2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Vice-President of the Executive Council read the following paragraph, which appeared in the Age of Monday last, and refers to the proposed inquiry into the charges made in this House against Major Hawker : -
Tie particular form in which the attack on Major Hawker by a small section of members of the House of Representatives is to be dealt with has not been finally determined by the Minister of Defence. It is understood, however, that it will take the shape of a sort of roundtable conference, over which Mr. T. Ewing will preside, at the request of his colleague, the Minister of Defence. Major Hawker will be present, and the aggrieved members of Parliament will be there, too, with permission to ask that officer questions relevant to their attack in Parliament.
I do not ask if the whole of this extraordinary statement is true, because complete accuracy would be obviously too much to expect from the Age; but I wish to know if the honorable gentleman intends to preside at the gathering referred to, and what members of Parliament, if any, will be permitted to cross-examine Major Hawker? Will any honorable member who cares to be present be regarded as for the time being an “ aggrieved member,” and, as such, be permitted to take part in the performance?
– I have not read the paragraph referred to, though I have heard of it. I can assure the honorable member that the statement isnot correct, and no one who heard what I had to say on Friday last would imagine that any arrangement could have been made at so early a date as last Monday.
– I desire, Mr. Speaker, to again put to you, in another form, the question which I asked yesterday -
Whether, in the event of any Bill being introduced by the Government, proposing an increased duty on stripper harvesters only, an amendment would be in order which proposed to deal with any article other than that specified in the title of the Bill?
My reason for asking this question is that the matter has been discussed by some honorable members, who wish to know if the Government have power to introduce a Bill of the character referred to without re-opening the Tariff as a whole.
– In the absence of any Bill, and of any specific amendment to be proposed in any Bill, I can only inform the honorable member generally that to any Bill to amend the Tariff it would be in order to move amendments relating to other items than those originally included in the proposal, subject to the provisions of standing orders 170, 171, 176, and 247.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– In reply to the honorable member’s questions, I have been informed -
“MILITARY FORCES OF ‘T HE COMMONWEALTH, QUEENSLAND.
” District Head-Quarters, “ Brisbane,19th October, 1905. “ Subject. - Vouchers incorrectly rendered by
W.O.’s and N.C.O.’s of the Instructional Staff. “From D.A.Q.M.G., Queensland. “To-_ “1. A large volume of correspondence in the offices of the D.A.Q.M.G. and the Accountant is necessitated by vouchers being constantly incorrectly rendered by Warrant and NonCommissioned Officers of the Instructional Staff for personal claims, such as travelling, &c. “ 2. The inattention to instructions and the ignorance of financial regulations displayed in the above instances is very discreditable, and the Commandant demands a great improvement in the future. “ 3. It is part of the duty of Warrant and Non-Commissiohed Officers of the Instructional Staff to thoroughly acquaint themselves with regulations, and in future glaring errors in rendering vouchers will he treated as neglect of duty, and dealt with accordingly. “4. The Commandant desires that the above be communicated to all Warrant and NonCommissioned Officers of the Instructional Staff attached to the unit under, your command, and that this circular, which is to be retained in your office, should be initiated by them. “By order, “ V. C. M. Sellheim, Major, “D.A.Q.M.G., Queensland.”
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Whether it is true that the old rule allowing the postage of circulars to be paid in bulk if posted in batches of at least 100 (thus avoidingthe necessity of affixing a stamp on each circular) has been altered by requiring that not less than £1 worth shall be posted at a time to secure the concession; and, if so, what are the reasons for in- sisting on such a condition, and will he restore the old rule without the condition?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Prior to the transfer of the Department to the Commonwealth, the rule with respect to this matter varied in the several States. In New South Wales it was necessary that the postage should amount to at least £1. In South Australia, not less than 500 circulars were accepted ; and in Queensland, 300 circulars were necessary to obtain the application of the rule. The existing regulation comes between the previous extremes. It is not considered desirable to revert to the oldVictorian regulation referred to, as for departmental reasons it is necessary to confine within reasonable limits the system of paying postage by cash.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– In reply to the honorable member’s questions, I have to state that the following information has been furnished by the Secretary to the Treasury : -
Motion (by Mr. Batchelor) agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be granted to the right honorable member for Adelaide, on account of ill health. estimates.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 31st October, vide page 4337):
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).i listened with considerable attention to the speeches made upon these Estimates yesterday, because some of the matters referred to concern the administration of the Department while I was in charge of it. The honorable member for Parramatta, re ferring to the financial position of the Post Office, stated that if the interest on transferred properties and the total amount expended out of revenue on works were taken into consideration, a deficiency of about £450,000 would be shown. It is, however, only fair to the Commonwealth Administration to remember that, since Federation, no less than £700,000 has been expended, or is proposed to be expended this year, out of revenue upon works, most of which, under States administration, would have been charged to loan accounts. The actual revenue of the Department exceeded its expenditure last year by over £60, 000, without taking into account an expenditure of about £120,000 for works and buildings, which, under the States systems of finance, would have been charged to loan account. These figures show a great improvement on previous years.
– Neither was interest paid on those properties under States administration, when the erection of telegraph lines, and the construction of post-offices was charged chiefly to loan accounts’.
– The interest was paid out of the consolidated revenue.
– Yes. It was not charged against the Post Office, though any business man would agree that it should have been so charged. It would be interesting to know from the Treasurer - and I referred to the matter during the Budget debate - what are the views of the Government in respect to borrowing. Speaking in this Chamber oh the 26th May, 1904, he said -
I am altogether ^opposed to the contention that we should not construct any public works, or embark on any enterprise, unless we have the necessary capital in hand. Such a policy would not tend to the development of this country. . . . Public borrowing has been a benefit to Australia, and I feel that the Labour Party have not merely been assisted by, but practically We their existence as a party to the public borrowing policy of the States….. If a country is to be benefited, the Government must make its highways, or allow private enterprise to step in and do so….. How do honorable members opposite reconcile the attitude of the Labour Party in New South Wales with their statement that they .are opposed to public borrowing? The stand which’ they take up reminds me very much of a man who, having sucked all the good out of an orange that it is possible for him to obtain, says that he does not like oranges.
I think that it is very important that we should have a- pronouncement on this question. In my opinion, the fact that Commonwealth Governments have been compelled to pay for public works out of revenue has saved thousands of pounds, because the Department has been compelled to be more economical than it would other-‘ wise have been. Whilst I admit that sometimes difficulty is experienced in finding the funds necessary to carry out certain works, we shall in the end derive great advantage from the fa,;t that we have not resorted to loan moneys for the construction of telegraph and telephone lines, and the erection of post-offices. Take, for instance, the case of the proposed telephone line between Melbourne and Svdney, which is estimated to’ cost about ,-£40,000. I know that some exception has been taken to that expenditu’re, but the reports show that when the line is. constructed we shall probably derive a revenue representing a return of at least 10 per cent. upon the-‘ outlay - that is without taking into consideration the loss of telegraph businessthat may result from the installation of the telephone system between the two capitals. I am one of those who believe that the public convenience should be our first consideration, and that we should not be deterred from offering the most improved? facilities merely because we may incur a slight loss in the first instance.
– Why did not the honorable member carry out that policy when he was Postmaster-General ?
– I think I did. my share.
– The honorable member did well, but not half enough.
– I admit that I did not do half as much as I should ‘ have liked to do. I mentioned the case of the proposed telephone line between Melbourne and Sydney to indicate that if we continued to construct such works out of revenue” we should before long derive-‘ considerable profit from an outlay which would be subject to no interest charge, such) as would attach to expenditure out of loans. Some reference’ has been made to the. delays which have occurred in the Department and -to the red-tape methods followed. The experience I gained in the Post Office showed me that during the earlier stages of the Federation, the officers connected with the central staff were called upon to perform more work thant they could possibly attend to. When this matter was brought under my notice, I had no hesitation in giving instructions for the employment of as many men as were required to bring the work up-to-date. I also experienced considerable difficulty in obtaining reliable information with regard to various matters requiring attention -in the States. We had to depend almost entirely upon the reports of the officers in those States, and I thought it desirable to introduce an improved system. I made a suggestion to my colleagues - which I am very glad to1 see has been adopted by the present Government - that we should appoint a chief electrician and a chief inspector, the former to report upon all matters relating to telegraphs and telephones, and the latter to ad vise the Minister in regard to postal and other matters. I. thought it desirable that “we should have an officer occupying a position quite independent of the States staffs upon whose work he might be called upon to report, and also quite free from local influences when the question of constructing new works Had to be considered. It appeared to me that under such a system the Minister would be in a better position to deal with the matters brought under his notice from a purely Commonwealth point of view. I followed this principle in two or three cases to the extent of selecting a capable officer in one State, and sending him to another to report upon matters requiring investigation there. For instance, I had strong representations made to me with regard to the unsatisfactory state of affairs in the Post and Telegraph Department in Western Australia, and I approved of an officer from New South Wales being despatched to report upon the general administration. The result was that recommendations were made which will result in a” saving of £8,000 or £10,000 during the current year, and probably a permanent saving of £5,000 per annum, besides which the efficiency of the service will be increased. That instance and others appear to me to afford full justification for proposed additions to the central staff. When I recently referred to this matter exception was taken to my statement with regard to the condition of affairs in Western Australia in the early days.
– Not at all.
– The right honorable member for Swan stated that I had done nothing during my administration to improve the condition of affairs in Western Australia. I have no doubt that the honorable member for Coolgardie, when he was in charge of the Department, felt the want of reliable officers attached to the central staff.
– Are the officers referred to now in existence?
– No. Upto the present we have had to utilize the services of departmental officers in various States.
– Are there officers in the Commonwealth service competent to perform this work?
– Yes, but the honorable member will understand that the head-quarters staff are kept fully engaged.
– Is not Mr. Hesketh attached to the central staff?
– Only temporarily, in connexion with the preparation of special reports. Provision is made on the Estimates for the salary of a chief electrician and a chief inspector, but those appointments cannot be made by the Public Service Commissioner until the Estimates are passed. I believe that if we select the right men, and I am sure that we have thoroughly qualified officers in the service, we shall, under the proposed new system, effect savings amounting to many thousands of pounds per annum. The honorable member for Maranoa last night mentioned a case which indicated the advantage to be derived from sending officers possessed of special qualifications to report upon matters arising outside their own States. A proposal was made to construct a telephone line from Brisbane to Gympie, and the officers connected with the Telegraph Department in Queensland estimated that the work would cost about £5,000. It was felt that the revenue would not warrant any such, large expenditure, and I decided to send to Queensland Mr. Hallam, a telegraph officer in Tasmania possessing special qualifications, with a view to the installation of a telephone service on the condenser system. That work has been successfully carried out at a cost of not more than £200. I mentioned the . case of Mr. Hallam to the Public Service Commissioner, with a view to making better use of his services than by continuing to employ him as a telegraph operator.
– He is a good man, and has been very badly treated in Tasmania.
– I thought so, and I acted accordingly. The condenser system has been tried for many years in Belgium and other countries, and has proved successful, but a great deal of care and attention are required to insure efficient working. In Western Australia failure resulted owing, to a large extent, to the neglect of some of the officers concerned. I took drastic steps in connexion with that matter, because I think that cases of that kind should be specially guarded against. . The condenser system has been largely availed of recently, but it requires special aptitude on the part of the officers, and I believe that when the operators become more accustomed to it it will prove exceedingly valuable.
– The trouble was that the honorable member introduced the condenser system only between places which already enjoyed telegraphic communication. The honorable member did not attempt to avail
– The honorable member is not correct. I arranged for the construction of branch lines from main telegraph wires, utilizing trees instead of telegraph poles, and so on, thus enabling the telephone service to be conducted over the branch telephone lines and the main telegraph wireon the condenser system.
– What would be done in cases where there were no trees ?
– Other arrangements would have to be made. The condenser system has been very largely applied in New South Wales, and as it has met with wide public appreciation, even in places where telegraphic facilities formerly existed, the revenue has been largely added to.
– But the people who require it most are deriving no advantages whatever.
– That is another matter altogether. The honorable member will admit that where a telegraphic service exists, there is no excuse for refusing to also instal a telephone service, if that work can be cheaply carried out, and the public convenience will be promoted. Already no less than 400 towns in the Commonwealth have been provided with telephone communication on the condenser system during the last twelve months. This benefit has been conferred at a comparatively small cost, in some cases amounting to only from £5 to £10, whereas if special lines had had to” be constructed, an additional outlay of probably £50,000 would have been involved. Under certain conditions, it has not been considered necessary to require the residents to give guarantees. The’ risk in the case of condenser and tree lines was exceedingly small, and I thought that the Department ought to be prepared to take it, and acted accordingly. I do not think that we have sufficiently availed ourselves of the opportunities afforded for attaching telephone wires to trees and fences. It seems to me absurd that we should construct expensive telephone lines where the wires can be attached to trees for a portion of the distance, and to poles for the other portion. I am glad to say that these cheap lines have been very largely availed of.
– I can mention a number of places in New South Wales where the wires have been hung upon trees and fences, and I can also cite cases; in Victoria and other States where these cheap lines are working splendidly. In reply to the argument that the claims of rural districts are being ignored by the Department, I may mention that the erection of no less than 400 cheap telephone lines to country towns were approved during my term of office. During the course of this debate, some objection has been taken to the guarantee system. I admit that under the old regulation very great hardship was suffered by rural districts. In this connexion I may mention a case in the Illawarra district. There it was proposed that a line should be constructed from Sydney to Wollongong, at an estimated cost of £3,100. The work, however, was carried out under the condenser system for an expenditure of about £50, and the line is giving every satisfaction. In that case the guarantee originally sought was; £750, but, at a later period, it was reduced to £420, and eventually the line was constructed for £50.
– And without any guarantee ?
– Yes. The Department will be returned the whole of the capital cost of that line during the first year of its operations. Under the system which was previously in force, if the estimated cost of a line was £1,500, the applicants were required to enter into a guarantee to pay £160 or £180 annually for two years. They had to pay down two years’ interest at 12½ per cent. on the capital expended, and also to enter into a bond to pay the interest for a further period of five years. To demand that the farmers in any district should pay £160 annually for two years was practically asking an impossibility. However, a regulation was approved by our Government under which they are merely called upon to guarantee the difference between the estimated revenue and the interest upon the capital expended. During my term of officeI do not think that a guarantee has been given in a dozen cases since the commencement of the year. On account of the amended regulation to which I have referred, there was no necessity to do so. Owing to the introduction of the condenser system there was, in most cases, really no guarantee required.
– The condenser system is fatal to the guarantee. There is no doubt about that.
– I do not think that a guarantee has been taken in a dozen cases since the beginning of the <year. The best evidence that these cheap lines have succeeded is that we do not hear many complaints from honorable members regarding the necessity for constructing new lines. I admit that over such a large area as the Commonwealth there must necessarily be places where telephonic communication is urgently required. We ought, as far as possible, to extend those facilities to country residents.
– The honorable member did not play that tune when he was in office.
– I .think that I did, and I ask the honorable member to point to a case which will support his contention.
– I can refer to several.
– Probably the honorable member has the application for telephonic extension to Black Range in his mind. In that case the-papers showed that the loss which would have been incurred precluded the necessary expenditure. Last evening the honorable member for Barrier stated that during my term of office he brought under my notice the fact that sweating was being practised in connexion with our inland mail contracts. That matter was not lost sight of. I called for a return showing the number of men employed, the number of hours that they worked, and the wages which they received, and I insisted upon their receiving the ordinary rate of wages paid to men occupying similar positions in private employ, and also that they should be called upon to work only the same number of hours. Since this regulation has been in force the Department has received communications showing that a great improvement has been effected in that respect.” The information supplied showed that in some instances the coach drivers of our inland mails were required to work very long hours indeed. Last1 evening the honorable’ member for Herbert urged that the Government should fix the amount which they were prepared to pay in ‘connexion with each inland mail contract, and invite applications for the conveyance of those mails. I think it will be generally recognised that it is far better to call for tenders, and thus to insure a certain amount of competition. If the Commonwealth were compelled to run coaches for the sole purpose of carrying our inland mails, the cost involved would be very considerable. But in many country districts the present contractors carry not only mails but passengers. They look to the passenger traffic as a source of revenue. As a rule, the men themselves are the best judges as to what amount will pay them for the services which they render. Ii would be very difficult for the Department to assess the sum which should be paid in connexion with each mail service, and to subsequently decide who should carry out that service.
– It would be as difficult as it is to deal with applications for Government billets.
– The Minister would find an impossible task - imposed upon him. At the present time he experiences very great trouble in choosing between two tenderers whose prices for a contract are equal. If the PostmasterGeneral were required to do as the honorable member for Herbert suggests, he would have no time to devote to the discharge of the more serious duties of his office. Reference has been made to the penny postage system. Everybody would, like to see that system established. But the point at issue is whether the Commonwealth can, at the’ present juncture, afford to bear the loss of revenue that would be occasioned by its adoption ?
– The estimated loss to the Department which the introduction of that system would entail is more than £250,000 annually. The honorable member for Cowper quoted statistics last night with a view to showing that the introduction of penny postage in Victoria had resulted not in a loss, but in a gain to the revenue. But he omitted to take into consideration the fact that that system was introduced in April, 1901, almost immediately after the Seat of Government, together with the central staffs of the Commonwealth Departments, Wad been temporarily established in Melbourne, and he overlooked the alterations which have been made in our postal regulations as well as the ordinary increase which has taken place in the postal business. When these matters are taken into consideration, it is estimated that the Department loses ,£50,000 a year as the result of the operation of the penny postage system. I admit that it is very difficult to arrive at a correct estimate in regard to these matters. The condition of the finances in most of the States-
– In Queensland especially, because she has such a large territory.
– I do not know whether Queensland would be prepared to incur the loss that would be occasioned by the establishment of penny postage, but I apprehend that she would not. When the British postal authorities submitted a proposal to the late Government to adopt penny postage from England if the domestic rate ruled between here and the old country, I felt justified in recommending my colleagues to adopt the Empire rate of 2d. - that is, to apply the rate at present in force in Australia to all British mails. Because we agreed to do that, the British Government consented to bring penny postage into operation as between the old .country and Australia. Gradually the system is being extended to Canada, India, and other places. The reduced rate will involve little, if any, loss. If I remember rightly, it was estimated that the adoption of the 2d. rate would mean a loss of about ,£7,000 per annum, assuming that it did not lead to any increase in the volume of correspondence, and the Department considered that it would be well justified in incurring that loss for the sake of inducing the British Government to adopt penny postage in respect to letters sent from England to Australia. But, as the adoption of penny postage throughout the Commonwealth would mean a loss of something . like ^£250, 000 per annum, it behoves the Government to seriously consider whether they would be justified, in view of the present state of the finances, in bringing about that reform. While in hearty sympathy with the movement, I am afraid that, having regard to our financial position, such an alteration at the present time would not be justifiable. The deputy-leader of the Opposition supported the request made by the honorable member for Barker in regard to a mail service for Pinnaroo. The matter was under the consideration of the Department during my term df office, and I believe that it has also received the attention of the present Minister. If I remember4 rightly, it was shown that the service would involve a heavy loss which the Department did not feel that it would be justified in incurring. We have had rather a painful experience in connexion with one or two works in South Australia, notably in regard to the construction of the telegraph line to Tarcoola. That line cost about £14,000; but at the present time, after providing for the salary of the local postmaster, it yields a nett revenue of only about .£50 a year.
– Seeing that the South Australian Government paid for that line, there is no reason for the Commonwealth to complain.
– I admit that South Australia had to bear the cost of constructing the line; but it must be remembered that none of the States have any control over our expenditure upon works of this kind. We deduct the .cost from the revenue returnable to them, and, although they may complain, they have to submit to the inevitable.
– If the Department keeps a separate account of the revenue from the trunk telephone, line between Sydney and Melbourne, we shall be able next year to determine the return that it gives. That is a matter in which the States are interested.
– Before proposing that work, we were careful to obtain reports not only from the electricians, but from several accountants; and these showed that it would return fair interest on the outlay.
– Do the Government propose to keep’ a separate account of the revenue from that line?
-I think that it ought to be kept separate. In the early days, unfortunately, a separate account’ was not kept: of the revenue and expenditure from the various telephone services. I have referred to the Pinnaroo, mail service, simply because of the reference made to it by the honorable member for Barker. I know that the Department is anxious to provide the service asked for,’ and the honorable member should endeavour to induce the South Australian Government to come to its assistance. At the present time, the Government of that State demand on completion of the railway something like £450 per annum for carrying the mails by rail to Pinnaroo; but as the estimated revenue is only about £50 per annum, the Department is not disposed to agree to the proposal. I believe that it is prepared to give the whole of therevenue derived from this service, as well as a substantial bonus, to the Railway Department for the carriage of the mails.
– Is the Commonwealth absolutely at the mercy of the State authorities in this respect ? Can they charge whatever they please?
– Any dispute may be submitted to arbitration.
– How many mails a week would the South Australian Railway Department carry, inreturn for the £450 per annum ?
– They would carry a mail by each train running to Pinnaroo. The point raised by the honorable member for Boothby is an important one. For some time the States Governments have been demanding additional rates for the conveyance of mails by rail ; and when 1 was in office I found that in many cases we could carry the mails by means of a motor car orbus for less than the amount charged by the railways. I discussed the matter with the Secretary to the Post and Telegraph Department; and we called for reports as to the weight of the mail matter , carried on the railways, and the price for which it would be carried at ordinary parcels rates. In Great Britain, the Post and Telegraph Department can call upon the rail way companies to fix their time-tables to suit its convenience ; but in Australia the Railway Departments have refused in some cases to comply with such requests on the part of the Commonwealth Government. It must not be forgotten that the carriage of parcels by the Railway Department involves the employment of a number of booking clerks and other officials ; whereas the mails are in charge of officers of the Postal Department.
– How do the rates for mails compare with the parcels rates?
– The report to which I referred had not been supplied when I retired from office ; but I know that the rates are not uniform. I should like to illustrate the point which I made as. to the fact that some of the trains are not run to suit the convenience of the Postal authorities. For instance, the Melbourne express which leaves Sydney every Friday at 7.50 p.m. carries mails from New South
Wales and Queensland, which do not arrive in Melbourne until about 1.15 p.m. on the following day, when it is too late to deliver them within ordinary office hours in either the city or the suburbs. The result is that mails leaving Queensland on Thursday morning, and Sydney on Friday night, are not delivered in Melbourne until Monday morning, and it is impossible for replies to be delivered in Sydney until Tuesday, and in Brisbane until the following Thursday. When I was in office, I took the view thata more up-to-date system was necessary, and I suggested that the Railway Department of New South Wales should despatch the mails on Friday afternoon, intime to allow of their reaching Melbourne at about 11.30 a.m. on the following day. I also suggested that a sorting-car should be attached to the train at Wodonga, so that the mails might be sorted, and ready for delivery, immediately upon their arrival here.
– That would be a most desirable reform.
– Quite so. The reply that was received, however, was that if this were done, passengers by the mail train would have to rise too early for breakfast at Albury. I trust, however, that the Postmaster-General will make further representations to the States’ authorities, and endeavour to secure this desirable reform.
– What is to happen to the people of Pinnaroo while this wrangle between the Commonwealth and State is going on?
– I admit that the people of that town are placed in an unfortunate position, but the State Government should come to their assistance.
– Should there not be some means of throwing the responsibility on the State authorities?
– The dispute could be submitted to arbitration, but we know that that process is a very leisurely one, and some time would elapse before finality could be reached. I think that my honorable friend should endeavour to induce the State authorities to come to the assistance of the Commonwealth in this regard. In view of the fact that the estimated revenue from this source is only £50 per annum, the honorable member must recognise that £450 per year for the carriage of the mails would be altogether too much to pay.
– The receipts have increased considerably since the honorable member left office.
– I am speaking only from a knowledge of the facts as they were presented to me. I am sure that the Department would be only too glad to assist the honorable member in this matter. They have been prevented from doing so by the demands made upon them by the railway authorities of South Australia.
– There would have been no trouble of this kind prior to Federation ; mail facilities would then have been provided.
– If these facilities would have been given under the State administration prior to Federation, surely the State authorities might come to the assistance of these people now. If they did so, I feel certain that the Minister would be only too glad to grant their request. Any principle that is adopted in dealing with matters of this kind must be applied uniformly. Reference has been made repeatedly to the need for working the Department on business lines, but, at the same time, there are occasions when the development taking place in a district has turned a probable loss into a profit.
– This district is newly settled, but, in a short time, will undoubtedly toe a flourishing one.
– The same statements were made about Tarcoola.
– One is a mining district, and the other an agricultural district.
– So far as I remember, the reports about Tarcoola showed that there was likely to be an increase of settlement there which would warrant the Department in, incurring a loss in the first instance.
– The two cases are quite different.
– What is asked for in this case is a postal service, but what was asked for in the case of Tarcoola was a telegraph line over new country.
– I am not opposed to the granting of facilities where that is possible, and the fact that so few complaints have been made during the debate shows that the Department is willing to do all it can to afford means of communication to new places.
– It is ridiculous that a place worth building a railway to should not have a post-office.
– A railway which is to cost £120,000.
– The fact that the State Government have undertaken to build a railway tothis place is an indication of a belief in its prosperity. The honorable member might assist the Department by urging the State authorities to do something to help.
– All the delay should be thrown on the State authorities.
– We should encourage the pioneers who are developing the country, and if the State authorities are satisfied that this is a growing and prosperous place, they should be prepared to assist the people living there to get the facilities for which they ask.
– Instead of requiring them to travel forty-five miles for their letters.
– I admit that the case is a very hard one. Coming now to the subject of telephones, I would like to say that when I was in office the Electrical Committee submitted a report in which they suggested several alterations. I approved of several reductions in the rates, but I understand that they have not yet been carried into effect. I am sure that it is not because the PostmasterGeneral does not approve of them.
– Regulations are being prepared in regard to most of them, and they are well on their way to being put into effect.
– One of the changes which I recommended was the abolition of the 2½d. fee, or fine, demanded before any inquiry would be made in regard to a letter going astray. I believe that in some ofthe States the Department even went to the expense of sending complainants a reminder that the deposit of this amount had not been made, and that, therefore, no inquiry could take place. It seemed to me that there was no good reason for making the charge. I thought that the Department should be only too ready to give information. It was not the amount of the charge that was objected to by the public, but the annoyance caused by such a petty charge. So far, effect has not been given to my decision. There were a number of very important suggestions, however, to which I felt that I could not give effect until I knew the exact financial position of the telephone service. Unfortunately, I found it difficult to get information on that subject, because it has not been the practice of the States to keep separate accounts in connexion with the revenue’ and expenditure of the telephone and telegraph branches.
– Does not the honorable member think that it would be a good thing to issue an annual balance-sheet in connexion with the administration of the Post and Telegraph Department?
– I felt that the Government would not be justified in agreeing to any important alterations of system until the exact position of affairs had been ascertained, so that they might know whether the system which it was proposed to alter had worked well or badly. The information which I desired had not been compiled when I left office. It is, in my opinion, very advisable that the accounts of the telephone and telegraph services should be kept separate. Occasionally, of course, one officer attends to both telegraphs and telephones, but a fair adjustment could be made even in those circumstances. The honorable member for Barrier complained of the manner in which inspectors in New South Wales were distributed in the various divisions. A Committee was appointed to make a recommendation in regard to the marking out of the divisions, but it was found that the work could not be satisfactorily carried out without an additional inspector. In order to still further facilitate the work of inspection it was decided to appoint subinspectors in the various districts. I asked for a return showing the work then in the hands of the various inspectors, and I found that a number of trivial matters were awaiting their attention,because, apparently, no one else could deal with them. For instance, where a mat was required, or a door needed repairs, or a letter-box was out of order, the inspector had to be referred to, and his decision was held’ over until he could visit the district. I thought that, in addition to having divisional inspectors, we might appoint some of the more competent postmasters in the various districts to act as sub-inspectors. We merely followed out the system adopted by some of the banks. They, of course, have their inspectors for various districts, but they delegate to the managers of their branches in the. more important centres the duty of inspecting various sub-branches. The same principle has been adopted in connexion with the Post Office, and is now in operation in some of the States. The sub-inspectors are now able to deal with many small matters, and thus obviate the necessity for the inspectors to travel long distances at considerable expense. The honorable member for Barrier stated that he had brought under my attention the question of adopting a uniform stamp for the Commonwealth. We are now approaching the end of the bookkeeping period, and I think some reform might very well be introduced. I placed upon record my opinion that’ some alteration was required in connexion with the printing of our stamps. I strongly hold the view that, instead of having our stamps printed in four States, the whole of the work should be done in one State, if only in order to enable a proper check to be kept upon the issue of the stamps. Honorable members know that no numbers are attached to the stamps, and that they are capable of being very easily forged. Therefore, extra care should be exercised in printing and issuing them.
– But has the honorable member any idea that stamps are being forged?
Mr.SYDNEY SMITH.- No ; I do not suggest that. But I made special inquiries into the matter, and from an expert, whose advice I sought, I obtained information sufficient to justify me in forming the opinion that all the stamps should be printed in one State.
– The Reid Government blocked the purchase of the machinery necessary for printing the stamps in one State.
– No. There was some difficulty in regard to the matter. A proposal was made that all the stamps should be printed in South Australia; but certain representations were made to the effect that they could be produced more cheaply somewhere else.
– No; that was never suggested.
– I know something about the matter, and I think that if the honorable member will lookup the papers he will find that it was referred back again-
– It has been referred back again and back again for the last five years, and still no reduction has been made upon the Adelaide price.
– The matter was brought under my notice, and I believe that the Treasurer raised some point’ in connexion with the printing, which he thought could be carried out more cheaply in Melbourne. I do not care where the stamps are printed. That is a small matter compared with the importance of having the printing done in one place.
– -Surely it is important that the printing should be done where the work can be most cheaply carried out.
– That is another matter. I have no feeling of jealousy with regard to any particular State.
– I do not suggest that in regard to the honorable member.
– I was prepared to make arrangements for the printing of stamps of a suitable design in one State, and to take special precautions to check their issue, but some question was” raised by the Treasurer, and the whole matter was held in abeyance, and referred to Mr. Brain, the Government Printer in Victoria. I think that this matter should be dealt with upon business lines, and that we should endeavour to .adopt a uniform design. Whilst, owing to financial difficulties, we may not be able to introduce uniform rates of postage, .there is no reason why we should not have a uniform design, and for the present attach the names of the respective States. I found that there was some difficulty with regard to the . design. It was urged that the water-mark in the paper on which the stamps are printed was sufficient to prevent forgery, but * in ‘ view of the fact that once a stamp has been affixed to a letter it is difficult to detect the watermark, I did not consider that that was a sufficient safeguard. I obtained the advice of an expert, and I realized the necessity of introducing a systematic method of printing and distribution, and also the necessity of adopting every safeguard against forgery. I approved of calling for competitive designs for a uniform stamp, because it appeared to me that whilst, during the bookkeeping period, it would be necessary to attach to the stamps the names of the respective States, we could, upon establishing uniform rates of postage, substitute the name of the Commonwealth.
– The design is unimportant. What we want is a stamp that will be available for use in any part of the Commonwealth.
– The design is important for the reason already stated. There are financial difficulties’ in the way of carrying out any such arrangement at present. The honorable member for Parramatta has referred, to the position of the Deputy PostmastersGeneral. Th’e view I expressed when submitting the last Estimates - and I hold the same opinion to-day - was that the Deputy Postmasters-General, who have to control a great number of officers in a Department which has an enormous revenue, and also have control of Savings Bank deposits, should be highly competent men.
– Do not the States look after the Savings Banks?
– In some instances they have their own staffs, but the Postal Department performs a large amount of work for the Savings Bank authorities, and it is remunerated for it by the States. Before fixing the salaries of. the Deputy Postmasters-General, I looked up the papers, and I found that in the early stages it was understood that they should be dealt with in the same way as were other officers; that is to say, that they should be fixed by the Public Service Commissioner. I saw no reason why the Deputy Postmasters-General should be treated differently from other public servants. One could easily understand the difficulty in which the Public Service Commissioner might be placed. He is called upon to classify all the officers of the Department, with the exception of the Deputy Postmasters-General, and he might have the whole of his work upset if the heads of the Department proved to be incompetent. It was understood when the Public Service Act .was passed that the Deputy Postmasters-General would be dealt with in the same way as all other officers, but upon some technical point having been raised - I think it would be interesting’ to know why it was raised, because it has - been suggested that some persons did not want to be subject to the Public Service Commissioner - it was found that the salaries could be fixed by the Minister apart from any interference on the part of the Commissioner. It seems to me that an important matter of principle is involved. The Public Service Commissioner is called upon to classify the officers of the Department, according to merit, and as the Deputy Postmasters-General are placed over the officers so classified, they may, unless ‘ they are competent men, entirely neutralize the work performed by the Commissioner. It is like placing a captain in charge of a regiment of soldiers. If he is not a good officer, there is a poor look-out for the men. So it is in connexion with the Postal Department. If the principle to which I refer is a good one to apply to other branches of the service, it is right that it should be adopted in the Postal Department. My contention is that the Deputy Postmasters-General ought to be placed in the same position as the chief clerks and other officers of the Department, so far as their salaries are concerned. The Public Service Commissioner should classify them in the same way that he classifies every other officer in the service. I see no valid reason for departing from that course. We wish to entirely free the Department from political influence. But if we render the Deputy Postmasters-General subject to the influence of members of Parliament, we shall defeat the primary object for which the Public Service Act was passed. We have already laid it down ‘ that ordinary public servants shall be beyond the reach of political influence. ‘Yet it is suggested that the Deputy Postmasters-General who, by a single stroke of the pen, can recommend the expenditure of thousands of pounds, shall not be subject to the control of the Public Service Commissioner. I contend that by exempting them from his control, we are destroying the principle underlying the Public Service Act. I. have already raised a similar point in connexion with the Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth, and when the Electoral Bill is under consideration, I intend to submit an amendment in favour _ of placing that officer under the Public Service Commissioner, in order to get rid of the possibility of political influence being exercised.
– Is he not under the Public Service Commissioner?
– Not so far as his salary is concerned. I do not think that we ought to place it in the power1 of the Executive of the day to exempt from the control of the . Public Service Commissioner the officer who is charged with the conduct of our parliamentary elections.
– That is not proposed.
– The salary of the Chief Electoral Officer is not fixed by the Public Sendee Commissioner.
– It is.
– I understand that the Public Service Commissioner had nothing whatever to do with fixing the salary of the Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth..
– Upon what authority does the honorable member make that statement?
– Upon an admission by the Minister of Home Affairs. The salary of that officer was placed upon the Estimates without any reference to the Public Service Commissioner.
– The salary upon the Estimates merely represents the amount provided for his office. It does not prevent his salary being graded.
– I admit that. But if the Public Service Commissioner, who has a knowledge of the requirements of the service, is of opinion that a certain salary should be paid in order to secure a highly competent Deputy PostmasterGeneral and Chief Electoral Officer, we ought to pay some heed to his recommendation. My own opinion is that he ought to be called upon to make such a) recommendation. Whilst! there was no obligation upon the part of the late Government to ask the Public Service Commissioner to report as to the salaries which should be paid to the various Deputy Postmasters-General, I felt it my duty to consult him upon the matter, and effect was given to his recommendation. I trust that the Postmaster-General will give this matter his serious attention. I know that he realizes the importance of securing the services of an up-to-date man for the position of Deputy Postmaster-General in New South Wales, and I hope that he will not allow the present occupant of that office to suffer. As was pointed out last night, Mr. Unwin has given to the Department forty-five years of faithful service. Whilst I admit that in a discussion of this character we ought not to obtrude the merits or demerits of any officer, I claim that the case .fo which I am referring is a special one. Mr. Unwin was appointed to his present position at a salary of £920 a. year. It is true that that salary was subject to the vote of this Parliament. But inasmuch as we voted £920 for the office last year, there was no reason for its present occupant to believe that a similar sum would not be voted this year. Had the full salary been placed upon these Estimates, I am sure that no objection would have been raised by honorable members. I hope that the Postmaster-General will endeavour to bring the Deputy Post.masters:General under the control of the Public Service Commissioner.
– If the Government were to do that, should we not have to raise the salaries of the Deputy PostmastersGeneral in every State?
– I say that the Department should be freed from political influence at any cost. Why was the Public Service Act passed? Because we felt that every officer has a right to succeed according to his abilities. We have freed the subordinate officers of the Postal Department from political influence, but we have allowed it to remain operative in the case of the Deputy Postmasters-General.
– What is the use of making statements of that character, when the, honorable member knows that no political influence is exercised?
– I am not making a charge against anybody. I merely point out the possibility that political influence may be brought to bear in .the case of the Deputy Postmasters-General. The honorable member knows the reason why a legal opinion was sought as to whether these officers should be subject to the control of the Public Service Commissioner, and I think that opinion will induce him to support an alteration being made in the present arrangement as early as possible.
– The honorable member is not going to lead me into expressing an opinion.
– At any rate, the honorable member knows the reason why a legal opinion was sought.
– I know.
– Then the honorable member should be at one with me in my desire to prevent the exercise of political influence.
– What about official influence ?
– We do not want either ‘political or official influence to be exercised. In the Public Service Commissioner we have an officer who will not be guided by either of those considerations.
– What sort of influence does the honorable member think was brought to bear in the case of one officer who was promoted over the heads of 170 others?
– That fact is explained by the circumstance that the case in question occurred prior to the appointment of the Public Service Commissioner.
– That has nothing whatever to do with the matter.
– If the honorable member will peruse the papers connected with the case, he will see that it has a great deal to do with it. I was very glad to hear the explanation of the Minister of Home Affairs in that connexion.
– But the position is very unsatisfactory, so far as some of the officials are concerned.
– It is very hard upon them indeed.
– Some very vigorous criticism has been indulged in concerning the classification scheme. Honorable members will recognise that the grading of the service was a very difficult undertaking, and I think that the Public Service Commissioner, in view of its magnitude, has succeeded splendidly.
– I must ask the honorable member not to discuss the classification scheme.
– I desire to refer to that matter incidentally, to show that the Public Service Commissioner has performed a stupendous task in a very creditable manner.
– This is not the proper place to discuss that question.
– I think that it is. Surely I am at liberty to refer to the Commissioner’s work in classifying the officers in the Postal Department, seeing that it is the most extensive Department dealt with under that scheme. I have felt it my duty to reply to some of the statements which have been made in regard to the administration of the Department during the period that I acted as its Ministerial head. The desire of the late Government was to extend all necessary facilities to residents in the interior, and I think that the almost complete absence of complaints bv honorable members is a thorough vindication of the policv which we adopted. It shows that we did our duty and honestly endeavoured to extend postal and telephonic facilities to the people in the interior. The only item in the Estimates to which I take exception is that relating to the salaries of the Deputy Postmasters-General. i trust that the Minister will explain why he proposes to reduce the salary . of die Deputy Postmaster-General of New South Wales from £920 to £800 per annum. Such a reduction would be contrary to the recommendation made by the Public Sendee Commissioner, who reported that, in his opinion, a salary of £920 per annum should be fixed in order to enable him to secure a capable officer to administer this important branch of the service. No one can deny the importance of the office of Deputy Postmaster-General in each of the States, and I trust that the Government will review the whole matter and determine that the present occupant of the office in New South Wales shall not suffer a reduction. The Minister should call for a report from the Public Sendee Commissioner as to the salary which, in his opinion, should be given in order to secure the services of a man capable of controlling a Department of such magnitude. If such a report be obtained and laid om the table of the House, honorable members will be able to determine for themselves whether the attitude taken up by the Government in regard to this matter is a reasonable one.
– I have no desire to place any obstacle in the way of passing the Estimates of the Post and Telegraph Department ; but there are one or two matters relating to services in my electorate which I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister. I refer more particularly to ari’ application which was made not long ago by residents of Tambourine Mountain for the establishment of a triweekly; coach mail service between Logan Village and that district. At one time the mails were carried on the Southport railway to a station in the neighbourhood of Coomera, where they were transferred to a coach and conveyed over what I believe is a very rough road to the mountain. The road via Logan Village, however, isinfinitely superior, and as the district is an important one, I think that the request might well have been complied with. A number of persons are taking up land in the neighbourhood of Tambourine Mountain, and largely devoting their attention to the dairying industry ; but, notwithstanding that settlement is rapidly increasing there, the reply , of the Department to the petition was as follows :-
With reference to your recent petition. . . . for the establishment of a three times a week coach mail service to run direct from Logan Village to Tambourine Mountain, I have the honour to inform you it is considered that the existing postal facilities in the locality in question are fairly adequate for present requirements, and that no further expenditure is warranted for a new service as suggested.
It is therefore regretted that your wishes cannot be complied with.
I would draw the attention of the PostmasterGeneral to the fact that the officer who furnished a report with regard to this request merely! stated that the postal facilities are “ fairly adequate for present requirements.” That, to my mind, is an erroneous statement.
– What is the date of The reply ?
– The 26th ult. I trust that the Minister will cause further inquiry to be made, and satisfy himself as to whether the district is not entitled to thi. tiri- weekly mail sendee. Three or four trains run from Brisbane through Logan Village, every day, and the distance to be covered by road to the mountain is not great. During the last election I travelled over the road, and found it an excellent one. It is all very well to say that the Department should be conducted upon commercial principles ; but we should not lose sight of the fact that its great object should te to serve the convenience of the community as a whole. A mail service should ‘not be refused merely because of the belief that at the outset it would not pay. I am of opinion that the revenue derived from a tri-weekly coach mail service from Logan Village to Tambourine Mountain would be more than sufficient to pay working expenses, and that, in the near future, the district will be a most flourishing one.
– I shall be glad to call for a further report.
– I am pleased to receive that assurance. I have pleasure in congratulating the Minister upon his administration of the telephonic branch of the Department. During his short term of office he has extended the service to various places in my electorate without demanding a guarantee, and I dare say that he has done the same in other districts. To my mind, the practice of requiring a guarantee against loss in connexion with new postal and telephonic services is an unreasonable one. A telephone line has recently been constructed between Brisbane and Beenleigh, a distance of twenty-five miles, and also between Brisbane and Beaudesert, a distance of fifty miles, to the great satisfaction of the residents of these rapidlygrowing districts, and I trust that the PostmasterGeneral will see his way to extend the system to other parts of my electorate, which are greatly in need of such a service. I wish now to refer briefly to a complaint with regard to the delivery of letters in the immediate vicinity of .Brisbane. I find that letters are delivered to the residents of cross-streets on the right-hand side of the Logan-road, but not to those residing in cross-streets on the left-hand side of this thoroughfare. A similar complaint has been made in regard to the non-delivery of letters in other places, and I trust that the Minister will inquire into the matter. The. locality to which I refer is not more than three miles from Brisbane, and it seems absurd that such a system should prevail in close proximity to the capital of the State. I bring these matters forward in the hope that the Postmaster-General will give them his favorable consideration.
– I should have liked to see the white labour provisions of the Post and Telegraph -Act amended before these Estimates .were submitted for our consideration. The desire of a number of honorable members to secure the passing of a clause providing’ for the carriage of mails on vessels employing only white labour was from some points of view a reasonable one, their opinion being that, if only, white seamen were employed on our merchantmen, they would form a reserve upon which the British Navy might draw in time of war. Much of the obloquy to which many honorable members have been subjected is therefore undeserved, because they supported the passing of the white labour provisions of the measure in question merely from a desire to study the interests of the Empire. That is a fact which has not received fair consideration. No one could object to an endeavour on the part of a nation to strengthen itself to meet a national emergency ; but, unfortunately, in our efforts to frame a provision to that end, we went so far as to make it appear that our only object was to exclude coloured workers from our mail steamers. If the’ clause were so amended as to give effect to the desire to insure the employment of a class of sailors who, in time of war, would be able to join in the defence of the Empire, no except tion could be taken to it, and any increase in the cost of our mail services which resulted from such a provision should then be provided for on the Defence Estimates. It appears that exception has been taken by Japan and India to the wording of the section, and, having regard to the comity of nations, which we all desire to foster as much as possible, I think it would be well to substitute for the section a provision which, while clearly expressing the object we have in view, could not be said to be based solely on the colour line. I believe that such an amendment would secure the approval of most honorable members, and that they would be willing to vote even more than .we are now paying for the carriage of our mails under such conditions. Personally, I would make no difference. It might be argued, too, that the higher price which we are called upon to pay was not demanded solely because of the provision to which I have referred. I am satisfied that the late Postmaster-General did his best under the circumstances, and the present .Postmaster-General, although the contract did not wholly meet with his approval, by asking Parliament to ratify it, showed that he thought that nothing better could be done. I have made inquiries outside the Chamber, and heard the statements made here on the subject, and my opinion is that the only course possible was adopted. The ratification of the contract has secured regularity in the despatch and transmission of our mails, and thus insures us against delays and inconveniences, which would have caused losses to be measured, not by thousands, but by hundreds of thousands, of pounds. Coming now to another matter, the making uniform of our postal charges, I would point out that there is a good deal of misunderstanding on the subject. Of course, we would all like to see uniform postal rates adopted, and, no doubt, many of us who represent States other than Victoria have been asked, “Why don’t you vote for uniform penny postage, such as Victoria has ? “ It is highly desirable that the rate of postage should be as low as possible, but it must not be forgotten that the penny postage system of Victoria results in a loss, and that that loss is borne by the citizens of this State. The fact that there is a loss, and that it is borne by the citizens of Victoria, and not by the Commonwealth as a whole, are both frequently lost sight of by the electors. It is rather an anomaly, now that the postal business of the Commonwealth is under one administration, that the rates of postage are not uniform, but, seeing how constant is the demand for extra services, which mean increased expenditure, any lowering of the rate would at present seem unwise, and it is not altogether impossible that the Parliament of Victoria may ask the Commonwealth to revert to the twopenny rate in this State. While it is always easy to lower rates, it is not easy to increase them again, and, no doubt, an increase would never be proposed unless the Postmaster-General was compelled by want of revenue to move in that direction. While we are all anxious for the adoption of a uniform postage rate, I, for one, would not urge a course which would prevent the extension of postal ,and telephonic facilities in a hundred and one directions.
– The only difficulty in the way of the reduction of the postage rate is the financial difficulty.
– Exactly. I have always felt that the Postal Department should obtain .a return for the services rendered by it, and that those who enjoy the facilities which it offers should pay for them. I will not dwell on the educational advantages given by cheap postage, nor on the development of the country which cheap and speedy communication makes possible, because it is hardly likely that any reduction of rates can be proposed for at least halfadozen years to come; but I should like to remove from the minds of the electors the misapprehensions in regard to the Victorian postage to which I have referred. With regard to the construction of public works out of revenue, it seems to me that in this matter we are not .acting on true business principles. The Postmaster-General must admit that in constructing large works out of revenue we are necessarily to some extent limiting the extension of post and telephone services. It is stated that the cost of giving telephone communication between Sydney and Melbourne will be ,£40,000, butt that the expenditure will return something like 10 per cent. If, however, the work is constructed wholly out of revenue, it will unduly diminish the amount available for other purposes. Of course, ohe good side to such an arrangement is that it requires , the more careful employment of money; but to secure wise expenditure, it should not be necessary that no money should be used unless it has been dragged out of the pockets of the people. Any business man would say that it would be very bad business, if there were a possibility of getting .a return of 10 per cent, on a given outlay, to refuse to borrow to secure that return. Although, in the past, loan money has often been expended very unwisely, we are going to the other extreme in refusing to borrow for the construction of necessary works. It would be better to borrow locally than to spend only out of. revenue, though” the borrowing of money locally can be pushed too far, because, if too much money were borrowed locally, it would increase the rates of interest charged to private borrowers, while the introduction of capital from abroad is often a boon, because it reduces the rates of interest. We should, however, be careful, in connexion with our borrowing, to provide for a sinking fund to enable the debt to be repaid, at any rate before the work on which the borrowed money was expended had ceased to be of value. Before the honorable member for Macquarie became PostmasterGeneral, most of us found it very difficult to get any work put in hand, because of the financial exigencies of the Department. We were always met by the first Postmaster-General with the statement that the position of affairs was too uncertain to allow the Department to spend money in carrying out new works, and, as a consequence, for two or three years the public suffered.
– Is the honorable and learned member in favour of borrowing ?
– I would borrow where a proper return could be obtained. It is ridiculous not to make improvements until they can be made out of revenue. No private individual would carry on his affairs in that way, because, if he did, he would never extend his business. No doubt the anti-borrowing policy is very popular with the electors just now, because of the wanton extravagance of the past; but we cannot be held responsible for that, and to prevent the raising of loans altogether is to go to the other extreme.
– A good many of the members of this Parliament were members of States Parliaments which sanctioned the reckless expenditure of borrowed money.
– No doubt some of them were to blame. The money was obtained too easily, and spent too readily ; but ft does not follow that because there was wastefulness in the past we should refuse to carry out new works until they can be paid for out of revenue. It is not fair to the States to charge to one year’s revenue expenditure which should be spread over a period of ten or fifteen years.
– The States do not wish us to borrow.
– Because they wish to go on borrowing themselves. If the honorable member thinks that we have arrived at such a pitch of production that no more money can be wisely borrowed, I disagree with him. There is a middle course between that which the States adopted in the past and that which we are adopting now, and I think we should follow it. If that course is adopted there should not be an outcry against borrowing. I trust that the Minister will not hesitate to ask for the funds needed to carry out any works that he may regard as essential. We must not forget that we are absolutely retarding development whilst we deny to the public ready means of communication. I am sure that the Minister will receive the ready support of honorable members if he makes liberal provision to comply with any reasonable demands made upon him. A good deal of discussion has taken place with regard to the proposed appointment of a chief electrician and a chief postal inspector. I am very glad that this course is to be adopted, and I should have been glad to support the proposed votes, even though they had represented larger sums. In my opinion the salaries now offered to the Deputy Postmasters-General are entirely inadequate, in view of the duties they’ are called upon to perform, and the responsibilities they have to assume. If we adopt a parsimonious attitude,- we shall not follow the lines of true economy. Parsimony has never yet spelt economy, and never will. The salaries paid to the officers controlling large outside institutions are in many cases three and four times as high as are those paid to the Deputy PostmastersGeneral, whose duties are of much greater importance. Whilst, in consideration of the stability attaching to the positions of the Deputy Postmasters-General, I should not be inclined to pay them upon quite such a high scale ais is adopted in outside employment. I regard it as incumbent upon us to see that they are remunerated in a- manner commensurate with their positions. It is unworthy of the Commonwealth to haggle about a pound or two, and there was no warrant for depriving some of these officers of certain portions of their salaries. I shall be very glad to -see some alteration made in this respect. The Commonwealth needs the very best men to perform the work of a large Department such as that now under discussion, and if we offer our officials less remuneration than they could obtain for performing similar work outside, we shall commit a gross injustice. If the. Postmaster-General finds it necessary in order to secure more efficient control of the service to give the heads of the Department a higher reward for their services, I shall be very happy to support him, and I feel sure that the majority of honorable members will join me in doing so. We all know how difficult it is to properly manage a business such as that carried on by the Post and Telegraph Department, how a concession granted in one quarter is sometimes availed of as a means of extorting? further concessions in another quarter. Great Government services are always hampered by the fact that Ministers cannot deal with individuals in the same way as ordinary private business houses can do, and our very insistence upon uniformity sometimes prevents the granting of concessions in cases where they should be made. I mention this because I desire to refer to the very unbusinesslike arrangements which now obtain in regard to telephone rates. Honorable members have been informed that the Minister intends to make a trial of the toll system, and I presume that it is1 intended that a minimum service shall be given for a. fixed rate, and that anything required beyond that shall be paid for at a proportionate rate. I think that that will prove a very desirable reform. The arguments which have been used in support of it seem to me to be absolutely irresistible. Why should a man who avails1 himself of the telephone forty times a day be called upon to pay only the same rate aa another person making use of the instrument only four times per day ? I trust that the toll system will be generally adopted, because it seems to me that those who make the most use of the telephones should be called upon to pay the highest charges. ,
– But do not persons who subscribe to the telephone exchange do so voluntarily - the Government do not force the service upon them?
– No. The Government do not force the service upon them, but my point is that the service rendered should be paid for in proportion to the benefit received. Many persons in the country who think that they should not be called upon to pay the present high fees for the limited use they are able to make of the service are told that the rates cannot be reduced, because of the excessive degree to which the service is availed of by others. In one sense, telephone services are more necessary to persons living in the country than to those residing in the cities, and whilst I would not dispossess city residents of the advantages they now enjoy, I think they should be called upon to contribute in proportion to the service rendered.
– The honorable and learned member has taken a long time to find that out.
– No, I have not. Two years ago I advocated the adoption of the same system. I then earnestly argued that it was absurd to charge all subscribers alike. If some people like to occupy the time of the attendants at the exchange by using the telephone a hundred times a day, they should be called upon to pay higher fees than are demanded of those who can only make a limited use of the service. The excessive use now made of the telephone service by some persons results in the Department imposing unduly high charges upon those who can only occasionally avail themselves of that means of communication. Why should one of the great newspapers, which receives 400 or 500 telephone messages per day, be called upon to pay only the same rate as a private ‘person who ; uses the telephone only three or four times .a day?
– I see no objection to that. All persons have to pay the same municipal rate, and one person is not charged any more because he may make a little more use of the roadway than another.
– The honorable member is quite wrong. All persons are not assessed alike for municipal purposes. We all know that the water has to be paid for in proportion to the quantity used, and that the same practice applies to gas. In connexion with the extension of telephones in the country, I desire to point out that in many instances telegraph lines can be seen extending for ten or fifteen miles, whilst alongside them, within perhaps a hundred yards, another line is erected along which telephone messages are transmitted. When one inquires the reason’ for this con dition of affairs, the reply is - “ The amount charged by the Government for the use of their telegraph poles is so high that it pays us better to erect our own line.” Consequently, we find the anomaly of privatelyerected lines running side by side with Government lines for miles. As a result, telegraph poles which, in many cases, would carry twenty wires, are carrying only a single wire. I know of at least a score of instances in which telegraph posts, instead of carrying twelve or fifteen wires, are carrying only one or two, whilst other lines have been erected not far distant. Some system ought to be devised by which a difficulty of that kind in the countrydistricts can be overcome. Of course, it is quite clear that in some instances the Government could not afford to lease their telegraph poles. For example, it would be impossible for the Government to lease any portion of the main poles between Melbourne and Sydney on account of the volume of business which they carry. But in many country districts the situation is entirely different. At the present time, the rental charged in those districts is something like 25s. per mile. That is evidently more than people will pay. I know of one case where, for five miles, a privately-owned telephone line is being constructed side by side with the Government line, simply because the persons interested will not pay the rental of 25s. per mile which is demanded of them. I ask the Postmaster-General whether he cannot in certain districts lease the Government poles to private individuals. If he cannot, I think that the Government should construct these lines, charging the persons interested the initial expense incurred, and afterwards making a- call upon them whenever it is found necessary to send linemen to repair breakages. Under such circumstances I venture to say that very few calls would ever be made upon the services of the linemen. The persons interested would see to that. Moreover, the Government would always be iri a position to enforce their claim, and consequently the control of the lines would never pass out of their hands. I commend mv suggestion to the Postmaster-General, and I hope that he will inquire of his officers whether effect cannot be given to some such system. I recognise that at the. present time, irc the large cities of Australia we are welt served in the matter of telephonic communication. I understand from persons who have travelled a good deal, that upon the whole - I do not say that blemishes are not to be found in certain parts of the Commonwealth - our service is as well conducted as is the service of any part of the world.
– Why, the Melbourne system is one of the worst in the world. When one uses the telephone, he can hear twenty persons speaking at the same time.
– That defect is not clue to the officers of .the Department, because they have recommended the erection of new switch-boards. They declare that whilst our present system was thoroughly up-to-date when it was installed, recent improvements in telephony have caused it to become antiquated,
– In Sydney, the telephone service is a very bad one.
– I think that it is a very good one.
– The Sydney service is very much better than that or Melbourne.
– I am bound to say that in my opinion the telephone service of Australia is extremely well conducted. When it is urged that in particular places it is not up-to-date, my answer is that the officers of the Department have themselves acquainted us with that fact. They have pointed out that to bring it up to date we must sanction the expenditure of certain sums of money in the various States - in one case an amount of £35,000.
– It would require an expenditure of £200,000 to bring the Melbourne service up to date.
– I do not see that any blame can be attached to the officers of the Department upon that ground. Considering the means under their control, I maintain that we get a very good service. We cannot reproach them, because we have not expended the money necessary to bring about certain changes which they deem desirable to secure greater efficiency. The real trouble is that the cost of the requisite improvements is prohibitory. The attention which has been drawn to the defective service -in particular localities lead’s me to say that if we are to effect desirable changes we shall have to abandon our policy of paying for these works entirely out of revenue. We shall have to construct some of them partly out of loan funds. It is impossible for us to take £200,000 out of the revenue of any one year in order that we may pay for the installation of a new service in Melbourne. If a service will prove effective for ten years the expenditure incurred in installing it should be distributed over a ten years’ period.
– Does the honorable and learned member think that a sinking fund would be kept going during ten years ?
– Why not ?
– In giving effect to a new principle we have to consider human nature.
– We have considered human nature, and our experience is that it is now running from one extreme to another.
– Does the honorable and learned member wish us to go begging in foreign markets for money?
– I do not. At the same time, I do not wish to see development prevented simply because we have not the money with which to carry out these works. The whole of the expenditure that would be involved in any one of these undertakings should not be taken out of a single year’s revenue. It should be spread over a ten or fifteen years’ period.
– That would be all right if we repaid it in ten years by instalments.
– That is a matter for arrangement. I am quite sure that we ought not to limit our public works in the way that we are doing, simply because we can-, not construct them out of revenue.
– Does not the honorable and’ learned member think that during the next few years we can raise sufficient revenue to pay for these changes?
– I cannot discuss that matter at the present stage. In conclusion, I desire to say that we are deeply indebted to the late PostmasterGeneral for the improved means of communication which he has afforded us by the introduction of the condenser’ system. I am very glad to notice that his successor is continuing the good work which he initiated in this connexion.
– What does the honorable and learned member want - a telephone or a post-office?
– I regret that the residents of the district which I have the honour to represent are unable to secure the advantages conferred by telephonic conveniences as quickly as they could wish. But we must recollect .that the demand in this direction has been so great that the Department has been unable to cope with it, and it would scarcely be wise to employ upon these works scores of men whom it would be necessary to retain in the service long after they had been completed. The heads of the Department naturally view with a considerable amount of apprehension any increase in the number of hands employed. Before any addition is made to the number of these employe’s, they wish to be quite sure that there will be a continuous demand upon their services. In that respect they are different from private employers, who dispense with their employes as soon as they find that they no longer require them. I do not wish to further discuss the matter. Save for the proposal to cut down the salaries of two officers, I think that no exception can be taken to these Estimates. I regret that the PostmasterGeneral should have brought forward a proposal to reduce the salaries in question, for I hold that we should not thus attack those who are not in a position, to defend themselves The salary of each office should be fixed, and I am satisfied that the pay of the two officers to whom I refer is not commensurate with the positions of responsibility which they hold.
– I can indorse the remarks made by the honorable and learned member for Werriwa with reference to the reforms which the late PostmasterGeneral instituted, and I think that the present Minister bids fair to follow closely in his footsteps. I also agree with the remarks made by the honorable and learned member with respect to the necessity of reducing the cost of the telephone service to country subscribers. It seems to me to be grossly unfair that the subscriptions to country exchanges should be the same as are those to the exchanges in the great cities of the Commonwealth.
– Because subscribers to a country exchange do not obtain the same return for their money. It must not be overlooked that the number of subscribers to an exchange in a country town is much smaller than is the number of subscribers to a city exchange. In West Maitland, for instance, there are some seventy subscribers to the exchange, and consequently there are not many persons with whom one can communicate over the wires. If the cost of the telephone service were reduced, the number of subscribers would be considerably increased. Why should a charge of £8 per annum for a business telephone, and of £5 per annumfor a private telephone, be made when £5 and £3 respectively should be amply sufficient? I would suggest to the Postmaster-General that the revenue from this branch of the service might be increased by preventing the general use of telephones in public institutions and hotels. In Australia guests at an hotel are allowed to use the telephone whenever they desire, although a small fee is exacted for its use by guests athotels elsewhere. I am satisfied that if the rates for country telephones were reduced the number of subscribers would be largely increased, just as the reduction of fares on the Government tramways of New South Wales has resulted in a considerable increase of revenue. I wish now to draw attention to another anomaly in regard to country telephone exchanges which ought to be remedied. Why is it that obsolete instruments are palmed off upon subscribers to these exchanges? They pay as much as do subscribers to city exchanges, and it is difficult to understand why they should not have an equally effective service. In this respect the Department seems to have followed the course pursued by the Railway Department of New South Wales. As soon as the electrical tramway system was introduced in Sydney, the obsolete steam cars were sent off to do duty in country towns. In the same way, second-hand and obsolete telephone instruments are being foisted on subscribers to country exchanges. When the Labour Government were in office a regulation’ was issued which gave general satisfaction. This regulation provides that in districts where telegraph offices are connected with a telephone exchange, or where telegrams are sent over the telephone lines, the general public, upon payment of a fee, may be allowed to use these lines. This concession is much , appreciated by those who are aware of it; but I do not think that the Department has taken care to fully apprise the public of the passing of the regulation. It provides that -
Regulation 20 shall he repealed, and the following regulation shall he inserted in its place : -
A telephone line connecting any two offices of the Department, at neither or only one of which a telephone exchange has been opened, may be used for conversations by the general public, subject to the following conditions, and on payment of the fees set forth hereunder, provided that such use by the public shall not interfere with the ordinary work of the Department……
When I inquired what was meant by” the ordinary work of the Department,” the Postmaster-General informed me that if it were found that these telephones were competing in any way with the telegraphic service, the public would not be allowed to use them. That is a distinctly fatuous position to take up.
– I misunderstood the honorable member’s question, and was under the impression that he was referring to the use of private lines. Once a public line is opened a subscriber has the right to decide for himself whether he will take advantage of it, or continue to use the telegraph service.
– I am pleased to receive the Minister’s explanation. As these lines are for the service of the general public, I fail to see why they should be conducted on principles that would restrict their general use. The opening of telephone offices in country districts has been much appreciated by the general public. For example, where the services of a doctor are required, it is of great advantage to be able to communicate with him by telephone, instead of having to rely upon a short telegraphic message. A medical man, upon beingrung up, has an opportunity to reply to his interrogator, and to supply instructions as to the treatment of the patient, pending his arrival, that in many cases prove extremely valuable. There is only one other matter to which I wish to draw attention. I believe that in connexion with a small post-office at Pelaw Main, I have discovered a case of sweating on the part of the Department, the like of which is not to be found elsewhere in the Commonwealth. I find that the remuneration given to the man in charge of this office is £57 per annum, and that in return for this allowance, he has to attend, not only to the ordinary postal work, but to that of the money-order office, the Savings Bank Department, and the telephone office, as well as to deliver telegrams. But from this sum of £57 a deduction of£8 per annum ismade for the carriage of mails between the office and the railway station, a distance of two miles.
– What is the population of Pelaw Main?
– I cannot say; but the volume of work transacted in the office shows that it must be fairly large. As I have said, £8 per annum is deducted from this officer’s salary for the carriage of mails to and from the railway station, so that he is actually paid at the rate of 19s. per week for the work that he performs for the Department. Then again, he has to pay £13 per annum for the rent of the premises, so that allowing for this further deduction, he actually receives 15s. per week in return for his services to the Department. The fact that the value of the business transacted at this office in one quarter is £1,199 8s. 7d., should satisfy the Minister that it is a fairly large one. The man in charge of the Greta Postoffice, which is a contract one, receives £124 per annum, although his duties cannot possibly be as heavy as are those which the man in charge of the postoffice at Pelaw Main has to discharge. I draw the special attention of the PostmasterGeneral to this case, and trust that he will cause inquiries to be made. In any circumstances, I do not think that the Commonwealth should offer a man 15s., or even 19s., per week, as a living wage.
– Is this man entirely in the service of the Commonwealth?
– I believe that he carries oh a store in connexion with the office, which is a non-official one.
– How many letters per quarter does the postmaster at Pelaw Main handle?
-I cannot say, but I can inform the honorable member of the money that passes through his hands every quarter.
– The business of the office is rapidly increasing ?
– It is.
– That being so, the office should soon become an official one. When its revenue exceeds £400 a year it will be entitled to be classed as an official office.
– The money order business for the last quarter amounted to £53814s.2d.; the postal notes and stamp business to £167 3s., the Government Savings Bank deposits to £485 8s. 3d., the value of the telephone messages transmitted to £8 3s. 2d. ; making a total of £1,199 7d. I hope that the Postmaster-General will give me his assurance that the matter will be fully inquired into.
– The honorable member may be sure that I will give full attention to if.
– I regret that honorable members who have spoken during this debate have not had more to say about the proposed introduction of the toll system of charging for the use of telephones. I think that no more reactionary step could be proposed, the object plainly being. to bleed telephone subscribers more severely than they are bled at present. An expert was sent from Victoria to traverse a large part of the civilized world to collect information in regard to telephone systems, and His first recommendation that was allowed to be published was one for increasing the charges for telephones. In support of the increase, the charges in vogue in a city like New York, where the telephone service is in private hands, and users are bled most unmercifully, were instanced.
– That is what happens under private enterprise.
– I have never believed in private enterprise in regard to what have been called natural monopolies, such as the control of railway, postal, telephone, and telegraphic services. In Stockholm, whence we get most of our up-to-date telephone instruments, the charges to users of telephones are less than half the charges imposed by the Department here, and the desire in most countries is to reduce telephone charges. The Minister, however, wishes to increase the charges in Australia. At present, one has to ring up half-a-dozen times before he can communicate with the person to whom he wishes to speak; and under the toll system he would be charged for each ring. A recent copy of the New York Commercial, which has been placed in my hands, shows that the people of New York complain bitterly of the telephone charges there; but, in any case, the New York system is quite a different one from ours, in point of effectiveness. The Melbourne system is shockingly bad.
– It is the worst in Australia.
– There is no metallic circuit, and it is often impossible to hear what is being said. Last night, I telephoned from a house connected with the Cheltenham Exchange to a house connected .with the Canterbury Exchange, over a distance of not more than fifteen or twenty miles, but found it impossible to hear what was being said at the other end. Why should we be asked to pay more for such a bad sendee as that which we now have? In New Zealand, so I have been informed by Sir Joseph Ward, the present Postmaster-General, not only is the housetohouse telephone system better than ours, but the long-distance telephone system is better; and I believe that it is possible to speak from one’s private house with subscribers living 200 or 300 miles away. Such a thing cannot be done in Victoria. The charges for telephones, too, are lower in New Zealand than in Victoria. If the Minister wishes to win a name for himself as a good administrator I hope that he will veto any proposal to increase the telephone rates.
– We hope that the adoption of the toll system will decrease the rates.
– The toll system is a thinly-disguised scheme for increasing the charges for telephones.
– It is quite right that they should be increased.
– No doubt the honorable member does not use a telephone; but some of us have to pay for telephones, both at our homes and at our offices.
– It is only right that they should be paid for. ,
– We do pay for them, and at a very high rate. I am not connected with a Fire Brigades Board, or any other institution, so that I have to pay the full charges. I would not object to the New Zealand rates, or to the Stockholm rates; but I object to rates such as are charged in New York, for a service which is very much worse than the New York service. Something should also be done to improve the long-distance telephone system of Australia. * I believe that the people in the backblocks of the other States are even worse eff than are those in the country districts of Victoria, but the latter are very badly situated. The adoption of the condenser system has been an improvement, but in some districts it does not seem to work well over a distance exceeding fifty miles.
– In some cases it is giving satisfaction over a distance of 200 miles.
– I have been told that in the Horsham district a good result cannot be obtained from the condenser system over a distance exceeding fifty miles. The system was an absolute failure between Warrnambool and Melbourne - a distance of only 160 miles. A resident of the Western District has informed me that Warracknabeal cannot speak ,to Dimboola, or Horsham to places like Goroke, by means of the condenser system. T do not know whether the fault lies with the telegraph lines, which are somewhat antiquated.
– The fault is with the lines ; not with the condenser. ‘
– If so, proper, uptodate wires should be supplied. It is impossible to get perfect results unless copper wire and a metallic circuit are provided. Where there is likely to be much communication between two towns, a copper telephone wire should be erected on the telegraph poles. The cost of putting up such a wire on poles already erected cannot be very great. For some time past I have been worrying various PostmastersGeneral, of whom we have had a great number, to authorise telephone connexion between Ballarat and Hamilton. There is a trunk line from Melbourne to Ballarat and from Ballarat to Hamilton would be about 120 miles further. The people of Hamilton are prepared to give a guarantee aga’inst loss, or to ,pay a reasonable sum; but the Department has shown an utter lack of business spirit in the matter. Its officers say that the line will not pay all charges - working expenses, interest, and maintenance - and, therefore, the people of Hamilton are asked, not to make good any possible difference between the actual returns and the expenditure, but to subscribe in cash a sum equal to all charges? for) the first year, and a sum equal to half those charges for the next two years, giving a guarantee for the five following years. The amount required in cash is £600. There is a large stocK market at Hamilton’, which would give a lot of business, and if the officers of the Department were to make inquiries locally, as to the probable revenue to be obtained, and were then to report to the PostmasterGeneral that they thought that threefourths, or some other proportion of the expenditure would be met, it would be reasonable to ask the people of the town to guarantee the remainder; but the demand which they are now making is one which prevents business from being done. I am confident that if this line did not pay during the first year, it would yield a satisfactory revenue within a very short time. If a reasonable guarantee, accompanied by a moderate deposit, were required, I am sure that it would be forthcoming. I have offered to pay my share of the cash required in order to assist the project, but I think there is a great deal in the contention of the residents, that they are being, asked to contribute too much. The interest charge upon bank overdrafts is 6 per cent.,, or 8 per cent.j and yet the Government require the residents to hand over a certain sum, which they say they will place in the Savings Bank, where it will bear interest at only 2 or 2 J per cent. If no loss is incurred on the working of the line, the deposit is to be returned, but the contributors will be at the loss of a considerable amount in the shape of interest.
– How much would each person be required to guarantee?
– In all these cases it is necessary to restrict the number of guarantors. My idea was that thirty of us should contribute the ,£600; and I offered to pay my share, but a number of the residents felt that it “was altogether beyond reason to ask them to deposit such a large amount, and to also require them to give a guarantee covering several years. I do not know whether it was to be a joint and several guarantee, but, if so, it would be a case of “heaven help the man who was left in.” Personally, I should take no part in any such undertaking. In one’ instance, which I mentioned some time ago, two hours were occupied in sending a telegram over a distance of forty miles, and the rider of a motor bicycle covered the distance between the two places before the telegram was delivered. Therefore, it is no wonder that the residents are asking for’ telephone communication. I wish to make another proposal, which, if carried into effect by the Postmaster-General, will confer upon him undying fame. It is quite evident that, sooner or later, most of the capitals of the States will be connected by telephone. We have already agreed to establish telephone communication between Sydney and Melbourne, and probably it will next be proposed to connect Sydney and Brisbane. I now suggest that the Postmaster-General should take into consideration the question of establishing telephonic communication between Melbourne and Adelaide. Although the receipts from the business between the two capitals might not be sufficient to cover a reasonable interest charge upon the outlay, the revenue derived from messages despatched to and from the various towns along the route would considerably add to the income of the Department.
– Would the suggested line run through the, honorable and learned member’s district?
– Yes; it would bring three towns in my electorate into communication with “ the capitals referred to. The trunk lines between Melbourne and Ballarat and Melbourne and Bendigo are among the most payable in Victoria, - principally because of the large amount of stock exchange business that is. transacted over them. Considerable stock exchange operations take place as the result of advices and orders exchanged between Adelaide and Melbourne brokers, and if a telephone service were established between the two cities, a considerable amount of share business would be transacted by means of it. Moreover, the line would prove of great convenience to visitors and business people generally. I believe that the residents in the Western District would greatly appreciate telephonic communication with the metropolis. Farming conditions in that part of the State are undergoing a great change, and stock grazing, and especially lamb fattening and kindred pursuits, are receiving much more attention than in the past. Auctioneers in the country districts intrusted with the sale of stock would be placed in a position of great advantage if they could communicate by telephone with’ persons transacting similar business in Ballarat and other centres. I think that there is every reason why the Postmaster-General should inquire into the business prospects of a telephone line between Adelaide and Melbourne, and I trust that he will give consideration to the subject.
– The business done by telephone would result in loss to the telegraph service.
– I do not think so. i am informed by Victorian postal officials that the establishment of telephone lines has in no case involved any great loss of telegraphic business. If, before the establishment of telephonic communication, a telegraph service yielded, say, £1,000 per a*nnum, and the telephone service, on being introduced, resulted in receipts amounting to £250 per annum, the telegraph revenue would not be reduced to the full extent of the latter amount. I am informed that the records of all the trunk telephone lines show that there has been a net gain to the combined services. I desire to refer to another matter affecting the convenience of residents in the- country districts. A number of post and telegraph offices are established at railway stations in Victoria, and the Postmaster-General was good enough recently to connect certain towns in my district by means of the condenser system. The telegraph lines ‘thus used for the purposes of telephonic communication are in many cases connected with the railway stations, and the railway officials refuse to permit members of the public to use the telephones in their offices. The condenser system was used to connect a station called Myamyn with Hamilton, _ and some time ago a resident of the former town wished to summon a doctor from Hamilton, twenty-five miles away, to attend upon a member of his family who had been suddenly seized with illness. He desired to use the telephone for the purpose, but was informed by the railway officials that he could not be permitted to do so, even though the case was one of urgency. He then had to despatch a telegram to the doctor, but was unable to obtain an answer except after con siderable delay. The telephone possesses the advantage of enabling persons to convey messages and receive replies without any appreciable delay. In the case in question, it would have been possible to ascertain by telephone whether the doctor was at home, and, if he were absent,’ to call upon the services of some other physician. The difficulty which has arisen in connexion with these railway offices might easily be overcome if the Postmaster-General held a friendly consultation with the railway authorities. It seems monstrous that the public should be denied the use of a system established for their special benefit. The telephones at railway stations should be made accessible to private individuals upon the payment of the regulation fee, provided that they did not unduly interfere with the operations of the railway officials. I could well understand an objection being raised to the use of railway telephones by members of the public whilst trains were arriving or being despatched. I make these few suggestions to the Minister with a good deal of confidence, because I know that he represents a country electorate, and fully appreciates the necessity of affording greater facilities to residents in outlying districts. I hope that the matters to which I have referred will receive his fullest consideration.
– The late Postmaster-General made some reference to the question of issuing a uniform Commonwealth postage stamp, and I thoroughly agree with him that it is absurd that we should continue the present system of issuing separate stamps noninterchangeable between State and State. I am aware of the difficulty which arises from the operation of the bookkeeping clauses, and the necessity for crediting each State with the revenue which properly belongs to it. But surely after the experience we have gained during the last five years, we ought to be able to make some arrangement for issuing a uniform stamp which will be perfectly fair to the States. Some little time ago, when I was in Adelaide, I inadvertently affixed a Victorian stamp to a letter which had to be conveyed a distance of only about a mile from the point of despatch, and the receiver was called upon to pay a surcharge of 4d. Such a state of affairs ought not to be permitted to continue, because it not only militates against the convenience of the public, but also operates prejudicially to the revenue. If postage stamps were made interchangeable they would be more extensively used than at present, especially for forwarding small sums of money from one State to another. I desire to direct attention to the question of printing the postage stamps required by the Commonwealth. At present thestamps required for each State are printed in the local Government Printing Office, except in the case of South Australia, where the work is done by a Commonwealth officer in the Postal Department. The cost of printing postage stamps varies to an extraordinary extent, when one considers that the work performed is of the same character, and the material used is of much the same quality in every case. At an early stage it occurred to the Postmaster-General of the Commonwealth that it would be advisable to have, the whole of this work performed in one office. From the time of the transfer of the Postal Department to the Commonwealth, this question has been under consideration, and it has not yet been settled. I now propose to quote the prices at which these stamps can be printed in the various States. I find that in the Government Printing Office, Sydney, they can be produced at 7½d. per 1,000 ; in Melbourne, at 5d. ; in Brisbane, at10d.; and in the General Post Office, Adelaide, where there is a stamp printing department under the control of a spe cialist, at 4d. Honorable members will see that the prices range from 4d. to10d. per 1,000. I understand that when Senator Drake was Postmaster-General, he obtained an estimate of the cost at which stamps, could be printed in the various States upon the assumption that they had to perform that class of printing for the entire Commonwealth. The estimate given by the Stamp Printer in Adelaide, who is a Commonwealth officer, was 2¼d. per thousand.
– It is said that that amount would not pay for the paper that would be used.
– Mr. Allen says that.
– The Government Printer says so.
– I want to ascertain what prevents this work from being done by the Commonwealth. The Treasurer has stated by way of interjection that the cost of the paper alone would exceed the Adelaide estimate of the entire cost of printing. I may say that that is a very recent discovery.
– It is not correct.
– Apart from that consideration, it is only a recent discovery on the part of the Melbourne Government Printing Office. This question has been under the consideration of successive Governments, and upon last year’s Estimates a sum of £1,301 was voted for the purchase of a two-colour printing machine and of some other machinery, to allow of the work being done in Adelaide by the specialist in stamp printing. But for some reason or other, which I am at a loss to understand, that proposal has been hung up ever since. I find that when the Prime Minister was in Hobart, he sent a wire to the Postmaster-General, asking him not to call for tenders, and consequently the matter is to-day unsettled. These are the facts of the case, as can be proved by reference to the official documents. I desire to ascertain why this change of policy has been adopted, and what influence prevents a large saving to the Commonwealth being effected. Is it merely a parochial influence, or is it a dispute between the Departments ? No less than three Postmasters-General have advocated a change in the interests of economy, and yet the matter has been “ hung up “ by successive Treasurers.
– The late Treasurer was opposed to it.
– I am quite aware of that, although I do not know the reason for his opposition. From a perusal of the official papers relating to the matter, it is difficult to conceive why he was opposed to it. When the Watson Government were in power, it was decided, on the recommendation of the 1 then Postmaster-General, the honorable member for Coolgardie, that all stamp printing should be done by the Commonwealth, and not by the various States. Accordingly a vote for that purpose was placed on the Estimates, and agreed to by Parliament. Reports were received from the Government Printers of the different States in opposition to the proposal. Naturally they did not desire the work to be taken out of their hands. They wished to continue the printing of Commonwealth postage stamps, because the price they were receiving for that work was in excess of its cost, so that they were actually making a profit upon it. Mr. Gullick, the Government Printer of New South Wales, after describing the machinery which would be required to enable him to print the whole of the stamps required by the Commonwealth, stated that it would cost £2,000, and added -
The proposal to produce postage stamps under separate administration appears likely to lead to an entirely new expenditure to the Commonwealth, and to be a reversion to a practice in vogue in this State, and abolished after long trial, fifty years ago.
The proposal was to produce postage stamps under one administration outside of the Government Printing, Offices of the States, a fact Mr. Gullick did not appear to grasp.
If one State is to monopolize the whole of this work, I may fairly point out that the sum of ^2,000 spent in certain indicated directions would, in conjunction with the existing facilities of this office, fully equip the plant for the work of the whole Continent.
Then Mr. Carruthers, the Premier of New South Wales, says -
In forwarding such report, I have, however, to enter an emphatic protest against the adoption of any proposal which would have the effect of removing the work of printing postage stamps to the Post and Telegraph Department in any one of the States. For the reasons given by Mr. Gullick, in whose views on this matter I concur, I think it neither economical nor expedient that the suggested change should he made, though if it should be determined to concentrate the whole of the work of printing postage stamps in any one establishment, as Mr. Gullick has pointed out, the Sydney Government Printing Office is quite competent to undertake it, after an additional expenditure of ,£2,000.
As I have already pointed out, the cost of printing these stamps in New South Wales is 7 Jd. per thousand, as against 4d. in Adelaide, and it is estimated that this price can be still further reduced to 2 1/4d. if the Department undertook this class of printing for the entire Commonwealth. The estimated cost of the plant required to fully equip that office is £1,350 as against £2,000 in Sydney. Upon the 2nd February of the present year, the Government Printer of Victoria, Mr. Brain, wrote to the Treasurer as follows ; -
With reference to your letter of 24th ult., inquiring when my report may be expected to be received in regard to the proposal that all postage stamps, &c, shall in future be printed by the Post and Telegraph Department at one of the State capitals, I beg to inform you that the present heavy pressure of urgent work in this Department has hitherto prevented me from furnishing the report asked for. I hope, however, to be in a position to forward it at an early date.
Then comes die following minute from the Secretary to the Treasurer: -
Should we not ask Post-office to notify Treasurer of any contemplated action in respect of the vote for Hie machinery (Division, 4/4/6) before such action is taken. The vote having been passed, the Post-office would be entitled to proceed without further reference to the Treasurer. There is nothing in these papers to show that the Post-office is aware of any possible objection on the part of the Treasurer. lt appears from this statement that the Treasurer had some objection to the proposal, and that it occurred to him that the Department might proceed to give effect to it without any further reference to him;. The Prime Minister then wired from Hobart to the Postmaster-General asking him to allow the matter to remain in abeyance until the Treasurer had considered the advisableness of having the work carried out in the office in which it could be most economically performed. A precis respecting the question of certain stamp printing for the various States being performed at the Departmental Printing Office, Adelaide, was prepared for the information of the Treasurer, and in this document it is pointed out that -
The postage stamps for New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland, are printed in the Government Printing Offices of those States, respectively, those for Western Australia and Tasmania are printed in the Government Printing Office, Melbourne, and the South Australian stamps are printed at the Government Printing Office, Adelaide, by officials of this Department.
It was ascertained in 1902 that the cost of printing the stamps in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, was as follows : -
As I have already quoted the figures, I shall not refer to them again -
The Departmental printer in Adelaide estimated that the cost of printing postage stamps for this Department would be 2ta. per 1,000 for stamps of one colour; if of two colours, the cost would be the same, but a two-colour machine, costing about would be required.
On the 9th October, 1903, the Secretary, PostmasterGeneral’s Department, wrote that “ In view of all the facts, including the reduced cost of production in Adelaide, the ability to print the postage stamps .required for the Department throughout the - Commonwealth in our own office at Adelaide, and the jealousy that has been created when stamps for one State are printed in the Government Printing Office in another State, it is, I think, desirable that the whole of the postage stamps, postal notes, &c, required, should be printed in the printing office attached to the General Post Office, Adelaide, under the control and supervision of the Deputy PostmasterGeneral of that State, also that provision should be at once made for supplying to the Printer at Adelaide the two-colour printing machine required.” This was approved by the Postmaster-General (Sir P. O. Fysh) on the 19th id-em, and on the 12th November, 1903, the Deputy Postmaster-General, Adelaide, was asked for a report as to the additional plant that would be required in order to print in his office at Adelaide, pending the establishment of a Commonwealth Government Printing Office, all the postage stamps, postal notes, post-cards, both pictorial and plain, required for the whole of the Department throughout the Commonwealth, and also the estimated cost pf’ any additional assistance or labour- that might be considered necessary under such circumstances. The Deputy PostmasterGeneral replied on- the 16th December, 1903, asking for a rough proof of each stamp plate then inuse, and certain statistics as to the issues of stamps, &c, in the several States in 1902. These were obtained from the other Deputy PostmastersGeneral,, and forwarded to him on the 2nd March, 1904, and on the 22nd idem, he submitted a. report from the Stamp Printer, giving the information asked- for, on the 12th November, 1903.
On 1 2.th May, 1904, the honorable member for Coolgardie, who was PostmasterGeneral, wrote the- following minute: -
Referring to stamp printer’s report of 21st March, 1904, I think it desirable the Department should procure the best two-colour machine extant…..
No action appears to have been taken on this minute. Reports were then received from the Deputy Postmaster-General, giving the details of the machinery that would be required to carry out the whole of the work. The Departmental Printer stated that the annual saving effected by the introduction of the plant recommended - and I ask honorable members to pay particular attention to this point - would, be approximately .£1,699 ros. He went on to point out that -
When a uniform stamp was introduced, the plant, plus another perforator, would be- sufficient to cope with the work, and produce the stamps at a greatly reduced rate, and that the Department would be able to undertake a considerable amount of Departmental printing, thus saving, the State printer’s bill.
Then on the 23rd June, 1904, the Secretary to the Postmaster-General’s Department wrote the following minute: -
With reference to the proposal to have the printing of postage stamps, postcards, postal notes, and money order forms, executed in the printing office attached to the South Australian branch of the Postmaster-General’s Department, I have to suggest that, while full series of postage stamps, each of a different pattern, are necessarily produced and issued from plates and watermarked paper held by the Government Printing Offices of most of the States, the printing should be continued as at present in those offices, but stamps to be printed for States which have not hitherto had them produced in the Government Printing Office of the State, as for instance, Western Australia and. Tasmania, should for the future be printed in Adelaide, and that the plates, &c, now held in the Government Printing Office, Melbourne, for such stamps, be transferred as soon as the Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Adelaide, has reported that the officein that city is prepared to undertake the work.
On another paper I have recommended for consideration the advisability of inviting designs, uniform, except as to the name of the State, during the bookkeeping period.
Postcards, pictorial and. plain, and also postal notes and. money order forms of an uniform andimproved’ pattern for the whole Commonwealth, should, I think, be printed at Adelaide, as soon, as designs can be submitted and approved, and the necessary plant can be made available.
The Deputy Postmaster-General, Adelaide, to be asked to obtain and submit a full report covering the whole subject from, the Stamp Printer attached to his branch of the Department.
The then Postmaster-General, the honorable member for Coolgardie, asked that the matter should be treated as urgent, as a great saving could be made by the use of the improved machinery . The Deputy PostmasterGeneral of South Australia was then written to, and forwarded a further report as to the plant required. On the. 16th July, 1904. the Postmaster-General approved of the requisition submitted for the machinery. A note was made for the inclusion in the Estimates of an item of .£1,301 ios., as per the later list, in respect of the new plant, and the Deputy Postmaster-General was so informed. On 5th December of that year, further particulars were supplied, and on the 14th of the same month the amount on the Estimates was voted. On the 7th February, 1905, the Postmaster-General approved of tenders being invited, and the Deputy PostmasterGeneral was informed accordingly; but on the 13th February, 1905, the Prime Minister wired from Hobart - asking that action in the matter be stayed until the return of the Treasurer to Melbourne, and the Deputy Postmaster-General was so instructed the same day.
This is the information which was supplied to the Treasurer on his return from Hobart I shall now read a report submitted by Mr. Brain, in opposition to the proposal : -
In compliance with the honorable the Treasurer’s minute of 3rd inst., herewith, and also in reply to your letter of 17th August last, No. 3,0,52, I have the honour to state with respect to the proposal to print in future all postage stamps, postal notes, and postcards required for the different States at the Post and Telegraph Department of one of the State Capitals, that if stamps and other revenue documents are produced in the same Department as that which sells them, there, is a greater probability, if persons were so inclined, of frauds being committed by means of collusion than there would be if these documents were produced and sold in two distinct Departments. Of course, I do not wish to imply that fraud is likely to be committed at any post office situate in the_ Capital of either of the States. But in producing documents that are equivalents for money, it is only proper to adopt that method which most effectually discourages and prevents the committal of fraud.
It would occur to most persons that the distribution of this work over a number of offices in the several States would be more calculated to open the door to fraud than would its concentration in the hands of a few carefully selected men. It seems to me that Mr. Brain’s suggestion is absolutely farcical. His report continued -
Apart from this, aspect of the matter, it would seem that the Treasury and not the Post Office is the Department under whom documents possessing monetary value should be manufactured. South Australia is the only State amongst those producing these documents where the postage stamps, &c, are printed at the post office.
It is interesting to learn that because stamps are equivalents for money, the mechanical work associated with their production should be under the control of the Treasury. These are some of the reasons advanced by the Government Printer of Victoria against the proposal to effect a reform that would result in a saving of over £1.700 per annum. Stamp printing is a work which relates to the Post and Telegraph Department, and it seems to me that it is no less fitting that it should be placed under the control of the Postmaster-General than that it should be controlled by the Department of the Treasury.
– I should be very glad if it were transferred.
– I am simply putting before the Committee the arguments advanced against the desirableness of making in the system a change that would result in a very large saving. The proposal has been hanging fire for something like five years, and these are some of the reasons that have been offered against its adoption. As to the statements that South Australia is the only State in which postage stamps are printed at the General Post Office, I would point out that the Government of South Australia, having had an accumulation of deficits, felt constrained to adopt the most economical methods of carrying out public services. The Adelaide stamp printer, replying to Mr. Brain’s strictures, pointed out that the latter was mistaken in supposing that he had fallen into error in making his estimate; and in regard to the printing of uniform postal notes, Mr. Brain gave five quotations, ranging from ns. id. down to 3s. 8d. per thousand, against his estimate of 3s. 3d. per thousand, and a saving of some £2,000 was effected. The AuditorGeneral was asked by the Post Office authorities to make inquiries during his visit to Adelaide as to whether the stamp printer there was mistaken in his estimate, or had made his calculations on a wrong basis, and he furnished the following report : -
I have the honour to report for the information of the right honorable the Treasurer, that, at the desire of the Secretary, Postmaster-General’s Department, I have inquired closely into the question of the proposal made to print all stamps and postal notes for the Commonwealth at the Adelaide Post Office. The quotations, I understand - given by Mr. Cooke, the printer attached to the Post Office branch at Adelaide - were 2£d. per 1,000 for postage stamps, and 3s. 3d. per 1,000 for postal notes. I have examined this officer’s calculations, and it appears to me that his estimates are reliable. He has taken into account the cost of paper delivered at the General Post Office, Adelaide ; labour ; wear and tear of machinery; type, and blocks; cost of ink; cleaning material; motive power; cutting; taking -and delivering stamps from and to the Custodian ; numbering; banding; lining; designing; engraving1; interest on cost of machinery; and cost of supervision. I find that Mr. Cooke recently gave a quotation for the production of 2,100 copies of lists of money order offices - the amount estimated being ^140, and that the actual cost was £111 17s. 6d. This appears to show the reliability of this officer’s estimates. .
That was the report of an officer who may be regarded as quite impartial. The Adelaide stamp printer is an enthusiast and a specialist in his work, so that he has been able to make some extraordinary reductions in the cost of stamp printing, and I see no reason why the Commonwealth should not take advantage of his expert knowledge. In contradiction to his estimate, there are only the statements of Mr. Brain, which I have read, and a further statement in which Mr. Brain declares that the cost of material alone would be more than the amount set down for labour and material. Mr. Brain is of opinion that it would cost quite 2;-d. per thousand for the paper, ink, and gum used ; but the Adelaide stamp printer before making his estimate obtained quotations from the firms who supply the paper used for this work, and. as a matter of fact, has ordered for the Adelaide office paper at the price he quoted. I have come to the conclusion that it is due to inadvertence that no vote appears on these Estimates for the machine to which I have alluded.
– That is so.
– Then I presume thai the Treasurer will see that money is provided for its purchase?
– Yes. A sum was voted last year. As a matter of fact, I did not know the facts when these Estimates were before me.
– The whole question was gone into very carefully by a previous Postmaster-General, The right honorable gentleman having made that pro mise, it is needless for me to make any further remark.
– I have no desire to delay the passing of these Estimates, because I belong to the recess party, and if the Government acted fairly towards the Opposition, and let us know what they propose to do, Ave should allow them to close the session as expeditiously as they desire. But as we have had no declaration from the Government on the subject, it is our duty to see that the Estimates are properly and reasonably discussed. I heard what the honorable and learned member for Wannon had to say in regard to the condenser system of telephone communication, and, in justice to the late PostmasterGeneral, who introduced the system in the interests of the people in country districts, I wish to say that in my constituency, and in other constituencies with which T am acquainted, it has been a success. I trust that the present PostmasterGeneral, who has declared his intention to follow in the footsteps of his predeces sor in these matters, will extend the use of the system, and thus assist in the development of our resources. It is time that we heard what he proposes to do in connexion with the administration of the important Department over which he presides. He has left it to the honorable member for Macquarie to defend these Estimates; but I think he should have something to say for himself. Probably if the honorable member for Macquarie had remained in office until now the administration of the Department would have been revolutionized. There are several matters to which I wish to draw attention. In the first place, I wish to refer to the case mentioned by the honorable member for Macquarie, in which postal facilities are asked for by the inhabitants of a district in South Australia. The Department estimates that the return from a post-office there would be £50 a year, but the Railway Department of South Australia proposes to charge .£450 a year for the carriage of mails to and from the district, or ^400 more than the postoffice would receive. This is an illustration of the manner in which everything is being done by the railway authorities and Governments of the States to oppose the Commonwealth, and to lessen the advantages of Federation. The Postmaster-General has agreed to consider this case and has stated that a bonus might be given in some instances in order to extend to the residents in certain districts the facilities “to which they are entitled. I trust, however, that he will sit tight and refuse to comply with the inordinate demands of the Railway Commissioners of South Australia, or of any other State. He should strenuously object to any fleecing of the Federation by any Railway Commissioners ‘ or State Government. I desire to refer to the vote of ^1,000 proposed to be voted for the payment of increments to officers in receipt of salaries of ,£160 and upwards in the professional and clerical divisions of the Department of New “South Wales. I should like to know upon what .principle this amount is to be divided amongst the officers. Is the distribution to be left entirely . in the hands of the Deputy PostmasterGeneral, or is he to act after consultation with the principal officers in the various branches? Further, I should like information as to the officers who are to receive the benefit of the increments. So far as I can ascertain, it is intended that the money shall be distributed entirely according to the recommendation of the Deputy Postmaster-General. “ Any one acquainted with the administration of , that Department must know perfectly well that the Deputy Postmaster-General cannot, without consulting the heads of the branches, properly allocate the sum thus placed at his disposal, and it has come to my knowledge that some officers have either been overlooked or have been very badly treated. .£1,000 would not go very far among the officers of the professional and clerical officers of the Department, and I understand that special trouble will arise, owing to the fact that certain officers who have been recommended for increments will, for the time being, be in receipt of salaries in excess of those payable to other officers who occupy higher positions, and whose claims to promotion will be prejudiced by the temporary improvement in status of officers inferior to them in rank. I hope the PostmasterGeneral will interest himself in this matter, and insure that , justice shall be done to all parties concerned. I see that provision is made for a vote of £7,400 for the remuneration of officials in the Railway Department, who perform work in connexion t with the postal and public telegraphic business. It has been customary for railway officers in various parts of New South Wales to act as postmasters, and I should like to know how the amount which now appears on the Estimates is to be parcelled out among these officials.
– The railway officials in Queensland do not receive any consideration ; tha whole of the money is appropriated by the Commissioners.
– I think that we should take steps to insure thai the money we vote for the remuneration of railway officials shall reach the proper hands. I know of a case of one railway officer who has been acting as a postal official for four years without sufficient remuneration. It appears from the Estimates that £7,200 was voted last year for the purpose to which I have referred, whilst provision is made for £7,400 for the current year, but unless the case to which I have referred in New South Wales is an exception, the railway servants there have not been remunerated for the work they have been performing for the Commonwealth. If the same practice exists in other States besides New South Wales and Queensland, I trust that the Postmaster-General will see that a change is made, and that the Commonwealth snail no- longer rest under the unjust reproach of requiring services for which they are not prepared to pay the officers who render them. I am informed that school teachers in New South Wales who perform work for the Postal Department are paid direct, and I should Dike. ,to know whether a similar course could not be pursued in regard to railway servants. I wish to bring under notice the question of allowing telegraph poles to be used for the purpose of carrying private telephone wires. In one case in the Picton division of my constituency, an application was made to the Department for permission to affix to certain telegraph poles a private telephone wire, but the request was refused. Apparently there was no sufficient reason why the telegraph poles should not be utilized in the mariner desired, but the official prejudice against granting any special facilities to private citizens proved strong enough to put the owner of the private telephone wire to the necessity of erecting special poles to carry it. I trust that the PostmasterGeneral, who has shown a disposition to follow in tha footsteps of his worthy predecessor, will see that every reasonable facility is offered for the construction of private telephone lines.
– Hear, hear I
– I have no complaint to make with regard to the failure of the Department to furnish telephone instruments, so far as my own constituency is concerned. Through! the courtesy of the Postmaster-General, I had an opportunity to test the efficiency of the telephone service recently established between Sydney, Wollongong, and Kiama. I was surprised to hear the honorable and learned member for Wannon refer to the difficulty of working the condenser system in coastal districts because, so far, success has been achieved between Svdney and Kiama, a distance of seventy-two miles. Furthermore, I feel quite satisfied that the service which is now being extended to Nowra, eighty-two miles from Sydney, will prove an efficient one. The condenser system has been successfully worked over a distance of 200 ‘ miles in some of the inland districts, where the wires are not subjected to the prejudicial effects of the sea air. The experiment of attaching telephone wires to trees in country districts has proved very, successful, and I trust that the Postmaster-General ‘ will continue to sanction the erection of these cheap lines. In this connexion, I have in my mind one case in which the estimate of the departmental officers made provision for the erection of expensive posts upon which the wires could be hung. It was found impossible to undertake that work op account of the small revenue which it was estimated would be derived from the service. By utilizing trees, however, in lieu of telephone poles, the line was erected, and is today returning a fair interest upon its capital cost. The only other matter to which I wish to allude is the manner in which telephones are installed in some of the country offices. In many of these buildings the instruments have been placed in such a position that nobody can carry on a conversation with any degree of privacy. We all know that in rural parts, such as the Illawarra district, a large number of persons visit the post-office at certain regular hours. At such times anybody sending a telephone message is overheard by every person who chooses to listen. Indeed, it is a matter of comment at Albion Park that a telephone message is never transmitted without the substance of it being known all over the town. As f at as possible, I think that these telephones should be so placed as to insure to their users some degree of privacy.
– I am endeavouring to give effect to the suggestion of the honorable member for Parramatta that wherever possible “ silence “ chambers shall be installed.
– I am very glad to hear that. Then again, where there are a number of small towns close to a large centre of population, I do not think it is fair to charge residents the same rate for telephone messages as is charged to persons who live fifty or sixty miles away, or who may be in communication with the metropolis some forty or fifty miles distant. The special instance which I have in my mind is that of the important town of Wollongong, the centre of the great southern coal-mining district of New South Wales. Near to that town are ten or twelve small but important centres, which enjoy telephonic communication with it. ‘ At Wollongong itself there is an exchange, which is connected with Sydney. Seeing that the telephone service there is paying, it is unfair, for instance, to charge resi dents the same rate for telephoning from Wollongong “to Kembla - which is distant only a few miles - as is charged for transmitting a message to Albion Park or Kiama or Sydney. It seems to me that it would be fair to charge a reduced rate te* those places which are in communication with the central exchange. If the service were not paying I should not venture to make a suggestion of this character. But seeing that it is making a profit, I ask thePostmasterGeneral to inquire into the matter, with a view to rectifying this injustice as speedily as possible. I recognise that the honorable gentleman is doing hisbest to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor. In so doing he is acting wisely.. At the same time, I think it is due to this Committee that we should be informed, what he intends to do to bring his Department up to date. The late PostmasterGeneral effected some very great and necessary! alterations during his tenure of office. When the Department was transferred toFederal control, we placed in charge of it men who, however able they may havebeen, were accustomed to ‘dealing with comparatively small matters in the j State of Queensland. As a result, its efficiency suffered considerably for some time. Since then, however, a great improvement has been effected. The Department was brought very much up-to- date by the late Postmaster-General, and I trust that before the debate concludes the present occupant of that office will disclose to us the means by which he hopes to maintain its efficiency.
– It seems to me that the same charge must be made against the present Ministerial head of the Postal Department as has been levelled against every other member of the Government. No Minister appears to have any policy. Whenever any strictures are passed upon them they refer to what was done by their predecessors in office. All’ through this debate, it is their predecessors who have had to defend the Administration. None of the present Ministers seemto know anything about their Departments ; they have not the courage to do anything in opposition to the reports of their officers.. In regard to certain cases, I have made representations to the present Postmaster-General,, which he has admitted are unanswerable ; and yet because his officers have reported! in a certain direction he has refused to do> what is right. He has said : “ I agree with you,, but what can. I do?” Upon one occasion, I told him that if I were in his position I would show him what to do. Certainly, I should not be controlled by my officials.. I cannot understand how men occupying the position of responsible Ministers can adopt such an attitude. The name “ responsible,” in this connexion, is entirely a misnomer ; if they were called “irresponsible” Ministers I could understand the description. The persons who are apparently responsible are the officials of the Department. Very few of our Ministers seem to be possessed of the courage necessary to enable them to mark, out a definite policy for themselves, And to insist .upon their officers’ giving effect to it. In matters of detail it is right that the officials should be recognised ; but large matters of policy should be shaped by the Ministerial heads of Departments, and not hy the officials. The late PostmasterGeneral deserves to be complimented upon the stand which he took up. I have heard it stated that he initiated the condenser telephone system. That is scarcely correct. What he did was to apply it more extensively than did any of his predecessors. The officials reported against it, declaring that it was not satisfactory. But the honorable member for Macquarie said :. “ At any rate, we will try if,” with the result that to-day it is working satisfactorily wherever it has been installed. The extension of that system has conferred a great advantage upon the citizens of the Commonwealth. I claim that we should bring telephonic facilities, as near as possible to all the country districts. They are of great value to the people, and no obs’tacle should be placed in the way of providing means of communication between all rural centres and the large! cities of the Commonwealth. “One great difficulty in the way of securing connexions of this character is that the Department charges 25s. per mile to erect a wire along the existing telegraph poles. Thus, if a person who is resident eight miles from an exchange desires to be connected with it, he is required to pay £10 a year for the privilege of having the telephone wire attached to the Government poles. I know of a. large number of men who would be connected with various exchanges :if it were not for that charge. I made some inquiries about the matter, and was informed by an officer that the cost of these undertakings had to be calcu-lated for the whole of the Commonwealth. The cost of the lines in Western Australia and Queensland, where there are very large and sparsely populated areas, is extremely high, and it is held by the Department that the cost, in those cases must govern that in Tasmania and other States. I do not think that is reasonable. Whilst we should endeavour to cater for the convenience of the people generally, we ought to give each State some of the advantages arising from the extent and situation of its population. I can understand that the cost of a telephone line, some 200 miles in length, in a sparsely populated part of the Commonwealth, must add largely to the expense of the system, but the charge of 2 5s. per mile is only in respect of the up-keep. Some gentlemen in my own electorate wished to be connected by telephone with Glen Innes, but the demand made by the Department for this privilege was alto.gether prohibitive. I inquired into the matter, and found that the salary of the line inspector in the district, and all the charges incidental to. his work, would not amount to anything like the sum which the Department demanded from the gentlemen I have named. A private firm would not attempt to do business upon these lines, and the Postmaster-General cannot expect such a system) to be successful. I do> not blame the Minister for the regulation, but I point out. that the reason given for its existence is, that the cost of the lines in sparsely populated areas must govern the cost throughout the Commonwealth.
– The regulation could be amended.
– Certainly, and if the Postmaster-General is not a mere jelly-fish - if he has some grit, in him - he will make inquiries, and if his investigations show that it is desirable to adopt that course, will cause the regulation to be amended. If he does, I shall admit next session that I made a mistake in suggesting that he has no back-bone. I wish him to do what is right in regard to these matters. Some reference has been made to the request which has been made for a mail service to Pinnaroo, in South Australia. It has been said that the Railway Department demands £A5° Per annum for the carriage of the mails to that town, notwithstanding that the revenue obtained b)< the Post and Telegraph Department from this service would be only £50 per annum. I think that the demand made by the Railway Department is a most audacious one. I admit that it is necessary in some cases - for the Post and Telegraph Department to pay more for a mail service than the revenue which is derived from it. I should not object to that being done in the case of mail services to sparsely populated districts. The Commonwealth, as well as the States, should do everything possible to encourage the people to settle in the interior, and it must be recognised that the extension of postal and telephonic facilities to the remote parts of the Commonwealth must tend to materially promote settlement there. But,” whilst I should not object to a sum being paid for certain services, in excess of the actual revenue derived from them, I certainly would object to the Commonwealth paying the amount demanded by the Railway Department for the carriage of mails to Pinnaroo. On various occasions, when I have applied to the Department to extend postal facilities to thinly settled parts of -my electorate, I have been told that they are prepared to pay for the carriage of mails to these places a sum equivalent to the revenue derived from the service, and I know that settlers in some parts have had to make good the difference between the revenue and the cost of the mails. I trust that the Department will not do in one case what it is not prepared to do in another. A suggestion has been made to-night that the amounts paid by the Commonwealth for postal and telegraphic services rendered by the States railway officials should be distributed amongst those officials. I do not altogether agree with that view. It is not my desire that any person should be sweated; but when the railway officials are receiving fair salaries from the Commissioners, it is only reasonable that the amount paid by the Commonwealth for the carriage of mails and other services Tendered . by the railways should go into the funds of the Railway Department. School teachers discharging the duties of a postmaster stand, however, in a different position. Their postal duties make great inroads upon their leisure, and they have often to remain on duty on Saturdays and Sundays, in order to deliver letters. That being so, they ought to be allowed additional remuneration. I am of opinion that it is time that we had a Commonwealth stamp. It is absurd for the Department to continue printing a different set of stamps for each State. It was all very well to use up the issues printed prior to Federation, but it is certainly time that we had a stamp that might be used .in any of the States. It may be said that the adoption of this system would lead to a loss of revenue on the part of some of the States; but, inasmuch as New South Wales and Victoria have arrived at a mutually satisfactory arrangement, to avoid the issue of Inter-State certificates, we ought surely to be able to devise a system by which the revenue derived from the sale of a Commonwealth stamp could be so distributed as not to injure any one State. The sooner we rid ourselves of every cause of friction between the States the better. We should lose no opportunity to take a step towards a true Federation. Another reform which has been advocated during this debate is the introduction of penny postage. I do not ask the Postmaster-General to undertake any work that is surrounded with extreme difficulty, and I recognise that the task of bringing about such a reform would be_a most troublesome one. On various occasions I have addressed to the Minister letters with regard to the extension of the penny postal service in my electorate, and I returned to him the other day a reply which I had received, in order that it might be put in proper form. As it stood, it would have clearly indicated to the persons concerned that the officers of the Department did not know anything about the question at issue ; and, whilst I may say some hard things of the honorable gentleman, it is always my desire to be fair to him. Penny postage obtains throughout Victoria. The Victorians are a smart people, or, at least, they fancy they are, and just before the establishment of Federation the State Parliament provided for the introduction of penny postage, anticipating, no doubt, that the Commonwealth would have to make good any loss which it entailed. They have since discovered that they made a mistake. Many sharpers “ fall in “ when they attempt their, sharp practices, and I am very glad that Victoria “ fell in” when it attempted to evade its responsibilities in regard to this and one or two other matters. We have in New South Wales a partial system of penny postage, which gives rise to much irritation. A charge of only one penny is made for letters posted and delivered in certain towns, while in others, a few miles away, the postage is twopence- I could give many illustrations of the irritation which this system has aroused, but it must be evident to honorable members that much annoyance is caused by the fact that, in some towns, a letter will be delivered within a radius of three or four miles of the office in which it is posted for twopence, when the people of other towns have the privilege of sending » letter to an address twenty miles distant for one penny. The Postmaster-General ought to be able to evolve a system by which penny postage could be gradually adopted throughout the Commonwealth. “ Evolution “ is the great word of the present day, and something should be done in this direction in postal matters. In some parts of New South Wales letters will’ be delivered within a radius of thirteen miles for one penny, although by a new regulation the area to which penny postage applies in certain cases has been reduced to one mila. It is impossible for the Department to reduce the area in towns where penny postage prior to Federation extended over an area of thirteen miles, and there are cities in which the system applies within a radius of twenty miles. There is no penny postage in South Australia, and I believe that the system is only partially operative in Western Australia and Queensland. I recognise the difficulty of introducing the reform, arid it seems to me that the best way to bring it about would be to gradually increase the area to which penny postage applies, and1 so to remove the anomalies that now exist. We know that the system has resulted in a loss, and that penny postage for the Commonwealth would result in a reduction of the amount of revenue returnable to the various States. There are other directions in which improvements might be effected by the Post and Telegraph Department. A new railway station is in course of construction in Sydney, and tenders have just been accepted for the erection of a central railway station in Melbourne. It seems to me, therefore, that the present is an opportune time for the establishment of parcels post-offices at the principal railway station in the capital of each of the States. A great many parcels are conveyed by rail, and the arrangement which I suggest will certainly be more economical than is the present one. If a parcels postoffice were established at the principal station in each of the State capitals, parcels could be delivered and1 received there, instead of being carried to and from the Post Office. Double handling would thus be avoided. So far as this matter is concerned, I speak as. an amateur; but it seems to me that the plan I mention would save time and expense. I have been reading lately of the methods adopted in England for the gathering up and sorting of mails, and while I do not think that our population is yet sufficiently large to justify the Department in running trains solely for the carriage of mails, I think that we might extend the sorting of mails on trains. For instance, the British and foreign mails put on board the train at Adelaide might be sorted during the journey,, so that they would be ready for delivery at each town passed through. I understand that, at the present time, the Ballarat mails have to come right through to Melbourne to be sorted, and are then sent back again, which, of course, means considerable delay. If my suggestion were adopted, the Ballarat mails would be dropped from the express when it passed through that town, and the Melbourne mails would be practically ready for delivery when the train reached Melbourne. Then, on th’e way north, mails would.be dropped at Albury, Wagga, and other important towns as far as Sydney, and so on to Brisbane. This system might necessitate a slightly greater expenditure than is incurred now, but it would save the employment of a certain number of sorters in the principal offices, and they might be used on board the trains. I hope that the Minister will show more backbone than he has hitherto shown. I do not call it showing backbone to- agree to everything recommended by one’s officers. I like to see a Minister who will dare to do what is right in matters of principle, notwithstanding an official recommendation to the contrary. Coming back to the telephone system, I think it absurd for the Department to charge 25s. a mile for the maintenance of a wire carried on posts already erected. I should also like the Minister to set himself to gradually extend the penny postage system, as, for example, in New South Wales, where there is already penny postage In connexion with the large centres of population, until the penny rate becomes uniform throughout Australia. I hope that the honorable gentleman, in answering the questions which have been asked by various honorable members, will show that he differs from his colleagues, in having a policy, and will tell us what is his policy. In my opinion, this Ministry will be known in history, not as the Ministry of all the talent’s, but as the Ministry without a policy.
– I wish to refer to a matter which I omitted to mention in my earlier address, and that is the application of the condenser system of telephone communication to country towns. A number of country towns are being brought into telephonic communication with each other, and it is becoming apparent that some alteration is needed in the regulations of the Department governing country exchanges. Hitherto, the rates charged by the Department have hindered the establishment of country exchanges. At the present time, what is known as the flat-rate system is universal, ^5 per annum being charged for the rental of the telephones placed in private houses, and £9 for telephones placed in business establishments. This charge is, in many cases, prohibitory. The township of Parkes is connected by means of the condenser system with places like Bogan Gate, Trundle, Fifield, Alectown, Peak Hill, and other similar centres within thirty miles of it ; but to get the fullest advantage of this ‘arrangement it is necessary to have a telephone exchange in the town itself, so that the business people there may be put into communication with people living in the surrounding district. An attempt is being made to establish such a change, but the high rates charged are an obstacle to its success. The business places in Parkes are alL close together, and near to the telegraph office, so that the telephone is not as necessary for communication between the business people there as it is in towns where the business places are more scattered. I think that lower rates should prevail in connexion with country town exchanges, and I would suggest a rental of ^3 per annum for private telephones, and ^5 per annum for business telephones. There is no comparison between the business done on a telephone in a country town and that done on a city telephone. In Sydney, for instance, the telephone of a large business house is being used continuously throughout the day, hundreds of messages being transmitted to all parts of the city and suburbs to a considerable distance from the metropolis. For that service the subscriber pays only as much to the Department as is paid by a subscriber who has only a few calls a day.
– Some of the big business places in the city rent eight or nine telephones, and pay eight or nine subscriptions. ,
– That is because’ their business is too large for one telephone ; but for a telephone doing the work I have described, only as much is paid as is cHarged. for a much smaller and less valuable service in a country town. It is unjust that the charge should be the same in the two cases,, and it has been suggested that the toll system should be adopted in lieu of the flat system. I am not prepared to express an opinion upon the merits or the demerits of the former, but the .flat system certainly appears to me to be inequitable, and I think that if the Postmaster-General looks into the matter he will find that the usefulness of our telephone system can be extended by reducing .the charges in little country towns like Parkes, Condobolin, and Molong. Another cause of complaint in country districts is that the telephone instruments supplied to country exchanges are such as have become obsolete in the large centres of population, and a report appeared in a recent number of the Forbes *Times, giving an account of a public meeting held at Dubbo, to protest against this treatment. I do not know what ground there is for the complaint, but if the policy followed by the Government is” as alleged, it is a penny-wise and pound-foolish policy. To make the telephone system effective, the bestinstruments procurable should be supplied, and country subscribers have as much right, to consideration as have city subscribers. The honorable member for Riverina brought under the notice of the Postmaster- General the excessive nature of the fee charged for country post bags - £2 per annum. I think that in fixing a schedule for such a service, regard should be had to the number of times per week the bag has to be made up. In cases where mails have to be made uponce a week, a smaller charge should be made than in instances where the bags have to be sent out daily. Some persons have been in the habit of supplying their own canvas bags, and the practice proved convenient to both the postmaster and the mail contractor. Cases have beenbrought under my notice in which postmasters have gone to the trouble of tyingup the private bags, thus preventing the lossof letters. They have now been informed, however, that they must discontinue the practice, and it has been intimated that if persons require to have their letters placed in private bags, they must use the article supplied by the Department, and pay the annual fee of £2. I trust that the PostmasterGeneral, will consider the needs of the country residents in. this respect, and. -that, he will see his way to reduce the charge for private bags to 10s. or j£j per annum, according to the number of. mails despatched weekly. I am sure that if the charge were reduced, the system would be much more largely availed of than at present.
Mr. LONSDALE (New England).-! am very glad that the honorable member for Canobolas has mentioned the matter of private mail bags. I had intended to refer to it when I spoke on a previous occasion. I * look upon the present charge as an imposition. I do not agree with the honorable member that the charge should be varied according to the number of occasions upon which the bags are used. All the letters received in country post-offices have to be sorted, and they can be placed in private bags without involving any extra work upon the officials. Therefore, it seems to me to be utterly unjustifiable to charge country residents £2 per annum for the use of such bags. In the large centres of population, we deliver letters to the residences of every citizen, and yet we require country residents to pay an exorbitant fee for a very small convenience. It would be sufficient -for the Department to charge the cost of the bag, or to allow persons to supply their own bags. It is ridiculous to charge nearly one shilling per week to a person who desires to have his letters carried in a special “bag. The other day a gentleman in my constituency wished to arrange that the Postal Department should give him an extra service per week, and it was ascertained that the contractor demanded £3 15s. for the extra work required of him. The gentleman referred to was perfectly willing to pay this amount, which he regarded as a fair charge; but the post-office authorities required him to pay in addition £2 per annum for the ‘use of a mail bag. That seems to me to be an imposition that should not be tolerated. I suppose that the officials thought that the £5 15s. would not be paid, and that they would not be put to any further trouble.
– That was done according to regulations.
– That is what the Postmaster-General says; but if the regulations provide for such exorbitant and unjustifiable charges, the sooner they are done away with the better. If the postmasterGeneral does not adopt that course, we ought to remove him from office. We require a Minister who will do something, and not one who- will stand by regulations that are obsolete, and would be more in keeping with the conditions of centuries ago. We want a Minister with modern ideas, who will bring the Department up to date. I trust that the ‘Minister will do away with the charge of £2 now levied upon persons who require to have their letters placed in private mail bags. If he does so, he will earn the gratitude of a large number of country residents. If the payment of the fee for mail-bags is to be insisted upon, we should charge every resident in the cities is. per week to cover the cost of delivering his letters at his own door. If such a charge were imposed, a revolution would take place. Residents in the big cities would not submit to any such charge. But the unfortunate people in the back-blocks are few in numbers, and cannot speak with one voice, and are therefore imposed upon. I trust the Minister will deal with these matters on broad and liberal lines, and administer his- Department in the interests of the whole of the people. With regard to telephone service, I think that the Department should not aim at making any profit, but should seek to provide telephone facilities at the smallest possible cost, in order to extend to residents in the country districts the fullest advantage of the system. The honorable member for Canobolas was not quite correct in stating that the large business houses in the cities which use telephones pay no more than do the country storekeepers^ because I know of many cases in which one house pays for nine or ten telephones. I am not aware that obsolete telephone instruments are sent, into the country, but if the facts are as stated by the honorable member for Canobolas, the action of the Department is. on a par with the course it has pursued in- charging for - the use of private mailbags.
– I find, on consulting my notes, that twenty-five honorable members have taken part in this debate, and I suppose that on the average each one has submitted four or five grievances. Therefore, if I attempted to deal with all the matters brought under my notice, I should have to speak at inordinate length, and should probably thereby incur the displeasure of honorable members. I propose to say a few words with regard to the postal policy of the Government, and to address myself briefly to some of the main points raised by honorable members. I hope that my remarks will not have the effect of bringing a number of other honorable members to their feet, because, after such’ a long discussion - of which I do not in any .sense complain, because it has been fair and legitimate - I think the Estimates might reasonably be agreed to. The honorable member for New England has implored me to do something, and that will be my policy. I realize that it is better to do something, even if one makes mistakes, than to do nothing. The policy of the Government in regard not only to postal matters, but all other subjects, is summed up in the three words, “progress with prudence.”
– What does that mean?
– It means that I recognise that the Post and Telegraph Department is to a very large extent a commercial enterprise. We have to collect a large revenue, amounting to nearly ,£3,000,000, most of which is made up of pennies and threepenny pieces. Consequently, we have _ to be very careful in making promises which may involve lavish expenditure. If we were to grant one-half of the requests that are preferred, our present revenue would soon be absorbed. All our expenditure has to be provided for, as a rule, out of revenue, and I affirm at once that that is a very good thing, because when the public know that the money has to come out of their own pockets, they are disposed to be more economical than if they have access to loan funds.
– Does not the honorable gentleman think that the cost of administration may be excessive in some directions ?
– In a great Department, employing between 11,000 and I 2 000 officials, some mistakes are bound to occur. But I have no hesitation in saying that the administrative work of the Department will compare favorably with that of any other, not only in the Commonwealth, but in any country in the world. It is very easy to criticise, but when one becomes acquainted with the officers controlling the Post and Telegraph Department and other large ‘ State institutions, hie must ‘recognise that we have a number of capable officers. I quite agree with honorable members who have urged that we should pay our officers well, and nothing would give me greater pleasure than to be able to announce that it was intended toincrease the salaries of those officers whohave been so highly spoken of by the hon:orable member for Parramatta and the honorable member for Macquarie. We haver however, to pay strict regard to the financial aspect of the matter.
– Does not the Minister think that we shall obtain more efficient service if we secure the very best men obtainable?
– Yes, I do. I think that we ought to pay high* salaries^ to the controlling officers ; but we must hesitate to go beyond the present limit of ,£800 for Deputy PostmastersGeneral, whilst so many complaints are being made that the great majority of our officials are not in receipt of what they regard as a fair living wage. Let us take the case of the Deputy Postmaster-General1 in New South Wales. Formerly the officerholding that position received ,£920 per annum. Before the present occupant, Mr. Unwin, took office, he was receiving ,£700 per annum, and upon his promotion his. salary was naturally raised to the amount-, that was paid to his predecessor. He was. given to understand, however, that whilstthat salary would be paid for the first year,, it was intended to regrade the offices in air the States, and that he would be paid the salary that Parliament decided to vote.
– Did he know that?
– That is not the tale that was; told by the honorable member for Macquarie.
– I intended to propose a salary of ,£920.
– The honorable membergave way to the right honorable member.for Balaclava, who was then Treasurer.
– I did not.
– I can prove it by referenceto Hansard.
– That is not true.
– I must ask the honorable member to withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw the statement; but I say positively that theassertion of the honorable member is not correct. I intended to propose a salary of ;£92o.
– I rise to a point of order. I desire to say that my memory is clear that the honorable member for Macquarie-
– The honorable member is making a personal explanation.
– I object to being misrepresented by the honorable member.
– I understood the honorable member to rise to a point of order. If the honorable member thinks that he has been misrepresented, he will have the opportunity of making a statement subsequently.
– I desire to make a personal explanation.
– The honorable member cannot interpose a personal explanation whilst another honorable member is in possession of the Chair. I would ask the Minister not to discuss in detail the matter to which he has been referring.
– I have no desire to discuss the matter in detail, but it struck me that it would be wise to supply the information asked for, because I understood it had been arranged that the whole of the discussion should take place upon this item, and that the Estimates should then be allowed to pass. The fixing of Mr. Unwin’s salary opened up a -general question, affecting all the Deputy PostmastersGeneral, because in the other States a similar reduction has been made. In South Australia the salary of the Deputy Postmaster-General has been reduced from £1,000 to £650 per annum. I have just as good an opinion of Mr. Unwin as has my predecessor or the deputy leader of the Opposition.
– The view I take is that his salary ought to be fixed by the Public Service Commissioner.
– I do not like the introduction of the personal element. After all, my business is to provide such salaries as the Parliament will approve. Whilst I should like to pay these officers more all round, I cannot consent to do so until officers in the lower grades of the service have received increases.
– That is good Socialism. It means a levelling down.
– Last night the deputy leader of the Opposition stated that the Postal Department was not paying. In reply, I should like to point out the position in which we really stand. At the present time we are constructing all postal and telegraph works out of revenue. Up to 30th June last we had expended in this connexion £492,000, and a further sum of £217,731 is provided upon this year’s Estimates. If the honorable member for Parramatta willi assess the total amount thus expended upon a basis of 10 per cent, he will find that the Department is almost paying its way.
– I do not understand the Postmaster-General.
– Does the honorable member contend that the Department ought not only to pay interest upon the transferred properties, but ought also to spend large sums out of revenue for the construction of these works?
– That is the decision of Parliament.
– If we were to take credit for what we expend upon public undertakings in the way that an ordinary business firm would do, our revenue and expenditure would1 almost balance. Let us suppose that the interest upon the transferred postal properties would amount to £200,000 annually. If we add to that interest at 10 per cent, upon £492,000 - the expenditure upon’ departmental works up till 30th June last - namely, £49,200, we get a total of £249,200. During the current financial year we are charging the Department with the capital cost of new works and buildings, £2I7»73I, or only £31,500 less than the above-mentioned amount. Until the value of the transferred properties is definitelyascertained, we cannot possibly take into account the interest on their cost. It seems to me that it is a mistake to expect that every service provided by the Department shall pay immediately. If we adopted the practice of carrying out only those works which would beat, once reproductive, where should we land ourselves? It would simply mean that we should not be able to afford sparsely-populated localities any conveniences whatever.
– The Department does not do that now.
– I disagree with the honorable member. To those who advocate the abolition of the guarantee system, I wish to say that if they achieved their desire, they .would effectually stop many telephone extensions which are being undertaken tb-day. What doles the guarantee system mean? Simply that in many districts where it is shown that a telephone service will not pay, the residents are asked to give a certain guarantee. The conditions of that guarantee have been modified from time to time. At present we go to the length of saying to the applicants for telephone extension, “If you do not wish to give us a guarantee, we will endeavour to meet your wishes in the event of your consenting to erect some of the necessary poles, and to carry out some of the work,”
– Is that .the policy of the Government ?
– It is.
– Why did not the PostmasterGeneral ask for a guarantee in connexion with the construction of the proposed trunk line from Melbourne to Sydney ?
– The honorable member had an opportunity to criticise that item when the Works and Buildings Estimates were under consideration, and he made very good use of it. As a matter of fact, the officers of the Department reported to my predecessor that the line to which he refers will return 10 per cent, from the day it opens. If any member of this Committee can show me that a similar return can be secured by the erection of a telephone line, not only will I dispense with’ the guarantee, but I will undertake to provide the service asked for.
– We can show the PostmasterGeneral anything that he wants - upon paper.
– I know that the honorable member is very clever at showing a lot of things, but of course I must be permitted to refer any such matter to my officers. It is very easy for the honorable member for New England to exclaim, “ Why does not the Minister do something?” But it is obvious that, in all these matters, some reference must be made to my officers.
– The PostmasterGeneral admitted that one case which I presented was unanswerable.
– The honorable member is misconstruing what I said to him. I extended to him a ‘good deal of sympathy, but pointed out that sympathy without relief was not worth much. I further offered to meet him as best I could, and the matter to which he refers is now on the verge of completion.
– Why does not the Minister galvanize his officers into life ?
– They do not require to be galvanized into life.
– In- many instances, the guarantees upon which the Department insists are too high.
– I desire to meet honorable members in every possible way. As ; we progress, I hope that we shall be able to make the conditions of the guarantee easier. But honorable members must recollect that I have been in office only a few weeks, and that the Government have had a very busy time during that period. I have been twitted with being in favour of penny postage. As a matter of fact, I carried a resolution in the. New South Wales Parliament in favour of the adoption of that system ; but financial considerations prevent us from establishing, it at the present time. Its adoption would involve the Commonwealth ina loss of about .£2,50,000 annually. Is any honorable member prepared to tell his constituents that he is willing to impose that additional burden upon them? Moreover, a large deficit in the Postal Department would mean the withdrawal of many small services which are being extended to the country. I agree that it is desirable that, we should expend money wherever it is possible to do so, in order to confer greater facilities upon the rural districts. That was the policy of my predecessor, and it is the policy of the Government.
– The Government are not giving effect to it.
– The Postal Department is practically the Public Works Department of the Commonwealth. ‘I sympathize with honorable members who are pressed by their constituents to secure to them all sorts, of services.
– It is a case of extending sympathy without affording them relief. ‘
– I am endeavouring to afford relief, and if they will allow me to remain in office long, enough, I will do so.
– How long does the Minister wish to be allowed to remain in office?
– I have no desire to impose any limit upon my tenure of office. I have been chided with living on the fame of my predecessor. All I can say is, that it is a most substantia] thing to exist upon. It is not a political crime to give credit to a political opponent for the good work which he has performed. This House agrees, not only that my predecessor shook up the Postal Department, and rendered good service to the Commonwealth, but that the honorable member for Coolgardie did likewise. The honorable member for Canobolas, the honorable member for New England, and the honorable member for Gwydir, have referred to the question of private mail bags. I have looked into that matter. I find that, if the rate were reduced from £2 2s. to £11s. per annum, it would result in a loss of £2,723.
– No charge should be made.
– I am aware that, in the opinion of my honorable friend, there are many matters in respect of which no charge ought to be made. I am endeavouring to ascertain whether some reduction cannot be made in the charge for this service. It seems to me that a man who has a daily mail-bagought to pay a little more than does the man who has a mail-bag made up only once or twice a week. I am inquiring into the matter, with a view to ascertaining whether some alteration cannot be made. I promise the Committee that something will be done.
– What about the officials?
– The honorable member may sneer at the officers ; but I would remind the Committee that their only object is to advance the general efficiency of the Department. I feel satisfied that, whilst I follow the advice tendered me by the officers of the Department - by men who are better qualified than I am to judge of many of these matters - I shall not go very far wrong. There is a difficulty in regard to matters of policy ; but when I desire to ascertain whether a proposed service will pay, I naturally call for areport from the officer who possesses the fullest knowledge of the facts. At the same time, I feel that it is wise for a Minister to pay some attention, to the representations of honorable members, because they also have a knowledge of the facts relating to various claims for increased postal facilities. I think that I have already given evidence that I am prepared to recognise that that is so.
– What about the postoffice clocks?
– I may say at once that, so far as I am concerned, the day for the erection of post-officetowers, and the provision of costly clocks, has gone.
Reference has been made to a number of other matters.
– What about the payment of officers discharging State duties?
– We are endeavouring to arrive at a settlement with the States Departments concerned. Reference was made to-night to the payment of railway officials who render servicesto the Department. The Railways Commissioners, however, refuse to allow us to give their officers any remuneration. They say to us, in effect, “ If you desire us to perform certain services for you, we are prepared to do so; but an officer of the Department who is attending to your work this week may be sent elsewhere next week. You pay us for services rendered, and we will take care that our officers receive proper salaries.” If we are not prepared to accept their services on these terms, we must go elsewhere ; but in many cases it would not be convenient to make other arrangements. The case brought forward by the honorable and learned member for Illawarra has been answered already by the honorable member for New England, who explained that the position of a school teacher acting as a postmaster is altogether different from that of railway officials who are associated with our mails. As a rule, school teachers act as postmasters only in sparsely populated districts.
– They have often to remain on duty on Sundays.
– That is so. But we do not compel our officers to work on Sundays unless it is absolutely necessary. The appointment of State school teachers as postmasters in small centres of population is very convenient to the persons concerned, because their letters can be readily obtained by the children attending the schools. It is only reasonable that, in the circumstances, a small payment should be made to these officers for the services which they render to the Commonwealth.
– What about postmasters doing State work?
– Postmasters discharge many duties. Amongst other matters they are called upon to attend to the electoral work of the Commonwealth.
– And are not doing it very successfully.
– They brought the honorable member here.
– They did not.
– Our officers discharge many duties for the States, and we are endeavouring to make some arrangement by which the Commonwealth will be paid for services so rendered. It seems to me that it is desirable that we should get away from the old system, ‘under which it was impossible to ascertain what an officer was actually receiving. It is much better that we should know exactly what our officers receive, and that a reciprocal arrangement, should be made between the States and the Commonwealth in respect of the services which they render each other. The Department has been criticised for its failure to adopt a uniform system of penny postage. In this respect we must hasten slowly. Varying rates prevail in the different States, and the introduction of penny postage must certainly involve serious financial considerations. It has been said that whilst the people of Victoria enjoy the benefit of the system, in many parts of New South Wales a twopenny rate is levied. The reform was brought about in Victoria shortlyprior to the establishment of Federation, but it has resulted in a loss of ,£50,000 per annum, which has to be borne by the State. At the close of the bookkeeping period - if some arrangement be not made in the meantime - something will have to be done in the direction of uniform postage. It would be manifestly unfair, when all the States were contributing on a per capita basis to the cost of the service, to require the people of New South Wales, Western Australia, and some of the other States, to pay a 2d. postage rate, whilst in Victoria penny postage prevailed. That is my answer to the inquiries that have been addressed to me in this regard. Our desire is. wherever possible, to reduce the telephone rates. We wish’ to introduce the toll system, with a view to popularizing the service. Under that system, those who have occasion to use the telephone only occasionally, would not be required to pay the present .high rates. I am looking forward to a reduction in the near future. The question is a big one. The honorable and learned member for Wannon to-night declared war against the proposal, stating that if any attempt were made to increase the present rates, it would meet with considerable opposition. It is an easy matter to lower the rates, but it is difficult to increase them. As we have not yet reached the kernel of the matter. I do not bind myself in this regard, but the toll system will probably be introduced with a lower rate than that prevailing in connexion with the flat system. In that event, those who desire to secure the use of the telephone at a lower rate will be able to avail themselves of the toll system. I look forward to the day when we shall have a telephone in every house - when its use will be possible, not merely for the rich, but for the poor. We hope to popularize the system. The only way in which to do so is to gradually reduce the rates, paying due regard, of course, to the position of the general taxpayer. Whenever any persons desire to avail themselves of the telephone service, but are not prepared to pay the flat rate, I shall be glad to discuss with their representatives in this Parliament a proposal to extend the service to them under1 the toll system.. We are about to prepare toll rates, and I feel that this will tend to popularize the service. It is ‘necessary, however, that we should hasten slowly. So far, I have dealt with only a tithe of the questions that have been raised.
– What about the wages of the relieving letter-carriers ?
– Sometimes a letter-carrier is on sick leave or holidays, and during his temporary absence we have to put in his place one who is familiar with his “walk.”’ Telegraph messengers are sometimes employed in this way ; but, as the officer on leave draws his usual salary, the man who relieves him does not receive any increased pay. There are cases where messengers are acting as letter-carriers’ without receiving extra pay_, but they are only temporarily employed in that capacity. We d’o not desire to sweat any of our officials, and I am not going to take ‘the responsibility of anything in that direction. If any of the charges of sweating mentioned by honorable members can be .proved, I shall want to know who is responsible for such a state of affairs. Our desire is to pay a living wage. Why, then, should I shoulder the responsibility of those who seek to sweat any of our employes? I propose to do justice to these men. I am inquiring into the cases that have been brought under my notice, and shall be obliged if honorable members will bring before me any instance of sweating, so that the injustice may be remedied. No useful purpose would be served by my discussing in detail all the questions that have been raised during the debate. I am pleased to receive suggestions from honorable members, and shall give careful consideration to those which have been made. I desire to thank honorable members for the very generous reception they have given to the Estimates of my Department. We have had a long discussion, but it has been a business-like one, and there has been no a’ttempt at a blockade. It is unnecessary, however, to ventilate in the House local matters of trifling concern. If honorable members will bring them under my notice, I shall’ give them prompt attention, and shall be pleased to grant any service when financial considerations will allow of it. As to those which are on the border-line, I may say that I am always willing to regard small services from a generous stand-point, because it is the desire of the Government that the facilities of the Department shall be so extended as to meet with the approval of honorable members, and to gain for ourselves some credit in the country
Mr: LONSDALE .(New England). -
From the remarks made by the PostmasterGeneral, it might be inferred that I had spoken of the officials in derogatory terms. I certainly have not desired to do so. I recognise that they have grown up in the service of the Department, and possess official minds. When they are asked to report upon any proposed service, thev take care to be on absolutely safe ground. I do not complain of that ; but I do complain of the neglect of the Minister to formulate a policy that would lead to the officers of the Department preparing reports on different lines. The charge of 25s. per mile in respect of the upkeep for a telephone wire, where the posts are already erected, handicaps many people in rural districts, and is an outrageous charge to make. I think that the charge should, be graduated.
– The charge under the administration of the State was £2 per mile. It has been reduced to 25s., and when the Departmental officers report that the work can be done for less a further reduction will be made.
– The maintenance costs very much less than 25s. a mile, and if the charge were reduced a business would be developed which would be profitable to the Department. The Minister spoke of his policy being progress, with prudence, but it seems to be all prudence and no progress. The officials have put down 25s. a mile as a set price for maintenance all over the Commonwealth. But why should that rate be charged in Tasmania if the cost there is only 10s. a mile ?
– I will look into the matter again.
– The officials say’ that the maintenance of these wires costs 25s. a mile, and therefore, every one who uses them is charged at that rate. I do not think the cost is so much. At the present time, if a man is using eight miles of wire, he pays, in ten years, £100 for its maintenance, which is a monstrous sum. With regard to the loose post-bags, the Postmaster-General explained that under the State administration the charge was more. The question we wish him to consider, however, is whether the present charge is a fair one. If those living in a city, to whose door ‘ letters are delivered twice a day, were asked to pay so much to cover the cost of the bags used by the carriers they would be up in arms against the charge; yet that is the treatment meted out to the residents of country districts. I can understand that it may be necessary to make a small charge to cover the cost of the letter-bags, but I have given an instance in which a man who pays £3 15s. a year has been asked to pay £2 extra to have a bag made up once a week. The honorable member for Canobolas has mentioned a case in which an inspector gave the instruction that letters intended for delivery at one place were not to be tied together with string. That shows the working of the official mind. Perhaps the inspector thought that if the letters were tied together in parcels, the Department would lose the £1,700 received from loose bags. In my opinion, it would be sufficient to charge 5s. or 10s. a year for these bags, or if those who use them supply their own bags, 2s. 6d. a year for the_ cost of making up and carrying them, f.do not advocate the doing away with guarantees in connexion with the telephone system, because without them we should have requests for telephones from every little township, and the Department would be landed in expenditure from which it would get no return. But, in the case to which I have referred, in which the Department asked for a guarantee of £22 a year, the residents said, “We do not want to trouble about guarantees. We will give you £100 in cash before you commence to erect the line.”’ Notwithstanding that offer, their request war not complied with, because an official had estimated that a profit would not be obtained from the line. I saw the Postmaster-General in regard to the matter, and he admired to me that my case could not be answered. He gave me authority to see the inspector who had drawn up the estimate of revenue and expenditure, practically telling me that, although he was Minister, he could not do anything unless on the advice of the inspector.
– Did the honorable member interview the inspector?
– What did he say ?
– I shall not tell the Committee what he said.
– Is the honorable member in order in repeating his speech? I have heard some of his remarks already three times this evening.
– That is churlish.
– The leader of the Opposition should not reflect on another honorable member. As I have already pointed out, this general debate is not strictly in order, and the Minister has made a reply, which is generally looked upon as closing a discussion. Honorable members are rather abusing the concession made to them, and if the twenty-five speeches which we have heard are to be repeated, I shall have to exercise the powers conferred upon me, and cause honorable members to confine their remarks strictly to the item before the Committee. I ask the honorable member for New England to refrain from referring to matters which he has already mentioned, and to bring his remarks to a close as speedily as possible.
– I do not wish to run counter to your ruling, Mr. Chairman, but I should like to point out that the honorable member for Bass could not already have heard what I am about to say, because I have not previously said it. When I met the inspector, I told him that I did not wish him to alter his report unless he could see in the matter as I saw, and felt that it should be altered. Mr. Brewer was the inspector whom I saw, and I think that he will admit that I was absolutely fair to him in the matter.
– The honorable member saw the inspector in order to make him aware of some particulars which he had overlooked?
– Yes. But I told him that I would not alter mv report for any man, unless I felt conscientiously bound to do so, and that I did not expect him to act otherwise. He made a report on my statements, and what I said in the matter has been borne out by facts.
Mr. LIDDELL (Hunter).- With regard to the supply of obsolete telephones tocountry districts, I ask the Minister to give- instructions to his officers that out-of-date, second-hand instruments shall not bedumped down in my electorate, but that new instruments shall be provided, seeing that the subscribers there pay as much asis paid -by the subscribers in the capitals-
– The Postmaster-General has to-night brought down a set. of figures which are supposed to answer the statements which I made last evening, but which really confirm those statements. Among these figuresis an item of ,£.200,000 for interest, of which the Department now takes no account.
– That is the amount estimated by Mr. Coghlan.
– I have no doubt that the amount has increased since the estimate was made, but I am willing to take it at ,£200,000. The honorable gentleman has omitted to allow anything as a sinking fund on these properties. I estimated £50,000 a year for a sinking fund in regard to properties worth from ,£8,000,000 to £10,000,000. Then there is ^217,000- for works; but the honorable gentleman does riot propose to charge that to the Department. That is the whole issue be1 tween us. He proposes to take 10 per cent, of this amount and debit it to the Department ; but what is to become of the other 90 per cent. ? Is it to be debited to some other Department ? Et 3s spent every year. Therefore, I think that in all fairness it should be debited to this Department, in whose interests and in the facilitation of whose business the amount is spent. In view of the expenditure of ,£217,000 upon new works and buildings, it remains true, as I stated last night, that the Department is in debit every year to the tune of ,£400,000. I do not propose at this stage to make any observations with regard to the salary of the Deputy PostmasterGeneral of “New South’ Wales, to which I shall specially refer at a later stage. Inthe meantime, I notice that the honorable member for Coolgardie is busily engaged looking up Hansard, in order to find confirmation of the statement by which he sought to connect the late PostmasterGeneral with the proposal to reduce Mr. Unwin ‘s salary. I do not think he will be successful. At any rate, the fact remains that he was the first, when he was in office, to propose the reduction.
– And I am still prepared to support it.
– I shall be delighted if the honorable member will inform us what was in his mind when he first proposed the reduction of the wages-
– Does the honorable member call it “ wages “ when a man receives £800 per annum?
– I call it wages in that case, just as I should refer to the wages of a man in receipt of £50 per annum.
– The honorable member had better go before his 30s. per week constituents and make statements similar to those he is now uttering.
– I hope to do so.. I do not think that one of those 30s. a week men will begrudge the salary paid to Mr. Unwin. I am reminded of the statement made by the Minister on this subject. I congratulate the honorable gentleman upon his generous mood. When the matter is one affecting honorable members he is prepared to give them mail bags, to relieve them of charges now levied, to give them free telephones, and to play the part of lord Bountiful to the whole Committee. But when he has to deal with the grievances of men who cannot appear before him, and who cannot represent matters for themselves he cuts down wages, on the- plea that he is consulting the interests of those who are less liberally paid. The postal officials of New South Wales who are receiving small salaries do not wish the salary of their chief cut down in this way. I should like to hear the honorable member for Coolgardie tell us something about his administration of the Post and Telegraph Department in Western Australia. When he was sitting on this side of the Chamber we used to hear him constantly criticising the administration in Western Australia. Afterwards he had a good term of office-
– For how long? I only had time to look “in at the door.
– The honorable member occupied office for as long a term as the present Postmaster-General has filled the position, but in spite of his intimate knowledge of the ramifications of the Postal Department in Western Australia, he left it to his successor to make the changes which had been, found necessary,, and to effect a saving of six or seven thousand pounds.. I should like to know if the honorable member left any minutes on- record to connect himself with mat great reform in the State of which he was the constant champion before he had an opportunity to take office? If he will insist upon linking the late PostmasterGeneral with the reduction of Mr. Unwin’s salary, perhaps he will also endeavour to link himself with the great administrative reforms carried out in Western Australia. I would suggest to the honorable member that, instead of criticising the Estimates by interjection, he would do better to address himself to the consideration of the important matter to which I have referred..
– I desire to make a few remarks with regard to the disabilities to which postal officers are exposed in the drought-stricken districts of New South Wales, where the temperature is high, and the officers and their families suffer severely by reason of climatic conditions. I think we should introduce some system by which officers, who have done good service in the arid back-blocks, should be removed to more favored localities. I know the case of one postmaster whose services are recognised by the Department as worthy of the highest appreciation, and who has been stationed for fourteen years in one of the worst districts of New South Wales. He has applied, time after time, for removal to a more equable climate, and although his own health has been broken, and his wife has become a confirmed invalid, his request has been refused. Many other officers have had a similar experience, and they have still to remain at their posts, because, apparently, no means are provided for affording them relief. I desire, also, to direct attention to the conditions under which postal officials are required to act as electoral officers. I find that, owing to carelessness, or something worse, on the part of those responsible for the compilation of the electoral rolls, a very large number of electors in my constituency have been struck off. I received a letter to-day which informed me that 800 names of well-known persons which had appeared in the old rolls had been omitted from the new rolls.
– The honorable member cannot discuss that matter in connexion with the Estimates now under consideration.
– I desire to direct attention to the fact that certain postal officials are required to perform work under the Electoral Act, and that the remuneration given to them is not sufficient to induce them to carry out their duties efficiently.
– The postal officials are not under the control of the PostmasterGeneral whilst acting in the capacity of electoral officers ; they are then under the authority of theHome Affairs Department.
– If the postal officials are required to serve two masters I can understand how all the confusion has arisen. I shall take another opportunity to bring this matter under notice, and I am sure that I shall be fully supported, because other honorable members will have similar grievances to ventilate. I trust that the Postmaster-General will, as far as lies in his power, insure that the officials of his Department, who are called upon to act as electoral officers, shall be properly remunerated.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).- I move -
That the vote be reduced by £1.
I take this course in order to afford honorable members an opportunity to express their opinion with regard to the proposal to reduce the salary of the Deputy PostmasterGeneral of New, South Wales. I feel that a great injustice is being done to that officer, and that some steps should be taken to prevent him from being humiliated and degraded on the eve of his retirement from the service. This officer is being treated unfairly, not only from the standpoint of his merits, but relatively to the salaries paid to the Deputy PostmastersGeneral in the other States. As honorable members are aware, a scheme of revision has been decided upon in connexion with these offices in all the States. I should like to hear some reason for the change other than that which has been furnished by the Postmaster-General. The only reason which he has advanced is that there are some officers in the lower grades of the service who are underpaid. If that be so, I say let us pay them adequately, but do not let us inflict an injustice upon the highest administrative officers in the Department. That is the kind of Socialism in which I do not believe. It is a species of levelling down. I venture to say that when the Committee hear all the facts of the case they will not agree to the proposed reduction of Mr. Unwin’s salary. I understand that the whole scheme for the revision of the salaries attaching to these high administrative offices has been approved by Cabinet. It has been arranged that in New South Wales the salary of the Deputy Postmaster-General shall be reduced from £920 to £800, and that in Victoria it shall be cut down from £900 to £750.
– That does not apply to the present occupant of the office.
– No; the Government cannot touch Lt.-Col. Outtrim’s salary.
– But when Federation was established that officer brought over his salary with him, whereas the Deputy PostmasterGeneral of New South Wales did not.
– I ask the honorable member not to regard the matter in that technical light, but to view it from the stand-point of substantial justice as between these two officers. In Queensland the present salary of the Deputy PostmasterGeneral is £700, and no reduction is proposed. I should like to hear the reason why that State has been so favoured?
– The salary of the Deputy Postmaster-General there is less thanthat paid in both Victoria and New South Wales.
– Is there any comparison between the work which has to be done in those States and that which has to be performed in Queensland?
– Yes. A man can do only one man’s work.
– But one man’s work may be of infinitely more importance than is another man’s, as the honorablemember must recognise. I venture to say that, as an employer of labour, he has found that out. I should like to know why this general scheme in regard to the salaries of the Deputy Postmasters-General has been adopted.
– Have we had any explanation as to why the Deputy PostmasterGeneral in New South Wales is to be treated differently from the officer occupying a similar position in Victoria ?
– No. I presume that the honorable member for Yarra has furnished the only possible explanation. He says that when Lt.-Col. Outtrim was transferred to the Commonwealth service he brought his salary over with him. i appeal to the honorable member not to pay any regard’ to such a technical consideration, but to decide this matter from the stand-point of substantial justice. I repeat that that gentleman has been specially favoured in this connexion. I wonder ‘if that is due to the fact that all the members of the central staff come from Queensland, and are therefore better able to appreciate the importance and value of the work done in that State than that done in the others. It is a strange coincidence that the central staff is composed of Queenslanders. In Western Australia the salary of the Deputy PostmasterGeneral has been reduced from £700 to £650.
– What is the reasonfor that? The country is going ahead.
– Yes ; Western Australia is progressing by leaps and bounds. But the Treasurer does not take that fact into consideration. He is a party to this levelling down process, and I hope that when he returns to Perth he will tell the people there that one of his first Ministerial acts was to reduce the salary of the Deputy Postmaster- General of that State. The right honorable gentleman need not point to his colleague, because I understand that this matter was. submitted to Cabinet. Consequently, he must shoulder responsibility equally with the PostmasterGeneral. In Tasmania, no alteration is proposed in the salary of the Deputy PostmasterGeneral. But if the contention of the honorable member for Bass be correct he ought to receive an increase from £500 to £800.
– His salary ought to be reduced to £300.
– I am satisfied to allow the Tasmanian representatives to settle that matter between themselves. i think that the revenue of the Postal Department in the various States fairly indicates the relative degree of responsibility attaching to the various officers. Viewed from that stand-point, what is the position? The estimated revenue of the Department in New South Wales for the current year is £1,000,000, whereas in Victoria it is only £696,000. It is proposed that the Deputy Postmaster-General in the latter State shall receive, by way of salary, £100 more than the Deputy Postmaster-General in the former, although the revenue of the Department in Victoria is £300,000 less. i should like to direct the attention of the honorable member for Yarra to the fact that in Victoria the salary of future Deputy Postmasters-General has been fixed at £750, whereas in Queensland the occupant of that office will receive £700. That is to say, the former will receive only £50 a year more than the latter, although the revenue of the Department in Queensland is only £336,000, or less than one-half that of Victoria. . In Western Australia, where the revenue of the Department is £250,000 annually, and in South Australia, where it is £276,000, the salaries of the Deputy Postmasters-General have been fixed at £650.
– If effect were given to the honorable member’s argument we should have to pay all the Deputy PostmastersGeneral the same salary as was previously paid in South Australia, namely, £1,000 a year.
– Not at all. I am endeavouring to show the relative importance of the .work which these officers perform. In Tasmania, the Department collects a revenue of £113,000, and the Deputy Postmaster-General there receives a salary of £500 per annum.
– He gets too. much.
– There is another test which can be applied in this connexion. In New South Wales, the Deputy Postmaster-General controls 4,000 permanent employes; in Victoria, he has 2,69a men under him; in Queensland, 1,260; in Western Australia, 1,334; in South Australia, 1,071; and in Tasmania, 416.. The Deputy Postmaster-General in New South Wales, who controls 4,000 men, will receive £800 a year, whilst the officer filling a corresponding position in Queensland1 will be paid only £too less, although he has but one-third of that number of employes under him. There is no equitable principle underlying the proposed revision of these salaries. These are two pretty good* tests of the relative value and importance of the work performed bv these officers. Having regard to these facts, I say that the salary of Mr. Unwin is being unjustly cut down, and I shall be glad to hear what are the reasons for the action which has been taken. I think that a mistake has been made in slavishly following the technique of the Public Service Act. Why do the Cabinet wish to interfere in this matter? There is no obligation laid upon them to doso. The. Act makes a technical distinction between administrative offices and the ordinary offices of the Department ;, but that does not impose upon the Minister an obligation to take this matter into his own hands. It is still open to him to consult the Commissioner. His. predecessor did so. He was not under any compulsion, but he said, in effect: “I would rather be rid of this responsibility, and place it upon the shoulders of the man whom the Parliament specially appointed to undertake it.” In passing the Public Service Act, honorable members did not intend that any distinction should be made. The fact that a distinction had been made between the two classes of officers was discovered subsequently by some of the lawyers in the service. We were under the impression that the Public Service Act would place every officer under the Commissioner. I, therefore, say that the Postmaster-General would have done veil had he followed the example of his predecessor in this respect. When thses salaries came under review, he should have submitted them to the Commissioner, and have acted upon his opinion. I understand that that is what the honorable member for Macquarie did.- Having consulted the Public Service Commissioner, who decided that the salary ought not to be reduced, he submitted to the Committee a proposal that £920 per annum should be paid to the Deputy Postmaster-General of New South Wales, and that salary was voted last session. Why has this change been made? <The Postmaster-General has told us nothing, except that there are some other men in the lower branches of the service who are not receiving princely salaries.
– Be fair; I have not had an opportunity to deal with the matter.
– We may all regret the fact that certain officers are not receiving better salaries ; but that is no justification for reducing the salaries of men in the higher branches of the service. This reduction could not bring them any relief - even if they received every penny of it, it would make no perceptible increase in their salaries. I hope to hear the Minister justify the reduction. One other observation, and I shall have done. In apportioning these salaries, we have a right to look at the position of these officers as compared with other heads of Departments In the States from which they were taken over. When the office of Deputy PostmasterGeneral of New South Wales was under the control of the State> the- salary attaching to it was £920. per annum. Other offices which were rated at the same time still carry a salary of £1,000 per annum. I, therefore, think we are doing this officer a grave injustice in taking £200 a year off the salary which he received when under the State regime, notwithstanding that no reduction has been made in respect of the labour, value, or responsibility of his office. Another point relating to the present occupant of the office in New South Wales, is that he is just about to leave the Department. To reduce his salary twelve months before he leaves the Department is to degrade him in the eyes of every man in the service. If I were in his place I would not go to the office any more after my salary had been reduced ; I should not, in such circumstances, like to face the officers there. I do not think that we ought to degrade public servants in this way. It does not contribute to the efficiency of the Department; it certainly does not add to its discipline. As I said last night, it is scurvy treatment to mete out to an old and tried officer, who has spent forty-five years in the service of the country. I hope that the Minister will yet agree to revise this item, and restore the original salary. At any rate, I ask him to do what his predecessor did, and what this House, when it passed the Public Service Act, intended should be done - to submit the matter to the arbitrament of the Public Service Commissioner. Let the Commissioner appraise the value of the services of these officers as he has already appraised the value of other officers’ services, and let us pay them whatever amount he fixes. That would be a reasonable course to pursue. I have yet to hear the reasons for discriminating, as proposed, between these officers. Their responsibilities are not by any means commensurate ; and the differentiation in salary does not represent the differentiation in their responsibilities, and in the importance of the work which they perform. That is my first criticism of the scheme as a whole.. Then, I say, that so far as the present Deputy Postmaster-General of New South Wales is concerned, he is- worth every penny that he has been receiving, and that his salary, on that ground alone, ought not to be reduced-.
– There is probably no man in the Public Service of the Commonwealth more capable or more estimable than the Deputy PostmasterGeneral -of New South Wales.
– Hear, hear.
– I think that he would adorn the : Public Service of any country. He is undoubtedly a loyal and devoted servant of the Government, and of the people of the Commonwealth. To show that my opinion of this officer is not a newly -formed one, I would point out that when this question was under discussion in this House nearly twelve months ago, I used these words -
The proposed appropriation for the Deputy Postmaster-General in New South Wales remains at ,£920, but I think that the feeling of the Committee is that these ‘high salaries should be considerably reduced. I do not say that the gentleman who has been filling the position. in New South Wales is not a very worthy and able man, but the salary attached to the office was fixed at a time when the person holding it dealt .directly with the Postmaster-General of his State, and was responsible for matters of administration which now occupy the attention of the Central Staff. Now that these offices are becoming vacant, a proper and reasonable opportunity is afforded for reconsidering the value of the services to be performed by their holders. If we do not reduce those high salaries, we shall leave ourselves open to the charge, which has often been levelled against the Federal Parliament, of doing nothing to decrease expenditure. I think that we should now make a beginning, and thus justify the hope which the people entertained, that Federation would lead to the administration of this Department in a more ‘economical manner. What gain would there be -from the transference of the States Departments to the Commonwealth if the higher officials in the service continued to draw the large salaries which were allotted to them when they had greater responsibilities? I do not wish to disparage the occupants of those offices; but it must be obvious to the Minister that their responsibilities are not so great, and that their duties are not so heavy, as when they were directly responsible to the Postmasters-General of the States. Their work has been much simplified, their responsibilities have been diminished, and therefore there is no justification for continuing to pay to them the high salaries which have hitherto prevailed, and for which provision is made on these Estimates.
I reiterate the remarks which I made on that occasion, and think they are a sufficient answer to nearly every argument which the honorable member for Parramatta has advanced. I do not intend to pay any attention to his observations relative to my short tenure of office as Postmaster- General. No one knows better than he does how impossible it is for a Minister who remains in office for only thirteen or fourteen weeks to carry out an effective system of reform. But the honorable member was scarcely .fair when he said that I did nothing to reform the Department in Western Australia. I would! remind him that, in ridding the service of the official who was mainly responsible for the maladministration which occurred in that branch of the Department, I made a good beginning.
– The honorable member did not get rid of him.
– He retired during my term of office.
– He was going to retire ‘before.
– But I think he went while I was there.
– All the trouble has arisen since then.
– I do not wish to enter into a disputation with the right honorable gentleman, but I respectfully differ from that view.
– Is it not a fact that the officer in question received notice to retire before the honorable member “took, office?
– That is so.
– He asked to go. He was not given notice to retire.
– I am seeking to reply to the remark made by the Treasurer, that all the trouble in connexion with, the Department has arisen since the retirement of this officer. Having regard to the fact that £920 was lifted out of the’ safe in> the head office - under the very nose of the Deputy Postmaster-General, so to speak - it can hardly be said that all the trouble arose after his retirement.
– That was prior to the establishment of Federation.
– That fact in nowise lessens the responsibility of the chief officer of the Department in Western Australia. I trust that the Committee will not be misled by the rhetorical flights of the honorablemember for Parramatta, who, I am sure, is anxious to do all that he can for thehighlypaid officials of the service. I do not blame him when he considers that they are worthy of his support; but I should like to hear him champion with equal vigour and ability the cause of the officers of the Department who are receiving only £2 25. or 30s. per week. That would do him more credit.
– I believe that I have championed their cause as often ashas the honorable member.
– It would redound more to the honorable member’s credit if, instead of endeavouring to secure the continuance of a salary which, even as proposed to be reduced, would be a very generous one, he spoke in support of the cause of these poorly-paid men. The honorable member has chosen to cloud the issue as affecting the Deputy PostmasterGeneral of New South Wales. So far from having any feeling against Mr. Unwin, I may say that I have the highest respect for him. I repeat that I consider him one of the most capable officers in the service of the Commonwealth.
– I guess that he would rather have cash than sympathy.
– Possibly ; but the honorable member must allow me to say that, in supporting the proposal to reduce the salary of this officer, I am not animated by any personal feeling against him. I would put it to my honorable friend whether it is fair that a salary of £920 should be paid to the Deputy PostmasterGeneralin New South Wales, when the highest official in the Department - an officerwho has to administer the affairs, not of one State, but of six - receives only £80 per annum in excess of that amount?
– I certainly think so.
– If the honorable member had moved to increase the salary of the Secretary to the Department by £200, or £300, I should have recognised his consistency.
– Does the honorable member think that he has as much work to do as has the Deputy PostmasterGeneral ?
– I think that he has infinitely more work than have any ofthe Deputy Postmasters-General, and that his responsibilities are also much greater. The Deputy Postmasters-General of all the States are now discharging purely routine duties. They are not called upon to advise the Postmaster-General on great questions of policy involving hundreds and thousands of pounds.
– Yes, they are, so far as the State over which they preside is concerned.
– The Postmaster-General acts on the reports of his deputies.
– If a thousand pounds a year is adequate payment for the Secretary of the Department, who is responsible for its policy, and for the most momentous steps, £920 is too much for the Deputy Postmaster-General for New South Wales, who does comparatively routine work. Mr. Unwin was under no misapprehension when he accepted his present post, and although he has drawn £920 per annum since he was appointed to it, he must have known from the debates in this Chamber that it was the intention of Parliament to grade the position.
– The debates in this House did not show that.
– He was quite aware that Parliament would fix the salary on these Estimates, and that he had no claim to a salary of £920.
– Although the honorable member for Macquarie, when PostmasterGeneral, resisted the reduction of this salary, one of his principal colleagues expressed a contrary opinion in regard to it.
– That may be.
-That shows that the Cabinet was not unanimous on the subject, and had not determined to fix the salary at £920. Why, therefore, has there been this display of heat, and these reckless charges against the Postmaster-General?
– I have made no charges ; I have merely argued the point.
– I do not say that the honorable member has made charges; but, unless my ears have deceived me, charges have been made. Mr. Unwin, when he accepted his present position, must have been aware of the improbability of the salary being allowed to remain at £920 a year. He took it on that understanding, and will, therefore, have no right to complain of any action which Parliament may take in the matter.
– And the Deputy PostmastersGeneral of Western Australia and the other States will have no right to complain if their salaries are reduced by £100 or £200.
– Some of those salaries have already been reduced. The Victorian salary has not been reduced because the officer who fills the position of Deputy Postmaster-General in this State occupied the position prior to Federation ; but it is proposedto reduce the salary to £750 when he retires. In Queensland, when the present Secretary to the Department vacated the position now held by the Deputy Postmaster-General of the State, the salary attached to it was reduced from £800 to £700. In South Australia the salary of the Deputy Postmaster-General has been reduced from £1,000 to £650, though I am aware that the late occupant of the position there performed special duties as Government Astronomer. In Western Australia the salary has been reduced from £700 to £600. I should be the last to wish to inflict injustice on Mr. Unwin, who is a conscientious and able man, and if the honorable member for Parramatta, who thinks that an injustice is being done to him, can suggest some way of recompensing him without interfering with the regular and consistent grading of the office, I shall support him.
– I take the ground that the office is worth quite £92.0 a year.
– I understood the honorable member to base his claim largely on the personality of the occupant of the office.
– Not at all.
– Then I am more emphatically against the position which he has taken up than I was before. The honorable member has taken the ground that officers in the service of the State still receive salaries of £1,000 a year; but the fact that the State Government pays extravagant salaries is no justification for the Commonwealth doing so. If Mr. Unwin had occupied the position prior to Federation, or had been appointed to it before the Public Service Act was passed, and before any grading was done, I should not sanction any reduction of the salary ; but as he, like other Deputies, has accepted it, knowing that it might be reduced, I see no reason why we should not reduce it, if we think it right to do so. I am sorry that the honorable member for Parramatta has grown rather excited over the matter.
– Not at all.
– Then I should like to know what he looks like when he is excited. I am willing to do full justice to this excellent officer, and, as I have said before, if any means can be devised to give him what is considered to be his due, bv way of gratuity on his retirement, I shall support any action that may be taken in that direction.
– I regret very much that the Government have thought fit to reduce the salary of the Deputy Postmaster-General in New South Wales. It is stated that Mr. Unwin was placed in his present position conditionally upon his being prepared to accept whatever salary Parliament might vote. Every officer in the service accepts his position under similar conditions, and .therefore that question does not enter into consideration. There is no doubt about the efficiency of Mr. Unwin. He has spent practically a lifetime in the service, has done good work all along, and is still a thoroughly capable man. He will be called upon to retire within a year, and he is not concerned, as the honorable member for Coolgardie seems to imagine, merely about the difference between the salaries of £800 and £920 for one year, but about the effect the reduced salary will have upon the amount he is to receive by way of pension. It seems to me that as Mr. Unwin was appointed at a salary of £920, it would be unfair to reduce his remuneration during his tenure of office.
– He was not appointed at a salary of £920.
– Yes, he was, and he has received, that salary for at least one year. It has been recognised as a principle by this Parliament that unless a general retrenchment scheme is being carried out, the salaries of officers shall not be reduced during their tenure of office, except, of course, they prove themselves to be inefficient or grossly careless. I do not know of one instance in which an officer with whom no fault could be found, has had his salary reduced during his tenure of office, and I think that a very worthy gentleman has been singled out for special treatment in a most undesirable manner. I trust that, in view of the opinions expressed by honorable members, the Government will reconsider the position, and see if they cannot deal with Mr. Unwin quite apart from the question as to the salary which would attach to the office under ordinary conditions.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).I am sure that the honorable member for Coolgardie did not intend to do me any injustice when he referred to my action in this matter. When the subject was under discussion last year, and the suggestion was made! that Mr. Unwin’s salary should lie reduced, I took a ‘Strong stand against it. I said -
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 moneyorder 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 Postmaster-General shouldered the responsibility of approving of practically all expenditure in connexion with the Department, but at the present time it devolves upon the Deputy PostmastersGeneral. . . . Last year this officer had to control no less a sum than£11,000,000.
– How many men does he control ?
– He controls 3,865 permanent officers, and 2,859 non-officials, or a total of 6,724 officers.
– Where are the millions to which the honorable member made reference?
– Those are represented by the Post Office Savings Bank deposits.
– The watchman at the Melbourne General Post Office claims that he is custodian of millions of money, and yet he receives only £100 per annum.
– The Deputy Postmaster-General has the control of the administration of the Post Office Savings Bank.
– He is not responsible in any way for the Savings Bank deposits.
– No. but the officers administering the Savings Bank are under his control.
– Yes. but they deal directly with the States authorities.
– The Deputy Postmaster-General is responsible for them, and the Department is paid by the State a certain percentage upon the deposits, for carrying out the work. I merely quote the statement I made on the previous occasion, to show the position I took up in regard to the matter. I indicated the course I intended to take, and the Government approved of the payment of £920 from the 1st July last.
– What did the then Treasurer have to say ?
– No doubt the right honorable member for Balaclava will tell the honorable member if he asks him. I am here to answer for myself only. I am sure the Postmaster-General will bear me out when I say that in the Estimates prepared by me before I left, office, pro vision was made for the payment of a salary of £920.
– Was any one appointed ?
- Mr. Unwin was appointed.
– Who appointed him ?
– The Public Service Commissioner.
– Who was the Minister ?
– I was.
– Then why did the honorable member, as PostmasterGeneral, put in a certain stipulation ?
– The stipulation was put in so that honorable members might have an opportunity to consider the matter. I made no secret of my intention,, and Parliament supported me when I proposed that the salary should be £920. The question had been raised by the honorable member for Coolgardie.
– I take it that the stipulation was made because the question had been raised.
– The whole question of the position of the seven or eight administrative officers was under the review of the Government, so that it was not only the Deputy Postmasters-General who were concerned. According to the legal opinion of the Attorney-General, these administrative officers were not under the supervision of the Public Service Commissioner, and it was thought that the Government and Parliament might consider the question of fixing the salaries for the whole of them.
– Did the honorable member as Postmaster-General fill up any other position with a special stipulation?
– I cannot exactly say now; but for whatever I did I am prepared to take the responsibility. I do notwant to shelter myself behind any one, and I ask the Postmaster-General to show, if he can, that when in office I ever did anything of which I need be ashamed. In view of the fact that I had been able to persuade the House that £920 was a fair salary, I felt sure I should be able to obtain that remuneration for the present occupant of the office. In New South Wales alone there are nearly 4,000 public servants under the Public Service Commissioner, by whom salaries and positions are fixed ; and I ask what reason there can be for refraining from placing the Deputy Postmaster-General under the same control? The discussion to-night shows the advantage of removing such officers from political influence.
– Does the honorable member suppose that the Government have been approached politically with a view to keeping these salaries down?
– I never make charges of that kind. I have no personal feeling of that kind, -but merely desire ro see justice done to a valuable public officer. I contend that it is a wrong principle to make a distinction between Deputy Postmasters-General’ and ordinary; public servants. Parliament1, provided that! all public servants, except what may be described as a favoured few, should be removed from any possibility of political influence.
– Do away with the office of Deputy Postmaster-General ; it is not wanted.
– That may be the opinion of some people ; but it does not meet with my approval.
– A chief clerk can do, and has done, the work just as well.
– Even, in a chief clerk” we must have intelligence and a knowledge of post and telegraph work, with the ability to control a large branch of a department. Members of Parliament, who are engaged in their duties in the House for five or six months a year, complain that they are inadequately paid at £400 a year, and I ask them what they think ought to be paid to a Deputy PostmasterGeneral, who has such important duties to perform? A Deputy Postmaster-Generd.1 Kas the supervision of works, involving the expenditure of thousands of pounds, and he ought to be protected against any suggestion that if he does not act in a certain way his salary may be interfered with. He ought to feel when dealing with departmental affairs that he has the protection of a man with no political leanings. I do not blame the Postmaster-General for the action which has been taken, because it has been decided that the Deputy PostmastersGeneral do not come under the Public Service Commissioner, so far as their salaries are concerned.
– Will the honorable member explain what he dad in connexion with the matter when he was PostmasterGeneral?
– Honorable members may be ‘anxious to go home, but I think that it is our duty to look after the interests-
– Of the taxpayers.
– By securing a competent man to control the Postal Department in New South Wales we shall be conserving the interests of the taxpayers. Honorable members urge that the increase from £700 to £920, which Mr. Unwin received, was a very large one, and yet they make no complaint about the Deputy Postmaster-General in Queensland, who upon his appointment to that position received an increase from £500 to £700. i trust that the salary of the Deputy PostmasterGeneral in New South Wales will Be restored to £920.
Mr. BROWN (Canobolas). - I intend to support the amendment of the deputy leader of the Opposition, because I desire the full salary of Mr. Unwin to be restored to him. He is a very faithful and competent officer. He has been in the service for forty-five years, and has risen to his present position from the lowest grade. During the latter portion of his service the office of Deputy PostmasterGeneral in New South Wales was filled by Mr. Lambton and Mr. Dalgarno, who have since retired in quick succession in consequence of attaining the age limit. During their tenure of office Mr. Unwin had a large amount of work thrust upon him. He practically acted as Deputy Postmaster-General whilst nominally they discharged the duties of the office. Mr. Unwin was appointed to his present position last year, when Parliament voted the full salary which has attached to it for some time, namely, £920. Upon the present occasion, however, the Government, without assigning any reason for their action, ask the Committee to vote only £800. It seems to me that that is not a generous way in which to treat an officer who has rendered such valuable service as has Mr. Unwin. Had he been appointed to his present position at a salary of £800 per annum the policy of the Government iti this connexion would not have been open to so much objection. But after this officer has been paid £920 for twelve months’ service, and after he has given the , Department every satisfaction, the Government seek to ‘reduce the amount to £800. They urge that the office is worth only £800. I venture to say that the salary of any position to which the same amount of responsibility attached would be appraised at considerably more than £920 per annum - the salary which the State originally proposed to give. I understand from the late Postmaster-General that if the decision of this matter were left to the Public Service Commissioner, the present salary would be maintained. I do not know what authority he had for making that statement, but apparently he spoke with some warrant. If that is the case, the position ought to be under the control of the Commissioner, and the Government should not be asked to fix the amount of salary. If he is competent to fix the salary of not only every officer under this gentleman, but every officer in other Departments, surely the amount of information he possesses qualifies him better to fix the salary of this officer than the Minister or the Committee can be ! Itseems to me that a great injustice is being inflicted upon a deserving and capable officer, and I trust that, as the outcome of this debate his salary will be restored to the amount which he received last year.
– I think that the Postmaster- General ought to give an explanation to the Committee.
– I am quite willing to give it at any moment.
– All I want to hear from the Minister is an explanation of the reason for reducing the salary of this officer,
Mr. AUSTIN CHAPMAN (EdenMonaro - PostmassterGenera 1 ) . - The honor able member for Parramatta was hardly fair, in the inference he drew concerning the Queensland officer. I believe that any one of us would be very sorry to think that because the secretary to the Central Office comes from that State he would be induced to favour a Queensland officer. I hardly think that the honorable member- could have meant to convey that impression, although his words were capable of that construction. The late Postmaster-General took sound ground when he said that the fixing of these salaries might very well be left to the Public Service Commissioner. But he gave his case away when he said that he had discussed this particular question with the Commissioner, and knew that that officer approved of the salary he had proposed. He would lead the Committee to believe that this appointment was made like every other ordinary appoint ment, and that no intimation was made to Mr. Unwin that he was to receive £920 for only the current financial year. Whenan appointment is made in the ordinary course, what intimation is made to the gentleman who is appointed? He is informed of the salary which the position carries, but no special stipulation of any kind is made. To show what must have been in the mind of the late PostmasterGeneral, I propose to read the telegram which was sent to Mr. Unwin on the 10th February, 1905 -
Governor-General in Council has approved your promotion to the position of Deputy Postmaster- General, New South Wales ; salary attached to that position for current financial year to be at the rate of ^920 per annum, but to be subject thereafter to provisions of annual Appropriation Acts ; such promotion to date from the 1st July, 1904, for the purpose of seniority. Please note accordingly. Confirmation follows by post.
– That was following the wording of the provision in the Public Service Act.
– The honorable member is aware that that is a special stipulation which has been inserted in only two cases. The honorable member for Macquarie knows full well that I did not cast any doubt upon what he wanted to do, because I believe that right through he has been in favour of this high salary being given. The intention of the Cabinet must be quite evident to honorable members. A salary of £920 having been voted for the office, and Mr. Unwin having been promoted from a position carrying £700, the Cabinet did not think it right to reduce his salary at that time, but it was clearly implied that there was likely to be a change made when the next Estimates were considered. Why was that inference to be drawn? Because it was recognised - and I believe it is so recognised1 by a majority of honorable members and by the people of this country - that whereas a reduction of salary should be made when a certain amount of responsibility had been taken away, it should not be made in the case of an old officer who was in the same position as the Deputy PostmasterGeneral in Victoria, who brought his salary over with him, and can legally claim it. As opportunity might offer, it was intended to grade the officers according to what was considered to be their responsibility, and to fix the salary which should be attached to the positions. The same treatment was meted out to the Deputy Postmaster-General in Western Australia. That conveys very clearly what must have been the intention of the Cabinet. However, it is for the Committee to say what salary ought to be paid to this officer. We cannot pay an officer according to what we think he is “worth. I know many men in receipt of £156 or £140 a year who are rendering good service to the Commonwealth, but who I think are worth a great deal more. We are not in a position, however, to raise the salary of every officer whom we know. It is highly -undesirable for any one to come here and canvass the merits of a particular officer. In my opinion, Mr. Unwin is a very deserving officer. After listening to the honorable member for Parramatta, I intimated! that I was prepared’ to reconsider his position, seeing that he was going out of the service. I said that if it were thought that we were degrading an officer who” had served the country for forty years we ought to reconsider the matter, but I was quite of the opinion that a salary of £800 was sufficient for the office. I dispute the contention of the honorable member for Parramatta that the way to calculate the salary of an administrative officer is to consider the amount of revenue received, and the number of officers under his care. We know who controls the salaries of the officers to a very great extent. And the honorable member for Macquarie knows very well that a great proportion, probably one-half of the expenditure other than for salaries, is incurred bv way of contracts, and is dealt with bv the Central Office. On the other hand, the Savings Bank officials are responsible directly to the State authorities. In this way, the responsibility of a this officer has been con.siderably reduced. I would remind the honorable member for Parramatta that the salary of the Deputy Postmaster-General in Queensland was reduced from £800 to £700 as from the 1st July. 190T. That was an indication of the evident intention of the Cabinet that the Parliament was to fix the salary. I admit that a fair case may be ‘made out for reconsidering the position of Mr. Unwin ; but before attempting to increase his salary, we ought to consider what we propose to do with regard to many other officers who are receiving far less remuneration. In discussing this matter, I do not profess’ to have any expert knowledge, because my administration of the Department extends over only a few months; but it seems to me that if the basis on which the honorable member for Parramatta puts his case is to be accepted, we ought to pay the Deputy Postmaster-General of Western Australia as much as we pay the Deputy Postmaster-General of Victoria. It may be asked why I take this view. I take it because the Deputy PostmasterGeneral of Western Australia has greater responsibilities than has the officer occupying a corresponding position in this State. He is far removed from the Central Administration, and is called upon to recommend expensive mail services, or the erection of post-offices in connexion with new gold-fields which may be blooming today and dying out to-morrow. He has to deal with a very large territory, and consequently his task, like that of the Deputy Postmaster- General of Queensland, is more responsible than is that of the” Deputy Postmaster-General of Victoria.
– And yet the honorable gentleman has reduced his salary.
– I hold that he is fairly paid. I would ask the honorable member whether he is prepared to raise the salaries of all these highlypaid officials? When the honorable member speaks of this reduction as being the introduction of Socialism-
– The honorable gentleman is running away from his own argument.
– I am not; I am merely answering the interjection of the honorable member for North Sydney. Judging them by the payments made to officers throughout the service, we have placed these salaries on a fair basis.
– If the rate of payment in the case of the Deputy PostmasterGeneral of Western Australia is a fair one, then according to the honorable gentleman’s argument, the salaries of some of these men ought to be considerably reduced.
– I am merely dealing with the honorable member’s own argument as to the postal revenue of New South Wales, and the responsibility resting upon the shoulders of the Deputy Postmaster-General of that State. So far as Mr. Unwin’s position is concerned, I think that a case has been made out for further consideration. It was distinctlyimplied by the Executive minute, to which I have referred, that Parliament was to settle the question.
– If the honorable member had that in his mind-
– The point is that I provided on the Estimates for a salary of £920.
– That is so. I do not wish to labour the question, but if we are going to eulogize every officer with whom we are acquainted, no matter what his grade in the service may be - and I hold that we ought to give as much consideration to the man who is receiving only £150 per annum as we do to the officer who is in receipt of a salary of £800 per annum–
– Hear, hear; but why not place this officer under the provisions of the Public Service Act?
– -We are not discussing that point. I experienced no pleasure in putting this reduced item on the Estimates. It is much more pleasing to increase the salary of an officer, especially when one knows him, and believes him to be a good and faithful servant ; but I must not forget that I owe a duty to the taxpayers as. well as to other officers in the service who are drawing lower salaries. In all the circumstances, I hold that the grading of this office at £800 per annum is reasonable, and I ask the Committee to stand by it. As regards Mr. Unwin, if the . honorable member for Parramatta will withdraw his amendment-
– I have been dealing, not with Mr. Unwin, but with his office.
– The honorable member said that we were meting out scurvy treatment to Mr. Unwin, and were attempting to degrade him. In view of the Executive minute left by my predecessor, it must be obvious that the late Government considered that this salary was open to revision. If the honorable member for Parramatta wished to infer that because the Secretary to the Post and ‘Telegraph Department came from Queensland he would attempt to deal unfairly with, an officer in that State, I think that, upon reflection, he will admit that the whole history of the Secretary goes to disprove the justice of his suggestion. I think that a case may well be made out for further consideration so far as Mr. Unwin is concerned ; but it seems to me that the grading of the office is a fair and reasonable one, and that, as the responsibility attaching to it has been reduced to a large extent, the Committee might well allow the item to stand.
– But for the remarks made by the Postmaster-General, it is probable that I should not have spoken during this debate. The honorable gentleman has paid the late Government the indirect, though unintentional, compliment that it has received, on more than one occasion, at the hands of honorable members opposite. He has alluded to what he says they intended to do as a sufficient reason for what he has done; but I think that he ought to be prepared to accept the responsibility for his own action.
– I am ; but the honorable member for Macquarie was disclaiming that the late Government had any intention of doing what we have done.
– I do not propose to discuss Cabinet questions in connexion with a matter of this kind ; but the reason why the telegram to which reference has been made was sent to Mr. ‘Unwin must be obvious. It had been decided that under the Public Service Act the Commissioner could not grade the heads of administrative Departments, and had any attempt been made to enforce the grading of the Public Service Commissioner, so far as these officers are concerned, objection could have been taken to it. It therefore became necessary for Ministers to take action in connexion with the salaries of these officers.
– And a number of other officers.
– All the administrative heads of Departments. It was evident that, whether* the salaries were fixed by the Government, or the Commissioner was consulted and his grading accepted, some decision would have to be arrived at by Ministers prior to the final resort to Parliament itself. Consequently, it was only right that we should indicate the exact position to the officer receiving the appointment, especially when consideration of the salaries had not then taken place. That was the only object which we had in view in sending the telegram to him. It must be remembered that, apart altogether from the position of the Ministry, the Parliament itself took some responsibility in the matter when, om the eve of the appointment of an officer to the position of Deputy Postmaster-General of NewSouth Wales, it fixed the salary at £920 per annum. The offer of the PostmasterGeneral to reconsider Mr. Unwin’ s case is valueless, unless it means that he will reconsider the question of the salary to be paid him. Unless that be done, Mr. Unwin will lose the benefits of his fortyfive years of service in New South Wales ; he will lose not only the salary hitherto paid to the chief of the Department, but the pension of the chief. He loses that unless the matter is made one of salary and not merely one of allowance in consequence of reduction.
– If favorable consideration were given that could be done.
– I hope that the Minister will say that his intention is to reconsider the question of salary. Otherwise the conditions will not be met. I think that it would be a hardship if this officer, having received the salary which Parliament voted for the position in the knowledge that he would receive it, were compelled to accept a lower amount, with the consequent reduction of the pension for which he has worked, and towards which he has contributed by monthly payments. As for treating officers in receipt of £150 a year differently from officers getting higher salaries, the honorable member for Macquarie does not propose to do that. He proposes toallow the Public Service Commissioner to determine all these salaries.
– I have not offered any objection to that.
– No; but the honorable gentleman asked, “ Why treat officers getting £150 ayear differently?”
– If a telegram or letter was sent to a man getting £150 or £200 a year, to tell him that he had been appointed to another position at a certain salary, one would not addthe words “ for the current financial year.”
– One would add those words if the officer were not under the Public Service Commissioner, and consideration had to be given to his case and to that of similar officers. One would act wisely in sending such a letter or telegram to reserve to Parliament the full right To deal with the salary.
– Parliament has its full rights in any case.
– The addition of those words would show the officer in question what the rights of Parliament were in the matter. In this case, Parliament voted a certain salary for the office, knowing the officer that was to be appointed to it. Now it is proposed to reduce that salary. I believe that the officer to whom I am referring has only a couple of years to serve before being entitled to retire.
– I think that he can retire at the end of next year. The honorable member for Parramatta and others have made out a good case for this officer; but I stand by the grading of the office.
– The Minister stands by the grading of the office for a future occupant ?
– In that case there are two considerations -the grading of the office for a future occupant, and the treatment of the present occupant. If the Minister could suggest a separation of the vote in any way, I should be willing to agree to it; but it must not be forgotten that there are two distinct questions involved.
– It seems to me that the members of the Opposition advocated Federation under false pretences. They were continually preaching that, by the centralization of administration in regard to post, telegraph, and telephones, and other services, a tremendous saving would be made, but now that immense head-quarters’ staffs have been established, they object to the reduction of the salaries of leading officers elsewhere. How then can any saving be effected ?
Mr.JosephCook. - It is very easy for the honorable member to support the reduction of this salary, seeing that the salary of the Deputy Postmaster-General for Tasmania is not to be reduced.
– I should like to see it reduced, and I ask the honorable member to help me to reduce it. The time has come to rid the country of these fossilized relics of stupidity.
– I do not believe in cutting down salaries.
– Neither do I, but I believe in economic progress ; and the time has come for this Committee to assert itself.
– And to go home to bed.
– I should like to be able to go to bed, because, since halfpast 7, I have sat here listening to expostulations of an indescribable description, which have left me bewildered, and if there is any more talking to be done, I may as well do it. We are entitled to an explanation from the honorable member for Macquarie, who, as Postmaster-General, was a great success. He should tell us why he left a position which, he was filling with so much credit.
– Why did the honorable member put him out?
– Because he was on the wrong side.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).The honorable member for North Sydney has explained that there are ‘two distinct questions involved in this case, the position of the present occupant of the office and the grading of the salary for future occupants. In view of the figures which I have submitted to the PostmasterGeneral, which I cannot but think were overlooked by the Cabinet in considering the matter, I ask the Postmaster-General to have the position of all these officers again reviewed by the Ministry. If he will promise to do that, I will instantly withdraw my amendment. It is not an unreasonable request to ask him to have the question looked into again in the light of this debate.
– That is a fair request.
– I strongly desire to impress upon the Minister the desirability of submitting the grading of these administrative offices to the Public Service Commissioner. Let the honorable gentleman remit the question to the man whose business it is to grade every other office in the Commonwealth, and get from him a report. Whatever that report might be, I should be willing to accept it without quibble.
Mr. AUSTIN CHAPMAN (EdenMonaro - Postmaster-General). - I have not the slightest objection to re-submit the matter to the Cabinet, but I must, in all frankness, tell the honorable member that I consider that the present grading is correct. I do not think that any case has been made out for increasing the salary attached to the office of the Deputy Postmaster-General in New South Wales but I consider that Mr. Unwin has claims to consideration which I shall be very glad to submit to my colleagues.
– Will the reduction of Mr. Unwin ‘s salary affect the amount of his pension ?
– Yes ; his pension will be calculated upon the amount of salary received by him during the three years preceding his retirement, and, consequently, the reduction will affect the allowance to a small extent. He has been for upwards of forty years in the service - he started by selling stamps, and gradually worked his way up to the highest grade - and he is a most excellent officer, to whom we shall be glad to extend the utmost consideration.
– In view of the Minister’s statement, I shall be very glad to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Proposed vote agreed to.
– I see that under the head of “ Inspection branch, ‘ ‘ provision is made for a number of senior inspectors and other officers, and I should like to have some information with regard to the conditions under which New South Wales has been divided into districts and the arrangements which have been made for inspection. I understand that divisional inspectors are to be stationed at Armidale, Orange, West Maitland, and Wagga. I find that the inspector who is. to be stationed at Wagga instead of the officer at Orange is to be responsible for the inspection of post-offices in the western division of New South Wales, and I should like some more information on this subject. The inspectors should not wait until applications are made for the extension of postal and other facilities, but should make suggestions with a view to improving the public conveniences. It has been reported to me by some of the officials that until recently they were snubbed if they made suggestions to the officers at head-quarters, and I was very pleased when the late Postmaster-General, who did exceedingly good work in the administration of the Department, issued a circular inviting officers to offer suggestions. I should like to know whether any suggestions have been received, and what is their general character.
– I entirely approve of the scheme initiated by my predecessor providing for the location of inspectors in the country districts.
– That is a very old scheme.
– Yes, but the late Postmaster-General was the first to bring it into operation. The present arrangements have been in force such a short time that it is rather too early to express an opinion as to whether they are likely to prove satisfactory or otherwise. I believe, however, that when the inspectors become familiar with their districts they will be able to make valuable suggestions.
– What about the western district ?
– I think that some arrangement may be made for devoting a little more attention to it, but as it is a district of great distances I am afraid that it will be impossible to find an entirely satisfactory location for the inspector.
– I shall be quite content if the inspector responsible for the western district were located in the Darling electorate.
– I shall give the representations of the honorable member every consideration. In the same way that the Department is pleased to receive suggestions from its officials, I shall be glad to receive any recommendations that honorable members may be prepared to make. A number of useful ideas has been communicated to the central authorities by officials in various branches of the service, and I am. very glad to say that a spirit of healthy rivalry seems to have been aroused. We have received a number of suggestions with regard to locks and seals and other matters, and I believe that the present system will be attended with; satisfactory results. Mr. Hallam, who showed special aptitude, has been recommended “for a substantial increase of salary, and for transfer to the professional division. Any officer who shows a keen interest in the affairs of the Department, and special ability, will receive every encouragement.
Mr. THOMAS (Barrier). - In connexion with the proposed vote forthe conveyance of inland mails, I should like to know whether the Minister has received any report with regard to the hours which maildrivers are required to work?
Mr. AUSTIN CHAPMAN (EdenMonaro - Postmaster-General). - I have received a number of reports, which show that in the majority of cases where long hours had been worked by mail-coach drivers, the periods for which they were required to be onduty have been reduced. The question of providing, in contracts, for a maximum number of hours during which the men employed on coaches under contract with the Postmaster-General shall be required to drive, is receiving consideration, but difficulty has been experienced in applying one rule to the whole Commonwealth. The matter will receive further consideration when tenders are next invited.
Mr. THOMAS (Barrier).- I should like to know the opinion of the PostmasterGeneral with regard to the Pacific Cable. There is considerable loss on the working of that cable, and I quite agree with some of the remarks which were made on the subject last night by the honorable member for Parramatta. The three Governments which are concerned in this cable ought to be quite equal to devising some means to prevent this annual deficiency. I have always been opposed to the concessions granted to the Eastern Extension Company, andI should like to reply to some remarks which I am informed the honorable member for Parramatta made last night in regard to the action of the Labour Party in this connexion.
– The Labour Party have objected all along to these concessions.
– When the proposal to make these concessions came before the New South Wales Parliament, the Labour Party very strongly objected to it.
– How did the Labour Party object?
– By blocking the proposals until the State Parliament was prorogued.
– No one took a more active part in expressing those objections than Mr. Griffith, the secretary of the State Labour Party, and a number of the members of that party, including myself, went as a deputation to Mr. Crick, the PostmasterGeneral, to further emphasize the position which had been taken in the State Parliament. The result was that the concessions were not granted by Mr. Crick until January or February of 1901, when the State Parliament was not in session, and Federation had become an accomplished fact. When the State Parliament did meet in 1 90 1, none of the members of the Labour Party, who are now members of this Parliament, were in the State Parliament.
– What did the Labour Party in the New South Wales Parliament do when the State Parliament did meet?
– Mr. Crick was not then Postmaster-General, and the Commonwealth had been inaugurated.
– I was not a member of the State Parliament when it met in 1901. When the subject was brought up in the House of Representatives, there was no division on the motion, though there was a long discussion. The honorable member for Parramatta spoke strongly against the ratification of the agreement which had been entered into by New South Wales and Victoria, but the general tenor of the discussion showed that Parliament regarded its hands as tied by the action which had been taken by these States. Mr. Kir wan, who was then member for Kalgoorlie, moved an amendment to postpone the ratification until after the Pacific Cable Conference, but, Under the circumstances which I have indicated, the amendment was withdrawn. Any part I have taken has always been against any concessions to the Eastern Extension Company.
– A harmless part, all the same. The Labour Party could never be got to “bite.”
– I find that all the press messages from England come over the Eastern Extension Company’s lines. It may be that this company are making concessions to the newspaper proprietors which the Pacific -Cable Board are not prepared to make - that the Eastern Extension Company are granting rebates, or in some other way are making less than the recognised charges. If that be so, it is the duty of the Postmaster - General to ascertain whether the Pacific Cable Board cannot see their way to make similar charges. If, on the other hand, the Eastern Extension Company are charging exactly the same rates as would be charged by the Pacific Cable Board under similar circumstances, then the action of the newspaper proprietors does not appear to be very patriotic.
– The newspaper proprietors “barracked” for the Pacific Cable, in order to get the rates on the Eastern Extension Cable reduced, and that is the extent of their patriotism.
– What did honorable members expect?
– The Melbourne Age always advocates “keeping the money in the country,” and seeks to encourage local industries. But I remember that the honorable and learned member for East Sydney said on one occasion that that newspaper is free-trade in its commercial department, whilst protectionist in its leading articles. If the Eastern Extension Company’s charges are the cheaper, then the newspapers are justified in using that line; but if that company is charging less than the recognised charges, the Postmaster-General ought to make some inquiry. As I pointed out a few days ago, the sum we lose on the Pacific Cable does not amount to quite so much as the subsidy previously paid to the Eastern Extension Company. At the same time, I should like to know whether the Postmaster-General intends to do anything in order to prevent this annual loss.
Mr. AUSTIN CHAPMAN (Eden- Monaro - Postmaster-General). - The question of the Pacific Cable has caused me a lot of trouble and worry, and it is certainly a very serious matter. The Government are endeavouring, as far as possible, to safeguard the rights and interests of the Commonwealth, and I am in accord with a good deal which fell from the honorable member for Parramatta last night. I realize, however, that we have a strong combination to fight, and I do not think I can reasonably be asked to disclose what the Government propose or hope to do.
– Does the PostmasterGeneral intend to do something?
– I certainly do. The whole matter has been before the Cabinet, and immediately some decision is come to which promises satisfactory results, I shall give the information to honorable members.
– I should like to know what the Postmaster-General intends to do in connexion with the Orient mail contract. When the matter was being discussed, , the suggestion was made that if the contract were ratified, steps should be taken at the earliest opportunity to give the Orient Steam Navigation Company notice of its termination, in order that a mail service might be secured on more favorable terms.
Mr. AUSTIN CHAPMAN (EdenMonaro - Postmaster-General). - I should like to inform the Committee that notice of the termination of the contract has been given, and tenders will be invited at the very earliest opportunity, that ample time may be given for competition, and that, if necessary, time may be allowed for tenderers to provide ships. I am giving the matter close attention, and willpush it forward as much as I possibly can..
Proposed vote agreed to.
– I direct attention to the item, “ Increments to salaries of £160 and over in the professional and clerical divisions, £600.” When compared with the amount set down for the other States, it appears to me that the amount set down for this purpose for Victoria is too small. I am given to understand that a number of anomalies will be created by reason of the fact that certain officers will receive increments, whilst otherswho are just as much entitled to them will not receivethem. The amount set down for this purpose for New South Wales is £1,000, and for Western Aus tral ia £450, although, according to the figures given to-night by the honorable member for Parramatta, the officers in that State do not number more than one-third of those in Victoria. For Tasmania, £350 is provided for this purpose; I should like to know from the PostmasterGeneral whether, in the event of the amount set down for Victoria proving to be insufficient, officers who will not receive increments out of the vote will have their position in the classification scheme affected? If that should be the case, we shall be undoing what we tried to build up in the classification scheme.
– As I understand the situation, it is as follows-: If, for example, there are twenty officers in any given Department of the Post Office in Melbourne, the amount of money provided on the Estimates for this purpose will not be sufficient to pay increments to more than half of those officers.
My. Deakin. - That is on the assumption that all are entitled to increments.
– The officers say that they are all entitled to them, and I understand that the Deputy PostmasterGeneral is not in a position to discriminate between them.
– That is in the General Post Office; but that does not apply to all.
– If the Minister will assure me that no injustice will be done to any of these men, I shall withdraw all that I am saying. I am assured that injustice will be done to some of them unless the Minister steps in to prevent it. Assuming that twenty men are entitled to increments, the sum provided will give increments only to ten. Though all are equally entitled to, promotion in this way, only half of the officers will be promoted, and if must be manifest that that will lead to all sorts of trouble and confusion for the Public Service Commissioner and the Department. I am told that in times past, with a desire to keep the estimates down as much as possible, officers at the head of branches have not asked the full amount required to pay all increments to the officers under them, and have trusted to get the additional amount required out of the Treasurer’s advance account. The present Treasurer says that he will not pay any increases of salaries out of the Treasurer’s advance account;
– Where did the right honorable gentleman say that?
– I have it from the right honorable gentleman’s own lips. If the Department in Victoria, acting in the way I have stated, has asked for only £600, when £1,200 will be required, and the Treasurer will not pay the additional £600 out of his advance account, half of the officers will be denied the incrementsto which they are entitled, and an anomaly will be created which, as I have said, will lead to all sorts of confusion. The Minister should here and now make a statement to the effect that all officers who have the Public Service Commissioner’s recommendation, and the approval of the head of their Department, will get the increments to which they are justly entitled, in spite of the fact that the full amount required for the purpose maynot be provided for on these Estimates. If that statement is forthcoming all will be well, but if that statement cannot be made there is no doubt that anomalies will arise which it will be difficult to overcome.
– I shall endeavour to see that no such anomalies are created. I must, however, disabuse officers’ minds of the idea that they are all entitled to increases. Increases are supposed to be granted to deserving officers, and of course consideration will have to be paid to all who are deserving. The matter is one which has given me a lot of trouble, but I shall look into it very’ carefully to see that no anomalies are created, and that every consideration is given to the representations which honorable members have made.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 179 (Queensland), £411,159; division 180 (South Australia), £255,281 ; division 181 (Western Australia),£282,576; division 182 (Tasmania), £115,605, agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
-Will the Prime Minister state what will be the order of Government business to-morrow?
– We shall ask the House to resume the consideration of the Estimates.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.10 a.m. (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 November 1905, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1905/19051101_reps_2_28/>.