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Thursday, 26 July 1906

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I desire to submit an amendment regarding that clause in the contract which vests in the Government the power to purchase, in an unqualified way, the vessels employed in our mail service. The other night, when I described this provision as a socialistic sop, the Prime Minister promptly replied that a similar provision was included in the contracts made by the British Government. His interjection was, " The British Government also include it." I find, however, that there is no provision resembling it in the Imperial contracts. The only reference to it is contained in the Imperial contract with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, and that provision is very different from the clause in the agreement under consideration. In the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company's contract there is a provision which has nothing whatever to do with the Postmaster-General, but which has to do with the Admiralty and with the defence of the Empire. It appears that the Admiralty have made a subvention with certain steam-ship companies, the particulars of which, I presume, are secret.

Mr Deakin - I have a copy of the contract inmy office.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - A copy of what contract ?

Mr Deakin - Of the subvention contract - the Cunard contract.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am speaking of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company's contract. Clause 32 of that contract contains the following provision : -

Subject to the provisions of the subvention agreement between the Admiralty and the company, dated 3rd April, 1S94, or of any subsequent subvention agreement, the Admiralty shall at any time during the continuance of this agreement, if they shall consider it necessary for the public interest so to do, have power and be at liberty to purchase all or any of the mailships at a valuation, or to charter the same exclusively, &c.

Clearly, the power of purchase is reserved for defence purposes only. It is confined to the defence of the Empire, and is not a general power such as is embodied in this contract. The Imperial contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company eontains no power to purchase.

Mr Frazer - Would the honorable member follow the Imperial contracts in the matter of labour also ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What, has that to do with what I am saying?

Mr Frazer - It is a precedent, and the honorable member is talking of precedents.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am replying to the statement of the Prime Minister that a similar provision is contained in the Imperial contracts.

Mr Webster - The Prime Minister was not referring to the contracts mentioned by the honorable member.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Perhaps the honorable member for Gwydir will tell me the contracts to which he was referring. I hold in my hand the current Imperial contract with the Peninsular and Oriental. Steam Navigation Company, and it contains no such provision. It provides for an emergency which has reference to the defence of the Empire - an emergency which would justify any Government in adopting an extreme course. But in none of the Imperial contracts is there any unconditional power of purchase such as' is contained in this agreement. However, the Prime Minister has said that he has something additional in his possession, and I shall await with interest what he has to say. In the meantime, I propose to make our contract harmonize with the provision which is embodied in the British contracts at the present time. If we do that we shall do all that is necessary in the direction of nationalizing this, sendee. Con.sequently I mere -

That the following words be added - " and with the following further modifications : -

In the second line of clause 16, substitute the Minister of State for Defence' for the 'PostmasterGeneral.'

In No. 36 of the General Conditions of Tender, substitute the 'Minister of State for Defence' for the 'Postmaster-General,' and after the word 'contract,' in the second line, insert the words 'if he shall consider it necessary for defence purposes so to do.' "

The amendment -will confine the power of purchase or charter to the defence of Australia, and will limit the initiative in" this matter to the Minister of Defence, instead of to the Postmaster-General.

Mr Webster - There is nothing in it to protect the producers of Australia.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There is everything in it to protect, not only the producers, but every other man in Australia in time of dire national, necessity.

Mr Webster - There are other times besides that.

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