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Wednesday, 1 November 1905

Senator MILLEN - Did not the honorable senator inform the Senate a little while ago that it was competent for the parties to this agreement to renounce it?

Senator Best - I said so.

Senator MILLEN - And when they renounced it, surely their liability would cease. There were three parties to the

Original agreement - the shipping company, New South Wales and Queensland, and Canada. One of them, Queensland, renounced it. She represented to the Federal Government that she did not desire a renewal of the subsidy, and ought not to be made chargeable with any portion of the cost, if it were renewed.

Senator Best - Where did the honorable

Senator learnthat?

Senator MILLEN - The Minister stated it during the afternoon. The very fact that Senator Best asks me when' it was stated, indicates that it would have modified his argument if he had heard it at the time. Does he mean to say that it is competent for one party to a contract to renew it without the consent of the other party ?

Senator Best - I said that, technically, the Commonwealth had a right to renew the contract, but that it would be an outrage to do so without the consent of the States concerned.

Senator MILLEN - But the honorable senator also said that any party to the contract had a right to renounce it. Queensland did renounce it: and consequently any obligation that might attach to Queensland ceased. If Queensland withdrew from the contract, what became of it? Is it competent for the Federation) to say to New South Wales, " Whether you like it or not, although your partner has gone out, we shall renew the contract, and charge the cost to you " ? That is the position to which we are now reduced. .

Senator Best -. - Queensland did renew the contract in 1903.

Senator MILLEN - She renounced it.

Senator Matheson - It was not sostated in the other House.

Senator MILLEN - If the honorablesenator would confine his attention to the Senate he would know that the fact was stated here this afternoon.

Senator Best - It was certainly not stated by the Minister in his speech.

Senator MILLEN - I believe the Minister was not aware of the fact until Senator Best brought forward the argument upon which he relied. Then he obtainedthe information, and when he stated the fact, I went over to him, and he confirmed it to me. The contract was renewed by the Commonwealth Government in 1903 at an increased price, and with altered conditions.

Senator Matheson - Not with altered conditions.

Senator Guthrie - Yes, there were to be better boats.

Senator MILLEN - Mav I quote the authority upon whom the honorable senator relied - Mr. Deakin. He said -

This is merely a continuation of the old agreement, with very slight alterations in. the direction of providing greater convenience.

Senator Matheson - Greater convenience on the old 'ships - yes.

Senator MILLEN - Then the honorablesenator^ does admit that there was an alteration in the conditions?

Senator Matheson - There was an improvement in the machinery of the boats. That is all. The same ships ran, only they were tinkered up. I happen to know that to be a fact.

Senator MILLEN - An increased price was paid, I presume, partly in consequence of the altered conditions. If the Commonwealth was entitled to renew "a contract as frequently as it liked, and with altered conditions, let us see where we should' land ourselves. It would be possible for the Commonwealth absolutely to ruin a State financially if it could repeatedly renew an agreement- made by the State before Federation, aria after the conditions. T submit that the view of Senator Dobson is a sounder one, that when the agreement terminated the obligation of the State terminated also; that if the Commonwealth then sought to renew the agreement, it practically became a fresh contract ; and that the liability of the -individual States was removed.

Senator Best - Did not Sir Edmund Barton say that it was renewed in the interests of New South Wales and Queensland?

Senator MILLEN - Sir Edmund Barton said many things, but as I understand there is a general desire to prorogue this Parliament before Christmas, I do not propose to discuss them all. I wish to say a word or two with regard to the Tasmanian mail matter. It does appear to me that Tasmania has a reasonable cause of complaint against the Federation. I cannot agree with the contention of Senator Clemons, who has sought to prove that the costs of. the transfer of Tasmanian mails to Australian States on the mainland should be charged per capita. The principle adopted with regard to the rest of the States is, that each State pays for the transit of its mails to neighbouring States.

Senator Guthrie - To its own border.

Senator Keating - Unfortunately, Tasmania's border is Wilson's Promontory.

Senator MILLEN - New South Wales pays the cost of taking her mails to the Victorian border, and Victoria pays the cost of taking her mails to the New South Wales border. The Commonwealth should apply that principle to Tasmania in the case of mails to "the mainland, But the Commonwealth is not carrying that principle into effect fairly and equitably. As I understand, Tasmania is charged with the whole cost of subsidizing the boats which carry mails both ways, while the mainland States only pay poundage rates on their letters to Tasmania.

Senator Guthrie - But the Tasmanian subsidy is paid for more than mail carriage.

Senator MILLEN - Some portion of.the subsidy is paid for the carriage of mails, and it appears to me that an equitable portion of that subsidy should be chargeable against the mainland States. At least onehalf should be paid by the mainland States, and the other half bv Tasmania. Certainly Tasmania ought not to bear the whole cost. Suppose she declined any longer to bear the expense of the subsidy. Then the Commonwealth would have to subsidize vessels to take mails to and from Tasmania.

Senator Guthrie - South Australia carries the Western Australian mails, and the English mails to her border, without getting anything for it.

Senator MILLEN - If the honorable senator will look at the Estimates he will see whether South Australia gets nothing. One of the biggest sums1 is for the transit of mails.

Senator Guthrie - But English mails and Western Australian mails are carried for nothing.

Senator Keating - Only when a special train is put on.

Senator MILLEN - The Tasmanian position does seem to me to be to some extent unjust. As I have shown, if she declined any longer to subsidize the steamships the Commonwealth would have to do so. We ought not to place upon Tasmania any pressure to adopt drastic methods of that kind. I therefore trust that before long the Government will take this matter into consideration. But "I would suggest to Senator Clemons that it ite hardey desirable that he should penalize States with which he has no quarrel merely because of art injustice which is done to Tasmania. The better course for him to adopt would be to vote on this occasion as I feel sure his views would lead him to vote, and trust to the good sense of the Government and of Parliament to adopt some reasonable plan in regard to Tasmanian mails.

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