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Thursday, 27 October 1904

Mr MAHON (Coolgardie) - I would ask the Prime Minister to postpone the consideration of this item.

Mr Reid - There cannot always be postponements. I will reduce the item by £3,000 if the honorable member is agreeable, because we have only to cover a period of six months.

Mr MAHON - I would prefer not to enter into a bargain of that character. The proposed vote stands upon an entirely different footing from that of the control of New Guinea. The New Hebrides do not belongto Australia.

Mr McCay - We wish to prevent them from belonging to some other nation.

Mr MAHON - I do not propose to now discuss that aspect of the matter. A very important investigation will shortly be conducted in reference to the tenure of land in these islands. That in- I vestigation will determine the nationality which is to populate them. I think that we might with advantage defer any additional expenditure until that inquiry is either under way or has been completed.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - And allow the settlement of another nationality to proceed in 'the meantime without any competition?

Mr MAHON - Does the Minister of Home Affairs mean to say that this vote will alter the character of the settlement in these islands? lt twill do nothing of the kind. It may induce a few additional Australians to go there.

Mr Page - -And we want them here.

Mr MAHON - Exactly. There ii plenty of room for- them here. I think that the Prime Minister would be well advised if he consented to a postponement of this item until a little more information is forthcoming. For example, we have not yet been told what sort of mail service this company will provide.

Mr Reid - I have just given the Committee details of all the different trips which its steamers will make.

Mr MAHON - I am not sure that they will give a full mail service every trip.

Mr Reid - I can assure the honorable member that they will.

Mr MAHON - I wish also to know whether this proposed vote includes the whole of our payments on account of- mail services to those islands? Before asking the House to sanction the payment of a large subsidy to this shipping company, 1 would urge the Prime Minister to await the result of the inquiry to which I have already alluded.' What guarantee have we that this company will run the trips proposed, or that its vessels will not,, at a later stage, make deviations to suit themselves? We ought to have the agreement- before us before we are called upon to vote this money. Is Parliament to authorize, the payment of this large sum in complete ignorance of what we are to secure in return? I repeat, that we do not know whether these vessels will not, at particular seasons, make deviations to suit themselves.

Mr Reid - We are setting rid of these deviations to some extent.

Mr MAHON - But it is desirable to know how far that is being done in the interests of the shipping company, rather than in the interests of the Commonwealth.

Mr Reid - Their interest is to promote trade, which is also our interest.

Mr MAHON - Their interest is to promote their own welfare; I do not think " they are out for the good of their health."" With great respect I suggest that this item at this hour of the night should be postponed.

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