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Thursday, 26 July 1906

Mr THOMAS (Barrier) . - I move -

That the amendment be amended by leaving out the words '"'or otherwise," and all the words after the word" monopoly."

The amendment, if amended as I propose, would read -

That this House is of opinion that the steamers should be. acquired by the Government in the event of the company joining or becoming part of any shipping ring or combine constituting itself a monopoly.

One of the planks of the platform of the party to which I belong is the nationalization of monopolies. We are not concerned as to whether a monopoly is or is not detrimental, because we assume thatany monopoly in the hands of private enterprise is detrimental to the best interests of the community, and should, therefore, be nationalized.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then honorable members must define a monopoly.

Mr THOMAS - I admit that that is necessary. I should have been glad if the honorable member for Gwydir could have seen his way to support my attempt to nationalize these boats from the start. It was open to the honorable member to vote on my amendment in any way he pleased for the reason amongst others that it has been decided by our party that at present the business of the mail companies do not exactly, constitute a monopoly. Once it becomes a monopoly according to our platform it is necessary for us to do our very best to nationalize it. I should like to know whether the honorable member for Gwydir believes that the Shipping Conference in England is a monopoly, and is detrimental to the best interests of Australia. I was very pleased to hear my leader, the honorable member for Bland, make the statement that, had this contract been given to the Orient Steam Navigation Company, he would have been prepared to support the nationalization of the fleet, because the Orient Steam Navigation Company is a member of the Shipping Conference.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Did the honorable gentleman say that?

Mr THOMAS - I understood him to say that, in answer to an interjection of mine during his speech. We are, however, considering a contract with a shipping company that at present is altogether outside the shipping ring. I should like to know whether the honorable member for Gwydir believes that the new, shipping company to whom it is proposed that this contract shall be given ought not to be a member of the Shipping Conference in England? If it is not a member of that Conference, I venture to say that it will have a very uphill fight. I have learned in the last few months that there are a number of. people in Australia, not merely amongst the membersof the Labour Party, but amongst the commercial community, who believe the operations of the Conference are detrimental to Australia. We all know that it is one of the largest combinations with bigger ramifications than any other, except, perhaps, the Standard Oil Trust in America. There is a number of persons who think that it ought to be. fought. Are we to say that the new shipping company is not to be a part of that combination? If it is not, it will be avery serious thing for the importers of Australia. It may be that there is a number of protectionists who think that if it will be a bad thing for the importers, it will be a good thing for Australia, because the more hindrances and difficulties that are placed in the way of importation, the better it will be for Australia. It will make no difference to the importations, although it will make things awkward for the importers, because those articles which are being imported will still come,only they will have to come by the boats of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. If the new company is not to be a member of the shipping conference in England, then we shall be practically pouring wealth into the coffers of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, and thus helping to build up acompany which employs black labour. As we all know, the deferred rebates are not allowed to those importers who use boats which are not members of the shipping conference. I am supporting the amendment because I am desirous that we should runour own boats. The honorable member for Gwydir did not see his way clear yesterday to support my proposal. I am prepared to support his amendmentbecause, whilst it does not go as far as I should like, still it goes along the line I advocate. I would rather nationalize the mail steamers to-day than to-morrow. If I cannot nationalize them to-day, I must be satisfied with the attempt to nationalize them to-morrow. I am prepared to support the proposal before us, but I trust the honorable member will agree to my amendment of it. It would make the proposal read morein accordance with the planks and pledges of the party to which I belong.

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