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Wednesday, 30 May 1973
Page: 2918

Mr CORBETT (Maranoa) - I rise tonight to draw attention to a few matters that I feel should be ventilated. Firstly, I refer to cash on delivery charges on articles sent through the Post Office. I do not know for how long the present rate of charges has applied, and I do not suggest that it has changed in recent times. In other words I am not blaming the present Government for the matter about which I am concerned but nevertheless it should be looked at. Since a royal commission is being conducted into the affairs of the Post Office, although evidence has closed I hope that the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) might look into the matter or perhaps even include it for consideration by the royal commission.

The case drawn to my attention involves an order for 4 small special screws for a power drill. Their size was £ inch by 7/32 inch, special thread. They were unobtainable in Queensland. This is another matter about which 1 wish to speak. I regret that so often people have difficulty in getting parts for all types of machinery. These small screws for a power drill were unobtainable. The agent offered to get them up from the South. They arrived In Brisbane and were posted up to my constituent c.o.d. The actual cost of the screws was 24c. The c.o.d. charges that the constituent had to pay when he received the screws were 72c. This seems a pretty severe charge to be placed on a small item which was so light that it required only a 7c stamp to mail it.

Mr England - They put the screws on him.

Mr CORBETT - That could well be. I know that there would be some cost related to registering this item and perhaps giving a receipt but it seems excessive to me that an item which cost 24c and which was posted in a very light packet which cost only 7c to post should attract a c.o.d. charge of 48c. I am pleased that the Postmaster.General is in the House tonight. I put it to him that it is an excessive charge. We sometimes hear that the people in the cities are subsidising the people in the country. If the Post Office cannot make a profit in providing a c.o.d. service at that rate I am wondering what it would charge to make a profit. I believe that it is a little excessive and I would be pleased to have that matter investigated.

Another point to which 1 draw attention is the general availability of spare parts for tractors and farm machinery. I have mentioned this matter in the House previously. When I mentioned it I put dealers on notice that if I were to get more complaints about modern machinery for which parts were not available I would name the firms concerned in this House. This is a pretty drastic action to take because it would be adverse publicity for such firms. I am not happy with the availability of parts for some tractors and farm machinery. I say again as a second warning that if firms are to provide machinery it is up to them to provide a fair and reasonable range of parts at consistent prices.

Another complaint I received very recently was about a big variation in the prices charged for similar parts. I draw attention to it because this is one of the few ways in which people who feel that they are being victimised or excessively charged can have a chance of having their voices heard. I know that a committee has been appointed to review prices but that would probably take a fair amount of time to come into operation. At any rate, I am not going to wait for it. If my constituents are disadvantaged, as I feel they are, unreasonably in any way I am quite happy to ventilate the matter in this House.

Mr Hurford - It is a pretty efficient committee.

Mr CORBETT - The committee of which the honourable member will be chairman may be able to deal with these things; I mention that in passing. I v/ill have a look at how the committee works and if it seems to be working satisfactorily I will be happy to make use of it. To give an example of the range in price and the very high increase that has occurred, I should like to cite just one case. The owner of a modern car of a popular make lost a hub cap which had to be replaced. He asked for a quote and the price given was $20 and some odd cents. A matter of only a week or two later a price was obtained from the same firm for the same type of hub cap and the price quoted was $30. It seems to me that the original price was fairly high anyway, but to think that it should be jumped up by that amount of money for that item seems again to be excessive. Perhaps I might keep the honourable member for Adelaide and his Committee busy with these sorts of complaints.

The main reason I raise this is that I do not want to take any drastic action without giving some notice of it. I put all the people and firms concerned on notice that I certainly will be quite prepared to name them if I feel that there is any injustice being perpetrated. I want to see them keep their prices within reasonable limits.

The other matter 1 want to raise tonight is a matter I have raised before, namely the Pike's Creek dam. I have mentioned this matter on a few occasions. The construction of this dam was an undertaking given by the previous Government. It was to be constructed in conjunction with the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland. I asked the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in the House about this matter not long ago. Incidentally, I did tell the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) that I would be speaking on this subject tonight. The Prime Minister said that he hoped to be bringing this matter to the Parliament. I do not want to be unkind in any way, but I am becoming very concerned about what I feel is undue delay in bringing this project to fruition or in having a decision made on it.

The Minister for Northern Development - I think he may have left the chamber, but I noticed that he was here earlier - complained recently about the progress in regard to some water conservation project in which he was interested. He said that he was disappointed that further progress had not been made. The Pike's Creek dam project had progressed quite far enough under the previous Government. I believe that the only reason legislation was not introduced to complete the project was that the previous Government was taking every care to see that a cost benefit analysis justified going on with the project.

Dr Gun - It had a cost benefit analysis in 1970. Sir Reginald Swartz told me that by letter.

Mr CORBETT - 1 wonder how the honourable member who is interjecting would have felt when the Chowilla dam project was dropped and the Dartmouth project took precedence over it, if the Government had given an undertaking and had decided not to go on with it after the undertaking had been given? The 2 State governments concerned have undertaken a cost benefit analysis of the project. There was a further cost benefit analysis made by the Commonwealth after the one made in 1970. An environmental study also was made, I understand. Anyway, all these steps were taken to make sure that this was a worthwhile project. The honourable member who has interjected does not know anything about it anyway. He would be much better suited to stick to something he knows something about. Just because he happens to know about one investigation he regards himself as an expert in that field. There is no doubt that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. The honourable member's remarks give a striking example of just how dangerous it is. He obviously does not know the full ramifications of this scheme at all.

The point is that the decision to continue with this dam project is still being delayed. I hope that the Government will honour the undertaking. If we reach a stage where governments are not prepared to do that, it will be a sorry day for Australia. I believe that the New South Wales Minister concerned was prepared to consider with the Queensland Minister concerned whether the States could go it alone. That is how desperate they were. The delay has continued. It is becoming impracticable to go on with this project because of the time of year. I believe that there is a real obligation on the part of the Government to make a decision and to make it quickly.

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