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Thursday, 19 July 1906

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) (Honorary Minister) . - I take it that the honorable senator who is responsible for the introduction of this motion has now fairlv achieved the object with which he set out when he put it on the notice-paper. We may take it from the honorable senator's concluding remarks that what he really aimed at was to bring under the notice of the existing Government the necessity for establishing closer communication than already exists between. Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The honorable senator's concluding remarks would lead us to believe, at any rate, that all he desires is that this matter shall be further considered, and, if possible, shall form a subject of consideration and debate at the forthcoming Imperial Conference.

Senator Staniforth Smith - Hear, hear.

Senator KEATING - As his remarks have shown, Senator Smith is aware that this matter has been already considered. Not only recently, but some years ago; it was brought under the notice of the Pacific Cable Board. Whether it was on account of the particular difficulty suggested bv the honorable senator, or other difficulties suggested by the interjections of honorable senators during the course of his speech, the Pacific Cable Board, at any rate, has been averse to the establishment of any such system as is contained in this motion. Senator Smith has said that our partners in the Pacific Cable enterprise - Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom - are agreeable to the establishment of some such scheme. He was pertinently asked by Senator Millen in what particular way the United Kingdom, for instance, had indicated agreeableness. I am at a loss to understand in what way the United Kingdom has signified its willingness to accept such a scheme.

Senator Staniforth Smith - I assume that the Imperial Government empowered their representative on the Board to express agreement with it.

Senator KEATING - I do not know, either, how agreement with such a scheme has been expressed by New Zealand or Canada. Senator Smith has stated that the representatives of those countries on the Pacific Cable Board have favoured the scheme. What evidence the honorable senator has of that I do not know. So far as I have been able to ascertain by looking through the papers on the subject in the possession of the Government, they contain no evidence to that effect. So far as Canada is concerned, she occupies a position with regard to the Pacific Cable totally different from that occupied by the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth owns and operates the whole of the telegraphic systems throughout the States - that is to say, all the land wires. That is not the position of the Canadian Government. Although Senator Smith may fancy that the Canadian people at an early general election will reverse the established policy of the Dominion in this respect, much as I should like to agree with the honorable senator, I feel that the facts do not warrant any such assumption.

Senator Staniforth Smith - The honorable and learned senator does not desire that the present Canadian Government shall be opposed.

Senator KEATING - The present Government of Canada, at any Tate, are not in favour of the establishment of Stateow:nea means of telegraphy or of transit. As a matter of fact, the most violent opposition offered to the existing Government of Canada during the whole course of their existence was that evoked by their proposals to grant the concessions enjoyed by the Grand Trunk Railway Company.

Senator Staniforth Smith - That is what I say ; there is a very strong feeling in favour of it.

Senator KEATING - The whole of the telegraphic communication across the Dominion of Canada is operated by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company. I do not say that that is a very desirable state of things, but it is the state of things existing at present in Canada, and I mention it now to point some remarks which I propose to address to the Senate iri a few moments. Again, the 'connexion between Canada and the United Kingdom is held by one or more of the Atlantic Cable companies. So that, so far as messages from the United Kingdom via the Pacific are concerned, the press rates of is. per word contribute to. the revenue of a number of distinct bodies - the Atlantic Cable Company, that takes the message; the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, that transmits it across the Dominion; the Pacific Cable Board, who transmit the ,message from Vancouver to Southport ; and then the Commonwealth Government. These messages, aS I have said, cost is. per word, and that cost is distributed as follows: - Of the is., Australia receives 2d., the Pacific Cable Board 4d., the Canadian Pacific Railway Company id., and the Atlantic Cable Company and Great Britain receive sd. So that, in fact, if we were to ask the Pacific Cable Board to remit their charges in respect of press telegraphic messages, they would still have to pay 8d. per word, because we could not induce private corporations like the Canadian Pacific Railway Company to remit their charges.

Senator Staniforth Smith - I am not proposing to include' England 'until the line is taken over by the Government.

Senator KEATING - I am dealing with messages coming from Great Britain, and, so far as thev are concerned, 8d. out of every is. per word charged ora those messages) is contributed to administrations other than that of the Pacific Cable Board. If it is proposed to load the Pacific Cable, quiet though it may be during certain hours of the daw with an extra 2,000 words per day, and if the Pacific Cable Board is to transmit these messages for nothing, they will derive no benefit, while the auxiliary corporations with which it must work in the transmission of -these messages will continue to derive considerable benefit. In other words, the proposal would increase the revenue of the Canadian Pacific Rail-. way Company and the Atlantic Cable Company, and, of course, the revenue of the Commonwealth Telegraphic Department ; while the Pacific Cable Board will be the one administration of them all that will get nothing out of the proposal.

Senator Findley - Indirectly they will. -Senator KEATING. - No; not even indirectly.

Senator Findley - There will be the advertisement.

Senator KEATING - I do not know that) that would be sufficient to induce them to send 2,000 words a day over their cable for nothing.

Senator Staniforth Smith - Then say 1,000 words. It is merely an arbitrary number.

Senator Millen - The advertisement would be no more an advertisement for the Pacific Cable Board than for the other administrations, who would continue to be paid.

Senator KEATING - The others would get the traffic, the advertisement, and also the revenue. I am not saying that the matter is one which should not be discussed ; but I merely direct the attention of honorable senators to these circumstances connected with it. Perhaps no one in this Parliament knows better than does Senator Smith that the Pacific Cable Board, since the cable has been established, has laid down for its- adoption solid business lines.

Senator Staniforth Smith - I do not know that it has.

Senator KEATING - It has always determined that its administration shall be characterized by business methods. Senator Smith has given to the Senate the figures in connexion with the revenue, expenditure, and appropriations towards sinking funds. The honorable senator knows, as do other honorable senators, that in the controversy that has taken place between the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company and the Pacific -Cable Board - if such" can be said to have taken place between the parties - the Pacific Cable Board has been referred to on different occasions as carrying on an enterprise which is not paying.

Senator Fraser - It is paying if we consider the sinking fund.

Senator KEATING - Exactly ; that is just what I. am coming to. In a paper sense, it may not be paying in comparison with similar undertakings in other parts of the world ; but the defence of the Pacific Cable Board - and it is a legitimate defence - is that they provide sinking and amortization funds, which do not find a parallel in the management of other corporations. That is the point, and it is therefore correct to say that the Pacific Cable Board is run on business lines, and should continue to be run on business lines. If there is one thing which will ever sap the foundation, of such a huge public enterprise as that which has been entered into by Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, it will be when it is conducted! on unbusinesslike lines. We all agree that many advantages would be gained. If we could get increased traffic over the line it would bring us closer to our brothers in Canada, and to our cousins in the United States of America. But we cannot afford to sacrifice the interest of this huge enterprise, and at the same time to give private undertakings which are carried on conjointly with it, so to speak, a considerable increase in their revenue, which would . make the contrast between the two classes of enterprises all the more striking, and all the more disadvantageous to the Pacific Cable Board. When Senator Smith referred to Sir Sandford Fleming's statement as to the possibility of using this line for such a purpose as indicated in his motion, I asked what was the date of the representation, a:nd he said that' it was made in 1905. I asked the question for a purpose, because so far back as 1903 this matter was considered by the Pacific Cable Board. That will go to show that} so far as the partners in this enterprise are concerned, it has not escaped their notice and consideration. The Pacific Cable Board! then decided that it would be inopportune and inexpedient to adopt such a system as is indicated in the motion. I do not know' how that came to be considered by the Board, but if I remember rightly, Mr. Seddon contemplated a project of this sort, or at any rate the newspapers announced that he did. He may have communicated directly with the Board, or his intentions may have been communicated in another manner, and the Board mav have considered the practicability of carrying out such a proposal ; at any rate, so far back as 1903 they decided that it was inopportune and inexpedient. Since then we have the testimony of Sir Sandford Fleming, who was, I believe, a projector1 of this cable, quoted bv Senator

Smith. But quite recently the Board have been approached, and they have adhered to their former attitude. I think it is only due to honorable senators that I should communicate to them a portion of a letter on this very subject, which was addressed by the Board on the 31st March, 1906, to the Colonial Office, London -

With respect to the suggested transmission of 10,000 to 12,000 words for simultaneous publication in the chief centres of the Empire, 1 am to state that it seems unnecessary to deal with a proposal for the gratuitous transmission of a mass of business over a costly cable.

The fact is, as I have pointed out, that the Pacific Cable Board, by increasing the traffic over their line from which they would get no revenue, would at the same time be considerably increasing the traffic over privately-owned lines, which would receive the ordinary revenue for that increased traffic, and would thereby be placed in a position which would be very disadvantageous to a very great public enterprise. It cannot be forgotten that, so far back as 1903, when this matter was first mooted, the Pacific Cable Board urged, as one of the reasons why they could not fall in with such a scheme, that by one of its rules the International Telegraph Union prohibited the differential treatment of messages over the same line, and that objection was alleged to be insurmountable. 1 mention these facts in order that honorable senators mav see the difficulties which confront this enterprise in carrying out such a scheme as is suggested in the motion. They will see that it has been under consideration, and that it is open to objections, some of "which are said to be insurmountable, and others of which fend to show that it would be very disadvantageous for the Pacific Cable Board to carry out the scheme unless in conjunction with private corporations. I feel sure that Senator Smith, \ifter having ascertained the view of the Senate generally, will see the wisdom of adhering to the course which he indicated that he might follow, and that is asking leave to withdraw the motion.

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