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Thursday, 25 July 1912

Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia) . - I have listened with interest to the debate on the motion submitted by Senator Long, with a desire to secure a better mail service between Tasmania and the mainland. I congratulate the honorable senator and Senator Ready upon having ventilated this matter. I realize the necessity for a better mail service with Tasmania. Tasmania, like Western Australia, is somewhat isolated from the rest of the Commonwealth, and, in my opinion, we cannot do too much to increase the facilities of communication between the mainland and Tasmania. We have to remember that the Government have a contract with the shipping companies for the delivery of mails at a certain time and place, and, while that contract endures, no alteration can take place. According to the representative of the Postmaster-General, in the Senate, a subsidy of £13,000 a year is being paid to a shipping company for the carriage of mails between Melbourne and Tasmania. I understand that the contract will expire about the end of September of this year. Senator Clemons has praised the Loongana, and condemned the Rotomahana, or " the rotten banana," as some people call it.

Senator Clemons - I made a comparison.

Senator NEEDHAM - I have travelled by both vessels, and everything that Senator Clemons has said is perfectly true. So far as speed and accommodation are concerned, the Loongana is about the most suitable vessel for the trade that we have in Australian waters. I desire to recommend to the Government that, prior to the expiration of the present contract, they should notify the shipping companies, or combine, ring, or monopoly, that, unless they provide better vessels for the service than the Rotomahana, the subsidy will be reduced.

Senator Clemons - They could not possibly do it in less than eighteen months.

Senator NEEDHAM - That is just the interjection I was looking for. I say that they could. The Western Australian Government did not wait to build a vessel to conduct their south-eastern mail service - they bought a vessel.

Senator Guthrie - They bought some tanks.

Senator NEEDHAM - Apart from the jest of my nautical friend, Senator Guthrie, I say that it is possible for the State Government of Tasmania to purchase a vessel.

Senator Clemons - I do not believe that a suitable vessel for the purpose is afloat in English waters at present.

Senator NEEDHAM - They could obtain vessels from England to-day as good as the Loongana, and built on similar lines, and could have them out here within four months.

Senator Millen - Why did not the Western Australian Government get such a vessel?

Senator NEEDHAM - The Western Australian Governmenthas to-day a vessel suitable for the trade in which she is engaged.

Senator Clemons - The Loongana was specially constructed, and I suppose there is not another boat of her description afloat anywhere to-day.

Senator NEEDHAM - The honorable senator, on reflection, will agree that the Tasmanian Government could purchase a vessel built on similar lines to the Loongana to take up this service. The honorable senator made a reference to the Shipping Combine apparently infear and trembling. There is no doubt whatever that there is such a Combine, and I think it is time the Commonwealth Government told these shipowners that, unless they provide proper vessels for the carriage of the Commonwealth mails, no subsidy for the carriage of mails will be granted. It will then be left to the State Governments to do one thing or another, pending the time when this National Parliament can secure the powers it seeks in order that it may conduct its own commerce and its own mail services.

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