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Wednesday, 6 December 1905

Senator DOBSON (TASMANIA) - There are honorable senators who would agree to a term of ten years, but not to a term of twelve years; and Senator O'Keefe's action in consenting to the amendment now before the Senate has induced me to submit my amendment. For twelve years the company will have the whip hand and occupy the same premier position they occupy now. They will have the run of the Commonwealth, and will continue their canvassing. They will have their terminal offices, and the Pacific Cable Board practically say that it would hardly be worth their while to open rival offices, the report of the Conference suggesting that it would be better for the two organizations to negotiate.

Senator O'Keefe - What has the honorable senator to offer as an alternative?

Senator DOBSON - We ought not to hear it said repeatedly that the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company will not agree to this or that; we ought to show that, while we are prepared to do justice to them, we are determined to do justice to ourselves and partners, and to the four millions of people we represent.

Senator Gray - How?

Senator DOBSON - In four States the company have terminal facilities, but in Victoria and Queensland, which contain nearly one-half of the population of the Commonwealth, they have no such facilities. I would far rather let the company do the bestthey can with the facilities which they obtained most improperly from New South Wales after the Commonwealth was established, and before the Departments were taken over. But in the two States which have not given up their rights, the Pacific CableCompany would have a far better chance of getting business.

Senator O'Keefe - The honorable senator is keeping the other four States crippled with the old agreements.

Senator DOBSON - No : I have no doubt that in the future, by compromise, a working agreement would be come to, but SenatorPlayford, like every other Minister who. wishes to get a proposal adopted, will not listen to any alternative. He will not admit that negotiation could achieve anything. He insists that the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company will not go beyond the terms of this agreement. Therefore, it is exceedingly difficult to move the Government in any direction. I think that the Senate will regret the day, if the agreement be confirmed. For twelve long years it would place the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company in a better position, and at the end of that time I suppose they would have a larger proportion of business than they now get. I think that the Minister ought to have read more carefully the report of the Conference, and considered the suggestion that the two companies should confer, and see ifthey could nob come to an arrangement. If the Pacific Cable Company agreed to a compromise I, of course, should not dissent, because I presume that they would derive a benefit therefrom. No one can foresee the harm which we shall do to our partners if we confirm the agreement. We shall be practically surrendering the power of helping the Pacific Cable Company if we give the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company the right to have terminal facilities in Victoria and Queensland. We are losing . £80.000 odd a year, so that during the next twelve years we shall probably lose£1,500. 000, together with compound interest. I believe that if the Government would only negotiate with the old company they could arrange much better terms. I protest against what is being done. I prophesy that the agreement will prove to be disastrous to the Commonwealth'. I consider that the Government will be very much to blame if they allow the motion to pass. I quite agree with Senator demons when he says that Tasmania has been absolutely forgotten. The Tasmanian agreement is nothing to the rich Eastern Extension Telegraph Company, but it is everything to a State which has lost£150,000 a year by the operation of the Tariff alone. We have a right to complain that no Commonwealth Government has handled this question as it ought to have done. Considering that our duty is to conserve the interests ofour partners the action of every Government has been unintelligible.

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