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Wednesday, 29 November 1905


Senator KEATING (Tasmania) (Honorary Minister) . - I did not intend to permit Senator Stewart's remarks to go without any reply. I take it that the honorable senator had no other object in making them than to point to the improvements effected in connexion with this Department, in contrast with the condition of affairs that existed under the several States. Several factors contribute to the increased expenditure in connexion with the Post and Telegraph Department. In the first place, since the transfer of the States Departments to the Commonwealth there has been an allround increase of salaries.


Senator Drake - And a reduction in rates.


Senator KEATING - I shall deal with that- presently. I am dealing now specially with expenditure. As honorable senators are aware, the application of the provision of the Public Service Act with respect to the minimum wage has increased the expenditure of the Post and Telegraph Department, as of other Departments of the Commonwealth, service. There is a further factor in the increased expenditure common to all the transferred Departments, and that is that all works, new buildings, and properties required for those Departments are now paid for out of revenue earned, by them, and not as previously under the management of the States Governments, out of loan moneys, or public works accounts. I think that Western Australia was the only exception to the latter rule.


Senator Stewart - The cost of works is not included in these Estimates.


Senator KEATING - I am aware of that, but apart from Senator Stewart's figures, it must be remembered that criticism is often indulged in in various quarters to the effect that the expenditure in connexion with all the Departments under the Commonwealth has been abnormally increased; and I point out that the increase is largely clue to the fact that works which, under States management, were paid for out of loan funds and public works accounts, are now debited to the revenue of the various Departments.


Senator O'Keefe - It might be as well to emphasize the fact also that a large proportion of the increased expenditure would have been incurred if the Departments had not been transferred.


Senator KEATING - That is so, by reason of the fact that the ordinary annual increments would have to be paid if the Departments had remained under the control of the States. The revenue from this Department is very satisfactory, whilst very great improvements have been effected since the establishment of Federation. Very considerable reductions have also been made in the charges made to the public, especially in connexion with telegraphy. I suppose that there is no part of the civilized world to-day where it is possible to send more matter over a longer distance by telegraph at a cheaper rate than in the Commonwealth of Australia. The rates now charged in Australia are remarkably low, and lower than those ever previously charged 'by public or by private enterprise in any other part of the world. The reductions made have been surprising. A telegram which, before Federation, cost from 3s. 6d. to 4s., can now be sent in the Commonwealth for is. We have that balance of great advantage to set against any depletion of revenue, and when the figures submitted by Senator Stewart are considered, it is found that the revenue has not suffered very considerably.







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