2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. KENNEDY presented a petition from certain residents of Euroa, praying that stringent legislation be enacted to prevent the importation of opium for smoking purposes into the Commonwealth.
Report (No. 1) presented by Mr. Poyn- ton, read by the Clerk, and agreed to-
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers: -
Correspondence relating to an application to permit connexion for a German cable with a port in Queensland.
Pursuant to the Electoral Act 1902. - Provisional regulations as to the sale of rolls, &c. Statutory Rules 1905, No. 47.
Pursuant to the Property for Public Purposes Acquisition. Act1901. - Notification of the acquirement of land at Bodangora, New South Wales, as a site for a post-office.
– On Tuesday last the Vice-President of the Executive Council, as representing the Minister of Defence, promised to make an inquiry with regard to an alleged requirement of American axles in the specifications for the construction of certain ambulance waggons. I desire to know what is the result of that inquiry?
– The reply to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
– I wish to know from the Vice-President of the Executive Council, as representing the Minister of Defence, if his attention has been directed to the report of a speech by Vice-Admiral Fanshawe, in which that officer emphasizes the Australian dependence on the Imperial Navy? Has he also noticed the disposition on the part of the Premier of New Zealand to double the contribution of that colony to the Imperial Navy? Will he write to the Premier of New Zealand asking his reasons for that step?
– Casually, I havehad an opportunity to read the remarks made by Vice-Admiral Fanshawe. I can express no opinion with regard to the action of the Premier of New Zealand, but will bring before the’ Prime Minister the honorable member’s suggestion that the New Zealand Government should be communicated with on the subject.
– Does the Minister think it right that an Imperial public servant, who is largely subsidized by Australian moneys, should thus publicly criticise Australian policy?
– And insult Australia?
– Hear, hear. The sooner the position is understood the better.
– It is impossible to reply off-hand, as definitely as I should like, to the question of the honorable and learned member, and therefore I shall be glad if he will give notice of it.
– Is it the intention of the Government to liberalize the regulations regarding the issue of railway passes to rifle clubs, which at present limit clubs to two passes per annum for teams of not more than twelve men, and to an aggregate distance of fifty miles?
– The honorable member gave me notice of his intention to ask this question, and in reply I would say that the Government propose to liberalize the conditionsand to increase the grant for travelling to rifle clubs.
Mr.McCAY. - That was done before the present Government came into power.
– As a matter of personal explanation I wish to draw attention to a passage in the Argus report of our closing proceedings of last night, in which the leader of the Opposition is reported to have said of me -
It was a monstrous commentary on the action of that gentleman that he was not present, but had apparently gone home to bed.
I was not out of the building all day yesterday until after the adjournment. We had the assurance of the right honorable gentleman yesterday that there would be no display of Oppositiontactics-
-“ We.” Who are “ we “ ?
Mr.Frazer. - The assurance was no good, whoever had it.
– One of the right honorable member’s supporters told me that he would not call attention to the absence of a quorum because of the function at Government House. That compact was not kept. It ill becomes the right honorable member to find fault with other members for not being present;
– I submit that the honorable member is now going beyond a personal explanation in the comments which he is making oh the conduct of the leader of the Opposition.
– The honorable member is entitled to explain any matter relating to himself, but I ask him not to extend his remarks to the conduct of others.
– I shall not go any further in that direction. But I would point out that it is the rule of the House that, when a denial is made by an honor-‘ able member, every other honorable member must accept it. I therefore ask the leader of the Opposition to act the part of a gentleman, and to apologize to me for having scattered broadcast-
– The honorable member is an authority as to what constitutes the conduct of a gentleman.!
– I ask the right honorable member to apologize for having maliciously scattered broadcast a statement which he knew to be incorrect.
– The honorable member is not in Order in saying that the leader of the Opposition acted maliciously, and I ask him to withdraw the statement.
– I withdraw it, but I still ask for an apology.
– After that statement ?
– The leader of the Opposition said that I was apparently in bed and asleep.
– I did not say asleep. I have never accused the honorable member of being asleep.
– If the right honorable member is a gentleman he will apologize.
– Now that. I find that the honorable member for Grey was not in bed, or, at any rate, if in bed, was within the precincts of Parliament, I regret very much that I put the most innocent construction that I possibly could upon his absence.
– That is adding insult to injury. However, I shall have my chance later on.
– As the honorable member for Grey has referred to the action that I took last night. I feel that I should make an explanation which is due primarily to the Government. I came into the Chamber and found the Attorney-General engaged in a most vigorous and violent diatribe against the leader of the Opposition. I did not know at the time exactly the why and wherefore of the attack, and I called attention to the state of the House. I was not then aware that an undertaking had been given by my chief that nothing of the kind would be attempted, and I very much regret having taken the course I did.
– I desire to ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council whether the Council of Defence has met since the present Government took office, and if not, when it is proposed it shall meet.
– I would, ask the honorable and learned member to give notice of the question. I will then see that he has accurate information on the point. I shall obtain it from the Minister.
– I am sufficiently answered .
– I wish to ask the Minister whether it would be possible for the Council of Defence to meet without his having an accurate knowledge of so simple a fact.
– Everything is possible in this world.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether he has received any communication from the Government of New Zealand with regard to the proposed International Exhibition to be held next year, and whether it is the intention of the Government to be. represented at that Exhibition.
– Speaking from memory, we have received such a communication, and have entered into correspondence with the States Governments in regard to it. Still speaking from memory, I doubt whether the answers are yet complete.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Bill for this purpose during the present session ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– In replyto the honorable member -
Inquiries are being made, and answers will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
What is the amount of revenue received from the New South Wales Department from each of the following sources : -
– In reply to the honorable member -
Inquiries are being made, and answers will be furnished as early as possible.
Motion (by Mr. Mahon) proposed -
That a Select Committee be appointed to investigate and report as to -
The conditions governing the printing and publication of Hansard, the Commonwealth Gazette, and Parliamentary Papers generally, and Reports issued under Acts of Parliament.
The practicability of curtailing the expenditure involved in the printing and issue of such publications and of giving wider publicity to the official report of proceedings in Parliament.
That such Committee have power to send for persons, papers, and records, and to sit at any time.
That the committee consist of Mr. Bamford,
Mr. Groom, Mr. Hutchison, Mr. Kelly, Mr. McWilliams, Mr. Skene, and the mover; and that three be the quorum of such committee.
– I do not know that my name is quite correctly attached to this motion as that of the honorable member who moved the adjournment of the debate, because the only part I took in connexion with the matter at a previous stage was to object to its being proceeded with, in consequence of no reasons having been given for the preference accorded to it over other motions. Whilst I have no objection to the object of the motion, but on the other hand have every sympathy with it, I think that it is unnecessary to go behind the back of the Printing Committee, and to some extent to cast a reflection on that Committee, whose duty it is to deal with most of the matters covered by the motion.
– Does the Printing Committee inquire into the cost of the’ printing ?
– It ought to do so. Judging from my experience in another Parliament such committees have always endeavoured to reduce the cost of printing. They are appointed mainly in order that they may decide what it is necessary to print, and to keep down the expenses as much as possible. Rather than that we should appear to cast a reflection on the Printing Committee, it is desirable to refer the matters dealtwith in the motion to that Committee, instead of to the gentlemen named, all of them no doubt worthy, but no better qualified for the performance of the task than are the members of the Committee. I move, therefore -
That the words “a Select Committee be appointed “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ the Printing Committee be requested “ ; and that paragraphs 2 and 3 be struck out.
– My honorable colleague, the Treasurer, is inquiring into some of the matters referred to in this proposal. I understand that the Commonwealth Gazette, and the reports issued under Acts of Parliament are not at present within the range of the authority of the Printing Committee. The Commonwealth Gazette is under the control of the Treasurer, and reports issued under Acts of Parliament are Departmental reports.
– The Printing Committee could easily deal with those matters along with the others which are within their province.
– I assume so. but my recollection is that the scope of this proposal was broadened at the suggestion of the right honorable member for Balaclava.
– All the subjects mentioned are allied.
– I shall not detain the House any further at this stage. I simply suggest that in the absence of the honorable member in whose name this motion stands, the honorable member having charge of it should consent to the adjournment of the debate. That would allow us to consider the question of what the proposed extension means, and would also give the honorable member an opportunity to state any reason he may have for the suggestion that has been made.
– I have no objection.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Carpenter) adjourned.
– I move-
Panama is of the highest importance to British and Australian commercial interests.
Honorable members will recollect that a motion bearing upon this question was submitted by me last session, but that its consideration was interrupted by the prorogation of Parliament. The motion which I now bring forward is couched in somewhat different language, but has practically the same object in view, my desire being to enable the matter to be dealt with if possible this session. I wish to lay special stress upon the importance of these islands to Australia on two specific grounds, the first being their commercial, and the second their strategical or naval significance. Dealing first with the commercial aspect of the question, I would point out that these islands possess potentialities which require only to be developed to form a great adjunct to the ordinary trade channels of Australia. It is to the interest of those who are settled in Australia that we should develop, as far as we can, the resources of the Pacific Islands in every direction. It was with that object in view that I took an active part in the movement to establish British supremacy in the Pacific some years ago, and at intervals, during the last twenty years I have endeavoured to arouse public interest in regard to the importance of these islands to Australia from the stand-point I have named. The New Hebrides Group should really belong to Great Britain, not only by right of discovery and by reason of the enormous sums that have been expended on mission work and in establishing trading facilities, but by priority of British settlement, and the fact that the British Admiralty has spent large sums in surveying and correctly charting the islands. ‘ But, unfortunately, notwithstanding the frequent representations made by- leading statesmen in Australia, no attempt has been made by the British authorities to annex those valuable islands to the British’ Crown, and they have gradually been encroached upon by foreign powers. The representations that were first made, years ago, to the British authori ties as to the future importance of these islands as affecting Australian and British interests were not received in a very cordial spirit. The Secretary of State for the Colonies appeared to think that there was no danger either then, or within the next 100 years or more, -of a foreign naval power attempting to establish itself in the Pacific. And yet within the short space of four years after such an expression of opinion on the part of the British Minister, foreign Powers began to establish themselves in the Islands. Today we find that different foreign Powers have become established in various parts of the Pacific, and are providing ever possible facility for their own settlers to develop trade among the islands. What are we doing in Australia, and what is Great Britain doing in the same regard? Practically nothing is being done, except that the Commonwealth has taken certain steps with a view to promote the settlement of Australians in the Islands of the Pacific, and more particularly in the New Hebrides. This action has been due chiefly to the enterprise of one shipping firm, which has taken a very active interest in the development of the Group. That firm has given every facility to British settlers, as well as to settlers who have gone from Australia, to develop those islands with the object of establishing their effective occupation, and that should be some justification for our appealing to Great Britain to intervene, in order to prevent their falling into the hands of a foreign Power. But whilst this is being clone on the one hand, we have, on the other hand, unfortunately, raised a tariff wall against the importation of the products of the Islands into Australia, which is the_only market available to them. I wish it to be clearly understood that I am dealing with this Question apart altogether from the fiscal issue. I put aside its fiscal aspect, because I should take the same stand even if I held different views from those which I now entertain on the fiscal question. I regard this, not as a fiscal Question, but as a national one of grave significance, especially as affecting the future trade of Australia in these waters. It is from that point of view that I approach it on the present occasion. I think we ought to remove those restrictions which prevent the settlers from having access to ‘ their only market, and to put them on something like a footing of equality with French colonists, who receive large subsidies from the French
Government to encourage them to settle on the Islands, and to develop their resources. The geographical position of Australia makes her the natural warden of the Pacific, and it is to be regretted that so many of the valuable islands in those waters have been allowed to pass absolutely into foreign control, when, by the exercise of a little wise statesmanship on the part of the British authorities, a few years ago, they all might have been under British control. Had that been done, questions involving international complications and difficulties would not have arisen. Unfortunately, however, it is too late to discuss that aspect of the question. Having regard to the mistakes that have been made in the past, and the neglect to provide against the disabilities which have eventuated, we should now endeavour to prevent the mischief from developing on lines which may be, sooner or later, of very serious moment to the commercial interests of Australia. In this connexion, I desire to quote’ a statement made by a Mr. Cronstadt, a settler of thirty-five years’ standing in the New Hebrides, with’ regard to the disabilities under which settlement has taken place in that Group. In the course of an interview with the reporter of a newspaper, he says : -
The residents laboured under serious disabilities, none of which, however, could altogether be attributed to the dual control. One of the most serious drawbacks to the settlers of the islands was the want of a near market. Last year he had a splendid crop of coffee beans, but owing to the prohibitive Tariff imposed by the Commonwealth it was not worth his while to gather the crop. The same thing could be said regarding maize, which could be grown in abundance.
– Yet all the other coffee which comes into the Commonwealth - and practically it is all imported - pays that duty.
– Yes, but it must be remembered that a crop grown under these conditions would be a very small one, and although it might pay to send a very large crop to the Australian market notwithstanding the duty._ still it might not pay to gather a small crop, and send it here.
– It might not, but it is practically on the same footing as all other coffee imported.
– Possibly, there is also a difference in the cost of the freight.
– Not now. The freight has been reduced considerably.
– This statement was given to the newspaper before the concession was made by Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Company -
Owing to the Federal Tariff the general trade of the islands was already slowly but surely drifting to the French, and if Great Britain, and Australia particularly, desired to retain some sort of control over the New Hebrides they would have to frame a reciprocal Tariff.
– There cannot be a reciprocal Tariff.
– I am only quoting this gentleman’s opinion. Of course, I recognise that there cannot be a reciprocal Tariff, because while the islands are under dual control there would have to be two duties, even if they had any authority to establish a Tariff.
– They have no authority.
– I understand that clearly, because there is no form of government, and even the promised appointment of Commissioners has not yet been fulfilled.
– And would not settle that question if it had been,
– No, because they would not be vested with authority to dea with questions of that kind. There is, however, another way in which the difficulty can be cured, and that is by treating the settlers in the group as Australian citizens. After collecting the duty we might allow them a rebate in the same way as is done in New Caledonia. The French Government impose duties on French-grown produce, but they allow a rebate which practically amounts to about 50 per cent, of the duty collected, and the balance is returned to the French settlers to be expended in making roads and providing other facilities for getting produce to market. For all practical purposes it may be said that the produce of the French “settlers is admitted into Noumea free of duty. When British settlers complain of the different treatment which is meted out to them in comparison with French settlers, naturally the latter say - “ Well, that is a complaint which you legitimately have against the British Government. See how little they care for your interests, see how little they trouble themselves about you. Would it not pay you far better to become naturalized French subjects and’ thus share all the advantages which the French Government give to their settlers.” It speaks well for the patriotism of the British settlers who are labouring under these disabilities that so far they have resisted all the temptations held out to them to transfer their allegiance from the British to a foreign flag. No doubt it is from a natural love of their country that they have so far withstood the temptations. I suppose that they desire to see this territory pass under British control, and do not like to think of a great naval foreign power being firmly established in such close proximity to the shores of Australia, from which most of the settlers went to establish new homes. For all practical purposes I take it that they regard themselves still as Australian citizens, and wish to be treated from that stand-point. In connexion with these disabilities, it will be remembered that about last November a petition was presented by the British settlers to the right honorable member for East Sydney when he was Prime Minister. It was sent over by the oldest resident in the island, Mr. A. Roche, and on account of its value in the form of evidence of the conditions of the settlers I propose to read the following portion of his letter covering the petition: -
The petition bears the signatures of sixty-nine adult males, all bond fide planters and settlers, and does not include any residents engaged in mission work. The petition, however, has the cordial approval;, of the Presbyterian Mission, a great number of whom were anxious to attach their signatures. It was considered, however, that the expression of approval signed by the Moderator of the New Hebrides Synod, which is attached, would sufficiently express their cordial sympathy with the appeal of the commercial section. As the oldest resident British planter in the New Hebrides, I can assure you, sir, that the views expressed in the petition but faintly convey the anxiety that obtains throughout the group as to the attitude which the Commonwealth of Australia intends to adopt towards us.
I shall now read an excerpt from the petition. Referring to their grounds for stating that present indications appear to point to ultimate French control, the petitioners say -
We give the following reasons for so thinking :-
The fact that the French settlers outnumber the British by forty-one, the numbers being - French 255, British 214.
That by subsidies and superior transport facilities the French subjects are given far more encouragement than their British rivals.
The French Government give inestimable assistance to her colonists by allowing their produce into Noumea practically free of duty.
We could give many more reasons, but trust that the three above-mentioned will be sufficient.
To the petition was attached a note by the Rev. J. W. Mackenzie, Moderator of the New Hebrides Synod. Writing from Vila Harbor on the 6th of September, 1904. he says -
With the accompanying petition, I am in the fullest sympathy, and feel sure that all the missionaries throughout the group would be, were they aware of its existence. It is unfortunate that they have not had an opportunity of attaching their signatures, but, as it is now . too late to remedy this omission, I gladly, on their behalf, forward the statement along with the said petition.
It will be seen that this is practically a petition from all the Australian residents in the group, asking for action to be taken by this Parliament to relieve the grievances which are therein set forth, and to assist them in getting rid of the disabilities under which they labour. I think that the voice of the missionaries has also a right to be heard, for it must be remembered that nearly all the islands in the South Pacific Ocean were originally Christianized and colonized by British missionaries at the cost of many tens of thousands of pounds and the loss of many valuable lives. To missionary effort is also largely due the commercial knowledge of these islands, which has been gained throughout the world. Therefore, I think that the representations of the missionary authorities certainly ought to carry a great deal of weight with this Parliament. It must be remembered, too, that the settlers must rely upon the cultivation of crops, such as maize and coffee, while they are waiting for the cocoanut plantations to develop. It is of no use to rely upon immediate returns from cocoanuts, because it takes from five to eight years for the trees to come to maturity, and to furnish a marketable commodity. Of course, when they do reach maturity, the British settlers will be able to carry on the work of the development of the islands under far more favorable conditions than they can do at present. But what are they to do in the meantime? “ While the grass is growing the steed is starving,” so to speak. It is for the purpose of enabling them to tide over the interval between the planting of the cocoanuts and their maturity, that they have to have recourse to other sources of production. Hence the necessity to obtain markets for their products becomes imperative. What we require is that some such patriotic individual as trie late Mr. Higginson should interest himself in the Islands.
– Surely the honorable member does not call him patriotic ?
– Not from a British stand-point, perhaps, but certainly he may be so called from the stand-point of the country of his adoption. Although of Irish origin, he became enamoured of the French flag, and cast in his lot with the French people ; and there is no doubt that the French owe to the efforts of this natural British subject much of the settlement and development that has taken place in New Caledonia, as well as the settlement that has taken place on account of France in the New Hebrides. It was owing to Mr. Higginson’s indefatigable efforts that such strides were made in commercial matters in New Caledonia in the first instance; and if we could only get, as a quid -pro quo, some gentleman of French origin, who would become a patriotic Britisher, or a patriotic Australian, and do likewise in the New Hebrides group, we should certainly owe a debt of gratitude to him.
– Will some member of Parliament volunteer?
– I will make one, with any one else, so far as my efforts can go. In this connexion it will be of interest, I think, to read quotations from a letter which Mr. Higginson wrote to the London Morning Post on the 20th June last. By reading these quotations, I shall be able to put the position much more concisely than would be the case if I were to explain Mr. Higginson’s action in my own words. He was the founder of the original French Society of the New Hebrides, and it was also due to his efforts that the New French Society was established after the old one had pot into difficulties. In this letter Mr. Higginson refers, with some pride, to the results of the expedition which he made to the Island of Espiritu Santo. He described the island as containing some 1,500,000 acres of land, and as being the richest and best watered island in the New Hebrides group. I think that traders will be willing to confirm his estimate of the value of the island, which is well v sheltered, has an excellent anchorage and harbors, and in regard to its trade potentialities is nearly as important as all the other islands of the group put together. I will read the following extract from Mr. Higginson’s letter. He says -
One of the results of the expedition of three years ago was that about 100,000 acres of land were purchased, that treaties were made with the chiefs, and that in other respects it had been successful. It was this success, he adds, that induced him to resuscitate the French New Hebrides Society, with the result that “ the company is now established on a good and sound basis, that direct communication with France is secured by the Messageries Maritimes running a monthly mail service to the New Hebrides, and that I have become its managing director.”
I do not propose to read the whole of the letter, but only those parts of it which have a direct bearing upon Australian interests, as showing the importance of these islands from the commercial stand-point, and the extreme desirableness of providing against their falling under the domination of a foreign power. Mr. Higginson, recognising the value of the islands, his great anxiety at the time was that they should be annexed by France. In fact, he devoted all the latter part of his life to try to bring about this result. He is dead now, and an end has been put to his labours. But the French Government has been fully sensible of his untiring energies, and it is_ proposed to erect a monument to his memory on one of the islands. He concludes his communication as follows : -
The work was necessary to be done to strengthen the position of France in the Pacific, the importance of which time will in due course show.
I quite agree with him in that opinion.
As one who has long cherished the feelings which have found expression in the entente cordiale, I would urge on you, as leader of the public opinion, to impress on those in authority the extreme desirability of some definite and early settlement being come to between France and Great Britain as to the ownership of the islands, and thus avoid the trouble and the evils which will inevitably arise from a continuance of the present condition of matters, and this settlement should be arrived at at a time when Australia is the more likely to consider the desires of her mother country, and to take those far-seeing views which her world-wide Empire imposes on her.
The Courier Aust r alien, the official organ of French opinion in the Commonwealth, points out that the letter of Mr. Higginson is of special interest, in view of the recent discussion in the Federal Parliament on the New Hebrides question.
Of course, the point of view of Mr. Higginson was that the understanding between France and Great Britain should be in the interests of absolute French control. I agree with Mr. Higginson that_ a speedy settlement of the question is necessary, but I do so from an entirely opposite point of view, namely, that the islands should pass under absolute
British control. The desire of the French people, and of the French settlers, is, and all their efforts have ever been, in the direction of obtaining full control of those islands, and they have left no stone unturned to effect that purpose. I see from recent news, published in the press, that it is proposed to increase the French subsidy by something like 75,000 francs, or ,£3,000.
– What is the total SUDsidy ? Is it £16,000, or £16,000 plus £3.000?
– So far as I understand, the subsidy is ,£16,000 plus the £3,000. I do not give that as an absolute fact, owing to the difficulty in arriving at the subsidy paid. The subsidy is paid in a variety of methods, which are almost impossible for an outsider to trace.
– That is the current estimate?
– The subsidy is chiefly paid out of a secret fund.
– That is so, and hence the difficulty in arriving at the actual amount. Touching the unceasing activities of Mr. Higginson, I should like to quote from an article which appeared in the Paris Figaro, which devoted a large amount of space to a. contribution from the nen of M. Pierre de Couvertin concerning himself and his labours.
– And a very high authority.
– A very high authority; and I think honorable members will bear with me while I read one or two extracts of special interest -
In a few days only Higginson created the Caledonian New Hebrides Society - in a few days only, mark you - and a few months later this company had acquired about 700,000 acres of land in the archipelago, taken the best harbors, bought up existing buildings, taken over on its own account the foreign agents, built a wharf, undertaken the construction of roads, and created important commercial relations. In this way were conquered the island of Vate (Sandwich Villa) and the neighbouring ones.
I may say that the island of Vate possesses the magnificent harbor of Havanna, than which there is none finer in the Southern Hemisphere.
This masterstroke was obliged to be repeated by Higginson two years later, and was equally successful. On this occasion it concerned the islands of Mallicolo, one of the most extensive in the archipelago.
Mallicolo is another very important island in the group, with great natural potentialities of wealth production, and possessing a very fine harbor.
News had reached Noumea of the formation of an Anglo-Australian company, which was to be strongly supported by the Parliament of Wellington. In view of so threatening a project, and owing to the impossibility of obtaining intervention from Paris, Higginson hastily chartered a steamer, the Neoblie, in which he and a party of friends discreetly embarked. The vessel headed for the island of Vate, loaded from the French stores, and, with an old hulk in tow - a former war vessel, the Cheverb - which served as a floating dep6t, started for Mallicolo, where they arrived after a tempestuous voyage and heavy sea, and, passing through the Coral Reefs, anchored in the Bay of Port Sandwich. Next day the native chiefs, having been convened on board, signed a trading treaty, sold the bay and neighbouring territory to the company, and also signed a petition for French protectorate.
It will be seen that the French acquired this magnificent bay.
The writer concludes - “ Such was the man for whose body, now being conveyed to Noumea, a glorious tombing is waiting to afford its supreme rest.”
I may inform honorable members that Mr. Higginson died in Paris, and his body is being conveyed to Noumea for burial, so much do the French think of his labours. It is proposed that the inscription shall not be engraved upon the tomb until the islands have been annexed by France. The last lines of M. Couvertin’s interesting article refer to the fact in the following terms : -
To the grief of his numerous children, grown up in the love of France, will be added the deep regret and gratitude of all those whom he befriended and assisted in the course of a noble and courageous life. A monument worthy of his memory must be erected in the centre of the archipelago, with which his name will remain associated. The pedestal must also remain without inscription till the day when his proud reply to Admiral Pothuan, Minister of Marine, who had expressed his gratitude for the services rendered to his adopted country - “ Admiral, if you wish to reward me, annex the New Hebrides “ - can be graven thereon. Let the French hasten the dawning of such a day.
As bearing further on the desire of France to acquire the islands, I may quote from a report written by Dr. Daniel Macdonald, of the Presbyterian mission station at Sema. About October, 1894, Dr. Macdonald was asked by Captain Rason, the British Commissioner, to report as to the conditions prevailing between the French settlers and his mission, and a copy of the report has been forwarded by Dr. Macdonald in a letter written to a friend of his, the Rev. Andrew Hardie, Convener of Foreign Missions in the Presbyterian Church of Victoria. Referring to the French having taken possession of land belonging to this particular mission station of the Presbyterian Church, Dr. Macdonald says : -
French aggressions and violent proceedings began last December, protested against them, and so often complained of since, as set forth in my correspondence in December, and since down to 26th May, 1904 (date of my last letter to you).
It will be seen that, prior to this report, Dr. Macdonald had reason to complain of French aggression upon British territory, and of French interference with British settlers. This is a further report, added to his previous report. Continuing, he says - with the Acting Deputy Commissioner and yourself, still continue, and that the present state of affairs therefore is that neither the natives in my employ nor those acting by. my sanction are planting their plantations, or taking cocoanuts from Sema, and cannot even go upon the land at Sema, except at the fisk of their lives, and that as the French in violently bringing this about, have destroyed so much of the food they had previously planted, these natives are now beginning to suffer from scarcity of food, and will, of course, suffer more in the ensuing rainy season during the annual time of scarcity, and that the more especially as this is not a plentiful year.
In the letter written to the Rev. Andrew Hardie, covering this communication, Dr. Macdonald was making an appeal for assistance, in the form of a supply of rice, to help the natives to tide over the time of scarcity in view, as the result, very largely, of these French proceedings, as well as of the effects of the rainy season then anticipated. He further says -
On the 2nd June, the chief and a teacher of Samoa, on going to their plantation at Sema found some of their bananas outrooted and yam vines cut (to prevent the yams from growing). On the roth June, the Samoa natives went to their plantation at Sema, and found no damage had been done. In the evening of that day some of them saw from a distance the French boat at Sema, and heard shooting in its vicinity on the Sema land. Next day, nth June, they went to the plantation and found all the bananas in it cut down, also sugar-cane and native cabbage, and all the manioe uprooted, also some yams which had been dug up and left on the ground cut to pieces, and two baskets of yams which had been left on a stand taken away.
On the 23rd September, the natives reported that on going to Sema to-day they found that the fence of the plantation of the chief and people of Samoa had been burned a few days ago.
It is to be noted, also, that the French are still taking cocoanuts from Sema, and making copra of them.
On the 23rd September it was found that, along the shore, notice-boards had been erected, at intervals of about a mile. The notice, which was in French, was substantially this-: It claimed the land as French territory, and warned people from entering upon the land, or exploiting it without authority from the French New Hebrides Company. The report proceeds -
On the same day (23rd September) I went to Masona, the boundary, south of and close to where the French military post was/, between the church’s property and the French company’s, and found that a new fence had just been erected to the south of what has always been hitherto the universally-acknowledged boundary, running through the hitherto undisputed property of the Presbyterian Church of Victoria, and a board fixed on a tree on the line of the fence, with an inscription, word for word, the same as that above given. This is a new aggression, distinct from the aggressions at Sema, and it is the assertion for the first time of a claim never heard of before to a portion of the church’s land on the church’s side of the Masona boundary.
As it therefore is my duty to do so, I hereby protest to you, and through you to the French authorities, against this entirely new aggression at Masona, to the end that the erection of this new fence, and the fixing this inscribed board on the line of .it, shall not be regarded as in any way giving the French company any right to claim or take possession of the portion of the church’s property, thus wrongfully claimed and endeavoured to be taken possession of.
These extracts show unmistakably that, in addition to the disabilities which, unfortunately, !we have .placed tin :the way of British settlers getting a natural market for their products, they have also to labour under the disability of French aggression, which they are not in a position to resist. I am credibly informed that further encroachments on the rights of British- Australian settlers have taken place quite recently. There, is no power upon which they can call to render them assistance, and they are practically at the mercy of any depredations which the French settlers may choose to commit. The French settlers, it must not be forgotten, have redress for any aggression by Britishers, in a direct appeal to the authorities at Noumea. Unfortunately, we are not in a position to give any such guarantee of protection to British or Australian settlers. Wherever attempts are made on the part of Australian or British settlers to colonize islands, such colonization being in the interests of the British Empire and of British unity, it should be the endeavour of every patriotic citizen of the Empire to afford the colonists every possible assistance. To show further that annexation is the French objective, I propose to quote -two short paragraphs from another newspaper, the New Caledonian journal, La France Autrale. Having dealt with the circumstances which led up to the proposed agreement betwen the two nations, a writer in this newspaper goes on to say -
The joint commission about to bc appointed -
I do not know when it is going to be appointed
– Nor I.
The joint commission about to be appointed will, like the conventions of of 1S78 and 1887, give England a new foothold in the Archipelago, by recognising on a diplomatic basis, both in fact and right, ils intervention in a country which ought not to be, and until 1877 was not, considered other than as a dependency of New Caledonia. “ How long,” it asks, “ is the co-dominion, so illogical and disadvantageous to the interests of the colonists of both nations inhabiting the islands, to last? Tlie operations of the commission on the spot will show the inconvenience of that state of things. It will prove that a house cannot have two masters; that the inhabitants, white and black, cannot be governed by two jurisdictions; that two Customs regulations cannot bc enforced in the Archipelago. It cannot create public services, municipalities, public works, police, law, nor regulate matters of health, if the control is divided. We have already established there elective municipalities. What will the English do?”
The writer might have added, “ What will the Australian Commonwealth do?”
– I think we can do nothing
– Until we get sufficient authority from the British authorities at Home.
– That is so.
– I trust that authority will be forthcoming before very long. I do not attach any blame to the Government of the Australian Commonwealth’ for having failed to do something which it is quite evident they had not the power to do. I trust that it will not be very long before they obtain that power.
We have a hospital, as have the English. Do not the English avail themselves of our roads, of our appointments, of our schools, the same as ourselves? We have an excellent French newspaper; when will the English have one? . . . Thus, the inevitable conclusion ever arises - it would be better for Australia and for us to finish the whole matter, not by an unjust and impossible division, but by an understanding which should recognise the conditions that we formulated in 1901, at the time of the constitution of the Australian Federation, viz., the annexation of the archipelago to New Caledonia. For the honour of two great nations, for the benefit of their people, colonists and traders resident in the islands, for the welfare of the natives, now engaged in mutual destruction or disappearing - let the matter come to an end. That would be an act of international friendship, of justice, and of humanity.
It will be seen from what I have read that the objective of France is annexation. That must be realized as her objective, since it is declared in. her newspapers, is shown by the* enormous sums of money which she has spent in assisting the handful of French settlers on these islands, and by the interest she has taken in the development of the group, as evidenced by the fact that a French warship with a resident magistrate on board visits it four times a year, and is made obvious in a variety of other ways, as no doubt honorable members have seen for themselves in the statements which have appeared in our newspapers from time to time. In connexion with the visit of a French warship to the New Hebrides, I might inform the House that, whereas on previous occasions only those portions of the islands exclusively occupied by French settlers have been visited, on the last cruise those portions inhabited by British settlers were also visited. Everything points to the fact that it is the intention of France to ultimately annex these islands, and it is to the interest of Australia and of Great Britain that that annexation shall not take place. In this connexion I offer the suggestion that an arrangement might be come to between Great Britain and France on the. initiative of either of those powers, or upon a representation made by the Australian Government,, in conjunction with New Zealand, if the co-operation of that Colony can be secured. Under that arrangement territory largely or wholly under the control of Great Britain, and of greater importance to French interests than the New Hebrides can ever be. might be exchanged for them. The New Hebrides would then pass absolutely under British control, and if the Imperial Government so desired, the Commonwealth Government might administer them subject to that control. I do not in the least blame France for the attitude which she has assumed in regard to these islands, or her actions in respect to the group. A nation cannot be blamed for endeavouring to acquire territory to add to its prestige, or for purposes of trade, or to place it in a stronger posi- tion. No one can blame the French for using every legitimate means to attain that object in respect of the New Hebrides; but we shall deserve to be blamed if we allow that action to go unchecked, to the prejudice of our trade, and to the menace of our commercial and national interests in time of war. There was an attempt at the annexation of these islands by the French in the eighties. In spite of a reciprocal arrangement between France and Great Britain in 1847 with reference to the Raiatea group near Tahiti, under which both countries bound themselves never to take possession of the group, either absolutely, under a protectorate, or in any other way, those islands were annexed by France in 1880, and what happened in regard to them may Happen in regard to the New Hebrides. As a further indication that annexation is the objective of the French, I may mention that they are spending large sums ofmoney in the erection; of substantial stone buildings and in the improvement of the wharfage and harbor accommodation at Vila. Besides the French the Germans and other nations have established themselves in islands adjacent to Australia. The trouble caused to Australian traders by the assertion of a German monopoly of the trade of the Marshall and othergroups in the Pacific is too fresh in the minds of honorable members for it to be necessary for me to make more than a passing reference to it. I refer to the matter merely to show how we are becoming hemmed in, and our hitherto peaceful isolation is being menaced through the occupation by foreign powers of islands adjacent to our territory. In this connexion I may mention that Germany is attempting to stamp out the ‘British language in her possessions, as the following statement from a correspondent in New Britain, published in a newspaper dated 25th July, 1904, will show: -
Dr. Hahl. the Governor of New Britain and the German Western Pacific possessions, has been decorated by the Kaiser Wilhelm, in recognition of his endeavours to promote the German language in the colonies under his jurisdiction. Dr. Hahl is the Governor who last year gained considerable notoriety by the issue of an official circular, appealing to his friends, subordinates, and employes to abolish the use of the English language, and to eradicate British influence in their colonies. In the circular reference was made to thedanger of annexation by the Australian Commonwealth.
Also in connexion with this matter, another article appeared in the newspapers about that time, wherein reference was made to the departure of a British missionary, as follows: -
Much regret is felt by the British settlers of New Britain at the announced retirement from the field of missionary labours of the Rev. John A. Crump, of the Australian Methodist Church, who has spent eleven years as a missionary amongst the natives of New Britain. The exact cause of Mr. Crump’s retirement from the ministry is not known, but it is generally surmised that his views do not coincide with those of the missionary authorities, who are endeavouring to Germanize the mission, in deference to the wishes of the Government officials. The Rev. Fell man, a minister of the German Lutheran Church, has been appointed chairman of a New Britain Methodist mission, and another minister of the same church has also been appointed to the mission. If it is that the authorities intend to gradually hand over their New Britain mission to the German Lutheran Church, then the Rev. Mr. Crump’s retirement from the Methodist ministry is not to be wondered at. Mr. Crump is without doubt the ablest and most successful Methodist missioner in New Britain, and it was he who inaugurated the establishment of a cocoanut plantation to make his mission selfsupporting.
There is another aspect of the question to which I would direct attention, and that is the strategic importance of these islands from the point of view of the defence of Australia and of British commerce in the Pacific, which is sure to develop very largely in the near future. We may expect that the Panama Canal will be opened in about eight or ten years, andany one who will study the map of the Pacific must see that that event must have a very important bearing upon Australian interests, commercially and otherwise, in the Pacific. With the opening of the canal we’ shall have made available to us a new route to Australia from the eastern ports of America, from the United Kingdom, and from Continental countries immediately adjacent to Great Britain. A large amount of the trade - if not the greater part of it - which now comes to Australia through the Suez Canal will, as the result of the more direct communication afforded by the Panama Canal, naturally be diverted to the Pacific route. Thus infinitely greater value will attach to the islands adjacent to that route, not only from the trade point of view, because trade with Australia will probably be developed all along the line by vessels coming through the canal from Great Britain and other countries, but also owing to the necessity for effectively policing the Pacific and protecting British trade. At the present time there are established in the vicinity of that route several foreign naval Powers, all of which possess islands that afford naval bases, from which they could successfully operate against British commerce in time of war. We are absolutely, at the mercy of such Powers, because we have no facilities for establishing additional coaling stations - at any rate, we have not sufficient facilities to enable us to carry on effective police supervision of the Pacific. The most important port adjacent to the route is to be found at Havanna Harbor, in the island of Vate. This harbor is capable of sheltering the” combined fleets of any two Powers in the world. It has a great depth of water, and extends for a distance of seven Or eight miles, from tlie entrance to its further end. It has a magnificent approach - one that is not to be equalled in the Pacific - about a mile wide, and with a depth of water capable of allowing of the passage in all conditions of weather, of the largest ship that has ever been built, or is likely to be built. Unlike most of the other harbors in the Pacific. it is free from the dangers which attac’h~’to the existence of coral reefs. This harbor is of special value as a naval base, because it is easily approachable in all kinds of weather. In addition to the main entrance, there is another means of access available for smaller vessels, and yet another which can be utilized for boats and other small craft. On either side of the harbor deep anchorage, with good holding ground, can be found. The harbor is well sheltered, and is easily capable of being fortified, and, in fact, in every respect offers special advantages as a ‘main naval, .base for effectively policing the South Pacific after the canal has been opened and the new trade route has been’ established. If this harbor and the other splendid harbors which exist in these islands were allowed to pass into the possession of a foreign Power which might - let us hope that it never would - come into conflict with Great Britain, and a disastrous war were to result, the whole of the British commerce in the South Pacific would be completely at the mercy of the enemy. Whilst from a commercial point of view these islands are of the greatest importance to Australia, their strategical value to Great Britain in the event of war with any of the Powers represented in the Pacific would be of still greater importance. We know that the possibilities of war are always present, even when the most cordial relations appear to exist between the nations, and therefore the strategic importance of these islands is even greater than their value from a commercial point of view. Another grave reason why the effective occupation of these islands should be brought about is afforded by the fact tha’t Germany is displaying the greatest naval activity in the Pacific. In New Britain her energy has been most marked of recent years. She has at Simpson’s Harbor, in Blanco Bay, and at Matupi, in German New Guinea, established depots for provisioning ships of war, and naval bases within striking distance of our Torres Straits route. In Simpson’s Harbor, New Britain, a wharf has been built a thousand feet in lengths - the longest in the Southern Hemisphere. Capacious stores, costing about ,£40,000, and suitable for serving^ the requirements of a population of something like 100,000, have also been erected. This expenditure has been incurred ostensibly to provide trading facilities for the Norddeutscher-Lloyd Steamship Company ; but, when we remember that there are’ no inhabitants at this place, and consequently no trade to be done there, it must be self-evident that this large outlay has been made, not to furnish trading facilities for any . steam-ship company, but to provide a naval base. This is tlie more apparent since the work has been carried cut under the direction of the Imperial authorities. This place, which is within striking distance of our Torres Straits route, stands on a peninsula, and is very easily fortified. It is surrounded by lofty hills of volcanic origin, and, with the mounting of a few guns, the harbor could be made absolutely impregnable. The main trading station on the island is Herbert:shoe, which is about ten miles distant, so that it will be seen that German activity in the direction I have named cannot be reasonably believed to be for trading purposes alone. These facilities are being afforded, it is reasonable to assume, for the conversion of trading steamers into cruisers in time of necessity. I do not blame the German authorities for displaying this alertness, for they have a perfect right to do so; but my complaint is that, while so much foreign activity is being evidenced in the islands of the Pacific in the neighbourhood of Australia, we appear to be powerless to do anything whatever to guard against the dangers that surround us, as the result of foreign settlement. I noticed a report in the press a few days ago to the effect that Germany intended to establish a Pacific squadron. The creation of that squadron will add to the dangers to Australia which already exist, and which must be voiced and considered. This is one of the most important questions to which the Federal Parliament could address itself. Although we may make laws dealing with our internal government, laws affecting our industries and our own citizens, those laws will be as naught in the event of our becoming a prey to invasion - as we are liable to be at any time - and finding ourselves unable to resist it. For this reason it is of the very greatest importance that we should endeavour to induce the British authorities to interest themselves in this question from the point of view, not only of Australia, but of British commercial interests, which will be threatened by the foreign occupation of islands adjacent to the main highway of the Pacific, and which will be opened up by the Panama Canal. By reason of priority of British settlement, by reason of the large sums which have been expended by the British in developing, Christianizing, and surveying these islands, as well as by reason of discovery, I think we have the first claim to their possession. On these grounds I submit this motion, and I trust that it will receive the serious and earnest consideration of the House.
– I do not desire to speak at any length on this question, and did not anticipate that I should be called upon to address myself to it this afternoon. I was under the impression that the honorable member for Lang would not lae so fortunate as to have his motion called upon so early in the session; but I desire to . avail myself of the opportunity that now presents itself to deal briefly with the subject. I sincerely regret that the discussion should apparently be regarded as a somewhat academic one. So far from being an academic one, the matter, not only as affecting the New Hebrides, but as regards the general question involved, is second in importance to none of the questions which the Parliament is likely to consider during this session of practical work. The honorable member for Lang is to be complimented on having secured so early an opportunity for its consideration, and he certainly has not laid himself open to a charge of having used any immoderate language in the motion as submitted. If he will permit me to quarrel with him at all, in reference to the motion, I have to find fault with him for what I regard as the supermildness of the language in which it is couched As it stands, it does not by any means cove-: the ground that we should desire to see covered, nor does it go to the extent that I think not only this House, but Australia as a whole wishes to see this question taken. During the Federal campaign - when the Constitution, under which we are now living, was being discussed on many platforms- - one of the matters in regard to which it was fondly hoped Australia would be able to speak with a stronger and more effective, because a united’, voice, was that relating to white settlement in the South Pacific. I regret to say that, if we are to judge by the slight progress made by the Imperial Government in dealing with this question, and by the very deliberate attention that is being given to Australian representations on the matter, we do not seem to be nu.vii>:r with any great rapidity from that slat? of affairs which obtained when we were tlx separate States. I do not know whether the Prime Minister has yet received any definite information from the Home Government in regard to the Joint Commission in the New Hebrides, or as to British action in these matters. The honorable and learned gentleman shakes his head, and I am satisfied that in this respect each preceding Government could probably tell very much the same story that the present one can. I feel that we in Australia, whose interests are so concerned with the continual progress of non-British settlement in the South Pacific, should speak with no uncertain voice. It may be that, at most, our desires will clash with what are regarded as more important interests. It is not our duty, however, to determine the extent to which that clashing must be overcome or how those difficulties are to bc reconciled. It is our duty, as the representatives of Australia, to place clearly before the Imperial Government what Ave conceive to be the essentials for the future peaceful development of this Continent. Anyone who looks at the history of the colonization of this quarter of the globe during the last fifty years - from the day when steam navigation began to supersede ‘ the use of sails until now, when Australia is infinitely nearer in effect to the old world than were, say, the United States a century ago - cannot fail but to have brought home to his mind with unpleasant force, the fact that Great Britain is the one nation which seems to find it unnecessary to watch over the maintenance of her interests in a peaceful way in this quarter. Every nation which gets a foothold in the South Pacific, and gets such a haven as some of those described by the honorable member for Lang, gets within striking distance of Australia for her fleets, or, which is possibly at times more important, for her transport vessels. Australia, with its large territory and small population, is practically brought closer to an outpost of that nation. Although at present the Empire to which we belong is at peace with all the world, still, political alliances, I might remind the Prime Minister as well as others, are proverbially unstable, ‘whether they be on a small or large scale. We do not know from year to year what re-arrangement of political exigencies may make it to the interests ‘ of a nation which at one time is on friendly terms with us, and has common interests with us for a time in certain directions, at another time to pull in a diametrically opposite direction. We have observed during the past thirty or forty years, the gradual peaceful conquest of the South Pacific in non-Australian interests, where Australian interests if they had been attended to could have been insured a very much less unsatisfactory state of affairs than now exists. I propose to point out how Australia is vitally concerned, if she is to be ..enabled to develop in the future without having to look to the possibility of an enormously greater expenditure on defence than that which she incurs at the present time. Because every fact of history during the last half century has, by giving other nations outposts close to her, brought Australia nearer to the storm centres of old world troubles. The very war which is taking place in the North Pacific, has brought Australia infinitely nearer to the possibilities of trouble than she was before it began. In Europe there are, it is true, two schools of thought as to where the scene of the great world’s struggle on the ocean will be. There is a school which thinks that the scene of strife will be not at any remote distance from the British’ Isles, and I do not wish even here to particularize the possible nations with whom Great Britain may be in conflict then. There is another school which thinks that the Pacific may at no distant date be the scene of some of the great struggles which will determine the history of nations for centuries to come. Yet, in spite of that, I regret to say that the British Government appears to find it impossible to act in any definite and firm manner with regard to the continual acquisition, by other nations, of permanent settlements in the South Pacific. It is our business to endeavour to keep the Imperial Government, distant as it is from these scenes, alive to the importance of these matters, and to the necessity of recognising Australian view;s upon them as far as that can be done. Having had an opportunity of observing more carefully than others may have had the possibilities of the situation, I say unhesitatingly that the acquisition of the New Hebrides affects Australia as a portion of the British Empire much more vitally than their acquisition by France affects the French Republic. Therefore, we have more reason to be strenuous in our efforts instead of, as the fact is, being less strenuous. Of course, I admit that the Commonwealth has comparatively little power in these matters. Our own initiative does not extend very far; but still I do feel that a substantial support to any Executive which is representing these matters to the Home Government should, even if it does not assist them, nevertheless be given. It is for that reason I am glad that this motion has been submitted, and I trust that it may progress so far and so rapidly that we shall get a definite expression of opinion from this Parliament on this important matter. The possession of such harbors as those referred to by the honorable member for Lang, fortified at comparatively small cost, would mean that Australia, as she stands at present, would not be able to defend herself properly against any attempted aggression. I do not desire to go into the very large question of the form which Australian defence should lake, and the degree of efficiency, or alleged1 inefficiency, to which it has attained. Every time another nation comes nearer To us our task in self-defence is made more difficult. Although it may sound a far cry to talk of the invasion of Australia by an enemy either in small numbers or in force, still the only way in which we can assure, in the distant future, our peaceful development is by taking (the preliminary steps now - by endeavouring, as far as possible, to’ produce such a result that we shall not require to make further preparation for defence in the future. The best protection for Australia lies in her actual distance from points of attack. Every time a point of attack comes nearer the result is exactly the same as if Australia were lifted bodily and set down nearer to the old world. We have been steadily losing this geographical advantage during the last half century, as nation after nation - one in particular - has been coming nearer to our shores, and it is time that we said definitely that, so far as our opinion goes, the Empire, of which we form a part, should look after our interests, as they have the control of these matters, to the extent of seeing that this course of development does not proceed further. What man is there in Australia who does not remember, and remember with regret, the course of events which resulted in New Guinea being cut into pieces and belonging to different powers, instead of to Australia ? The fact that there are adjacent territories belonging to nations other than Great Britain makes every defence problem in Australia infinitely more difficult than it would otherwise have been. The New Hebrides are almost as important a point to us as are the harbors of German New Guinea. Although one does not like to appear to be using the language of reproach towards the Imperial Government, still, there are times when one’s duty surpasses that natural feeling of reluctance, and I think it is the duty of this Parliament to speak out plainly on a matter of this kind. The regret is that Australian unity does not seem to have strengthened the force of Australian representation, and there we have a just ground of complaint.
– Two or three years ago we used that very argument - that we were induced to federate largely for causes of that kind.
– When on many platforms we spoke of Australian defence being one of the great subjects of united action, we did not merely mean the raising of an Australian Army, or even if it should at any time become necessary, the raising of an Australian Navy. We meant those geographical and political arrangements which would insure the defence of Australia being a comparatively simple matter. We have ground of complaint that there is not more recognition being paid to our representations on this subject. I do not think it will do harm, on the contrary, I think it will do good, if a debate in this House, and in the other too, should show that not only is there a mere official representation by the Government in response to a vague sort of feeling, but an expression of active alarm that this course of procedure is still going on, and that no more serious effort appears to be made now than was made in years past to check it. Whilst we have so small a population, with the large area we have to cover, I do not wish to use language that would appear to be menacing or which we should be unable to support by force if we desired to use it. But, after all, the fact remains that Australia will never be in a perfectly satisfactory position so long as we have not for Australia the equivalent of the Monroe doctrine in the South Pacific. That, I admit at once, is not within the region of practical politics.
– It might have been a few years ago.
– It might have been thirty years ago to all intents and purposes if the British Government at that time had only recognised the fact. Even though we cannot have such a thing as that, and although I confess frankly that Australia by herself would be utterly unable £o enforce such a doctrine, even though she laid it down, yet I may remind the House that the United States, when she laid down the Monroe doctrine for herself, was not, at that time, in a position to enforce it. But as she has grown in strength, she has enlarged the bounds which she has put to that doctrine. We in Australia, I think, are entitled to say that our ideal is a South Pacific with no possible hostile point of attack in it ; and that if we cannot have all that now, or at any time, at least we shall have as much of it as possible - that, so far as that ideal state has not. disappeared in the actual facts of the situation, it shall not disappear further ; that, so far as the South Pacific is still available to be controlled in this way, it shall be so controlled. And we should press that view by every means in our power on the Imperial Government, which has the control of these matters. I do not think that the end we have in view can be assisted by lengthy speeches. I have not gone into any details as to what nations we should fear, o’r where their ports are. I think that such matters are best mentioned as little as possible. Our friends of to-day, as I have said, may be our opponents of to-morrow in international relations. But, at any rate, there is no need for us, even on this comparatively small spot on the earth - there is no need for the humblest of us to select any individual as our possible foe, whatever our private ideas may be as to the possibilities. But it is open to us in general terms to say that every foreign settlement where there are harbors, especially defensible harbors, in the South Pacific, is an additional danger to Australia; is an additional cause for increase in the future of expenditure on Australian defence; is a just ground of grievance on our part against those who have control of these matters at the heart of the Empire ; and consequently is an act against which we are entitled to protest respectfully but with all the strength in our power.
– I wish to say a few words in support of the motion submitted by the honorable member for Lang. He has pretty well covered the ground, and in my opinion has given very satisfactory reasons why action should be taken to bring the islands of the New Hebrides under British control. I think that if some action is not taken in the near future we shall find ourselves, with regard to the New Hebrides, very much in the position in which we found ourselves with regard to New Guinea. Had action been taken at the proper time in respect of New Guinea, the whole of that island would have been under British control. I remember that many years ago Sir Thomas Mcllwraith, who was then Premier of Queensland, sent an official from that State - Mr. Charters, an old Government officer - to New Guinea with instructions to annex the island. That gentleman carried out his duties in the ordinary way of annexing an island for the use of Great Britain. Communications were opened with the Imperial Government. Lord Derby was Secretary of State for the Colonies at that time. That gentleman apparently did not think that New Guinea, or any of the islands of the Pacific, was of very great importance to Great Britain, or even to Australia. Anyhow, the delay was so great that Germany came in, and the Dutch came in, and possessed themselves of about two-thirds of that fertile island, leaving to Great Britain about one-third. I am afraid that if no action is taken with regard to the New Hebrides the result will be very much the same as came about in con- l>9J nexion with New Guinea. It is quite true *at the population of the New Hebrides is not very large. Neither is the trade very considerable as yet. I notice from a report which was laid on the table some time ago - an Admiralty report - that the imports from the New Hebrides into New South Wales in 1900 amounted to a little over £10,000. As we were not blessed with Federation at that time those imports were admitted free to Sydney. Under the Federal system those imports would have paid duties to the amount of £4,276. But trade has considerably increased since then. I find from the last report that the value of cargo carried bv vessels from the New Hebrides to Sydney during the year ended 30th June, 1904, amounted to £33,956, and that the duty paid amounted to £2,624. The cargo consisted principally of copra, maize, coffee, arrowroot, and timber. Those figures show a very considerable increase upon the returns for 1900. Above the table is a note indicating that the figures include -
Imports which have been transhipped to other States and to oversea countries, and although it includes produce grown by foreign settlers, the figures could be taken as a fair approximation of the value of the surplus products grown by British residents for export, as French vessels also carry produce of British subjects to New Caledonia, which would about equalize matters.
The value of exports_ carried from Sydney to the New Hebrides during the year ended 30th June, 1904, amounted to £29,138. The facts constitute sufficient reason for some action, and I hope that the Prime Minister will communicate with the Secretary of State for the Colonies with a view to negotiations with France, so that these islands may be brought under British control. If such a step be not taken in the near future, I am sure that the dual possession of this group will prove a matter for future regret.
– I rise to support the motion as it appears on the noticepaper, but, in view of the great importance of the subject, I think its terms might have been of a much more definite character. I agree with the honorable and learned member for Corinella, that this is a matter which deserves the full attention, not only of honorable members of this House, but of the Government, in order that representations mav be made to the Home Government with a view to the removal of the present unsatisfactory conditions much more speedily than appears probable. Within the last fortnight I had the honour to introduce to the Prime Minister a deputation representing; the Council of Churches of Australia - and the Presbyterian bodies in particular - and also the Chambers of Commerce of the Commonwealth. Definite representations were made to the Prime Minister, who was urged to take prompt action. It was shown by the deputation that the British settlers in the New Hebrides are becoming discouraged, owing to their inability to ob-; tain satisfactory tenure for their land, owing to the power and pressure which is exercised to their detriment by the French authorities. Apart altogether from the naval point of view, we in Australia have in the past taken a deep interest in the civilization and progress of these islands, a work upon which a considerable amount of money has been expended and in which life also has been sacrificed. Only the other day Dr. Paton, who is known throughout the length and breadth of the land as one of the most re.vered and distinguished missionaries in that part of the world, spoke on this very subject ; and another, the Rev. Dr. Macdonald,, who has spent a number of years in- the islands, has returned to Australia able to show the Prime Minister the difficulties under which the British residents there suffer from French aggression. The Prime Minister assured the deputation of his cordial co-operation and assistance in doing what was necessary. Other speakers on the deputation, who have practical knowledge of the question, showed how important it was - even for strategical purposes - that we should maintain our rights in those islands. There is a growing feeling, which was given expression to by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, that in view of the tremendous strides which Eastern nations have made of late, the theatre of future trouble may be centred in the Pacific. And yet we and the British Government are allowing foreign nations to obtain possession: of the most desirable harbors almost at our doors. As the honorable member for Lang pointed out, the Panama Canal will be an accomplished fact within a measurable time, and these islands are in the direct line of route to that important means of communication. I am in entire sympathy with every word that fell from the honorable member for Lang; but I wish the motion had been much more specific and definite in its terms. Such a motion as I have indicated, would, I am sure, have had the unanimous support of honorable members. As the debate will probably not conclude to-day, I trust that at a later stage some amendment may be submitted, so as. to show that Parliament^ or this House, at any rate, is determined to impress on the Imperial Government the imperative necessity of taking prompt steps to place the British position in the New Hebrides on a much sounder footing. We are told that a Commission of Inquiry is at present sitting in Paris, but we hear nothing of what is being done by that Commission.
– There is no Commission sitting.
– Is there not a Commission of Inquiry at present sitting in France?
– No; nothing has been done beyond the exchange of communications between the embassies.
– Then I have been misinformed. I understood that the matter had passed beyond the diplomatic stage, at which the embassies communicate one with the other, and that a commission had been appointed and was at present sitting in Paris in order to deal with this vexed question. In view of the cordial relations between France and Great Britain at the present time, there might surely be some definition of British rights in the islands. I did not expect this question to arise to-day, but I could not allow so important a motion to pass without expressing what I am convinced is the belief of the majority of the people of Australia, namely, that this is a matter which deserves the careful, thoughtful, and persistent consideration of the Government. It is a matter for deep regret that in the late settlement which was arrived at between France and Great Britain, and which brought the two countries into such close relations, no adjustment was made in regard to the New Hebrides. I understand that an amendment is now under consideration, which will put the motion in a much more specific form, and I trust that the motion as amended will go to the British authorities as an expression of opinion from this Parliament as to the urgency of the question, and as to the importance which is attached to it by the people of Australia.
– I cannot allow this question to pass without saying a few words. I can vouch for the statement that the people of Australia are in favour of this proposal. I have heard the subject discussed on public platforms in the several States of the Commonwealth during the last twenty odd years, and I have never known a resolution of this kind to be negatived. Such resolutions have always been carried by a very great majority. The matter was discussed in this House at some considerable length on a previous occasion, lt seems to me that the honorable member who has tabled this motion has not submitted it in the form which it should take in this Parliament. Perhaps the reason why the New Hebrides question was not taken up seriously by the British Government during the discussion and adjustment of differences between France and England was that the Australian people, through their administrators, have shown great apathy in connexion with these islands. The construction of the Panama Canal has served to put the matter in the light in which we ought to conside’r it, and has shown us the only way in which our representations can have any weight whatever with the authorities in Great Britain. It is really a question of settlement and trade. If Australia does nothing to encourage the settlement of these islands by British subjects, she cannot hope to acquire any standing in them. The countries that will take the trouble to encourage settlement of population in these islands, and trade with them, must have a preponderating influence when these questions are brought prominently forward for decision. The present Commonwealth Government, and other Governments which have been in power in Australia since the establishment of a uniform Tariff for the Commonwealth, have given very little attention to this question. They may have written despatches and minute’s very much to the point, and suggesting that it is desirable that these islands should be annexed for the future advantage of Australia, but they have taken no practical step which would lead the British Government to believe that the Australian people are in earnest in the matter. At the same time the French Government have been encouraging the settlement of French subjects in the New Hebrides Group by the offer of bounties and by offering facilities for free-trade between the islands and French possessions. Whilst the French have done much to promote the settlement of these ‘islands by French subjects, we find that Australian Governments - and I do not except the last Commonwealth Government, as they were in power long enough to have given some attention to the matter - have taken no forward step to remove the restrictions upon trade between the New Hebrides and Australia. Trade with Australia represents ,£27,000, out of a total trade of £33,000 or £34,000 with the New Hebrides, and upon that trade we are collecting about £3,000 per annum in duties, whilst French residents in tEe islands are” enabled to get their products into consumption in French possessions free of any tariff, and have, in addition, the encouragement of bounties. The consequence is that numbers of men and women who are French subjects are finding their way to the islands of the New Hebrides Group, and there are now a greater number of French than of British subjects in the islands. From the very excellent book in which Dr. Paton narrates the experiences of almost a lifetime in the New Hebrides, we can learn something of the possibilities of the islands of the Pacific and of the New Hebrides group in particular. As they are directly on the trade route to South America, a route that is likely to be very largely used in the future when the Panama Canal is cut, some definite forward movement should be made by the Government of the day to show tha£ Australia is in earnest about these islands. We should do something to encourage trade with the settlers in the produce and commodities for which we have general use in Australia. By removing duties at present imposed on the produce of the islands we might greatly encourage the settlement of British subjects in the New Hebrides, and in the not too far distant future we might look forward to their being taken over for Australia. When matters of national importance were recently being adjusted between Great Britain and France, the islands of the South Pacific were not thought of, for the reasons I have stated, although those islands did! come under consideration at no very remote date, when Great Britain was very much embarrassed in South Africa, and the Germans were showing a great deal of sympathy with the Boers. At that time, the Government of the Emperor of Germany moved in the matter of taking over the Samoan group of islands, and the British Government surrendered British influence in Samoa to the Germans as the price of the friendship of Germany when Great Britain was in trouble.
– The Americans have a share of influence in that group.
– That is so, and they had influence in the group during and prior to the Boer war, whereas England surrendered her influence to the Germans at that time. After the shedding of British blood and the spending of British capital in the endeavour to settle the differences between the natives and Europeans in the Samoan group, British statesmen made an absolutely free gift of their influence in the group to the Germans.
– No, no; we got the Solomons.
– We had a protectorate over the Solomons before that, by. virtue of our occupation of British New Guinea.
– At that time we got an undisputed right to the Solomons group and to two other groups. .There was give and take in the matter.
– It is true that England got the right to undisputed influence in Tonga.
– In Tonga, some other islands, and the Solomons - three groups of islands.
– The British at that time possessed influence in Tonga, and the Germans had no influence whatever there. They therefore gave absolutely nothing, and the alleged surrender of influence in Tonga was merely intended to lead the people of Australia to believe that they were getting something for the surrender of British influence in the Samoan group. I regret to say that history is likely to repeat itself as regards these islands, and that, just as Great Britain took over the islands adjacent to America during a war with the ‘French, we shall never have possession of these islands until some such calamity occurs. Let us hope that it will not occur in our time. But if the Government would make some move for the settlement of the New Hebrides by British subjects, by encouraging trade and by the removal of duties on trade between Australia and the group, they would show that they were in earnest, and their representations would have much greater influence in the future with the British Government than they have had in the past.
– I desire to say a verv few words with respect to this question. I do not agree with those who so freely say that nothing has been accomplished since Federation! in the direction of a satisfactory settlement of the New Het rides question. I think we have accomplished a good deal, and much that could not have been accomplished had we not been united at the same time, I frankly admit that I am more than disappointed with the progress which has been made.
– What progress?
– If the honorable member has read of what has been done during the last three years, he will know that the settlers in the New Hebrides now occupy a better position than they did before the beginning of that period. Their tenure originally was a very precarious one, and was liable to destruction at any time, but, as the result of the representations which have been made from time to time by the Commonwealth Government, greater attention has been paid to the matter. But during the last three years, events have marched very rapidly in the South Pacific and in the East, and we find ourselves confronted by a state of affairs very different from that which faced us then. Those who have consulted the admirable map prepared by Dr. G. R. Parkin, and Mr. Bartholomew, must have been struck by the fact that Australia is surrounded by a perfect network of naval bases and coaling stations belonging to foreign nations. There is no more striking commentary on the failure of the Home Government to recognise its responsibilities to this part of the Empire than is given by even a cursory examination of that map. There is a copy of the map in the Library, and I strongly urge honorable members who have not seen it to consult it. If they have not previously given it their attention, they will be filled with alarm when they see howdefenceless our position would be in the event of a great international complication. In my mind, there is no doubt that the avalanche is growing, and growing very rapidly, and it is necessary for us in Australia to “ stand from under.” If we are not to be overwhelmed, we must take such action as will secure this country to us, although we hope that it will always remain part of the British Empire, and one of the brightest possessions of the British Crown. But we cannot expect that it will remain ours if we do not immediately bestir ourselves. I do not altogether blame the Home Government, though, in my opinion, they have been too long over the negotiations for the settlement of very important matters. We are a long way from the heart of the
Empire, and the Imperial Government have had very pressing matters engaging their attention. I regret that the late Secretary of State for the Colonies had to give up his position in order to undertake what I regard as an even larger question, because he had the capacity, the knowledge, and the courage to deal with it in a manner which would have been satisfactory to the people of Australasia. The future of the South Pacific is fraught with danger to us, and must cause the gravest anxiety to those who are the well-wishers of this their native or adopted country. I feel that the time for ordinary diplomatic negotiation has passed, and that we must make a very strong representation to the Home Government on the subject. I agree with the honorable and learned member for Corinella that it is necessary that the British Government should be made aware that the people of Australia are behind the movement, and that it is not merely a Ministerial question.
– I should like to see the Government take the matter up, and get the opinion of Parliament in regard to it.
– In my opinion, it is only in that direction that safety lies. Victoria has done her duty in this matter in the past, and deserves a greater amount of credit than belongs to any other State for the attempts made to preserve all these islands to Australian influence. The name of the Honorable James Service, of whom the Prime Minister was at the time a Ministerial colleague, will always be remembered as that of a man who was foremost in the work of endeavouring to maintain the integrity of the Continent by preserving the influence of. Australia in the islands contiguous to it. The honorable member for Lang has gone so exhaustively into this question in the very fine speech which he made, and has dealt so fully with details, that it is unnecessary for us to debate it at anything like the same length ; but I am informed that, since the report of Dr. McDonald, from which he has quoted, there >has been a further report, stating that the aggressions are still continuing, and that British-grown crops have quite recently been destroyed, either by, or with the connivance of, the French residents of the islands.
– That is so.
– I urge that we should not be content with the old method of proceeding in this matter, and should mark out
– I have very much pleasure in supporting the motion which has been so ably moved by the honorable member for Lang. Every day the dual control over the New Hebrides must result in more and more complications, and we cannot press too strongly upon our Government the need for representing to the British Government the desirability of having the affairs of ‘ these islands administered by the Commonwealth. I consider that the Commonwealth is the proper authority to administer the islands of the Pacific. Australia is in direct relationship with them, and their trade is chiefly with us. We are therefore more in touch with their requirements than are the people of any other country. The difficulties arising from the present dual control must increase each year,- and we shall find the same heartburnings in the ‘ New Hebrides that there has been in Newfoundland before the question is finally settled. The New Hebrides are close to Australia, and when the Panama Canal is opened, and trade flows through it to this country. it will be to our interest to have control over them. It is all very well to talk about free-trade. I believe in free-trade.
But we should have some control over these islands before we enter into negotiations on that subject. I look upon the question as one in regard to which the Ministry should take immediate action, and in taking such action they will have the support of Parliament and of the people of Australia. That being so, I hope that they will make strong (representations to the Imperial Government, and that the result will be that our influence in the Pacific will not be endangered by that of any foreign power.
– I am very pleased indeed that the honorable member for Lang has submitted his motion which, I think, might have been couched in even stronger terms. Any one who looks to the safety of Australia must recognise that it is very largely dependent upon the establishment of naval stations in such places as the New Hebrides, where our future enemies might gain a footing. Not only have previous Commonwealth Governments made repeated representations to the Imperial authorities, but before the establishment of the Commonwealth all the States Governments interested themselves in the matter, and the Federal Council passed resolutions which were communicated to the Home Government. These representations have not had any great effect, and we are in much the same position as at the beginning. Whatever weight might be attached to representations made by Ministers, I think that a resolution of Parliament would have much more importance attached to it ; and I trust that a motion similar to that now before us will be passed unanimously in another place. I do not think that Australia can too emphatically make known her wishes upon a question of this kind. I have heard objections raised to the British control of these islands, and to the admission of products from them into Australia upon a preferential basis or duty free. It is urged that the produce of the islands grown by kanakas should not be admitted into competition with the products of our white people, but having regard to the figures quoted by the honorable member for Oxley I do not think there is very much ground for apprehension on that score. I am as ardent as any one in my advocacy of the interest of the white workers of Australia, and would proceed to extreme lengths in order to protect them against unfair competition. But I recognise that the safety: of Australia, cannot be purchased for nothing, that something more than eternal vigilance is required, and that if we are not to spend our money in maintaining a navy or a large standing army we shall have to pay for our safety in some other way. I think we could not do better than direct our efforts to insuring the establishment of strong outposts in the Pacific Islands.
– Would the honorable member favour the free admission of island produce into the Commonwealth?
– I am not prepared at this moment to say how far I would go in that direction. I think, however, that some distinction might be made between the produce grown by the employment of cheap coloured labour and that grown, by the white settlers in the Islands - a distinction somewhat similar to that made between white-grown and black-grown sugar. However, that is a matter that might be left for future consideration. In any case, the figures quoted by the honorable member for Oxley show that the value of the produce imported from the New Hebrides, of a character similar to that which is produced in Australia, is so small as to be scarcely worthy of consideration. I hope that the motion will be carried unanimously, and that it will be followed by prompt and strong action on the part of the Government. If the Imperial Government do not respond to our representations’ upon this occasion we should persevere in our efforts until we achieve some substantias result. There has never been a more opportune time than the present for negotiations with the other power that is mainly interested in this question. The feeling existing between Great Britain and France is such that both nations could approach the solution of the difficulty in a better spirit and with more probability of a friendly settlement than at almost any previous stage. As has been stated by the honorable member for Laanecoorie, a complete network of naval stations is being established by foreign Powers around and about Australia, and the longer we delay the expression of our wishes the greater will be the difficulty of safeguarding our interests. I heartily support the motion.
– I do not intend to go over the ground that has been so ably covered by previous speakers. I quite agree with thehonorable and learned member for Corinella that the gathering of foreign Powers in thePacific will prove a serious menace to Australia, and that the more they extend their possessions the greater will be the difficulty- of rendering our position secure. I do not altogether agree with those who blame Great Britain for neglecting the Pacific, because I think the people of Australia themselves have, in the past, been far more open to reproach. At one time not the slightest interest was taken by Australians in the destiny of the islands of the Pacific. This may have been due largely to the fact that they were, divided into separate communities.
– Some of them even thought that the late Sir Thomas Mcllwraith was mad when he evinced so much anxiety with regard to New~Guinea.
– Exactly ; and even when, owing to the operations of foreign Powers in the Pacific, it began to dawn on the minds of some Australians that there was danger ahead, only a limited number of persons recognised the real peril. When French marines had been landed at the New Hebrides to complete the annexation of those islands, one State more than any other, namely, Victoria, and one man in that State more than any other - the late Honorable James Service - took strong action, and in the end secured the attention of the British Government and the removal of the French marines. Whilst 1 am quite conscious of the apathy that has been displayed bv our own people, and I recognise the difficulties which beset the Imperial Government, with interests which girdle the world, I think that of late years the subject of British interests in the Pacific has not received the attention to which it has been entitled at the hands of the Imperial authorities. Various interchanges have been made between the British and French Governments, and old disputes and unsettled claims have been arranged, but we have heard no mention of the New Hebrides, and I think the time has arrived when we should respectfully’ and clearly - more clearly even than in the motion - express our opinions in support of the various Commonwealth Ministries that have made representations on the subject. It is rather strange that, whilst, as Britons in Australia, we have for many years neglected the islands of the Pacific, and especially the New Hebrides, the present position in the group mentioned, arising out of the claims made by France, is largely due to the action of renegade or naturalized Britishers who settled in New Caledonia. Chief among these men was Mr. Higginson.
– Was he a British subject ?
– He went from Australia to the islands.
– But was he a Britisher?
– He was a British resident, and afterwards became a naturalized French settler.
– He was reported in the papers to be a Polish Jew.
– I cannot say from where his parents originally came, but he was settled in Australia and went from here to the New Hebrides. The Morgans, of South Australia, also became naturalized French settlers, and contributed largely to the movement for the annexation of the New Hebrides by the French. I believe that neither France itself, nor the French people, would have taken any action in that connexion but for the initiative of those to whom I have referred. This section, led by Mr. Higginson, secured large financial assistance from the French Secret Service Fund. I do not say that no direct subsidies were given, but I do know that these men received considerable financial assistance from the French Secret Service Fund. If the money so paid away had really been devoted to the purpose for which it was obtained the British would to-day be out of court, so far as the New Hebrides are concerned. Fortunately for Australia, much of that money never reached’ its intended destination. The .slight encouragement given by Australia to British settlers and traders in the group enabled them at least to maintain something like an equal contest with the French whilst the conditions were fair, but at present a most unfair set of conditions exists. French settlers. in the group have far greater advantages than are enjoyed by the British settlers. In the first place, they are receiving monetary assistance from the French Government; secondly, a sort of colonization, based on special inducements given by France, is taking place; and, thirdly, claims are allowed to be made by French companies and individuals for large areas of land in the New Hebrides which, if preferred bv British claimants, would bt at once thrown out of court by the British Commissioner. Application has been made by the people of the New Hebrides for a Joint Commission to .settle the disputed land question, but while Great Britain has urged its appointment, iF ranee has delayed dealing’ with the matter. In the meantime, what is taking place? More and more land is being seized by the French, and claims are being made for areas which, according to the missionaries - who know the natives, are familiar with their tribal customs and with the land in which they are interested - are no more the property of these French claimants than they are the property of persons who have never seen the New Hebrides. There is no Court to restrain these individuals, and no restraint in this respect is exercised by the naval authorities. While “policing” the group, the naval authorities refuse to go into the question of land ownership or land claims.
– About forty times as much land as there is in the islands has been claimed.
– I do not say that these French claimants could have put their pegs into forty times as much land as there is in the island, but I do know that they have pegged out vast areas. All this is being done in advance of the appointment of a Joint Land Commission. My fear is that the Commission, if it be appointed, will consist of one or two representatives of each side, that the question of the large areas recently acquired by French settlers will come before it, that disagreements will occur, and that we shall have, instead of a settlement of the question, nothing more than another farce enacted in connexion with the group. In my opinion, the attention of the British Government should be called to the desirableness of having the Commission so constituted that the settlements will be likely to be just, prompt, and effective.
– I think that has been done.
– I do not think such representations have been made, so far as the constitution of the Commission is concerned. I also consider that the wording of the motion should be more definite.
– It is definite enough.
– I prefer that it should be framed in another way, and I propose to move an amendment which has been accepted by the honorable member for Lang, who submitted the motion to the House. I do not altogether approve of the warlike references in the motion as it stands. They suggest too much that we desire to acquire the islands simply as naval bases. That I know is not the intention of the mover, but such a construction might be placed upon the motion.
With the consent of the honorable member for Lang, I move-
That all the words after the word “ That,” line 1, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ the representations already made by the Governments of the Commonwealth to the British Government in regard to the New Hebrides should, in the interests of the natives, the settlers, and Australia, be renewed and strengthened.
Joint Land Commission is imperative, and that the Commission should be so constituted that its decisions may be just, prompt, and effective.
I do not wish to speak at any greater length on this question, for it has already been fully discussed, and was dealt with by myself on a previous occasion.
– On what does the honorable member base the concluding words of his amendment?
– On many occasions the natives have given evidence that they prefer the control of the British to that of the French. On one occasion, they intimated that preference by such representations as were possible to them. A complete representation could not be made by a people so situated, but they have, at all events, represented their preference for British occupation. Those who know anything of the New Hebrides must be aware that the preference of the natives for British rule is undoubted. That preference has been supported on many occasions by the missionaries, who have given evidence of it in a variety of ways, and I am perfectly satisfied that at any time such substantiation of it as is possible on the part of a people so situated,, will be forthcoming.
– I accept the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
– I do not proposeto take part in this debate, because I think that the sentiments which my colleagues and myself hold on this matter are so generally understood as to need no further exposition. We are cordially and entirely in sympathy with the amendment which has just been agreed to, and appreciate the arguments with which the original proposition was submitted. From whatever standpoint we regard this question, whether, as the honorable member for Lang did, from maritime considerations chiefly, or as the last speaker did, by a recollection of the history of the islands, and the natural tendency which their people have exhibited, we arrive at the same conclusion. Every Australian interest is necessarily strongly directed towards securing the islands for their present population, and preventing them from being used as a hostile base, to the prejudice of this country. Yet the gain to Australia, considerable as it would be is even then, in my opinion, not so considerable as the gain to the Empire as a whole, in taking the necessary precautions to prevent the superb harbors which have been alluded to from being utilized, not merely against this country, but against the whole of the South Pacific so tar as the influence from such a naval base would extend. We have, therefore, on every ground, Imperial and Australian,- the strongest motives for endeavouring to prevent any such injury to the islands. It would serve our purpos’e to see them remain for all time the homes of peace and industry, and under those civilizing influences which have been carried there by the missionaries for many years at great expense of blood and treasure, allow the natives to develop their civilization with the assistance of any of ours that may be afforded to them. Let them lead their own lives without being entangled in international quarrels, and help to develop the great natural resources of the islands for their benefit, and the advantage of those who succeed them. Under these circumstances the question submitted is not arguable in any Australian or Imperial gathering. We are only at a standstill to-day because a great and powerful nation has, with the more or less tacit consent of the mother country, been enabled to plant her flag in the neighbouring island of New Caledonia, and to establish herself to some degree in occupation of this particular group. While the relations between the mother country and that great Republic were less friendly than they are, we found ourselves apparently unable to advance towards our goal. When the relations became friendly - and no part of the Empire rejoiced in that friendliness more than we did, or hoped more from it for the peace of the world - then, on other grounds, apparently, the same obstacles remain un- removed. As a consequence, when an agreement was recently arrived at between the two nations, which settled their disputes in all parts of the world, the one place in which no solution was attempted, and in which only a project was vaguely outlined, was the New Hebrides ; then it contained a mere reference to the fact that differences existed, and a pious hope that something might be accomplished to remove them. Since then, however, nothing has been accomplished. The latest’ information goes to show that for the whole of this year there has been what was described to a very influential and important deputation the other day as a complete deadlock. The Land Commission which was promised years before has not only not been appointed, but apparently no agreement has been arrived at in regard to its constitution. The Australians have not been idle. The Commonwealth has done more than the honorable member for Robertson is willing to admit. We are spending £12,000 a year, and the greater part of that sum is spent, not for any pecuniary gain, but for the purpose of maintaining such occupation as exists by British subjects in this group. .
– Is that for the mail service?
– It is for the mail and general service. Were it merely a mail service we should not consent to give more than a fourth of the sum. As a consequence of the latest agreement,, freight from the group to Australia has been reduced to a fourth of the previous charge - a very considerable and direct boon to the British settlers, which may be set off to some extent against the greater boons offered to the French settlers.
– Undoubtedly it is a move in the right direction.
– Yes ; but I do not wish to magnify it. I do not assert we have done all that we could do or all that we ought to have done; but do contend that we have not been entirely idle. On reflection the honorable member for Robertson will see many reasons why it is difficult to give further assistance to British settlers, in a territory which is not ours, and which mav never be ours, in the sense in which Fiji or Australia is a territory,’ unless we are fortunate enough to induce the mother country to take a different view from that which has guided her statesmen in the past. We raise many complex questions when we propose to place settlers in islands which are not under the flag in a better position than we are placing settlers in islands which are under the flag, and who, so far, have an extra claim upon us. That is, however, by the way. The real position which confronts us is that the establishment of the French settlement in New Caledonia has given our friendly rivals a commercial base in immediate proximity to the New Hebrides. The liberal expenditure of the money of the French Government continued for many years, not only fostered the occupation which they have, but has improved and extended it. We, on the other hand, with our resources, promising as they may be, cannot for a moment measure them with those of the great Republic of France, yet we are left practically alone in the contest, and are, therefore, at a disadvantage when competing with a power in the immediate neighbourhood, so rich and powerful, for what is termed the effective occupation of the group. The Commonwealth has done something, and certainly would have attempted to do more, but for the knowledge that whatever we might do it was always possible for such a competitor to do at .least as much, if not more. One plea that we can urge upon the British Government is that if the same zeal were shown on our behalf as has been exhibited by the French Republic on behalf
Of its settlers in New Caledonia and neighbourhood, we should never have been at such a- disadvantage to-day. We should have had an immensely greater hold on the islands. Personally, I have had opportunities of expressing these views for the last twenty years, ever since the period alluded to by the honorable member for Laanecoorie, when I had the honour of being a colleague of the late Honorable James Service.
– The honorable gentleman must be getting old !
– Never in hope; but for more than twenty years I have been acting with those who sought to increase Australian interests in the New Hebrides, and to secure the island for the Empire. Governments both in the State and the Commonwealth with which I have been associated have shared the- patriotic opinions expressed here to-day, and have represented them perpetually, an(l reiterated them continuously, to the. mother country. There is, therefore, no need for me to repeat these views on the floor of this House, where they are so thoroughly well known. Now, what is true of this Government has been true of: ali other Governments which this Commonwealth has known. Our predecessors occupied the same position on this questionThere is no difference of opinion. Thereis no Government and no Opposition in. connexion with the New Hebrides; and I am only citing, our past actions as a reasonfor not trespassing further on the patience of this House. The motion derives all the greater strength from the fact that it springs in the first instance from the benches; opposite, and that it has been supported’ from our benches quite independently of the Government. Ministers only step in as. coinciding with the framers and supporters, of the resolution. Our representations are,. therefore, the stronger as being those of the House of Representatives as a whole. They are shared by the whole of the people of Australia without exception. We havebut one interest. There is no division on this matter in any part of the Commonwealth any more than there is in any part of this House. Consequently our debate, though it may appear to those outside to lack the verve and interest which comes from the clash of opposite opinions, is none the less remarkably significant of the unanimity which prevails throughout the Commonwealth, rising far above any party limitations or personal considerations. When this resolution is carried, it will bemy privilege to convey it, in association with the despatch that is now being prepared, giving a full account of the recent influential deputation from the Presbyterian Church, the Chambers of Commerce, and other bodies interested, which have already asked the Government to once more appeal for action in Downing-street. It is a fortunate circumstance that -we are able to send the two representations, both of them apart from those of the Government itself, which has urged its views so repeatedly, and. I regret to say, with so little result. Thisdemonstration from the public, speakingnot merely for Victoria, but representing the interests of New South Wales particularly, and of all the States, is reflected again in this expression of anxiety from all sides of this House. It will be supported by us as strongly as possible. Representations are still necessary on this subject. They are becoming almost tedious, because of the number of times they havebeen repeated without, T am sorry to say, securing any distinct advance.
– If is time that they became complaints.
– There must be a cause for the want of responsiveness. We have never found, on the part of statesmen in the mother country, an unwillingness to concede to us anything within their own power. There must be a cause far deeper and graver than any with which we are acquainted pressing upon them, represented to them, probably, by the Great Republic. This has so far rendered our efforts fruitJess. But we may now take it for absolutely certain that, no matter how untoward the past history of this movement has been, no matter how little success has been gained, though at the utmost our triumphs have been of a negative character, although even in regard to so comparatively simple a matter as the appointment of a Land Commission to determine the titles of people to their property, no advance has been made for the past two years, though no result has been recorded since the recent Treaty of Amity, or agreement, has been concluded between these two countries - in spite of these discouragements and reverses, at least one thing is absolutely certain, and this debate has once more -demonstrated it. This is that there is no failing and no flagging in the zeal of the people of Australia, no change in the opinion of their representatives or of their Government, and that there will be no change. We will continue to point as steadily as the needle to the Pole towards the prevention of any further aggression in this fertile group of islands. We shall resist the establishment of those militant bases referred to by the honorable and learned member for Corinella. These would impose increases of taxation upon the people of this Commonwealth, and increase burdens on the Empire to some degree, by multiplying the places from which attacks may be feared on our fleets and on our commerce, as well as on our country. Those considerations, with the persistent repetition of our strong claims upon those of our own kin, who are the leaders of our race and nation to take the forward step we have not been able to induce them to take during the last twenty Years, may enable us to see the hopes of Australia consummated. Our chief purpose is to preserve these islands for peace, and from war, not even for the quite subsidiary purposes of commerce or control by the forces of the Empire. Those aims are secondary to the welfare of the native population of these islands, and to their preservation as places of peaceful production, instead of becoming battlemented magazines for offence and aggression in times of war. I need not assure the House that this Government is in entire sympathy with the motion, nor need I add how earnestly they will endeavour to give effect to it.
– I rise to suggest to the mover of the motion - who, I believe, has agreed to the amendment of the honorable member for North Sydney - that the last sentence should be deleted. For my own part, I do not think that it is necessary to adopt words which are something in the nature of a reproach to a people with whom we are upon such good terms as we are with the French at the present time. I do not think that it is necessary to retain the sentence to which I have referred, and 1 would therefore ask” the honorable member to agree to its omission.
– I may point out to the honorable member that the words which he suggests should be excised have been inserted by theHouse, and that theonly amendment which could now be moved would be the addition of further words. No amendment can be proposed to delete any word which has been already ordered to stand part of the question.
Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
Joint Land Commission is imperative, and that the Commission should be so constituted that its decisions may be just, prompt, and effective.
– On behalf of the honorable member for Barrier, who is unavoidably absent at Broken Hill. I move -
Government owning and controlling a fleet of steamers for the carriage of mails, passengers, and cargo between Australia and the United Kingdom. The Committee, so far as the House of Representatives is concerned, to consist of Mr. Glynn, Mr. Mahon, Mr. McDonald, Mr. Mcwilliams, Mr. Robinson, Mr. Sydney Smith, Mr. Spence, Mr. Webster, and the mover, and to have power to send for persons, papers, and records. Four to be the quorum.
I regret that the honorable member for Barrier, who has made a somewhat special study of this subject, is not present to submit this motion; but it may not .be necessary to do more than justify, if I can do so in a very few words, an inquiry of the kind proposed. I am not sure that the motion is as broad as it might be made, but I think that the House will agree that it embraces a number of subjects into which it might be worth while to have an inquiry by Select Committee. In the first place, we have to depend on shipping for the carriage of our exports to the old world; and this makes a proposal of the,, kind of great importance to producers. As in all new countries, the primary producers are an important section of the community, and anything which interferes with the successful carriage of their produce must be a serious drawback’ and a menace. Then, we have recently had some difficulty in arranging for the carriage of our mails to the old world ; and in this connexion the question of coloured labour might be inquired into. There also arises the matter of the carriage o!-‘ perishable products, and the question of freightage. There is more than a whisper about combines amongst ship-owners ; and no doubt it is within their power to arrange to raise freights to such a degree as to shut Australian produce out of the world’s markets. These are all matters of serious importance, and I think the House will agree that an. inquiry into these and cognate matters would be of considerable value. The best means of dealing with evils which arise in connexion with shipping would be a matter for inquiry and report by the Select Committee, who may, or may nob. recommend that the Commonwealth should own a fleet’ of steamers and shins. Most of our cargoes are carried in British bottoms ; and in this connexion serious questions arise. We have to consider, for instance, the peculiar position in which Australia would be placed in time of war. The British Govern- ment quite recently has been considering the effect of the immense increase of foreign sailors on British shipping; and the important bearing of this phase of the question will be seen if honorable members will permit me to quote some figures prepared by the British Board of Trade. In i860, British shipping was represented by 4.500,000 tons, while in 1903, the tonnage was 10,250,000. In 1860, there were engaged on British shipping 157,000 seamen, exclusive”’ of masters, while in 1903 there were only .176,000, including masters. In. i860, there were 335 lascars employed irc British shipping, as compared’ with 41,000 in 1903. In i860, there were 14,000 foreigners engaged on British shipping, as against 40,000 in 1:903. As a matter of fact, between i860 and 1903, British seamen increased by only- 12 per cent., while foreigners, exclusive of lascars, increased 175 per cent. I should like to quote the remarks of the President of the Board of Trade, made in the British House of Commons, as showing the serious import of this matter to the welfare of the country. The President of the Board of Trade used the following words : -
Take, for instance, the question of war; if thereservists were called out, the result would beto deplete British ships of British seamen,, and, instead of being partially manned byforeigners, they would, under existing circumstances, be altogether manned by foreigners.
The defence of every country depends onpatriotism - on the spirit of those who- formthe defence forces - and in time of war weshould have the present British shipping manned entirely by foreigners, who could’ not be expected to have any love for the country for which they were temporarily working. The question of our sea communication, over the long distances which must be traversed, will loom largely in the future, and its varying phases might well be inquired into, whatever course may be deemed necessary afterwards. I mentionthe subject “of the manning of the ships because it has some connexion with the ques. tion of coloured labour. But it may also be connected with the denial which was recently given to the somewhat common impression that Australians do not care for a seafaring life. One of our leading naval” officers has, I believe, made a contradiction of the kind, and has expressed the opinion that there would be no difficulty in manning ships with Australians. . These are only some of the many phases of the inquiry proposed ; and on behalf of the honorable- member for Barrier I submit the motion, believing that the result will be an absolute warrant for the slight expense which may be incurred.
– I call attention to the fact that in the last line but one of the motion it is proposed that the Select Committee shall consist of certain members and “ the mover.” Perhaps, as the motion has been submitted by the honorable member for Darling, in the absence of the honorable member for Barrier, it would be as well to substitute for “ the_ mover “ the name of the latter honorable member.
– I ask that the motion be amended as suggested.
Motion amended accordingly.
– This- motion relates, first of all, to a very serious subject, butonly to a very specialized phase of that subject. Speaking personally, so far as I can see, the prospect of obtaining information which would justify the Federal Government in owning and controlling a fleet of steamers is hopeless. That would involve, not only maritime, but financial, considerations. for which the most zealous and devoted Select Committee would hardly be able to prepare itself in any reasonable time. While making that comment, I am not undervaluing what appears to me to be the practical part of the proposal submitted. I quite admit, with the honorable member who submitted the motion, that the question of sea carriage - always a first consideration to Australia, on account of our geographical situation - is becoming of increasing importance to us, not only in regard to the carriage of mails and passengers, but of cargo, in connexion with which there have been very considerable complaints for some time past. If any Committee or any Board of inquiry could throw more light on some of the restrictions under which sea carriage is at present carried on it would do a great public service. When in Western Australia recently, I was very much struck by the report of a Commission of inquiry that had been sitting. To a novice in these matters like myself it contained remarkable revelations. It appeared to be based on evidence collected with care, and so far as I know its conclusions have not been impugned. But their seriousness could not be denied. The clear statement made, as I recall it, was that the cost of carriage to and from the mother country and the State of Western Australia had been largely en hanced for what might be termed artificial or trade reasons, altogether apart from the question of the actual cost of carriage and the profit to be so earned.
– That is applicable to sea carriage all over the world.
– The extent of combinations and of mutual restriction of facilities by ship-owners and a variety of other disclosures of that sort came with a shock of surprise to one uninitiated like myself. So far from there being apparently anything like free competition, or reasonable competition, it appeared ,a» if it were gradually being reduced to smaller and smaller proportions. Australia in general, and Western Australia in particular, seemed in the hands of firms, companies, and combinations over which they had no control. For the first time, the serious aspect of that side of the question was revealed to me by the report of the Western Australian Commission. An objection to inquiries by Committee is that, no matter how important the subject with which they are dealing, and no matter what the prospects may be of dealing with it, they cost money as well as time. In this proposal for a Select Committee, we have a large number of .names, while it is also proposed that it should be a Joint Committee. The number of members does not much affect the cost, providing it sits in one place, and the honorable member for Barrier, before leaving, assured me that the project in his mind for inquiry will call for little, if any, movement on the part of the Committee. When I intimated to him that I was obliged to oppose the appointment of any body likely to involve the Commonwealth in much expense, under that pressure the honorable member stated that a Committee of this House might suffice, and that its movements would be limited as much as possible. I further told the honorable member that it would be impossible for the Government to accept the motion, as it was framed to inquire into the too ambitious project to which I have alluded - the project of the Federal Government owning and controlling a fleet of steamers. He again, under pressure, consented to strike out that reference, and agreed to accept the motion in this form : That a Committee be appointed to make full inquiries as to the carriage of mails, passengers, and cargo between Australia and the United Kingdom, the Committee to consist of the honorable members named1 ; four to be a quorum; and that the second clause of the motion .should be struck out altogether. I noted1 that the honorable member had, perhaps advisedly, restricted the proposed inquiry to communication between Australia and the United Kingdom. That appeared justifiable for the purpose of limiting the researches of the Committee, which might otherwise be unduly prolonged. At the same time, - 1 wish to guard myself against the supposition that the difficulties in respect of sea-carriage are confined to communication between the mother country and Australia. On the contrary, it is the foreign lines of steamers and their methods which play the most important part in connexion with our present maritime conditions. Still, we must not forget that the Commonwealth Parliament is about to consider the ratification of a mail contract which will probably not last for more than two or three years - three years will, I think, be the probable term.
– At most.
– I think it runs on automatically unless notice of its termination is given. We shall shortly have to consider the ratification of a contract lasting, probably, for three years. In considering what is to follow that contract, which was accepted as a matter of urgency, and to meet existing conditions, it ‘will be necessary to give a great deal of thought to the questions intended to be dealt with by this Committee. It will’, therefore, from the point of view of the Commonwealth, quite apart from any particular ideas with which this motion may have been launched in the first instance, be able to do useful work in enabling us to be better qualified, when the time comes, for examining the whole question of mail communication. I will only say here, by way not of anticipating a future debate, but of indicating my own opinion - and I may say the opinion of. the Government - that in these days a mail question can no longer be dealt with by itself. There are other matters which must inevitably be associated with it. If a contract is to be made valuable to this country, or if we are to receive a return for the money we are asked to upend, there must be something more than the carriage of newspapers and letters provided for, valuable as that is. Consequently, information inexpensively obtained and throwing fresh light on our sea communications between the mother country and ourselves might be of value to the Government, and to. the House. In these circumstances, and with these limitations, I have no objection to the appointment of a Committee. But I move-
That the words “ of both Houses of Parliament,” lines i and 2 ; the words “ the advisability of the Federal Government owning and controlling a fleet of steamers, for “ lines 3, 4, and 5; the words “ so far a» the House of Representatives is concerned” lines 7 and 8 ; and the words “That the foregoing resolution be transmitted by a message to the Senate and their concurrence requested in the appointment of the Committee, and asking them to appoint members to serve thereon,” lines 14 to 18 be left out.
– How would the motion read then?
– If amended as I suggest, the motion will read -
That a Select Committee be appointed to make full inquiry as to the carriage of mails, passengers, and cargo between Australia and the United Kingdom. The Committee to consist of Mr. Glynn, Mr. Mahon, Mr. McDonald, Mr. Mcwilliams, Mr. Robinson, Mr. Sydney Smith, Mr. Spence, Mr. Webster, and Mr. Thomas, and to have power to send for persons, papers, and records. Four to be the quorum.
– I am prepared .to accept the amendments.
– I conclude with the expression of a hope that the Committee will address itself to those practical problems with which we are to be confronted immediately in connexion with our mail and cargo services. -*
– I am very glad that the Prime Minister has moved an amendment in th-é direction of eliminating the” “socialistic aspect of this proposal, and setting a course which, if rightly, directed, and vigilantly prosecuted, I have no doubt will result in good service to the commerce of Australia, and to our relations generally to the sea as a means of communication. When one comes to look at the motion in the abstract, one might alarm oneself with all kinds of social dangers, from the point of view of both foreign enemies and monopolistic combines. The Prime Minister appears to have taken fright after reading that communication from Western Australia.
– This is a verv extraordinary report, and gives the names of firms.
– This kind of thing is going on in other parts of the world as well as in Australia.
– We are so dependent on sea-carriage here.
– Not more so, I apprehend, than is the mother country. She is absolutely dependent on sea-carriage for her very means of subsistence.
– But she has the advantage of much greater shipping competition.
– As the Prime Minister knows, a very important Royal Commission has just reported concerning the dependency of the mother country for her bread-stuffs and other means of subsistence upon over-sea communications with foreign, and in some cases not very friendly, peoples. Therefore, although the matter must be faced, there is no need for alarm. The honorable member .who moved the motion on behalf of the honorable member for Barrier, enumerated a list of things in regard to which an inquiry might very well be made. He spoke of such subjects as the employment of coloured labour, the conveyance of perishable products, the existence of combines, the manning of our ships, and the relation of our mercantile marine to defence. He also made mention of the decline of British seamen. That, no doubt, is a very important problem, but it can be faced without taking the socialistic “ header “ which he proposes for the solving of it. One great reason why there is a decline in the ‘‘interest of Britishers in seafaring pursuits is, no doubt, the fact that the opportunities for and conditions of employment on land have been very much improved of late years so far as they are concerned. I suppose the Britishers do not go to sea now so much as they used to do, because they feel that they can do better for themelves by staying on land. But I imagine that that state of things will largely right itself by-and-by, because the law of supply and demand operates in regard to shipping as it operates with regard to all other trading concerns. If the ship-owners find that they cannot get seamen under present conditions, they will no doubt offer increased attractions, although perhaps they may have also to increase the charges which they make for their services. The matter is one which it mav very well be left to the law of supply and demand to regulate. There is, of course, the question of Imperial defence, and I am not sure that in this regard the Imperial Government should not take steps to see whether it would not be worth while to make sea service more attractive to the British people, in order to give Britishers the training necessary to make them available for purposes of defence in time of war. I am glad that the mover of the motion has agreed to eliminate that part of it which referred to the owning and controlling of vessels. In my opinion, an inquiry of the kind now proposed will result m useful work being accomplished, particularly if the Committee concern themselves with problems such as the carriage of perishable products, and the rates of freight from Australia to other countries. To my mind, the cost of freight from Australia is one of the most serious handicaps to our producers. There is no doubt that, while the seas are to a great extent a protection to us against foreign invasion, and also shield us largely from industrial competition, our position of isolation puts us at a disadvantage when we wish to send our products to the markets of the world. Whatever their fiscal opinions may be, people will always be got to admit that the cost of freight from Australia to Europe is a very great drawback to our producers, although it is difficult to persuade many persons to make the corresponding admission that the cost of freight from other countries to Australia is a protection to our manufacturers. I have no objection to the motion as it is proposed to amend it, but I think that the -personnel of the Committee should be somewhat altered.
– Hear, hear; I do not want to be on the Committee. The inquiry will be a- sheer waste of time.
– May I remind those who are responsible for the motion that five out of the nine proposed members of the Committee belong to the Labour Party r
– This is not a party question.
– In that case, I apprehend that there will not be the slightest difficulty in rearranging the personnel of the Committee.
– Eleven names were originally proposed, but two have since been struck off.
– Even if there were. eleven members on the Committee, five members would be a disproportionate representation for any one party in the House, and the rule with regard to Select Committees is to make them as fairly representative of parties as possible. I suggest to the mover of the motion that he should give as nearly equal a representation to each party in the House as can be given.
– There are four parties now.
– I see no difficulty in accommodating live or six parties, so long as fair representation is given to each ; but it is rather a large order to choose live of the nine proposed members of the Committee from one party. I am sure that the long parliamentary experience of the mover of the motion will cause him to see the advisability of rearranging the -personnel of the Committee, so as to make it representative of all sections of the House. If that be done, I believe that the proposed inquiry will be conducted to the greatest advantage of Australia, and may result in obtaining for our producers better means for the conveyance of their produce to the older countries of the world.
– I was unaware that the honorable member for Barrier this session proposed to do me the honour to nominate me to this Committee. Last year the honorable member gave notice of motion for the appointment of a Committee consisting of a number of members of whom I was to be one, and afterwards asked my concurrence. He told me that there was no chance of the motion being discussed then, and, on that understanding, I willingly allowed my name to remain on the notice-paper. I do not desire to serve on this Committee, for the following reasons : A well-known member .in State politics, whose name I think I may mention without breach of confidence - Sir Alexander Peacock - advised me, when I first entered this Chamber, five years ago, as a member of the Victorian Parliament, under no circumstances to become a member of a Select Committee or Royal Commission( He said that most Committees and Commissions resulted in the waste of good money and of good time; that the public invariably held the opinion that members of Committees or Commissions received large fees for so acting, whereas, as a matter of fact, they got nothing : and he added that in not one case in too did the inquiry of these bodies lead to any good. It seems to me that the proposed’ Committee, if appointed, will do only as other Committees have done - moye from place to place, taking evidence with the expenditure of a great deal of time and money, and that its recommendation will not be worth reading when it is presented. For these reasons, amongst others, I ask the mover of the motion to omit mv name. If my name is not omitted, I shall not attend the meetings of the Committee ; so that, if he desires to have full attendances, he had better substitute some other member’s name for mine. It appears likely, however, that the motion will be carried, and that another useless Committee will be constituted. I will, therefore, only further express the hope that, when constituted, there will not be very much public money spent in connexion with its proceedings.
– The mover of the motion cannot now propose any amendment of it, or in any way change its form. If the honorable and learned member for Wannon does not desire his name to remain in the motion, he should move that it be left out.
– Then, I move-
That the motion be further amended by leaving out the words “ Mr. Robinson,” line 10.
– The honorable member for Barrier, whose motion has been moved for him, has my hearty sympathy, not because of the way in which the motion was moved on his behalf - for we had from the honorable member for Darling one of his customary lucid addresses - but because this motion, which was originally intended to test the whole value of the socialistic creed, has been cut down and robbed of its most important feature by the Prime Minister, who, I understand, owes much to those who have espoused Socialism. Furthermore, we find that the honorable and learned member for Wannon actually refuses to serve on the Committee. I should think that after two such blows it would be hardly possible for any motion to survive. I do not know whether the amendments proposed by the Prime Minister will be agreed to, or whether honorable members in the corner will be satisfied to swallow half of the hog because the Prime Minister is not prepared to swallow the whole hog. I am not aware whether the honorable member for Barrier, if he had been here, would have been content to see his motion robbed of its most ornamental feature, or whether honorable members on this side of the House are altogether glad to be denied an opportunity to hear an exposition of the full and complete benefits of Socialism.
– There will be nothing in the motion to prevent a report from being presented, recommending the Government to buy all the ships necessary.
– I take it that since the Prime Minister especially laid down the condition that the Committee should not exceed the definite powers conferred by the motion, any honest Committee would restrict itself to those terms.
– He said nothing of the kind.
– He said that he hoped that the Committee would restrict its deliberations to matters connected with the carriage of mails, passengers, and cargo between Australia and the United Kingdom, whereas the original motion proposed that the Committee should consider the advisability of the Commonwealth Government owning and controlling a fleet of steamers. Now it is proposed that the Committee should consider merely the question of the carriage of mails, passengers, and cargo between Australia and the United Kingdom. 1 would ask, who would benefit from such a change as that which is foreshadowed by the terms of the motion ? Can any honorable member say that those persons who have to send their goods over-sea, would be benefited? We were told by the Prime Minister that there were objectionable features connected with the present system of over-sea carriage of goods and passengers. But I would point out that this House recently passed legislation which was intended to prevent the over-sea steamship companies from contracting themselves out of their common law liability as common carriers.
– And the result is that they will not carry our produce.
– Thev are carrying the produce at a lower rate.
– Apart from the question whether this House has been able to achieve anything by that legislation, I would point out that of all the common carriers in Australia the Government railways alone continue still to contract themselves out of their common law liability as common carriers. ‘
– Does the honorable member think that that has anything to do with the matter under discussion?
– I venture to think it has. I am endeavouring to show that the suggestion that we should run a line of steamers controlled by the Government will not be in the interest of those who would patronize such a line. I am pointing out that in the case in which the State already has a monopoly of the means of transit it does not study the interests of its clients. I am arguing that as the Government monopoly of the means of transit by land is not in the interests of its patrons, a Government monopoly of over-sea carriage would in all probability not be attended by any public advantage. I ask whether I shall be in order in continuing that line of argument ?
– The honorable member is in order in so connecting his remarks.
– So far I have referred to the cargo aspect of the question ; now I will deal with the passenger traffic. It is surely notorious that in the cases in which the Government have a monopoly of the passenger traffic the means they provide are wholly inadequate to meet the complete convenience of the travelling public. In Sydney, where the Government have complete control of the passenger traffic so far as the tramways are concerned, the private owners of public conveyances are required, and rightly, too, to comply with very stringent laws directed against over-crowding; whereas the Government make absolutely no effort to comply with the regulations which they require other people to observe.
– They have made some effort recently by. means of by-laws.
– I understand that they do not enforce the by-laws.
– Yes, they are now doing so.
– I am very glad to hear that at last their consciences have been awakened, but that only tends to prove that some such regulation is necessary. Honorable members have often made comparisons between the relative advantages of the means of conveyance provided by the Go vernment and by private individuals, and have pointed to the difference between the tramways of Sydney and those which are being operated in Melbourne. I would only say that the two systems referred to do not afford a true means of comparison as between a Government institution and one conducted by private enterprise. In Melbourne a Government monopoly has been delegated to a private company, which is protected from competition, and thereby from the operation of the natural law of supply and demand, and I hold that there is no more offensive and mischievous means of carrying on a Government monopoly than that of delegating it to a private company. ‘
– How would it be possible to introduce competition ? Would the honorable member have two sets of lines laid down in each of our principal streets?
– It would be quite possible to permit of competition. There are a number of streets, and a choice of many different routes so far as the tramways are concerned. The honorable member for Parramatta told us that in view of one consideration this proposal might be regarded with a certain amount of sympathy. I took him to say that Government ownership of the means of sea communication might prove advantageous from an Imperial Defence point of view. I do not agree with my honorable friend- A Government department does not afford opportunities for the healthy expression of popular enterprise in any direction. The expense of a Government department has to be borne by people who are not intimately interested in the enterprise, and for that reason it obviously cannot give a true indication of popular enterprise. It has frequently been proved that no armed navy can ever be built up without the solid backing of a merchant marine. France in the seventeenth century built up a navy that for the moment was the most powerful in Europe, but it collapsed because it had not a merchant marine behind it, and because it had no solid support in the way of men, material, and interest to keep it going. If our principal lines of steamers were run by the Government the conditions would be inimical to the true development of our mercantile marine. I hold, therefore, that British commercial enterprise on the high seas must depreciate if such a departure be made. When that depreciation does take place, it is obvious that England can never maintain that navy which is essential to the prosperity and integrity of her people. I have been told that the honorable member for Barrier wishes to have an opportunity to recast the motion, in so far as the personnel of the proposed Committee is concerned, and to give him that opportunity I shall refrain from1 any further remarks I was prepared to ‘ make. I hope that this Select Committee, with its wide ‘ scope and powers, will not be granted,; heedless of the economical necessity of preventing the appointment of too many of these bodies, and unmindful of the interests and trade secrets for which such a Committee might have no regard in the’ course of its deliberations.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Hutchison) adjourned.
– On behalf of the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, I move -
That a copy of the correspondence and documents relating to the arrangements and expenses of the Justices and officers of the High Court be laid on the table of the House.
– There is no objection tothe motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
As the time allotted to private members’ business has almost expired, Iask leaveto continue my remarks on this day week.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the honorable member have leave to continue his remarks on a future occasion.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
– I move-
That a copy of all correspondence in connexion with the acceptance of a tender for the conveyance of mails by the Orient Shipping Company, and the refusal of the tender of Scott, Fell, and Co. for a similar service at a smaller sum, be laid on the table of the House.
I think that it is unnecessary to do more than simply move this motion, as every one must recognise the necessity of having this correspondence laid on the table of the House as quickly as possible.
– The Government have no objection to the motion. The House is entitled to the fullest information, in order that the discussion upon the proposed contract may be conducted in the light of the fullest knowledge. The correspondence in the possession of the Government, relating not only to the objections to the tender of Messrs. Scott, Fell, and Co., but to all the proposals in connexion with the matter, will be placed at the disposal of the House. The honorable member, by moving this motion, is anticipating the consideration of the whole question, as the production of the correspondence will enable honorable members to familiarize themselves with the details by the time that we come, as we must very shortly, to deal with the proposal for the ratification of the contract.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the consideration of the notice of motion No. 9, standing in my name, be made an order of the day for14th September next.
– I rise to a point of order. It seems somewhat anomalous that a motion standing in the name of a responsible Minister of the Crown should appear amongst private members’ business.
– The notice of motion was given by the Attorney-General before he was a Minister.
– It seems to me that it is not in accordance with the popular conception of parliamentary government that an honorable and learned member who is a member of the Cabinet, and jointly responsible for the legislation which the Ministry submit, should be permitted to move an independent proposal of his own in this way on private members’ night. It is,at all events, extremely irregular. From the stand-point of constitutional propriety the honorable and learned member should either remove the notice of motion from the notice-paper, or place it in the hands of an honorable member outside the Cabinet.
– Under a sessional order that we have adopted, private members’ business has precedence of other business on Thursday afternoons. Whether or not the motion standing in the name of the Attorney-General comes within that category I am not prepared at this stage to say ; but if the honorable and learned gentleman says it is Government business, it can be considered only during the time set apart for such business. The notice of motion was given by a private member, and I see no reason why, under the Standing Orders, I should not accept a motion that its consideration be postponed. The question of whether or not I could permit the discussion of the motion if it were proposed during the time set apart for private members’ business is one on which I shall be prepared to give my ruling when the occasion arises.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I hope that on this occasion I shall finish my speech. I do not suppose that there will be any attempt to take a point of order.
– I am afraid that I cannot.
– I think not. I regret thai I was not able to proceed with the Bill last night, in consequence of an objection which I thought might reasonably have been waived, considering the fact that on the previous night, when I was dealing with the question, a technical point of order was taken. As I could not go on, I must resume my speech, as nearly as I can, at the point at which it was severed by the honorable member for Parramatta last Tuesday. Having made two second-reading speeches on the measure, there is no necessity, I take it, to repeat a great deal of the information which was previously given. When the point of order was taken the other night, I was replying to an interjection made by the honorable member for Wentworth, who asked whether a fiscal referendum would be desirable, or necessary, or stupid, and I replied that it would be a socialistic thing to do. It would be ludicrous, I think, to put to the people the question of whether or not it is desirable that we should manufacture iron and steel from the material we have in Australia. There could be but one answer returned, and then the only question would be: Should it be done by the States, or by the Federal Government, or by private enterprise? This Bill, which I hope to carry through the House, is somewhat different from that which I introduced on a previous occasion. The last Bill had a different title, and contained somewhat different conditions. In this Bill, I thought it unnecessary to insert the clauses which connected the previous Bill with Division VIa of the Tariff, because the effect will be to put it together with the Tariff, if the conditions require- in that division are carried out. I understand that the honorable member for Parramatta wishes to know whether the Government will agree to an adjournment of this debate at the end of my speech. Viewing the necessity for getting along with the measure, I thought that some honorable members might be prepared to speak at this stage, and not to lose time by a postponement. If, however, when, I have finished, honorable members do not desire to speak. I do not wish to be unfair to them. There is no part of the world, I believe, where the iron industry has been successfully launched, unless it has been protected by bonuses, and in the ordinary protective way. Even in Great Britain - where they have had such a continuous run of prosperity with their iron and coal - the iron industry, in the first instance, was established by bonus and protection, with a .result that every one knows. In Germany, in the’ United States, in Canada, in every large iron-producing country at the present time, the initiation of this industry has. been by bonus, and generally by protection as well. Under those circumstances, is itpossible that in Australia, where we have such large deposits of iron ore unworked, we can expect to be different from other parts of the world? We have only to look at our present position, which I described the other night as disgraceful to Australia. The fact that the native product has been latent for more than 100 years, and that we do not produce one single pound of iron, ought to be sufficient, I think, to point out to honorable members the necessity, even apart from the Tariff, of dealing with this question from the standpoint’ of our own protection in time of trouble. From the report of a Tariff Commission which sat in England in, I think, 1902 or 1903, I shall read a few figures to .show that the iron industry in Great Britain is declining to a vast extent. Perhaps I had better quote their summary -
The evidence shows that we are only at the beginning of an era of foreign competition, that that competition is certain to become more and more severe, and that to maintain the British iron and steel industry in a state of efficiency,, strenuous efforts are absolutely necessary.
Further on, the Commission say -
We find, therefore, that dumping is of the most widespread character, and may, contrary to the view held by many, be profitable to the countries which practice it ; that, unless checked, it islikely to remain one of the permanent incidents’ of trade; that it has already caused serious loss of employment and wages, diminished profits, and brought about a feeling of insecurity throughout the iron and steel industry ; and that thereare no advantages to the consumers of dumped products which, in the long run, can compensate for lasting injury to the iron and steel industry.
Even my honorable friends opposite must acknowledge that the document which I have read is one at which they cannot cavil. That document shows that the industry in Great Britain is going backwards so rapidly in consequence of competition, and, to use the word of the Commission’s report, of “ dumping “ from other parts of the world - mainly from the United States of America, to some extent from Germany, and slightly, though not to so considerable a degree, from Canada - that if any serious trouble arose we should be dependent upon a foreign country for the supply of our guns, rifles, and ammunition. Putting aside the Tariff questionaltogether, it seems to me that it is an absolute necessity for us in Australia to loot at the matter from the stand-point of defence, as well as from the stand-point of commercial advantage. But if we establish the industry we shall - especially considering that we have such a large quantity of raw material - be able to manufacture all the arms that we require for the defence of Australia. Probably honorable members are scarcely aware of the immense quantity of iron that is produced in the world. I have here a return extending from the years 1876-80 to 1903. That return shows that whilst in the United States in 1876-80 they produced 2,200,000 tons of iron, they produced in 1903 18,000,000 tons; whilst in Great Britain in 1876 they produced only 6,660,000 tons, and in 1893 only 8,81.0,000 tons. These figures bear out- the statements in the report of the Commission to which I have just referred. In Germany, in 1876, the)- produced 2^40,000 tons of iron, and in 1903 9,860,000 tons. The United States and Germany are the two principal countries which produce iron. They send it to the United Kingdom and to other parts of the world,; taking away the trade of British manufacturers, and also, which is more serious, taking -away employment and the incentive to produce. .The production of iron in Belgium and France has not increased in the same ratio. But, taking the total of all the countries - without going into details as to the production of those which are less important - these figures show that in 1876 the total production of iron was 14,810,000 tons, whilst in 1893 it was 47,340,000 tons.
– In view of those figures is the honorable gentleman prepared to reduce the duties against Great Britain?
– I am prepared to give a preference to Great Britain under a system of preferential trade, as I have explained over and over again. The honorable member knows that perfectly well. But I do not wish to have what I am saying interrupted by interjections of that kind. As I said a moment since, I look upon this as a question that is beyond Tariff considerations. It is a question that should be regarded from many points of view. I have quoted figures to give some slight idea of the immense quantity of iron1 produced. Out of the total of 47,000,000 tons, the United States of America produced in 1903 18,000,000 tons, and I believe that that country produced nearly a million tons more in 1904. But
I have not the exact figures, and therefore do not attempt to quote them. When I moved the second reading of this Bill on a previous occasion, I gave some figures showing the quantity of iron introduced into Australia; that is, iron in all shapes. Of course, if we take only the pig iron that is imported, the amount is not so large. But we ought to take into account the iron imported into Australia under every heading. Regarding the imports in that light, the quantity of iron imported in 1899 was £6,061,157 worth. In 1904 - and these figures, I may mention, have not been previously quoted - the quantity of iron imported was ,£6,699,368 worth ; an increase between those two dates of nearly £^700,000 worth.
– Iron, or iron goods ?
– Iron, and iron goods. I take all the goods in which the employment of iron is the principal feature. Between those years - in 1900, 1901, 1902, 1903 - the importations varied in value. The value in 1901 was .£8,37.7,788. That was the largest importation ; and I have no doubt that the reduced figures for 1904 are due principally to the stoppage, to a large extent, of public works in many of the States, particularly in New South Wales. The importation of pig iron- and scrap iron in 1903 was £166, 2*77 worth, and in 1904 £157,060 worth. Those figures show a total importation of nearly ,£7,000,000’ worth last year. They must present themselves to honorable members as showing the magnitude of what we are losing by not having iron works of our own. It has been said on previous occasions, and was stated before the Select Committee of this House, which sat a year or two ago. by, I think, Mr. Jamieson, that the establishment of one mill would mean the employment of 3,000 hands.
– Oh, no.
– That is the statement made in the evidence. I read it to-day. The honorable member can look it up for himself.
– Mr. Jamieson may have said that, but it is not correct.
– In addition to that, as I told honorable members on the previous occasion when I spoke on this subject, in an interview which I had with Mr. Carson, of Carson Brothers, a few years ago, he told me that his estimate was more than double that of Mr. Jamieson. He went so far as to say that between 10,000 and 13,000 hands would be employed by the establishment of one large mill, which would cost probably a million of money to erect. I do not think that Mr. Jamieson over-stepped the mark. I do not think that he meant, for a moment, that that amount of employment would be absolutely given in the mill itself or in the works immediately surrounding it, but he meant that that employment would be given, taking into consideration the additional employment given in connexion with coal, in connexion with limestone, in connexion with wood, and in connexion with a variety of products which must be brought together for the fluxing of the iron. The best iron that we know of is to be found in Tasmania. The next best that we know of is in South Australia. But we have great deposits in almost every one of the States. I do not know what deposits there are in Victoria, but in almost all the States it may be said that we have enormous deposits waiting to be dealt with. As to the iron required1, this Tariff report shows the quantity used per head of the population, but does. not,. I find, include pig iron. According to the quantity used per unit in Great Britain, Australia would use between 4,000,000 and 4,500,000 tons of iron annually. Of course, last year the quantity imported was nearly 7,000,000 tons, but this is not normal, including, as it does, many items which are not taken into account in tlie average consumption I have mentioned. As I have said, .the Bill is varied somewhat from the measure which was introduced previously, and the variations have been made for several reasons. For instance, on the last occasion, the honorable member for Kooyong and the honorable member for Barrier, who ought to know something of the question, expressed the opinion that there was no occasion to give a bonus for spelter, and that opinion coming from such authorities, I thought it just as well not to create discussion by introducing any provision as to that product. But there are several other points of importance. There is a provision which calls upon any private company who undertakes to manufacture iron under the Bill, to hand over to a State, or, it mav be in the future, to the Federal Government - though I do not think the Federal Government could undertake such work without an alteration of the Constitution - all their works, buildings, and machinery at a fair valuation; that is, not all at once, but after a certain period. In regard to wages, too, there is an innovation in the Bill. On the first point, clause 8 provides -
All bounties in respect of pig iron, puddled bar iron, or steel, shall be granted on the condition that the manufacturer shall, if required, transfer, as hereinafter provided, the lands, buildings, plant, machinery, appliances, and material used in the manufacture of the goods.
Clause 9 deals with the wages phase, and was drawn up after consultation with the Attorney-General as to the best method of effecting the object’ directly and conclusively, and without any anomaly. Clause 9 reads -
The person claiming any bounty shall, before receiving the same, or the first instalment thereof, give his bond to the Commonwealth, in the sum of the aggregate amount of bounty which he may thereafter receive (hereinafter called the secured amount), conditioned to be void if he fulfils all the following conditions. …
The conditions which follow may be thought drastic by some honorable members^ but I regard them as wise and necessary, at any rate in these days of advanced thought in regard to many matters.
– What will be the amount of the bond - ^250,000?
– The bond is to be the total amount of the bounties that the manufacturer has received, or is likely to receive.
– What about the ^250,000?
– It must mean ^250,000.
– It may mean that, but it is not likely.
– It must.”
– There may be two works, and each owner would be assigned a certain proportion.
– It is a bond for a sum to be hereafter ascertained.
– How can1 there be a bond in regard to a sum that is not certain ?
– I think there may be.
– A bond is a document which may. be put in, and to which there is no answer.
– How can we decide what the bond shall be, when we do not know the size of the works?
– I quite agree that that is one of the difficulties.
– The AttorneyGeneral and myself have tried to overcome the difficulty by the wording of clause 9, and I fancy that it has been fairly overcome. We do not know at present whether there will be one, ten, or a dozen works, and we could not put down £250,000 to each. The provision may not be perfect, but we have tried to make the best arrangement possible.
– The clause is unworkable.
– The clause is absolutely workable. Paragraph a of clause 9 contains the following condition : -
I hope honorable members will not consider that condition too drastic. The sub-clause is only in consonance with other legislation we have passed, with a view to keeping wages at a particular standard.
– Suppose there were no men doing similar work?
– Then I suppose we should have regard to the wages of men dealing with manufactured iron, which is very similar work, or it might be we should take the wages paid for other smelting work. I do not think, however, that there will be any difficulty on that score, because I have no doubt there will be quite a number of furnaces at work.
– There is power to refer the question to the Arbitration Court.
– I shall deal with that point presently. The second condition is contained in paragraph b of clause 9 ; and this, in my opinion, raises a question of very great importance. I have had letters from one or two interested persons, or persons who are likely to be interested, expressing the opinion that this condition is not necessary. The condition refers to the selling price of the iron ; and we know that when the previous Bill was before us there was strong opposition to it on the ground that it would create monopolies such as those we are familiarwith in the United States. In view of that contingency it was necessarv to have some provision to prevent monopolies selling iron at ring prices. I do not say that this provision is perfect or that objection cannot be raised to it ; I can only put it forward as an honest attempt to meet the circumstances.
– Surely the clause is not necessary until duties are imposed?
– I think such a provision is necessary while the bonus is being given.
– Competition will prevent a manufacturer asking prices that are too high.
– I do not thinkso; at any rate, that may not be the case. However, paragraph b is, in our opinion, the nearest to what is required. It reads as follows : -
Then there is paragraph c -
In the case of a bounty in respect of pig iron, puddled bar iron, or steel, to transfer to the State in which the goods are manufactured, all lands, buildings, premises, machinery, plant, and equipment of any kind used in or in connexion with the manufacture of the goods, if so required by the Governor of the State within- months after the date of expiry of the bounty with respect to that class of goods.
I have purposely left the period undefined, because it is to a very large extent a matter of opinion, and I desi’re to hear the views of honorable members before I fix a definite time.
– Willthe Minister promisethe bounty for a certain number of years, or will it be given simply as the Minister thinks fit?
– The bounty is to be given according to the production, as shown in the schedule.
– Will the Minister assurethe manufacturer that he shall get thebounty for a certain time?
– He will get the bounty, up to the amount voted, until such time as the Minister can come to Parliament and request it to declare byresolution that the industry is sufficiently established. These bounties are to be given whilst the industrv is in course of establishment, and that may occupy a month,or one, two, or three years ; personally, I think that the bounty will continue for, perhaps, three years. I believe that it will take at least from eighteen months to two years to put up the large works which will be necessary, and we cannot expect that the manufacturers will be producing enough to enable the Minister to come without hesitation to Parliament, and ask it to pass the resolution provided for under the Tariff Division VIa, in less than twelve months after the completion of the works.
– The Bill fixes the time for which the bounty on pig iron shall runat six years.
– I am aware of that, but I am pointing out that it will take probably twelve months from the time the works are in full working order before the Minister can take the action I have indicated. The term is not to begin until such time as the works are in going order. Paragraph c of clause 9 proceeds -
Such transfer to be in considerationof fair compensation of the property transferred, to be assessed in case of dispute by the President of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, whose determination shall be final and conclusive, and without appeal.
If we permitted an appeal, I do not know what might happen. I think we can have a strong feeling of confidence in leaving this to the Judge of the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. To my mind, it is the best reference that could be made. He will have to decide what wages should be given, and also the price that should be charged for the iron. I have not been able to discover, up to the present moment, any better method of dealing with the question than that which is here proposed. Clause 10 deals with the method in which this reference is to be made, and it says -
I have been told that six months is too long a period, and that the Minister should have power to do this once in three months, but that is a question for consideration in Committee - refer to the President , of theCommonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration the question of fair wages to be paid, or fair price to be charged, as in the last preceding section mentioned ; and his determination shall be final and conclusive, and without appeal.
– What is the object of subclause 2?
– In view of the closing words of clause 9, I really cannot say, but the draftsman has evidently thought the sub-clause necessary. I do not pretend to draft Bills myself. Having told the draftsman or the Attorney-General what I desire, I leave the drafting of the measure entirely in their hands.
– I think it is intended to give the President the ordinary powers of a Judge to compel the attendance of witnesses, to take action in case of contempt of court, and that sort of thing.
– Very likely that is the reason for the sub-clause, but personally I felt that the matter was covered by the closing words of clause 9. Clause 11 provides -
In case of any breach of any of theconditions ofthe bond, the full secured amount shall be recoverable as liquidated damages.
Clause 12 provides the power to make regulations, and clause 13 sets forth certain returns which must be laid before Parliament. I would say, in reference to the schedule, that it deals with different classes of iron. For that coming under the description in class 1, the rate of bounty will be 12s. per ton up to a total amount of £250,000. Under class 2, the Tate of bounty proposed is 10 per cent. on value for galvanized iron, wire netting, and iron and steel tubes or pipes, except rivetted or cast, and not more than six inches in internal diameter, up to a total amount of £50,000 ; whilst under class 3 the rate of bounty proposed for reapers and binders, up to the first five hundred, is £8 each up to , £4,000. I had thought to have inserted in this Bill a provision fixing the actual maximum price that might be charged for iron. After a good deal of research, I found that that is quite impossible, because there are so many varieties of iron. That is why I adopted the idea contained in the Bill of referring the question to the President of the Arbitration Court, to be decided on evidence. Before I leave that point, I wish tosay that I have been advised that there must be an amendment made in the Bill in reference to the definition of pig-iron, because there is a new process now in operation by which smelted iron is not run into pig-iron at all, but into another condition, and therefore is not classed as pig-iron, though it is practically pig-iron. An amendment is necessary, therefore, to prevent any trouble on that account. In trying to get at what would be a fair maximum price, I ascertained from the Customs Department in New South Wales the actual prices paid for certain classes of iron over the last ten years. A great deal has been said about the price of pig-iron, but nothing can be more conclusive on the point than particulars of actual payments. I find that for “ Scotch,” at export centres, the prices paid were, in 1895, £2 4s. 5d. ; 1896, £2 6s.10d.; 1897, £2 5s.4½d. ; 1898, £2 7s. 2d.; 1899, . £33s.9d. ; 1900, £39s 4d.
– Are these the prices at the port of export?
– Yes. I am quoting these prices in answer to evidence given as to the price at which pig-iron could be sold. The price given in 1901 was £2 13s. 9d. ; 1902, £2 14s.5½d. ; 1903, £2 12s. 6d.; and in 1904, £211s. 6d. I wish honorable members to pay some little attention to this matter. These prices are for “ Scotch,” at export centres.
– I believe it is a fact that scarcely any iron comes into Australia but Scotch iron.
– I have also obtained from Mr. Lockyer prices of “American” iron, at export centres.
– It is a guarantee of excellence, at any rate.
– That it is American ?
– No, Scotch.
– In New South Wales on one occasion, when we had to pull down bridges, it was found that the iron used by the Scotch firm which built them was Belgium iron. The price of iron per ton in America, at export centres, was £2 14s. 2d. in 1895 ; £2 14s3½d. in 1896 ; £2 10s. 7½d. in 1897; £2 8s. 9d. in 1898; £3 15s. 8d. in 1899; £2 13s. in 1900; £23s. 6d. in 1901 ; £2 7s. in 1902; £2 3s. in 1903 ; and £2 9s. 6d. in 1904. Therefore, during the first five years of that period, the price in America was higher than the price in Great Britain, but from 1901 onwards the price in America has been lower than the price in Great Britain. The price of Scotch iron, c.f. and i., at Common wealth centres-
– That is, delivered in the Commonwealth ?
– Yes. The price of Scotch iron so delivered was £3 12s. 6d. in 1898 ; £4 10s. in 1899 ; £5 13s. 9d. in 1900; £413s.2d.in1901;£4 6s. 3d. in 1902; £4. 8s.9d. in1903; and £4 4s.5d. in 1904. American iron, c.f. and i., at Commonwealth centres, was - £3 6s. 2d. in 1898; £4 6s. 3d. in 1899 ; £5 5s. in 1900 ; £4 4s. 5d. in 1901 ; £4 2s. 6d. in 1902 ; £4 5s. in 1903; and £4 5s. in 1904. Therefore, American iron delivered in Australia has generally been cheaper than Scotch iron, though, no doubt, the difference has been largely due to the low freights and charges in connexion with its importation. I think it was stated by Mr. Sandford that pig-iron could be made in Australia for less than £2 ros. a ton.
– For 35s. a ton.
– If that be so, there must be something radically wrong about these figures.
-They are quite right.
– I have it on most reliable authority that pig-iron cannot be made in Australia for less than 70s. a ton.
– Mr. Sandford has been making it, so that he should know what it costs to make.
– I know that he has said that he could make pig-iron for 35s. per. ton, but his manager does not say so.
– What does his manager say ?
-I think that his manager says that it would cost 65s. a ton to make pig-iron, and deliver it in Sydney.
– No; about 40s.
– We have his sworn evidence.
– I think that Mr. Sandford’s manager said that it would cost 65s. per ton to make pig iron and deliver it in Sydney, but it is not worth while to dispute about the matter now, because he is likely to be present during the debate, and when he comes, I will get from him what he has to say on the subject, and let honorable members know his opinion. I do not think that there is anything more of especial interest that I can say in regard to the Bill, and I do not wish to occupy time merely to make alongspeech. I have figures here giving the importations of iron and steel to Canada, both dutiable and not dutiable, from1901 to 1904, but I do not think that it is necessary to read them now, and I am not aware of any other point relating to the measure upon which I need touch at the present moment. I have laid the bare facts of the case before honorable members, but, in addition, I would remind them that I have already made two second-reading speeches on somewhat similar Bills, and that those speeches can be referred to in the Hansard report of. our debates. In them I gave fuller details, and spoke at greater length ; but I do not think that it is necessary to repeat now what I said then. I expect that the measure will be reasonably debated, but I hope that there will be no undue discussion of it.
– There has not been any undue discussion yet.
– The Minister cannot make that complaint.
– I am not complaining.
– The Age newspaper, the Government organ, is complaining.
– I should like to be able to dictate every article which appears in the Age, but I am not answerable for everything that is published in that journal. It may be perfectly right in what it says, but I am not complaining at the! present -moment. I will- complain when I see that the debate is being unduly strung out, but not until then. I recognise that there are those sitting in opposition who will not let the measure pass without a reasonable discussion ; but I hope that the House will go to work earnestly on the Bill. As I have said before, the measure is too important to be a plaything in politics. Its effects will be too serious. I hope, however, that this session we shall pass the Bill, with its possibilities of employment and of development, and of increasing the wealth of Australia and of every unit in our population-
– And of the promoters.
– A great deal too much is thought and said about the wealth that will go to the promoters.
– A quarter of a million.
– I have tried in the Bill to put a check on the creation of a monopoly, and I have tried to put a big check on the increase of prices.
– The Minister proposes to give away a very big cheque of public money - £300,000.
– I do not think that 5 per cent, of the community would care what reasonable price was paid if the iron industry was properly established here. I am reminded by the Postmaster-General that, if not all, at least a large proportion of the money proposed to be spent will be spent in the employment of labour. I was very glad to hear the new Premier of South Australia say the other day that if employment can be given in a -legitimate way, without paying attention to the claims and demands that are sometimes made for the expenditure of money, simply for the sake of employing what are known as the unemployed, it should be given. If employment can be given, and an industry like this established, it is the duty of the people to direct their attention to the matter. Still more is it the duty of the representatives of the people not to allow the movement to flag. Honorable members should deal with the Bill in an earnest way. I feel, however, that the House is in such a state of mind in regard to it that, without undue delay, this Parliament will place to its credit the record of having established the iron industry in Australia.
– I suppose that the fact that the House, according to the Minister, has made up its mind to deal with this Bill in an expeditious and prompt way accounts for the fact that there are so few members present.
– Order ! Ring the bells. [Quorum formed.’]
– I certainly did not intend, when I alluded to the small number present, to give honorable members the inconvenience of coming into the chamber. That, however, is the answer to the honorable member when he says that this Bill is of such vast importance. Whatever our views may be, this is a Bill that should receive the most earnest consideration of honorable members on all sides of the House, and yet it seems to excite nothing beyond the most languid interest. The exposition of the Bill ought to have been interesting to every honorable member within reach of the chamber, and I regret that it has been received with so much indifference - that is, unless the whole thing has been arranged, and the matter is practically settled. One of the advantages of settling a matter out of the chamber is that it dispenses with the necessity of being present. If this matter has been settled somewhere else - of course I do not say that it has - and the position of the Bill is such that there is no necessity to follow arguments in connexion with it, the languid interest with which it has been received may be explained.
– We had what was equivalent to a division on the motion- for the second reading previously.
– Yes ; but I would like to remind the honorable member that there are a number of new features in this Bill, which make it practically a fresh proposal, and which I think will cause those honorable members who are most earnestly in favour of the Bill to consider it very seriously. I want to deal with the whole question, which is a very large and important one; but I think I shall do well to direct my attention at once to the alterations that have been” made in the present measure, as distinguished from the Bill with which honorable members are familiar. I shall allude only to the most important alterations. The President of our Arbitration Court is, I think, placed in a more novel position than any other human being in this world has ever occupied.
– He is to be a Lord High Valuator.
– I think that, when the House and the country quietly weigh the duties which, in these new features of the Bill, are assigned to his Honour Mr. Justice O’Connor, honorable “members will be in a very eager frame of mind if they pass the Bill as it stands. Now what is the position in which the President of the Arbitration Court is placed? Unfortunately, he is not an expert in the iron industry. I suppose that the intricacies of the great iron industry are about as great as those of any industry in the world ; but the President of our Arbitration Court is not only to fix the wages of the men employed by the syndicate, but is to fix the prices to be charged for the manufactured goods. Now, if we had the vaguest knowledge of all the various articles of trade produced in the iron industry, we should understand the task that is set a Judge who has never had anything to do with an iron industry”. “Clause 10 provides that the President of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration shall determine the question of fair wages to be paid, and fair price to be charged. Now, in regard 1o the question of price, we could understand that, if there were rival quotations, it “would be possible to arrive at some more or less approximate value of an article. When more than one firm is offering an article it is, in the shock of competition, possible to arrive, even under difficulties, at some rational idea of what would be a fair price ; but all the evidence we have points to the fact that this industry will be carried on bv a big syndicate. There is already a big syndicate waiting for this £350,000. I suppose that a number of other syndicates could be persuaded at the shortest possible notice, and with the same inducement, to enter the field; but the probability is that, if this scheme comes to anything, the iron industry will be carried on by one great industrial concern, favorably situated with reference to the very difficult business questions that will have to be thrashed out before the site of the iron works is settled. What possible basis can there be upon which the President of the Arbitration Court, or any other human, being, can fix a fair price for articles in which there is really no equal competition ?” It is not as if he were to be called upon to fix the price of one small article of manufacture; but I suppose that 150 different lines of manufactured goods will be turned’, out at the works, and the syndicate cannot sell a pound of stuff until these questions have all been fought out and settled. They cannot sell at all until these fair prices- have been established by his Honour the President of the Arbitration Court. They may spend .£200,000 or £300,000. It iseasy to spend money, and I know of no Minister who is in a more congenial situation than is the Minister of Trade and Customs when he has a lot of money to spend. It must revive the glories of his past career when he has a quarter of a million of money to deal with, directly or indirectly, in connexion with this Bill.
– I am afraid that the Treasurer will have something to say upon that matter.
– Now, before a single pound of iron or steel, before a single piece of iron piping, or a single piece of iron machinery, can be offered to the public of Australia, the Judge of the Arbitration Court must fix a schedule of fair prices.
– What is a fair price?
– That is what the President of the Court will be asking all the time, and probably he will be none the wiser when he has heard all the conflicting views expressed.
– Does the right honorable gentleman say that the price has to be fixed before anything can be sold?
– The decision of the President of the Arbitration Court will be required only in matters referred to him in the event of a dispute arising.
– Oh, I see. Clause 10 reads -
– The person claiming the bounty has to enter into a bond.
– He has to enter into a bond which must be signed for an amount that the Minister himself admits it is impossible to state. If any of the breaches mentioned in the Bill occurred.- a person who had given the bond would be liable to pay the amount on proof of the breach. There would be no investigation as to what damage had been created, or as to what part of the total amount was to be paid. It is to be one indivisible sum.
– There is power to make regulations.
– But a bond has nothing to do with regulations. It is a legal document drawn up in such a way as to secure payment of money in case of default. The meaning of the expression “ liquidated damages “ is that there is to be no inquiry as to the amount of damages payable in the case of a breach. Given a breach, the amount of the bond is payable. The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne may have dealt with such legal documents more frequently than I have, and may be able to show how the terms of a bond may be put in this absolute way - how the amount is to be recovered as liquidated damages when no actual amount is mentioned in the bond. In my little experience of such documents, I have never known of a bond of this sort, in which the amount of liquidated damages was not precisely stated. It is impossible to say what bonuses a man may earn. The iron bonuses are to extend over five years.
– As to pig-iron.
– Yes. If a breach occurred during the first year, when but a very small quantity of pig-iron had been produced, and a very small portion of the bonus earned, how would it be possible in proceedings on the bond to ‘ascertain the amount of iron which might possibly be produced in the factory in the ensuing four years ?
– This provision means, the more bounties the more liability.
– Even in the case of a proceeding for a breach after the five years’ period had. closed, I do not think the ambiguity with which I am dealing would be cured, although it would be very much relieved. But I am speaking of a case in which a breach has occurred, say, in regard to the stipulation as to wages - a case where the bond has been broken in such an unscrupulous and unjustifiable way during the first year that it is determined to put the bond in suit. How could an estimate be formed as to the amount of bonus that would have been earned by the person concerned if he had gone on working for the following four years?
– I think the meaning of the Bill is that in such an event he is to hand back all that he has received.
– The Minister in charge of the Bill did not put the matter in that way. He spoke of the amount that the person concerned might earn in the future, and admitted that there would be a difficulty in determining what it would be.
– The claimant would give a bond as for what he would earn, and when that bond was put in suit he would have to pay the amount that he had received as bounty.
– Then how could it be a sum as for liquidated damages?
– The proposal is unusual, but’ I do not know why it could not be carried out.
– I have never met with a case of this sort. The object of these bonds in all other cases is that there shall be no quibbling either as to the amount of the liability incurred, or as to an investigation of facts. In a claim for the amount of a bond, the only inquiry is, “ Has a breach been committed ?” If a breach has been committed a verdict is given for the plaintiff for the’ full amount of the bond. I think that every member of the legal profession, when drawing up a bond, frames it in such a way that the breach has only to be proven in order to make the full amount of the bond payable. I submit for the consideration of those honorable and learned members who have had more to do with these documents than I have, whether such a bond as is described in this measure is possible. Some other sort of bond might be.
– The right honorable member understands that this provision has been drawn up by the AttorneyGeneral.
– Yes, but even Judges diffesometimes.
– The Attorney-General ought to be here to explain it.
– He will do so.
– I make no complaint on that score, because I believe that at the conclusion of my remarks, the debate is to be adjourned unless any other honorable member desires to speak at this- stage. Another point to be remembered in connexion with the proposal that a bond shall be entered into is that the person in whose name the works stood might be one whose bond was not worth much. There is to be no mortgage on the works, in view of default.
– The banks might have a mortgage.
– The chances are that under a law of this kind the claimants of the bounty would be clever enough to place their business in such a position that the mere putting of the bond in suit would not affect them very seriously. The works might either be under mortgage or under assignment in some way which would make the bond really worth very little.
– But the Minister may refuse a bond unless it be signed by those having good names.
– There is nothing in the Bill in regard to good names.
– But the Minister will have a discretion.
– I do not know what further explanations we may have, but f see no such provision in the Bill as it stands. There is nothing, for instance, to prevent ari absolutely sound company, from mortgaging the whole of its works immediately after giving the bond. In that event, if there were a breach, and a suit on the bond, we should be able to obtain our verdict, but there would be nothing on which to recover. The works would be mortgaged or assigned.
– The company could issue debentures, making them a first charge on the works, and the Government would have no security.
– That is so. In such circumstances the bond would not be of any value. There are hundreds of ways in which its virtue could be evaded. If there is a great deal of money in the undertaking, or if it is thought that there is, the syndicate which is said to be ready to embark upon it, may accept these conditions. They may see so much in the enterprise that they will be ready to incur risks and accept the most unbusinesslike conditions because they feel sufficiently safe. I am assuming that the bonus is only a fair and reasonable one; not an extravagant use of public money. but a fair and reasonable business proposition, in view of the magnitude and difficulty of an iron industry. Take the position of a person whose iron factory in its two vital points - the price of the article and the wages paid for its production - is run not by competent men who know how to conduct an iron factory, but by the Judge of a Court who knows nothing about the industry. These conditions make the Judge practically the managing director without ‘ appeal. His decision, as the Bill says, must be final. There is no authority in the world who can alter the decision except himself every six months, if he has the opportunity.
– It has been suggested to me that the period should be three months.
– I should say that six months would be a very fair term, because, if these things are to be unsettled every three months, that, I think, would add to the difficulty of conducting the industry.
– That it should he three months is only a suggestion.
– Yes. If this thing is to be done at all, I would strongly recommend that the term should stand at six months, because a period of three months would make it more difficult and more objectionable, just as a period of a fortnight would make it still more objectionable. There must be some little stability in the conditions of this great enterprise, if it is to be made a success.
– -It was one of the prospective “iron kings,” if he may be so described, who suggested the period of three months to me.
– That only shows that they are hoping, for a good deal from the Judge, and naturally so, because he will know nothing about the business. You have unlimited possibilities of getting good decisions that suit you if you constitute a tribunal which is incompetent and absolutely ignorant for such a purpose as this. Put His Honour, Mr. Justice O’Connor, on a legal question, and there is not a man who knows him who would not have as high a confidence in his legal judgment as perhaps in that of any other lawyer in Australia. That is my personal opinion of Mr. Justice O’Connor. But when you set that distinguished lawyer to stipulate a fair price for iron pots and pans, pig-iron, steel rails, iron pipes, and the thousand articles which come out of a great iron works, you set him a task which is the last in the world that he may bc competent to undertake.
– In the Courts the Judges have constantly to decide what is a fair price for an article.
– They have to decide on the evidence given.
– They have to decide questions on conditions which unfortunately will not be present in this case. This will be, perhaps, the only great iron foundry in Australia. Can there be two great iron foundries in the Commonwealth? If there are two, they will have a common interest.
– The fact that it is a monopoly will be taken into consideration.
– That settles everything.
– No ; but it is a fair argument to put.
– -I beg to press the point I wish to make, that on this question of price, if there are fifty big foundries drawing this bonus they will have a common interest in giving evidence to keep the prices as high as possible. Where competition exists, you can bring witnesses who have a conflicting interest sufficient to involve perhaps a just decision.
– What about those who have to buy the iron ?
– Exactly; there is another common interest. There will be two lines of witnesses each with a common interest, and each adverse to the other, and then I suppose the Judge will split the difference. But as for any personal ability to have an opinion of his own, I think my honorable and learned friend knows that, great_as are the” legal difficulties which Judges have to grapple with, these are nothing compared with the difficulties which questions of price in a great iron foundry might create. This has not the merit of being a national socialistic proposal. I do not believe that the maddest Socialist who ever lived would start an iron foundry and place its control in the hands of the Judge of a Court.
– If this Bill is passed, the right honorable member can depend upon it that the foundry will start. Of that I am assured.
– I understand that the Minister has had underground assurances.
– No! I knew as well as possible what the state of this House meant. It means that we may criticise the Bill as we like, but it will just as certainly become law as if not a human being ever said a. word about it.
– I was not referring to the members of the House at all.
– Oh no, to every one else but the members of the House. The confidence which the Minister has that the Bill will pass does not rest upon a knowledge of those who are to pass it, but upon a knowledge of people outside, who will not have to pass it. These little gets-away do not impose upon me.
– That is not fair.
– It may be a waste of time to put before the House - I am painfully conscious of that - but still it is my duty to put before the people outside, from whom we have escaped for a still longer period, the fact that the alteration made, instead of recommending the Bill, introduces are element of utter absurdity which it did not contain before. I do not wish to disparage the object of this new provision. I do not for a moment say that it is not a good object, because we will all admit that, however incompetent the Judge of the Court may be from want of personal knowledge,, the placing of this duty on .him is an attempt to put the decision in the hands of a-, person above any suspicion of doing anything worse than making an error of judgment. The object of the clause is onewhich is not to be censured at all. I am not speaking of it in that sense.
– Will the right honorable member help us to improve it?
– I do not know whether that would be of any use, because I am afraid it is all over. Whilst I appreciate the fact that the tribunal selected is an incorruptible one, still I cannot shut my eyes to thefact that it is a ludicrously inapt one for regulating the business of an enormous; industrial undertaking such as this will be. I believe that if His Honour had to regulate the concerns of a tin-pot factory in a village, his work would be arduous enough ; but when he is asked to regulate questions involving a fair price in a. new industry of gigantic dimensions, that is putting uponhim, I think, a task which he is absolutely incompetent to perform. As regards; wages, some honorable members may think that the new provision of the Bill will be a grand thing for the workers in the ironindustry. I should point out - and it isonly fair thing to do - that, in the way in which paragraph a of clause 9 is put, itwould be scarcely satisfactory to me if I were engaged in the industry as a worker.
To pay to the workmen -
This is another question which the Judgeof the High Court will have to settle. If a dispute occurs on a question of wages, and* a reference is made to His Honour under clause 10 - if they get on without any dispute this will not be a matter of anyconsequence - new complications will arise
The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbi tration Act cannot apply to any dispute in an iron foundry in a particular State inasmuch as it would not be a dispute extending beyond the limits of the State. Take, for instance, a dispute about wages in an iron foundry at, say, Lithgow, or on the Parramatta River. Such a dispute would fall within the law of the State; and I question - the idea has only occurred to me this moment in referring to this clause, but it may be a matter for consideration - whether if there were a dispute about wages in a State, the State law would not apply as against the Commonwealth law. Of course, by putting this in the bond there is no doubt an attempt to get over that difficulty. But the workers are not in the bond. The men who are going to work in this great iron foundry are not to be made parties to this bond. The Minister may be of opinion that the workers have no fair claim forhigher wages or better conditions of labour. He may be of opinion, and those to whom the bonus is given, may be of opinion, that the workmen have no just grievance at all, and that the wages of which they are complaining are fair wages. It is the Minister who must be satisfied that the wages are not fair ; but it would not be the Minister who would settle the question. He would be bound, if this Bill becomes an Act, to have the matter referred to !rhe Judge; because that is the tribunal set up in clause ro. Suppose the men make a claim for more wages, and that the syndicate that is running the factory says, “ These wages are fair wages “ ; and suppose the Minister agrees with the syndicate, and says that they are fair. But the men mav say, “ Well, you have constituted a tribunal to decide what wages are fair, in this President of the Federal Arbitration Court, and we call on you, the Minister, whatever your own opinion is, to refer the question to the President of the Arbitration Court.”
– Does the right honorable member think he would not refer it?
– The Minister.
– I do not say that at all. I think that he would be bound to do so on a fair construction of this clause. But, suppose the decision of the Judge was given after the reference, and the Judge believed with the employers, that they were fair wages, and decided that they were fair. That would not end the matter. The men could go then to another tribunal. This is a bond between A and B, not between the men and employers. The former have not bound themselves to abide by the decision of the Judge in the Federal Court. If the foundry is in New South Wales, where it probably will be, the men will have an absolute legal right to go before the Arbitration Court of New South Wales after the Judge of the Federal Arbitration Court has settled this reference. The men would register. They would probably be members of a registered union under the Arbitration Act in New South Wales. They would go to the Federal Judge first, probably knowing that if his decision was not in their favour they could then go to the local Arbitration Court for an adjustment of the dispute, which had arisen between them and - not the Government, but the syndicate that was running the iron industry. So that we should have this novel state of things. It is an arduous enough enterprise to establish a national industry of this kind ; a grand object, but a very arduous one, and where money is any object at all, a risky one - a very risky one, as we have found in our experience. Governments of New South Wales, quite irrespective of fiscal opinions - whether free-traders or protectectionists - have made liberal efforts in that State to get this industry established. They have made very liberal efforts, but without success. There are men ready enough to take up the enterprise who have not the money, but when you go to men who have the money the trouble begins, because a large amount of money is wanted for this purpose. However, there is one of the studies in arbitration which this Bill presents - an arbitration by a Judge of the Federal Court, which is not worth a snap of the fingers, sp far as concerns the employes. The employers can be bound by this bond. They might be precluded from appealing by the terms of the bond. But the men would be absolutelyfree, and the result would be rather onesided. If the decision of the Federal Arbitration Judge were against the employers they could not go to the New South Wales Arbitration Court, whereas if it were against the men they could go every time. That seems to be a little uneaual. There are those two provisions which, as I say, practically mean the running of this factory, not on the wages earned, and the prices got for the productions of this great enterprise, and in these two points all the vital consequences of running a great industry are involved. However, this enterprise will become more respectable when the syndicate is bracketed with the Judge of the Federal Court. That will give it a tone, it will give it a public appearance which may recommend it to some people. Now, those are two new features of this Bill. I do not say a word against their object. I admit at once that the object is evidently a good and a legitimate one. But I do not think that the methods adopted will- achieve the object. Now, about the wages. We turn to paragraph a of clause 9. The bond is to contain this liability on the part of the people running the factory -
To pay to the workmen and employes employed in the manufacture of the goods the rate of wages fixed as hereinafter provided - that is by the Judge - or if no rate is so fixed, the highest wages usually paid in the State to workmen and employes doing similar work.
Well, now, if we read clause 10, with paragraph a, clause 9, as a Judge would do, the standard set up is not that these men in the national foundry are to have as high wages as any other men in a private enterprise of the same kind. They are only to get that rate if there is no rate fixed by the Judge. And there is a distinction made in these provisions between fair wages and the highest wages in the particular industry. And when this matter comes before the Judge on the question of wages, the Judge must give the full force to these words in clause 10, because they are the basis of the reference -
The Minister may at any time, but not oftener than once in six months, refer to the President of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration the question of fair wages to be paid or fair price to be charged, as in the last preceding section mentioned ; and his determination shall be final and conclusive, and without appeal.
The test with the Judge is again that word “fair.” Under the word fair, the Judge might take into consideration not any rea..sonable amount, but the exigencies and urgencies of a new industry whose operations may, perhaps, show not at all profitable results in spite of this bonus. And the question would come before a fairminded man, “ Can the industry afford to pay higher wages”? In the Arbitration Court in New South Wales this was actually done. Men came for an increase of wages ; the employer proved that his business was not flourishing at that particular time, and the Court, under those circumstances, decided that the men were not entitled to an increase. The Court did not deny that it was from the men’s point of view a fair claim. But the Court said, “ In view of this man’s business, we cannot conscientiously increase these men’s wages.” In this new industry, which may be struggling from the very first - and which will struggle harder as it gets older, as I shall presently show from the evidence of skilled witnesses - elements of the gravest dissatisfaction may arise between those engaged in it and their employes. Of course, I admit, as I have said, that there is an escape from the Judge of the Federal Court to the Arbitration Court of New South Wales if the Judge does not award the wages which the men desire. That Arbitration Court consists of three persons, who might, although they would not be bound to do so, give effect to this clause, not as a matter of law, but as a matter of equity in connexion with a great industry started on a basis which the men, as well’ as the employers, know. Leaving that phase, I now come to deal with the bounty of 12s. per ton proposed to be paid for pig iron, with another 12s. per ton if that pig iron be made into steel, or 24s. a ton ; and I denounce that bounty as criminally extravagant, convinced, as I am, that those who propose to pay this money out of the public pocket would not give a quarter of it if they had to pay it out of their own pocket. It is absolutely putting the hand of an unfaithful trustee of the public Treasury into the public pocket, in order to squander, extravagantly and criminally, public money in this enterprise. I do not make that statement on the authority of my own opinion, because I admit that on such matters I am personally absolutely ignorant. But I shall read to the House the sworn evidence of competent persons in order to show that what I say is justified. The Minister of Trade and Customs has read the prices of pig iron over a long series of years, free on board in Great Britain :md in the United States, and he has read another set of figures showing the prices 1? the iron delivered in the Commonwealth. The lowest prices are those of the Scotch at export centres, and they range from £2 4s. 5d., in 1895, to £3 9s. 4d., in 1900. Then from that year onward the prices taper away to £2 us. 6d., in 1904. Those are the prices for pig iron delivered on board ship at Glasgow.
– And £1 per ton has to be added as the average importing charge.
– There has been some iron imported recently at a freight of 5s. a ton.
– I shall not commit myself on the point, because freights vary very much; but the honorable member for Parramatta was on the Royal Commission which investigated this matter, and he has a better knowledge of the facts than I have.
– The evidence of all the manufacturers here, who do their own importing, was that the average importing charge is about £1 per ton.
Mr. REID. Those are the persons who import, and, therefore, they ought to know. The American export prices range between £2 3s. and £3 15s. 8d. at the export centres. I now come to the prices of Scotch pig iron, delivered in the Commonwealth. The prices for this iron, delivered here, ranged from £$ 12s. 66’., in 1898, to £4 ios., in 1899. The price in 1900 was £5 13s. gd. ; in 1901, it was £4 13s. 2d.; in 1902, it was £4 6s. 3d. ; in 1903, it was £4 8s. 9d. ; and in 1 904 it was £4 4%. 5d. ; so that the average price must be about £4.
– It is over £4.
– The American prices for pig iron delivered in the Commonwealth are a little lower, and average something like £4.
– About £4.
– The truth of my statement that this premium of 12s. per ton for pig iron, or 24s. per ,ton,on the same iron if it be made into steel, is a piece of criminal extravagance with the public money, in order to help the enterprise of a private syndicate, is proved on the evidence of the one man in Australia who knows more of the matter than any other person. This man has produced iron for the last twenty years in his own factory, and is probably the only man who has been in that way of business in Australia. He swore before the Royal Commission that the cost of producing Australian pig iron, using Australian labour, Australian coal, and Australian limestone, and carrying on his factory under union conditions, is 35s. per ton.
– Then why does he not make pig iron ?
– Because he is looking out for a quarter of a million of money. However, I am not going into those questions. This is a gentleman .whose integrity-
– No one doubts his integrity ; but . his manager also gave evidence.
– I shall presently read what his manager said ; and I would rather have what the manager said on oath than anything he may say here” while the Bill is going through. It is said that Mr. Thornley is coming down.
– I was wrong as to that; I meant Mr. Dando
– Mr. Sandford is known throughout Australia as a man of the highest integrity and wide experience. He has conducted ‘ the biggest smelting concern in Australia, perhaps the only concern of the kind of any magnitude in the country. It must be remembered that the evidence which Mr. Sandford gave was in connexion with a Bill which proposed to give “him, or some one else, a bonus of a quarter of a million of money, so that he had no inducement to understate the price of Australian iron, bur rather the greatest possible interest in mak. ing the 35s. into 75s., in order to give him a chance of obtaining the bonus. But he did not allow his knowledge to be swayed by any selfish considerations of his own advantage2 and, as an honest man, he swore to the actual facts. No man” can know better than he, who conducts the manufacture, how much the iron costs to produce ; and I propose to read his evidence, so that if may have its full force with honorable members.This evidence will be found at page 55 of the Commission’s report, question 1127 -
Are you prepared to reply to a question as to what your estimate o£ the cost is? - Yes, I am. After supplying modern blast furnaces -
And the provision in this Bill for the grant of this enormous sum of money is to enable manufacturers to secure the best appliances - thoroughly well equipped, and every necessary appliance, from material already secured -
Mr. Sandford has already got the material. His evidence is not mere conjecture ; he knows how much it will cost him to get the iron ore, the coal, and the limestone, for thc-y are all near him - in the shape of the iron ore, coal, and limestone.
I believe deposits of these materials are to be found in large quantities in the neigh- bourhood of Lithgow - pig iron could be produced at Lithgow for under 35s. per ton.
The price of imported pig iron landed in Australia averages £4 per ton, and here is a man of expert knowledge who has iron ore, limestone, and coal waiting, who swears that in Australia, in spile of the higher wages and better conditions of labour that exist here as compared wilh almost any country in the world, iron can be produced for 35s. a ton: We are told that an enormous amount of labour is required in this iron industry, but are honorable members aware that, owing to the marvellous appliances now in. use, a handful of men can produce enormous quantities of iron? Do honorable members know that in the great Carnegie foundries of America, the cost of labour involved in the production of a ton of pig iron is only 2s. ? And American wages are pretty high.
– Only 3s. in Middlesborough.
– That does not include the raising of the coal and ore.
– No, I am speaking of iron. This is not a proposal for a bonus to the collieries, is it? *If we are to be told that this bonus of 1 2s. per ton is to include a bonus to those engaged in the collieries and in the limestone quarries, let us see that they get some of it. Why should it go to Mr. Jamieson, and ‘the syndicate which he is ready ‘to float into a London company ? If this 12s. per ton is intended for labour in the collieries, will it not be a fraud to let the syndicate get it all?
– Hear, hear. They do not want it to go to the labourers. That would not suit their Look.
– This House may have the most honest intentions in the world about the. destination of this money, but it must not be forgotten that once the money gets into the hands of other people, this House will have no control over it. Do honorable members think that when this industry is established, whether under this Bill or anyother, the people who establish it will not rake the world to get the finest laboursaving machinery they can obtain? Some men have not the capital to do that, but these men would have. They would rake the world for the most finished appliances to dispense with labour. If you will go into one of the biggest foundries in Glasgow today, that turns out thousands of tons of steel rails a week, you will find that twenty-, one men and boys are working ihe whole factory, such is the pitch of efficiency to which machinery has been brought. The pig iron produced in Australia must be of the best quality, or it will be the ruination of the industries of Australia. We must not forget that. If we could sell our iron to people in other countries, it would not matter; but this very iron which is to be produced in Australia is to go into all the Australian industries, manufacturing, mining, and farming.
– They will not use it unless it is good.
– I should think not.
– For that reason,, none but Scotch is imported.
– As I understand the matter, this is such a ticklish question in the iron foundries of Australia, and the Scotch iron is of such a settled satisfactory quality, that it almost entirely commands the Australian market.
– That is correct.
– That is because the element of stability of quality is required in this article. It is not like many other articles. Quality is a vital ‘consideration. I say that this Australian pig iron must be good, or its production will be a curse to Australia instead of a blessing. We ‘have evidence that Scotch and American iron can be laid down here at prices giving an average over a series of years of £4 per ton. There is iron ore in New South Wales, with all the materials waiting. The plant of course would require to be replaced, but the man is there, as enterprising and as honorable a man as there is in Australia.’ I say that, although he has always been an opponent of mine. We have always given Mr. Sandford credit, in all our fights, for absolute integrity and public spirit in working his industry under great difficulties. He does not put his hand in the public pocket. We know how these business men shrink from letting the public know actual1 cost prices ; they do not wish to reveal theibusiness secrets ; but we cannot shut our eyes in this case. Mr. Sandford comes forward and lifts the curtain, and he tells the Federal Parliament. “ I can make pig iron for 35s. per ton. I have the iron. ore, I have the limestone, I have the coal.” And yet pig iron cannot be landed from these other countries under £4 a ton.
– Surely that position was put to him by the members of the Commission ?
– What position?
– That there would be a profit oF £2 5s. per ton to him if he. made pig iron in Australia at the cost stated.
– I wish the honorable and learned member for Corio to know that I am engaged at present in the performance of my proper duty as a guardian of the public purse.
– I understand that.
– The honorable and learned member knows that I was not on the Commission, and am not responsible for anything done by the Commission ; but I am looking over the evidence, as it is my duty to do, that we may see what we are about. It will not wipe out Mr. Sandford’s sworn evidence to tell me something which some one must have asked him about something else.
– The next question is important.
– The next question I find is as follows: -
That, of course, would be a rate which would enable you to compete with foreign competition?
Here is the awful enemy put under his nose - foreign competition, and to that question he replies, “ Yes.”
– But he does not do it. If he could make a profit of ?2 per ton he would do it.
– But the honorable gentleman must recollect that Mr. Sandford said that until he has proper appliances he cannot make pig iron for 35s. per ton. He is not a millionaire. If he were he could get the latest appliances. But when things run into hundreds of thousands of pounds, a man cannot always command them. These syndicates can ; and they are not going to do the work, but propose to float a company in London. Mr. Keats says in his evidence, “ We think we can make ?200,000 out of it.” Mr. Sandford is a man of different temper. He says, “If I have a proper plant and equipment, I can meet foreign competition.” His pig iron would only cost him 35s. per ton, and at that price he could meet foreign competition. I should think he could. The difference is something like 200 per cent., or, in other words, there is a protection of 200 per cent.
– - And yet Mr. Sandford cannot persuade a syndicate to embark in the industry !
– Mr. Sandford swears it to be a fact that he can produce pig iron at the price I have named. If we were dealing with our own money, even though we had only ?50 at stake, we should regard the oath of such a man on such a subject with great respect; but as’ it is only a quarter of a million of some one else’s money that is at stake, observations such as we have heard from the Minister are made about him. It would stagger a man who stood to lose a ?5 note in regard to the matter, to hear such a statement. If a beggar came to an honorable member for help, and told him that he had ?500 in the bank, and could do without assistance, would he be given 6d. ? When a business man, who knows all about this industry, and who has the iron, the limestone, and the coal, tells you, “ I can produce pig iron for 35s. a ton.” is his statement not worth thinking about ?
-It should be worth the while of a syndicate to rush the industry.
– The honorable and learned member for Corinella, in examining Mr. Sandford, said - question 1129 -
I am not quite sure that I understand what you mean when you say that pig iron could be produced at Lithgow for under 35s. per ton. Is that taking everything into account? -
Mr. Sand ford’s reply was
I give that as an estimate of the net cost at Lithgow.
Mr. Sandford does not talk about wanting ?1, 000, 000 to start the industry. In reply to the Chairman of the Committee - question 1 130 -
You assume that the works should be established, and that would, of course, involve a large initial expenditure ? -
Mr. Sandford replied
Certainly. To make pig iron alone you want a plant involving an expenditure of from ?100,000 to ?125,000.
So that Mr. Sandford had worked the matter out, as he should have done, pretty fairly. The name of Mr. Thornley, Mr. Sandford’s manager, has been introduced into the debate. I believe that he is a man of high standing in this business.
– An excellent man.
– This is what Mr. Thornley says, in reply to Question 1295, when asked about Mr. Sandford’s sworn estimate of 35s. a ton as the cost of producing pig iron -
I take it that, when Mr. Sandford speaks of 35s. per ton as the cost of producing pig iron, he expects to be able to produce it at that figure when the works have been fairly established and have been brought into full working order.
That was a very proper thing for him to say. But Mr. Thornley qualifies Mr. Sandford’s estimate of 35s. per ton only to the extent of saying that Mr. Sandford meant that, after everything had been brought into full swing, that would be the cost. He corroborates Mr. Sandford on this important point. Therefore, while it costs £4 to land a ton of pig iron in Sydney from other countries, pig iron could’ be made in Australia with proper equipment for 35s. a ton. We are not only prepared to give the natural protection of £2 a ton, but we want to throw a bonus of 24s. a ton more at Mr. Sandford’s head for every ton of steel that he produces. We offer him, in addition to the enormous natural protection, the enormous bonus of 12s. a ton for every ton of pig iron he produces, and another 12s. for every ton of steel he makes. If this House were converted into a business company, and were risking its own instead of the public money, it would scout such a proposal with indignation. It would say to those who made it, “ Do you take us for a parcel of fools?” Is the House going to play the fool with the money of other people?
– The right honorable member thinks that it would be a very good speculation for a private individual ?
– I am not expressing any opinion on the subject, because I am not competent to do so. But I am reiving on the statements of men who know. That is the strength of ray position. If I had said these things, thev would not be worth a penny, because i. am absolutely ignorant of the business; but you cannot brush Mr. Sandford away in that fashion, unless you want to shut your eyes hard. There is another important thing about this proposal which has a serious aspect - a more serious aspect to some honorable members than to others. I know that the statement I am about to make will perhaps render the proposal more attractive to some honorable members, because of the views which they hold on fiscal matters. Some of the witnesses - they were strangely contradictory in their evidence - said, “The moment the bonus ceases we shall be unable to run this national industry under the protection given in the Tariff, which is to come into force by proclamation. We cannot do it. We can continue if we have the bonus and the duty too, but when the Bonus ceases it will be impossible to carry on the industry under a protective dutv of 10 per cent.” If the House were putting its own money into an undertaking, it would be a serious matter to consider whether, after a sacrifice had been made on behalf of the establishment of the industry, it would be able to continue. A number of. witnesses said that if the industry is started we shall have to go on giving it higher duties. That does not matter to some honorable members, but from my point of view it is a serious aspect of the question. We are asked to commit ourselves to a business enterprise which may land the people of Australia in untold loss. The worst feature of the matter is that our manufacturing and protected industries are as vitally concerned as are the men who support a revenue Tariff or free-trade. Who has a more vital interest in obtaining cheap iron than have the protected manufacturers of Australia? The ability to obtain cheap iron is the vital necessity of successful national industries. You must remember that you are asked to throw these handicaps on the very people whom you desire to encourage. In Victoria the manufacturers had this great advantage throughout all their Tariff days, that there was a free market for iron and steel. It was a positive advantage to the manufacturers of Victoria that they had not iron deposits here of sufficient value to cause them to embark in the iron industry. There is no doubt about the grandeur of this industry. I am not disparaging it, because I think that it is’ the grandest of all industries. But, consistently with her policy of protection, Victoria, if she had had iron deposits here, would have had to place a duty on iron to protect the iron industry. The protected industries of Victoria, however, have been free from that element’ of risk, and have been able to get the cheapest iron and steel in the world without paying a penny of taxation upon it. But T shall pass away from that to Mr. Franki, who speaks as an expert from another point of view. He is the manager of the largest engineering works in the whole of Australia, namely, Mort’s Dock, in Sydney, which has in good times employed as many as 2,000 or 3,000 men. Unhappily they are not doing so now, but the dock is bv a long way the largest industrial establishment using iron in Australia. I do not know about the mines; I am speaking of the industrial concerns on the seaboard. Now, what does Mr. Franki say about this bonus, not of 24s. per ton, but of 12s. 6d. per ton on pig iron? Mr. Franki was under examination, and at questions 1451 and 1452 was asked -
Do you think the proposal justifiable from the point of view of the consumers of raw iron? - I think that the bonuses proposed are far too high.
It is proposed that a bonus of 12s. rid. per ton shall be given for. the production of pig iron? - That would be an outrageous amount.
This is not a political leader making a heated statement in this House, but a man at the head of the largest industrial establishment using iron in Australia giving sworn evidence. He says that it would be outrageous. These outrageous things are easily clone when you do them at the expense of other people. They would never be done at our own expense. Then he goes on to say : -
We now have to pay 82s. per ton for pig iron landed in our yard. I understand, however, that it is claimed that pig iron can be manufactured at Lithgow for 35s. per ton. Adding another 15s. for freight and charges -
Lithgow is about eighty or ninety miles away from Sydney - a very liberal allowance, that would make the price 50s. per ton.
– The real freight is 10s. 6d. per ton.
– Yes, but Mr. Franki makes an allowance of 15s. per ton. He goes on to say : -
If they sold at 70s. per ton the price would be 10s. below what we pay now, and would give the producers ?1 per ton profit.
-Avery liberal margin.
– The producers could sell their iron in the market of Sydney at 12s. per ton cheaper than all the exporters of the world and then have a profit of ?1 per ton on pig iron. Now we propose, in that
State of things, to give them another 12s. per ton, equal to ?1 12s. per ton. As the examination proceeded the honorable member for Parramatta elicited this further Statement : -
The freight is only ros. per ton? - Yes; and I call it a very liberal allowance to increase the price at Lithgow to 50s. per ton.
Mr. Franki is not a free trader, but, like most gentlemen engaged in these large industries, is a protectionist. He goes on to say : -
If those who use iron in their industries have to pay more for their material than they do now, the establishment of local iron works would be in injury rather than an advantage.
He says further : -
We are lucky if we make 5 or 6 per cent. in our industry.
Here is a great dock, employing hundreds and sometimes thousands of men, which never cost the public one shilling, and yet the owners are satisfied if they can obtain a five or six per cent. profit on their industry. Still, in connexion with this Mr. Keats can say, “ There is ?200,000 for us in this if the Bill is passed.” One million shares at ?1 each are to be issued, and ?500.000 is to go to the original promoters. Of course, I have no doubt, that the iron ore at the Blythe River is included in that. Mr. Keats, at question 2371, was asked -
If you get the company floated you would credit yourself with a large number of the shares? -Yes.
One-fourth of the present shares? - I cannot tell you exactly the conditions under which the company will be floated, but I can say roughly that we might make it worth?200,000 to us.
To us - the Jamieson syndicate. If you are going on the path of nationalizing industries, do not begin in that way ; do not degrade your principles by handing over hundreds of thousands of pounds to a wealthy syndicate. Surely the efforts of this political combination in that sacred little plot of ground that labour claims as its own, are not going to be evil. Surely the first big deal between this Government and the Labour Party of Australia is not going to result in giving a concrete ?200,000 to the lucky holders of the rights to mine iron ore that is lying peacefully in Tasmania, and would not sell for ?10,000 to-day.
– How does the right honorable gentleman mean that it is a deal with the Labour Party?
– Because if the Labour Partydo as they have always proposed to do in these matters they will not agree to this proposal .
– They have been divided about this matter before.
– I shall be glad to know that my honorable friends are divided still.
– The right honorable gentleman is trying to divide them in order to kill the Bill.
– I suppose I am entitled to do that.
– I do not think the right honorable gentleman is entitled to not unfairly. .
– What is all this whining about unfairness? The Minister is not in the syndicate ; it is Mr. Jamieson who should begin to cry, not the Minister.
– The public assesses the right honorable gentleman and his speeches at their proper value.
– What about Mr. Sandford now - the man after whom the Minister used to run at one time, the man who used to help the Minister’s politicalfunds very liberally ?
– He cannot produce pig iron at the cost stated, and he does not do it.
– The distinction between Mr. Sandford and this syndicate is the greatest in the world. Mr. Sandford has risked every penny he had in the world, and has spent a life-time of hard and honestindustry in his endeavours to establish iron works in Australia.
– He cannot do it at £2 per ton profit.
– Mr. Jamieson will do it all right; he will fly his kite in London the moment we put the Commonwealth coat of arms on it. After all the statements that have been made all over Australia against this accumulation of unearned money, I cannot understand why we should be asked to throw £200,000 at a man which he can get by a little transaction in London. Mr. Keats, when before the Commission, said : -
I cannot tell von exactly the conditions under which the company will bc floated, but 1 can say roughly that we might make it worth £200,000 to us.
These are the people who are going to float the mine. They are not going to suffer the heat and burden of establishing the industry. These are the people who are going to get £200.000 for floating the company on the London market without expending an ounce of labour in the gigantic task of founding a working man’s industry. Their industry will be that of exploiting the London money market.
– And then Australia.
– Having obtained their £200.000. they will leave the London shareholders to look after Australia and this great national industry. Mr. Keats is not one of those rich gentlemen who have a lot of money, and wish to throw it awav. The following questions were put to him by the Chairman : -
What are you? - I am a broker.
Where do you live? - In Melbourne … at present.
This broker, who lives in Melbourne “ at present.” says “ it may be worth £200.000 to us.” In these bad times, none of the brokers in Australia earn £1,000 a year. At all events, from what I have heard as to the state of the Stock Exchange, they are not doing very well just now. But in Mr. Keats we have a gentleman who can talk like a Prince- a broker, whose present address is Melbourne. He says - “I think it might be worth £200.000 to us !”
I suppose, in his heart, he added, “ If we could only collar theLabour Party over that clause in the Bill about making the industry a national one at some other time.”
– They are going to make £200.000, they hope, out of London - not out of us.
– But if that sum has to be paid by the shareholders in the company, they will have to squeeze it out of those who use iron in Australia.
– How would they do that ?
– The honorable member is in the clouds. This is a matter of no moment to him : he will lose nothing if these men make . £200,000. If we were dealing with our own business, and heard that a man was going to make . 1 hig sum of money out of a deal with us, we should beginto inquire what we would subsequently have to pay for it. The £200.000 would be a load upon this national industry from the very start, because the company would try to get it out of Australia. They would not pay the £200,000 to oblige Mr. Keats.
– Company promoters have got £200.000 out of Londoners in connexion with our mines, but have never got a penny out of Australia.
– I suppose that as long as it’ is only our fellow British subjects who are to be robbed, it does not matter.
– It would not be the first time that they had been robbed.
– I do not suppose so. If that be the case, I presume we had better go on giving them another “ turn “ in the name of labour. Mr. Franki, when giving evidence before the Commission, said that the proposed bonus was outrageous. I do not know whether the honorable member for Hindmarsh is acquainted with Mr. James Ford Pearson,, an engineer of South Australia, but perhaps he will be prepared to accept his evidence. Mr. Pearson, who resides at Gawler, is manager for Martin and Company Limited, which I think is one of the largest industrial firms of Australia.
– He is an able man.
– -I have quoted the evidence of the man who makes the iron - Mr. Sandford, and that of Mr. Franki, the manager of Mort’s Dock Company - the largest firm in Australia that is using iron. I am now going to quote the evidence of the manager of one of the largest firms in South Australia. Let us hear what he has to say on this question. If honorable members will turn to page 149 of the report, they will find the following evidence by Mr. Pearson - 31 14. What do you think would be an adequate bonus to insure the industry being developed, taking the total consumption in Australia last year at from 50,000 to 60,000 tons? - With the rich otcs, the coal, and the coke they have, 1 should say that, for a period, 3s. or 4s. a ton On pig iron ought to be plenty -
This is the evidence of a practical man, and I have no doubt that the company of which he is manager is a protectionist one.
– He is not a protectionist. His company uses pig iron, and desires to obtain it cheaply. That was the position with regard to Mr. Franki, and it was through Kim that our Tariff was spoilt.
– But what about Mr. Jamieson ?
– Mr. Franki was the most destructive man we had.
– Poor Martin comes under this overwhelming display of fiscal wrath on the part of the Minister. I wish he would devote a little of it to the gentlemen who are to get this £200.000. I am sure that Martin and Company Limited, with all their hard work, have never obtained that sum out of the South Australian industry. Mr. Pearson continued - and that for mild steel of high quality, equal to that which Government specifications generally require - tensile strength of twenty-seven to thirty tons per square inch - 12s. 6d. a ton would be a fair thing ; while on steel which is used for rails, and which is of lower quality, I would give a graduated bonus.
The manufacture of steel used for rails for the railways of Australia would be one of the largest items in this factory.
– Did Mr. Pearson say what experience he had had as a manufacturer of steel?
– If my honorable friend will not accept the evidence of his own man from South Australia, I offer him Mr. Sandford. I can only point out that among all the witnesses who were examined by the Commission, there was not one who . contradicted these men, except members of the syndicate who never worked an ounce of iron in their lives. It is extraordinary that when I put the evidence of men of the greatest business experience before some honorable members, they do not value it. If my honorable friend puts them aside, I must ask him to put aside Mi. Jamieson and these syndicates. If he will not have the opinions of experienced men in trade-
– I inferred that they might be experienced engineers, but not experienced manufacturers of steel.
– Then take Mr. Sandford.
– Mr. Sandford says that pig iron in Pittsburg is 39s. id. per ton.
– But Pittsburg is a long way from the coast. It has to be conveyed to the exporting place.
– That price does not include the freight.
– That is. right.
– It shows that even at Pittsburg it costs more than what he quotes’.
– Yes, but take the difference in travelling between London and Sydney, and Pittsburg and New York.
– That is the price at the pit’s mouth.
– May I point out that Mr. Sandford quotes 35s. a ton at his factory in Lithgow, and the freight from Lithgow to the great port of Sydney is 10s. 6d. per ton. Although the freights are much lower in America than in Australia, still the freight from Pittsburg to New York would not be less than 10s. 66.
– Eight shillings and sixpence he says in reply to question 155.
– Does not that corroborate Mr. Sandford.? The element of ocean carriage we need not consider much, because we are not proposing to export this iron to New York. In our wildest dreams we do not propose to invade the markets of Great Britain and America with our pig iron. That is a wild dream which no one indulges in at present. But these figures from Pittsburg - 39s. id. per ton - are very close to Mr. Sandford’s figures. It shows that his basis is a possible one, because, as every honorable member knows, it is not a question of digging a hole into a mountain and getting out the iron ore; a number of things have to be obtained. For instance, limestone and coal have to be obtained, and if they are not conveniently situated, that will affect very considerably the total cost of a ton of pig iron. Mr. Sandford’s minerals are in the most wonderful juxtaposition. It is a remarkable thing that all the elements required are to be obtained within a few miles of his locality. I hope that the honorable member for Darwin will still give me a cheer occasionally iri spite of the appeal which has just been made to him by the Minister. There are no more bridges about now, so that we have to make a personal appeal. I think my honorable friend may get his tent now if he is ordinarily clever.
– I was only telling my honorable friend the truth.
– The honorable gentleman never moves from his seat without an object, and it is always something harmless when he tells it.
– The right honorable member did not tell how Mr. Rutherford had to shut up his works at Lithgow.
– No, because I did not find his name among the witnesses.
– Mr. Rutherford had the works before Mr. Sandford had them, and he was destroyed by the right honorable member’s free-trade friends, the importers.
– That is very sad.
– The right honorable member did not tell all that.
– No, and I think that little fact ought to command another bonus of 12s.
– The honorable gentleman never lifted a finger to help them when he was in office.
– Yes, I did.
– After this harrowing retrospect about some misfortune in New South Wales, I think Ave ought to give another bonus of 12s. a ton. There is Mr. Martin’s view. He says that a bonus of from 3s. to 4s. a ton on pig iron would be plenty, and that in the case of the best steel required by Government specifications, a bonus of 12s. 6d. a ton should be enough. This Bill proposes to give a bonus of 12s a ton f°r pig> and another bonus of 12s. per ton when the pig has become steel. That is double the amount which Mr. Pearson suggests in the case of pig converted into steel. And the Bonus of 12s. a ton in the case of pig is three times what Mr. Martin suggests. Mr. Sandford, who has been working at this industry for so many years, says that if he is set up with a proper plant, he can produce the article for 35s. a ton, and the freight to Sydney is 10s. 6d. per ton, making a total’ cost of 45s- 6d. The Minister has read figures to show that the cost of pig iron landed from Scotland or America in Sydnev. averages £4 a ton.
– That is for the very best pig iron.
– It is of vital importance to Australian industries that this iron should be of the. best quality.
– Eighty shillings a ton would not be an average price for an average quality.
– The “witnesses say that it is. In the absence of the honorable member, I have read Mr. Franki’s opinion.
– He told me that pig iron was worth between 70s. and 80s. a ton landed, in Sydney.
– The Minister has read the official figures.
– The figures cover a series of years, and they run up to above £4. a ton for iron delivered in Sydney from America or Scotland.
– Mr. Pearson says £5 a ton.
– Yes; but I do not know what the freight to South Australia would be; probably it is cheaper to Sydney, although the distance is longer. I wish to deal with this fairy-like vision of the Minister. In New South Wales and other places he has spoken of the thousands, I think he said the tens of thousands, of men who would be employed in connexion with an iron industry. I have here, the opinion of Mr. Franki, a man who knows something about these matters. In answer to question 1505, he says that if we made all the iron we required in Australia it would not employ more than from 500 to 1,000 men.
– Does he speak of the ancillary industries?
– No, and I, too, am speaking of only iron. At any rate the statement has been made by the Minister that thousands of men would be employed. That is like the statements in the prospectuses of mines which men want to palm off on to other people. They are good enough for such things, but they are npt good enough for us. We have to sift , these things, because, if instead of employing tens of thousands of men, the industry will employ only 500 men, it would pay us far better to give these 500 men ,£500 a year each, and then we would employ labour, 1 and save the country hundreds of thousands of pounds. We would not run the country into a bad speculation. Those of us who had not a seat on the Royal Commission fortunately have this great advantage: that we have had all these things threshed out, and we had a counsel on each side to instruct us, because six gentlemen signed one report and six gentlemen signed the other. We may be sure that with such an equal division of opinion on the question, the best efforts were made to bring out the evidence from the conflicting points of view.
– That was like some other Royal Commissions - four on each side.
– Yes, but if the Royal Commissions were unanimous, there would be no guarantee that the witnesses had been properly sifted, because if men began an inquiry with the same preconceived ideas I would not give much for the evidence. I would give a great deal more for the evidence when men of opposite opinions each sought to get from the witnesses what suited their view. Between the two you get a better sweep of the field of controversy. Two very prominent members of the-Labour Party - the honorable member for Bland and the honorable and learned member for West Sydney - have given us the advantage of their views in what is called the minority report. I will deal first with the report prepared by the Chairman - the right honorable member for Adelaide. I call attention to the fact that this report is signed by six gentlemen who. with the exception of the late Sir Edward Braddon, are staunch protectionists, namely, the right honorable member for Adelaide, the present Minister of Home Affairs, the honorable and learned member for Corinella, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, and the honorable member for Newcastle. They are, as I say, five of the staunchest advocates of one fiscal view. In paragraph 10, they very properly say -
The iron industry is by many well described as the foundation of all other industries.
We all agree with that. Paragraph 13 -
Your Commissioners are of opinion that the necessary encouragement can best be supplied in the form of a bonus on the manufacture of iron and steel from Australian ore?.
Here is a body of able protectionists deliberately recommending that the encouragement should be by bonus, and not by duty. I am going to read a paragraph presently which touches the duty aspect of the question. “ Supplied in the form of a bonus.” That is the best form. In paragraph 15, the Commissioners say-
Your Commissioners do not lose sight of the fact that the bonus system in Canada was accompanied by a duty on imports.
By the way, in Canada they had a very high import duty, and I think they have been subsidizing this industry for a great many years. I do not know how many, but the bonus has been renewed time after time - two or three times already.
– They keep renewing it.
– It is one of the fears in connexion with this enterprise that we should have to do the same. If we could get rid of this obligation in five or six years by the expenditure of a quarter of a million, in the light of what may happen, we might be very fortunate. But in Canada, with this high import duty, and with about the same population as we have - 4,000,000-
– Yes, they are more than we are; but I believe they have a prettyhigh Tariff on iron, and their renewal of the bonus, two or three times, indicates that the experiment has been very disappointing from that point of view.
– The market is too limited, they say.
– Ours is in a very much worse position ; because only a geographical line divides them from a market of 80,000,000 people, whilst at the same time they are within a few days’ steam of a freemarket of 40,000,000.
Your Commissioners, however, do not recommend the immediate imposition of a Customs duty, as, pending a local supply sufficient for Australian requirements, the result might be to temporarily raise the price to the consumer, which should be avoided.
I am quoting the opinions - well-considered opinions - of these six gentlemen as being weighty. I think that, whether free-traders or protectionists, they never made a wiser remark than that, because, as I have pointed out before, the stability and prosperity of all our protected industries in Australia depend upon a cheap supply of good iron. That is one of the vital conditions of the extension of these industries that the people of Australia have put so many burdens upon themselves to establish. I applaud the remark which I have just quoted. So that you have here the fact that in face of a provision in the Customs law which the Chairman of the Commission himself fought so hard for - in face of that provision under which a duty can be imposed by proclamation, the right honorable the Chairman and his friends did not advocate the putting of that provision into force.
– Not immediately ; they wanted the industry established first.
– Exactly. There is a provision in the Customs Act by which a proclamation is to issue, and - this shows one of the difficulties of the position - that proclamation to bring those duties on the people of Australia is not to be issued until the industry is sufficiently established. It is one of the most difficult problems in the world to know when such a proclamation should be issued. It is one of the vaguest of speculations.
– Parliament has to decide under the Tariff Act.
– This House has to decide, and great as my respect for Parliament is, I think that even Parliament might be puzzled to find the proper time.
– It might be mistaken, certai111 v.
M’r. REID. - Yes.
– The Minister decides at present under the Tariff Act.
– A resolution of both Houses is required,) I think.
M’r. Johnson.- - -I was referring to a recent experience.
– We shall have things altered in eighteen months. Here is another proof, Mr. Speaker, of our marvellous capacity for dealing with these problems. In the last Bill dealing with this subject, there was a serious proposal to pay £20,000 to encourage the manufacture of spelter. It is not in this Bill. It has been dropped. And why ? Because a great mining company, without taking a shilling from the public, has established the manufacture of spelter. And if that Bill had been passed when it was first introduced-, £20,000 would have been thrown away upon the richest company in Australia.
– The company has not succeeded yet.
– A’i any rate, the Government has dropped the proposal from the “Bill.
– In consequence of remarks made bv the honorable member for Koovong, and by the honorable member for Barrier.
– The honorable member for Barrier represents Broken Hill, and it is the most, useful thing he has ever done. He has saved the country ,£20,000. I think we should all be proud if we could do the same. However, there was the fact that legislation was proposed by a previous Administration, to give £20,000 as a bonus to the biggest and richest mining proprietary in Australia, and that the company has quietly solved the problem without taking a penny from the Government, in spite of the munificent intentions of a free-handed Federal Parliament.
– They have not yet solved it, but we hope that they will.
– Thev are pretty sure about it, though.
– They say that it is difficult to extract the spelter.
– Very well. Shall we give them the £20,000? Of course it is nothing to us ! If the honorable member thinks that the stress is sufficiently urgent, let us pay the money. The report proceeds: -
Your Commissioners recommend that provision should be inserted in the Bill (a) securing the equitable settlement by conciliation or arbitration of all industrial disputes.
All I can say is that, in the light of experience, if we want to make that great enterprise a hotbed of dissatisfaction and litigation, we could not go about it in a better way than by bringing it under the Arbitration Act. I say that, judging from the experience of New South Wales. I think every one in New South Wales now admits that, whatever the virtues of the Act were in intention - and they were many and great; I have been the first to admit that - in actual working out it has made several of the trade unions in that State the slave of the lawyers.
– No, it has not.
– I do not know how their funds stand now.
– We should have excluded the lawyers.
– I do not care whether you exclude them from the Court or not; they will get at you all the same. I understand that the funds of many of the unions are far less flourishing now than “they were before the Arbitration Act came into operation. I have heard that one union which started with a credit balance of about £,7,000 has now only about ,£2,000; and if this process goes on further, in two years that amount will be gone. Now I wish to come to the report of the other section of the Committee, which consisted of the honorable and learned member for West Sydney ; the late member for Wannon, Mr. Winter Cooke; the late member for Kalgoorlie, Mr. Kirwan ; the honorable and learned member .for Illawarra ; the honorable member for Bland ; and the honorable member for Parramatta. Those six gentlemen, including two very prominent members of the Labour Party, sent up this report, after studying the evidence : -
We, the undersigned members of the Commission, are against the passage through Parliament of the Bill for the payment of bonuses by the Federal Government for the establishment of the iron industry within the Commonwealth.
The leader and another prominent member of the Labour Party both put their names to a solemn recommendation against the principle of this Bill. They fully recognise the fact of the existence here of vast deposits of iron ore, and so on, and then they say -
The Bill provides for the payment of £324,000 of the people’s money to private individuals engaged in an enterprise for their private gain.
That seems to be a sound principle. I do not know whether the marvellous events which have happened recently have diminished the anxiety of those honorable members about the public pocket and private gain. But 1’ want to point out that this provision, giving power to resume the works - a provision which, no doubt, will be used as a most convenient excuse for a “little bridge” - is such as is inserted in even measure of the kind with which I am acquainted.
– If the works do not pay, the owners will hand them over to the State.
– But the point is that, if the enterprise proves successful, we have to pay a quarter of a million of money, and, when the works come to be valued, we have to pay for a success which those people have made out of the money given to them by us. That is a novel way of assessing compensation. We start with throwing, away, perhaps - and if the enterprise is a failure, the money will be worse than thrown away - a quarter of a million of money to enable private individuals, in the language of this report, to make a private gain. If those individuals do not make a private gain- if the whole industry is a misfortune, a loss, and a disaster - we shall have thrown away £250,000; if they make a gain - if the works are a success - they will keep the £250,000, and we shall have to pay them a large sum because of their success. We have to take over this enterprise at a valuation ; and we know how business men can inflate values as against innocent members of Parliament. No one knows better than the honorable member for Bland that such resumptions under the Crown have enriched men against whom they were exercised.
There are men who have made fortunes time after time out of the grievance of having their property resumed by the Crown ; and this will be a very big “ plum “ for self-sacrifice, in the shape of a whopping sum, when the Crown wants to undertake the industry. As I say, if the enterprise is a failure we shall have to pay a quarter of a million of money, and if it is a success we shall get no credit for that quarter of a million, and have to pay for the works which our own money made successful, just as if we had never given the promoters sixpence. We shall have to pay’ the iron syndicate as much money for resuming the works as if we had never started them with 250,000 sovereigns belonging to the State. In this valuation, why should not some credit be given to the people for the money they advanced for the works which they are going to resume? We know very well that in our private life, if we started a man in some enterprise on our own property, with our own money, and there was a provision to afterwards resume, we should, when we came to resume, have a little account as to the money advanced. There is not a man in this House who, engaged in a transaction of this sort, would risk £50 of his own money, and yet we are asked to risk the public money to the extent of a quarter of a million, and another half-million afterwards. But because we are members of Parliament - because we periodically receive a trust from tens of thousands of people, who have to work hard to get the smallest comforts in their homes - we throw awa hundreds of thousands of pounds, belonging to the people, upon principles which are abhorrent to any fair-minded business man. The men who would squander hundreds of thousands of pounds of other people’s money on unbusiness-like principles, aa just the men who are most careful about their own money. Why should Mr. Jamieson, or any other man - I only mention his name because he is the gentleman who is waiting for this Bill - be taken by the hand in these hard times? Why should we thus treat a man who has the chance of floating this concern on the London money market, and, bv a little arrangement in a little office in London, of making a large sum of money, taken from the people’s Treasury in order to give the iron industry a bad start? Why should we thus overload the industry that we have to resume, in order to make good the claim of those people, not to £200,000 or £400,000, but to half a million more? Why should we, in dealing with the people’s money, act in this way when we know, in our inmost souls that we would not so spend a sovereign of our own money except as an act of charity. We might, as an act of charity, help the deserving, even out of our limited resources, up to the extent of our means. But one of the worst features of this gigantic transaction is that it does not begin with the poor - it does not hand the money to the masses, or secure their prosperity and the continuance of employment in an industry. What it does is to make the speculator safe.
– It means the survival of the fattest.
– It means a big thing for the man who does not work with his hands, and the man who is not associated with the national industry. It leaves the masses, who ought to get something out of this legislation, at the mercy of the Judge of the Arbitration Court as to what is a fair wage. Cannot we begin in this supreme court of Australia - because the highest idea of Parliament is that which” regards it as the highest court of the Commonwealth - cannot we, sitting here judicially, and dealing with the money of the people, for whom we are trustees, apply commonsense, business principles of prudence ? If we were trustees for private individuals, and acted then, as we are asked to act now, I do not say a case of fraud might be made out, but there might, be ground for making the trustees responsible for every penny of expenditure. I do not think that any one who is supporting this Bill would take the responsibility, as trustee for a private individual, of spending trust money in that way. A trustee who did so, if he did not find himself in gaol, would find himself, at least, in a Court of Equity, where the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne would make short work of him. Now I say that in the infancy of this Commonwealth we ought at least to be honest. Why should men who believe in making this a national industry begin by this, to them, pernicious and unprincipled scheme? If there is a man in this House who honestly believes in a .future of Socialism in Australia, it could not be better applied than to an industry of this sort, I admit.
– Is the right honorable gentleman prepared to vote for it?
– I should not vote for Jamieson, under the banner of Socialism.
– Is the right honorable gentleman prepared to vote for a socialistic enterprise ?
– No, I am not.
– What is the right honorable gentleman prepared to do - nothing?
– When I see some one’s hand in the public pocket I concentrate my energies upon pulling it out. with no money in it.
– How long has the right honorable gentleman thought in that way ?
– That is the business that engages my attention at present. I am only one of the trustees of the public. I may be out-voted, but I say it ought to be a straight vote, and I say that, to the men who believe in a national socialistic iron industry, this project ought to stink in their nostrils.
– Is that the reason why the right honorable gentleman advocated it a year or so ago?
– I never advocated it in my life.
– What about Hansard?
– I never advocated it in my life. I know well to what my honorable friend refers.
– I know it also.
– I have not only here, but many years ago elsewhere, pointed out that as between a protective duty and a bonus I saw a large number of positive advantages and benefits in the bonus system.
Mf. Watson. - The right honorable gentleman said a little more than that in this regard.
– I have given my reasons, and the honorable gentleman will find them in Hansard. These are most of the reasons as I recollect them, and I think they are good ones : One of the witnesses before the Commission, I think it’ was Mr. Franki, pointed out very much the same thing. He said, “ I believe in the bonus more than the duty, because, if this is a national thing, the cost ought to come out of the national pocket, and the bonus does. The duty comes out of the pocket of the man who patronizes the foundry - the wrong man.” All that a private citizen should be asked to do in connexion with a national enterprise is to patronize it, in this instance to buy his iron from it. A duty throws the burden on the individual who patronizes the Australian industry ; a bonus imposes it on the right pocket. I have said that in that respect the bonus has a decided advantage over the duty. Then there are many other reasons which might be advanced. We know, as a rule, how much we are giving with a bonus, and we know to whom we give it. We do not know in this case, because the scheme is to be floated somewhere else ; but as a general rule, we know to whom we give a bonus, how much we are going to give him, and how much we are going to get for it. All these considerations are, to’ me, arguments in favour of a bonus as against a protective duty, but at no time have I approved of the bonus system from absolute choice. I have approved of it as against a protective system of encouraging industries.
– I think that if the right honorable gentleman reads Hansard, he will find that he did more than that.
– I do not carry Hansard about with me.It is a very unemployed sort of man who does. I am too busy to do it. I impose burdens enough upon the Government staff here without reading the results of my cruelty afterwards. But I have a most distinct recollection that over and over again I have pointed out that a bonus hasthese advantages, but never have I advocated a bonus, I have advocated the encouragement of the iron industry. I think, with several witnesses who appeared before the Commission, that a legitimate way for the Government to patronize this enterprise is to give those engaged in it a contract. That would be a practical help. Let the steel rails required by the Government be bought from those engaged in this industry in Australia. I know that when I was Premier of New South Wales I arranged a five years’ contract for about 150,000 tons of steel rails with Mr. Mitchell, the owner of the deposits which Mr. Sandford has now, and I think I allowed him an advance of12½ per cent, on the English price.
– His hand was in his own pocket then.
– But we were not starting an industry under conditions which would make us liable if he did not succeed. We knew the exact extent of our liability, and we had the advantage, which was a substantial one, of having the rails made under our own personal supervision.
– Still it was a concession.
– Yes ; we all admire the iron industry. He would be; a foolish man who would disparage the importance of it. I am not speaking against the industry - it is a grand one - but I am speaking against this proposal, and I am giving the evidence of a number of witnesses to justify the position I take up.
– That means that we, as a Federal body, can do nothing, and must leave it to the States, who retain control of the railways.
– When it comes to giving away £250,000 or doing nothing, doing nothing has one advantage, that you stick to the £250,000 for the people. It is a solid advantage. I say again that if the protected industries have one interest in this world it is to get their iron as good and as cheaply as they can.
– I am with the right honorable gentleman ; but if we give neither a duty nor a bonus, I do not see how we can establish the industry.
– Let me go on with what I was reading. The report proceeds -
There can be no guarantee that the bonuses proposed would permanently establish the industry, though it is probable the inducements offered might be instrumental in forming -
What? A national industry? No. I hope this report is correct, and I should like the honorable member for Bland to listen to this, because it is quite recent.
– It is correct.
– I find thatthe report says -
The Bill provides for the payment of £324,000 of the people’s money to private individuals engaged in an enterprise for their private gain. There can be no guarantee that the bonuses proposed would permanently establish the industry, though it is probable the inducements offered might be instrumental in forming speculative companies.
This remark is based on evidence sworn before these honorable gentlemen. Mr. Jamieson and Mr. Keats made no secret about their modus operandi. They are not going to run this thing. The moment they get the chance they are going to London, and they hope to make £200,000 out of it. These six members of the Commission no doubt had that evidence in view when they reported against this payment of bonuses. There is no qualification. They did not say, “Give them less.” They did not say that what was offered was too much. Thev said, “ Do not give them bonuses at all.”
– They were on good solid ground in that.
– And they give their reasons. They say -
One of the witnesses, Mr. Sandford, Managing Director o’f the Esk Bank Ironworks, New South Wales, stated that he had made an agreement with an English syndicate -
I see that Mr. Sandford has to deal with an English syndicate, although he is a man who has spent his life in this work in Australia - to spend £250,000 in extending the Lithgow works if the Bill passed.
Honorable members will see that the members of the Commission report that Mr. Sandford, a practical man, does not talk of wanting £1,500,000 or £1,250,000 to start this national industry. It is the syndicate that wants the £1,000,000 in shares, because the first and second robbers would not get enough.
– But they are two different proposals.
– I know they are.
– They are different in this respect, that whilst Mr. Sandford would have to add to works already established, the other people would have to put up completely new works.
– The honorable gentleman has probably seen Mr. Sandford’s works, as I have.
– Yes, I have.
– They do not run into many thousands 01 pounds.
– They would rim info a good bit of money.
– If the expenditure on the works over a number of years were taken into account it would probably run into many thousands of pounds, but if we consider the value of the works as they stand now it would not.
– There are rolling mills in addition to the furnaces.
– I fancy that £50,000 would pay for that plant.
– Why not give that money to Mr. Sandford?
– I would infinitely rather give Mr. Sandford a turn, because, if there is a man in Australia who ought to get a lift out of the public Treasury, it is Mr. Sandford.
– I would not mind voting for that.
– Here is another quotation from the report -
In answer to another question, Mr. Sandford said that to make pig iron he wanted a plant involving an expenditure of from £100,000 to £125,000.
This estimate, these six gentlemen say, “ is less than half the sum proposed to be paid in bonuses.”
– Is there any danger that, if we vote this £’250,000, the promoters will go to England, and get English investors to put their money into the project on the strength of what we have done ?
– That is the object of the Bill. It is to’ enable them to say, “ We have the Federal Parliament behind us.”
– Would that nit hurt our credit?
– If ihe industry were a failure, it might ; but the English people have lost so much already in Australia, that I do not think it would hurt us much, except for the fact that this Parliament would be mixed up in the matter. The six members of the Commission whose views I have already quoted, say -
The Canadian experience is not encouraging. Tlie bonus system for iron production was firs* instituted there in r8S3- Subsequently, a Bill was passed, in 1897, further continuing the system.
The Canadian bonus was in force from 1883 to 1897, a period of fourteen years -
Another Bill was carried in 1899 providing for the diminution of the bounties by a sliding scale expiring in 1907.
That is twenty-four years after Ihe bonus system was first instituted, with high protective duties, I believe, during most, if not all, of the lime. What is the sequence? After twenty-four years of bounties and protective duties, what is the next proposition ? -
In July of this year the Dominion Government decided to postpone the operation of this sliding scale for one year.
After twenty-four years of bounties and protective duties, and after having established a sliding scale to diminish the burden, the Canadian Government have had to stop the operation of that sliding scale for one year. Now, let us listen to I his very strong statement which the honorable member for Bland, together with the other five gentlemen who signed the report from which I am quoting, make about the evidence submitted -
Nearly all the witnesses examined before the Commission agreed that the payment of bonuses would be useless, unless followed by a duty. Experience shows that if the payment of bonuses be commenced the liability of the Commonwealth will not be limited to the sum proposed under the Bill, but that further Government aid will be sought.
So that these six able gentlemen tell us that, big as the amount asked for is, after £200,060 has been taken out of it by the promoter’s of this London company, and after the London company has begun to work, no doubt handicapped by that, it will make a failure of the business, and further Government aid will be necessary. It would be bad enough to have to pay this money if we felt sure that it would secure the object in view; but if it simply creates a mendicant industry instead of a national industry, which is to come 10 the Federal Parliament year after year for further concessions, it will become a still more serious undertaking. Here is a strong statement from the honorable member for Bland, who was a judge in this case. He had listened to sworn evidence. The House trusted him to give his honest opinion upon what heheard, and I am sure that he did so. Let honorable members listen to what he said -
The evidence failed to show that there was any commercial necessity for the bonuses proposed.
That was a strong statement from a judge who had heard all the evidence. Of course, in politics, we can change our seats in the House in the most marvellous way, but when we act as judges, on sworn evidence, we cannot so easily shift our views.
– The right honorable member has had some experience in shifting his views.
– I believe that there is no man who has been in public life for twentyfive, years who has done less in that way.
– The right honorable member has changed his view on this question.
– No man in public life has refused office more often than I have, and no man in public life can refer to his first address to the electors twenty-four years ago, more confidently than I can.
– On this question, the right honorable member has held two views at least.
– I can see that the honorable member is trying to build a bridge for himself, and thinks that if I have been able to hold two views he can come in under my shadow.
– It is broad enough.
– Apart from our political exchanges, I hope that when an honorable member of this House sits on a Commission of this kind, and, having listened to the evidence on oath of a number of experts, gives his opinion on it, it will have the sanctity of an oath, so far as being the honest expression of his convictions. I am sure that this report is as solid an expression of my honorable friend’s convictions on the matter with which it deals as if he had made these statements on oath. He says, with his colleagues on the Commission -
The evidence failed to show that there was any commercial necessity forthe bonuses proposed.
That is a strong statement. If there is no commercial necessity for the bonuses proposed, to vote this quarter of a million would be a public robbery.
Mr. Sandford said he could produce pig iron at Lithgow under 35s. a ton.
That is not my statement, and would not have been quoted with the approval of the honorable member for Bland, if he had not believed Mr. Sandford’s evidence.
Allowing for freight to Sydney, Melbourne, and other parts of the Commonwealth, he could, on this showing, compete favorably with any imported pig iron.
That is a pretty strong statement -
Other witnesses, who, however, had less experience than Mr. Sandford, doubted the correctness of his estimate of cost. But, on the supposition of his having made an under estimate, he would still, even without a bonus, be in an excellent position as compared wilh the imported commodity.
These are solid business reasons against in-‘ vesting this quarter of a million in the ironindustry, in addition to giving it protective duties. I will point out to honorable members presently what these duties mean, even at the comparatively moderate rates fixed in the Tariff. Here is another significant fact. I have not culled the evidence of witnesses called to oppose the proposal. The Commission say -
No effort was made to bring forward witnesses against the Bill.
The evidence that has been quoted is not the evidence of adverse witnesses. No effort was made to gather evidence hostile to the proposal -
Notwithstanding that fact, the evidence given failed to establish a case in its favour.
Could any judge say anything stronger than that ? There is no qualification. From several points of view, we have the same conclusion stated, that there is no case for this expenditure of public money -
Several witnesses thought the establishment of ironworks in the Commonwealth premature, and much of the evidence was strongly against any attempt by the Government to establish the iron industry by the payment of bonuses.
That, it must be remembered, was the evidence of witnesses not brought forward against the Bill. The names attached to the report are -
I want to show honorable members what the Customs duties mean. A return appended to the report of the Bonus Commission shows the imports of iron manufactures for 1902. I suppose that our imports are greater now than they were then. A 15 per cent. duty upon our imports of iron would amount to £700,000 per annum. That is a pretty solid barrier to put up for men who can produce pig iron at 35s. per ton.
– That is not the rate of duty proposed to be placed on pig iron.
– No. I intend to separate the items, and to differentiate between machinery and ordinary iron products. A 10 per cent, duty would represent an annual tax of £466,000. Now,. I propose to deduct from that total a very large amount. I shall leave the item as if no machinery was likely to be made under this proposal, and shall deal only with iron and steel, galvanized wire, and things of that kind. The imports of machinery are valued at £2, 300,000 per annum, so that that represents an enormous item to our importers, farmers, miners, and others. Taking only galvanized iron and steel, bar iron, pig iron, and so on, a duty of 15 per cent. would represent £355,000 per annum, and a duty of 10 per cent. , a. total of £236,000. So that there is a bonus of£2 50, 000, and a wall of another £250,000, practically for all time. When we speak of competition as bringing prices down, we must differentiate between an industry like this, which will probably be the only one of the kind in Australia, and ordinary industries in which a number of men begin in the same line in a small way. All the evidence shows that a big undertaking such as this is expected to become will be able to supply all the requirements of the Commonwealth, and that there will be no room for similar enterprises of the kind. If this big industry is started, it will do all that is required, and we shall not get the benefit of the ordinary currents of internal competition. It will become practically a giant monopoly, buttressedby Government aid, and free from competition.
– Then help us to make it a national industry.
– I could understand men who believed in nationalizing industries making avery strong effort to nationalize this industry above all others. I expect the members of a great national party who believe in what they think are sound national principles to have consistency, and to do what they have done before in connexion with this same proposition. I expect them to say, “ No, we will wait.” They know that it is coming, not to-day, and not next year, but it is coming. I could understand those who believe that it is coming, saying, “ We will go to the electors at the next election, and ask for an amendment of the Constitution - and that request can be made if Parliament passes the necessary resolutions - that will enable a national industry of this kind to be started.” Isay again, that if it were wise to establish a national industry, this is the one that should be so established. Naturally, I am against the Bill, but I am justified in using arguments which appeal to the intelligence of honorable members who do not agree with me. I may not be pursuing a course that is agreeable, but I am entitled in my opposition to this Bill to appeal to the declared principles of my honorable friends. I have a right to test this proposition by their principles, and I am entitled to say to them : If you disbelieve in throwing large sums of unearned money out of the public exchequer into the hands of speculators, do not throw this £250,000 that way. Show your sincerity when it is not a question of a beautiful speech to a favorable audience, but a question of giving away £250,000 of hard cash belonging to the people for whom you are the trustees. Do not go forward with this expenditure, most of which represents profit that will be made before there is a single sound of industry in these works, before there is a ton of coal drawn from the mines, before there is a bar of iron produced from your national factory. Tens and tens of thousands of pounds will be made by men who will have no more to do with the fortunes of that industry than has the London Stock Exchange. I say that we can surely expect a party that puts a great principle upon its banner to help us when an outrage upon its own principles is to be perpetrated. Will it be any justification for giving up a principle to say that the man who is opposing the project is opposing it for other reasons, that ‘because he is a free-trader, and is opposing the project from that point of view we shall forswear our principles? I do not expect that to be the case. The honorable member for Bland took infinite trouble in attending the meetings of the Commission ‘and listening very carefully to the proceedings, and he drew up an emphatic protest against this project.
– I did not draw up the protest, but I signed it.
– The honorable member is becoming like the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, who will not admit anything, although he says it is true.
– The right honorable gentleman misunderstands me. I merely disclaimed the honour of having drawn up the report.
– What I would not admit was only half the truth.
– I am sorry that the honorable member is not even that. I say that whilst the honorable member for Bland may not have written these very words, they have gone forth to the people of Australia as his judicial deliverance upon the sworn evidence to which he had listened, and I appeal to him - not because he and I have identical political principles ; we are opposed to each other - and I say : Whether you believe in nationalizing industries or do not so believe, there ought to be one common ground on which the members of a popular assembly can stand when an effort is being put forth in the name of national industry to make a gigantic deal which will swindle hundreds of thousands of people in the ordinary walks of life - a swindle that ought not to be perpetrated under the seal of the Federal Parliament.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Lonsdale) adjourned.
Order of Business : Customs Inquiries in Canada.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn.
I desire to inform honorable members that the Commonwealth Public Service classification scheme will be dealt with to-morrow.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Tradeand Customs a question with regard to a statement made by him yesterday during the debate on the duty on harvesters. In the course of his speech, he stated that the Canadian Customs Department had been asked to furnish information with regard to a product known as orange meat, and I desire to know whether that article is manufactured in Canada.
– I cannot say.
– Asa matter of fact, it is manufactured in Buffalo, United States of America.
– That is only over the river - a short distance from the Canadian border.
– That is an immaterial! point. One might have been led to believe from the remarks made yesterday by theMinister, that the Canadian Customs Department had declined to make inquiries with regard to questions arising within theirown borders ; but, as a matter of fact, the purport of the letter which he read from that Department was that they refused to make inquiries in reference to matters outside the Dominion.
– The honorable member is entirely mistaken. The letter related to inquiries that we desired to be made within the Dominion.
– But orange meat is made outside the Dominion.
– I am speaking of what, according to the letter in question, the Collector of Customs in Canada would not do. If any further proof of the statement that I made be necessary, I may mention a private letter which I saw for the first time to-day. This was a communication from a representative of the Customs in Canada, addressed to the ComptrollerGeneral, and it practically repeated the statement contained in the letter to which I referred in the House yesterday. It emphasized the statement that the Customs Department of Canada will not afford the Commonwealth Government any facility to obtain information with regard to goods manufactured in the Dominion, and exported. I wished to ascertain whether this private letter could be quoted, but I regret to say t learned that it was marked “ confidential,” and could not be placed on the official file of papers.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at10.54 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 August 1905, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1905/19050810_reps_2_25/>.