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Thursday, 26 July 1906

Mr FISHER (Wide Bay) .- I take it that we are to deal with this contract with due regard to our own position, and not in accordance with what is done anywhere else.

Mr Deakin - Hear, hear; but I was challenged.

Mr FISHER - Whilst the Admiralty see fit to take, certain action in the old country, I think that the PostmasterGeneral is the most competent person to take charge of a purely postal contract. The honorable member's amendment provides that these vessels shall not be interfered with except for defence purposes.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In the way of purchase or charter.

Mr FISHER - That is a clear challenge to the Government. Any one who believes that there is a possibility qf the Government, by taking possession of the steamers, securing a better service than they could obtain by leaving them in the hands of the contractors-

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - This is Socialism, or otherwise.

Mr FISHER - I quite agree that the Opposition, after assisting the Government, are challenging them with respect to a vital part of their policy. They are entitled to do so, but I would remind them of the statement made by the honorable member for North Sydney - one of the shrewdest and ablest members of their party - that circumstances might arise that would compel the Government to take oyer these vessels.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - He has explained to-night that he was referring to a time of national peril.

Mr FISHER - The words used by the honorable member were perfectly clear. He said that the company might conduct the service in such a way as to compel the Government to call upon them to hand over the steamers at a reasonable price. I hope that the Government will stand by the contract, because the proviso, whilst it may not lead to much, is sound in principle, and will ultimately be availed of under this or some other contract.

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