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Wednesday, 25 July 1906

Mr McLEAN (Gippsland) .- So far as the mail service is concerned, I think that the Government have made a very good bargain, but I regret that under this contract no provision is made with regard to the carriage of perishable produce during the next ten years. That is one of the most regrettable, features of the agreement. We all know what the export trade has done for New Zealand. It has lifted it from a state of depression, and made it one of the .most prosperous, if not the most prosperous, colony in Australasia. We are aware also of the possibilities of our export trade. The future prosperity of Australia will depend very largely upon the volume and the quality of our exports. It seems to me that we have missed a very great opportunity to make favorable arrangements for the carriage of these perishable products. We know that any company which enters into a contract - irrespective of whether it be for the conveyance of our mails or of perishable products - must believe that it will make a profit out of the undertaking. If it can make a profit upon both lines, it can afford to make a much less profit upon each. If it makes an equal profit upon both lines, it necessarily follows that it can charge a lower freight upon each than would be possible if it were confined to one line only. I do not know whether it is too late for the Government to reconsider this matter, but in mv opinion it constitutes a very serious omission. I think that a favorable arrangement for the future conveyance of our perishable products is of quite as much importance to the people of the Commonwealth as is a favorable arrangement for the carriage of our mails.

Mr KING O'MALLEY (DARWIN, TASMANIA) - It is of far more importance.

Mr McLEAN - There is no doubt that our export trade has a great deal more to do with the prosperity of the country than has a favorable mail service.

Mr Frazer - Does the honorable member think that a fleet of steamers engaged upon the run from Great Britain to Australia would have any chance of succeeding, unless they made that provision?

Mr McLEAN - At any rate, they are not compelled to make any such provision for the carriage of our perishable products. The contractors are not under any obligation to carry those commodities at a particular rate. Any arrangement that we may now make will be of a one-sided character, because we cannot give the mail contract to any other line of steamers which may enter into competition with them.. When once this contract has been ratified, the opportunity to make favorable arrangements for the carriage of our perishable products to the markets of the world will have passed for a period of ten years. I do hope that the Postmaster-General will look into this matter, with a view to seeing if it is not possible, even at this late hour, to do something in the direction suggested. I can assure him that it would make the contract very much more acceptable than it is to the people of Australia, and very much more profitable. There is another matter upon which I should like to say a word or two. Although I am aware that nothing can be done at the present time, I cannot allow this opportunity to pass without expressing mv regret that we have made it impossible for Australia to enter into a joint contract with the mother country for the carriage of our mails. When we were jointly interested with the old country in the carriage of our mails, the subsidy which we were called upon to pav was very much smaller than it is now. When the honorable member for Bland was in office, he was informed by the manager of the Orient Steam Navigation Company that the maintenance of our White Ocean policy had nothing whatever to do with the increased subsidy demanded by that company. But I know perfectly well that when the Ministry of which I was a member was in office some time later, that very question cropped up upon every occasion, and it was made very manifest to us that that policy had a very great deal to do with the increased subsidy which was demanded. We cannot get away from the fact that we have been paying a very much higher subsidy from the moment we passed the legislation in question. I am as strong a supporter of a White Australia as is any honorable member. I think that it is a policy for the maintenance of which we are warranted in making sacrifices, because the purity of the race is involved. But the question of the maintenance of a White Ocean does not affect our people in any way. We may rest assured that if we prevent anycolored aliens ' from being employed upon our mail steamers, their places will not be filled by Australians. The latter, 1 am pleased to say, can earn much better wages than those which are paid to persons of the former class. But, to my mind, the most serious aspect of the matter is that it causes a great deal of embarrassment to the mother country. Probably one of the greatest problems of the present age is the manner1 in which Great Britain governs some 300,000,000 of naturally brave people by means of a handful of Britishers.

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