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Tuesday, 19 July 1904

Mr MAUGER (Melbourne Ports) - I wish to correct one or two statements made by the honorable and learned member for Wannon, in reference to the sworn balancesheets of which he spoke, and to which reference was also made by the honorable member for Parramatta. Sir Malcolm McEacharn is my authority for stating that the assertion of the honorable and learned member, that those balance-sheets showed that a profit of about £45,000 had been earned by his firm in Western Australia, irrespective of the coal business, is altogether misleading and contrary to fact. The fact that the Western Australian Government recognised that it would be altogether unfair to assess the incidence of the income tax on such a basis, and adopted a different calculation considerably reducing the amount, also bears out this correction. The statement made by Sir Malcolm McEacharn is as follows : -

As a matter of fact, our books in Western Australia do not record the profits made on the steamers running to that State. They simply show the monies received and disbursed there. The return upon which Mr. Robinson has based his statement shows all the freight, passage money, charges, and other items which are collected ; but as against these items it only shows the amounts disbursed in Western Australia in connexion with each steamer. These do not include such items as crews' wages, provisions, coal, interest on capital, depreciation, insurances, repairs, &c, and it is therefore easily understood how misleading the figures are.

I take it that the honorable and learned member for Wannon is quite prepared to accept a statement coming from such an authority.

Mr Mcwilliams - Does Sir Malcolm McEacharn say what the profits are?

Mr MAUGER - No; butI am sure he would have to disclose them in any proceedings before the Court, so that the honorable member's question is scarcely a fair one. ' Another matter to which I desire to refer, in reply to a statement made by the honorable and learnedmember for Wannon, relates to the effect of the shipping laws of New Zealand. When I was dealing with the question, the honorable and learned imember interjected - " Whenever was this law put into force?" The Premier of New Zealand was interviewed with reference to the adverse remarks made in- this Committee about the New Zealand shipping laws, and informed the interviewer that they had been enforced, with the very best effect, ever since their passing into law. The report of the interview sets forth that Mr. Seddon said -

Previously the captains of tramps, with coloured crews, used to interfere with the local coastal steamers manned by white crews, but, under the present shipping laws, they did not by any means find it -a game of bluff. They had been forced out of the coastal trade, because they had to pay New Zealand wages. That had been a gain to settlers, and also to the coastal trading companies, as regards both summer and winter trade, and formerly tramps took the wool and grain in summer, which forced the local companies to raise freights in winter. Now they had ill the trade, and lower average freights prevailed all the year round.

Mr. Seddonstates that no one has been injured, that the producers have been benefited, that freights have been decreased, and that, instead of any harm having been done, advantage has been derived by all concerned.

Mr Fowler - Does he explain how the " tramp ' ' steamers, which carried wool and wheat, entered into competition with the local steam-ships?

Mr MAUGER -Yes. He explainedthat during the summer months they carried a great deal of produce, and so lessened the bulk of the traffic conveyed by the local steamers that the steam-ship owners had to charge higher freights during the winter time when trade was slack.

Mr Fowler - But the "tramp " steamers only carried goods away from New Zealand ?

Mr MAUGER - I beg the honorable member's pardon. They were carrying goods from port to port.

Mr Fowler - What, wool?

Mr MAUGER - No, not wool; but many other articles. I think that the authorities I have given, and the statements I have read, must be convincing to the minds of most honorable members.

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