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Thursday, 26 August 1920

Mr PROWSE (Swan) . -I have no desire to "stone-wall" this amendment. I want to vote upon it, and, therefore, I shall not enter upon a discussion of the genealogies of past PostmastersGeneral. Having regard to the important work which the people in the out-back districts of Australia are doing for the nation, I feel that more atten tion should be given to their postal requirements, and to the provision of other facilities for them. Mr. Knibbs, the Government! Statistician, tells us - 1917-1918 - that the Australian primary producers contribute 76 per cent, of the wealth of the Commonwealth, and the secondary industries 24 per cent. In that State, to which an honorable member has just referred as one of ' ' sin, sand, and sorrow ' '-

Mr Richard Foster - And "sore eyes!"

Mr PROWSE - In that land, as the honorable member interjects, of " sin, sand, sorrow," and " sore eyes," from which I come, the primary producers are responsible for 86 per cent, of the wealth of the State, and the secondary industries for 14 per cent.; in other words, throughout the Commonwealth the wealth created by the primary producers is £56 7s. 6d. per head, and in little Western Australia £56 10s. per head. If we go into city factories we find three or four telephones, one in each room, so that there may not be the inconvenience of running from one part to another, whereas those who produce 86 per cent, of the wealth have to drive 20 miles to. a railway station to see whether their goods have arrived; and, on many occasions, only to be disappointed, and faced with a long, wet, and cold drive home, when a telephone would have saved this valuable time. At the same time, a surplus of £500,000 resulted last year from the working of the Postal Department of Australia. That money goes into the general revenue, and is devoted to other purposes than postal extension, although the Department should be conducted solely as a service in the service of the people. This is not the way in which real statesmanship should apply the money; and the present "cheeseparing" must cease. I am not saying anything against the present . Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise) ; indeed, conditions have been somewhat liberalized since he assumed office, though they are still cramped. There seems to be no vision of Australia as a great producing country, which requires all the postal, telegraphic, and telephonic facilities that modern ingenuity can devise. Weare a producing country, and the first consideration of this Parliament should be the provision of facilities for those people who are the most likely to lift the burden of debt from our shoulders. I suppose I have written 150 applications to the Department for telephones for the homes in the backblocks of Western Australia, and of these about 2 per cent, have been granted. My communications have been answered courteously, and, in explanation of the lack of telephonic communication, it has been explained that there are not sufficient people in the localities concerned. But do the Government desire to have cities in these country places? Are we to wait for a congested population before a modern time-saving invention is applied to enable us to compete with other countries? It would be infinitely better to add another halfpenny to the cost of our postage stamp in order to provide these postal facilities, which undoubtedly would prove reproductive. No longer ought a profit to be made by means of a Department which should be administered solely in the service of the people.

Some mail contractors are placed at such a disadvantage at present that they cannot fulfil their contracts, and -they should be given some consideration. Fortunately the land they speak of as one of "sin, sand, and sorrow" is so fertile that we have not suffered from drought; indeed, we could supply the droughtstricken eastern States with fodder. I support the amendment, not in the interests of my own State, but because it is right and reasonable that consideration should be given to the conditions under which these mail contractors work, and that the rural postal services should be rendered efficient.

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