House of Representatives
18 November 1904

2nd Parliament · 1st Session



Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.

page 7173

SUGAR BOUNTIES

Mr GLYNN:
ANGAS, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

– I wish to know from the Prime Minister whether the request made by Queensland for the continuance of the bounties on sugar has been accompanied by a suggestion that the excise duties should be retained.

Mr REID:
EAST SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– I cannot find that any suggestion of that sort is among the official papers.

page 7173

QUESTION

MR. UNWIN

Mr LEE:
COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES

– Does the PostmasterGeneral intend to confirm the appointment of Mr. Unwin, who is now Acting Deputy Postmaster-General in New South Wales, as permanent head of the Department in that State?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– The matter has not yet received the consideration of the Cabinet, and will not be determined until the Estimates have been passed.

page 7173

QUESTION

RUSSIAN ATTACK ON BRITISH FISHING FLEET

Mr KING O’MALLEY:
DARWIN, TASMANIA

– Has the Prime Minister noticed in to-day’s newspaper the accounts of the diabolical conduct of Russia in repudiating her agreement with Great Britain? If so, will he insist on Great Britain fighting?

Mr REID:
Minister for External Affairs · EAST SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · Free Trade

– I have seen one version which somewhat resembles the plain statement of the honorable member, and another of a totally different character. Under the circumstances, I must abstain from putting extreme pressure upon the Government of Great Britain.

page 7173

QUESTION

PUBLIC SERVANTS’ INCREASES

Sir LANGDON BONYTHON:
BARKER, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

– When will the increases recommended by the Public Service Commissioner, in accordance with his classification of the service, and provided for in the Estimates now before this House, be payable?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
Minister for Home Affairs · NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– As has been stated by the Treasurer, the classification cannot be confirmed until the appeals which have been made in regard to it have been dealt with, while my honorable colleague has also promised that this House shall have an opportunity to express its approval or disapproval of it. Therefore the proposed increases will not be paid until the classification has been approved; but when the classification is approved, the increases will at once be paid, and will take effect from the first day of the current financial year.

page 7173

ELECTORAL ADMINISTRATION

Sir WILLIAM LYNE:
HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES

– I wish to know whether the Minister of Home Affairs is correctly reported in the morning press to have stated yesterday that revision courts will not be held until Parliament meets again, and that the matter will be brought before Parliament next session, and not during this. If that is so, it may be twelve months before anything is done.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
Minister for Home Affairs · NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– The report to which the honorable member alludes correctly states the present intention. It seems to me that it would be unjustifiable to put the country to the expense of printing the rolls in full, and holding revision courts, unless in the event of an election being imminent, since in some of the States, at any rate, “the present distribution of constituencies may require to be seriously altered.

Mr HIGGINS:
NORTHERN MELBOURNE, VICTORIA

– Does the Minister deem it useless expenditure to have the valuable information which he gave to me yesterday, with regard to the intention of the Ministry as to the redistribution of constituencies, printed and circulated?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
Minister for Home Affairs · NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– That information will be circulated in Hansard.

page 7173

QUESTION

DUTY ON ADVERTISING MATTER

Sir LANGDON BONYTHON:

– I wish to know, from the Minister of Trade and Customs, whether it would not be possible, [ without prejudice to the Commonwealth, for the Customs Department to deal a little more generously with printed advertising matter sent to Australia from Great Britain ?

Mr McLEAN:
Minister for Trade and Customs · GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · Protectionist

– The honorable member was kind enough to tell me of his intention to ask this question, and I have, therefore, obtained the following information from my officers : -

The Tariff places a duty of 3d. per lb. on all advertising matter, catalogues, &c. This duty is equally leviable, whether the articles are imported in the ordinary way, or sent through the post. The duty is collected by requiring additional stamps to be placed on the article when sent through the post, or senders can prepay the duty. It is difficult 7174 Duty on [REPRESENTATIVES.] Advertising Matter. to believe that any merchant desiring to know what goods to order would refuse to receive a catalogue, because there was a charge of one or two pence thereon for duty. The object of enforcing the tax is not the amount of revenue involved, but to carry out the intentions of the Tariff. It would be possible (and has been done) for Australian sellers to have catalogues, &c, printed abroad, and posted, if the duty were not enforced, as they could save in the cost of printing, &c.

It is quite possible that the incidence of this tax may go further than Parliament intended, but I do not think that it is possible for the Customs Department to disregard the law. Some mercantile houses have been known to have tens of thousands of circulars printed abroad for distribution here.

Mr KNOX:
KOOYONG, VICTORIA

– Will the Minister give the House some information as to the extent of the accumulation of circulars in his Department, because of the refusal of mercantile Houses throughout the Commonwealth to pay the impost demanded from them?

Mr McLEAN:

– If it is possible to obtain the information, I shall be very pleased to get it for the honorable member. I know “that in many cases the addressees will not accept the printed matter sent to them. That, of course, does not absolve the Department from the duty of administering the law as it stands. The tax is one which is clearly imposed by the Tariff, and must be collected.

Sir LANGDON BONYTHON:

– Is the Minister aware that the receivers of book catalogues are expected to pay duty on them, although it is absurd to suppose that such catalogues could be printed in the Commonwealth ?

Mr McLEAN:

– We know that a great many of these catalogues could1 never be printed in the Commonwealth, but if there were not a duty on advertising matter large houses could send home orders for the printing of catalogues to be circulated in Australia. As the Tariff imposes a duty on advertising matter, the Customs authorities believe that they have no alternative but to administer the law as it stands.

Mr Reid:

– Hear, hear.

page 7174

QUESTION

DUTY ON OIL BAIZE SHELVING AND GREY CASSIMERE SHIRTING

Mr GLYNN:

– I wish to know from the Minister of Trade and Customs if the statement published in the press yesterday that the Comptroller of Customs has refused to allow entries to be made which were in accordance with the decision of Mr. Justice Barton is well founded?

Mr McLEAN:
Protectionist

– The prosecutions in regard to which the decision was given were instituted before I took charge of the Department, and never came under my notice in any shape or form; but since the honorable and learned member was kind enough to tell me of his intention to ask the question, I have obtained from my officers the following information on the subject : -

The following comments are submitted, on the remarks published in the Argus of 17th inst.(vide attached excerpt) regarding the recent High Court judgments given against the Department. The articles in connexion with which the actions were instituted were : -

  1. Oil Baize Shelving,
  2. Grey Cassimere Shirting, and not oil baizes and grey denims, as stated by the Argus.

As regards the former, the Department had charged duty at the rate of 15 per cent., as “ furniture coverings,” but the Court held that, as oil baize was specifically mentioned by the Tariff at 5 per cent. ad valorem, that item must also embrace oil baize shelving.

With regard to No. 2, the Department contended that the cassimeres were properly dutiable at 15 per cent., as “ coatings,” “ vestings,” and “ trouserings,” under Item 66 (i). Expert evidence was, however, tendered that the article was a “ denim,” and the High Court accepted this view, and gave judgment accordingly.

In both cases the Department relied on section 138 of the Customs Act, which provides that when any goods enumerated in the Tariff can be classed under two or more descriptions, with resulting difference as to duty, the higher duty shall be charged. This contention was, however, overruled by the Court on the ground that, in construing the Tariff, the words used therein must be accepted according to their every-day meaning, unless there was evidence to show that they had acquired a different meaning, and that terms of trade usage must be considered accordingto the meaning they had acquired in the trade, and that the section was not applicable as between a generic and specific designation.

As regards the statement that the Department had, on the 16th inst., refused to accept entries for similar goods,- it is pointed out that the High Court verdict was only given on Saturday last ; Monday was a holiday, and on Tuesday instructions were issued to officers to act in accordance with the Court decision. It appears that some delay was caused to one firm on Tuesday morning, before the necessary instructions had reached the wharf officers. This was, however, unknown to the collector. The statement made by the Argus that the trade has been compelled to pay very many thousands of pounds illegally to the Commonwealth, is vague and indefinite. If, however, it refers to the two articles under notice, it is undoubtedly incorrect, as with the exception of shelving, all oil baizes have been admitted at the Tariff rate of 5 per cent. ; and all denims, other than the cassimere shirting, which formed the subject of contention, have been passed at the 5 per cent. rate. It is observed that the Argus and Age of this date publish a paragraph embodying the gist of the foregoing comments.

page 7175

QUESTION

CORRESPONDENCE WITH THE POSTAL DEPARTMENT

Mr JOHNSON:
LANG, NEW SOUTH WALES

– I desire to ask the Postmaster-General if he will give instructions -to the officials of the Department to be more expeditious in answering communications sent to them. I have a reply here, dated 4th November, which reached me only to-day.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– I shall cause inquiries to toe made in regard to the matter.

page 7175

QUESTION

LETTER-BOX CLEARANCES

Mr KNOX:

asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -

Whether he has completed his inquiries regarding the claim for the restoration of the late clearances of -letters in the suburbs of Melbourne; and, if so, will he inform the House at what decision h j has arrived ?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– The report of the Board appointed to inquire into the matter was received by me yesterday afternoon. I have not yet had an opportunity to deal with it fully, but I may inform the honorable member that it is my intention to arrange for late clearances of the letter-boxes in the suburbs between, say, 10.40 and 12 p.m. I also think that, in view of the large amount of correspondence - the Board estimates that it amounts to two millions of letters annually - addressed to Ballarat, Bendigo, and intermediate places, I shall decide upon making a special clearance at some of the railway stations and post-offices in order that residents in the suburbs may have an opportunity to send their letters to the places mentioned in the early morning, receive a reply the same afternoon, and, if necessary, send back a further communication the same evening. I have also decided to make an important alteration in connexion with the afternoon clearances. For some years past the afternoon clearances in the suburbs have been made in such a manner that the letters have reached the General “Post Office too late for delivery in the metropolis on the same afternoon, and also too late to permit of their being despatched by the Sydney and Adelaide express trains. I intend to alter the arrangements so as to insure that the letters shall arrive at the General Post Office in time for the late afternoon deliveries in the city, and for despatch by the express trains leaving the same afternoon.

page 7175

QUESTION

COSTS IN CUSTOMS CASES

Mr HUGHES:
WEST SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES

asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -

What is the amount of costs incurred in connexion with Customs cases debited to the State of Victoria since the establishment of the High Court?

Mr McLEAN:
Protectionist

– The information the honorable and learned member desires is now being obtained, and will be available by Tuesday next.

page 7175

PERSONAL EXPLANATION

Mr KNOX:

– I desire to make a personal explanation. Attention has been directed by some honorable members - and i think with quite sufficient justification, in view of the importance of establishing a precedent - to the circumstances connected with the printing of the memorandum issued by me upon the subject of the proposed Council of Finance. I wish to repeat what I have already stated to the. House, namely, that, in the first place, I went to the Government Printer and asked him to hold me entirely responsible for the cost of printing the memorandum. Subsequently, the right honorable the Treasurer asked the House to receive the paper, and placed it on the table.

Mr McDonald:

– He placed it on the table without asking the House - that is the trouble.

Mr KNOX:

– At any rate, he placed it on the table. He did so without any request on my part. He acted entirely of his own volition, and I was very grateful to him. The form of the memorandum had to be altered to comply with the rules of the House. I arranged, in the first instance, for the printing of 520 copies. Now, an additional 900 copies have been printed in conformity with the rules of the House. I sought permission, and have obtained it, to pay for the printing of the additional issue of 900 copies, and in order that there may be no misapprehension as to my position in the matter, I now present the receipt of the Government Printer. I quite agree with honorable members that it is undesirable to establish a -new procedure in such matters. A large number of copies of the memorandum are now available, and I earnestly hope that honorable members will do me the favour to read it carefully. Even if the expense incurred had been fourfold what it has been, I should regard myself as fully 7176 Supply. [REPRESENTATIVES.] Supply. compensated by the attention given by honorable members to so very important a subject.

page 7176

SUPPLY, 1904-5

In Committee (Consideration resumed from 17th November, vide page 7160):

Postmaster-General’s Department

Division 184 (Central Staff),£5,447

Mr WEBSTER:
Gwydir

– I desire to bring under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral one or two matters which appear to me to demand attention. I understood from the statement made by the Minister of Home Affairs that there is no intention on the part of the Government to pay any of the increases proposed to be given to officers under the classification scheme until the scheme has been adopted by Parliament. The Treasurer had previously intimated that the increases granted to officers in receipt of small salaries would be paid in anticipation of the adoption of the classification scheme.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
Minister for Home Affairs · NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– That referred to the cases of officers in receipt of salaries under £160.

Mr WEBSTER:

– I understood from the Minister that there was no intention to pay any of the increases.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
Minister for Home Affairs · NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– Yes, up to £160. In the cases of other officers, only the ordinary increases, apart from the classification, will be paid.

Mr WEBSTER:

– I think that the increases granted to such officers as sorters in the post-offices, who have had to wait for eighteen or nineteen years for a recognition of their claims, should be paid without waiting for the adoption of the classification scheme. I know of a large number of men in New South Wales to whom small increases have been granted, and to whom it is of the utmost importance that they should be paid without delay. If I can obtain apromise from the PostmasterGeneral that these officers shall be paid, irrespective of the confirmation of the classification scheme, I shall be satisfied.

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

– The Treasurer stated that increaseswouldbe paid to officers receiving salaries up to £160.

Mr WEBSTER:

– I am not quite clear whether it is intended that the increases granted under the classification scheme to such officers shall be paid without delay. Therefore, I should like a clear pronouncement to be made by the Minister. There is another matter which affects not only the Department under discussion, but the general policy of the Government. I refer to the strong appeal made by the right honorable member for Swan to the Government to repeal section 16 of the Post and Telegraph Act, which prohibits the employment of black labour on mail steamers. Such a request, coming from the right honorable member, who was a member of the Government which inserted the provision in the Act, is entitled to some notice at the hands of the Ministry, and I think that Ministers should give us some idea as to the course they ‘ intend to adopt. The right honorable member for Swan, in his usual style, pooh-poohed the idea that the supporters of the White Ocean policy were actuated by a desire to promote the interests of the Empire. I would point out, however, that the Argus quite recently stated that a White Ocean was of more importance to the welfare of the Empire than a White Australia. I am satisfied that the Argus, in taking up that attitude, is standing on solid ground. At present the employment of black labour, and of white alien labour, which is worse, is being encouraged, and the British merchant marine is being used for the purpose of training white aliens, who may become our most serious opponents in time of trouble. I find that, according to recent statistics, the total number of men employed in the British mercantile marine is about 250,000. Of these, 37,000 are black aliens. This, in itself, is serious enough, but a still greater danger is indicated by the fact that during the fifteen years, ending 1900, the number of men employed in the British mercantile marine has increased by 43,000, of which number 19,000, or nearly onehalf, were coloured aliens. Out of an increase of 43,000 in the number of persons engaged in the British mercantile marine during fifteen years, only 12,000 were “boys of the bull dog breed.” Last night the right honorable member for Swan, who is a strong supporter of the Government, and a pronounced advocate of preferential trade, urged the Prime Minister to repeal that particular section in the Post and Telegraph Act which provides for the maintenance of a White Ocean, so far as the carriage of our mails is concerned. I am inclined to believe that his appeal was inspired by a desire to keep the matter before the public, so that the promise which was made by the Prime Minister should not be altogether forgotten. Believing

*Supply.* [18 November, 1904.] *Supply.* 7177 that, I wish to ascertain, before the Government are allowed to get into recess, what are their intentions in this connexion ? {: .speaker-F4P} ##### Mr Reid: -- We cannot alter an Act of Parliament during the recess. {: .speaker-KXK} ##### Mr WEBSTER: -- I desire to know whether the Prime Minister intends to redeem his promise to repeal the provision to which I have referred, as soon as possible ? {: .speaker-F4P} ##### Mr Reid: -- The honorable member seems to have a mania for remaining in Melbourne all the year round. {: .speaker-KXK} ##### Mr WEBSTER: -- I recognise that I have a duty to perform. Surely the Prime Minister will not say that in a matter involving the welfare, not only of Australia, but of the great Empire of which he is so patriotic a representative, I have no right to ask for an exposition of the Government policy ? {: .speaker-F4P} ##### Mr Reid: -- Will the honorable member stop if I give him one? {: .speaker-KXK} ##### Mr WEBSTER: -- Yes, if it is satisfactory. {: #subdebate-11-1-s1 .speaker-F4P} ##### Mr REID:
Free Trade -- Very well. I should like to reassure the honorable member in this way : It is perfectly true that I entertain strong opinions in regard to the matter to which he has referred - opinions which I have publicly expressed. I appealed to the electors of Australia to support me in an endeavour to bring about an alteration of that particular provision in the Post and Telegraph Act. The result was an absolute refusal on their part to sanction any such change. I respect that decision, and I have no intention whatever of introducing any measure to interfere with the provision in question during the life of the present Parliament. {: .speaker-KXK} ##### Mr WEBSTER: -- That is certainly the most distinct pronouncement which we have received in regard to this matter up to the present time. As honorable members are aware, foreigners are ousting British sailors from British ships more and more each year, so that to-day it is not an uncommon thing to find amongst the crews of such vessels only one or two natives of the mother country. The position is amusingly summed up in the following story, which is related by the *Liverpool Daily Post:-* >Foreigners are ousting the British sailor more and more each year from British ships, and it is not uncommon to find among crews only one or two men natives of this country. " The skipper of the tramp steamer *Bumping Billy* was engaging a new crew. What's your name ?' he said to the foremost applicant. ' Giu seppe Grinolieri, replied the man. Eyetalian?' Yees,' he said, 'Very good ; step on one side. And yours?' he went on to the nextA.B. 'IvanIkankoff.' 'Russian?' 'Polish, sare.' 'Right; step alongside o' Yewseppy. Next man?' ' Wilhelm Zwillanguzl.' 'German?' 'Ja.' 'Very good; over you go. Next ?' ' Manuel Oliviera. I Portuguese seaman, senor.' ' Step over then, Manuivvel. Next?' 'John Thompson, sir.' What ?' ' John Thompson, sir.' ' What in - ththunder - what the- what nationality ?' screamed the horrified shipmaster. ' English, sir,' replied the man. For a full half minute the unhappy skipper stood speechless, his countenance turning from purple to orange, and from orange to grey ; and then, with a gurgling gasp of ' English, by gum !' he tottered, staggered, and fell upon the ground." That conveys a very clear impression of what the British mercantile marine is coming to. I appeal to those who are flying preferential kites at the present time to come down to something which affects the Empire much more closely than does preferential trade, and to insist that British ships shall be manned by those who are prepared to accept their share of responsibility in defending the Empire. SirWILLIAM LYNE (Hume). - I wish to direct the attention of the PostmasterGeneral, as a matter of administration, to the very imperfect replies to inquiries which are frequently received from the Department over which he presides. For example, I am in receipt of a communication which has reference to improvements to the Corowa post-office. It purports to be a true statement of the facts relating to that matter, but, although it gives an accurate account of the proceedings up to a certain point, it does not give the whole position, and the deductions which are drawn by the Department are inaccurate. The reply omits a minute which was written by the honorable member for Denison when Postmaster-General, in which he sanctioned the carrying out of the work conditionally upon the State Government approving it, because the expenditure which would be incurred would have to be deducted from the revenue returned to that State. This morning I received the following letter from the president of the Progress Association at Corowa : - >I am in receipt of your favour notifying your failure to secure the long-promised convenience to the Corowa Post and Telegraph Office. I can assure you that the Progress Committee fully recognise the position you occupy with reference thereto. The convenience of the people who maintain this important office has never been considered since the advent of Federation. We have no telephone chamber, and no possibility of getting letters for Melbourne delivery before Monday unless posted on Thursday. Fines for postages for 7178 *Supply.* [REPRESENTATIVES.] *Supply.* Melbourne are still imposed, the entrance to the office has been made for pigmies, and the clock is as often stopped as going, so that you can imagine the Post and Telegraph Department's administration deserves the gratitude of the Corowa people. Upon the outside of the envelope is written the following : - Yet another example *re* inquiries for time of closing mails, &c. Posting this 12.30 a.m. Postoffice clock 8.35 a.m., and stopped at that. Federal post-office management - Lord deliver us from it as soon as possible. I produce this correspondence with a view to showing that there is a deliberate intention on the part of somebody in the post-office to thwart the decision of an exPostmasterGeneral, and to prevent a work which was promised before the establishment of Federation from being undertaken. There is another matter to which I desire to direct attention. It has reference to the penny-postage system which obtains in Victoria. I need scarcely remind honorable members that in New South Wales the postage upon letters is twopence. But Owing to the penny rate obtaining in Victoria, it very often happens that persons in writing to their friends upon the other side of the Murray, unwittingly affix a penny stamp to their letters. As a result, when they are delivered upon the other side of the border, the recipients are compelled to pay, not only the extra postage, but also a fine of twice the amount that is involved in the shortage. Seeing that we cannot secure a penny postage system throughout the Commonwealth, I am of opinion that this matter ought to be arranged in some satisfactory way by regulation, so that no fines should be imposed by the Department. {: .speaker-JSM} ##### Mr Brown: -- Why not have uniform penny postage? {: #subdebate-11-1-s2 .speaker-KIN} ##### Sir WILLIAM LYNE: -- I think we should have it; but the reason why the reform has not been carried out is that it is anticipated that it would result in a great loss of revenue. It is certainly an anomalous stateof affairs that under Federation the. people of one State should have penny postage, while others have not. Those who receive letters in the circumstances I have mentioned should not be fined, and only in cases of apparent carelessness or design should the recipient be penalized. As a matter of fact, many persons in this State do not know that it is necessary to place a twopenny stamp on a letter to be sent across the border; they are misled by the fact that there is penny postage throughout Victoria only. I would therefore appeal to the Postmaster-General to do what he can to remedy this source of complaint. The amount involved is small, but the present system of inflicting fines produces a good deal of friction. {: .speaker-K99} ##### Mr Johnson: -- The same regulation should apply all over Australia. {: .speaker-KIN} ##### Sir WILLIAM LYNE: -- I agree with the honorable member. For a little while I overlooked the fact that it was necessary to place a twopenny stamp on a letter to be sent a few miles over the border, and insufficiently stamped two or three of them. {: .speaker-JUV} ##### Mr McWilliams: -- The system causes considerable inconvenience. {: .speaker-KIN} ##### Sir WILLIAM LYNE: -- And also friction. The public complain that it is the result of Federation. I speak feelingly on this subject, because my own constituents have a voluminous correspondence with Melbourne, and feel the burden of this regulation more than do residents of other parts of the Commonwealth. I trust that the anomaly will be removed. {: #subdebate-11-1-s3 .speaker-JUV} ##### Mr McWILLIAMS:
Franklin -- There is no Department of the Commonwealth which can confer such great advantage on the outlying districts as that whose Estimates we are now considering. I trust that it will be the continuous policy of the Department, irrespective of what Government may be in power, to afford every facility to those who go into the wilds of Australia, carrying settlement with them. No Department has greater opportunities to assist these persons by giving them a little of the ordinary conveniences of civilized life. I would urge the representatives of the city and suburban electorates to consider that, whilst it may be perfectly right to require guarantees to be given in connexion with the extension of the telephone or telegraphic service in the more populous centres, the practice may create very serious difficulties in some of the outlying districts. The whole policy of the Commonwealth and States Governments should be to encourage the people to go out from the cities and settle in the country. One of the greatest hardships under which those who live in the remote parts of Australia labour is the lack of proper postal and telegraphic communication. I am one of those who think that in many of its undertakings, and more particularly those relating to the extension of the telegraphic system, the Department has insisted on far too costly an article being provided, and that a much cheaper service *Supply.[* 1 8. November, 1904.] *Supply".* 7179. could be given to the people. I understand, for example, that it is quite a novelty for the Department on the mainland to utilize growing trees as telegraph posts. In Tasmania that has been the practice for many years. We rarely think of erecting a telegraph pole in a rural district. We simply cut off the top of a spar and connect the wire with it; and I have no hesitation in saying that a tree, lopped of its branches, and used in this way, will last longer than four or five of the best wooden poles. {: .speaker-KQP} ##### Mr McDonald: -- Does the honorable member suggest that this practice should be followed in the outlying districts of Queensland? {: .speaker-JUV} ##### Mr McWILLIAMS: -- It should be adopted wherever there is growing timber. {: .speaker-KQP} ##### Mr McDonald: -- In some parts of Queensland one could travel 200 or 300 miles without seeing a stick. {: .speaker-JUV} ##### Mr McWILLIAMS: -- In such places the Department might utilize boundary fences, or other suitable objects, in extending the telegraph system, and thus reduce the cost of the service. Unless we cheapen the service in this way, we shall not be able for many years to give many of the residents of the remote districts of the Commonwealth the facilities they require. There is another matter which should receive the attention of the Minister, and which I brought under notice shortly after I was returned to this Parliament. I refer to the fact that, although an operator in a country office may be prepared to send an urgent telegraphic message after the usual hour of closing, it will not be received at the head office. In the case of a serious accident, an operator in a country office might be prepared to transmit a telegram after the usual closing hour, asking for the attendance of a medical man, but, owing to the piece of red-tapeism to which I have alluded, it could not be sent. This is a serious matter in sparsely-populated districts, where a man may be injured, say, in a mill, or by a falling tree, and where there is no local medical practitioner. When it is necessary to send an urgent telephonic or telegraphic message it should be the imperative duty of the officers at the head office to receive it. The present practice should not be tolerated. To my mind, the system of utilizing railway stations as post-offices in some of the rural districts, is most objectionable. In many of these places children call for newspapers and letters on their way home from school, and I think it is highly undesirable that they' should have to attend at an open station, where the railway line is unfenced, and trains are running to and fro, in order to receive their parents' correspondence. There is another matter to which I must refer. A case has been brought under my notice, in which the Department refused to connect a township with a telephone line which practically runs through it, simply because the local residents were not prepared to give a guarantee. The cost of connecting the township with the line would have been a matter of only a few shillings, and it seems to me that, in a country like Australia, the Department must not be tied up by any hard-and-fast red-tape rules, if our telephone and telegraphic service is to be made advantageous to the people. The residents of rural districts have not many conveniences, and one reason why Australia is like an inverted pyramid - the greater proportion of the population living, not in the country, but in the towns - is that we have not given those who go into the back-blocks' the facilities a reasonable and sensible system of postal and telegraphic communication would afford. It is most important that we should take care that these little conveniences of life are afforded those who go into the outlying parts of the Commonwealth. If we are to apply a hard and fast measure all round, and insist upon those who are perhaps fifty or 100 miles away from large centres of population being tied down by the regulations that are applied to cities and towns, the post and telegraph system of the Commonwealth will never be the success it ought to be, and will never encourage as it ought to do the settlement of the people on the land. The infliction of fines for insufficient postage, to which the honorable member for Hume has referred, has given rise to some difficulty in the State from which I come. The delivery of a letter posted in Victoria, and addressed to one of the provincial districts of Tasmania, where school -children usually call for the mail, is often delayed because of insufficient postage. A child on calling for his parents' correspondence is perhaps informed that there is a letter on which there is a fine to pay, and has to go away without it. In this way friction is unnecessarily caused. If the grievance could be remedied it would go a long way towards oiling the machinery of the Department, and enablipg it to run far more smoothly than it does. I would welcome as heartily as would any honorable member the introduction of a uniform penny postage, but am afraid that the finances of some of the States at the present time would not permit of that boon being given. Until the time arrives when such a reform can be made, I think that the regulation relating to the infliction of fines for insufficient postage should be less rigorously applied. I wish to emphasize the point that the Department should do everything in its power to encourage settlement. The residents of outlying districts, no matter how limited their number maybe, should be given every consideration. It should be our desire to. improve the conditions under which they live, and: when they ask for increased postal facilities we should not compel them to give that which they are not in a position to. give - a guarantee as to the revenue which the new service will return. Regulations which maybe rightly applied to the more populated districts should not be imposed upon those who go into the wilds of Australia, so to speak, and are doing the best work for the Commonwealth. Those who live in the bush, where they are deprived of many of the comforts of ordinary life, should be given those facilities in the matter of telegraphic and postal communication which, next to the establishment of State schools, constitute the greatest boon that a Government can confer on the people. {: #subdebate-11-1-s4 .speaker-K4I} ##### Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT -- For the first time since I have been a member of this House I venture to bring under the notice of the Minister what may be termed an individual grievance. I should not take this action, but that the circumstances of the case are of a special character, and that other efforts which have been made in regard to it have not been productive of any satisfactory result. I invite the Minister's particular attention to the complaint, which has not previously been submitted to his consideration. His predecessors in office have not been able to obtain any satisfactory explanation of the matter, and certainly those honorable members who have interested themselves in it have not been satisfied. I refer to the peculiar way in which an ex-employe of the Department, named Maurice Sheahan, has been treated. This man joined the Victorian postal service as a casual employ^ in 1900. In July, 1 90 1, he had the misfortune to break his arm, and to otherwise injure himself, while engaged in the work of an assistant line repairer. The Department admitted t that his injuries were received in the execution of duty, and recognised the fact by allowing him full pay during the three months that he Was disabled, the office files showing that no demur was made to this. On his' return to duty, it was found that he was unable to take up his old work, and he was given clerical work, which, according to the Departmental records, he performed satisfactorily ; and, later on, he was asked to take a position as assistant storeman at the General Post Office, Melbourne. When the Public Service Act was proclaimed, however, an extraordinary thing happened, in- asmuch as every other man in the service, with the exception of Sheahan, was taken over, and made an officer of the Commonwealth. When Sheahan asked why he was not taken over, no satisfactory answer was forthcoming. The facts of the case were submitted to several honorable members, and they were so impressed with the injustice that had been done, that they waited on the Postmaster-General of the day, and submitted the case to him. He asked the Secretary to the Department to have an inquiry made; the Secretary sent the case on to the Public Service Commissioner, with a request for information, and he in his turn forwarded it to the Deputy PostmasterGeneral of Victoria, who asked one of his officers to report; but in the long run the papers were either lost or forgotten, and no answer was returned to the original in'quiry. Another application was made to the Public Service Commissioner, who replied that Sheahan had been told that he could not be recommended, and therefore was not put on. I wish to know why this man was treated differently from the rest of the employes in the Department. I have taken the trouble to obtain the Departmental record of his services ; but I cannot find that he has been guilty of wrong-doing, or of unsatisfactory conduct. The records show that he was employed by the Department from the 13th December, 1900, to the 30th September, 1903. During the whole of that period, his conduct was good. He was employed in the capacity of line repairer's assistant, and also as storeman, and assisted in clerical work. On his certificate of service, the further remarks are added that - >Maurice Sheahan performed his duties in a satisfactory manner, and ceased .duty upon the expiration of the period for which he was employed. There is no statement there as to his unfitness, nor are any reasons given for his dis- charge. I regret to have to bring an inindividual case before the Committee, because I think it is the duty of Members of Parliament to discuss matters of policy, rather than details of administration ; but in this case T think that great injustice is being done. I have waited on -every Commonwealth Postmaster-General, with the exception of the present occupant of the office, in regard to the case; but none of them seemed to be able to ascertain why the man was dismissed, or why he should not be re-instated. His broken arm makes him incapable of doing manual labour which would enable him to keep his family decently, and as he is a widower with five or six children, he finds it extremely difficult to make both ends meet. Had he not been injured in the performance of a dangerous service, I might not have been justified in bringing the matter up, though I think that, in any case, there are circumstances connected with it which require investigation and explanation. Without further comment, I wish to appeal to the Minister's sense of justice, and ask him for an inquiry into all the circumstances of the case, so that, even at this late stage, this unfortunate man may, if possible, be reinstalled. {: #subdebate-11-1-s5 .speaker-JSM} ##### Mr BROWN:
Canobolas -- For some considerable time past, the administration of postal affairs in New South Wales has been very ably conducted by **Mr. Unwin,** who is acting as Deputy PostmasterGeneral. This gentleman- has served his State for something like forty-two years, and it seems to me that, unless there are some very good reasons to the contrary, m injustice is being done to him by not promoting him to the position of permanent. Deputy Postmaster-General. I do not know whether he receives less salary as Acting Deputy Postmaster-General than he would receive were he permanently appointed *t.r<* the position, but I know of other cases in which officers acting temporarily are not receiving the full salary attached to the offices which they are filling, so that probably **Mr. Unwin** is not being paid the full salary of a Deputy Postmaster-General. The point I wish to make, however, is that, under, a State Act, he is entitled on retirement to a pension, the amount of which will be computed on the salary which he has received. He is already nearly sixty-three years of age, and under the Commonwealth Public Service Act. may be compelled to retire on reaching the age of sixty-five. Therefore, if he is not promoted to the position of permanent Deputy PostmasterGeneral, his discharge of the duties of that office, while acting temporarily, will not be taken into account in computing his retiring allowance. {: .speaker-JNV} ##### Mr Bamford: -- There are already two Deputy Postmasters-General in New South Wales in receipt of pensions. {: .speaker-JSM} ##### Mr BROWN: -- Another case to which I wish to refer is that of a **Mr. Maguire,** a gentleman who entered the New South Wales postal service as far back as 1859, so that he has given forty-five years of his life to the work of the Department, and the records show that he has been a very efficient officer. From 1882 to 1893 he was Inspector of Telegraphs, controlling a very large district, with very onerous duties to perform, involving a great amount of travelling. From 1893 to 1904 - a period of eleven years - he was postal inspector, and he has now for some time past been acting temporarily as metropolitan inspector. The position was at one time filled by **Mr. Burnett,** who received the salary of ^470 per annum, and was in 1902 appointed Superintendent of Mails, at .£550, being succeeded by **Mr. Young,** a country inspector getting ^400 per annum, who was made metropolitan inspector at ,£470, and in August, 1903, was appointed to the position of Manager of the Telegraph Service, at ^520 per annum. **Mr. Young** had more work to do than his predecessor, because, while metropolitan inspector, he continued to carry on some of his duties as country inspector. But although he received ^470 per annum, **Mr. Maguire,** on succeeding him, was given only ,£400 per annum, while his duties were even greater. Upon the appointment of **Mr. Maguire** the conditions I described were intensified, inasmuch as he was called upon not only to assume the very heavy duties imposed upon his predecessor, but also to discharge part of his former duties as a country inspector. The Department, by this arrangement, effected a saving in the salaries amounting to ^870 per annum. No complaint has been made with regard to the manner in which **Mr. Maguire** has discharged his duties, but he has been able to cope with his work only by means of sacrificing his holidays and the hours which he would, under ordinary circumstances, be entitled to devote to leisure. Although he has been receiving some assistance from the other inspectors, the present position is far from satisfactory to the officers. I do not think that our officers should be overworked in this manner. As an indication of the extent of the work which has recently been imposed upon the inspecting staff, I am told that whereas under State control there were nine inspectors, the work, which has naturally grown with the increase of population, is now discharged by from four to six officers. The former occupant of the office of senior inspector, **Mr. Bossley,** had a salary of .£550 per annum, but when **Mr. Maguire** was appointed to the position, instead of being granted the salary which formerly attached to it, he received an increase of only *£20* per annum. I should like the Minister to look into this matter and see whether full justice cannot be done to officers like **Mr. Maguire,** who has been in the service for forty-Jive years, and has discharged onerous duties with credit to himself and his Department. {: #subdebate-11-1-s6 .speaker-K99} ##### Mr JOHNSON:
Lang -- I desire merely to indorse the remarks of the honorable member for Canobolas with regard to the necessity for the appointment of a Deputy Postmaster-General in New South Wales. It is peculiar that the authorities should Iia ve been content to allow an Acting Deputy Postmaster-General to discharge the duties of the position for such a long period. I trust that this state of affairs will not be permitted to continue, and, further, that the Postmaster-General will give his attention to the various other matters brought under his notice by the honorable member for Canobolas, particularly in regard to improved facilities for telephonic communication throughout the country. {: #subdebate-11-1-s7 .speaker-JZF} ##### Mr FULLER:
Illawarra -- I desire to direct the attention of the PostmasterGeneral to a case in which I believe that grave injustice has been done. For some years it was the practice in New South Wales to refer to a Departmental Board all cases in which discrepancies occurred in the accounts of the Post and Telegraph officials. Some time back a change was made, and all such cases were referred to the Law Department, and when it was considered necessary were dealt with by the Courts. The old practice was, however, recently reverted to. The case to which 1 wish to refer is that of an officer who has been in the Department for nearly twentyfive years without having any black mark against him, and who was recognised as very efficient. He was stationed at Byrock, on the western railway line of New South Wales, and in consequence of the terrific heat which he had to endure there, he became slightly affected in the head. He was, by way of change, placed in charge of the Balmain branch, one ' of the most important suburban offices in New South Wales. During the time he was there a discrepancy occurred in the accounts of the Savings Bank branch, and his case was immediately handed over to the officers of the Law Department, who instituted legal proceedings. No money was missing, but an alteration had been made in a depositor's book, and the officer was fined *£2* and dismissed from the service. Under the old practice to which I have referred, hundreds of cases, in which officers were much' more seriously at fault were dealt with by the Departmental Board. In some instances the officers were suspended, but they were always reinstated. I think that the' officer to whom I have referred has suffered an injustice, owing to a temporary change of procedure, and I trust that the Post-. master-General will inquire into the matter with a view to ascertaining if anything can be done to reinstate him. I desire to emphasize what has been stated by some honorable members in reference to guarantees being required in connexion with the construction of country telephone lines. I have on one or two occasions mentioned the claims of the Illawarra district to telephonic communication with Sydney. We have in that district one of the most important industrial centres in Australia. Newcastle has been connected with Sydney by' telephone for a number of years past, and I have been endeavouring to secure the establishment of similar communication between the Illawarra district and the metropolis. We have a large number of coal mines, some thirteen of which are in active operation, and a good- harbor at Port Kembla at which ocean steamers of 5,000 or 6,000 tons displacement are loaded with coal. The absence of telephonic communication with Sydney is a great drawback to the mine-owners and ship-owners. Messages have to be frequently sent in connexion with the loading' of vessels, and in consequence of the pressure of business at the Woollongong Telegraph Office, .serious delays occur in trans-' mission. If telephonic communicationwere established, the messages could be despatched straight away, and business would be facilitated. When I applied to the postal authorities, in the first instance, to' construct a telephone line, I was asked to plank down a guarantee of *jQt$o.* I thought that was a very large order, but still I endeavoured to comply with therequirement of the Department. I found, however, that what was everybody's business, was nobody's business. I was unable to secure the full amount of the guarantee, although some of the residents in the district were themselves prepared to construct the line. {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- There is no reason why one or two people should give a guarantee on behalf of the whole of the residents in a district. {: .speaker-JZF} ##### Mr FULLER: -- That is exactly the position I took up. I made strong representations to the Department, and eventually the honorable member for Denison proved very much more reasonable than his predecessor. He reduced the amount of the guaranteefrom£750to£350. Illawarra is an important district, with a population of 20,000 people, and as a telephone line connecting it with the metropolis would, without doubt, pay handsomely, it should be constructed irrespective of any guarantee. I believe that the officers of the Department are actuated by a fear that the extension of telephone facilities will cause a reduction in the revenue derived from the telegraph lines ; but I do not think that that consideration should operate to prevent industrial centres from being furnished with the latest and most up-to-date means of communicition. It is important that every facility should be offered in such cases, 'because rapid means of communication assist in the development of industry, and consequently add to the prosperity of the country. I trust that the PostmasterGeneral will give prompt consideration to the claims of the Illawarra district. {: #subdebate-11-1-s8 .speaker-KUF} ##### Mr SPENCE:
Darling -- I wish to say only a few words in regard to the case of the officer brought under notice by the honorable and learned member for Illawarra. I have known the officer for a great many years. He occupied the position of a postmaster in my electorate, and was only absent from it owing to illhealth at the time the trouble arose. I have known this officer personally for some years, and from the records of the Department, I feel justified in saying that an injustice has been done to him, as the result of a sudden change in the -practice which was previously followed. I do not know who is responsible for that - change, but I am aware that it was effected during the time that the Deakin Government held office. Prior to that period, it was customary to institute very careful inquiries into all cases of remissness on the part of an officer. The Department adopted the very laudable plan of affording any officer who had been guilty of negligence, an opportunity to retrieve his character. It dealt with him either by reprimand, by fine, or by reducing his status. Suddenly, however, it was decided that every case in which an officer committed an irregularity should be handed over to the police authorities. The officer to whom I have already referred was not in very good health. He made a mistake, and was fined *£2* for a breach of the regulations which amounted to negligence. Subsequently, however, he was dismissed. I know of no other instance in which an officer has been dealt with in that way. I am satisfied that with his keen sense of fair play the Postmaster-General will not countenance the infliction of an injustice of that character. Personally, I am of opinion that the old system was preferable to tha present practice. As the case will probablv come under the notice of the Minister, I ask him to see that justice is meted out to the individual in question. {: #subdebate-11-1-s9 .speaker-KQP} ##### Mr McDONALD:
Kennedy *Supply.* the community. All the outlying centres from Townsville are more or less dependent upon that service. I would further point out that letters posted under the poundage rate upon vessels belonging to the Australian United Steam Navigation Company, the Howard Smith Company, or the Adelaide Steam-ship Company, two or three days prior to those forwarded by the *Barcoo, do* not arrive in Brisbane more than half-a-day earlier. {: .speaker-KEA} ##### Mr Kelly: -- That is a good lesson to remember, in connexion with our oversea mail carriage. {: .speaker-KQP} ##### Mr McDONALD: -- It merely goes to prove that no advantage is gained by transmitting mails by these vessels. This is a very important matter to the growing population of Northern Queensland, and I should like to know what the Department has done in connexion with it. I am aware that some time ago **Senator Drake** refused to provide the additional facilities upon the ground of expense. But I would point out that since then the Department has incurred extra expenditure by instituting a fast mail service between the mainland and Tasmania. I do not complain of that, but I say that Northern Queensland is also entitled to improved mail communication. Then there is another matter to which I desire to direct attention. In Northern Queensland - and I suppose the same remark is applicable to the back blocks of New South Wales and Western Australia - it is the practice of the Postal Department to station public officers in remote districts for very long periods. That is manifestly unfair. Officers who are comfortably situated in a more genial climate, and in thickly populated centres, should in their turn be sent to these outlying districts. It is unfair to expect officers to remain in the back blocks year after year. Unless they are able to occasionally effect an exchange, a system should be inaugurated under which periodical transfers should take place, so that no officer should be called upon to remain in the remote portions of the Commonwealth for more than three or four years. I would further point out that, in some instances, these men receive what, having regard to the enhanced cost of living, is a bare pittance - an amount which certainly does not compensate them for the loss of their health. I trust that the PostmasterGeneral will look into this matter. I should further like to know what the Department is doing in regard to the extension of the parcel -post system. In calling for tenders, the Department should make an effort to arrange for mails being carried, wherever possible, by vehicles instead of on horseback, so that the parcels post system may be extended to more of the outlying districts of the Commonwealth. It is also desirable to increase the limit fixed for the weight of parcels. At present the Department will receive only parcels weighing not more than11. lbs., and those who wish to send goods weighing (say, 33 lbs., get over this difficulty by dividing them into three packages. In these circumstances, the Department should consider the desirableness of increasing the limit. It is surely immaterial whether goods weighing 20 or 30 lbs. are carried in one parcel or in three. Many of the storekeepers and business people in rural districts are opposed to the parcels post system, but we have to consider the interests, not of one or two individuals, but of the people as a whole. I think that the system is of great service to residents of sparselypopulated districts, and might well be extended. {: #subdebate-11-1-s10 .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON:
Coolgardie -- It is desirable to emphasize the remaks of the honorable member for Kennedy as to the unfairness of the system under which officers are compelled to remain for years at stations in the more remote portions of Australia. This may be a mirth-provoking matter to representatives of city and suburban constituencies, who do not realize the conditions under which the men are compelled to labour, but to the unfortunate officers it is of the most serious nature. {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- Why did not the honorable member put the matter right when he was Postmaster-General ? {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- I had not time to do so. If the honorable member and others had not with indecent haste displaced the late Government, I should have endeavoured to formulate a scheme to redress some of the grievances of these officers ; more particularly the retention of some of them at remote stations for indefinite periods. I am familiar with several very hard cases, but the difficulty is that the hands of the Minister are tied by the Public Service Act. However admirable his ideas may' be, he is not permitted to give effect to them. No one knows that better than does the honorable member, who sneeringly asks why I did not formulate a scheme to remove this injustice. The whole control of the service is in the hands of the Public Service Commissioner. The Minister is to a great extent a mere figure-head - a petty registrar *Supply.* [18 November, 1904.] *Supply.* 7185 of the decisions of the Commissioner. The honorable member for Kennedy has not exaggerated the hardships inflicted upon officers condemned for years to a life of utter isolation. Men have been stationed for so many years at Eucla and Israelite Bay, as well as at Broome, and other settlements on the north-west coast of Western Australia, as to render them almost unfit for life in more civilized places. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- They were not kept there long against their will when I was Premier of Western Australia. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- It was not their " will," but rather their influence that effected a change. The right honorable member knows that it was exceedingly difficult for an officer to obtain a transfer from one of these distant stations. It was only upon the production of a medical certificate of absolute unfitness to continue duty there that he could obtain a transfer to Perth or one of the coastal towns. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- That was not the case in my time. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- I am in a position to affirm that it was. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- If they wished to be transferred, they certainly did not apply. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- Nonsense. The right honorable gentleman must be aware that officers have been on duty at Eucla from twelve to fourteen years; and is it not reasonable to assume they would have applied for a transfer if there was the remotest chance that it would be granted. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- I suppose they did not wishto leave. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- They never had an opportunity to be transferred. They knew very well, prior to Federation, that it would be useless to apply to the right honorable member for a transfer. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- **Mr. Sholl** would not do anything unjust. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- That is a bold thing to say to one who has proof that **Mr. Sholl** did do unjust things. This interjection reminds me of the right honorable member's denial the other day of having any blood relations in the Public Service of Western Australia. I was amused by the decisive emphasis which he placed on the word "blood." [Considering what he himself knows, and the facts with which he knows I am familiar, that statement evidenced either colossal stupidity or monumental audacity on his part. It is notorious that he practically created a Department for a connexion of his own. {: .speaker-KEA} ##### Mr Kelly: -- Thatis hardly in keeping with the honorable member's usual generosity. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- The honorable member, having no knowledge of the circumstances, is not a fair judge of this particular incident. The right honorable member's statement is not correct. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- I think it is. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- I observe that the righthonorable member is leaving the Chamber. Apparently he is not prepared to take the gruel that he is always ready to serve out to others. He has been holding up **Mr. Sholl** as a paragon of perfection, whereas he was merely a blustering autocrat, wholly unfitted for any high administrative post. From the shoals of protests against his management, I chance to have in my hand just now a letter from a member of the local Legislature, who represents an electorate forming part of my constituency, in which he states that - The great want of our district is proper postal facilities, and I am afraid, so long as the present Deputy Postmaster Sholl holds his position, there will be little advance on the old postal days. It requires a complete change in the Western Australian Postal Department - some one with up-to-date experience in charge, not a man like the present, whose whole aim is to keep down expenditure, no matter how injurious it is to the advancement of the State. Again, the same gentleman writes - The Postal Department is adamant ; nothing would shift them into anything like up-to-dateness ; the most powerful explosive will not shift them out of the old groove of twenty-five years ago; it will be a day of joy to far Northerners and backblockers when an up-to-date Deputy takes charge of postal matters in this State. These extracts, which could be supplemented by other and stronger testimony, vitiate the right honorable member's championship of this official, which is due to reasons that ought not to operate on a public man. When the right honorable member suggests that I have a suspicious mind, I feel it necessary to show that many other competent judges in Western Australia shared my opinion of this official. It is the right honorable member's privilege to slink away, but having the temerity to attack others he should be prepared to stand the brunt of their retorts. In the speech which he delivered a few evenings ago, he devoted considerable attention to the appointment of officers of the eastern States to the more lucrative positions in Western Australia, and desired to take credit . for having called attention to this matter. As a matter of fact, I directed attention to the question some time ago. I have a letter from the Postmaster-General's Department, dated 10th October last, forwarding me a return from, the Public Service Commissioner for which I had asked several months before, showing the number of officers in the Commonwealth service, with salaries of £250 per annum, or more, who have' been transferred from one State to another since 1st 'January, 1901. I find from the return, that in the Department of External Affairs, two officers have been transferred from New South Wales to Victoria, and one from Western Australia to this State. No transfers appear to ' have been made in the Attorney-General's Department; but in the Department of Home Affairs, five officers have been transferred from Victoria to New South Wales: In the Department of Trade and Customs, five have been transferred from Victoria to New South Wales, one from New ' South Wales to Victoria, and one from South Australia to Victoria. In the Defence Department, one Queensland officer has been transferred to this State, and two officers from New South Wales. In the Postmaster-General's Department, one officer has been transferred from New South Wales to the central staff in Victoria, two from Victoria to Western Australia, and two from Queensland to the central staff. This shows that the grievance, after all,' is not a very serious one. Briefly stated, it amounts to this : that two officers who. are earning more than ^250 a year have been transferred from Victoria to Western Australia since the establishment of the Commonwealth. The right honorable member has made a great deal of this complaint, without having much justification for doing so; though, of course, I join with him in protesting against the practice of filling all the higher positions in Western Australia by officers brought from the other States. I think that the Western Australian service should first be searched for good men, because there are good men there. I hope that the Government will not appoint an outsider to the position of Deputy Postmaster-General at Perth, because the gentleman now acting temporarily is a very able man, who knows the State from end to end, and he has given great satisfaction in the discharge of his present duties. Unless the Government are prepared to give to Western Australian officers opportunities to obtain lucrative positions elsewhere, this practice of exportingeastern officers to the State should . cease forthwith. The right honorable member for Swan was not the first to draw attention to the matter. Long before he uttered his. protest I had done my best to bring about a discontinuance of the practice. . . {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- I am very much obliged to the honorable member. We are evidently in accord on this subject. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- That is very satisfactory ; but we- should have been in greater accord 'had the right honorable member refrained from making aspersions upon the' Public Service Inspector in Western Australia. My complaint against him is that while he refused to charge that officer with any specific misdoing, he growled in a large, general way about his appointment, which, as I have already shown, was made by a Government of which the right honorable gentleman was a member. The officer himself was at the time of his appointment known to one or two of the Ministry, and was highly recommended by Ministers under whom he had served in New South Wales,, where he had given great satisfaction. 'He' has had varied experience in several De-, partments of the State service, and in all employments has given the utmost satisfaction to his official superiors. I do not express approval of every detailed act of his in Western Australia; but, taking his work there as a whole, I think that it has been very well done. ' " ' {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- The honorable member knows him well, I suppose? {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- I know him to be a fearless and independent man.. I had the pleasure of meeting him when he was. first appointed. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- And have, I suppose, been trying to run him ever since. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- The right honorable member is once, again quite wrong. I have never sought to influence this officer about any person' in the" Public Service, or concerning any candidate for a position in the Public Service. The right honorable member is quick to accuse others of having suspicious minds, a characteristic which he evidently possesses himself. I wish he interfered with the Public Service as little as I do. I cannot forget his action in a case which, perhaps, explains his- hostility to the Public Service Inspector in Western Australia. As the papers have been laid upon ; the table, I think I. am perfectly at liberty, *Supply.* [18 November, 1904.] *Supply.* 7187 to refer to it. About twelve months ago the office of postmasterat Fremantle was vacant. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- It was not vacant. The postmaster was away on leave. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- Practically it was vacant. The right honorable member is very precise. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- I merely wish to state a fact. It was not vacant {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- Well, it has become vacant since. The salary attached to that position is£460 per annum, and the right honorable member desired that an officer, who was acting as postmaster at Bunbury, on a salary of £270 per annum, should be transferred to Fremantle. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- I was not aware that the transfer was even contemplated. In anything I did afterwards I was only trying to obtain fair play for an officer who, without my knowledge, had been promised the temporary position. I did not know that it was to be promised to him till after the promise was made. It was only a temporary position, to be held for three months. The position was promised to him, and the promise was not kept. {: #subdebate-11-1-s11 .speaker-10000} ##### The CHAIRMAN: -- I would remind the right honorable member that it will be competent for him to make a statement on the subject when the honorable member for Coolgardie has finished his speech. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- The right honorable member says that he did not desire that this officer should be transferred ; that he wished only that he should get fair play. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- I desired that the promise made to him should be kept. I was not a party to that promise. I did not know of it before. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- Do I understand that the right honorable member complains that a promise made to **Mr. Woodrow** had not been kept? Who made that promise? {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- It was made by the Deputy Postmaster-General. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- Has the Deputy PostmasterGeneral any authority to make a promise of that kind ? {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- I think that he had authority to make such a promise in regard to a temporary position, and he has to exercise that power continually. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- The only person authorized to give such a promise was the PostmasterGeneral. I do not see why the right honorable gentleman should intervene; because the Deputy Postmaster-General chose to exceed his functions, by making a promise to **Mr. Woodrow.** {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- The position was only a temporary one, to be held for three months. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- The object was to make it permanent. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- I was not a party to the arrangement in any way. I did not know of it beforehand. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- At any rate, the right honorable member was a most active party to the arrangement in the end. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- Certainly, when I knew that **Mr. Woodrow** was being insulted, and not given what he was promised. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- No insult whatever was offered to **Mr. Woodrow.** {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- If some of the honorable member's friends had not interfered, the temporary appointment made on public grounds by the Deputy Postmaster-General would not have been disturbed. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- Does the right hono-i able gentleman think that an officer in receipt of a salary of £270 per annum- {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- He was getting more than that. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- He had a residence, of course. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- And was paid some allowances by the Statefor services rendered. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- . £270 was the salary which he was drawing as postmaster. Does the right honorable member think that such an officer was entitled to promotion to an office, the salary attached to which was *£460* per annum, when there were other officers of greater ability available? {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- He was the senior post and telegraph master in the State, and had a longer service than any one else available. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- He had something more than twelve months longer service than the man finally appointed. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- And he was as efficient and capable as any one. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- That is a distinct reflection on the Public Service Inspector. The right honorable member's grievance is that the officer whose duty it was to select a person suitable for the position did not consider **Mr. Woodrow** as suitable as some others. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- It was not because **Mr. Woodrow** was not suitable and capable in every way that he was not chosen to rill the temporary appointment at Fremantle. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- It is very unfortunate that the Public Service Inspector differed from the right honorable member. That with him is an unforgivable offence in any one. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- I 'take no exception to the action of the Commissioner. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- Did the right honorable member agree with the action of the Commissioner primarily ? {: .speaker-10000} ##### The CHAIRMAN: -- These proceedings are entirely irregular, and no one knows that better than the two honorable gentlemen who are taking part in them. I ask the honorable member for Coolgardie to change his mode of address, and to refrain from interrogating the right honorable member for Swan, while I remind the latter that he will have a full opportunity, later on, to reply to any statements to which he may take exception. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- I did not wish it to be thought that I took any exception to the decision of the Commissioner. I take no exception to his final decision when permanently filling up the position. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- The best answer I can make to the right honorable member's statements is to read the correspondence on the subject. I had nothing to do with the matter myself, and knew nothing about it until it was all over. What information I possess has been obtained from the papers which have been laid upon the table. They contain the following statement : - >On the 24th December, **Mr. J.** M. Fowler, M.P., telegraphed from Perth to the PostmasterGeneral as follows : - {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- I wonder what he had to do with it; it is not in his district, and he does not know **Mr. Woodrow** or his qualifications. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- It is not in the right honorable member's district either. The statement continues - " Newspapers here intimate Postmaster Bunbury transferred to Fremantle. If this intended be permanent, I enter vigorous protest, and will follow matter up. Several others better entitled position ; officer in question, if transferred at all, should go gold-fields, like others recently. Looks gross favoritism, and contrary both Act and Regulations." He was informed, in reply, on the same day that the matter had already been under notice, and that the Deputy Postmaster-General was informed that when the position was vacant it would have to be advertised, and all- applications considered ; in the meantime no action was to be taken, pending further report and decision of Minister as to temporary transfers recommended. On 24th December, **Sir John** Forrest, M.P., also telegraphed to the Postmaster-General from Perth in the following terms : - " Woodrow, Postmaster, Bunbury, being temporarily moved Fremantle ; a splendid man, fit for any position, have known him for twenty years, one of the very best men in Postal Department. You can approve of his promotion with confidence, and with my strongest recommendation. You can let Commissioner Public Service see this if necessary." This telegram was communicated by telephone to the Public Service Commissioner, who was asked for a copy of a communication it was understood he had received from his inspector in Western Australia on the subject. In compliance with this request the Commissioner forwarded the following copy of a telegram from Perth addressed to his secretary by the inspector referred to : - " Newspapers report Woodrow leaving Bunbury for duty as Acting Postmaster, Fremantle. Duties efficiently conducted by Grosvenor since Stirling left. Most strongly disapprove of transfer suggested, even temporarily." On 24th December, the following note was addressed to the Postmaster-General in Tasmania by the Secretary of his Department, namely : - " I enclose you herewith a telegram to you from **Sir John** Forrest with reference to the transfer of the Postmaster at Bunbury to a similar position at Fremantle, and also all papers connected with the matter which have reached this office. " For some months the Postmaster of Fremantle has been on leave owing to illness, he desired to retire altogether, but hitherto the Commissioner has not seen his way to agree to this, as the Postmaster, **Mr. Stirling,** has not reached the retiring age, and has not been certified as incapable of ever again performing the duties of his office. In consequence of **Mr. Stirling's** absence, which has extended over more than six months, the usual arrangements have been made for relieving him, and I cannot understand why they should not have been continued until a definite conclusion as to the retirement of the absent Postmaster. Of course, when, by his retirement, or otherwise, a vacancy is created for a successor, the position must, in accordance with the Public Service Act, be advertised, and applications for it invited. **Mr. Sholl's** recommendation to transfer, even temporarily, the Postmaster at Bunbury to Fremantle, appears to be intended to place him in a more favorable position to obtain the coveted office, which is probably the best in Western Australia." His action has been taken without reference to either this office or the Commissioner- {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- The Commissioner had nothing to do with the matter, either under the Act, or under the regulations. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- Does the right honorable member say that his superior, the PostmasterGeneral, should not have been consulted. Why does the honorable member defend **Mr. Sholl** in the action he took ? {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- Because **Mr. Sholl** thought he had the power. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- Then **Mr. Sholl** was mistaken in this case, as he has often been before. The narrative continues - >His action has been taken without reference to either this office or to the Commissioner, and i *Supply.* [18 November, 1904.] *Supply.* think it would be unwise to sanction it, as will be seen from the telegram from **Mr. Fowler,** M.H.R., and from **Mr. Green,** the Public Service Inspector in Perth. **Mr. Fowler** is certain to move in the matter (if it is allowed), when Parliament meets, and would probably have the support of his party, and, in the face of Green's telegram to the Commissioner, I do not see that approval of the transfer could be justified. I strongly recommend that the previous arrangements for relieving the Postmaster at Fremantle be continued, and that no transfers be allowed in connexion with this matter. If any action has been taken by **Mr. Sholl** to commit the Department without authority, it should be disavowed, and he must bear any responsibility connected with such unauthorized action. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- He thought he knew better than **Mr. Sholl.** As he was not on the spot, he must have known better than the Deputy Postmaster-General. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- In one sense he undoubtedly did. Though the Secretary to the Department has no local knowledge, he is not biased by old connexions or family traditions. Having the records of the various officers before him, his decision is more likely to be just than that of a man notoriously open to improper influences. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- Want of knowledge is better than full knowledge. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- The right honorable gentleman must remember that the Minister and Secretary had the assistance of the Public Service Inspector, **Mr. Green,** who is a very able man. He was the man who, under the circumstances, was most competent to guide the Postmaster-General. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- It is assumed that the Deputy Postmaster-General knew nothing at all. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- Not so; but rather that he knew too much. If the Deputy PostmasterGeneral exceeds his functions, as he did in this case, he deserves to be pulled up. If he had discharged the duties properly assigned to him. there would have been far less cause for complaint on the part of the public and of the public servants in Western Australia. But this perafonage had been so long accustomed to act, not merely as the civil head of the Department, but also as the political head, that he thought he could do just as he liked. Having for so many years hobnobbed with Ministers and politicians, he thought *he* could continue to run the Department in defiance of the will of the responsible Minister and of Parliament. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- I deny that. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- He had so many partisans in the local Parlaiment that he was practically able to dominate the Royal Com mission nominally appointed to investigate his conduct. That Commission whitewashed him, and condoned practices which have since been condemned by every competent officer who has inquired into them. The right honorable gentleman knows that that Commission was packed with partisans of **Mr. Sholl.** {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- Some of his opponents were also appointed. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- How many? {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- Some of those who complained against him. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- The right honorable gentleman gives his case away. If **Mr. Shollhad** merely attended to his proper functions he would have had no opponents in Parliament. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- I do not know that he had any. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- The right honorable gentleman has just said he had. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- I was referring to those who took up the case against him. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- That is very plausible, but we do not find heads of Federal Departments going out of their way to win friends or make enemies in Parliament. Then there were several other messages from the right honorable gentleman, showing that he took a very active interest in **Mr. Woodrow.** {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- Hear, hear. Because I thought an injustice was being done. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- The narrative proceeds - >This was returned by **Sir Philip** Fysh indorsed - " Recommendation approved, 26th December, 1903." The Deputy Postmaster-General was instructed accordingly on the 29th idem, and the same day **Sir John** Forrest was informed that the transfer recommended had been objected to, and that no transfer could be made pending a vacancy. The previous day **Sir John** Forrest had telegraphed to the Postmaster-General from Perth as follows : - *"Re* Woodrow's temporary transfer, please approve ; it is a good arrangement, and Fremantle is important place. Don't, therefore, hesitate to confirm Shall's recommendation." {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- That will not do me any harm. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- I am very glad to hear it. It is not possible to do the right honorable gentleman any harm in Bunbury. Returning to the papers, I find that - >On 28th December the following wire was sent by the Deputy Postmaster-General to this office : - " Your wire of 26th instant, *re* relief at Fremantle. I regret the arrangements proposed by me are to be postponed, as this will occasion serious inconvenience to the officers concerned, more especially **Mr. Fels,** who is so much in need of 7190 *Supply.* [REPRESENTATIVES.] *Supply.* the change after his very severe illness. As regards **Mr. Woodrow.** I selected him to relieve at Fremantle because of his being the senior Postmaster by service, and, in my opinion, entitled to take charge. He has the necessary qualifications socially - Here we have the cat out of the bag. Whoever heard before that it was necessary for a postmaster to have social qualifications ? and otherwise, and would, I am sure, discharge the duties satisfactorily. He clearly understood that a transfer was but temporary under section 51 of the Public Service Regulations, and that, in the event of a vacancy, he would have to take his chance with others. I was under the impression that I held power, under regulation referred to, to make such a transfer, and was impelled to this course owing to a rather unfavorable report by my inspector, who examined Fremantle office in October. If, however, I have erred, in my reading of the Regulations, I trust the PostmasterGeneral will not permit the two officers mentioned to suffer inconvenience and possible loss in consequence, which they must do, if the transfer is not confirmed. Further action has been deferred as directed. **Mr. Woodrow** was advised from the Perth office on 28th December, 1903, that arrangements *re* Fremantle would be postponed for present, pending instruction's from Melbourne, and that **Mr. Fels** (Postmaster, Cue), would remain at Perth for the present. Two days later **Mr. Woodrow** was informed from Perth that the Postmaster-General directed that arrangements previously existing for relieving the Postmaster, Fremantle, were to be continued, pending settlement of his case, consequently temporary transfers were not approved." The right honorable member for Swan, who says that he did not interfere in this matter, again telegraphed as follows: - > *Re* Woodrow, who is it that objects? I presume he meant to say, " Who dares to object?" You can be certain what I have recommended is the right thing, and the best. Why ignore Sholl's recommendation in a temporary matter of this kind, and why ignore my recommendation? {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- Hear, hear. That was addressed to my colleague. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- The right honorable gentleman had not been accustomed to this kind of treatment. He continued - >Surely you know by this time that I am not likely to lead you into trouble. It is matters of this kind, these pin pricks, that upset everything here. I again advise you to carry out Sholl's recommendations for Woodrow's temporary transfer. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- Hear, hear. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- I find also that on the 31st December the Secretary to the PostmasterGeneral's Department again summarized the facts as follows : - >Send all papers, including later telegrams from **Sir John** Forrest and the Deputy PostmasterGeneral, *re* proposed transfer of Postmaster at > >Bunbury to Fremantle, to Postmaster-General, Hobart. In view of the fact that **Mr. Stirling,** the Postmaster of Fremantle, has* been absent from that office for the last eight months, and that his place during that time, as well as during a previous absence of six months, has been taken by the principal assistant in the Fremantle office, and the duties performed satisfactorily *(vide* report of Public Service Inspector), no change should be made. It is true that **Mr. Sholl** says that he has been impelled to recommend a change owing to a report of his inspector as to the Fremantle office in October last, but the summary of that report, which is now herewith, does not disclose anything to the disadvantage of the Acting Postmaster, but shows that he has been at a disadvantage owing to the absence of so many of his assistants on leave. It seems strange that now, when the leave granted to the Postmaster is to be curtailed, with a view to his retirement, it should be found necessary to transfer another Postmaster to Fremantle, instead of waiting the usual action when a vacancy has occurred owing to such retirement. That neither the Postmaster at Bunbury nor his friends regard the proposed transfer as temporary, and for three months, is shown by his having been feted by the residents, in view of his transfer to Fremantle. In view of the peculiar position, 'and of all the facts, so far as they are known at this office, I am strongly of opinion that the existing arrangements at Fremantle should not be disturbed, unless very good reasons can be given, and that other Postmasters in Western Australia, at the more important towns, should not be in any way prejudiced when a vacancy occurs by the fact of a Postmaster having already been transferred to fill the position, even temporarily. I would suggest that **Sir John** Forrest be informed that the proposed transfer of **Mr. Woodrow** has been objected to by the Public Service Commissioner, and by **Mr. Fowler,** M.H.R., and that so far sufficient reasons have not been shown for disturbing the existing arrangements at Fremantle, which have been in operation for the last eight months, and also for six months some years since, and have been reported by the Public Service Inspector to have been satisfactory. The right honorable gentleman was not going to abandon the case even then, because, on 1 st January, 1904, he sent another wire to the Postmaster-General as follows : - > *Re* Woodrow. - I hear former arrangement at Fremantle worked badly, and that a good man like Woodrow necessary there. I should like to know where the right honorable gentleman got his information ? {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- I obtained it from **Mr. Sholl.** I was a Minister at the time. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- Yes; but not the Minister of the Department. The telegram reads as follows : - >Cannot understand any objection being raised, as he is a senior officer, and is not displacing or getting ahead of any one else. Cannot but think some underhand and unfair influence at work, or objection would not be taken to a temporary transfer. of this kind. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- Hear, hear. {:#subdebate-11-2} #### Supply. [18 November, 1904.] Supply. 7191 {: #subdebate-11-2-s0 .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- The right honorable gentleman cheers this, but the file contains letters, whose disclosure would not be so welcome. There is some of this corresconfidential." {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- I do not care if all of it is published. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- Then why did the right honorable gentleman take the unusual precaution of marking his later letters "strictly confidential." This senior officer occupied an office graded as No. 6 in the Public Service of Western Australia, and what the right honorable member for Swan desired was that he should be promoted to grade 1, and should jump the intervening grades. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- I did not ask that he should jump over any officer in his own State. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- The Fremantle office is graded No. 1, and the Bunbury office No. 6, and the right honorable member for Swan desired that the Bunbury postmaster should be promoted to Fremantle, and skip the intervening grades. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- Who was senior to him ? {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- I am not saying who was senior to him, but the right honorable member desired to take him over all these hurdles in one jump. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- I very nearly did it, too. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- It was certainly not the fault of the right honorable gentleman that he did not succeed. The telegram continues - >Some underhand and unfair influence at work or objection would not be taken to temporary transfer of this man. No wonder Sholl feels humiliated, when his reasonable and proper requests were ignored. In my opinion **Mr. Sholl** deserves a little more humiliation than that amounted to. Please look into this matter, and I am certain you must agree with my advice. There is something wrong somewhere, and we must get to the bottom of it in your interests, as well as in that of the State. Will see Commissioner *re* Woodrow on my return to Melbourne. Underhand influence and the humiliation of **Mr. Sholl** troubled the right honorable gentleman to the close, and when he was coming back to this State, he intimated that he- Will see Commissioner *re* Woodrow on my return to Melbourne. What right had the right honorable gentlettian to go nearthe Commissioner at all? The Public Service Commissioner is appointed to do justice on the reports of the inspectors for the several States, and I would ask by what right any politician should go near him ? ' I have never been to see him. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- Did I see him? {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- The papers do not disclose the nature of the private interviews which the right honorable gentleman had with the Commissioner. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- I do not think I had any. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- I find that I have done the right honorable gentleman an injustice. **Sir Philip** Fysh, I see, instructed the Secretary to await his return, and telegraphed to **Sir John** Forrest - >Will see the Public Service Commissioner *re* Woodrow on my return to Melbourne. These papers came into my hands only a few moments ago, and I have therefore not had time to properly master their contents. I have no wish to do the right honorable member for Swan any injustice, and indeed I regret very much that it should have been necessary for me to bring up this case. But the right honorable gentleman cannot be absolved from blame, for his references to the Public Service Inspector necessitated the action taken by me. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- I believe that he has always treated Woodrow very well. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- It is because I have formed the opinion that this case is at the bottom of the right honorable gentleman's references to **Mr. Green,** whom I know to be an impartial man, that I have been led to refer to this matter at greater length than I should otherwise have done. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- My action was taken on public grounds, and I had no wish to reflect upon **Mr. Green** in any way; {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- I do not know what meaning to attach to the right honorable member's allusion to unfair and underhand influence, unless he intended such reflection. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- I could not attribute what took place to anything else. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- I am unable to agree with the right honorable gentleman. Surely, if the Postmaster-Generalfound **Mr. Sholl** doing what he had no right to do, in transferring, public servants temporarily or otherwise, it was his duty to pull him up, and to refuse to confirm his action. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- No ; he should have told him that he must not do that kind' of thing again. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- That course would have been justifiable if it involved no injustice to other officers. There are reasonable grounds for believing that the intention was to give **Mr. Woodrow** the permanent appointment at Fremantle. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- He was senior. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- And ignore men who. if not his seniors in age and service, were at least his seniors in responsibility, and his superiors in practical knowledge. It is idle to say that it was reasonable to appoint a man who had no experience, except in a remote country station like Bunbury, to the important position of Postmaster at Fremantle. An officer stationed at a place like Bunbury could not, in the nature of things, become qualified for the more important and onerous duties of a first-class station like Fremantle. I pass from this matter with a great deal of pleasure in order again to refer to the practice of the Department in allowing officers to remain for long periods at outlying stations. {: .speaker-F4P} ##### Mr Reid: -- We all sympathize with the honorable member's representations on that point. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- Before Federation, officers stationed at remote places in Western Australia received not merely substantial living allowances, !but free medical attendance. As a rule there was only one medical officer in those places, and the State Government arranged with him that the officers of the Post and Telegraph Department should receive his care. In a new country men are exposed to great risks from fever, and the salaries they were paid were not sufficient to cover hospital accommodation. {: .speaker-F4P} ##### Mr Reid: -- We shall not be able ,to redress any of these grievances if the honorable member keeps us here all the time. {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- In justice to the men concerned, I must be allowed to place their position before the House, for they have no voice, except that of their representative. It is impossible for the Public Service Inspector to get out to places like Esperance, Eucla, and Balladonia. Officers stationed at these outlying places have written to me complaining of the hardships they suffer, and, it is my d'uty to bring their complaints before Parliament. {: .speaker-F4P} ##### Mr Reid: -- Why not communicate with the Postmaster-General, instead of taking up the time of Parliament? {: .speaker-KLB} ##### Mr MAHON: -- When the right honorable member sat on this side the time of Parliament was often taken up to less pur pose. The living allowance granted to officers at these outlying stations was more liberal prior to Federation than it is now, and in addition, they have been deprived of the free medical attendance and hospital accommodation which they previously enjoyed. I can inform the Committee that nearly the whole of the public servants of . Western Australia voted for Federation on the distinct understanding that the privileges which they enjoyed as officers of the State Public Service would be preserved to them under the section of the Constitution intended to maintain existing and accruing rights. They find now, Federation being accomplished, that they are shorn of their privileges, and that their living allowance has been curtailed. 1 should not be doing my duty if, when these Estimates were under consideration, 1 did not insist that something should be done to improve' the position of these unfortunate officers, who should not be left for years in remote places to undergo all the hardships and deprivations which men stationed in such localities must endure. There is another matter which I should like to bring under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral. I find that in certain gold-fields towns in Western Australia the Department is paying a considerable sum in rent for official post and telegraph offices. In one case I am aware that ,£52 a year is being paid for a little cottage next door to a public-house, in a town which has been in existence, to my knowledge, for nearly twelve years, and the stability of which is so far assured, that the State Government has erected expensive buildings and crushing mills in the locality at an expenditure of several thousand pounds. It is therefore not unreasonable to expect the Post and Telegraph Department to erect a building costing ^500 or ,£600 in such a place, and thereby save the rent which is now being paid. I did not hear the PostmasterGeneral's answer to the question submitted with respect to the early clearances of letterboxes in Melbourne and its suburbs, but I express the hope that before the House rises we shall have an opportunity to ascertain how the innovation in question came to be initiated, how it is working, and on what grounds it is being maintained. I had no wish to detain the Committee unnecessarily, and I regret that, owing to the attack made by the right honorable member for Swan on the Public Service Inspector for Western Australia, it was necessary to enter at such length into the details o! a case, which otherwise did not call for rescue from official oblivion. {: #subdebate-11-2-s1 .speaker-KLM} ##### Mr MALONEY:
Melbourne -- I desire to conclude the brief remarks I intended to make last night. It will be remembered that I was dealing with the charges made for telephone communication, and I suggested that a small fee of ^3 3s. might be charged with a fee of id., 2d., or 3d. per message. I . understand that there will be very great difficulty in inducing people to adopt that system, but it will be admitted that it would prevent, one of the evils of the present system under which persons may monopolize a telephone for half-an-hour, and prevent its use by those who desire to use it. I suggest, also, that some steps should be taken in the interests of the operators who, in the opinion of the highest scientific authorities are, by the nature of their work, rendered extremely liable to nervous prostration. There is just one matter to which I desire to direct attention. Before doing so, however, I wish to thank the Postmaster- General for the good work which has been accomplished in the Department, as the result of the transfer of an officer from Queensland to Victoria. I am very glad that new blood has been introduced into the Victorian postal administration through the appointment of **Mr. Scott,** whom I applaud for the very strong attitude which he has assumed upon certain questions. I understand that a second officer has recently been transferred from New South Wales to this State, and that upon his report difficulties which had existed for many years have been removed. 1 am also pleased to learn that the Minister is prepared to accept certain suggestions that- have been made in regard to letter clearances in the suburbs. In my opinion, the practice of transferring officers from one' State to another cannot fail to produce beneficial results. There is one bad feature in connexion with the administration of this Department, which should be remedied with- out delay. I understand that certain of our electoral registrars are under the control of the Postmaster-General's Department. The experience I had in the December election showed - to make the kindest remark that I can - that the officer placed in charge of it was incompetent, and a few days before the late Postmaster-General left office I had to make a complaint against him for having removed the registrar who was making up the rolls in North Mel bourne, putting in his place a man who was new to the work. I .regret that his reply was inaccurate. I asked the PostmasterGeneral not to sanction the continual transfer of electoral registrars, when they are engaged in the compilation of the rolls. I welcome the system of transferring officers from one State to another. It will have the effect of removing some of the cobwebs which seem to attach to this Department, and consequently it constitutes a move in the right direction. {: #subdebate-11-2-s2 .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- I have to thank honorable members for the criticisms in which they have indulged. Although those criticisms have been rather lengthy, upon the whole, they have been of a friendly character, and I am sure that they will prove of. great assistance to me in administering the Postal Department. Many suggestions have been made, some of which will be of very great value. I sympathize as much as does anybody with the pioneers of Australia who are compelled to labour under many disabilities in the back-blocks, and. who enjoy comparatively few facilities in the matter of telephonic or postal communication. I think that it is our duty to assist in every possible way those who are engaged in the noble work of developing the resources of the Commonwealth, and honorable members may rest assured that to the full extent of our power, we shall endeavour to do that. During the course of this debate special reference has been made to the salary which attaches to the position of Deputy Postmaster-General in New South Wales and other States. When a vacancy was created in New South Wales owing to the retirement of **Mr. Dalgarno,** it was generally understood that the Public Service Commissioner would appoint an officer to fill it. The matter, however, was referred to the Attorney-General, who advised that the Government alone had power to make the appointment. The suggestion was then made that the salary attaching to the office should be reduced to ^800 per annum. It is, perhaps, needless to say that I do not agree with that suggestion. I think that an officer who is qualified to fill such an important position should, by reason of his ability and experience, be able to command a salary of ^920 per annum. There is no doubt whatever as to the ability of the present occupant of that office. He has to control a revenue which, last year, amounted to ,£941,000, and an expenditure which aggregated ^950,000. Further, he has to take charge of the Government Savings Bank's transactions, and of all money-order and postal-note business. He has also to accept a responsibility which he was not previously called upon to bear. In pre-Federation days, the PostmasterGeneral shouldered the responsibility of approving of practically all expenditure in connexion with the Department, but at the present time it devolves upon the Deputy Postmasters-General. {: .speaker-F4R} ##### Mr Watson: -- But that expenditure does not involve matters of policy. The Minister's argument is that the more- we decentralize our system, the more expensive it should be. {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- Last year, this officer had to control no less a sum than £11,000,000. {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- How many men doe's he control ? {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- He controls 3,865 permanent officers, and 2,859 nonofficials, or a total of 6,724 officers. Obviously, it is necessary that we should have a man of ability to fill that position, and to secure the services of such an officer we must pay him a good salary. We all know what is done by private employers. The Broken Hill Proprietary Companydoes not hesitate to pay ,£5,000 or .£6,000 to a person to manage its business. {: .speaker-F4R} ##### Mr Watson: -- That argument would apply to the permanent head of the Department in Melbourne. {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- The permanent head of the Department in Melbourne is paid a salary of £1,000 a year. {: .speaker-KXO} ##### Mr Page: -- Does not the Minister think that he is worth it? {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- I do. Nobody grudges him that salary. It is undeniable that **Mr. Scott** attends to the work of his office in a very thorough manner. I hold that the Deputy Postmaster-General of New South Wales is entitled to a good salary in view of the responsible position which he occupies. It has been suggested that the salary of the Collector of Customs in New South Wales should also be reduced. That officer receives £920 per annum, and nobody will contend that he has to shoulder more responsibility than falls to the lot of the Deputy PostmasterGeneral of that State. Reference has been made by the honorable member for Parramatta and others to the Pacific Cable, and I join with them in complaining of the lack of commercial aptitude exhibited by those who control that line. I think they should have "pushed business more than they have done. Whilst New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland contribute about '£30,000, a year towards the maintenance of that cable, it should be recollected that last year the company were required to pay- £114,526 in interest, sinking fund, and renewals. In my judgment we should extend as soon as possible the system of the Government ownership of cables throughout the Empire. I take the same view in regard to that matter as: I do in regard to the ownership of our telegraphs and telephones. I am pleased to say that a board will very shortly meet in the old country to consider in what way the service and the business of the Pacific Cable can be improved. The. conference has been somewhat delayed by the Canadian elections, but I think that it will be held at a very early date, whenwe may look forward to some more satisfactory arrangement being arrived at in regard to pushing the business of the Pacific Cable. Any assistance which the Commonwealth Government can afford in that direction will be forthcoming. Regarding the question of our mail contract, I admit that a satisfactory tender has not been received. None of us wish to see the poundage system brought into operation unless we are forced to resort to it. But we have to choose between that system and the payment of a subsidy of £150,000 per annum. As honorable members are aware, the present contract will terminate upon the 31st January next year. The British Government have entered into a- contract with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company to provide us with a1 fortnightly service. It was left with us to arrange for a similar service with the Orient Company so as to continue a weekly service between Australia and the old country. Tenders for that -contract were invited by the Deakin Government in the first instance. Some misunderstanding occurred in regard to the question of providing cold storage accommodation, and unfortunately the tender which was forwarded to the Department cannot be found. {: .speaker-F4P} ##### Mr Reid: -- That is a strange thing. {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- It is strange. The impression of officers of the Department is that the tender in question covered provisions for certain cold storage accommodation. I am obtaining a copy of the first tender sent in by the Orient Company, the details of which were embodied in a minute considered by the Government of the day. That tender was not acceptable, because the price was too high. Fresh tenders were invited, in which the charge for making provision for cold storage was to be separated from that for the carriage of mails. I find that the company stated in their tender that the steam-ships would be fitted with cold storage accommodation. They said they would be called upon, as a matter of business, to provide this accommodation, but that they did not care to bind themselves down to make the provision specified in the conditions of the contract called by my honorable friend the late Postmaster-General. The second tender, like the first, was for £[150,000. From 1888 until 1898, the Australian Governments were called upon to contribute only £75,000 per annum for a weekly service. At the end of that period the contribution was reduced to £72,000 per ' annum ; and I think that honorable members will admit that it was too much to expect the Commonwealth to pay an additional ,£78,000 per annum for that part of the same service which was carried out by the Orient Company. That was the view which two previous Governments took of this matter, and we certainly indorsed it. During the course of negotiations, the question of the employment of black labour was discussed, and **Mr. Anderson,** the manager of the Orient Company, in a letter addressed to the late Prime Minister- {: .speaker-F4R} ##### Mr Watson: -- In writing to me, he mentioned that he had already written to the honorable' and learned member for Ballarat. {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- The letter forms part of the Departmental records. In this communication, he pointed out thai the resort to Iascar labour in the stokeholds of the vessels of the Orient-Pacific line had its origin in no idea of monetary economy. The company had ito employ two coloured men to do the work of one white man, and consequently occupy double the room, and to incur other expense, so that really no saving was effected by employing black labour. {: .speaker-KXK} ##### Mr Webster: -- That is too thin. {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- I am merely putting before the Committee the opinion expressed by the manager of the company. {: .speaker-F4R} ##### Mr Watson: -- He said that, in any case, they would require the same subsidy. {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- He went on to say that it was a question, not so much as to the increased cost of substituting white labour for black, but as to the company being able to carry on the service profitably, and that they could not make a profit with a subsidy of only £85,000. {: .speaker-F4R} ##### Mr Watson: -- Under any conditions. {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- That is sa From the Government point of view, it is, to say the least, .remarkable that they were able to carry on this service with a subsidy of .£85,000 per annum, when the export trade of Australia was nothing like as large as it is at the present time. {: .speaker-KIC} ##### Mr Lonsdale: -- But there are now more steam-ship companies engaged in the trade. {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- It is true that competition is keener to-day than it was in 1888, but I do not think there is anything to justify our paying an additional£7 8,000 per annum on the old contract. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- Freights are lower. {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- That may be. {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- The subsidy of £72,000 was formerly for the two companies ? {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- But under the new arrangement, the Orient Company was to give us a fortnightly service to and from England, and the British Government was to provide for a similar one. Under the proposed contract, we should have had to pay £150,000, instead of £72,000 per annum for the continuation of the old service, and the Government, feeling that they would not be justified in doing anything of the kind, refused to accept the tender. I should have been pleased to arrive at a satisfactory arrangement, but I think that honorable members will admit that the terms proposed were unreasonable. The Peninsular and Oriental Company will continue to give us a fortnightly service, by arrangement with the British Government, but we shall be forced to resort to the poundage system in order to get over the difficulty in regard to a weekly service. Under the new arrangement, it will be necessary to avail ourselves, as far as possible, of steamers that will be able to deliver our mails in the old country with something like reasonable despatch. I do not think that there is any likelihood of the Orient Company going out of the Australian trade ; and, as long as they remain in it, we shall be able to send our mails by their steamers under the poundage system. If we paid, the postal union rates, the adoption of that system would involve an expenditure for all our mails of about £28,000 per annum ; but under the rates, in .accordance with the law passed by this Parliament, it would cost us only about £10,200 per annum to have half our mail matter conveyed by other boats than those of the Peninsular and Oriental Company, or a total of about £19,000 per annum. The cost will be much less than it was under the old system, but I freely admit that the service is not likely to be as efficient. I am hopeful that we shall be able to make better arrangements than appear possible at the present time; but we were forced to resort to the poundage system, the tenders sent in being so unreasonable. In order to make good the loss of the weekly service which was provided under the contract system, we shall have to avail ourselves of every steamer that will be obtainable for the carriage of our mails. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- "Under the poundage system, these vessels will 'be able to call wherever they please. . {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- The Peninsular and Oriental Steam-ship Company are under contract to provide a fortnightly service, and must comply with the terms of that contract ; but we cannot interfere with the movements of steamers carrying mails under the poundage system. {: .speaker-KQP} ##### Mr McDonald: -- It does not pay steamship companies to allow time to be wasted. {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- Certainly not. The owners of steamers having a large quantity of perishable produce on board, are not likely to unduly protract their voyages, simply for the sake of delaying our mails. If they wish to participate in the Australian trade it will be necessary for them to expedite their passage. They will have to compete with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam- Navigation Company. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- They will run their vessels to please 'themselves. {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- Another matter to which prominence has been given during the general debate is the extension of the telephone service, and special reference has been made to the proposal to construct a telephone line from .Geelong to Warrnambool without requiring any guarantee to be given by the persons who will be served by it. The honorable member for Corangamite first brought the proposal under the notice of the Government, pointing out that a number of the residents of Colac desired to be connected with the telephone system. Inquiries made by the Department showed that it would not pay to construct a line to that town; but that if it were- extended to Warrnambool - a very im portant business centre, and if it also served the intervening towns of Terang and Camperdown, it would certainly be a profitable undertaking. That was the opinion expressed by the engineer of the Department, and the request that the line should, be constructed was supported by a letter from the Geelong Chamber of Commerce, which was presented to the Government by the honorable and learned member for Corio. In view of the engineer's report, and of the opinions expressed by the Deputy Postmaster-General, I had) no hesitation in approving of the proposal. When we find that a line would not pay if carried to only a certain point, but would be a profitable undertaking if extended some miles further on, I think we have a right to agree to the extension. {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- We do not object to that ; but what we wish to know is why we all cannot be served alike {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- The Government will be prepared to consider any case in which it can be shown that by making an extension, as in the case of the Warrnambool line,, a profit may be secured.. Some objection has been raised to the new system of utilizing growing trees as telegraph posts. I do not blame those who complain, but I feel that we can never hope to give rural districts the telephone facilities that they deserve, unless we are able to cheapen the system. I am anxious to afford the residents of outlying districts the most reasonable telegraphic and telephonic facilities ; and I think that by utilizing growing trees in this way, we shall be able to very materially reduce tha cost of the system. Let me cite a case in point. A report was submitted to me showing that a telephone line to serve three different places would involve an outlay of £496. I returned the report to the officer, with a request that he should inform me if the cost of the line could not be reduced by utilizing growing trees instead of telegraph posts for a distance of eighteen miles. Under the original estimate, the farmers to be served would have been called upon to deposit a sum of £132, and to enter into a certain bond ; but in reply to my request, I learned that by utilizing trees in this way, the cost of the line would be reduced to £232, that the line would become a paying one, and1 that it would be unnecessary to require those interested to lodge any deposit. I might mention one or two cases of a similar character, and I am sending back various reports submitted to me with a view to ascertain whether this *Supply* [18 November, 1904.] *Supply.* 7197. system may not be more generally adopted. Where it is possible in this way to reduce our expenditure, and to thus enable telephonic communication to be extended, it is our duty to do so. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports and others have complained that casual hands are being paid a lower rate of wage than the minimum fixed by the Act, and for their information I would state that, in September last, a circular was issued, notifying that casual hands should in future be paid at least the minimum rate, and they are being so paid at the present time. If there are any cases in which that notification is not being complied with, I shall be glad to be told of it. The subletting of contracts, to which reference has been made, is a very important matter, and has caused a great deal of discussion in this Chamber. The Hate Postmaster-General had it under consideration, and decided - I think rightly - that subletting, except by consent of the Department, should be abolished. **Mr. Vines,** who, trading as Cobb and Co., had sublet a large number of contracts, was called upon either to surrender them or to transfer them to the subcontractors, under a penalty of having his contract cancelled. He accordingly agreed to transfer- {: .speaker-KWL} ##### Mr Tudor: -Forty-one. {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- I think that was the number. There were two contracts, however, which he declined to transfer, and he was notified that if he did not transfer them in accordance with the decision of my predecessor, I would cancel them. He did not transfer them, and I cancelled them. Then an effort was made to get fresh tenders invited, but I was averse to calling for fresh tenders, because I felt that the original contractor might even go to the length of undertaking a service at a loss rather than allow the man who had been carrying on this service to obtain the contracts. The legality of my action in cancelling the two contracts to which I have referred was questioned, and the matter' has been referred to the Attorney-General for his opinion. {: .speaker-KJ8} ##### Mr Hutchison: -- What does the Minister propose to do in regard to the action of this man in subletting fresh contracts? {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- Can the honorable member give me an instance ? {: .speaker-KJ8} ##### Mr Hutchison: -- The honorable member for Grey last night referred to a case in which a contract taken for *£160* had been sublet for£72. {: .speaker-KXO} ##### Mr Page: -- That is one of the contracts which were forfeited. {: .speaker-KWL} ##### Mr Tudor: -- Is it a fact that **Mr. Vines** has authority to draw money for some of the sub-contractors ? {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- I am not aware. {: .speaker-KWL} ##### Mr Tudor: -- Will the Minister look into the question? {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- Yes ; though I think it comes more within the province of the Treasurer. It is, of course, impossible for the Department to know of these cases unless they are brought under our notice. {: .speaker-KJ8} ##### Mr Hutchison: -- Is not the Minister going to see that something will be done to this man for not carrying out his contract ? {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- I shall take every action within our power to give effect to my decision, or the decisions of my predecessors. I shall not allow any contractor to flout the Department. But we must act on legal lines. Hitherto we have faithfully carried out the intention of Parliament. {: .speaker-F4P} ##### Mr Reid: -- If a contractor sublet 'a second time, would the Minister consider him eligible for fresh contracts? {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- No. A man who did that kind of thing would not be entitled to any consideration by the Department. {: .speaker-F4P} ##### Mr Reid: -- That is the way to stop it. Make the offender ineligible for the taking of contracts after the commission of. his second offence. {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- Yes. We have that remedy against the contractors. {: .speaker-KFJ} ##### Sir John Forrest: -- Surely the Government would not disqualify a man for life? {: .speaker-F4P} ##### Mr Reid: -- That is another matter. {: .speaker-KVW} ##### Mr DAVID THOMSON:
CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND · ALP -- **Mr. Vines** is suing **Mr. Leviston,** the sub-contractor, for breach of contract. {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- We cannot prevent him from doing that. {: .speaker-KXK} ##### Mr Webster: -- Will not the Department protect **Mr. Leviston** from the action ? {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- The Government cannot protect any man from legal proceedings of that kind. {: .speaker-KXO} ##### Mr Page: -- What does the Minister in- tend to do in regard to the question of living allowances which I brought under his notice? {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- The matter is now under consideration. It is one for the 7198 *Supply.* [REPRESENTATIVES.]. *Supply.* Public Service Commissioner to deal with, but I promise to give it attention. I have made it my practice to have the reports of speeches containing criticism of my Department laid before me, and to make special inquiry about the various subjects raised by honorable members. {: .speaker-KXK} ##### Mr Webster: -- What about the telephone " call " system ? {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- The Government can hardly be expected to have had time to give full consideration to 'all the details of telephone management; but at the present time an officer of the Department is visiting America and other countries to obtain information on the whole subject. {: .speaker-F4R} ##### Mr Watson: -- The present system is a pretty slack one. {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- I admit that there is room for improvement, but we do not wish to make a mistake. {: .speaker-K8L} ##### Mr Thomas: -- The Department would rather do nothing at all. {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- The honorable member must admit that it would be unwise to alter our system before we are satisfied that we could obtain a better one. Not long ago we advertised for a new switch board at Hobart, to continue the old system, but, on receiving a communication from our expert, who was at the time in the old country, advising us, in view of the possibility of an improved system being adopted, not to go any further, I ordered the invitation for tenders to be withdrawn. {: .speaker-F4R} ##### Mr Watson: -- Have the Department had a report yet in regard to the automatic switch ? {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- The officer to whom 1 have referred has gone into the matter, but not so fully as I wish him to do. Some engineers see a difficulty in introducing the system; but, as it has been adopted in America and elsewhere, it must have advantages. Only last week I refused to approve of the recommendation of one of the electrical engineers to carry out extensive works in connexion with the present system, because I thought it unwise to expend money, perhaps uselessly, before getting a reportfrom the officer who has been deputed to investigate the most recent systems in vogue in other countries. What is known as the " condenser " system, whereby telegraph wires on which there is not a great deal of traffic are used, has been tried in Western Australia with very satisfactory results. {: .speaker-JX9} ##### Mr Frazer: -- We should like to have more of it. {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- Although in its early stages it was reported against, **Mr. Hallam,** of Tasmania, says that it works very well, and I am glad to have the honorable member's testimony in regard to it. {: .speaker-JUV} ##### Mr McWilliams: -- It has been in use in Tasmania for many years. {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- Yes, and I should like to see it more generally adopted throughout the Commonwealth. If I find any engineer disposed to stand in the way of improvements, I shall have to get others to do what is necessary. I do not agree with those who say that officers should not be transferred from one State to another. What we should do is to get the best men for the various positions which are vacant. One of the advantages expected from Federation was the improved administration which would result from securing the best men available, wherever they might be found. If I find it necessary to bring new blood into any State, I shall not hesitate to do so. With regard to the question of letter-box clearances, to which reference has been made by the late PostmasterGeneral, a short time after I assumed office I found that there were trains leaving for Ballarat and Bendigo at 2 o'clock in the morning, by which a large number of letters might be despatched, and I accordingly determined to avail myself of them, instead of leaving these letters lying in Melbourne until they could be despatched by trains leaving at a much later hour. For this service the Railway Commissioners asked for an extra payment of . £300 per annum. That I declined to give. I agreed to a proposal that we should pay according to results - that we would give the new system a three months' trial, and see how it worked out. The Railway Commissioners were reasonable, and agreed to that arrangement. We find that, according to the report of the Board, about 2,000,000 letters will be sent to Ballarat and Bendigo annually by these early morning trains. The public will now be able to post their letters in the. city up till about midnight, and rest assured that they will reach Ballarat and Bendigo in time for delivery early next morning. There will be a special suburban clearance earlier from a number of postoffices and railway stations, and these *Supply.* [18 November, 1904.] *Supply* 7199 letters will also be sent by the 2 o'clock train. This will enable persons to forward letters to Ballarat and Bendigo, to have a reply sent back by the 11 o'clock train, . and delivered in Melbourne the same afternoon; also to send a further letter to Ballarat or Bendigo on the same night. {: .speaker-KWL} ##### Mr Tudor: -- What will be the cost of the extra collection? {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- The extra collection will not involve any additional expense so far as the city is concerned, but in the suburbs the extra cost to be debited against the collection of Ballarat and Bendigoletters has been estimated at £232 a year. {: .speaker-KXK} ##### Mr Webster: -- What charge will be made by the Railway Commissioners? {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- We do not know yet. In view of the large amount of mail matter with which we have to deal, I think that it is only right that we should take advantage of every means of despatching it. {: .speaker-KXO} ##### Mr Page: -- The extra expense involved, amounting to £530 per annum, is nothing more nor less than a subsidy to the *Age* and *Argus.* {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- I do not take that view. So far as I am concerned, I do not know either the *Age* or the *Argus* in the matter. I found that a certain train was running, and I thought that it was right to utilize it in order to meet the convenience of the public. It is estimated that the number of letters cleared at midnight for Ballarat and Bendigo average about 7,000 daily, or upwards of 2,000,000 a year. {: .speaker-KXO} ##### Mr Page: -- Not by the 2 o'clock trains. {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- Yes, by the 2 o'clock trains to Ballarat and Bendigo. {: .speaker-KWL} ##### Mr Tudor: -- Why should we pay anything more than previously for sending letters to Ballarat and Bendigo? {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- The matter is under trial at present, and I fully expect that when it is completed honorable members will agree that a good thing has been done. It is to be further reported upon with actual figures in January. {: .speaker-JSM} ##### Mr Brown: -- Can the Minister adopt similar progressive measures in New South Wales ? {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- I have already provided for certain alterations in Sydney, which will confer great benefits upon the community. Under the old arrangement, letters which were intended for despatch by the 9 o'clock mail train had to be posted at Redfern not later than.2.40. I have altered that arrangement, and have provided that letters for the 7.30 mail train may be posted up till 5.30, whilst correspondence intended for the 9 o'clock train may be posted at the General Post Office, Sydney, up till 7.30. {: .speaker-K8L} ##### Mr Thomas: -- Has the Minister considered the question of introducing a uniform Commonwealth stamp ? {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- That is a matter with which I can hardly deal at present. I should like to see a uniform stamp adopted, but honorable members know that the book-keeping clauses of the Constitution stand in the way. {: .speaker-K8L} ##### Mr Thomas: -- Will the Minister be able to make an announcement on the subject before the end of the session ? {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- The honor able member may rest assured that we shall give consideration to the matter, and do our best to overcome the difficulties that stad in the way. {: .speaker-KXK} ##### Mr Webster: -- Could the Minister make any announcement with regard to the suggested interchange of officers to and from the back blocks and the sea board? {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- I think there is a good deal in the honorable member's suggestion. It is very cruel to dump officers and their families down in the back blocks, and to compel them to remain there year after year without any prospect of relief. They should have opportunities of removal to places where the living conditions are more favorable, and where facilities are presented for the education of their children. The suggestion has my entire syrnpathy, and I shall see what I can do towards bringing about a change. {: .speaker-KWL} ##### Mr Tudor: -- Would the Minister tell us his opinion with regard to the suggested change from the flat system to the toll system of telephone charges? {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- I propose to consider the whole question with a view to introducing improvements, which I trust will popularize the telephone, and afford much greater facilities to the public. {: #subdebate-11-2-s3 .speaker-KQP} ##### Mr McDONALD:
Kennedy *Supply.* had not been for the fact that the honorable member for Yarra practically dragged the information out of the Minister, we should have been in ignorance of what had been done. {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- I gave the information quite frankly and freely. {: .speaker-KQP} ##### Mr McDONALD: -- When it was asked for. {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- The report reached me only last night, and I could not give any information before that. {: .speaker-KQP} ##### Mr McDONALD: -- I think that the circumstances in this case show the necessity for obtaining all the information possible. The Minister has made a big boast of the fact that 2,000,000 letters are to be sent away by these early morning trains. I presume that the amount of mail matter sent away by other trains will be correspondingly reduced. Therefore, I fail to see that the Railway Department have any claim for extra remuneration. These increased facilities are intended to bolster up the interests of the people of Melbourne. Ninety per cent. of the letters will probably be business communications and circulars. {: .speaker-KRQ} ##### Mr Skene: -- Does not the honorable member recognise the necessity of providing facilities for transacting business? {: .speaker-KQP} ##### Mr McDONALD: -- There is no reason why the letters should not be sent in the ordinary way without involving the Department in further expense. The Minister admits that he received the report only last night, and it appears to me that he took action first and read the report afterwards. {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- I had a report beforehand. The report of the Board related merely to the late clearances. The new arrangement as to the mails has been recommended by all the heads of the Department. {: .speaker-KQP} ##### Mr McDONALD: -- The Minister gave us a graphic description of themanner in which telegraph lines are to be attached to trees instead of to telegraph poles. I never heard of that being done before. {: .speaker-KRQ} ##### Mr Skene: -- It has been done for years past in Victoria. {: .speaker-KQP} ##### Mr McDONALD: -- I can quite understand that if trees are utilized in that way the cost of constructing telegraph lines will be considerably reduced. Unfortunately, in the district in which I live, , we have no trees. I again enter my protest against the action of the Minister in incurring extra expense in connexion with the despatch of early morning mails from Melbourne. {: #subdebate-11-2-s4 .speaker-KWL} ##### Mr TUDOR:
Yarra -- I quite agree with the honorable member for Kennedy that the Railway Department are not entitled to one penny more for carrying mail matter by the early morning trains from Melbourne to Ballarat and Bendigo. They will not be called upon to carry one additional pound of mail matter because ofthe early despatch of the letters. {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- I explained that the Railway Commissioners claimed £300 extra, which we declined to give them. We decided to make a trial for three months, and to then determine what should be done. {: .speaker-KWL} ##### Mr TUDOR: -- That, means that the Minister is going to pay something additional, although the Victorian Railway Department will not carry a single additional letter for the Postal Department. If the Railway Department of Victoria received a sufficient sum before for carrying mail matter it should not now receive an additional sum. {: .speaker-JUV} ##### Mr McWilliams: -- Is not Victoria, after all, taking the money out of one pocket to put it into the other? {: .speaker-KWL} ##### Mr TUDOR: -- I remind the honorable member for Franklin that this will be referred to as an additional charge due to Federation. It will be made to appear that Federation is costing the State of Victoriaso much more, although this will practically be only a bookkeeping entry. We know that these early trains were started to enable the metropolitan newspapers to compete, on more advantageous terms to themselves, with the press of the country districts. I hold no brief for either, but I say that the Post and Telegraph Department should be charged no more for the carriage of mail matter by a train leaving Melbourne at 2 o'clock in the morning than by one leaving at 7 or 8 o'clock. I think that it should be more advantageous to the Railways Commissioners to carry this mail by the earliest train, because they will in this way be able to give more attention to the other traffic. The Postmaster- General should be very careful about paying the Railway Department any extra sum for this service. {: #subdebate-11-2-s5 .speaker-K8L} ##### Mr THOMAS:
Barrier -- I agree with the action of the Postmaster-General in taking advantage of this early train, because I think we should give every facility for postal communication, but I confess that I have failed to understand why the Railway Department of Victoria should be paid anything extra for this early service. Perhaps the Postmaster-General will explain the system under which mail matter is carried by the States Railway Departments. {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- The system is different in different States. In New South Wales we pay a lump sum. {: .speaker-K8L} ##### Mr THOMAS: -- The honorable gentleman will perhaps explain the system adopted in Victoria. The PostmasterGeneral has said that the experiment in this case has been more successful than was anticipated. On that account we might have to pay more than the .£300 stated. The honorable member for Fremantle is right in suggesting that the additional payment will make no difference, so far as Victoria is concerned, during the bookkeeping period, but we should be very careful not to charge the Post Office Department with any more than can fairly be debited to it. While we are anxious to give postal facilities' to the people in the large centres of population, we are also anxious that they should be extended to the country districts, and when we ask for postal facilities for outside districts we are told that the Post Office does not pay. {: .speaker-JUV} ##### Mr Mcwilliams: -- We should not consider whether the Post Office pays or not. {: .speaker-K8L} ##### Mr THOMAS: -- I agree that we should not run the Post and Telegraph Department absolutely on business lines. I think that if we had a land tax we shouldi not need to charge anything for postal facilities, but I suppose the honorable member for Franklin would not meet me in that. {: .speaker-JUV} ##### Mr Mcwilliams: -- Is not the arrangement to which reference is made as much for the convenience of the country districts as for that of the metrooolis? {: .speaker-K8L} ##### Mr THOMAS: -- It might be. I am not objecting to advantage being taken of this early train to improve the postal facilities of the State. I should be glad to see the policyextended The question really is whether this ^300 should be paid, and we shall better understand the question when the PostmasterGeneral explains the system adopted. I confess that the honorable gentleman has very satisfactorily explained many matters connected with the Department. His explanations have pleased the Committee very much, and it is some time since we had an opportunity to hear a Minister explain so well the working of his Department. {: .speaker-F4R} ##### Mr Watson: -- I thought the Railway Department undertook to carry all mails at a stated sum per mile per annum. {: .speaker-K8L} ##### Mr Thomas: -- That is what I wish to get at, and perhaps the Minister will explain the system. {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- The system adopted varies in the different States with respect to railway charges for the conveyance of mails. In New South Wales we pay a lump sum on all old-established', lines, and a mileage rate on new lines. In Victoria we pay a mileage rate on all lines, according to the number of mails carried on each. In this particular case we are dealing with a new mail service altogether. {: .speaker-KQP} ##### Mr McDonald: -- Is it not true that the present arrangement relieves Melbourne newspapers of certain expenditure in connexion with the cost of this early train ? {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- As I have said before, I have nothing to do with the newspapers in this matter. A report on the subject of the early clearances of letterboxes was asked for, and as the result of an inquiry the officers of the Department have recommended that we should make the fullest use of this train. When we find that it will convenience the public in any of the States «to make use of certain trains for the despatch of mails, it is, in my opinion, our duty to do so. The question of the early clearance of letter-boxes was referred to a board, which has made certain recommendations, to which I have referred. The advantage of appointing this board is shown by the fact that it discovered that by a certain clearance letters were brought into Melbourne at such a time that those addressed to persons in the city could not be delivered the same day, and letters brought in by the same clearance addressed to persons in the other States, could not be sent by the express trains leaving Melbourne on the same day. The board recommended that, as this clearance was of no practical use, except to relieve later clearances, it should be discontinued, and a clearance at an earlier hour instituted, so that Melbourne letters could be delivered the same day. and letters for the other States despatched by the express trains leaving that day, instead of being allowed to lie in the Melbourne office for twenty-four hours. I considered that a wise recommendation, and intend ,to adopt it. I was only surprised that such a state of affairs should have been allowed to continue for so many years. **Mr. TUDOR** (Yarra).- I should like fo know if this 3 o'clock morning train has relieved the train leaving at 6 o'clock, or 7 o'clock for Ballarat, Bendigo, and outlying places? I should like to know also whether the Postmaster-General is to pay the same rate per mile for mails carried by this early train, as for mails carried by other trains? {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- As I have told honorable members, I am not satisfied with the arrangement suggested by the Victorian Railway Commissioners. Very little, additional mail matter is carried by this train, but, as it does relieve other trains, 1 think the Department should not be charged so much as has been suggested. After consultation, Me have decided to continue the present arrangement for three months, when we shall have a conference to determine whether the Department should pay the Railway Commissioners £300 a year, or whether the service rendered is worth anything like that sum. The matter is still under trial, but, as I have said, if we find after a trial that the new departure will convenience the public, and justify the expense, we shall adhere to it. As a progressive people, we should avail ourselves of every opportunity to dispatch mail matter for the convenience of the people in every State. **Mr. THOMAS** (Barrier). - I understand from the honorable gentleman's explanation that the system adopted in New South Wales is to pay a lump sum on all old-established lines, and a mileage rate on new lines. {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- No; we can only get mails carried by certain trains. {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- There are certain old-established mail trains. {: .speaker-K8L} ##### Mr THOMAS: -- In Victoria, a different system is adopted. The distance from here to Ballarat is, I believe, eighty miles, and what I should like to know is, whether the same charge is made for carrying a mail between Melbourne and Ballarat, no matter how many letters are sent by it. {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- The usual charge is a mileage charge for the mails, but in this case, I think we might make some special arrangement. {: .speaker-K8L} ##### Mr THOMAS: -- I cannot see why a charge of £300 should be made. Are we to understand that, no matter how many letters are carried by a train, the same charge per mile is demanded? Why have the Commissioners asked for £300 for this service ? {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- Because it is an extra service. Before we pay what is asked I think we should have further inquiry. {: .speaker-K8L} ##### Mr THOMAS: -- Does the PostmasterGeneral intend to carry out this early morning arrangement on the old lines, or to arrive at some new understanding departing altogether from the mileage system ? {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- 1 think we might have a lower mileage rate than that usually paid, but the present is a temporary arrangement, with a view to seeing whether we cannot arrange for a lower sum than the general rate. {: .speaker-K8L} ##### Mr Thomas: -- Unless we are prepared to give £300 the Victorian Railway Commissioners can refuse to carry this mail ? {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- Yes, as it is a goods train, and is not included in the general arrangement; but we could refuse to send Our mails by this train, if we considered the Commissioners demanded -an extortionate rate. {: #subdebate-11-2-s6 .speaker-KXK} ##### Mr WEBSTER:
Gwydir -- Having listened to the controversy between the PostmasterGeneral and the honorable member for Barrier, it appears to me that the more this matter is explained the less we know about it. We should let the trial be made and get a report from the PostmasterGeneral in three months' time as to what this arrangement really means. I must compliment the honorable gentleman on the manner in which he has replied to many of the more or less perplexing questions which have been put to him. My only regret is that he has not indicated that he is prepared to lay down some regulation which will improve the condition of officers of the Department stationed in outlying places. The Minister has said that he sympathizes with these men, but that will not relieve them. I wish to obtain- a definite statement from the Postmaster-General. For years past, .this evil has been a source of .complaint throughout the Commonwealth. {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- I quite sympathize with the complaint. {: .speaker-KXK} ##### Mr WEBSTER: -- But sympathy will not afford relief. Will the Minister endeavour to devise some plan to overcome the difficulty? {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- Certainly, I shall. {: .speaker-KXK} ##### Mr WEBSTER: -- I regret 'that the Postmaster-General has not replied to the question which I asked him yesterday in reference to the sweating of unofficial postmasters. When speaking upon this matter, I omitted to state that for all the services which are rendered by one officer, including attendance upon three telephone lines, the receipt of 800 messages by telephone, and their despatch by telegraph, in addition to attending to three mails weekly, he receives the munificent reward of 15s. per week. {: .speaker-F4P} ##### Mr Reid: -- Does he conduct a .business, as well as the post-office? {: .speaker-KXK} ##### Mr WEBSTER: -- Even assuming that he does, I claim that the services which he renders to the Commonwealth, represent more than an adequate set-off to the advantage which accrues to his own business. I am disappointed that the Postmaster-General has not intimated that he will look into these matters. {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- I am looking into them at the present time. {: #subdebate-11-2-s7 .speaker-K87} ##### Mr CULPIN:
Brisbane -- In view of the changing conditions with regard to oversea letters, and the possible irregular forwarding thereof, I am of opinion that some special arrangement should be provided so that the general public will be able to send telegrams to the last port of call by ocean steamers, and to have their wires forwarded by those vessels at a special rate. If effect were given to my suggestion, I believe that the revenue would be materially benefited. I trust that tenders will be requested for the proposed mail service with the Solomon Islands and the New Hebrides, and that Brisbane will be included in the contract as a port of call. {: #subdebate-11-2-s8 .speaker-K7U} ##### Mr CROUCH:
Corio -- Some time ago I brought under the notice of the Minister of Trade and Customs the fact that a very inconvenient practice exists in connexion with articles forwarded to country POSt.offices, and which may be liable to Customs duties. Under the present system, when a small postal article, . which may be dutiable, arrives in a country town, it is immediately transmitted to the head office of the State, and the addressee has to arrange for its inspection. {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- I have just had my attention directed to a case of a similar character {: .speaker-K7U} ##### Mr CROUCH: -- At Geelong, there is a Customs officer within five minutes walk of the post-office. That officer would be quite prepared to devote half-an-hour of his time weekly - and1 that would be sufficient for the purpose - to obviate the necessity of transmitting these articles to Melbourne for inspection. If a Customs officer be not available for the purpose, why should not these articles be opened by a postal official? {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- I do not see any obstacle to that procedure. {: .speaker-K7U} ##### Mr CROUCH: -- Then there is another matter to which I wish to direct special attention. Only yesterday, I asked the Minister of Home Affairs a question relating to temporary employment in the Public Service of the Commonwealth, and, to my mind, his answer was anything but satisfactory. In this connexion, I wish to place certain facts before the Committee. If a man desires to obtain temporary employment in the Postal Department as a sorter, he is required to place his name upon the register of applicants. Before he can do this, however, he must be examined by a local postal official, and found to be competent to perform the duties of the office which he desires to fill, and he must also produce a -medical certificate and a testimonial of character. The general impression is that these applicants are given temporary employment in the order in which their names appear upon the register. That, however, is not the case. I find that men, whose names have been registered for six or nine months, have been passed over, whilst others whose names appear much lower down upon the register, have been given employment. The Minister of Home Affairs declares that the custom of the Postal Department is to engage the most capable men. I say that such a system is open to very grave abuse, seeing that every applicant for temporary employment must prove his competency, before his name can be registered. {: .speaker-KW6} ##### Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
Minister for Home Affairs · NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906 -- I was not speaking of the Postal Department. {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- Surely the honorable and learned member does not suggest that the Department should adhere to the list, irrespective of every other consideration ? **Mr. CROUCH.** That is the only fair method to adopt. {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- That is to say, they should employ a man who is, perhaps, incompetent. {: .speaker-K7U} ##### Mr CROUCH: -- I repeat that all the applicants must prove their competency before their names are registered. That being so, it is unfair to give a preference to any individual. If men are to be given a preference, I shall endeavour to advance those in whom I am interested. I find that a man whose name has been registered for eight months now stands sixty-sixth on the list, whilst another individual, whose name was registered at a much later period, was granted temporary employment only last week. There is still another matter to which I wish to refer. About two months ago I asked a question in reference to 7204 *Supply.* [REPRESENTATIVES.] *Supply.* certain telegraph operators, who were receiving less than£110 per annum. I inquired if they were not married men with families, and I ascertained that they were receiving only £90 a year. At that time, the Minister promised that they should receive the minimum wage. Since then, I learn that they were paid at the rate of £110 per annum for one month. {: .speaker-L2I} ##### Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
Postmaster-General · MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -- It was decided that on and after the1st September last, all of them should receive the minimum wage. {: .speaker-K7U} ##### Mr CROUCH: -- If the Minister will refer to *Hansard,* he will see the names of two men who have not received that amount. One of these, **Mr. Henry** Knight, will be leaving the Department upon the 25th inst, and he fears that unless something is done, he will be deprived of his undoubted rights. I wish now to make a suggestion which may be of some advantage to the PostmasterGeneral. We all know that people frequently receive letters upon which there is a fee of 2d. or 4d. to pay. I have known very careful persons to transmit letters upon which the recipients have had to pay for insufficient postage. I think that everybody should be able to go to a post-office, and have a letter stamped "all paid." I have visited a post-office expressly for the purpose of ascertaining if a letter which I desired to forward required more than a penny stamp. I have been assured that it did not, and I have been very much annoyed upon discovering that its recipient has had to pay a shortage of 2d. I claim that if under the direction of a postal official, I were to affix a penny stamp to a letter, and the words "all paid" were stamped upon it, that should be sufficient to frank the letter to its destination, irrespective of whether or not it proves to be overweight. This is only a small matter, but if my proposal could be carried out it would do away with what at present is a source of irritation. It may not be possible to give effect to the suggestion, but it seems to me to be a useful one, and I hope that the Minister will see what can be done in the matter. {: #subdebate-11-2-s9 .speaker-KUF} ##### Mr SPENCE:
Darling -- I wish to make a practical suggestion on behalf of officers in the back country. I have on many occasions suggested to the Deputy Postmaster-General in New South Wales that when vacancies occur in the offices in the coastal districts, those who are stationed in the back country should be given a preference. {: .speaker-F4P} ##### Mr Reid: -- We all are in favour of making some arrangement in regard to those, officers. {: .speaker-KUF} ##### Mr SPENCE: -- Unfortunately, this practice has not been adopted, one of the Objections urged to it being that the cost of removal is too great. There are officers who have been stationed in the back-blocks, for seventeen years, and whose health has been impaired by long service in such districts. It is not fair to keep a man year after year in a district where there is no. prospect for his family, and where the conditions of life are so hard. Many of these officers are very anxious to obtain a transfer to coastal districts, and I know of one case in which an officer has even volunteered to pay the whole expenses to which the Department would be put by his removal. I think that the PostmasterGeneral should issue instructions that, in filling any vacancy in a coastal district, a preference shall be given to officers in the back country where it is possible to do so without violating any rule of the Department. Proposed vote agreed to. Progress reported. {: .page-start } page 7204 {:#debate-12} ### ADJOURNMENT {:#subdebate-12-0} #### Coaling of War Ships Motion (by **Mr. Reid)** proposed - >That the House do now adjourn. {: #subdebate-12-0-s0 .speaker-JWA} ##### Mr CARPENTER:
Fremantle -- I wish to mention a matter which I brought before the Prime Minister a few days ago, when he made a reply which, perhaps, was not well considered. I refer to the action of the Vice-Admiral- {: .speaker-F4P} ##### Mr Reid: -- I think I could give the honorable member some information about this matter on Tuesday, but. I have not the papers here. {: .speaker-JWA} ##### Mr CARPENTER: -- I think I know the phase of the matter to which the Prime Minister refers, and it is necessary to make a brief explanation in regard to it. On a' previous occasion I said that a certain number of members of the Fremantle Lumpers' Union had been engaged by the foreman of the Adelaide Steam-ship Company to coal the *Euryalus,* but that upon her arrival in port they were disappointed to learn that the Vice-Admiral had decided to have the work done by the blue-jackets. The secretary of the union now informs me that when the lumpers were engaged no special mention was made of the *Euryalus;* they were simply engaged to discharge the steamer *Winfield. I* think that is the matter to which the Prime Minister referred just now, and I desire to make this correction. I understand that a similar trouble has since arisen at the port of Melbourne. If the ViceAdmiral is going to fix a hard-and-fast rule that all war-ships shall be coaled by bluejackets we cannot say him nay. The Naval Agreement gives him absolute control of the fleet ; but at the same time I think that to avoid any unnecessary dispute he might be approached by some one in authority, and asked at least to give some reason for departing from what has always been the custom of every port. I know that it has been a custom of the port of Fremantle - a custom having the force of law - -that all ships coaled there shall be worked by shore labour. The fact that this rule has been broken has caused much soreness, not only there, but "at other ports, and there may be a recurrence of this state of affairs. I think that the Prime Minister would not be acting beneath his dignity if, to avoid anything like a labour trouble in connexion with the matter, he took some steps to bring an end to the existing friction. Question so resolved in the affirmative. House adjourned at 3.58 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 November 1904, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1904/19041118_reps_2_23/>.