2nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. HARPER presented a petition from the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures praying the House not to pass the provisions in the Trade Marks Bill relating to the recognition of union labels.
Petition received and read.
– I notice that the petitioners do not refer to honorable members, as “in Parliament assembled.” I desire to know whether the petition is in order ?
– The form adopted by the” petitioners varies somewhat from that usually employed, but it is npt contrary to the Standing Orders.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following- papers: -
Amendment of financial and allowance regulations under the Defence Act 1903.
Transfers approved by the Governor-General in Council under the Audit Act.
– I desire to know the intentions of the Prime Minister with regard to the order of business as affecting the- motion standing in the name of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat on the subject of preferential trade? The honorable and learned member for Ballarat is reported in the press as having stated that he intends to force his motion to a division.
– No one can do that.
– And I have not made any such statement.
– I should like to know the intentions of the Prime Minister with regard to the motion ? I understood that only the mover and the Prime Minister were going to speak for the present, and that the debate was to be adjourned, in order to permit other honorable members to take part in it at a subsequent date;
– - I should not like to be held responsible for every newspaper paragraph with reference to my intentions.
– But I desire to know the right honorable gentlemans intentions.
– I am speaking of the newspaper paragraph to which the honorable and learned member has referred. I do not think that the honorable and learned member for Ballarat would ever apply .the term “ force “ to this Parliament, because no honorable member could apply1 such pressure as would thereby be implied. With reference to the question of the honorable and learned member for Parkes, I wish to say that I have already announced that we propose to first consider the SeaCarriage of Goods Bill, and to resume-the discussion upon preferential trade immediately afterwards, and continue it tomorrow.
– I wish to know whether the Prime Minister has read the cablegrams published in this morning’s newspapers, with reference to the discussion that has taken place in Great Britain upon the subject of Imperial defence, and whether he can see his way to adopt means .to place before the British public, from time to time, the true Australian position, thereby dispelling the grotesque misapprehensions which have arisen.
– I am afraid that there will be some difficulty to so express the true Australian position as to satisfy every honorable member. I have expressed my own views pretty strongly, but I should be very slow to think that because I happened to be the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, I was, therefore, entitled to express, the Australian view upon this subject.
– The right honorable gentleman might express the views of himself and his colleagues.
– I am too busy just now. Perhaps in the recess I may have time to attend to the matter ; but I do not at present propose to refer to the pronouncements made in the old country. The subject has been discussed at many conferences, and will, no doubt, be again considered at many other’s in years to come. I do not feel that I could at present usefully attempt to put forward any view as that df Australia upon the subject.
– No message would be sent to the right honorable gentleman, and, therefore, the only means of expressing the Australian view would be by using the newspapers.
– If that course were adopted it would save me some trouble. The honorable and learned member will see that it is rather a difficult matter for a Minister, especially when he is busily occupied, to take notice of telegraphic newspaper reports. If I ventured to express a . semiofficial view upon the subject, I should proceed to do so only after very careful deliberation.
– I desire to ask th,e Minister of Defence whether he is yet prepared - and if not, how soon he will be - to announce the names of the gentlemen who are to be appointed to the Council of Defence.
– I am not yet in a position to make any announcement on that subject. The usual practice in these matters is to communicate with the gentlemen concerned, and, after making the appointments, to . gazette them. There are other appointments besides those of the members of the Military and Naval Boards which have to be considered. Of course, the Council of Defence will be constituted of various gentlemen occupying either political offices or positions on the Boards ; and appointments to some of the higher offices, including three commandantships, have also to be considered. Therefore, I am not in a position to make any announcement just now.
– Can the Minister give us any indication of the manner in which the positions will be filled?
– I am endeavouring to complete the work as soon as possible, and I may be in a position to make an announcement before the end of the week ; but I cannot say for certain.
– About four months ago I introduced to the Prime Minister, a deputation from the Borough of Queenscliff, which asked for a subsidy to aid in maintaining roads, &c, leading to the Queenscliff forts. The Prime Minister promised to consider the matter, and forward a reply. I am now in receipt of a letter from the Town Clerk of Queenscliff, which reads as follows : -
I have the honour, by direction of my Council, to ask if the honorable the Prime Minister has taken any further action in regard to the Council’s request for a grant to aid in maintaining roads, &c, leading to the Queenscliff forts. I have not received any reply to my letter to the Secretary for Home Affairs, a copy of which I forwarded you last month. Any information re this my Council will be pleased to receive.
I shall be glad to learn if the Prime Minister has given the matter any attention?
– Beyond making up my mind in pursuance of the promise I gave, I have not done anything further. I am quite resolved that the Borough Council shall get something; but unfortunately I have not been able to carry the matter to a conclusion.
Debate resumed from 8th December (vide page 8168), on motion by Mr. McLean -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I do not intend to occupy the attention of the House for many minutes. I should nave been content to say nothing upon the motion for the second reading, but for the curious misunderstanding which is very largely prevalent in some quarters concerning the scope and intention of the measure. For instance, it is assumed that we are proceeding wantonly to impose certain restrictions upon ship-owners for which there is not the slightest warranty, and that we intend to do this in a manner for which there is no justification whatever. Certain writers in the newspapers have misrepresented the purposes of the Bill, and therefore I desire to say a few words, more particularly with regard to the difficulties which the measure is intended to meet. I take it that no man in this Chamber - at least I hope not - wishes to do anything which would have the effect of imposing unfair conditions upon any of the ship-owners in Australia. We recognise to the full the close relationship which exists between their business, and the great producing interests of Australia; and we realize, further, that we are dependent upon them under present conditions for the means of transport to the profitable markets of the old world. My purpose is to do nothing which would prevent a perfectly just settlement of the difficulties which now exist between the ship-owners and the exporters of Australia. It is not the wish of those who are in favour of the Bill to hurt the ship-owners, their sole object being to bring to an end a condition of affairs which, I venture to say, is anomalous, and which prevails in hardly any other part of the world. I do not intend to rely upon my own statements in justification of the assertions I have just made. I ‘have here some testimony which has been furnished on oath to the Navigation Commission. Evidence has been given by the exporters of Australia with reference to the kind of bill of lading that we are proposing to attack, and I hope honorable members will bear with me whilst I make one or two short extracts which will furnish a reason for the proposed change. I have a copy of the bill of lading, which is used by the Adelaide Steam-ship Com- pany, and which, I believe, is typical of those used by the steam-ship owners of Australia. Under this Bill the Company declare that they will not be responsible for any loss, damage, or delay arising from a great number of causes, and they conclude by saying that they will not be responsible for any damage
Or losses caused by pirates, robbers, or thieves On shore, or on board the ship, whether they be servants of the company or not. I say that that is a most astounding condition .to be incorporated in any bill of lading.
– How long has it existed?
– I understand that it has existed for some considerable time. This form of bill of lading is the outcome of continuous growth; it is not a thing which has suddenly developed’, but it has reached its present condition as the result of years of manipulation. In it we are told point-blank that a company will not be responsible if their own servants thieve, for example, fruit. The bill of lading goes on to say that the company will not be responsible for airy damage to goods arising from the contact of certain other goods of a harmful nature. That is to say, the company are at liberty to place fruit, kerosene, and butter together in the hold, and if the kerosene taints the fruit or the butter, the ship-owners will not be held responsible for the damage. The bill of lading also specifies that even if the hatches be left open, as the result of carelessness, the company must be free from liability. It further indemnifies the company from loss if goods are injured by the entry or admission of water into the ship’s hold from any cause, or for any purpose. One would think that ‘the least these companies could be expected to do would be to see that the hatches were properly looked after. Another provision exempts the companies from liability on account of bad stowage. I claim that there can be no excuse for such a condition being inserted” in any contract. Theleast which the companies might be required to do would be to undertake to stow the goods to the best” possible advantage. That is a matter over which they could exercise control, and which would involve only efficient oversight. It is well known that at* times fruit is packed in delicate cases in the hold, and I am assured that in some ships the rule is to place stout planks over the cases, so that persons may walk over them with perfect safety. Other vessels, however, do not usethese planks, and, consequently, it may happen that a man weighing thirteen or fourteen stone may tramp over the cases,, and so injure the fruit. Yet the companies lay it down that they will not accept responsibility for damage thus occasioned. How this practice works out will be seem by a concrete case, which is furnished by the gentleman to whose evidence before theNavigation Bill Commission I have been referring. He says -
In July of this year we sent a large consignment of fruit trees to South Africa. The shipi 1 which thev were stowed, in consequence of defective electrical appliances, had a fire orv board, and the packages werepractically destroyed. This occurred just outside the heads. The ship returned to Williamstown. The goods, or what were left of them, were packed in the stevedores’ shed there, and we were called upon to pay £105 on the consignment. That was for freight. We objected to pay, but after obtaining the best legal advice, we found that we had to pay up.
He then went on to cite another instance of injustice. He said -
We sent goods of a similar character to Fremantle. There is a verbal agreement or a general understanding that goods of this sort shall be stowed either on top of cargo, on the hatches, or in between deck spaces, so that other cargo will not be allowed to injure it. We saw our goods safely stowed in Melbourne, but in Adelaide heavy cargo was piled up on top of them. The goods were destroyed. I have not got the exact amount of their value, but it wasabout £400. The amount of freight which the company charged was£40 5s.9d.
In that case the shippers had to pay the freight even though their goods were absolutely destroyed by the company. I think that honorable members will agree that that is an unjust state of affairs, and thatit ought to be remedied at the earliest possible moment. The same witness quoted a third case, which is equally bad. He further declares that half his total shipments last year landed him in serious loss, owing to bad handling. This is the condition of things which it is sought to meet by this kind of remedial legislation. I should be very sorry to think that all companies were equally remiss, either in the want of care which they exercise over goods committed to their custody, or in the reasonableness of their attitude when these calamities occur. I believe that some shipping companies are only too willing to meet the. unfortunate shipper under such circumstances, and that they pay large sums in compensation. But there are some companies who do not adopt that reasonable attitude, and it is for such contingencies that we have to enact this kind of legislation. We all recognise that if every individual in the community could be a law unto himself, we should not require to legislate against wrong-doers. It is the individual who will not subscribe to the best instincts of humanity for whom we must make provision in our legislation. So it is with the honest ship-owners. They have to take their place side by side with those who will not pay any regard to what is fair to the shippers. I would here point out that the Bill fixes no responsibility whatever upon the ship-owner. It leaves that responsibility at large, so to speak, to be decided in a Court of law, or by some such process.
– That offers a great chance for the lawyers, similar to that which they enjoyed under the Harter Act.
– If it offers a great chance for the lawyers, I apprehend there must be some reason for the enactment of this measure.
– I hope that is not the only reason.
– There are certain troubles to be met with which can only be dealtwith in a law Court, and if there is no other way out, I do not think that we should shrink from facing it. I believe that the only result of freeing these bills of lading from their present objectionable features, will be to cause the steam-ship owners to exercise a little more care than they do at present. I do not apprehend that there will be constant litigation, and that this Bill will thus furnish a great harvest for the lawyers. If the ship-owners exercise a little more care over the goods committed to their charge, I do not think they need fear any evil results from this measure. It cannot injuriously affect shipowners who endeavour to do a fair thing as between themselves and the shippers. I have already outlined the scope of the measure. It does not provide that the shipowners shall be responsible for the safe conduct and preservation of all perishable products committed to their care. Nothing of the kind. It simply declares that the matter of responsibility may be determined afterwards in a law Court if it cannot be otherwise settled between them. So far as the fruit-growers and producers are concerned, they need not take advantage of this legislation unless they wish to do so. I am aware that all sorts of threats have been made to the effect that the companies will increase the freights upon perishable produce. It is even suggested that there is a possibility of some of them absolutely refusing to carry such commodities. I trust that they will not attempt to do anything of the kind. If they do take such an extreme step, it will be time for this Parliament to intervene in the interests of the producers. I imagine that we have resources enough to deal even with a difficulty of that character. I hope that such statements will not continue to be made, because there is not a tittle of justification for them. When the measure emerges from Committee with the reasonable amendments which the Prime Minister intends to submit, and which I believe will be accepted, I think we shall have attained to a point of justice which ought to inhere in any arrangements of this kind.
– I hope that the Bill will be passed with as few amendments as possible. The only one which I can at present see my way to support - and it must first be subjected to some modification - is that outlined by the honorable member for Franklin, who proposes to suspend the operation of the Bill as regards existing contracts for one year. To my mind, the contracts to which the amendment should refer are those which were entered into prior to the introduction of this measure into the Senate upon the 17th of November last. It is very important that fair conditions of carriage should be afforded to shippers. Let me take, for example, the fruit-growing industry. Australia exports 600,000 cases of fruit annually. The trade is an increasing one, and if conditions are inserted in bills of lading similar to those to which reference was made by. the honorable member for Parramatta, they must to a great extent impose an embargo upon the export of a certain class of goods. I hold in my hand several bills of lading which practically exempt the ship-owners from almost every conceivable liability. To put the matter generally, one of these agreements exempts the company from any damage arising from defects in machinery, breakages, &c, and “ from the consequences of any act, default, or error of judgment of the master, officers, engineer, crew, or other person in the service of the owners, and from any other cause whatsoever.” Then it exempts the owners from responsibility on account of the injurious effects of one class of goods upon another. I believe that a good deal of damage has been wrought as the result of improper storage upon vessels. There is a further exemption from damage sustained as the result of defects in hull, tackle, boilers, &c. How are these exemptions recognised by courts of justice? In 1902 a case was heard in Western Australia which shows what may occur under these extraordinary bills of lading, which - as was pointed out by the honorable member for Parramatta - have grown little by little, until they now practically exonerate the owners from all liability. In this case the A. U.S.N. Company was sued for damages by Messrs. H. D. and B. Simper, in whose favour the magistrate decided. An appeal was made to the Supreme Court of that State, which regretfully upset the decision of the magistrate upon the ground that the bill of lading exempted the com pany from loss under the circumstances mentioned. What are those circumstances? The Chief Justice mentions that the necessary inference to be drawn from the facts was that the oranges in question had been stolen during the course of the voyage, and stolen, too, by the company’s servants ; but the bill “ of lading declared that even if the oranges were so stolen, there should be no liability. Surely that is an unfair exemption. The judgment of Mr. Justice McMillan coincided with the reasons given by the Chief Justice. His attention had been drawn to the English law. I believe that the English law is, first, that all the liabilities which we say shall not be contracted out by bills of lading, are imposed upon ship-owners in the United Kingdom. There is there, to some extent, a power of contracting out ; but it is gradually being limited, and the limitations are subject to one condition. They are pretty extensive now, but they are subject to the condition that, if the Court considers them just and reasonable, they will bind. In other words, if it is just and reasonable that the ship-owner shall not be liable for certain risks, and exemption from those risks is provided for by agreement, that exemption will hold good. That shows that the Eng- lish Courts have gone a long way towards preventing exemptions of the character we, by this Bill, say should be prevented. Mr. Justice McMillan, speaking in .reference to the unreasonableness of the exemptions referred to, regretted that he had not the power to decide that the bill of lading was bad because the conditions incorporated were unjust and unreasonable. But, he says, that power does not exist, and he is bound to apply the law. Had he been invested with that power, he would have had no hesitation in saying that the contract was neither a just nor a reasonable one. Under 1 it, freight was payable in advance, and if, during the voyage, the company had suffered its servants to steal the goods, it could afterwards hand over the empty cases to the unfortunate shipper who had paid the freights and would have no remedy.
– Does the honorable and learned member consider the Judges the proper persons to say what is reasonable?
– Very often they are, but I do not think that. we should make provision giving this power to the Judges.
– Is that the state of the English law at the present time?
– Yes, and there is a similar provision in the New Zealand Act. As honorable members know, they move rather slowly in England, and rather fast in New Zealand. All I say is that the trend of English legislation is in the direction of preventing these exemptions incorporated in bills of lading. I think that Parliament can decide whether conditions are unjust and unreasonable. It is on the assumption of their injustice and unreasonableness that this legislation is proposed. A good deal has been said about the Harter Act. There is no reason why we should follow on the exact lines of that Act. I believe it originated in this way : Several of the American Courts had decided that by common law these exemptions were unlawful, but on a case coming before the English Courts, and being brought by appeal to the Privy Council, it was decided that the law to determine the possibility of exempting by agreement was the law of the flag and the forum. The question being one of freight from New York to England, and the forum being England, the Privy Council decided that the exemptions might be included in the bill of lading, but that if Congress chose to pass an affirmative law declaring the exemptions to be bad - that is, if it declared by an Act what the American Courts had decided to be the common law on the subject, the English Courts of Justice should accept that legislation. Hence the Harter Act was passed, and it covers a great deal of the ground dealt with by the Bill now before us. I have examined the Act very carefully, and I cannot see the remotest necessity to make any amendment from it in the Bill as it stands, though, perhaps,, as you, Mr. Speaker, have suggested, it would be best to consider these matters of detail in Committee. In a work on the law of Merchant Shipping by McLachlan, it is* stated -
The ordinary forms of charter party and bills of lading in use in England always contain an engagement to deliver the goods in the same conditions in which they were received, an engagement which is immensely more extensive than that implied in a mere bailment, namely, to take proper care of the goods, and, consequently, involving liability only for negligence.
As a matter of fact, the liability of shipowners is greater than that of ordinary bailees. It extends to every class of loss and damage, except those arising from acts of God and certain statutory exceptions recognised by the Railway Canal Act of 1854. Abbott, in his work on Merchant Shipping, says that at common law, a ship-owner, like a common carrier, insures against all events but the vice of the goods themselves, the act of God, or the King’s enemies. By Statute, he is protected against loss or damages through fire, default of compulsory pilot, and undeclared values. These exceptions are not available where loss has arisen through the action of, or has been contributed to by, the ship-owners’ servants, or anything to which the owners were directly or indirectly privy. So that, both by common law and by statute, a very extensive liability is imposed upon shipowners, because the wisdom of the Legislature, as well as of the Judges, has declared that ship-owners shall be subjected to these liabilities. What really is the position? I find that the Chambers of Commerce have fallen into a misapprehension as to the scope of the Bill. I think that they have come to the conclusion that we are declaring some new law. As a matter of fact, we are declaring nothing. We should not affirm anything just now. Unfortunately there does not yet exist a law relating to shipping which is general throughout Australia. At the present time, the law varies according to the place at which the bill of lading is signed. There may be one law in Victoria, and another in South Australia. The Bill does not affirm any new law. All it says is that, whatever common law rights or statutory provisions are applicable to the bill of lading, they are not to be evaded by a practically monopolist ship-owner forcing the shipper to sign an exemption. There is a quasi monopoly among the ship-owners here, whether there be a ring or not. Although our shippers have nominally an absolute choice of carriage, there is a far greater freedom of choice in the trade between the United States and the United Kingdom, where there is a splendid service of trade vessels and a larger, though not quite so large as in the case of the United States, choice in the trade between Canada and the United Kingdom. But, owing to Australia being at a greater distance from the United Kingdom, the choice of vessels here is limited, and hence there is a quasi monopoly, so that very often shippers have no alternative but to sign bills of lading containing the exemptions to which we object. The Bill is merely a declaration that contracts which evade the liabilities imposed by the existing law are to be bad. What is the liability which is not to be evaded? I have already mentioned it. In the circular of the Chambers of Commerce it is assumed that new liabilities are imposed. For instance, liabilities in connexion with perishable goods.
– To what circular does the honorable and learned member refer?
– I received a circular from the Adelaide Chamber of Commerce, setting out at some length reasons why the Bill should not be passed. Reference is made to liberty of contract, of which we have heard ever since we entered Parliament, though a variation is given to the expression by occasionally using the words freedom of contract. It is also stated that the Bill makes no distinction of the shipowners’ liabilities as regards perishable or other goods. But it does not affect that liability. It says only that the ship-owner shall not touch that liability himself. He is to leave himself open to the liability incurred at the place the contract is signed. We have no one law applicable to all Australia, but, according to the English law, ship-owners are not liable for the deterioration of perishable goods. They may be liable for negligence, but not for natural deterioration. Abbott, in his work, gives the following extract on this subject, from a judgment of Mr. Justice Willes : -
Thus, for example, the carrier is not liable for any loss or damage from the ordinary decay or deterioration of oranges or other fruits in the course of the voyage, from their inherent infirmity or nature,or from the ordinary diminution or evaporation of liquors, or the ordinary leakage from the casks in which the liquors are put, in the course of the voyage, or from the spontaneous combustion of goods, or from their tendency to effervescence or acidity, or from their not being properly put up and packed by the owner or shipper, for the carrier’s implied obligations do not extend to such cases.
– Speaking of the liability at common law, apart from the statute?
– Then there is a common law liability for perishable goods?
– Yes ; but it does not extend to ordinary deterioration due to the nature of the goods. There is, I think, a fear expressed by the Chambers of Commerce that we are proposing to impose a new liability not recognised elsewhere.
– Does that liability extend to damage due to bad management?
– I think it does. As carriers, ship-owners are liable to an even greater extent than bailees, who would be responsible for bad management. They are practically liable for everything except losses incurred through act of God, such as mischances of the ocean and certain statutory risks, such as those incurred under compulsory pilotage. To what extent these statutory exceptions apply in Australia I do not know. I think that we should pass the Bill as it stands, without amendment, except for that of the honorable member for Franklin, lest by meddling with the existing law we muddle it. I do not like the affirmative provision, that if the ship is seaworthy at the start, there is to be no liability in certain cases. That seems to be taken from the Harter Act, but here the onus of proof seems to be thrown on the shipper.
– The Harter Act takes away liability for bad navigation.
– It does not take it all away.
– Even if you allow the exemption,the onus of proof should be the other way.
– Yes. I do not think that the clause, as drafted, puts the burden on the owner ; it rather puts it on the shipper. If the ship is seaworthy at the start, the liability of the ship-owner is confined to certain risks - it does not include all risks. There are risks from which there is an exemption by common law, and others from which there is an exemption by the statute law of England, such as acts of God, and deterioration due to the quality of the goods. The only other risk mentioned is dangers of the sea or other navigable waters, and certain errors of navigation. I hope I have said enough to suggest to honorable members the expediency of passing this Bill for the present, leaving the general law to be declared by a measure applying to all Australia, to be passed as soon as the Navigation Commission reports. It has been said that if this Bill be passed ship-owners will refuse to receive certain classes of goods. But they will have to receive them. The law in England is that carriers cannot refuse to receive goods, and I may fairly assume that the law is the same in Australia. As long as the freight is fair, and the goods are not of a specially dangerous class, they cannot shelve their obligations as common carriers ; so that I do not think there need be any fear on that point. I intend, in all the circumstances, to vote for the second reading of the Bill.
– I heartily indorse all that has been said by the honorable member for Angas in dealing with this question. I think the Prime Minister is not quite seized of the position as it affects at least some of the States, in proposing the amendment which stands in his name. Take the case of Western Australia : All its traffic with the ‘eastern States, and in fact with the outside world, is by sea ; and in this respect it is entirely at the mercy of the ship-owners. I am bound to say, without using any extravagant language, that the State has been bled very freely indeed by the ship-owners engaged in the traffic to and from that part of the Commonwealth. The protests in the name of freedom of contract against the restrictions that are sought to be imposed upon ship-owners by this measure are somewhat peculiar. I do not think I have ever known the phrase freedom of contract used with less justification than in the present instance. Let us take the case quoted by the honorable member for Angas: A firm ships a few cases of oranges to Western Australia, and has to pay the freight in advance. At the end of the voyage, empty cases are presented to the persons to whom they are directed ; the whole of the oranges have disappeared. This case’ was brought under the consideration of the Supreme Court of the State, and it was proved during the hearing that the Oranges had been appropriated by the servants of the owners of the vessel by which they were shipped. These persons had discovered that the oranges were of good quality, and had eaten them. The owners of the fruit, thinking they had a fairly good case, without considering the niceties of the law, instituted legal proceedings.
– They had an empty case.
– They had several empty cases, and, as subsequent events proved, a very bad law case. In giving judgment, the Court pointed out that the owners of the vessel in question, under their bill of lading, had contracted themselves outside any claim that might be made upon them in respect to the goods. As the law stands at present, it was impossible for the shipper to substantiate in Court any claim with respect to damage or loss of goods in transit. That is a condition of things which this Parliament is certainly justified in remedying at the earliest opportunity. I take it that one of the principal reasons for the creation of the Federal Parliament was that it should be able to pass legislation of this character. The Bill does not come a day too soon, and I trust that honorable members will be seized of the necessity to protect unfortunate shippers of goods who have been subjected to the incidence of these unfair conditions. I hope that the Prime Minister will recognise the fairness of the case that has been presented, and will see that the public who use these vessels for the carriage of cargo have a right to be protected from the power that is wielded at present by ship-owners to impose practically their own condition on shippers. It seems to me that they have gone to such an extreme to protect themselves from reasonable claims that they ought in common decency to have refrained from making the protestations which have been urged so very fervently during the last, few days. Their claim that they are entitled to have freedom of contract recognised in a matter of this sort is absurd. I feel sure that honorable members will have very little hesitation in making up their minds as to the proper course to adopt.
– There can be only one opinion as to the evils existing under the present system ; but I do not think that our view of these serious evils should lead us into hasty legislation. We have reached the last days of the session, when ,honorable members are far too brainfagged to devote due care and consideration to a measure of such far-reaching effects.
– We do not admit that.
Mr. -KELLY. - I do not give place to any honorable member in my abhorrence of the present conditions under which shipowners can so contract themselves out of their proper obligations as common carriers as to escape any liability for the actions of servants who may even pilfer the goods of a consignor or consignee. In common fairness, this state of affairs should not be allowed to continue. But what do we fin3 the- House at present proposing to do? We are proposing to enter upon the consideration of this measure, not when honorable members are fresh and able to give full consideration to their work, but in what will probably be the last week of the session.
– Better late than never.
– Certainly ; but let us in the meanwhile obtain some information on the point. What are the facts which have led up to the introduction of this Bill ?
– Primarily, that is so ; but that injustice was allowed to continue for years without action on the part of this Parliament. I am reminded that the conditions of which complaint is made are printed on the back of almost every railway ticket issued in the Commonwealth, and yet we do not propose to take action in that respect. What has suddenly stirred this House into activity ?
– We do not propose to deal in this Bill with any traffic inside a State. The railway traffic, to which the honorable member has referred, is, of course, within a State.
– If that foe the Prime Minister’s view, would he be prepared to deal with railway traffic which does extend beyond a State ?
– He cannot do so.
– Of course not.
– I am afraid I cannot deal with it in a Bill relating to the seacarriage of goods.
– But the right honorable gentleman would not think of doing such a thing. The injustice of which complaint is made against ship-owners is practised by the sovereign States of Australia iri their capacity as common carriers. I was going to point out, when interrupted, that what really was responsible for the introduction of this measure was a deputation of fruit-growers, who waited on the Prime Minister In October last, and put the case of” pilfering with considerable weight. The Prime Minister and his colleagues, in common with honorable members generally, suddenly awoke to the fact that such a state of affairs had been in existence for several years. Then the Bill was introduced in the Senate on 23rd November last. It was passed through the secondreading stage on the same day on which the motion was moved, despite the fact that it is one of the most far-reaching measures it is possible for any House to consider.
– That only serves to show how quickly the Senate can deal with its business.
– Exactly. It was passed through the Committee stage in a very few minutes on the following day, and was read a third time one day later. In three days the Senate was able to pass this Bill, and it was then introduced in this Chamber bv the Prime Minister. By this time the Bill was supposed to have had the united intelligence and care of the Cabinet bestowed upon it. But when it enters this Chamber, we find that the Prime Minister, who has already considered it, and framed it as he thought most desirable, is prepared t’o accept two vital amendments, because he thinks they will improve it. Surely this at once shows that proper consideration has not been given to the question.
– Hear, hear.
– In considering this measure, we have to remember that it is practically a transcript, with a few omissions, of the Harter Act of the United States of America.
– And the omissions are very important.
– That is so. We have before us the experience of this Act for the last ten years in the United States of America. I have derived great help from reading an article in the Harvard Law Review, which I think is regarded as a fairly authoritative magazine. It deals with the operation of the Harter Act in the United States of America. And, although I do not propose to weary the House with much of it, I shall read one or two short extracts, showing the anomalies which exist in that statute - anomalies which We have transferred to this Bill, without seeking to benefit from the experience of the United States. In the first place, we find that the Prime Minister the other day consented to introduce into the Bill the celebrated section 3 of the Harter Act, safeguarding shipping companies in certain events. We were told that the clause as it stands in the Bill was a copy of the Harter Act ; but it is not.
– I understand the Prime Minister intends to submit another clause in place of that which has been circulated.
– Some of the provisions in the third section of the Harter Act are already in force here under our common law, and, therefore, it is not necessary to include them in the Bill.
– That would to some extent meet the objection. Section 3 of the H arter Act protects the ship-owner to the extent that he is not held liable if losses arise from any inherent defect, quality or vice of the thing carried, or from insufficiency of package, or seizure under legal process, or from any act or omission of the shipper or owner of the goods, his agent or representative, or from saving or attempting to save life or property at sea. There is no such provision in the clause proposed by the Prime Minister.
– The Prime Minister stated that he would accept the third section of the Harter Act with some modifications suggested by the decisions of the American Courts.
– I am sorry that I am not aware of the decisions referred to. The third section of the Harter Act has given rise to more litigation than any other.
– We wish to take advantage of that experience, and have so drafted the clause as to avoid the subjects upon which litigation has taken place.
– The Prime Minister did not seem to consider the desirability of inserting any such clause until the matter was brought under his attention in this Chamber. That shows that the desire to benefit from the experience gained in the United States is of very recent growth. Something more than a cursory examination of this measure will be required to enable the Commonwealth to take full advantage of the American experience. Another provision in the Harter Act is to the effect that-
It shall be the duty of the owner or owners, master or agent, of any vessel … to issue tT shippers of any lawful merchandise, a bill of lading . . . stating, amongst other things . . the apparent order or condition of such merchandise or property .delivered to and received by the owner, master, or agent of the vessel for transportation.
That seems to be a common-sense proposal, as it provides that some light at least shall be thrown upon the condition of the goods before the ship enters upon her voyage, during which deterioration may take place.
– That is the common law here now, and there is no need to provide for it in the Bill.
– Under the present bill of lading the ship-owner receives the goods as “ in good ord’er and condition.” They do not mind that at present, because they can contract themselves out of all liability ; but if they are not to be allowed to do that, they will have to exercise much greater care in examining the goods before they are placed on board.
– Who objects to the exercise of greater care ?
– The Prime Minister apparently would be prepared to prevent the shipment of any goods unless they were in good order and condition.
– We do not interfere with the obligation at all. We simply say that the ship-owner shall not rid himself of certain obligations which would attach to him but for his power to contract himself out of them.
– If that be the position which the Government take up with regard to the Bill, surely it would be better to postpone its consideration and deal with the whole question in one comprehensive measure, such as the Navigation Bill. The Navigation Commission are already sitting, and as the Bill, according to an amendment which the Prime Minister is ready ro accept, will not come into operation until June next, this House will probably again be in session before it will have any effect.
– The Bill will come into operation on the 1st of January next, but it will not affect contracts made before the passing of the Act until 30th of June. It will, however, prevent any new contracts being made unless they comply with the provisions of the measure.
– But the Bill is most designed to meet the conditions of the produce export trade, particularly fruit. Most of our fruit will be exported between now and the :30th of June, under contracts which have already been made, and which are to be exempted from the operation of the Bill. Therefore I think that we might safely allow the Bill to be referred to the Navigation Commission.
– Contracts have not been made for all the produce ; a large amount of produce will be shipped apart from special contracts altogether.
– I am speaking principally of fruit, the contracts for the shipment of which have to be entered into some time ahead.
– Does the honorable member say that all the contracts for the shipment of fruit have already been entered into?
– The bulk of the contracts have already been made. I wish the Prime Minister to consider whether, in view of the fact that the Bill will not operate in regard to that portion of our export trade which it is specially designed to protect, it would not be wiser to allow it to stand over for the present, and to in the meantime afford the House such information, through the Navigation Commission, or otherwise, as will satisfy us that we shall act prudently in amending the law. At present we are making a plunge in the dark. If we go too far, the Bill will have the effect of forcing the shipping companies to increase their freights. If we merely make ship-owners responsible for the actions of their own servants, freights will probably not be affected, since there will be a great falling off in the pilfering on the voyages. It will be a proper thing for us to put a stop to pilfering as much as possible; but we may go very much further if we pass the Bill in the shape suggested. We shall find that the American Act has not achieved the objects which were held in view when it was passed. The Harvard Law Review points out that -
Strangely enough, it exonerates the carrier, ia many cases, from liability for neglect of servants, and yet leaves him, for the most part, under his former strict responsibility for accidental loss. Actions for cargo damaged now sometimes present the curious spectacle of a defendant trying to prove that the loss happened by his fault, and the plaintiff insisting that it was wholly an accident. In such a contest, the defendant often has an advantage.
– That is provided for in section 3 of the Harter Act, which is not to be followed in this case.
– But the Prime’ Minister has agreed to adopt it.
– Not in that respect.
– The clause which the Prime Minister proposes to adopt embodies the main provisions of section 3 of the Harter Act.
-I would remind the honorable member that we are discussing the motion for the second reading of a Bill which is in print. Any suggested amendment or addition to the Bill should be discussed, not upon the motion for the second reading, but in Committee. I would therefore ask the honorable member to postpone the discussion of any suggested new clause until the Bill reaches the Committee stage.
– I merely wish to show that American experience demonstrates that we are being asked to adopt certain provisions which should not be adopted without sufficient consideration. There are one .or two other matters to which I desire to direct attention. In the first place, I would point out that the Bill does not make any provision with regard to imports into Australia. Surely the whole question of imports and exports should be dealt with in one Bill. Honorable members may urge that it is almost impossible for us to govern contracts made in England, but I would point out that provision is made in the Harter Act for such cases, and that it is found to work as satisfactorily as the rest of that measure. Importers will derive no benefits under the Bill, whereas exporters will be placed in a position of considerable advantage. : because, forsooth, a fruit deputation asked that legislation of this kind should be passed. I do not propose to take up any further time. I merely suggest that the Bill should be re ferred to the Navigation Commission, so that we may have some evidence placed before us that the whole question has been seriously and minutely considered. Otherwise, I am afraid that legislation on the subject will, prove to be something in the nature of a boomerang.
– The words which have last fallen from the honorable member for Wentworth compel me to say a few words. The honorable member is afraid that the Bill may prove to be something in the nature of a boomerang, ‘and I am sorry to say that I share his fears. We are supposed to be legislating in the interests of our producers and exporters, but we must pay some regard to the interests of those who are engaged in shipping pursuits. I confess that I do not know very much about this subject. I fancy that, except, perhaps in the case of a few honorable and learned members, the want of acquaintance with the subject displayed by other honorable members, is equal to my own. To the ordinary person who reads a bill of lading it is not clear that the ship-owner is responsible for any loss or damage, but honorable and learned members tell us that there are many means of holding the ship-owner liable. Some honorable members urge that our producers should receive consider-, ate treatment at our hands, and I do not object to extend that consideration so long as we do not inflict injury upon other sections of the community. Until I am satisfied upon that point, I cannot give my support to the Bill. I shall require to be shown that legislation of this kind is in satisfactory operation in other parts of the world. If any honorable member can show me that, under the Navigation Act of Great Britain, similar conditions are imposed upon shipping firms, I shall be prepared to freely support the Bill. The Statute to which I have referred is generally regarded as constituting a model for shipping legislation. Under the circumstances, I think that the Prime Minister should refer this question to the Navigation Commission, which is now inquiring into cognate subjects. The precautions which should be undertaken by shipping firms might well be considered by that body, the members of which possess a technical knowledge of this matter. As was pointed out by the honorable member for Wentworth, the Senate dealt with this Bill very speedily. That Chamber practically dismissed the case on behalf of the shipowners. Why? Because the producing interests are overwhelmingly represented in the other Chamber, whereas those who are connected with the shipping interests constitute relatively a small section of the community. In my own electorate there are thousands of persons who are directly and indirectly dependent upon the shipping industry.
– Does the honorable member suggest that they will be injuriously affected by this Bill?
– They willbe affected directly and indirectly. The honorable member for Parramatta is very strong in his advocacy of the interests of the fruitgrowers. He is naturally anxious that the produce of his electorate shall be forwarded in a marketable condition to the old world, and that shipping firms shall take the necessary precautions to insure that result being achieved. My concern is as to whether the conditions imposed by this Bill would not prove harassing to ship-owners. I know that most honorable members are prone totake up the position, “ I am not merely the representative of my constituency, but of Australia.” Such a statement sounds well, but everybody must recognise that honorable members usually keep one eye upon their electorates and the other eye upon Australia. I candidly confess that I am keeping one eye upon my own constituency and the other upon this measure. When I hear the legal members of this House differing upon the Bill, is it to be wondered at thatI do not give it a whole-souled support? It deals with a technical question, of which I have practically no knowledge, and I do not think that the members of the legal profession whohave spoken upon it know very much more about it. I do not desire that shipping firms shall be accorded more facilities than are extended to ordinary carriers. I merely wish tosee a fair thing done as between the exporter and the ship-owner. Some honorable members seem to have only one concern, namely, a desire to improve the conditions for the exporter, whilst they would allow the ship-owners to look after themselves. I do not hold a brief for the ship-owners, but I object to enacting legislation which will unduly and unnecessarily harass them. If I can be assured that similar precautions are adopted in other parts of the world, and that shipping firms are not thereby subjected to any inconvenience, I shall be quite content to support the Bill. But the factthat the Prime Minister proposes to amend it in Committee indi cates that he is not strongly enamoured of it. I repeat that the Senate passed the measure very quickly.
– I thought that the Senate represented every interest in the community.
– We all represent every interest, but we are chiefly concerned with the one which is nearest to our own constituencies. No doubt the honorable member would like to place himself upon a pedestal and to make it appear that he represents every section of the community. If I were to remind him of the interest which he exhibits on behalf of the sugar-growers of Queensland he would naturally ask, “What am I here for ? “ Similarly, I may inquire, “What am Ihere for ?” The proportion of electors who are interested in shipping matters is very small. It is quite possible that the other branch of the Legislature may have overlooked that fact, as in my opinion it has. I realize that it is very difficult to raise any enthusiasm on behalf of a small section of the community, and I admit that, to a large extent, I am groping in the dark upon this question ; but having listened to the remarks of other honorable members who have addressed the House upon it, I am of opinion that they are equally in the dark.
– The honorable member for Dalley hasmade a special plea on behalf of the ship-owners of Australia, but I do not think that he would have delivered the speech to which we have just listened if he had ever been a shipper. At the present time a condition of things exists as between the producers and the ship-owners which calls for immediate action. If the honorable member for Dalley were aware of the trouble and loss which has for a long time been experienced by the shippers as the result of negligence on the part of the ship-owners, he would strongly support the passing of this Bill, and substantially in the form in which it now appears. It is all very well for him to talk about referring the question to the Navigation Bill Commission. We know that the Navigation Bill is a very long and important one, and heaven only knows when it will be passed into law. It is essential that some action should be at once taken on behalf of our producers. This Bill is intended to apply to all goods of a perishable nature. Let me take, for example, the great export meat trade from Australia to Great Britain, Great dissatisfaction is expressed by the shippers of meat as well as of fruit, because they cannot obtain during the whole term of the voyage any record of the temperature in the refrigerating chambers. One of the great objections urged by the Peninsular and Oriental, and the Orient Steamship Companies against the terms of the postal contract, was that it contained a stipulation that they should install indicators, so that shippers might be able to ascertain what the temperature in the refrigerating chamber was at any particular time. That fact shows how important it is that we should legislate to compel ship-owners to deal fairly with shippers. In my judgment, the producers were rather slighted by the honorable member for Dalley, notwithstanding the fact that they constitute the bulwark of the community. I claim that we should not unduly conserve the interests of the ship-owners. I am further of opinion that in each State of the Union legislation should be enacted to compel the Railway Commissioners to deal more carefully with the produce which is carried over their lines.
– The honorable member does not forget the conditions which are printed upon the back of their tickets ?
– No. The conditions which are printed on the back of those tickets, as well as those to which reference has been made by the honorable member for Parramatta and the honorable and learned member for Angas, show how thoroughly irresponsible are the carriers under existing bills of lading. What is the unfortunate shipper to do? He places his produce on board the vessels of these companies. Who should look after it? Obviously, the representatives of the shipping companies. It should be the special duty of their officers to supervise the carriage of produce. If any trouble is experienced in this connexion it is a very simple matter for the ship-owner to insure the goods.
An Honorable Member. - And add the cost of the insurance to their freight charges ?
– I think that freights are just about as high as the companies can make them. It is quite time that they were reduced, not only from Australia, but from Great Britain. According to evidence which was recently given before the Butter Commission, the freight charged upon butter from Australia to Great Britain is very nearly twice as much as it should be. At the present time an attempt is being made to obtain lower freights.
– The local steam-ship companies are worse offenders than are the oversea companies.
– I do not wish to say anything unduly harsh concerning ship-owners. There is no doubt that they are very alert business men. Those who are wealthy have amassed their riches by the keenness of their intellects, and if they get an opportunity of charging high freights, and of relieving themselves of obligations, they will eagerly embrace it. It is a ring amongst themselves, which it is very hard to break, that has allowed this state of things to continue for such a length of time.
– Did the honorable member ever hear of producers working a ring?
– I have never heard of producers working a ring in the same way. Their distance from each other prevents them from combining as the shipping companies have done. I shall not, however, deal with the matter further, because every one knows that these combinations exist. I commend the Prime Minister for trying to get the Bill passed before the session comes to a close.
– There is something wrong here.
– Whenever a measure of this kind is introduced, whether by the Prime Minister or any one else, I will fight in its support as hard as I can. The present state of affairs has been a crying evil to the shippers of Australia for a very .long time past. I should like to know whether the Bill applies only to agreements entered into for the export of goods from Australia to other parts of the world, or whether it applies to all contracts between port and port in Australia as well.
– To all contracts from State to State.
– I think that it should also apply to all contracts from port to port.
– We have no power under the Constitution to make such a provision.
– In my opinion, it should apply to contracts such as those for the carriage of perishable goods from _the Clarence River to Sydney.
– Or from Brisbane to Thursday Island.
– But we cannot make it so apply.
– If the Constitution will not allow it, there is no use talking about it. But I am glad that the measure applies to contracts between State and State. I shall not prolong the discussion further. I rose to give the Bill my support, and I hope that it will be carried through Committee much as it stands.
– Although I represent the leading shipping port of South Australia, I am on the side of the producers in this instance.
– Why be on a side at all?
– Because, in my opinion, the producers are at the present time unfairly treated by the ship-owners, and I hope that I shall always be found on the side of those who are suffering an injustice. The honorable member for Dalley says that we .have not looked at this question from all stand-points.
– He says that he does not know anything about it.
- His speech showed that he does not know much about it. He has stated that if the freights were Increased the shipping business would fall off ; but it is only reasonable to suppose that if shippers continue to be put to the enormous losses which they now suffer, they will cease to export, and, therefore, ship-owners will lose business from that cause. I do not wish an injustice to be done to the shipping companies, nor do I think that the Bill will have that effect. I am of opinion that a reasonable time should elapse before it is brought into operation. I shall, therefore, support the amendment of the honorable member for Franklin. I do not think any company should be allowed to contract themselves out of their reasonable liabilities. The liability imposed upon the ship-owners by the Bill is a reasonable one, because it will be the easiest thing in the world for them to cover the risk. The trouble with the shipping companies is that they will not be able to increase their freights very much, because they are now so high. The Bill applies not only to perishable goods, but to all kinds of merchandise, and surely carriers by sea should have the same responsibility in regard to the safe conveyance of the goods intrusted to them as carriers by land have. A great many of the producers would have no objection to paying increased freights, if they could be sure that their goods would arrive in first-class condition. I hope that the Prime Minister will not persist in the amendment of which he has given notice; because, if it were carried, we might as well leave the law as it is. It would be monstrous to allow the ship-owner to evade his ‘liability for the act of his servants. That is a liability placed on him by the common law, and by the Employers Liability Act. It will be nearly always through the acts, of his servants that damage will result. For instance, neglect of refrigerating apparatus would be the act of a servant ; and while thefts of fruit are often committed .by passengers, responsibility for them occasionally attaches to the crew, who are the servants of the ship-owner. Shippers would not allow insurance companies to say to them, “ If the ship leaves in a seaworthy condition, and is destroyed, or her cargo suffers damage by reason of acts of God, we will make up the loss to you; but if the damage is due to the neglect of the officers, we will not.” Similarly, the ship-owners should be liable for the neglect of their officers. If the amendment of the Prime Minister is carried, I shall be forced to vote against the Bill, because of the unfair position in which shippers will be placed. They require to know that when they ship their fruit or merchandise, it will be carried safely to its destination. If the ship-owners do not now receive enough by way of freight to cover this risk - though, in my opinion, they do - they will take care to increase their freights, and I do not think that this will affect the consumers. I hope that the Bill will be carried very much as it stands.
– Representing, as I do represent, the two most important shipping ports in Tasmania, Burnie and Strahan, I am most anxious that this measure shall become law. I am sorry, however, that the Prime Minister is intending to move an amendment which will spoil it. There is no question that shipowners have been able, by various legal processes, and documents drawn by able and brilliant lawyers, to gerrymander the shippers out of their just rights. They have played them with loaded dice. It is said that the Harter Act has not proved quite a success; but no Act in the world has done that.
– It has been more prolific of litigation in the United States than has any other Act.
– Because of the number of lawyers wanting good fat briefs from the ship-owners. I trust that the Prime Minister will see that this Bill is carried so as to render litigation under it as little as possible. Before the Harter Act was passed, a man had as good a chance of getting a verdict against the shipping company which had destroyed his goods, or had not delivered them on time, as he would have had of swimming up Niagara Falls in a hickory-nut shell. It is the same thing in Australia now. The steam-ship owners will treat you very nicely if you go to see them ; but if you make any complaints, they will show you the bill of lading, and you know you are “out of it “ at the very start. What chance has a producer who ships£200 worth of goods to win an action against a big shipping firm, which can retain the first lawyers in the land ?
– The shippers are told when they go into Court that they have no case, because of the conditions in the bills of lading which they have signed. That is freedom of contract !
– Yes; but all the freedom is on the one side. I want the Harter Act improved, so that we shall benefit by the mistakes of the Americans. We should investigate every Act on the face of the earth, pick out its best portions, and then improve on them, according to our intelligence.
– How long will that take?
– It took the Americans a hundred years to think out the Harter Act. I shall vote for the Bill, and I hope that it will be improved in Committee as much as possible. I am glad that the Prime Minister has had the pluck to tackle this question, even at this late period of the session. It is very important to the small shipper to be able to say to the shipping company which has destroyed his goods, “ I want damages for the injury done to me.” The present bills of lading put him out of court altogether.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Application of Act).
– When the Bill was being discussed on Thursday last, on the motion for the second reading, the honorable member for Franklin urged that a new clause should be inserted pro viding that it should not apply to any bill of lading or agreement entered into before it came into operation. I then suggested that instead of inserting a new clause, dealing with this question, the saving of existing contracts should be dealt with in clause 3.
– I have adopted the suggestion of my honorable and learned friend. I move -
That the following new sub-clause be inserted : - “ This Act shall not apply to any bill of lading or document made before the thirtieth day of June, one thousand nine hundred and five, in pursuance of a contract or agreement entered into before the passing of this Act.”
We have already provided that after the 30th of June no existing agreement shall continue to have any force.
– Why not say that the Bill shall not apply to any bill of lading or document made before 17 th November - the date of the introduction of the Bill in the Senate ?
– We have considered that point, and think it better not to press if. It could be easily evaded in many ways.
– I havebeen asked to point out thatmany shippers and ship-owners have entered into contracts relating not only to the present, but to the ensuing fruit season, and I should like to have the assurance of the Prime Minister that the Bill as proposed to be amended will not interfere with such contracts. I know of one contract which relates not only to the present, but to the next fruit season of 1905-6.
– We cannot go further than the 30th June, 1905.
– Then the remainder of that contract would practically be annulled.
– Yes; but there will be plenty of time between the ensuing season and that of 1905-6 for the parties to make fresh arrangements, in view of the law.
– But the ship-owners might ask a higher freight, which would throw the shippers out in their calculations.
– I do not wish to press the matter ; but I think that if the honorable member for Franklin had been present he would have given expression to the feeling that exists in Tasmania that these extended contracts should have some consideration.
– I had an interview with the honorable member, and the amendment I have moved embodies his suggestion.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 4 -
Where any bill of lading or document contains any clause covenant or agreement whereby
the obligations of the owner or charterer of any ship to exercise due diligence, and to make and keep the ship’s hold, refrigerating and cool chambers, and all other parts of the ship in which goods are carried, fit and safe for their reception, carriage, and preservation, are in any wise lessened, weakened, or avoided ; or ….
– There has been in some quarters a slight misapprehension as to the scope of the Bill. It does not alter the law at all with reference to rights as between ship-owners and shippers. The object of the Bill is to prevent contracts being made, which have the effect of undoing the law relating to such transactions. That distinction is not properly understood. We are not legislating to put shippers in some legal position which they did not occupy before, except in the respect I have mentioned. The law relating to contracts between shippers and ship-owners will not be altered by this clause. We merely say to the ship-owner, “ We do not allow you to contract yourself out of your legal obligations in such a transaction.” That is the alteration we make. In view of this statement, I should like to alter the wording of paragraph b, again prefacing my proposed amendment by the observation that it will not alter the law in any sense.
– But it will prevent the ship-owner and the shipper from entering into a certain form of contract.
– They are setting the incidence of the contract law aside - an incidence which has been sanctioned by immemorial usage as a wise and proper definition of their respective obligations. I move -
That after the word “ diligence,” line 5, the words “ to properly man, equip, and supply the ship, to make and keep the ship seaworthy “ be inserted.
– Does not section 3 of the Harter Act contain different words?
– I shall deal with that section quite apart from the clause now under consideration. If there be no obligation to do what the amendment provides for, this provision will not make one. It will not create any obligations that are not already the law of the land. I wish honorable members to clearly understand that no number of amendments in this clause will alter the law by a tittle. If it 13 g were contended, for instance, that there was no obligation at law to properly man, equip, and supply a ship, or keep a ship seaworthy, and there were no such obligation, this provision would not affect the position of the owner in that respect. These words are substantially in clause 2 of the Harter Act.
– In clauses 2 and 3.
– The honorable member for Kooyong has rendered me great service by supplying me with a number of valuable documents bearing on the Harter Act, and other mattersrelating to this Bill. Among these is a publication, which presents that Act in a very handy form. I have only to repeat that the amendment will not alter the obligations at law. It simply proposes to insert words representing the actual law, and by other words in the clause, ship-owners will be prevented from writing them out.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister if he would accept a verbal amendment in paragraph a, under which an owner is debarred from trying to contract himself out of failure in the proper . delivery of goods? The meaning of the provision is clear, but it might give rise to trouble in its present form. I should therefore like to know if the Prime Minister would consent to an amendment, inserting after the word “ delivery “ in paragraph a the words “ in the order in which received,” or something to that effect.
– I could not accept that.
– These words are in the Harter Act, but there is also a special subsection which safeguards owners in regard to the shipment of perishable products in which there is amy inherent vice.
– Inherent defects will be provided for later on. At present owners are protected at common law in regard to such m sitters
– I think that the insertion of these words will make the clause more intelligible. The great object in framing a Bill of this sort is to let business men know what their duties and privileges are. I may say that with regard to paragraph b I expressed, on the motion for the second reading of the Bill, much doubt as to whether the words which follow the proposed amendment would be effective. I have to deal with those words in connexion with this amendment, because the one part fits in with the other. As the Prime Minister has said, there are certain obligations at common law out of which the parties will rot be permitted by this Bill to contract themselves. There are, for example, such obligations as that of properly manning and equipping, a ship, and one can very well understand the application of this provision in such circumstances. But in this Bill we provide that ship-owners must not contract themselves out of the obligation to make and keep -
The ship’s hold, refrigerating and cool chambers and all other parts of the ship in which goods are carried, fit and safe for their reception, carriage, and preservation.
The difficulty is that there is no obligation on ship-owners at common law to provide cool storage, for there was no such device in the olden days. Therefore, so far as regards cool storage, we are simply providing that ship-owners must not contract themselves out of an obligation which never existed, and never could exist. This point relates to a question of drafting. I confess that I have been ransacking my brains to devise an alteration that would make this provision more effective. By the kind permission of the Prime Minister I have also had access to the draftsman of this measure, and he assures me that he cannot conceive of any means to render it more effective. In these circumstances, I do not feel justified in proposing an amendment. In a matter of this kind, we are like persons dancing amongst swords - at every move we may hurt ourselves, or some one else. The truth is we are dealing with great private interests, and naturally very keen attention is being displayed.
– I think that we shall find that we are dealing with public interests through private interests.
– Yes, we are touching public interests through private interests, but my object is to, as far as I can, secure public interests against private interests. The honorable member for Perth has directed attention to the importance of making the provisions more stringent with regard to produce carried from port to port within the Commonwealth.
– Yes, and with regard to other merchandise.
– Exactly, and particularly with regard to perishable produce. I should like to help him in that regard, but I confess that as the matter stands I should have to interfere with provisions which on the whole are well drafted, and should therefore incur some risk of inflict ing injury. I understand that the provision regarding cool chambers was inserted in the Senate, and I do not think we need quarrel over it, although I do not believe it will prove as effective as is desired. The honorable and learned member for Angas has directed my attention to a passage in Abbott’s Law on Merchant Ships and Seamen, in which the common law obligations of carriers are referred to. At page 597 there is a passage which I think makes it perfectly clear that a common carrier is not at common law liable for the deterioration due to its nature of fruit or other perishable produce. The passage reads as follows: -
Thus, for example, the carrier is not liable for any loss or damage from the ordinary decay or deterioration of oranges or other fruits in the course of the voyage, from their inherent infirmity or nature, or from the ordinary diminution or evaporation of liquors, or the ordinary leakage from the casks in which the liquors are put, in the course of the voyage, or from the spontaneous combustion of goods, or, from their tendency to effervescence,, or acidity, or from their not being properly put up and packed by the owner 01 shipper, foi the carriers implied obligations do not extend to such cases.
Therefore, I have some doubt as to the effectiveness of the latter part of the clause. I hope that the Committee will accept the amendment proposed by the Prime Minister, because it will certainly make express and clear that which would otherwise be left to implication.
– I should, like to point out that, although it is a fact that the special trade known as carriage in refrigerating chambers is quite new, the Courts in dealing, with the new conditions are able to apply sound principles of law. The case of Rawson versus the Atlantic Transport Company, decided on appeal to the King’s Bench division in 1903, shows the ingenuity with which lawyers, and even the Courts, can deal with the expressions contained in an Act of Parliament. The expression used in the Harter Act is “faults or errors in the navigation or in the management of the ship.” These latter words are very properly left out of the New Zealand Act, because it has been decided that negligence in the refrigerating chamber, such as failure to keep the temperature up to a certain level, is negligence in the “management of the ship.” It was not intended that any such meaning should be attached to the words, but that the management of the ship should relate purely to matters of navigation. In the case referred to it was held that the ship-owner was not liable for any negligence in connexion with the refrigerating chambers. A large consignment of butter was spoiled through some negligence in connexion with the temperature of the refrigerating chamber. An action was entered, and the Court held that the management of the ship included the management of the refrigerating chambers, and that therefore no liability rested upon the ship-owner. I have, therefore, inserted words in the clause which will preclude any such interpretation from being adopted. I should like to point out also that Mr. Justice Kennedy applies the old common law to the modern conditions relating to the carriage of perishable produce in refrigerating chambers in this way. Referring to the Harter Act, he says -
Now a vessel, which has to carry cargo which can only be safely carried if its refrigerating machinery is in proper order, is one which at the present day, according to a series of decisions, both in this country and in America, cannot properly be regarded as seaworthy unless it has that machinery inproper order.
– But there was a contract in that case to keep cool chambers.
– Under the proposed new clause, a contract would be implied.
– If at the outset there is an obligation to keep cool chambers, responsibility for neglect must attach to the ship-owner.
– Exactly so; but the expression “ seaworthy “ is read into the new contract with regard to the refrigerating chamber. If without any special contract the ship-owner takes perishable cargo into a refrigerating chamber at a special scale of freight, there is an implied contract on his part to keep the chamber at a proper temperature. That is the very essence of the contract so far as the avoidance of negligence is concerned. Our object is to prevent a ship-owner from contracting himself out of any liability he may have incurred by taking perishables into his refrigerating chambers under an implied contract.
– If the Prime Minister’s statement be correct, and I have no doubt it is, that the only purpose of this clause is to prevent a ship-owner from absolving himself from his common law liabilities, I do not see the object of inserting the words referred to. If “ seaworthiness “ connotes or implies a reasonably fit condition of that part of the ship, which enables the ship owner to fulfil his contract, for carrying frozen goods, there is no need to insert the words “ properly manned, equipped, and supplied,” because it is implied in the words “ seaworthy condition in all respects.”
– It is necessary to insert the words in order to prevent a ship-owner from contracting himself out of his liability.
– But it is provided in paragraph b that the ship’s hold, refrigerating and cool chambers, and all other parts of the ship in which goods are carried, shall be fit and safe for their reception, carriage, and preservation. If the common law obligation connoted by the word “ seaworthiness,” governs refrigerating chambers and all apparatus necessary for the carriage and preservation of the goods, the obligation upon the ship-owner cannot be increased by the insertion of the words referred to.
– But they apply to a number of other things, apart from refrigerating chambers.
– These obligations are imposed under the common law.
– But it is provided that the ship-owner shall “ keep “ the ship’s hold, &c., fit and safe.
– If the word “keep” be inserted, the right honorable gentleman will embark upon a whole sea of arguments in regard to the obligations which rest upon the ship-owner, after the ship has once weighed her anchor and proceeded to sea.
– We are not altering the law as to obligation, but are preventing shipowners from contracting themselves out of their liability.
– That is, out of their common law obligations.
– Yes, that is all.
Amendment agreed to.
– I understand that the purpose of this clause is to insure that the ship-owner shall not contract himself out of his liabilities under the common law. Under clause 4, one of the obligations imposed upon the ship-owner is that he shall properly deliver the goods, and I should like the Committee to consider the necessity of making same provision to define what constitutes delivery, because otherwise the ship-owner may be placed under all sorts of obligations.
– I think that delivery in all cases means delivery from the ship’s slings. From that point, the ship-owner is absolved from liability.
– Abbott’s Law on Merchant Ships and Seamen points out that -
The manner of delivering the goods, and, consequently, the period at which the responsibility of the master and owners will cease depend upon the custom of particular places and the usage of particular trades. Thus a hoyman who brings goods from an outport into the port of London is not discharged by landing them at the usual wharf, but is bound to take care and send them out by hand to the place of consignment.
– What is a hoyman ?
– I understand that a hoyman is a man who takes goods from the ship’s side and delivers them on the wharf.
– Then he would occupy a position different from that of the owner of a ship.
– If the honorable and learned member will wait, he will see that the ship-owner is included. Abbott says further -
And if the consignee require to have the goods delivered to himself, and direct the master not to land them on a wharf at London, the master must obey the request ; for the wharfinger has no legal right to insist upon the goods being landed at his wharf, although the vessel be moored against it. But in the case of ships coming from a foreign country, delivery at a wharf in London discharges the master.
If the provision applies only to a wharf in London, no hardship will be inflicted. But [ want to show what the cancellation of the right of the ship-owner to contract himself out of his common law liabilities would lead to. Abbott goes on to say -
If the consignee send a lighter to fetch the goods, it seems that the master of the ship is obliged, by the custom of the river Thames, to watch themin the lighter until the lighter is fully laden.
– This Bill will not affect the existing law; it will simply prevent a shipowner from contracting himself out of his common law liability.
– But power to make a contract is a common law right. Abbott continues -
But if he be placed in a like situation abroad, he may find himself, as masters used to be here, in a position of great difficulty. He must take core of the cargo, lest his owners should be sued for not delivering it according to the bill of lading ; he mustkeep possession of it, if he wishes to retain his lien for freight ; buthe must not incur any unreasonable expense in so doing. If there is any law or custom at the port of discharge applicable to the case, the master would, of course, follow it, but apart from such law or custom, the rights of the ship-owners to redress from the owners of the goods, or from the charterers of the ship if they could be sued within the jurisdiction, would, unless provided for by the contract of the parties, probably depend on the common law.
Under , the common law, unless ship-owners have a right to discharge goods consigned to them at the port of their destination - that is, to give “proper delivery,” as prescribed in paragraph c, of clause 4 - they may be subjected to great inconvenience. If , they cannot enter into a contract as to what shall constitute “ proper delivery, “ they may have to carry cargo round with them until some person comes forward to claim it.
– Does the honorable and learned member wish to give ship-owners the power to decide what constitutes “ proper delivery “ ?
– No, but I wish the parties concerned to have power to enter into an agreement as to what “ proper delivery “ shall mean. In the absence of some such provision, the shipowners will incur liabilities which it is most unfair to impose upon them.
– Suppose that the shipper has no power to alter the contract - that the ship-owner has an absolute monopoly of the trade?
– That is a risk which the shipper must always incur. The common law imposes upon the ship-owner an obligation which I think it would be very wise to allow him to withdraw from himself by contract. When the measure was first submitted, I was disposed to support it, but having listened to the arguments which have been advanced, it appears to me that it would be dangerous to place it upon the statute-book. In my judgment, it affords an instance of the saying that “ hard cases make bad laws.” It seems , to me that in endeavouring to secure a small concession for a special class, we may injure the whole community. I should be glad to see the measure defeated. In my opinion, it constitutes a danger, not only to the ship-owners and the producers, but to the general community, and I should certainly like an opportunity of bestowing further consideration upon it.
– Wherein does the danger lie?
– For years past it has been customary for the producers and the ship-owners to enter into certain contracts. The very suggestion that a man should not be at liberty to make a contract with another individual, should be sufficient in itself to make us pause.
– That has been the position for years. The shippers of Western
Australia have had no option but to accept the contracts of the ship-owners.
– I can quite imagine that if the ship-owners formed themselves into a ring, the position might be one of hardship to the exporters.
– Does the honorable member think that the ship-owners should be allowed to contract themselves out of their liabilities under the common law?
– The ship-owners are just as anxious to secure cargo and to do business as is any other class of the community. If the shippers combined, and refused to send their produce unless they secured fair conditions, those conditions would speedily be forthcoming. I do not entirely condemn the Bill, but I feel that further consideration is necessary, and that it contains numerous elements of danger, and I am not satisfied that it is wise to pass it at this stage of the session. If any attempt be made to strike out this provision I shall support it.
Mr. BRUCE SMITH (Parkes).- Upon the second-reading discussion of this measure I predicted that it would have a sort of boomerang effect, and that it would recoil .upon the very class which it was intended to benefit. I am still of that opinion. I have listened carefully to the honorable and learned member for Corio, with a view to ascertaining whether he had detected in the paragraph c of this clause any danger further than that which is common to the whole Bill. I cannot see that he has. The entire measure - so far as these three paragraphs are concerned - is designed to “preserve the common law as distinguished from the special contracts which have hitherto been entered into, under bills of lading, between ship-owners and shippers. We all know that there is a common law definition as to “delivery,” and although a special custom may obtain in certain ports, we may rest assured that the common law interpretation of the word t! delivery” as applied to ship-owners will be the same in one State as it is in another, and that ultimately it .will be decided by the High Court for the whole Commonwealth. There can be no doubt that the common law interpretation which will be placed upon the word “ delivery “ by the High Court will be the same as t’hat which is placed upon it under the common law of Great Britain. The particular word “ delivery “ seems to me to contain no greater danger than is contained in other parts of the Bill, inasmuch as it forces us to accept the common law interpretation placed upon it by the ‘highest Court in England or in Australia.
– That is one of the important safeguards of the ship-owners.
– I would point out to the honorable member that the Bill does not alter the position as regards the common law.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 5 -
All parties to any bill of lading or document relating to the carriage of goods from any place in Australia to any place outside Australia shall be deemed to have intended to contract according to the law of the Commonwealth, and any stipulation or agreement to the contrary, or purporting to oust or lessen the jurisdiction of the Courts of the Commonwealth or of a State, in respect of the bill of lading or document, shall be illegal, null and void, and of no effect.
– The honorable and learned member for Indi has brought under my notice a difficulty which may possibly arise in connexion with vessels carrying cargo incidentally between two ports of the same State. Consequently, I move -
That the words “ law of the Commonwealth “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ laws in force at the place of shipment.”
I may mention that under this Bill the “place of shipment” is always within the Commonwealth.
– This Bill is intended to apply only to contracts made for the carriage of goods between State and State, or between Australia and other parts of the world, and only to bills of lading relating to shipments From Australia. But incidentally I would point out that the same ship may be carrying cargo between two ports of one State.
– The insertion of these words will subject a vessel to State law in regard to State contracts, and of course she will always be subject to Commonwealth law in regard to Commonwealth contracts.
– I would point out that under the amendment it is possible that a ship arriving here from a foreign country-
– Such a vessel would not come within the operation of the clause.
– So long as the form of contract embodied in recognised bills of lading was adopted by the shipping and ship-owning fraternity, the question of value did not arise. But it seems to me that that question now becomes an allimportant one .in the interests of everybody.
We know very well that upon our Government railways, where there is a limit of liability, unless there is a declared value, injustice is sometimes done. But, on the other hand, justice is very often done, inasmuch as a consignor is prevented from working a fraud in regard to his consignments. We have no reason to suppose that fruit-growers do not possess the same weaknesses as other classes of the community. When once we do away under this Bill with the obligations previously imposed upon the shipper the question arises whether the ship-owner should not be entitled to ask him to make some declaration of the value of his shipment. That practice has been adopted by all the State Railway Departments of Australia. Where a person ships a case or package the contents of which cannot be seen by the ship-owner, he should be compelled to state its value, and should not subsequently be permitted to claim a larger amount than its declared value. The Prime Minister must recognise that we are not merely dealing with such articles as fruit or vegetables, which can be seen, but that we are dealing in the most wholesale way with the rights and obligations of shipowners. We know very well that a case of jewellery, which may not occupy more than a square foot of space may be worth £1,000. The existing forms of bills of lading contain a condition that the shipper shall not be allowed to claim more than a certain amount unless he has previously declared the value of his consignment. We are now engaged upon a Bill which may have the effect of absolving the shipper, and throwing upon the ship-owner responsibilities without limit, so that it will be quite open for a dishonest shipper to ship a case of rubbish in the hope that something may happen to the vessel, in which case he will be able to ask for damages to cover a loss which he has not sustained. The common law will not protect the ship-owner. If the consignee said, “A case which was shipped by the Australia has not come to hand; it contained£1,000 worth of jewellery,” how could the ship-owner prove that it was a case of rubbish ? It is not imposing a hard condition to require shippers to declare at the time of shipment the value of their goods.
– I have looked carefully through the Bill, and it does not contain anything which would prevent ship-owners from stipulating for such a declaration of value.
– The clause is very comprehensive. The obligations of the ship-owners are not to be “ lessened, weakened, or avoided.”
– His obligations to do certain things. A stipulation made by the shipowner, requiring a declaration of value, would surely not lessen his obligation. That obligation would be all the greater if the value of the goods was shown to be immense.
– Under the Bill, the shipper can claim for loss whatever may happen, so that the ship-owner is liable to unlimited claims, unless he can protect himself by some stipulation as to declarations of value.
– I think that he can so pro- tecthimself.
– Will the right honorable gentleman allow the Bill to be recommitted if, on looking into the matter more closely, I am able to show that the Bill prevents such a stipulation.
– I do not think that there is any danger. There is no common law of the Commonwealth, but each State has a common law on this subject, which is modified by statute law.
– New South Wales has not.
– All the other States, I think, have. This measure does not interfere with the existing law beyond preventing shipowners from contracting themselves out of the liabilities arising from it. It is therefore inadvisable to place in it affirmative provisions. In my opinion, it would be a mistake to incorporate in it a provision such as the honorable and learned memberhas suggested, because by doing that we should be declaring the law.
– I recognise that difficulty.
– I think that every State has adopted the English principle of limiting liability in regard to very valuable articles, unless a declaration of value is made at the time of shipment. I regret that this clause is drawn up in an affirmative form. It would have been better and more consistent if it had provided that any attempt made by the bill of lading to oust the jurisdiction should be bad. The clause, however, declares the place of jurisdiction, and then says that it shall not be ousted. It seems to me that we are thus limiting by expressed words the choice of a place of jurisdiction, which may at present be either the forum where the breach has occurred or the place where the contract was entered into. It would have been better had the clause merely provided that the ship-owner should not contract himself out of any liability whereby the jurisdiction of the Court might be ousted, though, if the Prime Minister does not propose to change its structure, I am content to let it go as it stands.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 negatived.
Amendment (by Mr. Reid) agreed to -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “1a. This Act shall commence on the 1st day of January, 1905.”
– I move-
That the following new clause be inserted : - “6a (1) In every bill of lading, with respect to goods, a warranty shall be implied that the ship shall be, at the beginning of the voyage, seaworthy in all respects and properly manned, equipped, and supplied.
In every bill of lading, with respect to goods, unless the contrary intention appears, a clause shall be implied, whereby, if the ship is, at the beginning of the voyage, seaworthy in all respects, and properly manned, equipped, and supplied, neitherthe ship nor her owner, agent, or charterer, shall be responsible to the owner of the goods for damage to or loss of the goods resulting from -
This provision is practically the thirdclause of the Harter Act. The paragraphs which I have read are not a declaration of new law, but merely the affirmation of the existing law, which I have retained at the request of the ship-owners, made through the honorable member for Kooyong. The Harter Act contains only the words “management of said vessel,” under which it was held that negligence in the management of a refrigerating chamber was an error in the management of the ship for which the owners were not responsible. I have, therefore, made the provision read “ navigation or management of the ship for the purposes of navigation.” Those words make the intention of the measure perfectly clear.
– The ship-owners would be responsible for any damage done to a cargo because of a faulty refrigerator?
– Is that practically the only departure from the Harter Act ?
– The right honorable gentleman has left out the words “ or property “ in paragraphs h and i.
– The advisability of inserting those words, which I had omitted accidentally, is one which is worthy of a moment’s consideration. The shipper has property, and there is a contract to take it to a certain destination. The question arises whether the saving of property at sea mightbe a sufficient justification for doing something to risk the property the ship has.
– But the two matters might be mixed up. There might be a general sacrifice of deck cargo in order to save the ship.
– That would mean a sacrifice of the property on board ship-
– To save the ship herself. It might be a matter of general average. Deck cargo might be thrown overboard in order to lighten a ship, and save her.
– I must say that upon reflection, I am inclined to think that these matters are often so mixed up that we might have a ship-owner incurring such liabilities in respect of an attempt to save property - which might mean the saving of life - that he would be put in a position of risk in doing a humane act. I think that, on the whole, it would be fairer to accept this proposal. We know that captains do not unnecessarily go out of their way. It is only in cases of grave emergency that they do so. If we inserted these words, it would, at all events, save disputes. I, therefore, desire to amend my amendment accordingly.
Amendment, by leave, amended accordingly.
– The proposed new clause is a very comprehensive one, and embraces so many matters that it seams to me ship-owners will not be made liable in respect of very much.
– We are simply declaring what the law is at present.
– If it is the law, why restate it?
– I am simply doing it to satisfy the ship-owners. The clause states what is the common law at present. I think it better to have it in the Bill.
– The provision relating to the condition in which produce is received is of great importance. How is the question of condition to be determined? Should not ship-owners see that goods are properly packed when they are received on board ? To my mind, this clause is likely to lead to endless litigation. It would be very easy, for instance, for a ship-owner to say that a case of fruit was not properly packed.
– The onus of proof will lie on the ship-owner.
– If he accepts the case in good order and condition.
– I am familiar with the process of packing apples for export. They are generally put in special cases made of strong palings; but I have seen sailors deliberately standing, without rhyme or reason, on the weaker parts of these boxes, and thus damaging the fruit. In such a case a ship-owner might say that the fruit was not properly packed, or that the boxes were not properly constructed, and endless litigation might be created. We have not had an opportunity to read and consider the amendment, and I think it is rather too comprehensive. If seems to me that the word “property,” to which reference has been made, was properly left out in the first instance.
– It is in the American Act.
– The draftsman omitted it from this clause.
– Buthe left out all these other matters.
– The insertion of the word “property” in the proposed new clause might be dangerous to the interests of shippers. I think that honorable members should have an opportunity to read and thoroughly grasp the meaning of the amendment before they agree to it.
– I certainly should like to know a little more about the meaning of this clause before we pass it. It seems to me that a master of a vessel, under this provision, would be allowed to save other persons’ property and to receive compensation for doing so, and yet escape liability for damage done to goods on board his vessel, as the result of that act. I do not approve of anything of the kind. I fail to see why a shipper should have no remedy for damage done to his goods, as the result of the action of a master of a ship, who preferred to look after some one else’s property. The ship per ought always to be protected, and I understood that this Bill was to protect him under every condition. The shipping companies will, of course, protect themselves when incurring any risk. We all approve of a ship-owner or master running any; risk to save human life, and I am prepared to accept the provisions of the clause relating to that particular point ; but I desire to know whether a ship-owner would be liable, under the clause, for damage done to goods received on. board his vessel, which was seaworthy on leaving port, but which, as the result of the incompetence or intemperance of the master, became unseaworthy ?
– How could we determine whether a master was competent when the ship-owner must engage a master holding a certificate, and when that certificate is issued by the Crown?
– I gather from the honorable member’s remarks, that, under this clause, a shipper would not be compensated for damage done to his goods as the result of an error of judgment on the part of a master. It seems to me that if the clause be carried, the Bill will give shippers very little more security than they at present enjoy. Are owners to be made liable for the pilfering of goods received on board their vessels?
– The matter is covered by a previous clause.
– Suppose, as the result of incompetence, or intemperance, a master lost his ship, or caused the cargo to be seriously damaged, would the shipper of goods by that vessel receive no compensation ?
– A shipper insures his goods against loss by another process.
– That is not the point. The intention of the Bill, as it stands, is to protect a shipper against all risk of damage to his produce from the time the vessel leaves port, until it reaches its destination.
– In respect of which a shipowner is responsible under the existing law.
– But I have not yet received an answer to my question whether a shipper will be able to obtain compensation for damage to goods caused as the result of an error of judgment on the part of an incompetent or intemperate shipmaster.
Mr. GLYNN (Angas). - I do not intend to object to the amendment, because I know that some ship-owners are very uneasy with regard to the provisions of this Bill. I think their anxiety is groundless, but if it will satisfy them to have some limitation expressed in the Bill itself, perhaps it is just as well that there should be one.
– It all depends to what extent we are going.
– This provision is copied from .the American Act, and the bulk of the provisions of that Act are at present matters of common law. In other words, there is, for example, a provision in the Harter Act, which has been incorporated in this clause, that there shall be no liability for insufficient package. Any damage done 10 goods in that way would be due to the shipper’s own negligence, and the ship-owner, therefore, should not be liable. Then, we provide that a ship-owner shall not be liable for deterioration in ,the goods received on board his vessel, which is due to any inherent defect, or vice. As shown by a quotation from Abbott there is no liability on the part of an owner in respect of matters of that kind. If it will satisfy the ship-owners to have that stated in black and white in this Bill, I shall not object, although I think it will interfere with the object of the Bill. The principle of the Bill is to prevent a ship-owner contracting himself out of the law, but we are now proposing to affirm something else.
– Do I understand that a ship-owner would not receive compensation for damage done to goods, as the result of the incompetence or the intemperance of the master of the vessel by which they were shipped?
– I was about to say that we had adopted the principles of the Harter Act to a greater extent than the necessities of the occasion demand. If a shipowner, through the master of his vessel, be incompetent - in other words, if, as the result, say, of the master’s drunkenness, damage is done to goods on board - the shipper is entitled under the English law to recover any loss so incurred.
– Or to recover any damage as the result of negligence.
– Yes. But I am not sure that this Bill will not exempt ship-owners from that liability. I do not desire to prejudice this proposal in the eyes of the shipowners, because they are afraid of many provisions in the Bill in respect of which there is really no cause for anxiety. I trust, however, that the Prime Minister will give us an assurance that he will be prepared to embody in the Navigation Bill a declaration of what the law is in relation to shipping all over Australia. We do not know at present whether there is any common law binding on the Commonwealth. It is the law of the place of shipment which regulates shippers and ship-owners, and what constitutes the law of the place of shipment depends upon the legislation of the States. As the honorable and learned member for Parkes has said, New South Wales has very little legislation bearing on the matter, and I hold that there should be one uniform law for Inter-State and external trade throughout Australia. I therefore hope that as we are passing this measure, with certain imperfections of drafting, the Prime Minister will consider the question of introducing a separate Bill, which will declare the extent to which the common law applies in Australia, and also deal with the statutory provisions. This is only a temporary measure, and in the circumstances I think we ought to accept the clause, in order to remove the anxiety of ship-owners.
– I was just going to say that I have no desire under this Bill to alter the law in any respect. I have no desire, for instance, under this Bill to make the law easier for the shipper or the shipowner; I simply wish to prevent persons contracting themselves out of the law - to prevent them making a law for themselves, contrary to the actual law,, under circumstances which really leave one party to the bargain no ‘option whatever. What I am anxious to do is to secure the passing of this clause, and to refrain from moving the adoption of the report until a later stage in the sitting. In the meantime I shall satisfy myself as to whether or not the Bill is really altering the existing law. If we are altering the law prejudicially to the shipper, I must say that I have no such object in view in proposing this legislation. I wish to leave the law as it is. I do not wish to touch it in favour of one side or the other. If honorable members will allow the clause to pass in these circumstances, I shall not move the adoption of the report at once, but will postpone the matter in order that I may have an opportunity to more fully consider the points raised by the honorable member for Hindmarsh and the honorable and learned member for Indi.
– I desire to urge one point which may be worthy of consideration. The clause contains a provision which is intended to safeguard ship-owners in the event of a ship becoming engaged in the preservation of life or property. Suppose that one vessel went to the assistance of another and took it in tow. Suppose, further that this had the effect of lengthening the voyage for perhaps a week, during which time certain perishable goods were damaged. The salving vessel would be entitled to substantial compensation, whereas the owners of the good’s spoiled by the extra time taken on the trip would apparently have no redress. I should like the Prime Minister to consider whether shippers should not in fairness be recouped for any loss incurred under such circumstances.
– I circulated an amendment embodying the main provisions contained in the third section of the Harter Act, and I wish to recognise the courtesy of the Prime Minister, who has reconsidered his amendment, with a view to arriving at some compromise which would prove satisfactory to those whose interests are chiefly affected. I took upon myself to communicate by telegram with the councils of the Chambers of Commerce in Sydney, Adelaide, and Brisbane, indicating to them the nature of the amendment proposed by the Prime Minister. They do not consider that it goes far enough. Whilst they are very anxious to see legislation of the character proposed in the Bill as introduced, they do not wish to inflict’ any injustice upon ship-owners, and I think that the Prime Minister is adopting a wise course in deferring the adoption of the report until he has had an opportunity for further consideration. I suggest “that the amendment should be printed and circulated, so that honorable members may have an opportunity of considering its effect. I understand that the Prime Minister is merely setting out the exemptions which ship-owners already possess under the common law, and I trust that the provision will eventually be shaped in such a way that it will prove equitable and satisfactory to all concerned.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 17th November, vide page 7138):
Clause 2 (Limitation of amount payable on death of children),
Upon which Mr. Liddell had moved by. way of amendment -
That the following words be added : - “ Provided that it shall be illegal to insure the life of a child under the age of two years.”
– When the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs left for Sydney he asked me to take charge of this Bill. Having done so at very short notice, I shall have to ask for the best consideration of honorable members, because I am not as familiar as is its sponsor with all its details. The honorable and learned member for Darling Downs re-, quested me to oppose the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hunter. If honorable members will assist me to pass the Bill as it stands I shall be obliged:
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 to 7 agreed to.
– Personally, I am glad that the clauses have been passed so expeditiously, because, since the Bill was formerly under discussion, I have had an opportunity of satisfying’ myself that the drafting is effective. I believe that some honorable members have expressed the opinion that the amounts for which the lives of children could be assured under the schedule are too high. In view of the fact that the object is merely to cover Burial expenses’ the amounts applying to some of the ages appear to be too high. Under this Bill we are asked to allow a maximum of ^45 for this purpose in cases where the child is between nine and ten years of age. In my opinion it would require to be a pretty “ swell “ funeral to cost that sum. It would be much better to allow the existing laws of assurance to apply generally, and to confine the provisions of this Bil] to burial expenses. It seems to me that in this Bill we are invited to deal jointly with two subjects - to make provision for burial expenses, and also for assurance. That, I think, is a mistake. I would further suggest a reduction of some of the larger amounts contained in this schedule. It seems to me that the figures contained in the last four lines might very reasonably be decreased. My object is to confine the operation of the Bill to its true purpose. In England the highest amount payable under similar legislation is ,£10. Why should we incorporate in this measure a provision, the effect of which may be to induce the assurance of children’s lives? Why offer, however unlikely it is to be operative, a temptation to parents, by allowing the sum of ,£45 to be payable upon the death of a child of ten years of age ?
– I may say that the figures contained in this schedule are based upon the American schedule, rather than upon the English one. The reason is that the expenses connected with a funeral, medical attendance, and medical comforts are very much higher in Australia than they are in the old country. Under the circumstances, it was felt proper to prescribe a scale which, whilst it would not be too high, would be liberal enough to cover all reasonable costs.
– Why does a child of six’ years of age require a funeral which will only cost £10, whilst a child of ten years of age needs one which will cost ^28 ?
– I understand that this schedule is intended to cover the cost of medical attendance in addition to funeral expenses. We know very well that whilst some parents will cut funeral expenses down to the lowest possible limit, others will do the very reverse. The figures contained in the schedule are intended to be of a reasonable character, without permitting of lavish expenditure. Regarding the other point which has been raised by the honorable and learned member for Angas, it has been found that the mortality amongst those who are assured is less than it is amongst those who are not assured. In my judgment, there is no need to apprehend that any murderous practices will be adopted for the sake of gaining the small amounts which would be obtainable under this Bill. Under the circumstances, I ask the honorable member not to press his intended amendment. I would further remind him that, in the absence of any law of this character, parents may assure the lives of their children for any amount they please, whereas the Bill regulates the sum for which they may assure them.
– I do not think that it would be wise to make any alteration in the schedule, because the amounts are kept very low up to the age when children incur any risk of being subjected to improper practices by their parents for the sake of obtaining money. Under this Bill an assurance can be effected upon a child’s life which will be payable either at death, or under its endowment provisions. Policies should be taken out just as they can be under existing legislation, and under the ordinary tables. I have often heard parents say that they would like to assure the lives of their children for small amounts which would be payable at sixteen or twenty years of age, so as to give them a start in life. This Bill should permit of that being done. I think that the schedule might very well be allowed to pass in its present form.
– I am entirely in sympathy with the objects of this Bill. I am inclined to think, however, that there is something in the contention of the honorable and learned member for Angas, that the amounts prescribed in the schedule are too high. I find that the English Act permits of the payment of a maximum sum of only £10, whereas in this Bill we propose to allow of the payment of four times that amount. I am of opinion that .£45 is much more than is required to defray burial expenses, and the cost of medical attendance, save, in exceptional cases. I should like to hear from the honorable member in charge of the Bill some reason as to why the scale prescribed is so much higher than is that contained in the English Act. I am quite satisfied that in this country child life has been sacrificed, although I do not think that the amounts stipulated in the Bill would induce anybody to indulge in such practices.
– When this Bill was previously under consideration I ventured to make a few observations upon it. Subsequently, it was pointed out to me that my remarks were rather “ farfetched,” and that they should not have been made, unless they could be supported by statistics. It has often been observed that statistics can be made to prove anything, and I believe that there is a good deal of truth in that statement. Nevertheless, I wish to place before the Committee as briefly as possible, what has occurred in the old country in connexion with the assurance of the lives of children. This matter was first brought under notice in 1889, as the result of the report of a Select Committee which investigated the position of friendly societies. In that year, a report was also issued by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in Liverpool, and there was a good deal of correspondence and leaderwriting in the columns of the Manchester Guardian. In support of my contention that the assurance of the lives of children of tender years has a tendency to induce what is practically child murder, I may mention that the journal in question states that in some places the infant mortality in England aggregated not less than 200 per 1,000 annually. In the Manchester Guardian it is stated that during the three years ended 1887 inquests were held upon 452 children, 182 of which were inquests upon children whose lives were assured. During the year ended September, 1887, inquests were held upon not less than 311 children, 157 of whom were assured, and ninety-five being infants under one year old who had been found dead in bed. Whilst this matter was under discussion, Mr. James Milson Rhodes, M.D., took the trouble lo go through the report of the Registrar-General. He found that that officer reported for the year 1900, that of 927,063 children bom, no fewer than 114,912 had died before reaching the age of one year. It would naturally be supposed that, with the generally improved sanitary conditions, the rate of infant mortality would decrease. These statistics, however, clearly .prove that it did not. The general death rate has decreased from 22 per 1,000 to i8!2 per i,000 but that reduction does not apply to infants. The mortality amongst child life to-day is as high as it was fifty years ago, namely, 154 per 1,000. No less than 50 per cent, of the children who are born never attain their first birthday. According to the report of Mr. William Wynne Westcott, M.B., Coroner for North-East London, during the past ten years 15,000 infants have died in England and Wales as the result of overlying. In the year 1900, there were 1,774 such deaths. In Liverpool, there were 143 cases of overlying out of 960 inquests, or more than one in seven cases. The death rate from this cause in England is shamefully high. In 1900, there were 615 such cases, in 1901 there were 511, and in 1902 the number was 588. Dr. Templeton, of Dundee, classified 258 deaths of infants from overlying, with this result as to age - Under one month, 62 deaths; from one to two months, 67 ; from two to three months, 66; from three to four months, 21; from four to five months, 16; from five to six months, 13; from six .to seven months, 5; others, 4. Many of these were infants who were found dead in -bed with adults, but these deaths were due’ to natural causes. About the same time, the Bishop of. Peterborough, who was interested in the matter, brought forward a Bill, dealing with it, in the House of Lords. In a speech which he delivered in support of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, he stated -
He hoped that the society would impress upon the Legislature the cruelty that was practised through the present system of child insurance.
I must apologize to the Committee for having occupied so much time, but as I had spoken upon the second reading of the Bill I thought it only right that I should endeavour to establish the contentions which I then put forward. I merely desire to show that the crime of infanticide undoubtedly exists in Great Britain. It is a crime which it is very difficult to prove. The ways of doing a young child to death are so many, and so simple, and the difficulty of proving the manner of its death is so great, that infanticide is -a. crime which it is very hard to bring to justice. Furthermore, the public inquests which are held on the cases that occur, serve to instruct others who wish to murder their children, as to the best means of doing so. I do not for a moment say that it is the working man who commits this kind of crime. If assistance is required, it is from the honest and’ industrious workman that the coroner is able to get it. The persons to whom this particular form of crime appeals are, not honest, hard-working men and women, but lazy and criminal individuals, and the fact that insurance agents travel round the country, day after day, and week after week, collecting doles of money, is a constant temptation to them. They see how easy it would be to exchange a perhaps sickly baby for a sum of money in hand. The insurance agents are exceedingly well paid - -I believe that they get from 20 per cent, to 40 per cent, of the money collected - and it is therefore to their interest to insure as many lives as they can. It is hard to see how the companies can profit by this business, though it must be remembered that many of the premiums are allowed to lapse, and that is so much clear gain. There is a danger, however, that companies which will not be so scrupulous as those now engaged in .the business may be encouraged to enter it. It appears to me strange that the British are the only people among whom the undertakers’ trade flourishes, and I therefore suggest to the Labour Party that it might be an excellent thing for them to advocate the nationalization of the burying industry. I ask the Committee, before finally agreeing to the Bill, to consider the matter very closely:
These little children appeal to us by reason of their very helplessness. If it were made impossible to insure children under the age of two years, a good deal of temptation would be removed from parents and guardians.
– I hope that no obstacle will be placed in the way of this very salutary and benevolent measure because of the fear that people may do away with their children to obtain paltry burial fees. Such a suggestion is a reflection on humanity. I am sure that the practice of infanticide does not exist, to any serious extent, at any rate, in Australia. Whatever distress we may have here, there is always bread for the children, and therefore there is not the temptation to destroy child-life which may exist in London and other British cities. I should be sorry if this or any other legislative body did anything to jeopardize the tender lives of children, but I am sure that the Bill will not have that effect. We mustbear in mind that the cost of doctor’s attendance in case of sickness, and undertaker’s fees for burial in case of death, is a very heavy tax upon struggling workpeople who are bringing up a family, and we should do everything that we can to help them. I think it would be better, however, to prevent the insurance of children under six months, instead of under three months of age, because dental affections, vaccination, and infantile complaints generally make the first six months of a child’s life, as statistics show, a very critical period; but I hope that we shall hear nothing further of this bogy of the danger of allowing children’s lives to be insured. The measure provides for a scientific system of life assurance, and I think contains sufficient safeguards. I hope that it will be speedily passed, and will be fruitful of good things.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Ordered - That the Bill be recommitted for the purpose of reconsidering clauses 2 and 6.
In Committee (Recommittal) :
Clause 2 -
A life assurance company may contract to pay on the death of a child …. any sum of mcney which …. does not exceed the amount specified in such schedule as payable on the death of the child between such ages.
– I move -
That the following words be added : - “ and every policy issued under and by virtue of the provisions of this section shall set forth that the total sum or sums recoverable on the death of any child as assurance moneys or other benefits from any one or more life assurance companies or friendly societies shall not exceed the amount so specified in such schedule.”
The object of the amendment is to safeguard, as far as possible, those amongst whom these policies may be popular. The Bill prevents life assurance companies from assuring the life of any particular child for more than the amounts mentioned in the schedule ; but the parents of a child may insure its life with two or three companies. We know that if it was thus assured for more than the amount mentioned in the schedule the surplus could not be recovered ; but the parents would be in the unfortunate position of having paid much heavier premiums than they need have paid. The amendment which I propose to move in clause 6 is consequential upon the present amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 6 -
Amendment (by Mr. Kelly) agreed to-
That the following paragraph be inserted in sub-clause (1) : - “(c) if a policy issued under and by virtue of the previsions of section two shall not set forth that the total sum or sums recoverable on the death of any child as assurance moneys or other benefits from any one or more life assurance companies or friendly societies shall not exceed the amountso specified in the schedule hereto.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments ; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 8th December (vide page 811 1) on motion by Mr. Deakin -
Inasmuch as every increase in trade between the mother country and the Colonies or any of them would be of mutual advantage commercially, while collectively, by multiplying their production, profitable employment, population, and exchanges, such increases must enhance the unity and power of the Empire, this House resolves that -
– As honorable members know, the subject that is embraced by the series of proposals moved by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, is one upon which the Government are unable, unhappily, to speak with a united voice One of the’ incidents of the fiscal truce which has enabled the. present Government , to come into office is that upon questions of this kind, Ministers shall preserve their independence. I therefore do not, upon the present occasion, intend to do more than express my own views. I hope that my honorable colleague, the Minister of Trade and Customs, to whose Department this subject more immediately relates, will favour the House with his views with the same freedom that I propose to claim for myself. I listened with very great pleasure and attention to the eloquent speech delivered by my honorable and learned friend, the member for Ballarat, in moving this motion. I think he showed a most praiseworthy desire to leave out of this debate as many of the controversial aspects of this question as he consistently could. As I understand his object, he is anxious at the present time to elicit the opinion of the Parliament upon the main principle involved in all these proposals for a new departure in fiscal policy.
– Hear, hear.
– I very much regret that this late period in the session does not give the honorable and learned member that scope for an exhaustive discussion of his proposals thatwe should like. In the first place I may say that no part of my honorable and learned friend’s speech gave me more lively satisfaction than did that which showed his keen perception of the value of commercial interchange. On that subject, I think every one who shares my views is heartily at one with him. Indeed, I believe that the main reason of the difficulties which have prevailed between free-traders and protectionists has chiefly arisen from the fact that we who believe in a policy of commercial freedom have the highest possible sense of the value of commercial interchange. If the principle of freedom of commercial interchange be a good one, as we believe it is, we must welcome with the most cordial satisfaction anything which seems to tend to a more clear appreciation of the value of commercial freedom - everything which seems to give that boon more and more freely to the people of the British Empire. One of the difficulties of this great subject, it appears to me - a difficulty which is already seen, and which will become acute if this project comes to a point - is that of reconciling the desire for commercial interchange with the desireto pursue a policy of protection to Australian industries. The two principles are absolutely in conflict. I notice that on every occasion upon which my protectionist friends affirm their belief in preferential trade they are careful to add a postscript to the effect that they must pay due regard to the interests of Australian industries. I think this question, especially in relation to the people of the mother country, is one which should be dealt with in a spirit of the utmost candour. I cannot conceive of anything more unjustifiable on the part of the selfgoverning parts of the Empire, which have deliberately adopted a policy hostile to the policy of the mother country, than is any encouragement of hope in the breasts of the British people that the people of Australia are prepared to receive the products of their industries more freely than before, if there be no real intention to carry out that policy, when we come to consider the terms of a specific agreement.
– Which there is not.
– I must leave my honorable friends,who represent the other side of the question, to answer for themselves; I cannot accept any statement from the honorable member for New England, as representing the views of my honorable friends on this question. But it is only fair to say that when the Protectionist Association of Victoria cabled to Mr. Chamberlain their warmest approval of his proposals, they were careful to inform him that they could not go with him to any length inconsistent with the due protection of Australian industries. And so, at the public meeting which was held at the Town Hall a few weeks ago, the resolutions adopted were drawn in the same guarded, yet candid, language. There is already upon the notice-paper of the House an amendment in the name of the honorable member for Hume, which is in the same direction. The honorable member for Hume proposes to add to paragraph 5 the words “ with due regard to protecting the industries of the Commonwealth.” That amendment is a perfectly proper one to place upon the business-paper in connexion with this matter. It is absolutely the duty, of the protectionists of Australia to speak with the utmost plainness upon this question. No one can respond more heartily than I do to the fervent appeal made by my honorable and learned friend to the spirit of brotherhood which happily prevails within the limits of the British Empire. I think that there can be no sort of difference between the honorable and learned member and those who support him, and honorable members who take the, view which I intend to express, on those great questions of intention, of good faith, which affirm our loyalty to the Empire, and our determination to preserve it at all hazards. I claim to be as anxious to promote the welfare and the best interests of the British Empire as is my honorable and learned friend. I believe that those who are not able to look as affectionately as he can do upon this proposed new departure are just as loyal, and are just as prepared to stand by the obligations which membership of the British Empire entails, as is any honorable member who is the most ardent believer in Mr. Chamberlain. Let us never introduce into those broad principles which link men of all classes and of every shade of political belief - let us never bring into such considerations as those - any narrow party distinctions. Let us give each other credit for an absolutely honest desire to do that which will best promote the welfare of the great Empire to which we belong. I start, therefore, from precisely the same point as does my honorable and learned friend. But the best consideration that I have been able to give to this matter shows me, first of all, that there are innumerable difficulties to be overcome before the policy can be adopted ; and, secondly, that it is a matter of the gravest doubt whether such a policy would conduce to the stability or the prosperity of the British Empire. I put it in two ways. In the first place, the project is one of the most difficult enterprises that has ever engaged the attention of statesmen; and, in the second, it is a matter of grave doubt whether the policy would be beneficial, if it were adopted. Again, in the interests of a candid perception of the position of affairs, I must refer to the situation in which this matter was placed at the Imperial Conference, in the year 1902. As honorable members will recollect, there was a Conference in London in, June and July, of 1902, at which the Com monwealth was represented, and at which the matter of preferential trade was discussed. Before it was considered, Mr. Chamberlain, then Secretary of State for the Colonies, and President of the Conference, put his views in the plainest possible terms. I wish to read one or two quotations from the declarations - which were studied, responsible declarations - made by that distinguished man, upon that memorable occasion. In the first place, I desire to read a sentence or two which, to my mind, give the real key to the motive for this new departure on the part of Mr. Chamberlain. Preferential trade is only one feature in his policy. In my. view, the motive and the ruling power in this policy is the desire to bring these self-governing States into the intimate responsibilities of the British Empire. That distinguished man, with a confession of doubt as to the fortunes of the Empire, which sounded strangely, coming from so buoyant and high a spirit, described Great Britain as staggering under the too vast orb of her fate. If this feeling on the part of that distinguished man be well-founded, if the burden of Empire is becoming too great for the mother country, then this appeal must mean that we are called upon to inaugurate an entirely new policy with reference to the relations between these self-governing States and the central authority. At this particular moment, it is well to recollect the fact that there was a preferential policy in Great Britain long ago; but it was a preferential policy worthy only of the narrow, selfish spirit which dominated the policy of England 100 years ago. It was a policy which discouraged in every possible way the legitimate freedom of the Colonies of the Empire to engage in the most ordinary operations of commerce. The policy of Great Britain, at that time was shaped so jealously and so tyrannically against the free instincts of the Colonies that it was impossible for any colonial merchant to import goods from any country in the world unless they were first landed on the shores of the United Kingdom.
– That was compulsory - there is no preference where there is compulsion.
– It was preference applied bv the over-ruling power to its own advantage. I think it was the most direct kind of preference; a kind of preference which you can manufacture for yourselves, and which involves the giving of nothing in exchange. I do not, however, wish to quarrel about mere phrases. I am merely referring to the historical fact that at one time the statesmen of England thought that the solidity of the Empire depended upon laws that restrained the freedom of the Colonies, which interfered with the ordinary operations of trade, and which compelled the intercourse of the Colonies with foreign nations to be conducted under the difficulties to which I have referred. In those days, England had Colonies which were held not by sentiments of affection but by the powers of control which she could exercise over them, just in the proportion that a more enlightened policy was adopted, under which England gave her Colonies the utmost freedom to carve out their own destinies for themselves, did she earn their affection, and afterwards the devotion of the people of the Empire. We must never forget that this loose system of relationship has made the solidity of the Empire a matter for marvel. I suppose that nowhere in the realms of fiction would any one be found bold enough to paint an Empire which would stand so loyally and closely together over all parts of the globe, whilst so free from control and from the domination of officialism. Yet the great spectacle which confronts us to-day is that, in spite of the liberty given to these self-governing parts of the Empire, even to the passing of legislation hostile to the mother country, even to prohibiting the importation of the manufactures of the mother country, which gave them their freedom - in spite of a liberty so generous and ample, there has grown up in the Empire a feeling of loyalty which is worth many armies.
– And all to our advantage, too.
– I heartily agree with my right honorable friend. We must begin by remembering that the stability of the British Empire was never greater than it is to-day, that its cohesion was never more firm than it is to-day, and that a grave responsibility rests upon those who wish to contract that freedom. I admit that mutual arrangements are in no sense an interference with freedom. I do not forget that distinction, but I would only make the observation that business arrangements between close relations do not always present the best method of preserving the peace and harmony of family life. I would only remark, in connexion with business bargains between those of the same flesh and blood and kith and kin, that when difficulties and quarrels do arise, they seem to be far more bitter and obstinate than those which occur between others who are not so closely related.
– And they are more farreaching in their consequences.
– I do not ask that too much weight should be attached to it, but one of the considerations that make me shrink from entering into close relations of a business character with the mother land, rests upon the fact that without such relations we have been able to develop to its highest pitch that sentiment of loyalty which is the true bond of union between self-governing peoples. I now want to come a little further down and to ask honorable members to recognise the great difference between the position of the people of these great self-governing States and that of the people of the mother country. When honorable members become impatient at the earnest appeals which are sent across the seas by the representatives of the masses of the British workers of to-day, they forget, perhaps, how different is the history of the masses in England from that of the masses in favoured lands like these. In favoured lands like these, the path of labour has been a noble and prosperous one. Bitter hardships may have been endured by the pioneers in the furthest wilds ; but the masses of our people to-day have grown up upon this rich continent under conditions of comfort which are riot often seen in the homes of the crowded populations of the old world. And when this call comes across the seas from the workers of England to the workers of Australia, let us remember that even the British Premier himself describes the horror of the taxation of food as a thing which has been burnt into the breast of labour by centuries of misery and starvation. Therefore, let us remember that whilst a young country like this, which has illimitable resources, a scattered population, and comparative pros- perity, can afford to make mistakes, and to try experiments, still to the crowded millions of the United Kingdom - 42,000,000 crowded within 120,000. square miles, - a mistake means much more. The margin between comfort and want in England is not so great as it is here. We must remember what is at stake, when the people are called upon to consider any departure from the policy which has made the people of England undoubtedly less miserable than they were before, which has raised the conditions of the masses during the past fifty years, not only by an enormous increase of wages, but by something which is as valuable to the working man, the enormous decrease in the prices of the necessaries of life. These two causes working together have elevated the manhood and womanhood of the United Kingdom from the conditions of misery under the policy that was fashionable fifty or sixty years ago, and we must give them credit for their anxiety to know what will be the result before they go back to the policy which brought that misery upon them. I suppose that if the Labour Party of Australia were to send a memorial from this Parliament to the people of England, they would expect it to be regarded as a fair representation of the wishes of the working classes of Australia. Then, when I say that all the members of the British Parliament who can be said to form the Labour Party, have unanimously represented the feeling of the workers of the mother country as being adverse to anything that would involve the taxation of food–
– And the majority of the labour organizations joined them in that.
– When I say that all the members of the House of Commons who may be specially singled out as direct representatives of labour, have joined together in that representation, it ought to be accepted as faithfully voicing the wishes of the bulk of the population. I do not wish to make too much of this, except to repeat that to the millions of the United Kingdom the smallest increase in the cost of living is a serious item. Then I cannot forget that behind this great policy, with its noble aims - no one disputes the nobility of the aims of the policy - behind this great policy, which aims at high Imperial results, we see the privileged powerful classes of England, we see the great landed interests of the mother country, the great manufacturing interests, the great financial interests of the city of
London, massive powers which represent everything but the people - we see these crouching behind Mr. Chamberlain. Is that in the interests of the Colonies? No. They are crouching behind him to renew, under the shelter of this bulwark of Imperial unity, the privileges and monopoly which worked so much mischief to the people of England in the days that are gone. I put these considerations only in order to show that the matter is not an easy one to decide, and that it is easy to understand the hesitancy of the British people under the circumstances of their history. Great as Mr. Chamberlain was, and deservedly is - he is a man for whom I personally have a high admiration - commanding as was his influence in the Cabinet of the nation, when he presented to that Cabinet a proposal to tax the food of the British people, even he had to retire from the Government. The strain was too great, the price to be paid for his adhesion was too high. Mr. Balfour, in his letter to Mr. Chamberlain, when the latter was retiring, referred to the question upon which I have laid stress. In writing to Mr. Chamberlain, in September of last year, with regard to his resignation from the Cabinet, he said, in one paragraph relating to the subject of the taxation of food -
There could be no more conclusive evidence tint in your judgment, as in mine, the exclusion of taxation on food from the party programme is, in existing circumstances, the course best fitted practically to further the cause of fiscal reform.
That was the point >at which the rock split, the taxation of food. In choosing between Mr. Chamberlain and his policy of taxation of food, even the Government that represents the landlords of England had to pause.
– There was something more encouraging to Mr. Chamberlain in that letter.
– That may be. I am dealing with one point, the taxation of food. I do not accuse Mr. Balfour, in his reiterated declarations that the policy of the Government did not include taxation upon food, of an intention to bring about the taxation of food. In the course of his speech at Sheffield, upon the 1st of October last, Mr. Balfour - he had his party before him, and the occasion was a very momentous one - said -
I am, therefore, distinctly of opinion - I am speaking here as one who is bound to give advice to a great party on the policy which they should regard as their official policy, and as the best results of my reflections I am bound to ask you to adopt the conclusion that a tax on food is not, with public opinion in the state in which we now find it, within the limits of practical politics. So much for the colonial branch of the question. … I believe the country will not tolerate a tax on food.
Now, as Ave know, a system of preferential trade which does not include British taxes upon food is not one that can commend itself to the Australian Colonies. Later on, in the House of Commons, upon the 18th of May of this year, Mr. Balfour said - and honorable members must understand that at present I am referring only to this one topic -
Discussions like this upon a question’ not before the House during the present session, not to be before the House in the next session, not to be before this House in any session at’ all, should be in the interests of parliamentary government as a whole, left on one side.
Upon the same date he also stated -
I can only assure my noble friend that the policy, which is commonly described as the Sherfield policy, is still my policy. On the ist August, 1904, in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister made the following statement: -
Then I am asked whether I think a tax ought to be put on for any purpose of colonial preference ?
That is putting the position in a broad way.
I have expressed my view in the clearest language on that point, and I see no reason for altering it. That reason is not founded, as I understand the reason of some of my honorable friends is, upon some immutable scientific and economic ground. It is based upon the fact that, I believe, for historic reasons, there is a feeling about all taxation of food, however insignificant - or, at all events, all taxation of wheat, because we tax food already - altogether in excess of any damage which a small tax is likely to produce. I have expressed that view over and over again.
Here we find the Prime Minister of England - who refused to adopt Mr. Chamberlain’s policy of colonial preference, and who had to accept Mr. Chamberlain’s resignation because he declined to adopt it - day after day, and month after month, asserting the fixed attitude of the Government and of the British people with reference to that class of taxation. Now I come to Mr. Chamberlain, and I think that he put before the Conference of Premiers in a very frank way what he means by a “bargain “ upon this subject. Here, however, we must pause. I would point out that there is a broad distinction to be drawn between a voluntary preference, granted by a loyal self-governing State to the profit of Great Britain, and a business bargain, and it is to the credit of Canada that she gave a voluntary preference - and a liberal one - to the mother country, without making any request for a preference in return.
– She is making that request now, though.
– It may De that one of the tendencies of holding out these glittering inducements is to gain development, not in a spirit of loyalty t but in a spirit of bargaining.
– Can anybody doubt that Canada expected to receive reciprocal treatment?
– If my honorable friend will excuse me for saying so, I cannot reply tointerjections without unduly prolonging my speech. The Conference of Premiers of the self-governing States, which was held in 7902, took up a generous attitude. It pledged itself to give this voluntary preference to the people of England. Whilst it may not astonish those honorable members who have read its conclusions, it must come with a shock of surprise to some - in view of the stress which is laid upon the aspect of bargaining, of giving something to gain something - to learn that the representative of the Commonwealth, and the representatives of the other self-governing States of the Empire, absolutely resolved! that a substantial preference should be given to the mother country as a voluntary act, and that they merely expressed a hope that the mother country would see her way to adopt a reciprocal policy. Would it not be a grand starting point for this policy of preferential trade, if, in order to show our spirit of loyalty to and affection for the mother country, which we have shut out of our ports for thirty years past - and would 4t not be a proof of generosity and loyalty worth having - if we proposed to reduce our taxes in favour of. the United Kingdom? Of course, there comes a point at which we have to choose, and Mr. Chamberlain, to his credit, expressed himself upon that point with the utmost clearness. After referring to the community of sacrifice, to which I have already alluded, he spoke with great candour upon this subject of preferential trade. He referred to the Canadian exper]ence as a very disappointing one. He thanked Canada for her action, but referred to her experience as very disappointing. In this connexion, he made use of the following observations: -
The net result which I desire to impress upon you is that in spite of the preference which Canada has given us, their tariff has pressed, and still presses, with the greatest severity upon its best customer.
A preference which does not assist a man. is not worth much.
– It has assisted British trade in Canada.
– We all attach so much weight to what Mr. Chamberlain says, that I feel I am justified in quoting these observations. But, of course, it must be remembered that they were made in 1902.
– And were replied to.
– Mn Chamberlain continues - and has favoured the foreigner, who is constantly doing his best to shut out her goods.
Now I come to something which is still more explicit -
The very valuable experience which we have derived from the history of the Canadian Tariff shows that while we may most readily and most gracefully accept from you any preference which you may be willing voluntarily to accord us-
– To whom were those remarks addressed?
– They were addressed to the Premiers of the self-governing States, who met in Conference in London in 1902. Mr. Chamberlain then offered his grateful acknowledgments for the preferences which had already been granted by Canada, and for’ any preferences which might be voluntarily granted to the goods of the mother country. But he continued -
We cannot bargain with you for it; we cannot pay for it unless you go much further and enable us to enter your home market on terms of greater equality.
One does not need to ask an eminent statesman to express those terms. If any man of the slightest business knowledge had to deal with this problem, is it likely that he would be satisfied with a bargain which gave him nothing but expressions of loyalty ?
– He qualifies that statement.
– We all qualify everything. I am merely . reading what Mr. Chamberlain said. He continued -
So long as a preferential Tariff, even a munificent preference-
– The right honorable gentleman has missed a sentence.
– If I have, I must ask the indulgence of honorable members, because, if I were to quote every word of a speech which extends over twelve pages of printed matter, I should occupy too much time. I hope that the honorable and learned member for Corio will give me credit for simply desiring to put Mr. Chamberlain’s views fairly before the House. I repeat that Mr. Chamberlain said : -
So long as a preferential Tariff, even a munificent preference-, is still sufficiently protective to exclude us altogether, or nearly so, from your markets, it is no satisfaction to us that you have imposed even greater disability upon the same goods if they come from foreign markets.
I wish to point out - and’ I think I fairly may - that there is no difficulty in the way of an ardent and sincere protectionist raising the duties upon articles of foreign export. That is a thorough protectionist policy, which has nothing to do with the stability of the British Empire, although it has a great deal to do with the increased advantage which is given to the colonial manufacturer. In the fourth paragraph of his motion, the honorable and learned member for Ballarat invites me to do a thing which has some significance. That paragraph states -
The Prime Minister be invited to obtain all data necessary for the preparation of a measure granting a preference to British imports into Australia which compete solely with imports from foreign countries.
My idea of the range of Australian industries is not so small that I do not know that’ already - perhaps only to a small extent - we have industries in the paths of manufacture which represent every great industry in the United Kingdom to-day. If honorable members will pick out the thirteen lines upon which the heaviest duties are levied, they will not find one line which does not represent an Australian industry.
– Except iron.
– But the honorable member must recollect that the little plant which is just struggling out of the ground should not be trampled upon by the protectionist. The theory of protection is that in young countries, whilst industries are small and struggling, protection is necessary. If my protectionist friends will abandon that theory, and declare their willingness to stamp out those industries for the benefit of British manufacturers, I should like to hear them say so. It would mark a great advance or a great retreat, because, in all young countries, manufacturing industries have small beginnings. The great industries of the future will have only small beginnings, and one of the difficulties of my honorable friends is that they must either decree the extinction of the small, struggling manufacturing industries of Australia, or they must refrain from giving ‘ a substantial entrance for British manufactures into Australia. I should like to point out that when we talk of the Empire we should bear in mind what that expression realty means. The British Empire has sixty countries within its bounds. It contains races of every colour. It has 11,500,000 square miles of territory either annexed or under its protection, and one of the secrets of this call of distress from the mother country - perhaps it is a real necessity - comes from the enormous increase in her naval and military expenditure. Let us refer for a moment to the cost of maintaining the Navy and Army of the mother country during the past twenty years. During the financial year 1903-4, the total amount contributed by the British taxpayer to naval and military expenditure was ^69,000,000. In fifteen years - that is, down to 1898-9 - it had increased by ^15,000,000. That was a large increase. But during the subsequent five years there was a further increase of ,£’25,000,000 in the annual expenditure of the mother country for defence. That is to say, the total twenty years ago was ^29,000,000, the total now is ^69,000,000, an increase of ^40,000,000 in twenty years. I am not going to deal so lightly with the vast problems of Imperial defence as to suggest that that expenditure is not necessary. But I wish to say that the genesis of this agitation set going by Mr. Chamberlain rests in the enormous pressure of this naval and military expenditure. I cannot wonder at the people of the mother country looking to her children for further help. Some people talk of this ,£200,000 that we give to the British Navy as a magnificent display of Australian generosity. I say that we are bound to look our responsibilities to the British Empire more squarely in the face. But do not let us mix up two different things. Do not let us talk about some financial bargain, in order, in some indirect way, which may fail, which may never come to pass, to recognise the honest liabilities under which we stand. Have not the events of the past few years shown us, as
Ave never saw before, .that the day will come, and come soon, when Ave shall need to lean upon no other power? I am sure that, every man who is worthy of the name of Australian must long for the time when AAre shall be able to face the mightiest power on earth. But, looking at the armed nations as they stand to-day, looking at the policy which we have honestly and fairly adopted, we must not forget that there is only one thing in these beginnings of ours which stands between us and invasion, and that is the British flag. I am prepared to go a great way to recognise our obligations to the mother country. If the people of the mother country come to think that this policy of preferential trade will meet in some way the obligations that Ave owe to them, I wish to offer no sort of serious difficulty. The crux of the situation does not lie here; it lies there. It is because I honestly and earnestly believe that this new departure, instead of strengthening the pillars of Empire, instead of promoting the prosperity of the millions of England, Ireland, and Scotland, will do something else, that I am opposed to it.
– That is not Mr. Balfour’s opinion.
– I, with great respect, still venture to retain my own opinion.
– The desire is to know the opinion of the Australian people.
– May I suggest to my honorable and learned friend that there is a consensus of opinion in both the Conservative and Liberal circles of England, that the next general elections will not give an answer favorable to Mr. Chamberlain. I think that that distinguished gentleman admits it himself.
– The issue will be rather complicated, from what we can learn.
– The education question may have something to do Avith the result of the elections there.
– I admit’ it. Perhaps this is the counter-complication. Since these remarks have been made, I may be allowed to observe that there is a wonderful attraction about a loyal policy. I believe, and I honestly admit, that a majority of the electors of Australia at the last elections pronounced themselves to be in favour, in the abstract, of a policy of preferential trade. I think that it is only fair that I should honestly make that admission. But I believe that the greatest mass were anxious simply to do anything which the mother country thought would help her. I believe that a large number more were fascinated by the attractive prospect of an enormous market for Australian produce, with a fence raised against other competitors.
– A very good thing, too.
– A large number of protectionists were also fascinated with the prospect, because they did not think arrangements would be so adjusted as to seriously injure the protected interests of Australia.
– All protectionists are not in favour of it.
– I admit that. I am speaking only of the mass. I know of several notable exceptions. I am dealing with what appears to me to have been the manifestation of public opinion. But all the great leaders of Australian opinion who have advocated this cause are protectionists.
– By no means.
– I am very glad to hear that it is not so. The call to help the mother country sounds pleasantly in any man’s ears. .The question is more with my protectionist friends than with me: Will they, listening to this wail of British industries, that they are debarred by our policy from entering Australian markets, open those markets to British manufacturers? If nothing is to be given in return, we stand face to face with a spectacle which does not excite any kind of admiration. We know from a high authority in Melbourne that the agricultural interests of England are in a state of great distress. We have been told, in the columns of the leading protectionist journal here, . in the most violent language, which seemed almost to evince a spirit of satisfaction, that British agriculture is in its last extremities. Is Australian agriculture in this new Continent going to appeal for a preference which will add to the miseries of the struggling farmers of England?
– How will it do that?
– Do not honorable members think that the farmers of Great Britain are entitled to a little fence against the farmers of big young countries which shut out the manufactures of Great Britain? What a novel bargain this is ! You may open your markets to English agriculture. It is very generous of you, but it does not count. The English farmer does not export to Australia, and if he did, the price of land and other conditions would make the bargain a hopeless one. The next proposition is this - and it is right that the people of
Australia should know it - “ You give our farmers a benefit, and we will give your manufacturers a benefit.” Surely it cannot be, “You give our farmers a benefit, and we will give your manufacturers nothing.” It is well that, in dealing with these questions, we should get close to the real issues involved. If those who favour preferential trade, if those who ask for an opening for their produce in the markets of England, are willing to give substantial benefits in return, we may differ about the policy, but we admire its fairness. But if there is any attempt to make a bargain in which an admittedly great advantage is to be given to us, without any return, I think that we are embarking on an appeal to the mother country which will fail. There is one of two things which we can do. We can say to the mother country, “We will give you a preference, and will ask nothing in return ;” or we can say to the mother country, “ We will give you a preference, and we will ask something in return.” But the condition in either case is that we give the mother country a preference. It is not that we promise a preference and do not give it. Between loyal brethren, no advantages of that sort, are taken. We are all speaking as loyal subjects. We wish to be absolutely plain, fair, and candid. I ask, will the protectionists of Australia send the message across the seas, “ If you will give us an advantage for our great producing industries, we will open our markets to your great British manufactures “ ? That is the question which has to be solved first. Mere resolutions and mere promises will not do much. I wish it to be distinctly understood that, whilst I question the advantage of any of these arrangements, so far as Great Britain is concerned, I do not wish to speak in the same way with reference to the advantage which may come to the Australian producers from any such scheme. I do not wish for a moment to underrate what might be the substantial advantage to the Australian producers of some such arrangement with the mother country. But before the mother country can be expected to go back upon that great policy of hers, some substantial offer must be made, and the choice must be made between the manufacturers in the town and the producers in the country. Any preference by way of increased duties on the foreigners in regard to articles which we do not manufacture would not appeal to business men in England. Our industries may be small, but they cover pretty well the whole area of British manufactures. Where does the unity of the Empire come in, unless there are uniform arrangements made through the whole circle of the Empire? There is one grand benefit and advantage in our simple arrangements, such as they are - that they have some uniformity. There is the basis of a great principle underlying this seeming disregard of ordinary conditions. There is the vital principle of each self-governing part of the Empire maintaining its perfect independence. That is the principle which is wrought out of these wonders of Imperial unity. There might be something substantial in this vision of Imperial unity, if you could bring, about some such grand conception as free-trade within the British Empire. If you could encircle the whole of this marvellous Empire with some uniform system, there would be Imperial unity. But if the circle is broken, if there is one arrangement here and another there, instead of union and unity you have chaos. Take the great country of India, which is part of the Empire. We have 400,000,000 people under the supremacy of the British Crown, 380,000,000 of whom are to-day under a practically free-trade policy, while only 20,000,000 are under protective laws. Honorable members who talk of the Empire seem sometimes to feel as if there were a great protectionist element in it, and that only a slight connecting link was required to complete the circle. But out of 400,000,000 only 20,000,000 British subjects live under protective laws.
– How many of the 400,000,000 are niggers?
– I admit that many of them are; but I think that they are still human beings.
– They are not much good as consumers.
– They have no voice, at any rate.
– I am saying only, most modestly, that they are subjects of the King. I hope that the phrase is not unnecessarily elevating to these unfortunate people.
– :How many are voters ?
– I mentioned that fact merely to show the difficulties with which we nave to contend. But there is another great difficulty. India has a Tariff of a verv low revenue grade.. One would* .think from all that we have heard that the foreigner must have been dumping enormous quantities of foreign good’s into India where there is no protective barrier, and no preference, and that the mother country must have been suffering seriously. Instead of that, the mother country sends to India about twice as much as she takes from her, and the foreign nations take from “India about twice as much as they sell to her. Here is a remarkable set of circumstances. It seems to go quite against the grain of the picture that is so often presented to us - that in the absence of preference to the mother country, British trade is going to the dogs. The latest figures that I have been able to obtain with reference to the trade of India show that the foreigners - and I am including the foreign nations generally - sell to India ^26,500,000 worth of goods every year, and buy ^68,000,000 worth of her produce.
– A part of this bargain would be that the goods of India would be given a preference in Australia.
– Yes, India is a part of the Empire.
– That is a point for the protectionists to consider.
– It is. The United Kingdom sells .£47,500,000 worth of goods to India every year, as against £26,000,000 worth sold by foreign nations, while the value of the goods that she buys from India is enormously less than is the value of those which she sends there. I wish to point this out so that honorable members will be able to understand why the Government of India, who were specially asked to report upon these proposals, reported strongly against them. They said that the whole fabric of their trade would be shattered if foreign nations were invited to enter upon a policy of hostility. I mention the position of India as indicating one of the difficulties of Imperial unity in the way of trade; there are many other difficulties to which I need not refer. When the people of England are anxious about the cost of their means of subsistence that are obtained from abroad, what is the cry? Once the cry was, “ Get your food supplies within the Empire, and you will be safer in time of war.” There is nothing in that.
– There is a good deal in it.
– I was going to suggest that the seas would have to be traversed by ships carrying Australian food just as they would have to be traversed by ships carrying food from Russia or the United States.
If there is any law which imperils the conveyance of food to England in time of war, it would apply to colonial food sent in British ships, just as much as it would apply to American food sent to Great Britain in other vessels.
– But other countries might refuse to supply it.
– That is quite true; but that is a condition of things which has not yet created much inconvenience in the world’s commerce.
– It is at present causing some inconvenience at Port Arthur.
– Let me mention another aspect of this question, which to my mind shows a want of candour, and appeals to the meanest feelings of the British people. Do honorable members observe how Mr. Chamberlain and others always bring forward Germany as an object for public execration - although Germany takes nearly as much from Great Britain as she sells to her - while there is not a word about the United States of America. which is the arch-offender. The United States have built up a Tariff wall which is intended to absolutely exclude the products of England and yet they sell ^130,000,000 worth of raw material to England every year. The difference in trade between the United States and Great Britain is a difference between about ^130,000,000 worth of American produce purchased by Englishmen, and ^30,000,000 of British produce sent across the seas to America. Is it not a wonder that there is not sufficient candour on the part of the advocates of this policy to induce them to point to the United States as the arch-example of danger to British commerce? And yet, do we not know that the gigantic deal by the Americans with the people of England is one of the greatest securities for the preservation of the grandest link the Anglo-Saxon race has ever seen? I suppose no candid man will say that the friendship of the United States is not of more importance to Great Britain than is the enmity of all the rest of the world put together. I do not wonder that none of these attacks are made upon the United States. If we consider this matter, we are brought face to face with the point that the first, and the most serious sufferer by the new departure, would be the greatest friend England has, or ever wants to have. I do not say that she does not richly deserve to be punished; but in the management of that complicated marvel, the British Empire, the British Government have anxieties enough, and dangers enough ahead of them without cutting into the financial susceptibilities of the great American people. It is not sympathy for the American dealer that appeals to me; it is sympathy with the people of the mother country. Is not the enormous importance of the problem affecting food brought home with greater force to us when we remember that if this country were peopled as densely as is the United Kingdom, we should have to feed and clothe every day 1,000,000.000 of the human race; that, if Canada were peopled as densely as the mother country is, she would have to clothe and feed every day 1,285,000,000 of human beings, and that the United States1, in the same circumstances would have to clothe and’ feed every day 1,019,000,000 of human beings? When we think of the enormous pressure of human want upon that small speck of earth, as compared with the vast territory of these young nations, cannot we feel an emotion of sympathy with the anxieties of those crowded millions? Surely their struggles for subsistence and for decency in their homes is already bitter enough ? I am happy to think that, bitter as the struggle is, it is not half so bad as it was when the destinies of England were under an artificial fiscal policy. One little fact will, perhaps, help to put the mother country in a better light. I can give the figures only for England and Wales; but out of a population of 31.500,000 in England and Wales in 1903, there were only 106,000 ablebodied paupers.
– But there were 12,000,000 on the line of semi-starvation.
– Does not that prove what I am saying?
– I am quoting it as against the statement just made by the right honorable gentleman. It shows that the free-trade policy has not been such a huge success in Great Britain.
– What policy could ‘be a huge success in a country where there are 41,000,000 people on 121,000 square miles of land? May I point out that, after England had been enjoying the most lavish dose of protectionist nourishment the world has ever seen - when the population of England and Wales was 19,000,000, instead of 31,500,000 - there were 30.000 more able-bodied paupers there than there are to-day. In the year 1854 - after the free-trade period had just been entered upon-
– That was eight years after the corn duties had been repealed.
– But they formed only a part of the policy ; it took a long time to bring down the great policy of protection in England.
– The figures relating to paupers were higher after the duties were repealed than they were before.
– I merely wish to put the facts.
– What I have stated is a fact.
– If the honorable member glances at the statistics for the last twenty years he will find that the number of ablebodied paupers is infinitely less than it ever was.
– Some years elapsed after the introduction of the free-trade policy before the numbers decreased.
– I simply wish my honorable friends to understand the broad fact that although 12,000,000 persons are said to be just on the brink of want in England, there are only 106,000 able-bodied paupers out of 31,500,000 people in England and Wales. I am sure not one of us is sorry to hear that. In 1854, however, there were 135,000 able-bodied paupers, although the population of England and Wales was then only 19,000,000.
– That was during the freetrade regime.
– England was just beginning to recover from a rather staggering dose of the other policy.
– It was eight years after the repeal of the corn laws.
– Only a statistician would make that remark. The position was much worse before 1854.
– Then the Prime Minister should quote the right figures.
– The only available book in the library to which I was able to refer went back no further than 1854.
– At all events, under free-trade the position is very much better.
– The total number of persons in receipt of charitable relief last year - excluding able-bodied paupers who could work, but could not obtain employment, but including the poor and infirm, who could not work if work were obtainable - was 833,000, as against 864,000 souls, with a population of 19,000,000 in 1854. I wish now to come to the trade between the mother country and Australia. The total imports and exports of Australia represent £86,000,000. Of that trade the United Kingdom has £40,000,000 worth, and British Possessions have £20,000,000 worth. It will thus be seen that of our total trade of £86,000,000, £60,000,000 is done with countries within the Empire. That does not look as if the Empire had not a fairly good grasp of our trade. We must remember that there is an enormous number of things which we cannot obtain, at all events very easily, within the British Empire.
– Will the right honorable gentleman give the separate figures relating to imports and exports?
– We import £24,800,000 worth of goods from the rest of the British Empire, and we send out to them j£,35>5°°>00° worth.. Do not let us think that we are giving away anything. This is simply the movement of trade. We send out £11,000,000 worth more than we take from the rest of the Empire, but with reference to the world at large, we import £13,000,000 worth of goods, and send out £12,700,000 worth.
– Where did the right honorable gentleman obtain his statistics?
– The figures relate to the British Empire, not to Great Britain alone.
– I mentioned that. These figures, which are to be found in Coghlan, and are the latest available, were obtained for me by my secretary. With reference to the foreign trade, it will be seen that we practically sell to as much as we buy from foreign countries. I do not attach much importance to these figures of trade. The mysteries of commerce are so varied that it does not follow that, because a certain article goes to a certain country, that country buys it. The mere sending of it there may be the result of operations in England, or in some other country at the other end of the world in exchange for trade which never came here. I am merely giving a broad outline, which may afford us some little clue. Speaking generally, instead of the foreigner dumping down his goods In Australia, and ‘taking nothing away, he takes as much as he sends.
– He takes a great quantity of wool. .
– More Australian wool is consumed in foreign countries than in Great Britain herself. I desire only to put a few of these considerations to honorable members.
The fifth paragraph of the motion is to the effect that the Prime Minister is authorized to offer a preference in return for a preference. It is only right to point out what the attitude of the Imperial Government is. It would be perfectly idle for me to offer a preference to the Imperial Government when they say that they absolutely repudiate the policy of preference. The Prime Minister of England has made that position absolutely clear. His statement is, “ We decline to submit the policy of colonial preference to the British people at the next election. We stand on the policy of retaliation.” May I suggest that under the head of retaliation it might be proposed to proceed even so far as to penalize British communities which raise duties against the British manufacturer. We cannot separate ourselves from Germany and other countries that raise duties upon British products. I am not questioning the policy of Great Britain. That is a matter for the people to settle for themselves. I am merely speaking of the fact that, under the policy of Mr. Balfour, retaliation might be directed even against British self-governing States, although he would not be mad enough to so apply it. The policy of Great Britain towards her Colonies is proverbially generous. The present policy of the British Government is not to impose any taxes upon food, and not to enter into any preferential trade arrangements with the Colonies, but, after the next general elections, if they survive
– They will not survive.
– Nearly every one admits that they will not survive, but, if they do survive, they propose to hold a Conference of representatives of different parts of the Empire. In point of time,, that means that there cannot be an election for at least a year to come. That election may prove fatal to these projects altogether, in which case it will be idle to talk of preference. At the very earliest the election cannot take place for a year, and even the Conference is contingent upon the result of the election. I wish to say at once that I am thoroughly in favour of Mr. Balfour’s idea of a Conference, and of the representatives going to that Conference’ with a perfectly open mind. No man, if he has studied them as long as I have, can avoid having convictions upon these matters; but I feel that, however strong our own views may be, we ought always to be in a frame of mind, if we go into Conference, to listen with the greatest respect to the views of others. Therefore, so far as I am. concerned, I see no difficulty in the way of carrying out what I conceive to be the grand project of thoroughly threshing out these matters in the light of the combined wisdom of the representatives of the British Empire. If the British people are in favour of preference, my great objection . to it will cease. I do not profess to be so wise that my views are of more weight than the decision of the majority of the electors of Great Britain. If they are prepared for this policy of preference, and are satisfied that it will be a good thing for the mother country - I do not suppose that w2 want it if it will be a bad thing, for our loyalty would not lose itself so far as that is concerned - we should approach the matter in a generous spirit. If we are to bargain with the mother country, we should do so in a generous spirit. We should remember all the obligations we are under to her, and we should desire to give substantial preference in return for substantial preference. I therefore welcome the amendment of the honorable member for Hume. It will afford a straightforward test of the application of the principle. I do not complain of the amendment being moved, because it will, better than all the speeches in the world, enable the people of the mother country to understand what we really mean by this proposal. I am not complaining of it because I am not a protectionist. I quite enter into the opposite views of my honorable friends, and I am not reproaching them. I might have cause to do so if they sacrificed the young industries which have been brought into existence by their policy. I conceive that the responsibility of the protectionists to the- young industries that have been brought into being by their policy is a great and serious one. But let us be candid. Let it be known - as the ‘honorable member for Hume invites us to say - that whilst we are willing to grant preference in every possible way, the protectionists of Australia do not believe in any sacrifice of the Australian manufacturing industries.
– Not only the Australian manufacturing industries, but any other industries.
– I quite accept that. I think that the manufacturing industries are most in danger. I do not think that the wheatgrowing or bacon-producing industries will be exposed to any serious risks, although they may be. As honorable members know,
I believe in a revenue Tariff, and if we had such a Tariff at present the mother country would have no grievance against us. Every country recognises the right of every other country to raise revenue, without any affectation of hostility. If this concession is to be made upon the basis of a protectionist Tariff I am prepared that it shall be substantial, and that we shall, as nearly as possible, apply revenue duties only to the products of the mother country. If the arrangement entered into is satisfactory, so far as our staple products are concerned, I shall be the last one to deny that it will have a very serious bearing upon the agricultural industries of Australia. The English marker is magnificent. It is one of the marvels of that little, island that, with all its infatuation regarding defenceless ports, and in spite of its rapid march along the road to national ruin, it is the one market which all the nations of the world strive to reach, the one market which regulates values all over the world. The flash of a few words on the cable across the seas will raise or lower the prices of the staple commodities of mankind ; that is, if they flash from London and not from any other part of the world. That is the mighty power that England has, and I do not for a moment deny that if she uses it in the interests of the Colonies some of them, at any rate, must derive most substantial benefits. So far as I am concerned, I believe this British Empire is worth preserving. I believe thoroughly in the grandeur of this great heritage which has been handed down to us by our forefathers, and is consecrated by so many glorious memories of genius, heroism, suffering, and triumph. And, although this great Empire may have been won in the dark ages by the force of arms and maintained by fear, I rejoice in the knowledge that right round the vast circle of its great possessions there is no race subject to the King to-day which is deprived df the rich and manifold blessings of peaceful and just rule. I have no ambition stronger than to join with those who would hand down this Imperial trust to our descendants untarnished and invincible, an ever-increasing source of safety and happiness to our own people and to all nations.
– It was not my intention to take part in this discussion, but it has been suggested to me that if I and other protectionist members of the Government remained absolutely silent on the present occasion misapprehension might arise outside. I do not think that honorable members would be misled, but members of the public might be under a misapprehension, inasmuch as it might be thought that my honorable friend the Prime Minister spoke on this question for the whole of the Cabinet. Now, whilst I believe that the greater number of the problems that confront this Parliament, and the greater number of the questions with which we have to deal within the next two years, can be successfully grappled with by a coalition Government, I nevertheless wish it to be distinctly understood that with regard to the fiscal question we have agreed to differ. I may say - and I think I speak for the other protectionist members of the Government - that I am thoroughly in accord with the views expressed in the magnificent speech delivered last week by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. I regard that speech as one of his greatest efforts, and I think that in saying that I bestow upon him one of the highest meeds of praise.
An Honorable Member. - They were both good speeches.
– Yes, the, speech delivered by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, and that to which we have just listened from the Prime Minister, were magnificent deliverances. I do not for one moment wish it to be understood that the speech of the Prime Minister is in any way inferior to that of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. My honorable colleague dealt with the matter in that masterly mariner that characterizes all his great utterances, and whilst I differ materially with him upon the fiscal aspects of the case, I am prepared to admit that no one can more effectively put forward his side of the question.
– One was in the clouds, and the other was on bed-rock.
– I believe that the honorable and learned member for Ballarat purposely refrained from raising the contentious element. He placed the” question in a light in which it might reasonably be approached by every moderate free-trader, as well as by protectionists. The Prime Minister pointed out the great danger to the British people of departing to the slightest extent from that policy which has done so much to increase wages, and to reduce the cost of living during the last halfcentury. ‘I would, however, ask) him, whilst referring to the progress made by
Great Britain under free-trade, to take a glance at the progress made during the same period by the great protectionist nations. Fortunately, I found in my pocket some old statistics that exactly suit the present occasion. Mulhall tells us that from. 1840 to 1888 there was a considerable increase in the expenditure per inhabitant in Great Britain. We know, of course, that the increased expenditure in a country depends upon the increased earnings of the people. .1 could give both sides, but I wish to deal only with the aspect of the question that was referred to by the Prime Minister. Mulhall sas that during these forty-eight years the expenditure per inhabitant in Great Britain increased by 20 per cent. The increased expenditure of France under a protective policy was 147 per cent.
– From what base does Mulhall start?
– He puts it in this way. For every ,£100 expended in Great Britain in 1840, ;£i20 was spent in 1888, and for every ,£100 expended in France in 1840, £247 was spent in 1888. Similarly, for every ,£100 spent in Germany in 1840, £360 was expended in 1888, or an increase of 260 per cent., compared with Great Britain’s increase of 20 per cent. In the United States, for every ,£100 expended in 1840, ,£330 was spent in 1888 - an increase of 230 per cent.
– My honorable friend is not advising Great Britain to become a protectionist country?
– I am replying to the statements of the Prime Minister. The right honorable gentleman put his side of the question so cleverly that unless the other side be presented, people will naturally assume that the protectionist nations of the world have not progressed in the same ratio as has Great Britain. I am endeavouring to prove that the protectionist nations of the earth have progressed infinitely more rapidly than has Great Britain, and I am sure that I should be the last to say a disparaging word of the mother country. Nobody in Australia is more loyal to Great Britain than I am. With regard to manufactures, what do we find? That during the 300 years in which Great Britain pursued a protective policy, she distanced all competitors - distanced the whole world - so much so, that it was confidently predicted that in a very few years she would become the great workshop of the universe. But what was the result under a free-trade policy? I admit that the manufactures of Great Britain made substantial progress under that policy, but her progress was as nothing compared with that which was made by the great protectionist nations of the earth. During the first half-century after Great Britain adopted a free-trade policy, Germany increased her manufactures by considerably more than double the rate of the former. That is a very substantial difference. In the same period the United States increased her manufactures ninefold more than did Great Britain - an increase of more than 900 per cent.
– The Minister should recollect that America has an area of 3,000,000 square miles, as compared with Great Britain’s 120,000 square miles.
– I am speaking only of her manufactures. When I come to deal with the question of production, the picture presented is, I am sorry to say, a very different one. Instead of Great Britain making progress in her primary productions under a free-trade policy, those productions show a considerable falling off. In the period of which I am speaking over 1,000,000 acres went out of cultivation, whereas the United States multiplied her productive area more than fourfold, and France and Germany considerably increased theirs. Great Britain is the only country in the world where the area under cultivation has fallen off, since she adopted a free-trade policy.
– Order ! I would point out that the question before the Chair is not protection versus free-trade, but a motion advocating the adoption of a scheme of preferential trade. Incidental references to some of the points which were made by the Prime Minister were not out of order, but I am afraid that the Minister is now exceeding such references. I hope that he will discuss the matter which is before the Chair.
– I bow to your ruling, sir, but I would point out that if I am precluded from showing that the arguments of my right honorable friend are, to some extent, fallacious, my attempts to reply to him will be very ineffective. He opened up the fiscal issue in connexion with the great question of preferential trade, and I admit that it is impossible to separate the two things.
– I would point out that’ the whole speech of the Prime Minister was by no means of a fiscal character, otherwise
I should have called him to order. It is true that he made several incidental references to the fiscal question. For example, he claimed that the policy of England prior to her adoption of a free-trade policy, was in same respects, one of preference. When the right honorable gentleman used such an argument I could not interfere, because it was perfectly germane to the matter which is under consideration. But when the Minister of Trade and Customs not only deals with the policy of Great Britain, but proceeds to discuss the protective policy of Germany and the United States, he is travelling far beyond the scope of the Prime Minister’s remarks, and of the motion before the Chair.
– I bow to your ruling, sir, but I am sorry that it will make my reply a very ineffective one. I regret that I am prevented from discussing a question of world-wide importance in the most exhaustive way. I do not know whether I shall be out of order in replying to the statement of my right honorable friend in reference to the percentage of paupers in the mother country.
-I am bound to apply to the Minister the same rules as are applicable to other members of the House. One of those rules is that the remarks of an honorable member must be germane to the question before the Chair. If the Minister can connect his remarks concerning paupers with the question of preferential trade, as the Prime Minister did, he will be entirely in order. But a discussion as to whether there were more- paupers in England under free-trade than there were under a protective policy would not be in order. The Prime Minister made only incidental reference to that question. Had he continued to refer to it, I should have called him to order.
– The Prime Minister has referred to the very small percentage of able-bodied paupers to be found in the mother country. But in this connexion Mulhall proves that whilst the total inhabitants of the United Kingdom contribute 6s. id. per head annually for the relief of pauperism, the population of the United States, which enjoys the highest protective Tariff in the world, contribute only 2d. per head. That should be an effective reply to the remarks of the Prime Minister in regard to pauperism. Coming to the question of preference itself, my right honorable friend” quoted statistics with a view to show the rela tive amount of trade which Australia does with the mother country, with British possessions, and with foreign countries. It appears to me that that is the crux of the whole matter. The Prime Minister questions whether it is possible for us, under a protective policy, to give any substantial advantage to the manufacturers of the mother country. It appears to me that it is quite possible to do so. I have perused our trade statistics for the past four years and I find - very much to my regret - that whilst our imports from Great Britain are diminishing, those from foreign countries are steadily increasing. That is a very serious matter. Had I anticipated speaking to-night, my researches would have gone back very much further than four years. But in regard to that period what do I find ? In 1899 we imported from the United Kingdom ,£21,230,000 worth of goods, whereas in 1903 - or four years later - we imported only .£19,855,000 worth, a decrease of .£1,375,000. Within the same period, we imported from foreign countries - I mean from countries outside of British possessions-
– Is the Minister speaking of Australia?
– Yes, I am speaking of the Commonwealth.
– In 1899 the New South Wales market was free to English goods. ‘
– In 1899 we imported from foreign countries .£9,063,000 worth of goods, and in 1903, .£12,975,000 worth, or an increase of ,£3,912,000. There was thus an increase of nearly ,£4,000,000 in our imports from foreign countries, whilst in our imports from Great Britain, there was a falling off of £ 1,3 7 5, 000.
– What was the nature of the goods imported?
– I merely took the total value of the goods. If that condition of things is permitted to continue for a few years longer, it is evident that our trade will drift from the mother country to foreign countries. It is that drift which we desire to stop. We wish to divert as much of the existing trade of foreign countries as we can to Great Britain, without injury to Australia. I believe that that result can very readily be accomplished by judicious re-adjustment of the Tariff when we come to deal with details. In the bulk of cases, I believe that we can increase the duties operative against the foreigner, whilst allowing them to remain as they are against
Great Britain. In some instances, however, 1 have not the slightest doubt that we can decrease the existing duties in favour of the mother country.
– Can the Minister think of any cases in which that can be done now?
– This is not the time to enter into a discussion of details. In addition to increasing the duties upon lines against the foreigner, and allowing the present imposts .to c’ontinue against the mother country, we have a large free list upon which we can operate. I think it will be found that we can allow a considerable portion of that free list to remain in force in the case of the mother country and British possessions, whilst we can impose a small duty against the foreigner. I have heard it stated that a great quantity of the goods which we obtain from foreign countries cannot be imported from Great Britain. That statement is applicable only to a very limited extent indeed. That applies to only a very limited extent, because a few years ago we imported nearly the whole of our goods, with the exception of tea and a few other lines, from Great Britain. Now, however, the best teas we get come from India and Ceylon, and there are vast tea plantations within the British dominions. There is nothing which Great Britain supplied some years ago that she could not, under favorable conditions, supply now, while she could also supply a great deal that she was unable to supply then. I have not the slightest doubt that, with a judicious arrangement of the Tariff, we could give very substantial preference to British goods, quite consistently with the policy of protection, and without in any way injuring Australian manufactures. The Prime Minister admitted that great benefit would probably accrue to Australia from the scheme. That surely is an aspect of the case which should not be overlooked by us. Whilst I should be the last to advocate a one-sided bargain with Great Britain, I say that we should do the best we can, consistently with what is fair, just, and reasonable to the Empire, for the interests of our own producers. It seems to me that it is very humiliating that Great Britain, if she should unfortunately be involved in hostilities with any of the other great nations of the world, should be dependent for the greater portion of her food supplies on foreign countries.
– Even to buying those supplies.
– Yes. If those supplies were stopped, if those countries refused to supply Great Britain, or importation were impossible to her, she would be brought to extremities in a few months.
– Is not this a stronger argument for increasing the contribution to thi; fleet ?
– I am with my honorable friend in that matter, though that is not the aspect of the question with which I am now dealing. It would be greatly to the advantage of every portion of the Empire if we could obtain from within all the food supplies necessary for it. It is true that these supplies would, as the Prime Minister has pointed out, have in any case to be transported across the water in time of war. But surely it would be very much easier to arrange beforehand to protect our mercantile fleet whilst engaged in the transport of produce from outlying portions of the Empire, than to get food supplies from foreign countries, which might not be in sympathy with us in regard to the quarrel in which we were engaged. I would remind honorable members that the stupendous struggle which is now going on in the East must awaken the people of Australia to the fact that we have during all these years been living in a fool’s paradise in assuming that our great distance from the military powers of the earth gave us a practical immunity from foreign invasion. Now we know that some of the great military powers of ‘the earth are situated within a very short distance of our shores. ‘ Japan, during the struggle that is now going on with Russia, has astonished the whole world. Then China, that great sleeping giant, lies at our doors, and there is not the slightest doubt but that the example of Japan must have considerable influence upon her people. If they should follow her example, and adopt the methods of modern civilization, we should have hundreds of millions of possible foes within a short distance of our shores. That brings me to the point in regard to which the honorable member for Wentworth interjected, the necessity for contributing to the British Navy, or, at any rate, proves to me the need for consolidating and strengthening the Empire by every means in our power. I know that the present ties of sympathy are exceedingly strong. I feel that if Great Britain were involved in any serious war in which our assistance were necessary, every outlying portion of the Empire would help her, to its last man, and its last shilling. But that is not an argument in favour of refraining from strengthening the bonds which bind us to Great Britain by ties of sentiment. If we can strengthen these bonds by the ties of mutual self-interest, it is surely worth our while to do so, and if at the same time we can develop the resources of outlying portions of the British Empire, that will surely be in the interest of the Empire at large. I am pleased that we have adopted the policy of a white Australia j but that involves other obligations. It involves the obligation of increasing our white population by every possible means, and, therefore, of attracting immigrants to our shores. This >can be done only by the development of our resources. If we think that we can for all time selfishly hold this enormous Continent with a handful of population, we are making a very serious mistake. I am perfectly sure that in the hands of the Asiatics, Northern Australia would become one of the greatest cotton-producing countries, and one of the largest sugar and tea producing countries under the sun. The same result can, I believe, be attained by white labour ; but population is necessary to, any material development. We cannot develop our resources with a sma:ll fringe of population round the coast line. I sincerely hope, therefore, that as all other parts of the Empire are joining to show their sympathy with Mr. Chamberlain - the greatest of living statesmen - in his attempt to consolidate it, as we find Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and other places, expressing their willingness to give preference to the mother country, Australia will not be content to stand agaze, like Joshua’s sun, and do nothing. I believe, with the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, that it would be quite possible for us to so modify this motion that most freetraders, as well as protectionists, could join tin carrying it. I sincerely hope that, although we are now approaching the closing hours of the session, the honorable and learned member and the Prime Minister will endeavour to so modify the motion as to express our willingness to give preference to the mother country. The details can be left to be worked out afterwards. As I have already stated, that can be done by raising the Tariff in some cases, by lowering it in others, and by leaving the whole of our free list still free to the mother country, while imposing a slight duty! on many of the articles contained in it against the foreigner. If we do that, I believe we shall be taking a wise and a prudent course. We shall be doing something to strengthen and consolidate the Empire, and a great deal to advance the interests of Australia.
Motion (by Mr. Glynn) proposed -
That the debate be now adjourned.
– Unless the motion for the adjournment of the debate is to be taken as a test question, unless those who are voting in favour of the adjournment are to be regarded as opposed to the granting of preference, and those voting against the adjournment as in favour of the granting of preference, I think that the motion should not be taken now. But it would be most unreasonable to close the debate at this hour, and I shall vote against it, as we may have no other chance of concluding the discussion.
– No ohe rose to speak, and, therefore, I was bound either to put the question, or to see the honorable and learned member for Angas.
– I urge upon the House that we should, if no one is prepared to speak, come to a vote on the motion. It is admitted that there is n-> probability of having the question threshed out this session by means of a lengthy debate.
– There are some amendments to be moved.
– I do not see that that need prevent the taking of a vote on the general principle involved. I am prepared to forego my right to speak, and I am sure that a number of others are ready to make a similar sacrifice, in order that an opportunity may be given to the House to express its opinion on the main issue. I trust that the honorable and learned member for Angas will withdraw his motion of adjournment.
– There is a Bill to be considered to-night.
– That need not prevent the taking of a vote on this question.
– Surely the honorable member does not propose to settle a big question in this way.
– It seems to me that if honorable members are in earnest in asking for an expression of opinion from this Parliament, they should be prepared to come to a vote to-night, if possible. Otherwise they will be preventing Parliament from giving expression to its opinion on the subject this session. I trust that if the motion for adjournment is not withdrawn, the honorable and learned member for Ballarat will make the motion a test of the question, so that we shall know how honorable members stand on the main issue.
– The honorable and learned member for Ballarat may declare it to be a test of the question, but other honorable members need not regard it as such.
– I had prepared a speech in reply to that of the Prime Minister, but I do not feel disposed to deliver it at this hour of the evening. I shall be exceedingly sorry, in view of the interest I have taken in this matter - and I have delivered one or two lectures in regard to it - if I am deprived of an opportunity to speak on it. I was under the impression that I would have that opportunity to-night, but as I have not had it, I feel that it would be unfair to do other than adjourn the debate. I have taken notes of the able speech of the Prime Minister, and I should like to have an opportunity tomorrow to reply to it.
– If there is an adjournment of the debate, I am afraid that there will be no decision on the main issue.
– There will be no decision on it to-night. It is absolutely absurd to regard the division on the proposed1 adjournment of the debate as a test. The question is too big to be dealt’ with by a side wind. I desire to move the amendment of which I have given notice, and’ to take a vote on it. I cannot., however, do that now, and I think it would be unfair to expect honorable members to deal with the subject to-night. I was led to understand by one honorable member that the Prime Minister intended to give us a further opportunity to consider the motion.
– That being so, I hope that the House will agree to the adjournment of the debate, unless any honorable member desires to speak to-night.
– Why should not the honorable member speak to-night?
– I do not intend to do so. This is one of the most important matters that has been under consideration this session.
– I thought the honorable member was in favour of preferential trade ?
– I am, but I desire to have an opportunity to express my views before we go to a division. It is jus,t as well that we should have an opportunity to reply to statements that have been made by the opponents of the principle.
– There is a fair number of honorable members present.
– I believe that the right honorable member is leaving for Perth to-morrow, and it is immaterial to him what happens after he has taken his departure. I should like to know, without losing my right to speak, whether the Prime Minister will agree to the adjournment of the debate.
– I should not object to allow the honorable member for Hume to move the adjournment of the debate.
– I shall do so if the honorable and learned member will withdraw his motion.
Mr. REID (East Sydney- Minister of External Affairs). - When the motion for the adjournment of the debate was moved, I was engaged outside, the Chamber in dealing with the Sea-Carriage of Goods Bill, which is to be further considered this evening. The motion was not moved after any consultation with me, but was submitted, I understand, to save the question being put. I sympathize with the position of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat when, notwithstanding the great importance of this question, and the fact that notice was given of our intention to deal with it to-day, no honorable member is prepared at this early hour in the evening to continue the debate. On the other hand, I also sympathize with the position of the honorable and learned member for Angas, who rather .than allow the debate to lapse, moved the adjournment. What I would suggest is that if any other honorable member is prepared to speak to-night, my honorable and learned friend should withdraw the motion. If it be negatived, he will, of course, lose his right to speak.
– Not altogether.
– Why should not the leader of the Opposition speak to-night?
– My views are well known, and’ there is no occasion for me to speak. Let us take a vote.
– The right honorable member for Swan will be leaving for Perth tomorrow, and I am sure we all are anxious to hear his views. He may perhaps be willing to speak to-night.
– I may.
– It would certainly be unsatisfactory to test the question on the motion for the adjournment of the debate. It would not convey to the authorities any conception of the true position, but would bring down the consideration of a great subject to a position in which no one would desire to see it placed.
– What is the objection to our going to a division now?
– I think it is absolutely unreasonable to suggest that we should. I have never had’ an opportunity to get work dealt with in this rapid way. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat would be more fortunate than the Government have been if he secured the taking of a division at this stage; but we cannot compel honorable members to forego their right to speak.
– The right honorable gentleman should persuade the honorable member for Hume to forego his desire to speak.
– No; the honorable member has given notice of an amendment, and wishes to submit reasons for it. It is obvious that a majority of honorable members wish the debate to be adjourned, but 1.’ d’o not desire that course to be adopted if any one is prepared to speak to-night.
– We wish to proceed to a division.
– I shall not offer any objection to a division being taken if a majority of honorable members are ready for the question, but I am quite sure that the sense of the House is that the matter should not now be decided. We must be guided by the feelings of honorable members.
– I think there is a majority against the adjournment of the debate.
– It would be very unfair to oppose the adjournment. A great many honorable members have left for their homes. _
– Honorable members Have no right to leave before the House adjourns.
– The honorable member is not here very often.
– Order ! I cannot allow these interchanges across the Chamber. The question is whether the debate be adjourned, and if the Prime Minister has finished his speech, I shall put the question.
– Before we take that extreme course, I desire to arrive at some satisfactory arrangement. “ I wish this matter ,to be debated as fully as possible.
– It is too momentous a matter to be at once decided.
– Can it be dealt with in the time at our disposal in the remainder of the session?
– Even if it could - not, I d’o not think that would be a reason for coming to a division to-night when a number of honorable members still wish to speak.
– The Prime Minister will not be able later on to keep a House.
– I propose to devote the whole of .to-morrow’s sitting to the consideration of this question. It is too great a subject to form a ground for bickering, but unless some one is prepared to proceed, I must support the motion for the adjournment of the debate. If any one is prepared to speak ,to-night, I am sure the honorable and learned member for Angas will withdraw his motion.
– Hear, hear. I do not think I have ever asked for the adjournment of a debate before.
– It is customary to adjourn at io.30 p.m. on Tuesdays, and if the debate be now adjourned the remainder of the evening can be occupied with the consideration of the Sea Carriage of Goods Bill.
– If the debate be adjourned, will it probably be concluded to-morrow?
– I shall place no obstacle in the way. I shall, as I have said, allow the whole of to-morrow’s sitting to be devoted1 to the consideration of this question, and as honorable members are aware, we shall meet at 10.30 a.m.
– That is very fair.
– I am anxious to study the general wishes of the House. This is not a matter affecting the Government.
– I do not think there is a general disposition on the part of the House to agree to the adjournment of the debate; on the contrary, I believe, there is a desire that we should proceed to a division on the general question. I should certainly prefer to vote against the motion for the adjournment, although I do not wish to be discourteous to the honorable and’ learned member for Angas.
– I do not ask for a personal favour.
– I am aware of that, but I desire the honorable member to understand that I do not wish to treat him discourteously. We also know that the honorable member for Hume is prepared to make an interesting speech on this question, and we should certainly be glad to hear it. If I could be assured that we should be in as good a position to-morrow to deal finally with this question as we are to-night, I should not object to the adjournment of the debate. The question has been before the House for a long time. It is very easy for the honorable member for Canobolas and others to offer opposition, and to say that this is too big a question to at once deal with. As a matter of fact, it could be dawdled with and hung up so long that now that we have an opportunity to obtain an expression of opinion on the part of the House with regard to it, I agree with the honorable member for Bland that we should endeavour to avail ourselves of it - that we should seek to ascertain the will of the House either on the motion for the adjournment of the debate or on the general question. The world is waiting to hear the verdict of the Parliament, and why should we defer our decision for another five or six months simply because time will not permit a few honorable members to make speeches? Many honorable members would certainly like to speak, but after the leaders of the different parties and the honorable member for Hume have expressed their views, I think that we ought to be prepared to go to a division. It is said that if the debate be adjourned we shall be able to deal with the motion to-morrow. We know, however, that the morrow often brings many surprises, and if the debate is to be adjourned, I hope the Prime Minister will give us an assurance that we shall be able to test the question in the way that the leader of the Opposition asks. It is all very well for the Prime Minister to say that the people at Home will not understand the position if we test the question on the motion for the adjournment. I am satisfied that they will. The proposal is a very simple one-
– But it is a very important question.
– We recognise that it is, and we are anxious that it should be settled. The matter has been before us so long that we all have made up our minds upon it. We know how we are going to vote, and I fail to see why we should not come to a decision without further delay. I do not wish, of course, to see a surprise vote taken, nor do I desire to be discourteous to the honorable member for Hume, or any one else who is anxious to speak to the motion. We know that the honorable member for Hume has carefully studied the question, and that he has delivered one or two lectures which have been distributed in pamphlet form, and widely read; but the whole question is of such vast importance that I think it wise that we should come to some determination upon it as soon as possible.
– I was surprised to hear the honorable member who has just resumed his seat talking about theway in which this question had been “dawdled with and hung up.” His leader can scarcely regard such an accusation on the part of a former colleague as being at all complimentary.
– The honorable member and others have been dawdling over other business. I did not intend to cast any reflection on the honorable and learned member for Ballarat.
– I wonder whether the consideration of the question has been hung up with a desire to put off the division until the close of the session ?
– The honorable member will have to face a division.
– We do not object to face it, but we certainly are not here to respond to the crack of the honorable member’s whip, or of that of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. I was very much surprised to hear the honorable and learned member suggest so petulantly that this great Imperial question should be decided on the motion for the adjournment of the debate. I altogether object to such a proposal. That there should be a desire to see a question of this kind, involving the whole relations of the Empire, pressed to a division after such a brief discussion as has taken place, is most remarkable. We have had three speeches upon this great and momentous question of Empire.
– Will the speeches alter the result?
– Do any speeches alter the voting in this House? Why does the honorable member make so many speeches if no good results from them?
– Speeches sometimes alter the voting in Committee, but they will not alter the voting in regard to a great question of this kind.
– I venture to say that an honorable member occupying such a position as that which the leader of the
Opposition fills should be the verylast to expect this question to go to a division until, as the representative of a great party, he has made a speech upon it, and has formulated his opinions very definitely.
– His opinions are well known, and have been widely published.
– Yet there have been some mysterious changes in them.
– I shall say then that there have been changes, not of opinion, butof attitude, on the part of the honorable member.
– There has not even been a change of attitude on my part.
– When the honorable member was in a position of responsibility, as the leader of the late Government, he said, in the course of a speech delivered at Wagga, in August last, that this was a matter entirely for Great Britain.
– I said more than that ; I strongly advocated the principle, and I still do so.
– The honorable member said that we need not trouble about the question here - that it was not urgent at that time.
– That is not correct.
– We shall find out to-morrow what the honorable member did say. My recollection is that he stated that there was no necessity for us to do anything; that Great Britain should make the first move. Now he desires to force the hands of Great Britain. That represents an entire change of attitude. As was said facetiously on a former occasion, the honorable membear has travelled side by side with the question, until now he has come face to face with it.
– I am prepared to face the question, whilst the honorable member is endeavouring to talk it out.
– I think the request for an adjournment of the debate is a reasonable one. The honorable member for Hume has already delivered two or three important lectures on the subject, and I understand he has another one with which he desires to favour honorable members. The least we can do is to afford him an opportunity to enlighten us upon a question in which hehas taken so keen an interest. I understand also that the honorable and learned member for Angas has given a great deal of attention to this ques tion, particularly to the practical application of the proposals to the trade of the Empire. We have not yet begun to discuss this question in a practical way, and I trust that we shall hear some speeches tomorrow which will bring us down to bedrock. Moreover, it is customary to adjourn early on Tuesday night, and as the Government desire to dispose of the Sea Carriage of Goods Bill, I think that we may profitably devote the rest of the sitting to the discussion of that measure.
Question - That the debate be now adjourned - put. The House divided.
Majority … … … 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Reid) agreed to -
That the Bill be recommitted for the reconsideration of clauses 4 and 6a.
In Committee (Recommittal) :
Clause 4 (Certain clauses prohibited in bills of lading).
– I move -
That the word “ and “ be inserted after the word “diligence” in paragraph (4).
I amproposing this amendment at the suggestion of the honorable and learned member for Indi, whohas pointed out that it is important that the word” and “ should be inserted, in order to connect the original clause with the amendment adopted at an earlier stage.
Amendment agreed to.
– I desire to have an assurance from the Prime Minister that the amendment will not go further than is now provided under the common law.
– That is all that is to be done, so far as this clause is concerned.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 6a -
In every bill of lading, with respectto goods, unless the contrary intention appears, a clause shall be implied whereby, if the ship is at the beginning of the voyage seaworthy in all respectsand properly manned, equipped, and supplied, neither the ship nor her owner, agent, or charterer shall be responsible to the owner of the goods for damage to or loss of the goods resulting from -
– I move-
That the words “to the owner of the goods,” lines 12 and 13, be omitted.
A question might arise upon the word “owner,” and it is desirable to avoid all unnecessary complications. The words “to the owner of the goods,” are immaterial, and may with advantage be omitted, as their inclusion may give rise to controversy.
Amendment agreed to.
– Since this Bill was previously under consideration, I have had the advantage of a consultation with the AttorneyGeneral in regard to the use of the words “or management of a ship for purposes of navigation,” which are contained in paragraph a of sub-clause 2, and he has advised that they should be eliminated.
– That is a dangerous proposal; it seems to cut right into the heart of the Bill.
– No. At the request of the ship-owners, we are merely stating the law. We are not making any alterations in it. The words “ faults or errors of navigation,” are those employed in the Harter Act. I promised the Committee that I would include in the Bill the provisions contained in that Statute, and therefore I propose to retain them.
– But the Prime Minister proposes to embody only a portion of that Act in this Bill.
– I am already pledged to insert in the Bill some provisions upon the lines of the Harter Act. I would point out to honorable members that the ordinary insurance policy of a shipper will cover “ faults or errors of. navigation.” In suggesting the omission of the words “ or management of the ship for purposes of navigation,” I wish the Committee to understand that the clause will then appear to extend the common law conditions in favour of the ship-owners.
– I take no exception to the omission of the words “or management of the ship for purposes of navigation.” In the new clause which I had intended to move, those words did not appear. To my mind their inclusion would introduce into the Bill an unnecessary element of complication.
– I am entirely opposed to the suggestion of the Prime Minister, which appears to me to cut right into the heart of the Bill. The right honorable gentleman has informed us that shippers can insure against any loss which they may sustain by reason of errors in navigation or in the management of a ship. I admit that such errors would be committed by the master of a vessel, or by his officers, very rarely. But if we adopt the suggestion of the Prime Minister every shipper will have to insure his goods against such contingencies.
– That is always done. His ordinary insurance policy would cover these risks.
– I anticipated that in this Bill we should obviate the necessity for shippers to systematically insure their consignments. If the ship-owner is responsible for the produce whichhe carries-
– Does the honorable member suggest that the ship-owners should be held responsible in every case?
– Yes.- Why not? The ordinary carrier upon land is responsible in every case. It ‘seems to me that if the Bill be passed in the form suggested by the Prime Minister, the shippers will receive very little protection.
– I think that the honorable member for Hindmarsh quite misapprehends the purpose of this Bill. I would point out to him that it is merely intended to cancel the qualifications which have been attached to bills of lading, and which are contrary to the common law. In this measure we are copying a United States Statute. We have extracted from it the most salient provisions which tell against the ship-owners, and now the Prime Minister, in response to a request by them, affirms that the third section of the Harter Act, with some modifications, should also be incorporated in the Bill as a set-off against those provisions. I have no doubt that the words “management of a ship “ were added to “ navigation “ in order to cover acts on the part of those in charge of a ship, which might not be covered by the latter term. For instance, it cannot be contended that an error made in transmitting a message to the engine-room would come und;r the head of “ navigation.” I suppose there are half-a-dozen other acts which would come within the scope of the two phrases combined, but which could not be brought under the first phrase. Inasmuch as the Parliament of the United States is of opinion that the two phrases ought to be used to do justice to the situation, I do not think that we should, without very good reason, separate “ navigation “ from the “ management of a ship “ upon the supposition that the terms are synonymous. If they are synonymous, no harm can result from their retention in the Bill. I hope that the Committee will not go back upon the third paragraph of the clause, which tells to some extent in favour of rh-2 ship-owners.
– In this clause it will be observed that the words “ bill of lading” are employed. In clause 4 the words used are “ bill of lading or document.” A distinction is thus created between the two provisions. I would therefore suggest that after the words “ bill of lading “ in the first sub-clause of this provision, the words “ or document “ be inserted. The implied warranty of seaworthiness applies to a bill of lading, or to any other form of contract.
-t-I think that it would be wise to make the language uniform.
– Then the same language might be repeated in t’he next sub-clause. I would further direct attention to the fact that the word “ master “ does not appear in sub-clause 2 in connexion with the terms “ owner, agent, or charterer.” 1 would point out that the master may have a personal liability, and in the Harter Act. that fact is recognised, because he is freed by name from such liability. I think that it is necessary to exempt him from liability as well as the owner, agent, or charterer. »
– With the concurrence of honorable members, I should like to move -
That after the word “ lading,” line 1, the words “ or document “ be inserted.-
– I would point out to the Committee that the Prime Minister desires to move an amendment in the clause prior to the amendment which has already been made. That practice is opposed to our Standing Orders, and can be followed only with concurrence. Is it the pleasure of the Committee that the Prime Minister be granted leave to submit his amendment ?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments (by Mr. Reid)- agreed to -
That after the word “lading,” line 6, the words “or document” be inserted.
That after the word “owner,” line n, the word “ master “ be inserted.
Amendment (by Mr. Reid) proposed -
That after the word “navigation,” line 15, the words “ or management of the ship for purposes of navigation” be left out.
Mr. BRUCE SMITH (Parkes).- Will the Prime Minister state whether he has any reason for distinguishing between navigation and the management of a ship? I think it is quite possible that faults or errors might occur in that management which might not come under the head of faults or errors of navigation, and if there is no distinction drawn in the third section of the Harter Act between faults of navigation and faults of the management of the ship, I do not see why we should draw a distinction here, unless the Prime Minister has some good reason for omitting the words. For instance, an error might occur in the giving of an order.
– Every one on board a ship is engaged in the task of navigation - captain, engineer, and every one else.
– Can the right honorable member say that everything which comes under the management of a ship comes also under navigation ?
– It has been held by the Courts in England that the word “ management ‘ ‘ in the Harter Act included the management of the refrigerating chamber, and the1 owners were therefore not held liable for negligence in that respect.
– But early in the evening the right honorable member inserted these words.
– Yes; but I am now acting under the advice of the Attorney-General, who thinks that if they were inserted it would lead to further trouble.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).I think that the clause goes too far in exempting the owner from. liability for faults in navigation. I think that that goes beyond the English law, and has created in the Harter Act an exemption which should not have been made. I agree with the Prime Minister, however, that we should not include in the exemptions a fault “in the management of the ship. The honorable and learned member for Parkes will remember that that was the case to which the Prime Minister referred earlier in the evening.
– Yes, but he then proposed to get over the difficulty by adding the words which he now wishes to leave out.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with further amendments ; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Riverina and Melbourne Elections : Public Servants’ Increments : Administration of Justice in British New Guinea.
Motion (by Mr. Reid) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I should like the Prime Minister to consider a matter which has been debated in this House on several occasions, and in regard to which I think there is a general consensus of opinion. Both he and, the Treasurer have expressed sympathy with the suggestion that consideration should be shown to the honorable members for Riverina and Melbourne, who have been made to suffer financial loss, not through any fault of their own, but through the fault of the Government electoral machinery. I was hopeful that a concrete proposal would have been put before us this session as an item in the Supplementary
Estimates, but as no such Estimates are-to be brought down, I ask the Government to consider the propriety of giving these gentlemen consideration. So far as I have been able to ascertain, there is no objection to such a course being taken.
– I support the views expressed by the leader of the Opposition. Although I do not think that it is desirable that these cases should be regarded as a precedent for paying honorable members’ expenses, I would point out that in each instance loss was occasioned to the candidate through no fault .of his own. Each election was fought fairly and properly, and the result was attributable to an error on the part of the representative of the Commonwealth. Therefore, it is reasonable, as a matter of plain justice, that reimbursement should be made to them of the expense caused by what’ I may term a public accident, since, although there was a mistake, no fault was attributable to any officer. The application is a reasonable one, and I hope that it will receive the sympathy of the Prime Minister.
– During a pretty long experience of parliamentary life, I have seen many cases like this ‘dealt with generously by Governments. In this case I understand that the Government are asked to pay out of the Treasurer’s advance account, or in some other way, an amount which will reimburse the gentlemen to whom reference has been made expenditure which was thrust upon them because of errors committed by public servants of the Commonwealth. As we have just been dealing with a Bill imposing responsibilities on ship-owners for negligence on the part of their servants, I think that the Commonwealth should set an example by becoming responsible for the errors committed by its servants.
– I would remind the Prime Minister that what he has been asked to do has been done in New South Wales in at least two cases that I remember, when mistakes were made by Government officers in connexion with elections at Woollongong and Monaro.
– At Rylstone, too.
– Yes; but I remember the other two because the money was voted on my Estimates to recoup the members the expense to which they had been put. Where an election is upset through the fault of the officers of the Government, it is reasonable that the candidate’s expenses shall be paid, especially when, as in this case, they are also put to the trouble of appealing to the newly-constituted Court of Disputed Returns.
– I would bring under the consideration of the Prime Minister the advisability of paying increments due to officers in receipt of less than £160 per annum.
– We are paying them.
– I have been told that, whilst the officers of the clerical division have been paid, those of the general division have not yet received their money. I should like to know that the payment will be expedited.
– I wish to draw the attention of the Prime Minister to a matter connected with the Administration of New Guinea. Charges of the most serious nature, reflecting upon the past Administration of the Territory, connected with which are the names of various persons in high positions, and that of a firm in a very large way of business - Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Company -have been circulated in the lobbies of the House for some time past.
-Why should Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Company be the only names mentioned ?
- Mr. J. R. Craig is the man by whom the charges are made. I dare say that the Prime Minister has had communications from him on the subject. He complains that for five years he has been unable to obtain justice, that he was charged with the most serious crimes, culminating in a charge of murder.
-There were two charges of murder.
– He is said to have had a sort of trial before a tribunal in New Guinea, but it is a very significant fact that the whole of the documents in connexion with the trial are now missing. They cannot be found in the records of the Territory, and Mr. Craig cannot get satisfaction. When a man has taken the trouble to agitate in a matter of this kind for a number of years, and waits upon this Parliament for three or four months, asking for an inquiry, something should be done. He is willing that the charges should be investigated, so that if he is in fault he may receive adequate punishment. If he is not in fault it is reasonable that he should desire that the charges against him be disproved. It has been suggested that Judge Murray, the permanent head of the Department,
Mr. Atlee Hunt, and some other person, should be appointed as a Committee to investigate the whole matter. We do not ask for the appointment of a Commission, or for an investigation that would involve the Government in any serious expenditure, but I appeal to the Prime Minister to cause an inquiry to be made. I am not interested in this man, but I think that justice should be meted out to him. He is not a personal friend of my own, buthas interviewed me, in common with other honorable members in the House, and has shown his bona fides by spending a good deal of time and money in coming to Melbourne and askingfor an inquiry, so that his character may be cleared. I hope that the Prime Minister will give the House an assurance that such an inquiry will be made.
-I would remind the Prime Minister that the matter mentionedby the honorable member for Bland is one which affects not only honorable members who are likely to seek reelection, but prospective candidates. If intending candidates felt that they were likely to be mulcted in heavy expenses as the result of an error on the part of the Electoral Department, they might be warned off. I certainly think that the Electoral Department should bear its own sins, and I trust that the Government will make some reasonable provision to defray the expenses of honorable members, as well as those outside the House, who have suffered loss through the fault of the Department.
– I also desire to impress upon the Prime Minister the importance of an inquiry being made concerning the case of which the honorable member for Herberthas spoken. The man has had certain charges hanging over his head for five years, and he maintains that he cannot obtain justice. His opponents make many allegations against him, and it is only reasonable that he should have an opportunity to clear himself of these charges. Two charges of murder have been levelled against him, and he has been tried-
– Hashe ever been hanged?
– This is not a laughing matter. If an honorable member were in such a position as this man is in, he would certainly be anxious to have the matter cleared up. Two charges have been made against the man, and they have been partly tried ; but the depositions taken, it is said, are not now in the Territory. He has not even been legally acquitted, in the ordinary way, of these charges. He has also been charged with appropriating an official seal to enable him to issue fraudulent papers. He was taken out of his bed about nine o’clock one night, and escorted to an hotel in British New Guinea, where he was brought before certain justices, and tried on this charge.. Depositions were taken, but in this, as in the other case, they cannot be found. The Commonwealth Government, at all events, is not in possession of them. I never saw the man except on the two or three occasions when ‘he visited the House, and I knew nothing of him until recently. He is certainly making very serious charges, and some inquiry should be held. It will not be to the credit of the- Parliament if justice be not meted out to him. As to the matter mentioned by the leader of the Opposition, I am at one with those who have urged, that the honorable members in question should be reimbursed the expenses to which thev were put as the result of the neglect of the Electoral Department. If something be not done, no ‘honorable member will be safe:. The experience of the honorable members for Melbourne and Riverina may be that of any other honorable member at some other time. If the expense to which they were put in the matter of the electoral petitions had been due to any fault on their own part, I could Have understood’ tlie failure of the Government to take action ; but in the circumstances it is only reasonable and just that the Commonwealth should reimburse them.
Mr. RONALD (Southern Melbourne).The two matters which have been brought before the House on the motion for the adjournment are very pressing and urgent. T have memoranda of the charges which have been brought against Mr. Craig, from which it appears that the most irregularmethods have been adopted in connexion with what have passed for trials. The most serious charges which could be levelled against any man have been made against this individual. Beyond the shadow of a doubt, if what he alleges be true, he has suffered perhaps the greatest injustice under which a man could labour. He asks nothing more than that which any man living under the British flag has a right to expect - a fair trial by a jury of his countrymen, and 1 hope that the Prime Minister will appoint a Committee in order that his case mav be re-heard. I am sure that every honorable member will heartily indorse what has already been said as to the desir ableness of re-imbursing the two honorable members of this House who have been so seriously mulcted in costs, in connexion with . the last Federal election, through absolutely no fault of their own. It cannot be too emphatically asserted that the Commonwealth is responsible for the errors of its officers.
– It is bad enough to pass through an election, without an appeal to the High Court, through, no fault of one’s own.
– Quite so.
– Why not bring in a Bill to pay all our expenses ?
– This is a matter not of amending the law, but of putting ‘it into execution. It has undoubtedly been shown that the costs to which these honorable members were put were due not to any error on their part, but to an error on the part of the officers of the Government. I therefore hope that we shall have from the Prime Minister an emphatic affirmative reply to the request which has been made, as well as a statement as to Mr. Craig. Unless the inquiry which this man is seeking be granted, he must live for ever under the charge of being a murderer who has escaped justice. I appeal to the Prime Minister to see that an impartial and fair-minded tribunal, which apparently at present does not exist in British New Guinea., is appointed to deal with hi(s case.
– I ‘ am rather surprised to learn that it is again necessary to ask the Government any question regarding the payment of the expenses of two honorable members, to which reference has been made. I understood that the Prime Minister had made a promise to deal with the matter.
– The question that I asked to-night wa<s whether anything would be done this session.
– I should like to indorse what has been said. Unlike the honorable member for Dalley, I do not think it is a question of bringing in an amending Bill ; the only point involved is that of doing an act of common justice. There seems to be a general opinion on the part of honorable members, which I am sure will be indorsed by the country, that those who suffer from the mistakes made by officers of the Electoral Department should be reimbursed their expenses, and I am sure that the Prime Minister will recognise the justice of the contention. There are many precedents, for the same course has been followed by several of the. States Legislatures. The experience of the two honorable members in question may be the experience of others, and I hope that the Prime Minister, viewing the matter from a fair stand-point, will see that they are fairly reimbursed. I wish to bring under thenotice of the Postmaster-General another matter which bears on the question of cutting down trees that obstruct telegraph lines - a matter which was discussed a week or two ago. In the town of Candelo, in my electorate, there is a small park which has been planted with trees, and I learn that officers of the Department have lopped off the branches of some of these trees in order to clear the telegraph line in the main street. This is not an isolated case. Many honorable members have indorsed the view which I expressed on a previous occasion that the number of parks in Australia is far too limited, and that the Department should not be allowed to destroy trees in this way.
– It is vandalism.
– It certainly is. I have here an extract from the Candelo Guardian showing that a gang of men was sent to the town, and was delayed there several days pending instructions from the Department. It is stated by this newspaper that the men would have had plenty of time to remove the telegraph poles in the street in question, in accordance with the desire of the local Progress Association; but that they did not do so. The people, becoming alarmed at the proposals of the Department, offered to subscribe £7 10s. towards the total cost of £12 or£13 of removing the line, rather than that the park should be disfigured in the way proposed. That offer was telegraphed to the Department, and the Minister promised to give attention to the matter. The complaint from the district had been in the hands of the Chief Electrician for about ten days ; but notwithstanding that fact, and regardless of the Ministerial promise. I learn that the men disfigured the trees in the park by cutting off them large branches which were the growth of years. I wish to know why this was done. I am satisfied that it is the fault, not of the Minister, but of the system of red tape which prevails. Ten days before the lopping of these trees, a telegram was sent to the Department by the local Association, offering to contribute to the cost of removing the telegraph poles, and yet the Chief Electrician ordered the work to be done, asserting that he had no knowledge of what the local Association had done in the matter. Such a state of affairs is scandalous. It is badenough for country districts to suffer from droughts, without having their park lands destroyed by Government officials. I intend to satisfy myself as to who is responsible for keeping the men waiting about whilst they were in readiness to remove the poles. The Chief Electrician said that he had no official knowledge that the people of Candelo had made any complaint, or that they had offered to pay part of the cost of removing the poles. I have complained about this matter on two or three occasions, but the officials have taken no notice of my representations. It is time that we impressed on the officials of the Department that they do not own the country, and that if they are not prepared to exercise a little common sense they will have to make way for others who will. I trust that the Minister will cause an inquiry to be made, and that the responsibility will be sheeted home to those who have been guilty of the vandalism complained of.
– The case of Mr. Craig has been brought forward on more than one occasion in this Chamber and in another place, and I think that in the interests of the Commonwealth and of British New Guinea an inquiry should be made into the charges which Mr. Craig has preferred. He has cast serious reflections upon Government officials in New Guinea, and it is undoubtedly time that a decision was arrived at one way or the other. Mr. Craig is a very intelligent man, and I believe that he is thoroughly honest. His persistent efforts to clearhis character from the aspersions cast upon him certainly set his conduct in a favorable light. If he has been wronged, justice should be done, and if he has been preferring false charges he should be punished.
– I was surprised to find that it was necessary to again bring before the House the question of recouping honorable members the expenses in which they were involved owing to irregularities, for which they were in no way responsible, in connexion with their election. I understood the Prime Minister to say on a former occasion that he would look into the matter, and no doubt he will do so. Something should be done, and I think that we can leave to the Government the decision as to the amounts to be paid to the honorable members concerned. I hope the Prime Minister will be able to give us an assurance that full justice will be done in the matter.
– I should like to support the remarks of the honorable member for Corangamite, and to say that those who have suffered should be recouped for their loss. I would also urge that, in the consideration of the payments to be made to those who were put to unnecessary expense in connexion with their elections we should not take into account the social or financial position of any of the persons affected, but that justice should be done all round. If it is not considered desirable that the Government should take the responsibility of paying money without the authority of Parliament, it is not too late for a motion on the subject to be submitted and carried before the end of the session.
– In reply to thehonorable member for Canobolas, I should like to say that if there has been any delay in the payment of the increments to officers in the general division, we should like to inquire into it, because authority has been given for payments all round. I should like to be furnished with particulars of any ! case in point. I shall bring the acts of vandalism referred to by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro under the notice of the Postmaster-General. With reference to Mr. Craig, and the charges he has made against certain officials in British New Guinea, I should like to say that the matter has been before the Department for a long time. The Secretary has investigated Mr. Craig’s statements, with the result that we are not led to attach to his charges the same seriousness that some honorable members do. The Secretary of the Department will probably visit the Possession during the recess, because I think we ought to have some better knowledge than we at present possess of that Territory. The proposed visit will afford a good opportunity for making some inquiries into Mr. Craig’s allegations. With reference to the matter affecting honorable members, who have been subjected to expense, owing to mistakes in the conduct of elections, I entirely sympathize with the views expressed by honorable members, but my difficulty is one of a rather serious character. If I am to be asked to grant money out of the public Treasury without the authority of Parliament, that can only be done under special circumstances. I thought I was performing an act of justice upon one occasion in New South Wales, and it cost the Government, of which I was Premier, their offices. I never complained of that, because Governments are responsible for all such acts, and if the House chooses to make any one of them a cause of offence they are entitled to do so. I feel that it is very hard upon the honorable members affected that they should be denied the reimbursement of their expenses for a long period. We have not a very strong House to-night, but if the honorable member for Bland will put a question to me to-morrow, when there will be a full attendance, I shall have an opportunity of gauging the sense of the Chamber.
– Why not table a resolution?
– I do not ask for that. If I find, to-morrow, that honorable members are agreeable that Ministers should depart from the sound rule which should apply to such matters, I think the Government may take the responsibility upon itself of dealing with these cases in anticipation of a vote, relying upon Parliament to ratify their action.
– Would the right honorable gentleman be willing to make available as soon as possible Mr. Hunt’s report upon Mr. Craig’s case ?
– I cannot very well say that. That will depend upon circumstances. I may say frankly that I have no sort of appreciation of the manner in which Mr. Craig has submitted his communications to the Department. At the same time, I am reluctant to seem to deny any one a fair investigation. I do not wish to turn the whole Administration upside down, at the request of any one who has a grievance.
– But the stigma should be taken off persons against whom Mr. Craig’s charges are directed.
– The visit of the Secretary of the Department to British New Guinea will afford an opportunity for an inquiry, without the necessity of appointing a Royal Commission.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.55p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 December 1904, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1904/19041213_reps_2_24/>.