1st Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. V. L. SOLOMON presented three petitions, signed by 28 residents of Kadina, South Australia, and the surrounding district, praying that a sum of money be placed on the Estimates for the construction of a new post and telegraph office in the town.
Mr. EWING presented a petition from representatives of the Christadelphian body in Australia, praying the House to exempt them from the provisions of the Defence Bill relating to the compulsory enlistment of adult males.
Petition received and read.
– I wish to know from the
Prime Minister if he has yet received Mr. Oliver’s supplementary report, or has any information bearing on the matter?
– In reply to a question asked by the honorable member the other afternoon, I said that I believed Mr. Oliver had furnished, or was about to furnish, a second or supplementary report, because it was stated in the memoranda in the printed papers that he would do so ; but, having now communicated with the Government of New SouthWales upon the subject, I find that no second or supplementary report has been furnished. A further memorandum, however, has been written by Mr. Oliver. I have procured copies of it, and they will be circulated among honorable members.
– I wish to know from the Minister for Home Affairs if his attention has been directed to a letter appearing in this morning’s Age, and signed by Senator Styles, in which the honorable senator repudiates theunderstanding arrived at between New South Wales and the five other States of the union in respect to the site for the Federal capital? If so, will he take steps to see that the Federal capital site is chosen during the present session of Parliament ? When does he propose to submit the matter for the consideration of honorable members?
– I am not answerable for Senator Styles, nor am I his keeper. I saw the letter referred to, but it is not a matter of which I can take notice. The Prime Minister has already stated - and that statement should be sufficient - that the choosing of the Federal capital site is a question which will be submitted for the consideration of Parliament during the present session.
– I cannot give the honorable member the exact date, but I am sure that my honorable colleagues will allow it to be dealt with at the earliest moment possible.
– I desire to ask the honorable member for Bland, through you, Mr. Speaker, a question without notice: Is it correct, as reported in this morning’s newspapers, that the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, has been approached by or on behalf of the labour party with the request that he will, if he sees his way clear, rejoin the Ministry?
– So far as I know, there is no foundation for the statement.
– Hear, hear.
– Is there any truth in the rumour that the vacant portfolio has been offered to Senator Reid ?
– There is no truth in any rumour that the vacant portfolio has been offered to any one.
– Can the Prime Minister let the House know when he will be in a position to inform us as to what is to be done in regard to the appointment of another Minister to the office of Minister for Trade and Customs, or whether it is not intended tofill the position?
– I do not fool myself able to say when I shall make an announcement on the subject.
-Last week the Minister for Defence laid upon the table a report in reference to the importance, as a military line, of a railway from South Australia to Western Australia. Will he, in accordance with his promise, obtain a similar report in regard to a railway to Port Darwin ?
– I must wait, before doing anything in the matter, until the General Officer Commanding returns to Melbourne.
– Can the Prime Minister give the House any reason why the Governor-General so consistently stays away from Melbourne when Parliament is sitting?
– Would any one reside in Melbourne if he could live in Sydney?
– The Commonwealth is responsible for the up-keep of two Government-houses, one of which is situated in Melbourne and the other in Sydney, but the Governor-General, except for a short stay on the part of the Marquis of Linlithgow, has spent very little of his time in Sydney. Lord Tennyson, however, as honorable members will remember, last year had a somewhat protracted illness, since when he has. stayed for a short time at Marble Hill, the country residence of the Governor of South Australia, and later in Sydney, whore his stay has been somewhat prolonged, because he finds that residence there is beneficial to his health, and that the government of the Commonwealth can be efficiently carried on from there without disturbance or interruption. Communication between Melbourne and Sydney is very easy, and I myself visit Sydney every two or three weeks, while he has occasionally come over to Melbourne to hold Executive Council meetings, afterwards returning to Sydney. I do not anticipate that His Excellency’s stay in Sydney will last much longer.
– I beg to ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, without notice, whether, in view of the important petitions presented yesterday and to-day in connexion with the Kadina Postoffice, the Government have taken any further action in the matter!
– I have no information on the subject.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -
I have consulted the Prime Minister, and the matter will bo dealt with without und’no delay. The time involved may be approximately estimated as follows -
After which, Parliament has to decide as to the acceptance or otherwise of the redistribution.
Then time is required to comply with the requirements o£ the Electoral Act respecting the establishment of the rolls.
asked the Ministerf or Defence,upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : - 1and 2. - No. Cordite for the manufacture of small arm ammunition is stored there. The large quantities of powder previously stored in this magazine have all been removed to other magazines.
Debute resumed from 28th J uly (vide page 2691), on motion by Sir Edmund Barton -
That this House ratifies nu agreement entered into between the Government of the Commonwealth and the Eastern Extension Company, a copy of which was laid on the table of the House on Thursday, 2nd July.
That this resolution be communicated to the Senate, with a request for its concurrence therein.
Upon which Mr. Kirwan had moved, byway of amendment -
That all the words after the word “House,” line J, be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “Is of opinion that the Conference proposed by the Secretary of State for the Colonies between representatives of the various partners in the Pacific Cableshould be held before any agreement is arrived at between the Government of the Commonwealth and the Eastern Extension Company.”
– I am afraid I shall have to vote against the amendment of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. If that amendment were carried it would prove rather too late, and would only lead to delay the adoption of an agreement which on other grounds I am bound to support. At the same time, I agree wilh the strong remonstrance of the leader of the Opposition last night at the inaction of the Government in not, before negotiations were opened with the Eastern Extension Company, consulting as a matter of courtesy, though not as a matter of right, those who are jointly interested with the Commonwealth in the Pacific cable. I speak of this as a matter of courtesy, because I do not recognise that there is any obligation on the Executive of the Commonwealth to consult, as a matter of right, the other parties to the Pacific cable agreement who are not, in my opinion, in a position to make any recommendation which the Government would be bound to entertain as to the terms on which we enter into a new agreement applicable to the whole Commonwealth. This seems to me to be altogether a matter of internal arrangement. The agreement is, on the whole, a good one, and is necessary. The position that we are in is that there are four States having agreements with the Eastern Extension Company, and two States which stand out. Inasmuch as. we have taken over as a national concern the. liabilities incurred in relation to the Pacific Cable Board, I think it is only right that, as a corollary, the engagements with the Eastern Extension Company ought also to be made Federal. At the time the agreements were entered into with the first three States - South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania - in July, 1899, there does not seem to have been any remonstrance or suggestion made by those who were interested under the agreement of 1898 as to the Pacific cable. Therefore, the contract entered into by those three States was perfectly bonâ fide. But it is said that the agreement made on the 16th January,1901, with New South Wales was entered into in spite of the fact that objection had been taken by the States interested in the Pacific cable to any further agreement with the company. I think the honorable member for South Sydney showed in his speech last week that the Imperial Government, at all events, could not reasonably object. A synopsis of the terms of the proposed agreement was cabled to the Secretary of State on the 25th October, 1899, and on the 4th November a reply came in which that gentleman expressed approval, subject to some conditions, of the agreement which was about to be entered into between New South Wales and the company. The Secretary of State said that perhaps a few minor variations might be obtained, and I think he suggested that there should be no power to go back to the maximum rates after reductions had been made, even though the reductions did not pay.
– That was in the agreement.
– At all events, one of the suggestions was that the cable ought to be made purely British, and there were one or two smaller recommendations connected with military defences, into which I need not enter. But the Secretary of State approved of the agreement being made with New South Wales in consequence of the agreements entered to a year previously by the other States, and he said then, and subsequently, as shown in the printed communications, that he approved of the line from the Cape to Australia as of great strategic importance. In fact, in one communication he, on that ground, preferred the Cape cable to the Pacific cable. It, therefore, seems to me that we are too late now, or rather those interested in the Pacific cable, are too late in entering a remonstrance against what Mr. Seddon calls an extension of privilege. I do not think he is correct in putting the matter in the way he does - that he is right in using the word “ privilege.” The words used by Sir Wilfrid Laurier in his communication of 6th March, 1903, were -
Canadian Government much regret that departure from that understanding, which has already occurred against their protest, and now urge upon Government of Commonwealth that no further extension granted to Eastern Extension Company.
I do not know that there was any extension of privilege guaranteed, because the agreement is rather a matter of compensation on one side for concessions made on the other.
– It extends the operation of the agreement to other States.
– No doubt, but it involves compensation on the part of the Eastern Extension Company, the chief compensation consisting of an agreement terminable at the end of ten years on two years’ notice, instead of anon-paying agreement, so far as the States are concerned, of an interminable character. There were four States bound practically for ever on the schedule of rates agreed to in 1889 and 1 901 respectively, and bound also as regards other privileges to the Eastern Extension Company ; and having regard to the competition of the Pacific cable, and the probable extension qf the Marconi method of communication, those agreements might have been found to involve considerable loss to the States. I, therefore, say that there are compensations which seem to be more than equivalent to the so-called privileges - though I do not agree that they are privileges - conceded to the Eastern Extension
Company. It is not fair to regard these terms as concessions or privileges. As a matter of fact, whenever the Government assumes the provision of telegraphic communication, they virtually make it a complete monopoly. I agree, with those who advocate the municipalization of some concerns which are, in their nature, monopolies, such as tramways and railways. But, when we are considering matters of this sort, we must remember that in taking over what is a quasi-monopoly, the telegraphic system, the Government cut down the rights of the public to compete. Under this agreement we are really restoring some of the rights which have been necessary to the full enjoyment of Government ownership, and which have been taken away from the public. In this case we are restoring those rights to the Eastern Extension Company. Had the Government not owned the telegraph system, it cannot be urged for a moment that the company would not have the right to open a special line, and to deal directly with the public in any of the States of the Commonwealth. As has been pointed out in the correspondence with the Commonwealth Government, these are privileges which the company enjoy in almost all British possessions to a greater or lesser extent.
– That is no reason why we should grant them.
– No; but we must not regard them as concessions so much as the restoration of rights.
– In my opinion, they are pure concessions.
– Any one could have constructed a telegraph line had he not been prevented from so doing by Act of Parliament. In the absence of Government ownership, it would be the right of any individual to compete in these matters. I make that statement as one who believes in Government ownership. At the same time, I desire to look fairly at the aspect of this question which is presented in the agreement under consideration. I think honorable members will see that it is necessary in the interests of uniformity that the contract shall be extended to the whole of the Commonwealth. Not only is it necessary in the interests of the Commonwealth, but I maintain that we are under a moral obligation to extend its provisions so far as South Australia is concerned. Let us suppose that the agreement is not extended to the whole of the Commonwealth. As regards the Eastern cables, Queensland and Victoria will not then enjoy the benefit of the lower rates which are fixed in the four agreements entered into by the States Governments. It may be said that they do not desire these rates - that they can use the Pacific cable. My answer is that it is in the interests of South Australia, at all events, that they should not use the Pacific cable exclusively. Let us look at the position of that State in regard to this matter. If the agreement under consideration be rejected, South Australia is the only State which, as a unit, will suffer very great loss. lt erected a telegraph line in conjunction with the Eastern Extension Company, probably about 30 years ago, from Adelaide to Port Darwin, and it now has communication with Eucla also. To the extent that the business upon the Eastern Extension Company’s cable diminishes, the South Australian telegraphic revenue will decline.
– The same remark applies to the Pacific cable.
– I am merely dealing with the effect of the competition of the Pacific cable upon the finances of one State. South Australia is the only State which is badly hit by the competition of that cable. I am merely advocating fair competition. I do not desire any special privileges to be conferred upon the Eastern Extension Company, but, at the same time, I am averse to that company being unfairly handicapped as against the Pacific Cable Board* There was an outlay of about £500,000 by South Australia upon the Port Darwin line, and that State suffered a heavy loss in interest. In 1891, when the other States, except Queensland, suggested that a new agreement should be entered into with the Eastern Extension Company, with a view to securing lower rates, South Australia was the chief sufferer.
– In what way?
– Owing to the loss upon the line that was incurred by the transmission of local messages. South Australia lost both upon the Port Darwin and the Eucla lines. Recognising this fact, the other States not only agreed to contribute to the deficiency incurred by the Eastern Extension Company in. consequence of the reduction of rates, but also to bear a proportionate part of the loss sustained by South Australia. The reductions made were very severe, as is evidenced by the fact that in 1893, after they had been in operation two or three years, the higher rates were again resumed. It was not until 1895 or 1896 that the South Australian loss upon the Port Darwin line disappeared. Therefore I claim that morally that State is entitled to some consideration - a consideration not in the nature of a privilege, but of the recognition of the right of that State to insist that the company in which it is more directly interested is not unfairly handicapped in its competition with the Pacific Cable Board. What is the position? Last year there was a loss in the Post and Telegraph Department of South Australia, according to the figures given by the Treasurer yesterday, of £22,000. The bulk of that deficit - a sum of £15,000 or £16,000 - was due to the competition of the Pacific cable. That is a serious matter, and one which certainly deserves very careful consideration at our hands. I repeat that, through the advent of this cable, South Australia suffered an initial loss last year - and a loss which will probably increase - of £15,000.
– She could have avoided it, but she would not.
– Nothing of the kind.
– At any rate, South Australia assisted to pioneer cable communication with the Empire, so far as this part of the world is concerned. But owing to the competition which the other States have brought about, South Australia suffered a loss of £15,000 last year by reason of the shrinkage of her telegraphic revenue. If, therefore, we unfairly handicap the Eastern Extension Company in its competition with the Pacific Cable Board, we shall do an injustice to South Australia. That State is not asking for any privilege. It merely desires fair conditions between the two competitors for the cable business. What is really unfair in the provisions of the proposed agreement? Its terms are almost identical with those contained in the agreements which have been token over. In speaking upon this matter last evening, it seemed to me that the only points upon which the honorable member for Parramatta could insist were that clauses 9, 10 and 16 were unfair to the owners of the Pacific cable. What are the provisions of those clauses? Clause- 9 simply confers power upon the Eastern Extension Company to reduce, their rates below the minimum fixed–
– They may reduce them to nothing if they choose.
– It confers a power upon the company to reduce their rates, should the competition of the Pacific cable justify such action, as a matter of expediency. On the other hand, the Pacific Cable Board is bound by no obligation of any sort. That board can transmit all messages over its line during the next twenty years for nothing if it chooses so to do. The honorable member, therefore, objects to allowing even a little latitude to the Eastern Extension Company. He is afraid that if this small recognition of right is given to that company, which has a reserved capital - I think he said of £1,000,000 - it will triumph over the competition of the great mother country with her unlimited resources, with her marvellous powers of taxation, and with her great surplus revenue, coupled with the competition o£ New Zealand, Canada, and the Commonwealth.In fact, he fears that the four Governments interested in the Pacific cable, with their practically unlimited resources will be beaten in a war of rates by a single company. That idea, I think, is a little thinner than are most of those which the honorable member for Parramatta is accustomed to place before the House. He also mentioned that the provisions of clause 16 would operate unfairly.
-Why should we put a loss on the cable users for all time ?
– I do not think that there is a loss uponthese cables at the present time.
– Not upon the Pacific cable?
– I thought the honorable member was dealing with the Eastern Extension Company. Surely if, with their eyes open, the parties to that agreement entered into partnership with Great Britain and New Zealand, it is a little too late for them to ask that a portionof their losses should be borne by the State which is already the chief sufferer by the competition of that cable, namely, South Australia.
– But they did not contemplate that any loss would be incurred.
– Whenever I reply to the honorable member upon one point he doubles back upon another.
– The honorable and learned member is not replying to me.
– I may be wrong, but I am endeavouring to make a reply. However, I do not consider that his argument is a very strong one. The honorable member objects to Article 16, but there is nothing in that beyond a declaration of equality of rights, because it merely provides that the Federal Government shall afford to the Eastern Extension Company similar advantages and facilities to those afforded to any competing cable as regards uniformity of terminal rates by all routes.
– We shall make it vice versâ, I hope.
– That is the principle upon which the Imperial Gevernment has always acted.
– Under that condition we could not give the Pacific cable any preference.
– At present, whatever preferences exist are enjoyed by the Pacific Cable Board.
– The article provides that in a fight we shall give our opponent the same advantages that we enjoy.
– At present the Pacific Cable Board enjoy all the advantages. The Post and Telegraph Act, which was passed last session, proposed to give the first right of transmission to the Pacific Cable Board.
– Hear, hear, and we should have insisted upon that.
– That shows how fair honorable members wish the competition to be.
– We do not wish it to be fair in the sense referred to by the honorable member.
– It was only when the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor, insisted upon the equality of rights of transmission that the clause was altered to permit senders to nominate the route by which they wished their messages sent.
– I think the alteration was made in the Senate, because it was contended that the clause in its original form was contrary to the terms of the Berne Postal Convention.
– Yes, I asked that the terms of that Convention should be carried out.
– Even as matters stand, a considerable advantage is given to the Pacific Cable Board, because, although the sender of a message can direct through which channel it should be sent, the sender does not in the great majority of cases bother his bead about that, and the result is that where a telegram is not marked for transmission by a particular route, it is sent by the Pacific cable. That is the reason why the loss to South Australia is proving so great. I cannot see what new privilege is granted to the Eastern Extension Company by the proposed agreement. I have endeavoured to show that what the honorable member for Parramatta complains of are not really entitled to be called concessions. The granting of a special line is not a concession. That is a right which, according to the memorandum of the company, is enjoyed in Great Britain and in almost all British possessions. It is also given in France under the arrangement between Great Britain and that country, because there is a special line to Marseilles along which messages are sent with the consent of the British and French Governments. The right is exercised also in connexion with direct communication with the United States and Canada. Therefore it is not a privilege in tiny sense, but is asked for as a right similar to that which is enjoyed in other countries. On the ground of efficiency such facilities are necessary, and it is also requisite that the company should have the right to establish its own office in all the States, so that there may be complete communication between the receiver and the transmitter. As has been pointed out, the cypher code employed by the company necessitates the use of a special line. Any obstacle to the use of such a code would prove detrimental to thepublic,becauseitpromotes economy from the public stand-point to a greater extent than from that of the company. The agreement with slight variations, which are made to secure uniformity, will benefit four of the States by making the present agreements terminable and I think that in addition to a reduction of the rates hitherto prevailing in Queensland and Victoria, a further privilege is granted to the Commonwealth, because the rates to India and China are, for the first time, reduced for the benefit of the whole of the Commonwealth. This is a considerable concession, because our business relations with those countries arc growing, and ought to.be encouraged. As one of the means of communication the telegraph is not the least important; because, the cheaper the rates for the transmission of messages, the better will it be for business men. Then, again, it would be impossible, under the old agreements, to take advantage of the condition which requires the Eastern Extension Company, before it sells any of its lines, to give the option of purchase to the other contracting parties. If the cables had to be.purchased, obviously, the purchaser ought to be the whole Commonwealth, and not four of the States, so that unless the Commonwealth were substituted for the States referred to, that condition would be nugatory.
– The States have no right of purchase under the present agreement.
– I thought they had. However, that makes the case all the stronger from my point of view. Even if such a condition did form part of the existing agreements, it could not be of any advantage to the States. I am not quite sure whether under the existing agreements the right is given to States Governments to use the Fremantle cable whenever there is a congestion of business on the land line. I rather think that it is not, and, if I am correct, the agreement should prove even more beneficial to the Commonwealth. Not only in the interests of the Commonwealth, but as a matter of right to the Eastern Extension Company and as a matter of fair competition the agreement should be adopted. I have endeavoured to point out that if it is not adopted South Australia, which has already suffered considerably owing to the competition of the Pacific cable, will become involved in a still greater loss.
– There seems to be a disposition on the part of some honorable members to regard the proposed agreement as if it were now beingplaced before the public for the first time. If that were so, and our hands were free, no one would oppose it more strongly than I should. When I had a seat in the New South Wales Parliament, I bitterly opposed the idea of coming to terms with the Eastern Extension Company, in view of the arrangement to which we were committed in regard to the Pacific cable. It seemed to me that we were bound as partners in the Pacific-cable project to do all we could to divert, or, at any rate, to encourage, traffic in the direction of that cable, and I think that the Postmaster-General of that State, the Honorable W. P. Crick, was guilty of gross deriliction of duty, and acted absolutely against the interests of the people of New
South Wales, and indirectly against those of the Commonwealth, when he signed the agreement. A large number of members of the New South Wales Parliament protested against any such step being taken, but the agreement was eventually signed and practically before a large proportion of the House believed that there was any probability of that action being taken. But it seems to me that we are in a difficult position. Pour out of the six States signed what was practically an identical agreement giving this company, most improperly in my opinion, the right to erect its own stations, and to have land lines provided at the expense of the States interested. They gave them also the right to continue practically for all time, and, in the event of the contract being broken without its consent, it was provided that the Eastern Extension Company should have power to appeal to the law courts for compensation, which, no doubt, would have been, awarded them on a. liberal scale. In view of these facts, it seems to me that on the whole the Government have made a very good bargain in restricting the interminable right granted in the agreement signed by four of the States to a period of ten years, and giving up only a proportion of the business in two out of the six States.
– Will the company not obtain the cream of the business during the ten years’ period ?
– It will; and as a matter of fact it was obtaining for all time the cream of the business under the interminable agreement entered into by four of the States. That is the difficulty. If we were able to deal with this matter ‘de novo, I should raise my voice in protest against any such arrangement. But I think it is much better that Australia should have the chance at the end of ten years to reconsider the whole position as affecting these States, rather than that we should resist the company in only two of the States. In view of these circumstances, I feel constrained to vote for this agreement, believing that it is the lesser of two evils The leader of the Opposition laid great stress last evening upon the failure of the Government to postpone the adoption of this agreement pending the Conference which the Secretary of State for the Colonies suggested should be held with the other partners in the
Pacific cable. Perhaps it would have been wise to agree to that suggestion which was put forward on behalf of Canada and New Zealand in particular. I do not see that any injury could have resulted to the Commonwealth if we had adopted that course before taking a final step. But while I admit that it is wise that we should always extend the utmost courtesy to the other partners in the Pacific cable, I do not consider that they have any right to insist that we should consult them before taking a step of this kind. For these reasons, although perhaps it would have been much better to meet the other parties to the agreement, I do not see that we are bound to adopt that course, and I do not feel that the failure of the Government to comply with the suggestion is of sufficient importance to justify rae incasting my vote against the adoption of the agreement. I have read the despatch from the Secretary of State .for the Colonies which was mentioned last evening by the leader of the Opposition, and it seems to me that the right honorable gentleman wasslightly at sea in assuming that the ratification of this agreement was considered by Mr. Chamberlain to be so important as to justify him in writing a very lengthy despatch in regard to it. As a matter of fact, although the despatch extends over two pages in the printed correspondence, only some eight lines in it are devoted to the general principle connected with the signing of the agreement. The remainder of the despatch relates to other aspects of the partnership, and matters in dispute in that connexion between the Commonwealth and some of the States. It seems to me that in that despatch two very pertinent questions were raised by Mr. Chamberlain. The first relates to the terminal charges, and I should like to ask the Prime Minister to state in the course of his reply whether there is anything in the agreement by which the Eastern Extension Company will obtain any advantage over the Pacific Cable Board in respect to the terminal charges ?
– It will obtain noadvantage whatever. The rates are the same to both.
– In that case, I fail tosee the point of the objection raised by Mr.. Chamberlain in paragraph 4 of his despatch.
– We have been told by the Prime Minister that the
Government have decided to give the Pacific Cable Board all the advantages enjoyed by the Eastern Extension Company in regard to imports.
– If we reduced our terminal rate of 5d. to the internal rate of 2d., as asked, the Eastern Extension Company would be at perfect liberty to reduce their charge by 3d. per word, and so things would be just as they were.
– In view of that statement, I do not think that there is much to complain of. I intended to make some reference to paragraph 5 of the despatch from the Secretary of State for the Colonies, which relates to import duties on ships’ stores and other stores, but the interjection made by the honorable member for South Sydney indicates that the Government have decided to treat the Pacific Cable Board just as the Eastern Extension Company is treated in that respect.
– That is so.
– That disposes of the points which, on their face, seemed to require some attention at the hands of the House. Whilst I regret exceedingly that the hands of the Commonwealth Parliament were tied to the extent that they were by the action of four out of the six States which constitute the Federation, I see now no escape from what, in any case, must be a very difficult position. In all the circumstances, I believe that the Government have made the best bargain that we could have expected. It will be a relief to me as a citizen of the Commonwealth when the ten years’ period elapses, and we have an opportunity to reconsider the whole position and a chance of adequately assisting a Stateowned cable.
– I am very pleased that the Minister for Home Affairs stated yesterday that the Secretary of State for the Colonies was aware of the negotiations which were in progress, because up to that time I was under the impression that such was not the case. From the papers which have been presented to the House, I find that a lengthy telegram was sent to Mr. Chamberlain on the 24th October, 1899, and that after a reply had been received from the AgentGeneral to the effect that he was engaged in negotiations with the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the Eastern Extension Company, a cablegram dated 4th November was received from the Agent-General stating that -
In continuation telegram second, Mr. Chamberlain sees no objection to acceptance Extension Company’s proposals contained in your telegram 25th ultimo.
He went on then to indicate various other points which had been missed, and made further suggestions which were subsequently embodied in the agreements which were entered into.
– The main suggestion was that there was no provision that the reduction of rates should be in perpetuity.
– I shall read the remainder of the cablegram. It continues -
He points out, however, it is not expressly stated that company is not in any case to increase its rates, and phrase at end telegram appears imply power reserved increase rate up to 1903 if revenue falls below amount fixed. Mr. Chamberlain would suggest you stipulate that once reduction made it must stand, though traffic falls off. He also thinks you should insist on South Africa to Australia cable being made all British. No mention is made us to rates between South Africa and Australia, and, although thispoint does not directly concern Imperial Government or Mr. Chamberlain, of opinion you would do well to stipulate for fair maximum rate least, if not for sliding scale, as in other case. Finally, Mr. Chamberlain of opinion that arrangement should be made by which points where new cable landed would be settled in consultation with military authorities, with view insuring they shall be landed where shore ends can be protected by fixed defences.
– How can he object to the arrangement now?
– Ihave not the whole of the correspond ence here, but I find that at a later date there were various negotiations, from which it appears to me that the New South Wales Government had committed themselves, at any rate, up to a certain point. Then, on the 26th February, 1900, the following telegram was sent from the Secretary of State for the Colonies to the Governor of New South Wales : -
Followingistext of unanimous resolution passed by Pacific Cable Committee yesterday. Begins : - “That this Committee would urge that no concessions should be made by any of the Australian Governments to the Eastern Telegraph Company as a condition oflaying a cable between Africa and Australia until this Committee has bad an opportunity of considering and reporting on the effect of such upon the financial prospects of the Pacific Cable scheme” - ends. Under existing circumstances, I concur, and hope thatyour Ministers have not yet communicated with
Eastern Telegraph Company decision arrived at by Conference. Questions in Parliament, 27th February, ask whether concessions have been granted.
There seems to be a telegram missing, dated the 1st March ; but the following message was sent in reply to the telegram I have just read : -
Referring to your telegram of 1st March, Prime Minister informs me that agreement not actually entered into. Eastern Telegraph Company aware of result of Premier’s Conference. Colony prepared to accept in terms of my cypher telegram of 24th February.
The idea existed in the minds of most commercial men, and was a very strong one in my owncase, that the New South Wales Government had signed the agreement against the wishes of the other colonies, as the States were then, and without communicating with the Secretary of State for the Colonies. I have recently learned, however, that, although there is nothing in the papers to show that it is so, the agreement was signed by New South Wales upon the understanding, or partial understanding, that Victoria was in accord with that action.
– The Minister for Home Affairs said so last night.
– It was signed by the New South Wales Government, irrespective of the intentions of Victoria.
– It was agreed to by the representative of Victoria.
– I am informed that it was not signed in New South Wales until it was understood that Victoria approved of the arrangement.
– Yes, through her Postmaster-General .
SirMALCOLM McEACHARN.- I cannot help thinking that the Pacific cable authorities have been responsible, because of their laxity in regard to business matters generally, for a good deal of the trouble which has arisen, and I contend that they are adopting a very unbusiness-like attitude even at the present time. They evinced the greatest anxiety to obtain the assistance of commercial men and others, including the then Premier of Queensland, the late Sir Thomas McIlwraith, in getting the layingof the cable sanctioned, and were splendidly supported ; but since they succeeded in that, they have not given proper attention to the future interests of the business. In my opinion, the loss which the States will have to meet will be largely increased unless much more energy is shown by the board of management. They have keen competitors to deal with in the Eastern Extension Company. I have no sympathy with that company, because I remember the arrogant attitude which it adopted towards Queensland twenty years ago. Nevertheless, I admire the business aptitude of its management in obtaining agreements with the States, and in the general control of its affairs. The idea that the present Government was to blame for entering into this agreement is. very strongly held, and the general public; were not aware, until they had been educated upon the subject, that it was necessary for this Government to enter into this agreement. The attitude I should have taken, had not the papers in the case been placed in my hands, would have been to blame the four States which entered into agreements with the company.
– South Australia had nothing to do with the Pacific cable.
– South Australia agreed to it originally, but drew out again I could produce anagreement signed in Sydney by Sir John Cockburn.
– I am sorry that I shall not be able to support the amendment, but I think that there are good grounds for refusing to do so. Mr. Chamberlain’s secretary, in the fifth paragraph of a letter appearing in the papers which have been printed for our information, states that -
As the Government of New South Wales has actually signed the agreement with the Eastern. Extension Company, the position as regards that State is irrevocable.
Therefore, it appears that even if a conference were held, the position of the four States which signed agreements with the Eastern Extension Company could not be altered, and it would be manifestly absurd to allow them to enjoy the benefits of lower rates while Victoria stood out.
– And bore all the blows.
– Yes. I have never taken advantage of the lower rates from South Australia., and even now, notwithstanding the want of business aptitude on the part of its management, I have given instructions that every cable sent on behalf of any concern with which I am connected shall go by the Pacific route. It. will be seen that I am a warm friend of the Pacific Company, and I should certainly oppose the proposed agreement if I thought there was anything which could be effectively said by way of opposition. As I have pointed out, a Conference would only mean further delay.
Mr.Wilks. - What is there to lose by delay?
– I think a great deal might be lost by delay. At any rate, the company have had these papers before them for years, going back, as the documents do, to 1900, and they do not seem to have taken any active part on behalf of their own interests. Another Conference might mean months of delay, and the Government ought not to stultify themselves by granting one.
– We might be able to clear ourselves of accusations of breach of faith.
– I do not think I should have taken up my present attitude had it not been for the papers placed in my hands. I consider that the whole aspect is changed after we have heard what the Minister for Home Affairs said on the subject. There is one point in the agreement to which I object. That is contained in the fourteenth paragraph, as follows : -
The Commonwealth shall so soon as the next following clause comes into force provide and maintain in efficient working order at its own expense for the transmission of the Australasian traffic special wires.
I am unable to say why that special advantage should have been given to the Eastern Extension Company.
– We get something for it in the terminal rates.
– There is the terminal rate of 5d. ; but I should like to see figures showing that that would be sufficient to pay interest on the cost of the special wire. Should the terminal rate be sufficient for that purpose, then, of course, my objection is gone ; but it would have been far better if we had been given figures showing the exact cost, and what we are likely to get in return. Paragraph 16 of the agreement is as follows : -
The Federal Government shall at all times afford to the Extension Company similar advantages and facilities to those (if any) afforded to any competing cable as regards uniformity of terminal rates by all routes.
We have thus two special clauses in favour of the Eastern Extension Company, and I should like the Prime Minister to give some further assurance that the Pacific Board will receive the same advantages as are proposed to be extended to the Eastern Extension Company. I understand the Prime Minister to say that he is prepared to extend to the Pacific Board the same conditions so far as return of duties are concerned ; but I want to see the Pacific Board placed in exactly the same position as the Eastern Extension Company in regard to all privileges. If the Prime Minister will give us that assurance I shall have no objection whatever to the agreement.
– I am not saying that I shall not do so, but has there been found any disposition on the part of the other partners to do the same thing in regard to competing lines ?
– Perhaps not.
– Canada even taxes the length of the cable on shore.
– The Prime Minister has mentioned theduties,and in that respect has given the Pacific Board the same advantages as are enjoyed by the Eastern Extension Company. It is true that Canada has not granted the same concession ; but at the same time, if the Prime Minister takes it upon himself to enter into this agreement without dealing directly with the other partners, I think he might take it upon himself, without consulting them, to grant to the Pacific Board exactly the same privileges as are granted to the Eastern Extension Company.
– Mr. Reynolds, the general manager of the Pacific Board, is on his way out to Australia, and I am willing, with the consent of the other partners, to take him into negotiation and conference, with a view to seeing how the Pacific cable can be made to work on fair terms with the other cable.
– I do not think that a sufficient answer to my question. If the Prime Minister is determined to enter into this agreement without promising the Pacific Company the same concessions as the Eastern Extension Company, or waiting for Mr. Reynolds’ arrival, then I may find myself bound to move an amendment giving the Pacific Board, in any agreement or arrangement that may be entered into, the concessions referred to.
– What is the objection to postponing this matter until Mr Reynolds arri ves?
– This matter has been under discussion for three years. I have no objection to saying that, so far as it is possible, we will put the Pacific Board in the same position as the Eastern Extension Company, so that they may be on level terms.
– The Prime Minister is, of course, quite able to put the Eastern Extension Company and the Pacific Board on level terms - there can be no question as to his ability to do that.
– I should require, in some respects the concurrence of this House ; that is what I mean.
– Why not get the concurrence of the House now ? I do not consider that this House would raise the slightest objection to giving the Pacific Board the same concessions as are given to the Eastern Extension Company. I have no desire to ask the Prime Minister to hold this matter over until Mr Reynolds arrives, because I think there should be no necessity to consult Mr. Reynolds or any one else.
– The House will either take my assurance or it will not. I have given my assurance that I shall do my best to put the Pacific cable on the same terms as the Eastern Extension cable ; and if the honorable member for Melbourne is not satisfied with what I have said, any amendment of the kind he has suggested would be a vote of censure.
– I certainly should not intend it as a vote of censure ; but T have had some experience before - not of the right honorable gentleman - as to the intention of clauses in Bills which were subsequently found to work very differently from the way expected by Parliament. However, I shall not press the matter, because I believe the Prime Minister intends to give the Eacific Board the privileges and advantages they ought to have. I take the statement of the Prime Minister now to be equivalent to a definite promise that the Pacific Board will be placed under exactly the same conditions as the Eastern Extension Company.
– The Prime Minister only says he will do his best.
– How can I do more? Do honorable members expect me to perform miracles?
-I understand that the honorable member for
Kooyong withdrew his amendment on an understanding similar to that which I desire to have from the Prime Minister. However, I do not think pressure on my part would do any further good, and I feel that I shall be right in supporting the motion. Later on, however, I shall ask the Prime Minister to place definitely before us exactly what he means.
– Before the honorable member sits down I should like to say that the agreement with the Eastern Extension Company provides for their immunity from three charges - Customs, harbor and light dues and the like, and any income tax which may be imposed. I can remember no other points at this moment ; but I am prepared to deal with all those I have mentioned on the basis of equality.
SirMALCOLMMcEACHARN. -I cannot agree that there are not other points on which the Prime Minister could speak definitely.
– What others are there ?
– There is the point as to the special wire if required, and also that as to the terminal charges.
– The terminal charges have been made equal.
SirMALCOLMMcEACHARN. - But there is no agreement with the Pacific Company.
– The terminal charges must be equal, according to the Berne Convention.
– When the Pacific Board get their own wires and terminal stations, what about the charges then ?
– The Government will have to treat the Pacific Board fairly - on the same terms as those on which they treat the Eastern Extension Company.
– What is asked is that we should leave the privileges standing in regard to the Eastern Extension Company, but reduce them in the case of the Pacific Board.
– That is not so. The position is that the Eastern Extension Company have the right to special wires, to be provided and. maintained by the Post-office authorities ; and I am claiming the same advantage for the Pacific Board. If the Prime Minister cannot grant my request, then I do not see how any amendment that i might propose would be a vote of censure. At any rate, i shall propose an amendment unless i get a promise to the effect I desire, and that amendment will not be intended as a vote of censure.
– My reason for addressing the House upon this occasion is that i have heard several honorable members urge that the ratification of this agreement will constitute a breach of faith on our part with the other partners to the Pacific cable.’ There seems to be an idea abroad that those States which entered into -this arrangement with the Eastern Extension Company - of which Western Australia was one when i was Premier of that State - acted in a way that was not altogether right.
– They were speaking of the parties to the Pacific cable agreement.
– 1 am very glad of that assurance. As far as Western Ausand South Australia were concerned, they certainly considered that they were making a very good bargain. They were securing a new “ all red “ cable vid the Cape without any expenditure whatever. The day has been when they would have contributed largely towards such an undertaking.
– Does not the right honorable gentleman know that those States obtained that cable for next to nothing, because of the construction of the Pacific cable ?
– I have not the slightest doubt that competition always exercises an influence upon people who are engaged in business. But i would point out that we were not parties to the construction of the Pacific cable. The honorable member for Melbourne talks very glibly about granting concessions to the Pacific cable similar to those that were given by the States to the Eastern Extension Company. I do not know what South Australia would think of such a proposal. If all the traffic is to pass over the Pacific cable, the terminal rates revenue of South Australia which has to maintain a line fromAdelaide to Port Darwin, will suffer materially.
– That troubles the Eastern States very little.
– It troubled them so much that they offered to take the line off the hands of South Australia.
– Under- the agreement made with the Eastern Extension 7 f 2
Company by three of the States - an agree-; ment in which New South Wales subsequently joined - no monoply whatever was created. All that the contracting States did was to allow the company to land a. cable upon our coast, to open local offices, and to carry on business in our midst. I fail to see how any disadvantage to the States could result from such an agreement. I cannot understand why some honorable members, desire to put a ring fence round Australia, and to prevent people from trading here.
– Surely the Minister desires them to trade upon equal terms 1
– That is not the point with which I am dealing. The question of the Pacific cable has been introduced, into this discussion, although we are reallydealing with an agreement with the Easterns Extension Company. In my opinion, that agreement does only a bare act of justice to> a company which has been trading with us for 30 years. We have no liability for losses in regard to the business of the Eastern Extension Company.
– But we have a very high rate.
– If the honorable member for Capricornia chooses, he can lay a cable to-morrow and enter into competition with that company. Everybody else is at liberty to do the same thing. All that the company ask is to be allowed to trade in our country.
– It asks for special wires.
– That is a very small matter indeed. From the remarks of some honorable members, one would imagine that a company which has been transacting: business in Australia for 30 years is hostile to our interests, and that we should embrace the first opportunity of showing it that we owe it nothing. It has been said that we have paid the company well for anything that it has done for us. That, however, is a very poor argument. The fact that we pay a man for rendering us a service does not imply that he has not greatly convenienced us. For instance a cabman may engage to drive a man home for 10s. Ho receives his fare ih is true, but he has nevertheless convenienced his passenger. If I were arguing in favour of the Eastern Extension Company I should invite honorable members to place themselves in the position of that company. What would they say if, after they, had spent millions of money in establishing a business, the whole power of the Governments of England, Canada, New Zealand and Australia were utilized to compete with them ?
– The right honorable gentleman nearly ruined the water cart business in Western Australia, which had grown up for 30 years.
– I do not mean to say that it is not necessary to utilize such a power sometimes. Looking at the matter from the company’s point of view, it seems to me that they have a legitimate grievance. They ought not to be treated more harshly than is absolutely necessary. An agreement was made with these States to lay a cable from Australia to British Columbia - not a line owned by the Government all the way, as some would have us believe, because when it reaches British Columbia it connects with private lines through Canada, and thence with private cables from the eastern side of America to England. Because that cable has been laid I do not see why it should have a monopoly of the traffic, or why people should be forced to use the Pacific cable exclusively.
– Nobody says that.
– That is about what the arguments used by opponents of the agreement amount to.
– The Minister is putting a great strain upon some of the supporters of the agreement.
– The statement has to be inside because it is just. This company deserves fair treatment, and the Prime Minister has gone as far as he possibly could - certainly farther than I should have gone -in pressing it to accept an agreement in respect of the Commonwealth extending over ten years instead of one applying to four of the States in perpetuity. I think that he has done very well, and I cannot understand how any one can cavil at his action or urge that it is not in the best interests of the Commonwealth. The Eastern Extension Company has been here for 30 years, and the Pacific Cable Board was not in existence when the States of South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania entered into an agreement which resulted in the cable from Australia Vid the Cocos Islands to Mauritius and South Africa being laid. It was then in nubibus, and we should have been very foolish to throw away our chance of securing a cable to the Cape because another project was being spoken about. So far as Western Australia is concerned, the cable to the Cape cost nothing whatever. The idea of prohibiting or placing restrictions upon people who have been trading here for years and years, and who are willing to continue to trade is absurd. Fault has been found with the action of the Minister for Home Affairs, when Premier of New South Wales,in allowing the Eastern Extension Company to continue trading here, and open an office in Sydney. We have been told that it was a breach of faith on his part, but I contend that it was an act of common honesty. Are we to surround this country with a ring fence and to prevent any one from trading here ? Are we to adopt as a coin a piece of iron which no one will accept 1 We had better go back to the days of the Spartans if we are not going to allow reasonable facilities for trading.
– Which side is the honorable gentleman going to take at the elections 1
– I shall be no party to driving honest traders out of this country. Honorable members may search as deep as they please without being able to find any reason for withholding their ratification of an agreement, which, to a large extent, curtails the rights pf the Eastern Extension Company, and which merely permits them to carry on the business that they have been conducting for the past 30 years. What breach of faith can there be in allowing the Eastern Extension Company to continue to conduct its business here 1
– The honorable the Minister is speaking purely from, a Western Australian stand-point.
– No, I am not. I am speaking from the stand-point “of the Commonwealth. I could never understand the position taken up by Victoria.
– -No one accuses Western Australia of any breach of faith ; but the question is whether Victoria or New South Wales were guilty.
– Neither of them were guilty of a breach of faith. New South Wales simply said to the Eastern Extension Company - “You have been carrying on business here for the last’ 30 years, and we are agreeable that you shall continue to do so.” I could never understand why Victoria should be unwilling to enter into the same arrangement. I believe that a great deal of the criticism which has been directed from England, Canada, and New Zealand against the proposed agreement is due to want of knowledge, and I hope that the position of affairs will be made clear by the Prime Minister’s explanation.
– Why does the Minister object to a conference ?
-I object to it because the suggestion has been associated with some idea of a breach of faith, whereas no breach has been committed. I know that underlying the honorable member’s amendment is a desire, in a way, to censure the Government. I know the honorable member’s tricks of old, but fortunately he has not the same opportunities for doing mischief here that he had in the place from which he came.
– The vigorous remarks of the Minister of Defence, although very entertaining, have not afforded us much information. The right honorable gentleman has waved his arms, and has told us that “ it is all red,” and he has repeated that statement a number of times as if those words constituted a shibboleth which we must all recognise. The leader of the Opposition pointed out that the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the Prime Minister of New Zealand had charged the Commonwealth with breach of faith, but so far no answer has been made, although two Ministers have since spoken. One might fairly assume from the remarks of the Minister for Defence that the Eastern Extension Company were a group of philanthropists, but is it not fairer to conclude that they constructed a cable to the Cape in order to relieve their cables to the East, and also to avoid the charges made upon the Indian land lines? The Eastern Extension Company are not philanthropists. They have been doing business here for the last 30 years, and they have paid their shareholders enormous dividends in addition to bonuses year after year. We need not cavil at that, but what we have to consider is whether delay in the ratification of the agreement will prove dangerous. The history of the action taken in New South Wales in regard to the agreement has been given by the honorable member for Bland, and also by the Minister for Home Affairs. The formerhonorable member said that he was sorry the compact had been made, because he held that the telegraph and cable services should be entirely under Government control. I agree with that view, which, I understand, is supported by the labour party. As a representative of New South Wales I should like to give my version of what occurred in that State with regard to the agreement, because there seems to be some misunderstanding as to the circumstances under which New South Wales entered into the compact whilst Victoria stood out. The Minister for Home Affairs stated that he thought the Victorian Cabinet were in favour of joining with New South Wales, but we have had a somewhat different complexion placed upon that matter. In New South Wales none of the opponents of the proposed agreeement were more bitter than the members of the labour party. Whilst the question was still before the New South Assembly, the Postmaster-General, Mr. Crick, gave a harbor picnic at which only labour members were present. It was a symposium of labour, and after that picnic the opposition of the labour party was withdrawn.
– It is not correct to say that the labour party withdrew their opposition to the agreement.
– Their opposition ceased immediately after the picnic.
– No ; they always opposed the agreement.
– That is a dirty suggestion to make.
– I am dealing with history.
– The honorable member’s statement is absolutely untrue.
– It is absolutely true.
– Order ! The honorable member for Bland must withdraw his statement.
– I certainly withdraw any imputation against the veracity of the honorable member for Dalley, but I say that the statement originally made in a newspaper, and quoted by him, is untrue.
– If the honorable member thinksthat I am insinuating that the votes of the labour party were purchased - and that is the worst inferencehe can draw - I do not suggest it. I say, however, that the power of the Postmaster-General was manifested at that picnic.
– Order.- The honorable member will not be in order in going further hack into history.
– I should not have mentioned the matter but for the references made to it by the honorable member for Bland and by the Minister for Home Affairs.
– What I said has been supported by the newspapers to-day.
– Exactly. I think that we are acting reasonably in asking for delay. I should like to know whether we are to understand that if there is any delay the Eastern Extension Company may withdraw their offer ?
– They have not made any threat whatever.
– We have been told that the agreement must be hurried on now, although it has been kept back for nearly three years.
– Is that any reason why it should be strung on for ever?
– No, perhaps not. But it is only reasonable that its ratification should be delayed until we have anopportunity of consulting our partners in the Pacific cable.
– If this agreement were not entered into, what would be the position?
– The old agreements would remain.
– The agreement which some of the States entered into with the Eastern Extension Company was to exist in perpetuity, and we are told that the Government have made a great bargain in restricting the arrangement to a period of ten years. I do not know that it is such a great bargain.
– If the honorable member had to choose between living for ten years or for ever, which option would he accept ?
– That is a different matter. The honorable member for Melbourne, who is generally regarded as a shrewd business man, said that the argreement was not a very wise or business-like one.
– I did not say that.
– The honorable member took some objection to the agreement.
– I said that in the circumstances the Government could not have made a better one.
– When the honorable member for Melbourne referred to unbusiness-like details, he was pointing out that the Pacific Cable Board did not conduct its operations in the business-like way observed by the Eastern Extension Company.
– The Pacific Cable Board lacks the business acumen of the Eastern Extension Company. It has not the fighting capacity of that company. True, the agreement now before us is to exist for only ten years, but although that concession appears on paper to be a very substantial improvement on the old arrangement, I do not think it is a very good one. During the ten years’ period, the Eastern Extension Company, which is a large corporation, will be able to enter into various contracts and arrangements which will secure to it the cream of the Australian business. On the other hand, the Pacific Cable Board, with its want of business-like management, will drift further behind, and Australia will suffer a loss of £90,000 a year. A conference between the representatives of Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand would not have diminished the right of the Government to make an agreement of this kind, and I believe that it ought to have been held. If I may be permitted to use a vulgarism, I think that the leader of the Opposition last night gave the Prime Minister a great “ belting “ in regard to that matter. I fully expected that he would have replied to the speech made by the leader of the Opposition, but he has not done so.
– I cannot reply until the close of the debate.
– The right honorable gentleman might reply, but perhaps it would not be prudent for him to do so.
– Under the standing orders, the right honorable gentleman could not reply at this stage.
– I am glad to have your correction, Mr. Speaker.
– The leader of the Opposition spoke with a very imperfect knowledge of the whole matter.
– He made very serious charges. Whilst I admit that the Eastern Extension Company is a monopoly, I do not say that it should be opposed on every occasion. If this agreement looks well from our point of view, it is still better from the point of view of the company. Its history shows that it is likely to be a powerful competitor against the Pacific cable. I believe that the Prime Minister admitted, by way of interjection, that on the surface the agreement did not appear to be too good, and I fail to see that any danger would result from the postponement of this matter. If we delayed the signing of the agreement, we should have an opportunity of meeting in conference the other parties to the Pacific cable.
– The honorable member thinks that the agreement looks a little bit too good.
– Would he like to see it altered so as to make it a little bit worse?
– I know how keen the company has been in regard to the making of this agreement, and I trust that the argument as to the benefit of the cable will not be used. Honorable members of the labour party took exception to my reference to the history of this question. That reference was forced upon me by the action of one of their number, who submitted the honorable member for Parramatta to a severe verbal castigation, and I felt that I should at least express my view of their association with the matter.
Mr. BATCHELOR (South Australia).As a representative of South Australia, I care very little whether this agreement be carried or rejected, and I believe that the Eastern Extension Company regards the whole matter from the same stand-point. The interminable agreement entered into by some of the States suited South Australia very well, while, to say the least; it was certainly as favorable to the company as is the one now before us.
– The company seems to be very anxious that this agreement should be made.
– I do not know whether the honorable member has discovered evidence of any great anxiety on the part of the company to enter into this agreement, but I have not. The only advantage which it will secure by this arrangement is that it will have an opportunity of enjoying in Victoria and Queensland the business facilities which were granted to it in the other States. On the Other hand, the company had the benefit of an interminable agreement with four of the States, in which it would have enjoyed those facilities for all time. Under this agreement, those special advantages will be enjoyed by it for a period of only ten years, which is not a very long one in the life of a cable company. Probably at the end of that time the Marconi system of wireless telegraphy will affect the business of both the Pacific Cable ‘Board and the Eastern Extension Company. I believe it is quite probable that within the next ten years the Marconi system will reach a stage of perfection at which it will very seriously affect the position of these cables.. This debate has satisfied me that we are still far from a realization of the fact that the States are now federated. The Pacific cable has been spoken of throughout as being entirely a Commonwealth line, and as if it were the only line with which the Commonwealth is concerned.
– We have a special interest in it.
– But we are also interested in the Eastern Extension Company’s line. It seems to me that a great many honorable members regard questions of this kind solely from the point of view of how they will affect the Eastern States. So far as this agreement is concerned, the question of how it will affect New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland, is the only point which many honorable members seem to consider. It is true that having taken over the agreement into which three of the States entered in regard to the construction of the Pacific cable, the Commonwealth has an interest in that line, but we have also taken over the agreement which was entered into by the Western States, which are interested in the Eastern Extension Company’s cable line and the line from Port Darwin. Honorable members know, but seem to forget, that South Australia has a special interest in the Port Darwin line. It appears to be forgotten that that interest appertains now to the whole Commonwealth, and that the Commonwealth must have regard to the agreements which were entered into by the Western States just as it regards those entered into by the Eastern States in relation to the Pacific cable. There are some 58 honorable members in this House representing the Eastern States, while there are only some eighteen honorable members representing the remaining States of the Commonwealth. South Australia and Western Australia are directly interested in the Eastern Extension Company’s line, and, as a matter of fact, the revenue of the former State is largely bound “up with it. South Australia has only seven representatives in this House, while there are 59 representatives of the Eastern States. Even if we had the support of the representatives of Western Australia, our numbers would be only 12.
– Other honorable members think of the credit of the whole Commonwealth.
– The credit of the Commonwealth must, of course, be considered ; and if any valid reason for delaying the signing of the agreement until the holding of the Conference could be shown, or if it could be shown that any concession is being given to the Eastern Extension Tele graph Company, we should not object to the delay ; but in what way is the Commonwealth breaking faith with the other parties to the Pacific cable agreement by entering into this agreement ? I am astonished to find that Mr. Chamberlain in his despatch suggests that among the matters to be considered and decided at the Conference is the question of terminal rates. Whatever terminal rate is agreed upon, it must apply to the messages of both companies. If the rate is reduced for the Pacific cable it must also be reduced for the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company, according to the terms of the international arrangement on the subject, which provides that whatever terminal rates are imposed in any country, must apply to all cable companies doing business there. At the present time, South Australia gets 5d. per word, but she would get only Id. per word if the rates were reduced as proposed, notwithstanding the long . lines of telegraph which she has provided, and has to work. The reduction of the terminal rate would not benefit the Pacific Cable Company in the least, because it would also apply to the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company, but it would mean a huge loss to South Australia. I understand that when the book keping period has ceased, accounts like these may be pooled, but we have no guarantee that this account will be pooled. Every telegram now sent by the Pacific Cable is sent, not only at the expense of the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company, but at the expense of South Australia, and, of course, all telegrams sent md the Cape or Port Darwin, are sent at the expense of the Pacific cable.
– What is South Australia losing this year?
– From £13,000 to £15,000. Next year her loss will be greater, and it will increase with the increase of the business of the Pacific cable Those figures give our direct loss; it is impossible to compute our indirect loss. Canada of course, has no interest in any but the Pacific cable, and neither, has the Imperial Government. The Commonwealth, however, is interested in both cables, because of the interest of South Australia and Western Australia in ‘the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company’s business. But we are here to see that no preference is given to one set of States as against another set. We have to consider the interests of all the States. I ask honorable members, therefore, if the fact that South Australia bv constructing a trans-continental telegraph line has for the past 30 years kept Australia in communication with the old world is a reason for neglecting her interests or for penalizing her?
– Does the honorable member suggest that the policy of the Commonwealth should be determined solely by the consideration of South Australia’s interests ? That is what, the honorable gentleman’s remarks amount to.
– I made no such suggestion, but I do not wish the interests of South Australia to be left out of consideration. That is what the honorable member is invariably prepared to do. He looks at everything through New South Wales spectacles ; but, to my mind, we should consider the interests of all the States. As I have already said, the majority of honorable members represent States which are interested in the Pacific cable,’ and the fact that only a minority represent the States which are interested in the Eastern Extension cable is sufficient apology, if any be needed, for taking up time in putting the position of South Australia strongly before this House. I agree with the honorable member for Melbourne that the managements of the two cables should be placed upon an equality. We, in South A’ustralia, ask for nothing more. But we find that the Commonwealth Government have decided, in the interests of the Pacific cable and of the States which support it, that all “unrouted” telegrams handed in at the post-offices should be despatched by that line, ls that fair competition ?
– The honorable member has a remarkable idea of what is fair in regard to a matter of this kind.
– The arrangement is quite fair. The telegrams are handed in at the Government offices, and the presumption is that the senders want them to go over the Government line.
– Which is the Government line?
– The Pacific cable.
– Can the honorable member show that the Pacific cable is more a Government line than is the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company’s cable?
– The Commonwealth Government are responsible for one-third of any loss upon the working of the Pacific cable.
– The Commonwealth Government is also responsible for any deficit in the revenue of South Australia through the falling off in the business of the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company.’
– That loss is charged to South Australia.
– Does South Australia reap any gain ?
– How can there be a gain 1 We incurred a large expenditure in the first place in the erection of our telegraph lines, which hitherto had been regarded as a great achievement in such a sparsely populated State. But now it .appeal’s to be regarded as an action for which we should be penalized. The arrangement in regard to “ unrouted “ telegrams is a clear indication of the desire of the Government to give special advantages to the Pacific cable. From what I have heard, and from what has taken place so far, I feel certain that it is not the Pacific Cable Board which need fear that advantages will be given to the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company ; that company has rather to fear that the Pacific Cable Board will be unduly favoured. The honorable member for Bland regards the Pacific cable as a Government line, but honorable members appear not to realize how little of that cable is Government property.
– The Commonwealth has to meet a loss of £30,000 upon this year’s working of the Pacific cable.
– That0 loss is distributed between three States, so that the amount which any one of them has to provide is less than the loss which South Australia has to bear by reason of business being taken away from the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company.
– But South Australia gains a great deal by the reduced rates which her people enjoy.
– South Australia is losing because of her own arrangements.
– Did we lay down the Pacific cable ?
– No ; but the people of South Australia are responsible for the last agreement with the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company.
– I have made no reference to the loss which results from the reduction in rates, because the people of South Australia obtain a counter-balancing advantage. The loss I referred to is due to the’ competition of the Pacific cable.
– South Australia could not have obtained a reduction of the rates but for the laying of the Pacific cable.
-There probably would have been no reduction of rates if the construction of the Pacific cable had not been threatened, and therefore I have never complained of the laying down of that cable. I have no right to do so. But I complain that only the interests of the Pacific route have been regarded in considering this mat- .ter, whereas it should have been considered in the light of the Commonwealth interest, including that of South Australia. With regard to the Pacific line, the Commonwealth holds a third share in the cable lying between Canada and Australia, but across America the messages are sent on private lines, and across the Atlantic, from America to Great Britain, they are transmitted over cables which are owned in America. On the other hand, the Cape cable largely traverses British dominions. The position has not been quite clearly grasped by some honorable members. We ought to look at the matter from every stand-point, and be sure that in our desire to deal fairly with the Pacific Cable Board, we do not deal unjustly with States which are interested in other lines.
Mr. A. PATERSON (Capricornia).After the very excellent speech of the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, the House will probably be surprised to learn that South Australia had an opportunity of becoming a partner in the Pacific cable enterprise, and of avoiding the enormous loss of which we have heard so much talk. At a Conference of Postmasters-General, which was held in Sydney in 1896, the question of the Pacific cable scheme came up, and in the report which was adopted the following appears -
Item 5. That in the opinion of this Conference it is highly desirable that South Australia should join the other colonies in the Pacific cable project, and having regard to their vested interests in the transcontinental line, Dr. Cockburn be invited to make a proposition embodying the terms on which the South Australian Government would be prepared to join the other colonies in the said project.
The Honorable Dr. Cockburn subsequently intimated that South Australia was willing to join in the project, provided that a guarantee was forthcoming, either from the contributing colonies alone, or from them jointly with the Imperial Government, that the financial position of South Australia as regards the Port Darwin line would be maintained on the basis of the average receipts for the previous five years. That was the clear proposition which was made. The result was the Conference carried the following resolution -
That in the opinion of this Conference, in consideration of South Australia joining with the other contributing colonies in the Pacific cable project, theywould be willing, jointly with Great Britain, to guarantee that colony against further loss in connexion with their transcontinental line in consequence of the construction of the new cable.
Yet South Australia refused to join the other colonies in the Pacific cable project.
– What did that offer mean?
– It meant giving South Australia all for which she asked.
– This subject has been pretty well discussed from all standpoints, but I must say a few words because Queensland feels very sore upon it. I am delighted with the action of Queensland and Victoria in this connexion. They have loyally adhered to the terms of the agreement made with the Pacific Cable Board, irrespective of whether it was a good or bad agreement, and their action in that respect is worthy of commendation. As a result of the direct action of the Pacific Cable Board, in which Queensland, Victoria, and New South Wales are partners, the cable rates were reduced. Yet, although the States in question succeeded in reducing the cost of cable messages by 65 per cent., they are now asked to bear the burden of any losses resulting from the bolstering up the Eastern Extension Company by means of further agreements. Mr. Thynne, who was Postmaster-General in Queensland for many years, voices his view of the present position thus -
The honour of the Australian States is concerned. I fully and entirely sympathize with the views of the Canadian Government; in fact, I do not. think that language is strong enough to adequately condemn the action taken by the States of New South Wales.
Again he says -
Between partners in commercial life each is in honour bound to protect and conserve the interests of the others in the common enterprise ; a breach of that honorable duty is of ten expressed by a very unpleasant sounding term ; and I cannot but think that, when within three weeks of the Pacific cable partnership being entered into, and after the proclamation of the Federation placing the Post-office within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Government, the making by New South Wales of the agreement with the EasternExtension Company, hereafter referred to, was an outrageous act.
I thoroughly agree with those sentiments. I am very much gratified to find that with one or two exceptions the representatives of Queensland are resolved to stand by the Pacific Cable Board, despite the arrangement which has been made with the Eastern Extension Company.We blame New South Wales in unmeasured terms as having been guilty of a mean contemptible trick. It did not consult its partners in the Pacific cable as it was in honour bound to do. And the Prime Minister has repeated that identical offence. He has entered into this agreement without consulting Great Britain or New Zealand, or the other partner in the Pacific cable. He has consented to it of his own initiative, because, if honorable members will refer to the correspondence which took place in connexion with this matter, they will see that in a letter to Mr. Seddon he mentions that the only privileges which the Commonwealth granted to the Eastern Extension Company were the right toopen offices in Melbourne and Brisbane, and the use of a special wire for telegraphic purposes between Adelaide and Melbourne. In reply to that concession, Mr. Warren states that the company did 5 per cent., more business in Melbourne, where it had no office, than it transacted in Sydney, where it had an office.
– But that means nothing. There may be more business going from one place than from. another. It is a very unfair comparison to institute.
– The Minister for Defence has talked of the great advantages which the Eastern Extension Company has conferred upon Australia. No one disputes that statement. But I would point out that the company has made millions of pounds out of its business with Australia. They have recouped themselves over and over again for their outlay in establishing their cable connexions. Let honorable members reflect for a moment upon a proposal to grant facilities to a company which charged 9s. 4d. per word for cable messages when we were able to transmit them for 3s. per word immediately the Pacific cable was completed. I fail to understand why any credit should be given to that company for having laid a cable from Africa to Australia. Undoubtedly, that work was undertaken solely with a view to destroying the Pacific cable project. I. think there is something in a State-owned project to commend it to our sympathy. If Australia had a mail-packet service of its own, should we be likely to offer contracts to outsiders to compete with that service? I think not. We need not waste time in sympathizing with the Eastern Extension Company, because it is not deserving of our sympathy. I recognise that no Prime Minister was ever placed in a more awkward position than that which was occupied by the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth in reference to this matter. He had to face difficulties upon all sides, and no doubt he did the best he could in securing the substitution of a ten years’ agreement for an interminable one. This agreement, however, does not compel the States to give any traffic to the Eastern Extension Company. It simply confers an option. The Pacific cable, however, is an undertaking in which several of the States are jointly interested, and, in my opinion, that fact has not been sufficiently recognised. Had the Prime Minister consulted the other partners in that cable, I should not have uttered a word against the ratification of this agreement. Under the circumstances, however; I feel bound to vote in favour of the amendment.
– I agree with every word that has been uttered by the honorable member for Capricornia. I cannot see my way to vote for the ratification of this agreement with the Eastern Extension Company, and I shall, therefore, support the amendment of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. By this time honorable members are quite familiar with the fact that a cable partnership existed between Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand and certain States of the Commonwealth. I have no hesitation in declaring that one of these States has been guilty of a breach of faith with the other two. It is a very unfortunate circumstance that one State should have gone back upon the other States by consenting to an agreement, the terms of- which must be injurious to the Pacific Cable Company. I think the Prime Minister showed great want of courtesy in declining to- consent to the Conference suggested hy Mr. Chamberlain. I notice that it is proposed to give special concessions to the Eastern Extension Company. I refer more particularly to the special wires to be constructed and maintained between the capitals of the States for the exclusive use of the company. ‘ If the agreement is ratified a similar concession should be given to the Pacific Cable Board. I do not know how the Treasurer is to find the money which will be required to carry out this unnecessary work.
– The provision as to special wires does not entitle the Eastern Extension Company to have new wires erected. It is sufficient if wires which will carry their business are placed at their disposal.
– The agreement provides that special wires shall be provided and maintained at the expense of the Commonwealth.
– There is no reference there to construction, because I specially avoided committing myself to the erection of fresh wires. As a matter of fact, the company are enjoying the use of one wire which is set apart for them now.
– The exclusive use of any of the existing wires by the company must interfere with the ordinary telegraphic business.
– So far we have got on very well.
– The concessions provided for will place the Pacific Cable Board at a distinct disadvantage. The loss incurred last year upon the working of the Pacific cable was £95,000, towards which New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria will have to contribute £30,000. Queensland’s share will amount to £9,800.
– We are losing more than that upon our little line.
– I do not see any reason why Queensland should pay onethird of the total loss. Why should a State with only one-third of the population of New South Wales pay an amount equal to that contributed by the larger States. The loss should be met by a levy upon the States in proportion to population, or else should be charged to the whole of the Commonwealth as new expenditure. The Pacific cable deserves special consideration, because there is no doubt that it has assisted to a very great extent in bringing about the reduction of the cable charges from 9s. 4d. bo 3s. per word. If it had not been for the construction of the second cable, the Eastern Extension Company would not so readily have reduced their rates. The Minister for Defence has referred to the want of knowledge as to the history of the Pacific cable, and, as I have found that a certain amount of ignorance prevails upon the subject, I propose to read a letter written by Sir Horace Tozer, the Agent-General of Queensland, published in the British Australasian of 11th July, 1903, in which he gives some particulars as to the history of the enterprise. He says - -
The outlying parts of the Empire have never forgotten that the success of this project was largely owing to your warm and consistent support. Equally widespread would be the regret if, after the publication by you of Sir John Cockburn’s well-distributed apologia -space could not be afforded to a principal in the transaction to remove the cobwebs he has endeavoured to weave. It is truly said that anything can be explained ; on the facts that I propose to give, it will be difficult for any properly-informed person to charge Canada with “an unwarrantable attack engendering widespread misrepresentation.”
Since the year 1889 I have been intimately associated with the negotiations, first as a Minister, and since as the official representative of Queensland in London ; and of Australia’s quota I ani the only one now in Loudon who assisted to revive the scheme after the Colonial Conference of 1897, and took part in the negotiations up to the formation of the partnership. 1 have read the contract made by the State of New South Wales, have heard the position the Commonwealth Government proposes to adopt in consequence of that contract, and feel bound to say that Mr. Thynne’s views ure identical with my own. Hud the then representative for New South Wales even hinted at the possibility of his Government under any circumstances whatever entering into the contract objected to, I should never have signed the partnership arrangement for Queensland. Nor do I think any of the other partners would have considered the question for a single moment. What the late Sir Andrew
Clarke thought on this subject can only now be gleaned from what he cabled to his Government on 9th January, 1 901 :- “ Agents-General for New Zealand, Queensland, and myself most strongly deprecate accepting proposals of Eastern Company, a3, in our opinion, result would seriously cripple Imperial Pacific cable. High Commissioner for Canada emphatically concurs. “ As will be seen, this protest reached Australia before New South Wales entered into the mischevious contract with the Eastern Company.
The Australasian section pressed very strongly the formation of this partnership on both the United Kingdom and Canada, and urged, “as a dominating principle, that the scheme could not fail to promote Imperial unity.” We pointed out that “it was an alternative route to the East, passing entirely through territory under British control, that its importance from a strategical point of view was manifest, and the possession of the first cable across the Pacific was a matter of the highest commercial importance.” We so strongly impressed the Colonial Secretary with the Imperial character of the work in letters (all of which bear the signature, “Julian Salomons,” Agent-General for New South Wales) that we eventually secured the co-operation of Great Britain, mainly for the higher reason advanced by us.
Then came the Conference, at which all the negotiators attended, the partnership was formed, and each bound himself by the strongest of ali obligations - the honour of his country - to promote the success of the scheme.
The next important question is the nature of the subsequent Australian action. Sir John. Cockburn dismisses this with the simple assurance that the only concession required and given, was that “ the Eastern Company should be permitted to deal direct with the public in a mannersimilar to that which has always been allowed in Great Britain ;” and he deprecates the suggestion that anything of the nature of a preference has. been granted, or is proposed to be given, to the Eastern Company.
Can it ,be contended’ that all these come underthe definition “permission to deal direct with the public,” or that an interminable immunity from all forms of taxation was ever given to a. cable company by any constitutional government ?
Unquestionably, Australia derives advantages,, certainly not inestimable, from the South Africancable ; but what I contend is that the payment for these should be made by the recipients, and not be borne by the other partners in the Pacific cable.
I cannot adopt the view that the Commonwealth has, under the circumstances, no alternative but to recognise and take over the particular contractin question ; but, assuming this obligation, they are at least bound to extend the same concessions to their partners in the Pacific cable, whose Imperial connexion with this project was almost. the principal object of their entering the partnership.
The Pacific Cable Board applied-for the enjoyment of all privileges conferred on’ the Eastern Extension Company. Some of these have not been granted, whilst the substance has been, declined.
Then what becomes of the suggestion that it is the Pacific Cable Board which is the grasping monopolist ? It certainly deserved special .Australian consideration, seeing that it has brought down the rates from 9s. 4d. to 3s. a word and provided an alternative route, bu’t it has not sought anything not possessed by the Eastern Company : no cutting rate has been made for Australia, the Eastern rate as lowered being accepted. In short, it only wishes to play “the game.”
In “ the latest development of what some call State Socialism,” there is very little difference between the State co-operation of the Pacific cable and that of the postal service to Australia or the Admiralty survey of the Eastern sea-board,jr existence for many years.
The Australian Commonwealth Government has certainly not shown the same energy in supporting this Imperial cable as their contributing States did to obtain the co-operation of other parts of the Empire to make it. For fifteen months they have failed to even fill the vacancy on the board caused by the death of Sir Andrew Clarke, and have left their sole representation in the hands of the Agent-General for the State most concerned in the contract impugned, ls it any wonder, then, the other’ partners complain, though on the score of “financial chagrin” present prospects are by no means such as to warrant any excess of sympathy, the published estimate deficiency of £05,000 having made provision not only fora sinking fund to repay the capital expenditure, but also to provide a reserve for a second cable as well ?
I think that is a very explicit statement of the history of the Pacific cable movement, and in view of all the circumstances, and especially in the interest of Queensland, I feel bound to vote against the agreement placed before the House. I look upon the arrangement with the Eastern Extension Company as an absolute breach of faith on the part of New South Wales towards the other contributing parties to the Pacific cable. It would not be difficult to settle the whole question if the representatives of the countries interested were to meet in conference. Therefore, I should be glad if the Prime Minister could see his way to delay the matter for a little while - at any rate until the arrival of the manager of the Pacific cable, who is expected to reach here within a month.
– I do not desire to say very much upon this subject, which has already been very fully discussed. I differ from the attitude taken up by two of the representatives of Queensland, and my principal reason for addressing the House is in order that I may explain that, although I come from Queensland, the State which is perhaps most deeply interested in the Pacific cable, I feel in duty bou’n’d to support the position taken up by the Prime Minister. I was present at the opening of the Pacific cable in Queensland, and I listened with pleasure to the statements then made recounting the history of the movement. I think that all that was said on that occasion as to the possibilities of the cable were justified, and I believe that all our hopes will eventually be realized. Further, it is my belief that the Prime Minister, in asking us to ratify this agreement, has the true interests of the Pacific cable at heart. We must look at the proposal from the point of view of the Commonwealth trying to lay a foundation for its future action as a Commonwealth, rather than from the standpoint of the individual States. What is the position? Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria supported the Pacific cable because there was a large monopoly which it was desired to break down, and because they desired at the same time to confer upon Australia as a whole the distinct benefits to be derived from low cable rates. That has been accomplished, and the results of the good work done by the Pacific Cable Board have not been confined to Queensland, but have been experienced by the whole Commonwealth. At the same time, the Government are faced with this difficulty. Not only are they the part owner of the Pacific cable, but under the Constitution the)7 are bound by certain obligations entered into by some of the States. Three States entered into certain obligations with respect to the Pacific cable which have been passed over to the Commonwealth, and four States entered into perpetual obligations to the Eastern Extension Company, which have also been passed over to the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister had to consider how he could best get rid of this bond upon our legislative action, because so long as the agreements with the Eastern Extension Company were in existence it would have a legal footing and status in New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania. It has the right to have offices open to its traffic, and to receive orders and send cables from those offices. The Commonwealth to that extent is tied. Queensland and Victoria are the only two States in which the Commonwealth would have complete liberty in regard to this matter. The Prime Minister, legislating from the point of view of the Commonwealth, now says - “ We desire to get rid of all these obligations within a certain definite time, and to have complete control over the cable operations of Australia at the end of a certain period.” In the meantime Queensland, and, I believe, New South Wales and Victoria, to this extent will be losers. But they have to look at what is to be the ultimate gain. The position at present is that, save in Victoria and Queensland, no special monopoly or consideration can be given to the Pacific cable. It may happen in time that we may desire to give exclusive privileges to the Pacific Cable Board, and now the Prime Minister, by this agreement, has made it possible for us to do so at the end of ten years. To that extent he has very greatly strengthened the hands of the Commonwealth, and I think that he has benefited Australia as a whole. The right honorable gentleman has been attacked because he failed to hold a conference with the other partners to the Pacific cable before entering into this agreement. Unfortunately, he is placed in a dual position. On the one hand, as Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, he is a partner in the Pacific cable, while on the other hand he has to consider the interests of South Australia and other States, which havealso handed over to him, as the representative of the Commonwealth, their share in the agreements made by them. If a conference had been held, to be of any value it would have been necessary to allow a modification of the arrangement which he had already made. I fail to see how it would have been possible for him, having entered into these negotiations, and completed the contract, to retire from the position he had taken up.
– The point is that he should have consulted the other partners in the Pacific cable.
– The conference was not sought until the agreement had been announced. Perhaps it would have been advisable for the Government to have held some preliminary negotiations with the other partners, but we all know that delicate negotiations are often frustrated by too much publicity. I feel that,on the whole, the contract is a distinctly beneficial one. The action taken by New South Wales has been called in question, and an opinion expressed by Mr. Thynne has also been quoted. I greatly sympathize with Mr. Thynne, and I think that the Prime Minister will bear me out when I say that no one had the Pacific cable more at heart or worked harder in connexion with it than he did. He carried out the negotiations both in Australia and in Canada, and I think that a large proportion of the credit attaching to the establishment of the Pacific cable is due to him. At the same time, with all due deference to Mr Thynne, I wish to point out another statement made by him, and to which I should not have referred but for the fact that certain views held by him have already been placed before the House. In speaking before the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce, he expressed the opinion that this Parliament should not ratify the agreement entered into by New South Wales on the 16th January, 1901.
– It does not matter whether this Parliament does so or not.
– I am aware of that. The words uttered by Mr. Thynne were -
However, from what had transpired lately, it appeared that the Federal Cabinet seemed determined to adopt this agreement, an action which he considered would be a dishonour to all Australia. He hoped that ohe adoption of such an agreement would be, at all events, subject to the approval of the Federal Parliament, and that it would be fully discussed there ; that might result in some good. If the agreement was confirmed, the position would be that the Eastern Company would have a private office in each of the States, whilst New SouthWales provided them with a private copper wire direct on to their cable station, to be maintained in perpetuity at the expense of the State, and to which the company contributed nothing.
But the position does not involve the ratification of a contract by New South Wales. A contract was entered into by New South Wales, and we as a Commonwealth took it over as a binding obligation upon Australia. It would be to the dishonour of the Commonwealth if it refused to fulfil the conditions of a contract lawfully entered into by the Government of any State, provided that it was entered into with a complete understanding on both sides as to its terms. We cannot repudiate that contract. We have taken it over, and seeing that it will operate unfairly to the Pacific cable, we have to determine how best to rid ourselves of the difficulty, whilst at the same time conserving the interests of the Commonwealth as a whole. I might mention in this connexion a paragraph which appears in a memorandum on the Pacific cable, which was presented to the Conference of Colonial Premiers recently held in London. At page 109 of the Papers relating to the Conference, a memorandum submitted by Sir Sandford Fleming is given, and the following paragraph occurs in it -
Mr. Mulock informed the Canadian House of Commons that Mr. Barton recognised it to be the duty of the Commonwealth, while adhering to the agreement of New South Wales with the telegraph company, to live up to the spirit of the Pacific cable agreement, and that he earnestly desired to see an honorable way out of the grave difficulty to which his Government had fallen heir.
Thus it appears that the Prime Minister apparently notified the other parties some time ago that he had taken over this contract as an inheritance, that he was confronted by a position of grave difficulty, but that he hoped to see an honorable way out of it.- The memorandum continued–
As already ‘stated, the difficulty is directly traceable to the Eastern Extension and Associated Telegraph Companies. The companies have combined to thwart the efforts of the Governments concerned in establishing the Pacific cable. It cannot be said that those in the combination are inspired by lofty ideals or patriotic sentiments. They are governed entirely by considerations of private interest, and in order to accomplish their ends, they are bent on controlling all the oversea lines of telegraph to Australia and New Zealand. There are good grounds for the belief that they aim to control even the Pacific cable itself. As will here- after be pointed out, they have entered on a crusade which may seriously affect the financial success of that undertaking as to develop a feeling against the policy of working it by the State, in order that its control may fall into their own hands. As the danger apprehended is imminent, the public interests will best be served by recalling and considering the facts.
Then Sir Sandford Fleming added these words -
Possibly a knowledge of them may open up an honorable way out of the difficulty, acceptable to the Commonwealth of Australia, and. to which each of the other partners in the Pacific cable contract may yield a ready assent.
Practically there are three advantages which the Prime Minister has obtained for the Commonwealth. The first is that this agreement puts an end to the old provision as to perpetuity. Secondly, a considerable reduction in rates has been secured, and, thirdly, the Commonwealth has the right to purchase all the existing cables owned by the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company. I think that these are very considerable advantages. I recognise, of course, that the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company expects to derive some benefit from this agreement, for otherwise it would not have entered into it. The company is not running its cable as a purely patriotic concern: It expects to derive some benefit from it, and in the meantime this agreement will undoubtedly operate to the detriment of the Pacific cable. We may be losing revenue by reason of the construction of the Pacific cable, but Australia as a whole is being greatly benefited by the reduction in cable rates. Commerce has been advantaged by the construction of the Pacific cable, there has been an increase in the transmission of news, and in many other ways Australia has benefited by the competition.
– Which cable brought about the reduction %
– The Pacific cable. Admitting that we may have a loss of revenue in the three Eastern States for the time being, we have to look to the fact that an ultimate saving has been secured to the’ people of Australia by reason of the reduction in cable rates.
– To cable users.
– Yes. The Pacific cable will tend to facilitate the trade and commerce of the country as a whole.
– It is surely a fair thing to expect the cable users to foot the bill.
– Another point made by Mr. Thynne was that he hoped the Pacific Cable Board would be provided with -
The same facilities as they gave the Eastern Extension Company.
I recognise that it is impossible to give any preference to the Pacific cable during the currency of this agreement. At the same time I think we ought to give the Pacific Cable Board every facility consistent with that agreement, and certainly we should not place it in a -worse position than thatoccupied by the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company.
– The honorable and! learned member has been quoting from the last despatch.
– Yes. 1 think that the Prime Minister might very reasonably give us the guarantee that the Government will extend to the Pacific cable every concession that is given to the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company. Mr. Thynne, in the course of his speech before the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce,, strongly emphasized the difficulty which existed in connexion with the transmission! of messages to Queensland. We know that for a time eight, nine, and even ten hours elapsed between the transmission and delivery of a message in the State. That in itself considerably hampered the business of the Pacific Cable Board. Mr. Thynne went so far as to suggest that we should give cable messages from any part of Australia priority over all other messages, Government or otherwise. ‘I do not know . whether the Prime Minister can see his way clear to go so far as that, but I hope that he will give the House a positive assurance that he will do everything consistent with the agreement ‘to extend every encouragement to the Pacific Cable Board.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).The honorable and learned member who has just resumed his seat made the fatal admission in the course of his speech that it might have been as well if, before entering into this agreement, the Prime Minister had held a Conference with the other partners in the Pacific cable. It is not too late to adopt that course, and we are indebted to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, who has given us an opportunity to decide that a Conference of the partners in the Pacific cable shall be held before the ratification of this agreement. The amendment moved by the honorable member’ refers to a very courteous request made by the Secretary df State for the Colonies, and I think that the Prime Minister would acquit himself well bv acceding to the suggestion made by that high authority that a Conference should be held. In view of the fact that the other partiesto the Pacific cable are aggrieved at the action which has been taken by the Commonwealth, I think that it is a very proper proposal to make at this juncture to the Government. My chief reason for speaking on this question is that my sympathies are very much with the Government of South Australia, who erected a telegraph line across the continent when other States of the Union would not participate in the work. In doing so they undertook a very great risk.
– Queensland would have erected a line if South Australia had not done so.
– Yes, but South Australia erected it at very considerable cost, and for some time it was not a paying concern. My sympathies are always with South Australia so far as that line is concerned. I was delighted to hear the honorable member for Capricornia point out during the course of the debate that South Australia had an opportunity of indeminifying itself against the loss which it was expected would accrue in connexion with that line by reason of the laying of the Pacific cable. But its grasping representative on that occasion made an unreasonable proposal. He said - “If you will take the five years during which we made large profits out of the line as the basis of your calculation, we will accept your proposal.” But the parties replied “ No ; we will in- «demnify you the loss which you will probably sustain.” As South Australia stood out, it seems to me that she has no cause of complaint because she will have to bear ‘ a loss of between £15,000 and £16,000 during the current year. Australia is very much indebted to the projectors of the Pacific cable, inasmuch as the laying of that cable has resulted in the reduction of our cable rates from 9s. 4d. to 3s. a word. The fact that such a reduction was possible exposes the extortion practised in the past upon the trading community by the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company. That company would not make any concession until they found their business likely to be taken away from them by the Pacific cable. Now that the Pacific cable is laid, we are bound to see that business goes to it, and the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company are naturally anxious to enter into an agreement with the Commonwealth to secure their interests. In my opinion, New South Wales should not have entered into an agreement with the company at the time when she did so, and I do not defend the action of the Government of that State in the matter. I shall vote for the amendment, because it gives the Government the opportunity to accede to the request of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and to satisfy the other parties to the Pacific agreement by holding a conference. If a satisfactory arrangement can be arrived at in such a conference, the agreement with the Eastern Extension Company can still be ratified, and the benefit to be gained by contracting with them would s.till be secured.
– As one who has strongly favoured what is known as the “ all - red “ route for the transmission of telegrams between Australia and Canada under State control, I regret the position which we now have to face, and for which the Government of New South
Wales is largely, if not wholly, responsible. That such a position should have been created is wholly a matter of astonishment to me. Its creation does not reflect credit upon those who were responsible for it. England, New Zealand, and Canada, whose Governments are, with the Commonwealth Government, partners in the Pacific cable, have very substantial reasons for feeling dissatisfied at the turn which affairs have taken, and I think they are doing right in asking for a conference at which some understanding may be arrived in regard to the future management of the concern and cable arrangements generally. In my “opinion, the Prime Minister would do well to agree to a conference in which the whole matter could be discussed from every stand-point by the parties interested in the Pacific cable. After such a conference has been held, he should formulate new proposals in regard to the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company for the ratification of this House, because the. possibility is that if a conference were held, the proposals which we are now asked to indorse would be subject to some modification. In my opinion, we are not treating the other partners in the Pacific cable project with proper consideration in ignoring their request for a conference, and in proceeding with the ratification of this agreement with the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company. Originally, the Australian States were entirely dependent upon the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company for telegraphic communication with the old world, but they had to pay very dearly for the privilege.. Until the Pacific cable project was mooted, the rate was 9s. 4d. a word, and representations to the company as to the extortionate nature of the charge were without avail. Another subject of complaint was that the cables were often in a most unsatisfactory condition. The dissatisfaction with the rates prevailing, and with the company’s method of conducting business, led to the proposal to lay a cable across the Pacific, to be managed by the Governments of several of the States, New Zealand, Canada, and the mother country, and negotiations finally resulted in the laying of the present line. Inasmuch as the undertaking is wholly under the control of the Governments of the countries concerned, it deserves special consideration at our hands. In my opinion, the laying of the cable was a very wise step, which will have a tendency to bring into harmony, as well as to promote a better understanding between, important parts of the Empire and the mother country, and I regret the fact that a breach . of faith on the part of some of the States, and particularly on the part of New South Wales, may bring discredit upon the whole undertaking. Those of us who are favorably disposed .towards the Pacific cable project should therefore do all within our power to remove the existing cause of complaint, and to bring about a better understanding. I am strongly disposed not to sanction the ratification of the agreement with the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company until the conference which has been asked for by New Zealand, Canada, and the Imperial Government has been held, though I admit that the Prime Minister appears to have obtained some substantial concessions from the company. One of those concessions is the substitution of a terminable for an interminable agreement. We should not, however, allow a hostile company to strike a perhaps fatal blow at the State undertaking. During this debate an attempt has been made to discredit the labour party, and especially the labour party in the New South Wales Parliament. The honorable member for Dalley stated that the opposition to the ratification-of the New South Wales agreement was not so strong as it would otherwise have been but for the presence of members of the labour party at a picnic. I was a member of the party at the time, and I know of no such picnic, nor had I heard of it until the honorable member mentioned it. The labour party in New South Wales never ceased its hostility to the proposal. But the New South Wales Parliament were not given a proper opportunity to deal with the matter on its merits. The agreement was signed between the prorogation and subsequent dissolution of one Parliament and the meeting of a new Parliament. A number of members of the old Parliament were not returned to the new, and the members of the latter were not in a position to deal with the question for the reason that, in the meantime, the Post and Telegraph Department had been transferred to Federal control. But the most extraordinary thing in connexion with the matter is that the agreement should have been entered into after the inauguration of the Commonwealth, and only just prior to the taking over of the Post ‘and Telegraph Departments of the States by the Federal authorities. In my opinion, the State Government should not have signed the agreement at such a time, but should have left the matter to be dealt with by the Federal authorities. However, they did not- do that. They bound New South Wales, and, of course, the Prime Minister had to make the best he could of the arrangement, and endeavour to procure better terms for the Commonwealth. But the stigma which the honorable member for Dalley has endeavoured to throw upon the labour party cannot attach to them ; and the remarks of the honorable member constituted a petty attempt to belittle the party which he should have been above making. I again express my regret at the present position, and I trust that before any further action is taken in regard to the matter a better understanding will have been promoted between the parties interested in the Pacific cable by the discussion in conference of all the questions at issue.
– I have not recently refreshed my memory upon this matter, but at one time I took a considerable part in the negotiations which were carried on between Victoria and the various parties to the Pacific Cable Agreement upon the one side and the Eastern Extension Company on the other. When I assumed Ministerial office, as far as I can remember, the position was that three of the colonies, viz., South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania, had entered into an agreement with the Eastern Extension Company, under which, in return for certain facilities, such as the right to establish terminal offices, and Customs and other concessions, the company were to allow them the benefit of a large reduction in the cable rates. At that time I was acting in conjunction with the then Premier of New South Wales, Sir William Lyne, and we were also in communication with the Premier of Queensland. Our object was, if possible, to induce the other parties to the Pacific Cable undertaking, viz., the Imperial Government and the Governments ©f Canada and New Zealand, to agree to the Australian colonies entering into an agreement which would give to our mercantile communities, which were then placed at a very great disadvantage, the advantage of the cheap cable rates which the people of South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania enjoyed. I had several interviews with Mr. Warren,, the representative of the Eastern Extension Company, for the purpose of ascertaining the very best terms which we could obtain from that company. In the first place, Mr. Chamberlain, I think, agreed to our entering into an arrangement with the company but subsequently he departed from that attitude, and negotiations to bring the other contracting parties into line were proceeding at the time that I vacated office. Subsequently I learned that New South Wales, had entered into the agreement, leavingonly Victoria and Queensland outside of it. I recognise that the Prime Minister has. had to deal with a very difficult situation, inasmuch as four out of six of the States had entered into an agreement in perpetuity, whilst only two stood outside of it. Personally, I think that the arrangement made by the right honorable gentleman was, under the circumstances, about as good a one as could have been made. I think that he is entitled to credit for havingsecured for a perpetual agreement the substitution of one which is limited to ten years with two years’ notice, on condition that the facilities which are enjoyed by four States are extended to the Commonwealth. I do not see that any great advantage would result from keeping those two States outside of the agreement.
– The company could have reduced their rates to those States without consulting us.
– Yes. Under all the circumstances it appears to me that thePrime Minister could not have made abetter bargain than he has. Of course it may be said that the matter might have been delayed pending the holding of a conference, but, so far “as I remember, the attitude of Canada and New Zealand was. such that there was very little prospect of any good resulting from such a gathering, because although Mr. Chamberlain was in favour of it, both those countries werehostile to our entering into an arrangement with the Eastern Extension Company. Therefore I am willing to accept the assurance of the Prime Minister that hewill give to the Pacific Cable Company all the advantages which the Eastern Extension Company have secured under thisagreement. Under the circumstances, I do not see that we could do anything better. It is my intention, therefore, tosupport the agreement.
– In replying to the criticisms of honorable members, I think that first consideration should be given to the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, who desires to insert words which would substitute for the resolution I have moved an expression of opinion that the conference proposed by the Secretary of State for the Colonies should be held before any agreement is arrived at. Of course, the effect of that amendment would be not only to negative the agreement, but to substitute some other proposal for it. I need scarcely say that I cannot accept such an amendment. I have come to the definite conclusion that, so far as the question of entering into this agreement is concerned, a conference is unnecessary, and would only involve useless delay. Of course, a conference for other purposes is entirely another matter. A conference for the purpose suggested in Mr. Chamber.lein’s last despatch, of seeing in what way our partnership interests in the Pacific cable can be reasonably dealt with, and whether the parties to the Pacific cable can agree upon a common ground of action in future, is quite after my heart, and I am perfectly willing to confer upon such matters. It so happens that there is now on his way to Australia the general manager of the Pacific Cable Company, Mr. Reynolds, whose intention I know from official documents is to come here and make such arrangements with the Government in reference to that cable as may be necessary. I shall welcome him most heartily. He is now at Vancouver. When he arrives I shall be very happy to negotiate with him in any way he desires. If I guarantee that the Pacific Cable Company will be put upon the same footing - as far as I can accomplish that purpose - as the Eastern Extension Company, the necessity for a conference will disappear, because there will be nothing to negotiate about. But if the Canadian Government wish to appoint a Commissioner, I shall be happy to enter into conference with him. If they are willing that Mr. Reynolds, who is a renowned electrician and telegraph manager, should take the place of any Commissioner and confer with me as to what shall be done in the future, I am absolutely open to enter upon any such conference. If,- on the other hand, I undertake to give to the Pacific Cable
Company all that is asked for, those who are urging a conference ought to be satisfied. There are three or four matters which are the subject of dispute in the debate which has taken place. Article 19 of the agreement binds us to recoup to the Extension Company - because we cannot deal with the matter in any other way - any moneys which they may be required to pay in any part of the Commonwealth for Customs duties on goods which are used solely for the purpose of cable business, or for laying, repairing, or working any of their cables, land lines or cable ships ; also any moneys which the company are required to pay in the States of New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania for wharfage rates on their goods, any port or light dues in respect of any vessel used for laying or repairing any cable, as well as any income tax and rates or taxes, except those on premises occupied as local offices for the purpose mentioned in clause 15. Now, I am prepared to concede all these privileges equally to the Pacific Cable Board. I am willing to do more. Reference has been made to provision for special wires. The circumstances under which the Eastern Extension Company asked for special’ wires, I wish briefly to outline. They say in the letter which appears on page 4 of the parliamentary paper dealing with this matter -
It would materially expedite the cable traffic to have a line and system wholly devoted to it, and where it would not have to take turn with the large intercolonial traffic. It would also be . a convenience to the public that they should be in direct communication with the agency that carries their messages from one end of the world to the other, instead of through the intermediary of the local Telegraph Department, whose jurisdictions end with the boundaries of the respective colonies. ‘ The international telegraph traffic is almost wholly in code, is of a special nature, and is worked under complicated and extensive rules and regulations.
In negotiating with the general manager of the company in Australasia who, it is no breach of confidence to say, demanded a specially-constructed copper wire for the purpose of carrying the traffic of the company, T pointed out to him that the obligation in the agreements with four of the States to provide and maintain special wires for the use of the company was not one to construct these wires if they could be provided and maintained out of existing wires. Therefore, I refused to listen to any interpretation of the agreement which meant more than that the company should have the requisite facilities for carrying their traffic by the allotment to them of an existing wire, if one fit for the purpose could be found. That has been done. I may mention that some complaints have been made by the company in regard to one of the wires, but the justice. of those complaints is somewhat disputed by the Telegraph .Department. Now let me come to the matter of the Pacific cable in this regard. The Eastern Extension Telegraph Company has carried on all our cable business in the past, and has, of course, been conducting more than the Pacific cable at the outset of that enterprise, and it was in respect of that large traffic that the special wire was demanded, and conceded by the four States at first concerned. If, on my meeting Mr. Reynolds, he can show that it will be fair and right for the Pacific Cable Board also to have a special wire - that is to say that their traffic is of such dimensions at the present moment as to require it - I shall be prepared to place* a special wire, not necessarily a new one, but one fit for the purpose, at their disposal. If that cannot be shown at first, I shall be ready to make that concession as soon as the traffic warrants it. Therefore, as to the first of these three matters embraced in Article 14, which are ascertainable, if not already ascertained, I give an unqualified undertaking on the part of the Government. As to the special wire, I am ready to allot that as soon as circumstances are shown to require it, and I shall be open to every representation that can be made by Mr. Reynolds upon that subject. I think I can say nothing fairer than that. Now, as to the position that has been set up.
– Do the Pacific Cable Board ask for a terminal office t
– No ; so far as I know, they have not done so. The Pacific Cable Board differs from the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company, as has been previously pointed out for other purposes, in a very large measure, because it is a Government institution ; that is, an undertaking - counting ourselves as one, and not as three - of four Governments, namely, Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, the Commonwealth being the largest partner. Ordinarily speaking, the facilities offered by Government offices are deemed sufficient by those who are in charge of what is in itself a Government institution. I am as ready as is any honorable member to see that the Pacific Cable Board are placed on a fair footing. It may be found that the facilities offered to the Pacific Cable Board by the Government are sufficient for their purposes, and that they will not require public offices. Apparently the time has not yet come for them to require special wires, and it may be that they will never require public offices, which are ordinarily set up, not by Government administrations - and this, although in a somewhat qualified sense, is a Government administration - but by companies to whom the right of doing business is granted. Honorable members may rely upon it that in every respect in which by any efforts of mine it is possible to put the Pacific Cable Board on fair and level ground with the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company, I shall do my part towards that end.
– The Eastern Extension Telegraph Company would have to find their own offices, because they are only granted the right to provide them.
– Yes. If it becomes apparent that it would be in the interest of the Pacific Cable Board that they should have similar rights, I should be perfectly willing to entertain representations of that kind also. I should consider it my duty to first submit the matter to the Cabinet, but I have no doubt that if I considered such facilities necessary, the Cabinet would share my opinion and consent to grant them. I do not wish to have it thrown in my face at some future time that I have undertaken to perform an impossibility by making a statement in this House. I do not wish to have an accusation of bad faith thrown at me hereafter, and that is the sole reason why I have spoken with caution. I do not wish to commit myself in such general terms that something may crop up under the terms of this agreement, of which neither I nor those honor- ‘ able members who have appealed to me could have’ cognizance, which would make upon me an altogether unexpected demand. Short of that I am prepared to go the full length I have stated. I also wish to say that my present statement as to what I am prepared to do on behalf of the Government is not in any sense extorted from me, because I must oppose the amendment with might and main.
– One of the causes of complaint is that we are making a bargain without consulting our partners.
– I am just about to deal with that point. That is about the last matter I should forget. 1 shall show what consultations have already taken place! I will not have it said that anything I am now telling the House as to the length to which we are prepared to go is prompted by any other consideration than our wish to give fair play to the Pacific Cable Board. I will not have it said for one moment that, any promises have been extracted from me by anything in the shape of threats, or anything like an accusation of want of public faith. It is true, as has been said, that the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company is only a corporation, whilst the Pacific Cable Board represents a partnership. I am as conscious of that as any one else, and I fully appreciate the consequences of the diversity of position. But let it be said also that it is the ordinary practice of Governments to allow cable administrations, even when they are- controlled by companies, to enjoy the rights of business in their territories. Canada ought not to be surprised at the concession of public offices to any company, because so far as I could observe when I was travelling through that country, there are no Government offices for the receipt of cables, and the consequence is that persons who wish to send messages have to resort to one or other of the several offices belonging to the various cable companies. As I shall show presently, it is all very well for Canada to appeal to us with regard to the terminal rates, because she is not in a position to charge any terminal rates, although I am sure that she would charge them if she could. The right to open public offices is one that is ordinarily granted to companies, and ordinarily dispensed with by Governments who run their own concerns, because they have their own offices ab initio. Now, as to the question of public faith, I desire to say, at the outset, that I am the last one to make any appeal - the debate has proceeded as if I had made one - for sympathy for this or that company. I am with honorable members to the full in saying that the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company does business only because it expects to make a profit. That is equivalent to saying that we know of no such thing as a mad company. Therefore, in carrying on its business in Australia, the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company has been actuated by the desire of gain. That is what it was formed for. A tender feeling arising out of long and amicable relations sometimes exists between firms and- their customers. That is a well-known feeling in human nature, and to that extent we may be prepared to go. But the fact remains that the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company is one formed for gain, and, from step to step of these negotiations, I have never forgotten it. Now, what was the position 1 This debate has proceeded, in great part, as if we had made the agreement from the beginning, and as if we were not undertaking an obligation which was forced upon us by the conditions of the Federation. It is no part of my business to defend the action of the Government of New South Wales, because I was not a member of it. I have always been a supporter of the Pacific Cable, and have felt as earnest a desire as any one else to see it consummated ; but when we assumed office we found a section in the Constitution providing that, where Departments were transferred, the- current obligations of the State Governments in respect to those Departments should devolve upon the Commonwealth. Whether we liked it or not, therefore, not only the obligations of the three States, which never were partners in the Pacific cable, but the obligations of those States which were partners were forced upon us. It was pointed out by the honorable member for Melbourne that the fact that New South Wales contemplated entering into an agreement, and the proposed terms of the agreement were explained to Mr. Chamberlain, and that he saw no objection. Instead of entering into the agreement within a month or two before the transfer of the Departments to the Commonwealth, the Government of New South Wales might have concluded its bargain in 1889. The negotiations, however, took a long time, as did those in connexion with the agreement now submitted to the House. The Eastern Extension Telegraph Company is as tenacious of ‘ its rights as any company with which I ever did business. The agreement entered into by New SouthWales might have been concluded some time before so far as the consent of Mr. Chamberlain, in the light of the interests pf the Pacific cable, was concerned. Let me quote from page 9 of the Parliamentary Papers. of
New South Wales, referring to “ Submarine cable across the Pacific Ocean - proposed construction of.” I may say that these papers, which were printed for some public purpose, were quoted by the honorable member for Melbourne, and handed to me by my colleague, the Minister for Home Affairs. Sir William Lyne then being the Premier of New South Wales telegraphed to the Agent-General of that State on the 23rd October, 1899, as follows :– -
Wish you consult Chamberlain re proposals of the Eastern Extension Company.
As bearing on the prospects of the Pacific cable.
There was the appeal of one of the partners to Mr. Chamberlain. Without going over the ground covered by that cable, let us see what was the reply ? On the 8th November, that is sixteen days after the wire was sent, Sir William Lyne received from the Agent-General of New South Wales a reply, as follows : -
In continuation telegram second, Mr. Chamberlain sees no objection to acceptance Eastern Extention Company’s proposals contained in your telegram 25th ult
That was the answer. Of course, there were other passages in this cablegram, but they have already been read by the honorable member for Melbourne. That was the answer given by him when the AgentGeneral was requested to consult him in regard to the proposals of the Eastern Extension Company, which were set out as bearing on the prospects of the Pacific cable. He saw no objection to the propos.il sixteen days later, and if it could have been drawn up then it could have been signed. So far as the Government of New South Wales is concerned, I have nothing to advance in its defence, or in accusation of it.
– No ; that is the point I wish to make. I am not defending or accusing the Government of New South Wales ; but it is plain from this cablegram that, in respect of the proposal which was made by New South Wales, Mr. Chamberlain did not see any necessity for consulting the other partners in the Pacific cable. Of course, I can quite understand accusations being made against the New
South Wales Government of the day by those who were never members of the same party ; but my view of this matter has been from the first that that Government has been over-attacked in regard to this question.-
– Then the right honorable gentleman defends the agreement which they made 1
– T do not defend or accuse them ; I am almost tired of saying that I do neither. But, looking at these circumstances, I hold that the Government of the day in New ‘ South Wales has been rather- over-attacked, in view of the fact that Mr. Chamberlain was able to intimate sixteen days after the AgentGeneral’s message that he saw no objection to such an arrangement.
– That has nothing to do with the nature of the agreement.
– It has something to do with it, because the nature of the proposed agreement was set out in the message. It was very similar to this, and the message is material as showing that no attempt was then made to set ‘ up the contention that it was necessary to consult the other partners in the Pacific cable in respect of a mere competitive agreement with another company. I have done with that phase of the question. Let me pass on to another point. Whether the action of the New South Wales .Government was creditable or not, this Government is not affected by it to the extent of one hair’s breadth. We found this new agreement in existence, and we found also that we had devolving upon us the liabilities of three of the States in respect of the Pacific Cable Board. We were a Commonwealth, and it was necessary for us, if we could, to take action such as would enable the benefits of this agreement to be co-extensive with the Commonwealth. There was no difficulty in regard to the Pacific cable, because it had come in to cheapen rates, and it was not expected that it would set up any conditions with respect to rates or otherwise that would injuriously affect any of the States. If the competition became a cut-throat one it would, of course, be injurious to the Pacific cable, and to the States who were partners in it, as well as to those which had no connexion with the Pacific Cable Board. That connexion was a result which humanly could not be varied. It stood before us an irrefragable fact, which we could not touch or diminish. “What happened 1 Finding that that was the state of things, the Eastern Extension Company approached us for the purpose of making an agreement. We were certainly of opinion that if the terms of that agreement could operate for . the benefit of the whole. Commonwealth without doing injury to the Pacific cable, it was desirable that they should do so. That was the outlook from which we viewed the matter from the very commencement. Before I went to England the company was willing to execute an agreement somewhat similar to the one now before us, but imposing’ a much longer term. When I was in England, so far from failing to consult the other partners in the cable, I actually conferred with the Premier of Canada .and the Premier of New Zealand. A consultation took place between us as the three Premiers concerned with this agreement. I mentioned to them that I had been in negotiation in regard to this matter, and that I was disposed to make an agreement on lines which I indicated to them. I said, however, that I was not going to make it unless I could obtain a reduction of the term to something like ten or twelve years. On that occasion Sir’ Wilfrid Laurier and Mr. Seddon, taking the whole matter into consideration, expressed their dissent. They said that they did not think that it would be a proper agreement to enter into. I pointed out to them the existence of the agreement made by three of the< States not concerned with the Pacific cable, as well as the agreement entered into by another State - New South Wales - which was interested in it, and I appealed to them to tell me how I could get out of the obligations created by those agreements. All that they said was that the entering into an agreement with the Eastern Extension Company would result in injury to the Pacific cable. But if that was so the injury had been done, and done by New South Wales. If it was an injury to the Pacific cable by those who were no parties to that scheme, it had been done and legitimately done, as any one will confess. That was the position.
– It is open to us to try to minimize the injury.
– That is what I have done in regard to every possible point. I contend that I have minimized it. I pointed out to Sir Wilfrid Laurier and Mr. Seddon, not only what I have already mentioned as to the existence of this agreement, but that if I could obtain a reduction of the term of the agreement to ten or twelve years’ instead of allowing it to operate in perpetuity, or as long as the Eastern Extension Company chose, I should, by so doing, serve the interests of the Pacific cable. I pointed out that that cable would be very much benefited by the abolition of the agreement in perpetuity which, if not in the interests of Australia, was hanging round the necks of the States as the dead albatross hung round the neck of the Ancient Mariner. I did not use those words ; but what I pointed out to them did not alter their opinion. That fact, however, did not the less entitle me to maintain my own. I have remained of that opinion ever since. I told the Premiers of Canada and New Zealand that what they had said to me did not prove that the Commonwealth, which was bound to continue the existing agreements, would be guilty of any breach of faith in taking steps such as would be not only of some advantage to Australia, but to the Pacific cable. Without promising to alter my determination, I said . also that when the negotiations approached completion I would intimate to them what I proposed to do, in order that they might express their views in regard to the arrangement. That was the most that I undertook to do, and that promise I have faithfully performed. Before I left London I had two interviews with the representatives of the Eastern Extension Company,’ Sir John Pender, jun., and Mr. Hesse, the general manager. Those gentlemen urged very strongly that we. should enter into an agreement for a term of 50 years, instead of in perpetuity. I refused to have anything to do with that proposal. They then proposed - and I do not think that it is a breach of confidence to mention these matters - that the agreement should extend over a period of twenty years, which would be co-extensive with the landing rights on Cocos Island granted to them by the British Government for the extension of this very cable. I said that I could not agree with that suggestion. This interview took place at the end of the season, when most of the members of the Board were in various parts of Europe. That was the state of affairs when I left England, but, either when I reached Vancouver or had started on the journey from that port, I received a communication from Hie directors of the Eastern Extension Company saying that a special meeting of the . Board had been held - the members of it having been brought together from various parts of Europe - and that they were willing to accept what they designated as my offer. As a matter of fact, however, it was not my offer, although I always said that I would not go beyond the ten or twelve years’ limit. However, that did not conclude the matter. All these details, which I thought it “was unnecessary to put before the House at the outset of this discussion, are being evoked by reason of what has taken place during the debate. On my return to Australia, negotiations were resumed with Mr. ‘Warren. The footing of those negotiations on my part was that where I found an obligation in the agreements which could not be altered, I had to be content to let it stand ; but where I could use any new departure - the inclusion of a new State in the arrangement - as a handle to obtain another concession, I endeavoured to obtain that concession The honorable member for South Sydney expressed surprise that the agreement should have been so favorable to the Commonwealth, and I think I am fairly justified in saying that it is because of these facts : That where an agreement was one, the burden of which fell bylaw, necessarily, upon the Commonwealth, I could not alter it ; but that where our altered conditions made it possible to make anything in the nature of an arrangement, by which we could “secure something for the Commonwealth, and - as it turns out to be in this case - something for the Pacific Cable Board, I did so. That is the way in which this agreement was framed. As to the equity of the matter, the leader of the Opposition has departed from his ordinary position, in which one hemisphere of his brain is always waging a sanguinary duel with ‘ the other. He has gone, what the man in the street would call ‘.’ the whole hog,” in opposition to the position of the Government, but without contesting the merits of the agreement. The merits of this agreement so easily sailed over by my right honorable friend are the very essence of the question of whether or not it is an equitable one to the Pacific cable. They are also the essence of the question of whether there is any breach of public faith involved in this matter. If, .as a matter of equity, one partner finds himself aggrieved by the action of another in making with a third party an agreement, to the making of which he was more or less bound before the partnership took place, or at the time of it, he cannot obtain any relief or redress even from a court of equity unless he can show that the agreement was to his prejudice. If that cannot be established - if the agreement made by his partner cannot be shown to be to the prejudice, of the other partners - all foundation for relief against it is absolutely gone. That is the position in which I stand in regard to this .matter. From first to last, and even during the course of this debate, there has not been one solid argument advanced to show that the entering into this agreement would be to the prejudice of the -Pacific cable.
– Unless there was any doubt as to the granting of concessions to both bodies.
– We know what is the position as to that matter. If there was any inequality it would not be constituted by the agreement, but by our refusal to grant equal concessions to the Pacific Cable Board. As to the agreement itself, no argument has been adduced to show that it is not to the advantage - rather than to the detriment- of our own partnership concern. What happened ? Why was I wrong when, having established a position which obviously was to the advantage of the Pacific Cable Board an well as to the Commonwealth, I said - “This is not the point at which to confer? If you can show that you are injured, well and good, but you have not shown anything of the kind, and so I refuse to confer.” Therefore, when the Secretary of State for the Colonies, in his telegram of the 2nd April last, said that he hoped that -
Before agreement is submitted to Commonwealth Parliament your Ministers will consent to questions arising out of it being discharged at a conference between representatives of various partners in Pacific cable.
I sent the following answer through the Governor-General on the 6th April -
Shall be pleased if your Excellency will inform the Secretary of State for the Colonies, in reply to his telegram of 2nd instant, that Ministers do not think they can reasonably be asked to submit the question whether the Commonwealth should enter into proposed agreement with Eastern Extension Company to a conference, which course must conduce to further delay in the settlement of the subject. The matter is one fully within the powers of this Government. It has been considered and dealt with, keeping clearly in view any moral obligation to our partners in the Pacific cable. The existence of agreements of practically an interminable duration with four
States of Australia is a fact that cannot be ignored. It is not as if the Commonwealth were making an entirely ‘new departure ; we are only seeking to make the best of circumstances as we find them. The determination to make the agreement has been reached with the full conviction that the relegation of this matter to its former condition would be a lasting injury to the Pacific cable, in which we ourselves have large proprietary rights to safeguard. Ministers will be glad if the Secretary of State can be asked to communicate this message to Pacific Cable Board.
The communication of the message of the Pacific Cable Board meant its communication to all the parties interested. Here is a point which has been lost sight of. What would have happened if we had not entered into an agreement with the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company ? We should still have been bound by the. obligations of the agreements between the company and four of theStates, without enjoying the benefits of the modifications which I have secured in this agreement, and we should have been compelled to observe the conditions of those agreements in perpetuity. But, it will be objected, Victoria and Queensland made no agreement with the company. What of that? Will any one tell me that there would have been anything to prevent the company from reducing its rates to 3s. a word to the general public, with corresponding reductions for Government and press messages, in Victoria and Queensland. That would have prevented any cause of complaint from existing in regard to the financial operation of the agreements. The company could have withdrawn from the negotiations with the Government, and said to us - “ We will hold you in perpetuity to the agreements made with some of the States, a~nd will reduce the rates in Victoria and Queensland to the rates charged under those agreements.” I could not have prevented the company from doing that.
– Why did not the company do it?
– I do not know.
– Obviously, because they had a good reason for not doing it.
– So I suppose. But whoever heard of a good business man saying that because an agreement was a good one there must be something behind it prejudicial to his interests, and therefore he would go back to an original state of things which was injurious to him. Is that how the honorable member would carry on his business ? Was I to carry on negotiations until practically all that could be gained by way of concessions had been obtained, and then to say to Mr. Warren - “You are too clever for me. This agreement is too good. It may burn me. I will not adopt it”?
– If that principle were generally followed there would never be any agreements at all.
– No; because whenever a person thought that he had obtained generous terms, he would be suspicious, and would retire from the negotiations. It is entirely because of a want of appreciation of the facts of the case that the other partners in the Pacific cable are objecting to our action in entering into this agreement without consulting them. The benefit’ to them in the modification of the perpetuity provision in the agreements with four of the States is obviously cheaply purchased by extending to the Eastern Telegraph Company the right to open public offices in Queensland and in Victoria, as well as in those States. The extension of the company’s area of operations during a period of ten or twelve years is as nothing compared with the advantage of lifting off our shoulders the burden of an absolutely perpetual contract. Then what is to be said in regard to this charge of breach of faith, and the question of merit is wrapped up in the facts underlying that charge. It would be a breach of faith if the complaint was that one of the partners in the Pacific cable had acted in prejudice of the interests of the others, but there is not a shadow of basis for such a statement.
– Does not the opposite contention assume that any partner could successfully object, whatever the terms ?
– Yes. Would any one who looks at the matter from the stand-point of justice admit that if a member of a partnership entered into an agreement which it could not be contended was other than advantageous to his fellow partners, or at any rate not disadvantageous to them, another partner could go in to a court of equity or of honour and say, “ I claim the right to prevent that agreement, because I have not been consulted”? In the first place, there was a consultation, and, in the second place, there would have been . no breach of faith even if there had been no consultation. I shall follow the leader of the
Opposition in referring to only part of Mr. Chamberlain’s last despatch, and I shall explain the attitude of the Government in regard to the subject of that despatch. The despatch acknowledges that the agreement has been entered into, and then Mr. Chamberlain, after stating that he received our telegram with much regret, says -
This regret is all the greater because such a Conference would have proved a convenient means of disposing of two other matters connected with the Pacific cable …. the question of terminable rates on Pacific cable messages and . . . the question of the exemption of the stores,&c., of the Pacific Cable Board from customs duty and of the repairing ship of Board from harbor dues.
He says nothing about income tax. I have dealt sufficiently with the second of those questions ; let me now say a few words on the subject of terminal rates. Honorable members will recollect that under our Postal and Telegraph Rates Act the charge for Inter-State messages is ls. for sixteen words, or, allowing for signature and address, practically1d. a word, while urgent messages, in which are included cable messages in transmission on the land lines, are charged double rates, or approximately 2d. a word. But, if honorable gentlemen will refer to table A in the schedule to the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company’s agreement, they will find that the ordinary terminal rate is 5d. a word. The same terminal rate is charged upon the Pacific cable line messages, but the demand made upon us is that, as we charge only 2d. a word for our local, or what I might call intraCommonwealth telegrams, we should not charge 5d. a word as the terminal rate for the Pacific cable messages. As I have shown, however, that is the terminal rate charged to the Eastern Extension Company, and honorable members are aware that our own telegraphic rates are losing rates, and were adopted by us with that knowledge. They are not paying rates ; but the objection to a terminal rate of 5d. is founded upon the misconception that the charge of 2d. a word is a payable rate, and that, therefore, we are making a profit of 3d. a word.
– Does the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company pay5d. a word on its Adelaide line?
– The same terminal rate is charged to both the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company and the Pacific Cable Board. The Board, however, make a claim for a reduction in the rate as though the company’s messages were not subject to it.
– But what about the messages transmitted to the company’s offices over its own wires ?
– The company still has to pay the terminal rate of 5d. a word upon them, and we are bound by the arrangement arrived at during the Berne Postal Convention to make no difference in terminal rates between one company and another.We could not reduce the terminal rate charged to the Pacific Cable Board without at the same time reducing the terminal rate charged to the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company. Whatever advantage is given in that direction to the Pacific Cable Board must be given to the company. If we broke the arrangement of the Convention, and charged a terminal rate of 2d. a word upon Pacific cable messages, which, I think, would be very unjust to the States whose revenue is affected by the business of the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company, what could prevent the company from reducing its rate by 3d., and thus putting itself on the same footing as the Pacific Cable Board? The result would be a decided loss of revenue to the Commonwealth and to the States, without advantage to the Pacific Cable Board. But the matter goes further than that.
– Does not the whole thing suggest the necessity for a working arrangement between the two companies?
– Yes ; and efforts were made to arrive at a working arrangement. But I am sure that neither company agreed with the other as to the proportion of the takings with which the company collecting the pool should credit the other.
– I am speaking only of the enforcement of profitable rates.
– It is quite open to the companies to make such an arrangement. So far, however, there has been no indication of a desire on the part of the Eastern Extension Company to reduce their rate below 3s. per word, which was the charge resolved upon as a fair one. The assumption has been that because we charge only 2d. per word for our inland rate, a charge of 5d. per word must return us a profit. That would be a fact if we did business only upon strictly business lines, as other people do. But we do not always adopt that policy. We give away to our own people as much as we can, and in adopting the rate of 2d. per word we made a distinct concession to the ordinary sender of inland telegrams. We lose by the adoption of that rate. Even when we charge the 5d. per word upon cable messages, in addition to the 2d. rate, we lose to the extent of £12,700 a year. We are asked to forego the extra 3d. per word, but we cannot do so, because we .are- bound to charge the extra terminal rates–
– No. That international agreement is broken every day.
– I do not think so. Not only could we not agree to make that differentiation, but, if we did so, the means are ready to the hands of the Eastern Extension Company to utterly defeat our object. I wish also to say that when we are asked to make this reduction it is not known by those at the other end of the world that our 2d. rate is a losing rate. They assume that because that is the rate charged upon urgent messages an extra 3d. per word must result in a profit. The agreement provides that the Federal Government shall, at all times, afford the Eastern Extension Company similar advantages and facilities to those, if any, afforded to any competing cable as regards uniformity of terminal rates by all routes. That was a term which existed in the agreements entered into by the States Governments. It was inserted in this agreement as a perfectly fair provision, having regard to all the circumstances. If we are prepared to deal equally with these two cable companies in respect of their business transactions, I take it that nobody can complain, and the tone of the debate indicates that if we do so nobody will complain. If, then, we grant this, terminal rate to the Pacific Company, we shall be equally bound to grant it to the Eastern Extension Company, which would do away with all hope of any extra advantage to the Pacific Company as against the Eastern Extension Company, whilst at the same time it would tend towards an undue diminution of the revenue of the Commonwealth. The last letter upon the subject, which, under other circumstances, I should have produced in answer to a request by the leader of the Opposition last night, is, I find, a reply to a confidential minute or despatch from the head of the Pacific Cable Board, Sir Spencer Walpole. I can, however, indicate the position which the Commonwealth Government takes up departmentally upon this matter. It is that, having a due regard to the Commonwealth revenue, the existing terminal rate cannot be reduced, as, in order to secure the present reduced rates on all classes of messages, a loss of about £12,700 per annum, as compared with the receipts previously derived under Table C of the agreement with the Eastern Extension Company, had to be sustained by the Commonwealth. In dealing with this matter we must also take into account another factor, viz., that the interests of the States of the Commonwealth had to be considered, and not merely those of the three States which had become parties to the Pacific cable agreement. Consequently, rates had to be fixed which could be applied to the business over the cables of the Eastern Extension as well as ind the Pacific cable, and which during the bookkeeping period could be equitably divided between the States to and from and through which the business is transmitted. Our position is that the rates objected to are very reasonable, when it is considered how large and expensive is the system of telegraph lines which are being provided and maintained by the Commonwealth throughout its territory. They also compare favourably with the terminal rates in other countries outside the European regimes, and notably with those of British India. Apart from that fact, it appears to be inopportune to make any alteration in the terminal rates at the present time. Of course, as I have previously stated, even a matter of this kind is subject to any conference that might take place between the manager of the Pacific cable and the Commonwealth Government. The former will be perfectly free to make his own representations. But it is within our power to make this terminal rate providing we make it apply equally, and, as I have already pointed out, it is erroneous to suppose that because we have an inland rate of 2d. per word for urgent messages, it is a profitable rate. Consequently, it is equally erroneous to consider that the difference between 2d. per word and 5d. per word represents profit. The fact of whether our rate is high or low can have no bearing whatever upon the profits of the Pacific cable under existing conditions. To reduce our rate to 2d. per word, if we could do so lawfully, would simply give the Eastern Extension Company an opportunity to reduce their through rate by 3d. per word, and they would thus prevent the Pacific cable from obtaining any advantage from the loss which the Commonwealth revenue would suffer upon both rates. It appears to me, therefore, that the proposal of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie is not a reasonable one. It has been urged that the Pacific Cable Board have power to enforce that reduction. If that be so, we cannot complain. Bub the opinion of the Commonwealth law officers is that there is nothing in the Pacific cable contract which militates against our power to charge this rate. I also wish to point out that in imposing this charge we kept in mind the wishes of the Cable Board, as submitted to us through their manager, Mr. Reynolds. It was then that the rate of 5d. per word was fixed, and that charge was considered the best that could be made, constituting as it did a material reduction on the rates previously charged upon cable business, and the lowest rate that could be reasonably fixed with due regard to the revenue of the States, which would, even by that reduction, suffer to the extent of i5I2,7dO per annum. If honorable members will refer to the papers relating to this matter, they will find that in only South Australia and Western Australia was the rate as low as 4d. per word, and that in other States it ranged as high as lOd. per word. I do not mean to say that a message which had come by cable would upon its transmission pay the whole of the terminal rate in each State. But the rate in some cases, I repeat, ran as high as lOd. per word. I have in my hand the . rates charged for ordinary telegrams prior to the adoption on the 1st June, 1902, of our uniform terminal and transit rates under the Post and Telegraph Act. From these I find that in New South Wales the charge was 5d. per word, in Victoria ad., in Queensland Hd., South Australia and Western Australia 4d., and Tasmania 5d. per word. There .were corresponding rates for Government and press messages. The facts which I have adduced will show how reasonable is the position which we take up concerning these terminal rates, and hew difficult it will be by effecting any alteration of them to give a preference to the Pacific Cable Board, even assuming that we were willing to give such a preference. But looking at the conditions which ought to prevail between the Commonwealth and the States which are the component parts of the Federation, I hold that we ought not to be asked to make any reduction.. Now I have dealt with those matters with which Mr. Chamberlain’s despatch was concerned. Upon the main facts of the case I have not much to add, except that I should like to direct attention to the last letters which passed between Mr. Seddon and myself, which may, perhaps, be taken as concluding the arguments on each side, If it will not weary honorable members I shall refer to them. Mr. Seddon, having received an answer from me, stated that he had given full and careful consideration to the reasons advanced by me in favour of the agreement, and professed his inability to see how they met the objections urged by him. I had asked two questions, one being -
In what way the Commonwealth could have removed the difficulties which it found existing on its inception.
The other, which I characterize as, perhaps, the more important, was -
In what way the Pacific cable has been prejudiced by the action of this Government.
In his reply, Mr. Seddon says -
If I appreciate your reassuring properly, it amounts to this, that one of the Australian co-partners in the Pacific cable having entered into contracts with the Extension Company which constituted what (to quote the conference of Postmasters-General) was practically a breach of faith with the other co-partners, the Commonwealth Government by the new agreement not only makes all the original Australian co-partners parties -to the breach, but extends its scope by granting additional concessions to the Eastern Extension Company to the prejudice of the Pacific cable, and justifies this on the grounds that the original breach was interminable, whereas that by the Commonwealth, representing all the Australian partners, may be terminated in between twelve and thirteen years, if the Commonwealth Government thinks fit to give the necessary notice. You say that I do not attempt to show in what other way the Commonwealth Government could relieve itself of the virtually perpetual obligation pf the existing contracts with the four States concerned. Quite so. Any such attempt on my part would be uncalled for and unwarranted .
That is the way in which Mr. Seddon meets the first of the questions, and I submit that his statement is practically a confession that the question was unanswerable. Mr. Seddon goes on to say -
The Commonwealth Government is well able to manage its own business -
Which I am glad to learn. Then he proceeds - and my sole province is to respectfully, but emphatically, protest against what, in the judgment of my colleagues and myself, is inimical, financially, to the interests of New Zealand as one of the partners in the Pacific cable. The position as stated in my first letter seems to me to be so plain, and so little affected by your reply, that my main purpose in writing now is to correct a misapprehension onyour part as to the attitude of my colleague, Sir J. G. Ward, the Postmaster-General, and I cannot do so more effectually than by quoting a minute that he has addressed to me after reading your letter.
I may say that I had mentioned to Mr. Seddon that, although Sir Joseph Ward, at the interview between us, had at first protested against the agreement which we were about to make, he was good enough to allow me to put the whole of the considerations to him. I intimated to Mr. Seddon that Sir Joseph Ward said that he would report to him what I had stated, and that, in my judgment, he seemed practically to admit that we had done the best that was possible. However, Mr. Seddon now quotes a minute of Sir Joseph Ward in this letter, in which Sir Joseph Ward says -
I have not at any time concurred in the signing of the Eastern Cable Agreement, and have put on record my strong protest against New South Wales’ action, and made strong representations against it. I so informed Sir Edmund Barton, and expressed the hope that the Federal Government would not ratify. Sir Edmund explained fully that the Federal Government was not in any way responsible for the signing of the New South Wales agreement ; that under it a partnership or agreement for all time had been created ; and that the course the Federal Government werefollywing was to limit the agreement to ten years instead of all time. I told him I would explain his view on the matter to you, which I did. Iam still of the opinion the agreement should never have been entered into.
I do not see how Sir J oseph Ward could say that unless he refers to the New South Wales agreement, because the agreement with New South Wales quoad the other three States must have still remained. The minute continues - and that it should not be perpetuated for a day.
If Sir Joseph Ward had considered the matter for a moment he must have seen that if the existing agreements were not done away with they would be perpetuated for as many days as time lasted. He proceeds -
Though I fully recognise the fact that it is a legacy to the Federal Government from a former self-governing colony, whose acts, I assume, cannot be repudiated ; in this case, moreis the pity.
Honorable members will see the effect of that minute, to which I called attention in my reply. Mr. Seddon continues his letter by making a quotation from the report of some proceedings of the British Empire
League in Canada, before which Sir Sandford Fleming made a speech, and suggested that Canada should send a Commissioner to discuss matters with us - a proposal with which I have already dealt. In my reply to Mr. Seddon’s letter, after making the usual acknowledgment, I used these words -
I observe that you have not been convinced by the arguments used in my last letter, and 1 regret that you do not now, any more than in your previous communication, show - (1) In what way the Commonwealth could have removed the difficulties which it found existing on its inception - (2) perhaps this is the more important-in what way the Pacific cable has been prejudiced by the action of this Government.
I pointed out then that the two material questions in the case remained unanswered. I then went on to say -
Your colleague’s remarks have been read with interest. Sir Joseph Ward fully recognises the position of this Government in the concluding passage of his minute, and concurs in the view that, while the action of New South Wales may be regretted (which I must not be taken to admit), it is impossible by any means that are practicable to reverse the arrangements then made. If you concur with Sir Joseph, it is a little surprising thatyou continue to blame this Government. May I refer you to a letter published in the English papers, and written by Sir John Cockburn. The concluding paragraph seems to me peculiarly applicable. In case you have not read it, 1 transcribe the passage referred to, and enclose it herewith.
That is the passage in which Sir John Cockburn says -
Governments, when they go into business, must be content to accept with equal mind the vicissitudes of profit and loss, and the Pacific combination can hardly complain of the wholesale competition which ostensibly was established to promote or legitimately claim a monopoly which it was intended to abolish.
Then my letter proceeds -
The remarks of Sir Sandford Fleming, of which he forwarded me a copy, have been perused with the attention and respect they deserve,as the views of an old and ardent advocate of the Pacific cable ; but I am quite unable to see how the proposed action of the Commonwealth, which must tend to the ultimate benefit of the Pacific cable, can occasion a difficulty of such far-reaching influence as he fears. The prospects of the British people, and the future of the Empire as a whole, will not, in my opinion, be affected, unless favorably, by proceedings which, in the only honorable way open to it, the Commonwealth is taking to remove what is said to be an impediment to the progress of the Pacific cable.
I then informed him that it was my intention to submit the agreement to Parliament for ratification. Now I. have done with the documents. I wish, before I conclude, to call attention to two passages in the speech of the leader of the Opposition. He said that in the negotiations with the various States the Eastern Extension Company were doing all they could to make a failure of the Pacific cable. Whether that is so or not I do not know, but if it is possible by minimizing certain of its terms to make that agreement less injurious, and, in fact, favorable to the Pacific cable, that has been done in the agreement now submitted. If the company are doing all they can to make a failure of the Pacific cable, the proposed agreement makes them let go of all that is possible for the benefit of the Pacific cable. If the existing agreements had been allowed to stand, and no attempt had been made to secure a fresh one, it seems to me that those who condemn the agreement, and especially these who stand outside this Commonwealth, might well consider what would have been the position of the Pacific cable. I have one more matter upon which I wish to. speak. The leader of the Opposition used these words - “ There seems to have been a power greater than Mr. Chamberlain, namely, the Eastern Extension Company.” Now, it is very easy to make implications of that kind. Honorable members were present, and they know in what style, and with what intonation, that remark was made. It could convey only one implication, and that amounted to this : that I was, either wittingly or unwittingly, a tool in the hands of the Eastern Extension Company. As I say, such implications are very easy to make, and the mischief they do is not dispelled, even if the accusation or its meaning is afterwards disowned. I have nothing more to say in answer to it; but I leave it to the judgment of honorable members whether it was likely, or whether I had shown by anything that had taken place in the past, that I should be blind to the interests of the Commonwealth, or that, with my eyes open, I should sacrifice them. An implication of that kind merely requires to be stated, in order to justify me in forbearing from making any answer. I think I have succeeded in showing that our partners have no right to complain of want of consultation - in this case they were sufficiently consulted - except on the ground thatsomearrangement has been made to their prejudice. I have shown that this agreement so far from prejudicing the interests of the partners in the Pacific cable removes that which would otherwise have involved a heavier burden upon it. Having shown that, I think it must be acknowledged that I have acted not only in the interest of the Commonwealth but in the interests of every one interested in that great enterprise in which we have a partnership, namely, the Pacific cable itself.
Original question resolved in the affirmamative.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Further correspondence with regard to the mail service between Australia and Great Britain, viâ Suez.
Scheme of organization of the military forces of the Commonwealth into a field force for InterState or foreign defence, and into garrison troops for local defence.
Proposed transcontinental railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta - final reports of EngineersinChief.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 23rd July (vide page 2523), on motion by Sir Edmund Barton -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).It is very gratifying to me to find that the Commonwealth Government are enlarging our sphere of influence in the Pacific by a measure of this kind. The Bill provides a Constitution for the Government of Papua, and transfers to the white people of the possession the power which we possess to legislate for its government. The territory under our control for which the new legislative body will have to work, covers an area of something like 90,000 square miles, with a native population of about 500,000 souls. These natives, although belonging to numerous tribes, are in many instances very intelligent, and are able to render excellent service on the plantations.
Mr.Wilks. - In planting each other.
– No ; they are employed, to a very large extent, on the plantations in Papua, and whilst their services are being utilized in that way, it is. necessary that we should fully consider the powers which it is proposed to confer on the white people of the Possession. The question of the colonization of the islands of the Pacific is a most interesting one. It is a
Subject to which I have devoted a great deal of attention from my youth, and it is -a source of very great satisfaction to me to have now an opportunity of legislating for the Government of British New Guinea. I look forward to the time when we shall in all probability confer a Constitution on other islands of the Pacific, just as we are doing in the case of British New Guinea. It is incumbent upon us to fully consider the terms of the measure ‘ now before us, in order to insure wise legislation for the benefit of the Possession. We are now proposing to delegate to its white people powers which .might otherwise be employed by us. If the white population are of such standing that they were able to legislate successfully under the old regime, no doubt they will be able to legislate with equal success under the provisions of this Bill. So far as I have been able to gather the powers conferred upon them by the British Government are not dissimilar from those which we now propose to give them. Indeed, if there be any difference, I think it is that this Bill goes in the direction of being less liberal than are the ordinances under which the Possession is governed at the present time. The white population of British New Guinea comprises about 500 souls, and of that number 300 are miners. I find that the miners contribute something like £1,000 by way of fees, and that while there are but 500 Europeans, there are something like 4,000 or 5,000 natives employed, not, as the honorable member for Dalley suggested,- in planting each other, but in cultivating the lands taken up by several companies. Their wages are not very high, but excellent results are obtained from their services, their earnings amounting to something like j£50,000 a year. The output of the Possession is very considerable. A minute analysis of the returns relating to the revenue and expenditure of British New Guinea will show, as mentioned yesterday by the Treasurer, that its revenue is derived chiefly from the natives themselves. A Customs Tariff which exists chiefly for revenue purposes yields something like £13,000, while a further sum of £3,000 per annum is raised by way of fines, licences, land sales and leases, liquor licences, goldfields receipts, and from the sale of postage stamps. We find from the statement made by the Prime Minister, in moving the second reading of this Bill, that the extent of land which has been purchased from the natives, but not as yet fully alienated to the whites, represents some 800,000 acres. That is a very large area. A great deal was made by the Prime Minister of the purchasing of land from the natives, but, so far as I have been able to gather from the returns which I have perused, such purchases are practically nominal transactions. We have a great area of land to deal with. The soil is of excellent quality, the land being cultivable, and capable of producing all kinds of tropical plants ; so that the Possession should be able in a very short space of time to raise a revenue sufficient for its own internal government. It can produce tobacco, sago, arrowroot, cocoa, cotton, maize, coffee, tea, india rubber, and cocoanuts, whilst sugar-cane also grows there, and the trade in copra is very large. What is required, then, is legislation that will develop the possibilities of the Territory, and tend to the encouragement of settlement. It is essential that no legislation should be brought forward that would be- the means of preventing people from going to the Territory, and developing it in a way that would be beneficial to the Commonwealth, and particularly to the Possession itself. We have to consider, then, how the Possession is to be governed. We are proposing to delegate our powers to the white population of Papua rather than have the trouble, [ suppose, of legislating for them ourselves. In support of this course, the plausible statement will probably be made that British people like to govern themselves, and that those living on the spot must have a better knowledge of the legislation best suited to the requirements of the people, and the development of the country which they have made their own. This Parliament, however, still reserves to itself the right to legislate as it may think fit upon matters affecting the Possession, and all ordinances passed by the Legislative Council of Papua must be placed on the table of this House, and must . be approved by the Governor-General before being brought into operation. The powers proposed to be conferred under this Bill on the Lieutenant-Governor of Papua are very great, and for that reason I wish to direct the special attention of the House to them. I find, for example, that it is proposed that he shall make all provisional appointments. Those appointments will be confirmed subsequently by the GovernorGeneral in Council, but they will be made practically by the Lieutenant-Governor. He will be President of the Executive Council, and he will also hold office as President of the Legislative Council just as he does at the present time. But a further and very important power, which, I think, should be modified in the interests of Papua itself, is also proposed to be given to him. I refer to the fact that the Bill provides that he shall have the exclusive right to submit questions for the consideration of the Legislative Council. Although provision has been made for a Legislative Council consisting of not less than nine persons, that Legislature will really have no power of initiative under this Bill, for no measures can be brought before it except upon the recommendation of the Lieutenant-Governor. A proposal of which he does not approve cannot be brought forward by any other member of the Council, but the LieutenantGovernor must submit a report, if called upon to do so, and a note will be made upon the minutes of the proceedings that he has’ refused to permit the matter in question to be considered. I shall refer more fully to this point at a later stage, in order to show the House that under this system many abuses might creep in, and that the best interests of the Territory are not to be served by granting to the Lieutenant-Governor the power that he now possesses under the authority of the Imperial Government.
– Will he not receive petitions 1
– Yes ; but they cannot be discussed by the Legislative Council, unless he agrees to the adoption of that course. The Executive Council is to consist of the Lieutenant-Governor, the Goverment Secretary, the Chief Medical Officer, the Chief Judicial Officer, the Treasurer, and the Surveyor. Those officers will also be members of the Legislative Council, and, as stated by the Prime Minister in reply, I think, to an interjection by the honorable member for Canobolas, their numbers may be increased at any time. The unofficial members might be outvoted, unless their numbers are increased, and I hope that the measure mill be amended’ in that direction. . Division 2 of Part 3 deals with the constitution of the Legislative Council, and clause 26 provides -
Therefore, if any one of the members of the Legislative Council proves intractable, or blocks the measures brought forward by the Lieutenant-Governor for the development of the territory, his removal may be recommended to the Governor-General, and he may be removed accordingly. In my opinion, the provision is calculated to retard the development of New Guinea, inasmuch as no suitable person is likely to accept the position of a member of the Legislative Council if he is to be subject to such a condition. The people of Papua are already fretting under the conditions which prevail there. Senator Smith says in the pamphlet which he has published, giving an account of his visit to the territory
A very representative deputation of miners waited on me at Samarai, and laid before me several complaints, amongst others that the Legislative Council is composed entirely of Government officials, who necessarily do not possess that practical knowledge of their requirements and disabilities which is so imperative in the development of” the country. They urged that representatives, both of the mining and commercial community, should be given seats in the Legislature.
As I have shown, the Bill provides for the appointment to the Legislative Council of three other persons other than officials, but they are removable by the Governor-General if they prove obnoxious to the other members of the Council or to the LieutenantGovernor, and they will have no power to initiate legislation. The initiation of legislation is left entirely to the LieutenantGovernor. It might happen that that official might be induced by the influence which could be brought to bear by a small coterie of officials to propose the construction of a bridge or the formation of a road or track in the direction of a certain plantation, thinking such a public work to be in the interests of the territory, whereas the unofficial members of the Council might, in the interest of miners or other settlers, urge the formation of a road in some other direction. If they persisted in their objection to the proposal of the Lieutenant.Governor, and thus made themselves obnoxious to those at the head of affairs, they might be recommended for removal as persons who were retarding the progress of the territory. ‘I think that once a person is appointed to the Legislative Council he should be permitted to hold office for the full term of six years. Unofficial members of the Legislative Council may prove objectionable to the LieutenantGovernor and to the official members, but it will be to the interest of the territory to have malcontents in the Council, because in all probability their agitation will lead to better legislation than would be obtained if the affairs of the country were administered in n slip-shod fashion. Honorable members who have visited the Pacific Islands will know that what I speak of as likely to occur in Papua has occurred upon other islands. I have taken advantage of an opportunity to visit some of the islands, and 1 know that that is so. The fact that 300 miners are dissatisfied with the present condition of things goes to show that the public works policy of the past has not been the most beneficial that could have been undertaken in the interests of all concerned.
– Only £2,000 out of a total expenditure of £40,000 have been spent upon public works.
– Yes ; reference to the return laid upon the table yesterday will show that only a very small sum has been expended upon the actual development of the territory, while the amount spent in other ways is very large, and will probably call ‘ for a good deal of comment when the Estimates are under discussion by the Committee. With regard to the submission of questions to the Executive Council, I would direct the attention of honorable members to clause 24, which says -
The Lieutenant-Governor shall alone be entitled to Submit questions to the Executive Council for advice or decision : but if the LieutenantGovernor declines to submit any question to the Council when requested in writing by any member so to do, that member may require that his written request, together with the answer of the LieutenantGovernor thereto, be recorded on the minutes.
It might be contended by the LieutenantGovernor that it would not be in the best interests of the territory to submit some question or proposed ordinance to the Executive; but as the proceedings of the’ Council will be laid before both Houses of the Federal Parliament, we shall have an opportunity to form an opinion as to whether the proposals which the LieutenantGovernor had declined to submit were just and proper. I take it that the officials appointed by the LieutenantGovernor, and subject to suspension by him if they displease him or do not carry out to the letter what he believes should be done, will be very subservient to him. Away from the large centres of population a high official becomes almost a little god, and he might remove a subordinate merely through pique. The natives regard the officials set over them with great awe, and they are treated by their subordinates with as much reverence ‘ as is shown to the highest dignitaries here. If honorable members visit these islands, they will see that the subordinate officials are all jealous of the good opinion- of their superiors, and endeavour to do what will meet with their approbation. That, in all probability, is the state of things which prevails in New Guinea. Some honorable members may think that the Lieutenant-Governor of New Guinea is a small potato, but, if so, they are mistaken, because New Guinea, although little known in many quarters, has been regarded for many years past as a place of importance. It must be remembered that the .last Lieutenant-Governor was promoted, as the next step in ascent, to the Governorship of South Australia.
– And the last Governor of South Australia became Governor-General of the Commonwealth.
– Yes. It might happen again than an exLieutenantGovernor of New Guinea, being the senior State Governor in- Australia, would be chosen, on the ground of seniority, to act temporarily as Lieu tenant-Go vernor-General, and perhaps be afterwards permanently appointed as Governor-General of the Commonwealth. Those who know the career of the present Governor of South Australia, and of other high officials who have served their country in the Pacific, know that they are certainly quite as eligible for the position of Governor of one the States as, is any lord who has had scarcely any experience.
– The Governor of a State has an easier task than that of the Lieutenant-Governor of New Guinea.
– Yes. The person appointed to fill such a position should be a man of large capacity, of wide commercial experience, of tact, good judgment, and . knowledge of men, and one whose education has been such that he can continue to act as a gentleman while associating with the very indifferent class of people whom he would have to meet during a great part of his official life. I think, however, that we are scarcely likely to get such a man for a salary of only £1,250 a year, and I hope that the House will agree to make the salary at least £1,500 a year, so that a man of large capacity and experience may be obtained. . It may be possible to find such a man within the Commonwealth. Any legislation which may be suggested by non-official members of the Legislative Council will have no chance to injure the community of New Guinea, inasmuch as it must be laid before the members of this Parliament. The assent to certain measures is prohibited under the Constitution. Clause 38 sets out a number of ordinances to which the Lieutenant-Governor shall not assent. These include ordinances for divorce, those which appear inconsistent with the treaty obligations of the United Kingdom or of the Commonwealth, or which interfere with the discipline or control of the naval or military forces of the King. These ordinances cannot be assented to by the Lieutenant-Governor without theapproval of the Governor-General, which I take to be that of the Commonwealth Government. In connexion with this newly-acquired territory a mail subsidy is hinted at, for which the Government intend to ask Parliament to vote a sum, in addition to the £20,000 which is provided upon the Estimates for its administration. Samarai is not more than 150 miles distant from Thursday Island. Provision might therefore be made at an early date by which the steamers from that island might call at the Territory and deliver mails for Port Moresby, as well as Samarai. The inland localities might be reached by native carriers. I notice that last year the
Government derived quite a large sum of money from the sale of postage stamps in New Guinea. No less than £829 was received from this source, although the facilities for despatching correspondence from the island are very poor indeed. I trust that some provision for improving the mail service will be made at an early date. Without that provision it will be impossible to populate Papua. The raining population of British New Guinea totals 350 persons, in addition to whom there are about 1 50 missionaries and officials. There are thus 500 white people in the Territory. The Europeans pay but a small proportion of the Customs collections, the bulk of which is contributed by the natives themselves. Quite a large number of natives are employed in the plantations, and these, in conjunction with the native police, chiefly pay the Customs revenue. To my mind it is imperative that some provision should be made to attract population to the Territory. Under the Bill the LieutenantGovernor has power to sell land, and I observe that the revenue received from the sale of lands and leases last year amounted to £699, whilst the estimated revenue from this source for the current year is approximately £1,000.
– Why should we induce our people to go there ?
– Unless we settle enterprising white people amongst the natives we shall never be able to develop the Possession. But if we can settle a white population there under liberal land laws, they will employ, not only natives, but Europeans to work their plantations, and thus the Possession will be developed in the same way that Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, and the Hawaaian Islands have been developed.
– I should like the honorable member to go up there and remain for a season.
– I shall embrace the first opportunity which presents itself of visiting the island. I have ‘ some friends who have been resident there for a considerable time. Their experience is that all the country is not malarial ; so long as one keeps away from the low-lying swampy lands, there is very little likelihood of contracting malaria. There is no doubt that the climate of British New Guinea is very trying. It is extremely enervating in certain seasons of the year. But honorable members should recollect that 30 years ago the Northern Territory of Australia was not a desirable place for Europeans. The people who lived there during certain months of the year suffered considerably from malaria. Notwithstanding that fact, however, the residents of Port Darwin to-day are very robust. Cultivation sweetens the soil, and malarial fever is stamped out thereby. I am acquainted with persons who were born there, and than whom finer specimens of manhood could not be found in any part of the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister has declared that it is the intention of the Government to afford preferential treatment to the traders of British New Guinea who come under theaegis of the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member must not refer to that matter.
– I find that some reference is made to trade in clause 34 of the Bill, which sets out -
The Legislative Council shall not by any ordinance impose higher duties upon the importation into the territory of any goods produced or manufactured in, or imported from, Australia than are imposed on the importation into the territory of the like goods produced or manufactured in or imported from other countries.
– That clause does not refer to any duties that may be imposed here.
-I thought that I might refer to the fiscal system that obtains on the island.
– The honorable member may refer to the fiscal system of the island, but not to any preference which it is proposed to give.
– The Prime Minister made a passing reference to the matter, and I thought that I should be at liberty to do the same thing. However, I regard this clause as so much surplusage, because there is very little likelihood of that class of legislation being introduced into the Territory. I think that we should encourage settlement there as much as possible, otherwise it will always remain a burden upon our finances. If the population remains stationary the Possession will burden the Commonwealth Treasury to the extent of £30,000 or £40,000 a year. It is incumbent upon Parliament to promote settlement, not by means of leases at peppercorn rentals, but by offering such liberal conditions as will induce people to take up their residence in the Territory. Unless some such encouragement is given there is very little likelihood that the population will increase to any large extent, or that capital and enterprise will be directed to the development of the resources of the Possession. I hope that when the Bill emerges from Committee the Constitution will be found to be one which may very well form a pattern for any other Territories that may be established in the future. I have much pleasure in supporting the Bill.
– As we have been for some time committed to the control of that portion of New Guinea which is to be known in future as Papua, it is too late for us to consider the advantage or otherwise of including that territory within the Commonwealth. It is now our duty to devise the best means of managing its affairs, so that we may encourage settlement and secure its development. We should be able to look forward with hopefulness to the time when the Commonwealth will be relieved of the expenditure which is at present involved in the administration of the affairs of British New Guinea.
– That is a vain expectation.
– I think not. Surely we are justified in looking forward to the time when we shall not only be relieved of all expense in regard to the territory, but when it will become a most important portion of our domain, and a source of wealth and strength to us. Unless we had some such expectation, what compensation could be offered to the taxpayers of the Commonwealth for the large sums of money already contributed, and which will probably have to be contributed for some years to come, towards the expenses of the administration of the Territory. There is no reason why New Guinea should not be made a home for members of our race. No doubt the Prime Minister indicated one of the drawbacks to settlement when he stated that the Territory was suffering from the want of adequate means of communication with the nearest ports of the Commonwealth. The Australian pioneers had to combat the same difficulty, and if we are to encourage the development of the resources of British New Guinea we must take steps in the direction of establishing regular communication between the Territory and the Commonwealth, and also offer reasonable facilities for communication inland by the construction of roads and bridges. I think that the honorable member for Robertson has placed his finger upon a weak spot in the proposal for conferring some measure of self - government upon the white residents. Under the arrangement proposed the official section of the community will undoubtedly exercise a dominating influence in the administration. The powers of the non-official section will be very limited, because they will have no right of initiative in connexion with legislation. If the population grows with reasonable rapidity the official section of community will soon be in a considerable minority, and the position will become intolerable to those not connected with the administration. The experience in connexion with the growth of Australian communities shows that, as population increases, friction al most inevitably occurs between the non-official and official sections of the people with regard to matters of administration and legislation. We should. not revive in respect to this dependency the condition of affairs which existed in Australia in the old days when concessions were granted -only when the breaking point had been reached. I should like to see the Constitution made sufficiently elastic to permit df a greater measure of power being granted to the non-official residents as occasion may seem to require. We are undertaking grave responsibilities in regard to the native inhabitants of the Territory. We should very carefully consider their interests, and take all the necessary precautions to safeguard them. We do not at present assume proprietary rights in the whole of the lands. It is provided that negotiations shall be entered into with the natives for the acquirement by lease or otherwise of such lands as are required for settlement by white people. The care and consideration thus far shown should be extended to the relationship between the white settlers and the natives. One of the most discreditable features in connexion with British settlement on this continent is that which relates to our treatment of the natives. Those who went into the wilds of Australia to do pioneering work were too intent upon making money to pay very much regard to the just claims of the natives, and the consequence was that the weak went to the wall. I do not know what provision is to be made with regard to the employment of native labour by white settlers, but certainly the most stringent -supervision should be exercised by officials having a just sense of their responsibility, in order that the natives may not be imposed upon or reduced to a condition of practical slavery. Care should also be taken to safeguard the native population from the spread of those diseases which have in times past been communicated by white people to black races with such direful results. The indiscriminate sale or distribution of spirituous liquors and firearms should also be guarded against. The conditions of land tenure should receive special consideration. I gathered from the remarks of the Prime Minister that large tracts of laud suitable for agricultural purposes had been disposed of at the rate of 2s. 6d. per acre. Naturally the richest and most valuable land will be acquired in this way by enterprising speculators unless their operations are restricted, and the Government should seriously consider the question of making the land a source of perpetual revenue by adopting a leasing system. The alienation of land at low prices should cease. Provision should be made for perpetual leasing on the most favorable terms, and the rental should be fixed on the. unimproved value of the land, subject to the right of re-appraisement as population increases. In this way Papua would be provided with a revenue from a source which is natural to every country, and which, as the population increased, would be ample for all its requirements. This is a matter to which I trust the Federal Government will give their earnest consideration. I do not believe that they could do better than copy some of the legislation passed by Canada or New South Wales in this respect. It would be especially desirable- to adopt the New South Wales system of settlement leasing in regard to grazing areas, granting fairly long leases with the right of resumption when the population becomes denser. So far as agricultural districts are concerned we should adopt the system of homestead selection, or perpetual leasing with the right to periodical reappraisements. In all cases, the rental should be fixed on the unimproved value off the land, or the value given to the country by the increased population, or improvement, which takes place. If such a policy were adopted it would provide a revenue sufficient
I to meet all the needs of self-government.
It would enable the local Government to deal with the rights of the natives and their relations with the white population, to safeguard them from drinking habits and disease and the use of firearms, to establish law and order amongst them, and to prevent many of the tribal wars which take place under present conditions. This system would encourage settlement, it would obtain for the use of the general, public what is known as the true economic value of the land, and it would put British New Guinea on the road towards nationhood as part and parcel of the Commonwealth. The Possession would thus be placed on a . very sound basis, and I, therefore, trust that the Government will keep these principles very prominently before them.
– I listened with very great interest to the speech made by the Prime Minister . in moving the second reading of this Bill. I understand that, as Minister for External Affairs, he treats Papua as being external to the Commonwealth. It is a most interesting Bill, and it is a most interesting departure in our parliamentary proceedings to have to propound a Constitution for a dependency, lt is a responsibility which we have taken upon ourselves, and we cannot foresee what will be the ultimate consequences of it in respect of the fact that we shall have a land frontier to two European powers, and that we shall have to deal with a class of natives who really have not to any great extent come in contact with white men. I agree with the honorable member for Canobolas, who has evidently given much thought to the matter, that having taken over the Territory, it is our business to see that we do not allow the horrible mistakes to be repeated that have been made in. past times by colonists in all parts of the world. I do not know of any story more ghastly than that of our colonization in its relation to the aboriginal natives. A good man)’ of us speak with diffidence in regard to this matter. We have not been to New Guinea, and we address ourselves to the question with the feeling that we have perhaps no right to be heard with any weight in regard to these proposals. At the same time, I think - we may become less modest if we recognise that this is a mere skeleton Bill - that the flesh and blood have to be filled in by the efforts of miners, traders, and others, and also by the members of the Executive and
Legislative Councils to be created under it. I imagine that all that we can do at the present stage is to see that the Bill does not contain anything contrary to the experience we have acquired in the course of dealing with subject nations. I agree largely with the general trend of the remarks made by the honorable member for Canobolas. About twenty years ago I had to study the history of the difficulties which arose in New Zealand in regard to the natives, and if there is any radical cause to wh’ich more than any other we can attribute the wars which took place there it is the land question. There is not the least doubt that not only in New Zealand, but in India and other parts of the world, efforts to impose the English system of land tenure upon the natives have completely failed.
– Land, liquor, and labour are the three main’ questions.
– There is no doubt that the land question is at the very root of the matter. -Any one- who knows the very great trouble which arose in India from the attempt to treat the zemindars as landlords and the ryots as , tenants, and who knows how many administrators fell into mistakes in New Zealand, will strongly deprecate any attempt to repeat the system of indiscriminate land alienation in this new Territory. The natives do not understand fee-simple, and never will. They will never understand how one generation can give land in perpetuity away from the people who occupy that land. It is impossible for them to do so. A number of the Maories who thought they were merely giving over a life occupation found to their surprise that they were also handing over the rights of their children. I do not commit myself to a specific scheme to the extent that the honorable member for Canobolas would go. What I would suggest is that an alteration should be made in clause 19, and I shall support the honorable member if he moves an amendment to the effect that there shall be no grant of Crown land within the Territory for any freehold estate - including, of course, the fee-simple - and that all leases of land shall be made under regulations to be framed by the GovernorGeneral in Council, who is responsible to this Parliament.
– A notice of amendment has- already been given.
– I was glad to learn just now that such notice had been given.
I arn merely intimating that I shall be glad to support absolute prohibition in regard to this matter.
– Then we shall never obtain any settlement there.
– The right to alienate land has. existed for years in British New Guinea, but the extent of settlement which has taken place amounts almost to nothing. At present there is no demand for the land; but as soon as any valuable find is made - as soon as the pioneers have shown that there is anything to be gained there - other men will come in, buy up the land, and reap the fruit of their labours. The very fact that for years there has been the power to alienate land in New Guinea, and that so little has been alienated, shows that that power is not in itself a sufficient inducement to settlement there. What is to be desired is that until we see what system will best answer the purpose, or until further settlement has. taken place, there shall be no grant ofland for any freehold estate, and that the only settlement of land shall be in pursuance of regulations framed by the Governor-General in Council.
– Does not the honorable and learned member think that we should lease the whole of the land ?
– Yes ; the regulations relating to leasing to be framed by the Governor-General, who would be responsible to this Parliament. I knew that the objection raised a minute or two ago by the honorable member for Melbourne would be brought forward. But if honorable members will give a moment’s consideration to the point, they will see that the mere fact that land could be alienated would not induce people to buy land for speculative purposes before the pioneers had done their work. When that work has been done they will come in and say - “You cannot proceed with your work unless you pay us.”
– Tribute money.
-Yes ; it would be a kind of tribute money. With regard to the liquor traffic, I should be inclined to go so far as to prevent any private dealing in liquor with the natives.
– And the same with regard to opium?
– Yes. I am dealing, however, mainly with the liquor question. We must treat natives largely as children.
– Why not prohibit the sale of liquor altogether ?
– What I contend is that we should not allow any liquor or opium to be given to the natives. At the same time, as there are so many aboriginals in British New Guinea, we ought to prohibit any liquor whatever being sold for the present except through a Government store.
– It would be better to prohibit it.
– I do not know that honorable members would be prepared to go so far as to prevent a miner from being able to obtain a glass of spirits when he is weakened by an attack of malaria. I do not desire to go so far as that, but I would prohibit the sale of liquor except by a Government official, who, of course, would have no inducement to make gain from it. He could be prohibited from selling any liquor to the natives. The regulation of the leasing of the land and of the sale of liquor are basic questions in regard to this matter. It may be said that this is a matter for the Executive Council and the Legislative Council of Papua to settle. I do not think it is. I do not believe that we can in that way shunt the responsibilities which we have taken on our shoulders. I have read a great deal in regard to the administration of Crown colonies, and I know what it means to have a Crown colony administration in which the LieutenantGovernor, as provided in this Bill, may do what he pleases, regardless of whether or. not the Executive Council approves of his action. I know what it is to have a Crown colony in which the Executive Council consists of officials, and in which there is only a small population of white people, having no organized control over the LieutenantGovernor.
– It is impossible to provide for an elective Legislative Council at the present stage.
– I agree with the right honorable gentleman as to that. I have not said a word as to an elective Council. I agree with the right honorable gentleman that we could not very well provide for elections. I suggest, however, that clause 26 should be so amended as to provide that the three persons other than members of the Executive Council to be appointed members of the Legislative Council shall be non-official persons. The honorable member for Robertson called attention to the evil of leaving the working population - the people to whom the enterprise of the
Territory is intrusted; the people who are trying to make homes and alivingfor themselves there, without representation, and practically at the mercy of the officials. They will have no control with regard to the making of roads and the building of bridges, and will have no means of pressing their needs upon the attention of the LieutenantGovernor. There is always a strong tendency with the Governors of Crown Colonies - and it was found to exist in Western Australia before the introduction of responsible Government there - to leave wellalone. Thelessthe Lieutenant-Governor is interfered with the better he will like it. It would make a great difference if some of those’ who are engaged in developing the country were nominated to the Legislative Council, so that the needs of the people might be adequately placed before the officials. I should like to see an elective body provided for ; but as that is not practicable at present, I think that, in the meantime, we should insist that the members of the Legislative Council, who are not members of the Executive Council, shall be appointed from the non-official class.
– Would the honorable and learned member make them subject to removal by the Governor-General?
– The power of removal should certainly not be left with the LieutenantGovernor. It is only right that the power of appointment and the power of removal should be given to the GovernorGeneral, who will not be concerned in whatever squabbles may occur. I do not see why the members of the Executive Council should be unlimited in number. If all the officials are made members of the Executive Council, theywill be able to swamp the non-official members in the Legislative Council. Neither do I think that the sole initiative in administration should be left to the LieutenantGovernor. The Executive Council will be a far more powerful body than the Legislative Council.
– But only the Legislative Council can pass ordinances or laws.
– I think that the first part of clause 24 should be omitted, so that other members besides the LieutenantGovernor may submit questions to the Council. Under the Bill as it stands only the Lieutenant-Governor can submit questions to the Executive Council.
– And to the Legislative Council.
– The provision to which the honorable member refers is only the ordinary constitutional provision to prevent the passing of measures involving expenditure, or imposing taxation without the authority of the Government. Under clause 25, the Lieutenant-Governor may act in opposition to his Council, and is not obliged to accept their advice. No doubt a strong man, who was determined to do his duty, would not abuse that power, but I do not think that both the safeguards contained in clauses 24 and 25 are necessary. Under clause 38 it is necessary for the LieutenantGovernor to reserve ordinances of any of certain specified classes until the signification of the Governor-General’s pleasure thereon. The first of these is -
Any ordinance for divorce.
But that to which I wish to draw attention belongs to the 6th class -
Inmy opinion any ordinance affecting the alienation of land should be reserved. Indeed I should prefer to see the alienation of land in New Guinea absolutely prohibited. What right has any one to buy land in New Guinea as a speculation, and then to require payment from persons who want to go there to develop the territory? I think, too, that any ordinance relating to native labour should be reserved. There is no doubt that efforts will be made to exploit the natives, and to use them practically as slaves, and we should do all in our power to prevent that. Then, in clause 40, the jurisdiction to hear appeals which formerly belonged to the Supreme Court of Queensland is given to the High Court - I suppose to make work for that Court. Of course, the population of New Guinea is so small at the present time that the provision is practically unimportant, but I think that the Supreme Court of Queensland should at least continue to have this jurisdiction in conjunction with the High Court, so that any appeal may be made to either Court.
– The honorable member for Northern Melbourne has no doubt thrown out some very valuable suggestions, and I think that the House will agree with him and the honorable member for Canobolas that Parliament should make a hard-and-fast law to prevent the supplying of ardent spirits to natives under any but exceptional circumstances. I think, however, that if the honorable and learned member’s ideas on the land question are carried out in their entirety there will be very little development in New Guinea, and that the Territory will be a very hopeless possession for the Commonwealth. I do not desire to discuss the provisions of the Bill, because I think they will be better dealt with in Committee. It is merely a machinery Bill to provide for the Government of the Territory. My object is to raise a final word of protest against the policy of annexation which it ratifies. The Commonwealth had scarcely been inaugurated before it started upon a career of annexation. I fancy that the Prime Minister and his colleagues are very much imbued with the idea of extending our territory, and annexing more of the Pacific Islands. When the Prime Minister assumed the title of “ Minister for External Affairs “ to distinguish his office, it seemed to me that something of that kind was in the air, and I fear that we shall have external affairs with a vengeance before many years are over if we continue to follow this policy. To my surprise, Parliament agreed to the taking over of the control of British New Guinea without a division. The matter was scarcely debated, and the half-dozen members - I do not think there were more - who ventured to differ from the general opinion, did not think it worth while to call for a division. It appears to me that there is no benefit to be derived from this Possession. If there is any, it is very small compared with the friction which, inyearstocome, it will inevitably cause. Any student of history knows that where there are land frontiers only between different Powers friction must inevitably arise. Had the Government risked Parliament to acquire the whole of New Guinea I think that a much more satisfactory arrangement might have been made. But thegreat danger which I foresee is that along the frontiers of this possession, adventurers of all sorts may come into collision with the subjects of Germany and Holland. We shall thus be involved in endless expenditure in maintaining peace in the Territory. Only this evening the honorable member for Canobolas ventured to express a hope that this Possession would soon become a
State of the Commonwealth. Apparently, instead of having a white Australia, he desires that a portion of it shall be black. I notice that this year it is proposed to pay £90,000 in the form of sugar bounties to maintain a white Australia. Are we going to encourage the production of sugar in New Guinea ? I can foresee immense difficulties in connexion with the administration of that Territory.
– What would the honorable member do with it ?
– I should give a preference to growersof tropical products against the outside world, but the moment we adopted that policy, we should come into conflict with the white labour of Australia. I have no desire to prolong this discussion. I believe that the people of Australia are scarcely conscious that we have acquired British New Guinea. A spirit of jingoism has been manifest in this House, together with a desire for still further annexation in the South Sea Islands. I believe that the adoption of this policy will create difficulties unspeakable. If I thought that by moving that the Bill be read this day six months I could secure a majority, I would adopt that expedient, but I believe that I could not, and I therefore content myself with placing upon record my protest.
– I am afraid that the last speaker has forgotten that the Commonwealth has undertaken the administration of New Guinea simply from motives of self-preservation.
– If we acquired the whole of it, there might be something in that argument.
– Certainly matterswould not be improved by allowing that portion of it over which we have secured control to become a dumping ground for criminals and other undesirables. I am thoroughly in accord with the main principles of the Bill, but I should have liked to see more encouragement given to those who will have to develop the Territory.I do not think it is wise to have too much officialdom in connexion with the administration of the island. For example, we cannot be too stringent in our control of the liquor laws of the Territory.
– There is a very stringent law there which prohibits the supply of liquor, firearms, or explosives to. natives, though liquor or opium may be given as a medicine. Firearms cannot be used without a permit.
– I am not quite clear as to the provisions in reference to the sale of spirituous liquors. I hold, however, that we shall secure a better administration of the liquor laws if that traffic is under the control of the Government, than will be possible if it remains in the hands of private individuals. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie has given notice of an amendment which he intends to submit. Whilst I am in sympathy with the spirit of his proposal, I feel sure that, if adopted, it will result in failure. We know that the general idea is that it is impossible to settle a new country without parting with the feesimple of the land. I prefer, however, to wait a little time in order that we may ascertain whether this is so. We always have the opportunity of selling our lands ; but when once we have parted with them it is a difficult matter to regain possession of them. “Under the amendment suggested, the Crown lands of the Territory would be held upon annual lease, and would be subject to an annual appraisement. Honorable members must know that that is an impossible tenure, even in settled countries, mud] less in a new territory, to which we desire to attract population. Take the land laws of the Commonwealth. We are all a’ware that Crown leases are granted for periods of 14 years, 21 years, and 42 years, also that some are granted in perpetuity. But there are no annual leases issued in any State.
– In New South Wales.
– Annual leases are issued for some purposes, and there are also annual occupation leases.
– Those leases are issued only for special .purposes. The general principle underlying our land laws is that the country shall be leased upon a fairly long tenure. It would be impossible to. effect any settlement in New Guinea if the Crown lands were subject to a yearly appraisement, because the lessees would have no feeling of security.
– The rental would be fixed upon the unimproved value.
– But it is a difficult matter to draw a line between the improved and unimproved value, unless the land has been cleared.
– The re-appraisement is not compulsory every year.
– If the House affirms the honorable member’s proposal, I presume that it will lay down some rules regarding the principle of land tenure which is to be applied. We should know whether it is intended to adopt leases extending for 21 or 41 years, or perpetual leases with periodical reappraisements every 7, 14, or 21 years; then we should know exactly what we were doing. No one would take up land upon an annual rental basis, nor would it be wise to give leases in perpetuity without periodical re-appraisements. I am quite satisfied that the weakness of the South Australian land system to-day lies in its perpetual leasing provisions, and in the fact that the land is not subject to re-appraisement at certain periods. Under such conditions it is impossible to secure the best results to the State. Of course wherever a land tax is levied the State may derive some advantage from the improved value given to land by the access of population or other circumstances, apart from the labour or industry expended upon it by the occupant. I firmly believe in applying the leasing system in the first place. If it is found to be unsuccessful, we can easily sell our land ; whereas if the land is alienated in the first instance, there is no chance of adopting the leasing system without again acquiring, at great cost, the land which has been alienated. In many States this course has been resorted to very extensively for the purpose of settling people upon the land. I trust that we shall not repeat that mistake in New Guinea, but that some definite and reasonable proposal will be placed before us.
– I cannot agree with the honorable member for New England that it is inadvisable for the Commonwealth at this period to take control of British New Guinea. I consider that we have lost opportunities in the past, and that our neglect may involve us in grave complications in the near future. We have allowed a portion of New Guinea to be occupied by other powers, and the legislation that we are now desirous of enacting will probably bring us into conflict with the present and future foreign residents upon territory adjoining our own. The Bill is one which may possibly be dealt with most effectively ‘ in Committee, but there are one or two basic principles which are deserving of our attention at this stage.
The land question is one which will have an important bearing upon the welfare of the Territory, and upon the relations between it and the Commonwealth. It is desirable that at the outset we should set ourselves firmly against any attempt at land alienation. The honorable member for Northern Melbourne has wisely drawn attention to the fact that the pioneers of a country such as this do not become the ultimate owners of the laud, because it is usually appropriated by outside speculators, who follow in the track of the pioneers, and reap the benefit of their work. By holding the land we shall retain for the pioneer the opportunity of enjoying his full share of the value given to the land by his work. We should avoid the mistakes made in the States of the Commonwealth in parting with the fee-simple of the public estate. I am sure that the financial position of the States would have been very different to-day if we had not squandered our patrimony and robbed future generations of their true heritage by selling our land at prices representing a very small percentage of its true value. The leasing system should not prove any impediment to settlement, but, on the other hand, it would, induce it by giving an assurance to settlers that they will be able to obtain land at a reasonable rental instead of being subject to the cruel competition which inevitably follows its acquirement by speculators. It is only by absolutely reserving to the Crown the whole of the land available for settlement that we can hope to induce people to settle in New Guinea upon anything like the scale necessary to insure, success. I agree with those honorable members who have expressed the opinion that absolute prohibition of the sale of liquor is the only means by which we can preserve the lives of the natives. It is of no use to tinker with the question, or to’ talk about establishing stores under Government supervision for the sale of liquor. If we desire to avoid a repetition of the horrors which followed in the track of the spirit cask and beer barrel in Australia, we can only hope to do so by the absolute prohibition of the sale of liquor within the Territory, and by keeping legislation upon the subject entirely within our own control. The fact that foreign powers are in possession of territory immediately adjoining us is, in my opinion, a source of great danger in this particular matter. As settlement increases, conflicts will probably arise between our administrators and residents upon foreign territories. In times past the whisky bottle has proved the most powerful factor in the subjugation of inferior races - more potent than powder and ball. White people have been able to obtain from, befuddled and ignorant natives grants of land which they have been able to hold against all comers, and although foreigners who may be settled on our borders in New Guinea may not be able to acquire land from the natives, they might be able by means of liquor to secure from the natives commodities and products which they may have been induced to raise for their own advantage and comfort. If, however, we prohibit the introduction of liquor into the Possession, we shall be able to control its distribution among the natives by unauthorized persons, whether they be foreigners or others. Unless we can safeguard the natives against this evil, we shall commit the gravest of errors, and hasten their annihilation. I notice that in clause 38, sub-clause (7), it is provided that any ordinance for the deportation of the natives from the Territory, or from one part of it to another, shall be withheld for the assent of the GovernorGeneral. No provision is made that an ordinance for *the importation of natives, from other parts shall be so withheld, and I suggest that we should guard against any possibility of our recent industrial ‘legislation being evaded in New Guinea by providing in the Bill that no importations of natives from adjoining islands or elsewhere shall takeplace except under conditions which shall be subject to our review. We must retain control over all such matters. I should be very loth, either now or in the future, toplace in the hands of an executive, however carefully constituted, any more power than is absolutely necessary for the conduct of domestic affairs within the Territory. I hope that the Bill will receive full consideration when it reaches the Committee stage.
– Whilst it was refreshing to hear the honorable member for New England speaking in a manner which seemed to be inimical to the spirit of Imperial Federation, I think that it -is toolate for us as a race to stay our hands in the acquirement of new territory, and to restrain our desire to paint red all that is left of the unoccupied parts of the earth. We have no recourse ©pen to us but totake over the control of British New
Guinea, and in view of the fact that the island is so close to our shores, I am sorry that we cannot assume the control of the whole of it. I think that as a nation we have many things to be ashamed of in connexion with our treatment of inferior coloured races whom, in many cases, we have civilized out of existence, but still the students of modem history who pay attention to the methods adopted in dealing with barbarous peoples admit that the British nation has been the most successful’ in handling subject races. I contend that our nation is the best on the face of the earth to take in hand a country inhabited by savage races. For that reason I do not particularly regret the action which has been taken. At the same time I realize that we are undertaking a new responsibility, and that in laying the foundation stone of a system of government for what may be called a Crown colony under the Commonwealth we must have regard to sound principles. The measure, taken as a whole, is probably a very good one, but I am opposed to the principle of permitting any alienation of Crown lands. In my opinion, that has been one of the great fundamental errors of every country. Not an inch of land should be sold. That is the mistake that has been made here, and, so far as British New Guinea is concerned, it would be a mistake not only from the point of view of principle, but from the stand-point of colonization. New Guinea is an auriferous country, and we know that nothing tends more to cause a rapid increase in the population of any land than the discovery of gold. If the early land-holders discovered a payable field, they would be able, at the rates which now prevail, to buy up the whole country. They would do so, knowing that as soon as the discovery of gold was made public it would cause a rush of people to the Territory,- and that in that way the value of the land, for which they had paid practically nothing, would be highly enhanced. It would be far better for us to introduce the principle of leasing the land upon conditions as to improvement suitable to the character of the country. Even if we leased the land for nothing we should make the improvement of the land a . condition of the holding of it.
– The only land company which I know of that has acquired land in Papua is now going into liquidation.
– Some time ago a big syndicate would have acquired nearly the whole of the Territory if it had been allowed to have its way. A speculator might work the business very well. There are a number of miners in Papua ; the natives are becoming less dangerous than they were, and further encroachments are being made upon the interior ©f the island.- It would not take much to buy up the whole Territory at the rates which rule at present, and I contend that, in these circumstances, we should not leave it open to speculators to acquire large tracts of land. We desire to see the country developed on a solid foundation, and we should prevent the taking up of land by speculators in anticipation of a big rush of population. If we gave them a lease in perpetuity in respect of a reasonable area they would not be called upon to pay a large rental, and with the money which they would have to spend to purchase the property, if we allowed that to be done, they might greatly improve and develop the country. At the present time large areas of land are being held in all parts of Australia, and are not being put to any use. The holders are simply waiting for others to develop the country, and if we allowed alienation to take place speculators would be able to deal with land in New Guinea in the same way. If we permitted the land to be alienated we should not be able to compel owners of it to give up possession if they failed to improve it, but if, on the other hand, we leased the land under certain conditions as to improvement, the performance of those conditions could be enforced. I, for one, shall support the amendment of which notice has been given by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. I think it would be a step in the right direction. There is a general agreement on the part of honorable members that we should study very carefully the interests of the natives. It would appear that every nation has this blot upon its history - that it has been concerned in slave-owning. Let us hope that nothing of the kind will be allowed so far as Papua is concerned. Let us hope that we shall deal justly with the natives, on lines which have been found to be best suited to their requirements. Let us give them some chance to become civilized and educated, so that they may not disappear as other aboriginal races have done. In Australia we have attempted, more or less successfully, to restrict the sale of liquor to aboriginals, and surely in taking over the control of a country like Papua, which is inhabited by so many tribes somewhat similar to the Australian aboriginals, we should see that they are protected from the curse of the rum bottle. We should not allow any liquor to be supplied to them. I do not speak from the stand-point of temperance, but it has been admitted that in a healthy climate, such as exists in some parts of New Guinea, the people are better without spirits. The natives of New Guinea seem to have got along very well without alcohol, and I think that the sale of it bo them should be prohibited. They do not appear to be able to stand the fire water, that is usually supplied to the native populations. Apparently, they take to the drinking habib very readily, but they cannot stand its consequences as well as the hard-drinking races to which we belong. I do not wish to deal now with other matters which may be considered in Committee, but we should make provision for improving and safeguarding the methods of government as time goes on. There seems to be always a danger in relation ‘to officialdom which is at any distance from the controlling centre, and 1 think we should leave some loop-hole through which genuine grievances on the part of the people of British New Guinea may reach the fountain head here. This measure no doubt will require to be amended as the country is developed. There are always difficulties at the outset which cannot be foreseen, and weshall have to deal with them when we know more of the Territory. I am rather inclined to th view that the Bill does not give sufficient power to the people resident in Papua, but I am prepared to vote for its second reading in the hope that these matters will be dealt with in Committee.
– I cannot agree with the honorable member for Darling that if there is anything wrong with this Bill it is that it errs in the direction of giving insufficient power to the people resident in the Possession. It seems to me that danger is to be feared from the fact that the . Bill leans too much in the opposite direction. Taking the measure as a whole, I must confess that there appear to be greater possibilities of mischief than of good in the control which we propose to exercise over this Territory. The island, as we know, is inhabited by a particularly savage and aggressive race of natives, and, in order that very serious trouble may be avoided,, they will require to be dealt with in themost careful and diplomatic way. I quite agree that so far as the people of our own race are concerned their record in dealing with native communities is ‘ a better one than that of most other civilized people. But at the same time we have seen very serious troubles arise in various parts, of the world from that almost inevitable lack of sympathy between the governing and thegoverned. I need only remind the House of the serious difficulties which New Zealand had to face in connexion with her native races, and it appears to me that if we do not exercise very strict supervision and control over the white races located in Papua, they may plunge us into a very serious and costly war with the natives. I am very pleased tofind that notice has been given of certain amendments by. the honorable and learned member for South Australia, “Mr. Glynn,, and the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. I am especially pleased with the amendment, dealing with the land question, of which notice has been given by. the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, and I am thoroughly at one with the honorable member for Darling as to the necessity for the exercise of very great care in regard to the possible alienation of the Papua lands. In my opinion, nearly all the troubles with native races have arisen from the land question. Although up to> the present time no very great inducements have been offered to white people totake up land in Papua, the conditions are so rapidly altering, and will be so radically altered by the Bill that we are now discussing, that a very considerable demand forland may speedily arise. I think that the safest course to pursue in connexion with this particular phase of the question would undoubtedly be to so legislate that no absolute alienation of land shall take place. The amendment of which notice has been given by the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, is to my .mind a particularly good one. It will give us that control over the land question which somany of us are anxious that the Commonwealth Parliament shall retain, and therefore I shall very heartily support it. I fully recognise that the obligation to takeover the control of Papua is one that we cannot very well avoid. If the island had been many leagues farther- away from our coast, I for one should have been very glad to see this Parliament leave it severely alone. But its geographical situation imposes an absolute obligation upon us to take it under our control at the earliest possible moment. I am very hopeful that we shall be able to improve upon the methods adopted in the past in regard to other native communities. I believe that the desire that the natives shall have justice meted out to them in all respects is greater here than that which has characterized even the Imperial Parliament. There, although the intention may, and undoubtedly does exist, a lack of knowledge and of sympathy with native races has, to a considerable extent, militated against what has been sometimes an honest attempt to carry out the obligations of a dominating race. I shall give my hearty assistance to the Government in securing that justice for the natives to which they are entitled ; and I hope that the result of our deliberations will be to establish conditions which will lead to the development of Papua in a manner which will be of advantage to, the Commonwealth, and at the same time by no means disadvantageous to the native inhabitants.
– I wish to point out to the Prime Minister that, in my opinion, the clause relating to the appointment of members of the Legislative Council requires amendment. Clause 26 provides that members of that body shall consist of the Lieutenant-Governor, the members of the Executive Council, and such other persons, not more than three in number, as the Governor-General may appoint. There is, however, no limitation upon the number of the Executive Councillors. I think that the number of Executive Councillors should bear some proportion to the number of the Legislative Councillors, otherwise the official members of the Legislative Council may be able to quite outvote the nominee members. With regard to the alienation of land,I have an amendment which I think will meet the views of both the honorable member for Kalgoorlie and the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Poynton. I have another amendment to move in clause 37 whichseems to me to be open to no objection.
– I shall not object to it. I think that the other amendment is also a wise one.
– The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne made a suggestion which I have anticipated in regard to the reservation for the signification of the Governor-General’s pleasure of any ordinance for the alienation of Crown land. I would suggest that such ordinances should come into force only when the assent to them has been proclaimed in New Guinea, and that that proclamation should not be made until they have been laid before Parliment for at least forty days. That would preserve to Parliament the right to object to any ordinance for the alienation of Crown land, whether in fee simple or on a merely nominal rental for a long term, which would be practically the same thing. During the sittings of the Convention the present Attorney-General of New South Wales and myself both brought forward provisions to prohibit the alienation in fee simple of any part of the Federal territory, and an argument which influenced a good many of the members of the Convention against that proposal was, that the Constitution should merely create the machinery for legislation, and should not itself legislate. No such objection could be urged against my present proposal, however.
– There are eight or nine clauses which are almost formal, with which I think honorable members can deal in a few minutes. When we come to the actual substance of the Bill, I shall be prepared to report progress.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
This Act shall commence on the day on which; a Proclamation is issued by the Governor-General in pursuance of the hereinbefore recited Letters Patent of the eighteenth day of March, One thousand nine hundred and two.
– I wish to amend this clause so as to provide for the government of the Territory by an Administrator in the interval which will elapse between the passing of this measure and its proclamation, in the same way as provision was made for the appointment of the Governor-General before the actual inauguration of the Commonwealth. I therefore move -
That after the word “ Act” the words “except section1 3 thereof “ be inserted.
– No doubt it is possible to bring some of the provisions of the measure into operation before the others, but it seems to me that the wording of clause 5 creates a difficulty in this case. The preamble recites that the Senate and House of Representatives have passed resolutions affirming that they are prepared to join in measures for the acceptance of British New Guinea as a Territory of the Commonwealth, and clause 5 declares that the possession of British New Guinea is hereby accepted . by the name of the “ Territory of Papua.” That acceptance, however, will not have force until the Act has commenced. Therefore, we are providing for the appointment of an Administrator to the Territory of Papua before 1 such a Territory exists.
– He can act as Administrator of British New Guinea. We have power to legislate for his appointment because of the Orders in Council.
– He will not be the LieutenantGovernor under this Bill. The objection is merely a technical one.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Sir Edmund Barton) proposed -
Chat the following words be added: - “But section 13 shall take effect on and from the passing of this Act.”
– Will not this amendment give the Administrator power to exercise all the functions provided for in the Bill?
– No ; he will be appointed merely to administer under the existing Constitution. The amendment has been moved to get rid of- a doubt which existed.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 verbally amended, and agreed to.
Clause 6 -
Subject po this Act, the laws in force in the possession of British New Guinea at the commencement o£ this Act shall continue in the Territory until other provision is made.
– Under clause 38 ordinances in regard to any of nine specified classes must be reserved for the signification of the Governor -General’s pleasure thereon. But under this clause laws now in force shall continue “ until other provision is made.” It may be, however, that some of the laws now in force are laws which, if it were proposed to re-enact them, or they were about to be enacted for the first time, would not meet with our approval. Consequently, the governing authorities of New Guinea may, by merely doing nothing, continue in force laws of which we should disapprove if we had an opportunity of doing so. For instance, I believe there is a law in force relating to the alienation of land. The subjects mentioned in clause 38 have in some way to be brought within the purview of the Governor-General without the necessity for the introduction of new ordinances upon those subjects. I am not prepared to suggest the particular form of words which an amendment should take, but I hold that there should be some way in which the ordinances upon those specific subjects can be reviewed, otherwise an unsatisfactory state of affairs may continue indefinitely, simply by reason of the legislative authorities in New Guinea pursuing a policy of masterly inactivity.
– I would point out to the honorable and learned member for Corinella that this is the ordinary provision in cases in which one form of government is about to give place to another. Under such circumstances, it is usual to preserve the existing laws, until fresh statutes have been enacted. That is what the Commonwealth did in regard to certain subjects upon which it was empowered under the Constitution to legislate. If we were to rob existing statutes of the force of law, the difficulty in New Guinea, which is inhabited chiefly by savages, would be very great indeed.
– I think that the ordinances upon these special subjects should be made subject to the review of the GovernorGeneral.
– I am not at all sure that any such provision would be a wise one. I think it is better to leave the. clause in its present form. If the honorable and learned member’s suggestion were followed, cases might arise in which any exercise of the power of veto of any law, before a fresh law could be enacted, would result in a state of undesirable confusion. But, in order that we may commit- no irreparable mistake in connexion with this matter, I will consent to the postponement of the clause, to allow of an opportunity for further consideration.
Clauses 7 to 9 agreed to.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn.
I desire to say that the first business tomorrow will be the moving of the second reading of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. After the speech of my honorable colleague upon that measure, the debate will be adjourned till some day next week. We shall then proceed with the consideration of the Papua (British New Guinea) Bill. Subsequently we shall deal with the Defence Bill, or possibly I may move the second reading of the Naturalization Bill. If, however, I move the second reading of that measure to-morrow, I shall not ask for a vote upon it immediately, because it involves some complicated questions.
– From a reply given by the Prime Minister this afternoon to a question of mine, I understand that no supplementary report has been furnished by Mr. Oliver upon the Federal capital sites in New South Wales. In this connexion I desire to draw the right honorable gentleman’s attention to some evidence which was given before the Capital Sites Commission. The witness under examination was Mr. Wade, who is in charge of the Water and Sewerage Department in Sydney. He was asked for certain information, which he prepared for this supplementary report.
– Did he give that evidence before the present Commission?
– Only to-day I gave instructions that inquiries should be made in New South Wales as to whether it is possible to obtain that report.
– The evidence taken by the Commissioners shows that Mr. Wade produced a copy of his report prepared for the purposes of Mr. Oliver’s supplementary report, and handed it to them. Yet, in the papers bearing upon this question which were laid upon the table, I can find no trace of the document in question. Further, I know that the Very Reverend Milne Curran, a prominent geologist, made investigations of a very practical nature with respect to the Orange site - as to building material, and so forth. He put the result of his investigations in the shape of a written report, which, I understand, was submitted to Mr. Oliver for the purposes of the supplementary report which he was preparing. It was understood, at any rate by the secretary of the Capital SitesLeague at Orange, that the Rev. Milne Cur ran would be examined. But I cannot find on looking through the evidence that he was examined, or that his report has been included in the papers. I should like to have some inquiries made, as I understand that the report is of considerable value.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister, in regard to his statement that the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill will be brought on for its second reading to-morrow, whether he cannot arrange that the parties interested in the various States may have copies of the Bill, so that they may know its contents before the measure is read a second time? It is not desirable to rush the second reading of the measure.
Sir EDMUND BARTON (Hunter- Minister for External Affairs). - Perhaps I did not make myself perfectly understood. I am not proposing to hurry on the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill by asking for its second reading to-morrow. All that will be done will be that the AttorneyGeneral will make his second-reading speech. If, of course, other honorable members are prepared to speak, there is no objection to their doing so, but it is not the intention of the Government that the debate shall be resumed until the following week.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.37 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 July 1903, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1903/19030729_reps_1_15/>.