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Tuesday, 28 June 1949

Mr THOMPSON (Hindmarsh) . - I thank the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) for his statement that when the charges for goods or services are increased it is the working man who has .to pay. Honorable members on this side of the House have argued for years that the man who does the work is the mau who pays for all increased charges.

Mr Turnbull - Farmers, too.

Mr THOMPSON - The farmer is a working man. When the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) was practising his profession, he was a working man, too.

The only way in which to approach the consideration of the increased charges that are proposed under this bill is to ask whether, having regard to the increased costs of labour and materials, it is reasonable to ask the persons who receive the benefit of the services that are provided by the Postmaster-General's Department to pay more for them. That is all that we need to worry about. The honorable member for Wentworth has argued that the increased charges will constitute an indirect tax. Although he has repeatedly urged the Government to reduce indirect taxes, he now opposes the imposition of a direct charge upon the users of postal services. He has said in other debates that if people knew what they were paying in taxes, they would appreciate what it costs to run the country. Honorable members opposite have repeatedly told the House that, although the Government has tried to lead working men to believe that no income tax is chargeable upon the first few hundred pounds of their incomes, they are paying a lot of money in indirect taxes. Honorable gentlemen opposite have objected to indirect taxation. They have urged that it should be done away with and that the people should be taxed directly so that they will know precisely what they are paying. Now, when there is a measure before the House for the imposition of a direct charge upon the people in respect of services that they receive, they say that the Government should not impose that direct charge but should meet from revenue the losses that are incurred by the Postal Department. To do that would be to impose another indirect tax upon the community.

The honorable member for "Wentworth has pointed out that the charge for a telegram of fourteen words to be delivered at an address over 15 miles away is ls. He has said that under these proposals the cost of telegrams will be increased by 50 per cent. I have received an ordinary telegram to-night consisting of 43 words. The cost of that telegram was ls. for the first fourteen words and 2s. 5d. for the remaining 29 words, making a total cost of 3s. 5d. Under these proposals, the cost of the first fourteen words would be ls. 6d., while the charge for the remaining 29 words would still be 2s. 5d., making a total cost of 3s. lid. The cost of the telegram would be increased, not by 50 per cent, but by approximately 1.5 per cent. The cost of a more lengthy telegram might be increased by only 5 per cent. The ordinary telegram that is sent by a member of the Parliament does not often consist of fourteen words or less. In fact, I would say that in the case of honorable gentlemen opposite 40 words would be a conservative estimate. The charge for an ordinary telegram consisting of 24 words is now ls. lOd. Under the proposed increases, it will cost 2s. 4d., or approximately 30 per cent. more. I mention those figures in order to demonstrate that the contention of honorable members opposite that the proposed increase for telegrams between offices over fifteen miles apart will amount to 50 per cent, is only half the story. Admittedly, the minimum charge for telegrams of fourteen words is to bpincreased by 50 per cent., but they forgot to mention that the rate for the excess words will not' be increased at all. That is typical of their exaggeration. Statistic* have been quoted by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and other members of the Opposition which show that 1,014,000 telephones have been installed throughout Australia. The rental charged for telephones in Melbourne and Sydney is to he increased by 25s. a year, and in Adelaide and some other capitals by 22s. 6d. a year, but in the country rural areas the increase will be only 5s. a year, so that the general average will probably not amount to more than £1 for each subscriber. On 1,000,000 telephones the increase will total only approximately £1,000,000. I emphasize that at the moment I am dealing not with the rates for telephone calls but with the annual rental. Concerning the proposed increase of postal charges honorable members opposite did not mention the fact that ordinary members of the community, who send only two or three letters a week, will continue to pay only 21/2d. postage on each of their letters. The workers certainly do not send many telegrams a year.

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