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Wednesday, 6 December 1911

Senator PEARCE (Western AustraliaMinister of Defence) . - I move -

That this Bill be now read a second time.

When the Bill inaugurating penny postage was going through in another place last year, the Postmaster-General accepted an amendment permitting books printed in Australia to go through the post at the cheap rate of1d. Since that Bill became law, a number of people - commercial people principally - have claimed the right to send trade circulars, catalogues, pricelists, and publications of that character through the post as books printed in Australia, and claim that they should be sent through the post at a rate of 8 oz. for1d., instead of as commercial papers at the rate of 2 oz. for id. Of course, it was never intended that such publications should be regarded as books. It was intended that ! books " should refer only to Australian literature ; such books, for instance, as the one which Senator St. Ledger published. Previous to the alteration made by the Bill referred, to, this class of matter went through the post-office at the rate of 4 oz,. for id., and under the Postal Rates Bill of last year, at a rate of 2 oz. for a Jd. The other clause of this Bill is introduced for the purpose of securing a better definition of " magazine," and also to give a preference to magazines and catalogues printed in Australia over imported magazines and catalogues, or such matter printed in Australia from imported stereotypes. As the matters dealt with in the Bill are of a highly technical character, and I do not profess to have an intimate knowledge of them, I quote the following official interpretation of the alterations which the Bill will effect -

This amending Bill is rendered necessary owing to the fact that advantage is sought to be taken of the Rates Act 1910 to send catalogues and other similar matter in book form at the cheap rate of postage provided therein for books. Under that Bill, as originally submitted to Parliament, books would have come under the head of printed papers, as is the case in all the principal countries of the_ world; but when the Bill was under discussion it was urged that encouragement should be given to Australian writers, and that the rate for books should be made the same as that for magazines. This was agreed to by the Postmaster-General, and the same rates were adopted for books as for magazines, the intention clearly being that books should mean books in the ordinary literary sense of the term.

Under State arrangements the "book" rate of postage was applicable to catalogues, prospectuses, and generally to anything printed and bound in book form, and the persons who had been in the habit of issuing these publications claimed that they should still be regarded as " books " and be allowed the benefit of the reduced rate under the new conditions, notwithstanding that the rate for printed papers, to which category they properly belong, under the Commonwealth regulations is, except in one State, not greater than the book rate was previously, and in the other five States is less than it was previously for certain weights because of the progression under the State rate having been at the rate of id. per 4 ounces as against id. per 2 ounces under the Commonwealth - thus, 6 ounces and 10 ounces in one case would cost 2d. and 3d. respectively as against 1½d. and 2½d. respectively in the other (the Commonwealth).

Further, confusion arose in the minds of Departmental officers as to what should be allowed the benefit of the reduced book rate, in view of the definition under State regime, and the dictionary definition of what is a book, and it is consequently necessary in order to protect the revenue that Parliament shall enable it to be laid down distinctly what articles are not to get the benefit of the book rate. This is found by the Crown Law Officers to be more easy of accomplishment than defining what are to be regarded as books.

Similar trouble has been caused through the definition of the articles which may be sent at the magazine rate, it having been claimed on behalf of catalogues and other trade publications which are issued periodically that they are " serials," &c, and therefore entitled to the reduced rate. It is now proposed to omit the word " serials," which is unnecessary, and to amend the definition in such a way as wi!l,_ it is thought, effectively exclude publications which were never intended to come within the scope of the magazine rate. The- words " for each magazine " have been added to the rate, so as to make the intention clear in that regard. The Crown Law Officers have advised that as the Act at present stands more than one magazine could be placed under one cover, and postage would have to be charged on the gross weight of the packet at the rate of id. per 8 ounces instead of at that rate for each magazine contained in the cover, on the principle applied to newspapers. The anomaly therefore now exists that, while the rate for newspapers is id. per 10 ounces, as against id. per 8 ounces for magazines, five newspapers, each weighing 4 ounces, or 20 ounces in all, sent by n private individual under one cover would cost 2½d. (i.e., Aid. each), three magazines, each weighing 8 ounces, or 24 ounces in all, would cost only i±d.

That is the official explanation as to the necessity for altering the rates. A further concession is given which will allow catalogues which are wholly set up and printed in Australia, to be carried through the post at the rate of Jd. for every 4 ozs. or part thereof. It will be seen that the object of the Bill is to carry out the intention of Parliament, and in certain respects to liberalize the rates on Australian printed matter. I anticipate that little opposition will be offered to its second reading.

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