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Thursday, 7 December 1905


Senator GRAY (New South Wales) - I rise to express the pleasure I feel at the remarks which Senator Keating made on behalf of the Government. Senator Higgs has done a service in submitting the motion, because, although the Senate ratified a contract] yesterday in a certain form, I confess that I voted for the motion very much against the grain. It obtained my support simply because I recognised that four States were placed in such a position that it would be wise for the Commonwealth to make the best of a bad bargain. Senator Fraser has described the Eastern Extension Company as the pioneer cable enterprise, and Senator Smith has said that that company have had a monopoly for a large number of years. Speaking from a purely business standpoint, I do not think it can be fairly, said that the Eastern Extension Telegraph Comparty have taken advantage of their monopoly to any great extent against the interests of the Commonwealth at large.


Senator Staniforth Smith - They charged 9s. 4d. per word.


Senator GRAY - It is only natural that those who hold a monopoly should make the best use of it in. an equitable spirit, and that, I think, is what the company have done. Extraordinary agreements were entered into on behalf of four States, but the blame should not be attached to the company, but to the Ministers who put their signatures thereto. Until the formation of the Pacific Cable Company we were entirely in the hands of the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company. Although from a business stand-point we may fairly say that they did not take an undue advantage of their monopoly, still we may also fairly assume that the reduction in their rates was attributable to the coming competition. If that was so, and I think we must all recognise that it was - then how much more important is it that as the Commonwealth progresses we should feel that we are not in the hands of one cable company? The Pacific Cable Company was started to a certain extent under Imperial auspices, and it secured to us a reduction of rates on' the part of the older company. Quite apart from the sentimental aspect of the question, the Commonwealth Government should do everything in their power - of course, in fairness to the old company - to assist by every equitable means in promoting the welfare of the Pacific Cable Company. I confess that, from my little knowledge of the latter company, they have not shown that business acumen which some of us might expect from a company in which Australia and England are partners. To say that the company has been feebly administered is, I think, only to tell the absolute truth. They have allowed the. Eastern Extension Telegraph Company to continue to a certain extent the monopoly which they had to the disadvantage of the people of Australia. Although the Pacific Cable Company have had the sympathy of all portions of the British Empire, still they have allowed things to remain exactly as they were, appearing to me to be more asleep than awake. From a business point of view, they do not seem to realize the advantages which they possess, but which they will not exercise. I hope that the Government will" let the Pacific Cable Board know the views which are held in Australia in regard to their management, and point out that if they want facilities they must indicate -what they want, in order to be placed on an equality with the other company. I do not think that the Government are very much to blame for the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company continually "nagging" at them for certain privileges', and the Pacific Cable Company simply going to sleep, and resting content with what lis going on. A progressive firm, if they do not get exactly what they want, will continue to peg away until they do. The Pacific Cable Company appear to me to have let matters run on in the ordinary routine, which, I am sorry to say, marks so much Government work. They appear to have no one with any goaheadness. Having got a certain guarantee from Australia in regard to the capital outlay, they seem to think that they have done all that is required of them. There is a great deal more to be done. If the Pacific Cable Company prefer to go to sleep, and take things as a matter of course, they are to blame if they do not get what they require. In view of the advantages which we have derived commercially from their existence, it is the dutv of the Commonwealth to assist the Pacific Cable Company as far as -it can, and, at the same time, to let them know that, in our opinion, they have not been sufficiently awake to their interests, and that if they will only rise to the occasion, we shall do our duty as partners in the enterprise.







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