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Tuesday, 22 July 1902

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It was inevitable that some such discussion as this must take place sooner or later. There is a great deal of dissatisfaction with the administration of the Postal department, the regulations not being what we were led to expect when a re-organization was entered upon. Much difficulty has been caused in my own constituency ; and I think that we suffer through not having in this House the Minister who supervises this important department. The only opportunity hitherto afforded in discussing these matters has been on the Estimates, and, under the circumstances, there has not been that criticism for which the administration calls. I am inclined to think that it would have been better had the motion taken a wider form, and had the whole question been fully ventilated. Under the regulations any 25 persons can, on application, obtain a telephone exchange ; but in Redfern, which is the most important centre in my district, there is no exchange, and when application was made, the answer given was that there was already a connexion with another exchange two or three miles away. The whole conduct of some of the exchanges shows an unwarrantable lack of administrative ability. Redfern is tacked on to a less important station at a distance, though the former is a business centre larger than Richmond in Victoria.

Mr Tudor - There is no exchange at Richmond.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The absence of an exchange in Redfern is not the only difficulty. There is no exchange in the whole of my electorate, which is one-fourth the size of the city of Sydney, the only communication being with other stations which are already congested with business. If the department had any business ability, they would consider the question of reorganizingthe exchanges and distributing the work. Another important point is that sufficient regard is not had to the object of making the department pay. I am perfectly certain that the_ want of communication will prevent the business paying as it would pay if iii the hands of business men. In. Redfern, Botany, Alexandra, Waterloo, all nourishing manufacturing districts in my electorate, people would make much more use of the telephone if an exchange were established in their midst. At present if a subscriber wishes to communicate with a man living, perhaps, only two blocks away, he has to ring up an' exchange four or five miles distant. The department seems to require re-organization from top to bottom. In the first place, this House does not seem to have enough power of criticism in the absence of the Minister; secondly, there is no uniformity of system throughout the Commonwealth ; and thirdly, there is required some power of decentralization under which the local Deputy Postmasters-General will be able to deal with trumpery details, the settlement of which is at present postponed from time to time in order that they may be referred to head-quarters, where business appears to be congested. Only the other day I pointed out to the Deputy PostmasterGeneral of Sydney the disgracefully dirty condition of a certain post-office in Redfern. That office was so dirty that, had it been in the hands of private people, it would have been condemned by the local authorities : and I believe complaints on this score are also made in regard to the post-offices in Sydney and Melbourne. All such matters as these in connexion with local offices have to be referred to the Postmaster-General in Melbourne, even though only £50 may be required for repairs. There seems to be blunder after blunder. In my district the department shut up two offices which had been in existence for a number of years, and were paying, and it was only after strong representations that permission was given to continue the business at these offices pending an ultimate decision. All these matters should be dealt with in a business-like spirit. The more facilities, in reason, which are given, the more business there will be, and the more revenue will result. A deputation waited on the Deputy Postmaster-General in Sydney the other day, when this matter was referred to, and that gentleman was reported as having passed some reflections on the difficulties which were in the way. The Deputy Postmaster - General, however, was misreported ; what he said was that there was always a great deal of difficulty in referring matters to head - quarters. In any big private business details would be left to the local representative. The honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. O'Malley, is perfectly justified in bringing this matter before the House in order that the Government may know that throughout the length and breadth of the States there is a feeling of dissatisfaction, and a desire that the department should be reorganized on business-like lines. I understand that the Postmaster-General has been asked to make a business-like statement of the results of the administration under the Commonwealth : and, if he did so, the information given would prove a useful guide to this House, because we should, in all probability, be shown where revenue is lost through want of better management.

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