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Tuesday, 24 July 1906

Mr STORRER (Bass) .- Whilst we may be making a very good bargain with the new shipping company, so far as the cost of carrying our mails is concerned, I think that if we were running the business ourselves we should be quite satisfied to adopt the poundage system which has been referred to, and thus save £80,000 a year on the present expenditure. That is a verv large sum, in my opinion, for the Commonwealth to have to pay for the sake of a few days earlier delivery of mails. As I pointed out last year, I do not think that the speedier service afforded by the contract system is worth the additional cost, even to the merchants, who contend that it is. Although under the poundage system there might be a delay of a day or two in the delivery of mails, all the merchants concerned would be placed on the same footing, and one would be given no advantage over another. The majority of our merchants and others seem to think that it is necessary that we should have a quicker service than we could procure under the poundage system, and if they are prepared to pay a large proportion of the additional cost under the contract system I do not think that it would be wise for us to object. At the same time I think that in a mail contract of this description we should have some guarantee that the shipping company obtaining the contract will make provision for the transport of perishable products. I am aware that a great many people in Australia do not believe that the Post Office should be debited with expenditure incurred by other Departments, but I hold the view that the public Departments of the Commonwealth should be considered as one, and that each should be expected to assist the other. If by their arrangements with the steamship companies the Postal authorities can get concessions and benefits from the snipping companies, they should do so. I know that the Government of the Commonwealth have communicated With the various States, and have not received from them that support which they might reasonably, have expected. At the same time, I think it is their duty to make some provision in reference to the carriage of perishable products, in order that there shall be a guarantee. No doubt, for its own sake, a shipping company may make some concessions in that direction, but, at the same time, there is no guarantee that it will be done. If in the contract the Postmaster-General had inserted a condition to that effect, a service would have been assured to the shippers. I am very glad, however, that it contains a clause empowering the Commonwealth to purchase the steamers if the Parliament should think it advisable to do so. In a contract extending over the long period of ten years, it is only right, I think, that that power should be taken. What troubles me as a Tasmanian representative, is that provision is made at the public expense for the conveyance of the mails to all parts of the Commonwealth except Tasmania. Under this proposed contract, the mails will be landed at . Adelaide, and despatched by train, to the various points on the mainland, but Tasmania will have to pay for the transport of its mails across Bass Strait. Last year, when the acceptance of a contract was under consideration, Tasmania! and Queensland got an advantage in that direction. Under the new arrangement.

Queensland will still have its mails sent on by train from Adelaide at the expense of the Commonwealth, but Tasmania will have to pay for the conveyance ofits mails across the Strait. That is not exhibiting the true Federal spirit. In view of the fact that Tasmania has also to pay a special rate for cablegrams, and a subsidy of £4,000 to the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company, I trust that the true Federal spirit will be displayed, and that before the termination of this Parliament the carriage of mails across the Strait will be made as free as on the mainland.

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