Possibly of interest to those reading this thread:
Sat 14 Oct 1871
CHAMBER OF COMMERCE. —THE TORRES STRAITS ROUTE.
THE usual monthly meeting of the committee of the Chamber of Commerce was held on October 11. Present: —Messrs. J.S. Turner (chairman), F. Hart, J. Hart, Box, W.J. Paige, Fenwick, and H. O'Reilly.
THE TORRES STRAITS MAIL ROUTE.
A letter was read from Mr. A. Fraser, enclosing the following communication from the Chamber of Commerce, Batavia: —
Batavia, May 27,1871.
Since our chamber was first established in 1864, the great importance of a regular steam communication between Australia and Netherlands-India has never ceased to occupy our attention. Our best endeavors have been directed to procure, by means of steam communication, an exchange of the productions of both countries, and were loath to remain behind those in so many other parts of the world who, by establishing steam communication, have been able to advance the interests of commerce and industry.
In this direction we have found a true ally in the Government of Netherlands-India, which desires nothing better than to co-operate with the Governments of Australia in bringing about the desired steam communication.
The Imperial Government in Holland has also repeatedly taken credit in the annual Indian Budget for a considerable amount for subsidy to support such a line, and our Parliament, impressed with the great importance of the subject, has, in every instance, readily voted the amount asked for —under this very natural condition, however, that the share in the subsidy to be contributed by them must mainly depend upon the amount of pecuniary support to be given by the Australian colonies, which, equally with Netherlands-India, must derive advantage from it.
All efforts thus far made, however, have led to no result, owing to circumstances beyond the control of the Government.
One more attempt, and probably the last one, it is now determined to make, which, for its success, will depend upon the amount of support and sympathy it meets with in Australia.
Mr. A. Fraser, a member of our chamber, and standing at the head of the well-known and prosperous Netherlands-India Steam Navigation Company, having been encouraged to do so by our Government, has formed an entirely new plan for a steam communication between the two countries by which all the most important commercial ports are to be called at, and our Government is ready to contribute a fair share of the very moderate subsidy asked for by him to carry it out.
He leaves in a couple days for Australia for the purpose of negotiating with the several colonial Governments, in the hope of inducing each of them to bear also their share of the subsidy.
We earnestly hope that your chamber may be convinced of the great importance of Mr. Fraser's undertaking, and may be induced to lend it your powerful support.
This letter will be handed you by Mr. Fraser, whom we hope to have soon back again in our midst with the cheering intelligence that our so long-cherished wishes have at last been fully realized.
A. van Delden, President,
J. E. Henny, Secretary.
Mr. A. Fraser was present as a delegate from the Batavian Chamber of Commerce to lay before the committee the advantage of opening up the Torres Straits mail route. He said he assumed there was little, doubt on the part of members of the committee that the route which he had been deputed to advocate would, if opened op, prove of great advantage to the interests of the community of Queensland. As a postal route, letters from England would certainly be delivered two days later than by the present Suez service, but to the other parts of the Eastern World, Java, India, and China, would be delivered and received earlier than was at present the case; and as regarded commercial advantages, the line would compare favorably with any at present in existence.
It was not likely that the advantage of a wool trade would be opened up similar to that now taking place by the San Francisco route, but, should the slightest opportunity be offered, he only hoped that it could be made of equal value in this respect. Owing to the opening of the Suez Canal, there was no doubt that this line would open to other places besides these colonies, great commercial advantages, and lead to an interchange of products, which could not fail to be beneficial.
With regard to the action of the delegates at the late Conference at Melbourne, he failed to see how their decision would affect the opening up or otherwise of this route, as he had reason to believe that, before they commenced their deliberation, it was understood that this line would not form one of the subjects of discussion, but would be left to the action of the New South Wales and Queensland Governments alone, as the Cape route had been left to the action of Victoria, and of which they would perceive no mention had been made more than of the Torres Straits route in the published decision of the Conference.
Five years ago, at the request of the Government of Queensland, the N.I.S.N. Co. had tendered to perform this service for £44,000 per annum. They now proposed to carry out the same service for the sum of £37,000, of which amount £10,000 had been promised, and would be paid by the Netherlands Government, leaving the balance of £27,000 to be provided by Queensland and New South Wales. The proposition, as laid before the respective Governments, had proved satisfactory, as far as he could learn, and it was merely now a question of the division of the subsidy between the two colonies.
Seeing that Queensland would derive the greatest benefit from this service, she would have, of course, to bear the heaviest portion of the burden, and her part of the subsidy had been estimated at £18,000, leaving the remaining £9000 to be provided by New South Wales.
In an interview which he had with Mr. Duffy, that gentleman had said that he would like to see this service opened up, as it would be of benefit to Victoria in a commercial point of view, and on that ground some small support might be expected from that colony, but the action of the Government would depend greatly upon the representations made by the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce.
If they were to judge by the use which Victoria had made of the line when it was temporarily established by the running of the Souchays and Hero she would be amply recouped for her support by the revenue she would derive from postage of letters, &c.
It was proposed, supposing Sydney to be the Australian terminus of the line, to call at Brisbane Roads, Gladstone, Bowen, and Cape York; but, of course, these details would entirely depend upon the requirements of the Government.
He might remark that the Conference lately sitting had postponed altogether the question for a year and a half, when tender would be called for carrying out the two services decided upon, and then would come the question whether any result would follow. Whereas this line by Torres Straits could be opened within six months from signing the contract. The steam ship company with which he was connected was powerful and wealthy, and had a fleet of thirteen steamers. The distance was computed to be 4080 miles, and a rate of speed of nine knots would be guaranteed. It was calculated that it would take nineteen days' steaming from Sydney to Batavia, and two days from the latter port to Singapore, with which port there was weekly communication with Batavia.
Another great advantage connected with this service was that the line of steamers would run along the line of the ocean cable, so that in case of any break down of the telegraphic communication the steamers could bring on the messages. Owing to the large connections of the steam company which he represented, fine goods could be carried on a through bill of lading from Liverpool via the Suez Canal to Brisbane. In conclusion, he might remark that a line from New Caledonia to Bowen could be run in connection with the proposed service, especially as the French Government would no doubt subsidize such an undertaking, as they were anxious to have their mails and passengers carried by the Messageries Imperiale.
Sundry questions were then asked Mr. Fraser by members present, regarding the details of the working of the service, all of which he answered satisfactorily.
Mr. F. H. Hast, seeing that no further information was desired, proposed a vote of thanks to Mr. Fraser. That gentleman had come a long distance out of his road to lay his views before them, and he was sorry no more tangible result could be offered to him at present. As it was only on Monday last the committee had been informed of Mr. Fraser's arrival in Brisbane, very little time had been allowed for the consideration of his scheme. At their next meeting, however, the matter would, doubtless, be fully gone into.
The motion was seconded by Mr. J. Hart, and carried unanimously.
Mr. Fraser was very much obliged for the kind reception that had been accorded to him, and he could only say now or never was the time to bring the matter to an issue. No doubt some little pressure was required to be brought to bear upon the Government of this colony, but he could safely say that his opinion was that if the present attempt to establish the route resulted in failure, the Netherlands Government would hardly enter upon the matter again, as they had incurred considerable trouble and expense on the present occasion.
He would remind them that the line was not a competing line with any at present in existence, and therefore if its establishment could not be brought about entirely by its own merits and the advantages it offered of opening up communication between these colonies and the Dutch possessions and the East generally, he thought no future effort would be made by his Government to carry it out.