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Wednesday, 17 June 1914

The PRESIDENT - Order! The honorable senator has exhausted his time.

Senator Lt.-ColonelO'LOGHLIN (South Australia) [5.58]. - As several honorable senators have pointed out, the matter under discussion is one which does not affect Tasmania alone. The little island is the general summer resort of tourists from all parts of Australia. The famous apple trip, for instance, has become quite an institution. Apart from general trade, those interested in the tourist traffic are concerned in preventing the raising of fares and freights between the mainland and Tasmania. There is a provision in the contract with the .steam -ship companies that there shall be no increase in fares and freights unless a case is made out for such increase to the satisfaction of the Postmaster-General. I compliment the representatives of Tasmania upon having secured the insertion of such a provision in the contract. In other States, Fusion Governments have not been so solicitous for the welfare of the public as to provide such a safeguard in contracts with shipping companies for the carriage of mails. There are steamers carrying mails across Spencer's and St. Vincent's Gulf in South Australia, but the State Government has made no provision to prevent the shipping companies running those steamers charging . whatever fares and freights they please.

Senator Ready - We should not have had such a provision in the contract with the Union Steam-ship Company if we had not agitated for it and forced the hands of the Government.

Senator Lt Colonel O'LOGHLIN .- 1 think that is very likely. Senator Ready quoted figures to show that fares and freights in the Tasmanian trade are very much higher than in the trade on the coast and the mainland, but in the Gulf trade in South Australia between isolated places the rates charged are much higher than even the exorbitant rates charged in the Tasmanian trade. A man has to pay a passenger fare of £1 for a little trip of three or four hours crossing from Wallaroo to Cowell, a distance of 40 or 50 miles. The rates charged in connexion with many ports in St. Vincent's Gulf are exorbitant, because the shipping companies have no competition. The Liberal Governments, who ruled Tasmania for many years, never had the foresight to propose such a provision against the charging of exorbitant rates by shipping companies carrying South Australian mails, as is very properly included in the mail contract with the Union Steam-ship Company, as the result mainly of the persistent efforts of honorable senators on this side. I feel sure that the result of this debate will be put to the Government, and the Postmaster-General in particular, on their guard against permitting any increase in fares or freights in the service between the mainland and Tasmania without due consideration. When the matter was being discussed last year, Senator O'Keefe made a short speech, from which it would appear that he almost foresaw the difficulties that might arise in connexion with the contract, and he particularly warned the Government concerning them. I find that at page 1533 of Hansard for last year he is reported to have said -

Even at the eleventh hour I desire to appeal to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral to afford the Senate and the other House an opportunity of discussing the proposed agreement which, I understand, is to be entered into between the Commonwealth and the Union Steam-ship Company and Huddart Parker and Company in reference to the carriage of Tasmanian mails. It is stated that the agreement is to operate for five years. I think it would be only fair, not only to Tasmania, which is vitally interested, but also to the Commonwealth generally, that we should have an opportunity of insuring that reasonable freights and passenger fares are provided for.

He emphasized that particular point, and representatives of Tasmania, particularly on this side, insisted that a provision of that sort should be inserted. Senator O'Keefe went on to say -

We ought not to place ourselves in such a position that within a few years it will be shown that the freights and fares are absolutely out of all proportion to the cost of maintaining the service.

That is the danger with which, according to the speeches of several honorable senators on this side, we are threatened at present. Judging by the Tasmanian and Melbourne press - and they are generally "in the know" - there is a design to increase freights and passenger fares, and it behoves those interested in the traffic to see that this design is frustrated by directing early and particular attention to the proposal, so that they may be met and defeated. Senator O'Keefe further said -

The Government should not depart from

Hie usual practice of affording Parliament an opportunity of discussing contracts of this kind.

That was a very proper suggestion. When a contract is entered into between the Government and the shipping company, any proposal to increase the burdens of the people by increasing fares and freights should be brought before Parliament, and an opportunity should be afforded to discuss any proposed increases in the charges levied upon the public. The honorable senator further said -

The matter is one which is of interest to the whole Commonwealth, and I feel strongly that we should have an opportunity of considering the agreement before it is ratified.

This sentence is my excuse for intervening briefly in the debate. The matter is one which undoubtedly affects the whole of the people of the Commonwealth, and not the people of Tasmania alone. I think that we are indebted to Senator Ready for having brought the question forward. I hope that the warning which has been given to the Government of the design which the shipping companies apparently have to increase fares and freights will be brought under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral in order that he may be prepared to go into the matter thoroughly before he allows any alteration of the fares and freights provided for in the contract.

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