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Thursday, 25 July 1912

Senator READY (Tasmania) .-! congratulate my colleague upon having brought this matter forward. For many years the grumbling in Tasmania has been loud in reference to the mail service to and from the mainland. It has been said there that the Union Steam-ship Company have been running the Postal Department, and also that it is of very little use for any member of the Senate to try to bring about an alteration. I do not take that view. I have a very vivid recollection that when the Postmaster-General, Mr. Thomas, placed before that company the representations of Senators Long and O' Keefe and myself for a better mail service, they coolly informed the Government that they could not make the alterations required, because it would interfere with their ore contracts with Tasmania. We strongly objected to this, and urged that the Commonwealth mail contracts, for which these companies receive no less than ,£13,000 a year must come before any private ore contracts. I am pleased to be able to say that the PostmasterGeneral at once wrote to that effect to the company, and it was only because a firm stand was made at the time that we secured the alteration we desired. Since then the present Government have shown every desire to give Tasmania a better mail service. I admit that freely and fully.

I have before me an extract from the Commonwealth Gazette, in which the Government called for three alternative tenders. Tender (a) is for a service as at present to Tasmania; (b) for a service as at present, with the addition of an extra trip between Burnie and Melbourne. Senator Millen. - What is the present -service ?

Senator READY - Three trips each way from Launceston to Melbourne, and two trips each way from Burnie to Melbourne each week.

Senator Millen - Is there any timetable ?

Senator READY - Yes, there is a timetable. The third tender advertised for in the Commonwealth Gazette suggests a very progressive step in some directions, because it calls for tenders for a mail service from Melbourne to Burnie, each way, six times a week. That is to say, a daily mail service.

Senator Guthrie - That would not pay.

Senator READY - I shall not enter into the _ merits of that proposal, because I realize that the cost would probably be so serious as to debar the acceptance of any tender to give it effect. There is evidence that the Government are doing all they can to give Tasmania a better mail service but, as Senator Long has stated, we require, not only a better mail service, but. the employment of a better type of boats in carrying out the service [ have no hesitation in saying that the Rotomahana is an absolutely dangerous boat to travel on. I have, by questions in the Senate this session, already elicited the fact that she stopped four times during the present winter season, and on the last occasion, if it had not been for the alertness of the crew in getting out the anchor, she would have run upon the Hebe reef, just outside the heads of the Tamar. '

Senator Guthrie - That shows the advantage of a good crew.

Senator READY - And the disadvantage of a bad boat. The Rotomahana is not only an antiquated vessel, but she is unable to go up the Tamar, except at certain states of the tide, and is, in every way, unsuitable for a fast winter service between the mainland and Tasmania. Senator Long has reminded me that it is now proposed to use this vessel for the whole service for one month, and passengers will have to put up with her on every trip made during that time. Senator Long has told honorable senators what is the opinion on this matter in Tasmania ; and I may be allowed to quote the opinion of Mr. Murdoch, who is one of the members of the Hobart Chamber of Commerce.

Senator Guthrie - Is that the opinion of Tasmania?

Senator READY - No. I take it that Senator Long and myself, with the other honorable senators f rom Tasmania, are here to voice the opinion of the people of that State, and I have no doubt we can claim to .have done so fairly well up to the present time. At a meeting called by the Hobart Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Murdoch said -

The Sydney service was not as good just at present as it was 25 years ago. Hobart could be made a great coaling port, and the people to take the matter up were the Union Co. and the Huddart, Parker Co., but when monopolies came into the community, then God help it. What with the steam-ship companies' agreements not to go here, and not to do that, it seemed to him that the American trusts were nothing to the way things were getting in Australia. As if the sea was not an open highway. The Union Co. treated Tasmania as a cypher. Twenty-seven years ago he came from New Zealand in the Rotomahana, and this year he came from Melbourne to Launceston in the same old Rotomahana. She could not get up the Tamar River, but finally crept up in the dusk like a thief after ducks- She was laid up for about seven months in the year, and then when a vessel was wanted for the Tasmanian trade they said, " Oh, put her on."

As we are heavily subsidizing the vessels engaged in this service, 1 think the Commonwealth .Government should insist that the Rotomahana should not be employed in the service. There is another aspect of the case which requires to be considered. By giving the companies interested in this service a subsidy for the carriage of mails, we are helping to build up a monopoly that is exercising a very detrimental influence on Tasmania's trade. Quite recently a barque called the Fingal came into Launceston from. Norway.

The PRESIDENT - Order. The honorable senator must realize that the arrival of a barque from Norway at Launceston has no bearing on the question of the mail service between the mainland and Tasmania.

Senator READY - I hoped to connect my remarks with the motion ; but, in deference to your ruling, I shall take advantage of another occasion to bring this matter under the notice of the Senate. I might spend a good deal more time discussing the motion, but I feel that the attention of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, having been d'rawn_to the importance of the matter, much good will probably result. There is a sinister aspect of the matter which I regret I am unable to refer to under the Standing Orders, and the ruling of the President.

Senator Millen - And under the terms of the motion which has been moved.

Senator READY - And also under the terms of the motion which has been moved. We claim that, with our rapidly increasing tourist traffic and trade with the mainland, we should not be called upon to put up with vessels such as those which are now bolstered up with Commonwealth mail contracts. T hope that if nothing else can be done, the Government will adopt the suggestion of Senator Long, and, as soon as possible, establish their own line of steamers to trade with Tasmania.

Senator Rae - That will need an amendment of the Constitution.

Senator READY - I quite admit that; but I am one of those who hope that the necessary alteration of the Constitution will be provided for by the time we meet here next year.

Senator Guthrie - And Tasmania will pay for it.

Senator READY - Tasmania is quite willing to undertake her proper obligations. The service to that State from the mainland is one of the best paying services which the Union Steam-ship Company and Huddart, Parker and Company have in hand. I may inform honorable senators that, on very good authority, I have learned that the Loongana, which cost ^80,000, paid for herself years ago out of the profits earned in this service. A company earning such profits should be able to supply efficient boats for so important a service, and the people of Tasmania confidently look to the Government to see that proper boats are engaged in the service.

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