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Thursday, 26 July 1906

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) . - There can be no question as to the strictly accurate statement of the equities of this case by the last two speakers. If we are to regard this as a purely postal contract, I admit that what has' been said by the honorable member for North Sydney and the honorable member for Barrier is not open to exception. But, after all, is this only a postal contract? The Prime Minister did not say so last night. In his eloquent oration, extending over an hour-

Mr Deakin - I am very sorry.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am not; I was delighted to hear it. We listened for fully an hour to a very eloquent oration by the Prime Minister, who occupied about ten minutes in dealing with the postal side of the contract, and 'the remaining fifty minutes or more with an enumeration of the advantages which will accrue from this service to exporters of Australian products. The stipulation in the contract that the steamers shall be of 11,000 tons register cannot be designed purely for postal purposes.

Mr Deakin - It was not a condition of the contract; it was the company's own proposal.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Thatmay be; but it is an inducement to the ready acceptance of the contract.

Mr Deakin - Hear, hear.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - As the honorable and learned gentleman said last night, these steamers will provide three times the cool storage now offered to us by the Orient Steam Navigation. Company. That was one of his chief arguments for the acceptance of the contract. Indeed, the contract was not submitted to us as being for purely postal purposes. Throughout the Prime Minister's speech we heard little as to its postal side, but we had an enumeration of the advantages that might possibly accrue to Australia if cool storage space could be found on the mail steamers' for all our perishable produce. So eloquent did the honorable and learned gentleman become in the enumeration of the advantages which these steamers would give us. that I had to ask him to comedown once more to solid earth. He sailed away, as he usually does, into the vague empyrean, and talked " in liquid lines mellifluously bland " about our exports of perishable produce. As is customary with him when discussing politics generally, heapplied the doctrine of political universalism. We were told last night that our produce would be trebled as the result ofdry farming, which was to make us rich and happy and prosperous. The honorable and learned gentleman drew for us a picture of emigrants streaming hitherwards from other countries), and ships, laden with our produce, chasing each other over every sea. It was really grand to hear him speaking of the prosperity of Australia, and of the huge population that she was to secure. The honorable and learned gentleman could not refrain from referring tohis favorite topic, " land for the people, and people for the land." He defended the- northern parts of Australia, and he did all this in referring to the contract, which has been entered into, as my honorable friends would have us believe, for purely postal purposes.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Surely that was an argument for the calling of these vessels at every port in Australia. He told us that they would provide an abundance of cool storage space, and that he regretted that arrangements could not be made with all the States. I understand that in making that observation, he referred to Queensland, in. common with the other States.

Mr Deakin - Yes.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Government really took the initiative in regard to' the carriage of produce from Queensland. Had that State entered into the co-operative arrang'ement which the Prime Minister suggested, and as to which he read several documents last night, would not provision have been made for the carriage of produce?

Mr Deakin - The arrangement would have meant the calling of the steamers at Brisbane under an additional contract.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then it seems that the Government themselves, in the genesis of this contract, contemplated Brisbane being made a port of call for the mail steamers. Therefore, in proposing bv this amendment that the steamers of the service shall go up to Brisbane, we are simply carrying out the original intention of the Ministry.

Mr Deakin - Provision would have had to be made under a separate contract for their going to Brisbane. The postal contract would have stood, and there would have been another contract in relation to cool storage.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Oueensland will not object if another contract be made.

Mr Deakin - Hear. hear.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - So long as thev can secure the conditions which they desire, and which have 'already been promised definitely to the other States, the people of Queensland will not object Already we are told that Mr. Croker has given the Government an undertaking that these steamers will ,go on to Melbourne and Sydney. Clearly. therefore, those two ports are in a satisfactory position. If a definite undertaking has been given that these vessels shall proceed to Melbourne and Sydney, there can be no harm in providing in the contract that they shall do so. The Government have contemplated their going on to Brisbane, if not under the postal contract, at all events under a separate one, and if this amendment be carried it will simply mean that the Government will have to enter into further negotiations to carry out their original intention with regard to serving Queensland. I come now to the equities of the case. If we are going to discuss the matter of equity as applied to our legislation, I am afraid we shall have to view this contract as providing for something more than a mail service. .From the stand-point of equity, we must view this service as relating to all the States. If the broad equities of the situation are regarded as affecting the whole of the States no substantial injustice will be done, even if we make this departure from strict equity, as it applies merely to the mail contract. For instance, the rest of the States granted to Western Australia the concession that the mail steamers should call at Fremantle. Then, again, what is the position with regard to the Vancouver mail service? I do not think that it is of very much value to us as a postal service. I do not know whether any great injury would be done to the States if the steamers engaged in that service made the round trip to Western Australia, but every one knows that Western Australia finds it cheaper to ship its produce direct to London, instead of via Vancouver.

Mr Fowler - We could develop a direct trade with Vancouver.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But I do not think that Western Australia or South Australia is very anxious to "do so. Concerning the broad equities of the situation as a whole, I should like to point out that we have Western Australia and South Australia to-day actually competing with the rest of the States, which competition has the effect of helping to destroy the Vancouver cable service, for which these States pay, while they are making a huge profit out of their relations with the Eastern Extension Company.

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member ls departing from the question.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do so only incidentally. I am trying to show that there is a broader view of the equities of the case than the manner in which any one State is affected By a single service. From my point of view, no substantial injustice would be done to the eastern States if these steamers were sent to Brisbane. I think that if it could be done - and I admit that some degree of sentiment enters into the suggestion - we should arrange to send the steamers to all the main ports of Australia, and thus to encircle the settled portion of the continent with this great service. The vessels are to have the steaming capacity necessary to do that, and as they will have space for three times as much cargo as can be carried by the vessels of the Orient Steam Navigation Company, they will, by calling, at Brisbane, probably soon develop a trade which will make it worth their while to go there, apart from any considerations of subsidy. We may have to pay a little more to get these steamers to call at Brisbane now ; but Queensland is destined to increase her production so rapidly that Brisbane is likely soon to be a centre of attraction to all who are interested in. the trade of Australia. I do not say that we should provide that the vessels shall go to Queensland, whatever may be the cost ; but, if it can be done at a reasonable cost, this concession might well be given to Queensland.

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