« ZurückWeiter »
Companies have just arranged for an acceleration of their services, which will shorten the voyage to Australia by two days and practically restore the pre-war time of transit.
Reasons against reverting to embarkation of Indian and Australian Mails at Italian Port.
I have been recently urged from several quarters, not least by the Italian Government, that mails for India and Australia should be embarked at an Italian port, either Brindisi or Taranto, as they were before the war, and it is represented that a considerable acceleration could thereby be secured. I have examined this possibility very carefully, but I have come to the conclusion that the advantage, if any-and it is very doubtful if there would be any acceleration at all-would certainly not be sufficient to compensate for the very heavy additional cost. It is true that the transit time of the Indian mail is now about twenty-four hours longer than it was before the war when the mail was embarked at Brindisi. Of this twenty-four hours not more than half can be attributed to the shortening of the sea passage by carrying the mails through Italy. The remaining twelve hours were due to the small boats which carried the mail from Brindisi to Port Said (where it was transferred to the P. & O. mailship) being considerably faster than the mailships themselves. These shuttleboats have now been sold out of the service and the cost of replacing them and restoring the Brindisi-Port Said service would be extremely heavy and would ultimately entail an addition to the P. & O. contract payments. Apart from this it is very questionable whether the Italian Railways could maintain the pre-war timing. The cost of the overland transit through Italy would be between £60,000 and £70,000 per annum. The rather problematical saving of about twelve hours would land the mail at Bombay in the evening or at night and would have little or no effect in accelerating its delivery. I am satisfied therefore that the extra cost which, as I have said, both for the land transit and the additional sea service, would be extremely heavy, would not be warranted.
Prospect of more Frequent Service to Australia.
With regard to the restoration of the full weekly service to Australia, the P. & O. have built, or are building, four new ships, and when these are completed there would be some prospect of a more frequent service. But there remains the question whether the passenger and cargo traffic would be sufficient to repay more frequent sailings, and this is an aspect of the question which would require some consideration when the time arrives.
Imperial Penny Post must be preceded by Internal Penny Post.
The question of the Imperial penny post naturally, as far as we are concerned, depends upon our being able to get an internal penny post. An internal penny post will cost us approximately £5,000,000 a year; and until we can get a penny post in this country it is
obvious that we cannot have an Imperial penny post. The actual Imperial part of it is roughly half a million; that is to say, if we once got an internal penny post, to make it apply to the Empire would mean an extra half million, but that is relatively small. I have not any doubt that if once we got an internal penny post we would stretch it and make it an Imperial penny post. I know New Zealand is very proud of itself; it has already got it.
Mr. Massey: It has very good reason, when I hear what you have got to say about Britain.
The Chairman: I think it is useful to have that undertaking from the Postmaster-General, that when we get an internal one it will be an Imperial one.
Sir Laming Worthington-Evans: I think that can be done.
The Chairman: For the purpose of this afternoon, we confine ourselves to the subjects raised by the Postmaster-General, and do not, I take it, digress into the wider shipping questions which will come up to-morrow.
Mail Services between Canada and Europe now on pre-war basis.
Mr. Graham: The question raised by the Postmaster-General as to the mail service throughout the Empire is, of course, very interesting. Heretofore, Canada has given a subsidy to certain lines to carry our mails. Now we are willing to pay for the carrying of mails, and we do, to any ship that takes them, so that the mails do not have to wait for a boat of any particular line. As the Postmaster-General says in his statement, as to the rapidity of the mails between Canada and Great Britain, that is in pretty good condition, and I do not think we can very well improve on it at the present time. I think we can practically say that the mail carrying between Canada and Europe is on a pre-war basis.
Canadian Post Office Department an expensive one.
In Canada, of course, our mail service has got to be quite expensive, and the fact that we have undertaken rural mail delivery in a country of wide expanse and sparse population-it is not extended, of course, to all parts of the Dominion-lays a heavy burden on the exchequer of the Post Office Department. But it gives us great satisfaction. The life of the rural citizen, who is far removed in some cases from the centres, is brought into daily, or almost daily, touch with the centres, and he is able to take his daily paper, which he could not do before.
Then we have a parcel post, which is another great expenditure, from the fact that the transportation of our mails costs so much more money now on account of the bulky nature of the parcels carried by parcel post. So that, on the whole this is a fairly expensive department.
There is another call on the Post Office department in Canada, owing to recent legislation, which will reduce, not the income of the Government, but the income of the Post Office department. We have, since the beginning of the war, and later, established certain stamp taxes. Up to the recent session, postal stamps were allowed to be used on receipts or cheques or notes. The Minister of Inland Revenue took the view that the Revenue Department should have credit from the receipts for the purchase of the stamps, and Parliament passed an Act requiring all those using cheques, notes, receipts, &c., to use other stamps; so that the postal department will only have receipts from its own absolute postal revenue as from the 1st October, 1923.
Canadian Postal Rates to Great Britain.
The question has been raised with us by our own people, not by any person in Great Britain, that our postal rates discriminate against correspondence with Great Britain; not that our rates are higher than those of Great Britain, but that our rates are higher to Great Britain than to some other countries. Our rate is 3 cents to the United States, for we are compelled to charge as low a rate as we can, for the simple reason that for the last half-century there has been a Convention between the United States and Canada on postal rates. Our rate is 3 cents to them and theirs is 2 cents to us. We charge more to Great Britain, i.e., 4 cents, for we follow the rate charged in Great Britain.
Question of Reduction of Rates.
As to the fixing of rates, of course, Canada is an adherent of the Berne Convention and has been for very many years. That Convention discusses postal rates, and meets again, I think, in Sweden next year, and it is possible by that time that the Dominion of Canada, and Great Britain as well, may be in a position to consider a reduction of rates; but I think it would be well for that to be left for discussion at that Conference, where all the nations of the world are represented, because postage is a matter between nations in which you cannot very well give a preference. You make a general consideration and survey of the whole situation. I just wished to say that it is not intended to make a discrimination.
Importance of Cheap Rates.
Now as to the question of the reduction in rates. As I said before, our rate is 3 cents-practically the same as the British internal, I mean. If postal rates on ordinary correspondence could be reduced I think it would be one of the greatest incentives to better acquaintance between the different parts of the Empire that could be imagined. Years ago, in pre-war times, we reduced the rate from 3 cents to 2 cents. The result of that was an increase in revenue. But it is not a fair basis to make that bald statement without explanation. Before that time the Canadian people had used postcards to a great extent which only cost 1 cent, but when the rate was reduced to 2 cents the postal card correspondence
practically disappeared and it has not reappeared under the 3 cents. That is in a measure the reason why our revenue increased when we placed a 2 cent rate on letters. However, I think it induces more correspondence. We discuss the 2 cent letter generally in connection with business. It is a good thing for business, of course, but to my mind it is a greater thing if it results in increased correspondence between the ordinary people on the farms and the men who are employees rather than employers; it is an incentive to better acquaintance, and does, I believe, conduce to increased business. among different parts of the Empire as well as internal business.
Now we have discussed migration a good deal, but a letter from a contented settler in Canada, New Zealand or Australia, or any part of the Empire, sent home to friends here is the best advertisement that a Dominion can have, and the more we can encourage that kind of correspondence among the ordinary people, the better it is for the Empire and for the Dominions.
Mr. Bruce: Mr. President, the question of communications in this discussion, as I understand it, is limited to mails, cable and wireless.
The Chairman: Surely.
Present Position of Australian Mail Services.
Mr. Bruce: There is not a great deal that I wish to say in regard to any of these. Of course, Australia, being the farthest away of all the Dominions, attaches the greatest importance to improved methods of communication; and it is for us to see, either by ourselves or in co-operation with the British Government or other parts of the Empire, that all the time our communications are being improved and we are keeping closely in touch with the other Dominions and Great Britain herself. In regard to mails, I have not much to say at this stage. Of course, we are in the position now that we are not as well served as we were in pre-war days. But mails, as far as their frequency is concerned, at all events, depend to a great extent upon commercial shipping requirements; and while at the moment we are averaging something like three mails a month, including the P. & O., the Orient, and the Commonwealth Line, we are by no means satisfied that that meets our circumstances or is all that we require. But we recognise that to a great extent, as far as the shipping side of it is concerned, more frequent mail services could only be established at a prohibitive cost unless there is the passenger traffic and the goods traffic which will make the placing of other vessels a commercial proposition.
I understand that the companies in Australia at the moment have in mind certain expansions and developments which should result in their at least getting back to a weekly service in the not very distant future; so that as far as the frequency of our mails is concerned, we can only say at the moment that we do not think we are being adequately served, but we are very hopeful that we are getting back to a weekly mail and will have to be content with that for the time being.
The Time Factor.
With regard to the time taken, which is probably a more important factor, the position is not at all satisfactory. It is being considered, and considered at great length, and now we are knocking off a day or two days under different arrangements; but the sum total of it is that it takes twenty-nine days now-it used to take twentyeight days once upon a time-so we are not advancing in this direction quite as far as we are in other matters.
The Chairman: That leaves out of account the airship service.
Mr. Bruce: Yes; I am coming to that in a moment. This matter has been very exhaustively considered, and there is no doubt it will be dealt with when we are considering shipping, and we shall then have to consider the report of the Shipping Committee, the effect of steamers travelling at a faster rate, what its commercial results will be, and so on. I do not want to consider that now.
Need for Acceleration of Mail Services.
But there is one solution which would certainly help and would probably make more difference than anything else, and that is the airship mail service to Egypt. Of course, Australia is very anxious to see that brought about, and to see the shortening of the time which is taken for mails to travel from Australia to Britain. Quite apart from getting down to the minimum time, it is, of course, necessary, on a commercial basis, that we should continue to accelerate these mails to some extent, because the cargo vessel is every day travelling faster, and it puts commerce in a quite intolerable position if shipping documents cannot be got through as the cargoes come to hand.
With regard to mails, our position is quite clear, that we want increased and accelerated services, and we know roughly what are the practical possibilities.
Mr. Massey: Mr. President, I have listened with a certain amount of interest to the Postmaster-General, expecting him to tell me, as the representative of New Zealand, that great improvements have taken place in the postal service between England and New Zealand in recent years. He did not vouchsafe that information, and there was a very good reason why.
Sir Laming Worthington-Evans: I confined myself to the truth.
Need for Improved Postal Communication with New Zealand.
Mr. Massey: That is quite an honest admission and one which I appreciate. I was going to say that instead of the service being as good as the pre-war service, it is not as good as it was many years ago. I do not know who is to blame, but it is a fact all the same. I have been looking for improvements lately, and I hoped that the Postmaster-General would be able to tell me that he was going to assist us. Before the war-twenty-five years ago-we used to have