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Thursday, 28 June 1906

Mr LONSDALE (New England) . - Most of the questions which have been raised in the course of this debate deserve the best consideration of Ministers. I object, of course, to what has been permitted by the Post and Telegraph Department in reference to the posting of a partisan p'eriodical bearing the letters " O.H.M.S." It was not a Government document, although it may have contained an official advertisement. The publication contained a political attack upon one party in this House. I rather imagine that the Government would not have permitted it to be carried had it contained an attack upon their own party.

Mr Ewing - It was stopped immediately I heard of it.

Mr LONSDALE - Of course, it would not have been stopped if the Minister had not been told. But where were the officials who are supposed to. control the Post Office, and what was the head of the Department doing? If evils are to wait to be checked until the Minister is told of them, they may continue for a long time. I trust that nothing of the kind will be allowed to occur in the future. Let us have fair fighting, whatever our opinions may be. With regard to the butter-grading business. I opposed the Act to which reference has been made when it was before Parliament. 'But we then had the assurance of various Ministers that no such thing was intended as has since been indicated. The Vice-President) of the Executive Coun cil, in fact, said that no sane man would propose to do such a thing. Yet the Government, of which he is one of the leading members, appears to have framed regulations that contain the very thing that is objected to. It would be utterly impossible to do what these regulations require. Two or three hundred inspectors, who would have to be stationed in the different butter factories, would be required to accomplish the purpose. The largest butter factory in New South Wales, that at Byron Bay, has made arrangements to ship its own butter right through' to firms in England. This factory has to rely upon the quality of its butter for the success of its operations. I had an interview with the general manager of the company after he had returned from England, where he had been to make arrangements with London brokers to take the whole of the product of the factory, and put it upon the market. There are direct relations between the producers in this1 country and the selling brokers in England. Is it likely that this firm would allow its butter to go Home in a condition that would jeopardize the whole of its trade? To maintain butter in good condition it must be kept frozen from the time it leaves the factory until it reaches the market. This company has made its own arrangements to send its butter right through in a frozen condition. Unless the Government has an expert at the factory to inspect while the butter is being made, it cannot be inspected at all. Certainly it cannot be inspected when it is frozen. Is it supposed that the company will thaw its butter in order that it may be inspected? If not, the inspection will be a sham. How can the Government inspector give a certificate that butter is of the best quality if he has only seen it in a frozen condition ? With regard to grading, it appears to me that what the Minister contemplates is utterly impossible. We have in the Hunter district of New South Wales a factory that makes a class of butter that would not be looked upon as first class by an expert. Yet that butter is sent to markets in Europe, where it brings a higher price than butters which are graded first class. The explanation is that the people who buy this butter prefer the taste of it to other butters which, in the opinion of experts, are of better quality. If these purchasers had first-class butter offered to them, and at the same time had a choice of the butter to which I refer, and which might be marked third class, they would prefer the third-class butter to' the first. Why on earth should we put upon our products a brand which prevents them from being sold under fair market conditions? I can bear out what the honorable member for Cowper has said about the aerating of cream in New Zealand. I have a son who had charge of a creamery in that country, and who has told me that the aerating of the cream was the cause of the superiority in the quality of New Zealand butter. He said that no matter how strong the milk was, and no matter what the cows were fed upon, the aerating of the cream enabled butter of the best quality to be made.

Mr Wilks - Did the honorable member get; his son that billet?

Mr LONSDALE - I did not get him the billet. He went to New Zealand without any assistance from me or from any one 'else. He got hig billet on his merits, and kept it on his merits. He was prepared to fight his own battle against the world. That is the sort of man we want in this country. I have been in politics for many years, but no one can accuse me of desiring to obtain billets in the Public Service to assist any relations of mine. I desire to call attention now to one or two matters which, unfortunately, arise under the provisions of the Public Service Act. I find that officers in the .clerical division suffer disabilities which officers in the general division do not suffer. There are officers in the clerical division who cannot get a salary of £uo a year, as an officer in the general division can get. According to the Public Service Act, an officer in the general division, upon reaching the age of twenty-one years, and serving a certain period, can get a salary of /no at once, without being required to pass an examination. On the other hand, an officer in the clerical division is called upon to pass a certain examination before he can get that salary. I do not recognise the fairness of the provision in the Act. In my opinion, we should treat all men alike. I do not propose to express an opinion as to the salary of £no, or anything of that kind.

Mr Page - One man has brains, and the other has muscles. '

Mr LONSDALE - We should pay the man with the brains just as well as we pay the man with the muscles. Many of these young men to whom I refer are located in the interior parts of the country, where they .cannot get such advantages as can be procured in the city. Their work engages practically all their attention, and in the circumstances it is very hard for them to read up for an examination. We place men under a disability because they happen to be in the .clerical division. I would not differentiate between a man with muscles and a man with brains.

Mr Page - I would.

Mr LONSDALE - I think that a man who has brains ought to be paid better than a man who has only muscles.

Mr Page - As a contractor, the honorable member ought to know that.

Mr LONSDALE - I am prepared to pay for brains and muscles, but I would pay all men alike. I would not differentiate between them.

Mr Wilks - Would not the honorable member grade them?

Mr LONSDALE - I would grade them according to their quality and merits. A man who has muscles must possess some brains, otherwise he would be of very little use. It seems to me absurd that, because a man is engaged in a manual occupation, he should get a salary of £110 as soon as he has reached the age of twenty-one years and has served a certain term, and that, because a man is in the clerical division he should not receive similar .remuneration. I am surprised at a member of the Labour Party taking up the attitude which the honorable member for Maranoa seems to take up. When he talks on a platform he will tell clerical officers that he is quite as much in their favour as he is in favour of men with muscles. He will talk then about how he looked after the mem with brains as well as the men with muscles. Postal assistants cannot get an advance from their grade into a position which' .carries a higher salary unless they can pass an examination in telegraphy. Many of these officers have no experience in telegraphy, as they are not called upon to use the instrument. All their work is practically of a clerical nature. In some, places1 in the country districts, where there are one or two assistants in the post-office, it is impossible for these men to get education in a direction which would fit him for a position in the next grade. I hope that the Acting Postmaster-General will meet the position, either by proposing to alter the Public Service Act, or by putting these men gradually into positions where they could get instruction in telegraphy and qualify themselves to pass the necessary examination to fit them for a

Supply[28 June, 1906.] (Formal). 833 position in a higher grade. We ofter hear about how splendidly the telephone system is managed under the Government, and it is quoted by the Socialistic Party as an illustration of the success of governmental management. In my electorate, there are two gentlemen who are erecting private telephones. They tried to get the Government to put up the lines, but the price asked, not only for construction, but also for maintenance, was simply outrageous. In the circumstances, I advised the gentlemen to erect their own lines, which they are now doing in order to connect themselves with a town in my electorate, and when the work is finished, instead of having, to pay £30or£40a year to the Department, they will have to pay only£4 5s. a year. That simply shows the difference between private enterprise and governmental management. It indicates the utter absurdity of the way in which the Telephone Department is conducted in this respect.

Mr Wilks - Then the honorable member does not believe in Socialism?

Mr LONSDALE - I do not believe in Socialism of that kind. I believe in Socialism that may benefit the whole of the people. This kind of Socialism is an illustration of what the other kind of Socialism' would do; instead of benefiting the people, it would injure them. I was informed by the officers of the Department that the charge which they make for private telephones is fixed by the aggregate cost of maintaining the lines in all the States.

Mr Kelly - They do not know what the cost is.

Mr LONSDALE - I do not think that they do. They informed me that the cost is very much greater in Queensland and Western Australia than in New South Wales and Victoria, and that, therefore, they cannot make differential charges. They have to bring down the charges in Western Autralia andQueensland, and put up the charges in Victoria and New South Wales.

Mr Bamford - We want that statement confirmed.

Mr LONSDALE - I cannot say whether the statement is true or not. But, according to the officers a part of the extra cost in Queensland and Western Australia falls upon New South Wales and Victoria. They charge 25s. a year for the maintenance of a mile of wire, as long as it is used. Although they may put twenty wires on the same posts, still they charge 25s. a year per mile for the maintenance of each line of wire. From this case, honorable members will see how the telephone system is being conducted, and what an injury it is doing to outlying districts. Only the other day, a gentleman who lives about twelve miles from Armidale, in my electorate, told me that it would cost him about £20 a year to be connected with the telephone system, because he would have to pay 25s. a year per mile for the maintenance of the line. I believe, with the honorable member for Wentworth, that the officers of the Department really do not know what the cost of telephone lines is. I took the number of miles which a maintenance man had to look after in one part of my electorate. I ascertained what he cost the Department per year, and I found that it did not amount to 25s. per mile, or anything like that sum. He can look after half-a-dozen lines in the same time as he can look after one or two. I call the attention of the Acting PostmasterGeneral to this matter. I am afraid that he has not much time in which to take action, because we are informed that the Postmaster-General is on the coast; but he would make a name for himself throughout the interior districts of all the States by taking steps to reduce these charges, and bring telephones within the reach of the men in those districts. I wish to refer now to the carriage of mails in country districts. Very often a number of persons who are living at some distance from a town get a mail run along, and in many cases they are called upon to bear a certain proportion of the cost. That is a charge which should not be made against them. We talk of penny postage to people in all directions. In the city we take the letters to the doors of the people, not once, but two or three times a day ; but in the case of men who have gone out to settle upon the land another system is pursued by the Department. It . is outrageous that where£39 a year has to be paid by the Department for a mail service, a third of the cost should be demanded from the settlers on the route. No matter what the loss on these services may be, I think that it should be borne by the general revenue. I do not believe that a voice would be raised here against the adoption of that course, because it would promote the interests of those persons who are isolated from all that which makes life pleasant, and who only occasionally are able to get a newspaper or letter by the present means. If this great socialistic concern is to be carried on for the benefit of the people, it should be managed for the benefit of the people in the country, as well as in the city. We are told that the object of Socialism! is to improve the position of all the people. Here is an opportunity for the Labour Party to practise Socialism in a right way. They call this a socialistic enterprise, but it is not carrying out Socialism properly.

Sir William Lyne - What is Socialism?

Mr LONSDALE - I think that Socialism is for a man to get all he can for himself. At any rate, the Labour Partyhave a chance now to express their views, because men like myself have no influence with this Ministry. The moment we take up a proposal the Ministers set up their backs, and are determined that it shall notbe carried out.

Sir William Lyne - Did I not meet the deputy leader of the Opposition this afternoon in regard to the export of butter ?

Mr LONSDALE - I do not know, as I was not here. I hope that, in the interests of men living in the interior districts, the honorable member, for Maranoa will bring this grievance under the notice of his leader in caucus, and that they will insist upon fair treatment being meted out, and upon the loss, if any, being borne by the whole community. There would be only a very small sum for each person in the cities and towns to bear. I want honorable members, at any rate those who are here, to look at this matter on right lines, and try to do what they can to help the people in the country districts.

Mr Page - How can we, when the honorable member is on the wrong track?

Mr LONSDALE - I am on the right track, but, instead of seeking to help these persons, the honorable member votes against his own convictions, because of the decision of the caucus. I do not wish to be dragged into anything of that kind. I have no wish to detain the 'House longer, but I should like to say that what we need to develop in this community is a spirit of self-reliance in our people, and that the present Ministry are not attempting to do. To get back to the Commerce Act, I might remind the Government that the Tasmanian people made their own arrangements for the export of apples to England. They did not ask the Commonwealth to step in and assist them. The men who send apples from Tasmania are prepared to take all the risk, and all they ask the Commonwealth Government to do is to leave them alone. The one State that is continually calling for all kinds of Government interference, and is always- complaining of her want of prosperity and loss of trade, is the State in which this Parliament meets. This State is always seeking to use her influence here to get all sorts of restrictions passed in the interests of her people. They have been spoon-fed all their years, and have never shown themselves reliant and strong. Whilst we have a Ministry seeking by every means to destroy the selfreliance of the people we shall have the same state of things continuing in the future, and, instead of growing to be strong, healthy, and powerful, as we should, we shall stand as a spectacle for the nations. I noticed that a firm in Brisbane was prosecuted recently for selling an article, supposed to be a medicine, that would cure all the ills that flesh is heir to. It was discovered that that medicine contained 42 per cent, of alcohol, and it was evidently used as a means of getting behind the licensing law. If the Minister has the power under the Commerce Act, and I think he has, he should stop the importation of such stuff as that.

Sir William Lyne - So he will, perhaps.

Mr LONSDALE - When the Commerce Bill was before the House I objected to what the Minister desired to do. The honorable gentleman desired only to stop the importation of such an article unless a proper label was on it. I say that anything that is injurious to the health of the people should not be allowed to come in, no matter what label is ora it.

Sir William Lyne - If it can be stopped under those conditions.

Mr LONSDALE - The idea of the Minister, and of some members of the Labour Party also, was that such articles should be prevented from coming into the Commonwealth unless they were properly labelled; but the honorable gentleman says that if the goods have applied to them a proper description he will allow them to come in, although they may sap the health and strength of the people.

Sir William Lyne - No, no; that is not right.

Mr LONSDALE -- What we desired, and what we voted for, was that importations that would be injurious to the health of the community should be destroyed or sent back to the place from which they came. If the Minister will follow that course, instead of fooling about with impossible butter grading, he might do some good for this community. I hope Ministers will take notice of the remarks which have been made, especially in connexion with mails and telephones, and will endeavour, by giving them better facilities, to make it easier for the people in the country districts to carry on their correspondence with the various large centres with which they may be connected.

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