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Tuesday, 29 November 1938

Mr BARNARD (Bass) .- Recently I asked the Postmaster-General (Mr. Archie Cameron) for particulars of post office expenditure in the several States, and- whether efforts were being made by the department to decentralize its expenditure. I asked also whether the department followed any guiding principle in the letting of contracts. I received an interesting reply. I was informed that 49 per cent. of the materials used by the department was of Australian production. When I inquired as to the percentage in each State, I was told that in the Australian Capital Territory it was 2 per cent. ; in New South Wales, 64 per cent. ; in Victoria, 30 per cent. ; in Queensland, 3 per cent. ; in South Australia and Western Australia, 2 per cent.; and in Tasmania, 1 per cent. Those figures indicate that the allocation of money as between the States is not made on an equable basis. In my opinion, the department should spread its expenditure as evenly as possible over all the States. If the position were analysed, I believe that it would be found that it would be not only of advantage to the States, but also economical from the point of view of the Government to obtain locally as large a proportion as possible of the department's requirements. I have in mind the supply of cross-arms for telegraph poles. This is not a new question, for it has been raised on several occasions by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney), as well as by myself. Even now, the position is not satisfactory, and I hope that the Minister will direct the attention of the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs to this subject with a view to something being done. Seeing that 60 per cent, of the money expended in New South "Wales and 30 per cent, of the expenditure in Victoria is for materials of Australian production, whilst the percentage in the other States is much lower, it would appear that sufficient attention is not being paid to the .industries in the other States. The expenditure by the department in New South Wales is set down as £109,195, whereas for Tasmania the amount is £6,570. In the Australian Capital Territory it is £66,719. I should like the PostmasterGeneral to look into this matter in order to see if something cannot be done to apportion more equably the expenditure to the -several States.

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