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Thursday, 26 July 1906

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I regret that I cannot agree with the honorable member for Wide Bay. I am not concerned for the interest of any particular State, but I am paying regard to that equality of treatment which should be extended to all the States. If the contract provides that the steamers engaged in the new mail service shall proceed to ports beyond that at which they would connect with a railway line communicating with the other States,' the ports of every State should be included. That is not proposed in the amendment, and, to that extent, the proposal would be unequal in its operation. I warn honorable members of the complications in which they will be involved if thev adopt a proposal of this character. If it is agreed to. we shall be compelled to provide that the vessels engaged under every mail contract must visit every State in the Commonwealth. For example, the steamers engaged .in the Vancouver service must go, not only to Queensland and New South Wales ports, but to those of Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania. The same thing would apply to the vessels engaged in the Island mail services.

Mr R EDWARDS (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - Look at the difference in the amount of the subsidy paid for the Vancouver service.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That has nothing to do with the principle. In order to insure equality of treatment, we must provid'e either that the mail steamers shall visit every State, or that they shall stop at the port at which they are able to first establish communication' with the railway systems of the other States. A clear course lies before us under the contract, as now proposed; but if we adopt the alternative suggested in the amendment, we shall be involved in enormous extra expense. The honorable member for Wide Bay stated that, although this was a purely postal contract, provision was made und'er it for the carriage of produce from certain States. I would point out, however, that the steamers will proceed only to those ports at which there is a prospect of their obtaining profitable trade. Surely that is all that should be required.

Mr Webster - It is all that is practicable.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I hope that the representatives of Queensland will not imagine that in taking up this attitude, I desire to injure their State.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - The honorable member is not improving it.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am ready to improve it in any way in which it can be equitably done, but by improving it', in the manner suggested, we shall create inequalities in other contracts.

Mr R EDWARDS (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - The other ports of the Commonwealth are named in the contract.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Neither Melbourne nor Sydney are named in the contract.

Mr R EDWARDS (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - Thev were mentioned bv the Prime Minister.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - T am not responsible for the action of the Prime Minister. Mv point is that neither Melbourne nor Sydney are named in the contract. I wish to point out - and this is no new question to me because it was threshed out at the Hobart Conference - that if we are to treat each State equitably, we must either be prepared to send the vessels which are employed under the proposed agreement and under every other mail contract, to the chief port of each State, or we must adopt the principle of providing in our mail contracts for the delivery of our mails at the first port the vessels touch in Australia, from which those mails can be forwarded by rail to all parts of the Commonwealth.

Mr Storrer - At the present time Tasmania has to pay for the carriage of her mailsby rail.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That ought to be altered. The mails are forwarded by the Commonwealth to Queensland free of charge.

Mr Austin Chapman -They will be.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Under the new contractthey will be forwarded at the expense of the Commonwealth. I think it is fair that they should be delivered free to every State.

Mr Fisher - It cannot be avoided.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The proposed contract has been specially drawn for postal purposes. Into that contract we are asked to introduce a clause to compel the mail steamers to visit other ports, irrespective of whether their trade requirements would take them there or not. If that principle is to be equitably applied, it must be applied to every State of the union, including Tasmania, and to every oversea postal contract into which the Federation enters. In other words, the vessels engaged in the Vancouver service, and in the Island service, should be sent all the way round to Western Australia.

Mr Fisher - That is scarcely a good illustration because the proposed subsidy is to be paid specifically to enable us to get into close touch with Great Britain.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - All our mail subsidies are paid for a similar purpose.

Sir John Forrest - The honorable member is right in his contention. If the mail steamers are obliged to call at Brisbane, Western Australia has anequal right to demand that the steamersemployed in the Vancouver and the Island services should call at Fremantle.


Mr Fisher - Western Australia can have the advantage which would be conferredby those vessels calling at the chief port of that State, so far as Queensland is concerned.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Was the Federation established to make our mail contracts infinitely dearer than they were formerly, and to send vessels to ports where the trade which they would receive upon calling is not sufficient to attract them ?

Mr Fisher - Upon general principles I am opposed to waste labour.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If the mail steamers will not visit those ports of their own accord, because the trade which they would receive does not constitute a sufficient inducement for them to do so, what is it but waste labour that is involved if we compel them to go there? Personally, I should like to see the mail steamers visiting every State.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - The honorable member knows that they will visit four of the States.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not know anything about it. Probably they will, because the trade of those States is large enough to attract them. But I have no guarantee that they will, and I do not want one. If it suits them to miss Sydney, let them do so. I repeat that we must decide in favour of one principle or the other. To my mind, we shall be acting wisely by adopting the principle to which effect has been given in this contract. We should allow our mail services to terminate immediately the steamers have landed their mails at the first port of. call from which they can be conveyed by rail to the various States of the Commonwealth. I think that that is a fair and wise provision to make. It will remove from us the reproach of having greatly increased the cost of our mail services, and of having unjustly treated any State.

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