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Thursday, 26 July 1906


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) . - In all my existence I have never heard a more consummate legal quibble than that which has been indulged in by the AttorneyGeneral.


Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - It has discomfited the honorable member's friend, the honorable member for Corinella.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Not at all. All that the Attorney-General did was to wrest my honorable friend's statements from their setting and to set up a bogy of his own. My honorable friend, the member for Corinella, never said that the Admiralty could not use the boats which it acquired for any other than war purposes. His argument all through was. that the Admiralty never contemplated using them for other than war purposes. That is the meaning of the contract alluded to, and the Attorney-General can read nothing, more into it. Of course, it does not take much to make honorable members of the Caucus Party laugh and cheer. Naturally, they cheer anything to get a socialistic proposal through. Why should they not?


Mr Frazer - The honorable member would prejudice the interests of the producers of this country because he believes the proposal to be socialistic.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have no quarrel with the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. I am quarrelling with those quibblers in the Government who will not admit that this is a socialistic proposal. If they admitted at once that it was socialistic, there would be no more to be said, and we could go to a vote. No one can quarrel with the honorable member for Kalgoorlie and his colleagues. He says straight out, " This is a piece of Socialism;" and it pleases them so much that they will not urge their own proposal as they would otherwise have done.


Mr Hutchison - It was urged, all the


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The text of the matter is this - that the Postmaster-General of Great Britain has no power whatever under this contract with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation 'Company either to buy or borrow a ship of any kind.


Mr Thomas - The British Government could buy a ship if it wanted one.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It cannot acquire these mail boats under the terms of the contract with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. It cannot determine the contract for the purpose of getting hold of the ships. The British Postmaster- General is absolutely powerless. Only the Admiralty can move in that direction. And the reason why the Admiralty alone has authority to move in this direction is clear. Honorable members opposite can twist and torture the words as they please, but, in their hearts, they know that the only reason for the insertion of the words in the British contract is that the boats may be utilized by the Admiralty for war purposes. But if the words have the wider application suggested by the Attorney-General, why are they not inserted in the contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company ? Why are they only in the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company's contract? There never has been this power in the Orient Steam Navigation Company's contract. And why ? Because, presumably, the boats of that company are not up to Admiralty standard. They are not included in the secret subvention existing between the Admiralty and the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, whose boats are hiredby the Admiralty purely for war purposes. The British contract says that when the public interest demands it, the terms of the subvention shall be executed. I say to the Government that if the contract has the wider application which they contend that it has, and if they can read all these other things into it. let them give us the same proposal, and we will be satisfied. If the British Government lias these wide powers, why not put them into our contract?


Mr Deakin - The terms of our contract are contained in a later contract proposed by theBritish. Government.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Let the Government show them. This is the 1904 contract.


Mr Deakin - When we were challenged, some time last year my honorable colleague quoted the very words which we had copied from the British contract. The passagewas shown to, me at the time.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Where is it now ?


Mr Deakin - It is not before me.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is impossibleto produce it, since I have cited the last English contract. There are no others-


Mr Deakin - There are several others-


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There are no others with thePeninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company.


Mr Deakin - I am not talking of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company only.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am dealing with the last contract of the British Government with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company.


Mr Thomas - What about the contract with the Cunard Company ?


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That was made twelve months prior to the contract of which I am speaking.


Mr Thomas - What about the contract with the Royal Mail Company ?


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I know nothing about that.


Mr Thomas - The honorable member ought to be posted in these matters


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am ready to be corrected by the honorable member if he is. in a position to correct me. Let him supply the information we need, if he has it in his possession, and so end the debate.


Mr Isaacs - There was a contract in 1897.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That contract was practically renewed by the contract of 1904, with the addition of two or three clauses. If the provisions in the British Government contracts would serve our purposes, why havethey not been inserted in this, contract ? If all these meanings can be read into the British contracts, why are they not a Mowed to be read into this contract? Evidently this contract goes beyond the British contracts. We know that the British contracts have no such wide application, but that the provision in this contract to which I have referred has been inserted as a socialistic sop to the Labour corner. The mail-boats running under the terms of the British contracts arerequired to obtain the approval of the Admiralty in order that only such vessels may be employed as could be advantageously called upon in times of war. The British PostmasterGeneral has no power to buy or charter any vessel. That right is reserved to the Admiralty alone. That being so, we say to the Government, " Give the Minister of Defence a similar power for a similar purpose." All else in this provision is the leather and prunella of Socialism.







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