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Wednesday, 1 November 1905

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH (Western Australia) - After having listened carefully to the Minister's statement, I must say that this is one of the most neglected and unsatisfactory services in the Commonwealth. The contract, I understand, was practically entered into by a previous Administration. There was so little time in which to consider the matter that the Commonwealth had either to withdraw or to accept the conditions as they now exist. Since the service was started in 1903, we have had no improvement in the vessels.

Senator Macfarlane - Yes. There is a twin-screw steamer running now.

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.There has practically been no improvement in the service, and the vessels are old and slow.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Col. Gould. - Not all.

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.The increase has been not in the speed" or the size of the vessels, but in the subsidy. From 1893 to 1899 the subsidy was £44,000; from 1903 to 1905 it was £60,000 ; and from 1905 to 1906 it was £66,000. During that period the Australian share has increased from £10,000- to £26,626. The boats are of about 3,500 tons, and only go at a speed of 13 or 14 knots an hour.

Senator Matheson - When was the Australian share £10,000?

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.From 1893 to 1899, when" New Zealand paid £7,500. We are/ now paying the enormous subsidy of 5s. 3d. a mile. If it be compared with the subsidies paid for efficient services, it will be found to be the highest of all. The subsidy for the Pacific mail service averages is. 4d. a mile; the Norddeutcher-Lloyd Steam Navigation Company are paid a subsidy of 4s. 9d. a mile ; while the Orient Steam Navigation Company are subsidized at the rate of, I think, 3s. 8d. a mile. Undoubtedly the Vancouver mail service is not only the most highly subsidized, but is, I suppose, the least efficient of all the services to Australia.

Senator Best - Two shillings a mile is all that the Commonwealth pays.

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.The subsidy paid to the company is 5s. 3d. a mile, and our share of it comes to 2s. id. a mile. From the postal point of view, it is absolutely the slowest service we can get to London. Let us consider the time which it takes to send a letter by each route to London. By the Canadian line from Sydney it takes 37 \ days io\ hours; bv the San Francisco line it takes 35 days 7J hours; by the Orient Steam Navigation Company via Suez it takes 33 days 7 hours ; while by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company it takes 31 days 16 hours. So far as Great Britain is concerned, the service is not necessary from the mail' point of view, because no one wishes to send his letters by the slowest possible route. When- we come to consider whether it is necessary for the transmission of correspondence to the United States or Canada, we find that nearly all our correspondence with America goes over the Spreckels line - which is very heavily subsidized by the United States - because it is quicker. Therefore, from the mail point of view, the steam-ship company which is Tunning to Vancouver is practically useless to Australia. Let us now consider whether it is defensible from the point of view of a trade subsidy. The Canadian Government have treated the service not from a postal stand-point, but primarily from a commercial stand-point, and placed it under the Department of Trade and Customs. From a commercial point of view also it is almost useless. In 1900 the imports by this line were £[237,000, but in 1904 they had decreased to £222. 000. In 1900 our exports of produce bv the line were £[67,800, but' in 1904 thev had dwindled down to £[29,000. From the commercial point of view, therefore, the trade has never been large, and the trade from Australia is now worth only £[29.000. What does that mean? It means that for every pound's' worth of exports by the steam-ship company we are practically paying a subsidy of £[1. From the trade point of view, that is the most tremendous subsidy which the world has ever seen, I think. pany to export j£i worth of goods, plus the cost of carriage. Why is there such an enormous discrepancy between the exports from Australia to Canada and those from Canada to Australia? Canada has appointed two commercial agents for Australia, one being in Sydney and the other in Melbourne. These gentlemen have been pushing trade, with the result that Canada's trade amounts to nearly £[250,000, while our trade does not amount to £[3°,°°°.

Senator Dobson - We must send commercial agents to Canada.

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