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Thursday, 2 August 1906

Senator FRASER (Victoria) . - When speaking yesterday I certainly felt a little alarm about some of the articles of the contract. I am glad that the Minister has cleared away one of my difficulties. I feel very much relieved in that regard. I should have preferred to see an article in the contract as to the vessels being compelled to call at Melbourne and Sydney. I should also be glad if there had been an article providing for cool storage. The Orient Steam Navigation Company at the present time is complying with the conditions that I have mentioned. The company is under contract to supply cool storage, and to call at Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane. I believe that the contract under consideration would not be affected to the extent of a one-pound note if the company were asked to do the same as the Orient Steam Navigation Company are doing now. But I see the difficulty that the Government has had. The Premiers of the States were communicated with, and asked if they would do anything in regard to the carriage of produce. I am very sorry that they did not do something, even if it was only to contribute a sum between them. But, that not having,been done, the Commonwealth Government was relieved of responsibility to a great extent.

Senator Guthrie - The Commonwealth Government represents the producers just as much as the Premiers of the States do.

SenatorFRASER. - It does, and it does not. This is a mail contract. The carriage of produce is more the concern of the States than of the Federal Government. I recognise that.

Senator Guthrie - Does not the honorable senator recognise that he represents the producers just as much as members of the States Parliaments do?

Senator FRASER - I recognise that the vessels will come to Melbourne.

Senator Guthrie - They cannot come to Melbourne. There is not water enough to allow them to come. .

Senator FRASER - Does the honorable senator mean to say that they will draw too much water to enable them to enter the port of Melbourne? I do not believe that the contract means anything but gross tonnage, and, for my own part, I consider that11,000 tons is quite sufficient. I do not want to see 20,000-ton vessels coming here just now. Vessels of 11,000 tons registered tonnage could not turn round in Brindisi, and would have to pay£78,000 per annum in dues through the Suez Canal. There is no doubt, in my opinion, that 11,000 tons gross is meant in this contract; and that the term "11,000 tons registered " is a mistake.

Senator Clemons - Made by whom?

Senator FRASER - Made by the contracting parties. The very fact that the vessels are to be so large implies that they will carry cargo. They must, in order to make them pay. The amount paid to them by the Government would be a mere nothing if they did not earn a lot of money in carrying cargo. There is just a bare possibility that the New Zealand Government may subsidize the vessels. In my own opinion that is a remote contingency ; but if I thought that there was any danger in that direction, I should vote for Senator Stewart's amendment. Believing that there is no danger, I must support the contract as it stands.

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