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Wednesday, 23 September 1936


Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) . - I have in my possession a letter from the Rockhampton Town Council urging the replacement of the manual telephone service in that city by the automatic service. I believe that the Postmaster-General has already received a copy of that letter.


Senator ALLAN MACDONALD (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - At any rate Rockhampton does have telephones.


Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - There is no Western Australian town, other than Perth, which has a population comparable with that of Rockhampton. This letter presses for an automatic telephone exchange for Rockhampton and asks that the Government give early consideration to the claims of this large and important city. The Rockhampton people do not talk about it very much hut the city is the capital of an area of about 217,000 square miles. I hope that it will grow a lot bigger. Automatic telephone exchanges are being installed in various parts of the Commonwealth and I hope that the Postmaster-General will be able to give to this matter the consideration that it deserves.

With others, I met a deputation of South Brisbane men, who are urging the need for a new post office in that suburb. The people there are not asking for an expensive or ornamental building; all they seek is a plain post office. There is a post office in Stanley-street, South Brisbane, hut it is not so good for business purposes as it used to be. Not nearly so much business is done there now as was done formerly and in other ways the site is hot suitable. The site proposed for the new building is centrally situated and was recently acquired by the Commonwealth Government for about £5,000. It is not a large area, but it is large enough for a small building. This site is near two railway stations, one the terminus of the KyogleSouth Brisbane railway, on which the main interstate railway business is conducted, and the other the Melbournestreet station, from which a branch line goes to the seaboard town, of Coolangatta and thence to Sydney. I have examined both the present site and the proposed new site, and I am satisfied that the latter is the better. I ask the PostmasterGeneral and the Government to proceed with the erection of the new post office as soon as possible. That this is a matter requiring urgent consideration is shown by the fact that the Government has actually bought the land and has thereby approved of the idea that the postal business in South Brisbane should be transferred from its present unsuitable location in 'Stanley-street to the very busy site near the railway stations. This site becomes more and more central, and therefore more and more suited for the requirements of South Brisbane.

As to the proposed reconstitution of the Public Works Committee, I disagree with the few comments voiced by Senator Collings. As Leader of the Opposition, Senator Collings has on his mind more than the average private member and I think that his first impulse when this matter was raised was to express the Opposition attitude - "Beware of commissions, particularly when they are brought forward by our opponents when in power." I personally do not favour commissions which are appointed merely to shoulder the responsibilities of the Government. I am not levelling this charge against the present Government because 1 know that it is too noble to do such a thing, but governments generally have the habit, when faced with an irksome task, of transferring the responsibility to a commission which may wander around for two or three years before making a report. Not infrequently the appointment of commissions and committees provides for a government a convenient way out of inconvenient situations. I, therefore, think it probable that my leader (Senator Collings) had this in his mind when he interjected this afternoon. For my part, I would welcome the re-constitution of the Public Works and Public Accounts Committees, which rendered useful service to the Commonwealth for many years prior to the onset of the depression, when the acts constituting them were suspended. My knowledge of the work done by parliamentary standing committees goes back about fifteen years, to the time when Mr. Gillies, then Premier of Queensland, appointed a standing committee on public works similar to that in New South Wales, with which Mr. Gillies was familiar, having come originally from that State. But my experience of their work is not limited to Queensland. For many years I followed my profession as a journalist in Victoria. On several occasions I was called upon to write summaries' of reports furnished by the "Victorian Railways Standing Committee, a body having functions similar to the Commonwealth Public Works and Public Accounts Committees, and I was impressed by the value of the services performed for the State by that body. Some critics of the proposal to re-constitute these parliamentary committees suggest that their chief purpose is to provide additional jobs and extra fees for members of Parliament. I can assure them that the extra emoluments paid are well earned by reason of the savings which the committees have effected. As evidence of the valuable information which members acquire in the course of their work on such committees, I may mention, without disclosing any party confidences, that I was impressed by the admirable address delivered this morning by the Leader of our. party (Mr. Curtin), who displayed an expert knowledge of the financial relations of the Commonwealth and States - a knowledge which he acquired because of his close association with the Commonwealth Grants Commission. As honorable senators, may remember, he was entrusted with the responsibility of stating the claims of Western

Australia before the commission a few years ago. The reconstitution of the Public "Works and Public Accounts Committees would mean that a number of members of both branches of the Parliament would serve on them and would acquire a more accurate knowledge of the works proposals and financial activities of the Government. This information would be at the disposal of the Parliament, and would facilitate the discussion of the various proposals submitted. I agree with Senator Poll that on many occasions the Public Works Committee prevented the unnecessary expenditure of public money on works proposals, and I have no doubt that it was also an effective cheek upon any attempted jobbery. For these reasons I would cordially support a proposal to re-constitute these committees. There is no doubt that if the Government could see its way clear to do this, the work which the committees would do would increase the confidence of the people in proposals undertaken by the Government.







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