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Wednesday, 30 June 1915

Sir JOHN FORREST (Swan) . - I wish to direct the attention of the Postmaster-General to a matter which is of much importance to the rural community of Western Australia, and, indeed, to that of the whole Commonwealth. I refer to the carriage of mails by railway. Under an agreement made with the State Commissioners of Railways, mails are carried by rail on a poundage basis at a certain price per mile. This system has given rise to great difficulty in the constituency which I have the honour to represent, and certainly is not giving satis- - faction to the community as a whole. In many places, especially in rural districts, spur lines are built, and for a long time after their construction the Department is unable to despatch mails over them because of the expense involved. It is found that the mail matter can be forwarded by road for, perhaps, one-half the amount asked by the Railway Department. Taken as a whole, the system works very badly.

Mr Spence - The right honorable gentleman says that the charge is too high.

Sir JOHN FORREST - I am not going to deal at this stage with the question of price; it is the system I wish to discuss. The Postmaster-General's Department is, I understand, aware of the difficulty, and is now endeavouring to remove it. My contention is that the trouble should have been rectified long since ; and I sincerely hope that the present PostmasterGeneral will endeavour to make a more satisfactory arrangement. I should be inclined to advocate that the mileage of the whole of the railways of Australia, or, if preferred, of a State, should be computed, and that the amount now paid for the carriage of mails by rail - which totals, I understand, several hundreds of thousands of pounds for the whole Commonwealth - should be divided upon a mileage basis. In that way the Department could arrive at a rate at which it might agree with the States to carry all mails by rail, or each State might be dealt with separately, for a period of two or three years, with an understanding that if, during the currency of the agreement, any new line is opened, mails shall be carried upon it at the same rate per mile. If that were done, as soon as a new spur line was opened the people served by it would have an opportunity to get their mails carried by rail, which, at present, is not possible.

Mr SHARPE - Is the right honorable gentleman talking of Government railways when he speaks of these spur lines ?

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