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Thursday, 26 July 1906

Mr McCAY (Corinella) . - I have had an opportunity to hurriedly glance at the Cunard contract which the Prime Minister produced as a full justification for the Government proposal. So far as I have been able to peruse it, I have been led to the conclusion that the honorable and learned gentleman will find in it a weapon that turns in his own hands. In sub-clause 1 of clause 4, to which he referred, it is provided that -

The company shall at all limes during the term of this Agreement hold all and every the vessels for the time being the property of the company (including the steam-ships particularized in the first schedule hereto, and the two steamships referred to in clause 3 hereof and all other vessels built for or purchased or. otherwise acquired by the company as and when the same shall have been built, purchased, or otherwise acquired and so long as such steam-ships or vessel's or any of them shall remain the property of the company) at the disposal of His Majesty's Government to be hired or purchased upon the terms and conditions set forth in the third schedule hereto.

2.   His Majesty's Government shall have the right, on giving notice in writing to the company of their intention so to do to take possession of any vessel which they require to purchase or hire under the provisions of this Agreement, immediately on the arrival of such vessel at her port of discharge.

That refers only to the right of purchase under the third schedule. On turning to that schedule, we find that it is as follows : -

Terms and conditions upon which the vessels of the company are to be held at the disposal of His Majesty's Government during the term of this Agreement.

It will be remembered that the Prime Minister emphasized the words " His Majesty's Government," as showing that the facilities of the. company were not to be held at the disposal of the Admiralty. The wording of the schedule is as follows: -

The price shall be a sum equal to the value of the vessel purchased as on the date upon which the Admiralty shall give notice in writing to the company of their intention to purchase. . .

In other words, it is the Admiralty which has to determine the intention to purchase.

Mr Deakin - Because that is the Department which deals with the matter.

Mr McCAY - It deals with Imperial defence, not with the carriage of mails.

Mr Isaacs - Why is it that the words, "For the purpose of defence," are not used?

Mr McCAY - I shall tell the honorable and learned gentleman a little more as to this provision. First of all the right of His Majesty's Government to purchase is dependent upon notice by the Admiralty, and cannot be exercised until that notice is given.

Mr Deakin - The Admiralty is part of the Government.

Mr McCAY - It is that branch of the Government which deals with the Imperial problems of defence. Paragraph 2 of the third schedule describes the way in which the value is to be determined, whilst paragraph 3 provides that -

The sale shall include the full equipment of the vessel but save as hereinafter provided shall not include the plated ware cutlery crystal earthenware blankets counterpanes bed and table linen and consumable stores of the vessel all of which the company shall be entitled to remove from the vessel with the exception of such quantity of such articles (other than consumable stores) as may be reasonably necessary for the number of officers and warrant officers that would form part of the vessel'scomplement if used as an armed cruiser.

Mr Deakin -" If " used.

Mr McCAY - The honorable and learned gentleman is taking refuge in a very poor little " if." This shows quite clearly what is the object of His Majesty's Government in claiming the Tight to purchase these vessels - and such quantity of such articles shall be considered part of the equipment so purchased by the Admiralty.

Then clause 4 proceeds to prescribe that the Admiralty shall pay in cash or within thirty days.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is it the Admiralty that pays ?

Mr McCAY - Yes, the Admiralty gives notice, it pays, and it retains sufficient of the ship's stores toenable it to be used as an armed cruiser. The Postmaster-General disappears. When the Imperial Government takes over these vessels it is more concerned with the preservation of the country than the delivery of the mails. The same schedule goes on to give the terms on which hiring may take place. It provides that -

The company shall not be called on to provide officers and crews in war time, but will, if required, do all they can to assist the Admiralty in manning the vessels hired for war service.

Mr Deakin - No one is disputing that.

Mr McCAY - Clause 3,under this heading, describes what is to be done in time of war, while clause 4 sets forth that, in the event of the Admiralty hiring thevessels, or any of them, in times of peace - again, armed cruisers - certain things are to take place. Clause 5 refers to the taking on hire of the vessels as armed cruisers, and paragraphs 6 to 11 refer 'to the arrangements between the Admiralty and the company. Both the provisions relating to purchase, and those relating to hire are contained in the one schedule, and are referred to in one clause of the agreement- clause 4 - as the alternative power of the Admiralty to purchase or hire. The whole thing is with the Admiralty, and I say, from first to last, this schedule makes it clear beyond any reasonable doubt that the whole object contemplatedby this agreement-

Mr Deakin - No.

Mr McCAY - I am expressing my own opinion.

Mr Deakin - The chief object is naval, not the whole object - that is the point..

Mr McCAY - The only contemplated object.

Mr Deakin - No.

Mr McCAY - The contemplated object throughout the whole of this agreement is the purchase or hire of those vessels for use as armed cruisers. We know that the captains of many of the vessels belong to the Royal Naval Reserve for that very same purpose. The Prime Minister quoted this agreementhastily, without any reasonable perusal, when he read sub-clause 2 of clause 4 as proof of the general power of purchase by the Government, as contrasted with the Admiralty, and for any purposes as contrasted with war purposes.

Mr Deakin - Not as contrasted, but as including the Admiralty.

Mr McCAY - I have quoted the article and the schedule, and I leave it to the House to judge, rightly or wrongly, what the purpose of the Imperial Government was, and how far their precedent warrants article 16 of the proposed postal contract.

Mr Salmon - Does the honorable and learned member contend that that would preclude the Imperial Government from carrying mails during time of war?

Mr McCAY - I never contended any such thing. I contend that the Imperial Government have claimed the right to purchase or hire those vessels because it contemplates desiring to use them in time of war for war purposes ; and thatthey do not, under this agreement, contemplate - I do not say that they have not, technical I v. the power - anything but taking them over in times of emergency, when they require them as part of the Imperial fleet, whether as armed cruisers, despatch boats, or other description of vessel.

Mr Deakin - I have here their own document, showing that under the head of " Admiralty Requirements " the following is reported: - . . other Admiralty requirements connected with mail contracts relate to special facilities for Government parcels and stores, as to which we have no change to suggest, and to the conveyance of Government passengers.

Mr McCAY - What I say does not depend solely on the use of the word "Admiralty." I say that the whole of the third schedule, from which I have quoted, shows perfectly clearly what the Government of the United Kingdom had in mind when they entered into this agreement. If the Prime Minister thinks that the amendment of the honorable member for Parramatta, by specifically using the words " for defence purposes," is too narrow, I suggest that he take the exact words that appear in the contract of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company.

Mr Fisher - Slavishly following some other people.

Mr McCAY - We have been told over and over again that clause 16 of the agreement now under consideration has Imperial precedent, and because we now challenge the accuracy of that statement we are told that we are slavishly following the precedent which, during the last day or two, has been quoted as the one we ought to follow.

Mr Hutchison - The honorable member admits that, technically, the Imperial Government have the power.

Mr McCAY - I am prepared to confer the power "technically" on this occasion by adopting the exact words of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company's contract, I am prepared to do what is fair, and I am not concerned with the honorable member for Gwydir, or his ingenious modification of his previous theory on the socialistic question.

Mr Webster - Is that the honorable member's interpretation of the agreement?

Mr McCAY - I am prepared to substitute "for the public interest " for "for defence purposes," and then we should have the same technical right under our contract that the Admiralty has under the Imperial contract - we would have the same indica- tion of the contemplated objects and power that there 'is in the Imperial contract. I move - -

That the amendment be amended by leaving out the words "defence purposes," with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words ." the- public interest."

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