2nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– According to a telegram which appears in this morning’s Age, either the local Customs officials or the police are preventing spirits which have been sold in Albury from being taken to Wodonga. A complaint has been made on the subject by the largest firm, there, but apparently they can get no redress. Has the attention of the Minister been called to this matter? I should’ like to. “know why there is not Inter-State freetrade in this case.
– I have not read the paragraph to which the honorable member . refers, nor have I any information on the subject, but I shall make inquiries in regard to it. It has been suggested to me that the difficulty may have arisen in connexion with a licensing matter.
– In view of the .statement of the Premier of New South Wales, which is published in ‘ this morning’s newspaper, respecting his intention to appoint a gentleman to act as Agent-General for’ that State, will the Prime Minister write to the Premiers of all the States, to ascertain from them whether a High Commissioner could not act for them in London, and thus save the expenses incurred in connexion with the offices of the various Agents-General ?
Mr. - WATSON.- I have not yet seen the statement referred to, but the Government contemplate taking some such action so soon as the High Commissioner Bill has been put through. If the Governments of the States are agreeable, I think that the High Commissioner might be charged, through a subordinate officer, with the arrangements for the inscription of stock, the payment of dividends, and other business connected wilh loan transactions, which could be done much more economically in that way than is possible at the present time, when each State has its own Agent-General.
– Am I correct in assuming that no steps will be taken by the Ministry to give effect -to their decision in reference to a change in the control of the Defence Forces until Parliament has had an opportunity to consider it?
– Certainly. I stated the other day that in my opinion it will be necessary to amend the Defence Act before such steps as we propose can be taken; but we think that we should, as early as possible, make up our minds as to the view to be taken on the subject generally.
– Will the Prime Minister take into consideration the desirability of using a section of the Defence Act which would enable Him to ap’ point a Board of Advice? . Will he ask the opinion of his Law Officers as to whether he cannot do what he desires to do without amending the Defence Act, merely by appointing such a Board, and substituting for a General Officer Commanding an InspectorGeneral, who would have more limited powers, and whose powers could be strictly defined? To pass an amending Bill would take a considerable amount of time.
– The honorable member’s suggestion will be considered by the Government. We have not yet had time to go into details, but my own impression is that if we have a General Officer Commanding he must under the Defence Act be given certain powers which an Inspector-General would not be expected to exercise. A great deal of work of a detailed character which, in the view of the Government, though we. have no desire to interfere with the harmony of the scheme which Major-General Hutton has laid down, could be performed by the States Commandants if we had, instead of a General Officer Commanding, an Inspector-General, must now go before the General Officer Commanding. I doubt whether we could substitute an InspectorGeneral for a General Officer Commanding without an amendment of the Defence Act. To appoint an Advisory Board as suggested by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, before we had come to a final determination on the whole subject, would, in my opinion, be a mistake, because it might necessitate the appointment of two boards within a period of a few months. I think it better to leave the whole matter over until we can go into it thoroughly and present a definite proposal to Parliament.
– Will the Prime Minister ascertain from, the Law Officers of the Crown whether he could not, without introducing a Bill to amend the Defence Act, take some such steps in regard to the appointment of an Inspector-General as were taken in regard to the appointment of Captain Creswell? Under the Act, the late Government had power to either appoint a Naval Officer Commanding, or confer the powers and functions upon some officer. Captain Creswell was therefore appointed to carry out in regard to our Naval Forces duties similar to those which would, on land, attach to the office of InspectorGeneral. A great number of honorable members appear to be in favour of the proposal of the Government, but it must be remembered that the engagement of the present General Officer Commanding terminates very shortly, and will probably come to an end before a Bill to amend the Defence Act could be passed by Parliament.
– I appreciate the honorable member’s argument, but the arrangement he suggests could be only tentative, whereas, in our opinion, it is desirable to put forward some permanent proposal as to the method of controlling the Military Forces of the Commonwealth. For that reason, I think it preferable to obtain before the session closes some definite pronouncement on the subject by Parliament. The amending Bill which he has spoken of need not be a long one. It would embody only one great principle, and deal only with the position of the General Officer ‘Commanding. However, I shall ask the Attorney-General to look into the legal position again before the Cabinet next considers the matter.
– In any case, “the Government will give the House an opportunity to consider their proposal? That is all I care about.
– I do not know what steps have been taken by the Minister of Defence in regard to the matter. i understand that certain companies, or portions of some regiments there, were disbanded upon the recommendation of the General Officer Commanding, for failing to parade when summoned to do so; but I do not know if steps have been taken to reestablish them in their former position. It is proposed to put the Tasmanian militia forces on the same footing as that occupied by the militia of the other States. I shall make inquiry into the whole subject.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -
No. The only cases of personation within the knowledge of the Department took place in connexion with the recent Melbourne election, and prosecution followed in every instance where the Crown Solicitor advised that the Department was justified in proceeding.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 13th July, vide page 3222) :
Proposed new clause, 79A -
This Part of this Act shall come into operation on a day to be fixed by proclamation, not being less than six months after the commencement of this Act.
.I have considered the suggestion of the right honorable member for East Sydney as to the propriety of remitting, for the investigation of the Royal Commission on the Navigation Bill, the clauses comprised in Part Va., and the alternative of embodying them in a separate Bill.
– After the Commission on the Navigation Ball has inquired into their effect.
– As I indicated yesterday, the view of the Government is that either course would involve great delay. The Royal Commission on the Navigation Bill will consume a considerable . amount of time in hearing evidence, and considering the various matters referred to them. The Navigation Bill itself contains about 430 clauses, and involves some large and intricate commercial questions, so that we do not expect that the work of the Commission will be completed in less than six or seven months at the earliest.
– The Government will obtain the report of the Commission in time to have the Navigation Bill dealt with next session.
– Even if that were so, it would be pretty late in the session before the Bill could be passed. After the Commission has reported, the Ministry must consider its report, to see how far its recommendations can be adopted. Then the Minister charged with the preparation of the Navigation Bill will require a month or two to draft, with the assistance of the Attorney-General, a new measure for the consideration of the Cabinet. Then again, it will take some time to pass the Bill finally agreed upon by the Government through Parliament. Beyond all those delays there is that referred to by the right honorable member for East Sydney, arising out of the possible reservation of the measure by the Imperial authorities. Now whatever necessity there may be in the view of the Imperial authorities ‘to reserve the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, owing to the inclusion of these clauses, will apply with tenfold force to the Navigation Bill, impinging as it will upon the Merchant Shipping Act and the movements of various sections of the British mercantile marine at so many ports. Therefore, it is probable that the> Navigation Bill will be reserved for a much longer period than will the Arbitration Bill, even if these clauses are included.
– If the proposed clauses were not included, we should have only one Bill reserved instead of two.
– But that would not expedite matters so far as these particular clauses are concerned.
– Cannot provision be made in the Bill for dealing with the case of the local seamen without touching navigation clauses at all?
– We do not propose to insert any navigation clauses in this Bill.
– Surely the clauses deal with matters relating to navigation ?
– There is a difference of opinion with regard to that. Personally I do not regard them as navigation clauses, but simply as provisions necessary to make the measure effective. The point which I am trying to impress upon the Committee is that the Government think that to keep back these clauses for inquiry by the Navigation Bill Commission would involve such delay that even if the Commission were favorable and Parliament were afterwards agreeable to adopt them, it is. improbable that they could be taken advantage of for some considerable time to come. Our feeling is that the Arbitration Bill without a complement of this character would be. incomplete and ineffective, and consequently it rests with the Committee to take the responsibility of saying whether the important section of the community for whom these provisions are primarily meant to provide are to be altogether left out of consideration so far as this Bill is concerned.
– Out of consideration altogether?
– I take that view.
– But any dispute in which the seamen were concerned could be dealt with by the Court.
– Yes, but upon what basis? The attitude which some honorable members take up is an extraordinary one. They say that a dispute in which the seamen were concerned could be dealtwith. But I would point out that under the conditions that some honorable members desire to enforce, the men would go into the Court with a two to one chance against them that the Court could bring down the wages, but could not raise them.
– Because thev could put the local ship-owners in a position to compete with oversea vessels-
– Which they are now doing with overwhelming success.
– That is a matter upon which I am not competent to express an opinion, and I doubt very much whether any honorable member can give any accurate information upon that head. I know that a comparatively short time ago the local ship-owners succeeded inreducing the wages’’ pf their men, and that they have since taken steps in a similar direction.
– Not under the award of an Arbitration Court.
– No. But they succeeded in effecting a reduction of wages, and they gave as the reason for making the reduction the fact that although they had been making considerable profits some short time previously, their returns had since shown an enormous falling off.
– The Royal Commission will throw some light upon that.
– Perhaps so. The right honorable member for Swan recently presented to us some figures with regard to what had been done a few years ago, but I would! point out that they afford no criterion as to the present position.
– Are these clauses being proposed on behalf of the shipping companies ?
– No, they are not. They are being proposed with a view to enable the Court to take all the circumstances into consideration, and, if there is unfair competition on the part of oversea ships, to minimize it by insisting upon equal conditions being observed by every one trading on our coast.
– The Minister admits that there is no unfair competition at present.
– No, I do not admit that.
– The Minister admits that there is no necessity for the clauses at present.
– No, I do not admit even that. The right honorable gentleman is fairly expert, but he cannot put into my mouth’ words which I do not use. I do not admit that there is no necessity for the clauses. I say that it is for the Court to decide whether or not there is unfair competition on the part of oversea ships, and that this Committee is not in a position to judge. Ex parte statements, even if made by the right honorable member, do rot necessarily carry conviction to the minds of honorable members.
– The same remark applies to the statements made by the Prime Minister.
– I do not think that I have made any statements in this relation that can be pointed to as ex parte.
– The Prime Minister does not mind what injustice may be done to the producers.
– The honorable member talks- about injustice to the producers, but I would point out to him, that if a maritime strike were to take place to-morrow, the first people to suffer would be the producers. Whilst the honorable member pretends to have the interests of the producers at heart, he is objecting to provisions which are intended to safeguard them against injury.
– They would not be the first to. suffer in the event of a maritime strike.
– I admit that the workmen who might be deprived of their employment, and the ship-owners, who might be prevented from using their ships, would technically be the first to suffer, but immediately after them would follow the producers of Tasmania and the other parts of the Commonwealth. The producers suffered during the 1890 strike, and they will suffer again if a similar dispute takes place, and those honorable members who are opposing these provisions are displaying the worst kind of friendship for them. I simply rose to say that whilst appreciating the spirit in which the suggestion of the right honorable member for East Sydney has been put forward, the Government feel that it would not be consistent with their view of the case to permit the clauses to be withdrawn, or to remain over for consideration by the Navigation Bill Commission. We feel that the Committee should take the responsibility of saying that the Bill should not extend to the section of industry which the provisions are intended to benefit.
– I desire to say only a very few words on this matter. I still take the view that it is unfortunate that the Government should endeavour to intrude these particular clauses into the Bill. I think that they are really foreign to the scope of the measure, and that if they are inserted they will cause it to be hung up for an indefinite period, during which we may have the catastrophe of a maritime strike. The very dreadful consequences that would attend a maritime strike, to which the Prime Minister has referred, afford one of the strongest possible reasons for not inserting in this Bill anything which would render the Commonwealth helpless if such a disaster occurred. I do not think there can be any serious difference of opinion upon the point, that whatever the instructions to the Governor-General may be in point of form, a Bill which strikes at the merchant shipping of the Empire in a vital degree, which tears up all the agreements upon which the Imperial merchant shipping services are carried on whilst the vessels are in Australia, and substitutes another agreement under duress, must be reserved for the Royal Assent.
– It does not tear up the agreements.
– It tears them up for the time being, and substitutes a new agreement under compulsion. If ever there was an aspect of a Bill which would call for serious consideration by the Crown officials in England this measure would present it.
– How long would that take - only about a month.
– First of all, some months would elapse before the Bill could reach England.
– Only six weeks.
– That is two weeks longer than the period mentioned by the Prime Minister.
– The Royal Assent could be communicated by cable, as has been done in. connexion with previous measures.
– Why should a Bill which is intended to avert terrible evils be subject to the dangers of the delay with which we are familiar in connexion with measures reserved for the Royal Assent? We have had experience of such measures in the States, and we know that the moment a Bill is specially reserved it is regarded as hung up for an indefinite period. The Government yesterday brought in a Bill, which most conclusively points the argument to which I am now addressing myself. We are setting up a Government in New Guinea - a Legislative Council - and the measure which is now being submitted to us provides that if in that little dependency of the Commonwealth an Ordinance is introduced which affects shipping - even the few pearl-shelling vessels in the neighbourhood of New Guinea - it shall, unless it contains a special provision that it shall not become law until the GovernorGeneral’s assent has been given, be suspended in its operation, and reserved foi the approval of the Governor-General. There is a case in point. Clause 40 of the Papua (British New Guinea) Bill provides that-
The Lieutenant-Governor shall not assent to any Ordinance of any of the following classes, unless the Ordinance contains a clause suspending its operation until the signification of the GovernorGeneral’s pleasure thereon.
Then a number of measures are enumerated, but I need only refer to one, which is as follows : -
Any Ordinance of an extraordinary nature or importance, whereby the King’s prerogative, or the rights or property of subjects of the King not residing in the Territory, or the trade or shipping of any part of the King’s Dominions, may be prejudiced.
There is the very point to which I am referring. Here is a Bill, introduced by the present Government, which provides that if, in this miniature dependency, any such ordinance is passed by the Legislative Council, which is an official body principally, it must be reserved for the pleasure of the GovernorGeneral.
– What does the right honorable gentleman deduce from that?
– My first deduction is that the Ministry would not insert such a provision if it were not a proper one to make. The next deduction I draw is that if it is proper to provide, in reference to a twopennyhalfpenny dependency like Papua, that any Ordinance that may prejudice shipping interests in any part, not all parts, of the King’s dominions, should be reserved for the pleasure of the GovernorGeneral, and that it cannot be assented to by the local Lieutenant-Governor, it is inevitable that legislation such as that before us which affects the vast shipping interests of the whole Empire, must be reserved for the Royal Assent. The Government lay down the principle in connexion with this miniature dependency, that any law which may prejudice the shipping of, say, Thursday Island, should be reserved for the assent of the Governor-General before it can become law. Here we are dealing with millions of tons of shipping - the shipping trade of the British Empire - and with the contracts upon which the whole of that trade is based, and surely a Bill’ of this kind is of sufficient importance to reserve for the pleasure of the superior authorities. In connexion with this little place, this shred of New Guinea, the Government have laid down the principle that any Bill which may prejudice trade or shipping must not be assented to on the spot by the local Lieutenant-Governor, but must be referred to the superior authority of the Commonwealth.
– The case there is different.
– It is different in this way, that the honorable member and I take opposite views of things. If my honorable friend were sitting on this side of the Chamber he would not see the slightest difference, except in favour of the view I take. If in connexion with an insignificant spot like that to which ships make the rarest visitations, where a three-masted ship is not seen from one end of the year to the other - if in that remote and savage spot it is necessary that the powers of the Commonwealth should be conserved by the reservation of the right to deal with shipping, how proper must be the attitude of any authority here which applies the same principle to a measure of this kind.
– Has any one questioned that the Bill must be reserved?
– Does not the Minister question it?
– I do not question it myself.
– That is one of the most fatal admissions ever made by a Minister.
– Not at all. ‘lt was practically laid down in the conferences -which were held that all Bills relating to shipping must be reserved for the Royal Assent.
– My honorable friend is more than candid in making that statement. As a man with some experience of public affairs I merely wish to express my profound astonishment at it. If these provisions are not inserted in the Bill, does the Minister expect it to be reserved ?
– Oh, no.’
– The Minister admits that if these clauses are not inserted in the measure, it will not be reserved for the Royal Assent, but that if thev are it will be.
– Unless the Bill contains these provisions, it will be valueless so far as the seamen are concerned.
– I shall deal with that statement presently. Let me pause for a moment on the admission which the Minister has made. He admits that if the Bill contains these provisions it must be reserved for the Royal Assent.
– Not only these provisions, but any provisions which affect shipping.
– I am dealing only with the clauses which are now before the Committee. I cannot indulge in speculation as to other clauses. I do not know whether they have been drafted from the “corner” yet. The Minister admits - and I hope honorable members upon both sides of the Chamber will appreciate the gravity of his admission - that . if these clauses are inserted in the Bill - which is of such pressing importance that even this Government in beginning its Ministerial career was obliged to take it up - it will be “ hung up “ for an indefinite period whilst the Imperial Government are considering the very weighty questions affecting the integrity of the trade of the Empire which ‘ such provisions will raise wherever they may appear. This measure, which it was. supposed would confer immediately a security for industrial peace, is to be “ hung up “ in the legal rooms of the British Government for very mature and careful consideration if these clauses are inserted. If the Minister admits that, the exercise of the very commonest ability would suggest a very simple way of dealing with this matter without incurring any such risk. What possible difficulty is there in the way of the Ministry incorporating these clauses in a short measure which shall be complementary to this Bill? We should then get the whole of the Arbitration Bill extended immediately to every class save the seamen, and the question in regard to reservation for the Royal Assent need affect only one clause contained in a separate measure. How the common sense of the Minister cannot appreciate the difference between that method of managing public affairs, which puts a torpedo in a Bill that we are anxious to pass in order that it may explode, and that method which puts it in another measure, so that if it does explode it will not . destroy the Bill which is of pressing importance, passes my comprehension.
– It is done for party purposes.
– We owe a duty to the Commonwealth. I never feel more at ease with my own conscience than when I take a broad view of matters of this character without any reference to political parties. That is what I am endeavouring to do at the present time. I am attempting to state my own opinion without reference to any proposal affecting my own interests or the interests of honorable members. I have not endeavoured to “ jump “ upon the Ministry in connexion with this matter. On the contrary, I ask them in the friendliest way to “ take my suggestion into their serious consideration. I have never attempted to drive them in the slightest degree. I am merely pointing out that the Minister of External Affairs has made an admission which places the Government in a most ridiculous position before the friends of this Bill ‘ throughout Australia. Here we have provisions, the insertion of which will admittedly result in the “ hanging up “” of the measure. Those provisions can be inserted in another Bill, and this measure need not be “ hung up” for a single moment. While the Bill complementary to this one might be reserved, the machinery connected with this great reform could be brought into operation without a day’s delay. Surely we do not need to be members of a particular party to realize the common sense of adopting that course. I feel convinced that the more Ministers study this matter, the more they will see that they are drifting into a false. position from the want of a certain amount of business aptitude. The admission made by the Minister of External Affairs, is absolutely fatal to these clauses from my point of view. Is there anybody in this Chamber, who - after the admission of the honorable gentleman that if these clauses are not inserted in the Bill it can be immediately assented to - will say that the course proposed by the Government can commend itself to any reasonable man? At present I cannot discuss the merits of the clauses, because it is the wrong time to do that. I do not wish honorable members to express an opinion upon their merits-
– Other honorable members have done so.
– I cannot bind any other honorable member. I do not at present intend to discuss these controversial matters in any way. The admission of the Minister that the insertion of these clauses in the Bill will cause it to be “hung up “ for an indefinite period, whereas, if they be not inserted, it will not be “ hung up “ for a single moment, is surely a substantial reason why this measure should not contain such provisions. If it is a matter of great urgency that they should be passed concurrently with the Bill, surely, during the period that the discussion of this measure will occupy in the Senate, which will require to consider it just as carefully as we have done, there will be ample time in which to pass a short Bill containing these controversial provisions, which if inserted in this measure will destroy its efficiency,’ and may possibly prevent it becoming law: I have put before the Committee, upon a former occasion, the substance of what I am now saying. The strength of my objection lies in the danger which exists that this Bill may be reserved for the Royal Assent. That’ is the pith of my objection.’ Having . arrived at that conclusion, I think that no friend of the Bill can support the Ministry in the course which they propose to follow. I have no desire to complicate this issue by introducing other matters. I put it broadly to the Committee as a body of business men, “Is not this the wrong way to bring this great measure into operation?” Under the circumstances, I feel compelled to move -
That the words, “This Part of this Act shall come into operation,” be leftout.
I do so simply with a view to test the opinion of the Committee, as to whether these particular proposals should be inserted in the Bill at this stage.
– The right honorable member for East Sydney has taken up a different attitude from that which other honorable members sitting upon the same side of the Chamber have adopted.
– A different attitude from some of them.
– The Lord only knows, what attitude the honorable member intends to take. I cannot attempt to prophesy what it will be, but doubtless it will be disclosed in due time. The right honorable member for East Sydney affirms that this is the wrong place in which to introduce these provisions. Other honorable members declare that it is the wrong time to introduce them.
– I agree with them as to that. I think that the information with which the Navigation Bill Commission will furnish us would be of great assistance to us. This is an urgent matter which that body could deal with at once, whereas its investigation of other matters could be delayed. Legislative action following their inquiry need not be delayed as long as the Prime Minister has suggested.
– The pathetic regard which the right honorable member is exhibiting’ at this juncture for the welfare of this Bill and its speedy passage into law is rather remarkable. It is very singular that he should pose as the heaven-born personage upon whom it has devolved to point out that this measure will be “ hung up “ if these provisions are included in it. From what I remember of the speeches which he delivered in connexion with certain amendments, he has done what he can to prevent its becoming law in any effective shape.
– I take up the Bill just as earnestly as the Minister does. It belongs to honorable members on this side quite as much as it does to any one else. .
– Hear, hear.
– I take it that honorable members .wish it to be understood that they are thoroughly in favour of this Bill.
– The Minister’s imagination leads him far if he thinks that I am in favour of it.
– I think that when I deal with the honorable member it is better to rely upon imagination than upon facts. T should be able to deal with him more leniently upon that basis. So far as the facts are concerned, the honorable member is confessedly an opponent of the principle of compulsory arbitration. On the other hand, the right honorable member for East Sydney is in favour of that principle, but is opposed to everything which is essential to bring it into operation. He suggests that these clauses should not be inserted, because they will result in the “ hanging up “ of the Bill for the Royal Assent. In my opinion, the measure will accomplish little or nothing for the seamen if it does not contain these provisions, or some others of like effect. During the discussion on this Bill, it has been pointed out by many honorable members that various trades ought not to be brought within its provisions. It was said, for example, that rural industries could not properly be brought under it, and consequently they were excluded ; but we have never heard any one declare that the seamen ought not to enjoy the full benefits of the measure. It is because of the great maritime strike, which took place some years ago, that this Bill is before the House,’ and yet it is now urged that the very men for whom it was ostensibly introduced should be excluded from its benefits. It is asserted that to embody these clauses in the Bill would be to imperil it, and to postpone the giving of the Royal Assent. There can be no doubt that since these provisions conflict with the Merchant Shipping Act the Bill containing them would have to be reserved for the Royal Assent. I do not, however, understand why the right honorable member for East Sydney asserts that the reservation would involve a lengthy postponement. I am aware of some cases in which a Bill has been “ hung up “ for a year or more in this way; but we know of numerous instances in which the reserving of a measure for the Royal Assent has not delayed it for more than a month or six weeks.
– There will be tremendous opposition to these provisions.
– I do not deny that ; but the matter to which they relate is not new to the Colonial Office. The question was considered at the Conference of Colonial Premiers; the Imperial authorities are well aware of what we desire, and it is now merely a question of whether they are prepared to assent to our proposal. It, therefore, seems to me that the reservation I of the Bill for the Royal Assent’ would not result in any lengthy delay. There is ona phase of the question to which I should like to direct the right honorable member’s attenion. I wish to know whether, in making the proposal which he has just outlined, he spoke on behalf of his party.
– I spoke absolutely without any consultation with them. We are a Committee of the whole upon this Bill. Surely we are not split up into parties in regard to this measure?
– I do not know whether there is one party or whether there are many parties in the House, so far as the consideration of this Bill is concerned. I asked the question in all seriousness.
– I am not fond of fettering the independence of any Honorable member who follows my leadership.
– In making this proposal the right honorable member is simply acting on his own suggestion?
– It is my own suggestion. The members of my party are not chained up like the honorable and learned gentleman’s “crowd.”
– On this particular question the Ministerial “ crowd “ is not chained up.
– Then surely they will let the members of our party have aflutter.
– Those honorable members of the Opposition who preceded the right honorable member in the discussion of the Government proposals denounced the occasion and the principle itself.
– Not all of them; they have merely suggested that the consideration of these clauses should be deferred until the report of the Commission dealing with the principle has been received.
– I indorse that statement.
– Honorable members of the Opposition who preceded the right honorable member for East Sydney denounced these clauses. The right honorable member for Swan dealt with them in detail, and the honorable and learned member for Parkes, who also discussed them at great length, did not suggest for’ a moment that if they were inserted in any other measure they would be more acceptable to him. If they were placed under the table he would be much better pleased ; beyond that, it would be immaterial to him whether they were embodied in the Navigation Bill, in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, or in a short separate measure. If these clauses were introduced in the form of a separate Bill, would the right honorable member approve of them?
– I will consider the matter when it comes before us.
– That is most encouraging. Honorable members of the Opposition have unmercifully dissected these provisions ; they have found a dozen reasons why every syllable that they contain should be rejected ; they have asserted that they are vicious in principle, that they would interfere with the liberty of the subject, that they threaten to destroy the great shipping interests of the Commonwealth, and that they would ruin the producer; yet the right honorable member for East Sydney now suggests that they should be placed in a separate Bill, and says that in that event he would deal with them on their merits. When I inquire what his attitude would be if these clauses were ‘ embodied in a separate measure, he replies, “ Bring- them in and see.” No doubt the right honorable member would join in the chorus that we have already heard, and out would go the little Bill in which these clauses were embodied.
– But this Bill would be safe ; if these clauses were omitted, it would simply be a local measure, and would at once receive the Roval Assent.
– That would be the position of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, if it did not contain these provisions?
– Yes; surely the Government do not wish to sink it?
– Unless the Bill con tained some such clauses it would be useless to the . seamen. What answer has the right honorable member to give to that assertion ?
– Embody these clauses in another Bill, and then the Government will ‘ have secured something in this Bill.
– It is not correct to sav that without these clauses the Bill would be of no value to the seamen.
– Is it incorrect?
– That is about the only admission I am likely to secure from honorable members opposite. That line of argument reminds me of the style adopted by a member of the New South Wales Legislature. The honorable member’s admission is of no value to the argument. I contend that it is correct to say that without these provisions the Bill would be of no value to the seamen. Seamen engaged in the Australian coasting trade naturally compete with those employed by shipping companies that would come under these clauses, and it would be in the last degree unfair to place the ship-owners of Australia at a disadvantage as compared with those of other countries. No court would ever dream of making an award of so one-sided a character. Therefore, one of two things would happen - either the court would make no award, because it I would hesitate to inflict an injustice upon the ship-owners of the Commonwealth, or, if it did, it might crush them out of existence. i should be quite ready to hear the arguments of those who favour the putting of these clauses into a separate Bill, provided they would support them if dealt with in that way. But it is, to say the least, somewhat curious that we should be told by honorable members, who have expressed bitter opposition to these provisions, that we ought to embody them in a separate measure. If that course were adopted they would be able to renew this debate, to cover once more the ground that had already been well traversed, and then to reject our proposals. Would that advance the cause which the Government have at heart ? Would such a line of action be of any advantage to the seamen ? i wish now to deal with a few of the arguments that have been brought forward against the merits of these clauses. After I have discussed them, the Government will be very pleased to hear anything that may be said about the advantages of dealing with the clauses in another way. If they were inserted in the Navigation Bill they would not come into operation for at least eighteen months from the present time. That measure is now before the Royal Commission, which cannot possibly conclude its labours and submit a report to the Parliament in time to be of any service during the present session. It would thus be impossible for us to deal with the Bill before next session; and such a measure would take at least four or five months to pass both Houses. It would then have to be reserved for the Royal Assent ; and assuming that that assent were given within three or four months of the passing of the Bill there would be a delay of at least eighteen months from the present time before these provisions became law. During all that time the seamen would receive no benefit whatever. If these clauses were embodied in a separate measure the same argument would not, of course, apply. The position would be different if we received an assurance that honorable members merely opposed these clauses because of the proposal to embody them in the Conciliation and Arbitration’ Bill, and would support them if they were placed in a separate measure. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat is opposed to these provisions, not because they possess, in his view, any inherent defect, but because it is proposed to embody them in this Bill , instead of in a separate measure. We can understand and approve of that attitude. It would be a wholly different matter if the House were not in favour of the insertion of these provisions in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, but would adopt the suggestion of the right honorable member for East Sydney that they should be dealt with in a separate measure ; but I repeat that to insert them in the Navigation Bill would be to postpone their becoming law for at least eighteen months. I do not know that there would be any lengthy delay if they were embodied in a short Bill, but personally I see no reason why the Government proposal should not be adopted. I have no reason to believe that this Bill is urgently required for any other purpose than to settle a possible dispute in the maritime trade, and the seamen, perhaps, are the most likely body to be early involved in some trouble. I would remind honorable members that the last great maritime dispute did not arise from any difficulty in which the seamen were directly affected, but that a sympathetic strike was really the cause of the trouble. A difficulty in regard to any of the branches of the maritime trade might readily extend to all of them. Let me now say a word or two on some of the objections that have been urged against the Government proposals. In dealing with them a day or two ago, the honorable and learned member for Parkes adopted a completely opposite attitude from that assumed by the right honorable member for East Sydney. He urged that the provisions to which the right honorable member now takes exception as being alien to the Bill, were the primary clauses of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill; that they were drafted by the right honorable member for Adelaide, and would properly belong to it.
I It is a very obvious fact that if they are alien to the, measure they can hardly be considered to be primary clauses. If they have nothing to do with, it they cannot be regarded as properly belonging to it. It has been said that these clauses constitute an interference with the liberty of the individual, and would have a very prejudicial effect upon the producer. It has also been urged that we ought to regard the matter through Imperial spectacles. I agree with this last assertion, and I propose for a minute or two to consider.it from that aspect. The shipping trade of Great Britain is, perhaps, of all trades, the most deserving of the attention of the citizens of every British-speaking country. The British Empire to-day is dependent wholly for its continued existence upon . both its mercantile marine and its Navy. It is impossible to suppose that the Empire could cohere for any length of time if either of these forces were crippled. The pre-eminence of the mercantile marine is necessary., and the pre-eminence of the Navy is absolutely essential. The very kernel of Imperialism depends upon the command of the sea. I have before me a copy of the report of the British Steam-ship Subsidies Committee. That Committee was appointed to inquire into the increasing competition to which the mercantile marine of Great Britain is subjected by foreign countries. It took voluminous evidence, and furnished a report, which is most interesting and well worthy of our attention. Another committee on the manning of British ships sat in 1896 under the presidency of the Right Honorable A. J. Mundella, President’ of the Board of Trade. Both of those committees pointed out the alarming decrease in the number of British seamen and the causes to which this decrease might be attributed. I request those honorable members who speak about the Imperialistic views which we ought to take of these clauses, to look at those reports, to consider the position of the real bulwark of the Empire, and to see how it is crumbling to decay before our eyes. In the report on the manning of British ships, it is pointed out that 47 per cent, of the seamen employed, in the British mercantile marine are foreign, consisting either of lascars or of foreign white seamen. There are, of course, engaged in the coastal trade of Great Britain a much smaller proportion of foreign sailors; but in the ocean trade there are 47 per cent, of aliens amongst the crews of British vessels. That proportion is increasing year by year. British seamen are becoming noticeably fewer and fewer. Apparently nothing is being done to encourage. English men to take to the sea. Much is said with regard to re- lieving the competition to which the chief British shipping companies are exposed, but nothing whatever is proposed with a view to remedy the most cruel and onesided competition to which the British seamen is subjected. I for one can derive no consolation from the fact that a ship flies the British flag whilst her crew consists principally of aliens. Men like Lord Brassey, Lord Charles . Beresford, and the members of the Navy League - who may be considered to be experts upon this subject, and to have the best interests of the Empire at heart - say unreservedly that unless something is done to encourage British seamen the mercantile marine, as a nursery for British seamen, will become extinct. We seek by these clauses to avoid the condition of things which is unhappily existing in the British mercantile marine, and we are endeavouring to build- up on the coast of Australia a mercantile marine which will be manned by Australian seamen, who may in times of difficulty and distress be of some service to the Commonwealth.
– Can the honorable gentleman tell us how many seamen in Australian vessels at the present time are Australian born?
– I cannot. But I can tell the honorable member that no effort has ever been made in this country to encourage native-born Australians to ship aboard the mercantile marine. The first effort that I know of in that direction is now being made in New South Wale.o, where the Imperial Naval Authorities have placed the Dart at the disposal of the State Government for the purpose of training as seamen a certain proportion of the boys on the Sobraon - the reformatory ship in the harbor - whence they will be transferred as opportunity offers to the coastal trade of Australia. That is the first instance of which I know - there may be others ; if there are I ‘shall be glad to hear of them - of an effort to man the Australian mercantile marine with Australianborn seamen.
– Can the honorable gentleman tell us how many of the seamen in Australian coasting vessels are Swedes, Scandinavians, and Germans?
– The bulk of the seamen of Australia are British, not Scandinavians. I say that most emphatically
– The proportion is about half and half.
– If the honorable member were to correct me as to the number of men engaged in a certain occupation in Tasmania, probably I should stand well corrected. But I know something of this matter by virtue of the constituency which I represent, and. the men with whom I have mixed for the last ten or twelve years. I know what I am speaking of when I say that the bulk of the men in the Australian coasting trade are British, not Scandinavians - and when I say Scandinavians I include all persons who are not British. I should say that at least 70 per cent, of those engaged in the coastal trade of Australia are British. If I -had my way that proportion would be very much increased. No one has ever accused me of leaning towards the foreigner, and I do not think they will ever have the opportunity.
– Except as regards goods !
– Looking at this subject from an Imperial stand-point, we are endeavouring to see that the Australian mercantile marine shall be manned by Australians. I may point out that many British ships that come to our ports have hardly a British citizen aboard. The Peninsular and Oriental and other vessels have crews largely composed of coloured persons. That is not calculated to inspire us with much hope with reference to our security in times of difficulty. Without going into the matter at great length, it appears to me that it is highly desirable that the seamen manning Australian vessels should be British, and that every effort should be made by us to bring about that result. So, much for the position viewed’ through Imperial spectacles. Now for the statement that the clauses interfere with the liberty of the subject. The honorable and learned member for Parkes said, amongst other things, that these clauses constituted an unwarrantable interference with the’ liberty of the individual, and stTuck a blow at the producing interests. I would point out one case to show that the honorable and learned member was entirely ignorant of the facts when he declared that the section of the Customs Act, which imposes a fine for the breaking of seals outside the territorial waters, is a class of legislation unknown in the British Empire. It was stated in the case of Kingston v. Gadd that for the last forty years it has been an offence against the Customs law of Great Britain, for which the offender is liable to punishment, to break a seal placed upon a ship’s locker or door while the vessel is proceeding from one port of the United Kingdom to another, whether in her voyage she keeps within or goes outside the territorial waters of. that country. Section 135 of the Customs Laws Consolidation Act, 39 and 40 Victoria, Cap. 3ft, enacts -
If any officer of Customs shall place any lock, mark, or seal upon any stores or goods taken from the warehouse without payment of duty as stores on board any ship or vessel departing from any port in the United Kingdom, arid such lock, mark, or seal be wilfully opened, altered, or broken, or if such stores be secretly conveyed away either while such ship or vessel remains at her first port of departure, or at any port or place in the United Kingdom or on her passage from one such port or place to another before the final departure of such ship or vessel on her foreign voyage, the master shall forfeit the sum of £20.
The Earl of Halsbury, Lord Chancellor, in giving judgment in the case of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company v. Kingston, stated -
As had been pointed out by counsel, the legislation proceeded on precisely the same lines as section 135. of the “ Customs Act 1876 “ (39 and 40, Vic. c. 36), and under that section, if a foreign ship were to take goods so sealed from one bonded warehouse in the United Kingdom to another, although in the course of a voyage she might go outside the territorial limits of the United Kingdom, the very same question might arise, and upon her arrival at any other port in the United Kingdom, the master would undoubtedly in their lordships’ opinion be liable to the penalties created by that section.
Under another section of the English Act, anything upon which the Customs House authorities have put. their seal is regarded as in the position of a bonded warehouse. I mention these fact’s to show that when the honorable and learned member for Parkes declared that the provision in our Customs law dealing with the breaking of seals was unprecedented, and an interference with the liberty of the individual, unknown to English legislation, he was ignorant of the fact that a similar provision has been the law of that country for forty years past, and I might traverse the whole of the arguments of the honorable and learned member with similar effect. The clauses now before the Committee,’ or some similar clauses, are essential in order to give our seamen the benefit of compulsory conciliation and arbitration. There seems to be a disinclination on the part of the Committee to realize that the measure . we are now discussing was introduced for the specific purpose of preventing or settling great industrial disputes.
The lesson we must learn from the history of the past is that if such disputes arise in the future they will probably be due to the action of the very unions whose members are likely to be excluded from the full benefits of the measure if the clauses which the Government propose to insert are not agreed to. The contention that these clauses interfere with the liberty of the individual may be set on one side as unworthy of consideration, seeing how much the liberty of the individual has been interfered with for the benefit of all in other legislation during the past half century. In reply to the contention that the clauses aim at handicapping Imperial trade in its competition with foreign trade, I say that, if they are agreed to, the Ministry propose to insert a new clause, excluding foreign subsidized vessels from the benefits of the measure ; that is to say, that under no circumstances will permission be given to such vessels to take advantage of the permit to trade on the coast provided for in these clauses. Therefore, the wild beating of the Imperial drum which we have heard goes for naught, for. the simple reason that British ships will be given a preference.
– What does the Minister mean by that?
– If the honorable member has read the clauses, he must be aware that it is proposed that no ship shall be allowed to trade on the Australian coast unless its master has signed a certain agreement; and the Ministry intends to exclude from the benefits of ‘ that provision all foreign-going subsidized vessels.
– In other words, the Ministry propose to prevent foreign vessels from trading between our ports.
– We propose to allow British ships to trade on our coasts on precisely the same terms as are imposed on Australian vessels, and to exclude from the coastal trade of Australia all foreign subsidized vessels.
– Yet the Government propose to give a mail contract to foreign subsidized vessels.
– The vessels chiefly concerned are the ships of the North German Lloyd Company and of the Compagnie des Messageries Maritimes. British vessels are unfairly handicapped where they have to compete against these foreign subsidized vessels, and in the evidence taken by a Select Committee of the House of
Commons upon steam-ship subsidies, bitter complaints are made by British steam-ship owners about the unfair competition to which I refer. The Government, therefore, propose, if the clauses now before the Committee are agreed to, to prevent foreign subsidized vessels from competing in the Australian coastal trade with British and Australian vessels. In no case will a vessel subsidized by a foreign Government be permitted to trade on our coast. But British vessels will be permitted to do so if their owners pay the same rates of wages, and are subject to the same conditions, as apply to the owners of Australian vessels.
Mr.McCay. - The intention of the Government is to move the insertion of a new clause which will have that effect?
– We propose to place in the Bill a clause which is now in the Navigation Bill, and which . would have the effect I speak of.
– Does not the clause in the Navigation Bill allow foreign vessels to trade on the coast under licence, if they conform to certain conditions?
– We propose to giv: British vessels the same rights as are given to Australian vessels, if the same wages are paid to the men on board them as are paid to the crews of the Australian vessels, and to exclude foreign subsidized vessels from the benefits of the measure by refusing them permission to engage in the Australian coastal trade under any circumstances, so long as they are subsidized.
– The clause in the Navigation Bill allows foreign vessels to trade on our coastunder certain circumstances.
– What we now propose is what was proposed in the Navigation Bill by the late Government, of which the honorable member was a Minister. The only difference is that we intend to take the provision which they framed out of the Navigation Bill, and to place it in this Bill.
– What has that provision to do with conciliation and arbitration?
– At any rate, it is good protection.
– It is real destruction.
– The interjection of the honorable and learned member for Corinella is irrelevant. It is obvious that our seamen cannot benefit by the measure unless foreign vessels are brought within the jurisdiction of the Court. The honorable and learned member barely knows a ship from an omnibus, and is quite ignorant of the requirements of our seamen. Yet he sets himself up to say what they desire and what they do not desire. There is no way of bringing Australian vessels effectively within the jurisdiction of the Court unless all other vessels coming to Australia are also brought within that jurisdiction.
– That is merely an assertion.
– Last Parliament the honorable and learned member was prepared to give protection to the Australian manufacturer, but he is not prepared to place Australian seamen on the same footing.
– Last Parliament the Minister flew the free-trade flag, but now he is flying the protectionist flag.
– I pity the mental condition of the person who thinks that a proposal such as I am discussing has anything to do with the fiscal question. I say emphatically, with the right honorable member for East Sydney, that it has nothing to do with that question. What we are concerned in is the preservation of Australian trade, and the giving to Australian seamen of that amount of protection by means of the Court of Arbitration which is given to every other person in Australia. Why should we exclude the seamen from the benefits of this measure? There is absolutely no reason why we should. On the other hand,, there are a hundred reasons why we should include them, the chief reason being that the Bill will be in a large measure incomplete and almost worthless if they are not included. If the proposed clauses are not inserted in the Bill or embodied in a separate measure - I care not’ which - and an industrial crisis is precipitated, the responsibility for what happens will be upon the heads of those who are opposing them merely because they have been brought forward by a Labour Ministry. If such a crisis arose in connexion with a great industrial dispute affecting the shipping, those honorable members would be in favour of any panic legislation to allay the difficulty.
– Why, one of the members of the Labour Party is opposing these clauses !
– Certain honorable members representing Western Australia desire that the trade between that State and South Australia shall be carried on uninterruptedly until railway communication is given between the eastern States and Western Australia.
– That is my irreducible minimum; but I want more than that.
– The PostmasterGeneral took the same view last Parliament.
Mr. HUGHES. Do I understand the honorable member for Perth to say that he will not be in favour of these clauses, if provision be made for carrying passengers between Fremantle and Adelaide?
– I certainly do not like the clauses, and I shall oppose them in the present Bill.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– I am sure that the honorable member ought to feel himself very much flattered by the lusty cheers with which his statement has been greeted by honorable members opposite. They should show him better than anything else what sort of game he is playing. In my opinion, it is essential to allow the seamen to partake of the benefits of this measure. Honorable members opposite are not opposing the proposed new clauses because they are in the wrong place. I could have understood their taking up any such attitude. There is a suspicious air about honorable members, who first of all find that something is inopportune so far as time is concerned, then find that something is wrong so far as place is concerned, and always have some excuse, or excuses, for not doing that which they ought to do. Some provision must be made for the seamen of Australia; otherwise they cannot take full advantage of this measure. If we are to make this Bill something more than a mere hollow pretence, I earnestly ask honorable members to give to these clauses the consideration on their merits, which they deserve. That this consideration has not been given in every case by honorable members who have spoken is obvious. I can understand the position of those who profess to oppose the Bill, because they do not believe in compulsory arbitration. Their attitude is at least consistent. I cannot, however,’ understand why honorable members who believe in compulsory arbitration should not be prepared to do something for the seamen of Australia, except on the assumption that they are prepared to vote against anything that this Government proposes, and that, for the purpose of showing their hatred of the Labour Party, they are prepared to sacrifice the seamen of Australia, the very men for “whom this Bill was introduced, and invite an industrial crisis by emasculating a measure which would dp much to replace barbarous methods of warfare by providing for the peaceful settlement of industrial disputes bv an impartial tribunal.
– I have always been most bitterly opposed to this Bill, because I do not think it is calculated to benefit the people of Australia as a whole. I take a certain amount of credit to myself for having, in conjunction with one or two other honorable members, wrecked the former Bill. I have not yet spoken upon the present Bill, and I should like to briefly explain the reasons why I do not consider that it is conceived in the interests of the whole community. It appears to me that three classes of the community are interested in the measure. First of all there are the workers, who are chiefly represented under the name of unionists; secondly, the manufacturers; and thirdly the consumers, who represent the great majority of the community, and upon whom the unionists and the manufacturers “are dependent. There is also a fourth class, namely the workers who do not belong to’ the unions. This Bill seems to have been brought forward entirely in the interests of the unions, who, under the guise of conciliation and arbitration, are attempting to secure control over those men who do not belong to the unions, and to force them into their ranks with the object of wielding greater political power than they have been able to exercise in the past. I may be’ wrong, but that is the only conclusion I can form. We all know that certain portions of the Bill, as originally introduced, have been struck out, and that the unionists will not reap so much benefit as they had hoped. A number of manufacturers are to a certain extent favorable to the measure. The support which the Bill receives from this section of the community is derived from those manufacturers who are carrying on. their businesses in or near the large centres of population, such as Melbourne or Sydney. Certain States laws are in operation which seriously affect their operations, “ and they find that manufacturers carrying on business in the smaller States are able to successfully compete with them, owing to the fact that the hours of work there are longer and the rates of pay somewhat lower. The Sydney and Melbourne manufacturers recognise that under the provisions of this measure they will be able to impose upon manufacturers in other States the observance of the conditions as’ to hours and wages “with which ‘ they have to comply. If they succeed in this, the smaller manufacturers must give up business, or transfer their operations to the larger centres. They would not be able to compete with their bigger rivals on account of the extra cost of freight. Therefore, I can fully understand why the large manufacturers favour the Bill. The consumers and the men who do not belong to unions cannot derive any benefit from the measure, but, on the contrary, will probably be placed at a great disadvantage. If, as the result of the operation of the Bill, wages are raised and working hours are shortened, the cost of manufacture must be added to and the prices to the consumers increased. For these reasons I have always opposed this Bill. If it becomes . law we shall have a repetition of the case of the fox and the goose in the old fable. The Labour Party represent the fox and the rest of the community the goose. The Labour Party hope to secure a far larger degree “of political power, and if they succeed we shall, in the near future, see the goose eaten up by the fox. I now propose to deal with the proposed new clauses. We have been told that if the seamen are not brought under the operation’ of the Bill they will be the only workers in the community who will derive no benefit from its provisions. Honorable members have not, however, adduced any evidence to show that the seamen are at present labouring under any great injustice, or that, owing to the unfair competition of oversea steamers with Inter-State vessels, the wages of the local seamen have been reduced. Not only should these statements be substantiated, but proof should also be afforded that no monopoly would be created if the present competition were reduced or abolished. If convincing evidence upon these points could be presented, some honorable members - I do not include myself - might be induced to support the Government proposals. We find that the 1,500 seamen employed on our Inter-State vessels are in receipt of higher wages than are paid to sailors in any other part of the world. Fourteen years have elapsed since the great maritime strike of 1890, and notwithstanding that the competition of oversea vessels has prevailed during the whole of that period, the wages of the local seamen have not been reduced. Why then, in the name of common sense, has this bugbear about reduced wages been , so persistently obtruded upon our notice?
– Have the wages of the seamen not been reduced?
– They were reduced for a short time only, owing to the depression which prevailed throughout Australia.
– They were reduced recently to the extent of 10s. per month, or about 7 per cent.
– At the same time, the’ wages of our seamen are higher than those paid in any other part of the world.
– In New Zealand and the United States, the wages paid to seamen are much higher.
– At any rate, the wages of our seamen have not been lowered to any extent worth mentioning. No one has yet shown that these clauses will benefit the Australian seamen. In fact, they have been strongly opposed by two representatives from Western Australia, and by one honorable member from Tasmania. As a Tasmanian, but as one who has no personal interest in the matter, I am also opposed to their introduction, and for reasons which to my’ mind are sufficient. We have been told by honorable members opposite that the rates which are paid to seamen employed upon ocean-going vessels do not represent a “ living ‘ ‘ wage, and that they should be brought up to the standard that obtains upon Australian vessels. But if these provisions be carried, and if, as a result, the wages of seamen engaged upon ocean-going vessels are raised to the Australian standard, who will pay them? I unhesitatingly affirm that they will be paid by the producers of Australia.
– Surely the honorable member does not think that the operation of this Bill must necessarily raise wages?
– I know perfectly well that the honorable member would never dare to support a measure the operation of which he thought would result in a lowering- of the wages of the workers of Australia.
– I think that under this Bill we shall secure a tribunal which will decide upon the merits of each case.
– The underlying hope of members of the Labour Party is that the operation of this Bill will result in an increasenot in a decrease - of wages. We have been assured that the rates which are paid to seamen upon ocean-going vessels are infamously low. Is the honorable member for Kalgoorlie desirous of seeing the wages which are now being paid to Australian sea men reduced to the level of those which are being paid to the seamen engaged in oversea ships ?
– Certainly not.
– The logical conclusion to be drawn from the honorable member’s interjection is that he hopes to see the wages which are being paid upon oceangoing steamers increased. If they are increased to the Australian standard, who will ultimately pay them? Does any one suppose that the owners of those vessels will eventually sustain the loss ? Of course it is quite possible - as was pointed out by the honorable member for Fremantle - that any increased wages which may be paid upon oversea vessels whilst trading on the Australian coast will be deducted ‘from the amount due to their crews at the end of their voyage. Although T am interested in wool, and to a smaller extent in grain, if these clauses be carried, I should not be affected in the slightest degree. They will not injure the land-owners, because there are a certain number of ships which come direct from England to particular ports, where, after discharging their cargo, they load up with wool or other freight, and return to the old country. These vessels will not come into competition with Australian boats, and therefore the class which I represent will not be compelled to pay a farthing more than they do at present. But there are an immense number of people in New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland, who will be grievously injured if these clauses become law. I allude specially to the producers of butter, cheese, and meat - to those who are interested in the export of perishable products. These persons must send their goods to England in’ cool storage chambers. If the owners of ocean-going vessels are required to pay increased wages to their seamen whilst trading upon the Australian coast they will undoubtedly charge our producers increased freights. I ask honorable members opposite whom they are desirous of benefiting? Is it the British seamen, the foreign seamen, or those coloured natives of India and elsewhere, to whom they have meted out such peculiar treatment on previous occasions? I am in possession of a few facts which have not yet been touched upon by any honorable member, and which seem to me to be worthy of very close attention. I find that there are a certain number of oversea- steamers which engage in our coastal trade to a greater or less exlent, and which have been engaged iri it during the last twelve months. For instance, the Peninsular and Oriental Company runs twenty-six ships per annum to Australia and elsewhere. Each of these vessels employs upon an average 150 men. With the exception of the officers and engineers, all of them are either lascars or Goanese - in other words, coloured seamen.
– The same boats make more than one trip.
– That’ does not affect the question. Under ordinary circumstances these men are discharged immediately on their arrival at the port where they were engaged, and a fresh crew is shipped. Consequently, every one of these vessels which makes a trip to Australia employs 150 men. Archibald Currie and Company have twelve ships trading to this country. These are also manned by coloured seamen - by lascars. Seventy of these are employed upon each vessel. The China Navigation Company has twelve steamers engaged in the Australian trade, each of which on the average carries fifty Malays. The British-India Company have twenty ships trading with the Commonwealth, each of which employs sixty-five lascars. The E. and A. Company has seventeen ships running to Australia, each of which carries sixty Chinamen. The Nippon-Yusen Kaisha Company have twelve ships engaged in the Australian trade, each of which employs sixty Japanese. The vessels of the Ocean Steam and West Australia Company, which is to all intents and purposes a Western Australian company, are manned, not by Australian seamen, but by Malays, of whom there are fifty upon each ship. The Orient Company runs twenty-six steamers per annum to Australia, upon each of which thirty coloured stokers are employed. These various crews make a total of 10,210 men. There are also. 4,880 men employed on vessels engaged in the trade, between Great Britain and Australia which are owned by four steam-ship companies registered in Great Britain, and I believe that I am justified in saying that if we could ascertain the actual facts, we should probably find that of that number one-half were foreigners.
– To what lines does the honorable member refer?
– Lund’s, the White Star line, the Aberdeen line, and Holt’s line of steamers.
– It is acknowledged in the House of Commons report that only about one-half are Britishers.
– Very well. In addition to these, the vessels of the Norddeutscher Lloyd “line, the Messageries Maritimes Co., and a smaller company - all registered in European countries - trade to Australia, and are for the most part manned by foreigners. The figures which I have obtained show that there are 10,210 coloured men employed on the vessels that I have already enumerated, 3,600 foreigners on the foreign-owned steam-ships, and probably 2,400 on English vessels trading here. Therefore, out of a total of some 16,000 whose wages the Government desire to raise at the expense of their fellow citizens of Australia, 10,000 belong to coloured races, and. less than 3,000 are of British birth. In these circumstances I ask the Government how they can justify their present position- as contrasted with the attitude adopted by, them only two years ago, when the Post and Telegraph Bill was before the House. Members of the Labour Party then declared that a subsidy for the carriage of Australian mails should not be given to vessels manned by coloured crews. They urged that we should not grant one farthing by way of subsidy to such vessels, although it was admitted that the regularity with which they were, carrying on the existing service was beneficial to Australia. Without receiving any quid -pro quo, they now ask us to pass a measure that would impose an enormous burden of taxation on our fellow citizens merely to benefit some 13,000 or r 4,000 coloured men and foreigners. Can they for one moment attempt to justify their present attitude? It seems to me that they are simply stultifying themselves. Far better would it have been if, instead of standing up as the professed champions of the 1,500 seamen engaged in the Australian coasting trade, they had agreed to the passing of a clause which would have insured the regularity of our mail services, and conferred a benefit on the community. It would have been far better had they said - “ There are 1,500 men employed in the Australian coasting trade; let us as protectionists vote a bonus to enable them to continue to face any competition that may exist.”
– Surely there must be more than 1,500 seamen engaged in the Australian coasting trade ?
– I can only say that in to-day’s issue of the Argus it is stated that the number is 1,500.
– Supposing the Argus had stated that the number was 500?
– That would have been no worse than the outrageous statement made a day or two ago by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, when he asserted that there were some 13,000,000 acres under the plough in New Zealand. I have not an opportunity to check the figures as to the number of men employed on Australian vessels engaged in the coasting trade; but I think Hansard will show that it has been stated during the debate that there are between 1,500 and1,700 persons so employed. Honorable members will recognise, of course, that we cannot include the men employed by the Union Steamship Company, inasmuch as that company is registered in New Zealand. T accepted, as reliable, the statement which appeared in the Argus, as well as that made by an honorable member, that there were between 1,500 and 1,700 men engaged in this trade.
– There are’ more than 1,500 registered in the New South Wales union.
– I am only repeating a statement I have heard in this Committee.
– The Argus is not a very reliable authority.
– The statement was first made in this Committee.
– The Argus, in “ the view of the honorable member, may not be a reliable authority, but I have always found that it is.
– It has been bowled out twice lately.
– When I address myself to any question before the House, it does not, as a rule, give me a report extending over more than a couple of lines, so that it does not have much opportunity to misrepresent me.
– A more extended report of the honorable member’s speeches will be given in to-morrow’s issue of the Argus, because he is now praising that journal.
– I merely state what I believe to be the facts. Most of the Australian newspapers, even if opposed to a man, will generally endeavour to give him fair reports of his speeches. I cannot complain of the action taken by any newspaper in regard to myself during my political career; but even if I had reason to complain, I should not do so. It is idle for an Honorable member to fight against a hostile newspaper, because it can write him down, and leave him without redress. He might reply in the House to. any attack made upon him,, but if the newspaper ignored that reply, it would have but little effect. But I have been led away from my line of argument. Whether the number be 1,500 or 15,000 I would remind members of the Labour ‘Party that the persons whom they propose to benefit by the passing of these clauses are, for the most part, coloured seamen from beyond Australia. I know that the members of the party have reasoning powers, and, therefore, I wish to drive home the point that they are proposing to increase the wages of those men at the expense of their fellowcolonists. That is the point which I am anxious that they should fully consider. This is not a party question. If these clauses were defeated, the result would not be the resignation of the Ministry. I, as one of ‘those who helped to place the present Government in power, may claim at any rate that they give full consideration to any views that I express. I have been a member of the Commonwealth Parliament since its creation, and think that those who have been associated with me in this House from the first, will’ bear out my statement that, whenever, a measure, which I believe to be a reasonable one, is introduced, I am ready to support it irrespective of party considerations.
– Hear, hear.
– If, on the contrary; I believe any measure to be undesirable, then, regardless of the party from which it has emanated, I always vote against it. That has been my record, and in these circumstances I urge the Government to consider this question, not from any party point of view, but from the broad standpoint of whether the Bill is likely to be beneficial. The honorable member for Perth made a strong appeal on behalf of the people of Western Australia, and I sympathize with the course which he adopted. I cannot imagine that any representative of Western Australia will hesitate to follow the course adopted by him. It must be evident that if these clauses be passed there will be only two courses open to the owners of the oversea steam-ships. Thev must either increase their rates - with the result that the increased’ cost will fall upon the persons who take advantage of their services - or else disregard Fremantle as the first port of call. What guarantee have we that these vessels would continue to touch at Adelaide if Fremantle were no longer their first port of call. Is it not more likely that, instead of calling at Adelaide, they would come straight on to Melbourne or Sydney, or make Sydney and Melbourne alternately their terminal port? If they adopted the latter course then all the produce requiring to be exported in cool chambers would have to bs sent down to, Melbourne or Sydney from week to week, and the cost of shipment would thus be greatly increased. Such an arrangement would knock little South Australia completely out of the running.
– What about little Tasmania?
– I shall deal with Tasmania presently. Although South Australia may be large in area, she is small in the matter of population.
– The population of Adelaide is larger than the whole population of Tasmania.
– The representatives of these little places have a great deal to say.
– Although the representatives of the big places may not have much to say, there is very little in what they put before the House.
– The honorable member is probably referring to the right honorable member for East Sydney.
– I am referring to the honorable member for Hume. If Adelaide ceased to become a port of call for the oversea mail steamers, and I honestly believe that if these clauses were carried it would, the people of South Australia would find themselves in precisely the same predicament as that of the people of Western Australia and Tasmania. The district which I represent is not in the slightest degree interested as’ to whether the oversea vessels call at Hobart or not ; and Hobart possesses a certain advantage over Western Australia and New South Wales, inasmuch as there are two lines of steamers trading between New Zealand and England which are provided with cool chambers, and which call at that port every fortnight. Those vessels would not come under the operation of this Bill, for the simple reason that they merely call and take on board” cargo, after which they leave for New Zealand, and take the goods to their destination round by Cape Horn. So that, even if these clauses are carried, Hobart will not be injured to such an extent as would be the case except for the calling of those stea mers. She will still have’ some “show.” But she is deeply interested in the mail steamers during the period of the year known as the apple season. A large number of cases, of fruit, amounting to about 400,000 or 500,000, are carried to England by steamers which come from Sydney direct to Hobart on the way to London. I do not think that they bring any cargo from Sydney to Hobart for transhipment. If those vessels cease to can a severe blow will be struck at the apple growers of Tasmania. I do not say that they will be injured for all time, but they will suffer for a considerable period. Of course their fruit must be carried in cool chambers in which a certain temperature is registered. Under these circumstances, having to do the best I can for my State, I am compelled to oppose the clauses. I am influenced by two principal reasons. First, I do not believe in them, and secondly, they will do a large amount of injury to the people of Tasmania and the mainland. I wish to call the attention of the Western Australian members who may not yet have made up their minds definitely as to how they shall vote-
– I am always happy to give good advice to a young man who is starting in life. I find that the vessels of the Ocean Steam and Western Australian Company, which are manned by Malays, do a very large amount of trade between Perth and Singapore, and various other settlements in the East. They trade largely in sandalwood and other products. They also carry cargo between Western Australian ports. Great injury will be done to the trade of Western Australia by the cessation of the visits of these ships. If they ceased to make Fremantle their chief port of call, undoubtedly the Western Australian producers would be injured. Under these circumstances I am justified in earnestly urging the Government not to do anything which is likely to injure producing interests in the States I have named. The Minister of External Affairs has informed us that if these clauses are carried the Government intend to introduce other clauses giving a preference to British vessels. If they do so, I cannot for the life of me see of what advantage the preference would be. There are only four foreign companies, including the Japanese company, trading with Australia. All those companies “receive subsidies from foreign Governments. Those subsidies are a distinct advantage to the people of Australia, because the more the competition that exists between over sea shipping companies, the more likely we are to get low freights. That fact cannot be disputed. It is intended to exclude foreign companies from participating in the Inter-State trade. But they do not participate in it at the present time. The Norddeutscher-Lloyd, the Messageries Maritimes, and the Japanese vessels do not, I honestly believe, take one ounce of freight between one Australian oort and another. Therefore, what in the name of goodness is the use of telling us that the Government intend to exclude them from engaging in the coastal trade? Of what benefit would it be to British ships which at present do not suffer from the competition of the foreign lines to give them a preference over those lines in the Inter-State trade ? There is not likely to be any competition in the future, because it must be perfectly well known to honorable members that those foreign vessels which receive subsidies from the French, German, and Japanese Governments respectively, are under special contract to complete their voyages within- a given time. They have no time to enter into the Inter- State trade. They cannot run between Hobart and Perth, for instance. Consequently they are not in the slightest degree likely to enter into competition with British lines. They are not doing so now, and they will hot do so in the future. Therefore, to talk of giving a preference to British companies is simply what is vulgarly called “ rot.” No preference can be given to British vessels in this respect, simply because there is no competition. But it is decidedly to our advantage to have those foreign vessels catering for the oversea trade, because the more ships there are the more the competition, and the lower the freights. There is one other aspect of the question with which I shall briefly deal. We have heard much of the competition between ships owned by local companies and those owned outside Australia. I assert that at the present time all the steam-ships owned in Australia are practically working under arrangement, that there is a combination amongst them to keep up freight rates, and an agreement that they will not carry an ounce of cargo at” less than those rates. I will prove that statement. Furthermore, we know perfectly well that the local shipping companies are supporting these clauses simply because they would secure protection under them. They hope that the clauses will enable them to keep up their charges, or to raise them still higher. I will give an instance in point. There are certain companies which trade between ports in various parts of Australia anti Tasmania.’ Occasionally, one of these companies finds that business in a certain direction is very slack, and that their vessels are not returning what they consider to be enough to pay a fair dividend. They immediately commence to look for an opening. They see that there is a large amount of trade in some other direction, and they immediately put on vessels to compete for a portion of that trade. The company that does, I may say, three- fourths of the trade between Tasmania and the mainland is the Union Company. Occasionally another company, findthat there is a large export trade between Tasmania and the mainland, has a “cut in.” The competing company knows perfectly well that in order to induce producers to ship with them they must offer some special inducement. The moment they determine to enter the trade, they announce that they will reduce freights by probably one-half or one-third. In that way they give producers an incentive to trade with them. The result is that for a short time there is- “ cut-throat “ competition between the two companies. Then the companies say to themselves - “ This is not good enough.” The company that has hitherto been doing the trade says to the competing company - “ It is of no use fighting us in this way ; the result will simply be that we shall lose money, and freights will come down so low that there will be no profit for anybody. Let us enter into an amicable arrangement.” They do so. They say - “ Instead of killing each other with competition, let us determine what is a fair thing, so that we” can pay good wages and large dividends. It is better to have half a loaf than no bread.We will raise the freights to what they were a little while ago, or perhaps a little over.” They do so. I .will give an instance in point for the benefit of those honorable members who ma-y doubt that that is what takes place. Last year, and for years past, the Union Company of New Zealand, which is practically an Australian company, did two-thirds of the Tasmanian trade. Owing to the drought on the mainland, there was a large trade in produce between Devonport and Sydney, and other parts of the Commonwealth. The Patterson line of steamers entered into the business. For a time “ cut-throat “ competition went on. Then the two companies agreed to raise freights. Last year, trie
Melbourne Steam-ship Company saw that business was pretty brisk in Tasmania. They therefore entered into competition. They reduced the freights then ruling for produce from 9s. per ton down to 5s. Consequently they got a share of the trade. The other two companies, finding that they were not doing as well as they could wish, said - “ Let us form a ‘ pool.’ “ The three, companies thereupon entered into an arrangement bv which they “ pooled “ the business. Freights were immediately raised from 5s. to ‘9s., and exist at that rate to the present day. There is a ring for you ! There is monopoly ! I say, therefore, that if we prevent the oversea ships from entering the trade, we shall be creating simply a vast monopoly. As another instance of the manner in which the shipping ring to which I have alluded injuriously affects producers, I might mention that about two ‘ years ago a line of small steamers, sailing from Launceston, entered the Inter-State trade, and accepted produce at lower rates than were then ruling with other companies. These vessels continued to carry cargo at lower rates than were given by the other companies, until a few months ago, when the directors of the larger companies approached the directors of the Launceston company, and guaranteeing them a certain amount of freight, whether the produce was actually carried or not, took them into the ring, with the result that the unhappy producers are now obliged to pay whatever charges the combine chooses to exact from them. Under these circumstances, I ask if it is to the best interests of Australia to prevent, competition, and thus make it impossible for our producers to obtain fair play from the steam-ship companies. I have shown, I think conclusively, that if the proposed new clauses are agreed to, and wages are increased, the result may be disastrous for our producers. There is another aspect of the question with which I should like to deal, but, as I understand that it is desired to have a division this afternoon on the question before us, I have decided not to do so. The aspect to which I allude is as to the advisability of legislating in regard to vessels coming here from abroad. Only a few months ago an address was passed in this Chamber which, in my opinion, was calculated to bring discredit upon Australia.
– To what does the honorable member refer?
– To the address of protest passed by the House a few months ago in reference to the proposed employment of Chinese in the Transvaal. ^1, with four other honorable members, voted against the motion, and we are the only five men who now dare to hold up our heads in the Chamber, The House, as a whole, received an ignominious snub for its illjudged interference. It seems to me that, lest we do anything which is likely to make us conspicuous in the eyes of the civilized world, not for our justice, but for the reverse quality, we should consider very carefully such proposals as are now before us. I thank honorable members for the very patient manner in which they have listened to my remarks. I know they recognise that, whatever my faults may be, I am a fair fighter, and say openly what I mean.
– I wish to say a word or two upon my position in relation to the proposed new clauses now before the Committee, but, prior to doing so, I would take this opportunity to express my regret - and I am sure that it is shared by every member of the Committee - at the absence from the Chamber, at this important juncture, of the right honorable and learned member for Adelaide, who has taken such a keen interest in legislation to provide for COl.ciliation and arbitration, and especially in all matters relating to the control of navigation. We all deplore the cause of his absence, and sincerely hope that he may shortly be restored to his usual health. When the Barton Administration gave notice of their intention to introduce legislation of the character provided for by the clauses which the Government now propose to insert in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, I gave my adherence to their proposal, and I agreed with them that the best way to accomplish what was desired would be to insert the necessary provisions in a Navigation Bill. I have since seen no reason to change that opinion. To act as suggested by the present Government would be, it seems to me, to adopt a course which is beset with doubt and difficulty. If we insert the proposed new clauses in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, there is, as has been pointed out by the right honorable and learned member for East Sydney, more than a possibility that the Royal Assent to the measure may be indefinitely deferred. I acknowledge the force and importance of the argument of the Prime Minister, and of the Minister of External Affairs, that to pass a Bill the provisions of which do not apply to seamen would be to pass one which would, be very incomplete and imperfect in its operation. But, on the other hand, it appears to me that a distinct advantage would be gained by referring the clauses under discussion to the members of the Royal Commission who are now charged with the very important duty of inquiring into and reporting upon the provisions of the Navigation Bill, and that any disadvantage resulting from the consequent delay would be more than compensated for by the information we should thus obtain. I am in entire agreement with honorable members who think that the coastal trade of Australia should be protected against outsiders who attempt to compete unfairly with local ship-owners. But the position is surrounded with many difficulties, so that it is necessary for us to proceed with extreme caution. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat was quite right when he pointed out that we should make sure that our legislation will be effective; and I think we should also take great care that it be not unfair. We cannot afford - to put before the Committee a consideration which is on a very low level indeed - to ignore the claims of the Empire of which Australia forms a part. Our position in regard to foreign vessels trading on our coasts is quite different. We have few or none of the obligations towards them which bind us in regard to English shipping. If the honorable and learned member for Wannon makes further inquiries, he will, I believe, find that British ships trading along the coasts of New Caledonia are not as unhampered as he seemed to think when he spoke the other night. How can we satisfy ourselves on these points better than by dealing with the whole subject by means of a Navigation Bill, the provisions of which will have been fully and impartially inquired into by the members of the Royal Commission? Furthermore, we should be very careful not to pass legislation which may prejudice our producers. That aspect of the case has been elaborated very ably by the honorable and learned member for Parkes, and by other honorable members, but I do not think that this Parliament is at -all likely to disregard the claims of the producers, because honorable members realize that the progress of Australia is bound up with their prosperity. We should also be careful not to prejudice the interests of outlying portions of the Commonwealth whose populations are dependent for their means of communication with other places in Australia, and with the outside world, upon the ocean-going steamships. I believe that what is aimed at can be accomplished without detriment to the producer, and without injury to the shipping interests of Great Britain. But in view of all the circumstances of the case, and taking into consideration the fact that the members of the Labour Party are divided amongst themselves upon the question, I think that the need for the further consideration of the subject has been fully demonstrated. Therefore I shall vote against the inclusion of the proposed new clauses in this Bill, so that they may receive full consideration from the members of the Royal Commission on the Navigation Bill
– In commencing my remarks on the question before the Committee, which will be very brief, I wish to compliment the right honorable member for East Sydney upon at last having got beyond the land of promise. A few months ago he stated in this Chamber that a motion would be moved questioning the right of the Ministry to control the business of Parliament; but that motion still remains in the land of promise. The right honorable member, however, after sparring for a couple of days, has submitted an amendment, the effect of which will be to prevent the insertion of the proposed new clauses in the Bill now under discussion. We have hea’rd a most eloquent appeal on behalf of the poor working man. The right honorable gentleman implored us not to insert any provisions in this Bill which would delay the granting of the Royal Assent to it when passed. The Bill has been introduced for the prevention of strikes and industrial disputes, and it is admitted on all sides that the seamen form -one ‘ of the most important classes to which its provisions should apply. It is very doubtful, however, if the amendment of the right honorable member for East Sydney were carried, whether they would come under the provisions of the Bill. That doubt’ exists in the minds of many legal members of the Committee.
– The seamen cannot be effectively brought under the Bill. if the proposed new clauses are not inserted. ‘ There is no doubt about that.
– I accept the Minister’s statement. Even if the seamen could be brought under the Bill without the insertion of the proposed new clauses, their position would not be a satisfactory one, because they would be compelled to compete with men who would not be within the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court. The right honorable member for East Sydney, in effect, says, that although arbitration may be a good thing as applied to one set of men, it should not be extended to others even if proved to be in competition with them. I do not see how any such attitude can be justified. I do not pretend that some of the proposals of the Government will not require amendment. If it is established that certain oversea _ steamers do not compete with our local shipping, provision should be made for exempting them from the operation of the measure.
– The honorable .member is hedging now.
– I am not hedging; I am expressing my straight-out opinions, and I realize that my conduct is being carefully watched by those to whom I am responsible for my actions here. I am simplycarrying out the promise which I gave to my constituents that I should endeavour to, as far as possible, extend the operation of the Arbitration Bill to all those engaged in competition with our local workers. A number of honorable members opposite have made a most pathetic appeal on behalf of the producers. I have before stated that those who go upon the land in order to produce the necessaries of life, shall always receive the utmost consideration at my hands. Let us consider, however, how the right honorable member for East Sydney proposes to protect their interests. We know that our producers are dependent upon shipping for the conveyance of their products to the various markets in the Commonwealth and beyond it; and yet the right honorable member for East Sydney, and those who are supporting him, propose that the men who have it in their power to. bring about another maritime strike, and to inflict disaster upon the whole of ‘the community shall .be deprived of the benefits of this measure.
– Is that a threat to Parliament ?
– No. I am simply stating facts. .
– How would a maritime strike affect oversea ships?
– It is impossible to gauge the extent to which a maritime strike would affect all classes of shipping in our waters. The last maritime strike caused almost a complete suspension of the shipping trade of Australia. The whole community was upset, and it was impossible for our producers to rely upon having their produce conveyed to the various markets. Although honorable members say that they desire to conserve the interests of the producers, they are opposed to including in this Bill the only provisions which would effectually safeguard them. The right honorable member for East Sydney did not indicate that he would support the adoption of such provisions in connexion with another Bill, even if they were withdrawn at the present time. He merely wished the Government to postpone them for the present. This proposal is in keeping with the attitude adopted by some honorable members in other places. They are content to wait until trouble arises, and then look about for, some means of escape. I commend the Government for having introduced these clauses with a view to making provision against a time of trouble. The right honorable member for East Sydney has expressed the view that the Royal Assent may be refused to the Bill if these clauses are included. The legal advisers ot the Government, however, take the contrary view, and I do not think that any serious fears need be entertained on that score. If arbitration be a good thing, its application when competition is proved, should be extended as far as possible, and if honorable members opposite do not believe in it they should give the Bill their straight-out opposition.
– I do not think that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie was quite fair to the right honorable member- for East Sydney when he twitted him with having sparred over this matter’ for two days before venturing to move an amendment.
– 1 did not know that the Government had appointed him as their adviser.
– The right honorable gentleman stated clearly when he first spoke that he refrained from moving his amendment in order that the Government might not be hampered in any way, but might have full time to consider whether they would refer the proposed new clauses to the Navigation Bill Commission. Therefore, I think that the reasons which induced the right honorable gentleman to delay his amendment were highly creditable to him, and should be acknowledged as such. In his concluding remarks the Minister of External Affairs referred to honorable members as opposing these provisions because they were brought in by the Labour Government. I can assure the Minister that, so far as I am concerned - and I believe that this also applies to honorable members who are sitting around me - my attitude towards these provisions is not affected by the fact that the present Government have- introduced them. I should have taken the same position if they had been introduced by the late Government, or had emanated from any other section of honorable members. Those who believe that there is some justification for the inclusion of these clauses in the Bill, or in any measure, should be the first to refer them for inquiry to the Royal Commission. It must be admitted that, up to the present time, we have not had a scintilla of information which could justify any honorable member, having due regard to his proper responsibilities as a representative of the people, in voting for the clauses. On the contrary, the whole of the information placed before us goes to show that there is no necessity for them.
– The same statement might have been made prior to the last maritime strike.
– I am not aware that any similar provisions were presented for our consideration at that time. It is necessary, before asking us to support legislation which will doubtless dislocate our communications with the markets of the world to a considerable, extent, to show some justification for it. In the first place, it should be demonstrated that there is some necessity for such enactments, and, secondly, that the course proposed to be adopted will secure The object in view. The evidence before us proves conclusively that the oversea companies do not seriously compete with the local ship-owners.
– How does the honorable member arrive at that conclusion?
– Because practically the whole of the cargo traffic along our coast is conducted by the Inter-State companies.
– The honorable member does not take into account the “tramp” ships which carry a great deal of coastal cargo.
– Our coastal boats have practically the whole of the cargo traffic in their own hands, and, so far as we know, they also carry at least five-sixths of the passengers who travel from port to port within the Commonwealth. Their com-, mand of the trade constitutes as near an approach to a monopoly as it is safe to allow, to any body of men.
– Then it would not work much harm if the remaining portion of the trade were taken out of the hands of the oversea companies.
– It would do harm to the extent that the present partial monopoly would become absolute ; and I, for one, am not in favour of granting an absolute monopoly to any body of men.
– We have already seen how the tobacco monopoly -has worked out.
– I am not in favour of absolute monopoly in any case. It must be within the knowledge of every honorable member that the local shipping companies are extremely prosperous. No attempt has been made to show that, in consequence of keen competition on the part of ocean-going companies, local ship-owners are unable to pay proper wages to their employes.
– Does the honorable member know that they recently reduced the wages of their seamen?
– I am aware that a mutual arrangement has been entered into under which the wages of seamen are to be reduced 10s. per month ; but I am not aware that that action was taken because of the inability of the shipping companies to pay the original rates. From the information which I have been able to gather, I refuse to believe that that was the reason underlying their action. I contend that the local shipping companies are extremely prosperous institutions. We know as a matter of fact that oversea vessels which trade along our coast do not make large profits out of the Australian trade. Honorable members opposite have not only failed to show us that these provisions are necessary owing to the competition of oceangoing steamers ; but they have failed to establish their assertion that the local shipping companies are unable to pay good wages to their employes. They have also failed to show that their own proposals would effect the object which they have in view. I cannot speak upon this matter from legal knowledge, but at least I can discuss it from the stand-point of a business man. It appears to me that it would be the simplest thing on earth for British or foreign ship-owners to evade any provision which we might choose to insert in this Bill regarding the wages to be paid by them whilst their vessels were trading upon the Australian coast. Let me take the case of the British shipping companies as an example. They are doing a large trade with every part of the world. The Australian trade forms a comparatively small and insignificant portion of their business. Do honorable members imagine for a moment that, in consequence of our legislation, they would raise the wages of their employes all round ; because, if they raised the rate of pay in one particular portion of the service, we know that they would have to make it uniform throughout, or else the service would become disorganized. Rather than do that, it appears to me that they could evade our legislation upon this subject by a very simple means. When entering into engagements with their seamen, they could easily arrange to pay them the same rates that are paid to seamen employed in other parts of the world. They could inform them that, in Australia, the law provided that seamen should be paid a much higher wage, and that, consequently, if they received this higher wage when on the Australian coast, it would be necessary to make a corresponding reduction during the rest of the voyage in order to equalize the total amount payable for the round trip.
– But the original agreement would have to be filed with the English shipping master, and the subsequent agreement with our shipping master, so that it would be impossible to make the third agreement of which the honorable member speaks.
– These companies could make their own agreements.
– But the last agreement must be filed.
– Under these provisions, if British or foreign companies engage in the Australian trade, they will have to pay the local rates. But when entering into engagements with their seamen, what is to prevent them from stipulating for the payment of such rates of wages when on and off the Australian coast as will equalize the amount payable for the whole trip.
– The honorable member has not read the clauses, or he would see that that could not be done.
– These provisions cannot override Imperial law.
– The question has nothing whatever to do with the Imperial law. It is a matter of an agreement made in England.
– It appears to me that it would be very easy for a shipping company in any part of the world to enter into an agreement which would render our laws on the subject nugatory. If they did not do so, it is quite evident that they would have to adopt the alternative of doing no coastal trade whatever.
– That is so.
– I do not wish to give our local shipping companies an absolute monopoly which will enable them to charge any rates they choose.
– The Minister of External Affairs is a ‘free-trader.
– What relation has this matter to free-trade? None.
– I think that the Minister is right now, although he was very wrong when he twitted the honorable and learned member for Corinella with having changed his views upon the fiscal question. There was not the slightest justification for his accusation.
– That matter has been satisfactorily adjusted.
– The question which is now under consideration is not a fiscal one, because free-traders and protectionists are equally interested in keeping up communication with the outer world. The most rabid protectionist knows that Australia must continue to import largely. There are a great many commodities which we cannot profitably produce, and it is to our interest that we should be able to procure these with as little delay, and at as low a price as possible.
– That has nothing whatever to do with the coastal trade.
– The Minister misapprehends the meaning of the clause, if he cannot see that our foreign trade is intimately connected with this question. The whole of our producers are largely dependent upon the facilities afforded them to sell their products in the outer markets of the world. We have a very small consuming population and a very large productive territory. It is to our interest to produce as largely as we profitably can, and to sell our surplus products in any part of the world where we can obtain a market. To do this, it is necessary that we should possess speedy and cheap means of transport with the markets of the world. It is not by piling disabilities upon those who are engaged in the ocean-going trade that we can hope to secure favorable rates for the export of our surplus products. We have already administered some very irritating pin-pricks to these companies. In the first place, we taxed their ship’s stores - a proposal which I confess I supported - and, ‘secondly, we attempted to dictate to them the complexion of the crews which they should engage - a proposal which I did not support, because I believed that in that matter we were overreaching ourselves, just as we are doing on the present occasion in endeavouring to dictate the wages which they shall pay to their seamen.
– Only if they engage in our trade, I thought that the honorable member wished to reserve the Australian trade to our own ship-owners.
– The . Prime Minister misunderstood me very much if he entertained any such impression. I desire to treat our own ship-owners fairly, just as I do every other section of the community ; but I am not prepared to sacrifice the interests of the whole of the- people of the Commonwealth, to enable them to make huge fortunes.
– Does the honorable member think that our own ship-owners should be subject to the provisions of this Bill, and that the foreign ship-owner should escape them.
– If the honorable member can prove that our local ship-owners are subjected to keen competition, which renders them unable to pay reasonable wages, I shall be prepared to go with him to any extent that is necessary. Up to the . present time, however, no information has been supplied which would justify that view of the case. On the contrary, all the evidence goes to show that they are subjected to no serious competition - that they enjoy all but a monopoly of our coasting trade, or, at any rate, as near a monopoly as it is safe or wise to give them. Their profits are quite sufficient to enable them to pay fair wages. Personally, I would apply the same rule to them as to others. If there are any reasons, of which we are not now aware, which will justify the view that they are subjected to serious competition, those reasons should be ascertained by referring these clauses to the Navigation Bill Commission for inquiry and report. From the information which is, at present, before us, I shall oppose these clauses no matter in what Bill they may be included. I am not prepared to prejudice the interests of the rest of the community, and especially the producing interests, for the sake of the ship-owners. It is vital to our producers that they should have speedy access to the markets of the world.. Unless they can obtain that no expansion of our primary products can take place. I am not prepared to jeopardize these large interests for the sake of a mere sentiment. Of course, it sounds very plausible to say - “ It is not fair to ask our own shipowners to pay a reasonable rate of wages if they are subjected to competition with others who pay a much lower rate.” But when we come to examine that statement, we find that no serious competition exists, and that our own ship-owners are making handsome profits.
– But they will be compelled to go into the Arbitration Court, and yet the honorable member would not call upon the owners of foreign steamers to comply with the same rule.
– The foreigner is not engaging in the trade to any appreciable extent.
– He is.
– Not to such an extent as to jeopardize, in the slightest degree, the interests of Australian-owned vessels. My honorable friends must not attempt too much by means of an Arbitration Bill. It is utterly beyond our power to raise the wages of the whole of the British seamen, however much we might desire to achieve that end.
– We can prevent the wages of our own seamen from being reduced.
– We should recognise our true position, and consider what we have power to do. We should not attempt to make ourselves ridiculous in the estimation of the people of the outside world by endeavouring by our pigmy legislation to rule the destinies of the other great nations of the earth. I expressed the same view when we were dealing with the clause in the Post and Telegraph Bill requiring every person engaged under contract to carry our mails to employ only white labour. We” are making ourselves ridiculous by saying to the owners of vessels employing coloured crews, “You may carry our mails at poundage rates ; but you must not enter into a contract with us that would be to our advantage.” Whilst we know perfectly well that owners of oversea vessels engage in the Australian trade for their own, rather than for our benefit, we must nevertheless recognise that it is really far more beneficial to us than it is to them. We are far removed from the markets of the outer world, and are absolutely dependent on. the means of transport to those markets which these vessels afford. We cannot hope to grow and prosper or scarcely to exist without this trade. When my honorable friends opposite are speaking so glibly about the danger of a shipping strike, I feel constrained to ask them what would happen supposing that the owners of these oversea vessels went on strike for a little time.
– We should soon get ships of our own.
– They have already struck the butter producers fairly hard.
– The honorable member for Southern Melbourne is of a somewhat sanguine temperament; but where we should find the funds to purchase steamers to supply the place of those now trading to our shores is beyond my comprehension. If these ship-owners closed our trade and our communication with the outer world for a few weeks, they would quickly bring us to our knees; we should -soon learn our true position.
– We should soon have a line of steamers of our own. The honorable member would have to join with us in paying for it.
– No doubt the honorable gentleman would save enough out of the profits . of his national tobacco monopoly and his banking scheme to enable the Government to purchase one or two small vessels.
– I should endeavour to raise a little more by placing a tax on the honorable member’s land.
– I am afraid that the vessels so secured would be a very poor substitute for our existing means of communication. I candidly tell my honorable friend that, with the information at present before me, I feel compelled to oppose these clauses. I should oppose their insertion in any Bill ; but if he could show me that there was any real necessity for legislation of this kind - ‘ if he could show that the competition was so keen that our local ship-owners could not afford to pay a fair wage - I should be prepared to help him.
– The trouble is that it is so very difficult to convince the honorable member.
– My honorable friend has not attempted to convince me; he has not supplied me with any information. I am ready to afford him every reasonable opportunity to do so, and can conceive of no better means to accomplish this end than to submit these clauses to the Royal Commission on the Navigation Bill.’ The honorable member for Melbourne Ports is a member of the Commission, and does any one think that the interests of the seamen will be overloked by him? He will see that every scintilla of evidence bearing upon their case is obtained and thoroughly sifted.
– Judging by the votes given by the honorable member when the Tariff Bill was before us, we thought that he was convinced of the wisdom of this principle.
– I have never given a vote indicating that I favour anything’ of this kind.
– The honorable member, on this occasion, is going to cast a vote for free-trade.
– I was in favour of the policy of a White Australia ; but I certainly did not favour the proposal to make ourselves look ridiculous by endeavouring to create a “White Ocean.” I favour the passing of an Arbitration Bill, dealing with employers and employes in the Commonwealth, but I certainly think that we should make ourselves ridiculous by endeavouring to raise the wages paid by the shipping companies throughout the world, whose vessels happen to come to our coast.
– The honorable member is in favour of protecting Victorian industries, but not of protecting Australian shipping.
– If I have failed to convey my views to the honorable member I am sorry. I have told the Committee that if evidence could be produced showing that there was really any necessity for these proposals I should support them.
– We have never succeeded in convincing the honorable’ member on any vote taken in the House since we have been in office.
– The honorable member is scarcely fair to me.
– My statement is true.
– If the honorable gentleman turns to the Hansard report of the speech which I delivered on the motion for the second reading of this Bill, he will find that I there clearly foreshadowed every vote that I have given up to the present time.
– With one exception; the honorable member said the other night that he had changed his opinion with regard to one matter.
– But we did not go to a division on that question. When I made the statement referred to I was aware that we were not likely to go to a division, inasmuch as there was a friendly amendment in view. I did not wish, however, to sail . under false colours, and I candidly told the House that I had changed my mind on that question, and gave my reason for doing so. My honorable friend will see that I clearly stated during the debate on the motion for the second reading, the extent to which I was prepared to support’ him. I clearly indicated the provisions in the Bill that I would oppose by every means in my power. Another Government was then in office, and had charge of the Bill, and I have not in the slightest degree altered my attitude towards any of the provisions of the Bill since my honorable friend took office. He knows that I entertain none but the most friendly feelings towards himself and his colleagues.
– Hear, hear.
– If they were free in every way to exercise their judgment, I believe my views would differ from theirs to only a very small extent.
– -Arp we not free ?
– Certainly not. The honorable member who preceded me dropped a hint to that effect when he said “ There are those watching me, who will see that I do not- “
– Are not the honorable member’s constituents watching him?
– Yes ; but my actions are not being watched by any particular unions. I am not here in the interests of any special union.
– Neither is the honorable member.
– I am here in the interests of the whole people.
– So are we.
– I am here to represent the views of the whole of my electors.
– If the honorable member thinks that we are not here to act in the same capacity he is in error.
– My . honorable friend has a brand on his banner, which shows that he is the representative of a class.
– Labour is not a class.
– Then, instead of being the representative of a class, he is only the representative of unions which constitute but a fraction of that class. If he represented the whole of the workers, he would no doubt represent a very large, influential, and deserving body ; but he represents only a fraction of them.
– He represents a majority of those who recorded their votes at the last election, just as the honorable member represents a majority of the electors in his .constituency.
– I represent the workers in my electorate, just as much as the honorable member represents the workers in his constituency. The truth of this statement is shown by the fact that I have always had their support. I was never more proud of anything than of the letters I received on the occasion of my last contested election, which I am happy to say was a good many years ago. I then received letters from workmen, who offered to come at their own expense from the remotest parts of the State to Gippsland, in order to help me, if I thought that the contest was going to be a close one. One workman came from Ballarat at his own expense, and another from Brighton-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. McDonald). - Order ! I must ask the honorable member to deal with the question before, the Chair.
– I was drawn into this digression by the interjections of my honorable friends. I do not think I need say any more. My feeling is that up to the present no justification has been shown for the passing of these clauses. If there is any justification for the Government proposals it should be ascertained, and I cannot conceive of a better way to secure the necessary information than to submit the clauses for investigation and inquiry by the Commission which has been appointed to deal with the Navigation Bill.
– I have listened to the debate during the week with extreme care, and, if I know myself, with an open mind, my desire being to obtain proof that legislation of this description is necessary at the present time. So far, as the honorable member for Gippsland has said, such proof has been absolutely wanting. Many facts and figures have been given, but they have all been absolutely against the suggestion that the Government proposals are at present necessary. I have never witnessed a more miserable or attenuated attempt to justify so momentous a proposal than that which has been made by occupants of the
Government benches. We have been dealing with an abstraction. We are asked to pass provisions that would affect our Imperial and foreign relations, and the trading relations of all our producers, without any evidence being furnished as to their necessity.
– Would it be fair to bring Australian ship-owners under this Bill, and to exclude the foreign ship-owners?
– Cannot the honorable member think of another question? We have had that question put again and again.
– But we have not .had an answer to it.
– We are discussing a mere hypothetical case. We are told that if we do not pass these clauses something may happen.
– Something has happened.
– There was a maritime strike in 1890.
– Trouble has occurred since then.
– Does the honorable member wish to incite something of the kind ?
– No. We propose to provide against the recurrence of such a thing. The insinuation made by the honorable member is a most unfair one.
– It would appear as if that were the object. At present there is not even a cloud, “the size of a man’s hand,, in the horizon, to indicate the probability of any such trouble as honorable members would have us to believe is likely to occur.
– The insinuation made by the honorable member is a most unfair one.
– The relations between the ship-owners and the seamen have never been more harmonious than they now are. It is admitted by honorable members opposite that the wages of Australian seamen engaged in the coasting trade are, with the exception of those paid to American seamen, the highest in the world.
– What do they amount to? j£6 1 os. a month for able seamen. That is not a very princely wage.
– We have to compare them with the wages paid elsewhere. Honorable members opposite have admitted that the wages paid on the Australian coast are three, if not four, times as high as those prevailing in many other places.
– No one has said anything of the kind. The British rate of pay is £3 1 os. per month.
– The facts that have been adduced this week are, first of all, to the effect that these oversea steamers take but a mere moiety of the coasting trade ; that they compete but to a very small extent in the trade. It has not been shown that the owners of the coasting vessels are asking for these provisions, and we know that the wages on Australian vessels are higher than those paid elsewhere; whilst the freights and fares that are charged by the British and foreign vessels which are said to compete for our coasting trade are nearly double those charged by the coastal vessels. Therefore, where can the competition come in? No instances have been adduced to show -that the local ship-owners have suffered any loss, or that there has been any undercutting of fares and freights. If the case be so serious as honorable members desire the Committee to believe, why are not instances given to prove that there is a danger of trouble ?
– The trouble is only postponed.
– Nothing but mere abstractions and forecasts as to what might possibly happen have been given. The results of this legislation will be very momentous and far-reaching, and before the Committee agrees to it we should have more light thrown upon the subject. We should be provided with proofs and facts in order to enable us to make up our minds. I shall support the proposal to refer these clauses to the Royal Commission, which can make a searching investigation into the whole of the facts as relating to the interests of the parties concerned - not the least of whom are producers. Why was the Navigation Bill submitted to a Royal Commission? The last Government intended to proceed with the Bill.
– One of the proposals of the coalition was’ to send it to a Royal Commission.
– If it is proper for the present Government to refer the Navigation Bill to a Commission, which will not report for the next eighteen months, surely these few small clauses connected with the same subject can be submitted to the same tribunal. A question has been raised as to whether these clauses are . constitutional. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie says that the legal advisers to the Government state that they are. But the great bulk of the legal advice which has been given upon this question goes to show that the clauses are not constitutional. The action of the late Government with regard to the subject was such that we ought to take serious heed of what is done. They were convinced that the clauses which the late Minister of Trade and Customs - whose, absence we deplore - wished to force upon them were unconstitutional, and they risked the disruption of the Cabinet sooner” than give way to his demands. There must have been something behind their contention to justify them in thinking that the clauses were not sound, and would be rejected if an appeal were taken to the High Court.
– The honorable, and learned member for Ballarat did not argue that it was unconstitutional to put these clauses in the Bill.
– I understand that his point was that the clauses could not constitutionally be inserted in this measure, and that they would be held by the High Court to be ultra vires if inserted.
– No; his contention was that, unless we specifically provided for it, foreign seamen would not be included.
– The right honorable member for Adelaide resigned from the late Government in consequence of these clauses being excluded. I do not blame him for it, because I understand he was under a promise to those who were supporting him that he would insist upon the clauses. As an honorable man, he was bound to take that stand. But what occurred then goes to’ show how necessary it is that we should pause before we agree to provisions which will certainly be submitted to the High Court, and afterwards to the Privy Council. There seems to be a tendency on the part of the Government to put into the measure anything which their supporters or constituents ask them to insert. In February last there was a meeting at the . Trades Hall. The Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was discussed, and the authorities there issued their ukase that seamen were to be included.
– We had taken that view long before that meeting. It was part of our programme at the elections.
– I am complaining that the Government are prepared at all times to put into a measure anything that is asked for by their constituents, regardless of whether it is constitutional, or whether the High Court will accept it. They were prepared to insert clauses relating to States Government servants, and other provisions 5 y which the highest jurists in the land say would be rejected. This is legislation by chance. The attitude of the Government is, “Put it in, and let the High Court settle whether it ought to be in or not.” I am not prepared to swallow this legislation. We Enow the ingredients, but we do not know what the results will be. I am not prepared to take the risk. The Government tell us that the Arbitration Court will determine whether it is a fair thing to apply these provisions or not. We do not trust any lawyer or -doctor to advise us with regard to our health or our law business in the manner in which the Government are advising the Committee. They say - “ The patient is not ill, but he may be ill.” I reply that we do not require any medicine if there are no signs of indisposition. There can be no doubt that these clauses have been introduced at the pressure of the unions, just as other provisions have been inserted. The unfortunate thing is that so many honorable members opposite can only see one side of the question. It has not been shown that we can enforce these provisions if we pass them. We have had to-day a revelation from the Minister of External Affairs, who tells us that it is intended to prohibit foreign vessels from trading upon our coasts. That is an important statement, which requires a great deal more consideration than the Committee can afford to give to it now. We want to know what the effect will be upon our industries all round. We can realize the importance of the provision, by considering the attitude of the Western Australian representatives. Some of them must feel very strongly about it, or they would not have broken away from their colleagues in caucus, in order to take up an independent stand. Those of us who are in a position to look at the. subject impersonally must sympathize with them. There is no doubt that Western Australia has conferred great benefits upon the other States of Australia. I a?ree in that respect with the right honorable member for Swan and the honorable member for Perth. The protectionist members on this side of the Chamber have been taunted with deserting their policy. I have not the least doubt that on the platform honorable members opposite will repeat that statement, and say that we are running away from our flag, and are not prepared to give to the seamen that protection which they give to others. But protection, as we have battled for it, is something very different from this. We support protection because it means the development of our industries, the utilization of our raw material, the finding of employment, and the equalization of conditions regarding industries between one country and another, so as to give our people fair play. We believe in it because it tends to build up a self-supporting and self-reliant industrial nation. But protection does not come in in regard to this matter. There is nothing in these clauses which affects the protectionist policy ; and it does not lie in the mouths of such members as the Minister of External Affairs to taunt us in this fashion, when we know that if they had given us a little extra support in regard to some of our protected industries, hundreds of men, who are tb-day walking about the streets, would have been in employment. The whole question of the protection of the worker is of great and grave importance, and will have to be seriously considered ; because, while in the past we have been protecting the manufacturer and the employer by fair duties which would enable him to compete with the rest of the world, we have also imposed upon him arbitrary conditions of employment, and arbitrary rates of wages. Now he finds the- protective duties cut down enormously, whilst the arbitrary conditions concerning wages and conditions of employment are still imposed upon him. We are told by the honorable member for Darling that the question of a return to the employer has nothing to do with wages. But that is only half the truth. When we get to the ground-work of the theory of wages, it is found that they must always depend to a great extent upon the returns from an industry. Business men are not philanthropists. Thev look for a profit. We must assure capital safety and a fair remuneration before we can aid labour. At present we have shifting tariff conditions, and no one knows where he stands; while, at the same time, the manufacturer has arbitrary conditions of employment and wages imposed upon him. We must secure markets for the employer before we can secure wages to the worker. The question of the interests of the producer has been referred to at length, and I do not propose to add to what has been said. The subject has been discussed by the honorable member for Wilmot and the honorable member for Gippsland. I fully agree with them that we must in the interests of the producers know where we stand before we deal with these proposals. Only a few thousand men are directly interested in having these clauses passed. It has been said that they number1 , 500 - say there are 2,000 of them - we have in Australia over 500,000 men engaged in industries connected with the land. Their interests must be looked to and carefully safeguarded before we consent to any provisions that may militate against them. The only way in which we can help our producers is fi’rst by increasing our home markets, and next by affording facilities for entrance to outside’ markets. The great highway by which our producers can get their products out of Australia is the sea. Therefore we should hesitate before doing anything that will limit their means of getting their produce away, or impel them to pay higher rates, which will make their production unprofitable. If the Government were bringing forward proposals for the encouragement of an Australian mercantile marine I could understand their action. If they enunciated a policy which would enable us to man our own ships, and to carry our own produce, it would be worthy of attention, and would obtain general support.
– That will follow.
– Nothing has been said about it yet ; and such a policy cannot be carried into effect for many years to come. Our people must therefore continue to be largely dependent on British and foreign vessels for the conveyance of their produce to outside markets. What would be the position of Australia if those vessels were suddenly withdrawn ? The Governments of the States are using their best endeavours to settle people upon the land. They recognise that that is the only remedy for the existing depression. Yet the Commonwealth Government are bringing forward a proposal which may prevent our producers from receiving full value for the productions which they raise from the soil. The Bill has been loaded with too many extraneous provisions. The Government have put into it provisions which are likely to be declared invalid by the High Court. The measure passed its second reading without a dissentient voice, and is it a fair thing that those whom it is intended to benefit should be deprived of the advantages which they hope to obtain from its provisions by a delay of eighteen months or two years in getting it placed upon the statute-book ? The policy of the Government seems to be to put into the measure as many doubtful provisions as they can, to create as much irritation as possible, to provoke as many conflicts as possible, to alienate as much sympathy as they can, and to give scope for as much litigation as possible, in order to keep from the workers the benefits which they might otherwise obtain from the measure. I trust that the views of the right honorable member for East Sydney will be” carried into effect. The proposed new clauses, if wise and equitable, and not calculated to injure the producers, might very well be embodied in a separate measure, and considered bv Parliament at a later stage.
– I think that the Government, in proposing to insert in the Bill certain provisions for the regulation of navigation, are taking a course which is not justifiable. The right honorable member for East Sydney has made it very clear that he wishes to hasten, rather than to retard, the progress of this measure through Committee. So strongly did he express that view that one of his supporters said, “You ‘are assisting the Government by your proposition.” The right honorable member has displayed such fairness in this matter that he gave notice of his intention to move an amendment in order to enable the Government to fully consider the question, and if they found his contentions to be sound, to withdraw their proposals, allowing the Bill to be passed in its original form. The Minister of External Affairs stated this morning that he is of opinion that the interpretation placed upon the clauses bv the leader of the Opposition is the correct one, and that his view would be shared by the law advisers of the Crown in Downing-street. If the Minister is certain that the passing of the Bill will be deferred for perhaps eighteen months through the action of the law authorities in England, if the proposed clauses are inserted in it, why does he insist upon their insertion ?
– What is the Bill for? It is a Bill to deal with seamen.
– It is a Bill to provide for compulsory conciliation and arbitration in disputes between employer and employed
– It has been introduced mainly to provide for disputes in which seamen may be concerned.
– It has been contended by the highest constitutional authorities, and notably by Sir Edmund 5 v 2
Barton and the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, that the .provisions which the Government propose to insert in this Bill could be more adequately and effectively dealt with in a special measure. It was because those two high authorities were convinced of the soundness of that opinion that they broke with the right honorable member for Adelaide, who was Minister of. Trade and Customs in the administration of which they were respectively Prime Minister and Attorney-General. They took that course because the question was not a matter of policy, but a constitutional question, which they dealt with in the light of a discussion which took place at a conference at which Mr. ‘ Chamberlain made it clear that all proposed legislation relating to navigation must be fully considered by the Imperial authorities, in order to see that it would not injure the interests of the Empire, before the Royal Assent could be given to it. Therefore, I think that the advice of the leader of the Opposition to embody the proposed clauses in a special Bill is good advice. The Imperial authorities will then be able to consider them without reference to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, which can be passed without delay.
– Would the honorable member support the special Bill to which he refers?
– If, on the second reading, it can be shown to my satisfaction that it will not only benefit our seamen, but will prove of advantage to the citizens’ of the Commonwealth at large, I shall be ready to support it. During this discussion, I made an interjection which brought from the honorable member for Kennedy the retort that I have not supported the Bill. I stated on the floor of the House and elsewhere that I would support the insertion of a provision relating to railways, and I did so by voting for such a provision when it was moved. Before the present Government came into power I stated openly that even if the members of the present Opposition took office I would still vote for such a provision, and honorable members will find that when I make a declaration, either in this Chamber or to my constituents, I carry it into effect. I hold that as I have been returned upon certain promises made to the electors, I am ‘ bound to perform them, and if I changed my views upon any matter of vital importance to the welfare of Australia, I would seek re-election. The Bill before us passed its second reading on the voices, so that our acceptance of the principle of conciliation and arbitration has been affirmed. If I have since opposed provisions brought forward by the Government, it has been because I thought that the measure would be improved by their rejection. I have no dislike to any member of the Ministry personally. I do not think that they are inferior in courtesy and good bearing to any other body of men who might occupy their places. They are in no way less courteous and gentlemanly than those who preceded them. Therefore, I am not actuated by personal dislike in my opposition to their proposals. But when I think that they are going beyond the wishes of the people in regard to conciliation and arbitration, and are seeking to pass into law provisions which the people do not want, it is my duty as a representative to do my best to defeat their proposals. For this reason I shall support the leader of the Opposition. But before pledging myself to support the proposed new clauses when introduced as a separate Bill, I must be convinced that their enactment is necessary. The Ministry are jeopardizing the Bill by endeavouring to force the Committee to agree to the navigation clauses now. Even if they are agreed to and inserted in the Bill, there will be a delay of perhaps a year or two before the Royal Assent to the Bill can be obtained. While I believe that they are earnest in their desire that it should pass into law, persons outside will be justified in thinking, when they know of this delay, that the Government have not been in earnest. The Government, of course, may say that the insertion of the proposed new clauses was absolutely necessary, but that they were prevented bv the Committee from inserting them, and thus gain a certain amount of political kudos. But such tactics will not enhance the opinions now held in regard to them by honorable members.
– Suppose honorable members are pledged, as I am, to support the insertion of these clauses?
– If that is the case, the Government seem to be in conflict with their supporters; but as they are merely a Committee of the House, the Minister should sink his individual opinions when those opinions are overborne by the views of other Ministers in Cabinet. In England recently a gentleman retired from the British Cabinet because, he had announced himself as opposed to the policy of the Government. He recognised that, as a Minister he must vote with the’ Government, and that as soon as he. had announced that he entertained views opposed to theirs, he had no longer any right to remain in the Cabinet. In the same way, if the Minister of External Affairs announces outside views contrary to those entertained by the Government, he will have no right to remain in the Cabinet. That principle has been laid down in the House of Commons, and the Minister’s course will be very clear. We take the House of Commons as our model, but we do not always act up to its high ideals.
– Nor does the House of Commons. Mr. Balfour wrote to the Duke of Devonshire, and asked him to retain his seat in the Cabinet, in spite of his public announcement.
– I am not referring to the Duke of Devonshire, but to a certain Irishman who retired from the Cabinet, after having delivered a certain speech in Ireland.
– Who was that?
– I do not desire to “enter into the matter any further.
– Surelv he has a name ?
– Does the Minister dispute the fact I have mentioned ?
– No; but I should like to know the gentleman’s name. Perhaps he was the mysterious “ Number One.”
– No, he was not. One might enlarge very considerably upon the remarks made by honorable members with regard to the influence these proposals would have upon the Inter-State and oversea shipping trade. For many years South Australians prided themselves upon the fact that Adelaide was the first port of call for the mail steamers in Australia, and Adelaide was designated the Brindisi of Australia. Now Fremantle occupies that proud position, and the representatives of South Australia are supporting legislation which they formerly would have opposed as being inimical to the best interests of the first port of call in Australia. The representatives of Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie, whose constituents do not care anything about the interests of Fremantle, are also supporting the Government proposal. It appears to me that they are taking a very narrow view, and are ignoring the interests of the whole of the Commonwealth. If provisions such as those proposed by the Government are to be embodied in our legislation, they should first be made the subject of inquiry, and should afterwards be introduced into the Navigation Bill. The Royal Commission has been appointed for the specific purpose of inquiring into proposals such as those now before us, and if the proposed new clauses are adopted at this stage the Royal Commission may just as well be dissolved. I shall support the amendment proposed by the right honorable member for East Sydney, because I regard it as indicating the only proper and businesslike course to be pursued.
– - Several honorable members have stated that no evidence can be adduced in support of the view that oversea ships should be subjected to the same restrictions as our local ship-owners. It may not be generally known that the Peninsular and Oriental Company, the Orient Company, the Messageries Maritimes, and the Norddeutscher - Lloyd carry passengers from Tilbury to Sydney for exactly the same fare that they charge from Tilbury to Fremantle, and that their vessels could, on arrival at Fremantle, discharge half their passengers, and carry other passengers from Fremantle to Sydney free of cost without incurring any actual loss
– They charge from 50 to 100 per cent, more than do the Inter-State companies.
– I was just about to point out that, notwithstanding these great advantages, they charge passengers 50 per cent, more than do our Inter-State companies. They are enabled to do this because of the superior accommodation which they provide, and also because of the social attractions which are offered by the class of passengers which they carry oversea.
– Then, where is the competition ?
– The mail companies are able to offer accommodation much superior to that afforded by our coastal boats, which are thus heavily handicapped. Therefore. I maintain that we should not penalize local ship-owners, and let the ocean steamers go scot free. If we do so, we shall add to the injustice to which they are now subjected. It is quite impossible for the local companies to compete with the oversea steamers, because of the higher wages which have to be paid to Australian seamen, and our legislation should certainly be so framed that it will tend to place upon an equal footing all ship-owners who trade upon our coasts. We have been charged with making Australia appear ridiculous in the eyes of the world, by means of legislation which is intended to operate in regard to those who come from parts beyond the seas. If, however, legislation of this character is to be of any value it must be uniform in its application to all those who carry on our trade, and it would be unfair to impose upon Australian ship-owners or other employers conditions from which foreigners were exempt. I am speaking of British ship-owners as foreigners only in the sense that they are intruders upon the domain of our local shipping companies. It has been pointed out that if we insist on the oversea shipping companies paying the rates of wages prevailing on the Australian coast they will .overcome the difficulty by paying wages on a higher scale whilst the vessels are in our waters, and so adjusting the balance paid to the men for service beyond our limits that in the end they will not incur any greater expense than at present. If that takes place we must, I suppose, submit to it ; but that consideration should not prevent us from doing what lies in our power to place all ship-owners upon an equal footing. I do not hold a brief for the Australian shipowners, because they are very well able to look after themselves, but in common fairness we should not add to the disadvantages under which they already labour. The United States cannot be said to have made themselves ridiculous in the eyes of the world, and yet it is well known that none but American-owned vessels are allowed to participate in the coastal trade of that country. That is prohibition with a vengeance, and the day may arrive when we shall have to adopt similar measures in the Commonwealth. In the meantime, we should shape our legislation so that the conditions may be made as fair as possible for all concerned. We must never forget that Australia is an island continent, and that the Commonwealth must sooner or later become a maritime power. We all live in the hope that one day we shall see an Australian Navy. In the meantime we have made the best terms we can with the mother country. We must, however, have, ships of our own and a navy of our own, and become a maritime power. Any one who knows anything of ancient or modern shipping must be aware that a mercantile fleet and a navy proper go hand in hand. There is kind of parity of principle between them, and if a country has a large and important mercantile marine it must also maintain a naval force for . its protection. We need have no fear that any legislation we may pass would have the effect of deterring foreign ship-owners from sending their vessels into our waters to take our produce to markets abroad. Those who have travelled on the Continent or in America know that Australia is called “The Land of the Golden Fleece,” and that it is believed that the sea washes pearls on to our shores. The ideas which are current as to the great wealth of Australia will always cause us to loom large in the eyes of business men, who will be only too eager to meet our requirements in the way of sea transit. They will always find it worth while to trade with us. Whilst we are not prepared to go so far as America has gone, and to insist that none but Australian-built boats shall participate in our coastal trade, we should ever keep before us the ideal of establishing an Australian mercantile navy. Therefore we should encourage, rather than handicap our local shipping companies. At the present time those companies are labouring under a very severe handicap by reason of the great attractions which are offered by the mail steamers in the way of comfort and society. They find it very difficult to compete with those vessels.
– Not at all.
– If the right honorable member for Swan would only travel by a coastal steamer once he would not care to repeat his experience. Even if it cost ten times as much to travel between Perth and Melbourne by a mail steamer as it does to travel by a coastal vessel, I venture to say that the right honorable member would gladly pay the higher fare.
– The intercolonial steamers are not so bad as that.
– Some of the new coastal boats provide very good accommodation.
– They are quite as bad as I have depicted.
– We can attend to that in the Navigation Bill.
– I hold that uniformity of industrial legislation is essential, and we cannot obtain that uniformity unless the seamen are brought under the operation of this Bill. It has been said that if these clauses are inserted the measure will be hung up indefinitely, because of the international relationships upon which we shall impinge.
That is an exceedingly serious matter. But we are sometimes called upon to play the heroic, even in ‘ legislation, and I think it is far more honest and praiseworthy to say exactly what we mean in this Bill than to attempt to achieve our end by another means. Let us be frank and honest upon this matter - we need not be impertinent in our dealings with the Imperial Government. I repeat that ‘the mail steamers at present enjoy great advantages as compared with our coastal vessels. A glance at the fares levied by the former will show that they charge the same rate for a passage from Tilbury to Sydney as they do for one from Tilbury to Fremantle.
– How does that affect the coastal trade
– To the extent that the coastal vessels have to compete at a very great disadvantage. If the mail steamers can carry . passengers from Fremantle to Sydney without losing anything, they can’ carry passengers for nothing.
– As a matter of fact those vessels charge from 50 to 100 per cent, more for passages along the Australian coast.
– The companies trust to the superior advantages which these floating palaces provide to attract business from the coastal trade, and so long as there is a snobocracy in existence people will- prefer to travel by those steamers rather than by - local “ tramps.” Most fools will pay a great deal for society. One has merely to impart a little “ tone “ to it-
– How does the honorable member travel?
– I have always travelled by the mail steamers. After I arrived in Australia I admit that, as a parson, I obtained a refund of 50 per cent.
– When the honorable member visited Western Australia some time ago, how did he travel ?
– I travelled by the mail steamer. I would not take£1,000 to travel by a coastal vessel.
– There is a better chance of obtaining improved conditions upon our coastal steamers whilst they are required to compete with the ocean liners.
– The competition is all on one side, because the mail steamers can carry passengers from Fremantle to Sydney for nothing, and still make as much profit as they are making at the present time. The fare from Tilbury to Fremantle, by these vessels, is identical with that charged from Tilbury to Sydney. Surely, honorable members cannot experience any difficulty in grasping the elementary tact that the coastal trade represents all gain to tha mail steamers, whilst in the case of locally-owned vessels it does not. The mail steamers have had too many, advantages conferred upon them already. Their fares are absurdly high. For example, the vessels of the White Star line carry passengers to London for 50 per cent, less than do the steamers of the Peninsular and Oriental and Orient companies. That margin cannot possibly be represented by the difference between the “ living “ upon these vessels. In spite of all balance-sheets to the contrary, I hold that the Australian trade pays these mail steamers very well.
– The Peninsular and Oriental Company has lost £90,000 in the Australian trade during the past twelve months.
– Its loss was previously stated at . £50,000. Apparently, the figures have grown since. I repeat that the adoption of the amendment will impose a more severe handicap upon our local ship-owners than that under which they at present labour.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).During the course of my speech just delivered, the Minister of External Affairs asked me the name of the English statesman who had resigned his Cabinet position because he had made a speech in opposition to the policy of the Government of the day. I was unable to recall it at the time, but the gentleman in question was the Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board, Mr. T. W. Russell. In writing of the incident, the Review of Reviews for March, of the present year, says : -
It was at Clogher, on 20th September, 1900, and during the general election, that Mr. Russell suddenly astonished and delighted the tenant farmers by declaring in favour of compulsory purchase, in order to settle the land question. He was opposed bv the landlords, but won the seat despite their opposition. He lost his office, however. He told his constituents, “ Lord Salisbury, no doubt, dismissed me from the Government because of the Clogher speech.”’
I need not go further. I think the extract which I have read shows very clearly that I thoroughly understood what I was talking about.
Mr. WATSON laid upon the table the following paper : - -
Amendment of regulations as to rifle clubs, to come into operation on 1st July, 1904.
Motion (by Mr. Watson) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I desire to draw the attention of the Government to the following paragraph in this morning’s issue of the Argus: -
A difference has arisen between the Sydney Gas Company and the Glebe Municipal Council over the lighting contract. The Daily Telegraph says that the Federal Postal Department has intervened in an “ astonishing “ manner, by giving the council permission to hang kerosene lamps on the telegraph posts for three months. It is hinted that this has been done at the suggestion of Mr. Hughes, Minister, of External Affairs, who represents West Sydney.
I wish to know whether this statement is correct, and, if so, why the Department has differentiated between- an application made in Sydney, and a similar one made on behalf of one of the suburban municipalities of Melbourne. At the request of the Northcote Council, I applied to the Postal Department for permission to use the telegraph poles in that municipality in a similar way, but’ the proposition was received with such a snort of surprise that I have never since dared to gaze on a telegraph pole. It seems somewhat remarkable that a Federal Department should have intervened in this way in a dispute between a municipality and a private company, and I should, therefore, like to have an explanation.
– I have also a complaint to make in regard to the Postal Department. Those who havp occasion to send letters fiom Sydney to Melbourne by the express which leaves on Sunday evening, find that the late fee box at the General Post. Office is kept open on Sundays, but that letters posted there are not cleared until the following day. On the other band, letters are taken at the railway station. In these circumstances, I would ask the Minister whether he will take steps toremedy such a. ridiculous system, in order that the disappointment and, in some cases, loss which has occurred, may be avoided.
– In reply to the honorable member for Laanecoorie, I would say. that the subject-matter of his complaint has not previously been brought under my notice, but that I shall cause inquiries to be made forthwith in regard to it. I bad not the advantage of hearing the opening observations of the honorable member for Bourke-
– I merely quoted a paragraph from the Argus dealing with the Glebe case.
– The facts of the case may be briefly stated. Some time ago the Glebe Municipal Council rated the mains of the Metropolitan Gas Company, and I believe that, as the result of the refusal of the company to recognise the claim, the matter was . ventilated in the Law Courts, The company’ was successful in the proceedings before the Supreme Court of the State, but the municipality appealed to the High Court, and their appeal was sustained. Almost immediately afterwards the Gas Company increased its lighting charges to such an extent as to more than meet . the rates that it was called upon to pay under the decision of the Court.
– Every municipality around Sydney was called upon to pay an additional£1 per lamp per annum.
– In these circumstances the municipality applied. to the Department for permission to hang kerosene lamps on telegraph poles within its boundaries. It appeared from the preliminary application that the municipality desired this privilege for an indefinite period, but I could not see my way clear to’ concede- that request, more especially as the officers of the Department reported that the hanging of the lamps on the telegraph poles would materially interfere with the working of the telephone and telegraph system. On arriving at Sydney last week I was interviewed by the Mayor of Glebe, who explained that the council merely desired permission to place the lamps on the telegraph poles, pending the completion of anangements with the Electric Lighting Company to illuminate the . municipality by electricity. He stated that at the most they should not require to use the poles in this way for more than three months, and as the electrician, Mr. Nelson, was favorable, I considered that the application might well be granted.
– Was Mr. Nelson favorable to the request?
– He was present with the deputation, and was distinctly in favour of ‘ granting the request. Another point Worthy of mention is that the municipality has agreed to waive any claim that it might have in respect of injury done to its lamps by any of our workmen, and is also about to indemnify the Department against damage to the poles.
– They wished to break down a monopoly?
– That is a matter of notoriety. The fact that, it was a monopoly, and had attempted to extort whatI considered to be unjust rates from the municipality, certainly influenced my decision.
– All- the municipalities were treated very badly by the company.
– I think that I acted rightly in granting the request. I have only to say that, if necessary; I should be prepared to deal with any other municipality in. the same way.
– Has the Department received any concession?
– NO; but, as I have indicated, it will not suffer in any way.
– If I remember rightly, the Northcote Council offered to pay a rental for the use of the poles
– If the use of the poles were required for an indefinite period it would be very desirable to make provision for the payment of rent. In the case of the Glebe municipality, however, the arrangement is purely a temporary ohe, and I did not consider it necessary to make any stipulation in that direction.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.8 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 July 1904, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1904/19040715_reps_2_20/>.