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Wednesday, 27 August 1902


Mr BROWN (Canobolas) - The difference between the proposal of the Government and that of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, is, I take it, that the Government, in aiming at uniformity, wish to level up the postal rates of the Commonwealth to a uniform rate of 2d., while the honorable member wishes to level them down to a uniform rate of Id. The advisability of reducing postage rates is a subject which has been very often debated. The ideal which all postal reformers have had in view has been, not the levelling up, but the levelling down of rates. It is contended, and I believe rightly, that by levelling down you give compensating advantages which tend, not only to prevent permanent loss to the Postal department, but to transform any immediate loss to a still greater gain than would have been obtained by the retention of the original rates. The general tendency during the administration of the Postal departments by the States was, not to restrict postal facilities and increase charges, but rather to give greater postal facilities and to reduce charges. Victoria, for instance, reduced her State rate from 2d. to Id., and although there has been a loss consequent upon that reduction, it must be remembered that the new system has scarcely had a fair trial yet. It was introduced when the State was, if I may use the term, suffering a recovery from a very severe commercial depression, which affected its resources as severely as those of any other part of the Commonwealth. While there is not a penny postage system throughout New South Wales, that State was progressing in the direction of the adoption of such a system, and a great deal of the correspondence transmitted through her post-offices is carried for a postage of Id. The metropolitan and suburban area, comprising all the country within 15 miles, or more, of -the General Post-office, enjoys the advantages of penny postage, so far as the transmission of letters within that area is concerned, while many populous country centres enjoy a similar privilege, and others can be established by proclamation. I am very strongly in sympathy with the scheme foreshadowed by the honorable member for Parramatta. He has practical knowledge of this subject, as the result of his experience while Postmaster-General of New South Wales for a number of years, and he did yeoman service in the direction of extending and popularizing her post and telegraph system. I agree with him that it is desirable in the interests of federation, in order to show to the people some tangible benefit accruing from the union, that a uniform penny postage should be adopted. The Government policy of levelling up rates, if agreed to, will deprive the population of the more wealthy and progressive States of benefits which they have hitherto enjoyed, and place them back in the position which they occupied many years hence. The Government are regarding the proposal from a penny-wise pound-foolish .standpoint. If the facilities extended to the public are curtailed and the charges are increased the volume of business transacted by the Postal department will become smaller. At the same time it will be necessary to ' maintain a full staff of postal officials and to carry on the mail services in all parts of the country as at present. Therefore, if the volume of postal business is reduced a serious loss must result. Experience in New' South Wales has shown that the greater the facilities offered to the public, the larger the volume of business, and the greater the revenue derived by the department. " I do not think it is unreasonable to claim that in postal and telegraph matters New South Wales is ahead of all the other States. In making a comparison between Victoria and New South Wales, it must be remembered that the latter State has the larger area and the more sparsely settled population, and that the earning possibilities of the postal service are therefore smaller in comparison. These remarks apply with even greater force to the case of Queensland. Still, the return of the postal earnings in New South Wales shows to the best advantage, and the receipts in New South Wales represent one-half the total earnings of the Postal department of the Commonwealth. Coghlan shows that during a series of years there was a steady increase in the volume of the postal business throughout 'the Commonwealth in keeping with the additional facilities that were given from time to time. From 1861 to 1871 the increase amounted to 12,000,000 letters : between 1871 and 1881, to 46,000,000; between 18S1 and 1891, to 96,000,000; and between 1891 and 1900 - a period of very serious depression - to 57,000,000. A comparison between the figures for New South Wales and Victoria discloses that in 1891 New South Wales showed an increase over Victoria representing 2 -56 per cent, per head of the population. After this, the penny-postage system was extended throughout Victoria, and, as a result, her postal business in 1900 exceeded that of New South Wales to the extent of 7 - 7 7 per cent, per head of the population. This tends to prove that by extending the facilities afforded by the Postal department the volume of business is increased. By offering additional facilities to the public we should be able to so increase the business of the department as to establish it on a self-supporting basis, and we should be well advised to adopt the penny-postage system with this object in view. The loss estimated by the Minister is £395,000 per annum, but the accuracy of that calculation is seriously questioned by the honorable member for Parramatta, who thinks it should be considerably less. All progressive communities have shown a disposition to reduce charges and increase facilities, and we should make a bold step forward in the path of progress by extending to all parts of the Commonwealth the privileges which have been hitherto enjoyed by only a small section of our people. I admit that there is some force in the contention put forward by the representatives of Queensland, that that State will probably incur considerable loss through the proposed change. Queensland has a very large territory, and a widely scattered population, and the postal services there are necessarily expensive in comparison with those of the more thickly populated States. At the same time I do not think that the loss caused by the extension of the pennypostage system will be very serious, or that it will extend over a very long period. In Queensland the deficiency amounted last year to more than £100,000. Iam prepared to take the responsibility of giving the system of penny postage atrial. Inotice that it works with advantage in those States which have adopted it either partially or wholly, and I believe that its introduction would confer a great boon upon the people of the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. O'Malley, claims that the introduction of the system would be antagonistic to a democracy, and in the interests of a few wealthy merchants. Apparently he will have to go to school to learn more about democracy. His statements were well answered by the honorable member for Parramatta, who showed conclusively that postal and other charges are passed on by the richer to the poorer classes of the community.







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