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Thursday, 4 May 1939

Mr LAZZARINI (Werriwa) .- I regret that, because of frequent changes in the Ministry, one is unable to pin down the Postmaster-General who is to blame for the things of which I am about to complain. I do not blame the present Postmaster-General (Mr. Harrison). He has not been in his job very long, and probably will not be there much longer. He has inherited the sins of his predecessor. I have in mind one glaring instance of what I can only regard as the operation of political influence in the administration of the department. For some considerable time I have been making representations to the

Postmaster-General's Department for three public telephones in my electorate, but always I have been refused. Finally, I persuaded the department to send two inspectors, one connected with the telephone branch, and the other with the postal branch, to make an inspection of the area. I accompanied them in my own car, together with some of the aldermen of the district, and we spent a whole morning making the inspection. While we were there, one of the representatives of Canley Vale asked the inspector to go across the border into an electorate represented by the United Australia party in order to see if a public telephone were needed at a certain place there. There had been no previous agitation for such a telephone, and I defy the Minister to say, after visiting the area, that a telephone is needed there more than at the places in my electorate in respect of which I have been making representations. The electorate, which touches mine at this point, is represented by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Gardner), but I do not blame him for what happened. As far as I know, he knew nothing about it. Sometime afterwards I was informed that my three applications had been turned down, whereas the application in respect of the telephone in the electorate of the United Australia party had been granted. I told the Deputy-Director of Posts and Telegraphs that if he was responsible for what had happened he was running his department by political patronage. It is a crying scandal.

The health inspector of the municipality of Liverpool has condemned the Liverpool post office as unfit for human habitation, but nothing has been done by the Postal Department to provide a better building. If members of the Government were forced to work in the stuffy rooms in which the girls in the Liverpool post office are employed, something would very soon be done. The place is like a prison, dank and cold in winter, and like a furnace in the summer. It has about it an air of poverty and desolation, despite the fact that it is run by a department which makes a profit of over £3,000,000 a year. I come now to another part of my electorate in respect of which I have been agitating for improved postal facilities for 20 years. The PostmasterGeneral may say, if he wishes, that a Labour Government has been in office during that period. That ' is admitted but because of the administration of governments that preceded it, the Labour Government was left with such a load to carry that its efforts to ameliorate what it recognized to be bad conditions were considerably hampered. I refer to the Lilyfield and Austinmer district, which, has urgently needed an improved postal delivery for many years. On one occasion, a resident of that district was sent a telegram to say that his mother was dying. ' She was dead and buried and a. tombstone was almost in course of erection on her grave before the telegram reached him. The delay occurred simply because there was no means of delivering the telegram. In that area, there are three little settlements, the residents of which could be served by one postman delivering morning, mid-day, and afternoon. The round would not be any larger than the usual round of a postman in the metropolitan area; yet these people have to put up with the antiquated postal service that operated, perhaps, 30 or 40 years ago. There has been a continuous growth of settlement along the south coast, and there is every justification for the claims of these people for improved postal facilities. I now come to the unsatisfactory postal service in the Sutherland shire. I receive letters of complaint not only from individuals and organizations in that area, but also from the body elected by the people, the shire council. The Minister has many of these letters in the files of his department, and I shall not waste the time of the House in dealing with them in detail. They ask for an improved telephonic service in one place, an improved postal delivery in another, a better post office building in the township of Sutherland, and so on. I shall not accept the " guff " p\it .over by tho PostmasterGeneral, that everything must be subordinated to defence. If we are to "have adequate defence of this country, the lines of communication must be kept open and an efficient telephonic, telegraphic, and postal service must be maintained. This complete subordination of everything to defence can only stifle real progress in this country, and result in economic dryrot to such a degree that nothing will be left in it worth defending. The only sensible approach to any defence proposal is first to encourage the progress of the nation, to develop the country in everyway, and to provide facilities for the people which will result in the building up of population. This nauseous repetition of the need to subordinate everything to defence is only so much hocus pocus. I want the new Postmaster-General to understand that my remarks do not reflect upon his administration. I realize that he has only lately taken charge of his important department. I make, however, one definite accusation which I am prepared to prove to any sensible member of this House, or anybody whom the PostmasterGeneral cares to appoint. I make the deliberate charge against somebody connected with the administration of the Postmaster-General's Department that in one particular instance, at any rate, politics, and not the necessities of the cased, decided the question.

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