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Tuesday, 27 September 1904

Mr PAGE (Maranoa) - I am very sorry indeed that the honorable member for" Eden-Monaro has so repeatedly referred to the prospect of an early dissolution and a general election. I, for one, am not desirous of anything of the kind.

Sir George Turner - There is no provision in the Bill for it.

Mr PAGE - It is certainly a very strange thing for the Government to be asking for supply when a motion of want of confidence is before the House, though, no doubt, the Minister has no official knowledge of the likelihood of a dissolution. I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister, of Trade and Customs the following letter which I have received: -

Chamber of Commerce, Rockhampton, 22nd September, 1904.

Dear Sir,

I have the honour, by direction, to send you a copy of a resolution adopted by my chamber to-day, viz. : - " That, in the opinion of this chamber, the imposition of duties on market reports, catalogues, price lists, &c, is inimical to the best interests of trade, and a serious obstruction to ! business, and the Government of the Commonwealth be respectfully asked to reconsider the regulation relating thereto, with a view to its immediate withdrawal."

In transmitting this resolution, I am to say that the chamber find the regulation in its operation is proving a serious obstruction to business, and the resolution has been sent to the Minister of Trade anil Customs, Melbourne. I am also directed to ask your support towards securing the withdrawal of this regulation.

I have the honour to be, Dear Sir,

Your obedient servant, (Sgd.) Thomas Parker,


Mr R EDWARDS (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - I got that matter settled a fortnight ago.

Mr PAGE - I should like to know from the Minister of Trade and Customs if the regulation which is complained of has been rescinded ?

Mr McLean - Circulars which are clearly in the nature of advertisements are now dutiable, while publications conveying information regarding the state of the Home markets are not.

Mr PAGE - I am very pleased that that arrangement has been come to. Advertising matter no doubt should be dutiable, but trade and market reports and catalogues should be free; because it is necessary for our people to have them, in order that they may order what goods they require from the old country. I wish, also, to bring under the notice of the Postmaster-General the differences between the allowances granted to officers of his Department who are located in western Queensland. In one office which I 'have in my mind, one officer receives less than .£100 a year, another £160 a year, and a third ,£200 a year, while the postmaster gets over £300 and a house to live in.

Sir John Forrest - Are there any official postmasters in the honorable member's electorate who receive only £36 a year?

Mr PAGE - No. If a man has been three years in the service of the Commonwealth, and has reached the age of twentyone years, he is entitled, under the Public Service Act, to a salary of ,£110 per annum.

Sir John Forrest - I know a case in which a person who has been seven years in the service is not paid that salary.

Mr PAGE - Then the right honorable member is neglecting his duty as a representative of Western Australia in not bringing the matter before the House. If such a state of things existed in my electorate, honorable members would have heard about it three or four years ago.

Sir John Forrest - I have been trying for two years to get matters righted.

Mr PAGE - The honorable member ought to have done something when he was in a Ministry. The system of which I complain affords another illustration of the proverb about greasing the fat sow. Three of the four men to whom I have referred stay at the same hotel, and pay 25s. a week each for their board, although the man whose salary is less than ^100 a year receives only a year in allowances, while the postmaster is given an allowance of ^30 a year. Then in another place in my electorate, the line repairer, who is paid less than any other officer in the local office, has a wife and four children, and receives an allowance of £11 a vear, while the postmaster, who is a single man, receives an allowance of £30 a year. What fairness is there in such an arrangement? The loaf of bread which the poor man buys costs him as much as is paid by the nian who is getting a higher salary. I do not know on what principle these allowances have been fixed, and, although I have repeatedly asked the Department for an explanation, all I can learn is that they have been fixed by regulation, and that when a man's pay is increased his allowance will be mcI eased. But the man who needs a large allowance is the man who is receiving a small salary. I should like to give some of those who have framed the regulations a taste of their own physic. Let them take their wives and children to the back-blocks of Queensland^ where the only vegetables they would see would be those which they, if very lucky, grew themselves. Let them experience all the trouble and monotony of a pioneer's life, day after day, month after month, and year after year, and see if they would then think that £1 1 a year is enough. At any rate, I do not see the fairness of giving one man an allowance of jf.11, and a fellow-officer an allowance of ,-£30. I am sorry, so far as the motion of want of confidence is concerned, that Mr. Speaker cannot accept the suggestion of the Argus, and take a secret ballot on it, instead of a division of the House. If that were done, there would be an overwhelming majority against it. If it is defeated, I intend to divide the House on the question whether the monstrous regulation to which I have referred should remain unaltered. I hope that the Minister of Home Affairs will bring this matter under the notice of the Public Service Commissioner. * It is of no use for me to go to the Commissioner. He would ask me to state a specific case, and then it would be a case of "good-bye" to the officer who made the complaint. Political influence is bad enough, but social influence is worse, and many public servants in western Queensland believe that social influence has brought about the results which are now the cause of complaint. As many honorable members know, the conditions of life up in the Gulf country are not of the most attractive character. The temperature ranges from 112 to 116 degrees in the shade for the greater part of four or five months in the year, and the means of communication are very far from perfect. At the best of times many people receive only one mail a week, and during the drought period they could not rely upon even a weekly service. The mail used to arrive once a fortnight, or once a month, or even less frequently. Men who have to submit to such conditions are deserving of some consideration, and the poorly-paid men are entitled to allowances on a more liberal scale than those granted to more highly-paid servants. I hope that the Minister will confer with the Commissioner with a view to framing regulations which will be more equitable in their operation than those now in force.

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