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Tuesday, 28 June 1949

Mr MCBRIDE - Has not the average worker a telephone?

Mr THOMPSON - If he has a telephone he must be prepared to pay the increased charge, because, like his wages, the cost of providing services has increased considerably. I draw the attention of the House to the fact that although honorable members opposite have complained of the proposed increase of postal and telephone charges, they have not uttered one word of protest against the substantial increase of shipping freights which has taken place. I do not contend that some increase of freight rates was not justified, but the point I make now is that members of the Opposition did not contend that the increase of shipping freights would adversely affect the whole community by increasing the price of goods.

Mr Holt - I emphasized that fact.

Mr THOMPSON - The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) may have done so; but if he did, his attitude towards the increase of shipping freights is not typical of that of members of the Opposition generally. I was astounded to hear the honorable member for Wentworth allege that members and supporters of the Government argued that the administrative COStS of the Postal Department would not increase when the 40-hour week was introduced. I have not heard any responsible member of the Australian Labour party contend that a worker can himself do as much work in 40 hours as he can in 44 hours. The point that was made at the time, and which I now repeat, is that because of the application of mechanism to industrial processes, it is in most instances possible to produce as much in 40 hours as it was formerly in 44 hours. Of course, the fact remains that in such occupations as that of delivering letters it is not possible for employees to do as much work as they formerly did in 44 hours. The same comment might be made concerning telegraphists---

Mr Rankin - What about the "blah " that was talked about ."industrial fatigue " ?

Mr THOMPSON - If the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) thinks that reference to " industrial fatigue " is merely " blah I suggest to him that he should operate a repetitive machine for hours on end, as so many workers have to do, and decide for himself whether there is such a condition as " industrial fatigue ". Reasonable men, who are not out to make industrial trouble, have told me of the great personal benefit that they have received from the introduction of the 40-hour week. To return to the Postal Department, I repeat that we cannot expect employees to perform the same amount of work in 40 hours as they formerly did in 44 hours.

When an honorable member opposite referred to the effect of the increased postal charges on the transmission of newspapers, I interjected in order to mention the very considerable increase which has taken place in the cost of press advertisements. Newspapers, in common with all other industrial undertakings, have had to contend with substantially increased costs in recent years. At the same time, the production of newspapers has been greatly cheapened by the introduction of mechanical devices, which are now availed of to a degree which was not contemplated even a few years ago. Even reports of the proceedings of the Parliament are rattled over the teleprinters to the big newspaper offices in the capital cities hundreds of miles away. To-day newspapers are printed, not by hundreds but by thousands, a minute. Notwithstanding the considerable economies which have been effected by the introduction of machinery, the newspaper proprietors have increased their charges by as much as 200 per cent. Of course, they are not an exception, because all employers have found it necessary to increase charges in order to meet increased costs of production.

Mention has been made in the course of this debate of telephone exchanges. In my electorate very serious difficulties have been encountered in the provision of telephonic communication because of the enormous expansion of industry which has taken place. When the present telephone exchanges were built some years ago, it was believed that they would adequately meet the needs of the district, including the extra demand which it was anticipated would be made on the service. Of course, no one could foresee that ordinary working people who, a few years ago, would not have contemplated installing a telephone, would now be clamouring for one. However, apart from the increased number of private subscribers, the establishment and expansion of big industrial undertakings has led to unprecedented demands on the telephone service. Some honorable members have advocated that rural manual exchanges should be converted as soon as possible to automatic exchanges; but I prefer that the existing manual exchanges should be retained and expanded until the present extraordinary demands for telephone facilities are fulfilled. I make that statement in all sincerity.

Mr Rankin - That is not the policy of the Postmaster-General's Department.

Post and Telegraph[28 June, 1949.] Rates Bill 1949. 1603

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