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Thursday, 26 July 1906

Mr McWILLIAMS (Franklin) . - I move -

That the following words be added : - " That it be a condition of the contract that the mail steamers shall call at Hobart at least fortnightly during the months of February, March, and April."

At this late hour I have no intention to delay the House. I believe it is the feeling of honorable members that the shorter I make my speech the more votes my proposal will command. I do not ask that the mail steamers shall visit Hobart regularly throughout the year. But as honorable members are aware, there are three months during which there is a large export of fruit to London, and at the present time it is necessary to charter steamers to convey it there. Consequently I ask that fortnightly during the months of February, March, and April the mail steamers should make Hobart a port of call.

Mr Thomas - After we have knocked out Brisbane.

Mr McWILLIAMS - I think the honorable member will admit that I did not assist to knock out Brisbane. The conditions for which I ask are so moderate that I am sure the contractors would not object to them. Next year we shall export from Hobart more than 500,000 bushels . of apples. Indeed, apart from minerals, fruit is our chief export to England - and the whole of the crop must be exported during six, or at most eight, weeks of the year.

Mr Thomas - Suppose that contracts have been made by growers with other vessels, so that there are no apples for the mail steamers to take whenthey call there?

Mr McWILLIAMS - Although the mail steamers have been charging for the carriage of fruit to London 9d. per case more than is charged by vessels with larger bottoms, practically every inch of their space has been occupied. It is the quick transit which is the desideratum of fruitgrowers. The honorable member for Barrier may rest assured that if the vessels visit Hobart during the months I have indicated, they will be able to take away as much fruit as they can carry. One point which 1 desire to emphasize is that our fruit-growers are further removed from the English market than are their competitors on the mainland, and I claim that they should be provided with equal shipping facilities.

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