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Thursday, 4 May 1939

Mr FRANCIS (Moreton) .-1 take this opportunity to voice my emphatic protest against the delay that has taken place in the erection of a new general post office at Brisbane. The agitation for a new post office has to my knowledge been going on for over twenty years, and for a considerable part of that time I have taken part in it. After many years of agitation the then PostmasterGeneral (Senator A.J. McLachlan) arranged for the placing of £50,000 on the Estimates for the preparation of preliminary plans and specifications. Apparently, however, with the change from Senator A. J. MacLachlan to the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) as Postmaster-General the whole programme was changed. Let me remind the new Postmaster-General that, when the Cabinet met in Brisbane a few years ago, this matter came up for discussion, and a decision was reached, and communicated to the press, that the work of building a new post office was to be gone on with without delay. Even if the statement as published in the press might have been regarded as indefinite, the replies given to questions addressee! subsequently to the Prime Minister and the Postmaster-General left no doubt as to the Government's apparent intention at that time to go on with the work. Several deputations waited upon Senator A. J. McLachlan in Canberra, and he assured them beyond all doubt that £50,000 had been provided for preliminary work, and that it was hoped that the work itself would 'be gone on with during the succeeding financial year. When Senator A. J. MacLachlan's successor in the office of Postmaster-General, the honorable member for Barker, visited Brisbane quite recently he conveyed the impression that he was unaware that any provision had been made for a new post office. He said that he knew nothing of any plan and specifications having been prepared. Consequently, the position to-day is very uncertain, and the people of Queensland and of Brisbane in particular are very anxious about it. I ask the Postmaster-General in his reply tonight to clear up these doubts. When the Estimates for 1934-35 were being dis cussed, the then Postmaster-General (Sir Archdale Parkhill) stated that an immediate start was to be made with the erection of a parcels office in Elizabeth-street behind the post office. The present post office was erected 65 years ago when the population of Brisbane was only 22,000. To-day, the population is 335,000. The general post office is the only one of any consequence in the whole of the greater Brisbane area, which extends over 382 square 'miles. I am at a loss to understand why this work has been for so long delayed. The conditions existing at the general post office to-day are deplorable. I do not propose to traverse in detail the observations of the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson), but I am confident that if the conditions existing in the general post office in Brisbane obtained in any industrial establishment in that city the proprietors would be prosecuted, and rightly so. I have visited the office between 4.30 p.m. and 6 p.m., when the public was clamouring for service at the various counters. The spectacle was more like a football scrummage than anything else I have seen. The employees are required to work in small cubicles, sometimes as many as five or six of them in a very confined space. Recently, when there was very heavy rain in Brisbane, the roof was unable to keep the water off the staff and members of the public. It may be suggested that the exigencies of the international situation, are responsible for the delay in going on with the work, but I remind the Postmaster-General that £1,000,000 is being expended upon acquiring a new site in Sydney and for the extension of the general post office there. This I regard as a grave injustice in view of the fact that the provision of better accommodation in Brisbane is so long overdue. I have here the 28th annual report issued by the Postmaster-General's Department. On page 43 it is stated, in the general profit and loss account, that for the last financial year the net surplus for the department was £3,533,476, while for the previous year it was £3,340,930 Ss. Id., or "nearly £7,000,000 for the two years. A department which can produce such surpluses, and yet fail to provide adequate facilities in a city the size of Brisbane, is not doing its job. The Minister should make it his personal responsibility to see that this injustice is remedied. Although Queensland has a delightful climate in general, the weather for a few months in the summer is intensely hot, and it is unfair to expect people to work during that very hot weather huddled together in small, ill-ventilated cubicles. As I have said, Sir Archdale Parkhill, when he was Postmaster-General, declared that money had been set aside for the work, and this statement was reiterated by Senator A. J. McLachlan. Then the honorable member for Barker, when he was PostmasterGeneral, said that no money had been made available, and that he knew nothing of any steps having been taken for the preparation of plans and specifications. One or other of those statements must have been wrong. For my part, T am disposed to accept the statements of Sir Archdale Parkhill and Senator A. J. McLachlan. I have confidence in the new Postmaster-General, and believe that he will see that the work is done. I hope that that confidence will not be misplaced.

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