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Wednesday, 5 October 1910
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Senator ST LEDGER (Queensland) . - It is well known that the negotiations which have been mentioned by myself and Senator Chataway are, and must be, more or less confidential. We have respected that, confidence, at any rate I have. I hope that the Government will be shortly able to declare their 'intention with regard to the Vancouver mail service. It must be evident that it will take them every hour of the intervening eight months, if they have not begun negotiations, to bring about a satisfactory contract. Over and over again it has been pointed out, as a reason for haste, by the Canadian Government, that it will take them twelve months to fix up a contract. Month after month is passing by. The Postmaster-General has got every member of the Senate more or less in confidence as to what went on at the interview. The Government remain mute all the time, and we have to extract information, so to speak, through their teeth. While every senator who was present at the deputation in Sydney and in Brisbane will preserve the confidence which the Postmaster-General imposed on them, or asked us to give him, I think that he is not dealing fairly with us.

Senator McGregor - What does the honorable senator want him to do?

Senator ST LEDGER - The PostmasterGeneral ought to be able to declare his intention quickly. He knows that if he is going to alter the contract, or to stand by the route, and, to a certain extent, by the cost, he has- to continue the service as it exists to-day ; and that it will take him fully twelve months to perfect his arrangements.

Senator Findley - Senator Chataway seems to be satisfied with the assurance I gave; but the honorable senator is dissatisfied.

Senator ST LEDGER - I am dissatisfied because the Postmaster-General is not playing fairly with us. We cannot disclose the substance of the negotiations which was made known over the table to the representatives of Queensland and the representatives of great industries in that State and others. Every one who was present had some indication of the mind of the Postmaster-General in this matter. I do not think that it is at all trespassing on that confidence to say that I have a grave suspicion as to whether that contract is going to be maintained for the benefit of Australia, especially of the State of Queensland. That suspicion may be unjust ; but the Government know that they cannot renew satisfactorily a contract for a big mail service in a very short period. Necessarily, it must be renewed in some form or other. Canada and New Zealand are pressing a point of view which apparently is to the disadvantage of Australia in general, and of Queensland in particular. Notwithstanding that fact, and that the time available is short, the Government are remaining quiet without declaring their intention. I do not suppose that the Minister will now attempt to answer me. Possibly he may plead that I have said nothing that calls for an answer. He is the judge of that; and I shall have to abide by his decisions. The conduct of the negotiations is, in my opinion, one of the most unsatisfactory acts of the Government, and is causing a good deal of anxiety and uneasiness, especially to Queensland. If one aspect of the negotiations is persevered in, the PostmasterGeneral is likely to play right up to the hilt the game of New Zealand, and possibly of Canada, to the entire disadvantage of the Commonwealth, especially of Queensland which, in co-operation with New South Wales, year after year paid heavily for the initiation of the trade between

Canada and Australia. I rose to give a warning to the Government.

Senator Findley - There is no occasion for that anxiety.

Senator ST LEDGER - I am very glad indeed that the Honorary Minister has made that statement. It allays a good deal of my fears; and I hope that when the contract is renewed, the Government will be found to have justified the last expression of my honorable friend.

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