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Wednesday, 25 July 1906

Mr ISAACS (Indi) (Attorney-General) . - I move -

That the following words be added : - " with the following modifications : -

That at the end of clause 3 the following proviso be added : -' Provided that in the event of the Postmaster-General requiring the period of transit on the voyage from Brindisi to Adelaide to be reduced to612 hours, the period of 612 hours shall thenceforth be deemed to be the period of transit for each voyage from Brindisi to Adelaide, and each such voyage shall be. completed within that period.'

That clause 15 be amended by inserting after the words ' with the consent of,' in the second proviso, the words ' or subject to approval by,' and by inserting after the word 'Parliament' the words ' by resolution.' "

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is for a voyage only one way.

Mr ISAACS - The 612 hours' service is for a voyage only one way. The amendments have been agreed to by Mr. Croker, as agent for the contractors, so that they will not disturb any of the provisions of the proposed contract. I will, explain what my second proposal, in respect of clause_ 1:5, means. That provision stipulates that, should the earnings of the mail steamers be diminished, or the expense of running the vessels be increased, by not less than £5,000 per annum, in consequence of Commonwealth legislation, the directors of the company shall be at liberty to determine the agreement upon giving six months' notice in writing to the Postmaster-General. That is the only thing the contractors can do under the clause to avoid loss, actual or prospective. The clause provides that if so required, the contractors are to furnish the Postmaster-General with a distinct statement. There is the further proviso which I had better read in full: -

Provided further that should the PostmasterGeneral with the consent of Parliament elect in writing within one month of such notice being given to increase as from the date of such legislation coming into operation the annual subsidy payable to the contractors by a sum equal to such diminution of earnings and or increase of expenses or by such other sum as may be mutually agreed upon such notice of termination shall be deemed to have been withdrawn and the contract shall continue on the same terms with the exception only of the increased subsidy (if any) payable to the contractors.

The position is that if we pass any legislation relating to shipping which will have the effect named', actual or prospective, then the contractors may give the notice terminating the contract - that is the only way they have of protecting themselves. But the Commonwealth, through the Postmaster-General, may prevent the contract being put to an end bv saying, " Very well, we will agree to give that increased sum, or such a less sum as may be agreed upon." Following previous contracts, the power of the PostmasterGeneral is limited to making that agreement, with the consent of the Parliament within one month of notice being given. If Parliament should not happen to be sitting, the contractors will be in the position of either having to endure a loss, or to put an end to the contract ; and both parties will be utterly unable to continue the contract - there will be an end of it. Because if Parliament is not sitting the consent of Parliament cannot be obtained, it could not, therefore, be obtained withinone month.

Mr Watson - What about inserting the word " directly " before " relating to. shipping " ?

Mr ISAACS - There is no agreement asio that, but I should say that no doubt " relating to shipping" means directly relating, to shipping.

Mr Watson - Why not so specify ?

Mr ISAACS - We have the words of the contract as taken from other contracts, and there is no agreement to put in theword " directly."

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is there nothing, fresh in this provision?

Mr ISAACS - I had better first explain what I intend to do in the way of amendment. The clause, if amended, will then read -

Provided further that, should the PostmasterGeneral, with the consent of, or subject to, approval by Parliament by resolution.....

The effect will be that if there is time when Parliament is sitting, the 'Minister willi come and ask for consent. If, however, the Postmaster-General makes the arrangement in recess, he must do so subject to the approval of Parliament, and this will keep the contract alive if Parliament chooses to ratify it when it meets. This still keeps the control of Parliament, and it prevents the contract dying if Parliament chooses to keep it alive. The words " by resolution " are inserted to prevent any contention being raised that the consent of Parliament means consent by Act, and to provide that the consent may be given by resolution.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Are the words " legislation relating to shipping" in other contracts ?

Mr ISAACS - Yes, so I understand. The words were in one copy of another contract which I have seen, and I am told thev are in all other contracts.

Mr McCay - The words were in the last contract.

Mr Johnson - That is no reason why they should be retained in this contract if we can get words which more clearly express our meaning.

Mr ISAACS - At present I am not in a position to say whether the word "directly" can be, inserted, but, so far as I can see, the proper interpretation of the words in the contract is legislation directly relating to shipping.

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