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Thursday, 25 July 1912

Senator LONG (Tasmania) .- I have taken this course to voice the protest of the people of Tasmania against the mail service to and from the mainland, It has been said that they are a long-suffering people, and that the longer they suffer without complaining the longer they may suffer. It would appear that the ships which are engaged by arrangement with the Commonweal Government to carry mails to Tasmania from Victoria and New South Wales are the kind of ships which are rejected by every other part of the Commonwealth. Seeing that the contracts are about to expire, it is time that the Commonwealth Government considered the question of securing a much more rapid and regular transportation of the mails. The ships which are now carrying the mails - the Rotomahana, the Burrumbeet, and the Wakitifu - have been prominently hefore the public for a period approaching half-a-century. I have often travelled in the Rotomahana, and,' with the exception of two or three stoppages on each" trip to repair something, she manages to get to. her destination safely , but the odour on board is so strong that I guarantee that if would impair the constitution of the most robust sewer rat. I dodge a trip on this boat to my home as often as possible, and seek the more comfortable, and I think safer, quarters which the Loongana offers-

Senator Ready -Is it true that the honorable Senator has increased the insurance on his life?

Senator LONG - No; but if, as is contemplated, the Rotomahana is to take up the sole running for a month I shall certainly give that matter some consideration. The Burrumbeet has recently, been engaged in carrying the mails from Sydney to Hobart. During the last three or four trips she has been as much as twenty-four hours late. On 15th June she was twentythree hours late, on the 3rd July fifteen hours late, and on the 17th July, seventeen hours late. The people of Tasmania are hot getting fair treatment from the shipping companies. I am barred by the terms of my motion from calling attention to the great inconvenience which the public experience through being compelled to travel by these steamers ; but in order to give the Senate an idea of the feeling which is entertained in the southern part of Tasmania, 1 propose to quote a short paragraph from one of the leading newspapers.

Senator Millen - Are these vessels under contract to carry mails or are the mails put on board to be carried at poundage rates?

Senator LONG - I presume that the mails are put on board to be carried at poundage rates. There is no actual contract, but there is an undertaking on the part of the shipping companies to deliver the mails safely.

Senator Givens - There are no conditions beyond the usual navigation conditions.

Senator LONG - Then there is only one thing left to be done, and that is for the Commonwealth Government to seriously consider- the question of providing its own steamers for carrying the mails to and from Tasmania. In the course of a few weeks, the Department will call for tenders for the carriage of these mails, but that is a farce, seeing that there is no competition between the shipping companies. The PostmasterGeneral can only expect to receive one tender, which will have been the subject of an honorable arrangement with the other shipping company trading to the State.

Senator Sayers - There are only two shipping companies - the Huddart Parker Company and the Union Steam-ship Company.

Senator LONG - Yes, but they are joint contractors for the mail service between Melbourne to Launceston and the northwest coast of Tasmania. There is, as I said before, no contract for the carriage of mails from Sydney to (Hobart. .To give honorable senators an idea- of the actual position, I shall quote the following extract -

A meeting, has been called for to-night by the Chamber of Commerce to discuss the question of the shipping facilities between Hobart and Sydney. This is a matter which affects Hobart very seriously, and for that reason we hope that there will be a large and representative attendance of citizens. Two shipping companies have a monopoly of the trade, and it is well understood that others are by private agreement excluded from coming in to share it. The Union Company and the Huddart, Parker Company work in conjunction, and so there is no chance of competition bringing about a better service. People who wish to go to Sydney must go in the steamers belonging to these companies, pay. whatever rates are demanded, and put up with whatever sort of accommodation they are offered. The alternative is to swim across. This kind of thing has been endured patiently enough, but at last we are glad to find a proper protest is to be made. The action of the companies in putting on an old boat like the Burrumbeet, which took no less than 67 hours to come from Sydney, and which has not sufficient accommodation for the passengers offering, has been the last straw. We have mentioned the position which has arisen in connexion with the lonie, which has a large number of passengers who wish to tranship at' Hobart for Sydney. Representations have been made to the two shipping companies to induce them to provide for the carriage of these passengers, but they hare taken no notice at all.

The PRESIDENT - Order ! The honorable senator is getting away from the scope of his motion. The protest of the people in Hobart is, I understand, against the inadequate accommodation for passengers and the length of time which the boats take as far as passengers are concerned, but the motion is confined to the mail service.

Senator LONG - I shall not pursue that course any further, sir, as it conflicts with the procedure of the Senate.

Senator de Largie - The position is the same-; if the boats delay the passengers they also delay the - mails.

Senator LONG - I am reminded that I shall have another opportunity of callins attention to the inconvenience- which passengers experience in travelling between Mel-bourne and Tasmania. Some of the. boats which are engaged in carrying the mails were registered in the maritime service of Australia as far back as 1876.

Senator Guthrie - And classed Al for 100 years.

Senator LONG - I do not know anything about that, but I accept the honorable senator's statement as correct. I should like the Government to indicate what they are likely to do concerning the future mail service to Tasmania. If they intend to renew the contracts - I will not say with these floating coffins, but with these shipping companies - their action ought to evoke a very strong protest, not only from Tasmanian senators, but from all senators who are anxious to see a regular and efficient mail service established with the island State. I hope that unless a satisfactory arrangement can be made for the rapid and regular transportation of the mails by a steamer of the capacity and safety of the Loongana, the Government will seriously consider the advisability of establishing a Commonwealth-owned mail service. I move -

That the' Senate at its rising adjourn until 9 a.m. to-morrow.

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