House of Representatives
20 May 1936

14th Parliament · 1st Session

page 1986


Boulia-Winton Telephone Lini! - Employment of Girls by Postal Department.

Motion (by Mr. Archdale Parkhill) proposed -

That the House do now adjourn.


– I desire to raise a matter which affects a large number of farmers and settlers in my electorate. Because these people are prepared to go on the land, the Postal Department, apparently, regards them as a “ mob of suckers “, and not in their real light as producers. Representations have been made to the department by the Boulia and Winton Shire Councils for the erection of a proper telephone line between Boulia and Winton, a distance of about 200 miles, and these have been supported’ by Senator Cooper and myself on various occasions during the last seven months. The Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs in Queensland wrote to the residents of this district asking what they estimated’ the erection of this line would cost. They are workers and wool-growers, and not telephonic experts. During the last flood in this district a couple of persons died because weeks elapsed before medical aid could be summoned to attend to these cases. Both senator Cooper and I have tried every method to have the matter properly inquired into by the department, so as to obviate raising it in Parliament, but have failed. Without an inspection, the department has rejected the request.

Mr Collins:

– What telephone facilities now exist in the area?


– There is a treetotree line from Winton to Middleton, but from Middleton to Boulia, there is no line of any value. In the wet season, the people in the latter area have no means of communication, and one can imagine the feelings of the womenfolk out there when storm-clouds begin to gather. Much of the money granted by this Government to different States for the purpose of relieving unemployment has been paid for chipping grass off footpaths in and around metropolitan areas, this work being done at a time when people in many country districts have not even decent telephonic or mail facilities. If this matter is not attended to, I shall take every opportunity throughout the remainder of this session to ventilate it. Surely these people are entitled to an investigation into their request before it is turned down by dictators in the Public Service. As Boulia happens to be in an area, however, where officers would have to travel by buggy and pair, no inspection is made. While I am a member of this Parliament, I shall not be a party to allowing officialdom to adopt such methods. The department has stated that this proposition would not be a. payable one, as it would cost £28,000 and the revenue therefrom would not justify such an outlay. If this line were made available, 200 subscribers would take advantage of it. Surely it is not intended that our outback country must be devoloped on a £1 for £1 subsidy basis. The Government desires people to go into remote areas to develop the country, and when they do so rewards them with isolation instead of departmental telephonic facilities.

Reconsideration should also be given to the conditions under which certain young people are appointed to positions in the Postal Department. Some time ago a girl was employed by the department at Mareeba on the condition that her services would be continued until she reached the age of 21 years unless an examination were held in the meantime. No examination was held until the girl bad been in the service for two years. She then offered herself as a candidate for appointment, but as she was obliged to work right up to the time of the examination, she was at a disadvantage compared with other girls who sat for the examination, and did not obtain one of the best passes. When temporary employment was made available to successful candidates she was overlooked, even though she had passed the examination. Evidently the policy of the department is to employ young people when they reach the age of sixteen or eighteen years and then dismiss them when they reach the age of 21 years. That is entirely unfair. Examinations should be held for appointment at sixteen years, and eighteen years, and candidates should be allowed to sit in all country towns. Those who succeed should have priority of appointment in their own towns. As things are, country children are at a considerable disadvantage compared with those who live in the metropolitan areas. I ask that the policy of the department in connexion with the employment of these young people be reviewed.

I have been informed that during the coming Parliamentary recess, the POStmasterGeneral intends to visit Townsville to participate in the ceremony oil the occasion of the official opening of the broadcasting station there. I ask that hetake the opportunity at that time to travel along the western railway line of Queensland as far as Winton, to ascertain for himself the conditions to which I have referred to-night, under which the settlers live in that area. If he does so I feel sure that he will be convinced that the telephone line for which I have asked should be provided without delay to encourage these scattered settlers who are doing their best to increase the wealth of the nation.

Minister for Defence · Warringah · UAP

– I promise the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) that I shall place before the Postmaster-General his request for a telephone line between Winton and Boulia. I shall also bringthe Hansard report of the honorable gentleman’s speech under my colleague’s notice, and ask that the fullest inquiry be made into the subject. Obviously some inquiry has already been made, for the honorable member referred to an estimate that had been prepared.


– No proper investigation, of the route has been made by an official of the department.


I shall direct the Postmaster-General’s attention to that observation. If action cannot be taken to provide this facility T shall ask that the reason why be communicated to the honorable member.


– The figures prepared by local people were made available toSenator Cooper by the Winton Chamberof Commerce.


– 1 shall also bring under the notice of the Postmaster-General the honorable member’s suggestion that he should visit Winton.

The remarks of the honorable member regarding the employment of youths and girls by the postal department will also be investigated. I assume that the honorable member is aware that certain regulations of the department provide that temporary employment of that character shall be only for specified periods. Good reasons can be advanced for that practice. The circumstances of the employment at Mareeba of the girl mentioned by the honorable member will be reviewed. I am sure that a reasonable explanation of the whole case will be forthcoming. I assure the honorable gentleman that it is not the policy of the Postal Department to discard inconsiderately the young people whom it employs in a temporary capacity.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

House adjourned at 12.15 a.m. (Thursday).

page 1988


The following answers to questions were circulated: -

Trade Treaties: Ministerial Visit Abroad


s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

  1. What were the names of the whole of the party, including departmental officers, who accompanied the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties during his recent visit abroad?
  2. How long was the Minister absent from Australia?
  3. What countries did he visit?
  4. What trade treaties did he arrange?
  5. What were the total expenses to the Commonwealth incurred by the whole of the delegation and those who accompanied the delegation?
Mr Lyons:
Prime Minister · WILMOT, TASMANIA · UAP

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

  1. Messrs. A. C. Moore, E. McCarthy, A. E. Hopkins and Miss M. O’Brien. The primary purpose of the Minister’s visit overseas was to negotiate with the Government of the United Kingdom in respect to the meat quota. As a result of these negotiations an allocation most advantageous to Australia generally, and the meat industry in particular, was arranged.
  2. Nine and a half months.
  3. During his absence from Australia, the Minister carried on the negotiations which had been initiated previously in Australia with Belgium, France. Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and also with Switzerland, for the conclusion of trade agreements with those countries, and which the Minister had been obliged to postpone. Each country was visited for the purpose.
  4. No trade agreements have yet been brought to finality.
  5. The Minister’s personal expenses charged against Government votes amounted to £900. I would refer the honorable member to the reply furnished to himon the 13th March, 1936 (Hansard No. 2, page 163), in regard to the total cost of the Ministerial Delegation to London, 1935. The officers named in question 1 above worked for the delegation as a whole, and it is impossible to arrive at an accurate figure as to what proportion of the total expenditure could be ascribed to their work in connexion with trade agreement negotiations.

Charges for Radio Messages

Mr Price:

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

  1. Is it a fact that a disparity exists in connexion with the rates charged for radio messages from ships at sea to Australia, and those to the United Kingdom?
  2. If so, will the Government give consideration to the advisability of bringing about uniformity in the charges?
Mr Archdale Parkhill:

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

  1. Yes.
  2. Uniformity in charges is favoured, but the matter is one largely for determination by the authorities controlling ships on the British register, and also the connecting companies. Negotiations have been proceeding for some time, but it is not yet possible to introduce any modification.

Exchange on Government Interest Payments.

Mr Curtin:

n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -

What has been the cost to Australia for exchange on Government interest payments overseas for the years 1930-31 to 1934-35?

Mr Casey:

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

Pensioners : Pauper Burials

Mr James:

s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -

  1. Is it a fact that many invalid and oldage pensioners throughout Australia are buried as paupers, owing to the fact that, out of their meagre pension allowance, they are unable to maintain themselves in reasonable comfort, and at the same time provide for burial expenses?
  2. Is it a fact that, in order to avoid pauper burials, the Australian Invalid and Old-age Pensioners’ Association hae inaugurated a funeral fund, the contribution per member being (id. per fortnight, and the amount payable at death being £10?
  3. In view of the fact that the average life of pensioners is only seven years, which makes it extremely difficult for the fund to’ be financed, will the Government give favorable consideration to a small annual subsidy towards it?
Mr Casey:

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

  1. The department has no knowledge of any cases of this nature.
  2. It is understood that some pensioners’ organizations have established funeral’ funds, but the details of these funds are not known to the department.
  3. In view of the large and annually increasing pensions expenditure, the Government regrets that it cannot see its way to extend the range of benefits already provided by the law.

Shorter Working Wrek

Mr Blackburn:

n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

  1. What proportion of the employees (not being clerical or professional employees) in the Public Service as defined in the Arbitration (Public Service) Act enjoys a 40-hour week ?
  2. What constitutional difficulty impedes the extension to such employees of the benefit of the 40-hour week?
  3. Will the Government (a) apply the 40- hour week to such employees, or (6) consent to its being so applied by the Public Service Arbitrator or by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration?
Mr Lyons:

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

  1. Approximately 22 per cent. This includes a number of officers and employees under the Public Service Act whose hours for day duty are over 40 a week, but who regularly perform night duties when the hours are reduced to 40 or less.
  2. There is no constitutional difficulty involved.
  3. A statement in regard to the general question of a 40-hour week will be made at an early date.
Mr Blackburn:

n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

Will he favorably consider extending the principle of the 40-hour week to private employees in the Federal Capital Territory and other Commonwealth territory?

Mr Lyons:

– A statement in regard to the general question of a 40-hour week will be made at an early date.


Bates of Exchange

Mr Gregory:

y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -

Will he state the varying rates of exchange between Australia and Great Britain from July, 1029, up to the present, and the approximate date of each alteration?

Mr Casey:

– The exchange rate between Australia and Great Britain since July, 1929, has varied as follows : -

Canberra: Cottage Construction


L asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -

  1. Is it a fact that adjacent to cottages roofed with terra-cotta tiles at Ainslie, a number of new houses now being erected are being roofed with galvanized iron?
  2. As the iron is to be painted, has it any advantage over tiles in the matter of costs?
  3. In the interests of this well-planned and beautiful national city, will he make inquiries into the matter ?
Mr Paterson:
Minister for the Interior · GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · CP

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

  1. A number of small cottages which are being erected in groups at North Ainslie are being roofed with galvanized iron, but all new cottages which are being erected on block? between existing cottages with tiled roofs are being similarly roofed. In this area a number of wooden cottages roofed with galvanized iron were erected some years ago.
  2. Yes.
  3. The cottages referred to will be occupied by workmen who can pay only a low rental. It was therefore necessary to reduce the cost of construction in every possible way. It is not proposed to utilize galvanized iron for roofing purposes in other sections of the city.

Bail Freights : Concessions

Mr Drakeford:

d asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -

  1. Have any concessions in freight rates been granted by the Commonwealth Railways to its customers since the 1st July, 1930, at the instigation of (a) the Government, or (6) the Railways Department?
  2. If so, what are the names of the firms or individuals to whom concessions have been granted, and what is (o) the amount involved in each case, ‘and (6) the total amount?
  3. What proportion of the loss in revenue arising from the concessions granted is being borne ‘by (o) the Government, and (6) the Railways Department?
  4. Have any refunds of losses incurred from concessions granted been made to the Railways Department by the Government; if so, what percentage and amount has been refunded?
Mr Paterson:

– ‘The information is being obtained, and will be conveyed to the honorable member as soon as possible.

Treatment of Tuberculosis

Mr Beasley:

y asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -

If Mr. C. J. Barnes, of Rozelle, New South Wales, can produce documentary evidence that his claim to have a cure for tuberculosis was not investigated by the State authorities, will the Minister arrange for an investigation by the Federal Health Council, as recommended by that body in cases of this kind?

Mr Hughes:
Minister for Repatriation · NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · UAP

– The honorable member will appreciate that such a course could not be taken without the concurrence of the State Minister for Health, who now has the matter in hand. Moreover, the Federal Health Council recommended reference to that council only if any alleged cure could not for any reason be satisfactorily dealt with by any State.

Recognition of Late Sir Charles Kingsford Smith

Mr Curtin:

n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

  1. Did he state in January last that Cabinet was favorably considering some form of recognition of the late Sir Charles Kingsford Smith ?
  2. Has any decision yet been arrived at?
Mr Lyons:

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

  1. Representations in this matter were made to the Attorney-General and myself by the late Sir Charles Kingsford Smith’s business manager, Mr. J. Stannage, and Mr. B. Shiel, of Sydney, and I indicated that it would receive consideration by, Cabinet.
  2. No decision has yet been arrived at.

Postal Mechanics’ Welfare Canteen.

Mr Archdale Parkhill:

l. - On the 13th May, reference was made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) to a proposal to discontinue the Postal Mechanics’ Welfare Canteen at the Melbourne Telephone Exchange. I am now advised that this matter is being investigated, and information will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.

Defence System.

Mr Archdale Parkhill:

l. - On the 12th May, the honorable member for Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) asked to be informed of the type of the latest planes on order for the Royal Australian Air Force, their approximate speed, and the engines with which they will be fitted. I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the particulars asked for are as follows : -

Type - Twin-engined monoplanes.

Speed - 190 miles an hour.

Engines- Siddeley “Cheetah” IX.

Empire Broadcasts.

Mr Lyons:

s. - On the 17th March, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked me a question, without notice, regarding the desirability of instituting regular Empire broadcasts by leading Imperial statesmen. I now desire to inform the honorable member that his suggestion was brought to the notice of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which has indicated that it is its policy to arrange such broadcasts whenever possible.

Power Alcohol: Report by Mr. Rogers.

Mr Lyons:

– On the 14th May, the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) asked whether a copy of Mr. Rogers’s report on power alcohol could be made available. I am now in a position to inform the honorable .member that Mr. Rogers’s report on the grain alcohol industry in Australia was placed on the table of the Library on the 11th October, 1935.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 May 1936, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.