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Tuesday, 29 November 1938

Mr GEORGE LAWSON (BRISBANE, QUEENSLAND) . - I am pleased to be able to say a few words on the vote for the Postal Department, particularly because we have present in the chamber the newlyappointed Postmaster-General (Mr. Archie Cameron), whom I sincerely congratulate on his elevation to a high position in the Ministry. I bring under the notice of the honorable gentleman the need for a new post office at Brisbane. I have already placed this matter before three of his predecessors without results, but I hope that my appeal on this occasion will not fall on deaf ears. The present Postmaster-General while sitting as a private member must have heard me on at least a score of occasions appeal to the Government to proceed with the construction of a new post office at Brisbane, and he must also have heard the many promises that were made by at least two of his predecessors that the work would be put in hand. When the Estimates for 1934-35 were before the committee, the then Postmaster-General (Sir Archdale Parkhill) declared that money was on the Estimates for the work, and he promised that it would be started before Christmas 1934, in order that the unemployed would have some work before the festive season. We are just as far to-day from "having a new post office building in Brisbane as we were then. When the Federal Cabinet met in Brisbane three or four years ago, the existing post office building was inspected and a further definite promise was made that it was intended to replace it. There is no need for me to elaborate on the shortcomings of the building. I have done so on enough occasions for honorable members who have not first-hand knowledge of it to know that it is entirely unsuitable. During the last session a representative deputation waited upon the then Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) and urged upon him the necessity to begin the work. It also urged the need to erect a new building on the alignment of the existing building which is 16 feet back from the foot- path. For six or eight months the newspapers in Brisbane almost every day received articles from certain postal officials in Brisbane setting out how the new post office would be built. The representatives of the citizens, particularly the City Council and the Town Planning Association, were at the same time urging upon the Postmaster-General the need to build on the existing alignment. They were told by the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs in Brisbane that there was absolutely no chance of that being done because the department had already decided on how the building was to be erected. The citizens of Brisbane were incensed at his attitude, and members of the House of Representatives and senators from Queensland went as a deputation to the Postmaster-General. They were able to advance sufficient argument to convince the Minister that, in the interests of the city, the new building should be erected on the old alignment. After that deputation had taken place the PostmasterGeneral wrote me a letter of which the following is a portion : -

The department is impressed by the representations made in regard to the setting back of the building alignment, and after taking all the circumstances into consideration, is disposed to accede to the request to the extent that the face of the new building itself will be tcn feet from the inside boundary of the footpath. The entrance steps to the building will, of course, project over a portion of this space.

We were pleased at the concession granted, but, nevertheless, we were not satisfied, because the people of Brisbane still claim, as I claim, that the existing alignment ia the alignment on which the new premises should he built. It has been the alignment for 60 years, ever 3ince the Brisbane post office was built. I appeal to the PostmasterGeneral to go on with this work. I have been given to understand that the Estimates contain provision for the expenditure of £50,000 on the construction of the new parcels section facing Elizabethstreet. Is it the intention of the department to go on with the work, and when does it intend to start? I should like to see a start made before Christmas so that the unemployed will benefit. I pui it to the Minister that the promises which have been made since 1934 should be carried into effect. I am fairly con fident that they will be, because in the new Postmaster-General we have a Minister who is not a rubber stamp, and is one who will not allow himself to be dictated to or allow his officers to ride rough-shod over his directions.

Complaints are frequent regarding the misuse of public telephones in Brisbane. I have mentioned this matter in the House on other occasions, and it has also been brought to the notice of postal officials in Brisbane. While it is admitted that there is a considerable misuse of these telephones, the department states that it has no control over them.

Mr Archie Cameron - In what sense ?

Mr GEORGE LAWSON (BRISBANE, QUEENSLAND) - I understand that if a person uses a public telephone installed in a post office, only three minutes is permitted for a conversation; but there is no such limit in connexion with other public telephones, four or five of which are situated in Queen-street, Brisbane. Sometimes these telephones are used by one person for as much as ten to fifteen minutes. That is not right. Any one of these public telephones may be required urgently, but its use may be prevented by some one carrying on perhaps an unimportant conversation for much longer than the three minutes ordinarily allowed. The department has, I understand, endeavoured to trace the people who improperly carry on long conversations regularly on certain days of the week, to the inconvenience of other people who wish to use the telephones, but so far it has not been successful. I am informed that there is a device which automatically cuts out a conversation after the prescribed period of three minutes has elapsed, but that its installation on public telephones would he costly. Whether heavy expense would he involved or not, protection should be given to people who desire to use public telephones in a legitimate manner. I hope that inquiries will be made in an endeavour to prevent a continuance of this misuse.

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