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Tuesday, 5 September 1911

Senator ST LEDGER (Queensland) . - I desire to draw the attention of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral to the item of£4,963for the mail service to the Pacific Islands, which appears under the head of the Department of External Affairs. I received, some time ago, and I dare say that my corepresentatives from Queensland also received, a suggestion from the Cooktown Chamber of Commerce, which seemed to me a remarkably reasonable one. The Minister knows that Cooktown is almost an isolated community, even with regard to Queensland. It has to depend very largely for some of its mail communication upon the facilities which are extended by reason of the postal service between Papua and Sydney and Melbourne. There is a good deal of communication with Papua. Cooktown is one of the nearest ports, and I believe does a fairly extensive trade with Papua. At present, the mails from Papua pass by Cooktown, and are opened at Cairns, and then despatched to Cooktown. It has been suggested by the Chamber of Commerce at Cooktown that the delay of an hour or so outside the Endeavour River would enable them to get their mails quickly and to answer their correspondence. It is about two months since I drew the attention of the Department to this matter, and I dare say that my fellow representatives of Queensland have done something in that direction, but I have not yet received a reply. It may be that the Chamber of Commerce has received a communication ; it may be that the representative of some electorate in Queensland, or some other senator for that State has received word about the matter, but, although a very reasonable suggestion was brought under the notice of the Department over two months ago, I have not yet received any official intimation of what has been done. It seems a simple matter which was submitted. All that had to be done by the Department was to inquire whether a stoppage of an hour or so outside the entrance to Cooktown would seriously interfere with the transmission of mail matter to Cairns, the southern ports of Queensland, and the rest of Australia. Yet it has not been attended to, or, if it has been attended to, I have not received the courtesy of an answer telling me what has been done. But I received, and received pretty promptly, word that the matter was under consideration. How extraordinary is this conflict of departmental administration. One naturally takes a matter of this kind to the Department of the PostmasterGeneral, because it concerns the delivery of mails, but one finds out afterwards that it is connected with the External Affairs Department, and it is handed from one Department to the other. It takes some time for one to understand the processes of circumlocution which are observed by the two Eepartments. The Government may have a sufficient explanation to offer, but I ask, in the name of the isolated community of Cooktown, that, at any rate, its request should be attended to a little more promptly.

Senator de Largie - There is only a handful of people there.

Senator ST LEDGER - That is the very reason why the promptest attention should be given to any representations made to the Department. Can the Minister give us any promise that the request respectfully submitted and reasonably urged by the Chamber of Commerce on behalf of the people of Cooktown can be attended to? As he must know well, if it could be attended to, it would be a great boon to them.

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