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Thursday, 4 May 1939

Mr POLLARD (Ballarat) .- 1 regret that I also have a grievance against the Postmaster-General's Department. I say that I regret it, because I have a great admiration for that department, and for the manner of its administration. I believe that it is an institution of which the Australian people have a right to be proud. My grievance is not so much against the department or its method of administration as against the political head of the department. I trust that the grievance mentioned by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson), and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) will be redressed, and that my grievance, which relates to postal facilities at Ballarat and at Daylesford, will also receive attention. When the Estimates were under consideration last year, I was informed by the PostmasterGeneral that a sum of money had been provided for carrying out improvements, and making extensions, to the post offices at Ballarat and Daylesford. Subsequently, I received a letter similar to that received by the honorable member for Brisbane, saying that, owing to the need for concentrating upon defence expenditure, it was regretted that this wo:"k could not, for the time being, be proceeded with. May I point out to the Postmaster-General that certain public works must be carried out, notwithstanding the needs of the Defence Department? Surely we cannot concentrate all our expenditure on defence. The Postal Department renders very useful service to the public. It is also a very profitable department. In some post offices there is serious congestion, and the facilities provided are wholly inadequate to meet the demands of the public. This is the state of affairs at Ballarat and Daylesford. There is a fine building at Ballarat, but it was erected many years ago when the city was much smaller than it is to-day. The business of the post office is increasing very rapidly, and new duties are constantly being thrust upon it. In recent years there has been an enormous increase in the number of old-age and invalid pension payments, and all of them are payable in person to the pensioners. "We have just instituted a system under which income tax may be payable per medium of stamps purchased at post offices. The State Government of Victoria collects its dues under the Cattle Compensation Act also per medium of that system. Again, there has been a tremendous increase of the number of wireless licences issued. All these facilities, superimposed on increased telephonic and telegraphic business, have added considerably to the work of postal officials, bringing about deplorable congestion in post offices in cities and townships. May I say that it is a tribute indeed to the efficiency of the staff that they handle this diversified business as ably as they do. The central post office at Ballarat handles a tremendous volume of business. In that city, postal officials pay no less than 2,600 invalid and old-age pensioners every fortnight. In addition, they pay war pensions and handle general postal business. A vast concourse of people is continually pouring in and out of the post office, which was built in the early days of Victorian settlement, when, no doubt, it was considered sufficiently large to cope with the business transacted. The excuse of defence needs offered by the Government for its refusal to improve the accommodation at the general post office, Ballarat, while being excellent perhaps from the Government's viewpoint, is not necessarily a good one. I admit that defence preparations are of prime importance, hut it is essential that a great instrumentality such as the Postal Department, which would he called upon to render vital service in a time of crisis, should not be neglected. It is a short-sighted policy not to make preparations for the expansion of postal buildings to meet increased demands in order that business may be transacted efficiently and effectively during a time of national emergency. The Victorian Government recently acquired certain land at Ballarat adjoining the general post office on which to erect public offices. I understand that there remains a small portion of land between the post office and that purchased by the State Government which could be acquired for use in the future to give the necessary increased accommodation for the Postal Department. I hope that when the PostmasterGeneral is investigating grievances raised in regard to his department he will not be unmindful of the opportunity that exists for the acquisition of desirable land for extensions to the general post office, Ballarat.

I have a similar case to put with respect to the Daylesford post office, which is old and antiquated. Unfortunately, it is in a very bad state of repair indeed. "When the Estimates for this year were under consideration, I was informed by the former PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Archie Cameron) that money was being provided for the provision of increased accommodation at that office. I appeal to the new PostmasterGeneral to see that money is provided for that purpose.

In conclusion, I believe that this great department is run in a highly efficient manner. I have not noticed any extravagances on the part of the postal administration. I ask the Postmaster-General, as political head of an important department, which is rendering great service to the Australian people, to see that the promised improvements are provided at once.

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