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Thursday, 25 July 1912


Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) (Honorary Minister) . - I am not sorry, in a measure, that this matter has been brought up to-day by Senator Long. Yesterday, three or four questions appeared on the noticepaper in the name of Senator Ready, and, apparently, the answers were not to the satisfaction of himself and other senators. I cannot see in what way they were unsatisfactory.


Senator Clemons - There was one way.


Senator FINDLEY - In looking over the proof this morning I noticed that Senator Clemons put it in his way - that the PostmasterGeneral said' " No " ; that the Rotomahana was not forty years old, and did not break down.


Senator Clemons - No; the Minister in his answer said that the Rotomahana was suitable tor the trade, because the word "unsuitable" was used in the question. She is nof suitable.


Senator FINDLEY - What I wished to convey was that, according to the information I had obtained, the RotomaJiana was suitable for the mail service between Melbourne and Tasmania.


Senator Long - She would be, if you were not particular as to what time she got there.


Senator FINDLEY - We are particular in regard to the time, because speed is one of the conditions of the contract. We have a contract for three years, which will expire at the end of September. For the conveyance of mails between Melbourne and Launceston, a subsidy of£11,000 is paid; and for the conveyance of mails between Melbourne and Burnie, an additional subsidy of£2,000 is paid, making a total of £13,000. The mails between Tasmania and Sydney are carried on the poundage basis, namely,1s. 4d. per lb. for letters and post-cards, and 2s. 8d. per cwt. for other postal articles.


Senator Keating - The speed conditions only apply as between Williamstown and Tamar Heads. They do not apply to the rivers.


Senator FINDLEY - The second condition of the contract reads -

That the steam-ships Loongana and Rotomahana, or such other steam-ships as may be approved for that purpose by the PostmasterGeneral, shall be regularly and continuously employed in the said service, and that one of the said steam-ships shall be capable of maintaining a speed of 17 knots per hour, and shall, unless excused by the Postmaster-General for any good reason shown by contractors, maintain an average speed of at least 16 knots per hour in average weather between the Gellibrand pile light in Hobson's Bay in the said State of Victoria, and Low Head in the said State of Tasmania, and between Low Head and the said Gellibrand pile light, and that the other steamship shall, unless excused by the PostmasterGeneral as aforesaid, maintain an average speed of at least 14 knots per hour in average weather between the said Gellibrand pile light and Low Head, and Low Head and the said Gellibrand pile light. Provided, however, that the said steam-ship Loongana, or such other steam-ship capable of maintaining a speed of 17 knots per hour as shall be approved for that purpose by the Postmaster-General, shall be solely employed in the said service during the period commencing on the first day of October, and ending on the thirtieth day of April in each year during the continuance of this contract.


Senator Clemons - Now the Minister sees something as to the suitability of the Rotomahana.


Senator FINDLEY - No member of the Government claims that the Rotomahana is as speedy as the Lovngana. I think that there is a general agreement that the latter is one of the most up-to-date boats in Australia, and that the Rotomahana is an outofdate boat, but capable of maintaining a speed, according to the conditions of the contract, of 14 knots an hour.


Senator Long - While her engines keep going.


Senator FINDLEY - Surely the honorable senator does not think that any Government would permit a contract to be violated if they knew that a boat was absolutely incapable of carrying out the conditions?


Senator Ready - You cannot sleep at night owing to the noise which the engines make.


Senator FINDLEY - The Government are extremely anxious to facilitate in every possible way the conveyance of the mails from the mainland to Tasmania. I believe that there is little or no competition between the so-called shipping companies. There is an arrangement, or honorable understanding, between a number of them in regard to all the tenders advertised for in connexion with the Commonwealth or other services.


Senator Ready - Calling for tenders is a farce.


Senator FINDLEY - In all probability, something will be done later to give that satisfaction which is anxiously looked for. Senator de Largie incidentally mentioned that not long ago the Western Australian Government purchased a steam-ship for a mail service. While I was acting for the Postmaster-General during his official visits to different States, the contract for this mail service was about to expire. The Commonwealth called for fresh tenders, and when the tenders were opened it was found that an increased price of £[2,500 was asked for supplying the same kind of service. Negotiations were opened with the Western Australian Government, with the result that they agreed to purchase a steamer, and to carry the mails that were formerly carried by the Adelaide Steam-ship Company, and by so doing the Commonwealth was saved an additional expenditure of £2,500. The steamer now engaged in the service is owned by the Western Australian Government, on behalf of the people of- that State, and the Commonwealth mail service conducted by it is as good as it ever has been. General satisfaction has been the result up to the present time, whilst the Commonwealth has been saved the expenditure of a substantial sum of money. I do not see any difficulty in the way of the Tasmanian Government opening up negotiations with the Commonwealth Government for a similar service between Tasmania and Victoria.


Senator Long - Tasmania did not object to the proposal to connect Western Australia with the eastern States.


Senator FINDLEY - That is so. I respect the opinion Senator Clemons has expressed in regard to monopolies and such questions. I know that the honorable senator is an out-and-out opponent of monopolies, rings, and trusts. He has no respect whatever for such institutions. He has incidentally stated that there is a shipping combination in Australia at the present time.


Senator Sayers - And so say all ot us.


Senator FINDLEY - Yes, and the majority will agree that such a combination is inimical to the interests of Australia. That it is not in the best interests of the passenger trade and mail service between the mainland and Tasmania has been fully demonstrated by the speeches delivered this afternoon. Every honorable senator from Tasmania has expressed a strong desire for a better service, meaning thereby that a better class of steam-ship should be used in the service than those at present engaged in it. I say that the time is opportune for Senator Clemons, in conjunction with other senators from Tasmania, to try to persuade - if they need persuasion - the Government of Tasmania of the advisability


The PRESIDENT - Order ! The question is not as to the action of the Tasmanian Government, but as to the improvement of a mail service which is entirely in the control of the Commonwealth Government.


Senator FINDLEY - I very much regret, sir, that you did not permit me to finish my sentence. I believe I should have been able to make it clear that what I was saying was quite relevant to the motion.


The PRESIDENT - Order ! I have permitted the honorable senator to give as an illustration a statement of what was done in another State. That was without any solicitation from members of the Senate. The honorable senator must recognise that the notice given to me of the motion now being discussed deals solely with the mail service to Tasmania. The honorable senator was proceeding to advise honorable senators from Tasmania to approach the Government of that State, and ask them to do something to provide a mail service.


Senator FINDLEY - Am I to definitely understand that I shall be out of order if, by way of illustration, I attempt to show that a better service between the mainland and Tasmania might be brought about by the adoption of a certain course?


Senator St Ledger - - Why does not the honorable senator show it?


Senator FINDLEY - Because the President has ruled me out of order.


The PRESIDENT - I allowed the honorable senator to give an illustration of what was done in another State to afford facilities and provide the Commonwealth Government with the improved mail sendee, for which they are responsible. I think the honorable senator was gratuitously giving advice to honorable senators from Tasmania as to the action they should take in dealing with the Government of that State, and, in doing so, I consider he was out of order.


Senator FINDLEY - Very well, sir, I shall not proceed any further on those lines. I shall conclude by assuring honorable senators who raised the question this afternoon that I shall take the earliest opportunity to bring their representations before the Postmaster-General. I shall make it my business to see him personally as soon as possible, and talk over the conditions of a future contract, to see whether it win be at all possible to bring' about a better service between the mainland and Tasmania.


Senator Clemons - The honorable senator might, induce the Postmaster-General to confer with some of us.


Senator FINDLEY - A promise that he would do so was made yesterday afternoon.







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