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Thursday, 5 June 1902

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I support the request of the honorable member for Flinders that consideration should be given to this matter. It has already been brought under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral upon several occasions. Only a few weeks ago I forwarded a number of questions to him with a view to ascertain the conditions under which the various railway station-masters perform certain work. The replies which I received were anything but satisfactory. It seems to me that the railway station-masters who are called upon to discharge postal duties, should be given a more adequate remuneration than that which they have hitherto received.

Sir George Turner - We pay the Railway Commissioners for the services rendered. We cannot insist upon the department paying its officers.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am aware that the States Governments used to pay £10 or £15 a year to different station-masters for acting as assistant mining wardens, and for reading the weather gauges, &c. Recently, however, a notice was issued that these allowances should be withdrawn from the postal officials - a most unjust proceeding. I am glad to learn that the allowances in question are now to be restored, the objectionable notice having being cancelled. It behoves the Government to look into this question, and see if some fairer adjustment cannot be made.

Mr. THOMSON(North Sydney).- The matter which has been referred to seems to me to be one which rests with the States Governments. It is for them to decide what they will do with the money which is paid to them by the Commonwealth. But what I wish to point out is that we are paying large sums to the States Governments for services rendered by their railway officials in connexion with postal matters, whilst we are receiving no consideration whatever for services rendered by the Commonwealth in connexion with Post-office savings banks, and the payment of old-age pensions. As a result these Estimates are unduly swollen. This is a very serious matter. If am- adjustment is to be made it should not be a one-sided adjustment. The amount which the States ought to pay the Commonwealth would probably equal that which the Commonwealth pays to the States for services rendered bv the latter. Is this arrangement, when made, to go back to the beginning of the Commonwealth, or is it to start from some indefinite period in the future ?

Sir George Turner - I do not think there is much chance of carrying the arrangement back. There would not be much benefit from such a course, because we should be. simply collecting from the State and paying back to the State. It might be better to start from the next financial year.

Mr THOMSON - But we are undertaking liabilities which the States refuse to take.

Sir George Turner - This payment was made by one department to the other in the States, but the reverse payment was notmade.

Mr THOMSON - When we are crediting these large' amounts, there ought to be an equivalent debit. Under the present arrangement the distribution of the revenue of the Commonwealth must be unequal.

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