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Thursday, 10 November 1938

Naturally, on learning unexpectedly that bis son was staying at a private hospital, he became alarmed and immediately set out for Sydney to see if he could be of any assistance to his son in the illness with which, apparently, he had been stricken. It was not until he had reached Albury that fresh advice was sent to him which indicated that an error had occurred in the transmission of the telegram and that the word " hospital " should have read " hotel ". The son was staying at a private hotel and not a private hospital. As the father had been put to a certain amount of expense as the result of this error, my constituent applied to the Postal Department for a refund of his out-of-pocket expenses. The department admitted the error, and stated that an exhaustive investigation had revealed a regrettable failure of the service during the transmission of the message between Melbourne and Prahran, that suitable corrective action had been taken in regard to the officers associated with the failure, and that it had been arranged for an amount equal to the transmission charges in connexion with the telegram to be refunded. A refund in stamps to the value of ls. Sd. was made. "When representations were made that had this error occurred as the result of the activities of any private business organization, a suitable remedy would have been available in the courts to the person concerned, the department pointed out that the statutory provisions of the Post and Telegraph Act did not permit it to accept any responsibility, or to recognize any claim for compensation, arising from failures of this character. The principle of non-responsibility, the department claimed, is incorporated in the International Telecommunication Convention to which the Commonwealth of Australia is a signatory, and is generally recognized by telegraph administrations throughout the world. It went on to state that, in view of these circumstances, it regretted that it was unable to recognize any claim for compensation. It is palpably unfair that a Government department should not be prepared to recognize reasonable claims for compensation in cases where damage has occurred as the result of an error or, in fact, negligence, on the part of its officers. I take this opportunity to bring the matter before the House, and to register my personal protest against this attempt to shelter behind a legislative provision for non-liability. I make a fresh appeal to the Postmaster-General that, if he has any personal discretion in the matter, he will see that justice is done.

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