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Tuesday, 27 September 1904

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I echo the hope which the honorable member for Hume expressed a moment or two ago, that the remarks he has made will not be allowed to go in at one ear and out at the other, as, apparently, similar remarks have been treated during the last three and a half years. There is, however, scarcely anything new in the complaints made by the honorable member, because time and again I brought those matters under the notice of the Government of which the honorable member was a member.

Mr Groom --The bbeer tax ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is the exception. I should welcome the honorable member as a most valuable ally on grievance day, were the position he takes not such a recent and sudden development on his part. However, the honorable member has told us that he was engaged in a death struggle with his colleagues while he was a member of the Government. We understand that, but for the fact that he was presiding over a Department as a member of that Government, he would have revolted concerning these matters long ago - that the Cabinet in which he sat presented one long course of grievance-mongering initiated bv him. The House will, I think, welcome this revelation of the unhappy state of the Government so recently deceased, and be glad that the train of events has put an end to the honorable member's political misery in this regard. _ Mr. Watson. - We had similar revelations from the right honorable member for Swan.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There is no doubt that we are only beginning to realize what an unhappy family that Government was.

Mr Watson - The right honorable member for Swan was always in a minority.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We are only beginning to realize how much it is to be desired, in the interests of Cabinet solidarity, that those warring members should not be tied together again.

Sir William Lyne - What about the coalition Cabinet?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I should imagine that differences in the coalition Government are very mild as compared with the fierce antagonism which prevailed throughout the whole period of the existence of the Government of which the honorable member was a member. I sincerely hope that no coalition Government, which may hereafter be formed, or may be in existence now, will witness this airing of individual grievances at the Cabinet table, and subsequently on the floor of the' House. I make these remarks, because time after time, when a member of the Opposition, I belaboured honorable members on the Govern-, ment side in respect of many of the matters to which the honorable member for Hume has referred. Mr. Sandford's rebate is, I believe, a matter three and a half years old, beginning, as it did, at the outset of the Commonwealth Government ; and whoever is responsible-

Sir William Lyne - I am not.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Whoever is responsible, it reflects in the gravest way on the character of the Government that something has not been done to reach finality.

Mr Fisher - The case' has been sent to the Court now in order to get a decision on the facts.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I was just about to refer to that matter. A week or two ago I saw Mr. Sandford, and he informed me the case was before the Court, and as it is sub judice I suppose we ought not to further discuss it.

Sir William Lyne - I did not know the case was before the Court.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member apparently has had no communication with Mr. Sandford very recently. I understand, however, that Mr. Sandford is rather favorable to the present coalition Government.

Sir William Lyne - This is very amusing. I saw Mr. Sandford last week.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Perhaps the honorable member has heard of the attitude of Mr. Sandford, and hence the honorable member's mysterious development of intense sympathy with the interests of that gentleman. However, I shall say no more since the subject being before the Law Courts is taboo. I think there is a genuine grievance in the matter of the telephone service. In the case referred to by the honorable member for Hume, a man who goes into the postoffice at Sydney and desires to telephone to- Katoomba, Newcastle, Bathurst, Lithgow, or any place connected with a longdistance line, has to pay not only the schedule charge, but also an initial fee. A parallel case would be that of a man who was charged an initial fee for entering a store before he could either see or buy goods.

Mr Watson - How long has that regulation been in operation?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It has been in operation ever since the wonderful postal administration of the Commonwealth Government commenced.

Mr Watson - And how long was it in operation previously ?

Sir William Lyne - The regulation is something new*

Mr Austin Chapman - I think the regulation caine into operation when the honorable member for Parramatta was PostmasterGeneral of New South Wales.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member for Eden- Monaro is quite wrong. The honorable member has heard me refer to this matter on numerous occasions during the last three years, and it is very singular that he should only now hazard" that guess. But what does it matter how long the regulation has been in operation? The fact remains that before a person can take advantage of the telephone service he has to pay in order to be admitted into the telephone office; and such a regulation ought to be abolished at the earliest possible moment. We ought to remember that the conditions of the telephone and telegraph services have been completely altered since the reduction of the telegraph rates by this Parliament. State messages are now only 9d., while within certain defined districts messages may be sent for 6d. ; and that means that where previously it paid a man to send a telephone message it does not pay him to do so now. The efforts of the Department seam to be directed to reducing the competition between the telephone and telegraph services; and that ought not to be. So far as I can see, it is inevitable that telegraphy must be confined more and more to trunk and long dis.tance lines between the various States. Wherever the telephone is introduced and can compete successfully with the telegraph, the competition ought to be permitted; there ought to be no " cutting " between the two services. The present competition acts in a way which will be realized from an instance within my knowledge. Recently several fruit-growing centres in the county of Cumberland, New South Wales, were connected by telephone with the fruit markets in Sydney, but now they are not allowed to telephone unless they pay a fee of 9d. per message. Seeing that they can send a telegram for 6d. the telephone is of little use to them. This is a matter which ought to be looked into; and I urge the Postmaster-General to take some action in regard to this very real grievance.

Mr Mahon - Do they not have three minutes' conversation for 9d. ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes, they have. But when a fruit-grower uses the telephone he usually wishes to ascertain what is the price of fruit upon the market. If he can get that information for 6d. he prefers to use the telegraph rather than the telephone. The object of allowing the telephones to be used in this way was to give additional advantages. A person ought to be able to obtain the use of the telephone as cheaply as the telegraph. I hope that my honorable friend will look into the matter, and see if he cannot alter a state of things which has already continued too long.

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