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Thursday, 13 May 1915

Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia) . - I have every sympathy with the appeal made on behalf of themail contractors because of the increased price of fodder, and I would also make an Appeal on behalf of the mountedlettercarriers - officers of the Postal Department - many of whom are engaged invarious parts of the States. They have to buy and feed their own horses. They get a certain salary, - and, under the extraordinary conditions such as we are experiencing at present, they have to do their work and feed their horses without any extra remuneration at all. Now, when these men were engaged for this work, I think the price of fodder was something like £6 or £7 per ton, whereas to-day it is almost double that amount. These letter-carriers are men who, as a rule, will do more for their horses than for themselves, and will make sure that their animals are fed. At a conference of the Letter-carriers Association this week it was pointed out to me that very great hardship indeed was experienced by a large number of mounted letter-carriers, who were endeavouring to keep up the work of delivering letters as usual, with horse feed at the present enormous price. I appeal to the Minister to make representations to the Cabinet with the object of granting some relief to these men for the extra expenditure which they are called upon to bear. Another matter that might well be referred to is the policy of the Government with regard to encouraging Australian manufacturers by giving preference, where new buildings are in course of erection, to articles manufactured in this country. This can be done by specifying for the use of local material. I want to point out that, so far as the Postmaster-General's Department is concerned - I am nob referring to the present Postmaster-General - this particular principle was* departed from recently in the case of the new General Post Office in Perth. The contract for the erection of the building was signed in August by the previous Administration, and in that contract it was stated that what is known as the Clinton material must be used for the wire mesh necessary for the reinforced concrete. The Clinton material is an English manufacture, and, in spite of the fact that within 5 miles of the present building there is a firm called Monteath and Company manufacturing an article at least as good as, if not superior to, the Clinton material, the Government of the day stipulated that the Clinton material should be used in the General Post Office, Perth, while in the new telephone exchange building, erected only a few hundred yards distant from the General Post Office, the Monteath wire mesh is being used.

Senator Findley - When was the other contract let?

Senator NEEDHAM - I believe it was let during the regime of the previous Ad ministration, though I am not sure. The material to which I refer has been used,, not- only in the new telephone exchange, which is a big building, but in many other State Government buildingsin Western Australia. Representationswere made to the Minister to see if the contractor was bound to use the Clinton, material. I approached the Minister of Home Affairs, and was referred to the State architect of Western Australia, who is supervising the work. He was in doubt as to whether or not Mr. Arnott, the contractor, was bound to use Clinton material, so the opinion of a private lawyer in Perth, as well as the opinion of the State Attorney-General, was obtained. These two legal opinions were to the effect that the contractor was not bound to use the material throughout the whole of the building, and that the Minister could intervene. I then sawMr. Archibald, and asked him to get theopinion of the Crown Law authoritieshere. This opinion was to the effect that the contractor was bound to use the material, and that the Minister could' not intervene. I am not blaming the present Government in this matter, but T am referring to this in order that such a position may not arise in the future, A contractor should not be tied down toparticular materials, but the words " or other approved material " should be in a* contract of this character, as has hithertobeen the custom. If this is done, therewill be a greater chance of observing thepolicy of encouraging the use of local, materials in all our buildings.

Senator Russell - Is it not in thepower of the inspector to provide fortius?

Senator NEEDHAM - No, I want toput that power in the hands of the Minister, not the Inspector. If the present Minister had the power, I am confident; that instead of imported material being used, the Monteath firm would have got the remainder of the work. I mentioned this matter merely as a warning to be remembered when future contractsare being let. There is in Perth and' Subiaco a firm called Makutz, makers; of safes, strong boxes, &c. I am under the impression that it is intended to import the safes and other things of that kind required, but that firm has supplied most of the public buildings in.>

Western Australia, and I would urge the representative of the Postmaster-General to see that if no contract has been let to any particular firm this Western Australian firm, or any other Australian firm, which can make as good a safe, gets au opportunity to tender. I trust the Minister will try to give some relief to the mounted letter-carriers in view of the exorbitant prices they are paying for fodder.

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