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Thursday, 6 May 1915

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - Senator Keating has made out a better case for extending the telephone system than for furnishing the return for which he has asked. Every honorable senator must attach great weight to the arguments of the Minister against the motion, and it must be remembered also that there are large quantities of material that can be used for either the telephonic or telegraphic systems. In making out the return, some one would have to allocate some stocks to the telephone branch, and others to the telegraph branch. The return -would unquestionably be costly, and would not help Senator Keating to secure what he evidently has in his mind - the extension of the telephone system generally. The details asked for in the motion would he another source of difficulty, especially in getting information from country postmasters, who might not know anything of the value of the material. In those cases the Department would have to send an expert up to conduct a valuation. The annual balance-sheet of the Department will be made up to the end of June, but the motion asks for a special valuation or a special separation of the whole of the material in the hands of the Department. I do not say that it is not necessary to differentiate the material for the different services, and had the honorable senator moved that at the next stocktaking the telephonic and telegraphic material should be kept separate, this would have been a practical suggestion, and honorable senators would have been in a much better position to assist him. It would put the Commonwealth to an unnecessary expense to prepare a special balance-sheet up to within a few months of the end of the year for something that would be of no practical use either to the honorable senator or the country afterwards. If it was decided for the future that the material should be kept separate, and proper lists kept of it, we should have those lists to refer to permanently, but to carry the motion as it stands will not help the Department or the country, or secure that extension of the telephonic system which, I am confident, the honorable senator has in his mind all the time.

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