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Wednesday, 19 May 1920

Mr HAY (New England) .- I should like to make a few observations on the administration of the Post and Telegraph Department. I have no desire to embarrass the Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise), because I know that his obligations to the country at the present time are very grave. This Department, under the control of the ex-Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster), drifted from bad to worse year by year; and we country representatives, especially, know how far it did drift. I need not take up time in referring to individual cases, but I must say that in an old-settled electorate such as the one I have the honour to represent, conditions to-day are infinitely worse than they were thirty years ago. We read of the profits which have been made fromyear to year by this Department, which is a Department of Universal Service providing for the comfort, happiness, and well-being of the country, which depends upon its usefulness. In spite of profits the postal service is going back, and becoming less efficient. I know that the present PostmasterGeneral is taking a very grave responsibility, in order to restore to the people the services and benefits they formerly enjoyed until he takes into consideration the postal administration as it affects the whole of the Commonwealth. I hope the time is not far distant when he will find himself able to make a statement which will give some relief and satisfaction to those who so urgently require it.

The travelling post-office is a very useful branch of the Department. Instead of letters being carried hundreds of miles to centres, sorted there, and then sent back to their destinations, the present system is to have the sorting done in travelling postoffices : but I am informed, rightly or wrongly, that there is a risk of this useful adjunct of the service being abandoned. I hope that the Postmaster-General, when he considers the re-organization of the Department, will do all that lies in his power to extend the postal facilities to the people. Thirty years ago the two important towns of Manilla and Barraba, in my electorate, had a daily service, but to-day they have a service every second day. Unhappily for the people there, they advocated and obtained a railway, and because there is a train only every other day the mails are carried only every other day. Every day there is a motor service from Tamworth to these towns, but mail matter is not carried by them. A great number of similar instances might be given, and I have no doubt that, like myself, other country representatives receive a lot of correspondence in connexion with postal matters, and are considerably embarrassed owing to the fact that they are unable to give any satisfaction or relief, and are helpless to do anything to improve matters. I am convinced, from a conversation I had with the PostmasterGeneral, that his anxiety is to make this Department, not revenue-producing, but one by means of which the benefits of the Post Office may be enjoyed in more or less remote places. I" feel sure that when the Postmaster-General has had an opportunity to go more definitely into the question, he will endeavour to secure for residents of country districts the facilities to which they are entitled, and of which they are most deserving.

Proposed vote agreed to.

War Services (Divisions 140 to 150), £10,255,980, agreed to.

Resolved -

That the following resolution be reported to the House: -

That, including the several sums already voted for such services, there be granted to His .Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1919-20, for the several services hereunder specified, a sum not exceeding £24,223,933 :-

Resolution reported. Standing Orders suspended, and resolution adopted.

Resolution of "Ways and Means, covering Resolution of Committee of Supply, reported and adopted.

Ordered -

That Sir Joseph Cook and Mr. Hughes do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.

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