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Wednesday, 27 August 1902

Mr O'MALLEY (Tasmania) - I am sorry to have to. oppose this motion. There is no doubt that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie is absolutely sincere in his desire to bring about what he regards as a reform, but what I believe would constitute a retrograde step. The penny postage system would doubtless be of great advantage to wealthy offices. I know that the institution with which I am associated would benefit very materially. But how would that assist the west coast miner of Tasmania 1

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is the man upon whom the present twopenny rate falls more than it does upon big offices.

Mr O'MALLEY - No. The average miner writes only about two letters a year. I want to see a scheme for the payment of old-age pensions adopted, and I am anxious to get an opportunity for the discussion of the motion relating to that matter, which has stood upon the business-paper for so long. But if the Commonwealth is going to sacrifice about £300,000 a year by the adoption of a penny-postage system, where is the money to come from to pay those pensions 'f No individual suffers because of the postage which he is required to pay upon his correspondence, seeing that it is a voluntary contribution. Nobody need write letters if he has no desire to do so. If friends are really anxious to obtain replies to their letters they can easily send stamped envelopes for the purpose. All these reforms must come about in their natural order. It is preposterous to compare a young country like Australia with England, where 500,000 poor people recently partook of the dinner provided for them by the King.

Mr Tudor - What about the United States.

Mr O'MALLEY - The United States obtained most of her unfortunate people from England. In the latter country old-age pensions could have been provided with the interest "which is payable upon the moneys spent in conquering the Boers, although some apparently have not sufficient intelligence to appreciate that fact. In my opinion the adoption of the penny-postage system would mean the sacrifice of the multitude for the ideal benefit of the rich few.

Mr. JOSEPHCOOK (Parramatta).There has been an ad misericordiam appeal made in connexion with this discussion, and now we are told that the whole question resolves itself into whether the poor should bear the burden of the rich few. That is an appeal which ought not to have been made in connexion with a proposal of this kind, because it is absolutely absurd on its face. I claim that the man in an office can better afford to pay 2d. upon his correspondence than can the poor miner, of whom the honorable member for Tasmania has spoken. Indeed, the men in the offices to whom he has referred, do not pay anything - they make other people pay for them. I venture to say that the poor miner is the individual above all others who would benefit most from the adoption of a system of penny postage. The honorable and learned member for Corinella has pointed out that if a loss occurred through the introduction of that system it would have to be paid. But if a loss did occur, even if it totalled the sum predicted, I venture to say that the miner would not be called upon to pay 3d. a year more than he does at present. We have been told by one Minister that the loss sustained by Victoria consequent upon the introduction of penny postage was £11,000 per annum. Now, however, the Minister representing the Postmaster-General comes down with a brand-new estimate which has been furnished to him by his officers. I say that that estimate has been supplied for the express purpose of defeating . this proposal. The figures in Canada show that when the penny-postage system upon letters was introduced in that country there was a corresponding increase in the number of registered letters passing through the post. There may be even an increase with a decreased postage rate, because letter writing often leads to the sending of telegrams. I challenge the Minister to give any data on which the estimates haVe been prepared. I have controlled the Postal department, arid I know that when I have asked on what data similar reports have been made, I have always been told : " Oh, they are only estimates." We here in Parliament are just as well able as are the officials to guess the results of a reform like that now proposed. In New South Wales one-half of the business is at present done at the penny rate, and the estimated loss was £83,000 ; and, in Victoria, where there was no penny rate, the loss was estimated at £53,000." Is that not absurd 1 The estimates carry their own refutation ; and I decline to regard them as of the slightest value.

Mr Mauger - At the time the estimate was made, letters left open were carried at the penny rate in Victoria.


Mr Mauger - Letters, and open envelopes containing even promissory notes, were sent in tens of thousands at the penny rate.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We are now talking of closed letters, and I remind the honorable member for Melbourne Ports that even a newspaper, which is three or four times the weight and size of a letter, is carried at a less rate than is the latter. Canada, and not New Zealand, presents a case similar to our own. But even in New Zealand, where the change was complete and not partial, the loss has not been a great one. In Canada the loss for the first year was only £10,000, but now the revenue is greater than ever it was before the reform. In the Commonwealth the loss for the first year would be very small, and within a few years the letter postage would pay us handsomely, as it does to-day. Last year's operations in Victoria represent a time which, according to the Treasurer, was one of stress and commercial depression such as had never before been experienced in the State. And in New South Wales we are suffering depression such as we have not felt for very many years, and yet during the whole time our revenue is expanding. Are we not to count on continued expansion of the revenue? No argument has been advanced to make us hesitate to adopt the reform, and any temporary loss in connexion with it is not worth considering side by side with the enormous advantages which would be gained. As to what I consider the rather silly appeal made on behalf of the miners, I contend that they will benefit more than those interested' in big offices. We all know . that those in the big offices, unlike the miner, can pass the postage on to some one else; and, therefore, the reduction would mean so much money left in the miners' pockets. If I thought that the reform would benefit only those interested in the big offices, I should take no further trouble in the matter; but my concern is for the man in the back country, who feels, in this connexion, a disability simply because he is compelled to live there, away from the communal advantages of civilization. It is because I believe that the man in the back country will primarily, and to a greater extent than any one else, benefit by a reduction in the charge for postage that I shall vote for the new clause.

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