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Thursday, 28 August 1902

Mr Deakin - Always.

Mr McCOLL - I was under the impression that at the present time the ordinary Inter-State charge obtained. At all events I should like to know the reason for the extra rate.

Sir PHILIP FYSH - The object of the amendment is to continue the present system. Hitherto the cable rate between Victoria and Tasmania has been1s., but hereafter we are hopeful that it will be reduced to 6d. Upon a former occasion I explained that the cable company, under the clause which enables them to charge for services rendered, was recovering about £10,000 a year, but the Government have the power to reduce the rate at any time so long as the company receives notless than £5,600 a year. The agreement made between the Tasmanian Government and the Eastern Extension Cable Company contains a clause by which the company are entitled to receive, for services rendered, not less than £5,600 per annum. When that sum has been assured to the company, the Tasmanian Government - with the concurrence of the company - can reduce the charge, which has hitherto been1s., to such a rate as will continue to return to the company not less than £5,600 per annum. The object in adding the words proposed to the schedule is to enable the Postmaster-General to collect such a rate as may be agreed upon between the Tasmanian Government and the cable company, which in the future, it is presumed, will be 6d. instead of1s.

Mr. HARTNOLL(Tasmania). - We have in the Constitution what is familiarly known as the "Braddon blot." In connexion with this Bill it is proposed to repeat that mistake and to have a "Fysh blot." The Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral has told the committee that the Eastern Extension Company is guaranteed £5,600 per year by the Tasmanian Government, but that statement is scarcely correct. It is jointly guaranteed by the Tasmanian and Victorian Governments.

Sir Philip Fysh - The Victorian Government are not responsible unless a loss has been incurred.

Mr HARTNOLL - That is so. Victoria and Tasmania jointly divide the loss, and, therefore, they are equal guarantors. We hear a great deal about uniformity in these matters, and about the necessity which exists for preserving the federal sentiment. If these are merely empty words the amendment will be accepted ; but if, on the contrary, they have some significance, the Commonwealth will come to the rescue of the smaller States by taking over Tasmania's liability to loss in this connexion. Those who study Tasmanian politics are aware that, owing to the Tariff alterations which have been made, the finances of that State are in a somewhat unsatisfactory condition, and that in , endeavouring to carry their new taxation proposals, in order to meet the exigencies of the time, the Lewis Government have just suffered defeat. It is the duty of this Parliament to aid Tasmania in every possible way. If the Acting Prime Minister desired to exercise that liberal spirit which he has hitherto exhibited in connexion with this Bill, he would have risen long ago, and declared - " We wish to preserve the federal spirit which sways the whole ofthe people of this continent, and we mean to take upon our shoulders this small financial load, and to place Tasmania upon the same footing as that occupied by all the other States."

Mr Deakin - The States have declined to authorize the adoption of that course.

Mr HARTNOLL - The people of Victoria and New South Wales would derive equal advantages with Tasmania if the cable rate were reduced. There is a very considerable agricultural and general commercial business between Tasmania and Victoria and New South Wales.

Mr Deakin - These two States were willing to share, but the other States were not willing, and so an arrangement was impossible. This is again a matter of the bookkeeping, and the other States objected to bear any proportion.

Mr O'Malley - Could a sum not be placed on the Estimates to meet the loss?

Mr Deakin - Then it would fall on the States which object. Unless this provision goes into the Bill, Tasmania will have to bear the whole.

Mr HARTNOLL - Do I understand the Acting Prime Minister to express the opinion that, unless this provision be inserted, Tasmania will have to bear the whole ?

Mr Deakin - Yes.

Mr HARTNOLL - That is an absolutely new proposition. I have always understood from the press of Tasmania that, as matters stand at present, that State is bearing the whole loss.

Sir Philip Fysh - There is no loss.

Mr Deakin - The people pay the charge now, but if there were a loss Tasmania would have to pay it.

Mr HARTNOLL - In order to bring Tasmania into line, the Treasurer of that

State in his financial statement would have to show a loss, and it is in order that a loss may not have to beshown that I now appeal to honorable members to go as far as possible in the direction of remedying an absolute defect in the present arrangement.

Sir William McMillan - There is no loss now, and there cannot be a loss in the future with increasing business.

Mr HARTNOLL - But if the rate in Tasmania be reduced to 6d., or Tasmania is placed on an equal footing with the rest of the Commonwealth, that State will have to bear a proportion of the loss in conjunction with Victoria.

Sir Philip Fysh - That is so, if there be any loss over the £5,600.

Mr HARTNOLL - We understand that. But if the Commonwealth assumed the position occupied to-day by Victoria and Tasmania, cablegrams could go between the latter State and any part of the mainland at the same rate as telegrams are carried from one part of the mainland to another. It is with the desire to bring about uniformity that I ask the committee to go as far as they can in placing Tasmania on an equal footing with the rest of the States.

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