Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 19 August 1902

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I commence by complaining that, although we were told that this Bill would not be taken this week, we are now called upon at an hour's notice to resume the debate. That does not give honorable members a chance of making the preparationthey would like in order to adequately deal with the measure.However, I moved the adjournment the other night, and it follows that I must, at great disadvantage to myself; continue the debate. I had not the privilege of hearing all that was said the other day by the honorable member for Tasmania, Sir Philip Fysh - who represents the Postmaster-General in this House - when the second reading was moved ; but the portion of the speech which I did' hear struck me as being particularly lucid. When that honorable member makes as second-reading speech he generally does credit to his subject by giving a clear and interesting statement, and I fully and cheerfully pay him the tribute of saying that his address the other day was no exception to the rule. My only regret is that that honorable member has been so frequently absent from the table. It is a pity he has not been here a little oftener during the passage of the Tariff Bill, in order that, with his large mercantile experience, he might have been at the elbow of the Minister for Trade and .Customs. That, however, is by the way. I do not find myself able to agree with the proposals of the Government, as embodied in this Bill, which is the complement of the main measure passed some time ago. We have now to deal with the practical part of the postal proposals. There is not much poetry connected with proposals of the kind, but this is a measure of much importance, inasmuch as it deeply and vitally affects every member of the' community in his everyday work and life. There may not be much to appeal to the imagination, or to excite poetic instincts - if there be any in this Chamber - but the proposals bespeak the keen interest and scrutiny of all. When we were discussing the advantages of federation before the electorates of Australia, we were wont to say that union would bring many advantages, and amongst these was one which we always emphasized, namely, that to be derived from a Federal Post-office. Up to date, however, I am afraid that in these anticipations we have been doomed to keen disappointment. We were told, for instance, that federation would give increased efficiency in the Post-office: that it would give greater cheapness in the service, and do away with the irritating border regulations. But none of these anticipations have been realized. On the contrary, the irritation continues, and is, in many instances, proposed to be continued," under the Bill. The only effect of the centralized control has been to give less efficiency so far as administration is concerned, and the proposals of the Government certainly do not give a cheaper service. The Bill, on the face of it, proposes to give cheaper telegrams, but I hope to show, before I sit down, that the effect is to increase the total telegraphic charges throughout Australia. I apprehend that there is no quarrel as to the clauses in the Bill. We are really discussing the schedule, the Bill itself being comparatively unimportant, except in so far as it relates to that schedule. In passing, I may say that an amendment appears to be necessary in clause 8, by the addition of some words to provide for porterage on letters as well as on telegrams. That is provided for in the

Bill we have already passed, but in the measure before us letters are not included as subject to porterage. This, however, is a comparatively unimportant point ; the schedule is practically the Bill. In the first place, it is proposed to make uniform a practice, which now exists in three States, of charging for. the conveyance through the post of newspapers which are published in those States. I do not defend the previous practice in the States where the postage of locally-published newspapers was free. I apprehend that no difficulty will be raised on that score. The newspaper proprietors concerned, like the rest of their fellows propose, to cheerfully pay up. But in New South Wales a very peculiar practice has been adopted by the Federal Government. In that State newspapers were carried by certain trains, though not by a particular train, as stated the other day by the Acting Prime Minister. The honorable gentleman was quite wide of the mark when he said that newspapers were carried in New South Wales by particular trains for a sum aggregating £2,500 per annum - that, in addition to the ordinary mail trains which cany letters and postal articles generally, special trains were run for the special benefit of the newspaper proprietors. I do not defend the practice of paying the extra £2,500, but it is only just that this House should know the facts. The newspaper trains were not special trains in any sense of the word, but ordinary goods trains by any of which the newspapers were carried. There was not allocated a special train paid for by a special contribution. The practice of carrying newspapers by these trains has been followed in New South Wales for many years, the only alteration being that of running the trains at a later hour in order to suit the convenience of the newspaper proprietors.

Mr L E GROOM (DARLING DOWNS, QUEENSLAND) - There has been an alteration of the time-table only 1

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is all. I should like further to say, that in the evidence given before the committee now sitting in New South Wales, it has been shown very clearly that, so far from these trains being run at a loss, every one of them paid. That is more than can be said of the' ordinary trains, and that the newspaper trains were remunerative is shown in the fact that their earnings amounted to the enormous sum of 10s. per train mile, as compared with the average cost throughout the State of 3s. 9d. per train mile.- The. following is a portion of the evidence given by Mr. McLachlan before the Parliamentary Committee in New South Wales -

How long has it been in existence? - I went buck 30 years ; it has been in existence since that time, and I did not think it necessary to go further back than that.

This sum of £2,500 per annum which the commissioners were paid by the Postal department, was it for the carriage of the whole of the newspapers of all denominations? - Yes.

All over the lines ? - Yes ; that is what we understood.

What consideration did the commissioners receive for running what are called the newspaper trains ? - We did not run any newspaper trains purely as such.

But they did run them ? - We never ran newspaper trains ; we never ran trains for newspapers alone,, but trains which conveyed goods and passengers. Furthermore, wo never ran these trains at a loss. The trains which conveyed the newspapers earned a considerable profit.

At all times ? - Yes ; I think so. As a.matter of fact, when we took out the returns for the month of November, we found that the average earnings of the so-called newspaper trains was 10s. per mile. If we could run all our trains with the same margin of profit we should retire shortly.

You say definitely that none of these train's are run at a loss ? - No ; the average return is 10s. per mile, which is an excellent return. Of course, as I said just now, we do not run newspaper trains, but trains which convey goods and which convey newspapers ; they are goods trains which the newspaper proprietors avail themselves of as a matter of convenience, and they carry passengers iis well. The average return from those trains is 10s. per mile...... For some time, until the year .1880, 1 believe, the amount contributed was ill ,800 per annum, but late on--

Was that the amount at which you estimated the value of the service rendered ? - We used originally to charge for each parcel separately.

That evidence goes to show that the arrangement was in existence for many years, and that it was not an arrangement under which a special rate was paid for a particular train. The payment was for carrying the newspapers indiscriminately by any of the trains which the newspaper proprietors desired to use. These goods trains have been and are now run early in the morning, but not for the purpose of carrying newspapers. Originally the commissioners ran a train at 3 o'clock in the morning, but they agreed to run it later for the purpose of falling in with the wishes of the newspaper proprietors. That is a special train for carrying perishable goods into the country, and it is also one of the best passenger trains. When I lived in Lithgow, before coming to reside in Sydney, the newspaper train was of the most advantage to passengers, living on the Blue Mountains, as it is, I believe, to-day. It is not fair, therefore, to say that the people of New South Wales have subsidized the newspaper proprietors by running a special train for their special benefit. There is also .the other aspect, that the early delivery of newspapers is not all for the benefit of the newspaper proprietors. Honorable members who have lived in the country know what the early delivery of newspapers means. In Lithgow, we used to get the newspapers a little after 9 o'clock in the morning, instead of waiting, as previously, until after 4 o'clock in the afternoon; so that there is something to be said on this matter from the public point of view. I only mention these facts now to dissipate the idea that there is a special early train run for the benefit of the newspaper proprietors. I believe that early trains are run for a similar purpose in the other States. I am told that in Victoria, for instance, the money paid to the commissioners on this account corresponds very nearly to the amount paid in New South Wales.

Mr Deakin - But here the newspaper proprietors pay.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I believe that the newspaper proprietors are going to pay in New South Wales. But are all the newspaper proprietors of the different States going to do so ? That is what we are anxious to know. Are the newspapers of Tasmania and Western Australia going to pay ? I think there is some ground for complaint as to the way in which this has been done. It seems to me that the moment it was discovered that New South Wales had this concession on our railways the Government made a bee-line to strike it out. They never inquired about the other States. The Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral could not tell us the other day what was going on in Western Australia ; nor could he give us any clear and definite story of what was going on in Tasmania. I submit that the moment this matter came before the Postmaster-General he ought to have called for a report in regard to the practice in all the States. That is the course which he generally adopts in regard to other matters. In this case, however, he did not follow the ordinary course ; he did not obtain a report showing how the privilege was being abused in all the States. He came to the conclusion that' New South Wales was obtaining, an advantage that she ought not to possess, and he instantly determined to strike away that advantage. Side by side with this proposal we have an attempt to continue the practice in the other States. At all events, the assumption is that the Government would have continued it if a reference had not been made to it in this chamber. We have a right to complain of the way in which New South Wales has been singled out.

Mr Deakin - New South Wales was the only State of which the Post-office complained.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is to say, New South Wales is the only State in which this system has been carried on honestly and above board. The money paid has been lumped together with other things in other States, and no notice has been taken of it. The New South Wales Commissioners made the fair arrangement that they should obtain special payment for sending newspapers indiscriminately by goods trains, and because New South Wales has acted openly and honestly in this matter she is made to suffer.

Mr Deakin - There was no binding arrangement - -no contract.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Neither is there any binding arrangement in Tasmania.

Mr Deakin - Yes, they are carried in Tasmania under a contract, which we are bound to observe.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Are the railways in Tasmania under a binding contract to run these early trains 1

Mr Deakin - They carry the newspapers as they do by arrangement with the Postoffice, but there was no such contract in New South Wales.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then either the honorable and learned member has innocently stated what is incorrect, or the general manager of the railways has made an inaccurate statement. In the statement to which the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral referred the other day, he pointed out that they carried on this system out of compliment to the newspapers, having regard to the fact that the policy of the country was free newspaper postage.

Mr Deakin - It is not done under any arrangement with the Post-office, or for any payment by the Post-office.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am not inquiring how the arrangement has been made. Does not the honorable and learned gentleman see that the same thing could have been done just as easily in New South Wales ? Instead of receiving separate payment, the New South Wales Railways Commissioners could easily have said - " We will charge you ls. a mile extra for carrying these newspapers on the ordinary express trains, but we will carry "-

Mr Deakin - There was a binding contract in the other States from which we could not escape, but there was no such contract in New South Wales, and therefore we were not justified in paying

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then the Government are " sticking " at what is purely a technical matter, because substantially the same practice is being followed in the other States, save that in the case of' NewSouth Wales it was honest and above board. The general manager of the railways .in Tasmania said that the binding contract was to perform the ordinary postal services by the ordinary express trains, and that the special trains were run out of compliment to the newspapers.

Sir Philip Fysh - There is no special train run out of compliment to the newspapers. The papers were carried in bulk by the railways out of compliment to them.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes j having regard to the policy of the country, which was that of free newspaper postage. I think that that complimentary business should have been the first to be attacked. There was no complimentary- arrangement in New South Wales.

Mr Deakin - We. do not mind what the railways do, as long as we have not to pay for it.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Does not the honorable and learned gentleman think that the Government might have allowed the matter to rest until they were able to deal with it comprehensively ?

Mr Deakin - We were asked to pay in New South Wales, but they could not show us any contract binding us to pay.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - They showed the Government a custom extending back over many years - a custom which between honorable men in that State has evidently been as binding as a legal contract. The Government might have respected that custom instead of pouncing down upon New South Wales and treating her in the anomalous way they have done. One cannot resist the feeling that there has been some influence at work over here to endeavour to stop, the early trains in New South Wales. After all, the public themselves gain by the early morning delivery of newspapers in all the States. There is another point to be considered. I believe there is a postal regulation in connexion with the carriage of ordinary postal matter, that if there is, a plethora of mail matter newspapers ma}' be left behind. In that case they are all taken to the postoffice, and sent in the ordinary way. That is a means of insuring their regular despatch at any hour of the day it is desired to send them, provided that there is a train running. It is not wise to look only at the newspaper proprietor aspect of the matter. It is just as well to study to some extent the public convenience. I do not object to what the Federal Government have done, but to the way in which they have gone about it. It is not fair to single out one State in this way, leaving other States in the enjoyment of precisely the same privilege. According to the Minister's own statement, the only reason that New South Wales was seized upon in this way was because she had made an honest bargain, while the other two States had not. In debating this matter it is often asked, "Why should the press obtain all these concessions ?" That- is a very pertinent question, but if honorable members will look a little below the surface they will find that after straightening out all these anomalies, the Government still provide prominently in the J3ill for the continuance of special concessions to the press. We have one example, for instance, in reference to telegraphic messages. It is proposed in the Bill that a 50-words press message shall be carried for 9d. ; while a private individual will be charged 2s. 3d. for a message of the same length. All through the piece honorable members will find that special provision is made for the newspapers, and I fail to see why there should bean outcry only because of this special payment in respect of the early morning train service in New South Wales. In my judgment the Federal Government have gone out of their way to have a cut at the Sydney newspapers, and I think they have done it in a very mean and underhand way. Leaving that aspect of the question, I see that the Minister estimates that there will be a loss of £40,000 per annum from the telegraphic arrangements proposed in the Bill.

How he makes up the loss I am utterly unable to comprehend, because it is unquestionable that the working of these rates so far shows that there will be an increase in the revenue, assuming that the volume of business remains as before. There is no escape from that position, and how the £40,000 loss is to be made up I do not know, unless the department estimates that the"re will be a shrinkage in business. That, I think, is very probable, having regard to the increased charges proposed in the Bill. Of course, all criticism of the schedule of telegraph rates centres round the question of the payment for signatures and addresses. That is the whole bone of contention. It is the key to the trouble which the community is experiencing at the present moment. The Government profess to be following the precedent set them by the world in proposing to charge for the names and addresses on telegraph messages. They forget when they make that assertion that the postal department in Canada does not make such a charge; that there the public are allowed, just as we have been allowed in Australia, to send their messages without any charge for the names and addresses of the senders and the persons to whom they are sent. The same practice operates throughout the United States of America.

Sir Philip Fysh - Has the honorable member taken into consideration the very much higher rates paid for all messages in Canada and the United States of America'?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) -I believe they are a little higher in the United States of America ; but there the lines are in private hands, and run solely to make profit.

Mr Deakin - Nearly double.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In Canada the rates are not very much higher. There,. I believe, there is a uniform charge of ls. all over the Dominion. I know that they have no local or special city rate, and, whatever it is, no charge is made for sending names and addresses. It occurs to me that this proposal is a retrograde step. It has been our custom to send names and addresses free of charge, and I do not know that any great inconvenience has resulted. It may have involved, now and again, the sending of one or two additional words in connexion with a message, but the practice has not hurt the senders of the message, it has not hurt the officers, nor has it injured the wires. On the contrary, it has been a great convenience to those who use the service. I hope the Minister will not take up the attitude that the service ought to be made the means' of obtaining as much as possible from the people who use it, but rather that a fair and reasonable charge should be made for the services rendered, having regard to the cost of laying down the lines. There are many inconveniences which will arise' if addresses 'are curtailed. In the first place, I think the proposal is anti-federal. It has not hitherto been known in Australia, and therefore, it should not have been introduced in this Bill. It will unquestionably encourage insufficient addressing, and I venture to say that it will lead ultimately to greater expense in delivery, owing to the confusion which will arise, from the efforts of senders to shorten addresses. It will probably lead to the creation of code addresses, with, I presume, registration, and a translation of those code addresses,- with the possibility of further mistakes. It will be another disturbing element, and an addition to the annoyance which federation has caused, both in respect of our offices and generally in regard to our services. It is unnecessary, and it could have been avoided without loss of revenue. I earnestly hope that the House will insist that, .-while we ought to give the Minister the privilege of limiting the addresses of the telegrams, there should be an address sent free plus the actual message. I believe the average address is about eight words, and I think it would be a fair thing to limit to that extent the addresses to be sent free. If that is done no one will be able to complain. I know that some people send very long addresses, extending in some cases to twelve, thirteen, and fourteen words. When they go to such inordinate lengths, possibly they should be made to pay a little more ; but it would be a fair thing to insert a provision in the Bill allowing the average number of words in an addressnamely, eight - to be sent free of charge. This Bill purports to contain a proposal for a reduction in the telegraphic rate, but in reality it amounts to an increase. It increases the limit from ten words to twelve, but when you take eight words for the address out of the twelve, it leaves the sender an effective telegram of four words. The Bill, therefore, proposes an increase rather than a decrease in the cost. I need hardly refer to the statements issued by the stock exchanges of the two cities of Melbourne and Sydney, but they are worthy of consideration. The stock exchanges are big customers of the department - perhaps they are amongst the best customers.

Sir Philip Fysh - Does the honorable member notice that the largest customer in Sydney agrees with the proposal of the Bill?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Does he? I should like to know who that customer is. The statement of the Melbourne Stock Exchange is that, taking their estimated business, they expect that the rates proposed by the Bill will mean an increase of £l.,S0O per annum on £12,000 worth of business above what they pay now. That means an increase of 15 per cent, on the totality of their business. They have got out a statement showing what the effect will be upon 100 telegrams sent to places within States, to suburban places, and to Inter-State places. It works out in this way - that whereas under the present rate they will for sending 100 telegrams pay £5 0s. l£d., under the proposed rates they will pay £5 16s. 10 Ad. That is an increase of 16s. 9d. on 100 messages. The increase on the suburban messages amounts to about 50 per cent. In the face of these facts, they say very pertinently that sixpenny telegrams are a misnomer. The Stock Exchange of Sydney has made a similar calculation with regard to 100 messages. There the difference is between £6 5s. which they pay at present, and £7 5s. 3d. which the charges of the Bill will necessitate - an increase of £1 0s. 3d. over and above the old rates. Yet these are supposed to be concessions to the public by means of which the department is going to lose £40,000. We are told by gentlemen who have large practical daily experience of the working of the telegraph rates, that the Bill will mean an increase in the charges for their business. . They go into particulars, and show how it works out in individual messages. In- New South Wales there is a sixpenny rate for town and suburban messages. The proposed rate will mean 9d. for ten words, plus eight words for the name and address. In Victoria the city rate will remain about the same, but the country rate will be altered very materially. There will be an increase in South Australia from Gd. a message to 9d. in the city. In Queensland the increase will be from 6d. to 9d., and in Western Australia there will be a slight increase. I cannot help making the remark that in connexion with all these Federal arrangements New South Wales seems to be adversely affected to a greater degree than any other State. Even in regard to the two statements which I have quoted from the Stock Exchanges, the difference is only 16s. 9d. upon 100 messages in the case of Melbourne, whilst it is £1 0s. 3d. in New South Wales. So that not only are the Governmentincreasing the postal payments of New South Wales by £27,000, which is the amount estimated to be derived from the carriage of newspapers, but, in addition, the people of that State are to be charged higher telegraph rates than before. But we are told that there is to be a reduction from1s. to 9d. per message for telegrams within the State. It will work out in this way - that a tenword message sent into the country in New South Wales or Victoria, with eight words for the name and address, will come to 1s.1½d. instead of1s. which was the previous rate. The city and suburban rate is raised to 9d., where it used to be 6d., and the within State rate is raised to1s.1½d. instead of1s ; yet, in the face of those facts, wo are told that the people are going to get great concessions.

Sir PHILIP FYSH (TASMANIA, TASMANIA) - Directly you get to the larger number of words you get the benefit of the great concessions.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Do we? We will take the statement of the Minister. I have here the result of an actual day's working in the Sydney Telegraph office. These are figures supplied by the department showing the telegraph operations in Sydney for a day. The number of city and suburban messages was 1,026. They would be charged for at present rates at 28 13s. 9d. Under the rates proposed by this Bill, the cost would be £3711s. 6d. That is an increased cost to the sender of 31 per cent. on the day's business in Sydney. I have also an analysis of the messages sent. Messages containing eighteen words and upwards will cost less than formerly. These are 3 per cent. of the whole. Messages containing one to four words and sixteen to seventeen words will cost the same. These are 5 per cent. of the whole. Messages containing five to fifteen words - which I submit are the ordinary messages - will cost more. These are 92 per cent, of the whole. It is, therefore, all very well for the honorable gentleman to say that when there are a larger number of words in a telegram the rate is a little cheaper. The messages upon which there will be no reduction amount to 92 per cent. of the total, and the effect upon the whole is an increased cost to the sender on 1,026 messages of 31 per cent., or the difference between £28 and £37.

Sir Philip Fysh - Is the honorable member going to follow up that statement by showing how the department will lose on the universal rate throughout the States ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I make this remark about that : I do not know that the people will altogether appreciate this uniform shillingfederal rate when they knowtheyhave to put their hands in their pockets and pay for it. I am not complaining of the federal rate. I believe it to be an excellent proposal. With the shilling Inter-State rate I have no quarrel. But I do submit that the people within the States ought not to be made to suffer an increased cost upon their telegraphic business. The Government should look to the increase in the InterState business to recoup the loss resulting from this Inter-State concession. If it does not pay for itself it should be taken over as a debit by the department To the ordinary man within a State, these Inter-State concessions mean but little. It is the big users of the telegraph lines - the Stock Exchange people, the speculators and the large business men - who will take advantage of the Inter-State rate, and then the advantage is confined to one or two of the smaller States. It will be of very little advantage to the ordinary man whose business is confined to modest proportions, and there will be no advantage that I know of to the ordinary artisan resulting from the federal rate. I think it is an excellent proposal in the Bill, but the Government ought not to ask people who rarely take advantage of the Inter-State rate to put their hands in their pockets and pay for it. Rather than that, the department should adopt some special means to recoup itself. It may be that there will be a great advantage resulting from the InterState rate. I believe there will be. It is a federal proposal, for which I have the heartiest commendation. My only objection is that I do not think the department should make the people within the States pay the cost.

Sir PHILIP FYSH (TASMANIA, TASMANIA) - The honorable member's proposal is to make a bigger loss upon the working of the Post and Telegraph department.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I assure the honorable gentleman that it is not so. But if the Government are going to make one State help another, then, at least within States, the people might be allowed to help each other. That brings me to another point. I say that the time has come for a bold and determined move in connexion with these telegraph rates throughout Australia. At the beginning of this federal arrangement there was an opportunityfor a bold proposal on the part of the Government. I believe that such a bold proposal as I contemplate would ultimately be found to be also a prudent and paying proposal, us it has been wherever it has been tried. My own idea is that we should not have a differential rate within the States. Treat them all alike, and bring them all down to the sixpenny rate within a State. Then we should have a uniform Inter-State rate of1s., as well as a uniform rate of 6d. within a State. In other words we should have a uniform rate in a State as well as without a State. We should then have federal rates running from the unit to the furthermost extent of the continent. The Minister says that it appears to him that I want to make a greater loss on the working of the Postal department. As to that, I should like to quote a report which I cut from the Age newspaper this morning on the subject of the Post and Telegraph department of New Zealand. It is always well, I apprehend, where it can be done, to follow the teachings of experience, because they are worth any amount of theorizing on a question. Says the Age : -

The report of the New Zealand Post and Telegraph department for the year ended March, 1902, is a most noteworthy document.

It is noteworthy for a table of figures which immediately follows. In New Zealand, as the Minister in charge of the Bill knows, the sixpenny telegram is universal. In 1895-6 when the rate was reduced, they sent 1,899,632 telegrams, and their value was £92,289. Last year they sent 3,850,391 telegrams, and their value was £141,581. The table shows a steady increase year by year ; in seven years the business has increased by over 100 per cent., and the department is making a profit. I remember that the same forebodings were indulged in there that are indulged in here. But all the experience in New Zealand has gone contrary to the prognostications, for the business has increased by over 100 per cent, in seven years, and the department has recouped itself. In the first year there was a revenueof £ 9 2, 289, while last year there was a revenue of £141,581. Since the telegraphic rates were fixed for Australia, the telephonic rates have been cut down by 50 per cent. Can it be wondered at that there has been a decrease in the telegraphing work of Australia comparatively, when we have been giving a cheaper means of communication in another way ? I submit that where we bring down our telephonic rates to a point when they compete with the telegraphic branch, it is a safe thing to bring down the telegraphic rates, particularly as the telephonic rates have been found to pay. I do not think there is a case in all the States where a reduction in the telephonic rates has not resulted in a handsome success from a financial point of view. There is no reason to apprehend that a bold policy in regard to telegraphic rates would not result in a similar financial success. In my judgment, the time has come when the telegraphic rates ought to be cut down to the extent I have suggested. The honorable member in charge of the Bill may not approve of this course being taken, because of the consequences he fears to the revenue. But the experience of New Zealand is of a contrary character. I apprehend that a bold policy at the beginning of our Commonwealth transactions would bring about the same uniformly good results as have occurred there. Ministers are missing the chance of making to the people of the Commonwealth a present such as would be worth having to compensate them for all the annoyances incident to the federal union. They were always the loudest in proclaiming the advantages of union in pre-federation times. They were always the loudest in saying what immense advantages would be given to the people telegraphically and postally. The net result in New South Wales to-day is that the people have to pay £27,000 morein postage on newspapers, and the Government propose to make the telegraphic rates higher than they have been.

SirPilipFysh - That is not a fairway of putting it when we are going to lose £40,000 on the telegrams.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have stated the actualworking of the proposal, and if the honorable gentleman can show where my figures are fallacious there may be something in his statement that the department is going to lose £40,000. Against his bald statement I put this return of the business done in Sydney on an ordinary day, showing that there is an increase of 31 per cent. in the total telegraphic charge. On that basis the increased cost in telegraphic charges in New South Wales will amount to £10,536. For instance, the increased cost of State messages will be 6 per cent. on £117,476 worth of business, amounting to £7,048 ; while the increased cost of messages to Queensland and Victoria, taking them to average from one to two words longer than the State telegrams, will be 12 per cent. on £27,000 worth of business, amounting to £3,488. There would be some decreases. For instance, the messages to Western Australia would result in a total loss of £4,476. Deducting the losses from the gains, there remains a total extra charge of £6,060 on all the business in New South Wales. How the Minister makes up his estimate of a supposed loss of £40,000 from the application of these rates I am at a loss to understand. I submit that the rates are not what they appear to be on the surface, that while they pretend to give concessions to the people of Australia they are in reality taking away advantages which are now enjoyed. My advice to the Minister is to strike out for once in his life, and I undertake to say that Parliament will back himup if he will make a bold move in the reduction of the rates to the extent I have named. I wish we could discuss the question of postage rates. I should have liked to see some departure in that direction also. There might have been a little loss initially, but my opinion is that the States could stand the loss. No matter what honorable members may say to the contrary, the States, particularly New South Wales, could stand the loss. Ministers are starting the Commonwealth with a continuance of anomalous postal rates. The very first plank of the advocates of federation was that we should have a uniform postage rate. We are not going to have it.

Mr Crouch - In time.

Mr Deakin - We were not to have everything in the first year.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I expected a Victorian who had already secured penny postage to make that remark. It is so cheap and so easy for a Victorian to ask other people to wait awhile in those circumstances.

Mr Deakin - The Victorians are paying for it.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Let the AttorneyGeneral provide for penny postage in New South Wales, and the people will willingly pay for the advantage. I wish to know why New South Wales may not have this privilege as well as Victoria ?

Mr Crouch - Because the Commonwealth Parliament cannot legislate for one State only.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I admit the difficulty. It would have been a less anomaly than to continue the rates as they are. The very idea in taking over these services was to treat the people equally, but the Government are not doing so at the present time. In Victoria, the postage on a letter is1d., while in the country districts of New South Wales it is 2d. That is unfederal. In the first Post and Telegraph Bill which was to be put through this Parliament, we expected and the people of the States expected all these anomalies to be rectified, rather than continued.

Sir Philip Fysh - I am sure that Tasmania and Queensland would not talk about having penny postage. We should lose £20,000 a year by it in Tasmania at first.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Government propose to tax the Tasmanian newspapers to the extent of £10,000. I venture to say that if the honorable gentleman were to ask the people of the State whether they would have penny postage at a loss of £10,000 they would take it.

Sir Philip Fysh - The weaker States cannot stand what New South Wales can.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Why cannot they stand it? We are taxing the people in Tasmania, I suppose, £100,000 less than they were taxed by the State Parliament. I cannot see how dire ruin is coming to the people of Tasmania by this simple process of leaving money in their pockets. At any rate, I do not think that such considerations should stand in the way of the concessions I speak of being granted. It will be much more difficult to grant the concessions later on thanit is now, because sentiment may not be so keen then as it is to-day, and the disposition of Federal

Ministers from time to time may not be that which we hope it is to-day. At any rate, in New South Wales, since the people are being taxed to the tune of £1,000,000 extra, in consequence of federation, they are waiting to hear of just one little thing that is coming back to them advantageously, and they are waiting in vain, as yet. Here are proposals made to increase the charges over there, and to take away facilities from them. It is about time that Ministers stopped this kind of federal annoyance, and they may take it from me that the irritation which is constantly going on in connexion with the federal services throughout Australia is a very much more important thing than even a temporary deficit in a Budget would be. This is a time when the Government might take a course which I submit would not lead to a deficit. The experience in other States has been that as the charge was decreased the business was correspondingly increased. The figures I have given tell their own tale with regard to telegraph rates in New Zealand, and the same thing has happened with regard to postage rates. There was a' temporary falling-off, but the loss has now been recouped, and the service is paying handsomely. There may be a loss of £40,000, but if there is it will be due to the increased charges leading to a decrease in the business transacted. I submit, therefore, that the bold course of reducing the rates would ultimately lead to an access of business which would more than recoup any apparent loss. The great fault of the Bill is that it is not. honest. It pretends to give the people something that it does not confer upon them. It pretends to provide for sixpenny telegrams, but we know that the public will not be able to send sixpenny telegrams as before. A telegram such as has hitherto been sent for 6d. in Sydney will now cost 9d., and a ninepenny telegram ls. Hd. This should be all clearly shown on the face of the Bill. The margin for telegraph messages is apparently raised, but if we grant the public a twelve-word margin, and count eight words for the names and addresses, we shall reduce the actual message to four words, and charge for those four words as much as has been formerly paid for a ten-word message, exclusive of names and addresses. In the country a ten-word message will cost ls. lid., whereas formerly the charge was ls. It is idle to say that the Ministry will lose money by these proposals - that they are making concessions for which they are going to pay by imposing postage upon newspapers. That is the statement that is being put forward. The Minister says that we shall lose £40,000 by these telegraphic concessions, and that this loss will be recouped by the revenue derived from the postage upon newspapers. The Government will lose nothing by the telegraph rates unless they lead to a decline of business, and the £40,000 derived from the newspaper postage will represent a surplus. I appeal to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General to take a liberal view of this matter, and nob to be afraid of the Estimates. If he assumes a courageous attitude with regard to the postal and telegraph rates he will do infinite credit to the Commonwealth, and confer advantages which will be appreciated in every household and in every business establishment in the Commonwealth.

Suggest corrections