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Wednesday, 1 November 1905

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) - I cannot allow the question to be put without explaining the vote I propose to give. I noticed that while Senator Keating did not attempt to defend this grant as a mail subsidy, other senators did. If it is a mail subsidy, we are paying very dearly for our whistle. We are paying such an extravagant rate that that fact alone ought, I think, to be sufficient to condemn the proposal. I propose to consider it as a trade subsidy only. I think it can be shown to be differential treatment in favour of New South Wales as against other States. For many years before Federation, and since that time, Western Australia has had a subsidized trade mail service to Esperance,, on its southern coast. The contract wilt expire this year, and the Government of the Commonwealth have announced that they will call for tenders for a mail service by sea and by land. We know very well that a mail service by land will cost very much less than a mail service by sea. What will be the result? The Government have said that unless Western Australia will pay the difference between the lowest tenders in each case they will discontinue the service by sea, and institute a service by land.

Senator Millen - That is a service within the State !

Senator PEARCE - If the Government are going to lay down a policy that trade subsidies are to be divorced from mail subsidies, it should apply to every mail service throughout the Commonwealth. The fact that the mail service to Esperance is an internal service does not affect the ques.tion, because the cost is debited to the State. The Senate, however, indorsed a departure from this rule when the Orient Steam Navigation Company's mail contract was submitted for its ratification. When the representatives of Queensland contended that the service between Adelaide and Sydney was of the nature of a trade subsidy, and for that reason threatened to vote against the motion, the Government threw them a sop, and said, " We will make you a repayment in consideration of the fact that the service between Adelaide and Sydney is a trade subsidy."

Senator Givens - Why does not the honorable senator move for a similar mileage rate in connexion with the Vancouver mail service ?

Senator PEARCE - I protested and voted against the action of the Govern ment; but I was overruled, and by a majority the Senate established that precedent. I should now be false to my duty if I did not insist that . Western Australia and every other State should be treated in precisely the same way as Queensland and Tasmania have been treated in that regard. To my mind, Senator Symon quite overlooked the fact that this question cannot be viewed in the same light as it could have been had not the Orient Steam Navigation Company's mail contract been ratified with that addendum. He says that in his belief this is a new contract, and that the cost should be debited as " new " expenditure. Are we justified in dipping into our one-fourth of the Customs and Excise revenue for this purpose, in view of the fact that the very States which are to receive the prime benefit - New South Wales and Queensland - have been the loudest in condemnation of what is called the growing extravagance of the Commonwealth Parliament? Time and again the Premier of the former State has pointed to the increase under the head of " new ' ' expenditure. If the contention of Senator Symon be correct, here is another sum of £[29,000 which is to be taken out of the one-fourth, and I suppose that next week Mr. Carruthers will be pointing to the rapid increase in the " new " expenditure. He will not point to that particular item, but will in general terms condemn this Parliament for being extravagant. If the States are sincere in their complaints against this Parliament, here is an opportunity afforded to New South Wales to spend this sum in the interest of her own trade expansion. I shall be very much interested, in watching the attitude which certain honorable senators will take up on this question,' because we have recently heard a great outcry about the. dumping of agricultural machinery into the Commonwealth. We have heard about the iniquity of cheap agricultural machinery being imported for our farmers, and the Government are to be moved to take action to prevent its introduction. On referring to the trade statistics, I find that the biggest item of our Canadian imports is agricultural machinery.

Senator Guthrie - Yes; but not from Vancouver.

Senator PEARCE - Inasmuch as the figures have been quoted as evidence of our trade with Canada, I assume that some of this agricultural machinery finds its way from Vancouver.

Senator Playford - None of it.

Senator PEARCE - The factory of Massey, Harris and Company is situated about half-way between the coasts of Canada, and I believe it is just possible that as much of their machinery comes through Vancouver as from the eastern coast.

Senator Playford - Most of it is shipped from the United States.

Senator PEARCE - I cannot accept the disclaimers until it is proved that my belief is not well founded. Of our exports to Canada, practically the bulk is raw material; while of our imports from Canada, practically the bulk is manufactured goods. Whether the imports be agricultural machinery or not, the principle is the same. If we are going to subsidize this mail line, how can we consistently raise the duties in order to prevent Canadian manufactures from coming into the Commonwealth ? I shall watch with interest to see if honorable senators are prepared to subsidize this mail line to the extent of £29,000 per annum in order that Canadian manufactures can be brought into the Commonwealth to compete with Australian manufactures, and I suppose, later on, to raise an outcry to stop their importation by means of increased duties'. In 1894 we imported from Canada £26,284 worth of agricultural machinery, £10,498 worth of machinery and tools, and £51,000 worth of undressed timber. Much of this undressed timber is Oregon, which comes into competition with the jarrah of Western; Australia. Practically, I am asked to compel my State to make a contribution to assist the Canadian merchant to land undressed timber here more cheaply than he otherwise could do, in order to compete with our jarrah.

Senator Guthrie - It would not pav the steamers to carry timber.

Senator PEARCE - Let us drop all humbug and cant. If we wish to subsidize this mail line, we must inevitably assist Canadian manufacturers to land their goods in the Commonwealth more cheaply than they otherwise could do. It is mere cant and humbug on the one hand to say that we are .in favour of opening up trade by subsidizing an " All-Red ' ' line, and on the other hand to raise an agitation to keep out the very goods which are carried by the subsidized vessels. I intend to vote for the amendment, because of the precedent which the Senate laid down in connexion with the Orient Steam Navigation Company's mail contract, and if it is defeated I shall vote against the ratification of theagreement, in order that New South Walesshall be spared the proposed increase in. Federal extravagance about which her Premier is so fond of orating.

Senator STEWART(Queensland).There are one or two matters that I think ought to be cleared up to the satisfaction? of the Senate before this motion is finally disposed of. I expected to hear Senator Symon deal with one of them. I think he ought to have given the Senate the reason why this contract was not submitted' to Parliament by 'the late Government, of which he was a member. The old contract expired on the 1st May this year. Consequently, there was no time before itsexpiry for the present Government tq takeaction. But the late Government during, last session ought to have brought the subject before us. The Senate is now in thispeculiar position : It is asked to ratify the agreement under consideration, when, as a matter of fact, no other course is open to it. That being the case, we have simply been, wasting time. A great deal of attention has been given to the InterStateaspect of the question. I was under the impression that the first thing to which the members of the Senate should devote their attention was whether this contract should be renewed or not. If I had been called upon to vote after the speech delivered bv Senator Keating. I should certainly have voted" against the ratification of the agreement. The; honorable senator told us that it' wasof no use to Australia as a mail contract, and1 of no use as a trade arrangement. In the first place, the correspondence taker* by the route is very limited in quantity, and in the second place he informed us that the trade is continually decreasing. Under those circumstances, I put it to honorable senators, whether we are warranted' in throwing away £26,000 of "Commonwealth money, which is very urgently required in other directions? Several honorable senators from New South Wales have talked about the bonds of sentiment. I was not aware that there was any sentiment in business. If we are to be sentimental about the connexion between Canada and Australia, I do not see why thepostoffice should be loaded up with £26,000 per annum on account of that idea. If we are prepared to pay hard cash for our sentiment, let us be honest, and vote the money out of the general revenue of the Commonwealth for the purpose. Do not let us add to the post-office expenditure. As the contract is, Senator Keating tells us, useless for mail purposes, why ask the post-office to pay for it?

Senator Matheson - It is positively dishonest.

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