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Wednesday, 23 March 1966

Mr HULME (Postmaster) (General and Vice-President of the Executive Council) . - Mr. Deputy Speaker, I move -

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Post and Telegraph Act to make certain changes in the conditions of issue of money orders and to introduce an improved service similar to the postal note to be known as the postal order. The Bill also takes the opportunity formally to amend existing money references to their decimal equivalents and brings Part I of the Principal Act into line with the format of recent legislation. I shall deal first of all with the proposed new postal order. The present postal note, under the conditions now operating, suffers from several shortcomings. Probably the major one is that the public has lost a good deal of confidence in the postal note since the practice of recording postal notes which had been paid was discontinued in 1953 because of the very high costs involved. The reconciliation process had entailed considerable administrative effort. Its discontinuance meant, however, that the Post Office could no longer determine whether or not a postal note had been paid. Since then, it has not been possible to issue duplicates for notes which claimants have indicated were lost or destroyed.

Since 1954-55, the number of postal notes issued has fallen from 22 million to 15 million a year. While this decline may be attributed to a number of factors, it is expected that greater public confidence will be achieved by the introduction of a postal order which will restore the standard of service formerly provided. The proposed postal order will be printed in a new format capable of electronic sorting so that ready access to records of payment will be possible. The order will have a counterfoil similar to bank cheques as part of the increased security available to the purchaser. In future there will be no good reason why a postal order should be paid only at a General Post Office after six months from the date of issue. The Bill proposes, therefore, that the restrictions of section 76 be removed, thus allowing payment to be made at any post office where such payments would normally be made. T. am confident that the introduction of the postal order will remove many of the objections at present levelled at the postal note and that the public will gain a service which is better than the one it replaces and is more convenient and attractive.

In the case of the money order, it is not proposed, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that any change be made in form or operation. It is believed that flexibility should be introduced into the determination of the upper limit of value of both money orders and postal orders. It has therefore been decided that these upper limits be provided by regulation rather than by the Act itself. These limits will be fixed by regulation at $4 in the case of the postal order and $80 in the case of the money order. In each case this will be an increase of 100 per cent, over the present provision. The new section 74 makes allowance for the fact that arrangements with other Governments and the authorities of Territories of the Commonwealth for the transmission and payment of money orders and postal notes are not in fact made by the Governor-General as stated in the current Act. The administrative arrangements are made in a less formal manner and the amendments to this section would bring the provisions of the principal Act, insofar as money orders and postal orders are concerned, into line with actual practice. The remainder of the Bill deals with purely procedural matters. Clause 4 amends the first part of the Act to bring its form into line with that of more recent legislation. It is current practice for every act to contain a section set tins out the parts into which the act is divided and the subject matter contained in those parts. There are two schedules appended to the Bill. The first merely makes consequential changes by the replacement as appropriate of the reference to " postal note " with the words " postal order " while the second takes the opportunity formally to convert all money references in the Post and Telegraph Act to decimal equivalents. I commend the Bill to honorable members.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Whitlam) adjourned.

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