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Friday, 3 September 1920

Mr HUGHES (BENDIGO, VICTORIA) (Prime Minister) - The honorable member was good enough to give me notice of his intention to ask this question, and I desire to furnish the following reply: -

1.   Yes. I have received some cable communications from the manager of the lines in reference to it.

2.   It appears that the Conference Lines some time ago decided to grant deferred rebates of freight on shipments by vessels of their lines, provided the shippers did not ship by vessels not controlled by the Conference. The shipping agents employed by the Victorian Agency-General forwarded certain shipments on account of the Victorian Government by Conference steamers during the half-year ended 30th June, 1919, and when in due course they claimed the rebates on those shipments, in common with shipments made by them for other principals, it was necessary for them to slightly amend the customary certificate required by the Conference, as they were unable to declare that they had not effected shipment by lines outside the Conference, owing to the fact that they had also shipped by vessels of the Commonwealth Government Line. The Conference Lines intimated that they could not accept declarations which contained any amendment of the printed form. The Conference Lines eventually paid the rebates on the other cargoes, but excluded the Victorian Govern-, ment items. The Victorian Agent-General thereupon addressed a circular-letter on 211th April, 1920, to the Conference Lines concerned, inquiring whether it was their considered policy to penalize the Government of Victoria solely on account of its action in supporting the Commonwealth Government Line. The only reply received was from Messrs. Birt, Potter, and Hughes, who stated that they could not recognise any claim by the Victorian Government for rebates, as the conditions under which such rebates were granted had not been complied with. In order that the Victorian Government shall nut be penalized through its action in shipping by the Australian vessels, the Commonwealth Government Line has agreed to refund the amount represented by the rebates which the Conference Lines have declined to pay.

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