2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. LIDDELL presented a petition from the Women’s Christian Temperance Union of New South Wales, praying for the enactment of legislation to prohibit the sale and consumption of alcoholic liquorsini the military camps, canteens, and army transports of the Commonwealth.
Motion (by Mr. Liddell) put -
That the petition be read.
The House divided.
Majority … …. 32
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Mr. R. EDWARDS presented a similar petition from the Women’s Christian Temperance Union of Queensland.
Mr. LIDDELL presented a petition from the Women’s Christian Temperance Union of New South Wales, praying for the enactment of legislation to prohibit the importation of opium, except for medicinal purposes, into the Commonwealth.
Motion (by Mr. Page) put -
That the petition be read.
The House divided.
Majority … … 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Petition read.
– I would like to ask the Postmaster-General whether he has received the report of the board appointed to inquire into the alleged incompetency or neglect of some of the heads of the Post Office Department in Western Australia?
– I have received a fragment of the report - that portion of it which deals with the delays between Western Australia and Adelaide. That is now being dealt with, and I expect to have the complete report in my hands within the next fortnight. Immediately it is received, action will be taken, and honorable members will be advised accordingly.
– I would like to ask the Minister whether he has any information with respect to the payment of members of the partially-paid forces for Sunday work ?
– I am now informed that-
Under the regulations, Militia can only earn a maximum of sixteen days’ pay in a year, made up of camps, drills, and parades. In all the States, except New South Wales, the Easter Sunday in camp was paid for as one of the sixteen days, but in New South Wales, no pay was given for the Sunday in camp, although the actual days paid for full attendance at the camp were the same as in other States. This has been the custom in New South Wales since before Federation. Instructions have now been given that the Sunday is to be reckoned as one of the days to be paid for in camp, the same as in other States. Men who put in full time will still, however, receive no more than the sixteen days’ pay in the year. It may have happened that men who have not earned the full sixteen days, but who were in camp on the Sunday, have received a day’s pay less than they might otherwise have received, except that, if it had been decided beforehand to pay for Sunday, the duration of the camp would have been shortened by a day.
– In view of the fact that some honorable members representing distant States have been away from their homes since early in the current year, and in view also of the excellent progress that has been made with the business before us, could the Prime Minister say when the session is likely to close?
– As soon as possible.
– I should like to know if the Prime Minister can inform the House when we are likely to have placed before us the report of the Secretary for External Affairs with regard to his visit to New Guinea ?
– I have already had handed to me a portion of the report relating to matters with which we are dealing administratively. The complete document should be ready within a few days.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question, based upon some correspondence which has been published in the newspapers, as to his action in relation to the Tariff Commission? I find that the Prime Minister forwarded to the Chairman of the Tariff Commission a letter covering a resolution of the Chamber of Manufactures, as follows: -
That in view of the fact that our artisans are still leaving the Commonwealth, this Chamber respectfully urges the Federal Government to immediately obtain a definite report from the Tariff Commission as to the effect of the Tariff upon industries which have so far been investigated by them.
The Prime Minister added certain comments of his own, to the effect that the Government had given- the resolution their best consideration, and accorded it their heartiest support. He expressed the hope that the Commission would be able to comply with the suggestion, and mentioned certain reasons in support of it. I should like to know whether he considers he has any powers which would enable him to immediately obtain, a definite report from the Tariff Commission - whether, in fact, he has any control whatever over a Royal Commission appointed by the Governor-General, and possessing certain well-defined powers? I desire to know, further, whether he can quote any precedent for the Government directly interfering in what I conceive to be an unwarrantable way with the exercise of the powers of the Royal Commission, and also more than incidentally with the prerogative of the Governor-General, and whether he has received the resignations of any members of the Commission as a protest against his action?
– I am not prepared, without notice, to discuss all the powers which are possessed bv the Administration of the day over Royal Commissions. I may point out to the honorable member that my request did not in any way interfere with or impair any of the powers or prerogatives of the Commission itself, or of any commissioner. A resolution passed by a public body and sent to the Government was properly forwarded to a Royal Commission. In this case all that was asked was expedition on the part of the Commission. No attempt was made to define what constitutes expedition, that being left to th-2 good judgment of the Commission themselves. Whatever be the powers of the
Governor-General, .or of a Royal Commission - and both arc great - there is not in the slightest’ degree a trespass on the one side, or any excuse for feeling an affront on the other in connexion with a request that at the earliest: possible date the Commission will make a report on the subjects they have investigated.
– But the Minister expressed a definite opinion that they should report without delay.
– I urged that the Commission should at once make a report upon the subjects which they had investigated if they were able to do so. Any weight which such” a request by the Government might have would be derived from the fact that it represents a large body of public opinion, the Commission being left perfectly freeto say “Yea” or “Nay.” As a matter of fact, the Commission have replied in a manner that indicates that they have received the request in a proper spirit. TheChairman, after consulting with the members of the Commission, not only takes nooffence, but expresses his appreciation of the arguments which have been urged in. support of the resolution. Therefore, thehonorable member’s anticipation of any difficulty between the Government and theCommission on this account has no foundation.
– As the Prime Minister has expressed his opinion upon the question, I venture to say that the members of the Commission should have resigned. The Prime Minister left one of myquestions unanswered. I should like himto say whether he recollects, in all his political experience, a case in which the Premier of a Government has in any way sought to bring pressure to bear upon a Royal! Commission.
– In the sense of endeavouring to expedite the report of a Commission, I can remember two or three instances which have occurred in Victoria.. I could not from memory say what was theparticular character of the communicationsent to the Commissions; but it has beencustomary in the various States when a public body, however great and important, appears to be in danger of occupying moretime than is necessary, to ask it to expedite matters. Certainly no offence has-, been’ taken in such cases.
At a later stage,
– I now recollect distinctly a number of occasions in . which Royal Commissions in Victoria have been urged to expedite their reports. Attention having been called to the matter in the House, State Governments have communicated with their Commissions, expressing the wish of Parliament that they would expedite their reports.
– That is quite another matter. In this particular case the Prime Minister was acting at the dictation of an outside body.
– There was no dictation to or by the Government.
– Could the PostmasterGeneral give the House any idea when the report of the Old-age Tensions Commission will be presented?
– The Commission have practically concluded the taking of evidence in Victoria, but still have to examine two or three witnesses in New South Wales, and probably one or two in Tasmania. The work is being expedited, in the hope that the report may be presented before the close of the session.
Debate resumed from 5th October (vide page 3266), on motion by Mr. Austin Chapman -
That this House accepts the agreement, made and entered into on the 85th 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 a 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.”
– I hesitated to speak on this matter before, because I desired to obtain certain information from the members of the late Government, who were responsible for the completion of the contract that we are now being asked to ratify. The members of the late Administration apparently desired that this debate should close without any expression- of opinion from them.
– That is scarcely a fair remark to make.
– It is true that the late Postmaster-General did address himself to the question under consideration at a late hour last Thursday night, but his remarks were the first expression of opinion that has been heard upon this all-important question from any member of the late Administration.
– He made only a partial explanation.
– I admit that the inter- jection of the honorable member for Dalley is to a large extent warranted. The reasons advanced by the late PostmasterGeneral for incurring the extraordinary expenditure involved in the present contract were only in the nature of a partial explanation, lt is true that he spoke for a couple of hours, but had he continued in the same strain for a week we should still have occupied very much the same position that we do to-day. He’ gave us, an historical review of the contracts which have been entered into for the conveyance of mails between England and Australia’ during the past twenty or thirty years. That information disclosed the fact that, although the trade between these States and the old country has been a continuously increasing quantity, the subsidy paid to’ the Orient Steam Navigation Company has also been an increasing one. To my mind, we had reason to expect from the late PostmasterGeneral some strong justification for the decision of the Cabinet, of which he was a.- member in regard to the existing contract. We. all know that other offers were made to the late. Government, and under these circumstances we naturally though! that the honorable member would have advanced substantial reasons why this Parliament should be called upon to sanction an increased subsidy. In looking through the correspondence which “lei up to this contract, I find that some time prior to its acceptance the members of the ReidMcLean Ministry were telling the people of Australia that no tender could be seriously considered which did lot ‘approach closely -to the ,£100,000 limit. The late
Postmaster-General, himself, was of that opinion.’ I note, however, that at a particular stage in the negotiations the correspondence suddenly assumes a most extraordinary change. Up to the 15th February it had been addressed to the PostmasterGeneral, who, in reply, had forwarded his communications to the “ General manager of the Orient Steam Navigation Company.” Upon a certain date, after one tender had been refused by the Cabinet, and’ its decision had been minuted, I find that the Postmaster-General forwarded a communication to the general manager of the Orient Steam Navigation Company in these words -
I understand company desire to make further otter. If so, shall gladly consider, but it must be firm, direct to me, and immediately.
A little later, however, the exPostmasterGeneral appears to have completely dropped out of the ‘negotiations, because almost the next communication from Mr. Kenneth S. Anderson is addressed “ Dear Mr. Reid.” At this particular period there appeared to be every prospect of a settlement being arrived at, and the familiar terms employed in the correspondence lead me to believe that both parties to it thoroughly understood each other. Apparently the Postmas’ter-General was entirely overlooked in these later negotiations. At any rate, I feel that he did not receive the consideration to which he was entitled, and that to some extent he was slighted by the Prime Minister of the day. In dealing with the contract which we are asked to. ratify, there are certain circumstances which we must recollect. The most important of these is that the Government which were responsible for entering into the existing arrangement have paid the extreme penalty for having committed such a colossal blunder. They have been relegated to a position in which their responsibility is much less than it was previously - a position which I believe they will continue to occupy for some considerable time. Viewing their position from that stand-point, I derive no small amount of pleasure. Further, the ‘acceptance of the present contract, subject to’ its ratification by this Parlia- ment, is an effective reply to those persons who are always contending ‘that it is impossible for white men to work in the stokeholds of our mail steamers. It has Deen conclusively proved that, if the ventilation of these vessels is attended to, and if an improvement be effected in the general con:ditions that obtain there, no difficulty need be experienced in securing reliable white men to perform this class of work. I am delighted to know that Australia is paying this subsidy . for distribution among our own countrymen instead of to lascars. It may reasonably be urged that those who oppose the. ratification of the present contract should be prepared with an alternative scheme for the carriage of our mails. Personally, I am of opinion that the subsidy now being paid to the Orient Steam Navigation Company is considerably in excess of the benefits conferred by that service. It has been claimed - and the Postmaster-General has not denied it - that if we adopted the poundage system we could effect a saving of ^80,000 per annum.
– But we should secure no regularity.
– The Treasurer interjects that we could not secure any regularity in the service under those conditions. I hold that to obtain a sufficient share of the passenger and cargo trade between Australia and other countries to insure success to the venture, it is necessary that any line of steam-ships should duly advertise the time of the departure of its vessels from particular ports, and also the time at which they may be expected to reach their destination. If the Orient Steam Navigation Company took up the attitude of saying, “ We will not take the public into our confidence as to the date of the departure of our vessels,” I maintain that if they had persisted in their attitude they would very soon have had to relinquish their service. They would have to make room for other companies, which would have considered the public convenience. Let us suppose that the mail steamers did not leave Adelaide at 2 p.m. on Thursday, as they do at the present time, and let us further assume that they left a few hours later. Their owners would still have to give the public reasonable notice of the time of the departure. Under the existing law, which compels them to carry mail matter, I understand that they are required to give twenty-four hours’ notice of the intended departure of their vessels. But even assuming that we had to submit to a -little inconvenience by reason of receiving only that brief .notice - a contingency which I do not anticipate would arise - I still maintain that the saving of the increased subsidy payable under the current contract would justify us in submitting to that inconvenience. The late Government professed to Be actuated by a most extraordinary desire to assist the residents of the interior of Australia, but it appears to me - in view of the fact that we are now asked to expend £80,000 per annum more than is necessary to get our mails carried to the other side of the world1 - that their professions in this respect are scarcely as sincere as they would have us believe. In my judgment, instead of paying this £80,000 to placate., our banking and commercial institutions, and to enable the Businesses conducted in Flinderslane and George-street, Sydney, to be carried on at a greater profit, we could expend it much more profitably in extending postal and telegraphic facilities to the residents of the interior. Assuming that, the Orient Steam Navigation Company made the position of the Government as awkward as possible, owing to its refusal to accede to their demands, I say that we could then transmit our mails to the outer world by two other lines of * steamers which run regularly between Australia and Europe - I refer to the Norddeutscher Lloyd and the Messageries Maritimes Companies’ vessels. I also expected in connexion with the present contract that an effort would have been made to secure more up-to-date ships and a quicker service. I find that the British Government, in its contract with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, are ‘receiving a quicker service for a less subsidy than was previously paid. On the other hand, although the subsidy payable by the Commonwealth has been enormously increased, we have not secured a quicker service than that which obtained seven years ago. Only the other night reference -was made to the fact that the old Cuzco had been taken off the Australian service only within the past two or three years. I repeat that for entering into this contract the Tate Government deserved to pay the extreme penalty which has been exacted from them. The representatives of Queensland in this House have earnestly advocated the adoption of a certain course in regard to this contract. I for one consider it desirable that the Post and Telegraph Department, in entering into contracts of this kind, should have regard, not only to the expeditious transmission of letters to all parts of the world, but to the interests of producers and all who may be assisted by means of an adequate and effective oversea service. I do not think it necessary for the Department to study simply the establishment of effective postal communication, and therefore am not opposed to the conditions in the contract relating to the provision of cold storage on board the vessels of the company. It seems to me. however, that since the late Government insisted upon the insertion of a condition in the contract providing that the mail steamers should call not only at Adelaide, but at Melbourne and Sydney, they might well have considered the capital of another State. I doubt the wisdom of requiring the service to be extended beyond the point at which the oversea mails are discharged, but having provided that it shall go on 10 Melbourne and Sydney, we ought certainly to give some consideration to the demands of Queensland. No one can say that, simply because the city has a smaller population than has either Sydney or Melbourne, we should disregard the desire of that State that Brisbane shall be made a port of call. The proposal made by the honorable member for Oxley is a hazy and indefinite one, but if a proposition be submitted by the representatives of Queensland that the vessels of the service shall be sent on to Brisbane on payment of the mileage rate of 3s. 8d. I shall be prepared to give it my support.
– That would be better than nothing.
– It would relieve Queensland to the extent of something like £6,000 per annum. Although I am opposed to the ratification of this contract, I believe that the motion will be carried, and’ that being so, we should take care to mete out equal treatment to all the States. An important, proposition for the establishing of al Commonwealth fleet of mail steamers has been made by the honorable member for Barrier, and the able speech which he recently delivered on the subject is worthy of the serious consideration of the House. I certainly nope that the Government will carefully consider his proposal. In submitting this motion the PostmasterGeneral spoke in a half-hearted way, that was not calculated to arouse any enthusiasm in the proposal to pay a subsidy of £t 20,000 to this company. The honorable gentleman said that he was not pleased with the terms of thF contract, ‘that the subsidy was too large, that better conditions as to the time occupied on the voyage should have been exacted, and that the Government would terminate the agreement as soon as possible. That Hoes not say much for the perspicacity of the late Government in entering into such a contract ; but it indicates an intention on the part of the Ministry to take a step in the right direction. The time is fast approaching, if it is not already at hand, when the Govern-‘ ment should shake itself free from the bonds of the oversea shipping combine. The honorable member for Barrier has pointed out that the subsidy now paid for the carriage of our oversea mails would be sufficient to provide a sinking fund and meet interest charges on the capital cost of a fleet that would be more than sufficient to carry, not only our oversea mails, but our various exports to the markets of the old world. I hope that the Government will give his suggestion their serious attention. My desire is that, when this contract expires, the Commonwealth Government shall be in a position to refuse for all time to listen to the. overtures of a company which, at present, appears to hold us fast within its grip.
– I do not intend to speak at any great length, as when the last Supply Bill” was before the House 1 was able to explain my views with regard to this contract. I should like, however, to supplement to some extent remarks which I made on that occasion. I had not the privilege of hearing the debate which took place last week on the motion now before us, but I have carefully read the Hansard report of it, and am therefore fairly familiar with the arguments that were adduced for and against the adoption of the contract. The speech made by the Postmaster-General was certainly a remarkable one. It reminded me very forcibly of the famous address delivered in the Town Hall, Sydney, by the present leader of the Opposition, when he denounced the Federal Constitution Bill, but concluded by stating that he intended to vote for it. As I read the PostmasterGeneral’s deliverance, I could not help recalling that speech to mind, for the reason that while the honorable gentleman had not a word to say in favour of the contract, he invited the House to ratify it. It afforded unmistakable evidence that he was not prepared to accept the responsibility of advising the House to take up a proper stand in regard to this proposal. It was such a lukewarm utterance that it was practically an invitation to the House to reject the Government proposal. Evidently the honorable gentleman had not the courage to say what he wished us to do. I am sorry that the honorable member for Macquarie, as Postmaster-General, should have been prepared to agree to this contract. The fault rests primarily with him. He ‘spoke very eloquently last session about what might be done under the poundage rate system.
– A good deal has been done under that system. We are sending our mails by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s boats, notwithstanding that black labour is employed upon them.
– The honorable member said last session that his Government were -not prepared to give a subsidy of more than £100,000 per annum. It seems, however, that he gave way to the clamour of a few Melbourne and Sydney merchants, who were supported by a section of the daily press, in their demand for the acceptance of this contract. ‘ I am glad to say that the whole of the daily press of Australia was not favorable to the proposal.
– Were not the Watson Government prepared to give a subsidy of ^100,000 per annum?
– As I was not a member of that Government, I cannot say whether they were or not. Had they asked the House to ratify such a proposal, I should not have hesitated to say that I objected to anything of the kind.
– The honorable member would not have been allowed to do so.
– Then I should not have done it. John Bright once said that some conductors of the daily press were prepared to barter away the rights of the people in order that they might bask in the smiles of the rich. It appears to me that the Argus, the Daily Telegraph, and the South Australian Register, in urging the late Government to accept this contract, had more regard for the interests of the Orient Steam Navigation Company and a few commercial men than they had for the interests of Australia. I have not a word to say against the company. We are told that individualism is the ideal state of society, and one of the tenets of the individualists is that one should always endeavour to make the best possible bargain.
– On both sides.
– Quite so. I do not blame the Orient Steam Navigation Company for having demanded a subsidy of £150,000 per annum. I regret that they did not ask for a subsidy of £250,000 per annum, and stand by their demand. Had they done so, the late PostmasterGeneral might have taken a more courageous attitude. It is only in a time of great emergency that some men are prepared to display any grit. If we have not the capacity, the energy, the pluck, or the means to carry out this service for ourselves, we must be content to remain at the mercy of the shipping companies.
– It is a wonder that the honorable member did not advocate a State-owned line of steamers long ago.
– I spoke once or twice last session in favour of the Commonwealth owning its own mail steamers.
– Did the honorable member bring his proposal before the Watson Government?
– Were they long enough in office to deal with such a proposal ? I intend to oppose the ratification of this contract, notwithstanding what I have said about the Orient Steam Navigation Company.
– It was the late Government who gave the House this opportunitv to deal with the contract.
– I do not find fault with them for having done that, though I understand that it is usual, even in England, for Parliament to be asked to ratify these agreements. At the same time I do not support the contention of the representatives of Queensland. I think that any contract entered into should be wholly a contract for the carriage of mails.
– As far as Sydney?
– No ; only between such ports in Australia and elsewhere as it may be necessary for the steamers to visit for the taking on board or delivery of mails. I have always advocated that the subsidies paid by the Postal Department should be paid for the conveyance of mails only.
– How far would the honorable member propose that his fleet should go?
– A Commonwealth fleet would be maintained for purposes other than the carriage of mails. The vessels comprising it would carry passengers and freight as well. Speaking on this subject last session I said -
I am very glad that this point has been raised, because I am very anxious indeed that not a single penny should be paid by the Post and Telegraph Department on account of mail contracts, except for the carriage of mails. I do not object to pay£50,000, or£100,000, for other purposes if necessary. But we should have some assurance from the Minister that he will fight for his Department in this matter.
– Why not kill two or three birds with the one stone?
– I . object to the Post Office being asked to pay for anything but the carriage of mails.
– What does it matter how the service is paid for?
– The PostmasterGeneral has told us that there is likely to be a loss of over , £100,000 in the working of the Post Office this year, and why should that loss be increased by requiring the Department to pay for services other than the carriage of mails? I shall oppose the contention of the representatives of Queensland, because what thev are asking for is a service for other than postal purposes.
Mr.Fisher. - The honorable member has already stated that the agreement is for the performance of services other than the carrying of postal matter.
– Yes; and that is one of the reasons why I shall vote against its ratification. In my opinion, a blunder was made by inserting in the agreement provisions which have not to do with the carriage of postal matter. We have been told that, under this agreement, we are getting something for nothing - that even if it were not stipulated that the vessels of the Orient Steam Navigation Company shall come on to Melbourne and Sydney, and be fitted up with cold chambers and refrigerating machinery, they would still visit those ports, and be fitted up for the proper conveyance of perishable products. I think there is something in that contention. In my opinion, we should have had to pay £120,000 to the company if no such stipulations had been inserted in the contract, and the vessels of the company would, nevertheless, have gone on to Svdney, and would have been fitted up with the necessary conveniences for the carriage of perishable produce, simply because their “trade competitors, the vessels of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, go as far as Sydney, and are so fitted up. Therefore, we do not get anything extra for our subsidy, and, if it would do any good to the Queensland people to have the agreement referred Back to the contracting parties, so that its provisions could be made to apply to the carriage of postal matter only, I should not object to that being done, especially since such action on our part would emphatically express our opinion that the Post Office should be asked to pay for postal services only.
– This agreement provides that the steamers of the Orient Steam Navigation Company must carry mail matter to Sydney.
– I take it that if parcels were not carried as far as Sydney by steamer, the Commonwealth would be put to greater expense in conveying them overland from Adelaide by rail.
– If the ideas of the honorable member were carried into effect, and the Postal Department were required to look after nothing but the conveyance of mails, our postal service would have to be revolutionised.
– I do not object to the conveyance of parcels under the direction of the Post Office, because the Department receives revenue from that service.
– In the country districts one of the most important collateral advantages of our mail contracts is the facility thereby provided for the conveyance of passengers.
– Some of our mail contractors carry very few passengers, and the cost to the Department is greater than where there is aheavy passenger traffic.
– The Department would have to pay almost twice as much for the conveyance of mails if it were not for the passenger traffic.
Mr.THOMAS. - Every up-to-date man connected with the Post-office takes . the same view as I do in connexion with this question. The Secretary to the Department, in whom we have a very able officer, and one whom I am glad to see the permanent head of the Department, indorses my view. Even Sir Thomas Sutherland, who ought to know something about the conveyance of mails by steamers, has given evidence before a Committee of the House of Commons that, in his opinion, the Postoffice should contract for the conveyance of postal matter only. My chief objection to the agreement is that it is more than an agreement for the conveyance of postal matter. The Postmaster-General has told us that we are now paying , £38,000 per annum more for the conveyance of our mails than we paid under the old contract ; but the Orient Steam Navigation Company are really receiving £48, 000 more than we formerly paid. We gain £10,000 per annum under an arrangement with the British Government, whereby we pay , £15,000 to that Government and they pay £25,000 to us, because we do not send so many letters home as they send out here. But, so far as the subsidy is concerned, whereas we formerly paid £72,000 a year, we are now paying £120,000 a year, the difference between the two amounts being , £48,000. The Postmaster-General pointed out that in nearly every case in which mail contracts have been renewed, the subsidy has been decreased, and the service expedited. In this case, however, the subsidy has been increased, and we get no faster service than we had before. We had a right to expect a quicker service than we formerly got, because ships can be constructed more cheaply now than was possible ten or twenty years ago, and can be driven with a less consumption of coal than was formerly needed. Therefore it is not so expensive to run a line of boats now as it was someyears ago.
– It is the volume of the trade to be done that affects the question.
– Surely the volume of trade is increasing?
– I doubt it.
– I think that it is increasing.. The Postmaster-General. I understand, intends to give notice to the company that the agreement will terminate at the end of three years, and purposes to allow at least two years for the calling of tenders for a fresh service. I ask him if he really thinks that he will be able to make better terms two years hence than he can make now? In my opinion, he will not be able to do so. The Orient Steam Navigation Company intend to ask for a larger subsidy when this contract ceases. No secret is being made of that intention, the matter having been spoken of by Mr. Green at a meeting of shareholders in London. The PostmasterGeneral is reported to have said that it is difficult to understand why there was not more competition when tenders were called for the present service, but I think that the explanation is easy to give. A fleet of vessels such as is required for the service we ask could not be built in a month or two, but would take at least two years to construct. I venture to say that we should not be prepared to enter into a contract for any such period unless we could feel assured that we should secure a service of a much superior character to that now provided by the Orient Steam Navigation Company. I quite recognise that something more than a mere mail subsidy is necessary to enable a large steam-ship company to carry on a complete service between Australia and London. A mail subsidy of £120,000 may be very helpful, but in order to provide such a service as we require a steam-ship company would need to derive a revenue of at least £750.000 per annum from the carriage -of mails, cargo, and passengers. Under these conditions, it is not reasonable to expect a great amount of competition for the mail sendee. Difficulty is experienced, in this connexion, even in England where there are a hundred steamers for every one that visits our shores, and where thirty or forty large companies are doing business. Sir Thomas Sutherland, in the course of his evidence before the Select Committee of the House of Commons, said -
I do not think any line trading in the East, if you mean that, is in a position to put on the fleet that the Peninsular and Oriental Company put on in connexion with the mail service, and I ‘ do not think it could easily create that fleet in a couple of years.
Then he was asked the following question : -
The result is practically, that your company has control of those contracts in its hands, se long as it maintains its present excellent fleet?
He replied -
I th’ink we have maintained control ,of the mail contract simply through the efficiency of our service, and the very moderate demands we have made on the Government.
That means that so far as England is concerned there is no competition for the contracts for the carriage of mails to the East. The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company send in their ^tender, and it practically has to be accepted. If that be the case in England, there is no likelihood that at the end of two 3’ears we shall have any more competition here than took place when the last tenders were invited for the mail service. The existence of the
British shipping ring militates against competition. The Postmaster-General was very cautious in his reference to this combination. He did not care, without positive knowledge, to say anything with regard to it. There is, however, no secret with regard to the existence of the shipping ring. The ship-owners themselves frankly admit that such a combination exists, and many large shippers patronize the ring because, although they might occasionally be able to secure cheaper freights by tramp steamers, they are guaranteed greater regularity if they ship their goods by the vessels belonging to the ring.
– It is practically a commercial union.
– Just so. The shipowners make no secret about it. When Sir Thomas Sutherland was questioned with regard to the shipping ring, he admitted frankly and openly that such a combination existed. He was asked whether the shipping ring did not strongly fight against any competitors who were outside their combination and he acknowledged that they did so. One case, in point was that of the China-Mutual Company, which was started by a number of Chinese merchants. After war had been waged against the company for a few months they became parties to the conference. It was remarked that the company had practically no option but to join the ring, and Sir Thomas Sutherland replied that they had the option to go on losing money. Then again, the India Tea Association broke away from the shipping ring and ran their own line of steamers for some little time, but eventually peace was declared and they were restored’ to the fold. Any ‘shipping company within the ‘ring would not be likely to tender upon better terms than those now being offered by the Orient Steam Navigation Company, whilst any company outside the ring would have to withstand’ the competition of the Orient Steam Navigation Company, Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, German and French, and other lines belonging to the Shipping Conference. Some persons have asked why the Australian ship-owners do not enter into the oversea trade. The local companies are making handsome profits, and no doubt thev wouldbe in a position to unite in providing the fleet of steamers required for an efficient mail service ; but if they were to do so independently of the shipping ring, thev would be subjected to the most severe competition, and would find their coastal trade greatly cut into by ocean-going steamers, which now refrain .from trespassing upon their domain. They now enjoy a very profitable trade, and so long as other boats do not interfere with them, they prefer to leave well alone. Reviewing the whole situation, it appears to me that there is very little likelihood of any private shipping company offering better terms than those upon which the Orient Steam Navigation Company are willing to carry on the service.
– It is to be hoped that we shall find but what is going to happen long before two years have elapsed.
– I hope so. But the sooner the Government realize the position they are in, the better it will be. Practically there are only three courses open to us. We might continue, as in the past, to enter into a compact with a private company upon terms similar to those now prevailing. As an alternative, we might subsidize a company by giving them the contract for the carriage of the mails, and guaranteeing them the Government freights, and also a large amount of private freight. Further, we should have to stand behind them, and see therm through any difficulty in which they might become involved owing to the competition of the shipping ring. If we went to that length, it would be necessary for us to exercise some control over the company, and probably to be represented on the board of directors. I do not think that that idea would work out successfully, because the dual control would probably result in a great deal of friction. The third course open to us, and in my opinion by far the best, would be to acquire a fleet of steamers, and run it on our own account apart from any private ownership. I was very pleased to notice a London cablegram, published in the Adelaide Advertiser, under date 4th March, 1905, as follows : -
Many merchants and shippers concerned in the Australian trade agree with the suggestion made by the Conservative member for North-East Bethnal Green, for a State mail service as a means of promoting the unity of Empire.
I am glad to know that a Conservative member of the Imperial Parliament is imbued with the same idea that many of us hold, and that, in addition to other advantages to which reference has been made, he thinks that the establishment of such a line of steamers would tend to the promotion of that unity of the Empire which we all desire to foster. I would therefore urge the Government to take a courageous and common - sense view of the matter, and not to wasteany more time in calling for tenders; but to arrange for the acquisition of a fleet of steamers to carry on the mail service immediately upon the expiration of the present contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company. I was glad to noticethat in connexion with the arrangements, entered into with the Orient Steam Navigation Company, for the extension of their service to Brisbane, the Queensland Government have guaranteed to give to the company all their freight from London. If a State- Government is prepared to go to that length in its dealings with a privatecompany, surely we may rest assured that the States Governments will be willing to give the fullest support to a Commonwealth line of steamers. Some persons argue that it would be unwise for us to enter into the steam-ship owning business, for the reason that the Government could not manage such an enterprise so well as could a private company. If that argument be a sound one, it would be advantageous to hand over our railways to private enterprise, to permit our post and telegraph services, and even our educational system, to pass into private hands. Any such suggestions would appear utterly ridiculous in view of the fact that we have already spent hundreds of millions of pounds in carrying on public enterprises on State socialistic lines. I have had experience of the Government trams in Sydney, and of the privately - owned trams in Adelaide, and I have found’ the former to be by far the more satisfactory.. I say that if to-morrow the people of Sydney disposed’ of their trams to private enterprise, and if those trams were run upon the same lines as are the Adelaide trams, which are privately owned, there would Le more bloodshed within twenty-four hoursthan occurred during the whole of the Boer War. They would be absolutely murdering one another. I know that there are some individuals who object to a Stateowned line of steamers, but who do not object to State-owned railways. They contend, that in the matter of railways the Government enjoy a monopoly, whereasthey would have to face competition upon the sea. They urge that the State can succeed in one instance, but not in, the other. I hold that, if the Government can succeed” only when they enjoy a monopoly - if they cannot successfully compete with the outside world - there is not much to be said in their favour: I do not suggest that the Commonwealth should purchase vessels with a view to securing the whole of the trade between England and Australia, but I do say that it should take over at least one line of steamers. I would welcome competition on the part of other vessels. 1 recognise that, in the absence of competition, it is quite possible that Government officials might go to sleep. I venture to say that if there were keen competition the service would be all the better conducted. If competition became unfair, we should have power to resort to extreme measures. I have sufficient faith in the energy, ability, and courage of the Australian people to induce me to believe that, if they were really determined to carry through such a scheme, they would be able to achieve their object despite the existence of any shipping ring. I do hope that the Government, at their earliest convenience, will do something upon the lines suggested. I shall vote against the ratification of the contract, because I hold that it is not purely a mail contract, and because I object to the whole of this subsidy* being paid by the Postal Department. I am also opposed to the motion because I think that the time has arrived when these great services should be rendered to the State by the community, and not merely by private enterprise.
Mr. STORRER (Bass). - I agree with a great deal tHat has been said by the previous speaker in reference to the present mail contract. I believe that the price that is being paid under it is altogether too high. At the same time, we have to consider the position in which the late Government were placed. Upon the one hand the people were desirous of securing a quick and reliable service, and on the other the large subsidy demanded was regarded by many with suspicion. As fax as I am personally concerned, I would rather wait two or three months for my letters from England than be imposed upon by a shipping company. We all know the difficulties that were experienced by various Governments in connexion with this matter. Had it not been for our party system of Government, perhaps, . those difficulties would have been overcome,, and we should have been able to make a much better bargain. But the fact remains that we have to deal with the ques tion as lt stands at the present time. A contract for three years has been entered into with the Orient Steam Navigation Company, and I believe that the best thing we can do is to ratify it. I have arrived at that conclusion after very careful consideration. I freely confess that, originally, I was somewhat opposed to the payment of the present subsidy for the transit of our mails, seeing that they could be carried upon the poundage system for a very much less sum. However, if the people are prepared to pay that amount, it would be wise to ratify the present contract, and at the end of two or three years to endeavour to make some better arrangement. At the expiration of the existing contract, I trust that we shall be able to enter into some agreement more advantageous from the stand-point of the Commonwealth. As I am a member* of the Select Committee which is now investigating the question of the desirableness, or otherwise, of the State purchasing a line of steamers, I do not intend to touch upon that question at the present time. It is one which we shall require to consider very carefully before arriving at any conclusion as to whether or not the project would pay from a national stand-point. Of course I recognise that if the exporters and importers of the Commonwealth would loyally stand by the Government, no apprehension need be entertained as to the project being a payable one. Unfortunately, we have to take cognisance of the fact that we should inevitably be required to face competition. I intend1 to support the ratification of the present contract, not because I believe that it is the right course to adopt, but because it is the best thing we can do under the circumstances. Reference has been made to the question of the desirableness of making Brisbane a port of call by the mail steamers. Personally, I am of opinion that the present contract is merely a mail contract to Adelaide. I recognise the necessity which exists for steamers conveying perishable products from Melbourne and the ports of the other States to the markets of the world, and I believe that it is right that the Government should make arrangements in that connexion. At the same time, I do not think that the Postal Department should be called upon to pay for the service thus rendered. The honorable member for Wide Bay has suggested that it would be an equitable thing - seeing that Brisbane has not been made a port of call by the mail steamers under the existing contract - if the Government agreed to reimburse the State of Queensland at the rate of 3s. 8d. per mile upon the distance between Sydney and Brisbane. The honorable member for Darwin has moved that Hobart should be included in the contract as a port of call - a proposal from which the honorable member for Wilmot dissents. In my judgment, if Queensland is to be paid 3s. 8d. per mile upon the distance between Sydney and Brisbane, a similar concession should be made to Tasmania upon the mileage between Melbourne and Hobart. Tasmania does not require the mail steamers to call there throughout the year. The producers of that State have their own service, for which they pay, and under the circumstances I think that the Government would be justified in contributing towards that expenditure. If the concession, to which I have referred, is extended to Queensland, I hope that similar treatment will be meted out to Tasmania.
– I intend to support the amendment of the honorable member for Oxley. I consider that we should see that justice is done to Queensland. It is undeniable that the present mail contract terminates at Adelaide. The stipulation under which the steamers are required to call at Melbourne and Sydney represents so much waste paper, seeing that the mails are landed at Adelaide, and forwarded thence by train. As these ports have been specifically mentioned in the contract, I claim that Brisbane should also be made a port of call by the mail steamers. The existing contract provides that these vessels shall be fitted with refrigerating chambers, and that fact is urged as a reason why they should call at Melbourne and Sydney. I contend that the stipulation in question might just as well have been omitted, inasmuch as the people of Victoria, and fully half of those who are interested in perishable produce in New South Wales, do not send their produce to the old country by the mail steamers. It appears to me that the shipping companies, which for so many years have conveyed our produce to the markets of the world, have, as the result of a “ combine,” been able to exact an exorbitant amount from our people. That is evident from the fact that not long ago the freight levied upon dairy produce was £7 per ton, whereas immediately other companies entered into competition with them the amount was reduced by one-half.
In the light of recent events, there is nothing to warrant the payment of such an enormous subsidy as£120,000 for the carriage of our mails. I sympathize with the late Postmaster-General, who was in office when it was necessary to arrive at some decision in regard to this matter. Having regard to the pressure that was brought to bear, I do not wonder that he succumbed to the demands of the Orient Steam Navigation Company. That company placed every possible obstacle in his way, and I think that the present Postmaster-General will be abundantly justified in terminating the present contract at the earliest possible moment.
– Why not now ?
– That course cannot very well be adopted. Whilst the present contract is running, I suggest that the PostmasterGeneral should endeavour to obtain the consent of the various States to a proposal that they should forward all their perishable produce to the markets of the world by certain lines of steamers. If that were done I am sure that when the existing contract expired a much better arrangement would be entered into. If the combine is so effective as to prevent the submission of more than one tender, I shall certainly be willing to assist the honorable member for Barrier to establish a State-owned line of steamers. We should not then be at the mercy of any combine. In my opinion, no time should be lost in negotiating for the carriage of our mails under a new agreement. If that were done much better terms could be secured. The claim of Brisbane to be included as a port of call is entitled to some consideration. The people of Queensland are fully alive to their own interests, and the State Government have experienced but little difficulty in inducing the Orient Steam Navigation Company to enter into a separate agreement for the extension of this service to Brisbane. In the course of the next few years Queensland will be the greatest producing State in the Commonwealth. During the last few years it has made more rapid strides than has any other State. A good class of men are flocking to it, and, as they are entering largely upon farming and dairying pursuits, the exports of the State must rapidly increase. It did not require much pressure on the part of the Government of Queensland to induce the Orient Steam Navigation Company to send their vessels on to Brisbane, for they saw that the undertaking would be a profitable one. The leader of the Opposition declared that he would support a proposal that the Commonwealth should tear half the cost of the contract entered into by the Queensland Government, but, while I am not prepared to go as far as that, I would certainly support a proposal that the Commonwealth should relieve the State to the extent of paying the mileage rate of 3s. 8d. From my intimate knowledge of the work done by the honorable member for Macquarie as an administrator of a- public Department in New South Wales, I am satisfied that, but for the fact that when he took office the mail contract had almost expired, he would have made far better terms than he did. I feel assured that he would have called a conference of the Ministers of Agriculture of the various States, and that the result of their deliberations would have been a proposition by which the Commonwealth could have secured the service at a considerably reduced subsidy. Having regard to the facts of the case, I trust that the Postmaster-General will terminate the present contract as soon as possible, and that if the combine be so powerful that only one tender is received for the new contract he will make arrangements to charter a line of mail steamers for the Commonwealth .
– If there is one fact more than another that has been brought out prominently by the negotiations in connexion with the oversea mail contract, it is the desirableness of making arrangements considerably in advance for the new service. The late PostmasterGeneral was the third Minister in succession, who endeavoured to arrange this service, and I think I am right in saying that when he took office the old contract had but four months to run. Any one having even a scanty appreciation of the difficulties of arranging such an agreement will recognise that the task which confronted the honorable gentleman was a most responsible one. Even in ordinary circumstances it was an arduous one to carry out, but his difficulties were increased tenfold by the fact that he had but a limited time within which to complete the negotiations. As to the “knock-out” - for I am not prepared to say that there was a strong combination to shut out other companies - it seems to me that during the long period which elapsed between the first effort to secure tenders and the final acceptance of the contract, intending competitors may have been shown reasons why they should not come in. Much has been said about the desirableness of breaking up the shipping ring, but any one. who has had an opportunity to make a thorough investigation of the position must be satisfied that the shipping combination of the United Kingdom is one of the strongest in the world. It is idle for the honorable member for Barrier, who is proposing in a light-hearted way that the Commonwealth shall construct a fleet of mail steamers, to imagine that a Commonwealth service would readily command the freight conveniences and various great agencies which are under the control of that gigantic combination.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that Australia, with a population of nearly 4,000,000, could not defeat that combine?
– We could not satisfactorily.
– Then it is time we tried.
– I am speaking, not in defence of the combine, but of the facts as we find them. The shipping combine deals with freights all over the world, and it is utterly idle to suppose that the Commonwealth would be able to carry out this service more reasonably by means of a Stateowned line of steamers than it can under the present system. The honorable member for Darwin has spoken of the way in which the cost of the construction of a Common - wealth fleet could be financed, but my honorable friends will find that the capital cost is but a small part of the whole scheme.
– I have already said so.
– I am glad to hear it, because it shows that the honorable member is beginning to appreciate the difficulties in the way of carrying out his proposal. We have to bear in mind the important part which passengers and freights play in the conduct of a fleet of large steamers. I am perfectly satisfied that, notwithstanding the pressure brought to bear by commercial bodies, which realized the very serious consequences that would follow any interference with the regular mail service, the late Postmaster-General did his best in the interests of the Commonwealth to arrange a suitable contract. I have before me a copy of a telegram which was addressed to him, as the result of resolutions passed by the various Chambers of Commerce, and in which it was pointed out that any rupture in the maintenance and development of the trade between Australia and England, and especially in regard to perishable products, would be detrimental to the interests of the Commonwealth. In reply to that communication, the honorable member, on the 21st February last, wrote, stating that (he was still emphatically of opinion that he would be able to secure an adequate service for a subsidy of £100,000 per annum. I know the strength of the party with which the honorable member had to negotiate, and am satisfied that no one could have made a more gallant fight than he did. Having in view the. responsibility which rested’ upon him to preserve the position of Australia in the eyes of the British public, he made a splendid fight. It is idle, however, to suppose that we did not suffer by resorting temporarily to the poundage system. As a matter of fact, the discredit attaching to that temporary disturbance of the service resulted indirectly in the loss of thousands of pounds to Australia.
– That is a very general statement.
– I have seen letters from leading firms in London, showing that we suffered very seriously by reason of the temporary disturbance of the mail service.
– In connexion with every industrial measure that we have passed, it is declared’ that we shall suffer seriously in public opinion.
– And the country is absolutely standing idle because of the legislation to which the honorable member refers.
– It is not nonsense.
– I am afraid that the honorable member is going beyond the limits of the motion.
– - It is an incontestable fact that Australia is not making that progress which’ she ought to do, simply because the people of Great Britain consider that we are endeavouring to stem the ordinary currents of trade and commercial effort. It is only fair that I should bear testimony to the fact that having regard to all the circumstances, the late PostmasterGeneral did everything within his power to give effect to bis opinion that an efficient service could toe secured for a subsidy of ,£100,000 per annum. In fixing on that sum. he was in agreement with the previous Minister, who thought that ,£100,000 was the maximum which should be paid. But, having regard to the conveniences which are being given, and our position so far as Great Britain is concerned, the country was saved by the acceptance of the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s tender a loss of many thousands of pounds, because of the extent to which we were suffering in reputation in London by the irregularity in our mail communication.
– No doubt the honorable member is sincere in that statement, but he is very much mistaken as to the facts.
– I am saying what I believe to be true, and I am prepared to substantiate my statements. If a contract had been concluded at the old rate, we should now be paying 2s. ;d. per mile for the carriage of our mails ; but, in this connexion, I should like to read the following extract from some evidence given by Sir Thomas Sutherland in 1901 before a Select Committee of the House of Commons: - 4227. As to the first subject, we have heard that the subsidy to the P. and O. Company is £330,000 a year? - That is so. The present subsidy is £330,000 a year, and out of that £85,000 must be considered as belonging to the Australian service. 4228. How is it divided between the other branches of the line; is there any fixed sum allotted to the China service, for instance? - No, in fact, so far as we are concerned, the subsidy is applicable in its totality, but inasmuch as the Orient line divide with us the service to Australia, and receive £85,000 a year for that portion of the service, we consider, and the Post Office consider, that the P. and O. Company receive exactly the same amount for that part of our service.
Colombo is the terminal point for the Indian services of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, and is one of the stations on the route of their steamers going to China and the far East. Sir Thomas Sutherland regarded the £85,000 received for the Australian mail service as being paid merely for the service from Australia to Colombo.
– But there is no transhipment; the steamers go right through.
– The honorable member entertains the idea that the mere weight and size of the mail matter carried is an important factor in determining the cost of a mail service.
– No; I am aware that what we pay for chiefly is the speed and regularity of the service.
– The considerations which determine the price of a mail contract are the speed required and compliance with conditions for regular running, and so forth. irrespective of the amount of freight offering. The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s service between Colombo and England is very profitable, because of the large passenger traffic; but Sir Thomas Sutherland has admitted that, taken by itself, the Australian service is really conducted at a loss. We must bear those facts in mind in considering the demands of the Orient Steam Navigation Company. I hope that very few honorable members will vote against the ratification of this contract, because we are bound, for the honour of the country, to respect it.
– An agreement made by a Government which we contemptuously hurled from office !
– No one in this Chamber should be more ashamed to make such a statement than the honorable member for Barrier should be. As I think I have shown by comparison with what is paid to the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, the amount asked for by the Orient Steam Navigation Company is not excessive. The previous Minister was justified in considering that he would have made an excellent bargain if he could have arranged for a subsidy of £100,000 a year. Under the old contract we were paying at the rate of 2s.7d. a mile, but under this contract the rate will be 3s. 8d. a mile.
-That is11d. per mile less than the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company gets.
– Yes. Had a subsidy of £150,000 been agreed to, the Orient Steam Navigation Company would be receiving only about 4s. 7d. a mile, or exactly the amount which is being paid to the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. But it was stated in the evidence given before the Navigation Commission that the Compagnie des Messageries Maritimes receives a subsidy of 8s. 4d. per mile for the service it carries on between France and Australia and New Caledonia, and the Norddeutscher-Lloyd a subsidy of 6s. 8d. per mile for its service between Germany and Australia.
– But those subsidies are paid to secure trade for the countries under whose flags the vesselssail.
– Why should we place an English company in a worse position than that in which these foreign companies are placed? Surely it is worthy of consideration whether, on that ground alone, we are not justified in payingan increased price for our mail service, in order to keep an English line of vessels in continual opposition to these foreign lines, whose vessels are being improved so as to give Letter accommodation and greater speed, and will. I believe, shortly be at the very head of the shipping which comes here.
– If the Orient Steam Navigation Company was an Australian company, it would be different.
– Why should we hamper vessels which are sailing under the English flag in their competition with vessels which come here under other flags ? I am aware, from my knowledge of the financial results of the operations of the Orient Steam Navigation Company, the details of which I must regard as confidential, that the statements made on behalf of that company previous to the acceptance of this agreement were true, and that the company was working at a loss under the old contract. Its capital has been reduced practically by one-half, and its shareholders, who are entitled to look for a return from the money which they Have invested, have received practically no dividends of importance. Therefore, the company was justified in asking for an increase in the subsidy. But I should like to know how the suggested Commonwealth fleet could be successfully managed, if a company like the Orient Steam Navigation Company, which is worked upon close business lines, and is in association with the great powers which regulate freight in London, has been carried 011 at a loss? We were right in opposing the granting of an excessive subsidy ; but under the circumstances the payment of £120,000 per annum was a fair and reasonable compromise. The circumstances connected with the making of the agreement, however, render it necessary for the Government to address themselves without delay to obtaining terms for a new agreement when this contract shall have terminated. It was simply an outrage to allow the last contract to terminate before anything was done to arrange for a new contract. Under such circumstances, it was impossible to obtain an advantageous bargain. Therefore, I hope that the PostmasterGeneral will expedite matters so that he may, at an early date, be able to acquaint the House with his proposals for carrying on the mail service at the expiration of the present contract. It must be borne in mind that the Peninsular and Oriental
Steam Navigation Company have the right under their contract to withdraw from the Australian service at any time, if navigation legislation is, or if the conditions imposed upon them are, such as they do not approve. We should be placed in a very serious position if both the Orient Steam Navigation Company and the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company withdrew their fleets from our waters, and we should certainly guard ourselves against any such disruption of business as would follow upon an event of that kind. If I had occupied the position of the late PostmasterGeneral, I should have accepted the offer of the Orient Steam Navigation Company, in what I conceive to be the best interests of the community, and should have stood or fallen by my action, without submitting the contract for specific ratification by the House. The position was a difficult one. Many thousands of pounds were being lost every day owing to the disarrangement of the mail service. The business community had to rely /almost solely upon the fortnightly service provided by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. Only a small number of persons utilized the other means of communication. So far as the proposed amendment is concerned^ I cannot see any logical reason why Queensland should not ask for some assistance in connexion with the conveyance of the English mails to Brisbane. As an arrangement has been entered into by the State Government for the extension of the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s service to that port. I think we ‘might appropriately make a refund to the extent of the mileage rate of 3s. 8d., which, I understand, would not exceed .£5,000 per annum. We know how strongly the residents of Adelaide protested against the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s steamers passing their port, and we can imagine what indignation would be felt if Melbourne were omitted from the list of ports to be visited by the mail steamers. Therefore, it appears to me that there is reason and justice in the request of the Queensland Government for some recognition of their claim in connexion with the extension of the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s service to Brisbane.
– Where would Tasmania come in?
– Tasmania already derives the benefit of visits from the mail steamers for the greater part of the year, and, more over, it must be remembered that Tasmania derives direct advantage from the subsidy which has to be paid for the maintenance of the mail service between Melbourne and Launceston.
– Tasmania pays for that service.
– Tasmania receives the benefit of the visits of the mail steamers during the whole of the apple season.
– For the same reason that the mail steamers visit Melbourne and Sydney, namely, because it pays them to do so.
– However that may be, I would urge that it is incumbent upon us to pass the motion, in order to indorse the action taken by the late PostmasterGeneral in the midst of very serious difficulties. Although some persons may consider that the subsidy to be paid to the Orient Steam Navigation Company is excessive, I venture to say, with a full .knowledge of all the circumstances, that no better arrangement could have been made. I do not think that the Postmaster-General should have agreed to submit the contract for ratification by the House. I should not have pursued such a course. However, in view of the fact that the Government have acted out of generous consideration for the House, I trust that the motion will be passed. I hope that the PostmasterGeneral will regard it as his duty to place the whole business upon such a footing that he will be able to tell us at an early date what our relations are likely to be with the great mail companies, which have done so much, good, not only in connexion with the carriage of the mails, but also the carriage of our perishable products to the world’s markets. I hope that the amendment relating to Brisbane will be so shaped that I shall be able to support it.
– I should not vote for the ratification of the contract entered into with the Orient Steam Navigation Company but for the fact that I recognise that at present we have practically no alternative. I do not agree with the honorable member for Kooyong when he says that we are at the mercy of the greatest shipping combine in the world.
– I did not say that.
– The honorable member said the London Shipping Conference was the biggest shipping combine in the world, and that it was not possible for us to fight against it. If that be the case, it is high time that we made a trial in that direction. The Orient Steam Navigation Company recognised that they were in a position to squeeze an unfair subsidy our of the late Government, and they took full advantage of the circumstances. The honorable member for Kooyong said that the Government were placed in a difficult position in taking a stand against the demand of the Orient Steam Navigation Company, because they were conscious of the fact that thousands of pounds were being lost by the mercantile community owing to the disruption of the mail service. I should like the honorable member to tell us by whom these losses were incurred. As a matter of fact, the chief disadvantage arising from the disorganization of the mail service was experienced by a few traders, and I do not see why the general public should be taxed in order to make up for any losses that might be incurred by them. If a few individuals benefit to the extent of many thousands of pounds by the maintenance of an efficient mail service, they should be made to contribute proportionately towards the subsidy.
– Every child who sends a postcard benefits by the mail service.
– I have a fairly large circle of acquaintances, and during the whole of the time that uncertainty prevailed with regard to the mail service I did not hear a single complaint of inconvenience having been caused. I admit that some traders who desired to obtain an advantage over their rivals might possibly have sustained losses; but if they make so much money out of the mail service, they ought to be called upon to contribute more largely towards the subsidy. I am sorry that the late Government did not take up a firmer stand against the Orient Steam Navigation Company. If a proposal had been made to expend on the education of the people any such increased amount as is represented by the larger subsidy, or to pay bonuses for the encouragement of our manufactures, it would have been met with no stronger opponent than the honorable member for Kooyong. The honorable member says that we have been squeezed by the Orient Steam Navigation Company upon this occasion, and that we cannot help being squeezed again. We are told that this benevolent company has come here to lose money, and yet it has built ship after ship in order to maintain the service between London and Australia. This course would not be adopted if great loss had been incurred. In my view, the big shipping companies are doing very well. They would have abandoned the trade long ago, especially in the face of tha competition of highly-subsidized foreign steamers, unless they had been making a fair profit. If they had been making a loss, they would Have been driven out of the trade altogether. It -nas been represented that there was a great outcry on the part of the general public in favour of the present contract being entered into with the Orient Navigation Company, but thi agitation in that direction was confined to a few individuals whose interests were being endangered. Why should the general community be called upon to pay a heavier mail subsidy for the advantage of a few traders ?
– Every man who has a cow, and sends butter to the English market, derives a benefit from the service maintained by the mail steamers.
– I admit that he does to some extent ; but I maintain that we have heard too much about the losses incurred by traders and others owing to the disorganization of the mail service. I would point out that that service was not disorganized very long. I am tired of hearing general statements as to the losses that were incurred by the commercial classes, and should like more definite information upon that point. If a member of the Labour Party dared to utter the statements which have been made here bv representatives of the trading community thev would be accused of making the most extravagant assertions. All these statements have been made with a political object. The desire has been to decry the party which has the interests of the whole community at heart-
– How about the matter of preference?
– It seems to me’ that under this contract the trading community obtain all the preference. The ordinary citizen does not care whether or not his letters from England are a day or two longer in transit. I claim that if we had adhered to the poundage system the inconveniences arising under that system would have righted themselves within a fortnight. I do not think that the Postmaster- General should have consented to making Sydney the final port of call. We all know that as soon as the mails reach Adelaide they are placed on the train and brought on to the eastern States. If, under the contract, Sydney and Melbourne are to be included as ports of call, every State should be similarly treated. Under existing conditions, I say that Queensland and Tasmania should be given the benefit of the mileage rates to which reference has been made. I shall be quite willing to do what is only an act of bare justice to those States. I blame the late Government, after having agreed to pay an increased subsidy - in the interests of the trading community, to whom we are told the saving of a couple of days in the transit of their mails represents an advantage of hundreds of thousands of pounds - for not insisting upon a faster service. For my own part, I hope that the inquiry which is now being made into the advisability of establishing a State-owned line of steamers will result in some proposal being adopted which will have the effect of preventing any company from unduly squeezing the people of the Commonwealth. In my opinion, the Orient Steam Navigation Company is being paid an exorbitant sum for the service which it renders. I trust that Tasmania and Queensland will be reimbursed by the payment of mileage rates between Sydney and Brisbane and Melbourne and Hobart respectively. I am willing to support the ratification of the contract, but I hope that it will be terminated at the earliest possible moment.
-It must be quite evident to those who have listened to the honorable member for Hindmarsh that, in introducing him into the twentieth century, the Creator made a mistake. He ought to have lived in the days of Dr. Johnson, when there were no railways, no telegraphs, and no steam-engines, because, it appears to me, that he moves amongst a circle of people who do not care whether their letters to England occupy a month or two months in transit. The state of things which he would enjoy is well depicted in one of Richardson’s novels, in which the writer describes how a letter which comes from abroad is handed round the village, to be read by every one of its inhabitants. But it must be recollected that we are now living in the twentieth century, and the honorable member’s indifference to the rapidity with which mails are carried to and from England has no application to the conditions under which we are deliberating here. This is not an occasion for a long speech, nor is it appropriate that any hon orable member should take upon himself the vindication either of the position of the Postmaster-General or of the Orient Steam Navigation Company. I am not here as an advocate of the Orient Steam Navigation Company, or of any other company; neither am I anxious to vindicate the action of the Minister. I am here as a man of some business knowledge to treat this question in a business way. In the first place, we have to recollect that there is a very great distinction between a proposal to make a contract and a proposal to ratify one which has been already entered into, which has been fully discussed, and finally agreed to by the head of that branch of the Administration with which it is concerned. If every contract made by a Minister had to come before Parliament for ratification, and if its ratification involved a long debate, during the course of which the whole of the details regarding the profits made by the contractor were gone into, we should have very little time for anything else. In the speech which was delivered by the honorable member for Barrier, we were treated to a long dissertation upon shipowning. That honorable member has made a discovery. He has shown that he has mistaken his avocation, and that he ought to have been a ship-owner. Nothing less than the managing directorship of the Orient Steam Navigation Company or of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, as a colleague of Sir Thomas Sutherland, would fit him, because he has succeeded in about three months in compassing the whole science of inter-oceanic shipowning. Within that period he has accumulated a mass of information which men of more modest temperament, like Sir Thomas Sutherland, require a life-time to acquire. I have a little knowledge of shipowning, and that knowledge has made me very modest in forming opinions as to the cost of running these large steamers from one part of the world to another. But the honorable member for Barrier has it all at his fingers’ ends. I am only surprised that one of these large companies has not endeavoured to secure his services at a high salary, just as New South Wales secured those of the late Mr. Eddy to take charge of its railway administration. It was once said of a member of the House of Commons that he was prepared at any time to take charge of the Channel Fleet, or to perform an operation for stone whenever it should be required of him. It seems to me that there are some honorable members in this House who are prepared at any time to throw a flood of light upon any subject under heaven, and to take part in the settlement of any question upon quite as insufficient knowledge, perhaps to the great injury of the State. The honorable member for Bass spoke in a very cocksure manner of the unreasonableness of the subsidy which is being paid under the present mail contract. I confess at once - as an illustration of the modesty which some years of shipping experience may produce in a man - that I do not myself feel capable of determining whether or not that subsidy will compensate any company for carrying mails, in addition to cargo, from Australia to the old country. No member of this House can say whether £120,000 will show a profit to any company until he knows how much cargo its ships carry in the same year, what freights they receive, what accidents befall them, what is the amount of their insurance, what is the number of passengers they carry, and the expenditure that is incurred in their repair. It is ridiculous for an honorable member to speak with the definiteness that characterized the statements of the honorable member for Bass. Another honorable member declared that the contract price was a monstrous one. The question which we have to consider is not whether we should enter into this contract if we were asked to do so to-day. This is like a case in which the temporary head of the firm, in the absence of his principal, lias entered into a contract. He has said, in effect, “ I will make a contract with you until the head of the firm returns, and, of course, it will be subject to his approval.” In the same way, the Minister who made this contract was wise enough to limit it to a term of three years, of which it has only two and a half years to run, so that it will terminate contemporaneously with the contract entered into with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company by the British Government. It will then be open to us to say whether we shall have a fleet of our own as suggested, or be content to call for fresh tenders. I think it will be admitted that it is quite impossible for any Government to enter into every detail concerning the reasonableness -of the payment in every contract it makes. In order to avoid special work having to be undertaken by persons whose regular business demands their full attention, the system of tender has become current throughout the world. A man who is very much occupied in a particular business may discover that he requires a commodity which it will not pay him to obtain at first hand. We know very well that such a man calls for tenders ; he puts all who make it their business to produce that particular commodity into competition in order that he mav secure the lowest price from them. That is a system which applies not only to Governments but to all forms of business enterprise. If we take, for instance, the Trades Hall - and I go straight into the camp of those honorable members who are prepared to settle all creation at a moment’s notice-
– Come and stay with us.
– If I did I might upset the serenity of the institution. Can it be said that if the Trades Hall tomorrow desired to refloor the whole of its rooms it would buy timber and nails and do the work itself? It would call for tenders for the work.
– At Broken Hill, we built a hall, costing £6,000, without calling for tenders.
– I can quite understand that the people of Broken Hill might resort to such methods when the people of Melbourne would not do so. It is well known, however - and the House only needs the hint to recognise the fact - that all business men - and certainly every Government - must trust to competition to supply those requirements which they cannot regularly undertake for themselves. Every public Department calls for tenders for whatever it requires. Whether it be railway iron, bridge work, or telegraphic apparatus that is needed, tenders’ are called in different parts of the world, and the Government has to be content to accept the lowest that it can obtain. That was done in connexion with the. mail service. There are at present something like fifteen large companies - many of them possessing steamers competent to carry out this service - engaged in the Australian trade; and the Ministry had on two or three different occasions invited tenders in order to obtain something which was considered necessary for the Commonwealth. We know from experience that had they been inviting tenders for the supply of railway iron, locomotives, cement, or some other commodity which every Government requires in large quantities, Ministers would have accepted the lowest tender, unless they felt that there was some improper influence operating which made the tender a grossly unreasonable one. That is the business aspect of this question. The Deakin Administration, in which the honorable member for Denison was Postmaster-General, called two or three times for tenders for this service, and, notwithstanding the keen competition between the many companies possessing steamers capable of engaging in it, they found it impossible to obtain an offer that was satisfactory to them. If we are to frequently adopt the course now being followed, we shall never have done criticising the reasonableness of the charges made for Commonwealth supplies. Some honorable members have been condemning the combination of ship-owners. “ It is an outrageous combination,” was one expression that I heard.
– Hear, ‘hear.
– What has become of the consistency of those who would stand’ here until the judgment day in defence of trades unionism? Trades unionism is a combination of men who wish to maintain ain increased price for their labour. That is an allowable aim. I have always justified trades unionism, just as I have justified an association of bankers or a merchants’ ring; but if we justify unionism in one form, we have no right to cry out against a number of ship-owners because they put their heads together and say, “ We wil form a ring, and maintain the freight rates between this place .and that.” If we denounce one form’ of combination, let us denounce all forms. Do not let us denounce the banker or the shipowner, or the merchant, unless we are prepared also to denounce the journeyman who enters into a combination -with his fellows to give an artificial value to his particular commodity. The fact remains, however, that there is no effectual shipping combination. That has been proved by the effect of the Sea Carriage of Goods Act. I anticipated, some months ago, in this House, that the combination of ship-owners trading to Australia was so perfect that when that measure, which abolishes the conditions on the back of bills of lading, came into operation, the combination would raise the freights. That has not been the effect of the Bill. When I made further inquiries, I found that the ring was not a complete one - that there were two or three recalcitrant companies that were so formidable as to make it impossible to secure that complete combination which would enable them, as I had anticipated, to raise the freights.
– The honorable and learned member was, for once, mistaken.
– The results show that I was mistaken. After the Bill became law, I discussed it with shipping people, because my own prediction had been falsified, and I wished to learn how it was that the shipping companies had not succeeded in coming together as I had anticipated. We are told also - and I think that this is a confusion of ideas of which we ought to rid ourselves - that in calling for tenders for a mail service Ave ought in all cases to stipulate for conditions such as are contained in the present contract, in relation to the carriage of produce. I cannot see why, because Parliament wishes to have mails carried for the postal service of Australia, we should have regard to such commercial considerations. There is no more reason for stipulating that the mail steamers shall make provision for carrying butter, sheep, rabbits, or any other commodity, than there is, for arranging with the proprietors of coaches carrying mails in country districts to carry parcels, luggage, or passengers. If Ave stipulate for the carriage of butter and other produce on our mail steamers, why should we not insist upon provision being made for the carriage of first, second, and third class passengers? I have always felt that this question of commerce should be left to shape itself among the commercial community. I go further, and say that there is no need to enter into a contract for mail steamers to go beyond Adelaide, the first port of call, from which
Ave can carry our mails by rail faster than bv the steamers themselves. What interest Rave Ave in entering into a contract for the extension of the sendee beyond Adelaide? What concern is it to the people of Australia generally - some of whom live far away in the interior - whether the steamers which carry our mails to Adelaide go on to Melbourne, Sydney, or Brisbane for cargo and passengers ? If there were a railway connecting Fremantle with Adelaide, there would be no obligation on the postal authorities to arrange a contract for the steamers to go beyond that port. The moment the mails were landed there, the purposes of the Department would be served, and the rest of the work carried out by these companies would be subject to the laws which regulate supply and demand, subject to the competition of other companies engaged in the Australian trade. I should like to refer to the honorable member for Barrier, who has introduced into this debate - in which it is somewhat out of place - another instalment of his Commonwealth ship-owning scheme. He is so thoroughly good-natured, and so ready to listen to the views of those who disagree with him that I could not say anything cruel with regard to His scheme; but to my mind, his theories are of the crudest character. The honorable member has not learned the alphabet of the subject which he has attempted to master, and with respect to which he is seeking to assume the role of teacher to the House. In discussing his scheme a few days ago, he made a most elaborate calculation upon the basis of 3 per cent, for interest, but he entirely omitted a 5 per cent, allowance for depreciation. That had not occurred to him.
– That is not fair.
– The honorable member admitted that fact, but he said, with becoming unsophistication, “ We will add another 5 per cent.” In working out his little sum, he appeared to have altogether failed to allow for rates of marine insurance, which are a most important factor in calculating the gross or net profits of a shipping undertaking. I do not wish to spend much time in discussing this phase of the question, but it seems to me that the honorable member is very much in the position of a man who is anxious to read Homer in the original, but has not yet learned the Greek alphabet. The more he studies the questions of ship-owning, shipbuilding, and ship-running, the more modest will he become in explaining or even in forming views on these matters. I offer this observation not in a patronizing spirit, but as the result of a fair amount of shipping experience. There is one other question with which I desire to deal. The contract has been closed, and is submitted for our ratification upon the basis that the mail steamers shall call at Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne, and Svdney. I agree with the sentiment that has been expressed, that if we are going to engage the vessels of the company to do something more than bring the mails to the first port of call, from which they may be sent on more rapidly by rail than by steamer, no one State should be deprived of the privileges which are obtained for the Commonwealth generally. The Go vernment proposal is only a repetition of that which was made in regard to the High Court. Some honorable members contend that Melbourne should be the headquarters of the High Court, as of every other Commonwealth service, and that litigants from all parts of Australia should attend the sittings of the High Court in this city. There are other honorable members who contend that the High Court should sit only in Sydney. I am opposed to both contentions. Every man, woman. and child in the Commonwealth contributes directly or indirectly to the maintenance of the High Court, and also to the cost of the oversea mail service, and if the people of Queensland contribute to the cost of a mail contract which covers a service that is not necessary for the purposes of the mails, the people of that State have an equal right to participate in it. But whether the making of Brisbane a port of call can be incorporated in the present contract is a question which only the Minister can answer. His particular knowledge of this contract should enable him to settle all doubts in that regard. I believe that it can be done. If the Orient Steam Navigation Company are prepared to allow their vessels to go on to Brisbane for an additional sum of £26.000 per ‘annum, the Postmaster-General should have no difficulty in inducing the company to agree to the insertion of a new clause which will embody the payment of that increased sum, and so make the contract one of wider scope. It follows, I think, as a corollary to that proposition, that, on the grounds of equity, the people of Queensland should have allowed to them in some way - there are plenty of cross -accounts in which to make the allowance - the difference between the ,£26,000 which thev are ready to pay to induce the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s steamers to call at Brisbane, and the sum which would represent the -per capita contribution of the State to the total cost of the service.
– What about Tasmania ?
– I do not think that Tasmania asks for any similar arrangement.
– The representatives of Tasmania have done so.
– Although the honorable member for Bass represents a Tasmanian constituency very ably, I do not regard him as representing the whole State. The representatives of Queensland, however, are unanimous.
– No. The honorable member for Herbert is opposed to the proposal of the honorable member for Oxley.
– TEen he is in an Insignificant minority. My opinion is that if, under this contract, we pay for anything beyond the conveyance of .mails’ to Adelaide, we are using Commonwealth money to give to certain States steamer accommodation to which every State is equally entitled. I believe that every effort has been made to obtain a service for as low a subsidy as possible, and I think that, the contract having been entered into in a businesslike way, it should be ratified. Those who so confidently find fault with the amount of the subsidy should remember that the foreign companies, whose mail steamers come here, are largely assisted by subsidies, while the British boats are looked after by us with a sharpness of eye and a keenness of criticism which amounts almost to the imposition of a handicap upon them in their competition with foreign rivals. Although honorable members have all had a copy of the return to which I am about to refer - which was published last year - many of them may not have noted the significance of some of the figures which it contains. It shows that the FrenchCanadian service is subsidized at the rate of 4s. 7d. per mile, the Sydney- Vancouver service at the rate of 3s. 6Jd. per mile, which the Commonwealth Government propose to increase to 4s. od. per mile, the Compagnie des Messageries Maritimes at the rate of 8s. 4d. per mile, and the Norddeutscher.Lloyd at the rate of 6s. 8d. per mile.
– With further concessions.
– Yes. The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company receives a subsidy of 4s. 7d. per mile, and under the old contract the Orient Pacific Steam Navigation Company received only 2S. 7d. per mile.
– The German steamers have to carry Government officials and perform other services in return for the subsidy which they receive.
– Is the honorable member prepared to go into a careful examination of the additional cost which those conditions entail? The subsidy paid to the Orient Steam Navigation Company under the present contract, which is about 50 per cent, more than was paid under the old contract, is equivalent to about 3s. 8d. per mile. Whilst it would be quite impossible for any one who was not an accountant, and who had not had access to the books of the various companies I have mentioned, to show exactly how they are affected by the payment of these subsidies, the rough comparison which I have given should be enough to satisfy the House in a general way that the subsidy provided for under this contract is not too large. The whole question has been carefully considered by the Postmaster-General, and we are being asked now only to give a formal ratification to a contract six months of whose three years’ term have already expired.
– I think that it will expedite business, and facilitate debate, if I now put the amendment of the honorable member for Oxley. The main question will still be open for discussion, and I understand that further amendments are to be moved.
– Will the putting of the amendment prevent honorable members from discussing or referring to it later on ?
– Three or four members who have spoken have referred, not only to the amendment, but to other amendments which’, I understand, are to be moved, and I should have felt called upon to rule against their doing so, had I not thought of following this method of procedure instead. As I understand that the issue involved in the amendment of the honorable member for Oxley is to be opened up by another amendment to be moved later on, honorable members will still have an opportunity to discuss the subject with which it deals. To prevent the honorable member for Herbert from being precluded from moving an amendment which I understand he desires to move, I intend to put to the House in the first instance the question, “ That all the words from the world That ‘ to the word ‘ Adelaide ‘ inclusive, proposed to be omitted, stand part of the motion.” The honorable member for Oxley originally moved the omission of all the words after the word “That,” but, as to put his amendment in that way would preclude the honorable member for Herbert from moving an amendment which, I understand, he desires to move, I shall put first the question which I have just stated, and then the question “ That the remaining words proposed to be omitted stand part of the motion.”
Question - That all the words after the word “That,” up to and inclusive of the word “Adelaide,” stand part of the motion - put. The House divided -
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the words “ and other ports,” proposed to be left out, stand part of the motion - resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the following words be added to the motion : - “ and is of opinion that a sum equivalent to three shillings and eightpence per mile per voyage between Sydney and Brisbane and Brisbane and Sydney, should be paid to the State of Queensland towards the cost incurred by that State in connexion with the calling of the mail steamers at Brisbane.”
I understand that the mileage allowance will amount to between , £5,000 and £6,000, and in view of the fact that the contract entered into by the Commonwealth Government with the Orient Steam Navigation Company is something more than a mere mail contract, I feel quite justified in moving the amendment. Special provision is made in clause 4 that the mail steamers shall call at Adelaide, Melbourne, and Sydney, whilst clause 8 provides that certain facilities shall be provided for the carriage of perishables. Whilst I am not opposed to the idea of making special provision for the carriage of perishable products, I consider that if any such arrangements are entered into, the whole of the States should share the benefit accruing from them. I wish to point out that the producers of Queensland cannot avail themselves of the cool storage provided in the mail steamers so long as Sydney remains the terminal port. In the first place, the produce would have to be forwarded by coastal steamer from Brisbane to Sydney, and probably a day or two would be occupied in transferring the goods to the wharf, and thence by lighter or byland carriage alongside the mail steamer. The frequent handling, and the exposure perhaps to a hot sun, would have a very prejudicial effect upon such produce as butter, and probably an article of first quality would become so seriously affected that its value would deteriorate to a ruinous extent. I think that the Queensland Government showed great enterprise in entering into arrangements with the Orient Steam Navigation Company for . the extension of their mail service to Brisbane in consideration of a subsidy of £26,000 per annum. I regret very much that the original contract did not specify that Brisbane should be a port of call, and I think that in fairness to Queensland the least that we can do is to make a refund to the extent of the mileage rate between the two ports.
– Does the honorable member make that proposition on its merits ?
– Yes; because the contract entered ‘into with the Orient Steam Navigation Company is not a mail contract pure and simple. Provision is made for the carriage of perishables, and the advantages of any such arrangement should be shared by all the States.
– If we had made a contract under the usual conditions, would the honorable member have proposed his amendment ?
– If the contract had provided merely for the carriage of mails to Adelaide, and had not stipulated that the steamers should proceed to Melbourne and Sydney, there would have been no justification for such a proposal as I am now making.
– But the mail steamers have always proceeded to Melbourne and Sydney.
– That is not the question. The point is that it is stipulated in clause 4 of the contract that they shall proceed to Melbourne and Sydney. It is the duty of the Commonwealth to consider the interests of all the States and not to secure for one State advantages over another. I think that Tasmania is entitled to put in a claim similar to that which has been advanced on behalf of Queensland. We are not actuated by selfish motives in this matter, but think that Tasmania and Queensland should be treated upon the same footing as other States. I would point out that Fremantle is also one of the ports of call provided for in the contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company. Some years ago the mail steamers called at Albany, and doubtless they would have continued to do so up till the present time but for the special stipulation that they should call at Fremantle instead.
– :The steamers have called at Fremantle for the last ten or fifteen years.
– They called at Fremantle only because they were required to do so.
– Oh no.
– I am informed that the fact that the steamers are required to call at Fremantle involves a delay of a whole day in the delivery of the mails to the eastern States.
– The honorable member is wrongly informed. It makes a difference of only eight hours.
– At all events, the steamers have to go some distance out of their way to call at Fremantle, and I desire that the people of Queensland shall have the same facilities as are afforded to the people of Western Australia for the shipment of perishable products.
– What perishable products are exported from Western Australia?
– Judging from what I saw when I recently visited that State, the day is not far distant when Western Australia will be in a position to export considerable quantities of such produce as butter and fruit. I am told by men who have been over a large portion of that State that it possesses as fine dairying land as is to be found in Australia. Victorian representatives must not run away with the idea that their State is the only one in which butter can be produced. As a matter of fact, within a few years Victoria will in that respect probably be left far behind by New South Wales, Queensland, and, perhaps, Western Australia. I thoroughly indorse the general principles advocated by the honorable member for Barrier, although I may be one of those persons described by the honorable and learned member for Parkes as, in effect, unacquainted with the A. B.C. of the shipping business. In Australia there is a large shipping combine, which practically has the Commonwealth at its mercy, and which is in a position to compel us to pay whatever price it may demand for the carriage of our mails. It is idle for the honorable and learned member for Parkes to declare that there is no shipping ring, when we know that a combination exists, not merely for the purpose of regulating freights, but for the purpose of regulating the carriage of passengers and mails. Only the’ other day, when tenders were invited for a mail service on our eastern coast, it was found that nearly every tender received was for practically the same amount. There was no material difference between the prices asked. If there be no shipping combination in Australia, it is extraordinary that the coastal tickets issued by the various companies are interchangeable. Before that arrangement came into operation the cost of a saloon passage between Townsville and Brisbane was j£$ or £fi, whereas to-day it is between and. £10. I think that the time has arrived when we should take some action to break down the evil effects of this combination. If we neglect to do so, not only shall we suffer in the carriage of our mails, but our producers will suffer in exporting their commodities. We have been told upon the very highest authority that one of the greatest drawbacks to the export of our perishable products is that this shipping combine compels our shippers to pay various freights at different times. One week the rate demanded may be 15s. per ton, whilst in the following week it may be 50s. per ton. I very much regret that the late Government entered into this contract, and I feel that, the present Administration have exhibited weakness in indorsing it. I wish that they had been possessed of the backbone of “the late Sir Charles Lilley. When an attempt was made by the Australasian
Steam Navigation Company to extort an exorbitant amount from the Queensland Government for the carriage of mails between Sydney and Brisbane, he ordered the Governor Blackall and another vessel to be constructed by the Mort’s Dock Company. The first-named vessel was actually built. When the company saw that the Government were determined to do something, they not only agreed to carry the mails at the price which they had declined to accept, but they actually purchased the Governor Blackall, besides paying a large sum to the contractors for refusing to proceed with the construction of the second” steamer. The time has arrived when the Commonwealth should run its own mail steamers. I do not see why we cannot obtain the services of men of sufficient intellect to successfully conduct a line of State-owned vessels. We secure the services of experts to control our railways, in which there is a huge sum invested j why not apply the same practice to our mail steamers? I enter my protest against the ratification of this contract. It ought not to have been entered into, especially as by adopting the poundage system we could have effected a saving of £80,000 per annum. I claim that to make that saving our business people should have been content to submit to some little inconvenience.
– Then why call for tenders for the next contract?
– I agree with the honorable member. I say, “ Let us adopt the poundage system.” I admit that a little inconvenience is sure to be suffered under that system, but I contend that the saving which would be effected by it warrants the sacrifice. But above either the contract or the poundage system, I favour the Commonwealth establishing a line of steamers of its own if only to assist the producers to get their commodities carried to the markets of the world at a reasonable rate. I am glad that the amendment which I have submitted has received such generous support.
– Is the honorable member in favour of including Tasmania in his proposal?
– Personally, I am, and I hope that some representative of that State will submit a further amendment to that effect.
– If one may judge by -the speech which has been delivered by the honorable and learned mem- ber for Parkes, we should have agreed, to the ratification of this contract without demur. We should have ignored all the facts connected with the method of blackmail which was so successfully adopted by the Orient Steam Navigation Company.
– How was it black-mail ?
– It is refreshing to find that during the whole of this debate we have not heard one word to the effect that the increased subsidy demanded by the Orient Steam Navigation Company was the result of the operation of the section in the Postal Act which requires white labour only to be employed on board our mail steamers. During the recess, some honorable members made that provision the whole burden of their speeches. It) is refreshing to find that they have 310 W abandoned the position, which they then took up.
– The British PostmasterGeneral, in his correspondence, stated that he believed he could have obtained a renewal of the contract with an accelerated service for the old subsidy.
– That was denied by the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s manager.
– It is upon record that the general manager of the Orient Steam Navigation Company made it very clear that the increased price demanded had nothing whatever to do with the provision in the Postal Act to which I have referred.
– The chairman of directors of that company made the same statement at its annual meeting.
– The chief argument advanced by the company for its increased demand is that the service is not paying. The same reason has been urged by those honorable members who desire that we should swallow this proposal without even considering it. If there was anything in the remarks of the honorable and learned member for Parkes, that was the meaning which they conveyed. The honorable and learned member for Parkes did not hesitate to sneer at the views expressed by members of the Labour Party in reference to this question. According to him, they know nothing about the matter, and have no right to question the action taken by the Government. But surely the whole position may be reviewed when we are asked to ratify the contract. I deeply regret that the Government have agreed to it, and do not hesitate to say that, in my opinion, the worst instance of black-mailing that has ever been witnessed in Australia is associated with it.
– And yet the honorable member is going to vote for the ratification of the contract.
– Does the honorable member claim to be a thought-reader? I have not said that I am going to vote for the ratification. I recognise that we have to fight such a powerful combine that it is absolutely necessary for us to prepare for war. Did not the company put the late Postmaster-General to all possible inconvenience, when he resorted to the poundage system ?
– I admit that.
– Did they not deliver the mails at places where they ought not to be delivered, and in other ways inconvenience the Department? My objection is that, if we accept the contract, we shall establish a very bad precedent - the precedent that the Commonwealth has a right to require in a contract for the carriage of mails conditions relating to the carriage of perishable produce. The position will be worse if the amendment be agreed to. The Postmaster-General really admitted that this was a contract for the carriage not only of mails but of perishable produce.
– That is admitted; but, surely, we ought to do justice to Queensland.
– Two wrongs “do not make a right. I hold that a mistake was made in requiring that the service should extend to Melbourne and Sydney. As that stipulation has been made, it cannot now be said that we are proposing to pay a subsidy merely for the carriage of mails. I recognise that if the. Western Australian Transcontinental Railway were constructed a proposal would probably be made that the steamers of the company should not be required to touch at Adelaide; but it is generally recognised that even if no stipulation had been made as to the service being extended to Melbourne and Sydney, the vessels of the company would have continued to go on lo those ports. L have not yet heard why we should be called on to pay such enormous rates for the carriage of our mails. What is there associated with the carriage of mails that justifies the high rates demanded? They do not require half the attention necessary to be given to perishable goods, and yet. while the’ latter are carried for §d. per lb., and ordinary freights from £1 to ,£3 per ton, we have to pay no less than .£400 per ton for the Commonwealth mails.
– It is a special payment for speed, regularity, and certainty.
– The honorable member surely does not advance that as a reason for the heavy payment made.
– There is no other reason.
– What increase has been made during the last ten years in the speed of these mail steamers that would justify our giving so large a subsidy as £[120,000 per annum? Is the Commonwealth to be taxed simply because this branch of the company’s service is not paying?
– Not at all.
– From the speeches made by some honorable members of the Opposition, one would imagine that it is our duty to make the service a paying one.
– The late Prime Minister practically said that it was.
– The burden of the speeches delivered this afternoon from the Opposition corner was that the line was not paying,.
– The burden of those speeches was that we could not get the work done for less.
– It was done for much less under the poundage system, and I regret that we did not continue to avail ourselves of that arrangement. If the Australian section of the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s operations is not paying at the present time, it would be making still greater losses in the absence of the subsidy. The company brought great pressure to bear to induce the late Government to agree to the subsidy which they demanded. It is all very well for large business firms to declare that there must be no interference with the oversea mail service, but I should like to know how many of the people of Australia are really benefited by it.
– Not one per thousand.
– That is my opinion. Too much has been made of the losses which business men would sustain in the absence of this contract. We know that they largely avail themselves of the cable service - that when they wish to place an important order in the old world, they do not wait for the mail, but promptly despatch a cablegram. A mere delay of a week in the delivery of the oversea mails would not make any serious difference to them, and yet because of the demand that a speedy mail service shall be maintained for the benefit of these men, we are called upon to pay an enormous subsidy. Having regard to all the circumstances, we ought to be prepared to take action before the present contract expires, and I trust that the Select Committee now inquiring into this question will be able before long to furnish us with information to work upon. Unless we are prepared to act for ourselves, we shall find, when the present contract expires, that the company require an increased subsidy. What guarantee have we that they will not demand two and ahalf years hence a subsidy of £200,000 per annum? The companies which, according to the honorable member for Kooyong, run magnificent floating, palaces on philanthropic lines, will be prepared to squeeze another £50,000 per annum out of the Government whenever the opportunity offers ; and it is imperative that the Commonwealth should be in a position before the expiration of the present contract to dictate different terms from those which we are now called upon to accept. Everything relating to the carrying of produce ought to be eliminated from the contract. Why should the Postal Department be burdened with a charge in respect of the provision required to be made for the carriage of perishable produce?
– Does the honorable member think that no such arrangement should be made?
– It should not be made in connexion with the mail contract.
– In what other way should it be arranged ?
– Through the States Departments of Agriculture.
– What has the carriage of frozen lambs, rabbits, butter, fruit, and other perishable produce to do with the Postal Department? If provision is to be made for such exports, the cost of securing it should be paid out of a distinct fund. Why should the Postal Department be to some extent crippled by having to carry such a burden?
– The fact that there are such exports makes the service cheaper.
– The cost should be borne, not by the Postal Department, but by the States Departments of Agriculture. The complaint in South Australia is that the revenue of the Postal Department is not equal to the expenditure, and yet that expenditure is now to be increased? It is unfair to load the Department with charges that ought to be borne by an Export Department.
– The mails are carried at a lower rate in consequence of these conditions.
– But surely the right honorable member will admit that the carriage of produce has nothing to do with a mail contract? I venture to say that onehalf the subsidy now demanded has to be paid because the company are required to provide the necessary machinery and accommodation for the carriage of perishable produce.
– Not at all. These vessels were fitted long ago with the necessary machinery without any action on our part.
– I believe that we shall create a bad precedent by stipulating that the vessels of the company shall call at ports beyond the point at which the mails may be placed on shore and sent on by rail. It is no part of our duty to require that the mail steamers shall call at a port in each” State to pick. up consignments of produce. At all events, if it is, we should earmark a fund, out of which the subsidy that has to be given, because of this condition, shall be paid. I am going to vote against the whole proposal. Had the late Government stood out for another week or two they would have secured better terms. The company were eager to obtain the subsidy, and were doing all that they could to squeeze it out of the Government. They demanded at the outset a subsidy of £150,000 per annum, and I feel confident that had the late Government stood out a little longer they would have secured the service for considerably less than they did. I recognise that if I voted for the ratification of the contract, it would be illogical for me to vote against the extension of the service to Queensland and Tasmania. But I object to loading the Commonwealth Post Office with the cost of providing cool storage and refrigerating machinery for the carriage of produce from Australia to England. If the Post Office has money to waste, the Postmaster-General can find good use for it in providing marl services for places which now have none. Only last week I had brought under my notice a case,which, I believe, has been under the consideration of both the present Postmaster-
General and his predecessor, in which £31 was asked for a mail service for an agricultural district, and the reply of the Department was that if those interested would find ,£15 10s., the request would be granted.
– I suppose the money was found ?
– It was not. For’ the £$1 which was asked, 2,000 miles a year would have to be travelled in conveying the mails. There are scores of places which to-day have neither a mail service nor telephone communication, although this Parliament is always ready to spend large sums on works like .the telephone line between Sydney and Melbourne, and this proposed service for the conveyance of perishable produce. The people in the country have quite enough to do to contend against the forces of nature. They are making ‘of use country which, but for their efforts, would be useless, and the best way in which we can spend the revenue of the Post Office is in providing them with better facilities of communication, instead of fattening a very fat company.
– I do not propose to take up much time in speaking on the amendment, because I am beginning to realize that our efforts are useless, since the Government absolutely refuse to regard the claim of Queensland to consideration. It has been very painful to me to listen to my colleagues in the representation of that. State plead for justice on her behalf. - I am sure that none of them would have done so much to benefit themselves, and I certainly would not plead to any set of men to secure a personal advantage as I have pleaded for justice to Queensland. I referred, the other day, to the strong feeling existing among the people of that State because of the way in which Queensland has been treated by the Federal Parliament, and I think that that feeling will be made more bitter by the refusal of the Government to take into consideration the reasonable request which we have put forward. I fear that the result of the debate will be to excite in Queensland a very strong movement for secession. There was such a movement two or three years ago, but I took every opportunity to discourage it, asking the’ people to have patience, because I hoped that in the near future better counsels would prevail in the Federal Parliament, and the State would be treated as other States have been treated. That is all that we ask for at the present time. We merely wish to be placed on the same footing as the southern States, by having Brisbane, as well as Melbourne and Sydney, made a port of call, the additional’ subsidy being made a Commonwealth charge, on a population basis. I shall support the amendment of the honorable member for Kennedy, as I think that it would be better to get the small mercy for which he asks than to obtain nothing at all. Two amendments have already been defeated, and possibly many more will be defeated before the debate closes. At any rate, I hope that other amendments will be moved, and that the discussion will be continued for another week, if not until the end of the month.
– With what object ?
– To tire out the Government, and to make them see that justice has not been done to Queensland. The honorable gentleman said the other day that one of the reasons why the Government would not consent to pay the subsidy which Queensland has agreed to pay to the Orient Steam Navigation Company is that the Premier of Queensland entered into an agreement with the company before consulting the Commonwealth Government.
– A very good reason.
– I was beginning to think the Postmaster-General too much of a statesman to put forward a paltry excuse such as that, but now I am obliged to modify my opinion, and to regard him as a very ordinary politician, while the honorable member for Hume is even less of a statesman.
– It is the honorable member who is the statesman.
– I do not want that reputation. I am willing that the honorable member should retain it. He had it in New South Wales, and I have no doubt that he will have it to the end of his days. Queensland Governments have consulted every Commonwealth Government in regard to this matter. The Barton Government were urged by the Government of Queensland and representatives of that State to make Brisbane a port of call in the mail contract which was then looming in the distance. Similar communications were held with the Deakin Government, and, while I am not aware that the Watson Government were directly communicated with on the subject, they no doubt were perfectly well aware of the desires and wishes of Queensland in this matter, because of the correspondence in regard to it in the office of the Prime Minister and that of the Postmaster-General. Direct communications were opened up with the Reid Government, however, and no doubt the present Prime Minister must have been aware of them. Therefore, the excuse of the Postmaster-General is, as I have said, a paltry one. The honorable gentleman, in moving his motion last week, stated’ distinctly that the Government would not contribute anything towards making good the subsidy which the Queensland Government have agreed to pay to the Orient Steam Navigation Company.
– He has since thought better of it.
– I hope so; but he has given me no indication that he has changed his attitude in this matter. I think that Queensland must cease to expect justice from the present Commonwealth Government. A report of the speech made by the Postmaster-General last week was telegraphed to the Brisbane Courier, and shown to the Premier of Queensland the same evening, when he expressed the views that are set forth in the following newspaper account: -
The Premier (the Honorable A. Morgan) was seen last night by a representative of the Courier, and the proceedings in the Federal House of Representatives were made known to him. Mr. Morgan had already been advised officially of the position of affairs, and it would appear that his information conveyed no more hopeful impression than that which we publish to-day. Mr. Morgan said, on perusing an advance proof of the Courier telegram : I see Mr. Chapman asks : “ Why did Queensland not come to the Commonwealth Government before making its contract?” It is a matter of public knowledge that the correspondence on the subject dates back to the. previous Deakin Government. The Queensland Government set out their claim to the Deakin Government, to the Watson Government, to the Reid Government, and to the Deakin Government again in succession, and I have before me a letter of the 22nd March last on the subject of the steamers coming to Brisbane. Our case was put in anticipation of the conclusion of an agreement for a mail service, and was repeatedly stated to the Reid Government when the negotiations with the Orient Company were approaching completion. Not only in correspondence, but in conference the question of the oversea mails was under consideration. The Queensland representatives put it to. the Federal Premier and his colleagues, who were at the Conference, that if the new contract should prove to be like the old contract, something more than a contract for the conveyance of mails to Adelaide, and Queensland was asked to pay her per capita contribution to the cost of the service, which she would only enjoy as a mail service, whilst the other States would enjoy it as a cargo service also, then Queensland would protest that such a contract was a breach of the spirit of the provisions of the Constitution, which declares discrimination against any one State to be illegal.
The Federal Government, however, in spite of these protests, entered into a contract which, besides being a mail service, is also a cargo service, and the advantages of which, in the latter respect, they failed to secure to Queensland. In the circumstances, the Government of this State had no other course open to them but to endeavour to secure as cheaply as they could such shipping facilities as the Commonwealth Government, when they had the opportunity, had failed to secure for this State. The agreement with the Orient Company, under which we are to pay ,£26,000 a year, was the result. Queensland under the Commonwealth contract has to pay about ,£18,000 a year to secure the conveyance of her own mails, and a service to be of up-to-date refrigerated steamers for Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales; and in addition she has to pay ,£26,000 a year to secure the latter advantage for her own producers, making her total contribution ,£44,000 a year for advantages which, if charged on a Federal basis, ought not to have cost her more than half that sum.
They take the point that the Federal Government has only to deal with the conveyance of mails, but it is specifically provided in the Commonwealth contract that the Orient Company’s steamers, after dropping their mails at Adelaide - steamers which, the contract also provides, are to be equipped with refrigerating machinery and insulated space for the carriage of perishable products - are to continue their voyage to Melbourne and Sydney, and to call at Melbourne and Adelaide on their return voyage. If the service is nothing more than a mail service, why were these provisions inserted in the contract?
As to the future action of your Government, Mr. Morgan,- do you propose to raise the Constitutional question? asked our representative. The
Premier replied : I believe- the matter is of such high importance that it cannot be left where it will be if the Federal Parliament arrives at a decision - which it seems likely to do - adverse to the claim Queensland has set up. The matter ought, in the interests of the whole of the States, to be determined by a tribunal against whose, decision there can be no appeal.
I hope that Mr. Morgan will have .this matter tested in the High Court, and settled. The Constitution distinctly states that no discrimination shall be exercised between one State and another. Section 99 reads as follows : -
The Commonwealth shall not, by any law or regulation of trade, commerce, or revenue, give preference to one State or any part thereof over another State or any part thereof.
I cannot express an opinion as a lawyer, but my common sense tells me that the Commonwealth Government are acting wrongly in making a distinction between Queensland and the other States. This debate will show the Queensland Government that they must not expect to receive justice at the hands of the Commonwealth Parliament. Although my amendment has been defeated, I still believe that the contract should have been referred back for further consideration. As I have said, the feeling ira Queensland over this matter is very strong, and is very clearly expressed in a leading article published in the Brisbane Courier of 5th October. That article contains the following sentences : -
The attitude of the Federal Government towards the very just claims of Queensland that the recently arranged extension of the Orient service to Brisbane should be treated as an integral part of the Commonwealth mail service will come as a serious disappointment to the people of this State. The amendment moved by Mr. Edwards in the House of Representatives yesterday was in keeping with the representations and contentions of Queensland repeated to successive Federal Governments, and it was only when all hope from this quarter was at an end that the Queensland Government took the matter in hand in the best interests of the State. The moral situation is perfectly clear. Mr. Chapman and his colleagues-
– I would direct the honorable member’s attention to standing order 268, which provides -
No member shall read extracts from newspapers or other documents referring to debates in the House during the same session.
If the extract now being read by the honorable member had not so pointedly referred to this debate, I should not have felt called upon to interfere. Perhaps the honorable member can summarize in his own words the arguments used in. the article from which he has been reading.
– I shall .not read anything further, but I desire to make a few more general remarks. The PostmasterGeneral last week remarked that the cost of me mail 1 . service represented a charge of about 3s. 8d. per mile. Although I moved in the direction of obtaining a refund of the £26,000 which the Queensland Government have contracted to pay to the Orient Steam Navigation Company for the extension of their service to Brisbane, I was not foolish enough to think that the Commonwealth Government would be so generous as to accede to my wishes.
– I expected that they would do so.
– Perhaps the honorable member knows better than I do how generous the Government can be on occa sions. I did not expect that the Commonwealth Government would take over the whole liability incurred by the Queensland Government, but I did anticipate that they would agree to shoulder one-half of the responsibility, as the late Prime Minister was prepared to do. Had he still been in office I should have adopted the same attitude towards his Government that I have taken in regard to the present Administration’. The least the Government can do is to accept the amendment proposed by . the honorable member for Kennedy. I am given to understand that the mileage rate of 3s. 8d. between Sydney and Brisbane would represent a total payment of about ,£6,000 per annum. That expenditure would, of course, have to be met partly by Queensland, which, in common wilh the other States, would have to contribute its share upon a population basis, in addition to providing the balance of £20,000 out of her own coffers. I trust that the Postmaster-General will indicate that he is prepared to go so far towards meeting the wishes of the representatives of Queensland.
– The Government are not prepared to accept the amendment, but are willing to make a concession which will serve much the same purpose.
– I move-
That the amendment be amended by the addition of. the following words : - “ and that an allowance of a similar rate should be paid to Tasmania for European mails between Melbourne and Tasmania, and Tasmania and Melbourne.”
The reason I mention Tasmania instead of Launceston is that sometimes mails are sent on to Burnie, instead of to Launceston.
.- As I intimated when speaking to the amendment of the honorable member for Oxley, the Government could not undertake to refund the Queensland Government the £26,000 which they have agreed to pay to the Orient Steam Navigation Company. But, after having listened to the speeches of honorable members, I find it possible to view the matter from another stand-point. I “do not for a moment recede from the position I formerly took up, that, in view of the fact that the arrangement entered into for the extension of the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s service to Brisbane is a trading contract, we should have no right to directly refund the amount contracted to be paid by ‘the Queensland Government. Viewing the matter from a postal stand- point, however, I admit that there is a good deal in the contention that provision is included in the contract made by the Commonwealth Government with the Orient Steam Navigation Company that the mail steamers should proceed on from Adelaide to Melbourne and Sydney, and although it has been contended - and I think established - that without any such provision in the contract the steamers would still have proceeded to Melbourne and Sydney, it must be acknowledged that the vesselsperform some postal service by carrying mail matter between those ports.
– It ls not worth considering.
– Nevertheless, that service is performed ; and we take the view that it is only fair that we should afford similar facilities to the residents of other States - not only Queensland, but also Tasmania. It may be said that the Tasmanian Government have not made any application to the Commonwealth in this connexion, but the representatives of Tasmania, including Senator Keating and the honorable member for Darwin and the honorable member for Bass have repeatedly asked for consideration in this matter; and their representations are entitled to as much weight as would be attached to a wailing statement such as has been delivered by the honorable member for Oxley.
– There has been no wailing.
– I would ask if the honorable member has approached this matter in a proper spirit whenhe has practically wept over all the injuries that are being inflicted upon Queensland by the Commonwealth? He declares that, so far, he has abstained from taking part in the movement towards secession, but he now thinks that he will be obliged to take a hand in it. I say that, if we have to prop up Federation by making concessions, the outlook is a very sorry one indeed. When the honorable member affirms that the Government are opposed to the interests of Queensland. I would remind him that he made a very different statement upon the hustings. He should recollect that this contract was entered into by the late Government. His statements are of a very flimsy character, but inasmuch as they are put into cold type, thev merit some answer.
– Did not the PostmasterGeneral himself support the late Government ? Did he not join our Liberal League ?
– Not only did I refuse to join that league, but I declined to have anything to do with it, as the honorable member knows very well.
– That is a totally incorrect statement.
– It is absolutely correct. If the Government view this matter from the postal stand-point, and agree to reimburse Queensland to the extent of 3s. 8d. per mile upon the distance between Sydney and Brisbane, which is, roughly speaking, 500 miles, the amount involved would be . £4,766 13s. 4d. per annum. These figures are based upon twenty-six trips each way.
– The distance is a little more than 500 miles, I think.
– In that case, the cost would be proportionately higher. The Government are prepared to relieve Queensland of the cost of the contract into which she has entered with the Orient Steam Navigation Company to the extent indicated. It seems to me that that is all she is entitled to ask. Seeing that we are willing to make that concession to Queensland, we must accord similar treatment to Tasmania. The distance between Launceston and Melbourne is 277 miles, which, at 3s. 8d. per mile, would represent a sum of . £2,640 14s. 8d., or a total of £7,407 8s. per annum. Apportioning that expenditure amongst the various States, it would work out as follows: - New South Wales, £2,709; Victoria,£2,250.; Queensland, . £970; South Australia, £693; Western Australia, . £450; and Tasmania, . £335. I repeat that the Government are prepared to relieve Queensland to the extent I have indicated ; but they cannot accomplish their object by adopting the proposal of the honorable member for Kennedy. A payment to his State upon the lines suggested by him would not be constitutional, inasmuch as it would be a preference payment. The same remark is applicable to the amendment of the honorable member for ‘Bass. I suggest that those honorable members should withdraw their amendments, ‘ so us to allow me to move the addition of the following words to my motion : - but is of opinion that, without varying the original contract with the Commonwealth Government, arrangements should be made by which, during the continuance of its contract with the Queensland Government, the company, in consideration of the payment of a sum of 3s. 8d. per mile by the Commonwealth, shall agree to carry postal matter between the ports of Sydney and Brisbane, and shall reduce the payment to be made by the Queensland Government by a corresponding amount, and also that arrangements should be made for making similar provision in the case of Tasmania.
That amendment would accomplish what the ‘ honorable member for Kennedy and the honorable member for Bass desire, and would leave the present contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company intact. It would enable us to ratify that agreement forthwith, and would place the Government in a position to make an arrangement which would put all the States upon an equal footing. If the amendments are withdrawn, I think we shall be able to meet the wish that has been generally expressed by honorable members, and to carry out what must have been in the mind of the late Postmaster-General, who, throughout the whole of the negotiations, strove to make some arrangement under which Brisbane would be included as a port of call.
– In the first place, I would point out that the amendment cannot be moved by any honorable member until the other amendments have been withdrawn. In the second place, the PostmasterGeneral cannot submit an amendment to his own motion. Perhaps some other Minister will move the proposal which he has indicated.
– I am rather astonished to find that the Government are quite prepared to accept an amendment upon the lines indicated, after the Postmaster-General at previous stages in the discussion has advanced every reason for declining to accept it.
– He has taken the wind out of the honorable member’s sails.
– No, he has not. I should have taken up the same attitude that I do upon the present occasion, irrespective of whether the Government had supported or opposed the amendment. Personally, I should like to satisfy the desire of Queensland in this matter, as in any other. But, as I am of opinion that by doing so, we should be establishing a precedent which will go much further than the matter with which we are now dealing, and which would create an entirely wrong situation in regard to the Federal administration of mail and cargo services, it is my duty to oppose the proposal which has been agreed to bv the Minister. But before dealing with this question, I should like to reply to some remarks of the honorable member for Grey. He declared that not a single member of this House has stated >that the white labour conditions which were inserted in the present mail, contract, had anything to do with the increased subsidy demanded bv the Orient Steam Navigation Company.
– He said that no honorable member had made that statement during the course of this debate.
– The honorable member for Grey contended that some honorable members had abandoned the position which they took up outside the House, if not in it. I wish to say that, personally, I think that the conditions to which I have referred had something to do with the increased cost of the mail service.
– Despite the statement of the manager of the Orient Steam Navigation Company to the contrary?
– I am quite willing to accept the statement of the agent and managing director of that company. But the fact remains that the white labour conditions in our Postal Act necessitated the division into parts of the old contract for the carriage of mails between Australia and Great Britain. Had those conditions not been inserted, the British Government would have called for tenders for the whole service.
– And they would not have received a tender from the Orient Steam Navigation Company at the price that was previously paid.
– I do not say that they would. But I do say that the Imperial Government would have been in a much stronger position - dealing as they would have been with a weekly service - than Australia was in negotiating for a fortnightly service.
– I do not think that there is anything in that contention, because the Orient Steam Navigation Company has nc other contracts.
– I would point out that in the papers relating to the English mail service, which have been laid’ before Parliament, the following passageoccurs : -
In reply a cable was received from the Colonial Office, dated 21st January, 1903, statingthat, with the exception of the Commonwealth Government, the Postal Administrations interested were generally in favour of the extension of thecontracts, if increased speed could be secured, and the Imperial Postmaster-General thought this could be obtained for the present subsidy. 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 unless that condition could be modified, the idea of a joint arrangement would have to be abandoned, and other plans made for an Australian service.
It will thus be seen that the representatives of the Imperial Government expressed the opinion that if they had had to deal with (the two services they could have secured a renewal of the contract at a higher rate of speed for the same subsidy. They would not then have been entirely de- pendent upon the Orient Steam Navigation Company. It must be recollected that they can exercise a strong influence with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. But for the existence of the white labour condition the Imperial Government could have called for tenders for the whole service, and the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company would not have been excluded from tendering.
– I do not believe it probable that that company would have put on another line of vessels.
– That may be the. honorable member’s belief, but. the British authorities who are in closer contact with the head offices of the company have expressed the opinion that they would have been able to secure the extension of the service at the same rate.
– That was evidently with the same company.
– Perhaps so; but at all events we lost the opportunity of obtaining tenders from other companies employing black labour. The honorable member for Grey declared that the increased subsidy was demanded because the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s operations were not paying. The increased subsidy was agreed to for no such reason.
– That was the reason offered by the company for demanding an increased subsidy.
– Certainly ; but it was not the reason for acceding to the demand. I took no part in the direct negotiations, because the matter was left in the hands of the late PostmasterGeneral, who handled it with very great ability ; but I had a conversation with Mr. Anderson, and told him that such a plea could not be considered by any Government. The reason why we agreed to the contract was that every effort had been made by previous Governments, as well as by the Government of the day - during the short time at its disposal - to obtain a service for a lower subsidy, but without success.
– Surely the fact that the service is not paying is an excellent reason for an increased subsidy?
– It is not. For many years the company supplied this service for a subsidy of £85,000 per annum, and during that time they obtained a return - although only a small one - from their capital. The service ceased to pay, not because of anything relating to the mails, but owing to the competition for cargo which had set in. Tramp vessels were put on to run directly between Australia and England, while a line of steamers which commenced running to the East reduced the freights on tea between Ceylon andi Australia to 14s.. to 15s. per ton, as against £3 10s. per ton previously obtained.
– How could the Orient Steam Navigation Company continue the service if it did not pay them?
– The Peninsular and Oriental “Steam Navigation Company are continuing the service, and we must presume that it pays them to do so.
– They are receiving a larger subsidy, or, at all events, one that averages a higher rate per mile.
– But it is not the business of a Government in dealing with a demand for an increased subsidy for the continuation of a mail service that has been supplied for years to consider the losses incurred by the contracting company in connexion with the cargo trade. Where one company cannot carry on successfully another may be able to do so, and a Government has no right to be guided by such considerations. In speaking in favour of the poundage system the honorable member for Grey inquired how many people benefited by the subsidization of the mail service, and replied to his own query by saying that perhaps not one in a thousand did so. That, to my mind, is a very narrow view to take of the effects of a speedy and convenient service between Australia and Great Britain. Such a service must benefit Australia in a trading sense. It reduces, to some extent, the disadvantage under which Australia labours, owin’g to its distance from the trading centres of the world ; it brings to our shores many persons who, in a variety of ways, assist Australian enterprises; and it also provides for the wants of our shippers.
– What saving in time has been made during the last ten years?
– They are covering the distance at least one knot per hour quicker than they used to do ten years ago, and that is a considerable advance. At all events, it cannot be denied that the subsidized mail service provides a ready and regular means of shipping our produce to the markets of the old world. The value that our producers place upon it may be gauged by the fact that they have always been ready to pay a slightly increased rate for the carriage of their produce by these steamers, as compared with the freights charged by other lines running between England and Australia.
– Is it not a fact that another line is taking produce at a much lower rate?
– I do not know that there is a material difference between the rates. The Orient Steam Navigation Company and the ‘ Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company have considerably reduced their rates.
– They did so as the result of the competition of cargo vessels.
– I would point out what, in my opinion, is the great objection to the acceptance of the amendment. Having regard to our new Federal conditions, I do not agree with the view that we should obtain tenders for a mail service alone. If it be advantageous to Australia, as a whole, to require that refrigerating space shall be provided on board our mails steamers, it may be, if necessary, desirable to impose such a condition. The mere fact that the postal service has been separated from the States should not induce us, in dealing with the oversea mail contract, to pay no regard to the interests of the States in other matters.
– If that be so, why should we not consider the interests of Queensland?
– I am speaking of the interests of Australia, as a whole. If it is to the advantage of all the States to require that refrigerating space shall be provided in our mail steamers, it is well to make that stipulation, unless too great a price is asked for compliance with it.
– But should the Postal Department pay for that service?
– I do not think that we should endeavour to entirely separate the postal service from other interests. We have to consider what is a reasonable price to pay for the provision of these conveniences, and if the demand be not unreasonable, it is well if it be necessary to require them to be made under contract. In my opinion, however, we ought in future to require the mails to be carried simply to the first rail port of call in Australia, leaving the company free to send their steamers beyond that point if they think it desirable. If a State is particularly anxious for them to go to a port beyond that point, when the company do not see their way clear to send them on, that State should bear the cost of the extension. I should like to remind the House that the late Government did not insist that the steamers of the company should go on to Melbourne or Sydney. Alternative tenders were called - one for a service to Adelaide only, and the other for a service that would go on to Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane. The company sent in a tender for delivery of the mails at Adelaide, and for the steamers to proceed to Melbourne and Sydney. That was their own offer, and they asked for no increased subsidy, because of the sending of their vessels to those two ports. No pressure was brought to bear by the Government to induce them to make Melbourne and Sydney ports of call, but we certainly endeavoured to induce them to extend the service to Brisbane.
– Would not the bulk of the mail matter be landed in any case at Adelaide ?
– Certainly. But it is now proposed that provision shall be made for the carriage of mails or cargo beyond the ports to which the company may choose to go. It is suggested that the mail steamers should call at a port in each State of the Commonwealth.
– If the honorable member turns to clause 4 of the contract, he will see that the company was compelled to send its vessels on to Melbourne and Sydney.
– That was their own offer; no influence was brought to bear by the Government to compel them to send them on to those ports. As I have said, I believe that in future contracts we should simply provide for the conveyance of the mails to the nearest rail port.
– Why the first rail port, if the mails could be delivered more expeditiously at another port? Supposing it were quicker to deliver them at Melbourne ?
– If the mails could be delivered more expeditiously there, that would be the nearest rail port.
– They say that the mails could bedelivered more expeditiously if the steamers, instead of calling at Adelaide, came straight on.
– I very much doubt it. At all events, I think that in future contracts we should simply provide for the delivery of the mails at the first rail port, leaving the company at liberty to send their steamers beyond that point. If any subsidy had to be given for the extension of the service beyond the first rail port, it should be paid by the State or States desiring it. The proposal now made is that the mails shall be carried at the expense of the Commonwealth Government to each State in the Commonwealth. That will not apply merely to the English mails by the Red Sea route. It must apply to mails by Vancouver, as well as from the East. Are we going to agree, for example, that mails from the East shall be carried on to Western Australia at the expense of the Commonwealth ?
– If the company made a contract to send the vessels on to Western Australia to deliver parcels there, surely we ought, in justice, to pay them for the carriage of those parcels.
– If they rendered any service over that stretch of water, we ought certainly to do so. But if in a contract made with the Commonwealth Government for the delivery of oversea mails in one State, it is to be provided that the allowance per mile which we pay the company shall be given to them to go on to the other States, we shall place ourselves in a difficult and false position. I should like to be able to support the amendment, but having regard to all these facts, I cannot do so. The Minister took up the pro- per attitude in his first declaration, but he is now departing from it, and has announced bis intention of voting in opposition to his own arguments.
– That is not so.
– That is my conclusion. I cannot see my way to support the amendment, but I ask the Minister and those who are supporting him to make it clear that it shall have effect only during the currency of the present contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company, and shall not be regarded as a precedent in connexion with the framing of future contracts for the carriage of mails. Is. the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company to be dealt with in the same way ?
– We have nothing to do with that company.
– Then I ask if it is intended that the cost of conveying mails from Queensland homewards shall be made a general charge on the Commonwealth, instead of being paid by the State itself?
– The country in which mails are posted always pays for their delivery.
– Yes ; but do the Government propose that in this instance the Commonwealth shall be charged with the cost?
– We are not dealing with that matter now.
– I am not surprised that the Minister is unable to answer the question. He has accepted the amendment without knowing all that its acceptance involves; but I hope that, if it be carried, it will be made clear that it is to apply only tothe present contract. That will remove many of my objections to it, though I shall still be unable to vote for it. If it is to be a permanent condition in all mail contracts that every vessel subsidized to bring mails to Australia shall proceed to every State the position will be a very difficult one. I hope that in framing future contracts we shall adopt a principle which will get rid of these difficulties by stipulating only for the delivery of mails at the first convenient port for their distribution throughout Australia, leaving it to be arranged between the shipping companies and the Governments of the States interested for the steamers to call at any other port at which it may be considered desirable that they should call to which they would not go of their own accord. I am in no way hostile to Queensland, and wish to be fair to every State, but I feel that the amendment will establish a precedent which may bevery awkward, unless it is made clear that it applies only to the present contract.
– Any one who has followed the negotiations for this mail service must admit that the successive Governments which have dealt with the matter have had a very difficult task. It would have been wiserhad the first Federal Government earlier taken steps to ascertain under what conditions the contract then in existence could be renewed. When 1 went into office the negotiations for a renewal had fallen through, and we called for tenders for alternative services under which the mails would be delivered at Adelaide, with or without the steamers being required to go on to either Melbourne, Sydney, or Brisbane. Before those tenders were received we went out of office again, and the Reid Government then took the matter up. I am willing to admit that the late Postmaster-General did nearly as well as he might have been expected to do under the circumstances. It is true that the Orient Steam Navigation Company have secured a substantial increase of subsidy without giving a faster service, and I am inclined to think that it might have been possible to persuade them to accept a slightly lower amount, though I do not suppose that any substantial saving could have been made.
– A quicker service might have been obtained.
– No. The company cannot increase the speed of the service with its present boats.
– £20,000 was asked for an accelerated service.
– I do not think that the speed could have been increased ; but the company might have been induced to accept a iower subsidy. The position, however, was a difficult one, and that emphasizes the need for taking time by the forelock in regard to the renewal of the present contract. Steps should be taken very early for the making of arrangements for the future. I am hopeful that the Select Committee which is now sitting will be able to give the House valuable information in regard to the subject generally before it will be necessary to call for tenders for a new contract.
– Does the honorable member expect the honorable member for Barrier to get us out of the difficulty ?
– The honorable member for Barrier has taken a great deal of interest in this matter, and it will certainly pay us to give consideration to it. I am not yet convinced that it would be profitable to run a Commonwealth line of steamers, but I should advocate the running of such a line if the enterprise would pay. I am surprised that the late Postmaster-General did not give more consideration to the tender of Messrs. Scott Fell and Co. That firm, by greatly reducing freights between Australia and the East, has cut into the operations of a ring which previously controlled that trade, and has caused an enormous reduction in the charges for the conveyance, not only of tea and similar goods, but of the jute goods which are so much used by our farming communities. The firm tendered for the conveyance of mails from Adelaide to Colombo or Bombay - preferably the former - for a subsidy of £75,000. Under that arrangement they would have been transhipped at the port agreed upon into one of the many steamers which trade between England and the East.
– The firm asked £110,000 for the conveyance of mails to a Mediterranean port.
– I understand that for that sum they were prepared to land our mails at a Mediterranean port, and to send their steamers on to London. Their steamers would certainly not turn round in the Mediterranean, and come back without ‘ going, on to London, because of the transhipment of cargo which that would make necessary. In view of their record, as their tender was that of an Australian firm, who were prepared with a tangible proposal, it should have received consideration.
– For £110,000 they were prepared to carry our mails from Australia to Colombo, and there tranship them into swift passenger steamers calling at that port on their way home or to the Far East.
– I think that they amended that tender, and offered to land the mails at a Mediterranean port, their steamers proceeding right through to London. However, everything points to the necessity of early action being taken for the determination of this question in order that we shall not be forced into such a position as we occupied recently, to some extent owing to our own delay, and also to some extent as the result of the attitude assumed by the Orient Steam Navigation Company. With regard to the extension of the service to Brisbane, it seems to me that the view put forward by the honorable member for North Sydney is the correct one, namely, that we should conclude a mail contract, pure and simple, for the landing of the mails at the nearest rail port. There was a time in Australia when the facilities for the shipment of perishable produce were so inadequate that it was probably necessary - without debating the question whether the Post-office vote or our general expenditure should be debited with the cost - to give some encouragement to steam-ship owners to increase their cool storage accommodation. We have, however, passed that period. We find that the cargo vessels which are not in receipt of any subsidy are giving practically as good a service, “so far as the carriage of perishables is concerned, as are the mail steamers. Nearly every steamer provides cool storage space, and arrangements have been’ made by a combination of lines for regular sailings, which are being availed of by butter shippers in preference to the somewhat faster mail steamers. Therefore, the question of assisting the exportation of perishable products is not nearly so important as it was a short time ago, and we are free at this stage to concentrate our attention upon the question of the carriage of mails alone. So far as that is concerned, I think that our purpose would be well served by arranging for the landing of our mails at Adelaide, and permitting the steam-ship companies to send their vessels on to whatever ports they please.
– That would be a mail contract pure and simple.
– Yes. The fact that the present contract - no matter upon what terms it may have been arrived at - includes a condition that the mail steamers must come on to Melbourne and Sydney after they have delivered their mails at Adelaide, affords reasonable ground for the claim made by the representatives of Queensland that consideration should be shown to that State. I admit that special difficulties that exist in no other part of the Commonwealth have to be overcome in regard to the exportation of perishable. products from Queensland. During my recent visit to that State I found that notwithstanding the great efforts that had been made by the State Government to induce the owners of the Aberdeen line to send some of their vessels to Queensland ports, the shippers were at that moment under the heel of an absolutely despotic shipping ring, which prevented the vessels’ attracted to the port of Brisbane from carrying away a large proportion of the produce intended for export. That was a condition of affairs that no community should suffer in silence, and I am inclined, therefore, to extend the most generous treatment to the people of Queensland. All the Brisbane cargo brought out from England by the Aberdeen steamers had to be unloaded at Sydney and transhipped into other vessels, in”order to be conveyed to Brisbane. According to the conditions laid down by the shipping ring, this transhipment was necessary, even though the oversea steamers had to proceed to Brisbane empty. Further than that, these vessels were prohibited from shipping at Brisbane any perishable product other than, butter. They were not allowed to load frozen meat, fruit, or other produce. That is a condition of affairs upon which Parliament should look with a desire to bring about a change. I am not so much concerned as to whether or not Ave should establish a precedent. I am afraid that the operations of commerce, which are usually extolled as being of the freest possible character, are so hampered by shipping rings and combinations that it is pf no use to rely on precedent for the solution of the difficulties presented to us, and for that reason I do not .attach the same importance to precedent as does the honorable member for North Sydney. There is only one other point to which I desire to refer - that is the statement of the honorable member for North Sydney as to the influence that the insistence upon white labour conditions in connexion with the mail steamers had upon the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s contract. The honorable member said that, in his opinion, the prohibition of the employment of coloured labour had caused a demand for an increased subsidy. He quoted, in support of that view, the opinion expressed by the British PostmasterGeneral, that if he were free to arrange the whole contract - that is, for the carriage of mails both to and from Australia - he would probably be able to secure an accelerated service at the same outlay that was being incurred under the old contract. I would .direct attention to the fact that that expression of opinion was given some time prior to the expiration of the last contract, and before the Orient Steam Navigation Company had indicated its position in reference to the renewal of’ the contract. As indicating that it was most unlikely that the British Postmaster-General would have been able to secure a renewal of the contract on the favorable terms he indicated, I would point to the statement, which, no doubt, honorable members have seen, as to the position of affairs of the Orient Steam Navigation Company, which shows that they have been earning a very lo.w rate of profit for some considerable time past.
– They have been making a loss lately.
– Exactly. The amount they have earned has not been sufficient to cover their outgoings. Surely “the honorable member for North Sydney, as a business man, must recognise that the Orient Steam Navigation Company would have been compelled to do something in the direction of either increasing their earnings or decreasing their expenditure. They would have had to reduce their expenditure by lessening the speed of “their steamers - which has a material influence upon expenditure - or by altering the route followed, in order that canal dues and other expenses might be avoided. The company would have been compelled to adopt some means to make its earnings yield a profit, and I cannot understand how the British Postmaster-General could have expected them to tender at the same rate as previously. I agree with the honorable member that the fact that the company has been losing money affords no reason why we should pay an increased subsidy. We are concerned merely with the question whether the service rendered will be worth the money asked for. But, incidentally, we are justified, when discussing the probability of the contract being renewed at the same price as formerly, and the question of accelerated speed, in looking at the position of the company; and when we find that for years they have been sustaining a loss, we may fairly assume that they could not have carried out the new contract on the conditions indicated bv the British Postmaster-General. The honorable member for North Sydney said that the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company might have been induced to provide a weekly, instead of a fortnightly, service, at the same rate as formerly.
– Either the Peninsular and Oriental Company, or one of the other large steam-ship companies trading to the East.
– The honorable member, in making that statement, apparently forgot that the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company take up their Australian service as a part of their general Eastern service - as a part of the contract entered into with the British Government for the carriage of mails to and from India, China, and Australia. The mails are not brought out here under a separate contract. As a matter of fact, the rate per mile paid over the whole contract is considerably in excess of that which is nominally paid in respect to the Australian, portion of the service. The Indian and China portion of the contract involves an outlay of something over 6s. per mile, as against a nominal rate of 3s. odd for the Australian portion of the service. The average works out at 4s.9d. per mile of the consolidated contract ; and if the British Government had been prepared to pay the Peninsular and Oriental Company 4s.9d. per mile for the additional fortnightly service, making in all a weekly service, I have no doubt that the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company would have accepted their terms. I refuse, however, to believe, on the evidence as to what they are now receiving, and the attitude taken up by them, that there was a ghost of a chance of their entering into an additional contract, except at the same rate that they are now receiving under their consolidated contract.
– The Peninsular and Oriental Company could carry on the service more cheaply than any other company.
– But the honorable member must remember that the service has not paid the Orient Company.
– That is owing to certain conditions as to freight.
– It is very evident that the Orient Company could not make a paying business of their Australian service from a very early period of their contract. In view of all the circumstances, it seems extremely unlikely that the Peninsular and Oriental Company would have been prepared to accept a smaller rate than they are now receiving for an additional fortnightly service.
– Does not the honorable member see that if it would not pay the Peninsular and Oriental Company it would probably not pay any other company, and that, therefore, it is of no use for us to look for a reduction of the present subsidy ?
– I consider that it is verv unlikely that the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company would perform an additional service for anvthing less than the remuneration they are at present receiving, and I do not think we are likely, under present conditions, to induce any company to take up the mail service at the old price. Therefore,I cannot agree with the honorable member that the insistence upon the white labour conditions had the slightest effect upon the Orient Steam Navigation Company. We need not rely solely upon the assertion of the chairman of directors of that company to the effect that the question of employing white crews had no bearing on the amount of the tender. We have to look to the state of the company itself, and to the fact that it had not been paying for some time previously. I trust that the Government will recognise the wisdom of affording us an opportunity to consider at a very early date what attitude we shall take up in this connexion.
– We do not want to be caught “ napping “ again.
– Exactly. The sooner we commence to institute inquiries the better will be our prospects of securing a more satisfactory arrangement in the near future. I do not urge that we should adopt the poundage system, because it cannot be said that we occupy a position similar to that of America. Steamers ply to that country much more frequently than they are likely to do to Australia for some time to come. So long as our action does not impose too great a burden upon the people of the Commonwealth, I think we are quite justified in paying a subsidy to secure regular and frequent mail communication with the mother country. So far as the amendment is concerned, I am quite prepared, in view of the peculiar circumstances existing in regard to the Queensland trade - circumstances which are quite distinct from those governing the trade of any other State - to accord to it liberal treatment. At the same time, I agree that in future it should be our policy to deal with the carriage of mails only. We have reached that stage in our national existence when we can afford to disregard the other aspect of it, except in a very minor wav. That being so, we should aim at securing the delivery of our mails at the point most convenient for their distribution throughout the Commonwealth, and we should leave the ship-owners to make their own arrangements as to where their vessels shall call subsequently. In the present instance I am quite prepared to assist Queensland, in the hope that at an early date some action will be taken to break down the shipping ring which at present exists.
– In dealing with this question one cannot fail to be struck by the fact that neither the late PostmasterGeneral nor his successor appear to be very enthusiastic in respect of the present mail contract. Both of them recommend its early termination, with a view to securing better terms for the Commonwealth. There are two or three reasons why the existing agreement presents such unsatisfactory features. In the first place there is undoubtedly a shipping ring in existence, whose influence is so powerful that it was able to exact practically its own terms. In its endeavours to do this it was supported by a number of persons who, for political purposes, made use of the white labour conditions that were inserted in the contract, and, to this extent, played into the hands of the ring. Under these circumstances, I think that the Postmaster-General is to be congratulated upon having secured the terms that he did. The Orient Steam Navigation Company has been dealing with the Australian people for the past twenty-two years. The PostmasterGeneral has informed us that Australia has paid to it and to the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, by way of subsidy, something like £2,700,000. Of this amount the Orient Steam Navigation Company has received the sum of £1,445,000. That amount was supplemented by a further sum of , £298,000, which was paid by the Imperial authorities. Thus the total subsidies received by that company amount to , £1,743,000. But, notwithstanding that the Orient Steam Navigation Company has participated in the large development of Australian trade that has taken place during the past twenty years, the subsidy demanded by it has increased rather than decreased. From that standpoint the present arrangement with the postal authorities represents a retrograde rather than a progressive movement. The Postmaster-General informed us the other evening that, under the present contract, the Orient Steam Navigation Company had obtained an additional subsidy of £38,000 per annum, the rate having been increased from 2S. 7d. to 3s. 8d. per mile. It provides us with a service of 696 hours, which is thirtyfour hours in excess of that which is provided by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. In other words, the vessels of the Orient Steam Navigation Company average about fourteen knots per hour, whilst those of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company average sixteen knots. Had the former company been able to enforce compliance with its original demands, the Commonwealth would have occupied a still more disadvantageous position, because the first” tender which the company submitted was for £[170,000 - that amount covered the increased facilities which were sought by the Government - ur £150,000 for the conveyance of our mails’ alone. Under the existing contract that subsidy has been reduced to £’120,000. I agree with the honorable member for Bland that that reduction was largely due to the competition with which the Orient Steam Navigation Company was threatened by Messrs. Scott Fell and Company. Had the latter not come to the rescue of the late Postmaster-General I believe that the directors of the Orient Steam Navigation Company would have insisted upon their original terms. The Commonwealth owes something to Messrs. Scott Fell and Company for its very timely intervention. One or’ two honorable members - notably, the honorable member for Grey, the honorable member for North Sydney, and the honorable member for Bland - have referred to the extent to which the provision relating to the employment of white labour on our mail steamers affected the increased subsidy which was demanded by the Orient Steam Navigation Company. It seems to me that in dealing with this question one of the grant difficulties which confronted the Postal Department was the prominence which was given to the white labour clauses of the contract by leading politicians in their addresses to the electors. I think I am correct in saying that at one period - the most critical time in the negotiations between the Orient Steam Navigation Company and the postal authorities - the public, by means of press criticism and the utterances of leading politicians, were led to believe that the whole difficulty centred in the question of whether ‘white or black labour should be employed upon the vessels. As bearing on this phase of the question, I wish to quote a resolution passed by the . Adelaide Chamber of Commerce on 26th January last. After considering the diffi- culties that had arisen in the negotiations between the company and the Postal Department, the Chamber passed a series of resolutions, one of which was as follows : -
That this Chamber is of opinion that the clause in the Postal Act prohibiting the employment of coloured labour on mail steamers should, be immediately repealed, in order that satisfactory contracts may be entered into for the prompt and regular conveyance of oversea mails.
The resolutions were considered by the Adelaide Stock Exchange, which decided to support them, and forwarded copies of them to the Prime Minister and other authorities interested. They represent the view adopted by the leading commercial men of Australia in reference to this ‘question. Practically every representative commercial body in the Commonwealth reechoed the sentiments which they expressed.. We find, also, that they were re-echoed bv the then Prime Minister, the right honorable member for East Sydney. In the course of an interview, published in the leading daily newspapers on 27th January last, the right honorable gentleman made the following statement, which I quote from the Sydney Daily Telegraph : -
I have never hesitated - on the contrary, I have, in the strongest terms, denounced the clause in the Postal Act which has created the present difficulty ; whilst there is no man who is more loyal to what is known as the policy of a White Australia, I do draw a particular line between that policy and the attempt, as I have previously described it, to paint the oceans of the world in the same colour.
At the very time that the right honorable member made these statements to the press his colleagues were engaged in negotiating with the company, and the only inference that could be drawn from them was that the condition as to the non-employment of black labour on mail steamers was the principal cause of the difficulty that had arisen.
– The Orient Steam Navigation Company have publicly admitted that it was not.
– That is so; but the point I wish to make is that the negotiations of the Department were hampered bv these statements. Although the condition as to the employment of white labour had nothing to do with the demand made for an increased subsidy, the people of Australia were led to believe that it had, and that it was the main point of contention. Having regard to the fact that the people were misled in this way by representative bodies and leading politicians, who ought to have known better, the wonder is not that the Department made the bad bargain which the late Postmaster-General and his successor admit this contract to be, but that it was not forced into making a still more unsatisfactory agreement. The fact that it was not compelled to do so was due to the timely intervention of the Austalian firm of Scott Fell and Co. The honorable member for Bland, who, when Prime Minister, a few months before had been called upon to deal with the renewal of the contract, replied to this statement on the part of The right honorable member for East Sydney in an interview, which appeared in the Australian press on the following day. He said -
An attempt has been made, and repeated with sickening iteration, to convince the public that the demand of the Orient Company for additional subsidy is due to the insistence upon the employment of white labour. This view has been so constantly put forward in Australia that the English papers are repeating it as an ascertained fact beyond further investigation.
The honorable member went on to refer “to the right honorable member for East Sydney as joining in “ this chorus of ignorance,” which was “ inexcusable,” as -
In Mr. Reid’s own Department is a letter from Mr. Anderson, Australian manager of the Orient Pacific line, addressed to Mr. Deakin while Prime Minister, in which it is stated that the question of employing white labour had no material bearing on the price asked for the renewal of the contract. While in office I had an interview with Mr. Anderson, when he again repeated that it was not a question of which class of labour should be employed, but solely, one of allowing his company to escape a repetition of the loss involved in the contract then existing. He further stated that the cost of coloured labour was approximately the same as that of white, as the company had to employ two coloured men, with a corresponding increase in the accommodation set apart for the stokers. I gave the substance of that interview to Parliament and the press at the time, and quoted the statement contained in the letter to_ Mr. Deakin, so there is no excuse for Mr. Reid, or indeed any other leader of public opinion, being ignorant of the true position.
But for this statement the public would have continued to believe that the whole trouble related to the condition regarding the non-employment of black labour on mail steamers. To such an extent was criticism of this .kind indulged in, whilst the negotiations were in progress, that the Sydney Daily Telegraph” of 9th February last published a cablegram from London giving the substance of views expressed by the London Times with reference to this question -
The ideal of a White Australia, reasonably interpreted, and pursued by reasonable means, must commend itself to the sympathy of every Englishman, but as applied to the mail service, the doctrine has been dragged into a matter upon which it has not the remotest bearing.
Evidently the Times was led to believe that the policy of a White Australia was at the bottom of the trouble in regard to the mail contract, whereas it had nothing whatever to do with it. Without going unduly into the history of the movement for the abolition of black labour on mail steamers, I would point out that a glance at the literature bearing on the subject discloses tHat it was considered prior to Federation by the Governments of the Australian States. My inquiries lead me to believe that it was first brought forward at a Postal Convention held in Hobart by the honorable member for Parramatta, who was then PostmasterGeneral in the State Government of New South Wales, led by the right honorable member for East Sydney, who now strongly condemns what he describes as an attempt to paint the ocean white.
– Why does not the honorable member state the whole of the case - that we did, not attempt in any way to interfere with the mail service because of the employment of black labour? “
– But the State Government in question informed the British authorities that the service would be unsatisfactory if lascars were not removed from the mail steamers.
– I presume that the honorable member, in bringing the matter under the notice of the Convention, was influenced by a desire to induce the States to agree to the adoption of his proposal. If that were not so, why did he bring it forward? On the 9th February last the present leader of the Opposition, whilst on a visit to Tasmania, received a deputation from a number of ladies with regard to the contract labour provisions of the Immigration Restriction Act and the white ocean policy. According to the Sydney Morning Herald the deputation was introduced by Senator Dobson and Senator Mulcahy, and the reply of the right honorable member is reported in that journal in these terms -
He was one with the deputation in the desire to see “white ocean” and the “contract labour” clauses repealed, but could not see his way to initiate legislation on the subject, because to do so would lead to the break up of the Coalition Ministry.
Apparently the very estimable members of the deputation were somewhat disappointed at the reasons given, one good lady hinting darkly that she would lead an insurrection. The Daily Telegraph, in criticising the action of the Government in this matter, said, ten days later-
As Mr. Reid is not at present finding fault with the “ white ocean “ policy, which he denounced at the elections, or proposing to amend it, but doing his best to give effect to it, and let the country take the injurious consequences, he cannot, perhaps, be expected to admit that the increased subsidy asked for is simply the logical result of the demand for a more expensive service.
During the conference of Premiers at Hobart, both the right honorable member for East Sydney and the right honorable member for Balaclava informed the assembly that the condition requiring the employment of white seamen on the mail boats had not materially affected the negotiations between the Postal Department and the Orient Steam Navigation Company in connexion with the mail contract. In this connexion I should like to refer to a paragraph which was published in the Melbourne Argus on the morning following the arrival at Largs Bay of the first steamer to come here under the new contract. It was as follows : -
R.M.S. ORMUZ AT LARGS BAY.
The White Stokers.
Adelaide, Monday. - The Orient Pacific liner arrived from London to-day, and, in accordance with the new mail contract, she has no lascars employed on board. It is three years since the company first shipped black stokers and firemen. The reason for the change was the unreliability of white stokers, and their alleged over-fondness for intoxicating liquor. The chief engineer (Mr. Mclnnes) to-day expressed his deep regret that the political action of the Commonwealth should have forced the company to revert to the employment of white stokers and firemen. Their stoking of the ship, he stated, is not so satisfactory as the lascars’.
That statement was only in accord with the contentions of those who said that the difficulty in the way of securing a satisfactory mail contract was the condition in the Postal Act requiring the employment of white seamen; but a few days later the following letter appeared in the same newspaper : -
THE ORMUZ STOKERS.
To the Editor of the Argus.
Sir. - With reference to your telegram from Adelaide to The Argus of the 16th inst., in which you make the statement to the effect that I had expressed deep regret that the Orient Company had been compelled to revert to the employment of white firemen and stokers, and that the stoking of the ship was not as good as when lascars were employed, I deny that I made any comparison between white and black stokers, as far as their ability went. With regard to white firemen on board the present voyage, I never sailed with a steadier or more obedient lot of men, as I hope to be able to say the same at the conclusion of the voyage. In justice to the men and myself, I beg you to give publicity to this letter, both in Melbourne and Adelaide, where the above erroneous statements have been made.
Kenneth McInnes, Chief Engineer.
S.S. Ormuz, May 18.
As noother complaints have been made, it must be assumed that the experience of the other engineers in the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s fleet has been the same as that of the chief engineer of the Ormuz, and no trouble has arisen from the employment of white stokers. In view of that fact, the use made of the provision in the Postal Act to denounce Federal legislation is not at all creditable to those responsible for it. The Orient Steam Navigation Company, as the result of its long connexion with Australia, has secured a very firm grip upon our commerce and trade, and when it came to negotiate with the Postal Department for the mail contract was in a very secure position, because of the way in which it has been nursed and favoured by the community. It could thus demand much more advantageous terms than it would otherwise have secured. It is true that Mr. Anderson has since declared that the white labour condition affected the negotiations indirectly, though not directly, but he has riot indicated how it did so. He has suggested, however, that if there had been no such condition, the British Government might have come to the assistance of the Australian people by contributing part of the increased subsidy for which his company felt compelled for other reasons to ask. I should like to know from those who are so anxious that the British taxpayer shall not be saddled with expense for the benefit of the Commonwealth, and have proposed that our subsidy to the Navy shall be increased by 100 per cent., what they think of that suggestion ? Would they allow the British taxpayer to bear a portion of the expense of providing us. with a mail service? If they would not, of what advantage would it have been to allow the employment of black labour on these mail ships? The question of employing black labour upon mail steamers is quite distinct from that of a White Australia. If honorable members will refer back to the debates which took place upon the provision in the Post and Telegraph Act for the employment of white crews upon mail steamers, they will see that its advocates did not propose it as a mere supplement to the White Australia policy, but with the object of encouraging the employment of British sailors in the mercantile marine. The honorable and learned member for West Sydney, in speaking upon the matter in 1901, quoted some statements made by Lord Brassey to the effect that the proportion of sailors in the British mercantile marine had, during the preceding twenty-five years, decreased to the extent of 50 per cent. Whereas twentyfive years previously 200,000 British seamen had found employment upon British merchant vessels, the number had dwindled down to 100,000, and was still rapidly decreasing. Lord Brassey pointed to the difficulty that would be experienced in obtaining a sufficient number of recruits for the Royal Navy, and also in maintaining an efficient naval reserve, adequate to meet the stress of war. It was pointed out that the mercantile marine was being manned by foreign sailors to a larger extent every year, and that a still worse condition of things was rapidly being brought about by the substitution of Asiatics for European seamen. The most recent statistics show that the decrease in the number of British seamen is proceeding at an alarming rate, and that the conditions are such as to c’ause the greatest concern to statesmen, who have any conception of the probable needs of the Empire in the event of Great Britain becoming involved in war. The object of initiating a white ocean policy was to insure that British seamen should be employed upon the mail steamers subsidized by the Commonwealth, and I feel sure that ‘our action in that regard will meet with the approval of all well-wishers of the Empire. At the time that the controversy with regard to the white ocean policy was at its height, I, in company with a friend from the country, visited Circular Quay, in Sydney, and inspected a number of large steamers which were berthed there. We went on board the German steamer Friedrich der Grosse, a steamer larger than any belonging to the Orient Steam Navigation Company or Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. We found no black labour upon that steamer, but the whole of the sailors were Germans. Alongside her was a sailing vessel, which, at that time, was the greatest attraction of Sydney Harbor. It was equipped by the German Government for the special purpose of training youths for a seafaring life, in order that they might afterwards enter the mercantile marine, and eventually be drafted into the German Navy. It is scarcely necessary to say that there was no black labour to be found on that ship. On the other hand, we saw a number of sturdy fine-looking young men of ages ranging from sixteen to twenty-four, whose training was provided for as a part of the system by which Germany is building up her naval power. We next proceeded to the other side of the Quay, where we boarded one of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s steamers. We found there a few British officers and a crew composed mainly of Cingalese. We have built up a navy which is the pride of the British people and the admiration of foreign nations, and we are blindly endangering our prospects of being ‘ able to- maintain, it by substituting for British seamen foreigners and Asiatics. I believe that the desire for gain which is. responsible for the change now being brought about in our mercantile marine will eventually prove the greatest weakness in the British Empire. Our desire that the money which we pay in the form of subsidies to mail companies shall be spent in the employment of white labour is a commendable one. We do not wish merely to paint the ocean white, but, as far as lies in our power, -to render secure the naval strength of the Empire. As indicating that the employment of British sailors is decreasing, I would point to the returns showing the number of youths indentured as apprentices on sea-going vessels. In 1870 they numbered 18.000; in 1880, 14,000; in 1890, 8,000; in 1900, 5,000; and in 1903, 5,339. Thisgreat reduction shows that the British tar is gradually disappearing from our mercantile marine. I would commend these factsto the serious consideration of honorable members who have expressed their disapproval of our white ocean policy. All the great nations are devoting their attention to the strengthening of their navies. Germany, England’s great commercial rival, is. paying more attention to her navy than to her army, and she is acting wisely in building up her naval strength by making every provision for the training of efficient seamen to man her fleets. There is another phase of this question to which I desire to refer, and that is the monopoly which has hitherto been enjoyed by the Peninsular and
Oriental Steam Navigation Company and Orient Steam Navigation Company in connexion with our produce export trade. These companies have received considerable encouragement at our hands, and, as their position has become strengthened, they have shown a disposition to exact from us all the harder terms. I desire to direct attention to the evidence given before the Butter Commission with regard to the commissions paid to brokers by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company and the Orient Steam Navigation Company. The following statement occurs in the report : -
– I must ask the honorable member to refrain from any further reference to that matter, unless he can connect his remarks with the motion before the Chair.
– The report discloses a monopoly, in which the Orient Steam Navigation Company is concerned, and that improper means have been adopted to secure trade preferences. I advance this as one of the reasons why we should seriously consider the relations in which we stand towards the Orient Steam Navigation Company before the expiration of the current contract.
– I should hesitate to rule the honorable member entirely out of order, but I would point out that his remarks, whilst they may be made incidentally, must not be made the basis of a long argument.
– I merely wish to quote one short paragraph from the report, which reads as follows : -
From the evidence elicited before this Commission, it is apparent that the shipping companies seek to limit the competition for the carriage of Australian butter. It is also evident that the shipping interest is sufficiently strong and influential to demand its own terms from the producers. The evils proceeding from this state of affairs appear to menace the Australian export trade in butter, and call for the united efforts of the States to at once place the trade outside an influence which has the power of increasing the burdens of the primary producers.
This House is now engaged in considering a Commerce Bill, which I hope will speedily become law, and put a stop to such malpractices. I am quite in accord with the suggestion of the honorable member for North Sydney that we should enter into a contract solely for the carriage of mails. Our payments in this respect ought not to be regarded as payments for trade purposes. Whilst I consider that trade should be encouraged in every legitimate way, I am of opinion that that encouragement should be given in the form of special subsidies. It is undeniable that other lines of steamers are now entering into competition with the mail companies, as, for example, the White Star and the Lund and Aberdeen lines. I believe that the public attention which was directed to this matter by the recent negotiations with the Orient Steam Navigation Company has resulted in much good. Before they were threatened with opposition in the Australian trade, the mail steamers were receiving3/4d. per lb. for the carriage of butter to the old country. The new shipping companies are now carrying it from Melbourne for 3/8d. per lb., a reduction of 50 per cent., and are guaranteeing a temperature of 20 degrees throughout the voyage. As a result of this competition, the Orient Steam Navigation Company and the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company have made a big reduction in their charge. They have offered to reduce it to 7-16ths of a penny per lb., and to maintain a temperature of 30 degrees throughout. Thus, I contend that the publicity which has been given to this matter, instead of exercising an injurious effect on the Commonwealth, has actually been productive of substantial benefit. Recently I saw, in one of the English magazines, an article which was written by a member of the Natal Legislature, setting out the great disadvantages under which that State suffered by reason of the excessive freight charges that are levied by some of the English companies trading there. It is evident, therefore, that other countries are suffering from the evils to which I have referred. I am very loth to support this motion. I do not consider that it is a fair one. To me it is apparent that the Orient Steam. Navigation Company, finding that they practically controlled the situation, drove as hard a bargain with the Commonwealth as they could. I only support the motion on the understanding that the present contract will be terminated as speedily as possible, and that in the interim the Government will endeavour to secure more reasonable terms than they have obtained hitherto. I trust that the investigation which a Select Committee is at present conducting into the wisdom or otherwise of establishing a Stateowned line of steamers between Australia and the old country will elicit information which will be of benefit to this Parliament when it is again called upon to deal with this matter.-
– I am very pleased that the Postmaster-General has agreed to accept practically the amendment of the honorable member for Kennedy. There is just one matter to which I should like to direct attention. The honorable member for North Sydney has stated that, in accepting the proposal of the honorable member for Kennedy, we shall be creating a precedent. In my opinion, all the legislation which has been enacted by this Parliament is in the nature of a precedent. So long as any proposal submitted for our consideration is a fair one, I do not think that we should fear to create precedents. The amendment outlined by the Postmaster-General will, in my opinion, do justice to all the States, and 1” hope we shall come to a vote upon it as soon as possible.
– I desire to withdraw my amendment. I understand that the Government are prepared to meet the views embodied in that amendment by submitting a proposal which will put the matter in a more constitutional form. I think that the amendment which will be proposed by the Minister of Home Affairs will accomplish everything that is desired by the House.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the following words be added to the motion: - “but is of the opinion that without varying the original contract with the Commonwealth Government, arrangements should be made by which, during the continuance of its present contract with the Queensland Government, the Company, in consideration of the payment of a sum of 3s. 8d. per mile by the Commonwealth, shall agree to carry postal matter between the ports of Sydney and Brisbane, and shall reduce the payment to be made by the Queensland Government by a corresponding amount, and also that arrangements should be made for making similar provision in the case of Tasmania.”
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).The honorable member for Bland and the honorable member for Canobolas have blamed the late Government because they did not accept the offer of Messrs. Scott Fell and Company.
– I said that if the Government had not had the offer of that company in reserve, they would have been in a much worse position.
– I pointed out by interjection that Messrs. Scott Fell and Company merely undertook to provide us with a service, either to Colombo or to Bombay, and to tranship our mails thence to some port in the Mediterranean. For this service they asked £106,000. I cannot understand why honorable members, who insisted upon a white ocean policy, should favour the Government entering into a contract which provided for the maintenance of a white ocean policy only as far as Bombay or Colombo, and which contemplated the transhipment of our mails at one of these ports to steamers manned by black labour.
– I have said that I was not in favour of the transhipment proposal at all.
– I have already shown the honorable member the correspondence relating to the matter, and he must be perfectly satisfied that the offer of Messrs. Scott Fell and Company provided for the transhipment of our mails.
– Does the honorable member imagine that the Orient Steam Navigation Company would have reduced its tender to £120,000, if it had not been for the offer of Messrs. Scott Fell and Company ?
– My .honorable friend knows very well that I used Messrs. Scott Fell and Company’s offer for all it was worth. I was engaged in a business deal with a keen, shrewd body of men, and was determined to use all the ammunition at my disposal to secure the best possible bargain. In order that Messrs. Scott Fell and Company’s offer should not be made public, I took care that it was not even placed on the official records for a time.
– The honorable member was playing a game of bluff with the joker against him.
– At all events, it would have been unwise to disclose the” exact terms of the offer. I have been blamed for failing to inform the public at the outset that it was an unsatisfactory one ; but, in the circumstances, I do not think that I should have been justified in doing so. As to the complaint which has been made with reference to the conditions of the contract now before us, I wish to explain that I said nothing to the company as to the terms that we desired to impose until I knew that I was on solid ground. My first desire was to ascertain the bedrock price at which they would be prepared to supply this service, and when I had succeeded in inducing them to reduce their demand to a subsidy of £[120,000 per annum, I said, “ If we give such a subsidy it must be subject to certain conditions.” The conditions are concessions . that were obtained, in addition to the reduction of £[30,000 per annum, on the original demand.
– What were those concessions ?
– I have already dealt with them. I think the PostmasterGeneral will agree with me that if the conditions sought to be imposed by the Orient Steam Navigation Company had been accepted, the Government might have been called upon to pay an additional £[1 20,000 per annum.
– Does the honorable member say that the offer of Messrs. Scott Fell and Company would not have been accepted under any conditions?
– It was not acceptable, firstly, because of the subsidy demanded, and, secondly, because it was for a transhipment service. I thought we ought to have a through service.
– What was the objection as to the transhipment?
– The general opinion is that we ought to have a through service for mail and other purposes, and that our mail steamers should be fitted with refrigerating machinery. A transhipment service would be unsatisfactory from every point of view. In the first place with such a service we should be unable to assist the producers to convey their perishable produce to the markets of the old world, and, secondly, there would be uncertainty as to the prompt delivery of mails.
– Had the matter been left in the honorable member’s hands by his leader something better might have resulted.
– It was not taken out of my hands.
– In the correspondence we find letters addressed “ Dear Reid,” although up to a certain point the letters from the company were addressed to the Postmaster-General .
– The honorable member need not trouble, himself about my position in the matter.’ In view of the speech made by the honorable member for Bland, which indicated that he was under a misapprehension as to the exact position of affairs respecting Messrs. Scott Fell and Company’s offer, I felt it necessary to make an explanation. I should have been glad if a satisfactory offer could have been submitted by that company, because it would have been an Australian service ; but I found that the offer was one that I could not reasonably recommend the Cabinet to accept.
– The closing remarks of. the honorable member for Macquarie clearly bear out the statement which I made at an earlier stage in the debate that this contract was largely one for the carriage of perishable produce. When I asked the honorable member why, as PostmasterGeneral, he did not see his way to accept Messrs. Scott Fell and Company’s offer, he replied that it would have involved the transhipment of perishable produce. .
– And of mails.
– The honorable member said in the first place that it would be undesirable to have perishable produce for the old world transhipped - I presume, in a tropical country. No doubt that is quite correct. I agree with him, also, that it is inadvisable that mails should be transhipped ; but the fact remains that our contention that the subsidy is not to be paid entirely for the carriage of mails has been fully borne out. It is a contract practically for the carriage of perishable produce, not from the whole, but from only a part of Australia. And yet some honorable members, who express a desire to see justice done to all the States, consider that there would be no justification for the Commonwealth paying for the extension of the service to Queensland. That is not a fair position to take up. It is clearly shown by the official correspondence that the particular desire of the Government was to secure a regular mail service by steamers which would also provide cool storage for perishable produce. That being so, the contention of the Premier of Queensland that that State should’ share in the benefits of the contract is an extremely sound one. I am exceedingly pleased that, although the Government are not prepared to go as far as I think they ought, they are ready to take a step in the direction of meeting the wishes of Queensland. I congratulate them upon their change of attitude. In submitting the motion the Postmaster-General stated - inadvertently, I hope - that the Government did not propose to pay any portion of the subsidy of ,£26,000 per annum which the Queensland Government had arranged to give the Orient Steam Navigation Company to make Brisbane a port of call.
– I said that we were not prepared to pay a subsidy for trade purposes. We still take up that position, and are merely proposing that the Commonwealth shall pay something for postal services.
– That is so, and I am pleased to know that the mail service is to be extended to Brisbane. I was very much disappointed at the attitude assumed bv the honorable member for North Sydney, to whose opinions much weight is always attached. The honorable member appeared to be particularly anxious that the Commonwealth should assist Queensland, but at the same time he could not see his way to support the Government proposition. The honorable member for Barrier, who has given this question a great deal of consideration, has pointed out that in many instances the mails might be delivered more expeditiously at Melbourne than they would be if delivered at Largs Bay. or at what is termed the nearest rail port. It would be unjust, however, to make a provision of the nature indicated, having regard to the fact that the mail steamers would pass Adelaide. It certainly would not be in accordance with a true conception of national life. Surely one or two large centres should not benefit at the expense’ of the rest of the Commonwealth. I am especially pleased that Tasmania is likely to reap some benefit from this contract. We cannot hope for a national life if the big States are always to demand their pound of flesh. No Federal law could benefit the smaller States to the extent that it would assist the larger ones. Let me remind honorable members of the position of affairs when negotiations were first entered into for the renewal of the mail contract. The late Prime Minister had ;t in his power, when the contract was under consideration, to require that
Brisbane should be made a port of call. When the late Attorney-General declared that in future the High Court should sit only in Melbourne, the right honorable member for East Sydney stated emphatically that it should sit also in Sydney, and had he taken a similar attitude in regard to this mail contract, Brisbane -would undoubtedly have been made a port of call. That is what I had in my mind when I said that if the Prime Minister of the day had represented a Queensland constituency, the contract would have been different. The contention of the honorable member for Macquarie, that the Queensland Government did not bring before the Commonwealth Government the need for extending the mail service to Brisbane, has been proved to be without proper foundation, and the defence now made is that their communication was by means of a confidential letter from the Premier of Queensland. I have yet to learn that such a letter does not come within the cognisance of the whole of the members of the Government to whom it is addressed, and I venture to say that the members of the two Governments which have dealt with this question knew of tha: letter. It was written prior to the negotiations which resulted in the completion of this contract. In that letter, the Premier of Queensland states that his Government were prepared, after paying their share of the mail subsidy, to offer monetary assistance .to the Commonwealth Government to secure the bringing of the mail steamers to Brisbane.
– That was not wailing and crying.
– No. The Government of Queensland have been ready at all times to do that. They have now agreed, not only to pay the Orient Steam Navigation Company ,£26,000 to bring their steamers to Brisbane, but, in addition, to allow them free pilotage, to forego all port dues, to give the steamers the sole use of the Pinkenba wharf, to provide free railway carriage for the servants and agents of the contractors of fuel, stores, and other requirements of mail ships between Brisbane and Pinkenba, and to discharge the steamers if they have to be quarantined. They have further contracted with the company to keep open a sufficient channel in the Brisbane River for the passage of their vessels. Yet some honorable members think that we are asking for more than a fair ‘thing when asking that a moiety of the mileage rate shall be paid to the Queensland Government on the condition that mails are carried between Sydney and Brisbane. The contract between the Orient Steam Navigation Company and the Queensland Government was entered into only after the contract between the company and the Commonwealth Government had been completed, and it was impossible to get the Commonwealth to agree to an extension of the service. The Government of Queensland did everything possible to make known the desires of their State on this subject, and to supply the Government of the Commonwealth with information. Having failed to get the Commonwealth Government to do what was wanted, there was nothing left but to conclude a contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company on their own account. In my opinion, the Queensland Government have acted rightly, although the service will be a very expensive one. I hope that henceforth Brisbane will be considered one of the ports of call for all mail steamers. I agree with those who think that the Post-office should be asked to pay only for the conveyance of mails, and that the cost of carrying out arrangements for the conveyance of produce should be debited to an Agricultural Department, whose province it would be to see that the necessary provisions were inserted in the contract, and afterwards carried into effect. There would be no objection under such an arrangement to the negotiations in connexion with both the mail service and the service for the conveyance of produce taking place at the same time; but there should always be the distinct understanding that the contract would provide for the separate requirements of the two Departments. I trust that the action of this House in this matter will be an intimation that in the future a genuine attempt will be made to treat all the States of the Commonwealth alike, though I feel that Queensland is not getting what she deserves, or what she hoped for.
– I am not at all satisfied with the contract. I believe that a contract has never been placed before a Parliament which, taken all round, was more unsatisfactory than this is. There has been a total lack of ordinary business knowledge displayed in connexion with it. Just imagine a contract of this kind being allowed to practically expire before steps were taken to obtain tenders for the continuance of the service. That is what happened, however, in con:nexion with this contract. In order to obtain the advantage of competition, it is necessary to get several steam-ship companies to tender for a service of this kind. That cannot be done unless twelve or eighteen months’ notice is given, so that possible tenderers may have time to make all necessary arrangements. In this instance, however, the contract was allowed to expire by effluxion of time, and the poundage system had to be resorted to before any agreement had been come to. We are now being asked to ratify a contract, not for the conveyance of mails only, but to provide a cargo service for some of the States. What should have been done was to call for alternative tenders at least a year before the last contract expired. If steamers, after touching at Western Australia, came direct to Melbourne, although there might be a slight loss of time in delivering the mails there would be a great saving in the amount of subsidy required. It is well known that the mail companies have no desire to call at Adelaide, and that if they were free to exercise their own choice they would come straight on to Melbourne. Under the contract entered into with the Orient Steam Navigation Company the mail steamers are required, after having landed the mails at Adelaide, to go on to Melbourne and Sydney. I think it is very desirable that facilities should be provided for the proper conveyance of our produce ; but if it is fair that the steamers should be required to proceed to Melbourne and Sydney, I do not see that any sound argument can be advanced against their being also called upon to continue their voyage as far as Brisbane. The producers of Queensland are as much entitled as are any others in the Commonwealth to avail themselves of the advantage of the cool storage space provided in the mail boats. As has been pointed out by the honorable member for Wide Bay, the transhipment of perishable products would spell ruin. Therefore, the producers of Queensland cannot avail themselves of the cool storage space provided in the mail steamers unless the vessels proceed to Brisbane. Tasmania is in much the same position as Queensland. Whilst that State has had to join with all the others in contributing upon a population basis towards the mail subsidy, its producers have had to enter into special arrangements with the mail companies in order to secure advantages which have been rendered available to the exporters of Victoria and New South Wales free of any direct cost to them. Therefore, in common fairness, the producers of Queensland and Tasmania shouldbe enabled to participate in the full advantages of the service. I am prepared to accept the amendment proposed by the Minister of Home Affairs. I do not think it would be desirable to provide that the mail steamers should proceed to Tasmania throughout the year, but in regard to the carriage of mails an allowance should be made to. Tasmania in the terms proposed. I would urge upon the Government the necessity of adopting the common sense and business-like proceeding of inviting tenders fully eighteen months before the present contract expires. We are paying far too much by way of subsidy, and we should never have been called upon to make a contribution so disproportionate to the service we are receiving if ordinary businesslike precautions had been adopted before the former contract had expired. In conclusion, I must express my regret that we are compelled to accept a contract which must be condemned by every business man in the House.
– I congratulate the Postmaster-General upon having at last displayed sufficient uncommon sense to enable him to recognise the justice of granting a reasonable concession to that grand little gem of the seas - Tasmania.
– I should like to know whether it is really considered necessary that there should be some augmentation of the mail service between Sydney and Brisbane. It may be contended that the mail steamers will carry mailed parcels between the two cities ; but I would point out that it is not at all likely that the mail steamers will proceed from Sydney to Brisbane immediately after their arrival at the former port. They will have a considerable amount of cargo which will require to be discharged promptly, and the chances are that any packages or parcels sent on to Brisbane by them would be delayed for fully a week beyond the time at which they would have been delivered had they been despatched by train in the ordinary way.
– The same argument applies to parcels which are brought round from Adelaide to Melbourne and Sydney.
– I do not think so. The Postmaster-General ignores the difference in the relative commercial importance of the two cities of Sydney and Brisbane. The Orient Steam Navigation Company is required under the contract to deliver the mails at Adelaide, and when that duty has once been discharged the steamers can proceed at leisure from port to port. The company will not consider it necessary to promptly despatch their steamers from Sydney to Brisbane ; the exigencies of the cargo traffic will require a comparatively long stay at the former port. There will be no cargo for Brisbane.
– Then with what object will the steamers go there?
– Because the company are to be paid for extending, the service. If the Minister desires to meet the claims of Queensland in a proper spirit, he should admit that he is acting, not in the interest of the mail service, but in the interests of the producing arid importing, classes of Queensland. It is pretended that this amendment deals solely with the question of the carriage of our mails ; but we have had quite enough of pretence in this House. In my judgment, the Postmaster-General would be acting more openly if he agreed to make a direct contribution to Queensland, in return for Queensland support. I ask the honorable gentleman to give some answer to the questions which I have put to him, so that, as far as possible, we may continue the debate upon amicable terms at this late hour of the evening.
– I wish to enter my protest against the payment to Queensland of the miserable pittance that is proposed. Although some of my colleagues appear to be satisfied with the amendment, I am not. Despite the fact that Queensland has contracted to pay £26,000 for the services rendered by the Orient Steam Navigation Company, under the Government proposal it will’ be reimbursed to the extent of only £3,000 or £4,000. I am surprised at the action of my own colleagues in supporting the amendment.
– What amount does the honorable member think would represent a fair thing ?
– I am aware that the honorable member for Wentworth is opposed to everything that will not benefit Sydney. In his opinion, that city is the hub of the universe. If he were a representative of Queensland I am satisfied that he would entertain a very different view.
– Will the honorable member give us some reason for his opposition to the Government proposal ?
– The honorable member represents a constituency in Western Australia, and the mall steamers pass the front door of that State. The position of Queensland, however, is entirely different. The mail steamers do not pass its door, and the Government of that State are obliged to pay ^26,000 annually to secure exactly the same service that the other States obtain without being called upon to make any special payment. I am convinced that the proposal of the Minister of Home Affairs is a violation of the Constitution. The Government magnanimously offer to reimburse the State of Queensland to the extent of £[3,000 or £[4,000.
– It is a.n insult.
– Queensland is quite prepared to pay her own way. She does not want this paltry sum of £3,000 ‘or £[4,000, and 1 1 am inclined to think that she will refuse to accept it.
– She is asking for it.
– No, she is asking for more. I intend to vote against the ratification of the contract.
– I would suggest that at this late hour the Government should agree to an adjournment of the debate.
– If we adjourn now, let us meet at half-past 10 o’clock to-morrow morning.
– I should like to speak upon this motion, and I do not think that any other honorable member upon this side of the House desires to do so. I should not hesitate to proceed with my remarks to-night, except I do not feel equal to the task, having been in the train for two successive nights.
– The honorable member should have spoken earlier.
– What difference would that; have made?
– A large sum of money which is due to the Orient Steam Navigation Company is at present locked up in London pending the ratification of the contract.
– If the Government will not consent to an adjournment I suppose that I must proceed with my speech. So far as the mail service, as a whole, is concerned, I think that the best that could be done under the circumstances was done. The late Government stood out until the last moment in the hope of securing better terms, and they only reluctantly agreed to those that were offered1, after every effort had been made to secure a cheaper and more effective service.
– Does the honorable member think that they could have secured better terms?
– I have said that they could not. To my mind, their only alternative was to entirely repudiate the contract, and to carry on the service upon the poundage system. After a short experience of that system, I have no desire to see any more of it in Australia. It injured the community commercially. It injured the whole population in many ways.
– There was a lot of clamour about it in the press, but there were no complaints from the people.
– I can speak only of my own experience. When I found that the weekly letters to the newspapers from London had been intercepted owing to the intermittent service provided, I felt it to be a very great deprivation indeed. That represents only one of a huge number of inconveniences which the community suffered.
– What about that section of the community which does not receive a mail once a month?
– The advantage of which I am speaking is shared by the whole community. I am referring to periodical mails and letters. I felt their irregular delivery to be a great inconvenience, and it is only one of a number of collateral disadvantages from which the community suffered by reason of the poundage system. I venture to say that the mercantile community suffered greatly. I do not pooh-pooh anything in regard to the mercantile community as honorable members in the Ministerial corner seem to do. They seem to think that the mercantile class is the last one that ought to receive any consideration, judging from the contemptuous way in which they refer to it. I, however, think that anything that affects the mercantile community profoundly affects every man and woman here, When, therefore, the late Government could make no better terms than to pay an increased subsidy, I think they did a very wise thing, and I was one of those who congratulated the late Postmaster-General upon what he had done. Much has been said about running our own ships and carrying our own mails. We have a great deal more and better work to do in Australia than to launch into enterprises of that kind. I am surprised that honorable members opposite should make such impracticable suggestions. Why do they not, before talking of competing with the mercantile world, face the fact that there is one pressing problem upon which they ought to concentrate their attention, with a view to solving it, namely, the problem of the unemployed? That is a great deal more important to them than any proposal for nationalizing private enterprises.
– The honorable member’s leader failed to remedy the unemployed difficulty when he was in office in New South Wales.
– My leader failed to solve the problem, and certainly the honorable member, after twelve years of public life, has not succeeded in suggesting a solution.
– The right honorable member for East Sydney said he would solve it in twenty-four hours if he got on the Treasury benches.
– And because he did not solve the problem it faces us still. Before we talk about running ships and nationalizing industries we ought to face that initial problem, and solve it satisfactorily. I read in the newspapers to-day that in this city yesterday this very matter was considered, and of all the absurd impracticable schemes commend me to the proposal there made for solving the question of settling the people upon the land.
– That question has nothing to do with the one under consideration.
– I only allude to it to show how absurd it is to say that in our present stage of industrial development we can hope to run great socialistic enterprises upon the basis constantly suggested by the labour members.
– Did the honorable member speak like this during the first three years he was in the New South Wales Parliament ?
– I never spoke differently, so far as I can recollect. I never advocated any of these wild Socialistic proposals. There are many things that the party opposite can do, and do well, in the interests of the country as a whole, but it should make practical proposals rather than put forward visionary schemes such as these.
– Will the honorable member support a progressive land tax ?
– Thathas nothing to do with the ratification ofthe Orient Steam Navigation Company’s contract.
– I shall be glad to furnish an answer to that question if the honorable member’s leader will tell me whether he is in favour of doublebanking the land tax.
– There is one simple question before the House - whether or not the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s contract shall be ratified. I have asked not only the honorable member for Parramatta, but otherhonorable members to confine themselves to the question before us.
– There is one other subject to which I wish to allude. It was referred to by the honorable member for Canobolas. He said that I initiated the White Ocean policy. A little while ago his party paid me the compliment of asking questions upon the subject in the Senate, but they took care only toask such questions as were entirely misleading.
– I had nothing to do with asking any questions in the Senate.
– I am speaking of other honorable members. The facts are simply these. At the Hobart Conference referred to, motions were proposed stating that in our opinion white labour ought to be employed on these mail boats ; that since we subsidized them we thought that white labour should be employed. And I say now that we ought to have white labour upon the mail boats as far as we can possibly get it - not merely for such reasons as are sometimes put forward, but for great Imperial reasons, for defence reasons particularly, and thedevelopment of our mercantile marine. We. sent a resolution to the Imperial Government, which cabled back to say that for Imperial reasons they could not consent to a stipulation regarding the labour employed on the mail boats. What did we do then ? We regretted the reply we received, but we found that, to insist upon our resolution, irrespective of the policy of the Home Government, meant the dislocation of the mail service.
We made our resolution the basis of negotiations with the Imperial Government, but we subsided the moment that Government made it clear to us that, for Imperial reasons, they could not agree to the exclusion of black labour from the mail boats. Rather than dislocate the mail service, we unanimously agreed to a further contract on the basis of black labour being employed on the steamers. Honorable members might very well tell the public of that fact when they are mentioning this matter.
– That was not the attitude taken up by the honorable gentleman in regard to the colour line fixed By the Alien Restriction Bill.
– I do not recognise the relevancy of the interjection. I am simply stating the facts so persistently distorted by some of the honorable member’s party.
– Is the honorable member against this contract because it provides for the non-employment of black labour?
– I am not opposed to the contract, although I should be opposed to the payment of poundage rates for the carriage of mails on vessels employing black labour. The honorable member will admit that it is nothing more than hypocrisy to refuse to pay a direct subsidy for the carriage of mails by vessels on which coloured crews are employed, while at the same time we allow mails to be carried at poundage rates by vessels on which such labour is employed. The honorable member for Canobolas, however, while strongly objecting to black labour on subsidized mail steamers, does not object to mails being carried under the poundage system on boats employing coloured labour. My honorable friends of the Labour Party are logical when they desire not only to abolish black labour, but to insure the carrying out of their object by establishing a Commonwealth fleet of steamers. But they are simply beating the air in suggesting that we are ready to carry our own oversea mails. It was said this afternoon that we were obtaining no better conditions than we enjoyed seven years ago. Having in view the experience of New South Wales during the last seven years, I do not think we ought to expect much better conditions. It has been, a period of extreme stress and strain, and of diminishing freights. I venture to say that the volume of trade carried from Australia by these vessels during the years in question has no,t increased ; and we have to remember that it is always the volume of trade which determines the profitableness or otherwise of these great services. It has been stated this evening that our mail contracts should be confined to the carriage of mails. However applicable such a principle may be to the postal departments of old and settled countries where other facilities are abundant, it could not be applied to the Postal Department of a wide and thinly populated country like Australia. If we were to confine the Postal Department to the carriage of mails, we should greatly impair its usefulness so far as Australia is concerned. We ought to increase rather than decrease the conditions obtaining in respect to our mail boats. It is of the utmost importance that we should insist upon proper provision being made for the carriage of perishable produce by these vessels. I shall tell honorable members why. The mail services set the pace for other produce-carrying vessels in the trade to and from Australia. When it is known that there is a line of steamers carrying produce to London with the greatest possible despatch, other companies desiring to compete with them recognise that they must cover the journey within practically the same time, and so this subsidy is not the great loss that we sometimes imagine it to be. I venture to say that had we not this constantly accelerated mail service, the time occupied by other vessels engaging in our oversea trade would gradually increase, and we should have a much slower service all round. From that point of view alone the mail service is worth more than we give for it. I come now to the facilities offered by the Postal Department. If we confined the internal arrangements of the Department to the mere carriage of mails, we should find that the subsidies we had to pay would be materially increased. It is well known that tenders for the carriage of mails in countrydistricts are sent in at exceptionally low rates, because of the passenger traffic to be secured on the roads. Another point is that the mail coaches furnish the only means of communication with some of the remote districts of Australia. An application was recently made in connexion with a contract which was about to expire for the carriage of mails to a certain part of my constituency, that they should in future be conveyed by coach instead of by sulky as at present. The change was desired in order that passengers might be carried to and from the district, and the PostmasterGeneral consented to call for tenders for a coach service, and see what the difference in price would be. That was a commendable decision. In this and many other ways the Postal Department can be of great assistance to the people living in remote districts. It is all very well to treat the carriage of mails on a purely commercial basis, and to say that the Postal Department should not take other matters into consideration; but the fact remains that our postal system is of great public utility. It does something more than carry mails. It furnishes a service to the people of this country which we sometimes do not even dream of when we are speaking of it. That being so, if we were to bring back the Department to the mere basis of a mail-carrying, service, we should strike a blow at Australian settlement, of the consequences of which many honorable members are not aware. We do well to insist upon these special conditions in connexion with our mail services to various parts of the world. We may very wisely follow the example set up by other countries, and the experience we have gained is perhaps the best guide we could obtain in regard to these contracts. There has been a great deal of criticism from honorable members on the corner benches of the terms of this contract, many of them having said that it should not have been entered into, because the arrangement which it secures is not a good one. But the late Postmaster-General, in calling for tenders, followed the example of his predecessor, the honorable member for Coolgardie, who was the first to call for tenders for a service for the carriage of mails to Brisbane. That being so, I was surprised at his inconsistency in opposing the proposal that Brisbane should now be made a port of call.
– I think that the Cabinet had something to do with the action to which the honorable member refers.
– Perhaps so. My own feeling in this matter is that, whether what is proposed may, or may not, be strictly correct, it is wise in the interest of Federal feeling to meet Queensland to this small extent. It has been suggested that our action may be construed as a precedent, but I do not regard it as likely to be used in that way. Inmy opinion we are making a concession to that State to secure a better Federal feeling, because a good understanding between the States is the only basis of a successful Commonwealth. If hereafter it is sought to regard our action on this occasion as a precedent, it may be shown that Queensland contributed £21,000 on her own account to secure the extension of the service to Brisbane. I do not think that any other State is likely to come down so handsomely to obtain a similar advantage. But Queensland being prepared to do this, the least we can do is to meet her to some small extent. This is not the first time that I have stretched a point in connexion with a mail contract to secure a good feeling between the States. I got into hot water in New South Wales some years ago because I supported a proposal to allow the mail steamers to call at Fremantle. That involved a delay in the delivery of mails in Brisbane and Sydney of about twentyfour hours.
– And was business in New South Wales thereby disorganized?
– I do not think that the people of New South Wales were placed in any worse position by that arrangement. Similarly, I think that if we give this small concession to Tasmania and Queensland, and thus link the States together by means of a line of mail steamers, it will not make the Commonwealth any poorer. For that reason I shall support the amendment.
– I understand that the honorable member for Parramatta contends that some of us have been unfair to him in what we have said about his action in regard to the removal of lascars from the mail boats. I believe that he has stated that he and other PostmastersGeneral, who met in conference at Hobart, wished to remove the lascars from the mail boats, but that when the Imperial authorities said that, for Imperial purposes, it would be unwise to take that step, they gave way, and allowed the lascars to continue to be employed. But the honorable member has spoken on the subject in this Chamber.
– Does the honorable member think that these remarks have anything to do with the contract? He has already spoken on the main question.
– I take it that I can speak to the amendment, and reply to statements which have been made during its discussion.
– If it happens that 1 allow a remark to pass which is irrelevant, that does not justify a long discussion on the point afterwards. I missed one or two points which were made bv the honorable member for Canobolas, andi therefore did not prevent the honorable member for Parramatta from referring to what he said, but I do not think that I should permit a long debate now, because I missed the point to which the honorable member wishes to refer.
– I do not think that there will be a long debate on the subject. All I ask is to be permitted to read an extract. That will not occupy more than a minute or two. I think that it is only fair that we should have an opportunity to reply to the statement of the honorable member that a number of us have been unjust to him in our criticism of his action in regard to the removal of lascars from the mail boats.
– If I grant the honorable member a minute or two, other honorable members may ask for a similar concession. I ask the honorable member to conclude what he has to say as speedily as possible.
– I will say what I have to say on the motion for the adjournment of the House.
– I have a word or two to say on this matter, notwithstanding that it seems to be thought that certain honorable members having spoken, no one else should rise. I shall not be brow-beaten out of my right as a representative of the people to say something upon a proposal to expend the money of the taxpayers of the Commonwealth. I see no justification for the proposed expenditure to placate Queensland and Tasmania. Perhaps Brisbane should have been made a port of call under the contract, but I am of opinion that the only port of call which should be stipulated for is that to which the steamers have lo come to deliver their mails. All we should require from the contractors is that they shall land the mails in Australia.
– Suppose that the mails are landed at’ Fremantle, the first port of call, what then ?
– The contractors have to land the mails at a point where they can be distributed with the greatest expedition, and 1 presume that that point is Adelaide. If there were no condition that the mail-boats shall call at Melbourne and Sydney, they would still call at those ports, not because of the mails which they would carry, but because of the trade which they would do therewith. I cannot see how Queensland can rightly expect the Commonwealth to pay a proportion of the sum which is needed to induce the Orient Steam Navigation Company to send their boats to Brisbane. That is purely a service for developing the commerce of the State. In days gone by, when Melbourne and Sydney were not such popular ports as they are to-day, large sums Bad to be paid to induce lines of steamers to call there. I cannot see that the matters which have been discussed to-night by the honorable member for Parramatta have much to do with the question before the House. He has introduced the elements which constitute the subject-matter of every speech he delivers. He has referred to the way in which the contracts are carried out, and the ships are manned, thereby increasing the cost of the service. It has been argued here to-night time and again that the reason, why the Commonwealth has to pay such a large subsidy is not because of the services which are rendered by the Orient Steam Navigation Company, but because we demand that their boats shall be manned with white men, and not with lascars. It is alleged that the amount of the subsidy is affected by the description of labour which is employed on the mail boats. Therefore, I think that any reference to that question is admissible in a discussion of this character. However, I only intend to enter my protest against this placating of States when there is no reid justification for taking that step. I cannot see any reason why the Government should have accepted the amendment, unless it is that they wish to oblige the representatives of particular States. The conveyance of our mails has been very unsatisfactory. It has been stated more than once here that the whole business has been muddled. The controllers of the Department, as men of common foresight, should have looked forward to the time when the contracts would have to be renewed. They should have taken time by the forelock, so as not to give the
Orient Steam Navigation Company an opportunity for imposing hard conditions upon the Commonwealth. But, be that as it may, I am prepared to vote for the ratification of the contract, because I believe that we cannot honorably do otherwise. The Postmaster-General of the day entered into this contract, subject to the approval of Parliament. The contractors have carried out their part of the contract, and are entitled to be paid for their services. In view of these facts, no matter how I may object to the terms which were arranged by the Postmaster-General of the day, I cannot object to this motion; but I object to the money of the Commonwealth being used in developing the commerce of any port which is not visited by the mail steamers. In my opinion, we shall not be performing our duty to the taxpayers if we sanction the use of Commonwealth money for that purpose. The honorable member for Parramatta has an idea that the expenditure ought to be incurred in order to cultivate and develop the Federal spirit. It is about time that that kind of argument was dropped. We are not dealing with a question of sentiment, but with a question of public expenditure. If the proposal is wrong in itself, it ought not to receive our sanction, even though we are great admirers of the Federal sentiment. The honorable member for Parramatta says that £7,000 is only a small sum; but that money will have to come out of the proportion payable to the other States. Not wishing to labour the question, or to prevent honorable members from catching their trains - and if they lose them I shall not be responsible - I shall content myself with entering this protest and voting against the amendment.
– Has the amendment been altered so as to make the second contract run concurrently with the original contract ?
– Yes, by inserting the word “ present “ before the word “contract.”
Question - That the words (Mr. Groom’s amendment) proposed to be added be so added - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 30
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Question- That the motion as amended, be agreed to-put. The House divided.
Majority … … 17
Original question, as amended, so resolved in the affirmative.
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, but is of the opinion that, without varying the original contract with the Commonwealth Government, arrangements should be made by which, during the continuance of its present contract with the Queensland Government, the Company, in consideration of the payment of a sum of Three shillings and eightpence per mile by the Commonwealth, shall agree to carry postal matter between the ports of Sydney and Brisbane, and shall reduce the payment to be made by the Queensland Government by a corresponding amount, and also that arrangements should be made for making similar provision in the case of Tasmania. ,
– I move -
That clause 4 be recommitted for the purpose of inserting after the word “agent,” wherever it occurs in paragraphs a and b of sub-clause1 the words “of the principal,” and that clause 5 be recommitted for the purpose of omitting the word “ and,” with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ the receipt; account, or document.”
Last evening I deferred the third reading of this measure, out of consideration for some views expressed by the honorable member for North Sydney, who asked me to reconsider two matters. I have done as requested, and the honorable member is satisfied with the amendments, which I have shown to him.
– I protest against this motion as a most unfair proceeding at this hour of the night.
– If the motion is objected to, I shall not proceed with it further. I took the step out of consideration for the honorable member for North Sydney, and I think that the honorable member for Dalley knows the whole of the circumstances.
– I have not said a word yet.
– The AttorneyGeneral lad me to believe that all he was going to do was to formally move the third reading of the Bill. He did not inform me that he proposed to recommit certain clauses.
– The motion to recommit is submitted in order to suit the honorable member for North Sydney, who is a member of the Opposition.
– It does not follow that the proposals may commend themselves to all the members of the Opposition.
-It is after 11 o’clock; therefore, new business can be proceeded with only if there be no objection.
– I object to the motion being proceeded with.
White Labour on Mail Steamers.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I beg to intimate that the business will be taken in the order in which it appears on the notice-paper. I am much obliged to honorable members for stopping till this hour of the night, and to the honorable member for Parramatta for speaking under the disadvantage of ill-health.
-I desire to read the extract to which I alluded in my speech on the mail contract question, and to very briefly reply to the statement of the honorable member for Parramatta that members of the Labour Party have been unfair to him in regard to his “action on the lascar question. I now quote from the speech of the honorable member on that question, as reported in Hansard for the session 1901-2, page. 3739, as follows : -
When this matter is reconsidered in Committee, I think that we should definitely provide that our mails should be carried by white labour, and that such labour shall not be beaten off the boats by the coloured workers of other countries. The point we should insist upon is that it is the companies themselves who are making the preference. We are acting on the defensive in this particular matter. The sooner that point is made clear to the home authorities the better chance shall we have of getting our own labour restored to these boats.
– The honorable member for Parramatta, in the course of his address on the mail contract proposal, took exception to some remarks I made in regard to the origin of the white labour clause. The honorable member conveyed the impression that he considered my remarks were the outcome of some action taken by the Labour Party, which led to some questions being asked in another place. I wish to say that I was not awarethat the Labour Party had taken any action, and I had no knowledge of any questions being asked in another place, until so informed by the honorable member. My reference was entirely due to my having read the report of the proceedings at the Hobart Conference, at which the honorable member for Parramatta submitted the motion referred to. That was all the information I had, and my sole reason for speaking of the matter.
– I was not alluding to the honorable member for Canobolas, but to the oily member who preceded him. That honorable member is both oily and tricky, and his quotation tonight is no less tricky than any of the others.
– It is hardlyin order to call an honorable member “ tricky.”
– Perhaps not. I do not know why the honorable member for Barrier has quoted my remarks.
– It is a shame to quote from Hansard!
– As I say, I do not know why the honorable member for Barrier read the quotation, because he is taking entirely new ground. I made no reference to the occasionto which he referred just now. I referred to another matter, alluded to, first of all, by the honorable member for Canobolas. So far as I know, I have nothing to withdraw, explain, or repudiate, either in connexion with the Hobart Conference, or the occasion referred to.
– Then, why is the honorable member explaining?
– For the purpose of showing that the honorable member for Barrier, in making a vicious attack upon me, has dug up something from Hansard which is totally irrelevant to what I was talking about just now. I take the position now that we ought to do our very best to obtain white labour on all these boats. I do not deviate from that position, but it is another thing when we risk the dislocation of the whole service of the Empire in order to carry out a proposal of the kind.
– Iquoted from the speech made by the honorable member when the Post and Telegraph Bill was under consideration.
– Really that is information ! What is there in that speech to contravene the position I now take up? I say, again, that I am in favour of white labour on these boats, but I am. also in favour always of maintaining our connexion with the Empire in the matter of mail contracts, and of doing nothing to dislocate the service of the Empire. That has been my attitude all through, and is my attitude now. The honorable member for Barrier may twist, and twirl my words as much as he likes.
-The honorable member for Parramatta states that he was in favour of the general principle of employing white labour on mail-boats, but that he would not dislocate the service of the Empire by insisting on its employment. Yet when the honorable member was speaking on this particular section of the Statute, the occasion being that a proposal had been given notice of, not to consider what the authorities of the Empire might desire, but to insist that as a Commonwealth we should not provide any subsidy inconnexion with postal contracts unless white labour only was employed on the mailboats
– What was the proposal ?
– I have not the exact words of it before me.
-I object to the honorable member putting it in his own language.
– I think my memory of the proposal is sufficiently clear to enable me to state it.
– I say the honorable member is twisting my statement now.
– Considering that I have not yet put any construction upon it, I should imagine that I have not yet commenced to twist it.
– I challenge the honorable member to quote it.
– The honorable member for Parramatta may be an authority on twisting, but, at all events, I have not yet commenced to twist his statement. The proposal then made was that the employment of coloured people on boats subsidized by the Commonwealth Government should be prohibited. On that the honorable member said that -
When this matter is considered in Committee, which, of course, is the proper place to consider these detailed proposals, I think that we should definitely provide that our mails should be carried by white labour.
How does the honorable member reconcile the use of the term “ definitely provide “ with the expression of a pious hope that the authorities of the Empire would encourage the employment of white labour? The expression “ definitely provide “ conveys to my mind that, in the opinion of the honorable member, the proposal, which was afterwards carried, that we should insist only on white labour being employed on boats which we subsidized, should be given effect. The intention was to make it clear that we insisted on these terms, and on nothing less. Yet the honorable member now talks about twisting. I think that practice has been resorted to by the honorable member to-night in the endeavour to escape responsibility for the expressions to which he gave utterance when the matter was under definite consideration.
– The honorable members for Bland and Barrier have produced a formidable volume, a “ black book,” which probably contains the minutes of the Labour Party. It is strange how quickly this volume was unearthed. We are told that extracts from Hansard have been inserted in it, but they are merely extracts which tell, as the honorable members who quoted them believe, against the honorable member for Paramatta. The con- . text is not given. I am taking a part in the debate because I think it is remarkable that the honorable member for Barrier, who has followed the same occupation as that followed by the honorable member for Parramatta, should take advantage not only of the first, but of every opportunity to attack that honorable member. There is no honorable member of whom members of the Labour Party should be more proud than the honorable member for Parramatta; but the fact is that they are annoyed because he is now a free man, and is not under the ban of the caucus. So far as twisting is concerned, I may, perhaps, be allowed to say that there is no man in public life in New South Wales who is more valued for the honest expression of his opinions than is the honorable member for Parramatta. Any honorable member of the Labour Party with the same record of service, and of whom the same thing can be said, occupies a very honorable position indeed. The honorable member for Newcastle has made a derogatory interjection, but, as a man who has followed the same calling as the honorable member for Parramatta, the honorable member should look upon him as a credit to the community. I protest against honorable members bringing forward the “ black book “ of the Labour Party and reading extracts from it to suit themselves.
– The honorable member objects to Hansard.
– Probably the honorable member for Gwydir would like to have it burned; Perhaps, in the interest of the country and in the interest of some members of the Labour Party, it would be better that it should be burned. I regret that the time of the House should be occupied in matters of this kind, and that, under cover of a motion for the adjournment, so vile and unjustifiable an attack should have been made on the honorable member for Parramatta.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at12.5 a.m. (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 October 1905, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1905/19051011_reps_2_27/>.