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Friday, 9 September 1904

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - Is it not a fact that the reason why the late PostmasterGeneral did not deal with the question of preference to tenderers was that fresh tenders were called, and that he was therefore unable to arrive at a decision.?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Postmaster-General) - I do not think that that is the correct explanation. The papers were submitted to me, , and I asked the Secretary to give me some information bearing on the Question of preference. Then the decision arrived at by my predecessors was placed before me.

Mr Fisher - The Minister has made an excellent start by trying to take a point upon the previous Minister.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I wish to ask the Minister whether, in arriving at his decision, he did not assume that there was an understanding between the Department and the tenderers with' regard to preference ?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Postmaster-General) - I did not make any inquiries with regard to the tenderers. All I saw was the decision of my predecessors, which it was directed should be communicated privately to the Deputy Postmasters-General, I did not inquire as to the action which they had taken ; but I arrived at the determination I have indicated.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - Is it not true that the papers sent to the Deputy PostmastersGeneral with respect -to the preference to be given to local tenderers were marked " private and confidential," and that no tenderers knew anything about them?

Mr Reid - This is curious. The hon.orable member must have been an understudy for the late Postmaster-General.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Postmaster-General) -I have already stated that it was ordered that the decision of my predecessors should be communicated privately to the Deputy Postmasters-General. It was that knowledge which made me hesitate to state that the tenderers were informed of the conditions. I determined the matter upon the papers submitted to me, and I am quite prepared to stand by my decision.

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