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Tuesday, 10 July 1906

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Idonot intend to take up the time of the House in discussing this matter at present, but I should like to refer to one or two points, and particularly to the small amount of the deposit which is being required from a company which has yet to be formed, and has yet to build its ships. It strikes me that those who have been able to secure an option of such importance for £2,500 have made an exceedingly good bargain.

Mr Deakin - The honorable member must recollect that no deposit whatever was required in connexion with the previous contract.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - May I suggest that there was a great difference in the circumstances? In that case, there was a fleet of steamers operating under an existing contract with the Government. In this case, however, so far as we know, not one boat has yet been built. We know nothing; about the previous operations of the contractors.

Mr Deakin - We know Sir James Laing and Sons.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not know anything about them.

Mr Deakin - We have £27,500 by way of deposit.


Mr Deakin - In cash, or its equivalent.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - As I understood the terras of the arrangement, the company were required to' make a deposit of only £2,500.

Mr Deakin - That was in the first instance. Now we have a bank guarantee for £25,000, in addition to the £2,500, which is as good as cash.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If that amount is already in the bank as a bond fide deposit which is liable to forfeiture, I admit that the case is altered to the extent that in regard to a contract which aggregates about £1,250,000, the contractors have been called upon to pay a deposit equal to about 2 per cent, of the amount involved. I submit that even that is a very small deposit to require in regard to so largely speculative an undertaking as this. It seems to me that the contractor has obtained specially 'favourable terms, and the Postmaster-General will require to justify them when the matter comes on for discussion.

Mr Deakin - The terms were advertised from the first.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I should like to know whether there is any objection to lay the other tenders on the table?

Mr Deakin - I think it is probable that there will be objections, but I shall make inquiries.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I hope that unless such a course would be very unusual, the Prime Minister' will lay the other tenders on the table for the information of honorable members.

Mr Kelly - Were all the tenders for the same period?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I should think so. However, this is not the time at which we should enter into details. I observe that a great deal of satisfaction was manifested by honorable members of the Labour Party when mention was made of the socialistic sop included in the contract.

Mr Deakin - The British, Government also included it.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But they did so for reasons very different from those which have actuated the Government. However, if the provision to which I refer appeals to my honorable friends in the corner, it will no doubt accomplish its main purpose - its grand objective. I hope that the Prime Minister will afford us the fullest possible opportunity to discuss this matter involv ing, as it does, a very grave departure from the conditions we have enjoyed in Australia for many years past.

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