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Thursday, 26 July 1906

Mr HUTCHISON (Hindmarsh) . - I cannot understand the attitude of the members of the Opposition. The honorable member for Parramatta has stated that the honorable member for Corinella had never said that the Imperial Government have not the power to purchase the vessels to be used for purposes other than defence, and the honorable member for North Sydney has told us that the intention as that the Government shall be able to purchase .the vessels for only the purpose of defence. If the honorable member for Corinella really meant that the Government have power to purchase the vessels for any other purpose, that is an admission that they would have the right to use them for any other purpose, and that it was quite right that they should have that power.

Mr Kelly - It was not the implied object, he meant to say.

Mr HUTCHISON - That is not the point at all. The honorable member for Corinella admits that the Imperial Government have the right to purchase these vessels either for any purpose or for only defence purposes. Which is it? First we had a denial that it was as the honorable member for Corinella said for the one purpose.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Let them put in these provisions and then it will be made clear.

Mr HUTCHISON - There are several reasons for not putting in the provisions. We have no right to consider what provisions the Imperial Government has put in any contract. The question is what we ought to do.

Mr-. JosephCook. - " Australia for the Australians."

Mr HUTCHISON - I would rather have Australia for the Australians than for the foreigners. The only trouble, apparently, with members of the Opposition is that the wording of the contract makes it clear that power is given to the , Government to be used for a socialistic purpose, and to placate the Labour Party. If that power had existed in the contract with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, or the Orient Steam Navigation Company, at the time when our producers were being robbed by the mail companies, I am quite satisfied .that the producers of Australia would not have had a word to say about Socialism. On the contrary, they would have said, "For goodness' sake try to see that justice is done to us." If a similar thing were to occur, we should have every producer not talking a wordabout Socialism, but saying,, " Give us better terms than we are getting - do not allow us to be robbed by the shipping companies." Apparently the members of the Opposition have forgotten all about the report of the Butter Commission, although it is only a few months since it was presented. Seemingly, they have forgotten all about the secret rebates which were paid, one firm alone getting ^12,000 odd in twelve months from a mail company, in order to allow them to charge a most exorbitant rate for carrying produce. Is that the kind of thing which the members of the Opposition wish to see continued? I do not.

Mr Kelly - There is a law against all that sort of thing now.

Mr McColl - We have altered all that without buying the ships.

Mr HUTCHISON - I wish to prevent the mail companies from having the opportunity to repeat that sort of thing. All over the world private enterprise is continually fleecing somebody.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If the Government were to get the running of these ships there would be fleecing, too.

Mr HUTCHISON - I would remind the honorable member for Echuca that, within the last few weeks, we have had to pass certain legislation.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is the old argument of destroying freedom and responsibility for the purpose of preventing persons from doing a certain thing.

Mr HUTCHISON - Are not the great shipping combines destroying freedom and individuality? The only question is which is the best form of collectivism. Is it shipping combines, or that system which allows people to control these matters for the benefit of the whole community? I am satisfied that no argument has been advanced here to-night to induce a single member to change his vote in regard to this clause. We have nothing to do with Imperial contracts. I hope that we are going to abandon the practice of copying oldworld agreements, which are possibly fifty years behind the times. I am glad to say that in some things we are in advance of the times, as I hope we shall soon be in regard to many other things. If, however, we follow the example of the Opposition, 100 years hence we shall be exactly where we are to-day. The honorable member for North Sydney has clearly shown that the whole purpose which he has in view is to give the Government of the Commonwealth the right to purchase the ships for war purposes only. He does not care how any section of the community is treated by the shipping companies.

Mr Lonsdale - Quite as much' as the honorable member does.

Mr HUTCHISON - Undoubtedly I do care as I have proved by my votes. However, at this hour in the morning I do not intend to discuss any question with the honorable member. I am very pleased to see that the Government are likely to stand firmly by their agreement.

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