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Tuesday, 25 November 1941

Mr McDONALD (Corangamite) . - I, too, wish to refer to the unfairness of the rates imposed under this bill. As the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) pointed out, newspapers weighing up to 20 oz. are to be called upon to pay only the same additional charge as applies to a letter or a postcard. That is manifestly unfair. The honorable member also complained that . these additional postal rates would impose a tax on the workers. There is not much ground for objection on that score, because it is practically the only tax that that class of the community is to be called upon to bear. I am, however, more concerned with the reduction of postal facilities in the country, mainly because of the war. In some country districts the available man-power has been depleted through enlistments, and in consequence the telephonic services have been reduced. This is not the time to reduce such services. On the contrary, people living in country districts should be given more of the amenities which are enjoyed by the people of the cities. During recent weeks a good deal has been said regarding the decentralization of industry. If we are to do anything effective in that direction, we should encourage people to remain in the country. That can be done only by giving to them a larger share of the benefits which hitherto have been almost exclusively the privilege of citizens in the more populous areas of the Commonwealth.

Sitting suspended from 6.15 to8 p.m.

Mr McDONALD - Prior to the suspension of the sitting, Mr. Speaker, you intimated tactfully, but none the less firmly, that you could not continue to allow the latitude that had been given to some members in the debating of matters not covered by the bill. I, therefore, move -

That all the words after " bill " be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - "be withdrawn temporarily and re-introduced with the provisions of Statutory Rules 1941 No. 201. incorporated therein ".

My object in moving this amendment is to provide an opportunity for the discussion of telephonic services and charges in Australia. At a time like this, when that big public utility, the PostmasterGeneral's Department, is returning huge profits, and when the Govern ment proposes to increase charges in certain respects, it would not be proper, in my opinion, for us to approve of the reduction of any of the services now being given in country districts. The tendency should be to increase, and not to reduce, services. People who live at a distance from the large centres of population should be given additional facilities. Only a fortnight ago notice was received in a town which I could name to the effect that the annual revenue through the telephone service had fallen £9 below the stipulated figure to justify a continuance of the service at the existing standard, and the residents were advised that unless they contributed, among them, the £9 required the service would be reduced. That was a most unfair attitude for the department to adopt. Not only is the Postmaster-General's Department admittedly amoney-making enterprise, but we have been told frankly that the increased charges proposed in this bill are intended to swell the revenue available to the Government. I, therefore, appeal to the Government to review its attitude in this connexion, and at least protect the residents of country districts from a curtailment of their postal, telegraphic and telephonic services because their localities have suffered a reduction of population, partly through enlistments in the Australian Imperial Force and partly through the attraction of their residents to big cities where employment is offering in our munitions factories.

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