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Tuesday, 10 July 1906

Mr SPEAKER - As it would not be in order for the honorable and learned gentleman to make any comment in laying the paper on the table, it would be well for. him to move that the document be printed, if he desires to give any explanation to the House.

Mr DEAKIN - I shall take that course. The new contract is for a service between Adelaide and Brindisi, and vice versa, once a fortnight, to alternate with a similar service to be provided by the Imperial Government. It is for a period of ten years, and is to replace the existing service by the Orient Royal Mail Company when it expires in February, 1908. The period of transit is to be 636 hours in both directions, as compared with 696 hours provided for in the existing service under the contract with the Government of the. Commonwealth, and 662 hours as provided in the contract between the Imperial Government and the Peninsularand Oriental Company. The price as agreed upon for the new service is£125,000 per annum for the transit period above mentioned, but provision has been made for an acceleration of twentyfour hours between Brindisi and Adelaide for a reimbursement of actual expenses incurred, to be determined by mutual agreement or arbitration, but not to exceed £25,000 per annum. This price must be compared with that now paid to the Orient Royal Mail Company, namely,£120,000 per annum for a service of 696 hours, which is equal to about 3s. 8d. per mile, as compared with 3s.10d. per mile to be paid for an acceleration of sixty hours. The cost of the Imperial service by the Peninsular and Oriental Company cannotbe stated, as it is included in the sum of £340,000 per annum which includes the India and China services also. Provision is also made in the contract for the new service for a still further acceleration, if any other mail service to Australia is running to a faster time-table than that under which the mails are carried by the contractors, upon conditions fully set forth in the contract. The steamers under the 636 hours' timetable would leave Brindisi, calling en route at Port Said, Colombo, and Fremantle, and would arrive at Adelaide in time for Saturday's express, thus enabling a simultaneous delivery of the mails to be made in both Sydney and Melbourne early on Monday, and permitting of replies from the former place being sent by the outward mail of the same week, an advantage not enjoyed under the existing arrangements. Under the 612 hours' time-table, the steamers would arrive at Adelaide in time for the express on Friday, and the mails could be delivered in Melbourne on Saturday, in Sydney and Brisbane on Monday, with an accelerated train service; and replies could be sent from Brisbane by the outward mail of the same week. A longer interval would be afforded for replies if an equally favorable alternative service is provided by the Imperial Government. On the outward journey, the steamers will leave Adelaide on Friday, instead of on Thursday, as at present, thus affording a longer interval for replies. In connexion with this improved ocean mail service, an improved railway service is contemplated, avoiding delays which now occur, and insuring greater expedition in both directions.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - An improved railway service is contemplated; it has not vet been arranged for?

Mr DEAKIN - Not arranged for yet, because three States have to be consulted. Brindisi has been determined upon as the European port for the mails, in order that advantage may be taken of the special trains provided in connexion with the Indian mail service. Provision has been made in the contract for the acquisition of the steamers to be employed under it by purchase, or alternatively for their charter if desired. The port of registry will be within the Commonwealth, and the steamers will fly the Commonwealth flag. Australians will feel that they have a national interest in a large fleet of mail steamers, of a speed and tonnage at least equal to any other visiting the ports of this country. .In connexion with the cost of the new service, it may be well to mention that the payments to 'be made by Great Britain and other countries will amount to about £25,000 per annum, while, on the other hand, it is estimated that the payments made by Australia to Great Britain for mails carried by the Peninsular and Oriental Company or other steamers under contract to the Imperial Government, will, at the same, rates, aggregate about £15,000 per annum, leaving a balance in our favour of about £10.000 per annum. It has, of course, been provided, in accordance with section 16 of the Post and Telegraph Act, that white labour only shall be employed in connexion with the carriage of mails by this service. Five tenders were received, and carefully considered, the accepted tender being the lowest. All the usual stipulations common to mail contracts have been included, and all the advertised conditions are provided for in the contact. Clauses ^-14, 15, and 16 of the agreement are copies of special conditions approved of by Parliament in the contract made with the Orient-Pacific Company. Under condition of tender No. 4, £2,500 had to be deposited, and the tender was to be accompanied toy a bond for £25.000 if it provided for mail ships to be built. £2,500 was deposited. As it was known that mail ships would have to be built, an approved guarantee for ,£25,000 was required, and has been given in London to the Commonwealth representative, to be held until the bond for that amount by approved sureties is given. The ,£25,000 guarantee is to toe forfeited if the bond for £25,000 is not given on demand. £27,500 is therefore secured. Further, 'after the first bond is given, if, in the opinion of the Postmaster-General, satisfactory progress is not being made wilh the building of the mail ships, he may at any time demand a further bond of £25,000 to secure the commencement and performance of the contract, and failing compliance with that demand, within one week, he may cancel the contract - enforce the penalty provided for failing to commence the service and also enforce the first bond, for £25,000. The Government has also received the most satisfactory assurances as to the firm of Sir James Laing and Sons, with whom thev have made this agreement'. As bearing upon the conditions of the contract, it is desir- able to state that now that the Commonwealth has been admitted to the Universal Postal Union as one Administration, the distinctions hitherto recognised as between the States comprised will cease, and the payments hitherto made by one State to another for the carriage of its British and foreign mailswill be discontinued, as will also the payments that have been made by the United Kingdom and foreign countries for the transit of mails despatched bv them after being landed at Adelaide. It will be seen that the stipulations as' to penalties for late arrival are more stringent than those under the present contract, and altogether the contract, which is for a mail service only, compares most favorably with that now currentI may add that, although the contract is for a mail service only, we are informed that the cool storage accommodation provided on the steamers will be about three1 times as great as that afforded by the mail steamers at present under contract.

Mr Watson - What will be the tonnage of the proposed new steamers?

Mr DEAKIN - 11,000 tons.

Mr Higgins - The contractors are not bound in any way to provide cool storage?

Mr DEAKIN - No; they are not bound. This will be a postal contract pure and simple, and will relate to nothing else. In view, however, of the development of our export .trade and the probable demand for cool storage for perishable products, the contractors intend to make provision for refrigerating space upon a very much larger scale than has hitherto been attempted. Moreover, it is intended' that the plans of the steamers in relation to cool storage and all other matters shall be submitted to us for criticism before the new vessels are built.

Mr Mcwilliams - Will the contractorsreceive any allowance for bringing their steamers on to Melbourne and Sydney?

Mr DEAKIN - No. Nor is there any: contract that they shall proceed to Melbourne and Sydney. At the same time I have every hope that they will not only convey passengers and cargo on to those ports, but that they will go on to Brisbane. Negotiations to that end are now in progress. I have been in communication with the Government of Queensland in that connexion, and hope to soon have a definite reply from England by cable. If the contractors go on to Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane, they will do so for their own purposes.

Mr Kelly - Will they go on to New Zealand also?

Mr DEAKIN - I have seen a statement in the press to that effect, and am not in a position to contradict it. If the steamers go on to New Zealand, the contractors will not be in any way relieved of their responsibilities to us. It would be fortunate if the New Zealand Government could see its way to lend its support to this line of steamers, and so make the service thoroughly Australasian.

Mr Thomas - What wages are to be paid to the crews ?

Mr DEAKIN - The information placed in my hands does not include particulars on that head. The contract is on the table, and will be printed and circulated among honorable members, and I trust that we shall be able to bring it under consideration next week. It should be dealt with as soon as possible, not only because of its importance to us, but because the contractors should be allowed ample time for the building of the steamers.

Mr Liddell - Have the Government obtained any guarantee from the State's Governments that they will make full use of the storage space?

Mr DEAKIN - I communicated with all the States, but not one of them was in a position to enter into a definite agreement. There is a strong disposition on their part to make use of the cold storage space, and the tendency in that direction will no doubtbe increased owing to the rapidity of the transit afforded. I regret that circumstances did not permit the regular shippers of Australia to join together and engage the whole of the cool storage space for at least a portion of each year. Our output of exportable products has now reached such a stage that shippers might have given a guarantee such as I have described and have secured shipping accommodation upon much more favorable terms than has hitherto been possible.


Mr DEAKIN - No doubt it was owing to the possibility of such unhappy conditions recurring that our shippers considered that they would not be justified in entering into a definite contract. I have every expectation that these large steamers, travelling at a high rate of speed, will commend themselves to shippers generally.

Mr Watson - Will the Government have any voice in regard to the plans of the steamers?

Mr DEAKIN - The plans are to be submitted to us, and our wishes will be met as far as possible.

Mr Conroy - Does the Prime Minister think that the new service will result in a reduction of freights?

Mr DEAKIN - I should say that an increase in the vessels with cool storage capacity trading to Australia, and the introduction of swift steamers, would tend to reduce freights.

Mr Knox - Will the contractors be compelled to employ wholly new steamers?

Mr DEAKIN - Within a very short time the service will be carried on entirely with new steamers - that is the intention of the contractors.

Mr Thomas - How many steamers are there to be ?

Mr DEAKIN - That information is not contained in the epitome furnished to me. I move -

That the document be printed.

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