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Friday, 26 September 1913

Senator READY (Tasmania) .- I should like to ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General a question.

Senator Clemons - This is not the time for asking questions, but I will endeavour to answer the honorable senator.

Senator READY - I do not think that it will be a very serious act of condescension for the Minister to reply in this instance. In 'the Legislature of Tasmania, according to the Age of yesterday, Mr.. Earle, leader of the Opposition, on Wednesday last - moved the adjournment of the House to ask the Government to protest against the contract which the Federal Government proposed to enter into with the Union Shipping Company for seven years. He said if the Labour paTty had been returned, Tasmania would now have had an efficient national mercantile fleet, but as it was the service had got more inconvenient than ever. It was a continual experience for boats from Victoria to miss the connecting trains in the north, and strand passengers and mails at Launceston and Burnie, while the commerce of Tasmania wai chronically dislocated.

ThePremiersaidhewould ask the Federal authorities that before the contract was completedhe should be informed of its conditions .

I wish to asktheMinister whether the Government intend to give the Premier of Tasmania anopportunity of seeing that contract before it is finally agreed to? If so, why not give the information to the Senate? I understand, on the very best authority, that the. contract is to be for a period of five years, and that the subsidy to be paid is £2,000 more than the present subsidy; whilst the service is to be one of four days per week, such as was proposed when the Fisher Government were in office. There are to be two boats each way between Launceston and Melbourne, and two viâ Burnie. I hope, before the contract is ratified, the repeated protests of the representatives of Tasmania will be taken into consideration, and that we shall have an opportunity of seeing the contract before the final steps are taken. I ask the Minister to say what he intends to do with regard to the request of the Premier of Tasmania.

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