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Thursday, 11 September 1958
Page: 1199

Mr MALCOLM FRASER (WANNON, VICTORIA) . - The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has put forward a point of view which represents one side of the picture but which completely distorts the achievements of the Postmaster-General's Department, and of this Government, in relation to the expansion of that department over the last ten years. If the honorable member had examined this matter a little further he would have found that the department has expanded during the last ten years more rapidly than ever before in its history. In speaking of the waiting lists which have been inevitable in recent years, he either forgot or ignored the lack of investment in postal facilities during the war years. He completely ignored the great strain that the very rapid development that has taken place, especially in the last ten years, has placed upon the resources of the Postmaster-General's Department. In ignoring those matters, he gave a false impression of the position.

If the honorable member for Lalor had examined his case properly he would have found that, in the first 70 years of the history of this department, about 650,000 telephone lines were constructed, but this figure has been doubled in the last ten years. He would have found also that in the last ten years the number of rural automatic exchanges increased from 150 to well over 900. It is worth noting, too, that this Government has been in office during that time. It is easy to imagine how little was done in the post-war years before the Government came to office.

The number of telephone trunk calls has almost doubled, from 58,000,000 to more than 106,000,000, again indicating the great strain that has been placed on the facilities of the department. The number of trunk line channels has doubled, from 7,000 to 14,000. To show how the demand for telephone services has increased, I point out that in the pre-war years the highest number of applications was approximately 60,000 a year. The highest number in the post-war years - I think it was three years ago - was. 150,000. That again indicates the strain that has been placed on the resources of the department. The record of what the department has done and of what the Government has done in making facilities available to the department, clearly indicates that both the department and the Government have played their part in making sure that Australia has the best possible postal and telephone facilities.

There is a point that I wish to bring tothe notice of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson), and I hope that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon), who is at' the table, will convey to him what I haveto say. I refer to the question of the Edenhope post office, which for many years hasbeen a sore point with the people of Edenhope, not through any fault of the department, but because of certain factors that are involved in the matter. This post office- was- about- due to be. condemned when the war started. During the war years nothing, o£ course, could- be done.. Soon after the war; the department tried to: buy a- piece of land next- door to the post- office, which had. a good house on it and on which it was intended to build a- new post office,, but it was. not until; three years ago that the department was able to finalize the purchase of the land. [Quorum formed.] Mr. Temporary Chairman, the delay was' due to the fact that the land was tied up in an estate that was finalized only after a much greater lapse of time than had originally been expected.

When tha land, was eventually acquired about three> years ago, the department made plans to.- remove, the postal facilities to another building on this piece of- land which was to serve as a. post office and a postmaster's, residence. The townspeople of Edenhope, were -disappointed when this decision was made, because they felt: - and. I. believe rightly - that they deserved a new post office: The Building- which- is at present serving- is a' very- great improvement- on the old1 one which most certainly- could not have been used any longer. It has now been pulled down; and' if the department had continued to> use it probably it would have fallen about the ears of the staff. I think that that was the reason why, three years ago, MrStrange, who was then Director of Posts and' Telegraphs uv Victoria; decided that services should be transferred to another building, already standing, which was to serve as a1 post office and a postmaster's residence. Mr: Strange visited Edenhope about three years ago, discussed this matter with' the> townspeople, and promised that, in the very near future, a new post office would be provided there. However, I am quite certain that his original decision was correct1, because, as I have said, it was impossible- to continue to provide - services from the old building, which has been completely, demolished, and which almost fell down.

The town- of Edenhope requires an even better post office building than the present one, and plans: for it have been foreseen. There is room to construct a new building in front of the: existing one,- and the present building, which serves as a- combined post office and postmaster's residence, will become just a residence. The town of Edenhope has. been expanding, and, with the prosperity that has come to the neighbouring rural- areas- over the last ten or. fifteen, years, it has been practically rebuilt. State schools and-, other, rural institutions have been very/ greatly extended, and. I believe that, in. respect of. this, centre, the Postmaster-General's Department has an obligation, to keep pace with the development that is taking place, although, as I have said, the reason why it has not done so was originally not. the department's fault, but was the delay of. seven- or eight years in completing, the purchase of a new piece of land. [Quorum formed.]

It is- a-, strange mockery of parliamentary procedure when the honorable - member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) sends half the members- present on his own side of the chamber outside in order that he may call for a quorum, and. prevent a case for a specific, service from being advanced.

Mr Ward - I rise- to order, Mr. Temporary Chairman. I object to the statement that I sent members on this side out of the chamber. I did no such thing. I merely directed attention to the- state of the committee, as I am entitled to do, I submit, under" the Standing Orders.


Order! The honorable member for East Sydney is entitled to direct attention to the state of the committee if he thinks that a quorum is not present.

Mr MALCOLM FRASER (WANNON, VICTORIA) - Mr. Temporary Chairman,when, the former Director of Posts and Telegraphs in. Victoria visited Edenhope three years ago, the townspeople informed him that they would prefer- to wait and carry on with the- old post office for two; three- or perhaps four years, if necessary, if that would mean that they could get a completely new post office instead of " merely having the facilities transferred to the present building which does combined, duty as a post office and a postmaster's residence. Mr. Strange at that time made what I believe was the right decision, and decided that that could not be done because it would not have been possible to maintain services in the old and very dilapidated building that had been serving" as a post office. That is why this temporary move - and it is only temporary - to the present building was made.

I certainly hope that, in the not too distant future, a new post office building will be provided at Edenhope. Public relations with the Postmaster-General's Department are, in general, good throughout Australia, because of the very fine work that the officers of the department do, but I believe that if a new post office building is not provided in Edenhope public relations with the department in this area will very sadly deteriorate. The matter is now before the department as a result of representations for some positive and satisfactory decision, and I hope that the Postmaster-General will consider it earnestly and sympathetically.

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