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

Mr WILKINSON (Moreton) -- The honorable member for Perth has anticipated a good deal of what I intended to say. I agree with that honorable member that it would be much better to allow the residents of the back-blocks to pay 2d. for their letters and be provided with adequate postal facilities, than to grant penny postage to settled communities for whom facilities are already provided. No doubt penny postage is a success where the population has been long settled, and the mail routes long established ; but, in a country like Australia, where new farming and mining settlements are continually being opened up, extended postal facilities must be provided ; otherwise the settlers will be dissociated from the life of the community. I, like the honorable member for Bourke, have preferred several requests to the. Postal department, and have received the answer that they would be willing to carry out the desires of my constituents, as represented by me, if they had the necessary funds at their disposal. At the present time there is a loss of something like £100,000 a year upon the working of the Postal department in Queensland, and if it is found impossible to provide postal and telegraphic facilities for many new settlements under present conditions, the difficulty will be increased if, by the adoption of the penny postage system, the loss is allowed to mount up to £150,000. It may be said that the administration of the Queensland Postal department has been somewhat loose in the past ; but honorable gentlemen must remember that the distances to be traversed in Queensland are much longer than the distances to be traversed in Victoria, because Queensland covers a much larger area than Victoria, and its settlement is much more scattered. Thousands of miles of wire are stretched across' Queensland to complete the telegraphic system of Australia, and all this adds to the cost of working the department there. But in new countries like Western Australia and Queensland, where settlement is proceeding apace, new communities are being created almost every day. To many persons living out in the back country, a fortnightly mail service would be a luxury. It would be cheaper for them to pay 2d., or even ls. in postage upon their letters, if they could get a post-office established near at hand, than to have to take a day's journey, and perhaps a still longer journey to get to a post-office, as they must at present. It would be much more in the interests of the Commonwealth, as a whole, to provide some sort of postal convenience for those who are settled out on our waste lands, than to add to the facilities possessed by those who are already well served. While I am in sympathy with the amendment, I believe that this is an inopportune time to make any induction in rates. Most of the States Governments anticipate larger deficits during the current year than they had last year, and as the adoption of a uniform penny postage for the Commonwealth would result in a still further loss in administration, I think it would be calamitous to adopt it at the present moment ; and that its adoption" would bring federation into greater disrepute than even some of its erstwhile friends wish for. J do not think that we can have absolute uniformity until the bookkeeping period is ended. While each State has to make good any loss upon the working of the Commonwealth department within its borders, it would be unjust to, by reducing her postage rates to make them uniform with those of Victoria, compel Queensland to make good a loss of £150,000 a year. We, who know that State, believe that in a very few years she will take her place pretty well in the front in Commonwealth affairs, because her resources are as great as those of any other part of Australia. Although we are suffering at the present time, we are not pessimistic in regard to the future. When the right time comes, we shall be glad to adopt penny postage ; but we do not wish to prematurely adopt a system which will either increase our own debt, or compel New South Wales or other parts of the Commonwealth to take some of our burdens. I hope, in the interests of the State revenue of Queensland, and of those who are engaged in developing our back country, and now suffer so severely from the want of proper postal conveniences, that the amendment will not be carried.

Suggest corrections