8th Parliament · 1st Session
The Clerk reported the unavoidable absence of Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Hon. J. M. Chanter) took the chair at 2.31 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Treasurer whether the Government of New South Wales have declined to settle any more soldiers on the land, alleging as their reason that no more money is available?
– I do not know if that is so; but, in any case, what has occurred is due to no fault of the Commonwealth Government. At the last Conference between Commonwealth and State Ministers, a definite understanding was come to about the financing of future soldier settlements, and there the matter rests, so far as I know. There has been no recalcitrancy on the part of this Government.
– I wish to know if Professor Gilruth, Judge Bevan, and Mr. Carey, who were found by a Royal Commission guilty of maladministration, are still drawing their salaries? Has the Government taken, or does it propose to take, any action in regard to them?
Mr.POYNTON. - The statement is not correct so far as Professor Gilruth is concerned; but it is correct in regard to the other two. The matter has been before the Crown Law authorities, whose recommendation I saw this morning for thefirst time. That recommendation will be placed before the Cabinet.
– I again draw attention to the continued pollution of Sydney Harbor with oil and debris of various kinds. Personally, I am satisfied with the explanation of the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) given when he was Minister for the Navy, and with the personal assurance of my good friend Commodore
Dumaresq, who is in charge of the Fleet, that he is doing everything possible, but considers that merchant ships might also be responsible. I ask the Minister for the Navy, however, if he will confer with the Sydney Harbor Trust so that something may be done to abate the nuisance. What was “our lovely harbor “ is becoming “ our polluted harbor.”
– I cannot think that any vessel of the Royal Australian Navy is causing the trouble, because the instruction has been given that oil and debris are not to be emptied into the harbor; and quite recently one of our vessels went a considerable distance outside the Heads to discharge bilge-water. The Sydney Harbor Trust should look after a matter that is its own affair.
– But the Royal Australian Navy is getting the blame for what is occurring.
– I shall inquire whether any blame properly attaches to it.
– In the interests of those who come from a distance, I ask the Treasurer when he intends to bring down his Budget?
– Very shortly, I hope. The preparation of my statement is being hurried on as quickly as possible; but everything is not quite ready yet.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Invalid, Old-age, and Blind Persons’ Pensions - Widows and Children - Hospital Inmates.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– These questions are still under the consideration of the Government.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In view of the probable surplus of revenue to the extent of five or six millions, will he take steps to increase the invalid and old-age pensions to £1 per week?
– It is regretted that the financial position will not permit of the increase suggested being granted. The Government is, however, considering the question of increasing the amount permitted to be earned by pensioners.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– I am considering this matter in connexion with questions submitted to me by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) on Friday last.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the fact that the actual expenditure on war gratuities is now a known quantity, he will introduce an amending Bill to include in gratuity payments members of the Royal Australian Naval Brigade, who by the terms of their enlistment in that brigade were prevented from enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force?
– This question was given every consideration when the various classes to benefit by the war gratuity were being decided. Those classes were determined by the character of the service rendered, and it is not now proposed to extend the scope of the Act.
Overseas Accounts: Auditor-General’s Report
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the recent Conference of those controlling the wheat “ Pool,” can he inform the House as to what the position now is in regard to future dividends?
– The recent Conference did not discuss the question of further advances, and there is no statement to make in this respect.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Can he yet give the House information as to when the 50 per cent. profit of the Imperial Government on Australian wool is likely to be paid?
– No; but I am addressing a further cable to the Secretary of State for the Colonies on the matter to-day, which it is hoped will result in an immediate interim payment.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
PACIFIC MAIL CONTRACT.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
With reference to replies made by him on the 28th July and the 11th day of August to questions by the honorable member for Kooyong concerning the new mail contract with Messrs. Burns, Philp and Company, will he inform the House -
On what grounds the Government agreed that the present rates were to be increased in the first instance by 20 per cent.?
Whether the Government consulted the Controller of Shipping as to increasing such rates, and did that officer report that such an increase was reasonable?
That in the event of the Government not having consulted the Controller of Shipping, under what authority are Messrs. Burns, Philp and Company now charging 20 per cent. increase.
Will the Government take the necessary steps to have the rates and fares fixed on a reasonable basis?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and replies will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister in charge of shipbuilding -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
The following papers were pre sented : -
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act - Statement for 1919-20.
Ordered to be printed.
Public Service Act - Department of the Treasury - Promotions of - S.R. Peterson, H. L. Cox, B. Perrin, H. H. Emmett,F. B. Lee, J. V. Hawtin, H. H. Trebilco,R. J. Mair, E. W. Tunks, W.R. Kinane.
War Service Homes Act-Land acquired under, at Daylesford, Victoria.
On the motion of Mr. Hughes, the following papers, laid on the table of the House on the 24th September, 1919, were ordered to be printed : -
Peace Treaty -
Rhine Provinces - Declaration by the Governments of the United States of America, Great Britain, and Prance in regard to the occupation of.
Rhine Territories - Agreement between the United States of America, Belgium, the British Empire, and France and Germany with regard to the Military occupation of. Signed at Versailles, 28th June, 1919.
Treaty of Peace between the United States of America, the British Empire, France, Italy, and Japan and Poland. Signed at Versailles, 28th June, 1919.
Sugar Distribution - Dependants of Missing Soldiers - Navy Administration : Withdrawal of Jerseys and Blankets : Salute for Naval Board - Disabled Soldiers - Tariff - Export of Scrap Metals - Post and Telegraph Department : Drought Allowance to Mail Contractors: Allowance Offices: Telephone Service: Sydney Telephone Exchange: Supply of Telephone Material: Country Mail Service: Use of Aeroplanes - New South Wales Meteorological Reports - Anzac Tweed Industry - Commercial Aviation - Wireless Telegraphy - Australian Imperial Force: Life Insurance - Permanent Military Forces: Pay of Instructional Staff: Retention of War Rank - Public Service Salaries - War Precautions - Shipping Regulations.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair.
.- I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene), the unsatisfactory distribution ofsugar, which is a matter of consider able importance to very many people. For some time past difficulty has been experienced by the co-operative societies in getting supplies, and although the matter has been previously brought to the notice of the Minister ground for complaint still exists. For instance, the Cessnock society is unable to get anything like a fair and adequate supply, and the secretary in a letter which I have received to-day says -
I wish to bring under your notice that for several weeks we have only been able to obtain very small quantities of sugar in comparison to the turnover of the above society, which for grocery only is at the rate of approximately £85,000 per annum.
From observation and information received, I am of the opinion that several storekeepers in this district are receiving larger quantities of sugar than we do, and their turnover is considerably less.
Our normal requirements are approximately 4 tons per week, and for the last six weeks we have only received 7½ tons to satisfy the requirements of 1,500 families (approximately 24 tons). When you take into consideration that we supply practically the whole of the requirements of the above families it must be brought very forcibly before you that several of our shareholders are without sugar.
For the last six months we have obtained the whole of the sugar that we have received from the New South Wales Co-operative Wholesale Society, Newcastle.
Personally, the writer would like to know if it is on this account that the society’s sugar is received in such small quantities?
I have been requested by certain members of the Committee to point out that in their opinion we are not receiving a fair distribution of sugar, and several shareholders are thinking about taking industrial action unless we receive sugar in larger quantities in the future than we have in the last few weeks.
Trusting that you are in a position so that you will be able to take steps and try to get this matter rectified, and stop any thought of industrial action.
I hope that some effort will be made to reach finality in this matter. The secretary of the society says that he does not know whether the reason for his society not receiving greater supplies is the fact that it obtains its sugar direct from the co-operative wholesale company, but I know, and I think the Minister knows, that when that company was established some years ago it supplied all the co-operative societies in the Newcastle district, and it found the greatest difficulty in getting any supply at all. Even when it did get a supply it was denied the 2½ per cent. rebate which was given by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company to other customers. I do not know whether that anomaly has been rectified.
Mr.Watkins. - The Minister promised me that it would be rectified.
– So far as I know, every customer who takes upwards of a specified quantity receives the same rate of discount.
– It must be evident that the wholesale co-operative company would take the specified quantity, because it is a very big concern. There is another difficulty which suggests that for some reason or other the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is working in harmony with other storekeepers to the detriment of the people interested in the co-operative society. Local storekeepers who have not anything like as big a turnover as has the co-operative society are yet able to get greater supplies than are allowed to the society, which is thus placed at a disadvantage. Many customers who require sugar are obliged to go elsewhere, and the storekeeper says to them, “ I cannot supply you with sugar unless you purchase your other goods from me.”
– That is what the storekeepers do say.
– That ought not to be permitted. The Government have control of sugar supplies, and there should be no differentiation between a co-operative store and any other. Every store should get, in proportion to its requirements, a fair share of the supplies available. There can be no complaint if that is done, but it would appear that some traders are able to get adequate supplies of sugar while others can get nothing like the quantity required for the purposes of meeting the demands of their customers. Co-operative stores are particularly affected, especially the wholesale co-operative concerns, which have recently been established in an effort to cut out the middleman, but which are meeting with great obstacles. As the Government control the distribution of sugar, this obstacle at least could be removed. The Government ought to be able to tell the Sugar Refining Company to act fairly, and in the event of a shortage to distribute the amount of sugar availablein proper proportion to all traders.. I appeal to the Minister to put the supply of sugar on a more satisfactory basis.
.- The other day I moved the adjournment of the House to deal with the unsatisfactory distribution of sugar. I can assure the Government that I did not do so merely for the purpose of obstructing business, but because there is among a lot of traders considerable difficulty in obtaining supplies. Of course, Irealize that a Minister cannot be expected to go into all the details of everything connected with his Department, but he is supposed to have some officers under him on whom he can rely for information concerning those details; and when it is said that the distribution of sugar is unfair, I think he ought to take steps to discover what is thereal position. It is useless for him simply to say, “I have received such and such information from my officers,” that being an end of the matter as far as he is concerned. The case I mentioned the other day was that of a man who, as is well known by those associated with him and others trading in the district, has not been getting his fair share of sugar. When the House was dealing with the sugar agreement the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) assured us that all purchasers of half a ton of sugar could secure the full rebate.
– That was not the promise. He said that purchasers could go straight to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and get their sugar, and that they would get a full rebate according to the quantity they bought. The rebate is not the same for half a ton as it is for 100 tons.
– My memory is that half a ton was fixed as the (minimum on which the full rebate would be given, and that quantities beyond half a ton had to be secured through some wholesale house. However, since I raised this matter last week, I have received numerous letters emphatically asserting that the writers have not got their full rebates, . although they have purchased half a ton of sugar. It would appear that although they have offered to purchase half a ton at a time, they could only get a few bags, and although in the aggregate their purchases amounted to half a ton, the full rebate was not allowed to them. Honorable members opposite must have heard of the difficulties which traders are sufferingin the matter of securing supplies of sugar. If they have not heard complaints in this direction they are indeed very fortunate. Possibly, the traders know that it is useless to approach them, because, being under the thumb of the Government, they may not care about kicking over the traces. However, this is not a party question. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) did not raise the matter as such, and I have not done so. Surely on a matter of this kind honorable members on both sides of the House ought to be able to add to the information already put forward, and the Minister ought also to be pleased to get it.
Thousands of our soldiers who went overseas have not been repatriated from Great Britain; they are missing; but, unfortunately, many of them left dependants in Australia who are now quite unprovided for. I quite realize the difficulty of the Department in having to support persons who have been found guilty of some crime or misdemeanour, but it is unfair to penalize the dependants of those men. Some of the cases which have been brought under my notice relate to men who were at the Front for years, and proved themselves to be good soldiers. Their meritorious conduct was brought under the notice of their superiors. However, after distinguishing themselves in this way, through some cause brought about by the stress of war conditions, they committed offences, not only military, but also civil, and, in order to evade punishment, they deserted. Their dependants here were, of course, maintained by the Defence Department until the information was cabled out that the breadwinners had deserted, when naturally the separation and allotment payments were suspended until the men were found again. The payments were restored then, and continued until the offenders were punished and discharged, after which the dependants received no further support from the Defence Department. These dependants were guilty of no offence. The action of the husband or son in deserting is no more the fault of the wife, or children, or parents dependent on him than it could be regarded as the fault of a widow that her husband was killed. Yet the latter continues to receive support from the Government while the former are deprived of any assistance whatever.
– The man who is supposed to have deserted may have been killed for all the Department knows about the circumstances of his case.
– I know that that is quite possible, because of what I have been told by dozens of men who have returned. When there was to be a “ hopover” the men in the “booby hatch” were taken out and put into the line, where they were willing enough to go. They hopped over with the rest, but many of them did not come back, and, not having been properly released from prison, were regarded as having escaped.
– It was quite a common occurrence to take them out of prison in such circumstances.
– There are many peculiar circumstances associated with the act of desertion, and we ought to realize that we have a responsibility to those women and children who were dependent upon those who have been reported missing from that cause. At any rate, the fault was not theirs, and when they make application to the Defence Department for consideration of their peculiar situation, I hope the usual stereotyped reply will not be given to them. I am sure that the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Eyrie) sympathizes with these women and children; but the time has come when the Ministry as a whole must recognise that we owe something to them, and should provide for them, irrespective of whether the men did or did not desert. It is unfair that the women and children should suffer for any offence committed by the men. I know that the Department has had the matter under consideration for some time; but in the light of information now in its possession, that thousands of men who went overseas have been reported as having deserted, and have never returned, something should be done for these people. These missing men may not have deserted in the ordinary sense of the word, and many of them may not be alive to-day. Had they deserted their families here, proceedings could have been taken against them in the Law Courts; but the Government, having taken these men away for service overseas, should do something for their wives and children, who have been left without means of support.
.- In June last, a general order was issued that the men of His Majesty’s Australian Fleet in Sydney Harbor were not to don their jerseys, and were to be deprived of the extra blanket usually issued to each of them during the winter months. I brought the matter before the Naval Board, and the only excuse offered to me was that a similar order had been issued to the sailors on the Renown. Surely the health of the men, rather than any mere desire for uniformity, should be the first consideration; and I hope that the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith) will see that the order is immediately cancelled. A few days after its issue, a number of the men were found to be suffering from colds, and other complaints usually due to insufficient clothing. I do not think many members of the Naval Board are familiar with Australian conditions. The blood of a man who has been on an Australian Naval Station for some time is not as thick as that of a man who has only recently arrived from the Old Country, and therefore our Naval Forces need to be amply clothed. I do not think the present Minister had anything to do with the issue of this order.
– This is the first I have heard of it.
– It was issued while the present Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) held office as Minister for the Navy. I think the right honorable gentleman knew just about as much of Naval matters as did Sir Joseph Porter, who sang, in Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera, H.M.S. Pinafore -
I polished up that handle so carefullee
That now I am the ruler of the Queen’s Navee.
I bring this matter before the House in the hope that it will receive the special attention of the Minister. Members of the Naval Forces, under the King’s Regulations, are not permitted to approach members of Parliament, and this information has therefore been supplied indirectly to me. I hope that the Minister will not allow the men to be deprived during the winter months of the additional clothing necessary for the preservation of their health.
There is another matter to which I wish to direct the attention of the Ministry. A regulation was issued last June setting forth that when the Naval Board approached a warship in harbor a salute of fifteen guns should be fired. I could understand the firing of such a salute on the arrival of the Minister for the Navy, because his appearance on board a warship would be something in the nature of a curiosity. The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith) is laughing, but this is not a laughing matter. I think the present Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), when he was at the head of the Navy Department, was possessed of too much sense and experience to sign a regulation enforcing this reception of the members of the Naval Board. Those gentlemen who compose the Board are, after all, only civil servants, just as Under-Secretaries are, and do not call for this special recognition. I know that when I approach, or write, to them on any naval matter, I am told to apply to the captain of the ship concerned; but this I refuse to do, preferring to communicate with the Department direct. As a representative man, I refuse to be snubbed; and as the men of the Navy are in my electorate I intend to let them see that their member is a “ live “ one. The firing of this salute represents an unjustifiable expenditure of ammunition and labour. Why is it necessary to announce the arrival of the Naval Board in this way? Is it to insure that the officers and men are in their places, or is it to awaken the officers in order that they may show themselves about the ship? The only excuse for such a salute seems to be that a similar one is accorded to the Lords of the Admiralty at Home, but those Lords of the Admiralty have some distance to go in the English Channel before reaching the vessels, and an announcement of their approach may be necessary. That, however, is not the case in Sydney Harbor. If the idea on the part of the Naval Board is to inspect the ships, the better way would be to arrive unannounced. This firing is so alarming sometimes, I am told, that children playing in the Domain run homo and telltheir parents a foreign foe is arriving. My relations with the members of the Naval Board are quite friendly, but it is my public duty to draw attention to this unwarrantable expenditure, and, if possible, see that these fireworks cease. I see that ‘the regulation to which I refer was issued over the signature of the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith), on 13th May, this year. It describes the flag of the Naval Board, and directs ‘that it is to be saluted “by firing fifteen guns, within the waters of the Commonwealth of Australia, on the same occasions as those on which the Admiralty flag is saluted.” I hope that the Minister for the Navy will see the wisdom of revoking this regulation, so that our expenditure on the Navy may not be unnecessarily increased, and the whole administration conducted on the lines of Australian Democracy.
I should now like to refer to the position of our blind and otherwise hopelessly disabled returned soldiers, who have made some very strong appeals to me. Some of these men have lost both arms and legs, and they ask, and, I think, should have, special attention. One case, a very hard one, is described in the following letter : -
We have in our association two members - Mr. W. Lockyer, of Leichhardt, and Mr. A. B. Turner, ofRozelle - who have had each two legs and an arm amputated. These men should be given a home of their own. Mr. Lockyer’s mother and wife told our association that at present Lockyer and his wife have one room at his mother’s residence. To get about from room to room he rolls along the floor, as invalid chairs are too big to get through the doorways. This shows the necessity of building a house to suit such terrible cases. The house need not be big, but the doors could be made wider, and other little conveniences introduced, to make theirlot at any rate a little easier than it is now.
I can remember as a lad seeing the men from the Crimea and earlier wars, and realizing acutely the cruel treatment and hardships they suffered. We do not wish to see such cripples begging in the public streets of Australia.
– Are you referring to our own soldiers here?
– Yes, in the streets of Sydney and other places. I will read a statement about the matter which has been sent to me -
The street bands, which consist mostly of able-bodied returned men, make a practice of engaging as collectors returned soldiers who have had a leg or an arm amputated. These men do not wear their artificial limbs even if they have one, and they rattle their collection boxes under the noses of the public, and as there are generally three or four of them out to each band the public are being exploited to an unjust extent. If the limbless men got the money themselves it would not be so bad, although begging would be deplorable, but the present position is that the able-bodied returned soldier “ battens “ on the limbless men.
That is a thing which we should try to stop. I do not know if the Minister can contradict the statements with which I havebeen supplied, but I would point out that they are the statements of the secretary to the Limbless and Maimed Soldiers Association. He says -
A man who has an arm or a leg amputated receives his pension of 31s. 6d. per week, and 10s. 6d. from the Repatriation Department while undergoing vocational training. A married man receives only £2 15s., out of which must be deducted pension of 31s. 6d. for himself and 13s. 6d. for his wife, in all a pension of 45s., so he only receives from the Repatriation Department 10s.
The present system of vocational training means that the man who receives £1 or £1 10s. per week from a private employer is better off financially with his pension added to that sum than if he went to the Repatriation Department and went through vocational training.
It is useless to put questions on the noticepaper, because very often the official replies do not accord with the views of the Minister who gives them, and I have known cases in which Ministers have been verymuch annoyed with the replies with Which they have been furnished. I think that I am justified in drawing attention to these matters on the day devoted to the discussion of grievances, and I hope that something may be done to give relief. I hope, too, that the popgun business with the Naval Board will be discontinued. It is a pity that we have not a Gilbert and Sullivan in Australia to take advantage of the burlesque situations which so often arise here, and would furnish out an opera or two which would be funnier than any of their famous series.
– If the honorable member will give me a proof of the report of his remarks, I shall have the matters to which he has referred inquired into.
– The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith), being new in office, is, no doubt, anxious to please his officials, and has not given proper consideration to the complaints concerning the condition of Sydney Harbor.
-I wish that the honorable member would come to my office and get the facts of the case, instead of getting them from Woolloomooloo.
– If the Minister wishes to be insulting in his reference to Woolloomooloo, let me tell him that there are no Labour “ rats “ there. Woolloomooloo is the equal of any part of Hobart, the town from which he comes. Should I ever sit on the Treasury bench, the House may rest assured that I shall be dignified, and say nothing disrespectful to my fellow members.
.- Yesterday the Prime Minister, I do not know under what standing order, was able to deliver a lengthy statement, in which he attacked me rather strongly. I do not think that he should surreptitiously obtain privileges here other than) those allowed to honorable members generally, but prior to the asking of questions he replied to a statement that I had made on the previous Friday in relation to a Trade and Customs matter. Before dealing with the Prime Minister’s remarks, let me say that it is time that the new Tariff schedule, which was laid on the table about four months ago, was discussed by Parliament, and the duties definitely fixed. Parliament approved of a new Tariff in 1908, and in 1914 an amending schedule was brought in, which was never considered; but, at the end of a session extending over two or three years, was validated by means of a short Bill. Then, this session; another amending schedule, still further increasing the duties, has been introduced; but we have not been told when it will be dealt with. I understand that the Customs authorities are imposing duties according to the schedules of 1908, 1914, or 1920, whichever may contain the highest rate.
– Do you say that the Department is collecting duties on three different schedules?
– It is applying in each case the highest rate applicable to that case in any of the three schedules. Because I had not been able to get a definite reply to questions I had asked, and correspondence I had had with the Department, regarding the embargo on scrap steel and scrap iron, I complained in the House on Friday last of the treatment that I had received. As I have said before, I do not know whether there was a justification for this embargo. I have a great objection to embargoes of the kind, and would not give toa Minister the. power to impose them.When an embargo on exportation is necessary for the building up of any industry, it should be imposed by Parliament, and those in this country owning the product affected should be protected, and should receive a fair price from those who purchase from them. I asked what action the Government had taken, by regulation or otherwise, to provide that the owners of scrap steel and scrap iron would receive a fair price for their metal, and I have never had an answer to that question. In his long statement the Prime Minister carefully ignores it.
– Do you suggest that he evaded the point?
– Most distinctly; he has done so both in correspondence and in his statement. He says that my recollection of the facts is not accurate. Not having been dealing with this matter I am not able to form a judgment as to whether or not the embargo is necessary, but the Government, having seen fit to impose an embargo, it is their duty to see that the owner of the scrap is protected. I asked the Government whether there is a buyer of tin scrap in Western Australia, and, if so, what action the Government are taking to insure that the buyer pays a fair price to the owner? Surely that is fair. The Prime Minister was rather offensive in his reply to my question. He said -
Instead of permitting dealers to export metals to the East to be worked upby cheap Asiatic labour, the Government insist upon the scrap being utilized locally, provided the users are prepared to pay a reasonable price.
All I am asking is that the owners shall be paid a. reasonable price; but the Government are taking no action to insure that that is done. The Prime Minister continued -
The Government cannot permit dealers to export the life-blood of the electric steel industry to the East to be worked up there by cheap coloured labour.
There is no necessity for the sneer contained in that statement or to endeavour to obtain cheap clap-trap popularity; but there is a necessity to see that the owners of thescrap get a fair deal. If the Prime Minister wishes to hit hard I will do likewise. We have had quite enough scandal in connexion with the formation of the Zinc Producers Association. I have previously described in the House how the Broken Hill Company and the Mount Lyell Company, and other big concerns, were coerced into forming themselves into a combination to give to the Zinc Producers Association, comprising only a few persons, absolute control of the zinc industry, and the right to not only make contracts for the companies, but to also fix their prices for the next fifty years. Honorable members will recollect that about a couple of years ago there was a large accumulation of tin scrap in the hands of jam-makers and others. I remember the Red Cross Society in Melbourne circularizing people with a request that they should save their jam tins and blacking tins, and send them to the Society. In this way the Society accumulated about 3,500 tons of tin scrap, for which it could obtain only 5s. to 7s. per ton locally. A request was made for permission to export the scrap to Japan, where buyers were offering up to £4 15s. per ton. I produced in the chamber a sale note from Dalgety andCompany to a J apanese firm for 500 tons of tin scrap, f.o.b. Melbourne, at £4 15s. per ton.
– Was that at the same time as permission to export was refused the Red Cross Society?
– It was shortly afterwards.
– Fancy the Red Gross Society wanting to build up J apan !
– What is the use of talking that nonsense? Instead of £30,000 or £40,000 coming into the country through sales overseas, the scrap was sent to the rubbish heap.
– That is better than building up Japan.
– Does the honorable member say that it was wiser to throw the scrap into the rubbish heap than to sell it for £4 15s. per ton to foreigners?
Does he not know thatat that very time Australia was selling to Japan copper, tin, zinc, and spelter? He might as well say that we should not have sold wooltops to Japan. But thehonorable member will be very silent in regard to the wool tops. I hate these stupid interjections. The jam manufacturers were anxious to sell their scrap, because they knew the price that Japan was offering meant tens of thousand of pounds saved, and a deputation from them waited upon Sir John Higgins as the representative of the Attorney-General. They were told that they would not be allowed to export; they must take their material to a local factory. The first charge to be met would be the cost of treatment; the second charge would be a certain rate of interest on the capital invested in the plant, and then the owners of the scrap would get 75 per cent. of the profit, if any, and the owners of the plant 25 per cent. There was no guarantee that the owners of the scrap would receive any return at all, although they were to be wholly responsible for the cost of treatment, which up to that time had not been very successful, and would have to guarantee the interest on the capital ; the result was that thousands of pounds worth of scrap tin wasthrown on to the rubbish tips. If an embargo on any of these articles is to continue, the Government should, by regulation or otherwise, see that the owners receive a fixedprice equal to what they could obtain elsewhere; but so far as Western Australia, at any rate, is concerned, no action has been taken to see that the owners get a fair price. I am not associated in any way with dealers in scrap, but I have received letters from different people complaining of the embargo.
– To what country did they want to send the scrap ?
– In one particular instance it was desired to send old horseshoes to Hongkong, but I am dealing with the question generally. Admitting, for the sake of argument, that the embargo is justified, I say that it is the duty of the Government to see that the owner of the scrap is paid the fair market value.
– Why not move an amendment to that effect ?
– I do not think any such action is necessary.
– In other words, the honorable member’s speech is not loaded.
– If the honorable member will assist me on some other occasion, he may find that I have a loaded gun.
– I will help the honorable member to fire a gun.
– I am a little afraid of the assistance which the honorable member would give me in connexion with embargoes; he might be a little too fond of them. The Prime Minister’s lengthy reply yesterday dodged my question, which was whether the Government would insure, if the embargo continued, that the owners received a fair market value. I again ask them to take action in this matter, and, if necessary, make a regulation or appoint an officer for that purpose.
– The honorable member’s opening remarks, if allowed to pass unnoticed, might be construed into a reflection on the Chair. I understood him to say that he did not know why the Prime Minister had been allowed to make such a lengthy statement. Any objection to the Prime Minister’s statement should have been taken at the time it was made. My recollection is that yesterday the Prime Minister, as Ministers often do, said he desired to give a further reply to a question which had been asked by the honorable member for Dampier last week, and which had been partially answered by another Minister. That course is often followed without any objection being raised, and so long as a Minister’s reply is relevant to the question, its length is. of no concern of the Chair. I do not think the honorable member for Dampier intended to reflect upon the Chair-
– Certainly not.
– But if his remarks were allowed to pass unnoticed they might create that impression.
– I made no reflection upon the Chair, but I thought the Prime Minister had taken advantage of his position to make a lengthy reply at that stage. If you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, think I made any reflection on the Chair I withdraw it unreservedly.
– I am not at all satisfied with the answer to a question I asked yesterday of the Postmaster-General. (Mr. Wise) as to whether he was in agreement with the circular letter that had been sent to the mail contractors in regard to the drought allowance. Some little time ago a deputation from this side of the House waited upon the PostmasterGeneral
– From only that side of the House?
– We, on this side of the House, have been making representations in Parliament.
– I understand that honorable members from both sides have taken part in deputations to the Postmaster-General, but no member on this side was asked to accompany the deputation arranged by honorable members opposite. And later on, seeing that on this side of the House there are as many honorable members interested in this particular matter as there areon the other side, and especially as it concerns country districts, we had a deputation to the Postmaster-General. We asked for reconsideration of an instruction issued from his Department that all the mail contractors who had entered into contracts from 1st January of this year should not receive a drought allowance, and he promised that he would go into the matter. In view of the fact that some of these tenders had been submitted as far back as August and September last, he said that it was only fair that full consideration should be given to the matter. He seemed to be entirely sympathetic.
– He was.
– Before he was Postmaster-General, he frequently displayed his sympathy towards the mail contractors, but I am inclined to think that he is not a free agent in the matter, and that he has had shackles imposed upon him either by the Treasurer or by the Government, and is thus not able to carry out what he would desire to do.
– The Treasurer has made the statement that he can get all the money he requires.
– I think that what the Treasurer said was that all the money required for the settlement of soldiers on the land would be provided, but I do not think that such an assurance can be relied on any more than the statement that the Postal Department can secure all the money it needs. It is not only in regard to mail contractors that I condemn the Postal Department. I think its administration is wrong from beginning to end. I am glad to note that the Minister (Mr. Wise) in control of the Post Office is now in the chamber. If he has a free hand in this matter, I cannot excuse him, because his sympathy is utterly useless. He must accept the full responsibility for the attitude adopted by his Department towards these unfortunate mail contractors who, as the circular issued to them informs them, can get no relief in the case of contracts dating back to the 1st January last, because the Department says they must have known at the time whether their tenders were payable or not. The man who has lived all his life in the post-office probably cannot be blamed for taking up such an attitude, but the Minister ought to know that the excuse offered is most trivial. The price of fodder in January last was only about half what it was last month.
– That is not correct.
– In January last, the price of fodder was from £7 10s. to £.9 per ton.
– I have with me a letter in which the writer states that he purchased chaff in January last at £7 10s. per ton, and that it cost him £16 10s. to £18 per ton last month.
– In January last the price of chaff in South Australia was £8 per ton, and to that price must be added the cost of removing it to New South Wales.
– Chaff could be purchased in New South Wales in January last at £8 to £9 per ton, and this mail contractor informs me in his letter that he was able to get it at £7 10s. per ton, whilst last month he was obliged to pay £16 10s. to £18 per ton. All these facts indicate that the statement that the mail contractors in January last were in a position to know whether their tender would be payable or not was entirely erroneous, and one the Minister should not have sanctioned.
– Special relief ought to be given for an extraordinary drought year; otherwise tenders will all be double what they have been previously.
– The drought in New South Wales extended over a period of three years, and the honorable member must be well aware that many mail contractors have been absolutely ruined.
– That must be the case.
– They cannot carry out their contracts. It is useless to wink at this matter. The Postmaster-General answered my question yesterday by saying that he acquiesced in the policy set out in this circular, but I am at a loss to know his reason for doing so. My interpretation of his attitude is that he does not really acquiesce in this policy, but that he is unable to do anything in the matter, hecause the Treasurer will not give him the money he requires.
– I am not blaming the Treasurer on this occasion.
– Then the Postmaster-General must accept the whole responsibility, and I hope that he will take an opportunity of making a statement in regard to this matter, which is a very sore point with the mail contractors in the drought areas, not only in New South Wales, but all over the Commonwealth as well.
– It may be, and it would be a sore point with the Minister if he is not careful of what he is doing.
– So, apparently, it is the Treasurer who is responsible.
– No; the responsibility lies with the gentleman who was Postmaster-General for four years.
– What interpretation can I put on the remarks of the right honorable gentleman?
– Let me explain. In my young days I set out, as PostmasterGeneral, to do away with all the sweating on mail routes, and I gave the old contractors advantages of one kind or another that I thought were fair. But immediately I began to do so, every individual contractor or would-be contractor who had sent in a tender got his member of Parliament to ask what favoritism was being displayed, and declared that if he had known these favours were to be conferred’ he would have been prepared to submit a lower tender. Of course, I had immediately to drop all my altruistic notions, arid fall back on public tendering. That is what I mean.
– The Treasurer’s explanation is all very fine, but it does not touch this matter at all. The right honorable gentleman was referring to ordinary times. I was speaking about a drought allowance. This is a matter which must be considered on its merits. If there had been no drought there would have been no request for a revision of tenders. It is because there has been an extraordinary drought, which has affected not only New South Wales, but the whole Commonwealth, that tenders have been affected, and the contractors are asking for some allowance.
– When the drought threatened the tenderer added to his price accordingly, but if another man did not do so, relying on action in Parliament in order to get equal, where are we?
– If that be the case, why, was an allowance made last year on account of the drought? There was no cavilling at the allowance last year. It was considered just and equitable. It ought to be equally just and equitable to make an allowance this year.
– The drought was in existence in January of this year, when they entered into these contracts.
– Now we are getting the matter boiled down. I am pleased to hear the Minister make such a statement. It is just this one point I wish to see threshed out. The Department says that, in January of this year, the contractor ought to have known whether his tender was likely to pay him; whereas I contend that it was impossible for him to know it. As a matter of fact, the drought did not end in January, but continued for six months afterwards. The worst part came after January, and last month the price of fodder was twice what it was at the beginning of the year.
– Was not the tenderer influenced by the drought of the previous three years when submitting his price for the coming year?
– Hear, hear !
– He may have been influenced by the drought of the past, but how was he to know that it was likely to continue for another six months ? He might have believed that it would be over in the following month, and tendered accordingly. I am disap- pointed with the decision of the PostmasterGeneral to acquiesce in the contents of the circular issued by the Department to the mail contractors. His attitude will be regretted not only by those contractors, but also the persons who receive the mails through the services of these men and know the hardships they suffer, and who, in many cases, are subsidizing the contractors.
– Is the honorable member speaking of new contracts or old ones?
– My remarks refer to new and bid contracts. Although a contract might date from 1st January this year, the tender might have been submitted some months previously, but under the decision . of the Department, as expressed in the circular I have mentioned, the people submitting tenders in August last can get no relief.
– Two men tender , one man puts up his contract price because of the outlook, and the other man takes the risk.
– The whole systems of tendering goes by the board.
– The whole system is influenced by matters over which these men have no control.
– That is not the point.
– It is. Subsequent to the 1st of January, there was a six months’ drought, which these men could not foresee.
– Supposing that fodder had fallen after the contracts were made?
– In that event I presume the honorable gentleman would have required the mail contractors to carry out their contracts at lower rates. In this case, as in every other, the Department wins at the expense of the men. I would remind the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton) that this is a serious matter, not only to hundreds of mail contractors, but to many of the people who are served by them. But for the’ subsidies paid by people who are served by these men, it would be impossible for many of them $o carry on. their contracts. The attitude that has been taken up by the Department is entirely wrong, and cannot be too strongly condemned. If there is a majority in this House prepared to support such an iniquity, then it is a reflection on the whole Parliament.
The administration of the Department, lock, stock, and barrel, is wrong. In making that statement I am only repeating what the present Postmaster-General said when he was not in office. On 15th July, 1915, as reported in Hansard, Vol. lxxvii., page 4953, the honorable gentleman, who was then a private member, followed the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Austin Chapman), who had made a very telling speech in regard to the Postal Department. He said -
After hearing the Honorable member for Eden-Monaro and also various PostmastersGeneral, I oan only wish that honorable members would hold the same opinion in office that they do when in Opposition.
That was his view as a private member, I desire now to point out the hardships suffered by allowance officers. Everything relating to allowance post-offices in country districts is on a wrong basis. The present Postmaster-General, in the speech from’ which I have just quoted, went on to say -
Over and over again I have heard PostmastersGeneral say that the allowances are not intended and do not profess to be living salaries. At the same, time I cordially agree with the denunciations of the reductions that are made from time to time. Some of them are exceedingly petty. I know of one case where, because the business had fallen off as compared with that of the preceding year, the allowance of £5 a year was reduced by £1. It is a pettifogging thing for a great Commonwealth to insist upon a reduction of £1 per annum’ in any individual’s allowance, and I think that all these matters might very well be looked into so that some general rule might be adopted upon the subject.
– The present Postmaster-General has put a stop to such reductions.
– I am waiting for him to adopt some general rule.
– The honorable member, of course, is not aware that we have added, this year, £67,000 to the payments to allowance officers.
– How should I be aware of that fact? The honorable gentleman will have an opportunity to inform the House of it.
– It has already been intimated.
– Having regard to the number of allowance postoffices in Australia, an additional £67,000 would not go far. It would mean but an infinitesimal increase in each case.
– It is, at all events, very much more than your own Government put on.
– We are speaking about the present.
– And I like to compare it with the past.
– We have to take things as we find them. The honorable gentleman, in speaking of “ your own Government,” refers, I presume, to a former Labour Government ?
– Which he supported.
– Yes. I have here a eulogy of the Labour Government by the present Postmaster-General.
Mr.Wise. - That was in regard to country telephones.
– Yes. The honorable gentleman said, in the course of the speech to which I have already referred -
The second Fisher Government reduced that guarantee-
The guarantee required of applicants for telephone lines in country districts that they would provide the whole of any deficiency - to one of 50per cent. of the deficiency, which was a very great consideraton, and I have never failed to give credit to this Government for having made that reduction.
– Its own supporters would not even give it credit for that.
– And yet the honorable gentleman just now condemned that Government’s administration of the Postal Department.
– In respect of allowance post-offices.
– Quite so. My experience as the representative of a country electorate is typical of that of all representatives of rural districts. There is in my constituency a district the residents of which nearly two years ago supplied the poles for a telephone line,put up the necessary money, and asked for the work to be carried out. The Department, however, has not yet taken action. It tells these people that there is a shortage of material. The Department is shirking its responsibility.
– What is the district?
– I am referring to a request for a line from Cootamundra to a district some miles distant, the name of which I have already supplied to the honorable gentleman. These people have fulfilled their obligations, and yet no consideration is extended to them. I do not wish to labour this question. I shall be content to quote the view expressed by the honorable gentleman when he was a private member. I have never believed that the Postal Department should be a concern run for making profits. It is a public utility, and ought to be conducted in the interests of the people. Those who have to battle in the back country districts are surely entitled to some consideration. When they ask for a telephone line, why should they be required to guarantee to such an unreasonable extent to make good any deficiency on its working? Surely they are entitled to reasonable facilities. If people were not prepared to go into the back country the Commonwealth would never progress. Dealing with this particular question, the present Postmaster-General said in this House on 15th July, 1915 -
I desire that it shall be clearly understood that, in my opinion, the Postal Department is not a Department that ought to be run for the purpose of being made to pay.
– That is my view to-day.
– Then , when are we to have an announcement that applicants for country telephone lines will not be required to make good any deficiency, as under present conditions?
– I announced months ago that we had decided to ask them to pay only 25 per cent. of any deficiency.
– The honorable gentleman, in this speech, went on to say -
The Department was established for the purpose of furthering the social and commercial intercourse of the people, and the places where the services of the Post Office are mostly required, and are of most value to the individual, are in those country districts where the Post Office does not pay, and where it probably will not pay for very many years. The large surpluses made in the cities could not be better expended than in giving better postal communication to country districts, and I hope that we shall soon reach the time when, wherever there is a reasonable settlement, the people there will not only have a decent mail service, but decent telephonic communication as well, without their being called upon to contribute anything by way of a guarantee.
That was the honorable gentleman’s view when he was a private member of the House. Let it be clearly understood that I am not dealing with the honorable gentleman from a personal stand-point. I believe that he is more sympathetic towards the requirements of country districts than is any other member of the Ministry.
– He is probably hampered by other members of the Cabinet.
– I have already said that I believe there are shackles placed upon him; I hope he will get rid of them.
I shall not conclude my speech after the manner of the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), who this afternoon started off with a full head of steam against the Government, and in the end simply fired blank cartridge at them. When he was shown by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) how he could take effective action, he apparently had no desire to hurt the Government; but I do not content myself with adopting such an attitude.
I now wish to refer to a postal matter which affects all the country from Sydney southwards to Albury, and I do so because it is a concrete example of the hardships inflicted on country residents. Country mails close in Sydney at 5 o’clock in the afternoon, and a letter posted at, say, five minutes to 5 o’clock on the Tuesday is delivered at, for example, Wagga, next morning; but if a letter be posted at five minutes past that hour, it is not delivered at the latter place until the following Thursday.
– I should like to hear the honorable member if he were representing the postal employees in Sydney !
– I know that the blame is put on to the unions, but I am going to suggest a remedy for the anomaly which involves no union trouble at all. A fast mail train leaves Sydney at five minutes past 10 o’clock at night, but it is not utilized for carrying the mails, which are sent on by a slow newspaper and goods train at five minutes past 2 o’clock in the morning.
– Do you know the reason for that? It is in order to give the men an hour off.
– That is the fact.
– I know that the responsibility is put on to the shoulders of the men, but no private company in any part of the world would conduct its business on such lines. The goods train in the morning takes about twelve hours longer to do the journey than does the fast mail train. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Wise) tells us that this delay is caused in order to give the men an hour off - that if they were kept on duty until 7.30 p.m. they would kick up a row. But the present arrangement does an injury to thousands of people, who have to wait twenty-four hours longer for their mails; and if the staff at the present time would raise any complaint about being kept at work, and allowed full overtime rates, could the staff not be increased?
– What about economy ?
– It is false economy to cause injury to thousands of people. I have already quoted the PostmasterGeneral himself, when speaking as a private member, as an effective answer to any plea of economy.
– Who is responsible for the present arrangement - the Treasurer ?
– The Treasurer has never refused the Post Office any money.
– Is that true - that the Treasurer has not refused the Post Office any money?
– I have not since I have been Treasurer.
– That is important, because it throws the whole responsibility on to the PostmasterGeneral.
– Who is quite prepared to take it!
– In order to give an opportunity to honorable members who feel strongly on this matter to express their opinion and show their disapproval of the postal maladministration, I move -
That after the word “That,” the following words be inserted: - “the Postmaster-General be requested to provide increased postal and telephonic facilities for country districts, and to grant a drought allowance to mail contractors for the year 1920.”
.- I have much pleasure in seconding the amendment, and the eloquent expressive speech of the honorable member who moved it does not leave much to be said. I have a very vivid recollection of a deputation from this side of the House which waited on the Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise) some time ago, in connexion with the payment of a drought allowance to country mail contractors in New South Wales. The Postmaster -General then stated that he, or the Department, had decided to pay a drought allowance to those mail contractors in the droughtstricken areas whose contracts commenced prior to 1st January this year. This decision had been arrived at after three or four months’ consideration, and after the Department had received scores of letters from, members of the House - in fact, after the Department had been flogged into action by the members of this side. The Postmaster-General informed the deputation that an allowance having been decided upon, he would see that payment was expeditiously made; but, so far as I have been able to ascertain from the mail contractors in my electorate, not one, after two months have gone over, has received any drought allowance this year. The Postmaster-General decided that the cases of mail contractors whose contracts started from the 1st January . would be considered on their merits, adding that, if any contractor put in a contract, say, five or six months before the end of the year, he probably would not be in a position to know what the conditions were likely to be at the beginning of this year and onwards, and, no doubt, an allowance would be granted. But, as a result of letters sent to me, I find no instance in which any consideration has been given to men whose contracts started at the beginning of the year, irrespective of what time they put in their tenders. Here is the reply from Mr. Young, Deputy PostmasterGeneral in Sydney, dated 20th August, this year -
With reference to the communication presented by you from Mr. W. Carbary, mail contractor, Goolma, asking for further assistance owing to the cost of fodder, I have to intimate that, as he must have . been in a position to know whether or not the price at which hetendered for the service from 1st January, 1920, would paY, lie is not entitled to any drought allowance. His request cannot, therefore, be acceded to.
When this man put in his tender he could buy chaff at less than £10 a ton, whereas, to-day, although the drought has been broken in the district for about two months, he has to pay over £20. It is only reasonable to assume that his tender was put in at the least a couple of months before the end of the year, but even supposing it was delivered in the last week of December, it was then reasonable to assume that chaff would not go higher in price, or that the drought would soon be broken. I am of opinion that the Deputy Postmaster -General in Sydney has deliberately set his mind against granting any allowance where contracts commenced from the beginning of this year, although there is no doubt that in the case to which I have referred, and all similar cases, an allowance should be granted. There is another section of mail contractors who happen to live in parts of the State which have not suffered from drought, but where they have to pay an additional price for chaff, owing to the fact that practically all the rest of the State was suffering. It is impossible to run mails with grass-fed horses; they must have chaff and grain; and even if it should happen that there is an ample supply of grass to keep ordinary stock alive, it does not follow that there- is sufficient suitable fodder for mail purposes. As the result of the drought which prevails over practically the whole of the remaining portion of the’ State, these men are penalized, also. The PostmasterGeneral, I repeat, promised to give the mail contractors consideration, but, so far as I have ascertained, none has yet been shown to them. The Department should realize its debt, and that of the settlers, to the mail contractors. In a great many instances, persons living in outlying parts are subsidizing them to enable them to keep going, notwithstanding that they themselves have been so hard hit. I hope that the Postmaster-General will see that his Deputy for New South Wales gives more consideration to the request made to him. I might say that I hope that the honorable gentleman will run his own Department. The Treasurer stated to-day, as on half-a-dozen other occasions, that he has never yet refused the Postmaster-General’s Department money required by the head of that Department. I hope, therefore, that the Postmaster-General will see that an adequate allowance is paid in every instance, and that the payments are expedited.
The lack of adequate telephone communication is a crying grievance in every part of Australia, and I hope that the Department will give earnest consideration to the needs of the people in this matter. If any section of the community deserves more consideration than another in the supplying of telephones, it is that section which lives’ in the inland districts of Australia, where the conditions of life are far from pleasant. More brightness, happiness, and contentment might be given to these people if the Department would provide them with adequate postal and telephone communication. On the eve of an election, some persons term the men and women of the country the backbone of Australia, but, after the election, they leave these people in isolation and loneliness, without adequate means of communication. I hope that the Department will get to work immediately, and see that the grievances to which I have called attention are rectified. -
– I am sorry that the amendment has been moved, because it prevents us from discussing a number of matters affected by the administration of Ministers other than the Postmaster-General.
– No ; we can have a division now.
– There can be a division1 when the amendment has been discussed, but the discussion of it may not conclude until the small hours of the morning. The action taken is a selfish one, and, if for no other reason, I shall vote against the amendment. The affairs of the Postmaster-General’s Department are admittedly in a deplorable state. Some of the defects are due to the war, and, as I and many other members have said, Australia will not enjoy the services that she should have until, the funds at the disposal of the PostmasterGeneral have been enormously increased. Another thing needed is the abolition of the centralized administration of Melbourne. Could I control the actions of the Postmaster-General, I would insist on his spending half his time in States other than Victoria. I have before me some startling figures indicating the advantages that Victoria derives through Melbourne being the temporary- seat of government. These figures were given in another place in reply to a question, and have to do with the applications for the instalment of telephones that are awaiting attention. Let me quote the figures for two States only. This is the state of affairs disclosed -
So that in Victoria the number of applications awaiting attention is less than half the number in New South Wales. Melbourne is not so large, nor so important, a city as Sydney, but the difference in size does not justify the facts to which I have just drawn attention.
– Nothing can justify the provinciality of your observations.
– The evidence of provinciality is in the figures themselves. The honorable member is one of those who is trying to prevent New South Wales from having the Federal compact carried out, and the Seat of Government removed to .the Federal City, so that this Parliament may not continue to be shackled by Victorian influences. The return from which I have quoted demands the serious attention of all members representing New South Wales constituencies. Excuses founded on the war, the shortage of material, droughts, and the like, do not avail to explain the facts. The figures show that when material is available it is used in Victoria, and that New South Wales applications do not receive the same treatment as applications made in this much-favored State. The position of affairs would be bad enough if the two States contributed equally to the revenue of the Post Office; but between 40 and 50 per cent, of the money that is expended is contributed by New South Wales, and considerably more than 50 per cent, of the available money must be spent in Victoria. A trip through Queensland would open the eyes of the Postmaster-General to the real difficulties of Australia. Victoria is a small State, which one could almost walk across in a couple of days, but the Department has to provide means of communication for States as big as Queensland, where the honorable member for Grampians has his far-flung domains ; andI am surprised that, deriving so much from that State, he should take up the cudgels in defence of the parochial administration which favours Victoria.
– I have not said a word against any State in Australia.
– In defending administration that discriminates against New South Wales and in favour of Victoria, in the way I have shown, the honorable member is practically condemning the State of Queensland.
– I am not defending the Postal administration; I condemn r.t.
– The same sort ot thing as I am complaining of happens in the administration of most of the Departments. When the lists of new appointments are published, it is Melbourne nearly every time that benefits. When Commissions are issued, there are two Melbourne Commissioners to every Commissioner from another State. The Government of this country is, in short, conducted from Melbourne, and everything is seen through Melbourne eyes. I should not object to that so much were this capital the head of a big State, in which Australian conditions generally were represented. Were the Postal administration centred in Brisbane, there would be some understanding of the big problems of settlement which confront us; but with the Government in Melbourne, regulations which might be applied to the # conditions of England are being applied to the conditions of Australia, and these regulations are entirely inadequate, so far as the larger States are concerned. I have some sympathy with the PostmasterGeneral, who has not been long in office. Some of the criticism directed against him has not been quite fair. -He has to “ look round before he can do much, and we keep him too much chained to Parliament. I hope that he will take an opportunity to visit and live in some of the other States, and to administer his Department there, so that he may learn something of the problems which have to be solved, and the condition of the people, and thus be able 0 take a broader and larger view.
– He knows what to do, but he requires more money.
– The Treasurer has told deputations, arid has said in this House, that he has not withheld money from the Postmaster-General’s Department. I admit that the errors of the past have been such that no PostmasterGeneral, no matter what his gifts or his knowledge might be, could bring the Department to a state of efficiency within a year or two. I am glad to know from correspondence that I have had from the present occupant of the office, that he sees eye to eye with me on one matter : the need for doing the utmost to bring about the use of material which can be manufactured or procured in Australia. I doubt, however, that he is receiving from some of his officials the support in this matter which he is en titled to expect. Much material is used which, it seems to me, could easily be obtained in this country, especially if sufficient inducement were offered. If the Postmaster-General wishes, as I believe he does, to make his administration effective, he must not only say that these things should be done, but see that the officers intrusted with the doing of them do their duty. We ought not to be so much dependent upon foreign countries for a great deal of the material used in the Postal Department, and we would not be if an advanced policy were pursued. The cheapest market is not the best for some of our Departments. ‘ Even if we had to pay a good deal more for them it would be infinitely better if we could obtain in Australia many of the requirements for the Departments, rather than that 5,000 people in one State should be unable to get telephonic communication and be deprived of those conveniences which, in a modern community, people have a right to expect.
The state of some of the post-offices is appalling. In my own electorate there is a post-office in the centre of 12,000 or 15,000 people where the accommodation for the public will allow only about twelve persons -to be present at the one time. At times the street traffic is blocked by people waiting their turn to enter the post-office. About £400 is required to improve the accommodation, yet year after year goes by without the conditions being altered from what they were when the building was erected twenty-five years’ ago. That centre would be called in some States a city, yet the post-office accommodation is only equal to that in some cf the small country towns. When the exPostmasterGeneral (Mr. Webster) visited the place he decided immediately that the accommodation must be extended; two years have gone by and nothing has been done. The excuse at that time was that the Treasurer would not find the money, but to-day that excuse is not valid, because the Treasurer will find the money. Urgent works of this character should be put in hand at the earliest possible moment. The whole administration of the Postal Department calls for a thorough investigation at all centres of administration, and I plead for a policy of giving wider power to the Deputy PostmastersGeneral. This centralizing of every petty detail in Melbourne should give place to a policy by which the people who are nearest to the job, and know most about it, should have the right to decide when a work is necessary in the interests of the Department.
As to the subsidy for telephone services, I think the present Postmaster-General is deserving of thanks for what he has done. I was surprised to hear some of the criticisms of him to-day upon that score, because it must be admitted that one of the first things he did on assuming office was to endeavour to make easier the conditions of people living in the remote districts where the telephone services were unprofitable. When one criticises a Department it is only fair to try to look at it from the point of view of the man in charge. Whilst everybody will indorse the proposition that the people who go into the remoter parts of the country to develop the land and produce those things which are necessary to our financial stability, should be considered, little reflection is needed to convince one that there must be some discrimination as to the extent to which these benefits can be given in the different localities. We cannot say that because one man chooses to go 500 miles away from the bigger country centres the Commonwealth must immediately spend £500 or £1,000 in giving him the same facilities as he would have had had he settled nearer a town. There must be some line of demarcation between the things that can be done and those that ought to be done. But when all this is admitted, the policy introduced into the Department a few years ago of attempting to make the post-office a commercial concern was entirely detrimental to the settlement of the country. If we are to ask people to go into the remoter districts we must provide them with facilities, and the proper course is to charge more for the facilities given in populous centres, and apply the profits therefrom to the extension of telephonic and telegraphic services in the districts further out. That is the policy upon which the Post Office should be operated, and if there still remained a claim upon the general revenue for postal facilities, Parliament should be anxious to see that the Postmaster-General had . sufficient money to enable him to carry the benefits of civilization to the remoter districts.
.- I rise to support the amendment in favour of giving increased mail and telephonic facilities in country districts and the granting of greater concessions to mail contractors, who have been placed in a most unfortunate position owing to their contracts having covered a period of severe drought, which could not ‘have been anticipated by them when the contracts were made. First of all, I desire to express my regret that’ an entirely foreign matter has been imported into the discussion in the shape of an unprovoked and unjustifiable attack upon the State of Victoria and its people. The professed justification for this attack is some statistics which show that there are more applications for telephones which have not been supplied in New South Wales than there are in Victoria. The explanation of this state of affairs given by the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) is, apparently, partly . that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise) is a Victorian, and also that practically everything in the ‘Central Department of the Post Office is seen solely through Victorian eyes, and that there is no one to take the larger and broader vision which the honorable member for Hia- . warra always has taken, and. no doubt, always will take. Although I have not been a member of the House as long as has the honorable member, I have some recollection of past Postmasters-General, and it will be interesting to refresh the memories of honorable members as to the States from which these Ministers came. Of course, it is obvious that a large number of the telephone applications which have not been met were overdue before the present Postmaster-General assumed office. It will be remembered that up till December last the Postmaster.General, an exceedingly able and efficient Minister, was Mr. Webster, the then member for Gwydir, in New South Wales, and practically the whole of these overdue applications accumulated while he held office. It therefore seems unreasonable to blame the present Victorian Postmaster-General for the present overdue accumulations. And as regard the past, I find from the Tear-Book that the Postmaster-General in the first Federal Administration was the late Lord Forrest, of Western Australia, who was succeeded by the Hon. J. G. Drake, who came from Queensland, and later, Sir Philip Fysh, who was a Tasmanian re- preservative. Therefore, at the commencement of Federation, at any rate, the control of the Postal Department was in the hands of men from the more distant States. They were men of wide vision and mighty capacity, who were able to handle these Australian and almost Imperial problems in a way which the honorable member for Illawarra apparently thinks that no Victorian could do. In Mr. Deakin’s first Administration the Postmaster-General was again Sir Philip Fysh. When Mr. Watson formed his first Ministry the Honorable Hugh Mahon, from Western Australia, took control of the Postal Department. He was not one of those narrow-minded and short-visioned Victorians. In the fourth Federal Administration the PostmasterGeneral was the Honorable Sydney Smith, who came from the State of New South Wales. The next Postmaster-General, not least honoured of them all, was the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) - again a representative of the Mother State.
– The honorable member does not infer that we are still suffering from his administration.
– No, the Commonwealth has survived. The PostmasterGeneral in the first Fisher Administration was the Honorable Josiah Thomas, yet again a representative of the great State of New South Wales. I regret that that gentleman is no longer a member of this Chamber, but he graces the proceedings in another place. In the next Administration the Postmaster-General was a Victorian, Sir John Quick; I do not know whether it will be alleged that this was the reason why that Ministry was so short-lived.
– He was a very good Postmaster-General.
– He was one of the ablest men who ever graced this Chamber, and was one of the founders of the Constitution.
Mr.Ryan. - To what is the honorable member leading up?
– The remarks of the honorable member for Illawarra seem to imply that much of the trouble that befalls the administration of the Post Office and other Departments of the Commonwealth is due to the fact that certain gentlemen representing and residing in Victoria are in office.
– And he accused the honorable member of having “ Canberraitis,” and of having thrown stones at Queensland at the dictation of the Age.
– If I replied to all the accusations made by some honorable members, who are obsessed absolutely by the word “ Canberra,” there would be no time left for me between now and 10 o’clock to-night in which to say anything in regard to other matters.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member’s statement that he would not reply to certain interjections from honorable members whose brains had been eaten into by suggestions of Canberra reflects very seriously on certain honorable members who represent New South Wales constituencies, and wish to have a solemn compact honoured. It is an affront for a member of a provincial and parochial State like Victoria to refer in such a manner to those who represent New South Wales constituencies, and are quite within their rights in claiming that a solemn compact should be honoured.
– That is no point of order.
– I ask that the statement be withdrawn.
– If the honorable member made use of the words attributed to him, I ask him to withdraw them.
– I have much pleasure in withdrawing any reference to Canberra if it gives offence to others. If the subject had not been mentioned by way of interjection I would not have raised it.
The next Administration I quote is that of my right honorable peerless, priceless, friend, Sir Joseph Cook. In his Ministry, it is true, the Postmaster-General was the Honorable Agar Wynne, who was a Victorian, but, at any rate, the Prime Minister represented a New South Wales constituency. In the Third Fisher Administration the Postmaster-General was the Honorable William Guthrie Spence, a splendid Minister, whose absence is a great loss to this House. He represented a New South Wales constituency. The next Government was the First Hughes
Administration, and the PostmasterGeneral .in that Ministry was the Honorable William Webster, again a representative of a New South Wales constituency.
– What happened to him? .
– To my deep regret and that of an immense number of people of Australia, he is no longer in this House, but he was a great statesman, a great Postmaster-General, and a distinguished member of this House. He was also Postmaster-General in the Second Hughes Administration, and in the Australian National War Government. Of course, the present PostmasterGeneral is a Victorian, as we all know, but I have shown conclusively that there is not the remotest justification for the narrowminded charge, the most absurdly ridiculous and trumped-up implication that the destinies of the Post Office have suffered in the past or are suffering at present by being placed in the hands of PostmastersGeneral representing Victorian constituencies.
Now, having shown that the omissions of the Department are not in the remotest degree due to the fact that its administration has been in the hands of honorable members representing any particular State, I approach the question raised by the honorable member for Hume, that of giving relief - to mail contractors who took up their contracts as from 1st January of this year. It is said in defence of the attitude of the Department that when the contracts were entered upon, the tenderers knew that the drought was in progress, and no doubt took into consideration the cost of feeding their horses. I maintain, however, that it was impossible for any one working stock in the interior of Australia on 1st January last to take a contract based on the existing cost of fodder in the belief that, if the drought continued, he could carry it on profitably, and I doubt very much whether a contractor would make any profit on a contract for five years to cover the losses sustained during the last six mouths. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) knows well that the people living in the interior of Australia are a sanguine, optimistic race, and that they would not have taken on the contracts unless they believed that the drought would break up almost imme diately, or that they would be able to continue to buy fodder at the price ruling in January when their tenders were submitted; but we did not get the summer rains we expected, and the price. of fodder, instead of decreasing, went up bo a figure never previously known in the history of Australia. Lucerne hay fetched as much as. £20 a ton.
– Prices doubled.
– Yes, they increased to at least double what they were at the beginning of the year.
– That could not have been the case.
– It may not have been the case in Tasmania.
– Tasmanian prices are ruled by the Sydney market quotations.
– As a general rule, they may be, but it was not the case during this year because of the grave difficulty in regard to shipping.
– Mail contractors are paying £20 per ton for chaff in my electorate.
– Yes, and they are paying the same price in many other parts. A few months ago I met two farmers returning from South Australia to the Darling Downs district in Queensland. The people there were paying £17 or £18 a ton for lucerne hay, and it was almost unprocurable; but hearing that fodder was cheaper in South Australia, they had sent these two gentlemen to that State to make purchases on their behalf. When the delegation got to Adelaide they found that they could buy chaff at a much lower price than was ruling in Queensland, but they found also that it was absolutely impossible for them to get freight to take it to their State. The position may have been the same in Tasmania. Fodder might have been cheap and abundant in that State, but there was not sufficient freight available to enable it to be shipped to the mainland, where it was so badly needed to keep stock alive.
Some of my honorable friends speak as if I took a provincial view of these matters. I probably know more of every State in the Commonwealth, with the exception of Western Australia, than does any other honorable member.
– Then the honorable member is deeply lacking experience of a great State.
– I may be deeply lacking experience of a great State which will ever be associated with the name of a great statesman, the late Lord Forrest; but I hope to have an- opportunity to acquire that experience. The result of the difficulties in the transit of fodder from one State to another, and the extreme drought in northern New South Wales and Queensland, was that it was absolutely impossible for mail contractors to foresee on 1st January last the price to which hay would soar during the remaining half of 71, a financial year.
– Can the honorable member tell us roughly what is the difference in price ?
– Not from memory; but for quite a considerable period in northern New South Wales and Queensland, lucerne hay was selling at £20 a ton.
– As against £13 or £14 per ton at the beginning of the year.
– Yes; that was a ruinous rise. No man would have taken up a mail contract had he thought that he would have to feed his horses throughout the year on fodder costing even £14 per ton. When, instead of an anticipated reduction in the price of hay, maize, and oats, they were compelled to pay practially double rates, they were brought face to face with a very real grievance.
– I can conceive of fodder being dearer, but in some parts there might be plenty of grass for horses.
– My right honorable friend’s point is a very good one.
– In the bad old days, many mail contractors never dreamt of buying fodder for their horses. Their horses were all grass-fed.
– I do not suppose that there is any district in Australia where the mail contractors did not have to feed their horses during the first six months of the year. It is not practicable to submit horses to the exceedingly heavy work attaching to the carriage of mails without giving them something more than grass.
– In many cases, T think they are fed only on grass.
– I have undertaken many long coach journeys in Australia, and cannot recall any great mail road contract under which the horses which were employed had nothing more than grass to eat. I understand that the duration of these contracts varies.
– They generally run three years.
– That was my impression.
– But in the case of the three years’ contracts, relief would be given. The trouble relates to only the new contracts.
– That is so. I remind the Treasurer that if the seasons were good for the next two and a half years, the contractors might be able to recoup some of their losses, but who has ever known of consecutive good seasons over a long period? I have been closely connected with the pastoral industry for something like forty years, and I cannot remember anything of the kind
– Then the contractors must also have known that it was unreasonable to expect good seasons for two and a half years.
– But they did not know that there would be such a period of extreme drought.
– Would not the proper time to review these contracts be at their termination ?
– These men have to pay their way. I do not know whether any honorable member has ever been reminded of the state of his banking account, but I am quite sure that many mail contractors during the last six months have had very serious reminders from their bankers. That being so, if any relief is to be granted, it must be given immediately.
– Does the honorable member make the considered statement that he has never known of two and a half consecutive good years in Australia ?
– I do, and I can take the honorable member month by month over the records from 1876, when I came to Australia, until 1920.
– The honorable member for Grampians is right.
– He is wrong.
– My honorable friend the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Livingston) represents a particularly favoured spot in the neighbourhood of Mount Gambier, which is probably freer from drought than is any other part of the Commonwealth. Valuable though his testimony may be, I must, therefore, put it aside.
I wish now to deal with the general question involved in the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney). It covers, I take it, improved telephone and postal facilities for country districts, and also the payment of allowance officers. As I have no wish to weary honorable members, I do not propose to exhaust all the subjects that have been touched on during this debate; but I would impress upon the House the fact that any money expended on granting improved telephone and postal facilities in country districts, must be a very profitable investment. If it is. not profitable, then there is something at fault, and action should be taken to remedy it. Residents of country districts, as well as of our cities, are crying out for better telephone facilities, and are quite prepared to pay for them at remunerative rates. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise), new as he is to office, is ripe in experience of this subject, as has been evidenced by the quotations made this afternoon from his magnificent speeches. I shall simply conclude by inpressing upon the Postmaster-General in the strongest terms that there is every justification for expending, as an investment outlay, very largely increased sums on telephone services for country districts.
– If the honorable member were to address a few words on the same point to the Treasurer, it might be helpful.
– The Treasurer, like Pilate of old, has already washed his hands of “ this just man,” the PostmasterGeneral.
– The honorable member surely does not suggest that the Postmaster-General is to be crucified ?
– I am not quite sure whether the process of nailing his fingers to the political cross has not already commenced this afternoon, and I therefore shall not add to his tribulations. I simply implore him to give the fullest and most sympathetic consideration to the terms of the amendment, which I intend to support.
. -I have no desire to “stone-wall” this amendment. I want to vote upon it, and, therefore, I shall not enter upon a discussion of the genealogies of past PostmastersGeneral. Having regard to the important work which the people in the out-back districts of Australia are doing for the nation, I feel that more atten tion should be given to their postal requirements, and to the provision of other facilities for them. Mr. Knibbs, the Government! Statistician, tells us - 1917-1918 - that the Australian primary producers contribute 76 per cent, of the wealth of the Commonwealth, and the secondary industries 24 per cent. In that State, to which an honorable member has just referred as one of ‘ ‘ sin, sand, and sorrow ‘ ‘-
– And “sore eyes!”
– In that land, as the honorable member interjects, of “ sin, sand, sorrow,” and “ sore eyes,” from which I come, the primary producers are responsible for 86 per cent, of the wealth of the State, and the secondary industries for 14 per cent.; in other words, throughout the Commonwealth the wealth created by the primary producers is £56 7s. 6d. per head, and in little Western Australia £56 10s. per head. If we go into city factories we find three or four telephones, one in each room, so that there may not be the inconvenience of running from one part to another, whereas those who produce 86 per cent, of the wealth have to drive 20 miles to. a railway station to see whether their goods have arrived; and, on many occasions, only to be disappointed, and faced with a long, wet, and cold drive home, when a telephone would have saved this valuable time. At the same time, a surplus of £500,000 resulted last year from the working of the Postal Department of Australia. That money goes into the general revenue, and is devoted to other purposes than postal extension, although the Department should be conducted solely as a service in the service of the people. This is not the way in which real statesmanship should apply the money; and the present “cheeseparing” must cease. I am not saying anything against the present . Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise) ; indeed, conditions have been somewhat liberalized since he assumed office, though they are still cramped. There seems to be no vision of Australia as a great producing country, which requires all the postal, telegraphic, and telephonic facilities that modern ingenuity can devise. Weare a producing country, and the first consideration of this Parliament should be the provision of facilities for those people who are the most likely to lift the burden of debt from our shoulders. I suppose I have written 150 applications to the Department for telephones for the homes in the backblocks of Western Australia, and of these about 2 per cent, have been granted. My communications have been answered courteously, and, in explanation of the lack of telephonic communication, it has been explained that there are not sufficient people in the localities concerned. But do the Government desire to have cities in these country places? Are we to wait for a congested population before a modern time-saving invention is applied to enable us to compete with other countries? It would be infinitely better to add another halfpenny to the cost of our postage stamp in order to provide these postal facilities, which undoubtedly would prove reproductive. No longer ought a profit to be made by means of a Department which should be administered solely in the service of the people.
Some mail contractors are placed at such a disadvantage at present that they cannot fulfil their contracts, and -they should be given some consideration. Fortunately the land they speak of as one of “sin, sand, and sorrow” is so fertile that we have not suffered from drought; indeed, we could supply the droughtstricken eastern States with fodder. I support the amendment, not in the interests of my own State, but because it is right and reasonable that consideration should be given to the conditions under which these mail contractors work, and that the rural postal services should be rendered efficient.
.- The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) is an authority on all Australian matters, but when he says that he has never known two and a half years of good seasons in Australia, he makes a statement capable of doing more damage to our financial institutions than any that could be made.
– Do you wish him to tell lies?
– It would not be lies, as the honorable member knows. There’ is not the slightest doubt that every derogatory statement of that kind will be cabled to London, and Australia will be again represented as a droughtstricken country, whereas it is one of the finest in the world. As a matter of fact, Australia at the present time is suffering from too much water. In South Australia some £2,500,000 is being spent in drainage work which, when finished, will render the State one of the most fertile in the Commonwealth, if not in the Empire. At a time like this, when we require money, statements such as that made by the honorable member for Grampians ought ‘not to be allowed to go forth and reach the ears of those who lend money.
The Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise) has duties of the greatest importance, and I think he is one on whom we can rely to perform them. As pointed out already, all our previous Postmasters-General came from New South Wales, and there is no doubt we had a very good one in the person of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman). Now we have the present PostmasterGeneral, who is alive to the fact that we must have postal facilities, and all he requires to provide them is money. Previous Postmasters-General did very good work indeed; so good, indeed, in my constituency, that, when we get telephonic communication between Mr Gambier and Adelaide, our system will be about complete. Apparently, whenever it is thought fit to economize, the Postal Department is selected as that in which to begin, though it is the very last place where there should be any lack of expenditure. People must have telephonic and telegraphic communication and general postal facilities in the cheapest form; and until these are provided we cannot blame people for electing to remain in the big cities. Given good roads, schools, good mail services, with telegraphic and telephonic communication, and other conveniences, we should find our young men and others quite willing to settle in the country. It is to that end we should work, instead of wasting so much time in idle talk here. We have been sitting now for three months and have practically done nothing, and, under the present system, I am afraid we should do no more if we were to remain here for three years. If I had my way I would put a stiff time limit to speeches, so that we might get on with the work of the country. We, as a Parliament, ought- to meet prepared to work all together in the interest of the country, and not be so continuously fighting one against the other. One great change that might prove effective is the institution of elective Ministries, which would result in our getting some men from the other.side, and so unite the talent and brains of the House. With elective Ministries I believe we should be able to pull together in the interests of Australia and of the Empire.
.- I am glad to hear the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Livingston) advocate elective Ministries, with the object of obtaining some ‘ ‘ talent ‘ ‘ from this side of the House; and the protest made by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) shows the necessity for the adoption of some such suggestion, or, failing that, turning the Labour minority into a majority. The amendment is very appropriate in view of the many protests and applications sent by mail contractorsiu the district I represent to the Postal Department. In a number of cases the Department has recognised the disadvantages under which these mail contractors suffer and has afforded some sort of relief. The telephonic and telegraphic facilities in my electorate are by no means what they should be, or what they were. They have been reduced to such an extent that protests are continuously being made, but, from what I hear, from other honorable members, that is characteristic of the postal service throughout the country.
– The district of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Livingston), who is a Government supporter, is better off.
– I do not know why that constituency should happen to be a postal paradise. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Wise) knows that prior to his taking office I several times emphasized the necessity .for the extension of postal and telephonic facilities iu the country; indeed, at various times during the life of the last Parliament, even Government supporters threatened the Government because of their lack of such facilities. The promises of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), when Acting Prime Minister, in this regard have not been carried out, for the curtailment of services still goes on, while there has been a reduction in the remuneration paid to post-office attendants.
– Where the business falls off.
– Business can easily fall off if, as in my own electorate, between Wentworth and Broken Hill, a stretch of country of about 55 miles, is left with no facilities for the carriage of correspondence. From time to time, members representing country constituencies are informed by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department that, unless the residents within a certain area are prepared to subsidize the existing postal facilities, these will be cut off or reduced, because the revenue from them is not sufficient to carry them on. Thus country residents are asked to pay out of their own pockets for conveniences that are part of the ordinary requirements of civilization. There is no sense in thus penalizing those who earn their living in the back-blocks. Such action discourages them from remaining there, and others from going there. As I have pointed out in other speeches, the Department took upon itself to reduce postal services at a time when, above all others, the people were interested in obtaining news speedily, that is, during the war, when most radical alterations were made.
While on my feet, I wish to draw attention to the fact that information respecting weather conditions is not posted on the postal premises at Broken Hill. That city is the centre of a fairly big pastoral district, West Darling, which contains quite a large number of graziers and others engaged in pastoral pursuits. These persons are unable to obtain at the Broken Hill post-office information regarding weather variations, which have a profound effect on their industry, because they govern operations like the shifting of stock. In a letter, a copy of which has been sent to the Department, a correspondent says -
For many years past when rain does fall in this dry area, the fact has been made known to the pastoralists, the stock agents, and the public at the local telegraph” office. The registrations at the telegraph and telephone stations have been freely issued. These records have been of important value and equal interest to all concerned in the pastoral industry in the far west. They have facilitated business, and have helped to assist pastoralists to move stock from place to place to meet the changes of weather. These movings were, and are, not of individual importance only, but concern the whole of the West Darling pastoral industry, a vital factor in not only the State’s, but Australia’s economic welfare.
Wilcannia and Menindie are enabled to gather and issue these so important rain figures; why not Broken Hill, the centre of tie district ?
The writer points out that the posting of the information to which he refers would not cost much labour, and would greatly benefit those interested in pastoral pursuits. In Sydney and in Melbourne, shipping and other intelligence is posted at the General Post Office. Wharf labourers and others interested in shipping can thus study the movements of vessels. Why should not a similar convenience be given to the pastoralists or West Darling, by providing them with information respecting rainfall and weather changes? It would not cause much expense to do this.
– That information is posted in many places, the service now costing over £50,000 a year.
– It is posted in Wilcannia and Menindie.
– Have they given a reason why it is nob posted at Broken Hill?
– No; my correspondent asks that the practice may be resumed. I gather that the information was posted, and that the practice of posting it has been discontinued.
– It should be posted at a place like Broken Hill.
– The Treasurer and the Postmaster-General will readily understand that Broken Hill is a large centre where it is most important that this information should be made public.
I do not know whether other constituencies have suffered as much as mine from the cutting down of mail services and the withholding of telephone facilities. The Postmaster-General is in the best position to know what is taking place, but if other constituencies have suffered as much as the Barrier, the country people of Australia are getting a very rough deal from the Commonwealth Government. It is about time that we ceased to treat the Postal Department as a business concern. I have always claimed that postal and telegraphic facilities are the right of our citizens, and that the granting of them should not be on a revenue-producing basis.
– That is not to say that the Department should not be conducted as a business department, for all that.
– I do not say that it should not be conducted with business method; but there are businesses and businesses. The Treasurer knows that sometimes businesses are conducted not with a view to making a profit, but to support other businesses which are producing revenue. If you study the good of the community, and desire to keep people in the back country by making life worth living there, the least you will do is to grant the minimum facilities of communication required by a civilized community. In the city, postal, telegraph, and telephone conveniences are always at hand. If revenue must be considered, let the burden of providing it be placed on the shoulders of the townspeople, who are not under the same disabilities as country residents. It is not fair that the people in the country should be penalized as they are being penalized. It should be laid down as a guiding principle for all Postmasters-General that services should not be cut out, or reduced, as they have been in the past, in order to bring the expenditure of the Department within its income; the comfort and wellbeing of the people, especially of those in the country, should be the first consideration of every Administration.
– When a member intends to attack the administration of a Department, he mighttake the trouble, and have the courtesy, to inform the Minister of his intention, so that thelatter may be furnished with figures and information to reply to his statements. For several weeks I carried in my pocket a number of returns in the anticipation that questions would be asked to which they would furnish a reply. But to-day I was attacked without notice, and had to send bo the office for information, fortunately getting hold of the Secretary of the Department just as he was leaving.
– Last Friday the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) said that he would move the adjournment of the House on the following Wednesday.
– This is not “ the following Wednesday,” and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro did not carry out his intentions. I had no notice of the attack which has been made on the Department this afternoon.
I do not consider that the Department of the Postmaster-General is to be regarded as an ordinary commercial undertaking. Not long after I assumed office Iwas waited upon by a large deputation of members representing country constituencies and of honorable senators, to which I quoted the remarks made by Mr. Deakin, when Prime Minister in 1908, in reply to an attack made on the Post Office. I heard his speech, and it expressed my own views on the subject of Post Office management and the reasons which should govern its administration. Mr. Deakin said in effect that the Post Office was not established to produce a money return for the Government as an ordinary revenueearning Department; that its object was to promote social and commercial intercourse among the people. Prom that it naturally followed that country districts would be given services quite disproportionate to the amount of revenue they contributed. I myself have given credit both here and in reply to deputations, to Ministers and Governments that have made concessions to country districts. I have said that it was the first Fisher Government that made the original concession regarding country trunk telephone lines. Previously the people of a district had to guarantee a certain revenue from such a line, and to make up the whole of any deficiency between the required and the actual receipts. That Government at first undertook to pay 25 per cent. of that deficiency, the people in the country to contribute on the 75 per cent. basis. Just prior to the 1910 election, the Government reduced the country people’s contribution to 50 per cent., which remained until this year, when, in order to carry out the promise made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) at the last general election, that every possible facility would be extended to country districts, special concessions were made. There is no excuse for any honorable member saying that he did not know of them, because every honorable member was furnished with a copy of the concessions that have been granted in regard to both mail and telephone services.
– They are still inadequate.
– Unless we are prepared to render every service for nothing, I do not think they can be regarded as inadequate. All we ask now is a contri bution of 25 per cent. of the difference between the required revenue and the estimated revenue.
– Does that apply to branch as well as to trunk lines ?
– To every line constructed by the Department.
– Is not that a tremendous penalty on the people living in rural parts?
– There is only one other thing to do, and that is to make every telephone line for nothing; that is absolutely impossible.
– But that is what the Department does in crowded centres.
– No. I tell the House, as I repeately tell my own constituents, that the distances throughout Australia are not as small as those in Victoria. Distance does not trouble us much in this State. If we had to deal with only Victorian distances, we would not have much trouble in making the country lines; but we cannot grant fifty or sixty people in a Victorian district telephone communication, and deny it to 200 or 300 people in remote districts of the larger States like Queensland and Western Australia, where the erection of 200 or 300 miles of line may be involved. We can only have one policy for the whole of Australia, and that is to lay down all lines upon the same conditions. These are the concessions thatwe have made in regard to telephone services-
Erection of Public Telegraph or Telephone Lines, under Guarantee, under the New Policy Outlined by the Postmaster-
A copy of that notification was supplied to every member of .the deputation, and to every other honorable member who desired it.
In regard to mail services, honorable members will recollect that, at the beginning of this year, we received protests from many districts to which circulars had been sent, stating that the tender for the following three years would be so much, and that unless the people were prepared to contribute a certain amount, the service would be discontinued. That I regarded as a very .great hardship, and we overcame it by introducing the following conditions, as from 1st July last -
New Mail Services.
When the frequency of the service is once a week, or less, and the distance does not exceed 75 miles, and five residences or ten adults permanently benefit, the Department will bear all the cost, if the amount is reasonable. If, however, the lowest offer is unreasonable, the Department will call on the residents, to provide a service at a reasonable cost, ‘or pay the difference.
Twice a week. When the cost exceeds the revenue, the Department will bear the whole cost, if the difference between the cost and the revenue does not exceed 50 per cent, of the revenue. If the loss exceeds 50 per cent, of the revenue, the Department to bear 75 per cent, of the deficiency, or that proportion of the deficiency which equals 50 per cent, of the revenue, whichever is the greater; the residents to contribute the balance providing such contribution exceeds £10, but if under £10 the Department to bear the whole of the loss.
Three times a week. When the cost exceeds the revenue, the Department will bear the whole of the cost if the deficiency does not exceed 50 per cent, of the revenue. If it exceeds 50 per cent, of the revenue, the Depart ment to bear 65 per cent, of the deficiency, or that proportion thereof which equals 50 per cent, of the revenue, whichever is the greater; the residents to contribute the balance with a similar provisio as in the case ‘of the twiceaweek frequency.
More than three times a week. Same conditions as for a three times a week frequency, with the exception that the Department will bear 55 per cent instead of 65 per cent, of thu deficiency, or that proportion thereof which equals 50 per cent, of the revenue, whichever is the greater.
Cost of receiving-offices not to be debited against the service.
Intermediate receiving-offices not to be established on non-paying services, where the residents to be served can be given reasonable facilities by means of a free bag, delivery into roadside boxes, or by private bag.
If a tender reasonable for the service to be performed, taking local conditions into consideration, no contribution to be required. If the tender is unreasonable, a contribution to be asked for.
Those conditions are a great improvement upon those obtaining before 1st July last, and I think it is unfair to say that facili-‘ ties to the country districts have not been extended by the present Government. Much of the trouble in connexion with telephone services, both trunk lines and private services in the cities, is due to the circumstances arising out of the war. During the last two or three years we have been handicapped, not only by the shortness of money, but also by- the cost of material and the difficulty of getting it at all. Even at the present time, for t ordinary galvanized wire, when we are able to get it, we pay £65 per ton, as against the pre-war price of £12 per ton. Honorable members will see, from that one item alone, that the cost of installing and extending services has increased enormously, and the expenditure of the Department has grown accordingly. My predecessor in the last financial year had the misfortune to experience one of the worst years since the outbreak of war. The Government were unable to spare money for the Postal Department as they wished, just as they were unable to find money for expenditure in other Departments. There was, necessarily, a general cutting-down of the Estimates in all directions. This year I have been more fortunate; at the very earliest opportunity the Treasurer gave me authority to call for tenders involving a very large amount of money. If I had been prepared for this debate, I could have told honorable members the exact amount represented by the tenders which we have already accepted. Of course, it will take some time for the material to be supplied.
– Two thousand five hundred people in Sydney are waiting for telephones.
– I know that. The honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) quoted figures which show that on 1st July over 9,000 people throughout Australia had applied for telephone services and were still waiting to be supplied. Many of them will have to wait a considerable time longer. Those who are seeking connexion with the North Sydney exchange will have to wait, from the time the new switchboard was ordered, about fourteen months before they get any remedy at all. The tender has been placed abroad, and foreign contractors for this class of material will not bind themselves to deliver within any specified time.
– Is there no hope of getting material in Australia?
– Not switchboards. Honorable members may have read in the press recently that after a tremendous amount of work, the United States of America is just overtaking telephonic and telegraphic arrears which accumulated during the war. They will understand that until those arrears are overtaken American manufacturers will not be sending any material to other countries. We anticipate getting the switchboard for North Sydney within about ten months, and a further three or four months will be occupied in installing it. All the applications for telephones which have not been met are held up for one of three reasons: Either the switchboards in their districts are full and we have to wait for other switchboards, or they are in localities where the telephone line is carried in cables which are full and we have to wait for a fresh supply of cables, or they are in districts where the telephone lines are carried by wires on poles and we have to wait for a further supply of wires. Orders have been placed for considerable quantities of these various materials, and until they come to hand, we can do nothing at all. So far as the Treasurer is concerned, the only question he has asked, when I have requested money, has been as to whether the amount can be expended within the financial year. He has pointed out that it is useless to load the Estimates with votes for works if there is no possibility of the requisite material earning to hand within the financial period. That is the only limitation placed upon the Department in regard to the extension of telephonic and telegraphic services. Tenders are being called or nave been accepted for all requirements, and we are endeavouring to obtain the material as quickly as possible. Both honorable members and the public will have to possess themselves in patience, because no matter what is said or done, we cannot move more quickly than we are doing at the present time.
– Does the shortage of material apply also to wireless?
– In a much smaller degree, but wireless is a very big question.
I shall make only a passing reference to the miserable parochial remarks of the honorable member for Illawarra.
– Because there is no possible reply to them.
– Unfortunately the honorable member thinks that everything a man does is coloured by the State in which he resides. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) has already shown that nearly every PostmasterGeneral has been representative of a New South Wales constituency, and as a Victorian I have no complaint to make against any of them in regard to the equality of treatment all States received from them.
– In view of the figures I have quoted, the Minister would be most ungrateful if he thought otherwise.
– That, of course, is an insinuation that these representatives of New South Wales did not play fair with their own State. I maintain, emphatically, that the three Victorian PostmastersGeneral who have preceded me in the office, including Mr. Mauger. who was in control of the Department for a few months, and whose name was not mentioned by the honorable member for Grampians, did not care whether applications came from the east, west, or north, from Tasmania, Western Australia, or any other State. A member of a Government who views matters that come under his notice from the basis of the State from which he hails is utterly unworthy of being in a Government.
– What is the explanation of the . 5,000 applications not attended to in New South Wales as compared with the 2,000 in Victoria?
– I shall get the figures detailed, but I thought the honorable member was one of those who are always boasting about the greater progress and greater population of New South Wales as compared with Victoria. If one State is more progressive than another and has a greater population, we would naturally expect it to have a larger number of applications than would be received in a smaller State.
– The implication therefore is that New South Wales is two and a half times more progressive than Victoria. I do not think the Minister means to imply that.
– Does the honorable member claim that New South Wales is not two and a half times more progressive than Victoria? No; he will not answer that question.
Ever since I have been in this Parliament, complaints have been made by honorable members about the allowance paid to postmasters and postmistresses who are in charge of receiving and allowance offices. Every Postmaster-General finds that it is a most difficult matter to deal with these people.
– Are not they supposed to live on the allowance they receive ?
– No. It is utterly impossible to pay a living allowance in all these offices. The idea has always been that they should be attached to shops, and premises occupied by people with other means of earning a livelihood, and who thus may get a fair remuneration for the work they do for the Post and Telegraph Department, which is merely an adjunct to their other work. Unfortunately, however, in many cases these offices have fallen into the hands of women who have no other means of obtaining a livelihood, and it is on their behalf that representations are made by honorable members, who, however, are not prepared to recommend that for these small post-offices an adequate living allowance should be paid. There is hardly one of these officers who is not being paid more than the amount of revenue derived from the office.
– Should there not be some increase in the allowance because of the increased cost of living?
– As announced about a fortnight ago, the Government have agreed to increase the allowance paid to these offices by £67,000, based upon the principle of making some recompense for light and accommodation. It is certainly a small increase, but in many cases it will be a welcome one.
– What percentage will that increase represent?
– I cannot say from memory; but it is based on a certain amount per week, according to the size of the office.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral of opinion that fifty or sixty residents in a certain district should be deprived of postal facilities if there is not sufficient revenue from the allowance office?
– Then some one must be paid to do the work in that office.
– But payment for work done is quite different from the payment of a living allowance.
The drought allowance for mail contracts is another matter of considerable difficulty. We must remember that contracts are entered into as the result of tenders. As the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) interjected, one man puts in a tender at a price which he thinks will cover all possible contingencies, whereas another man puts in a much lower price, making no allowance whatever for the risk of contingencies, believing that he can rely on the Government to make up to him any loss that he can show. One has to be careful in giving assistance in such circumstances, because it is a matter that strikes at the very root of the system of tendering. If a man knows that he can get his loss made up to him by the Government, he submits a tender at a lower price, and secures a contract over a man submitting a price to cover contingencies. Consequent upon the severe drought which prevailed in New SouthWales and Queensland last year, the sum of £25,000 was made available by Cabinet for the purpose of assisting mail contractors in those States. The maximum increase of subsidy in any case was not to exceed 25 per cent., and the period for which the increases operated was from the 1st January, 1919, to the 31st December, 1919. The actual amount paid to those mail contractors was approximately £18,000. However, since these payments were made, drought, conditions have, to a large extent, continued in New South Wales and Queensland, and, in the circumstances, it has been decided to afford further assistance to mail contractors in the drought-stricken areas whose contracts were entered into priorto the 1st July, 1919, and where it is shown that such assistance is warranted. The assistance will cover the period from the 1st January, ,1920, to the 30th September, 1920, and it is estimated that the amount required will be about £14,450. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) asked why the. allowances should not be granted to those contractors whose contracts commenced on the 1st January of the present year, and the answer given was that the man who took up a contract on the 1st January of this year had a pretty fair idea - he was in the middle of the drought then - that he must look forward to drought conditions prevailing, and was not entitled to the same consideration which was extended to a. man who had entered into a contract commencing in the middle of last year.
– And who was unexpectedly met ‘by a drought.
– Yes. That was the reason why the allowance was limited. However, it is for the Treasurer to consider whether there are specially hard cases in which an exception might be made. The man who entered into a contract at the beginning of this year is not on the same footing, so far as the merits of his case are concerned, as is the man who entered into a contract at the middle of last year, and might easily have anticipated the breaking up of the drought in the following spring. In any case, the man who entered into a contract which was to commence at the beginning of this year had the opportunity of asking the Department to relieve him of it, and if he had been held to it by the Department, it would then have been fair for him to claim consideration on the ground that he was forced to continue his contract. But not one application as far as I know was received from any man asking to be relieved of his contract.
– The honorable member for Hume in his amendment urges that further facilities; should be granted, but he has not given us any idea of what in his opinion those further facilities should consist.
– One cannot set out everything in a simple amendment.
– Quite so; but “ further facilities “ might mean anything. I have pointed out that the last concession to country districts in regard to the guarantee required in connexion with the construction of telephone lines was made ten years ago, and that we have made a further concession of 50 per cent, in the then existing conditions. I represent a country constituency which, with the exception of part of the electorate of Indi, has fewer railway facilities, and is, perhaps, more inaccessible than any other division in Victoria, and my constituents appreciate very much indeed the concessions that have been made. So far as I can remember, all the applications for telephone services which were held up because of the large contributions which the people concerned were informed they would have to make are now being taken up under the recent concessions. In every case the new conditions laid down by us have been readily accepted, and the people concerned have undertaken to supply the cash, labour, or material required of them by the Department. As the result of these new concessions I do not think that in any one case the contributions which the people were originally told they would have to make have been required.
As I said at the outset of my remarks, I do not take the view that the Postal Department should be a revenue producing service. At the same time, since it has been made to pay its way I should like it, if possible, to continue to do so. But I am not out for any surplus. I would prefer to extend any anticipated surplus in the provision of further facilities for country districts. One honorable member said during the debate that the conditions laid down in respect of the construction of country telephone lines were not- insisted upon in the case of telephone trunk lines, or town or city services. I can only say in reply that the same conditions apply all round. If a projected country line will pay from the start it is erected free of cost to the persons to be served. It rarely happens, however, that a country line will pay its way from its inception. In my own electorate only two lines - one 4 miles long and another 6 miles in length - have been erected without any contribution or guarantee being required from the persons to be served.
– ‘But the requirement as to a contribution or guarantee works great hardship in some cases.
– No doubt it does. I should like to see the whole country riddled, so to speak, with telephone lines. I do not agree* with the statement once made in a rural district by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews), that telephones are a luxury. When he made that statement no doubt he had in mind telephone services in our large cities; but in country districts they are not luxuries, but absolute necessities. One of the difficulties in the way of our complying with applications for new lines at the present time is the heavy cost of material. With wire, for instance, costing us £65 per ton, as against £12 per ton prior to the war, and the cost of other material having gone up proportionately, it will be readily recognised that we have not the opportunities for extending the service that were offering before the war. Then there is the further trouble that great delay is experienced in obtaining supplies of material. The Department, however, is doing its very best to meet the applications for telephone services now in hand. It is the policy of the Government to assist the country districts in so far as these matters are concerned in every possible way, and honorable members will discover later that that policy applies also in other directions. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) has placed no difficulty in the way of the Department, so far as money is concerned. When he is asked to supply funds to enlarge the activities of my Department, his only inquiry is, “ Can you spend the amount for which you ask within the financial year ? If you can, you can have the money.”, Honorable members know perfectly (well that, although provision is made for a large expenditure on the purchase of material, that expenditure is often unlikely’ to take place in the .year for which it is provided, because of the diffi culty in securing prompt delivery of mgterial. Some of the material which wasordered as a result of the grant made tothe Postal Department in February of last year is only now coming to hand. In the beginning of the present year the Treasurer gave me authority to call for tenders for the supply of material to the value of £500,000, but the great bulk of that material will not come to hand until the beginning of next year. I repeat that we are doing all that we .can to meet the requirements of country districts, and that there is no hesitation on the part of the Treasurer in supplying the necessary funds. The real difficulty lies in the fact that we have to wait some time for material to come to hand. . In that respect, we are not singular. Like the rest of the world, we are trying to overtake the arrears which accumulated during the war.
– Is the Department doing anything in regard to the demand for city telephone services?
– Yes. I have already referred to the difficulty we experience in obtaining supplies. One trouble in connexion with the Sydney telephone service, for instance, is the delay in obtaining the large switchboard required for the City North exchange. The contractor whose tender was accepted for the supply of that switchboard would not bind himself to deliver it within any specified time. We expect it to arrive, however, within the next ten or twelve months, and an additional three or four months will be spent in putting it in position. We are doing everything within our power to overtake arrears, and to bring all our work up to date.
.- The Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise) has said that the reason for the delay in proceeding with the erection of country telephone lines is the shortage of material. If there is an absolute shortage of material, we cannot expect these lines to be built; but not one of the many applications for telephone lines in my electorate has been turned down by the Deputy Postmaster-General of New South Wales on the score of lack of material. Such applications have met with the objections that the lines would be too costly; that they would involve too great a loss; or that if they are to be built a proportion of the cost of construction must be borne by the people applying for them. At the beginning of this session the PostmasterGeneral promised a liberal policy of telephone extensions, and I am disappointed at the failure of the Department to carry out that policy. Many of my constituents are 20 or 30 miles away from the nearest railway station’, and, owing to the lack of telephone services, are practically cut off from civilization. Sickness, as we know, enters every home, and when any of these people need the services of a doctor, a ride or drive of 30 or 40 miles has to be undertaken to obtain one. I cannot square my experience with the statement of the Postmaster-General that shortage of material is the main reason why telephone lines are not being constructed, as requested, in. country districts.
I wish now to refer briefly to the question of mail contractors and the drought allowance. I indorse everything that has been said by honorable members of my party in regard to that matter. It is about time that the Postal Department realized the serious disability under which mail contractors’ are suffering. If they do not receive reasonable treatment, and are unable to make their contracts pay, many of those who now have a mail delivered to them once, twice, or three times a week will soon be deprived of such a service. It is an absolute negation of the policy of the public Departments of the Commonwealth to say that these men are not entitled to an increased allowance. We have tribunals which fix the price of various commodities, and Courts which make awards as to wages. As the economic position becomes more aggravated, prices are increased and new awards are made. Following up that policy, mail contractors, having regard’ to the adverse conditions with which they aTe confronted, should be granted an increase. It seems to me that the Postal Department is a sweating institution. I have had brought under my notice to-day the case of a postmaster in a small country town, who is a returned soldier, with a wife and family, and receives the princely salary of £130 per year. The whole service needs to be looked into. The Government is not doing the fair thing in any branch of the Postal Department. I strongly support the amendment, and hope that it will be carried.
– I wish to thank the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Wise) for the splendid statement he has made to the House. Honorable members opposite may not agree with me, but I know what I am talking about, since I represent some of the “ wayback” stations of South Australia, and know as much about the necessities of the far interior of my State as does any honorable member of this Parliament.
– Has the honorable member been obtaining any postal or telephone facilities for his electorate?
– I have been obtaining all that I could expect, having regard to the present financial position. The statement made by the Postmaster-General to-day will be accepted by my constituents away back as the best they have read for many a long day. We cannot possibly have these facilities, particularly in the cases that are dependent upon materials which are unprocurable, all at once; but we are assured that a very definite step forward has been taken, and that, if not within a few weeks, at any rate within a very few months, a great many of the works that have been promised for a long time will be put in hand. We in South Australia are greatly indebted to the Deputy Postmaster-General there. His work is highly appreciated by the people, particularly in the country, and I am satisfied that when my constituents read the Postmaster-General’s statement of to-day they will be very delighted over it.
– Mr Deputy Speaker-
– I should like to ask the honorable member one question.
– Order ! The time for asking questions has passed.
– Does the Treasurer agree with the Postmaster-General that telephones are a luxury?
– All I know is that I find the telephone a necessity, not a luxury; but I dare say it is a luxury in some circumstances. This is a subject which appears to excite a great deal of interest, and I want to make it clear that, no matter how the vote on this question goes, it cannot make any difference in !the actual position of affairs.
– How will it affect you if it goes against you?
– We shall resign promptly, and let the honorable member come in, as he would like to do. That goes without saying.
– Are you satisfied with the result of the whip that has taken place?
– I am quite satisfied, but I do not know what the whip is.
– You have been putting it on.
– I am not anxious to put anything on. All I am anxious to do is to face the situation and get at the facts, and then the House can adopt what attitude it pleases.
– Now the honorable member is threatening the House.
– There is no threat at all. Nothing we can do in this House will alter the present state of affairs. Let me remind honorable members what the position is. It is not so much lack of money, but it is lack of material. If there had been four times the amount of money available, it could not have been spent to advantage, as the material was simply unobtainable, and much of it is still unobtainable. It now takes twelve months ‘to get an order for telephones executed; and in some cases much more than twelve months.
– That shows a lack of foresight on the part of the Department.
-It shows the great scarcity there is all over the world of many things that we need. Every day a shortage of something or other is occurring. To-day it is telephones; yesterday it was sugar; the day before it was butter. Every day some trouble arises, all owing to the one fundamental fact that supplies cannot be obtained. That isthe first fact we want to get into our minds.
– Can you explain how it is that in some country places, where the people have had to provide a part of the material, they have been able to get their part of it, and the Postal Department has not provided its part?
– I cannot tell the honorable member about these iso lated cases. I am speaking of the position generally. If some people are getting services and others are not it is not due to any lack of competency or anything else, but to the clear fact, which we have to face, that we cannot install these services under present conditions. There are 10,000 telephones wanted to-day. They cannot be supplied. I am in trouble every day about’ telephones, and so is every other honorable member; but what can we do ? The telephones are not here. They are on order, but they cannot be obtained. It is not a matter of foresight, or even a matter of money, but a matter of the impossibility of obtaining supplies.
– Is that the reason why you have reduced some of the country services?
– I am talking of one thing at a time. At present I am speaking of the need for telephones, and for wire and other material with which to install them. That is one of the main troubles so far as telephones are concerned. Now, as regards mail services.
– Why are not the men paid an increased subsidy?
– A proposal has already been mentioned to-night to rectif y that trouble in a very large measure.
– It is not satisfactory.
– I am afraid that we can never satisfy the honorable member. I am trying to address myself now to the reasonable members of the House. The honorable member tells me quite plainly beforehand that I cannot satisfy him. Well, I shall not try to do so. There is no lack of funds so far as the Post Office is concerned. The Postmaster- General was told on almost the first day on which I took control of the Treasury that whatever money he wanted he could have in reason, and he has been proceeding ever since to overtake the arrears; but, do what he will, it is impossible to rectify in a short space of time a situation which has been getting steadily worse for four or five years, mainly owing to war conditions. We are after those arrears with the utmost possible expedition, and the sooner they can be overtaken the better the Government will be pleased, and the better I hope honorable members will be satisfied.
– What about the mail services ?
– As to the mail services, the Government is giving its best to the country at the present moment; but even those services cannot be reorganized in a moment. Conditions of drought have prevailed in the country, and there are all sorts of hindrances even to the establishment and organization of the vast mail routes of the Commonwealth; but re-organization is proceeding even there, and we are doing our very best to overtake the arrears. It is our purpose and intention to give better and more frequent services in the back country districts. I have all my life been an advocate of good treatment for the back country districts. These instrumentalities arethe very essence of decency, and even livelihood, to say nothing of comfort and luxury, out there, and any man who thinks rightly of his country, and sees things in their proper setting and focus, must admit that everything that can be done for the country should be done.
– Well, do it how. That is a good slogan for you.
– I am no Merlin. Iam afraid I cannot call these things down in a moment. I cannot “do it now.” I can only promise that the PostmasterGeneral will do it as quickly as it can be done. He will do it irrespective of cost and irrespective of anything but a fair and reasonable consideration for the conditions of the people in the interior. That is the attitude of the Government generally. The rest is a matter of organization, spending money, obtaining materials, organizing those materials, and establishing and re-adjusting the whole of the services as far as that may be done. I assure honorable members that, so far as the Treasury is concerned, there will be no stint of funds, and our efforts will be limited only by the reasonableness of the matters with which we have to deal, and by the service which we can obtain from overseas. That is the fundamental trouble which is keeping everything back now. One honorable member is concerned about the mail contractors.
– And their drought allowance.
– That position is not free of difficulty. It is of no use to say that there is nothing to be said on the other side, because there is. At the beginning of this year fresh’ tenders were called, in every case, I believe, for a short period, owing to the abnormal conditions obtaining. When these contracts were called, drought conditions obtained, and all the difficulties were thoroughly in sight and well understood.
– That is not so.
– I will come to the difference in fodder prices between then and now. I shall not burke anything, but the point I wish to put is this : Here are two contractors at the beginning of the year facing this abnormal condition of things. One puts in a tender for £100, and the other, looking at all the conditions surrounding the situation, puts in a tender for £120. He is ruled out, and the man who puts in the lowest tender gets the contract. What is the position to-day ? If we say to the successful tenderer,” We will give you another £30 on your £100,” will not the other man who was ruled out because he was sane and wise enough to look at all the conditions, and put in what he thought a reasonable price, have a right to complain when he finds the other man being paid £130, after his tender for £120 has been rejected? The first thing to do in that case, as a matter of equity, would be to give the contractor the right to surrender his contract, and for us to go on the market again.
– Would it not have been “sane and wise” to accept the £120 tender, and not the lowest tender ? Does not the advertisement say, “ The lowest tender not necessarily accepted?”
– It would have been, if there had been some arbitrary being in control of the Post Office, and if there had been no critics in Parliament to trouble him. In those circumstances, he might very well have taken that course; but as surely as he accepted a tender which was higher than a rejected tender, there would have been a storm.
– It is done every day in the week by sensible men.
– It is not done. I have been through this trouble many times. I tell the honorable member that the man whose tender had been turned down would make a bee-line for his parliamentary representative, and the matter would be mentioned on the floor of the House that very afternoon.
– I think you are correct.
– I know I am correct. There is only one thing to do, and that is to accept the lowest tender, other things being equal. It is the only safe course for the Minister, and the only sane and salutary rule for the Department and the House. The position as we find it is that things have not got any cheaper, but have become very much dearer, and I can quite conceive there may be a number of cases of real, genuine hardship which should be looked at.
– They have apparently been looked at, but cast aside by the Department.
– The letters from the Department are most discourteous.
– All I have to say is that if honorable members will allow this matter to go for the time being, I shall look into it with my friend the Postmaster-General, in the light of the circumstances as we see them to-day.
– Will you also consider the mail contractors who are not in drought-stricken districts, but who have to pay drought prices?
– Precisely ; their cases must be looked at, and that may involve a review of the whole mail services. So far as it is possible to review cases of genuine hardship, I can promise that the Postmaster-General will make earnest and bond fide effort.
– In the case I mentioned, the man is now paying £20 for fodder, as against £10 when he tendered.
– And his tender was put in at the middle of last year.
– In the case I mentioned, the tender was lodged in August of last year.
– Has that man asked to be relieved of his contract?
– No, but he asks for an allowance.
– But what about the man who tendered at a higher amount because of the circumstances?
– Do you know any tenderer who did that?
– I am not speaking without knowing.
– Will you produce the tender ?
– No, I shall not. I believe that most honorable members accept my word, if the honorable member does not. I am speaking of the facts and of the difficulties in dealing equitably as between the various tenderers, and I still say that peculiar circumstances may have developed which call for review, and the singling out of individual cases for specially generous treatment.
– Do I understand the Treasurer to say that he would be willing to allow contractors to surrender their contracts ?
– I should think that ought to be done in every case where, owing to exceptional circumstances, a man finds himself in difficulties because of the drought.
– That is no good to a man who has already lost money.
– The fact is that men desire to get contracts by undercutting other tenderers, and afterwards to receive a sum of money equal to the amount at which other men would have been willing to take up the contract. There must be some sort of fairness in these matters ; we must be fair to the man who did not get the contract, as well as to the man who did.
– The man who did not might have been making the same demand.
– He might have been ; but, at the same time, he would not have had the same reason to the extent that his tender was higher than the tender of the other man. The PostmasterGeneral and myself are willing to review cases of hardship, and I can promise a generous review and substantial alleviation where the circumstances justify it.
– The PostmasterGeneral did not meet us in that way.
– I am meeting honorable members in that way, and I am doing so after talking the matter over with the Postmaster-General. We are not here to screw the last ounce out of these men, but to treat them fairly and equitably. I suggest that honorable members bring forward their cases, when we shall review them in the light of the present circumstances.
– The request in the motion - for it is only a request - seems to be a reasonable one.
-I am trying to meet the request without having a vote.
– Why not accept the amendment?
– The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) folds his arms and smiles.
– Why not have a vote?
– I have already said that it will not make any difference whether there be a vote or not - if a vote goes against the Government on this particular matter it can make no difference. The facts are there, and. I appeal to honorable members not to press this proposal to a division. They can always come again to the Government if they wish to.
– Why not accept the amendment?
– Why should we accept the amendment after the statement I am making now.
– The PostmasterGeneral does not make the statement.
– It is becoming quite clear that what the honorable member is after is more than some action in regard to these men - it is becoming quite clear to the House that he is trading on them for political purposes.
– Now you are attributing motives ; but you will not get me to withdraw the amendment on such grounds.
– I do not care whether the honorable member withdraws the amendment or not; is that quite clear? I try to meet the difficulty, and I receive nothing but jeers.
– And then you insult me !
– There is no “ insult” ; but the honorable member can put it that way if he likes. I should like to tell honorable members that I spoke privately to the honorable member, and asked him, in view of the statement I proposed to make, and am making now, not to press this matter, but to leave it over in the interests of the men he represents, promising fair and generous consideration for their cases.
– You said you would meet me, but you have not done so.
– I have.
– The PostmasterGeneral has not.
– I tell the honorable member that every case that he submits to the Department will be reviewed and reconsidered.
– We have had the same promise for years past.
– You have been considering the matter too long.
SirJOSEPH COOK.- Very well, then, I shall say no more.
.- I regret the remark of the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), to the effect that it will not matter what the result of a vote on this question may be - that it will not alter the state of affairs. I represent a city constituency, and I can tell honorable members that Sydney has been deprived of its usual facilities, pillar boxes and letter boxes having been removed from one end of the city to the other. That is a scandalous state of things, and I ask the Government whether it is to be allowed to continue, or whether the letter boxes are to be replaced. The Treasurer tells us that the Government cannotobtain telephone instruments. That seems most remarkable in a country like this, which is able to turn out turbines and the best and finest classes of machinery at the Shaw Wireless Works at Randwick. Suppose we were cut off from any other country, is it tobe supposed that there are not enough brains and talent here to make telephone instruments?
– There are patent rights to be considered.
– That is the reply I received from the Deputy PostmasterGeneral in Sydney; but patent rights should not have stood in the way when the war was on; indeed, we can ignore those patent rights now if we cannot get supplies, and manufacture our own instruments.
– Are you advancing the theory that the Government should ignore patent rights?
– I am laying down the theory that the Government should supply facilities for the carrying on of the business of the country.
– You are suggesting that a Government which makes laws to protect patent rights should ignore them.
– I ask the Treasurer to reason the matter out for a moment. The Government tell us that they have placed orders for instruments in America and elsewhere, and that those orders cannot be supplied. If that be so, are we to do without the instruments just because there are patent rights? Having given an order for instruments, we can say that if they cannot be supplied we shall feel ourselves justified in ignoring patent rights, and making them for ourselves.
– The Government will buy all the telephone instruments in Australia that the honorable member can bring.
– I know, but that is not the point I am on. We have works at Randwick which can make all the instruments we require; indeed, those works are now providing some equipment for the Post Office.
– We can pay royalty on patents.
– Quite so. Nearly every mail I get brings me letters of complaint about the lack of telephones. I know a butcher in Sydney who paid a deposit ten months ago for a telephone installation, but has been obliged to go out’ of business because he has not been supplied; his rivals with telephones getting the orders.
– Howmany telephone instrument fitters does the honorable member think we can get in Australia to-day, outside the Department?
– I have not the time to find out. The honorable member is a practical man, and I ask him whether he suggests that, in the absence of any supplies from outside, we should not take steps to manufacture instruments for our own requirements. The Treasurer says he has the money to pay for instruments, and we know that we have the timber and metals and the necessary mechanics here. It shows a lack of organization on the part of the Government that steps are not taken in this direction. I do not blame the Postmaster-General so much, but he should instruct his mechanical engineers to see to the manufacture of instruments. It is a very simple matter to take a screwdriver and look at a telephone instrument; but then we are told about patent rights. We must let patent rights go, if it be necessary, and see that the people of this country are supplied with business facilities. No Government is worth its salt unless it sees that local requirements are met.
– How long do you think America would recognise patent rights here?
– Mr. Hoskins, of Lithgow, who has invented an improvement in connexion with motor cars, recently visited America in order to patent it. There he was asked where he intended to undertake the work of manufacture, and when he replied ‘ ‘ In Australia ‘ ‘ he was told that if he was going to patent his invention in America he must also undertake the work of manufacture there. The same principle should be applied to patentees in this country.
I should like to know how the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) can justify the removal of letter boxes from thickly populated areas around Sydney - letter boxes which have been in position for the past twenty years? No excuse can be urged for such arbitrary action. A motor car passes the sites upon which these boxes were located, and could easily pick up correspondence placed in them. Is it the policy of the Government to cut down postal facilities? This debate has not been initiated one day too soon. I hope that the Government will see that the letter boxes of which I speak are speedily restored to their original positions.
– I have very much pleasure in supporting the amendment of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney). We were all pleased to hear from the Treasurer that he is not withholding financial assistance from the PostmasterGeneral. I trust that the latter will avail himself of that assistance to the full, in order that he may provide the residents of country districts with adequate mail facilities, if only for the purpose of compensating them for the lack of telephonic communication which obtains there. The position has become very acute - so acute, indeed, that a previous PostmasterGeneral lost his seat in this Chamber in consequence of it. I am very much afraid that his successor will lose his seat unless a vast improvement is effected in this great arm of the Commonwealth service which so vitally affects our country interests. The position is worse than a scandal. Mail facilities which existed thirty years ago have either disappeared entirely or have been curtailed to such an extent that to-day they are not recognisable. The buildings of the Department are entirely inadequate. I want to draw attention to one of these at Narrabri, in my own electorate, which was erected with a view to accommodating eight employees, but which to-day houses no fewer than twenty-eight officers. This building is located in a hot climate, so that honorable members may readily imagine the conditions under which these employees work.
One great facility which country people formerly enjoyed was that of travelling post-offices. These “were withdrawn by a previous Administration, and thus the delivery of mails has been rendered slower than it otherwise would be. Repeated applications to the PostmasterGeneral only elicit the reply that he cannot see his way to restore these facilities. In view of the enormous shortage of telephones which exists at present, the best thing that the Government can do is to increase our country mail service, in order that rural residents may be able to deal with correspondence more expeditiously, and thus secure quicker communication with our towns and cities. The argument adduced by the Treasurer in regard to mail contracts is scarcely a sound one. He stated that ohe contractor may have contracted to provide a service for £100 a year, whilst another contractor has tendered for it at £120, and that if the successful tenderer were now granted a fodder allowance, his unsuccessful competitor would have cause for complaint. May I say that those contractors whose tenders were not accepted during the recent drought period have reason to thank their stars for it. The attitude which has been taken up by Ministers to-night, when the numbers are against them, is in vivid contrast with that of the PostmasterGeneral, who, yesterdey, stated that he entirely concurred in the view of this matter which had been expressed by the Deputy Postmaster-General.
I do not think the contention that we cannot manufacture telephones in Australia is a correct one. There are hundreds of returned soldiers undergoing vocational training here, and there is nothing very intricate in the manufacture of a telephone.
– How does the honorable member know that? He should read the evidence which was given in the Arbitration Court upon that matter. His statement is a libel upon telephone employees.
– The Minister for the Navy can bring forward evidence of a certain character, and twist it to suit himself, but the fact remains that no effort has been made to manufacture telephones in Australia.
If we never attempt anything, we shall never achieve anything. So long as Ministers are permitted to retain their positions, and to do nothing, so long will residents in the country be deprived of necessary telephonic facilities. Members of the Government are prepared to go to any length in order to build up surpluses in the Postal Department, and we know that the late Postmaster-General claimed that he had made a profit of £500,000. He affirmed that this amount had been paid into the Consolidated Revenue, and kept from him, and that, as a result, he was prevented from effecting improvements in the service owing to lack of funds. He blamed the Cabinet for having placed him in a false position. He did not admit that he had allowed himself to be placed in that position. But when he knew that country residents were not getting a square deal, he should have resigned his position. That would have brought matters to a head. The position that we are in to-day is the result of funds having been withheld when they were urgently required for the development of this particular arm of the Commonwealth Service.
I may perhaps be permitted to mention one or two instances of the way in which country residents are suffering. In the electorate of New England, there is a town which thirty-five years ago had a daily mail service from Tamworth, but which to-day has a service upon only three days a week. Take the town of Bingara, in my own electorate. In the municipality there are 1,400 inhabitants, and of this number about 700 live in the town itself. For many years there was a letter-carrier in the township, but owing to’ the enforcement of a policy of economy, he has been withdrawn. Another ease which may be mentioned is that of Longueville, in the Treasurer’s electorate of Parramatta. Thirty years ago there were two mail deliveries there daily, but to-day there is only one delivery. Repeated requests for an additional delivery have met with a blank refusal. Notwithstanding that these districts have grown considerably during the period I have indicated, the people were better off thirty years ago than they are now. Great loss is being sustained, particularly by business men, the majority of whom absolutely depend upon the mail and telephone services for the transaction of their business - as the result of the curtailment of these mail facilities. To-night the Postmaster-General made a” statement, but there was nothing very definite in it. When he approaches the Cabinet upon these matters, we have no assurance that his proposals will not be turned down. The Treasurer has told us that he will not refuse his colleague financial assistance; but, even if he does not, the point is whether the Cabinet will do so. I understand that the amount provided on the Estimates for the purchase of telephones is likely to undergo serious revision. Only a few days ago, I asked that tenders should be called in Great Britain and America for the requisite supplies of material. Upon that occasion, I was asked to give notice of my question. To-night I understood the Postmaster-General to say that tenders had been called in those countries.
– Tenders have been called for the supply of some materials, and contracts have been accepted for the supply of others.
– I am very pleased to hear that. I am under the impression that proper efforts have not been made to scour the world in an attempt to procure the materials that are necessary to keep the services up to a good standard.
– A sufficient endeavour i9 not made to get them in Australia.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong represents a manufacturing district, and I have no doubt that he will be able to point to many instances in which the requisite materials can be obtained in Australia, though no attempt has been made to get them.
The Postmaster-General was not present when I was referring to the question of travelling post-offices. In view of the fact that the Treasurer has stated that ample funds are available. I would like to know whether he will restore to country residents the facilities which they formerly enjoyed in the shape of travelling post-offices upon mail trains? There was a travelling post-office on the north-west mail from Sydney to Moree which proved a wonderful convenience to the population all along the line. That service was abolished by the last Postmaster-
General, and thereby the back country districts were made to suffer great inconvenience. Droughts or shortage of material cannot be urged as excuses for the cutting off of this service. That action was taken in pursuance of a policy which must be recognised as false economy. I should like the present Postmaster-General to say that he will re-establish the travelling post-offices.
– Steps are being taken to arrange for the conveyance of correspondence between railway stations, and if the means provided are not satisfactory, something else will be done. I am determined that this convenience shall be restored.
– Do you mean that the travelling post-offices will be restored ?
– Yes, if they become necessary; ‘but if the other means are successful, they will not be necessary.
– I do not know what other means are contemplated, but I am” prepared to await the honorable gentleman’s scheme, to see if it will redress out grievance. If it does not, I hope that he will give, immediately, consideration to the reasonable request of the people of the north-western districts of New South Wales, that the travelling post-offices may be restored in order to improve their mail service.
I could deal at length with the treatment of the employees of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, but the motion to-night complains of the lack of postal facilities, and the conditions of the postal employees is a proper subject for a separate .discussion, which, on another occasion, might well engage honorable members to the exclusion of all other subjects. The conditions of the employees of this Department are deplorable, and until they have been improved, and the employees are satisfied, efficient service is not to be looked for. The employees are underpaid and overworked. I have already spoken of the application of the third degree at the General Post Office, Sydney, in connexion with the employment of telephone attendants. It has come to such a pass that on one occasion a girl was questioned and cross-questioned for over an hour, until she fell hysterical to the ground, and six other girls had to be carried out of the room, work on the- switchboard being suspended for some time. This may appear amusing to some honorable members, but it is a serious thing for the young women themselves.
I hope that not only the PostmasterGeneral, but the whole Cabinet, will recognise that the services given by his Department are of vital importance to the residents in country districts, more so than any of the other public services of the Commonwealth, and that they will, therefore, give the Postal Department more consideration than it has yet had from the Ministry.
– We are having a field day in the discussion of grievances, grievance day being, I think, a peculiarly Victorian institution. The Government cannot complain of any backwardness on. the part of honorable members in speaking their minds. There are a number of grievances which I wish to have redressed, and I propose to speak frankly regarding them. I do not blame the Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise) personally, because, having had experience in the office that he holds, I know that he does not lie on a bed of roses. He has special difficulties to face, because the war has made it very hard to obtain supplies; but there is a good deal in the complaints which have come from all sides of the House. I resent the statement of two or three prominent members of the Labour party about a deputation from that side of the House. They forgot to say that that deputation followed a general deputation. I had no invitation from them to attend on their deputation. We all advocate the rights and exclaim against the wrongs of the people in the country, for the reason that we are all interested in them; partly because of their votes. If we had not their support it would make a big difference to us. But we shall not succeed in helping them if we take action in a party spirit. A party proposition cannot be supported by honorable members who do not wish to displace the Government.
– Why make this a party question?
– Then why did you refer to a deputation from that side of the House?
– What has that to do with the merits of the amendment?
– It has everything to do with it.
– The troubles in connexion with the Post Office are not entirely due to lack of coin or material. Most of the complaints that come from Sydney and its suburbs are due to the fact that the switch-boards will not carry extra lines.
– Nothing is done to alter that.
– The honorable member, of course, could alter it!
– I would alter it very quickly.
– I thought it was the Treasurership that the honorable member had arranged to take.
I have read in a Melbourne newspaper which seems to control politics here,and to know more about political matters than Ministers themselves, that another telephone is to be erected between Sydney and Melbourne, at a cost of between £47,000 and £53,000.
– Is that to serve Canberra?
– Some honorable members have Canberra on the brain. They must abuse it lest the Argus and the Age should straighten them out.
– In the interests of economy.
– Now I have a Tasmanian against me. I understand, however, that some persons are proposing to buy Tasmania, and that will relieve us of that trouble. The Tasmanian member who talks about economy forgets the special grant that that State got from the Commonwealth by begging and praying.
I am in accord with what has been said to-night regarding the need for a drought allowance for the mail contractors, and I am glad that the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) has promised that it shall be given.
– The Treasurer has given no assurance that he will pay a drought allowance to the mail contractors.
– The right honorable gentleman has promised consideration to every hard case.
-What I saidwas clear enough, and was heard by the honorable member for Hume.
– I have great sympathy with the telephone attendants. The telephone room is a very trying place, and attention to the switchboard severely taxes the patience of the attendants. I looked into this matter last week, because I am interested in these young ladies. . The Deputy Postmaster-General informs me that they are having trouble because so many of the attendants are getting married, and have to be replaced by inexperienced girls.
I have suggested to the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Wise), and do so again, that he should try to ascertain the causes of the trouble that arises in his Department. It is those in control who are to blame. Why not send the Victorian Deputy PostmasterGeneral and a dozen of his principal officers to Sydney, and bring the New South Wales Deputy PostmasterGeneral and his staff to Melbourne, and see what the effect of the change is?
Like other honorable members, I get notices from the Department telling me that, owing to the falling off of revenue, the payments to allowance offices must be reduced. Recently I was informed that the payment to one of these small offices had been reduced by £2. I do not hold the Postmaster-General personally responsible for these reductions, but he is the man to whom we must make our complaints about them. I desire to indorse the suggestion made by some honorable members as to basing the allowance on the revenue received instead of on the work done.
– That is how they are paid - on the work done.
– If the Postmaster-General makes that statement seriously, I beg to differ, because they are paid on the revenue received at the office. Will the Postmaster-General say ‘that if he discovers, on inquiry, that they are not paid on the work done, they will in future be remunerated on that basis. In many of the offices where the revenue is comparatively small, a great deal of work has to be done, and sometimes at great inconvenience. In some country centres the persons employed, who are sometimes women, have to get up in the middle of the night to hand out a bag; and such work should not be paid for on the basis of the revenue received. I invite the Postmaster-General to fully inquire into this question. Personally, I am in favour of a Commission being appointed to administer the Postal Department, because I think the work should be taken out of politics altogether, as some, at least, are inclined to make use of the Department for political purposes. The Department should be conducted on business lines, and should be under the control of a Commission.
– Under such circumstances the country people would be the first to suffer.
– I do not think so. I am merely expressing my opinion, and do not pretend to speak for the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West).
I am pleased that this resolution has been moved, and I am glad that the Treasurer has made such agenerous promise.
– The Treasurer has not made any promise.
– I understand he has promised to find the money if he considers that it is required.
– Why did not the Postmaster-General, who is the responsible Minister, make the promise?
– Honorable members opposite do not want these troubles rectified.
– That is not a generous thing to say. I think the Postmaster-General will admit that it is time that those in charge of country offices were paid for the work done. The other day a young person was placed in charge of the all-night telephone exchange at Yass, and when an attempt was made to raise the attendant to secure the services of a doctor, there was no response. The result was that a death occurred; and when I wrote to the Department complaining, I was informed that the officer concerned had been suitably dealt with. Such occurrences should be prevented;and, althoughthe Postmaster-General may consider my criticisms somewhat severe, he must remember that we have to hold him responsible, because we cannot go direct to the officers. I feel sure that the promise made will be kept, because if conditions do not alter in connexion with the administration of the Postal Department, a change will have to be made.
I also desire to know what the Government intend to do concerning oldage pensions. Honorable members have been informed that the Government have not sufficient money to increase the amount; but, at the same time, no effort is being made to bring in an amending Billto allow the pensioners to earn a little money. The Government must admit that, under the present abnormal conditions, old-age pensioners in many instances are experiencing considerable hardship in consequence of the high cost of living.
– I am having an inquiry made into that matter.
– I am glad to learn that. I know the Treasurer is sympathetic, and I am able to value his promises more than those of the PostmasterGeneral, because the Treasurer has control of the purse. The PostmasterGeneral cannot do anything without the consent of the Treasurer.
I also desire to refer to the Defence Department.
– Order! The honorable member is going beyond the amendment.
– Am I confined to the amendment only?
– Then I cannot ventilate any grievance other than those connected with the amendment?
– I have Sot prevented the honorable member from making a passing reference to different Departments, but I cannot allow him to deal with the administration of Departments in detail.
– Cannot I refer to grievances associated with the Defence Department?
– I must ask the honorable member not to refer to other Departments in detail. He can make a passing reference if he so desires.
– When many of our soldiers in Government employment proceeded to theFront, they were informed that they would be treated as well as soldiers who were in private employment. The Government led this House to believe that they would pay the war premiums which had been incurred by the soldiers on life-insurance policies. In view of this promise, some of the soldiers insured their lives and paid the war risk. When they applied to the Department for a refund of the premiums paid, the Department in some cases complied, but, after paying the amount, asked that it should be refunded. Is it fair that the men who risked their lives for their country should be asked on their return to make the payment, when the Government agreed to bear the expense?
– To what is the honorable member referring?
– Some of the soldiers were under the impression that the life insurance premiums would be paid by the Government, and as they had no time to make final arrangements before leaving, they paid the premiums themselves. On their return, they approached the Government for a refund of the money, which was granted, but now the Defence Department has asked that it be returned, because of a request made by the Treasury.
– I have never heard of it.
– It is an extraordinary position; but I believe if the facts are placed before the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie), he will give the matter his careful consideration.
– It is the first I have heard of it.
– Is the Treasurer prepared to say that the Government will treat the men as fairly as they have been treated by private employers ?
– We will do what we have promised.
– A section was inserted in the amending Defence Act which enables the Government to deduct the money from the salaries of the men if they do not make the necessary refunds.
– I have not heard of it.
– I have seen the notices that have been issued by the Defence Department.
– Look how the menin the Anzac tweed industry were treated by that gang.
– Having referred to the notice issued by the Defence Department, I feel sure that the Assistant Minister for Defence will follow the matter up, and if he approaches me, I shall be prepared to furnish him with full particulars. As the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) may desire to refer to the men in the Anzac tweed industry, I shall not detain the House longer.
– They were crucified by Senator E. D. Millen for the sake of Flinders-lane.
– I understand that the Treasurer has assured the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) that he will meet his amendment.
– He has not said anything of the kind.
– I am prepared to accept the Treasurer’s statement. Honorable members have many grievances, and the best way of securing redress is not by embarrassing the Treasurer or the Government, but by plainly stating the facts, so that they will know what to do.
– The Treasurer has not promised anything.
– I am prepared to accept the Treasurer’s statement. Additional telephone facilities are required in my district, and if I can have the assurance of the PostmasterGeneral that attention will be given to our urgent necessities, I am prepared to hear what the honorable member for Melbourne has to say concerning Flinderslane and the Anzac tweed industry.
.- I understand the amendment of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) refers to the Postal Department. I have had brought under my notice the cases of business men transferring from one office to another who have been unable to get the instruments transferred. What I desire to impress upon the Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise) is that if we are held up by the rights of any invention, it is time this Parliament passed a patent law to prevent any invention being exploited in Australia unless it is manufactured here. A similar law has been passed in England, and we should not be at the mercy of Trusts and Combines controlling inventions. In the boot trade, for instance, the machines installed are not sold to the manufacturers, but merely rented.
I would like to refer at some length to the Anzac tweed industry, but as I would probably not be in order, I will merely make one allusion to it. The fact remains that the men working in that industry are earning £5 or £6 a week, and are turning out a splendid article. At the present time, the Government are charging too high a price for the tweed. The factory will have nothing to do with Flinderslane. Senator E. D. Millen stated an untruth, and the Department caused the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) to submit a report which was a fake. The man who established the factory was squeezed out by Senator E. D. Millen. I am alluding to Sergeant Sinclair, and I believe that the men stopped work for two days as a protest against his treatment. The Anzac tweed is good enough for any man on God’s earth to wear, and the only reason that there are not hundreds of mem earning from £5 to £6 per week in the handweaving industry is the action taken by Senator E. D. Millen on account of Flinderslane. I am told that the men have declared that they will not allow a single yard of cloth to go into a Flinders-lane warehouse. Why should these octopuses in the “Lane” be allowed to rob the community right and left? Honorable members have only to read in the Hansard of the Victorian Parliament what is occurring. The Flinders-lane interests are so strong that the Premier of Victoria is afraid to prosecute.
One honorable member referred to the wireless plant in Sydney, purchased from the late Father Shaw. With that plant the Government could manufacture nearly everything required for telephones. There is no great difficulty in the making of a telephone.
– There is. They cannot be made in Australia.
– They were made here twenty-five years ago by a man who is in business in Elizabeth-street to-day. We should start the local industry at once, and, if the patent rights interfere with us, let us pass a law that no patent will be recognised in Australia unless the patentee manufactures locally.
– There are only German patents, and they were rendered invalid during the war.
– The inventors, on behalf of the trust, hold Australia in their grip.
– I wish to heaven we could get telephones.
– Then adopt my suggestion. If it is the patent rights that are holding us up, imitate the legislation passed in the Mother Country!’ Great Britain will not recognise the patent of any continental invention which is not manufactured in the United Kingdom.
– I was under the impression that a provision, to that effect was inserted in the Patents Act. I know that the matter was discussed in the House.
– If there is not such a provision, in the Act, I shall claim the Treasurer’s assistance when the opportunity arises for making the necessary amendments.
.- Every session we have a debate of this character; generally it occurs on the Estimates. I have been!- in this House a good many years and session after session we have debated the question of mail, telephonic, and telegraphic facilities in country districts, but very little has ever come of the discussion. Something ought to have been done, but the amendment which is before the House is not required, because the Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise) has already made an honest attempt to do something in accordance with the requests we have made in the past. I am told that in parts of my own electorate the postal facilities are not as good as they were fifty years ago, and reference to the records proves that statement to be true. I have never been able to understand the policy of carrying mails past the station for which they were intended to the terminus, and then sending them back next day. I was glad to hear the Postmaster-General say to-night that he is already endeavouring to remedy that practice by experimenting with the South Australian system, and he has promised that if these efforts are not a success other steps will be taken, even to the extent of re-establishing the travelling post-office.
The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) has complained of the removal of pillar-boxes and the reduction of other facilities in urban areas. What are those disabilities compared with the curtailment of the facilities in country districts! - the closing of post-offices at inconvenient hours and the reduction of mail services? What disabilities are city people suffering compared with those that have been imposed upon country residents ? In any case, there is no comparison between the country and the cities so far as the solid prosperity of the nation is concerned. Where would all the dwellers in the cities be but for the country industries?’ About 75 per cent, of the wealth of Australia is derived from primary production. I appeal to the honorable member for South Sydney to look at this matter as a business man, and if he does so, he will see that we cannot afford to dry up the main sources of our national income. The country interests must be fostered and increased by all possible means.
The telephone service in the back country is a great help to land settlement. People will not live in the backblocks away from all the conveniences of civilization unless they are given rapid means of communication with the nearest town. Isolation is a very serious matter for people in the bush. A saw-mill is often established a long way from any township, and without telephonic communication the people working and living about the mill arc in a serious position. Accidents are frequent in connexion with a saw-mill, and unless there is means of quickly summoning medical aid the results may be fatal. Very often fatalities do occur, which might have been avoided had it been possible to summon medical aid in reasonably quick time. Hitherto when the extension of telephone facilities to the back country has been asked for, a guarantee has been required by the Department. Now no guarantee is asked, and I am glad that the Postmaster-General is making an honest attempt to reform the methods of the Department. We cannot expect everything to be done in a day, especially when so many accumulated arrears have to be wiped off before the Minister can do many of the things he wishes to do. The present PostmasterGeneral is the first, to my knowledge, who has made a really solid effort at reform in. the right direction, and I give him all the credit he deserves. He has wiped out the guarantee, and country districts are receiving the telephones they require without having to submit to what was a very serious handicap in the past.
– The honorable member knows that that is not true. Services are not being given without a guarantee.
– Services have been granted lately in my electorate, and I am under the impression that the usual guarantee was not insisted upon.
– Then the honorable member must be doing better than I am.
– At any rate, it is my impression that no guarantee was given. We know that the extension of these facilities in the country is delayed by the lack of material. We cannot expect the Postmaster-General to purchase wire at a fabulous price if, by waiting a little time, he can buy at a reasonable price. People in the country are not unreasonable; they do not expect the earth. But they do feel that they are entitled to some consideration in their task of reclaiming the wilderness. They have gone into the back country and wrestled with the forest primeval. In parts of my own electorate, where forests stood a few years ago, beautiful farms and smiling homesteads are to be seen today. When the settlers first went there they could not see ten yards ahead of them because of the density of the forest. People who have had the pluck to carve homes out of the wilds in this fashion are entitled to decent facilities, and I am glad that at last the Government are realizing that fact.
In regard to allowance and semiofficial post-offices, the people who conduct them confer a great benefit upon the settlers. I know that in many instances, although the volume of business is not very large, the people in charge are tied to the offices all day.
– The honorable member expects them to live on sympathy.
– An improvement in this matter has been effected recently. We know the record of the PostmasterGeneral in this House, and that, as a private member, he advocated the granting of better postal and telephonic facilities to country districts. Deputations have waited upon him in the hope that he would make the best possible effort to carry out the policy he advocated as a private member of this House. I say that the honorable gentleman has honestly attempted to do that. The proof of that is that he has achieved something, and has taken steps in the right direction, which is more than can be said for any Postmaster-General who preceded him. I agree with the honorable member who moved the amendment, that telephone facilities should be extended in the country districts, and that a drought allowance should be paid to mail contractors. But I point out that the Postmaster-General has taken steps to do those things which he is being blamed to-night for neglecting to do. He gave an assurance some days ago that a drought allowance would be made to mail contractors, and that the money to enable that to be done would shortly be available. When a request is made to the Postmaster-General in this public way to do these things, people outside will not unnaturally come to the conclusion that he has been remiss, whilst, as a matter of fact, he deserves our thanks for what he has achieved in the direction desired.
The Postmaster-General has made an endeavour to better the lot of the people in charge of allowance post-offices.
– We have had no promise about the allowance post-offices.
– I presume that the honorable member knows that, some days ago, it was stated that something like £67,000 was to be added to the amount to be paid for allowance post-offices.
– The Post and Telegraph Department received £487,000 more than the estimate of expenditure last year. That is the best proof of what the Government are trying to do.
– I hope that officers in charge of allowance post-offices will receive better treatment than has so far been accorded to them; but I appreciate whathas been done. I know, from letters I have received from some of them, that they also appreciate what has been done. Whilst I agree that expenditure must be kept within reasonable bounds, I feel sure that the PostmasterGeneral will not regard his Department as primarily a money-making Department, and I trust thatthe people who have charge of allowance post-offices will be remunerated according to the work they perform, rather than upon the basis of the revenue received from the offices they control. If the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) would put his amendment in a different form, which would avoid the suggestion of reproach of the Postmaster-General for not doing enough, or for having done nothing, I should not have so much objection to it.
– Is the honorable member suggesting some different form of wording for the amendment?
– The way in which it has been discussed to-night would lead to the impression that the PostmasterGeneral is greatly to blame. I say that he is not to blame, because he has brought about a vast improvement upon the conditions that existed before, and, therefore, I am not prepared to support the amendment as it stands.
.- I am pleased with the debate which has taken place. I represent probably the largest constituency in Australia, and it is one in which, in the past, there has been serious cause for complaint in the matter of postal, telegraphic, and telephonic communication. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) should be very pleased with the discussion that has taken place on his amendment, because, since I have been a member of this House, I have never heard so definite a pronouncement as we have listened to tonight of Government policy in favour of the extension of country services. There can be no doubt as to the way in which country districts were starved in the matter of postal, telegraphic, and telephonic facilities during the regime of the last Postmaster-General. I have no wish to reflect upon a gentleman who is not now a member of this Chamber. Some may think that his policy to make the Postal Department a paying concern was justified. I believe that to be a wrong policy. In my view the 1½d. stampshould carry a letter from any part of this country to any other part of it, as well as from any part of a city to another part. Every year there has been a demand made for increased facilities and more liberal regulations in order to induce people to settle in the back country. There have been frequent interviews with the Postmaster-General, and with the Prime Minister himself, to urge that better consideration should be given to country requirements. The promises received to-night show that there is a keen desire on the part of the Government to liberalize conditions in connexion with the administration of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. The PostmasterGeneral has issued new regulations,but they are not as liberal as we could desire. However, from the promises made by the honorable gentleman to-night, followed by the assurances of the Treasurer, honorable members may be satisfied with the result of this discussion. There is one part of the amendment which I could not agree to in any circumstances. The honorable member for Hume asks us to pass a motion calling upon the PostmasterGeneral to pay a drought allowance to mail contractors for the year 1920, and leaving nothing at all to his discretion, no matter what may have been the conditions under which contracts were entered into.
– The honorable member is a good apologist for the PostmasterGeneral.
– I am not an apologist for the Postmaster-General. The first part of the honorable member’s amendment appealed to me-
– It did before tela.
-Order ! The honorable member for Hume is out of order, and I ask him to cease his interjections.
– I think it would be discreditable for this House to pass an amendment instructing a Minister of the Crown, without power to investigate the conditions of their contracts, to pay a drought allowance to all mail contractors. Some of the contracts may have been entered into when the prices of fodder were falling; and yet the amendment would compel the Postmaster-General to make an allowance to. those who entered into contracts under those conditions. Under no circumstances could I be induced to vote for that.
I hope that some special effort will be made by the Postmaster-General to secure the best advice possible in order to make wireless telegraphy applicable to the needs of the back country. Most of the pastoralists possess motor cars, and it should be possible to secure sufficient power to effect wireless installations in many outside districts. We know that men who went to the Front after a very short period of training, and very little experience, were able to send wireless messages from aeroplanes; and when it was possible for them in so short a time to acquire sufficient knowledge of wireless telegraphy to make use of it in that way, the Postmaster-General should consider whether it is not possible to make any effectual use of wireless telegraphy to add to the facilities of communication with out-back places.
I should like the Government also to give serious consideration to the proposals that have been made for the purpose of carrying mails by aeroplane around the north-west and north-east coasts of this country. The Government should do all that they possibly can in the interests of the people to make a business proposition of commercial aviation. A big proposal of this sort has been placed before the PostmasterGeneral and the Defence Department. We have only to look at the maps in Queen’s Hall to see the necessity for developing the northern portion of Australia. We cannot expect people to go to those parts unless we give them facilities for readily communicating with other parts of the Commonwealth.
I am satisfied with the assurance given by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise), so strongly indorsed by the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), who promises that all funds, in reason, will be supplied. That ought to carry out the definite and liberal policy of the Postmaster-General. If he does not live up to it, we shall have an opportunity of dealing with him in a little while.
– We are sick of hearing that sort of stuff.
– I have several times called for order, and honorable members have taken no notice of the call. I ask them to desist from interjecting.
– I move-
That all the words in the amendment after “ the “ first occurringbe left out with a view to inserting in lieuthereof the words: - “ House approves of the proposals of the PostmasterGeneral to further liberalize the postal and telephonic facilities in country districts.”
I feel sure that the promises made by Ministers to-night will be kept, and that every effort will be put forth to provide the facilities which we have been demanding for country districts. I should think that the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) would accept my amendment.
– No; I want something definite.
. -I second the amendment moved by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory). There is no Department under the control of the Commonwealth Government that comes in for more criticism than does the Post and Telegraph Department. It has been held up to ridicule and discussed, both inside and outside this House, ever since Federation was brought about. Quite recently, in another place, a senator described the Sydney post-office and telephone exchange as the worst in the world ; but if the discription he applied to it is a correct one, it is the fault of this Parliament, and not of the officials of theDepartment. When the magneto exchange was in operation in Sydney, the Government of the day decided to change it to a common battery system, and the officials proposed to install a 3,000-section board, but as the Treasurer of the day cut down the vote by one-half, they were not able to install more than a 1,500-section board, to which it was intended to transfer 1,500 subscribers. But before the work was completed there were 1,500 new subscribers for whom accommodation had to be provided. The Government thereupon voted the money to install a second 1,500- section board, but before that was ready there were another 1,500 new subscribers to be accommodated. This piecemeal system was followed until there was absolutely no room in the exchange in which to establish another section board, and it became necessary to put up a second exchange ; but the fault was entirely due to the fact that the Department had been starved for funds ever since the Commonwealth assumed control of it. The present Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise) has not been long enough in office to accept any of the blame, and his immediate predecessors are not particularly responsible. The blame is attachable to all the Prime Ministers and Treasurers of the past.
According to the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney), it is possible to build telephones and telephone exchanges in Australia and the honorable member would be correct in his assertion if only the material were available. Certain telephonic material cannot be obtained in Australia.
– What class of material ?
– Steel suitable for electrical equipment is not obtainable in Australia. Men have been exploring here, without success, for the last ten or fifteen years, to obtain a steel particularly suitable for this class of work. It is perfectly true that there are men in Australia who could do the work as well as it can be done in other parts of the world if they had the material available.
– As an engineer, I say that the steel can be manufactured here.
– Then the honorable member knows more than I do.
– The honorable member for Parkes has been in the Postal Department nearly all his life, and, of course, he knows nothing about it !
– I have been over twenty years in the Department, and fifteen years of that period in the engineering section, so that I should know a little bit about it.
On top of the muddle at the Sydney telephone exchange, following upon the institution of the common battery system, the penny telephone bureaux, instituted by a previous Postmaster-General, became so popular that they caused a tremendous rush on the Department, which immediately was the means of creating further chaos in the exchange.
There are many things tending to inefficiency in the Post Office which are not due to anything done by PostmastersGeneral, Labour, National, or Liberal. I am a believer in settling arguments’ in the Department by resort to the Arbitration Court, but it is this practice of having matters decided by an outside tribunal that has tended largely to inefficiency in the Service.For instance, the Arbitration Court stipulates that a postoffice earning a certain amount of revenue must pay a specified salary to the officer in charge. The consequence isthat, instead of the officer who has probably been instrumental in building up the revenue of a particular office getting the higher salary attaching to it, when its income reaches a certain figure, another official senior to himhas to be transferred to take charge of that office. Quite recently, in New South Wales, it became necessary for the Public Service Commissioner to transfer forty postmasters in order to provide two men with a £15 rise each, the expense incurred in paying the travelling allowances of these forty men and their families amounting to about £2,000.
– Does the honorable member approve of that system?
– Then, the present is an opportune time for the honorable member to express his disapproval of it.
– This is a matter over which Parliament has no control, nor is it the fault of any Government. It is the fault of a system which compels the transfer of any postmaster who succeeds in making his office efficient.
Wehave the assurance of the Treasurer that there are plenty of funds available for the extension of telephonic facilities, but the great trouble is the shortage of material, and that shortage is not confined to Australia; it is world-wide. If honorable members could go to America and purchase automatic telephones and bring them to Australia, the PostmasterGeneral would take all they could obtain. A friend of mine who served in the Australian Imperial Force, and one of the ablest engineers in the Postal Department, visited America in association with an engineer from the British Post Office in order, if possible, to purchase telephone supplies there for Great Britain. They were not successful in doing so.
– In Great Britain they make their own telephone material.
– Only to a very small extent. It only shows how world-wide is the shortage of telephonic material.
There are one or two little grievances I would like to ventilate in connexion with the Post Office, particularly in relation to the Parkes electorate. People resident in the outskirts of Belmore are really in the Lakemba district, but the Department instructs them to have their telegrams addressed viâ Belmore. If messages are expected on a Saturday afternoon they are to be addressed viâ Campsie. If their friends write to them they are advised to address the letters viâ Canterbury. If their friends wish to visit them they are invited to come to Lakemba. Postal sorters are supposed to have a knowledge of all the towns and little settlements of theCommonwealth. If a letter is addressed to Timbuctoo, and there is no receiving office there, the sorter is supposed to know that it must go viâ Jericho. As a matter of fact, the sorters have to pass a test to show their fitness to fill the posts they occupy, and why should the public be instructed to tell them how a letter should go, whether it should be despatched viâ Newcastle or viâ Maitland, or viâ any other town? I would like the Postmaster-General to see if this matter cannot be rectified, so that towns like Belmore may have their mail matter and telegrams addressed to where the people really reside.
– Would the honorable member be good enough to tell the House what are the “proposals “ mentioned in the amendment of the amendment of which he wishes us to approve.
– The proposals outlined in the Postmaster-General’s statement. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) has referred to the question of wireless telegraphy. I think honorable members are agreed that the Postal Department has quite enough to do without taking over the control of wireless, and that the progress of wireless would be retarded by its transfer to that Department. Wireless to-day comes into touch with four different Departments of the Commonwealth. It affects the Defence Department, the Department of the Navy, the Navigation Department, and the Postal Department. It is time that we had a distinct Department for its control. The accountancy work relating to it might be carried out by one of the existing Departments, but if wireless is to be exploited in Australia to the extent that it ought to be, it must be made a distinct branch of the Service. Wireless telephony is rapidly coming into prominence, and by means of it the back blocks of Australia could be linked up. We should have a wireless department with a well-equipped laboratory for the carrying out of experiments, and tests designed to further this science. There is no science which is likely to be so applicable to the industrial and general life of Australia as wireless telegraphy and telephony, but the Postmaster-General’s Department ought not to be saddled with this new branch when it cannot properly attend to all the business already under its control.
It has been stated that the Commonwealth Government paid the life insurance premiums of officers who went to the war, and that they have now been called upon to make a refund. I understand that that demand fora refund applies only to officers in the Permanent Forces.
– Whatever promise was made will be kept.
– Members of the Commonwealth Public Service generally who joined the Australian Imperial Force have not been called upon to make a refund of the amounts paid on their behalf in respect of life insurance premiums.
In 1912, there were in the Defence Department in New South Wales four warrant officers - some of them with over thirty years’ service - who were in receipt of a salary of £260 a year. The Defence Department offered them commissioned rank, provided that they would accept the minimum rate of pay of £250 per annum. The majority of these men went to the war. Before they went, they had risen to the rank of captain,but were still receiving only £250 per annum. One of them returned with several decorations; another, who retired quite recently, had reached the rank of lieutenantcolonel, but was still receiving only the pay of a lieutenant. Still another came back with the rank of major. I refer to Major Lynch, than whom there is no better instructional officer in Australia. The Department made him a substantive major on the staff, but he is still receiving the paltry salary of £250 a year, which he was drawing in 1912. I have brought his case before the Department, but have received no satisfaction. I make no complaint against the Minister, but I hold that the Department might fairly be expected to see that proper treatment is meted out to these men. Major Lynch is to retire in September next, and in reply to an inquiry as to why he has not received an increase under the new scale of payments, he has been told that, after two years’ further service, he will receive an additional £25 per annum. Since he is to retire next month, however, he will not obtain any advance. Every member of the Permanent Forces who has returned from the war should be taken back with the rank that he gained in the Australian Imperial Force. If he was worthy of that rank while in the Australian Imperial Force, he is worthy of it here.
– The trouble is that we cannot find places for them all.
– I doubt that. We are employing temporary area officers - men who fill in their spare time by acting in that capacity - and if no other positions can be found for these permanent men with the rank which they secured while away, they might very well replace these temporary officers. The labourer is always worthy of his hire.
– The Kitchener scheme contemplated the employment of senior officers in the areas.
– I shall not detain the House further. We all admit that the Postal Department is in need of a cleaning up, but I do not attribute to the officials of the Department the blame for what is going on. Not only in the Postal Department, but throughout the Commonwealth Service, we are paying disgracefully low salaries. The Chief Electrical Engineer of the Department, at the inception of Federation, was paid £750 per annum. To-day he is in receipt of only £900 a year for directing the whole of the electrical services of the Commonwealth ; yet the Broken Hill Proprietary Company pays the electrical engineer on its mine £1,000 a year. Right down the ladder, the salaries paid by the Commonwealth are altogether paltry. In order to make the Service attractive, we must pay good salaries. If there is not sufficient work for the men already in the Service, let some of them be dismissed, but while they remain in the employment of the Commonwealth they should be well paid. For the last ten years we have averaged sixty-four resignations a month from the Service in New South Wales alone. This is due to the fact that men find that they can do better outside. To attract the best brains to the Service, we must offer reasonable inducements, and so secure efficiency.
.-The House has done good work this after- noon, inasmuch as not only the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Wise), but the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) has made certain promises which practically conform to the desires of honorable members and to the needs of the country. For these reasons, and these reasons only, I feel that the amendment moved by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) should be supported and the Government given an opportunity to carry out the promises that they have now made. Had those promises not been made, I, for one, would have been pre pared to take any steps, recognising the paramount importance of these matters to the people of the Commonwealth. I hope that the Government will speedily set to work to offer greater facilities to those people who are really raising wealth for this great Commonwealth, and that it will be duly recognised that in the giving of these conveniences the people in the country are not the only ones who are benefited. The telephonic communication given to them is not for them only, because it is a great advantage to the people in the townships and the cities with whom they can communicate. It facilitates business in every way.
– One thing I think ought to cease at once. I think the Department ought to stop cutting away the privileges that we have got.
– The PostmasterGeneral has read to the House the terms of the proposed additional liberalization of postal and telephonic construction, but I must say that they are not as good as they ‘appear in the reading. With the extreme cost of wire and other necessaries required to construct these lines, 25 per cent, is a very heavy toll upon ten or twelve country subscribers who should have telephonic communication. Let honorable members compare ten or twelve rural connexions with the connecting of ten or twelve houses in a city. Each of those ten or twelve city houses needs only about a chain of wire, and it, therefore, becomes very much simpler to connect a house in a centralized portion of the community, although the people in the towns render no greater service to the community than do those in the country. The rural community render greater services to the people in ‘ the centres, and, therefore, there should be a general contribution to pay for connecting the rural portions of the Commonwealth with the centralized portions. The Government have made the promises referred to in the amendment of the honorable member for Dampier, and as I wish to give them an opportunity of carrying them out, I shall vote for that amendment.
.- I am sorry that the constituencies have not had an opportunity of really viewing what has taken place in the House this afternoon. It would be a splendid objectlesson to them of the engineering that goes on in the House in order to save the face of the Government, and of the insincerity that actuates some of our honorable friends opposite. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) has moved as an amendment, “ That the Postmaster-General be requested to provide increased postal and telephonic facilities to country districts, and to grant a drought allowance to mail contractors for the year 1920.” That is a perfectly plain and specific amendment. It is worded in the form of a request. The honorable member has been supported by speeches coming from our honorable friends opposite, some of them belonging to the Country party. An amendment has now been movedby the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), who belongs to the Country party, to omit all the words after “ That “ in the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Hume, with a view to inserting the words, “ This House approves of the proposals of the Postmaster-General to further liberalize the postal and telephonic facilities in country districts.” He, therefore, proposes to substitute for the words moved by the honorable member for Hume, words which, so far from requesting the Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise) to do anything, are actually an approval by members of the House of the Postmaster-General’s proposals. I could quite understand that somehonorable members, if they were so inclined, might vote against the amendment of the honorable member for Hume, if they thought that the Government was doing its duty, but I cannot understand upon what reasoning or logic a member of the Country party, above all other parties, should move an amendment actually to give the stamp of approval of the House to the proposals of the Government. I congratulate the Government, and I congratulate the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) on the success of the engineering that has taken place in the House this afternoon. I offer these congratulations in all sincerity, because he has succeeded in placing some of those who will support the honorable member for Dampier’s amendment in an absolutely ridiculous position, and he will have demonstrated to the electors of Australia that those who support it and do not belong to the direct Minis terial party are dragged at the heels of the Government in the manner depicted by a cartoon published in a certain Sydney newspaper not so long ago. At an earlier hour of the day the honorable member for Dampier complained of the discourtesy of an answer given by the Prime Minister to a question which he had directed to that honorable gentleman, and I then suggested to him that he could give practical effect to his protest by moving a motion. He said he did not think that could be done. The fact was that he did not intend to do it. He did not want to do it; but now we find that he is ready to move an amendment that will do the work of the Government better than it could be done by any honorable member sitting behind the Government.
– Hear, hear! A convenient tool of the Government.
– A convenient tool of the Government.
– If those words are applied to a member of the House they are disorderly.
– What words are those?
– “ A convenient tool ofthe Government.”
– I do not think I said that.
– The honorable member did say so, and I ask him to withdraw the words.
– Well, I withdraw the suggestion that the honorable member is “ a convenient tool of the Government,” and say that he is a convenient instrumentality of the Government, which expresses my meaning just as well.
What are the proposals of the PostmasterGeneral that we are asked to approve? The whole phase of the proceedings in this House to-night has been completely changed; there is not now even a passive attitude on the part of some members of the Country party, but a complete change to a vote of confidence, and we are asked to approve of everything the Government has done, and propose to do, in the Postal Department. I wish to know specifically what the proposals are we are asked to approve. So far as I understood the Postmaster-General, he referred to a decrease in the amount of the guarantee in connexion with certain country telephones, and intimated that such a change had alreadybeen made; but he specifically adhered, so far as I understand him, to the resolution of the Government on the question of a drought allowance. He does not intend to grant anything in the nature of a drought allowance.
-Who says he does not?
– I say that the PostmasterGeneral has not given any intimation that he is going to make any allowance for 1920.
Mr.Wise. - It is being made now.
– In any case, the amendment moved by the honorable member for Dampier says nothing about a drought allowance, but specifically leaves it out.
– You have been so obsessed with party trickery to-night that you cannot understand.
– Order !
– I do not wish that interjection withdrawn, because I take no notice of it or of the gentleman who made it. If it comes to a question of party trickery, we have had in the House to-night the best example I have seen since I came here, not only, on the one hand, of party trickery, but, on the other hand, of absolute simplicity and servility.We have witnessed the party Whips running to and fro, sitting beside this and that member whose votes were considered doubtful; then there were long conferences with the Treasurer, and when the numbers were found to be against the Government, the Country party supporting the Government withdrew from the chamber to consider the position.
– Allow me to say that there is not a tittle of truth in that statement.
– We can all believe our eyes, and everything took place, not only in the presence of honorable members, but in the presence of the press. We all heard the suggestion of the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson), who was “stone-walling” - I hope that is a parliamentary term - in order to keep the debate going until the honorable member for Dampier had put his amendment in order. It is a beautiful amendment for the Government, and I can quite understand how the right honorable the Trea surer chuckled. I admire the success of his move, because he has certainly succeeded in getting the Government instrumentality in that corner, who is the honorable member for Dampier, to do the work of the Government.
– We can see that the Leader of the Country party (Mr. McWilliams) has nothing to do with it.
– I should imagine the Leader of the Country party would have nothing to do with it. With hie experience as a member, whatever he might have to say with regard to voting against the amendment of the honorable member for Hume, he would certainly advise his party not to be trapped into their present unfortunate position of having to vote for or against the amendment of the honorable member for Dampier. I do not care how those honorable members vote, it is a matter of indifference to me; but I wish to see the members of this House use the power that is undoubtedly theirs, and compel the Government to do the right thing in regard to the postal matters discussed.
– We will do the right thing without compulsion.
– That power can be exercised only by casting their votes in this House. The Treasurer has said that it does not matter how the vote goes - that it will not affect the Government or the position - but he only made that statement at a late stage of the proceedings when, no doubt, the reports of the Whips were somewhat favorable to the plan of the Government.
I intend to oppose the amendment of the honorable member for Dampier. I know it is moved without any sincerity, in order to convey a wrong impression to the public, and no one knows that better than does the Treasurer. Why are we not prepared to let the people see what isgoing on? Why all this trickery ? Why these moves in order to throw dust in the eyes of the public? I am satisfied that we on this side have done good work in exposing the methods to which the Government descend in order to obtain the support of some of our honorable friends in the Government corner, who, through their inexperience, no doubt, will be induced to vote for this amendment. I hope, however, that the majority of honorable members will stand by country interests, and cast a vote in favour of the amendment of the honorable member for Hume. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) has not yet expressed himself on the amendment of the honorable member for Dampier, and we may not know where he stands until the vote is taken; but he stated plainly and unmistakedly that he was in favour of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hume. It will be a remarkable thing, although not more remarkable than some things I have seen happen in this House, if the honorable member for Grampians and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) are found ready to support an amendment which is the very negation of the views they expressed a few hours ago.
– I shall not take long, but I wish to say one or two words. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) has for the last fifteen minutes been indulging in a piece of theatrical gasconading such as we are accustomed to see him indulge in, and all the while making clear the one fact that the” bottom has fallen out “ of his little scheme to-night. If one thing is clearer than another it is that fact; and no wonder he rages like the Bull of Bashan, and threshes himself and attempts to thresh others into a fury ; but the one thing written all over his effort is absolute and unqualified failure. That is the outstanding feature of the whole debate. I have had nothing whatever to do with it. I do not know who is going to vote with the Government, or who is not. But if I were a betting man, I would not mind staking a wager that when the numbers are up the Labour party will be found to be much more solid than will honorable members upon this side of the chamber. If there be anything certain in this world, that is certain. I am sure that honorable members of the Country party will appreciate all the kindly condescension which has been exhibited towards them by the honorable member for WestSydney (Mr. Ryan), who has pitied them because of their inexperience of political life. Really, they are a lot of simplelooking persons in the Corner. But may I suggest to the honorable member for West Sydney that they know quite as much about things as he does?
– There are men in this Corner who will not be fooled by either of you.
– I am quite sure of that. I think my honorable friend will say that during his twenty years’ experience of me I have never attempted to fool him. It is immaterial to me how he votes upon this question ; but I hope that he will acquit me of any intention of endeavouring to persuade him to exercise other than an independent judgment. I am not going to lecture him as he has been lectured by the honorable member for West Sydney. I am not going to tell him that I am disposed to pity him and the other members of his party, and to look down upon them with kindly feelings. I shall not indulge in any such “ tripe.” I shall leave that to my honorable friend opposite, who is such a past-master at the business, but who to-night has cut a very sorry figure indeed. His trouble is not that the members of the Country party are being dragged at our heels, as he put it, but that they are not being dragged at the heels of his party. He thought that his own party were going to score tonight.
– What did the honorable gentleman do to prevent us scoring ?
– I will tell the honorable member. I will tell honorable members exactly what we have promised to-night, in order that there may be no misunderstanding about it. We have told the House plainly that we are going to extend the mail services in the interior of this country We are going to spend money more generously with a view to doing that. We have further promised - all these things have been said before, but honorable members opposite have been so obsessed with a desire to get a political party advantage out of this debate that they did not listen to the statements which have been made - that the new services this year will be reviewed, and any exceptional case of hardship will be treated fairly. That is a distinct promise, and the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) beard me make it, although he has denied it half-a-dozen times to-night.
– I said that I did not hear the Postmaster-General make it.
– It is not the oppressed mail contractor in the country that he is after, but the scalp of this Government. If he can use our mail contractors to attain his object, they will prove just as good a stick as will anything else. Anybody could see the grin which was written all over his face to-night at the turn which events had taken.
Another promise which we have made is that we shall do our best to improve the telephonic services in country areas. We shall get telephones anywhere that we can get them, and if honorable members opposite know where telephone material can be obtained, I invite them to give us the information. 1 invite the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), who has said that he is an engineer, and who has made asseverations as to the qualities of steel that can be produced here, to come along with that steel, and we will try and use it in the manufacture of telephones. Does he think that we are doing what we can to prevent these services being extended to the people? Why should we? Does a Government invite adverse criticism if that criticism can be honestly avoided ? The supposition underlying all the arguments advanced by honorable members opposite is that the Government are a set of fools who court adverse criticism. I challenge the honorable member for Hindmarsh to bring along the materials of which he has spoken. He says that they are here. Let him’ bring them along, and the Government, if it can use them, will buy them at a reasonable price. The Government wish to purchase materials and to install telephones. I want them for my electorate, and every other honorable member wants them for his electorate. We have the money with which to purchase them, and if honorable members can furnish these materials they are acting a faithless part to this country if they do net, bring them along.
– Is it not the duty of the Postal Department to make these arrangements ?
– What arrangements?
– To see that telephones are provided.
– Of course it is. It is tie duty of the Government to get telephones out of the ground. Only we cannot do it. I am sure that the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony), the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), and the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) can do it. But we cannot do it. We shall do our best to get this telephonic material, and to see that the benefit of it is extended to the interior of this country. We shall do all that we have promised to-night as far as that is humanly possible. Do I make myself clear?
Opposition Members. - No.
– Then I shall content myself with making this statement to my own side of the House, the members of whom are intelligent enough to understand it.
.- I congratulate the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) upon having submitted his amendment. During the early stage of the debate upon it, the attitude of Ministers was to turn up their noses and to say in effect, “ Do as you like.” But as the discussion proceeded, their airiness disappeared, so that I am convinced that the time that has been devoted to this matter has not been wasted. In regard to allowance postmasters, I do hope that a larger sum than £76,000 will be provided. There are thousands of allowance offices in Australia, and the amount I have mentioned will not go very far when it is distributed amongst so’ many officials. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) spoke of the Bulls of Bashan. But whilst there may have been a roar which reminded one of the Bulls of Bashan, there was also the shriek of the Australian parrot, and there was a bleat from the lambs over there. Like the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), I wish that the electors of Australia could have been here to see what was taking pla.ce in the chamber to-day. Since the din er.-hour, the two Government Whips and another special pleader have been in company with members of the Country party, pleading with them. I have great respect for some members of the Country party, as much respect for them as for any other members of the House, but I must believe my own eyes. I saw the Government Whips and the Treasurer in company with several members of the Country party. As the evening wore on, there was a group of five country members talking together in the corner. They were pulled up, and went out, and a meeting of some kind was held outside. In fact, every member of the Country party left the chamber. Then they returned to the chamber, and one of them seems now to be inclined to reverse his attitude. Originally he supported the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney), and now he is voting with the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), a complete change of front. When the Treasurer talked of underground engineering and political trickery, he forgot the proverb that “ those who live in glass houses must Dot throw stones.” On a recent occasion we, on. this side, were told that if we wished the Country party to assist us in ousting the Government, we should be less rough in our methods. Last time we attacked the Government many members on this side hit the Country party harder than I thought they need have done, but that has not happened to-day. We did not attack the Country party to-day until we saw how they had decided to go. They cannot accuse us of having driven them into the arms of the Government.
– Will thehonorable member allow me?
– At the present time I am not prepared to allow the honorable member anything. I know how he spoke on the amendment of the honorable member for Hume, and if he does not support the amendment by his vote, I shall know that my surmise in regard to the Caucus meeting of his party is correct. If, on the contrary, he stands by what he has said, I shall think him worthy to put interjections to me in the future, should he wish to do so.
Whatever may be said about shortage of materials in excuse for the delays in providing telephone communication, that shortage has had nothing to do with the reduction of the country mail services. To show how the country districts are treated, let me read a letter which I received from a constituent to-day. It was written from South. Australia on the 23rd of this month, and is as follows: -
I am writing to you for information on behalf of the Point Pass Vigilance Association on the matter of increased postal facilities, which I hope are not all reserved for the districts of the members on the other side.Before the advent of the train we had a daily mail by road. At first we had a daily train and mail. Since the train only goes alternate days we only get a mail on those days. The most we have been able to get is that the bags go as far as Eudunda, on the other days, and we may send in for them and the papers. We suppose thatthe postal authorities are keeping the telephone and telegraph revenue in mind.
The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Livingston), the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster), and the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) seem to be thoroughly satisfied that they have been able to get from the Postal Department all that they have asked for.
– I did not say so.
– I have found the Deputy Postmaster-General of South Australia a gentleman to deal with, but I have not had 50 per cent. of my requests granted.
– No one has said that he has got all that he asked for.
– The honorable member for Barker said that there was only one thing more that he wanted. That is not my experience. To send from Point Pass to Eudunda for mails and. papers means to send a distance of about seven miles. If the Country party think that that is proper treatment for our hamlets and villages, I do not agree with them, and if they keep in power the Government that is responsible for this treatment of country residents, they will find that the people who sent them here are disappointed in them.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted from Mr. Parker Moloney’s proposed amendment stand part thereof (Mr. Gregory’s amendment) - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted in Mr. Parker Moloney’s proposed amendment be so inserted (Mr. Gregory’s amendment) - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment of the amendment agreed to.
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
– Under standing order No. 241 I move -
That the words “ Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair “ be left out.
– Shall I be in order in moving an amendment upon that amendment with a view to inserting further words ?
– Until the amendment before the House has been disposed of the honorable member may not move a further amendment.
.- I think that the words proposed to be omitted should stand in order to make the motion read as ridiculous as is the action of those responsible for it. I should like to see the House make some record of its disapproval of the continued existance of the War Precautions Act and the regulations thereunder. More particularly am I concerned with the expenditure of money under statutory rule No. 119 of 1920. ‘That rule amends the War Precautions Shipping Regulations of 1918, and was laid on the table on the 5th August, 1920. It provides for authorizing the defraying of losses in connexion with the requisitioning of ships from the Consolidated RevenueFund, and it repeals the previous War Precautions Shipping Regulations which specifically prohibited expenditure by the Government out of Consolidated Revenue of money in connexion with losses that might be incurred through the requisitioning of ships on the coast. I should like to know upon what grounds the Government repealed the previous regulation and made the statutory rule which I am now discussing. I desire also an expression of opinion from the House as to whether money should be expended in this way.
It appears to me that the Government are charging to the Consolidated Revenue under the authority of this regulation, which no doubt was required by the Auditor-General, losses which should be properly borne by the shipping companies.
– I rise to order. I submit that the only question the honorable member may debate at this stage is whether the words proposed to be deleted should be deleted. That amendment is specific enough, and until it is disposed of the honorable member may not discuss any other matter.
– The point of order taken by the Treasurer is that the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) is not in order in discussing general grievances upon the amendment to the amendment, namely, the omission of the words, “Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair under standing order 241.” The honorable member for West Sydney will not be in order in continuing his remarks. The Chair has been very lenient in allowing a somewhat general debate upon the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) and the subsequent amendment moved by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), but the general debate under standing order 241 is now over. The words which have been inserted alter the meaning of the motion, and the only question before the House now is whether I do now leave the chair.
– What is the question upon which the Treasurer has moved his amendment ?
– The question now before the Chair is -
That the House approves of the proposals of the Postmaster-General to further liberalize the postal and telephone facilities in country districts - Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair.
The Treasurer has proposed to omit the words, “ Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair.”
– If those words are omitted may I again address myself to the question which remains?
– The question then to be submitted from the Chair will be that the amendment, as amended, be agreed to.
– Shall I be able to speak then?
– That will depend upon the subject the honorable member desires to discuss.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I am not prepared to agree to the question as amended, and I now move -
That the following words be added : - “ and is of opinion that no money should be expended from the Consolidated Revenue Fund under authority of statutory rule 119 of 1920 amending the War Precautions Shipping Regulations of 1918, which was laid upon the table of the House on the 5th August, 1920.
– On a point of order, I submit that the honorable member cannot intervene with a proposal of that kind. In the first place it has no relevancy to the question now before the House. In the second place the honorable member has a specific motion on the notice-paper relating to this very matter.
– The amendment is not in order.
– I am very sorry, sir, that you should have ruled my amendment out of order, and I am surprised that the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), should have endeavoured to get it ruled out of order.
– I remind the honorable member that it is half-past 11 o’clock.
– I remind the honorable gentleman that he may move to “gag “ me if he likes.
– I do not wish to do so.
– It is quite within the honorable gentleman’s right to move that I be no further heard. I am surprised that the honorable gentleman, who is in a position to give information on the question I have raised, has not taken advantage of the opportunity to do so. I understand from the ruling, which I do not wish to dissent from, that I am confined to dealing with postal matters.
– I hope the honorable member will believe that I am here to do just what he thinks I ought to do. I hope that will be clearly understood.
– I clearly understand that, and I hope the right honorable gentleman will carry out any wishes I express. The motion now before honorable members deals with the granting of postal facilities in country districts. I think that telephone facilities in the cities have also been very much neglected, and there should be something in the motion which will convey to the Postmaster-General and the Government the desire of honorable members that telephonic communication in the cities should also be improved.
– The honorable member thinks of that very late in the evening.
– No, I have waited until the proper time.
– May I make an appeal to the honorable member?
– The matter will not take very long to decide. I think that honorable members should take the opportunity to convey to the Treasurer, and also to the Postmaster-General, that we desire that telephone facilities in the cities should be improved.
– The honorable member is punishing the House at this time of the night.
– I am not punishing the House. I tell the honorable gentleman that this matter will only take a few minutes.
– There are not a few minutes to spare. Honorable members cannot catch their trains now.
– If the right honorable gentleman will give me an assurance that the matter I refer to will be attended to, and will accept an amendment, I have no wish to further delay the House.
– What matter?
– The matter of the improvement of telephonic communication in the cities. We know that there are at least 10,000 telephones short in the cities. I know that there are firms in Sydney that have telephone instruments, but the Postmaster-General’s Department is not taking advantage of the opportunity to purchase them.
– Now that the honorable member has played his little part he wants to get back to the city. He never said a word about the city all night.
– No, because I wished the discussion to be confined to the one subject.
– Why? Because the honorable member wished to leave the birdlime alone.
– The party on this side stands for the interests of the producers and the consumers. It stands not only for country but for city interests. The motion, as it now stands, approves of the
Postmaster-General further extending facilities in the country districts, and I move -
That the following words be added: - “and expresses the hope that he will take steps-
Motion (by Sir Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the question be now put.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority . . …16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
That the House approves of the proposals of the Postmaster-General to further liberalize the postal and telephonic facilities in country districts.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
House adjourned at 11.35 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 August 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200826_reps_8_93/>.