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Tuesday, 19 July 1921

Senator RUSSELL (Victoria) (VicePresident of the Executive Council) i - X do not. wish to delay the Senate, as I understand the amendment is not taken very seriously. The Government are not prepared to accept it. The best way, in my opinion, to overcome the shipping difficulty is for everybody' to become a canvasser for the Commonwealth Line of Steam-ships. The freights are low at present; but this state of affairs is not likely to continue much longer.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - I have not seen much cheap freight offering.

Senator- RUSSELL- There was some offering at 40s. per ton, and we have shipped wheat at '47s. 6d., which is comparatively low, but that is not now avail* able. Ships that are carrying our wheat and flour have to come from Great Britain in ballast. This means that we have to pay a freight, sufficient for the running of vessels both ways. It should be our policy to build up the Commonwealth Line ,of Steam-ships by every means in our power, so that, by means of competition between the - several lines, . we may have some (assurance .of reasonable freights in future. During the .whole of the war period, the Shipping Combine charged heavy freights, but they had to pay 75 per cent, of profits in taxation. I have every sympathy with the movement to secure cheap freights for Australian products. We should make special efforts to build up our secondary industries, which need not necessarily conflict with our primary industries, because we have all the necessary raw materials within our own boundaries. I believe that the growth of .our cities apparently at the expense of rural centres, is largely the result of natural evolution. Cities all over the world are growing larger, because the -workers are continually seeking the best employment. If there is one thing that a worker is keen upon, it is to find a better job than the one he holds at present, and therefore this movement of population is not altogether an unmixed evil. I .may remind honorable senators that the Phoenix Foundry, at Ballarat; was one of the finest engineering works in the Commonwealth. It disappeared because it was not sufficiently protected.

Senator Bolton - It went out because of the bad policy of the Railway Department.

Senator RUSSELL - Our object should be to encourage business enterprises in country centres, and in other ways to decentralize industry. Some of the aggregation of population in the metropolitan cities has been due -to the adoption of tapering railway rates to give the big ^cities an advantage. Portland, was kept a closed port for many years in. this way through Melbourne influence. I have done something to open .up. Portland,, and I hope to be able to. do something, for the progress of .other .neglected ports in Australia. The. -adoption of tapering railway -rates iri the interests of, metropolitan, cities has been the work of State, Parliaments,and it needs to be prevented by insisting upon a .uniform charge for. a uniform distance. Honorable senators know that if in Victoria wheat was . shipped from the most convenient: port it. would be snipped from Portland. We 'are advancing the interests of Portland in that way. at the present. 'time. . During the season we have shipped from that port, between 700,000 and 800,000 tons of wheat . without- a single hitch pf any kind,, whilst it has.insured the work of loading being' carried out in the day-time,- and 'under better conditions than those which prevail in Melbourne.

I am not prepared to accept Senator Gardiner's proposal in. the form in which it is "expressed' in his . amendment.

Senator Bakhap - Will the, -Minister say what reasons, actuate the Government in opposing, ah amendment to. . give preference to, Commonwealth vessels?

Senator RUSSELL - We want something bigger than 2£. per cent. . We are, at the . present time, considering a shipping . policy- for' Australia;.' We are determined that Australia shall have the benefit' of cheaper freights. They are' essential' to our primary industries, and to the welfare of the country generally. In the circumstances, 1 ask honorable senators: to give the Government an- opportunity of more matura consideration of the- proposal involved in the. amendment. Am advantage ofr 2$, per. cent, is a trifling, matter in view; of; the . fcosfc of building a vessel-, and in., v,iew of . the; fact that vessels kept hanging about- a port idle cost from. £300 to £500 per day to maintain.

Senator Duncan - If- the Minister were shipping goods would he . not prefer to shio by a line that gave him an advantage of 2^ per cent. ?'

Senator RUSSELL - We want to compete on fair terms. ' I am glad to be able to- report that the vessels of the Commonwealth'' Line' are' still ' paying very handsomely indeed, and1 1 hope will continue 'to do' so: With "a better and1 faster bias's- of boat-,- which' -we 'intend to' build in -the near - future; I hope we shall be able tor do- more, effective' work than it. has,- been possible- to do with the " hacks," as >I may call them, 'purchased- during the- war period; I repeat; that the Government cannot see- their way- to' accept; the amend.ment.

Amendment negatived.

Original question' resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

Sitting suspended from 6.27 to 8 p.m.

To. Committee:

Clauses 1 and 2 agreed' to.

Clause 3 (Definitions).

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