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Thursday, 30 June 1949

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) (Minister for Information and Minister for Immigration) . - in reply - Idesire to reply to the ersatz arguments of honorable gentlemen opposite in criticism of the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill. To the motion for the second reading of the bill, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fad den) has moved an amendment, the effect of which would be to delay further consideration and passage of the bill until it had been considered by a select committee of the Souse and a report had been made by it upon the alleged deterioration of the finances of the Postmaster-General's Department at a time when, the right honorable gentleman claims, the revenue from other sources is at a record high level. It is not constitutionally possible for the Government to accumulate in a special fund the profits made by the PostmasterGeneral's Department. Section 81 of the Constitution provides -

All revenues or moneys raised or received by the Executive Government of the Commonwealth shall form one Consolidated Revenue Fund, to be appropriated for the purposes of the Commonwealth in the manner and subject to the charges and liabilities imposed by this Constitution.

Therefore, it is not possible for the Government to set aside the profits made by the Postmaster-General's Department in any year or years against losses that it may make in another year or other years. That is my reply to certain honorable gentlemen opposite who have suggested that such a course should have been or should be resorted to. The suggestion of the Leader of the Australian Country party that a select committee should be appointed to inquire into the operations of the Postmaster-General's Department, even if it were adopted, could not have much result. The facts of the finances of the Postmaster-General's Department are known. A select committee could not find out anything more about them than has already been clearly stated. If the purpose of the amendment is the conduct of a smear campaign against the administration of the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron), I can understand why it has been proposed. Otherwise, I do not know why it was proposed. I assure the Leader of the Australian Country party that there has been no deterioration of the finances of the Postmaster-General's Department. Inefficiency in the department or a lack of proper control of it by the Postmaster-General, or his officers, has been implied.

Mr Rankin - A profit of about £5,000,000 last financial year will be converted into an estimated deficit of about £6,000,000 next financial year.

Mr CALWELL - I shall deal with that matter, as I shall deal with all the spurious arguments advanced by honor able gentlemen opposite. The Government will not tolerate delay in the passage of this measure until after a select committee has inquired into and reported on the administration of the Postmaster General's Department. The bill must b* passed to-day in order that the proposed new rates may operate to-morrow, when the new financial year will begin. The Leader of the Australian Country party read a written speech. He reads a lot of his speeches.

Mr Fadden - What else could the Minister expect me to do than read a speech on a technical matter? The honorable gentleman read his speech when he moved the second reading of th* bill.

Mr CALWELL - The matter is noi so technical as all that. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) made hi* speech on the bill without the assistance of written words. Anyway, the Leader of the Australian Country party wai frank enough to read his speech openly. In doing so, he showed himself to be different from the honorable member foi Reid (Mr. Lang), who reads from copious notes while pretending to make an extempore speech.

Mr Holt - The Minister read hi* second-reading speech.

Mr CALWELL - Of course I did. J had to explain the measure. In doing so, I adopted the usual practice. There is a standing order that forbids the reading of speeches. Leaders of the Opposition parties rarely read speeches, unless they have a special purpose to serve The Leader of the Australian Country party read a speech that he made on behalf of the oil companies, attacking the petrol policy of the Government.

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