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Wednesday, 27 July 1904

Mr MAHON (COOLGARDIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) (Postmaster-General) - My attention has been drawn to the report of the debate which took place in the Legislative Assembly of Victoria yesterday ; and,' if the. newspaper accounts be correct, the only explanation I can give, of the statements alleged to have been made is .that there must be a great want of knowledge of the facts of the case on the part of those whose utterances are reported. I regret that, owing to the shortness of time at the disposal of my officers, I have not been able to obtain full details relating to the case; but it is altogether incorrect to say that the Department has not done everything that could be done to minimize friction, and to reduce the trouble which the Government of Victoria has met in trying to arrange for the sale of duty stamps to the public. As a matter of fact, the difficulty was adjusted some days ago.

Mr Mauger - Perhaps the Premier of Victoria is not aware of that.

Mr MAHON - If he is not aware of the fact the responsibility is not mine. The Comptroller of Stamps in Victoria has already had an interview with the Secretary to the Postmaster-General's Department in regard to the sale of duty stamps at nonofficial post-offices.

Mr Watson - There has been no trouble in connexion with the official .offices.

Mr MAHON - There has been no; trouble in connexion with what are known as the staff offices. Victorian duty stamps have always been on sale in those offices. The difficulty arose In connexion with their sale at non -official offices.

Mr Mauger - The offices where those in charge work under contract ?

Mr MAHON - Yes, and at what are known as allowance offices. The Victorian Comptroller of .Stamps agreed to furnish the Postmaster-General's Department with a complete list of the non-official offices of which he desired to make use for the sale' of duty stamps, and with a statement of the advances which he proposed to make to each - office. This advance is to be rigidly adhered to, the PostmasterGeneral's Department ascertaining to what extent it will be desirable to increase the guarantee, so as to cover any losses which the State may sustain, and the State paying for the additional sum guaranteed. If this arrangement is approved of, action will be taken by the ' Comptroller to supply stamps to all unofficial offices in his list. The postage is to be paid' by him, and the postmasters concerned are to correspond directly with him, being paid a commission of 2 j per cent, oh the sales. The criticisms passed on our action in the local Parliament last evening are quite unjust. To show the earnest' desire of the Department to do everything in its power to meet the wishes of the Victorian Government in this matter, I may inform the House that, from the ist March, 1901, to the 1 st March, 1904, our officials have been transacting the work incidental to the sale of Victorian duty stamps without cost to the State, the value of the work done amounting to £12,160. The estimated proportion of the salaries of the officers of the General Post Office chargeable with the distribution of duty stamps, promissory notes, and bills of exchange, was £4,764 for the three years I have named. Altogether, duty stamps, promissory notes, and bills of exchange, to the value of £209,375 18s. 5d. were sold, on which the commission at 2 J percent, would be £5,234. The' estimated, postage incurred amounted to £1,586, while for accommodation, book's, stationery, envelopes, and so on, the sums of £156 and £300, have been put down, and £i'2b for machines ; making a total for the three years of £12,160, for which n& payment whatever has . been made to the Commonwealth by Victoria.

Mr McColl - Why should payment be made? Both Governments are serving the same people.

Mr MAHON - Although we are serving the same people, the Government of Victoria makes a very substantial charge for all the services which it performs for the Commonwealth. As a case in point, I mav mention,'- for the information of honorable members, that formerly when the railway telegraph officers despatched a telegram for the public, the Railways Commissioners charged the Post and Telegraph Department 25 per cent. Now "they. retain 50 per cent. In many other ways the charges made by the State Government have been considerably increased.

Mr- McColl.- What is the practice in the other States?

Mr MAHON - In the other States I may inform the -honorable member that the' local Governments provided almost from the inception of the Commonwealth for the sale of duty stamps at their own cost. It was only the State of Victoria which threw upon the Commonwealth the responsibility o'f selling these stamps, and Victoria has had the sole advantage of making use of Commonwealth officials in this respect. I am also informed that the Victorian Government has increased the railway travelling rates for the Militia. As to me point that we ought not to charge anything for such services, my reply is that the Post and Telegraph Department is a purely business Department of the Government, and that it is in accordance with the law passed by this Parliament that every service rendered bv that Department shall be paid for.

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