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Thursday, 26 August 1920

Mr GREGORY (Dampier) .- I am pleased with the debate which has taken place. I represent probably the largest constituency in Australia, and it is one in which, in the past, there has been serious cause for complaint in the matter of postal, telegraphic, and telephonic communication. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) should be very pleased with the discussion that has taken place on his amendment, because, since I have been a member of this House, I have never heard so definite a pronouncement as we have listened to tonight of Government policy in favour of the extension of country services. There can be no doubt as to the way in which country districts were starved in the matter of postal, telegraphic, and telephonic facilities during the regime of the last Postmaster-General. I have no wish to reflect upon a gentleman who is not now a member of this Chamber. Some may think that his policy to make the Postal Department a paying concern was justified. I believe that to be a wrong policy. In my view the 1½d. stampshould carry a letter from any part of this country to any other part of it, as well as from any part of a city to another part. Every year there has been a demand made for increased facilities and more liberal regulations in order to induce people to settle in the back country. There have been frequent interviews with the Postmaster-General, and with the Prime Minister himself, to urge that better consideration should be given to country requirements. The promises received to-night show that there is a keen desire on the part of the Government to liberalize conditions in connexion with the administration of the PostmasterGeneral's Department. The PostmasterGeneral has issued new regulations,but they are not as liberal as we could desire. However, from the promises made by the honorable gentleman to-night, followed by the assurances of the Treasurer, honorable members may be satisfied with the result of this discussion. There is one part of the amendment which I could not agree to in any circumstances. The honorable member for Hume asks us to pass a motion calling upon the PostmasterGeneral to pay a drought allowance to mail contractors for the year 1920, and leaving nothing at all to his discretion, no matter what may have been the conditions under which contracts were entered into.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member is a good apologist for the PostmasterGeneral.

Mr GREGORY - I am not an apologist for the Postmaster-General. The first part of the honorable member's amendment appealed to me-


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon J M Chanter -Order ! The honorable member for Hume is out of order, and I ask him to cease his interjections.

Mr GREGORY - I think it would be discreditable for this House to pass an amendment instructing a Minister of the Crown, without power to investigate the conditions of their contracts, to pay a drought allowance to all mail contractors. Some of the contracts may have been entered into when the prices of fodder were falling; and yet the amendment would compel the Postmaster-General to make an allowance to. those who entered into contracts under those conditions. Under no circumstances could I be induced to vote for that.

I hope that some special effort will be made by the Postmaster-General to secure the best advice possible in order to make wireless telegraphy applicable to the needs of the back country. Most of the pastoralists possess motor cars, and it should be possible to secure sufficient power to effect wireless installations in many outside districts. We know that men who went to the Front after a very short period of training, and very little experience, were able to send wireless messages from aeroplanes; and when it was possible for them in so short a time to acquire sufficient knowledge of wireless telegraphy to make use of it in that way, the Postmaster-General should consider whether it is not possible to make any effectual use of wireless telegraphy to add to the facilities of communication with out-back places.

I should like the Government also to give serious consideration to the proposals that have been made for the purpose of carrying mails by aeroplane around the north-west and north-east coasts of this country. The Government should do all that they possibly can in the interests of the people to make a business proposition of commercial aviation. A big proposal of this sort has been placed before the PostmasterGeneral and the Defence Department. We have only to look at the maps in Queen's Hall to see the necessity for developing the northern portion of Australia. We cannot expect people to go to those parts unless we give them facilities for readily communicating with other parts of the Commonwealth.

I am satisfied with the assurance given by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise), so strongly indorsed by the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), who promises that all funds, in reason, will be supplied. That ought to carry out the definite and liberal policy of the Postmaster-General. If he does not live up to it, we shall have an opportunity of dealing with him in a little while.

Mr Gabb - We are sick of hearing that sort of stuff.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon J M Chanter - I have several times called for order, and honorable members have taken no notice of the call. I ask them to desist from interjecting.

Mr GREGORY - I move-

That all the words in the amendment after " the " first occurringbe left out with a view to inserting in lieuthereof the words: - " House approves of the proposals of the PostmasterGeneral to further liberalize the postal and telephonic facilities in country districts."

I feel sure that the promises made by Ministers to-night will be kept, and that every effort will be put forth to provide the facilities which we have been demanding for country districts. I should think that the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) would accept my amendment.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No; I want something definite.

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