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Thursday, 26 August 1920

Mr RILEY (South. Sydney) .- I regret the remark of the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), to the effect that it will not matter what the result of a vote on this question may be - that it will not alter the state of affairs. I represent a city constituency, and I can tell honorable members that Sydney has been deprived of its usual facilities, pillar boxes and letter boxes having been removed from one end of the city to the other. That is a scandalous state of things, and I ask the Government whether it is to be allowed to continue, or whether the letter boxes are to be replaced. The Treasurer tells us that the Government cannotobtain telephone instruments. That seems most remarkable in a country like this, which is able to turn out turbines and the best and finest classes of machinery at the Shaw Wireless Works at Randwick. Suppose we were cut off from any other country, is it tobe supposed that there are not enough brains and talent here to make telephone instruments?

Mr Laird Smith - There are patent rights to be considered.

Mr RILEY - That is the reply I received from the Deputy PostmasterGeneral in Sydney; but patent rights should not have stood in the way when the war was on; indeed, we can ignore those patent rights now if we cannot get supplies, and manufacture our own instruments.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - Are you advancing the theory that the Government should ignore patent rights?

Mr RILEY - I am laying down the theory that the Government should supply facilities for the carrying on of the business of the country.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - You are suggesting that a Government which makes laws to protect patent rights should ignore them.

Mr RILEY - I ask the Treasurer to reason the matter out for a moment. The Government tell us that they have placed orders for instruments in America and elsewhere, and that those orders cannot be supplied. If that be so, are we to do without the instruments just because there are patent rights? Having given an order for instruments, we can say that if they cannot be supplied we shall feel ourselves justified in ignoring patent rights, and making them for ourselves.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - The Government will buy all the telephone instruments in Australia that the honorable member can bring.

Mr RILEY - I know, but that is not the point I am on. We have works at Randwick which can make all the instruments we require; indeed, those works are now providing some equipment for the Post Office.

Mr McWILLIAMS (FRANKLIN, TASMANIA) - We can pay royalty on patents.

Mr RILEY - Quite so. Nearly every mail I get brings me letters of complaint about the lack of telephones. I know a butcher in Sydney who paid a deposit ten months ago for a telephone installation, but has been obliged to go out' of business because he has not been supplied; his rivals with telephones getting the orders.

Mr Laird Smith - Howmany telephone instrument fitters does the honorable member think we can get in Australia to-day, outside the Department?

Mr RILEY - I have not the time to find out. The honorable member is a practical man, and I ask him whether he suggests that, in the absence of any supplies from outside, we should not take steps to manufacture instruments for our own requirements. The Treasurer says he has the money to pay for instruments, and we know that we have the timber and metals and the necessary mechanics here. It shows a lack of organization on the part of the Government that steps are not taken in this direction. I do not blame the Postmaster-General so much, but he should instruct his mechanical engineers to see to the manufacture of instruments. It is a very simple matter to take a screwdriver and look at a telephone instrument; but then we are told about patent rights. We must let patent rights go, if it be necessary, and see that the people of this country are supplied with business facilities. No Government is worth its salt unless it sees that local requirements are met.

Mr McWilliams - How long do you think America would recognise patent rights here?

Mr RILEY - Mr. Hoskins, of Lithgow, who has invented an improvement in connexion with motor cars, recently visited America in order to patent it. There he was asked where he intended to undertake the work of manufacture, and when he replied ' ' In Australia ' ' he was told that if he was going to patent his invention in America he must also undertake the work of manufacture there. The same principle should be applied to patentees in this country.

I should like to know how the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) can justify the removal of letter boxes from thickly populated areas around Sydney - letter boxes which have been in position for the past twenty years? No excuse can be urged for such arbitrary action. A motor car passes the sites upon which these boxes were located, and could easily pick up correspondence placed in them. Is it the policy of the Government to cut down postal facilities? This debate has not been initiated one day too soon. I hope that the Government will see that the letter boxes of which I speak are speedily restored to their original positions.

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