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Thursday, 6 December 1973
Page: 4372

Mr KELLY (WAKEFIELD, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - My question is to the PostmasterGeneral. Is it a fact that 29 post offices in the Wakefield electorate have been scheduled either for closure or downgrading? Is this a greater number than in any other electorate? Is the Minister aware that this proposal would be a grievous blow to the people in my electorate and that it is also concerning the Union of Postal Clerks and the Australian Postmasters Association?

Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Throughout the passage of many years the Post Office has been continually reviewing its official offices and its non-official offices. So there has been no sudden change of policy. As regards the Wakefield electorate, I knew the honourable member was going to ask the question, and I am able to tell him that the number of nonofficial offices closed in 1972 was 20. So two or three officials would have been downgraded from those offices in 1972. There has been no sudden move to downgrade post offices in the Wakefield electorate, although it does not appear to be making as much progress as other areas. Because of the poor trading results in a great number of post offices in that electorate a greater number have had to be considered. To give an indication, in Brinkworth $3,400 worth of stamps are being sold annually and it is costing $15,000 to keep the post office there open. I am not suggesting that the services should be removed but there is an opportunity to reconsider a more efficient way of handling the business that is there, small as it is. When we are talking about reclassification we are talking about providing the same services on a different basis.

Mr Corbett - Who is talking about cheap labour now?

Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Cheap labour? It is better than what is being suggested that where there is a declining area we should insist that a postmaster and his family should remain in that area when perhaps they do not want to remain there. There could well be a businessman in the town prepared to provide postal facilities. Obviously the honourable member does not want to help local business. The situation is that no clear policy has been announced suddenly that nas not applied before. But it is true that throughout Australia there are a lot of changes in usage of postal facilities. One of the major changes now taking place is that people are no longer buying money orders or postal orders and instead are using cheques. They do not necessarily require all the facilities that have been provided heretofore. It is for that reason and because of the loss of $10m that is involved - and the only alternative way to make up the loss is continually to increase postage charges, which is something we do not wish to do and have not done - we are giving this matter careful consideration from the point of view of what is reasonable. But I can assure the House that if any community - whether in Wakefield or any other electorate - can show that an existing post office is a viable undertaking and that the community oan support it, the retention of that post office will be given serious reconsideration.

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