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Thursday, 26 August 1920

Mr LAZZARINI (Werriwa) .- The Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise) has said that the reason for the delay in proceeding with the erection of country telephone lines is the shortage of material. If there is an absolute shortage of material, we cannot expect these lines to be built; but not one of the many applications for telephone lines in my electorate has been turned down by the Deputy Postmaster-General of New South Wales on the score of lack of material. Such applications have met with the objections that the lines would be too costly; that they would involve too great a loss; or that if they are to be built a proportion of the cost of construction must be borne by the people applying for them. At the beginning of this session the PostmasterGeneral promised a liberal policy of telephone extensions, and I am disappointed at the failure of the Department to carry out that policy. Many of my constituents are 20 or 30 miles away from the nearest railway station', and, owing to the lack of telephone services, are practically cut off from civilization. Sickness, as we know, enters every home, and when any of these people need the services of a doctor, a ride or drive of 30 or 40 miles has to be undertaken to obtain one. I cannot square my experience with the statement of the Postmaster-General that shortage of material is the main reason why telephone lines are not being constructed, as requested, in. country districts.

I wish now to refer briefly to the question of mail contractors and the drought allowance. I indorse everything that has been said by honorable members of my party in regard to that matter. It is about time that the Postal Department realized the serious disability under which mail contractors' are suffering. If they do not receive reasonable treatment, and are unable to make their contracts pay, many of those who now have a mail delivered to them once, twice, or three times a week will soon be deprived of such a service. It is an absolute negation of the policy of the public Departments of the Commonwealth to say that these men are not entitled to an increased allowance. We have tribunals which fix the price of various commodities, and Courts which make awards as to wages. As the economic position becomes more aggravated, prices are increased and new awards are made. Following up that policy, mail contractors, having regard' to the adverse conditions with which they aTe confronted, should be granted an increase. It seems to me that the Postal Department is a sweating institution. I have had brought under my notice to-day the case of a postmaster in a small country town, who is a returned soldier, with a wife and family, and receives the princely salary of £130 per year. The whole service needs to be looked into. The Government is not doing the fair thing in any branch of the Postal Department. I strongly support the amendment, and hope that it will be carried.

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