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Tuesday, 10 August 1926

Senator THOMPSON (Queensland) . - I had almost finished my remarks on this subject when we adjourned on Friday. I "was then about to make a few comments on the Australian Commonweal'th Shipping Line. When the bill relating to the Line was before this chamber, I advocated that accounts covering the operations of the Line should be taken out every six months, and if it were found that the Line was losing money, which I felt sure would be the case, the Government should sell the ships, and get out of the business. Considerable time has elapsed since then, and it seems to me that my prophecy has been fully borne out. There is no doubt that the Line has been losing money, and the disquieting part of the whole business is' that, whilst a number of ships have been sold, we have no assurance that the. money received from their sale has not been absorbed in meeting the general losses that have been incurred, instead of being applied to a reduction of the capital indebtedness of the Line. My attention was particularly directed to this subject by an article in the well-known British shipping journal Fair Play, in which the following appears: -

It now appears that, during the twelve months ending 31st. March, 1925, the gross earnings of the lino amounted to £1,831,640, and the expenses to £1,967,462, showing a loss of £135,813, to which has to be added £94,317, office expenses. After allowing for brokerage fees and various commissions, the loss for the year is £209,364; but, if depreciation and debenture interest are added, it is increased to £593,879. It is stated that during the year 65 complete voyages were made by 24 vessels, which resulted in a deficit of £130,459, while additional losses on voyages completed during the previous year, together with laid-up expenses during the year, totalled £5,354, making the £135,813 referred to above, lt is pointed out that the Bay steamers and chartered vessels made a profit of £41,938, the remaining boats losing £177,751, exclusive of depreciation. The capital value of the fleet on the 1st April, 1924, was £4,103,000, from which has to he deducted £195.000 for steamers sold during the year, and £200,445 for depreciation, leaving it at £3,921,685 on the 31st March last year.

That is a loss that I do not think honorable senators would like to see continued. It has been stated that the line exerts considerable influence on the rates of freight, but I venture to say that it does not. Freights have been brought down recently without pressure .being brought to bear upon them by the Australian Commonwealth Shipping Line. My advice now, as it was three years ago, is that the Government should sell out and get out of the shipping business as quickly as possible.

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