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Thursday, 12 May 1921

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I am inclined to agree with Senator Thomas that the agreement is far too important to be discussed the day after it is introduced. It particularly and peculiarly affects the commercial community. I should like some expression of opinion from the chambers of commerce, the bankers, and those engaged in international and oversea trade and finance, because they are the people largely concerned in the regularity and frequency of the English mails. I have been led to understand that the only matters requiring the urgent attention of the Senate before 4 o'clock to-morrow afternoon are the remainder of the Defence Bill and the Air Defence Bill. Now the Minister representing the Postmaster-General has brought down, unexpectedly to me, a motion which in effect he is tabling today, printing to-night, and asking us to pass and approve of to-morrow.

Senator Russell - I do not. ask you to pass it to-morrow. I said we would resume the debate to-morrow.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - If the Minister would say now that he does not desire the Senate to finally ratify and approve the agreement to-morrow it would clear the atmosphere. So far as I can gather, the agreement provides, in the first place, for the payment of £10,000 per voyage for thirteen voyages per year, as against the previous contract for £175,000 for twenty-six voyages a year.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable senator is discussing the main question.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am, giving reasons why the Senate should have more time for the consideration of the agreement.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Senate can have all the time it wants. Senator Thomas. - That is all right.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That maymean meeting next week.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I appeal for time to get from the commercial community an expression of opinion as to whether a monthly service is any- good to Australia, and deserving of any money being paid for it, in view of our legal right to pay poundage rates and send our mails by any vessel.

The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator is now discussing the main question, and not the motion before the Chair.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am giving reasons why the Senate should have more time to consider this most important matter. I hope the Minister will give the Senate and the commercial community some time to consider whether the agreement is any good to them.

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