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Wednesday, 27 August 1902

Mr FOWLER (Perth) - I am very sorry to be obliged to vote against the proposal of my colleague, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. I have no doubt that penny postage is a popular cry, and that in my own electorate such a reform is possibly waited with a certain amount of impatience. But that does not influence me against my better judgment, and cause me to vote for a proposal which I regard as premature. I cannot follow the honorable member for. Parramatta when he urges that a twopenny postage is a tax on the miner, to whom the reduction would be an advantage. I cannot conceive that there is any considerable proportion of the people of Australia who would write more letters if the reduction were made, and I feel quite sure that if we institute the system of penny postage at the present juncture we must, as a necessary corollary, demand from the mass of the people more in the way of indirect taxation than the reform would give them. I can speak with some knowledge of the miner and his circumstances, seeing that I spent many years on the western gold-fields ; and, in my opinion, what is wanted is not so much penny postage as increased postal facilities. The miner would be much better pleased to continue to pay 2d. for his letters than to be deprived of extensions and improvements, which are being asked on all sides on behalf of those people in the back-blocks, in regard to whom the honorable member for Parramatta is so anxious. I have several requests before the Postal department as to the extension and improvement of postal facilities in my own electorate, and if we resort to the alleged reform, those extensions will receive a set back for many years.


Mr FOWLER - Because there will be no money to carry them out. I believe that in the main the contention of the Minister is correct, namely, that the condition of New Zealand furnishes a better parallel for us than does Canada. As I have said, there are very few people in Australia who refrain from writing a letter now, because the charge is 2d., and who would write more if the postage were Id.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - How is it that in every country where penny postage has been established the letters have increased by tens of millions ?

Mr FOWLER - Where the size of the community and the closeness of population justify the reform, it can be undertaken with advantage, but under our present circumstances I am very much afraid it may mean a set-back to development of postal facilities in remote parts where those facilities are frequently the only link which binds the people there to civilization. I utterly fail to see how we can expect any advantage from a proposal which gives to the masses penny postage for their comparatively few letters, and which will mean, in order to make up the shortage, the extraction of a ' far larger amount in the shape of indirect taxation. Until the bookkeeping period is over at least, this matter ought to remain in abeyance. I am glad that the question has been brought up, and I hope it will be kept before Parliament, so that the reform- may be carried out, when it will mean an actual benefit to the community.

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