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Friday, 12 December 1913

Senator CLEMONS (TASMANIA) (Ministerwithout portfolio) - Anything mysterious is objectionable to me, as I believe Senator Ready knows. As a matter of fact, there is nothing in the delay that has taken place in regard to the signing of the contract which is of any real importance. I will take upon myself the responsibility of saying exactly what the position is. The Government desire that the new service should come into operation at the earliest possible moment. The delay that must take place is due, as everyone knows, to the fact that the new steamer, to comply with the conditions set out in the contract, has to be built. The delay, so far as there has been any delay in the signing of the contract, has been due to the hope that in the course of a day or two we might have been able to get a definite statement from the people concerned as to the date when the new ship would be completed and delivered in Australian waters. As Senator Ready will know, that date could not be fixed by the contractors or the Government, or any one else, until the first step was taken of obtaining tenders from ship-builders in England that would specify the date by which the new boat was to be built. There is the whole of the mystery. It is a simple mystery in a little nut-shell. The Government have simply the one desire, to hurry the thing on and to put into the contract itself a definite date. There is the whole position, and there is nothing else to say.

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