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Tuesday, 29 November 1938


Mr SCULLY (Gwydir) .- I am confident that the new PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Archie Cameron) will discharge his ministerial duties thoroughly, to the satisfaction of the general public. I should like to impress upon the honorable gentleman the necessity for giving more attention to the provision of postal facilities in outback districts. For some time there has been considerable cheese-paring in the letting of mail contracts. A promise was given to me some time ago that in future a more liberal attitude would be adopted, but I have in mind one case which indicates that departmental officials are still indulging in cheese-paring economies and are not giving the service to which outback settlers are entitled. One man I know of in the Collarenebri district, living on a holding which for years has been just outside the regular mail route, has made repeated applications for a service to his property. I know the country well. In my opinion that man is as entitled as any other settler to a mail service. The cost of diverting the mailman from his present route would be very small. This year tenders were called, and the contract specified the inclusion of the property to which I have referred. As the increase in the tender price on this account was £20, the department decided to keep to the original route. I know also of five or six pioneer settlers living in an area not now served by a mail delivery, who have been unsuccessful in their applications for an extension of the present service. They are men who have done splendid pioneering work in developing their properties, and they should be encouraged by the granting of all possible postal and other facilities. In my opinion, all settled localities are entitled to a mail service whether the diversion from existing mail routes would be great or not.

I endorse the remarks of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) with regard to the need for improved telephone facilities in country areas. I know of several settlers, in the Wee Waa district, who have made application for the extension of a telephone line five or six miles to their holdings. The department insisted on a cash deposit of £160 before authorizing the connexion. As there were four men concerned, that would have meant a cash payment of £40 each. These men had passed through adverse seasons and were not able to find the amount demanded, but stated their willingness to enter into a guarantee to repay, over a term of years, the capital expenditure involved. In the meantime the department would derive revenue from telephone rentals and from the large volume of local and trunk line business which would result. The department, however, refused to accede to their request, despite the fact that the men concerned agreed also that in the event of any of them being obliged to leave their properties, the other guarantors could be called upon to honour his pledge as well as theirs. I impress upon the Postmaster-General that the proposition is a sound one, and, with the honorable member for- Riverina, I hope that something will be done in this direction.

I was pleased to hear the PostmasterGeneral give an assurance that the provision of rural automatic exchanges will not be curtailed in New South Wales. Several of these exchanges were provided for in the Estimates of recent years, and the localities in which they were to be erected were mentioned; but the announcement was made eventually that the department did not intend to proceed with their installation. I was pleased to hear to-night that that is not the present intention of the department.

I urge upon the notice of the Minister the matter mentioned by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) of the treatment of casual telephone linemen who are returned soldiers. I have previously brought under the attention of the department the specific case of a man of excellent character who has had over twelve years of casual service. Under the regulations an employee must have two years' continuous employment to make him eligible for a permanent appointment. Quite recently this man was employed for a year and ten months continuously, and then he was dismissed. The statement was issued that the department had no intention to prevent him from being made a permanent employee, but, seeing that he was dismissed within a couple of months of qualifying for a permanent appointment, I can come to no other conclusion than that he was dismissed for the purpose of preventing him from so qualifying. It seems to me that such treatment of returned soldiers is despicable, particularly as work was available for this man to do. Other temporary employees have had similar experiences.







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