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Thursday, 5 October 1911

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - J do not know whether the Leader of the Opposition or Senator Vardon has read the motion, but to me it reads like a .direct motion of censure upon the Postal Department. What is the duty of a Minister? To defend his Department. Yet because the Minister of Defence, speaking on behalf of the PostmasterGeneral, put forward a spirited defence upon a direct motion of censure, we have the Leader of the Opposition rising in his place and with an air of injured innocence complaining of his action:

Senator Millen - The Opposition is not supporting the motion. Why say that its submission was a party move?

Senator GARDINER - I feel sure that the Leader of the Opposition has not read it. For his benefit, therefore, I will rea3 it. It affirms -

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.

There is' the direct statement that the administration of the Department is unfair. Now the Department is under the management of the Government, and consequently the motion affirms that the management of the Government is unfair. What more direct motion of censure could be tabled?

Senator Millen - It is not a motion of censure, because the policy of a financial contribution by the people has been in existence much longer than the Government have been in office. Therefore, it is not the policy of the Government which is at stake, but that of the Department which has maintained it for years.

Senator GARDINER - By their silence honorable senators opposite have hitherto agreed that that policy was the correct one to adopt. But as soon as the Government relieve country residents of one-half of the cost of carrying their mails, their action becomes unfair. I would have opposed the motion even in the absence of the amendment. The great difficulty experienced by country residents is to convince the Postal Department of the disabilities with which they have to contend, and of the advisableness of granting them a mail service. Whenever reasonable ground is shown to exist for granting a mail service to rural residents, or for giving them perhaps a tri-weekly instead of a biweekly service, they are told that if they will contribute one-half of the additional cost the Government will give their proposal a trial. Such a system is not unfair. It is not a disadvantage to them, but an advantage, because it gives them an opportunity of proving that they have a good claim. Senators Vardon and Millen have urged that Senator McColl did not mean what he said when he declared that the administration of the Department is unfair. But when we couple that declaration with his speech, in which he pointed out that city residents received three and four mail deliveries daily-

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The statement is correct.

Senator GARDINER - But the fact that city residents receive three or four deliveries daily is no reason why country residents should expect to be equally well served. I think I recollect Senator McColl saying that he was riot speaking on behalf of all country residents, but merely on be: half of a limited number, when he affirmed that the entire cost of making the proposed alteration would not represent more than £1,000 yearly. In the case of New South Wales, he said that it would mean the expenditure of only an additional £700. So that he was merely speaking on behalf of those who have gained mail services upon the understanding that they should contribute a certain sum annually. These represent a very few persons indeed. To save this limited number from a contribution of £1,000 annually he wishes to make the country believe that he is anxious to render a service to all rural residents. Senator W. Russell supported him in that connexion.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - If I had thought of it before, I would have submitted the motion myself.

Senator GARDINER - But the honor: able senator would have moved it in a form which would have benefited not only the few who have a mail service, but the many who have not, and who are entitled to one.

If it be merely a question of granting to country residents better mail facilities than they already possess, there is no necessity to submit a motion of censure on the Postal Department, because we all desire to do what is fair to them. But we are not all anxious to make it appear that rural residents are being unfairly treated by comparison with those who reside in more thickly populated centres. I hope that I shall never sit behind a Government whose members will not spiritedly reply to a direct charge which, in essence and in fact, is untrue.

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