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Wednesday, 22 August 1906

Mr McWILLIAMS (Franklin) . - I have, on previous occasions, complained of the hard-and-fast rules of the Department. In my district a telephone connexion was asked for, which was estimated by an official to cost £142. The district in question happened to be immediately beyond the radius within which the charge was £3 per annum. The residents in the district referred to - Port Cygnet - offered to guarantee fourteen subscriptions of £3 per annum, or a total of £42 ; and yet the regulations of the Department were such as to preclude the construction of the 'line. I contend that regulations which prevent the carrying out of works which would return from 33 to 40 per cent, per annum profit represented by cash in advance, and at the same time confer some benefit upon the community, are absolutely absurd. The Minister has met me most kindly in this matter, but he has apparently been powerless. Ever since the Federation was established, the regulations have been of a cast-iron character, and have prevented applications being dealt with upon their merits. It should be one of the chief objects of the administration to afford facilities to settlers in the back blocks, by, as far as possible, extending to them the benefits of telephonic communication. I believe that the Post and Telegraph Department requires to be thoroughly overhauled. I do not speak so much of the Ministerial as of the official head of the Department. We have established a system of routine and centralization which necessitates the transaction of all business of importance in the central office in Melbourne. It is absurd that matters affecting localities in Northern Queensland or in the remoter parts of Western Australia should have to be referred to the head office before anything can be done. We must decentralize our administration before we can achieve satisfactory results. I believe that the Deputy Postmasters-General are thoroughly competent men - if they are not they should be- .and we shall never effect an improvement until we give them a certain amount of discretion, and enable them to carry out works which will not involve the Department in any loss. It is time that we dispensed with hard-and-fast regulations, and conducted our business upon common-sense lines. The Postmaster-General has always treated me most courteously, and I know that the fault does not lie with him so much as with the system, under which it is impossible to deal with individual cases on their merits.

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