2nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2:30 p.m., and read prayers.
MANUFACTURES ENCOURAGEMENT BILL.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE.- Is the Prime Minister, now that he has received the replies of the Premiers of the States to the communication sent to them in reference to the Manufactures Encouragement Bill, in a position to say whether his Government is likely to proceed with that measure? If it is not, will he give an opportunity to myself, or some other honorable member, to take it up, and to try to carry it through?
Mr. WATSON. - The Government have, for some little time past, been in communication with the Governments of the States in regard to this matter, in order to find out, if possible, whether any of them would be- likely to take advantage of the inducements contained in the provisions of the Bill if their application were confined to State operations; but there seems to be no change from the attitude which they took up some months ago. We, therefore, do not intend to proceed with the measure ourselves ; but I shall take into consideration the request of the honorable member, that he or some other honorable member may be given an opportunity to take it up, and let him have a definite answer a few days hence.
– I wish to draw the attention of the Prime Minister, who, I understand, is, in the absence of the Minister of Trade and Customs, acting for him, to a complaint of the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce in reference to the lack of facilities in that town for obtaining information from the Customs officials there, and to ask the honorable gentleman if there is any reason why equal facilities for acquiring such information should not be given in every State.
– The matter has not been brought under my notice, and I am, therefore,- not able to give the honorable member a. reply to his question, but I feel sure that the Minister must be unaware that any difference is made between the facilities afforded to the public by the Customs authorities at Fremantle and those afforded to the public of Melbourne and Sydney. I do not think he would tolerate the continuance of any system which made a distinction between Fremantle and the large cities of the other States. At any rate, I shall have the matter brought under his attention as early as possible.
– As the Minister _ of Trade and Customs is now on a short visit to Queensland, does not the Prime Minister think it would be wise to advise him to make a personal inquiry into the allegations that kanakas are being persuaded to re-engage for further terms, on the ground that no vessels are available to carry them back to their native islands? An inquiry into the subject was instituted a little while ago, but the result was not altogether satisfactory, and ‘I am in receipt of recent information to- the effect, not only that the action complained of was taking place prior to the inquiry I speak of, but that it is still taking place.
– My honorable colleague does not contemplate being away from Melbourne for more than a week, so that he will spend only a very few days in Queensland ; but if it is possible for him to obtain the information in the time at his disposal, I shall be glad to suggest to him that he might do so.
– Will the Prime Minister lay upon the table, before we are asked to discuss the Seat of Government Bill, a statement of the time it would take to reach each of the proposed sites from the present capital- cities of the Commonwealth, assuming the existing time-tables to remain in force? The information hitherto supplied to us gives only the time absolutely expended in travelling.
– The Minister of Home Affairs has been dealing with the matter. 1 do not know if the information has been tabulated, but I am sure that, if it has not, he will have no objection to obtaining it, and making it available to honorable members.
– When does the Prime Minister intend to proceed with the second reading of the Bill ?
– Our ‘ proposal, as outlined last week, is, as soon as the first stage of the consideration of the Arbitration Bill in Committee has been disposed of, to commence the consideration of the Seat of Government Bill.
– Does the honorable . gentleman mean as soon as the navigation clauses have been dealt with ?
– When the new clauses proposed by the Government, those to be proposed by honorable members, and the schedules have been dealt with.
– When everything except the recommittal of the Bill has taken place ?
– Yes. I do not know yet whether we shall have time to dispose of the Seat of Government Bill this week; but I think that we should commence the secondreading stage. The honorable member for Corangamite has given notice of a contingent amendment which raises the question whether we should at the present time consider the matter at all, and that question will have to be disposed of before we can proceed to choose a site. The view of the Government is that, we should push on with the Bill as expeditiously as possible. I hope I shall be able to say not later than Wednesday whether we expect to be able to take a vote on the measure this week.
-I understand that the honorable member for Hume has, with the concurrence of the Government, arranged for a party of honorable members to visit an altogether new site. That being so, the Government must have given consideration to his proposal.
– Does the Commonwealth pay for all -these trips ?
– I shall not go into that question.
– It will have to be gone into.
– All I want to know is whether the Government have seriously considered the proposal of the honorable member for Hume?
– I do not quite follow the trend of the honorable member’s question. I am not quite sure whether he is alluding to the question of the time likely to be occupied, or the matter of the proposed new site.
– I am referring to the visit of honorable members to the site recentlv suggested.
– Upon that head, I may say that the Government have no official information with regard to the suggested site except that which may have been conveyed to my honorable colleague, the Minister for Home Affairs, through the report of Mr. Chesterman, who has been making a contour survey of the sites in the Tumut district. The area which I understand some honorable members are anxious to visit is embraced within the territory near Tumut fixed upon by this Chamber some little time ago. The area then included the territory between Tumut and the Murray, which it is now suggested should be visited. With regard to the observation of the honorable member for Parramatta, as to the facilities to be given to honorable members, he is probably aware that opportunities have been offered to honorable members to visit several sites.
– Then any one may suggest a site?
– As honorable members have visited some sites, we cannot prevent them from inspecting others. As I have said before, however, the facilities granted to honorable members must not . result in delaying the House in arriving at a determination.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Home Affairs whether he has received the report of Mr. Chesterman with reference to the Tooma site, and, if so, whether he will lay the report on the table?
– I have not yet received the report referred to, but expect that itwill come to hand during the afternoon, and that I shall be in a position to lay it on the table before the close of the sitting.
– If the Government have seriously considered the question to which I have just referred I should like to know from the Prime Minister what time will be occupied in surveys having reference to water’ supply facilities and other matters in connexion with the proposed new site, and in obtaining other information which will be necessary before the House will be prepared to deal with the matter.
– By that time the honorable member for Eden-Monaro will probably have a few more sites to suggest.
– The Government do not at present’ propose to enter upon any additional surveys. If the procedure followed last session is again adopted, a district will be selected which may include several possible sites for the Federal Capital. The determination of the exact location of the Capital can be arranged for after the original selection of the area which is to include the site.
– How far is Tooma from Tumut ?
– About fifty miles from the township of Tumut.
– More than that’.
– The Murray is not fifty miles from Tumut.
– I do not think that any one could reach the Murray from Tumut in fifty miles.
– I think if would be possible, but I may be mistaken. At the same time, I do not think that any delay will be involved by the proposed inspection. In my view a district should be selected, and a subsequent survey should be relied upon to disclose the site which would be best suited for the Federal Capital.
– In view of the arrangements made for the proposed trip to Tooma, how does the Prime Minister suppose that he will be able to arrange for the second reading of the Seat of Government Bill this week ? I also desire to know whether the Prime Minister will see that full notice is given to honorable members as to the time at which a vote will be taken?
– I expect to be able to speak definitely to-morrow as to the time at which the vote upon, the sites will be taken. It’ seems to me that the second reading debate could be concluded without interfering with the desire of some honorable members to visit the Tooma site.
– But the whole question would be disposed of before they return.
– No; the second read-, ing debate will be concluded before honorable members are asked to select a site. I do not think it likely that the secondreading debate will occupy very long, or that the proposed visit of honorable members to Tooma will interfere with it. The question whether we are to at once proceed to the selection of a site will be brought up by the amendment outlined by the honorable member for Corangamite, and I think that we might at least reach that stage during this week.
– I desire to ask the Postmaster-General whether he has yet obtained the information asked for by the honorable member for Lang with reference to Sunday work performed in post offices?
– The honorable member for Lang asked a question with reference to postmasters being required to work on Sundays. All the matters to which the questions Telate are within the control of the Public Service Commissioner, who has furnished the following replies: -
Want of Employment : Tenders for Government Works and Stores.
– I desire to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a . definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “The distress existing through want of employment, and the action that should be taken for its relief.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
– In the first place, I desire to direct the attention of the Prime Minister to the fact that the Government will shortly be calling for tenders for the supply of stores and for other articles required by the whole of the public Departments of the Commonwealth, particularly in connexion with the Militia and Postal Services. In view of the distress which at present exists owing to want of employment, and, also, in view of the desirability of giving manufacturers in the Commonwealth a fair field, I would urge that the Government should issue instructions that, all other things being equal, local manufacturers should be given a preference. I am sorry to say that this is not being done at present, but that, on the contrary, there appears to be a very strong prejudice in the minds of some officials against giving local manufacturers even an opportunity to tender. I know of many instances of the kind. The States Governments are doing all that they can to meet the case by calling for local tenders only - the Government of New South Wales have recently called for the supply of locomotives, which are to be manufactured locally - and I think that the Federal Government . should follow a similar course. It is notorious that many of the Government officials - I do not say all of them - are so prejudiced against Australian manufacturers that they positively will not afford them an opportunity to send in tenders.
– Can the honorable member refer us to any cases in point?
– Yes ; I can quote a very striking instance, which, I think, will strongly impress honorable members. The Military authorities have for some time been considering the question of supplying the forces with new uniforms, and, among other things, have had to decide upon the badges which shall be used by the various regiments and battalions. I have here samples of badges of Australian manufacture, which are pronounced by experts to be as good, from the point of view of artistic design, and of as great intrinsic value as anything that could be imported. Not only have the local people not been given an opportunity of tendering, but I have every reason to believe that the military authorities intend placing the order with a home firm without even calling for tenders in England. That, at any rate, is one instance which is worth inquiring into.
– tI did not ask the question in a hostile spirit.
– It is a matter upon which I feel very strongly, and consequently speak strongly.’ I am convinced that the heads of Departments, although they are themselves protected in every possible way as regards their positions, their salaries, and their increments, do not bestow the faintest consideration upon our local manufacturers. Whenever they can they place our Government orders on the English or Continental market. As a matter of fact, I know that German filters have even been placed in several of the Federal Departments, and that the local article has been entirely ignored, although every one knows tht the Australian filter is quite equal to anything that is imported. I do hope that the Government will see that explicit instructions are issued to every one of the heads of Departments that the Australian article is to be given a fair field-
– But no favour.
– Yes, it should be given a preference. The idea of the honorable member talking about a fair field but no favour ! Would he not favour his own brother as against an outsider? What did his leader do on one occasion? Tradition has it that, when calling for tenders for the building of a bridge in New South Wales, that gentleman attempted to do for the manufacturers and artisans of New South Wales that which I am suggesting that the Government might do for the mechanics and artisans of the Commonwealth. The honorable member’s free-trade leader in that instance went to the extreme of prohibiting the Victorian manufacturers from tendering, and that was done solely in the interests of the labouring classes of the neighboring State.
– Is this an attempt to introduce the question of free-trade and protection ?
– That will come in due course. I contend that the Government are in duty bound, if it comes to a question of preference, to give that preference to Australian manufacturers. We cannot be expected to excel in any manufacture unless the Government is prepared to set an example in these matters. The obligation upon them to set that example is so much the greater when, as at the present time, employment is urgently needed foi a large number of persons.
– The honorable member spoke of the preference to foreign manufacturers being the rule.
– But my honorable friend spoke of no favour whatever being extended to local manufacturers. What I say in reply to his interjection is that I would go so far as to invariably favour Australian manufacturers as against foreign manufacturers. I desire also to urge upon the Government the desirableness of at once placing upon the market tenders for the new works and buildings with which they propose to proceed during the present financial year. I am sure honorable members will agree with me that it is their duty to do all in their power to afford immediate relief to the unemployed in our cities. A request which was made last year is being renewed - that is to say that the Postmaster-General should put in hand immediately a number of small works, such, for example, as the painting of telegraph poles. This may be considered a small matter to bring under the notice of a national Parliament, but we are confronted with widespread distress, and the Government have the means of affording that employment which a very large number of persons so urgently need. Last year, in similar circumstances, the reason assigned by the Government for delay in putting works in hand was that the State authorities were supplying the skilled oversight which was necessary, and it was pointed out that certain works were necessarily hung up owing to the necessary inspection and supervision not being immediately available. I would submit to the Minister for Home Affairs, to whose Department this matter relates, that it would be to the advantage of the Commonwealth to appoint temporary inspectors in order that these public worksmight be expedited. In the interests of public economy, as well as in the interests of the unemployed, these works should be carried out during the winter season, and not when private employers are inviting tenders for various works, and making demands on the labour market.
– Can the honorable member say approximately how many unemployed there are?
– I do not intend to deal with that phase of the question. The fact that skilled tradesmen are wanting work, and unable to find it, is quite sufficient reason for my bringing the matter before the House, and urging that steps should be taken to push on with public works. If my honorable friend knows what it is to be out of employment he will sympathize with the motion.
– He knows what it is, but he has never leaned upon the Government.
– The honorable member should thank God that he has not been forced to do so.
– But he is now leaning on the Government.
– Of course he is. If the unemployed were receiving from the Government as much as he secures by way of ‘ allowance, we should not hear any grumbling on their part.
– I am leaning on the Government.
– I trust that the Government will take this matter into their serious consideration, and do their best to expedite the carrying out of these public works. Many of the public -buildings are in a lamentable state of disrepair, and it is necessary that something should be done at once in the interests of the Commonwealth, as well as in the interests of those out of employment. There is another rjhase of the question which I desire to bring before the Government. I know that it is a debatable one, but feel that I have good reason for introducing it and urging that the Ministry should consider their attitude in regard to it. I refer to the disastrous effect which the operation of the Federal Tariff has had upon several of the most important industries of this State. In the first place, I would point out that the iron trade, owing to the operation of the Tariff, is in a most deplorable state. Hundreds of skilled mechanics, formerly employed in that industry, are to-day walking the streets in search of employment, and unless something be done to tide them over this time of stress and difficulty, I fear very much the immediate future.
– Cannot the industry-
-Order! The honorable member may speak later on.
– I do not intend to be drawn away from my argument by any interjection. Under the Victorian Tariff, which ranged from 15 to 30 per cent., the value of engines, implements, and machinery imported-
– I rise to a point of order, with a view to keep the debate within proper limits. The honorable member is now referring to the effect of the Tariff recently passed by the Commonwealth Parliament, and infers that it has adversely affected various industries. I submit that on a motion of this character that subject cannot be discussed. It ‘opens wide the field of fiscal debate, and I am afraid that it would be impossible to keep the discussion within proper limits if this line of argument were permitted. I presume that anything which would contribute to the relief of the unemployed might fairly be discussed, but I submit that the whole question of the effect of the Tariff is not in order.
– The statement which the honorable member for Melbourne Ports handed to me set forth that he desired to move the adjournment of the House -
To discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, the distress existing through want of employment, and the action that should be taken for its relief.
On that intimation it seems to me that if the honorable member pleases to contend that from his point of view the Tariff is one of the causes of the lack of employment, and that some alteration of it would afford relief, he is certainly entitled to do so.
– Where is the lack of employment? In Victoria only.
– My friend ‘does not know anything about lack of employment, and I hope he never will.
– I only ask where is the lack of employment.
-I must ask the honorable member for Melbourne Ports not to address honorable members as “my friends.” Honorable members are representatives of certain districts, and should be addressed as such. I also have to ask honorable members not to interrupt the honorable member who is speaking. If they desire to take part in the debate they may do so presently.
– I beg the pardon of the right honorable member for Swan ; I shall not callhim “ my friend “ again. I was about to point out that the value of the imports of engines, implements, and machinery under the Victorian Tariff in 1899 amounted to £374,5701 while under the Commonwealth Tariff last year - I am speaking from data supplied to me by the Department of Trade and Customs - the value had risen to £575,950 - an increase of about £201,000, or over 50 per cent, on the gross imports during the four years. I am informed that the Engineers’ Society is at the present time paying something like £100 per week in out-of-work allowance, and that never in the history of the engineering and iron trades has the want of employment been so great as at present. A similar condition of things would appear to prevail in New South Wales ; and this is borne testimony to by the iron-workers of Sydney.
– Hear, hear.
– The honorable member is saying “hear, hear” a little too soon. Mr. James P. Franki, the manager of Mort’s Dock, Sydney, in giving evidence before the Royal Commission on the Bonus for Manufactures Bill, made this statement: - 1473. If you had to pay 10 per cent, upon the iron you imported, you would still be per cent, better off than you were before there was a duty ? - A protection of 2½ per cent, would be of no service to us. It is only by being able to get our raw material free, and by having a duty of12½ per cent, upon the manufactured article, that we can do anything. As a matter of fact, a duty of 12½ per cent, is not high enough to keep out foreign manufactures. In Sydney, people are famishing for want of work, and yet engines and boilers are being imported by the dozen from England, and can be placed straight into the hulls of ships without paying any duty. That is an infamous state of things. In the local engineering shops there are hundreds of apprentices growing up, but we do not know what to do with them, because jobs which should be done locally, and which would afford them employment, are carried out abroad. If we put engines into a vessel, we have to pay duty upon them, but other people are allowed to import them, and to place them directly into the hulls of vessels without paying duty.
In answer to question 1502, before the same Royal Commission, Mr. Franki bore testimony to the fact that local manufacturers are paying just double the wages that are paid in England, and that it is quite im possible under a duty of 12½ per cent, to retain the . work in the Commonwealth. When the President of the United States recently delivered his Message to Congress, he made this important statement : -
Every application of our tariff policy to meet our national needs must be conditioned upon the cardinal fact, that the duties must never be reduced between the point that will cover the difference between the cost of labour here and abroad. The well-being of the wage-workers is a prime consideration in our entire policy of economic legislation.
We did not consider that phase of the question when the Tariff was before the House, and the result is that the engineering trade, in Victoria especially, is in a deplorable state. Hundreds of men are walking the streets, and our large engineering establishments are fast becoming mere repairing shops. There is another trade to which I should like to direct the attention of the Government. This trade is in a disastrous condition, owing to the increased imports and the competition . of Chinese labour; I refer to the furniture trade. I hope the Government will consider the matter, and see whether any means can be devised for reaching this class of alien labour, which is, unfortunately, in our midst, and, combined with the increased imports, is driving many of our workmen to such straits that they have to beg for bread.
– The produce of Victorian Chinamen is having the same effect in South Australia.
– I am afraid it is; and it is very serious that we should find ourselves face to face with the fact that aliens are doing this work, while our own people are walking about looking for bread. Under the Victorian Tariff in 1899, the value of the furniture imports amounted to , £31,000, while last year - and this . in addition to Chinese competition - the value was £57,000, altogether exclusive of upholstery. I know that in view of the fact that in Victoria there are Factory Acts and Regulations, this is a difficult matter for the Commonwealth Government. But I hope that the circumstances of the two or three leading trades to which I have alluded will receive the earnest, immediate, and careful consideration of the Government.
– I thought the honorable member advocated a fiscal truce.
– If I did, the right honorable member for East Sydney never advocated a truce, so that he cannot quarrel with me for taking up my present position.
– I wanted to fight the matter out, but I was beaten.
– Seeing there has been no agreement - that the right honorable member for East Sydney would be no party to an agreement - I am breaking no agreement in urging this question on the Government.
– That is rather Jesuitical.
– I direct your attention, Mr. Speaker, to a remark by the right honorable member for. East Sydney, which I consider offensive.
– I ask the right honorable member for East Sydney to withdraw an expression which the honorable member for Melbourne Ports thinks offensive.
– If the honorable member for Melbourne Ports regards as offensive an expression which I certainly thought one sanctified by the most religious associations-
-Does the right honorable member for East Sydney withdraw the expression ?
– I did subscribe to the policy of fiscal peace, but there are times when it is necessary to retrace one’s steps. I should like to ask honorable members whether, in the midst of the storm the other day. the captains of steamers were not ‘ justified in putting back into Sydney harbour for safety? In view of the fact that two or three of our leading industries are being crushed out of existence, the national Government would be perfectly justified in considering the position, with a view to ascertain what can be done to afford immediate relief. I do not wish to open up the whole Tariff question.
– The honorable member has just done so.
– Then I am prepared to take the responsibility. I am not pleading with the Government to go into every item of the schedule, but I urge that there are striking instances of the evil effects of the Tariff, and that it is the duty of the Government, in the interests of the Australian workers, to look into the matter at the earliest possible moment. I may be asked what warrant I have for intercepting so important a measure as the Arbitration Bill; but, while I give place to no honorable member in my desire to see the Arbitration Bill become law, the question of first importance is, to my mind, that of employment. What is the use of arbitration when there is no work? What is the use of fixing wages at £2, £2 5s., or ^3 per week’ when skilled engineers, basket-makers, and furniture makers are offering their services for 25s. or 30s. per week in occupations outside their own?
– The shipping trade gives a lot of employment, and yet the honorable member is prepared to bann shipping.
– I have heard of the shipping trade before, and I expected iu hear that we ought not to object to “ wealth being poured on our shores “ - that we should not object to our workmen walking up and down the wharves, while machinery and furniture are being poured into Australia. But I say with Ruskin, that there is no wealth but life, and that that country is the greatest which nourishes the largest number of happy and contented people. Wealth in the warehouse, or in the hands of the merchant is of no use to a man who has no employment. The very first consideration is to secure work, and then to regulate wages and conditions. At a recent conference between the Trades’ Hall and the Protectionists’ Association this resolution was affirmed -
That this Conference, while heartily supporting the principle .of Wages Boards and Arbitration, is strongly of opinion that protection through thu Customs-house is a first essential, and urges that in the interests of wage-earners, effective protection should first be given to Australian producers and manufacturers, with a view to securing the “ new protection “ in the form of Wages Boards and arbitration.
The position of the Government should be that while it is necessary that industry should not be thrown into a state of confusion by strikes and locks-out, it is a first essential that employment should be secured to our people. The Government can secure that in three ways - first, by giving to the people opportunities of earning a living ; secondly, by providing the money for the new works and buildings, which they propose to undertake out of the coming year’s revenue; and, thirdly, by giving to this subject their earnest, careful, and early consideration, with a view to determining what’ are the possibilities for securing the Australian market for the Australian worker, particularly with regard to the industries to which I have referred, and also as to others which I might have mentioned. I appeal to the Government, altogether irrespective of the fiscal issue and of the protestations of honorable members opposite, to give earnest and careful consideration to the subject.. I can assure them that if this
Government does not consider the matter some other Government will be compelled to look to it.
– I am glad that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has brought this subject forward. There can be no doubt that hundreds of men are to-day out of work in Melbourne. I am not prepared to say that the Tariff is the primary cause of their lack of employment ; but I am prepared to insist that there are industrial institutions in Melbourne that are suffering in consequence of its operation. There is, for instance, the Otis Company, with which I am well acquainted, and which’ is now employing 500 hands fewer than it employed a year or two ago when the Victorian Tariff was in operation. Whether we are going to raise a “ row “ with regard- to the fiscal question or not. it certainly is the duty of the House to consider whether the effect of the Tariff has been to throw men out of employment. It is our duty to find them work. I have always told our labour brethren that our mission as a party in this great House is to find work for the people, and to enable those who are capable of affording employment to do so. If it be true that the Tariff has thrown men out of employment, it certainly is the duty of the present Ministry - although it may be composed of freetraders and protectionists - to face the question and take it up. They might appoint a Select Committee to go into the whole matter, examining it from every stand-point. The Age is publishing leading articles day after day upon the question. Surely the statements which are made must have some foundation. A conference at the Trades’ Hall a few weeks ago declared that there were 23,000 men out of employment in Australia in consequence of the operation of the Tariff. /I do not intend to raise the fiscal question at this stage., but I am merely stating what I have gathered in Melbourne. I am continually “knocking about” this city, and people come to me for help from every quarter. I have had to appeal to Mr. Speaker for some place in which to live so as to enable me. to divide my salary with outsiders. I am aware that it is rather difficult to persuade the Government to take up the question, because of the fact that there are free-traders and protectionists sitting together in the Cabinet. But it is a vital -question. It is a burning issue in Australia; and if the present Government does not take it up some other Government will have to do so. A member of the Legislative Council of Victoria referred to the matter the other day, and said that the Labour Party were talking about Arbitration Bills and Wages Boards, whilst at the same time they were not enabling the Australian manufacturer to pay the wages that were fixed. If something is not done, the whole of the factories of this country will have to close up. The iron industry is going in Victoria; there is no question about that. One of the hat factories has had to close, and the tanneries are closing. Men are complaining’ in the streets. It is the duty of the Labour Party, whether a Labour Government is in power or out of power, to take up this question. I do not say that we should go into the whole Tariff matter, but we ought to at least appoint a Select Committee for the purpose of furnishing a report to Parliament with a view to enable the Government to bring down proposals. Perhaps some items of the Tariff will have to be raised, whilst others will have to be lowered. Sooner or later the Labour Party as a party mli have to declare itself upon the fiscal question, and as to whether Australia is definitely to shut out the goods of the Chinaman and the blackfellow, or let their products come in practically free. Unless “ the subject is taken up in earnest, the wages paid in this country will very soon fall to the level of the wages paid in the countries that send their goods to us. Every one admits that the imports into Australia have gone up by leaps and bounds. I am perfectly certain that the free-trade party are willing to go into the question with a view to keeping in view solely the wages paid to the people. The Tariff question may be sunk, but we cannot sink the stomachs of hungry people. If some thing is not done some of us will have to look for tents on the banks of the Yarra or somewhere else. I have much pleasure in supporting the action which the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has taken.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports, of course, takes the responsibility for introducing this subject. I do not intend to be drawn into a general argument on the fiscal question, but I protest against the miseries of people outside being made a fiscal stalking horse in this House. The honorable member who introduced the question knows as well as any man can possibly know anything that this is not the way to get relief for the men who are out of employment. He knows that his appeal to the Government to re-open the fiscal question must be fruitless. The Government, to begin with, is composed of free-traders and protectionists. Thequestion is altogether beyond their control. The sooner the unemployed are made aware that the honorable member, when talking in this way, knew perfectly well that his appeal could have no effect the better it will be. I wish to make but one reply to some of the statements of the honorable member. He spoke of the dearth of employment in Melbourne as being consequent upon the introduction of the Federal Tariff. I was reading, when coming down in the train this morning, a statement made by one of the arch-priests of protection in Melbourne. I refer to Senator Trenwith. Speaking last night in one of the suburbs of Melbourne upon the effects of Federation, he mentioned the fact that since the inauguration of the Commonwealth - and I suppose consequent upon the introduction of the Tariff - the exports of Victoria to other States have increased by £2,000,000.
– He did not state what the increased imports were.
– That does not look as if the protected industries of Victoria arebeing placed in the x quantity.
– That does not affect the question one bit.
– Perhaps that is so. I have no doubt that we shall hear an explanation of it when the honorable member replies. Meanwhile, I simply point out that fact, which, no doubt, he overlooked. In the same newspaper this morning I saw another statement to the effect that in the Denton Hat Mills industry there had been a great increase in employment.
– The article did not say that.
– I mean an increase in the number of hands employed.
– Did it not say that three other mills had been closed?
– I read that the Denton Hat Mills have paid their usual 10 per cent, dividend for the half-year. That also looks as if the Tariff has not been so absolutely destructive of the hat industry as my honorable friend would make us believe.
– Three other mills have been closed.
– The honorable member must stop interjecting; he would not allow any one to interject while he was speaking. These are the only two instances I intend to mention to-day. I protest that this is neither the time nor the occasion for a general review of the effects of the Tariff, especially when it is recollected that the House was returned for the most part on the basis of fiscal peace. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports says, as an excuse for his action, that the leader of the Opposition has raised the fiscal question, and that, therefore, he may do so.
– May I remind the honorable member that he did not make his action at the general election consequent on anything which that right honorable gentleman did. He gave his constituents a pledge that he would not raise the fiscal question in this Parliament.
– I did nothing of the kind.
– The honorable member told his constituents - and that is the reason for his being here to-day - that he was for a fiscaltruce.
– What nonsense !
– Then the honorable member went away from his party on that occasion.
– The honorable member’s leader told them something else.
– Of course he did.
– I told them the very opposite, and I got beaten.
– Every one knows that we combated the idea of fiscal peace, and that honorable members who wish to raise the fiscal question now went to the country pleading for a fiscal truce. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has told us what a mistake they made when they went to their constituents on any such proposal. He has told us that this is not the time for a fiscal truce or a fiscal peace. There can be no objection to the honorable member raising the question at the proper time and place, but I submit that it ought not to be raised when the question of dealing with the unemployed is on the tapis. I, with him, hope that the Government will strain every nerve to give whatever work they have with the view of relieving the necessitous condition of the unemployed.
– That is only patch-work; mv proposal will be permanently beneficial.
– The honorable member goes further than that, and asks the Government to deliberately re-open the whole Tariff question. He knows, if he knows anything at all, that he is asking them to do something which is impossible, and he’ is therefore throwing dust in the eyes of those of his constituents who are asking for immediate relief.
– The Otis Company has been referred to as one of the engineering companies which are suffering very seriously in consequence of the Tariff. I do not propose to discuss what has caused such a large concern as that to suffer. But speaking with considerable knowledge, I can say that the Otis Company manufactures chiefly mining machinery. It is wellknown that the industry of mining throughout Australia is in a very depressed condition.
– They manufacture all kinds of machinery.
– It ‘would be absolutely inaccurate for any honorable member to come to the House and say that that, or any similar engineering company was suffering solely from any change in the Tariff.
– The manager says they are.
– There is another great cause for the depression in the engineering companies which undertake that class of work. As showing that the natural conditions of the Commonwealth give a direct contradiction to the position taken up by the honorable member, I ask him if he will furnish the House with information as to the progress of engineering companies which make a specialty of manufacturing agricultural implements. I am in a position to know that the largest’ of these companies is in a very flourishing condition indeed.
– What company is that?
– I refer to Robinson and Co., who, I know, are progressing very satisfactorily. Apart from any considerations of the Tariff, there are natural causes for the depression and progression that we have had in the agricultural areas. We have to look to the primary causes rather than to the artificial causes to which the honorable member for Melbourne Ports referred. ,
Mr.. RONALD (Southern Melbourne).So far as one can judge from a very careful observation among the manufacturing classes in my electorate, the Tariff has worked disastrous results in connexion with labour during the two years of its existence. The Johnstone Tyne Foundry, Gibbons’ Plough Factory, and several other firms have had to considerably reduce the number of their hands by reason of the limited trade. It is quite true that the increased output through Inter-State free-trade has been some compensation, and we do not desire to deny that fact for a moment. At the same time, manufacturing firms have to struggle for existence, and the freer ingress of implements is telling very hard against protected industries. I believe most sincerely, that observation will fully substantiate the proposition that the want of employment in Melbourne - largely in the iron industries - is due to the existing Tariff. I do not wish to break through the fiscal truce, or fiscal peace, but if anything can be done in the meantime by the Government to compensate for the loss of employment which has been consequent on the ne-arrangement of the Tariff - for it cannot be called a reform - I should be exceedingly glad.
– The motion of- the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, when it was read, did not convey to my mind that the only solution of the difficulty with which all the States are beset is a re-adjustment of the Tariff. I fully realize that a large number of persons are undergoing an experience which has not been common in the States for some time. But that that is due altogether to the oppressive nature of the Tariff, or to its nonprotective character, I am not prepared to admit. I think there are deeper causes than the Federal Tariff for the existence of unemployed in the various States.
– We do not say that the Tariff is the exclusive cause.
– I do not say that mistakes may not have been made in the framing of the Federal Tariff, so that it may in some cases have a tendency to undermine what, prior to its passing, were flourishing industries. In Victoria many industries were bound to suffer, because the rates of duty by which they are protected at the present time are lower than those which were in force prior to Federation. Therefore, there may be good reasons for appealing to Parliament for a review of particular duties whose action has been proved to be detrimental. I wish, however, to direct, the attention of the Government to the fact that a great deal can be done for the relief of those who are unemployed, by the strict enforcement of the law which prohibits the immigration of aliens. Cheap, inferior labour, such as that of the Chinese, is undermining Australian labour in every branch of industry, not only in our great cities, but in the country towns and districts as well.
– What is the use of. keeping out cheap labour if we admit goods manufactured bv it?
– I have not said that I am prepared to admit the goods of which the honorable member speaks ; but I say that by strictly enforcing the Alien Immigration Act the Government will keep out of the Commonwealth a class of labour which does more than anything else to prevent our own people from getting employment. AVe know that the Government . have been asked to try to induce the Governments of the States to do the right thing by throwing open more valuable land for occupation, to provide for the settlement of their citizens upon that land. If influence could be brought to bear by this Government upon the Governments of the States to expedite the passing of Closer Settlement Bills, we should get at the bedrock of the unemployed trouble.
– We cannot do more than utter the pious wish that such legislationmay be passed.
– A pious wish sometimes goes a good way when it is uttered by a sincere Government, and I believe that this Government earnestly desires to do all that is possible for the welfare of the people of the country. I have no desire to raise the fiscal question, because I have not raised it in politics for some years past. But I cannot see any strong reason why those who hold the belief which actuates the honorable member for Melbourne Ports should not discuss the question from the fiscal stand-point.
– He told his constituents that he would not do so.
– I do not know that he has made any such statement to his constituents, but I am aware that his fiscal opponents did not hesitate to nail their colours to the mast, and to declare that in the Federal Parliament they would stand or fall by free-trade. Now that they have been beaten, the leader of the party has at once succumbed. He does not seem to think free-trade worth fighting for, although he advocated it for so long. How different is his present attitude from that which he assumed in regard to the Land and Income Tax legislation when he was Premier of New South Wales.
– If the honorable member can establish any relation between the legislation of which he speaks and the subject under discussion, he will be in order in referring to it, but not otherwise.
– I referred to the New South Wales Land and Income Tax legislation merely by way of illustration, though I believe that its effect in New South Wales, . as in New Zealand, has been to largely encourage closer settlement. However, I shall not labour the question. Personally I do not see why the fiscal question should not be raised to benefit those connected with industries which are now prejudicially affected by the Tariff. Of course, honorable members opposite have decided to bury the fiscal question, and to declare for fiscal peace, which is quite the reverse of the doctrine which they preached with such energy and determination in New South Wales.
– I hope that the mention of the fiscal question will not cause the other measures of relief mentioned by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports to be lost sight of, and that, not only will as much work as possible be made available for the unemployed, but that the Government will see that there is no importation of goods which may be manufactured in the Commonwealth. It is our duty, as members of Parliament, to think of the unemployed. We have no right to protest against the mention of them here. While we are drawing our salaries, it is well for us to remember those outside who at the present time find it so difficult to obtain a living, and if we can devise any means which will bring peace and comfort to homes where they are now lacking, it is our duty to try to do so. Both the Commonwealth and the States should encourage local manufacture, even if the locally-manufactured article should cost a little more than the imported article, because, as the money is spent amongst our own people it all goes to swell the national prosperity. The Government should also see that as far as possible public works are undertaken in the winter months. In the summer time persons can live more cheaply and more comfortably than they can in the winter, and more work is then offered by private employers. In the winter months, however, living is expensive and employment restricted. The honorable member for Parramatta tried to throw dust in our eyes when he said that the exports from Victoria are now worth £2,000,000 per annum more than they were prior to Federation, and tried to show that those figures indicate that there is now more manufacturing in this State than there was formerly. In making any comparison of the kind, regard should also be had to the imports of the State. We know, of course, that since there has been Inter-State free-trade, Victorian manufacturers have sent their travellers into the other States, and greatly increased their export business.
– But there is a considerable amount of re-exportation from Melbourne to Tasmania.
– Yes, and to the other States.
– To every State but New South Wales.
– Yes. I wish to support the honorable member for Melbourne Ports in doing all I can for the unemployed of Australia.
– No one will blame the honorable member for Melbourne Ports for having asked the House to give attention to this very important matter. Those of us who know what it is to endure the misery of being out of work, with families dependent upon us, know that it is one of the least desirable experiences in life, and persons in that pitiable condition are glad of any suggestion which promises relief. At the same time, it must not be thought that this Parliament can do very much for them. I do not say that because I .wish to say it ; but I am sure that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports does not wish to raise false hopes in the minds of the unemployed. What can be done in this matter by the House or by the Government is strictly limited. Still, I believe that the Government will do what they can. I am sure that- the Minister of Home Affairs has listened with a sympathetic ear to what has been said by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, and will do all he can to push on works for which money is available. Want of employment is not confined to Melbourne alone ; it is general throughout the States. In Western Australia, despite our prosperity, the evil exists in an acute form. Men have come from the eastern States in such numbers that Western Australia has not been able to absorb them with sufficient rapidity, and the result is that hundreds are out of employment, both on the gold-fields and on the coast, and have been wanting work for weeks past. I do not wish to give the discussion a local colour, but’ I have before referred to the action, of the late Government in refraining, for some unexplained reason, from continuing the building of the Fremantle forts, although the money was voted on last year’s Estimates.
– They have said that the work has been blocked through there not being State officials available to supervise it.
– That is a weak reason. I have been appealed to by men in my own electorate, skilled in the building trade, who’ are prepared to undertake the necessary supervision if the Government cannot get the work done by the State Department.
– The new Custom-house is also badly needed.
– Yes, but the site is not yet available. So far as the forts are concerned, the site has been cleared, and there is no reason why the work should not be proceeded with at once. The building trade in Fremantle, which was very brisk a few months ago, has suddenly become slack, and a -large number of men are vainly looking for work. As to the general question of giving preference to local manufacturers, I am quite in accord with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. I would go so far as to say that we should stretch a point in favour of our own manufacturers in order to keep work within the Commonwealth. Unless we encourage our manufacturers we shall never be able to build up our industries and to maintain a large industrial population. I hope that the Government will give the motion their sympathetic attention, and do everything possible to relieve the prevailing distress.
– I do not quite agree with the honorable member for Fremantle that this House can do very little to relieve the prevailing distress. I contend that it can do very much.
– I meant we could do little in comparison with the States Parliaments.
– If it is within the province of this Parliament to grant a bonus to encourage the production of whitegrown sugar, and also to consider the question of granting bonuses to promote the production of iron from native ores, it should surely be within the scope of our authority to encourage the establishment of other industries. If we had taken further steps to stimulate private enterprise we should have acted wisely. In this connexion, I should like to point out that on many previous occasions gold discoveries have afforded timely relief in periods of depression, and perhaps we should not be going too far if we were to supplement the rewards offered by the States Governments for the discovery of payable gold-fields.
– If honorable members will only consentto the construction pf the railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie, they may rely upon several new gold-fields being discovered.
– There are plenty more Kalgoorlies.
– I believe there are,but I do not think they are all in Western Australia. I believe that there are rich goldfields in other parts of the Commonwealth, which would be discovered if it were possible for prospectors to properly search for them. I think that we might also stimulate products that are not at present raised in the Commonwealth, such as cotton and flax. I believe that flax is being grown to a limited extent iri the southern portions of the Commonwealth ; but its production might be very largely encouraged - and the same thing applies to many other vegetable products. The honorable member for Gwydir, speaking of Chinese labour, stated that . he would rather have here the products of Chinese labour than the Chinese themselves. It seems to me that, from a purely industrial point of view, it would be better for us to have the Chinese here than to permit the products of their labour to come into competition with our local manufactures. If the Chinese are living amongst us, they spend some money, however little it may be ; whereas if they conduct their operations abroad, we derive no benefit from their labour. From a moral and sanitary point of view, however, I admit we should be better off without the Chinese. A few days ago I addressed several questions to the Prime Minister with regard to the competition of Chinese with the white workers of the Commonwealth. I received a reply, which was to some extent sympathetic, to the effect thai; it was considered that, something might be done to limit the competition of Chinese with the white workers in the furniture trade. But beyond that the Government could not possibly go. Keen as may be the competition of Chinese in the furniture trade in Melbourne and other large centres, it is still more intense in the fruit-growing and allied industries in Northern Queensland. Many Europeans, who have incurred considerable expense in planting orchards, and planting and cultivating pine apples and bananas, are now being driven off their holdings. Although Chinese are prevented from entering the Commonwealth, those amongst us cannot be restricted from moving about from State to State, and large numbers are deserting the mining fields of the Northern Territory and are taking up the rich sugar and banana lands along the coast of North Queensland.
– We ought to prevent them from taking up land under any circumstances.
– That is a question with which the Commonwealth Parliament cannot deal, but we might effect our object by other means. I presume that there would be nothing to prevent us from imposing an excise duty upon products other than sugar, and granting bounties for white-grown products, if it were found necessary to do so in order to minimize the competition of coloured aliens with our white people. The competition of Chinese in certain industries compels skilled white workers to become casual labourers, who for the most part seek for work with only partial success. I think that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports is . to be congratulated upon having brought forward this matter, because the distress to which he has referred prevails throughout the Commonwealth. It is idle for us to speak of introducing immigrants into the Commonwealth so long as we are obliged to discuss the means of relieving our present unemployed.
– I do not think that we require the testimony of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports to satisfy us that there is a large number of unemployed in Melbourne. Most honorable members know that there are unemployed in all parts of Australia, and if we possibly can do anything to help them we shall have accomplished a good work. It is idle to attempt to raise the fiscal issue at this stage. Those honorable members who deplore the fact that the present Tariff is not sufficiently protective, and blame it for much of the distress that prevails to-day, should have thought of what they were doing at an earlier stage. Those weak-kneed protectionists who were afraid, for some reason or other, to vote for adequate protective duties-
– Does the honorable member refer to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports as a weak-kneed protectionist ?
– I make no accusation against any honorable member. Those weak-kneed protectionists who were afraid to vote for adequate protectionist duties will have to answer for their conduct to their constituents. I do not accuse .the honorable member for Melbourne Ports of being a weakkneed protectionist. But I would ask the honorable member for Yarra whether he does not think that he would be acting more logically if he were to seek to make protection to local industry one of the planks in the labour platform. If that had been done when the Tariff was under discussion it would not have been necessary for the honorable member for Melbourne Ports to bring under our notice the present dearth of employment. However, the time for crying over the Tariff has passed, because the majority of honorable members were sent here pledged to maintain fiscal peace. I so pledged myself, not because I recognised that we had a Tariff that would encourage industries and thereby provide employment or attract people to the Commonwealth, but because I felt that it was the best Tariff that we could obtain. Further, I advocate fiscal peace for the present, in order that we may demonstrate that it will be a good thing to introduce a larger measure of protection. I believe that many honorable members, who differ from me upon fiscal matters at present, will,at the end df five years, be prepared to support the imposition of higher duties. The case of Canada has been referred to on many occasions, and the question occurs to me whether the prosperity now prevailing in that country is due to the Tariff or to other circumstances. It appears to me that it is attributable 1 to the encouragement which is being given to private enterprise, and to the fact that the authorities are not attempting to coddle their industries or to exercise undue State control over them.
– They are opening up’ their land.
– Yes ; but they are also offering encouragement to private enterprise. Let us consider the position with regard to the iron industry here. I believe that it would be a good thing to encourage the production of iron from native ore within the Commonwealth, and the majority of honorable members agree with that view, but because some people think that the State ought to undertake the work, even though they know full well that it is improbable that a State enterprise in that direction will be entered upon for many years to come, the whole project is being delayed. We are at present importing iron, the production of which in our midst would give employment to a very large number of our people; I do not consider that the fiscal question is involved in the proposal to offer bonuses for the manufacture of iron from native ores, and I should welcome any movement in the direction of encouraging capitalists to establish ironworks in the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Fremantle has charged the late Government with having failed to carry out certain works in Western Australia. He stated that £5,000 had been voted for the construction of a fort at Fremantle, and that this money had not been expended. The Prime Minister, when speaking upon the Supplementary Estimates last month, made some reference to a sum of £16,000 which he stated had been saved out of the £22,000 voted upon the Estimates for equipment. At page 2146 of Hansard he, is reported .as having stated -
With regard to the question put by the honorable member for Echuca, as to the reduction by £16,000 of a vote of ^,”22,000 for equipment of Field Artillery, I desire to say that I cannot obtain the detailed information, for the reason that the item in question in the original Estimates was not specifically voted for any particular form of expenditure. It was a general authority.
A little later on he said -
The reduction represents only a failure on the part of the Department to go as far as they intended in regard to general expenditure.
I feel sure that the Prime Minister made that statement in good faith. ‘
– I did not intend to imply any censure.
– The Prime Minister stated that he could not obtain detailed information; but I would point out that it was open to him to refer to the Defence Department, and obtain information with regard to the instructions given by me.
– But I could not obtain that information on the spur of the moment.
– The honorable gentleman also made a statement with regard to the re-arming of the Cerberus.
– It’ bears out my assertion that the statement now made by the honorable member is not correct.
– A sum of £22,000 appeared on the Estimates with respect to equipment, but of that amount £16,000 remained unexpended. How was the saving effected? If the
Prime Minister turns to the official papers he will find that I refused to expend the whole of this amount in purchasing waterbags, belts, uniforms, saddlery, and other equipment in other countries, and urged that as far as possible our supplies should be obtained from local sources. I was informed at the outset that we had not the necessary patterns to enable much of this work to be done in the Commonwealth, but to this I replied, “ Let us use a small portion of this sum in importing the necessary patterns, so that the balance may be expended within the Commonwealth.” In taking up that attitude I was supported by the late Treasurer. He agreed that, so far as was reasonably possible, the supplies not only of the Defence, but of every Department of the Commonwealth, should be secured in Australia. , We did not even impose the condition suggested by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, that ‘ ‘ other things being equal,” this policy should be adopted, but said that anything’ that could be reasonably manufactured or supplied in the Commonwealth should be obtained here. It was because of -this policy that the saving of £1 6,000 was effected.
– I approved of that, and referred to it in the speech in question.
– I thought that the honorable gentleman would do so, but he unwittingly made a statement that bears a different construction. The honorable gentleman in pointing out that several of the items appearing on ‘ the Supplementary Estimates did not involve additional expenditure, said that various amounts representing about £48,000 had been saved. In justice to the late Government he might well have said that the two sums of ,£22,000 and £48,000, together with others; making a total of between £70,000 and £80,000 had been expended by me, with the sanction of the late Treasurer and the Prime Minister, in purchasing rifles and ammunition, and that this course had been adopted owing to a war scare.
– I approved of that action, and also referred to it.
– The honorable member for Fremantle complained that a sum of £5,000, which appeared on the Estimates in respect of fortifications at Fremantle had not been expended. What became of that amount? The honorable member should inquire of my late colleague the right honorable member for Swan. With the sanction of the late Treasurer, I commandeered it-
– Without my knowledge.
– That is so. The Cabinet did not consider that it would be wise to expend that amount on a work which would involve a total expenditure of something like £70,000, and, therefore, it was also devoted to the purchase of rifles and ammunition.
– For Western Australia?
– For the whole Commonwealth. Surely it is time that we rid ourselves of these little provincial, issues. In addition to that item and the vote for the re-arming of the Cerberus, to which pointed reference was made by the Prime Minister, various sums voted for fortifications in South Australia and for services in Tasmania and New South Wales, were also devoted to the purchase of rifles and ammunition, and I hold that we were justified in using the money in that way. I do not accuse the Prime Minister of having wilfully made an incorrect statement; but there is no doubt that the remarks which he made on the occasion to which I have referred, were incorrect.
– What I said was absolutely correct, and involved no criticism of the honorable member’s action.
– As the “ Prime Minister takes up that attitude, I should like to re-quote the statement in question.
– What has this to do with the question of the unemployed ?
– The honorable member will probably learn if he listens to this quotation. Hansard shows that the honorable member for Echuca put a question to the Prime Minister with reference to the expenditure of the sum of £22,000, and that the honorable gentleman replied as follows: -
With regard to the question put by the honorable member for Echuca, as to the reduction by ^16,000 of a vote of ^22,000 for equipment of field artillery, I desire to say that I cannot obtain the detailed information, for the reason that the item in question in the original Estimates was not specifically voted for any particular form of expenditure. It was a general authority.
Later on he said -
The simple position is that they have not spent £16,000 of the sum which they intended to spend.
– Under that heading.
– The report proceeds -
– The reduction does not involve any radical change?
– No; it represents only .a failure on the part of the Department to go as faT as they intended in regard to general expenditure.
– The use of the word “ failure “ did not convey the inference which the honorable member apparently considers it did.
– The Prime Minister says that despite what we did to secure the patterns necessary to enable much of this equipment to be manufactured in the Commonwealth, the reductions represents only a “ failure “ on the part of the Department to go as far as they intended. If he held that view, he should have had the political honesty to tell the House how we dealt with the vote. The honorable gentleman referred in the same way to the action of the late Government in regard to the Cerberus and other matters, in the absence, no doubt, of full information.
– I had full information in regard to the Cerberus proposals.
– The honorable gentleman may not have had all the facts in his possession when the statement was made by a member of his Government that we had talked of buying a warship. I have no desire to enter upon a consideration of these issues, but if the Prime Minister wishes to have the whole matter threshed out in the House, I shall be able to give a detailed account of the actions of the late Government. I disagree with the. honorable member for Fremantle in the contention that we cannot do much to alleviate the unemployed difficulty. It is open to us to do much to remedy the existing state of affairs. It is all very well for an honorable member to move the adjournment of the House in order to discuss the question, but we should ask ourselves, “ What are we really doing to improve the conditions of the Commonwealth? Are we doing anything to justify those alluring pictures of what the Federation would accomplish which were put before the people during the Federal campaign ?” In my opinion, we are not, and it is time that we accomplished something in that direction. It is a miserable confession of weakness to say that this House can do nothing to remedy the existing trouble. I agree with the honorable member for Moreton that we have before us opportunities to foster and encourage great industries, as yet new to the Commonwealth,which, if attention were only paid to their development, would open up wide avenues of employment. It is, however, really impossible to revive the fiscal issue at the present time, and, notwithstanding that our opinions may differ with regard to that matter, honorable members may still join hands in reference to manyother important questions of policy. I pledged myself to the policy of fiscal peace and preferential trade, because I believed that the adoption of that policy would mean increased employment for the people. I believe that if we followed the lines enunciated by the late Prime Minister, in dealing with the question of preferential trade we should extend our export of dairy produce five times beyond its present limits, and. so materially assist in the development of the country. It is idle to talk of asking the Governments of the States to open up the land unless we are prepared to assist those who are anxious to go upon it by procuring new markets foi our produce. Why should we now raise the fiscal issue? Let us wait, and time will prove that we were right in fighting for the imposition of higher duties. We should not forget why some good protectionists had to make concessions when the Tariff Bill was before the House. Honorable members on all sides agreed that a certain amount of revenue was necessary, and the Tariff was not, therefore, framed on strictly protectionist lines. The time will come when we shall have such a Tariff, and, in the meantime, it is useless to attempt to create a diversion by discussing the fiscal issue in this way. Let us keep in view the example of Canada, give encouragement to private enterprise, ogen up new markets to OU] producers by means of preferential trade, and so secure some material benefit for the people of the Commonwealth. So far we have not done much to assist them.
– I have the deepest sympathy for the unemployed, and am prepared to support anything that may reasonably be done to assist them. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has attributed the lack of employment in Victoria to the fact that the duties which prevailed under the State Tariff were considerably reduced by the passing of the Federal Tariff Bill. He infers that a large number of men have been thrown out of employment because of these reductions, and instances the condition of the engineering trade. The Victorian State duties on machinery and other goods relating to the iron trade were reduced by 12
– Does the honorable member say that a reduction by one-half is only a slight one?
– These duties were at all events reduced by 12
– No; because . 12J per cent, is only a revenue duty.
– Before the Federal Tariff was passed we had a large number of men engaged in the industry in New South Wales, and if the reduction of the duties in Victoria has led to a decrease in the number of employes in the iron trade, surely the increase - for that is what it meant - in the case of New South Wales, should have resulted in an increase in the number of employes there, and so have equalized matters. The fact remains, however, that, despite these duties, there is a dearth of employment in the trade in New South Wales. I should like the honorable member for Melbourne Ports to explain the reason for this. Does it not show that the cause of the trouble is not that which has been suggested? The honorable member dealt very freely with the position of the hat industry.
– I scarcely referred to it.
– But the honorable member has been discussing it in the press.
– An article published in the Age states that the Denton Hat Mills Company pay a dividend of 10 per cent. That is not a bad dividend for a hat manufacturing company, and I do not think that the shareholders have much reason to com plain that they have been injured by the Tariff, although some of the smaller firms may have been adversely affected. Notwithstanding that all the raw material used in that industry has increased in price, the Denton Hat Mills Company is able to pay very substantial dividends. Does the honorable member for Melbourne Ports contend that it should pay a dividend of at least 25 per cent. ? It seems to me that the hat manufacturers are being very materially assisted by the duties which to-day prevail, and I see no reason for any increase. Suggestions have been made as to increasing the means of employment by giving bonuses for the encouragement of new industries, and by insisting that all articles required by the Commonwealth Departments shall be manufactured in Australia. As the honorable member has said, “ all things being equal,” there can be no- objection to that policy. We all consider that, so’ far as is reasonably possible, our supplies should be obtained from local sources.
– But the honorable member is not prepared to give any assistance to that end.
– I assert that if our requirements can be satisfied by local firms, then, all things being equal, we should obtain our supplies in the Commonwealth ; but when it is proposed to levy tribute on every one in order to increase the field of employment, I contend that a wrong policy is being adopted. I wish now to deal with the New South Wales locomotive contract, to which reference has been made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. It is now urged that sixty locomotives wanted in that State should be manufactured locally, in view of the dearth of employment in the engineering trades. But to manufacture those locomotives locally would cost £66,000 more than it would to import them. Who would be the richer for this tribute levied on the whole of the people for distribution amongst the iron-workers? Would the country be any better off ?
– The country would certainly be none the poorer.
– The proposal to manufacture those locomotives locally would mean the impoverishment of the people generally to the extent of £66.000, for the benefit of one set of men. I deny that the State has any right to dip into my pocket for any such purpose. The man who says that the country would be any the richer from such a policy does not understand the question.
– But to manufacture the engines locally might save a transfer of a quarter of a million of money involved in the contract.
– I am not quite sure whether or not the Prime Minister is joking. If it is determined to spend that amount of money in the direction suggested, why not find employment in some other way ?
– I am speaking of the difference which is shown according to the honorable member’s figures.
– I will give the Prime Minister credit for joking, because he ought to know better, if he does not. If we are determined to do this foolish thing, let us decide to build cottages with the £66,000 - that is, 330 cottages at £200 each. At the end of five years - the term of the locomotive contract - we should have the cottages plus the imported locomotives ; and if we desired to do the iron-workers a good turn, let u.s give each of the iron-workers a cottage. In that way we should all he the better off by the importation of the locomotives. The Prime Minister reminds us that the £66,000 represents only a part of the cost of the locomotives. In this connexion, we must not forget that employment must be found here in order to raise the money necessary to pay for the imported locomotives. It is said that the locomotives are paid for in gold ; but, even so, gold cannot be obtained without labour. The locomotives may be paid for in gold, wool, horns, hoofs, or anything else ; there must be some production with which to pay for them. If it be gold, then employment must be found for miners; and so more employment is created by importing the articles than by taking the course favoured by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports and those who think with him. If anything can be done legitimately and fairly to increase employment, nobody will be better pleased than myself ; but all attempts in the directions I have indicated simply reduce instead of increasing production.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports is, in my opinion, perfectly justified in bringing this question before the House. I was a little surprised when I heard the honorable member for Parramatta say that this is not the place in which to ventilate the miseries of the people outside.
– I said nothing of the kind.
– I took the words down as the honorable member said them, and they were almost identical with those I have used.
– They are nothing like the words I used.
– This of all places is the one where the miseries of the people should be ventilated.
– I never said anything to the contrary.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports certainly deserves the thanks of the suffering unemployed for the course he has taken this afternoon.
– Give him a monument at Tooma.
– I should not like to say what sort of monument I would suggest for the right honorable member for East Sydney.
– A gold monument.
– I am afraid it would be a leather monument. I have listened with interest to the speeches this afternoon, especially to the speech of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. The honorable member said that there is to be fiscal peace, and in the next breath asserted that the question of preferential trade must be raised. ‘ I should like to know how there can be fiscal peace if the other question is raised. I recognise that it is with great difficulty the late Government passed the Tariff ; but that was due not so much to the “ weak-kneed “ protectionists who have been referred to, as to members of the Opposition, headed by the right honorable member for East Sydney.
– Is this hatred of me to go on for ever?
– The right honorable member will not succeed in laughing this matter “ out of Court “ even with the assistance of his henchmen. The question is one which ought to be seriously considered. It was, as I say, very difficult to pass a Tariff, and the result was not satisfactory, so far as regards the employment of our own people. That is, to some extent, the cause of the dearth of employment, but it is not the whole cause; there are many reasons for the present enforced idleness.
– The honorable member’s being out of office is one, I suppose ?
– When the right honorable member for East Sydney was attacking me for my administration of the Works Department in New South Wales-
– How many years ago?
– Will the right honorable member be quiet.
-I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether these ancient questions about the administration pf the Works Department in New South Wales have anything to do with the subject before the Chair?
– I took it that the honorable member for Hume was discussing the administration of the Public- Works Department, but not necessarily the Public Works Department of New South Wales.
– The honorable member referred to New South Wales.
– If the honorable member for Hume referred to New South Wales, I cannot see what the Public Works Department of that State has to do with the want of employment here. I ask the honorable member to confine himself to the question under discussion.
– I was about to directly bring the administration of the Works Department of New South Wales to bear on the question under consideration.
– The honorable member could not do it.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to prevent the right honorable member for East Sydney from carrying on his buffoonery.
– I ask the right honorable member for East Sydney not to interrupt the honorable member for Hume, and I ask the honorable member for Hume not to speak of an honorable member’s “buffoonery.”
– It is like buffoonery.
– The remark is not in order.
– The remark was drawn from me. I was proceeding to point out that I administered the Public Works Department of New South Wales in such a way that-
– I rise to order. You, Sir, have already ruled that no references to the New South Wales -Public Works Department are permissible. The honorable member for Hume is trying to get behind your ruling in, the most audacious wav.
– If the honorable member for Parramatta had given time to the honorable member for Hume to develop his argument, it might not have been necessary to call attention to his remarks. It seems to me that the honorable member for Hume was simply making an incidental remark; but statements as to the administration of the Public Works Department of New South Wales by the honorable member for Hume or any one else would not be in -order.
– You, Sir, have interpreted my intention. In the administration” of the Public Works Department of New South Wales, as might be the case in the administration of the Department of Home Affairs, my endeavour was to have the work done in Australia. Such a policy might not be satisfactory to the same extent in the case of the Department for Home Affairs, but in New South Wales it enabled firms to start factories and employ labour. In one of the States this policy was adopted in the carrying out of a water supply scheme; and it might be adopted to a large extent by the Commonwealth Departments.
– That is all moonshine.
– The less the honorable member for Hume says about the pipe contracts the better.
– I hope the honorable member for Werriwa will not continue his stupidity. If the Federal Departments were administered as I administered the Public Works Department of New South Wales, a great deal of relief might be given to the unemployed in Victoria. Reference has been made by one or two honorable members to the fact that the firm of Robinson Brothers, harvester machine manufacturers, are doing very well; but what is the reason? The reason is that last year we had one of the finest harvests we ever had, and more machinery was urgently required than ever had been the case before’. But I am satisfied from what I know of Victoria, that the firms in that State are not doing very well ; in fact, I believe that a great many have had to discharge men. Previously this evening I referred, in a question to the Prime Minister, to what is commonlv known as the Iron Bonus Bill, or the Bonuses to Manufactures Bill. What chance would that Bill have with the honorable members of the Opposition? I hope the Ministry will take that matter up, because I feel sure that by so doing they will, to a great extent, relieve the tension caused by the dearth of employment. If the Government do not deal with that measure, I ask them to give me, as a private member, an opportunity, because I am satisfied that in this and the other Chamber there are sufficient honorable members to carry it through. The results would eventually absorb the unemployed in the whole of the States.
– For three years the honorable member had an opportunity of introducing that measure.
– Will the honorable member be quiet ?
– And the honorable member did nothing.
– The honorable member says that I did nothing ; but it must be remembered that I was only one of a Cabinet. Before this Parliament is over I shall teach honorable members whether I will do nothing in connexion with the matter. If the Tariff were to be again presented to this Chamber, I feel sure that Parliament, constituted as it now is, would turn out quite a different measure.
– And the honorable member savs that, after obtaining a fiscal truce?
– Will the right honorable gentleman be quiet ?
– The honorable member asked for a truce.
-It is impossible for the honorable member for Hume to proceed while interjections are so frequent. I ask honorable members to listen to the honorable member, who is expressing his own views, and, naturally, is not attempting to express the views of others. I ask the honorable member for Hume, who, on occasions, does interject himself, not to be too touchy about interjections by other honorable members. Sir WILLIAM LYNE.-I have been restraining myself very considerably lately, thinking that a bad example might be followed. It was to be expected that there should be complaints inregard to the Tariff, when its operation has shown that harm instead of good has resulted. I do not think anything was said or any decision was arrived at to the effect that if it were found, as has been described by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, that the Tariff prevented employment by imposing a duty on raw material, while a lower duty than previously prevailed was being imposed on the manufactured article, no action should be taken. I do not think that the House or the country would allow the Tariff to remain dormant while serious damage was being done in that way. I venture to think that, despite compacts which may be attempted at the present time - and this is where the “weak-kneed” protectionists come in - there are sufficient means to remove anomalies and alter the Tariff to the benefit of the whole community.
-The time for the consideration of this motion has expired.
Mr. WATSON (Bland- Treasurer).- I wish to say a word or two in reply to some observations which have been made. I therefore move -
That the orders of the day be postponed until after the debate’ on the motion now before the Chair is concluded.
– I should like to ask a question. Does this motion mean that the debate is to conclude after the Prime Minister has made a statement? Otherwise, I certainly shall object to it.
TheSPEAKER. - The motion means that the orders of the day will be postponed until any honorable member who desires to do so has spoken on the motion for the adjournment.
– I desire an opportunity to say one or two words in reply. I gave way a little earlier, thinking that the right honorable member for East Sydney desired to speak. Otherwise, I should have spoken at that time.
– Under those circumstances I shall not object.
Motion agreed to; orders of the day postponed.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume).- One honorable member who spoke this afternoon suggested that the Government should appoint a Select Committee to ascertain what was the effect of the working of the Tariff, and whether it was, in their opinion, doing harm by decreasing employment. I do not think there is any necessity to appoint such a Committee. Having been in the Customs Department for a considerable time, my opinion is that if the Prime Minister will make inquiries of the Minister of Trade and Customs, and examine some of the officers of the Department, he will easily be able to ascertain where the trouble lies. No time should be lost in bringing the matter forward and dealing with it, so that there may be no necessity again tq move the adjournment of the House. No Minister can be long at the head of the Customs Department without knowing perfectly well in what respects the Tariff is defective. Of course, Mr. Speaker, all those who know me are perfectly well aware that the present Tariff was not of my framing, and that I do not agree with it as it stands. If I had had my way, we should have had enacted a more reasonable Tariff in the interests of Australia. It does seem to me to be an anomaly that a number of honorable members, and some gentlemen outside, who are in favour of keeping cheap labour out of australia, are nevertheless in favour of importing the products of that cheap labour, thereby doing greater harm than if they permitted the cheap labour itself to come here and be fed and clothed by our workmen.
– I have heard that before !
– If the honorable member were able to derive some benefit from what he heard, he would probably be able to do more good to the people of this country. The honorable member was formerly a great protectionist, and I hold the letter in which he practically repudiated his views.
– I was as big a simpleton then as the honorable member is now.
– I do not question that the honorable member was a simpleton then, and there is not the slightest doubt that he is a greater one now. What we all desire is as far as we can to make Australia a country worth living in, where good wages are earned, and where the conditions of living are tolerable. Even if, in consequence of this policy, prices are a little higher, those who buy will have no reason to complain, because they will know that “ the labourer is worthy of his hire,” and is receiving good wages for what he makes. We have sufficient raw material in Australia to give employment to three times the population we now have in the country in turning it into manufactured goods. One of the directions in which employment can be promoted is by establishing an iron industry. We have in Australia iron deposits as large and as rich as almost any in any part of the world. But at the present moment there is not one man in the whole of Australia employed in converting that raw material into manufactured articles. It is a disgrace to our legislation, and a disgrace to the Commonwealth, that that should be so. The Government should take the matter up and see to it that we turn to good account the wealth that we have in the soil. One honorable member referred to the necessity for giving bonuses to assist industries in various parts of the Commonwealth. Surely, the Commonwealth Par liament is not prepared to sit down for some years and allow these matters to drift whilst there are thousands - perhaps tens of thousands - of people in Australia looking for work, and unable to find it. Something should also be done in respect to mining. The object of assisting those who are suffering cannot be attained in a better way than by the proper administration of the Departments. I admit that the States Governments can do more than the Commonwealth Government in reference to mining. It is quite true that they have to deal with many subjects with which the Commonwealth has nothing to do.
– The honorable member’s time has expired
– In conclusion, I would say that I recognise that the Commonwealth cannot compel the States to deal with matters of this kind. That being so, we can take action only to such a limited extent as the Constitution will permit. But the Prime Minister might reasonably communicate with the States Governments, and ask them to put machinery into operation with a view to the employment of the large number of people who are now crying out for bread.
– The honorable member’s pathetic appeal to the House is very remarkable. The honorable member during the elections went all over his constituency praying the electors to sink the fiscal question during this new Parliament. He was a member of a Ministry that gave a solemn assurance to the people of Australia that the one thing needful was that we should hear no more of the fiscal question during the life of this Parliament. But now the honorable member, finding his political fortunes at a very low ebb. is drawing this miserable red herring- across the trail, in the hope of arresting the inevitable development of events. The honorable member “ is so well known in his own State that even his tears do not excite the slightest sympathy. The honorable member is simply acting a political part in endeavouring to inflame the House in the discussion of a matter which can at the present time bring no relief to these unfortunate unemployed. I think that if ever there was a question which in fairness should never be made use of for any party purposes, or to serve individual interests, it is the question of these unfortunate people, who, whilst thoroughly willing to work, in many cases have not the slightest chance of getting employment. I agree with an honorable member who spoke a little while ago, although I have not myself had the personal experience which he has had, that there is no sadder spectacle in this world than that of an honest working man, with a large family dependent upon him, who has no capital and no resources, degenerating into a position in which he has to become an object of charity. There is no difference on the part of honorable members in any part of the House in their desire to do all they can to relieve such cases. But I do appeal to _ the House not to offer to these unfortunates a stone instead of bread, by bringing up this question and discussing it here, when we all know that the House is solemnly pledged not to take up the Tariff. It is a crime; it is more than a crime, Mr. Speaker - it is a positive cruelty to the unemployed. I feel confident that the present Government will use every power which they possess to respond to the appeal which has been made to them; and they can feel positively sure - I am quite certain - of the generous support of all men and all parties in this House in their efforts to offer genuine employment at the present time. I do not wish to go into the history of old political disputes. On this question we should stand together as a solid House, and we are, I am sure, only too willing to do all we can to help those who are unfortunately deprived of work. It is no new subject, unfortunately. It has been a subject of anxiety to men in various Governments for many years past.- We pass through vicissitudes from time to time which are almost a mystery to us, when we consider the enormous resources of the country ; and he would be indeed a wonderfully clear-headed man who could single out all the causes which produce these ‘ unfortunate intervals of slackness of employment.
– Would the right honorable member go so far as to give Government undertakings only to local contractors?
– I really do not know what the honorable and learned member means. It depends upon whether the Government would resign over it or not, I suppose ! But I am glad that the interjection has been made, because it reminds me of a little matter which was referred to by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. I cannot help noticing, and you, Mr. Speaker, must also have noticed, that a number of honorable members in this House seem to have only one source of employment, and that is in digging up ancient records in another part of Australia, to see if they can get something which will discredit me.
– I had no such intention.
– I am not now referring to the honorable and learned member for Corio, but to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports.
– The matter to which I referred was to the right honorable member’s credit.
– T was not in the Chamber when the honorable member made his remarks, so I had not an opportunity of forming an opinion ; but I was informed that the statement made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports was that, on some occasion, years ago, there was a contract let in New South Wales,, a Victorian tenderer’s offer not being accepted, although his tender was a lower one.
– What I said was that, in order to give employment to the unemployed in Sydney, the right honorable gentleman had debarred other than New South Wales contractors from taking part in the work.
– I understood that it was a public work- a bridge, or something of that sort - which had to be carried out in New South Wales, whoever might be the contractor.
– No ; it was a bridge across the Murray.
– It was not like an article of manufacture ; it was a public work which had to be done in the country. If it is the case I remember, it involved an expenditure of several thousand pounds, and the difference between the lowest tender and the next one was the paltry sum of £i4> or £15, or £20.
– There was a difference of £14 in regard to a work which was estimated to cost some thousands of pounds. The Department knew the second tenderer as a man who had executed large works to the thorough satisfaction of the Government, and they knew nothing about the man whose tender was £14 lower. I do not believe that there is any Minister in the work who, with a difference of only £14. on a work estimated to cost £8,000 or £10,000, would not have selected the tried Government contractor in preference to a stranger.
– It is a good general policy.
– No other man in my position would have done anything else.
– I am sorry the right honorable gentleman did not do it more often.
– It is a sign that I must be approaching a position of responsibility when I am so uniformly attacked. Nothing is too old with which to endeavour to discredit me. The honorable member for Gwydir brought against me the terrible charge of dogging the foot-steps of the venerable Sir Henry Parkes, in order to deprive him of the leadership of his party.
– When was this?
– The charge was made a little time ago, but it only came under my notice a day or two ago. I wish the House to allow me to say that, so far from doing that, I followed Sir Henry Parkes for years.
– The right honorable member is digging up old matters.
– Will the right honorable gentleman connect this with the question under discussion?
– Yes, sir, but I cannot connect it until I have finished my statement of the episode. Over and over again I was offered office by Sir Henry Parkes, and I refused it ; but, although I would not take the loaves and fishes which the honorable member accused me of always striving for, although I had never attended a meeting of his party, and did not belong to it, and had many opportunities to do something else, I faithfully supported that venerable statesman, until he retired from the leadership of the party. It was only when he distinctly resigned his position that I became a candidate to succeed him, and I afterwards offered to give up my position if he was ready to take it. I think that no man can have had a more honorable regard for that distinguished statesman, than I had. I had my own ideas, which made it impossible for me to become one of his colleagues, but I never thwarted .him. Of course, at an earlier period, when I belonged to a different party, I was opposed to Sir Henry Parkes; but from 1887, when he raised the free-trade flag - when he advocated a principle in which I believed - he never had a more faithful supporter, or one who gave him less trouble.
– If that was so, why did he apply to the right honorable gentleman the story of the cuckoo?
– Has the right honorable gentleman connected the matter with the question under discussion?
– No, sir. That concludes the personal remark which I wished to make, and now I propose to connect it with the question before the House. I wish to point out that if some of these honorable members had a little more work to do, they would not indulge in these useless searches for inaccurate information.
Mr. WATSON (Bland- Treasurer).I have no complaint to make against the honorable member for Melbourne Ports for bringing forward this question, because I do not believe that there is any one in the House but must be aware that to-day in all the States - at any rate in the one with which I am acquainted - there is a considerable degree of distress. I am sure that every honorable member ‘has the fullest sympathy with the condition of the people affected, and a desire to help them in any way which is possible consistently with the performance of his duty to the taxpayers as a whole. So far as the Tariff is concerned, I do not see that anything is immediately possible in that connexion. As every one knows, I suppose, I have always had a leaning towards the protectionist side of the fiscal question. And- I must say that even if there had been a most enthusiastic majority of protectionists in the House, it was not to be expected that in comparative ignorance of the conditions obtaining throughout Australia they would have succeeded on “a first attempt in framing a Tariff which would have given satisfaction even to themselves. When the natura] conditions were complicated by revenue considerations the difficulties were even greater. Although I am only a moderate protectionist, not being nearly so enthusiastic as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, still I am far from satisfied with the working or the incidence of the Tariff. I admit that it contains grave anomalies, towards whose existence I contributed.
– The honorable gentleman moved, in one case, a reduction from 20 to 15 per cent.
– I know that. I admit that I contributed towards the existence of some anomalies, notably in the case of free cartridges, and the duty on shot.
– There were others.
– In other cases I admit I voted for a reduction, and until there was a necessity proved for a higher rate than I was then willing to vote for, I think I was more than justified in taking that stand.
In regard to those of us who are protectionists, and- believe in encouraging local industry, I certainly think that we should walk warily, and have the case proved before taking any action. I am prepared to admit that the system which was initiated by my predecessor should yield valuable results within a comparatively short period. The right honorable member for Balaclava initiated in the Treasury the practice of keeping statistics as to the effect of the Tariff in respect to every one of its 139 articles of importation, and, “ so far as can be ascertained, on local manufactures.
– Will the honorable gentleman make the information available?
– It is being made available. Although in Victoria there is apparently a considerable falling off in local production in some directions, and a consequent increase in importation in some of the other States, still the officers who are best able to advise in this connexion speak quite monotonously of the falling off in the revenue being due to the increase of local production. That is an encouraging sign, so far as some of the States are concerned.
– If not to the revenue.
– Of course, from my point of view, the revenue is comparative! y unimportant, unless the sacrifice asked for from the people is too great. So far as the Tariff is concerned, my view is that there should be a steady and persistent inquiry on the part pf, not only the Government, but every honorable member in the House, to see how it is operating, and how far it can be remedied at a later stage, even without attacking the general principle, wherever anomalies are found to exi>t. But at the present time I do not see that ‘lie Government can do more than continue the inquiry wherever it is possible to get the particulars, and have them prepared in such a form that they will be reliable.
– Of course, sympathetica 11 jr.
– So far as I am concerned, certainly. Concerning supplies to the Departments, the view of the Government is that, conditions being equal, the local supplier should get a preference, and even if it be necessary to spring a small percentage in his favour, I think it should be done. I know that even the right honorable member for East Sydney, when in office in New South Wales strong freetrader as he was - was quite prepared in some cases to spring a small percentile in order to assist or give trie local manufac turers an opportunity of competing with outsiders. In the Post Office, for instance, for which most of our supplies are now required, efforts have been made by the preceding Ministry, as well as by the present one, towards insuring that the local manufacturers should be afforded a reasonable opportunity of tendering. I am sorry to say that so far, in regard to some of these supplies, the reports of the expert officers have not been in favour of the local production.
– I am afraid that very often the expert officers are prejudiced against the local production.
– That may be so ; but it is quite possible that through lack of encouragement in the past in regard to particular kinds of supplies, the local productions have not attained that degree of excellence which is necessary for economical working. But I am glad to say that the papers - at which I have only been able to take a hurried glance - show in respect to insulators, for instance, that experiments are still being made by a number of the potters in New South Wales and Victoria, and that they hope to obtain a greater degree of perfection. I am sure that in that hope every one will join. We cordially wish them success. There is another matter in which I think something might be done, even apart from the question of supplies. In regard to the tendering for supplies, Ministers generally are in agreement with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports that a preference should be given to the local manufacturers so far as is reasonable, and that, in view of the present distress, the calling for tenders might be expedited. I am glad to have this opportunity of suggesting the possibility of getting an earlier decision on the part of Parliament than has been the case. An Appropriation Act for last year provided for the expenditure of £400,000 odd on new works and buildings; but because of the late period of the financial year at which it was passed, it was discovered that approximately .only £250,000 of that sum could be spent in the time which was available, although in nearly every instance the works were necessary. In the great majority of cases the money will have to be revoted this year. The House can assist the unemployed by helping- me to put through the Appropriation Bill for new works and buildings immediately after the Budget statement has been delivered, without waiting for the general estimates of expenditure to be considered. If that is done, it will enable the Department of Home Affairs to undertake the carrying out of these works and buildings months earlier than would otherwise be the case. It involves no party question, not even the sacrifice of the tradition that Parliament should not lose control over the purse strings and thereby give the Ministry a chance to flout it. Under its interpretation of the Constitution, another place insists that the appropriation for works and buildings should be made in a separate measure, and seeing that that plan has always been followed, I think that all parties might agree to assist the Government to pass that set of Estimates, involving an appropriation of, perhaps, between £200,000 and £400,000 - I do not know yet what the total amount will be. Whatever it may be, it is important that this expenditure should be entered upon at the earliest possible date. I am informed by the Postmaster-General that he has been lately expediting a considerable amount of work in connexion with the renovating and painting of buildings - necessary work which has been in abeyance for some time - in order that it may be taken advantage of at this dull season of the year. During the debate mention has been made of the competition of Chinese furniture makers with white workmen. The Government had the matter brought under their notice by deputations which waited on the Minister of External Affairs, in the absence of the Minister of Trade and Customs, some little time ago, and since then have taken it into their consideration. At first sight,there appears to be some difficulty in the way of our dealing with the matter, though it may be found possible to take action under the provision of the Constitution which enables the Federal Parliament to pass legislation relating to trade marks, and we may also be assisted by the trade and commerce provisions. Primarily, however, the question is one for the Governments of the various States. They have undoubtedly the power to interfere.
– It is a very sad state of affairs.
– I admit that it is. In some of the towns of New South Wales the Chinese business men have driven, or are driving, white business men out of the field. No doubt the result has been to convert into active opponents of Chinese immigration many persons who at one time thought it a matter which affected only the labouring classes, and was never likely to affect themselves. I have been told that in Melbourne furniture brokers are now finding that the public are inclined to deal directly with the Chinese manufacturers of furniture, in order to save the profits of the middleman.
– Why should they not do so?
– I do not blame them for doing so. I would as soon buy directly from a Chinaman as buy something he had made from a middleman. The fact that the white middlemen are being dispensed with, however, is drawing the attention of persons able to speak with a louder voice than that which the mere workman can use to the effect of Chinese labour.
– In South Australia, Victorian Chinese goods are offered as goods manufactured bv white labour.
– That may be. It seems to me that, except in a very limited degree, the case is one for action by the Governments of the various States; but it is of sufficient, importance to justify them in taking action. This Government recognise to the full the undoubted distress which exists in several of the large cities of Australia, and, although the opportunities which we have for the legitimate expenditure of money are not so large as those possessed by the Governments of the States, we shall, as soon as circumstances will permit, push on with the construction of all necessary works. The full pinch of poverty is felt at this season of the year, and it is therefore the more important that we should expedite expenditure now, so that relief may be given to deserving sufferers.
Question resolved in the negative.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 15th July, vide page 3327):
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.
Upon which Mr. Reid had moved by way of amendment -
That the words, “ This Part of this Act shall come into operation,” be left out.
– I feel that I ought not to give a silent vote upon the question before the Committee, since the constituents whom I represent are largely interested, both as producers and as workmen. I have listened with attention to the arguments which have been urged for and against the inclusion of the proposed clauses in the Bill. The right honorable member for East .Sydney used arguments which have great weight with me. He pointed out that if the proposed clauses were inserted, the Bill would not be likely to become law within a reasonable time, and the honorable and learned member for Angas interjected that it must be reserved under statute. That seems a good reason for not inserting the clauses in the Bill, and for leaving them for enactment in a Navigation Bill. I am forced, however, to use my own judgment to determine whether the arguments of these honorable and learned gentlemen are sound. The honorable and learned member for Angas told the Committee that there is no definition of what is meant by the words “ coastal trade,” yet later on he quoted a statement cited by the honorable and learned member for Wannon, from a Blue Book, to the effect that foreign vessels do only 5 per cent, of OU] coastal trade. That very statement contains the definition which he said does not exist. Whether foreigners are doing 5 per cent, or 50 per cent, of this trade matters not for the purposes of my argument; the statement clearly shows what is meant by coastal trade. The honorable member for Gippsland has also helped me to come to a conclusion on this matter. He did not say that the insertion of the proposed clauses would defer the passing of the Bill, but he said that there is no need for them, because foreign vessels do not seriously compete with our own vessels. If that assertion is correct, there is really no- reason why the clauses should not be inserted. It appea’rs to me, however, to be weakened by the figures which we have had quoted in reference to the wages paid to the seamen on the various boats. The seamen on the vessels of the Orient Company receive £4 a month, and their firemen £4 10s. a month, while the” seamen oh the German boats are paid £2 17 s. 6d., and the firemen £3 ros. a month. The lascars on the Peninsular and Oriental Company’s steamers, however, are paid but 13s1. 4d. a month, and the firemen £1 4s.. whilst on Australian vessels ablebodied seamen receive as much as £6 10s. a month, and firemen £8 10s. a month. The honorable member for Gippsland may think that there is no serious competition; but from my point of view the competition is very serious indeed. The question whether seamen . should or should not come under the provisions of an Arbitration Bill is of very great importance. In 1893 the wages of our seamen were reduced by £2 a month, “and were not raised again to the original level until 1898. Since then it has been proposed to reduce them by £1 a month; but I believe that a reduction of 10s. a month was agreed upon as a compromise. In the face of this reduction, and of the figures which I have quoted, which show the competition which Australian vessels have to meet, I think that we shall not do justice to our seamen if we do not allow them, as well as all other members of the working classes, to come under the Bill. In addition to the argument as to competition, which is to be drawn from the figures I have quoted, it must be remembered that all vessels which come here from oversea must take a certain amount of trade from our own vessels. In dealing with the question whether the insertion of the proposed clauses in the Bill would lead to the postponement of the passing of the measure, I have turned to section 98 of the Constitution, which enacts thai -
The power of the Parliament to make laws with ..respect to trade and commerce extends to navigation and shipping, and to railways the property of any State.
Anything extending to navigation and shipping must extend to the shipping trade, and it is with the shipping trade that we are now dealing. I am in favour, therefore, of inserting the proposed new clauses in the Bill. The arguments of the honorable and learned member for Parkes have also assisted me in- coming to the conclusion to vote with the Government on the question. He told the Committee . that the directors of the Peninsular and Oriental and Orient Companies have spent £250.000 in providing refrigerating accommodation for the frozen produce trade. If they have done that, it is because they know that the carrying of frozen produce is a very profitable business, and that they cannot do better than send their vessels out here to take our produce away to other lands. The honorable and learned member also made this astounding statement -
The Government know that the moment it is pointed out that this legislation is calculated to reduce the profits of foreign steamers, the owners of those vessels will have no difficulty in inducing their Governments to increase their subsidies, and so place them at a great advantage over Australian and British steamers.
That seems to me to indicate that the owners of these foreign steamers are determined to come here, in any case, in order to carry away frozen meat and other cargo, and that we need have no ground for fear, such as the honorable and learned member has indicated. Persons visiting our shores are under the protection of our . laws, and foreign seamen who come here should receive the benefit of the higher rates of pay which we regard as fair. Germany takes our exports to the value of £6,000,000, and sends us goods to the value of £2,000,000. If the Germans wish to take away in their own ships our exports to that country, I am sure that they will do so, and that we shall not suffer because their sailors, when they come to our ports, are treated, upon the same footing as our own seamen. It has been stated that the ocean-going steamers rarely carry cargo between one port and another in the Commonwealth. If that be true, they will not be affected to any great extent by the proposed clauses, and, therefore, we need not fear any serious consequences. At present no particular system is observed, as far as the departures and arrivals of foreign-going steamers are concerned. Sometimes three or four ships arrive at once, and then a long interval occurs during which no ships reach our shores or arrive in London. The alternating gluts and periods of scarcity which result are the subjects of complaint at present, and, as I regard the Government proposals as tending to bring about a more satisfactory state of affairs in regard to our oversea shipping traffic, I think that we shall be acting wisely in the interests of our producers,, as well as of our sailors, if we adopt them.
– I regard the Government proposals as of so far-reaching a character, and as so seriously affecting’ the interests of the whole of the people of the Commonwealth, that I cannot allow them to pass without comment. In my constituency dairy farming and other forms of agriculture are pursued to a very laige extent, and the coal mining industry is also extensively carried on. Therefore, I appear here as the representative of two of the most important industries in the Commonwealth. The proposal of the Government to bring seamen within’ the scope of the Arbitration Bill would, in my judgment, very seriously affect the interests not only of the agriculturists in my constituency, but also of the coal-miners and the coal-owners. The more I examine the nature of these clauses and their probable effect upon the export trade of Australia, upon which we so largely depend,’ the more I am convinced that they will have a disastrous effect upon the whole community. I shall therefore strongly support the amendment of the right honorable member for East Sydney. The Government have, after the most mature consideration, appointed a Commission to inquire into the proposals embodied in the Navigation Bill, and, in view of the fact that these proposals are among the most important that could possibly engage the attention of that Commission, I cannot understand why they were not remitted for inquiry. We all remember that the right honorable member for Adelaide insisted upon having similar provisions inserted in the former Bill, and that his action had a disastrous effect upon the Government. We know, further, that members of the Labour Party, with one voice, applauded the right honorable member for his action, and I look upon their attitude with regard to these clauses as due to their loyalty to the right honorable member rather than to the conviction that they are wise in insisting upon their inclusion in the Bill. I hope that the Prime Minister will not regard this opinion as being uttered with any offensive intent.
– The view taken by the honorable and learned member is not a correct one.
– If the position had been as stated by the honorable and learned member, would not the loyaltv of the Government have been commendable?
Mi. FULLER. - Yes, and so far as that aspect is concerned, I admire the attitude of the Government in standing by the right honorable member for Adelaide, who was practically their representative in the late Government. Great diversitv of opinion exists with regard to the probable effects of the Government proposals, and the AttorneyGeneral has made the important admission that under them we should not be able to deal with tramp steamers.
– He did not say that, but expressed the opinion that it would be difficult to deal with them.
– I shall be correct in saying that the Attorney-General was not sure that we should be able to deal with tramps. I was very much struck with the remarks of the honorable member for Fremantle in connexion with this particular aspect of the question. He pointed out verv clearly, that, in the proposed new clauses, 79c and 7f, under which it is proposed to protect Australian seamen, penalties up to £100 are provided; whereas in clause 79g no penalty is fixed. As the honorable member remarked, this appears like an admission on the part of the Government that they would have no power to enforce the latter provisions.
– They admit a doubt.
– Exactly. It has been admitted that the mail steamers do not compete to any extent for the cargo traffic between port and port within the Commonwealth, and that their operations with regard to the passenger traffic are comparatively limited. We all know perfectly well that the Australian portion of the service, carried on by the mail companies, does not pay. and therefore it must be apparent that if the companies are to be deprived of the £100,000 worth of passenger traffic which thev now carry on, the loss will have to be made up by an increase of the freights charged upon the produce which they tak** in’ their refrigerating chambers from Australia to the home markets. It appears to me that, if the oversea steamers are not to be permitted to compete with our Inter-State vessels, we shall confer a monopoly upon the Australian steam-shipping companies. Of all parties in this Chamber, I should regard that which the Government represent as being the least disposed to champion monopolies, and yet, by leaving local ship-owners free to carry on the whole of our coastal trade, we should afford them the best opportunities for levying upon the public increased rates “ in connexion with both passenger and cargo traffic. We should not be justified in adopting any such course, unless the wages of our seamen or the interests of our local steam-ship owners were in danger, and we have not been furnished with any evidence to that effect. The honorable member for Hindmarsh stated that the legislation which had been passed in the United States for the protection of American shipping had been attended with good results, and several honorable members have indicated a very strong desire to build up an Australian mercantile marine. In connexion with this aspect of the matter, reference has been made to the fact that of the men required to man the vessels of the British mercantile marine, only 47 per cent, are Britishers, all the rest being foreigners, who could not be relied upon in time of war. Of course, we all desire that the British marine should be manned entirely bv people of our own race, and I presume that the United States authorities thought that by means of the legislation which they passed they would insure a similar result with regard to .their own ships.
– That was not the reason given for passing the legislation.
– But that was one of the objects.
– Their legislation has failed in every respect. They have not been able to build up a mercantile marine worth” speaking of.
– The position with regard to the employment of American seamen in American ships is indicated by a paragraph in a cable from a New York correspondent which appeared in the London Times of 27th May, and which reads as follows: -
The Merchant Marine Commission, under Act of Congress, began an inquiry on Monday into the condition of the American carrying trade and ship-building. They desire to know why ninetenths of the oversea commerce of New York is carried in foreign ships, manned by foreign officers and seamen, and how to improve this state of things.
– But that does not affect the question. They wish to preserve their own trade.
– A variety of questions are involved to which I cannot refer at present, but some of them were mentioned during the discussion which took place this afternoon upon the motion of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. In connexion with the employment of Americans upon American ships, Mr. Hill, the President of the Great Northern Railway, who is described as one of the highest authorities upon all questions of transcontinental and trans-Pacific traffic, has declared that the American sailor is a mere tradition. Further on it is pointed out by The Times that -
American exports in American bottoms which were formerly cp per cent, of the whole are now only 9 per cent.
– What about the coasting trade ?
– The American coasting trade is perhaps the greatest in the world; but the quotation which I have read shows the position of the oversea shipping of a country in which similar provisions to these prevail.
– We really have no oversea shipping of our own.
– No; the oversea shipping of Australia comes, for the most part, either from Great Britain or some foreign country. Amongst other arguments used in favour of the adoption of these provisions was a contention by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports that under legislation of this kind, the area of land under cultivation in New Zealand had largely increased. He stated that, notwithstanding the existence of similar legislation in New Zealand, the area of land under cultivation there had increased from 11,000,000 acres, at the date of the introduction of the Act, to 13,000,000 acres in 1903. The honorable member has already explained his position in regard to that statement. I also have had a conversation with him, and am satisfied that, owing to the way in which the statistics are compiled in the New Zealand Year Book, any honorable member might have made the mistake which he committed.
– He does not admit that he made a mistake.
– It is clear from a perusal of the statistics that of the total of 13,000,000 acres stated by the honorable member to have been under cultivation in 1903, 6,924,978 acres, or more than half, consisted of land under grass, which had never been ploughed, the seed having been merely scattered broadcast over it. This area was included in the total.
– Hear, ‘ hear’; but, of course, I was not responsible for that inclusion.
– Quite so. The statistics also shows that the total of the 13,000,000 acres included a further area of 4,695,200 acres in grass or clover, sown after the land had been ploughed. According to the Year Book there were 62,984 acres under hay which were included in either one or both of the areas I have mentioned, and, allowing that it was included in only one of these totals, we find that the area of land under cultivation in New Zealand in 1903 was only 1,446,329 acres.
– What was the area under cultivation before the Act came into operation ?
– I have not inquired into that matter, but I have some figures that are rather pertinent to the question.
– The figures quoted by the honorable and learned member afford no comparison.
– I admit they do not; but the honorable member for Melbourne Ports thought they did. I shall now quote Coghlan’ s figures for the year 1891 - five years before the New Zealand Act came into existence - and the year 1902. In 1891 there were 1,424,777 acres under cultivation, and in 1902 1,603,602 acres, or an increase of only 178,825 acres. I do not think that these figures prove anything so far as the question immediately before us is concerned, but I should like to compare them with those relating to Victoria and New South Wales. In 1891 the area of land under cultivation in New South Wales comprised 846,383 acres, whilst in 1902 there were 2,276,628 acres under cultivation. Notwithstanding that for a period of ten years we had suffered the most severe dr ought on record, the area under cultivation in New South Wales increased by 1,430,245 acres, the advance being nearly ten times as great as that which occurred in New Zealand.
– So it ought to have been.
– There is a bigger margin to work on in New South Wales.
– That remark cannot apply to Victoria. In Victoria, in 1891, there were 2,116,654 acres under cultivation, and in 1902, 3,246,568 acres, an increase of 1,129,914 acres.
– How does that compare per head of the population?
– I have not made a calculation in that respect.
– It would make, a great difference in the comparison.
– The whole of the population does not cultivate land.
– We should have to ascertain the farming population in order to make a correct calculation. I endeavoured to secure that information, but did not persist in my efforts, because I felt that, after all, these figures would not prove anything. I have’ merely quoted them in answer to the statement made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports.
– What is the area of farming land available in New South Wales and New Zealand respectively ?
– It is open to the honorable and learned gentleman to refer to Coghlan.
– I do not think that these figures prove anything.
– Nor do I. I merely quote them as against those put forward by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, and I think they prove that the quotations made by him in respect to the position of New Zealand are of no value as an argument in support of the passing of these clauses. Let us consider for a moment who would be affected by these provisions. If we impeded the shipping of Australia, we should prejudicially affect the whole of the people. All our great primary industries are’ absolutely dependent upon the export of their produce to the markets of the world, and if we throw any impediment in the way of the development of that trade, we shall injure them. Honorable members talk freely of the desirableness of placing people on the land ; but we should recognise the difficulties with which those already on the land have to contend. The honorable member for Darling is familiar with them. He knows that in New South Wales the farmers have had to contend with the drought, the rabbit pest, and other evils, and that any additional impediment would mean absolute ruin.
– How would these provisions impede the progress- of the industry ?
– My contention is that they would result in an increase in freights in respect of the carriage of our produce to the mother country.
– I propose to deal with two industries which would be seriously affected by an)’ interference with our oversea shipping. One of these is the dairying industry. I have frequently referred to it in this House. It is one of the leading industries of Australia, and I have endeavoured to point out again and again that it is absolutely dependent upon the export trade.” We produce millions and millions of pounds of butter in excess of our local requirements, and, in order to obtain a reasonable price for it, we have to ship it to England and other parts of the world. Many ocean-going steamers which come to our shores are fitted with refrigerating chambers, to carry this produce to the markets of the old world ; and I find, according to a newspaper paragraph, that four more large steamers, with provision for some 300,000 feet of refrigerating space, will be launched in August next by the owners of the Gulf line, and will be available for the carriage of our produce. We have to remember that the farmers already labour under very great disadvantages. In addition to those which I have already enumerated, thev have to contend with the disabilities of the Tariff, and to compete with the dairy farmers of Denmark, Sweden, and other countries, who are in close proximity to the London market - the largest that we possess - and, consequently, do not incur anything like the same expense’ in landing their produce there. Our dairymen are at a serious disadvantage in the matter of freights. Those who read the report in last Saturday’s Argus as to the exportation of butter from Victoria last season must have been .astounded by the enormous charges which the producers ‘have to meet before they are able tu place their’ produce on the market.
– Some of them are unnecessarily high.
– That may be, but the largest expenditure which the Victorian dairymen had to meet last year - a sum exceeding £77,000 - was in respect of ocean freights. That was the principal item in a total expenditure of over £200,000.
– A good deal of it went in whiskey and cigars, according to recent newspaper reports. ‘ .
-The facts to which the honorable member refers relate to another matter. The disclosures recently made show the existence of a disgraceful state of affairs, and, if true, absolutely bear out the statement I have often made in this House that the butter bonus did not go to the producers, but to the middlemen.
– That. has not yet been, proved.
– The evidence given before the Butter Commission, if it does not prove that statement, goes very close to it. A deputation recently waited on the Victorian Government to secure a reduction of freights upon produce, and the Government, the producers, and the shipping companies are endeavouring to cooperate to that end. Various efforts are being made to secure a reduction, and yet in the face of that movement these clauses are now submitted, to hamper the operations of the shipping companies and cause freights to be increased. The honorable member for Hindmarsh was at pains to quote the , names of those who had sent in petitions in favour of the inclusion of these clauses in a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, but it is remarkable that two of the most important unions in New South Wales which would be distinctly affected by the passing of these provisions have not signed any such petition. I refer to the employes’ associations at Newcastle and Illawarra.
– Does the honorable member know that those unions never take part in political affairs?
– I happen to know that the Illawarra Union passed several resolutions, one of which expressed their desire that seamen should be brought under the Arbitration Bill. That resolution was forwarded to me, as the representative of the district, and I was asked to use what influence I had to have it carried into effect. But I oppose these clauses being included in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill because I believe they will prove detrimental to the coal mining industry in that district, and because I think they ought to be sent for consideration to the Royal Commission specially appointed bv this Government.
– Does the honorable member know how those men suffered under the State Act?
– I do not know that we have anything to do with State Acts ; this is a Federal question. I should like .the honorable member for Hindmarsh to assure me that the members of the unions who signed the petitions, gave this important question their, serious consideration. We know that time after time representative bodies - I am not referring specially to unions - are inclined, when a motion has been moved and accepted by one, to adopt the same motion without giving it that serious consideration which it, perhaps, deserves.
– There has been no complaint about any one not signing the petitions.
– We have also further to consider whether, even if the unions did give the question due consideration, they were in possession of the necessary detailed information to enable them to arrive at a sound conclusion. I should like to know from the honorable member for Hindmarsh whether that information was available. The honorable member for Newcastle has spoken in favour of the inclusion of the clauses ; and I presume he represents the opinion of that large and important union of coal miners in the Newcastle district. In the Illawarra district at the present time there are about 2,000 men in the employes’ union. The whole of the northern end of the district is dependent absolutely on the success of the coal industry, and I feel that these clauses would stand in the way of the interests of the coal miners and their dependent wives and children, as well as the coal owners.
– Will the honorable member show us presently how the inclusion of these clauses will affect the coal miners?
– I shall endeavour to do so. I have here a letter from Mr. W. A. Firth, manager of the Southern Coal Owners’ Agency, to whom I telegraphed on Saturday morning, asking him to inform me how much bunker coal has been used by the large ocean-going boats during the last twelve months. His letter is as follows : -
I wired you to-day, in reply to yours of. Saturday, as follows : - “ Estimate oversea steamers take from bunkers at Sydney and Newcastle at least six hundred and thirty ‘ thousand tons annually, besides which replenish bunkers Melbourne, Adelaide, Fremantle, with our coal.” I now confirm same, and enclose list of lines of steamers which replenish, their bunkers at Sydney and Newcastle. The steamers in the first portion of the list coal absolutely with coals from the southern mines, while the latter portion - indicated by a cross - coal at Newcastle and Sydney with Newcastle and Wallarah coals, the whole being estimated at 630,000 tons. Besides this, I estimate that Inter-State shipping companies take 120,000 tons annually, a very large proportion of which is used for replenishing the bunkers of these oversea steamers with southern coals.
Mr. Firth, no doubt, has at his command all the information [necessary to enable him to give a right estimate. If anything is done by the inclusion of these clauses to prevent large ocean-going vessels coming here and taking our coal - I am speaking only of bunker coal, and not of the large annual export from Newcastle and the southern- collieries - that large output will be seriously interfered with.
– Will the honorable member tell us in what way it will be interfered with?
– The employment of the miners will be affected in this way : the quantity of coal raised per miner in New South Wales - all men above, and all those below ground - averages 440 tons per year. The 630,000 tons, the greatest part of which comes from Illawarra, represent considerably over 1,000 miners employed to raise it, besides a- large number engaged in handling it : and on these men depend wives and families. As to the export trade, I find, from- the latest available statistics, that in 1903 it represented 1,582,734 tons, which, at the rate of 440 tons per man, means the employment of over 3,500 men, or over 40 per cent, of those employed in the coal trade. That coal value, according to Coghlan, represents a value of £138 15s. 8d. per man, or £700,000 worth of trade, which would probably be interfered with to a very large extent by the inclusion of these clauses. It is because I feel that this matter has not been given the serious consideration which it ought to receive - because I feel that the men who signed the petitions probably have not fully realized the comprehensive and far-reaching effects of the proposals before us - because I feel that so many mouths depend for bread on the coal export trade - that I urge the Government to refer these clauses to the Royal Commission on the Navigation Bill.
– How is the coal supply to be affected?
– If these clauses are referred to the Royal Commission, the fullest inquiry will be made. All the available information will be gathered, and the pros, and cons, fully considered ; and it will then be seen whether it is advisable to include the clauses. All I ask is that there shall be the fullest inquiry and consideration ; and if, after the question has been probed to the bottom as to the probable effects on coal mining and various other industries, the Commission find that it is desirable to have these clauses included, well and good. But, if after inquiry, it should be- found that the clauses would be detrimental to the industries I have mentioned, it would be very unwise to insert such provisions. There is at present great diversity of opinion, and many honorable members freely confess they have not sufficient information to enable them to arrive at a proper conclusion. I make these few remarks because I feel that the great industries of Australia may be seriously affected.
– Will the honorable member show how they may be affected?
– It has been said that those who are opposing the inclusion of these clauses are shirking their responsibility, and seeking to shelve the Bill. As to shelving the Bill, it appears to me that to insist on the inclusion of the clauses at the present time is the most direct way of shelving it for a considerable period. The Minister ofHome Affairsadmitted on Friday that if the clauses are inserted, the Bill will have to be reserved for the Royal Assent. Why cannot we pass those portions of the Bill on which we are agreed, and deal with the clauses in question in a separate measure, or refer them to the Navigation Commission? It appears to me that the present course of the Government would result in two Bills being shelved. The Arbitration Bill would be “ hung up “ awaiting the Royal Assent, assuming the Government are successful in passing these clauses ; and, of course, the Navigation Bill, which affects British shipping, will also have to be reserved. I believe the Arbitration Bill to be a measure necessary in the interests of the industrial peace of the country. Holding that view, I regret the Government have taken up their present determined attitude, because, in face of the fact that we have not full information upon the subject, the clauses ought to be referred to the Royal Commission for full inquiry and report.
– It is an old saying, that the strength of a chain depends on its weakest link. The strength of the chain of the argument of the honorable and learned member for Illawarra, and of some other honorable members of the Opposition, depends on their showing in what way these navigation clauses will seriously affect the producing and shipping interests - the export trade. T thought that the honorable member for Illawarra, following up his line of argument, and dealing with the quantity of coal required, and so forth, would have endeavoured to show some connexion between his statistics and the clauses. But we have utterly failed to get any honorable member on the other side to show how these provisions will be seriously detrimental to the shipping trade. . Honorable members on the other side seem to be - raking up any and all kinds of arguments - if they can be called arguments - some are arguments and some are not. At any rate, honorable members are introducing all kinds of irrelevant matter. Statements of fact have, no doubt, been made as to the producing and exporting interests. I do not think, however, that the honorable and learned member for Illawarra would argue that only one class in the community should be considered in this matter, although any one listening to him would draw the conclusion that his opinion was that only the producers were to be considered, and that the seamen who, of all workmen, follow the most risky occupation, ought not to be provided for in a Bill of this character: -It is the bounden dutv of those honorable members who oppose these clauses, and who contend that they will detrimentally affect the export trade, to show from actual evidence in what way they will have that result. The arguments of honorable members opposite have been in the direction of proving that when a case came before the Arbitration Court that aspect of affairs would not be regarded. But it has been proved by the Western Australian representatives that the large mail steamers do not carry Inter-State freight, and that they charge enormously high rates for passengers. If that be so, they do not compete with Inter-State shipping. In that case, what possible objection can there be to allow the Arbitration Act to operate with regard to shipping generally? The Judge of the Arbitration Court, before making an award in favour of the seamen, would consider all the facts relating to the position of the Inter-State trade. But honorable members opposite argue in such a way as to induce one to believe that they desire to help the ship-owners of Australia to keep down the wages of Australian seamen. Those wages are already below the rate which the seamen themselves consider to be reasonable. . The men are contenting themselves with a reduction of 10s. per month below what they considered to be fair, in anticipation of the passing of this legislation. Suppose that this -Bill were passed without these clauses. The shipowners could reasonably argue, if the British and foreign shipping are not brought under the control of the Court, that they are subject to the unrestricted competition of that shipping, and perhaps, so arguing, might affect the award of the Court. What would happen if the seamen were compelled to go before the Court? It would mean that the British ship-owners could not’ be brought into Court as witnesses by either party. There would be nothing to compel them to give evidence. On the other hand, ifthe clauses remain, it does not follow that the sward of the Court would be against the interests of the producers. If. the evidence showed that there was no degree of competition between British and foreign shipping and Inter-State shipping, the Judge would be in duty bound to recognise that fact, and would not give the seamen as favourable an award- from their point of view as they would otherwise be entitled to get. But the difficulty of our seamen would be increased if they were unable to bring the British and foreign ship-owners into Court, in order to show to what extent they did compete. No facts whatevei have been brought forward to show any connexion between the wages of . the seamen and the freight rates that are charged by the companies.
– I have shown that it costs100 per cent, more to ship produce viâ Melbourne than to ship by the English boats direct to Fremantle.
– If it be a fact, as is assumed by the honorable and learned member for Illawarra and others, that a rise in the wages of the seamen would increase the cost of shipping to the producers, what does that mean? It means that honorable members opposite wish to refuse to allow Australian seamen to appear before the Court in any case, no matter how low their wages may be. It has been argued by the honorable member for Perth, who quoted authorities in support of his statement, that high wages do not necessarily mean increased cost. If that be admitted, it does not follow that if the wages of the Australian seamen are increased, freights will be raised one iota. I invite honorable members opposite to work out the question to its logical issue. A noticeable fact in. connexion with shipping has been the immense cheapening of the cost of carriage, especially upon the long sea journeys. The large vessels, running up to 10,000 and 15,000 tons burden, are able to carry an enormous quantity of goods at a very much lower freight cost than used to be charged by the smaller vessels in former days. It is a well known fact that when improvements in wages and in labour conditions are brought about, the result is at the same time to cause such improvements in working as to result in a saving. That applies both to vessels and to factories. Hence it does not follow that when decent wages are secured for seamen the interests of the producers will in any way be detrimentally affected by additional freight charges. Would any honorable member on the other side stand up and say that he is opposed to paying fair wages to seamen ? He dare not go on a platform and say so. But the logic of their arguments is such that they mean what I now suggest. If, however, they do not mean that, why should they oppose the creation of a Court which could consider all the facts, as well as, if not better than, any Commission? Neither a Commission nor this House can tell exactly what the effect of the law will be until a specific case has been stated for the Court, and all the evidence has been adduced. Not until then can we get an idea of how these clauses will work out. All the rest is mere guesswork. The attitude taken up by the Opposition, with scarcely an exception, I think, is such that, in order to be consistent, necessarily they must also oppose the Navigation Bill. What is the meaning of their objection to these clauses unless they intend to oppose the insertion in that Bill of any clauses which are designed to secure any advantage to Australian shipping companies or Australian seamen, or to put Australian seamen on a fair footing? What is the use of honorable members opposing these clauses on the pretext that they would detrimentally affect producers, unless they intend to take a similar, stand when the Navigation Bill is submitted? They will see, I think, that they are taking up a most extraordinary position. As to the suggested delay through the reservation of the Bill for the Royal Assent, if it contains these clauses, I am told that in New South Wales measures affecting .shipping have been passed and ‘assented to by the Governor. I believe that the Government are prepared for any delay which might result from reserving the Bill for the Royal Assent. It is not fair to raise that bogy. in order to frighten us into dropping these clauses. We have to abide by the terms of the Constitution. Even if the Governor-General should deem it necessary to reserve the Bill for the Royal Assent, that, would not be a reasonable objection to these clauses. Probably the Navigation Bill will have to be reserved for the Royal Assent. Honorable members on the other side, however, in one breath tell the Government that they will not be able to get the Royal Assent to this Bill without considerable delay, because it will have to be reserved, and ask them in the next breath to put these clauses in the Navigation Bill, which they know will take a longer time to go through the House, and will have to be reserved for a much longer period. It is not even certain that the GovernorGeneral, following a New Zealand precedent, will not give his assent to this Bill. I am informed, on good authority, that several measures affecting British shipping just as much as these clauses’ propose to do, were not reserved for the Royal Assent, but were assented to locally. The position in which honorable members are putting themselves is a very peculiar one. The right honorable member for Swan spoke about the effect of this legislation on shipping, and said he would not do anything which would cause-British and foreign shipping to cease coming here. I do not think that any one of us would do anything to bring about that result if it could fairly be’ avoided. But the right honorable gentleman seemed to forget that Tariffs affect the’ shipping industry very materially. Although the practice of big ships coming here is largely affected by the quantity of goods which they can carry, yet Western Australia has the highest Tariff in the Commonwealth. Although it must have had some effect on the shipping, the Government of Western Australia did not seem to think it necessary to reduce the Tariff in the interests of shipping companies. When it comes to a question, of the seamen’s wages, however, honorable members are very much concerned about the shipping connexion with the old world, and about a little more freight being charged. We are told by some persons, who I believe know the facts, that the steam-ship owners of Australia are making huge profits. I have not heard any honorable member propose any way of regulating freights, although we have -heard about the evil effects of high charges. But if our steam-ship owners are making unreasonably high profits, they can afford to lower the freights for the benefit of the producers, and also to raise the seamen’s wages. Whether that be so or not, can any honorable member show how the Arbitration Court can affect freights? Is it proposed by any honorable member, who desires no interference with freedom of trade, that we shall have a law regulating freights? Or is it proposed that that matter shall be handed over to the decision of the Arbitration Court ? If not, why should we discuss freights, except from the point of view that an increase in wagesis assumed necessarily to cause an increase in freights, and that, as an increase of freights would interfere with the butter producer, therefore we must not increase wages, because it would affect the butter producer’s income. I wish the butter producer to have a good income.
– They pay the highest rate of all.
– I also wish seamen tohave a fair wage. When it was sought tobenefit those who work for the butter producer, under perhaps some of the worst conditions imaginable, and at the lowest pay, honorable members on the other side objected to the. proposal, and the Bill wasamended accordingly. The interests of the butter producer were considered at the expense of the interests of his fellow man. It is again urged that the interests of thebutter producer must be considered, and that so long as that is done we should’ not bother about the seaman who goes to sea at the risk of his life, and insome cases, goes down with his ship, leaving his family without a bread-winner”.. ‘
There has been much pleading for the families of the coal miners, who, I suppose, comprise some of the worst-paid men to be found anywhere, but we do not hear much concern for the other class. I wish to be fair, and to represent all classes in the community. Honorable members on the other side appear to be the only ones who do not represent all classes. We do not want to consider only the man who makes butter, and to exclude from consideration the man who works in a ship at the risk of his life. We want to consider people all round, to set up an independent Court to decide fairly between contending parties and to give an award based on all the considerations submitted. I have not heard honorable members who speak about the rates of freight say that the shipping companies of Great Britain ought to make a vigorous effort to reduce the cost of” their coal, by getting, rid of the royalties paid to British landholders. The royalty which is paid on the coal which takes a liner to America comes to more than the wages of the captain and crew. We have not the same evils here, as the ships can obtain coal in any quantity at a. moderate price. Supposing that an award were made which compelled the shipping companies to pay a certain wage if- they did Inter-State trade: considerable savings would be effected in other ways. I have heard no argument which has satisfied me that freight charges would be affected by an award. The ships which take our great products, notably wool, and even butter, would not como under the award unless they did Inter state trade: They come here to take away butter, and if they merely coal up, and load with butter, ‘ they will not come under this legislation. Honorable members have failed to recognise that the companies which are affected are only those which are engaged in Inter-State trade, and surely the ships which engage in that trade ought to be brought under the provisions of the Bill. If those ships are exempted they will cause unfair competition to the local shipping companies, because they employ lascars, and pay low wages. If, under such circumstances, the Inter-State shipping companies were brought to the Court by the seamen they would at once say, “The oversea ships are unfairly competing with us because they can get men for 13s. or 14s. a month, when we have to pay £,6,” and the Court would probably give an award against the men. I challenge any honorable member to say that that is not a fair statement of the situation as it affects the shipping companies and the seamen. Either we have to give up the principle of the Bill and say that we are not going to’ create a Court’ to settle these disputes, or we have to send before the Court all parties who are entering into competition. Such questions as whether the mail-boats should carry InterState passengers, I think, can be safely left to the Court. Taking the statement of the honorable member for Perth, who does know the facts, it would seem that there is no unfair competition in the carrying of passengers. If we recognise that there is no unfair competition in that respect, the Court would also make that recognition. The point seems to have been forgotten by honorable members that we are not passing a provision which is mandatory, although the assumption seems to be that we are passing a measure which will compel an increase of freights. We are doing nothing of -the sort.
– I take it that the amendment submitted by the right honorable member for East Sydney will be taken as a test of the feeling of the Committee as to the whole of . these clauses. If that be so, we have thrown on us the duty of considering what will be the effect on the Bill if the clauses be rejected; and we first must have regard to the objects of this measure. We are trying to legally enact a new method of settling all industrial disputes which extend beyond the limits of any one State, and to that end we are creating a tribunal, at the head of which will be a President, who, in his capacity of Judge, will hear evidence from both sides, and on that evidence ‘ arrive at a decision. This brings me to the clauses immediately under consideration. Why do we attempt to insert what are apparently navigation clauses in this Arbitration Bill? The answer is twofold; in the first place, it is thought that if the Bill is to be of any use to seamen there must be some such legislation to make their position sure, and, in the second place, we are attempting to give a certain degree’ of protection to Australian. ; shipowners’ as against oversea shipping companies. We could attain our object in one of two ways; we could decide, as in the United States, to prohibit any coastal trading by foreign vessels, or we could adopt the New Zealand method. I ‘want to impress on honorable members the significance of .the- fact that ‘in New Zealand, in 1896; there was passed concurrently with the Arbitration Bill, another measure containing clauses similar to those which are now under our consideration. It was seen, as we see here, that unless such provision was made in the Arbitration Bill, or concurrent navigation laws passed, the seamen would be placed at a disadvantage. I do not think that in the Commonwealth, at this juncture, we could advocate prohibition, which would be much more serious than the present proposals; but I believe that it is essential for the protection- of those whose interests we have in view that ship-owners who desire to trade on our coasts - this is not a matter of steamers which come direct to deliver or take away cargo - must be told that they must, in fairness to our own shipping companies and our own men, be subject to the Australian law equally with the latter. Assuming for the moment that these proposed clauses were rejected, I think it very problematical whether the seamen would register under the Bill. I have no hesitation in saying that, if I were connected with the Seamen’s Union, I should under such circumstances hesitate before I recommended the members to take advantage of the provisions of the measure. But the fact that the seamen did not register would not get them out of the difficulty, because the ship-owners would register, knowing the position that they themselves have gained under the. Bill. Where the competition’ comes from is immaterial to our workers. I am not a sentimentalist who thinks that the competition of British shipping is any better for those interested than is competition from any other part of the world. But if we reject these clauses, we shall in effect say that we are willing to face all the competition of the world. If, after deliberately discussing this matter in Parliament, we came, to the conclusion that seamen are not to be included, the probability is that the- Seamen’s Union would not register; but the ship-owners would register their association, and would give notice of a reduction of wages. The case would come before the Court, and the local ship-owners would be able to show at once that the wages in Australia were twice as much as, and in some cases considerably more, than the wages paid on oversea vessels trading on the coast. For able seamen the wages range from £6 ios. on Australian ships to £2 17s. 6d. on foreign ships, while the wages for firemen run from £8 ios. to as low as £1 14s. The ship-owners would be able, without difficulty, to show this difference in wages, and prove what, indeed, cannot be denied, that competition ‘does exist. This competition does not prevail to such an extent in regard to freight ; but the right honorable member for Swan told us that in the year 1898-99 £66,477 was l°st t0 local shipping companies by competition in the passenger trade.
– The local companies did very well, all the same.
– That has nothing to do- with the case.
– It has a great deal to do with the case.
– I submit that whether one company is paying well or not, has nothing to do with the matter. The success of the local companies, despite the competition, mav be a matter of management or of machinery. Would the honorable and learned member for Wannon apply the same .method to other industries? Would. he say that one woollen manufactory, simply because it was able to pay only small dividends, should not be subject to the common rule, but should be allowed to pay a lower rate of wages than another woollen manufactory, which was earning larger dividends? The honorable’ and learned member will see where his argument would lead him. In the case I ami supposing, the ship-owners would give their evidence, and, under the circumstances, would naturally ask - and will ask as sure as we are here - for a reduction of wages. Could the President of the Court, whoever he were, . justify the keeping up of wages .in Australia, while vessels belonging to a large number of different foreign companies were allowed to compete for the Australian trade? I venture to submit that he would be compelled to admit that the ship-owners had made out a case for a reduction of wages. It has been asked, in what way would Australian seamen benefit by an increase of wages on foreign vessels? But what is to be dreaded is a decrease of wages ; the question of an increase does not come into consideration under present circumstances. With the seamen, it is a matter of holding what they have at present ; and if we pass this Bill without these clauses, we shall provide the shipowners with machinery, which they will use to obtain a reduction of wages, while the seamen will have no course open to them but that of submitting to the award of the Court. It has been said that dividends regulate wages. I am astounded at the position taken up by some of the representatives of Western Australia in this matter. The honorable member for Perth stated the other night that the oversea companies are justified in paying what are low wages in comparison with the wages paid on Australianowned vessels.
– I did not justify the wages paid, but I proved that the oversea companies are at a disadvantage as compared with the local owners.
– The honorable member’s argument was to the effect that, as the oversea companies do not pay as high dividends as have been paid by the Australian companies - and he quoted share lists anddividend notices to show that that is so - they are justified in paying lower rates of wages than are paid on the vessels engaged in our coasting trade. I should like him to apply that argument to mining operations. Would he say that a British company owning a mine in Western Australia, the working of which did not produce dividends, would be justified in paying lower wages than the proprietors of other mines in the locality ; or would he say that a woollen factory which, perhaps, in consequence of obsolete machinery and bad management, was not paying dividends, should give its men lower wages than a woollen factory which was paying dividends? Cannot the honorable member see where such an argument would land us? The honorable member for Fremantle by interjection took up the same position, but when I asked him if he would apply the principle’ to the mines of Western Australia, he said that the case was different. I am thoroughly aware that when things are different they are not the same; but honorable members cannot get away from the fact that the principle involved in all these instances is one and the same.
– Will the honorable member argue that rates of wages should be uniform throughout Australia? That is the logical conclusion of his argument.
-There may be reasons, such as the high cost of living, inconvenience of position, and so forth, which justify exceptions, and, but for these exceptions, there is not a large difference between the wages paid in the various parts of Australia.
– The difference between the wages paid to miners in Western Australia and those paid to miners in Vic toria is as much as 100 per cent. Would the honorable member level down the Western Australian rate?
– Does the honorable member mean to say that, taking into consideration the cost of living, there is a difference of 100 per cent. ?
– In some cases there is very nearly that difference.
– Is not the rate of wages largely determined by the cost of living? In some places £4 a week does not buy as much as £2 a week in other places. When I say that there is not much difference between the rates of wages prevailing in the various parts of Australia, I take into consideration the difference between the cost of living in various places.
– A British sailor receiving £-6 1 os. a month would be a great deal better off than the local seaman who is paid that rate of wage.
– I wish to know from the representatives of Australia when their antipathy to legislation of the kind proposed first began. In November, 1902, when the Commonwealth Trades’ Union Congress was held in Sydney, the following motion was moved: -
The introduction of a Federal Navigation Bill containing provisions for the protection of Australian shipping from the competition of foreign and British steamers in the coastal trade of the Commonwealth of Australia, and the abolition of the employment of kanakas upon Australian steamers trading from Australian ports to the South Sea Islands is advisable.
Senator de Largie seconded that motion, and in doing so said that it “ touched a matter in which he felt a great interest.” He proceeded to deal chiefly with the employment of Lascars, and pointed out that the question was greatly one of conditions of life and labour surroundings generally. He thought that the motion should secure the support of every delegate. Senator Pearce took up a rather careful and shrewd attitude. He used an argument which might have been valid on that occasion, but is not valid now. He thought that the motion should be made a lever to obtain the passing of a Commonwealth Arbitration Act, and pointed out that in New Zealand there is- a Navigation Act compelling the registration of Aus.tralianowned vessels, which brought them under the Arbitration Act. Then he asked what would be the position if similar steps were not taken here. He showed that the position would be that which I have placed before honorable members to-night, and, in conclusion, he said -
If the owners were helped without the workers also being safeguarded, the latter might find themselves in the position of the Victorian employees, who, after assisting the employers to obtain protection, were forced to fight them for the Factories Act.
I submit that the reason why the Premier of New Zealand, iri 1896, introduced an amendment of the Navigation Act to come into force concurrently with the Arbitration Act was that he saw that without such legislation the seamen would be in a very bad position. I ask those who object to the insertion of the proposed new clauses in the Bill if they would support them if they were introduced in a separate Bill, or proposed again as part of the Navigation Bill? The Government should seriously consider the advisability of reinserting these clauses in the Navigation Bill if the reason urged against them is that they are not clauses which should be inserted in this Bill. ‘
– I think the honorable member, will agree that it is undesirable to insert them in this Bill.
– Some provision of this kind must be passed, unless our legislation is to injure and not to assist the seamen.
– The proposed new clauses do not apply to local seamen at all.
– I have not said that they do. But I contend that unless they are enacted, either in this Bill or in a Navigation Bill, our seamen will be in a worse position after the passing of the Arbitration Bill than they are in to-day.
– In New Zealand they have practically one port only for oversea vessels.
– They have a number of large ports in New Zealand. The position of those who are altogether opposed to legislation of this character is at least logica] and consistent, and therefore can be understood. But when we find men expressing sympathy, and then giving us more sympathy, and more sympathy again, but no votes, I am reminded of the old saying that without relief sympathy is like mustard without beef. We want more than sympathy ; we want votes ; we want practical assistance to enable us to pass this legislation. I will deal now with some of the objections to the insertion of the proposed new clauses in the Bill. We have been told by every honorable member who has spoken on the Opposition side of the chamber that there is no competition worthy of the name between the local and oversea shipping companies. In the very next breath we are told by them that the passing of this legislation would result in the creation of a monopoly. Surely these are contradictory statements.
– There is no competition between the local shipping companies, because they have practically formed a trust.
– If there were no competition what possibility would there be of a monopoly?
– Unfortunately there is a monopoly.
– Should we be in any better position if we refused to embody these clauses in the Bill ?
– The fear that oversea steamers might enter into competition with them keeps the operations of the trust within reasonable limits.
– If these clauses were not embodied in the Bill all the oversea shipping companies would be able to enter into competition with Australian vessels in the coasting trade. They would be free from any restriction, while, on the other hand, the Australian vessels in the trade would be subject to this measure. That would be unfair. I do not take up the position that there is no competition; I merely refer to these two arguments in order to show that one practically destroys the other. As a matter of fact, there is considerable competition on the part of oversea steamers in our coasting trade. In 1898-9 these oversea steam-ships carried 10,000 passengers to and from Western Australia, representing fares amounting to , £66,477.
– That was to and from Western Australia?
– I am speaking of the Western Australian traffic. The figures quoted by the right honorable member for Swan show that in 1903 41,402 passengers travelled to and from Western Australia, and that of this number 13,144 were carried by oversea steamers. That shows an increase of 3,144 as compared with the number of passengers carried by them during the year 1898-9. Practically one-third of the Inter-State passenger traffic of Western Australia was secured in 1903 by the oversea steamers, and yet we are told by some honorable members that there is no competition in the trade.
– But the rates charged by the oversea steamers are 50 per cent, higher than those levied by the InterState companies.
– In spite of that fact this competition exists. The returns show that the oversea steamers cut very deeply into the coastal passenger traffic. Although there was a large decrease in the total number of passengers carried in 1 903, there was an increase in the number who travelled by oversea steamers.
– If I were going to Western Australia I should want to travel bv the largest steamer.
– No doubt; but my point is that if the owners of the oversea vessels wish to cater for our trade they should be willing to be subjected to the laws which extend to the Australian coasting steamers. In common fairness both should be under the same law. We might have adopted the United States system, and have refused to allow any but Australian steamers to carry a ton of freight or even one passenger in the coasting trade ; or the Government might have proposed to adopt the New Zealand system.
– The honorable member wishes the Commonwealth to have complete control over oversea steamers owned by our fellow-countrymen. That is something different from the system adopted bv the United States.
– In what respect? What difference does it make to an Australian ship-owner whether the vessels which compete with him come from England, Germany, or France? What difference does it make to a manufacturer in the Commonwealth whether the free goods which compete with his own come from England or Germany?
– What . about preferential trade?. We are going to get it by-and-by.
– I have vet to learn that the average protectionists of Victoria would be satisfied to allow the manufactured goods of England to enter this State free of duty. When they are prepared to do so, it will be time enough for us to discuss the question of preferential trade. From a local stand-point, there is no sentiment associated with business ; there is no sentiment attaching to the search for employment. If a man be out of work, it is immaterial to him when he comes to settle his baker’s and butcher’s bills whether his want of employment is due to competition in the shape of the importation of manufactured goods from Germany or from England. The United States passed shipping laws which apply to every vessel other than those owned in America. Do they allow an English vessel to engage in their coasting trade ?
– Could the Legislature of an American colony exclude American steamers from its coasting trade?
– I do not suppose it could, but the United States exclude all foreign vessels from their trade. I do not wish to apply that system to the Australian coasting trade, because I do not think we are ready for it; but I believe the time will come when it will be adopted. I fail to’ see, however, that any injustice would be done to owners of oversea vessels by adopting these clauses. If I go to any country to earn a livelihood, I am compelled to have regard to the local laws; and, if owners of oversea vessels participate in our coasting trade, then, in fairness to our own coastal shipping they should be subjected to hie same conditions that men working here have to recognise. One honorable member told us that these provisions would be unfair to oversea shipping companies, and yet a little later on he asserted that if they were passed, they would be inoperative. That is a curious piece of logic.
– The two statements are not contradictory. The honorable member said that if these clauses were operative, there would be one result, and if they were inoperative, another.
– If these provisions were inoperative, how would the oversea ship-owners be affected?
– “ If “ they were inoperative.
– We are told by some honorable members that these provisions would be unfair to oversea shipping companies, and by others that they would be inoperative. A more serious argument is, that if these provisions were passed, the Bill would necessarily be reserved for the Royal Assent. There is something tangible in that objection; but it is, after all, only a matter of degree. Without some provision to protect them against the competition of oversea shipping this Bill would be worse than useless to the seamen of the Commonwealth.
– If the clauses were put in a separate Bill there would be no disadvantage to the seamen, while those engaged in other industries would at once secure the advantages of this measure.
– Would the right honorable member support legislation similar to that adopted in New Zealand in 1896, when, concurrently with the passing of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, a Bill to amend the Shipping and Seamen Act was passed? I have a copy of that amending Act, and will read its provisions to the right honorable member. If he is prepared to support similar legislation it is not too late for him to do so.
– That is not the question. The question is whether the honorable member wishes to assist in causing this Bill to be ‘’ hung up, ‘ ‘ and to adopt any view of my own as a reason for doing so.
– That is too thin. I do not wish to see the Bill “ hung up,” but, at the same time, I do not desire to see the seamen in a worse position than they are at present.
– It is admitted that the insertion of these clauses in the Bill would cause it to be “ hung up.”
Mr. POYNTON__ So far as the seamen are concerned, the measure would be “ hung up “ for all time if it did not contain these provisions. They would be left perfectly helpless. The Inter-State shipping companies would register under it, and the local seamen would come within its purview, but those employed on oversea vessels would not. In that event the very fact that we had refused to agree to these provisions would be urged as a reason for making an award reducing the wages of the local seamen. As I have already mentioned, the New Zealand Parliament in 1896 passed a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, and at’ the same time a Bill to amend the Shipping and Seamen Act. They must have considered that there was some reason for passing the two measures concurrently. The last-named measure contains these provisions : -
Notwithstanding anything contained in the principal Act or any amendment thereof, it is hereby declared that whenever the master, owner, or agent of any ship -
Engages seamen in the colony, or
Having engaged them abroad, employs them in the colony, such seamen whilst so employed, shall be paid and may recover the current rate of wages for the time being ruling in the colony, and in the former case the engagement may be determined in the colony at any time after the ship’s arrival at her final port of discharge in the colony, consequent on the completion of a round voyage, by 24 hours’ previous notice on either side ;
This is the way in which they exempted the direct trade - provided that this section shall not apply to ships arriving from abroad with passengers or cargo, but not trading in the colony further or otherwise than for the purpose of discharging such original passengers or cargo in the colony, and there shipping fresh passengers or cargo to be carried abroad. .
We have been told that, by passing these provisions, we’ should penalize the primary producers of Australia. Are there no primary producers in New Zealand, wherethis legislation has been in operation since 1896?
– They have an abundant rainfall in New Zealand ; unfortunately, we have not.
– They had a good rainfall during the time that Sir Julius Vogel was in office - they had the same soil and the same sunshine as they have now - but the results obtained were very different. Since then their exports have increased at a marvellous rate. I am not aware that the amending Shipping and Seamen’s Act has in any way increased freights. I believe that they are lower to-day than they were even before the passing of that measure. Let us see what Mr. Seddon has to say as to the effect of the passing of that measure. I am indebted to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, who has handed me a copy of a telegram received from Mr. Seddon, in reply to one forwarded to him inquiring -
Do navigation laws injure producers’ export trade ?
– What a simple question to ask.
– Does the honorable member regard the Honorable Richard Seddon as a simpleton?
– No, I do not.
– Does not the honorable member admit that he knows as well as any one else what is good for his own people ?
– I do.
– He says, in reply-
Our navigation laws have proved beneficial both to workers and producers. They have kept down coastal freights all the year round. To say that our navigation laws have not been beneficial, or that they have injured the producers, is a pure fabrication.
That is the opinion of the Premier of New Zealand, and, as we know, no country in the Southern Hemisphere has, in proportion to its size, exported as much produce as has that colony. It has been stated that, because the Navigation Bill has been referred to a Commission, these clauses should also be made the subject of inquiry. I have, however, already urged that the Arbitration Bill must contain provisions which will protect the interests of those who are connected with our local shipping industry, or it will be absolutely useless, so far as the seamen are concerned. The Navigation Bill consists of over 400 clauses, and the measure is of no special urgency. Therefore, I can understand that there were very good reasons for referring it to a Commission. If the clauses now under our consideration are not included in the Bill, a short measure embodying them should be introduced - as was done in New Zealand. Unless some such provision is made I shall not hesitate to advise the Seamen’s Union to have nothing to do with the measure. There is no sentiment about steam-ship owners, and they will take advantage of any opportunity that may present itself for- reducing the wages of their employes under the Bill.
The seamen would be worse off than at present, because they would be deprived of the weapons they now possess. If they went before the Arbitration Court, the employers would be able to justify a reduction of wages on the strength of the low rates paid by the oversea companies which compete with them in the coastal trade. It has been urged that, if the provisions now before us were embodied in the Bill, some of the States would be placed” at a disadvantage; but I fail to see that there is any good reason for taking that view. Western Australia will not be in any worse position than at present. Is it supposed that the mail steamers will be taken off the line, or that they will fail to make Fremantle a port of call?-
– Great difficulty was experienced in inducing the mail companies to make Fremantle a port of call.
– If there was any disposition on the part of the mail companies to ignore Fremantle, they would do so without waiting for such legislation as is now proposed.
– This may prove to be the last straw.
– I do not think that it will have any effect. The number of steamers calling at Fremantle will not be reduced in the slightest degree.
– If the provisions will have no effect, why should we adopt them?
– They will have the effect of protecting the very men in whose interests the measure was first conceived. Was not that made perfectly clear by the right honorable member for Adelaide? From time to time conferences have been held between the seamen and their employers with reference to the wages rates, and final consideration has been held over pending the passing of legislation such as that now contemplated. The steam-ship owners first reduced the wages of the seamen from £7 to £6 10s. per month, and then proposed a further reduction to j£6.
– The sworn figures show that that was an absolutely unjustifiable proposal.
– Be that as it may, the fact remains that such an attempt was made. After a great deal of discussion, it was agreed that the wages should be maintained at £6 10s. for a certain period, which, about four or five months ago, was further extended for twelve months. The main reason for this extension was the expectation of the steam-ship owners that legislation would be passed that would protect them from unfair competition on the part of oversea steamers. If the Government proposals are rejected, a serious ^attempt will be made almost immediately to reduce the wages of the seamen.
– The steam-ship companies would have to show their books, which would disclose the payment of big dividends, before that could happen.
– It is all very well for the right honorable gentleman to talk about the companies having to show their books. I’ have had some experience in connexion with industrial disputes, and I know that the fact that the employers are making big profits does not safeguard the employes against a reduction of wages. What occurred during the big strike at Broken Hill? Did the enormous dividends which were being paid by the companies protect the employes in the mines from a reduction?
– There was no Court to appeal to in that case.
– There will be no Court in this case either, unless special provision is made by means of the clauses now submitted to the Committee. How would the honorable member like it, if he were in business and had to pay Australian rates of wages and comply with many other special conditions, whilst certain of his competitors were exempt from compliance with all such requirements. I am sure that he would not consider it fair. I would make one last appeal to honorable members not to reject the clauses. During the debate which took place this afternoon with regard to the unemployed, the right honorable member for East Sydneyasked us not to give men a stone when they were asking for bread. I may tell honorable members that they are now offering to the unionists a stone instead of the bread for which they are asking. Everything that is dear to the hearts of the trade unionists has been denied them under this measure.
– Do the trades unionists constitute the whole of the citizens of the Commonwealth
– No; but they have done their share in building up the Commonwealth, and have performed more than their part in bringing about reforms. They have always formed the advance guard of the great reform movement, both in England and Australia. They have paved the way for the weak-kneed politicians, who have been impelled to associate themselves with movements brought within the range of practical politics through the efforts of the trades unionists, long before the Labour Party was directly represented in Parliament. The trades unionists are asking for legislation based upon the experience of New Zealand for many years. It’ has been proved there that such enactments do not interfere with the primary producers, and do not penalize the humane employer, but, on the other hand, place him in a better position by protecting him against the avarice and greed of his unfair competitors. They are asking for this legislation in exchange for the sacrifice which they are making in giving up all their old methods. These have proved very useful, but in hine cases out of ten were very costly. In many a struggle the trades unions have been the victors, but much loss has been incurred by the rank and file, and much suffering has been entailed upon all concerned. The men were . urged to abandon their barbarous, methods of settling disputes, and to take advantage of the franchise in order to secure by legal enactment that which they had practically been taking by force. Now they are being offered a measure which I am absolutely ashamed to mention before them. Every consideration has been given to the nonunionists, and none has been shown for the unionists. Now it is proposed to exclude from the benefits of the Bill the seamen employed along our coasts, who follow the most dangerous of callings, and who, when they leave their homes to enter upon a voyage, do not know whether they will ever come back again. It is desired by those honorable members who are opposing the Government proposals to place these men in a worse position than they occupy at present. Some honorable members complain because it is proposed to make arbitration compulsory. They say that they believe in arbitration, but they say, “ Let it be voluntary.” I desire, in connexion with this aspect of the question, to quote the opinion of an authority, who said -
All the enemies of the law, in fact, avow themselves passionate devotees of arbitration, and’ all they ask is that the compulsion shall be stricken out of the law, so that they can give the world the magnificent spectacle of voluntary arbitration for which they yearn. But these same men refused arbitration when it was not compulsory. At the worst, the .compulsion, we think, can do them no real harm, since it only forces these devotees of arbitration to do what they profess to be willing to do without the law. If they had given us conciliation when it was in their power, we would not have asked for compulsion.
That is the position taken up by any man who has had any experience in connexion with disputes between capital and labour. [ have seen men begging almost on their knees for a conference, or for any reasonable method of settling a dispute, when a few individuals who have stood out were able to defeat the others. I wish to give a summary of the effects of a similar law in New Zealand. Strikes and lock-outs have been stopped; wages and terms have been fixed, so that manufacturers can make their contracts ahead, without fear of disturbance ; workmen knowing that their income cannot - be cut down, and that they cannot be locked out, can marry, buy land, and build houses in security.
– Is the honorable member now dealing with oversea shipping ?
– I am dealing with the whole question.
– The whole question is not under discussion.
– It seems to me that one cannot discuss these clauses without taking into consideration the whole Bill, and what will be the effect of the amendment if carried. I have discussed that point from the beginning.
– I have allowed a good deal of latitude to honorable members.
– The summary which I wish to give is taken from a book by Mr. Demarest Lloyd, an American writer, who spent some months in New Zealand, and examined into the’ effects of the Arbitration Act
– Unless the extracts are pertinent to the clauses before the Chair, I cannot allow the honorable member to read them.
– I am arguing in favour of the retention of the clauses, and my remarks have reference to an Act in New Zealand, which embraces similar provisions.
– The honorable member’s remarks must have reference to similar clauses, and not to a similar Act. He knows perfectly well what is the purport of the clauses before the Committee. If what he desires to quote has reference to oversea shipping I shall hear him ; but not otherwise.
– If these clauses are excised from the Bill we do not know what the results will be; but we do know that similar legislation to this has worked well in New Zealand. But, of course, I shall not press the point if the Chairman says I am not in order. I appeal in all earnestness to honorable members, if they have a doubt upon the subject, to give the clauses the benefit of that doubt. Surely, in the interests of the general community, an end should be put to these continual conflicts between capital and labour. Honorable members talk about the loss occasioned in reference to freights. What are they compared to the loss to a country when a strike occurs? What are they compared to the loss that is occasioned in the United States to-day, where the people in some parts are practically in open rebellion ? What are they compared to the loss occasioned in Australia at the time of the great maritime strike? We lost then considerably more than could possibly be lost by a trifling increase of freights. As a matter of fact, in another country, where a law like this obtains, freights have not been increased, but, on the contrary, have been decreased, and the people have gained in every way.
– I regret that the Ministry have thought fit to introduce in this Bill clauses which properly belong to a Navigation Bill. The Prime Minister himself has already acknowledged that these clauses appertain to the Navigation Bill. That being so, ‘it does not appear to me that we should discuss them at this stage. By taking this course, we are bound to cause’ great confusion to all men who study our laws. Any man who commenced to read the Navigation
Bill when it became a statute would not discover in it anything with regard .to the Arbitration Court. Probably he would not know of the existence of such provisions as these, until his case came before the Court. It should be one of the desires of Parliament, as it is of the Judges of the land, to have all the sections relating to a particular subject within one Act. No man should have to look at three or four Acts to find out the law relating to any subject. ‘ In the State of Victoria some years ago both Houses of Parliament passed a vote of thanks to Chief Justice Higinbotham, because he had gone through all the Acts of Parliament in the State, codifying the sections, and arranging them under their proper headings. At the present time a similar codification is taking place in New South Wales. Certain men have been engaged in selecting sections from the various Acts, and placing them in the Acts to which they properly belong. An enormous amount of money is saved to the public from having the laws of the country codified in that manner. In this instance, I fail to understand why, since the Prime Minister himself admits that the clauses properly belong to a Navigation Bill-
– Where did I admit that?
– Let me ask the Prims Minister: does he not think that these clauses could be more appropriately placed in the Navigation Bill?
– I say that they might form part of the Navigation Bill, but I do not say that they should necessarily do so.
– Does not the Prime Minister think that the convenience of the parties interested would be considered by placing them in the Navigation Bill ? It is in this way that we compel the public to go to lawyers. The very reason why lawyers are so numerous in the community is, first, because of the many Acts of Parliament which are passed, and, secondly, because sections dealing with certain matters are not placed together in certain Acts, where men can easily find them.
– I am afraid that this measure will give work to the lawyers, no matter in what form it is passed.
– On that ground alone I urge the Prime Minister to include these clauses in the Navigation Bill!
– Will the honorable and learned member support them then ?
– It will be time for me to deal with the Navigation Bill when it comes before the House; but certainly I must oppose the clauses as here introduced. I can assure the Government that, no matter how much I was in favour of them, I could not support them as part of this Bill.
– The honorable and learned member would not support them in any case.
– Another very excellent reason was given by the right honorable member for East Sydney when he pointed out that if the clauses are inserted it will probably mean that the Bill will have to be reserved for the Royal Assent. The clauses will make the measure one affecting oversea .shipping, and, therefore, in all probability, the Royal Assent will not be given bv the Governor-General. We are led to believe that this measure is urgently needed, and that we ought not to delay its passage for a single moment. Surely that is an argument which ought to have great weight with the Prime Minister. Another reason is that the Navigation Bill itself has been referred to a Royal Commission to inquire into the whole subject. Surely freight rate’s, profits, and wages should be inquired into by the Commission. They cannot be inquired into by us in this Committee. But I will go still further. If we pass provisions of this kind, for whom shall we be legislating? Chiefly for the benefit of aliens, whom honorable members opposite hold in such detestation. I confess that, for my own part, I am always glad to welcome to this country men of the Caucasian race who are likely to assimilate with us. I only wish, that we could get more’ qf them. But when we are asked to pass a measure under which regulations will be framed which will possibly affect Australian shipping, it certainly becomes us to ask in whose interest , we are legislating. The State of New South Wales does the largest amount, of shipping business in Australia, and therefore, probably, there are in that State more seaman than in all the other States of Australia put together. I find that the number of men engaged in shipping in New South Wales is very little more than 930, of whom about 480 belong to British-speaking races, and about 450 to other nationalities. We are really asked to interfere, so far as that great
State is concerned, with 930 men, of whom nearly one-half are not of British nationality.
– I do not think that that is right.
– I am only taking the figures given in Coghlan.
– They are nearly all naturalized, anyhow.
– That may be. From my point of view, men of that type, who come here and settle down, or show an inclination to settle down, are just as much to be considered as any citizens born here.
– Provided that they are naturalized.
– Provided that they have shown an inclination to become citizens of Australia.
– And to live up to the Australian standard.
– I do not know what the Australian standard is, nor does the honorable member.
– The honorable and learned member’s standard.
– The standard of good men is, I presume, the same all the world over. At all events, they are aiming to belter their condition, and the honorable member cannot lay down what the standard is for one citizen any more than for another. A citizen may find much greater happiness under one form of government, or under one standard of life, than under another. It is not for us to impose on anybody conditions, however pleasing they may be to ourselves-
– A coolie, with a humpy to sleep in.
– I have slept a good deal more often in a humpy or tent than has the honorable member. I am quite certain that one can be just as contented in one way as in another. I would, point out another thing, which it appears to me the representatives of Western Australia have very properly stated. If the aim of these clauses were achieved, the result might be the loss to Western Australia and South Australia of the visits of the big steamships which now call at their ports. Surely that would be a very serious detriment to those States ? Of course, if it is not going to affect trade one way or the other, it is of no use to pass the clauses, and we are simply wasting time in discussing them.
– I think it will affect the “ tramp “ ships, but not the regular liners.
– I would remind the honorable and learned gentleman that so far as the Peninsular and Oriental Company is concerned, its loss on’ the Australian trade last year - admittedly a bad year - amounted to nearly ^50,000. There is no doubt that it hopes to make up that loss in other directions, but, nevertheless, we must be very careful not to throw any unnecessary hindrance in the way of its ships making any profit. If we do, the result may be .most disastrous to the producers of Australia, and certainly will be very disastrous to the inhabitants of Western Australia and South Australia. We have already imposed one disability, and that is by the infliction of heavy Customs duties on the stores carried by ships touching at Fremantle or Adelaide,’ before they touch at Melbourne or Sydney. If this other disability is superadded, we may prevent those ships from calling at such ports, and the result will not be good. Admittedly, there are only 2,500 seamen in Australia, and we are asked to interfere with the export trade of nearly 4,000,000 persons, because we shall interfere with the export trade to- a very large extent if we place these further hindrances in its way. Only this afternoon a representative o’f Tasmania pointed out that the reduction in freight on some of the products of that State caused by the big boats calling at Hobart, amounts to nearly 100 per cent. Surely when such instances have been placed before us, it will ill become us to proceed with this legislation. My objection to the clauses is based on the ground that they do not properly belong to the Bill, and even were I in favour of them I should still vote against their inclusion. The Barton Ministry carried1 that idea out so fully that they allowed a colleague to resign sooner than consent to the insertion in this Bill of clauses which properly belong to a Navigation Bill. No doubt the honorable member for Hume thoroughly approved of that course being followed, otherwise he would not have allowed the right honorable member for Adelaide to resign alone. The fact that he did not resign when that right honorable gentleman did is, or ought to be, a proof that he disagreed with him, and he will, by his vote to-night, show that he is of opinion that these clauses do belong to the Navigation Bill, and not to this Bill.
– It is just about time that we cleared our minds of all prejudice in this matter.
Honorable members on the other side have been speaking as though any one who desires to. say a word in opposition to these clauses and in favour of the proposal before the Committee is necessarily an enemy of trades unionism. The honorable member for Grey appealed to us not to take this undue advantage of the seamen of Australia, and he pleaded that without these clauses in this Bill they would be subjected to a reduction of wages and all the loss attendant on an oppressve exercise of power by the capitalist. The honorable member for Darling told us that every one on this side would do anything under the sun to defeat the aims of the seamen of Australia and to prevent them from getting their just rights. I commend these ad misericordiam appeals to the labour representatives of Western Australia, and I ask honorable members whether they believe that the members of the Labour Party over there are engaged in a vendetta against trades unionism in Australia, and trades organizations in general. The idea is too absurd to be considered for a moment. And it only shows that those honorable members, particularly the honorable member for Darling, who told us that he had an open -mind, have shut their minds hard and fast, and sealed them against any view but their own. I venture to say that some honorable members who have taken part in this discussion have just as sincere a desire for the welfare of the seamen of Australia as have honorable members who are in favour of the insertion of these clauses. It is not fair to say that the only alternative to the acceptance of the clauses is antagonism to the trades organizations of Australia. I began my consideration of this matter with a mind favorable to the insertion of the clauses in this Bill. The superficial view is that since we place our own ship-owners and seamen within the control of the Arbitration Court, therefore we should do ,the same thing with those of any vessels which come here for the purposes of trade. At first view that seems a proper and fair thing to do, but I submit that there is a very much wider view to be considered. We are supposed to try to look all round a question rather than to take a sectional view - of it. What is the argument which has been advanced from the other side for the insertion of these clauses in this Bill? Passing by the remarks of the honorable member for Darling, I come to what the Minister of External Affairs said on Friday last, when he made his statement in support of the proposition. His one argument - and it is the argument which we have heard indirectly to-night from the honorable member for Grey - was that Australian seamen would not be able to get a fair award unless the Court was permitted to control the wages on foreign-going vessels. That is a view from which I entirely dissent. There is no reason to suppose that the President of the Court would do anything of the kind suggested when he came to make his award as to our own seamen. I take it that if he were a reasonable man, with business habits, like Mr. Justice Cohen, in New South Wales, he would at once order the ship-owners to produce their books. He would, as the honorable member for Grey pointed out, compare the rates of Australian seamen with the rates of the seamen on foreigngoing boats. But’ his investigation would not stop there, as the honorable member supposes. He would inquire into the balancesheets of these companies, and he would find there a very great disparity.
– He might.
– There is no “ might “ about the matter.
– Why should he want to look at the balance-sheets if he knew what he was going to find?
– According to sworn testimony, which has been presented to the Committee, the President of the Court would find in the balance-sheets abundant evidence to show that while one set of ship-owners were making money out of the Australian trade, another set were making practically nothing. Does the Minister dispute the statements which have been made to the Committee? Does he dispute the sworn statements in the balancesheets which were produced by the honorable and learned member for Wannon the other night?
– Unfortunately the statements made in this House are not sworn to, otherwise we should get on a’ great deal faster.
– The statements which were made here the other night were taken from the sworn balance-sheets of the ship-owners, and I apprehend that the honorable and learned gentleman is not prepared to dispute them.
– The Western Australian figures are being disputed.
– The honorable and learned member for Wannon showed that, according to. their own” sworn testi mony, Mcllwraith, McEacharn, and Company, Proprietary, Limited, made a profit of over £45,000 last year.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has just shown me certain figures which have been supplied to him. That statement is proved to be absolutely incorrect.
– It is a pity that the contradictions cannot be made in the Chamber.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has shown me the figures, and told me that he intends to make a statement to the Committee.
– I am sure that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports is prepared ‘to prove that anything to do with any matter outside Australia is .wrong. The honorable member for Wannon also showed that another company trading on the coast is building up a huge reserve fund, and paying dividends amounting to 25 per cent., and that altogether the indications are that these coasting companies are doing exceedingly well. I should think, therefore, that any fairminded Judge, making an independent investigation in connexion with a matter of the kind, would come to the conclusion that if this disparity between the wages has existed practically for all time, and if, in spite of that, Australian ship-owners have been enabled to still make good profits, the present state qf things should at least continue. A Judge would not take the small sectional view imputed to him by certain honorable members in arguing the question - the view that merely because of the difference . between the rates of wages, and for no other reason, it was his duty to cut down the Australian wages, presumably to the level of the others. Unless that is so, the only argument which has been advanced in support of the inclusion of those clauses up to the present, naturally breaks down. That is the only argument which has been presented - the difficulty . of getting an award unless foreign ships are brought within the purview of the Court.
– It is not a difficulty, but an impossibility.
– Does the honorable and learned member say that it is impossible to get an award under the circumstances ?
– Under iKe circumstances, certainly.
– I suppose we cannot be certain until the matter has been tested.
– But the honorable member was quite certain just now.
– I was speaking then of sworn balance-sheets ; I am speaking now of the statement of honorable members that it will not be possible to get an award unless foreign ships are brought under the control of the Court.
– I say again that it will not.
– I say there is no evidence of that in the facts as disclosed, whereas there is abundance of testimony which has been presented as to the other view of the case, and which has so far not been controverted. If there is effective contradiction to be made to those statements on oath on the other side, the sooner it is forthcoming the better.
– The honorable member overlooks certain essential facts ; and unless he is prepared to consider those facts, he cannot arrive at an impartial conclusion.
– I am prepared to consider any statements made on this question. I do not think that the honorable and learned member should assume that I am not prepared to do so.
– I do not accuse the honorable member; I simply say that he is overlooking those facts.
– I have tried to consider the facts ; at any rate, this is entirely a matter of opinion. Those on the Government side think that the minds of honorable members on this side are shut, while we are absolutely certain that they will not listen to any arguments. But all this does not get us much nearer to a solution. I want to make one or two remarks, showing the bearings of the question on a very wide circle of producers in Australia. The honorable member for Darling spoke in the most airy fashion about the way in which the producers in Australia would be affected by this legislation. The honorable member asked how -we know that the forcing up of the wages would make any difference in freights and in the expenses of the foreigngoing vessels. I should think that that fact needed no demonstration. For instance, we hear that the Government are considering the question of accepting a tender from the Orient Company, with an increase of subsidy up to£100,000; and the Prime Minister and the Postmaster-
General have said, from time to time, that this company has been running, its service at a loss.
– I said that that statement was made to me; I do not know whether the company have, or have not, been running ata loss
– The Prime Minister has said that he has no reason to doubt the statement.
– That may be so; but the Peninsular and Oriental Company, on the other hand, have made a profit.
– I understand that the Peninsular and Oriental Company make a considerable loss on the Australian portion of their trade.
– There is no evidence of that, except in regard to last year. It is not likely that the company would carry on one branch of their business at a loss year after year.
– I am informed that the company ran at a loss last year, at any rate.
– I understand that that was so.
– I am informed that the Australian portion of the trade has not, at any time, been profitable.
– It is curious that the company should carry on for so long a trade which is unprofitable.
– But the trade helps other services ; it is profitable indirectly, but not directly. Here are two large shipping companies, which are making practically no profit; and if the wages on their boats are forced up, I apprehend it will make a difference. The honorable rriember for Grey said that one set of seamen living under the same conditions as another set of seamen, ought to receive the same rates of wages. May I point out to the honorable member that the sailors who man the foreign ships do not reside in Australia, but in countries where it costs much less to live ; and to force up wages, as is suggested, to the level of the Australian rates, would be in reality to give the foreign sailors much higher wages than our own men are receiving. Being domiciled in other countries, where the value of money is, say, twice what it is in Australia, it is quite evident that to force the wages up to our rate would be to give the foreign sailor much higher wages than are paid to our own sailors. I make that remark, in passing, in reply to the honorable member for Grey. My contention is that we have plenty to do to look after our own sailors, without attempting to control the trade of the world. If the trade at present is unprofitable for many of the ocean-going ships, then to force on them an increase of expenses would very probably run them out of competition. That may be precisely, what many honorable members who are supporting these clauses want to do ; and they instance other countries where that policy has been followed. They point to America and Russia, and, so far as I know, these are the only countries in the world which take these drastic measures in regard to foreign shipping. If we are going to drive away those who offer us shipping facilities the effect must fall very heavily indeed on our primary producers, scattered throughout the length and breadth of Australia. If, on the other hand, we are going to allow British and foreign ships to trade here, but to compel them to increase their fares and freights, then we shall again strike a very heavy blow at our exporters. Honorable members have asked to-night for some information as to what effect such a policy would have on the export business of Australia. Figures have already been presented to the Committee, and here are some more which have been supplied by a Tasmanian exporter to South Africa. I find that the rates for general cargo for South Africa via, and with transhipment at, Melbourne - as would, perforce, be the case if our Inter-State boats had to be employed - range from 42s. 6d. to 57s. 6d. per ton, and for apples, from 2s. 6d. to 3s.” 6d. per case. By the boats trading direct between Tasmania and South Africa, the rates on general cargo amount to 30s. per ton, and on apples to is. 4d. per case. I submit that the difference between those prices means the difference between profitable and entirely unprofitable industry. ‘ That is a very serious aspect of this question which I have to consider, representing, as I do, so many thousands of the primary producers of Australia. The various classes of labourers, in connexion with our primary productions, are not overburdened with wages, so far as I am aware ; and I submit that it is an economic truth, susceptible of the most complete demonstration, that if further charges are placed on the transportation of produce to the natural markets, we necessarily endanger - I do not say that this would actually occur - but we menace the rates of wages those people have now. That is a view which we ought to bear in mind in considering a question of this kind. Our handicaps here are great enough now to prevent our taking any step which would decrease by one iota the facilities afforded for getting Australian produce to market. Our wheat is at a disadvantage compared with that of Canada and Russia, those two countries being much nearer the great markets of the world. The same may be said of our butter, which is handicapped by reason of our great distance from London, as compared with Denmark; of our fruit in competition with the fruits of Italy and California, and also of our wool in competition with the wool of Argentine. So one could go through the whole of the primary products of Australia. The handicap we suffer by reason of our great distance from the markets of the world is obvious. With the few people we have in Australia, and the large areas over which they are scattered, our products must necessarily be more than we can consume ; and a large export is as the very life-blood of the community. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that we should have all possible facilities to get our produce to the markets of the world, and thus be enabled to somewhat overcome the severe handicap under which we should otherwise labour. I was very much surprised the other day to hear the statement of the Minister of External Affairs that the Government proposed later on to introduce into this Bill a clause which would have the effect of altogether excluding foreign ships from our coastal trade.
– I think the Minister said that that clause would apply only to ships which are subsidized.
– The Minister did’ not make that qualification, and the proposal raises a very large and serious question for Australia. Personally, I think that such a provision would strike a severe blow at the coal mining industry of the Commonwealth.
– That question does not, I think, arise at this juncture.
– I think it does;, the question is whether these clauses shall be submitted to the Royal Commission, and no doubt this clause also will be considered in its relation to the whole subject. I admit, however, that the question does not arise directly at this point.
– It will arise; I shall be proposing that clause by-and-by if we carry this provision.
– The only two countries, so far as I know, which have driven away foreign shipping altogether from their coasts are the United States and Russia. I have yet. to learn that we are to frame our legislation with a view to imitating the shipping tactics of either country. The only result of this kind of legislation, and of the pursuance of a policy of isolation such as is being pursued in the industries of the United States, is to steadily - as in the case of that country - send down the shipbuilding barometer. Figures were quoted here to-night which prove incontestably that the United States shipping is not keeping pace with wear and tear - that the ship-building industry is a steadily declining quantity.
– America is a world in itself.
– Of course it is; there are 80,000,000 of people, and America as a nation has been in existence for a very long time. To compare America with Australia for the purpose of showing that we ought to imitate the methods of that country seems to me to be like trying to fit a pair of boy’s trousers on a man. The idea is absurd. There is no analogy between countries whose conditions are so diverse, and which are so widely separated. May I also remind honorable members that these countries can afford to do what we, isolated as we are from the rest of the world, cannot afford to do? America has infinite resources. I think I may be pardoned for using the word “infinite” in this connexion, because the resources of that country are so tremendous. The same thing may be said of the great empire of Russia. Both countries are nearer to the heart of the world than we are. They can also protect themselves against any penal consequences which may ensue from their actions in a way which we cannot hope to imitate. Let us rather consider our shipping in its relation to the Empire as a whole. It is precisely in connexion with the Empire relationship that one other consideration suggests itself. We are told that we may safely exclude foreign shipping ; but I do not think we can. Our shipping policy must to-day be considered as part of a general Empire policy. That is the popular view which is taken of all these questions nowadays, when preferential trade is in the air, and a tremendous impulse has been given to the loyal aspira tions of the people of the whole Empire. Let us therefore consider our shipping relations with the world as a matter of Empire concern. If we drive all foreign ships from our coasts, the foreign nations affected will not take it “ lying down,” to use Mr. Chamberlain’s phrase. Figures were quoted the other night to show what may happen if foreign nations commence a crusade against Great, Britain’s shipping trade, which to-day is worth ^120,000,000. Therefore, I submit that the Empire to which we belong, and to whose methods and trend of legislation I hope we shall more and more conform, must be considered as a whole in dealing with navigation laws, and such matters as are now before us. Taking that view of the question, one sees how very dangerous it would be to adopt such drastic measures as have been proposed by the Government. In this matter we have everything to gain from trying to conciliate rather than to antagonise foreign nations. Great Britain owns more than half the shipping trade of the world, and her interests might be seriously menaced if we began to fight with foreign nations. I, for one, so long as I am an Australian, and belong to the great Empire to which we are all proud to owe allegiance, will oppose everything of the kind. Furthermore, I ask, what arguments have we heard as to the disastrous consequences likely to befall Australian seamen if the proposed clause is not adopted ? The arguments which have been adduced have not been supported by a single statement of fact that could be substantiated If honorable gentlemen who support the insertion of the proposed new clauses have evidence in proof of their assertions, why do they not produce it? Figures have been quoted from this side of the Chamber to show that the local shipping companies are very successful in their competition with British and foreign companies; that they earn huge profits, pay good dividends, and build up huge reserve funds, while paying the Australian rate of wages. Figures have also been quoted to show that the last reduction of our sailors’ wages by ros. a month was in no sense justified.
– Yet it was made.
– Of course it was made, because the men had no Court to which to take their grievance. Now, however, we are proposing to set up a Court for them.
– The oversea vessels carry one-third of our passenger traffic.
– That is an entirely gratuitous statement. My opinion is that fewer persons would travel bv sea from State to State if the large oversea vessels were withdrawn. A week or two ago I was about to book a berth to enable me to come round from Sydney by the Peninsular and Oriental Steamship Company’s vessel, the Mongolia; but I was glad afterwards that I did not, because the steamer had an exceptionally trying experience. I am an indifferent sailor, and when I go down to the sea in ships I like to go by the biggest boat I can get. If I could not travel in a large boat, I would probably take the train, and there are thousands of others who, like myself, patronize the sea only because of the large and comfortable vessels available to them. The multiplication of these immense vessels means the increasing of the number of travellers by sea, and it is by no means to be thought that if these vessels were driven from our coasts the number of travellers by sea from port to port would be anything like so large as the total ‘ now is. In any case, it is an utterly unenlightened policy for us to drive from our shores these marvels of engineering skill and transportation. In this twentieth century the different parts of the world are coming closer together, and in consequence human competition is becoming more and more severe. The last thing we should do, therefore, is to drive oversea vessels away from our shores. We should rather encourage more such vessels to come here, so as to make it easier for our producers to get to the markets of the. world.
– Similar arguments were used in opposition to the movement to prevent children from being employed in the mines in England.
– And the factories, too.
– Does the honorable member for Grey suggest that the position of Australian seamen is as hopelessly miserable as was that of the children to whom he refers?
– If one considers the accommodation and the food which they are given, their position does not seem to be very far removed from’ that of the children in question.
– I take leave to doubt the statement. I do not say that our sailors live in a paradise : but to make a parallel between their condition and that of the little children who were forced at the beginning of the last century to work in the English mines is to draw the bow at a venture. The Australian sailor is entitled to the best wages that can be paid to him; but I have yet to learn that the insertion of the proposed clauses in the Bill would help him to get justice from the proposed Arbitration Court. That is the point on which we are at issue. If I believed it to be impossible for Australian seamen to obtain fair awards without some such provisions as these, I would seriously consider the advisability of their insertion. But facts go to show that any reasonably-, minded judge would have to consider the matter for only a few minutes to see that there is no justification for a decrease in the rate of wages, and abundant reason for restoring the ios. a month of which our seamen have been deprived. I am not speaking at random. I base my remarks on the figures which have been given to us - figures taken from sworn statements, from balance sheets, and from the statement of some of the ship-owners themselves. The information with which we are supplied all goes to show that the ship-owners of Australia are making good profits and can afford to pay good wages. That being so, what judge would hesitate to prevent them from further reducing wages. Those who support the- insertion of the proposed clauses make unsupported assertions to the effect that without them our sailors could not look for a satisfactory award from the Court. There is, on the contrary, abundant evidence that, even if the clauses are not inserted, the Court will be able to look after our own sailors. That being, so, and remembering that the ultimate intention of the Government is to keep Australian trade to Australian and British ships, to the exclusion of foreign ships, I think that the matter is one for the investigation of the tribunal which the Government have already created to report upon navigation matters generally. I hope that the Committee will vote for that investigation. There are other persons to be considered besides the ship-owners of Australia, and all who are affected, directly or indirectly, by the legislation which is brought before us, equally deserve consideration.
– I think that the Committee does not yet possess sufficient evidence to be able to express an opinion as to the necessity for inserting the proposed new clauses in the Bill. If I thought, with the Prime Minister, that the local shipping was suffering from severe competition from outside ship-owners, I would consider that there was justification for the enactment of the proposed clauses, either in this Bill, or in the Navigation Bill, or in a separate measure dealing with our coastal trade, because I am of opinion that we should dp all we can to encourage the Australian mercantile marine. Those engaging substantially in the Australian trade should, moreover, receive a fair and reasonable remuneration - the, highest remuneration possible under the conditions of the trade. But I feel that we have not had all the facts as to the effect of the proposed new clauses fully stated. I have approached the question with an open mind, and my feeling was in favour of the adoption of the proposed provisions. I am of the opinion that when ships engage in the Australian trade, they should submit to Australian conditions. That is a sound proposition. What is the position of the companies to which these provisions would chiefly apply ? So far as we are able to gather from the evidence submitted to us, they do not substantially engage in the Australian coasting trade or cut into the Inter-State business of Australian shipping companies, either in the matter of passengers or cargo. The clauses, as proposed, would practically apply to every oversea vessel that happened to call at an Australian port, take up a passenger, or a small quantity of cargo, and carry that passenger or cargo to another port in the Commonwealth. No matter how trifling the business might be these provisions would apply to such vessels. If we are going to regulate the coasting trade, it would be better Jo provide that these clauses shall apply “to oversea vessels only when they substantially engage in competition with Australian steamers in the coasting trade, or when the rates of wages paid on such vessels really substantially affect the rates of pay received by Australian seamen. If it could be shown that either of those conditions existed, there would be strong justification for legislation dealing with the’ matter. We have to look at another aspect of the question - the fact that the larger part of our oversea shipping consists of vessels that practically bring to our shores the goods that we require for our own consumption, and of vessels which come here to take away Australian produce. If these clauses were inserted in the Bill, I do not think that they would prejudicially affect either Sydney or Melbourne, but I do hold that they might injure the outlying parts of Australia. I have in mind such places as Perth, Hobart, and the Queensland ports, extending far away to the north. I endeavoured to ascertain from first hand information what oversea vessels engage in the coasting trade of Australia, and call at the ports of Queensland.’ The question has been so far discussed chiefly ‘from the point of view of Western Australia, though the representatives of that State have frankly stated that they desire it to be considered solely from an Australian stand-point. They have told us that they do not ask for any concession or any regulation of shipping that would not apply to other Stales. I have ascertained from the Collector of Customs in Queensland that the oversea vessels which take a few passengers and small quantities of cargo from Queensland ports are those of the Eastern and Australian Steamship Company Limited, the China Navigation, and the Nippon Yusen Kaisha - that is the Japanese line. Those vessels are practically opening up the eastern trade of Australia. The Collector of Customs, in writing to me in reply to a query on the subject, states that the vessels of the Aberdeen line, the Norddeutscher Lloyd Company, the Canadian-Australian Royal Mail line, carry passengers regularly, and that the two former have, occasionally taken small quantities of cargo. Then the vessels of the Federal Steam Navigation Company, the Houlder line, and the Shire line “ have occasionally carried small quantities of frozen produce coastwise.” I cannot say that even this evidence is absolutely satisfactory, but to my mind all that is required is further inquiry. I do not say that this is sufficient evidence on which to act, but if this measure, applied to those lines the question might arise in the minds of some of the owners, “ Will it pay us to allow our vessels to call at Brisbane?” - although it paid them to call at Melbourne and Sydney to take away produce. The Queensland Government have, at considerable expense, deepened the river Brisbane, and run the railway down to and constructed wharfs at Pinkenbah, in order to encourage oversea steamers to make Brisbane a port of call. The representatives of the - State have very properly urged that, as we ate anxious that these vessels shall call at Brisbane to carry away the produce of our primary producers* the rights of Queensland should be conserved under Australian legislation, and that she should participate in the benefits of any appropriations made by the Parliament of the Commonwealth. In Queensland the export trade in butter is practically only in its infancy. The farmers have- had a very hard struggle in the face of the drought ; but they are now recovering from the effects of that calamity. Although Australia is often spoken of as a country subject to droughts there are many parts of the Commonwealth that do not know what it is to suffer from a prolonged drought. The last drought was, however, of an exceptional nature, and the farmers of Queensland suffered very severely. Since then great progress has been made. The number of sheep in Queensland has increased by something like 1,150,000. Since the return to normal seasons, the dairying industry, the pig-raising industry, and others, are beginning to expand under the normal conditions that now exist. There is no reason why Queensland in particular, and Australia generally, should not now enter upon a period of great prosperity. Queensland is anxious to induce suitable steamers to call regularly at her ports, so that the local producers may have some assurance that theif products will be exported with regularity to oversea markets.
– That is what we all want.
– I believe it is, and I am satisfied that no honorable member is more anxious than is the Prime Minister to achieve that object. Notwithstanding what has been said, he . has always stood up in this House as the advocate of the producing population. My desire is that before legislation of this description be passed some inquiries shall be made, in order that we may ascertain that these great producing interests will not be in any way restricted or receive a set back. To Sydney or Melbourne the matter is of no consequence: Such large cargoes are available for oversea vessels a!, both Sydney and Melbourne that they will always call at those ports, and the representatives of the smaller States are proud to know that there are such glorious cities in the Commonwealth. We are prepared 1o give all the assistance that the seamen require, but in rendering that aid we must, in legislating, have regard to the fact that there is much country yet to develop, and that for years to come a great deal of that development will rest on the expansion of our primary industries. Let us see, therefore, that we do nothing calculated to give them even a slight set-back. These are the feelings with which I have approached this question. My sympathies are entirely with the spirit of the legislation which the Prime Minister proposes, but after carefully looking at the matter I cannot see from the evidence that has been submitted that the competition in the coasting trade on the part of oversea shipping companies gives rise to any serious cause for apprehension. I cannot believe from what I have heard in this Committee that the wages that have been or are likely to be paid by Australian shipping companies are going to be affected by the wages paid, for instance, on the steamers of the Peninsular and Oriental Company. If I thought that the rates of pay prevailing on oversea vessels were calculated to lead to a reduction in the wages of our own seamen I should join with the Prime Minister in endeavouring to insure the continued payment of a fair and reasonable wage. If I felt that the mercantile marine of Australia was likely to be destroyed, or was being hampered by the competition of oversea vessels, I should join with him in his desire to regulate the coasting trade; but my feeling is at present that there is not -sufficient evidence to justify,- at this stage, the inclusion of these clauses in the Bill. It would be better to refrain from including them in this measure, although I do not think that there can be any question as to our constitutional power to pass them in this way. If we have power to pass any provision, we have power to provide for it in any Bill, provided that it be within the scope of the measure. In construing any of our Acts, the Court has simply to look at- our legislative powers, and any question as to the title of a measure is merely a matter of parliamentary procedure. In construing this measure, the Court would look at the several sections of the Constitution in which all our powers to legislate on matters of general concern are granted. As a matter of convenience, it might be better to have such provisions as these inserted in a Bill dealing either with the coastal trade or with shipping generally. I do not wish it to be understood that I am antagonistic even to the principle of the Bill; but having regard to the way in which these provisions are worded, and to the information at present at our disposal, I think it is desirable to postpone these proposals until some investigation can be made.
– I wish to correct one or two statements made by the honorable and learned member for Wannon, in reference to the sworn balancesheets of which he spoke, and to which reference was also made by the honorable member for Parramatta. Sir Malcolm McEacharn is my authority for stating that the assertion of the honorable and learned member, that those balance-sheets showed that a profit of about £45,000 had been earned by his firm in Western Australia, irrespective of the coal business, is altogether misleading and contrary to fact. The fact that the Western Australian Government recognised that it would be altogether unfair to assess the incidence of the income tax on such a basis, and adopted a different calculation considerably reducing the amount, also bears out this correction. The statement made by Sir Malcolm McEacharn is as follows : -
As a matter of fact, our books in Western Australia do not record the profits made on the steamers running to that State. They simply show the monies received and disbursed there. The return upon which Mr. Robinson has based his statement shows all the freight, passage money, charges, and other items which are collected ; but as against these items it only shows the amounts disbursed in Western Australia in connexion with each steamer. These do not include such items as crews’ wages, provisions, coal, interest on capital, depreciation, insurances, repairs, &c, and it is therefore easily understood how misleading the figures are.
I take it that the honorable and learned member for Wannon is quite prepared to accept a statement coming from such an authority.
– Does Sir Malcolm McEacharn say what the profits are?
– No; butI am sure he would have to disclose them in any proceedings before the Court, so that the honorable member’s question is scarcely a fair one. ‘ Another matter to which I desire to refer, in reply to a statement made by the honorable and learnedmember for Wannon, relates to the effect of the shipping laws of New Zealand. When I was dealing with the question, the honorable and learned imember interjected - “ Whenever was this law put into force?” The Premier of New Zealand was interviewed with reference to the adverse remarks made in- this Committee about the New Zealand shipping laws, and informed the interviewer that they had been enforced, with the very best effect, ever since their passing into law. The report of the interview sets forth that Mr. Seddon said -
Previously the captains of tramps, with coloured crews, used to interfere with the local coastal steamers manned by white crews, but, under the present shipping laws, they did not by any means find it -a game of bluff. They had been forced out of the coastal trade, because they had to pay New Zealand wages. That had been a gain to settlers, and also to the coastal trading companies, as regards both summer and winter trade, and formerly tramps took the wool and grain in summer, which forced the local companies to raise freights in winter. Now they had ill the trade, and lower average freights prevailed all the year round.
Mr. Seddon states that no one has been injured, that the producers have been benefited, that freights have been decreased, and that, instead of any harm having been done, advantage has been derived by all concerned.
– Does he explain how the “ tramp ‘ ‘ steamers, which carried wool and wheat, entered into competition with the local steam-ships?
-Yes. He explainedthat during the summer months they carried a great deal of produce, and so lessened the bulk of the traffic conveyed by the local steamers that the steam-ship owners had to charge higher freights during the winter time when trade was slack.
– But the “tramp “ steamers only carried goods away from New Zealand ?
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon. They were carrying goods from port to port.
– What, wool?
– No, not wool; but many other articles. I think that the authorities I have given, and the statements I have read, must be convincing to the minds of most honorable members.
– I merely wish to say that I accept, without reservation, the statement made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, to the effect that the sworn evidence given before the Chief Justice of Western Australia as to the excess of receipts over disbursements by Messrs. Mcllwraith, McEacharn, and Company, possibly did not show the true profit earned by that company in Western Aus tralia. I think, however, that, in justice to myself, I should place before the Committee the further fact that Messrs. McIlwraith, McEacharn, and Company, and a number of other local shipping companies, receive large sums of money at Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Newcastle, Brisbane, and other ports of the Commonwealth, and that their profits are very substantial. The honorable and learned member for Angas has made a calculation, which, I think”, we may accept as accurate, that over a number of years the profits earned by the local steam-ship companies have ranged above 30 per cent. I have no objection to the local steam-ship companies making a profit of 30 or 50, or even 1,000 per cent., but I do object to those who are making very large- profits coming to Parliament and stating that some trifling competition, to which they are subjected, constitutes a serious menace to their existence. That is the attitude which I have assumed. I object to those who are doing a flourishing business saying that, unless we shut out from the Inter -State trade these great ocean companies, which have done so much for Australia, they will be ruined. I had no thought of making any reference to Sir Malcolm McEacharn, but I noticed that he stated yesterday that if he had been in this House he certainly would have voted against the inclusion of the proposed new clauses in the Bill. Therefore, we may take it that not only the great ocean steamship companies, but also a number of the local companies, object to these clauses.
– There is only one feature of the debate to which I wish to refer at this stage, because I think that the clauses have been pretty well threshed out. When I first introduced the clauses this day week, I alluded to the competition of foreign vessels on . the coast, and more especially to the fact that the . great proportion of these foreign-owned vessels were subsidized. I then said -
If, in addition to heavily subsidizing their lines, they also exact a condition that no Australian produce shall be carried to German ports, it is a question how far we are justified in our own interest in allowing that state of things to continue without making some attempt to counteract it - without something in the nature of retaliation. I do not propose to pursue that subject now, but it is a matter requiring consideration at the hands of not only this portion of the Empire, but of the British Empire generally, as to how far we are justified in allowing that sort of thing to go on without reprisals of some sort.
During the debate it has been urged by several honorable members that if our proposals were carried, and’ the Court so extended an award as to include foreign ocean-going vessels, the foreign owners, as distinct from the British owners, would apply to their Governments, probably with success, for an increased subsidy to meet the extra expense entailed upon them, whereas the British-owned vessels would have no chance of securing any such com pensation. Consequently, the foreign shipowners would be able to surmount the difficulty created by the new conditions imposed upon them, whereas British ship-owners would be placed at a still greater disadvantage. I admit that that argument has had some weight with me, and that it would not be proper to run the risk of placing the British ship-owners at a disadvantage in comparison with foreign-owned vessels engaged in the coasting trade of Australia. In the same way that I object to our locallyowned vessels having to observe conditions that are not sought to be imposed upon vessels coming from oversea when they engage in our traffic, I am opposed to placing British-owned vessels which come oversea and seek, incidentally, to trade along our coast, at a disadvantage as compared with foreign vessels which follow a similar course. Therefore, in the event of the amendment proposed by the right honorable and learned member for East Sydney being defeated, I propose to alter the new clause 79 b by omitting sub-clause 1 with a view to substituting the following: -
Before any ship to which this part of this Act applies engages in the coasting trade,
Her master shall satisfy a Collector of Customs that no subsidy or bonus is payable, and that no agreement or arrangement exists under which any subsidy or bonus will become payable, in respect of the ship to the owners of the ship ; other than by the Government of the United Kingdom, or of the Commonwealth, or of a State, and
Her master shall enter into an agreement with the members of the crew in accordance with Schedule C.
The first portion of the amendment involves an alteration to the effect that if a vessel that is not locally registered seeks to engage in the coasting trade, it shall have to be proved that it is not receiving a subsidy from a foreign Government. If owners are receiving a subsidy from the Imperial Government or from the Commonwealth or States Governments in respect to the carriage of mails, for instance, no exception will be taken.
– That would not embrace a subsidy given for services rendered
– Anything paid to the. companies for mail services in excess of the rates agreed to at the Berne Convention would be a subsidy, but any amount up to the poundage rate would not be a subsidy. In order to prevent the provision from apr plying to British vessels which receive mail subsidies, we propose to exclude them, and to make it apply only to- ships receiving subsidies from foreign Governments. A somewhat similar proposal was embodied in the Navigation Bill introduced in the Senate, but whilst that provision sought to impose disabilities upon subsidized vessels, it drew no distinction between British and foreign ships. We have drawn such a distinction in this amendment, one reason being that otherwise we should include all mail vessels that were receiving a sum representing more than the ordinary poundage rates.
– Would that be a subsidy ?
– Yes; technically, if it were anything in excess of the poundage rates, it would be a subsidy, because it would amount to something more than a payment for services rendered.
– Would the provision apply to the Peninsular and Oriental Company in respect of the payment by the Imperial Government for the mail service as far as Colombo ?
– No, because we have exempted subsidies paid by the Imperial Government.
– There is a great difference between payments made for services rendered and the freightage and mileage rates paid to the French and German companies.
– Yes, a very great difference. One of the German subsidies is paid under a distinct condition in the contract that no produce such as meat or cereals shall be carried to Germany from Australia in the vessels belonging to the company. I think that that is an outrageous condition for any Government, which seeks to have vessels engaged in our trade, to enforce. I do not propose to go over the whole ground again, and therefore I only indicate what the Government propose to do in the event of the clause being retained. The proposal we now intend to submit is in consonance with the view I expressed when speaking this day week, but I was not then convinced, as I am now, of the necessity for immediate action in this regard.
– The amendment referred to will not at all alter the position of affairs so far as my proposal- is concerned.
– It meets the argument of the honorable and learned member for Parkes.
– That may be ; but the position remains absolutely the same so far as my amendment is concerned, which does not enter into the vexed question of the principles involved in these highly important clauses, but proposes to avoid introducing them into the Bill, and thereby hanging it up for an indefinite period. We simply desire to wait for fuller information, in order that whatever may prove to be best may be done. That is the point which I placed before the Committee, and the proposed amendment does not alter the position, but only points more forcibly than ever to the importance of securing further information.
– Do I understand that the latest suggestion of the Prime Minister involves, a substitution of one provision for another, or an addition to clause 79b ?
– The . amendment is not put forward with a view to meet the objections of those honorable members who do not desire to enter upon this phase of legislation at the present time, but primarily in order to meet the objection - the rather tenable objection - raised by the honorable and learned member for Parkes, who stated that in the absence of some such provision as this foreign companies might be able, with the assistance of subsidies from their Governments, to evade the consequences of the application to them of the Australian rate of wages. The proposal is put forward to meet that objection, and no other. The amendment practically leaves the preliminary condition involved in sub-clause 1 of clause 79b intact, but adds another condition precedent to that, namely, that the masters of vessels shall prove that they receive no subsidy from a foreign Government.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … … 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment agreed to.
Proposed new clause negatived.
That the following new clause be inserted : - “86a. (1) Any organization or person bound by an industrial agreement shall for any breach or non-ooservance of any terra of the agreement be liable to a penalty not exceeding such amount as is fixed by the industrial agreement ; and if no amount is so fixed, then by. a penalty not exceeding , in the case, of an organization Five hundred pounds, in the case of an employer, Two hundred and fifty pounds, and in the case of an employee Ten pounds. “ (2) Such, penalties may be proceeded for and recovered in the same manner- as penalties for breach or non-observance of an order or award of the Court.”
This new clause has reference to the enforcement of an industrial agreement. On going through the measure in the first instance, it seemed to the Government to be an omission that no provision had been made for the enforcement of an industrial agreement. No penalties were fixed in case of a breach of an agreement. There might be a necessity in the event of no penalties being provided in. the agreement itself to insure that it should not be broken. The proposal now made is that if a penalty is fixed in the agreement itself, . the persons breaking it shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding the amount fixed in the agreement ; but if no amount is fixed in the agreement we suggest that a penalty not exceeding in the case of an organization £500, in the case of an employer £250, and in the case of an employe £10, shall be imposed. I do not suppose that the contingency against which the amendment is desired to apply will frequently occur. It is merely a formal matter, because in nearly every instance the parties will fix penalties themselves.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
That the following new clause be inserted : - “ 87A. On the application of an organization the Court may order that any industrial agreement be varied so far as is necessary to bring it into conformity with any common rule declared by the Court.”
There have been instances in New Zealand where the Court, in proposing to extend a common rule, has been met by an impassable wall in the form of an industrial agreement. Seeing that the Committee has surrounded the proposals with regard to the common rule by safeguards, I think that we need have no hesitation in allowing the Court to vary an industrial agreement where it finds it necessary to bring it into conformity with the common rule. Otherwise we may destroy the possibility of uniform methods being applied by the Court. That is to say, some person or set of persons, with a view to prevent the common rule being enforced upon them, may persuade or coerce their employes into signing an industrial agreement. Then the Court might find that in the interests of the public it was necessary to give a certain award. But if the Court gave that award it might find that its effect was to impose upon one section of employers conditions as to wages and hours of labour different from those existing under an industrial agreement previously arrived at. and affecting a limited number of people. I think that in the way in which we have provided that the common rule shall be governed, we are perfectly safe in giving this degree of power to the Court. It is only to insure that the Court shall not be hampered by . an industrial agreement. It gives the Court an opportunity of doing what the evidence discloses ought to be done.
Mr. REID (East Sydney). - There may be a great deal of importance in this amendment, but at this hour I do not propose to offer any opposition to it. I am sure that the Prime Minister will agree that, if, on further consideration, some objection to it arises, there should be no opposition to its recommittal.
– I should like to. suggest to the Prime Minister the desirability of adding after the word “ organization,” in the first line, the words “ in manner prescribed,” so as to provide for the Court being able to insure notice being given to other parties interested.
– I think that is very proper.
– It is better to lay it down as a rule. I am glad that the Prime Minister has agreed to reconsider this clause, if reconsideration is asked for. I had not expected that the clause would be reached to-night, and although at first sight it seems a proper proposal, I must confess that personally I have not thought out all the possibilities of it.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa).- I wish to point out to the Prime Minister that the object of the Bill is to prevent disputes. It will be a very proper thing for employers and men to agree together without coming to the Court. In many cases a written agreement can be made between them. Take an instance where the men have succeeded in obtaining a high rate of wages, and the employers have agreed to pay that rate. Suppose that both parties are working together under that agreement. A dispute may arise between other parties in the same trade, and a common rule may be made. Under the common rule the wages may be a little lower.
– They can always pay more than the minimum, as they do now in many trades.
– Yes; but, unfortunately, owing to this provision, if the masters were to take the matter before the Court, the men might have all their wages dragged down.
– The employers would not drag down the wages of their men unless they were forced by competition to do so; because very often it would pay a master to give some men a good deal more than the minimum.
– Supposing that the men wanted to get an increase, a fresh dispute would be created, and the agreement into which they had entered could be varied. However, as the Prime Minister has consented at the request of the leader of the Opposition to afford an opportunity to review the provision, I shall sav no more at: the present time.
Amendment (by Mr. McCay)agreed to -
That after the word “ organization,” line 2, the words “in manner prescribed” be inserted.
– I haveno objection to agree to the suggestion of the right honorable member for East Sydney that, if asked for, the provision might be recommitted. I admit that it is an important one, and, therefore, I do not expect honorable members to discuss it at this hour. In order to make way for the Seat of Government Bill to-morrow, I want to get the Bill put through to-night, and reprinted as early as possible,- so that it may be considered by the Government in its new shape.
Proposed new clause, as amended, agreed to.
Mr. ROBINSON (Wannon). - The honorable member for Grampians, who, unfortunately, is absent’, gave notice of his intention to move the insertion of a new clause to meet a case in which preference had been granted to unionists, and the organization which had obtained the preference was unable to supply the necessary number of competent unionist employes.. From a search of the reports of the NewSouth Wales Arbitration Court, I believe that an award by the Court is frequently made in terms somewhat similar to thosecontained in the new clause. Therefore, I apprehend that no objection willbe raised to its insertion, because if seems a very fair provision to make that if an organization’ must get a preference it should supply the employes within a reasonable time. In New South Wales the matter has been argued, and all sections of the Court and all the parties have agreed to the provision. I think, however, that the words “ to which preference has been granted” should be inserted after the word “ organization “ in the first line of the new clause. Its object, I think, cannot be said to be a bad one. It is only fair and just that an employer, who has to comply with” an award for preference, should, if he cannot get unionist employes, be at liberty within a reasonable time - and the Court will decide what is a reasonable time - to go to outsiders. The honorable member for Grampians has not stated the amount of the penalty, which,
I think, should be fixed at £100, as it is only a maximum penalty. I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “10A. In the event of an organization, to which preference has been granted, being unable or unwilling to supply, within a reasonable time after application has been made, a full complement of competent employes to an employer requiring them,1 such employer may fill any vacancies by the employment of such persons as he may think fit; and any attempt on the part of any person or organization to prevent or delay the engagement of such persons or to prevent or delay such . persons from beginning the work for which they have been engaged or to cause annoyance to the employer or the employes so engaged either during the period of such engagement or after on account of such engagement shall be deemed a contravention of this section of the Act. Penalty : One hundred pounds.”
– I intend to object to the insertion of this new clause. I do not think that the honorable member for Grampians, and the honorable member for Wannon, fully appreciate its bearing, in view of the portion of the Bill which has been passed. When a union gets a preference, it does not get a right to exclusive employment. It is provided in paragraph b of of clause 48 that -
The Court . . . may direct that, as between members of organizations of employers or employees and other persons, offering-
Both persons must be offering before the provision begins to operate - or desiring service or employment at the same time, preference shall- be given to such members, other things being equal-
– This new clause simply declares what the employer may do without a declaration, and is therefore unnecessary.
– I think it is unnecessary. The Bill says that when two persons are offering at the same time, and other things are equal, if a preference has been given, the fact that one is a unionist and the other is not, will entitle the unionist to employment.
– They must be offering.
Mr.WATSON.- It is governed by that word’. If a union does not send its men along, if there are no union men offering, the employer is not bound to look for a union man, and it would be most unfair to ask that he should. Another objection to the proposal is that it seeks to impose on a union a duty which, under the Bill,’ cannot be imposed on an employer. It asks the union to always find men on the one hand, but we cannot ask an employer always to find employment.
– It seems to me that the use of the word “competent” opens up a new phase of the question.
– No doubt. I think that paragraph b of clause 48, which is the provision governing preference to unionists, is sufficiently clear to meet any reasonable object which the honorable and learned member for the Grampians had in view. I therefore ask the Committee not to accept the new clause.
Mr. ROBINSON (Wannon). - In view of the opposition offered, and to save time, I ask leave to withdraw the new clause.
Proposed new clause, by leave, withdrawn.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Prime Minister to a new clause, standing in the name of the honorable member for South Sydney. His idea is that, instead of contestants or combatants making perhaps fanciful statements, they should endeavour, as far as possible, to state a reasonable basis for a compromise. He discussed the matter with me, and he believed that possibly a fairer settlement would be obtained under this condition than under other circumstances. He believes that if ordinary contestants or combatants were allowed to take up an impossible position in order to have something to come and go upon, there would be less hope of a successful termination than if they had to state the position on which they were prepared to agree. I do not propose to move the insertion of the new clause, but would like the Prime Minister to make a statement to . the Committee upon the subject.
– I have not yet heard sufficient reasons for agreeing to the insertion of the new clause. I can see the idea which the honorable member for South Sydney has in view.
– The object is to bring the parties more closely together.
– Quite so. If there were only two parties that might be possible. But, with a great number of parties, I am extremely doubtful as to the possibility of getting that preliminary statement.
– The parties would be more likely to arrive at a compromise by a suggestion from the . Court than by a formal offer made at the beginning of thecase.
– I had a conversation with the honorable member for South Sydney about this provision, and at the moment the fact that a great number of parties would be involved in a Federal dispute did not occur to my mind. Therefore, the . provision is not nearly so simple as the honorable member may think. I have every sympathy with the motive which prompts the suggestion.
– It would have a very good effect if carried.
– The practical difficulties in the way, so far as I am at present informed, would . be almost insuperable. At the present stage I cannot see my way clear to accept it.
– I formally move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “ 32a. (1) Whenever the President or Court shall so require the parties to any industrial dispute shall each supply for the information of the Court a written offer of compromise stating the full extent of any compromise which they are willing to make on any points in difference. -
Penalty : One hundred pounds.
If any offers of compromise are supplied pursuant to the preceding sub-section, and the Court afterwards proceeds to an award, then the award on the points in difference in respect to which the offers of compromise have been supplied, shall be one or the other of the compromises offered unless the Court shall for special reasons see fit to expressly decide to the contrary.”
I hope that the provision will be considered, because its object is an exceedingly good one. I believe that very often it w’ould bringthe contending parties together without going into Court. If there are two parties to a dispute, the employer will put his price at a limit on the one side, and the employé will put his price at a limit on the other side, and they will certainly go to Court. But if they knew that there was a chance of the Court selecting that which was fair then- the tendency would be for each to ask what he thought was reasonable, and the probability is that the offer on one side or the other would be accepted, the margin being so small. The object pf the honorable member for South Sydney is so thoroughly in sympathy with the object of the Bill - to prevent disputes, and to bring the parties together without going to law - that it might be allowed to stand over to-night in the hope that the new clause will receive that consideration which I believe it merits.
– I am quite in sympathy with the idea of the honorable member for South Sydney - and it is one which I expressed in the early stages of the Bill - to have the Court made more a Conciliation Court than a Court of Equity and Justice, that is for the President to have a number of representatives from each side to discuss these matters, and the right to call evidence, and to make an . award when there was any difference. That I think would be far better than the system which is laid down in the Bill. It would carry out the idea of the honorable member for South Sydney in seeking to bring the employers and employes together in a conciliatory way.
– There is not much conciliation about the penalty.
– So far as conciliation is concerned., the President should have the power of making an award. The cause of the failure of our Conciliation Court in New South Wales is that no award can be made ; but if the Federal Court were ‘made a Conciliation Court, in the way I suggested - that is more ‘like the Wages Boards of Victoria - I think it would be a great improvement. That is, I know, the idea of the honorable member for South Sydney, because he discussed the matter with me.
– The suggestion which has been thrown out anticipates the parties coming into Court all ready prepared with a compromise. But that view does not seem to be borne out by the clause, because it specially directs that - “ Whenever the President or the Court shall so require “ the parties to the dispute shall supply, “ for the information of the Court,” and so on. The compromise is only to be made by direction of the Court, after, I presume, evidence has been heard on both sides. The Court, I suppose, will require each of the parties to submit the maximum limit on which they are willing to compromise, and then it will be at the option of the Court to accept one or the other, or reject both, and give another award, which, in its discretion, seems to be right. That seems a reasonable and fair attempt to get over a difficulty in the easiest possible way.
– The clause, in my opinion, is ridiculous. After the parties come into the Court - a Court of justice, be it remembered-
– It is a Court of equity and good conscience.
– That is better than some Courts of justice, if- the idea can be carried out. According to the clause, when the parties come into Court, the Judge, instead of doing his duty, and giving a decision according to equity and good conscience, has to ask the parties what compromise they suggest. I could see the force of the proposal if the parties offered a compromise; and there is nothing to prevent that being done before they come into Court. What will happen under the clause willbe what has happened under the States Arbitration Acts. Employers and employed, knowing there is a Court to do justice, and having a doubt about what the decision may be, will very often come to an agreement beforehand. But I think it is simply absurd to place this power in the hands of the Judge. A compromise means, as a rule, that one or other of the parties has to accept less than what is just, or pdssibly both have to do so. When a case goes into Court the Judge ought to be left to decide.
– In my opinion, the proposal is not half so absurd as the honorable member for Hindmarsh’ seems to think. We must remember that this Court is to be not only a Court of Arbitration, but also of Conciliation. However, I. see great difficulties in carrying the proposal into effect. There are not only the two parties to the dispute to be considered ; there is also the general public, for whom the Judge has to act, and it would not be right to tie his hands and compel him, perhaps against the interests of the public and of the industry, to accept either one or the other of the compromises put forward by the parties. For that reason, I do not see how the clause can be effectually worked, though, if it could, the idea is one that would, at any rate, tend to conciliation.
– The proposed clause is quite open to the objection pointed out by the honorable member for North Sydney. It is also open to many other objections, to one of which I shall refer. Suppose, for instance, that either side makes a claim, which it thinks absolutely right, and on which it cannot see any room for Compromise.
– I do not think that is contemplated by the clause.
– The other side, however, decides to put in an offer of compromise. The Judge, under the clause, would be bound, unless he saw reason to the contrary, to accept the offer of compromise, which, under the circumstances, would be unjust. In addition, the party which was prepared to maintain its position as correct would be liable to a penalty of £100 for not giving up its just rights by compromise.
– In reply to the honorable and learned member for Indi, who has endeavoured to show that one party may claim a compromise, I would point out that the words are, “ Whenever the President or the Court shall so require.” The clause offers an opportunity of conciliation to the parties. The offer of compromise does not come from one side or the other ; it is the Court which requests the parties to compromise.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).- I do not see that the clause would bring the parties to a dispute much nearer to a conclusion. Suppose the Court asks either party, or both, to submit a compromise ?
– It is for each partv to name their ultimate.
– Then the Judge will still have to press inquiries and hear arguments as to the reasonableness of the compromise before he can arrive at a decision. I do not see that the clause would shorten the proceedings one- iota, though the idea seems a good one.
Mr. SPENCE (Darling).- In addition to the objection put forward by the honorable member for North Sydney, there is the fact that there may be other parties concerned who ought to be heard. This proposed clause gives an instruction to the Judge to coerce the parties into a compromise; and that appears quite contradictory to the main object we have in view. This should be an open Court, in which all parlies concerned, even in a subsidiary way, should have a chance pf being heard. It would be very unfair to leave the power to the Judge to coerce the parties info offering to compromise when he might come to a conclusion with which they would not agree;- and without this clause, the power of conciliation remains. When we have a Court of Arbitration, there is no doubt that the parties will approach each other, and get over marry difficulties before they appeal to the Judge.
– As this new clause was submitted only formally, and in order that it may not go by default, I ask on behalf of the honorable member . for Franklin for leave to withdraw it.
Proposed new clause, by leave, withdrawn.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “ 99A. This Act shall’ expire ‘ on the thirtyfirst day of December, 1908.”
This new clause only carries into effect a proposal of which I gave notice on the original Bill. I regret we are dealing with this question at so late an hour, but I appreciate the desire of the Prime Minister to report the Bill in as complete a form as possible; and I do not propose to go into details. The clause is one which, I think, should commend itself to honorable members on both sides. If this is proved to be a good Bill, effective and satisfactory in its operations, there is no doubt that all parties will agree to its extension; whereas, if it proves ineffective or pernicious, I am satisfied that the majority will desire to have it repealed or amended. The interests of the Commonwealth would be best served if we gave an opportunity for the definite reconsideration of the whole measure. I have fixed the year for the expiration of the Act at 1908, so’ that there may be an opportunity for its reconsideration at the general elections following the expiration of next Parliament, if by any chance it fulfils its full term. The New South Wales Act contains this provision -
This Act shall continue in force until the 30th day of June, 1908, and no longer.
In view of the many alterations which have been suggested, I think that when that date arrives the whole measure will be completely reviewed. The limitation upon the Victorian Shops and Factories Act is another justification for the course I propose. The New Zealand legislation does not contain any such limitation, but Ave have it on the authority of the Minister of Labour for that colony that the original Act was passed in, 1 894. and that amending Acts were passed in 1895, 1896, and 1898, with a consolidating Act in 1900, and another amending Act in 1901. - facts which seem to demonstrate the necessity of providing for the review of the operation of any measure of the kind. Honorable members opposite have advanced many arguments in support of a number of clauses which ihe Government wished to insert in the Bill, and which the Committee have rejected ; but practical experience may prove that they were in the right, and .if that is so, it will be desirable to have an opportunity to reconsider the matter. It is true that it will be possible to amend the Act by an ordinary Bill, but I hold that my proposal will give a more effective means for the review of the whole measure, which must at best be regarded as purely experimental. I think that no honorable members will contend that the legislation of either New Zealand or New South Wales is completely satisfactory to both sides. In New South Wales particularly, the labourers have been dissatisfied with some of the awards of the Court,, while we have had frequent evidence of the feeling of the employers that the provisions of the measure seriously interfere with enterprise, and retard the progress of commercial undertakings. I shall not argue my proposal longer, because it is purely one of expediency, the only principle involved being as to the desirability of allowing the people to express at the general election, for’ the benefit of the new Parliament, their opinion of the effect of the measure.
– I trust that the Committee will not accept the proposed new clause.
– Is not some limitation advisable ?
– I do not think so. Parliament can always limit the operation of legislation whenever the public desires it to take that course. Future Parliaments will be able either to amend this measure or to repeal it. I do not think those who know the history of this Bill wish to see it discussed all over again within the next three years.
– The period might be extended from three to five years.
– The period fixed in the New South Wales Act is seven years, I think.
– I think so. The limitation in the New South Wales Act was inserted under the compulsion of a body antagonistic to it.
– Does not the proposed new clause conflict with clause 36, which provides that an award shall have force for any term not exceeding five years?
– I think that it does. As the Court has power to enforce awards, and to impose penalties for a breach of them, it would not be wise to limit the operation of the Act for- a shorter period than that for which an award’ is to have force.
– The date fixed in the proposed new clause is one to which I am not bound, nor do I wish the Committee to be bound by it. No doubt the limitation should not be such as will conflict with some other provision, and therefore it may be necessary to extend the period of operation for five years. I should like the Committee to consider the clause, with the possibility of such an altera’tion in view.
– I do not see the. necessity for any such limitation as is proposed. This kind, of legislation has got beyond the experimental stage, and the restriction which the honorable member proposes might as reasonably be attached to any other measure. It is quite true that the people may desire to alter this Bill, and if they wish to do so they can accomplish that wish. The next Parliament will be able to deal with the measure as it chooses, and that is quite sufficient to meet any possible contingency.
Mr. McCAY (Corinella). - I’ hope that the honorable member for Kooyong ,will not press ,»ns amendment. I have observed the history of the time limit as applied to legislation in Victoria, and in my opinion the principle is a bad one. In connexion with the Factories Act in Victoria, we had on one occasion to enter into a compromise which satisfied no one, because the exigencies of the passage ‘of the hands of the clock required it I remember one case in the Victorian Assembly in which a Bill which expired about midnight was re-enacted at ii p.m. In another instance, a measure actually lapsed for a reek or two. When expiring measures come up for reconsideration, the pressure of public business almost always seems to delay action until nearly the last minute, and the question is not dealt with on its merits or with the deliberation that its importance demands. The power of the Legislature to repeal or amend is unlimited, and anything that is required in these directions can be done in due course, and with proper consideration. Although at one time I believed in time limits in connexion with what is called experimental legislation. - and I think this is largely an experimental measure - so far as my observation has gone, the logic of facts has forced me to the belief that it is not a wise device, unless it is absolutely necessary owing to the subject-matter of the legislation. If we had been reconsidering, ‘ instead of this Bill, an Arbitration Act which was just about to expire, I venture to think that we should have very much exceeded the time at our disposal.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa).- I regret that the Prime Minister does not see his way to accept some amendment of the kind now proposed. In England there were over 200 Acts which laid down conditions for the regulation of industry, and some of which required to be re-enacted year after year. I think that one of these statutes was reenacted for thirty-five years in succession. One of the great objects to be aimed at in legislation of this kind is to force Parliament to give its attention to those matters which require amendment year by year. We must remember that there is always a difficulty in securing the amendment or repeal of certain measures which affect the great masses of the people. When vested interests are concerned, representation can be made to Parliament with facility; but such is not the case where grievances affecting the general public await redress. I do not think it will be questioned that this legislation is experimental. The honorable member for Darling and myself were recently reading certain regulations, similar to those now sought to be imposed, which were 6,500 years old. Those regulations broke down, and therefore I think that we may very well recognise that this class of legislation is still experimental. I think there is always very good ground for imposing a time limitation upon an Act of Parliament.
Mr. EWING (Richmond).- The time limit imposed in connexion with the New South Wales Act was the result of a compromise, but honorable members will see that it would be absolutely useless to embody such a provision in this measure. If the Bill be approved by the public it will probably last for ever, and, if not, if will be repealed within twelve months. We have no right even to make a suggestion to the Parliament of 1908. The honorable and learned member for Werriwa has spoken of Parliament being forced to do certain things. I would point out to him that the only thing that can force Parliament is public opinion. I trust that the honorable member for Kooyong will withdraw his amendment.
Mr. DUGALD THOMSON (North Sydney). - A good deal could be said in favour of imposing time limits in certain cases, but I do not wish to argue the point, because I know that honorable members have made up their minds on this question. I thought that the proposal of the honorable member for Kooyong would have been jumped at by the Ministry and their supporters. I was not quite sure that he had not brought forward his amendment at their instigation. We have heard so much disapproval expressed of the Bill in its amended form, that I should have thought honorable members opposite would have been glad of the opportunity to wipe the measure off the statute-book, and substitute a better one. I am pleased to see that they are so well satisfied with the results of our labours up to the present.
Mr. ISAACS (Indi).- One of the chief objections to a limit of the kind suggested, is that it would have a ‘tendency to create instability in connexion with great commercial enterprises. The industries of Australia are very large, and extend over a very wide area, and we should invite disaster to the whole measure if we were to tell the commercial men of Australia that our arrangements for securing industrial peace were to remain in operation for only about three and a half years.
– We propose to fix a period of five years.
– Even so; that would fall far short of a permanent dr satisfactory arrangement. Legislation of this kind is not in the experimental stage, so far as the animating principle of the Bill is concerned. Many of the detail clauses sire undoubtedly experimental, but if they require amendment, they can he dealt with by Parliament in the ordinary course.
Mr. KNOX (Kooyong). - I quite recognise that the balance of opinion is against me, and, although I adhere strongly to the position that I first took up, that it would be in the interests of the community to fix a time limit, I desire, in. view qf the opinions which have been expressed; to withdraw the amendment.
Proposed new clause, by leave, withdrawn.
Schedule A verbally amended, and agreed to.
The name of every registered organization shall contain the name of the industry in connexion with which it is established, and shall also contain the word “employers” or “employees “ as the case may be.
– I desire to move an amendment in the part of schedule which is placed below paragraph (I). I wish to ask the Committee to omit the paragraph with regard to the name of every registered organization including the name of the industries affected, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following: -
The rules of every registered organization shall contain the name of the industry in connexion with which it is established, and shall state whether it consists of employers or employees.
The alteration which I propose does not make any difference in substance. The schedule as it stands would compel some societies to alter their names. It is not necessary for societies that are well known under certain names to alter those names. The effect of doing so would be to make the names, unnecessarily cumbrous. I can quote one or two instances of societies registered under the New South Wales Act. There is, for instance, the Amalgamated Coachmakers’, Railway Car and Waggon Makers’, . and Wheelwrights’ Society of New South Wales. There are nearly 100 letters in that name. There is also the New South Wales Amalgamated Tinsmiths’,’ Sheet’iron Workers’, and Meter Makers’ Trade Society. Those names are unnecessarily long. In the case of the Seamen’s Union, which is a society well known under a fairly well understood name, if this schedule came into operation, the name of the society would require to specify not only seamen, but all sections of workmen engaged in the industry. Surely that is not necessary.
– I suggest to the honorable member for Darling that, instead of moving this amendment at this stage, he should do so, if it be necessary, when the schedule is recommitted. It will have to be recommitted. I think the Prime Minister himself, as well as the Committee generally, would like to have an opportunity of considering it in the light of the alterations made in the Bill.
– I have no objection to that, and will move the amendment at a later stage.
– I can appreciate the force of the observation made by the honorable member for North Sydney. I shall have to look through the schedule with the Attorney-General to see how far it may have been affected by the “amendments made in ‘ the Bill. I shall, therefore, have to ask the House to recommit the schedule, and the honorable member for Darling will, have an opportunity of moving his amendment later on.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
– In connexion with the reprint of the Bill, I suggest to the Prime Minister that it would be serviceable to use erased type to show the amendments which have been made,
– That is expensive; unfortunately this Bill was printed over twelve months ago in type that is not now used. We have the linotypes in operation now.
– Will the Bill have to. be reset?
– Is erased type used on the linotypes ?
– I am afraid not; but I will look into the matter.
– I am sure that honorable members will find it of great service if they can see on one page what has been left out and what has been inserted. Otherwise it means making elaborate and tedious comparisons.
– An amendment has been made in clause 62. I wish to ask the Prime Minister . to consult with the Attorney-General as to whether it would not be better to embody that amendment in clause 48.
Bill reported with amendments;
Motion (by Mr. Storrer) agreed to -
That the time for bringing up the report of the Select Committee on Electoral Act Administration be further extended to Wednesday, the 31st August proximo.
House adjourned at 11. 10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 July 1904, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1904/19040719_reps_2_20/>.