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Wednesday, 8 June 1904

Mr MAHON (Coolgardie) (PostmasterGeneral) . - With reference to the complaints made by the honorable member for New England as to the excessive amount of the telephone guarantees, I may say that it has been found necessary to obtain those deposits in respect to places where there is no immediate prospect of the lines paying. But wherever a departmental officer reports that there is a reasonable prospect of a line being remunerative, the Department takes the responsibility and erects the telephone without a guarantee.

Mr Lonsdale - I did not make that complaint.

Mr MAHON - That is the position with regard to the guarantees. I cannot agree with the honorable member in his reasons for the reduction of the amount from 10 per cent. I presume that he is aware that the life of an ordinary line is probably not more than ten years. If that be so, 10 per cent, is not excessive.

Mr Lonsdale - I have known some telephones that have been in existence longer.

Mr MAHON - But it has to be remembered that repairs are necessary from time to time. I cannot see my way to authorize any reduction of the deposit, which was fixed after careful consideration.

Mr Mcwilliams - It is a hardship on some small outlying districts.

Mr Robinson - The Government should not ask the guarantors to plank down the money.

Mr MAHON - The .term guarantee is a survival from former years. Practically what is now required is a deposit of 10 per cent, of the cost in cash.

Mr Robinson - Why ask for the whole capital cost? That is what I understand it amounts to.

Mr MAHON - That is not correct. Mr. Robinson. - I made an application for a line between Hamilton and Ballarat, and I was told that the sum required would be £2,000.

Mr MAHON - That was probably a trunk line, and there may be different regulations in such cases. However, I will undertake to look into the matter. The honorable member for New England has said that it is found that the guarantees in New South Wales were very unsatisfactory. But that is not so wholly for the reason given by the honorable member, that the Department has been dilatory. The fact is that it is often found that some of the persons who give the guarantees meet with reverses, and are unable to pay up. As to the case mentioned by the honorable member for Darling Downs, I have already looked into the papers, and I admit that it is a very sad case ; one that must excite general sympathy. It appears that the poor fellow referred to was killed, as the honorable and learned member expressed it, in the execution of his duty, and had he been under the Public Service Act something would have been done for his relatives. However, the late Treasurer laid down a rule that, except where there is legal responsibility for remuneration, or for the payment of some such gratuity, it should not be paid. It is a rule that works hardship in some cases. I believe that the Queensland Government, if not actually consulted in regard to this case, was consulted in regard to others, and refused to coincide in the payment of any gratuity of the kind. The case is one in which, if my hands were not tied by a previous decision. I should certainly adopt remedial measures. The honorable member for New England reiterates the complaints made by the honorable member for Moira and the honorable member for Gwydir, in reference to the isolation of the pioneers and the necessity for the extension of telephones in the remoter districts of Australia. That is a work with which I have full sympathy. I thing I can point to my three years' service in this House as evidence of the fact that the people who are opening up the waste portions of Australia have, in my opinion, the strongest claim to sympathy and consideration of Parliament. But, of course, there again the consideration of expense arises.

Mr Mcwilliams - Cut down some of the luxuries, and give those people the necessaries.

Mr MAHON - I quite agree with the honorable member, and I may tell him that it was at my instance, when a private member, that a step was taken by the Post and Telegraph Department, to connect these remoter places by telephone, by using the telegraph wires for the phonophore system.

Mr Lonsdale - They want that system in New South Wales.

Mr MAHON - Probably it is not easy to adopt it there, because there is so much telegraphic business on the lines.

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