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Thursday, 26 July 1906

Mr McWILLIAMS (Franklin) - I shall support the amendment. When the last contract was under discussion, I thought that Queensland1 had a grievance, because Brisbane was not made a port of call. The honorable member for Parramatta has dealt with a matter about which I had made a note. It is absurd to say that this is a contract for a postal service only. Three-fourths of it, so far as it is set down in black and white may relate only to a mail service ; but more than threefourths of the arguments which have been delivered in favour of its ratification have been directed to the advantages which Australia will gainby the large provision made for the export of perishable produce.

Mr Deakin - We payonly for the postal service, and get all other advantages without cost.

Mr McWILLIAMS - If that is so, why is it stipulated that certain space shall be allowed for cold storage?

Mr Deakin - It is not stipulated; they have offered that.

Mr Robinson - It was not in the advertisement ?

Mr Deakin - No.

Mr McWILLIAMS - The tenderers knew that,by offering certain space for cool storage, they would improve their chance of obtaining the contract. If another . company had offered to carry the mails for £20,000 less, and had made no provision, for cool storage, would the Prime Minister have been prepared to recommend the acceptance of its tender?

Mr Deakin - I should.

Mr McWILLIAMS - Then the honorable and learned gentleman only wasted so much time last nightby his eloquent statement of" the enormous advantages to be gainedby the provision of cold storage space,since he does not consider that advantageto be worth . £20,000 a year.

Mr Deakin - I have always said that the providing of cold storage would be the subject of a separate contract, and I proposed to the States that a separate contract should be made.

Mr McWILLIAMS - I think that the States did well in refusing the offer of the Commonwealth ; because I believe that they can make better conditions for their trade than can be made for them by this Government. We are being asked to subsidize a line of vessels which is to provide a certain amount of space for cold storage for the export of perishable produce; but only four of the States will be able to take advantage of that provision of the contract, the State of Tasmania, and the important State of Queensland, where agricultural settlement is progressing faster than anywhere else in the Union, being left out' of the arrangement. I do not think it fair to ask Queensland to pay her share of the subsidy when, she will not' derive from the service the advantages which the other States on the mainland will enjoy. If this is to be a true Federation, geographical position must not be regarded as a bar to any State.

Mr Fowler - Hear,hear ! What about the Western Australian railway ?

Mr McWILLIAMS - I am prepared to extend to Western Australia the same consideration that is given to the other States.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The other States have had to pay for their means of communication.

Mr McWILLIAMS - If this is tobe a true Federation, all the advantages arising from the union must not go to the larger States. They must, if necessary, make occasional small sacrifices, to enable the smaller States to obtain some of the benefits.

Mr Austin Chapman - To what clause does the honorable member refer1, when, he says that cold storage is provided for?

Mr McWILLIAMS - Is there no such prevision in the contract? The Prime Minister told us distinctly last night that there is such a provision. One of the chief reasons why he urged the acceptance of the contract was that the States will derive an enormous advantage because of the cold storage accommodation which will be given.

Mr Webster - He did not say that that is provided for in the contract.

Mr Deakin - No; it is not in the contract.

Mr McWILLIAMS - In reply to an interjection, he said that we have the distinct assurance of the contracting party that it will be provided, and made that a strong argument for the acceptance of the contract. The service is not to be a fast one. No one, in these days, can say that vessels capable of steaming only 15 knots an hour will provide a fast service. But, under the terms of the contract, as I read them, we are to get a good mail and cargo service. I have always felt that the contract is really only a concession, which is to be hawked about by the contracting party to see what can be made out of it'. If its provisions are complied with, we shall have got a very good bargain, not only because of the arrangements made for the carriage of mails, . but also because there will be established' in the Australian trade a line of vessels which will give extensive cold storage which will assist us to dump - as the Minister of Trade and Customs wouldsayour surplus products in the markets of the old world.

Mr Knox - That is the whole object of the inspection.

Mr McWILLIAMS -I think so, and it has been the advantage insisted upon in every speech delivered in favour of the contract. If this were a contract merely for the carriage of mails, it would have obtained avery different reception. We recognise, however, that it provides speedy and certain transit, and spacious accommodation for our perishable produce. But why should not Queensland benefit by the arrangement ?

Mr Robinson - If the amendment is carried, will the honorable member move a similar amendment dealing with Tasmania ?

Mr McWILLIAMS - It is not often that I am unable to agree with the honor able member for NorthSydney ; but I do not think with him that, if we providein this contract that the steamers shall go to Brisbane, we shall have to provide in other contracts that the mail boats shall call at every port in Australia. I do not think thatthe people of Queensland desire that the steamers of. every line carrying mails shall make Brisbane a port of call, and I do not ask that all the mail steamers calling at ports in the mainland shall also visit Tasmania. In reply to the interjection of the honorable member for Wannon, however, I say that, in my opinion, these mail steamers should call at Tasmania during the three months of the year which form our chief season of export for perishable products. I shall support the amendment on its merits, and I shall not attempt to jeopardize it by proposing any extension until it has been dealt with.

Mr Webster - That would seriously interfere with the local shipping companies.

Mr McWILLIAMS - If the honorable member had had my experience, he would know that the local shipping companies are well able to take care of themselves. Practically the whole of our exporttrade is conducted by means of oversea steamers. In justice to the existingmail companies, I am bound to say that no attempts have been made to force upon Tasmanian shippers of apples conditions similar to those which the honorable member for Barrier has described as having been imposed upon shippers of fruit from Adelaide. The Tasmanian shippers have not been required to sell their produce through the agency of the company. So long as they pay their freight they are absolutely free to sell or consign their goods to whom they please. There is not the same danger to be apprehended from a combine as some honorable members seem to think. No difficulty is experienced in obtaining shipping accommodation for produce so long as reasonable notice is given to the companies. Lastyear four or five different lines of steamers took part in the Tasmanian trade. We had the Blue Funnel, the White Star, the Gulf line, and Federal -Houlder line steamers in addition to the mail-boats. and they were all only too anxious to ship produce. Now that special conditions are being made with a view to affording facilities for our export trade, Queensland should not be left out in the cold. She should not stand alone in being called upon to contribute towards the subsidy without having an opportunity of sharing in the benefits of the service. I shall vote for the extension of the service to Brisbane.

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