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Tuesday, 27 September 1904


Mr SKENE (Grampians) - It seems to me a matter of regret that the PostmasterGeneral has not been longer in office, so that we might criticise him more severely in respect to many of these matters. It is a remarkable thing that, whenever a Government attempts to conduct its Departments upon commercial lines, it does so in the most cast-iron fashion. It seeks to make an absolute profit upon everything, whereas, whenever a business house wishes to expand its operations, it is usually content for a time to sustain a loss. I have even heard of a business in Melbourne, in which ^1,000 per annum was lost in one department, but made up in another department; and in departing from more elastic methods of this description, officers under Government control make a very great mistake. The justification for Government management is the opportunity it presents to develop the country. Conveniences given to people in country districts have the effect of gathering population; and in some of the later discovered wheat areas of Victoria, I know, from my own experience, that there is a considerable trouble in obtaining proper postal facilities. I frequently have applications made to me in this regard, but the conditions are so strict and strange that, in some cases, the people cannot understand them. In many cases there may be applications from places which are not likely to extend, but wherever there seems to be a likelihood of growth, 'the system of guarantees might be done away with. Sums of £5 to £20 seem somewhat large to very small collections of people, but amount to little in the working of a big department; and if a great undertaking pays on the whole, it ought not to be expected to pay in every little detail. I merely voice the opinions expressed around me in this regard ; and I know that the present conditions, if they are not arousing great dissatisfaction, are regarded by the people as pin pricks, resulting from a penny- wise and pound-foolish method of business. Most of these matters we know will right themselves ; big rivers are made up by little rivulets, and we cannot expect a postal system in small outlying places to pay from the outset. But if, as I say, the whole system pays, we might very well be liberal to people who live1 far out in the country. That is the spirit in which the Post Office should be administered ; we should not wait until there is sufficient population to make a service pay. People could, under such conditions, see to the mail service for themselves. In my own young days I have had to carry the mails from station to station. I hope, however, we have got beyond those primitive conditions. Only to-day a case was brought under my notice in which people in an outlying district are asked for a guarantee of £20. and there are many similar instances. I arn glad to hear that the PostmasterGeneral is prepared to take a liberal view of the matter, and if he does so he will give great satisfaction to the people of the Continent.







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