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Wednesday, 22 October 1913

Senator READY (Tasmania) .- Now that the temporary whirlwind from Tasmania has subsided, perhaps his junior colleague will be granted the indulgence of the Senate for a moment, while he proves, out of the mouths of the witnesses who appeared before the honorable senator's Committee, that the statements he has made are unreliable. I shall be able to prove from the wonderful document to which the honorable senator has referred that the people of Tasmania are dissatisfied with the existing service, and look for something better. They will by-and-by call Senator Bakhap to account for the vote he gave a few weeks ago in the Senate.

I am .reminded that I am assistant to Senator Bakhap. He says that he represents Tasmania, and speaks of those who assist him in the representation of that State. I am prepared to play second fiddle to any one on this or the other side who has done something; but I object to a man whose chief qualification is his verbosity, speaking of Senator O'Keefe, who has been a member of the Senate for nine years, and did more for Tasmania in three years than Senator Bakhap has done during the whole course of his political life, as his assistant. I have the same right to speak for the people of Tasmania as has the honorable senator.

Senator Bakhap - Who questions the honorable senator's right?

Senator READY - The honorable senator, in his high and haughty manner, spoke of those who assist him in the representation of Tasmania.

Senator Bakhap - And I assist them also, do I not?

Senator READY - No doubt the honorable senator will later on tell the Senate that he got the extra £400,000 for Tasmania. He is the man who got the grant.

Senator Bakhap - I have evidence to prove what share I took in that matter.

Senator READY - I understand that the honorable senator held up the Government at the point of the bayonet, and they were so frightened of him that, they decided to make the extra grant.

Senator Pearce - The honorable senator threatened to resign.

Senator READY - What an awfulcalamity that would be for the Senate. It was an easy matter for the honorable senator to threaten to resign, when heknew that there was a Liberal majority in each House of the Tasmanian Legislature who would re-elect him. Still, I have no doubt that the Honorary Minister shivered when he heard the fiercethreat of this honorable senator from Tasmania. Let us have some of the evidencewhich was taken by the honorable senator's Committee.

Senator Bakhap - Let the honorablesenator read the verdict.

Senator READY - I propose to read, some of the evidence on which the honorable senator based his verdict. I shall, ask leave to resume my remarks at a later sitting, because I intend to deal with thismatter fully. When Senator Clemons occupied a seat on this side of the chamberhe very vehemently decried the Shipping. Combine; but Senator Bakhap was neverbefore known to take such an active part, in whitewashing the Combine; and both honorable senators have tried to make theSenate believe that, so far as the Tasmanian mail service is concerned, " everything in the garden is lovely."

Senator Bakhapis totally out of touch, with public feeling in his own State. IF he went to Launceston business men who» are Liberal supporters, he would find that they have hundreds of complaints to make to him privately about the cormorant Union Steam-ship Company and the Huddart-Parker Company, who have combined to rob the people of Tasmania. Ifc is because honorable senators on the otherside misrepresent the State of Tasmania, and are out of touch with public opinionthere, that they make the statements to> which we have listened to-night.

Senator Bakhap - I have been more recently in touch with public opinion inTasmania' than have the members of the honorable senator's party.

Senator READY - I propose to read some of the evidence taken by the Committee of which Senator Bakhap was chairman, to show who is most in touch with the people of Tasmania in this matter. The honorable senator's assertion on the subject is not argument. In the report of the Committee, which was evi- dently written by Senator Bakhap, who was the chairman, I find this statement made -

Freights and fares between Tasmania and the mainland have been markedly and substantially reduced during the last quarter of a century ; but recently passenger fares have been increased, and it is probable that nowadays they are too high to permit of the tourist traffic of Tasmania attaining its full stature.

That is a frank admission that passenger fares are too high now. I propose to quote some evidence which was given to the Committee, not by Labour supporters, but by good Liberals. On the subject of freights, Mr. Clemons, one of the most prominent merchants of Devonport, said -

To give you one clear instance, the freight from Devonport to Newcastle on chaff is 33s. 6d. per ton. From Adelaide to Newcastle it is only £1. It is four days sailing between Adelaide and Newcastle, steaming all the time, and yet the freight is less than from here. Consequently our quotations have to be from 5s. to 7s. under mainland prices to get the business.

Iti other words, we have to pay a penalty of from 5s. to 7s. per ton on this produce going from Tasmania, yet Senator Bakhap would have us believe that there is nothing wrong with the shipping companies. Mr. Edwin Ingledew, who stood in the Liberal interest in Tasmania at the recent elections, speaking of the freight on chaff, said -

The existing rate now to Sydney is 18s. peT ton as against 12s. 6d. per ton from Adelaide to Sydney.

That is 50 per cent. more.

Senator Guthrie - But boats trading to Adelaide get back loading.

Senator READY - That may be so; but the fact remains that the producers of Tasmania are heavily penalized. A freight of 9s. to lis. per ton is charged on potatoes, which represents an increase of over 40 per cent. But, of course, there is nothing wrong there.

Senator Bakhap - The Labour Government are putting up freights on the New South Wales railways. There is something wrong there, is there not ?

Senator READY - That may be so; but it does not alter the fact that, in answer to the honorable senator's impassioned defence and whitewashing of the Combine, there is clear evidence that the people of Tasmania are discontented with the service with which they are provided. So far as the evidence of witnesses connected with the Shipping Com bine is concerned, the honorable senator said, in his report - lt is fair to them to stale that they were frank enough, but they were not policy-directing, and could not have supplied complete information in. any case without permission, and assistance from the head office of the company.

The honorable senator also stated -

Naturally the most reliable information regarding this cardinal feature is in the possession of the companies now operating, and, having in view the possiblity of direct State action being advocated and recommended, your Committee thought it unfair to press for any detailed disclosures on this point from the shipping companies' local representatives, who were examined as witnesses.

Senator Bakhap - Does the honorable senator say that that was an improper attitude for the Committee to take up ?.

Senator READY - I do not say so. The honorable senator has said that it was not fair to force these people to disclose their profits. I can give this great champion df the shipping companies a little more information about the profits made by the companies. One of the witnesses who came before the Committee, and who was complimented on being the most efficient, reliable, and well-informed witness who appeared before them, gave some evidence on this point. I refer to Mr. Black. He stated that one boat, plying between Hobart and Sydney, earned £43,000 in one season. The expenses of the vessel amounted to less than £20,000, so that there was a profit of £23,000 on the running of that boat for twelve months.

Senator Bakhap - That has nothing to do with the contract.

Senator READY - When we consider that the mail contract is the lever by which these shipping companies in combination ' control the trade of Tasmania, it will be seen that it has everything to do with the contract. I may inform honorable senators that fruit-growers of Tasmania sending fruit to Brisbane have topay freight amounting to 17s. 6d. per ton between Sydney and Brisbane, whilst Queensland fruit-growers shipping fruit, back to Sydney by the same steamers are charged a freight of only 9s. 9d. per ton. Is that not an indication of the way in which the people of Tasmania are beingexploited ? If we could once break upthis Shipping Combine by means of Commonwealthowned boats, or could induceanother shipping company to compete with the Combine, we should at onceeffect a material reduction of freights and! an improvement in the shipping conditions applying to the whole of Tasmania. Senator Bakhap knows that quite well.

The honorable senator has referred us to the authority of Mr. George Collins, M.L.C., who is stated to be the Sir Henry Parkes of Tasmania. When the honorable senator refers to him as an authority, I wish to inform honorable senators that it is commonly re- ported in Launceston that Mr. George Collins is an extensive shareholder in the Union Shipping Company. From that we have a reliable index as to the view he would be likely to take of this matter.

Senator Bakhap - The honorable senator should also tell the Senate that in certain circumstances, and if a better service could not be obtained from the companies, Mr. George Collins is in favour of a State-owned service. Why does not the honorable senator tell the whole truth ?

Senator READY - Mr. George Collins took very fine care not to wax too warm on that phase of the subject. I never heard him " dare to be a Daniel," or come very much to the front, in support of a State-owned service.

Senator Bakhap - He is always in the front in support of anything which will better Tasmanian conditions.

Senator READY - He is always in the forefront when it is a question of making a good investment. Senator Bakhap has said a great deal about the profits in connexion with this service, and I am in a position to still further confute his statements by quoting some reliable figures which I used in the Senate before, but which have never been challenged. I took the trouble for twelve months, while travelling backwards and forward's to Tasmania, as a senator representing that State, to discover the average number of persons who travelled by the Loongana and the other boat running. I find that the highest number travelling by the vessel in any one week was 1,900, and the lowest 310. The average number of passengers carried during a week was 500 - 300 first saloon, . and 200 second saloon. The average receipts of the Loongana, from passenger fares alone, amounted to £1,370 per week, or £5,480 per month. Those are reliable figures, which have been carefully checked.

SenatorO'Keefe. - That average would be largely increased with a better service.

Senator READY - That is so. That average was taken out in 1911 by myself, and I can vouch for the accuracy of the figures I have given. Senator Bakhap, in his brief for the shipping companies, did not favour the Senate with any figures to prove that they were not making profits. I propose to quote some figures for the purpose of showing that they are making big profits. I have obtained a reliable estimate of the expenses of working that- vessel. I did not go to Tom, Dick, or Harry for it, but to a man who has a special knowledge of the subject.

Senator McGregor - The honorable Senator did not go to Captain Evans?

Senator READY - No. I went to a reliable authority, who gave me a quotation which set down the expenses of working the Loongana at £3,000 per month. I told him that, as a layman, I thought the estimate was too low.

Senator Bakhap - The honorable senator should tell us who was his authority.

Senator READY - I have another estimate which allows £360 per week for coal, £150 for food, £175 for wages, £275 for other expenses, and £125 for interest, which should not be overlooked, making a total of £1,085 per week, or £4,340 per month. It will be seen from these figures, which are not overdrawn, that the company is making, out of the passenger traffic on the Loongana and LauncestonMelbourne steamer service, a profit of no less than £13,000 or £14,000 per annum.

Senator Bakhap - What was the cost of the vessel in the first place ?

Senator READY - About £80,000.

Senator Bakhap - What has the honorable senator allowed for depreciation ?

Senator READY - I have allowed £125 per week for interest and depreciation.

Senator Senior - And the honorable senator has not taken the . cargo into consideration at all.

Senator Long - Nor the mail subsidy.

Senator READY - That is so. It is well known that the Loongana has returned to her owners over £100,000 since she has been in the trade.

Senator Bakhap - Why did they not build another Loongana at once ?

Senator READY - If the honorable senator had a good thing on, would he do something which he was not obliged to do ? I have given facts concerning this service which cannot be disproved. I could give others. It is recognised in * shipping circles in Tasmania that when we proposed to establish a Commonwealth line of steamers, we did so primarily as a business proposition. The sum of £150.000 would build an improved Loongana. With the present subsidy we could build two Loonganas. We could give Tasmania a daily mail service, reduce fares and freights, and if the steamship companies entered into competition with us, the people of Australia would benefit by the reduced rates charged. Yet Senator Bakhap had the audacity to rise to-night and make a whitewashing speech on behalf of this Combine.

I wish to give one instance of how far-reaching is the influence of the Union Steam-ship Company, which in the matter of transport holds Tasmania in the hollow of its hand. A gentleman who is a friend of mine recently visited England on a holiday trip, and whilst there called upon the manager of the Federal Houlder Shire line of boats. His idea was to induce that company to engage in the InterState fruit trade between Hobart and Sydney. The general manager of the company listened to what my friend had to say with interest, and replied, "Yes, the proposition certainly looks good enough." My friend then "said, " There is a good thing in it for you, and I will guarantee to get you the trade," and thereupon the manager answered, " You call again to-morrow." My friend did so, and upon seeing the manager the latter said, " I find, Mr. Soandso, that the Union Steam-ship Company are engaged in the business of which you spoke, and I am sorry to say we cannot enter into competition with it." My friend pressed for an explanation as to the reason, and the manager replied, "The Union Steam-ship Company is one of the biggest shareholders in our company." That circumstance shows that the Union Steam-ship Company is able to influence freights even so far as the big liners of Great Britain are concerned.

I am not ashamed to stand up and break a lance for my State against this Combine. The Royal Commission on the Fruit Industry, of which I had the honour to be a member, found that an honorable understanding existed between practically every steamship company trading in Australia - an understanding under which the waters of one route were allotted to a particular line of steamers and the waters of another route to another line of steamers.

Senator Bakhap - The Select Committee of which I was chairman found that there was no such understanding in existence.

Senator READY - I wonder it did not find that it was too expensive for us to found an Australian Navy, because we could not afford to pay for a Dreadnought. The fact is that, as far as the Tasmanian trade is concerned, no line of vessels will enter into competition with the Huddart Parker and the Union Steam-ship Companies. That is the position we are up against. We came to this Parliament with a business proposition which any company with the necessary resources would have jumped at. But what was the attitude adopted by the Government towards us? Are they willing to discuss the matter with us? The Postmaster-General, when asked whether the contract with the shipping companies for the carriage of mails between Melbourne and Tasmania for a subsidy of £15,000 per year had been signed, and, if not, whether he would hold it over until the House had dealt with the motion submitted by Mr. O'Malley in another place, replied -

The contract has not yet been signed, but the conditions have been agreed to, so that I think it would be very unfair to hold it over any longer.

I ask leave to continue my remarks on a future date.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

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