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Thursday, 26 August 1920

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) . - I shall not take long, but I wish to say one or two words. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) has for the last fifteen minutes been indulging in a piece of theatrical gasconading such as we are accustomed to see him indulge in, and all the while making clear the one fact that the" bottom has fallen out " of his little scheme to-night. If one thing is clearer than another it is that fact; and no wonder he rages like the Bull of Bashan, and threshes himself and attempts to thresh others into a fury ; but the one thing written all over his effort is absolute and unqualified failure. That is the outstanding feature of the whole debate. I have had nothing whatever to do with it. I do not know who is going to vote with the Government, or who is not. But if I were a betting man, I would not mind staking a wager that when the numbers are up the Labour party will be found to be much more solid than will honorable members upon this side of the chamber. If there be anything certain in this world, that is certain. I am sure that honorable members of the Country party will appreciate all the kindly condescension which has been exhibited towards them by the honorable member for WestSydney (Mr. Ryan), who has pitied them because of their inexperience of political life. Really, they are a lot of simplelooking persons in the Corner. But may I suggest to the honorable member for West Sydney that they know quite as much about things as he does?

Mr McWilliams - There are men in this Corner who will not be fooled by either of you.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - I am quite sure of that. I think my honorable friend will say that during his twenty years' experience of me I have never attempted to fool him. It is immaterial to me how he votes upon this question ; but I hope that he will acquit me of any intention of endeavouring to persuade him to exercise other than an independent judgment. I am not going to lecture him as he has been lectured by the honorable member for West Sydney. I am not going to tell him that I am disposed to pity him and the other members of his party, and to look down upon them with kindly feelings. I shall not indulge in any such " tripe." I shall leave that to my honorable friend opposite, who is such a past-master at the business, but who to-night has cut a very sorry figure indeed. His trouble is not that the members of the Country party are being dragged at our heels, as he put it, but that they are not being dragged at the heels of his party. He thought that his own party were going to score tonight.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What did the honorable gentleman do to prevent us scoring ?

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - I will tell the honorable member. I will tell honorable members exactly what we have promised to-night, in order that there may be no misunderstanding about it. We have told the House plainly that we are going to extend the mail services in the interior of this country We are going to spend money more generously with a view to doing that. We have further promised - all these things have been said before, but honorable members opposite have been so obsessed with a desire to get a political party advantage out of this debate that they did not listen to the statements which have been made - that the new services this year will be reviewed, and any exceptional case of hardship will be treated fairly. That is a distinct promise, and the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) beard me make it, although he has denied it half-a-dozen times to-night.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I said that I did not hear the Postmaster-General make it.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - It is not the oppressed mail contractor in the country that he is after, but the scalp of this Government. If he can use our mail contractors to attain his object, they will prove just as good a stick as will anything else. Anybody could see the grin which was written all over his face to-night at the turn which events had taken.

Another promise which we have made is that we shall do our best to improve the telephonic services in country areas. We shall get telephones anywhere that we can get them, and if honorable members opposite know where telephone material can be obtained, I invite them to give us the information. 1 invite the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), who has said that he is an engineer, and who has made asseverations as to the qualities of steel that can be produced here, to come along with that steel, and we will try and use it in the manufacture of telephones. Does he think that we are doing what we can to prevent these services being extended to the people? Why should we? Does a Government invite adverse criticism if that criticism can be honestly avoided ? The supposition underlying all the arguments advanced by honorable members opposite is that the Government are a set of fools who court adverse criticism. I challenge the honorable member for Hindmarsh to bring along the materials of which he has spoken. He says that they are here. Let him' bring them along, and the Government, if it can use them, will buy them at a reasonable price. The Government wish to purchase materials and to install telephones. I want them for my electorate, and every other honorable member wants them for his electorate. We have the money with which to purchase them, and if honorable members can furnish these materials they are acting a faithless part to this country if they do net, bring them along.

Mr Mahony - Is it not the duty of the Postal Department to make these arrangements ?

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - What arrangements?

Mr Mahony - To see that telephones are provided.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - Of course it is. It is tie duty of the Government to get telephones out of the ground. Only we cannot do it. I am sure that the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony), the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), and the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) can do it. But we cannot do it. We shall do our best to get this telephonic material, and to see that the benefit of it is extended to the interior of this country. We shall do all that we have promised to-night as far as that is humanly possible. Do I make myself clear?

Opposition Members. - No.

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