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Wednesday, 18 July 1906

Mr THOMAS (Barrier) .- I rise with a great deal of pleasure to move -

That all the words after the word " House " be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words - "is of opinion that, in the best interests of the Commonwealth, the Government should purchase and control 'a fleet of mail steamers capable of maintaining a fortnightly mail service between Australia and Great Britain."

If my amendment were adopted we should have a State-owned mail service between Australia and Great Britain. I desire at once to disclaim any credit for having originated the proposal that we should have a State-owned mail service. The suggestion came neither from the Labour Party nor any socialistic body, but from a Conservative member of the House of Commons - Mr. Henniker Heaton.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Conservatism and Socialism are closely akin.

Mr THOMAS - Verywell. In one of his speeches Mr. Henniker Heaton dealt with the matter, and showed that the subsidies paid by the British and Australian Governments would be quite sufficient if capitalized to provide for a State-owned fleet. Before I conclude, I hope to be able to quote the views of others outside the Labour Party who advocate a State-owned mail service, and thus to show that if there be any credit or blame attachable to my proposal, then the whole responsibility does not lie entirely at the door of the party of which I am a member. I brought this matter forward on one or two occasions last session, and as the outcome of my action a Select Committee was appointed to inquire into the desirableness of establishing a State-owned shipping service. During the recess that Select Committee was converted into a Royal Commission, in order that it might complete its investigations. I desire to thank the Government for its action in that regard although they have not seen their way clear to adopt the recommendations made by six out of the eight Commissioners. I believe that good work has been done by the Commission, and that even if we are unable tocarry our proposal into effect at the present juncture, the investigation made by us will hasten the day when we shall be able to do so. Before proceeding to deal with the main arguments in favour of the amendment, I should like to read a letter from Mr. Kenneth Anderson, Managing Director of the Orient Company. Immediately on the publication of the report of the Shipping Service Commission I sent a copy of it to Mr. Anderson, and received from him the following reply : -

Martin-place, Sydney, 2nd July, 1906.

Dear Sir, - I am much obliged to you for the copy of the Shipping Commission report.

To-morrow's or Wednesday's papers will probably contain some comments of mine which will be of interest to you.

I read with regret in the report the phrase as to the Orient Company not publishing balance sheets " for reasons best known to itself." It. contains an innuendo which, in view of our desire to afford the Commission every assistance in our power, I think we might have been spared. Besides, the statement is incorrect.

Australia, when all is said and done, owes not a little to the Orient Company, who have consistently lost money on their service. Surely we might look for fair criticism, to put it no higher than that. - Yours truly,

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