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Monday, 17 September 1973
Page: 1108


Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The amendment moved by the Opposition is not acceptable to the Government. The position has been outlined in my previous statement to the Committee. I am rather interested to make this point: The debate tonight has been limited mainly to the registered publications. It is acknowledged that they have a political interest in them and it is often thought that they have a financial interest in them also because-


Mr ANTHONY (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - To whom is the Minister talking?


Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) -I am talking about the Country Party. Does the honourable member want to deny that? From the point of view of what my predecessor had to do, the position is clear. All that honourable members opposite are asking tonight is that everybody in Australia who posts a letter at 7c be made to pay 8c to subsidise registered publications. That is the Opposition's argument. That is the position. While, under the previous government, the Post Office was losing $20m on postal services, the biggest loss was on registered publications. If honourable members opposite are interested in the facts, they should look at what my predecessor, who was an honourable man, a member of the Liberal Party, put to the Cabinet in the 1972 submission.


Mr Anthony - It was knocked back.


Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Of course, because you controlled Cabinet. You are the rump of the situation. In 1972 he said:

When Cabinet considered Post Office finances in 1970 and 1971, I recommended that the difference between the concessional postage rates for category A' and 'B' registered newspapers and periodicals and normal printed matter rate be reimbursed to the Post Office. The concession currently reduces revenue by Slim a year.

That was a loss of $1 lm. He also said:

While there have been some indications of agreement with the principle of compensating for a concession given ... no decision has been taken.

This was a submission to the Cabinet. No decision was made in 3 years. He also said:

The Treasurer has undertaken to review subsidies involved in the operations of all Commonwealth business undertakings, but the present position is that, after 12 months, the matter appeared to be no closer to the solution.

As a responsible Minister, must he not do that? The Post Office was losing Slim a year. Even now, with the reduction in the concession, the loss to the Post Office this year on these matters will be $9m. All we are doing is reducing the loss. I heard the honourable member for Forrest (Mr Drummond) talk about the Australian Workers Union's journal. Of course there is a little dissension there. Somebody suggested that we were playing Party politics, but the honourable member for Forrest was quite correct when he said that we were dealing with the AWU's journal as well. So, there was no Party politics in this issue. The AWU's journal is up for an additional 65c per year.

I have with me a copy of a small Adelaide paper. It is within the 50grams. It is 12 pages. It could well go to 20 pages. It protests about the increased charges. The additional cost, because it is a weekly paper, is 1.5c. Yet the Opposition wants to ask every person to pay another lc to post a letter. Its plan is to increase the postage rate from 7c to 8c. It could not give a damn about the public. It is interested only in the professional publications which support it. We are still subsidising them.

The former Assistant Minister assisting the Postmaster-General, the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Ian Robinson), talked about what the previous Government did. Is it not a tragedy to think that when the previous Government was running the Post Office all that it did was put in a mangier at Redfern? The cost of running the mangier at Redfern is $22m a year; that is all right. Our proposition is to decentralise mail sorting, to put the mail where it can be sorted and not put it into a machine which cannot deal with it effectively. The cost of that machine was $4m. The maintenance cost last year was $2m. The former Assistant Minister wants to praise that.


The CHAIRMAN (Mr Scholes - Order!


Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - He ought to be ashamed of himself. That is the position. The only impressive part about the debate tonight-







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