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Wednesday, 1 November 1905

Senator DOBSON (Tasmania) - The motion and the amendment open up one or two questions of very great im portance. I am weary of the question) of how proposals for the expenditure of money may affect the finances of my State. I look forward to the time when the bookkeeping system will be done away with, and we shall have a real Federation. Every vote I can give in that direction wilt be given with pleasure, and without considering my 'State. Although it may rather seriously affect the interests of" Tasmania to charge the expenditure on thismail contract on a per capita basis, still I cannot forget that only a few days ago a principle was adopted under which it will' make a gain of £2,700. I propose to support the motion and oppose the amendment. I do not lay down any condition with regard to my vote, for I am quite satisfied' that, in view of the Prime Minister's promise, Senator Playford will see that the position of all the States with regard to mail contracts will be considered, and1 steps taken to lay down a uniform basis. It is perfectly clear that we cannot have one mail contract dealt with orrone principle and another mail contract dealt with on another principle. I can' quite understand that in settling this point very difficult and complex questions will have to be considered. On the one hand, Western Australia gets her mails carried between Perth and Adelaide under a contract to which she only contributes on a per capita basis. On the other hand, Tasmania has a special contract for the carriage of her mails across Bass Strait, while probably the mails to Northern Queensland are carried' under special contract by steamer for much farther than 160 miles. It appears to me that a uniform system will have to be laid down, if justice is to be done to all the States. I favour the ratification of the Vancouver mail contract, because it will enable our mails to be carried entirely through British possessions,, and because, in process of time, it mav become the main channel for the transmission of our mails to the United Kingdom. We could still avail ourselves of such steamers as came here, and that had refrigerating chambers for the export of produce, and the carriage of mails on the poundage system. I utterly disagree with senator Matheson, who seems to think that it is almost impossible for trade with Canada to increase. Considering that the seasons in Canada are opposite to ours, I should say that there is every possibility, nay, a probability, of our trade increasing in the near future. But since Senator Keating has plainly told us that, in his opinion, this contract cannot be defended purely as a mail contract, but is more of a trade contract, I think it will devolve upon the Government to see that practical steps are taken to increase our trade. In view of the fact that, as the result of the presence here of two commercial agents, the exports from Canada to Australia are far larger than our exports to that country, I think it will be the duty of the Government to see that a commercial agent is sent to Canada as soon as practicable. I feel quite certain that, with the aid of a little commercial energy and a practical knowledge of markets, our trade can be extended. With the increase of population in Canada it is1 quite likely that they will not grow some commodities, which we can produce, in sufficient quantity to supply their demands.

Senator Matheson - What commodities?

Senator DOBSON - Every now and then we may be able to export a larger quantity of butter or other produce.

Senator Matheson - Every now and then., but not regularly.

Senator DOBSON - In view of the diversity of the seasons, the area of the country, and the increase of population, I should think that the chances are as ten to one that the trade wilh increase, if we take wise and practical steps in that direc-tion.

Senator Matheson - The honorable senator does not say in what respects the trade will increase.

Senator DOBSON - In this matter my honorable friend is a pessimist. We are dealing with two gigantic countries, and for the purposes of his argument he declares that an increase in trade is impossible. If we adopt a laissez faire policy, and think that we have done everything that is possible by paying our share of this subsidy of £[66,000 to a line of mail steamers, then I agree with ray honorable friend. But do we intend' to stop at that? I think it is our duty to try in every possible way to get a better return for our money. I cannot follow Senator Best in the arguments which he has adduced. I take it that this is absolutely a new contract, because the subsidy is increased by £[6,000, and the names of the contracting parties are altered.

Senator Matheson - Had we not better see the contract, if it is a new one?

Senator DOBSON - It is a. new contract in every sense of the word, and would, I think, be viewed in that light by any Court. Senator Best has very rightly reminded us of the opinion given by Mr. Deakin in 1903, but he will not pay any attention to the fact that it has been overruled'.

Senator Matheson - By whom?

Senator DOBSON - By the Parliament. Not Only Rave Sir George Turner and other notable authorities in another place explained that they were wrong in adhering to Mr. Deakin's opinion of 1903, but it has been overruled in connexion- with two or three Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bills which have been introduced and passed.

Senator Best - That is not renewal of a contract.

Senator Matheson - The honorable senator is making an absolute mistake.

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