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Thursday, 7 December 1905

Senator FRASER (Victoria) - Whilst I agree generally with the last speaker, I cannot agree with all that he has said. I hold that we have already sufficient telegraph lines for the business to be met. If that is so, I am unable to see why we should erect another line at a cost of, per- haps, £30,000.

Senator Staniforth Smith - What I was referring to was the proposal now under consideration to have a British-owned line from Vancouver to Great Britain, to complete the circuit. That would cost us nothing.

Senator FRASER - The Pacific Cable is a British-owned line. That is its justification, and that was the great plea which aroused so much enthusiasm for its construction in all British countries, and rightly so, too. We never know when war may break out, and, if foreign nations have the power to do so, they will cut cables, and create confusion. I agree that it was politically improper to erect a telegraph line for the sole use of the Eastern

Extension Company. It was an unwarrantable expenditure, and I cannot conceive how any Government could specially favour a foreign enterprise at the expense of their own. I could have understood the matter if the Government had erected a line to be used by both companies.

Senator Guthrie - The messages do not go the same way that is the trouble. The Pacific Cable messages go to Queensland, whilst the Eastern Extension Company's messages go to Adelaide.

Senator FRASER - I consider that the Government went out of their way to incur an unwarrantable expenditure of £30,000, to give to the Eastern Extension Company a special line. We cannot help that now ; but there can be no doubt that, it must be an immense advantage to the Eastern Extension Company. That company is at present obliged to open offices everywhere, and that must involve them in very great expense. WhatI would like the Government to do would be to see that the best experts in the Post and Telegraph Department are selected for the purpose of cabling, because it is a common complaint by all the big business houses that better results are obtained by cabling through the Eastern Extension Company than through the Government office. I can easily under- stand that, because every young operator must be expected to make blunders in cabling. The operators of the Eastern Extension Company never make blunders, because they are adepts at the business.

Senator Walker - The honorable senator believes that they are infallible.

Senator FRASER - They are practically infallible, because they are very clever at their work.

Senator Staniforth Smith - The operators of the Eastern Extension Company make many mistakes.

Senator FRASER - I think they make very few. They give many facilities to their clients, and thus obtain a very great advantage. Amongst other things, they keep a ledger account ; and I ask why the Post and Telegraph Department, in connexion with the Pacific Cable, should not keep a ledger account in just the same way as the Railway Department does? They could open a ledger account for the banks, the big wool houses, and merchants and traders generally. Surely their credit is good enough.

Senator Guthrie - They would sometimes make big losses.

Senator FRASER - They would not make any losses at all.

Senator Walker - They could get guarantees.

Senator FRASER - Of course they could, as the Railway Department does at the present time. I have a ledger account at present with the Railway Department, and' I give a guarantee' that the charges on my goods wild always be met.

Senator Walker - The same thing is done in the Customs Department.

Senator FRASER - That is so, and it is only business. If the Minister will draw the attention, of his colleagues to these matters the business of the Pacific Cable will be greatly facilitated. At present it is very much more convenient for people to do 'business with the Eastern Extension 'Company because they do what any private company would do. The difficulty is that we cannot remove red tape from a Government office. Government officials have a set way of doing business, and apparently nothing will move them out of it. What I suggest can be done. I have no wish whatever to treat the Eastern Extension Company unfairly. As pioneers they have done a great work, and are entitled to our thanks for having provided us with cable communication in the early days. We should not treat them unfairly ; but all the same, there is no reason why we should not support our own line in a reasonable way. I cannot understand why the Eastern Extension Company refuse to adopt the pooling arrangements proposed, but since they have refused the Government can, with more reason, bring pressure to bear upon them. The Eastern Extension Company can open offices in the city, but they cannot open offices all over the country. The innumerable post-offices throughout the States are receivers for the Pacific Cable Company.

Senator Staniforth Smith - There is not much cabling done from the country.

Senator FRASER - I admit that_ the principal portion of the cabling business is done from the capitals, but still a considerable amount is done from the country and suburban towns. It is only right, I submit, that the Government should try to force business to the Pacific Cable Company.

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