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Thursday, 20 May 1915


Mr PAGE (Maranoa) .- I have great pleasure in supporting the motion, the mover of which deserves the thanks ,of the mail contractors, not only of Vic: toria, but also of the Commonwealth. ,>I intend to speak plainly to the Minister. I tell him that the mail contractors will have nothing to thank him for. From the beginning he has opposed every pr.oTposal for relief. Now, it is a case, pf " Colonel, don't shoot, I will come down.'.' Honorable members on both sides are against the Minister on this matter. , I thought that he, before any other, would be ready to grant relief, because he, represents an outback constituency, ;and ,np one knows better than he does the conditions under which mail contractors have to work. Yet, when honorable members ask him to do something for these contractors, he says, " I will call for a re¬ęport." That is all the satisfaction we get. He has called for reports times without number, but all the relief the honorable gentleman offers is a reduction of the service by one-half, and the subsidies by 25 per cent. He has done that in my constituency.


Mr Spence - No.


Mr PAGE - Well, the officials have done it. When honorable members ask questions, the Postmaster-General simply gives a stereotyped official reply. Any one could do that. I direct his attention to an obnoxious clause that has been in the mail contracts for the last two or three years, prohibiting contractors from carrying parcels other than those going through the parcels post. This provision is ultra vires, and inoperative, but it deters some persons from tendering. I know of several instances in which nien have refused to tender because of this clause, and the consequence has been that tha Department has had to pay more than it would otherwise have to pay. A mail man is not allowed to deliver a parcel without getting a signature for it, and, rather than send parcels through the parcels post, I have got Cobb and Company to take them for me, and I have advised my constituents to do the sains. In many places settlers have boxes by the roadside in which their mail matter is deposited; but in wet weather mails are late, sometimes as much as two or three days late. The contractors are not permitted to leave parcels in these receptacles, and, consequently, when there is no one to receive the parcel, it is taken on to the nearest township - which may be 60, 70, or 80 miles away - and a note left in the letter-box to advise the addressee that the parcel can be obtained by going to the township for it. The clause was inserted in these contracts because people were accustomed to send parcels through Messrs. Cobb and Company instead of through the post. It is a provision which cannot be enforced, and the Postmaster-General has already promised to eliminate it from future contracts. There is just one other matter to which I desire to direct attention. When tenders are called for a mail service in western Queensland, if the offers are deemed to be too high, the service is suspended until the residents along the mail route provide the amount in excess of that which the Department is prepared to pay. Then Ministers talk about penny postage. Why, in some parts of my electorate the people have not penny postage, but shilling postage. The honorable member for Barrier has told us the way to overcome these difficulties, and yet he inflicted more hardship upon residents in remote areas when he introduced the system of penny postage than did any of his predecessors. As a result of his action many settlers in the bush have to ride from 20 to 40 miles to obtain delivery of their letters. Such a state of tilings ought not to be continued.


Mr Webster - The authorities promised to re-adjust that difficulty.


Mr PAGE - They are still calling for reports - reports which never come to hand. The honorable member for Wimmera and the honorable member for Riverina have told the PostmasterGeneral that, owing to the high price of fodder, our mail contractors cannot continue to carry on certain services unless they are granted some relief. The PostmasterGeneral knows that honorable members have been continually urging him to afford that relief. But all such applications he has consistently turned down. I hold in my hand a letter from one of the principal carriers of our mails in Queensland - I refer to Messrs. Cobb and Company - which puts the position as concisely as it can be put-. The communication reads - 6th May, 1915.







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