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Tuesday, 29 July 1930


Senator REID (Queensland) .- The Government is, doubtless, in a most difficult position financially, and must increase the revenue. It is desirable, therefore, that any increased taxation should be spread as evenly as possible over the whole community. The post office is, no doubt, rendering a most valuable service to the people, and I do not think that any injustice will be inflicted upon any one if the increased rates proposed by the Government in this bill are agreed to. I recognize that the department is bound to honour arbitration court awards, and cannot, therefore, economize in that direction, except by reducing the number of its employees; but the period of depression through which we are passing has caused a certain amount of falling off in business. The telegraph department has, of course, never paid for itself. If it were obliged to do so, its charges would have to be heavily increased. Valuable service has also been rendered by the Telephone Department. The telephone has altered- the outlook of many persons, particularly those resident in country districts. A few years ago, when its operations were confined to the cities, the department paid well; but when the late Government wisely decided to extend telephonic facilities to country districts, and to grant concessions to country subscribers, the position changed. The department is now conducted at a loss. I do not object to country residents being granted concessions, but frequently these things are overlooked by representatives of country districts. These concessions, which result in losses, must be paid for. ft may be that they are counterbalanced )y the indirect gain .to the country.

The Leader of the Opposition mentioned the effect on the printing trade of the proposed . increased charges on catalogues and similar publications. He said that the printing and setting up of catalogues was a valuable standby which enabled both men and machinery to be fully employed when otherwise work would be slack. That may be so ; but the fact remains that the distribution of illustrated catalogues by city firms has had a serious effect on the trade of country storekeepers. Almost every large city firm issues its own catalogue which it sends to residents in the country. Some families may receive a dozen such catalogues from different firms with which they have had business dealings. Some one has to pay for all that advertising. It is stated that the post office carries these catalogues at a loss. I hope that in the committee stage the Minister will be able to inform us how the three different classes of mail matter affect the finances of the post office. There was a time when nearly all the parcels traffic was handled by the railways; but during recent years, the hulk of the light parcel traffic has passed *rough the post office. The railways are left to carry the heavy goods. It is on the lighter goods purchased by country residents that the profit 'is generally greatest. These are now sent by parcels post from the cities, resulting in loss, not only to the railways, but also to country traders. The distribution of catalogues by city firms attracts trade to themselves and deprives the country storekeepers of their profits. Honorable senators will therefore see that there are two sides to this question. The blocks for many of the catalogues sent throughout the country are imported, but the actual work of printing is performed in Australia. I am not greatly concerned about the effect which the additional postage rates on catalogues will have on the printing industry. It may be that the new rates will lead to further decentralization, which is desirable. I have no particular objection to this bill, because I realize that the present sta-te of the finances makes it necessary for the 'Government to obtain additional revenue. In committee, the bill may be amended in certain directions with advantage.







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