2nd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to know from the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, whether, during the fortnight which has elapsed since I first asked for the production of the papers relating to the Crouch surrender case, the Minister has had time to peruse them, and has made up his mind whether they shall be laid on the library table?
– An inquiry was held into the circumstances of the case to which the honorable member refers, but as the procedure laid down by the regulations was hot followed, the report furnished should not be acted upon. In bringing the honorable member’s question before the Minister, I suggested that Parliament should not be furnished with a copy of a report upon which the Department could not act, it being informally obtained. Since the regulations were not followed, it was practically no report at all. The propriety of making it public is now under his consideration. If he takes my advice, he will not consent to the production of any report which the Department is not prepared to stand behind. However, honorable members are entitled to receive replies to their questions, and if there is any aspect of the case in regard to which the honorable member for Lang wishes information, I shall be glad to furnish it if available.
– Since the Vice-President of the Executive Council told the House the other day that the Crouch surrender case was one so entirely within the province of the local Commandant that the Minister of Defence did not feel inclined to deal with it, will he now inform us why the recommendation of the Commandant was not accepted? Secondly, as the Commandant, who is responsible for the efficiency of Victorian officers, and the Minister, who is responsible to Parliament for the administration of the Defence Department, are at variance in this case, is it not advisable that honorable members should be fully informed regarding it, so that they may be able to come to a conclusion as to whom they should trust.
– The matter was entirely within the control of the Commandant ; but it is obvious he could not wisely take action subsequent to and incidental upon an inquiry which was conceded to be abortive. The Minister of Defence informed me this morning that the Commandant has told him that all concerned in the matter are satisfied to allow it to rest, and, therefore, he feels indisposed to trouble himself further in regard to it.
– Is the Minister in a position to reply to the question which I asked on the 19th inst., reported on page 4866 of the Hansard record, as to the granting of holiday leave in suburban and country post-offices?
– Yes. The answers are as follow: -
– About the beginning of the year I received in writing the Ministerial assurance that the lettercarriers of Waverley, Bondi, and Randwick would be permitted, by the appointment of an extra relieving officer, to take the leave to which they are entitled under the regulations. Is the Minister aware that that promise has not been acted upon?
– I believe that some difficulty has arisen in regard to these officers, but arrangements are now being made which will enablethem to take the leave due to them.
– Almost at once.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister when it is proposed to bring the Designs Act into operation ?
-It has been referred to the Registrar of Patents for advice as to the steps necessary to be taken before bringing it into force.
– In January last certain troops were paraded at an exhibition held in Sydney by the Australian Natives Association. Can the Minister representing the Minister of Defence lay the papers in the case on the table of the House or of the Library ?
– I shall endeavor to obtain them to-morrow or next day.
– Has the Prime Minister yet received any communication from the Premier of New Zealand as to the likelihood of the preferential trade proposals being agreed to by the Legislature of that Colony? If so, will he let the House know the effect of it ?
– I telegraphed to the Prime Minister of the Colony this morning, but there has not yet been time to receive a reply.
– As the Estimates are likely to be considered this week, I wish to know from the Postmaster-General when he will be able to lay on the table of the Library the return asked for some time a.go showing the cost of the conveyance of mails between Tasmania and the mainland and by steamer on the Tasmanian and Queensland coasts.
– I shall be glad to give the honorable member the information to-morrow.
– Has the Department of Defence yet come to a decision in regard to the size of the guns to be used in the North Fremantle fort ? If not, what is the reason for the long delay ?
– The whole question of Australian defence was under consideration, first by the Imperial Defence Committee, and subsequently by Australian officers ; but when the Prime Minister makes his statement in a few days’ time he will furnish the information required.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The Public Service Commissioner has furnished the following information: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
If he will lay on the table of the House, before the close of the session, a return showing -
The number respectively of British and French subjects resident in the New Hebrides at the present time?
The description and value of their respective surplus products for export?
The amount and value of the products of British subjects imported annually into Australia up to 30th June, 1906?
The amount of duty collected annually at Australian ports on New Hebrides British-grown produce?
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
Though considerable inquiry has been made, it has not been possible to obtain authentic information upon these matters of any recent date. For instance, no distinction is made in any entries or returns between produce grown by British and foreign settlers : the materials for making such distinction not being procurable.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What action has been taken by his Department to carry out that portion of a resolution unanimously carried by the House on 2nd August, to the effect that the exact pharmaceutical composition or construction should be set out clearly on the label or package or each tin, bottle, box, or parcel of all imported patent or proprietary medicines, and infantile and artificial foods.
– In respect of the goods mentioned, the following regulations have been made under the Commerce Act : -
The trade description shall comply with the following provision : -
Medicines. - In the case of medicines prepared ready for use, and containing 10 per cent. or more of ethyl alcohol, if the average dose recommended exceeds one teaspoonful(60 minims), the trade description shall set out the proportion of quantity of proof spirit in the medicine. In the case of medicines prepared ready for use and containing any of the following drugs (or the salts or derivatives thereof), namely, opium, morphine, cocaine, heroin, stramonium, nux vomica, cannabis, indica, bromides, sulphonal, trional, veronal, paraldehyde, or any synthetic, hypnotic substance, phenazonium, phenacetinum, or acetanilidium, or any allied synthetic substance, chloral hydrate, belladonna, cotton root, ergot, or any abortifacient, the trade description shall set out the names of all such drugs so contained.
Infantile and artificial foods. - The Commerce regulations require a trade description to be applied stating a true description of the goods and the country or place of origin.
These regulations come into operation on1st January, 1907.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
Bill returned from the Senate with requests.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Electoral regulations, Statutory Rules 1906, No. 78.
Transfers of amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council under the Audit Act, financial year 1905-6 (dated 25th September).
Mr. SPEAKER laid upon the table:
Treasurer’s statement of receipts and expenditure during the year ended 30th June, 1906, accompanied by the report of the AuditorGeneral.
Ordered to be printed.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That standing order No. 70 be suspended for the remainder of the session.
– I think that, at this stage of the session, the proposal made by the Prime Minister is a perfectly reasonable one. In view of the urgent necessity for closing the session, honorable members on all sides will no doubt do their best to facilitate the despatch of necessary business. But I hope that the Government will not keep the House sitting longer than they can help, because we find it a serious inconvenience to be compelled to sit here day after day whilst other honorable members are undermining us in our constituencies.
.- I take this opportunity to ask the Prime Minister whether he will afford an opportunity for the discussion of the Papua. Bill, which has already been passed by the Senate.
– When, as is usual at the end of the session, some interval occurs between the transmission of Bills from one Chamber to the other. I shall be glad to afford an opportunity for the consideration of the measure referred to.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) pro posed -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- With the permission of the House, I should like to say something with regard to this important Bill. I wish to refer to the way in which the Prime Minister presented this matter when he was helping the ReidMcLean Government to carry on public business. We had great pleasure in affording him an opportunity to introduce resolutions upon this question. On a former occasion my honorable friend the member for Wannon quoted the resolutions, and I shall not take up the time of honorable members by reading more than a very small part of them, namely : -
Inasmuch as every increase in trade between the mother country and the Colonies or any of them would be of mutual advantage commercially, while collectively, by multiplying their production, profitable employment, population, and exchanges, such increases must enhance the unity and power of the Empire……
There is a ring about that which must commend it to those honorable members who hold fiscal views different from those of the Prime Minister.
– I admit that at this period df the session it is almost unreasonable for any honorable member to request the attention of honorable members, but this is a matter of very grave importance, upon which, with the indulgence of the House, I might be allowed to say a word or two. Of course, I do not wish to struggle against difficulties.
– Order. Will honorable members please be seated?
– We are now dealing with the question of preferential trade, with regard to which so many banners were waved at the last general election. One would think that it was a question of establishing a few extra pillar-boxes. There is no doubt that this is one of the most important questions that could be considered by the Australian Parliament, and one of the strongest condemnations of the manner in which it has been introduced is conveyed by the fact th.it it is riot being considered with any seriousness at all. I admit that there is some reason for this, because the proposal is not, I am afraid, one for genuine preference. If we could consider that it was a genuine proposal, we could, at any rate, credit the Government with having acted with an excellent motive. Whatever views honorable members may entertain, or whatever may be the views of the people of the mother country, upon this subject, there is no doubt whatever that any honest desire to serve the mother country in grateful recognition of the services that she has rendered to us must command the sympathy of every loyal subject of the King in Australia. Whether we think the policy good or bacl, to the extent to which it is supported by good motives, it is one that ought to be discussed with the greatest possible respect and sympathy.
– Order ! Will honorable members cease conversing in such loud tones?
– I do not know whether there is a caucus in progress.
– We have been talking for weeks, whilst the right honorable gentleman has been away.
– -I merely claim the right to speak once on this subject, and I think I may fairly do so under the circumstances. If the proposals are a sham, it is of no. us.e to waste time over them, but if they are something more than a sham they are worthy of serious consideration. I have taken some little trouble to look into this matter iri order to ascertain what good there is in the proposals of the Government, and, after a review of the trade which exists between Australia and the mother country, I cannot help saying that Ministers have been singularly skilful in evading the obligation to offer a real, substantial concession to the mother country. They have skilfully evaded giving a preference instead of honorably endeavouring to extend it. I should like to read a few figures which have not yet been used in this debate, showing the great items of trade in connexion with our imports of about £37,000,000. Of this total, £23,000,000 worth are grouped under five headings. Apparel and textiles represent a total of £9,500,000 - thus one line represents nearly £10,000,000; drugs and chemicals represent £900,000; hats and caps nearly £500.000 ; machinery, iron and steel manufactures, tools of trade, and items of that sort, total something like £6,350,000; and piece-goods - including woollens, valued at £1,800,000 - represent £6,257,000. Thus, under five headings we have a total of £23,506,000, and yet with one exception, to which I shall refer, the Government proposals do not touch any of these imports. There is one item included among the Government proposals, namely, that of “engines, gas and’ oil, and high-speed engines and turbines, water and steam.” Of high-speed engines, turbines, water and steam, our imports are valued at £9,907, of which all but £97 worth comes from the United Kingdom at the present moment. Then of gas and oil engines, we import £73,000 worth, of which £53,000 worth come from the United Kingdom as the country of origin. Therefore, of the £6,350,000 worth of imports of iron and steel manufactures, the Government proposals relate to only two insignificant items. I admit that this is called an unconditional preference. Assuming that the Government really desire to give a preference, I am sure that they must wish to make such a proposal as will persuade the people of the motherland that this is a wise policy to adopt. The test vote taken after the last elections in Great Britain resulted in 478 members of the House of Commons declaring in favour of free-trade, while 96 were opposed to it,and thus a most emphatic declaration was registered against the taxation of food or raw materials, and in favour of a freetrade policy. That was such an enormous majority that no man of sense can expect the present House of Commons to approach us. Some remarkable change of public opinion would be necessary before there could be a mutual arrangement, and I ask whether the Government are proposing the best means of bringing about a change of public opinion in the mother country. Is not their proposal rather calculated to justify all that has been seated by many leading liberals during the British electoral campaign, to the effect that it was hopeless to expect substantial preference from the Australian States? If we want to obtain a substantial preference, we must, as honest men, give a substantial preference in return. Any attempt to hoodwink the British people by offering a sham preference in order to obtain a substantial preference is not merely unworthy in itself, but is sublimely ridiculous. Has the Prime Minister received a telegram from the Right Honorable Joseph Chamberlain congratulating him upon this magnificent beginning of the preferential trade movement in Australia? We know that that most distinguished public man in the United Kingdom has, with marvelllous eloquence and power, said everything that can be said in favour of an arrangement of this kind, and if these proposals of the Government were worthy of the occasion, he would be the first to telegraph his congratulations to the Prime Minister upon the notable step he had taken. But all the friends of the movement in the mother country have been significantly silent. The Government proposal has been received with a sense of profound disappointment. And can we wonder at it? Under the eighteen headings in the schedule foreign trade to the value of .£675,000 is affected. The items cover a total trade of £2,000,000, of which Great Britain already h!as over 60 per cent. The Minister of Trade and Customs estimates that there will be a probable gain to the mother country of 25 per cent, of the foreign trade affected by the proposal. What does that amount to - a sum of not more than £200,000 worth of trade. But there is one aspect of this proposal which I think will cause the profoundest uneasiness in the mind of every man in England, Scotland, and Ireland who has the slightest regard for the welfare of the mother country. Under the guise of this miserable pretence, a feature has been introduced into our legislation which may well imperil the supremacy of Great Britain upon the ocean. What is the distinctive clause which has been inserted in this Bill with reference to the small amount of trade which we are to divert from the rest of the Empire and from foreign countries to the United Kingdom? It provides that we are to discriminate in favour of “ dutiable goods, the produce or manufacture of the United Kingdom, and imported direct in British ships.” Do honorable members know that at the present time the British mercantile marine carries half the cargoes of the world? Half the cargoes of the nations are carried under the British flag. Nobody will deny for a moment that this proposal is well meant. But when the facts relating to the British mercantile marine are considered, I think the British Government and the patriots of the mother country will wish such a preference buried a thousand fathoms below the level of the ocean. At the present time the British nation has a pre-eminence in the carrying of goods for all- nations which is beyond any precedent in the history of commerce. Yet under an insignificant pretence we are raising questions which may cause a development of hostility to the British mercantile marine, the end of which no man can foresee. If the mercantile marine of other nations were overtaking the British mercantile marine - if the position were not exactly the reverse - there might be more excuse for this provision. But considering that Great Britain carries by far the largest quantity of the cargoes of the United States, and half the cargoes of the” whole world, any attempt to raise a distinction of that sort in this petty, insignificant, useless way, is one which I think the people of England, as well as those of foreign countries, will bitterly resent. There can be no substantial reciprocal arrangement expected from the protectionists of Australia. It is impossible to give it. ,1 do not question their patriotism at all-
– What does the honorable member for Gippsland say to that?
– I am sure that he extends to me the liberty of expressing my own opinion just as I concede a similar liberty to him.
– I have never said anything to the contrary.
– Has the honorable member said that it is impossible to expect from the protectionists of Australia any substantial reciprocal arrangement?
– I have never said that any preference on our part should be confined to British ships.
– Considering that Great Britain manufactures almost everything that we manufacture, that there is scarcely one line of Australian manufacture that would not be imperilled by the admission of British manufactures on a substantial scale, I think that the position is a perfectly intelligible one. At the very moment when this miserable pretence of extending a preference to the mother country is being put through this House, the Prime Minister has declared that he will endeavour to raise the Tariff wall against the mother country. He is not even prepared to leave it as it is. So far from taking a brick off that wall, he affirms that his policy is to increase the duties against the mother country. Surely this is one of those painful contradictions which cannot possibly be reconciled. The honorable and* learned gentleman says, in effect, “Oh, hut in regard to any change in the Tariff, we propose to allow a margin of 10 per cent, in favour of the mother country.” But to what extent? The scheme of preference under consideration is a miserable, insignificant thing; it isas was stated by the honorable and learned member for Bendigo - “ a thing of shreds and patches.” It is not a statesmanlike scheme, and the Minister of Trade and Customs himself has admitted that owing to the time at which it was brought forward, it was impossible to frame a comprehensive scheme. That is one of the strongest condemnations of these proposals. To my mind, the report - which was published in to-day’s Argus - of a sub-committee in Adelaide, which has been considering this question for some time, and which has far more knowledge of it than we can have, expresses the situation with singular correctness. I wish now to refer to one or two remarks which were made upon this matter by the Minister of Trade and Cus- toms a few days ago. He asked, ‘ ‘ Why does not the British farmer go for protection ? “ That is one of the most extraordinary utterances . which I have ever heard. This Bill represents an endeavour to establish a system of preference which will confer an advantage upon the farmers of Australia, and the honorable gentleman asks why the British farmers do not go for protection. I think that if any class in the United Kingdom is entitled to protection, it is the agricultural class. The British farmer has to till a soil which has been cultivated for centuries. He has’ to conduct his operations under grave difficulties. He has not the virgin soil of Canada, or Australia, or. of the United States of America, to work upon. He is also under a very heavy burden of internal taxation. He has to pay a large number of municipal rates. But the fact of the matter is that the British people find cheap food a vital necessity of national existence. As a matter of humanity, the masses rise against any endeavour to make their food dearer - against any attempt to tax it. We, in Austrafia, who live under happier conditions, can surely sympathize with this demand of a people who are often referred to as “ pauper labourers.” Itf is quite fashionable with some sections in Australia ,to speak of the workers of England as “ paupers ‘* who are sunk in misery and wretchedness. What man can contemplate with equanimity the cruelty of making the bread of the pauper dearer - of increasing the price of the food of the man who lives from hand to mouth? T quite agree that ‘ if protective taxation were justifiable at all, it would be justifiable to protect the farmers of England. But in days gone by, when things were worse than they arc. now, it was not the farmers but the landlords of the mother country, who derived any benefit from the Corn Laws. So it would be to-day. If a protective duty were levied upon corn there, it would be the wealthy landlords of England and Scotland - not the farmers - who would receive the benefit of it.- I think that all the representatives in the British Parliament who are distinctly returned bv labour votes are just as strongly opposed to the taxation of food as ever Richard Cobden was. That it is the national sentiment has been made manifest by the results of the recent general election there. . It becomes a matter of humanity in a country like Great Britain,- where there are 43,000,000 of human beings crowded upon a small area. Whatever our views upon fiscal questions may be, I think that many protectionists will admit that, judged by results,” the ‘policy of a free commerce is a singularly suitable one to the people of the mother country. When we consider that the trade of England is shot at by all the nations of the world - that this storm of fiscal shot and shell is one in which she has to bear the brunt of broadsides from even her own children in various parts of the British Empire - is it not marvellous that, in spite of a universal fusilade, her trade was never so buoyant and so large as it is at present, and that the mercantile marine of the mother country - the history of whose progress has been phenomenal”was never more capable of’ grappling wilh competition on all- the oceans of the world ? Honorable members frequently hear the mother country spoken of as -if she were a decadent nation. But I should like to give the House a very few figures, which all honorable members will feel gratified to notice. During the past ten, years the trade of the grand old mother country has increased by no less a sum than £235,000.000. Between 1896 and 1905 there has been an increase in that trade of nearly one-third. Surely these figures do not point to any ominous’ symptoms - to signs of decay or collapse. Of course, some honorable members may say thai there has been a large increase in the imports of the mother country, and that the great advance of British trade represents only that increase. They may urge that it is the exports of British manufactures which are declining. But. if honorable members will take the trouble to look at the figures, thev will find that, whilst the total trade of Great Britain has increased 32 per cent., the increase in the export of British produce and manufactures during the same ten years has been 37J per cent, In other words, the exports of British manufactures and produce are now increasing at a greater rate than the total trade.
– According to Professor Ashley, a very large proportion of the trade represented by her increased exports consists of clay and coal.
– If we chose to analyze the sources of industry, we might go on indefinitely. That increase in British exports represents so much work.
– It represents so much raw material.
– So does the silver that we export from Broken Hill. To a certain extent our wool represents the same thing. Nevertheless, it is a gratifying fact that the exports of the manufactures of Great Britain show a greater ratio of increase than does her total trade, marvellous as that is. The total trade of the mother country has now reached £973,000,000 per annum. The increase in the export of British produce and manufactures which has taken place during, the past ten years amounts to ^90,600,000. I further find that, whilst during the first three years of that period, the increase in her total trade was ,£26, 500,000, during the last three years - namely, from 1903 to 1905 - it was no less than £71,000,000. Then, if we take the export of British produce during the first three years of the ten to which I have alluded, we find that there was an actual decrease of £7,000,000) whereas during the last three years there was an increase of .£40,000,000. If we turn to the trade per head - ignoring the enormous area of a country like the United States, with its 3,000,000 square miles - we find that we can pit the little mother country against Germany and the United States combined, with their millions of square miles, and with their 136,000,000 people - people amongst - the finest in the world. The trade of the mother country amounts to £18 15s. nd. per head. The trade of Germany per head amounts to £9 19s. 7d., instead of .£18 15s. nd., whilst the trade of the United States is equal to .£7 is. 5d. per head of the population. We find that the trade of the United Kingdom is ,£2 10s. per head in excess of the combined trade of Germany and the United States.
– The right honorable member, when speaking of trade is referring to imports and exports?
– That is what “trade” generally means. I have never heard- of any other definition, but at the same time I quite appreciate my honorable friend’s interjection. I am going to separate the exports from’ the imports of these countries. One of the results of the enormous growth of the wealth of Great Britain is that she has hundreds of millions sterling invested all over the world. She will not accept gold in payment of her trade, since gold if stored in vaults will not multiply.
On the contrary, she carries on her enormous trade by means of her advances to other countries. Let me now give the figures relating to the exports of these countries. The exports from the United Kingdom are of the value of £7 os. 6d. per head of her population ; whilst those of the United States are of the value of £4 is. sd. This is an illustration of how that great country, with its marvellous people and its virgin resources, compares with the little over-crowded spot in the German Ocean. The exports of British products and manufactures are of the annual’ value of £7 os. 6d., against a total for Germany of £4 6s. 4d., and of £4 is. 3d. in the case of the United States. The- total for France is £4. 11s. 4d. per head of the population.
– Would not the exports from England consist chiefly of manufactured articles?
– My honorable friend is thinking of the exports of coal. They constitute a small item in the total trade.
– I am thinking of coal, clay, and the products of the worst paid manufacturing industries, such as slops and apparel, the exports of which are increasing.
– Might I suggest that the honorable member’s statement does not affect my argument as to the .marvellous battle that the mother country is waging in the markets of the world?
– Trade is valuable only in so far as it is helpful.
– Surely it is better that the people of England, crowded as they are in an old country, should be producing something instead of living in poor-houses.
– The trouble is that they are not producing.
– I am afraid that the leader of the Opposition has not read the leading article published in the Age this morning.
– That is very likely, but 1 have consulted the Statesman’s Year-Book, which is generally more reliable in its statements of fact. I may be wrong, but I merely wish to point out these facts in order to allay the fears of some people that the old country is on its last legs, and that unless we come to her assistance it will be impossible for her to continue in her present position. The little bit of assistance offered in the proposal now before us - this offer of a preference to extend only to goods brought out in British vessels - is, as I have already said, one of the most fatal gifts Australia could offer to a country under whose flag half the commerce of the world is carried. If there is a nation which does not want to raise the question ofl the carriage of goods in the ships of the country from which they are exported, it is that which is carrying half the goods of all the others. That is the country which does not want to raise such points. Instead of helping the mother country by raising an insignificant point of that kind in reference to a trade which is a mere drop in the bucket of the vast volume of British commerce - and most of which, as pointed out by the sub-committee of the Adelaide Chamber of Commerce, consists of articles which it is impossible for the United Kingdom to produce - we shall make her a dangerous gift. If the preference were 100 per cent, it would be physically impossible to produce in Great Britain most of the articles affected by this schedule. The Minister of Trade and Customs, in submitting the motion relating to British preference, made a speech, which I am sure was well meant, but contained a number of astounding statements. He said -
I do not consider that there would be the slightest prospect of passing a conprehensive preferential trade scheme’ through Parliament at this stage of the session.
If that be so, would it not be infinitely better to wait until’ an opportunity to pass a comprehensive scheme presents itself? What was there to prevent this matter, which was so dear to the heart of the Prime Minister, being dealt with at the beginning of the session? Surely no one will say that this scheme required to be thought out. A child in twenty-four hours could work out a better one. The fact is that it is intended to be simply an electioneering placard. A noble question. is dragged down to serve the dirty purposes of political warfare. This proposal., is not designed to benefit the people of the mother country. It is intended as an electioneering intrigue - a mere electioneering dodge. It has done more to drag down this subject, which - whatever view people may take of it - is a great one, than has. anything else of which I know. It drags down this great, movement, behind which there may be a great deal of honorable loyalty-and I believe that the great bulk of the people of Australia are willing, not to pretend to give, but to actually give, substantial benefits to the mother country - to the level of a mere political intrigue. I invite the House to consider what the Minister had to say on another point -
If the proposed arrangement is carried into effect, negotiations will be opened up with a view to the exchange of products and manufactures under conditions of mutual advantage.
Does this proposal mean anything or. nothing? According to the honorable gentleman, it is a small beginning, with a view to a substantial arrangement. The Minister knows very well that, whilst the protectionist supporters behind him will be willing to indefinitely increase duties under the guise of helping the mother country against all other parts of the world, the power behind him would at once crumble into dust if he attacked the heart of this problem by proposing a substantial concession to Great Britain in respect . of leading lines of Australian manufactures. If the Minister proposed a substantial preference that would enable the British manufacturers of apparel, piece goods, or machinery - and these items represent about £22,000,000 worth of the total trade of Australia - the power behind him would at once crumble into dust. He has any quantity of power behind him to put up the duties ; he has no power behind him to put them down. It is not to be forgotten that this proposal, which we are told is one to establish Empire unity - is aimed just as directly at the rest of the British Empire as it is at foreign countries. This is a proposal to discriminate against every other British possession. It is a proposition to give a preference to only the mother country, without regard to !any other part of the British Empire, which covers an area of about 12,000,000 square miles. Instead of being framed on broad lines, calculated to bring the different parts of the Empire together, it places Canada, South Africa, and other parts of the Empire on the same basis as foreign countries. Take the position of India. What has India done in the way of discriminating against us? Nothing. India’ has practically a low revenue Tariff. There we have an unlimited field open to our products. The door is open to us now ; but we begin to deal with this great country, and -her population of 231,000,000, by discriminating against her, although) she admits all our Australian products on the most favorable terms. There is no statesmanship displayed in such a proposition. There is no broad’ principle in it. This is a bad beginning; it will do more to prejudice the movement in favour of preferential trade than anything else that could have been attempted. I have always considered that the interests of the mother country make it impossible for her to ever consent to cripple herself in such a way as to give our people a substantial benefit. The benefit that we look for in connexion with preferential trade arrangements is not one to be secured by our manufacturers. They do not expect any advantage from an arrangement of this kind. The benefits that we look for are to be reaped by the great primary producers of Australia. That is the great object that we have in view, and it is one that any man might very well endeavour to carry out. Preferential trade would be a splendid thing for the primary producers of Australia. But there are, of course, two parties to a bargain, and as long as the British people find that the price they have to pay for this system is too great we cannot hope to establish that reciprocal arrangement’ without which the scheme would be worth very little. The Minister, whose policy is to build our Tariff wall higher and higher and higher, says -
I hope that it will not be long before there will be complete reciprocity between the mother country and all her dependencies, as well as between the colonies themselves.
With great respect to the Minister, I must say that this is mere clap-trap. It is impossible, from a protectionist point of view, to open the doors of Australia to the British manufacturers. How could a protectionist open wide the door of Australia to the manufacturers of the mother country?
– From what is the right honorable gentleman quoting?
– From Hansard. The words may not have been spoken, but they are to be found there. The statement may have been handed in for publication just as certain returns are handed in. To be precise, I am quoting from Hansard of this session, page 4660, second column. I am not surprised that the Minister cannot recognise these utterances.
– I do not say that I cannot.
– I suppose the time will come when we shall not even believe Hansard; but at present I prefer to take it that the Hansard staff, which, I venture to say, is a marvellously efficient one-
– Hear, hear.
– Without wishing to pay the Hansard staff any fulsome compliments, I think that the odds - if I may use such an expression in this connexion - are heavily on Hansard as against the recollection of the Minister. This is the ideal at which the Prime Minister has been aiming. No man can paint a larger number of beautiful word pictures more readily than can the honorable and learned gentleman ; but, after all, they are, so to speak, only canvas and paint. And so with this preferential scheme. In perorations we are told that we desire preferential intercourse - that we wish all the barriers put down between the mother country and the people of Australia. The Ministry know wellwhat would happen to the position of the Australian manufacturers if the door were opened to British manufacturers. I have always been opposed to these artificial methods, because of the result which flows from them. If we build up an industry on an artificial basis it is very difficult subsequently to deal with it on a natural basis. It is impossible for a protectionist to seriously propose complete reciprocity between the Australian farmer and the British artisan and the British artisan and the Australian manufacturer. One of the troubles in connexion with these reciprocal . arrangements is that a benefit is sought for some one to the injury of some other person. Take the New Zealand treaty. Whyhas it been received so unfavorably in New Zealand? Because the people there see that it may injure certain local interests. With regard to oats, it is a remarkable thing that the only duty which it is proposed to lower-
– I ask the right honorable member not to refer to a matter which will come before the House later.
– I shall not do so, sir. But I ask what will be thought of a Government which proposes to reduce a duty affecting the farming community, and to increase a very large number of duties protecting the manufacturers in the cities? I am profoundly disappointed that the great question of preferential trade has been treated so miserably. The proposals of the Government, if carried into effect, will not help any one; they will do more harm than good. They announce to the people of the mother country that the present Advisers of Australia have no honest intention of treating her fairly in this matter. There may be something to be said for the proposals on sentimental grounds, but regarded from the point of view of utility they add insult to injury. Here is another statement of the Minister of Trade and Customs -
There will be ample room for an increase of British imports under the preferential arrangement proposed.
I will not say a more audacious misrepresentation, but a more lamentably careless use of language, is impossible. What scope is there under these miserable proposals for the increase of British imports? What an abuse of language it is to use such words in reference to these miserable, wretched, crawling proposals, which drag to the dust the very name of gratitude to the mother country ? Nothing is more fulsomely offensive than a profession of gratitude which covers an insult and it is a positive insult to the people of the mother country to offer a gift of this sort.
– They have not said so.
– They have more to think of than wretched things like this.
– From a business point of view, what have we tobe grateful for?
– I suppose that there is nothing to be grateful for, if one is so made that he cannot see reasons for gratitude. It is true that we borrow from the mother country all the money we need.
– And pay interest on the loans.
– That is so. It is also true that it suits the mother country to buy an enormous quantity of our raw materials.
– What she cannot get anywhere else !
– If, instead of representing a constituency in the Parliament of Australia,, the honorable member were conducting a tin-pot shop, he would exhibit a kindlier feeling towards any one who bought twenty tin pots from him than he is showing towards the people of the mother country. We know the civility and politeness with which customers are received in the shops of Sydney and Melbourne, for example. Any one proposing to buy £5 worth of goods is ushered to the counters by the gentlemen in the long coats as if he were a prince of the blood royal. We are dealing with a country which has trusted us for hundreds of millions of pounds, and by so doing has advanced our great enterprises ; with a country which takes most of our exports, and pays good money for them ; with a country whose flag makes our national existence possible. I do not think that my honorable friend wished to express himself as he has done. Those who are sometimes referred to here as the pauper artisans of London are taxed to provide£70,000,000 a year to keep soldiers, sailors, and ships in readiness for our protection.
– For the protection of the bond-holders.
– That is the way in which a disloyal man might talk; it is not the speech of a loyal subject. Does the honorable member think that the British flag flies only for the bond-holders of England, and not for the people of the Empire? I could understand the scheme of the Government if it were due to sentiments such as he has expressed. It is the tin-pot scheme which would come from tin-pot views of this kind. But men who soar tothe highest realms of eloquence in their professions of admiration and gratitude to the mother country were not expected to come forward with such awretched proposal, which, under the guise of an offer of advantage to the mother country, has stamped upon it the, intention of giving more protection to Australia. On reasoning such as that of the honorable member for Herbert, the man who feeds, clothes, and educates his children is to be regarded as doing so with the selfish motive of obtaining support for his old age. The noblest actions of humanity may be attributed by sordid minds to sordid motives. I am sensible that at the present time it would be unfair to address the: House at great length on this measure, and therefore I shall not say more in regard to it. I am satisfied to have had this opportunity to put my views before honorable members. The mother country should be given something better than these proposals, something more generous and more substantial. If. the people of Great Britain thought that it would be to their advantage to enter into a reciprocal arrangement with us, I should be prepared to accept their views as to their own interests. They, however, happen to take the view which I as an individual, living in another part of the world, venture to hold. In my opinion such an arrangement would tend to imperil rather than to advantage the stability of the Empire, and therefore I cannot speak of it in terms of admiration. If at any time the people of the mother country are prepared to enter into a reciprocal arrangement with us, it will be my business to endeavour to interpret the feelings of the people of Australia in a loyal and generous manner.
– I do not desire to discuss this question in all its aspects. I wish only to point out to the Minister of Trade and Customs an anomaly which will result if the Bill is passed in its present form. At the present time, the coachmaking industry is a large one, giving employment in New South Wales alone to 1,600 people, who earn practically £101,000 a year. Their industry is threatened by the Bill, because the duty on certain carriage parts and sulky fittings is being increased by 10 per cent. The parts to which I refer are made of hickory, a timber procurable only in the United States and in Canada, countries of export which are penalized under the Bill. If the measure passes as it stands, while the duty on these vehicle parts will be 30 per cent., made up vehicles will be admitted on payment of a duty of 25 per cent. I feel sure that the anomaly having been pointed out, the Minister will see his way to remedy it. I do not think that that will be difficult, and I wish to hear what the Minister has to say on the subject before taking further steps.
– The question raised by the honorable member for Wentworth is of considerable importance, and was brought under my notice some time ago. No doubt in the future our buggymakers and coachbuilders will be able to get as good and well-seasoned timber in Australia as is procurable from any other part of the world.
– Hickory is not grown here.
– No; but good timber is grown in our mountainous districts, which, I think, will be utilized in time to come, though I admit that there is not now available much, if any, well-seasoned local timber equal in quality to the American hickory. Therefore it is very likely that I shall take further action in regard to this matter, though I desire more information. There is a high duty on hickory, which is raw material in the manufacture of the very best class of buggies.
– Such as we wish to build here.
– It is not used very largely. It is not used for ordinary coaches, but it is used by the makers of the better class of vehicles. I shall see if it is not possible to do something in the matter. The right honorable member for East Sydney, notwithstanding what he has said this afternoon, has never done anything to encourage reciprocal trade with) Great Britain, and always deprecates attempts in that direction, because they do not follow the course which he thinks should be pursued. We must make a beginning. He quoted something which I said the other day, to the effect that I desire reciprocal trade throughout the British Dominions. I did not mean, and I did not say, that I desire absolute free-trade; that is a very different thing. The right honorable member may be in favour of lowering to the ground the duties which protect Australian manufactures, thus destroying our industries and injuring our work-people.
– That would not necessarily follow.
– I think that it would. I am not in favour of doing it. The Government favour what is now proposed only as an instalment of preferential trade, the object being to give British manufacturers an advantage of 10, 12, or 15 per cent., or whatever the amount may be, as against their rivals in other parts of the world. The right honorable member for East Sydney, in referring to British countries, mentioned South America. I do not know how it would be possible for us to extend reciprocal treatment to any country in that part of the world. If he had been in his place, the right honorable gentleman would have known that we are now endeavouring-
– The Minister has been away most of the time.
– I have been away only four days, and not forty days. We are endeavouring to bring about a preferential arrangement with New Zealand, and negotiations are approaching completion in connexion with a similar Arrangement with South Africa. Communications are also being revived with Canada on the same subject. What more could be expected of us? We are doing all we can to bring other portions of the Empire into closer commercial relationship. I doubt very much whether India could take from us all the wheat and other natural products that we could supply. India is a great producer herself, and I do not like the idea of bringing our people into too close rivalry with the cheap labour of that country.
– No, but they are treating us well, and we need not treat them badly. These proposals are aimed against them.
– They are not aimed against any one in particular, but are intended to confer benefit upon the people of Great Britain.
– But India belongs to the Empire.
– I do not desire to lengthen this debate. We have been discussing Tariff matters for the last three or four weeks, and the proposals embodied in the Bill have already been debated very exhaustively.
– Honorable members had to obtain information for themselves.
– No. I gave honorable members all the information that was available.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
In lieu of the Duties of Customs imposed by the Customs Tariff 1902 on the dutiable goods specified in the Schedule to this Act, Duties of Customs shall be imposed on the dutiable goods specified in the said Schedule from the thirtieth day of August, One thousand nine hundred and six, at half-past four o’clock in the afternoon according to the standard time of the State of Victoria, at the rates specified in the said Schedule.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That after the word “Victoria,” line 9, the following words be inserted : - “ or from such later date as is mentioned in the said schedule as regards a particular item.”
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the following proviso be added : - “ Provided that goods, the produce or manufacture of the United Kingdom, which were on the thirtieth day of August, One thousand nine hundred and six, subject to the control of the Customs, or on board any vessel which on or before that date left its last port of clearance for Australia, may be entered for home consumption at the rates of duty specified in the Customs Tariff1902.
– I should like to know whether the proviso is intended to refer to goods produced in other countries than the United Kingdom?
– No. The object is to admit at the lower rate of duty British goods which were on their way to Australia in other than British ships at the time that the proposals were introduced.
.- I apprehend that this is a just proposal. I understand that the object is to protect those people who have goods which were shipped before the proposals were laid on the table. I know of one very hard case which arises in connexion with the exportation of hops, and is caused by the preferential rates now in operation with regard to New Zealand.
– The Prime Minister has cabled to New Zealand to ascertain whether that case cannot be met. .
– That is a very hard case, and no doubt there are others of the same kind. My own impression is that any goods on the water should be admitted at the old rate of duty, and, in view of the fact that any concession cannot relate to a longer period than three months, the Minister might, as a simple act of justice, apply a general rule to such cases. I know of a young man who is beginning life in a struggling way, and who has a shipment of hops on the water. In consequence of the duty having been increased by 100 per cent, under the preferential trade arrangement with New Zealand he will be ruined if the higher rate of duty has to be paid.
– There are many cases in which contracts have been made for three years.
– Such cases would be covered bv the provisions of the Customs Act. I hope that the Minister will make a general provision in the direction I have indicated.
– Judging by the temper of the Committee last week, there is no prospect of making any such provision.
– As a matter of fairness, I do not think we should draw a Une of preference between British manufacturers and foreign manufacturers.
– I understand that the Minister’s proposal is to allow goods from the United Kingdom, although thev are not being carried in British shins, to come in at the old rates.
– Yes, that is, at the present rate. The duties have not been increased against .British goods coming in British ships.
– I understand that this provision will apply to goods that were on the water at the time the duties were imposed.
– Yes, and also to goods that were in charge of the Customs Department.
– . No provision is being made for goods, other than the produce of the United Kingdom, that were on the water at the time that the increased duties were imposed.
– I suppose that those who are importing goods under contract can take advantage of the section of the Customs Act, which allows them to increase the price in accordance with the increase in the Tariff.
– I think that it is optional upon either party to cancel the contract.
– The point is whether the Government ought to make a distinction as to the country of origin of goods that were on the water at the time the proposals were introduced. This is not a fiscal question, but merely one of fairness.
– Was not the honorable and learned member here when a proposal was made to extend consideration to importers of goods which were on the water prior to the introduction of the proposal ?
– No. I paired, and went home - as the Age announced next day. I notice that, in the closest division that took place, the votes were 24 to 6, so that my absence in the small hours of the morning did not make much difference in the results. The next day I came here fresh for my work, which is more than some honorable members could say. I think that there is a good deal to be said in favour of extending consideration all round in regard to goods on the water at the time the proposals were introduced.
– The argument that was used against such a proposal was that, if we made a concession now, we should have to extend similar consideration in connexion with every alteration of the Tariff.
– I realize that, in the case of a general Tariff revision, such an exemption as has been indicated might, if it could be anticipated, enable “ ‘cute “ importers to escape the payment of the higher duty. I recognise that there is a good deal to be said on both sides, and I am satisfied if the Government feel that they have gone as far as they safely can.
.- I think it is very dangerous to place too much power in the hands of the Minister.
– The Minister has nothing to do with the matter.
– At any rate, it is proposed to establish a precedent which may be a very dangerous one. If it is intended to extend a concession in regard to one class of goods, the same consideration should be shown to other classes. We do not distinguish between British and foreign goods so far as general trade is concerned. For instance, the Minister, if he went into a shop to buy an article, would not take the trouble to find out whether it was of British or foreign make. If brought here in British bottoms, the duties charged will be at the rates hitherto in force; but it is proposed to differentiate between British goods conveyed in British bottoms and goods conveyed in foreign bottoms.
An Honorable Member. - Does not the honorable member differentiate between them ?
– I do ; but I am very sorry to say that a number of protectionists in this House do not do so. On Friday last I noticed that the hat worn by the honorable member for Mernda, who is one of the strongest protectionists in the Commonwealth, was an imported one. I am a freetrader, but I believe in supporting local industry. Everything that I am now wearing was made in Australia. Why do not the protectionists do the “square” thing? If an article is good enough for the country it should be good enough tor them.
– Does the honorable member give a preference to Queensland tweed as against Victorian tweed?
– Yes. I get all my clothing made in Queensland, because I live there.
– The honorable member for Maranoa has justly remarked that the proposal under consideration constitutes a precedent in respect of Tariff alterations. But so does preferential trade itself. We have never differentiated between imports. I maintain that any exemption of the character proposed should be a general one. I agree with the Minister that it would be a hardship to tax at the higher rates of duty British goods which may have been im ported in foreign bottoms, and which were upon the high seas prior to the introduction of the resolutions embodied in this Bill.
– I would not have submitted this proposal if it had not appealed to me in that way.
– Exactly. I do not think I should be going too far if I declared that it would be a dishonorable thing to do otherwise. I do not think that the Minister is consistent in this matter. In my opinion, we should be fair to all, irrespective of whether the persons affected are foreigners or Britishers.
.- As one of those who took exception to this proposal at a very early hour the other morning. I say that it is far from satisfactory. I am entirely opposed to making any special provision in the direction indicated. It constitutes an alteration of our established procedure in connexion with Tariff amendments. Itsoperation may develop a set of conditions which will allow “cute” business men, in anticipation of Tariff alterations, to very seriously deplete the Customs revenue. If we are going to specially consider the importer of British produce or manufactures in a foreign ship, we should, upon the same principle, extend consideration to the importer of foreign goods in a British ship.
– We should be honest and straightforward all round.
– Exactly.I suggest to the Minister that he should omit from his proposal the words “ the produce or manufacture of the United Kingdom.”
– No; that would alter its whole complexion.
– I am arguing in favour of that. I wish to place all the importers of Australiaupon the same footing. I think that we might very well take a test vote upon the question.
– Move in that direction.
– In order to test the matter, I move -
That the amendment be amended by leaving out the words “ the produce or manufacture of the United Kingdom.”
In the event of the amendment being carried, I shall reserve to myself the right to vote against the whole clause, because I do not believe in making special Tariff concessions. There is just one other matter to which I should like to direct the attention of the Minister. Western Australia is the largest consumer of explosives in the Commonwealth, and I am assured by the Secretary to the Chamber of Mines that there are a great number of contracts in existence between mining companies and foreign manufacturers of explosives. I wish to know whether it will be competent for those who have entered into contracts which will be affected by this preferential arrangement to take advantage of section 152 of the Customs Act?
– I will obtain the opinion of the Attorney-General upon the question. There is no doubt that they should be allowed to do so.
– Then, with that assurance, I am content to leave the matter in the hands of the Minister.
– Itake it that the importers of these goods, if they were introduced in other than British bottoms, have already increased their price to the consumer. As a matter of fact, in a large number of lines, the prices have gone up in consequence of the proposed duties. Has the Minister in view any scheme by which a refund may be obtained by the consumers ?
– That is an impossibility.
– Then this proposal is really a scheme to put a few thousands of pounds into the pockets of the importers.
– How is it possible to follow the ramifications of every sale?
– Why should we not declare that any increased tax shall be collected only after so many days?
– Then the importers would take advantage of the Customs authorities.
– They have already charged the purchasers an increased price.
– But the Customs have collected the duty. The longer this matter is left in abeyance the worse will the position become.
– In my opinion, we are establishing a very bad precedent. It is unjust to exempt certain importers from the payment of these duties, and yet allow them to charge the consumers as if they had actually paid them. I shall certainly vote against the proposal.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the proposed amendment - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment of the amendment negatived.
.- As I said when this matter was previously under discussion, I think that it introduces a very unfortunate principle in regard to the collection of duties. I do not remember one instance in which the Government have made a concession by way of rebate on duties that have been imposed. I do not know of one instance throughout the Empire where such a practice has been inaugurated, and I am satisfied that if it be introduced in this connexion, the consumer will not benefit in the slightest degree. It simply means that the importer who will have paid the extra duty immediately upon its imposition will place in his own pocket any rebate granted. I therefore propose to vote against the proviso.
– I am cordially in favour of extending this concession to shippers whose goods were on the high seas ; but I cannot understand drawing a line, in a matter of this sort, between one shipper and another. It seems repugnant to one’s sense of equity to do so. It is carrying protection a long way too far. We must remember that we are told the object of this scheme is not to secure any further protection. It is a preferential arrangement, and it would not reflect any credit upon us if we distinguished between the cargo in one ship and that in another. If we distinguished between one importer and another, I think that we should carry our system to a dangerous extreme. I am very strongly inclined-
– This is wonderful.
– I can honestly say that I do not think a line ought to be drawn.
– The right honorable member, a few minutes ago, spoke absolutely in favour of my proposal.
– I did, and I was in favour of it; but I do not think that it is a fair thing to draw this line between one man and another in reference to a consideration as to goods which are on the high seas. I urged the Minister to accept a certain proposal, and he would not do so.
– The right honorable member said he approved of what I proposed.
– I did.
– And now he says that he is going to vote against it.
– I have not,but I have gone very near to making such a statement. I do not believe in drawing this distinction between one shipper and another in a matter of consideration.
– What would be the effect of drawing such a line?
– There is a proposition by the Minister to give consideration to certain shippers, in view of the fact that these preferential proposals were suddenly introduced, and that certain goods which are now on the high seas were shipped in ignorance of the fact that such proposals were contemplated. There is an attempt by the Minister to grant a concession to one set of shippers and to shut out another.
– Is the right honorable member’s assumption correct?
– I think so. The honorable member for Kalgoorliemoved an amendment, which was rejected, providing that if this concession were extended to one shipper, it should be extended to another, and he reserved his right to vote later on against the whole proposal. He urged that if this concession were granted to any set of shippers, it should be granted to all. That consideration appealed very strongly to me. I ask the Minister to make his proposal a comprehensive one affecting all cargoes at sea, irrespective of whether they are shipped by Britishers or foreigners. The concession can operate over a period of only two or three months - the period during which ships containing such cargoes are voyaging to Australia. It will not affect the permanency of this arrangement. Unless the proposed concession is extended to all I shall vote against it. I am strengthened in this view by the opportunity I have had since I last spoke, to look up certain provisions in the Customs Act. My impression was that that Act provided that a change in the Tariff should, at the option of either of the parties, terminate an agreement relating to goods affected by that alteration. I find that that is not so. The Customs Act provides that if a duty in respect of goods covered by current contracts is increased, the additional duty shall be added to those contracts. That is a fair thing. In view of such a provision, the position is not so bad as I thought it was, and I shall not be a party to differentiating between one man and another in an act of grace.
.- I cannot grasp the significance of the objection raised by the right honorable member for East Sydney to this proposal. Under the Bill, we are seeking to give a preference to goods coming only from the United Kingdom. We are giving legislative effect to a principle which has not hitherto been dealt with by the Parliament of the Commonwealth.
– But this amendment is designed only to meet exceptional cases relating to goods shipped before the motion was submitted.
– I recognise that fact, but I would point out that, under the Bill, British goods shipped in foreign bottoms, are to pay the higher duties, whilst a preference is to be given to British goods imported in British bottoms. In these circumstances, I cannot see that any injustice will be done.
– The amendment gives British goods in foreign ships the same benefit that British goods in British ships now on the high seas would enjoy.
– Does the Minister propose to give the same concession to British goods in foreign ships now on the high seas as he gives to British goods in foreign bottoms now on the high seas?
– He proposes to extend the concession to British goods on British ships now on the high seas, but he refuses to extend the concession to foreign goods.
– That is what I thought. There is a. justification for differentiating between British goods shipped in British bottoms and those shipped in foreign bottoms now on the high seas, and I do not think that any injustice will be done. I fail to understand why the leader of the Opposition, who, before the amendment of the amendment was put, said that he would vote for the Minister’s proposal, should now intimate that on some grounds that he has not made clear to me, he will vote against it. The proposal is just.
– It cannot be just, since it is one to discriminate.
– It is just from the point of view of the consumer. British goods shipped in British bottoms, and now on the high seas, will be admitted as before.
– They may be already in bond.
– All British goods coming here in foreign bottoms will be charged the higher rates of duty, unless the amendment is agreed to.
– Does the Minister propose to relieve British goods now on the high seas in foreign bottoms from the obligation of paying the higher rates of duty ?
– That is the object of the amendment.
– Then I am opposed to it.
.- We are dealing now, not with rates of duties, but with the conditions under which goods may be shipped to Australia. Although we have determined to give a preference to British goods brought here in British ships, we should allow time to importers to direct that their goods shall be sent by British ships. As we intend to penalize those who use foreign bottoms, we should give them notice of our intentior.
– Not in some cases only.
– In all cases.
– There would be no opposition to the amendment if it covered all cases.
– It covers all cases affecting British goods.
– It is not a matter affecting the Tariff; it is simply a question of fair play.
– All round.
– Yes. As I am in favour of giving fair play, I shall support the proposal of the Government.
– I agree with the honorable member for Bass, but I do not think that the amendment goes as far as he wishes to go, because it does not cover importations of foreign goods. We should respect contracts which have been entered into by our citizens for the purchase of foreign goods, just as much as we respect such contracts for the purchase of British goods. That was my contention the other night. I thought that the Minister had accepted my view. The proposal before the Committee, however, covers only British goods shipped in foreign vessels. Iagree with the honorable member for Bass that we should seek to lessen friction in introducing new principles, and to give as much consideration as we can to those engaged in the business of importing. Some honorable members profess to look upon importers as the enemies of their country, and accuse the Opposition of regarding similarly local manufacturers. But we can unite in an attempt to extend justice to all.
– To give a fair deal all round.
– Yes. I am not in accord with all the details of the proposals of the Government, though I am in favour of extending a preference to British goods, and, if possible, to British bottoms. But we should bring about the change with as little friction and injustice as possible, and should pass a proviso to the effect that the Bill shall not apply to goods shipped before the 30th August.
.- The honorable member for Bass takes a very reasonable view. He wishes to deal fairly with all importers, by giving them due notice of the change in our law. But in the last division he voted against the proposal to give a general notice. One of the evils incidental to the proceedings of a moribund Parliament is that honorable members often do not know what they are voting on.
– I remain in the Chamber, and always know what I vote on.
– The last division was taken on a proposal to give fair play all round.
– The honorable member must not discuss a question which has been, decided.
– I referred to it only incidentally. The honorable member for Bass voted against a proposal for giving fair play all round, though he has just stated that he is in favour of treating all alike. I agree with him that we should, as far as possible, give fair notice to importers of the change in the law, so long as that is not likely to lead to the defrauding of the revenue. But with regard to the proposal before the Chair, my position is rather peculiar. I wish to extend fair play to all ; but the Minister says that he will act justly only in regard to British goods carried in foreign bottoms, and, although I prefer that all should be justly treated, I shall vote for the Government proposal, because I regard it as better to obtain justice for some than to allow all to suffer.
– I understand that the rates of duty chargeable on British goods are not to be altered, so long as such goods are brought here in British, vessels. The reason for making a concession to British goods shipped on foreign vessels until the 30th August is that, unless the proposal of the Government is agreed to, goods sent from Great Britain at the same time may arrive here, partly in foreign and partly in British vessels, and one consignment will be charged a duty of 20 per cent, and another of 30 per cent. No difficulty arises in respect of foreign goods, because they are dutiable at the higher rates, whether brought here in British or foreign bottoms. Contracts are not affected, because there is a provision in the Customs Act that if a duty is increased before the delivery of goods -contracted for, the increase ls charged to the buyer, while, if it is decreased, the buyer is advantaged.
– What about the consumer ?
– That is another matter. If goods are made dutiable, the tendency is for them to increase in price, although competition to some extent modifies that tendene v.
– A refund of duty is never made to the consumer.
– I thought it was the foreigner who paid the duty.
– My reply was directed to the specific question of the honorable member for Gwydir. I regard the proposal of the Government as a fair one.
– On the face of it, this is a proposal to give preference to British goods; but, as a matter of fact,’ the preference is to be limited to goods carried in British bottoms. If the preference is to be given to goods of British production, why should any distinction be made between’ goods carried in British and foreign bottoms? It is questionable whether we have any right to deal with matters relating to shipping in a Tariff measure.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
.- The’ heading to the penultimate column of the schedule reads -
On dutiable goods the produce or manufacture of the United Kingdom, and imported direct in British ships.
I move -
That after ..the words “United Kingdom” the words “by white British workmen “ be inserted.
I always give a great deal of consideration to any suggestion that may come from the Prime Minister.
– But the honorable member never adopts my suggestions.
– I regret to say that I have felt it my duty upon some occasions to pursue my original course. The Prime Minister says that the question of the labour to be employed in the manufacture of the goods, and in the manning of the ships conveying them should be dealt with after the Imperial Shipping Conference meets in London at the beginning of next year. I recognise the force of that contention, but I would point out that objections of a similar kind could be urged against the whole measure. I held, in the first instance, that we should defer the consideration of .the preference proposals until the reports of the Tariff Commission upon the items affected had been presented, and the delegates to the Imperial Conference in London could inform us as to the views held by the members of that body with regard to preferential trade. But it was held that we were in possession of sufficient information upon the main question to justify us in entering into a preferential trade arrangement with the mother country, and I contend that we should be equally warranted in laying down the subsidiary conditions under which that preference shall be granted. It is desirable that we should stipulate that any goods that are to be the subject of preference shall be produced by the employment of white labour.
– The honorable member wishes to exclude the products of India.
– Those are excluded already.
– Yes, but I also wish, to be in keeping with this scheme, to prevent preferential treatment being extended to goods produced by white foreign labour, or to British goods carried in vessels manned by other than British seamen. I am not very sanguine that the first of the proposed conditions could be successfully applied, but I would urge that it is only in keeping with the rest of the scheme now before us. It is proposed now to discriminate between the products of British labour and those of Germans and Scandinavians, . and surely we should prevent preference being extended to goods made in England by the employment of foreign’ labour, or to goods that are carried here in ships manned by coloured or foreign seamen. Upon ‘a former occasion, I quoted figures which I contended should induce us to take into consideration the condition of affairs in the British mercantile marine. Of 176,000 seamen employed in British ships, 80,000 are either coloured or of foreign nationality. Thus the position is a sufficiently serious one to induce us to make some effort to encourage the employment of Australians or Britishers in ships convening goods to and from our shores. I may point out that the German subsidized steamers are required to employ citizens of that country, and the same remark applies to other subsidized lines of vessels. Surely there is ample justification for our proceeding upon similar lines, especially when we know that the system adopted by Germany is being attended by admirable results. This. Question has been discussed very fully, and I do net think it is necessary to dilate upon it Any further. I .think that the two proposals may very well be separated. There does not appear to be the same necessity for insisting that the goods that are the subject of preference shall be made by white British workmen, as for stipulating that these goods shall be carried in shipsmanned exclusively by white British seamen. I admit that serious complications might arise in connexion with the first provision.
– They are both very important.
– No doubt; but I. think that one is of much more serious consequence than the other.
.- I do not think it is necessary to stipulate that British goods to which preferential treatment is extended shall be made by white British workmen ; because very few coloured people are employed in the manufacturing industries of England, and I am afraid that it would be very difficult to enforce compliance with a condition that the only goods entitled to preference shall be made in England by Britishers or naturalized Britishers. I heartily support the second portion of the amendment relating to ships carrying preference goods being manned exclusively by white British seamen. So far as ‘the alien question is ^concerned, I consider that there is a great deal of difference between an alien who is working on a vessel and one who is resident in a country. In many instances he. marries in the country of his adoption, and I think that we are all delighted to welcome Germans, Scandinavians, and Swedes, who come to our shores and intermarry with our own people. A similar state of things obtains elsewhere. Even in some cases where aliens do not go so far as to become naturalized their sympathies are with the country of their adoption.
Mr. DEAKIN (Ballarat- Minister of External Affairs [5.3]. - The reason why I ask the honorable member for Kalgoorlie not to press this portion of his amendment is because of the insuperable difficulty of determining whether or not particular goods have been manufactured by “ British citizens. It is true that there are factory inspectors in Great Britain, but it is not part of their duty to ascertain whether or not the persons engaged in the manufacture of goods are British citizens. The amendment would operate against goods whose production was to any extent, no matter howslight, assisted by white persons who are not British citizens. How can that question be determined?
Amendment (by Mr. Frazer) proposed -
That after the word “ ships,” the following words be added : “manned exclusively by white British seamen.”
– In connexion with this amendment, I put to the honorable member the same point. I quite recognise that when the navigation conference meets in London one of the important issues submitted will relate to the fact that there are so many sailors under the British flag who are either coloured or are not British citizens. Unless it can be conclusively proved that sufficient British citizens cannot be obtained as seamen on board British vessels, it seems to me that there can be very little warrant even for the encouragement of the best seamen of foreign countries, excellent though they may be. If they wish to obtain their livelihood upon British ships, they ought to become British citizens. This is a matter which has been discussed by some of the leading naval authorities of Great Britain. Some of the admirals, who take a very important part in debating questions of this kind, have laid stress upon the risks which’ Britain incurs by reason of the number of foreigners who are now employed in her mercantile marine.It is a matter which certainly requires to be dealt with, but it can only be dealt with seriously in connexion with navigation laws, and by the Imperial Parliament. To impose such a restriction here would merely place upon our own Customs officers and others a burden which it would be almost impossible for them to carry.
– It would result in increased freights.
– It would involve an inquiry as to the crew of every ship which Carried these particular goods, with a view to discovering whetherall its sailors were British citizens. I presume that there is a technical meaning attached to the phrase “ manned exclusively.” I suppose, for instance, that a cook or an apprentice would be listed on the ship’s articles. It might thus come about that an odd apprentice or a French or German cook on board a vessel would prevent a preference being extended to all the goods imported by that vessel.
– The same objection was urged against the white labour section which was inserted in the mail contract.
– No. When Australia subsidizes a line of vessels, she is entitled to determine the class of labour which shall be employed.
– And when we give a preference to British ships, we are entitled to determine what class of seamen shall be carried.
– Not in a Customs Bill, and when we are giving a preference to somebody else.
– We are extending a preference to British goods, with a view to helping the people of Great Britain.
– Yes; and when the navigation law is under review it will be a very proper thing to consider this question. But to differentiate duties upon the same goods sent out by British ships, because of the non-naturalization of some of the crew, seems to me to be pushing an excellent principle beyond all reason. I hope that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, who must be satisfied that upon the general principle he has a strong support in this Chamber, will again recognise the wisdom of the legal maxim of de minimis non curat lex. We must admit that there are cases so small that a great principle ought not to be applied to them.
– I am sorry that I cannot support the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. If he will limit his proposal by striking out the word “ British,” I shall vote for his amendment. Our desire is to give a preference, not to the ship-owners of the old country, but to its manufacturers, who exercise no control over British ships. If the ship-owners of England refuse to employ exclusively white British seamen - as they will do until the Imperial Parliament enacts new legislation
– Then why insert a provision as to ships?
– We know that there are vessels coming to Australia which are manned exclusively by white seamen, and that there are others which are manned by coloured seamen. It is a sham to urge that we are extending a preference to the people of the mother country when we offer it to them with one hand and take it away with the other.. If the British manufacturer could say, “ I know that I can send my goods to Australia by a vessel which is manned exclusively by British sailors,” there might be something in the proposal of the honorable member. But at the present time he cannot do that. I have not seen the record of one ship coming to our shores which is exclusively manned by Britishers. I wish that they were all so manned, for the sake of our Navy. I am not prepared to trust the foreigner in war time. But does the honorable member for Kalgoorlie suggest that a provision of this kind would have the slightest weight with the Imperial Parliament? I will not be a party to voting for a sham.
– Will the honorable member vote for the employment of black labour ?
– No. That is an unfair insinuation to make, inasmuch as I have already said that, if the honorable member for Kalgoorlie will agree to strike out the word “ British “ from his amendment, I shall support it. Does he think for one moment that, in connexion with a scheme which will affect only a few hundred thousand pounds’ worth of trade-
– Is that all that the Bill will touch?
– The measure merely marks the beginning of a much bigger movement.
– I am not prepared to cast a vote to make Australia appear ridiculous in the eyes of the civilized world. If I understand the amendment correctly, its effect will be to deny a preference to British goods, which are carried in British ships that may employ a German, French, or an Italian seaman. Is the honorable member prepared to go so far as to exclude these nationalities from Australia?
– No; that is a different matter.
– If he is not prepared to do that, he should not endeavour to exclude them from employment upon British ships.
– I am not prepared to give them a preference when they come to Australia.
– Has the honorable member for Gippsland ever heard of a ‘Britisher obtaining employment upon, a German ship?
– I pity .the German who would wish to come under the operation of a law of this kind. I hope that the Committee will take a common-sense view of the matter. Personally, I intend to vote with the Government.
.- Every honorable member must recognise the large.heartedness of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. Even at the fag end of the session he is not daunted from embarking upon a great undertaking. The amendment moved by the honorable member is so far-reaching in its importance, that I do not think he ought to press it at this stage. It is quite sufficient that we should have an Imperial Convention-
– I am prepared to delay the consideration of the whole scheme.
– The appointment of a Royal Commission to proceed to the old country for the purpose of discussing the question with the Home authorities, would be a happy solution of the difficulty. It would be idle to attach such a provision as this to the Bill in the hope that it would lead to a change in the manning of British ships.
– If this preference were of any material advantage, it would bring about that alteration.
– It has already been pointed out that the preference will apply to only £[650,000 of imports. The freights represented by those imports would not be sufficient to induce ship-owners to effect changes in the manning of their ships in order to secure them. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie has the zeal of youth, and I have the caution of old age.
– The honorable member is becoming a Conservative.
– The honorable member, in the course of his speech, made some marvellous propositions. A large number of foreigners are among our best citizens, and I should not like to offer an affront to them by attaching to this Bill a condition which could not possibly be brought into operation.
– Then why have we agreed to any preference?
– I have voted against the preferential proposals of the Government, and shall not vote for this amendment. As a matter of fact, I think that from my stand-point, it would be well to adopt it, since it would “scotch” every attempt to grant a preference; but, in view of the late stage of the session, and the far reaching effect of the amendment, I hope that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie will withdraw it.
.- I think that the amendment moved by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie is the logical corollary to preferential trade proposals. The policy of protection, if it means anything, means protection not only to the manufacturer but to the worker. That is what is described as “ the new protection,” and we might speak of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie’s amendment as the “new preferential trade.” We are providing for a preference to the British manufacturers of certain goods, and for «the owners of British ships who convey those goods to Australia. That being so, we ought to grant preferential treatment to British seamen. I would point out, however, that we could only hope to adopt such a course when granting a preference to all British imports.
– The Government say that a preference must be granted to British ship-owners - to the rich ship-owners and ship-builders, and we say that that preference should be extended to the seamen.
– I would remind the honorable member that an enormous part of the trade which Great Britain does with Australia will not be affected by this Bill. If the honorable member for Kalgoorlie is going to say that goods, the subject of this preference, shall be brought out in special ships, his proposal will mean an enormous increase in freights. If the Bill provided for a preference to all British imports by a percentage increase in the duties on all goods from foreign countries, the amendment would be applicable: but since the Bill relates only to a small proportion of British imports, I think that it would be a mistake to accept it.
.- It seems- to me that, whether he intends to do so or not, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie will place honorable members in a false position by pressing his amendment. Propositions of this kind are among the most dangerous that could be submitted. They are really impracticable, and those who vote against them on that ground may be placed in a false position in the eyes of the people. As has been very pertinently remarked by the honorable and learned member for Corio, the amendment would be more apropos if the Bill provided for a preference to all British imports. Even, in that event, however, I should not consider it wise to tack on such a condition to the Bill. The matter is one that should be dealt with in a separate measure. I recognise that it is desirable that an attempt should be made to regulate the class of men employed on British ships engaged in the trade of the Empire, but the whole question is so linked to the welfare of every section of the Empire, that if cannot be’ dealt with in an off-hand way. It is absolutely unfair for the honorable, member to propose to do something which he knows cannot be done in the way he suggests.
– My proposal would work all right.
– It would not. It is so ridiculous as to be scarcely worth considering. As a matter of fact, these preferential proposals relate to only .£650,000 worth of British imports.
– That is assuming that we could divert the whole of that trade into British channels.
– Quite .so. I am not like the honorable member for Barrier, who professes a desire to see a great reform carried out by one operation. He might be described as an idealist. He is always in hot pursuit of ideals which may be interesting to students of political economy, but have no place in the deliberations of an Assembly which has to deal with practical matters. The amendment might tend to disorganize the affairs of the Empire without bringing about any beneficial result. Many foreign goods are carried in British ships along with goods from the United Kingdom, and therefore it seems to me that the provision which the honorable member proposes to insert in the Bill could not be carried out. If the amendment be pressed, it may place honorable members in a false position. Advantage may be taken of the division to misrepresent the attitude of honorable members, who vote against the amendment only because they consider it impracticable.
– I confess that I consider “This proposition one of a most interesting character. I suppose that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie is disappointed at the tumult which it has occasioned in the ranks of the Labour Party.
– Not at all. The members of the Labour Party can please themselves.
– The honorable member has no sinister motive in proposing an amendment of this sort. Had it come from this side of the House-
– It is only fair that if we are going to grant a preference to British manufactures we should grant a preference to the employment of British seamen on the ships bringing these imports to Australia.
– What would happen if, in connexion with the great May Day celebrations, with which the Labour Party are, I believe, in close sympathy, it were whispered along the ranks of international labour that if one German Socialist were found on a British ship, the Federal Labour Party would ban everything in that ship from the benefit of this preference.
– What will they say against the whole scheme?
– We have opposed it.
– I think that there is a great deal in what the honorable member has said, but I would point out that the amendment will make the position worse. All sorts of legal questions might arise. The exporters of these goods might make diligent inquiry before shipping them. They might search for the . genealogical tree of all the persons engaged on a particular ship, and, having made sure that they had at last found a vessel on which only white British seamen were employed, might place their goods on board her. When that vessel reached Hobson’s Bay, however, it might suddenly be discovered that among the crew was the son of an American father by a British mother, born in the United States. In that event, the whole scheme of preference, in so far as those goods were concerned, would fail. Various questions of law would arise.
– The same thing happens under other Commonwealth legislation in connexion with a man who happens to have a black strain of blood in his veins.
– I quite agree. That is one of the reasons why some people think it an unwise provision. There is a chance of detecting a dark streak, but it would be very difficult to determine the nationality of a seaman whose father was an American, and his mother English. No doubt the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has put forward this proposal in perfect good faith, but it is impracticable.
– The Germans, and I think the French, enforce a similar provision in regard to their subsidized ships.
– I do not think that Britishers would be keen to serve on foreign vessels.
– They would be better treated on some of them than they are on their own.
– From what I have read, the rates of pay are not attractive.
– I am speaking of the treatment.
– I am not competent to speak about that. The reason why Britishers are not more in evidence as sailors is that in these days the average Englishman, Irishman, or Scotchman, can get a good living on shore, whereas formerly he had often to make a choice between starvation ashore and mouldy biscuits at sea. The Germans, Swedes, and Norwegians, however, are probably driven to sea because they would be worse off if they remained at home. The adoption of. the amendment might affect business people injuriously, since it would be impossible to catechise all the men on the vessels by which their goods were sent.
– Does not the right honorable member regard the whole preferential scheme as ridiculous?
– I confess that practically it is so. I do not wish to make it more ridiculous.
– We wish to safeguard it.
– I understand that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie is in favour of this scheme.
– No; he is opposed to it.
– That explains the amendment. What is much more serious is the provision requiring direct importation in British ships. The British Government will not thank us for raising that question, since.it is computed that the British flag covers half the cargoes of the world; so that an immense quantity of foreign goods is conveyed in British bottoms. Practically all the British goods coming here are imported in British ships, and while the provision to which I refer has been inserted with the best intentions, it may, instead of improving British trade, have very serious consequences, and embarrass the mother country.
– British vessels are already shut out from the coastal trade of the United States of America, France, and Germany.
– Yes. But the Prime Minister is aware that, while everything may be said for certain proposals on the ground of equity and justice, they would often, if put into practice, have very unfortunate results.
.- I was rather surprised at the speeches of the honorable members for Hindmarsh andGwydir, who, if they had been members of the first Parliament, would have heard the arguments which they have used against the amendment brought to bear against the proposal to prohibit the employment of lascars on mail steamers.
– That was a practicable proposal ; this is impracticable.
– Both honorable members have characterized this proposal as ridiculous and impracticable, which, no doubt, was the opinion of the right honorable member for East Sydney in regard to the mail boat prohibition! We have been told by the honorable member for Gippsland that if the amendment were carried it would make us ridiculous in the eyes of the civilized world. But Germany provides that on her subsidized boats none but German citizens shall be employed.
– I do not say that it would be absurd for Great Britain to insist upon such a condition, but it is ridiculous for us to attempt to dictate to that country.
-We are not proposing to do so. But the Government propose to give a preference to British goods imported here in British vessels, and we wish to insist upon the further condition that those vessels shall be manned by British sailors. I admit that the honorable member for Gippsland is not in favour of preferential trade which will interfere with any Australian industry. We have already provided that our mails shall not be carried on steamers on which lascars are employed. That provision has been characterized as ridiculous, and as an attempt to dictate to shipowners in regard to the management of their vessels. But all we say is that white seamen only shall be employed on vessels subsidized for the carriage of our mails. This is a similar provision. It is not impossible to obtain vessels which are manned by Britishers. During the investigations of the
Shipping Commission, I asked Mr. Kenneth Anderson, the chairman of the Orient Company, if he had seen certain figures of the Board of Trade relating to the number of foreigners and lascars employed in the British mercantile marine. He told me that he had not. His examination then continued as follows: - 1543. If those figures are correct, the position is rather serious, is it not? - Yes, exactly in the same sense as a serious decline in any trade. 1544. Have you any idea of the nationality of your crews? - Yes; as regards the deck hands and stewards, I should say, without exception, they are British. I cannot speak with equal certainty of the firemen. 1545. What would the total of the crews employed on all your boats amount to? - On the eight boats there are about 1,750. 1546. So that practically all the stewards, deck hands, and engineers would be Britishers; but you cannot say for certain with regard to the stokers? - Yes, and I should say that the great majority of the stokers at present are British.
Therefore, the vessels of the Orient Steam Navigation Company, which trade between here and Great Britain, could comply with this provision, because theyare manned now practically by Britishers. The honorable member for Hindmarsh says that he is opposed to the employment of lascars, but that he would not object to the employment of Germans on British vessels in regard to which the proposed preference will be given. The Germans, however, are outgreatest trade rivals. Whilst we are delighted to have them as Australian citizens, and to receive their assistance in developing the country, we must regard them differently when they are fighting us in the great battles of commerce. No doubt the wars of the future will be fought chiefly in the fields of industry, and I do not see why the honorable member for Hindmarsh, who will not allow the employment of an Indian British subject, should be prepared to grant preference to those Europeans who may be our industrial and political enemies. I shall support the amendment, because of theincreasingly large number of aliens employed in the mercantile marine of Great Britain. When it is proposed to subsidize the British shipowner, support is given; but when we ask that something shall be done for those employed on British vessels, we are told that our proposition is ridiculous and absurd. I do not think that the preference scheme will prove of the slightest value, but in view of the fact that the House has committed itself to the principle of preferential trade with Great Britain, we ought to make the best of a bad job. I think that if we imposed such a condition as that indicated, it would have a tendency to secure the shipment of goods by ships manned by British crews.
– It is impracticable.
Mr.THOMAS. - It would certainly aim a blow at the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, because there would be a tendency on the part of shippers to send their goods by the Orient Steam Navigation Company and other steamers on which white labour is employed. Some objection might be urged to requiring that the crew shall be exclusively British, but, after all, Germany finds it possible to enforce such a condition. We are continual ly being told that Germany has done wonders as a protectionist country ; if so, protectionists should not hesitate for one moment to follow in the footsteps of Germany as far as they possibly can. It cannot be held ridiculous for us to adopt measures which have been resorted to by Germany with signal success.
.- If we limit the preference to goods carried in ships upon which only British white seamen are employed, goods carried in any vessel upon which a foreigner or a Britisher who is not white is employed will be penalized to the extent of the increased duty. I could understand some honorable members supporting the amendment, because it provides an absolutely certain means of raising the duties from 7½ per cent. to 10 per cent. all round upon the articles included in the schedule. An enthusiastic protectionist, who considered that the end would justify the means, might support a proposal of this kind; but I cannot understand why it should receive the approval of a free-trader like the honorable member for Barrier. I presume that gelignite and other explosives are used in the mines at Broken Hill?
– Hear, hear.
– Then I cannot understand why the honorable member should support an amendment which would have the effect of increasing the duty upon such commodities. The honorable member told us that we might endeavour to bring about results similar to those achieved by Germany and France in connexion with their subsidized mail steamers, but I would point out that we are not subsidizing any lines of steamers.
– We are subsidizing one line.
– We are subsidizing the manufacturers of Great Britain.
– I am talking of the proposed restriction in regard to the shipment of goods. So far as I can make out, no very large preference will be given to British manufacturers. At best, we cannot expect British trade to increase to the extent of more than £500,000 per annum, and I would ask the honorable member for Barrier, who has enthusiastically supported the amendment, and whom I congratulate upon having been able to look serious all the time, how many vessels employed in the trade between here and the old country are likely to change the character of their crews for the sake of the small share of additional freight that would fall to their lot? If it becomes impossible to secure the advantage of the proposed preference, owing to the impracticable conditions that are imposed, the duty upon the articles mentioned in the schedule will be increased all round. Some of the increases might be very properly considered if the Tariff were being revised, but it would not be honest to pretend to give a preference, and, by rendering it impossible to obtain it, secure an all round increase of duties. If we are going to give a preference, let it be a real and workable one. We should not load British goods with conditions which would have the effect of placing them upon the same footing as foreign products. As one who believes in preference, I cannot support the amendment, because I consider it would make preference impossible.
.- Some honorable members seem to think that Australia represents the Empire, and that we could imitate the example of France and Germany, by insisting that British vessels shall be manned by British seamen. We are only a portion of the Empire, and we cannot expect to exert any material influence upon the conditions which control British shopping. As a business man, I contend that it would be absurd for us to impose a condition such as that proposed. An exporter desiring to secure the preference would look about for a ship manned by a British crew. As the result of inquiries, he might ascertain that a certain vessel had a crew composed solely of white Britishers, and might send his goods on board. Just as the ship was ready to start a cook might be required, and if the new hand shipped to complete the crew were a coloured man, the” importer, although he had taken every precaution, with a view to securing the advantage of the preference, would be penalized by having to pay the higher rate of duty. In view of the conditions under which goods are brought out “here from England, and of the impossibility of our exercising any general control over the conditions under which1 the shipping business is carried on, we should not make stipulations which would harass and hamper our importers, and render absolutely futile all our efforts to bring about preferential trade. All sorts of difficulties would occur, particularly in connexion with the shipment of heavy goods, which have to be forwarded at comparatively low rates of freight, obtainable only from certain shipowners. I should like to know how th!e Customs officials would be able to satisfy themselves that the whole of the members of a vessel’s crew were white Britishers. It seems to me that the proposal is impracticable, and that if any such, condition were imposed, it would lead to all sorts of complications, and make us look ridiculous.
.- One of the grounds upon which objection has been raised to the amendment is that it would give undue offence to foreigners who happen to be living in our midst. That objection would apply with still greater force to the whole scheme of preference, because we propose to place British manufacturers in a position of advantage over foreign manufacturers. It is important for lis to consider the extent to which, we may bring our influence to bear with the object of securing the manning of British vessels by white Britishers. It is desirable that present conditions should be improved, not only with a view to finding an additional outlet for British labour, but also with the object of providing a suitable reserve for the British Navy in time of war. Great Britain depends upon her naval forces to a far larger degree than upon her land forces for her defence ; and the necessity for increasing the number of British seamen employed in the mercantile marine was urged some years ago by no less an authority than Lord Brassey. He showed that the proportion of British seamen was rapidly decreasing - that it had diminished by 50 per cent, within a few years - and that it was likely to fall off still more rapidly in the near future.’ It may be, as the honorable and learned member for East Sydney stated, that- the conditions of seafaring life are not such as to attract Britishers. But Lord Brassey points out that it is the keen competition of the foreign seaman, and his desire to obtain employment in the British mercantile marine, which are responsible for the displacement of the Britisher. I do not think that we can regard such a condition of affairs as altogether satisfactory. If Britain had to depend - as have Continental countries - chiefly upon her land forces for- protection, we might not view the matter with so much concern. But the Empire depends principally upon its naval forces, and consequently its naval defence should be made as complete as ‘ possible. The honorable .member for Kalgoorlie seeks to insure that it shall be made complete. He wishes to provide for increased efficiency. If we are to believe expert opinion, there is a growing need for something to be done in this direction. From an authoritative statement which was recently made on the subject, I gather that there has been a verv rapid decline.- in the number of British apprentices employed in the British mercantile marine during recent years. In 1870 they numbered 18,000, but in 1903 they numbered only 5,000. Further. I may tell honorable members that twenty-five years ago there were 250,000 British subjects employed as sailors in the British mercantile marine, whereas to-day there are only about 100,000. Their places have been filled bv foreigners. Only the other day I read a statement in one of the leading magazines that the foreign element has displaced the British in her mercantile marine to such an extent that it was possible for any considerable naval power to find within that marine sufficient men of its own to act as pilots in British waters in time of war. That is a matter of very serious concern. Britain’s great commercial rival, Germany, insists that upon all large vessels subsidized by its Government only German subjects shall be employed. That country has gone even further, and has provided special facilities for training its youth in matters appertaining to navigation. Only last vear a very fine German training vessel visited Sydney Harbor. She was ably manned by a number of German youths, who are being trained for the purpose of being drafted first into the mercantile marine, of their own country, and afterwards into the German. Navy. If it be wise to extend a preference to British as against foreign manufactures, surely it is equally wise to extend a preference to Britishers who are engaged in the great maritime work of transportation, particularly when it is so intimately connected with the defence of the Empire. I am altogether opposed to the principle of preference as set out in this schedule, but if the Committee in its wisdom says- that a preference shall be granted to British goods, I fail to see why it should be granted to British vessels which are not exclusively manned by British subjects.
– No question to be submitted to the Navigation Conference which is to be held in London next vear will claim closer attention than that of the manning of British ships. It was made very manifest to the Commonwealth Navigation Commission that the number of British subjects engaged upon these ships is rapidly declining, and, in my opinion, the time is not far distant when legislation will have to be enacted with a view to encouraging their employment. But I earnestly hold that this is not the proper time to give attention to that question. The whole object of the Bill- is to extend a preference to goods from Great Britain, and if the amendment be adopted that preference will be entirely thrown away. The British people will say, “ Thank you for nothing. Your Parliament has imposed a condition which absolutely neutralizes the effect of any preference which might otherwise have been given to us.” I hope that the Committee will not agree to the amendment, inasmuch as it is illogical at the present time and in this connexion.
– This is an extraordinary proposal to emanate from the Labour Party.
– Who said that it emanated from the Labour Party?
– T am very glad to learn that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has not been appointed leader of that party. The very prominent part that he has taken in our debates at the fag end of the session led me to believe that he had been appointed leader or deputy leader of that party, or was runner-up in the contest for that position.
– I suppose that I have a right to express my opinions.
– I have no objection to the honorable member doing so.
– -Does not the honorable member think that I ought to submit my opinions to him for approval ?
– If the honorable member did so I should certainly disapprove of most of them.
– That would be a good thing for me.
– The honorable member would have us believe that he has submitted his proposition in. good faith ; he would go the length of saying that we should embody the white ocean policy in a small Bill of four or five clauses relating to a preference to a small section of British imports. The honorable member said that he would go so far as to apply the policy embodied in his amendment to the manufactories of Great Britain. In the vast factories in the shires of England, many coloured men are employed.
– Are coloured men so employed ?
– I think I may safely say that tens of thousands of coloured men, as well as white aliens of various nationalities, are employed in manufactories in the shires of England. Many coloured men are employed as stokers.
– The honorable member’s statement explodes the argument used this afternoon that this Bill gives a preference to the products of white British workers.
– If the honorable member .glances at the statistical returns, he will find that coloured men are employed in manufacturing establishments all over England. Even in factories in Coventry, engaged in the production of bicycles, which are to be given a preference, coloured men are to be found.
– The honorable member is debating a question with which we have already dealt. The amendment now before the Chair relates to the employment of white British seamen.
– If this amendment be agreed to, what will be the position in regard to Swedish and Danish sailors employed on British ships trading to Australia?
– It will be a barrier against their employment.
– Is such a barrier to be raised?
– What about the Swedish manufacturer who is to be excluded from this preferential treatment?
– Why shut out the Swedish manufacturer, and not the Swedish seamen?
– What will be the value of the preference unless these goods may be imported in whatever vessels the exporter pleases to select?
– If British goods were brought out in a Swedish ship mannedby British seamen, the preference would not be extended to them, but British goods brought out in a British ship manned by Swedes will secure it.
– They ought to do so. The very best of sailors come from Sweden and Norway.
– Quite so, but goods brought out in a Swedish ship employing only British seamen would not secure the preference.
– I think that British goods in foreign bottoms should be included. In speaking to the question on a previous occasion, I said that the Government did not propose to give a real preference to British workmen, since it was not proposed that a British manufacturer should be allowed to send his goods to Australia in any ship he pleased. The British workmen engaged in manufacturing these goods have no interest in the ships in which they are sent out; but they are personally interested in the consumption of those goods here. I think that owing to lack of experience the honorable member for Kalgoorlie is gradually being drawn into a very awkward position. He desires to crowd into this Bill all kinds of provisions relating to the white ocean policy, and the regulation of the factories in whichthe goods are manufactured. This is not the right time to bring forward a matter of such farreaching importance.
– Of course, it is not the right time to bring forward a proposal to protect the worker.
– The amendment would not lead to the protection of the workers; it would tend really to their disadvantage.
-The honorable member does not grasp the significance of the amendment.
– If we place upon the importation of British goods restrictions that will hamper their introduction into Australia, we shall hamper the manufacture of them, and thus give a direct slap in the face to British workers. Mr. Chamberlain, in submitting his preferential proposals to the people, pointed out that tens of thousands of men would secure greater employment if a real preference were given.
– The honorable member must not discuss the general question of preferential trade. The amendment relates exclusively to the employment of white British seamen.
– I merely wish to point out incidentally, Mr. Chairman, that, in a speech at Bradford, Mr. Chamberlain said that if Australia would give Great Britain a real preference, profitable employment would be found for tens of thousands of men in Bradford alone. He went on to say-
– The honorable member must not pursue that line of argument.
– I was drawn aside by the interjections of the honorable member for Barrier. If we hamper our trade with Great Britain, we shall hamper the employment of workers in that country. The amendment would have that effect, since it would impose restrictions upon the choice of ships in which British goods designed to secure the preference could be imported into Australia. If we limit this preference to British goods brought out in British vessels, employing only British sailors, we shall place a restriction upon trade that will mean an increase of something like 10 per cent. in the cost of these goods to the importer.
– The Bill itself provides that goods, in order to secure the preference, must be brought out in British bottoms.
– If we insist upon those ships being manned only by white British seamen the preference will disappear. The lines of vessels open to carry goods to which the preference is extended, will be narrowed down.
– That may be.
– That being so, there is a possibility of freights being increased, since the competition will be largely reduced.
– Would the honorable member argue that a foreign seaman is cheaper than a British seaman ?
– I do not know that he is. It is to the advantage of the nation that we should have every class of British sailors, as well as foreign sailors who are as good as British seamen, employed in British ships.
– Surely the honorable member does not think that any foreign sailor is as good as a British seaman?
– I do. If the honorable member consults the statistical returns, he will find that there are foreign sailors who are quite as good as British seamen. The foreigner has practically a monopoly of certain lines. It would be impossible to find a better seaman than a Swede.
– Is the honorable member stone-walling this amendment?
– I am not; but I desire to make my point clear. By excluding foreign seamen from ships carrying goods to which the preference is granted, we must narrow down the competition.
– Shall we not reduce the competition by excluding foreign %’essels from this trade?
– If we reduce the competition, there will be a tendency to increase the wages of British seamen., and that being so, freights will Be increased, to the disadvantage of the trader and the British manufacturer.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
.- lt is difficult to see why those -who have committed themselves by various votes to the maintenance, not only of a White Australia, but of a White Ocean policy on our subsidized mail steamers, should hesitate to carry that policy further. The lamentable state of affairs which exists in regard to the British mercantile marine, and, in the eyes of every patriotic Englishman, must seem pregnant with the direst and gravest possibilities. If the displacement of British by foreign seamen proceeds at the present rate, the former will be unknown twenty years hence. The Nevigation Commission, of which I have the honour to be chairman, devoted considerable pains to the consideration of this question. According to the Board of Trade returns, while the population of Great Britain between 1890 and 1900 increased by something like 10 per cent., and the tonnage of British vessels by 26 per cent., the number of foreigners, exclusive of Asiatics, employed on them increased by more than 35 per cent., and the number of Asiatics byover 58 per cent., the number of Britishers so employed have decreased by about 6 per cent. The amount of capital invested in English shipping is so stupendous that no other British industry compares with the shipping industry. The next largest business is the coal trade, which is closely connected with the shipping industry, upon whose existence and efficiency it to a large extent depends. Yet Britishers are finding less and less employment in this industry. The preferential proposals now before the Chamber are opposed to both the free-trade and the protectionist policy, and the only motive actuating the Government in bringing them forward must be a desire to promote closer relations between the various parts of the Empire, for the benefit of the British race. The proposals are frankly Imperialistic, and the motive actuating the Ministry is no doubt a proper one. But if these proposals do not promote closer relations and do not promote the welfare of the British race, such a departure from the timehonoured policy under which our Colonial Empire has been built up is unjustifiable and inexcusable. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie wishes to check the lamentable falling off in the number of Britishers employed in British vessels. That object should have the sympathy and support of honorable members. I mav be told that fewer Britishers find employment on British ships because more profitable occupation can be obtained ashore. But in Germany, France, and other European, countries there has been a tendency of late to improve the conditions under which men work ashore, and the difference between the lot of a Britisher afloat in a British vessel and ashore in Great Britain is no greater than the difference between the lot of a German afloat in a German vessel and ashore in Germany. Therefore, what is true of the British mercantile marine should hold good in regard to the mercantile marine of other nations ; but it does not. The German mercantile marine is manned almost exclusively by Germans. In no other than the British mercantile marine does there exist such a state of things as we deplore, and as patriotic citizens and intelligent men, we ought to do what we can to alter it. The Bill is on the table, and it is useless to theorize, or to set up unattainable ideals. We- are face to face with a practical question. If we say that preference shall not be given in respect of goods imported in British ships which are not manned exclusively by British seamen, Great Britain will not benefit in the slightest by these proposals, because hardly one English vessel manned exclusively by Britishers comes here from the mother country iri a year. The vast majority of the crews are made up of Britishers and foreigners, the average being 56 per cent, of Britishers to 44 per cent, of foreigners. According to the Board of Trade returns the number of British persons employed on British vessels in 1900, not including lascars, was 174,532, and of foreign persons so employed 36,893, or 21.14 per cent. Of lascars and Asiatics there were employed 36,023. The total number of persons serving on British ships, including lascars and foreigners, was 247,448, of which only 174,532 were Britishers. On every British vessel coming here there are, on an average, six Britishers to four foreigners. As a matter of fact, since the British fishing fleet is manned almost exclusively by Britishers, the percentage of foreigners on ocean-going British ships is higher than I have stated, practically half the men so employed being foreigners. Therefore, o refuse to give a preference in respect to goods carried on other than British vessels manned exclusively by Britishers would be equivalent to throwing the Bill under the table. I do not think that the shipowners gain anything by employing foreigners, apart from lascars, their crews being shipped at Liverpool, Glasgow, London, and other ports, and Britishers and foreigners being paid the same rates. They would not, however, go to the trouble of altering their arrangements so completely as would be necessary to get rid of all the foreigners employed by them merely to take advantage of these proposals. If my honorable friend wishes to da something to reduce the percentage of foreigners employed in the British mercantile marine, he should alter his amendment to provide for the employment of 80 per cent, of Britishers upon British ships carrying goods in respect to which preference is claimed. British ship-owners might be induced to substitute Britishers for foreigners to the extent of one, two, or three members of their crews, whereas it would be impossible for them to go to the full length now proposed. A ship which had a negro cook, or a foreign steward, would be disqualified from carrying British preference goods. But if we stipulated that 80 per cent, of Britishers should be employed, the condition might tend to the employment of a larger proportion of British seamen, and thereby accomplish good. The advantage offered under the Government proposals is not sufficient to induce ship-owners to change the character of their crews. The proposed condition that preference goods should be manufactured wholly by white British workmen would net operate in one case out of every hundred, for the simple reason that very few coloured men are employed in manufacturing industries of Great Britain.
– The honorable member for Robertson said that thousands of coloured aliens were employed as stokers and firemen ir. the English industrial centres.
– That does not accord with my experience; but I have no hesitation in accepting any information from honorable members opposite with that readiness which the political exigencies of the situation demand. If the honorable member for Kalgoorlie will not accept my suggestion, I shall move to insert a provision that the goods in respect of which preference is given shall be carried in British ships manned by not less than 80 per cent, of white British seamen.
– Would not the honorable and learned member stipulate that the whole crew” should be white, and that 80 per cent, should be British seamen?
– So far as that is concerned, I shall always vote for the employment of white as against coloured crews. ‘ I have no other objection to the employment of white European seamen, save that I naturally prefer to see mv own countrymen engaged - just in the same way that I prefer to do something for mv own family rather than for some one else’s family. I have no sympathy with the lofty ideal’s entertained by some persons who regard the world as their country. I prefer to regard Australia or England as my country, and I am prepared to stand by the narrow view which! regards the country of one’s birth as entitled to preference over others. I shall vote for any amendment in the direction of excluding from preference goods carried ,in ships manned by coloured seamen. * With the exception of a few tramp vessels, the only steamers that would be affected would be those of the Peninsular and Oriental line. I wish to see more British seamen employed, but the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie would, I am sure, prove ineffective, because the inducement offered to shipowners to effect the necessary change in their crews is not sufficient. Any one who knows anything about the tremendous influence and the sphere of operations of the British shipping ring must realize that shipowners would not do so much as is required in order to gain so little. Unless the honorable member will consent to reduce the scope of his. amendment, I shall move in the direction I have indicated.
– I have every sympathy with those who desire to to see British ships manned by British seamen, and no one regrets, more than I do the fact that such a large proportion of foreign seamen are employed in the British mercantile marine. These foreigners are mostly white men, . but the vessels, chiefly steamers, engaged in certain trades, such as that of the far East, are manned to a very large extent by lascars, coolies, and other coloured men. A great many of these are British subjects, and we should be verv careful before we attempt to exclude them from employment in British ships. I would welcome any opportunity to add to the proportion of British sailors, but, unfortunately, the proposal of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie appears to be impracticable. I was a mariner in my younger days, and I know that British shipmasters experience great difficulty in procuring British seamen. At most British ports, for every Britisher who presents himself for engagement, two dozen foreigners offer their services. These foreigners are principally Norwegians, Swedes, Danes, Greeks, and Portuguese, with perhaps a sprinkling of Frenchmen. For various reasons, the British sailor, as a species, seems to be dying out, There are many ways, to account for this scarcity of British seamen, not the least significant being ‘the fact that no calling is less attractive than that of a sailor on a merchant ship. Frequently he has to live under conditions which are not fit for fi, pig, and1, in a great number 06 cases, the food is of the vilest possible description, whilst the wages are so small as to*be scarcely worthy of the name of remuneration. I do not see how any provision such as that proposed would overcome the difficulty. British manufacturers, or exporters, could not insist upon the shipowners employing only British seamen. Is it to be supposed that the exporter could go to the shipowner, and say, “ I have some goods that I propose to send to Australia by your ships, but I must stipulate first of all that you shall employ only British seamen “ ? What would be the natural answer of the ship-owner? He would be perfectly agreeable to employ only British seamen if the exporter would guarantee that he would be able to find a purely British crew, and also undertake to pay any increased cost that might be incurred in obtaining one. As the honorable and learned member for West Sydney has pointed out, the proposal would not confer any benefit whatever upon the British nation from a preference stand-point, because if a British ship-owner were unable to obtain a British crew to man his vessels, and were compelled to fall back upon foreigners, the shipper of the goods would lose all the advantage which it is sought to bestow upon him by this alleged preference. I do not know that Chat would be altogether a bad thing, because, after all, the proposed preference is such a miserable pretence that it is unworthy of consideration. It is a preference in name only, because the bulk of the trade upon which Great Britain is supposed to receive a preference is already in British hands. The Bill does not fulfil the conditions which one would naturally expect to find embodied in it. All things considered, it seems to me that the amendment is illadvised, that it is impracticable, and that it will not attain the object which its author has in view - an object with which honorable members upon both sides of the Chamber are in entire sympathy.
– 1 was hopeful that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie would have withdrawn this amendment, but as he insists in pressing it to a division I must oppose it. I agree with the honorable member for Gippsland that it is a ridiculous proposal.. Under its operation the members of the crew of any British vessel would be required to carry birth, certificates to pro to that they were of British origin. 1 can quite understand that, in considering the question of the exclusive employment of white crews upon mail, steamers which are subsidized by the Commonwealth, we should adopt a national or racial standard. That is a very different matter from that which is involved in this amend- ment, which would strike at some races whose members are amongst our best citizens. Personally, I am not in favour of preferential trade. I regard it as of no importance to the poorer artisans of Australia whether goods are made in Germany or Great Britain. Further, the proposed preference will be limited to about £650,000 worth of trade annually. That is a very small amount, seeing that our imports from all over the world are valued at about £38,000,000. I hold that I am not departing from any plank of the Labour platform by refusing to extend this preference to British seamen. Whilst I object to the competition of coloured races, I have no objection to that of white men, no matter from what part of the world they may come.
– I quite agree that people have no choice of the locality in which they happen to be born. Whilst we may entertain racial prejudices, we do not extend them so far as to say that we will not do business with any man because he is not of British origin.
– That is practically the principle of the Bill.
– The honorable member is opposed to the Bill, and therefore I am not surprised at his action in supporting any proposition which would have the effect of making it ineffective. An attempt has been made to draw an analogy betweenthe proposal of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie and the employment of coloured aliens upon our mail steamers. But I would point out that, although, there maybe some similarity between the two things, the analogy does not hold throughout. In the case of our mails, we take the view that as we are spending the money of the Australian people for certain services, we have a right to ask that those services shall be rendered by white men, to the exclusion of the coloured races.
– The honorable member would never be able to get to Western Australia under the amendment.
– We have a perfect right to say that the persons whom we employ to do our letter-carrying upon the water shall be persons of whom we approve. But in this Bill we are supposed to be offering a preference to the goods of the United Kingdom. We are supposed to be saying to Great Britain: “This represents the first step towards something which we hope will attain bigger proportions.”
– There is plenty of room for expansion.
– I believe in small beginnings. As the question of preference is before the Committee, I should like to say that I was very much surprised to learn from some figures the enormous dimensions which the trade of Western Australia with foreigners has assumed as against her trade with Great Britain and the rest of the Empire.
– Order ! The honorable member must not pursue that question.
– Do you, sir, rule that the subject of preference is not now before the Chair ?
– The question before the Chair is a proposal to insert the words “manned exclusively by white British seamen “ after the word “ships.”
– I am quite aware of that. But we have been discussing whether the adoption of the amendment would render inoperative the preference to British goods which is supposed to be conferred by this Bill. I think, therefore, that I may be allowed to show that the question of preference is of so much importance that we cannot afford to allow an amendment of this character to destroy the very purpose which the Bill is designed to accomplish.
– The honorable member will be in order in mentioning the matter incidentally, but not in dealing with it in detail.
– I merely wish to illustrate the point that I was making. The matter is of so much importance that
I desire to quote a few figures-
– I must point out to the honorable member that if I allowed him to quote one set of figures, I could not, in fairness, prevent any honorable member from quoting another set.
– I bow to your decision, sir. I merely wish to say that, during the past nine or ten years, the trade of Western Australia-
– Order. I cannot allow the honorable member to. enter into a detailed discussion. The proper place for that was upon the second reading of the Bill.
– I did not intend to quote the figures that you, sir, requested me not to quote.
– I understand that the honorable member was about to deal with the advantages or disadvantages that would flow from extending a preference to British goods. If he follows that line of argument he will be out of order.
– Upon a point of order I should like to know whether, in the course of a debate tending to show that a certain amendment will have a certain effect, it is not competent for an honorable member to advance reasons why it will have that effect, even though to do so he may require to quote figures?
– The honorable member for Fremantle will be in order in assigning reasons why the amendment should not be carried, but he will not be in order in traversing the merits or demerits of preferential trade.
– I have already intimated that I intend to bow to your decision, although I think it will confine honorable members rather too closely to the letter of the amendment. I have intimated privately to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie that if he had submitted his amendment in the form mentioned by the honorable and learned member for West Sydney - if he had provided for the manning of these vessels exclusively by white seamen - we might possibly have supported it as a matter of general policy. But even in that event I should have been inclined to doubt the wisdom of inserting such a provision in a Bill of this kind. I recognise, however, that the honorable member is anxious to avail himself of every opportunity to extend the policy which he believes to be a fair one. I should like to point out to him in all friendliness that I fear he is proposing rather too much - that in asking for so much he is likely to lose everything. If we were discussing the question of whether or not we should grant a preference to goods carried in ships manned exclusively by white labour as against those carried in ships manned by coloured crews, we might very readily say, “ Even although it may cause some inconvenience to the shippers, we believe that inconvenience will be .so slight that to gain the increased trade thus offering ship-owners would employ only white men.” Knowing as we do that thousands of white men who are not
British born are employed on British vessels - knowing that for the time being it is almost impossible to secure British ships having no foreigners in their crews - I think that the honorable member would have regard to the interests which he seeks to uphold if he accepted an amendment of the amendment striking out the word “British.” If that were done, the honorable member would at once remove my antagonism and that of several other honorable members to his proposal. I suggest to him that he should amend the amendment in the way I have indicated.
.- I have listened carefully to the objections to the amendment, and desire to point out in justification of it that we have from the first been led to believe by those responsible for the proposal to grant a preference to British imports that it is necessary at the present time to take a step which will have the effect of bringing the outlying portions of the British Empire into closer relation with the .mother country. We have heard of the necessity for strengthening the silken bonds with something that will be lasting in its effect, and will tend to bind us still closer together. To some extent, I . agree with the arguments advanced in that direction. Although I favoured the taking of a course that would have enabled us to secure more information before proceeding in that direction, I still think that those who hold that view were justified in submitting the preferential proposals. Whilst dealing with such a question, we should not be unmindful of the condition in which Great Britain might be placed in the event of a great national emergency.’ It is admitted that at a time of national danger we should have to rely upon the British mercantile marine to assist the Navy ; but my honorable friends opposite suggest that it is immaterial whether or not we do anything ‘ to improve conditions which are described on all sides as being so lamentable. We have had from the honorable and learned member for West Sydney, who was Chairman of the Navigation Commission, figures showing the percentage of foreigners employed in the mercantile marine of Great Britain. Notwithstanding their startling significance, honorable members again come forward with the time-worn plea that this is not an opportune occasion., and that the Bill now before us is not one in which to give effect to the proposal
I have submitted. I hold, however, ‘ that I ought to avail myself of every opportunity to further the principles in which I believe. It appears to me that some honorable members are prepared to discriminate in favour of one section of the British people, but not in favour of another. Throughout this measure we have discriminated between white foreign workmen and white British workmen. It. is admitted that this Bill will give a preference to the products of white British workmen as against those produced by white foreign workers, and it cannot be denied that we are giving a preference to British ships as against foreign ones.
– We are also giving a preference to foreigners employed in Great Britain as against those employed elsewhere.
– We have decided to grant a preference to foreigners in Great Britain in the belief that they are not to be found there in large numbers. There is a. considerable difference of opinion on that point.
– In one part of London one scarcely ever hears the English language spoken.
– I am glad that I have not been in that part. It certainly was not the intention of the framers of this Bill that any considerable preference should Le granted to foreigners, but we have given British ships a preference over foreign vessels, notwithstanding that the latter may be manned by Britishers. We have discriminated to such, an extent that I feel I am justified in urging that we should enact that the proposed preference shall be granted only to goods brought out in British vessels manned by British crews. The right honorable member for East Sydney urged that the son of an American father and a British mother born in the United States would be excluded under the provisions of this amendment. The same possibility has been mentioned in connexion with the employment of half-castes or quarter-castes on a steamer carrying our mails at the present time. I hold that we should not be justified in taking into consideration such contingencies in a Bill of this kind. I frankly admit that the amendment would shut out from the preference some vessels at present trading to Australia ; but, on the other hand, we have the statement of the honorable member for Barrier that, according to the chairman of the Orient Steam Navigation Company, the proportion of foreigners employed on that line of mail steamers is exceedingly small. That being so, I fail to see that the company would make any great sacrifice - and at the present time it is securing a fair proportion of our trade - if it got rid of the remaining foreign seamen in its employment.
– But the amendment would apply also to the tramp steamers and sailing vessels in the Australian trade.
– Surely there is no insuperable difficulty in the way of its application to tramp steamers or “ windjammers,” having regard to the fact that it could be readily applied to a line of mail steamers. What are the difficulties in the way of the employment of Britishers in lieu of foreigners?
– The British seaman is a diminishing quantity.
– That is because certain legislation has offered a special inducement to foreigners to secure employment in the British mercantile marine.
– Freedom of contract has helped in that direction.
– It has to a certain extent. We have not safeguarded the employment of men of our own race in the British mercantile marine as the French and Germans have done.
– The- trouble is due to the fact that the conditions of life in British merchant vessels make the calling less attractive than any other. I know that from practical experience.
– I have strong reasons to believe that that is not the correct explanation of the situation. I believe that in many cases, when an opportunity to secure foreign sailors presents itself, British seamen are put aside. In many cases, ships’ officers prefer the foreigner. I do not know ‘the reason for this preference, unless it is that, until they secure a safe footing, foreigners do not seek to impose so many conditions as do British seamen, and that they have hitherto been freer from the influence of trade unionism. I think the explanation is to be found in the fact that the foreign seamen at first give ships’ officers a little less trouble than British seamen do.
– They give them more trouble.
– I do not think so. In 1908 we shall have a line of steamers carrying the Australian flag, and subsidized to the extent of £125,000 per annum, to convey our mails to the United Kingdom. Under the provisions of the mail contract, the seamen on those vessels must be white men. Surely it is not too much to say that vessels carrying the imports which will be affected by these preferences - imports which we are told are of the annual value of about £700,000 - shall employ only white British seamen. If we take this step, we shall give a direct incentive to those who select crews for the new line of steamers to employ only Britishers, and thus to secure the nucleus of the trade between the United Kingdom and. Australia. It is not an impracticable proposition. If adopted, it will give considerable assistance to the new line of mail steamers, and may ultimately lead to the reduction of the enormous mail subsidy which we are now called upon to pay. I . am afraid that there will be a majority against the amendment, but, of course, every honorable member is entitled to his opinion, no matter how slight the arguments with which he justifies it. Should the Committee not agree that preference should be given in respect to only goods carried on vessels manned exclusively by Britishers, I shall test its feeling in regard to a proposal that it shall be given in respect to only goods imported on British vessels manned by white seamen; because where Australian expenditure is involved, I think that we should see that our money goes only to white persons.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted (Mr. Frazer’ s amendment, vide page 5305) be so inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 19
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I wish to amend the penultimate column of the schedule by an addition to the heading which reads -
On dutiable goods the produce or manufacture of the United Kingdom, and imported direct in British ships.
I therefore move -
That after the word ‘‘ships,’’ the words “ manned by 80 per cent. of white British seamen “ be inserted.
I have already given reasons why I could not support the amendment of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. There is, however, some prospect of ship-owners making alterations in thepersonnel of their crews to the extent here provided for. At the present time, there are, on the average, on every British vessel, about six Britishers to four foreigners; I propose that there shall be eight Britishers to two foreigners. If the Committee agrees to the amendment, it will practically re-enact a provision formerly in force in Great Britain, which I believe did a great deal to build up the British mercantile marine.
– As I have already had occasion to point out, the question at issue is whether duties of Customs shall be reduced in respect to goods of British manufacture imported in British ships. These goods will come into competition with other goods of British manufacture imported in foreign ships, as well as with foreign goods imported in foreign ships. A distinction is made against the last in favour of the first, but if this amendment is carried, the difficulties of merchants and traders will be increased very considerably by the creation of a distinction between British ships manned by not less than 80 per cent. of white British seamen and other British vessels. As the honorable and learned member knows, a Conference is to meet in London in the early part of next year, to consider questions affecting the navigation laws of the Empire, when, no doubt, this or some similar proposal will be discussed. Any recommendation made by that Conference, if embodied in the Merchant Shipping Act, will apply to all British ships and seamen, and will have my sympathy and support. To make the proposed alteration here and now would complicate business arrangements, and its advantages would not be commensurate with the incidental inconvenience and disorganization. I hope that the honorable and learned member will be satisfied that the reception accorded to the report of the Navigation Commission makes it certain that this and cognate questions will be dealt with fairly in a few months, and, therefore, will not press the amendment.
.- I am pleased to have the Prime Minister’s declaration of his personal intentions in regard to this matter. As the representative of a maritime constituency, my fortunes are in many respects bound up with those of men who “ go down to the sea in ships,” and I am very anxious to do all that I can to foster the employment of my fellow countrymen in the British mercantile marine. I am afraid that there is little chance of the amendment being carried, and while I feel very strongly in regard to it, yet as the proposed preference affects only 2 per cent. of the imports of Great Britain, it is not likely to have any considerable effect, while ineffective legislation tends to bring Parliament info contempt. Therefore, although I shall not withdraw it, I shall not press it to a division.
.- I intend to test the question as to whether coloured labour should be employed upon ships carrying Britishgoods entitled to preference. I quite agree with the honorable and learned member for West Sydney that certain difficulties would arise in connexion with the practical application of the condition previously sought to be imposed, but there should be no insuperable obstacle in the way of enforcing a stipulation that preference goods shall be carried in vessels manned by white seamen. We have already enforced a similar condition in regard to one of the large lines of steamers. I move -
That the words “ manned exclusively by white seamen,” be added to the headline.
The effect of this provision will be that British goods to which preference will apply must be imported direct in British ships manned exclusively by white seamen.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
– I should like to know whether the Prime Minister regards the amendment as a mere matter of detail, or as one requiring consideration. It amounts practically to an endeavour to assert authority over British ships under the guise of an unconditional gift of preference to the mother country. Of course, the matter is one entirely for the Prime Minister, as the responsible leader of the House, to consider; but it seems to me that the amendment introduces into the Bill a feature that may be productive of much embarrassment.
– As honorable members know, I have always voted for the employment on our ships of white seamen exclusively. I felt considerably embarrassed in this case, and my vote was decided by the practical reasons I gave when speaking to the previous amendment. This amendment is out of its place, and must be ineffective in operation. Why introduce it as a mere declaration? Whilst I sympathize a great deal more with this proposal than the other, I see that its introduction into this measure is likely to cause difficulties - although nothing like the difficulty that would have been involved if the presence of an American or of any other white foreigner had interfered with the granting of preference. This amendment will impose a most undesirable condition upon the grant of preference to the mother country; but at the same time, it does not conflict with the principle of giving preference to goods of British production made by white labour, and carried in British ships. I regret the introduction of the further condition that no coloured seamen must be employed upon such ships, because it was needless, and will be fruitless, or almost so; but I do not think that it involves a sufficient departure from the present proposal, and is too much in accord with) a principle with which this Government has been identfied to cause me to drop the Bill.
– I do not intend to detain the Committee at any length.; but there are one or two items in the schedule to which I should like to refer. Item111- wicker, bamboo, cane, or wood - embraces a number of articles which are used in the manufacture of buggies in Australia. Whilst such vehicles are in common use amongst us and in the United States, they are practically unknown in the mother country, and I am informed by persons who have some practical knowledge that the proposed preference will have the effect of adding very largely to the cost of building coaches and buggies in Australia. This is a very important industry, and I am informed that whilst no further protection will be granted to loach and buggy builders, they will be expected to pay an increased duty of 10 per cent. upon the parts of buggies and certain woods necessary for the manufacture of buggies which have to be imported from the United States. This is a matter which nature has decided against us and against the mother country. The particular woods referred to are not to be obtained in Great Britain or Australia. Many coachbuilders say that whilst the preference will not confer the slightest benefit upon the mother country, it will handicapthem very much.
-Could the right honorable and learned member mention any parts which must be imported?
– I am dependent on information supplied to me, and I should like to read a letter, not addressed to me, but to another honorable member, by a firm of wholesale saddlers and coach-furnishing ironmongers in Sydney, who say -
May we draw your attention to the hardship imposed on the coachbuilders of the Commonwealth by the raising of the duties in connexion with the proposed preferential tariff on their raw and semi-raw materials; and this too, whilst leaving the duties on the manufactured articles as they were ; so as proposed, the duties on the necessary parts of a vehicle will be at 30 per cent., but the manufactured article comes in at 25 per cent. Surely this is a blunder somewhere.
It is an accepted fact that the best wood in the world for making the various parts of light vehicles is hickory, which only grows in America ; hence all hickory buggy shafts, wheels, poles, bars, wheelstuff, bows, seat spindles, and woodware generally for light vehicles has to be imported from there.
Elm hubs, hickory spokes (to 2 inch) and rough rims and shafts, were admitted free under the late Tariff, and we understand are still on the free list; but hickory buggy wheels, shafts, poles, bars, &c., were dutiable, and it is proposed to raise the duty on them to 30 per cent., although none of these lines can be procured from England. So whilst no preference is really given to England, our coachbuilders here, have a very heavy burden imposed upon them, which must tend to upset and restrict their trade.
This cannot even help any one, from a protectionist’s point of view, as these lines have to come from America; for with the great and growing scarcity of hickory experience has fully shown us that benders here cannot even procure lumber of quality to compete with the imported articles.
Then buggies and sulkies are essentially American vehicles, and practically unknown in England ; so there are many parts, such as plated dash rails, seat rails for hoods, plated hub-bands, tubular shaft ends, seat handles, laxyback stays, equalizers for springs, malleable toerails, malleable spring chairs, &c., which cannot be procured from England, and which from the way the Americans with their enormous output of buggies and sulkies, have specialized the manufacture of the parts thereof, we cannot compete with in the manufacture, with our comparatively very limited output.
By far the most important item, however, is the manufactures of hickory ; and we unhesitatingly affirm that if the proposed duty of 33 per cent. (as it really is) is placed upon these lines, it will do incalculable harm to the coachbuilding trade throughout the Commonwealth generally. According to the official statistics for 1905, the number of hands employed in the coach and waggon building trades in New South Wales for thatyear was 1,591, earning wages to the amount of£101,113; so such a large and important trade surely deserves so much consideration that a heavier duty shall not be placed upon the raw material than on the manufactured articles.
This is not a New South Wales letter relating exclusively to New South Walesartisans. There are only 1,591 handsemployed in the industry in that State, so that it may be a matter of very slight consequence to some honorable members, who, when the Tariff was under consideration, were very keen to notice the distress of various little industries in the vicinity of Bourke-street, which employed only three or four hands. Surely we can pay some attention to the representations of a great Australian industry such as this is.
– What item does it come under ?
– I am informed that it comes under item 111 - under “ timber, bent, n.e.i.”
– I think it will come under an earlier item than that. It will be included under the heading “ All articles n.e.i.”
– At present, the duty collected on the articles which. I have enumerated is 20 per cent., and the duty levied upon the finished article is 25 per cent. Under the schedule to this Bill, we shall not extend to Great Britain a preference of a single penny, because she does not grow hickory, and we shall simply be loading our own manufacturers with an extra 10 per cent. duty upon the raw materials which they use in the construction of buggies. Seeing that there are 1,591 hands employed in the industry in New South Wales, it is probable that there are an equal number in Victoria, and that there may be 4,000 or 5,000 employed throughout the Commonwealth. As hickory is unknown in the United Kingdom, and as there can be no pretence of our helping the mother country in this connexion, I would strongly urge the Government to consider the matter and to promise to put it right.
– If the timber were imported and worked up locally, more hands would be employed.
– But there is a duty upon the timber, no matter in what form at may be imported.
– There is not a large duty upon it.
– But we are now discussing the question of extending a preference to the dear old mother land, and, inasmuch as the dear old mother land does not grow hickory, it is sheer hypocrisy to talk about granting her a preference of 10 per cent. upon it. If we wish, under cover of this Bill, to penalize certain Australian industries, let us say so. The vehicles in the construction of which hickory is used are just as essential to Australian life in many of the country districts as are the railways. If the Government will consider the matter, and will promise to attend to it, I shall be quite content.
– Although the statement contained in the letter undoubtedly is that the raising of the duties in connexion with the proposed preferential Tariff to 30 per cent. will detrimentally affect this industry, I take it that it is an error. Its authors are evidently alluding, not to the proposed British preference, but to the reciprocal Tariff agreement with New Zealand. I have turned up the Tariff, and “ find that item 111 (a) referred to in this Bill deals with wicker, bamboo, cane, or wood, and all articles n.e.i., and that the exemptions include wicker, bamboo, cane, or wood. But under item no dealt with in the New Zealand Treaty the exemptions include hickory spokes, dressed ; hickory, undressed ; elm hubs, shafts, and poles, sawn or bent, but not dressed ; sparsin the rough ; spokes, rims and felloes of hickory in the rough ; and staves, undressed or roughly dressed. That, apparently, is the item which is alluded to in the letter to which the right honorable member for East Sydney has directed attention. I do not think that the articles specified therein are touched by the proposals under this Bill. But I will take care that the question of whether they areaffected, either by the New Zealand reciprocal Tariff agreement or by this Bill, is inquired into.
– I wish to direct attention to two or three items in the schedule to this Bill. In the matter of paints, I find that the great bulk of the trade is already in the hands of the mother country, so that the proposals embodied in the measure can be of absolutely no value to her. The same remark is applicable to paperhangings, pickles, cutlery and other items. According to the latest returns, our importations of paints from Great Britain are valued at ,£193,631 ; whereas our foreign importations are valued at only .£37,432. In other words, Great Britain enjoys an excess of trade over her foreign rivals to “he extent of £156,199 per annum. Where does the preference come in in a case of that kind? The only effect of the Government proposal will be to increase the price of oils, colours, and paints - mixed and otherwise - to the consumer. In Australia, this will inflict an immense amount of hardship, upon many thousands of men who accept contracts for the painting of small weatherboard houses, and in this way manage to earn a bare livelihood. Then I find that we annually import from Great Britain £33,782 worth of paperhanging? ) whereas our importations from foreign countries amount to only £8,469 ; showing that the mother country already enjoys an excess of trade in that line amounting to £25>3I3- Similarly, we import from Great Britain £85,186 worth of pickles yearly ; whereas our foreign importations are valued at £9,832. In that trade, therefore, without the aid of any preference, Great Britain enjoys an advantage of £75*354 Further, we import from the mother country £104,739 worth of cutlery ; whereas our foreign importations are valued at only .£22,256 ; showing an excess in favour of British trade of £82,483. The only effect of these duties will be to increase the price of the articles I have enumerated to the consumer without extending any preference to the mother country. The Prime Minister ought to give consideration to matters of this kind. When speaking to the motion submitted by the Minister of Trade and Customs, I pointed out several items in respect of which, even from the protectionist stand-point, a preference might advantageously be given to Great Britain. It will be noticed that many of the items in’ the schedule are already free, so far as imports from Great Britain are concerned, and that all the Government propose to do is to raise the duties on those coming from foreign countries. As to many other items, the bulk of the trade to which thev relate is already held by Great Britain, so that under these proposals she will really secure no preference. I suppose that an appeal of this kind is useless, since, to use the picturesque language of the Minister of Trade and ‘Customs, the Government, on submitting certain proposals, and finding that the numbers are on their side, are prepared to “ bullock “ them through.
– I wish merely to refer to one line in addition to those to which the honorable member for Lang has alluded. I have studied the statistics of imports, and cannot help remarking that it seems as if the Government had tried to pick out the most insignificant items in respect of which they can grant any real preference to Great Britain. Here is a line which sounds very well : “ Engines, gas and oil, and high speed engines and turbines, water and steam.” One would think that this was a tremendous item, of great importance to the mother country. I find, however, that out of a total importation of machinery and manufactures of. metal of the value of about £6,000,000 per annum, the Government have picked out this item, which represents a foreign trade of only about £20,000 per annum. The value of the total imports of gas and oil engines is £53,000, and those coming from Greats Britain already are! of the value of £33,000, leaving £20,000 worth to be supplied by the rest of the Empire and foreign countries. We import about £10,000 worth of these high-speed engines and turbines, and of these all except -£97 worth come from the mother country. These are fantastic preferences, but I recognise that, as the matter has been threshed out so often, it is impossible for me at present to do anything. In view of the wretched attendance when the last division took place, and the very important matter with which we then dealt - a matter that might well cause embarrassment to the Home Government - I hope that the Prime Minister will consider the propriety of taking the sense of the Committee upon that amendment when there is a larger attendance. I recognise that, in ordinary cases, we must stand by the divisions as they happen ; but I repeat that a matter of great importance has been dealt with bv so small a number of honorable members that it would be well for the Prime Minister to consider the propriety of asking the Committee to reconsider it. The amendment to which I refer intrudes into the Bill an element which will expose us tq something more than ridicule throughout the length and breadth of the civilized world. What a monstrous thing it is that some coloured person, who may have been employed in a ship from the date of its launching, must be discharged if the cargo which that ship contains is to secure a preference. This may happen to a British subject. It seems to me that we are carrying the White Ocean policy, which is a very extreme and absurd one, to still more extraordinary lengths when we apply it to a scheme for granting preferences to Great Britain. I warn the Government that the matter must attract a large measure of public criticism. The honorable and learned gentleman opposed the introduction of the amendment. To use no stronger expression, he saw the inconvenience that it would cause, and I hope that he will adopt the course that I have suggested. I cannot refrain from saying at once that this will be one of the most important questions before the people at the next general election. It will be prominent, not because of its own importance, but because it shows the monstrous extreme to which the view of the Labour Party, in regard to a White Ocean policy, is being carried. It is monstrous that a ship-master should be compelled, if goods of British manufacture which form part of his cargo are to receive a preference from Australia, to cashier some unfortunate wretch who may have been onhis ship for years. If we have an ambition to be thoroughly despised and ridiculed throughout the length and breadth of the civilized world, we could not do better than carry such monstrous proposals. Personally, as the leader of an Opposition, it suits me very well to have such topics of criticism before the electors, but I think that in the interests of the Parliament it would be well for us to abstain from going to such extraordinary extremes. One cannot help recognising the inhumanity of the proposal, and I hope that the Prime Minister, who, after all, is the guardian of the good sense of Parliament - who has to see that provisions that are foreign to a Bill are not introduced into it - will consider, at his leisure, the wisdom of adopting my suggestion.
.-When speaking a few minutes ago, I omitted to draw attention to one very important item in the schedule, although I made passing reference to it whenwe were dealing with the resolutions. I refer to the item of furniture. Some furniture manufacturers in Victoria assure me that Austrian bent wood furniture ought to be allowed to come in free, since it does not come into competition with furniture made in Australia, or any other part of the world.
– Those who make such statements do not know much about the question.
– I presume that men who have been all their lives in a certain trade should know as much about it as the honorable member knows of his. business.
– I have been in the trade for about thirty-five years.
– Practical men who have been in the trade for years tell me that 99 per cent. of the people of Australia use Austrian bent-wood furniture, and that, having regard to its durability, there is no other furniture which could be sold so cheaply. I am told that it is to be found in the homes of the artisan, the mechanic, and the labourer ; that it is used by the shearer, the farm labourer, and others in the bush. So far as I am aware there is no timber grown in Australia suitable for the manufacture of furniture which will stand the test of wear and tear as do these Austrian bent-wood goods.
– That is nonsense.
-What timber could be used as a substitute?
– Tasmanian blackwood.
– That is an absolutely different timber.
– It is suitable for making furniture to take the place of the Austrian bent-wood goods.
– Such furniture would be much more expensive.
– It would be more expensive, and altogether unsuitable to take the place of Austrian bent- wood furniture. One or two manufacturers in a large way of business here assure me that this is one of the items which should be allowed to come in free.
– Did I understand the honorable member to say that shearers’ sheds are furnished with Austrian bentwood goods?
– I did not; I said that such furniture is to be found in houses in the backblocks, used by shearers, farm labourers, and others, since it is very durable, and is well suited to the Australian climate. I ask the Prime
Minister to consider the desirableness of removing the item from the schedule. The item relating to picture frames has. also been adversely commented upon, and has been the subject of deputations from persons engaged in the industry in Melbourne. When members of the Opposition bring forward these matters it may be thought that their views are largely coloured by their fiscal belief, but surely when those engaged in the trade make representations to the Minister of Trade and Customs they should receive consideration.
– Is the Minister absent again ?
– I do not see him here. When those engaged in the trade say that they will be handicapped by a proposal of this kind they ought to receive some consideration at the hands of the Government, even if the representations made by the Opposition fail. I should like the Prime Minister to say whether he proposes to pass the schedule in its present form, or is prepared to consider any of the suggested omissions?
– Agents of English picture frame-makers assert that they are capable of supplying without difficulty the whole of the Australian demand, so that the representations made in that regard from other interested persons appear to have been successfully met. Representations have also been made in regard to furniture, but I have not the papers with me at the present time. When attention is called to any item, the remarks made in regard to it are noted clown, and careful inquiry instituted.
Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the Standing Orders be suspended, to enable the Hill to pass through its remaining stages without delay.
.- Have I the right to object to the motion ?
– As contingent notice of the motion has been given, no one member can object to it.
– Then I appeal to the Prime Minister to consider the propriety of again dealing with the important matter which I have already mentioned. It would be absurd to do so to-night, because the Bill would have to be referred to practically the Committee which has amended it; but if another opportunity could be found, it would be well. The amendment which has been made will attract attention and reprobation throughout Australia and the civilized world to a degree beyond its importance. It is trivial in itself, but will be obnoxious to the feelings of most persons, and especially to the people of Great Britain, to whom we desire to make some expression of kindly intentions.
– The amendment was, in my opinion, a mistake, because, tacked on to provisions of a different nature whose operation it may embarrass. If time permitted, I would, therefore, consider the wisdom of a recommittal for its further amendment, but under the circumstances of the session, and having in view the fact that we are not likely now to secure a reversal of the vote without great sacrifice of time, we shall gain nothing by delaying the passing of this measure, to which I attach an importance far beyond the extent of its schedule, or the nature of this unnecessary addition, because of the opportunity it affords this Parliament of asserting the great principle upon which the Bill is founded.
.- If the Bill is passed through its remaining stages-
– Can the honorable member speak, the Prime Minister having already replied?
– The Prime Minister moved the motion without speaking, thereby reserving his right to speak later.
– I will have the matters to which I know the honorable member wishes to refer gone into before the measure is sent to another place.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee of Supply:
Divisions 1 to 10 (The Parliament), £30,167, agreedto.
Department of External Affairs
Division 11 (Administrative), £7,687 ; division 12 (Executive Council), £860, agreed to.
Division 12a (London Commonwealth Offices), £2,100
.- I understand that Captain Collins, an excellent officer, is still Secretary to the De fence Department, though absent in London. If the Department can be run without a secretary, we might, perhaps, save the salary attached to that position. Is he to be absent long, or only for a limited period ?
– The proposal is that Captain Collins shall retain his present office until the experiment of opening a Commonwealth”” office in London has been fairly tested. Until now the result has been most satisfactory. Reports from the Treasury and the Defence Department show that already the savings have more than equalled the salaries paid. There have been reductions in freight and insurance, and orders are dealt with more expeditiously than was hitherto the case. The office has also been a great convenience to persons in London desiring information about Australia. As soon as it is clear that it will be advantageous to continue the arrangement, a permanent office will be equipped, and the further retention of Captain Collins in London will be considered. In the meantime, the Acting Secretary of Defence, who discharged the duties of Secretary during Captain Collins’ previous absence on leave, is giving every satisfaction. The establishment of Commonwealth offices has been more than justified by the financial savings effected.
.- I should like some explanation in regard to the £940 set down for rent, telegrams, stationery, travelling and incidental expenditure, and of the item £650 for the collection of Australian historical records.
– For some years prior to Federation the New South Wales Government employed a competent person in London to search the British archives for papers bearing on the early history of Australia. These were indexed, and, if of interest or importance, copied and published for the information of historical students and others who may wish to describe the first settlement and development of the territory. The sum set down was that applied for the purpose by the State Parliament. A report by Mr. Bladen, of the New South Wales Public Library, printed in our Parliamentary Papers for1903, sets out what has been achieved and what remains to be done. The work is Australian, dealing with the foundation of New South Wales in the first instance, and with the other States in succession. These records have never been previously published. This is one of the means by which we can pave the way for the compilation of a complete history of Australia in the future.
– Is this an annual vote ?
– This is the first time that any sum has been placed on the Estimates, but if our experience proves satisfactory, we shall continue the expenditure. No one has yet been appointed to the position. Mr. Bladen’s report, which appears in our Parliamentary Papers for 1903, Vol. 2, page 293, gives an interesting account of the work that has been and is to be performed. The item for rent, telegrams, stationery, travelling and incidental expenses, to which the honorable member for Coolgardie called attention, includes £350 for rent, and a considerable sum for telegrams which pass continually between London and Australia with reference to the various defence orders and financial transactions which have to be attended to. Other amounts have been spent upon stationery and office furniture. The amount devoted to travelling and incidental expenses must be merely nominal, because the only travelling to be done is in connexion with visits paid to contractors, who are no great distance from London, and who are preparing material for the Commonwealth, which it is necessary to inspect.
– I should like to know whether the appointment of Captain Collins to make payments and collect amounts on behalf of the Commonwealth has resulted in any saving. I understand that previously the Commonwealth accounts were paid through the Victorian Agent-General.
– All the Agents-General made payments, and it was an awful business.
– I understand that the Victorian Agent-General asked for payment for his services, and that that was one of the reasons why Captain Collins was sent to London. I wish to know if the Prime Minister asked any of the other AgentsGeneral whether they would continue to do the work for nothing?
– The particular account to which the honorable member refers was presented after Captain Collins was sent to London. Prior to that, however, a proposal had been made by, I think, two
Agents-General to charge for the services rendered, and one of the accounts foreshadowed a charge upon us considerably in excess of the whole cost now incurred. When we were making payments through the Agents-General, considerable complexity and delay were involved, and, moreover, we could not arrange for an effective audit. Accountancy was a very important matter. We are now able to make all the payments ourselves at a great saving of expense, and are also able to provide for an efficient audit and obtain consideration from our bank for any money that mav be lying idle.
– I wish to address myself to the question of the collection of Australian records. I have heard the Prime Minister’s explanation, and I know that he is perfectly correct in saying that valuable work for Australia, in the direction of searching the archives in England, has been done at the cost of New South Wales. I think that this work ought to be carried on in some way or other ; but, from the slight knowledge I possess, I should conclude that the records in London must be pretty well exhausted. The work of searching them has been carried on for some years, and many of the earlier records have been published’, whilst others are now being arranged. If it is intended to continue the search in London only, a smaller sum than that proposed ‘will be sufficient. But1 I am in favour of the searcher extending his operations to other countries. Information throwing light upon the earliest History of Australia would probably be obtained in such places as the Vatican and at Genoa, Venice, and in Holland. I understand that the gentleman who previously had charge of this, work .for New South Wales -did extend his researches to Holland, Spain, and Portugal, and that he was rewarded by finding documents of great importance. I think that, if the records, maps, and charts to be found in Venice and Genoa were searched, some very curious and important information with regard to the earlier voyages to the southern seas would be brought to light. Whoever may be appointed to perform the work should make occasional visits to the libraries in the places I have mentioned. I haw seen in the Vatican a map of which it would be very desirable to obtain a copy. I am sure that honorable members would find it most interesting if it were hung in our library. I am convinced, further, that there are other maps and charts relating to some of the earlier Venetian voyages which would be of considerable interest to us. If this vote is to be kept up, we might increase the amount, and carry our investigations further instead of continuing in London a perfunctory search of the records, which must be almost exhausted’.
– Mr. Bladen does not think so.
– Sometimes it is difficult to persuade a gentleman who is provided with congenial literary occupation that his work is not so useful as it used to be. No doubt, Mr. Bladen is one of the best men who could be obtained to perform the work, and I think that we might make use of his services - perhaps at a slightly increased expense - in the direction i have mentioned. This is a matter which I think might very well be brought under the notice of the Library Committee. That body is not doing much work, but Mr. Speaker and the Parliamentary Librarian have gathered together a number of records relating to our early history, and have performed more service than many honorable members are aware of. I have seen in the vaults a collection of books having reference to our early history which will grove exceedingly valuable and useful. Mr. Speaker took up the position that it would be best at this stage to pay attention to works which were passing out of control, and would, in time to come, be difficult to obtain, and to leave standard works to be purchased when we have a fitting building in which to house them. I hope that when we establish a library in the Federal Capital, it will be, not a’ parliamentary library only, but a public library which will become one of the most valuable in Australia. So far as I can understand we have got good value for the money we have spent upon the records already purchased. The Parliamentary Librarian has made a useful and scientific catalogue which will show what has been done up to date. I have taken an interest in this matter, and was one of. the first to recommend to Sir Edmund Barton that something of this kind should be done. He referred the matter to Mr. Speaker, who stated that he was already working in the direction indicated. It must be borne in mind that a great deal of literature which throws light upon our history is of an ephemeral character, and is rapidly passing beyond every one’s ken. For example, many pamphlets issued in connexion with the Federal movement are now becoming difficult to obtain, and are highly prized by collectors. Mr. Speaker and the Parliamentary Librarian, by taking early action, have been able to secure some valuable prizes which will assist us very materially in laying the foundation of a national library. I would urge the Prime Minister, during the recess, to consider the question of providing for an even larger vote for the purpose of conducting researches, and of extending the work in the way I have recommended.
– I think that the honorable member for South Sydney has made a very valuable contribution to this debate. If the Library Committee had control of the expenditure of the £650 proposed to be voted for the collection of Australian historical records, we should obtain very much better value for the money than by sending it away to London. I cannot conceive of any one engaged in this work refraining from making excursions to the countries referred to by the honorable member for South Sydney. We should endeavour by searching the libraries and records of Spain, Portugal, and Italy, to obtain reliable information with respect to the voyages made by the old navigators of those countries long before Captain Cook arrived upon our shores. At the same time, I think the expenditure of the £650 proposed to be voted should be under some control, and that Mr. Speaker might very well be asked to exercise an oversight in the matter. I have a strong impression that the majority of the members of the Library Committee, owing to other engagements, cannot attend very frequently, and, consequently, the whole of the work falls upon the shoulders of Mr. Speaker and, perhaps, one or two others. The £940 proposed to be voted for rent, telegrams, &c., seems to me to be excessive. The Prime Minister has informed us that £350 is accounted for by rent, but the balance of £590 seems to be an extremely large amount to spend upon telegrams, stationery, travelling expenses, and so on, in connexion with an establishment containing only five officers.
.- There is another feature in connexion with this Department in London which is a rather striking one. At the present time, not only is the Secretary for Defence, who is the permanent head of the Military Department, in London, but also the Director of Stores, who receives a salary of £540 per annum. The salaries of these two officers aggregate more than £1,400 per annum. The real staff, which consists of three officers, receives less in the way of salary than does the Director of Stores. This gentleman must be a very fortunate individual indeed. The ordinary citizen would naturally think that his duties would lead him to be somewhere in Australia. But that is a foolish idea.
– Where does the item to which the right honorable member is referring appear?
– Upon page 70 of the Estimates. The foot-note to the item which is immediately under consideration reads, “ Not including salaries of officer in charge and accountant which appear in the Estimates of Defence Department.” I should like to know who is the fortunate individual who occupies the position of Director of Stores?
– Captain Savage.
– I have the pleasure of knowing him personally. He is a very excellent officer. But why should not officers from Departments other than the Defence Department get the benefit of a trip to London ?
– Because the greatest purposeof the office is the purchase of stores in the shape of defence material and the control of the accounts.
– Captain Savage has no knowledge of warlike stores.
– He has.
– Perhaps that is why he is called an accountant.
– He is also an accountant of very great ability doing that work there. He may return to that office after the London business has been satisfactorily settled.
– As far as I can see these two officers will remain in London permanently, because their services will always be required there. They are both excellent officers. I know Captain Savage very well, and I regard him as a. very able man. Not being a military man myself, I am in a position to say that he is a very excellent officer. Nevertheless, it is strange that both the Secretary for the Defence Department and the Director of Stores should be sent to this London office.
.- I should like to know from the Prime Minister whether the appointment of these military experts in London will in any way obviate the inspection of warlike stores which is at present undertaken by the Woolwich Arsenal officials. I understand thatwehave not an officer in the Commonwealth who is qualified to make that inspection.
– What inspection ?
– The inspection of all warlike stores which are purchased. That inspection must be undertaken by highly qualified experts. I understand that we have not a man in the Defence Department who is competent to undertake it. I have always contended that what we need in the Defence Department is knowledge. What is the use of pretending to send two gentlemen to London to inspect warlike stores when they have not the necessary knowledge to enable them to undertake the work? The Commonwealth will still continue to pay for the inspection by the Woolwich Arsenal officials, notwithstanding their presence. If they have been sent there for a change of air, it is a farce that the Defence Department should be debited with the expenditure incurred, seeing that it does not benefit from it. The explanation of the Prime Minister is far from satisfactory. The presence of these officers in London will not effect a saving of a single penny in the inspection of our warlike stores. In order to test the matter thoroughly, I move -
That the division, “ Offices of the Commonwealth in London,£2,100,” be reduced by the sum of £1.
– I think it is a great pity that the honorable member for Wentworth did not acquaint himself with the facts of this case. He has confused expertinspection with other work which is done in London, and consequently his criticism is entirely beside the mark. The Woolwich Arsenal inspectors are War Office officials, whose duties are of a delicate and exceedingly scientific nature. But quite apart from the material which they inspect, a vast quantity of other stores come to us wholesale for the Defence Department. It is the care of this class of material to which the Director of Stores in
London was intended to devote himself, besides managing the accounts.
– Does the lack of such inspection account for the thousands of pounds worth of useless arms and ammunition that we have obtained in Australia?
– It has accounted for some of our mistakes. What has been wanted for years has been an inspection by a practical man who has been accustomed to handling these accounts and materials here in his capacity as Director of Stores. Captain Savage was sent to the old country as an accountant in the first place, and next to make himself acquainted with English methods. He will be able to instruct anybody who may subsequently take his place as accountant or inspector. Iam informed that for the particular duties which he has been sent Home to perform, accountancy and supervision of stores, no better accountant could have been selected.
– To what particular stores isthe Prime Minister referring?
– I will deal with that point presently. I know that in the past, in spite of inspection by the Woolwich officials, field guns have been sent to Australia without the necessary parts which would have enabled them to be used. Further, they have been forwarded months before the ammunition for them has arrived.
– Is not that because they were ordered at different times?
– No. It is because our orders are comparatively small when they are placed in the great manufactories of England. If we trust entirely to the War Office, which looks after its own supplies, and those of other dominions besides Australia, we have to take our chance as to when and how we shall be served. Captain Collins has visited these factories, and has overcome the delays that we have experienced. We have obtained reductions in freight and other charges, and the net result of these appointments has been that they have already saved more than the whole cost of their office for the year. We have not yet been supplied with the full accounts for the year, and, of course, we had to supply them with a sum which seemed sufficient to give them a reasonable start in a new office. The Treasurer also informs me thattheyhave done avery valuable work in getting our accounts in London put in order. If the honorable member for Wentworth will make himself acquainted with the work that these officers have done, he will find that their appointment has been amply justified.
– Was it necessary to send two officers to London ?
– It was. The most important thing is that we have at times expended hundreds of thousands of pounds in England within a few months. We have had large sums of money lying there, and accounts, that have never been thoroughly audited, passing through the hands of the Agents-General. Captain Savage does that.
– What is the average percentage on the orders?
– I can supply that information later. I have had occasion to note the good work done by these officers quite apart from matters relating to the Department of Defence, which they were specially chosen to attend to. The defence material that we are obtaining this year from England is of the value of about ^150,000.
Mr. Ewing. £137,000
– In addition to the orders to which my honorable colleague refers, the balance of defence material ordered last year, which represents a still larger sum, has to be sent out. Large orders are being placed in England, and hitherto they have been carried out without any commercial supervision from our side. Now we have Captain Arkill acting for us as well. In addition to orders sent to England by the Department of Defence, a certain number of business matters of a general character have had to be undertaken by these officers on behalf of the Department with which I am connected, as well as for others, and I must say that the celerity and the businesslike methods that have characterized the transaction of the work leave nothing to be desired. This is no figure of speech. It is no mere defence of officers because they are officers. The experience of the Treasury, as well as of my Department, and the Department of Defence, is that these appointments in London have thoroughly justified themselves. We are satisfied that we are securing good value for our money; that we are effecting savings by doing our own work, and that the work is being done much better than it was ever done before.
.- If the optimistic utterances of the Prime Minister are justified, nobody will be better pleased than I shall be.
– They will be justified.
– The honorable and learned gentleman said that he would be in a position before he resumed his. seat to indicate the stores with which these officers would be thoroughly competent to deal.
– I accidentally omitted to mention them.
– The Prime Minister unintentionally, no doubt, accused me of having attacked the officers instead of the system. I have made no attack on the officers. The Commander-in-Chief of the British Arm- - when such an officer was known to the service - did not necessarily possess the particular certificate to which I alluded, so that it cannot be said that I was attacking these officers when I pointed out that they did not possess such certificates. It is their misfortune that they have not got them, and are asked to do this work.
– I think that the conclusion which the Committee drew from the honorable member’s observations was that these officers were unfitted for the work.
– For the making of special purchases of warlike stores from Woolwich.
– The Committee considered that the honorable member was referring to their efficiency to deal with those matters.
– The Prime Minister’s statement has justified everything that I said. I presume, from his utterances, that the inspection by Woolwich officials will continue.
– That being so, no saving will be effected.
– A great deal will be saved in other directions. The honorable member inquired as to the stores with which the officers were competent to deal. They relate to general equipment - weapons, and ammunition - about which queries had been passing backwards and forwards for some time.
– It has been the policy of the Government to have those goods made as far as possible-in Australia.
– In part.
– That is probably why we have sent two officers to England to do this work !
– Only a small proportion of their work relates to those matters.
– The Prime Minister has drawn attention to the fact that waste stores have been sent out. I have on several occasions referred to the fact that guns have been ordered without ammunition and mountings. If the Defence Department in Australia had been equal to its responsibilities such incidents could have been avoided without our sending officers to England.
– The authorities cannot send these guns in proper order from Great Britain even in time of war.
– But I am speaking of a time of peace. It was known to a number of civilians that two years ago we had not sufficient ammunition for our quick-firing armament to enable practice to take place. Surely the military officers of Australia should have been in a position to know at the time that we were without any ammunition, and should have insisted on its being supplied.
– They wrote again and again, and also cabled unsuccessfully. Until we had our own men on the spot, we had no certainty of being able to obtain the ammunition and other stores expeditiously.
– If that be so, it is a justification for the sending of these officers to London.
– It is.
– In that case, I shall withdraw my criticism.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
. -I think we must accept the assurance of the Prime Minister, and wait until we have the reports to go upon. One conclusion that maybe drawn from the honorable and learned gentleman’s statement is that we can do without a Secretary of Defence and a Director of Stores in Australia. Who is discharging the duties of Secretary of Defence whilst that officer is in London ?
– The Acting Secretary, Mr. Pethebridge.
– Is he receiving any additional remuneration ? I should like to point out that, accepting the statement of the Prime Minister as to the valuable work which these two officers are doing in London, it would seem that their services in Australia are not required, or else that some unfortunate officers are discharging their duties here and probably receiving not an extra sixpence for it.
Mr.fisher. - There are no “ unfortunate ‘ ‘ officers in the Defence Department.
– There are many.
– That may be. If these officers are doing such good work in London, those who are filling their positions here should receive some recognition of their services. It is rather hard that a man, receiving perhaps only £300 per annum, should be called upon to discharge the duties of an officer receiving £900 per annum who is in London. Since we accept the statement of the Prime Minister that the two officers in question are doing good work in London, we are naturally led to inquire whether we cannot do without them in Australia, and so save £1,400 per annum. If we cannot, let us give the gentlemen who are discharging their duties here some special recognition. They are probably receiving half the salaries attaching to the offices which they are temporarily filling. These are matters, however, on which the honorable member for Maranoa is more competent than I am to speak, and I ask him to deal with them.
– It seems to me that the Commonwealth is now doing what many business houses do. Unfortunately there are not many business men in the House; but it is well known that large firms have buyers in London, and that on special occasions they send Home particular buyers, who are familiar with their requirements. When those special buyers come back, they return to their old posts in the warehouses. I take it that in their absence the other employes have to do a little extra work. The position is the same in the Defence Department. The junior officers may be doing a little more work during the absence of these officers in London, but it is a common thing, as I have said, for business firms to send special representatives to London and to effect great savings in that way. I believe that the Commonwealth will have a like experience.
– I thoroughly agree with the remarks made by the leader of the Opposition. If these offices are being filled by junior officers whilst their superiors are on the “ ran-tan “ in London, it is evident that they may be abolished. In the absence of these two highly-paid officers, the work of the Department of Defence is going on, as the honorable member for Boothby suggests, “ as badly as ever.” If a Department was ever in a rotten state it is the Department of Defence. Every year, when the Estimates are under consideration, we are told that there will be no cause to find fault when the next Estimates are submitted. The honorable member for Bass says that the Government are running the business of the Department at Home on business lines. I hope that they will do the same so far as the work of the Department in Australia is concerned. I never knew of a more incompetent lot than are to be found in this Department. Would any honorable member order rifles without securing the sights? As a matter of fact, however, the Defence Department have been guilty of such folly ; they have ordered guns without mountings or fittings. When those guns arrived they were as useless as old iron. If its sight be smashed and its mountings broken a gun is useless.
– Has the honorable member ever done that to a gun?
– On several occasions. The inspecting officers at Home are supposed to inspect our stores. Does the Prime Minister wish the Committee to believe that this officer, receiving .£540 per annum, sees that the guns- are properly packed, that all the mountings and fittings are supplied, and that proper ammunition is sent out? As a matter of fact, the Department ordered a gun of a certain calibre, and ammunition which was useless for it was sent out.
– Such incidents happened before this step was taken.
– Certainly. Let me give another instance of the business lines on which, according to the honorable member for Bass, the Department is being run.
– I said that the Government were now adopting business methods.
– It has taken six years for the Government to find out how the business of the Department should be conducted. The authorities sent Home an order for ammunition, and fully 25 per cent, of that ammunition, on reaching Australia, was found to be useless. When I was electioneering, whilst the honorable member for Eden-Monaro was Minister of Defence, several packets of this ammunition were handed to me by members of rifle clubs in my electorate. I brought them to Melbourne, but the only satisfaction I could obtain from the Minister was the statement that the ammunition had been imported ; that it .had “ not been made in Australia. We are paying men to attend to the work of the Department, and this is the way they are discharging their duties. Is it right that inspecting officers at Home should allow such ammunition to be sent out ? I ‘have seen in Queensland new rifles with defective sights. It would be a crime to put such rifles into the hands of a body of men. Where does the inspection come in? The Prime Minister has said that there is to be an alteration, and it is certainly time something was done. If matters are left to go on as previously to the establishment of the office in London, the money voted annually for defence purposes might just as well be thrown into the sea. I am willing to give the Department another trial, though it is quite possible that some of us may not be here to criticise the Estimates next year, and that the criticisms now uttered may be forgotten. I do not expect any more from this Government than from any preceding Government;, in fact, I am “full up” of the Defence Forces. When I was returned to this Parliament, I was told that in this connexion I had a great task before me. The Department certainly wanted cleaning up, though it is just as bad as ever; in fact, I think it is worse under the Commonwealth than it was under the States. In my opinion, the only way to bring about reform is to stop supplies. In the first session of the first Parliament, (the Defence Estimates were cut down by £200,000, and I really believe that if a similar step had been taken every vear, we should have now had a better Defence Force, if only for the reason that we should have got rid of all the wasters. In my opinion, if we were to “shut down” on the Defence Force for five years, and then start afresh, we should be ever so much better off.
– Not if the honorable member interfered so much as he has done all along.
– What are we here for? Are we here to allow the Treasurer to spend money at his own sweet will ? Are we here to vote thousands of pounds and say nothing? That sort of thing might be all right in Western Australia, but the Treasurer ought to remember that he now has six States, and not one State, to deal With Why is it desired to reform the Defence Force if the Defence Force is all right? The Prime Minister has told us through the press that he is going to come down with a great defence scheme.
– I have not said so.
– It has been so stated in the press.
– Surely the Honorable member does not believe all he seesin the press.
– All I know is that the press gets more information, and sooner, than we do. I am satisfied that the Prime Minister would, if he could, bring down a good defence scheme; but it requires a stronger man thanhe is, and stronger men than those behind him, to carry out that work. The more I go into this military business, the more I am “ bogged.” As to the vote for the offices of the Commonwealth in London, I shall take the Prime Minister’s word that it is all right.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 13 (New Guinea), £20,000.
– I regret that I was not here when the discussion took place on the appointment of the Royal Commission to inquire as to the alleged failure of the administration in certain particulars. I presume that all was said that could be said, and I shall not now, since the Commission is either on its way, or has arrived-
– The Royal Commission is in New Guinea.
– Under the circumstances, I do not think it would be proper to do more than express the hope that facilities will be afforded every ‘person on the island, who has a grievance, or who desires to give evidence, to appear before the Commission. I understand that the case of Mr. Richmond was brought under the attention of honorable members, and 1 hope that that gentleman will have ample opportunity to have his case inquired into. I should like to bring under the notice of the Committee the case of Captain John Strachan, who lately was non-suited in an action which he brought against the Commonwealth in respect of some treatment that he and his ship received at the hands of persons whom he conceived to be Commonwealth officers. The Commonwealth disclaimed all responsibility, declaring that they were not legally responsible ; and no doubt that is so. I am inclined to think, however, that there remains a moral responsibility which the Government ought not to shirk. Captain Strachan is a very well-known character, who has been navigating the Pacific Seas for the last thirty-five or forty years. His ship was in distress, and he ran into a port or river in New Guinea for the purpose of effecting repairs. For some reason, which does not appear on the face of things, his papers were taken from him by a Custom House official named Fitzgerald, who was acting under the instructions of a Mr. Jiear, and Captain Strachan was given twenty-four hours notice, or less, to clear out and get away from the coast altogether. It appears from the correspondence that Captain Strachan was ordered not to “box about” the coast. What to “ box about “ the coast precisely means I do not know; but Captain Strachan indignantly denied the allegation. However, he said he would leave. He was not allowed to beach his boat, although it was said to be making 8 inches of water per hour. According to correspondence,it is denied that Captain Strachan was in distress; but he alleges that he was; at any rate, he cleared out on the following morning for Port Darwin, some 900 miles distant. When he arrived at Port Darwin, all he said about his having been in distress appears to have been amplyborne out. I have here the certificate of the Harbormaster, dated 25th May, 1905, addressed to Captain Strachan, in the following terms: -
In accordance with your request, I have this day examined the ketch Envy, and found that vessel in a most unseaworthy condition, the seams in many places below the water-line open, the caulking had either come out or had never been put in. Where the copper had been removed, daylight could be seen all along the scams both fore and aft. The vessel was beached for examination.
Notwithstanding that statement, it is alleged by some person who went on board that the ketch was not making water, and that the pumps were hardly drawing. Captain Strachan was ordered off the coast because it was said that he had a bad reputation. He was not allowed to beach his vessel, a proceeding which common humanity as well as the law of nations and immemorial custom should have allowed. His papers were taken away, and kept ; I do not know why. It is alleged that when he went ashore he got intoxicated. He denies the statement; but, even if true, it was no adequate reason for declining to allow him to beach his boat, or for detaining his papers. He was told to go to Port Moresby, or Samarai; or somewhere along the coast ; but his reason for not doing so was because the coast was a dangerous one. This is his own statement -
I left Mellish Reef on Saturday, 22nd April, 1905, and ran with an almost sinking ship for the Katau River, British New Guinea, for the purpose of entering the river, careening, and repairing the vessel. I anchored 3^ miles off the land, awaiting communication from the shore. The natives not communicating with me, I entered the river in ship’s boat to endeavour to secure the services of a native pilot. The natives expressed their willingness to assist me, but were afraid to do so, owing to some local regulations of which I knew nothing, and which under any circumstances should not have applied to a ship in distress, but offered to take me to Daru in a fast canoe, so that I might obtain official sanction to enter the river ; what followed I have already written in my letters to the Secretary of External Affairs, and have nothing further to add, except that I did not leave my papers. I did not stay in the village and become intoxicated, and the only reason I did not return to the ship the same evening was that the natives had gone to the mission, and refused to return before morning.
The Administration seems to have confused the mission with an hotel or store in which intoxicants were sold, which does not indicate that it works on lines of total abstinence. The statement continues -
It is true that after Mr. Fitzgerald had seized the ship’s papers oh the morning of the 3rd of May, and left for Daru, that I sailed away without paying the owners of the canoe 10s. which I had promised for taking me to Daru ; but I sent .1 postal order from Port Darwin to the missionary, whose letter of acknowledgment I now hold.
The charges made against Captain Strachan are not only irrelevant, but also petty and mean. Even if he did get drunk and went away owing 10s., that is no justification for refusing to allow him to beach his boat. I asked him why he did not make for Thursday Island. His answer was -
Among other reasons, I thought it my duty to make for my original port of clearance, Port Darwin, as I assumed the action of the Daru officials could only be accounted for in one way, namely, that they suspected me of being a smuggler.
He told me that he made for Port Darwin instead of Thursday Island, because at the former place he could beach and repair the boat himself, and, as a matter of fact, the work cost him £17, whereas if he had gone to Thursday Island it would have cost him £100. The vessel was beached for survey, and left on the ist June for Samarai. T admit that I am asking the Committee to deal with a matter affecting one man. only ; but it has ever been the boast of our people that an injustice done to one will be remedied as readily as an injustice done to a number. I care nothing about the previous character of this man. If the Administration treated him badly, it should make amends. Ha returned to Samarai, and, to follow his own. statement -
Having purchased charts of the coast, I proceeded to Port Moresby, and on arrival, after delivering mail and handing over ship’s papers, such as we had, I proceeded to Government House, and interviewed the Administrator, who professed not to know the object of my visit, although I had written to that gentleman from Port Darwin. When I asked for an investigation into the conduct of the Daru officials, he replied that Mr. Atlee Hunt had instructed him in the event of my visiting Port Moresby to refer me to the Department of External Affairs, Melbourne. I pointed out to the Administrator that I had sailed 8,000 miles for an investigation, and urged that at least the Administrator should hold a preliminary investigation, more especially as the officer who had seized the papers was in Port Moresby. Captain Barton replied, that he was absolutely powerless, that’ Mr. Atlee Hunt had been in Port Moresby, had taken the papers with him, and he was perfectly- Captain Barton stopped abruptly at the word perfectly. I pointed out that Mr. Fitzgerald, the officer who had taken the ship’s papers, was in Port Moresby, and requested that he be brought face to face -with me. This Captain Barton declined to do. I then inquired where the Envy’s papers were. Captain Barton replied, at Daru. I expressed astonishment at a ship’s papers being detained in a small out-port, and also gave Captain Barton a detailed account of the transaction, and also inquired if Mr. Atlee Hunt had left any letters for me. Captain Barton replied in the negative ; but said Mr. Musgrave, the Government Secretary, might have letters.
Mr. Musgrave says in the correspondence that he has known Captain Strachan1 as an unscrupulous adventurer, to which the latter replied -
I met Mr. Musgrave in the Queensland Club in 18S6, when he and I had a most acrimonious dispute, and from that time until I asked him for the letter I have neither seen nor spoken to that gentleman. His references to Mr. John Douglas can be easily disproved.
Mr. Musgrave and other officials refer to Captain Strachan in very uncomplimentary terms. All I know of him is that on one occasion he stood for election in opposition to myself. I believe that his case was dealt with, not on its merits, but because of a real or fictitious reputation which he had acquired. The Administration should give an opportunity for inquiry. He fairly suggests that he should be permitted to put his case before the Commission now in New Guinea. He has been idle for nearly a year. His boat and his crew, such as they are, are at Port Darwin, and one or two of them are witnesses. His wife is in Sydney, and, unfortunately, his -son has gone insane since the occurrence, and is in Callan Park. I ask the Government, even although it is unusual, to afford to Captain Strachan an opportunity to go to Papua to put his case before the Commission. If it be found that he has a moral claim, I feel sure that when the report is submitted honorable members will not hesitate to do justice to him. If, on the other hand, he should not make out a claim, then after all we shall have done no more for him than we are prepared to do for any other man. The commonest criminal can compel a State to go to the expense of a trial. It is not the fault of Captain Strachan that the venue is in Papua, because he went to great expense to get the case tried within the Commonwealth. I ask that the Government should make such a contribution towards his expenses as would enable him to go to Papua. I understand that the cost would amount to about £100. I know of no precedent for making the contribution, but, on the other hand, I know of no case where, if not legally, at any rate, morally, a State has evaded its responsibility on a quibble or pretence that at the time of the occurrence it was not legally responsible. Practically, although the Territory was not taken over by the Commonwealth until the ist instant, yet during the time when the leader of the Opposition and I were in office, everything was referred to the Department of External Affairs by the residents, and although legally it had no authority, everything has been controlled from the Department for a very long time.
– Did not the honorable member say that the action was taken at the suggestion of Mr. Hunt?
– It is pretty, clear from what I have quoted that the Administrator said practically that he would have to refer the matter to the Department here. Legally, no doubt, the Commonwealth was perfectly right in putting forward the defence it did, but, morally, it was responsible. In the circumstances, we ought to give Captain Strachan an opportunity to get to Papua with his wife and witnesses to make out a case if he can.
– I have known Captain Strachan for a period of fifteen years, and, during that period, I have never seen him either drunk, or under the influence of liquor in the slightest degree. The only statement made against him is “By a man of very doubtful reputation. I have heard a very strong case made against the only person in these reports who makes a general charge against Captain Strachan. One or two observations made by honorable members seem to suggest that, in their opinion, the Committee was being asked to express an opinion on the case. I understand that the honorable member for West Sydney is asking nothing of the kind. I do not ask the Committee to express an opinion, but, seeing that the Government had an opportunity of investigating the case of Captain Strachan first in New Guinea, but though their Administrator referred him to Sydney, where they successfully raised a highly technical defence, and that they are now asking him to return to New Guinea, in order that the case, may be investigated, they should be willing to pay the expenses of himself and his crew, as witnesses. For twenty - five or thirty years, Captain Strachan has been trading in the Pacific and in the Malay Archipelago, in a ship of 70 tons.. He knows every island in the Pacific. On this particular occasion, his small ship was leaking very seriously, and he knew of a particular part of New Guinea, in the neighbourhood in which he then was, where she could be beached. He applied for the necessary permission from a Customs House officer named’ Fitzgerald, who was under the direction of another Customs officer. He was then asked to present his papers, which were examined and retained. The officer refused either to give up the papers or to allow the ship to be beached. Captain Strachan had then to run the gauntlet across Torres Straits, to the Gulf of Carpentaria. He has now produced a report to show that the ship was leaking so seriously that it was very doubtful whether he would get across the Straits. He went to Samarai, and saw Captain Barton, the Administrator, who said that he must go to Australia to have the case investigated. Pie then had to return to Australia again, where he entered an action against the Commonwealth. We all know very well that, although the Papua Act was not until very lately gazetted, the whole of the officers of New Guinea have been, de facto, under the supervision and jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Government for about two years. The plea raised by the Government in open Court that they were defending the action because they were not responsible for the conduct of their officers, since the Papua Act had not been gazetted, was, in my opinion, an unwise and discreditable one. As the honorable and learned member for West Sydney said, morally, and on the merits of the case, there is practically no answer to the claim for an inquiry. But, passing that over, Captain Strachan is now willing to go back to Papua to have the matter investigated, and what he asks is that the Government should pay the expenses of himself and wife and three members of the crew, who are witnesses. The proposed tribunal is a Royal Commission that has been appointed to investigate, among other things, the administration of Papua. I believe that the Commission, with Colonel Mackay as its chairman, is on its way to the Territory, and that it is proposed by the Prime Minister that it should, among its other duties, investigate Captain Strachan’s case. I can only speak of the man as I know him. I repeat that I have known Captain Strachan as an honest trader ; and during fifteen years I have never seen him under the influence of drink. He is rather vehement and self-willed. He does not like persons to impose upon him, and it is quite possible that he has made many enemies by his manner. The Government would, 1 consider, be justified in advancing Captain Strachan sufficient money to defray the travelling expenses of his wife and three members of his crew to go to Papua to submit themselves to the tribunal. I suppose the Committee knows what a serious thing it is for a ship to be deprived of her papers. The captain cannot trade or approach any port in such circumstances. If he were overhauled by a man-of-war, and had no papers, he would be subjected to very great inconvenience, and taken to the nearest port in order that he might be identified. It- is a very serious thing that has been clone. This Commission will have an opportunity of hearing Captain Strachan, his wife, and his crew as to what took place. I believe he has been charged with having levelled a pistol at somebody’s head, and with being drunk - both of which charges he has denied in the most distinct manner. The only question is this: Will the Committee agree to some sum of money, sufficient to pay Captain Strachan’s expenses across to New Guinea, being given to him for that purpose? I do not see, for my own part, how the request can be refused, because if he went in the- first instance to the place to which he is now asked to go, and has been sent all the way to Australia by a mistake of the Administrator, he is now merely asked to return to the place to which he originally presented himself to undergo this investigation. I therefore ask the Prime Minister to provide such a sum as will enable him to go to the tribunal which has been appointed, and submit the whole facts of the case to its decision. I should certainly not champion Captain Strachan in any way, if eventually the tribunal came to the conclusion that he was to blame. He must take the risk of that. But if ‘some officer in the supposed execution of his duty has done a very grievous wrong to Captain Strachan, it is a proper matter for investigation, and he will have to be compensated for the injury which he has suffered.
– This is a very difficult case to deal with, because it relates to an interesting and picturesque personality, Captain Strachan, and to events which took place at a great distance from us, about which there is an absolute conflict of evidence in some particulars. I quite agree with the pleading of the honorable member for West Sydney that a man is not to be punished in any particular instance because of any previous reputation he has enjoyed. But whilst I admit that, still, as the honorable member for Robertson perceived, Captain Strachan certainly does enjoy a reputation as a master mariner for appearing on coasts at unusual cases and at irregular intervals, and for carrying on business quite in his own way. I find from the papers that call attention to his movements Nhat according to his own story he has performed a most remarkable zig-zag course about the coast of New Guinea. Even when he went to the Katau River, where he thought it necessary to beach his boat he had deliberately run past Daru, a recognised port, where he knew that he could have taken his vessel.
– What was his cargo?
– Copra, I think. According to the officer’s story, the captain handed him his ship’s articles. As to the retention of the papers, there was an interval while he went to the store - which no one but himself took for a mission - and he spent the evening there instead of returning to the ship. On the next day he had an interview with the officer, who offered him the ship’s papers except the clearance ; and he was told that he would get that if he went to Daru, where he had gone in a canoe on arrival, Daru being only about a dozen miles awa.y. But this he furiously declined to do. He took great umbrage, was ru’de to the officer, compelling him to make a rapid exit into his boat, and get ashore as fast as he could. Captain Strachan then, instead of going to Daru, having the officer called to account, getting his clearance, or making his complaint, or taking some action of that sort, evidently in a fit of extreme temper, sailed away elsewhere.
– Is it likely that a man like that was going to be bothered byCustoms officers in that way?
– Evidently Captain Strachan touched the soft side of the honorable member when. he talked to him about the extreme tyranny of public officers generally and of Customs officers in particular.
– I know the tyranny that some of them are ready to exercise, especially in these outlying stations.
– But, after all, a public officer is not always in the wrong, and it is not right to proceed on the assumption that a man who tells a story against an officer is always in the right.
– If he was in the right, why did the Commonwealth shelter itself behind a legal technicality?
– I will come to that in time. A suggestive incident worth mention- * ing is that while Captain Strachan alleges that the Administrator, Captain Barton, informed him that he had handed the papers to Mr. Atlee Hunt, the Secretary for External Affairs, to take to Melbourne with him. In making that statement Captain Strachan was evidently telling a fairy tale. As a matter of fact, Mr. Atlee Hunt had left before Captain Strachan arrived. He had not seen any of the papers in connexion with Captain Strachan’s case, and it is perfectly impossible that Captain Barton could have made a statement like that, or anything approaching it, to him. Apparently, what happened to the papers was - as the despatches show - that they were forwarded by the Sub-Collector of Customs at Daru to the Collector of Customs in Sydney, a: the Captain’s own request, because
Captain Strachan had left New Guinea for Australia. Instead of Captain Barton having told him that he had given his papers to Mr. Atlee Hunt, the papers were being sent from Daru, as the records show, without having reached Captain Barton, and certainly had not then, nor have they since, reached Mr. Atlee Hunt.
– Did not Captain Barton refer Captain Strachan to the Commonwealth Government ?
– No; not so far as we know ; and I think I am entitled to say that if Strachan’s unsupported statement is in the same conflict with the facts elsewhere as it is with regard to the papers-
– The honorable gentleman is judging the case.
– No; but Captain Strachan puts into Captain Barton’s mouth the statements, first, that he must come to Australia to have his case decided, and, secondly, that he, Captain Barton, had given the papers to Mr. Atlee Hunt. The one statement we can prove to be absolutely untrue, and, therefore, I fail to see any ground for accepting the other.
– The Prime Minister formed an opinion on the case before Captain Strachan had put his pen to paper in regard to it.
– I certainly formed an opinion on the evidence submitted to me. Taking the statements as I find them, quite apart from any reputation enjoyed by Captain Strachan previously, he certainly did behave in a most extraordinary manner. I do. not wish to go fully into the details, but may mention that another point in the case is as to the unseaworthy condition in which the Envy arrived at Port Darwin. If she were in anything like the condition described - and I have no reason to doubt it - she was, in a state that did not at all resemble that in which the officer found her. Mr. Fitzgerald reported that he visited her the next day with Captain Strachan at Katau Captain Strachan’s son pumped the vessel out, and only four gallons of water came out of her. The officer remarked that this quantity of water would not cause her to be unseaworthy, and Captain Strachan said that the reason was that she had been pumped dry a few hours previously.
– Was that after going several hundred miles in a so-called - sinking ship?
– Oh no; this was at the Katau River. His statement is that he put in there because his vessel was in a bad state. The only evidence that the officers could give was with respect to the pumping out of the four gallons of water, which was really nothing at all. Captain Strachan does not appear to have any quarrel with Mr. Fitzgerald, who makes these statements. His quarrel is with the superior officer, Mr. Jiear, who says -
He advised Mr. Fitzgerald to retain the Envy’s clearance until her departure. Strachan was not asked for his articles, &c, but left them himself, and could have got them on asking. Only the clearance was refused. Strachan’s statement that vessel was in distress has no weight with him, as he had made similar statements on previous occasions, when no reason existed. Regarding the. statements attributed to Mr. Fitzgerald while on the Envy, just before her departure a report had been obtained from that officer, who denied making any of them, except so far as going to Daru was concerned, and respecting that, what he did say was “After beaching your vessel and repairing her where required, it will be necessary for you to come to Daru to report the ship, obtain your, papers, and also you will require a bill of health.”
Everything Strachan wanted was offered to him. He was asked to go twelve miles, a distance which he thought his ship was in a condition to cover, and no obstacle was placed in his way. Even according to Strachan’s story, there was nothing to justify the action he took. He was refused a clearance, it is true, but only until he called at Daru. In his, unseaworthy ship he sailed hundreds of miles instead of going twelve. Upon that pretext he sailed away to Port Darwin.
– He denies the whole of those statements.
– No, he denies some of them only. He says -
Fitzgerald asked how long he would require to remain, and on being told four days, replied “ Then you must come to Daru, for we are not going to have you boxing about our coast.” Asked for return of his papers, but was told he could not get them, but would have to go to Daru.
So far as the clearance is concerned, the stories are in agreement, but in regard to the papers, there is a conflict of testimony.
The officer then left the ship, taking the papers with him. Mrs.. Strachan asked him not to take the papers, and he said he was obeying Mr. Jiear’s instructions, and they were not afraid of anything Strachan can do.
Having read Captain Strachan’s story, I must also repeat what Mr. Fitzgerald says, as follows : -
Strachan asked if he had authority to take vessel up the river, to which he replied that permission would be given, but papers would be retained, and it would be necessary for Strachan to again go to Daru for them and for a clean bill of health, and to report the ship properly, as that had not been done. At this Strachan became very excited, and, demanding his papers, ordered him off the vessel, using threats at the same time. He retired to the dinghy alongside. Strachan then heaved up the anchor and sailed out . to sea, presumably -to Thursday Island. Officer returned to Daru, retaining Envy’s papers.
It will be seen that the uncontradicted testimony is not such as to afford any warrant for the extraordinary action taken by Captain Strachan. ‘ He was told that he could have- his clearance if he went twelve miles to Daru. But, instead of taking that course, he ordered the officer off the ship, and placed himself beyond the reach of his papers by sailing away to Port Darwin.
– The Prime Minister has before him the whole of the case upon the one side, whereas he has not the evidence’ of one of Strachan’s witnesses
– No, but I have Captain Strachan’s statement as to what Mrs. Strachan, could prove. Even giving him the benefit of the whole weight of the evidence which he says he can produce, the discrepancy between the evidence on the. opposite sides is too small to explain his extraordinary conduct. The honorable and learned member for Parkes admits that Captain Strachan is a man of extremely vehement temper, and it is apparent that if any difficulty has arisen he has only his temper to blame for it. It is surely too much to ask us to bring our officers, away from their duties in New Guinea to Sydney, after having received statements from two of them, and also from Mr. Musgrave, so far as the disposition of the papers is concerned. Mr. Musgrave has expressed strong opinions as to Captain Strachan’s character and performances, with which I have nothing whatever to do. So far as the other matters are concerned, the story told by the officers is perfectly consistent.
– Why should they require Captain Strachan to go to Daru to get his clearance ?
– The Katau River is merely a part of the coast, whereas Daru is a port where shipping is dealt with.
– If he did not enter his ship there was no necessity for him to obtain a clearance.
– But he first went to Daru, and handed over his papers.
– He was asked to show his papers there. He did not want to enter the port at all. He merely Wanted to beach his vessel, but the officers treated his visit as an arrival.
– If the honorable and learned member will read Captain Strachan’s statement, he will see that he went to the Katau River and hired a canoe, for the use of which a postal -note was afterwards sent, and went up to Daru of his own accord. He took with him papers, which he chose to hand over, and for the return of which he afterwards chose to ask. He was told that they could be obtained at Daru, but he declined to go there, and proceeded to Port Darwin, and afterwards to Sydney. Judging from the statements of the officers - men who have been in the service for years, and who are well known - there was not the slightest justification for the action Captain Strachan took, and certainly no ground for an action for damages claiming many thousands of pounds. We did not consider that there was even the shadow of a prima facie case against them, and we thought that we were quite entitled to disclaim all responsibility. Now we are asked to do for Captain Strachan that which, even according to the admission of the honorable and learned member for Parkes, has never been done before. If all charges for legal expenses could be abolished, if the Courts of Justice could be thrown open to the whole of the public, and if the honorable and learned member for Parkes and others were made officers of the Court, a great deal might be said in support of such a request. But under the present system, the State does not pay the expenses of litigants making claims against it. Captain Strachan is asking for a passage for himself, wife and witnesses back to New Guinea, after having refused to go twelve miles to Daru and choosing to leave the Possession for Port Darwin, and to bring an action in Sydney. He wished us to pay his expenses back to New Guinea and to defray the cost of his bringing his case before the Commission, a request for which we see no reasonable ground.
-The Prime Minister is judging the case.
– I am merely judging to the extent of saying that there is no primâ facie case. A primâ facie case must be presented before we can reasonably be asked to consent to convey a litigant two or three thousand miles.
– Why should the Commonwealth seek to evade its responsibility ?
– We do not. If we had accepted responsibility for the action of these officers we should have had to take a similar course in regard to every act of theirs performed prior to September1st.
– If the Commonwealth is not responsible, who is?
– If the officers committed any error they are, and so is the British Government. But I know no ground on which we can charge responsibility to Captain Barton, Mr. Jiear, Mr. Fitzgerald, or any of the officers there.
– Then why appoint this Royal Commission to investigate the administration of New Guinea when we have Captain Barton there?
– If the Royal Commission consider that the charges made by Strachan against these officers have any weight, and really reflect upon their competency, the Commission is not only entitled to hear him, but, in my opinion, ought to hear him.
– The honorable and learned gentleman is asking Strachan to follow his tribunal 3,000 miles to prove his case.
– I am not asking him to do anything of the kind. I am pointing out the reasons why we were compelled to take the action we have taken. We are bound to defend the cause of officers, who, so far as we can see, have left nothing undone which they ought to have done, and have done nothing which they ought not to have “done. That being the case, it is not for us to encourage the Commission to inquire into the matter unless the Commission are satisfied that they should inquire into it. If they do so, the inquiry will be free, and will cost Strachan nothing. If he can satisfy the Commission that he has a primâ facie case, he has not satisfied us, and, in the circumstances, I do not think that I should ask the Committee to vote public money for a man who has not established a primâ facie case. The honorable and learned members for West Sydney and Parkes have made the best of his case. They are two practised advocates, who know what to state and what to omit.
– I have not tried to advocate Strachan’s case ; I have contended only that he is entitled to be heard. The honorable and learned gentleman, however, has advocated the case for the other side.
– If I mav say so, the honorable and learned member for Parkes has dealt with the case in the most effective way he could, and if he had gone further into it, he would have fared worse.
– The Minister has made out the case of a Crown prosecutor.
– I think not. I shall hand the honorable and learned member a document in a moment which, I have no doubt, will interest him. It has no direct bearing upon the case, but it has some bearing on the testimony given on Strachan’s behalf.- I have detained the Committee for a’long time because the case is one which has attracted some attention, and I was loth that honorable members should think that, merely because there was on one side a private citizen with’ a complaint, and a number of State officials on the other side, we would take the side of the officials. On the contrary, we have sifted the matter to the bottom, and, so far as I can judge, Strachan has only himself to blame for the misadventure which has happened.
– I do not take part in this discussion with any view of taking sides. So far as I am personally concerned, I am inclined to be swayed rather by the views put forward by the Prime Minister than by those submitted by the two honorable and learned members who preceded him. The view of the case submitted by the Prime Minister seems to be the more reasonable one. I have no wish to enter into that, but the point to which I wish to direct the attention of honorable members is that the stronger the Government case is, the weaker the case of the Government becomes for refusing an inquiry to this gentleman. If the case for the Government is so very strong, why should we not have an inquiry?
– The honorable member says, in effect, that if there is no case_for an inquiry, we should have one, but if there is a case for an inquiry, it is doubtful whether we ought to have one?
– I take it that we are not in this matter judging whether there is a case for an inquiry. I understand that there is a desire that progress should be reported, as other honorable members wish to speak before the vote is passed.
– I should very much like to go on, being very anxious to have this question settled, but realize that we have to meet at 10.30 a.m. On the understanding that I have the assurance, which I know honorable members will give, that if we adjourn _now, they will give every assistance to help us to forward the business as quickly as possible to-morrow morning, I have no objection to report progress.
House adjourned at n.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 September 1906, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1906/19060925_reps_2_35/>.