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Thursday, 7 October 1971
Page: 2119

Mr ARMITAGE (Chifley) - I wish to raise a couple of matters tonight on the reorganisation of the PostmasterGeneral's Department. The first issue that I wish to mention is the question of the decision by the Department to close down a number of non-official Post Offices and to reduce other official Post Offices to non-official status. This matter relates not only to particular areas in my electorate; it also covers areas which border on my electorate. I will touch also on the way in which these proposals affect the electorates of Country Party members who, I think, should be very vitally concerned with the 2 issues that I will mention because one thing which the country requires is service from the Postmaster-General's Department.

I regret that the tendency today seems to be to forget that the Post Office provides a service to the public and that this is its first responsibility. The question should not always be one of where a few dollars and cents can be saved. In the early part of last month, I received information that the Department was considering reducing the status of the Doonside Post Office. It was to be reduced from an official Post Office to a non-official Post Office. So I wrote to the Director of Posts and Telegraphs in Sydney and pointed out that I had information to this effect. I asked whether he would confirm it. I stressed that I was very strongly opposed to the proposal. Part of his reply states: . . plans to reduce some small official offices to non-official conditions are in the interests of economy.

In other words, he admitted that these proposals were being considered. He stated that it was in the interests of economy. He continued:

.   . but by and large, service to the public will not be adversely affected.

I cannot conceive how service to the public will not suffer if such action is taken. Economy seems to be the guiding factor. Service to the public does not seem to be of very great importance.

I was made aware also of moves to close altogether a number of non-official post offices. For example, I understand that 6 in the Hawkesbury Valley are to be closed. I have been advised by police that the 80 miles from Windsor up the Putty Road towards Singleton will have no post office facilities. I think we must remember that these post offices provide a service to people who live in remote areas. Furthermore they give assistance to organisations such as civil defence organisations and the police force. It is important to have a non-official post office to provide various facilities in a remote area. The saving of a few dollars and cents - a matter of economy - has apparently entered into the subject. I have been advised by a friend of mine, Mr Ashley Brown, the Australian Labor Party candidate for the Mitchell electorate at the next Federal election, that he attended a meeting of residents who protested against the possible closure of non-official post offices in the Hawkesbury Valley. An officer of the Department, Mr Lane, whom I know - he is quite a nice fellow and quite an effective officer but he can only carry out orders coming from the Federal Government whose members sit opposite - made the point that the whole move is being made in the interests of economy. Official and non-official offices are public utilities. They are supposed to serve the interests of the public by providing postal facilities.

The reason why I am speaking tonight is to object to this proposal. I sincerely hope that the Government will reconsider this matter and realise that it must ensure that this public utility provides the service that it is supposed to provide. It is ridiculous that a place such as Doonside, which is a quite heavily populated area, will have its post office reduced from official status to non-official status. It is equally ridiculous that a place such as Mount Druitt, which has the biggest Housing Commission development in New South Wales - 8,000 houses are being built there - will have no official facilities but only non-official facilities provided. In the past I have written to the Department and asked why it is taking this step. In those areas mail men are not handling the mail; mail contractors are handling it. I repeat that this is in the biggest Housing Commission development area in New South Wales.

Mr Reynolds - lt is the biggest develop- ' ing area in New South Wales.

Mr ARMITAGE - That is so. Altogether 8,000 houses are to be built there. Of those 1,500 are Housing Commission homes. Before I finish I shall touch on another matter. It is one in which the Australian Country Party should be vitally interested. I refer to the re-organisation of the Post Office announced by the Minister approximately 3 weeks ago. I think that the whole issue of decentralisation is involved here. I understood that members of the Australian Country Party were prophets of decentralisation. I thought that they were always advocating-

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