Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Wednesday, 27 August 1902

Mr McCAY (Corinella) - Although I have every desire to facilitate communication between the various parts of the Commonwealth, it seems to me that in the present state of our finances, and of the finances of the States, we must consider first how the adoption of the penny postage system would affect the Treasury. I am not concerned as to whether the Estimates of the Postmaster-General are or are not absolutely correct. If the probable loss was set down at £150,000, which is only half the amount estimated, I should still be of the opinion that it is undesirable to make a change. I think that we cannot get away from the position that if the postal service is carried on at a loss ; that is to say, if its total revenue is less than its total expenditure, the deficit must be made up by the contributions of the whole community. That means that those who write few letters must contribute to make good the loss caused by conferring a benefit upon those who write many letters. In this way the farmer, the miner, and the producer generally will be called Upon to pay for advantages conferred upon those engaged in distributing and exchanging businesses. The people who perhaps write one lettera week will have to pay for benefits conferred upon the large financial and mercantile institutions, and upon all whose correspondence is large. The actual result of adopting penny postage is to a certain extent a matter of guess-work, but we cannot shut our eyes to the data at our disposal, and assume that it will be something quite different from a reasonable estimate based upon that data. If we halve our postage rates, we decrease our revenue by one-half, and at the same time, by adding to the mail matter to be carried, probably increase our expenditure.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In adopting a uniform penny postage for the Commonwealth, we should not have to halve the existing rates.

Mr McCAY - I am aware that there is already a penny postage throughout Victoria, but the adoption of that system has resulted in a loss to the State, which it is no more able than any other to bear. In New South Wales there is both a penny rate and a twopenny rate, but it is the letters which now pay the twopenny rate whose transmission is the most expensive. I do not know of any Inter-State correspondence upon -which the rate is less than 2d., and that correspondence is very large. On the other hand, it cannot be thought that the people who now pay 2d. upon their correspondence would send two letters for every one they send now if the postage were reduced to Id., and surely no one suffers from the existence Of the twopenny rate. In my opinion, it is our duty not to increase the cost of federation by making this change. The honor-

Able and learned member for Corio spoke of the blessings which the people would pour down upon our heads if we gave them this tangible benefit. No doubt the adoption of uniform penny postage would be a very easy way of obtaining that blessing ; but, in my opinion, we are not justified in adding to the burdens of the community by adopting a rate which will not pay expenses. It cannot be said that there is any urgent public demand for this change. But even if there were, I think that when the public realized that there would be a loss, which would have to be made up by increasing the burdens of the taxpayers, the majority who would not benefit very largely, would be opposed to the change. Since the Government consider that the adoption of the system would mean a very large loss, the responsibility for which they are not anxious to undertake, I think that they should refuse to allow the matter to be taken out of their hands. Parliament will be acting in opposition to all principles of economy if it sanctions this arrangement. I would not sanction the adoption of the penny postage system anywhere, unless it was probable that the revenue of the postal department would within a reasonable time meet its expenditure.

Suggest corrections