Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Wednesday, 3 July 1901
Page: 0

Senator Sir FREDERICK SARGOOD (Victoria) - I am not surprised to hear that the Postmaster-General has been advised by departmental officers to take up such a stand ; but I am surprised to hear him say that he is of opinion that that should be the rule. Instead of postponing the clause at once it may be as well to discuss it a little so that he may not come down with a hard and fast amendment from which he will not be prepared to budge. We must all, of course, absolutely agree upon his statement that the telegraph and telephone lines should be in the hands of the department so far as they will, be public lines. But clause 77 practically gives the Minister command -over all private lines as well, and all that is proposed, as I understand from the amendment in clause 78, is that he may make arrangements with private parties to construct and maintain private lines. In the past the action of the department has been absolutely adverse to private lines. Surety it cannot be contended for a moment that it should be necessary ' to go to the Postmaster-General to have a telephone line put up in one's own warehouse. Clauses 77 and 78, if passed in their present form, would necessitate any one of us who required a telephone line to be put in his warehouse, or from his office to part of his warehouse, to get it done hy the Minister. That appears to me to be perfectly absurd. It is an interference on the part of the department which is not justified on any grounds whatever. Then I extend that to what is of equal importance, and in some respects of greater importance - the construction of telephone lines on stations where the question of fire comes in. I need hardly say that it is not to the interest of the general public that men should be denied an opportunity to cope with fires instantly. That is the reason why, for some years past, a large number of squatters in all the States have been gradually extending the telephone system on their runs, and in many cases on their own wire fences, although that is not a success. In doing so, it is necessary for a person to cross over or under a road which goes through his land, and here comes in the difficulty. The department at once say " We will not allow you to cross that road," or they make so many difficulties and demand such an excessive charge that the idea has to be given up absolutely. I am speaking of that which I not only know, but have experienced, and which I have no doubt other honorable senators have experienced. The amendment I propose is that the department shall not interfere in the slightest degree with the construction of private telephones, wherever they may be, and where the land is owned by the same party on both sides of the road it shall give freedom and liberty, perhaps on the payment of a small fee if necessary, to cross that road at a height of not less than eighteen feet, as provided in a subsequent clause. What harm can possibly arise from such a concession, and what necessity is there to place such a power as this in the hands of the department? I shall repeat my own experience of departmental action. My son has a station about eighteen miles from Hamilton, in the Western district. Four of the station-holders wished to extend the telephone system from Hamilton to their respective stations. One of them was authorized to make inquiries. He found that the line would be constructed by the department from Hamilton for eighteen miles to fi branch-off place, and from that place each of the four station-holders would take his line. The first man was told that he could get that constructed at a rental of £1 per mile for the eighteen miles and a payment of the cost of its erection on his own property. Then he said, " But there are four of us, and the cost will be divided between the four." The reply was, " No, not at all ; each of the four will have to pay this £1 per mile from Hamilton." That was simply nonsense. For the Postmaster-General to say that the department would not only raise no difficulty, but would assist all it could to develop private lines is not borne out by facts. Practically what I have complained of in Victoria has happened in New South Wales in connexion with a station in which I am interested. In the interests of the public at large it is not desirable that the PostmasterGeneral should have the control of these private wires.

Senator Drake - Who should have control of them 1

Senator Sir FREDERICK SARGOOD - The owners of them.

Senator DRAKE - A nice state of things!

Senator Sir FREDERICK SARGOOD - The department should have control over wires outside the boundaries of the property owners ; but when a wire crosses a block of lond, which may be 20,000 acres in extent, and which is owned by one individual, not the slightest difficulty should be raised in regard to the crossing of roads, many of which are never used at all, whilst others are very seldom used on account of the sparsity of the population. If it be necessary that the Commonwealth should retain in its own hands some rights over those roads, that can be met by the payment of a small fee '. for every road crossed. But that the construction, maintenance, and control of these wires within a private domain or within a warehouse in Sydney or Melbourne or elsewhere should remain in the . hands of the post-office is an exhibition of red-tapism for which I should not have given the Postmaster-General credit.

Suggest corrections