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Tuesday, 13 November 1973
Page: 3251

Mr JAMES (Hunter) - I am pleased to contribute to the debate on the important estimates of the Postmaster-General's Department, for which the Treasurer has allocated an amount of some $l'8m for the next 12 months. The honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes) sought to emphasise that country people have been persecuted by the withdrawal of certain concessions they had in regard to telephones. His remarks called to my mind that when the Bill dealing with this matter was before Parliament, the Liberal

Party took very little objection to the minor rise in telephone rentals and costs to country people. The main protest by Liberal members when the Bill went through the House was directed against the higher charges levied on country newspapers. To my mind the honourable member for Barker, probably because of his extended time as a member of this chamber, puts himself forward as just another professional politician.

Mr Giles - And a good one, too.

Mr JAMES - He might be in your view, but that would not be the view of the majority of members in this chamber. The Opposition is trying to establish that the slight increases in telephone charges imposed on country people are cruel and unjust. I do not believe that they are. The people I know in the country feel that they have been very kindly treated by the Parliament over a long period of years. However, the Liberal Party would never have acceded to the concessions granted to country people had it not been for members of the Country Party who imposed their influence on the Liberal Party in the coalition that ruled this country for so long. The Country Party, in its desire to hold seats for its members, sought unjustifiable concessions for country people. These became embarrassing to country people, making them feel that they were imposing on the people of the metropolis and people in industrial areas. The concessions granted to country people embarrassed them.

Because the Postmaster-General's Department has a substantial say in the administration of radio and television, I put before the Committee a matter from my electorate concerning the memory of a great Australian, the late Sir William Dobell. To all Australians, from the time they leave their mother's breast until they go to the great architect above, the name Dobell is synonymous with greatness. Sir William Dobell lived in the industrial coalmining area of Wangi Wangi in the heart of the Hunter electorate, and shortly before his death I had the honour of enjoying the richness of his company, which was something the Liberals did not have. His home, where he did most of his paintings, is being preserved for posterity. I should like to read from a letter that was written to me by a public spirited man, Mr Ray Lloyd, of Wangi Wangi, who says:

As you know, I am the Wangi representative on the Sir William Dobell Memorial Committee. You may he aware that we are buying this home and studio as an historical memorial to one of Newcastle and districts great men. We borrowed the money from the NSW Bank of $10,000 and are paying it off at $120 a month.

I should imagine that it would be a great thing if this letter were read over the media, which is virtually under the control of the Postmaster-General's Department. If some television or radio station would do this it would be a good thing, but of course they are under the control of private enterprise and there would be no profit in reading a letter like this. I have no doubt that if the contents of the letter could be made known, the response from the community would relieve the plight of the administrators of the Dobell home. The letter continues:

Most of this money is being obtained through entrance fees and sales. A big percentage of our visitors are large groups of school children, throughout the area. These are presented with a pictorial record of material which we have acquired. We would like to improve this facility of showing great numbers of coloured slides of a complete range of his craft and also a coloured movie loaned by Qantas depicting Sir William painting and discussing his painting in his studio at Wangi plus a dialogue on various examples of his work.

I am asking whether this letter could be read over the media, which is under the control of the Postmaster-General's Department. Therefore it is relevant to the estimates before the Committee. Mr Lloyd continues:

We have just written a similar letter to the Australian Council for the Arts hoping they could supply us with a grant to aid us to get a sound projector and similar aids to carry out these ambitions.

Mr Lloydthen said that he was writing the letter in the hope that I might be able to assist him.

Mr England - Did that cost him more than 15c?

Mr JAMES - No, although it would have been cheap at that. As the PostmasterGeneral's Department has control of radio and television, this is a matter that falls within these estimates. Having visited Latin America in 1962 I was convinced that all Australians should be proud of our Postmaster-General's Department. I had posted some letters in Brazil, a Latin American country, 3 weeks before leaving for home, but when I got home many of those letters had not arrived. I sent telegrams to people in different parts of Latin America, and they arrived 2 or 3 days after I had sent them. I think it is a great advantage to members of Parliament after they go overseas to come back and be able to draw comparisons between the efficiency of postal departments in other parts of the world and that of our own Postal Department. If we all were frank and for a moment could drift away from professional politics I think we would all admit that we are proud of our PostmasterGeneral's Department.

While I was a member of the Public Works Committee I had the pleasure of listening to executive officers of the Postmaster-General's Department giving evidence before that Committee. I was satisfied that they were dedicated, highly qualified men. I believe that the Postmaster-General's Department will continue to maintain its very high standard of efficiency, particularly under the administration of the present Postmaster-General who I believe will exceed in efficiency any other Postmaster-General who has held this high office in the past.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Luchetti) - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

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