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Thursday, 9 December 1971
Page: 4392

Mr SPEAKER - Order! There is no substance in the point of order. The motion before the House is for the suspension of Standing Orders. However, I will take this opportunity to remind the honourable member for Dawson that it is a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders. At this stage I think he has gone a little wide of the subject matter.

Dr PATTERSON - I have tried to confine myself to the reasons for seeking a suspension of Standing Orders in stating me problems that have arisen, not only the problems that have arisen in country areas but also the problems of Post Office staff involved in the compulsory transfer. I will now deal with the points that the PostmasterGeneral made in his last 2 statements on this matter of area management proposals. Apparently the PostmasterGeneral's Department is ignoring the protests by the staff affected by the proposed compulsory transfers. These transfers mean that the people will have to sell their homes and in many instances in country areas they will not be able to sell their homes except at give-away prices. What does the Government intend to do about this? This is. another reason why there should be an inquiry.

There is also the area mails centre project which threatens to bring hardship to and place unreasonable requirements on customers of the Post Office in the capital and large provincial cities. This is yet another reason why there should be a suspension of Standing Orders to allow a committee of inquiry to be set up. Many postal workers and Commonwealth public servants in rural areas are being subjected to a downgrading of their district allowances. There is another very pressing reason why these matters should be aired now. There are grave allegations being made by postal workers that the centralised office in Melbourne is becoming even more centralised because of the empire building tactics of what is called the engineer lobby. It is significant that under new proposals of the Postmaster-General's Department the number of engineers in the Central office will increase from--

Mr SPEAKER - Order! I have already suggested to the honourable memberfor Dawson that this is a very narrow debate. If the honourable member offends again I will have to ask him to resume his seat.

Dr PATTERSON - I respect your ruling but, as you will appreciate, it is extremely difficult always to state a reason here--

Mr SPEAKER - Might I also remind the honourable member that if his motion is carried he will have an opportunity then of elaborating on the points he wishes to make.

Sir Alan Hulme - He will not have anything more to say.

Dr PATTERSON - I have plenty to say. ".We all know the amount of interest that the Postmaster-General has in this problem. He has very little interest and very little inter- est in the problems of rural areas.

Mr SPEAKER - Order!

Dr PATTERSON - He interjected.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I request the honourable member for Dawson for the last time to take heed of my warnings.

Dr PATTERSON - No statement has been made by the Postmaster-General as to the real reason for the centralising of staff and the further centralising of offices in rural areas. This is one of the urgent reasons why this matter should be investigated. 1 have moved for the suspension of Standing Orders so that a committee [ could be set up to establish the reasons for this move. Another reason for an urgent inquiry is the obvious uncertainty of the Postmaster-General and his Department about the justification of the scheme itself. This is very relevant. It would seem that the centra) office of the PostmasterGeneral's Department is itself now establishing a committee of inquiry. But this is not good enough. 1 submit that there should be an independent parliamentary inquiry. There should be a suspension of the Standing Orders virtually to countermand this proposal and allow for an independent inquiry, so that we do not simply have a departmental inquiry white washing itself. There are other urgent reasons for an inquiry. There is a need to provide precise figures of the number of people who will be affected by hardship as a result of their having to move. When this matter is put to the vote or gagged it will be interesting to see the attitude of the Country Party. I assume Country Party supporters will remain silent as usual although they are always condemning the PostmasterGeneral's Department- .. Mr SPEAKER-Order! The honourable member will resume, his seat.

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