6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr: Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the . following Bills reported: -
Supply Bill (No. 1) 1916-16.
Supply (Works and Buildings) Bill (No. 1) JM5-16.
[3.3). - I desire to make a personal explanation. Since we last met, there appeared in the Melbourne Argus, on 26th June, an article by “ Ithuriel in which, referring to the passage of the Trade and Commerce Referendum Bill after the departure of members of the Opposition, appear the following words: -
The Prime Minister and the Attorney-General were left staring blankly at emptiness, and it was a dramatic moment. The Speaker put the question that the Bill in hand be read a second time, and it was carried on the voices. The Chairman took the chair, read the titles of the few clauses, and in a minute or tyro the Bill was through Committee and reported to the House. Then the Prime Minister lost his head for a space. He stepped up to the Attorney-General at the table and said, “ Third reading, third reading. Put it right through.” Fortunately for the party, Mr. Hughes bad himself bettor in hand. The third reading could, of course, have been taken by consent of the House, and there was no member of the Opposition present to dissent’. But the Bill would have been lost. It could not have been brought forward again this session, and a maimed scheme would have been presented to the people.
In this statement the words, “ Third reading, third reading. Put it right through,” appear in inverted commas. The statement is not true. I ‘ did not utter these words, nor had I any such thought in my mind as they would have expressed. The passage I have read reflects on my honour, because, on the afternoon on which the second reading was passed, I promised the Opposition that the old arrangement for the passing of the Bill. would -hold good.
– I, too, desire to make a personal explanation. I do not often trouble the House with these explanations-
– Nor do I.
– The Premier of Victoria is reported to have said at the Farmers’ Convention, with regard to certain proposals of the Government of the State, for the fixing of prices -
The price-fixing laws were not the product of the Victorian Government alone. _ They were the result of a Conference, in which Mr. Joseph Cook, Sir William Irvine, Mr. Fisher, and others participated, and the decision was unanimous. The Bills were actually drafted by Sir William Irvine, and there was no motive whatever behind them other than the public good.
The Pawn MINISTER.- Hear, hear.
To thelast sentence of the report I take no exception, but those that preceded it require considerable modification. What took place was this: Almost immediately after the outbreak of war, certain action was taken in Western Australia, and I think was about to be taken in Queensland, on the supposition that there was a great deal of cornering of foodstuffs and other necessaries of life. The Commonwealth Government at once considered the position, and appointed a Commission, as honorable members know. In order that the Commissioners should have power to obtain information compulsorily, I drafted a measure for submission to the Parliaments of the States. I have not the draft with me, but the Bill based on it, and passed by all, or certainly . a majority, of the State Parliaments, did nothing whatever in the way of fixing prices. The fixation of prices is not mentioned in the measure, nor was it contemplated in the drafting of it. Of course, I do not now say a word for or against the policy of fixing prices. At that stage, what I and other members of the Government desired to do was to invest the Commission which we were appointing with full power to obtain information from every person in whose hands there might be wheat, butter, meat, or other foodstuffs or necessaries of life, and with power to obtain that information, under compulsion, if need be. I have here a copy of the Bill passed by the South Australian Parliament, which, though I have not compared it literally with the draft, seems to me, speaking from memory, to be an accurate copy of it. This measure compels the supplying of returns by every person who has in his possession or under his control the quantity of foodstuffs or other commodities specified in the first column of its schedule. Such a person is obliged to give the fullest particulars of the quantity in his possession, the place where it is stored, and so forth, and the foodstuffs set out in the schedule include practically all the necessaries of life - wheat, flour, oatmeal, bran, rice, hay, chaff, sugar, molasses, beef, mutton, lamb, bacon, ham, tea, coffee, and a number of other things. The actual draft to which the Premier of Victoria referred, was for a measure which was to be limited in its scope to the investing of the Commonwealth Commission with a power which we considered essential to its inquiry, so that the central Government of Australia might be armed with full information regarding the supplies of wheat, meat, and other necessaries of life, and might either itself, or in co-operation with the Governments of the States, take such steps as should be necessary to prevent the export of large quantities of foodstuffs, or the cornering of them within Australia. The step we took did not go beyond that. I have seen the Premier of Victoria in regard to this matter, and he entirely agrees with me as to the correctness of this statement.
– In view of the agreement between the Governments of the Commonwealth and Queensland, regarding the purchase of sugar, will the Prime Minister extend similar assistance to the Government of Victoria in regard to the purchasing of wheat and meat, if it be requested?
– This Government will be bound to treat all these questions on the same line of policy.
The following papers were presented: -
Inter-State Commission Act -
Inter-State Commission - Tariff Investigation Reports -
Apparel, viz. : - Corsets.
Apparel, viz. : - Socks and Stockings.
Apparel, Women’s and Men’s Gar ments, Piece Goods and Curtains, &c.
Wool Tops, Woollen Yarn, and Machinery for the Manufacture of Tops and Textiles Generally.
Land Tax Assessment Act - Fourth Annual Report of the Commissioner of Land Tax - Year 1913-14.
Ordered to be printed.
Electoral Act and Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act - Regulation Amended (Provisional) Statutory Rules 1915, No. 98.
Lands Acquisition Act -
Drainage Easement over Land acquired at Taree, New South Wales- For Postal purposes.
Public Service Act -
Appointment of E. H. Henderson, as Draughtsman, Class E, Professional Division, Public Works Branch, New South. Wales.
Promotion of M. J. Clavin, as Inspector, 2nd Class, Central District, Rookhampton.
– Has the Assistant Minister of Defence any information to give the House regarding the progress made towards the establishment of a second shift at the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow ?
– Within the last few days the Government have been very active in this matter. They have been in consultation with one of the most able mechanics and engineers in Australia, Mr. McKay, of Walkers’ Manufacturing Company Limited, of Queensland, and that gentleman has been engaged to go to Lithgow with very large powers indeed. If he chooses,he is to make recommendations to the manager, Mr. Wright-
– Is Mr. Wright still manager?
– Mr. Wright is still at the Factory. We have given Mr. McKay very extensive powers, and we hope that he will act quickly. He is to consult with Mr. Wright, and the assistant manager, with a view to doing everything possible to bring about an early increase in the output of rifles. The management of the Factory will be free to engage skilled mechanics wherever they can be obtained in Australia. In fact, those in authority have been given a free hand in every way, the sole desire of the Government being that a second shift shall be instituted as soon as possible, so that the output of rifles may be augmented.
– As it will be necessary for the Commonwealth Government to raise a loan to meet the increased war expenditure, will the Prime Minister say whether it is the intention of the Government to raise such a loan in Australia ? Is it not a fact that a war loan of £10,000,000 could be raised in Australia at 4½ per cent. ?
– I do not know whether we could raise a war loan in Australia at 4½ per cent. For some time the Government have had in contemplation the flotation of a loan in Australia in order to provide money to meet necessary Commonwealth expenditure, including that in connexion with the war. The project has not yet developed sufficiently for any definite announcement to be made, butI believe that a large amount of money is available in Australia, and an opportunity will be given to the people to invest that money in Commonwealth securities.
– Having regard to the news published in this morning’s newspaper, concerning Government action in connexion with the sugar crop in Queensland, I shall be glad if the Prime Minister will make a statement to the House on the sugar question, and indicate what will be the position of the New South Wales growers, and those Queensland growers who are selling direct to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company?
– As this matter is not in a sufficiently advanced stage to allow of a definite answer being given, I ask the honorable member to put the question on the notice -paper for a few days ahead. I hope that all the growers and consumers in Australia will equally benefit from whatever action the Government may take.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral made any agreement with the Premier of Queensland in regard to the sugar crop? If so, will he indicate the terms of the agreement to the House ?
– The basis upon which an agreement may be arrived at has been decided between the Commonwealth and the Queensland Government,but, at the present stage of the negotiations, it is not possible for me to give any detailed information to the House. The arrangements, so far as they have gone, are such as will safeguard the interests of the producers and consumers throughout Australia.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether the Government are taking any steps to insure a proper supply of sugar to the people of Australia until the arrangement with the Queensland Government takes effect?
– That is part of our duty, now and always.
– Will the Prime Minister make inquiries as to whether there is a shortage of coal in Great Britain, and, if there is a shortage, will he inform the Imperial Government that large quantities of first-class coal can be supplied from New South Wales?
– The Government have already been in communication with the British Government on that matter, and we are awaiting a reply..
– Did the Prime Minister notice a letter published in the Age of Saturday last, signed by one Bruce Smith, in which the writer reflects on tho Speaker of this House by saying that the leader of half of the people - meaning the right Hon. Joseph Cook, P.O., M.P. - was prevented, by Mr. Speaker, from expressing his opinion, thereby inferring partisanship on the part of Mr. Speaker on account of his being a member of what Mr. Smith terms “The Labour-Socialist Party”? Also, did the Prime Minister notice the insult to members of this House in the passage in which the writer says, “ We are standing still as a nation, hand-tied and tongue-tied, because a knot of men actuated by the German International Socialist spirit, who are themselves German in spirit, German in their methods, and
German in their moral code- “ ? If so, will the Prime Minister take steps to have this unpatriotic person put under medical, if not military, care?
– The letter in question hae been twice mentioned to me, and twice brought before me, but I have not read it, nor do I intend to do so.
– In view of the fact that on and after Tuesday next the sale of alcoholic liquor will be restricted to the hours 9 a.m. to 9.30 p.m., will you, Mr. Speaker, confer with the President of the Senate with a view to the honouring of the amended licensing law in this House? Alternatively, will you confer with the President of the Senate with a view to taking a vote of the members and officers of both Houses on the question of whether the alcoholic bar shall be open during the day?
– The question raised by the honorable member is one whic.li comes within the jurisdiction of the House Committee. I have no objection to consulting with the President, and asking him to call a meeting of the House Committee for the consideration of the honorable member’s proposal.
Rah way Travelling of Soldiers : Letters to the Troops : Medical Examination of Volunteers : Register of Rejects.
– In view of the removal of the training camp to Seymour, and the consequent increased ex pense of railway travelling, will the As»sistant Minister of Defence endeavour to make arrangements with the Victoria,. Railways Commissioners for the conveyance of soldiers in uniform to and from the camp free of charge?
– 1 will bring the matter before the Minister of Defence.
– I have recently received a letter from the parent of a wounded man, in which it is stated that letters have been sent to him by every mail, but that he has not received any for over five weeks. Will the Assistant Minister of Defence state whether the improved system of delivery that he promised in regard to postal matter addressed to the troops has been brought into operation, or whether he has yet received any communication from Colonel Legge that effect has been given to the improved system adopted?
– It is quite possible that a wounded soldier has not received’ all the letters that have been sent to him, because of the difficulty that must be experienced . in quickly locating a soldier when he is sent to hospital. There are so many hospitals that it may be difficult to find any one soldier immediately. I shall be happy to make inquiries concerning the latter portion of the question.
– A few days ago I drew the attention of the PostmasterGeneral to the fact that letters which had been addressed to a private in the Canadian Field Artillery in England had been sent by the postal authorities here to Egypt. The Postmaster- General then promised to inquire. I should like to ask him whether he has done so, as these letters are still being returned from Egypt, although originally “they were addressed to England ?
– I have had the matter inquired into, though it is not yet finally cleared up.. At the same time, I am surprised that the difficulty should be continuing, in view of the fact that inquiries have been made.
– I should like to ask the Assistant Minister of Defence, in view of the enormous percentage of “rejects “ amongst the men who have volunteered for the front, whether he will take into consideration the desirability of making it clearer, either through the newspapers or by means of posters, what precisely is required from men anxious to enlist? It cannot be that all these rejections are due to physical defects. Will the Minister do what he can to stop men who have no chance of passing the medical examination coming forward? Mr. JENSEN”.- I shall be pleased to comply with the honorable member’s request.
– Can the Assistant Minister of Defence say whether it would be in accord with the policy of his Department to make public the instructions given regarding medical examination? May it not also be possible to relax in some particulars the rigidity of those instructions?
– I shall be pleased to bring the right honorable gentleman’s question under the notice of the Minister. I see some justification for it myself.
– Will the Assistant Minister of Defence state whether any register is kept of applications for enlistment at the. barracks, and whether, in view of the fact that there is to be a relaxation of the stringency of the medical examination, he will cause those who have been rejected for slight defects to be informed by letter that they may present themselves for re-examination ? If no such register is kept, will he cause one to be instituted ?
– I am not aware that such a register is kept, but I shall endeavour to comply with the honorable member’s request. It is quite possible that some men may have been rejected for very slight defects such as would not render them unfit in the future for enlistment. I think the suggestion is a good one.
– I should like to ask the Prime Minister if he has noticed the statement made by Dr. Rentoul at the meeting held in Melbourne last night, in which he says that he knew that “* as far as Mr. Fisher, Mr. Hughes and Senator Pearce were concerned, they in their hearts did not desire that this thing” - that is the referenda - “ should be placed before the people,” and “ that it had been thrust upon them by the powers behind.” I ask the Prime Minister if Dr. Rentoul was justified in making such a statement?
– If Dr. Rentoul has been properly reported he has said something that he has no warrant or authority of any kind for saying. The statement is not true. I desire to add that, however other men may be influenced or led or driven, as far as I am personally concerned I shall not be driven by any one to any line of conduct of which I do not approve.
– Will the honorable the Treasurer inform the House if he has availed himself to the full of the offer made by the banks to place £10,000,000 worth of gold with the Treasury in return for Commonwealth notes ?
– The Treasury has availed itself of the agreement between the banks and the Government. We have not collected all the gold that we might have collected, but I am glad to say - and to say as frequently as I can - that the banks have acted up to their agreement. The reason we have not asked for all the gold that we are entitled to ask for under the agreement is that we do not desire it.
– Can the Prime Minister inform the House whether he -has received any request from the committee organizing the State recruiting campaign that this House should adjourn for a week in order that honorable members may participate? If he has not received any request, and receives one, will he consider it?
– So far as I am aware, such a request as that referred to by the honorable member has not been received. Any request of that sort will receive the most careful consideration.
– Can the Assistant Minister of Defence give the House any information with reference to the progress that has been made in regard to the manufacture of munitions?
– We have received certain information from- the War Office regarding the manufacture of steel shrapnel shells, which has been distributed to the State Governments. We are still awaiting other information of a very secret nature from the War Office. Some information on this point has been received, and is being made use of by the Munitions Committee.
– The honorable member for Darwin, a few days ago, asked a question regarding the treatment of prisoners in Turkey. I promised him an answer. This is furnished in the following copy of a cablegram received from the Secretary of State for the Colonies on this subject, which has been forwarded for information : -
The Government of Turkey has agreed to establish a Prisoners of War Information Bureau, but its proceedings appear to be slow. United States Minister has been asked to obtain, as early as possible, from the United States Minister at Constantinople, information as to the means of the prisoners in custody of the Turkish authorities. Particulars will be cabled as soon as received.
Unemployment - Arrival of Settlers from Patagonia.
– In the Age last week there appeared a report, published as coming from the Administrator of the Northern Territory, to the effect that no more people were wanted there, as work could not be found for newcomers. I wish to ask the Minister of External Affairs whether that report is correct?
– It is true that a large number of men have gone lately to the Northern Territory, and that the Administrator has experienced difficulty in placing them in remunerative employment.
– Are they artisans?
– Artisans and labourers of all classes appear to have gone up there lately, and the Administrator has desired it to be notified in the southern States that there is no employment offering newcomers there at present.
– Has the attention of the Minister of External Affairs been drawn to the following cablegram from “Wellington, published in the Age of Thursday last : -
The Japanese steamer Kwanto Maru, bound from Talcahuano to Melbourne with a cargo of oats and 220 Patagonian emigrants who intend to settle in the vicinity of Darwin, put into Auckland to-night for coal.
The emigrants include Welsh, Russian, and Spanish nationals, with twelve women and fiftyeight children. The Welsh are a good stamp of settler, and some of the families have been farming for over twenty years in Argentina. “Will the Minister state how these poor” deluded people are going to make a living by farming in the Northern Territory, in view of the failures that have attended our own Government experimental farms up there?
– Order ! The honorable member is now going beyond the asking of a question.
– I am merely asking how these poor deluded people are going to make a living by farming in the Northern Territory?
– I have read the paragraph to which the honorable member has referred. These immigrants are coming to Australia under an arrangement made by the late Government as the outcome, I think, of a visit paid to Patagonia some time ago by Mr. Rees, M.L.C., of Victoria. These settlers sold off their farms preparatory to setting out for Australia .
– I think they sent representatives to Australia. I myself saw two or three of the men.
– Perhaps so. After the arrangement had been made, war broke out, and the matter was suspended. Representations were made to us, however, that since these people had sold up their homes, and were in a more or less destitute condition, it would be very improper for us to depart from the arrangement that had already been made with them, and as a ship was calling at Patagonia for certain freights, we provided that they should be brought out by it.
– The arrangement was made by a previous Labour Government.
– I am not aware of that.
– The sum of £500 was provided for them.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question without notice. An interjection made by the right honorable gentleman while the question of the removal of the sugar duty was under discussion in this House, on 24th June, must have been misapprehended by the Hansard reporter present at the time.
– “Will the honorable member ask his question?
– It was necessary, sir, that I should make this explanation. I wish to ask the Prime Minister - and I have already brought the matter under bis notice - whether the interjection, “ It is on the platform,” attributed to him in Hansard, page 4321, and which would make it appear that the question of the sugar duty is on the Labour platform, is correct ?
– I am reported in Hansard to have interjected, while the honorable member was speaking, “Nothing of the kind. It is on the platform.” That is incorrect. The last sentence should read, “ The Tariff is not a platform matter.”
– Will the Prime .Minister state whether local facilities are being offered to the Australian people who desire to help the Empire at this critical juncture by subscribing to the war loan now being floated by the Imperial Government?
– This Government is prepared to help the British Government and all other Governments of the Empire in every way possible, financially and otherwise.
– Judging from the reply of the Prime Minister, he does not seem to have quite grasped what I meant. What I desire to know is whether he will make arrangements through the Commonwealth Bank, or in some other way, so that the Australian public may be able to subscribe to the British war loan if they desire to do so?
– If the honorable mem. her is asking for information, I have only to say that the prospectus sent out by the British Government was to be handed to the press without comment. Beyond the prospectus, we have no further information. Doubtless there will be further communications, and as soon as any are received that may be given to the House, they will be given.
PAPER CURRENCY. Mr. BOYD. - In view of the statement -which appeared in the Australian press yesterday, that Austria was insolvent because she had issued £300,000,000 of paper, which is equal to £6 per head of “her population, and the fact that Australia has a’ paper currency of £30,000,000, which is also equal to £6 per head of her population, will the Prime Minister say that he subscribes to the doctrine that Australia is insolvent?
– The appearance of the honorable member and others is, in itself, sufficient to supply an answer to his question. There is no danger, nor is there any approaching danger, in this regard. Our paper currency will expand to a considerably higher amount than that of the present issue without any danger, or appearance of danger, attaching to it. This serves to show that there is a difference between Australia and Austria, although both names begin with the same letter of the alphabet.
Quality, of Boots : Government Tannery and Boot Factory : Pensions for Nurses : “ Unredeemed “ Corps : Boot Contract
asked the Assistant Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are–
The committee examined the four pairs of boots first sent from Queensland, and two pairs taken from the stock at the Ordnance Store, and compared them with the sealed pattern made by each of the contractors concerned. The committee reported, on this examination, that the six pairs of boots complained of were so much below the sealed sample in quality that they ought not to have been passed by the examining inspectors stationed at the factories in which they were made.
The committee afterwards examined a number of pairs of boots taken from the bulk store at the stores which had been supplied by each of the eleven Victorian contractors at various times. The committee, after making this examination, were unanimously of opinion that the sweeping condemnation of the Queensland Chamber of Manufactures was not justified, and that the Brisbane statements applied to only a portion (and that not a large one) of the boots supplied by certain firms only.
Instructions were at once given to the temporary assistant examiners stationed at the factories at which the defective boots had been made to exercise more care in their work, and to see that only boots up to the standard required should be passed in future; and the services of three of the temporary assistant examiners were dispensed with.
asked the Assistant Minister, representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s, questions are -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will at once extend the provisions of the War Pensions Act to nurses accompanying the Expeditionary Forces, or those dependent upon them in the event of illness or disablement, and so place them on the same footing as our brave soldiers?
– The question will receive consideration.
asked the Assistant Minister, representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Whether the Minister will request the Cabinet to give consideration to the formation of a regiment or legion of “the unredeemed,” consisting of young men who have served, or are serving, sentences for offences other than serious crimes, so that they can be given a chance to “ make good,” and thus earn the respect of their fellow citizens?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
It is not considered desirable that a regiment of “the unredeemed” should be formed. No obstacle is placed in the way of a man enlisting as a member of the Australian Imperial Forces who has been convicted by the civil power, except for the most serious offences, who has expiated his offence and has since been of good character. On enlistment such men take their places as ordinary members of the Australian Imperial Forces, and the fact of their having been convicted would not be generally known. It is considered preferable to give such men the chance of retrieving their character in this way rather than by the formation of a corps of “ the unredeemed.” It is considered probable that few men would wish to join such a corps if they could give their services in an ordinary unit, as a corps bearing the name of “ the unredeemed “ would, no doubt, be an object of probably unwarranted suspicion, and the members thereof would, perhaps, be subject to undeserved indignities which would not attach to them as ordinary members of the Australian Imperial Forces.
asked the Assistant Minister, representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Minister by the proper officer in respect of the contract for supply of boots by Mr. Henry Harris, boot manufacturer, of Fitzroy?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Letter Carriers’ Half Holiday: Forage Allowance : Change of Title - Functions of Postal Officers - Appointment of Postmasters. Dr. MALONEY (for Mr. CARR) asked” the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Act to provide for a half-holiday if he cannot move the Public Service Commissioner to act, seeing that a weekly half-holiday is on the Labour platform?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Will lie lay on the table of the House the reasons for altering the designation of “letter carrier “ in the Postal Department to “ postman”?
– The designation “postman” is regarded as more suitable and appropriate to the duties required than that of letter carrier. It is the designation used in the British Postal Service.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether he will cause the papers connected with the appointment of postmasters at Geelong, Ballarat, and Warrnambool to be placed on the table of the House!
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the increased price of copper, and the desire of the Great Fitzroy Mining Company to re-commence mining operations as soon as the Port Moresby to Astrolabe Railway is constructed, the Minister will expedite the construction of the said railway?
– Further consideration of this matter is waiting a reply to a proposal concerning guarantees that has been submitted to the company.
asked the Assistant Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
What is the approximate cost involved in paragraph 8, of No. 58, under the Defence Act Regulations dated 18th June, 1915, which provides eighteen days’ leave on full pay each year (exclusive of Sundays and holidays) after twelve months’ service, and provides further for eighteen days’ pay to those employees discharged within six months of the commencement of this regulation?
– This information will be compiled, and supplied at a later date.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
With reference to the construction of the railway on the 4 ft. 8J in. gauge from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle, to which the Government of Western Australia is pledged, and to the statement of the Premier of Western Australia that want of funds alone prevents the work being proceeded with at once -
Has his attention been called to the statement of the Premier of Western Australia that he had a long conference with him (Mr. Fisher) on the subject recently?
Was any arrangement or understanding arrived at at such conference as to funds being provided or otherwise arranged for, so that the work can be proceeded with?
Will he give this House the fullest information he can on this subject?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Assistant Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Has the recommendation of Mr. J. ‘Davis, Director-General of Public Works, New South Wales, contained in his report on second shift at Small Arms Factory, Lithgow, in which lie strongly advises that the new arrangement as regards management be brought into force at once, been approved of and acted upon?
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Inquiry will be made, and replies furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
If he will have information prepared, showing the exports from the Australian Commonwealth of wheat, flour, meat, rabbits, sugar, hay, oats, bran, pollard, straw, giving the amounts monthly from August, 1914, to June, 1915, under “each item?
– The information will Ire obtained.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Escape Island, south of Geraldton; Benmason Point, near Hopetoun.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In view of a possible record Australian wheat crop, will he at once gut in touch with the oversea shipping companies, so that adequate space will be reserved for the conveyance of grain to the Mother Country?
– The matter has received the attention of the Government, but at the present early stage it is not considered possible to make any definite announcement.
asked the ‘ Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are: -
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Representatives of another prominent United States of America meat firm have recently visited several of the principal meat works in Queensland. There is no evidence available as to the object of the visits. An Australian firm with large meat works in Now South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland is reported to have purchased a site in Queensland for another meat works.
Plans of extensive meat works for a British company, to be erected at Wyndham Western Australia, have been submitted for consideration under provisions of commerce regulations.
Tugboats : Dredging : Breakwaters : Engineer’s House
asked the Assistant Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to. the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Assistant Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Assistant Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
: In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 25th June, vide page 4447) :
Postmaster-General’s Department. Division 107 (Central Staff), £32,232. Mr. W. ELLIOT JOHNSON (Lang) [3.57]. - I desire to bring a few matters under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral, but I wish to preface my remarks with a general indorsement of what has been said in commendation of the service rendered by the letter carriers’ branch, and I may include also the sorting branch. I think that the letter carriers have been unjustly aspersed in some quarfters My experience of them in New South Wales has been that they go to great pains to render efficient service to the public, and that they have succeeded admirably in so doing. I have known many cases where they have gone to infinite trouble in the performance of their duties ; indeed, to a far greater extent than would be officially expected of them. In testimony of the efficiency of the Department in the delivery of correspondence, I may mention a little episode iii my own experience. At a time when I was not engaged in public life, and therefore not as well known as I am today, I received a letter which was sent from a foreign country, and was addressed 3imply “ W. E. Johnson, Australia, near New Zealand.” The fact that the letter readied me safely and without very much delay is a tribute to the care and trouble that the officers take in securing the proper delivery of letters, and is also an illustration of the efficiency of those engaged in the letter-carrying service. I wish to bring under the attention of the Postmaster-General the delays which sometimes take place in the delivery of telegrams in the suburbs of Sydney. On more than one occasion I have lodged telegrams between 2 o’clock and 3 o’clock in Melbourne for despatch to my home in Sydney, and they have not been delivered until the next day, though on one or two occasions my people- have been rung up about midnight from the chief telegraph station in Sydney, and have been informed of the contents of the telegrams over the telephone. Some steps should be taken to secure the. more- expeditious delivery of telegrams. In connexion with another matter, I have re ceived the following letter from Mr. D. N. Morrison, the town clerk of St. Peters, New South Wales: -
St. Peter’s, 24th June, 1915
I am directed by my council to forward herewith copy of a communication received from the Postmaster-General’s Department in connexion with the removal of a telegraph post at King-street, Tempe, and to ask if you would kindly take the matter in band, with a view to having, if not all, a considerable portion of the charge demanded by the Commonwealth Department for the removal of the pole in question, reduced.
The pole is situated in a position that is not dangerous to the traffic, in fact in a position that it has occupied for the last two years since the road has been widened, and there has been no complaints received by this council in connexion therewith, and is considered could well be left in the present position, without placing the council to the unnecessary and, in its opinion, the unjust expenditure, part of which it is pointed out they have to pay in connexion with the removal. It appears to them rather an excessive charge, and as the Department consider that they only have the right to charge a portion of the expense of the removal in this case, the question now arises as to why the council were charged the full expense in connexion with the removal of the first pole?
The removal of the pole in question is tl-.e subject-matter of the following letter, signed by R. Nelson, electrical engineer, on behalf of the Deputy PostmasterGeneral, which has been forwarded to the council : -
G.P.O., Sydney, 15th June, 1915
Sir, .It has been brought under notice that a 40-f t. pole, the property of this Department, is standing in a position dangerous to traffic in the roadway about 15 feet in front of the Pulteney Hotel, King-street, St. Peters.
It is not easy to understand the great discrepancy which is here disclosed between the cost of removing these two telegraph poles. To my mind, the cost of removing a single pole appears to be excessive. I do not know what items go to make up the total cost of £48 for removing one telegraph pole a few yards. . Mr. Laird Smith. - How many .wires were on the pole?
– The same number, presumably, as were on the other pole, the removal of which cost £30 19s. 6d. But, apart from the apparently exorbitant charge, an explanation is required of the reason why the entire cost of removing the first pole had to be borne by the council, whereas, in connexion with the removal of the second pole, only the cost of the irrecoverable material, labour, cartage, &c, is to be debited to She council. Surely the practice in this respect should be a uniform one, and if the proportion of the charge borne by the council in the second instance is represented by the cost of the irrecoverable material, labour, cartage, &c, it should have been charged only that proportion in the first instance, and a proportionate refund should be made to the council. I would suggest to the PostmasterGeneral that the regulations regarding the apportionment of ‘cost in connexion with the removal of poles in municipal areas - removals which are sometimes necessitated by alterations in road alignments - should be revised, with a view to the more equitable distribution of that cost, and to preventing municipalities being called upon to bear the whole or an excessive part of it. I hope the honorable gentleman will give my suggestion favorable consideration. Another matter to which. I desire to direct attention has reference to the delay which is sometimes experienced in the erection of public telephones, after the necessary authority for their erection has been forthcoming. As far back as February last I received an intimation from the Department that approval had been given to a proposal to install a public telephone at the Terminus Store, in Stony Creek-road, West Bexley. Yet, on the 22nd June, I received from
Mr. A. W. Wood, the proprietor of the store, the following communication: -
The residents of West Bexley were, indeed, very pleased to hear that a public telephone had been granted them. Your letter notifying me of the above has been in a prominent position in my window since I received it-5th February, 1915.
The patience of the residents is well nigh exhausted, and they have asked me to write you and see if you can expedite matters for us.
Of course, I recognise that some little delay must be experienced before these public conveniences can be provided. But, in my judgment, the period which has elapsed since approval was given to this particular work is excessive. I ask the Postmaster-General whether he cannot devise some means of securing greater expedition in providing the public with these necessary facilities, especially in places where the population is a growing one, and where frequent telephonic communication is necessary for business and other purposes. A good deal of the delay is probably due to the fact that there is not sufficient material on hand to carry out all the works for which approval has been given. I have often held the view that many of the complaints which we make here, on behalf of our constituents and the general public, arise, not from slackness or neglect on the part of the officials of the Department, but from the fact that sufficient financial provision has not been made for supplies of materials in anticipation of necessary extension and expansion of facilities which we look to the Department to provide. I doubt whether any blame attaches to the officers of the Department in connexion with these matters. It should attach, rather, to the members of the Government, who have not seen that sufficient sums have been placed on the Estimates to enable the Department to lay in a stock of materials in advance of requirements. I have often complained in this House, in the past, of a tendency to starve the Post Office vote; and the congestion of work in the Department, which is the source of so many complaints at the present time is, no doubt, due to the cutting down of earlier estimates for supplies. There was a time when the Post and Telegraph Department was considered to be comparatively unimportant, and when it was believed that the Minister charged with its administration enjoyed a sinecure, but that time has gone by long since, and the Department is now one of very great magnitude. The Postmaster-General and his chief officials should see to it that adequate amounts are included in the departmental estimates to meet all the requirements of the ensuing twelve months, and to cover the extension and expansion of all branches of the Department. In connexion with another matter, I wish to direct attention now to what, in ray opinion, is a very serious matter indeed. I am not sure that the remedy lies solely within the province of the PostmasterGeneral. I think that, perhaps, it may be a matter for consultation between him and the Minister of Defence. Some time ago, my attention was drawn to a letter sent by a German now in Germany, who was formerly a resident of Australia. The peculiarity of the communication is that, while it is dated from Mainz, Germany, it does not bear anywhere on the envelope a German postmark, or any external evidence of its German origin. It was evidently sent under cover to some one in the business firm of “ Jones-Rausch Company, Manufacturers and Importers of Turpentine and Resin, New Orleans, La., United States of America,” for transmission to Australia, in order that the origin of the communication might not be known. The envelope bears the New Orleans postmark of 15th May, and the Melbourne postmark of 28th June. The evident intention of the writer of this letter is to undermine the loyalty of our people, to create a spurious sympathy for Germans, and a detestation of the British. I shall leave out the name of the person to whom the letter is addressed, and, after making one or two quotations from it, I shall be prepared to hand it, with the covering envelope, to the Postmaster-General, in order that he may go into the matter more fully at his leisure. The letter is dated “Mainz, 24th April, 1915,” and begins
One enclosure. Enclosed I beg to hand you report No. 12.
This is evidently the twelfth communication of a series of this kind which has been sent, and I presume that several similar communications have been sent to other people. As a matter of fact, another friend of mine in Sydney received a letter probably from the same source, because it came in the same firm’s envelope, “ JonesRausch Company,” and bore the New Or leans postmark, and was without any German postmark at all. I sent one of these communications to the Minister of Defence some time ago, but it appears that these letters are still coming in, and, so far as I can see, no attempt is being made to prevent their admission or delivery, or to censor them in any way. The writer of this letter says -
I also beg to mention several items which I have read in the papers, “ An American about England.” From the private letter of a prominent American citizen, one of the leading men of science, we glean the following lines : - I belong to one of the oldest families in the States. My ancestors belonged to those Puritans which went over in the Mayflower, the pioneer ship. My great grandfathers fought against the British for their independence in 1776, my grandfathers fought against them on account of their malice and perfidity in 1812, and also father fought against their machinations and deceitful treachery in our Civil War in 1861-65. With all the Saxon blood in my veins, I have never forgot that England has been the treacherous, malicious foe of the United States, as long as they exist. We have our personal individual friendships, you, as well as I, Germans, French, Austrians, Russians, belong to my warmest friends, but I seek in vain amongst the English for a single friendship, which would be more than a polite esteem, and so I feel very strongly, that England is immoral in the eyes of the entire world, and that she deserves to be censured before the whole world and must be awakened out of her lethargy. She continues still to spread her lies about the war, over the English speaking world, and deserves for this action a very strong censure.
That is a deliberate falsehood so far as I know, as nothing of the sorthas been done.
It is further necessary to speak to England plainly of the wrong which she is doing by obliging her innocent and fair-thinking colonies, like Canada, to fetch for her the chestnuts out of the fire. And her actual attitude against us, a neutral country, is in the highest degree exciting, especially as compared with the attitude of Germany. Three months ago - the letter is written on the 5th March - England might have won the favour of a great portion of our people by a clever diplomacy, but now she has lost what she might have won. . . . Every well-educated person knows to-day that Germany leads in the world as regards culture, that she is in the vanguard of civilization, and that in every respect. . . .
I have read in the paper the following remark : -
The AmericanConsul Thompson. The retreat of the American Consul Thompson from his office - Aix la Chapelle - has caused a great deal of surprise in the United States.
This Consul has given uphis situation as a protest against the position taken by his superior Secretary of State Bryan and the funny part played by the United States in the neutrality question. Mr. Thompson is shocked about the lies which have been spread in the United States since the beginning of the war.
Mr. Thompson has the intention to direct an open letter to Mr. Bryan in which he will show that Germany lias not been treated justly by the Americans. He will dedicate himself to the defence of Germany against the detestable calumnies of the entente. It must be mentioned that Mr. Thompson’s wife is of English birth, and that his brother-in-law is in the English Army. He was several years in England, and is a thorough judge and connoisseur of German and English matters. When the war is over, it will be found that England or her Statesmen and a great deal of the English nation has played a very nasty part.
When the war is over the Right Honorable
Sir Grey ; “For Brutus is an honorable man, “ So are they all, all honorable men. will be able to say, like the king in Hamlet: 0 my offence is rank, it smells to Heaven, and the entire chorus of honorable men, that brought about this war, to serve their own selfish ends, may say like Hamlet - “ Foul deeds will rise, Though all the earth o’erwhelm them to men’s eyes.” Mark my words. . . . When the war is over, we will speak more of it. If the English are too stupid to compete with the Germans in the works of peace, they will spoil them by destruction of their factories. But the English pirates will catch it this time. 1 have read in the Frankfort Gazette an article of a Professor Dr. Otto Maas (Munich). He had been in Australia at the outbreak of the war; there was, I think, a Congress there at the time of men of science, and the German members received later on the permission to leave the country, at least those that were beyond the military age. He says that Australian papers printed the following nonsense : - “ That the Russian Kossacks had reached Johannisberg, a town world-famed for its wine, near Wiesbaden, and they spoke of the keen raid of the Kossacks. But Johannisberg in eastern Prussia and Johannisberg half-an-hour from Mayence are two pairs of boots. This shows the utter ignorance of Australian newspaper scriblers. Further, they said in the paper, that in the Garibaldian legion there were still many of the ‘original Garibaldian legion, i.e., of the followers of the famous Garibaldi. But it appears that the stupid Australian scriblers do not Know that Garibaldi made his famous raids in Italy about 60 years ago, so that the men who took part, in them must be now about 80-78 years old at least, supposing the youngest had been 16-20 years old at the time. As far as I know, there are still a few of these men alive, but history and geography are not the particular strength of the Australian scriblers. Of football they know more. Mr. Maas says, also, that the conduct of the Australians against the Germans has not been n very correct one.
The German Club in Melbourne, he says, has been stormed by the populace. I have read some descriptions about it in German papers - out of letters that have been brought out. I must say Australia has forfeited every consideration of a civilized country. However, when the war is over, it will be found that the English statesmen and the English nation has heaped for ever on them the name of liars and swindlers and pirates. Mark my word. Truth will bring it out. May be that England and the other countries will try to continue her lying practices, but I dare say that the German Government will find means how to force them to avow the truth, that they have behaved like mean contemptible liars.
I have not quoted it all, but that is the kind of stuff that runs all through this communication, and it comes here apparently without any attempt being made to interfere with its free delivery to Australian citizens. Any one can see that the underlying object of the letter is, by means of gross fabrications and misrepresentations of fact, to undermine the loyalty of our people, and create a spurious sympathy with Germany. I propose to hand the letter to the PostmasterGeneral, so that he may look more fully into the matter of allowing, uncensored, delivery of letters having the same firm’s name on the envelope.
.- I do not propose to spend most of the time -it my disposal in criticising the Postal Department, although I do not regard it a? perfect, because, of course, no Department .controlled by man is perfect; but, while a good deal has been said in criticism of it, it is only fair to show the other side of the picture a little. I am glad that the Committee is able to discuss the Estimates of the Department with the financial report before it. This has been so for the last two or three years, but during the eight or ten years that the Liberal party were in office they apparently took no steps to see exactly how the Post Office was being run. We could not tell whether the telegraphic branch, or the telephone branch, or the postal branch was paying, and it remained for a Labour Government to alter that state of affairs.
– And I suppose you are the man.
– I did not say who the man was. I said I was glad that a Labour Government made an alteration. They appointed Mr. Triggs and Mr. Haldane, who, by the way, came from Western Australia, and to whom a good deal of credit is due for the way in which they placed the financial position of the whole Department before Parliament. Mr. Triggs has since left to take up in New Zealand an even better appointment than he had here. I believe it took those gentlemen about three years to do the work for which they were engaged - a fact which shows the chaotic state of the Department in regard to finance at the time. I am specially pleased to see that the postal branch is paying, even though we have established penny postage. A profit of over £24,000 was made last year in this branch, and I hold that if the Department had nothing more to its credit, it speaks volumes for it that in a continent such as this we can carry on penny postage at a profit.
– We brought it in, and you all voted against it.
– That is not so. I was always an advocate of it. I do not know of any other country which under similar circumstances is giving the same facilities as we are. America, including Alaska, is a little larger than Australia, but it has a population of 100,000,000. Canada is somewhere about the same size as Australia, but has 50 per cent, more population than the Commonwealth. In neither of those countries are the same postal facilities given as in this country. I understand that, in Canada, before there is a letter delivery in a town the population must be 10,000, and the revenue from the Post Office £2,000. In America, I believe it is necessary for atown to have 5,000 people, and a revenue of £1,000 before a letter delivery is provided. Some years ago the conditions in America were the same as in Canada, - a population of 10,000, and a revenue of £2,000 - but I remember reading a few years back that the authorities brought the requirements down to 5,000 of a population, and a revenue of £1,000, and they spoke of it as a wonderful reform. Supposing we had exactly the same regulations in Australia as in Canada, we could do away with a whole army of letter carriers, and the sorters would be able to do their work under very different conditions, because they would not have anything like their present quantity of night work. I am not advocating that we should not make the early deliveries, but I am only pointing out that, in Canada, which has 50 per cent, more people than Australia, the same facilities are not provided. It is very satisfactory to know that the Post Office is making a profit, and providing better facilities than are provided elsewhere. If we were to run our Post Office Department as is done in England and other countries, our permanent buildings would b© provided out of loans, and not out of revenue.
– Why not?
– If we did, our profit would be greater than at present;; but I am not advocating that policy.
– We could give more facilities.
– The profit, of course, would be greater. Another matter which I consider is rather unfair to the Post Office is the subsidy of £170,000 a year now paid to the Orient Company. I am not saying for one moment that the amount is too great, but I contend that it is unfair that the Post Office should be charged with the whole of it.
– What Department should be charged ?
– I should say the Department of Trade and Customs, and I think the Minister, when he asked the question, knew the answer he would get, because this is a view I have advocated previously. Our arrangement with the Orient Steamship Company is not one merely for letter carrying. It is also one for Trade and Customs work, and I think that, say, half the amount - £85,000 - should be charged to the Department of Trade and Customs. That would be a fair allocation, and be fairer to the Postal Department than the present arrangement. Coming now to the vexed question of telephones, I notice that last year the loss on this account was. £296,424. Here, again/ I want to make a comparison with Canada and America. In both those countries, the telephones and telegraphs are in the hands of private enterprise, so that if our Post Office system were on the same lines there would be a profit instead of a loss on the system, because private enterprise would be carrying on the business of telephones and telegraphs.
– The loss on telephones is nearly all in the city, is it not?
– Nearly all. I desire to point out that the loss on the telephones would be converted into a profit if we were to levy the same charges as in England, which, perhaps, affords the best comparison, because in the Mother Country the telephone system is a Government monopoly. In England the charge is £5 ground rent, and Id. for each ring. Assuming, therefore, that we had the same number of telephones as under the present system, and charged £5 ground rent, and Id. for each ring, there would be a profit of over £100,000.
– What did you say the Canadian charges were?
– I do not know; but I am dealing with England, which affords the best basis for comparison. I know that, in some parts of America, a payment of £13 is required as a ground rent.
– How does the charge in England compare with ours ?
– I am about to tell the Committee. In England the charge is £5 ground rent, and Id. for each ring, whereas in Australia the charge for ground rent is £4, £3 10s., or £3, according to circumstances, and £d. for each ring. Our revenue from ground rent was £473,704, and from tolls £285,997. We have about 120,000 telephones, so if we -kidded £1 to the ground rent, that would bring the revenue on that account up to £593,704, and with a Id. charge for calls the revenue from that source would be doubled. If we were to charge a ground rent of £5, or £4 10s., or £4, as the case might be, and a penny a call instead of a halfpenny, we might not have the same number of rings. But suppose that the telephone was used exactly as it is used to-day, and the English charge was adopted here, we would have a profit of £109,373 a year instead of the loss which we sustain. It should be remembered that there is a difference in the wages paid to employees in the two countries. I do not think that we pay too much : I do not advocate for a moment that we should pay any less ; but certainly our .wages are considerably higher than are paid in England for exactly the same kind of work. Besides, a plant is obviously cheaper in England than it is here, because most of the plant we use has naturally to be imported. Even if our plant were made in the Commonwealth, the cost of a plant would still be a little cheaper in England than here. Therefore, our plant is more expensive, our wages are higher, and our charges are less than those levied in England. I am not very keen on urging that the PostmasterGeneral should charge more for the service: but I am pointing out that there are those who complain about the Government service and control, and at the same time refer to the loss upon our operations. We simply reply that we are not charging even so much as is charged in other countries where the wages and the cost of the plant are not so high. Whilst I think I was right in bringing in the toll telephone, and doing it in the way in which it was done - and it did not prove to be such a frightfully disastrous thing to the community- as was predicted - there was one thing in which I believe I did make a mistake, and that was in granting the concession that when there were over 2,000 rings the charge should be a third of a penny a call instead of a halfpenny. I confess that were I the Minister now I would not hesitate for a moment in doing away with that concession, and providing that for all rings, irrespective of whether the number was 2,000 or 3,000, the charge per call should be one-halfpenny; because most of the rings over 2,000 are connected with big warehouses and large business firms, and are worth infinitely more than a halfpenny each to the person who rings up. Besides, I believe it would do the public themselves a certain amount of good to make the change, because there are in Australia business men who, I am afraid, have not yet begun to understand the full value of the telephone to them.
– Take it away from them for a while.
– I admit that if the telephone were taken away for a day or two there would be a great outcry. When I introduced the toll telephone a prominent business man in a large capital had his telephone disconnected, and stated at a public meeting that he had taken that step in order to bring me to my senses ; but three days afterwards he went round to the Deputy Postmaster-General and begged that his telephone might be put back. He went on strike for three days, and that was quite sufficient to convince him that he had made a mistake. There is a number of business men who endeavour to save a little by crowding the rings on some of their lines in order to increase the number on a particular line over the 2,000 calls, so that they can have the calls at a third of a penny each. If the Postmaster-General were to do away with that arrangement, and make a charge of a halfpenny for every ring, there would be no particular interest in crowding a line, and I believe that some business men would put on other telephones, and instead of having two or three they would have four or five, because the added cost to them would be only the ground rent of £4. That is an idea which I give to the Postmaster-
General gratis, and, if he likes to do something in that direction, I shall be pleased. I notice, in conuexion with our telephone system, that the loss in Victoria is £60,384. I did read in a leading metropolitan paper here that in Victoria there was no loss, but that. in Sydney there was a loss. There is a loss even in Melbourne. If the figures are examined, it will be seen that the working expenses of the Melbourne service are met by the revenue, but other expenses have also to be met, such as the interest on the buildings, the interest on the plant, and so on. In Victoria, the annual loss is £60,384, but in New South Wales the loss is £171,000.
– How much of the loss is incurred in Sydney?
– Most of it. It was mentioned in a newspaper some time ago that the Postmaster-General was to receive a report - he is “great” on getting reports - as to why the loss is more in Sydney than in Melbourne. I do not know whether he has received the report yet, but, if it has been received, I think it would be rather interesting to the Committee to know why it is that so much more loss is made” in Sydney than in Melbourne.
– In Sydney there are twenty-nine exchanges and 35,000 subscribers, and the cost of putting up and running is altogether different from the cost here.
– It would be very interesting to see the report. Of course it may be that the present charges are too low for the cities, especially Melbourne and Sydney. Clearly, the more telephones there are, the larger will be the loss, because there is a certain loss on each line. The telephone service does not stand in the same position as most businesses. Ordinarily, the more customers a man has, the less becomes the expense of running his business, but that is not the case with telephoning, and, unless an adequate charge is made, the more subscribers there are connected the greater will be the loss on the service. Will the PostmasterGeneral say whether he has received the report I referred to just now?
– Long ago. There are reasons for the disparity, which I will explain by-and-by.
– I think it would be very satisfactory if the report were laid on the table, so that we might, see for ourselves why the cost is greater in Syduey than in Melbourne.
– I propose to give that information, and a lot of other information, when we have the new charges.
– Very well. I know there are some business men who say that they are prepared to pay anything so long as they are provided with a good service. Their main idea is to get a good service. They declare that in England and other countries a good service is provided, but I venture to say that there is no better service in England than in Australia. In London they have two services; I understand that there is a national service, which used to be in private hands, and. the new service, one which has been started tie novo by the Government. When a subscriber was on a portion of the latter service, it was all right, but immediately he got in contact with the other service, trouble began, just the same as occurs here, where we have the metallic circuit and the old earth return. Immediately we are on the metallic circuit, we are all right, but when we get in touch with the other system, a little trouble begins, but that, I believe, is being obviated rapidly. I venture to say that in England they have no service which is more up to date than our automatic service. I speak with some experience of the automatic service at Brighton. Whilst it does go out of order now and again, especially after a storm, because most of the wires are in the air, generally speaking it is satisfactory. Altogether the service in Australia compares favorably with the service in England, and it is supplied at a cheaper rate here.
– How do you account for the service in New South Wales being so much inferior to the service in Victoria’
–I do not think that the service is as good there as here. Some years ago the service in Victoria was so frightfully rotten that the Government, when they took it over, did not try to patch it up, but started gradually to build a new exchange, and a very fine exchange they -have to-day. Consequently, although the Melbourne telephone service was for years worse than the Sydney telephone system, it is now better than it. In Melbourne the Department started de novo, but in Sydney it tried to patch up the original exchange, which is too crowded in the accommodation provided at the General Post Office, from which it should have been removed years ago. The telegraph service, like the telephone service,, is not paying. One reason for that is obvious: the charges are too low. I know of no country in which wages are anything like so high as they are in Australia where telegrams can be sent across a continent at the rate of Is. for sixteen words. The telegraph rates of the United States of America and of Canada are much higher than ours.
– One has to pay 2s. for sixteen words to get a telegraph message through in reasonable time
– I always have to send “ urgent “ wires.
– My experience is that the ordinary rates are sufficient, though many persons pay urgent rates to get precedence. It may be that we have not enough lines, but our rates are certainly lower than those of any other country. Many persons in this community, and some members of the Committee, contend that private enterprise would perform all these services more cheaply and in a better manner than they are performed by the Government. At one time the Pacific Cable connected with a land lino across Canada which was privately owned, as well as with a privately-owned cable across the Pacific; but the blunders made on the privately -owned land line prevented the cable from being as successful as it should have been, there being ten mistakes on that land line to every mistake on the Government-owned land lines of Australia. The .mistakes on the Canadian privatelyowned land line were so many that at last the Pacific Cable Board succeeded in obtaining control of the line. I hope that the Postmaster-General is doing something to bring about the nationalization of the Atlantic Cable.
– Why did not the honorable member, when Postmaster-General, try to have that cable made a Stateowned concern !
– The honorable member for Wimmera at one time never made a speech, no matter what the subject, without introducing the Atlantic Cable, but when his party was in office, and the fate of his Government depended on his vote, he had nothing to say about it. I hope that he will do what lie can now to bring about the nationalization of the
Atlantic. Cable. Were the cables of the world nationalized, we should have fuller information regarding what is happening to our boys at the front, though I admit that it would be very difficult to bring about the general nationalization of cable lines at the present time. I hope, however, that the Postmaster-General will do all that he can to induce the British Government to consent to the nationalize tion of an Atlantic cable, so that messages may be sent between Australia and England over lines that are entirely Government owned.
– Does the honorable member think that the British Government will take the matter up while the war is on ?
– I think that this is the time to take the matter up, although 1 am unable to deal with the subject at any length just now. In England people are writing as they never did before in advocacy of this proposal. The British Government must now depend entirely upon private cable companies for the sending of messages between Great Britain and America and Australia, but I believe that, were the Postmaster-General to stir himself, something could be done for the nationalization of an Atlantic cable. We have been told that the United States is the home of private enterprise; that it flourishes there and does wonders, There the telegraphs and telephones are entirely in private hands; they are not, as here, under the control of the Government. Yet this is what the PostmasterGeneral of the United States of America says in his report for 1914 -
The Postmaster-General renews the recommendation embodied in his last annual report that Congress seriously consider the question of declaring a Government monopoly over all utilities’ for the transmission of intelligence, and that steps be taken as soon as practicable to incorporate into the postal establishment the telegraph and telephone systems of the country.
The recommendation was made in 1913, and emphasized in the report for 1914, in which this statement also occurs -
The firm conviction of the Department is here reiterated that telegraph and telephone service is inevitably monopolistic, and, when operated’ under private control, does not render the maximum of public service at the minimum cost to the whole people.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I cannot altogether agree with the remarks of the honorable member for Barrier, who says that he believes in penny postage, because the greater the number of letters the better the postal service must pay, and yet in the same breath contends that the telephone service will not pay unless the telephone rates are increased. If the argument regarding the postal service is good, that regarding the telephone service must be bad. A great deal has been said about the loss incurred by the services which are under the control of the Postmaster-General, but, so long as there is no waste, and the public gets value for the money that it pays, I think that no exception need be taken to that loss. The Post Office is really an advertising medium ; the Department is not a revenueproducing one.
– How does the honorable member propose to make good the increasing loss on the working of the Department ?
– The people of Australia .are heavily taxed - those in New South Wales are the most heavily taxed people in the world - and they should get some return for their taxation. The PostmasterGeneral’s Department was never intended to be a revenue-producing one. There may be a loss of £500,000 a year on the working of the Department, but there are compensating gains which overshadow it. Australia is a vast continent, and the policy of every Government should be to increase settlement in its back country. Those who live in cities cannot realize the comfort given by telephone communication to those who live in remote districts. I have often, on the arrival of a country mail, noticed the eagerness with which letters are seized and read. Then comes the perusal of the newspapers, and, after that, the examination of the catalogues, to whose circulation through the post the honorable member for Oxley so much objects.
– I say that the firms who send out catalogues by way of advertising their wares should pay the cost of their transport.
– By the circulation of these catalogues country people are encouraged to trade with the people in the cities, to the benefit of all classes. As to newspaper postage, it is not the proprietors of the newspapers who pay it.
– Why not make them do so?
– We wish to do all that is possible to encourage settlement in country districts, and to relieve the. congestion in the big centres of population. To do this, we must give all the conveniences we can furnish to the people in the country. For that reason we should not be over-critical regarding the annual loss incurred by the Postmaster-General’s Department.
– But it is increasing every year.
– So is the settlement of the country. The graduated land tax pro duces something like £1,500,000 a year, most of the money coming from taxpayers living in the country, and it provides more than the loss on the working of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I hope that the Postmaster-General will not act on the advice of the honorable member for Oxley; certainly I trust that he will not increase country telephone rates. The country telephone services are paying, and any loss that is being incurred is incurred in connexion with the working of the big city exchanges. I was very pleased to receive the information from the PostmasterGeneral’s Department that” a sum of £60,000 had been set aside to give relief to needy mail contractors, but I am sorry that the granting of relief is so slow. On the 20th May a motion was moved in the House affirming that relief should be given, but only a few days ago I received the following letter -
Sat, - With reference to the communication ‘dated the 29th April last, presented to you from Mr. J. A. Atkinson, mail contractor, Trundle, requesting that his subsidy for the conveyance of mails between Trundle and Crowley’s be increased, I have to intimate that the matter has received consideration, but as contracts are let both in good and bad years, provision doubtless being made by tenderers in the prices submitted to meet the vicissitudes of the weather, and as increased payment would be unfair to other tenderers for the service, the request cannot, it is regretted, be acceded to.
I shall be glad if the Postmaster-General will make a note of this matter, and see that these applications are dealt with speedily. A few days ago, I received a note from a mail contractor in which he said that chaff was practically unprocurable. As the New South Wales Government has practically commandeered most of the chaff, and fixed the price for it, the Postmaster-General might endeavour to come to an arrangement with the Government of New South Wales, whereby the mail contractors could be provided with the fodder necessary to fulfil their contracts at the price fixed by the State Government. There is another matter which, I- think, must have been overlooked. I recollect that, during the term of office of the Cook Government, Mr. Wynne announced that he was introducing a system by which produce could be carried from the country districts to the metropolitan area. He stated that the system was being introduced in Victoria, and if it proved a success, it would be extended to New South Wales, and subsequently to the other States. This system would work for the benefit of the people in the city as well as those in the country. It has operated with success in Germany, and I believe satisfactory results have attended its introduction in America. By means of this system country producers would be able to send butter, eggs, ham, bacon, cheese, fruit and vegetables, up’ to a weight of about 40 lbs., to the nearest railway station, the railways would deliver the goods to the metropolitan area, and there the Government would distribute them to the addressees. In this way the country people would come into direct contact with the consumer in the city, and the middleman’s profits would be saved. The consumers would receive their commodities cheaper, and in a fresher condition, and in every way the system would be an advantage to every member of the community. Another idea of the late Postmaster-General was that, instead of having six Deputies, Australia should be divided into a number of zones, numbering probably nineteen or twenty, and that for each there should be a Deputy. At the present time, the administration of the Postal Department is too centralized, and I believe that if each State were divided into a number of zones, according to its area and population, the people would have speedier access to the Deputies, and greater efficiency would result. I am pleased to know that the present PostmasterGeneral has given wider powers to the inspectors, thus obviating a great deal of extravagance and reducing expenditure. I remember being told that a letterbox in a country town had been slightly damaged, but before the box could be repaired the postmaster had to communicate with the Deputy PostmasterGeneral, and after a delay of a few weeks a labourer was sent from Sydney to effect repairs. The cost to the Department was about £2, whereas the damage could have been made good by local labour at the modest cost of 6d. If the PostmasterGeneral will continue along the lines he ia now following he will effect a big saving in his Department.
.- I desire to thank honorable members for permitting me to continue ray remarks at this stage in order that I may finish the quotations which I had begun earlier in the debate. It is with great pleasure that I read the extracts from the American report, because America is looked upon as the great home of private enterprise, and there is a good deal of talk in Australia about handing our telephone and telegraph systems over to the control of business managers. In America they have had experience of business managers, because there the systems are controlled by private enterprise, and the result is a recommendation from the PostmasterGeneral that these systems be taken away from private control and handed over to the State. Continuing the report from , which I quoted earlier, the PostmasterGeneral of the United States of America says -
It is an interesting fact that, whereas policies of government have been advocated, and some adopted, the constitutionality of which have been seriously questioned, the principle of Government ownership and control of the telegraph and telephone finds its greatest strength in the Constitution. This opinion lias been shared by practically all PostmastersGeneral of the United States, who have held that the welfare and happiness of the nation depend upon the fullest utilization of these agencies by the people, which can only bo accomplished through Government ownership.
It is therefore recommended that early action be taken by Congress looking to the accomplishment of this end.
It is also recommended that the telegraph and telephone facilities of Alaska, Porto Rico, and the Hawaiian Islands be at once taken over and operated by the Post-office Department. This recommendation is based on an exhaustive investigation which disclosed that the conditions in these Territories are generally such as to favour the change. A large part of the property involved is already Government owned and” operated in Alaska by the War Department, and in Porto Rico by the Insular Government. The services are so detached geographically as to preclude complicated relationships with neighbouring systems, and are yet sufficient in extent to afford valuable experimental demonstration for the Postal Service looking to the administration eventually of a complete national service. This action will have the effect of strengthening the National Government in its outlying Territories, and is especially recommended because of the expediency of taking over the private ownerships before elaborate and costly extensions and duplications of service have been built up.
The Secretary of War has suggested the transfer of the control of cable and telegraph service in Alaska to the Post-office Department. Anticipating favorable action by Congress, an item of $300,000 has been inserted in the Department’s Estimates for the ensuing fiscal year, to cover the expense involved in operating this and the insular services during the first year after their acquisition, and a tentative draft of a Bill for effecting the transfer of ownership and authority is included in the report on page 64.
T.do not think that Government ownership is perfect, but apparently it compares very favorably with private enterprise. We have heard a great deal of complaint about the mismanagement of the Postal Department, and in this connexion it is interesting to read the reports of the Royal Commission on Postal Services. We know that that Commission was not hurried in its investigations - I think the inquiry lasted two years - and a great deal of useful and valuable work was done. . The officials in the service were asked io bring their complaints before the Commission, and I do not think they hesitated to do so. When the time comes that there are no complaints from those in the service, the millennium will indeed have arrived. Some of the complaints made must have been justified, because the grievances have since ‘been rectified. The Commission was appointed to deal, not only with officials, but also with tho public. Evidence was received in Victoria from the Chamber of Commerce, the representative of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, and certain shipwrights formerly employed by the Department. What were the complaints of the public against the Department as disclosed by those witnesses? -
That is a general statement.
That condition of affairs is not what it should be, but, having regard to the millions of letters that are sorted and delivered, we may well marvel that more errors do not occur.
I can quite understand that.
Those represent the whole of the grievances of the general public of Victoria against the working of the Department in this State. In South Australia the complaints were -
I believe that the Postmaster-General has endeavoured to decentralize some of the work.
We effected that change as soon as the nuances would permit.
These are some of the complaints that were brought before the Postal Commission by the general public - not by the officers; their complaints, I admit, were numerous. The Telephone Department was said to be unsatisfactory. I can quite understand that. But the Postal Branch of the Department was reported upon differently, and to me it was marvellous that the general public had so very little to complain of when the opportunity was given them to bring their complaints before a Commission. I do not say that there are no complaints, and I am ready to admit that probably the country has more to complain of than the city, for I believe that there is a difficulty in supplying the country with the necessary postal services. I am prepared also to say that in most places there is an absence of business method in the Department, and I can quite understand that business men would not apply the same system to their own businesses as is sometimes applied in the Post Office. Whilst I claim that, in the main, Government control is better than private enterprise, I am prepared to admit that in some ways private enterprise is better. One instance of this rather impressed me while I was connected with the Post Office. I asked Mr. Peacock, who is, I understand, a business systematizer, and a very able business man, to go through the Central Administration and see where he could suggest improvement.
– On the line of the present inquiry by Mr. Anderson?
– I think it was. After he had finished, it was my intention to send him to the General Post Office, but before that time arrived I went to the Department of External Affairs, and my successor, Mr. Frazer, did not think the inquiry I had suggested was necessary. But a fundamental difference was pointed out to me by Mr. Peacock as between Government control and private control, and Mr. Peacock said he did not know how we were going to get over it. In a private business concern, ‘if a person in charge of a department with four or five clerks under him can point out to his superior, or to the owner of the business, that under a new system the department could be worked with, say, four instead of five clerks, the business man would look into the proposition, and, if satisfied, would either dismiss the fifth clerk, or appoint him to some other department, whilst the man responsible for the suggestion would probably receive an increase of wages because the department was being worked more cheaply than before. In a Government Department, however, the position is quite different. If a person in charge of a Government Department with four clerks under him can increase the work so as to get five clerks instead of four, then his salary goes up, because he has five men under him instead of four. I am prepared to admit that there is a fundamental difference between the two systems, and I should be glad if something could be done in our Public Service to see that men are paid, not as a result of the number of letters that are written, but because they can reduce the necessity for writing so many. At the time I was Postmaster-General we had a conference of Deputy Postmasters-General in Tasmania.
– Do you not think that one should be held every year ?
– I think it would be a very good institution. It was my idea, and if I had remained at the Post Office, the conferences would have been continued. However, just before that Tasmanian conference was held, I received a letter from the late Sir Henniker Heaton sending me copies of sixty-five recommendations that he had submitted to the Postmaster-General in England, thinking that if they were adopted they would improve the English postal service. .Some of these suggestions could not possibly have been introduced here, because they had to deal with telegraphic and telephonic rates between England and the Continent; but a number were applicable to Australia, and I was glad to discover that all but one had been already adopted. I rather favoured this’ one suggestion ; but in discussing the matter with the Deputy Postmasters-General, I saw that I was wrong, and did not press it, because they convinced me that it would not be quite satisfactory. The incident, however, does not speak badly for our Postal Department. I do not think the Department is perfect. There is probably a great lack of initiation, and very few new ideas seem to come forward.
– Are they not discouraged by the Department?
– That is a point I wish to- come to. Are they discouraged or not? The men say they are. The officers say they are not. If they are not discouraged, then it does not say much for a Department employing so many thousand men that they do not suggest some possible improvements. One would almost be inclined to believe that the encouragement desired is lacking. I am bound ‘to admit that on one occasion I had a rather peculiar experience, which perhaps reflected slightly on two officers of whom I thought very highly, and which, perhaps, rather tended to support, to some extent, what the men say. One of the men had an improvement, which he brought to me and asked if I would look into it. I said, “ If you send it through in the ordinary way, it shall be inquired into.” He said, “ I am afraid
I shall never hear anything more about it if I dot” I told him I would guarantee that he would hear of it again. I suggested that he should send it along, adding that if after two or three months he did not hear anything he should let me know. Nothing was heard of the matter, and when 1 inquired why, I was told by Sir Robert Scott, who was a very valuable officer in the Department, that he had received it, that it had been turned down in the Sydney Post Office; but that he had sent it on to Melbourne, in order to make sure that it received fair consideration. He promised to make inquiries. Subsequently the matter came before me officially, and I discovered that it had been turned down all along the line. I remarked that it seemed very strange; and when I was explaining to Sir Robert Scott what it was, he said that suggestion had been adopted in Brisbane for a number of years, and that it had been introduced there by Sir Robert himself. Yet it was turned down in the Sydney and Melbourne offices, and turned down by Mr. Bright, who came from Brisbane, who probably had not time to look into the matter himself, and merely signed approval of the action of his inspector. I know that there are a large number of ideas which come forward in respect to the Post Office that are absolutely of no use. Some of them resemble the grain of wheat that is hidden in bushels of chaff. You search all day for the wheat, and when you have found it, it is discovered to be not worth the search. But it is, nevertheless, rather a pity that we do not hear of more inventions coming from our own Department. If it be the fact that the officers do not give proper consideration to new ideas, all I can say is that it is a very unfortunate thing.
– Are you willing to see more power vested with the Deputy PostmastersGeneral, and the Central Office practically abolished ?
– No, I am not. There has been a good deal of talk about giving more power to the Deputy PostmastersGeneral, and I am in favour of vesting them with a good deal of power. But I think they have already got all the power that they have asked for. At the Conference in Tasmania I asked the Deputy Postmasters-General what power they wanted. They told me, and practically I gave them all they asked for. I should like to know, also, what the honorable member means by the Central Administration ? I do not know what is in the honorable member’s mind; but no man would be happier in this House than the PostmasterGeneral if all the work were left to his Deputies, so that no honorable member could bother him. But what member of Parliament is anxious to hand over more power to the Deputy Postmasters-General, and leave the position such that we should not have the right to come to the PostmasterGeneral with suggestion or request ?
– He would not be PostmasterGeneral at all then.
– Well, he might draw the salary. There must be a central authority, if only to interpret the Act of Parliament. Sometimes it is possible to read an Act of Parliament in one or two ways. I recall the occasion when I was piloting through the Bill establishing the penny post here. In answer to a very urgent and able request from the honorable member for Darling, who is now Postmaster-General, I conceded a point about “ books published and printed in Australia.”
– I led you astray there.
– This is now in the Act, and nearly every Deputy PostmasterGeneral reads the reference in a different way, so that it is necessary to have one authority to decide between conflicting readings of a section. Mr. Groom. - It is like the definition of newspaper.
– Exactly. I am in favour of giving the Deputy PostmastersGeneral great responsibilities; but I think they have already got as much power as it is desirable to give them. I am inclined to think that the difficulty is that we do not back up our Deputy Postmasters-General as we should. A Deputy Postmaster-General who knows that he is likely to have his suggestions turned down is not calculated to act with the same amount of vim that he would possibly show were the situation otherwise.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Postmaster-General to a matter which is of much importance to the rural community of Western Australia, and, indeed, to that of the whole Commonwealth. I refer to the carriage of mails by railway. Under an agreement made with the State Commissioners of Railways, mails are carried by rail on a poundage basis at a certain price per mile. This system has given rise to great difficulty in the constituency which I have the honour to represent, and certainly is not giving satis- - faction to the community as a whole. In many places, especially in rural districts, spur lines are built, and for a long time after their construction the Department is unable to despatch mails over them because of the expense involved. It is found that the mail matter can be forwarded by road for, perhaps, one-half the amount asked by the Railway Department. Taken as a whole, the system works very badly.
– The right honorable gentleman says that the charge is too high.
– I am not going to deal at this stage with the question of price; it is the system I wish to discuss. The Postmaster-General’s Department is, I understand, aware of the difficulty, and is now endeavouring to remove it. My contention is that the trouble should have been rectified long since ; and I sincerely hope that the present PostmasterGeneral will endeavour to make a more satisfactory arrangement. I should be inclined to advocate that the mileage of the whole of the railways of Australia, or, if preferred, of a State, should be computed, and that the amount now paid for the carriage of mails by rail - which totals, I understand, several hundreds of thousands of pounds for the whole Commonwealth - should be divided upon a mileage basis. In that way the Department could arrive at a rate at which it might agree with the States to carry all mails by rail, or each State might be dealt with separately, for a period of two or three years, with an understanding that if, during the currency of the agreement, any new line is opened, mails shall be carried upon it at the same rate per mile. If that were done, as soon as a new spur line was opened the people served by it would have an opportunity to get their mails carried by rail, which, at present, is not possible.
– Is the right honorable gentleman talking of Government railways when he speaks of these spur lines ?
– Yes. For a long time after a new line is opened the mails are not sent over it, because the charges made by the Railway Department are far greater than those incurred in despatching them by road. In many cases for this reason the mails are not being sent by rail. I hope this state of affairs will not continue. I have found it difficult to understand why the State should appear to be so determined to deny their own people the facilities of postal communication.
– This is practically a State matter.
– It relates to the Postal Department, but, in a sense, it is a State matter, since it is in the interests of the States, who own the railways, that postal facilities should be extended to their own people. The extension of postal facilities means the promotion of settlement. When I have been approached on the subject, I have always said to those concerned, “ You should approach your representatives in the State Parliament, and induce them to agitate for the facilities to which you are entitled. You should not be inconvenienced in this way.” It is most annoying to people in country districts to see a train drawing into their stations daily, and yet carrying no mails. It is difficult to understand why the States should drive such a hard bargain with the Commonwealth with regard to the carriage of mails over these branch or spur lines. There should be no obstacle in the way of an arrangement to carry all mail matter at so much per mile, and to j)ay that rate in respect of all new spur lines.
– We are aiming at a new basis.
– I hope that the matter will be speedily settled, for the present system is not conducive to the progress of the country. I trust that the Postmaster-General will see that as soon as a new railway line is opened the Postal Department shall have the right to send mails over it at a recognised rate based upon the mileage of railways in the State or all over Australia.
– Make it the same on land as on sea.
– Some system of the sort should be adopted to enable new lines to be used for the carriage of our mails. There should be no difficulty in the way, since the people concerned are citizens of the States which own the railways. I appeal to the Minister to put an end to the trouble; if he does he will give great satisfaction, especially to those who live in rural districts.
– It will be a good thing when the mails for the Northern Territory are carried by rail to Oodnadatta.
– I suppose mails are carried by rail to Oodnadatta, although the train service is not at present a very frequent one ; but with a good season in prospect, I hope that the service on that line will soon be improved. I shall be much obliged if the Minister will look into this matter, for the present system is retarding the progress of the country, and is very inconvenient to all residents of outlying districts.
– We have started negotiations.
– I have listened with much interest to the discussion of the Postal Estimates, and, whilst I am anxious that the Department should be a paying one, I quite disagree with the view expressed by the honorable member for Oxley as to how this should be brought about. The honorable member, speaking in general terms, said, “ Let the business firms pay for the telephones.” He seems to overlook the fact that if we increase the rates which business firms using the telephone system have to pay, the consumer will have to make good the difference. Every business man makes an effort to charge up all his expenses to the consumer. Having given the matter careful consideration, I have formed the conclusion that, with the exception of Norway and, perhaps, Denmark, Australia has the cheapest telephone service in the world. In Chicago telephone subscribers have to pay about £15 for a service that here costs £6 per annum. Seeing that the Commonwealth telephone service is so cheap in comparison with those of other countries, it seems to me that at the present time, when our resources, because of the war, are taxed to the uttermost, business people would not object to a fair and reasonable increase in the telephone rates, provided it could be shown that the cost of construction had been reduced to the minimum. We should do well to endeavour, first of all, to effect a saving by giving the Chief Electrical Engineer complete freedom in carrying out his important duties. We have what may be described as three distinct zones, the first consisting of city lines, where the poles carry a large number of wires; secondly, main trunk lines. This work is beset with engineering difficulties and is necessarily of costly construction. Then we have lines in many cases carrying only a single wire, which need not be so carefully constructed and in respect of which economies can be effected. We constructed many such lines when contracting in Tasmania.
– Was the honorable member a contractor?
– My father was the biggest telephone contractor in Tasmania. He and I were largely the pioneers in telephone and telegraph line construction. Many years ago we built a line from Circular Head to the Montagu for £11 10s. per mile, and it is working quite satisfactorily twenty years later, although we had to use the old instruments, and had not the metallic circuit. It is absurd that in country districts huge poles, 30 feet high, strutted by poles 18 feet long, should be used to carry either a copper or a light iron wire. Such heavy poles are unnecessary. An important con’sideration is the cutting of poles. This should be undertaken at this time of the year, when the sap is down. Men should be sent into the bush to select the areas from which the poles required by the Department are to be gathered. They should not choose areas of rich volcanic soil, where the timber grows rapidly and is not close grained. Rather should they select areas of poor country, and they should be careful to cut at the present time of the year, when the sap is down. If that were done, perfect poles would be secured. In days gone by we generally used square poles nut out of heavy timber. Rounded poles are now being used, cut from young timber, and a large portion is being dressed off them. Recently, while passing a line-yard in one of our cities, I saw some of these poles, the cost of preparing which, in the yard, could not have been less than 8s. to 12s. 6d. each. The poles are dressed, a piece of wire is placed around the top of them, and they are then stacked. I noticed, however, that many poles had great splits at the top, and were therefore practically useless. The Launceston Corporation sends a man into the bush to select and cut timber at the right time of the year. It uses a pole with a covering of Huon pine at the foot, which will last for years. It is in these respects that economies can be effected. I agree that up-to-date engineering methods are necessary in regard to the heavy city lines, but I think that the cost of light country lines is being largely and unnecessarily increased by the present system, under which big poles are used, and an engineer is sent along to report, and is followed later on by an inspector. In this way, I am told, the cost of country lines, which we used to build for about £11 per mile, is now running up to £30 per mile. If savings were made in the directions I have indicated, we might then consider the desirableness of introducing a more costly service. We certainly have in Australia a very fine service. When in London, in 1911, I was astonished to find that its telephone service was exceedingly inferior. State and company-owned lines were competing against each other. The position, I understand, is now improved, the State having taken over the whole service, but at the time of my visit the London telephone service was far behind that of Australia. I found the same state of affairs in France, Switzerland, and other parts of the Old World that I visited; indeed, at no place could I see anything at all to boast about. I was told, however, by an engineer that there is a very good service in Norway, under which almost every farm house is connected at a remarkably cheap rate. I happen to represent a city constituency, but it goes without saying that I am desirous of seeing the telephone made as cheap as possible in the isolated parts of the Commonwealth.
– Do you know that in Victoria there is a line constructed at £6 per mile, irrespective of wires, spindles, and insulators?
– That may be, and it is all right when the line is ‘miles from other lines. If, however, there is a parallel line, there is induction, and this may lead to mistakes in conversations, and so forth, resulting in loss.
– But that objection does not apply in sparsely-populated spaces, where there is no chance of a second line.
– I know the line of which the honorable member speaks.
– You once called it a “ jerry-built” line, but it is not.
– At any rate, I cannot understand how there can be any but a “jerry-built” line for £6 a mile»-
We have heard a great deal about homemade insulators, and I am of opinion that these insulators might be easily manufactured here. As the Postmaster-General knows, very high insulation is not required for telephone work, though, of course, it is for telegraph work, owing to the leakage. If, for instance, one is working a duplex or quad-duplex line, the balance might be interfered with; but in telephone work, over a long distance, there is no necessity for very high insulation, provided you can get the ringing signal through. I am now, of course, speaking of country lines. In the city, where a lot of important business is transacted, over even a short distance, the line must be carefully constructed. I may here refer to a service that I myself installed in Tasmania, over a distance of 7 miles, on which much business was done on race days and other occasions of importance. In that 7 miles we had thirteen telephones working successfully, with all the rings coming out most distinctly; and the reason was that the bell coils were wound to a very high resistance. This experience shows what services may be provided in any Dart of Australia, particularly where the climate is dry. If a line is properly constructed, there will not be that induction which is now so bitterly complained of. The telephone operators are not always to blame for the failure to raise a subscriber. The other day, when I was in an office, a gentleman was rung up but paid no attention for several minutes, and the probability is that the unfortunate girl at the switchboard was blamed by the person who made the call.
– What does the honorable member suggest as an improvement?
– I have already said that what is required is careful engineering careful construction of the line. Repeatedly I see four or five men going round pushing a hand-truck; but surely it would be possible for the PostmasterGeneral to provide - an ordinary car to meet the circumstances.
– The honorable member forgets that we are getting motor lorries.
– I am glad to hear that, as it never pays to treat men like bullocks. Then, again, some saving might be made by buying wire and other necessaries in the cheapest market; and young men, of whom we have plenty, who are willing to go to the bench, ought to know that the way is open for them to go to the ‘ ‘ top of the tree. ‘ ‘
– Is that not possible at the present time?
– Apparently, it has not been so in the past. There seems to have been a halo cast around the head of gentlemen from the Old World. In the early days there was a great rush of operators from the Old Country, but they could not hold their own with our operators here. I am delighted to hear, however, that the Postmaster-General has turned certain slow-working lines into fast lines, and is able to put on expert operators - where the great saving comes in. What we require are men to send and receive forty words a minute; and this may be done with advantage if we have good operators on duplex or quadduplex lines. This means a great increase of business; and, no doubt, proves it is a great mistake to put slow operators on duplex lines. I may give here the concrete case of a man - who, I may say, has not approached me, and who, I hope, will not be involved - and, as an operator myself, I can appreciate the position. There is a line working to Hobart via Flinders by cable, and in one day there may be two or three distinct climates to be contended with, making it very difficult indeed to adjust a long line of this character. The line is a duplex one, and should have six fourth class officers to work it. At the present time, however, there are only four fourth class officers and one fifth class officer. This man works this line day after day for, I am informed, six and a half hours, but he is taken off during the slack time, between 12 and 1 o’clock, for twenty to thirty minutes, and is put on another line as a fifth class man. It is said that because he is not continuously employed on the cable service he must not be rated in the fourth class, and hence he is paid £210 instead of £235. This is regarded as a great saving. It is always necessary, however, to have expert operators; and it is no simple thing to fill the position. All these men read by sound, there being no tapes; and the most important press and other messages go through. For hour after hour these men take telegraphic communications at the rate of forty words per minute without a mistake, most of them writing the messages on a typewriter. Surely these men should not be irritated by little “ pin-pricks.” These pin-pricks are not administered by the manager of the branch, nor by the Deputy Postmaster-General, but by a gentleman from outside. Whether that gentleman is or is not an operator, I have yet to learn ; but I understand that he claims to be making a saving of something under £50 by the arrangements that I have indicated.
– Who is this outsider?
– I understand the Public Service Inspector - the deputy of the Public Service Commissioner. I emphasize the fact that it never pays to put a slow man on a fast-working line. These men, I may say, are not only capable of taking messages, but capable of balancing a quad-line or a duplex line, and doing other important work. Further, when a fault is discovered they can, if it be a simple one, right it in a very short time. Doubtless this is work of a highly technical nature.
– The Public Service Commissioner does not understand it.
– Quite true; otherwise he would not take the risk of putting a slow man on the line I speak of. The remarks I have made may apply to other lines that are much longer. I am told that through lines of 1,000 miles are being worked in Australia, and anybody who knows the system will realize what that means in careful adjustment in order to get the messages accurately. There may be rain in one section, dry weather in the middle, and rain again at the other end - conditions which all tend to the upsetting of the adjustment of the line - and under such circumstances, if there be not a competent man in charge, the whole thing may be upset. I do not wonder at there being delays, because everything depends on having the telegraphic system outside in first-class order. It is just as essential to have good linesmen and inspectors as it is to have good operators ; the man who can keep his line in good order is doing much to facilitate the sure and early conveyance of messages. Examinations for linemen are held repeatedly, and men are asked to pay fees in connexion with them, but that is the last they hear of the matter. I have in my possession a letter from a married man who some time ago passed one of these examinations and applied for work, but cannot get it, although, as he says single men have since been put on. I have asked this man for permission to use his name in the matter, but, as he pointed out that the mention of his name might penalize him, I cannot make use of it. I hope that the Postmaster-General will take the advice of his expert officers in preference to that of a gentleman who classes operators as clerks. He may be doing his work very well, but, as he has to deal with all officers throughout the Public Service, he cannot have that detailed expert knowledge that the experts of the Department possess.
– What is the- good of repeating these matters to the PostmasterGeneral if he has no power to act?
– I hope that the Postmaster-General will exercise what power he has. .1 think that he has some say in the matter. If it can be shown that certain important work is not being carried out effectively owing to the incompetence of the men engaged, he has a perfect right to take action.
– We always hold the Postmaster-General responsible.
– We do. I intend to keep on bringing forward these matters until there is some redress. I think it will be admitted that with over twenty years’ technical service I should know a little of what I am talking about. I wish now to speak about the females who work in our telephone exchanges. Honorable members should realize the experience of a telephone operator sitting hour after hour with a receiver on her head and listening to all sort of requests; for instance, “ Will you kindly put me on to So-and-so, I cannot find the number?” and, with shutters falling down all round, and somebody saying, “ I am the honorable member for So-and-so “ - first letting her know who he .is in order to get her to fear him - “put me on to So-and-so; I cannot find the number.”
– We should have the automatic system.
– Under the automatic system the subscriber will have to find the number himself, and will understand the trouble to which these operators are now put. There is no greater nervous strain than that on the telephone operator sitting hour after hour switching on and off, and so on ; and the women who do this work should receive the same pay as men. They are capable of doing the work, and they do it most effectively; they are more gentle in their language than male operators - I have never heard a woman operator use an unkind word - and their voices are more even and more effective, especially where they have the contralto pitch. They are entitled to a higher maximum pay, and I hope that the PostmasterGeneral will see his way clear to giving it to them.
– What about th© other wages in the Department ? Are they high enough ?
– I do not say that they are high enough, but the conditions are considerably better, and wages are better than when I was in the service. My men had to sleep in a railway truck and cook their meals over a nailcan pierced with holes. A cook is now provided for so many men. Nice tents are supplied. Very often dining tents are supplied. The men have an ideal time compared with the old days, when I was ashamed to ask men to go out and do work at 5s. .6d. or 6s. a day, which the Government insisted on paying them, while giving them no camp allowance. There is now a camp allowance of 3s. a day in addition to about 8s. or 9s. a day minimum wage. I have not heard the men complain very bitterly about their present conditions and wages. No doubt the Postmaster-General has a very uphill fight. Owing to business having fallen off during the war conditions may be somewhat easier; but there was a great demand for telephonic connexion, which exercised the energies of the engineering and mechanical branch to their utmost capacity. It was difficult to get telephones and suitable instruments in order to give the good service that was required. If it is intended to charge interest on capital cost, the Sydney charges will always be higher than the Melbourne. Owing to the rock through which the conduits have to be tunnelled the work in Sydney will naturally be more costly, and the overhead charge will always be high.
– Sydney is also more subject to storms.
– In all tropical and semi-tropical portions of Australia lightning storms are frequent, and the lightning, being a very high potential, runs down the lines and burns everything. To secure an effective lightning arrester is very difficult. However, every day the service is improving, and becoming more effective; but, at the same time, where we have these great storms, we must maintain a big staff, capable of attending to the maximum number of faults. That is why telephone maintenance is very costly in places where we have to contend with the elements.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- A notice has been posted in the Sydney Pest Office to the effect that on and after a certain date the female telephone operators are to be compelled to work during the twenty-four hours; that is to say, a new system of night work is to be introduced for young women.
– As the matter has not been decided yet there cannot be any notice posted.
– A lady has been sent from Adelaide, with instructions to try to organize the matter, and there is to be a meeting of the operators next Wednesday night to protest against it. All the trend of recent legislation has been to protect females from night work. Our Factory Acts have strong provisions in that regard. The British Parliament has passed Acts preventing women from working after a certain hour at night. Our industrial awards protect women from working at night. It is astonishing to find that our Postmaster-General will allow any system to be brought into existence, or to be extended, calling on women to work all night.
– The telephone girls in Adelaide asked to have that system established.
– I do not believe that statement. If a man has a daughter in the telephone service, will he allow her to be out all night at work? There must have been pressure brought to bear in Adelaide to get the girls to do this. However, in Sydney they are protesting against the proposal. When they passed their examinations the conditions made no mention of night work, but specified certain hours at certain wages, and this night work is an innovation. Our factory legislation protects women and prevents them from being worked at night, and even in the State Legislatures an argument in regard to the early closing of hotels is the fact that late closing keeps women working in the bars late at night. Yet we have a Labour Government which propose to compel these young women to work in the telephone service all night.
– It is a shame.
– It is a shame.
– There is no compulsion. The girls were to be consulted.
– Do they work all night in Adelaide ?
– Yes; at their own request.
– They must have been canvassed by some official of the Department, and told that this had to be done; they must have been bluffed into it.
– I hope that the ladies employed in the Sydney Exchange will cease work if this alteration is insisted on. Since the present Postmaster-General has taken charge of the Post Office, the hours of the telephone operators in Sydney have been increased, to bring them on a level with the hours worked in Melbourne. Evidently one State can always be got to lead the way in going backwards.
– That shows how they suffer through not having a union.
– The girls . in Sydney have a union.
– There is none in Adelaide.
– These girls are easily led by the heads of Departments. As a member of this House, and as one who has been interested in the shortening of hours of labour, I must protest against any young women in the Commonwealth Service being asked to work at night-time. It is not human. It is opposed to the best instincts of family life that women should be away from home all night. I look to the Postmaster-General to protect the lives and health of these young women.
– There are two or three matters on which I have not been able to get justice from the Deputy Postmaster-General in Sydney, and as they are matters of policy, I take this opportunity of bringing them under the notice of the Minister. We all remember with satisfaction the remarks of the present PostmasterGeneral when he was in Opposition, in the matter of telephone extensions in the country, and giving facilities to country people in the shape of postal services. I desire to bring under his notice now the position of some guarantee telephone lines. The particular line to which I desire to direct attention.jp is that from Bellengen to Gleniffer. The? period within which this line must be taken over from the guarantors has almost expired, and yet they are now being called upon to spend a considerable sum of money in effecting repairs to it. Practically, they are being required to construct a new line before the Department will take it over. I may mention that this line has not been erected more than eight years ; yet the guarantors are being asked to erect fifty new poles along a distance of 4 miles of it, on account of the old ones being rotten. Obviously the line as originally constructed must have been very defective, otherwise fifty new poles would not be required within such a brief period. I contend that it is unfair to ask these guarantors to hand over to the Department a new line in lieu of a line which could not have been a good one in the first instance. I ask the PostmasterGeneral to look into this matter. A similar case has occurred at Comboyne. In the erection of these lines the Department did not exercise sufficient care to see that the poles used were of durable timber and properly erected, so as to insure their having a reasonable life. Otherwise it would not be necessary to replace them within the short space of seven or eight years. I also desire to point out that the Postmaster-General has two sets of guarantors and two sets of guarantees in connexion with this class of line. Up to a few years ago the guarantors of these lines were required to contribute practically the whole of the loss sustained on their working. Now, however, the Department is prepared to bear 50 per cent, of that loss. The particular lines of which I have been speaking were laid down under the old system, with the result that the residents are required to make good the whole of the deficiency instead of having to contribute only half of it, as are the guarantors of lines erected during recent years. I ask the Postmaster-General to look into this matter, with a view to seeing if all these lines cannot be placed upon the same basis, and so that the Department itself may bear 50 per cent, of any loss incurred. One of the things that we expect from the Postal Department is that the lines to country districts shall be constructed on as easy terms as possible. I am further of opinion that, after people have signified  their willingness to contribute to any loss sustained in the working of these lines in remote districts, undue delay occurs in carrying out the works. I think that the Postmaster-General ought to ascertain how it is that these lines are not proceeded with immediately the settlers have intimated their willingness to accept the terms imposed by the Department. Then I wish to urge a complaint in regard to the length and size of the poles that are specified in connexion with some of these lines. A little while ago the honorable member for Wannon interjected that telephone lines were being constructed in his district for £6 per mile, by making use of much shorter poles. I have in my mind a line which has been put out of the reach of residents because the Department has prepared specifications for long poles, the use of which is absolutely unnecessary. It asks them to contribute £48 16s. 8d. towards a line containing four poles each 28 feet in length, seven poles each 25 feet in length, and forty-two poles each 18 feet in length. Of course, I recognise that telegraph poles require to be a certain height above the ground wherever the lines cross existing roads. But it is not necessary in other places.
– In some places fences are used instead of poles.
– I think that there is a happy medium between a fence and an 18-ft. pole.
– In Victoria we get over the difficulty by erecting telephone lines inside the fences.
– We do that all over Australia.
– Then why are the people to whom I have referred asked to contribute poles of the size I have indicated ?
– It may be part of a line which will be extended.
– No. The case I have cited is one in which there is not the slightest probability of the poles ever being called upon to carry a second line. We are all anxious that settlers in remote portions of the country, who are perhaps far removed from a doctor, should have the best telephonic facilities possible. Will the PostmasterGeneral see whether shorter poles cannot be used in outlying places all over Australia ? T wish now to say a word or two in regard to a matter which is mentioned in the
Herald of this evening. Under the head.ing, “ Wrappers Bear Appeal “ and. “Extra Postage Required,” I find the following: -
Because the wrappers bore a rubber stamp: impression of the words “ Remember Australia Day, July 30, and give freely,” Nicholson and Company Limited have been notified by the Postal Department; yesterday, that mail matter, comprising 108 gramophone, lists posted the previous day, required extra postage. It was explained that similar notices were being forwarded to other firms- who- had used the rubber stamp patriotic appeal on their mail matter. . I say that anybody who is sufficiently patriotic to put a rubber stamp appeal on his wrappers ought not to be required to pay extra postage. I think, that this- mat,ter needs only to be- mentioned to insuresteps being taken to prevent a repetition of the occurrence.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7. £5 p.m.
– I wish to refer now to some matters connected with the mail service. The Postmaster-General is aware that many country districts do not enjoy the convenience of train mail services. In many districts important, towns and centres of considerable population are dependent upon the carriage of mails by horse and by coach. This has given rise to a good deal of complaint, and attempts have been made to induce the Department to provide quicker means of transit for the mails by the use of motor lorries or motor cars. I regret that the Department has not, so far, kept up with the times in this direction. In my own district two or three contracts have been accepted for the conveyance of mails by motors, but in many districts the Department cannot be induced to move in this direction. Tenders are now being called for services for 1915-16, and I think it will be found that, owing to. the high price of fodder, the cost of conveying mails by coaches will be considerably increased. In the circumstances I ask the Postmaster-General to consider seriously whether the public might not be much better served by the adoption of a more expeditious method of carrying the mails ? The day has gone by with most of our people when, if they do not get a mail this week, next week will do. We all now want our mails delivered as quickly-as possible, and a coach travelling at about 5 miles an hour in districts where the roads aire good can scarcely be said to be up to our modern requirements. By the use of. motor vehicles., we could, get: a better service at a i very slightly increased, cost to the Department.. I. have a. word to say now on. the subject, of - the- payments made to persons in charge- of allowance offices. I have reason to believe . that it. is in, the. minds of responsible officers of the Post and. Telegraph Department to reduce the amounts, at- present, being paid to persons keeping allowance, offices. The PostmasterGeneral is as well aware as is any other honorable member of the Committee of what is required from these people. Most of them, are living in. little wayside places in remote districts, and they are expected to provide at these places the facilities which we look for at the Sydney General Post Office. They are expected to get up at all hours of the night, or to leave the work of their farms ortheir kitchens, to sell a few stamps, and the remuneration paid to them is miser1 ably small. These people do not expect’ to make a living out of the allowance offices, but when they are prepared to go to a considerable amount of trouble, and spend a great deal of their time in looking after- the offices, they are entitled to some consideration from the Department for the work they do, and we should not look too closely into the allowances paid to them. I have been told that it is proposed to reduce the payments, now beingmade to some of these persons, and the Postmaster-General will find that there will be considerable opposition to any proposal of the kind from honorable memberson both sides. Those who have charge of allowance offices are not under the same regulations with respect to holidays and half-holidays as those employed in official offices. They find room, light, and other necessaries for the convenience of the public, and they are at the beck and call of the public at all hours. In the circumstances, it would be most unfair to deprive these people of the very small allowances now made to them for the services’ they render.
– There is no proposal to reduce their payments.
– The proposal may not yet have reached the Minister, and I am taking advantage of this opportunity to- enlist his sympathy before it does reach him. I can assure the honorable gentleman that a responsible officer of the Department told me, in a casual” way, that such a proposal was to be made:
– - It is being done now.
– The honorable member for Hunter informs me that it is .being done now.
– No; the honorable member ia quite wrong. Any reductions that take place are automatic, in accordance with the scale of payments that has been adopted. There is no proposal to alter the scale.
– If the Minister means to say that those in charge of allowance offices are being paid according to the number of letters they handle, T .say that it is not fair to ask them to keep these offices going for £1 or £5. a year. They give a considerable amount of their time to the work, they find rooms and light for the convenience of the public, and they should not be remunerated under any hard-and-fast scale according to ‘ the number of packets they make up, or of mails they despatch. The PostmasterGeneral, from his large experience of life in the country districts, will not, I hope, .allow himself to be tied to a scale in dealing with payments of this kind, and will give careful consideration to the question before he permits £1 to be deducted from the allowance paid to any of these persons. If he errs in the matter at all, it should be in the direction of a more liberal remuneration for these services, and, if he takes that view of the matter, I am satisfied that he will receive the support of every honorable member of the Committee. Quite recently, a new system has been adopted in connexion with letter-boxes in country post-offices, and increased rents are being charged to the subscribers. The Department goes further, and asks these people, some of whom have -been renting letter-boxes for many years, to deposit 5s. before they can secure the keys of their boxes.
– That has’ been done away with.
– I am afraid that the people who have been responsible for this charge have not done with it yet. In some cases, respectable business people who have had letter-boxes for from five ‘to fifteen years are asked to pay a deposit of 5s. before they are given a key worth Is. 6d.
– I have directed that that practice be abolished, .and the deposits returned or credited to the subscribers’ .accounts with the .Department. - 2
– I am very glad to hear that statement from the Minister. I have now to raise the question of the rents charged for these letter-boxes. As the Postmaster-General is aware, they are of two or three different sizes, but the people take whatever box is given them by the Department. In .my own district the boxes used were taken from the Sydney General Post Office. They were removed for the convenience of the Department, and in the interests of economy, which I appreciate. At the same time, they happen to be big boxes, and many of those who rent them do not require boxes of that size. They are charged a certain rent for them because the boxes are of a certain size. It should not be forgotten that the renting of these letter-boxes ia as much a convenience to the Department as to the subscribers, because the Department is not called upon to deliver the letters addressed to those persons, since they come to the Post Office for them themselves. They should, in the circumstances, be more liberally dealt with. The mails are very infrequent, and for the service rendered 30s. a year for one of these, boxes is a very heavy charge. These matters give rise to friction between the Department and the public, and are not worth the trouble and annoyance they cause. People should not be charged a rent of 30s. a year because boxes of a certain size have been put in to suit the convenience of the Department, when smaller boxes would serve the purpose of the subscribers. There is still another matter to which I should like to direct the attention of the PostmasterGeneral. Whether it is because the officers are pushed for time I do not know, but we frequently receive telegrams in writing which are difficult to understand. I received a telegram two days ago, and I do not yet know what it means. The illegibility of one of the words seems to have destroyed the sense of the telegram. This telegram was received from the Telegraph Office, Melbourne. I think that arrangements should be made to have telegrams typewritten, and type-writing machines might be more liberally distributed amongst telegraph offices in the country districts. Where funds are not available for the purpose, the Postmaster-General might consider a proposal to allow assistants in the offices “who have type-writing machines a reasonable rent for their use. It would avoid a -lot of difficulty if telegrams were type-written.
– How does the honorable member propose to meet the additional expenditure involved in what he suggests]
– The honorable member for Oxley suggested a means himself in some remarks he made on Friday last.
– A tax on bachelors is what the honorable member suggested.
– Not for this purpose.
– The honorable member and some other honorable members were discussing the amounts charged by the Railways Commissioners in the different States for the carriage of mails. I am inclined to think that if the PostmasterGeneral went into the matter of the payments made to the Railways Commissioners for the carriage of mails he would find it possible to make a considerable saving. If the honorable member for Oxley would look into the administration of the Post and Telegraph Department, he would probably find that economies might be effected in many directions. The Postmaster-General himself referred to one the other night which led to a saving of £20.000. That is the sort of thing I like to hear about. Apparently, however, it is more to the .taste of the honorable member for Oxley to suggest that there should be a tax upon newspapers posted to country districts. People in the country districts who have sent their sons to the war are anxious to receive newspapers to find out what has been their fate ; but the honorable member for Oxley suggests that we should tax these people by asking them to pay extra postage for the newspapers they receive.
– The honorable member knows that I do not.
– That is all the sympathy the honorable member has for people who have sent their sons to the front. I am satisfied to bring these matters under the notice of a more liberal man, in the person of the PostmasterGeneral, who, I am sure, will extend to honorable members credit for any suggestions they make, will accept their criticisms in the best spirit, and will give them every consideration.
.- -There are one or two matters which I wish to bring under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral. For the past two years I have been trying, without success, to secure telephone communication of any kind, and not additional communication, along the routes of the railways constructed on Eyre’s Peninsula. There are two lines of railways through ‘that country - one running nearly westward, and completed now for over 300 miles, and the other running north for about 150 miles. The South Australian Government have considered the country good enough to put those railways into it, and yet, do my best, I cannot get telephone communication for the people who are settled there. If the State Government was as parsimonious as the Post and Telegraph Department, there would be no railways in that district, and none of the land would be taken up. The Minister of Home Affairs knows the country to which I refer, and when it is opened up by railway communication the least the Commonwealth can do is to provide telephonic facilities for the people settled there. After the first 40 miles from Port Lincoln there is no telephonic or telegraphic communication. Some time ago I thought I had the matter arranged, as it was suggested by the Department that the State railway authorities might bear half the cost, and thus save the expense of duplicating lines. Within the last week, however, I received an intimation from the Secretary of the Department that the arrangement under which the State railway authorities would come in was not very satisfactory, and that, as there was an estimated deficiency of £97, the Department could not see its way, in the present state of the finances, to erect the line either under a joint arrangement with the State or on its own account. Consequently the whole of these people are practically shut out from the rest of the world. This puts them at a serious disadvantage, in view of the approach of the wheat season. Everything points to a good harvest; but these farmers will be out of touch with the city as regards prices, and entirely in the hands of the local wheat agents. It has been the practice in the past to construct certain lines as trunk lines, debiting the cost to the general account, and not asking the residents for guarantees. If there are any lines in Australia that can be considered trunk lines, these undoubtedly can. When finished, one of them will extend nearly 450 miles, and the other, when linked up with Port Augusta, as ib will be, will stretch for 200 odd miles in another direction. They are purely trunk lines, and cannot be regarded in any sense as feeders to a main line. I urge the Postmaster-General to ask for a further report, and see whether these lines ought not to be constructed as trunk lines. The first 40 miles have been put up as a trunk line.
– On which railway?
– From Port Lincoln to Cummins. The railway branches off at Cummins, and extends in a northerly direction for 100 miles to Darke’s Peak. I ask that that also shall be treated as a trunk line. The original Port Lincoln to Cummins line goes on to Thevenard Bay, 300 miles from Port Lincoln. This is to all intents and purposes a trunk line, and the settlers ought not to be asked for a guarantee. Men battling with the elements out back ought to be helped by the Department at least to the extent of being brought into touch with the main centres, so that they may be able to get current prices for their produce. Many of these settlers are over 100 miles from the nearest doctor, and telephone facilities would materially shorten the time taken to secure the attendance of a doctor in case of sickness. If ever there was a case demanding the favorable attention of the PostmasterGeneral, it is this. The residents have a fairly reasonable mail service through the Railway Department; but over the whole of that huge area there is an entire absence of telephonic or telegraphic communication. There are hundreds of farmers already scattered over the country, and thousands of blocks are being let every month, with new settlers coming in. The case is urgent, and I base my request for the construction of the lines as trunk lines on the hitherto invariable practice of the Department, and on the fact that the State has already realized that the country is good enough to put a railway into.
.- The time has arrived to take action in regard to the Telephone Branch of the Department, in view of the very large deficit announced this year. We should, as far as possible, make all Departments selfsupporting; but in that one branch alone there is a deficit of about £300,000. Either there are conditions in the working of the Telephone Branch that urgently call for remedy, or the charges for telephone services are too small.
– There is no loss on the South Australian service.
– I am glad to hear it.
– And -there is none in Victoria.
– That is not so. There is a loss of £63,000 in Victoria, and £170,000 odd in New South Wales. That is a huge sum to lose on the telephone service in one year; but while this condition exists we find the greatest difficulty in securing telephone extensions in country districts. As was pointed out by the honorable member for Grey, telephones are a necessity in sparsely-populated areas, especially in cases of sickness. Although we have great difficulty in getting telephone services in the country, the fact remains that the country telephones are almost paying. The Department is losing practically nothing on them. The loss is made in the large metropolitan areas, and is caused by the large businesses. It is fair to ask the Postmaster-General to see that this anomaly is rectified. If, as has been shown here this afternoon, our telephone charges are less than those in any other part of the world, there is indeed room for some re -arrangement. Our wages are higher and labour conditions better than in England, and it, therefore, stands to reason that we cannot expect to run our telephones at lower charges to the users, yet our charges are only half those of the Old Country. The present system is very unfair to the people in the country districts, because whenever they make application for a telephone line, they are compelled to put it on a paying footing. Estimates are made, and the Department finds a certain proportion of the cost. The residents are then asked either to find the poles and to erect them, or to find the money to make up the deficiency, and in many cases they have to give a guarantee to maintain the line for a certain time. They are, therefore, in a much worse position than are the people in the metropolitan areas. They are paying in full for the service, and are not given the facilities they ought to get. I have heard honorable members complaining of the time that elapses between the Department agreeing to erect a line and the time it is put up. So far as the cities are concerned, that period is infinitesimal in comparison with the delay that takes place in the country. If one has a line approved of, he will probably have to wait a year or two before it is erected. In fact, he is lucky if he gets it then; and yet it is the country lines that really pay. The big centres of population can get telephone facilities without the slightest trouble .at cheap rates, which involve a great loss to the community as .a whole. The big businesses get .the benefit, and the . general public hav.e to make .the loss good. The large firms in .the cities are able to employ far less labour than they would require if they had . no telephones. Honorable members can figure out how many messengers would be required to run to the different parts of Sydney in connexion with any big business, which now -can get connexion by -telephone at a charge of 1/2d per call. The Telephone Branch .should certainly ‘be made self-supporting, for to make good the deficits of different Departments out of the general revenue is to “travel along altogether wrong lines.
– That is the policy of the party on the other side of the House.
– Then it should be immediately rectified. The matter cries aloud for remedy.
– Do you think the ground rent is too high?
– The ground rent may be sufficient, and the charges per call may be insufficient. If Id. per call i3 charged in England, no one can reasonably argue that id. per call is sufficient to charge here.
– And the charge in England is less than in Germany.
– That is .so, and in America the charge is -higher still. I understand that there .a call costs 5 cents, or 2-Jd. “We are giving a service equal .to any other in the world, and those who are getting the benefit of -it are not paying as much as they should. I feel impelled to take this opportunity to bring up what may be regarded as rather a parochial matter, but my excuse must be that I have waited so long that my patience is almost exhausted. Four years ago an amount was placed on the Estimates to build a post-office at Weston, in my electorate.; but not one brick has been put into the building yet. When the money was voted, I ascertained that the site had not yet been selected. It took the officers between two and three years to select a site, and they tell me that, having selected it, they have just completed the drawings, and are now arranging the specifications. At .the rate they are going, I suppose this will take another five or .six years. The local people are very impatient, .and have just wired me to know if there is anything -on the present Estimates for thework. A post-office is also required at Abermain, where one has been promised for a considerable time. Noplace in Australia has made more rapid’ progress than that .district, owing to the development of the coal measures of theSouth Maitland field; and, though .a large population has now centred in that locality during the past few years., no provision is made for a post-office there. I hope the Postmaster-General will take this into consideration. I understand the Postmaster-General stated just now that no reduction would be made in regard to allowance post-offices.
– No reduction in scale.
– At a time like this,, the scale should be liberalized, becausethere are many cases of hardship. I havereceived a letter from a widow who is keeping a post-office, for which she receives? £36 10s. per year. The people who keep* these offices are never done, for they have to be at the beck and call of every onewho comes along. They are going from, daylight to dark; going the whole of their time, and in return they receivethis paltry sum of money. According toa letter which this widow has received,, her allowance is to be reduced by £6 10s.. per annum.
– Is she in thecountry or the city ?
– She lives in thecountry. In addition, this good lady has to attend to the carrying of the mail four times a week todifferent centres, and has to keep a horse, and employ a lad; and she pointsout in her letter to me that, with the increased price of fodder, if this £6 10s. is taken off, her living will practically betaken away from her. I ask the PostmasterGeneral to look into the matter and see if he can do something in thiscase. Probably he may be able to defer this matter with a view to dealing moreliberally with these country post-offices. I feel sure that the Postmaster-General holds the view that the Post Office should’ not be made a sweating Department, but that reasonable conditions ought to beprovided for all employees to carry onwork satisfactorily. Tn a sparsely populated district, an office may serve a radius: of 5, 6, 8, or 10 miles, and while thee revenue may not be large, there are people coming and going all the time to these post-offices and the officers in charge have to be at the beck and call of callers at all hours. They should, therefore, be paid rates commensurate with the work “they give to the Department. As a rule, they give more work than is indicated by “the revenue, and, in consequence, they ought to get what is really a fair allowance. I hope the Postmaster”General will give every consideration to this matter.
.- I feel very, pleased indeed that so many ‘honorable- members on the other side- are ^advocating that a little more consideration should be given to the country districts. While I do not indorse all that “the honorable member for Hunter has said in regard to the payments, given to the officials to whom, he referred, 1 would suggest that some of them might join a union. If they did, their position would, no doubt, be very much improved. It seems to me that the lady he spoke of is worth hundreds to the country, and I hope the Minister will ‘try to look after the interests of these people. As far as I am concerned, I -am not advocating anything in connexion with the payments that are being made to officials in the country. We want mails; we want conveniences; and if these conveniences can be given, the people themselves, should endeavour to assist the Minister, instead of trying to get high ^salaries attached to the positions created. The other day I mentioned the apparent disinclination on the part of the Minister to permit members of his staff to enlist. I withdrew ;the remarks which appeared in the .Argus on account of the statement made by the Minister ; but, no sooner had I left this room, than I saw an officer of his Department, who not only showed me a paper of his own, but of one other official, indicating that the Department - I suppose without the Minister’s knowledge - were putting very great obstacles in the way of officers who desired to enlist. When we realize that there are something like 17,000 odd officials on the staffs of the Post Offices, we must conclude, I am afraid, that very few of them have enlisted. I do hope that the Minister will make a solid pronouncementadvising the officers of his Department, if they desire to go to the front,, that -where it is at all possible assist ance will be given them, and informing them also that not only can they be quite sure of being reinstated, but: that,. ‘ in fact, preference will be given to them on their return rather than to those shirkers who stay at. home-.
– That has been done already.
– Well, let the- Minister make- some solid pronouncement on the subject.
– I have- done so.. I wired, to. the West to- the Deputy PostmasterGeneral, to make sure about it.
– I have no desire to cast any re-flection upon the. Minister; but here w» have the Minister of House Affairs in a publication, showing’ a. Est of some thirty-six- of’ his- officers- who have gone away.
– I think, we. have over 500 who. have gone,
– I. ask the Minister to assure his. staff, that he will do all he can to meet the wishes of those- who desire to serve their country at the present time. The honorable member for Grey, and many other honorable members, have had a good deal to say in regard to facilities being given to the back country. I was. hopeful, when the present Minister was appointed, that, from the knowledge he had acquired as the result of his travels and his work in the past, together with the experience that he must have gained of the great value of trying to develop the back country, that the people out back would receive even better treatment from him than they had received from any other Minister in the past. Yet what has been the result ? The honorable member for Grey has pointed out that the- Government declined, after the State Government of South Australia had spent thousands of pounds on the construction of railways, to authorize the expenditure of a few thousand pounds to give the people telephone facilities, which mean so much to them. A telephone in the back country is not needed so much for ordinary trading transactions as for other purposes, such as. prompt communication with a settlement where there is a medical man in case of accident or sickness, and I was hopeful that the Minister would do somesthing in that direction. The Government, we have learned,, desire the States to hand over further powers to the Federal Parliament, but when a State Government- has expended hundreds of thousands of pounds in trying to develop the back country the Federal Minister declines to expend a single sixpence until he is satisfied that the service will repay him. Surely we can ask for these conveniences. I hone that the country members’ will demand that something be done to encourage the development of the back country. I asked a question of the Minister recently, and I received a letter in which he assured me that in the event of the State Government constructing railways, either the Commonwealth Government would erect telephone lines along those railways or they would arrange with the Railway Department for telephonic facilities. In my State no less a sum than £470,000 has been spent in the construction of one railway.
– Where was that?
– On the railway from Wongan Hills to Mullewa. This line was authorized some years ago, when I was in office, and it was taken over six months ago. The country served by it will, as it becomes settled, develop into a great wheat-growing area and carry a large number of stock. As I have said, the State Government spent £470,000 on the line, and at least another £50,000 in water supplies and roads. Now they ask the Federal Government to construct a telephone line, but have received refusal after refusal. It seems almost monstrous that the Government should decline, time after time, to give these people any telephonic- facilities. Here we have a railway 190 miles in length, on which the State has spent over £500,000 in opening up an enormous territory, and the Federal Government will not spend £5,000- or £5,500, to be exact - in giving the people . telephonic communication. It is too bad ! Honorable members must realize the importance of developing the primary resources of the country. They have only to look at the exports to understand what this means, and surely, then, we can expect the Federal Government should do- something to further the efforts of the States. We have penny postage, but who receives the benefit of it? The big merchants. I notice that a balance-sheet has been issued by the Minister showing the position of the Department. How is it that Sydney is not asked to contribute a little more ? Tn that city the people have everything they want to their hand.
– They have a wretched telephone service.
– The balance-sheet for 1913-14, the last year for which we have a record, shows that in New South Wales the telephone shortage was no less than £152,000.
– Is that in the metropolitan area ?
– I do not know.
– There -is a very small loss in the country; it is nearly all in the city.
– A country service should not be expected to show a profit. If there is a small loss in the country the city people could afford to make it up. They have every right to.
– You cannot expect the city people to keep the country people going.
– I realize this, if the honorable member does not: That it is the country people who keep the people in the city going. I do hope that some consideration will be given in the way of telephonic facilities, especially in cases, where a State Government is trying to develop new areas. Country members or* both sides of the House would do well to get together and show the Ministers that there is a big party determined to see that consideration is given to the people in the back country, not only in regard to the telephone system, but alsoin regard to mail services. I do not blame the Minister entirely for the present arrangement in regard to the carriage of our mails on the railways, but it is a particularly bad one from a business point of view. I think it is about six years since the Commissioners for Railways throughout Australia entered into an agreement with the PostmasterGeneral, which provided that the minimum charge for the carriage of mails by rail should be not less than £7 10s. per mail. Although in Western Australia a railway 190 miles in length has been constructed, not one pound of mail matter has been carried on the line since it was taken over by the Commissioner. The present Government prefer to carry the mails for the district on a privately-owned railway, that is, the Midland Company’s railway. The mails for the area served by the Wongan Hills Mullewa railway, 198 miles in length, are carried on the Midland railway to Moora, then by motor to Dalwallinu, and thence along the State railway by motor for some 30 miles. Again, further north, the same practice is adopted to serve the northern area. That system, I believe, is adopted by the Department, not only in Western Australia, but in Queensland, and, according to the honorable member for Grey, in South Australia too. I believe it is followed in many places simply because an agreement was entered into some years ago. I am prepared to take my share of the responsibility. Although I was Minister of Railways in Western Australia at the time, I had nothing to do with the making of the agreement; but it is quite apparent that it is, at present, absolutely unworkable, and should be altered. Some time ago I asked the Postmaster-General if, when the State Premiers were in conference in Melbourne, he brought up this question with the view to trying to come to a compromise or better business arrangement, so that he would be able to give the people in the country a proper mail service. Imagine a train being run for a distance of 190 miles carrying goods and passengers but no mail matter! 1 am sure that the Minister will now see that an arrangement ought to be entered into with the Railway Commissioner whereby the Department will pay so much a year, either according to the weight of mail matter carried, or under such agreement as may be thought best by the various Departments. It ought to be made a’ condition that wherever the Commissioner runs a train he must carry mail matter in the train. It is absurd to have a train running for some hundreds of miles and the Government sending out motor cars or vehicles to carry the mail matter on the ground that they cannot afford to pay the railway rates.
– They think it is business.
– It is bad business; it shows that there is no business acumen in the Department, otherwise the agreement would have been altered long ago. Tt is absurd, I repeat, that a train should be run three or four times a week each way and not carry a pound of mail matter. Here is what a pioneer settler has to say on the subject in the Sunday Times, published at Perth -
As an instance of the present mail service, a fortnight ago n, number of settlers came into the post-office (or, rather, receiving office), at 11 a.m. to catch the mail with letters, as the mailman, or some other authority, had instructed the receiver to close the bag at 12 noon. The mailman did not arrive until 5 p.m., so that all those settlers - some of them coming from long distances - lost a full day. Most of them were waiting for horse feed, super, or seed, aud many of them were disappointed in not even getting an advice. If their goods arrive before they come along again in a week’s time, the Railway Department will charge them demurrage on the trucks; so that they are being penalized in more ways than one. How can the farmers carry on under these conditions, and with increased freights and fares to moke matters worse
I posted a letter by the antiquated mail (which leaves now on Thursday) asking for a small parcel urgently wanted in connexion with seeding, to be sent by Monday’s train, but got a reply by the Thursday fortnight following stating that the letter had arrived too late to put the parcel on the train leaving on the Monday night. Under ordinary business conditions, it takes fifteen days to get a reply to a letter.
– Is it any wonder that the Department does not pay?
– Imagine a private concern being run in that way ! If the Department would only give to the State railway the carriage of the mail’s to the Murchison Field, I would be quite satisfied. That is a very large gold-field area, carrying an enormous population, and touched by this railway. The Government could, if they chose to break the agreement with the private railway company, get sufficient mail matter even to comply with the conditions under which they agree to pay a minimum rate of ‘£7 10s. a mail. But they prefer to support private enterprise rather than give the State railway a chance to earn some money. That is a bad business arrangement. I am quite satisfied that a better agreement could be arrived at. I wish to read to the Committee something more with regard to this grievance from the same newspaper as I quoted just now -
The Sunday Times has received a number of complaints on this subject (further reference to the matter is made by a correspondent elsewhere in this issue), and the decision of the Department to still continue in its determination to sacrifice efficiency to a false economy will come as a disappointment to all. If the Commonwealth Government really aims at cheapness, why not employ a bullock dray for the carriage of mails? Anything, apparently, will do for Western Australia:
The Postmaster-General has had a big experience of the back country. He knows the difficulties and the dangers which the pioneer has to put up with. He knows how many accidents and cases of sickness occur. AVe have not at present a telephone service in this district, but if we had a reasonable train arrangement for our mails, the hardship would not be so serious as it is. I suppose that if a guard were to dare to carry a letter on the train he would be summoned for contravening » departmental regulation. It is a shame that a train is run along the line without a mail, not ‘only in one district, but at many places. The honorable member for Swan has told me how his own district Buffers in that regard. The Department finds that it is cheaper to carry mail matter by motor car or vehicle than by railway; but surely there is enough business experience and intelligence in the Department to insist upon an arrangement with the Railway Commissioner, so that, although the present charge may not be exceeded, but may be reduced, he must carry any mail matter which is available. I believe that the back country has the sympathy of the PostmasterGeneral, and I hope that he will insist upon an arrangement being made with the Railway Department so that when a train arrives the people will know that their mail matter will be carried also.
– It is almost enough to make -one shed tears.
– When I hear the honorable member, I feel that I am again visiting the lunatic asylum at Claremont.
– I can quite .conceive that the honorable member knows nothing of the back country, and is absolutely careless of its necessities. He represents a , City .and has not sense enough to realize the importance of the back country to the city. I am quite satisfied that the Postmaster- General has too much intelligence to consider for a moment the interjection. I hope that he will give consideration to the requests for better telephone facilities, a matter which I brought forward .at an earlier stage. I trust that the Government will agree that where the States themselves have spent enormous sums in the opening up of new territory, the Department ought to .show a desire to assist by providing telephone facilities for the people, and giving them a little of the comforts which :are enjoyed by those who live in the city.
Mr. KING O’M ALLEY (Darwin> [8.40]. - I could not help but be surprised last week, in listening to the honorablemember for Oxley. He wanted to put a heavy tax on newspapers going from thecity into the country. His idea was toincrease the revenue of the Post Office by making the farmers pay extra for their newspapers. In the back-blocks there arethousands and thousands of farmers, and of men who help them to produce the commodities which maintain the people inthe great cities. Those men would never see a document or a paper if it cost a high, price.
– Why not give the-, country newspaper a show?
– But my honorable friend did not offer to put a. high price on newspapers coming from, the country to the city, because he knows that only little newspapers are printed in the country for the local convenience.. Is it not amazing how every city man. wants to tax the settler in the back-blocks ? Is it not astonishing that city folk should’ seek to prevent country people from getting- the knowledge which come3 from the intellect of a great centre? The idea is to> make the people in the country as stupid as possible, so that they will always havethe saddle on their backs, while the city man will have the whip and spurready to ride them. I do not think, that the honorable member for Oxley investigated his subject before he spoke. As a rule, he is a very careful business man, but I do not think he wentinto the essence of the matter. After a. great newspaper has acquired a certaincirculation, and its supply of advertisements is up to its highest capacity, it is a. dead loss to increase the circulation. Suppose, for instance, that a newspaper hasa circulation of 80,000 copies, and all the advertisements which it can possibly publish; if the circulation isincreased to 120,000 or 140,000- copies, that does not increase its wealth or producing power. It may increaseits political power, bub not its annual income, unless the rates are put up. I happened at one time to buy a newspaper in America. I had to take it over on a mortgage.
– Was it a comicpaper ?
– It was* pretty comic, but I made it pay, and sold it to a “rooster” that could not make money with it. The amusing part to. me is that the city man, who has never been away from a postoffice, a picture show, or a theatre, can tell the farmer- how to. run his. farm, and’ yet he may not know how to run his own circus, in the city. The land and the workers of a nation are the very basis of its prosperity and development. Burn down your great cities in Australia, and keep your farmers on the land, and they will build grander cities for you. But burn out your farmers, and your city men will float- round starving-.. The cities cannot live without the men in the backblocks, and yet what- conveniences do you offer these men ? We had to- come- here and plead and battle for weeks to get a little bit of a mail up to a back post-office, and we get a female to run the mail, and then the grand Postal Department cuts her down from £6- to- £3. Nothing- gives me greater sadness. ‘ They talk about business ! . To me, everywhere there is business but in public Departments, which are as destitute of business knowledge as a frog is of feathers. They have- no more idea of business than have- children. With them it is a constant and perpetual duplication of effort, a constant and perpetual confusion and complication of functions. If a private business man were to> operate his business for six months- in the way in which a Government’ department is operated, he would go bung-, even had he Rockefeller’s wealth-
– A good argument for nationalization !
– I have never believed in nationalization. I believe im the physical valuation of your monopolies, and in their registration with the Commonwealth. Government. I would capture 51 per cent, of their’ stock os shares, and put in a director, and make the men who’ created the industry - the- 49 per cent. - carry it on. Here- in the- city you have every convenience. You have your theatres at the back door, and your churches at the front door. You have your tram cars, your libraries, and your picture galleries; damnation in the “ stagger-juiceries,” and salvation in the churches-. A farmer out in the back-blocks has none of these conveniences, and when he comes to town you grab him., and get everything’ that he has got.
– Is. the honorable member a. farmer ?
– I helped to develop this country. I am. a working farmer. I do not farm the land; I farm the- man that farms the land, like all “ boodleiers.’
– The honorable member must address himself to the question.
– The wonderful thing is that nothing one talks about here has anything to do with business. I heard our chief pledge the Labour party at Maryborough, in 1913, to providing a line of Government steamers to give communication between Australia and Tasmania. Where are those steamers? Lord, tell me- where I can find them !
– Steamers could be bought from Western- Australia.
Mr. - KING O’MALLEY. - Those steamers are, I believe,, going to. Germany. The Government pledged itself to the establishment of. a line of steamers which would- enable- the producers and traders of Tasmania to en-joy the same benefits that the; Australian., people get from their’ national rail-ways, so that they might send their, products* to the. Blankets, of the world at a reasonable- cost. Look at. what our farmers have to: pay. There- is an immense steam-ship monopoly operating between the- mainland and Tasmania, that, like a terrestrial serpent,, encircles. the- whole island within its slimy folds. I ask the. Postmaster-General when he proposes to establish, this line of steamers ?
– We have interned twenty German vessels.
– The Germans have millions of tons of their mercantile fleet interned in the United’ States of America. Will the Postmaster-General wire over and- see if he can get a few? I do not? blame the present Minister for the position’ of the Postal D’epartment, though lots’ of people do blame him. What has he’ got to do with it ? We have a machine that has been- fifty or- sixty years in building. It- is all surrounded with trenches, and- there- is fire in the trenches. You. cannot change- that machine unless you start at the top and reconstruct from top to bottom. The Secretary to the Department is a very able man, but he is not responsible, because he is the unconscious instrument of the machine.
– We must begin by paying higher salaries to the men at the top.
– No; you must sectionize, and put each section under a responsible business man, and have one man at the centre. I would go outside and engage the biggest business man in Australia. I would pick a man like Mr. Sticht, who manages the Mount Lyell mine, give him £5,000 a year, put him under the Minister, and make him absolutely responsible. I know that in Parliament they are fond of sneering at the business man. I have talked to honorable members, and they have told me that So-and-So is the man, because he does not know anything about business. You would not like to make your will at twenty minutes’ notice and make a man of this kind executor. You would not like to face your God and think that that “ rooster “ was running your bit for your widow, especially if she was goodlooking.
.- I have listened to the speeches, made during the discussion, and especially to the advice that has been given to the Minister as to how to run his Department. The honorable member “for Dampier spoke of honorable members on this side of the House as not being prepared to give to the people of the country the facilities they are asking for. I know that the honorable member was only answering an interjection; but I resent any suggestion that the party to which I belong has no consideration for the people in the country. I speak on behalf of the working section of the community, and I tell the Committee that when I was a worker I never received a penny for which I did not give a quid -pro quo. If there are any men in the community who can be said to be getting any undue benefit from’ the Postal Department, they are “the banker and the merchant. The Labour man is able to look his boss in the face, because he takes only what he has earned. It is often said that the city man lives on the farmer. The farmers never gave me anything that I had not earned; but the employers and capitalists often rob the rural community of hundreds of thousands of pounds. Some honorable members on the Opposition side of the House do not know what a hard day’s toil means.
– Then what are you getting so heated about”?
– Because I feel hurt at what has been said. The making of such remarks is one ‘of She fighting methods of our opponents. The Labour party is abetter friend of the farmer than the party on the opposite side; we will not bleed him. Honorable members opposite have a lot to say as to how telephone lines should be constructed, and what the charges should be. Looking through the Estimates I find a big sum in salaries for officers who are business men, or who ought to be business men. If they are not business men they ought not to be in the Department. One officer went into the Arbitration Court recently and said that ,men receiving 9s. a day were “robbers,” because they did not,give the country value for the wages they were receiving. What are the men receiving £1,000 a year doing? Let the Postmaster-General send for his expert officers, and ask them what they know about the work for which he is paying them £800 or £1,000 a year. Let him tell them that if they do not know how the Department can deal equitably with the farmer and the city man, and still pay its way, they must go. On the first page of the Estimates there is provision on the general staff for a Chief Electrical Engineer at £900 a year; an Assistant Electrical Engineer at £5 63 ; four Assistant Engineers, aggregating £1,800; one Assistant Engineer, £354; and two Assistant Engineers, £480. Presumably those officers are all employed on the general staff in Melbourne. In New South Wales there are sixty-two individuals, who ought to know when to cut timber, what character of line should be constructed in certain country, and how to regulate those other matters referred to by the honorable member for Denison, and who are being paid £16,048 a year; there are fifty-one officers in Victoria drawing £11,996; fortyseven in Queensland, drawing £9,676; and in South Australia, where the Postal Department makes a better financial showing than in any other State, there are only fifteen experts, at an annual cost of £3,294.
– Is that the lowest expenditure in proportion to the population ?
– I have not worked out the proportion of expenditure to population, but it is the lowest expenditure on experts in any State except Tasmania. In Western Australia there are twenty-six officers, drawing £5,783; and in Tas- mania, eleven, drawing £2,224. These figures give a total of 221 experts drawing £53,118 a year. That sum is being paid to those officers, who are supposed to know all about electrical engineering, the installation of telephones, and the managing of an electrical system in the most economical way. They are men who do not belong to a trade union, and would not think of calling at the A.W.TJ. office and saying, “ Give me a ticket, I want to get a job.” I have not included in that list line foremen and line inspectors, and the dozens of other officers whose salaries would bring the Department’s payments for expert advice up to £75,000, or possibly nearer £100,000. One officer stated in the Arbitration Court that from 5 to 10 per cent, of the letter carriers are robbing the Government - a proportion which the Judge reduced to 2 per cent. - but what can be said of the efficiency of these high-salaried experts when the operations of the Department show a deficit of halfamillion pounds every year? X am inclined to think that the blame for that result should be put on the shoulders of those gentlemen, and we would be justified in saying that if they cannot make the Department pay, their jobs will be forfeited. I hope that when the PostmasterGeneral is considering his next Estimates, and is studying means to make ends meet, he will apply to the higher officers the same treatment as is given the workers in the lower grades. If a man undertakes to make a table and produces a duchesse pair instead, he is sacked immediately. That is the policy that ought to be adopted towards the experts. I propose now to deal with the attitude of Mr. Skewes. I feel very hurt in regard to the manner in which that officer stigmatized the workers when appearing before the Arbitration Court. The practice of saying that the worker does not do his fair share is becoming too prevalent amongst officers in higher positions. A gentleman was telling me recently of his experience in a suburban council. One councillor came to the council meeting and remarked that the men who were scoring the roads would hurt the metal if they hit it with the pick as hard as they were doing. That councillor was challenged to try the work at which he said the men were loafing. He said* “ All right, I’ll go out and have a try.” It was moonlight, and this gentleman went out, and began to use a 7-lb. pick. After he had been going about ten minutes he stopped, and said he would never again talk disparagingly about a working man and the labour he had to do. That is the position that most critics of the labourer occupy. They have never done a hard day’s work. I do not say that there are not some who have worked hard, but those who have been “ through the mill “ are generally more considerate than those who know nothing about it. Mr. Skewes did these men an injustice when he made the statement to which I have referred. In the course of his reply to the debate on Friday last, the Postmaster-General said it was unfortunate that the remark was made. But I asked the Minister to tell us how he proposes to deal with Mr. Skewes, because the men who are employed in that Department feel that, if he still holds the opinion he then expressed, he will endeavour, on some future occasion, to justify it, although he was not able to do so before the Court. In the course of the hearing, Mr. Justice Powers suggested that the remark was made in the heat of the moment. “ I am not clear as to what your Honour has in his mind as to the statement being made in the heat of the moment,” replied Mr. Skewes, adding “but if your Honour refers to my statement, it was made deliberately.” His Honour said he was very sorry to hear it, and Mr. Skewes went on to say, “ It was a statement prepared three weeks ago.” He had prepared this statement, and placed it before the Judge, yet could bring no evidence at all to support it. And it appears that his calculations were based upon faults among 2 per cent, of all the men employed. I do not think the Commissioner had anything to do with postal men until he was made Public Service Commissioner; yet Mr. Skewes said that the Public Service Commissioner, as the result of his thirteen years’ experience, had a very definite opinion of this class. And, taking that opinion from a man of such large experience, he thought they were justified in asking his Honour to accept it as authoritative - to believe that men loafed and robbed. In declining to accept the opinion as authoritative, the Judge said that it might be entirely wrong. If he heard a complaint about an individual letter carrier- lie could not say “whether thetemperature was 102 degrees in the shade or whether the man was sick upon that particular day, whilst it was possible that the Commissioner had been wrongly informed. Therefore, he could not accept the’ opinion. There was some humanity in the Judge who tried the case. He realized that these men have not got a nice office to work in, and that they do not work under the- same comfortable conditions as the gentleman who criticised them. In order to prove my point in this respect, let me- quote a case from my own experience of a Government office. If any Department can stand this sort of thing, then I can only wish good luck to the man who has the position. “When I was secretary of the Labour party I went into a Government office at Adelaide at 12.30 one Saturday. The head of the office was not there, and a youth, sitting at the table, asked me if I would wait. I waited for about twenty minutes, when a gentleman came in with a towel and piece of- soap in his hand. He had been to a lavatory, and he handed the soap and towel to the next man, and proceeded to brush his clothes, his boots, to put his hat on nice and straight. Then he went out. This was repeated about eight times, and each having signed something in a book, went out. I had a look at the book. It was the time-book, and every man had gone out before 1 o’clock - some ten minutes before, some a few minutes before. But each had had the opportunity of washing his hands and brushing Ms clothes and boots, and then each set off to walk through Adelaide. Probably, when they got into the street, if they saw a man with a pick and shovel lighting his pipe or stretching his back they would remark, .” Look at that lazy animal ; eight bob- a day is too much for him.” I do not mind the conditions of public servants being good. I like a man to obtain the best conditions he can on this mundane sphere. But do not let all these accusations and denunciations be hurled at the man who does a hard day’s work, and who leaves most behind him as the result of his efforts. I want, however, to impress upon the Minister that if something is not done to Mr. Skewes, I am no prophet if I do not tip that there will be unrest and dissension ‘in the Postal Department. I would now like to draw the Minister’s- attention to a little matter that I hope will be given consideration for the benefit of the City, of Adelaide, and also of the workers there. If the Minister will go into, the Adelaide Post Office and look round the main hall there, he will see that every cornice and every bit of indentation in the walls is caked with dust, and that the paint near the floor has been kicked off. For the credit of the Post Office, for the credit of the Department, and for the credit- of Adelaide, I want the Minister to see if it is not possible to get the Adelaide Post Office thoroughly renovated during the next few months.
.- I have listened to the debate on the PostmasterGeneral’s Estimates only in a general sort of way, as I understand the present is not the time to go exhaustively into the expenditure and needs of everyDepartment. The chief object of my rising is to make a suggestion to the PostmasterGeneral with regard to communications passing between Australia and the seat of war, in which we are more directly interested - Gallipoli and Egypt. I want to ask the Postmaster-General if he. and his Government will take into favorable consideration . the question of appointing an officer directly responsible to the Minister to look after the delivery of all correspondence and the despatch of all cable matter from the seat of war to Australia. Hansard is bristling with illustrations of the miscarriage of communications between relatives in Australia and. soldiers at the front. Some have been rather heart-rending, mothers and widows having had to wait six weeks or two months to learn the fate of their relatives. Surely we can relieve these relatives of much of their anxiety; surely we can do something to get more into direct touch with the battlefield than we have so far been able to do ! I know of nobody likely to be better qualified for a position of this description than an able and clever journalist - a man whose duty it would be to send these tilings out, to be on the spot and to get information; and I think we have any number of such men in the Commonwealth. Not long ago, applications were called for the position of official war correspondent. The gentleman who is over there now - Captain Bean-secured that position. There were many appli- cants, and the runner-up for that position might prove to be highly qualified for the office I have in mind. I make this suggestion to the Minister because I know that many relatives of the Australian soldiers at the front are in a condition of great anxiety as to their welfare. I know of no more burning question that the Minister might at once take in hand than that of at once putting Australia in as direct and immediate contact as possible with the seat of war. The Imperial authorities are primarily responsible in this matter, and I do not suggest that any officer we might send over should attempt to supersede the Imperial authorities, but rather that he should work as an auxiliary to them.
– What would you expect him to do ?
– If the Minister cannot imagine the duties which such an officer would perform, I will explain them to him. Just as Captain Bean is required to send to Australia, in the aggregate, the result of each day’s fighting, so this officer might be made responsible for collecting as quickly as possible and forwarding; to Australia a list of Australian casualties and fatalities. I recognise that these lists have to be classified-
– That is done now.
– We have cases where deaths at the front have not been reported in Australia until six weeks or two months after their occurrence.
– Where several hundred fatalities occur, we cannot get the news quicker than we do.
– I am ashamed to think that the Minister is satisfied with the way in which the news of casualties to the Australian Forces reaches us today. In many cases deaths are not reported in Australia until six weeks after their occurrence. Can such a system furnish any solace to the relatives of those who die at the front?
– It is a question, not of being satisfied, but of what are the possibilities.
– I make this suggesttion in no captious spirit; but I think it is ‘our duty to bring forward these matters.
– Should not this have been discussed on the Defence Estimates? Mr. RODGERS.- T think not.
Mr- J. H. Catts. - A military officer makes up the casualty lists.
– That may be; but the honorable member knows quite well that the despatch of cablegrams and mail ‘ matter affects the Postal Department at both ends of the service. I recently gave in this House an illustration of what is occurring. A woman whose husband took part in the landing at Gallipoli recently received from him a letter saying that immediately after the landing he sent her a cablegram, and a second cablegram after an engagement which took place five days later, saying that he had got through safely. It was; some comfort to him to believe that his wife would know that he was well; but, although this letter reached her two months after the cables had been sent, neither cable message had been received by her. I am not going to put the responsibility for this on the Postmaster-General, but if Ministers are satisfied with such a system, I can only say that they are very complacent. As a member of this House I am not satisfied that we are doing our duty in this regard to those who have gone to the front. I have made the suggestion in all good faith, and hope that) the Government will be able to see eye to eye with us. We have in this country clever organizers who would be delighted to take up the work.
– It is organization that is wanted.
– Quite so. Whoever is appointed to organize the service should be given the assistance of an experienced officer.
– There are very few, good organizers.
– I have one in my mind’s eye whose name I do not propose to mention, but, if it were given to the Minister, I am sure he would recognise it as that of a young man eminently qualified for the work. I shall leave the matter at that; I do not wish to labour it, for I think the mere suggestion, without any illustrations, should be sufficient. Another subject with which we can deal with a little less heat is that to which reference has been .made by the honorable member for Denison and the honorable member for Cowper. I refer to the question of telephone construction. Telephoneconstruction may be divided into two classes - city and town line construction^ and country line construction. With regard to city construction, I have nothing at present to say. I listened with a great deal of interest to the speech made by the honorable member for Denison with respect to country telephone lines. It was an interesting and a highlytechnical address. If it had one fault, it was that the honorable. member had found it necessary to repeat it two or three times in this Chamber. I mention that as a commentary, not on the honorable member, but on the Ministry, for it is strange that the honorable member should have to repeat himself so often in this House without any result. My experience of the Department, with respect to telephone construction, differs from that of the honorable member for Cowper and the honorable member for Denison, since it has been a very satisfactory one. I think that honorable members on this question should make their suggestions to the officers in charge. If they would seek interviews with them, and discuss with them the details of their proposals, the effect would he better than that gained by bringing them before Parliament. I was not long in this Chamber before I had requisitions for telephone lines from all parts of my electorate. I submitted them to the Department, and in due course received replies. The custom of the Department is, in each case, to send out an officer to inspect the proposed route. The officer makes a cursory inspection, and upon that inspection an estimate of the cost of the line is undertaken. Then, according to the departmental regulations, three or four alternative propositions are put to the residents interested. In my electorate we have had very good results. When I put to the Department the applications submitted to me in the first place, we received practically only one suggestion, and that was that if the line would not pay within eight years then a guarantee must be given by the residents or a certain amount should be put up by them. I was not satisfied with the basis upon which the computation was made. We found that the specifications provided for practically the same class of construction as was required in the case of city lines. I brought the matter under the notice of Mr. Agar Wynne, who was then Postmaster-General, and told him that the estimated cost was altogether out of proportion to the proposed service, and to the needs of my constituents. I requested to have an interview with the General Constructional Engineer, Mr. Hesketh. My request was granted, and at the interview which took place, we took two test cases as the basis of our discussion. I shall mention only one of them. In the case of a proposed telephone line from Harrow to Salt Lake, the Government estimated that the cost of construction would be some £560 if the specifications then in existence were adhered to. I objected to several parts of those specifications. I asked, for instance, why it was necessary to specify the use of long poles. Several yards of each of these poles, I pointed out, were bleaching aud going to waste in country districts where only one line would have to be carried for years. I pointed out, further, that, under the system operating, poles had to be obtained 200 or 300 miles from the point at which they were required, conveyed a certain distance by rail, and then carted 50 or 60 miles along the route of the line. A body of men had to be franked after them to carry out the work, aud they received all the allowances to which the honorable member for Denison has referred this afternoon. My contention was that shorter poles should be used, and that they could be obtained locally. It was then pointed out to me by Mr. Hesketh that, under the Act, a 12-ft. clearance was necessary, in order that the Department might be free from any obligation in the event of an accident. I suggested that the difficulty could be overcome by obtaining from landowners along the route, who were interested in the line, permission to erect the poles inside the fences, and that by the use of shorter poles, which could be obtained locally, the best local timber would be commercialized, while we could also employ local labour1 in constructing the line. We completed the section for £165, as compared with the original estimate of £560 odd, and, speaking from memory, the length of the line was from 11 to 13 miles. Since that date every proposition I have made in this regard has presented an alternative that the local residents might undertake the work themselves. Under such circumstances local labour was made use of, the value of the land was improved by the use of local timber, and cartage over hundreds of miles was saved. ,
– The Act had to be altered in view of the provision as to the 12 feet clear.
– But no obligation rests on the Department when the poles are erected on private lands.
– The Act had to be altered to permit of shorter poles.
– Originally that was so, but the matter could have been dealt with otherwise. A corresponding saving could be effected in regard to all country . lines, and such a result could, I think, be brought about probably by members discussing the matter with the heads of the Department, instead of wasting time here by pouring information into the ears of the Minister, who may forget what he has been told.
.- I cannot understand why honorable members are so hard on city people who have to use the telephones, and who have to pay every charge that is levied on them. My own opinion is that no person in Australia ought to be any considerable distance from a telephone, or from similar means of communication; and, so far as> I can, I shall facilitate telephonic extension in country districts. Some members have complained about the non-provision of post-offices, but I think I can present the champion grievance in this connexion. About twelve or thirteen years before Federation I was one of a deputation that waited on the late Mr. Daniel 0’Connor the then Postmaster-General of New South Wales, with the request that a postoffice should be erected in Oxford-street, Sydney; but, although some twenty-eight years have elapsed, that post-office is not yet erected. As a matter of fact, I cannot understand how those at the head of the Post Office manage affairs. As a mechanic and a business man, I have been fairly successful, and the muddle I find in the Post Office is amazing to me. In October, 1912, in reference to this Oxfordstreet post-office, I received the following : -
With reference to your representations regarding the acquisition of certain land in connexion with the Oxford-street Post-office, I bog to inform you that, by direction of the Postmaster-General, your letter has been forwarded to the Department of Home Affairs, with a request to furnish you with a reply.
In February, 1913, this letter was sent to me -
With reference to your letter of the 25th ultimo, and previous correspondence, relative to the proposed acquisition of a site for postal purposes at Oxford-street, Sydney, I beg to inform you that no offers were received, in response to an advertisement, from persons willing to sell to the Commonwealth land suitable for the purpose indicated.
The Deputy Postmaster-General, Sydney, reports, however, that two sites at the corner of Oxford and Crown streets are considered suitable, and that the question of compulsorily acquiring one of them has been referred to the Department of Home Affairs. He is being asked to cause the matter to be treated us urgent -
That is funny - “ treated as urgent “ after sixteen or eighteen years ! - and on receipt of a further report you will be again communicated with.
There is no doubt that the Post Office officials are very lively at writing letters, and make full use of their typewriters, because, in March, 1914, this communication was sent to me - 0
I desire to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of 20th inst., on the subject of the proposed acquisition by the Commonwealth of a site in Crown-street, Sydney, for postal purposes, and to inform you that the matter is receiving consideration.
Now we come to 1914, when I received the following: -
With reference to the remarks made by you in Parliament some time since respecting the reported unsuitability of the post-office in Oxfordstreet, Sydney, &c, I am directed to inform you that the Minister has decided upon a site for postal purposes in the locality referred to, and the matter has been referred to the Department of Borne Affairs for the necessary further action.
I made it my business to view the site, which I found to run 300 feet from the main street to a back lane, with a grade of 1 in 6. To expect old-age pensioners and others using the post-office to make this climb is almost absurd. This site is between two lanes, and yet we are told that the authorities desire to do away with slum areas, and educate the people to some appreciation of architectural beauty. The site has a frontage of 24 feet to the main street, but as 6 feet of this is required for a right-of-way, there are only 18 feet left, with a depth of 100 feet, and, as I said before, a grade of 1 in 6. I found that at the back premises were a butcher’s shoo and an eating house, and that the refuse therefrom was most malodorous. An important fact is that this post-office is the fifth largest in
Australia, and some idea of the business done with the present premises may be gathered from the following figures: -
Amount of stamps sold, £7,223.
Amount of postal notes sold, £11,024.
Amount of poundage on postal notes, £230.
Amount of telegraph revenue, £1,008.
Number of telegrams received for delivery, 30,550.
Amount of Savings Bank deposits, £22,677.
Number of money orders issued, 5,077.
Number of money orders paid, 4,579.
Amount of money order commission, £108.
Number of postal notes paid, 40,200.
Amount of postal notes paid, £10,670.
Number of old-age pension payments, 17,663 (approximately).
Amount of old-age pension payments, £17,228.
Number of parcels posted, 10,956. Weight of parcels posted, 45,608 lbs. Amount of postage on parcels, £866.
The total revenue is £84,963, and other business is conducted as well. The space available for the public is 100 super, feet, and the employees are so packed behind the counter that one man with large feet had to be transferred because he was always treading on the feet of his fellow-employees. In the summer months, the officials have to hire a person with a very large fan about 5 feet in diameter, and as they cannot find room for him to wave it on the floor, he has to stand on the counter to do it. I hope that the public who complain of hardships will have some regard for the feelings of the persecuted employees in this postoffice. Within half-a-mile of this spot, the City Council have spent £2,000,000, and large warehouses have been erected. I have been urged to get a proper postoffice there because these firms allege that they have been put to considerable delay in transacting their business. I have been told that proposals are on foot to build a post-office in Oxford-street and at the Haymarket, but these proposals have been on foot for twenty-eight years in one case, and fifteen years in the other. I might point out that the work of this office has been greatly increased of late years by the payment of old-age pensions, and payments to dependants of soldiers. Greater facilities should be afforded by the Department for the sale of postage stamps. I know that when I purchase postage stamps and have odd stamps over, if I happen to place them in my pocket they speedily become lost. The Department would lose nothing by being more liberal in giving people the opportunity to sell postage stamps. A great many improve.Mr. ments have been effected in recent years in connexion with telephones, so much so that services originally put down havebecome obsolete, and have to be discarded. The Postmaster-General ia Great Britain, in a recent report, congratulated the Department on the fact that the British Post Office was sustaining a loss of £1,000,000 as a result of the improvements that were being continually effected; and it is right that the general public should contribute something towards the cost of the Department, seeing that they gain so much by the application of science to the service generally. Before Federation, the New South Wales Post Office was suffering a loss of £80,000 a year; on the other hand, the South Australian Post Office was showing a profit of about £25,000 a year ; but to compare South Australia with New South Wales is to compare a pocket- handkerchief with a sheep station. A country with a large territory, such as Western Australia, can hardly expect the telephone subscribers to bear the whole cost of the initiation of’ a telephone system.
– South Australia built all its post-offices out of revenue.
– No doubt South Australia is a marvellous State; in fact, it is the model State. Whatever may be said of the people of that State, they must at least be credited with the capacity to conduct their business on business lines. It will be generally admitted, I think, that country members have not received1 any of the plums of the Postal Service. On 11th December, 1914, I asked the Postmaster-General -
The reply forthcoming was -
I do not know who is the business geniusof the Postal Department, but I am strongly of opinion that the greatest- blunder committed since the consummation of Federation was that of refusing to countenance the proposal of thehonorable member for Darwin to resume- .for- postal purposes the whole area in the immediate vicinity of the General post Office, Sydney. ‘ The present building does not provide a sufficiency of floor.space. The area in. question could have been acquired at the time of which I .speak for £800,000, but to-day I venture to say it could not be purchased for less than £2,000,000. Its acquisition would have proved a remunerative investment for the Commonwealth, inasmuch as it would have returned at least 7 or 8 per cent, interest upon the capital outlay. This site will have to be resumed one day if the business of the Department is to be efficiently conducted. As .Sydney is the financial and commercial centre of Australia, it is destined to expand very considerably in the near future. It is the duty of the Government to anticipate “public requirements, and, consequently, effect should have been given to the proposal of the honorable member for Darwin. In the Oxford-street Postoffice people desirous of transacting business are packed together so closely as to touch each other, and if they have big .feet they are compelled to put them into a sack to prevent them being trodden upon. Those responsible for the selection of a site for any Commonwealth building should be careful to secure one upon which an edifice may be reared, which will constitute one of our land-marks, and which will be regarded by the people with feelings of pride. When public buildings are erected in side-lanes our officers are denied a chance of displaying their abilities. I’ do not know if it will ever be my lot to preside over a public Department,, but if it is, I shall want to know why certain urgently-needed reforms are not carried out. When we put a man into a Ministerial chair we expect him to rise to the occasion, and to show a little initiative.. I remember saying to a member of. the New South Wales Parliament that he was. a slow-coach to be in Parliament, and ought to be “ chivvied,” and his answer to me was, “ Well, you know, Jack, I take the line of least resistance.” That indicates a spirit which we do not want in Federal politics. We expect the members of the Federal Government to keep up with the ideals of the people of Australia, which, are as high as are those of people in any other part of the world. Our people have better opportunities- than have the people of other countries, and that they should set an example to others. in. forms of government, and humane social conditions, is only what we have a right to- expect. We have adult suffrage in Australia. and of what use is it if the same old Tory crowd that used to run affairs in Australia in days gone by, and who had no idea beyond the filling- of their own pockets, are to be returned to our Parliaments?
– The honorable member is very rough on the Postmaster-General.
– I. am not rough on him at all. I. speak as the honorable gentleman’s, .friend, and I am. asking him to do things, which, if he does them, will earn for him the respect of the people. 1 am pointing out to the honorable- gentleman how he might become an ideal PostmasterGeneral,, and we certainly want one in Australia. I am sure that he is pleased with the remarks I have made. I have riveted his attention upon the Oxfordstreet Post-office, and if he does not get a move on there I believe the people of East Sydney will do something to remove him. I may say that the representatives of city constituencies are entirely with’ the representatives of country districts in their desire for the extension of postal and telephonic facilities. Honorable members on the other side, as well, as honorable members on this side, have every reason to be grateful to the first Fisher Government for having put £3,000,000 on the Estimates for the Post and Telegraph Department. It may be said that the operation of the Braddon section of the. Constitution prevented adequate expenditure upon the Department previous to that time,, but the action taken by the first Fisher Government, almost as soon as their commissions were signed, showed that they were alive to the necessities of the Department and the wants of the country districts of the. Commonwealth.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I am aware that honorable members desireto get through the Estimates to-night, and at this hour I do not propose to- occupy more than, a very few minutes. I have listened to a similar debate on the Estimates- of the Post and. Telegraph Department every year since- I have been a member of this House. We do. not seem to be any further forward to-day than> we were four or five years ago. “We seem rather to be going back, because the loss on the Post and Telegraph Department is increasing every year. The more I look into the matter the more convinced I am that the trouble lies, not so much in the actual charges made to the public as in the lack of real business management in the conduct of the Department. A reference to the figures presented for the consideration of honorable members in the Budget-papers in connexion with the Estimates for the year which has just expired will provide the greatest confirmation of the statement I have just made. I wish to PUt some of these figures on record. I find from the Budget-papers that in 1902-3 there were 10,259 employees in the Post and Telegraph Department, who were paid a total sum amounting to £1,241,330, or an average salary of £121 each. In 1914-15 the number of employees in the Department had risen to 21,395, who were paid a total sum of £3,011,958, or an average salary of £140.7 per employee. If we look now to the revenue figures, we shall find that in 1902-3 the earnings of the Department were £2,404,730, or an average of £234 per employee. For 1914-15 the estimated revenue was £4,566,000, and I believe that about that revenue has been realized. This gives an average earning per employee of £213. That is to say, in twelve years we have more than doubled the receipts of the Post and Telegraph Department, but, while we are paying our employees, on the average, nearly £21 per head more, the earnings of the Department per employee are £21 less than they were twelve years ago.
– Next year the salaries will be still higher, because of the awards.
– The PostmasterGene,ral will see that the point of these figures is that we have here a huge business Department which in twelve years has managed to more than double its receipts, and yet, per employee, the business is earning £21 less than it earned twelve years ago, whilst it is paying each employee £21 more. I have not a word to say against the increase in the salaries paid to the employees, and I do not believe that the work of the employees today is less satisfactory than the work we got from the employees of the Department twelve years ago. Giving that in, the figures point most emphatically to the fact that there must be a great lack of business management for the Department to require, in the first place, more than double the number of employees in twelve years to earn only double the amount, while we are paying the employees more to earn less per employee than they earned twelve years ago. If the concern were managed upon business lines, on doubling its earnings it should be able to show that, per employee, it was earning more than before.
– Does the honorable member suggest any new scheme?
– T. believe that we shall never get any satisfaction from the Post and Telegraph Department until its management is placed in the hands of a commission oi thoroughly trained business men.
– What chance would the country districts have then?
– I believe that under a commission the interests of the country districts would be fully safeguarded. As a representative of a country constituency I would not say that if I did not believe it. The fact remains, from the figures I have quoted, that if, per head, the Post and Telegraph employees were earning what they earned twelve years ago, the Department would show a better return by £300,000 per year than it shows today. I ask the Postmaster-General to give his serious attention to that aspect of the question. I believe that the Department should pay, and can be made to pay. I do not mean to say that mail and telephone services in outlying districts should pay. Parliament should be prepared to do something for the development of Australia by subsidizing mail and telephone services in outlying districts, but in the more thickly settled districts and centres a considerable profit might be shown upon the business transactions of the Department. The manner in which the Department treats people who apply for private service’s on new exchanges is not at all satisfactory. I could quote a number of instances, but one will be sufficient for the present. Near Mullumbimbe. in my electorate, there is a little district called the Pocket, and another called Billinudgel. A number of would-be telephone subscribers there paid a year’s rent, but when they applied for their telephone, about eighteen months ago, the Depart- ment. after a considerable delay, wrote to them and told them they must put up a second year’s rent before it would erect the lines. They paid their second £3 a year, making £6 in all; and although that ‘ was eighteen months ago, not a single telephone line has been installed on those two exchanges. The same thing has occurred in quite a number of districts in my electorate, and in others. The money has actually been paid at th request of the Department, and months have gone by without the people being given the service they expect. I trust the Postmaster-General will look into this matter. In the case of a certain trunk line, the Department asked for a considerable donation from the residents before it would erect the line, which, according to the officials, would not pay. It was eventually agreed that the residents should supply and lay along the line the whole of the poles. The residents fulfilled their part of the contract, but the Department let the poles lie on the ground for ‘nearly twelve months before putting them up. That is not a fair way to treat the people. In that instance, the contribution was not justified, but it was demanded and made; and I believe it was only last week, or the week before, that the Department actually started to erect the poles. In that case, the Department eventually asked the residents to find the labour, and a man who had interested himself in the line set to work and found the labour; but the men were kept hanging about for three months before they could do anything. I could give the Postmaster-General dozens of similar instances’ of the aggravating delays that occur every day in the erection of country telephone lines. I urge him to look into the matter, and see whether it is not possible to shake the Department up, and have the business done in a businesslike way. I am certain that a great deal of the trouble arises from the duplication of effort. The matter is passed on from one officer to another, and this more probably than anything else is the reason why the Department is not paying. It is not properly organized, and I believe that is the reason for a great deal of the loss and delay. If the Postmaster-General will devote his full attention to the matter, and if he eventually succeeds in placing the Department on a thorough business basis, lie will have done a great service to the country and its inhabitants.
.- I have been in this Parliament now for about ten years, and the administration of the Postal Department has been a failure for the whole of that time. There is a magnificent opportunity for a Minister to make a reputation that will endure as long as Australian history endures, if he has the capacity to seize the opportunity.
It may be too early to pass an opinion. The present Minister may be maturing arrangements which have not yet been carried out; but one cannot touch the Department anywhere without finding that it is in a state of chaos. One finds’ the same thing in the interminable delays and unsatisfactory replies to one’s correspondence with the Department. In the General Post Office, Sydney, everything is upside down. No man can carry on his business properly in a crowded office, with insufficient space to sort and file his correspondence and analyze and allocate his administrative arrangements. That is exactly the condition in the Sydney Post Office. There is not enough room to organize the work properly. You cannot have system without room; and under present conditions there can be no proper system or proper organization in the Sydney General Post Office.
I agree with the honorable member for East Sydney that one of the greatest opportunities ever put before any Administration was put before the Government in the suggestion of the honorable member for Darwin - that the Post Office block in Sydney should be compulsorily acquired. It is the most valuable block in Sydney, and the Government could have let the frontage on the ground floor for shops. The postal work could have been done in the centre of the block, or on the higher floors, with electric lifts installed. Not only would this scheme have cost the Commonwealth nothing, but the Commonwealth would actually have reaped a handsome revenue from the ground floor rents. It was one of the most magnificent business propositions ever put forward in this country.
– The Postal Commission recommended it before Mr. O’Malley ever dreamt of it, as you will see from their report.
– I was not aware of it. I heard it from the honorable member for Darwin, so far as my recollection goes, before the Postal Commission’s report came out. Wherever the suggestion came from, the Commonwealth Government missed a great opportunity in not adopting it. Something will have to be done. The longer action is delayed, the more it will cost. Probably, the block could not be acquired for less than £2,000,000 to-day. It could have been acquired for £800,000 a couple of years ago.
I have frequentlyheard the suggestion that Commissioners should be appointed to take charge of the Department; but my view is that the first essential of a successful administration of the Department is a Minister who has the organizing capacity, or understands what organization means. A great many people who think they are organizers know nothing about it. You will not get more than one really competent organizer in every 100,000 of the population. Organizers are born, not made. They are men born with the organizing faculty in them. If a man has not an organizing, analyzing, and methodical brain, it cannot be put into him. The firstthing to do is to obtain such an organizing brain at the head. If a Minister is not an organizer, how can we be assured that he will put organizing Commissioners there, for if he has not the capacity himself he will not be able to discover it in others. What is required is system, organization, distribution of work, and co-ordination of effort. If a Minister has a thorough appreciation of the position, he will say, “ I cannot run every detail of this Department myself, so I will find capable business men, and put them in under me.” Commissioners must be under the control of the Minister. I cannot see myself that the mere act of putting in Commissioners would be any cure for the trouble in the Postal Department. The Minister has power at any time to do that. We want a Minister who appreciates the position, and a Minister who has sufficient influence in Cabinet - sufficient force of character in himself - to insist upon Cabinet giving effect to his ideas, and to insist upon being allowed to run the Postal Department. That is what we want, and, unless the Minister has force of character and possesses organizing ability, we shall have no improvement- in the administration of the Postal Department.
Members come into this House and make suggestions, but I would like to know how many of those suggestions are taken notice of by Ministers ? This is the great fault with the administration of public Departments, and it starts with the officers first. A private employee earning 10s. a day might make a suggestion, but perhaps the man on top, who may be receiving £1,000 a year, thinks it beneath his dignity to accept suggestions from a working man. There are cases in which actual loss occurs because these administrators think it beneath their dignity to adopt suggestions made by subordinate officers. They are not big enough. If they were, there would be a suggestion box to encourage men to come along with suggestions for which, if adopted, they could be rewarded.
– They are supposed to have it, too.
– The same thing occurs in this Chamber. In the pages of Hansard there will be found any number of suggestions made by private members, but how many of them are noticed by the Ministers? “We have responsible government,” they say. This means that one individual takes upon himself responsibility, and if somebody else makes a suggestion to improve the administration of the Department, very often it is beneath the dignity of the Minister to accept it. Apparently, it is thought that it would be tantamount to a confession of failure to accept suggestions from a private member.
To crystallize suggestions into concrete form, upon which members may definitely pass judgment, I have moved a motion or two in this House lately. To take that course brings coals of fire on one’s head. But the only way to get a suggestion really considered is to move a motion. The Minister and members then have to make up their minds one way or. the other.
– Not always.
– The Government whip is quite right. There are ways of side-tracking; but if any side-tracking is done, thepublic of Australia can then see what is going on.
– Not unless you tell them.
– A great many of the public can see what is going on and will know when an attempt is beingmade to hoodwink them.
For many years there has been a great opportunity for the proper organization of the Postal Department.
The opportunity exists now. The present Postmaster-General has the reputation of having organized one of the greatest unions in Australia. The Australian Workers Union, with all its ramifications throughout Australia, is regarded as a very successful organization. I am not in a position to say, of my own knowledge, how much of the success of that great organization is due to the gentleman who is now Postmaster-General, and who is its president, but it is said that he had a very great deal to do with it. If so, he is the class of man one would expect to set about the proper organization of the great Department over which he now presides. He has not been there long, and I hope he will live up to his reputation. He will either add ‘to his reputation or else lose it, and people will say, “ Oh, probably he was responsible for the great work of organizing the Australian Workers Union, but he is no longer fit for work of that kind.” Or else they will say, “ This talk about Mr. Spence being a great organizer is all moonshine.” I hope that will not be said of the Postmaster-General. I trust the honorable gentleman will not lose his reputation, but will add to it by his administration in the great office he now occupies. Method and organization, the application of up-to-date business principles, the capacity to choose the right men for various posts, distribution of work and responsibility - these are some of the essentials required in postal administration. Until we have a Minister who combines these qualities with the executive power to give effect to them, we shall have the “ Post Office muddle.”
There are two or. three other matters which I now feel it my duty to bring before the Minister affecting the working conditions and discipline in the management of the Post Office. A great many postal employees are resident in my electorate, which is one of the city constituencies of New South Wales, and it is my duty to these men to bring these matters forward. I would like the PostmasterGeneral to take note of them, so that they may be looked into.
Half-holiday to postmen. A statement was made recently by the Public Service Commissioner that this half-holiday was given as a matter of grace.
– They have not got an. award.
– They went beforethe Arbitration Court, and it appears that the Judge i said he would not interfere with that matter, but would leave it,, presuming that it would be carried out. satisfactorily.
– In some places they get the half-holiday, and in others they do not.
– Yes. It does not seem to be a regular system, and this= causes dissatisfaction. Privileges of thiskind ought to be embodied in the regulations as a matter of right, and not held lip as a privilege and an act of gracewhich may be given in some cases and taken away in others.
– You do not propose tomake the half -holiday uniform, do you?”
– It may be that,, in the working of the Department, somediscretion should be allowed, and that thehalfholiday should be given on one day in some districts, and on another day inother districts. I understand that an excuse is made that if an employee has not worked over forty-six and a half hoursper week, or ninety-three hours for the- fortnight, the holiday cannot be given-
– Forty-four hours a weekMr. J. H. CATTS.- Yes; but there is= a certain amount of overtime allowed before overtime payment commences, I’ understand.
– For instance, ina case where a man has almost finished his day’s work, and a quarter or halfanhour would be necessary to terminatewhat he is doing, overtime does not start until a certain time has elapsed. Another excuse is given that there is no oneto relieve. I ask the Minister in that case to see if the matter cannot be puton a definite basis. He will know from his long experience in industrial mattersthat if the cause of the dissatisfaction and uncertainty was removed, it would dispel the idea which men get that favoritism ispractised in some cases, and make for thesmoother working of the Department.
Mail Branch Assistants. On Saturdays it is stated that these men go towork, in many instances, at 11.30 a.m. and work to 9 or 10 p.m., with half-an- hour off for lunch and tea, and in those cases no half-holiday is allowed. The Minister might look into that matter, loo.
Male Telephonists. ‘ I was instrumental in arranging for a deputation to the Minister which took place on 15th February of this year.
He stated, so it is said, that a strong case had been put before him, that ho would have an investigation made, and a reply given later. The reply has not, so far, been given. If the Minister would expedite a detailed reply to the deputation on the points then placed before him, it would relieve the minds of the officers concerned, as well as cure the indefiniteness and uncertainty that prevail as to what the Minister’s determination is on the matters referred to him.
– Are they technical matters that it takes four months to get a reply?
– There has not been a detailed reply from the Minister yet. I believe that there have been general statements made by some of the officers, but that is not satisfactory. I do not know what justification there is for the length of time which has passed. There may be every justification, ‘but I bring the matter before the Minister now so that he may expedite a reply.
Boards of Inquiry. I want to say a word or two, first about an instance of the working of a Board of Inquiry, and then about Boards of Inquiry generally. I shall be very brief. The latter part of section 49 of the Public Service Act reads -
In any case where a charge against an officer is submitted to a Board of Inquiry, a copy of all documents intended to be used at such inquiry shall, where practicable, be furnished to such officer at least seven days before such inquiry is held.
In the case under notice, the officer charged made two applications to inspect the file, but he was given to understand that it contained no statements which would interest him. When witnesses came before the Board of Inquiry, they swore that they had already signed statements. Those statements must have been on the file, but they were not supplied. On the first day of the case the officer applied for leave to inspect the file, but the officer conducting the case for the Department objected, and the application was disallowed. The case went on to the second day, when the employee asked a second time to be allowed to see the file which was being used by the officer conducting the inquiry, and the chairman told the employee that all that he wanted was to be quizzing at the departmental papers. Yet those papers were used in the prosecution of the case. What I wish to ask the Minister is whether in those circumstances the officer charged is not entitled to see the file which is being used to prosecute him, in order to find out what he is really up against ? If the officer has not adopted the correct procedure, will the Minister have the matter investigated, and state what the right procedure is, so that the information may be published through the staff, and they will know the means to go about securing their rights 1
Appeal Boards generally. I have dealt with these before. It isi an entirely unsatisfactory arrangement. At present a Board comprises two departmental officers and one employees’ representative. To begin with, it is a lop-sided arrangement. The two departmental officers are interested in maintaining what they call the discipline of the Department. Their ideas, in the main, all run in one channel, and they think that anything done by the officers is right and that everything done by the employees is wrong. There should be an independent Appeal Board, or Board of Inquiry, or whatever you like to call it, with a magistrate - a trained legal man - as chairman. Let there be an officer from the Department elected by the Administration and an employees’ representative, nominated and elected by the employees. That would be a fair Board. Then let us have a legal chairman, who would see that evidence was admitted in a proper legal way.
I have had some experience. I went to Boards of Inquiry in Sydney and conducted two cases. I have had many years of experience in conducting cases before similar Boards. The arrangements I saw at Sydney were, as I said before, typical of the general chaos and disorganization which are found to exist wherever you touch the Post and Telegraph Department. For instance, the complaint against the officer had been orally made. The Assistant Engineer would go to the Chief Engineer and make a complaint orally. Then he would go before the Board of Inquiry and state the complaint he had so made. A case may be fairly conducted, but it is always open to the suspicion that the officer is able to shift his ground sufficiently to defeat the employee on his appeal when the charge is not reduced to writing and put in some prescribed form. I saw evidence admitted there which absolutely amazed me, which I am sure would not be admitted in any Court in the irregular way in which it was admitted there, and which certainly would not be admitted by the Railway Appeal Boards which I have had anything to do with in an experience extending over a number of years.
– Did you raise an objection ?
– I did. First, it is a loo-sided Board; and, secondly, the records are extremely loose. There is no business system in keeping the records on which the officers are dealt with and punished. You cannot have justice unless there is system in keeping the records. After the Board hears a case, it draws ur> a report and sends it on to the Public Service Commissioner, who is hundreds of miles away. You can probably get an idea as the inquiry progresses that the officers conducting it have arrived at a certain decision in their own minds. Yet, privately - I was going to say through a subterranean channel - the report goes on to the Commissioner. You do not know what the officers have reported; you do not know whether their report is in accordance with the evidence given or not. You may get justice, but if you do the case will be exceptional. The whole system is subversive of justice. If you get injustice and dissatisfaction it seems to me that it is a natural crop from such a system.
I had one case before this departmental Board. The records and evidence put forward by the Department were so poor that no case was made out against the officer concerned, and I said to the Chairman. “ There is no case to answer.” For that reason I refused to put the appellant into the witness-box to make a case for the Department. My view was that it was for the Department to prove its case. But in the report to the Public Service Commissioner, the Board said that the fact that the man would not go into the witness-box and deny the accusations made against him proved that he was guilty. On that report he was ‘’ outed.” I understand that in French Courts one has to prove his innocence; hut the British principle is that every man is innocent until proved guilty. The Boards of Inquiry appointed in the Post Office appear to have reversed this principle. There will never be satisfaction in the Department until this matter is put right. Surely the Minister can investigate the procedure. I put one case before him, but the reply I received was rather special pleading in support of the wrong that I considered had been done by the Board of Inquiry than an independent review of the evidence. No doubt it is much to expect of the Minister that he should go through all the evidence, the taking of which may have occupied a Board of Inquiry several days, to form an independent judgment; but he could relieve himself of the odium which attaches to the indorsement of wrong-doing by putting these Boards on a proper basis, so that justice might be done by them. If he makes inquiry himself, he will be convinced that the present system should be altered, and I hope, remembering the force of character with which he has been credited, that he will then insist on putting the wrong right.
.- I wish to again bring before the Minister a matter of serious importance to the linesmen of Australia. Speaking last week, I said that a linesman receiving less than £156 per annum, and insured for £200, had to pay an annual premium of £17. I have since ascertained that the man’s salary is £138 per annum, and his premium £15 10s. In another case a linesman, insured for £200, pays a premium of £17 Is. lOd. This man sat for examination to qualify for the position of line foreman. Had he passed, his salary would have been increased to £180 per annum, with the possibility of a rise to £210, and he would have been compelled to insure for another £100, which would have increased his premium by £10 18s. 6d. a vear. I bring these cases under notice because I wish the Postmaster-General to mention the matter in Cabinet, with a view to inducing the Government to introduce an insurance scheme which will relieve these men of the necessity to pay such heavy premiums.
– It is the Public Service Act which compels them to insure.
– My point is that, the Government should, insure them.. There are 2,016 linesmen in Australia, leaving out of account South Australia, and the Average of their premiums is probably £15 a year. I think, therefore, that it is high time- to consider the establishment of a Government Insurance Department. Until such a Department is established, these men. axe not likely to be satisfied. There are other matters, that I had intended to mention,, but I do not now propose to refer to them to-night.
.- I wish to refer briefly to the matter of forage allowance. The Minister has promised that our complaints, shall be attended to; but I ask him why honorable members are not notified of what is to be done? When we approach the Department, we should receive definite replies to our requests. I have written about several cases, in some of which widowed women are concerned, but I do not know yet whether anything is to be done. These people are constantly writing to me on the subject. Apparently the Department wishes them to come to Melbourne to state their case. I have stated the cases of several to the Department, and desire a reply. I am sufficiently conversant with the circumstances to know that these persons have had a hard struggle. They .have taken contracts at low prices, and whereas the Government have reserved the right to cancel any contract at any tune, the contractors are bound to carry out their agreements, no matter- how circumstances may change. Many of these contractors are now being, bled, and I am sure .that the country does not desire that poor people should be treated hardly when bad times come. Surely justice and «. little mercy might be extended to them by the Government. If the PostmasterGeneral were to ask honorable members to submit specific cases again, we should be ready to do so. I have waited in vain for information from the Department. I cannot tell my correspondents anything. Some time ago the Postmaster-General sent a circular letter to public bodies in the country, and, I presume, in the cities, inviting them to state their troubles to the local inspectors.
– -We have heard nothing of it in the city electorates.
– These public bodies are told, in effect, not to mind their local member that they may save time and trouble by going direct to the fountain of justice - the. local inspector. Whilst that may mean economy, it is opposed to the established principle of representative government. If. the local members are not wanted for this purpose - and I am certainly not looking-for work - they will be more* despised than they are now in many quarters. Members of this Parliament are belittled quite enough without the Postmaster.’-General going out of his way to further belittle us. Whilst these permanent officers may give satisfaction for a time, they will ultimately become so secure in their positions* and so independent of control, that the exercise of their powers will be- a distinct menace to justice. We cannot depend on men, who are beyond the reach of authoritative control, to always do the right thing and- to deal judicially with everything that comes- before them. It is absolutely necessary that the principle of representative government should be maintained; that the local people should know that their representative is always accessible, and that, if they cannot get satisfaction by a direct appeal, they may set the wheels of legislation in motion* through their member, and be heard on the floor of this House, if necessary with the weight of a party behind their case. That system is more satisfactory than to leave these matters entirely to the caprice of a local officer. I do not think we can be too severe in our condemnation of such a principle as that to which I’ have alluded. There is another matter which has been brought under my notice by the secretary of the Telegraphists Association. Some years ago the Department introduced a, certain number of typewriters into the operating room. They were in use for a time, but the machines, being operated by all hands, soon became unworkable, and were cast aside. I do not understand much about the mechanism of a typewriter, but I am told that it has something of a psychological character, and that if everybody bangs away at the machine it soon gets out of order. The Department recognised this fact, and arranged for the telegraphists to purchase their own machines, for which the Department would allow each officer £6 per annum as hire.. That system has been in operation for some time, but now comes this notice from the Postmaster-General’s Department to all those telegraphists who are using their own typewriters -
In connexion with the abolition of typewriter allowances, this Department is prepared to make you anoffer for the transfer of your machineunder the following conditions:-
The total life of a machine well maintained maybe taken as ten years.
The Department can obtain new machines ofasuitable type at a cost of £14each, and, providing your machine is in good order and condition, is prepared to take it over at a valuation calculated as follows: -
Initial cost of machine, £14.
That is the standard price assumed by the Department, regardless of what the telegraphist may have paid for his machine -
Less four years’ depreciation, at rate of £18s. per annum, calculated on the length of time your machine has been in use, £5 12s.
Present value to Department, £88s.
If you accept this valuation, the present scale allowance of 10s. per month will continue until the sum of £10 10s. is paid to you.
This is indeed high finance; I never heard anything like it. An honorable member asks if I still say the officials are not business men. They can be business men without being absolute Jews. This is a Jewish proposition. To mention specific cases, one man has been offered £5 12s. for a machine for which he paid £30 some time ago. Another man has been offered £8 8s. for what he paid £20 10s. for two years ago; that man’s case is certainly very hard.
Dr.Carty Salmon. - Has the Department arranged to pay interest as well?
– The Department undertook to rent the machines at 10s. per month, and I contend that the existing arrangement should not be disturbed until each machine is practically worn out. I realize that the hire cannot continue indefinitely, but there should be a more equitable assessment than is proposed. Another telegraphist was offered £10 10s. for a machine for which he paid £18 18s. ; another man was offered £8 8s., and had paid £27 ; another is offered £714s., and had paid £22 ; another was offered £9 2s., and had paid . £22; another was offered £7, and had paid £22 ; another was offered £9 15s., and had paid £22; and another was offered £9 15s., and had paid £27. I admit that the length of time that a machine has been in use is a factor to he taken into consideration, and in some instances the arrangement may be practically fair, as in the following case : -
Initial cost of suitable machine, £14.
Less eight years’ depreciation, at the rate of £1 8s. per annum, calculated on the length of time your machine has been, in use, £11 4s.
Present value to the Department, £2 16s.
If you accept this valuation, the present scale allowance of 10s. per month will continue until the sum of £2 16s. is paid to you.
That relates to a machine for which the telegraphist paid £20 eight years ago.
– That is a joke.
Mr.CARR. - It is an annulment of a contract without proper consideration to one of the parties. The Department made a deal, and is now backing out of it. I do not say that the contract was a wise one in the first place, but after it has been operating for a couple of years it is hard that a man who has paid £20 for his machine should be compelled to take so much less for it. The former case is, perhaps, not such a bad one as some of the others, as the man has been paid £6 per year for eight years, and therefore he has received £48 in respect of the rental of his machine. I admit that he has had a fairly good innings, but if a deduction had been made at the rate of 28s. per year to cover depreciation, without any account at all being taken of the sum paid for rent, the position would have been fairer. I have another instance where a man was similarly written to. The initial cost of his machine was put down at £14. Two and a half years’ depreciation amounted to £3.10s., leaving the sum of £10 10s., the payment of which was offered at the rate of 10s. per month. Thisman paid £27 for his machine two and a half years ago. He has had the rental that he was entitled to during this period, but yet he will not get his outlay back; and it is not fair that he should have to accept the sum the Government offer. When the Government, in the first instance, made a bargain, good or bad, they should stick to it; but, in any case, surely a man is entitled to be paid in cash. Why does the Department want to put a levy like this upon its wage-earners? There is no high finance about matters of this kind, and I ask the Postmaster-General tosee that these machines are at least taken at their original valuation, less a fair sum for wear and tear. The sum of £1 8s. per year seems a fair thing for depreciation; but I think the Department should ignore altogether its rental payments o) 10s. per month when assessing the value of a machine.
– There are two matters of policy that I wish to say a word or two about. I am sorry to see the Postmaster-General has issued orders which will have the effect of reducing the allowances paid to persons at the allowance offices - the people in the Postal Service who receive the smallest remuneration.
– There is no reduction in the scale. No such order has been issued.
– Then somebody is acting without authority. I have a letter dated 23rd June, in which it is stated that the sum to be paid in future will be much less than £28.
– They are being paid on the scale of business done. If the business goes down, that may account for a reduction; but there has been no change in the scale.
– I want to ask the Postmaster-General whether he thinks at this period, when everybody is suffering, and when his Government is begging employers not to reduce their hands or their remuneration, that the Postal Department should act in this way and give people less than a living wage? It cannot be contended that £28 10s. per year is sufficient payment to these officers where premises are provided. In the case I refer to, it is not only a post-office, but there is a telephone attached, and, in addition, the contractors, or whatever they may be , called, have had thrust upon them extra work in connexion with the revision of the rolls without any extra payment. Now they are being told that at the end of this month they will receive considerably less than they have been getting up to the present time.
– Perhaps the revenue is going down.
– A great many others have got more.
– It may be that the revenue is decreasing, but does the Postmaster-General think that the sum of £28 10s. is enough for the Government to pay to any person who gives the use of his house, looks after the postal business, the telephone, and the revision of the rolls?
– Some are only getting £12.
– Then I say it is a shame.
– It is for services rendered.
– I have heard the Postmaster-General and many of his friends argue that payment should not. always be limited to services rendered, but that there should be a minimum below which no one should be allowed to go, notwithstanding what the conditions are.
– There is a minimum of £12.
– Five shillings a week ! If the Postmaster-General says that is sufficient remuneration for the work that has to be done, then I am surprised. I am sorry that there has been no practical result from the representations that have been made in regard to my district, at any rate, as to the conditions of those people, who, having made their contracts last year, before there was any drought, now find themselves in a very bad way indeed. I think better consideration should be shown to them. The other matter to which I wish to refer is also a question of policy. Here the Department is seeking to shelter itself behind the Postal Act, which provides that if anything is ‘lost within the Post Office the Department shall not be responsible for more than £2. A constituent of mine sent a cheque by registered letter to one of the leading warehouses in Melbourne. It was properly addressed. The letter contained a cheque for £6 Is. 3d., which was crossed, and which was intended to pay an account at the warehouse. The money was not received, and inquiry was made. The Postal authorities said the letter had been delivered to a representative of the firm, that he had signed the book, and that was all about it, so far as they were concerned. Further inquiries, however, showed that the letter was de- livered to some unauthorized person, that the cheque was cashed at a public house in Bourke-street, since when the man who cashed the cheque had not been seen. The Postal Department refuses any redress whatever to this person, who took every care to insure the safe delivery of the letter. Under the circumstances, I think the Postal Department is acting most unfairly in sheltering behind an Act which protects them in a certain degree; and here, again, I appeal to the PostmasterGeneral personally not to refuse to pay to a person, from whom they have taken money for the safe delivery of a letter, an amount which I say they are in honour bound to return. I do not wish to attack the administration, but I do say that it is a remarkable thing that this should occur in the Melbourne General Post Office, where we have a box-room for letters delivered on behalf of those who pay a fee. More postmen would be necessary were it not for the number of people who pay fees to the Department for the privilege and the convenience of having their letters placed in private boxes, and surely the Department ought to exercise some care with respect to the delivery of re- ‘gistered letters through that box system ! In this case a pink card was placed in the box belonging to this warehouse intimating that there was a registered letter which could be obtained on application at the window. That is the ordinary practice, and it is a proper one. Registered letters addressed to this firm are collected from day to day, and sometimes three and four times a day, by a lad who is well known personally to the officials in the office where such letters are delivered;’ but the Department employs a man who is so careless that in this case, although it was well known that a lad always called for the registered letters, he handed the letter to a man. It is known that the pink card was presented by a man of whom a description was supplied by an hotelkeeper to the police, who made inquiries on behalf of the person who lost the money. The official on duty at the time knew that the person who applied was not the usual representative of the warehouse, and yet he handed over this registered letter to him. For all he knew it might have contained hundreds of pounds ; but he made no inquiry as to the of the individual who signed the book. This I regard as gross carelessness. The Department is responsible for carelessness on the part of its employees, just as any other employer of labour should be, but although the matter has been under consideration since last November, no satisfaction has been obtained. I received from the Deputy Postmaster-General a few days ago a letter intimating that, after full inquiries, it was found that no responsibility could be accepted by the- Department. I am loath to move for a reduction of this item, in order to give the Committee an opportunity to direct the Postmaster-Genera! to pay the unfortunate woman who addressed this registered letter to the warehouse in question, but I am afraid I shall have to do so. As a matter of fact, the money was advanced to her by a relative to enable her to pay a trading account. She is compelled now to suffer the loss and to again pay the whole amount, owing to the most extraordinary method adopted by the Department in first of all sheltering itself behind an Act of Parliament, and secondly in employing persons who are so wanting in a proper sense of their responsibility that they will hand over a registered letter to any one who presents a card of the kind I have described. Tt has been said that this particular firm lost a key to their box some time before this incident occurred, and the idea is that the person who found it used it on this particular occasion. That explanation, to my mind, is a little too thin. Any one who had found the key, and had desired to use it, would have employed it more frequently. In such circumstances it is not likely that only a card relating to a registered letter would have been removed from the box. Since the loss of the key many unregistered letters containing money have been placed in the box; but all that has been taken from it is the card in question. In all these circumstances, I am surprised that the Department presided over by a Minister such as we have at the head of it at the present time, should shelter itself behind an Act of Parliament, and allow this unfortunate woman to lose her money in this way.
– The Minister will inquire into the matter, and see if he cannot do justice. .Dr. CARTY SALMON.- The PostmasterGeneral does .not seem to be inclined to favorably view my request. .1 shall, therefore, ask the Committee to divide on the question. I appeal to honorable members to support me in urging that those who .send valuable articles through the post, and who take the precaution to register them, are entitled to the exercise of ordinary care by the Department, so that these articles may reach those to whom they are addressed.
– The honorable member would not divide the Committee without an inquiry on the subject? .Dr. CARTY SALMON. - There have been months of inquiry, and I am tired of the delay. I move -
That the proposed vote be reduced by £1.
– I should like to see justice done to the individual who .sent the letter to which the honorable member for Grampians has just referred, but I do not think that I should be called upon to vote blindly for the amendment.- If the fault rests with the Department, then, I think, a refund should be made; but I think an inquiry should be held. The incident referred to by the honorable member is not the only one that might be cited as showing the unbusiness-like methods of the Department. In my electorate the carriage of mails between the post-office and the railway station is conducted under the primitive system which was followed .sixty years ago. At South Melbourne and Port Melbourne every day at noon two young men may be seen pushing a hand-cart containing the mails from die post-office to the railway station, and returning with mails for inward delivery. At a certain time of the day, however, a motor car leaves the General Post Office for Port Melbourne, South Melbourne, and Windsor. Why that motor car is not used for all deliveries I do not know. If it were, then mails for my electorate could be cleared at the General Post Office later, md delivered at the suburban post-offices earlier than is now done. The exPostmasterGeneral promised to consider this matter, but nothing has yet been done. If the Department cannot adopt up-to-date methods, there must be something wrong.
I ask the Postmaster-General to take ai note of .my complaint and to deal with it. I wish now to :refer to one of the biggest miscarriages of justice that has ever taken place in connexion with the Department. The present postmaster ‘at Prahran is a Mr. Patterson, who for some years acted as Postmaster and Divisional Returning Officer at South Melbourne.. He is not a political friend of mine, since he is one of those nasty old Conservatives who vote against our party, so that I am not led to speak for him because of any political motive. I knew him for years as Postmaster and Divisional Returning Officer at South Melbourne, and can say that he was always most assiduous in the discharge of his duties. No– “ boss “ can always please his men, but those under Mr. Patterson, while he was at South Melbourne, will say that he carried out his work in. . a way that was a credit to himself and to the two Departments which he served. A position became vacant at Geelong, and this officer applied for it. I may state that this new position would have given him £20 a year more; but, although he had only five years to go before the statutory age of retirement^ and had an unblemished record as a postmaster, he was passed over in favour of a man whowas earning £80 a year less. Of course, we know that under circumstances of the kind there are always complaints, but it docs seem peculiar that such a case as this should have arisen. It certainly offers no inducement to any officer to give .any special attention to his duties; and I should certainly like the PostmasterGeneral to look into the matter. I believe that one of the reasons given is that this mail is sixty years of age ; but a reply to that is that, if he is not fit for the position at Geelong, he is not fit for Ms present .position. The Postmaster-General ought tosee that grossly unfair action of that sort is not permitted in the Post Office in thefuture.
.- I was very much hurt’ on Friday .at the contempt which was exhibited towards the. Postmaster-General when he got up to. make an explanation or “mark time” - whatever it might be. When a gentleman, is returned by a constituency, and then selected by his own party to fill an important Ministerial position, he ought, ‘at least, to command the respect of those who sit behind. him. I think it was very unbecoming of members, of the Ministerial party to treat the honorable gentleman in- the way they did, I regret very much that for quite a number of years there has been a huge loss on this Department; but, before putting any further burden, on those who use the telephone or other agencies .of the Department, the PostmasterGeneral might look into themanagement’ as a whole, and see if much of the waste cannot be avoided.
– That has been done already, and a big saving ought to be effected.
– Something has been done, but there is room for quite a number of improvements. For instance, I believe that the old system prevailed that where there is a revenue of £150 per annum a continuous telephone service is granted. The public in country places do- not require a continuous service, but an extended service. The Department has said right, through, that a district must either take an eighthour service or a twenty-four hour service; and I’ believe that some, time ago tests were made in Queensland as to the number of calls between midnight and 6 o’clock or 9 o’clock in the morning, with the result that, over a period of some months, there was only one call. That call, I may say, was by some pressman on unimportant business. In smaller country towns I am sure that an extended service of twelve hours per day would be very much appreciated, and would relieve the congestion of the trunk lines, with the additional advantage of returning more revenue and saving expense in the matter of attendants. I hope that, whatever is done, the ground - rent for telephones will not be increased. We have a cheap and good service in Australia, and if there is any deficiency itshould be made up by increasing the rate per call, and not by increasing the ground rental. To many a private family a rental of £3 or £3 10s. is a good one; and it is the large business firms, who are calling some one up every few minutes, that cause the extra expense. There is much room/ for improvement in the matter of the use of trunk lines. I can give an instance in the Laidley and Brisbane trunk lines; and I have, myself, waited from an hour to an hour and a half in order to communicate with Brisbane. My own opinion is that, in all . country places near to a city there, should b& omnibuslines with exclusive use. A good deal, of the- congestion on the trunk line- is. caused: by intermediate stations cutting in for hours and hours, and depriving the trunk, lines of the revenue which rightly belongs, to them. If the line I have mentioned, were in constant use. for eight hours, it would earn: something like £14 per day ; and yet we are told that such lines are not paying. I think that with a little bit of management a great saving could be made. I think the: minimum charges- for calls are ridiculously low. It may, of course,, in some instances be regarded asa hardship that the users of telephones have to pay a little more; but I can assure the Postmaster-General that in quite a number of towns the peoplewould keenly appreciate the opportunity to use a telephone by paying doubleor three times the minimum amount. As to the rate- of a penny for the first 15 miles. I do not think it is worth whileswitching on that, distance for that sum. In most towns the residents are asked to. guarantee any deficiency ; and- 1 think the public will be quite willing to pay 2d. or 3d. a call. The telephones would pay if the- Government would only depart from their present hard-and-fast rule. A good deal of revenue is lost in the way I have indicated; but, as I have suggested, a minimum of 3d. per call would not be regarded as unjust by the users of country telephones. In many instances the Department have dilly-dallied with contractors to whom they have owed money. They have kept them waiting from six to twelve months and have only come up to the mark when threatened with prosecution. As the Department is not short of money, when a contract is completed it should be paid for. Not only does the Department delay in paying, it also retains the contractors’ deposits; and as many contractors are men of moderate means - in fact, are poor men who have to live on what they get from these small contracts - they cannot afford to be kept out of deposit money, let alone contract payments. I hope that the Department will display more energy in regard to the construction of telephone lines for which sanction has already been given. Right throughout Australia there are men out of work, so that there can be no excuse advanced that men cannot be obtained, and as in many instances half, and even more than half, the cost of these lines has been contributed by the settlers, the Government should get a move on. If they have not the permanent staff to do the necessary work they should let contracts, or take on temporary hands, as they see fit; but, above all, they should get the work done, more particularly at a time when so many men are looking for work. There is no excuse on account of lack of labour, and there is no excuse on the ground that the money cannot be found, because, in the cases that I have mentioned, the money has already been voted by Parliament. I hope that the Minister will give a gentle hint to his officers to see that this work is expedited.
– As every honorable member knows, we are anxious to get these Estimates through, and as there is no opportunity to-night to reply to much that has been said in debate, I shall take the statements of honorable members out of Hansard and have every one of them carefully inquired into. I should like the honorable member for Grampians to withdraw his amendment. I shall have a full inquiry made into the matter. It certainly has not come up to the central office, so far as I know; but I cannot see that the officer could have done anything else when the card was presented to him. There is a great deal of carelessness on the part of box holders. In one month keys were left in boxes by twenty-four box holders, and twenty-seven boxes were left open. The Department cannot be charged with carelessness in that regard.
.- I am sorry to rise at this hour, but it is unfortunate that we should be restricted in discussing a most important Department such as the Postmaster-General’s Department, and in pointing out what we deem necessary for its good government. We are generally crushed in the matter of time for the discussion of this Department.I had withheld any remarks upon it, waiting the Minister’s reply to some of the criticisms, but he has not given us any.
– If I had honorable members would have missed their trains and trams.
– Are trains and trams more important than the business of a great Department, in which every honorable member is interested? Are we to sacrifice the well-being of the people because honorable members wish to catch trams?
– We shall be dealing with the new Estimates shortly.
– In the case of a big Department such as this it is fair that we should have a reply to some of the principal complaints. However, I am not going to worry the Minister at this hour, but as we shall be dealing with the Appropriation Bill to-morrow I shall have a few words to say then, and I shall expect the Minister to make some reply.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 108 (Cables), £10,700; division 109 (Mails, via Suez), £170,000; division 110 (New South Wales), £1,836,224; division 111 (Victoria), £1,139,792; division 112 (Queensland), £755,373; division 113 (South Australia), £388,190; division 114 (Western Australia), £456,982; division 115 (Tasmania), £173,385; division 116 (Northern Territory), £20,115, agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -
That the following resolution be reported to the House : - That, including the several sums already voted in this and the last preceding session of Parliament for such services, there be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1914-15, for the several services hereunder specified, sums not exceeding in each case the following amounts, viz. : -
House adjourned at 11.34 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 June 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1915/19150630_reps_6_77/>.