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Thursday, 13 May 1915

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) .- - I desire to direct the attention of the Minister of Defence to a, question which vitally concerns not only our troops at the front, but also their relatives in Australia. This afternoon we carried a motion expressing our appreciation of the gallantry of our soldiers on the Gallipoli Peninsula - a motion with which I am sure every honorable senator was heartily in accord. We have now the means of doing something of a practical nature, both for the members of our Expeditionary Forces abroad and for their relatives here. I hold in my hand two telegrams. One of these was despatched from the Defence Department to a father in South Australia, notifying him that his son had been wounded in action at the Dardanelles. The young man was a member of our first Expeditionary Force. The following day the father received a cable from his son at Cairo asking him to immediately remit the sum of £5. As the young fellow was then in the hospital, we can readily understand that he probably required the ready cash to provide himself with certain luxuries which are not ordinarily provided in a military hospital. As a matter of fact, before leaving for the front, he had left an order, under which the bulk of his wages were allocated to his parents. Upon receipt of the ' cable, the parent at once visited the cable company for the purpose of complying with the son's request. Now, I do not intend to say a single word derogatory to that company. It is out to make money, as it has a perfect right to do. Whatever charges it may choose to levy, the public are obliged to pay. But in a case of this kind, it is the duty of the Defence Department to see that money can be remitted from Australia to our boys at the front at a reasonable cost. This parent remitted the £5 by cable, and the cable company charged 10s. for exchange and £1 16s. 6d. for the wire-a total of £2 6s. 6d. In other words, the cost of transmission was almost half that of the amount remitted. Of course, . I know that arrangements have been made for allowing week-end cables to be despatched at reduced rates. However, this cable was sent, and the mother cabled the money the next day, at a cost of £2 6s. 6d.

Senator Grant - Was it an urgent cable ?

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - No; I think it was just an ordinary cable, and I do not know when it was sent. I understand it is the custom of the cable companies to send the whole of the work for the day in one message, and so avoid unnecessary expenditure. If they are sent in that way the cable companies are making large profits out of the necessities of the people, because there is no doubt that many young men, when they get wounded, send to Australia for money, just as this young man did. I am asking the Minister of Defence if he will take some steps to see that the people of Australia have some more economical way of communicating with relatives at the front. When I took that correspondence from the parent to the Commonwealth Bank, I found that, had the mother known the proper procedure, the possibilities are that she could have sent the money through the Commonwealth Bank, and saved nearly £2 on the transaction. Therefore, I think the Minister should make it clear to the public that they can send money through the banks. I do not know if the Commonwealth Bank is more liberal than other banks, but if private institutions will not do it in the same manner as the Commonwealth Bank, the Minister should take such steps as will make it clear to the people that they may remit money at a cheaper rate than that which this unfortunate woman had to pay. This information could be conveyed to the people by advertisements or by placards at the postoffices. I am not blaming the cable company. I believe this is the first instance of the kind that has been brought under the notice of the Minister, and I hope he will go into the matter carefully, as it is urgent, and requires immediate attention, because I know that several wires of the same kind went through the same day as the cable I refer to. I feel sure the Minister will take notice of this matter, and acquaint the people of Australia of the best method to be adopted, so that they will know exactly how they can remit money in the best and most economical way.

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