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Tuesday, 26 July 1921

SenatorRUSSELL (Victoria- VicePresident of the Executive Council) [3.4] . - I move -

That this Bill be now read a second . time.

Prior to Federation, the State authorities had control of both the Post Office and ' the railways, and consequently' the cost of carrying the mails by train was only a book debit against the Post Office; but, when the States federated, the control of the Post Office became a Federal matter, while the State authorities continued to control the railways, and an arrangement was come to whereby the Commonwealth was to pay the States for the actual cost of the service they rendered to it in the carriage of mails. That arrangement continued for a number of years, the Commonwealth agreeing to several increases in the charges, which brought the total cost up to £276,000 a year, and then, although the ' authorities were in agreement about the conditions under which the mails should be carried, they could not agree as to a fair . price for the service. The matter was, therefore, referred to arbitration, and by a majority vote it was determined that the mails should be charged for at half the ordinary commercial parcel rates. Actually, however, that was equivalent to charging for them at the full parcel rates, because the transport of parcels devolves upon the railway staffs a good deal of clerical work, whereas there is no such work in connexion with the handling of the mails. That - arrangement terminated with last year, and a mere makeshift arrangement obtains at the present moment. Section 18 of the Post, and Telegraph Act 1901-1910, which . provides for payment for the carriage of mails by rail, is to be amended by the Bil] so that it. shall read -

The Postmaster-General shall pay to tbe principal railway official of each State, or to the owner controller or manager of any railway or tram-way in any State as the case may be such annual Bum for rendering any service required in pursuance of the last preceding sectionas may be agreed upon and in default of agreement as may be settled by arbitration Provided that no payment shall be made to any owner controller or manager of any - private railway or tramway who in accordance with the law of a State has agreed to carry His Majesty's mails free of charge.

Under this Bill, no attempt is made to prevent an arrangement being arrived at, but rather are facilities offered to enable it to be brought about. Unfortunately, under the existing system there has been no clear-cut definition of the functions of the arbitrators, who have been at liberty to take almost anything as the basis of allotment. Generally, they have taken the parcels rates as that basis, and the alternative has been suggested of a per ton per mile rate. The practice has been to include in their calculation the whole of the goods trains running, irrespective of whether they carried mails or not. Upon the other hand, the Postal Department contends that it should pay for all mailscarried a reasonable rate, which would suffice to cover all the costs incurred by the States.


Senator Bakhap - And is there not in the principal Act a section relating to arbitration proceedings?







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