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Thursday, 27 September 1973
Page: 1691

Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I wish to put on record the fact that, while I appreciate the sentiments expressed by the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), while I can understand the reason for his saying what he said and while I appreciate what other honourable members said in their remarks on the previous Bill, a number of my own colleagues have been most concerned about this matter, quite naturally, because it affects what might be termed a local industry. Nevertheless, one must look at the matter in its context. The Post Office is suffering severe losses in this category of mail. It will continue to do so. It does envisage future difficulties in the financial world.

A couple of matters were mentioned to which I should refer. The honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) mentioned Christmas cards. This aspect has already been taken into consideration. The industry was advised as far back as last May of the metric weight allowances for Christmas cards; there should be no difficulty in that area. As to any sudden change over, this was not intended. He will notice that the proposal that I have put is to be phased in over a period of 3 years. It is for these reasons that we must look at the facts. Every member of this Parliament has been interested in this matter. I make it clear that the decision as to what should be the appropriate gram weight or what should be the cent charge for those grams was the result oi a departmental analysis. The Department considered the matter quite fairly and reasonably. Nevertheless, in view of the weight of opposition, it has had to reassess the situation. But I emphasise that this service is running at a loss and at a bigger loss than was envisaged.

The Australian people must recognise that fact and recognise also that the Government has severe financial problems in the Post Office. It is for that reason that a royal commission was appointed to inquire into the Post Office. It may well be that that royal commission will make recommendations of which members of this chamber may not find themselves in favour. Nevertheless I think that that was most appropriate way for the new Government to act. I look forward to the time when the royal commission presents its report. These problems cannot be solved for instance, by asking telephone subscribers to pick up the tab for somebody else. At the same time, the Government has had to look at the policy it inherited of paying interest on its capital to the Treasury. These payments total $179m a year at present. Honourable members can imagine that a pretty fair impost applies in the whole of the telecommunications field in that respect. I thank Honourable members for their contributions to the debate.

Amendments agreed to.

Resolution reported; report adopted.

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