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Friday, 9 August 1901
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Mr THOMAS - -Why not charge that amount of money to the proper departments ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What on earth difference would that make to the nation as a whole? It is a mere matter of bookkeeping.

Sir William McMillan - It is the only check upon extravagance.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I doubt if it would even be a check upon extravagance. That is the only argument which could be advanced in its favour. I doubt whether we ought to take such an extreme step, at this early stage of our career, in a new country which needs development. I could understand a balance being sought by those commercial methods in the older and more thickly, settled countries of the world, but our main purpose on this continent is development, and to give as fatas possible those communal advantages which arise from the aggregation of the people in large numbers, to those in our back country who cannot enjoy the privileges we have in more settled parts. It becomes a question, therefore, whether, and to what extent, these advantages and communal privileges should be extended into the back parts of the country, or whether the people there should be sacrificed - for that is simply what it means - to the idea of striking a balance in the Postoffice at this early stage of our federal career. I say again that the main purpose of the Post-office, particularly in a new country like this, is the convenience of the people. If we can make the Post-office pay, all the better ; but I go the length of saying that a bold policy now would be economically good. I believe, as I have already said, that we are on the eve of such an advance in our commercial interests, and the correspondence is going to be so much greater as to readily overtake any debit balance that might be caused by reverting to the smaller rates. We have been told that greater care is to be taken in the Postoffice in the letting of mail0 contracts, so that the department may have nothing whatever to do with opening up passenger conveniences in the interior. The PostmasterGeneral tells us that very often postal contracts are let for the reason that they are needed in order to give travelling conveniences; and that is so in some cases to a' limited extent, though, here again, we cannot strike a hard-and-fast rule. While the Post-office gives with one hand it receives with the other, and receives very much more than it gives, if the country be taken as a whole. Let me illustrate what I mean. In the carriage of the European mails, for instance, we get a weekly service guaranteed for the small sum of a little over £70,000 a year. But is it that payment which gives us the service? Is it not the passenger traffic, and the goods and commercial traffic generally, independently of the mails, which guarantee the ships coming here? If our European mails depended on the ' payment I have mentioned, we should have a very poor chance of getting the communication. For the benefits of which the Postmaster-General speaks, as given to the people in the direction indicated, the Postal department gets greater advantage, postally speaking, than is given to the community, so far as striking a balance is concerned in pounds, shillings, and pence. Let me tell honorable members what takes place now. In New South Wales, in order to carry the mails last year, there were travelled over 12,000,000 miles at a, COSt of £160,000, or an average per mile of 3£d. In Victoria there were travelled over 7,750,000 miles at a cost of £93,000, oran average of a little under 3d. per mile. In Queensland the distance covered was 6,500,000 miles at a cost of £94,000, or an average of 3Ad per mile. Will honorable members tell me that if this matter be reduced to one of pounds, shillings, and pence, and postal considerations alone are to be regarded, the PostmasterGeneral will get his mails carried at an average of 3d., or 3 £d., or 3-Jd. per mile ? The plain fact of the matter is that many of the postal contractors make no profit whatever out of the money paid to them by the department, but rely for their return on the passengers they cany ; and if we did not give these reciprocal advantages to other sections of the community, we could not get our mails carried at these ridiculously low rates. When we are talking about what the Post-office does for other people, we ought not to forget, per con*a, what this national traffic does for the Post-office in the way of facilitating its arrangements. The Post-office is so interwoven with the commercial life of the community in all its ramifications, that we cannot reduce agreat department like this to a mere matter of pounds, shillings, and pence. In the way of weather telegrams, for instance, it is estimated that in New South Wales there is furnished information which, if paid for, would cost about £35,000 per annum. Do honorable members suppose for a moment that if all that' information had to be paid for it would be given? Undoubtedly it would not be given ; and the fact that the information costs practically nothing is the only reason why this information has been furnished so freely in the past. In replying on this point, the PostmasterGeneral said that this particular kind of telegraphic information costs as much as any other. That is correct from an abstract point of view, but not from a practical point of view. Does the PostmasterGeneral mean to say that he employs any more hands in the up-country post-offices by reason of the weather telegrams which are sent in the morning or the evening, as the case may be? The fact is that the employes in the Post-office do this work in addition to their other work, and they get no more pay, in the same way as they would get no less pay if the information were not sent. From a practical, common-sense stand-point, no one can pretend to say that the Post-office should pay for everything that is done in the way of distributing infor- nation in the country. Further, I say that the Post-office is preserved as a monopoly for the convenience of the people, rather than with any idea of making it' a paying commercial concern. If we are going to have the office made to pay - if the Post-office is to be run because it will pay, and run for what it will pay - we might as well leave it to private people. The idea of having a State monopoly is that the people may be guaranteed a service which is uniform as to its cost, and uniform, as far as may be, as to its utility and value. For all these reasons it would seem best that t he monopolyshould be in the keeping of the State rather than given over to private individuals, who could, at their own sweet will, adopt such preferences as they deemed desirable. In America, as honorable members know, telegraphs are in private hands, and all sorts of preferences are given, and all sorts of inequalities exist. The same might very well be experienced here, did not the State resolutely treat the postal service as a monoply. ; But it is not the idea that the Post-office should be made to pay which constitutes the chief reason for its being a monoply, but that it may be utilized for the convenience of the people in all the ramifications of our social and commercial relations.

Mr O'Malley - Telegraphing in the United States is much cheaper than here.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have no doubt. But does not the honorable member see that my point is that if we are going to run the Post-office in order to' make it pay, it could, perhaps, be made to pay better in the hands of private individuals? I do not know whether that would be the case here, though the honorable member says it is the case in America. I do not care about this idea of the Post-office paying, except that we want to make it pay if that can be done consistently with conveniences being given to the public. The main purpose of the Postoffice is not to make money, and we should keep that steadily in view in making such disposition of it as we do from time to time.

Sir William McMillan - We must also keep the principle in view of its being made a self-supporting service.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member may make it a self-supporting service, but with the limited constituency we have in thisyoung country, we could only dothatby taking away some of the present privileges.

Sir William McMillan - I do not say it can be done, but it is the principle which, in the main, ought to guide us.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In connexion with the conferment of further privileges that view might be taken, but, when it comes to lopping off privileges we now enjoy, it is a different matter.

Sir W illiam McMillan - Thatis another thing.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We have had it stated that the first thing to be done in connexion with the postal system is so to arrange its business that we may get a financial balance. But, the first duty of the Commonwealth should be to so arrange its postal and telegraph facilities that the greatest possible convenience of the people of the continent may be served. I have already referred to our foreign mails, and the same remarks may be made in regard to other services.For the Canadian service in New South Wales there is paid a subsidy of £10,000 a year, though that service does not return in postage anything like an equivalent to the subsidy. If I remember rightly, only some £1,200 a year is returned in the way of postage ; but we think the service pays New South Wales, and I suppose the subsidy will go on under the Commonwealth. Why do we think it pays New South Wales to make this contribution ? It is not for any postal convenience, because we can send our letters by the other route direct to America; but it is because we believe it to be in the interests of the people of New South Wales that they shouldhave direct mail communication with Canada. Further, we believe it to be to the interests of New South Wales that a line of commercial steamers should ply regularly between Canada and that State, and in that respect New South Wales is amply recompensed for every penny paid towards the cost of maintaining the service. Then we have some idea in regard to the carriage of newspapers, which I do not propose to touch on at present. Newspapers are carried free through the post in three of the States ; the underlying idea of this being that newspapers, in a country where the aim is development and the pushing of communal advantages and conveniences of settlement into the back parts, are valuable as active educational agents. Whether that view be correct I am not prepared to say at present, although personally, I think, that whatever we have of educational advantages, so far as political life is concerned, we owe mainly to newspapers. Whatever we may sometimes think about the views and the privileges of newspapers, it appears to me only fair to say that they do more than any other institution at present in the way of educating people on social questions, and in conveying' news of what is stirring in the world, thus leading the public to take a just, comprehensive, and intelligent view of their responsibilities as citizens. Referring to the Bill itself, I must say that since it left the Senate it is in a very much better form than when originally introduced. The framing of the Bill was more or less a piece of patchwork, sections of State Acts having been incorporated with the usual result. The Senate has, however, rectified many of the anomalies, though some, it seems to me, yet remain. In regard to our mail contracts and clause 15, when this matter was before another place, an effort was made to incorporate a provision that all contracts should be operated by our own labour and not by foreign labour. The position has changed even since the Bill was introduced in the Senate, and we find that the second contracting party in the matter of our European mails has also reverted to black labour. I feel this matter to be so serious that, if it be raised in committee, I shall be bound to vote for a clause providing that black labour shall not be used in preference to our own white labour. "We, and not the coolies of India, maintain this service ; and that is an essential fact. It is not equal treatment when people who contribute nothing to the service - who are not concerned directly in it, and who have no responsibility - are given preference over our own labourers, who have to pay to keep the service in existence. It is time we put our foot down, and said that the country which maintains the service shall at least be considered so far as the labour which operates it is concerned. I do . not intend to speak at any great length, because this is a machinery Bill, and we may have all this discussion again in committee. ' But I want to make some reference to clauses 53, 55, and 56, which are known as the "Tattersall" clauses. I said nothing this morning when the question was raised as to the bona fides of petitions presented to the House, because I intended to say one or two words at this stage on the same matter. In the first place, it occurs to me that in clause 55 there is no provision which will prevent Tattersall's sweeps being continued in Tasmania.

Mr Spence - Is that a lawyer's opinion?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am afraid my opinion on this point is not so good as that of a lawyer, though I may say that some of the best lawyers in Parliament are of the same opinion as myself. Senator Sir Josiah Symon, I believe, has the greatest possible doubt as to whether this provision as drawn will shut Tattersall's sweeps out of Tasmania, and, I understand, he is going to give them the benefit of the doubt until we have a High Court to settle the matter. When we find a gentleman of so high a legal standing as Sir Josiah Symon expressing such an opinion, we may well admit there is some doubt as to the powers under the clause. Reading the clause from the point of view of a humble layman, it seems to me that a Tattersall's sweep is a lottery or scheme of chance which is sanctioned by law, and that there is nothing to prevent its being carried on under the clause, which expressely states that if the Postmaster-General has any reasonable ground to suppose that a person is engaged

In promoting or carryingout a scheme connected with any such assurance, agreement, or security, . or a lottery or game of chance not sanctioned by law he may do the things mentioned in the Bill. If Tattersall's is not a scheme of chance, what other terms describes it ?

Sir Philip Fysh - Paragraph (a) might enlighten the honorable member.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do notknowthat it does. There may be other games than Tattersall's provided for in paragraph (a), but paragraph (b) seems to me to be intended to meet thecasemore than paragraph (a), because itdistinctly uses the words "lottery orscheme of chance not sanctioned by law." As Tattersall's, however, is sanctioned by law in Tasmania, I do not think that the Bill will affect it.

Mr Piesse - Tattersall's is not a lottery sanctioned by law.

Sir Philip Fysh - Reading the three paragraphs together, there is very little doubt as to the result.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It seems to me that we cannot more accurately describe Tattersall's than as a game of chance sanctioned by law. I never tried to win a Tattersall's sweep, but other honorable members who may have tried will know by experience that it is a game of chance, and that the chances very often go against them. Whatever may be said of this clause, the intention of the framers of the Bill was to bring Tasmania into line with the rest of the States as far as Tattersall's is concerned. In five out of six States it has already been declared that Tattersall's shall not be countenanced by the Post-office, and it is now intended that it shall be no longer countenanced in Tasmania. The only alternative will be to revert to the old condition of things in the whole of the otherStates.

Mr O'Malley - Adams is a philanthropist.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I suppose he is. He gets 10 per cent, on all the money that is paid in, and makes hundreds of thousands of pounds.- However, we are not concerned with Mr. Adams, whom I believe to be an honorable and honest man. I am opposed to the countenancing, in any shape or form, of anything that may be done by the Postoffice to minister to the passion of gambling that is doing so much to degrade the people of this continent; and anything in this Bill that aims at withdrawing any such countenance will have my support. With regard to the means taken to get signatures to the petitions which have been presented to this House, I have no hesitation in saying that many people attached their signatures in the belief that they were petitioning against something altogether different rom that which they actually signed against. I believe that thousands of the signatures would never have been obtained if it had been made clear that the petition was simply in favour of granting facilities for the carrying on of Tattersalls sweeps at Hobart under federation. What the petitioners were told can easily be deduced from the way in which the petitions are printed. All the big letters relate to the proposed violation of the secrecy of correspondence by the Post-office authorities, and everything has been designed to keep horse-racing and gambling in the background. People have been told in big naming type that it was intended to protest against the opening of their letters by the Postmaster-General. I have had four years' experience in the Post-office in New South Wales, and I can say that all the fears sought to be aroused in the minds of the people who signed these petitions are absolutely groundless. I venture to say that it cannot be established that a letter addressed in the ordinary way has ever been opened by a country postmaster upon mere suspicion, during the existence of the Post-office. I. took the trouble to question a Deputy PostmasterGeneral on this point a day or two ago, and he told me that within his experience, extending over 30 or 40 years, he had never known a letter to be opened on mere suspicion in a country pest-office. He said, further, that he had never known a case, where letters had been opened in a post-office unless directed to a prohibited address, or unless there was some outward indication that -the letter contained something which was prescribed by law. That is the ordinary rule in the Post-office, and the idea that country postmasters are going to concern themselves in these matters is unreasonable. Any country postmaster would in such a case be told that it was not his business to open letters, but to forward them to the head office. At the metropolitan centres, letters which are open to suspicion are not opened by the Postmaster-General, nor by the Deputy Postmaster-General, but by two sworn clerks in the dead-letter office ; and I have never heard that any secrets have leaked out from the Post-office. Therefore, all these fears are so many chimeras, that may be brushed aside. These petitioners are not so much concerned about the secrecy of the Post-office as they are about the carrying on of Tattersall's sweeps' and other gambling transactions of that kind. Why is it that nothing is said in these petitions about other proscribed traffic than that relating to gambling? It is open to the customs officials, under the Customs Act, to open any letters that are supposed to contain any indecent matter ; but we do not find that any objection is taken to that, and the opponents of the Bill leave out all reference to many of the matters that are dealt with in this 55th clause. At the public meetings held in reference to this Bill, all reference to Tattersall's has been omitted, and attention has been confined entirely to the question of the violation of the secrecy of correspondence passing through the Postoffice. At a recent public meeting one speaker stated that he purposely refrained from referring to Tattersall's, and objected to the Bill on the ground that it gave the Post-office authorities powers that were nob contained in any other legislation in the world. I would, however, inform that gentleman, although he is a very high legal authority, that the same powers as are to be. enjoyed under this Bill are being exercised in every country in the world where a just and reasonable control is exercised in the public interest. The Post-office is a common carrier, and regards itself as such, and no letter is ever opened on any pretence unless it is made abundantly clear that it ought not to be carried in accordance with the law. I say further that no letter has ever been opened except in the dead-letter office.

Mr Sawers - -Why not stop betting telegrams ? If I were to send a telegram asking some one to put £5 on Carbine, would the honorable member stop it t

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If the honorable member's telegram were brought under my notice, as Postmaster-General, I probably would stop it. I admit that the honorable member's question is n legitimate one, and that if we are going to prohibit gambling by refusing to deliver letters we should also refuse to countenance gambling by transmitting betting telegrams.

Mr Cameron - Then we must refuse to carry papers as well 1

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - One thing at a time. None of the enormities which are" spoken of by the petitioners and other opponents of the Bill, ever takes place or ever will take place, even if the Bill be pissed in its present form. I do not say that the wording of the Bill should not be altered in some respects. Clause 53 allows the letters of persons adjudged to be bankrupt to be intercepted by the PostmasterGeneral on the order of a court of competent jurisdiction. Our custom over in New South Wales is, that before any letter can be intercepted in any way whatever a warrant has to be obtained from the Governor. Under this Bill, however, the Postmaster-General can, on cause being shown, intercept a letter on his own responsibility. Now, this is an alteration that is made purely in the interests of the public. The other day a man had a bank draft sent to him, and he wrote out a receipt for it, but instead of putting" the receipt into the letter, he put the draft there, and only discovered his mistake after hu had posted the letter. He went to the Postmaster-General, and told him of the mistake, aud said that if he did not get the letter back he would have' no money for three months. The Postmaster-General satisfied himself as to the bona fides of the man, intercepted the letter, and gave the man his draft back, and sent him away quite happy. That is the way in which the power of the Postmaster-General is used in the Post-office, and that is why the Bill is framed as it is. It frequently happens that one man, on failing to receive a letter from a friend, becomes very much incensed at the seeming neglect, and, during the height of his resentment, sits down and writes a warm communication, which would probably have the effect of rupturing friendly relations of many years standing. Perhaps by the next post the delayed reply may come from the apparently neglectful friend, and the man who has written the second letter in the height of his indignation rushes off to the Post-office to intercept it. These are frequent cases, and the powers, given in the Bill are intended to meet the public requirements and not to give unduly arbitrary powers to the postal authorities. These powers, high and big as they are, are used with the greatest discretion, and infinite good has resulted.

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