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Wednesday, 4 June 1902

Mr V L SOLOMON (SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Attention has been directed by several honorable members to the necessity of maintaining mail communication between the sparsely-populated inland districts and the large centres of civilization, and I desire to direct attention to the desirableness of improving the mail facilities between the capitals and our outlying coastal settlements. A few years ago there was direct steam communication between Adelaide and Esperance Bay in Western yA-ustralia, but for some time past the people of Esperance have had to depend for their mails, and also for their stores, upon a small branch service from Albany. This matter has been brought under the notice of the Postmaster-General by honorable members representing Western Australia in both branches of the Legislature. In .January last a special effort was made to induce the PostmasterGeneral to call for tenders for a direct service between Adelaide and Esperance Bay. Such a means of communication would prove of the greatest advantage, not only to the people of Esperance, but to the mercantile communities of the eastern States. But whether it is due to the desire of the mercantile community of Fremantle and Perth to have all the trade pass through their hands or to the fact that the department has been prevented by pressure of work from giving attention to the matter, no service has been established. The business people of the eastern States who have been trading with Esperance Bay for a number of years, and whose capital has been expended in the development of that district, have to submit to their mails and merchandise being carried past that port to Fremantle or Albany and then being brought back again, solely in order to comply with the wishes of a certain section of the W Western Australian mercantile community. This inflicts great hardship upon all concerned. The cost of a mail service between Adelaide and Esperance would not be very great, because no doubt many of the coastal steamers that now trade between the eastern States and Albany and Fremantle -would call in at Esperance Bay both going and coming. I hope that the Government will see their way to deal with this matter at an early date. A proposal for the establishment of a mail service by steamer between Port Darwin and Singapore was favorably considered by the mail authorities of South Australia before the Post and Telegraph department was taken over by the Commonwealth. For many years there was some kind of mail communication between these places by means of a line of steamers subsidized by the South Australian Government for the conveyance of live cattle to Java and Singapore. The subsidy and the service have now been discontinued, and the people of Port Darwin are deprived of facilities for direct trade with London viâ Singapore. All their goods have to pass through the hands of merchants in Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide, and in many cases their supplies have to be brought back to them after having been carried past their doors and half-way round the continent. This proposed service might readily be extended to Thursday Island, on the one side, and Cambridge Gulf on the other. This would confer immense advantages in the way of mail communication and trade, which have been pointed out to the State authorities. In 1900 the Postmaster-General of South Australia called for tenders, but I have never heard how they were dealt with. The State Government were in full sympathy with the proposal, and, I believe, are still ready to support it. But the postal authorities apparently either have not the time or the inclination to deal with such a very important subject. I hope the matter will be inquired into. Trade between the northern parts of Australia and Singapore was rapidly increasing when the steamer service to which I have referred was discontinued, and I have no doubt that a large trade would soon be developed if a moderate subsidy were offered. We know that the Post and Telegraph services very nearly pay their way, and as the main object of the department should be to serve the requirements of the community, and not to make a profit, I do not think that in asking that additional mail services may be maintained for the benefit of our somewhat distant coastal settlements we are requesting too much. I should like to direct attention to the employment of Chinese and other aliens in the Post and Telegraph department at Port

Darwin. In October last I asked the followingquestion : -

Whether any, and if so, how many, Chinese and other Asiatic aliens have been employed in the Post and Telegraph department in the Northern Territory of South Australia since the department was taken over by the Commonwealth ?

The reply given by the Minister was -

Fifteen Chinese, but no other Asiatics have been employed in the Post and Telegraph department in the Northern Territory of South Australia since it was taken over by the Commonwealth. They were all employed previous to the transfer, and were taken over with the department.

In view of the fact that the Government are administering a very stringent Immigration Restriction Bill and other measures directed against the introduction and employment of coloured labour, I desire to know whether the postal authorities at Port Darwin are continuing to employ Asiatics to the exclusion of Europeans.

Mr Page - Where are they employed?

Mr V L SOLOMON (SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I am not aware whether their employment has ceased, but the honorable member will recollect that in October last some surprise was caused when the reply to my question showed that after taking over this department, the Government which professed to be so strong upon the subject of a white Australia had continued to employ Asiatic aliens. I hope that the Minister representing the Postmaster-General will inform the House before the debate upon the Estimates is concluded, whether the services of these Chinese employes have been dispensed with, because there are plenty of youths - the sons of men who have settled in the northern portion of Australia - who experience the greatest difficulty in finding suitable employment, and who would oe only too glad to take their places. I have nothing more to add at the present stage. There are one or two items to which I should like to refer, but I shall have an opportunity of dealing with them when the details of the Estimates are under consideration.

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