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Thursday, 16 September 1971
Page: 1494

Mr FULTON (Leichhardt) - I protest emphatically against this attitude of the Postmaster-General's Department. Like my colleague the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), I think all members of the Australian Country Party should be against this if they are fair dinkum in their attitude to decentralisation. The previous speaker, the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd), spoke about centralisation of personnel and decentralisation of work. This does not happen. In the area which I represent, the Cape York Peninsula, a third of the area is still without telephone exchanges. Let honourable members remember that it is a developing area and will be greatly developed in the near future. Therefore, there will be more work for the divisional staff of the Postmaster-General's Department in design and engineering. I believe that 42 families are to be moved from Cairns south to Townsville or elsewhere. Townsville is a long way from Cairns and Cape York Peninsula.

If the Country Party is fair dinkum and believes in decentralisation it will support the Opposition and try to stop this proposal of the Postmaster-General's Department. The Department proposes to take 42 families from Cairns but does it realise the imposition that this will be on these families? They have been there for years and have their own homes. They will have to sacrifice the homes and sell them at deflated prices because the buyers will know they are trying to clear them. They will then have to go to another area, find new homes and establish themselves there. I do not think the Postmaster-General's Department will save anything because the staff will have to travel the long distance from Townsville into the area from which they have come for design and engineering purposes. They will have to travel by car. There are no aeroplanes operating to this area and in much of it there is not a good road. Because of their travelling costs and their keep while they are in the area the Postmaster-General's Department will not save any money. Cape York Peninsula, as the Minister knows, is a developing area not only because of minerals but also because of cattle and agricultural pursuits as well as fishing. This area must be serviced by the Postmaster-General's Department in the future to facilitate its development. More people are moving into it every day. Therefore, it is a bad step for the Department to transfer these people from Cairns to Townsville when they will still be required in that area.

If we are to adopt a policy of decentralisation we must look at the question of taking personnel away from a developing area in which they will be needed. If we do move them we will not save money. Some of the staff will want to look for other positions. The Department is losing its design staff to private enterprise because of this attitude. It is transferring them from homes in which they live and their children from schools which they attend, uprooting them, and taking them to another area. Eventually they will finish up in Brisbane instead of Townsville. The Department is always talking about losing divisional staff; this is one way in which it will lose that staff. If the Department lifts 42 families from Cairns and sends them to Townsville this will disrupt those 42 families and make a big difference to the income and economy of the Cairns area.

This brings me back to the point of decentralisation. The Government is not doing anything to help decentralisation or to help this area to progress, as it will progress despite the Government because the potential is there. The natural resources are there and they will be developed. These people will be forced to go back into that area again, and the Government will be losing money in the meantime by sending them and their families from Cairns to Townsville.

I assume that the Postmaster-General has received telegrams from various organisations in my electorate. I have one here from the Cairns City Council advising that it has informed the Minister that it is most emphatically against the move. I also have a telegram from the Cairns Chamber of Commerce. There is nothing political in this matter because these organisations are not Labor supporters. Their members are citizens who have a vote and a conscience of their own. They are not Labor supporters, but they are with me in opposing the action that the Department has taken in sending these families away from Cairns, and ceasing the service they were providing in that area. They know as well as I know that these people will be required back in that area again very soon because of the development that is going on there not only in the minerals industry, which I have mentioned, but also in the cattle indusry and the fishing industry.

I must thank the Postmaster-General for granting extensions of communications within my area. We have had our difficulties, but over the years I have been successful in getting these communications through the Postmaster-General, and the people of my electorate are grateful to him. But he is smashing all the good work down to the ground by implementing this policy and taking these people from Cairns to Townsville when they will be required in the Cairns area in the future. The Government will have to pay for them to come back into the Cairns area to do the design and engineering work that will be necessary, and it will cost the Government a damn sight more than it will cost to shift these families to Townsville. This move will inconvenience the people in the PostmasterGeneral's Department. These people will be disheartened and disinclined to work for the Department because their homes are established in Cairns. They will be looking to private industry for further work rather than stay in the engineering section of the Postmaster-General's Department and be shifted from post to post. They have been in Cairns for many years. Their children have been reared there and have gone to school there.

These 43 families are to be shifted from this area to Townsville. Townsville itself is overcrowded and the local authorities there have their problems in supplying houses, water, sewerage, electricity and other facilities. These facilities exist in the area of Cairns. Why shift these people? I believe that if I sit down now this debate will be adjourned. I want it to be adjourned so I can get more information.

Debate (on motion by Mr Giles) adjourned.

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