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Wednesday, 6 December 1905

Senator TURLEY (Queensland) - I intend to vote for the amendment of Senator O'Keefe, but against the main question when it is put, because I do not wish to see the agreement ratified. No State has. suffered, or is suffering more, on account of the action of the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company than is Queensland. For years after agreements had been entered into between the company and some of the other Colonies in the group, Queensland was paying double rates for every cable message which was sent direct therefrom. For instance, in Queensland the Government were paying, I think, 9s. 4d. a word, while in other States the Governments were paying about 4s. 7d. a word, simply because the former State stood out of the agreement) which was sought to be entered into by the company. I admit that most of the private cablegrams used to be sent from Queensland to Sydney, to be transmitted thence, but of course they were subject to the ordinary telegraphic charges between point and point. At the present time Queensland is paying about £2,000 a year simply because it stood out, and wishing to do something to assist its people, constructed the cable which runs from Bundaberg to New Caledonia, and which was considered at that time to be the first link in a cable service to the States. But apart from all that, what we are asked by this agreement to do is to giveto the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company something which theyhavenever yet been able to obtain in Queensland, and that is the right to open offices to carry on their business as they have been able to do in other States. I for one decline to give the company any additional concession. Senator Stewart says that this is a piece of Imperial Socialism, by which we are going to do something to benefit the Commonwealth. I share his belief ; but I do not think that we are going to attain our end by entering into an agreement with a company who have done everything in their power first to burk the construction of the Pacific Cable, and next to endeavour to get agreements made with the States and to make arrangements which would cripple that cable as far as possible. By giving the company further facilities, how do we assist the Pacific Cable? We are simply putting more obstacles in its way by ratifying this agreement.

Senator Stewart - But it will terminate their concession.

Senator TURLEY - Yes. Although the honorable senator is a bit of a Socialist, yet he is afraid of competition, even with the wealth of the Commonwealth at our back. I take it that as business grew, people would be inclined to use the Stateowned cable, but the honorable senator says that we should be afraid to compete with the other company on equal terms. I do not think that we should. What is the use of the honorable senator talking about Socialism when he suggests that a company could come along and wipe the floor with the Pacific Cable Company ? I do not believe that any companycould. From New Zealand Senator Smith has received reliable information to the effect that because the Pacific Cable Company have adopted business methods similar to those which are practised by their rivals, three cables are being sent by the former to one sent by the latter. If that can be done in New Zealand, it could be equally well done in Australia. There is no reason why better facilities should be given to the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company, nor is thereany reason why two of the States which are already free from their thraldom should be dragged in by this agreement, when I believe thatby remaining out and adopting other methods, we should be able to make the Pacific Cable a financial success, even to the detriment of the company who have had Australia in their grasp for manyyears. What object have we in view when we start an enterprise in connexion with the State?

If we are to immediately climb down when a private company comes along, it is of no use to advocate that the Commonwealth should enter into a business enterprise at all. We should leave Queensland free.- A very large proportion of Her business is now sent over the Pacific Cable. If business methods are adopted, there is no reason why the same thing should not be said of New South Wales. Victoria is at present free from the' Eastern Extension Company, and if similar methods are adopted in this State, considering that the rates are the same, there is no reason why a very much larger share of Victorian business should not be sent over the Pacific Cable.

Senator Walker - Is the honorable senator right in saying that the' rates are the same? I understand that there is a difference of 6d. per word.

Senator TURLEY - There is a difference of 6d. per word on messages to the Continent of Europe, but the rates to Great Britain are the same. From information I have, I am aware that the Pacific Cable holds the record for the speedy transmission of messages, and that should certainly lead to increased business. Many years ago, communications were entered into between Queensland, New South Wales, and some of the other States, with the object of establishing the Pacific Cable, and we know that all the obstacles imaginable were thrown in the way of that proposal by interested parties. It was only when the Canadian Government took up the matter seriously, and sent representative men to Australia to interview the various Australian Governments in connexion with the matter, that any headway was made. I believe it was the visit of those Canadian representatives to Australia that enabled us to secure the construction of the Pacific Cable. Every one must know that so far nothing has beith done to induce people to use the Pacific Cable, whereas the Eastern Extension Company have canvassers out collecting cables from their customers, and have clerks employed to code messages.

Senator Gray - Is not that a matter in which the local managers of the Pacific Cable Company can help themselves ?

Senator TURLEY - How are they to help themselves when every telegraph office in the Commonwealth is a receiving office for the Eastern Extension Company?

Senator Walker - Only if messages bear an intimation that they are to be sent by that company's cable.

Senator TURLEY - Persons desiring to send messages by the Pacific Cable cannot have them coded. If they require that done, they must do it for themselves, or go to the Eastern Extension Company, who do it practically free of charge. We have no one going round to make known the facilities offered to people to use the Pacific Cable, whilst the Eastern Extension Company have canvassers amongst the various business places, endeavouring to secure business. The Eastern Extension Company are perfectly justified in adopting, these methods to increase their business, but the Commonwealth Government, as partners in a good concern, are not doing what lies in their power to make the business in which they ave interested a success. If this were a business concern in which Senator Gray held a third interest, I am sure the honorable senator would feel that he was bound to do all he could to make it a success.

Senator Gray - I sympathize with the honorable senator's view, but I wish to know how we are to get out of the existing agreements ?

Senator TURLEY - There is no reason why we should try to get out of any agreement at all. The difficulty is that by ratifying this agreement honorable senators will drag in two States that are now free.

Senator Stewart - But in order to free the whole.

Senator TURLEY - Yes, to free them at the end of ten years from now. But during that time, if Queensland and Victoria remain free vid adopt business methods for improving the returns from the Pacific Cable, there is no reason why that cable should riot be_ doing considerably more than half of the total cable business of the Commonwealth. Why, then, should we seek to enter into any agreement with these people? The States were under no obligation to them, and the Pacific Cable would be able to take their business, and it is now taking the business of the New Zealand Government. In those circumstances, of what use to the Eastern Extension Company would be the agreements they have now with the four States? The States are not bound under their agreements with the company to pav them any compensation, or to treat with them in any way. The Governments of the States concerned are not compelled to use the Eastern Extension Company's cables, and they can send all their business over the Pacific Cable as soon as they please. There is no undertaking that any business, whether private or State, shall be sent by the Eastern Extension Company's lines. If this is Socialism, all right, but when we come into competition with a private company, I am one of those who believe that with the power of the State behind an enterprise the State is able to carry it through successfully, and to secure the bulk of the business. I intend to vote for the amendment, because I believe that it will improve the motion ; but I intend also, when the original question is put, to vote against it.

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