Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Wednesday, 29 June 1921

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Repatriation) . - I move -

That this Bill be now read a second time.

Thisis an ordinary Supply. Bill, with the exception of one provision. When I say that it is an ordinary Supply Bill I mean that it provides for the continuance for one month of the ordinary services of the year upon conditions to which Parliament has already given its sanction. The exceptional provision is for. three instead of for two pay days. Public Service salaries, as honorable senatorsare aware, are paid fortnightly, but it happens on this occasion that the third pay day of the coming financial year will . fall on the 4th August, and unless the course proposed in this Bill were adopted, it would be necessary, before the 4th. August to ask for a further warrant to enable pay- merits due oil that date to be made. That is: the only way in which this. Bill is in any way an exception from the ordinary Supply Bills. There is, however, one item covered by the Bill : to which. I wish specially to refer. In. the votefor the Postmaster-General's Department it will be observed that there is an unusually large amount providedfor. That arises from the fact that there is- included in the vote an amountof £200,000 payable to the Imperial . Government under these circumstances:. Prior to the war. Australian mails were carried under the contract with the Orient Company. With the outbreak of war shipping was dislocated, and, as honorable senators are aware, many vessels, were commandeered for war purposes., That applied particularly to boats of the Orient Line. Consequent upon that disturbance of facilities for the carriage of our' mails, it became necessary that Australian mails should be shipped on any occasion which offered, and. they were frequently shipped, on vessels of the. Peninsular and Oriental Line, with which the- Imperial Government had their contract for bringing English mails here. Under an arrangement which exists under the Postal' Union Convention we became liable to the Imperial Government, which had the contract with the Peninsular and Oriental Company, for certain charges in respect of the mails placed upon boats under contract with the Imperial authorities. Quite recently they submitted their account in conformity withthe Postal Union. Convention, and claimed. from us an. amount of £321,000.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - How many years did that cover ?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Without being particular to a month or two, I may say that the period it covered commenced immediately after the war broke out.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Did we therefore pay proportionately less to the Orient Company? The reason I ask is that if that course were adopted it would account for some of the surpluses claimed by the Post and Telegraph Department.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am informed that the Orient mail contract was suspended, and, therefore, payments under it ceased.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That would represent a saving of about £170,000 a year, and would account for a surplus.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The amount provided for in this Bill covers a number of years, and the cost to Australia is less- than it would have been had the original contract with the Orient Company been fulfilled. I have said that the Imperial Government claimed £321,000, but after considerable negotiation between that Government and our own, they have agreed to accept the sum of £200,000, and that amount is in this Bill included in the vote for the Postmaster-General's Department. It is rather interesting that when our facilities for the transport of letters' became less the number of letters to be forwarded very greatly increased, consequent upon the fact that so many of our soldier citizens were in Europe. The percentage of mail matter to be carried increased tremendously; by 189 per cent. in one year, and by 529 per cent, in the year in which the maximum of. mail matter was carried. These figures show the great- effect on the weight of our postal matter which was consequent upon so. large a number of our citizens, being abroad, and the correspondence passing between them and. those whom they had left at home.

Senator Duncan - We sent a very large percentage of. that correspondence by transport.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Possibly so, but I mention as a matter of interest the very large increase in the amount of postal matter carried during the war.

Senator Foster - As soldiers letters were carried free of postage, can the Minister tell us whether the Imperial Government or the Commonwealth Government bore the cost of their transport?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Commonwealth Government have to pay it under the Postal Union Convention.

Senator Foster - The cost is included in the amount of £200,000.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes; that is our contribution to the Imperial Government on that account, they, in turn, having provided the service. I do not know that there is anything else in the Bill to which I should refer. If, in the course of the debate, honorable senators submit inquiries,I shall endeavour to obtain the.information they desire.

Suggest corrections