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Wednesday, 1 November 1905


Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - That does not give time for competition to come into play, and if the contract was not renewed, the connexion between Canada and Australia would be absolutely stopped. I think that it would be better for the Government to agree to a continuation of the service for two years, and then to come to the determination that the service, as at present constituted, shall absolutely end, calling for tenders for a more efficient service at once, than to renew the contract as now proposed. In considering this and kindred matters, the Government ought, in my opinion, to lay down a definite policy to submit to Parliament with regard to mail subsidies to all parts of the world. We should consider the whole subject as to whether we shall pay subsidies, and if so, on what routes. At present we attack some matters on the impulse of the moment. First of all, the Government says to us, " This contract is already in operation, and we must assent to it." It comes before Parliament, and Parliament assents to it. Next year exactly the same thing occurs. There is no time to look round. If the Government were to work out a careful and proper scheme for mail subsidies, wherever we desire to pay them, we should be able to make up our minds upon a suitable plan, and should know exactly what we were doing. We are told that this is not merely a mail subsidy, but also a commercial subsidy. It seems that certain States have subsidized steamers for the purpose of increasing their exports, and that the Commonwealth can take over those services when requested. What would honorable senators say if Western Australia started a steam-ship service from Perth to India or China, and then came .to the Commonwealth and said, " This is a Commonwealth matter, and we desire you to take it over."


Senator Drake - This subsidy was entered into before the inauguration of the Commonwealth.


Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - The principle is the same.- If it were proposed to this Parliament that Western Australia should have a subsidized service, in order to increase her export trade, the idea would be laughed at.


Senator Sir William Zeal - Western Australia has four services at present - the French, German, P. and 0., and Orient services. What more does she "want ?


Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - Western Australia does not subsidize them.


Senator Sir William Zeal - She takes advantage of them.

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.What I have to say, to sum up, is that this is the worst service that the Commonwealth is subsidizing. It neither helps our exports nor does it assist us in mail matters. Yet we seem to fear that, owing to the position in which we are, if we do not renew the contract we shall absolutely cease to have "direct communication with" Canada. I really think that the Government should either continue the service for two years, and say definitely that the contract willi cease then, unless it is improved, and try to arrange with New Zealand and Canada for an improved service I think that New Zealand would join with us. I am aware that she is already subsidizing the Oceanic Steam-ship Company, but I understand that she is willing to participate with the Commonwealth in a new service, provided the vessels employed1 call at Auckland. I am satisfied that we can get a far better service for the £[66,000. I believe that if we had a more efficient service, and had commercial agents in Canada, we could, possibly with the further aid of a reduction in Canadian duties, create new markets for Australia, which would in time become very valuable.







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