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Thursday, 5 October 1911

Senator McCOLL (Victoria) .- I move -

That, in the opinion of the Senate, the policy of the Postal Department in compelling country residents to give a financial contribution for carrying the mails is unfair, and should be discontinued.

I trust that this motion will be unanimously accepted by the Senate. It was only within the last month or two that the fact was brought under my notice that it was the practice of the Post and Telegraph Department to insist on residents in remote country districts making pecuniary contributions for the purpose of carrying on mail services. I consider that that is a very unfair practice. If there is any one class in this community - and I am not now speaking only for Victoria, but for all Australia - that should have consideration with regard to postal services, it is the class of dwellers in the remoter parts of the continent. They are isolated. They are far away from the pleasures and comforts that pertain to our large cities. They have hard work to do. Frequently they are far away from railway communication. They are deprived of many of the advantages that other residents of Australia enjoy. Therefore, we should do everything we can for them in respect of the services controlled by the Government. A little while ago I received an intimation that a country service would be discontinued unless the residents of the district contributed the sum of £6 7s.1d. towards maintaining it. I found on inquiry at the Post and Telegraph Department that if the amount of the deficiency had been £5 they would not have been asked for anything ; but when the difference between£5 and£67s.1d. was tendered, the Department refused to accept it, and said, " We must have the full amount." This instance brought the im portance of this matter forcibly under my notice. I gave my own cheque for the full sum, in order that the service might not be discontinued. But honorable senators will agree with me that the practice itself should be abolished. I have before me a return affecting five States. Particulars with regard to New South Wales are not given. I find that in Victoria there are fifteen services in the position I have described, and that the amount contributed by local residents is£3871s. 5d. In Queensland there are twelve instances, the total amount contributed being£165 5s.10d. In South Australia there are three cases, the amount being£44 10s. In Western Australia there are three instances, and the amount is £108 17s. 3d. In Tasmania there are four cases, the sum involved being £26. The total for those five States is £731 14s. 6d. I do not know what the amount for New South Wales is, but it is probably £200 or , £300. In any case, the total sum involved for all Australia cannot be more than , £1,000. Is it worth while to impose this burden on country people, who, as I said before, ought to have special consideration, on account of the other disabilities from which they suffer? I find that the average amount paid for the fifteen services in Victoria is £26; the average for Queensland is£13 ; for South Australia, £15; for Tasmania, £6 10s.; and for Western Australia, £36. In America one of the things about which people are proudest is that they have a free rural delivery throughout the country. There is not one place in the United States where any person is charged extra for receiving his correspondence. There is a splendid system in vogue, by which post-offices in country districts are done away with.' A man takes a long round of 40 or 50 miles, starting from a centre, and there are boxes at cross-roads which he clears, and where he leaves mail matter. I believe that ultimately we shall have to adopt some such system in Australia. Meanwhile, however, we should not deprive country residents of the few privileges they now have. It is not necessary for me to labour this question. It must be plain to honorable senators that the present practice should be discontinued. It is very burdensome to the people in the country districts, and the special exaction made from some of them is extremely irksome. I feel sure that when honorable senators consider the case, they will come to the conclusion that no country resident should be placed under special disabilities with respect to the carriage of his mails.

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