4th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Report (No. 4) presented by Senator
Henderson, and read by the Acting Clerk.
-I beg to lay upon the table of the Senate-
Papersrelating to berthing accommodation for the new torpedo hoat destroyers.
As I understand that it is possible that the Printing Committee may not meet again before the end of the session, and as several honorable senators have made inquiries for these papers,I move -
That the papers be printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence, without notice, whether he has received a reply from the Premier of Western Australia with regard to the dismissal of Warder Wise from the Fremantle prison on account of his refusal to resign his membership of the Commonwealth Military Forces ; if not, will the Minister send a further communication by telegraph to the Premier of that State, calling his attention to a petition signed by twenty-one warders of the prison, stating that the duties of Warder Wise were not interfered with through his attendance at drills and parades ?
– In reply to the first part of the honorable senator’s question, I have to say that we have not received any reply from the Premier of Western Australia. As to the second part of the question, of course we have not received a petition from the warders at the Fremantle Gaol.
– It is public property that they have signed a petition.
– I will have the honorable senator’s statements as they appear in Hansard forwarded to the Premier of Western Australia, with a request that his reply shall be expedited.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions - which, I may state, relate to the Post and Telegraph Department, and not to the Department of Home Affairs - are as follow -
– Arising out of the Minister’s answer, I wish to inquire whether he can tell us if contracts for the erection of the wireless telegraphy stations have yet been let, and the sureties for the proper and due carrying out of the contracts signed ?
– Contracts for the erection of stations at Sydney and Fremantle have been let. . Whether they have been signed,I am not, for the moment, in a position to say. I ask the honorable senator to give notice of the latter part of his question.
– By leave of the Senate, I should like to give notice now.
Leave granted; notice given.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
In regard to the Vancouver mail service, is the Government pressing upon the Canadian Government the necessity of the steamers calling at Brisbane?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows -
Full consideration will be given to the question of making Brisbane a port of call for the Vancouver steamers under the new contract.
– Cannot the Minister state more definitely whether the Government have had any communication with the Government of Canada, and whether they are pressing the Canadian Government as to the necessity of making Brisbane a port of call?
– The _ Government have entered into communication with the Canadian Government, and have impressed upon them the necessity of the steamers calling at the port of Brisbane.
– - I might be permitted to make a short statement in connexion with the order of business. Under existing conditions, it must, of course, be understood that private members’ business cannot take precedence of Government business on the paper; but I think that it is desirable that the private members’ motion having reference to the census regulations should take precedence of any other private business on the paper.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [2.46].- I agree with the Vice-President of the Executive Council in thinking that the motion dealing with the census regulations should be considered before other private business on the paper. I have no doubt that Senator McColl, as well as myself, will be willing to postpone the business in our names until that motion has been considered.
– When the time has come to deal with the private business on the paper, honorable senators in charge of it will be able to move that its consideration be postponed until after the consideration of other private business as they think fit.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) to the motion dealing with the census regulations-
– I point out that the discussion is entirely out of order, and the honorable senator can only continue his remarks by leave of the Senate. ls it the desire of honorable senators that Senator Millen should have leave to continue his remarks?
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear.
– I wish to raise a point as to the procedure which should be followed in the Senate. I submit that the motion dealing with the census regulations ought not to be regarded as private members’ business in the ordinary sense. It deals with the law of the land, although’ the motion is brought forward by a private member of the Senate.
– It is private business.
– If such a motion is to be regarded as private business, and must take all the chances of private business in the ordinary way, our law with respect to the discussion of regulations hecomes only so much waste paper. Since they can only be discussed by the good-will of Ministers, there should be some means under which any honorable senator, taking action within the law to raise the question whether regulations tabled under an Act of Parliament should have the force of law or not, might be able to have the question discussed as a matter of right. My_ contention is that this is really the business of the Senate, and not of a private member of the Senate, although it is business which a private member of the Senate must introduce.
– I remind honorable senators that only business which is in charge of members of the Government is considered to be public business in the sense referred to by Senator Millen. If any private member of the Senate wishes to give notice of a motion to deal with any matter in connexion with regulations or anything else, it can only be considered within the time allowed for private members’ business. When, as in the present instance, the Senate has agreed that Government business shall have precedence, under the Standing Orders the discussion of private members’ business must depend upon the opportunities afforded for it by the Government.
– The Standing Orders ought to be altered.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) agreed to-
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the passage of this Bill through its remaining stages without delay.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This measure is introduced for the establishment of penny postage, and to bring about uniformity of postage on magazines and othet printed matter throughout the Commonwealth. Honorable senators are aware that at present varying rates of postage are in force in the different States on letters, magazines, and mail matter generally. The continuance of these varying rates since the cessation of the bookkeeping system has become intolerable. It might be of interest to honorable senators to know to what extent postage rates vary in the different States. Dealing with ½-oz. letters, there is in New South Wales a penny rate on town letters, and a twopenny rate in the country. I find that in that State there are sixty penny postage areas, extending in most cases for a radius of 13 miles from the principal post-office. Included in these sixty postage areas there are 3, 131 post-offices. Letters passing between these post-offices bear only a penny rate. All letters posted or delivered outside of these areas must bear a rate of 2d. In Victoria, as honorable senators are aware, there has been a penny rate throughout the State in operation for a considerable time. In Queensland there is a penny rate in the towns, and a twopenny country rate. In South Australia the rate is 2d. for town and country. In Western Australia and Tasmania there is a town rate of1d., and a country rate of 2d. The proposal now made by the Government is that throughout Australia there shall be a universal postage rate of1d. on½-oz. letters.
– It is anticipated that it will be possible to bring this proposal into operation in April of next year.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. -On the 1 st April?
– That would be a very proper day to fix.
– I do not know what the precise date will be, but it is anticipated that it will be possible to bring this proposal into force by proclamation not later than the 13th April next. Whilst the bookkeeping system was in operation, it was in a measure immaterial to the different States whether a profit or a loss resulted on the postage rates adopted. The revenue and expenditure were debited to each State, in accordance with the business done in each, the State making a profit on this business getting the benefit of it, and the State making a loss having to bear that loss. The bookkeeping system ceased to operate on the 30th June last, and since that date the receipts from the different post-offices throughout the Commonwealth have been pooled. Honorable senators will recognise that it is a manifest injustice to States in which the higher rates of postage are imposed that their receipts from this source should be pooled with the receipts in Victoria, for instance, where the penny-postage rate has been in operation throughout the State for a considerable time, and where it has resulted in a loss even up to the present time.
– Why continue the in justice to the 1st or the 13th April next?
– There are good and substantial reasons why it will not be possible to bring this proposal for universal penny postage into operation before the date named. It will be two orthree weeks before this Bill can receive the Royal assent, and much work will be entailed in establishing this very much needed reform. It may be information to honorable senators to learn how, in the matter of postal business, the different States stood in the last financial year. I find that, in New South Wales, there was a profit of £65,000; in Victoria, a loss of £27,600; in Queensland, a loss of , £49.500; in South Australia, a profit of £43,400; in Western Australia, a loss of £63,000 ; and in Tasmania, a profit of £2,350.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Is the honorable senator in a position to say what has been the loss in Victoria year by year since the establishment of penny postage? It would be instructive to know how the loss has diminished year by year.
– I shall endeavour to secure that information. There may be in the Senate, as there were in another place, some who are strongly opposed to the introduction of penny postage throughout the Commonwealth, and for the reasons which were advanced for the opposition to the proposal in another place. It was there contended that because the Post and Telegraph Department, as a public institution, is not in as satisfactory a condition as we could desire, and that in some of the States some employes of the Department are not receiving adequate remuneration for the services they perform, this proposal for universal penny postage is premature. I think that this measure should be considered altogether apart from the industrial conditions of the employes in the Commonwealth Public Service. When we let contracts for public works, and specify that certain industrial conditions shall be observed, we do not inquire whether the works will pay or will result in a loss, and when we decided that no man or woman in the Commonwealth service should receive less than £110 a year, we did not take into consideration the receipts * and expenditure of the different Departments in which this regulation was to be made operative. There are some persons who will be found to be opposed to every proposal for the cheapening of postal facilities, and of opinion that it should not be proceeded with, because cheaper postage rates will be a concession to a small section of the community. But I am one of those who believe that, no matter what the postage charges may be, the expense has ultimately to be borne by the general community.
– Then it will make no difference whether we fix any postage rates at all, or not?
– I am free to confess that under a different system of society I should be in favour of absolutely free postage, as well as free railways, but we have to deal with things as we find them here and now. In my opinion, postal charges are passed on. But if they are not, is it not manifestly unfair to allow the merchant or trader in Victoria to be advantaged by having penny postage within this State, and by being enabled to send printed matter through the post at a charge of Jd. for 2 ounces, whilst the merchant or trader in other States is obliged to pay a much higher rate, not only upon his letters, but also upon his printed matter?
– Only if he sends his letters beyond the borders of his own State.
– In South Australia, people have to pay 2d. upon a letter even if they send it to their next-door neighbour. I know that the business man in
New South Wales can send letters within a limited area for id., and that he can transmit circulars by post up to 2 ounces for £d. But the business man in Victoria enjoys a distinct advantage over the business man in any other part of Australia, whilst the business man in New South Wales possesses an advantage over the business man in any part of Australia other than Victoria. This condition of things ought not to be continued a moment longer than is unavoidable. The great bulk of the correspondence of business men consists of printed circulars. The introduction of penny postage will confer a very great benefit upon thousands of citizens who are not engaged in any business enterprise. There are thousands of men who are working in the country some distance from their residences and from their families. Assuming that they write only one letter a week each to their homes, and that a reply is forwarded to it, this reform will mean a saving to each family of 8s. 8d. per year.
– The man who writes a letter gets an adequate service for his expenditure.
– I do not say that he does not. But I have known good, sterling citizens who, because of their inability to obtain employment, have had to wait a week or two in order to get the wherewithal to purchase a stamp so that they might write to their friends. We know, too, that men frequently send birthday cards and newspapers through the post. So that to the poorest man in the community the probability is that penny postage will mean a saving of, perhaps, 10s. a year.
– And how many pounds saving will it mean to the rich man ?
– I hold that postal charges are passed on. I am aware that some persons argue that they cannot be, but, nevertheless, I hold that they are. But what are the alternatives to this proposal?
– A uniform rate of 2d.
– There are four courses open to us as alternatives to this proposal. We might have an Intra-State rate ot id., and an Inter-State rate of 2d. That is to say, we might have penny postage within a State ana a twopenny rate outside of it. Or we might have a uniform twopenny rate throughout the Commonwealth. But if we adopted that uniform rate, Victoria, which has enjoyed penny postage for a considerable period, would have to pay an increased charge.
– The loss in Victoria is now being made up by South Australia.
– South Australia is the only State which has a twopenny rate. To adopt that rate uniformly throughout the Commonwealth we should have, not merely to lift Victoria up to her level, but also Queensland, Western Australia, and New South Wales, so far as their metropolitan areas are concerned. Another course open to us is to leave things as they are.
– How would a rate of 1½d. throughout Australia work?
– That interjection reminds me that the honorable senator, at an earlier stage of my remarks, asked me what will be the approximate loss incurred under this Bill.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - That is the immediate loss?
– The Department have gone into this matter both carefully and exhaustively, andI am informed that during the first year the loss will be approximately £400,000.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Has the Minister an estimate of the loss which will be sustained in subsequent years ? Such an estimate might be based upon the increased number of letters which have passed through the post in Victoria during recent years.
– I have not that information with me. Penny postage within the various States will mean an approximate loss of £275,000. Upon Intra-State correspondence the loss will be £75,000, whilst upon correspondence beyond the Commonwealth the loss will be £50,000.
– What does “beyond the Commonwealth “ mean?
– It refers to letters and circulars which are forwarded to New Zealand, Great Britain, Canada, and elsewhere.
– Is it intended that we shall have penny postage to Great Britain?
– The present charge is twopence.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. -That is to be continued.
– Penny postage between the Commonwealth and any other country is a matter for a reciprocal arrangement. To provide for it in this Bill would mean nothing. It is proposed to enter into reciprocal arrangements with other countries with a view to extending penny postage throughout the world.
– How is it that to-day the residents of Great Britain pay only one penny upon their letters to Australia, whilst we have to pay twopence for a contrary service ?
– So long as Great Britain keeps within an agreement which she has entered into she will not infringe any international postal regulation.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - To-day the postage from Paris to London is 2½d., whereas the rate from London to Sydney is only1d.
-T his Bill provides for the adoption of penny postage throughout the Commonwealth, and it is the desire of the Government to extend that principle to other parts of the world.
– No further legislation is necessary to accomplish that?
– No, it can be accomplished by regulation. It may be interesting to honorable senators to know how the approximate loss which I have stated has been arrived at. It is anticipated that upon Intra-State postage in New South Wales there will be a loss of £157,000 during the first year, that upon her InterState correspondence the loss will be £27,000, and that upon her correspondence beyond the Commonwealth the loss will be £23,000, making a total loss of £207,000. In Victoria there will not be any loss so far as the Intra-State postage is concerned, but there will be a loss of £22,000 upon her Inter-State correspondence, and a loss of £19,000 upon her postage beyond the Commonwealth, or a total loss of £41,000.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - At the present time Victoria suffers a loss upon correspondence within the State itself.
– Last year Victoria made a loss of £27,000 in that connexion. In Queensland the loss within the State wilt be , £48,000, the Inter-State loss will be £11,000, and the loss in respect of cor- respondence beyond the Commonwealth will be £2,000, or a total loss of £61,000. The loss on Intra-State postage in South Australia will be £37,000, that upon InterState correspondence will be £5,000, and’ that upon letters beyond the Commonwealth will be £2,000, or a total loss of. £44.000. The loss upon Intra- State postage in Western Australia will be £23,000, that upon Inter- State correspondence will be £6,000, and that upon correspondence beyond the Commonwealth will be £2,000, or a total loss of £31,000. In Tasmania the loss upon Intra- State postage will be £ 10,000, that upon Inter-State correspondence will be £4,000, and that upon correspondence beyond the Commonwealth will be £2,000, or a total loss of £16,000. The additional loss which is anticipated when the system of penny postage is extended to other portions of the Empire is as follows : - The United Kingdom, Egypt, and India, £38,500; New Zealand, £10,000; South Africa, £1,000; and Canada, £500. The history of penny postage in different parts of the world is extremely interesting. The United Kingdom has penny postage, and the returns available show that more letters per head of the population are posted there than in any other part of the world.
– What is the profit?
– I cannot tell the honorable senator what profit is made.
– £4,000,000 per annum.
– I am given to understand that the Department makes a very extensive profit, that enables the Government to carry on works which are necessary in the interests of the people. New Zealand also has this system. There has been a considerable increase in the volume of postal business, and in the case of some firms the amount paid for stamps is higher than was the case when double the price was charged. In Victoria, it was anticipated that the proposed reduction in the postal rate would involve such a heavy loss that the Government would be forced, in the course of time, to revert to the old rate. But the introduction of penny postage brought a huge increase in the volume of business in the State.
– Does the honorable senator know the estimated loss before it was introduced, and the actual loss after it was established?
– No; but I expect the figures to be available in the course of a few moments.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - At that time there was a twopenny rate all over Victoria.
– Yes. If I remember aright, within a very short time there was very little difference between the revenue at the higher rate and the revenue at the reduced rate. Although it meant a considerable increase in the volume of postal matter, the additional expenditure by the Department was infinitesimal, because I understand that only about twenty additional hands were employed in consequence of the reduction. I do not want to weary honorable senators, but to those who may be disposed to object to this reform, if there be any here, I wish to point out that from time to time we have made reductions in telegraph charges, and given concessions in different directions, so far as postal services are concerned. Since the inauguration of the Commonwealth we have made the following concessions in rates and charges -
– The loss on telegrams was an imaginary one, because the number of words which a person could send was altered.
– The telegraph charges are lower to-day than they were prior to Federation. As a matter of fact, we have the cheapest telegraph service in the civilized world.
– That is not the point. The supposed loss was largely imaginary, because the Department made persons pay for the address and signature.
– Within the Commonwealth to-day a person can send a telegram containing sixteen words 4,000 miles for a shilling. In what other part of the world are similar facilities given? Not-‘ withstanding these concessions, totalling £127,000, the revenue of the Postal Department shows an increase almost every year since they were made. I do not propose to quote the revenue for each year, but merely the revenue for 1901 and 1910. In 1901 the receipts in the postal branch were £1,567,254, and in 1910 £2,548,403. In 1901 the receipts in the telegraph branch were £602,438, and in 1910 £671,959. In 1901 the receipts in the telephone branch were .£218,715, and in 1910 £509,532. In 1901 the total receipts from postal, telegraph, and telephone services amounted to £2,388,407. and in 1910 £3,729,894, showing a considerable increase in the volume of business in the different branches. Senator Gould has asked me if I can state the number of letters per head of the population, and the increase in the volume of business since the- introduction of penny .postage in Victoria. In 1900 a twopenny rate was operative in the State, and according to the statement I have, the number of letters posted per capita in that year was 52.08, and in 1908 82.35. For the nine months of the first year in which the reduced rate was operative, the increase per capita was 6.61, or an increase of 12 per cent, over the number for the preceding year. In the second year the increase per head was 11.77, or 20.05 per cent, over the increase for the first year, dr an increase per capita of 18.38, or 35.2 per cent., over the number of letters posted in the last year when the twopenny rate was in force. In short, the volume of business had increased by one-third within that time.
– How does it stand todav?
– I have given the figures for 1908, and there are no later figures available. This Bill also alters the charges on books and magazines. An advantage is given to books, booklets, and magazines which are printed in Australia, as against similar publications printed outside. No good Protectionist can object to that proposal. It means that encouragement will be given to Australian writers, artists, printers, and bookbinders. For many years enterprising firms have made vigorous efforts, in different parts of the Commonwealth, to successfully establish magazines. They have been greatly handicapped. They are confronted with very heavy disabilities. I think that every encouragement should be given to the production of an Australian article, whether it be a magazine, a book, or a booklet. I am one of those who believe that in Australia we have writers and artists who will compare favorably with the writers and artists who are to be met with in any part of the civilized world. Australian writers, and artists who have left the land of their birth and gone abroad, have won name and fame for themselves. Moreover, as a printer, I may naturally be expected to maintain that as a matter of fact we are able to produce in Australia books, magazines, and other publications that will compare favorably with productions emanating from any part of the world. For these reasons, I strongly urge the Senate to give the advantage proposed by this Bill to Australian publications. It is not necessary for me to occupy the time of honorable senators at any greater length. If I have omitted to make clear any point, or have failed to give any information that is required or is necessary in connexion with the Bill, I shall be only too glad to furnish it in reply. By way of closing my remarks, I wish to say that I am satisfied that the Bill, if not carried unanimously in the Senate - as I hope it will be - will, at all events, be carried by a substantial majority ; and I am confident that when it becomes law it will mean, not as some honorable senators imagine, an advantage to a small coterie of individuals, but a distinct benefit, not only to the business community, but to every citizen of the Commonwealth.
– - There is one reflection that appeals at once to my mind in considering this Bill. As the Minister has pointed out, we have at present different postage rates for similar services in different States ; and it is obvious that, in carrying out what we intend to be the full effect of Federation, there must be uniformity in respect to those rates. The question is. therefore, whether we are to level down to the low rates which prevail in one State, or level up to the higher rates which prevail in the other States.
– We might split the difference, and make the rate1½d.
– We might, as Senator Walker suggests, make the postage rate 1½d. But I dismiss that suggestion, even though I respect its origin, because the very denomination1½d., for which we have no single coin, prevents the suggestion from receiving serious consideration. The only question, then, is whether we are to adopt the rate which prevails in Victoria, or are to increase the Victorian rate to that which prevails in other States. To my mind, it would be to make a retrogressive step to raise the Victorian rate to uniformity with that prevailing in other States. That being so, there is but one thing to do. If we want a uniform rate at all, we must give the whole Commonwealth the benefit of the low rate which at present prevails in one State. But, having said that, I find myself in conflict with the Minister and with those responsible for this Bill. I asked the Minister why the Government propose to delay conferring the benefits of the measure until April next? His answer strikes me as being entirely insufficient and unsatisfactory. He franklyadmitted that the present condition of affairs represents a manifest injustice; and he went on to say - I quite agree with him there - that while it is true that different rates were just enough, under the old bookkeeping system, according to which a State in which there were low rates carried its loss on its own shoulders, the people receiving the benefit while the Treasury lost revenue - just as the New South Wales Treasury received the benefit of their higher rate - nevertheless, it is manifestly unjust, when we are abolishing the bookkeeping system, and are having a common purse, that there should be different rates in different States. I do not use that as an argument against this Bill, but it is a fair argument to use against delay in bringing the Bill into operation.
– The Bill cannot be brought into operation in five minutes.
– Of course, a gentleman whose remarks indicate such a lack of practical knowledge, may be expected to make such an interjection. The Minister’s reply was that several weeks would elapse before the Bill became law.
But does that involve delaying the operation of the measure until April next?
– Many arrangements will have to be made for bringing the Bill into operation.
– What arrangements? I understood the Minister to say that the adoption of penny postage in Victoria only necessitated the employment of twenty additional hands at the Post Office. If that be so, there is no sufficient reason why the operation of the measure should be delayed, especially as the present condition of affairs, according to the Minister’s admission, involves a manifest injustice.
– Does the honorable senator think that we have not had enough work to do this session?
– It is not a question of work for us to do. It is simply a question of when this Bill can be brought into operation. There will be no more work for the Senate to do if the Bill is brought into operation on 1st January instead of on 1st April. There may be more work for the Post and Telegraph Department to do; but I see nothing in that to justify the delay.
– Every one knows that there must be a largely-increased volume of business.
– But the same Public Service Act remains in force, whether the Post Office employs 500 men or fifty. There is, in my opinion, no justification for the delay, and the only reason for it that I can see is a Treasury reason. The Minister has intimated that there will probably be a loss of revenue as the result of adopting penny postage. The object of putting off the operation of this Bill until April, therefore, is to make that loss during the present financial year as small as possible. That reason may be a satisfactory one from the stand-point of the Treasury, but it is not treating fairly the larger number of States in the Union. There is another aspect of the case. It is possible that there will be a tendency in the Post and Telegraph Department to refuse facilities as the result of the diminished revenue. To my mind, it seems absolutely clear that that is what will happen. At present it is extremely difficult to obtain postal and telegraphic facilities for country districts. When an application is made for them we are frequently told that the Department “cannot afford it.” If that be the case before the Department loses an additional£400,000 per annum, surely the argument will be brought forward with greater force when there is that additional loss of £400,000 upon the working of the Department.
– How, then, can the honorable senator support the reduction of postal rates?
– On the ground of equality of rates throughout the Commonwealth.
– Would it not be better to raise the Victorian letter rate to 2d. ?
– No; it seems to me to be unthinkable that we should take a backward step. In my opinion, what I have stated will be the immediate effect of this Bill. The Department, as we all know, when we ask for facilities for country districts, generally meets us with the stereotyped reply that “The service does not warrant it, and the Department cannot afford it. “ Does any one think that when the Department is called upon to shoulder an additional loss of £400,000 it will weaken in its attitude towards country applications ? Is it not as clear as the noonday sun - not the noonday sun in Melbourne, but in those States where we see the sun - that honorable senators will get that reply more frequently and with greater emphasis than hitherto? That, however, is one of the drawbacks to the Bill which 1 willingly face for the reason that I do not believe that the loss will be permanent. I regret that the Minister has not given the Senate the information which I sought to obtain by way of interjection as to the loss entailed in Victoria when the penny letter rate was adopted.
– There were two reductions in the letter rate in Victoria. On the first occasion, when the rate was reduced to id., it was afterwards restored to 2d. Subsequently it was reduced to id. again.
– I was not aware of that. If, however, such be the fact, it would be very useful information for the Seriate if we could, have presented to us a statement as to what the Victorian figures were, and as to what the reduction of revenue from the adoption of the penny rate amounted to. As far as I know, the position is this : The Victorian revenue was considerably diminished in the first year after the adoption of the penny rate, but as time went on the loss gradually decreased and the revenue recovered itself. I should like to be able to compare the Estimates presented to Parliament when the penny rate was proposed with the figures of the actual loss. I have no. great faith in these estimates ; not that I wish to cast any doubt upon the officials or upon the Department, but it seems to me to be quite beyond the compass of any one in the Department to know what effect is going to be produced upon the commercial and social life of this country by such a change.
– It is beyond human intelligence to make an estimate.
– All that we can go upon is the common knowledge that when you reduce the cost of anything people are inclined to use it more freely. The reflection that that is so brings considerable comfort to my mind in connexion with this measure. Believing that we cannot increase the rate in Victoria, and must reduce it in other States, I am prepared to take the plunge in the belief that by-and-by - and before long - the expansion in post-office business will make up the loss with which we shall be confronted in the early days. There is another matter closely associated with that with which I have been dealing; and that is as to whether or not the Bill would be likely to have any effect upon the employes of the Department. I do not believe for a moment that it will. Parliament itself has always taken under its charge the regulations affecting persons employed in the Public Service. I do not think that whether the Postal Department makes a profit or a loss, that fact will affect the judgment of Parliament as to what constitutes fair wages and conditions for those employed in the Department. The figures which the Minister has supplied give us no guide as to the financial results of this proposal. The honorable senator has supplied an estimate of the probable loss of revenue, but he has said nothing of the increased expenditure which will be consequent upon the increased ‘ volume of business.
– In Victoria the increased expenditure will be infinitesimal. I do not know what it will be in the other States.
– The honorable senator said that twenty additional hands would be required, forgetting that that disposed of his argument that a great deal of preliminary work would need to be undertaken before the new system could be introduced. Though I have not the advantage possessed by the Minister of being able to confer with the officers of the Department, I can say that if our anticipations are realized, a considerable increase in the volume of business must result from the reduction of the rates of postage, and must involve a considerable increase in the expenditure of the Department. I assume that the estimated loss of ,£400,000 has reference only to the loss of revenue to be anticipated, and takes no account of the increase of expenditure. To that extent it is a partial and misleading estimate. The Minister gave us some figures showing the profits and losses made at present in the various States from the operations of the Postal Department. I am sure the honorable senator did not put them forward with the intention of misleading the Senate, but there can be no doubt that they were absolutely misleading. So far as I could understand them the figures quoted represent a profit or loss, taking into account the total revenue and expenditure of the Department in the respective States. But it must be remembered that the expenditure account covers the cost of public works carried out by the Department. It would be easy for a State to show a profit this year when the expenditure upon new post-offices and other departmental buildings might be very small, and next year to show a very considerable loss, because there might be greater activity in the erection of new buildings. While the expenditure covers the building account, such figures as the Minister has presented represent nothing as a business statement. We were told, for instance, that New South Wales made a profit in this Department last year, of £65,000. But we know that the building account in that State last year was very low. It is quite possible that in other States in which a loss was shown last year, it did not represent a loss of revenue on postal matter, but was due to increased expenditure in those States on buildings and improvements in connexion “with the Postal Department.
– The cost df buildings should not be mixed up with the cost of running the business.
– I agree with the honorable senator that it is a most unbusinesslike proceeding to mix up the capital account with the ordinary trading account. Until these accounts are separated it will be impossible for any one to say whether the postal business in any State pays or does not pay. A suggestion has been made in this Chamber as well as outside, that we should establish this reform by stages. It is proposed that we should first of all establish penny postage within each State, leaving the expansion of the system to the Commonwealth until a later date. I direct the attention of honorable senators to the figures with which we have been supplied, and ask them to say whether, if we intend to make this change at all, it is well to make two bites at the cherry. It is estimated that the loss upon the establishment of penny postage within the boundaries of each of the States would amount to £275,000, and that for an additional £75,000 we might establish the system throughout Australia. I am satisfied that if we pass the measure to establish penny postage within the States only, the Governor-General’s consent to the measure would hardly be obtained before there would be an .agitation for its repeal, and the introduction of a measure to secure the larger reform. The fact that a man would be able to send a letter from the Queensland border of New South Wales to the Gulf of Carpentaria for one penny, whilst another would have to pay twopence to send a letter from Wodonga to Albury, would at once indicate the absurdity of the proposal. Where we are dealing with a Federal Department we might as well at once recognise that all State boundaries must disappear. In the same way, if the loss upon the establishment of penny postage throughout the Commonwealth would be £350,000 per year, and for another £50,000 we might secure universal penny postage, I think we should decide to do so. It is clear that if we adopted the system partially to-day we should, before many months passed, be asked to pass a measure establishing the larger reform. Seeing that Great Britain sends us letters for a penny, it would not be long before a demand for reciprocity would be made, and we might as well face the whole reform at once. I congratulate the Government upon being the fortunate possessors of Ministerial responsibility at a time when the financial circumstances of the Commonwealth permit of the introduction of this measure. This is a proposal for which they cannot, and I think do not, claim any credit. It was mooted long before the present Government occupied the Treasury bench, but when previously suggested it was recognised that the financial straits in which the Commonwealth was then placed, absolutely prevented its adoption with any prospect of success.
– Unless by an amendment of the Constitution.
– The Constitution has run its course, and the operation of the bookkeeping system and the Braddon section have ceased. To-day the Commonwealth is placed in a position of greater financial freedom, and, as a result, the present Government find it possible to do what no previous Government could attempt. While I congratulate the Government upon having their name associated with the measure, I think it is only right to point out that they are making this proposal to-day because our financial circumstances permit of it, and that those who have preceded them were quite as alive to its advantages, but were restrained by reason of the fact that the Constitution placed such limitations upon the financial resources of the Commonwealth that it was not possible in their time to do what, under the greater measure of financial freedom enjoyed by the present Government, can be done, and may, I think, be done with advantage.
– One has only to consider foi a moment the nature of Senator Millen’s complaint to see how ridiculous it is. The honorable senator finds fault with the Government for not having brought this proposal forward sooner.
– I did not. I wish to know why they do not propose to bring it into operation sooner.
– The earliest time at which it could have been brought forward was in the month of July, 1910. We have now reached the beginning of November, and fully four months have been allowed to elapse.
– I was not speaking of the four months that have gone. I ask, “ Why do not the Government propose to bring this Bill into operation on 1st January?”
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that the Senate has not been sufficiently occupied with the business that has been brought before it ?
– Why hold this Bill back until April next?
– There are very good reasons for that. Personally, I should prefer to see it held back to a much later date. Here we have a reform which in other countries it has taken generations to effect. We have a Labour Government in power, and although this Bill was foreshadowed within a few minutes after they assumed office, and is submitted within the first five months of their term of office, we have the Leader of the Opposition complaining.
– I did not say anything about the time at which the proposal was introduced. After we have passed it, why not put it into operation at once ?
– I have said there are very good reasons for the delay. We must consider the difference which it must make in the working of the Department. Honorable senators must recognise that wc cannot expect, with the same staff, to be able to handle a volume of business, perhaps, one-third greater than the volume of business at present being handled by the Postal Department. There must be alterations, also, in connexion with our contracts for the carriage of mails, and - to use a word which we frequently heard from an honorable gentleman who is no longer a member of the Senate - in connexion with the various “ ramifications “ of this service, involved in the proposed change. I am rather afraid that those who will be responsible for putting this system into operation will find the time between now and April next too limited to enable them to make the necessary arrangements.
– The honorable senator has very little confidence in the employes of the Post Office.
– On the contrary, I have every confidence in the employes of the Post Office, but the honorable senator must see that we shall require a larger staff to handle the increased volume of business.
– An increase of 30 or 40 per cent, in the volume of business should make no appreciable difference.
– The honorable senator would not say that if he knew the conditions under which contractors for the carriage of our mails are at present working, and the great increase in the volume of work done by the Parcels Post Branch. I think that any complaint on the ground that this change should be brought into operation sooner than is proposed is altogether unreasonable. In my opinion, the officers of the Department are taking upon themselves a task which I have grave doubt that they will be able to carry out. I hope they will’ be able to bring this scheme into operation in April, but I think they have, to some extent, overlooked the difficulty which must be faced’ in coping with the increased volume of business which may be expected to follow from the introduction of this reform. I need only refer honorable senators to the statements appearing in the newspapers from day to day to re: mind them that there is, for lack of space to carry out the work, a state of confusion in all the metropolitan post-offices of Australia. Mail matter is coming in in such volume under existing conditions that the facilities afforded in the metropolitan postoffices are not sufficient to enable the staff to cope with the business. What are we going to do when the volume of business is increased? I have doubts that we shall be able to provide the increased facilities necessary. If penny postage is to be a success, the post-offices in the larger centres of population throughout Australia will require radical alterations. I can see that in future we shall have to adopt some means to divide our postal work, and we shall have, sooner or later, to direct our attention to an alteration in the system at present adopted of bringing heavy mail matter into the heart of the city, and at a distance from our principal railway stations, to be there handled.
– The honorable senator’s argument is one for not bringing the Bill into operation as early as Ministers propose.
– I am prepared to be quite frank with the honorable senator, and I say that I am utterly opposed to this proposal, because the experience I have gained on the Postal Commission has led me to believe that to establish penny postage, not only throughout Australia, but oversea, will result in a financial failure.
– Cheer up.
– I have not to shoulder as much responsibility in this matter as have my honorable friends on my left. But my position, as Government Whip, will not prevent me from speaking my mind whenever I think that the Ministry are acting unwisely. In my opinion, they are taking a false step now. I have already referred to the difficulty that will be experienced by the Department in handling a larger volume of mail matter than it handles to-day.
– That larger volume will be of gradual growth.
– But the honorable senator must recognise that matters cannot be allowed to remain as they are.
– I quite recognise that the Government had to do something. For many years the Postal Department has occupied a very unfortunate position, from a financial stand-point. It has occupied that position ever, since this Parliament reduced the telegraph and telephone rates to a point at which it was impossible for them to pay expenses.
– The honorable senator is speaking on the assumption that each year’s revenue must pay for the works constructed during that year.
– I should like to see, approximately, that result brought about. With the exception of South Australia, where a twopenny rate is charged, the Department incurs a deficit in every State of the Commonwealth.
– What about New South Wales?
– The Department in that State incurs a deficit three years for every year it shows a profit.
– According to the figures quoted by the Minister, it showed a profit of £63,000 last year.
– Why should the honorable senator say that, with the exception of South Australia, there is a loss in each of the States, seeing that in those States the Department has added to its assets? That loss represents a certain amount of capital which has been expended in fresh post-offices, and in the acquisition of land.
– Before honorable senators accept that statement, I ask them to study for themselves the financial position of the Department. I recognise that it is extremely difficult for anybody to. put his finger on the precise spot where these deficits occur. But we can shrewdly guess the reason for those deficits. We know that no allowance has been made for quite a number of matters for which an allowance should be made. For instance, what has been allowed for the depreciation of buildings ? Nor has there been anything allowed for interest on the six millions invested.
– We do not need to allow for depreciation if we are going to pay for the upkeep of the Department and for new buildings out of revenue.
– But we have been doing nothing of the kind. There is no Department in Australia in which such’ confusion exists, from a financial standpoint, as exists in the Postal Department. As a result, it is impossible to say whether any service performed by the Department is or is not remunerative.
– Why does the honorable senator say that a loss occurs?
– Because I know that there is a loss.
– Then the honorable senator knows more than does the Accountant of the Department.
– Whilst I know that the expenditureof the Department exceeds its income, the bookkeeping system is so incomplete that it is impossible to say precisely where the loss occurs. But we have good reason to believe that it is principally confined to the telegraph and telephone branches of the service. The only branch which is a success financially is the mail branch. Yet it is now proposed to deprive that branch of 50 per cent. of its income.
– The honorable senator cannot say that it is intended to deprive it of 50 per cent. of its income, seeing that in all the States, with the exception of South Australia, letters may be posted within the metropolitan areas for1d.
– At any rate, the reduction which is proposed is too great to be justified at the present time. I quite recognise that something must be done to remedy the existing condition of affairs. But that does not warrant us in reducing the income of the Postal Department, and in starving it, in order that we may gain a little cheap popularity. In seeking to introduce the system of penny postage at this juncture, the Government are taking a false step. The Postal Department ought to be made to pay its way. It is not by any means a taxation Department. It renders a distinct service to the community.
– Would the honorable senator raise the rate in Victoria?
– I do not know that it would be necessary to raise InterState postage in Victoria very much.
– An additional expenditure of only£75,000 per annum would be required to make penny postage universal.
– I am sorry that I cannot accept the figures of the Honorary Minister.
– Has the honorable senator any better figures?
– I have not, nor can the Accountant of the Department supply any.
– Then how can the honorable senator challenge the accuracy of the figures presented by the Minister?
– I challenge their accuracy because of the nature of the testimony which was given by various witnesses who appeared before the Postal Commission. When they were asked, for example, how much a particular branch cost, they could not say.
– Then the Department must be very badly managed.
– Undoubtedly. A disgraceful state of affairs exists.
SenatorFraser. - Since the advent of Federation the position has become worse than it was previously.
– I do not think so. Indeed, the Postal Commission discovered that since Federation many improvements have been effected. But, from a financial stand-point, I believe that the Department has drifted since the Commonwealth was established.
– Had the Commission any means of ascertaining the difference between the loss which will be occasioned by the adoption of penny postage and the loss which would be sustained as the result of the adoption of penny postage within the States? The Honorary Minister has stated that it would amount to only £75,000.
– If I had time to wade through the evidence taken by the Commission, I might be able to supply that information. But I feel confident that the volume of business between the States is very much greater than that the Honorary Minister has allowed for. The Government would have been well advised if they had accepted the recommendation of the Postal Commission, by proposing the adoption of penny postage within each State.
– I presume that the evidence to which the honorable senator refers is available?
– Yes. But if the honorable senator intends to read those bulky tomes he has a fine task ahead of him. I shudder to think of it. Similar results will follow the attempt to level down our postal rates to those which followed the levelling down of our telephone and telegraph rates several years ago. In these circumstances, ought we not to pause? It is all very well to say that penny postage is a Democratic system, but I confess that I have not met the individual who is so poor that he cannot afford to pay 2d. postage upon a letter.
– Free postage would be even more Democratic.
– If we want to go the whole hog, let us make the services absolutely free; but our duty is to try to make the Department a commercial success.
– Then it must have a commercial man at its head.
SenatorDE LARGIE. - Not only must we have commercial men at the head of the Department, but they must have power to make a success of it. If the Department is tied down, as it is by the present rates, what is the use of finding fault with high officials?
– Will penny postage improve the condition of the back-blocker ? Not one jot.
– Let us consider the effect of a reduced rate on the back- block services. Hitherto, whenever a new service for the back parts of the Commonwealth has been asked for, what has invariably been the answer? It has been, “ How much will it cost, and will it pay?” It is positive cruelty to give a scant postal service to the men who live on the fringe of civilization - the best citizens in the Commonwealth who require better mail services. With regard to applications for new services, what has been our experience? Whenever we have approached the Department with a request, we have been told that the proposed service would not pay. If the postage rate is reduced, where will the Department get revenue from ?
SenatorRae. - From the land tax.
– I do not think that we should go to the land for money to pay for services rendered to people.
– Why not?
– I see no sense in telling a man on the land that he has to pay a tax in order to give cheaper facilities to a man in the city, who, at present, has to put 2d. stamps on his letters.
– Generally a man in the city has to pay1d.
– The man in a city has to put a 2d. stamp on a letter to the country. It isthe city people who will derive the greatest advantage from penny postage. It will be enjoyed chiefly by men in Flinders-lane who are unable to carry their letters by hand to the receivers, but have to send them in baskets.
SenatorRae. - They send very few letters, chiefly circulars.
– They send out a large quantity of mail matter. At any rate, they will get the lion’s share of the benefit of this so-called Democratic reform. 1 did not intend to speak to-day. I should have liked a better opportunity to go through the evidence, and point out that the Government are about to take a step in the wrong direction. I recognise that the Bill is going to be carried; but I think that I should fail in my duty if I allowed a false step to be taken by the Department without entering a protest. I think it will be found that the difficulties which it has had in the past in extending postal services in the back parts will be accentuated. Persons in those localities will suffer in a much greater degree than will city people, and for that reason I protest against the proposed reduction.
– Can we not insist that money shall be voted to provide those services for the back parts?
– No doubt, we can.
– We will.
– And take the money, I suppose, from the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
– From the wealthy, to help the poor.
– From the Consolidated Revenue Fund, to which, in the form of Customs and Excise duties, the poor contribute in quite as great a measure as the rich, in order to give cheaper postal facilities, for which a charge should be made. If there is one Department which ought to be conducted on commercial lines, it is thePostal Department. Whether it carries a letter or conveys a message, it performs a service for an individual, who ought to pay a reasonable fee. It is foolish to render that service at less than cost price. The Department has been run long enough on that idiotic principle, and the further it has gone, the deeper it has got into the bog. It is about to take a longer jump; but before very many years have passed over our heads, we shall regret the introduction of penny postage.
– To me it was very refreshing to hear very much of what Senator de Largie said. I believe that he has never spoken a truer word than when he said that the Department should be conducted on commercial lines. Some reference has been made to the fact that persons in Great Britain can send letters to Australia for1d., whereas we charge 2d. on a letter to the
Old Country, where the Post and Telegraph Department yields a profit of, I believe, £4,000,000 a year.
– There is no comparison between the two countries.
– The United Kingdom has a small territory with an enormous population, whereas we have an enormous territory, with a comparatively small population. lt is very much like a person with an income of £100 a year putting himself cn a par with a person with an income of £1,000 a year. We cannot afford to take this step.
– And this is said to De the wealthiest country in the world.
– We can afford to present £20,000,000 a year of communitycreated increment to private land-owners. As long as we can do that, I intend to support penny postage.
– Here is King Charles’s head again. It is supposed that penny postage will involve a loss of £400,000 a year. Senator de Largie has pointed out that some things have not yet been charged against the Department. The Commonwealth has taken over State properties valued at £10,000,000. A good proportion of that sum is represented by post-offices. We have not yet debited the Postal Department with its proportion of the interest on the cost of transferred buildings. That would increase the nominal loss, if it is to be called nominal, by a considerable sum. What does an annual loss of £400.000 mean in regard to interest ? If we were to borrow money at per cent, that sum would pay the annual interest on £11,427,000. The Commonwealth is about to take over the Northern Territory and to construct a transcontinental railyway. These two projects alone will involve a cost not far short of £13,000,000. How are we to pay the interest on that sum ? It seems to me that this estimated annual loss of £400,000 on the Postal Department ought to be saved to enable the Commonwealth to pay interest on the large amount which will have to be expended in connexion with the Federal Capital, the Northern Territory, and railway construction. I do not wish to charge the present Government any more than the previous Government with extravagance, but now that we have gone in for these necessarily large outlays we have a. right to know where we are to find the money to pay the interest. It seems to me that this £400,000 could be employed much better in paying interest on the debt which will have to be incurred than in being simply given away, because, after all, every person who uses the Post Office gets very fair value for the payment he makes. 1 admit that there are a great many awkward cases. Senator Millen, for instance, referred to the case of border towns. Surely that is a matter which can be arranged. If there is no difference in the postage for, say, 15 miles on each side of the border, could not that part be treated as if. it were in the interior of a State ? I am rather in favour of the principle of uniform postage, but I do not think that the time has come for its introduction.
– The longer it is delayed, the stronger will become the arguments against it.
– That may be so. The Department will, I hope, be able to pay its way. We have read a good deal about “ frenzied finance” in America. I consider that we are going in for the same thing. But where is the income to come from? If we were to borrow money at 3 </inline> per cent., this £400,000 would pay the interest on £11,427,000; at 3^ per cent, it would pay the interest on £12,300,000, and at 3 per cent, it would pay the interest on £13,300,000. We must recognise that in time we shall have to go into debt to pay for these services. I repeat the question : Where is the income to come from ? I recognise, with **Senator de Largie, that we shall have to submit to the inevitable. But, as a man who has a little knowledge of business matters, I contend that it is unbusinesslike to throw away an income of approximately £400,000 without seeing where you are going to get an equivalent from. It is all very well for
– We have to do something; we cannot allow the position to remain as it is.
– Let us try a rate of 1½d. for -oz. for a few years. Victoria has had a penny rate for some years, and its people would have to pay an extra Jd. per. J-oz. Our friends in South Australia, who have been paying 2d., would get a little benefit under my proposal. Tasmania cannot well afford to lose £16,000 of her present income.
– Whether there is a loss or not Tasmania will get her 25s. per capita.
– I admit that this is a popular proposal, but we are here to do what is right in the interests of the whole community. -We shall be paying the Postal Commission a very poor compliment, after all the trouble they have taken to investigate the affairs of the Department, if we do not take advantage of the information which they have furnished. The Post Office ought to be debited with its proportion of the interest on transferred properties. At some time or other £350,000 a year will have to be paid, and the question is whether we ought not to pay back interest, too, to the States. I am afraid that when the Department comes to pay its share of the interest on transferred buildings, the annual loss will be at least £500,000.
– I am impelled to the conclusion that the genial personality of the Postmaster-General prevailed over the sounder judgment of the majority of his colleagues when this proposal was brought forward. We are faced with the undeniable fact that for two years a Royal Commission has been sitting at a cost of I do not know how many thousands of pounds. I am not for a moment saying that the cost was too great for the work done. The Commission travelled in every State, lt held 120 meetings, and has only recently ceased its long and arduous labours, the result of which is the report that has been presented to Parliament. But in the face of the recommendations contained in that report, the Government, overcome by the genial personality and the persuasive powers of the PostmasterGeneral, have brought down proposals which find no place in the recommendations of a Commission which has inquired most exhaustively into the working of the Post and Telegraph Department.
– Does the honorable senator reckon that we cannot afford this change t
– I do not think so.
– We can, inasmuch as Ave have said that we can afford to pay 25s. per head to the States.
– We have dealt with that matter, and are now concerned with quite another. We find from one end to the other of the Royal Commission’s report indisputable evidence, gathered from reliable witnesses in every corner of Australia, that more money is required to put the postal and kindred services into a better state than they are in to-day. Yet the Government propose to throw away quite £500,000 of revenue per annum.
– The honorable senator has become a little Australian.
– That is not a fair observation to make. A man can argue that we cannot afford to throw away halfamillion of revenue, whether he be a big or a little Australian. In the name of common sense, what has the Minister’s interjection to do with the subject i
– We have to do one of two things - level up or level down.
– Then the Government should have had the courage to level up the postal rates.
– There would have been an outcry in the honorable senator’s own State.
– I do not think so; but, at all events, the Government should have taken the responsibility. As an alternative to levelling up or levelling down they could have adopted the recommendation of the Royal Commission, instituting penny postage within each State and making the rate 2d. on letters posted from one State to another. I noticed that certain information was absent from the figures quoted by Senator Findley relative to the difference in cost between Inter-State penny postage and postage within a Stale. Figures on that subject were, however, quoted elsewhere by a member of the Postal Commission.
– Without any evidence. He was asked for evidence to confirm his statement, and said that he had none.
– Can the Minister adduce any evidence to satisfy the Senate, or even to satisfy himself, that the figures which he gave are correct? I believe that Senator Findley himself takes them to be rather in the nature of an estimate than as figures revealing the actual difference in cost.
– I am satisfied that the figures which I gave show approximately the loss that will be entailed by reducing the postage rate.
– If the reduction of postage within each State to id. would only mean a difference of £75,000, it does not seem worth while to take two bites at a cherry instead of one. But, even so, Senator de Largie, who was a member of the Postal Commission, has plainly stated that he believes that the loss will be far greater than the estimate, and that the difference between the two steps in the reform will be much greater than the Department has reckoned. The Minister has said that there is but one alternative before us, and that if we cannot put the Victorian rate up to 2d. we must bring down the rate in the other States to id. But if that argument is valid, the logical conclusion is that we should have free postage altogether. We should do one thing or the other. If we are going to make this service self-supporting the proposal of the Government is utterly absurd, because we know perfectly well - and the Postal Commission’s report proves this statement - that the service to-day is by no means what it ought to be. If one goes to the postal officials to ask for facilities for country districts, they will say, “ We cannot afford it.” Ask them for a little better pay for the letter-carriers - men who are occupying most responsible positions, carrying letters containing valuable documents, who have to be honest and reliable, and who are working at salaries so low that even after half a lifetime they do not get more than £156 a year - and again the reply is, “ We cannot afford it.” There are recommendations in the Royal Commission’s report to the effect that the letter-carriers should be given better pay, or, at any rate, should be able to rise to the salary of £156 at an earlier date than they can do under the present regulations. But the head of the Department and the PostmasterGeneral say, “ It cannot be done.” The answer is always the same when any reform is asked for.
– Is not the service vastly improved in comparison with what it was?
– Undoubtedly ; but. while 1 have not much sympathy with the cry of the higher-paid officers that they are not fairly dealt with, I believe that there ls a good deal of justice in the cry of the lower-paid officers in the postal service, that they should receive better salaries than they are being paid to-day. Whenever a question is raised of getting improved facilities for people living on the fringe of civilization, or better pay for the officers, we are met with the same reply from the Department, “ We must make the service pay ; it is a business concern, and we ought to run it on business lines.” But that reply is utterly and absurdly inconsistent with the attitude of the PostmasterGeneral in bringing down this proposal for penny postage.
– Does the honorable senator believe that we should level up the rates to federalize the service ?
– Yes; I believe that if we are to proceed on the assumption that the service must pay for itself, it would be better, when we find that we are losing half-a-million a year, to level up the rates to those prevailing in the State which, for .purposes of its own, reduced its rates before Federation.
– Surely the honorable senator does not believe that a service is not justifiable unless it pays for itself from the jump?
– I am showing the utter inconsistency of the responsible heads of the Department when they meet requests for additional services or better salaries with the answer, ‘ 1 We cannot afford it ; we must make the Department pay; we must run it as a business concern,” and, nevertheless, introduce this Bill.
– The PostmasterGeneral may not be running one part of his business on business lines, but it does not follow that this proposal is wrong.
– An argument used by the Minister, when trying to cajole members of the Senate into voting for this Bill, took the form of a comparison between Australia and Great Britain. But to compare a closely-settled country with Australia, which has vast areas and distances over which postal matter has to be carried, is utterly absurd.
– I did not make a comparison. I simply said that figures showed that more letters per head of the population were carried in Great Britain than in Australia because of penny postage in the former country.
– But surely the honorable senator does not contend that we can afford to give the people of Australia the same service for the same cost as in a country like Great Britain. The geographical differences are too great; and the cost cannot be for a moment compared. The chief argument used by the Minister in his appeal to honorable senators, however, and it was also the main argument of the Postmaster-General, was this : He said that this Bill is going to confer great benefits upon the people. Whom is it going to benefit? Senator Findley must be aware that 75 per cent, of the taxpayers of Australia will not be advantaged or benefited to the tune of, perhaps, more than 2d. or 3d. per week.
– That is something.
– A working man, earning a couple of pounds a week, may benefit to the tune of 2d. per week, whilst the average business man will be benefited to the extent of, perhaps, 15s. or £1 a week.
– Is that the sting of this proposal ?
– I candidly admit that that is a reason why I am not justified in voting for this proposal. But I do not say so in the way in which the honorable senator takes the point. I do not say that that is the “ sting “ of the proposal. Surely Senator St. Ledger will admit that there is no class feeling in the argument when I say that, as the loss must fall upon the whole people of Australia, it is not fair to ask the man who is going to be benefited to a trifling extent to bear the same proportion of the burden as the man who is going to be benefited to a great degree. The Minister argued that the proposal is going to be of great benefit to all the people of Australia. I think that an ounce of experience is worth a ton of theory in this matter. 1 will, therefore, take my own experience. As a man who was not engaged in a business, but working for a fairly good salary, I found that I wrote on an average three letters a week, and my expense for postage was, therefore, 6d. per week. Immediately I left my former occupation and went into a small business the number of letters I found it necessary to write averaged ten a day, and if penny postage had been established my saving would have been 10d. per day, or 5s. per week. One does not care to obtrude one’s personal experience, but by doing so I have been able to present a concrete case and to state facts. I contend that my experience will be probably that of nearly every pperson in Australia.
Senn tor McGregor. - As a business man the honorable senator would send open letters with a penny stamp.
- Senator McGregor knows perfectly well that, in business, it is necessary tto send out a large number of letters which cannot be left open.
– On business letters the cost will be passed on to the customers.
– That is an exploded argument. I say that men engaged in every kind of business in Australia will gain, under this proposal, ‘at the expense of the great mass of the taxpayers of the Commonweal th .
– The honorable sena.tor ‘s line of reasoning is that it does not matter whether the postage is 2d. or 2s., the expense will have to be borne by the individual carrying on a business.
– Nothing of Ihe kind. If Senator Findley could show me that the Post and Telegraph Department is in a position to do what it ought to do and still establish this reform, I should not complain. 1 should say, “ This is a teform for which many people are asking, and we can afford to bring it about.” But the fact remains that the Department is not paying, and we are being asked by the Government to consent to a proposal which” will add £500.000 a year to the present annual loss on the working of it, and they know that it will not be for the benefit of the bulk of the taxpayers of Australia. I ask honorable senators to consider the list of their acquaintances, and say how many, letters they are likely to send in a week. How many letters per week are sent through the post by an average householder in Australia? We know that the average wageearner does not send through the post more than two or three letters a week. IT he sends three letters per week, on each of which he has now to pay 2d., he will save 3d. per week under this proposal. Every member of this Senate will, I am sure, admit that business men in the Commonwealth will, under this proposal, save anything from 5s. up to several pounds per week. I repeat that I should not object tto that if the service were self-supporting.
– The postal service is paying.
– The honorable senator knows that the postal and telegraphic and telephonic services are worked together.
– No one can say which service pays and which does not.
– I agree with the honorable senator. We are told that this proposal will result in a loss of £400.000 a year. ‘ Will Ministers contend that at the present time there is a profit on the working of the Post and Telegraph Department ?
– There is a profit on the operations of the Postal Department of £3000,000 a vear.
– Then, why aare we constantly met with the statement that the
Department is unable to afford increased facilities.
– We have heard a good deal of the statement that the Department cannot afford facilities. I should like to know the source of the information.
– The honorable senator has become very innocent since he joined the Ministry. We can forgive him, perhaps, for that, but he knows a little more than he professes to know. After years of labour, the Postal Commission, at a cost of thousands of pounds, has supplied us with a report on the working of the Post and Telegraph Department. Apparently, the present Government propose to ignore that report. It would have been more fair to the Commission, the Parliament, and the country if they had decided to deal with this question when they proposed to deal with the various recommendations of the Commission. Of what use is it for Parliament to appoint a Commission to inquire, at enormous cost to the taxpayers, into the working of the Department if their report is not to be acted upon? I admit that there has not been time to act upon the report this session, as we have only just received it. I believe that, at the earliest possible moment, and perhaps this session, the Government will be prepared to take some action upon it ; but I complain that they should have picked out one subject, and have proposed a startling and radical reform, before they have had time to consider the whole of the Postal Commission’s report. The Commission has recommended that there should be penny postage within each State, and that the Inter-State postage should be 2d. Senator de Largie, as a member of the Commission, has told us that the loss which would follow upon the adoption of that proposal would be nothing like the loss which must follow the adoption of the proposal brought forward by the Government. Ministers have told us that the difference between the loss upon the adoption of penny postage throughout the Commonwealth and the adoption of penny postage within each State would not amount to more than £75,000, and I suppose we must accept their figures.
– Surely the honorable senator will accept some figures as against Senator de Largie’s statement?
– I am disposed to attach great weight to the statement made by Senator de Largie, who was a member of the Postal Commission. At all events, we have the admission from the Government that the loss to be anticipated under this proposal is £400,000 a year. That would be reduced by £75,000 a year by the adoption of. the recommendation of the Postal Commission. We have been told that we cannot continue existing conditions, and I admit that there is a difficulty to be overcome. It is true that under the existing system the other States are called upon to bear a share of the loss on penny postage in Victoria. I admit that they have some ground of complaint in that, and are justified in asking for the adoption of a uniform system of postage. But I contend that it would have been” better if the Government had had die courage to raise the postage in Victoria to 2d., as in the other States, rather than submit a proposal which must involve a loss of £400,000 a year. It has to be remembered that the estimated loss of £400,000 does not take into account’ the extra cost of working the penny-postage system. It will be remembered that when we reduced the cost of telegrams it led to an increase in the telegraphic business, and an increase in the cost of working the telegraphic service, and we know that the adoption of this proposal, by increasing the volume of postal business, must increase the cost of “working the Department.
– The increased cost would be infinitesimal as compared with the increased benefit.
– When we take into account the increased cost of working the Department, we shall find that the total loss on the adoption of this system will be run up to nearly £500,000.8 year, and my complaint is that in the present condition of our affairs we are not able to stand that loss, in view of the enormous expenditure to which the Commonwealth is already committed.
– Who told the honnra Me senator that we are not able to stand the loss?
– Tt is. not necessary that we should be told everything by Senator McGregor. He is entitled to his own opinion of these matters, but he should allow others to have theirs. Great as his intellect no doubt is, he has not a monopoly of all the wisdom of the Senate. In any case, his interjections are beside the question.
– The honorable senator presumes too much.
– I do not presume at all. 1 have the statement of the honor- able senator’s colleague, Senator Findley, that we shall lose £400,000 a year under this proposal.
– In the first year.
– If Senator Findley were not a representative of Victoria, he would be taking the same stand in this matter as I am. We know that it is very difficult for a Minister who is a representative of Victoria to object to this proposal.
– I am a Socialist, and would have free postage to-morrow.
– Then, why did he not induce his colleagues to submit proposals to this Parliament in favour of free postage?
– I went as near to it as I could.
– Either we should make the Department pay its way or else we should initiate the system of free postage. I know from actual experience -despite the interjections of Ministers - that if at any time within the next few months the Postal Department were approached with a request that increased facilities should be provided for the people, its reply would be that it would have to be shown that the work would prove remunerative. What was the reply given by the Postmaster-General, who is under the impression that he will immortalize himself as the author of penny postage in Australia-
– That is unfair.
– I am not reflecting upon the Postmaster-General in any way. Naturally, every Minister would like his name to go down to posterity, as the author of a great reform.
– Then penny postage is a great reform?
– It would be if we could afford to pay for it.
– What is the honorable senator’s reason for saying that we cannot afford to pay for it?
– If I were to approach the Postmaster-General with a request that a paltry expenditure of £1,500 a year should be incurred upon” a work which can be shown to be absolutely necessary-
– King Island.
– I am not referring to King Island, although the Honorary Minister ought not to mention that place, because the policy which has been pursued by the Department in regard to King Island does not reflect much credit upon any Government. However, I recognise that the Ministry have not been sufficiently long in office to enable them to introduce urgently-required reforms there. But I have been asked by the Vice-President of the Executive Council why I say that the Commonwealth cannot afford to pay for penny postage at the present juncture. I would remind the honorable gentleman that when I requested the Postmaster-General to supplement the expenditure which the Tasmanian” Government was willing to incur, by .£1,500, in order that a telephone might be installed in a place where it is absolutely required, I was told that because no revenue would be derived from the work, the request could not be entertained.
– The PostmasterGeneral did not say that we ‘ could not afford to erect that telephone fine.
– His reply, to an interjection in another place, was, “ Yes, but it would cost £1,500 a year, and there would be nobody to use the telephone.”
– He did not say that we could not afford to erect that telephone line.
– I am pretty good tempered, and I submit to many interruptions, but I think that the VicePresident of the Executive Council ought to restrain himself a little bit. Nobody who has approached the PostmasterGeneral with a request that this money should be provided has ever suggested that the work would return a revenue. But it has been shown that it is a work which should be undertaken by the Postal Department, at any rate in conjunction with the Tasmanian Government. But the only replY vouchsafed has been that ro revenue would be derived from it.
– There is nobody there to look after it.
– That interjection is unworthy of the Honorary Minister. He really ought to endeavour to treat this matter with some degree of seriousness. In answering statements, he ought not to fall into the same habit as the PostmasterGeneral. Senator Findley _ must know that the Tasmanian Government proposed to erect a building at this particular place, and to station a man there to look after it. But simply because no telephone messages would be sent from this locality by the public, the work is not to be undertaken. That is absolute proof of the justice of my contention that the Department would reply to any similar request, “ We cannot afford it; the Department must be made to pay.”
– The PostmasterGeneral did not say we cannot afford it; he said that it was not advisable to undertake the work.
– Why was it not advisable? Simply because the Department would lose a little money upon it.
– The request was that telephonic communication should be established at a place where shipwrecks frequently occur. As a matter of fact, shipwrecked sailors who have managed to reach it have died of starvation before they could make their way to any centre of civilization.
– Why was not the work undertaken by the State prior to Federation ?
– It is only since the advent of Federation that its necessity has become so apparent. The PostmasterGeneral appeared to be satisfied that something ought to be done, but thought that the Tasmanian Government ought to do it. When it was pointed out to him that the work must be undertaken either by the Postal Department itself or with its concurrence, he sheltered himself behind the plea that there was nobody there to send messages. As a matter of fact, the Tasmanian Government has agreed to place a caretaker there and to establish a depot of supplies. It merely desires the Commonwealth to open up telephonic communication with this place at an expenditure of £1,500 a year. But the Postmaster-General will not accede to the request on the ground that the Department cannot afford to do so.
– He did not say that it cannot afford to do so.
– Then why is not the work undertaken r”
– There are hundreds of places around the Australian coast which are similarly situated.
– The attitude of the Postmaster-General is conclusive proof of my contention that we cannot afford Lo adopt penny postage at the present juncture. It is with extreme reluctance that I shall oppose the second reading of this Bill. If the measure were vital to the Government, of course, I should support it. But it >.s one upon which every member of the Labour party is free to vote as he pleases. I should prefer to vote for it-
– It is a Ministerial matter.
– But it is not a party matter. I shall vote against it because there is no sound reason why this reform should be initiated at this stage of our history. It is opposed to the commonsense argument that the Department ought to be made to pay its way, and it is also opposed to the report of the Postal Commission. If penny postage is to be m.stituted throughout the Commonwealth, it should not be instituted until the Government had afforded both Houses of this Parliament an opportunity pf considering that report. For these reasons I shall oppose the second reading of the Bill.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [5.11].- 1 congratulate Senators O’Keefe and de Largie upon the Conservatism which they have exhibited this afternoon. I can readily imagine the criticism which would have been levelled at honorable senators upon this side of the Chamber if they had delivered the speeches which have been delivered by those honorable senators. Both of their deliverances were extremely conservative in character. Senator O’ Keefe declared that the reform proposed in this Bill will involve the Postal Department in a great loss, and that only wealthy individuals and big institutions will be gainers under it. I would remind him that, irrespective of whether a loss or a gain results from the initiation of penny postage, the whole of the people will participate in that loss or gain. For many years it has been felt by honorable senators that the adoption of a system of penny postage would be of great advantage to the people generally. But the difficulty which has always confronted us has been, “ Can we afford it?” We must recollect, however, that under Federation we occupy an entirely different position from that which we occupied when the Postal Department was conducted by the various States. Ever since Federation was initiated, Victoria has been enjoying the benefits conferred by penny postage. But now that the bookkeeping system has expired, the loss incurred in that State has to be made up by the Commonwealth.
– Will not there be a greater loss in the future?
– There may be. But the point which we have to consider is whether it is advisable that we should put all the States upon the same footing by adopting penny postage, or whether we should increase the postal rates in the different States. Seeing that Victoria has enjoyed penny postage for ten years, during which period she has herself borne the loss which the adoption of that system has involved, it would be unreasonable to increase the postage rate in that State to 2d.
– Some years ago the question of adult suffrage arose in the Senate, and an argument adducedat the time was that, inasmuch as South Australia already had adult suffrage, our duty was to put the States on an electoral equality. It was argued that we could not go back and substitute a conservative suffrage.
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that that is a fair analogy ?
– Yes. Under the Constitution it is our duty to put the States on an absolute equality. In my opinion, the only sufficient justification for increasing the postage rate in Victoria to 2d. per½ ounce would be the fact that we could not pay our way without making that addition. When we were first called upon to consider a Tariff, we had States which were Free Trade and States which were highly Protectionist. We had to consider the question of revenue, as well as the question of Protection. A majority of the members of this Parliament who had to deal with the Tariff were Protectionists. It was a case of give and take, of raising the duty in one place, and reducing it in another. But here we have to deal with one set of charges, and not with a multiplicity of articles. If Senator O’Keefe tells me that, in his opinion, our proper course would be to raise the postal rate in Victoria to 2d., because a majority of the States have that rate, I disagree with him.
– The honorable senator said that we could not go back.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT
GOULD. - It is not reasonable to go back on what is regarded as an improved facility, unless, of course, we are driven by dire necessity.
– The honorable senator would allow Victoria to loaf on the other States?
– If, on the other hand, we decide to continue things as they are, un- questionably the loss in Victoria will have to be made up by the other States. That it not reasonable; and even Senator O’Keefe recognises that. Are we to level up or to level down? Are we to go down to the rate which has been in existence in one of the largest States, or to double that rate? I do not think it would be reasonable to do the latter. If all the States were now on an equality, with a twopenny rate, I might feel inclined to say that we are not justified, at present, in facing the big loss which undoubtedly will be entailed by penny postage. But we have got rid of the bookkeeping system, and have a common pool. I do not see how we are to deal with this question on fair and equitable lines, unless we put the States on an equality with a penny rate. It has been stated by the Honorary Minister that, in certain States, there is a radius of 20 or 30 miles within which the rate is1d., and beyond that 2d. It would not be possible to introduce that system throughout the Commonwealth without causing a great deal of difficulty and trouble; and even then you could not measure out a fair meed of justice to Victoria. A loss of£275,000 a year is estimated if we enact that all letters shall be carried in each State at 1d. per½ ounce. But for an additional expenditure of £75,000, we can have one system throughout Australia. In the first place, I am induced to support penny postage by reason of the position in Victoria to-day. If we make a change, we must adopt a rate which will not be to the prejudice of one-third of the population in the Commonwealth. Then arises the question, “ Is it well to stop at£275,000 in order to save£75,000, or to incur an annual loss of £350,000?” I did hope that the Honorary Minister would be able to furnish estimates as to what would be the result of penny postage in future years.
– They would be very problematical, but I have figures showing the results in Victoria.
– The honorable senator might have ascertained the probable increase in the number of letters per capita. He might have gone a step further and ascertained what would be the cost under the penny rate, and on that he could have made an estimate based largely on Victorian experience, which shows that the increase in communication has been very considerable. He told us that in 1900, that is before penny postage was established in Victoria, the number of letters per head sent through the post was 52.8, whereas in 1908 the number had increased to 82.35, showing an increase of thirty letters per person. When a comparison is made, it will be found, I think, that the increase has been very much greater under a penny rate than under a twopenny rate. At page 40 of their report the Postal Commission say -
While your Commissioners are of the opinion that the postage rates within the States should be made uniform at the rate of id. per 5 ounce, they cannot recommend its adoption until the telegraph and telephone services are placed upon a self-supporting basis.
While the increase per head in Victoria had been from 52 to 72 per head during a period of four years - and the increase, as I have shown, was to 82 during a period of eight years - the increase in none of the other States had exceeded nine letters per head. This shows that something is to be gained by penny postage.
– There was bound to be an increase.
– There was a much greater increase in Victoria than in the other States.
– Still that involved a loss.
– I admit that at once. The honorable senator said that the history of Great Britain would not apply with great authority to our case.
– I said that Great Britain could not be compared with Australia.
– I hold in my hand a work entitled Sir Rowland Hill : The Story of a
Great Reform. The author is Sir Rowland Hill’s daughter. At the end of the work, under the head of results, there will be found a passage taken from a pamphlet which was published under the name of Rowland Hill, in February, 1864. It reads as follows -
My pamphlet on “Post Office Reform” was written in the year 1836. During the preceding twenty years - viz., from 1S15 to 1835 inclusive - there was no increase whatever in the postoffice revenue, whether gross or net, and, therefore, in all probability, none in the number of letters ;
– That was before free education though.
– That has had a certain effect. The quotation continues - and though there was a slight increase in the revenue, and, doubtless, in the number of letters, between 1835 and the establishment of penny postage early in 1840 - an increase chiefly due, in my opinion, to the adoption of part of my plan, viz., the establishment of day mails toand from London - yet, during the whole period of twenty-four years immediately preceding the adoption of penny postage, the revenue, whether gross or net, and the number of letters, were,, in effect, stationary.
Contrast with this, the rate of increase under the new system which has been in operation, during a period of about equal length. In the first year of penny postage the letters more’ than doubled, and though since then the increase has, of course, been less rapid, yet it has beenso steady that, notwithstanding the vicissitudes of trade, every year, without exception, has shown a considerable advance on the preceding year, and the first year’s number is now nearly quadrupled. As regards revenue, there was, of course, at first a large falling off - about a million in gross and still more in net revenue. Since then, however, the revenue, whether gross or net, has rapidly advanced, till now it even exceeds its former amount, the rate of increase, both of letters and revenue, still remaining undiminished.
In short, a comparison of the year 1863 with 1838 (the last complete year under the old system) shows that the number of chargeable letters has risen from 76,000,000 to 642,000,000; and that the revenue, at first so much impaired, has not only recovered its original amount, but risen, the gross from ^2,346,000 to about ^3,870,000, and the net from ,£1,660,000 to about £1, 790,000.
Sir Rowland Hill then alludes te* many matters which, he contends, have improved in consequence of the introduction of jenny postage. In 1836 education had not made great strides in Great Britain, but since then it has made very great advances, with necessarily an increase in letter-writing. People in a class which could not write years ago can both write and read to-day. The movement which has taken place from village to city and vice versa has induced persons to write. Previously, letters were not written by persons who remained in their own villages. All these things have to be taken into consideration, because they have undoubtedly affected the increased number of letters sent through the post since the penny rate was introduced. Under the present proposal for the reduction of our postage rates it is estimated that the loss will be £350,000 a year. According to the Royal Commission’s report, the estimate some years ago was a much smaller sum. It has been increased. But I am prepared to take the Minister’s figures as approximately correct. I also recognise that it will cost more to run the Post Office in consequence of the increased number of letters that will have to be distributed. Today there are complaints that many of ow postal officials are underpaid and overworked. The Royal Commission has inquired into these matters and made recommendations which I have no doubt will be favorably considered by the Government. To contend that the increased business will not increase the cost of managing the Post Office is to argue against common sense and the teachings of history. But I anticipate rapid developments in this country. It is true that I should like to see it developing much more rapidly than it is doing, but, nevertheless, population is increasing, the volume of business in all our great cities is unquestionably immensely greater than it was ten years ago, and the signs of greater prosperity are on every hand. Most of us believe that there will soon be considerable additions to our population. All these signs point to increasing revenue. The Post Office will be a greater service and will have a much larger revenue at its command. This increased volume of business will enable it to a large extent to recover the loss that will ensue at the commencement of these changes. If I thought that, as the result of what is proposed, the employes would not be paid adequate wages, or that proper facilities would not be provided for persons resident in country districts, I should deprecate any change in the system. But I look at the matter from the stand-point of a man who believes in Australia, and who is confident that we are about to have a material increase in our population and in our volume of business. Therefore, I am prepared to accept what is now proposed as a step in the right direction, and one which the circumstances of the Commonwealth will permit us to take. It is certain that we have to make a change of some sort, and as any change which we can make will amount to a loss of £275,000, I agree with the Government that we might as well make the larger reform and incur the loss of £350,000 at once. Some honorable senators contend that the proposal will benefit only a few individuals. But I believe that every individual in the community benefits by an advance of this character, even though the benefit derived by some persons may apparently be small. We wish to encourage trade and intercourse. We wish to do all we can to improve business relations. I do not look upon the Post, Telegraph, and Telephone services purely from a revenueraising point of view. They are services which are conducted for the benefit of the people of Australia. They require these conveniences, and any little deficit upon them should be made up out of the general revenue.
– Does the honorable senator call a loss of half-a-million a year “ a little deficit”?
– No; I have admitted that the increased cost of the service will be considerable, though I believe that it will be greatly diminished in the course of years. In Great Britain you can send a letter 4 ounces in weight from one end of the country to the other for1d. Here it is proposed that the rate shall be half an ounce for1d. I look forward to another reform which will increase the amount of mail matter that will be carried for1d. I believe that it will be possible later to carry letters up to, say, one ounce in weight for that sum. There is also another advance that I should like to see, and that is in the direction of more frequent deliveries of letters in our principal cities. It is almost inconceivable that in days like these there should be only three deliveries per day in Melbourne and Sydney.
– The honorable senator is greedy if he wants more. The man in the bush sometimes gets only one delivery per month.
– In the great cities of England, and the Continent of Europe, there are deliveries every hour or two. Just think of he advantage to business people when a nan is able to post a letter at 10 o’clock i n the morning with the knowledge that it will be delivered in another part of the city by, say, half -past 11.
– It is possible to communicate with a person in the same city in me minute over the’phone.
– I admit that the ‘phone is a great assistance, but it is also a great advantage to business men to have frequent deliveries of letters. I realize, however, that such a reform is not at present within the range of possibility. I also realize that we cannot at present increase the weight of postal matter carried for one penny. These are things which we may look forward to in the future. At any rate, it is my intention to support the Bill for the reasons I have given.
– I have listened very carefully to the debate on this Bill and have been much exercised in my mind as to the attitude I should take up.
– Do not sit on a rail !
– I have no intention of doing so; I shall declare my attitude very emphatically. I have always been an admirer of Mr. Henniker Heaton, who has been the persistent apostle of penny postage throughout the Empire. I say at once that I am personally in favour of penny postage throughout Australia, other things being equal. But as far as I can see the time is not ripe for the Commonwealth to indulge in what may be termed the luxury of penny postage. Senator Gould has said that those who oppose this reform are conservatives. On this occasion I may be included in that category. But let me also say that on various occasions our opponents have hurled at us the charge that we were not actuated by business motives. In opposing the second reading of this Bill I am actuated by the opinion that we cannot at present afford the loss which the proposal will involve. We have the authority of the PostmasterGeneral himself for the statement that, in the first year, penny postage will cost the Commonwealth£400,000. I think that that sum could be spent to better purpose than by conferring a benefit upon a few people in this Commonwealth. There is no denying the fact that penny postage will benefit, not the greater number of our people, but only the few. Senator O’Keefe gave a very apt illustration from his own experience as a business man and as a private individual. He told us that by the advent of penny postage he would have benefited to the extent of 5s. a week while he was a business man, but that the benefit to him would have been something like three halfpence per week while he was a private individual. I do not think that the average worker in Australia will write any more letters because the postage rate is brought down from twopence to one penny. Supposing that he continues to write as many letters as he is now doing, the saving to him will, to use the Minister’s own words, be infinitesimal. Are we going to burden the taxpayers of Australia to the extent of £400,000 per annum to achieve a saving for an infinitesimal portion of the population. If during the ten years of Federation the Postal Department had paid its way - and that is what I want to see - I should have supported the second reading of this measure. Senator Findley cannot say that it has paid its way, nor can he fix approximately the date when it will. I have no desire that State institutions should be run only for profit, but I believe they should pay their way, and if there is a balance of profit on their operations, the community should get the benefit of it. If it could be shown that there was a profit on the operations of the Post and Telegraph Department, this is a reform which I should be prepared to welcome. It is well known that many of the servants of the Post and Telegraph Department have not been receiving the remuneration for their services which they ought to receive, and we know that the present Government have determined to give them better wages in the future.
– If postage were free, would it make any difference to them ?
– According to the honorable senator’s argument, they would get no wages then.
– If I am permitted to state my own argument in my own way, I have no doubt that I shall be able to reply to Senator McGregor’s interjection. I. say that the Government recognise that many of the servants of the Department have not in the past received the remuneration to which they were entitled, and intend to improve their position. I also recognise that when, as a member of this Parliament, I have approached the Postmaster- General - and I do not single out the present occupant of the office, since I speak of an experience of three and ahalf years as a member of the Senate, during which time we have had three or four different Postmasters-General - and have asked for increased postal facilities for remote places, the reply with which I have invariably been met has been, “ We cannot do what you ask, because the service you request would not pay.”
– That is only carrying out the honorable senator’s present argument. He says that, if he thought it would pay, he would be in favour of this proposal.
– The Minister, with his usual impetuosity, is getting ahead of himself again. He is not the man today that he was when I listened to him from the other side of the House two or three months ago. If we can afford to lose £400,000 in the first year of the operation of this proposal, I say that we can better afford to apply that money to providing postal facilities for remote districts of Australia. I have said that I should welcome this measure if the Post and Telegraph Department had been paying its way. Recognising that it has not been paying its way, and cannot be expected to do so for some time to come, I cannot support this proposal at the present juncture. I do not know what the inquiry held by the Postal Commission has cost the country ; but I know that a number of members of this Parliament devoted themselves laboriously to the consideration of the affairs of this Department. I know that their investigation has cost a considerable sum. It would have been only fair to this Parliament, and to the members of the Commission who devoted themselves conscientiously to their important inquiry, to have waited until Parliament had an opportunity to discuss their report before the introduction of this Bill. I say that the Bill is premature ; and. because it is, I intend to oppose it. It is not that I am not in favour of penny postage - I should like to see penny postage established throughout the Empire - but I say that, at the present time, Australia cannot afford to lose £400,000 in one year. If we lose £400,000 under this proposal in the first year of its operation, it must be remembered that we shall continue to lose heavily under it for some years to come. Senators de Largie and O’Keefe have pointed out that the increase in the volume of business which is likely to follow from the adoption of penny postage will necessarily involve an increase of the cost of working the Department. I regret the necessity of having to oppose the second reading of this Bill, but I must do so, because I think we are not in a position to spend £400,000 this year to give effect to his reform.
– The honorable senator might vote for the principle by supporting the second reading of the Bill.
– I shall not do so.i saythat the£400,000 might be spent in the development of the Northern Territory, or on the construction of the transcontinental railways which the Government have in view.
– We shall have to ask where the money is to come from for those works.
– That is beside the question. When we are discussing the works to whichI have referred, I shall say where I think the money required for them should come from ; but, as one of the custodians of the public purse, I say now that we cannot afford to drop £400,000 this year in order to establish penny postage. If the Government think that we can afford to spend so much money, I contend that it might be spent in some other way with much greater benefit to Australia.
– I desire, at the outset, to announce that I intend to oppose the second reading of this Bill. I shall do so for several reasons. The first reason for my opposition to this proposal is that no one can deny that it is brought forward in the interests of the residents of the cities of the Commonwealth. There is no other end in view in submitting it than to relieve business firms in all the cities of Australia of a contribution which they should make towards the cost of government in the Commonwealth.
– The honorable senator’s Australian view-point is becoming restricted.
– Senator Findley may think so, but on similar proposals I have heard the honorable senator express opinions very different from those which he has expressed to-day. I say that this legislation will be in the interests of the cities and against the interests of the country districts of Australia. I have had some experience in postal matters since I have been a representative of Western Australia in the Senate. Whenever it has been necessary for me to appeal to the Postal Department for facilities which were absolutely necessary if the development of outside portions of the State I represent were to continue, I have always been met with the reply that, because the revenue to be derived from the granting of those facilities would not equal the expenditure involved, it was impossible to grant them. It must be admitted that, in this respect, the residents of our cities are under no disability whatever. They have postal, telegraphic, and telephonic facilities at their hands, but when we look to the outside districts we find settlers so placed that they can only get a mail once in a month or once in six weeks. We must recognise that people so situated labour under disabilities which are never experienced by the city man, who receives his mail every morning before he receives his breakfast.
– The service provided for the man in an outside district costs the community very much more than the service provided for the man in the city.
– There is no reason why it should not cost considerably more than the service provided for the man in the city, because it is the man in the outside district who is feeding the man in the city. For this reason, it is the man in the outside district who should first be considered. But will the Minister tell me that, under this Bill, he will be considered as compared with the man in the city ?
– He will be advantaged as much as the man in the city.
– Nothing of the kind. If I could be shown that the man who receives a mail once in every four weeks will derive as much advantage from this proposal as will the man in a city, who gets his mail every morning before he gets his breakfast, I should give up my opposition to the proposal.
– It is so, because the cost Ls borne by the whole community.
– Of course the cost is borne by the whole community, but the man outside, who receives the mail once every month, contributes equally to the Government expenditure with the city man, who receives his mail every morning at breakfast time. The city man is being considered, and the outside man is being made a scapegoat, by this legislation. There is another factor which impels me to oppose the second reading of this Bill. I take precisely the same ground as has been taken by Senator O’Keefe. We all know that a very exhaustive inquiry has recently been conducted into the administration of the Postal Department by a Royal Commission ; and I hold that to select as a subject for legislative action one item from amongst the many which have been investigated by. that body is a wrong course to pursue. I shall oppose the Bill, because the Government have evidently taken into consideration only the granting of increased postal facilities to the residents of our cities. I happen to be the representative of a State in which the Department incurs a deficit year after year.
– Only in common with four of the other States.
– Exactly. But I know full well the circumstances of Western Australia, and I hold that the passing of this measure will cripple that State more and more as time goes on. It cannot be otherwise.
– All the other States will be in the same predicament.
– Four of them will be. The Government admit that the introduction of penny postage throughout the Commonwealth will involve us in a loss of practically £500,000 during the first year. But, after all, that is merely an estimate ; and experience may prove that it is a very inaccurate estimate. If the Ministry are right in urging that the establishment of penny postage will result in an increased volume of business, I say that it will also involve an increased cost which will practically be borne by the settlers in our outlying districts. In other words, they will be still further penalized. In my opinion, our first aim should be to provide rational postal facilities in every one of those districts. The number of persons who receive only a weekly, fortnightly, or monthly mail service, is veryconsiderable. Those persons contribute equally with city residents to the Commonwealth revenue; and, therefore, have an equal right to our consideration.
– There are large numbers of persons who receive only two or three mails a week, and who desire a more frequent service.
– Exactly. But they cannot get that more frequent service because of the increased expenditure which would be involved. Yet the Government come forward with a proposition under which they will sacrifice at least £400,000 during the first year of its operation.
– Their original estimate was £600,000.
– The actual loss may work out at £750,000. It would have been much better if the Government had_ recognised the wisdom of calling upon Victoria to pay the same postal rates as are charged in the other States. I have no desire to continue the differentiation in postal rates which exists between the States at the present time; but we ought to consider the urgent necessity of extending postal facilities to those who are righteously entitled to, and who are daily demanding, them. I do not, for a moment, suggest that we should establish a post-office for the convenience of half-a-dozen people. But, of my own knowledge, there are communities in the back country which number many hundreds, and which receive a mail service only once a week. The reason why these communities are not granted a more frequent service is that the Department has not the money with which to pay for it. Yet the Government submit for our consideration a measure in which they practically say, “ Let us cheapen the cost of postal facilities to the city man, to the business man.” I hold that if the Bill be carried settlers in the back-blocks of this country will, in the matter of these facilities, be still further penalized. The same remark is applicable to telephonic and telegraphic communication. I know of a place in Western Australia which for years has vainly attempted to obtain telegraphic or telephonic facilities. The reason advanced by the Department for its refusal to grant those facilities is that the service would not pay. Yet the Government are now attempting, in the interests merely of city residents, to reduce the postal rates which are already operative. Seeing that in this Bill they have dealt with only one item of the report of the Postal Commission, I shall be obliged to oppose the motion for its second reading. Until that report is dealt with in a comprehensive fashion, I shall have no option but to oppose every similar measure which may be brought forward.
– We are now engaged in bringing to a termination what I believe is regarded by all sections of the community as a truly Federal session. The Braddon section of the Constitution has practically expired, and the bookkeeping system, which required every tradesman to keep an account of all the articles which he happened to forward to an adjacent State, has also disappeared. I think that the Government are entitled to some credit for their effort to give legisla- tive effect to a further complement of Federal reform by abolishing the differential postal rates which exist in the various States. The two principal objections which have been urged to the Bill are that the employés of the Postal Department are not being fairly treated, and that, if we incur the great loss which the establishment of penny postage will temporarily involve, those employes must continue to submit to conditions which do not reflect credit on the Commonwealth. But it must be remembered that, since its transfer to the Federation, a marked improvement has taken place in the Postal Department. No person can deny that. Even the Postal Commission, which went into the subject very exhaustively, was compelled to acknowledge that the payment of officers, especially postmasters in New South Wales, had been increased by almost 50 per cent.
– How has that increase been paid?
– I presume that every person in the community had a share in the payment?
– I think so. Those whom the officers were serving have not paid the increase.
– In the first place, of course, the New South Wales Treasury was held responsible for the payment of the increase, but certainly its people had to foot the bill. Even the increase of the minimum to £110 per year under Federal rule was a distinct improvement on anything previously known to postal employe’s. In view of the undeniably great improvement which has taken place throughout the service, from the standpoint of both the employés and the general public, we can afford to ignore much of what we hear about sweating in the service to-day.
– If a further improvement were justifiable, the honorable senator would not deny it.
– Quite so. It is about time that we improved the service from the stand-point of the ordinary man in the street; that is, as regards the carriage of letters.
– Does the honorable senator think that the present charges are too high?
– Compared with the rates in other countries, ours are manifestly too high.
– In which countries ?
– In New Zealand, Canada, the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Every country with any pretension to a high standard of civilization is far ahead of Australia.
– Does the honorable senator say that our charges are higher than Canada’s?
– I do, because penny postage prevails throughout the Dominion and in the Old Country.
– What about the other branches of the Postal Department? Senator LYNCH.- This huge organization was created to minister to the needs of the public. When we find that there has been a material increase from the stand -point of the employés, it is only fair that we should give effect to the desire of the public to make this service a greater instrument of public good. It has been urged that if we take this departure, and incur an annual loss of £400,000, which I hold would diminish rapidly, there would be no possible hope of extending postal facilities to deserving people in isolated parts of the Commonwealth. I yield to no one in sympathy with those who are engaged in the arduous work of developing the interior. I consider that it ought to be the first duty of the Government to see that the utmost consideration is extended to them in the matter of adequate post and telegraph facilities. I feel that if I were to oppose this proposal, I should be adopting a foolish attitude if I wish to achieve that result. Rather do I believe that, by supporting the proposal, I shall bring necessary postal facilities within the reach of the people in isolated parts of the Commonwealth much sooner than otherwise would be the case. I come from a State which is suffering more from the inability of the Commonwealth to extend these facilities than are the States in which closer settlement has proceeded more rapidly. The smaller States are not suffering to the extent to which the newer and larger States, such as Queensland and Western Australia, now suffer, and apparently will continue to suffer. I believe that with penny postage we should be able to extend necessary facilities to persons in distant parts much sooner than otherwise could be done. I, of course, may be asked for proof of that statement. We know that, according to the law of diminishing returns - a phrase which is used by economists - you can keep the rates of a service at a certain point, which will not only cause a drain on the capital account, hut also make the trading account not balance at the end of a period. You can take, for instance, the Melbourne tramway system, and raise the rates of the service to a point which will make it absolutely impossible for the management to make ends meet. At the same time, you can reduce the rates to a point which will enable the management not only to reimburse the outlay from capital account, but to show the highest maximum profit on the hading account. It is to the question of arriving at that scientific point which means the difference between loss, on the one hand, and gain on the other, that those who are charged with running this huge Department have to closely apply themselves. It is that scientific point at which we want to arrive. There are two proposals before us. One is to adhere to the present rate, and the other is to reduce it. If we find that by reducing the rate we shall be in a much more advantageous position, I hold that it is our duty to do so. Canada furnishes an example of what has happened in a kindred case. For many years the Dominion had an internal letter rate of 1½d. per½ ounce. When it was reduced to1d., a marked increase in the receipts was at once noticeable. So much so that the Dominion Treasurer stated in the House of Commons three years ago, that while the1½d. rate prevailed the Postal Department had to be assisted to the amount of from £123,000 to £143,000 a year, from other sources, in order to make ends meet; but that immediately after a penny rate was adopted, a change took place in its finances. What was it ? It was not a change of the kind which is predicted by the opponents of this Bill, but rather the contrary. The Dominion Treasurer said that the change was very satisfactory to Canadian finance; that the adoption of a penny rate throughout the Dominion and to the United Kingdom was the immediate cause of the wiping out of the annual deficit in the accounts of the Postal Department, and assisting the Consolidated Revenue by no less than £184,000 a year. It is quite plain that the1½d. rate was the means of keeping a great Department in a state of bankruptcy year by year, and that immediately after it was replaced with a penny rate, it was enabled to contribute£184,000 a year to the finances of the Dominion. We are quite entitled to expect satisfactory results to accrue in Australia, where conditions very much similar to those in Canada obtain.
– How many years is it since the penny rate was introduced into Canada?
– About ten years ago.
– The population has increased.
– We hope to see our population increase. I do not know what stronger inducement than a Labour Government there can be for increasing the population. I know that a number of men abstained from marrying until a Labour Government came into power because, previously, they could see no possibility of making ends meet. No matter how unconsciously we may be biased in our opinions, we cannot afford to ignore the very satisfactory results which penny postage has brought about in Canada. Taking the number of letters posted, the increase per cent. as compared with 1899 rose from 18.56 in 1900 to 89.88 in 1905. The result in New Zealand, too, is very encouraging. Although its population was less than a fourth of that of Australia, still five or six years ago it reduced its letter rate from 2d. per½ ounce to1d., and in four years the total increase in the number of letters posted was 72.78.
– The same statements were made then as are being made to-day.
– The conditions today are very different. The use of the telephone makes a great difference in the amount of mail matter carried.
– The telephone is not ft new discovery. It was in existence when penny postage was established in Canada and New Zealand.
– Not in the Old Country.
– Although it may not have been used so extensively, still it was in existence. Owing to the operation of penny postage in Canada, the Postal Department was converted into a highly profitable institution, so much so that it was able to contribute £184,000 a year towards the general revenue, besides helping to improve the postal facilities in the back country.
– Where did the hon- orable senator obtain these figures?
– I got the figures from a speech made by the Dominion Treasurer in the House of Commons in 1906.
– Do they apply to the postal branchalone or to all the branches ?
– The branches are not mixed up in Canada. The telephone is under the Canadian Pacific Railway Company.
– In Canada telephones and telegraphs are private concerns.
– That makes the illustration still more applicable to our case. The results of penny postage in the United Kingdom have been equally encouraging in the direction of cheapening facilities and also increasing the profits. . Since Federation the loss on the working of our Postal Department, even with a twopenny rate in all States except Victoria, has been no less than £948,000, so that it has had to lean on another Department - the Treasury, I suppose - for the huge sum of £100,000 a year in order to make ends meet. What hope have we of effecting any improvement so long as we continue the existing conditions?
– You will make it worse ; that is all.
– Even looking at the matter from that point of view let us make it worse, and then we shall have a very much better chance of effecting an improvement. It is a very old maxim that things have to be made worse in order to effect an improvement. While things are proceeding in a slipshod fashion it is very hard to arouse the people from their lethargy, but when things become intolerable thenwill come the time for the people to say that an adequate amount shall be provided in order to put the Postal Department in a sound position.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– I wish to draw attention to the state of the Post and Telegraph Department viewed as a whole since the Federal Government assumed the control of it. I find that between 1901 and 1909-10 the finances of the Department have undergone little change. In 1901-2 the percentage of revenue to expenditure was 96. The percentage has oscillated up and down, reaching 94 in 1908-9. Last year, 1909-10, the percentage of revenue to expenditure was again 98. These figures show that during the period of Federal control the position has not been improved in the direction of furnishing extra capital in order that the Post Office might push forward and extend facilities to the country districts. The improvement, indeed, has been so trifling that it is hardly worth while to take it into consideration. It is clear that something must be done. What should be done is clearly indicated by the Royal Commission. The Commission has reported to the effect that in order to put this service in anything approaching an up-to-date position it is necessary to expend about £2,000,000. Looking over the accounts for the same period of nine years, I find that the expenditure has exceeded the “revenue by £948,000; or, roughly speaking, an averageof£100,000 a year. That amount of money has had to be made up out of the general revenue of the country for the erection of buildings, the construction of telephone and telegraph lines, and the general purposes of the Department. So that at the rate of progress that has been made during the last nine years, it would take us twenty years more, continuing in the same hum-drum fashion, to bring the service into an up-to-date position. It is, therefore, impossible to regard the present situation as satisfactory even from the stand-point of those who are opposing this Bill. We must either go forward or backward ; and my contention is that if we pass this Bill it will be the means of putting the Department on a more solvent basis. We shall experience in Australia similar results to those which have been effected in Canada, where the Postal Department has been changed from being a business run at a loss of about £130,000 a year, to one which contributes about £180,000 a year to the revenue of the country.
– Will the honorable senator please give us his authority for that statement ?
– My authority is the Postmaster -General of Canada, speaking in the Canadian House of. Commons in 1906.
– Would it not be better to quote the experience of Victoria rather than of Canada?
– No illustration which could be quoted is nearer to our own circumstances than that of Canada.
– Surely Victoria approaches more closely to Australian experience ?
– Victoria is a small State, and does not possess that proportion of distant areas that Canada does.
– The fact that Victoria has very little isolated country should surely have enabled, it to produce better results in the Post and Telegraph Department.
– But in Victoria the two branches of the service - postal and tele. graphic - were combined, whereas in Canada the one service with which we are now concerned, the postal branch, is a separate organization, controlled by the Government. The telegraphic service is largely in the hands of private enterprise. Seeing that the present position does not give us any hope of obtaining improved facilities for the country, and that we have a chance of improving that position by means of this Bill, we should learn from the example of Canada, where a reduction In postage rates has not only wiped out a deficit, but converted the Post Office into a revenue-producing agency. I quite recognise that we have in our service at the present time a number of underpaid attendants. But I believe that there is a greater proportion of underpaid attendants outside the clerical staff than inside it. I have a clear recollection of one case in Western Aus tralia, where a woman was in charge of a post-office at a railway station, performing the duties of postmistress for the munificent sum of £1 per annum. There are quite a number of big landed proprietors in the district, and this woman was expected to be in attendance at the office twice a day to receive and hand out letters.
– Six hundred times a year for £1 - one farthing per time !
– I admit that the case was altered when I made representations about it; but, even then, the remuneration nf the postmistress was only slightly improved. Radical improvements are also called for in respect to the non-official post-offices throughout Australia. Those in charge are, I believe, generally underpaid; but I am of -the opinion that there is not, within the salaried branch of the Department, that amount of sweating that we have been led to believe. There is far more sweating outside the Department proper. In order to secure more reasonable terms for those people who are in charge of various post-offices throughout the country, I. should be very chary of taking any step that might be the means of securing to them better terms than they have received in the past. I support this Bill, believing that it will be the means of putting the Post Office on a much better footing than it occupies to-day. If the experience of Canada and New Zealand is repeated in Australia, it will go a long way indeed towards wiping out the temporary deficit that will be occasioned by making this change. I believe that the Government should be a model employer, especially in this huge postal organization that spreads throughout the country. Just as I think it is necessary that the Government should set an example in dealing with its employe’s, so, also, I am of opinion that it is necessary that a change should be made in respect to ministering to the wants of the public. The Post and Telegraph Department was created for the special purpose of serving the public, increasing the means of communication, making it easier for one person to communicate with another throughout the length and breadth of the continent. Seeing that our postal facilities have remained stationary for about nine years, whilst we have taken steps in the direction of improvement in other respects, I think it is high time to make a move in_ the direction indicated by this Bill, which has for its object to increase and improve the means of communication throughout Australia.
– I . intend to support the second reading of this Bill. I think it is decidedly a step in the right direction. I have no sympathy whatever with those honorable senators who desire to put this Government Department, as they call it, upon a strictly business basis. I look upon the Post and Telegraph Department as an absolute necessity in the development of the country. Wherever the seller goes, the Government should follow him with postal, telegraphic, and, if possible, telephonic communication. The post, the telegraph, the telephone, and the railway systems, may be compared to the arterial system of the body. It is like the circulation of the blood. The more freely the blood flows, the better for the individual, and the better for the nation. Some honorable senators have claimed that the Department should be placed upon a business footing, and made to pay its own expenses. That seems to me to be one of the most antiquated ideas that I have ever heard uttered in the Senate.
– Great Britain gets £4,000,000 per annum out of the Post and Telegraph Department.
– I do not trouble about what Great Britain does. We are here to adopt new ideas, not to pursue the antiquated notions prevalent in Great Britain, and which ought to be buried seven feet underground. Let us look, as sane men, upon our present system. Here we are in Australia, situated differently from any other country that I know of. There is no country under the sun to-day which occupies the same position as Australia does. Australia owns the whole of this continent. The people of Australia own the land of the continent. The- Government of the country, acting for the people, carries on enterprises which are never looked at by the people of the great majority of countries. In Australia, the people do for themselves a great many things that are left to private enterprise in almost every other country I know of. They have spent large sums of money in developing the resources of the country, in building railways, roads, and bridges, in erecting telegraph lines and building postoffices, and in providing almost every convenience of civilization, even in the most remote parts of the continent. Each one of these conveniences has added to the value of the lands of the Commonwealth, and who are at present getting the benefit of that added value? 1 have said here, dozens of times, that, at the present moment, there is a river of community-created value amounting to no less than £20,000,000 passing into the pockets of the private land-owners of Australia. So long as there remains this huge reservoir of community-created cash, I shall not cavil at proposals for cheap postage, or any other cheap service, which this or any other Government may seek to establish.
– King Charles’s head again.
– I know that this shocks Senator Walker, who is a politician of the old school. He thinks that public money should be expended solely for private benefit, whilst I contend that any profit which accrues from the expenditure of public money in developing the resources of the country belongs to the community. We are going to pay for penny postage out of this community-created value. If Senator Walker lives long enough he will see another turn of the screw. We are only beginning now, and, in the near future, we shall have, not merely penny postage, but free postage.
– And why not free clothing ?
– We shall come to that in due course. Why should there be all this worry about what it costs to send a letter here, a newspaper there, or a parcel somewhere else? Under a proper system each individual in the community could go to a post-office, and put in his letter, his newspaper or his parcel, and it would be sent on to the person to whom it was addressed without any charge to the individual sending it, because the piper would be paid by the community as a whole. That is the ideal I have for our Post Office, and I think it may very well be realized within the next twenty years. I am sure that if a Labour Government continues in power, it will be realized within half that period.
– The honorable senator does not always appreciate what they propose.
– That is so, but when they do what I believe to be right, I give them unstinted support. When they propose to do what I do not think would be in the interests of the Commonwealth I do not hesitate to oppose them. I am not tied to the chariot-wheel of any Government as is Senator Walker. A Government of the party to which the honorable senator belongs might submit a measure involving the ruin of the country, but the honorable senator would vote for it, if he thought that by opposing it he would injure his party, lt is party with him first, and the Commonwealth second, whilst with me the Commonwealth is first and party second, and 1 hope it will always be so.
– What a superior person the honorable senator must be.
– Just so. I do not suppose that Senator St. Ledger has ever attempted to reach such a rarified political atmosphere as that. He endeavours to accommodate himself to every environment He has fought under a number of flags already, and probably before he finishes his political course he will hoist a few more. I supported this proposal when very few members of the Labour party were prepared to do so. Many of them opposed it when it was previously (introduced by the Deakin Government, and for exactly the same reasons - fallacious reasons, as I think they are - as those which have been brought forward by some Labour senators here to-night. What are the reasons given by members of the Labour party opposing the Government on this Bill? They say that this is merely playing into the hands of the large business people in the city. They contend that if we give them the benefit of cheap postage we shall be only adding to their dividends.
– Is that why I am opposing the measure?
– If I were to express my honest opinion, I should say that I believe Senator Walker is opposing if because he sees that in the near future the deficit resulting from the adoption of this system, whatever it may be, will be met out of land-value taxation. The honorable senator knows that this is only the beginning, the letting-in of the waters, and he is wise enough to recognise it.
– The honorable senator is afraid that he will be drowned.
– He is, and he is right, for he will be drowned. I mean to say that the system under which he and others have lived hitherto will be swamped in the new finance. One of the objections urged against this measure by honorable senators who ordinarily support the Government is that it will not benefit the great mass of the people, but will mean the paying of ,£400,000 a year into the coffers of the large business houses. I do not think that any idea could be more fallacious. We know that the keenest competition exists between the large business houses, and a concession of this kind ultimately finds its way to the mass of the people. That has been my experience since ever I began to take notice of things around me. Every one of these concessions ultimately finds its way into the pockets of the poorest people in the country. What may be termed the force of political or economic gravity makes that inevitable.
– What about a case where competition is eliminated?
– I do not know that there are any such cases in Australia. We know that business charges are passed on, as far as possible, to the public. A merchant must include in the expenses of his business postage, telegraphic, and telephonic charges, railway fares and freights, and so on. But if a man engaged in some business reduces his charges, another man engaged in the same business must, in selfdefence, do the same. Where we have to deal with a trust or combine, which, because of the elimination of competition, would not pass the benefit of such a concession as this on to the public, we propose to take to ourselves power to deal with it in another way. We propose to nationalize a business which has reached that stage. Several honorable senators have asked us to consider how this proposal is going to benefit the back-blocker. They have no doubt that it will benefit the man who lives in a city or a town, but they fear that the poor back-blocker will have to carry the burden. I say that no man in the community will be more benefited by cheap postage than the man who lives far back in the bush. What has been our experience of the reduction of postage rates and the establishment of the parcels post? We find that the catalogues of our largest business firms are now to be seen in the home of every selector. The people in the bush are enabled in this way to find out where they can get the best of goods in the large cities. They send their orders down, the firms send back the goods by the parcels post, and the Post Office collects the money. So business is done now between selectors in the back-blocks and large merchant houses at a discount, I believe, in many cases, of 100 per cent, on the price which they would have to pay to the local storekeeper.
– That would be nothing.
– They are able to get for £1 what they would have to pay the nearest local storekeeper £2 for.
– That would be a discount of 50 per cent.
– The reduction in j-rice ranges from 25 to 100 per cent. People living in the back-blocks are now able to transact business with city firms without leaving their homes, and with substantial advantage to themselves. I have been spoken to many times by bush storekeepers, who have asked me to do my best t-> abolish the parcels-post system. I have always refused to do so. I have told these people that 1 am not sent into Parliament to look after their interests, but those of the great mass of the community. If the people generally are benefited by the adoption of such a system, instead of abolishing it, we ought to extend it. I welcome this proposal. I believe it will benefit every citizen of Australia. It will make the wheels of business go faster, and will make it easier for people living in the bush to communicate with those who live in towns. It ought to be the object of every Government to make communication between residents in every part of Australia as easy as possible. The experience of other countries has proved that within a very few years penny postage pays for itself. If we take New Zealand, Canada, Great Britain, France, and almost any country of which we have knowledge, we shall find that the same thing has happened. For a year or two, no doubt, there has been a loss from a purely business point of view ; but in a few years that loss has been more than made up. I do not bold the idea that the Post Office should be looked upon as a revenue-producing Department. It ought to be a correspondence and information distributing Department, and the cost of carrying it on should be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue. There is a plentiful reserve of taxation which can be drawn upon if the necessity arises, and I have no doubt that if the present Government remain in power that reserve will have to yield up some further portion of its riches. I do not intend to say very much more upon this Bill. The proposal itself is the strongest argument which can possibly be advanced on its behalf. The penny wise and pound foolish ideas which have been expounded so very liberally by honorable senators to-day excite no sympathy in me. We ought to carry on the government of the country by modern and enlightened methods. Let us make communication and travel as cheap as possible. Let us enable those who are living on the eastern side of Australia to travel to the western side of the continent, so that they may know exactly the class of country we occupy. That is the ideal which we ought to strive to attain. The financial side of this question does not occasion me the slightest anxiety. At present we have £20,000,000 which is absolutely going to waste. Whilst that reservoir stands, we shall never be at a loss to carry on the government of the country.
– The honorable senator means that we should use the reservoir to water our gardens.
- Senator Givens has put the position in excellent terms. 1 agree that many of the employes of the Postal Department are not being treated as they ought to be. I have in my possession information which points absolutely to sweating lt is the duty of the Department to attack that evil wherever it finds it. The people of the Commonwealth’ cannot afford to sweat their employes. They will not permit anything of the kind to continue when once they discover its existence. There is sweating in connexion with the permanent officials of the Department, but there is even worse sweating in the semi-official, allowance, and contract post-offices. Large numbers of the persons in charge of semi-official postoffices - I do not know why they are called semi-official, seeing that those who manage them are not permitted to engage in any other occupation - receive only 30s. per week, out of which they actually have to pay rent to the Commonwealth for the building in which it carries on its business. That is a system which ought to be abolished. To many people in country districts, it is a great convenience to have the postmaster or postmistress residing on the premises. The persons who occupy these positions ought not to-be charged rent. Recently we have decided to advance every employ^ in the Telephone Branch who is over twenty-one years of age, to a minimum wage of two guineas per week. I think that that ought to be the minimum wage in connexion with semi-official post-offices. I was recently looking at the statistics connected with a number of these offices, and T find that many of those who are in charge of them handle cash ranging from £200 to £400 a year. They occupy positions of responsibility. They must be telegraph operators. They have charge of the correspondence of the people of the districts in which they are located ; they transact money order and savings bank work - in fact, they do all the work connected with a post-office for the paltry cash payment of 30s. a week. That system ought to be changed by the Government at the earliest opportunity.
– In many cases they receive only half that amount.
– No; those in charge of semi-official offices receive £110 per annum.
– The remark of Senator Long applies only to allowance offices. The persons in charge of those offices occupy quite a different position. They are allowed to engage in private business. They are usually storekeepers, and they rush each other, in order to secure the management of the post-office, because it brings business to them.
– They offer to do the work for nothing, and afterwards complain that they are not receiving sufficient remuneration.
– Exactly. But 1 hope that the Government will remedy the glaring anomaly which exists in connexion with our semi-official offices, under which persons who occupy positions of great responsibility are paid very much less than are the officials of the Telephone Branch in Melbourne, Sydney, or Brisbane. I do not suggest that the latter officials are overpaid, but I do say that they have not one tithe of the responsibility which attaches to the former. The Government ought to pay its officials decently. The first duty which the people of Australia require of any Ministry is that they shall pay their servants a living wage. Nothing that the Commonwealth ever did has been received with so much enthusiasm by the electors as has the establishment of a living wage, and the enactment of the provision under which women are paid the same rate as men. Every elector whom I have addressed upon the subject- and I have addressed a good many - has enthusiastically cheered that provision. I am sure that not one of those electors would desire the persons who are in charge of our semi-official post-offices to be paid less than a decent living wage.
– On the 1st January next all permanent employes of the Commonwealth will receive ^110 a year.
– But many of the persons who are in charge of our semiofficial post-offices occupy positions of great responsibility. They are situated in the country. They have the whole of the postal business of the district in their hands. They have to meet the public in every possible way, and everybody who has had any experience, knows what an amount of trouble and care that must involve. I hope that the Government will do something for them at the earliest opportunity. I support the second reading of the Bill with the greatest satisfaction, and trust it will be carried,
Senator SAYERS (Queensland) [8.40J.- In discussing this question, we have either to reconcile ourselves to taking a retrograde step or to adopt penny postage throughout the Commonwealth. At the present time the postal rate upon letters in Victoria is a penny, and under the Constitution we cannot discriminate as between State and State. Consequently, if we do not pass this Bill we shall have to increase the postage rate in Victoria to the level of that which is charged in other States. When we have taken a step in advance I do not think 1 hat we should turn back until we have thoroughly tested it. I regard the proposal which is embodied in this Bill as a step in the right direction. The people of the Commonwealth will regard penny postage as a boon. 1 do not think that in a young country like Australia anybody expects the Postal Department to pay its way. We must recollect that we are opening up the country, and that we have to send mails hundreds of miles into the bush. We must either do that or leave our settlers without any means of communication. As we wish to develop the country it is obvious that we must offer every inducement to settlement. I can recollect the time when there were scarcely any telegraphs in Queensland. When telegraphic communication was established there, the loss at first was very great. But as the years passed that loss became less and less.
– Does the Telegraph Department in Queensland pay?
– Perhaps it does not pay directly, but it certainly pays indirectly. Would the honorable senator like to go back thirty or forty years to the time when a man could receive a letter only if it were carried bv hand from one town to another? Would he like to revert to the period when it might be six months in transit ?
– That is why I oppose the Bill.
– I support the measure because I wish to see the Commonwealth advance.
– We must either advance or stand still.
– I cannot see how we can stand still. How can the Commonwealth permit the “continuance of penny postage in Victoria and call upon the other States to make up the loss which is thereby incurred ?
– Especially when in some of the other States the Postal Department yields a profit.
– We have never debited the Postal Department with interest on the cost of the transferred properties.
– I am quite aware of that. But I hope that before very long the Commonwealth will allow the States interest upon those properties. Indeed, that arrangement is part and parcel of the Federal agreement with them. If necessary, we can pay for the transferred properties by taking over a proportionate amount of the States’ indebtedness. We might even pay for those properties with Commonwealth notes. I heard the honorable senator dispute the facts which the Minister laid before the Senate. He was not in a position to take that course, except through the aid of his own knowledge, and what he had been told as a member of the Postal Commission. He had no data to go upon. He was not able to give any figures in refutation of the official figures submitted by the Minister.
– I could give any number of figures to substantiate what I said.
– The honorable senator was asked, from this side, if he could bring proof that the Minister’s statement was not correct, and he did not do so.
– I could easily show 4hat it was not correct. I said that I could not quote figures from a balancesheet, because one has not been issued.
– Perhaps I misunderstood the honorable senator. I am not prepared to say whether the statement read by the Minister is right or not. We have to face the position in which we find ourselves. If we do not pass this Bill, we shall have to bring the postal rate in Victoria to a level with that which obtains in the other States; but I do not think that honorable senators would care to take that step. Whenever a proposal has been made in the Old Country to cheapen the postage, it has met with the conservative cry that it would ruin the Post Office, and do harm generally. When Rowland Hill first proposed to adopt penny postage, and when other reformers in the Department made a progressive proposal, the Conservative party raised the cry that the Department was going to ruin the country. If we are to be guided by experience, it has proved that, although temporarily there is a deficiency in the postal revenue, within a few years it is equal to the revenue under the old system. Australia, of course, cannot be compared with Great Britain, whose Postal Department earns a ‘ profit of £4,000,000. That was not the case when the .postage rate was 6d. or is., because people resorted to devices of all sorts to cheat the Department. When a letter was tendered at a post-office to be marked “ is. to pay,” it also bore a mark indicating that everything was well with the family of the sender, and that there was no cause for the addressee to accept delivery. Immediately that mark was noticed by the addressee, he handed back the letter ; and it had to be carried back to the despatching office. The Postal Department had to carry the letter both ways for nothing. Under an enlightened system of cheap postage, the country progressed; and, instead of cheating the revenue by resorting to tricks, everybody paid his postage. I hope that the measure will be carried, and that penny postage will be equally successful in Australia, as I feel sure it will be in the course of a few years. If a small loss is incurred at the beginning, let it be borne by the whole Commonwealth. Why was penny postage established within a radius of 15 miles of a town? It was to encourage persons to send letters instead of despatching messengers. Why should not that benefit be extended to the whole of the people who, when all is said and done, have to pay the piper? I do not think that any liberal, fair-minded man will object to the introduction of penny postage throughout the Commonwealth.
– I desire to reply to what has been said by some opponents of this very Democratic measure. One honorable senator has stated that it ought not to have been brought down by the Government before they had become acquainted with the results of the inquiries by the Postal Commission. I think that they were under an obligation to the people to bring the measure down this session, because, in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, they announced their intention to bring in a system providing for uniform postage rates throughout the Commonwealth. In order to accomplish that object, they must either take from the people of Victoria the valuable privilege which they have enjoyed for many years, and make them pay more dearly for their postal services, dr establish penny postage throughout’ the Commonwealth. It would be a step in the wrong direction to compel the people of Victoria to pay the old rate, so that the only course open is to bring in a uniform penny rate. There is no doubt that a loss will result during the first few years of its operation, but I think that the volume of business will increase so much that in about four years the shortage in the revenue will be made good. Take, for example, the history of penny postage in Victoria. In 1900, before penny postage was introduced, her postal revenue was £425,837. On the 1st April, 1901, she introduced penny postage, and for that year - nine months under penny postage - her postal revenue was £401,475, showing a loss. In 1901-2 - which was a very bad season - it fell to £366, 299. In 1902-3, the increase of business resulted in a revenue of ,£391,397. In 1903-4, it was £420,424; in 1904-5, £431,015; in 1906-7, £502,357; in i9°7-8» £522>994J in 1908-9. ;£536>3°°; and in 1909-10, £574,311. The experience of Victoria shows that in the course of a few years penny postage is likely to’ increase the postal revenue to such an extent that it will be a great benefit to the Commonwealth. The Postal Commission asked the Parliament to indorse their recommendation that penny postage should be established throughout the State when it can be placed on a paying basis. Would it not be rather ridiculous to charge a penny rate on a letter between Melbourne and Albury, and a twopenny rate on a letter from Albury to Wodonga, a distance of a few miles? I think that the time has passed for distinguishing between States. We want to enact measures for the benefit of the whole of Australia. I, for one, am against a compliance with the recommendation of the Postal Commission re penny postage. Much has been said about the wages and conditions of workers in the Postal Department. It has been pointed out that a decrease in the revenue will mean lower wages in ‘the service. According to that argument, when the boon of free postage is established the employes will have to work for nothing. I see no reason to prevent them from enjoying fair conditions and better wages, even though we have universal penny postage. During my travels through New South Wales I have seen how postal facilities have benefited people in the backblocks. I have seen a vast tract of beautiful country which is in need of a railway, but the only means of communication at present is by means of a mail coach. Some of the mail coaches are run at a very low rate. At one place which I visited recently a man contracted for £12 a month to run a bi-weekly service, and the business increased so much that he was compelled to alter his turnout from a two-horse to a fourhorse. He applied to the Department for assistance, and he was granted £1 per week to get four extra horses. I am not one of those who believe in mail contractors being sweated, and I think that the introduction of penny postage will not interfere with them. Senator Walker is very much afraid that it will involve a loss of revenue. I have no fear on that score, because any loss can be made up in other directions. I believe that with penny postage there will be sufficient revenue to expand the mail services throughout the country. I intend to vote for the Bill, because under the Constitution we are required to put the services of the States on as equal a basis as possible, and this is one way in which we can extend to the whole people a privilege which is enjoyed in only one State to-day.
.- I am disposed to regard this proposal as one which is governed more by sentiment than by sound business sense. I realize the necessity for establishing a uniform postal system, but the question is whether we should bring one State to the level of five or five States to the level of one. I do not think that the time has yet arrived in the history of this country when we can afford penny postage.
– It is not correct to say that we are bringing five States to the level of one, because there are varying rates within the different States.
– There are varying rates within the boundaries of different States, but that is an entirely different matter. The States are not to be considered in the regulation of postal affairs in the future. It is entirely a Commonwealth matter. Hence the necessity for absolute uniformity. I think it is a matter for regret that we have not had some pronouncement from the Government regarding the recommendations of the Postal Commission. I do not blame the Government for that, because I know that they have been too busy, devoting attention to matters that have occupied the time of Parliament during the last few months, to give that measure of attention to the report that its importance and merits demand. But, nevertheless, we ought to consider the recommendations contained in the report side by side with the proposal now before the Senate ; and I venture to prophesy that if honorable senators were at all conversant with the findings of the Commission they would hesitate before voting for this Bill. If our postal, telegraphic, and telephonic system is to be placed upon anything like a satisfactory footing, the Government of the Commonwealth will, in the very near future, be plunged into very heavy expenditure. The Commission have had the advantage of obtaining the advice of the very best experts in Australia regarding the efficiency or non-efficiency of the service, and their recommendations are based upon the knowledge so obtained. If there is anything in the advice tendered to the Commission, it is certain that in the near future the Government will have to give serious consideration to some proposals which are outlined therein. If that be done, and if the Government surrender £400,000 of revenue, they will have to tap some other channels of taxation in order to raise the necessary money to meet the heavy expenditure which they will be bound to incur. On page 39 of the report, the Royal Commissionsets out the amount required for new works, instruments, batteries, maintenance, and staff. For new works alone, there will be required an amount of £1,828,052; for batteries and instruments, £105,473; for maintenance,£453,176; for staff, £132,378,making a grand total of £2,519,079. Add £500,000 for the annual loss that will be incurred if we adopt this Bill, and we shall have to face new expenditure equivalent to £3,000,000. I say that the Government cannot afford at the present juncture to throw away this large amount of revenue. In the course of the debate it has been emphasized over and over again that the service of the outlying districts is anything but satisfactory. The cry for penny postage, notwithstanding what has been said to the contrary, is purely a metropolitan one.
– It is certainly not a country cry.
– The metropolitan areas have penny postage.
– There is penny postage within the metropolitan areas, but not beyond, and the honorable senator’s knowledge of business should inform him that commercial relations extend very considerably beyond the limits of the metropolitan areas. I do not think that the Government can quote an instance where a country district has ever shown any enthusiasm for penny postage. I have some experience of my own State, and, no doubt, honorable senators representing States larger in area have a wider experience, regarding the drawbacks and disadvantages from which settlers suffer. Some of them would not dream of asking for telegraphic and telephonic services. They would be quite satisfied to get a postal service once a week. But I know from experience of dozens of districts in Tasmania that such a service has been refused. The matter has been referred to the Deputy PostmasterGeneral ; the Deputy Postmaster-General has instructed an officer to investigate the locality in question, and to report upon the probable revenue results ; the finding of the officer has generally been adverse; the Deputy Postmaster-General has advised accordingly ; and one has been duly informed that the people making the application must be leftabsolutely without any postal communication.
– The only reason given is that “ It will not pay.”
– That is the reason invariably given. I draw the deduction that if the Government cannot afford to pay for these services with the revenue now obtained they will be still less able to do so when £400,000 is surrendered. Again, application has been made for improved communication with the Port Davey district, which is on the south-west coast of Tasmania. The coast is a very dangerous one, indeed, and many wrecks have occurred there. We have pleaded for some communication, either telegraphic or telephonic. But we have been met with the same redtape answer, “ It will not pay ; the revenue likely to accrue is not sufficient.” Some communication, preferably radiotelegraphic, has been asked for on behalf of the people who are isolated on King Island. But, again, we are told that there is no money - that the finances of the Department will not permit of the communication being given. The settlement on King Island is growing rapidly, and is a thriving one. It is incumbent upon the Government at the earliest moment to give consideration to the requests of these people, made so frequently, to give them some kind of communication either with the mainland or with the State of Tasmania. There is a radiotelegraphic station, thoroughly equipped, at Queenscliff, which can waft messages across to Tasmania. Another station on King Island would be sufficient to establish communication between that island and Queenscliff, and the expenditure would not be very heavy.
– There is another station at Devonport.
– lt does not matter whether the communication is with Queenscliff or with Devonport. I am not worrying about that. But I am worrying about the necessity of establishing some communication with King Island.
– The Government cannot afford it.
– They tell us that they Cannot afford it. I regret very much that the Government have adopted that view, in connexion with the cases to which I have referred. I should now like to know what the Government intend to do during the recess. Are they going to maintain the ;idea of not connecting King Island either with Queenscliff or with Devonport? I regret very much that the PostmasterGeneral has been in very indifferent health for some time past. Consequently, it is but reasonable to expect that there has been some dislocation in the affairs of his Department as far as he is concerned. We -all hope to see him back in his office completely restored to health in the near future. “But, all the same, I desire before this session ends to have some pronouncement from the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral in the Senate as to what are the intentions of the Government in respect to establishing wireless communication with King Island during the recess. I understand that the Government are being advised by Admiral Henderson, and a gentleman highly skilled in the science of radiotelegraphy, as to the best points at which to establish stations in order more thoroughly to link up various points of importance by wireless telegraphy. No doubt the Government will act upon the advice of these experts. I hope that they will act promptly. But I look forward to obtaining some statement from the Government before the session terminates as to what their intentions really are regarding this very important matter. Senator Stewart, in announcing his support to this Bill, observed, amongst other things, that he thought it must be realized that the postal employes in the country districts are not getting the remuneration which they ought to receive from a Government that professes to have such a regard for their welfare. Of course, the present Government have not yet had time to regulate the conditions. I shall add that their task will be much harder in bringing conditions up to something like fairness and justice when they are face to face with such a huge deficiency in their postal revenue as will be occasioned by the passage of this Bill. The honorable senator went on to say that, notwithstanding that the prospect of these employes receiving any better treatment in future was not improved, he was still going to vote in the direction of allowing the Government to surrender something like ,£400,000 of revenue.
– Senator Stewart pointed out that there was an untapped source of revenue which would yield £20,000,000.
– That is perfectly true, but, nevertheless, it is not fair to place the Government in that position. If there is one thing which, more than another, is calculated to make a Government unpopular, it is that it should introduce new taxation. I am sure that it would be eminently satisfactory to my honorable friends opposite if the present Government took that course, and made themselves unpopular as soon as possible.
– That is a totally incorrect statement.
– The honorable senator ought to be a good judge of incorrect statements, because he is constantly making them.
– The honorable senator’s action, more than that of any one else, bas compelled this Government to launch out into new taxation.
– I do not regret it in the least, so long as they have launched out into taxation of which I approve. I r’.o not wish to see them rest content to continue to raise through Customs and Excise an unfair amount of taxation from the mass of the people. That is one reason why I object to this proposal to surrender so much revenue.
– The honorable senator must have a poor opinion of the Govern- ment he has helped to put into power, if he thinks that is what they are going to do.
– By the vote I shall give on this measure. I shall be doing my utmost to prevent the honorable senator and his colleagues from taking that course. There is another phase of the work of the Postal Department to which, I think, some attention should be directed. I refer to the tendency to increase the boy labour in the Department. In Tasmania we have boys engaged in carrying about huge bags of mail matter from behind which it is almost impossible to see them. The Postal Commission, at page 112 of their report, refer to this very objectionable practice. They say, in paragraph 620 -
Representatives of associations in many of the States alleged that boys are employed on men’s work, and they complain that the Department thus secured cheap labour. Several witnesses stated that boys fourteen to eighteen years of age were employed as night telephone attendants, and to deliver telegrams to suburbs inside certain metropolitan districts. The Commonwealth Public Service Inspector of New South Wales stated that the employment of boys on men’s work is discouraged by the Commonwealth Public Service Commissioner.
The word “ discouraged “ sounds very nicely ; but still the number of boys in the service of the Department is being increased, notwithstanding the view which the Public Service Commissioner takes of toy labour. I hope that the time is not tar distant when the Government will take this question in hand, and see that boys are employed by the Government only at work for which they are physically fitted. It is altogether objectionable to find little boys of thirteen or fourteen years of age, who ought to be at home in bed, travelling the streets at night delivering telegrams.
– The honorable senator would not employ grown-up men in delivering telegrams?
– I would, under similar conditions. Boys are now engaged in delivering telegrams at a time of night when they should be at home in their bed, growing, as nature intended they should. I do not claim that the Government should have established all these reforms in the few months they have been in office; but I am directing their attention to these paragraphs of the Postal Commission’s report in the hope and belief that they will consider them when the proper time arrives. I wish to refer again to the back-blocks postoffices. The country districts in the different States are not so much interested in penny postage as in twopenny postage.
Their concern just now is to be supplied with a postal service at least once a week. I have had representations made to me, which, in turn, I have made to the Department, for a weekly postal service here and there, and for the establishment of money-order offices in other places. The lack of money-order offices is a sore point with many people living in the country districts of Tasmania. Under existing conditions, people have to walk 5 or 6 miles in many places, if they wish to send a postoffice order or a postal note. My concern just now is to see better postal facilities provided for the country districts, and nothing will induce me to vote for this proposal, unless I have a declaration from the Government that, notwithstanding the anticipated loss of revenue under this Bill, they will still be prepared to increase the facilities afforded the residents of country districts, not only in Tasmania, but in all the States of the Commonwealth. Some honorable senators have stated that the time has arrived when we should have a uniform postage in the Commonwealth. They claim that, as Victoria has enjoyed penny postage for so many years, the other States ought to be brought into line with that State. On that subject, I may say that I do not think the majority of the Victorian people will have the slightest objection to their State being brought into line with the other. States, and a uniform twopenny rate established.
– Would the people of Tasmania be in favour of an increase in the postage rates?
– What I suggest would not involve an increase in the postage rates in Tasmania. I do not propose that we should interfere with the existing arrangements in any of the States, providing for penny postage within certain limited city areas. Instead of losing revenue, as we must do under this Bill, I should prefer to see Victoria brought into line with the other States, in order that the revenue we are at present deriving from the Postal Department may be increased. At the present time, the Government are faced with the necessity for a huge expenditure on the Post and Telegraph Department alone, to say nothing ofthe expenditure to which they are committed in other directions ; and, in the circumstances, they cannot afford to surrender the revenue which must be lost under this Bill. Until I hear that the Government intend to do a fair thing by the country districts which have not had a fair deal in the past, I shall continue my opposition to the proposal for the establishment of penny postage.
– I wish to be very brief in addressing myself to this question. I congratulate the Government upon introducing this Bill this session. I hope it will become law, and that we shall have universal penny postage in the Commonwealth as soon as conveniently may be. I do not view the establishment of penny postage throughout the Commonwealth in the same way as does Senator Long. I recognise with him that, in the past, the Postal Department has perhaps not been as mindful of its obligations to the country districts throughout the Commonwealth as we could have desired j but I do not think for a moment that the establishment of penny postage will make it less mindful of its obligations in that regard. In my opinion the two matters are not in the slightest degree associated. Those who take up that position, it seems to me, are assuming that the estimated immediate loss in revenue resulting from the establishment of penny postage will continue. I think that it will not. Some honorable senators who have already spoken, have pointed out what has been pointed out in another place, and on various platforms throughout the country during the last general election, that the experience of all countries that have lowered their general rate of postage from “Sd. to id., is emphatically to the contrary. As a matter of fact, in the first year or two, there has been a drop in the revenue, but it has been very speedily converted into a rise ; and, in the course of a very few years, the revenue has assumed normal proportions.
– Without taking the increase of population into consideration at all?
– We may take New Zealand,, where the increase of population has not been so great as in Canada. We may take the United Kingdom or Victoria, where, during the period covered by the comparison, the population did not increase beyond the ordinary average normal increase of the Commonwealth. I have heard that the Minister, in introducing this measure, stated that it will be for the benefit of all the people in Australia. That statement has been challenged by those opposed to the Bill. I venture to say that it cannot be successfully challenged, because the benefit of this proposal will be for all the people in Australia. I may say - and in this regard it is necessary for me to in troduce a personal note - that, in addressing the electors on the last occasion on which I appeared before them, from every platform in my own State, I strongly advocated penny postage throughout the Commonwealth ; and, wherever I did so, it was strongly supported, and nowhere more strongly than in the country districts.
– I just as strongly opposed it, and my experience was the reverse.
– So far as I could gather, the system was nowhere more strongly supported than in the country districts. It has been alleged, by the opponents of this Bill, that the adoption of penny postage will benefit only city residents.
– The question which we have to consider is whether the present time is an opportune one for the introduction of the proposed reform.
– Undoubtedly the time is opportune. Now that we have entered into a new arrangement in regard to our financial relations with the States, it is particularly opportune. The adoption of penny postage will benefit people in the country in a way in which they have not hitherto been benefited. At the present time, commercial institutions, such as banking and insurance companies, legal offices, and other large city houses, do not enjoy penny postage. They enjoy, on an average, farthing postage, for the simple reason that the great bulk of their mail matter is forwarded for considerably less than id., not merely in our cities, but throughout the whole State in which they carry on their operations, and even beyond the limits of that State. I would invite the attention of honorable senators to the rates which are set out in the schedule to this Bill. There, we find that the rate upon letters is to be id. per J oz., that upon letter cards it is to be so much, and that the rate upon printed papers is to be a. per 2 ozs., or part thereof. What proportion does that bear to the rate of id. upon letters? I think it represents about one-eighth. Upon books which are published and printed in Australia d. is to be charged per 8 ozs., or part thereof. I now wish to show what the commercial, the financial, the legal, and other establishments in our cities have been enjoying in the matter of postal rates for years past. Take, say, in my own State, the packet rate of d. for 2 ozs.
What passes through the post at that reduced rate? The following: -
Acceptances. - Accounts, invoices, and receipts, the remark “ with thanks,” and advice when and how the goods are forwarded, will be allowed, also the following trade notices, whether printed or impressed with a rubber stamp : - “ All empties returned must be advised “ ; “ When remitting, please return the statement to be receipted”; “Terms, cash in advance”; “ Terms, 2½ per cent. discount for cash “ ; “ This settles your account up to date.” Anything, however, of a general character printed in ordinary type may be enclosed with accounts, provided it is not of the nature of actual or personal correspondence.
Ballot-papers, if sent in open covers, with the end open at least two-thirds of the width of the envelope. Balance-sheets and reports (printed) of public societies and companies. Bankers’ packets, from one bank to another, containing cheques, cheque-books, drafts, or orders, pass-books. Bills of exchange. Bills of lading, and ships’ manifests. Bottles containing fluid, &c., very securely corked so that their contents cannot escape, and packed in boxes sufficiently strong so as to prevent breakage of the bottles and damage to the mails. Briefs. Bees, and live but harmless entomological specimens, under special regulations, and also by parcel post.
Cards, either plain or bearing printed matter, or pictures, or both (the name only of the addressee may be written on the face of such cards). Catalogues printed (prices in figures may be written). Circulars, i.e., letters wholly printed, engraved, lithographed, chromographed, or produced by other mechanical process except the copying press and the typewriter, intended for transmission in identical terms to several persons (the name of the addressee may, however, be added in writing). Circulars printed in imitation of the typewriter, provided that at least twenty copies in identical terms are brought to the Post Office, and handed in to the officer in charge. Commercial papers (inland and intercolonial only).
Deeds, or copies thereof. Depositions, drafts, drawings.
Engravings. Examination papers (corrections allowed).
Insurance documents, not being in the nature of a letter. Invoices or bills of parcels.
Legal documents, not being in the nature of a letter.
Manuscript for printing, maps, merchandise, Meteorological returns. Mineral specimens. Music, written.
Notices of meetings, natural history specimens.
Obliterated stamps. Orders for goods. Instructions as to packing, the route for forwarding and effecting insurance may be added. Orders for goods must at least be partly printed.
Packets of unused post-cards. Paintings. Parchments or vellum. Pass-books or cards connected with any society. Patterns (manufacturers’ or trade mark and prices may accompany them). Pay-sheets. Photographs (not on glass, except in cases of leather or other strong material). Pictures. Placards. Plans. Policies of insurance. Powers of attorney. Press copies of telegrams sent from one office to another office of a firm or company. Prices current, printed (prices of articles included therein may be filled in in writing). Printed matter. Printers’ proofs. Prints. Prospectuses, printed. Proxy forms or notices in which may be inserted such particulars as date, signature, name of proxy, date of meeting, name of shareholder or member, and number of votes, provided that nothing appear in the document in writing or print which does not form part of the document as a legal instrument.
Rate notices receipts - (see accounts). Recognisances. Reports (printed) of societies or public companies. Returns or periodical statements.
Samples (manufacturers’ or trade mark and price may accompany them). Scrip, seeds. Ships’ manifests. Specifications. Spent letters, i.e., letters that have clearly served their original purpose and are at least two months old. Stamped cheque forms bound in books with open covers. Stock sheets.
Travellers’ cards, circulars, or orders.
I might enumerate quite a number of other articles all of which have hitherto passed through the post at about one-sixteenth of the rate that is charged upon an ordinary letter.
– Is that a right condition of affairs?
– I have never heard the honorable senator denounce it.
– I have done so in this Chamber.
– I should like to know when. Under this Bill, it is proposed to give to residents of country towns an opportunity of communicating with one another at the rate of1d. per½-oz. Is that too much to grant them, seeing that for years the commercial houses, the legal firms, the banking, insurance, and other financial institutions of our cities have enjoyed privileges of the character which I have just outlined? I repeat that they have been enjoying, on an average, farthing postage. In our country districts, if one resident desires to communicate by letter with another resident in a town which has a population possible of 3,000, he has to pay 2d. in order to get his letters forwarded.
– Not in Tasmania.
– Yes; if the letter travels beyond a few miles radius. In Sydney, I believe that the radius within which penny postage is operative is one of 16 miles from the General Post Office. In Melbourne, similar conditions did obtain to those which now obtain in Adelaide. Penny postage did not once exist within the city itself.
– Nobody upholds that.
– The residents of our capitals have enjoyed the benefits of penny postage for a considerable time so far as ordinary letters are concerned. But if a resident in one of our country towns wishes to communicate with the metropolis, or with a neighbouring town, he is required to put a 2d. stamp upon his letter. On the other hand, if a city resident wishes to forward by post any document of the character outlined in the extract which I have quoted, he is at liberty to do so by paying a rate of1d. per 2 ounces. But the individual in the country who desired to reply to such a communication by letter has to pay a 2d. rate. That is where the hardship comes in. If we only give him the right to reply by letter to a financial institution, a legal firm, or a commercial house at the same rate as is charged to those institutions, we shall lessen the present inequality. We need not apprehend from penny postage the dreadful results which some honorable senators have predicted. Though the revenue of the Commonwealth may suffer a temporary set back as the result of its adoption, I believe that it will speedily recover. What has taken place in New Zealand, Canada, and elsewhere, will, I feel sure, not merely be paralleled here, but will be surpassed.
– That has not been the experience of Victoria.
– That may be so. But what was the condition which existed here previously? My honorable friend doubtless heard what Senator Lynch had to say in regard to Canada. There, we know that the postal service is dissociated from the telegraphic and telephonic services.
– When we have a population equal to that of Canada a similar result may follow the experiment.
– If we are not to take action until our population is equal to that of Canada, we shall continue to lag behind. I hope that the Bill will receive the cordial support of honorable senators, because I believe that penny postage will lead to closer communication between the States. With the introduction in the near future of a uniform stamp and the adoption of penny postage, I believe that we shall take a forward step in Australian Nationalism. These reforms will also tend to cement the ties which have hitherto bound the different States together. I feel that the Government have not been unmindful of the financial aspect of this question. I am very pleased to reflect that I was asso ciated with a Ministry which some time ago indicated its intention to bring forward a Bill of this character. But in order to permit of that being done, it was necessary that an arrangement should be made with some of the States, and the opportunity for entering into that arrangement did not present itself. I congratulate the Government upon having introduced this measure at the earliest opportunity, and I feel sure that it is one which will redound to their credit.
The great importance of the subject which is now under consideration impels me to say a few words upon it. I have listened very attentively to the utterances of my Tasmanian friends and colleagues upon it. To-day we have had one of the most interesting debates of the session - a debate which will go far towards dissipating the objection urged by the Leader of the Opposition a few days ago that the Senate can no longer be regarded as a deliberative assembly. The discussion which has taken place to-day conclusively proves that this Chamber is a deliberative body. It will also serve to place before the people of Australia the advantages which will flow from the adoption of penny postage. I appreciate especially the splendid speeches made by Senators O’Keefe and Long, who evidently have a grasp of the subject, and spoke from experience.
One of the most comprehensive reports which have ever been issued has been made by the Postal Commission on one of the most important services’ in the Commonwealth. The more it is studied, the more it will be realized that our Postal Department requires a great deal of re-organization. I could, if I wished to do so, cite innumerable instances in Tasmania. I could also cite instances which have come under my notice in other States. But I only propose to mention some of the many Tasmanian complaints which are referred to by the Postal Commission. Some of the reforms they deal with are of so important a character that I take it that any one interested in the subject must be impressed. For instance, they say -
The winter mail service with the mainland is not sufficiently frequent, and should be the same as the summer service.
That is admitted by every Tasmanian.
The King Island mail service is insufficient.
We have heard from honorable senators to-day remarks, which I can substantiate, as to the inadequacy of the mail service to King Island. Its people have no means of communicating with the mainland; and, although the want of telegraphic communication has been brought under the notice of various Governments, no action has yet been taken to redress the grievance.
In the northern parts of Tasmania it has come to be regarded as almost a scandal that no step has yet been taken. Not only has King Island a bright future, but it is recognised as being, for its size, one of the most up-to-date and populous places. Its people have shown a very progressive spirit on all public questions, and, to my mind, to deny them the right of a decent mail service is a disgrace to any Government. I hope that the present Government will take some action, even though it be late in the day -
More mail services are required in country districts.
As Senator Long has said, in the back portions of Tasmania you will find very often that the residents have only a weekly service, and that they have to send a great distance for the mail -
Staff to attend to public at Hobart and Launceston is insufficient.
One has only to go into the post-office at either place to see that it is insufficiently staffed.
Addition of messengers to staff at certain country offices is required.
At Campbelltown, an important town in the Midlands of Tasmania, where I live, there is a post-office where there has been no messenger provided, and the postmistress in the past has had to send out telegrams by any one who chanced to come along. And in Campbelltown itself it has been no uncommon thing for me to take delivery of a telegram from some person to whom it has been intrusted by the postmistress.
Better accommodation and a money-order branch are required at Ranelagh, and the office should be open for an hour at night.
That is typical of many other country offices.
The telephone service at Launceston is very unsatisfactory.
On two or three occasions lately I have failed to get the numbers, after ringing for about half-an-hour, which convinced me that Launceston is behind the times as regards telephone service.
Tasmanian trunk line services are bad.
That is admitted by nearly every postal official in Tasmania.
Telephone service at Devonport is unsatisfactory and not private.
Telephone facilities in country districts are insufficient.
More public telephones are required, in country towns.
Telephone rates to domestic subscribers should be reduced.
Allowances paid Jo certain unofficial employes are inadequate.
These statements, which apply to all Tasmania, are substantiated by sworn evidence, and are not contradicted. In fact, there is no one who will defend the existing state of affairs. There are crying evils calling tor reform. The present Government is one which stands for clean administration, and whose main principle is to show the public that, by administration, they can put a Socialistic system, such as the Post Office undoubtedly is, on a better footing. Their first duty is to attend to these matters as speedily as possible. I, as a supporter, have every confidence that, before this session is ended, a pronouncement will be made by the Government as to their intention to remedy many of the existing evils.
It is when the existence of great evils is urged as an argument against the establishment of penny postage that I beg to disagree with the opponents of this measure. I hold that penny postage, and the reforms I have alluded to, are distinct matters. While we, as believers in an efficient, well-governed and paid system, are anxious for certain evils to be redressed, the very fact of their existence is not a good argument against our instituting a great reform. If any matters in connexion with the postal administration are in a backward state, is that an argument that we should not proceed with such an important reform as the introduction of penny postage? I fail to see the trend of that argument. Every year the introduction of penny postage is delayed will increase the cost of its institution. If we now put expediency before principle, and do not introduce penny postage for five or six years, it will result in a greater initial loss of revenue than would be the case now. It has been stated that, if penny postage be introduced now, the loss of the postal revenue will be so great that there will be no money available for instituting certain postal reforms.
But I take it that the more efficient and up-to-date our postal service is, and the cheaper the rates are, the more .it will be used by the people, with the result that, not only shall we get more revenue, but we shall have a people more satisfied with the system as a whole. We have a duty to perform to the Public Service. It would ill-become a Government, with such a platform as the Labour Government have, to illpay their employes, or to give them bad conditions. At the same time, it would illbecome them to lag when the great reform of penny postage calls for public attention. I am glad to see that the Government have had the pluck to take the question in hand, as they promised to do in the Governor-General’s speech, and I hope that the measure will soon be placed on the statute-book.
A few years ago, Mr. Fielding, Treasurer of Canada, pointed out that, when it had postage rates of 1½d. and 2jd., its Postal Department was worked at a loss. He stated that with improved administration and an increased volume of business, due mainly to the introduction of penny postage, the Postal Department was able to contribute £^184,000 a year to the Consolidated’ Revenue. I believe that,- within a few years of the introduction of penny postage in Australia, the deficit in the postal revenue will be so small that it will not seriously embarrass our finances, and that the people generally will gain a benefit.
I quite understand how my honorable friends from Tasmania feel, in reference to this measure. They are hurt because nothing has been done this session to benefit the postal employes and the service as a whole.. Considering the business which we have put through, and’ remembering that we have been engaged on some of the most important measures ever put before this Parliament, and that the Labour Government have only been in office for a few months, I think that they are entitled to be allowed a reasonable time in which to organize their Departments and start great reforms. I trust that, before we rise this session, we shall have a pronouncement from the Ministry that such improvements in our Public Service as we can reasonably expect will be carried out, and that, in consequence, those who are engaged in postal work will be put on a better footing.
One of the great contentions of the Postal Commission is that the persons in charge of allowance offices are not receiving an adequate remuneration. If we facilitate .the business and increase the number of letters, will not these officers benefit? Did we not receive from the PostmasterGeneral a sliding scale showing that the persons in charge of these offices were paid according to the number of letters which went through them? Naturally, if more letters are posted, these persons will be paid an increased amount, so that one of our complaints will be remedied by the introduction of penny postage. There will be more letters to deliver, and consequently more pay tor the postmistresses to receive.
– More letters and less revenue.
– There may be a loss of revenue for a while, but I am now dealing with the question from the point of view of the postal officials, who? if there are more letters, will receive more salary under the allowance-office system.
– Where is the salary to come from if we have less revenue?
– I take it that the revenue will not drop to such an extent as the honorable senator suggests. We admit that in the first year it will decline, but when we have a Government telling us that they can finance penny postage, why should we hesitate? Surely they would’ not tell us that they were prepared to lose £400,000 in the first year if the finances were not in a good position !
– How are they going to finance this proposal ?
– With that, I am not concerning myself a great deal, because I have full confidence in the Ministry. We shall not get as much revenue for a while, but eventually, I think, we shall. The Labour party has always stood in the van of progress.. It is not going, for the sake of expediency, to postpone this great reform year by year, but intends to place it on the statute-book for the benefit” of the whole people.
– For various reasons which I will explain I intend to support the second reading of the Bill. We have been taking from a certain class a large amount of taxation, and we have been taking a great deal from the bulk of the people for some time through Customs and Excise. I think that the time has come when we should remit something to them. T welcome this form of remission. I think that the community have a right to expect it in the circumstances. I believe that the Government can finance this proposal without having their revenue unduly contracted. Senator after senator on the other side has got up and drawn attention to the alleged sweating in this. great Department. They state that sweating exists, and insist that it ought to be remedied. What relevance has that to the question before the Senate? I cannot see that it is relevant; but, assuming that it is, is this the way or the time to deal with the matter ? Do not honorable senators perceive what their assertion amounts to? It is, first, a reflection on the Public Service Act, which received from this Parliament so much attention. If the defects are not to be attributed to the Public Service Act it is a reflection upon the Administration, and the officials who are responsible for the general conduct of the Department must take it as a reflection upon them to a certain extent. I admit that the Government are also being assailed in the matter. If what honorable senators Opposite say in justification for their charges be correct, let us investigate their statements by themselves. If their charges are justified let us deal with them. But they should be dealt with as a separate issue, and should not be mixed up with this question of postage rates. I may here remark that Parliament and the people of this country are at present witnessing something that is not very satisfactory in the pressure that is being exercised by a portion of our Public Service, and in turn in a certain quarter in both Houses of the Legislature. A certain section of the service - while I have to compliment them on the whole on being thoroughly sound, loyal, and efficient officers - are giving indications of a spirit with which other Ministers who have occupied office have been familiar, with which the present Government are familiar, and with which their successors also will have some acquaintance. There will come a time when this Parliament will have to assert in clear fashion that the Public Service exists for the public, and not vice versa. At the same time it is only fair to say that if there are deepseated evils in the administration of any Department the Ministry ought to give those concerned an opportunity of having their grievances investigated and remedied. I take this opportunity of saying that there seems to me to be now a tendency foi a “ bread and circus “ policy being pressed forward both on the public and on Parliament.
I shall conclude by giving a few figures which I have taken from the Budget papers relating particularly to the Post and Telegraph Department. They go to show that the doleful prospects and warnings indulged in by Senator Walker and others are not justified. In 1902-3 the revenue of the Department was £2,404,000; in I903-4, £2,510,000; in 1904-5, £2,632,000; in 1905-6, £2,824,000; in 1906-7, £3,128,000; in 1907-8, £3.300,000; in 1908-9, £3,409.000; and in 1909-10, £3,727,000. The estimate for 1910-11 is £3,856,000. But I may here remark that I do not agree with the Treasurer’s estimate. I think that he has under-estimated the revenue of the Department, which I believe will be in the neighbourhood of £4,000,000. Those figures show that between 1903 and - taking the estimate - 1910-11, a period of eight or nine years, the increase of revenue is 60 per cent. The Department is expanding, and that fact should encourage us to give something back to the people. I have also taken from the Budget papers certain returns under the heading of “ Receipts over and under expenditure “ for the same years. In 1903 there was a deficit in the Postal Department of £27,343. But in 1904, and ever since there has been uniformly a surplus. In 1904 the receipts over expenditure were £2,106; in 1905, £65,726; in 1906, £186,824; in 1907, £439,171; in 1908, £381,754; in 1909. £366,234; in 1910, £524,840; and the estimate for 1910-11 is £364,248. The last figures show a slight falling-off as compared with the previous year, but it will be remembered that I have already said that I think the Treasurer has under- estimated the departmental revenue. These figures all go to show that the Department is in a healthy condition as far as revenue is concerned. They justify us in making an experiment of this kind. It is only fair to say, however, that in giving the excess of receipts over expenditure I have omitted the amount voted by Parliament for buildings and public works on account of the Department. That amount for the years mentioned totals £3>3I2>551- But I have always contended that a vicious and unfair system of accountancy has been adopted by the Department. I have repeatedly urged that expenditure on works and buildings should be placed to a capital account, and that that account should Be .gradually extinguished by a system of annuities such as prevails in connexion with the British Post Office and in connexion with certain telephone works carried on by private enterprise in America. If we were to capitalize the £3,312,000 and provide for its gradual extinguishment by means of a system that could be easily determined upon by actuarial investigation, we should be able to debit a steady amount to current expenditure on account of new works.
– That would involve a loan.
– Not necessarily. I have said publicly that it it were advisable to raise money for construction purposes I should not hesitate to do so, but what I am now urging is that we should capitalize the expenditure on works and provide for its gradual extinction. It is unfair to charge the total amount spent on works in any one year to current revenue. I feel fairly confident that if Australia continues to expand in the future in anything like the same degree as she has expanded in the past, and if we provide for capitalizing the expenditure on telephones, telegraphs, buildings, and other works, we shall be able to see that we can fairly afford to grant the concession which is proposed by this Bill. It has been said by the opponents of the measure that complaints have been made over and over again by constituents in reference to the establishment of offices, the erection of telephones, and the provision of services. I have received applications of that kind myself time after time, and .have duly forwarded them to the Department to be noted. But, I ask, will there ever be a time, even if we made the postal rate 2d. or even 3d., when demands for new works will cease to be made ? It does not matter what condition the finances of the country are in, whether we are short of funds or revelling in money, the Post and Telegraph Department will always be deluged with applications for the erection of post-offices and the provision of postal conveniences in all parts of the country. It is the duty of the Department, through its responsible officers, to advise Parliament, as to whether we can safely afford to grant the concessions that are asked for. A rule should be laid down by which it could be determined which of these requests should be granted and which should be refused. The Minister has officials behind him, whose duty it is to consider the applications. If he cannot trust his advisers it is time for him either to- get rid of them or to appeal to Parliament to deal with the subject. On the other hand, the Minister is responsible to Parliament for seeing that reasonable demands are complied with. There is 1:0 reason to anticipate that his hands will be unduly tied if the reform I have so often advocated be adopted. In a very few years there should be little or no restriction upon the operations of this important Department, and a very much needed boon will be granted to the people. Next to railway communication, the granting of postal, telegraphic, and telephonic facilities is the most powerful means that could be adopted for the development of the country. I differ from the PostmasterGeneral in his administration of the telephone system; but I believe that, in common with the other members of the Government, he is desirous of extending these facilities. In this matter, the Government are taking a step which, I believe, will be found to be financially sound; and it is one which, I believe, the country expects them to take.
– I desire to express the pleasure which the Government feel at the reception given this measure. Without desiring to make any invidious distinctions, I should like to say that no speech to which I have listened on the Bill impressed me more than that delivered by Senator Stewart. It was one of the most solid contributions to the debate, and every sentence of it was an argument in support of the measure. I think he must have convinced every unbiased member of the Senate who has given any consideration to the laws of competition and social economics, that the charges exacted in respect of correspondence and other forms of communication from those engaged in carrying on a business are, as surely as the night follows the day, passed on to the general community. .
– Fudge !
- Senator de Largie may differ from me on that point. When I heard Senator O’Keefe - say that it did not matter whether the charges were high ur low, they were borne by the individual conducting the correspondence, I was somewhat amused. Does (he honorable senator mean to say that if we imposed high postal charges throughout the Commonwealth, they would come out of the pockets of individual traders and merchants carrying on t usiness ?
– They would come out of the pockets of the people using the Post Office.
– That is to say, that if we were to charge a postage rate of is. on every letter, it would be borne by the individual posting the letter, in connexion with his business, and would not be passed on by him to the community ; and if the charge were reduced to” id., that individual would pocket the difference between id. and is.? Such a contention would be absurd. I say that the laws of competition come into play, and to-day the competition is very acute.
– Good old Free Trade !
– Every one knows that competition in business has become so acute that it is leading to the creation of monopolistic institutions and co-operation in business. Senator de Largie spoke in support of the recommendation of the Postal Commission, of which he was a member, and suggested that this measure should be postponed. I give the members of the Postal Commission every credit. They entered upon, and carried out, their inquiries in a most painstaking and conscientious way. They took exhaustive evidence, and familiarized themselves with ihe postal, telegraphic, and telephonic services throughout the Commonwealth. But I must say that when I read their recommendation, in respect to penny postage, I was amazed. After all, these are Socialistic or semi-Socialistic institutions. In paragraph 1316 of their report, dealing with postage rates, the Commission say -
While your Commissioners are of the opinion that the postage rates within the States should be made uniform at the rate of id. per £ oz. they cannot recommend its adoption until the telegraph and telephone services are placed upon a self-supporting basis.
In effect, they say that until the telephone and telegraph services are on a payable basis, penny postage ought not to be introduced.
– - Hear, hear ; a commonsense proposition, too.
– Is it? Do we apply that line of reasoning to every proposal submitted by the Government of a State or of the Commonwealth? If we applied that rule to the postal service itself thousands of the citizens of Australia would be without any postal facilities at all. Senator de Largie must know that, as I said in introducing the Bill, it costs an infinitesimal sum to deliver a letter in congested areas, whilst it costs as much as 5s. to deliver a letter in some parts of the Commonwealth, because of the sparse population.
– Has any one proposed to impose such a rate on letters?
– Let me develop my argument. The postal service in country districts is non-paying, and in many districts it never will be on a payable basis if all the requirements of the people are to be met. It is not the desire of this Government, and I hope it will not be the desire of any Government of the Commonwealth, that only those postal services which can be shown to be self-supporting shall be granted.
– That is what is insisted upon now.
– Let me ask Senators de Largie, Henderson, and Needham, who claim that this reform should be delayed until the postal service is established on a payable basis, a very pertinent question. I hope that next session the Government will have the pleasure of introducing a Bill- and it may fall to my lot to do it -for the construction of a railway line from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie. Will these honorable senators, who are opposing this reform, get up in their places in this chamber when that Bill is submitted to the Senate and ask, “ Will it pay to construct this railway ? “
– Certainly not. There is no analogy.
– I maintain that there is. Will they ask whether it will pay to construct that line ? I shall not ask whether it will pay in the first year after it is constructed, or in ten years’ time. What I shall ask will be whether it will serve the needs and requirements, not merely of the citizens of Western Australia, but of the whole Commonwealth?
– The honorable senator is twisting the argument to suit his own purpose.
– The Minister has changed the opinions he held a year or two ago.
– I have never opposed the construction of the proposed line from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie. I may be pardoned for digressing for a moment in order to say that I supported the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill in this Chamber, when, to do so was, from a Victorian view point, unpopular and might lead to “the loss of votes.
– What has that to do with this matter?
– It has something to do with the recommendation of the Postal Commission that, until our telegraph and telephone services are selfsupporting, no extension should be made.
– Is not that what the Deputy Postmaster-General in every State says?
– I am not concerned with what they say. I do not consider whether these services will pay or not. I ask merely whether they are needed and will facilitate postal communication throughout the Commonwealth. Senator de Largie challenged my statement that the annual loss on the establishment of InterState penny postage would be £75,000.
– I do.
– I know the honorable senator did, and he does now. But when honorable senators opposite asked him to disprove the statement I have made, he said that as one of the Postal Commission, he was unable to obtain any information in respect to the matter. That did not disprove my figures.
– It is the honorable senator’s business to prove his figures.
– I cannot prove conclusively the accuracy of the figures I have quoted, but I am able to say that a record is kept in the Department from time to time of all letters passing between State and State. It is on that record that a computation has been made with much care and trouble, and the estimate is, as I said when moving the second reading of the Bill, that the loss will be £75,000.
– Will the honorable senator answer a simple question in this connexion? What does it cost to handle the mail matter to which he is referring?
– The honorable senator knows that it is impossible for me to answer that question off-hand.
– The honorable senator could not answer it in a month of Sundays.
– Perhaps the honorable senator could answer it himself?
– No, I cannot, because there are no figures to show what it is.
– It is not a question of what it costs to handle mail matter. I am not dealing with that aspect of the question now. I am saying what loss would be incurred by. the establishment of Inter-State penny postage.
– How can the honorable senator say what the loss will be if he does not know what is the cost of handling that mail matter?
– I say that it is possible to make an estimate on the record kept of the letters passing between State . and State, and on that record it is estimated that the loss would be £75,000.
– There are no separate accounts kept for the mail branch, the telephone branch, or the telegraph branch.
– I am not dealing with that aspect of the question. The opposition to this measure has been vigorous, but it is not sufficient to defeat it. After all, on what grounds has the opposition to it been based? Senator de Largie considers that the time is not opportune for its introduction. Other honorable senators have opposed it on the ground that it will cost £500,000 a year, and others again because the post and telegraph service is not in as satisfactory a condition as we should like to see it. Senator O’Keefe says that this proposal will cost £500,000, and he opposes it on the ground that we cannot afford it, and because, with other representatives of Tasmania, he has, from time to time, deputationized the PostmasterGeneral to secure telegraphic communication with Port Davey at a cost of £1,500. Because the honorable senator cannot getthat, he opposes this measure.
– Does the honorable senator say that that is the principal, or only ground, on which I have opposed the measure. He is making an unfair statement, and he knows it. It is not worthy of the honorable senator, or of any member of the Government.
– I do not desire to make an unfair statement. I am not making any personal reference to Senator O’Keefe, for whom I have the greatest respect, and I hope he will not take my remarks in a personal sense.
– I could not avoid doing so.
– The honorable senator got warm on this measure this afternoon, and it was on the ground that the Government could not afford to grant his request, involving an expenditure of £1,500, though they are prepared to find £500,000 to give effect to this proposal.
– The honorable senator knows that that statement was made in reply to an interjection.
– It was made, nevertheless.
– I urged stronger objections to the Bill than that.
– The statement made by Senator Long was an incorrect statement. He said that the proposal meant lifting one State up to the level of five, or five down to the level of one. That is not so, - because there are varying rates of postage throughout the different States. It means either universal penny postage, or penny postage Intrastate and twopenny postage Inter-State, or a twopenny rate throughout Australia. Is any one desirous of a higher rate of postage throughout Australia?
– We want uniformity.
– We do, and we require to cheapen postalf acilities as much as possible.
– We need a Federal system anyhow.
– That is so. Senator Henderson said that the passing of this measure would mean, in effect, the placing of an additional burden on the citizens of Western Australia.
– I made no such statement.
– The honorable senator said that it would handicap the citizens of Western Australia.
– I madeno such statement.
– I have no wish to do the honorable senator any injustice, but one honorable senator from Western Australia certainly said something like that.
– What Senator Henderson said was that, if this Bill becomes law, there will be less chance of outlying districts securing postal facilities.
– In the event of the Bill being agreed to, why should such facilities be denied to Western Australia if those facilities are required?
– Is it not a fact that before additional facilities are granted, the
Department inquires whether the service will pay?
– Yes. But when applications are made for postal facilities, the Department is always prepared to make a grant of 50 per cent. upon the revenue which it is estimated will be derived from the service. That is to say, if any locality will guarantee that a service will return £20 per annum the Government will grant an additional£10 per annum.
– Surely the Bill rests upon better grounds than that.
– It rests upon substantial grounds. It rests upon the ground that it will benefit the whole of the citizens of Australia. I am satisfied that time will show even the opponents of the measure that, although the adoption of penny postage may result in a loss during the first two or three years of its operation, the volume of business will afterwards be so great that all the big post-offices in our cities will become self-supporting.
– In the cities?
– I am well satisfied with the reception which the Bill has received, and I confidently leave the motion for its second reading in the hands of honorable senators.
Question - That the Bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses1 to 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 -
The First Schedule to the Principal Act is amended -
by inserting therein before the word “ Newspapers “ the words “ Part I.”, and
– I move -
That after the word “Papers” in the first column, line 4, the words “as Prescribed” be inserted.
The addition of these words is unimportant, because the regulations will prescribe what are printed papers.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That the words “ Published, and “ in the first column, line 5, be left out.
The idea underlying my amendment is that we should encourage as much as possible Australian production. I am mainly concerned with the printing of these publications in Australia. It is immaterial where they are published, so long as this provision will encourage their printing in the Commonwealth.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That the figure”2” in the second column, line 8, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the figure “ 4.”
The object of my amendment is to place Looks which are printed and published outside of Australia in the same category as magazines which are printed and published outside of Australia. The postage proposed upon such books is½d. for 2 ounces, whereas the rate proposed on magazines printed and published out of Australia is ½d. upon 4 ounces. I do not see why any advantage should be given to magazines over books. Books are just as valuable as magazines ; and there is no reason why more should be charged for carrying the former through the Post Office.
– I do not know that the Government have any strong objection to this amendment. Of course, books are more difficult and expensive to carry.
– It all depends upon the weight.
– We will accept the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments (by Senator Findley) agreed to -
That the figure “2,” in the second column, line 9, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the figure “ 4.”
That the words “ Published and,” in the first column, line 7, be left out.
Amendment (by Senator Findley) proposed -
That after the word “Merchandise,” in the first column, lines 31-2, the words “ as prescribed” be inserted.
– Can the Minister see his way to alter the rate attached to the last line? Is it not rather small compared with the other rate?
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [10.50].- There seems to be no reason why the rate for the carriage of commercial papers, patterns, samples, and merchandise, should be higher than the rate for the carriage of printed papers, as prescribed. The charge for the former is1d. per 2 ounces or part of2 ounces, or double the charge for the latter. I suggest, unless there is any strong reason to the contrary, that the charge for the former should be reduced to ½d. per 2 ounces or part of 2 ounces.
– I understand that there are good reasons for the difference which is made. Senator Gould would permit traders to send numerous accounts through the Post Office at the low rate of½d. per 2 ounces. It would take a number of accounts to weigh an ounce. This is a rate which we do not desire to see altered.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [10.52].- There are printed papers to be charged as prescribed. A man may send 2 ounces of printed pagers for½d., but for every 2 ounces of commercial papers he will be charged1d.
– That rate also includes patterns and samples.
– I do not know that it matters much whether it is a sample or a lot of printed matter. I do not see why a distinction should be made. It is no. more serious a matter to carry a sample weighing 2 ounces than to carry a bundle of printed papers weighing 2 ounces; but it is proposed to charge½d. in the former case and1d. in the latter. What is the reason for making the difference? I think it is a matter which the Minister might consider.
– There is one argument which may, perhaps, appeal to the Minister. Irrespective of whether one rate is high and the other low, it seems desirable, as far as we can, to have uniformity. To-day, when a man goes round to the Post Office, he is in some doubt as to which rate his parcel or package comes under. The more uniform the rates are made the more will every one know what he has to pay. With a variety of charges, one is at a loss to know what to do ; and he has to go to the bother of asking an official the category under which it comes. In view of the advantage of having uniformity the Minister might see his way to accept an amendment’ in the rate attached to the last line.
.- So far as I can see, the rate of1d. per 2 ounces or part of 2 ounces is adopted in all the States. Honorable senators will understand why the rate should be maintained when I state that commercial papers include acceptances, accounts, invoices and receipts, ballot-papers, bank-books, bankers’ pass-books, bills of exchange, bills of lading, drafts, drawings, files of official papers, insurance documents, policies, invoices, legal documents, affidavits, briefs, deeds, manuscripts, and many other things. These are the reasons which move the Department to fix a different charge for this kind of correspondence from that for documents which are wholly printed.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [10.56].- A question arose just now with regard to the carriage of samples. I believe that under the postal regulations one can send so many pounds of matter for a few pence. Suppose that you go to a store and buy a lot of goods weighing about 10 lbs. They can be sent through the post at a very low rate.
– The honorable senator is referring to the parcels post.
– Yes; of course, there may be a little delay in the delivery of the goods. In one case, the Department is willing to carry the material at a very low rate, but in the case of the sample, it demands a very much higher rate.
– There are good and sufficient reasons for that.
– I want to know what they are.
– I do urge that it is desirable to make the rates as few as possible. I am not saying whether this rate is too high or too low. It might have been desirable to raise the other rate. Surely every one can see that it would be a great advantage to every citizen, and I believe to the post-offices, if we had a smaller list, and greater uniformity, instead of having a variety of charges.
– It is necessary to discriminate between matter which is wholly printed, and matter which is partly written and partly printed.
– Why ?
– For various reasons.
– Matter which is partly written, and partly printed, should be included under the letter rate. This list could be cut down to half its size.
– The existence of a number of rates with regard to those articles on which a reduction is made from the ordinary letter rate is ‘a constant source of annoyance and irritation. People receive through the post articles posted in one place in the full belief, and very often on the assurance of an official, that the rate is1d. for 4 ozs. But when the recipient is entitled to receive them, he is told that the articles were posted under a wrong designation, and that he has to pay1d. for 2 ozs. This is of daily occurrence in the experience of many persons. The fewer the rates in the list the less likelihood is there of friction between citizens and officers. It is quite impossible to think that the officer at the despatching office, and the officer at the receiving office, will always agree as to what is the particular designation under which articles of this character come. I hope that whether the rate in the previous instance is raised, or this rate is lowered, there will be at least uniformity.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) agreed to-
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent this Bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
Bill read a first time.
Senate adjourned at 11. 2 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 10 November 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1910/19101110_senate_4_59/>.