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Friday, 26 May 1939

Mr MAHONEY (Denison) .- I again direct . attention to a matter which I mentioned about three weeks ago in this House; namely, the frequent failure of broadcasting programmes transmitted through the submarine telephone line to relay stations in Tasmania. I have also complained on several occasions that ian business people seeking to make calls to business houses on the mainland are delayed for long periods and sometimes have been unable to transact their business. I brought these complaints to the notice of officials of the PostmasterGeneral's Department in Hobart, and I also had a long discussion with officials of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The engineer of the PostmasterGeneral's Department, whom I consulted, informed me that the telephone lines between Tasmania and the mainland were not heavy enough to handle the traffic. I was further informed that it would take several months to complete a survey of the requirements in this connexion, and that additional wires would have to be installed in the cables to cope with the normal traffic. I then submitted that information to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Harrison), with a request that appropriate action be taken. As a member of this Parliament I considered that it was my duty to make- these representations to the honorable gentleman. I treat all Ministers with courtesy, and expect the same treatment from them. Every honorable member who places before a Minister representations which have come from his constituents expects them to be investigated. At no time have I ever attempted, by misrepresentation of the facts concerning any particular matter, to enlist the sympathy of any Minister. Neither have I tried to take an advantage of my political opponents. As all honorable members know, Tasmania suffers tremendous disabilities which sometimes are accentuated by unsympathetic treatment by Ministers in this Parliament, Unfortunately for my State, most of ,the Ministers live'on the mainland and have very little knowledge of the grievances of people of Tasmania. I admit, of course, that some members of the Cabinet have been courteous to me, and have given sympathetic consideration t,o any representations which I have made. But I challenge the Postmaster-General to disprove my statement, made on the authority of at least one engineer of the Postmaster-General's Department, that the telephone lines between Tasmania and the mainland are inadequate to cope with the load that is put on them. If necessary I can give to the Minister the name of the engineer who made that statement. I am not endeavouring to mislead the honorable gentleman. I question whether he has much sympathy with Tasmania, mainly because, with other members of this Government, he has to rely for support on political organizations in New South Wales and Victoria. But so long as I am in this Parliament, I shall fight for the rights of Tasmania, no matter what the attitude of the Ministry may be. I shall not be side-tracked by any misstatements of fact.

In connexion with several repatriation matters which I have raised in this House, I have received what I consider to be very unsympathetic treatment. However, I shall do my best to see that deserving returned soldiers get the benefits to which they are entitled under Commonwealth legislation. Because of their war service, many of these men are now broken down in health, but their claims for a pension have been disallowed. The Government must face the issue and see that these men receive benefits to which they are justly entitled, even though twenty years have elapsed since the war ended. Unfortunately, the PostmasterGeneral, who is also the Minister for Repatriation, is a "two-way" man. Although he professes to have profound sympathy -with returned soldiers, he repeatedly rejects representations made to him in this House on their behalf. I shall have no hesitation in telling the " Diggers " just how much sympathy the honorable gentleman has given to cases which I have brought under his notice. The Repatriation Act should be reviewed, so that more protection may be given to these unfortunate men, many of whom served for. four years in France or elsewhere overseas during the war. Their health has now broken down and they are in need of sympathy and assistance, but on some occasions, when I have made representations on their behalf, very rough replies have been given. The Minister himself is a returned soldier. Presumably he walked side by side with some of these men, and shared their privations in the trenches, so he should do his best now to ensure for those of his former comrades who are now in necessitous circumstances, at least some of the good things of life which he, as a Minister of the Crown, enjoys.

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