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Wednesday, 21 July 1920

Mr MARKS asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -

1.   What progress has been made in negotiations with the steam-ship companies respecting an improved mail service to and from Eng- land, and when it is anticipated finality will be reached?

2.   With a view to alleviate the serious disabilities under which Australian business firms are now labouring by reason of the indifferent mail service to England, will he consider the advisability of entering into a special contract with the Oceanic Steam-ship Company, now operating between Sydney and San Francisco with the Ventura and Sonoma, and who are about to place a new 8,000-ton steamer on this route?

3.   Will the Minister consider the removal of the restriction requiring that letters sent via San Francisco to England must be indorsed with the route and the name of the steamer by which they are consigned?

4.   If so, and in order to insure a more general use of this quick route for Australian correspondence, will he urge the British PostmasterGeneral to remove the same restriction ?

Mr WISE - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follow: -

1.   The existing contract with the Orient Company, the only one to which the Commonwealth is a party, does not expire until 17th September, 1921. I am, therefore, not in a position to give the honorable member any information at this juncture in regard to a new contract.

2.   A special contract is not considered necessary. The San Francisco route is already utilized under non-contract conditions, when any advantage is likely to be gained thereby in regard to the arrival of mails in England. 3 and 4. The overseas time-table is arranged with the view of insuring the conveyance of the mails by the quickest means available. It is not always advantageous to use the San Francisco route for mails to England, as steamers leaving Australia via Suez about the same time as the American steamers may afford a quicker means of despatch; but in order that the public may use the San Francisco route, if they so desire for some special reason, the arrangement for indorsement of their letters was made accordingly as a convenience to the public, not as a restriction.

Mr. STORY(for Sir Robert Best) asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -

With reference to a question asked by the honorable member forKooyong on the 31st March last, Hansard, page 1011, with reference to the Pacific mail contract, will the Minister be good enough to state what has been the result of his consideration of the matter ?

Mr WISE - This is a question which comes within the province of the Prime Minister, but I understand the matter is still under consideration by him. That was the consideration referred to in my previous answer.

Mr. STORY(for Mr. Austin Chapman) asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -

1.   Is it a fact that mail contractors are in great difficulties on account of the high price of fodder, and in many cases are unable to carry out their engagements without some assistance from the Government?

2.   If so, will he consider the desirability of at once giving them some help in the way of a fodder allowance in all deserving cases?

Mr WISE - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follow : -

1.   Applications have been received from a number of mail contractors for assistance owing to the high prices of fodder.

2.   The question of affording assistance to mail contractors in drought-stricken districts is under consideration.

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