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Thursday, 26 July 1906

Mr KING O'MALLEY (Darwin) . - I regret that the PostmasterGeneral should feel aggrieved at the suggestion offered by honorable members. It seems to me that this is the time and place at which to make suggestions - otherwise the contract should not have been submitted to Parliament. The Minister mentioned the names of a number of gentlemen who were behind the contractors. He told us they, were men of great financial strength, and that their connexion with the enterprise was a sufficient guarantee that everything would be right. When I first came to Australia I attended a banquet, and was the poorest man among those present. There was not a guest but could draw his cheque for £100,000. But they have all gone now. They were all great and honorable men, and stood high in banking .circles. Theirs were names to conjure with. They were the Jay Goulds, Vanderbilts, and Astors of this country. Where are they to-day ? If these men had been behind the contractors the Postmaster-General would have told us that their names were a sufficient guarantee- I remember very well when Villard, a great railway magnate, left New York in order to accompany a number of German barons and English lords out west. He left New York worth £10,000,000, but by the time he reached Oregon he was a bankrupt. As a matter of fact, although so many financial magnates are supposed to be behind the contractors, they have rendered themselves liable to the payment of only £25,000 by way of penalty in the event of a breach of the contract. On the other hand, they could sue the Commonwealth for unlimited damages in the event of their incomes being reduced1 by an« legislation passed by us. The arrangement as to the penalty for -a breach of agreement should be of a mutual character, and the liability of the Commonwealth should be limited in the same way as is that of the contractors. It is proposed to enter into a contract for ten Tears, for which term we shall have our hands completely tied. It is easy to say that the men behind the contractors are honorable and influential. I admit that thev are. So was Ta.v Gould, so was Astor. and so was Russell Sage, who recently died worth ^20. 000. 000. But these magnates made all their money out of the people. The honorable and teamed mem ber for Parkes, who is a shrewd lawyer, pointed out that the interests of the Commonwealth should be carefully safeguarded. The Postmaster-General must remember that he is dealing with a pretty fly lawyer, who has all his senses about him.. How do we know that this concession is not to be handed over to the Orient Steam Navigation Company ? We should have everything put down in black and white, and should not fun the risk of having our agreement made the subject of legal proceedings. Perhaps the Postmaster-General noticed that the legal expenses incurred in connexion with the celebrated corset case in Melbourne amounted to £10,000. I am not particular as to which ports are visited by the mail steamers, but I quite agree with the honorable member for Franklin that they should go on to Brisbane. I shall speak as to the claims of Tasmania at a later stage. I trust that the Postmaster-General will devote further attention to paragraph 2 of the contract.- and place matters upon a business footing.

Mr Austin Chapman - There is no chance of our losing £25,000.

Mr KING O'MALLEY - I am not so sure about that. I was once engaged in a law case involving ,£140, and was glad to get out of it upon the payment of twice that amount. Then, again, there was a big mining man 'in America named Tabor, who became involved in a law case over a mine, and ended his days in a benevolent asylum, and was buried as an act of charity I trust that the Postmaster-General will again consider the provisions in clause 2.

Mr Austin Chapman - I shall undertake to do so.

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