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Wednesday, 1 November 1905

Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania) - I do not propose to go into the merits of this mail service, so far as the shipping matter is concerned, but I wish to address myself to one point. That point has been touched upon by Senator Matheson, and I was going to say by Senator Pulsford, but it would be more correct to say that it was evaded by him. The point is one which is present in theminds of every one, and it is this: Whether it is a right and fitting thing that the Commonwealth should pay this subsidyper capita. I think it is generally admitted that if it were purely a trade subsidy, it could not be contended that it should be paid per capita. With that contention I agree. If it were a trade subsidy only two States would be benefited by it, namely, Queensland and New South Wales; and it would obviously be wrong, under those circumstances, for the burden to be borne per capita. But it has been argued that it is purely a mail subsidy, and that, therefore, the payment ought to be made per capita. That is a proposition that was advanced by Senator Keating.

Senator Keating - I never made any such proposition. I said that if it were a trade subsidy we should be abrogating the Constitution in saddling two States with it.

Senator CLEMONS - I am dealing with it solely from the mail subsidy point of view. I understand that this contract, from the first word in it to the last, deals only with the carriage of mails. If I am - not correct in that statement, I hope that one of the representatives of the Government will make the point clear. As they are silent, I assume that there is no provision in the contract for those requirements of trade which we know are provided for in other mail contracts. That being so, it is a proper thing that, no matter what State we may represent in the Senate, we should consider, and, to the best of our ability, make up our mind, as to whether the payment for a purely mail subsidy should be per capita, or should be charged against the State or States directly interested.

Senator Givens - All the States are directly interested in a mail subsidy.

Senator CLEMONS - I am delighted to hear Senator Givens say that. I hope that he will back up his words by assisting me later on. It is admitted that, inasmuch as this is a mail subsidy, the whole Commonwealth is benefited by it. But now let me remind the Senate that this is a renewal of a mail contract that was in existence before the Commonwealth was inaugurated. There is at the present time an exactly similar mail service in existence. From the point of view from which I am dealing with the matter it stands on very much stronger groundthan this service, but the expenditure upon it is treated! as " transferred expenditure." I refer to the mail subsidy of £13,000 that is paid for the conveyance of mails, without any trade conditions between the Island of Tasmania and Australia. That is on precisely the same footing as this contract for the Vancouver service. But the treatment is totally different. Tasmania pays every penny of that subsidy, with the exception of a "sop " which was wrongly thrown to her the other day. That is to say, she pays , £1 2,000 per annum for the conveyance of, mails from one part of this Commonwealth to the other. Yet we are asked that the whole Commonwealth shall subscribe per capita for the conveyance of mails from the Commonwealth to a place beyond the seas. If that is right, then a fortiori, the Commonwealth should pay per capita for the conveyance of mails to Tasmania.

Senator Keating - Poundage is paid on every ounce of mail matter that goes into Tasmania from other States, and is credited to Tasmania.

Senator CLEMONS - Precisely ; and Tasmania is perfectly willing to pay poundage so far as she participates in this Vancouver service. But is that the proposition ? Tasmania is not given the option.

Senator Keating - The , £13,000 Tasmania pays is only for what comes out of Tasmania.

Senator CLEMONS - If is a mail service between one part of the Commonwealth and the other.

Senator Keating - It is treated on the same principle as are the services between the other States.

Senator CLEMONS - This service is not being treated on the same principle.

Senator Keating - Because it is an extra-State service.

Senator CLEMONS - Because it is an extra-State service the payment is to be per capita, whilst the cost of Inter-State services is to be treated as " transferred expenditure " ?

Senator Keating - The same principle is applied to the services between New South Wales and Victoria, and between Victoria and South Australia.

Senator CLEMONS -The Minister forgets that there is no other oversea' service in which we are concerned between the States.

Senator Guthrie - There is the. service to Western Australia.

Senator Keating - Each State carries to the other at its own cost.

Senator CLEMONS - As a matter of fact, when I asked Senator Keating how the mails were conveyed between Western Australia and the other States, he admitted that they were conveyed by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam- Navigation. Company's boats chiefly, and the cost was met on the per capita basis.

Senator Keating - Because that is included in the Adelaide-Naples contract.

Senator CLEMONS - I admit that, but surely that is a complete answer to Senator Keating ?

Senator Keating - As I pointed out in dealing with the Orient contract, Western Australia is the only State which forms an exception to the principle to which I have referred.

Senator CLEMONS - It forms a veryfavorable exception from the point ofview of Western Australian finance, and in this case an exception is made which is largely adverse to Tasmania. We ought to decide the question, and say whether in the case of mail services the payment of subsidies should be charged on a per capita basis. I am perfectly willing to agree to a uniform system. I shall be prepared to vote for the motion now before the Senate if Ministers will give me their assurance that in the next Estimates to come before us a sum will be set down to cover the subsidy paid to the company carrying mails between the mainland of the Commonwealth and Tas mania, and that it will be charged on a; per capita basis.

Senator Givens - The honorable senator will vote for what he has just said iswrong, provided that a " sop " is thrown tothe State he represents.

Senator CLEMONS - Senator Givensdoes not understand me. I am not prepared definitely to say that itis absolutely right that these payments should be on a per capita basis. I admit that there isa very considerable weight of authority; for that view. I am aware that most of the members of this Parliament, competent by legal training to give an opinion, wilt say that it is proper that these mail subsidies should be paid for) on a per capita: basis. Thatmay be right, and I do not care to set my opinion against that of a majority. Personally, I think it is wrong. I have said already in this Chamber, and I now repeat, that in my opinion many, of the services put down in the Estimates as " new expenditure," arewrongly so placed, and should still remainas transferred services. But assuming that it . is right that they should be paid for on a per capita basis, I am willing to accept that decision on condition that the principle is uniformly applied. I am prepared to vote for the payment of this subsidy for the Vancouver service on a per capita basis on one understanding only, and on no other, and that is-, that the mail service between the mainland of the Commonwealth and Tasmaniashall also be paid for on a per capita basis. I do not appeal to senators representing; Tasmania to vote in that way, because such an appeal in their case should be unnecessary, but I appeal to every honorable senator, no matter what State he represents, to insist on uniformity in this matter. It may , be that Tasmania will suffer, butsurely no honorable senator will say that it is right that the principle should be applied in the case of every other State but Tasmania. I make my appeal with confidence. The only understanding on whichI can agree to vote for the ratification of this contract is that to which I have referred. It is well within the power of the Ministry to give me the assurance for which I ask. They have entirely in their hands the decision as to what shall becalled " new expenditure " and what " transferred expenditure." There is nothing toprevent them putting on the Estimates a sum ofmoney to pay the subsidy required? for the conveyance of mails between the mainland of the Commonwealth and Tasmania. If they are certain that this Vancouver service should be paid for on the per capita basis, they will be shamefully neglecting their duty if they do not do what I suggest. I want their assurance in the matter before I can vote for the motion. I should like Senator Playford, -who is supposed to be leading the Senate, to give me some intimation as to how I should vote. If the honorable senator will tell me that a sum will be put on the Esti mates in accordance withthe fair request which I have made I shall be prepared, to vote at once for this motion. Unless he will do so the honorable senator must see that I cannot vote for it. Will the honorable senator make me any answer ?

Senator Keating - I will deal with the whole question, when replying.

Senator CLEMONS - I do not . require the honorable senator to go into the whole question, but since Senator Playford remains dumb I appeal to Senator Keating

Senator Givens - Why should not Senator Playford remain dumb when the honorable senator puts his question in such a way - " Who is supposed to be leading the Senate?"

Senator Playford - The honorable senator first utters an insult, and then expects an answer to his question.

Senator CLEMONS - Senator Playfordwill not answer any one. Senator Matheson made an appeal to the honorable senator to which he has not yet replied. That, at any rate, is not very consistent with the dignity of the Government if it is even tolerably polite. I put at to Senator Keating that I can and will vote readily for the ratification of this contract, on the assumption that the expense is to be met on a per capita basis, but I must havethe word of the Government that a sum of money will be set down in the Estimates to pay the subsidy for the conveyance of mails between the mainland of the Commonwealth and Tasmania. Senator Walker may laugh at my request, but if the principle of payment on a per capita basis is rightly applied in this case, it would be rightly applied in the other-

Senator Walker - I think the honorable senator has made a good point.

Senator CLEMONS - Until I get the assurance for which I have asked I cannot vote for the ratification of this contract, although the principle adopted for the payment of the subsidy may be right.

Senator Henderson - So the honorable senator's vote is up for sale?

Senator CLEMONS - No; I do not belong to the Labour Party. It is the Labour Party's vote that is up for sale. My vote is to be had to secure uniformity, and against any unfair treatment of any State.

Senator Pulsford - Does that mean that Senator Clemons is prepared to concede that Tasmania should contribute to the expense of the mail services of all the States ?

Senator CLEMONS -If the same principle is applied to all the States. It has been held that this ' and other expenditure, such as that proposed for telephone communication between Melbourne and Sydney, which we discussed the other day, is rightly considered "new expenditure," to be borne on a per capita basis. The Ministry have indorsed it, at any rate, and only the other day it was decided that all the States should pay on a per capita basis for the cost of establishing telephonic communication' between Sydney and Melbourne. I said then - as I say now - that in my opinion that -was wrong. But if my opinion is to have no weight, and it is finally decided that that and similar expenditure is properly debited to all the States on a per capita basis, then I say that the principle must be applied uniformly.

Senator Fraser - How could this be paid for otherwise than on a per capita basis ?

Senator CLEMONS - It is only a little while ago that this service was not paid for on a per capita basis.

Senator Lt Col Gould - That was because of an existing contract.

Senator CLEMONS - I would point out to Senator Fraser that when the contract was renewed last year, involving a subsidy for the conveyance of mails between the mainland and Tasmania, a service on precisely the same footing, Tasmania had to pay every penny of the subsidy, with the exception of certain rebates in the shape of poundage fees.

Senator Fraser - I agree that that subsidy should be paid for on the per capita

Senator CLEMONS - If that were done I should have no objection to this proposal. I contend that the application of the principle of paying for these mail subsidies on a per capita basis should be uniform. That is my position, and Senator Henderson must see that I am, in cosequence, compelled to vote in the way I have indicated.

Senator Millen - Is the honorable senator prepared to go further, and make the cost of the transport of mails between any one State and any other State a per capita charge ?

Senator CLEMONS - No; I see no analogy between the two cases.

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