2nd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
askedthe PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– I shall be very pleased to furnish the information to-morrow.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– I desire to say, on behalf of the Minister of Home Affairs, that I have been furnished with the following answers to the honorable member’s questions.: -
There should be no difficulty. ‘ It is not necessary for a claim for enrolment to be witnessed. An application to transfer or change may be witnessed by any elector of the ‘Commonwealth. A member of the police force who is an elector has merely to -satisfy himself by inquiry from the applicant or otherwise as to the truth of the statement contained in the application for transfer or change before witnessing it.
Complete instructions are contained in the transfer and change forms which are in the hands of the police, and are supplied for the use of the public.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. The Postmaster-General is not possessed of any information to the effect referred to.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Whether, in view of Captain Creswell’s explanation “ that he decided to return …. in consequence of the nature of certain confidential information which he received from the Colonial Office on the 8th June, and also the fact that the cabled permission to remain for the manoeuvres indicated that his early return was desirable “ -
Is the Minister aware of the nature of the above confidential information?
Was the confidential information above referred to received from the permanent or official head of the Colonial Office, or from one of the officers of that Department?
Was it from this source that he derived the information, which he in an interview subsequently supplied to the Age newspaper, that the Imperial Defence Committee was opposed to his proposals for the creation of Australian torpedoboat flotillas?
Did it refer to the nature or effect of the Imperial Defence Committee’s Report on Australian Defences?
Was the Government’s cabled permission for Captain Creswell to remain for the Naval manoeuvres worded in any grudging spirit?
Could the same be laid upon the table of the House?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
That the Imperial Defence Committee was opposed to his proposals for the creation of Australian torpedo-boat flotillas.”
-The honorable member for Canobolas, on the 18th July, asked the following questions: -
The matter comes within the province of the Public Service Commissioner, who has furnished the following replies to questions 1, 2, and 3 : -
In reply to question 4, I desire to say that-
– The honorable member for West Sydney, on the 20th July, asked the following questions : -
The Acting Deputy Postmaster-General, Sydney, has furnished the following information : -
– The fol lowing questions were asked by the honorable member for Kennedy for the honorable and learned member for West Sydney on Wednesday, 18th July : -
This is a matter which comes within the province of the Public Service Commissioner, who has furnished the following replies : -
Mr. EWING laid upon the table the following papers : -
Amended Public Service Regulations No. 104 - Telephone Indoor Supervisors - Statutory Rules, 1906, No. 5.
Annual Report for 1905 of the InspectorGeneral of the Commonwealth Military Forces.
Report for 1905 of the Director of the Naval Forces of the Commonwealth.
Report for 1905 of the Military Board.
Report on the bursting of M.L.E. rifles.
.- I move -
That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable -
Paper money, loans, and debentures are various modes of using credit. Up to the present time the Commonwealth has not used its credit, but has drawn from the taxpayers the funds necessary to meet its requirements. Our first Treasurer, in the first session of the first Parliament, tried to obtain parliamentary- sanction for the raising of a loan, and, in recommending his proposal to the House, warned honorable members that certain States would be placed in a position of difficulty if the large sums which he required had to be provided from revenue. The Loan Bill was, however, rejected, and from then until now the necessary funds have been obtained from revenue. In a paper currency every note is to all intents and purposes a loan. Each bearer has a lien on the issuer to the amount of the note, though he does not expect to.be paid interest. I sought to apply this principle last year in connexion with the taking over of properties by the Commonwealth from the several States. The present Treasurer suggested, at a Conference held in Melbourne, that a loan should be raised to pay to the three creditor States the amounts due from the three debtor States, the money to be repaid by means of a sinking fundi of £40,722 per annum, extending over a period of forty-three years. I showed last session, by means of a worked-out example, that if paper currency to the amount of the debt were handed to the creditor States, and notes to the value of .£36.200 were cancelled each year, the debt would be extinguished in twenty-five years. In that way, not only should we bring about a saving in the- amount paid, but we should also provide for the redemption of the loan in a shorter period. I intimated that the suggestion was brought forward merely byway of example, and was only incidental to mv main scheme, which was the establishment of a Commonwealth paper currency. It is one of the many ways of profiting by the credit of the Commonwealth.
– Has the honan hie member’s scheme been submitted 10 the financial authorities of Wall-street?
– The scheme is an idea of my own. I submit it in the belief that it is time that something was done to allow the Commonwealth to benefit by that provision of the Constitution which provides that the Parliament may make laws for the regulation of currency and1 banking. Many and various have been the attempts made in other countries to allow the State to take advantage of its “credit. Honorable members no doubt are acquainted with the assignats issued under the notorious scheme of the French revolutionaries, and with the American greenbacks, both of which are examples of an inconvertible paper currency, and, as such, are outside our consideration. But there have been other most simple and economical means of raising money by loans, which have proved a complete success; I refer to the Guernsey market scheme, and to the Pennsylvania scheme. Both schemes are referred to, and commented on very favorably by Mr. McLeod in his Theory of Credit. I shall not quote from that work. It is sufficient to say that in those cases the notes issued were, to all intents and purposes, a currency, and proved a satisfactory, though not a legal, tender, in both instances being redeemed at the rate of 10 per cent, per annum. Turning to cases of paper currency payable on demand, we have the system in vogue in the Dominion of Canada, to which I shall refer later on, the Bank of England note issue, and the Queensland Treasury notes. Under this head we may also consider the proposals of the Sydney Banking Commission, and of the Royal Commission on Banking, which sat in Victoria eight or nine years ago. The present Queensland Treasury notes have, for thirteen years, furnished a paper currency in a satisfactory, although, perhaps, expensive fashion. A complete justification of the scheme is to be found in the speech of the Colonial Treasurer of the day, who proposed its adoption. Later, I shall give honorable members figures which will show the profits which have been derived from the issue ; but, before doing so, 1 should like to explain that the scheme was originally brought forward in order to do away with the discredit into which the currency had fallen, and not for the organization of a State currency. It was proposed as- a means of alleviating the commercial troubles of the day. That was its sole reason. The statement made by the Colonial Treasurer of Queensland, in introducing the system, as reported in ‘ the Queensland Hansard, was as follows : -
It so happens that eight out of eleven banks in this Colony have rather suddenly and simultaneously suspended payment, the consequence of which is that the paper currency of the Colony is practically discredited, and very serious and grave inconvenience has resulted to the people. It is solely lo remedy that inconvenience that these Bills are now placed before the Committee.
Those remarks show that the banks were at the time in trouble, and that the scheme was introduced by their friends in order to help them. By limiting the issue, and refraining from taking advantage of the excessive gold balance in the hands of the Government for the first three years, the experiment was made unnecessarily expensive, and another circumstance that did not help it was the fact that the three strong banks which weathered the storm were allowed to continue the issue of their notes for a period of two years at the old rate, instead of having to pay the prohibitory rate of 10 per cent, imposed bv Act of Parliament. In 1896 the bankers’ organ, the Australasian Insurance and Banking Record, was criticising the administration and working of the Queensland Treasury note scheme, anal published the opinions of Sir Hugh Nelson, who was then Treasurer of Queensland, as follows: -
That the issuing of notes and providing a paper currency for the public is a proper function of the State ; secondly, that any profit arising from the issue of such currency properly belongs to the State, and not to any joint stock company; and, thirdly, that, in making any amendment in the system as now established, the object will be to build up and not to pull down.
He went on to compare the Queensland system with the Canadian system, and said -
The Dominion issues notes, the security provided being 15 Per cent, in coin, 10 per cent, in bonds, guaranteed by the Imperial Government, and 75 per cent, in ordinary Dominion stock: It will be admitted that the security we provide is better than that.
Then by way of demonstrating the extraordinary superiority of the scheme he proposes, he states - and I am quoting from the Australasian Insurance and Banking Record -
For the present, the security is ample almost to an absurdity, at least to a superfluity, inasmuch as if it were possible for all the notes now in the hands of the public and of the banks to be presented for payment upon one day they would all be met instantly from the Treasurer’s coin reserve.
I wish to call special attention to the fact that each year the Auditor-General has remonstrated and has pointed out that the reserve fund has been unnecessarily exceeded, and that ,£240,000 more could be used for producing revenue instead of being locked up in the vaults of.the Treasury. I think that I have made clear that the scheme was looked upon mainly as affording a way out of a temporary difficulty, and not primarily as a system of paper money. There is no doubt that the Queensland scheme has demonstrated that a paper currency can be issued effectively, and at a profit, by the State. Owing to surrounding restrictions, the Queensland scheme has not been made so profitable to the State as it might have been. I now wish to direct the attention of honorable members, and particularly of New South Wales- representatives, to a pro posal that was submitted by the Bankers’ Conference, held in Sydney in 1896. The conference devised a scheme for issuing notes as legal tender, which were to be backed up by the Government. It was proposed that a board of control, composed of equal numbers of representatives of the Government and the banks, should regulate the issue. It was contemplated that £1,250,000 worth of notes should be issued for circulation, and that notes of similar value should be available as till money, making -a total of £2,500,000. The banks were to plank down one-fourth of the amount, .£625,000, leaving a balance °f JI,875.0.00, which they were to guarantee bv placing 4 per cent. Government bonds as security. The result of placing these bonds would be that they would derive 4 per cent, interest, £75,000, and tlie arrangement was that after the deduction pf £10,000 to defray the cost of the note issue, the balance of £65,000 should be divided equally between the banks and the Government. This would give the Government £32»5°°- It was asserted that the Government would gain ,£7,500 by this transaction., because the composition duty on the notes would amount to only £25,000. This proposal was considered by the Royal Banking Commission, which in 1896 sat in Victoria, and I desire to read some quotations from the reports of that body. The majority report was in favour of the scheme, and a minority report was opposed to it. The majority report stated that something better could be devised. At page ri7 of the majority report, the following statement occurs : -
Your Commissioners, believing that the Stateshould have the sole right to issue paper as well as metallic money, do not see how this principle could be applied under control representative of State and private interests, as proposed by the Conference.
That was a declaration for a State issue on such lines as I am now proposing. The minority report, signed by ‘Messrs. R. Murray Smith and F. S. Grimwade, stated -
Whatever reasons may be urged for the assumption of this function by the Government, it is pretty obvious that neither the convenience and safety of the public, nor the profit of the State, will be materially enhanced by such a change. The private issues of the banks, secured as they are, have displayed during a crisis hitherto unknown in Australian history unimpeachable quality.
That statement appears to be very much at variance with that which I have just quoted as having been made by the Queensland Treasurer, and as a Queenslander, I take great exception to it. Certain arbitrary methods employed in Victoria and New South Wales during the bank crisis are thus referred to by the then Colonial Treasurer of Queensland -
Eight out of eleven banks in this colony have rather suddenly and simultaneously suspended payment, the consequence of which is that the paper currency is practically discredited.
I believe that a similar state of affairs prevailed in New South Wales and Victoria.
– No; our paper currency was not discredited.
– At the time of the bank crisis it was.
– Some of it may ‘have been.
– The paper currency throughout Australia w.!as discredited at that time, and only three banks weathered the storm.
– The New South Wales notes saved Victoria.
– The action of the States in every case saved the banks. In Victoria they provided for a moratorium, in New South Wales bank notes were declared legal tender, and in Queensland the Government issued their own notes. These note proposals of the Sydney Bankers’ Conference are very similar to those which led to the establishment of the Bank of England at the close of the seventeenth century. The Government wanted money, and a loan of £1,200,000 was provided, the bank receiving an annuity of £100,000, besides the grant of a monopoly of note issue for the amount of the loan. I now desire to refer to the existing Queensland Treasury note scheme. The notes are everywhere a legal tender, except by the Treasurer. A gold reserve of at least onefourth of the value of the note issue must be held in the Treasurer’s strong-room. In addition to that, Treasury bills in amount 50 per cent, moire than the entire note issue have to be signed and placed with trustees ready to be sold if the reserve falls below the minimum. I have a communication which shows the satisfactory position of the reserve fund. The UnderSecretary to the Queensland Treasury writes, under date 18th July last, as follows : -
Our notes are legal tender in this State, and, therefore, our teller rarely has notes presented for redemption, except by persons leaving the State, or worn and dilapidated notes collected and presented by the banks, who retire such and present them here, in quantities, for cancellation and destruction. We redeem in clean notes, or in gold, as the banks may desire.
We cancel and destroy from 30,000 to 40,000 per month, and, of course, issue clean ones in lieu. Our cancellations, 1904-5, were ^430,490 j and in 1905-6, £457,733
If a Commonwealth note were made a legal tender throughout the Commonwealth, the number of notes presented for. payment would be still further reduced’. Persons leaving one State for another would not find it necessary to cash their notes, and therefore gold would have to be paid only for notes presented by persons leaving the Commonwealth. If ten-shilling notes were added to the issue, and if every paying department could pay gold for notes, and could give notes for gold, the use of notes would be very largely encouraged. In Great Britain and Canada the banks hold coin and notes equal to about one-tenth of their total liability, and a like reserve would be quite -sufficient for the Commonwealth to hold against its notes, because its total liabilities would be represented by the note issue. The private banks have other liabilities besides those arising from their note issues, and yet a 10 per cent. ‘ reserve is regarded as sufficient to meet their case. The existing reserve in Queensland is unduly high. The calls made upon it during the last thirteen years have not been excessive. Timid, men may ask - ‘ ‘ What about a time of panic?” Yes, what about a panic, such as occurred in 1893? That wasthe product of ai boom, and so far as the issue of notes was concerned, the pressure was absolutely relieved in Queensland by the use of State notes instead of those issued by the private banks. So long as the Commonwealth makes only moderate use of its notes, its credit will be sufficient to meet any emergency. Of the five or six historical schemes to which I have referred, only ‘ two proved’ unsuccessful in consequence of excessive and’ reckless expansion of the note i’ssue. These were the French assignats and American greenbacks.
– The greenback issue was not a failure.
– Anything that proves unequal to its nominal gold value is, to my mind, a failure. Greenbacks were at 50 per cent, discount during the Americancivil war.
– If the honorable member has any greenbacks now, I will take them from him at face value.
– The honorable member would not have done so in 1866. In Canada a reserve of 15 per cent, in coin is held against the Dominion notes, and the balance is represented by bonds. But for every .£49 worth of Dominion notes held, the Canadian banks can issue £100 worth of their own notes. They have no note duty to pay. The Government notes have been on issue in Canada for thirty years, and a 15 per cent, reserve has been found to be sufficient. Therefore, I hold that a similar reserve would meet our requirements. Each State should have at its capital a reserve fund provided by the Commonwealth in proportion to the circulation of notes in the State. We have the declaration of the Bankers’ Conference that a legal tender note with the indorsement of the State would considerably increase the note circulation. Coghlan estimates that with a legal tender Commonwealth note, the issue would increase from £3,800,000 to possibly £0”, 750, 000. I wish to give the House the facts regarding the profit which accrues from the Queensland Treasury note system. Upon 30th June, 1905, the notes outstanding amounted to ,£1,180,114, and this was represented by notes advanced to the bank, £388,833 ; gold coin in the Treasurer’s strong-room, .£317,600; gold coin in charge of the teller at the paying department of the Treasury, £2,159; upon fixed deposit at the Royal Bank, ,£45,000 ; invested in Government debentures, £386,522; and at current account with the Queensland National Bank, £40,000. Of these notes the banks held ^635,302 worth, whilst the public held £554,814 worth.
– Where was this?
– In Queensland. I am quoting from last year’s report. The Government receive by way of interest upon the notes lent to the banks, and upon the money they have invested, £22,946 14s. id. The total expenditure in issuing these notes and guarding and controlling their issue was only £1,851 16s. For several years past it has been averaging about ,£2,000 annually, The net profit upon the issue of Queensland Treasury notes for last year was £21,094 1 8s. id. In Victoria last year the bank note duty produced £16,443, or considerably less than the re venue obtained by Queensland from the issue of Treasury notes. In other words, Victoria, which possesses two and a half times the population and the wealth of Queensland - if not more - realized by its note system only £16,443. In this connexion I wish honorable members to recollect that the Queensland system had already paid out of its gross receipts the cost of the notes. In Victoria no such cost is involved to the Government. Here the banks have to provide their own notes, and to pay a bank note duty as well. In New South Wales the Government did better than the Victorian Government, inasmuch as it received a revenue of £26,640 from its bank note issue. In Canada no bank note duty is charged. The provision that each bank is required to hold 40 per cent, of its issue in Dominion notes is regarded as sufficient. Queensland’s notes brought her - owing to the note system adopted in that State - over and above her present reserve fund, no less than £466,522, or, in round figures, nearly halfamillion sterling. In other words, there is nearly half-a-million of gold in Queensland, which is practically used to reduce her debt, because Government debentures are purchased with it. That amount was disposed of as follows: - They bought bonds to the amount of ,£386,522 ; they have at fixed deposit with* the Royal Bank £45,000, and at current account with the Queensland National Bank ^40,000, making a total of £466.522. If her reserve were fixed at only 15 per cent., instead of at one-fourth, she would have an additional £128,000, which she could utilize for reducing her debt, or in any other way that the Treasurer chose. The figures which, I have quoted in regard to Queensland show that if a similar system were adopted by the Commonwealth, it would be as good as a loan of £4,000,000 or £5,000,000. The Queensland scheme demonstrates that, and my object is to give the Commonwealth the full benefit of its standing and importance. That is to say, with us the note issue should be used exclusively for the benefit of the Commonwealth rather than for the benefit of private concerns. With a moderate reserve we should be perfectly safe, because any issue of notes in excess of the number which business could absorb would simply return to the Treasury, owing to their being a legal tender payable upon demand. We could rely upon increasing confidence to give our notes more and more utility and power. In the words of ex-Senator O’Connor, when introducing the Loan Bill. I would say -
The best security we can possibly have is the security of the Government.
– As the Treasurer is engaged in the preparation of his Budget, perhaps the honorable member will consent to an adjournment of the debate.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Austin Chapman) adjourned.
– I move -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act relating to fire insurance.
I do not intend to make a speech in justification of this motion. I merely desire to say that I believe the position which Has been arrived at in connexion with the methods adopted by fire insurance companies in the Commonwealth is sufficiently serious to warrant this Parliament in taking almost immediate action. When I move the second reading of the Bill, I shall endeavour to show that action is both necessary and urgent, and whilst desirous of safeguarding the interests of the companies from fraud and misrepresentation, I shall attempt to cut away from the policies which they issue the drag-net clauses inserted on the backs of those policies - clauses under which the companies are at the present time able to contract themselves out of just liabilities, and to inflict, by reason of their strength - numerous hardships upon that unfortunate section of the community who are overtaken by the disaster of having their premises destroyed by fire.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented, and, on motion toy Mr. Frazer, read a first time.
– I move -
That there be laid upon the table of the House a return showing -
Commissions, and by which Administration they were appointed ?
It will be observed that I have incorporated in the motion the amendments of which the honorable member for Yarra has given notice. I merely desire to obtain the fullest information with regard to, these Commissions. So many have been appointed that I wish to know all about the expenditure which they have incurred, and the objects for which they were appointed, in order that the facts may serve as a guide to honorable ‘ members in voting upon future proposals for the appointment of similar bodies.
.Personally I am in favour of the motion, but I should like to move an amendment to it in the shape of the following addition: - “Also stating the time that any Commissioner has spent in going from or coming to a sitting.” Such an addition, I think, would only be fair. For instance, some members of the Shipping Commission recently paid a visit to Western Australia. We were in that State ten days, and we were occupied four days upon the journey each way. It is only reasonable that that time should be included in the return asked for. It is not merely the actual attendance of Commissioners which should be taken into consideration. Whilst we were in Western Australia for ten days, we were not sitting every day. For example, we could not sit on Sunday. I presume that the religious ideas of the community would be rightly opposed to any such procedure, in addition to which we did not desire to work seven days a week. I would further point out that the Commissioners could not leave Western Australia until the departure of the boat. I think that the honorable member for New England desires to be fair to any honorable member who has served upon a Commission.
– The amendment which the honorable member suggests can be added to paragraph 6.
– I am prepared to accept the amendment.
.- I am inclined to think that, notwithstanding the amendment, which has been hurriedly drafted, the information obtained from this return will not be satisfactory. The* honorable member for Barrier has referred to the position of a representative of one of the eastern States, who proceeds to Western Australia as a member of a Commission, and whilst his amendment might be satisfactory so far as the position of such a member is concerned, it would scarcely operate fairly in the case of a representative of Western Australia engaged on a Commission taking evidence in that State. Whilst Parliament is in session the representatives of Western Australia reside in this city.
– But honorable members do not draw fees as members of a Commission whilst Parliament is in session.
– As a member of the Tariff Commission, I was away from Western Australia during the whole of last recess.
– And it would be perfectly justifiable to state in this return that the honorable member was away from his home during that time. I am satisfied that the representatives of the western State are not likely to figure in an unfavorable light, but I think that the motion might be differentlyworded. It is not of sufficient importance, however, to warrant a lengthy debate.
Mr. KINGO’MALLEY (Darwin] [3.21]. - I should like to know whether the honorable member for New England, in moving this return, is actuated by a desire to secure an addition to the allowance granted to honorable members ? If he is, the honorable member is a Christian ; if he is not, then he must come under the ban of heathenism. As a member of the Old-age Pension Commission, I received£70 in respect of allowances, whereas my outofpocket’ expenses amounted to£125. Is the honorable member prepared to make good the difference? When travelling with a Commission, one has often to make a loan to a man in difficulties whom he will never see again. Is the honorable member may come when no honorable member of this House will be near him, and he will regret his action, and desire to apologise to honorable members.
.- The only objection that could be raised to the passing of this motion is that the preparation of the return will involve expense. Nothing could be more satisfactory to a representative House like this than the furnishing of the most complete information in the direction sought. We have nothing to do with the motive of the honorable member who has moved for the return. It is a sound principle that the national expenditure should always be keenly scrutinized, although I venture to assert that the return will furnish much detailed information which few of us will read, and in which very few will be interested. I trust, however, that the House will agree to the motion.
– I am glad that the honorable member for Wide Bay, on behalf of the Labour Party, has said that he does not object to the publication of the information sought.
– The honorable member for New England could obtain from the Treasurer the information he seeks.
– The honorable member said a Tew moments ago that the preparation of this return would entail considerable expenditure, and1 now he asserts that the information could be readily obtained from the Treasurer, the inference being that it can be secured without cost. I do not understand whether the honorable member for Wide Bay believes that it will cost something to prepare this information, or thinks that it can be obtained from the Treasurer without cost. What motive influenced the honorable member for New England in moving for the return, I know not, but I support the motion in order to give - publicity to the cost’ of Royal Commissions. I do not desire an inquisitorial search, with a view to proving that some members have received so much in travelling allowances, or that the travelling allowances of -some Commissions have been greater than those of others ; I wish to show the cost of Royal Commissions, and I care not whether they have been Commissions appointed by the Deakin Administration, the Reid Administration, or the Watson Administration. There is too great a tendency in Australian politics for Ministers who are in re ceipt of lar,ge sal’aries, and should have the assistance of well-equipped staffs, to avoid responsibility by supporting the appointment of Select Committees, and allowing those Committees to be converted into Royal Commissions. Some little time back, I opposed the appointment of a Commission asked for by the honorable member for Kooyong, to inquire into financial questions. You, Mr. Speaker, were to be a member of that Commission. I also opposed the appointment pf the Shipping Committee moved for by the honorable member fori Barrier. Last Parliament, on my motion, a return was prepared, giving the amount of money expended upon Royal Commissions and Select Committees, though not in the detail now asked for. The public have a right to this information. In my opinion, large sums have been wasted in connexion” with the inquiries of Select Committees and Royal Commissions. I da not know of one instance in which the adoption of the report of a Select Committee has been moved in this House.
– The adoption of the report of the Decimal Coinage Committee w.as moved.
– At any rate, it was not carried, the discussion being adjourned. I have no desire, by supporting the motion, 10 injure any honorable member who has been a member of a Royal Commission or a Select Committee. I admit that there are times when the appointment of a Royal Commission is a wise and prudent step for a Government to take; but these inquiries should noi’ be set on foot whenever they are asked for, and merely to shelter Ministers. In supporting the motion, I do not question the value of the services which have been rendered by those who have been members of Royal Commissions and Select Committees. I believe that they have acted to the best of their ability, and have given a great deal of time to the performance of their duties, for which, perhaps, the payments made have been no sufficient compensation. I hope, however, that the return will afford honorable members an argument for resisting future motions for the appointment of Royal Commissions or Select Committees.
– - As one who was a member of the Old-age Pensions Commission, I desire to express regret for what the honorable member for Darwin has said. I think with the honorable member for New England that it is desirable that the information asked for should be furnished, though, of course, care should be taken in framing the terms of the motion, to prevent injustice being done by a wrong presentation of the facts. If care is taken in that regard, the information asked for will be valuable in the highest degree. The honorable member for Darwin said that an allowance of 25s. a day is not sufficient to cover travelling expenses ; but that sum should be large enough for any man who lives reasonably. As the honorable member for Wide Bay, who is a member of the Labour Party, has, in my opinion, said exactly what should be said on the whole subject, I shall content myself with supporting the motion without further comment.
– - I think that every opportunity should be given for the preparation ofthis” information. If those who have been members of Royal Commissions and Select Committees hold the opinion that I do, they will be exceedingly hard pressed before consenting to undertake similar work in the future, because, as. the honorable member for Perth has stated, it means a great sacrifice of time and effort. The return should be valuable, since many members of the public are under the impression that members of Royal Commissions are paid for their services, although, as a matter of fact, only travelling expenses are given, and these on.lv when members are travelling in some State other than that in which they reside.
– Members lose a great deal more than they gain.
– The number of sittings attended by a member should be shown in a return of this kind.
– That information will be given if the motion, in its amended form, is carried.
– The Navigation Commission sat for months in Melbourne, and its members’ had to give up ordinary business time, and frequently their bed time, to attend to its work, but received nothing in return for their services. The more information given to the public on this subject, the better it will be for all concerned. The honorable member for Dalley need ‘ not be alarmed at the number of Royal Commissions and Select Committees, because the sacrifices which have to be made by those who are members of them are not likely to make others desirous of a similar experience. I have in my possession quite a number of telegrams, urging me to go at an hour’s, or less than two hours’, notice te Sydney, or to Adelaide, to form a quorum for the taking of evidence, and compliance with such summonses involved trouble and cost which cannot be estimated and set forth in figures. If we wish to prevent the appointment of Royal Commissions, it will be better to pass a resolution to that effect than to try to do so by the means advocated by the honorable member for Dalley. I hope that the information asked for will be set forth clearly and distinctly, and in as full detail as possible. The members of the Tariff Commission - of the nature of whose labours I know something - the members of the Navigation Commission, and other Commissioners, have done work and made sacrifices of the extent of which the people of the Commonwealth have very little idea.
– I should not have risen ‘but for the remarks of the honorable member for Darwin, whose statements were sufficient to condemn his arguments. The House is entitled to the fullest information on this subject, and if I had felt doubtful of the wisdom of my proposition, the speech of the honorable member for Darwin would have convinced me that my action was the right one. What I have to say in this House I am prepared to say to any one. It is known that I have not moved the motion from any wrong motive. I ask for the information so that it may guide honorable members in dealing with future motions for the appointment of Select Committees and Royal Commissions. I admit that those who have been members of such bodies have” made great sacrifices’, and the nature of those sacrifices will, as far as possible, be shown in the return. Many honorable members have given the whole of a recess and other spare time to the work of Commissions, and have had very arduous employment.
– What the honorable member aims at is to secure economy.
– Yes, and to prevent the increase of expenditure in this direction. A Commission or Select Committee should not be appointed to inquire into every trivial matter. I have been ready to accept any amendments which would cause the return to be more complete or clearer, and would prevent invidious distinctions. The remarks of the honorable member for Darwin regarding myself I treat with the utmost contempt.
Amendment agreed to.
Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
That there be laid upon the table of the House a return showing -
Commissions, and by which Administration they were appointed ?
Debate resumed from 5th July (vide page 1077), on motion by Mr. Wilkinson -
That, in the opinion of this House, the present administration of British New Guinea is unsatisfactory; and, in the interests of good government and the effective development of the Territory, it is advisable that, on the issue of the Proclamation bringing the Papua Act into force, an Australian citizen, in close and recent touch with the aspirations of the Commonwealth and of the Territory, should be appointed Lieutenant-Governor.
.- It is not my intention to abuse the courtesy of the House in allowing me to continue my remarks in support of the motion bymaking a long speech. Iasked for leave to continue chiefly to enable one or two honorable members whom I knew wished to speak to do so without being interrupted by an adjournment. Although I have received many complaints from residents in New Guinea, I have always made it a practice not to bring individual grievances before the House, because I think that they should be referred to the Ministers to whose Departmentthey relate, and to the officers under them. Therefore, neither in Committee on Supply, nor on grievance day, nor onany other occasion, have I made these grievances public, and I do not intend to depart from that course to-day. It might, ‘ perhaps, have been better if I had spoken of want of proper administra tion instead of maladministration as the cause of the retardation of the development of the Territory. When a comparison is made between what has taken place there and what has taken place in other tropical countries, and in German New Guinea, there is very just ground for complaint. Personally, I think that it would be possible to formulate direct charges of maladministration since Sir William McGregor left. My chief object, however, is to endeavour to secure the appointment of an Australian as administrator of Papua.
– On what special grounds?
– Because I consider an Australian likely to be better fitted for the work than any one whom we can import from elsewhere.
– Simply because he is an Australian?
– Because Australians have done a great deal of pioneering work, and know what is required of the position. I call Australians, not merely those who have been born here, but also those who have made their homes here, and have helped to develop the country, and refer to men like the Jardines, who went out into the wilds of the Cape York Peninsula, the Mossmans, and others whose names are household words in tropical Queensland ; men who have combated all the difficulties of tropical life and exploration. I advocate the appointment of a man who will be in sympathy, and in recent touch, with the aspirations of the Commonwealth, and able to bring a knowledge of the conditions to be faced to the task of developing Papua. I have taken some trouble to look into this matter, and I find that countries which require to be developed along lines similar to those that will have to be followed in Papua, instead of obtaining the men they require from Great Britain or America, come to Australia. The great Raub gold mines, the largest in the Malay Peninsula, were discovered and developed by Australians. Then, again, the Tronah tin mines, the largest in the world, are managed by an Australian, and all the shift bosses are Australians. The company say that they prefer Australians, because they are more resourceful and adaptable thanare men of other countries. A short time ago an advertisement was published inviting applications from surveyors and civil engineers for one of the Eastern countries, and stating specifically that Australians would be preferred.
– We fill up every vacancy for surveyors and others by employing Australians.
– The Government fill every position but the highest by engaging Australians. The Prime Minister is one of the most patriotic of Australians, and I am very sorry to notice that he has thought it desirable to approach Sir William McGregor upon the subject of again taking up the administration of Papua. I have the highest opinion of the work performed by that gentleman in the past, but I do not think that, in view of the future development of the Territory, his administration would be the best. He devoted his energies principally to’ the control and protection of the natives, and did not engage in work of a developmental character.
– Matters had not then reached that stage.
– I could not, even though I might wish to do so. say one word derogatory to the administration of Sir William McGregor, but I think that, seeing that we have found among ourselves men competent to fill the highest positions on the Judicial Bench and elsewhere - to say nothing of the fact that an Australian native is now Prime Minister of the Commonwealth - we should be able to select an Australian fit to act as Lieutenant-Governor of Papua.
– Hear, hear ; always given a suitable training.
– I think that I am on safe ground when I claim the support of some members of the Government. I have here a copy of a speech delivered by the Treasurer at the Melbourne Convention, in 1898, in which he advocated the appointment by the Governor-General in Council of Lieutenant-Governors for each of the States. I notice further that you, sir, had something to say upon that question. The Treasurer went as far as language would carry him in advocacy of his proposal, and I think it will be admitted that, if we can find men amongst us fit to act as LieutenantGovernors of States - much more important positions than that of Lieutenant-Governor of Papua - no difficulty should be experienced in carrying out my suggestion.
– In the Territory there is much more to do, because the LieutenantGovernor has no advisers, to relieve him of responsibility, and will require to be an active official.
– That is a phase of the question that will be dealt with by some honorable members who will follow me. I stated previously that I thought it desirable that the white settlers should have some voice in the choice of those who were to represent them in the Legislative Council. The Prime Minister assured me that two of the three persons who had been nominated would certainly be elected by the miners, if they had their choice. It is very easy to assume such a thing.
– That is the information we have from Papua.
– I realize that the Prime Minister is speaking in perfect good faith, and considers that he has good reason for the view he holds. I do not wish to labour the question, and I shall content myself by thanking honorable members for the courtesy which they have shown in permitting me to continue mv remarks to-day.
.- Papua is in close proximity to the district I represent - in fact, under -the new subdivision, a portion of my electorate obtrudes upon New Guinea waters. I have for a considerable time past taken a deep interest in the Possession, and I feel impelled to give the motion my hearty support. In view of the fact that the Government have opened up negotiations with Sir William McGregor, with a view to inducing him to again take up the administration of New Guinea, we may discuss the whole question without any special delicacy, so far as the acting administrator is concerned. I assume that Captain Barton will certainly be removed from his present position.
– That does not follow.
– I should imagine that it must follow.
– Captain Barton has been an acting administrator.
– So far as Sir William McGregor is concerned, I have nothing to say of him, except by way of commendation. I have read some of his reports, and I must admit that his conduct, at any rate in relation to the natives of Papua, was of the most admirable character. He acted most tactfully and carefully in all his dealings with them, and any little friction that may have ta[ken place was not due to any fault of his. It must be recollected, however, that during the time Sir William McGregor was administering the Territory no development took place, and the interests of the white settlers were to some extent disregarded. That complaint has frequently been made, and an old resident of the Territory, whom I met recently in Northern Queensland, told me that Sir William McGregor was very unsympathetic towards the miners and the white population generally. I should like to read an extract from a report, dated 30th March, 1886, and written by Mr. Seymour Fort, who acted as private secretary to Sir Peter Scratchley. There is much interesting reading in the report, but I desire to quote one very pertinent paragraph. Mr. Fort says -
Having been annexed, it is the duty of the annexing power to protect the natives.
No doubt Sir William McGregor carried cut that policy.
It is doubtful if the country can ever be selfsupporting. Nothing can be done towards systematically administering the country and* developing its resources, until it is made an integral part of the Anglo-Australian political system, and the position of the officer administering its government, both with regard to the country itself, and also the authorities to whom he is responsible, shall have been more definitely determined.
I think that the position of the Administrator has been definitely determined by the measure recently passed by us, and that his responsibility has to a great extent been increased. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that we should appoint as LieutenantGovernor a man capable of administering the laws in the interests, not only of the natives, but also of the white settlers. In view of the past administration of Sir William McGregor, T do not think that he would be sufficiently in sympathy with the policy of this Parliament under the altered circumstances. If he did not go to Papua in the first instance with preconceived notions, he left it when the policy which he had initiated was in full swing, and it is only reasonable to suppose that he would still be imbued with the ideas he had when he departed from the Possession. We desire that the Territory shall be developed to a far .greater extent than it has been in the past, and we shall not be content to perpetuate the policy pursued by Sir William McGregor. I wish to refer somewhat fully to the report prepared by Mr. Atlee Hunt. In his remarks, with regard to the policy for the Possession, he says -
It will be generally agreed that the time has now arrived -when a goal should be set up to the attainment of which the Government officials should be ‘instructed to employ their best endeavours.
I do not think Sir William McGregor, in view of his past associations with New Guinea, would be the best man to act as is there suggested.
– I am very much afraid that we shall not be able to secure him.
– I do not regret that,, but I hope that the cause has no relation to Sir William McGregor’s health.
– No; it is due to the Colonial Office.
- Mr. Hunt continues -
In the following paragraphs I set out different policies that have at various times been suggested : -
Having achieved ownership, to remain content with the fact that foreign nations may not use the territory as a base from which operations against Australia might be organized and conducted.
This, he says, is impracticable. One suggestion which has been made is that the Territory should be handed over to a chartered company, and I am pleased to learn that Mr. Atlee Hunt does not indorse it. Another recommendation which, he makes is that the natives should not be interfered with, and that the Government should limit their interposition to cases in which it is necessary to secure protection to white settlers. That has also been done to the fullest extent. I now. come to the question of the land laws of the Possession. Owing to the courtesy of the Prime Minister, I have been afforded an opportunity of seeing some of the Ordinances which are now under consideration in this connexion, but, so far as I am able to judge, those which are at present in existence are ample,, provided that the administration is what it ought to be. . The fresh Ordinances which it is proposed to issue are very desirable indeed, so far as a layman can judge, but,, of course, it must be understood that they involve a great many legal points. There is one matter, however, to which I must take exception. As honorable members areaware, we allow no freehold in land in thePossession. But leaseholds may be granted, and it seems to me something in the nature of a contradiction that a Higher rate should’ be charged’ for a short leasehold than for a long one. I think that the reverse ought to be the case. If a man is given security of tenure he should pay for the advantage which he enjoys.
– Are any persons taking up the lands of the Possession under leasehold conditions?
– I believe so, but the honorable member must recollect that the Constitution Act of Papua is not yet in operation. Mr. Hunt further says -
The colonization of a .large territory, inhabited more or less thickly by a difficult race, is a serious task, and one whose completion must occupy many years ; one, moreover, which, if it is to be carried out properly, demands the expenditure of substantial sums. In Australia millions have been and are being spent in opening up the country to prepare it for occupation. It would be unreasonable, therefore, to expect that we can open up Papua, a country where natural obstacles are far greater than in most parts of the Commonwealth, by spending a very few thousand pounds each year.
I desire to point out that if we increase the expenditure, as suggested by the loan of so much per annum for a definite period, it is very desirable indeed that the administration should be such as to inspire confidence in those who_intend to invest their money in the Possession. I do not suggest that they would not have confidence in Sir William McGregor, but the development which has taken place has not been sufficient to justify the expenditure of very much money in developing new industries in the Territory. Mr. Hunt’s report contains one very significant recommendation, which, I think, is worthy of the special attention df honorable members, particularly in view of the terms of the motion. Upon page 20, he says -
It is of course not money alone that is necessary, but I feel confident that we in Australia can find the men possessed of the foresight, industry, and ability necessary to guide this great enterprise to a successful issue.
I commend that statement to the notice of the Prime Minister and of those who oppose this motion. Great value has been set upon Mr. Hunt’s report by the Prime Minister and others. That officer was specially despatched to New Guinea to investigate the conditions which obtain there, and to furnish a report, and when he states that we can find the men who are possessed of the necessary foresight and ability I quite agree with him. There is no reason for us to go further afield. Moreover, it is not fair for us to ask Sir William McGregor, at his time of life, to come from ,ai ‘temperate climate into a torrid zone, and to spend the remainder of his days, there. It must be recollected that he is now well up “in years - he must be almost 60 years of age - and! that he has spent most bf his time in the tropics. Surely he deserves something better than to be sent back to New Guinea. Personally, I think that he should be granted a retiring allowance. At any rate, in his own interests it is better that he should not return to the Possession. As I have already said, . the administration of the Territory in regard to mining has not been as sympathetic as it might have been. In referring to mining, Mr. Hunt says -
The matter has received my best consideration, and I have come to the conclusion that the mining industry ought to be encouraged, and that the best means of encouragement at the disposal of the Government is the establishment of a prospecting vote, to be employed as I have indicated. Further, that to provide the necessary funds an export tax on gold ought to be instituted.
Evidently the mining industry has not been fostered under previous administration to the extent that it might have been. There seems to have been in the minds of the administrators the idea that the native was being taken advantage of by the miner. I give credit to past administrators for having protected the natives in every way, but from information which I have received from men who have worked in the Possession the natives have been very well treated indeed. At any rate, there has been no attempt made to obtain their services through the influence of drink. The miner, equally with everybody else, has been careful to prevent the natives from- obtaining intoxicants. Mr. Hunt, upon page 22 of his report, points out that certain things should be done - the assumption being that in the past these things have been neglected.’* IA11 these comments constitute an indictment of past administration. Mr. Hunt complains that, owing to the easy conditions of life which obtain in the Territory, the natives there are becoming lazy and unwilling to work. He therefore suggests the imposition of a hut tax. I should strongly oppose any tax of that character. It seems to me that civilization is working in cycles. The imposition of a hut tax is suggested as a means of compelling the natives to work. Io other words, they are to be required to work for the settlers, in order to obtain money with which to pay that tax. The object of the settler, I need scarcely point out, is to secure sufficient money to enable him to dispense with work, and’ it certainly seems curious that a man who is able to dispense with work,owing to the conditions under which he lives, should be obliged to labour for an individual who desires to possess sufficient means to enable him to do without work. In South Africa, and in western Africa the imposition of a hut’ tax has produced great trouble, and I should be very sorry to see a similar tax levied in the Possession.
– Should not the native pay something towards the cost of protecting him? We have stopped war in the Territory, and wegive him perpetual peace and just tribunals.
– But the native enjoyed the tribal wars in which he was formerly engaged. They were the spice of life to him. Moreover, it was not at his request that we have assumed certain duties. We have gone to the Possession quite voluntarily to occupy his land.
– We give him a judicial system, and protect him from plunder.
– But there are people who do not desire to be protected in that way. We are told that in India the British Administration has removed war, but we have reason to believe that the Indian would prefer to live under his own system of Government - as it previously existed - and be permitted to engage now and then in a row, and, in short, to cut his neighbour’s throat whenever he felt inclined to do so. Mr. Hunt goes on to say -
An important question facing the intending New Guinea settler is, where he is to sell the product of his labours.
A few days ago when the honorable member for Lang submitted a motion in favour of abolishing the fiscal barrier which exists between Australia and the Pacific Islands, I objected to the inclusion of Papua.I did not object to the Tariff wall being entirely removed so far as Papua was concerned. Imerely objected to the first portion of the motion, and I felt thatif I allowed it to pass without dissent it might be held that I was desirous of seeing the fiscal barrier removed from the whole of those islands instead of from a part of them. I think that we ought to abolish that barrier so far as Papua is concerned. The Administration should provide bounties for the production of certain commodities -especiallyrubber. We should also enact that rubber shall not be exportedanywhere but to Australia. A similar policy has been adoptedby the UnitedState’s in respect to the products of the Philippine Islands and of Cuba.
They have so framed their Tariff that not a pound weight of hemp can be exported from Manila except to the United States. We should be following a very good example if we provided that the products of New Guinea should be exported only to Australia. There is no doubt that there is a splendid field in Papua for the production of rubber and other tropical products. I do not think I need comment upon Mr. Hunt’s report much further. He recommends that in future those to be employed in the public service of the Territory shall be between the ages, of 21 and 25 years. That is a significant recommendation in view of the fact that the Government contemplate offering Sir William McGregor the position of Administrator. If it be desirable that only young men shall, be employed in the minor positions of the public service of the Territory, it is surely equally desirable that young men should fill the superior positions. It may be urged that if a young man were appointed, he would have to gain the experience already possessed by Sir William McGregor, but we need not necessarily appoint as Administrator a gentleman not more than 25 years of age. We might materially increase the age limit without departing from the spirit of the recommendation. At the same time, I think that the suggestion is worthy of notice in this connexion. I do not propose to refer further to Mr. Atlee Hunt’s report, but I have received most opportunely a letter from a valued correspondent in New Guinea, which I shall hand over to the Prime Minister, so that he may satisfy himself as to the bona fides of the writer. The gentleman in question has resided in Papua for twenty years, and, therefore, it is only reasonable to assume that he knows something of what is going on there, and that he should be competent to express an opinion as to what is necessary in regard to the future administration of the Territory. He complains that Mr. Atlee Hunt, during his visit to Papua, was, to some extent, under the thumb of officialdom. Having regard to the fact that Mr. Hunt’s stay on the island was not a lengthy one, one can well understand that at was difficult for him to obtain information from other than official sources; but. at the same time, it is unfortunate that he could not go beyond them.
– He did his best, but he admits that he had not an opportunity to see all whom he would have liked to meet.
– My correspondent writes -
There are here two main causes ‘for the state of affairs as they are at present found, viz. : - The unwillingness or incapacity of our Government to either open up the country itself, or to assist in any way even by information, or the making easy the acquirement of land to outsiders in their efforts towards’ that end. This, together with the pull back policy which has been always the object of our controlling mercantile . firm, Messrs. Burns, Philp, & Co., has up to the present successfully prevented anything in the shape of settlement in the Possession.
It is, to say the least, peculiar that every one speaks of Burns, Philp, and Company’s connexion with New Guinea in most condemnatory language.
– They are giving a very much better service.
– That is so, so far as the mail service is concerned, but the writer was referring to something more. He goes on to say -
That the Government service is utterly demoralized has been already shown in the Richmond and other cases, and at present all the departments seem conducted on the principle of “ pull baker, pull devil.” Our Lands Department seems to be in an utter state of chaos. As to what lands, are available for settlement, no information can be obtained, nor is any description of the country or particulars as to where certain classes of country may be found available. The ridiculous system of delay that has been general has in many cases so disheartened would-be settlers that they have abandoned their intention, and sought investment for their capital in other parts.
He then proceeds to justify this statement by giving, not only his own experience, but that of another man who applied for land -
I presume that that expression is commonly employed in dealing with coloured men -
I took the matter up, and went to Port Moresby, and after much trouble got the man his title. If this man had had no one to speak for him, he would have undoubtedly lost his land, as it was currently rumoured that some other party had been promised the land by a high official here. This was the matter over which the Richmond episode of the altering of minutes arose, and there seems little doubt but that Richmond was right in his allegation.
The House is aware of the nature of the allegation to which he refers -
Here is an instance where the Government not only waste a considerable sum of money, but fail to assist in providing profitable employment for the natives, which is now a most serious trouble here. We outside traders are always at a difficulty to find employment by which new tribes that we bring into connexion may be able to obtain trade. In New Guinea is found an unlimited supply of sago, more especially in this Gulf district. This is a food greatly esteemed by all the natives, and can be supplied in any quantity in a condition in which it will keep good for years. I have on three occasions written the Government on the matter, offering to supply at a price that would cost them about one half what they now pay for rice for the prisoners and the police, and the rice bill of New Guinea is a big item. Once I was deigned an answer to say that the Government did not want sago, other twice I received no reply. When the Governor (Captain Barton) was once west at Orokolo, he saw sago being dried by the missionary (the London Missionary Society use it throughout all their stations, manufacturing it at Orokolo, and from thence distributing), and asked him if he would supply the Government. Note the Government could not deal with a trader. He promised at a price arranged to send some five tons. He sent one ton, explaining that it was an order from His Excellency, and the officer in charge of the store department wrote back and told him to send no more, as he did not want to handle sago. These sort of things go to show that our present head of affairs is a man not strong enough for his position, and it is current talk that not he, but a certain unpopular Government official, is the actual power. This sago preparation is eagerly sought by all white men having constant native labour, and as before stated, is the food staple throughout the stations of the London Missionary Society. We have had in the Central Division a very dry season, and ‘native gardens are failures. The Government will be in all probability compelled to supply some food assistance, and in April last to a village called Kaili, where, in addition to their food failure, they suffered by fire, the Government donated two tons of rice. Now, two tons of sago would have done just as well, would have cost half the money, and would have assisted in the only hope of holding these natives after they came under white influence, viz., the providing them with some congenial employment.
That is to say, it would have provided them with congenial employment in the cultivation of sago.
– Sago is grown there.
– Yes, it is indigenous to New Guinea. My correspondent continues -
Here is a trivial matter, but which shows how utterly careless the Government are as to how things go. Last year a number of boys went from this district to the Mambare to work ; some few died. About a month since a Government officer visited us, and, sought out the relatives of the dead boys for the purpose of handing over the pay that had accrued. Now this pay is handed to the Government by the employer in cash, but when the money reached the native here, who, as a matter of fact, has not the remotest idea of the value of money, it was in the shape of Government cheques drawn on Brisbane. Two cheques came to me at the same time, one for 16s. 3d., and one for £5 14s. ird. The natives simply knew they had a piece of paper that was worth something, and asked me to give them what I would for them.
It is absurd that a cheque should be given to a native on the island. In the eyes of these natives the two pieces of paper were exactly alike, but whilst one man received a considerable quantity of goods ir. exchange for his cheque, the other obtained comparatively few stores -
To the natives the two papers represented exactly the same thing, yet one man got only a few things, whilst the other became a millionaire, much to. his astonishment. I have been amongst these people many years, and they know me, and were, I believe, satisfied that I had not robbed them, but it is not a position that is advantageous to a trader, and it is a most outrageous absurdity to pay almost untaught natives in cheques upon Brisbane. One thing I was surprised to notice was that the cheques were not made payable to order.
Then follows something so uncomplimentary to the administration that I shall suppress it. I intend, however, to hand over the letter to the Prime Minister, and I hope that he will read it carefully.
– Hear, hear.
– The writer proceeds -
Absolutely nothing has been done in the way of making roads by the Government, and men who have to get inland have yet either to cut their own tracks, or use the native trails. Had the prison labour even been used for this purpose with any degree of common sense, by this time many parts of the interior would have been thoroughly prospected. Now there are no people here to do it. All who could have cleared out of the country, mostly financially broken, and all utterly disheartened.
That is owing to the maladministration -
Even round the capital there is not a decent road to be found -
For twenty years we have been spending considerable sums of money in British New Guinea. The first vote, to which Fiji and New Zealand contributed, amounted to ^5,000. That grant was subsequently increased to ^20,000, but notwithstanding these votes, and the expenditure locally of the revenue derived from British New Guinea, a considerable sum, there is not a good road to be found there -
Even round the capital there is not a decent
Toad to be found, and it is a journey of pain and discomfort, even from the town to the Government House. One of our most serious difficulties is the matter of the great expense and delay in getting our produce to Sydney.
That, however, is a personal matter to which I shall not refer. I would emphasize, .however, the point that the writer is thoroughly competent to speak of the position in regard to the administration of New Guinea. Another matter with which I desire to deal relates to the petition from a number of white settlers which was presented to this House last session, and in which we were asked to grant elective representation and trial by jury to the white people of the Territory. If, when the Papua Bill was before us, . I had been in possession of the information now at my command, I should have urged the Government to give the white settlers at least two or three representatives in the Legislative Council. They are honestly entitled to such representation. It has been clearly shown that the officialdom, such as exists in the” Territory, is practically under the control of one man, and is not beneficial to the country. The white settlers are subject to great disadvantages, and if we gave them elective representation we should largely remove the feeling of dissatisfaction that now prevails. When the Bill was before us, however, we did not have that information which we ought to have possessed. As a matter of fact, we had no means of obtaining it unless we had paid a special visit to Papua, and that, of course, was out of the question, so’ far as the bulk of the House was concerned. But a suggestion has ‘been made to the Prime Minister, by- which elective representation can be extended to these men in a roundabout, although perfectly legitimate, way. If a plebiscite of the miners were taken, three of their number might be selected to make recommendations to the Prime Minister, and those who were nominated
Or elected might then be given seats in the Legislative Council of Papua. In that way I think we could get rid of the present dissatisfaction. It may be urged that the process would be a costly one, and should be provided for in an Act; but I do not think that it would be any more costly to initiate now than it would have proved if we had provided for it in the original Act. When at Townsville some time back, I was waited on by a resident of New Guinea, who pointed out to’ me that it would be a great convenience if a bank were established at Samarai for the convenience of miners, traders, and others. I, therefore, wrote to the Prime Minister on the subject. He replied to my letter, and, later, forwarded me a copy of a letter received from the Administrator of New Guinea, together with the report upon the proposal of the Acting Treasurer of the Territory. The Administrator’s letter is dated 5th May, and in it, referring to the report of the Acting Treasurer, he says -
It will be seen that he regards the establishment of any such bank here as impracticable, and I share his opinion. In paragraph 7 he hints at the possible feasibility of an arrangement to enable the Government to buy gold from the miners, or sell it for them on commission ; but the objections he foresees to such an arrangement are sufficiently forceable, in my opinion, to render it undesirable.
The Acting Treasurer says -
I do not consider the establishment of a bank by the Government to be practicable.
To be of any use, branches would need to be at Tamata, on the Yodda, on Woodlark Island, at Samarai, and a head office at Port Moresby.
Only one bank is asked for, although this officer assumes that banks are required all over the Possession. I see no reason for so many. He continues -
The resident magistrates and assistant resident magistrates could not be expected to carry _ on banking business in addition to their other duties.
I have taken the trouble to look over the civil list of New Guinea, arid it seems to me a very full one. In my opinion, there might very reasonably be additions to their present duties.
– Magisterial functions occupy only a comparatively small part of the time of these officials. They are really administrators and residents, representing all the Government activities.
– The Acting Treasurer, continues -
One reason being that they could not give the close, attention that is absolutely necessary for such a business, and another being that they know nothing about banking.
Possibly there are several other things about which they do not know much -
It would be necessary, therefore, that new officers should be got to perform the duties.
That is a very good suggestion. If we decided to establish a bank, it would, no doubt, be necessary to place in charge of it some one conversant with banking business. It is stated. By residents of New
Guinea that a bank at Samarai would pay. The letter continues -
A great number of the miners lead a sort of* hand to mouth existence, and depend on support from the storekeepers an the fields, who advance them stores on no security, and receive the gold found in payment.
It would be much better if the miners and traders could sell their gold ‘for cash, and pay what they got into a bank, instead of having to resort to a system of barter. The Acting Treasurer is .of opinion that -
The bank could not possibly meet half its expenses from commissions and exchanges, and I see no other business it could do.
The fact that none of the banking companiesin Australia have thought it worth while to openbranches in British New Guinea goes to show that there is nothing to be made at it.
It might possibly -be arranged that the Government buy gold from the miners, or sell it for them on commission ; but this would probably be considered by storekeepers and others to be a gross interference with “ private enterprise.”
That is a remarkable reason to put forward’ in an official document. The writer concludes -
To do anything else, however, in the way of banking seems to me quite out of the question.
The honorable member for Brisbane thisafternoon dilated to some extent on the advantages of a Commonwealth note issue, and the proposal to establish a bank at Samarai affords an opportunity to take advantage of his suggestions. In my opinion, banking business might very well be provided for in connexion with the post’ office, something in the nature of a savings, bank being established. At the present, time, the miners have no way of banking, any money received from gold, and thus saving it, and possibly they are inclined to spend it in ways which are of very little profit to them. In conclusion, I wish tomake a strong appeal to the Prime Minister in support of the proposition that a man conversant with the conditions of New Guinea, who would go there as an enthusiast, though not filled with the enthusiasm of ignorance, shall be appointed to administer the affairs of the Territory. Whoever is chosen should be acquainted with the conditions of the country, and should be willing to bend his best energies to its development. I am perfectly certain that men who possess all the necessary acquirements for thepost are to be found in Australia; menwith the requisite tact, experience, and physique, who would be prepared to work hard, and to shoulder all the responsibilities of the office. Such men would be much better able to satisfactorily acquit themselves of the duties attached to the position than would men taken from the Public Service of the old country, who would, to some extent, consider themselves in exile while at their post, who would find their surroundings uncongenial, and whose only desire would be to get away again as soon as possible. I am sure that if the motion goes to a vote, the House will carry it, and I hope that the Ministry will take that as an indication that honorable members wish to see an Australian appointed. I am certain that as capable-a man is to be found in Australia, if proper search be made, as could be found elsewhere. I also wish to urge upon the Prime Minister the necessity of providing for trial bv jury, at any rate, so far as the white settlers of New Guinea are concerned. Speaking as a . layman, I think that there is nothing in the Act to prevent that being clone. It could be provided for by an ordinance, and the people living there are entitled1 to it. I also trust that the honorable and learned gentleman will see if steps cannot be taken to provide for electoral representation. Recently, when in Cooktown and Cairns, I met men with whom this was a burning question. They regard it as a blot upon a democratic institution that this Parliament, which has been elected on the votes of the people of the Commonwealth, has not given representation to the residents in New Guinea. Practically all the white men living in New Guinea formerly resided in Australia, and most of them in Northern Queensland, and they desire to enjoy the electoral advantages to which they were accustomed in that State. I hope that this small boom will be granted to them.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Hume Cook) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 19th” June (vide page 1 551), on motion bv Mr. Webster -
That, in the opinion of this House, it is necessary and advisable to adopt the toll or call system throughout the telephone service of the Commonwealth at the earliest possible date.
– I wish to know ‘from the PostmasterGeneral whether it would not be advisable for the Department to carry out experiments in connexion with automatic telephone systems, which seem to be successful in other parts of the world, judging by the reports which have been put before us. These systems appear to be cheaper than other systems, and might very well be experimented with in connexion with some country town exchange. I believe that the honorable gentleman stated last session that a company controlling an automatic system was prepared to make an experiment at its own cost, though I do not know what would be charged if we adopted such a system. That, of course, would be a matter for consideration later on. We should, however, try to obtain the best system available. Telephone connexion is of the highest importance to people in country districts, because thev are anxious to obtain information as quickly as possible, and to be put in easy communication with the outside world. The Department seems to throw every obstacle in the way of establishing these services. I referred upon the last occasion to a case in which the Department had actually refused a cash gift of £,100 that was offered to induce them to establish a line in respect to which they required a guarantee of ^22 per annum. Although the amount of £100 would have been equivalent to a five years’ guarantee they declined to accept it.
– What became of that ‘case ?
– The service has since been established, but I had to resort to certain steps which should not have been necessary. I do not see how the introduction of the toll system would help the people in the country to obtain new services, because at present they are called upon to pay according to the extent to which they use the service. They have to pay for each separate message. I think that in connexion with the telephone service a business balance-sheet should be made out, so that we might arrive at a clear understanding as to the actual cost of erection and maintenance. I am quite satisfied that the amount which persons in the country are asked to pay by way of guarantee in connexion with the establishment of trunk lines is in man cases exorbitant, and that the whole system requires to be improved. The principal trouble arises at present over the excessive initial cost, and I trust that the Minister will make the fullest inquiry into the matter, with a view to introducing desirable reforms. The charge for maintenance at the rate of 25s. per mile is also excessive. If a dozen wires are carried by the one set of poles, the Department charge 25s. per annum for each mile of wire, or £15 per mile of line, and it seems to me that that is monstrous. If the Minister will give his serious attention to the requirements of the people living in the country district’s, he will be remembered with feelings of gratitude long after he has left office.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Hume Cook) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 25th July (vide page 18:1.9), on motion by Mr. Austin Chapman, as amended -
That this House approves the agreement made and entered into on the 7th day of July, roo6, between the Postmaster-General, in and for the Commonwealth, and Sir James Laing and Sons, Limited, for the carriage of mails between Adelaide and Brindisi, with the following modifications : -
That at the end of clause 3 the following proviso be added : - Provided that, in the event of the Postmaster-General requiring the “period of transit” on the voyage from Brindisi to Adelaide to be reduced to six hundred and twelve hours, the period of six hundred and twelve hours shall thenceforth 3be deemed to be the “ period of transit “ for each voyage from Brindisi to Adelaide, and each such voyage shall be completed within that period.
That clause 15 be amended by inserting after the words “ with the consent of “ in the second proviso, tj,e words “ or subject to approval by,” and by inserting after the word “ Parliament “ the words “by resolution.”
– The Prime Minister opened his speech last evening by saving that he merely desired to make a few general observations. He then occupied an hour in adding his contribution to a debate which had already extended over two and a half days. He also informed us that the consensus of opinion in this House was that the contract embodied the greatest bargain that the Commonwealth had ever been able to make. If his statement were true, it should not have been necessary to occupy such a long time in impressing the advantageous character of the contract upon honorable [members. I should like to know what power is possessed by the party by the name of Croker, who has signed the contract on behalf of Sir James Laing and Sons? The names of other well-known firms, such as Armstrong and Sons, and Vickers, Maxim and Company, and others were bandied about by the Prime Minister as among those connected in some way or other with the mail contract. It should have been easy for the Prime Minister to ascertain by cable whether any of these firms were really at the back of Mr. Croker. The Prime Minister informed us that the proposed new steamers were to be of a, tonnage of 11,000 tons,, to maintain an average speed of 16 knots an hour, and that a considerably shorter service would be provided. But it seems to me that there are two sides to the question. Mr. Croker is reported to have made a very good thing out of the Butter Commission, and it cannot, be claimed that he or .those for whom he is acting are philanthropists. They are not going to rush in and build ships out of love for the people of Australia./ They are lynx-eyed business men, and, judging by the reputation that Mir. Croker enjoys, we may presume that he considers he is in for a very good_ thing. It is rumoured that his scoop out of the pool will amount to £10,000. I do not wish to cast any aspersions upon Mr. Croker. I wish him good luck if he is keen enough to obtain such a large sum of money. I think, however, that it is absurd for honorable members to put a wreath round his head, and represent him as a philanthropist who has come to the rescue of the Commonwealth Government in this matter. I never knew of a case in which a mail contract was presented but that it was represented to be the best ever entered into. I am becoming rather tired of this kind of thing, and further proof must be produced before conviction will be carried to my mind. If the bargain is such a good one, it is remarkable that two and a half days should have been occupied in trumpeting its virtues. The Select Committee of the House of Commons which sat in 1902 to inquire into the whole question of subsidies, bounties,’ and subventions with regard to mail services stated that the question whether a subsidized mail service was, or was not, a good bargain could not very well be determined. Their reason for saving this was that the granting of a subsidy almost invariably shut out all competition. It was pointed out that the shipping companies themselves, by arrangement, did not compete at all, and consequently it was left to some proprietary to obtain the contract at their own price. That being the experience of a Select Committee appointed by the House of Commons only three years ago, the Government have no right to declare. -as they do, that they have made a great bargain on behalf of Australia. I admit that the statement that no tenders for the mail contract would be received, other than from the Peninsular and Oriental and Orient Steam Navigation Companies, has proved to be a myth. But nobody who had given the matter serious thought ever entertained that idea. A subsidy of , £125,000 annually may not seem a very large one until it is closely analyzed. I propose to show that the contractors, and not the Government, have made a remarkably good bargain for . themselves. They have entered upon an undertaking which will afford them an excellent investment for any of their loose capital. I need scarcely point out that£125,000 represents exactly 5 per cent. upon £2,500,000. To-day British consols are returning only 22/1 per cent., and I venture to say that the construction of the eight vessels which will be required to undertake our new mail service will not cost more than £312,500 each. At any rate, that sum will be much nearer the mark than any which has been mentioned during the course of this debate.
– What about the cost of running the service?
– I will deal with that matter presently. Surely the honorable member does not contend that in the running of their vessels the Orient Steam Navigation Company have had to depend entirely upon the subsidy which they have received from the Government. That is not their only source of income. The subsidy is merely in the nature of an assistance to them to run their vessels.
– The honorable member is putting it simply as a matter of the payment of so much interest upon so much capital.
– I am endeavouring to show the other side of the picture. All those who have previously addressed themselvesto the financial aspect of the question have endeavoured to make us believe that we should go down upon our marrow bones, and thank heaven that the contractors have been good enough to tender, and to accept our subsidy of £125,000 annually. I am utterly tired of hearing that sort of talk. I contend that these speculative shipbuilders have made a very excellent bargain for themselves. The £125,000 which we are required annually to pay them merely represents the Australian subsidy to the new mail service. As I have already pointed out, it is equi valent to a 5 per cent.return upon a capital of , £2,500,000, and I venture to say that £312,500 is a reasonable estimate of the cost of constructing each of the eight vessels which will be required to carry out the contract. Personally, I am absolutely opposed to the payment of any subsidy whatever in connexion with the carriage of our mails. I can quite understand that some thirty or forty years ago, when shipping communication ‘between Australia and the old world was not what it is to-day, the payment of a subsidy was necessary. Of course, I have heard honorable members exclaim, “ Oh, the press are unanimous in the opinion that a subsidy is necessary.” To my mind that fact conveys nothing. It does not prove that the contract is either good or bad. It simply shows that the newspapers believe that certain facilities; should be continued, and that the payment of a subsidy is necessary for the maintenance of our present oversea mail system. That is merely the opinion of some writer or writers who have no more opportunity of acquiring knowledge upon the matter than has any honorable member. I contend that the commercial classes are more interested in our mail contracts than are any other section of the community. But it is my duty to view this matter from a broad stand-point, and - seeing that the entire community will be called upon to contribute the proposed subsidy - I ask whether it is right that they should be taxed for the benefit of a particular section. In discussing other questions, some honorable members never lose sight of that aspect of the case, although they conveniently forget it upon the present occasion. No disability would be imposed upon the commercial classes if their mails were delivered here upon Thursday instead of upon Tuesday, because to-day all transactions of any magnitude are conducted by means of the cable. Business men have their advisers in the old country. The latter cable them as to the state of the market, and they are then advised whether they are to purchase or not. Consequently, I contend that the payment of a subsidy is in the interests or pseudointerests of the commercial classes. Simply for the purpose of having our mails delivered upon a Tuesday instead of upon a Thursday the people of the Commonwealth ought not to be asked to continue the payment of a subsidy. The terms “subsidy,” “bounty,” and “subvention,” all spell the same thing. They are pecuniary aids to some concern with which’ the Government are connected. ,The party to which I belong has been vigorously engaged in«fighting the granting of bounties-
– They intend to support every one of them.
– The honorable member did not allow me to conclude. The party with which I am associated are opposed to bounties, subventions, and subsidies. I cannot understand any party in this House fighting for the continuance of a mail subsidy. As I have already declared, the time when Australia lacked shipping facilities has long since passed away. To-day our coast-line is penetrated by steam-ship companies from all parts of the world - companies which come here prepared to accept the risks of commercial competition. Yet we are asked to sanction the payment of a subsidy of £125,000 annually to a particular company, and we are told that we should go down upon our knees and thank the Government for having concluded the greatest bargain ever made on behalf of Australia. It took the Prime Minister an hour and a half to dilate upon that fact.
– I do not see that in the contract.
– The Prime Minister expects us to fall down and worship the PostmasterGeneral as a heaven-born genius of finance. Personally, I do not care to worship at the shrine of any idol. The Postmaster-General does not know definitely whether Messrs. Vickers and Maxim are at the back of the contractors. He merely knows that a gentleman named Croker is the agent for them. Mr. Croker is the very smart man who recently made £4,000 out of the Butter Commission, and Dame Rumour says that” he will make £10,000 out of this contract.
– He did good work in connexion with the Butter Commisison
– I do not blame him if he can make such fat fees, but I do say that honorable members are blamable for regarding the proposed contract as an excellent bargain for Australia.
– What about the construction of the vessels which will be required to carry out the contract”?
– I will deal with that matter in due course. I have already shown that an, annual subsidy of £125,000 is equivalent to a return of 5 per cent, upon a capital of £2,500,000. I now desire to point out that the contractors will derive an equal amount in connexion with the mails from Egypt, Ceylon, the Straits Settlements, and the Pacific Islands. The revenue from those sources is estimated by the Orient Steam Navigation Company at about £125,000. In other words, the contractors will receive a subsidy of £250,000 yearly - which is equal to a return of 10 per cent, upon a capital of £2,500,000 - for undertaking the proposed contract for ten years. We have been assured that a contract for a less period would not have recouped them for constructing such expensive vessels. I invite the House to look this matter fairly and squarely in the face. The leader of the Labour Party has told us that he would favour the limitation of the contract to a period of five years, but for the belief that if the period fixed were less than ten years, the shipbuilding firm concerned would not undertake the expense” which the contract necessarily involves. It seems to me that as the result of the combination of the two services the company, with a ten years’ contract, would just clear the capital cost of their fleet. The contractors are shrewd business men, and I am endeavouring to show that, instead of our securing a great bargain, an excellent bargain has been made bv them. The difference between what we should have to pay for the carriage of our mails under the t poundage rate system and that which we are to pay by way of subsidy is £80,000. In other words, under that system we could secure almost the same regularity of delivery at a cost of £40,000, so that we are asked i’o pay the additional £80,000 in return for the privilege of having an Australian mail service. The mere possession of a mail contract is a great advantage to a steam-ship company; it is an. advertisement which materially assists them in obtaining passengers and freights. People naturally assume that the best service is*afforded by a line of mail steamers, and as a rule that is so. In these circumstances, shipowners make a. good thing out of the carriage of our mails, and that is an argument against the granting of a subsidy. The Postmaster-General has told us that, under this contract, we shall derive three advantages. In the first place, we shall have mail steamers of not less than 11,000 tons burthen ; that, in the second place, we shall have an accelerated service; and, in the third place, we shall have a fleet of mail steamers flying the Australian flag.
The Prime Minister referred last night, with evident pride, to the fact that under this contract we should have mail steamers leaving this country flying the Australian flag. Apparently; for that privilege alone we are to pay £125,000 per annum. As to the condition thai’ the steamers engaged in the service shall be of not less than 11,000 tons, the ‘ tendency tc-day is to build large steamers for the sake of economy in ihe handling of cargo. It is well known that a large “tramp” steamer can be more easily worked than can three or four vessels aggregating an equal carrying capacity. The provision in the contract as to the size of the vessels, therefore, does not indicate ihat the PostmasterGeneral has made a very good bargain ; it simply shows, as I have said, that the tendency of ship-owners to-day is to build large steamers in order to swell their profits. As 10 the reduced time of transit, I know verv well that after a speed of fourteen knots is attained, the consumption of coal per knot is enormously increased, so that something more should be granted for an accelerated service; but I do think that the suggestion made as to the flying of the Australian, fiac is absurd. The1 Australian flag, unlike the Union Jack, has not associated with it centuries of traditions about which we can become enthusiastic, and another point is that, although these vessels are to be registered in Australia, that doss not necessarily imply Australian ownership.
– We are to have the Australian flag floating over British vessels.
– Exactly. The Prime Minister has told us that ihe policy of his Government is “Australia for the Australians,” and that, under this contract, the mail steamers will be registered in Australia, and fly the Australian flag. When a vessel is registered in America it must be manned and officered by Americans, and must also be docked ‘for repairs in “ America.
– And built there.
– Quite sc. That is the policy of “America for the Americans,” and, however weak it may be, it is, to say the least, honest. It means something more than the mere flying of the Australian flag over a British ship. The only Australian feature associated with the contracting company is “ a party by the name of Croker,” who will make a bis; commission out of the venture. If the PostmasterGeneral is so solicitous for the welfare of
Australia, as he would have us believe, he ought to have inserted in the contract a provision that the vessels of the service shall be manned and officered by Australians. So many of our laws have been fashioned on the pattern of American legislation that I am surprised that the Government failed when arranging the details of the contract to take as their guide the American practice to which I have referred. I am opposed” to subsidies-, believing them to be synonymous with bounties or subventions. In the course of a day or two we shall be called upon to deal with a Bill to provide for the payment of bounties on the production of certain Australian products. The raising of those products will not give employment to a great deal of labour, whereas the adoption of my amendment would lead to the employment of hundreds of men. We find the Government prepared to grant £125,000 per annum, which is equal to 5 per cent, on £2,500,000 to a foreign company - foreign in the sense that it is not Australian - in return for the carriage of our mails to Europe two days quicker than under the present system. For twenty-five years or more the Orient Steam Navigation Company has battled gallantly for Australia., and, without any legislation dealing with the subject, has employed only white crews. It is now to be left in the lurch.
– Did it not’ have the same opportunity to tender as this company had ?
– I propose to state my case in my own way. For years the Orient Steam Navigation- Company, without receiving any subsidy, did much to develop Australia, and, eventually, in return for a subsidy of £120,000 a year, they gave us a service which is only slightly inferior to that which we are to obtain under this agreement. When the Reid-McLean Government entered into a contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company for the payment of that subsidy, many honorable members declared, through the medium of the press, that it was an iniquity. What has caused them to change their views? No one seems to be bold enough to do honour to a company whose services to Australia merit word’s of recognition - I refer to the Orient Steam Navigation Company. It is well known that that company has not behind it the capital which is said to be behind this supposed company. It
– Who is Mr. Croker?
– That is what I wish to know. As I have mentioned, he has drawn a large amount of money from the Victorian Treasury, but beyond that I know nothing of him. £27,000 is not a very large sum to put down to cover a risk of over £2,500,000. No doubt, if the promoters find thatthey cannot profitably build vessels to carry out this contract,they will be prepared to lose that amount, and itmay be that the honorable member for Parramatta was not far from the mark when he suggested that ‘a concession is being obtained from the Government to be hawked: through the London financial world. The eloquence of the Prime Minister last night did not remove from my mind the belief that there is reason for suspicion, because the Postmaster-General has not put beyond question the bona fides of the contractors. By communicating with the firms whose names have been mentioned, he could easily ascertain whetherthey are behind the proposal. In private business, no man would enter into an arrangement of this kind without cabling to ascertain the bona fides of those with whom he was asked to contract, and I do not know why the Government have not taken that course. Parliament will
– I ask the honorable member not to refer to that matter..
– I wish to do so only incidentally. I was about to point out that the Commonwealth will get some return for the money proposed to be expended in bounties in the employment which will be given to our people by the establishment of industries, and in the development of the country which that will create. But for the proposed subsidy of £125,000 we shall get no advantage of that kind. It is stipulated that white men only shall be employed on the mail steamers, but there is not a provision requiring that Australian rates of wages shall be paid, and that the shipsshall be manned by Britishers or Australians. and not by Dagoes, Scandinavians, and men of other races. The Labour Party, who are voting for the subsidy, will secure no returnfor the class which they represent, though the commercial community, on the other hand, will be bene fitted by the establishment of speedy and regular mail communication between Australia and Great Britain. I intend to move for the addition of a proviso in the contract requiring the construction or docking of the mail steamers in Australia.
– At what place?
– I do not care, so long as the work is done in Australia.
– Is there a dock in balmain?
– Several ; and some Government clocks very close to that suburb.
– The principal Government dock is in my electorate.
– They are real, good, socialistic docks.
– The honorable member for Parramatta. will not be asked, in supporting the amendment, to depart from his free-trade principles, so far as any freetradeprinciple exists in this House. The amendment does not raise the fiscal question. During the last fiveyears we have been repeatedly told by the Prime Minister, the Attorney-General, and other protectionists, that we should support their proposals in order to get in a blow at the foreigner. They have said, “ Do not admit foreign goods. Build up Australian industries, and keep Australia for the Australians.”
– We do not desire to strike at. foreigners, but we do not wish them to strike us.
– I have been so influenced by the arguments of honorable members opposite that I wish now to strike at the foreigner, which, in this instance, means at the ship-builders who are carrying on their operations outside Australia. I desire that the proposed mail steamers shall be built in Australia. The supporters of the Ministry, when dealing with fiscal matters, have always regarded Great Britain as a foreign competitor, from whom our manufacturers should be protected, and, in this instance, I am prepared to do as they have taught us to do, namely, to strike a blow at the foreigner, especially as it will cost us nothing, since the vessels will be built at his expense.
– Why not build them ourselves, out of the money raised by Customs duties, which, we have always been told, is paid by the foreigner ?
– Does the honorable member for Dalley term Britishers foreigners ?
– Those who are opposed to us invariably regard the people of Great Britain as foreigners, and the honorable member himself voted the other day to prevent them from dumping their goods in Australia. I ask him to assist me in having these vessels built here, especially as it will not cost the country any more than to have them built in England.
– Why should £4,000,000 worth of steam-ships be dumped in Australia?
– That is a very pertinent question. I am turning the arguments of honorable members against themselves. Of course, I shall be told that the vessels cannot be built here, but the PostmasterGeneral has not tried to provide for that. The Prime Minister told us last night that the designs and plans for the steamers are to be submitted to a representative of the Government, with a view to satisfying him, I suppose, that the vessels will be of a certain type and character. Why should we not go further, and require that they be built in Australia?
– Should we make a dock at the Federal Capital to provide for that ?
– We already have the docks. No doubt some honorable members are afraid to support the amendment, because the work may be done in New South Wales. The otherday, when a deputation which waited upon the Premier of Victoria was informed that wire netting is not made here, although it is made in New South Wales, the members expressed a preference to have it made here by prison labour rather than use netting made in New South Wales. When we are told by protectionists that we should vote to give work to Australians, are we to understand that what is meant is that we should support only proposals protecting Victorian industries? I ask honorable members to deal with my proposal from an Australian point of view. I am prepared to allow these vessels to be built in South Australia, or in Victoria, if that is possible.
– Should not the honorable member have voted for the nationalization of the service before making this proposal ?
– I hear the little weak voice of the honorable member again. The Royal Commission, whose report he supported, made no such recommendation ; but now hesays,in his little piping way-
– References to the personal characteristics of an honorable member are likely to be offensive, and should not be made. These expressions, therefore, are not in order.
– I do not mind the honorable member’s rasping voice.
– A Scotchman should deem it a compliment to be told that hehas a piping voice. The Royal Commission did not recommend the building of thesevessels in Australia. Protectionists havetold us that the iron industry is the basis of all others, and should be amongst the first fostered in any country. Under these circumstances, I should like to know why theGovernment have not arranged that some, if not all, of the new vessels required under the contract should be built in Australia. I scarcely expect that my amendment will be agreed to, but I have put it forward as an expression of my view that the Government have not been sufficiently keen in giving effect to their protectionist principlesin connexion with the framing of the contract. I am quite consistent, as a freetrader, in bringing forward such a proposal, because free-traders desire that industries shall be carried on in every hamlet. They object, however, to the whole of the community being penalized in order to foster certain enterprises. The PrimeMinister has told us that we shall have the Australian flag at the masthead of the vessels engaged in the new service. But I should prefer to hear the ringing of thousandsof Hammers.
– Trade follows the flag.
– Not in this case, because the vessels are to be built at the other end of the world. I admit that under present conditions it would cost more to build the large steamers required an Australia than in the old country, but any loss that might be incurred would not fall upon the Commonwealth. It may be urged that we have not the necessary mechanics to carry out the work here, but I believe that in Australia we have as expert men as are to be found in ;any part of the world1. Most of the ironworkers in our various dockyards have come from the great ship-building establishments on the Clyde, at Belfast, and elsewhere, and Have already taken part in the construction of ships in Australia. One vessel built in Sydney many years ago - I refer to the Governor Blackall - has yielded more service than, perhaps, any other steamer of her size in Australian waters. Those who think that the iron industry should’ be protected should not lose sight of the importance of the ship-building section of it. tinder the operation of the Tariff, thousands of iron-workers haw been thrown out of employment, and no class of workmen would appreciate a provision such as I have suggested more fully than those connected with the ship-building industry. In the United States of America it is compulsory upon ship-owners to build within that country the ships that they propose to employ in carrying on subsidized mail services. If the Postmaster-General does not see his way to insist that the new steamers shall be built in Australia, I trust that he will at. least stipulate that thev shall be docked within the Commonwealth. I find that the general conditions of tender contain the following provision : -
In order to determine whether the PostmasterGeneral may declare any mail ship unfit for service or whether the Contractor shall be able to show cause to the contrary a special examination shall be made of the hull and machinery of any such mail ship by such person or persons as may lie mutually approved by the Postmaster-General and the Contractor, and his decision shall be binding on both parties.
Apparently, it is intended that the inspection shall take place periodically in the old country, and a highly-paid official will have to be employed to act on behalf of the Commonwealth. It is desirable, however, that the inspection should be carried out in Australia under the direct eye of the Commonwealth authorities.
– At Mort’s Dock, for instance.
– I do not care whether the ships are docked there or in any other Australian port. The honorable member may recollect that I voted against every protectionist item in the Tariff, and that I have never fought in the interests of Mort’s Dock. We have a Government Dock at Sydney, and there is also a dock, at Williamstown. I believe that it is intended to build a dock at Adelaide, and another at Fremantle. The Sutherland Dock, in Sydney Harbor, and Mort’s Dock, at Woolwich, are capable of accommodating the largest vessels that Visit bur ports. We have been reminded of the great advantages conferred upon us owing to the large amount of money spent upon supplies for the mail steamers visiting our shores. I would point out, however, that no class of vessels spend less money than do the mail steamers. The bulk of their victualling supplies are drawn from abroad, and the money which they lay out here does not confer any special benefit upon the community. Eight steamers will be engaged in the new service, and if each vessel has two dockings per annum, sixteen dockings will take place every” year.
– The honorable member opposed my amendment, which, if carried out, would insure the performance in Australia of all the work in connexion with the mail steamers.
– But we should first have to nationalize the mail service. No one can say that the difference between the cost of docking in the old country and here would be so great as to endanger the contract, and I trust that the plea that I am now making on behalf of a large number of poorly-paid men, namely, the. dock hands, will prove successful. I suppose that upon a steamer of 11,000 tons in dock it would be necessary to employ about 250 men for at least four days, and that if any repairs were necessary other labour would have to be engaged. The Government have told us that they are anxious to establish an Australian Navy, and, that being so, they should do everything they can to encourage the ship-building industry, so that we may be able to construct our own ships. If I chose to follow out the protectionist argument, I could show that the construction of the steamers amongst us would be beneficial not only to the iron-workers, but” to many other classes in the community. Although we could not, with our present facilities, build the whole of the eight steamers required, there is nothing to prevent us from constructing at least two of them, because many of our engineering shops are equipped with all the necessary plant, such as rolling mills, lathes, hydraulic riveting machines, and other appliances for turning out the most intricate work in connexion with a ship. The mere construction of the hull, although a vast work, is not a difficult one. Even though men might have to be imported to assist in carrying on the work of construction we should gain by the introduction of sturdy immigrants of a desirable class. Australian ship-builders could construct these vessels. I am very pleased to submit the amendment, because, to my mind, it is upon an altogether higher plane than is the proposal to sanction the payment of bounties upon tropical and semi-tropical products. I hold mat the time has arrived when we should discontinue the payment of a mail subsidy. Australia is a country of so much importance that ships will come here for the trade which they can get without any inducement being offered to them in the shape of a mail subsidy. The American liners do not receive a subsidy from the United States Government, and the people of that country experience no difficulty in connexion with their mail services. I fail to see that the average elector of Australia will gain anything whatever from the proposed contract. I suppose that the number of persons in’ my electorate who are concerned in the delivery of postal matter from England is comparatively small. But every one of them is concerned in the payment of this subsidy. Included in their ranF.cs are hundreds of men who have never faced a. worse time than that which they have experienced since a protective policy for the Commonwealth was inaugurated. Here is an opportunity for the Government to put into practice their cry of “ Australia for the Australians.” Of course, I realize that the House will not support my amendment, but I do hope honorable members will agree that I have, at least, made out a sufficiently strong case for the work of docking these vessels to be done in Australia. Consequently I move -
That the following words be added : - “ Provided that the proposed steam-ships shall be constructed or docked in Australia.”
.- I am very glad that one after another of honorable members who have been professed free-traders are gradually coming into line with the settled policy of Australia, namely, that of protection. I have noticed that from time to time honorable members go wrong upon various points of their fiscal policy. For example, the honorable member for Maranoa went wrong upon bananas, the honorable member for Grey upon salt, the honorable member for Echuca upon three-legged gluepots, and now the honorable member for Dalley has gone wrong upon ships.
– I believe in providing work for our own people.
– The honorable member may put the matter in any way that he chooses. In common with every other protectionist in Australia, I desire to see all the work which can be done locally, at a reasonable price, undertaken here. I fait to see any reason why the ships required for the new mail service should not be built in the Commonwealth. At any rate, some of them should be constructed locally. The honorable member for Dalley has urged that the Postmaster-General might well agree to at least two of the vessels being built in Australia. I entirely agree with him. In regard to the second portion of his amendment, I see no reason why the vessels should not be docked in Australia. We know very well that the contractors for the new mail service have practically obtained from the Government a concession, and it is almost certain that they will assign that concession to some other firm. Almost of necessity that will be the case, because the present contractors will scarcely run a line of steam-ships in opposition to some of their best customers, for whom they have constructed ships. Consequently, they will get rid of this concession, and if an assignment of the contract is made, why should not .the Australian capital which we have been told will be sunk in the enterprise, be spent in Australia? For many years we have been doing something in the ship-building line. Some honorable members appear to regard as a joke the suggestion that ships will yet be built at the Federal Capital. But as a boy I well recollect seeing a fairly large vessel built at the corner of Latrobe and Queen streets, Melbourne. It was placed upon a trolly there, and taken down Elizabethstreet to the bay..
– It must have been a pretty big trolly.
– -I admit that it was not an 1.1, 000-ton vessel, but it was a vessel of fair tonnage.
– Was it flat-bottomed ?
– It was neither flatbottomed nor flat-headed. It was built of iron plates. As a lad, I also remember seeing vessels of a larger size constructed at Foreman’s and other works. The steamers required to carry out the proposed contract could be constructed in Australia., when once their lines had been laid down. I know for a fact that all the knees, the keel, ribs, girders, and plates either can be obtained in Australia now or will be obtainable in a very short time, because very large furnaces are being established at Lithgow. We are all aware that the Postmaster-General and the Minister of Trade and Customs have exhibited great interest in the proposal to establish iron works in the Commonwealth. The amendment of the honorable member for Dal ley affords the Government, an opportunity to get some of these ships constructed locally. If they cannot see their way to fall in with that portion of his proposal, they might at least adopt the second part of it, which provides that the steamers shall be docked in Australia. Why should the work of docking them be done in the old country ? Why should it not be done here regularly? I rose simply for the purpose of seconding the amendment of the honorable member for Dal ley, which I hope will receive a large amount of support.
– I am very glad that the honorable member for Dalleyhas been half converted to the principles which are held by the protectionists in this House. I intend to propose, by way of amendment to his amendment, the addition of the words, “in a Commonwealth Government dockyard.” I desire to see the vessels which will be required to carry out the proposed contract constructed in a Government dockyard, for the reasons which prompted a Royal Commission in “Victoria to recommend the construction of railway locomotives in the Government workshops.
– But if we have not the power to construct a dockyard, what then ?
– If the members of the Opposition wouldonly assist the Labour Party, we should be able to get the power to establish a Government dockyardimmediately. I believe in consistency. Of course, there is not much consistency in the amendment which has been submitted by the honorable member for Dalley. We know that it was moved for a certain purpose -Mr. Wilks. - For what purpose?
– I do not care what the honorable member’s purpose was, so long as the objective of his proposal is a good one. The honorable member for Corangamite has said that the steamers should be built in Australia if the work could be undertaken at a reasonable price.
– Where does the honorable member propose to insert hisamendment ?
– I propose to add, after the word “Australia,” the words “ in a Commonwealth dockyard.”
– I have a prior amendment.
– Then the honor able member’s proposal will be dealt with before my own. I agree with. the honorable member for Corangamite that if the construction of these vessels is to be undertaken in Australia, the work should be done at a reasonable price. In connexion with the construction of railway engines, our experience leads us to believe that if we trust to private enterprise to build the vessels, we shall have to pay through the nose for them. I extract from the report of the Royal Commission which investigated the cost of making railway locomotives at the Phoenix Foundry, Ballarat. and at the Newport workshops, the following statement : -
Taking as a basis the actual cost of the “AA” class engines, which had been completed about this time by the Phoenix Foundry Company, and which ran out at about £80 perton, Mr. Woodroffe estimated the cost of the thirty-nine “DD” class locomotives, if made by the Phoenix Foundry, at £191,138, which,as will appear, was almost exactly the amount at which the company tendered, two months afterwards, namely, £190,437. He concluded his report by remarking that “ £80 per ton I think altogether too high. I should beglad to send in a tender for these to be made at the Newport workshops.”
If honorable members will take the trouble to peruse that report, they will find that twenty locomotives were manufactured at the Newport workshops, at an average costof £3,945; as against the sum of £5,020 which was asked by the Phoenix Foundry Company, and£5,036 by the Austral Otis Engineering Company. If, under this amendment, we. are to pay for our steam-ships at the same rate as we have to pay for our locomotives when constructed by private firms, they will cost us far more than they would if they were
– I notice that the honorable member has not referred to the Fitzroy dock.
– I trust that we shall have a Government dockyard, conducted, not as the Fitzroy dock has been carried on,-
– Which is a Government dock.
– Not as the Lands Department of New South Wales: has been administered-
– Which is a Government Department.
– And not as many other Government Departments have been conducted, but that it will be carried on upon lines similar to those on which the Newport workshops are conducted.
– In the way that Government institutions are conducted in South Australia?
– There is nothing like self-righteousrieos.
-The honorable member’s interjection reminds me that in South Australia also private enterprise has done that which ought not to have been done. Some time ago it was decided by the Government of that State that a number of locomotive boilers should be constructed. Martin and Company, of Gawler, sent in a tender, but the Government -which. I am happy tosay, is not in power to-day - would not receive it. After the tenders had been opened, that comnany was allowed to amend its offer, and it secured the contract at a sum £8,000 in excess of that at which the Chief Mechanical Engineer ‘of South Australia was prepared to carry out the work.
– That was Government enterprise.
– The Government workshops did not secure the tender.
– But the Government of South Australia decided to accept the tender of Martin and Company.
– Their action in allowing that firm to amend its offer after
– The honorable member knows that he wishes to destroy the honorable member for Dalley’s proposal. That is his only object.
– I. challenge the honorable member to show that my proposal is not wholly in accordance with the principles I have advocated here and elsewhere.
– Quite so ; andit is because they are impracticable that the honorable member makes this proposal.
– What is the motive of the honorable member for Dalley in moving this amendment ? Has he moved it because he believes in it ?
– Yes. .
– Is it in accordance with the honorable member’s doctrine as a free-trader? Is it not the honorable member’s doctrine that if engines, ships, or anything else, can be built cheaper in Japan than in Australia, they should be built there ? I am glad that, like his leader, the honorable member is running away from his principles.
– It would not cost the country anything if my proposal were embodied in the contract.
– Nor would my proposal cost the country anything.
– I hope that the honorable member for Dalley will run away from the definition of his principles given by the honorable member for Hindmarsh.
– The honorable member does not like it.
– The honorable member could not get a pig in a fix, let alone anyone in this House.
– I have not sought to place any one in a fix. The honorable member for Dalley, unless he has decided to follow his leader - the right honorable member for East Sydney - who has also abandoned his free-trade principles–
– If he ever held any.
– The right honorable member for East Sydney is abandoning his free-trade principles if, as the honorable member for Southern Melbourne remarks, he ever held them. If the honorable member for Dalley is anxious to throw in his lot with the protectionists, I shall give him a hearty welcome. So far, however, he has gone only half way ; I wish him to go on.
– As a member of the Labour Party, the honorable member has never had any views on the fiscal question.
– I have always entertained a strong view with .regard to the fiscal question. Although my party chooses to sink the fiscal issue, it does not call upon me to do so.
– The honorable member has to sink it.
– Our party has much more freedom than honorable members of the Opposition appear to have. Whenever their leader cracks the whip, they have to do exactly what he desires. On the other hand, the members of the Labour Party are not asked to do anything of the kind. Notwithstanding all that the Opposition have said about the “caucus,” when the division on the honorable member for Barrier’s amendment took place last night we found a section of the Labour Party on one side and another section on the other side of the House.
– That was because a general election is pending.
– No; it was because the members of our party are not dominated by the caucus as the honorable member would have us believe. We have a freedom which the Opposition do not enjoy.
– During the last six months the honorable member’s leader has been running away from Socialism as fast as he can.
– We were divided last night because we have a freedom which the Opposition- do not enjoy. . The honorable -.member for Dalley would not have been allowed to move his amendment, but that it was thought that it would place the Labour Party in an awkward position. I am sure, however, that if it be amended as I propose, the Labour Party will be delighted to support it.
– Will the honorable member give us a guarantee that his party will, support it if it be amended as he proposes ?
– I cannot say how many members of my party would support it ; we are not bound by the caucus. My proposal has not been discussed by the caucus. I am free to vote as I please on any question which is not a plank in our platform. I am free to vote for or against the whole contract, and I claim that not only the honorable member for Dalley, but all those who think with him should agree to the addition which’ I propose to make to the amendment, since it would! result in a great saving, and do much to further the interests of the community. I move) -
That the amendment be amended by adding the words “ in a Commonwealth Government dockyard.”
.- The speeches made this afternoon bv the honorable member for Dalley and the honorable member for Corangamite might well be expected1 to startle any ordinary member of this Chamber.
– The honorable member is an extraordinary member.
– I realize that, although the honorable member is too dull to comprehend the’ fact that his assertion is not complimentary to himself. His statement that it would not cost the country anything to carry his proposal into effect might reasonably lead me to the conclusion that he has not studied the question. If the ships necessary for this service are to be constructed in Australia they will cost more than they would if built in Great Britain. Any one who knows anything about the conditions associated with the building of vessels of this character will recognise the force of my contention. The honorable member for Dalley, however, assumes that they could be built here as cheaply as in the ship-yards of England.’.
– I do not think that any one made that statement.
– I am not discussing the speech made by the honorable member for Corangamite, because there was nothing in it calling for comment. When the honorable member for Dalley makes such an assumption–
– I did not assume anything.
– The honorable member said that it would cost us nothing to give effect to his proposal.
– I said that it would cost the contractors something, but not the people of Australia.
– If the honorable member desires to impose such a condition he might just as well vote against the contract, because it is absurd to suggest that the building of these ships in Australia, instead of in England, would not result in additional expense. If the honorable member thinks that he is going to throw dust in the eyes of the people, and make them believe that the contractor and not the public would have to bear the additional cost, he must be verv innocent. If such a proposal were practicable I should support it.
– Is the honorable member o noosed to my proposal in regard to the clocking of the steamers in Australia?
– Decidedly not. I think that that work ought certainly to be carried put in the Commonwealth.’
– The contract does not provide that it shall be done here.
– I think that, apart from anything that may appear in the contract, the docking of these steamers will take place in Australia.
– The mail steamers are not docked here at the present time.
– The honorable member overlooks the fact that this, is to be an Australian line of mail steamers, and that it will mark a new era in Australian development. It is going to carry the Australian flag, to employ Australian seamen, and to make practically a special business of the carriage of Australian produce. According to the Prime Minister, who is an authority on everything Australian, all that is essentially Australian is going to be Hone here, and therefore one might naturally conclude that the docking and repairing of these steamers would be carried out in. the Commonwealth. The amusing feature of the amendment is that it came from a member of the Opposition. I cannot understand why the honorable member for
Dal lev has seen fit to put such a proposal in the political chop window for the observation of those before whom he will shortly have to go.
– The honorable member spoke just now of my innocence.
– I know that < it is characteristic of the honorable member. His proposal shows how well he is able to judge of what is essential for New South W ales.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.30 p.m.
.- The honorable member for Hindmarsh has moved as an amendment to mv amendment the addition of the words “ in a Commonwealth Government dockyard,” but I presume that he means that the vessels shall be constructed and docked under Commonwealth direction. I would point out to him that ships are docked, not in dockyards, but in docks, and are constructed, not in docks, but in dockyards. In Australia, we have both private docks and a State dock ; but I do not care whether the vessels performing this service are docked in a private or in the State dock. All I ask is, that they shall be docked in Australia. The Commonwealth doss not possess a dock, so that the intention of the honorable member for Hindmarsh could be carried into effect only by the construction of a Commonwealth dock, the purchase of one of the private docks, or the acquisition of the New South Wales Government dock. It would take about four years to construct a dock of the dimensions necessary for the docking of a vessel of the size of those which are to be used in the proposed service, and this service is to be begun within less than two years. Therefore, the honorable member’s proposal is impracticable. Furthermore, if an attempt were made to carry it out, the jealousies of the States would al’ once be aroused over the question of the situation of. the Commonwealth dock. The honorable member, moreover, seems not to have fully stated his intention. I presume he desires that these vessels shall be docked in a Commonwealth dock bv Commonwealth officers. To do that, we should have to create a special staff, although at the present time we do not’ employ Commonwealth officials even for such small matters as the repairing of windows. If his amendment were carried as it stands, something similar to what occurs in New South Wales might take place. There the State leases its dock at so much a day, and private persons contract to carry out the repairs required by the vessels which are docked. No doubt, the honorable member, in moving the amendment, was ‘as serious as I am, but while his proposal is impracticable, al! I ask is that the vessels shall be docked in Australia. I do not wish to make it impossible to perform the contract by absolutely insisting that they shall be built here, .though, sooner or later, we must commence ship-building operations on a large scale, and I should like the PostmasterGeneral to try to secure the building of one or two of these steamers in Australia.
-! do not know if we are expected to take either amendment seriously, because neither imposes practicable conditions. The vessels which are 10 perform the new mail service must commence running within eighteen months from the present time. I ask the honorable members for Dalley and Hindmarsh if they know of the existence in Australia of facilities for the construction’ of vessels of I I.000 tons register. I claim to be fairly well acquainted with what has been dene in the ship-building way here, and with the facilities available for the construction of vessels; but I do not know of any ship-building yards in the Commonwealth sufficiently capacious for the construction of steamers of so large a size, nor of the existence of the plant necessary for the work. It is not for me to assume that either honorable member wishes to make the contract impossible of performance; but that would be the effect of carrying either amendment. Before the Commonwealth could commence the building of vessels of the size contemplated, it would have to acquire land of sufficient area and situated suitably for the purposes of a dockyard. Then it’ would have to enter upon the erection of necessary buildings, and to import appliances and machinery for the carrying out of the work in hand. This alone could not be done within two years. Nor could a private firm make similar arrangements within any shorter’ period. Furthermore, ii would be necessary to bring here large numbers of skilled workmen, and men of great experience in touch with the most modern ideas and developments in the ship-building trade to supervise their operations. Some of our enthusiastic protectionist friends may vote for the amendments, because, from their point of view, it does not seem to matter, how difficult or expensive an ^undertaking would be, or whether it would’ pay or not, so long as it is carried out in Australia. Those who hold the view that. all work incidental to Australian enterprise should be performed in Australia have been placed in a rather difficult position by the moving of these amendments, because they favour the ratification of the proposed contract, and know that the carrying of the amendments would make it impossible to have the conditions of the contract performed. Under the circumstances, the best thing that can be done is for the honorable members for Dalley and Hindmarsh to withdraw their amendments, and let us deal with the terms of the contract seriously.
– 1 do not know whether I am justified in occupying time in discussing the amendments. I am not certain that the honorable member for Dalley was serious when he moved his amendment.
– I am as serious as usual.
– That may not be saying much, because the honorable member has some reputation for jocularity, and therefore we never know whether or not to take him seriously. The impression is gaining ground that the amendment has been moved with a view to embarrass the Government, but I should not like to accuse the honorable member of having any such object. I would point out, however, that he is proposing to add to the agreement a condition which would assuredly prevent it from being ratified. I feel very strongly upon the question of having our work done in Australia, and I do not wish to see the subject trifled with. If I thought that the amendment would serve any good purpose I should certainly support it, but I feel that it would only place obstacles in our way. If the amendment is pressed I shall support the honorable member for Hindmarsh in amending it.
– The. proposal would then be more impracticable than ever.
– That is a matter of opinion. The honorable member for Dalley is evidently not an expert in the matter of docks and dockyards. He has endeavoured to make it appear that a dock and a dockyard ‘are so distinct that the honorable member for Hindmarsh does not know what he is proposing. There would be no more difficulty in establishing a Commonwealth dockyard than in building in
Australia the ships to constitute the new mail fleet. The establishment of a Government dockyard is bound to be brought about in the very near future. I believe that we shall very soon have the nucleus of an Australian Navy, but the equipment of a dockyard for the purposes of building a mosquito defence fleet would be a simple matter compared with the establishment of the works necessary to enable us to build large sea-going vessels. The time may come when we shall have to enter upon the constiuction of large steamers, but we had better begin bymerely making provision for the building of the vessels essential to our defence. I shall vote against the amendment unless the honorable member for Dalley consents to the addition of the further words proposed by the honorable member for Hindmarsh. I should prefer to see both amendments withdrawn, because the question is too big to be adequately considered at this stage.
.- The honorable member for Fremantle is apparently amazed at the want of practicability of the proposal of the honorable member for Dalley, and yet he suggests that it should be made still more impracticable by the addition of the words proposed by the honorable member for Hindmarsh. It seems extraordinary that a member of the Labour Party, and a pillar of the protectionist party, should accuse an honorable member of jocularity because he brings forward a proposal under which work would be provided for* thousands of Australian workmen.
– Does -not the honorable member think that, under the honorable member forDalley’s proposal, private dock-owners would be able to fleece the taxpayer ?
– Honorable members of the Labour Party appear to be unwilling to permit any one to make a profit out of their enterprise.
– We want to secure the profit to the taxpayer.
– I am not supporting the amendment, but am merely- expressing my astonishment at the attitude of certain honorable members, who pose as protectionists, who claim to be supporters of Australian industry, who are always waving the Australian flag, and who advocate the construction of an Australian Navy. They are now characterizing as frivolous and jocular a proposal that would undoubtedly develop Australian docking facilities, and give employment to thousands of our workers, although that result would certainly be brought about at the expense of the general taxpayer. The honorable member for Fremantle seems to think that it should be our main anxiety to secure a locally constructed navy, and therefore I cannot understand why he should oppose a proposal such as that brought forward by the honorable member for Dalley. If I were a protectionist, I should be delighted to support the amendment,which is more worthy of attention than are many of the proposals brought, before us from time to time. I am not a protectionist, however, and I desire that every enterprise should stand by itself. I do not wish to see any section of the Australian people benefited at the expense of the whole community. Moreover, I desire that the contract should be ratified. Although I am frankly astonished at the attitude of some of my honorable friends in the Labour corner, I feel that, for the moment, they have become staunch free-traders and advocates of private enterprise.
– I should like to ask the honorable member for Dalley whether he intends to persist in his amendment. Many . reasons have been urged against it. First of all, with regard to the building of the mail steamers within the Commonwealth, we all know that honorable members of the free-trade party have rendered it impossible to comply with any such condition, because they have consistently opposed measures designed to encourage our local industries. Personally, I should be delighted if we could build the steamers here, and I hope that, when the protectionist policy has become more firmly established amongst us, we shall be able to undertake work of that kind.
– Will the Minister arrange, for the docking of the ships within the Commonwealth ?
– Does the honorable’ member seriously contend that, in the event of a ship urgently requiring repairs when at the other end of the world, the contractor should be compelled to bring the vessel on to Australia before taking it into dock?
– The ships would have. to be refitted after every round voyage.
– The contractors will no doubt arrange to refit their ships wherever it is most practicable to do so, paying due consideration to the time available. It is very easy for honorable members opposite to laugh and waste time.
– I rise to a point of order. The Minister has just accused honorable members on the Opposition benches of having wasted time.
– If the honorable member feels personally aggrieved, I am sure that the Minister will withdraw his remark.
– If we provide docking facilities, and our prices are reasonable, the contractors will take advantage of them.
– I am assured by the agent for the contractors that when necessary the vessels will be docked in some Australian port at which the best facilities are offered.
– Do I understand that the agent for the contractor stated that whenever possible the vessels would be docked in Australia ?
– Yes, when necessary.
– Then I am satisfied.
– Then I trust that the honorable member will withdraw his amendment.
Amendment of the amendment negatived.
.- As I am anxious to see this business disposed of to-night I do not intend to delay the House by making a long speech. My feeling in the matter is that if the terms of the proposed contract are faithfully carried out the Government are to be complimented upon having secured a most satisfactory agreement from the stand-point of the Commonwealth. Indeed, I think that all parties to the contract are deserving of congratulation. I think that Mr. Croker - whose name is attached to it - merits commendation for having been a party to an instrument the results of which ought to be favorable to the whole community. There is no doubt that when the terms of the contract were first made known, considerable apprehension was felt by many persons in regard to its conditions - apprehensions which the clear statement made by the Prime Minister last night effectually removed. When he intimated that the agreement did not mean the payment of £27,500 for a twelve months’ option to carry the mails of the Commonwealth for a period of ten years, and that other large firms besides Sir James Laing and Sons were interested in it. I, in common with many others felt considerably relieved. I submit that during the course of this debate many valuable suggestions have been made which are deserving of the consideration of the Government. That modifications in the contract may be made has been conclusively shown bv the Ministry themselves making two amendments in it. I desire to say that, in my opinion, we ought to make perfectly clear what is meant bv the term “registered tonnage.” I do not believe that that term - as it i« used in the contract - is intended to mean anything other than the gross carrying capacity of the vessels. But as the position is capable of being misunderstood, I invite the attention of the Government to section 78 of the Merchant Shipping Act, which reads -
In the case of any ship propelled by steam or other power requiring engine room, an .allowance shall be made for the space occupied by the propelling power, and the amount so allowed shall be deducted from the gross tonnage of the ship ascertained as in the last: preceding section mentioned, and the remainder shall (subject to any deductions hereinafter mentioned) be deemed to be the registered tonnage of the ship, and that deduction shall be estimated as follows (that is to say) - [a) . . . and in ships propelled by screws in which the tonnage is above 10 per cent, and under 20 per cent, of the gross tonnage, the deductions shall be 32-iooths of the gross tonnage.
The contract provides for vessels of 11,000 registered tons, but if it is the gross tonnage which is referred to in the agreement, the vessels would require to be more than one-third larger than that. In the Act from which I have quoted there are a series of rules which set out the manner in which the tonnage of a vessel is to be measured, and which show what constitutes “ registered tonnage.” I have no desire to enter into the details of the question, but I submit that, inasmuch as the Government are prepared to make some modifications in the contract, the term “ registered tonnage “ should be clearly defined, because it is quite certain that it is capable of misconstruction.
– We do not want the vessels to be of a smaller size than those for which the contract provides.
– The whole spirit of the agreement is that the vessels should contain ri, 000 tons of space for the purposes indicated under the Merchant Shipping Act. The Prime Minister has stated that the contract, in providing for the construction of vessels of 11,000 tons registered tonnage, means what it does mean ; but we should make the position perfectly plain. People would then know what class of steamers we are to secure under the proposed contract.
– The Prime Minister told us that they will be larger vessels than those which are at present employed in carrying our mails.
– They will be very much larger vessels. However, it would be idle for me to debate the question, seeing that there are. honorable members in this House who are associated with shipping matters, and who have a much more intimate knowledge of them than. I possess. The point which I desire to emphasize is that there is a clear difference between the registered tonnage and the net tonnage of any vessel. If the steamers which are to be employed under the new contract are to be of 1.1,000 tons “registered tonnage,” plus the deductions to which, I have already referred, thev will be very large vessels indeed. I share the Prime Minister’s regret that a suitable arrangement was not arrived at with the States in regard to the freights chargeable bv these vessels for the carriage of perishable products. I do suggest to him that the opportunity is still open to obtain control of the space available for the carriage of those commodities by inserting in the contract a provision that not more than a certain price shall be charged for it, so as to prevent the possibility of our producers being “ squeezed.” It would be a decided advantage if some arrangement of that kind were arrived at. There is still another matter which might have been dealt with m this contract. As honorable’ members are aware, strong efforts have been made in Great Britain to reduce the Suez Canal charges. This matter has received a good deal of attention at the hands of commercial bodies in the old country. I hold in mv hand the last annual report of the Liver0001 Steam-ship- Owners’ Association, which contains the following statement: -
Last year the country received in dividends upon its holding in the shares of the Suez Canal Company the sum of £900,000. The country has, therefore, now received ^9,500,000 in return for its original investment of ^4,000,000. The. whole of the first cost to this country of such shares, with interest at the rate of 3^ per cent, per annum, had been repaid out of dividends received before the end of the year 1S99. Since that date the country has received, with last year’s dividends, a sum of upwards of ^’5,500,000, three-fifths of which has been paid in dues by British vessels using the Canal. These extraordinary profits are only made by the levy of charges which exceed by 100 per cent, the cost of working the Canal, and the association submit that means should be found by which this country’s share in such extraordinary profits should be applied for the benefit of the trade from which they are drawn.
Feeling that we should endeavour to reduce the cost of the means of communication between Australia and the mother country by every means in our power, I think that the Government might have embraced this opportunity to draw particular attention to the serious mature of the charges which are imposed upon vessels coming to the Commonwealth by the Suez Canal route.
– Those representations are in the hands of the British Government now.
– I am very glad to hear it. That being so, the point has not escaped the attention of the Prime Minister, and, if any reductions of that character are made, the contractors may reasonably be expected to give the Commonwealth the benefit of the saving thus effected. ‘ It is obvious1 that during the currency of the proposed contract it might aggregate a very considerable sum. I ask the Prime Minister to give this matter his serious consideration. Last evening the honorable and learned gentleman, by his able exposition of the terms of the contract, dispelled many objections which were previously entertained to it. He demonstrated to the House - and I make the statement without derogating in any way from the work of the PostmasterGeneral and of the Vice-President of the Executive Council, who acted for him during his absence in Europe - that he had followed very closely every detail connected with the contract.
– I think that he has done all the work.
– He showed such a close knowledge of every detail that it is evident he has been co-operating with the Vice President of the Executive Council, who acted as Postmaster-General during the absence of the Ministerial head of that Department. throughout the progress of the negotiations. I also desire to say that
I am very sorry our old friends, the Orient Steam Navigation Company, are not interested in the new contract. At the same time, we, as large exporters, must embrace every opportunity which presents itself of improving the means of communication between Australia and the motherland, and of securing .reduced charges for the producers. There is another matter to which I desire to call attention. We find in the contract provisions relating to the supervision to be exercised by representatives of the Commonwealth over the construction of these steamers. If skilled men are to be intrusted with the work of supervision considerable expense must be involved. In the first instance, the plans are to be submitted to a Commonwealth officer. A mere cursory examination of those plans bv representatives of the Commonwealth would be of no advantage to us. It will be necessary for us to employ a recognised authority to insure that our requirements are properly attended to. I should have been g[ad to hear the Prime Minister state last night what the Government intended to do in this regard. It must be recognised that if the supervision is to be complete considerable expenditure will be necessary. I trust that careful consideration will be given to the requirements of Australia in respect to the carriage of perishable products - that care will be taken to see that every facility is afforded for the carriage of our fruit and other perishable products, under the most approved conditions, to the markets of the old world. I recognise that the contractors themselves, as business mer.-, are likely to take every precaution, but a well-informed officer might be able to give the ship-builders very important advice as to what we ‘require. Various matters to which I intended to allude were dealt with last night bv the Prime Minister, who removed many of the objections which some honorable members entertained to the scheme. I trust that the contract will be satisfactorily carried out, and that the fears which have been expressed in ma,n.v well-informed circles will not be realized. I hope that, as a result of this contract, we shall have a new and full equipped line of steamers engaging in the Australian oversea trade. Such a service would be hailed with satisfaction by the producers of Australia, who are, after all, at the foundation of our wealth and progress, and whose interests should therefore be considered. Throughout this de bate, there has been a tendency to assert that a saving of a day or two in the time of transit is not very material. One of the principal representations by people in Great Britain doing business with Australia is that the voyage is a very long one, and every reduction that we make in the time of transit must tend to improve our position. The more we curtail the time occupied in making the journey between Australia and the old country, the closer shall we come in touch with the rest of the Empire, and the sounder will our position become. If the contract be carried out it will reflect the greatest credit on both parties - on the Government and those instrumental in arranging it here. I trust that no time will be lost in ratifying it. I have been requested bv the honorable and learned member for Parkes to move the amendment, of which he has given notice. Notwithstanding our friendship. I should not have undertaken this task had I thought that it would tend to impede the making of this contract. I believe that I express his own views when I say that he, too. is desirous of seeing the agreement carried into effect, and a.t his request I propose, by leave, to somewhat modify the amendment, as printed, by substituting for the words “without any extra expense,” which appear in paragraph 1, the words “ at a sum to be named in the contract.” I should have preferred the amendment to commence, “ That this House is of opinion that the following modifications should be secured,” and so forth, so that, whilst the proposed modifications would receive consideration at the hands of the Government, they would not be absolutely mandatory, or interfere with the acceptance of the contract. However, I shall move it in the form proposed by the honorable and learned member for Parkes. My honorable and learned friend contends, very justly, that Brisbane should be made a port of call, so that the people of Queensland would enjoy the same privileges as other States, at the expense of the whole Commonwealth, since it has to contribute fro rata to the subsidy. Such a determination on the part of this Parliament would show that it was desirous of allowing all th’e States to participate in the advantages of the service, to the cost of which they all contribute. Last year an arrangement was made between the Government of Queensland and the Orient Steam Navigation Company, bv which the vessels of that company made Brisbane a port of call. It would have been well had it been provided in this contract that the steamers, which I think are likely to make Sydney the terminal point, should go on to Brisbane. Honorable members ought to realize that Queensland is destined to be, if not the best, certainly one of the best of our States. Its natural advantages are illimitable, and I therefore agree with the honorable member for Oxley that the requirements of its people in this regard should receive consideration. There ought to be something in the contract to indicate that it is intended that these steamers shall call at Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane.
– It is not too late to secure such an amendment.
– I do not think it is. It is for that reason that the honorable and learned member forParkes has requested me to submit his amendment.
– Tasmania not only fails to secure the calling of the steamers at one of her ports, but has to pay for the mails.
– There ought to be some consideration for Tasmania. Then, again, in the contract as it stands, it is provided, that the consequences of a breach of it shall be limited on the side of the contractors to £25,000, and unlimited on the side of the Commonwealth.
– If they are satisfied with that,why not leave it mutual-
– I am referring to the position of the Commonwealth. Evidently the honorable member for Wentworth does not understand the suggestion. As the contract now stands, the contractors will be able to get out of it at a cost of £25,000, whereas if the Commonwealth were guilty of a breach of it its liability would be unlimited. There should be a modification in the direction proposedby the honorable and learned member for Parkes. With the fullest desire to believe in the bona fides of the contractors. I would point out that the mere sum of £27,500 which is involved
– There is something more than that involved.
– I know that there is a condition as to the payment of £50,000, but the contractors are a ship-building firm. They have the option for sale in the London market with this contract in their hands, and can, ifthey please, arrange very satisf actor y terms for themselves. On the other hand, they may have entered into the contract with the intention of making as profit out of the carriage of the mails.
– They may sell the concession to make money.
– I do not think that that is the intention. No doubt the building of eight steamers, each costing from £450,000- to £500,000, is excellent business for theshipbuilders. I do not wish to throw suspicion upon the intentions of those connected with the contract, but it must be remembered that we are dealing with business men, whose object is to make money, and we must protect our own interests. The Vickers Maxim Company is a large public company, managed by persons who are not now closely related to either Vickers or Maxim, and, similarly, the directors of the firm of Armstrong and Company are keen business men, who will look sharply after their own interests, and it” behoves us to do likewise. It is very necessary that there should not be a limit tothe responsibilities of the other party tothe contract while those of the Commonwealth are unlimited. ‘ But that is the position as the agreement stands. The third’ paragraph of the amendment asks that the-, right of the contractors to determine the contract, or. to be paid for actual or prospective diminished earnings, or increased’ expenses, arising from Commonwealth legislation, shall be limited to legislation dealing directly with shipping, and shall not. apply to all legislation merely relating toshipping. This matter was referred tolast night incidentally, and the want of clearness which exists in article 15 was referred to by several honorable members. As the article has been framed, it might successfully be contended that the Australian Industries Preservation! Bill, and legislation altering the Tariff, relate to shipping. I should like to see some suchwords as these employed - “ Legislation directly affecting shipping.” The fourthparagraph of the amendment provides that, if war is declared or entered upon by GreatBritaim against any first-classnaval Power, the contractors shall have the right, not toterminate the contract, but only to suspend its operations for a reasonable time. With reference to that proposal, the honorableand learned member for Parkes has written to me to say that it seems to him to bemost fair, because only the other day England was on the eve of declaring war against Turkey, and, if she had done so, the contractors might have had the power to cancel the contract, and so put the Commonwealth in immediate difficulty. To provide for the suspension of the operation of the contract until a reasonable time after the termination of hostilities, or to make the right to terminate mutual, and not possessed by one party only, is only fair to the Commonwealth. To make the contract equitable, any penalties provided for should be liable to apply to one party as much as to the other, while the privileges should be equally distributed. I regret that the honorable and learned member for Parkes has been unavoidably detained in Sydney by professional engagements, because I feel that I have not submitted these amendments so clearly and forcibly as he would have done. Each proposal deserves consideration by the Ministry.
– Does the honorable member seriously suggest that we shall open up negotiations again ?
– That has become necessary by the carrying; of the amendments moved by the Attorney-General last night.
– The alterations which we propose are very different from those proposed by the honorable member.
– As the matter is to be opened up again, I think we are justified in making suggestions. I have made the reservation clear and distinct that we do not wish- to. jeopardize the contract ; but some of its provisions deserve further consideration. The service will be a splendid one if carried out according to the terms a,greed upon, and those responsible for the contract deserve that their work shall be recognised. I ‘hope that the matter will Le final lv settled as score as possible. I move -
That the following words be added : - “And subject to the following modifications in its provisions : -
That the contractors should be required (under clause 2) to call at the ports of Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane, at a sum to be named in the contract.
That the consequences- of a breach of the -contract should be mutual, ‘ instead of being limited on the side of the contractors to £25,000 -(as in article 10), and unlimited on the side of the Commonwealth.
That the right of the contractors (under article 15) to determine the contract or to be paid for actual or prospective diminished earnings or increased expenses, arising from Commonwealth legislation, should be limited to legislation which deals directly with shipping, and not apply to all legislation which merely ‘relates to shipping.’
That in the event of war being declared or entered upon by Great Britain against any firstclass naval power (as provided by article 16), the contractors should not have the right to terminate the contract, but only to suspend its operation until a reasonable time after the termination of hostilities, or that, in such an event as is contemplated under article 16, the right to terminate the contract should be mutual and not possessed by one party only.”
– Will the paragraphs of the amendment be put separately ?
– They may be discussed together; as they have been moved as one amendment ; but, as they deal with separate matters, I shall put them seriatim.
.- I have only a few words to say in regard to the amendment, because, in speaking to the mair, question, I dealt with most of the matters covered by, it, and honorable members who wish, to know my views can read the Hansard report of my speech. I do not know if I should be in order in referring to the subject of tonnage, about which I have received some expert information ?
– The honorable member cannot do so in addressing himself to the amendment, though he may raise the question later.
– In that case, I shall content myself now with saying that the wording of the amendment is so clear and concise, and the merits of the business proposals involved so obvious, that it should commend itself to honorable members without further discussion.
– I might intimate, in the first place, that, although we think that the wording of the contract is perfectly clear, the Government, to remove a doubt which has been expressed, intend to insert the word “directly” between the words “legislation” and “affecting,” in clause 15. That will meet the objection sought to Le met by paragraph 3 of the amendment. The gentleman who represents the contractors has consented to the alteration. As regards the other matters affected by the amendment, they have been discussed so fully that I do not propose to occupy time in dealing with them again. The contract has been the subject of negotiations for a considerable time past ; the parties with whom we are contracting are at the other end of the world ; and it will take a long while to build the vessels required for the service. Under these circumstances, I ask honorable members to determine as quickly as possible whether the contract shall or shall not be ratified. If the arrangement is as good a one as its critics have admitted it to be, it is most desirable that we should proceed to carry it into effect as soon as possible. We should not reopen the subject by attempting to insist on provisions which will mean an increase in expense. The honorable member for Darwin has asked what about the responsibility ? Does he mean the responsibility of the contractors? Is there no responsibility t attaching to the lodging of the deposit of £27,500, and the liability to swell that amount by another £25,000? Are we not safeguarded by the character of the contractors ? So far as we can ascertain, no stronger combination could possibly be dealt with, and surely we have as solid a guarantee as could reasonably be expected. It seems to me that we have taken every precaution. The contractors have shown that they are very much in earnest. They are men of very great reputation, and of good financial standing,” who have proved that they can build ships. I do not think that there is any need tol re-open the contract with a view to imposing conditions which might’ involve us in the payment of large additional sums of money. The Government have shown a desire to meet the wishes of honorable members. When a doubt was expressed last evening, with regard to the effect of one of the provisions of the contract, the representative of the contractors was approached, and1 undertook to make the position quite clear. I hope that we shall ratify the contract at the earliest possible moment, so that the contractors may be able to immediately proceed with the construction of the steamers. I believe that we shall have every reason to be proud of the new fleet. We shall have a number of verv fine vessels flying our own flag, and providing accommodation which should be of the greatest advantage to our producers, and to the community generally.
Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay) [8.47].- No one desires to detract from the credit due to the Postmaster-General and1 other Ministers for having made a good bargain ; but I have vet to learn that even a good contract cannot be improved upon. It is difficult for the representatives of Queensland to regard the new contract with unalloyed satisfaction, because that State is the only one that has been entirely shut out from the benefits of the service. Although I admit that arrangements have been made for a purely mail contract, we cannot disguisethe fact that underlying the agreement is an understanding that a shipping service shall be afforded that will provide suitable accommodation for the conveyance of our perishable products to the markets of the world. The Postmaster-General asks why the whole question should be re-opened, but I would point out that it is merely proposed! to ask the contractors to render additional services for a further consideration. No one should be in a better position than the Government to conduct the necessary negotiations. The contractors have shown their desire to perform certain services for a given sum, and no doubt thev will be willing to further meet our requirements if we are prepared to increase the subsidy. The contractors are not proposing to bring their vessels out here for the good of their health, but because they believe that they will be able to make the service a payableconcern. No doubt the steamers will proceed as far as Sydney, and I think that the amendment is entitled to receive the fullest consideration of the Government. I venture to say that the question of extending the service to Brisbane has been discusser! bv the representative of the contractors and: the Government, and that the only reasonwhy it has not been dealt with in a broader spirit is that the Government fear that if thev were to propose the payment of a further subsidy the contract would not be accepted by Parliament. As a matter of fact, a number of the members of the Queensland’ Government have announced that they prefer to have a service of their own rather than continue the payment of a’ high subsidy to the Orient Company. They cannot be reasonably expected to go onpaying £T, 000 per fortnight to the Orient Company in order to secure the presence of” the Orient steamers in a port whose trade is so rapidly increasing. I was surprised at theoffhand manner in which the PostmasterGeneral dealt with the amendment. If it had been suggested1 that Sydney should bepassed over, he would, doubtless, have taken a much more serious view of the matter. The question would have been discussed fully and freely without any regard’ to the time that might be occupied. I am at one with those who hold that we should’ not argue this question merely for debating purposes. The contract is of a practical character, and mv point - is that theservice proposed to be rendered could be- made still more satisfactory if we were prepared to pay an additional sum in order to secure an extension to Brisbane. The Government should be the last to place obstacles in the way, and they should experience no difficulty in renewing negotiations before the contract has been finally ratified by both Houses of Parliament.
– The amendment proposes that the service should1 be extended to Brisbane “ without any extra charge.”
– The PostmasterGeneral has evidently not been following the discussion. The amendment now before us proposes -
That the contractors shall be required under clause 2 to call at the pons of Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane at a sum to be stated in the contract.
That is the amendment, as. proposed to be altered by the honorable member for Kooyong. The Government might very well ascertain from the contractors what extra subsidy would be demanded by them in the event of their being required to extend their service to Brisbane and Hobart. When the last mail contract was under discussion, I strongly urged that the steamers should go on to Brisbane, but I could not convince the House of the justice of my claim. Queensland certainly had some small concession made to her in connexion with the mileage rates, but it would be preferable to impose conditions such as those now proposed. If the House approve of the amendment, I am sure that their decision will be received with satisfaction in the two States which are at present excluded from direct advantage under the contract.
– I regret that I cannot agree with the honorable member for Wide Bay. I am not concerned for the interest of any particular State, but I am paying regard to that equality of treatment which should be extended to all the States. If the contract provides that the steamers engaged in the new mail service shall proceed to ports beyond that at which they would connect with a railway line communicating with the other States,’ the ports of every State should be included. That is not proposed in the amendment, and, to that extent, the proposal would be unequal in its operation. I warn honorable members of the complications in which they will be involved if thev adopt a proposal of this character. If it is agreed to. we shall be compelled to provide that the vessels engaged under every mail contract must visit every State in the Commonwealth. For example, the steamers engaged .in the Vancouver service must go, not only to Queensland and New South Wales ports, but to those of Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania. The same thing would apply to the vessels engaged in the Island mail services.
– Look at the difference in the amount of the subsidy paid for the Vancouver service.
– That has nothing to do with the principle. In order to insure equality of treatment, we must provid’e either that the mail steamers shall visit every State, or that they shall stop at the port at which they are able to first establish communication’ with the railway systems of the other States. A clear course lies before us under the contract, as now proposed; but if we adopt the alternative suggested in the amendment, we shall be involved in enormous extra expense. The honorable member for Wide Bay stated that, although this was a purely postal contract, provision was made und’er it for the carriage of produce from certain States. I would point out, however, that the steamers will proceed only to those ports at which there is a prospect of their obtaining profitable trade. Surely that is all that should be required.
– It is all that is practicable.
– I hope that the representatives of Queensland will not imagine that in taking up this attitude, I desire to injure their State.
– The honorable member is not improving it.
– I am ready to improve it in any way in which it can be equitably done, but by improving it’, in the manner suggested, we shall create inequalities in other contracts.
– The other ports of the Commonwealth are named in the contract.
– Neither Melbourne nor Sydney are named in the contract.
– Thev were mentioned bv the Prime Minister.
– T am not responsible for the action of the Prime Minister. Mv point is that neither Melbourne nor Sydney are named in the contract. I wish to point out - and this is no new question to me because it was threshed out at the Hobart Conference - that if we are to treat each State equitably, we must either be prepared to send the vessels which are employed under the proposed agreement and under every other mail contract, to the chief port of each State, or we must adopt the principle of providing in our mail contracts for the delivery of our mails at the first port the vessels touch in Australia, from which those mails can be forwarded by rail to all parts of the Commonwealth.
– At the present time Tasmania has to pay for the carriage of her mailsby rail.
– That ought to be altered. The mails are forwarded by the Commonwealth to Queensland free of charge.
-They will be.
– Under the new contractthey will be forwarded at the expense of the Commonwealth. I think it is fair that they should be delivered free to every State.
– It cannot be avoided.
– The proposed contract has been specially drawn for postal purposes. Into that contract we are asked to introduce a clause to compel the mail steamers to visit other ports, irrespective of whether their trade requirements would take them there or not. If that principle is to be equitably applied, it must be applied to every State of the union, including Tasmania, and to every oversea postal contract into which the Federation enters. In other words, the vessels engaged in the Vancouver service, and in the Island service, should be sent all the way round to Western Australia.
– That is scarcely a good illustration because the proposed subsidy is to be paid specifically to enable us to get into close touch with Great Britain.
– All our mail subsidies are paid for a similar purpose.
– The honorable member is right in his contention. If the mail steamers are obliged to call at Brisbane, Western Australia has anequal right to demand that the steamersemployed in the Vancouver and the Island services should call at Fremantle.
– Western Australia can have the advantage which would be conferredby those vessels calling at the chief port of that State, so far as Queensland is concerned.
– Was the Federation established to make our mail contracts infinitely dearer than they were formerly, and to send vessels to ports where the trade which they would receive upon calling is not sufficient to attract them ?
– Upon general principles I am opposed to waste labour.
– If the mail steamers will not visit those ports of their own accord, because the trade which they would receive does not constitute a sufficient inducement for them to do so, what is it but waste labour that is involved if we compel them to go there? Personally, I should like to see the mail steamers visiting every State.
– The honorable member knows that they will visit four of the States.
– I do not know anything about it. Probably they will, because the trade of those States is large enough to attract them. But I have no guarantee that they will, and I do not want one. If it suits them to miss Sydney, let them do so. I repeat that we must decide in favour of one principle or the other. To my mind, we shall be acting wisely by adopting the principle to which effect has been given in this contract. We should allow our mail services to terminate immediately the steamers have landed their mails at the first port of. call from which they can be conveyed by rail to the various States of the Commonwealth. I think that that is a fair and wise provision to make. It will remove from us the reproach of having greatly increased the cost of our mail services, and of having unjustly treated any State.
.- I am opposed to the first portion of the amendment, because I have always held that our mail contracts should be contracts for purely postal services. I am glad that the proposed agreement is for a service of that description.
– Then why all the talk which has been indulged in regarding the provision which should be made for the carriage of cargo?
– The agreement provides that the mails shall be delivered at Adelaide, and that the service shall terminate there.
– Not if the ships go further.
– They are not bound to go further. If they go further,they will carry the heavy postal parcels, and thus obviate the necessity for them being forwarded by rail. If the amendment be agreed to, it must necessarily reopen the whole question of the carriage of our mails, because a great many otherconditions would have to be considered. Take, for example, the proposal that the mail steamers should visit Brisbane. Before any such arrangement could be entered into, it would be necessary for the Government to know what amount of trade the vessels would be likely to obtain there. The contract between the Queensland Government and the Orient Steam Navigation Company was made upon the understanding that the whole of the exporters of butter from that State would ship their commodity by the mail steamers. The reason why the vessels of the Orient Steam Navigation Company were willing to proceed to Brisbane for a subsidy of , £26,000 per annum was that they were assured of a certain amount by way of freight upon the butter exported from Queensland. The Commonwealth Government, however, could give no such guarantee. Last night the Prime Minister read the communications; which he had received from the various States Governments in reference to the carriage of perishable produce, and the reply of the Queensland Government offered him no guarantee that a single pound of butter would be exportedby the new mail vessels if they called at Brisbane.
– The Queensland Government cannot give him any such assurance while the present contract is in existence.
– If any proposals were made by the Governmentin the direction suggested, the first question they would be asked by the contractors is, “What quantity of cargo can we obtain from Brisbane?” If they could secure a paying cargo, they would visit that port without a single penny being added to the subsidy. It will thus be seen that a large number of questions would be raised immediately if the contract provided for other than a purely postal service. When the Shipping Commission was taking evidence in Adelaide, three witnesses appeared before it, one being an agent, and the other two being fruit exporters. These witnesses assured us that if they desired to ship fruit to the old country, either by the vessels of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company or the Orient Steam Navi gation Company, they had to enter into an undertaking to allow that fruit to be sold by the agents of those companies in London.
– That condition does not obtain in regard to the export of Tasmanian fruit.
– The Shipping Service Commission was told by a witness that it applied to Adelaide, . and that it cost him 1s. 6d. per case more to have his fruit sold in London through the agents of these companies than it did under another arrangement open to him. He was consequently forced to ship his fruit to England by other steamers. Any one who has a knowledge of the export trade in perishable products is aware that our exporters find it advantageous to ship by the mail steamers,because of their speed and regularity. That being so, it is only fair that the advantage of being able to ship by such steamers should be extended to exporters in every State capital. If it be true that the. Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company and the Orient Steam Navigation Company are able to impose on shippers in Adelaide conditions which they cannot enforce in Melbourne, Sydney, or Hobart, owing to the larger consignments of fruit offering there, it will be necessary for us, if this question is to be dealt with in the contract now before us, to provide that every person shall he at liberty to avail himself of the cool chambers on board these steamers, and to ship hisperishable produce by them without any condition as. to its sale in England. If we were to enter upon “these questions we should also have to determine whether or not the company should be required to reserve a certain area of cool ‘storage for shippers in each State capital. The company might otherwise allow all the cool storage space on a steamer to be occupied by a shipment from Brisbane or Sydney, leaving no space whatever for shippers at Adelaide. If this is not to be a purely postal contract, we shall have to give consideration to all these questions. They are so important that, even if their discussion extended over a week, no ‘ complaint could be made, but I do not think that the Post and Telegraph Department should have to pay for more than the carriage of the mails. Under the existing contract with the Orient Steam NavigationCompany, Queensland has had a sentimental, but cer tainly not a. legitimate, grievance. That contract provides that the mail steamers shall call at Sydney and Melbourne, but the provision does not cost the Commonwealth a penny more than it would otherwise have to pay.
– It is a good thing that Broken Hill is not on a river.
– If I made an unjustifiable claim on behalf of Broken Hill, it would not be said that I was right in doing so.
– Of course nothing must go beyond Sydney.
– That is not a fair statement. Even if we inserted in this contract a provision that the mail steamers should call at Melbourne and Sydney, we should not be called upon to pay an additional subsidy, but Brisbane takes the stand that such a provision would be unfair to itself. This contract, therefore, does away with the sentimental grievance under which the capital of the northern State has labored. It says, in effect, to the contractors, “ Your steamers need not go beyond Adelaide, unless you desire that they shall do so.” There is no doubt, however, that they will proceed to Melbourne and Sydney. As Brisbane’s sentimental grievance has beenremoved, I hope we shall agree that this contract shall be purely a postal one, providing for nothing more than the delivery of the mails at Adelaide.
– By way of personal explanation, Mr. Speaker, I wish to state thatwhen I roseto second the amendment I was under the impression that it. had been proposed in the form in which it stands on the notice paper. I was not aware that the first clause had been so altered as to give it an entirely new complexion. I wish to take this opportunity ofstating that I do not agree with the alteration in question.
– There can be no question as to the strictly accurate statement of the equities of this case by the last two speakers. If we are to regard this as a purely postal contract, I admit that what has’ been said by the honorable member for North Sydney and the honorable member for Barrier is not open to exception. But, after all, is this only a postal contract? The Prime Minister did not say so last night. In his eloquent oration, extending over an hour-
– I am very sorry.
– I am not; I was delighted to hear it. We listened for fully an hour to a very eloquent oration by the Prime Minister, who occupied about ten minutes in dealing with the postal side of the contract, and ‘the remaining fifty minutes or more with an enumeration of the advantages which will accrue from this service to exporters of Australian products. The stipulation in the contract that the steamers shall be of 11,000 tons register cannot be designed purely for postal purposes.
– It was not a condition of the contract; it was the company’s own proposal.
– Thatmay be; but it is an inducement to the ready acceptance of the contract.
– Hear, hear.
– As the honorable and learned gentleman said last night, these steamers will provide three times the cool storage now offered to us by the Orient Steam Navigation. Company. That was one of his chief arguments for the acceptance of the contract. Indeed, the contract was not submitted to us as being for purely postal purposes. Throughout the Prime Minister’s speech we heard little as to its postal side, but we had an enumeration of the advantages that might possibly accrue to Australia if cool storage space could be found on the mail steamers’ for all our perishable produce. So eloquent did the honorable and learned gentleman become in the enumeration of the advantages which these steamers would give us. that I had to ask him to comedown once more to solid earth. He sailed away, as he usually does, into the vague empyrean, and talked “ in liquid lines mellifluously bland “ about our exports of perishable produce. As is customary with him when discussing politics generally, heapplied the doctrine of political universalism. We were told last night that our produce would be trebled as the result ofdry farming, which was to make us rich and happy and prosperous. The honorable and learned gentleman drew for us a picture of emigrants streaming hitherwards from other countries), and ships, laden with our produce, chasing each other over every sea. It was really grand to hear him speaking of the prosperity of Australia, and of the huge population that she was to secure. The honorable and learned gentleman could not refrain from referring tohis favorite topic, “ land for the people, and people for the land.” He defended the- northern parts of Australia, and he did all this in referring to the contract, which has been entered into, as my honorable friends would have us believe, for purely postal purposes.
– He gave the show away.
– Surely that was an argument for the calling of these vessels at every port in Australia. He told us that they would provide an abundance of cool storage space, and that he regretted that arrangements could not be made with all the States. I understand that in making that observation, he referred to Queensland, in. common with the other States.
– The Government really took the initiative in regard to’ the carriage of produce from Queensland. Had that State entered into the co-operative arrang’ement which the Prime Minister suggested, and as to which he read several documents last night, would not provision have been made for the carriage of produce?
– The arrangement would have meant the calling of the steamers at Brisbane under an additional contract.
– Then it seems that the Government themselves, in the genesis of this contract, contemplated Brisbane being made a port of call for the mail steamers. Therefore, in proposing bv this amendment that the steamers of the service shall go up to Brisbane, we are simply carrying out the original intention of the Ministry.
– Provision would have had to be made under a separate contract for their going to Brisbane. The postal contract would have stood, and there would have been another contract in relation to cool storage.
– Oueensland will not object if another contract be made.
– Hear. hear.
– So long as thev can secure the conditions which they desire, and which have ‘already been promised definitely to the other States, the people of Queensland will not object Already we are told that Mr. Croker has given the Government an undertaking that these steamers will ,go on to Melbourne and Sydney. Clearly. therefore, those two ports are in a satisfactory position. If a definite undertaking has been given that these vessels shall proceed to Melbourne and Sydney, there can be no harm in providing in the contract that they shall do so. The Government have contemplated their going on to Brisbane, if not under the postal contract, at all events under a separate one, and if this amendment be carried it will simply mean that the Government will have to enter into further negotiations to carry out their original intention with regard to serving Queensland. I come now to the equities of the case. If we are going to discuss the matter of equity as applied to our legislation, I am afraid we shall have to view this contract as providing for something more than a mail service. .From the stand-point of equity, we must view this service as relating to all the States. If the broad equities of the situation are regarded as affecting the whole of the States no substantial injustice will be done, even if we make this departure from strict equity, as it applies merely to the mail contract. For instance, the rest of the States granted to Western Australia the concession that the mail steamers should call at Fremantle. Then, again, what is the position with regard to the Vancouver mail service? I do not think that it is of very much value to us as a postal service. I do not know whether any great injury would be done to the States if the steamers engaged in that service made the round trip to Western Australia, but every one knows that Western Australia finds it cheaper to ship its produce direct to London, instead of via Vancouver.
– We could develop a direct trade with Vancouver.
– But I do not think that Western Australia or South Australia is very anxious to “do so. Concerning the broad equities of the situation as a whole, I should like to point out that we have Western Australia and South Australia to-day actually competing with the rest of the States, which competition has the effect of helping to destroy the Vancouver cable service, for which these States pay, while they are making a huge profit out of their relations with the Eastern Extension Company.
– The honorable member ls departing from the question.
– I do so only incidentally. I am trying to show that there is a broader view of the equities of the case than the manner in which any one State is affected By a single service. From my point of view, no substantial injustice would be done to the eastern States if these steamers were sent to Brisbane. I think that if it could be done - and I admit that some degree of sentiment enters into the suggestion - we should arrange to send the steamers to all the main ports of Australia, and thus to encircle the settled portion of the continent with this great service. The vessels are to have the steaming capacity necessary to do that, and as they will have space for three times as much cargo as can be carried by the vessels of the Orient Steam Navigation Company, they will, by calling, at Brisbane, probably soon develop a trade which will make it worth their while to go there, apart from any considerations of subsidy. We may have to pay a little more to get these steamers to call at Brisbane now ; but Queensland is destined to increase her production so rapidly that Brisbane is likely soon to be a centre of attraction to all who are interested in. the trade of Australia. I do not say that we should provide that the vessels shall go to Queensland, whatever may be the cost ; but, if it can be done at a reasonable cost, this concession might well be given to Queensland.
– I shall support the amendment. When the last contract was under discussion, I thought that Queensland1 had a grievance, because Brisbane was not made a port of call. The honorable member for Parramatta has dealt with a matter about which I had made a note. It is absurd to say that this is a contract for a postal service only. Three-fourths of it, so far as it is set down in black and white may relate only to a mail service ; but more than threefourths of the arguments which have been delivered in favour of its ratification have been directed to the advantages which Australia will gainby the large provision made for the export of perishable produce.
– We payonly for the postal service, and get all other advantages without cost.
– If that is so, why is it stipulated that certain space shall be allowed for cold storage?
– It is not stipulated; they have offered that.
– It was not in the advertisement ?
– The tenderers knew that,by offering certain space for cool storage, they would improve their chance of obtaining the contract. If another . company had offered to carry the mails for £20,000 less, and had made no provision, for cool storage, would the Prime Minister have been prepared to recommend the acceptance of its tender?
– I should.
– Then the honorable and learned gentleman only wasted so much time last nightby his eloquent statement of” the enormous advantages to be gainedby the provision of cold storage space,since he does not consider that advantageto be worth . £20,000 a year.
– I have always said that the providing of cold storage would be the subject of a separate contract, and I proposed to the States that a separate contract should be made.
– I think that the States did well in refusing the offer of the Commonwealth ; because I believe that they can make better conditions for their trade than can be made for them by this Government. We are being asked to subsidize a line of vessels which is to provide a certain amount of space for cold storage for the export of perishable produce; but only four of the States will be able to take advantage of that provision of the contract, the State of Tasmania, and the important State of Queensland, where agricultural settlement is progressing faster than anywhere else in the Union, being left out’ of the arrangement. I do not think it fair to ask Queensland to pay her share of the subsidy when, she will not’ derive from the service the advantages which the other States on the mainland will enjoy. If this is to be a true Federation, geographical position must not be regarded as a bar to any State.
– Hear,hear ! What about the Western Australian railway ?
– I am prepared to extend to Western Australia the same consideration that is given to the other States.
– The other States have had to pay for their means of communication.
– If this is tobe a true Federation, all the advantages arising from the union must not go to the larger States. They must, if necessary, make occasional small sacrifices, to enable the smaller States to obtain some of the benefits.
– To what clause does the honorable member refer1, when, he says that cold storage is provided for?
– Is there no such prevision in the contract? The Prime Minister told us distinctly last night that there is such a provision. One of the chief reasons why he urged the acceptance of the contract was that the States will derive an enormous advantage because of the cold storage accommodation which will be given.
– He did not say that that is provided for in the contract.
– No; it is not in the contract.
– In reply to an interjection, he said that we have the distinct assurance of the contracting party that it will be provided, and made that a strong argument for the acceptance of the contract. The service is not to be a fast one. No one, in these days, can say that vessels capable of steaming only 15 knots an hour will provide a fast service. But, under the terms of the contract, as I read them, we are to get a good mail and cargo service. I have always felt that the contract is really only a concession, which is to be hawked about by the contracting party to see what can be made out of it’. If its provisions are complied with, we shall have got a very good bargain, not only because of the arrangements made for the carriage of mails, . but also because there will be established’ in the Australian trade a line of vessels which will give extensive cold storage which will assist us to dump - as the Minister of Trade and Customs wouldsayour surplus products in the markets of the old world.
– That is the whole object of the inspection.
-I think so, and it has been the advantage insisted upon in every speech delivered in favour of the contract. If this were a contract merely for the carriage of mails, it would have obtained avery different reception. We recognise, however, that it provides speedy and certain transit, and spacious accommodation for our perishable produce. But why should not Queensland benefit by the arrangement ?
– If the amendment is carried, will the honorable member move a similar amendment dealing with Tasmania ?
– It is not often that I am unable to agree with the honor able member for NorthSydney ; but I do not think with him that, if we providein this contract that the steamers shall go to Brisbane, we shall have to provide in other contracts that the mail boats shall call at every port in Australia. I do not think thatthe people of Queensland desire that the steamers of. every line carrying mails shall make Brisbane a port of call, and I do not ask that all the mail steamers calling at ports in the mainland shall also visit Tasmania. In reply to the interjection of the honorable member for Wannon, however, I say that, in my opinion, these mail steamers should call at Tasmania during the three months of the year which form our chief season of export for perishable products. I shall support the amendment on its merits, and I shall not attempt to jeopardize it by proposing any extension until it has been dealt with.
– That would seriously interfere with the local shipping companies.
– If the honorable member had had my experience, he would know that the local shipping companies are well able to take care of themselves. Practically the whole of our exporttrade is conducted by means of oversea steamers. In justice to the existingmail companies, I am bound to say that no attempts have been made to force upon Tasmanian shippers of apples conditions similar to those which the honorable member for Barrier has described as having been imposed upon shippers of fruit from Adelaide. The Tasmanian shippers have not been required to sell their produce through the agency of the company. So long as they pay their freight they are absolutely free to sell or consign their goods to whom they please. There is not the same danger to be apprehended from a combine as some honorable members seem to think. No difficulty is experienced in obtaining shipping accommodation for produce so long as reasonable notice is given to the companies. Lastyear four or five different lines of steamers took part in the Tasmanian trade. We had the Blue Funnel, the White Star, the Gulf line, and Federal -Houlder line steamers in addition to the mail-boats. and they were all only too anxious to ship produce. Now that special conditions are being made with a view to affording facilities for our export trade, Queensland should not be left out in the cold. She should not stand alone in being called upon to contribute towards the subsidy without having an opportunity of sharing in the benefits of the service. I shall vote for the extension of the service to Brisbane.
– I regret that the PostmasterGeneral should feel aggrieved at the suggestion offered by honorable members. It seems to me that this is the time and place at which to make suggestions - otherwise the contract should not have been submitted to Parliament. The Minister mentioned the names of a number of gentlemen who were behind the contractors. He told us they, were men of great financial strength, and that their connexion with the enterprise was a sufficient guarantee that everything would be right. When I first came to Australia I attended a banquet, and was the poorest man among those present. There was not a guest but could draw his cheque for £100,000. But they have all gone now. They were all great and honorable men, and stood high in banking .circles. Theirs were names to conjure with. They were the Jay Goulds, Vanderbilts, and Astors of this country. Where are they to-day ? If these men had been behind the contractors the Postmaster-General would have told us that their names were a sufficient guarantee- I remember very well when Villard, a great railway magnate, left New York in order to accompany a number of German barons and English lords out west. He left New York worth £10,000,000, but by the time he reached Oregon he was a bankrupt. As a matter of fact, although so many financial magnates are supposed to be behind the contractors, they have rendered themselves liable to the payment of only £25,000 by way of penalty in the event of a breach of the contract. On the other hand, they could sue the Commonwealth for unlimited damages in the event of their incomes being reduced1 by an« legislation passed by us. The arrangement as to the penalty for -a breach of agreement should be of a mutual character, and the liability of the Commonwealth should be limited in the same way as is that of the contractors. It is proposed to enter into a contract for ten Tears, for which term we shall have our hands completely tied. It is easy to say that the men behind the contractors are honorable and influential. I admit that thev are. So was Ta.v Gould, so was Astor. and so was Russell Sage, who recently died worth ^20. 000. 000. But these magnates made all their money out of the people. The honorable and teamed mem ber for Parkes, who is a shrewd lawyer, pointed out that the interests of the Commonwealth should be carefully safeguarded. The Postmaster-General must remember that he is dealing with a pretty fly lawyer, who has all his senses about him.. How do we know that this concession is not to be handed over to the Orient Steam Navigation Company ? We should have everything put down in black and white, and should not fun the risk of having our agreement made the subject of legal proceedings. Perhaps the Postmaster-General noticed that the legal expenses incurred in connexion with the celebrated corset case in Melbourne amounted to £10,000. I am not particular as to which ports are visited by the mail steamers, but I quite agree with the honorable member for Franklin that they should go on to Brisbane. I shall speak as to the claims of Tasmania at a later stage. I trust that the Postmaster-General will devote further attention to paragraph 2 of the contract.- and place matters upon a business footing.
– There is no chance of our losing £25,000.
– I am not so sure about that. I was once engaged in a law case involving ,£140, and was glad to get out of it upon the payment of twice that amount. Then, again, there was a big mining man ‘in America named Tabor, who became involved in a law case over a mine, and ended his days in a benevolent asylum, and was buried as an act of charity I trust that the Postmaster-General will again consider the provisions in clause 2.
– I shall undertake to do so.
.- I regret to say that I cannot support the amendment. I think that the fact that this is a purely postal contract to a great extent meets the arguments that have been advanced in favour of extending the service to Brisbane. It would not be fair to debit the Postal Department with any excess charged ‘in respect of the extended service, and. so far as I know, there is no other Department in the Commonwealth which could be expected to provide the money The Question as to whether the proposed new steamers will proceed to -Queensland’ should depend entirely upon the trading inducements offered to them. To the extent to which that element ceased to operate* we should be subsidizing the trade of that State. If we were once to affirm the principle of subsidizing trade it would be very- hard to fix a limit to its application. We might be called upon to insist upon the mail steamers making a circuit of Australia. We should have to push the principle to its logical conclusion. It would be very dangerous for us to establish a principle, the application of which we cannot definitely limit. It would be perfectly open to Queensland to offer the contractors an inducement, such as was held out to the Orient Steam Navigation Company, in the form of an additional subsidy. If that course were adopted, and anything went wrong with the postal contract, no moral responsibility - I do not say anything as to the legal aspect of the matter - would rest upon the Commonwealth. If we were to include in the contract provisions dealing with something entirely foreign to the carriage of mails, the contractors might ask us to overlook any shortcomings on their part in connexion with . delayed delivery. We should not place ourselves in that position by imposing conditions somewhat incongruous in a mail contract. I am not quite sure whether any estimate’ has been made as to the additional expense that would be involved under the proposal contained in the amendment.
– It was estimated that if the mail steamers were not to go beyond Adelaide we should require to add another £100,000 or £1.20,000 to the subsidy. The extension of the service from Sydney to Brisbane would cost an additional £26,000.
– Then the amendment would involve a considerable addition to the cost of the service, which, although incurred in order to meet the requirements nf one State, would have to be borne by the whole of the Commonwealth. The State itself should determine whether it is desirable that the mail steamers should go beyond the terminal port at which the mails are to be delivered. If it decides that question in the affirmative it should alone pav the piper.
– I admit that, in the proposed agreement, we are contracting specifically for a mail service, but I think there can be no doubt that we are paying for a great deal more than a mail service. Otherwise, I take it that a considerable number of honorable members would feel inclined to revert to the poundage system, under which our mails would be carried just about as efficiently, and for a considerably less expen diture. As I understand it, the idea underlying the contract is that the steamers which we engage to carry our mails constitute the means of communication between Australia and the outside world, and particularly that portion of the outside world in which we are most interested - I refer to the mother country. If that be so, I take it that all the States are equally entitled to facilities in that connexion. If we adopt the broad Federal view of providing equal facilities to all the States, I cannot see why the payment of a comparatively small sum should stand in the way of its realization. I heartily indorse the opinion which has been expressed by the deputy leader of the Opposition, that if we are able to arrange that the mail steamers shall call at Brisbane for a few years, the potentialities of the northern State are so great that, probably, at the end of that period the contractors will find that its trade is sufficient to justify them in continuing to visit that port without receiving any extra payment. At any rate, this service ought to be made to apply equally to all the States, and for that reason I shall support the amendment.
.- I intend to support the amendment, because its adoption would give Queensland a chance to which she is fairly entitled. The honorable and learned member for Angas has stated that any arrangement which might be entered into to insure the mail steamers calling at ‘Brisbane was purely a matter for the Queensland Government. I cannot help thinking that the proposed contract is purely a matter of “ grab.” New South Wales and Victoria are almost certain to get the advantage which will be conferred by those vessels calling at Melbourne and Sydney. The two States in question are grabbing all the advantages accruing from the contract. Why should not the other States be placed upon an equality with them? That desirable result can only be secured by the adoption of the amendment, and consequently I shall vote for it.
.- I rise with a view to bringing this debate to a close. It has been very humiliating to me - and to other Queensland representatives - to be compelled to appeal year after year to the Government to do justice to that State in connexion with our European mail contract. I wish to thank those honorable members who have promised to support the amendment, but I recognise that it is utterly futile to make any further appeal for consideration at the hands of the Ministry. Consequently, I shall be pleased if honorable members will refrain from discussing the question at any greater length. I realize that the very name of Queensland stinks in the nostrils of the Commonwealth Government.
– That is a most unfair remark to make.
– It is a very vulgar remark, and I am not in the habit of using vulgar expressions; but I say again that the very name of Queensland appears to stink in the nostrils of the Commonwealth Government. No effort has been made by them to provide that Brisbane shall be visited by the mail steamers, but every effort has been put forth to insure that those vessels shall call at Melbourne and Sydney.
– Does not the honorable member think that the interests of Queensland will be as well safeguarded by the Minister of Home Affairs as by himself ?
– The honorable And learned member for Darling Downs should have resigned his portfolio if the Government were not prepared to do justice to the State which he represents. He should have refused to continue to be associated with the Ministry. That is the position which I should have taken up. I think that the State of Queensland will in future take very good care not to expect anything from the Commonwealth Government. As a result of this discussion, Federation, instead of being looked upon with some degree of favour, will be regarded as an obstacle to the progress of that State. The people of Queensland will wish with all their hearts that they were independent of this Parliament. I hope that no further appeal will be made upon behalf of Queensland, and that we shall come to a division at once.
– As a Queenslander, I am very much surprised at the attitude which has been taken up by the honorable member for Oxley. I was shocked to hear the language which he employed. I have consistently fought to insure that the mail steamers shall make Brisbane a port of call, and I am annoyed that the honorable member should have made the accusations which he has, levelled1 against the Commonwealth. The adoption of such tactics is not calcu lated to induce honorable members to assist us to achieve our object. I have already spoken upon this question, and have practically said’ all that I desire to say. Last evening the Prime Minister detailed the steps which had1 been taken to induce the other States to enter into an arrangement with the contractors regarding the export of perishable products. He pointed out the possibilities of Australia in. that connexion. To my mind, the very fact that the vessels which are to be employed under the proposed contract are to possess a “registered tonnage” of 11,000 tons, suggests that the contractors have more in view than the mere carriage of mails. No shipbuilding firm would1 construct vessels of that capacity merely for the purpose of carrying mails. I have already wired to the Premier of Queensland, asking him not to negotiate any further with the Prime Minister, or with Mr. Croker, who is acting as agent for Sir James Laing and Sons, in regard to the proposal that the mail steamers shall call at Brisbane. I trust that he will not renew the subsidy which Queensland is at present paying to the Orient Steam Navigation Company. Of course, we , cannot find fault with the vessels calling at Fremantle and Adelaide. But the Government know perfectly well that it is impossible for the steamers to neglect calling at Melbourne and Sydney. Personally, I fail to see how Queensland will benefit by the proposed contract. I do not think that that State has very much to thank the Commonwealth for, so far as this agreement is concerned. I do hope that the PostmasterGeneral - even at this late hour - will endeavour to induce the vessels under the new service to visit Brisbane.
.- Any honorable member who is anxious to see this contract ratified as soon as po’ssible must necessarily be placed in an awkward position by the amendment. However much we may desire to see the mail steamers regularly visiting the three ports mentioned in the first portion of the proposal - we all recognise that they must, in any case, for their own trade purposes, call at Melbourne and Sydney - we cannot overlook the fact that if we impose this additional burden upon the contractors we shall be practically destroying the agreement, and rendering it necessary for the Government to enter into a long series of negotiations, involving great del a v. This matter is so vital to the Commonwealth-
– The Prime Minister has admitted that the question would be dealt with in a separate contract.
– The existing contract between the Orient’ Steam Navigation Company and Queensland for a fortnightly service to Brisbane costs that State £26,000 per annum.
– Less the small subsidy from the Commonwealth.
– £26,000 per annum is the contract price. My honorable friends from Queensland will recognise that the contractors will ask an additional £20,000 or £30,000 a year for giving a like service.
– They will not get it.
M!r. KELLY. - Then obviously the contract is going to be destroyed. I presume that the Postmaster-General and the Government have secured the very best tender available.
– It is the very best that can be got.
– If that be so- if this contract is at bedrock - the result of our refusing to grant an additional sum for extra services would ‘be the casting of it into the wastepaper basket; I should like to see Brisbane enjoying similar benefits to those possessed bv the larger ports, but my objective at present1 is the ratification of this contract at the very earliest date. I therefore regret that I shall have to vote against the amendment’.
.- I did not intend to speak at this stage of the debate, but, after listening to the wholesale condemnation of the unpatriotic attitude of this House, in which the honorable member for Oxley indulged-
– I did not refer to this House.
– The honorable member referred practically to the treatment which Queensland had received at the hands of this House, and he made statements which were not only unjustifiable, but unpatriotic, and unworthy of a representative of that great State. The honorable member declared that it had received no benefit from the Commonwealth. As a matter of fact, in proportion to her contribution to the Commonwealth Treasury, Queensland has received greater benefits from the Federation than has any other St’ate in the Union. That being so, the statements of the honorable member were unworthy of a member of this Chamber. He is, perhaps, to be excused, for I do not think that he realizes at times the seriousness and the importance of the statements that he makes. This view is borne out by the unjustifiable assertions that have been made with regard to the attitude of the Commonwealth towards the people of other lands. The action of the honorable member in seeking to placate the northern State by charging this Parliament with acting unfairly to it is most unjustifiable. I protest against it. As one who has endeavoured as far as possible to hold the scales of justice evenly between the Commonwealth and the States - as one who not only professes, but practices the Federal spirit in the terms of the Union, and who is prepared to do everything possible for the advancement of the Commonwealth - I resent the remarks made by him. . I hurl back his insinuation that Queensland does not receive justice at the hands of the Commonwealth, that she cannot expect to receive it, and that she should no longer appeal to us.
– I was under the impression that when the contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company was under consideration, we discussed what should be the principal features of the next mail contract. If I were of opinion that’ the agreement under consideration related to the provision of cool storage on the mail steamers I should be at one with those who desire that Brisbane shall be made a port of call. I fail to see, however, what the question of cool storage has to do with the carriage of our mails, and why the Post and Telegraph Department of the Commonwealth should be burdened with the cost of anything beyond the carriage of mail matter. If any State ought to pay it is Queensland-
– Queensland is quite able to pay. She does not beg anything from the Federal Parliament.
– Who said that she did? My contention is that the contract before us is not for the provision of coot” storage, and that the Post and Telegraph’ Department should not be loaded with the cost of providing cool storage for the export of perishable produce.
– Of course, the steamers should not go beyond Adelaide.
– If I were a representative of Queensland I should still hold the view that I am now expressing. I might as well ask that these steamers should call at a port in the Northern Territory, or at other than the chief ports of the-
Commonwealth ; but I recognise that this is not a contract for the carriage of perishable produce, and’ that we should be very guarded in making a proposal to load the Post and Telegraph Department with the cost of such a service as some of my honorable friends desire. Members of the States Parliaments constantly complain that the Department has suffered a loss of revenue since its transfer to the Commonwealth, and yet the Treasurers of the States insist upon its being loaded with the cost of something that is wholly foreign to it. I regret that the Government have found it necessary to agree to the payment of a subsidy of £125,000 a year for this service. There is no warrant for such a payment ; it is simply monstrous.
– It goes to show that we are paving for something more than a postal service.
– We are paying something like £800 per ton for our mail matter, whereas the mail steamers will carry butter for about three-eighths of a penny per lb. It seems to me strange that, in consideration of additional speed, we should be asked to increase the subsidy from £70,000, which was considered a fair amount some time ago, to , £125,000, the present contract being £120,000. There is no doubt that if the quantity of products to be shipped from Queensland warrants the vessels calling at a port in that State, the vessels will call there.Why do the mail-boats call at Melbourne and Sydney? Simply because there is cargo to be obtained. It is not proper to load the postal service simply in order to provide that vessels shall call at any port where there is cargo; and I should express that opinion just as candidly if I represented any otherState but South Australia. The only port to he considered should be the terminal port of the mail service.
– What about the tonnage of the vessels?
– The contractors are wise enough to know that if they cater for the Australian trade they must provide the necessary storage and equipment to enable them to compete with existing lines. That, of course, is so much the better for Australia, but it has nothing to do with the mail contract.
– I desire, by way of personal explanation, to make it clear that the amendment of the amendmentby the insertion of the words, “ at a” sum to be stated in the contract,” has been made at the special request of the honorable and learned member for Parkes.
Question - That the words of paragraph I proposed to be added be so added - put.
The House divided -
Ayes … … … 13
Noes … … … 30
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - That the words of paragraphs 2, 3, and 4, proposed to be added, be so added - resolved inthe negative.
– As the amendment of which notice has been given by the honorable member for Gwydir covers the same ground as that of which I have given notice, I do not intend to proceed with mine.
.- I move -
That the following words be added : - “ And this House is of the opinion that the steamers should be acquired by the Government in the event of the company joining or becoming a part of any shipping ring or combine, or otherwise constituting itself a monopoly, detrimental to the trade and commerce of the Commonwealth.”
I expect that I shall be met with the argument, on behalf of the Government, that the provisions already embodied in the contract cover the right to acquire the steamers under certain conditions. While I agree that, to some extent, there are powers of that kind, and while I take this opportunity to compliment the Government upon the able contract which has been drawn up, and upon the manner in which they have safeguarded the interests of the Commonwealth, still, I cannot agree that the document is altogether satisfactory in this respect. It is true that there is embodied in it a clause ‘giving the right to acquire the steamers in the event of certain conditions not being complied1 with. That provision constitutes an advance upon any contract that has hitherto been made for the carriage df mails in Australia. There have been provisions providing for the hiring of mail vessels in case of war. But in the past there has been no provision for acquiring steamers in the event of the Government desiring to run them in the interests of the country. The contract sets out that -
If the contract or any part thereof is assigned, underlet, or otherwise disposed of without the consent of the Postmaster-General, and, or if any breach on the part of the contractor, his officers, agents, or servants of the contract, or of any condition, shall be committed, it shall be lawful for the Postmaster-General, if he shall think fit, and notwithstanding there may or may not have been any former breach of the contract or of any condition by an instrument, in writing, to determine the contract without any previous notice to the contactor, and the contractor shall not be entitled to any compensation in respect of such determination, and such determination shall not deprive the Postmaster-General of any right or remedy to which he would otherwise be entitled by reason of such breach or of any prior breach of the contract.
That clause imposes conditions under which the Postmaster-General may acquire the steamers to be run by the contracting company. The contract also contains the following clause : -
The Postmaster-General may at any time during the continuance of the contract purchase any or all of the mail ships at a valuation - or may charter the same at a rate of hire to be agreed upon with the contractor, or failing any such agreement as to a valuation or rate to be decided by arbitration, and the contractor shall not sell any mail ship to any person other than the Postmaster-General without first giving the Postmaster-General a reasonable opportunity of purchasing the same, either at a valuation to be agreed upon or to be decided by arbitration or at the price he is willing to sell it at to such other person. Provided always that if the PostmasterGeneral exercises the right to purchase or charter all the mail ships employed under the contract, the contract shall thereupon be determined, and such determination shall not give the contractor any claim to compensation.
It may be held that that clause covers the ground of the amendment which I am now submitting. I cannot agree that it does. It simply gives the Government the right to acquire the ships at a valuation in the event of the company desiring to sell or let them. In other words, it means that the PostmasterGeneral practically controls the disposal df the vessels. It may be that the Postmaster-General has power to acquire the line in the event of there being a disposition on the part of the contractors to sell their steamers, or in the event of the company being disposed to become absorbed in a ring or combine. I can readily understand that if the Postmaster-General of the day held that a shipping combine or ring was detrimental to the interests of the Commonwealth he might, under the terms of this contract, be able to prevent the company being absorbed. But the point is that if we happen to have in office, during the tenure of this contract, a PostmasterGeneral having no sympathy with the objects of mv amendment, he, having the power in his hands, or the Government of which he was a member being antagonistic to the ideas which my amendment embodies, might acquiesce in the absorption of the company by a shipping ring or combine. To obviate such an event, and to prevent any Minister who mav be in power during the ten years from exercising his own predilections in this respect, we should have in the contract a definite and binding condition that, no matter what may be the opinion of the Cabinet, we expect it to perform the task of acquiring these steamers in the event of the occurrence of the emergency provided for. The provisions of the contract would, it seems to me, meet the case if we could be certain of always having a sympathetic Government in power. But they are not sufficient to meet the possibility of the advent to office of an unsympathetic Government. The company which is to carry our mails may not sell its vessels to another company, or join a shipping ring or combine ; but its trade may grow to such an extent, and it may become so wealthy, that it may ultimately buy out its competitors, and, becoming a monopoly, raise its freights and fares, to the detriment of our producers, and of the people of Australia generally. Now, the honorable member for North Sydney last night admitted that, in the event of a monopoly arising, and working prejudicially to the welfare of Australia, it might be justifiable for the Commonwealth to take over the service. .
– I said that such a thing might be proposed if there were a monopoly whose operations were seriously injuring Australia. But it will be time enough to deal with the matter when that happens.
– The time to make our stipulations is when the contract is before us. I am surprised that the honorable member, who is a practical business man, should say that it will be time enough to safeguard our interests when trouble arises.
– A combination may be formed which may be advantageous. It is only harmful combinations which should be dealt with,
– I think that that objection is met by the words “ otherwise constituting itself a monopoly, detrimental to the trade and commerce of the Commonwealth.” Those words mean that a beneficial monopoly would not be interfered with, while a monopoly injuring the trade and commerce of the Commonwealth could be dealt with.
– Who will decide that the effects of a monopoly are detrimental ?
– The question would be decided on the merits of the case, by the law officers of the Crown. In passing legislation for the prevention of monopolies generally, we provide for the decision of much more difficult questions.
– Is the honorable member trying to provide for the nationalization of the fleet, as the honorable member for Barrier did?
– I am seeking to preserve the interests of Australia in a businesslike way.
– Then, is the honorable member opposed to the views of the honorable member forBarrier?
– The honorable member cannot get me with his “ gig,” to use a Lancashire word. It is not an unknown thing for companies to be floated in contemplation of the purchase of their interests by others, or of their absorption by competitors. I do not say that thatis intendedby the promoters of the other party to this contract ; but, as it may happen, we should insert a provision to deal with the case, allowing the Government, in the event of thecompany joining a shipping ring, or constituting itself a monopoly, to take over its vessels, and to carry on the service as arranged for. I do not think that a long speech is necessary to put my case before honorable members. My proposal should commend itself as a necessary safeguard. We should not defer dealing with these matters until such time as the evil has come upon us. We know that the Prime Minister maintains that the lesser is contained in the greater. The Attorney-General might contend that the provisions of the contract, as it stands, cover the proposal in my amendment. I am not satisfied that they do.
– There is no doubt that the contract gives the Government the power to exercise the right, in the case the honorable member refers to, and in any other case ; but to put it in the form suggested by the honorable member might imperil the contract, while it would not extend its terms.
– It would limit them.
– It might, and it might imperil the contract.
– It might also strengthen the hands of the Government.
– The House could always give that direction to the Government at any time after the contract was made.
– That is to say, if the House were so constituted as to desire to give such a direction, and if the Government were at the time in sympathy with a proposal of the kind. But if during the tenure of the contract an effort to give effect to a provision of this kind did not meet with the sympathy of the Government or with the support of the House, those who favour it would be left in a hopeless state in their efforts to secure compliance with the condition. In my opinion, it should be included in the contract now, as a definite instruction that in the circumstances indicated the Government’ should adopt a certain course.
– The honorable member has the full sympathy of the Government in his contention that in the case of a monopoly the interests of the people should be protected.
– I quite understand that, but unfortunately I do not expect the present Government to continue in office for ever, and if the platform professions of those who might succeed them give a true indication of their aspirations in connexion with legislation of this character, it is necessary that there should be some conditions embodied in this contract which will insure justice to the people.
-They must have a majority before they can do anything.
– It is not merely a question of a majority because, as the representatives of the people, we are now proposing to enter into a contract for ten years.
– Is the honorable member going to talk allnight?
-I do not occupy a minute in talk for every hour occupied by the honorable member for Parramatta. It is the duty of this Parliament to see that the provisions of this contract are such as will protect the interests of the people of Australia.
– The honorable member has told us that ten times.
– The honorable member might understand it if I told him it oftener. For his edification I might saythat if his repetitions were recorded in Hansard or anywhere else, he would find that he is one of the greatest sinners in that respect. ‘
– I will admit it. Now get on.
– The honorable member would admit anything.
– I have a motion to move. That is my trouble ; and the honorable member has neither sympathy nor reason.
– There will be plenty of time to-morrow. I am aware of no understanding that this matter is to be concluded to-night. I heard no statement of the kind from the deputy-leader of the Opposition.
– I understand that it is the intention of the Government to go through with the matter to-night.
– It is just as well that these secrets should leak” out,and should become known to humble members of the House like myself. I was not aware that any arrangement had been made for concluding the debate on this matter to-night.
– There is no arrangement. I am simply telling the honorable member that the Government intend to go through with the matter, to-night.
– Has the acting leader of the Opposition agreed to that?
– Not at all.
– That is what I desired to know. I think I have said all I need say in support of my amendment, and
I shall now leave it in the hands of honorable members, having done what I believe to be myduty.
– I move -
That the amendment be amended by leaving out the words ‘“‘or otherwise,” and all the words after the word” monopoly.”
The amendment, if amended as I propose, would read -
That this House is of opinion that the steamers should be. acquired by the Government in the event of the company joining or becoming part of any shipping ring or combine constituting itself a monopoly.
One of the planks of the platform of the party to which I belong is the nationalization of monopolies. We are not concerned as to whether a monopoly is or is not detrimental, because we assume thatany monopoly in the hands of private enterprise is detrimental to the best interests of the community, and should, therefore, be nationalized.
– Then honorable members must define a monopoly.
– I admit that that is necessary. I should have been glad if the honorable member for Gwydir could have seen his way to support my attempt to nationalize these boats from the start. It was open to the honorable member to vote on my amendment in any way he pleased for the reason amongst others that it has been decided by our party that at present the business of the mail companies do not exactly, constitute a monopoly. Once it becomes a monopoly according to our platform it is necessary for us to do our very best to nationalize it. I should like to know whether the honorable member for Gwydir believes that the Shipping Conference in England is a monopoly, and is detrimental to the best interests of Australia. I was very pleased to hear my leader, the honorable member for Bland, make the statement that, had this contract been given to the Orient Steam Navigation Company, he would have been prepared to support the nationalization of the fleet, because the Orient Steam Navigation Company is a member of the Shipping Conference.
– Did the honorable gentleman say that?
– I understood him to say that, in answer to an interjection of mine during his speech. We are, however, considering a contract with a shipping company that at present is altogether outside the shipping ring. I should like to know whether the honorable member for Gwydir believes that the new, shipping company to whom it is proposed that this contract shall be given ought not to be a member of the Shipping Conference in England? If it is not a member of that Conference, I venture to say that it will have a very uphill fight. I have learned in the last few months that there are a number of. people in Australia, not merely amongst the membersof the Labour Party, but amongst the commercial community, who believe the operations of the Conference are detrimental to Australia. We all know that it is one of the largest combinations with bigger ramifications than any other, except, perhaps, the Standard Oil Trust in America. There is a number of persons who think that it ought to be. fought. Are we to say that the new shipping company is not to be a part of that combination? If it is not, it will be avery serious thing for the importers of Australia. It may be that there is a number of protectionists who think that if it will be a bad thing for the importers, it will be a good thing for Australia, because the more hindrances and difficulties that are placed in the way of importation, the better it will be for Australia. It will make no difference to the importations, although it will make things awkward for the importers, because those articles which are being imported will still come,only they will have to come by the boats of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. If the new company is not to be a member of the shipping conference in England, then we shall be practically pouring wealth into the coffers of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, and thus helping to build up acompany which employs black labour. As we all know, the deferred rebates are not allowed to those importers who use boats which are not members of the shipping conference. I am supporting the amendment because I am desirous that we should runour own boats. The honorable member for Gwydir did not see his way clear yesterday to support my proposal. I am prepared to support his amendmentbecause, whilst it does not go as far as I should like, still it goes along the line I advocate. I would rather nationalize the mail steamers to-day than to-morrow. If I cannot nationalize them to-day, I must be satisfied with the attempt to nationalize them to-morrow. I am prepared to support the proposal before us, but I trust the honorable member will agree to my amendment of it. It would make the proposal read morein accordance with the planks and pledges of the party to which I belong.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the amendment - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment of the amendment negatived.
Mr.SPEAKER. - I would point out that a vote has just been taken upon a question embracing the last words of the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Gwydir, so that I cannot accept any motion unless it relates to an addition to the amendment.
– The question now before us, and upon which I differ from certain of my colleagues, is as to whether” we should make quite sure that a monopoly is detrimental before we take steps to nationalize it.
– The nationalization of monopolies is a plank in our platform.
– Whilst the plat form makes no qualification, it is to be in- terpreted with a certain amount of intelligence, and the assumption underlying the plank relating to monopolies is that such monopolies are detrimental.
– The honorable member is now discussing the amendment that has just been disposed of.
– If I am precluded from pursuing the subject, I have nothing further to say.
– I intendto vote for the amendment as it stands, although I think that the honorable member for Gwydir made a serious error in not accepting the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Barrier. As the amendment now stands-
– The honorable member is now discussing the amendment that has been disposed of.
– I desire to point out that, as the amendment now stands, it will be necessary to prove that a monopoly is detrimental to the Commonwealth, and that question may be submitted to the High Court.
– That does not follow.
– It is provided that the steamersmay be acquired by the Government, not if the service becomes a monopoly, butonly if it becomes a monopoly detrimental to the trade and commerce of the Commonwealth. The settlement of that question might involve protracted litigation.
– Not necessarily.
– If the honorable member were a director of a concern that became a monopoly, he would fight to the last ditch the question whether or not it was detrimental to the trade and commerce of the Commonwealth. I have always been opposed to any litigation that could be avoided, but I have no option but to vote for the amendment which is in accordance with the platform of the Labour Party.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I desire to submit an amendment regarding that clause in the contract which vests in the Government the power to purchase, in an unqualified way, the vessels employed in our mail service. The other night, when I described this provision as a socialistic sop, the Prime Minister promptly replied that a similar provision was included in the contracts made by the British Government. His interjection was, “ The British Government also include it.” I find, however, that there is no provision resembling it in the Imperial contracts. The only reference to it is contained in the Imperial contract with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, and that provision is very different from the clause in the agreement under consideration. In the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s contract there is a provision which has nothing whatever to do with the Postmaster-General, but which has to do with the Admiralty and with the defence of the Empire. It appears that the Admiralty have made a subvention with certain steam-ship companies, the particulars of which, I presume, are secret.
– I have a copy of the contract inmy office.
– A copy of what contract ?
– Of the subvention contract - the Cunard contract.
– I am speaking of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s contract. Clause 32 of that contract contains the following provision : -
Subject to the provisions of the subvention agreement between the Admiralty and the company, dated 3rd April, 1S94, or of any subsequent subvention agreement, the Admiralty shall at any time during the continuance of this agreement, if they shall consider it necessary for the public interest so to do, have power and be at liberty to purchase all or any of the mailships at a valuation, or to charter the same exclusively, &c.
Clearly, the power of purchase is reserved for defence purposes only. It is confined to the defence of the Empire, and is not a general power such as is embodied in this contract. The Imperial contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company eontains no power to purchase.
– Would the honorable member follow the Imperial contracts in the matter of labour also ?
– What, has that to do with what I am saying?
– It is a precedent, and the honorable member is talking of precedents.
– I am replying to the statement of the Prime Minister that a similar provision is contained in the Imperial contracts.
– The Prime Minister was not referring to the contracts mentioned by the honorable member.
– Perhaps the honorable member for Gwydir will tell me the contracts to which he was referring. I hold in my hand the current Imperial contract with the Peninsular and Oriental. Steam Navigation Company, and it contains no such provision. It provides for an emergency which has reference to the defence of the Empire - an emergency which would justify any Government in adopting an extreme course. But in none of the Imperial contracts is there any unconditional power of purchase such as’ is contained in this agreement. However, the Prime Minister has said that he has something additional in his possession, and I shall await with interest what he has to say. In the meantime, I propose to make our contract harmonize with the provision which is embodied in the British contracts at the present time. If we do that we shall do all that is necessary in the direction of nationalizing this, sendee. Con.sequently I mere -
That the following words be added - “ and with the following further modifications : -
In the second line of clause 16, substitute the Minister of State for Defence’ for the ‘PostmasterGeneral.’
In No. 36 of the General Conditions of Tender, substitute the ‘Minister of State for Defence’ for the ‘Postmaster-General,’ and after the word ‘contract,’ in the second line, insert the words ‘if he shall consider it necessary for defence purposes so to do.’ “
The amendment -will confine the power of purchase or charter to the defence of Australia, and will limit the initiative in” this matter to the Minister of Defence, instead of to the Postmaster-General.
– There is nothing in it to protect the producers of Australia.
– There is everything in it to protect, not only the producers, but every other man in Australia in time of dire national, necessity.
– There are other times besides that.
– I take it that the very section of the Imperial contract with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company to which the honorable member has referred, proves my contention. It says -
The Admiralty shall at any time during the continuance of this agreement, if they shall consider it necessary in the public interest so to do, have power and be at liberty to purchase any or all of the mail ships, &c.
That gives the Admiralty absolute power to purchase those vessels if they consider it necessary to do so, the only limitation imposed being as to whether they regard such, a step as essential in the public interest ?
– In what matters other than defence are the Admiralty the judges of the public interest?
– That rests entirely with the Government, of which the Admiralty represents one Department.
– Subject to the provisions pf the subvention between the Admiralty and the company.
– The Imperial contract, which I had in my mind when the deputyleader of the Opposition was speaking, resembled that with the Cunard Company, dated 30th July, 1903, which contains the following : -
His Majesty’s Government shall have the right on giving notice in writing to the company of their intention so to do to take possession of any vessel which they require to purchase or hire under the provisions of this Agreement immediately on the arrival of such vessel at her port of discharge from the voyage. . . .
There is no limitation as to public interests - no limitation whatever. In sub-section
– The Cunard agreement of 1903 was renewed in 1904.
– I dare say it was. If any recollection is right, and I think it is, the language used in another contract with the British Government, which we had in mind and have seen, is exactly that which has been employed in this contract of ours.
– There is no provision of the kind in the contracts with the Orient Steam Navigation Company.
.- I take it that we are to deal with this contract with due regard to our own position, and not in accordance with what is done anywhere else.
– Hear, hear; but I was challenged.
– Whilst the Admiralty see fit to take, certain action in the old country, I think that the PostmasterGeneral is the most competent person to take charge of a purely postal contract. The honorable member’s amendment provides that these vessels shall not be interfered with except for defence purposes.
– In the way of purchase or charter.
– That is a clear challenge to the Government. Any one who believes that there is a possibility qf the Government, by taking possession of the steamers, securing a better service than they could obtain by leaving them in the hands of the contractors-
– This is Socialism, or otherwise.
– I quite agree that the Opposition, after assisting the Government, are challenging them with respect to a vital part of their policy. They are entitled to do so, but I would remind them of the statement made by the honorable member for North Sydney - one of the shrewdest and ablest members of their party - that circumstances might arise that would compel the Government to take oyer these vessels.
– He has explained to-night that he was referring to a time of national peril.
– The words used by the honorable member were perfectly clear. He said that the company might conduct the service in such a way as to compel the Government to call upon them to hand over the steamers at a reasonable price. I hope that the Government will stand by the contract, because the proviso, whilst it may not lead to much, is sound in principle, and will ultimately be availed of under this or some other contract.
– I have had an opportunity to hurriedly glance at the Cunard contract which the Prime Minister produced as a full justification for the Government proposal. So far as I have been able to peruse it, I have been led to the conclusion that the honorable and learned gentleman will find in it a weapon that turns in his own hands. In sub-clause 1 of clause 4, to which he referred, it is provided that -
The company shall at all limes during the term of this Agreement hold all and every the vessels for the time being the property of the company (including the steam-ships particularized in the first schedule hereto, and the two steamships referred to in clause 3 hereof and all other vessels built for or purchased or. otherwise acquired by the company as and when the same shall have been built, purchased, or otherwise acquired and so long as such steam-ships or vessel’s or any of them shall remain the property of the company) at the disposal of His Majesty’s Government to be hired or purchased upon the terms and conditions set forth in the third schedule hereto.
His Majesty’s Government shall have the right, on giving notice in writing to the company of their intention so to do to take possession of any vessel which they require to purchase or hire under the provisions of this Agreement, immediately on the arrival of such vessel at her port of discharge.
That refers only to the right of purchase under the third schedule. On turning to that schedule, we find that it is as follows : -
Terms and conditions upon which the vessels of the company are to be held at the disposal of His Majesty’s Government during the term of this Agreement.
It will be remembered that the Prime Minister emphasized the words “ His Majesty’s Government,” as showing that the facilities of the. company were not to be held at the disposal of the Admiralty. The wording of the schedule is as follows: -
The price shall be a sum equal to the value of the vessel purchased as on the date upon which the Admiralty shall give notice in writing to the company of their intention to purchase. . .
In other words, it is the Admiralty which has to determine the intention to purchase.
– Because that is the Department which deals with the matter.
– It deals with Imperial defence, not with the carriage of mails.
– Why is it that the words, “For the purpose of defence,” are not used?
– I shall tell the honorable and learned gentleman a little more as to this provision. First of all the right of His Majesty’s Government to purchase is dependent upon notice by the Admiralty, and cannot be exercised until that notice is given.
– The Admiralty is part of the Government.
– It is that branch of the Government which deals with the Imperial problems of defence. Paragraph 2 of the third schedule describes the way in which the value is to be determined, whilst paragraph 3 provides that -
The sale shall include the full equipment of the vessel but save as hereinafter provided shall not include the plated ware cutlery crystal earthenware blankets counterpanes bed and table linen and consumable stores of the vessel all of which the company shall be entitled to remove from the vessel with the exception of such quantity of such articles (other than consumable stores) as may be reasonably necessary for the number of officers and warrant officers that would form part of the vessel’scomplement if used as an armed cruiser.
-“ If “ used.
– The honorable and learned gentleman is taking refuge in a very poor little “ if.” This shows quite clearly what is the object of His Majesty’s Government in claiming the Tight to purchase these vessels - and such quantity of such articles shall be considered part of the equipment so purchased by the Admiralty.
Then clause 4 proceeds to prescribe that the Admiralty shall pay in cash or within thirty days.
– Is it the Admiralty that pays ?
– Yes, the Admiralty gives notice, it pays, and it retains sufficient of the ship’s stores toenable it to be used as an armed cruiser. The Postmaster-General disappears. When the Imperial Government takes over these vessels it is more concerned with the preservation of the country than the delivery of the mails. The same schedule goes on to give the terms on which hiring may take place. It provides that -
The company shall not be called on to provide officers and crews in war time, but will, if required, do all they can to assist the Admiralty in manning the vessels hired for war service.
– No one is disputing that.
– Clause 3,under this heading, describes what is to be done in time of war, while clause 4 sets forth that, in the event of the Admiralty hiring thevessels, or any of them, in times of peace - again, armed cruisers - certain things are to take place. Clause 5 refers to the taking on hire of the vessels as armed cruisers, and paragraphs 6 to 11 refer ‘to the arrangements between the Admiralty and the company. Both the provisions relating to purchase, and those relating to hire are contained in the one schedule, and are referred to in one clause of the agreement- clause 4 - as the alternative power of the Admiralty to purchase or hire. The whole thing is with the Admiralty, and I say, from first to last, this schedule makes it clear beyond any reasonable doubt that the whole object contemplatedby this agreement-
– I am expressing my own opinion.
– The chief object is naval, not the whole object - that is the point..
– The only contemplated object.
– The contemplated object throughout the whole of this agreement is the purchase or hire of those vessels for use as armed cruisers. We know that the captains of many of the vessels belong to the Royal Naval Reserve for that very same purpose. The Prime Minister quoted this agreementhastily, without any reasonable perusal, when he read sub-clause 2 of clause 4 as proof of the general power of purchase by the Government, as contrasted with the Admiralty, and for any purposes as contrasted with war purposes.
– Not as contrasted, but as including the Admiralty.
– I have quoted the article and the schedule, and I leave it to the House to judge, rightly or wrongly, what the purpose of the Imperial Government was, and how far their precedent warrants article 16 of the proposed postal contract.
– Does the honorable and learned member contend that that would preclude the Imperial Government from carrying mails during time of war?
– I never contended any such thing. I contend that the Imperial Government have claimed the right to purchase or hire those vessels because it contemplates desiring to use them in time of war for war purposes ; and thatthey do not, under this agreement, contemplate - I do not say that they have not, technical I v. the power - anything but taking them over in times of emergency, when they require them as part of the Imperial fleet, whether as armed cruisers, despatch boats, or other description of vessel.
– I have here their own document, showing that under the head of “ Admiralty Requirements “ the following is reported: - . . other Admiralty requirements connected with mail contracts relate to special facilities for Government parcels and stores, as to which we have no change to suggest, and to the conveyance of Government passengers.
– What I say does not depend solely on the use of the word “Admiralty.” I say that the whole of the third schedule, from which I have quoted, shows perfectly clearly what the Government of the United Kingdom had in mind when they entered into this agreement. If the Prime Minister thinks that the amendment of the honorable member for Parramatta, by specifically using the words “ for defence purposes,” is too narrow, I suggest that he take the exact words that appear in the contract of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company.
– Slavishly following some other people.
– We have been told over and over again that clause 16 of the agreement now under consideration has Imperial precedent, and because we now challenge the accuracy of that statement we are told that we are slavishly following the precedent which, during the last day or two, has been quoted as the one we ought to follow.
– The honorable member admits that, technically, the Imperial Government have the power.
– I am prepared to confer the power “technically” on this occasion by adopting the exact words of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s contract, I am prepared to do what is fair, and I am not concerned with the honorable member for Gwydir, or his ingenious modification of his previous theory on the socialistic question.
– Is that the honorable member’s interpretation of the agreement?
– I am prepared to substitute “for the public interest “ for “for defence purposes,” and then we should have the same technical right under our contract that the Admiralty has under the Imperial contract - we would have the same indica- tion of the contemplated objects and power that there ‘is in the Imperial contract. I move - -
That the amendment be amended by leaving out the words “defence purposes,” with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words .” the- public interest.”
– If the argument of the honorable and learned member for Corinella is worth anything, the substitution of the words he proposes would make no difference whatever. The honorable and learned member has been arguing for the last few minutes that, although the words used in the English contract are “for the public interest,” the provision is1 limited to defence purposes.
– I do not say that it depends solely on the word “Admiralty.” It depends on the whole form of the third schedule.
– If the words “for’ the public interest,” when used in conjunction with the Admiralty, are limited to defence purposes, the honorable and learned member would argue that where we have the Minister of Defence connected with the public interest the same result must follow. Does the honorable and learned member make a proposal merely to have a verbal alteration with no distinction ?
– Then why oppose the amendment ?
– I should like to point out what result would follow if the honorable and learned member’s argument were good. It is provided that the PostmasterGeneral may, during the continuance of the contract, purchase any or all of the mail steamers at a valuation. Does the honorable and learned member mean to say that we only give the power to the Government to purchase the mail ships for postal purposes? If the honorable and learned member’s argument is worth anything, it means that we could not purchase the vessels for the purposes of defence. It would lead to the conclusion that if we adopted the present proposed contract we could purchase only through the PostmasterGeneral for mail purposes.
– I never said that.
– If the honorable and learned member now admits, as he is forced to admit, that the Postmaster-General, having power to purchase the mail ships, may purchase them for defence purposes-
– For any purpose.
– If the argument be sound, why cannot, the Admiralty in England purchase the vessels for mail purposes? I think I can leave the matter there.
.- I think that the Attorney-General has successfully demolished the argument of the honorable member for Corinella. To say that because a particular Department has been selected’ by the. Government to take power for the purchase of ships, that that must be the only Department to use those ships, and that they cannot be used for any other purpose than that associated with the Department, is as illogical as any argument that might be expected at any time from honorable members opposite.
– I said that it indicated the contemplated purpose.
– The honorable member said the whole purpose.
– The honorable member for Corinella endeavoured to satisfy the House that the whole power that could be exercised by the British Government in purchasing ships through the Admiralty, was in the direction of defending Great Britain in a time of national danger. I do not -agree with the honorable member, and think that . the opinion expressed bv the Attorney-General is the reasonable one to adopt now. I wish to get away from the point whether or not we should adopt in this contract the exact language that has been employed by the British Government In its contracts, and to point out as shortly as possible the position occupied by the alleged friends of the producers, who sit in Opposition. During the last few days, we have heard nothing else from honorable members opposite except such demands as, “ Where is the provision in this contract to protect the bone and sinew of this country, and to give our producers an opportunity to send their goods at reasonable freights to the markets of the world?” Now, however, we find the same gentlemen objecting to the resumption of this contract. Although I do not approve of paying £125,000 under this agreement, still, if the proposal under discussion were omitted, it would place the producers in the position of being probably the victims of a shipping monopoly in the near future.
– Then this is a socialistic proposal ?
– I do not deny it. A provision to give the Government the right, when necessary, to take control of a line of steam-ships, in order to secure the peace, order, and good government of this country is, in my opinion, socialistic ; and I think it is a very desirable provision to have in legislation of this kind. The extraordinary position occupied by my honorable friends opposite lis demonstrated in their endeavour to strike out this provision, and it is a reasonable interpretation to place upon their conduct that they are prepared to allow our produce to be placed in the hands of any monopoly which may charge any rates it deems desirable, even to the extent of crippling the industries of this country.
– In all my existence I have never heard a more consummate legal quibble than that which has been indulged in by the AttorneyGeneral.
– It has discomfited the honorable member’s friend, the honorable member for Corinella.
– Not at all. All that the Attorney-General did was to wrest my honorable friend’s statements from their setting and to set up a bogy of his own. My honorable friend, the member for Corinella, never said that the Admiralty could not use the boats which it acquired for any other than war purposes. His argument all through was. that the Admiralty never contemplated using them for other than war purposes. That is the meaning of the contract alluded to, and the Attorney-General can read nothing, more into it. Of course, it does not take much to make honorable members of the Caucus Party laugh and cheer. Naturally, they cheer anything to get a socialistic proposal through. Why should they not?
– The honorable member would prejudice the interests of the producers of this country because he believes the proposal to be socialistic.
– I have no quarrel with the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. I am quarrelling with those quibblers in the Government who will not admit that this is a socialistic proposal. If they admitted at once that it was socialistic, there would be no more to be said, and we could go to a vote. No one can quarrel with the honorable member for Kalgoorlie and his colleagues. He says straight out, “ This is a piece of Socialism;” and it pleases them so much that they will not urge their own proposal as they would otherwise have done.
– It was urged, all the
– The text of the matter is this - that the Postmaster-General of Great Britain has no power whatever under this contract with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation ‘Company either to buy or borrow a ship of any kind.
– The British Government could buy a ship if it wanted one.
– It cannot acquire these mail boats under the terms of the contract with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. It cannot determine the contract for the purpose of getting hold of the ships. The British Postmaster- General is absolutely powerless. Only the Admiralty can move in that direction. And the reason why the Admiralty alone has authority to move in this direction is clear. Honorable members opposite can twist and torture the words as they please, but, in their hearts, they know that the only reason for the insertion of the words in the British contract is that the boats may be utilized by the Admiralty for war purposes. But if the words have the wider application suggested by the Attorney-General, why are they not inserted in the contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company ? Why are they only in the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s contract? There never has been this power in the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s contract. And why ? Because, presumably, the boats of that company are not up to Admiralty standard. They are not included in the secret subvention existing between the Admiralty and the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, whose boats are hiredby the Admiralty purely for war purposes. The British contract says that when the public interest demands it, the terms of the subvention shall be executed. I say to the Government that if the contract has the wider application which they contend that it has, and if they can read all these other things into it. let them give us the same proposal, and we will be satisfied. If the British Government lias these wide powers, why not put them into our contract?
– The terms of our contract are contained in a later contract proposed by theBritish. Government.
– Let the Government show them. This is the 1904 contract.
– When we were challenged, some time last year my honorable colleague quoted the very words which we had copied from the British contract. The passagewas shown to, me at the time.
– Where is it now ?
– It is not before me.
– It is impossibleto produce it, since I have cited the last English contract. There are no others-
– There are several others-
– There are no others with thePeninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company.
– I am not talking of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company only.
– I am dealing with the last contract of the British Government with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company.
– What about the contract with the Cunard Company ?
– That was made twelve months prior to the contract of which I am speaking.
– What about the contract with the Royal Mail Company ?
– I know nothing about that.
– The honorable member ought to be posted in these matters
– I am ready to be corrected by the honorable member if he is. in a position to correct me. Let him supply the information we need, if he has it in his possession, and so end the debate.
– There was a contract in 1897.
– That contract was practically renewed by the contract of 1904, with the addition of two or three clauses. If the provisions in the British Government contracts would serve our purposes, why havethey not been inserted in this, contract ? If all these meanings can be read into the British contracts, why are they not a Mowed to be read into this contract? Evidently this contract goes beyond the British contracts. We know that the British contracts have no such wide application, but that the provision in this contract to which I have referred has been inserted as a socialistic sop to the Labour corner. The mail-boats running under the terms of the British contracts arerequired to obtain the approval of the Admiralty in order that only such vessels may be employed as could be advantageously called upon in times of war. The British PostmasterGeneral has no power to buy or charter any vessel. That right is reserved to the Admiralty alone. That being so, we say to the Government, “ Give the Minister of Defence a similar power for a similar purpose.” All else in this provision is the leather and prunella of Socialism.
.- If I understand the members of the Opposition aright, they wish to amend the contract so that the vessels carrying on the service may be purchased by the Government only for use in time of war. Apparently they would leave the Australian people at the mercy of the shipping company carrying on the service, if it declared war on us. The object of the provision in the contract to which exception has been taken is to protect the interests of the people of this country in the event of certain contingencies arising. One of those contingencies is the possibility of the shipping company which is a party to the contract joining with the existing shipping ring .which controls freights and fares from the other side of the world, and may ultimately declare war on the people of Australia by increasing the rates charged to shippers at this end. I hope that the Government will stand by that provision. The members of the Opposition have posed as the friends of our producers and exporters. But if they had read the evidence taken in recent inquiries they would know that our people have had to fight hard to secure reasonable lates, and that a satisfactory mail-boat service for the transport of perishable produce is of great importance to them. The contract has been discussed as if it. were merely a contract for the conveyance of mails, whereas, in reality, the underlying intention is to secure the services of a fleet of up-to-date boats for the quick transport of our products to the markets of the old world.
– We can have a straightout socialistic fight now.
– It is a great pity that some honorable members are afraid of the word “ Socialism,” and run away without examining the ideal for which it stands. Would it not be unwise to make a contract for ten years without safeguarding the interests of those who have to do business with the old country? The need for protecting their interests is the real reason why this provision is inserted, Without it, the fortunes of our producers will be in the hands of the company.
– There is too much competition for that.
– There is really no competition. , The honorable member is not’ alive to the facts of the case. It is not denied that freights are arranged at the other end, and the importers do not object to them, because they can be passed on to the consumers.
– That assists the Australian manufacturers.
– The amount of cargo’ to be carried is also regulated, and when only enough is offering for three or four vessels, it is often spread over six. It has been argued that, by increasing the freights on exports to Australia, the companies are put in a position to give reasonably low freights to those who send produce from Australia, particularly because our exports exceed in quantity our imports. Then, too, high freights on imports assist local manufacturers. But in Western Australia attempts have been made to regulate freights at this end, and it would be outrageous if Parliament for ten years abandoned its right to interfere with arrangements threatening Australian interests, leaving itself without a weapon to protect our exporters. It is not contended that the rates already fixed are unreasonable, but there is no doubt that they control the oversea shipping sufficiently to enable them to raise freights at this end. Freights would not, of course, be raised to the point which would prevent exports, but it is admitted that the companies could raise them to any rate short of that. There is no doubt whatever that if this company does not join the shipping ring they will be unable to obtain freight to Australia. In the circumstances it would be madness for us to leave ourselves at the mercy of the company. In spite of the alarming suggestion that what is proposed is socialistic, I am satisfied that before’ the close of the ten years period, this Parliament will see that it is wise that we should have our own shipping as a check upon the shipping ring. I believe that circumstances will arise which will demand the enforcement of this provision. If the shipping ring which this company will join dictates terms to them, it might happen that the Government will have to buy them out to insure the carriage of perishable products’ in the interests of the Australian producer. There can be no doubt that in the. near future there will be a tremendous, expansion of our export trade in fruit and other produce, and the ships proposed to be built under this contract will not be able to carry all the freight offering from Australia. It is this outlook, probably, which justifies these people in entering upon a contract of this kind.
– Then this provision does not mean what is meant bv the provision in the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s contract, but something more.
– I cannot understand honorable members of the Opposition being such sticklers for copying what England has done. We should do what the Government have proposed, and that is consider Australian conditions.
-They say the conditions are the same.
– Never mind what an.body sayS. We are here to make this as good a contract as we can.
Mr. (McCay. - :The honorable member contemplates the clause being operative to take over the ships for commercial purposes. “ Mr. SPENCE.- I say that if the clause as not so worded as to give the Government power to take over the ships for commercial purposes, the Government should certainly see that it is framed in such a way that that can. be done. I look upon this provision as supplying a weapon in the hands of the Government for controlling the shipping company and to prevent them acting unreasonably towards Australian producers.
– In other words, to take the ships over for socialistic purposes.
– Not necessarily. I do not think that it would be wise for the Government to buy out the company. In in opinion, it would be far better that we should build our own ships.
– Should we build them in Australia?
– If the honorable member pleases; but I do not think that they could be built at Mort’s Dock yet. My view is that the provision will enable us to prevent Australian producers from being fleeced, and that without it we should be at the mercy qf a shipping combine over which we can exercise no control whatever. I cannot understand the attitude of the Opposition in desiring to so limit the scope of the provision that the boats could only be taken over in the event of some one declaring war upon us. What I desire is that we should be prepared for a declaration of war by the shipping companies themselves.
– I desire to welcome into the ranks of those who wish to see an Australian Navy established a number of honorable members opposite who are prepared to give the Minister of Defence the power to acquire nine vessels at any time at which the country might require them.
– I learn that various constructions have been put upon certain words which I used in the speech I made in connexion with this contract yesterday, which are not warranted by what I said. Quoting from the Hansard report, I find that what I said was -
In these circumstances I cannot vote ‘ for the amendment. I am not going to say that under certain conditions there might not be justification for a State-owned service. If we found persons taking advantage of a monopoly which they had established, and making it’ absolutely injurious to the interests of Australia, some action might have to be taken, but I do say that nothing of that kind has arisen, nor is it likely to arise with the free competition of the ocean.
That is what I said, and that is what I stand by, and I protest against any interpretations which are altogether wide of the mark being placed upon my words. I have only a word to say about this amendment. I am absolutely against the proposal in the contract, and would substitute for it the provision contained in the British contracts, which the Ministry have sought to make it appear - probably without knowledge - is similar to the provision in this contract. As the honorable member for Parramatta has said, if it is similar, why should not the Government accept it, and if the provision in this contract differs from it, what is the reason for the difference? Is it not that, instead of having the power merely to take possession of these steamers in an emergency such as war, they may vest the power in the hands of the PostmasterGeneral to acquire, for any or for no reason but a socialistic reason, possession of these boats? The Prime Minister said that the Postmaster-General read from a British contract a provision similar to that in the present proposal. I have no doubt at ‘ all that what the honorable gentleman read was paragraph 32 of the Peninsular.
Subject to the provisions of the Subvention Agreement between the Admiralty and the company, dated 3rd April, 1894, or of any subsequent Subvention Agreement, the Admiralty shall at any lime during the continuance of this Agreement, if they shall consider it necessary so to do, have power and be at liberty to purchase all or any of the mail-ships at a valuation, or to charter the same exclusively for Her Majesty’s service, at a rate of hire to be mutually fixed and agreed on by them and the company, or, in case of difference, to be determined by arbitration, and every or any difference as to the amount of valuation or hire or rate of hire so to be paid shall be determined by arbitration.
That reads as though it were similar to the proposal in this contract, but when we attach to it the schedule which gives the grounds for the acquisition of these boats, it is not so.
– What schedule?
– The schedule quoted by the honorable and learned member for Corinella.
– I do not think there is one in that contract.
– It is subject to the provisions of the subvention agreement between the Admiralty and the company.
– I think that the honorable member is, perhaps, inadvertently overlooking the fact that the schedules referred to were in connexion with the Cunard1 contract.
– The schedules were quoted from that contract, I understand.
– That is a different one.
– At any rate, we have had quoted the only conditions which apply, and it is shown that they apply to the purchase of the steamers for war purposes. Reading the paragraph alone, it might be taken as corresponding practically with the contract. But, reading it with the subvention agreement, and also with the schedules attached to the Cunard agreement, it is shown that it refers to the purchase of the vessels for war purposes. After that clear statement of the position by honorable members, the Ministry cannot get out of this position, either they thought thev were doing the same thing as the British Government, or they are acting on the principle advocated by honorable members in the corner, who have openly avowed that they support the proposal of the Government because it is
– Where would we get the money from ?
– The Ministry would hope to get the money from the British lender, I suppose. The right honorable member- must know that the members of the Commission of which the honorable member for B arrier was chairman proposed to borrow money in Australia for the purpose.
– But Parliament would have to approve of the purchase of the vessels first.
– Parliament might be asked to approve after the agreement to acquire the vessels had been made.
– No. before.
– The Government could’ commit itself to the purchase of the vessels without reference to Parliament, and the latter could only refuse to ratify the Act by displacing them.
– That would be a risky job to undertake.
– Risky undertakings have been entered into before now by those who depended upon the vote of a certain number of honorable members.
– Not involving the raising of several millions of money, I hope.
– I do not know about that. At any rate, that is the position. The Government profess to wish to copy the British contract. They see clearly now that they have not done so, and they refuse to alter their own terms, and by that means do what they at first professed they were ready to do.
– I cannot understand the attitude of the members of the Opposition. The honorable member for Parramatta has stated that the honorable member for Corinella had never said that the Imperial Government have not the power to purchase the vessels to be used for purposes other than defence, and the honorable member for North Sydney has told us that the intention as that the Government shall be able to purchase .the vessels for only the purpose of defence. If the honorable member for Corinella really meant that the Government have power to purchase the vessels for any other purpose, that is an admission that they would have the right to use them for any other purpose, and that it was quite right that they should have that power.
– It was not the implied object, he meant to say.
– That is not the point at all. The honorable member for Corinella admits that the Imperial Government have the right to purchase these vessels either for any purpose or for only defence purposes. Which is it? First we had a denial that it was as the honorable member for Corinella said for the one purpose.
– Let them put in these provisions and then it will be made clear.
– There are several reasons for not putting in the provisions. We have no right to consider what provisions the Imperial Government has put in any contract. The question is what we ought to do.
Mr-. Joseph Cook. - “ Australia for the Australians.”
– I would rather have Australia for the Australians than for the foreigners. The only trouble, apparently, with members of the Opposition is that the wording of the contract makes it clear that power is given to the , Government to be used for a socialistic purpose, and to placate the Labour Party. If that power had existed in the contract with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, or the Orient Steam Navigation Company, at the time when our producers were being robbed by the mail companies, I am quite satisfied .that the producers of Australia would not have had a word to say about Socialism. On the contrary, they would have said, “For goodness’ sake try to see that justice is done to us.” If a similar thing were to occur, we should have every producer not talking a wordabout Socialism, but saying,, “ Give us better terms than we are getting - do not allow us to be robbed by the shipping companies.” Apparently the members of the Opposition have forgotten all about the report of the Butter Commission, although it is only a few months since it was presented. Seemingly, they have forgotten all about the secret rebates which were paid, one firm alone getting ^12,000 odd in twelve months from a mail company, in order to allow them to charge a most exorbitant rate for carrying produce. Is that the kind of thing which the members of the Opposition wish to see continued? I do not.
– There is a law against all that sort of thing now.
– We have altered all that without buying the ships.
– I wish to prevent the mail companies from having the opportunity to repeat that sort of thing. All over the world private enterprise is continually fleecing somebody.
– If the Government were to get the running of these ships there would be fleecing, too.
– I would remind the honorable member for Echuca that, within the last few weeks, we have had to pass certain legislation.
– That is the old argument of destroying freedom and responsibility for the purpose of preventing persons from doing a certain thing.
– Are not the great shipping combines destroying freedom and individuality? The only question is which is the best form of collectivism. Is it shipping combines, or that system which allows people to control these matters for the benefit of the whole community? I am satisfied that no argument has been advanced here to-night to induce a single member to change his vote in regard to this clause. We have nothing to do with Imperial contracts. I hope that we are going to abandon the practice of copying oldworld agreements, which are possibly fifty years behind the times. I am glad to say that in some things we are in advance of the times, as I hope we shall soon be in regard to many other things. If, however, we follow the example of the Opposition, 100 years hence we shall be exactly where we are to-day. The honorable member for North Sydney has clearly shown that the whole purpose which he has in view is to give the Government of the Commonwealth the right to purchase the ships for war purposes only. He does not care how any section of the community is treated by the shipping companies.
– Quite as much’ as the honorable member does.
– Undoubtedly I do care as I have proved by my votes. However, at this hour in the morning I do not intend to discuss any question with the honorable member. I am very pleased to see that the Government are likely to stand firmly by their agreement.
– The dispute between the Government and the Opposition, if there is one, arises from the fact that the Government have represented that the clause in the proposed new contract is similar to that contained in the Imperial mail contracts. Now, the Labour Party are defending the clause adopted by the Government, because it differs from the Imperial provision in that it would enable the Government to acquire the steamers for commercial purposes. The Opposition have so far stood by the Government in their resistance of the socialistic propositions put forward during the discussion of this contract. If the Government had acted in a straight-forward manner I could have admired them, but in framing the clause in the contract in such a way as to meet the desires of the Labour Party they have not put the position so clearly as to entitle them to claim that their conduct has been altogether aboveboard. If the Government had intended to insert a provision similar to that contained in the Imperial mail contracts, there would have been no necessity to resort to ambiguous language. Every one knows that the clause in the proposed contract goes very much further than the Imperial provision. Personally, I am entirely opposed toany of these socialistic proposals. The honorable member for Darwin argued that the clause as it stood would act as a deterrent upon the ship-owners, who might be disposed to exact high freights from producers. But there is nothing in the contract to prevent any such abuse of power.
– Does the honorable member think that it would be less socialistic if the Minister of Defence, instead of the Postmaster-General, were empowered to purchase the ships?
– Surely the honorable member recognises the distinction between empowering the Government to- take over the vessels at a time of great national stress and permitting them to acquire them for purely commercial purposes.
Amendment of the amendment negatived.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That the following words be added : - “ That it be a condition of the contract that the mail steamers shall call at Hobart at least fortnightly during the months of February, March, and April.”
At this late hour I have no intention to delay the House. I believe it is the feeling of honorable members that the shorter I make my speech the more votes my proposal will command. I do not ask that the mail steamers shall visit Hobart regularly throughout the year. But as honorable members are aware, there are three months during which there is a large export of fruit to London, and at the present time it is necessary to charter steamers to convey it there. Consequently I ask that fortnightly during the months of February, March, and April the mail steamers should make Hobart a port of call.
– After we have knocked out Brisbane.
– I think the honorable member will admit that I did not assist to knock out Brisbane. The conditions for which I ask are so moderate that I am sure the contractors would not object to them. Next year we shall export from Hobart more than 500,000 bushels . of apples. Indeed, apart from minerals, fruit is our chief export to England - and the whole of the crop must be exported during six, or at most eight, weeks of the year.
– Suppose that contracts have been made by growers with other vessels, so that there are no apples for the mail steamers to take whenthey call there?
– Although the mail steamers have been charging for the carriage of fruit to London 9d. per case more than is charged by vessels with larger bottoms, practically every inch of their space has been occupied. It is the quick transit which is the desideratum of fruitgrowers. The honorable member for Barrier may rest assured that if the vessels visit Hobart during the months I have indicated, they will be able to take away as much fruit as they can carry. One point which 1 desire to emphasize is that our fruit-growers are further removed from the English market than are their competitors on the mainland, and I claim that they should be provided with equal shipping facilities.
Question - that the words proposed to be added be so added - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 16
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Mr. Ewing) agreed to -
That the following words be added : - “ And after the wordlegislation, paragraph 15, the word ‘directly’ be inserted.”
Original question as amended - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 25
Question so resolved in the affirmative. .
That this House approves the agreement made and entered into on the7th day of July, 1906, between the Postmaster-General, in and for the Commonwealth, and Sir JamesLaing andSon’s, Limited, for the carriage of mails between Adelaide and Brindisi, with the following modifications : -
That at the end of clause 3 the following proviso be added : - Provided that, in the event of the Postmaster-General requiring the” period of transit “ on the voyage from Brindisi to Adelaide to be reduced to six hundred and twelve hours, the period of six hundred and twelve hours shall thenceforth be deemed to be the “period of transit” for each voyage from Brindisi to Adelaide, and each such voyage shall be completed within that period.
That clause 15 be amended by inserting after the word “legislation” the word “directly,” and after the words “ with the consent of “ in the second proviso, the words “ or subject to approval by,” and after the word “Parliament” the words “ by resolution.”
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– At this hour of the morning I think that the Prime Minister might well consent to allow us a little grace. The bountiful provisions of the morning will then be preludedby a beautifulsleep to-night.
– I beg leave to withdraw the motion. We will make it 11.30 a.m.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn until 11.30 a.m. this day.
House adjourned at 1.3 a.m. (Friday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 July 1906, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1906/19060726_reps_2_32/>.