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Wednesday, 13 December 1911

Senator McCOLL (Victoria) . - Several times I have brought under the notice of the Senate the illiberal manner in which those persons who are in charge of receiving post-offices throughout the country are paid. Their remuneration ranges from £1 to £8 per annum. Only the other day, I was speaking to a man in' the north of Victoria, who has to receive 2,500, and to distribute 5,000, letters a year, in addition to transacting all the other business connected with a post-office, and whose sole remuneration is £4 per annum. 1 hope that the Government will take this matter into their serious consideration, with a view to assisting these people, who do a great deal of work for a very inadequate recompense. This afternoon, the Leader of the Opposition called attention to the question of the soundness, or otherwise, of telegraph poles, and to a fatality which recently occurred as the result of one of those poles being defective. I had an opportunity lately of going through evidence and a report dealing with the question of telegraph poles. The evidence was taken by a committee which sat ten or eleven months ago. The matter was brought under the notice of the authorities by a workman, Mr. W. A. Brown, and the committee was appointed, at his request. He made seven or eight different charges, two or three of which were of a personal character, whilst the others affected the public interest. A number of witnesses were examined. Mr. Brown spent two or three years in collecting evidence beforehand. He was put to considerable expense, and the evidence was of a striking nature. The Department, however, refuse' to recoup him for the trouble and expense to which he was put. lt was alleged that, as he had only proved one charge, he was not entitled to recompense. I have run through the evidence and am of opinion that he proved four or five of the charges up to the hilt. I consider that he has been unfairly treated, especially as a good deal of the evidence was distinctly in the public interest. If one or two of his' recommendations had been adopted, and his allegations had been looked into, the fatality which took place would not have occurred. With regard to the proposed trip to the Northern Territory mentioned by Senator St. Ledger, I have to say that, as far as I have seen, not much benefit has accrued to the public interest from such excursions. We have had a number of them. Piles of reports have been printed in relation to the Northern Territory, going minutely into all the circumstances connected with it. I venture to say that not many of the members who take part in the trip will have read those reports. I do not think that it is fair that members of Parliament, who are well paid, should go away on excursions entirely at the public expense. They may derive personal benefit, but the whole cost of such expeditions should not fall upon the taxpayers who do not get any sufficient return. I trust that Ministers will inquire into the case that I have mentioned in regard to the telegraph poles and see if something cannot be done.

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