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Wednesday, 20 November 1912

Senator FINDLEY (VICTORIA) (Ministerwithout portfolio) - The questions asked by Senator Keating on a recent occasion are as follow : -

1.   In connexion with the recent disaster at Mount Lyell, did the Department make any - and, if so, what - special provisions at telegraph offices on the West Coast of Tasmania to meet the abnormally heavy traffic?

2.   Will the Postmaster-General have provision made that, in similar cases in future- notwithstanding the ordinary rule as to priority of messages - periodical brief messages in the nature of bulletins for general information may be transmitted to the press throughout the day The answers furnished by the Department are as follow : -

1.   Yes - the Deputy Postmaster-General, Hobart, reports that an additional operator was provided at Queenstown, Gormanstown, and Zee- han, a continuous land-line service was arranged, and the Inter-State cables were kept open for as long as was necessary. Telegraph business was also telephoned over trunk lines when possible.

2.   In cases of extreme public anxiety it is necessary to use every means to expedite the transmission of the relative official and domestic traffic, but every consideration was given to those who were intimately concerned in the disaster. The importance of press information and of its expeditious transmission is fully recognised.

Senator KEATING - Arising out of the Minister's reply to a portion of my question, I desire to ask whether the Government will consider the advisableness of amending section 95 of the Post and Telegraph Act in order to make special provision for the transmission of telegrams in cases of extreme public anxiety ?

Senator FINDLEY - The matter mentioned by Senator Keating was some time ago brought under my notice by a deputation when I was acting for the Postmaster-General, Mr. Frazer, during his recent illness. A press conference was at that time sitting in Melbourne. A deputation waited upon another Minister with respect to electoral matters, and they also saw me with regard to press messages. Honorable senators are awarethat press messages are transmitted at special rates. The desire of this deputation representing the press of each State was. that urgent press messages should be transmitted at double the ordinary press rates. The matter mentioned by Senator Keating; just now is in a measure similar to the request made by the press deputation. I cannot here and now give a definite reply, but I will bring the subject under the notice of the Postmaster-General, and, if an. amendment of the Act is needed, it will receive consideration.

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