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Wednesday, 1 November 1905

Senator STEWART - It is; positively dishonest. It is indefensible from every point of view that I can look at it. The agreement ought to be rejected by the Senate. I have no sympathy with this sentimental idea of keeping up communication with Canada. Why should we trouble about Canada ? Will Canada buy any goods from us if she can get them cheaper, or more conveniently elsewhere? Shall we buy goods from Canada just because Canada is a portion of the British Empire? We do not buy goods from Great Britain - our dear old mama - if we can buy them cheaper in Germany.

Senator Walker - Sensible people.

Senator STEWART - Of course, they are sensible. The hard-headed Scottish instinct dominates the honorable senator's mind. There is really no sentiment in business, and it is a good thing that there 5s not. I find, on reference to the returns, that our business with Canada, instead of increasing, is actually diminishing. Our sales to Canada are rapidly approaching vanishing point. We are asked to pay .£26,000 per annum for what? There was a trade between Canada and Australia last year, amounting both ways to about £[300,000, for carrying which the company received a subsidy of £[60,000 from Canada and Australia. In other words, one-fifth of the entire cost of the commodities carried was paid in subsidy. That may be a most excellent thing for the shipping company, but from my point of view, at all events, it is not good business either for Canada or for Australia. Of course, Canada can do as she pleases.

Senator Clemons - The only redeeming feature is that it is a good honest company.

Senator STEWART - I really do not trouble about the fact that it is an Australian company, and that its ships are manned by Australian sailors. If that principle were carried into effect, as a number of Australians would like to see it, we should be led into the most extravagant and unbusiness like proposals. Let us deal with every question on its merits. What merits has this proposal ? None whatever. I was altogether astonished to find the Government bringing forward an actual proposition for the renewal of this agreement. The Senate ought to have some information as to how it is that am additional sum of £[3,000 is demanded.

Senator Matheson - The company simply asked for it, and the Government said yes.

Senator STEWART - If the company had asked for £[10,000, I suppose the Government would have consented. My view is that we ought not to renew the contract. But if the Senate, .in its wisdom - we hear a lot of talk about the wisdom" of the Senate ; in fact, we hear more of it than we see of it - decides to renew the contract, I must vote against the amendment, apart altogether from the fact that I am a Queenslander, and that Queensland is supposed to benefit from the contract - though I cannot see where the benefit comes in,.

Senator Matheson - Queensland gets all the trade.

Senator STEWART - The trade is very little. The vessels simply call at Pinkenba,1 land a few passengers, mails, and parcels, unload two or three tons of goods, and then proceed to Sydney. I do not grudge New South Wales and Sydney any trade which may be derived from the service. But if this "contract is to be renewed, it appears, to me that it is not a New South Wales or a Queensland contract, but an Australian contract. As I read the Constitution, neither Queensland' nor New South Wales, nor any single State, nor any combination of States, has the right to make a contract with any party outside of Australia for the carriage of mails. Is not that what the Constitution provides ? Can any State enter into a postal contract with South Africa, for instance?

Senator Matheson - We are told that this is not a postal contract.

Senator STEWART - I am, sure that if we had the contract before us, as we ought to have, we should not find a word about anything else than mails in it. No State can make a mail contract outside or inside Australian territory. The States have no jurisdiction in that matter. If the contract is to be ratified, the expense ought to be borne on a -per capita basis. Complaints have been made that a number of members of the Senate are extremely wanting in the Federal spirit. I repudiate that assertion entirely. I endeavour, so far as I am able, to deal with every question that arises on a

Federal basis and on its merits. Some honorable senators have talked about the Western Australia railway. I do not wish to discuss that very much vexed question, but I may say this - that it ought to be a sufficient answer that the Federal Parliament has no power whatever to construct railways or take over railways already constructed, without the consent and concurrence of the States interested. That is the attitude which the Senate took up in dealing with the railway question.

Senator Matheson - Do not apologize.

Senator STEWART - I am not apologizing. I am only stating what I am sure must be clearly apparent to a gentleman of Senator Matheson's powers of perception. I think the best thing the Senate can" do with "this contract is to refuse to ratify it. I intend to vote in that direction. I think it is a bad contract ; that it is unnecessary ; and that it involves a wasteful expenditure of money. I think it means loading up the Post-office with charges that ought not to be made against that institution. For all those reasons my vote shall go against ratification. But if the Senate agrees to ratify the contract, I shall feel compelled to vote against Senator Matheson's amendment.

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