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Friday, 25 June 1915


Mr MANIFOLD (Corangamite) . - The speech of the honorable member for Oxley will, no doubt, sink deeply into the heart of the Postmaster-General, who, should he pay any attention to the honorable member's remarks, could not do better than place himself on a pedestal, when he will soon learn what the country has to say about him. The honorable member said nothing about increasing the charges to be paid by those who live in the cities; it is the people in the country who are to boar the burden.


Mr Riley - It has been suggested that telephone rates should be increased.


Mr MANIFOLD - The honorable member for Oxley did not mention the telephone rates.


Mr Sharpe - I forgot to do so. I would support an increase in the telephone charges.


Mr MANIFOLD - Every proposal made by the honorable member would increase the charges to be borne by the people living in the country. He did not say that we should give up penny postage, but he appeared to be in favour of increasing the postage. Such a course would considerably affect those who live in the country, and we should again be in the strange position of having a penny postage to Great Britain and all the countries that are within the postal union, and twopenny postage internally. Some years ago we were in that position in Victoria, and I remember that a country newspaper then drew attention to the fact that a letter could be sent from a certain town to London, half across the world, for one penny, while it cost twopence to send it to the next town, only 13 miles away. Any charge in telegraph rates would also greatly affect the people in the country. A city man does not require to use the telegraph to send a message; he can use a messenger, and were the postage increased, many letters would be sent by messenger. That happened in Victoria on a former occasion, when the postage was increased from, one penny to twopence. The number of letters sent through the post at once decreased considerably. The people in the cities do not use the telegraphs to the same extent as do the people in the country. The honorable member for Melbourne says that our telegraph service is the cheapest in the world, and. so it is if you pay only the ordinary rates, though some different arrangement should be made in respect of border towns. As a matter of practice, however, our telegraph service is one of the dearest in the world. Were I to telegraph to my home this afternoon to say that I was returning to-night, I should have to send an " urgent " wire, and pay double rates, if I desired to make certain that the telegram would reach its destination before I could do so. If you need a telegram to reach a destination 100 miles away within two or three hours, you must pay " urgent " rates.


Mr Sharpe - What does the honorable member suggest?


Mr MANIFOLD - I know that a considerable amount is lost by the operations of the Post Office. As to the telephones, is it proposed to curtail the facilities given? Is it to he made harder for the people in the back-blocks to obtain telephone connexion? We should be more liberal than we are now in providing telephone communication in the country, notwithstanding that the Department is a" losing concern.


Mr SHARPE - How would the honorable member make good the loss ?


Mr MANIFOLD - In the same way as we do now. Those in the country should not be put in a more difficult position than they now occupy. They should be able to telephone for a doctor in cases of illness. In the interests of development, our country telephone system should be extended. As to the town telephones, one cannot use them without being driven nearly frantic. Those in this building are enough to drive one crazy. No man could attempt to send two or three consecutive messages by telephone without being driven nearly off his head, and if merchants use the telephones as much as it is sai d they do, they must employ others to despatch and receive the messages. I do not think that they would object to pay higher rates for a better service. The other day, with a deputation. I waited upon the Deputy Postmaster-General for Victoria in regard to a telephone line which has a length of 18 miles. The local residents had put up the line, but it had gone out of use. The Department had obtained all the revenue that had been derived from the line, and the deputation came to Melbourne to see what was proposed to he done about it. They were told to put up the line again, and the Department would be glad to manipulate the service. Greater telephone facilities than are given now should be extended to the people in the country. The honorable member for Oxley spoke of increasing the postage on newspapers, but it is the man out-back who pays that postage. The newspaper offices do not pay it.


Mr Sharpe - Where would the honorable member get the additional revenue necessary for his proposals?


Mr MANIFOLD - In the same way as we get it now; certainly not at the expense of the people living in the country. According to the honorable member, the postage on newspapers is low, because the various Postmasters-General have courted popularity; but, prior to Federation, newspapers in New South Wales were carried free of postage, and the present rate is a kind of compromise.


Mr Burns - Does the honorable member advocate free carriage of newspapers ?


Mr MANIFOLD - I advocate only what I consider to be a fair thing. I say, do not put the cost of these services on the men in the country. Most of the working men in the country take a newspaper, and have to pay the postage on it. I ask the Postmaster-General whether the mail contractors are going to get any satisfaction. Does he or does he not intend to give them relief?


Mr Burns - He has promised to do so.


Mr MANIFOLD - But the fulfilment of the promise will do some of them little good unless it comes soon.


Mr Spence - Claims are being adjusted.


Mr MANIFOLD - Many of these men sent in claims a month ago, and have received forms to be filled in with the price paid for chaff at the present time and the price paid twelve months ago. These forms have to he returned to the Department within twenty-four hours. In a case which came under my notice, the contractor, who is only a working man, though he has a fairly big contract, said, " I know that I am paying £15 per ton for chaff now, but I could not tell, offhand, what I was paying twelve months ago, and I have put down the price from memory, at £5 per ton." The Postal Department, having received this information, referred the matter to the local grain merchant, which was a proper, businesslike procedure, and was informed that the price twelve months ago was £3.


Mr Spence - It is not stated on the forms that the returns must be made within twenty-four hours.


Mr MANIFOLD - This man told me that his return had to be sent back within twenty-four hours. I do not know why the Postal Department asks for the information to be supplied so quickly. Will the Department take twenty-four months or tweny-four years to grant relief, which must be of less value after every day's delay? Had these men obtained consideration when they applied for it, they could have bought chaff for £8 or £9 per ton, but now it is £15 per ton, and in some cases unobtainable. Surely each application could be dealt with on its merits, and these mail contractors informed of the result, without the general reply, ' ' Due consideration is being given," being all that it is possible for them to get. The mail contractors ought to be able to receive the relief that is due to them without having to wait any time at all. Honorable members may not have any idea of how long it takes to get money out of a Department. In a great many cases, it takes at least six months, and usually a person is lucky if he can get it within six months. Such a delay is of no use whatever in the relief of these mail contractors.


Mr Spence - There is no such thing as waiting for six months. Authority had been given that the money shall be paid straight away.


Mr MANIFOLD - I am glad to hear the statement of the Postmaster-General - that as soon as the Department is satisfied that a claim is genuine, the money will be paid at once.


Mr Spence - It will be paid within six months as from 1st January last, in a lump sum, when the claim is made out.


Mr MANIFOLD - I shall inform the mail contractors in my district, many of whom have approached me, that as soon as they establish their claims; they will receive their money. But the honorable member for Calare has information on this subject which seems to suggest that these claims are not being properly settled. With regard to the construction of new. telephone lines, I have endeavoured to discover why lines that have been sanctioned are not constructed. We were told, in the first instance, that there was a shortage of material. That is not so. Now we are told that, though material and money is available, the Department cannot obtain men. Surely, in a Department like this, where gangs of men are out erecting telephone lines in all parts of the country, it is not necessary to keep one gang with one ganger at the head for ever. The man who is second in command must surely develop and become fit to take a position as ganger. What is going to. happen to the Department if it cannot get fresh " bosses," or whatever you like to call them, when the present men die? Are they going to shut up? If a man who has been second in command for two or three years is not then fit to be promoted to the position of ganger, he has no right to be even second in command. There are hundreds of men capable of erecting these lines under proper supervision, and surely the Department should have no difficulty in finding men competent to take charge. When dealing with this question, the honorable member for Swan said that if more straightforward answers could be obtained in the House regarding the postal service, it would be more satisfactory to 'all concerned. I agree with the honorable member. May I quote a case which came under my own notice. Application was made for a trunk line from Warrnambool to Allansford. The engineer reported that the line was absolutely necessary, because the Railway Department had declined to permit any more wires to be attached to their poles. Yet the Deputy Postmaster-General refused to sanction the line, and no explanation at all was given until after the expiration of eighteen months, when the parties interested were informed that the Department was going to construct the line. Why could we not have been informed eighteen months ago that the line would be constructed as soon as possible: that is, as soon as money and material were available? An answer setting out the facts would have relieved residents in that district of much correspondence, and it would have saved me. as member, a good deal of trouble, whilst there would have been a much better understanding all round. I hope, however, that the Postmaster-General will look seriously into this question of sending out more gangs of men. There are in my own district any number of men out of work, and I do not think the Department would have any difficulty in getting all the expert gangers they desire.


Mr PARKER MOLONEY (INDI, VICTORIA) - I agree to a certain extent with what the honorable member for Oxley said with regard to the management of the Post Office, but while I desire to say one or two things about the Department in connexion with matters that deserve early rectification, I want to say also that it is altogether unfair to lay all the blame at the door of the Postmaster-General, no matter what the party to which he is attached, or at the door of the Deputy Postmasters-General. While things are bad, so far as any new work in the country is concerned, I think they would be very much worse but for the gentleman who occupies the position of Deputy PostmasterGeneral in Victoria. I have no complaint either to make against the Postmaster-General. It is the system of which I complain.


Mr King O'Malley - Hear, hear; the system is rotten.







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