUICK:

– Of course, the Parliament of New South Wales which sanctioned that arrangement knew its own business, but the arrangement seems to me a most astounding one, and can only be regarded as a huge subsidy to the newspapers of the State, and a most unwarrantable proceeding from a public point of view. However, it is for the people of New South Wales to manage their own business. It was merely an arrangement at the will of the Postal department, and consequently it was not binding on the Federal Government when it took over that department. If it had been founded on a. statute no doubt it would have been bind ing, and “that obligation would have been taken over with the department. There was nothing binding on the PostmasterGeneral of the Commonwealth. There was no State appropriation, there was certainly no Federal appropriation by which he could continue the payment of the sum of £2,500 a year to the Railway Commissioners for the carriage of newspapers, but he said - “ I shall enforce the law of New South Wales so far as it imposes upon me the duty of carrying posted newspapers free,” and that is being done. There is nothing to prevent the Railway Commissioners from carrying newspapers free if they will. If honorable members who are interested in New South Wales wish to bring influence to bear on the Railway Commissioners, newspapers can continue to be carried free by train, and the Parliament of the State can, if it thinks fit, continue to vote thesubsidy of £2,500 a year to them for that purpose. Of course, they will not undertake to carry the parcels free ; certainly it would not be a business arrangement if they did.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Of course, there is another side of this question which the honorable and learned member carefully leaves out !

Sir JOHN QUICK:

– After reading all the correspondence, I do not think there is. In Tasmania the Railway department seems to have undertaken to receive parcels of newspapers direct from the publishing office, instead of from the post-office. The only difference is that, whereas in New :South Wales the Railway Commissioners property demanded payment, in Tasmania the General Manager of the Railways did not demand any extra payment.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

Mr. Bird said it was part of the amount paid.

Sir JOHN QUICK:

– In Tasmania the - General Manager of the Railways regarded the payment as included in the ordinary annual provision for the carriage of mail matter. But in New South Wales the Railway Commissioners would not do that, and there is an arrangement for the Postal department to pay them a lump sum for the carriage of all mail matter. Why did they not carry newspapers as well as mail matter for that lump sum? It was not likely that they would; they demanded an additional subsidy.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– In one case the Railway department charged a lump sum, and in the other the Railway Commissioners’ charged separately. What is the difference between the two 1

Sir JOHN QUICK:

– Both in Tasmania and in New South Wales the Government paid a lump sum, but in New South Wales, in addition to the lump sum, there was an annual sum of £2,500 paid for the additional facilities offered by the Railway department in allowing the newspaper proprietors to send their parcels direct to the trains. If the Railway department of Tasmania chooses to carry mail matter or newspapers free we cannot help it. If the Railway Commissioners of New South Wales like to carry newspapers free we cannot help it either. But, in any case, I cannot see how the Federal Government is to blame for what the Railway department in Tasmania has done. There has been no favoritism or discrimination, and although at the first blush it would seem as if some explanation were required, I think that when the honorable member for Macquarie goes into the question a little more fully, he will find that there is no ground for complaint.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– I shall give the explanation by-and-by.

Sir JOHN QUICK:

– Although the Bill abolishes the free carriage of newspapers, it provides for the carriage of newspapers in bulk. Id provides for a charge of Id. per lb. on the aggregate weight of newspapers posted by any one person at any one time. It also provides that the rate for the carriage of a single newspaper is to be -£d. per 8 ozs., or fraction of 8 ozs., avoirdupois weight. I wish to submit the view which is entertained of those two provisions by the newspaper proprietors of Australia generally. I think that, although the free carriage of newspapers by the post-office is to be abolished, it is only wise and proper that provision should be made for the carriage of newspapers in bulk parcels of a certain weight. The complaint has been made that the rate of Id. per lb on the aggregate weight of newspapers would be unduly harassing to many country newspapers, as well as to many town newspapers, because it would amount to 9s. 4d. per cwt., whereas the Railway department will carry, parcels at the rate of 8d. per cwt What is contended by the newspaper proprietors is that -

The rate for bulk parcels of newspapers of mort than 1 lb. each parcel, posted by the publisher foi carriage to post towns only, not being railway towns, but within a radius of 20 miles from the nearest) railway station or port, and not foi delivery by letter-carriers, should be ls. per cwt, on the aggregate weight of newspapers so posted.

That is a view which, I think, ought to be taken into consideration. Of course, it’ is only intended to apply to a post-office within a radius of 20 miles from the nearest railway station.

Sir Philip Fysh:

– They wish to make the post-office a common carrier.

Sir JOHN QUICK:

– The post-office, it is suggested, should make arrangements in its contracts for the carriage of newspaper matter from railway stations to post-offices within a radius of 20 miles at the reduced rate.

Sir Philip Fysh:

– Does the honorable and learned member mean that the postoffice is then to deliver the newspapers?

Sir JOHN QUICK:

– No ; bulk parcels are to be delivered at the post-office, and there received by the persons to whom they are addressed. That is the view which is presented in a circular that has been issued, and I think it is worthy of discussion. I should like to hear later on what the Minister has to say upon the subject. I think it might fairly be left to the proprietors to make arrangements with the Railway departments in each State for the carriage of newspapers in bulk, and which are not posted. I am told that at the present time the Railway department charges only8d. per cwt. for the carriage of these bulk parcels.

Mr L E GROOM:
DARLING DOWNS, QUEENSLAND · PROT; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917; IND from 1931; UAP from 1934

– In Victoria ?

Sir JOHN QUICK:

– That is the average throughout. We need not bother about the carriage of bulk parcels in parts of the country where there is railway commu nication . What the newspaper proprietors desire is that some special provision shall be made for the carriage of these parcels . from railway stationsto distant post-offices removed from railway communication.

Mr Deakin:

– The only point is why that should be done by the Government and not by the newspaper proprietors.

Sir JOHN QUICK:

– That has not been overlooked. The newspaper proprietors point out that the department has facilities for making contracts for the carriage of mail matter of a literary character. If that is not done the newspaper proprietors will have to make special arrangements for the carriage of these parcels. . The question is asked, why should not the Postal department have the advantage of any rates for the carriage of newspapers to remote parts, instead of the newspaper proprietors being compelled to make special arrangements? I should like the Minister to consider that question by the time the Bill reaches the committee stage. If there be substantial objections to the proposal on the ground that it would not pay, I shall not press it. I merely present this view to the consideration of the House, because certain newspaper proprietors in some of the States will have to submit to theshock of having all their free carriage taken from them, and it it is only right that any suggestion made by them, which would tend to mitigate that loss, should be fairly and reasonably considered. The next point to which I desire to draw attention is the rate which is to be charged for the carriage of single newspapers weighing more than 8 ozs. Under the Victorian Act, newspapers up to 10 ozs. in weight have been carried for½d. each, but under the Bill as it stands, the weight limit has been reduced to 8 ozs. I desire the Minister to take a note of that alteration, . and to give at a later stage some explanation of the reason for it. By the reduction, the large newspapers, such as the Sydney Mail, the Adelaide Observer, the Town and Country Journal, the Australasian, the Leader, and other large and important journals, will be excluded from the benefit of the½d. post. Most of these large newspapers, which are very interesting and attractive literary productions, weigh more than 8 ozs., and thus the postage required to be paid upon them will be1d.

Mr Watson:

– Is it not after all a question of the rate at which it will pay to carry them?

Sir JOHN QUICK:

– There is only a slight difference between the8-oz. and the 10-oz. limit. It is pointed out that -

It has been argued that passing single newspapers addressed to distant subscribers at bulk rate at1d. per lb. , will be of advantage to all newspapers ; but this will be obviously no advantage to newspapers weighing over 8 ozs. . . The objection raised by the Postmaster-General in the Senate to increase the weight of individual newspapers, passing at id., to 10 ozs.-

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– From what is the honorable and learned member quoting?

Sir JOHN QUICK:

– I quote from a circular issued in regard to this Bill.

Mr Watson:

– Issued by the Sydney newspaper proprietors.

Sir JOHN QUICK:

– It is indorsed generally by the proprietors of all the large newspapers. As we are engaged upon a sweeping reform of this character-

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– The honorable member for Bland does not like the Sydney newspaper proprietors to have any voice in the matter.

Sir JOHN QUICK:

– This circular applies also to the Melbourne newspaper proprietors.

Mr Watson:

– I do not want the Sydney newspapers to run the show. They run the interests of Sydney against those of New South Wales generally.

Sir JOHN QUICK:

– This circular relates not only to the Sydney newspapers. I am speaking on behalf of all the large newspapers.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– As soon as the honorable and learned member gets his own newspapers in he alters his tone.

Sir JOHN QUICK:

– The circular sets out that -

The objection raised by the Postmaster-General in the Senate to increase the weight of individual newspapers passing at id. to 10 ozs. was that it would be inconsistent to carry that propositi while the charge for newspapers posted in bulk was Id. for Ki ozs. To get over this, it would be easy to increase the bulk weight for Id. to 20 ozs., and this would yield the large total of £7 9s. 4d. pelton. By doing this the larger newspapers mentioned would not be unduly penalized, and considerable advantage would be given to the smaller newspapers, because of the larger number of single copies they could send at a given rate under the bulk arrangement.

I am given to understand .that -

In England all newspapers that are registered as such are accepted by the post-office at the rate of id. each, irrespective of weight.

It is contended that -

The undue limitation of weight will prevent newspaper proprietors from improving their papers thus depriving readers of the benefit of expulsion.

It is also stated that -

A very important point is that rates, such as proposed, must inevitably tend to the reduction by proprietors, of the. quantity of matter published, which must affect the. various grades of labour employed in the production of the newspaper.

Therefore, this is a matter which concerns not only the proprietors of newspapers, but the labour employed in the production of those newspapers. If the proprietors find that they cannot post, large newspapers weighing over S ozs. at the ordinary rate of -£d. each, they will, perhaps, be forced to reduce the quantity of literary matter contained in their publications. I think that this is another amendment which should be made in the Bill in the interests of these newspapers, the proprietors of which will have to submit to a very large reduction in their profits. I should like to draw attention now to the charges proposed to be made upon ordinary telegrams. This is a matter which has been brought under the attention of the Postmaster-General by a very large and influential deputation representing the stock exchanges and the business men of Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, and Brisbane. Under the 2nd schedule, it is proposed to establish telegraph rates of 6d. for town and suburban messages, 9d. for messages to other places within each State, and ls. for Inter-State telegrams. The particular cause of complaint is that, while hitherto there has been no charge for the name, address, and signature of the sender and the name and address of the rereiver it is proposed now that a charge shall be made for every word, including the name and address of the sender, and those of the person to whom the telegram is transmitted. It is contended by business people that that charge will be a very serious impost upon those who use the telegraph department in future. In the petition from the Stock Exchanges it is stated that their principal objection to the Bill is the new departure charging for the name, address, and signature, which has been introduced by the PostmasterGeneral on the plea that this is the practice in every civilized country. That is the ground upon which this charge is proposed to be made, but I have been informed that in making this assertion the Postmaster- General has overlooked the United States and Canada, in which countries, the name, address,- and signature are sent free. I should like the honorable gentleman in charge of the Bill to make a note of that, because the most strenuous opposition offered to the measure, so far as it relates to telegraph rates, arises from this proposal to charge for the name, address, and signature. As an example of how it will affect the Stock Exchanges, I may say that it has’ been found that the revenue collected in connexion with the Melbourne Stock Exchange amounts, under the old system of charges, to about £12,000 per annum. It has been calculated that the proposed charge for the name, address, and signature, will, on the business done by the Melbourne Stock Exchange, amount to £1,800.

Mr Deakin:

– And yet two or three of those who send the largest number of telegrams, cordially approve the change, because they rarely send the full number of - word > allowed.

Sir JOHN QUICK:

– There may be two or three who approve the change, but the bulk of those constituting the stock exchanges in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide,

Bendigo, and Ballarat, those who are the principal customers of the Telegraph and Telephone departments, strongly object to the proposal, which on the business done by theMelbourne Stock Exchange will it is said involve an extra charge of 1,800 per annum.

Mr Deakin:

– That is on the supposition that they use the full number of words in their messages, while, as a matter of fact, they very rarely do so.

Sir JOHN QUICK:

– I am only giving the information which has been placed in my hands, and on the basis of the business done last year, it has been calculated that the amount I have stated will be the extra charge involved by the proposed . change. This is a provision which has rendered this Bill very unpopular inthose quarters. Another objection is this: It is proposed under this Bill to have three differential rates for telegrams, a sixpenny rate within towns and suburbs, a ninepenny rate within a State, and a shilling. Inter-State rate. The question is asked - Why should there be this special favour of sixpenny telegrams conceded to the city and suburbs and not to the country? Why should we make such a discrimination as that?

Mr Deakin:

– Because it will pay, on account of the greater number of telegrams sent.

Sir JOHN QUICK:

– Why will it not pay throughout the country?

Mr Deakin:

– Because of the smaller number.

Sir JOHN QUICK:

– I do not see why business people or private individuals in the capitals should have the advantage of sixpenny telegrams, while people throughout the country are deprived of that advantage. I would add that in the various great centres, such as Melbourne, Adelaide, and Sydney, the people have the benefit and advantage of the telephone system. I venture to say that if the sixpenny telegram system is extended in these great centres, it will mean either that the telephone revenue will be injured by the sixpenny telegram system, or that the telegraphic revenue will be injured by the telephone system. If we are to have sixpenny telegrams the system should be made general within a State, and should not be confined to city and suburbs. If it will pay in the city and suburbs, it will also pay throughout the country. There is no doubt that itmust involve increased expense in the city and suburbs, because additional messengers, and possibly additional operators, will be required, whilst the extension of the system to the country should not involve much extra expense. Another objection has been taken to the Inter-State rate. It has been pointed out as a very extraordinary anomaly under this Bill that, whilst the charge proposed for sending a telegram from Melbourne to Wodonga is 9d., the charge proposed for sending a tele gram from Wodonga to Albury, on the other side of the river, is1s.

Sir Philip Fysh:

– We intend to correct that.

Sir JOHN QUICK:

– I am very glad to hear it. The provision certainly seems anything but a federal one. The matters to which I specially desire to call attention, in so far as the telegraphic rates are concerned, are the proposed charge for names and addresses of sender and sendee, and the proposal to introduce a sixpenny telegram system for towns and suburbs, while the country districts are left out in the cold. I trust that when we get into committee the Minister in charge of the Bill will.be able to formulate some scheme for the sending of cheap telegrams at a minimum rate of 6d. within each State. I am sure that he will have the assistance of honorable members in making the Bill complete and workable, and one which will tend to recognise and harmonize our new federal conditions as far as possible. Ihopethat, whilst we determine to make the Postal and Telegraph department a paying establishment, we shall not err in the opposite direction by imposing undue charges; causing the department to become unpopular, and leading to a falling-off in the amount of business done.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Joseph Cook) adjourned.

page 15123

SPECIAL ADJOURNMENT

Resolved (on motion by Mr. Deakin) -

That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next.

page 15123

ADJOURNMENT

Treatment of Returning Soldiers: Order of Business

Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -

That the House do now adjourn.

Mr E SOLOMON:
FREMANTLE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · FT

– I desire to draw the attention of the Acting Prime Minister to a paragraph appearing in this morning’s Age, in reference to the soldiers who returned by the Drayton Grange. It appears that the Western Australian Government were blamed for not allowing certain members of the returning contingent to land at Albany. As a matter of fact, the State Ministers gave every facility for their doing so, and the reasons why they were not landed at Albany are beyond their knowledge. They take exception, also, to a few words which are supposed to have fallen from the Minister for Home Affairs. I am assured that the honorable gentleman did not say what has been attributed to him. Perhaps the Acting Prime Minister will make a statement upon the subject here, in order that the denial may receive publicity.

Mr DEAKIN:
AttorneyGeneral · Ballarat · Protectionist

– The telegram which appears in the newspapers to-day was received by me yesterday from Mr. Kingsmill as Acting Premier of Western Australia. I replied at once, pointing out that the remarks of the Acting Minister of Defence had never, in any sense, been intended to refer to the Government of Western Australia. In answer to my telegram, I receiveda message from Mr. Kingsmill expressing his acknowledgment for the prompt disclaimer on our part.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– What business do the Government propose to go on with on Tuesday?

Mr DEAKIN:

– Next week we propose to ask honorable members to give their attention to the Electoral Bill, which has yet to be despatched to another place ; to the Governor-General’s establishment, the figures for which I have laid before the House; and to the Bonuses for Manufactures Bill.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– In the order named?

Mr DEAKIN:

– So far as I know at present ; but the Governor-General’s establishment may be dealt with at any time.

Mr MAHON:
Coolgardie

– There is a matter to which I desire to direct attention.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER:

– Order ! The Minister having replied, it is now my duty to put the question.

Mr Mahon:

– I did not understand that the honorable gentleman was replying.

Mr DEAKIN:

– I shall not resume my seat. Perhaps the honorable member will ask his question without rising, and I can then reply to it.

Mr MAHON:

– There is another Minister at the table who can reply. The matter to which I desired to direct attention-

The DEPUTY SPEAKER:

– Order ! I cannot allow the honorable member to break the rules of the House. The AttorneyGeneral moved the motion for the adjournment of the House, and, as he has replied to the discussion upon it, it is now my duty to put the question.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

House adjourned at 4.30 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 August 1902, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1902/19020814_reps_1_11/>.