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Thursday, 14 July 1921

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - Yesterday, when speaking on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate, I made reference to the fact that the Government did not purchase telephone instruments that were available in Sydney. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell), in his reply, stated that practically all the money for telephones had been ear-marked, and I said I was rather surprised, in view-of the fact that last year the Minister had stated that £3,000,000 had been voted for departmental requirements. The Minister seemed to question my statement. I have looked up Hansard, and I find that in the debate on the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill, in September, 1920, page 5167, there appears the following: -

Senator Russell - No money will pass over to the Treasury. We have definitely laid down a programme for the expenditure of £3,000,000 on works.

We were then dealing with the question of postal rates, which the Government proposed to increase to 2d. per letter, and I was contending that1d. was sufficient to cover the cost of that service. The Minister stated it was necessary to have the money in order to make up a good deal of the leeway caused by the war. When Senator Russell made that statement I asked him if he meant that the Department would be able to expend that . amount within the next year, and he replied, "Yes." The Howard report reads-

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am staggered by the statement, and I have bad a little experience of the Department. Does the Minister say that, notwithstanding the difficulty of getting material and labour, the Department expects to spend the bulk of £3,000,000 within the time stated?

Senator Russell - We believe we can.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - To him that believeth all things are possible. I . must say thatthe Minister has great faith.

SenatorRussell. - We must not miss any chance ofgetting in early with our orders for material. You know the Post Office " moves " nowadays.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) -I am glad to hear it, but I have never been one to run down the Department. "

Senator Russell - If you can show me where I said we intended to spend £3,000,000 in connexion with the Postal Department, I shall be surprised.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - In the debate on the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill last year, the Minister made the definite statement that £3,000,000 was to be spent on a works programme, and that, in seeking to increase the postal rate to 2d., the argument was that it was necessary to get the money from somewhere. If I misunderstood the Minister I am sorry, but that is the impression I had, and I feel sure his statement had some effect upon the vote in the Senate. Therefore, I do not think I was unfair in making the statement yesterday.

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