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Thursday, 31 July 1902

Mr WATKINS (Newcastle) - The only matter which I desire to discuss is the taxing of ship's stores. The question has been brought forward on several occasions, and the Minister has promised to inquire into it. I have previously expressed the opinion that it was not the intention of this House, and that it was not legal to tax stores on ships that come into one of the ports of the Commonwealth, and do not trade in Australian waters. I desire to know whether the Minister has yet gone into the matter, and whether he is prepared to give a decision. The fact that a duty is charged on paint taken out of a ship's locker by her master, who requires to paint his ship in port, is giving rise to great irritation, and causing captains to have their work done in other ports. The greater the delay the worse it is for the trade of the Commonwealth. I should like to see the matter placed on a proper footing.

Mr. HENRYWILLIS (Robertson).I have been requested by my constituents to bring under the notice of the Government the neglect to supply postal facilities in several important parts of the electorate of Robertson. In the district of Wellington a post-office is badly needed. For some years the State Government promised to erect an office, at a cost of something like £2,000 or £3,000, but the people would be quite satisfied with a building costing considerably less, as long as facilities were provided commensurate with the importance of the district. Residents of Wellington complain that they are not only unable to secure proper postal facilities, but that adequate accommodation is not made for the postal officials, with the result that the public are forced to use certain parts of the building that are at the same time devoted to domestic purposes. Within a short distance of Wellington there is a place called Montefiores, where an old office has been in existence from the earliest days of settlement in New SouthWales. There the public are not even able to purchase postage stamps. The same remark applies to other parts of my electorate, and it is urged as an excuse by the department that the returns from these old offices are so small that they do not warrant the granting of these ordinary facilities. Now I believe that the withholding of the sale of postage stamps at these centres, and I specially refer to Montifoire, is being urged as a reason why the post-offices at those places should be closed. The people of the district are in a high state of indignation upon the matter, and they have requested me over and over again to bring it before the House. I have interviewed the authorities of the department, both in Sydney and in Melbourne, to try to secure some facilities of communication for these people without having to bring their grievances before Parliament. But it seems that something has to be said here before any practical attention is given to reasonable requests made by constituents in New South Wales. One receives courteous interviews and very polite letters, but nothing comes of them. Indeed, it is now looked upon as a waste of time to go to the departments to make requests for ordinary facilities, because nothing is ever done beyond the sending of the reply that the matter will be considered favorably. I may further mention that in the district of Robertson the people have not ordinary facilities for telegraphic communication. These people have to travel miles to take their communications to places where facilities are given for sending them on. There are, for instance, no telephone or telegraph facilities at Goolma or Two Mile Flat, though these places could be connected with the telegraph system by the construction of a line for a distance of something like 4 miles. That has been brought under the notice of the authorities before, but nothing has been done. It seems to me that the Minister in charge of this department might look into the matter and give some assurance that the convenience of the public will be attended to. There is another matter of more than ordinary importance to which, I think, reference should be made ; and that is the retrenchment which has been effected in the Defence Department. Some officers who have been in the department for 30' years, who have practically organized the department in New South Wales, are now in their grey hairs cast adrift. It seems to me that the Government have taken a very stringent course, and the men with least influence appear to have suffered most. There is one gentleman to whom the people of New South Wales are especially indebted. Now that he is too old to enter upon any other occupation, he is cast adrift, though he practically re-organized the service, and carried out his work generally to the satisfaction of the officer commanding in that State. I believe that some pittance is now offered to him in Melbourne, and that he must either take that or go upon the streets.

Mr Crouch - What is his name ?

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