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Thursday, 2 August 1906

Senator STEWART (Queensland) . - I move -

That there be added to the motion -

Proviso to article 2 -

On line 7, after the word "between," whereit occurs a second time, to insert, " the ports of Melbourne, . Sydney, Brisbane, and Hobart, and."

The reason I submit this amendment isthat ostensibly this is a. mail contract, whereas, in reality, it is both a. mail and* a cargo contract. When speaking on the subject last year. I declared myself opposed to the Commonwealth Government having anything to do with the carriage of goods. I expressed the opinion that the Government should confine itself wholly te the carriage of mails, and that if the States wished to subsidize vessels foi' the conveyance of produce, they ought to provide the subsidy themselves. I still hold lo that opinion; and if the Government had made this a purely mail contract, I should never have submitted this amendment. But I have come to the conclusion, faking the contract itself, and judging by the evidence contained in it, that it is more than a mail contract.

Senator McGregor - T think the Government have tried to get as near a mail contract as they could in accordance with Hie request of the honorable senator.

Senator STEWART - In any case, I am satisfied that this is not purely a mail contract. I have come to the conclusion that the Government, fearing it would raise opposition if they provided that the vessels should call at Melbourne and Sydney, and not at Brisbane and Hobart, have intentionally omitted this condition from the contract, while substantially subsidizing the contractors to allow the vessels to call at Melbourne and Sydney. I may be wrong in that conclusion ; but that is the inference I draw from "the way in which the contract is made out. If I am wrong, and there is no idea of subsidizing the company for the carriage of cargo, why is there the stipulation that' the steamers shall be of such a tonnage? One honorable senator told me to-day that the steamers will be of such magnitude that they will not be able to enter a single port in the Commonwealth.

Senator Clemons - The honorable senator will except Hobart.

Senator Guthrie - Not even excepting Hobart.

Senator STEWART - The vessels will be able to moor somewhere outside Adelaide, but I am told that they will not be able to enter Sydney Harbor, and certainly will not be able to enter the Melbourne port.

Senator de Largie - And still the honorable senator is moving that the vessels shall call at those places !

Senator STEWART - I am quite sure the vessels will not be able to get into Brisbane Harbor. Why, under these circumstances, am I moving that these vessels shall call at the ports I have named? If it be the case, as Senator Guthrie states, that these vessels cannot enter any of the Australian harbors-

Senator Guthrie - With the exception of Adelaide.

Senator STEWART - If the case be as I have stated, the contract should be immediately set aside, and sent back to the Government.

Senator Fraser - The contractor would then have an action for enormous damages against the Commonwealth for breach of contract.

Senator STEWART - I am not stating from any knowledge I possess that the ships will not be able to enter our harbors; I am merely repeating what I have heard. In any case, I submit the amendment, because I believe this to be a compound contract - a mail contract and a harbor cargo, contract. So far as I can make out, there is a deliberate attempt to deprive Queensland of the undoubted rights she possesses under the Constitution. By a subterfuge the boats are to go to Melbourne and Sydney, without the fact being mentioned in the contract, and, under such circumstances, Brisbane, of course, will have no claim.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - What about the attractions of Queensland?

Senator STEWART - Queensland will have to pay her share, whether the boats call at Brisbane or not. Senator Symon has asked what about the attractions of Queensland ; and the question shows that the honorable senator has never been to that State.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - I never have.

Senator STEWART - Had Senator Symon visited Queensland, he would not have put such a question, because the attractions are so self-evident that no one who has seen them, can fail to appreciate them.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - The honorable senator misunderstands me; I mean that the attractions are so great that the vessels will go there without any stipulation.

Senator STEWART - The trade attractions are great, and, I believe, will be greater. But the fact remains that, under this contract, the steamers are subsidized to call at four ports of the Commonwealth - Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne, and Sydney.

Senator Turley - That is not so.

Senator STEWART - That is the fact in substance. It is not so stated in the conditions; but, if this is a mail contract. why stipulate for these huge floating hulks of 11,000 tons? Vessels half the size would, I suppose, be more than sufficient to carry the mails. Again, if this is merely a mail contract, why insist on the vessels continuing their voyage to the United Kingdom, after they have delivered the mails at Naples or some other port?

Senator Turley - Why does the honorable senator not move to leave out the provision that- the vessels shall go past Naples, and thus make this a mail contract?

Senator STEWART - I am quite certain that such an amendment would not be carried, because the Government have made up their minds to enter into a mail contract.

Senator Turley - Why does the honorable senator not try such an amendment?

Senator STEWART - I prefer to do things in my own way. If Senator Turley desires to make this a purely mail contract, he ought to move in the direction he indicates. I have come to the conclusion that it is not possible, in view of the opposition that would be found in the Chamber, to make this a purely mail contract; therefore, I shall not attempt what I know I should not be able to accomplish. I am trying to get the Senate to agree to a proposal which I consider, in the circumstances, fair and reasonable - to state in the contract what is implied in reference to Melbourne and Sydney, namely, that the vessels shall not only call at these two ports, but proceed also to Brisbane and Hobart. I do not know that I am doing this in the right way, but I have taken the step which appears to me most likely to bring about the result I desire. I have given the reasons why I came to the conclusion that this is something more than a mail contract; and if those reasons appeal to honorable senators they will support me. On the other hand, if honorable senators regard this as a purely mail contract, they will not support the amendment. But from the internal evidence of this document, I have come to the conclusion that it means something very much more than a mail contract ; and, that being the case, all the principal ports of the Commonwealth should be placed on an equality, so far as calling at each of them is concerned.

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