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Tuesday, 29 November 1938

Mr SCHOLFIELD (Wannon) .- The Postmaster-General's department is to be congratulated upon the extension of postal and telephonic services in country districts, more particularly the extension of the hours of service, which has been advocated by honorable members for many years. Although the service after 6 p.m. has been extended in many country districts, good work still remains to be done in this direction. I urge the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Archie Cameron) to push on with the establishment of rural automatic telephone exchanges. Frequently, honorable members who represent country districts are faced with the problem that arises when people are unable to carry on their post and telephone offices. These offices have to be moved at considerable expense to the department, and great inconvenience is experienced by residents. The establishment of rural automatic telephone exchanges would help to overcome that difficulty.

I also make a plea in regard to the discharge of temporary linemen who are returned soldiers. I have had several letters recently from men who have been engaged in a temporary capacity and have been put off. This period, shortly before the Christmas season, seems to be a most unsuitable time to discharge these men, and I urge the Minister to endeavour to employ them, if only until after the Christmas holidays. Work could perhaps be found for them as lettercarriers, because, with the rush of work that occurs at this season, letter-carriers are frequently employed until midnight and even later.

I urge the Minister to do something to improve the programmes that are broadcast from the national as well as from the commercial stations. I have previously criticized the programmes of the national stations, and there is still room for their improvement. Many excellent items are given, but we still hear others which might well be omitted. Some of the so-called musical items are, in my opinion, merely noises. I go further, and say that some responsible authority ought to have some measure of control over the programmes put over the air by the commercial stations. I realize, of course, that it is necessary for revenue purposes for these stations to broadcast advertisements, but the matter used for advertisements should be regulated. My own children and those of other people have listened to stories of a very undesirable kind which have been broadcast by B class stations.

Every effort should be made to ensure that the programmes are of as elevating a character as possible. These stations should not interfere with the education system by introducing questionable kinds of entertainment.

I strongly object to the proposal submitted by the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) for the extension of the railway from Alice Springs to Birdum, a distance of 560 miles. The cost of such a line is too great to contemplate at a time when heavy defence expenditure is essential. Before consideration is given to the building of further railways, attention should be paid to the possibilities of aerial transport. The large transport aeroplane has not yetappeared in Australia, although enormous quantities of goods are transported by aeroplanes in other parts of the world. Heavy loads are carried by air in New Guinea. The aeroplane has the advantage of not being confined permanently to fixed routes, and for that reason is much to be preferred to a train for the carriage of goods.

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