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Thursday, 26 July 1906

Mr LONSDALE (New England) - The dispute between the Government and the Opposition, if there is one, arises from the fact that the Government have represented that the clause in the proposed new contract is similar to that contained in the Imperial mail contracts. Now, the Labour Party are defending the clause adopted by the Government, because it differs from the Imperial provision in that it would enable the Government to acquire the steamers for commercial purposes. The Opposition have so far stood by the Government in their resistance of the socialistic propositions put forward during the discussion of this contract. If the Government had acted in a straight-forward manner I could have admired them, but in framing the clause in the contract in such a way as to meet the desires of the Labour Party they have not put the position so clearly as to entitle them to claim that their conduct has been altogether aboveboard. If the Government had intended to insert a provision similar to that contained in the Imperial mail contracts, there would have been no necessity to resort to ambiguous language. Every one knows that the clause in the proposed contract goes very much further than the Imperial provision. Personally, I am entirely opposed toany of these socialistic proposals. The honorable member for Darwin argued that the clause as it stood would act as a deterrent upon the ship-owners, who might be disposed to exact high freights from producers. But there is nothing in the contract to prevent any such abuse of power.

Mr Frazer - Does the honorable member think that it would be less socialistic if the Minister of Defence, instead of the Postmaster-General, were empowered to purchase the ships?

Mr LONSDALE - Surely the honorable member recognises the distinction between empowering the Government to- take over the vessels at a time of great national stress and permitting them to acquire them for purely commercial purposes.

Amendment of the amendment negatived.

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