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Friday, 15 December 1905

Mr WATKINS (NEWCASTLE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether he will be prepared to grant to candidates for State Parliaments a concession similar to that which has just been granted to candidates for this Parliament?

Mr Groom - That would have to be done under the Postal Rates Act. It could not be done under this measure.

Bill reported with further amendments.

Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -

That the Standing Orders be suspended to enable the Bill to pass through its remaining stages without delay.

Mr. SYDNEYSMITH (Macquarie).I do not object to the suspension of the Standing Orders, but I desire to point out that a number of the concessions which have been granted under this Bill will involve serious inroads upon the revenue of the Post and Telegraph Department. I do not know the view of the PostmasterGeneral, but I can tell the House, that when this matter was discussed by the last Government, one of the points which I considered it to be my duty to bring before my colleagues was whether the revenue of the Department ought not to be increased by a contribution from the Electoral Branch of the Home Affairs Department. If the Post and Telegraph Department is made to bear more than its share of the electoral expenditure, it is evident that it will be a long time before we shall be able to afford to concede penny postage to the people of Australia. If the PostmasterGeneral will look through this Bill, he will find that a large number of concessions have "been granted, involving a considerable loss of revenue to his Department, not only in regard to the transmission of matter for parliamentary candidates, but also in respect of reductions in the cost of telegrams. These concessions must interfere seriously with the departmental business, as well as reduce the revenue. Has the PostmasterGeneral made a calculation as to their probable effect? It has been suggested that the whole of the administrative work under this measure should be undertaken by the Post and Telegraph Department. If that view is to be adopted, it will mean further serious burdens upon the Department. Many of us have at heart the desirableness of bringing about pennypostage throughout Australia. We admit that at present the revenue cannot bear the strain. But every one of these conces sions makes it more difficult to inaugurate that reform. What steps are to be taken to recompense the Department for the large amountof additional work that will be entailed upon it, and for the depletion of its revenue? These matters should receive the serious consideration of the PostmasterGeneral.

Mr. LONSDALE(New England).- I should like to learn from the PostmasterGeneral whether it is intended to make higher payments to the various mail contractors throughout the Commonwealth who will have to carry all the literature that will be transmitted under the provisions which have just been inserted in this Bill? Is it intended to sweat the contractors in the interests of candidates for Parliament? I think it is an outrage that this kind of thing should be done. If we, as members of this House, wish to increase our emoluments, let us increase them in a direct way, not by side winds, by means of which we think the public will not know what we are doing. We ought not to pass laws which mean increasing the burdens on the people in this fashion. For my own part, I think that what we have done will be of very little advantage to candidates, though it will seriously decrease the revenue. I regret to say that the Bill has been debated throughout with the idea of securing more advantages to ourselves rather than from the point of view of increasing the public advantage. Our object seems to have been not to. serve and help the public, but to assist those who stand as candidates for Parliament. I enter my strongest protest against what has been done.

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