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Wednesday, 29 June 1938

Mr PRICE (Boothby) .- In my opinion, the time has arrived when the Postmaster-General should be a member of this chamber. The Postal Department is the biggest business undertaking of the Commonwealth, and the Minister responsible for its activities should be in that branch of the legislature which is more directly concerned with finance than is the other chamber. The Minister himself should be available to answer questions and supply information to honorable members. I am not satisfied with the replies given to questions relating to the Postal Department. Many of them are evasive. In this house there are members well qualified to hold the portfolio of Postmaster-General.

On a number of occasions I have brought under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral the advantages that would accrue from a reduction of telephone charges to private subscribers. It may be contended that reduced charges would mean a loss of revenue, but I submit that that loss would be more than compensated for by the greater number of subscribers which would result and the increased volume of business that transacted. A better service could be provided at a cheaper .rate. I am aware that the Postmaster-General thinks that the charges are now low, but I cannot agree with him. This department is supposed to render service to the people, but it seems to be more intent on making huge profits.

For some time, I have advocated a reduction of the fee for a wireless listener's licence. Generally, the fee is 21s. per annum, but in certain zones, it is 15s. It is interesting to note that the sum of £228,168, representing ls. in respect of each licence, is held in reserve by the commission. The funds at the disposal of the commission are sufficiently great to justify a reduction of the fee.

Recently the Australian Broadcasting Commission appointed State advisory committees in South Australia and Western Australia. I placed on the noticepaper a number of questions in relation to the South Australian committee with the object of ascertaining the nature of the service rendered by it. The Minister, in reply, said that the recommendations made by the advisory committee are regarded as confidential. If that be so, how is it possible to judge whether or not the committee is rendering service of value?

Mr Lane - We cannot do so.

Mr PRICE - The representatives of the people should be in a position to know whether a committee that is set up under the authority of the Parliament is rendering service of sufficient value to. make its existence worth while. Advisory committees have been set up in only two States. I should like to know the reason for not setting up similar committees in the other States also.

Bill read a second time.

In committee:

Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.

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