2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. BATCHELOR presented a petition from the Women’s Christian Temperance; Union of South Australia, praying for the enactment of stringent legislation to prohibit the importation of opium for smoking purposes into the Commonwealth.
Mr. HUME COOK presented two similar petitions from certain residents of Victoria.
Mr. MAUGER presented two similar petitions from certain residents of Victoria.
Mr. BATCHELOR. presented a petition from the Women’s Christian Temperance
Union of South Australia, praying for the enactment of legislation to prohibit the sale and consumption of alcoholic liquors in military camps, canteens, and army transports.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether his attention has been drawn to a paragraph published in this morning’s Age, stating that the Bendigo branch of the Amalgamated Miners’ Association, which proposes to hold a social gathering on the 30th inst., has decided not to invite members of Parliament to the function, as it is contended that they monopolize the greater part of the time, inflicting speeches on men who are seeking an evening’s enjoyment. Does he think this action is the result of his now celebrated one hour and twenty minutes’ oration at Henty?
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence whether his attention has been called to a report relating to the bursting of a rifle whilst being fired at the rifle range at Echuca, andwhether steps will be taken to replace the faulty weapons now in the hands of riflemen?
– A report has been furnished to the Minister, and I am informed that a technical question has arisen, which will require some scientific investigation. When this has been completed, the House will be duly informed of the result - probably in a few days.
Mr. GROOM laid upon the table the following papers : -
Notification of the acquisition of a site for a post-office at Mosman, New South Wales.
Amendment of Public Service Regulation No. 64 (Overtime, General Division), Statutory Rules, 1905, No. 57.
asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice, for the following information : -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1.£240 per annum.
Debate resumed from 31st August (vide page 1781), on motion by Mr. Johnson -
That, in the opinion of this House, the importation of opium for other than medical purposes should be prohibited.
– As honorable members may recollect, I stated some time ago that I had placed myself in communication with the States Governments with reference to this matter. Replies of a more or less favorable character have been received from three of the States. The response from Victoria is specially gratifying. Two States have not yet answered the inquiry addressed to them, and I should like to have their responses before the matter is finally dealt with.
– I rise to a point of order. Do I understand the Prime Minister to be speaking to the question ?
– I think that he has already spoken to the motion - in fact, I have a very distinct recollection of it, and I desire to know whether he is now in order ?
– When the Prime Minister rose I was under the impression that he had already spoken on the motion, but I was informed by the officers of the House, who keep a very careful record, that he had not done so.
– I have no desire to speak twice on this or any other question, if I can avoid it. In August last I called the attention of the States Governments to the resolution adopted at the Hobart Conference, and requested them to give an assurance that they would undertake to prohibit the manufacture of opium, as well as to provide for its being sold for medicinal purposes only, under the conditions agreed upon. The Victorian Government replied, stating that it was contemplated to legislate with regard to the restriction of the use of opium, and the prohibition of opium dens, and that they were prepared to include the manufacture of opium in the proposed legislation. Apparently, they are prepared to adopt a measure to prohibit Opium smoking in Victoria. The most important State of all, however - Queensland - in which the consumption of opium is the largest, representing, as it does, one-half ofthe total consumption in Australia, has merely replied that a Bill dealing with the subject is being prepared by the Parliamentary Draftsman. As to the provisions of that Bill, I am not yet informed. The loss of revenue from’ the prohibition of the importation of opium would be greater in Queensland than in any other State, and I was particularly anxious to satisfy myself as to the intentions of its Government before any steps were taken by us, so that we might feel that we were not trespassing upon their resources without their approval.
– The value of the opium imported into Queensland last year was , £22,137.
– The Government of Western Australia state that legislation of an extremely restrictive character with regard to the sale of opium and other poisons is already in operation. No person is entitled to sell poison without a licence, and such licences cannot be granted to other than registered chemists, except in places distant at least five miles from the nearest place in which a registered chemist has an open shop. With regard to the second resolution, it is stated that provision will be made in the. Consolidating Bill to be prepared shortly.
– On looking at the records, I find that the Minister has already spoken on the motion.
– Perhaps I may be permitted to conclude my short statement. With regard to New South Wales, the Poisons Bill now before the Parliament of that State contains provisions intended to restrict the sale of opium to pharmacists registered under the Pharmacy Act of 1897, but any dealer in poisons who resides four or more miles from a place in which a pharmacist has an open pharmacy, and produces a certificate signed by a medical practitioner and police magistrate, can obtain permission to sell poisons. The Police Offences Amendment Bill shortly to be introduced proposes to make it unlawful for any person, not being the holder of a certificate, to have in his possession more than 2 grains of opium in any form at one time, and powers are to be given to the police to search premises and arrest any person in ‘whose possession opium may be found. The possession or sale of opium for medicinal purposes is specifically excepted from the provisions of the Bill. No replies have yet been received from the other States. In the case of Tasmania, the matter is of no great importance, because the Chinese population is small, and the consumption of opium limited. In South Australia, however, there is a Chinese population, especially in the Northern Territory, which consumes a good deal of this drug. As I have already stated, I do not wish to oppose the motion, but should prefer, before it is finally dealt with, to have an opportunity to consider the replies received from all the States.
– The Minister is now arguing the question.
– Perhaps I may be permitted to add a few words.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the Prime Minister be permitted to complete his statement?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– It is specially desirable that we should receive a definite reply from Queensland in order that we may, without any hesitation, arrive at an absolutely unanimous conclusion. I am entirely in accord with the honorable member for Lang in the object he has in view, and the Government, as a Government, have no opposition to offer to the proposal. I think, however, that before depriving any State of the revenue which it gains from the duty upon opium, we should give it an opportunity to voluntarily make the sacrifice. It is very easy for us to pass the motion, because we shall lose only one-fourth of the revenue - a consideration which would not weigh with honorable members for one moment in a matter of this kind. But I think, before we take final action, that it would come with better grace from us if we were to await the decision of the States, which will lose three-fourths of the revenue.
Debate (on motion by Mr. R. Edwards) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 14th September (vide page 2316) on motion by Mr. Crouch -
That a Select Committee be appointed to consider and report upon the advisability of amending the Regulations issued under the Defence Acts ; the Committee to consist of Mr. Batchelor, Mr. Hutchison, Mr. Maloney, Mr. Mauger, Mr. Page, Mr. Wilks, and the mover, with power to send for persons, papers, and records, and to sit at any time.
– I am quite sure that neither the mover of this motion, nor any other honorable member, wishes to discuss it from a party standpoint. The defence of Australia is a question in which honorable members are specially interested, and they will regard it only from the stand-point of its importance. The honorable and learned member for Corio must know that if the Government could agree to his proposal, it would be a pleasure for them to do so. They value his support very highly, and they cannot fail to appreciate the interest which he has exhibited in military affairs generally. They feel, however, that our defence regulations ought not to be made the business of a Select Committee. If the present Minister of Defence is not fit to control his Department, the matter assumes a very serious aspect. During the course of his remarks, the honorable and learned member for Corinella animadverted upon the action of the honorable and learned member for Corio in bringing this matter before the House. I take the earliest opportunity of placing on record my opinion that the late Minister of Defence, from his stand-point, administered his Department competently and fearlessly. I make that statement despite the fact that the honorable and learned member is sitting in opposition to the present Government. With regard to defence matters generally, the Ministry desire the aid and sympathy of every honorable member. They welcome the sympathy of the honorable member for Maranoa, who. from his experience as a private in the Imperial service, is possessed of knowledge which must be valuable to the country, and which will be appreciated by the Government. Similarly, the assistance of honorable members, who have devoted much of their time to the volunteer or militia service will be welcomed.
– But an attempt is being made to establish a military caste.
– Does the honorable member imagine that Senator Playford is likely to tolerate the existence of any such caste? I shall, endeavour to prove that the Minister has done almost everything for which the honorable and learned member for Corio has asked. He has taken action, not because he has been asked to do so, but because he recognised the Tightness of so doing. If I can prove that his ideas are in harmony with the most democratic thought, in regard to military matters, 1 think that the House should leave him to manage his own Department. If I can show that the statements of the honorable and learned member for Corio are based, not upon, conditions which exist to-day, but upon a pre-historic state of things, surely honorable members will recognise the unwisdom of tying the hands of the Minister.
– “ Pre-historic “ ! The honorable member will go back to the glacial epoch soon.
– All that the House desires is to be just to the service, just to the officers, and just- to the Ministry. The speech of the honorable and learned mem ber for Corio was mainly in the nature of a charge of incompetency against the Minister. He alleged that favoritism and incompetence are rampant in the service. He mentioned also that every private should feel that he carried a marshal’s baton in his knapsack. Singularly enough, after I had ascertained what position I was to occupy in the present Ministry, I had a conversation with Senator Playford, who made use of exactly the same expression. He declared that he would so arrange the military service that every private should feel that he carried a marshal’s baton in bis knapsack. He laid it down as a fundamental principle that men who were possessed of ability should be afforded an opportunity to rise to the highest positions which their qualifications entitled them to fill. Seeing that he has set his face in that direction, surely- he may be left alone to continue his work. But even if I knew nothing about the views of the Minister, as communicated to me verbally, is there any member of the House who believes that Senator Playford would tolerate regulations which had any respect for caste ?
– Can he insure that a ranker shall have opportunities to rise?
– Undoubtedly. Senator Playford is entitled to all the consideration that a representative in this House can give to a Minister. Let honorable members pause for a moment and consider the difficulty that is experienced in procuring good officers. An officer requires to be a man of considerable intelligence, and possessed not only of physical, but of moral, courage. I think it was Napoleon who said upon one ‘occasion that no general could bear more than a few years of active work, because the strain upon him1 was so heavy. An officer requires, to be a man who is appreciated for his high” character, his ability, his tactfulness, and his generosity in time of peace, so that he may be followed fearlessly by his men in times of war.
– Are those qualifications always insisted upon?
– If they be not considered, the military affairs of the nation would soon get into a, state of hopeless confusion.
– Our military service is in a state of chaos.
– Evils cannot be cured in a few weeks. If the Minister of Defence is allowed to continue in office, he is determined, I am quite convinced, that everything will be put upon a satisfactory footing. Senator Playford has already given instructions that there shall be no extravagance in dress. That in itself seems to be a small matter, but it shows he recognises that if the son of a wealthy man be permitted by regulations to wear a uniform costing a hundred guineas, the son, of a poorer individual will be placed at a disadvantage. The honorable and learned member for Corio should have pointed out that’ the examinations to which he referred were those of the Royal Australian Artillery, and the Permanent Engineers. These constitute what may Le called the “scientific” branch of the service.
– That was pointed out by the Prime Minister.
– The honorable and learned member might have gone a little further, and stated that the members of the instructional staff were not hampered by any examination of that kind.
– I said so, and it is upon, record in Hansard.
– To pass an examination in other than the scientific corps requires only a plain English education, in addition to the competitive test, which is based upon military knowledge.
– Does the Vice-President of the Executive Council say that Latin, French, and German constitute a “ plain English education “ ?
– The honorable and learned member ought to know that French and German are optional subjects, and in the scientific corps only.
– That is not correct. I have a copy of the regulations here.
– They certainly cannot be the latest regulations.
– I have a copy of the regulations, which- belongs to the Secretary of the Defence Department.
– Were those regulations handed to the honorable and learned member by the Minister of Defence?
– If the honorable and learned member for Corio had made his speech five years ago, before Senator Playford was Minister of Defence, there might have been a great deal in it. The House has to deal with the Department as we know it to-day, and not with anything that may have happened years ago. I do not desire to deal unfairly with the honorable and learned member for Corio, but I would point out that the Minister handed him a copy of the amended regulations, and that he should have quoted only those regulations to the House.
– That is what I did.
– I understood the honorable and learned member a few moments ago to say that he did not do so. I am aware that the honorable and learned member for Corio had interviews with the Minister of Defence, and could have inquired what he intended to do with regard to the form of examination. The Minister had seen the examination papers, and hud come to the conclusion that they were such that a literary man must undoubtedly possess an advantage over a practical man. What did the Minister do? We know, of course, that it would have been impossible to immediately alter the present syllabus, which, in fact, shows these languages to be optional.
– What does the honorable gentleman mean by his reference to the ability of a literary man to defeat a practical man?
– That the examination which had to be passed by an applicant for admission to the two scientific branches of the service was of such a nature that a university graduate, or a smart, intelligent young fellow who had just left school would always be able to beat, if a contest were possible, an experienced and, may be able soldier. The Minister came to the conclusion that it was wrong to set such an examination, and I think that the honorable and learned member for Corio could have been in a position to inform the House that Senator Playford had arrived at that conclusion, and had the whole matter under consideration.
– I was not aware of it, nor am I aware of it at the present time.
– I shall point out later on that, there are one or two other matters with which the honorable and learned member is apparently unfamiliar. I take it for granted that the House has no desire to deal with ancient history, but is anxious to ascertain what action is being taken by the Minister in regard to the regulations. I do not say that the honorable and learned member for Corio was aware of the fact when he spoke, but I certainly knew that the Minister was not satisfied with the form of examination set for the scientific branches of the service, and would have so informed him. He had arrived at the conclusion that, notwithstanding that it was desirable to obtain the ablest men, the examination was too literary, and that a more practical turn might be given to it. He was talcing steps to make an alteration in that direction when this matter was first brought before the House, and I think that the honorable and learned member for Corio should have given him credit for his action.
– The amended regulations were prepared by the late Minister of Defence.
– I have already said that I have had various opportunities of noting the good work done by the late Minister of Defence ; but I would point out that the regulations have been altered since he retired from office.
– Very little alteration has been made. Had I remained in office, the whole of the amendments would have been completed in a fortnight.
– It is impossible to say exactly where the work of one Minister ends and that of another begins; but I am satisfied that the honorable and learned member for Corinella, notwithstanding that he sits in opposition, would, under any circumstances, do good and faithful work. There are many points in reference to the case of Corporal Watts which have been overlooked by the honorable and learned member for Corio. Corporal Watts was a gunner, and apparently an intelligent man, who desired to submit himself for examination for a commission. The regulations provided for the appointment of a special board, which must not be confused with the ordinary military board, to deal with applications, and as the result of the action taken by that board, Corporal Watts was not permitted to go up for examination. The statement made by the honorable and learned member for Corio is that there is at present a man named Corporal Watts living at Queenscliff–
– I can see that the honorable gentleman’ knows nothing about the case.
– I shall show the honorable and learned member that I do. The statement made by him was that Corporal Watts desired to go up for examination, but was not permitted to do so. That assertion was enlarged upon, and it was said that no one but an aristocrat could obtain a commission - that the working man did not have a chance of doing so. It was inferred further that the social conditions maintained by that great aristocrat, Senator Playford, who was always on the side of the plutocracy, were such that a poor man could not obtain a commission.
– Whoever said that Senator Playford was an -aristocrat ?
– The honorable member, I am sure, has a sufficient sense of humour to appreciate the satire. This, however, was the charge made in regard to the case of Corporal Watts, and the House was led to believe that it was absolutely true. . But what are the actual facts? Immediately after the present Government came into office, the honorable and learned member for Corio spoke to mewith reference to the case, and I came to the conclusion that any man, no matter how humble his position might be, was entitled to go up for examination. I informed the honorable and learned member, however, that it would be wise for him to consult the Minister of Defence. He did so.
– I did not consult the Minister of Defence. I put a question to the honorable gentleman in this House, and was informed that Corporal Watts would not be permitted to go up for examination.
– I can give the House the assurance of the Minister of Defence that the honorable and learned member for Corio did consult him. I have further private knowledge of the matter that I do not wish to mention ; although I certainly desire to place the House in possession of all the facts.
– The honorable gentleman told me privately thai the Minister of Defence would allow Watts to go up for examination, but that I was on no account to mention that fact.
– Even if the honorable and learned member heard only from me, can he justify his statement? I do not wish to disclose private conversations, but the Minister of Defence told me - and he reiterated the statement yesterday - that the honorable and learned member for Corio interviewed him, and was informed that consideration would be given to the case. The Minister went on to say that he informed the honorable and learned member that not only was Watts to be allowed to go up for examination but that the special board would be abolished. We can imagine what would happen in such circumstances.
– And what will happen to the Forces?
– I am dealing with only one aspect of the case. The Minister of Defence informs me that he told the honorable and learned member for Corio that Watts would be permitted to go up for examination. In accordance with that determination, he issued a regulation that under no circumstances should such a board be appointed to report with respect to applicants for a commission. I presume that the honorable and learned member for Corinella is aware of that fact ; but if the honorable and learned member for Corio left the House under the impression that Corporal Watts could not go up for examination - notwithstanding that he was aware of the decision arrived at by the Minister of Defence - he certainly acted in an unjustifiable way. If he knew, as he could have known, that the Minister had arranged that under no circumstances should a special board again sit to deal with applicants for a commission, and that therefore, so far as this case was concerned, the whole trouble was cured for “all time, he was in duty bound to tell the House of it. I am sure that honorable members are with me in this respect. It would not be fair to the Minister-
– Poor Minister !
– If the Minister is doing ms duty, he ought certainly to be supported.
– The present Minister certainly saw that fair treatment was meted out to a man who was denied justice by his predecessor.
– That statement is absolutely incorrect.
– It is absolutely true, and the honorable and learned member knows it. He would not do justice to the man to whom I refer.
– That is not true.
– The honorable and learned member must withdraw that remark.
– I do so, sir; but ask that the honorable member for Melbourne be called on to withdraw the statement that I denied a man justice.
– Conversations across the Chamber are most irregular, and must be very disconcerting 10 the honorable member who is addressing the Chamber. I hope that the honorable member will withdraw the statement objected to, and .that these conversations will cease.
– As the honorable and learned member regards it as offensive, I certainly withdraw it.
– It now appears that, in the opinion of some, the person at fault was not the present Minster of Defence, but one of his predecessors. The Minister has done exactly what the honorable and learned member for Corio desired, and therefore the need for a committee, so far as the case of Corporal Watts is concerned, entirely disappears.
– Does the honorable member say that justice has been clone to this man ?
– Absolutely. It is difficult to conceive that the honorable and learned member for Corio could not have known of this when he spoke. Let me quote a definite statement made by him.
In the course of his speech, the Prime Minister interjected -
Under another regulation a nian who has served in a campaign may also go up for examination. It seems that Watts would bc eligible under two of the new regulations.
To this the honorable and learned member replied -
That seems to be so, but the point is that he has not been permitted to go up for examination.
If the Minister had informed the honorable and learned member that Watts was to be permitted to go up for examination- - and I may say that I informed him of that fact- the statement I have just quoted was unjustifiable.-
– The honorable gentleman’s statements are grossly inaccurate, and he knows it.
– The Minister of Defence is prepared to tell any member of the House that he informed the honorable and learned member of the course he had decided to adopt, and that the honorable and learned member was perfectly cognizant of the true position of the case. That being so, the Minister is entitled to the support, and not to the censure, of my honorable and learned friend. In the course of his speech, the honorable and learned member said that Corporal Watts - was asked what his father did, what his mother was before she married, to whom were his sisters married, what position in life did his brothersinlaw occupy, and what occupation was followed by his brothers.
When I read this statement I felt that if was certainly a remarkable one, and a report was obtained in regard to it. From this report I gather that the questions originated from the fact that Corporal Watts was unable to produce a certificate of birth, and could not say definitely what was his age. The board then asked him whether his father, or his sisters, or brothers could furnish them with some confirmatory evidence in regard to what he believed to be his age.
– That is a shocking piece of bluff, and the honorable gentleman is aware of it.
– Was any other applicant asked similar questions?
– Under the regulations an applicant is required to prove his age.
– Has any one who has proved his age been asked similar questions ?
– No. General Gordon and Colonel Stanley go further, and assert that they did not ask any questions that could bear the construction placed upon them by the honorable and learned member for Corio. Colonel Stanley states that if such questions were asked they were simply put with a desire to secure confirmatory evidence with regard to his age.
– That is a piece of bluff, because similar questions have been put 10 other candidates.
– I am making merely an incidental reference to this matter. The broad facts of the case are that, according to the honorable and’ learned member for Corio, a system is in force which prevents certain candidates for a commission from going up for examination.
– What could the position of Watts’ brother have to do with the place of his birth?
– It is absolutely denied that such a question was put.
– I understand that the Minister has abolished that board.
– Yes. and I think that the honorable and learned member for Corio knew when he made his statements that it had been abolished.
– I knew that the board had been abolished?
– The honorable and learned member will not admit that the Minister of Defence told him anything.
– The Minister is making not a defence qf the regulations, but an attack upon me.
– Notwithstanding the fact that the honorable and learned member had received a copy of the new regulations, he made this statement-
If a man enters the permanent service at the age of twenty, a service of three years leaves him a very small margin of time before his arrival at the age of twenty-five years.
Did he know, when he made that statement, that the Minister had made the age from nineteen to twenty-five years? Then, again, he complained that -
A man who is aggrieved . . . has no right to send on his complaint, in writing, in his own language, to the District Commandant. .
But the Minister has already framed a standing order permitting men to make their complaints in writing.
– Then they could not do so previously.
– Yes, they could. The honorable and learned member for Corio himself on one occasion sent in a complaint in writing.
– The old regulations left the matter open to possible doubt.
– On the part of a casuistical mind.
– Yes; such as we find in opposition sometimes. The Minister had removed all ground for such doubt when the honorable and learned member spoke, and if the honorable and learned member had taken the trouble to question him on the subject, the fact would have been known to him. I come now to the remarkable case of Bombardier Webb, who, according to the honorable and learned member for Corio, for not saluting his officers, was tapped on the back with a stick, and afterwards treated with considerable ignominy; Webb’s statement of his case contains a number of allegations, but the occurrences complained of all happened in April. The most important charge is that Webb was inhumanely treated, by being compelled to live within barracks when his wife was within five days of being confined, and, according to the honorable and learned member for Corio, “ his child was born in his absence from home.” The various minor allegations made by Webb are fully or partially refuted in one particular and another by the statements of Colonel Le Mesurier, Major Hawker, Lieut. Innes, Capt. Christian, and Sergeant-Major Morris.
– Ha, ha !
– The honorable member laughs, because, no doubt, he thinks that one officer having denied the truth of Webb’s allegations, all the other officers would naturally back him up.
– Were thev all present when the .offence was committed ?
– No; but various allegations were made by Webb, and these allegations Have been refuted by the statements of one or other of the officers whose names I have mentioned. The Minister has expressed no opinion in regard to these minor charges, although he had the testimony of six against one; but he has had the more serious charge of inhumanity probed to the bottom. The honorable and learned member for Corio stated that -
Webb took his discharge, because he could not bear to be kept away from his wife, and his child was born in his absence from home.
For a man to be kept in barracks when his wife was about to be confined would certainly be brutal and inhuman treatment, calculated to make the blood of those who heard of the case boil with indignation. But what are the facts? Webb took his discharge on the 31st July, and his child was born on the 14th September, as is proved by the following certificate of the medical officer who was present on the occasion : -
To O.C., R.A.A.- This is to certify that I attended Mrs. T. J. Webb at her confinement on “Thursday, the 14th September, 1905.
John D. King Scott, M.B., et Ch.B. 3°/9/’°5-
He had been out of the service for a period of six weeks before his child was born. The honorable and learned member for Corio told us that in April the interesting event was to take place within five days, but it did not take place for five months afterwards. Of course, being a bachelor, lie cannot be expected to know the exact chronology in matters of this kind, and I <lo not blame him, except for his credulity. But the case should not have been brought before the House unless it could be substantiated.
– I am prepared to substantiate it. The Minister is accepting statements in the matter which are merely bluff.
– The official record shows that Webb took his discharge from the service on the 31st July, and the doctor’s certificate testifies that his child was born on the 14th September following - six weeks later. Yet the honorable and learned member is reported in Hansard to have stated that -
Webb took his discharge, because he could not “bear to be kept away from his wife, and his child was horn in his absence from home.
What reliance can be placed on the statements of a man who furnishes an honorable and learned member of this House with such information as was furnished to the honorable and learned member for Corio in this matter?
– Was Webb compelled to “live in barracks? That is the point at issue
– Was his bombardier’s stripe removed, and did he lose a job entailing extra pay?
– What -was :he charge against Webb, and what was the punishment meted out to him?
– The charge was failing to salute his officer, which, as a matter of (discipline, he ought to have done, and for that he was punished, though I cannot at present lay my hands on the paper containing the particulars of the punishment. I will, however, make an exact statement on the subject to the House later on. The gravamen of the charge of the honorable and learned member for Corio was that Webb was locked up in barracks at the time of his wife’s confinement.
– Was it proved that Webb saw the officers whom he failed to salute?
– On the one hand we have only Webb’s statements, and on the other the denials of six officers.
– Were the six officers present when Webb failed to salute?
– No; only two of them were present ; but Webb made a number of charges, each of which has been refuted in one particular or another by one of the officers whose names I have mentioned. I do not know if, after the statement of facts which I have given in regard to the birth of Webb’s child, in face of the remarks he permitted the honorable and learned member for Corio to make to the House, any honorable member feels very enthusiastic about him. The next complaint of the honorable and learned member for Corio was that, before men are permitted to marry, the Department makes an investigation in regard to the character of their future wives. No doubt, in making such an investigation, we are touching on very delicate ground, because if there is anything in regard to which a man would desire perfect freedom of action, it is in regard to the selection of a wife. It is difficult to gather from the honorable and learned member for Corio’s words exactly what his charge against the Commanding Officer at Queenscliff is. He says that when a certain gunner wanted to marry -
The young lady was brought up before Major Hawker, who looked her over as if she were a horse. He did not say anything but what was proper.
– He had no right to interfere at all.
– In New South Wales, South Australia, and Tasmania a number of soldiers and their wives live together in barracks, and these men, with their wives, may be moved from! State to State at any time. It is therefore necessary for the good management of the barracks that the respectable married women who occupy them should riot have forced upon them women who may not be respectable.
– How can the respectability of a woman be judged by a cursory inspection ?
– It cannot be determined by such an inspection, and there should be no inspection ; but it will be generally agreed that it would be unjust and unfair to respectable women who are compelled to live together in barracks to force on them women who are not respectable. Therefore, the responsibility is cast on the Department of making inquiries as to the respectability of women whom gunners wish to marry. There can be no difference of opinion as to the need for such an investigation; the whole question in. any case of complaint is, has the investigation been tactfully carried out? It is very difficult to find any ground of complaint against Major Hawker in the words which I have just read.
– There is no need to parade these girls at all.
– There is certainly no need to parade them.
– Did Major Hawker parade this girl?
– I believe that he saw her, and told her the position of affairs.
– Major Hawker ought to get a rap over the knuckles for it.
– Does not the honorable member think that the Minister can be trusted to rap him over the knuckles?
– Has he done it?
– I cannot give the information.
– It appears to me that the Minister is trying to screen Major Hawker.
– Nothing of the kind. The Minister has issued instructions under which a repetition of the occurrences complained of will be impossible. It is absurd for honorable members to base their judgment upon ex -parte statements, and they should be satisfied to learn that there will be no more cause for complaint. I have explained why it is necessary that seme inquiry should be made into the character of the women who are to be introduced to barracks. If one had a man coming on to his farm, he would like to know that that man’s wife was a reputable woman ; and where a number of people ha%’e to live in propinquity - as is the case with the occupants of barracks - it is a matter of importance to guard against the introduction of undesirable characters.
– Does not the Minister admit that the woman referred to could not have been accommodated in the barracks at Queenscliff?
– As I have already pointed out, in New South Wales and Tasmania provision is made for the accommodation of soldiers’ wives in barracks, and, as the members of the Royal Australian Artillery may be transferred from, place to place, it is important that some restrictions should Le placed upon them in regard to the women they marry. Thehonorable and learned member for Corio said -
There have absolutely been cases in which, men have been confined to barracks for shaving without permission. None of the men at. Queenscliff are allowed to shave off their moustaches. If they do, they are confined tobarracks from ten to thirty days.
Major Hawker says, in reply
I have never issued any orders forbidding this,, nor am I aware of any one else having done so. As a matter of fact, some of the Royal Australian Artillery officers shave their upper lips. There are no orders in the regulations with reference to shaving.
With regard to the alleged mutiny at Middle Head, in Sydney, I would point out a small inaccuracy in the statement of the honorable and learned member. Themen concerned were not imprisoned in. cells, but were confined to barracks because they refused to parade before breakfast.
– Was that when Major Hawker was in command ?
– I believe it was. Honorable members who have followed me will see that, whereas the speech of thehonorable and learned member for Coriomight have constituted a strong indictment at some previous time, he has brought noevidence to bear with reference to the existing condition of affairs. It is most unjust to a Minister who has done so much as has Senator Playford that he should bedenied the sympathy and support of honorable members. Take the case of Watts. When the honorable and learned member for Corio made his speech he was awarethat the remedy had been applied, and that a similar occurrence could not happen again. I have already referred to the specially grievous circumstances connected with the case of Webb, and I think we may very fairly dismiss Webb and his baby. With regard to examinations for promotions, the honorable and learned member might have known, and should have known, that the matter was being dealt with. He could also have been aware that an alteration had been made in the regulations relating to the age restrictions, and that the case of untactful treatment of intended wives was being dealt with. If he was not aware of all these things, he might have obtained information with regard to them. He could also have known that provision had been made for the men sending in their protests in writing.
– I was not aware of that, and I do not think anything has been done yet. The new regulations do not contain any reference to the matter.
– The question is dea.lt with in the standing orders.
– Those can be altered at a day’s notice.
– So can the regulations.
– I accept as probable the statement, but say that provision has been made in the direction I have indicated. The Minister has also dealt with the complaints with regard to extravagance in dress. I submit that if the Minister has remedied or is remedying every one of the grievances to which attention has been directed, the House ought to adopt a sympathetic attitude towards him. I do not know what has been accomplished by other Ministers, but Senator Playford has done everything that possibly could be expected of him to bring about a satisfactory condition of affairs, and to administer the Department in full accordance with the spirit of the times. Therefore, he deserves the sup- port of every democrat in the House. Under these circumstances, why should the hands of the Minister be tied? How does the honorable and learned member for Corio stand before the House when honorable members learn that he must have been aware that these grievances had been remedied, or were being dealt with, before Tie made his statement ? I think that I have dealt with every statement made by the honorable and learned member, and have proved that, as far as the Minister is concerned, he has given his best attention to every matter referred to.
– So far as the Minister is concerned, I quite agree with the honorable member.
– Did the honorable and learned member tell the House that the Minister had remedied every grievance to which he was calling attention?
– No, because he had not done so.
– Did’ the honorable and learned ‘member say that he knew that Watts was going up for examination?
– I did not say anything to the contrary. The information was given to me privately. The Minister told me I was not to use it.
– I told the honorable and learned member that any information with regard to Defence matters must come from the head of the Department, and I took him to the Minister myself. I simply act as the spokesman of the Minister’ in this Chamber, and I always refer honorable members to the Ministerial head of the Department for any information. It is absolutely unjust that the honorable and learned member for Corio should have made the statements he did, in the light of the information he had received from the Minister. Honorable members ought to be prepared to trust the Minister to carry on the good work he has commenced. He has shown himself democratic and considerate, and to be the possessor of common-sense such as will enable him to deal straightforwardly and justly with the cases which come before him. Therefore he should be left alone.
– No one is attacking the Minister.
– Any Minister, who was actuated by a desire to make the conditions of service just and reasonable, would have a perfect right to resent any action on the part of the House which might have the effect of dragging the regulations out of his hands, and referring them to a Select Committee. The honorable and learned member based his case upon procedure utterly different from any which the Minister has followed. So long as the present Minister remains in charge of the Department, no man need fear that he will not be justly dealt with. The Minister is fearless, honest, and democratic in the discharge of the duties attaching to the position. Every democrat in the House should rally to him, and say, “We see the good work you have done, and note the grievances you have remedied, and are content that you should proceed with your labours. We see that even the honorable and learned member for Corio, with all the knowledge he possesses of military matters and all the information he is in a position to obtain, has not been able to attach any serious reproach to you.” As a matter of fact, the Minister has dealt with, or is dealing with, every subject referred to. Therefore, the honorable and learned member for Corio might pay him the compliment of withdrawing his motion.
– I do not think that the speech of the Minister will give entire satisfaction to honorable members. He has endeavoured to make us believe that the Defence Department, like Caesar’s wife, is above suspicion. If the Department is all that the Minister has represented, and “ all is right as right can be “-
– I never said that. We are dealing with the regulations.
– I understood the Minister to say that the regulations would put everything right.
– I did not say even that.
– If the position is as satisfactory as the Minister has represented it to be, why need he fear an inquiry by a Select Committee? The Minister stated that the honorable and learned member for Corio was dealing with prehistoric cases, but I hold a different view. I am not satisfied that the Department is what it ought to be, or that favoritism does not exist. I know that some of the present officers of the Defence Forces are men whom I should not like to see enter any respectable home. These very men are the very worst martinets in the service. I also know of certain men who will have the greatest difficulty - no matter what their qualifications may be - in obtaining commissions in the service, notwithstanding the fact that difficulty is experienced in obtaining a sufficiency of officers. Everything that the Minister ought to know is not brought under his notice. I have on occasions acquainted him with matters which have astounded him. I should like to know whether the same sort of thing is not going on to-day. I have also shown the Minister that matters which ought to have reached Head-Quarters did not do so. I am glad that the honorable and learned member for Corio has pointed out some of the subjects in which officers are required to qualify.
– What are they?
– Take the subject of languages.
– Are they not necessary and useful ?
– A knowledge of all the subjects prescribed is useful, but I claim that it is not necessary. It reminds me very much of a candidate for examination who was asked how far distant the sunwas from the earth, and who replied that it was not near enough to interfere with his duties. It is a good thing for an offices to possess a large range of information ; but I know a great many officers in the servicewho could not pass the simplest examination. On the other hand, I know men whowould have made splendid soldiers, but who have left the service in disgust because they could not secure a commission. When an attempt has been made to getthese injustices remedied, the heads of the Military Department have endeavoured toascertain whether the individuals concerned were prompting members of Parliament to interest themselves in their cases, with a view to penalizing them. I have been connected with the volunteer force, both in the old country and South Australia, for many years. In Adelaide we established a Scotch Corps, the members of which supplied their own uniforms, and cost the State nothing, except for accoutrements. That company was established at what was deemed to be a critical period in our history. I was a member of the State Legislature at the time, and I was considered good enough to assist in its formation. Later on, when a young soldier, who had been in the militia force, and who had passed all his examinations as a non-commissioned officer, left the service in disgust, because he was unable to obtain his commission, I was asked to actas an officer of the corps. I did so for several months. Then .1 was requested to> send in an application for a commission. I did so, but I could not obtain an appointment, nor even a reply to my letter. The reason was that I was then out of political life. I was a member of the Labour Party, and was editing a Labour newspaper. Consequently I did not possess a sufficiently high social status, although I commanded the respect of the majority of the officers in South Australia. As a matter of fact, I was informed that an attempt was actually being made to block me from securing an appointment, and that I hae? better bring any, influence to bear that I could command. I replied that, as I had’ never used any influence in my life to gain a .position, I did not intend to commence: doing so then. But no sooner was I elected a member of this House than the “authorities were ready to rush forward my appointment, ls it not necessary to institute an inquiry into such matters? I know of two or three parallel cases, in which men were denied appointments simply because they did not move in a certain social circle.
– If that statement be correct, how can the regulations affect it ?
– Appointments are made under the regulations.
– The regulations cannot affect it. If men will be false to their duty, no regulation can make them true to it.
– We can provide that if an officer disobeys the regulations the same punishment shall be meted out to him that one officer is alleged to have meted out to a soldier who did not salute him. If it be true that that officer reduced the man’s rank, deprived him of an appointment which would have given him an additional 2s. a day, and confined him to barracks, I say that the punishment was out of all proportion to the offence. I know something of the officer who is alleged to have done that, and I would not trust him very far. I should like a Select Committee to inquire into his character. The late Minister of Defence1 has declared that a knowledge of languages is necessary on the part of an applicant for a commission. But I would point out that there are scores of officers who could not pass a sixth-class public school examination. I say that the possession of money has more to do with an officer’s promotion than has anything else.
– Not many of the officers, possess much, I am sorry to say.
– At any rate, men who have means can always secure an appointment.
– How many sensible men will join the forces if they are to be hectored in this way by a Parliament which knows nothing about military service?
– It is high! time that our Defence Forces were placed upon an entirely different footing. The late Minister of Defence admitted that the regulations were capable of considerable amendment.
– The new regulations were practically complete before I left office. Why does the honorable member desire the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into a thing which is being done?
– We want to see how it has been done.
– Does the honorable member think that a Select Committee is the proper tribunal to determine the efficiency or suitability of technical military regulations ?
– A Select Committee could obtain all the information that is necessary to enable the Minister of Defence to frame* proper regulations.
– It is not proposed to place a single soldier upon the Committee, with the exception of the honorable member for Maranoa.
– It is true that the honorable member for Maranoa is the only member of the proposed Committee who has seen active service. But it must be recollected that regulations have also to be framed for the volunteer branches of the Defence Forces, and two of the members of the proposed Committee have had experience in that arm of the service. Thev know pretty well what is necessary in the way of regulations to govern a’ purely volunteer defence force. Personally, I should be glad to see every citizen compelled to enrol in our Defence Forces. I ‘shall not occupy any further time, because I think that the honorable and learned member for Corio ought to be afforded an opportunity of replying to some of the statements which have been made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council. As I understand that the honorable member for Dalley declines to serve on the Committee, I move -
That the words “Mr. Wilks” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ Mr. Lee.”
– I wish to ask you, sir, whether members who have already spoken upon this motion are entitled to speak again, now that an amendment has been submitted ?
-The amendment reopens the question only so far as the relative value of the honorable member for Dalley, and the honorable member for Cowper, as members of the proposed Committee, is concerned. Upon . that point, the honorable and learned member, who has already spoken, can speak again.
– In so speaking, shall I be in order in pointing out the subjects which will require to be investigated by the Committee?
– To do that would be to drive a coach and four through the Standing Orders, and therefore I cannot permit it.
– It seems to me that this motion opens up a very much wider field for inquiry than did the specific cases which were referred to by the honorable and learned member for Corio. Notwithstanding the eloquent speech of the Vice-President of the Executive Council,’ he utterly failed to convince _ me that there, were not grounds for some such investigation as is asked for. At the same time, I do not think that the honorable and learned member for Corio placed his case before the House in the calm and judicial manner that he ought to have adopted. To a large extent he made merely ex parte statements, but he instanced sufficient abuses to justify the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the matter of our Defence regulations generally. The honorable and learned, member for Corinella has asked whether any tribunal that we may create is a proper one to investigate the applicability of certain technical regulations framed under our Defence Act. I say that, if such a Committee does not constitute a proper tribunal, there can be no such tribunal established. The regulations., .which are framed under various statutes, are laid upon the table of the House from lime to time for the very purpose of affording us an opportunity to inquire into them. I submit that, apart from what the honorable and learned member for Corio has brought forward, there is a vast body of evidence that great dissatisfaction exists with the working of our Defence Department. To my mind, a very good case has been made out for the appointment of the proposed Committee. Indeed, the speech of the Vice-President of the Executive Council served only to emphasize the necessity for such an inquiry. The honorable gentleman does not deny that certain abuses have arisen, but he urges that they are gradually being removed by a patriotic and democratic Minister. The mere admission, however, that abuses have crept into the service, and that it has been found necess’ary to remedy anomalies, is sufficient justification for the demand for an inquiry to ascertain whether regulations more in consonance with the democratic spirit prevailing in Australia cannot be devised. It is certainly desirable that inquiries should be made to ascertain whether regulations cannot be framed in the direction of securing a democratic citizen force, but in one respect the motion needs to be amended. It is somewhat invidious to object to the personnel of the proposed Committee, but one cannot fail to observe that it is proposed that it shall consist solely of honorable members who wish to bring the Defence Forces of Australia into line with the democratic spirit of the people. As one who is in sympathy with that view, however, I think I may be permitted to suggest that two or three honorable members who hold1 different views should be appointed.
– If the honorable member can make a suggestion in that respect it will be accepted.
– I have some difficulty in suggesting who should be appointed to the Committee, and, therefore, at the proper time, shall move that a ballot be taken to determine its personnel. Apart altogether from the position of Watts and Webb, and the case in which a young woman was paraded for the inspection of the official staff, I think that an inquiry is necessary, and that it would be hailed with satisfaction by the public as likely to throw useful light on the control and administration of the Defence Forces.. To my mind, there is no inquiry which the House could undertake with a greater prospect of eliciting valuable information. We have sufficient evidence before us to show that the demand for the appointment of a Select Committee is a justifiable one. The Vice-President of the Executive Council, has said that it is necessary to see that soldiers marry honest women, but it is ridiculous to say that a committee of officers should have the right to determine whether a woman is qualified by virtue or honesty to become a soldier’s wife. If it be difficult to secure harmony among married couples living in barracks, it is better that we should determine that soldiers shall not marry. That would be better than to sa that a woman whom a soldier proposes to marry shall be trotted out before a board of officers for inspection.
– There- is nothing in the regulations to prevent a man marrying whomsoever he pleases, but as they have to live in barracks-
– It has been stated in the House that the intended wives of soldiers are paraded before officers for inspection, and if there be no power to hold’ such an inspection, some one ought to be brought to task for having thus contravened the regulations. If such a practice be continued, it will lead to our citizen defence force becoming most unpopular. At the present time, the whole of the energies of the House, and, indeed, of the nation, should be directed towards making our defence system one of the most popular of our institutions. Many of those old world notions, which perhaps have been found indispensable for the maintenance of discipline in other countries, would utterly fail if applied rigidly to an Australian community. In such circumstances, we should never be able to obtain any but a ridiculously small Defence Force. We should carefully examine the regulations issued from time to time under the Defence Act. This is the first opportunity we have had of expressing an opinion with regard -to many grave complaints that have been made against the Defence system, and I for one shall support the appointment of a Select Committee, not only to examine the regulations, but to make a thorough inquiry, apart from the specific complaints which have been brought forward in support of the motion.
– I do not know that I have ever seen such a motion as this in connexion with the respective spheres of legislation, regulation, and administration. The proposal before the House is that we shall select a certain number of honorable members to examine the Defence regulations, and consider the propriety of amending them. That would involve a number of rather striking consequences. In the first place, I presume that the mover of the motion would, in the ordinary course of events, be the Chairman of the Committee. We should thus have a subordinate officer on active service sitting in judgment upon the Minister of Defence, the Council of Defence, and, indeed, the whole of the military experts in the Commonwealth service. We should have this remarkable gentleman cross-examining the whole of our military authorities - men whose experience and knowledge in matters of defence are as much superior to those of the honorable and learned member as the sun is superior to a mining candle. The honorable and learned member for Corio, who, I believe, nearly mowed down a whole column of his fellow citizen soldiers because they happened on one occasion to go a. few inches beyond an artificial line in Albert
Park, holds the rank of captain in the Defence Force, and may possibly be a most estimable officer. But it seems to me that we should turn our military system upside down if we decided that an officer in our Defence Force, simply because he happened to be a member of this House, should act in such a capacity as is proposed. If the honorable and learned member were not a member of this House, and there were 1,000 officers in the Commonwealth service, I believe that 999 of those officers would be selected in preference to him for the position of Chairman of such a Committee.
– The Committee will be able to consider the expediency of not allowing a politician to hold a commission.
– I think that might well be done. It is proposed to make the honorable and learned member for Corio a sort of politico-military commander-in-chief, to sit in judgment on the officers of the Defence Force. A gentleman who is a mere tyro in military matters, is, solely because he happens to be a member of this House, to examine and cross-examine perhaps trained veterans who have passed through any number of sanguinary engagements in various parts of the world, and have made a life-long study of military tactics. The honorable and learned member would temporarily take command of the Military Forces, and it would be inevitable that by the time he had completed the job, our Defence system would foe thrown into inextricable confusion. These observations will apply, perhaps, in a larger degree to almost every member of this House. The Committee is to be appointed to deal with a far more difficult matter than a mere investigation of the state of affairs prevailing in the Defence Force. I do not for one moment say that any honorable members of this House would not make an excellent Committee reinvestigate facts of any kind. I do not wish to disparage their capacity in that respect. If it were proposed that I should be a member of the Committee, I should make the same observations about myself that I have made about other honorable members. The task of framing a proper set of military regulations is one which only military experts could possibly take up with any prospect of success. I can understand a number of other persons being prepared to attempt it, notwithstanding that they are absolutely unfitted to do so. But our Military Forces have had the advantage of being directed by able and experienced men. The mere fact that the Treasurer was once at the head of this Department should be a guarantee that everything is satisfactory. The right honorable gentleman is a born soldier, and would have made a first-class pirate 150 years ago, when many noble men followed that avocation. He prepared a minute - and I am told that it was entirely his own - that has been quoted in Imperial circles as one of the ablest State papers with reference to naval defence that has been written since Nelson prepared an essay on the subject. We had the Treasurer at the head of this Department for some time, and he was followed by another honorable member of striking originality. I refer to Senator Dawson, a very earnest, able man, who made things in the Department a little more lively than they were during the regime of the Treasurer. Senator Dawson succeeded the present PostmasterGeneral, and’ in turn was followed by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, whose practical knowledge even the honorable and learned member for Corio will admit stands very high. We have had all these talented administrators at the head of the Department, and they have been advised by the best military authorities. I am not competent to say whether the code of regulations which has been drawn up is good,- bad, or indifferent ; but I am certain that none of the men whom it is proposed to appoint a Select Committee to inquire into the whole subject is competent to do so.
– The right honorable member must admit that the present Minister has amended a number of the regulations.
– If so, I suppose he has acted upon good advice. I understand that there is a military council of advice.
– A military board.
– It is, no doubt, composed of the best officers available. However able and capable as members of Parliament the men of whom the honorable and learned member for Corio proposes to constitute his Select Committee to deal with the regulations may be, and however wide their gene’ral information, they cannot suddenly become experts in regard to a subject which requires the highest technical skill and training. The members of the proposed Committee would not, for lack of the necessary knowledge of the subject, understand half the answers they got.
– They could deal with* what they- did understand.
– If the matter at issue involved merely questions of fact, it would be a different thing.
– There are a number of questions of fact to be dealt with.
– I admit that I have heard” a number of statements which appear toshow the existence of an unsatisfactory stateof affairs, and if the honorable and learned member for Corio will substantiate any of these allegations of wrong-doing, I do not suppose any honorable member will object to the cases being remedied.
– The honorable and learned: member’s statements were inaccurate in regard to every case that he mentioned.
– I have made accurate statements, because I have referred to» my own experience.
– Will the honorable mem- ‘ ber bring the matter before the Minister?
– Honorable members wilt always do useful work if, when grievancesare brought to them, they sift them asthoroughly as they can, and then, if convinced that a case has been made out, approach the Department of the Service concerned. If a man brought a grievance to me, I would investigate it so far as I could, and, if I thought that he had made out a prima facie case, I would approach the Department in regard to the matter.
– Men are not allowed to bring their grievances before Members of Parliament.
– I can see the propriety of that rule. If every soldier who thought that he had a grievance could ask a Member of Parliament to support it, and these matters were continually being discussed here, far more injury than good ‘ would result to our forces.
– Every soldier can appeal to the Minister.
– If any regulation prevented even the humblest soldier from proceeding through the recognised channel of complaint with the statement of a grievance until, if necessary, he could lay it before the Minister, or if a regulation were needed toprovide such a channel, I should say that the Minister at the head of the Department should see that the matter was rectified.
– I have given the Minister cases in which that has not been possible.
– There is a defect in the regulations, if they do not permit the humblest man in the service to place his grievance before the highest military authority, when he cannot get redressotherwise.
– The regulations permit that to be done, and the men know it.
– Not always.
– If a man cannot get his grievances redressed otherwise, it is his duty and his right not , to rest until he can lay them before the Minister, and, in the last resort, he may bring the matter before a member of Parliament.; because there are cases of injustice which cannot be remedied in any other lawful and constitutional way, and must, therefore, come before Parliament as the final tribunal. But every effort should be exhausted to obtain redress through the ordinary military channels before this House is approached. I could much better understand a motion asking for the appointment of a Committee to investigate certain definite allegations.
A Committee of members of this House would be a very fair tribunal in such a case. But the object of the motion of the honorable and learned member for Corio is to secure, not the redress of individual grievances, but a report on the advisability of amending the regulations made by the Minister under the Defence Acts. That would be a Herculean task, even for a committee of soldiers, and it is an impossible task for a committee of laymen. I have no doubt that there are hundreds of these regulations, dealing with all sorts of military questions; and the honorable and learned member practically asks the House to hand them all over to his proposed Committee for consideration. The Committee, if appointed, would, no doubt, call what military authorities it thought necessary to examine and cross-examine, and would finally report the amendments which it felt constrained to recommend. Would it not be better if the regulations which it is thought require amendment were picked out? All the regulations cannot be defective. Most of them must be sound. I do not know what view the Government take in regard to the motion, but I can understand that they should refuse to agree to it. Many years ago, when Mr. Varney Parkes moved for the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the administration of the Lands Department, his father, the late Sir Henry Parkes - who was, perhaps, one of the most eminent parliamentarians in Australia - was one of my strongest political opponents. He would, therefore, have been only too glad to embarrass me ; but his sense of parliamentary rule and principle was so strong that it proved superior to his party feeling, and he pointed out that the motion amounted to a motion of want of confidence in the Ministry. His contention was that, if the House thought fit to inquire into the way in which a Minister was managing his Department it was time for that Minister, or the Government, to resign. It is the duty of the Minister of Defence to issue regulations under the Defence Acts, on the advice of the best military authority, and the motion now before us is tantamount to a declaration that, in the opinion of the House, he has performed this duty in such a bungling and inefficient way that we are driven, as a matter of painful necessity, to appoint some of our own members to review his work. Thus the motion is practically a motion of censure on the Minister at the head of the Defence Department. It practically declares that he is not competent. The regulations which are issued in pursuance of the Defence Acts should be right and proper regulations, and if the House declares that it thinks so little of them that it is going to refer them to a Select Committee, it puts the Minister in a position which no Minister would like to be placed in, and I think very few Ministers would allow such a reflection to be cast upon their administration. Of course, the Government, too, must be held responsible for the actions of one of their number. It casts a reflection on the Minister of Defence and on his colleagues to declare that, although he has had the advantage of the advice of military experts, he has done his work so badly that members of the House who are not experts, and have no special knowledge, must inquire into and amend the regulations issued by the Department.
– The same thing might be said about a motion for the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the operation of the Tariff.
– No ; because the Tariff is pre-eminently a matter to be settled by Parliament. Of course, where a question of policy is involved, as in connexion with a measure submitted to Parliament, it often happens, as in the case of the last Deakin Administration, that the Government will resign because an amendment has been carried which vitally alters the provisions of a Bill. No one will contend that any member has not the right to move any such amendment. The making of regulations in pursuance of an Act is, however, distinctly within the province of the Government, and not of the House. The House trusts the Minister in charge of the Department to draw up proper regulations, and to administer them properly.
– There will be a dissolution if the motion is carried.
– I am coming to the rescue of the Ministry in this matter, in the interests of good government. We must have lines of principle to divide the province of Parliament from that of the Executive, especially in regard to the control of our Military Forces. The moment you make the Military Forces the sport of parliamentary committees, whose members will be prompted by friends and other persons outside, that moment you demoralize them. Probably the usefulness of an officer commanding’ a regiment would be entirely destroyed after he had been subjected for halfanhour to the wigging of the honorable and learned member for Corio, who would be his subordinate, and be not a hundred miles behind him, but probably further away, when he was on the field of battle. We know that in New South Wales the Military Forces were reduced to a pitch of utter humiliation and absurdity by the appointment of Select Committees to inquire into military affairs. When a Select Committee is appointed to criticise military administration, the whole basis of authority goes. I look upon the motion as practically a motion of want of confidence in the Minister of Defence, if not in the Ministry, and I shall require the production of very serious evidence in support of it before I shall feel warranted in casting such a reflection upon the Ministry, even though they are my political opponents.
– By way of personal explanation, I desire to refer ‘to the denial bv the honorable and learned member for Corinella of my statement to the effect that the present Minister of Defence had remedied a wrong which he. whilst in charge of the Department, had declined to redress. I desire to quote from Hansard of the 5th July, as follows : -
– The honorable and learned member for Corio now makes a number of statements as to the general course of procedure in the Permanent Artillery.
– Was not the man sworn in.?
– Then the regulations must have been read out to him.
– They ought to have been.
– I am emphatically informed that they were/ I have not treated this or any other matter lightly. It is true that I did not personally make inquiries in regard to it. I could not go to Queenscliff in search of the officer who swore these men, but I was informed that he stated personally that he read the regulations to them, and that they knew the terms on which they were enlisted.
On that occasion I felt that a wrong had been done to the man, owing to the failure of the military authorities to read over the regulations to him. On the 13th July, the Minister of Defence wrote to the honorable and learned member for Corio as follows : -
With further reference to your letter of the 29th ultimo, relative to Gunner W. T. Sheehan, I am directed to inform you that, on further investigating the case, it appears to the Minister that the regulations were not read to Sheehan; and, under the circumstances, Senator Playford thinks that the request for a discharge should be granted.
Instructions have therefore been given to this effect.
I am delighted that the present Minister has taken action which his predecessor declined to take.
– I wish, also, to say a few words by way of explanation. The honorable member for Melbourne alleged by interjection that I had denied justice to the man referred to. The first I heard of the case was on the 29th June, 1905, by means of a letter addressed to me by the honorable and learned member for Corio. On the 30th June, 1905, the Government to which I belonged was defeated in this House, and resigned within two or three days. Before I left office, however, I directed full inquiries to be made, and on a second statement being made to me by the honorable and learned member for Corio, to the effect that I had been misinformed as the result of my first inquiries, I directed a further investigation to be made on the 5th or 6th July. Mv successor came into office on the 7 th July, before these further inquiries had been made, or could be made. Consequently, before the matter came to me for decision I had ceased to be a Minister. Under these circumstances, the charge that I denied justice to the man - when I was removed from office with the help of the honorable member for Melbourne within a few days of the time that the matter was first brought under my notice - is entirely unfounded.
– I have quoted from Hansard of 5th July, and therefore the date given by the honorable and learned member does not count.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Maloney) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Mauger) agreed to -
That a return be laid on the table of the House showing -
The return to cover the business of the last financial year.
Debate resumed from 7th September (vide page 2002), on motion by Mr. Kelly -
That whereas the command of the seas in time of war is essential to the security of the Empire’s vast interests on, and beyond, the seas ; and whereas this command cannot be assured by separate squadrons acting independently on behalf of each section of the Empire; and whereas the United Kingdom, which has hitherto borne practically unassisted the burden of Imperial naval defence, will sooner or later be unable to continue to make sufficient provision against the rapidly increasing naval armaments of foreign powers ; this House is of opinion -
– I move -
That all the words after the word “ That,” line 1, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : “ in the opinion of this House, it is desirable to encourage and promote a national and self-reliant spirit among the Australian people; to create and maintain a deeper interest in the development of our sea power, and in the naval defence of the Commonwealth.
That, while regarding the existing Naval Agreement with Great Britain as a recognition of present obligations to the Empire, it is essential that provision be made in the near future for an Australian Navy for defence purposes.
That an advisory report be obtained from the Naval Director, showing the number and class of war vessels necessary under existing circumstances, and the approximate cost of providing and maintaining the same.
I regret, in common with many other honorable members, the indifference that has until recently been shown by the people of Australia regarding the question of naval defence; but I have noted with some pleasure that during the past few months there have been indications of keener interest in this very important national question. This interest is manifested, in one State at least, by the formation of a league which, I believe, has for its purpose the quickening of Australian sentiment on the subject. Apparently, the formation of the league, and its advocacy of an Australian Navy, has aroused the antagonism of the honorable member for Wentworth, who, with some impetuosity, has rushed into the House with a motion which he submitted in a somewhat lengthy speech, in which he showed considerable knowledge of detail. The motion asks us to affirm that now, and for all time, we shall discard the idea of the formation of an Australian Navy, and rest our hope of naval defence entirely upon the British Squadron.
– Not at all. Surely the honorable member has not read the motion, which refers to an Imperial Navy, as distinguished from the British Navy.
– If the honorable member is going to quibble about terms, I say at once that he is asking the House to affirm that, for all time, our defence shall rest upon the Imperial Navy–
– Yes, in its wider sense.
– Rather than that we should take any steps for the formation of a Navy of our own. I am not at issue with the honorable member, in so far as he recognises the extent to which we are at present dependent for our defence upon the imperial Navy. The agreement entered into between Australia and New Zealand, on the one hand, and Great Britain on the other, is a recognition of that dependence, and, as I hope to show, also a discharge of our obligations in that regard. When, however, the honorable member says that, no matter how much the Australian people may wish to meet all the obligations which attach to our national existence, we should be dependent for all time upon - I was going to say a mercenary fleet - a hired fleet–
– A fleet towards which we contribute men and material.
– I shall refer to the question of the men later on. At present we are asked to state that our only ambition is to hire a fleet which may, or may not, be here when it is wanted ; which may be taken away thousands of miles at any time; which will be under- the direction of some one altogether beyond the scope of our authority. I must join issue with the honorable member. I believe that the honorable member’s motion cuts right across the grain of Australian national sentiment, and is entirely antagonistic to Australian national aspirations ; and I have submitted the amendment so as to make the issue clear cut between us. I believe the great majority of the people of Australia will hold that, no matter how we may regard the existing Naval Agreement, the time is coming when we should at least take some steps to form the nucleus of an Australian-owned and manned navy. As far back as 1885, the British Admiralty advised the various Colonies - as they were at that time - to acquire a fleet for local defence purposes. It was hardly to be expected that the various Colonies could undertake the work of building and equipping a fleet which could be managed only by some central authority. Circumstances, however, have changed ; we now have the central authority, and there is no reason why we should not have a fleet of our own-.
– Is the advice referred to still tendered bv the Imperial authorities?
– I do not know-; but it was good advice at the time, and if anything, the change that has taken place in our conditions has rendered it even more applicable than formerly. Certainly Australian necessity is no less now than it was then. In this connexion perhaps I may be permitted to quote one or two expressions of opinion by prominent Australians, which will conclusively show that the honorable member for Wentworth is out of touch with public opinion upon this matter. In discussing the Naval Agreement Bill in 1003, Sir Edmund Barton, who was then Prime Minister, said -
In future as opportunity arises, and as funds allow - because we do not wish to run into inordinate expense - it may be advisable to have torpedo boats or torpedo destroyers at each of the principal ports as a means of special harbor defence. That will not be done immediately, but, as I say, as opportunity and funds permit.
– There is no reference to an Australian Navy there. Sir Edmund Barton specially mentions harbor defence.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that Sir Edmund Barton was referring to boats other than those owned by Australia?
– He was referring to harbor defence.
– Quite so. I am speaking purely from the stand-point of our coastal defence. To my mind there is a necessary distinction between the question of the command of the high seas and that of the coastal defence of Australia. For the purposes of coastal defence Sir Edmund Barton evidently anticipated that in the near future we should have to establish at least the beginnings of an Australian Navy.
– For coastal and harbor defence only.
– Yes. Then the leader of the Opposition, speaking in Sydney some time ago, disclosed the fact that he looked forward to the time when we s’hould have an- Australian Navy. He affirmed that the aspirations of the Australian people for a Navy of their own was an evidence that they were a “ chip off the old block.” As is well known, the honorable member for Bland, in common with other members of the party which he leads, is a strong advocate of an Australian Navy. I think, too, that the present Prime Minister is scarcely satisfied with the prospect of Australia having to depend for all time upon a Navy over which we have no control. In the light of the opinions of these four gentlemen, who have held the highest office in the land, and, knowing as I do, from mixing with the people in my own State and elsewhere, that there is a general feeling that we ought to provide our own ships, in which we can train our own men, I am justified in affirming that the author of this motion is entirely out of touch with the prevailing Australian sentiment. I have already stated that under the terms of the present naval agreement the ships of the Australian squadron may be withdrawn from our coast at any moment. I understand, too, that the. strength of that squadron is less than that agreed upon. Certainly the number of Australians who are supposed to be employed by it are not so employed. In the event of an outbreak of war, or even of a rumour of war, these ships can be withdrawn from Australian waters, in which rase we might be left utterly defenceless. The honorable member for Wentworth, after admitting that our chief danger lies in the possibility of an attack, not by a hostile fleet, but by a marauding cruiser, asks, “ What is the use of Australia spending £300,000 upon a few miserable cruisers?” He must know that to have battleships hovering round our coasts would be of very little use if fast cruisers were to suddenly pounce down upon us. Our only effective defence against such a raid lies in our possession of cruisers equally fast or faster, which could drive the enemy’s vessels from our coast. In this connexion I should like to quote a few words from a speech delivered by the right honorable Mr. Balfour in the House of Commons some time ago.
– In what year?
– I have not the date of the speech, but it was delivered recently. Speaking of the value of cruisers - and it is to that aspect of the question that I am addressing myself at the present moment - the right honorable gentleman said -
Let it be remembered that no strength in battleships has the slightest effect in diminishing the number of hostile torpedo craft and submarines. A battleship can drive another battleship from the sea, but it cannot drive a fast cruiser, because a fast cruiser can always evade it. A strong and fast cruiser can drive a weak and slow cruiser from the sea; ‘but neither cruisers nor battleships can drive from the sea, or from the coast, I ought to say, either submarines or torpedo destroyers which have a safe shelter in neighbouring harbors, and can infest the coast altogether out of reach of the battleship, which is very likely to be much more afraid of them than they have reason to be of her.
I make that quotation in support of my contention that our greatest need - seeing/ that we may be left without the protection provided by the so-called Australian Squadron - is the possession of two or three cruisers of the fastest possible type, so that in the event of an attack by a marauding expedition, we may be able to drive it from our coasts. Let honorable members imagine the situation of the Commonwealth if the Australian Squadron were withdrawn, and it was even rumoured that a hostile cruiser was hovering about our coast. It would cause so much concern that any Government which was unprepared for such an eventuality would meet with a storm of indignation. The people would rightly ask, “What has the Commonwealth Parliament been doing that it has not provided for such a contingency ? Why did it make an agreement under which all the vessels of the Australian Squadron could be with drawn from our coast just when they were most needed, thus leaving us entirely unprotected ? “ The honorable member for Wentworth himself admitted that our chief danger lies in the possibility of our attack by some hostile cruiser.
– I said that our chief danger was from invasion, against which an
Australian Navy would afford no protection. I stated that the form of attack which we have most to fear whilst England maintains command of the seas, was an attack by hostile cruiser’s, and that Great Britain had made provision against such a contingency by providing a great preponderance of cruiser strength.
– Nobody knows better than does the honorable member that there is no bigger blundering machine in the world than is the British War Office.
– Does the same remark apply to the Admiralty?
– Yes. I do not suppose there is any more intelligence displayed in the Admiralty Department than there is in the War Office.
– Will the honorable member quote a case in support of his statement ?
– There have been no great naval battles in which. England has recently participated. It is safe to assume, however, that if a naval war occurred, we should have a repetition of the blunders which have characterized the British War Office. Certainly the Home authorities would not listen to any protest from Australia if they required the services of the ships of the Australian Squadron elsewhere. This motion is based entirely upon what I . regard as an entirely fallacious theory. From my earliest boyhood I have heard the bombastic statement that the British Army can beat any two or three other armies combined, and that the British Navy can defeat any two or three other naval Powers acting in combination. I was brought up on that sort of national pap, but since reaching manhood’s proud estate I have been compelled to discard - even against my will - all such theories. Whatever mav have been the case a hundred years ago. when British statesmanship and British diplomacy were not what they are to-day, I say that the assumption that the mother country requires to maintain a fleet equal to that of an two or three Powers combined is utterly ridiculous. If it be necessary that she should be able to cope with two or three naval Powers, why not with four? Then, I ask, “ What three Powers are likely to combine against Great Britain ? “ The honorable member for Wentworth did not point to any such combination.
– I have not the singular acquaintance with high politics that is possessed by the honorable member. I do not know the minds of the rulers of Europe.
– I do not claim to voice any opinions but my own. The difference between the honorable member and myself is that he has started off with a high-sounding theory, upon which he has built up some unwarrantable assumptions. I wish to take a more practical view of the question, and to ask why we should assume that it is essential that Great Britain should have a Navy sufficient to enable her to cope with those of any three combined Powers. There is no warrant for such an assumption. Even if there were, it might well be asked why Australia should be called upon to double her present naval subsidy as a means of maintaining this power? The honorable member for Wentworth was alarmed because he found that in 1907 England would have only forty-eight battleships, as against sixty-three possessed by three other Powers in combination. I wish that the honorable member had told us to which three Powers he referred.
– Germany, France, and the United States of America.
– Is not the suggestion of such a combination in itself sufficient to cast ridicule upon the honorable member’s theory?
– Take the two Powers - Germany and France.
– In view of the feeling existing between the people of those countries, is it reasonable to imagine that they are likely to combine against Great Britain? Having regard to the happy relations that have existed for some time between Great Britain and France - relations that are not likely to be disturbed - it is absurd to try to raise a scare because Germany and France are increasing their warships. To my mind, the suggestion that the naval power of those countries combined may shortly exceed that of Great Britain should not cause any alarm on our part. It is unfortunately true that at present Great Britain regards Germany with a somewhat suspicious eye, and it is equally true that Germany looks upon the position of its rival as an excuse for increasing its armaments. Honorable members doubtless read the cable message recently published to the effect that the German Government were seeking, contrary to the strong desire of the German people, to increase their naval expenditure, and that the one argument which it always uses in its endeavour to persuade the people of that country to acquiesce in an increased naval expenditure - the fact that Great Britain is increasing her Navy, and .that it is necessary for Germany to keep pace with her - was again being put forward. When the Naval Estimates of Great Britain are under consideration the position of Germany is likewise used as a reason why a few more millions should be expended upon the Imperial Navy. And so the game of see-saw goes on. Is it a matter for surprise that there is plain evidence of a rebellion on the part of the people of both countries against the piling up of these costly armaments, which soon become obsolete? I notice with much pleasure indications on the part of the German people - and particularly on the part of the German Socialists - to have done with this useless and foolish expenditure. A prominent French Socialist, M. Jauré, recently visited Germany, and was advertised to address a meeting of German Socialists with reference to this question. He went there with a desire to heal the Breach existing between the German and the French people, but the German authorities blundered, as usual, and forbade him the right of public meeting. The result was that the German Socialists caused some millions of copies of his address to be printed and distributed among the working classes of that country. I believe that the international Socialist movement, although possessing some features with which I have no sympathy, is going to be the greatest factor in bringing about international peace that the world has ever seen. The people who have to provide the millions expended on the construction of warships are awakening to a true sense of their position, and are determined that they shall no longer be exploited for this purpose by their rulers. They are resolved that they shall have a voice in determining the amount that shall be spent on naval and military defence, and, if possible, will take steps to bring about a better feeling among the nations, so that there shall be no necessity to continue the present extravagant expenditure. The recent Peace Conference held at the Hague - a Conference which I believe is to be called together once more in the course of a few months - was also an indication that, apart altogether from the Socialist movement, there is a feeling that the naval and military expenditure of the nations has gone too far, and that something should be done to bring about a more Christian-like and civilized means of settling international disputes. We had a visit some time ago from a gentleman who claimed to be the envoy of the Imperial Navy League, and he came to Australia with the object of arousing in the minds of the Australian people interest in the British Navy. To say that his mission was a failure is to put it very mildly. I do not wish to criticise Mr. Wyatt more than to say that if the British Navy League wished to recommend their cause to the Australian people, they did not select the right man to advocate it. The impression that he made, both personally and with regard to his mission, was a very poor one. I attended his meetings, and, although I am as loyal as are most men to the country from which they come, I feel bound to say that his efforts did not arouse or quicken my ambition in any degree whatever. A noteworthy fact was that the Australian Natives’ Association, to which he made some special appeals - and which I may say, in passing, has the reputation for taking a fairly high stand on all matters affecting, the welfare .of Australia - fought shy of him, notwithstanding that it is sometimes charged with being too Imperial in its aspirations. He went away a disappointed man, having failed to arouse any interest in the aim of the league to obtain support for the extension of the Imperial Navy. As most other visitors do in similar circumstances, he went home, and blamed the Labour Party for the failure of his mission, declaring, among other things, that it was a disloyal body. That statement was promptly, denied, and never had any foundation in fact. Coming more directly to the motion itself, I would point out that the honorable member sets forth a somewhat ambitious preamble to his motion -
That whereas the command of the seas in time of war is essential to the security of the Empire’s vast interests on, and beyond, the seas; and whereas this command cannot be assured by separate squadrons acting independently on be half of each section of the Empire ; and whereas the United Kingdom, which has hitherto borne practically unassisted the burden of Imperial naval defence, will sooner or later be unable to continue to make sufficient provision against the rapidly increasing naval armaments of foreign powers. . . .
I have already referred to what I regard as the fallacy of the “three Powers” or the “two Powers” doctrine. I do not believe it necessary for Great Britain to own a navy equal to those of any two or three other nations before i,t can claim to have command of the sea. Her command of the sea does not depend solely on the number of warships that she possesses. The strategical positions which England commands to-day are worth more than any number of battleships or cruisers, and the suggestion that her command of the sea cannot be assured by separate squadrons, acting independently of each other, is one of those delightful assumptions which underlie the whole position taken up by the honorable member for Wentworth.
– Can it be said to be an assumption when St is backed up by all existing military authority ?
– I do not know that the honorable member is supported in that way.
– Will the honorable member admit that the late Captain Mahan was an authority ?
– The assumption contained in the preamble to the motion is that if Australia had a navy, it must necessarily be quite independent of the Imperial Navy. The honorable member apparently cannot conceive of an Australian-owned navy acting in conjunction with another one.
– If it is to be under one control, why should it be necessary to have a separate ownership ?
– I shall come to that point. I am dealing now with the assumption that we cannot have an Australianowned navy unless it is independent of any other, and that in no circumstances could it possibly act in conjunction, with the Imperial Navy. Since the honorable member’s premises are false, his whole argument falls to the ground. In time to come we may have a navy equal to that of the United States, and there is no reason why we should not then assist Great Britain in any great naval war.
– Does the honorable member think that the war will wait until we get a navy ? ,
– That does not follow. If Australia had a navy of her own, it would not make the navy of Great Britain any the smaller. The honorable member harbours a false conception if he thinks that, in the event of Australia possessing a navy, she could not, if necessary, unite her forces with those of Great Britain, or of any other country with which we might be in alliance. I have admitted that our general safety is at present secured by the presence of the British Fleet in Australian waters ; but, in maintaining that fleet, Great Britain does no more than her duty to her Colonies. We are sometimes upbraided for not making a suitable return for the benefits we receive from the presence of the auxiliary squadron in these waters. But it must be remembered that Great Britain has a very great interest, if not the chief interest, in defending our shores. The mover of the motion stated that our sea trade is worth about £86, 000,000. I do not know whether the figures are right or wrong ; but, in any case, Great Britain has as great an interest, if not a greater interest, in that trade than we have. Australia and New Zealand together are paying over £10,000,000 per annum in interest to bondholders in Great Britain.
– I suppose we should not have borrowed the money if we did not consider it an advantage to do so.
– That is another question. The point which I am making now is that the interest of those bondholders must be preserved. The British Fleet is in our waters not wholly in the interests of Australia. I do not suppose that the honorable member will dispute the statement that the British money lord is the chief power behind the Government of Great Britain. We have only to go back a year or two, to the South African war, to know what a terrible power he wields, and how easily he can set in motion the machinery of the War Office to secure his ends. ‘ Therefore, notwithstanding the advantages gained by Australia from the presence of the British Fleet in these waters, it must be admitted that it is maintained here not wholly for our benefit, and the people of Great Britain gain, I believe, the major advantage.
– Great Britain would be compelled to have a naval station here in any case.
– If she did not maintain these warships in Australian waters, she would have to maintain then* elsewhere. I admit that we are under some obligation!, but the payment of x subsidy of £200,000 a year is, in my opinion, a full discharge of it. We, as a young nation, have to prepare to undertake every national obligation, and the provision of effective defence is one of these obligations. We have already organized1 our land defences in such a way that evenBritish experts have complimented us upon them; but, as we recognise that our first line of defence must be on the water, and that there may not be a land battle in Australia for centuries, we ought now to ask : “Are we taking all the steps necessary to provide against attacks from the sea?” If during the next few years, while we have no navy of our own, there should be a naval war in which Great Britain is involved, I would make one to ask the Australian people to subscribe, not a few thousand pounds, but 000,000 or £2,000,000, to replace any British war vessels that may be lost in our defenceIt is not because I wish the Australian people to look at this question merely from a mercenary point of view, but because I wish them to take upon themselves the duties of nationhood that I have moved the amendment, which I believe to be more in keeping with their aspirations than is the motion. I do not claim to possess expert knowledge of naval armaments or warfare, but I know that every naval expert, if he were asked ‘to advise us as to what class of vessels we should get, would say that our greatest need is for fast cruisers; and he might also advocate the purchase of one or two submarine boats. I think that estimates have been made of the interest charges and cost of maintenance for two or three cruisers, and I do not think that the amount would largely exceed our present naval subsidy. I am, however, quiteprepared to leave questions of that kind to naval experts, and therefore my amendment authorizes the Government to call for a special advisory report from our naval director, who, above all men in Australia,, should be able to tell us what it is best to do in this matter. The honorable and* learned member for Corinella looked with suspicion upon proposals for the purchase of submarine boats for our coastal defence, his objection to them being based on the fact that, at present, submarines, or “ submersibles,” as the naval experts prefer to> call them, are at a stage of imperfect development. Although that is so, , Great Britain has built, or is building, some thirty of them, and France some forty-six; while America, Germany, and Italy are also building them. Therefore, with all their imperfections, they are likely to play a very important part in the next naval battle. They should, too, be particularly effective for coastal defence. Lord Brassey, the author of the Naval Review, in speaking of them, has said that the waters in which submarines are stationed will be well-nigh untenable by hostile ships. A warship whose commander knows that our coasts are defended by submarines would not be likely to venture near, since it would be defenceless against the attack of such a vessel. I believe that the people of Australia are able and willing to provide for their own naval defence. I should be sorry to think, and much more sorry to suggest, that the honorable member for Wentworth, in moving his motion, was actuated by any but the best motives, or that he is less loyal to Australia than are the rest of us, although he so far forgot himself, when making his speech, as to question the motives of some of those whose views are opposed to his own. In my opinion, he has utterly mistaken the sentiments and temperament of the Australian people. A motion which states that we ought not to take any steps, either now or for all time to come, to establish an Australian Navy as our first line of defence, could only have been conceived at a time when the honorable member was off his guard, and when, perhaps, the formation of an Australian Navy League had aroused hostile feelings in his mind, so that he framed it without fully conceiving what it meant. I believe that everywhere in Australia the people look forward to the time when not only their land forces, but their sea forces, too, will have been placed on a sound and effective footing. Believing this, and feeling that we are capable of undertaking every national duty, I have submitted1 the amendment.
– In order not to preclude the moving of other amendments which I understand it is desired to move, I shall put to the House the question that the words which the honorable member proposes to insert be inserted after the word “That.” If the amendment be agreed to, the remaining words of the motion will have to be struck out.
– On behalf of the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, I desire to submit an amendment which, I think, should precede that which has been proposed by the honorable member for Fremantle. The amendment is as follows : -
That all the words after the word “ That,” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ Whilst in full sympathy with the taxpayers of Great Britain and Ireland in regard to the prodigious increase in their naval expenditure, this House declines to express an opinion either in favour of or against a change in the system which at present prevails of meeting that expenditure -
– I do not propose to discuss the amendment which the honorable member for Coolgardie has just submitted, because I think it will be clear to all honorable members that it is from beginning to end a mere copy of an amendment moved By the right honorable and learned member for East Sydney to the motion on the business-paper relating to Home Rule. I therefore do not regard it as of a serious nature, but as merely intended to vent the personal spleen of some honorable members. This motion deals with the defence of Australia, a matter in which the people of Australia are most concerned, and there is, therefore, no resemblance between if and the motion relating to Home Rule for Ireland. The honorable member for Fremantle has put me under an obligation by affording me an opportunity to again speak on this motion. The same spirit runs through my motion and the first part of his amendment. The honorable member wishes to affirm that it is desirable to encourage and promote a national self-reliant spirit among the Australian people, and to create and maintain a deeper interest in the development of our sea power, and the naval defence of the Commonwealth. If the honorable member had read the terms of my motion, or had paid me the compliment of reading my speech, he would have found that this principle of his amendment is embodied in my motion.
– I did read the honorable member’s speech.
– Then I fail to understand why the honorable member found it necessary to include such expressions in his amendment. I am afraid the honorable member fails to understand the meaning of the word “ Imperial “ in my motion. Because that term has been used in a loose sense by the man in the street as applying merely to Great Britain, the honorable member seems to think that Imperial defence must necessarily be defence by Great Britain. I use the word “ Imperial “ in its ordinary dictionary sense. We are a section of the Empire as much as is Great Britain. The opposition of the honorable member for Fremantle is due largely to the confusion of his ideas with regard to the meaning of the word “Imperial.-“ Every section of the Empire has an interest in the Imperial welfare ; and that is the idea underlying my motion. I urge merely that all sections of the Empire should combine for the common good; and certainly opposition to any such combination comes with bad grace from members of the Labour Party, since they tell us that union is strength, and that for that reason their unions have found industrial combination necessary. All °I ask is that all sections of the Empire shall combine for purposes of defence, in which each has an interest ; and those honorable members who are always talking about the advantage of combination for their own purposes are certainly not consistent in opposing the application of the same principle to the defence of the Empire.
– The honorable member does not propose combination but submission.
– My motion makes no reference to submission. It affirms that the command of the seas is essential to the security of the Empire, and that such command cannot be assured by separate squadrons acting independently on behalf of each section of the Empire. The honorable member for Fremantle has admitted our dependence for defence upon the British Navy ; and my whole point is that if Great Britain cannot continue to maintain that command of the seas upon which we have to place dependence, all sections of the British people should combine for their common defence.
– On equal terms.
– Yes, on a true Imperial1 basis.
– There is no equality in the proposal of the honorable member.
– There would be no equality if we contributed our full share towards the cost of the Imperial Navy without having any representation in the Defence Councils of the nation. And in the course of my speech on the Treasurer’s financial statement, I have already indicated the great difficulties in the way of our heedlessly increasing in a material way our contribution to the British Navy until there shall have been created a new Imperial authority with responsibility for Imperial defence.
– The motion does not contain, any reference to that.
– The motion speaks of “an Imperial,” not of a “ British,” navy. I have more than once stated in this House that before we increase our contribution to the Imperial Navy to any appreciable extent a new authority responsible for Imperial defence’ should be created.
– Does the honorable member advocate that we should pay our full share towards the maintenance of the Imperial Navy?
– I say that we should pay towards the cost of Imperial defence whatever the defence of our shores is worth to us.
– But if we are to have equal representation in the councils of the nation, why should we not contribute upon a per capita basis?
– The honorable member must recognise that different sections of the Empire run risks in varying degree, and a hundred and one considerations have to be weighed in assessing the amount which should be paid by each for defence purposes. The geographical position of one portion of the Empire might render it less liable to attack than others would be, and therefore its contribution towards the cost of defence would be correspondingly smaller. The first point urged by the honorable member for Fremantle was that my motion was not in touch with the sentiment of the Australian people. That is entirely an ex parte statement. The real concern of the Australian people is as to how the Commonwealth can best be defended; and if it can be proved to them that their safety cannot be assured by the creation of a local navy, they will have nothing to do with it. The unconsidered predisposition of the Australian people towards either an Imperial Navy or a local navy for Australian defence need not enter inFo our consideration, for we are now concerned in the study of how the interests of Australia can best be served. I do not think any importance need be attached to what any honorable member may say as to the true opinion of Australia, since our people have yet to be educated to a proper conception of their true interests. I do not think that the honorable member for Fremantle established his point.
– I did not say that our Navy should have no connexion with the Imperial Navy.
– No; I have already done the honorable member the justice to acknowledge that. Our dependence upon the Imperial Navy is admitted.
– I say that an Australian Navy would be of assistance to the Imperial Navy.
– I shall deal with that phase of the question presently. My present point is that the wealth of the Empire as a whole represents the utmost limit of the resources upon which we can draw for the purposes of Imperial defence ; and that all money spent outside Imperial defence is money not used to the best advantage. The honorable member for Fremantle admits our dependence on the British Navy.
– Yes, for the present.
– Then, if I can show that a scheme of Imperial naval defence will most effectually meet our needs, the honorable member ought to agree to the terms of my motion.
– The question between us is merely one of method.
– The honorable member made such ‘constant references to coastal and harbor defence, that it is difficult to understand what he meant by his references to an “Australian Navy.” I take it, however, that he was referring to a local sea-going navy for local defence purposes.
– I am chiefly concerned with the defence of Australia.
– So are we all; but for the purposes of my argument it is necessary that I should understand exactly what the honorable member means. When he speaks of an “ Australian Navy,” is he referring merely to vessels which are intended for harbor defence, or does he mean a navy which will travel round the coast of Australia just as occasion may require, upon the lines laid down by Captain Creswell in his celebrated report?
– He does not know.
– The honorable member said that the danger we had to apprehend was an attack by marauding cruisers. I say, “ Let us build cruisers to cope with them.”
– I said that that was our only danger while command of the seas was retained. However, the honorable member says that we should build cruisers, which, I presume, would be sent round the coast of Australia just as occasion might require ?
– And under a single command !
– The cruisers which the honorable member desires for the defence of Australia would afford us no protection whatever against invasion. Even if he is possessed of the wide ambition of Captain Creswell in regard to a sea-going Australian Navy, he must admit that a few cruisers would afford us absolutely no defence against territorial aggression. * Command of the seas is insured, not by cruisers, but by battleships. The possession of cruisers would not prevent a hostile force landing in Australia when once the command of the seas had been wrested from Great Britain ; and the honorable member admits that when he declares that we are dependent upon the protection afforded us by the British Navy. He recognises that it is that navy which prevents an enemy from landing upon our coast. His idea of an Australian Squadron which shall act in concert with the British Navy is that any raiding cruiser which, despite the British command of the seas, may be able to visit our coast, shall be met by a force of Australian ships. That is the idea which is somewhere at the back of the honorable member’s head, even if he did not succeed in making it clear. Great Britain has made certain definite dispositions, with a view to meeting any hostile combination which she may have to face within the next few years. Upon paper - and I do not go further than that, because the honorable member has warned us against being “ bombastic” - she possesses an immense preponderating strength in cruisers, while at the same time she appears to be very much less strong, proportionately, in battleships. Now, raiding ships will be either converted or ordinary cruisers, and consequently the danger which we have to apprehend from raiding ships is small relatively to the danger of the Empire having the control of the seas wrested from it by foreign fleets of battleships. Upon a previous occasion I demonstrated that in 1907 the Empire’s position, so far as strength in battleships is concerned, will be a very unsatisfactory one. I also showed that in cruiser strength the position of Great Britain in 1907 will be an extremely good one. That being so, it is obviously the duty of the Empire to try to remedy its weakness rather than to add to its strength. If, by 1907, we shall be sufficiently strong in cruisers, why should we add another detachment of that class of vessel at this end of the world? If by that year we shall not be strong enough in battleships at the other side of the world, surely we should concentrate our energies towards increasing that arm of naval defence? That is the first argument that is adduced on economic grounds against the creation of an Australian Navy. I fear that I cannot have made it quite clear why an Australian Navy would not augment the strength of the British fleets elsewhere. The honorable member forFremantle stated that an Australian fleet could be taken abroad, and could act in concert with the British Navy. Surely that is a curious statement to make, and one which shows that his examination of this subject has been of the most meagre character. Had he taken the trouble to examine the basis upon which the disposition of England’s naval strength rests, he would know that its fleets are so distributed as tobe in the best position to seek out and find, at a moment’s notice, foreign squadrons and foreign fleets. That, I may say, is the sole reason underlying the general concentration of naval strength about the Channel. Formerly Great Britain kept a very much larger proportion of her battleship strength in the Mediterranean than she does at present. That strength is now concentrated more in the vicinity of the North Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Channel. The reason for this movement is not that Great Britain is looking to her home defence, as has been ingenuously insinuated, but that the strength of foreign naval power has been shifted from the Mediterranean to the localities indicated. The French fleets in the Mediterranean have been decreased, and their dispositions in the Channel have been increased. In addition, German and other armaments of a very serious and effective nature have come into being along the North Sea and the Baltic. For that reason, the British fleets have been collected in the neighbourhood, in order that they may be in a position to dart upon these foreign armaments immediately war is declared - the idea being that they may be able, with the least possible delay, to move upon and blockade the naval bases of our enemies. But if an Australian fleet is to act in conjunction with the British Navy, what would happen in time of war? If it is to be moved to the locality where it can be of the most service, what is the use of it hanging round the coast of Australia in time of peace? It does not matter where our fleets may be so long as our defence is best assured. All authorities have laid it down that in naval warfare our first duty is to search out and find our enemy, and then to engage him. Let us consider what would be the position if each section of the Empire had its own fleet for purposes of local defence. Australia would have her own defence fleet, Canada would have hers, and South Africa hers. Now, an enemy would not advertise which section of the Empire it intended to attack. It would appear unexpectedly - for cables would be cut - out of the open ocean. If a strong hostile expedition were to suddenly appear off the coast of Australia, of what use to us, in our extremity, would be a Canadian Navy for local defence purposes, or a South African Navy for “ local defence “ only ?
– The honorable member is assuming that there is no British fleet.
– I am assuming that Great Britain entertained the same mistaken view of the necessities of the naval position as does the honorable member. In that case she would not concern herself about the coast-line of Australia, Canada, or South Africa. She would probably devote herself to training her own population in the arts of war and to maintaining a mosquito fleet for the defence of her own shores.
– I distinctly suggested that there should be co-operation.
– The honorable member desires that the British Navy should keep the command of the seas for us.
– If it can be proved that, while Great Britain cannot for all time maintain command of the seas, (the interests of Great Britain and Australia are not identical in this matter, I could understand the honorable member believing in the necessity for Australia taking ahand in her own defence. But he is of opinion that the mother country can always maintain unassisted the command of the seas, and that that command is vital to us; and, therefore, apparently, he is willing that for all time we should continue to receive her charity. He is prepared to pauperize Australia to that extent! If he does not believe that, surely he should consent to Australia joining with other sections of the Empire in a common scheme of Imperial defence, since he himself admits that control of the seas is vitally necessary to the protection of Australia. I hope that he will not have the temerity to gainsay the whole of the lessons taught by naval experience by suggesting that command of the seas can be assured by fleets which are intended for “ local defence purposes only.”
– I have never said anything so foolish.
– Then the honorable member believes that control of the seas is necessary, and that it can only be assured by seeking out and attacking the enemy wherever he may be found. If the mother country, with her small area, her comparatively small population, and her wealth, which by comparison with that of foreign powers, is yearly growing less and less preponderating, is unable for all time to keep ahead of foreign armaments, her control of the seas, which the honorable member affirms is necessary for the defence of the Commonwealth, cannot be insured. I hope that I have not now misrepresented the honorable member? According to him, the whole matter hinges on the question, not of whether we should bear our fair share of the cost of our own defence, but whether England is for all time going to be in such a position as to enable us to take advantage of her charity. The honorable member is aware that all naval power must rest upon the basis of national prosperity. He will recognise from the discussion which has been proceeding for some time in Great Britain that the great advances in material prosperity which foreign powers are making are such that people of the United Kingdom cannot afford to ignore them. Will he, as a protectionist, deny that?
– Even England is waking up.
– We have, then, now come to recognise that Great Britain will not be able for all time to have that preponderance in the elements of prosperity and national wealth that will enable her always to maintain naval armaments of the requisite strength to preserve that control of the seas which the honorable member believes is essential to the safety of Australia. That being so, I fail to know why my honorable friend should ask for an Australian-owned navy, which cannot insure to us that control, rather than advocate our taking a hand in Imperial Defence.
– The honorable member could not have listened to my speech.
– I listened carefully to it. The honorable member said that an Australianowned navy would augment the fleet power of Great Britain.
– That answers the point which the honorable member has been endeavouring to make.
– The honorable member has a curious conception of what constitutes fleet power ! If he had only studied the A B C of this question, he would know that the ships which act in common to control the seas are heavily-armed and armoured ships, which are called battleships. He would know that cruisers are designed either to serve as the eyes of a fleet or to act independently. And, furthermore, he would know that it is not necessary to add further to the cruiser strength of Great Britain, since she has already made the most generous allowance in that direction of naval effort. Even if he suggested that the proposed Australianowned navy should consist of battle-ships - which alone could add to the true fleet strength of the Empire - the honorable member would have to take a step further.
– This is too funny ; I must leave.
– As there will be no further opportunity of ascertaining what the honorable member meant to say, and what he thought he meant by what he did say, inasmuch as he has left the Chamber, I shall not detain the House much longer. The point I wish to make against the suggestion that an Australianowned navy would be able to act to the greatest advantage elsewhere in cooperation with the British Navy is that one of the essentials to the success of naval effort is homogeneity in construction, material, and efficiency. In dealing with the question of construction alone, for I have already dealt with the questions of discipline and efficiency, I should like to take the case of the commander of a fleet who in war time is faced with the problem of handling the units composing that fleet to the Lest possible advantage. If each of those units were designed on a different basis, and had offensive power of different strengths, it is clear that the work set that commander would be infinitely greater than it need necessarily be. I will give one example of what I mean.’ There is a class of ship in the French Navy, the disposition of whose primary armament is described as lozenge-shaped. Each of these ships can fire three big guns either directly ahead, directly aft, or on each beam. There is one gun on each beam, fixed in such a way as to enable it to bear fore and aft over 180 degrees. There are also two guns, one fore and one aft, so that these ships can train three guns either fore or aft, or on each beam. British battleships, however, can train four to each broadside, two forward and two aft. It is obvious from this that if a commander of a British fleet could manage to so arrange his vessels that they would present four guns to a broadside of three guns from the enemy, he would possess a great advantage over the foreign commander. That must be clear. Now, if. instead of having all his battleships homogeneous in general arrangement, he had some that could train only two guns, some that could train four, and others that could train only three, it is clear that the mathematical problem which he had to solve - perhaps on the instant - would be infinitely greater than it need have been. For that reason alone, to make, having regard to the frequency with which England has been attacked, not only by two Powers, but at times by a combination of almost every Power in Europe. It would not be by any means a new tiling for England to be attacked by a combination of Powers, and without in any way following my honorable friend into the realms of international politics, I humbly suggest that, perhaps, the lessons of history, and the opinions of the responsible authorities of the mother country, are as well worthy of consideration as are the views which he has expressed. He informed the House that our contribution of £200,000 per annumwas a sufficient recognition of our obligations to the Imperial Navy. The motion which I have submitted provides for the doubling of our present contribution, but it has already been explained that I inserted that provision solely with the desire to direct attention to a question that might otherwise have been regarded as merely an academic one. I do not press that part of my motion ; but wish, as far as possible, to give the House an opportunity to arrive at the opinion that the only possible defence of Australia against invasion is a naval defence in common with other parts of the Empire. And, if the House comes to that conclusion, it will realize that every penny spent on a sea-going navy “ for local purposes only “ is a penny wasted. I am referring, not to coastal defence, or to its necessary complementary parts, but to that naval defence of which Captain Creswell has, so far, proved an unconvincing advocate. As regards the suggestion that the annual contribution of £200,000 is an adequate return for the services rendered to us by the Imperial Navy, I believe, from inquiries - although I cannot vouch for the figures - that the Imperial squadron on the Australian station at the present time spends in one part of Australia alone about £350,000 per annum.
– In Sydney?
– That is so. Surely Sydney is still a part of Australia? This being so, the British Navy spends almost double as much in Australia as we contribute to its maintenance.
– What contribution does Canada make to the British Navy?
– Canada is in a different position, being safeguarded from invasion by the Monroe doctrine. If she were invaded, there would be 80,000,000 people across the border ready to defend her. Canada is thus singularly secure from foreign aggression. I originated this proposal, not because I wished to lighten the burden ‘ on the Imperial taxpayer, but because I believe that it is essential that Australia should begin to recognise her obligations to herself in the matter of defence. I hope that in the discussion to come, honorable members will divorce from their minds any sort of prejudice, and will deal with my motion from the Australian stand-point alone. I believe that to pass it, and to inculcate into the minds of the Australian people the ideal which it embodies, will advance the true interests of this Commonwealth.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Hume Cook) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 4th October (vide page 3182), on motion by Mr. Austin Chapman -
That this House accepts the Agreement, made and entered into on the 25th day of April, 1905, between the Postmaster-General, in and for the Commonwealth, of the first part; the Orient Steam Navigation Company Limited, of the second part ; and the Law Guarantee and Trust Society, of the third part, for the carriage of mails between Naples and Adelaide, and other ports -
Upon which Mr. R. Edwards had moved by way of amendment -
That all the words after the word “ That.” up to and inclusive of the word “ Adelaide,” be omitted with a view to the insertion of the following words in place thereof : - “ in the opinion of this House the contract entered into with the Orient Company for Mail Service between Australia and Great Britain should be referred back to the Government for further consideration, with the object of including Brisbane as a port of call.”
– The contract which we are asked to ratify is a most important one, and requires very careful consideration, since it affects the interests of the whole of the people of Australia, though, as I think I shall show, it does not do justice to those interests, and is particularly unjust to the State of Queensland. The Postmaster-General stated last night that, in his opinion, it is necessary to subsidize a shipping company for the carriage of our oversea mails, so that they may be transmitted with regularity and despatch, and we may be certain that they will be delivered at, or taken from particular places at particular times.
But, in the same speech, he admitted that we are being asked to provide ,£120,000 as a subsidy for a. service which is not more speedy, certain, or, on the whole, better, than could be obtained for £80.000 Jess. Surely Parliament is not justified in ratifying a contract for the performance of a service which could be equally well -done for £80.000 less than we shall have to pay under this agreement.
– The late PostmasterGeneral has not said a word on the subject yet.
– Although six representatives of the State of Queensland have spoken against the ratification of the contract, none of the members of the late Ministry - who were responsible for it - have yet thought it worth while to reply to their statements.
– The objection of Queensland members is that the contract does not require the steamers of the Orient Steam Navigation Company to proceed to Brisbane.
– Our grievance is that the honorable member could have inserted such a requirement in the contract, or objected to make any contract which did not include it.
– When the Watson Administration called for tenders for a service extending as far as Queensland, they got no replies.
– That Administration would not have seriously considered the agreement which the House is now ‘being asked) to ratify. We asked for tenders for the conveyance of mails between Europe and Adelaide by steamers which should call at Colombo and Fremantle, which is the mail service provided for under the present agreement. But the! honorable member for Macquarie stipulated, in addition, that, after the mails had been delivered at Adelaide, the steamers of the company should proceed to Melbourne, and then to Svdney, calling again at Melbourne before putting in at Adelaide to take on board the mails for England-. Therefore, what we are now asked to ratify is a contract, not only for the carriage of mails, but for a line of freight steamers to visit certain ports of Australia. The present Postmaster-General tells us that we are not paying anything extra, because the steamers of the Orient Steam Navigation Company come on from Adelaide to
Sydney. That may, or mav not, be so, but, in any case, Brisbane had the same claim to consideration as had Melbourne and Sydney, and an injustice was done to Queensland by. the action of the late Postmaster-General in not requiring the steamers of the company to come on to that port.
– The late Postmaster-General does not represent a Queensland constituency; that is why hd did not make that stipulation.
– I well remember the outcry made by the commercial men of Melbourne and Sydney against the poundage system which was in force after the last mail contract expired, although that system provided a better service than that which we are now obtaining. At that time, however, according to the evidence given by the Secretary to the Department, when under examination by a Committee of this House, appointed to investigate shipping matters, the Orient Steam Navigation Company put every obstacle in the way of the Department, and it was only because the law compelled them to do certain things that the Government were able to get the mails away by their ‘ steamers. The late Postmaster-General on several occasions informed the press that his foresight had enabled him to prevent the company from getting the better of the Department. The company would not give him notice of the times at which its vessels would leave, and only his prescience enabled him to prevent it from doing great injustice to a country which has treated it exceedingly well. Notwithstanding all this, he took the first opportunity he got to do the company a good turn at the expense of the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Maranoa suggests that if the honorable member for Macquarie had represented a Queensland constituency, no contract would have been concluded which did not make Brisbane a port of call. The late Prime Minister, when he formed the Reid-McLean Administration, stated that it was his ambition to bring together the two big States of the Commonwealth, and to himself represent the interests of the smaller States. I am sorry that he did neither the one thing nor the other. His Government certainly did not act in the interests of Queensland in the matter of this mail contract. Throughout the correspondence there are numerous peremptory demands that accommodation shall be provided on the company’s vessels for the carriage of perishable produce, and effect is given to them in the clauses of the contract.
– For the benefit of the people of Victoria and New South Wales.
– I do not object to such requirements ; but they are of no advantage to the people of Queensland. That State was quite overlooked, although its export of perishable products is very great. Section 8 of the contract stipulates that the mail ships to be regularly employed in the service shall be provided with insulated spaces and refrigerating machinery for the carriage of perishable products, but in the event of any steamer being lost or withdrawn owing to accident or necessity for repairs, the contractors shall be at liberty to avail themselves of steamers not so fitted, i am entirely in favour of provision of that kind being made, but not in connexion with a mail contract. Ten years ago the Queensland Government dealt separately with the question of providing space for the carriage of perishable products and the mail contracts. The two matters were kept entirely apart, and that is what should have been done in this case. The stipulation to which I have referred in the contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company shows conclusively that the arrangement entered into is not for a mail contract pure and simple, and therefore, it appears to me, that the contention of the PostmasterGeneral that the Queensland contract should not be taken over because it is of a purely commercial character falls to the ground. The Commonwealth contract is no better than an arrangement for a compound service - for the carriage of mails and cargo - and therefore, if only for that reason, we have good ground for our claim on behalf of Queensland.’ The proposition contained in the amendment is an eminently fair one. The Orient Steam Navigation Company, in their correspondence with the late PostmasterGeneral, pointed out most distinctly that Sydney was not to be fixed upon as the terminus of the mail service. The PostmasterGeneral last night gave his predecessor great credit for having eliminated from the contract the stipulation that Sydney should be the terminal port. But a reference to the correspondence shows that the Orient Steam Navigation Company were playing a double game, and that they, and not the Minister, insisted upon all reference to Sydney as the final port being excised from the conditions. On the 22nd March the manager of the Orient Steam Naviga tion Company wrote to the late Prime Minister in these terms -
It is further understood that the contractors are not bound to make Sydney the terminal port for their mail steamers, although they must call there both on their outward and homeward voyages.
– That was some time after the negotiations had been entered into.
– Then how did it come about that in a subsequent letter, dated 28th March, Mr. Anderson, the manager of the Orient Steam Navigation Company, wrote -
To -avoid any misunderstanding, I take this opportunity of restating (though I believe it to be sufficiently expressed in the tender) that the contractors are not bound . to make Sydney the terminal port for their mail steamers, although they must call there both on their outward and homeward voyages.
The explanation for this insistence on the part of the company is to) be found in the fact that at that very time they were in negotiation with the Queensland Government for an extension of their service to Brisbane and the payment of an additional subsidy. I give the manager of the Orient Steam Navigation Company full credit for his plausibility at one time and his bounce at another, just as the occasion seemed to require. The ex-Postmaster-General said that the Orient Steam Navigation Company would not on any consideration extend their service to Brisbane until they had secured another steamer, but I suppose that he will now admit that the company were at that time actually negotiating with the Queensland Government.
– I was not aware of it. Does the honorable member know the date at which negotiations were opened between the Queensland Government and the Orient Steam Navigation Company?
– No, I do not; but, singularly enough, on 22nd March, 1905, the very’ date on which the Orient Steam Navigation Company intimated that they would not accept Sydney as the terminal “port, the Prime Minister received a letter from the Premier of Queensland indicating that negotiations were being carried on with the Orient Steam Navigation Company, pointing out that the Queensland Government were prepared to afford certain assistance, and asking for the cooperation of the other States in making satisfactory terms.
– Were the Queensland Government in communication, with the Orient Steam Navigation Company at that time?
– I am not in a position to say.
– The honorable member inferred that they were.
– At all events, they were at that time ready to enter into an arrangement with the company. I have been furnished with a copy of a confidential letter addressed by the Premier of Queensland to the Prime Minister, and I think it should be published. It is dated 22nd March, 1905, and reads as follows: -
Understanding that negotiations are still proceeding between your Government and the Orient Pacific Company, with the object of securing a fortnightly mail service between the United Kingdom and Australia, and that the company is asking a higher price for that service than your Government is willing to give, I have the honour to inform you, in the hope that the knowledge may contribute to the success of your negotiations, that the Queensland Government is communicating with the company, with a view of ascertaining, should your efforts be successful, on what terms it would be prepared to extend the service to Brisbane, and is disposed, in return for such extension, to supplement liberally the Commonwealth subsidy, should certain freight conditions be agreed to by the company.
– The letter says that the Queensland Government “ is communicating.”
– I said that I was not’ in a position to say that the Queensland Government had actually entered into negotiations with the Orient Steam Navigation Company at that time, but the clear inference from the letter is that they had communicated with them.
– There is also the further inference that the Queensland Government were willing to pay for the extended service.
– That is a very brilliant suggestion. Of course, the Queensland Government were willing and anxious to pay their ‘share.
– And they now wish the Commonwealth to assume the burden of the contract they have made.
– The letter proceeds-
I have no reason to doubt that the Governments of New South Wales and Victoria would be willing to take similar action, and thus assist you to make satisfactory arrangements with the Orient Pacific Company.
Queenslanders have great faith in New South Wales and Victoria. The Premier of Queensland thought that the other States would be willing to arrange for the carnage of perishable products, as well as foi the carriage of mails, and that they would be prepared to bear a reasonable share of the cost. In the face of the offer of assistance from Queensland, the Commonwealth Government entered into a contract from which all reference to Brisbane a? a port of call was excluded. Then the Queensland Government had no .recourse but to negotiate direct with the Orient Steam Navigation Company. The statements contained in the letter I have just read are not in -coord with the assertions of the Postmaster-General, that the Queensland Government did not consult the Commonwealth Government. The similarity between the statements made by the PostmasterGeneral and the minutes of his predecessor is noteworthy. Their ideas are similar, and their language is almost identical, and one can only account for this remarkable resemblance by the fact that great minds run in the same groove. It is quite evident that the Premier of Queensland was under the impression that the Commonwealth Government would see their way to paying a portion of the subsidy paid by that State.
– I think the honorable member will admit that a letter which was marked “strictly confidential” could not be included in the correspondence.
– I take no exception to the absence of that letter from the correspondence.
– Both the Prime Minister- and myself acted upon that letter.
– I differ from the exPostmasterGeneral upon that point. ..
– It is well known that we put that view before the Orient Steam Navigation Company.
– There was no special virtue in the action of the late PostmasterGeneral in asking the company whether it intended to send its vessels as far as Queensland.
– Did the honorable member expect us to disarrange the whole of the mail service to enable the people of Queensland to have their goods forwarded by mail steamer ? They can get their mails delivered quicker by train than by steamer.
– I do not wish to disarrange anything. I am merely pointing out that the late Postmaster-General entered into a contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company, which will cost £80,000 more than would the poundage system, despite the fact that no additional benefit will be secured. Further, he agreed that it should not be merely a mail contract, but a contract for the carriage of perishable products, and that, although the mail service would end at Adelaide, the company should be bound to send their ships to Melbourne and Sydney.
– The company itself proposed that.
– Will the honorable member show me where that statement is to be found?
– It is to be found upon page 4 of the papers relating to the contract.
– I maintain that a contract must stand or fall by the language that is employed in. it. The terms of the present agreement expressly stipulate that the steamers must carry mail matter between Sydney and London. Consequently I affirm that it is a contract for the carriage of mails and perishable produce to and from Sydney. I have already pointed out that in my own State ten years ago we separated the subsidy for the carriage of perishable produce from the amount which was paid for the carriage of mails, That, I contend, is the right course to adopt. The contention of the Postmaster-General falls to the ground, because the present contract provides for the payment of a produce subsidy to the Orient Steam Navigation Company. It is a compound contract. That being so, I ask honorable members to consider whether, for the purpose of enabling the steamers to call at Brisbane, the Government should not be called upon to bear the same cost per mile that is incurred in bringing mails from London to Sydney. Anything less will be a gross injustice to Queensland.
– -Has the honorable member considered the Vancouver service?
– Yes. I am aware that much has been made of that service. But I would point out that I seriously disagreed with the action of a recent Government in increasing the subsidy payable for that service - a subsidy which fell upon New South Wales and Queensland only. That was a very extraordinary proceeding, and one for which I can find no justification. But surely, when a new contract is being entered into, it should be placed upon the same basis as that which governs other mail contracts throughout the Commonwealth. I do not admit that Queensland derives more benefit from the Vancouver service than does Sydney. Why should Sydney be the terminal point of that service, as well as of the English mail service?
– I think that Melbourne should be the terminal port of the Vancouver service.
– I would support a proposal of that character. Honorable members should recollect that Queensland, which is increasing her output of perishable products very rapidly, has experienced the greatest difficulty in getting her produce carried to the markets of the world without transhipment. Now, under Federation, at the very moment when her people ought to be assisted, they are denied reasonable consideration and ordinary justice. Does any one suggest that if the steamers of the Orient Steam Navigation Company were willing to make Brisbane a port of call for an additional £10,000 a year, any Government should refuse to entertain their offer? Upon the basis of the amount per mile paid for the carriage of our English mails, it would cost less than £10,000 to extend the service to Brisbane.
– It would cost only
– Under the existing contract, the price paid for the carriage of our mails is 3s. 8d. per mile. Surely the Commonwealth should reimburse Queensland to the extent of paying that amount upon the mileage between Sydney and Brisbane. The Postmaster-General, in his speech, said that the Government could not entertain the proposal to undertake the liability which had been incurred by the Queensland authorities, to pay £26,000 per annum, or any portion of it, to the Orient Steam Navigation Company. I take exception to the latter part of his statement. Whilst strong arguments may be urged against the payment of the whole amount, there is no justification for the Commonwealth declining to contribute “ any portion of it.”
– Why not submit an amendment affirming that Queensland should be reimbursed upon the mileage rate?
– I have to present my case before I can ascertain how honorable members regard it. Here is a legitimate opportunity to exhibit a truly Federal spiritwithout injuring any of the States.
– Would the Federal spirit allow Hobart to be made a port of call ?
– Certainly, if that were desired. Why should we confine a service of this kind to one part of the Commonwealth ? Surely it should be extended wherever it will benefit the people. I can scarcely believe it to be the desire of the honorable member for Coolgardie that one part of the Commonwealth should be boomed at the expense of the rest.
– Hear, hear.
– There is another aspect of the question which’ is purely a. Queensland one, and is certainly serious from the point of view of that State. Although Brisbane is situated in the southern part of Queensland, it is the capital city, and must suffer by reason of its not being made a port of call for mail steamers. When we go abroad, we find that the people have but little knowledge of places that are not visited by the mail steamers, and so long as the great shipping lines make Sydney their Australian terminus, Sydney and Melbourne are likely to be considered the only two great cities of Australia. It will, therefore, be recognised that the value of the commercial standing secured in this way, in the eyes of the rest of the world, may be greater than is the direct value of the service. I think that honorable members will agree with me that the very fact that the Orient Steam Navigation Company, under the contract with the Government of Queensland, are now sending their vessels on to Brisbane, will have a good effect in advertising that city. But if it be provided in the contract now before us that the vessels of the company shall go as mail steamers only as far as Sydney, when, as a matter of fact, they will be bound under the new contract to go on to Brisbane, a gross injustice will be done to that port. They cannot go on to Brisbane as mail steamers unless a re-adjustment takes place, and a re-adjustment might certainly be made on the moderate lines that I have suggested. The minimum demand that I make is that the vessels of the service shall be sent on to Brisbane as mail steamers on the payment of the mileage rate. I am glad to find that honorable members on both’ sides of the House are taking a fair view of this phase of the question. I was also pleased to hear the ex-Prime Minister interject in the course of the speech made by the honorable member for Maranoa that he was prepared to support the payment by the Commonwealth of half the subsidy now being given to the Orient Steam Navigation Company by the Queensland Government. All that I now ask is that something less than half the subsidy shall be paid by the Commonwealth. I am simply seeking the recognition of the principle that the mail steamers shall go as such to Brisbane. I would remind the House that if this contract be ratified it must remain in force for three years. No matter what progress may be made in the meantime by Queensland - even if its population by some extraordinary occurrence be doubled, and Brisbane becomes one of the best ports in the Common wealth - the mail service under this contract will terminate for all practical purposes at Sydney. Surely the House is not prepared to consent to such a gross injustice being done to Queensland. If the contract could be terminated at once, and a fresh attempt made to secure an adequate service, I believe that better conditions would be secured. I am inclined to think that the new venture on the part of Queensland has arisen largely from something that has taken place in Victoria, which I do not intend to discuss in this House. Having lost their usual freights of butter and like commodities in the south, the directors of the Orient Steam Navigation Company sought new fields, with the result that Queensland has secured the new service. It is but another illustration of the old adage that it is an ill wind that blows no one good. It was said at first that Brisbane could not be included as a port of call without another steamer being added to the service. The next objection taken to the proposal was that it would be unsafe for the steamers of the company to go there ; but they are now calling at Brisbane, and; notwithstanding that no addition has been made to the fleet, the new arrangement is working satisfactorily. I hope that the Prime Minister will at least do that which I have suggested. When we find the late Prime Minister prepared, now that the vessels of the company are being sent on to Brisbane, to agree to the Commonwealth paying half of the Queensland subsidy, I think that the Government should hardly object- to the carrying out of that proposition. We shall hear, no doubt, that constitutional difficulties stand in the way. I have been assured, by constitutional authorities in the State of which I am a representative, that the contract now before us is absolutely unconstitutional, so that I shall be pardoned if I decline, when such eminent authorities differ, to deal with this phase of the ques- tion. I prefer to view the matter from a common-sense point of view, and am attempting to so deal with it. To my mind, the ex- Postmaster-General did not distinguish himself, in his negotiations with the company, so much as he did in the general administration of his Department. I have read, with a great deal of interest, the minute in which he sets out how he arranged the contract; but I do not altogether approve of his suggestion that he is entitled to credit for having succeeded in inducing the company to accept a subsidy of £120,000, instead of £150,000, as first demanded. The incident reminds me very much of the position of those who stand round a Dutch auctioneer, and refuse to open their mouths until he reduces his price. Does the honorable member contend that the demand for a subsidy of j£i 50.000 was a reasonable one, and, at the same time, that he should te given credit for having secured a reduction?
– I merely mentioned the fact.
– The minute sets out-
As a result of a conference between Mr. Anderson and myself, it was arranged (on the understanding that in any contract entered into, the Commonwealth Government would agree to pay a subsidy of ^120,000 per annum, or ^30,000 per annum less than was originally asked for).
– I simply mentioned in the minute what was a fact, and did not seek to take credit for having induced tlie company to take less than they at first demanded.
– No doubt the honorable member convinced Mr. Anderson that it was necessary for him to offer to accept a lower subsidy.
– We did not agree, and I think the honorable member will admit that on several occasions I spoke out strongly.
– I do not wish to go into the details.
– The Watson Government took a hand in the matter.
– Unfortunately, we never met Mr. Anderson.
– I think that the honorable member for Bland, when Prime Minister, met him more than once.
– I shall refer later on to an interview which the honorable member, for Bland, when Prime Minister, had with Mr. Anderson, in reference to the mail contract. In the meantime, I wish to show that the honorable member for Macquarie on one occasion became peremptory in his dealings with Mr. Anderson, and that such tactics were not successful. I refer to the occasion when he said that any offer that was to be made must be addressed to him, and must be made at once. There might have been some justification for the adoption of that course-
– I had some reasons, and they were very good ones.
– But Mr. Anderson also had good reasons for the position which he took up. At the time in question, a demand was being made in commercial circles, and also in the leading newspapers, for the immediate signing of the contract. Stirring newspaper articles were published, and meetings of the Chambers of Commerce were held to advocate the signing of the contract, while various prominent citizens were interviewed on the subject by press representatives. The Orient Steam Navigation Company and the shipping combine were behind that movement. Mr. Anderson knew that the agreement would have to be signed, and as soon as he had satisfied himself that he was on safe ground, he took up a firm attitude, and declared that the Government must make the first proposal. If the late Government had had any backbone whatever, they would have said, “ We have nothing further to communicate to the Orient Steam Navigation Company. “
– It is a wonder that the Watson Government did not take up tha? attitude when the demand for a subsidy of ,£150,000 was made.
– We never had a chance to do anything of the kind. If we had had an opportunity, to deal with the contract, we should have taken a very different course from that now being pursued.
– The honorable ‘ member and his fellow representatives of Queensland have an opportunity to take action at the present time.
– The honorable member is aware that with the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition in agreement, it is absolutely impossible for us to achieve our object. The contract may be handled in any way that the Prime Minister desires.
– We simply saythat it was the best bargain we could make.
– I believe that the late Government honestly considered that they were making a good bargain. I have no desire to labour the question, but there is another phase of it which I wish to discuss. Statements have repeatedly been made - more particularly in country dis.tricts, where the people are not so well informed as are those living in the metropolis - that the reason an increased subsidy was demanded by the Orient Steam Navigation Company was that it is necessary for them under the Postal Act to employ only white crews. In reply to this statement, I would point out that in the course of an interview with the honorable member for Bland, who was then Prime Minister, Mr. Anderson, the manager of the Company, assured him that that legislation had nothing whatever to do with the demand for an increased subsidy. I mention that statement, because I have further confirmation of it. Mr. F. Green, chairman of the board of directors, referring te the mail contract, at a meeting of the company on the 29th April last, said : -
A fresh contract had been concluded for the carriage of the mails between this country and Australia. In conjunction with the Pacific Company, they tendered to the Australian Commonwealth for a fortnightly service, in accordance with the conditions asked for by that Government, for the sum of ,£150,000 per annum. After protracted negotiations a contract,- subject to ratification by the Australian Commonwealth, had been signed for ,£120,000 per annum, for a period terminating on January 31, 1908, the date at which the present contract between the British Post Office and the Peninsular and Oriental Company would expire. This price gave them a rate of 3s. 8d. per mile, as- against 4s. 9d., 5s. sd., and 8s. 3d. paid to the three other companies, one English and two foreign, carrying the mails to and from Australia. The price of ^150,000 mentioned in their tender worked out at 4s. 7d. per mile, but as the period of the contract was for a short time, and as there were decided signs of improvement in the trade, they thought that they might reasonably accept this price. They would now have an opportunity of giving this costly business of carrying the mails a further trial on somewhat better conditions, but they would hesitate to continue the service after the expiry of the present contract, unless ‘ they felt assure’d, either by an increased subsidy or by a more satisfactory state of the Australian trade, that they would not be doing anything to jeopardise the present sound position of the company’s affairs. One of the obligations imposed upon them by the new contract was that they were to carry only white crews, but they would part with their Lascars with regret, for the latter were efficient firemen, and were more fitted for work in the tropics than were white men. The idea that they had aske”d for an increased subsidy owing to this obligation was erroneous. There was very little difference in the cost of employing white or black crews ; more black men - more Lascars - had to be- employed, as they were not so strong as white men, and the increased number about compensated .for the higher pay given to white crews..: . ,<”
On page 17 of the correspondence it isstated in a minute written by the exPostmasterGeneral that -
The contract entered into applies not only toCommon wealth mails, but covers all mails, ‘irrespective of the country of origin or destination. Provision has also been included in the contract for insulated spaces and refrigerating machinery for the carriage of perishable products.
Both the Postmaster-General and the exPostmaster General justify the contract: partly on the ground that it makes provision for the carriage of perishable produce, although they term it a mail contract, pure and simple. Why was the contract: of Scott, Fell, and Company not entertained by the late Government? Because,, as appears from the correspondence, they were of opinion that, while mails might be transhipped at Colombo or Bombay, therewould be a serious difficulty in the way of transhipping perishable produce. It hasbeen stated that Queensland receives benefits from the Vancouver mail service which, other States do not enjoy. I am not prepared to admit that Queensland is specially benefited by that service, but. even if she were, that would not affect her claim tohave the English mail steamers brought to Brisbane. No doubt the honorable member for Macquarie did his best, within certain limits, to induce the Orient Steam Navigation Company to send their steamers .to Brisbane. My chief complaint against him is that he concluded the contract when there was no urgency for it, and placed in it a provision which is a serious reflection on the chief port, of Queensland, and does great injustice to .that State. I regret that action will have to be taken on the part of the representatives of Queensland to protest against the arrangement by voting against the ratification of the contract, because I admit at once that, as it has been entered into by the Government, we cannot throw it on one side, and say to the company, “ We no longer require your services. “ That would not be a practicable way of transacting the business of the country. While it is necessary that these large contracts should be laid before Parliament for ratification, it will be an evil day for theCommonwealth when grave uncertainty is: allowed to exist as to the acceptance by Parliament of deliberate agreements madeby the Government, especially in regard’ to a large service like the carriage of our mails. At. the same time, I hope thatQueensland will not have to suffer injustice for the period of three years for which the contract is to have force, but ‘that the understanding will be come to, in a reasonable and proper way, that the matter is not to end with the wording of the contract. I have one word more to say in regard to a matter of general policy. I am convinced that .there is a shipping combine, which holds this Government and the shippers of the Commonwealth in the hollow of its hand, and honorable members, whether they do or do not believe in socialistic enterprise as a general thing, will agree with me that, whenever a great trust or combination is getting more than its due, the representatives of the people must see that the public is not fleeced. It is the duty of the Governments of the Commonwealth and the States to see that our producers are provided with means to send their produce to the markets of the world in the cheapest and best way possible, and I trust that, sooner or later, if the present state of affairs continues, the Commonwealth Government will institute a shipping service between Australia and Great Britain and other countries.
– I wish to say a few words by way of personal explanation. Yesterday afternoon I stated that the expense of conveying mails by rail from Adelaide to Brisbane is borne by the Orient Steam Navigation Company, and that the expense of conveying mails from Brisbane to Adelaide, which amounts to about £1,000 per annum, is borne by the Queensland Government. The PostmasterGeneral disputed my statement, and I can now give honorable members the exact figures. During the twelve months preceding the 30th June, 1905, the Queensland Government paid ,£289 os. 7d. to New South Wales, £267 6s. 4d. to Victoria, and £271 5s. 2d. to South Australia, or ,£827 T2S. id. altogether, for the transit from Wallangarra to Adelaide of mails addressed to places beyond the Commonwealth. To that must be added the cost of conveyance from Brisbane to Wallangarra, Which” “would bring the total cost to Queensland to about ,£1,000. The transport from Adelaide to Brisbane of correspondence originating outside the Commonwealth is paid for by the country of origin.
– I suppose the honorable member knows that Victoria and New South Wales pay even larger sums?
– I am not aware. I know only what Queensland pays.
– I had not an opportunity to hear the speeches of the Postmaster-General -and of other honorable gentlemen who have addressed themselves to this subject ; but, great though that misfortune may be, perusal of all the papers placed upon the table in connexion with this mail contract should enable one to come to a fairly sound conclusion respecting the merits of the agreement which we are asked to ratify. As one of the public, I watched very closely and with considerable interest the negotiations between the late Government and the Orient Steam Navigation Company, and every one who remembers the circumstances in which they were placed must admit that the position of the then PostmasterGeneral was one of considerable difficulty. In the first place, tenders had not been called sufficiently far in advance to allow of other companies competing, and, as the honorable member for Wide Bayhas said, Australia is, in this matter, the victim of a shipping ring, a state of affairs for which the late Government and the late Postmaster-General were not responsible. I believe that they did all that any Ministry could have done to secure for Australia the best terms obtainable under the conditions which this Parliament, in its wisdom, has laid down respecting the employment of white labour on mail steamers, and the provision of cold storage for perishable products. In regard to the latter, I agree with the last speaker and others who have expressed regret that the providing of cold storage has been made an article in the mail contract, and when the matter was under the consideration of the Watson Administration I expressed the opinion that the Post Office is concerned only with the proper conveyance of mails,and should not be asked to take under its control any other service, or, at any rate, should not be required to bear the cost of any such service. Circumstances were te. strong for that Ministry, however, as they had been too strong for their predecessors, and the present Government and Parliament now finds itself without any option but to accept the contract which has been agreed to.
– It is a rotten state of affairs, if that be so.
– The position of affairs is unfortunately as I have stated. I ask the honorable member what else he thinks we can do?
– Should we collapse if we did not ratify the contract?
– I do not suppose that we should altogether collapse, but general paralysis would be caused to the large arid important business concerns of the country if the English mail service were interrupted- I heard an interjection from one honorable member with reference to the poundage system, but any one who has considered the subject even superficially must recognise the adoption of such a system to be absolutely futile. We should not be able to rely upon the date of the departure of the steamers carrying the mails, nor should we have any assurance that they would reach the terminal port within a reasonable time.
– It is singular that the mail service has not been accelerated.
– That is a matter in whicli the late Government did not accomplish what the public expected’, but the great trouble was that they had no competitor to play off against the Orient Steam Navigation Company. If any other reasonable offer had been received the Government would have been in a position to secure far greater concessions, and to confer far greater benefits upon the people of Australia. According to my examination of the subject, the poundage system is impracticable, in view of our requirements in the shape of speedy communication.
– The mail service is maintained for the benefit of a few commercial men only.
– This country is committed to the policy of carrying on a mail service for the benefit of the great commercial houses and the trading community generally. I do not approve of present conditions, because I think that those who derive the greatest benefit from the service should bear the largest share of the expense. We have, however, been committed to a certain policy from the beginning, and we are not in the position to resort to heroic remedies at this stage. The fact that the Government had no competitor to play off against the Orient Steam Navigation Company accounts for the failure to secure an accelerated mail service, and also for our having to pay considerably more by way of subsidy than was ever granted before. Having said so much, I should like to touch upon one of the points brought forward by the representatives of Queensland. The very fantastic proposition that has been submitted on behalf of that State has been supported with a naivete which speaks volumes for the ingenuity and general accomplishments of its representatives. To my mind, however, their proposal is one of the most audacious ever submitted to this House. It is proposed that the contract entered into with the Orient Steam Navigation Company should be referred back to the Government for further consideration, with the object of including Brisbane as a port of call. I presume that the intention of the honorable member who moved the amendment is that the Commonwealth should pay the ,£26,000, contracted to be paid by the Queensland Government for the extension of the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s service to Brisbane.
– A very reasonable demand, too.
– The impression made or the mind of the honorable member is not conveyed by the amendment.
– That is what it implies, and) my impression is confirmed by the interjection of the honorable member for Oxley, from whom T respectfully differ. He so seldom advances any_ proposals that are not reasonable that I was at first disposed to regard his amendment as one for which a good deal might be said1; but, having taken all the surrounding circumstances into account, I have formed the opinion that it shows considerable audacity on the part of those who have brought it forward. The main contention of the honorable member for Oxley and those who are supporting him is that the mail contract entered into between the .Commonwealth and the Orient Steam Navigation Company provides for the carriage of the mails from some Mediterranean port to Sydney. I would point out, however, that from the first day upon which tenders were invited, it was intended that a contract should be entered into for the carriage of mails between Adelaide and Naples, or Brindisi.
– What is the use of saying that, when section 4 of the contract provides that the mails must be carried to Sydney ?
– The honorable member belonged to a Government which deliberately invited tenders for a mail service from Naples to Adelaide, not to Sydney, and I shall read the paragraph from the advertisement agreed to by the Watson
Ministry. Tenders were called for an alternative service -
Between Adelaide and Naples, Brindisi or other suitable port in the Mediterranean, v:a the Suez Canal, fortnightly each way, calling at Fremantle, and at such other ports as may be mutually agreed upon.
Tenderers are Invited to state the additional sum, if any, required to proceed further (1) to Melbourne, (2) to Sydney, (3) to Pinkenba in the Port of Brisbane, and (4) to all or any of these ports.
– That is quite right.
– The advertisement containing the conditions of tender was dated 7th July, 1904. The Orient Steam Navigation Company, in a letter undated, offered, in accordance with that advertisement, to carry on a mail service for £150,000, and expressed their willingness, without mentioning anything as to extra remuneration, to extend the service as far as Melbourne. Now, if the representatives of Queensland had taken up the .position that a service from Naples to Adelaide would have cost only ,£100,000, and that the extension of the service from! Adelaide to Melbourne and Sydney had involved an extra cost of £20,000 per annum, I could1 have understood it. I think the Government made a mistake in stipulating that the mail steamers should go as far as Sydney, but that is beside the point. If the Queensland representatives had been able to show that the extension of the service beyond Adelaide had been secured only at considerable additional cost, they might with some reason, have urged that the Commonwealth should bear the cost of the further extension from Sydney to Brisbane. The Orient Steam Navigation Company, however, expressed their readiness to carry the mails from Naples to Adelaide, but represented that in the course of trade their ships would proceed to Sydney, and that they would be willing to carry parcels and other mail matter on to the terminal port for a lump sum of -£i 20,000. If their vessels had been required to stop at Adelaide, they would not have reduced their price. Therefore, in effect, the Government are paying £120,000 per annum for the transmission of mails between Naples and Adelaide, and not between Naples and Sydney, and the inclusion of Melbourne and Sydney in the contract, as suggested by the Orient Steam Navigation Company, was mistakenly agreed to by the Government. That being the position, I can hardly see how the representatives of Queensland can expect the Commonwealth to pay the Orient Steam Navigation Company for extending its service, not from Adelaide, where the mail contract ends, but from another port to which the company’s vessels proceed merely for the purposes of trade.
– The contract distinctly specifies that the steamers shall go on to Sydney.
– I am quite aware of that, but the Orient Steam Navigation Company volunteered to send their steamers on to Sydney. That was not one of the requirements stipulated for bv the Federal Government. The Queensland claim is that we should pay the cost of sending the steamers on to Brisbane from a port to which the mail vessels do not proceed for the purpose of carrying the mails.
– Why is any stipulation made in the contract for the provision of refrigerated: space?
– That should not have been included in the contract, but I do not see why the people of Queensland should not avail themselves of the provision made in that regard. Why should they not send their goods down for shipment from Sydney?
– Because the double handling, of the goods would preclude any such course being adopted.
– If that be so, what benefit will the extension of the service to Brisbane confer on the greater number of the people of Queensland? Brisbane is in the extreme southern portion of the State, and the whole of the residents north of Maryborough will be no better off than they were before.
– Brisbane is in railway communication with portions of the country upon which two-thirds of the population are settled.
– But not two-thirds of the taxation.
– And will not that involve a double handling? Honorable members appear to me to have overlooked the fact that the mail service practically ends at Adelaide.
– That is not so.
– That was the original intention, and the Orient Steam Navigation Company would not have charged any less, but, on the contrary, would probably have demanded more, if their steamers had been stopped at Adelaide. They went on to Sydney of their own accord, and because the passenger and the traffic paid them to do so.
– They stated that they would accept a smaller subsidy if they were not required to provide cool storage.
– That is not a fact.
– We have heard something from representatives of Queensland with regard to a refund of the mileage charges on mail matter now paid by the Queensland Government. One honorable member stated the amount at about ,£1,000 per annum, whilst another estimated it at £5,720 per annum. Seeing that they cannot agree amongst themselves, I think that this House may well doubt .whether either party is right. I should be quite prepared to support an amendment to the agreement, under which the condition as to the mail steamers going on to Melbourne and Sydney should be eliminated. If that would satisfy honorable members from Queensland, I would support it. By the way. it is a curious thing that a speech delivered in Queensland the other day has not been noticed in the course of the debate. It indicates a somewhat remarkable attitude on the part of a State Minister regarding the Federation and this mail contract. I learn from the Brisbane Courier of the 2nd of August, that a luncheon, to inaugurate the visit of the first Orient Steam Navigation Company’s. steamer to Brisbane, took place on board the Orotava at Pinkenba. One of the visitors on that occasion was the Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Denham, who said, amongst other things - lie only asked them all to rejoice that Queensland had at last been able to make revenue meet expenditure. It was indeed a good thing that :she had been enabled to so far surmount the difficulties of drought and Federation.
That remark was cheered by the large audience present.
– Queensland is so badly treated by the Federation.
– The one State in the group which, in addition to Victoria, has most distinctly benefited from Federation is Queensland. She is now getting over £100,000 in sugar bounties from the rest of the people of Australia.
– How is Queensland getting it any more than any other State ?
– Does the honorable member contend that Western Australia, South Australia, or Tasmania grow sugar? He appears to echo the sentiment of Mr. Denham; but, nevertheless, is it not a fact that there is no other State in the group that is deriving such advantages from Federation as Queensland is, with the exception, perhaps, of Victoria? This gentleman went on to say -
The drought had passed away, and partly owing to the high price for pastoral products, and the large increase which had taken place in their stock, they had surmounted its ill effects. But, unfortunately, they had not yet surmounted the great difficulties of that thing which we called Federation - (Hear, hear) - the canker worm which was still eating in.
– I do not agree with that.
– I ask the House to notice the friendly sentiments and beautiful Federal spirit displayed by this Queensland politician, who is, I presume, a specimen of the politicians of that State.
Whether it would sap the life of the State had still to be demonstrated ; but perhaps before that stage was reached, some one of sufficient power and character might arise who would be able to free us from our bonds before it brought about our ultimate death.
Then he went on to speak of the Federal Government trying to keep ^Queensland in the kitchen, but that now at last she had got into the drawing-room. When the honorable member for Mernda was speaking, some weeks ago, I interpolated, when he referred to this Mr. Denham, that a man who spoke like that about Federation ought to be locked up. I say so again deliberately. a man certainly is not fit to be at large who so misrepresents the results and ignores the benefits which Federation has given to Queensland. He is doing the work of an incendiary amongst the people of the State. But I will not argue at greater length about a trifling matter of this kind.
– Is it trifling?
– Well. I understood an honorable member opposite to say that this arrangement involved a loss of £1,000 to Queensland ; but there have been so many remarkable calculations in regard to the question that I may be pardoned if I have gone slightly astray. At any rate, I maintain that a case has yet to be made out to the satisfaction of the House for this demand to reimburse the cost of these steamers going on from Sydney to Brisbane. I am not blind, to reason, but quite prepared to do justice, and even to be generous, to Queensland, just as I would to any other State in the group. But I hope that before the House votes on the question some honorable member will arise and put it before us in -such a way as to convince us that the claim is a just one. If that is done I shall even be prepared to swallow my scruples, and vote an additional sum for the benefit of ;the one State in the group which is already receiving the largest return in cash from the taxpayers of the Commonwealth.
– I did not rise at an earlier stage of the debate in view of the fact that the PostmasterGeneral had placed a very fair statement of the case before the House, and that I thought honorable members had quite sufficient to talk about. I knew that I should have an opportunity of listening to the different speeches, and determined that if occasion demanded I would reply to the arguments submitted.
– The honorable member wished to have the last word.
– No, I did not. I have never been afraid to address the House on any question that has arisen, and certainly have no reason to fear criticism in reference to the matter now under discussion. The honorable member for Coolgardie has made a very fair speech as to the difficulties that occurred in connexion with this mail contract when his Government was in office, and while the succeeding Government was responsible for the administration of affairs.
– The exPostmasterGenerals seem to be fond of scratching each other’s backs.
– We who have :had an opportunity of administering the Department know the difficulties that are experienced. I believe that it is a very good thing for honorable members to have a few months in office, because it enables them to realise that the task of dealing with some of the very important questions that arise is not so easy or pleasant as appears. I regret that it was not possible for the late Government to make a contract at a lower rate. Honorable members know that we endeavoured to secure a contract under different conditions. It may. be well to refer to the past history of the mail contracts that have been entered into between the various Australian Governments, the British Government, and the shipping companies. As far back as 1886, the Postmaster-General of Great Britain was asked to call for tenders for a mail service with Australia on behalf of Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, and
Western Australia. Queensland and Tasmania did not participate at that time. Tenders were called for, and the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation^ Company offered to contract for £115,000 for ten years. The tender of . the Orient Steam Navigation Company was lower. In submitting these tenders, on 7th May, 1886, the British Postmaster-General observed -
The most important consideration, however, is obviously the rate of tender demanded, and here I must confess to some disappointment, the terms being much more than I. expected.
An endeavour was made to effect a reduction, and the British Postmaster-General was successful in securing a contract on behalf of the various Governments at, I think, ,£85,000 a year from the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. Since then ‘Australia has become more important. Our population has increased. The trade of Australia has increased. While reductions have been made in cable rates, postal rates, and telegraph services the subsidy for our English mails has in”creased. We had good reason to expect when Federation was accomplished a reduction in the subsidy, and that we should be able to secure a tender under better conditions. Unfortunately -we we’re not able to do. so. It is only fair to say that there seems to-be a reason for the increase. The papers laid upon the table of the House. by the late Government show that there was good reason for believing that if the British Government had been in a position to negotiate under the old conditions it is possible that it might have been able to bring about a reduction. It is perfectly true that Mr. Anderson, £n tendering for this service, pointed out to the then Prime Minister, the honorable member for Bland, that the “ White Ocean “ clause in the postal contract had virtually nothing to do with the increase asked for by the Orient Steam Navigation Company. But this is not in accord wi/th the . official documents submitted to the House in May, 1904. On a former occasion I made a statement in the House to ‘the effect that” I thought the British Government, in the. earlier stages of the negotiations, might have been able to enter into an agreement under better conditions, and, in point of fact, were under the impression that thev could have entered into a contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company, on the same terms as were arranged with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. But Mr. Anderson told me that his company had never made any offer to the British Government at any time, which would lead them to believe that the company was prepared to renew the contract under the old conditions.
– Because they wished to fleece Australia as much as possible.
– The correspondence to which I wish to refer was laid on the table of .the House on 19th May, 1904, It commenced with a cable from the Secretary of State for the Colonies to the Governor-General, asking whether the Commonwealth Government, as a party to the agreement with .the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company and the Orient Steam Navigation Company, would give notice of its intention to terminate the contract on the 30th January, 1903. That cable was transmitted in November, 1902.
The Commonwealth Government was therefore asked (1) whether notice to terminate should be given at once, and (2) whether an extension of the contracts for a definite period should be contemplated on the’ companies offering sufficient inducement, or whether the Imperial PostmasterGeneral should retain his freedom to give notice at any time.
On 5th December, 1902, the Governor-General was asked by* the Prime Minister to reply to the effect that notice to terminate the existing contracts should be given by 31st January, 1903, with a view to negotiation before their expiry for fresh contracts, providing for increased speed, a lower subsidy, improved arrangements for cold storage, and the exclusive employment of white labour on the vessels, in compliance with section 16 of the. Commonwealth Post and Telegraph Act 1 901 ; also, if possible, a longer stay at Adelaide, the inclusion of Brisbane in the ports served, and the fitting of the sleeping apartments on the packets with electric fans. The GovernorGeneral was also asked to’ call attention to the necessity of warning tenderers of the probability of a Navigation Bill being proposed in the next session ‘of the Federal Parliament, which might contain provisions requiring vessels trading in passengers or goods between Australian ports to pay rates’ of wages equal to those current in the Australian coasting trade.
That was rather a large order for the Commonwealth Government to send to the British Government, in connexion with our mail service, arid was not likely to assist to secure a satisfactory offer. In reply, a cable was received from the Colonial Office, dated 21st January, 1903, stating that -
With the exception of the Commonwealth Government, the Postal Administrations interested were generally in favour of the extension of the contracts, if increased speed could be secured, and the Imperial Postmaster-General thought this could be obtained for the present subsidy.
It will be seen, therefore, that, in the opinion of the British Postmaster-General, as far back as January, 1903, a renewal of the contract under old conditions might have been secured, with increased speed, for a subsidy of .£85,000 per annum. Of course,, the Prime Minister of Great Britain wascompelled to reply that his Government could not enter into a contract containing such conditions. The Imperial authoritieswent on to say -
With regard to the exclusive employment of white labour, His Majesty’s Government could! not agree to introduce into a mail contract to which they were a party, stipulations intended to exclude certain classes of British subjects from employment in the contract vessels, and unlessthat condition could be modified, the idea of a joint arrangement would have to be abandoned, and other plans made for an Australian service.
To this a reply was sent, through the GovernorGeneral, on 27th January, 1903, that the white labour condition could not be modified by theCommonwealth Government, and consequently that that Government could not enter into arrangements by which the employment of coloured crews, after 31st January, 1905, would be sanctioned.
Of course, the Commonwealth Government were acting in accordance with the law. They pointed out that it was impossible for them to become a party to any contract which ‘did not comply with the provisions of the Post and Telegraph Act. To a verylarge extent that statement was borne out by the Treasurer, who, in speaking upon this question, deplored the introduction of the white labour provision in that statute, and stated that the great pressure which was exerted by a certain section of the House resulted in section 16 of the Post and Telegraph Act being inserted in the Bill, and the previous action of his Government in the Senate being reversed. The right honorable member for Swan also assured the House, in reply to the honorable member for Coolgardie, that two years ago an agreement might have been made for the mal service under old conditions but for the provision referred to.
– -Dia not the honorable member support its inclusion?
– I was not present on the occasion in question. I am merely citing a speech by the Treasurer, with a view to showing that, in the absenceof that provision, it might have been possible to enter into a fresh contract under the old! conditions. That fact is clearly set out in Hansard.
– Did not Mr. Anderson assure the honorable member that that provi- sion had nothing whatever to do with the increased subsidy demanded by the Orient Steam Navigation Company?
– Yes. The honorable member will understand that I am merely dealing with the official correspondence on the subject.
– What is the use of clouding the issue?
– I simply wish to give the history of the case. I think it was the honorable member for Denison who called for tenders for this service in 1903. The only tender received was that from the Orient Steam Navigation Company. It offered to supply a service which would occupy 696 hours for ,£150,000 per annum, and an alternative service which would occupy fourteen hours less for ^170,000. The Watson Government considered that tender, and refused to entertain it on the ground that the price asked was excessive. Later on, fresh tenders were invited. The Government of which I was a member came into office in August last year, and tenders for the new contract did not close until the end of September. As the contract expired on the 31st January last, we had only four months in which to deal with the tender of the Orient Steam Navigation Company, and, if it should prove unsatisfactory, to make other arrangements. Honorable members could easily understand the difficulty in which we were placed. After the Cabinet had considered the matter, it was unanimously agreed that the subsidy of ,£150,000 was excessive, and we notified the manager of the company to that effect. Subsequently, Mr. Anderson offered to provide a service for £140,000 a year. At that time I made no reference whatever to the conditions, and I had an object in view. I have done a good deal of business in my time, and in negotiating with the Orient Steam Navigation Company I felt it was not good policy to tell the world from day to day what was taking place. I wished the amount of the tender to be determined first, and the conditions might come afterwards. The Australian managers of the Orient Steam Navigation Company wanted £140,000, and when they were informed that a proposal for a contract at .£100,000 would be considered, they said they would not submit a tender at that amount, or even at ;£i 20.000. for the consideration of their London directors. The matter hung fire for some considerable time, and in the meanwhile, Mr. Scott Fell, a wellknown shipping man, made certain proposals to the Government. I was again blamed, because I did not disclose the negotiations between Mr. Scott Fell and myself. If I had permitted the manager of the Orient Steam Navigation Company to know the details of Mr. Scott Fell’s proposals, I might have disclosed the fact that they had no need to be afraid of competition from that quarter. I thought it wise not to disclose the nature of the negotiations I conducted with other people. On the 29th December, 1904, Mr. Scott Fell made a proposal for a service between Adelaide and Colombo, transhipping there into Eastern service boats bound for Europe. He tendered for a contract for from ten to fifteen years, and asked £120,000 as the subsidy. That was for a service involving the transhipment of mails at Colombo, and we should not have had the advantage of a through service to London for parcels. It is well known that parcels must be sent through to London, because the cost of transhipping them at Naples or at Brindisi would mean a heavy expense to the Commonwealth, amounting to about is. per parcel. After an interview with me, Mr. Scott Fell, on the 9th of February, submitted another proposal for a service calling at Melbourne, Fremantle, and Adelaide to Colombo for ten years, for a subsidy of £90,000 per annum. On the 17th of February, he submitted a proposal for a service calling at Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Fremantle to Colombo for £85,000 a year, and to a Mediterranean port for £110,000 a year, and he was prepared to let the boats run up to Brisbane for an extra £20,000 a year. This shows that at the time I was endeavouring to ascertain what arrangements could be made to enable the boats to run to Brisbane. Apart altogether from the fact that these proposals were not acceptable, I found it impossible to make any satisfactory arrangement to send our mails on from Colombo to Bombay to pick up the fast Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s service from there to Brindisi.
– Would not the boats engaged in the Bombay service meet boats at Colombo ?
– No, there is a direct weekly service from Bombay to Brindisi. I thought I might be able to arrange for a service from Colombo to
Bombay, to connect with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s boats at that port. I communicated with the Postmaster-General of Colombo, and his reply will be found in the correspondence. He pointed out that there was no regular service between Colombo and Bombay. The Colombo service proposed was therefore useful only in so far as we could arrange for the transhipment of our mails into Eastern boats. In my opinion, it would have been contrary to the provisions of the Post and Telegraph Act to have arranged for a branch service involving the transhipment of our mails into boats manned by coloured labour. Apart from that consideration, the proposal made was not satisfactory, because, even if a branch service had been arranged for between Colombo and Bombay, transhipment at Bombay would have been necessary, and there would have been some uncertainty as to whether the boats from Colombo could connect with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s boats at Bombay. We could not expect that company to help us in the matter by assisting a competing company, although, if we could get our mails from Colombo fo Bombay before the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s boats left, we could compel them to take on the mails under the British contract, and by paying Postal Union rates. Assuming that we could have made satisfactory arrangements in this respect, it would have meant a difference of, I think, £11,000 a year, as against the present contract price, and there would still have been the disadvantage that we should not have been able to provide for the transport of perishable produce from Australia, and our parcels would not have been taken right through to London as at the present time. Honorable members will admit that it would have been absurd for me to have entertained such a proposal for a moment in preference to a through service such as we have at the present time. I did not make it known that I did not consider Mr. Scott Fell’s proposals satisfactory, because I did not think it right to disclose the exact state of affairs while I was still negotiating with the Orient Steam Navigation Company.
– The honorable member did very well.
– I did what I could. 1 tried to make a good bargain, and I am sorry I was unable to make a better one than I did. I tried to get a contract at £100,000 a year, and I think we ought to have obtained a satisfactory service at that price; but, unfortunately, there were no competitors for the contract. We might then have continued the poundage system, but I think that that has been generally objected to. The Deakin Government, in. calling for tenders, admitted that a regular service was necessary ; and the Watson Government followed the same course, admitting that they preferred a regular service to trie poundage system. We took the same view, and it would appear that all parties were agreed that, in the interest of Australia, we should have a regular service, over which we might have control, and in connexion with which we might arrange a time-table and enforce penalties when boats did not arrive at their destination at the due date. I have said that Mr. Scott Fell’s offers were not satisfactory.
– Did he not desire the honorable gentleman to publish the .correspondence with him ?
– I was prepared to publish the correspondence when I thought it was in the interest of the Commonwealth to do so. When correspondence is in the hands of a Department the Minister in charge of it must be allowed to be the best judge as to when, in the public interests, it is wise to publish it. The managers of the Orient Steam Navigation Company in Australia are keen business men. I do not complain of them on that account They were entitled to make the best bargain they could, but in dealing with business men we should act in a business-like way, and 1 felt that, in the public interest, that was not an opportune time to publish the correspondence between Mr. Scott Fell and the Government. Then I thought there might be a. possibility of arranging for another service. I refer to the Vancouver service, which will yet be a very popular one, as it has many advantages.
– It would be good for Sydnev.
– I think it would be a good service for Australia. I am aware that it would not be of very much use to Fremantle, and that if that service were adopted the Western Australian people would be in somewhat the same position as the Queensland people are .in to-day. I have no hesitation in saying that the Vancouver service is one to which Australia will have to pay some attention in the near future. The “ all red “ mail service by this route would have many advantages, not the least of which would be that it would not be so liable to interruptions similar to those which might arise in connexion with the service via Suez, if there were. any outbreak of war; whilst it cannot be lost sight of that it is important that trade relations between the Commonwealth and Canada should be maintained and extended. The British authorities advised that a contract should be entered into for only three years, and it was one of the objections to Mr. Scott Fell’s tender that he asked for a contract for ten years. The British authorities, in dealing with the matter, directed attention to the construction of the Siberian railway, and, amongst other considerations, to the improvements made in the construction of steam-ships. The Cunard Company are now building two ships of 30,000 tons, propelled by turbine engines, and running twenty-five knots an hour. We must recognise the very great improvements which are being made in the construction of. these vessels.
– And yet we are content with a fourteen-knot service.
– We could not get a better service. The honorable member for Herbert made some reference to the building of our own ships.
– I did not mention that, but I should like to see it done.
– I shall deal with that proposal presently. I have said that the Vancouver service is one which in the near future must receive consideration. It will be a very great advantage if we could get a quick service between here and Vancouver, and a quick overland service across Canada, and 1 hence to London.
– It would not do for the carriage of produce.
– I admit that in that regard it would be of advantage only in respect of the trade between Australia and Canada, but it would be a very popular mail and passenger service. If I could have made satisfactory arrangements for the carriage of our mails by that route I should have been prepared to do so. I asked the managers of the Union Steamship Company whether it would be possible for them to expedite the service between Sydney, Brisbane, and Vancouver to en able us to get our mails carried through to London in something like reasonable time. Unfortunately, they had not at command boats which would have provided the quick service necessary. I know that the Canadian Government would have helped us in the matter if we could have secured a quick service at this end. The Union Steamship Company said that they could give us a quick service, but that it would take two years to build the necessary boats. We had only four months from the time tenders were called until the expiration of the old contract, and we were unable to enter into a temporary contract contrary to the Post and Telegraph Act. It has been said that we should have entered into a temporary arrangement, but we could not have done so except under the provisions of the Post and Telegraph Act, and that, of course, was a difficulty in the way. For the Vancouver service, the Union Steam-ship Company asked a subsidy of ,£240,000 a year, and they wanted two years to build the boats necessary to provide a fortnightly service. That proposal was, of course, out of the question. Mr. Scott Fell and the Union Steam-ship Company were unable to help us, and then we had before us only the continuance of the poundage system, or the acceptance of the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s tender. Honorable members must admit that we gave the poundage system a fair trial, and in this connexion I have no hesitation in saying that I was not pleased with the way in which the Orient Steam Navigation Company acted in regard to the carriage of our mails. Under the law of the Commonwealth, the company were compelled, along with other companies, to take our mails at a certain rate. They no doubt tried to make the position as awkward for us as they could, and there was great difficulty in finding out when their boats would leave Adelaide and other ports. The consequence was that arrangements had to be made for special trains ; and this, of course, added to the expense. Then the company cleared their boats for Colombo; and this was another attempt at interfering with us. But I wired to the Postmaster-General at Colombo, and made the position secure. I did not then hesitate to say that the law must be carried out. I need not tell honorable members that a ve’ry extreme step would have been taken if the shipping company had caused any further trouble.
At this particular time further1 difficulties arose. There was some trouble with the old Oceanic Company, who threatened to refuse to take our mails, but after some pretty sharp talk a satisfactory arrangement was arrived at. Mr. Burns, of Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Co., had an interview with the Commonwealth postal authorities, and when the matter had been talked over we came to a temporary arrangement. There was also the trouble in connexion with the Vancouver service, which was then awaiting a settlement. Some honorable members the other night suggested that the Commonwealth could have used German and French boats for the carriage of the mails. No doubt we could, but I do not think that any one would contend that the Commonwealth Government ought to enter into contracts with French and German shipping companies. It is quite understood in England that that sort of thing is not done, and, no attempt to do it was made here. Under the terms of the Postal Union there is an arrangement, and a very good arrangement it is, without which it would be impossible to carry on the postal services of the world, by which every boat under contract to any of the Governments which are parties to the convention is compelled to carry mails for those Governments at poundage rates. And even the rates under that arrangement are being reduced. In 1896 ne rate for letters was, I believe, 5s. 7d. per lb., whereas now it is 3s. 7d. I mention these facts in order to indicate the difficulties which had to be surmounted. No doubt we could have sent our mails by the French, German, or other boats, but it so happened that their services did not suit our requirements. Those vessels left the Commonwealth ports at times which were not convenient, and it was better to use the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s vessels, because we knew exactly the times at which they arrive at their destination. It is admitted by all Governments that it is essential and important to have a regular service between Australia and the old country. We Rave had a weekly service for many years, and it would have been a retrograde step if by any chance that service had been seriously interfered with. At the same time, it was our duty to make the best arrangement we could. It would have saved a lot of trouble if we had consented to the first proposal of the Orient Steam Navigation Company ; but we were satisfied that in the public interest we had no right to take such a course. The Government of which I was a member felt they were doing their duty, and they were not afraid of any criticism which might be offered, and personally I am prepared to take the full responsibility of my’ action.
– How long did it take to settle the matter?
– It was the 29th March when the first’ agreement was arrived at, or two months after the expiration of the old contract, and I think the contract was signed within three weeks.
– The company soon hurried the Government up when they knew they “ had “ the Government.
– In a matter of this kind, when parties come to close quarters, the sooner the agreement is complete the better for all concerned. I see nothing to be ashamed of in the fact that, after six months’ fighting, and after succeeding in getting a reduction of the terms, the agreement was expedited and signed within two or three ‘weeks.
– What does the honorable member mean bv “close quarters”?
– I mean arriving at some kind of agreement as to the amount to be paid. When speaking on this question before, I said that in the official papers I had made no reference whatever to the conditions which the company sought to impose. The company first asked ,£150,000, and’ I wished to secure an agreement as to the amount before dealing with the conditions. I have no hesitation in saying that if those conditions had been complied with, additional expense, amounting to almost as much as the subsidy, would probably have had to be incurred by the Commonwealth. My first object was to get the amount reduced, and when that matter had been settled, I said to Mr. Anderson, “The Government agree to give you £120,000, subject to the approval of Parliament, and subject to such conditions as I shall submit.” Honorable members, if they look through the papers, will find that there are very many important alterations in the conditions as first submitted by the Orient SteamNavigation Company. In the first place, of course, there was the reduction of the subsidy from ,£1 50,000 to ,£120,000, which meant a saving of £30,000 per annum. The Orient Steam Navigation Company, inr their tender, proposed to call only at
Naples, there being no provision to take the mails on to London, Needless to say, I had that condition altered, so that our parcels could be sent- through to London without any additional expense. Then the company proposed to take only Commonwealth mails, but if that condition had been complied with there would have been a loss! of revenue to the Commonwealth, because, under the contract, there is the right to send mails belonging to any country by the boat, and for the carriage of these we are, paid poundage rates.
– Does the honorable member not think that was a cunning, subtle dodge ?
– I do not desire to go into that question, but merely to show that after the subsidy had been agreed upon, the Commonwealth Government brought about certain important alterations in the accompanying conditions.
– The honorable member’s chief repeatedly said that nothing beyond £100,000 would ‘be given in the shape of a subsidy.
– That was the view that we all took, and we fought as hard as we could to get the subsidy reduced to. that amount.
– Why did the Government not adhere to their determination?
– We could not then have got the mail service.
– - Then we should have done without it.
– The honorable member knows very well that the old contract had expired, and that the service was being carried on very unsatisfactorily. The British Government had entered into a contract with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company to carry mails to and f rom Australia, and the Commonwealth” Government took advantage of the service for the return mails at a cost of £15,000 per annum. But the British Government fully expected that if they paid £85.000 subsidy for a service to Australia, and the Commonwealth Government took advantage of that service, we would, at least, be prepared to give a like efficient service from this end. As a matter of fact, the British mails were more disarranged than were the Australian mails, because, unlike the British Government, we had the Orient and several other boats to make use of. I believe that the mails from London consist of about one-third more letters, and about three times the number of parcels, and so forth, as the mails from Australia. The Government left the Commonwealth without a satisfactory service for two or three months, in the hope that the subsidy might be reduced to £100,000 ; but, failing that, we saw no alternative in the public interest, but to enter into the contract, the ratification of which is now sought. One condition which the Orient Steam Navigation Company sought to impose was that if the efficiency of the service were impaired by desertion or breach of discipline by the crew, the Postmaster-General would not penalize the contractors for any breach caused thereby. Under such a condition it would have been very difficult to penalize the contractors for departing from any of the terms of the contract, and, therefore, that clause was struck out. Then the company desired1 to be paid for a service which they had not performed. On the 25th May, unfortunately for the company and the public, that grand ship, the Orizaba, was wrecked, and the company thereupon asked the Commonwealth Government to pay for the service which that vessel should have rendered. This, however, the Commonwealth Government declined to do. The company further asked that there should be ho penalty in the case of a vessel not leaving the port of embarkation on a due date, so long as the port of destination was arrived at in time. The Government felt, however, that regularity was the essence of the contract, and declined to accede to that condition.
– Was it not before the company lost the Orizaba that they said they had not boats enough to make Brisbane a port of call?
– I wish to deal with the alterations made in the conditions. Under the original offer, the company desired to be separately paid for the carriage of bullion, precious stones, nuggets, gold dust* and so forth. But, seeing that the British Government, under their contract with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, insist that such articles shall be carried under the subsidy, we claimed to be afforded the same facilities. The company desired to put in the contract a very important condition, to which the Government was not prepared in any circumstances to assent. They proposed that a clause should be inserted, giving them the right, in the event of the passing of State or Commonwealth legislation which increased their expenditure or reduced their earnings, to compel the Federal Government to make good the losses so incurred. That was an unfair proposal, and I told Mr. Anderson that I would not sigh such a contract. They also desired to ante-date the contract to 30th January, 1904, so that the clause in question would have applied to any loss incurred by the company as the result of the passing of the Sea Carriage of Goods Bill.
– They were trying a bit of bluff.
– We had to take care that the interests of the Commonwealth were conserved.
– They did not know the honorable member, or they would not have set their net for him.
– I merely took care to see that fair conditions were imposed. As a compromise, I suggested that when it could be shown by the certificate of a chartered accountant that, as the result v of Commonwealth - not of State - legislation dealing with shipping, their losses amounted to £5,000 a year, they should1 have the right to terminate the contract on giving six months’ notice, and that the Government might either elect to make good the losses so incurred, or agree’ to the contract being terminated. “The company accepted that compromise. As showing the difficulty we had in arranging the terms of the contract, I would point out that out of thirty-three conditions which were submitted to us, no fewer than twenty-two were altered, some of them in important and others in unimportant respects.
– That is an old game on the part of men who wish to make a good bargain.
– I do not blame the company for having sought to make the best possible bargain. They sent out one of their smartest men from London, and he naturally endeavoured to make the best bargain for the company.
– He Earl’ a smart man to deal with.
– I do not say that : but my experience is that Mr. Anderson is a smart business man.
– It is a pity that the late Government accepted the new conditions.
– The same subsidy would have been demanded even if Melbourne and Sydney had not been made ports of call.
– L. shall deal with that point presently. I spoke to Mr.’ Anderson with reference to the desire that Brisbane should be made a port of call. A letter on the subject was addressed to the late Prime Minister by the Premier of Queensland, but was not placed among the official correspondence, for the reason that it was marked “private and confidential.” But for the fact that the honorable member for Wide Bay assured the House that he referred to it with the concurrence of the Premier of Queensland I should not have mentioned it. It is certainly true that the Premier of Queensland requested’ the late Government to secure the inclusion of Brisbane as a port of call, but before the receipt of that letter tenders had’ been invited by the Watson and Deakin Governments for a mail service which would take in that port. Notwithstanding that no response was received to that invitation, the late Government are blamed for having failed to secure the insertion of such a condition in the contract. Our predecessors in office had more time to arrangethe matter than we had. I have no desire to reflect on them, but I would point out that the contract expired during my term of office, and that I had to make other arrangements for the carriage of our mails, while I endeavoured to fight thecompany.
– And the company beat the honorable member.
– That is a. matter of opinion. I can only say that I did my best for the Commonwealth. I made it a condition that the contract should” be subject to the approval of the Parliament, and it will be for honorable members to say whether, in all the circumstances, it should be ratified. Having regard to the position in which we wereplaced, no better terms could have been arranged. It was of the utmost importance that we should secure a regular service, and whilst I regret that we were unable to obtain it for a lower subsidy, I think that we did the best we could in thecircumstances. The Premier of Queens-, land addressed a letter to the late PrimeMinister, in which he said -
Understanding that negotiations are still proceeding between your Government and the Orient Pacific Company with the object of securing a fortnightly mail service between the United” Kingdom and Australia, and that the company is asking a higher price for that service than your Government is willing to give, I have the.- honour to inform you, in the hope that the knowledge may contribute to the success of your negotiations, that the Queensland Government is communicating with the company with a view of ascertaining, should your efforts be successful, on what terms it would be prepared to extend the service to Brisbane, and is disposed, in return for such extension, to supplement liberally the Commonwealth subsidy, should certain freight conditions be agreed to by the company.
Together with the then Prime Minister, I had an interview with Mr. Anderson in reference to this subject, and endeavoured to ascertain on what conditions the company would be prepared to make Brisbane a port of call. We were informed that it would be impossible for them to extend the service in the way suggested, inasmuch as another steamer would be required for the purpose, and there was not one available. In view of the fact that we had an offer to continue the. service for a subsidy of £120,000 a year, that better terms could not be secured, and that the oversea mails could not be interfered with while the company were endeavouring to secure another boat to extend the service to Brisbane, we had to accept the contract now put before honorable members. Mr. Anderson promised us that he would take an early opportunity of ascertaining whether Brisbane could be made a port of call, and since then the company has made an arrangement to that end with the’ Government of Queensland. The arrangement relates purely to freights. It cannot be said that either the present Government or that of which I was a member was unmindful of the interests of Queensland.. It is well known that we agreed that the cost of the Vancouver mail service, which had previously been borne by the Governments of Queensland and New South Wales, should be paid by the Commonwealth, notwithstanding that some of the States would receive no direct benefit from it. In that respect we exhibited a desire to deal fairly with Queensland. If it could be shown that the service now being supplied by the Orient Steam Navigation Company under the contract with the Government of Queensland could be advantageously used for the carriage of mails, I feel sure that honorable members would readily consider any fair proposal with regard to it. Several honorable members- have blamed the late Government because they did not take up a more determined attitude in fighting the Orient Steam Navigation Company, and’ show their courage by prc/posing to build, a line of steamers to carry our oversea mails. Is it reasonable to suggest that within four months of thetermination of the contract the late Government should have entered upon an. undertaking involving for both services an expenditure of £4,000,000? Our railways are now controlled by Commissioners, and they have many difficulties to contend! with, notwithstanding absence of competition, and it seems to me that a. very keen set of business men would be required to control a Government line of steamers competing with the various private companies now engaged in the Australian trade. There is absolutely nojustification for the attempt that has been made to condemn the late Government for agreeing to the terms imposed by the Orient Steam Navigation Company whenthey found that they were not prepared to accept less than ,£120,000. If honorable members think that it would” be wise for the Commonwealth to carry on its mail services with its own ships, why did they not propose it at that time ? Why did not the Watson Administration makethat arrangement when “the subject was under their consideration? Instead of doing so, they called for tenders.
– Why does not the honorable member admit that ‘the Orient Steam Navigation Company got at him ?
– I have shown that they did not get at me so far as theterms of the contract are concerned.
– They got at the honorable member’s Government for £50.000.
– The WatsonAdministration, which” the honorable member supported, were prepared to pay £100,000 for a mail service, but, not beingsatisfied with the offers made to them, called” for fresh tenders, which had not been received when thev left office. I contend, however, that the conditions which I was able to embody in the agreement under discussion are worth over £20,000 morethan the conditions which were submitted to the Watson Government. It has been asked, ‘ ‘ Why had you not the courage of” your opinions? Why did you not make a contract without coming to Parliament at all?” We did not wish to go behind theback of Parliament. We considered that, in view of the magnitude of the expenditure involved, it was. only “fair that honorable members should have an opportunity to- express their views about the terms of the contract. The agreements which have been made by the British Government with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, and formerly with the Orient Steam Navigation Company, have all been subject to the approval of the Imperial Parliament. I will deal now with the objection raised to Sydney and Melbourne being made ports of call. The service for the conveyance of mails has always been between Naples or Brindisi, as the case may be, and Adelaide, and for boats to call at Melbourne and Sydney ; but no company would run a line of steamers costing ,£4,000,000 merely for the conveyance of mails. The steam-ship companies depend largely for their profits on the cargo which they carry, and to cater for the trade which is offering they must send their vessels to the main centres of population. Therefore the steamers, after leaving the mails at Adelaide, come on to Melbourne and Sydney. We should not have secured the mail service for a penny less subsidy if we had made no stipulation in regard to Melbourne and Sydney ; but as we had an opportunity fo make the stipulation that the steamers of the company should call at those ports, we should not have been wise had we disdained to do so, and thus get something for nothing. If we had said to the company, “ Your vessels need not come further than Adelaide,” the subsidy would not Have been less.
– Could not the honorable member have said that the vessels must come on to Brisbane as well ?
– No; because it would not suit the company to send them there, since the amount of cargo offering is not sufficient.
– But the honorable member has fold us that he made it mandatory for them to call at Melbourne and Sydney, because otherwise they might not do so.
– Under the old contract it might have been held that the company were bound to make Sydney the terminal point, and, after discussing the matter with Mr. Anderson, we agreed to an alteration of the conditions which would enable the company, if satisfactory arrangements could afterwards be made, to send its vessels on to Brisbane without infringing the contract.
– That is another point. Did not the honorable member say that he compelled the company to agree to send their vessels on to Melbourne and ‘Sydney, because otherwise thev might not do so ?
– No. Mr. Anderson, in his letter, mentions that the mail service will be between Adelaide and Naples, but that the steamers will go on to Sydney and Melbourne. It would not have reduced the subsidy by a shilling if we had said. “ You may strike out Melbourne and Sydney, and need not come beyond Adelaide.” But I contend that, having the opportunity to require the company to send its boats for mail purposes on to Melbourne and Sydney without any additional expense, it would have been foolish for me not to do so. To have omitted the two places mentioned would not have placed Queensland in a better position, but rather the reverse.
– Did not the honorable member see that he was making Sydney the great port of Australia by inserting this provision ?
– Are we not trying to benefit the Commonwealth as a - whole, without regard to any individual place? The sooner we get rid of these local jealousies the better.
– There are more places in Australia than Sydney and Melbourne.
– I do not underrate the importance Of Brisbane. I know perhaps as much’ about Queensland as the honorable member knows. I am aware of its great resources, and no one will be more pleased to assist that State, as well as to assist the other States. But we must be fair to the whole Commonwealth. It has been said that we should have provided for a quicker service. The Orient Steam Navigation Company tendered for a service of 696 hours, and offered to accelerate it by fourteen hours for an additional £20,000 a year. We considered that that acceleration was not worth the additional sum asked for it.
– The honorable gentleman should have insisted on the faster service for the money agreed upon - £120,000.
– I think that the tendency will be, owing to the improvement ii) the class of vessels used in the trade, to accelerate the service. The British Government succeeded in getting a much faster service from the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company.
– They would not have contracted with the company had they not been able to get a quicker service from it.
– The British Government arranged with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, under old conditions, which our law would not permit us to do, for an acceleration of twenty-four hours on the old contract speed, and, in. point of fact, the steamers of that company are now doing the journey in thirty-five hours less than the time specified. If, when there is a re-arrangement of the contract, we can get a service equal in speed to that given by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, and can re-arrange the time-table, great improvements may be effected. It may be possible to land the mails in London on the Friday morning, in which case a reply may be posted in time to leave by the usual weekly service at midnight of the same day, and save a week. I am sorry that we are not getting a faster service, but we could not do more than we did in this direction. Two other Governments tried to get a faster service for a smaller subsidy, and failed, as we did. It was too late to make better arrangements, and we had to make the best bargain we could when there was practically no competition.
– There was no urgency. The poundage system could have been continued, with a saving of £80,000 a year to the Commonwealth.
– The poundage system was not satisfactory, and to have continued it would have been to commit what would have been practically a breach of an understanding with the British Government. The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, under contract with the British Government, were giving a service nearly sixty hours quicker than that of the Orient Steam Navigation Company, and we had the right to send our mails to London by their steamers on the understanding that we would provide a similar service from this end. The mails from England were more disarranged by the poundage system than ours were, because, whereas the Commonwealth Government had power to place its mails on the vessels of the Orient Steam Navigation Company and other outgoing steamers, the British Government could not require the Orient Steam Navigation Company to take on board mails at a foreign port, and nothing, of course, would have been gained by putting mails on board their steamers at London. This is made clear in a communication addressed by Lord Jersey to the Government of New South Wales. As honorable members know, the Orient Steam Navigation Company, on one occasion, practically refused to carry the mails belonging to the mother country. We were anxious to bring about an accelerated mail service, but we found it impossible to do so. Honorable members, in blaming us for our failure, are ignoring the fact that we had but a very short time at our disposal, whereas previous Governments had two or three years within which to make the necessary arrangements. I do not, however, blame them because they did not succeed, because they had powerful companies to deal with, and there were difficulties in the way of securing a new contract on reasonable terms. I am. satisfied that we could not have made any better arrangement. My opinion is that, in consideration of the protection which is accorded by the British Navy - towards the cost of maintaining which we make a small contribution - all British ships should be required to carry His Majesty’s mails to or from any ports of call, provided, of course, that they are fairly paid. Under an arrangement entered into at the Berne Convention, the Government have the right to send mails by any contract vessels, no matter to what ports they may be bound, at 3s. 7d. per lb., and it seems to me that the same right should be insisted upon in regard to all British ships which enjoy the protection of the British flag. We know that during the recent difficulty with Russia, Great Britain was prepared to go to the full length of war in order to protect her shipping. This matter might very well be brought under the notice of the Imperial authorities, with a view to its consideration at the next Postal Convention at Berne. I was inclined to strongly resent the action of the Orient Steam Navigation Company in refusing, on one occasion, to take our mail matter on board. I think that they acted inconsiderately and unfairly. No class of trade receives so much protection as does the shipping trade, and one of the advantages ship-owners derive owing to the adequacy of the safeguards provided by the British Navy takes the form of reduced insurance rates. At the, Berne Convention a satisfactory arrangement was arrived at with regard to poundage rates, which has worked exceedingly well, and has enabled the Commonwealth to despatch its mails in a manner that otherwise would have been impossible Several members who represent Queensland, are apparently under the impression that there has been a desire on the part of the present Government and its predecessors to act unjustly towards Queensland. I contend, however, that no real evidence can be adduced in support qf any such idea. No State has received more consideration than has Queensland. I need only mention the concession made to her in regard to the sugar bonus. I think that in that respect she has been treated much too liberally.
– Would it surprise the honorable member to learn that New South Wales receives a larger share of the sugar bounty than does Queensland?
– I do not wish to discuss that subject now. I think some alteration should be made iri both States, and I shall be prepared to make a suggestion in that direction when that matter is considered. Then again in regard to the Vancouver service, Queensland has been accorded liberal treatment. I objected to that service being taken to New Zealand. The honorable member for Oxley waited on me in regard to it on one occasion. I think he was under a wrong impression as to the position taken up by the Queensland Government, and I showed him that we were quite prepared to meet them. I think honorable members will admit that with regard to mail contracts generally there has been a good deal of trouble, owing to the negotiations being left until too late to secure advantages. I had intended to give notice that the present contract might not be renewed on its termination. I believe that the PostmasterGeneral is inclined to take a similar step. We should give notice at the end of the /present year. In the meantime, we should have a conference of the various Ministers of Agriculture for the States, in order to make a combined arrangement for carrying perishable produce and Commonwealth supplies, as well as mails. We may then” be able to make arrangements that will be more satisfactory to Australia as a whole. Personally, I should like to see Australian shippers enter into the business. I believe that if we gave timely notice to the shipping companies of the world, at the end of this year, some Australian firm would be likely to come forward and offer a satisfactory tender, provided we could offer reasonable inducements in respect of the shipment of perishable produce and Commonwealth supplies.
– We ought to get penny postage.
– The Government of which I was a member did something in that direction. When the British Government approached us with the offer that it was prepared to give penny postage on letters posted in Great Britain, provided we allowed-, letters to go from Australia at the local rate, we at once adopted that course. I hope to see the day when we shall have a common Empire postage rate. Nothing conduces more to bring about good relationships between the various parts of the Empire than the interchange of correspondence. I wish we could have done something more in -this direction, but the estimates which I had prepared showed that penny postage would involve a loss of from .£250,000 to £260,000 a year. Of course, the States would feel that very much. But when the postal revenue increases, as I am glad to say it is doing, I trust we shall be able to respond to the request of the British Government, and so take an important step towards the establishment of a penny Empire rate. While I admit that it would have been more satisfactory to complete a contract at ,£100,000 a year, yet, in view of the fact that we did all we could to bring about a reduction, I believe that it will be acknowledged that we made the very best arrangement possible. It would have been a retrograde step to continue the poundage system, and I was equally convinced that it was essential to maintain the weekly service. Furthermore, we considered that we owed an obligation to the British Government to make arrangements for continuing the service. Under these circumstances, I have no hesitation in asking the House to indorse the contract into which I entered on behalf of the Commonwealth.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Frazer) adjourned.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 9th August, vide page 782) :
Clause 2 (Application).
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).I do not care to delay the progress of business, but many honorable members have gone Home on the understanding that the debate on the mail contract would not be concluded to-night.
– Was it understood that it would be gone on with tonight ?
– I said so.
– Then I shall offer no objection to its consideration.
-What the Prime Minister has said is quite correct. The honorable and learned gentleman said that he would go on with this Bill after the mail contract; but the debate on the mail contract has not been concluded - only adjourned - and I am not sure that honorable members understood that it would be proceeded with before the debate on the mail contract had been concluded. Certainly, I did not.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 -
In this Act - “Agent” includes any corporation, firm, or person employed by or acting or having been acting or desiring or intending to act for or on behalf of any other corporation, firm, or person, whether as agent, partner, factor, broker, servant,trustee, director, or in any other capacity, and whether he acts in the name of the principal or in any other name, and in the case of a firm includes a member of the firm. It also includes a person serving under the Crown. “ Agency “ has a meaning corresponding with that of “ agent.” “Consideration” means valuable consideration of any kind, and particularly includes discounts, commission, and rebates, bonuses, deductions and percentages,’ and also employment or an agreement to give employment in any capacity. “ Full knowledge “ means knowledge of all material facts and circumstances. “ Principal “ includes a corporation, firm, or person who employs the agent or for or on behalf of whom the agent acts or has been acting or desires or intends to act.
– I did not understand that this Bill was to be proceeded with to-night. Honorable members who desire to address themselves to some of the clauses are absent.
– The honorable member for Kooyong gave notice of certain amendments, but I do not. propose to deal with the portion of the Bill in which they occur.
– The honorable member proposes some amendments in clause 4, but I understand that he also has something to say on this clause, and he had to go home this afternoon on account of illness.
– I shall not attempt to pass clause 4.
– I think it is unreasonable to begin the consideration of this measure at 11 o’clock.
– We are not going to sit to-morrow.
– That is not the fault of honorable members who desire to criticise this Bill.
– I do not say that it is; but it is a reason why we should not rise early to-night.
– I think we should sit late to-night.
– In order that some honorable members may go away to Mildura to-morrow ! I am aware that there is no question of Government or Opposition in the matter; but this is a very important measure, the discussion of which was left to the Committee stage. Clause 3 is not merely a definition, but an inclusion clause. I do not know whether it is proposed under it to cover the case of an agent acting in his own name, although, by a custom of trade, he acts for an undisclosed principal.
– The clause provides that agent “includes,” not “means” certain things.
-I have noticed that, and I therefore assume that the word in this Bill has all the other meanings which might be attached to it by ordinary law. I would ask the Attorney-General whether it would not be better to have a definition clause.
– This is a definition clause.
– It is an inclusion clause. The Attorney -General will agree that a person who, in, the ordinary acceptation of the term, would not be an agent, might be an agent under this Bill.
– The clause includes agent, as the honorable and learned mem ber will see.
– I see that “agent” in cludes “agent,” and that is rather an unusual form of drafting, I should say. “Full knowledge” is defined to mean “Knowledge of all material facts and circumstances.” ‘I am aware that the honorable member for Kooyong desired to insert the word “ full “ before the word “ knowledge “ where it appears the second time. I confess that I am not familiar with his reasons, but the honorable member, in case the Bill should be dealt with to-night, left his copy of it with me, and I find that he proposed to make such an amendment. As honorable members are aware, this measure deals with many mercantile transactions, or the accessories to mercantile transactions, and I think it is rather a pity that we should not ha%’e the advantage of the advice of the honorable member. If one compares this interpretation clause with the interpretation clause of the last Bill dealing, with the subject introduced in the House of Lords, and which honorable members are no doubt aware is a successor to Lord Russell’s original Bill, of about 1900, he will find that while “consideration” is in this Bill defined to mean - valuable consideration of any kind, and particularly includes discounts, commission, and rebates, bonuses, deductions, and percentages, and also employment or an agreement to give employment in any capacity, the English Bill specifically excepts certain gratuities or courtesies from the definition of “ Consideration.” In the English Bill there is this proviso -
Provided always that the following things shall not be deemed to be valuable considerations within the meaning of this Act, that is to say : -
A vale or gratuity bond fide given as such by a guest to the servant of his host. (£) A gratuity bond fide given as such to a menial or domestic servant or porter for a legitimate service rendered, or to be rendered to the donor, in conformity with the scope of the servant’s or porter’s employment by his master.
Meat or drink or accommodation reasonably and bond fide given by way of hospitality only.
In view .of the questions that were discussed in an interview between the AttorneyGeneral and some representatives of the mercantile community, even this sub-clause c, which at first sight seems to be alien to the purpose of the measure, has some importance. At that interview the question was raised whether, for instance, if one man asked another to lunch, he might not be thereby, in the words of the Bill before us, giving or agreeing to give a consideration - whether such a hospitality might not be tortured into meaning an inducement or reward.
– Sub-clause 2 of clause 4 settles all that.
– I do not think so, because it leaves the giver of the lunch, and the receiver of the lunch, open to the charge, unless the Attorney-General, or whoever is thinking of laying an information, does not think it was given for the purpose of influencing the agent.
– Not for the purpose, but whether it was likely to influence.
– This is only one degree removed from the giving of hams at Christmas time, which has sometimes been alleged to have this kind of result. This Bill has been introduced for the third or fourth time in the House of Lords, where some of the most’ distinguished lawyers in the Empire take a part in the discussion of and framing measures. It was introduced by the Lord Chancellor ; and if there it was considered necessary to have this proviso in the interpretation clause, surely we in Australia need not be above taking the hint, and guarding ourselves in the same careful manner.
– The English Bill of 3rd of March this year sets out that the expression “ Consideration “ includes “ valuable consideration “ of any kind.
– I see that the English Bill that I have is an earlier one. The Attorney-General will see, However, that in the Bill to which he refers, and which is entitled “An Act for the Better Prevention of Corruption,” the word “corruptly” precedes the various Acts dealt with.
– That is a separate and distinct question.
– It is not, for the reason, that the use of the word “ corruptly “ makes the definition of. “ Consideration “ of less importance than it would otherwise be. The Bill before us provides that a large number of acts shall be punishable, and, so far as I recollect, there- is no provision that prosecutions require the prior consent’ of the Attorney-General.
– That is so.
– I do not know whether the Attorney-General proposes to introduce such a provision. . The English Bill provides that no prosecution shall be instituted in England without the consent of the Attorney-General or Solicitor-General, or in Ireland without the consent of the AttorneyGeneral or Solicitor-General for Ireland.
– I suppose that the honorable and learned member knows that the Lord Chancellor, against his better judg- ment, had to agree to this form, so as to get some sort of a Bill passed?
– I could quote from the debate in theHouse of Lords on the measure of 1903.
Mr.Isaacs. - There are much later debates.
– The interpretation clause assumes much greater importance in this measure than it does in any of the measures introduced in England, because our measure is wider in its terms, making it all the more necessary to scan the definition clause with great care. Under the English Bill, apart from the use of the word “ corruptly,” the provisions are not nearly so drastic as are those of our Bill. Then the English Bill provides that the act must be a corrupt act, and, thirdly, that no prosecution may be proceeded with under the measure, unless with the consent of the AttorneyGeneral. All these limitations make the definition clause of much less importance than in the Bill now under discussion. The Attorney-General interjected a moment or two ago that the English Bill had to be modified, in order to have some chance of passing, and I want to draw attention to the significance of that statement in another respect than that in which the honorable and learned gentleman views it. If the speeches of such men as Lord Russell ofKillowen are to be credited - and I am sure everybody will give full faith to them - the mischief is much more rampant in England than in Australia. The report of the special Committee on Secret Commissions of the London Chamber of Commerce shows that the evil is much greater in England than it is shown to be in Australia, even by the evidence disclosed before the Butter Commission.
– It is growing here.
– Yes, and it should be stopped. There is no honorable member in the Chamber who has more sympathy than I have with the desire to suppress secret commissions. We must be careful that, in carrying out that desirable object, we do not interfere with legitimate business’. We know that capable as the English language is of expressing the finest shades of meaning, the mischief that results very often from Bills of this kind is that legitimate business is hampered quite unintentionally on the part of the Legislature by their provisions being read in a way that was not anticipated. Any Legislature dealing with matters of this kind is on the horns of a very difficult dilemma. One of these horns is that if it be careful not to interfere with legitimate trade, the illegitimate trader often succeeds in escaping through the meshes of the net. On the other hand, if the meshes are made so close as to insure the catching of the illegitimate trader, the legitimate trader may also be caught. That makes it absolutely necessary that such a measure as this should receive the careful scrutiny of honorable members, and particularly of those who have a knowledge in their business life of the difficulties of the situation. This Bill is absolutely unlimited in its prohibitions. It must be admitted that the Attorney-General, in framing it, has covered every conceivable form of misdoing in this particular connexion. I am afraid, however, that a great many innocent fish, as well as the sharks of commerce that he desires to catch, will be caught in his net.
– I do not think so, but shall be glad to hear how it is likely to have that effect.
– I am confined at present to clause 3, but am sure that that will be the effect of the Bill. I should like to remind the Attorney-General that even Lord Russell, a most bitter opponent of all kinds of secret commissions, felt himself compelled to recognise the fact that a measure dealing with these matters must be limited. Take, for example, the use of the word “ corruptly.” The Attorney-General has quoted an extract from a case in which it was practically said that the word “ corruptly “ has no definite meaning.
– I fail to see how we could consider the question of inserting the word “ corrupt “ in this clause.
– I do not say that we could. We cannot define the word. The reason for not defining it has been well explained by Lord Russell of Killowen, and also, I think, by Lord Alverstone, the present Lord Chief Justice of England. The point is that if we did attempt to define the word just as if we tried to define the word “ fraud.” the rascal would find a way of avoiding the definition. We have therefore to leave it to the jury to say whether a particular transaction is corrupt or fraudulent, In view of the fact that the limitations, both on the offence and on the prosecution for the offence, which exist in the English measure do not exist in that now before us, the proviso inserted in the earlier English measures, although it has been omitted from the measure of the present year, should be inserted in this Bill. I refer to the proviso -
Provided always that the following things shall not be deemed to be valuable consideration within the meaning of this Act, that is to say -
A vale or gratuity bond fide given as such by a guest to the servant of his host.
– That could not come very well within this Bill.
– The proviso continues -
– What about sub-clause 2 of clause 4?
– That is neither a definition nor a governing clause.
– Order ! The honorable member cannot discuss every clause in the Bill in order to show that a certain provision should be inserted in the definition clause.
– With all respect to you, sir, if I wish to show that the definition of the word “ Consideration “ in clause 3 should be limited, surely I am entitled to prove that under other clauses certain innocent acts would become guilty ones, because the definition was incomplete.
– There is no chance of that occurring, in view of the provisions of sub-clause 2 of clause 4.
– That could not prevent such a state of affairs from existing, because it is neither a definition nor a governing clause. It does not follow that a gift shall not be deemed to be given as an inducement or reward on any other contingency.
– That is the evident intention of the sub-clause.
– The intention is to prevent it being said that it is not given as an inducement because of this contingency. A measure similar to this has just passed through the Legislative Assembly of Victoria ; but, although the member who had charge of it was just as enthusiastic as is the Attorney-General in his desire to repress improper practices, he found it neces sary to make exceptions in the interpretation clause to the definition of “ Consideration.” Under the Bill as it stands, I am’ afraid that it might be construed an offence to give a steward half-a-crown for taking one’s luggage ashore, since that might cause him to give one a preference over another passenger.
– The offence must be an act to the detriment of the employer.
– The Bill does not say so.
– That is the underlyingidea.
– The Judges, in interpreting the measure, will not ask what the honorable member’s ideas in regard .to it were.
– The Bill is sufficiently explicit to make that unnecessary.
– The Bill will have the ‘ meaning which the Court ascribes to its provisions, and no other meaning. If it be necessary to analyze the words “ Consideration “ and “ Agent “ to see whether a person charged has committed an offence under the measure, the Court will do so, and determine their application to the circumstances The definition of “Agent” covers more than the common law definition.
– Quite right, too.
– I do not find fault with the Bill on that account, but the fact makes it desirable to consider whether the definition is not too wide. I think that we should not be asked at half -past 11 o’clock at night to consider a measure as to the verbiage of which we are entitled to exercise the keenest scrutiny and criticism, although we may approve of its underlying principle, and to a great extent of the application of that principle.
– To what part of the verbiage of this clause does the honorable and learned member object?
– I think that we should except from the definition of “ Consideration “ what I might call customary gratuities for personal services.
– Would the honorable and learned member include in those terms a gift of turkeys at Christmas?
– No. I think that if a man sends turkeys to another man’s agent at Christmas-time he is not prompted purely by benevolent feelings induced by the season of the year. I would, however, call the giving of a shilling to a railway porter a customary gratuity,
– He would never regard it as a valuable consideration.
– Would such an act come within the scope of the Bill ?
– I think so, if a traveller were going from one State to another. If the Attorney-General says that he proposes to insert the word “ corruptly “–
– I do not.
– If he knows better than the lawyers in the House of Lords–
– I do not say that either.
– Laymen know more about some things.
– Lord Russell of Killowen, to whom I have referred once or twice, had a more intimate knowledge of the variety of forms which this mischief can take than any layman could have, and was the keenest enemy to it that ever existed.
– On a point of order, I would ask whether the honorable and learned member is in order in discussing upon this clause the question whether the word “ corruptly “ should be inserted elsewhere in the Bill ?
– The honorable and learned member has indicated four times that certain words should be inserted, and he gives as a reason that the word “corruptly “ is absent from another part of the Bill. He states, further, that if the AttorneyGeneral were prepared to accept the word “ corruptly “ he would not proceed with his amendment. He is therefore in order.
– I move -
That after the word” capacity,” line 23, the following words be inserted : - “ Provided always that the following things shall not be deemed to be consideration within the meaning of this Act, that is to say : -
A vailor gratuity bond fide given as such by a guest to the servant of his host ;
a gratuity bona fide given as such to a domestic servant or porter for a legitimate service rendered, or to be rendered to the donor, in conformity with the scope of the servant’s or porter’s employment by his master;
meat or drink or accommodation reasonably and bond fide given by way of hospitality only.”
I think these exemptions would prevent the possibility of black-mailing and malicious prosecutions. Under the Bill as it stands it would be possible for certain men engaged in business to use its provisions as a means of injuring their rivals. I am sorry that the Attorney-General will not accept the amendment, because it seems to me that it would clear the air. He says that these matters would not come within the scope of the Bill.
– Most of them would not.
– The Attorney-General will at least admit that an honest difference of opinion may exist on that point. I would not for one moment pretend that my opinion is as valuable as his, but other persons whose opinions are valuable take the same view that I do. The distinguished lawyers who inserted these exemptions in the earlier measures took the view that I am putting to the Committee. The exemptions I have mentioned are matters as to which the possibility of prosecution or punishment should not exist. If any of these matters do come within the scope of the measure it is proper to exempt them. If, on the other hand, they do not, we shall, at the very worst, merely be providing for the exemption of certain gratuities which are not contemplated under the provisions of the Bill. Where a difference of opinion exists as to whether certain matters come within the scope of the measure, it is fitting that we should specifically set forth any exceptions.
– I recognise the importance of the questions raised by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, but I have considered this matter for a considerable time, and I can tell the Committee at once why I think the suggestions ought not to be accepted. In the first place, the English Bill, in which those exceptions are found, was the original Bill of Lord Russell of Killowen.
– I corrected myself, and said that.
– Those exceptions have now lost any importance they had. They do not find a place in the recent Bills, so that in rejecting them we are not running counter to the fully considered opinions of the distinguished lawyers of the House of Lords.
– What about the word “corrupt”?
– I am not going to consent to the word “corrupt” at all, and when we come to deal with that I will explain why. But whether we put in the word “ corrupt “ or not, the definition ought to be the same. I point out an additional reason why these two or three suggested amendments ought not to be made in the
Bill, In the first place, a “gratuity bond fide given, such as by a guest to the servant of his host,” would hardly come within the scope of a Federal Act, which only deals with foreign and Inter-State commerce. It is for the State Legislature to deal with such matters, or it would applyin England, where Parliament legislates for all sorts of secret commissions, both- within, the realm and outside. But we as1 a Federation have no power to deal with those things at all. And when I- say that they would not come within the scope of the Bill, I mean that the acts complained of would not come within the scope of the Bill. There is no room for such an exception at all. The next exception mentioned - a gratuity given to a domestic servant or porter - seems- to me to be purely a State matter. It does- not relate to InterState commerce. The last one, “meat, drink, or accommodation reasonably and bond fide given by way of hospitality,” would not apply, I think, in ninety-nine cases- out of a hundred, to’ a case within the scope of our Bill. The only way in which it could apply might be in the case of a merchant in one State having dealings with a person in another State. If that hospitality is given to some manager for the purpose of securing transactions with, that particular merchant, I am not so sure that it is a proper thing to allow. The requisite safeguard is provided for, as I have pointed out, in my humble opinion, by the other portion of the Bill, which exempts from any criminal act or any improper act any consideration unless it is likely to influence the agent to do or leave undone something in the way of his duty. But it seems to me that if the gratuity is, for instance, a case of champagne, something that is likely to cause the agent to act contrary to his duty, it ought to be prohibited ; but if it is not, it does not come within- the scope of the Bill at all. Therefore, without taking up the time of the Committee with these suggestions any further, I do not think that they ought to be adopted. I should like to add that it is- a very strong argument in my favour that the most recent English Bill makes no exception at all in the question of consideration; and I do not think that in: this case we are in any way running counter to the best and most fully considered opinions of the greatest lawyers in England.
– It seems to me that, apart from the reasons given, by the Attorney-General, there is no necessity for the exceptions suggested by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, because the purpose of the Bill, as I’ understand it, is not to prohibit secret commissions or tips, but to provide that these secret commissions or tips shall not be given to the detriment of the employer. That is to say, the agent, in receiving them, must, to commit an offence, be acting detrimentally to the interests of his principal, or acting in such a way as is likely to influence him to the detriment of his principal.
– If it is likely to do any harm, but never does any, it is an offence.
– If it is done with that intention it is an offence. But I read subclause 2 of clause 4 differently from the honorable ‘and learned member. Though I cannot pit1 my layman’s judgment against his legal knowledge, as I take it, that subclause will, bv implication at least, carry the meaning that it must be shown that there is an intention to act detrimentally, or a possibility of the act that is committed being detrimental, to the principal before an offence is committed. I am quite prepared to take any step that would make sub-clause 2 of clause 4 more emphatic, if necessary ; but, in view of the reading that I feel constrained to put upon that provision, I do not see that there is any necessity for the suggestion now put forward.
– I really do not see any reason why the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella should be adopted. I cannot recognise any difference between a railway or a hotel porter receiving tips, and other men receiving commissions to grant advantages to which other people are not entitled. One of the curses of our civilization in connexion with modern commercial transactions is the system’ of tipping. The nimble “bob” that is paid to a porter secures to the person who can afford to pay the tip advantages that a more humble person who cannot afford it is deprived of. When a person pays for his sleeping berth on a train, the payment should be enough to secure him all the advantages that, as a traveller, he has a right to receive; but my experience is that the man who can pay the highest tip gets more advantages’ than does the humble person who cannot afford to be so lavish with his money. I do not know whether the Bill will apply to that degree, but I shall be very glad if it does. The right honorable member for Swan has used the term “generous treatment.” No doubt tipping is generous treatment, but, in my opinion, it is absolutely wrong. I believe that men ‘should be paid a fair wage for what they do. If they are not receiving fair wages, they should receive higher. But poverty-stricken persons should not be victimized simply because their purse does not allow them to ‘ pay as much as people who are better off. I should like to know whether there is any possibility of making this Bill apply to land agents.
-It will apply only to foreign and inter-State commerce, Commonwealth Departments, and contracts. Any internal matter is the subject of State jurisdiction.
– It is, of course, important that we should deal with corruption in commerce, but that is not nearly so important as is the matter which is now being investigated in New South Wales. I very much regret that, in the opinion of the Attorney-General, we cannot constitutionally deal with that matter. If such a law as this could be applied in such cases it would be of great advantage to the public. I disagree with the amendment, because I wish that this Bill, if possible, should strike a death-blow at the pernicious system of tipping. It is not uncommon on our railways to find commercial travellers, who have adopted the practice of tipping conductors, given certain advantages, and permitted to take their luggage in carriages occupied by passengers, when it should be taken in the luggage-van.
Mr. McCAY (Corinella).-Does not the Attorney-General think that the definition of “ Full knowledge “ is too stringent, in view of the use of the expression in clause 4 ? I would ask the honorable and learned gentleman also whether he thinks the words “or desires” should be included in the definition of “ Principal “ ?
– I will consider these matters. The amendment of the definition of Full knowledge,” already suggested, would only make the clause more stringent.
– I do not agree with that amendment. The Attorney-General might consent to consider the question of the recommittal of the Bill, if good reason for it is shown.
Mr, ISAACS (Indi-Attorney-General). - I cannot make any promise about a recommittal. With regard to the definition of “ Full knowledge,”I have considered that so fully that I do not think it would be fair to say that there is any probability of my altering the definition here proposed. In regard to the use of the words “ or desires “ in the definition of “ principal,” I have not given that the same full consideration, and I shall loot: into it.
Clause agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to-
That the House at its rising adjourn until Tuesday next, at half-past two o’clock, or such time thereafter as the Speaker may take the chair.
Mr. DEAKIN (Ballarat- Minister of
External Affairs). - I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
On Tuesday we propose to resume the consideration of the Secret Commissions Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.55 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 October 1905, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1905/19051005_reps_2_27/>.