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Tuesday, 24 July 1906

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - But the Premier of Queensland has been consulted as to the payment of an extra subsidy, although that State is at present paying its quota of the Commonwealth subsidy. Such a proposal appears to me to be an infringement of the Constitution, because it practically means certain States legislating for one State, and differentiating that State from the other members of the Union. As I said before, I hope that the Queensland Government will refuse to pay any further subsidy, but will reserve any such assistance for a Torres Strait service. We are told that the steamers of the contracting company, under the new agreement, are to run fifteen knots an/hour ; but what is that speed compared with the twenty-four or twenty-five knots an hour of the Atlantic liners?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The new boats will have to do more then fifteen knots an hour, in order to perform the voyage in the allotted number of hours.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - Even if the new steamers did sixteen knots an hour, the German liners and the Cunard liners on the Atlantic are now doing twenty-four and twenty-five knots. According to the terms of the agreement, it is apparent that, instead of £125,000 per annum, we shall have to pay £150,000 per annum, if the vessels are to attain the higher speed. Then it seems to me to be wrong to enter into a ten years' contract with the company. It would have been far better to have contracted for a shorter period with the old company, even if we had to pay more. We have no guarantee that the contracting company occupies anything like the position which has been indicated. We have been told to-day that the company has up to the present built only tramp steamers, and their deposit of £25,000 is a mere fleabite.

Mr Ewing - Who has said that the contracting compay are building only tramps ?

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - That is what is said by those who have gone into the question.

Mr Ewing - It is not correct.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - Of course, it does riot follow that because the company has up to now built only tramps, it is not capable of turning out ocean greyhound's. A man who can build a tramway can build a railway. I dare say this is a very respectable firm, and doubtless it will have to find a lot of money in order to go into this enterprise; whether or not the enterprise will pay them is for their consideration, not ours. I have nothing further to say, except to repeat my protest against this agreement as it stands. There ought to be a stipulation that the vessels, shall call at all the States : and I may point out that Queensland in the past has been badly treated, not only in connexion with the mail service, but in a great many other ways. I have, time after time, madethat statement, and it cannot be repeated too often. The people of Queensland think that they have been badly treated, and a great number have the idea of secession in their heads. That may be only empty talk, and I do not attach much importance to it; but when we find that a State is badly treated, simply because it happens to be situated far away from centres of population, a point should be strained in order to extend some assistance. It is well known that ever since the inauguration of the Commonwealth, the- Queensland finances have been on the wrong side, and that that State has had to take less than the three-fourths of the revenue to> which it is entitled under the Constitution. I hope these boats will go on to Brisbane. There will certainly be plenty of trade therefor them in the future. At the presenttime the dairying, meat, and other industries of Queensland are looking up, and I have no doubt that in a few years she will' be the premier State. In ten years time there will be a big difference in the condition of affairs in Queensland, and it isvery hard that the boats of the contracting company should be permitted to stop at Sydney.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There is nothing inthe contract requiring them to stop at Sydney.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - There is nothing in the contract to compel them to go to Sydney.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In that respect Queensland is placed in the same position as the other States.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - That is so; but the honorable member overlooks the fact that there is a very big population in Melbourne and Sydney as compared with the population of the capital of Queensland, and also the fact that Brisbane isso much further off. A company running these very large boats might consider that it would be too expensive to take them on to Brisbane for the trade of that port. I think that, even though we should have to pav a little more for this contract, it should be specified that the boats should call at a port in each of 'the States.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Would the honorable member have the boats engaged in the Vancouver service go on to Western Australia ?

Sir John Forrest - Western Australia pays her share of the cost of that service.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - They might go to Western Australia, so far as I am concerned. If it is a Commonwealth service it should serve all the States.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Let the honorable member consider the cost.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - If it were shown to be necessary I should have no objection, nor would the people of Queensland. What I complain of is that the proposed contract is for a direct line from England, and it is not proposed that the boats shall call at ports in all the States. I hope that this contract will not be ratified. I intend to oppose it, and will do all I can to secure its rejection. I have only my vote with which to "prevent its ratification, and I know it is of very little use to talk when a majority of honorable members are opposed to one's views, but if the contract is ratified I hope that the Government will see their way to introduce some condition under which the boats engaged in the service will call at Brisbane.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We should have no guarantee that the proposed national line would go there.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - We will guarantee that if honorable members will agree to the amendment. I must congratulate the honorable member for Barrier on the project submitted by the Shipping Service Commission. That Commission has proved to be one of the best that has been appointed by any Commonwealth Government. It has submitted a number of practicable recommendations, and' has shown us how to do something. It is all very well for honorable members to try to pick holes in the figures submitted by the Commission, but I think that their estimates are in some cases rather too high than too low. There is only one matter regarding which there may be an element of speculation, and that is the revenue to be derived from such a line. The Commission considered the revenue derived by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, and the Orient Company, and I think that when the figures are carefully considered it will be found that the Shipping Commission have not been very far out in their estimate of the probable revenue from a Commonwealthowned service. I am satisfied that if we established such a service it would be an eye-opener to the world, as it would prove that we in Australia are able to provide a line of magnificent ships. I am sure the honorable member for Barrier would not advise the construction of inferior vessels. The question is asked whether such a line of steamers would pay, and I reply that if it pays a private company such as the Orient Company or the Peninsular and Oriental Company to run a line of steamers here it would pay the Commonwealth Government equally well.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member for Barrier is proposing the establishment of another competing line.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - The honorable member is proposing the right thing, and you are not proposing the right thing - a lot of sharks as you are, trying to take the people down.

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