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Thursday, 4 June 1903

Sir EDMUND BARTON - The PostmasterGeneral has supplied me with the following answers : -

1.   The Postmaster-General has seen the article in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of 27th May, and the statement referred to.

2.   The newspapers of New South Wales were not, as stated in the article referred to, treated in a different way to newspapers issued in the other States of the Commonwealth.

3.   The Postmaster-General having been informed that some special payment was being made in New South Wales by his department for the carriage of newspapers by the railway, which were not posted and did not form any part of the mails, directed that a telegram should be sent to the Deputy Postmaster-General in Sydney asking for a statement of the payments made hy his office to the Railway Commissioners, showing whether any and what services were performed other than the carriage of closed mails and the performance of post and telegraph duties by railway officers. In reply, a statement was sent to the Postmaster-General on 17th June, .1901, showing among other payments one of £2,500 for " conveyance of newspapers - special." As upon inquiry it was ascertained that this special payment was made for the carriage by the Railway Commissioners of newspapers which were not posted, and were not therefore under the laws of the State legally entitled to free transmission by post, as they would have been if posted in New South Wales, and as it was found that no similar payment was being made in any other State of the Commonwealth, including Western Australia and Tasmania, where under State laws newspapers posted were entitled, as in New South Wales, to free transmission by post within the State, the Postmaster-General directed that this special payment, peculiar to New South Wales, should be discontinued, and notice of discontinuance given at the earliest moment. Notice was accordingly given to the Railway department of New South Wales by the Deputy PostmasterGeneral on 25th June, .1901, and the payment was discontinued on the 5th August. The action taken throughout by the PostmasterGeneral was caused by the conclusion arrived at - namely, that it was impossible under a federal system to continue in New South Wales a method, involving considerable expense which could not be made' general and be extended to the other States, and that to continue to pay for the conveyance of newspapers or any other articles of merchandise not transmitted by the post, but sent by railway by persons not connected with the department, could not be justified. Subsequently a select committee of the1 Legislative Assembly o"f New South Wales, in a report dealing with the carriage of newspapers on the Government railways of that State, dated the 19th December, 1902, stated - " That, on the other hand, had the Commonwealth Postal department consented to continue to pay for the conveyance of parcels of newspapers or other merchandise not transmitted through the post, such action would have constituted a distinct misappropriation of public money."

4.   It is not a fact that Mr. Scott, the Secretary of the Postmaster-General's department, declined to appear before the New South Wales State Parliamentary Select Committee because he was afraid to be examined. The reason why he did not appear is given in his letter of the 12th September, 1902, and which appears on page 125 of the Minutes of Evidence taken before the select committee - namely; the extreme pressure of work in connexion with the Estimates and other urgent matters rendering it necessary that he should not be absent from Melbourne. Replies in writing to questions put by Mr. Wynne were enclosed with that letter.

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