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Thursday, 5 October 1911

Senator HENDERSON (Western Australia) . -I think that Senator McColl scarcely thought out the grounds on which he desired to travel before he submitted this motion. Like Senator Gardiner, I think that his arguments will convey false hopes to some of the people who live in far-distant parts of Australia. My knowledge of the back country' in Western Australia is of such a character as to enable me to state that large numbers of persons cannot get a mail except once in two months during certain portions of the year. Yet they are citizens of this country, and contribute equally with city residents to every source of public revenue.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Yet you are opposing this motion.

Senator HENDERSON - Yes, because I think that the motion is entirely useless and wrong. If you pass fifty resolutions you cannot alter the circumstances which I have just related, unless, of course, you could manage to correspond by wireless telegraphy. The only facilities which are obtainable to cover the distances to be travelled are such as render it impossible to deliver mails in less 'than two months during certain portions of the year. During the other portions of the year the mails are usually despatched once a month. Very rarely indeed is the period shorter than that. Senator Gardiner was quite right when he pointed out the great difficulty which we all experience from time to time, and that is to convince the control-: ling authorities, most of whom seldom go outside the General Post Office of the city in which they are located, that the people in the back country are labouring under the disabilities complained of, for the simple reason that they know nothing of the circumstances.

Senator Walker - What is your remedy for that?

Senator HENDERSON - My opinion is that we shall have to continue the present system until these back country places become more densely populated, when we can increase, as is being done all over Australia, the postal facilities and arrangements. There are places which less than two years ago were getting a mail service once a month, but which are now getting a mail service three or four times a week. The improvement has been simply due to the growth of the population.

Senator Walker - Do you not wish to give some advantage to induce persons to go to the back-block places?

Senator HENDERSON - I wish to give all the advantages which can possibly be extended to the country districts. Indeed, I am prepared to strain every point to provide them with the best facilities. My experience is that at the present moment the Postal authorities are moving in that direction. But they recognise the' great difficulties which confront them just as plainly as we do. They have their own difficulties to surmount. I could mention portions of Western Australia in which there are only three or four settlers located in some cases 65 miles from a railway, and in others 30 miles from a road. How could we arrange' to give them a regular postal service. Every one of these persons is, by reason of his citizenship, entitled equally with ourselves to the best postal facilities. But we must recognise that if we could compel the Government to extend postal facilities to all the persons situated in such places the revenue of the country would not meet the extra charges. That is the position.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Do not be extravagant.

Senator HENDERSON - The whole revenue would scarcely suffice to meet the extra cost of providing a mail service to all the persons in outlying places. If my honorable friend knows much about the back country, he must realize that fact.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - That is an overdrawn picture.

Senator HENDERSON - It may be slightly overdrawn as regards the amount of money which would be wanted. But no one is in a position to-night to tell the Senate what the actual cost of such a service would be, or anything like it. Probably, when the Minister stated that the cost would be £[30,000 or £40;000, he was thinking of the few people' whom Senator McColl- referred to: Very likely he has not considered the people ' in other parts, who probably are much worse situated than many of those who have supplied Senator McColl with information. I think that the Postal authorities are doing whatever lies in their power to extend the best postal facilities to the outlying districts. I hope that they will continue to do all they possibly can in that direction. I am very much disinclined to support a motion of this character.

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