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Thursday, 14 June 1928

Mr WATKINS (NEWCASTLE, NEW SOUTH WALES) :.iThe Minister should make some reference to the matters which have 'been raised by honorable members during the discussion of this item. ' During the regime of this Government, very little consideration has been given by the Postal Department to requests for new post office buildings. In one post office in a thickly-populated portion ofNewcastle there is room for only four people at the counter at one time. When the chief' inspector of the department visited the office, he was so ashamed of the building that he immediately selected a site 'for a new one. That was some years ago, but nothing has been done since. -Mr. GIBSON (Corangamite- PostmasterGeneral) [6.8]. - Many honorable members have referred to the need for new post office buildings in their districts. Let me point out that the first consideration of the department is to provide services for the people, and erecting new post office buildings is not giving service. There is such a great demand for telephone extensions and new mail services that practically all the money available is expended in supplying those wants. I admit that many new post office buildings might be erected with advantage, but I have tried to keep the building programme down to £600,000 a year. We have built those post offices which are necessary, but if we erected ornate buildings everywhere they were asked for, we should have to curtail the services given to the public. When the demand for new services has been overtaken, we shall turn our attention to the erection of better buildings. Any one who has travelled in Great Britain must admit that the postal facilities provided by the department in Australia compare very favorably with those in the Old Country.

The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) complained that the Estimates did not disclose the amount of money which it was proposed to spend on each building. I remind him that these Estimates cover only a short period, and it would be quite impossible to state the amount of money which will be spent on any particular building during that time. When the general Estimates are before us, details will be given of the proposed expenditure on every building. The present system allows the transfer of sums of money from the Estimates for one building to those for another. Previously, if the estimate for a post office was £1,000, and another £20 was required to complete it, the work could not be finished during that financial year. Under our present system the job can be finished by using a portion of the money voted for some other building. I impress it upon honorable members that in the administration of the Postal Department, the first consideration is service to the people, and the second consideration, the provision of ornate post office buildings.

Proposed vote agreed to.

Department of Health.

Proposed vote, £5,100.

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