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Thursday, 22 October 1931

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr Keane (BENDIGO, VICTORIA) - I ask the PostmasterGeneral to withdraw the remark to which exception has been taken.

Mr A GREEN (KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - If the honorable member objects to the expression I used, t shall later substitute another term which may be more fitting. I do not question the right of any honorable member to express an opinion concerning the administration of any public officer; but any unbiased honorable member will admit that for months past the honorable member for Martin has directed most of the criticism in which he has indulged # in this House to the Director of Postal Services, and has insinuated that there is something wrong with the contracts into which the PostmasterGeneral's Department, of which Mr. Brown is the principal administrative officer, has entered. There is not a scintilla of truth in the honorable member's remarks, which would be regarded as grossly unfair by any public servant. It i3 not my intention to explain the circumstances under which an honorarium of £1,000 was paid to Mr. Brown, as that was the act of a previous administration. The action of the honorable member who has repeatedly hurled questions at me, and cluttered up the notice-paper with similar questions, has not resulted in any service to the country. These questions have been submitted at the behest of some obscure person. I am not a hero worshipper, but I have had sufficient experience to RECOGNIZE a man's ability and to form an opinion as .to his honesty. For the honorable member to insinuate that the contracts let by the department, of which Mr. Brown is the responsible officer, were in any way suspicious, is improper in the highest degree. His insinuation savours more of cowardice than of anything else, because the gentleman against whom he makes the charge is not able to defend himself-

Mr Eldridge - Honest Iago

Mr A GREEN (KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - I return the- compliment to the honorable member. There is no one to whom I could more appropriately apply that character than to the honorable member. No unbiased person could possibly lay a charge against

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Mr. Brown.The honorable member has for several months been trying to make a name for himself by pillorying public servants, and I denounce him for his cowardice. I am defending an officer who lias rendered great service to this country.

Reference has been made to the losses experienced in the telephone and telegraph branches of the Postal Department. It is true that, in. common with all other business concerns, whether public or private, those branches of the service have not paid directly, but, taking the Postal and Telegraph Department in its entirety, it has proved a good business proposition for Australia. Considering the sparse population of Australia, compared with other countries, the telephonic, telegraphic, and postal services provided are relatively cheap. Telephonic and mail services are not expected to pay, the main object being to make life in the back country more tolerable than it would be without those services, and to give rural settlers means of communication with their fellow citizens in the more thickly populated areas. In some districts, the department gives services worth, say, £2,000 for a return of a few hundred pounds. The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) has made a great deal of the expenditure, during the present Government's term of office, of £49,000 on material of overseas manufacture which could have been made in Australia. In a department which spends over £12,000,000 a year, a paltry £49,000 is of small importance. As a matter of fact, it can be shown that the expenditure to which the honorable member has referred was justified. He made a considerable fuss about the purchase abroad of the material for two broadcasting stations. I think that the department was quite justified in placing the orders abroad, because the local tender was £56,000 for material which could be purchased overseas for £30,000. For substation protectors, the Australian tender was 25 per cent, higher, or £2,271 over and above the duty on a job costing less than £4,000; and for porous pots, 85 per cent., or £1,276 higher than the price paid. The honorable member did not mention that since the present Government has been in power it has reduced the proportion of material purchased abroad from 40 per cent, to 32 per cent.

Mr Eldridge - I quoted better figures than those.

Mr A GREEN (KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - Time after time, the honorable member brings in this King Charles' head, but he has failed to substantiate his charges. He has attempted, by innuendo, to cast suspicion upon a most estimable man, and one of the leading public servants of Australia. It is an entirely unworthy act, which I keenly resent.

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