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Thursday, 7 December 1905

Senator MATHESON (Western Australia) - I understand that Senator Higgs has withdrawn the first, second, and fourth parts of his motion. I think that no one can dissent from the third part, but it seems to me that a good deal of misapprehension exists as to what our position is. Last night, Senators Higgs and Smith continually laid stress on! the fact that we are partners in the Pacific Cable business. Thev seemed to think that for that reason it was obligatory upon us to take active measures of interference in the management, that we - of course, I mean the Federal Government - were to do this, that, and the other. Last night. Senator Smith repeatedly used the word " we," as applying to both the Pacific Cable Board and the Federal Government. The two things are very distinct. Undoubtedly we are partners in this concern, but we are simply partners along with other people, and we have all conjointly appointed a board of management. It is this Board which is in fault in conducting the business, and as soon as the Federal Government recognise that fact the sooner we shall be on a fair way to recover some portion of the loss we have already incurred. No business could be carried on in the way in which this business is being carried on by the Board. It consists of a few eminently respectable gentlemen in London, who have no great business capacity, and who, apparently, have not taken any steps to appoint a business manager in Australia. Under the circumstances, is it surprising that the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company runs rings round the Pacific Cable Company's business, and secures the bulk of it? I do not know what the powers of the Federal Government are. but if they are going, year after year, to make up a very large portion, of this enormous loss,, thev ought to insist, first, upon having an efficient voice in the Board of Management ; and, secondly, upon the appointment of an absolutely independent manager to take charge of the Australian business. When that is done, it will be for the Board to open offices, in exactly the same way as the other company have done. It is nonsense to talk of the Government giving these facilities. The Government cannot give them, but the Pacific Cable Board can. If Senator Higgs and Senator Smith would only get the machinery. ,bv which this improvement of business must be effected firmly fixed in their minds, and work in that direction, a very great deal of good might be achieved. But so long as. they continue to talk of the Federal Government doing this, that, and the other, and facilities being given through the Telegraph Office, we shall get no adequate result from their agitation. We know what Government offices are. We know that, even in connexion with this telegraph business, the Government insist upon a man paying for a penny stamp if he wants a receipt for a telegram. This is not done for the purpose of revenue, but simply to defraud the sender of the telegram, it is not required by the law in any sense.

Senator Higgs - And the Eastern Extension Company do not.

Senator MATHESON - I do not know what the other company do, but I fancy that they must s,tamp their receipts under Victorian law. The Federal Government are above the Victorian law, and, therefore, are not obliged to put a stamp on their receipts. This is a small matter, but it is just an example of the way in which the Government endeavour to impede business instead of trying to facilitate it. In a hundred other little matters public officers do everything they possibly can to stop the development of business.

Senator Gray - No one Is personally interested.

Senator MATHESON - It seems to me that every one in a Government office is personally interested in giving to the citizens as much inconvenience as possible. I do not think that that is the fault of the subordinates. The leading idea of Governments seems to be what I have described. I could mention a dozen instances. I will give one by Way of illustration. If you go to the General Post Office in Melbourne to declare the value of a parcel from abroad the officers absolutely will, not supply you with the necessary forms. You have to go to Collins-street to buy a form, on which to declare the value. The same sort of management applies to the telegraph business. Until a manager is appointed and proper offices are opened, we shall have no efficient competition against the Eastern, Extension Telegraph Company.

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