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Friday, 28 October 1904

Mr TUDOR (Yarra) - Last night I asked the Prime Minister to lay before honorable members certain information which he has in his possession. That request was a reasonable one, but, nevertheless, it was not acceded, to.

Mr Wilks - The Treasurer has made a full and most explicit statement this afternoon.

Mr TUDOR - Unfortunately, I was absent at the time. I have no desire to delay coming to a vote upon this question. I merely wish to say that I could not see my way clear to vote for the increased subsidy proposed last night, and I cannot do so now.

Mr. McDONALD(Kennedy). - The statement of the Treasurer has not enlightened us very much. Indeed, it has merely confirmed my opinion that we should refuse to vote for this increased expenditure of £6,000. Under the guise of a mail contract, we are asked to subsidize a company's steamers to carry certain produce from Australia to the New Hebrides, or vice versa. That appears to me to be an attempt to deceive the people of the Commonwealth, and it is one to which I shall not be a party. If this condition of affairs is to be tolerated, where will it end? Subsidies will be granted for all manner of things, and we shall find them placed under the heading of the Defence Department or the Postal Department, irrespective of their purpose.


Mr McDONALD - The sugar bonus was decided upon a straightforward issue by means of a Bill. If this proposal be agreed to, what is to prevent the Government from saying that it is necessary to grant a large bonus to encourage the production of iron, so that they may be enabled to manufacture their own arms and am-' munition, and achieving their object without subrnitting any. Bill to Parliament? Why was th's mail service transferred from the Postal Department to the Department of External Affairs? Merely because the expenditure was not intended as a subsidy to a mail service at all. Do honorable members mean to suggest that the few letters which are despatched from Australia to the New Hebrides are worth an expenditure which represents £56 per head of the British population of those islands? We know very well that outside this House a big cry has been raised regarding the extravagance of the Commonwealth. In this connexion, I would point out that when Federation was established, New South Wales was paying only £3,600 for this mail service. We increased that amount to £6,,ooo, and now a further increase to £12,000 is proposed. That represents an add'tional expenditure of £8,400 within a period of four years. If that does not constitute wilful extravagance on the part of the Commonwealth, I do not know what does.' If things are allowed to drift in this way, we shall justify all the criticism which has been directed against us. I need scarcely remind honorable members that one of the transferred mail services conveys mails from Brisbane to the Gulf of Carpentaria. That contract was entered into by the Government of Queensland not as a mail contract, because the mails, except in very wet seasons, are carried from Cairns to the Gulf. What I wish to point out is, that Queensland is saddled with an expenditure of £2,000 on account of that subsidy, in order to maintain a three-weekly service, whereas New South Wales is to be relieved of her subsidy to the New Hebrides service, which represents £3,600.

Sir George Turner - No; that amount is charged as transferred expenditure.

Mr McDONALD - I accept the correction of the Treasurer, but I would point out that Queensland will have to bear her share of the increased subsidy, and that is an additional burden which she . can ill carry. We know that outside there is a growing feeling of antagonism to the Commonwealth, and I hold that this sort of thing will only add to itsvolume. If it be necessary to hold these islands, and to possess an important harbor in the New Hebrides, our proper course is to ask the Imperial authorities to take over the islands on our behalf. The fact that after forty years' occupation of them only 214 British people, exclusive of missionaries, are settled there shows . that we are quite justified in fighting this item, and in dividing the Committee upon it. I shall record my vote against such an iniquitous proposal.

Mr. MAHON(Coolgardie).- At this stage of the proceedings, I trust that another respectful appeal to the Government to postpone the consideration, of this item will find some favour. Since I addressed myself to this question to-day, several fresh points have presented themselves to me which I desire . time to elaborate. My objections have not been removed by the Treasurer's plausible words. On this occasion, he has practically told us nothing new. He has' referred to a file of papers in his possession. I wish to know why he has not supplied the Committee with some of the facts which are contained in those papers.? If he has not had the leisure to extract the necessary information from them, why has he not placed them upon the librarytable? I regret that my remarks will extend over a considerable period.

Mr Wilks - The honorable member's own side agreed that they would come to a vote this afternoon.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member is "stone-walling" a proposal of his own Government.

Mr MAHON - I deny that I am " stone-walling," but if I were doing so, I could find very good precedents for that sort of conduct upon the other side of the Chamber.


Mr Wilks - The honorable member is preventing a dozen honorable members from catching the Sydney express.

Mr MAHON - If an assurance be given to me that I shall have another opportunity of discussing this matter I shall be content

Sir George Turner - The honorable members can discuss it upon the Appropriation Bill.'

Amendment negatived.

Proposed vote agreed to .

Division 14A(Miscellaneous), £400, agreed to.

Progress reported.

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