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Thursday, 14 August 1902


Sir PHILIP FYSH (Tasmania) -I move -

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Honorable members will recollect that on a former occasion they assisted me to pass through the House a Bill relating to the administration of the Post and Telegraph department, and the construction and maintenance of telegraphic and telephonic lines. One of the clauses of that Bill provided for the making of regulations by the GovernorGeneral in Council, and the PostmasterGeneral proposed under it to frame a regulation in relation to postal and telegraph rates. The House deemed it desirable, however, that those rates should be embodied in a Bill, with the result that we have before us the measure of which I am now moving the second reading. I regret that there has been apparently so much delay in introducing it. That delay has not been due to any fault on the part of the Government. Theabsolute settlement of certain points of administration relating specially to the carriage of newspapers in New South Wales, and to the cable rates to be charged between the mainland and Tasmania has only just taken place. Although the Government were prepared to proceed with this Bill at an earlier date, those two points necessitated delay. Irrespective of their existence, however, the House, since re-assembling on the 22nd ult., has been fully engaged upon the Tariff. At last we have before us the Bill which I had hoped to introduce very much earlier, but which for the reasons I have stated could not have been brought forward before. I regret further that it has been to some extent delayed because it has kept in existence an incongruity in regard to certain rates, which it is advisable should be removed. We have still in force in the various States differing rates for the carriage of newspapers, under which advantages have possibly been reaped by one class of newspaper proprietors over another. It would have been far better in the interests of the Commonwealth, as a whole, had we been able earlier in our Federation to bring these varying rates into line. Honorable members will recollect that three out of the six States have been carrying newspapers through the post free of charge, and that they are still doing so, while in the remaining three States a charge is and has been made. That state of things must continue until we have passed this Bill, and therefore I venture to disagree with some of the observations which were made on a former occasion by the honorable and learned member for Werriwa, who expressed the hope that this measure would be delayed for some considerable time. I hope we shall find that there are several reasons why no further delay should take place. The Bill itself contains only eight clauses, and with the exception of clause 8, which provides for a new regulation, they are comparatively unimportant. The power to make regulations under the Post and Telegraph Act does not enable the GovernorGeneral in Council to make any arrangements for the limitations and the rates to be prescribed with respect to town and suburban telegrams or letters. It is proposed, therefore, in clause 8, that the Governor-General in Council shall have power by regulation to prescribe the limits within which the rates for town and suburban telegrams and letters shall have effect, and for prescribing charges for the porterage of telegrams. Special necessity for such a regulation arises from the fact that we have not a uniform regulation in existence in the various States. While, for example, we have in five States a suburban or a town rate of 6d. for certain telegraphic messages, and a State rate up to1s., we have in Victoria a uniform rate of 9d., whether in relation to city, suburban, or State messages. Therefore it becomes necessary to make special regulations prescribing the limits within which there shall be varying rates for letters and telegrams. There is a provision in clause 5 in regard to which only a word or two is necessary. It relates to the rates for telegrams and postal matter which have not been exempted by some Act, and it reads as follows : -

Telegrams, letters, and postal articles trans mitted or posted on behalf of the King, the Commonwealth Government, or any State Government shall, unless exempted by some Act, be subject to the postal and telegraphic rates for the time being in force.


Sir John Quick - Does the clause refer to a federal Act?


Sir PHILIP FYSH - Yes. I am reminded by the Attorney-General that under section 38 of the Acts Interpretation Act, an Act passed by the Commonwealth may be referred to by the word " Act " alone. We know, therefore, that the provision applies only to that which the Federal Legislature does.


Mr Glynn - When it is applied to a State by a federal Act.


Sir PHILIP FYSH - Yes. The most important features of. this Bill are to be found in the schedules, and I have no doubt that when we reach them we shall come to the more controversial matter. Dealing with the first schedule which relates to newspapers, I am instructed that the present revenue from postage on newspapers in the three States, which do not carry them free of charge, amounts to about £25,000 per annum. There are three States - Tasmania, Western Australia, and New South Wales - which carry all newspapers through the post free of charge. The new rates provided for in the 1st schedule will enable the Postmaster-General to increase his revenue from this source by about £40,000, bringing up his total revenue from newspaper postage to nearly £70,000. I am only giving these figures approximately. Whether the Postmaster-General puts down his total, anticipated increase at £42,000 or £45,000, it is a matter of speculation, and for my purpose I shall allude to the anticipated increase as being about £40,000. That sum is divided in various ways. For example, I find that Queensland, instead of gaining additional revenue on the postage of newspapers, will lose some £2,800 under this arrangement, whilst all the other States, except Victoria, will gain very considerably. I am happy here to notice that Tasmania - which for the purpose of enlightening the public mind and conveying literature into our country homes, so it has been . said, has been carrying newspapers free to the detriment of the service - will now be recouped to the extent of about £10,000. New South Wales will also gain under this schedule to the very large amount of about £27,000.


Mr Batchelor - What will South Australia gain?


Sir PHILIP FYSH - It is estimated that she will gain only a trifle - about £200. Victoria will stand practically in the same position as she was before.


Sir Malcolm McEacharn - What will be Queensland's position ?


Sir PHILIP FYSH - She will lose about £2,800. This legislation will liberalize postal regulations with respect to the carriage of newspapers in the three States which have hitherto been imposing a charge upon them. The loss occasioned by liberalizing the rates in those three States will be more than made good by the additional revenue collected in the States which have heretofore carried newspapers free.


Mr E SOLOMON (FREMANTLE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - How will the schedule affect Western Australia ?


Sir PHILIP FYSH - Western Australia will come out about £6,700 to the good. I shall have to return presently to the question of newspaper carriage. I see that the honorable member for Macquarie is following me closely, and I shall take care to give him, and those who think or do not think with him, all the information they desire, remembering that on a previous occasion questions were asked which I was unable to answer so satisfactorily as I hope to be in a position now to do. If I forget to return to this subject, no doubt the honorable member for Macquarie will refresh my memory. I desire to pass on to the 2nd schedule which deals with ordinary telegrams, and introduces a new system and a new tariff with respect to telegrams of a private or business nature and press messages. Under the 2nd schedule the Government desire to give an enormous benefit to the people of the Federation as a whole. I think I may allude to it as a considerable, if not an enormous, benefit, for whereas there has been a charge of 3s. or 4s. each for messages between Western Australia and Queensland - the western and the north-eastern boundaries of Australia - which have to be transmitted through five States, this Bill provides for a Commonwealth rate of 1s. for all messages consisting of a certain number of words that are sent to any part of the Commonwealth. This, I hope, will be regarded as a great boon. It will, however, lead to a loss in the telegraphic revenue equivalent to that which the PostmasterGeneral hopes to gain in his postal revenue. I desire honorable members when dealing with these rates, to remember that the Commonwealth is not in a position to give up £40,000 worth of revenue now collected upon telegrams unless it can in some way be recouped for that loss of revenue. We therefore propose to set against this reduced revenue from the Telegraphic department the profit we hope to realize upon the carriage of newspapers. With respect to these two points, I should like, first of all in connexion with the charge for the carriage of newspapers, to refer to a question asked a few evenings ago by the honorable member for Macquarie. That question had special relation to the position of newspaper proprietors in New South Wales. They have had an advantage over the proprietors of newspapers in some of the other States in that they have been able to send their papers by morning trains at the cost of the Government.


Mr Deakin - Of the Post-office.


Sir PHILIP FYSH - At the cost of the Government while they were States, but at the cost of the Post-office now. Their newspapers have been carried by early trains for which the Post-office has paid.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Did the honorable gentleman say at the cost of the Post-office now?


Sir PHILIP FYSH - Yes, because it must be remembered that the Postal department has been taken over by the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth has to pay this sum of£2,500.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Arethey paying it?


Sir PHILIP FYSH - No.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then it cannot be said to be a charge upon the Postal department.


Sir PHILIP FYSH - No; but if the systemhad been continued, it would have been a special loss. The Government, however, have deemed it desirable to put a stop to that arrangement for the present, and until Parliament has had an opportunity to deal with the matter. As a result of the action taken, I presume that the newspaper proprietors concerned, or some of them, are up in arms. Because their gains have been to some extent arrested, they feel themselves aggrieved, forgetting that they have had an advantage which the vendors of newspapers in other States have not had. I say advisedly that they have had an advantage which the vendors of newspapers in other States have not had, because although I gave certain information to my honorable friend the honorable member for Macquarie on a previous day, with respect to what I believed had been taking place in Tasmania, I was compelled to give him an answer to the question he put recently upon the motion for the adjournment of the House, which was not as complete as 'I should have liked to make it, nor was it as fullas the honorable member andthe House were entitled to receive it. But there were extant at that particular time messages from two States, at any rate, and from each of two departments in those States, which, if they were not absolutely conflicting replies, were yet replies which needed further explanation. In the meantime, I have armed myself with further information, so far, atall events, as Tasmania is concerned. While, on the one hand, I have to reply that in Tasmania newspapers had been carried free by the Postal department for a great number of years, and that the Railway department, which was also a Government department, had been carrying free parcels of newspapers sent by the publisher to. the railway office, and delivered by the railway authorities to the publisher's agent elsewhere, I now find that although the circumstances warranted that reply - a reply which reached me from the Treasurer of Tasmania - there were other circumstances which, perhaps, he had overlooked. Though I had myself been a party to the arrangement made, I had not refreshed my memory with respect to it, and I also had forgotten it for the moment. While our newspapers in Tasmania were being carried free, if delivered at the post-office addressed by the vendor to private individuals, parcels of newspapers sent by publishers to the railway stations were also being carried free, as a matter of compliment, by the railway authorities.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Were they carried free ? We do not require to know anything about the compliment ; the question is, what was the practice observed ?


Mr Fowler - It was a very substantial compliment.


Sir PHILIP FYSH - They were carried free. I do not know that I should speak of it as extraordinary as far as Tasmania is concerned, that the General Manager of the Railways, knowing that there was free postage of newspapers, accorded to the proprietors of newspapers the privilege of sending their papers in bulk to the railway station, without having previously passed them through the post-office. This has been the condition of things in Tasmania.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Are newspapers not being carried free on the railways in Tasmania ?


Sir PHILIP FYSH - Under the same circumstances.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Have not the Government withdrawn the concession in New South Wales?


Sir PHILIP FYSH - We have only just had our attention called to the concession given in Tasmania.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then the honorable gentleman must know very little about the department.


Mr Deakin - The Postmaster-General does not pay for it.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I understood that the Post-office is paying a lump sum.


Sir PHILIP FYSH - The honorable member for Macquarie is right and wrong - right in his statement, and wrong in his conclusion. The Tasmanian Government controlling both the Postal and Railway departments, passed no money to the Railway department for the carriage of mail matter, but they did make a cross entry so as to give the Railway department credit for what it claimed to earn, and charged the Postal department with the cost of certain deliveries. The arrangement was that the postal matter should be carried by the Postal department for the lump sum named. Let us draw a distinction, if there be a distinction, and I do not desire to make it too arbitrary : The Government assented to the two departments making .in arrangement under which, by a cross entry, the Railway department debits the Postal department, and the Postal department credits the Railway department for certain services rendered. The Railway General Manager, knowing that newspapers were carried free throughout Tasmania under the Postal regulations, drew no distinction between newspapers addressed by the proprietors to individuals, and the bulk parcels of newspapers which were sent to the railway stations.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Therefore my contention that they were carried free on the railways of Tasmania was absolutely correct.


Sir PHILIP FYSH - My telegram tells me that there is no record in the department of any such arrangement. This is the statement made -

The Railway department states that, as newspapers were carried free to country districts, they undertook to do the same on their lines. This office was never referred to in the matter.

The office referred to is the Postal department, and that bears out my statement that the General Manager of the Railways took it upon himself to do this without any reference to the Postal department.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - How long has this been done? Since the Postal Act came into operation in 1881 ?


Sir PHILIP FYSH - No, because it was only within the past few years that Mr. Back, the General Manager of Railways in Tasmania, on finding that the revenue of bis department was not sufficient to meet the interest charge of 3 or 4 per cent., made the claim that the department should be credited with the cost of all services rendered. This is on the principle upon which we are now acting, that every department should get credit for the services which it renders. Speaking from memory, and I think my recollection is accurate upon the point, that has been the practice within the last ten years.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - He made a claim for it ?


Sir PHILIP FYSH - He made a claim for credit for services rendered to the Postal department.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Including the conveyance of newspapers on the railways ?


Sir PHILIP FYSH - My information is that -

There is no agreement, direct, or' indirect, or any correspondence upon this matter between this office and the railway.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is a very strange thing, when the arrangement has been in force for the last ten years.


Sir PHILIP FYSH - And so the Tasmanian Treasurer stated in his reply that he understood it was included in the lump sum. I can assure the honorable member for Macquarie that there is no reticence on our part. I am giving the fullest information I can give. I have tried to look to the end of this matter. Mr. Bird did say in his telegram that he thought the total amount paid by one department to the other-


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Did he say he " thought "1


Sir PHILIP FYSH - Well, he said it did embrace the work which the Railway department did for the Postal department, and the carriage of the bulk newspapers from the vendor or publisher to various parts.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That shows that the Government understood the arrangement.


Mr Deakin - No, the Post-office knew nothing of it.


Sir PHILIP FYSH - I do not desire to make too much or too little of. this matter.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I only desire that there should be fair treatment all round. It is strange that the concession should be withdrawn in one State and not in another.


Sir PHILIP FYSH - The facts are before honorable members, and they can judge for themselves. Notwithstanding interruptions I have tried to let honorable members see exactly how the matter stands. When the honorable member talks of dealing with one as we deal with another, he must bear in mind that in several of the States a charge has been made for the carriage of newspapers for years past, and we are only now bringing the equity of the matter into force.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Under the law the previously existing arrangement should have remained in force until the passing of uniform legislation ; but the Government have withdrawn the privilege previously existing in New South Wales, whilst it has not been withdrawn in Tasmania.


Sir PHILIP FYSH - The moment it is brought under our observation that such a privilege is in existence there that privilege will be withdrawn. The amount now appearing in the books of the Government of Tasmania to the credit of the Railway department for these services is being paid by the Postal department, and that brings the matter within the ken of the Federal Postmaster-General. He can now deal with it as he has dealt with the system in force in New South Wales. It is within his power to do so, and I have no doubt he will see that a uniform practice will be observed.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Would the honorable gentleman mind reading the telegram from the Treasurer of Tasmania 1


Sir PHILIP FYSH - I thought I had done so, but I shall read it for the honorable member. Mr. Bird, the present Treasurer of Tasmania, states, in reply to a telegram sent him -

The Postal department paid railway for all mails carried, including posted newspapers.

Honorable members will mark the expression. That is a complete sentence in reply. He goes on to say -

But parcels of newspapers sent to railway from newspaper offices have hitherto been carried free.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What does he say further ?


Sir PHILIP FYSH - He says further -

When postage is charged on newspapers, we will probably charge for carriage of newspaper parcels by railway.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Showing that the privilege has not been withdrawn in Tasmania, though the Government have withdrawn it in New South Wales. It is all made up. I know all about it.


Sir PHILIP FYSH - The honorable member ought not to speak in that way. We want to be as open as the day. The House is entitled to know everything, and I am quite sure from my knowledge of my colleagues that they want to be as glass that can be seen through, with respect to everything.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - " As through a glass darkly!"


Sir PHILIP FYSH - No; we do not love darkness. But the honorable member for Macquarie must not say that this privilege is being continued by the local Treasurer. The Treasurer of Tasmania is no longer - as I used to be - the Postmaster-General of that State. There is a Commonwealth Deputy Postmaster-General there, acting under the Postmaster-General in Melbourne. Therefore, the privilege to the Tasmanian newspaper proprietor no longer comes from the State ; it is a continuation, tinder circumstances which have only recently been brought to light, of a privilege which the proprietors of newspapers obtained from the manager of' the Tasmanian railways by reason of the fact that newspapers were being carried free through the post.


Mr Glynn - No special subsidy is being paid, I suppose?


Sir PHILIP FYSH - None.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) -What about Western Australia ?


Sir PHILIP FYSH - I am informed that the privilege referred to exists in Western Australia, but I have no further information on the subject.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The same privilege as exists in Tasmania ?


Sir PHILIP FYSH - It appears so to me.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That privilege has not been withdrawn, has it 1


Sir PHILIP FYSH - I am not aware of it.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It seems strange that it should be withdrawn from New South Wales,' but not from the other States.


Sir PHILIP FYSH - When it came to the knowledge of the Government that there was a special payment of £2,500 in New South Wales for a special train service in the morning for the benefit of the newspapers, they determined to stop it.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Will the honorable gentleman explain why the Government discontinued that privilege at once, instead of waiting until this Bill was passed t


Sir PHILIP FYSH - There was no authority for us to pay £2,500 for the carriage of newspapers in New South Wales ; and I trust that the Commonwealth will regard it as a righteous policy on the part of the Government that, as from time to time it discovers an abnormal condition of things in any State - such idiosyncrasies, for instance, as the carriage of parcels in one State under special circumstances which do not apply in another State - it will effect a remedy at once. The Government are not capable of undertaking Ministerial functions, and are not worthy of their position, if, when they discover such discrepancies and anomalies, they do not do their duty in remedying them.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - They have been a long time in discovering them in some States.


Sir PHILIP FYSH - So much the better for the honorable member's clients.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - They discovered them very quickly in the State of New South Wales.


Sir PHILIP FYSH - The honorable member may take credit to himself that he has been instrumental in bringing into line the people of two States, which together number 350,000 - Tasmania and Western Australia - and who have been enjoying this particular privilege, whilst another State, containing 1,400,000 people, has been enjoying the same privilege for a very long time. The matter is not a very serious one afterall. It practically resolves itself into this - that the proprietors of newspapers in New South Wales have been almost alone in enjoying this privilege for so long a time. Now I come back again to the schedule of the Bill. After having pointed out what are the probable profits and losses, I come to the point as to whether, in connexion with telegrams, we should continue the system of not charging for the words that are used in naming the addressee and the sender. No doubt, honorable members are aware that in the United Kingdom, Canada, and the; United States the words relative to the addressee and the sender are charged for. If they are not charged for in the Commonwealth, it means that the Postoffice sustains - a heavy loss. I am aware that an effort will be made in this Chamber to secure the continuance in Australia of the system of charging only for the number of words used in the body of a telegram, and not charging for the address and the name of the sender. If that effort is successful, it will mean a cost to the Commonwealth of £90,000 per annum.


Sir John Quick - The present system has worked very well hitherto.


Sir PHILIP FYSH - But why, at a cost of £90,000 a year, should the department telegraph for nothing the name and address of the sender and receiver ?


Sir John Quick - Because by that means we get more business.


Sir PHILIP FYSH - No ; the Government are now going to give the public messages for 6d., 9d., and ls. per telegram.


Mr Glynn - The honorable gentleman assumes that there will be the same number of words used under any circumstances.


Sir PHILIP FYSH - You cannot very well assume the same number of words. It is estimated that the average number of words contained in the address and the name of the sender is about seven.


Mr Glynn - The £90,000 to which the honorable gentleman has referred assumes that the messages sent under the new system will contain the same number of words in the body of the telegrams.


Sir PHILIP FYSH - Possibly.


Mr Glynn - That is fallacious.


Sir PHILIP FYSH - .Suppose the public attempt to meet this change in the system by curtailing the number of words contained in the name and address ; we shall then find the difficulty which was discussed at a conference of the PostmastersGeneral a few years since, when they arrived at the conclusion that it was exceedingly unwise to invite the public to curtail the number of words used in the address, or even to ask them to codify the names and addresses. This body of experts, whose special business it was to attend to such matters, gave expression to the opinion that the practice of permitting the public to use as many words as they thought convenient in regard to the names and addresses on their telegrams was so much the better for the receiver, and rendered the carrying out of the duties of the Telegraph department so much the more easy. The proposal of this Bill is to charge the rates set down in schedule 2 with respect to telegrams. It is proposed to charge £d. per word for town and suburban messages. Here the question will arise, so far as Victoria is concerned, whether this State is to come into line with the other five States, all of whom have their town and suburban rates, or whether the other five States are to be drawn into line with the one State of Victoria. I hope that in connexion with a federal proposal like this a federal purpose will be observed .throughout, and that we shall establish uniformity. If so, we shall have to establish this town and suburban rate of £d. per word. The rate for telegraph messages within a State will be $d. per word ; and the rate for all messages sent from one State to another - whether from New South "Wales to Queensland, or from Queensland right through to Western Australia - will be Id. per word. Surely for so great a boon as this some of us ' will be quite willing to give up some of our present privileges. It must be borne in mind that under a Federal Bill all the States must be brought into line. The question then arises as to whether one State should give up its privileges, and join the other five, and whether by so joining the other five, the system thus inaugurated will lead to cheaper telegraphy on the whole. I have pointed out that, as a whole, the people of Australia will gain from £40,000 to £45,000 a year by this re-arrangement. When a message contains a fairly large number of words, the sender receives an immense advantage in being charged only %d. for each word for telegrams within a State, whereas at the present moment Id. per word is charged. Certainly, so far as the shorter messages are concerned, the sender will be under a small disadvantage, but in regard to messages containing more than eighteen words, a great advantage lies with the sender. The Stock Exchange of Melbourne, and the Stock Exchanges of Tasmania, have made a special request with respect to charging for telegraphing names and addresses. I have had a conversation with the Postmaster-General on the subject, and have arrived at the conclusion, which I trust the House also will adopt,' that while in the smaller number of instances a few persons may be disadvantaged to the extent of a few pence per message, yet. a greater number of people throughout the Commonwealth will be immensely advantaged by the reduced rates offered by this schedule. The minimum rates are - town and suburban, 6d. per message ; messages within a State, 9d.j and Commonwealth messages - that is, telegrams from State to State, from the extreme at one end of the continent to the extreme at the other - ls. To my mind there is only one blot upon this Bill, and that is with respect to the position of Tasmania. When the Bill was sent to the Senate it contained a provision that to the charge of Id. a word there should be added the cable charges. I was very much in sympathy, as, I hope, other honorable members were, with the senators who objected to that provision. Any one, on first reading the Bill, must have been startled to find that, while a telegram could be sent from Cape Leuwin, by Cape Howe, to Thursday Island at a minimum charge Of ls., although hundreds of miles had to be traversed over wires in Western Australia and South Australia, the people of Tasmania, on sending a message 180 miles across the Straits, were left out of the Federation, and treated as a separate community. That anomaly arose from circumstances which I shall briefly relate. The Tasmanian cable is owned by the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company, who contracted with the Tasmanian Government to lay the cable on receiving a subsidy of £4,200 a year, in addition , to a guaranteed revenue of £5,600 for services rendered. For many years the .messages passing between Tasmania and the mainland left a large deficiency on the guarantee of £5,600, but the development of the mines on the West Coast, in consequence of the enterprise of the Tasmanian people, and also, of course, the enterprise of the people of the mainland, brought up the revenue, until last year it amounted to nearly £10,000. "Under the contract the Tasmanian Government are entitled, directly the revenue of the company exceeds £5,600, to reduce the present charge of Id. per word, and I do not know why that part of the agreement has not been carried out in the past few years, during which the telegraph company have been receiving more than they agreed to accept, and have been making a considerable profit.


Mr Brown - The company exists for the purpose of making a profit.


Sir PHILIP FYSH - That may be! so ;

I but the present number of messages may be regarded as representing an established business, and there is little doubt that the reduction of the charge from1d. per word to½d. per word will give to the company all the revenue to which they are entitled. When this Bill has passed, the PostmasterGeneral will soon be able to complete an arrangement, already agreed on with the Government of Tasmania, for a reduction of the rate to the extent I have indicated, and will do so without, I believe, creating any important loss. If, however, there should be any immediate loss, it will very soon be compensated for, owing to the supply at the lower rate creating a larger demand. I am very sorry that Tasmania should again find herself handicapped with this responsibility. Many years ago an arrangement was made by the various State Governments to pool the subsidies to the various cables. That, however, was only for a period which expired about two or three years ago ; and Tasmania is now responsible for a subsidy of £4,200 a year, and alsofor a guaranteed revenue of £5,600. I hope that we shall be able to arrange, as between the Tasmanian Government and the Federal Government, for an alteration of the cable rates. If that be so, I shall propose, in committee, to re-insert the words which were eliminated by the Senate, through, I believe, a mistake ; and when that proposal is made we shall know that the charge will most likely be½d. per word, instead of1d. The words to which I have referred were eliminated by the Senate on the representations largely of the senators representing Tasmania, who believed that the Bill lost its federal character by containing such an incongruous element, and urged the desirability of making a uniform charge throughout the Commonwealth. When some objection was raised by the Postmaster-General, the senators for Tasmania undertook that the Government of that State would take the responsibility for the elimination of the words. Circumstances have shown, however, that the Tasmanian Government are not in a position to assume such a responsibility ; and I am sorry tosay that my latest communication from the Treasurer of Tasmania is to the effect that the rate hereafter must be a matter of arrangement, although at the present time he agrees that it should be½d. per word. The result of the conference of Premiers and Postmasters-General, held on 15th and 16th May last, was very unfortunate. At that time a conclusion was arrived at which left the Tasmanian Treasurer in a hopeful state of mind ; but circumstances subsequently arose which showed that the agreement was premature, or, at any rate, was qualified by some of the parties concerned. Sir John See, speaking on the Federal Postal Bill, said -

I think that any loss caused to aState in consequence of the alteration of an agreement in connexion with cable rates should be a federal charge. I think it is absolutely fair that where a State is under an obligation to carry out a contract it is to its advantage, as well us to the advantage of the Commonwealth, that the Federal Government should meet the deficiency. This concerns all the States.

Thereupon the conference unanimously agreed to the following resolution : -

The conference is of opinion that any loss caused to a State through the cancellation or alteration of an agreement in respect of cable rates should be borne by theCommonwealth.

I need not say that in that opinion I thoroughly concur. I am always hopeful that in time we shall become a Federation in reality, when nothing shall remain to indicate that any one State receives differential treatment.


Mr Glynn - We cannot expect federation to pay for the disadvantages of geographical position.


Sir PHILIP FYSH - I do not think that the question of geographical position ought to enter into the discussion. The question is whether we are one people ; if so, there should be one purse.


Mr Glynn - There may be one uniform law, but we cannot cancel distance.


Sir PHILIP FYSH - I have told the House that in committee I propose to move the re-insertion of the words eliminated by the Senate. I recognise that the Tasmanian cable is under different conditions from those which govern the wires through Western Australia and South Australia. The Tasmanian cable is, so to speak, rented from a company, whereas the wires through Western Australiaand South Australia belong to the State, which has incurred capital outlay on their construction. The interest on that capital is a charge on the people generally; and we must not forget that the loss on the Post and Telegraph department arises largely from the fact that in carrying messages for a minimum charge of1s., nothing is charged for interest on the construction of the wires through the mainland States. That loss is borne by the people generally, whereas in Tasmania the rental is borne only by the people using the cable. There are only one or two further points with which I wish to deal. The cost of press telegrams will, by the Bill, be brought into line, uniform charges being .provided throughout the Commonwealth. In committee, however, it will be my duty to call attention to an incongruity which arises in this part of the Bill by reason of the action of the Senate. The Bill as sent to the other Chamber provided charges within any State, as follows : - 25 words, 6d. ; 50 words, 9d. : 100 words, ls. 6d. ; and every additional 50 words, or portion of 50 words, 9d. That was a sliding scale, advancing by proper degrees ; but, for some reason or other, the Senate thought it advisable to make the charge 6d. for any additional 50 words, or part thereof. The result of the amendment is that the last 50 words are charged only 6d., while intervening 50 words aid charged 9d., and the rates are taken out of line so far as press telegrams from State to State are concerned, the charge in the case of the latter being ls. 6d. for every additional 50 words, or part thereof. In committee I propose to make the charge 9d., as before. I do not think I need keep the House any longer on this measure. I have no doubt that when we get into committee a great number of points will arise, but these I shall not anticipate. I have a mass of papers here, but I think the House will regard what I have said as sufficient for a second-reading speech, further opportunity being afforded in committee for considering details.







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