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Thursday, 25 July 1912

Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia) . - I am sure that we all desire to see as good a mail service as it is possible to have established between the mainland and the island State. The present Government can claim that last year they did improve the service somewhat.

Senator Ready - Very materially.

Senator DE LARGIE - They improved it by bringing pressure to bear upon the steam-ship companies. But we all know from experience that the power of the Government is very limited in the matter of exerting pressure upon these steam-ship companies. Every time an improvement is asked for, a larger subsidy is invariably demanded. The Government cannot ask for the slightest improvement in a mail service without being met with a further demand from the contractor. It is very easy, therefore, to reach the limit of the improvements which can be got out of the shipping companies. For a number of years, the Adelaide Steam-ship Company had a contract for the carriage of the mails on the south coast of Western Australia. Every time that an improvement in the mail service was asked for, a demand was made for an increased subsidy, till at last a point was reached when the Commonwealth Government would not consent to be further squeezed. The company then started the process of squeezing the State Government, and succeeded to a considerable extent. We had the spectacle of the Commonwealth Government and t.h(_ State Government subsidizing the company for

Tunning a mail service. The company said that if their demand Were not met, they would withdraw their vessels from the service. In Western Australia we have had that experience time and again. Tasmania ought to have followed the example which was set by the Labour Government in Western Australia. When they were asked to subsidize the Adelaide Steam-ship Company to a greater degree than the previous Government had done, they would not permit, the taxpayers to be further robbed, and put a line of State steamers on the southcoast run. My advice to the Tasmanians is to go and do likewise if they wish to secure a better mail service; otherwise, I do not see how they are likely to achieve their object. The Government of Western Australia are actually running and paying for the mail service on the south coast out of the subsidy paid by the Commonwealth Government. There is an example of successful State Socialism which I recommend to my honorable friends opposite. T am sorry that Senator Keating has left the chamber, as I wished to refer to the report about which he spoke so pleasantly. He secured the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the state of the mail service between Australia and Tasmania. Ten years ago, this beautiful and brief report, which he seemed to refer to so lovingly, was drafted. For that period, the honorable senator, and the Governments which he supported, slept on the report.

Senator Clemons - That is not quite fair, because the Loongana was a vast improvement on the boat we had.

Senator DE LARGIE - The Loongana does not touch this report at any point.

Senator Keating - She was the outcome of the report.

Senator DE LARGIE - Is she a Governmentowned steamer ?

Senator Keating - No; but she was the outcome of the report.

Senator DE LARGIE - I think the honorable senator will find that, long before the report was published, the Loongana was ordered to be built for this service.

Senator Keating - I can assure the honorable senator that she was not. She was the actual outcome of the report.

Senator DE LARGIE - I will take the honorable senator's word ; but we know that neither the Loongana, nor any other privately-owned steamer, carries out the report of the Commission of which he was chairman.

Senator Keating - It carries out paragraph 5.

Senator DE LARGIE - It does not carry out the wish which the honorable senator expressed for a better service. The complaint to-day is that the mail service is not sufficiently good.

Senator Clemons - That is not the fault of the Loongana ; she is practically perfect for this trade.

Senator DE LARGIE - It is the fault of the shipping companies. The whole position would have been met if the report had been carried out. My honorable friends do not like to be reminded of their sins of omission. After a lapse of ten years, the present Government proposed1 a method of getting out of these difficulties; but, at the referendum, Senators Keating and Clemons, as well as other honorable senators opposite, opposed the finding of a remedy.

Senator Keating - Do you suggest that the Constitution requires amendment to enable the Postal Department to build its own mail vessels?

Senator DE LARGIE - I suggest nothing of the kind; but, as a practical proposition, we know that it is of no use to take on a mail contract only. We want something more than a mail service, but the Constitution will not allow that something else. The Government have not the power to bring about a radical alteration, and I hope that when my honorable friends get another opportunity to assist us in providing a better mail service, as they will get within a year, they will not repeat their blunder, but will try to act up to the terms of that beautiful concise report to which Senator Keating so lovingly referred, and which was drawn up ten years ago.

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