4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Prime Minister observed that the union doctors, employed at the Kurd Kurri hospital, in New South Wales, have gone on strike against the employment of a non-unionist doctor, and does he anticipate domestic violence in New South Wales ?
– I read the news item, tout do not anticipate serious trouble, except for the hospital patients.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister, in connexion with a motion which”! had on the notice-paper, but did not move yesterday, whether he will lay on the table for the information of honorable members the facts and figures which he showed to me then?
– Yesterday I warned the honorable member that he would have to move his motion, because I could not allow it to be postponed. I told him that if he would amend it, we should be ready to submit all information.
– In that case, as the lotion has lapsed, I give notice of my intention to reinstate it on the notice-paper.
– I ask the Prime Minister if he thinks he has the right to determine the form in which an honorable member shall move a motion, and whether’ he will not produce papers until they have been moved for in a motion whose exact terminology has been dictated by him ?
– I did not dictate to the honorable member for Echuca, nor did I seek to do so, but I asked him to proceed with the motion yesterday, because it was urgent, and could not be allowed to remain on the notice-paper all the session. He can submit the motion in any way he pleases, but he must move it. before the papers will be produced.
– Without in any way identifying myself with the motion referred to, I ask the Prime Minister if it is unreasonable that a member should wish to postpone a motion. Are not such postponements customary?
– Every courtesy was shown to the honorable member for Echuca. The Leader of the Opposition was consulted. I said that, as the subject-matter of the motion had been made so much of at elections during the recess, the motion should be brought on at once, instead of being left on the business-paper for month1 after month. I shall give the Opposition Government ‘time for this motion, if necessary. should they care to bring it on again.
– It. appears to me that the matter now demands a personal explanation. I had no intention of keeping the motion on the notice-paper indefinitely, though I wished to postpone it yesterday. The Prime Minister sent for me, and asked me if I would move the motion with an amendment which he suggested, saying that it would save a considerable amount of trouble to do so. I did not feel disposed to amend the motion in that way, but in consequence of the statement that it was his intention to lay the facts and figures which he had submitted to me on the table of the House, I said that, under these circumstances, I did not consider it necessary to move the motion. Now it appears to me that the Prime Minister has departed from the course he assured me he would take.
– For the first time in my life I make a. personal explanation. The statement of the honorable member for Echuca is not in accordance with facts.
– And well he knows it.
– Is that interjection in order i”
– The Honorary Minister must withdraw what he said.
– In accordance with parliamentary practice, I withdraw it.
– The honorable member must withdraw his statement unreservedly.
– At your request, I withdraw it unreservedly.
– It is true that I told the honorable member for Echuca, that I wished to amend the motion so that it might cover the production of a return showing, not only the travelling allowances paid to Ministers of the Crown during the recess, but also the payments to Honorary Ministers, and a full statement of the case since the beginning of Federation. That amendment I intended to move myself. The honorable member for Echuca, however, wished to postpone his motion.
– Quite right, too. Why should he not have had time to consider the matter?
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been called to these statements which were made last night at the Guild Hall by the AttorneyGeneral -
As long as the people who had the control of commodities raised the prices the workers were very little better off. Therefore, the Commonwealth Parliament would have to regulate prices and profits. . . . That must be the beginning and end of the whole matter.
Does that statement indicate the policy of the Government?
– Apparently the honorable member is quoting from a newspaper report. The Attorney-General will be able to answer the question himself.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Whether he intends to proceed immediately with the erection of the proposed General Post Office in Perth, and is he making provision on the forthcoming Estimates in this connexion ?
– The matter is. receiving my personal consideration. Definite action will be taken very shortly..
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Hobart Post (Tasmania).
Lismore Daily News.
Albury Daily News (New South Wales).
Rockhampton Record (Queensland).
Ballina, R. R. Times.
Bellingcn Northern Courier.
Cobar Western Age.
Coifs Harbour Advocate.
Cooma Monaro Mercury.
Cowra Free Press.
Dub bo Liberal.
Junee Southern Cross.
Kempsey Maclay Argus.
Mudgee Western Post.
Murwillumbah Tweed Herald.
Parke s Western Champion.
Peak Hill Express.
Ting ha Miner.
Gilgandra, The Casilercagh.
Glen Innes Guardian.
Tr angie Advocate.
Tumut and Adelong Express.
Wauchope Hastings Shire Gazette.
Wee Waa Echo.
White Cliffs Miner.
West Wyalong Star.
The Pacific Cable Board receives 2d. per word on British press business, and 3d. per word on press business from Vancouver. Information is not available to show what portion of the cable matter originates in Great Britain and’ Canada respectively, but assuming that it is all British, the Commonwealth share of thePacific Cable Board receipts equals £620 14s. 50V. and £858 8s. 4d. respectively.
The total receipts are therefore £1,551 16s.1d. and £2,146 os. nd., and the expenditure is- £1,770 16s. 8d. and £1,927 is. 8d. for the years 1910-11 and 1911-12 respectively, which shows a loss during 1910-11 of £219 os. 7d., and ai gain during 1911-12 of £218 18s. 3d.
The effect of competition has undoubtedly greatly increased the number of words transmitted on behalf of the unsubsidized association, thus adding substantially to the revenue of the Postmaster-General’s Department. During the past two years, also, a much larger portion of the unsubsidized cable association’s messages have been transmitted vid Pacific.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
What has been the cause of the delay in constructing a. telephone line between Bendigo and Laanecoorie, authorized some two yeaTS ago?
– Inquiries are being made, and the desired information will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether it is the intention of the Minister to provide funds on this year’s Estimates for the erection of a Customs House at Cairns?
– I am doubtful whether the erection of a new Customs House at Cairns is really necessary, but I shall have further inquiries made. The present wooden building is in an excellent state of preservation. I ami advised that, whilst it is commodious enough for present requirements, the height of the rooms might be increased with advantage.
Debate resumed from 16th July (vide page 822), on motion by Mr. Tudor -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I desire to acknowledge the courtesy of my right honorable friend the Prime Minister in suspending for to-day the time limit on speeches for the discussion of this measure, the magnitude and importance of which fully justifies that course. I also congratulate my honorable friend the Minister of Trade and Customs upon his excellent exposition of the leading features of this vast Bill. I join with him, as I am sure every other honorable member does, in welcoming the many provisions which have for their object the improvement of the lot of the sailor. We have many times committed ourselves to his care, and it will be -a source of pleasure to thus add to the comfort and brightness of his calling. Sailors have in years past suffered by contrast with their more fortunate brethren on land, with the result that the sea life has lost a great deal of its charm. Unfortunately, that is strikingly shown by the diminishing numbers of British seamen who man our mercantile marine, but, fortunately, by providing greater comforts and bringing about a better standard of living at sea, there has been, since 1906, a gradual but marked increase in the numbers manning the Navy and mercantile service. In this Bill, the Federal Parliament is taking a substantial step towards the expansion and development of our mercantile marine. It marks our first effort in that direction, and the lines which we are now seeking to lay down must be broad and generous. We have to recognise, as an island continent, that we are largely dependent upon the strength of our mer chant marine service for our very existence as a race. We have committed ourselves, to the extent of millions, in the creation of an Australian Navy, and there will be further commitments in its expansion, but its efficiency and effectiveness cannot be secured unless we are able to rely upon a strong mercantile marine for a supply of skilled and trained seamen. In these circumstances we must make our mercantile service so attractive that we shall not suffer the serious problems which for some years past have presented themselves to the United States of America in connexion with their navy. We are making a forward step towards the further expansionof our coastal service by directly providing for its reservation in favour of the Australian people, and we must further aim at ari Australian-owned and locally registered1 mercantile service so far as we can bring it about. But, whilst we attach every importance to those provisions of the Bill which deal with the coastal service, and to which I give my most cordial and hearty support, recognising that they are in accordance with thenational fiscal policy of Australia, I venture to think that we are called upon totake even a wider outlook in establishing a maritime policy. That wider outlook must be in the direction of an incessant and zealous effort to extend by trade and commerce our influence in the Pacific, with. the ultimate ideal of obtaining a dominating voice there. I wish to emphasize the necessity of this Parliament at all times directing its best thought and energy towards the extension of our jurisdiction and influence in the Pacific Ocean. I emphasize it particularly because of one or two provisions in the Bill which very seriously affect the issue. In dealing with the subject of immigration a little while ago, I made special reference to the already altered and still changing conditions in the Pacific so far as Australia is concerned. The three great factors which are bringing about these momentous changes are the rise of Japan to the position of the strongest first-class power in the Pacific, the awakening of China, and the inevitable internal development of that .great nation which in the not distant future will probably become a rival to Japan itself, and, thirdly, the approaching completion of the Panama Canal. All these important factors must seriously affect the position of Australia in the Pacific, and any maritime policy formulated by this Parliament must have due regard to all contingencies likely to flow from them. As a result of this, and because of the increasing necessity for the Mother Country to concentrate her Navy in European waters, she is looking to Australia to undertake greater responsibilities in the Pacific Ocean, an obvious duty which we cannot, shirk. It is therefore with some degree of disappointment that I discover in the Bill provisions which I think will seriously interfere with, and discourage, our Pacific trade. Clause 5 classifies ships into foreign-going ships, Australian-trade ships, limited coast-trade ships, and river and bay ships. The “ Australian-trade ship “ is defined as including “ every ship, other than :i limited coast-trade ship or river and bay ship, employed in trading or going between places in Australia, and every ship employed in trading between (a) Australia and (b) territories under the authority of -the Commonwealth, New Zealand, or the “islands of the Pacific.” I desire to take -exception to the addition to the definition of Australian trade ship in the former “Bill of the words “or the islands of the Pacific.”
– Does the honorable member set much store on the coloured labour “traffic ?
– I do, indeed; and shall deal with that question shortly.What is the object of the inclusion of those words .in this definition ? In another place I resisted their insertion most strongly. The design and object is the imposition of Australian labour conditions on the Pacific island traffic. Personally, I should with gil my heart give every encouragement to that idea if it were possible’ to bring it about with a due regard t» the maintenance of bur trade and commerce in the Pacific, and every effort that I could put forward in that direction I would; but we must recognise that the Pacific trade is being keenly competed for by foreign nations, who are beyond our control. It is but a few years ago that the whole of the trade and commerce in the Pacific was carried on bv British and Australian boats and crews, but at present we have to face the ominous fact that, by reason of greater enterprise and large subsidies, half the vessels engaged in it are now foreign vessels, and the Britisher is being pushed aside. If it is intended by this provision to impose Australian conditions on the ships which now have their head-quarters in Australia, and trade in the Pacific, it means the annihilation of that’ trade, because it is quite impossible for our ships to compete successfully with their foreign rivals in that oversea traffic under those conditions.- I hope the time will come when, through the encouragement that is being given to it by the reservation of our coastal trade to our own ships, our mercantile service will have so grown and developed that we shall be strong enough to compete in the Pacific against all comers. At present, however, every effort that we can make to extend our influence in .the Pacific we must make; and we must do nothing to diminish what is at present a growing traffic. I admit that we are doing something, but not very much, towards the further extension of our power there, but we are doing it in the face of the very keenest competition from foreign nations. Germany is pushing forward her settlement in New Guinea, has found a footing in the New Hebrides, and is developing settlements in various other islands of the Pacific. All that is quite legitimate from her standpoint, but it raises greater difficulties for us, and imposes on us larger and more comprehensive responsibilities.
– Are you more afraid of Germany than of Japan?
– Under present conditions, to judge by the inroads that are being made into the trade and commerce of the Pacific, I think we have reason to be afraid of both of them. One particular case has been brought under my notice. The Pacific Phosphate Company Limited possesses a fleet of five or six steamers. Only one of them is registered in Australia, » nd the others are foreign going. They trade to Ocean Island, in the Gilbert and Ellice Protectorate, and to Nauru, a German island, and bring from there about 130,006 tons of phosphates annually. That is the raw material which is manufactured in Aust talia into superphosphates and afterwards used by the farmers. The company’s trade is increasing. They purchase in Australia £70,000 or £80,000 worth of stores, which they take as return freight, and distribute amongst the islands. This is a valuable trade, but the existence of the company is threatened by certain provisions of the Bill. I have endeavoured to make it clear that if we could retain the Pacific, trade, and at the same time impose Australian conditions, as the Bill proposes to do, I should view the matter from a different stand-point. We are faced with the fact that the movements of the company will be thwarted, and that it is now threatened with extinction unless it removes its head-quarters from Australia. I am informed, moreover, that the unions openly say, “ Wait until the Navigation Bill is passed, and see how we shall then deal with you.”
– Threatened by ‘ what unions ?
– The Seamen’s Union. Personally, I do not think we have the power to interfere with them as much as the company fears, provided its ships are not registered* in Australia, and they do not engage in the coasting trade. I repeat that this Parliament should be no party to any diminution of Commonwealth influence in the Pacific, but, on the contrary, we ought to concentrate our attention on a further expansion of our influence and jurisdiction there by means of an extension of our trade and commerce.
– How would this Bill affect the company in question ?
– Let me refer the honorable member to one clause.
– The honorable member must not discuss at this stage the clauses of the Bill.
– I propose only to refer, in reply to the honorable member, to a particular clause which will affect this company.
– General principles may be discussed at this stage; but it is not permissible for the honorable member to discuss a particular clause or clauses. That is a matter that can be dealt with in Committee.
– I say that the Bill in its general principles will affect the Pacific trade, and I am proposing to illustrate that point merely by reference to a particular clause which prohibits the working of cargo by the crew of a vessel, and is made specially applicable to Australiantrade ships. I do not think that portion of the clause is constitutional, but if it were it would mean that this company would have to employ wharf labourers or stevedoring crews on its vessels to work its Pacific island cargo. The trade would thus be made prohibitive. If these provisions are constitutional, they will have the effect of imposing Australian conditions upon the particular service to which I have been referring, with the result that the headquarters of the company will necessarily be removed from Australia, and arrangements will have to be made by it with ‘ ships from Japan or India to make separate voyages for the purpose of carrying this cargo to Australia. I understand that its men are signed on and signed off in the Commonwealth ; that its vessel carries cargo to various portions of Australia, but that there is no direct trading by it on the Australian coast. I am glad that we are doing something by means of subsidies, to mail services to encourage trade relationswith the islands of the Pacific ; and we as. a Parliament ought certainly to give every encouragement to further development in that direction. We spend annually something like .£19,850 by way of subsidy tomail services between Australia and Papua,, the Solomon Islands, and New Hebrides, Gilbert, Ellice, and Marshall Islands. OF this total of £19,850 per annum a grant of” £3,600 per annum is made by way of subsidy towards a mail service to the New Hebrides, Banks, Santa Cruz, and Solomon . Groups; £400 per annum as an additional subsidy granted on condition that black labour is not used; £2,000 per annum as an additional subsidy for extension of the services’, and £4,500 per annum for improved New Hebrides, Solomon,. and Norfolk Islands services, new services to the Solomon, Gilbert, and Ellice Islands, and New Guinea; and , £2,750 per annum for the New Guinea mail service. If the trade can be more and more extended, and better conditions secured for the seafaring men employed in connexion with it by means of increased subsidies, then these subsidies should, if necessary, be enlarged with that object in view. I desire now to refer to the constitutional aspects of this Bill. We labour under considerable difficulty in dealing with a measure of such magnitude, the provisions of which are so far reaching and will affect so many mercantile interests, both Federal and State. In my opinion, many of its clauses are unconstitutional. The British Board of Trade, which has been in active communication with the Commonwealth Government of the subject, claims, amongst other things, that the provisions of the Bill under which compulsory survey every six months is required, the provision in regard to the fixing of load-lines, and the provisions affecting the suspension of certificates of officers, are all outside the power of the Australian Parliament, and are unconstitutional. In addition to that, I would venture the opinion that the provisions of the Bill which impose upon Australian ships trading abroad the Australian conditions to which I have already referred, the provisions affecting structural alterations of ships engaged in the Intra-State trade, and likewise those provisions under which it is proposed that a preference shall be given, by means of regulations, to certain portions of Australia are, at least, to some extent, unconstitutional. I would like to refer to : the particular clauses dealing with these matters, but, as Mr. Speaker has objected, I content myself with stating their purport. The British Merchant Shipping Act provides for the compulsory survey of all passenger ships every twelve months, but it makes no provision for a periodical survey of cargo ships, although they, are, of course, kept under close and strict supervision. It is contended by the legal advisers of the Board of Trade that the effect of Imperial legislation is to exempt from survey vessels not required to be surveyed under the Imperial Act. I am not strongly impressed with that view, but I have respect for the opinions of the legal advisers of the Board of Trade, for they are men of high standling and ability, specially qualified to give opinions on matters of this character. The Board of Trade protests, as I have said, against that part of the Bill which deals with load lines. Part of the provisions relating to the fixing of load lines practically embody those of the Imperial Merchant Shipping Act and of the New Zealand Act. There is, however, a proviso which affects British and foreign shipping. In a letter addressed by the right honorable Mr. Harcourt, Secretary of State for the Colonies, to the Governor-General, on 24th April,1911, we have this statement -
I would especially invite the attention ofyour Ministers to the objections raised by the Board to the provisions of clauses 223 (3) -
The reference is to clause 225 (3) in the present Bill - and 372 of the Bill -
The reference is to clause 377 in the present Bill-
In both cases His Majesty’s Government are advised that the proposed legislation, -if not restricted to vessels registered in or coasting^ in the Commonwealth, or engaged in Australian trade voyages is ultra vires the Parliament of the Commonwealth as being repugnant to the provisions of the Imperial Merchant Shipping Act 1894, and it would seem undesirable that such provisions should be formally adopted by the Parliament. I would also invite your attention to the correspondence in the margin with regard to the survey of cargo ships, a matter to which the Board of Trade attach great importance.
– That is to say, they do not desire the cargo ships to be periodically surveyed.
– I shall come to that matter presently. I am now dealing with the constitutional aspect of the Bill, which, as I have shown, is assailed in several particulars by the British Board of Trade. The Board also objects that one of the clauses of this Bill prohibits the recognition in Australia of an officer’s certificate, which has been cancelled in Australia, and returned by the Board of Trade under section 474 of the Merchant Shipping Act of 1894. These are the’ more important legal objections that have been taken by the Home Government to the constitutionality of the Bill. They specially rely on the Merchant Shipping Act of 1894, and, in particular, on sections 735 and 736 of that Act which, it is contended by the Imperial Government, are in force, and must regulate merchant shipping in the Commonwealth. Section 735 provides -
The Legislature of any British Possession may bv any Act or Ordinance confirmed by Her Majesty in Council repeal wholly or in part any provision of this Act (other than those of the third part thereof which relate to immigrant ships), relating to ships registered in that Possession, but any such Act or Ordinance shall not take effect until the approval of Her Majesty has been proclaimed in the Possession or until such time thereafter as may be fixed by the Act or Ordinance for the purpose.
It goes on -
Where any Act or Ordinance of the Legislature of a British Possession has repealed in whole or in part as respects that Possession any provision of the Acts repealed by this Act, that Act or Ordinance shall have the same effect in relation to the corresponding provisions of this Act as it had in relation to the provision repealed by this Act.
Section 736 provides -
The Legislature of a British possession may, fay any Act or Ordinance, regulate the coasting trade of that British possession, subject in every case to the following conditions : -
British ships (including the ships of any other British possession) in exactly the same manner as ships of the British possession in which it is made.
The section then goes on to deal with treaties which are not immediately involved. We have been accustomed to think we had plenary powers under our Constitution, which, in section 98, specifically provides that “ navigation and shipping “ are included in “trade arid commerce.” The Constitution is an Imperial Act of Parliament, and was passed subsequently to the Imperial Merchant Shipping Act, and I, for one, took the view that we have full plenary powers in connexion with navigation and shipping.
– In 1907, the honorable member said that we had.
– Exactly, and I hold the same opinion still; but with certain modifications, which I am bound to make as a result of a case in the meantime. I shall, however, explain that more fully afterwards; at present, I am pointing out the difference between the contentionof the British Government, particularly through the legal advisers of the Board of Trade, and the contention we have hitherto advanced. I confess at once that I do not feel deeply impressed with all the legal contentions put forward on behalf of the Board of Trade, but, I repeat, the greatest respect must be paid to them because of the emi nence of the legal advisers of the Board. Our Constitution, in section 51, provides chat this Parliament shall, subject to the Constitution, have power to make laws with respect to “trade and commerce with other countries, and among the States.” Then section 98 sets forth -
The power of the Parliament to make laws with respect to trade and commerce extends to navigation and shipping, and to railways the property of any State.
In the covering Act of our Constitution, section 5 provides that all the laws made by the Parliament of the Commonwealth - shall be in force on all British ships, the Queen’s ships of war excepted, whose first port of clearance and whose port of destination are in the Commonwealth.
These are the main provisions which give us power under the Constitution to deal with trade and commerce, and, incidentally as part of that power, with navigation and shipping. We have been accustomed to think - and, as the Minister of Trade and Customs has pointed out, I have expressed myself pretty strongly on the subject - that we had full and complete powers over all the navigable waters of Australia. This idea arose because the United States Constitution is to all intents and purposes the same as our own; that is to say, section 8 of the United States Constitution declares that Congress shall have power to regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several States. But in the United States Constitution there is no such provision as that in section 98 of our Constitution ; but it has been held, in a string of cases, that, in America, trade and commerce includes navigation and shipping. This practically brings us to the same position; and thus it was we thought that we had full jurisdiction over all navigable waters. One case out of a great number will give honorable members a. grasp of the great principle involved, and the character of the law which has been laid down. This is the case of the Daniel Ball - 10 Wall. 557, 1870 - in which it was held that a stream lying wholly within a State, and forming by its junction’ with Lake Michigan a continuous highway for commerce, both with other States and with foreign nations, was a navigable water of the United States. In this case the rule was announced that these rivers must be regarded as public navigable rivers in law which are navigable in fact, and that they constitute navigable waters of the United States within the meaning of the Act of Congress in contra- distinction between the navigable waters of the States when they form in their ordinary condition by themselves or by uniting with other waters a continued highway over which commerce is or can be carried on with other States or foreign countries, in the customary modes in which such commerce is conducted by water. It is immaterial that the navigability of such a river may be interrupted by rapids and falls over which portages are required to be made. That principle has been laid down in a great number of cases by the most eminent of American judges ; and, as our Constitution follows so closely on the lines of the United States Constitution, we were justified in the idea that we had plenary powers over all the navigable waters of the Commonwealth ; that is, over all those waters wherein InterState or foreign trade could be conducted. I am prepared to think, even now, notwithstanding the modification to which I shall subsequently refer, that we still retain large powers in that direction. But a case, which was recently before’ our High Court, has, at least, modified our ideas, and curtailed the jurisdiction which we have hitherto thought we possessed. That is the Kalibia case reported in the11 Commonwealth Law Reports, page 689. The owners of the s.s. Kalibia were the appellants, and Alexr. Wilson was the respondent, and this was an appeal from the Supreme Court of New South Wales. It was heard before a full bench of the High Court, and, amongst other things, it was laid down - I shall not elaborate the case, but give the general principles -
The provisions of section 4 of the Seamen’s Compensation Act 1909, in so far as they purport to regulate purely Intra-State trade, are ultra vires, section 51 (1) of the Constitution.
Section 98 of the Constitution does , not enlarge the ambit of the trade and commerce clause in section 51 (1), but is merely explanatory of the trade and commerce powers.
Per Griffith, C. J., Barton and Isaacs, JJ. -
The validity of these provisions of section 4 cannot be supported as being an exercise of the jurisdiction conferred upon the Parliament by section 76 (iii-).
Per Barton and Isaacs, JJ. - The rule of construction adopted by the American Courts as to the jurisdiction conferred by Article 3, section 2 of the American Constitution, is not applicable to the construction of section 76 (iii.).
Per Griffith, C. J., Barton, O’Connor, and Isaacs, JJ. (Higgins, J., dissenting) that, the Parliament having in plain language expressed its intention that the test to be applied in determining what ships come within the Seamen’s Compensation Act 1909, is whether the ship is engaged in trade between port and port, and not whether she is engaged in trade between State and State, the valid and invalid provisions of the Act are inseparable and the whole Act is invalid. r
This practically means that the intention of Parliament was that the Seamen’s Compensation Act should apply to all navigable waters, and that if an accident takes place in the case of Intra-State trade - trade immediately confined to the State itself - there is no jurisdiction so far as awarding compensation is concerned. There is, however, the fullest power in regard to Inter-State and foreign ships.
– Was it not the combination of Inter-State and Intra-State trade that rendered the Act ultra vires?
– If the sections could have been separated, some referring to Intra-State trade and others referring to Inter-State and foreign trade, it would have been a different matter; but, as they could not sever the provisions in the terms of the Constitution, the Judges were driven to the necessity of declaring the whole Act invalid.
– Would it not be possible to separate the sections?
– I think it would have been possible; indeed, Mr. Justice Higgins thought they could be separated, and he dissented from the judgment of the other four Judges.
– His seems a common-sense way of looking at the matter.
– They are all Judges of very great eminence, and we must pay the greatest respect to the views of each.
– I mean, would it not be possible to separate the section in the Act?
– That could be done. In view of that case, we are obliged to reconsider our position. Glancing through the Bill before us, I see several provisions which, in my opinion at least, cannot be upheld from a constitutional point of view.
– The honorable member must not discuss the clauses in detail.
– In dealing with the Constitution, I venture to say I am entitled to refer to some clauses by way of illustration of a great principle.
– The honorable member will have an opportunity to discuss the clauses when they come before us in Committee.
– I am now discussing a principle. I confess I ‘ am in some difficulty because, relying on an experience of over twenty-three years, I thought I was entitled to illustrate my argument by special reference to the provisions. However, I defer, of course, to Mr. Speaker’s ruling, and can, therefore, give honorable members only the general tenor of my view. For instance, there are the clauses of the Bill which impose upon owners a particular mode of constructing ships, and the provision of various kinds of accommodation, and declare that, so far as ships already constructed are concerned, certain alterations may be ordered. I think that if those ships are identified with or engaged in State trade alone, and not in Inter-State or foreign trade, the provisions of the Bill cannot be made applicable. While there is no doubt as to the power of Parliament to provide for the lines of construction and accommodation in the case of Inter-State and foreign ships, we have, in view of the Kalibia case, no power to deal in this respect with ships engaged in the Intra-State trade alone. Then I do not think that Parliament has constitutional power to impose conditions as to the working of cargo in the case of* foreign-going or oversea ships when outside our waters; and, in another connexion, I am of opinion that it is not within our power to make any preference so far as any one portion of the traffic of a State is concerned. Section 99 of the Constitution declares that the Commonwealth shall not, by any law or regulation of trade, commerce, or “revenue, give preference to one State, or any part thereof, over another, or any part thereof. I add my tribute to that of the Minister to the magnificent work clone by the AttorneyGeneral and the other members of the Navigation Commission. That Commission recommended that, pending the construction of a railway connecting the eastern with the western parts of Australia, British passenger ships trading between those States should be exempted from the proposed reservation. I should be glad if we could adequately provide for giving effect to that recommendation. An attempt to do so was boldly made in the measure which I introduced, but the provision had to be withdrawn after further consideration of the constitutional stand-point. I do not think that the object can be achieved by declaring that it shall be within the com petence of the Governor in Council to make regulations which will secure it.
– If the law would be unconstitutional, would not’ any regulation be so?
– Yes. The Constitution expressly declares that no regulation of trade, commerce, or revenue shall give preference between the States. Any preference of the kind referred to would be of doubtful constitutionality. In the 1908 Bill, I endeavoured to provide against some of the difficulties which I have mentioned by a clause declaring that the law should not apply to any ship exclusively used in inland waters of a State which are not navigable by ships engaged in trade or commerce with other countries or among the States. In my opinion, it would be a mistake to omit such a provision, and I suggest its inclusion in this Bill. The Minister makes a proposal similar to a provision in theNew Zealand Act, to the effect that when any enactment may be held to overstep the constitutional limits, it shall be valid, nevertheless, up to those limits. I admit that it is hard to say how far the incidental powers of the Commonwealth extend, and where the regulation of the Inter- State highway ends and immunity from Commonwealth control begins.
– Would the provision to which the honorable member is referring get over the difficulty in regard to clauses that were not separable?
– I do not think that a provision following that of the New Zealand Act would get over the difficulty, because the question would still arise whether the provisions were severable. . It has been suggested that the effect would be to hold that a provision might be good in parts, like the curate’s egg. That would be a very undesirable state of affairs.
– The New Zealand Act has received the Royal assent.
– Yes. That Act does not lack boldness, inasmuch as it declares that seamen employed on vessels trading between New Zealand and any part of the Commonwealth, or the Cook Islands, shall be paid the current rates of wages ruling in the Dominion, that being an attempt to regulate Commonwealth labour conditions. The fact that the measure has been assented to does not give all its provisions validity. New Zealand legislates under sections 735 and 736 of the Merchant Shipping Act. Section 2 of the New Zealand Shipping and Seamen’s Act of 1908 says that the provisions of the Act shall be so construed as not to exceed the legislative powers conferred on the General Assembly by the Constitution Act. 1 do not think that the provision suggested by the Minister, following the New Zealand example, will carry us any further. I have referred to these constitutional objections with a view to drawing attention to the fact that our Judiciary Act of 1910 provides for the reference to the High Court of Acts, or sections of Acts, whose constitutionality is doubtful. Nothing is more unfair to the community than for Parliament to pass legislation containing provisions of .obviously doubtful constitutionality, because when that is done private individuals are put to great expense, and suffer costly delays in ascertaining whether the law is valid and such as they must obey. It will, therefore, be the duty of Parliament, as soon as this measure has been passed, to refer it to the High Court to ascertain exactly our constitutional powers in regard to navigation and maritime policy, and to prevent those directly affected by our legislation from being put to the expense of testing it in the law courts. 1 do not suppose that any part of the Bill is of greater value or importance than that relating to the coastal trade. The coast-line of Australia measures something like 9,000 miles, and contains upwards of eighty recognised ports. It is a legitimate ambition to establish a great Australian merchant marine service, and this can be done largely by reserving the coast to our own vessels, and bringing about the local registration and ownership of the vessels employed on it. This object is satisfactorily provided for in the Bill. We are fortunate in being able to proceed on well denned lines, in the light of the experience of other maritime nations. Our merchant marine service is one of the greatest industries that we possess, arid is capable of indefinite expansion. Every possible encouragement should be given to its extension and development. America has been most rigid in the reservation of its coastline for its own. people, and has thereby built up the largest coastal tonnage in the world. The rigid character of the American law may best be understood by reading some of its provisions. For instance, it is enacted that - no foreign vessel shall transport passengers between ports or places in the United States either directly or by way of a foreign port, under a. penalty of 200 dollars for each passenger so transported and landed.
That no merchandise shall be transported by water under penalty of forfeiture thereof from one port of the United States to another port of the United States, either directly or vid a foreign port, or for any part of the voyage in any other vessel than a vessel of the United States. But this section shall not be construed to prohibit the sailing of any foreign vessel from one to another port of the United States. Provided that no merchandise other than that imported in such vessel from some foreign port which shall not have been unladen shally be carried from one port or place in the United States to another.
– The result is the biggest shipping ring in the world.
– The largest coastal tonnage in the world. It is our duty to control rings, and I have at all times been desirous of securing the largest powers for the suppression of all combinations in restraint of trade.
– That is not the easiest thing in the world.
– I admit it. The Canadian Act says that no goods or passengers shall be carried by water from one port of Canada to another except in British ships. Similar provisions are to be found in the laws of Russia, France, Spain, Portugal, Brazil, and other maritime countries. America has extended her navigation law to the Hawaiian Islands, and thus embraces within her coastal trade the magnificent traffic between Honolulu and San Francisco. We can, therefore, advance with courage, knowing that we are proceeding on right and safe lines. On 31st December, 1911, the number of steamers on the registers of the ports of the Commonwealth was 1,235, of a net tonnage of 282,055 ; the number of sailing vessels was 1,535, of! a net tonnage of 125,692, or a total of 2,770 vessels, and a total net tonnage of 407,747. The policy of the open door and unrestricted competition is quite out of the question so far as our coastal trade is concerned, for two reasons. The first is that we have in our Australian coastal trade the highest standard of wages and living conditions in the world, and the second is that the vessels in competition with ours are heavily subsidized by foreign nations. In these circumstances it is obvious that it is quite impossible for us to compete against them.
At my request, the secretary of the Aus-
tralasian Steam-ship Owners’ Federation has courteously supplied me- with a few particulars which are interesting and instructive, as showing the importance and value of our coastal trade. The Federation comprises the Adelaide Steam-ship Company, the Australasian United Steam Navigation Company, the Huddart Parker Company, the Melbourne Steam-ship Company, Mcllwraith, McEacharn, and Company, Howard Smith and Company, James Paterson and Company, and the Union Steam-ship Company of New Zealand, the last-named only so far as its Australian vessels are concerned. The Federation owns 133 vessels, with a gross tonnage of 287,199; the masters, officers, engineers, and crew employed number 5,030 ; the wages and overtime paid to the crews of the vessels of the Federation amount to £562,500 per annum, the amount paid for stores and provisions for the vessels is £417,000 per annum, anc- the amount paid for docking and repairing vessels is £352,000 per annum. The difficulties of unrestricted competition to which I have referred are well illustrated by examples which I shall now give. I have here” a comparative statement showing the wages paid on the Inter-State steamer *Karoola, one of our best vessels, and the mail steamer Orontes. For purposes of comparison it is assumed that the Orontes has the same number of men as the Karoola, but as an actual fact, being an oversea passenger steamer, she carries more. The amount of wages paid per month to officers and crew on the Karoola is £1,020 10s., and on the Orontes £660 is. 8d., or a difference of £360 8s. 4d. per month. In other words, the Karoola pays £4,325 per annum more than the Orontes, if the same number of men are carried. We must remember also that the Orontes belongs to the Orient line, which is one of the best ser-. vices so far as oversea labour conditions are concerned.
– Do these figures include captains, engineers, and all the higher grades ?
– Yes, and the illustration is in regard to one ship alone. Take the steamer Bar along, of the Bucknall line. The articles for the white crew were taken out in London on 2nd February, 1912, for a period not exceeding two years, and the articles for the black crew were taken out in Bombay on 30th May, 1911, for twelve months. This steamer called at Fremantle, Bunbury, Port Lincoln, Adelaide, Sydney, and Melbourne. She lifted at Bunbury, Western Australia, 800 loads of sleepers for Port Adelaide, and 800 for Port Lincoln. The total wages per month on the Bar along are £162 6s. 8d., and on the Cycle, an Inter-State vessel, £333- The wages per annum are - Baralong, £1,948, and Cycle, £3,996> °r a difference of £2,048 per annum in favour of the oversea vessel. Compare, now, the conditions on the oversea tramp AngloBolivian, 5,503 tons, with those on the Cycle. The wages on the oversea vessel total £2,646 per annum, as against £3,996 per annum on the Cycle., or a difference of £1,350 in favour of the oversea vessel.
– On some of those boats part of the crew is coloured.
– But they have the right at present to compete on our coast, and it is quite impossible for us to maintain our Australian conditions of high wages and high standard of living unless our Australian vessels are protected in the way provided for in the Bill. We are, I think, on right lines in building up our mercantile marine by the reservation of our coastal trade to our own people, but we must not overlook the fact that the Bill, at the same time that it secures to us our valuable home trade, annihilates all prospect of building up an oversea trade with ships owned and registered in Australia. Still, as I have urged in another connexion, I am hopeful that, by reason of the encouragement we are giving, we shall so develop our own merchant service as to be able, in time, to hold our own abroad, as the great American nation has done. Our foreign trade and commerce have gone ahead by leaps and bounds, owing to the bountiful seasons that we have enjoyed during the last nine or ten years, but it has been carried in British and foreign bottoms. Of course, the effect of the passage of this Bill will be to remove from the Australian register even the 2 per cent, of foreign vessels that are now on it. We are “ up against” that difficulty, but, for the present, we must put up with it, because we can hardly hope’ to have oversea ships put upon the Australian register, and thereby bound by Australian conditions.
– Have they not done it largely in New Zealand? The Union Company has a fleet of oversea ships, and I think they are registered under New Zealand conditions.
– I believe that is so, but I understand that some of them are subsidized. Bearing in mind the vast oversea shipping, for which I hope we shall in time endeavour to cater, the Bill in some instances imposes on shipping unnecessary or excessive burdens. These remarks are applicable, not only to oversea shipping, but even to our coastal shipping. Take the subject of accommodation for seamen. Whilst, of course, it is our anxiety to give the fullest and most satisfactory air space, we must ask ourselves whether the provisions in that regard in this measure are not more than ample. The accommodation provided for in the Navigation Bill introduced in. the Senate in r-904 was 72 cubic feet of air space and 12 superficial feet of floor space. The Bill which I introduced in the Senate, in 1907 and 1908, provided for 120 cubic feet of air spare, 16 superficial feet of floor space, 4 feet clear between bunks, and also additional space for messroom and bathroom. It was so provided upon, I think, the unanimous recommendation of the Navigation Commission.
– Did you ever learn the sailorman’s opinion about that?
– I am stating only the facts which I have before me. The present Bill has gone one better, and provides for 140 cubic feet of air space, 18 superficial feet of floor space, and 5 feet clear between bunks, with additional space for messroom and bathroom. The Merchant Shipping Act of 1894 provided only 72 cubic feet of air space, but the Act of 1906, which has had the result of substantially increasing in the Old Country the attractions of a sea life, and also the New Zealand Act, which is the most advanced piece of maritime legislation in existence, provide for 120 cubic feet of air space, but the messroom and bathroom space are to be deducted, the stipulation being that the minimum air space remaining shall be 72 cubic feet.
– Since the passing of the Merchant Shipping Act of 1906 there has been a marvellous increase in the number of British seamen.
– I have already, said so ; but in that Act bathroom and messroom space is deducted, leaving a minimum space of 72 cubic feet. Whilst we are most anxious to do the fullest justice to our seamen, we must consider the other side also. The Navigation Commission recommended 120 cubic feet, and that figure was included in the Bill of 1908, with bathroom and messroom space in addition. We must not forget that seamen work in watches - that a considerable number of men are on duty whilst others are sleeping - so that their quarters are not always fully occupied. By way of illustrating how this provision would operate, let me show what would be its effect on board the Kyarra, which carries a crew of eighty - seven hands.
– It should carry more.
– It will have to carry more on the passing of this Bill.
– It will have to carry one hundred.
– In the case of the Ky air a, with its present crew of eightyseven, the provision of separate messrooms would mean a loss of 145 tons of space, representing a financial loss of ,£3,500 per annum. I have always urged, and still believe, that the fullest attention should be given to the comfort and accommodation of ships’ crews, and that is shown by the fact that I strongly advocated the provisions of the .Bill of 1.908. At the same time, we are entitled to consider seriously whether 140 cubic feet of air space is not more than sufficient, particularly when we find that the requirement as to extra space as embodied in this Bill means the imposition of a very heavy burden upon shipowners. All these increased burdens will be passed on to the public. The effect of the passing of this Bill in its present form will be to increase the burden, so far as the Shipping Federation already referred to - and that Federation, of course, represents only a portion of the coastal trade - is concerned, to something like £111,000 per annum, and that amount will have to be paid by passengers and shippers of cargo.
– Are the honorable member !s figures based on the assumption that these vessels are always loaded to their full carrying capacity?
– I cannot say.
– If they were not so loaded, there would be a very great difference in the figures.
– Undoubtedly. I come now to the provision in the Bill that there shall be a compulsory survey every six months. That requirement, so far as the Ship-owners Federation is concerned, would alone involve a burden of some £20,000 per annum. Hitherto, in Victoria, New South. Wales, Queensland, and New Zealand, it has only been necessary to make an annual survey. Is it wise, in view of the fact that our Inter-State steamers are in and out of port every few days, and that the Minister has great powers in regard to the detention of vessels, to require that they shall be surveyed every six months ? All experience shows this to be quite an unnecessary precaution. The Bill also makes special provision for a winter load-line when deadweight and coal cargoes are being carried. This, of course, must necessarily reduce the carrying capacity of vessels. I am informed that the passing of the clause in question in its present form will mean a loss of something like- £25,000 per annum to the Ship-owners Federation alone, which, as I have said, represents only a part of our coastal trade. I come now to the requirement as to wireless telegraphy, the cost of which is almost prohibitive. I am sure that we all strongly approve of vessels being fitted with wireless-
– It is only fair to say that seven-eighths of our Inter-State steamers are already fitted with wireless telegraphy apparatus.
– Exactly- as to the larger vessels, but this provision would be absolutely prohibitive in its application to the smaller craft. Wireless telegraphy is a necessity, and certainly must be installed, on our larger steamers, but it is estimated that the annual cost of such a system if installed in the passenger and cargo vessels of the Inter-State com panies already mentioned, excluding small State vessels, would be as follows : - Thirty-two passenger vessels, with one operator, £8,000 per annum, or with two operators, £11,200 per annum ; forty-eight cargo vessels, carrying one operator each, £12,000 per annum. We have to remember that the Australian Steam-ship Owners Federation own only 133 of these larger vessels, as against a total of 1,235 steamers on the Australian register. This provision as to wireless must therefore be a very serious matter for the shipping trade. I have not one word to say against the necessity for such a provision, but I do urge that some discrimination must be shown. The United States of America Wireless Telegraphy Act provides that -
From and after the first day of July, 19n.it shall be unlawful for any ocean-going steamer of the United States or of any foreign country carrying passengers and carrying fifty or more persons, including passengers and crew, to leave or attempt to leave any port of the United States unless such steamer shall be equipped wilh an efficient apparatus for radiocommunication in good working order in charge of & person skilled in the use of such apparatus, which apparatus shall be capable of transmitting and receiving messages over a distance of at least 100 miles night or day ; provided that the provisions of this Act shall not apply to steamers plying only between ports less than 200 miles apart.
T have no doubt -that the Government, in formulating their regulations, will be largely guided by the necessity for discriminating on the lines which have been suggested elsewhere. I am sure that not one of us desires to unreasonably penalize the great shipping industry.
– I have already said that we have no such desire.
– Quite so. Now, sir, I have to say that, in my opinion, other parts of this Bill will also have the effect of wantonly and most unnecessarily harassing ship-owners. I do not hesitate to give examples, and should indeed be prepared ta give them in more detail, but that I am prevented from doing so by the Standing Orders. I have shown that the provision that cargo shall not be handled by crew means additional expense to ship-owners. There are certain runs, for instance, that from Brisbane to Normanton, as well as in the Gulf in South Australia, in connexion with which the vessels carry men specially put on for working cargoes at our ports. These provisions will be specially unfair In such cases, having regard to the fact that, under the manning scale, the crews of vessels must be largely increased. If an A.B. is a winchman, he is not to be at liberty to work a winch, and, while the vessel is in port, crews will be obliged to remain idle.
– In how many ports would that be the case?
– There are not many Australian ports where wharflabourers cannot be obtained, but we have to remember, as I have pointed out, that the provision in question is to apply to the Pacific Ocean trade, upon which it will have a more serious effect. It has been the practice to give every facility for the signing off and signing on of crews. Under the Bill which I had the honour to introduce, it was provided that -
The Minister may permit any matters required by this Act to be transacted in a mercantile marine office or before a superintendent to be transacted elsewhere, but not in taverns or inns, nr any premises licensed to sell intoxicating liquors, and before such other person as he appoints for the purpose.
That would have offered reasonable facilities to ship-owners, and it was in accordance with the practice then and now existing. As honorable members are probably aware, at the end of six months’ service a ship’s articles expire, and very often the whole, or at any rate the greater proportion of the crew then desire to sign on again. It is most unfair that they should have to waste a day in attending at the shipping office, where they would probably cause a congestion of business, in order that they maysign off and on - a mere formal act.
– Where does the honorable member suggest that they should sign off and on?
– On board ship, as at present. There was such a provision in the old Bill, but it has been specially omitted. May I say, because I had to fight it, and fight it strenuously, elsewhere, that the underlying reason for the omission of that particular clause is the fact that it had had the effect of practically breaking up a serious strike that was pending some little time ago in connexion with shipping matters. Permission was given by the Minister of the day for the engagement of seamen under the close cognisance of an official. At that time the shipping office only was picketed, and as engagements were made elsewhere, under the permission so granted, the effect was to break up the threatened strike. Honorable members opposite tell us that they are opposed to strikes, and here they have an opportunity to insert a strike-breaking clause.
– That is rather clever. There are many other reasons for the omission of the clause.
– But, as I have reason to know, that is the underlying reason. I urge that at least the present practice, which is essentially of a reasonable character, should be allowed to continue.
– It would allow of crimping in Newcastle.
– It would not. Crimping is carried on by licensed boardinghousekeepers. In the Bill as introduced by me we provided that, in accordance with the existing practice, a servant or clerk in the bond fide employment of any firm should be at liberty to engage seamen just as a master or engineer might do. In this Bill that facility, which was previously offered, and was in accordance with the existing practice, is denied ship-owners. It has been deliberately omitted, and the result will be a serious inconvenience to shipowners, who will be harassed to an unwarrantable extent.
– Crimping is done, not on board ship, but in public houses.
– Quite so. There is no justification for the suggestion that bond fide employes of reputable companies have been guilty of any of these improper practices. I will join heartily with honorable members opposite in taking the most rigid steps that can be suggested to annihilate the evil practice of crimping that has taken place in some of our ports. Another point that I wish to bring under notice is that the Government has consistently watered down the discipline provisions o’f the 1908 Bill by the corresponding provisions of this measure. It must be admitted that, above all things, discipline is necessary for the safety of a ship; and why, in this Bill, the penalties under this head have been made less onerous I cannot say, unless it is with design. I have prepared the following table, which affords some interesting comparisons : -
– Is the honorable member in favour of wages being forfeited ?
– I am in favour of the observance of discipline, particularly on board ship. .
– So are we.
– If discipline is observed, there will be no forfeitures. I know that honorable members opposite are in favour of discipline, but of how much discipline? So far as I can see, though I speak subject to correction, there is no provision in this Bill for penalties for failing without reasonable cause to join or to go to sea, or for quitting the ship without leave after arrival in port, and before she is placed in security.
– In regard to imprisonment, we have made the same penalty for officers as for men.
– I am not objecting to that. The instances I have quoted apparently show a deliberate intention to water down discipline.
– The honorable member, as a lawyer, will realize that, during the last fifty years, punishments for offences of all kinds have been made much lighter.
– But fifty years have not elapsed since 1908.
– Perhaps we have become more intelligent since then.
– Further, it would appear that the penalties are reduced, so far as the seamen are concerned, and increased in the case of the ship-owners.
– I do not think there is any penalty of imprisonment imposed in the case of a ship-owner.
– This Bill has the object of bringing about uniformity, so far as shipping and navigation laws are concerned, and that is a reform most urgently needed. In Victoria, ships and seamen are -subject to the Marine Board j and in New South .Wales to the Navigation Department; while, in other parts of Australia, there are various bodies constituted to deal with mercantile marine matters; and this position is most unsatisfactory and unfair to those interested. Valuable as the Bill is as a form of consolidation, though it is hardly a code, it does not embrace the whole of our mercantile marine law. As a matter of fact, notwithstanding this vast measure, ships will still have to ‘be registered under the Merchant Shipping Act, and a considerable number of the provisions of that Act will apply. At the Imperial Shipping Conference there was a plea made for .uniformity in regard not only to navigation but to many other matters; and
J have consistently endeavoured, as it became my responsible duty in some very important negotiations with the Board of Trade, to bring about the desired uniformity, not only so far as Australia is concerned, but in regard to the shipping of the Empire. To the original Bill introduced in 1907 the Board of Trade raised forty or forty-two objections, and on nineteen of these the Deakin Government arrived at compromises which were mutually satisfactory, and which were incorporated in the Bill of 1908. There were some seven further objections taken by the Board of Trade which were not embodied in the Bill, but in regard to which compromises were ultimately agreed to by the last Deakin Government, and we further promised to insert them also in the Bill. I need not deal with the remainder of the fortytwo objections, some of which were settled, and some of which were persisted in ; but there are outstanding at the present time at least seven objections in regard to which the present Commonwealth Government have not seen fit to honour the Deakin Government’s arrangement with the Board of Trade. The correspondence on the subject is most voluminous, and I must confess that, to some extent, I am hazy about it; but, so far ns I have had an opportunity of hastily perusing it, I shall endeavour to place before honorable members some of the more cogent points. After all, the real issue between the Board of Trade and Australia is included in three very important objections in regard to which the last Deakin Government came to a most satisfactory under- - standing with the Board, and I repeat that the present Government have, somewhat un- graciously, I think, failed to honour the arrangements then made. Out of the seven objections with which I propose to deal, the three most important were very strenuously fought for by the Board of Trade. The Board took certain exceptions to Part IV. of the Bill, complaining that the provisions in that part were, in several important points, in excess of the corresponding requirements of the Imperial Act, and they suggested that words should be added to the part declaring that, in so far as the provisions differed from, or were in excess of, the provisions of the Imperial Act, they should apply only to ships registered in Australia, and to ships engaged in the coasting trade. There was considerable negotiation, with the result that the difference of opinion was narrowed down to what is now clause 196. The Board of Trade urged the experience of the Imperial Government, which is necessarily far greater than we can possibly have, and they suggested -
That your Ministers, having regard to these considerations, will recognise the undesirability of pressing a demand for a compulsory and periodical Government survey of British and foreign cargo steamers engaged in oversea journeys to ports in the Commonwealth. Your Government already have under the Imperial Shipping Act of 1S94 full power to survey and detain any ship which there is any reason to believe is unseaworthy.
If there were need for a radical alteration in the present system in order to secure safety, some evidence to this effect would have reached the Board of Trade, but the reports before the Department show that the loss of life is steadily diminishing, especially in steamers, and that the number of vessels detained for defects to hull and machinery has become very small.
Later on, the Board of Trade expressed the hope that the Commonwealth Government would not press for the inclusion of those provisions in the Navigation Bill so far as regards vessels neither registered in the Commonwealth nor engaged in the coastal trade. They urged the fears of the Imperial Government as to retaliation by other countries, pointing out that if the standard adopted in any Dominion were considered, unreasonable by foreign Governments, those Governments would be almost certain to retaliate, not merely against ships belonging to the Dominion, but against all British ships using their ports, and that it would probably be impossible in practice to induce those countries to restrict their discrimination merely to vessels registered in the Dominion. The Board of Trade then made an appeal to the loyalty of Australia, and asked Commonwealth Ministers to remember the great importance to the United Kingdom and to the Empire of the maintenance of the supremacy of the British mercantile marine, and not to take steps which, however little harm might be done to Australia, might cause serious loss to one of the most important of British industries. The Board of Trade went on to say that the British Government felt assured that Commonwealth Ministers were anxious in every way to assist in the development of the trade of the Empire, and that they would not willingly put any obstacles in the way of that development. These communications caused the Deakin Government to reconsider the position, and ultimately, after full consideration, the following cable was despatched -
Clause 188 has been law in New South Wales and Victoria for many years without complaint or entailing suggested inconveniences or expense. Therefore abandonment right survey cargo ships would not be acceptable. Suggest only alteration of period from six to twelve months. Presume in view of Resolution one Imperial Ship.pmg Conference your objection will not be further pressed.
The reply was -
If your Ministers consider it essential to insist on extending compulsory survey to all vessels, they earnestly trust that Act will be administered in same spirit as New South Wales and Victorian Acts, which, so far as they are aware, have not caused serious ground for complaint. Further, if any ship-owner is compelled to have a vessel which is not registered in the Commonwealth or engaged in coasting, and which is exempted from survey under Imperial law, surveyed, Board of Trade presume that your Ministers will facilitate taking of test case to High Court or Privy Council. It is also assumed that period will be extended for twelve months, as stated in your telegram.
That was on the 23rd December, 1908. They say -
If such references existed the Bill would be in direct opposition to the Imperial Act, but, as it is, it merely attaches a liability to a British ship whilst in Australian jurisdiction only, and does not directly contravene any Imperial’ legislation.
That was in regard to the contention that they were exempt. On the 12th February, 1909, there came this communication from the Secretary of State for the Colonies-
The matter of survey is one on which there is strong feeling among the ship-owners in this country. His Majesty’s Government asked, in my telegram of 27th November, for the assurance which your Ministers have now readily given, that if any ship-owner is advised that the provisions as to survey in the Commonwealth Navigation Bill, when passed into law, are, in effect, repugnant to the provisions of the Imperial merchant shipping legislation, no technical difficulties will be placed in the way of the matter being taken before the High Court of the Commonwealth. Your Ministers will recognise that the legal question involved is whether or not the effect of the Imperial legislation is to exempt from survey vessels not required to be surveyed under the. Imperial Act, and that this question cannot be considered as being altogether free from doubt.
The British Government, urged by British merchants and ship-owners, expressed itself strongly on this matter, and after long negotiations agreed with the Deakin Government to abandon its wholesale objection to Part IV., the objection being finally reduced to the question of survey. The Bill provided for a survey every six months, but we were willing to follow. the example of New Zealand, Canada, Victoria, and many other places, and agree to a survey every twelve months. Ultimately, no doubt with reluctance, the British Government accepted that, which was a fair and reasonable compromise, and one which the present Minister should have embodied in this Bill. Under the Canadian law, vessels are liable to inspection- at least once yearly ; and under the law of the .United States of America the survey is annual ; as it is, too, in New Zealand, or more often if required ; while in 1908 the New South Wales Parliament made the survey twelve months instead of six months. In New South Wales there are a number of ports blocked with sand-bars on which small craft frequently bump and scrape, but a six-monthly survey was found so burdensome that the Parliament as late as 1908 provided for an annual survey. The Victorian Engineer - in - Chief for Ports and Harbors, upon whom we relied, said that the provision for half-yearly surveys for vessels more than five years old was, in his opinion, unnecessary, and that yearly surveys had been found to work well in practice under Board of Trade Regulations. In Victoria, the compulsory survey is an annual one. South Australia, I believe, of all countries in the world alone requires a half-yearly survey, and her law was made, I think, to meet some immediate local conditions. It will be seen, therefore, that the arrangements come to between the Deakin Government and the Imperial Government were fair and reasonable, and should have been respected by this Government. The next objection by the Imperial Government was on the question of load-line. Provision was made for the ascertainment of load-lines in accordance with the terms of the
Merchant Shipping Act, the New Zealand Act, and the methods followed generally throughout the world, but to this in the Bill of 1.908 there was added the following proviso -
Provided that, in ships laden with coal, the position of the disc shall be at all seasons of the year not higher than that prescribed by the Board of Trade regulations for the winter Atlantic load-line.
The present Government has omitted this proviso from the measure before the House, and substituted the following, which is much stronger and more objectionable to the Imperial Board of Trade -
Provided that, in ships laden with coal or dead-weight cargo, a line or mark shall be marked or affixed in the mode and position required by the Merchant Shipping Act for the winter load-line, or, in the case of sailing ships, the winter North Atlantic load-line; and, in the case of ships so laden, the provisions of this Act shall have effect as to that line or mark as if it were drawn through the centre of the disc.
The Board of Trade strongly objected to the original proviso in the 1908 Bill, but .hey still more strenuously object to the present clause, pointing out that - this clause forbids coal-laden ships to load beyond the winter load-line at any season of the year, and they understand that an amendment has been carried extending this prohibition to vessels loaded with dead-weight cargo of any kind. The Board have already pointed out that the special dangers attaching to a coal cargo (viz., fire, gas explosion and shifting), are not affected by a slight limitation in the amount carried, and they are advised that all deadweight cargo, including coal, can be so distributed in a vessel as to make her as easy in a seaway as if loaded with a cargo of higher specific gravity. So far as the Board are aware, the Australian Government have not explained in detail their reasons for the provision in question, but have merely stated that they consider it necessary for safety. It will be remembered that in October, 1908, the Commonwealth Government offered to amend this clause in a manner which they thought would meet the views of the Board of Trade.
After negotiation, we came to an arrangement with the British Government to amend the Bill by omitting the proviso in the 1908 Bill to which I have referred, and to which they objected. My complaint is that that arrangement has not been observed by the present Government. The Board of Trade continued -
It is not known what amendment was then contemplated, but the alteration which was in fact embodied in the clause (viz., the substitution of “ winter load-line “ for “ winter Atlantic load-line”) leaves the principle of the clause untouched, and does not affect the arguments put forward by the Board of Trade. If the clause is to be applied to dead-weight cargoes of all kinds, it becomes still more open to ob- jection, as constituting a restriction on shipowners which carries with it no compensating advantages from the point of view of safety. In these circumstances, the Board trust that the Commonwealth Government will be able to give effect to the offer of amendment made in 1908, and will take an opportunity of modifying the clause in such a way as to meet the views of the Board of Trade regarding this important matter.
There is a recognised means of ascertaining the load-line of vessels prevailing throughout the world, there being a summer load-line, an Indian summer load-line, a winter load-line, and a winter North Atlantic load-line. Even our Navigation Commission did not recommend the adoption of the winter load-line universally throughout the year. The means of ascertaining load-lines is so generally known that we in Australia recognise the load-lines marked on foreign vessels and those carried by the British ships. On this subject the Navigation Commission recommended that -
The present Imperial law re load-lines be adopted, but power be given to the Minister .to fix as (r) the season of the year; (2) the nature of the voyage ; (3) the nature of the cargo may demand when the ship may not be submerged below her winter mark.
The Commission examined a great number of the leading experts in Australia, and their evidence all went to show that those who recommended the winter load-line recommended it for seasons of the year only, and not for the whole year. The Victorian Engineer for Ports and Harbors gave evidence to that effect. Those who recommended a winter load-line for a certain season of the year only included Mr. J. G. McKie, secretary of the Marine Board of Victoria; Mr. Fisher, master-warden of the Hobart Marine Board ; Mr. Belfrage, secretary of the Seamen’s Union of Victoria - his evidence being that the adoption of the winter loadline for the whole of the year would create an unnecessary margin of safety - Mr. Inglis, harbormaster, shipwright, surveyor, examiner of masters and mates, inspector of crew space, immigration officer, loadline inspector, and detaining officer, Adelaide; Mr. Orr, chief shipwright, surveyor, and naval architect to the Department of Navigation, Sydney ; Captain Edie, superintendent of the Department of Navigation, Sydney ; Captain John McKay, portmaster, Queensland; and Mr. Allan Cameron, secretary of the New South Wales Seamen’s Union. The last-named gentleman was asked - question 24683-
You would advocate, then, a winter line during the winter months? and replied -
Yes, more particularly in regard to vessels loaded with coal.
There seems to be almost a universal consensus of opinion among our own experts in favour of the application of the winter load-line for portion of the year only. I therefore urge that, when strong exception is taken by the British Government to the proviso in this Bill, we should, hesitate before adopting it, particularly in view of the satisfactory compromise which was specially arranged, after lengthy negotiations, between the late Deakin Government and the Imperial authorities. There may be more or less justification for greater care as regards dead-weight. I believe the effect of dead-weight, such as pig-iron and ores, is to affect, and to some extent lower, the centre of gravity, and that the practice is to overcome this by the distribution of the dead-weight. Whatever may be said in support of the proposal as regards deadweight cargo, it is unreasonable to apply it to coal, which is set down by all the authorities as a homogeneous cargo. It is put on the same basis as cotton, wool, grain, timber, and the like, and the general experience of our shipping, together with the evidence of expert authority, goes to show that, while coal is subject to explosions of gas and features of that kind-
– I do not see any modern shipmasters amongst those quoted.
– I presume the honorable member is referring to the question of the load-line. Those I quoted in that regard were the expert witnesses who came before the Navigation Commission, and they were the best men available at the time. Some of them are men in whom, personally, I have the greatest confidence.
– None of them has been to sea for the last thirty years. It is a pity the Commission did not get opinions from masters of coalcarrying vessels. They would De able to give more expert information.
– I can deal only with the material before me. The evidence I have quoted was elicited by the Commission, whose special duty it was to take evidence on this all-important question.
The Commission included the present AttorneyGeneral, the honorable member for Darling Downs, Senator Guthrie, and a number of other gentlemen who had given very close attention to the subject of shipping, and who were anxious to do what was fair and just all round.
– They were a very good Commission, and did good work.
– I quite agree with the honorable member, and submit the evidence taken by them to honorable members for what it is worth. The third important objection taken by the British Board of Trade had regard to the cancellation or suspension of certificates. Clause 377 of this Bill, which was clause 369 of the former Bill, prohibits the recognition of an officer’s certificate which has been cancelled in Australia and returned by the Board of Trade under section 474 of the Imperial Act. The Board of Trade said that this was a limitation of a power expressly given by the Imperial Act, and could not be agreed to. After lengthy negotiations, a compromise was suggested by the Board of Trade that the clause should be confined to service upon ships registered in Australia or engaged in the coasting trade. Our Government promised to propose in Parliament an amendment to this effect, but no such amendment is included in the present Bill.
– Your Government did not get so far as that. There is no record of any amendment in that direction having been prepared.
– But we agreed to introduce it.
– I must ask the honorable member not to enter into a discussion of amendments.
– I am simply urging that, even at this last moment, the Minister should observe the compromises and arrangements made by the Deakin Government, particularly in regard to the three important objections raised by the British authorities. It is essential that this should be done, because, even after the passing of this Bill, we shall still be dependent upon many of the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act for our law. It is also important from an Empire standpoint that some degree of uniformity should be observed in the laws and regulations governing the Empire’s shipping. We should, therefore, be anxious to meet in every reasonable way the representations made by the Imperial Board of Trade. There is room for compromise in these matters, and that compromise has been achieved in the three cases which I have specially brought under notice this morning. This is such a vast subject that one could talk upon it for a considerable time, but I have endeavoured to confine myself to the most urgent features of the measure. Whilst we are all anxious to improve the lot of the seaman generally, we cannot ignore the fact that others have rights and vested interests which must, to some extent, be respected. At the same time, let me urge, before sitting down, that nothing which will have the effect of insuring absolute and complete safety on our ships, so far as human beings can insure it, should be omitted from the Bill, but that we should be careful to omit any excessive or unduly harassing provisions in order that we may be fair and just all round.
Debate (on motion by Mr. W. Elliot Johnson) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 12.55 to 2.15 p.m.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The object of this Bill is so to amend the principal Act as to enable us to utilize a few acres of park lands at Port Augusta in order that we may bring the railway station into this town. Arrangements for the taking over of the land have virtually been completed, but we have no power to hold or receive these lands in the absence of the passing of this Bill. The area in question is 25.8 acres, and we shall use at present only a very small portion of that area. By obtaining possession of this land, we shall also be enabled to utilize the South Australian railway station, and to harmonize our service with that of South Australia. We desire that this shall be a. through service, and I hope that honorable members will agree to the passing of the Bill.
– I should like to know whether the Minister has had any communication from the Government of Western Australia in regard to this matter. I understand, that it is the policy of the Commonwealth to co-operate in a friendly way with all the States through whose territory this railway will run. lt would be advisable, I think, to secure the friendly co-operation of the Government of Western Australia in respect of any grounds of the nature indicated in this Bill which the Commonwealth propose to acquire. There may be a good and sufficient reason why some of these lands should, if possible, be retained by the State.
– It might, for instance, be desired to carry the railway through Perth park.
– Or through some other valuable park lands. By arrangement with the State, it might be possible to secure the object the Government have in view with a minimum of interference with a public necessity. It is very desirable that we should have from’ the Minister an assurance that, in respect of all these lands to be acquired, nothing will be done without consulting the State of Western Australia, with a view of interfering as little as possible with the public necessities that are likely to be touched in connexion with this measure.
– Hear, hear
– I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether he has obtained the consent of the Government of South Australia to the introduction of a Bill to enable him to secure the land to which he has referred.
– Yes, everything is arranged.
.- I- would remind the Minister of Home Affairs that when the Lands Acquisition Bill was before this House a strong stand was taken up by representatives of South Australia and other States with respect to the acquisition of park lands. Representatives of South Australia pointed out that there were in that State park lands which, under the old law, were liable to acquisition and they urged that we should exempt from the Minister’s ordinary powers of acquisition the park lands. The lead thus given by the representatives of South Australia, who desired to jealously guard their park lands, was taken up by the representatives of other States, who were equally anxious to preserve State public parks, and open spaces, which are obviously for the good of the people.
– In .that case, we were dealing with a genera] principle, whereas in this we have a specific proposal.
– That is so ; but the form of the Bill is general, not specific. My recollection is that, in consequence of these representations, we altered the definition of “ land “ in the Lands Acquisition Act, so that it should read as follows - “ Land “ includes any estate or interest in land (legal or equitable), and any easement, right, power, or privilege over, in, or in connexion with land, and also includes Crown land, but does not include public parks vested in or under the control of municipal or local authorities and dedicated to or reserved for the recreation of the people, or such other lands dedicated to or reserved for the use and enjoyment of the people as have been specified by Proclamation.
I speak subject to correction, as this matter has been called on without notice to us. The object was to prevent a Minister while Parliament, for instance, was in recess, acquiring park lands in any particular case. Unfortunately, our Australian cities are not sufficiently endowed with park lands.
– This will not affect any city park in South Australia.
– It will affect the citizens of Port Augusta.
– But Port Augusta is not a city.
– The municipality of Port Augusta is very anxious to hand over this land.
– Quite so; but it must not be forgotten that we are legislating.
– This Bill deals with a specific case.
– But it will cover any case relating to the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway. The House ought to be careful in laying down a general principle in regard to the acquisition of land belonging to the people. The Bill is drafted in general terms. I have no desire to impose any obstacles in the way of the construction of this railway, but I ask the Minister to consider seriously the principle of inserting in a Bill a general power that will enable him to acquire public park lands.
– Trie park to which I have referred is, I think, the only one along the route of the proposed line, and the local municipality desires to give us the land.
– Then the municipality that has control of the land in question has officially informed the Minister that it raises no objection whatever to the taking of the particular piece of land.
– The people urge the acquisition of this land.
– How much land is being taken ?
– The area is 25 acres.
– When the plans and the route are known, and it becomes necessary to invade a public park, this House should, as a matter of general principle, be specifically advised, in the measure itself if possible, of the exact area required, so that the people may have a chance of having any protest they desire to make carried into effect. I assume that everything has been done properly in this case ; but land may be acquired against the wishes of the people, and when Parliament meets it will be too late to make any alteration. As a matter of fact, the whole business in connexion with the railway has been altogether irregular. This railway extends through two large States, and the House has never yet been asked officially to affirm the plans or the acquisition of the lands included. I hope in the future, if we are to have a railway policy, that that policy will not be on these lines.
– The citizens desire that the railway shall terminate at the old railway station.
– I do not know what the people desire; I take it that the Minister is guided by the advice of expert authorities.
– The expert went over there and fixed this matter up.
– And the people have agreed to the acquisition of the land?
– - I am not objecting to the acquisition of the land, but only calling attention to the question of procedure.
.- This Bill is not, I think, drafted in the way it should have been. We are all agreeable that land should be acquired for a certain purpose; but I do not see why, in a Bill of this kind, a general power should be taken covering anything and everything for ever from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie. This seems to be against the principle of the Lands Acquisition Act ; and the proper course would have been to specify exactly the land to be taken out of the park. Had that been done, we should not have been altering the Lands Acquisition Act except in the one particular. There may, and I hope there will be, other parks along this railway in the future ; and that suggests another objection to a general power of this kind- When a State Government requires land which forms part of a public reserve, the quantity of land required has to be specified in the Act, and described. We all desire to facilitate the work of constructing this line; but I think it would be more in accordance with the provisions of the Principal Act to have a specific reservation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Amendment of section 19).
.- Is the Minister not going to take into consideration the suggestions that have been made ? Does he realize that this Bill is destroying the provisions of the Principal Act, and enables him to acquire reserves and recreation grounds for all time, without coming to Parliament for approval? I cannot think that the Attorney-General regards the Bill as a proper one.
– The Government require only 25 acres for this purpose.
– Then why not say so in the Bill?
– We have to remember that Parliament might be out of session when land is required.
– Do the Government require any more than the 25 acres ?
– That is all we require at present, and the matter has been arranged with the South Australian people.
– But why not specify the lands required ?
– That might entail the calling of Parliament together should it not be in session when some land was required. In carrying on a business, a dictator is required; there must be one man to “run the circus.” At any rate, there are no public reserves along the route now. So far as the Western Australian Government are concerned, everything is virtually arranged, and the railway is to be taken right into the city of Kalgoorlie.
– Does the Minister propose to acquire any park lands in Western Australia ?
– I do not think that in Western Australia there are any park lands that we shall require.
– But some might be required some day.
– We shall probably all be in . Heaven then. Why make “two bites at a cherry”? Let us settle the question, so that we may go right on with the work.
.- The Minister says that a dictator is required; and I suppose he is one ; but a dictator ought to know his own mind. The “ dictator “ tells us that he requires only 25 acres, with no prospect of requiring any more; and, therefore, he takes power to acquire any land for all time. That is too much of a “ dictator” for me. There is much in what has been said by the honorable member for Swan. We are quite willing that this 25 acres should be acquired ; but there is no necessity to give the Minister of Home Affairs, or his successors, power to do anything they like in this regard for all time. The honorable gentleman says that when land is required the House may be out of session ; but, at any rate, he ought to be able to tell us, when he asks for a power of this kind, what is the land he requires, and whether he is likely to require any more in the future, and, therefore, we can take the chance of Parliament being out of session, lt is only out of session for half the year, and these things are not done at a moment’s notice. I submit that it is not scientific legislation to put a provision of this kind on the statute-book for really no purpose at all. We are quite willing to grant the land for the particular purpose indicated : it is a very small thing. If the Minister will say that that is all that he wants we will give it to him at once, but I do not think it is fair on his part to ask Parliament to give an unlimited power like this to any Minister either present or future.
– I hope that honorable members will not be under any misapprehension as to the meaning of this clause. If it is not flexible, it will be of no value.
– It is too expansive.
– It may be expansive, but the expansion permits the Minister who is in charge of this large work to get the land he requires for construction purposes only.
– But it authorizes the acquisition of park lands.
– That is tacitly by an agreement between the Governments concerned. The honorable member for Darling Downs has just made the point that, as far as the Minister can see at present, 25 acres will cover the whole ground. Suppose that the engineers or the constructing authorities should say that they have made an error, that they do not require 25 acres in one case and require 26 acres in another case, that the larger area is essential for the construction of the line, and that the Minister has no legal power to get the land he wants-
– Surely that applies to all public works in the Commonwealth. We have not that power.
– The honorable member knows that this is a necessary work, whose construction cannot be delayed without_ great loss to the Commonwealth.
– We are all agreed upon that.
– The assumption is that the power which is asked for will be used in a mischievous way.
– Not at all.
– It is too wide. So far as I know, no State Government is given this power over reserves and parks.
– The right honorable member knows that, generally speaking, where a railway has been constructed by a State the whole of the country traversed has been thoroughly surveyed and the requirements foreseen.
– Surely that ought to have been done here.
– The right honorable member further knows that in the case of a State railway there is only one authority controlling its construction, but in the case of this transcontinental railway there are three different authorities. We have two States dealing with the lands and making the concessions, and the Commonwealth constructing the line. I think, as the States have agreed to this proposal in its present flexible form, the House will be very unwise if it lays down a hard-and-fast rule which could only embarrass the Commonwealth, and would not help the States.
.- I think that the Prime Minister does not -correctly appreciate the position. We on this side are not objecting to the Minister taking over all necessary lands. On the contrary, we say that we are agreeable to him doing that. The House has laid down in the Lands Acquisition Act, the principle that park lands shall not be acquired except under a special process, the idea being to prevent an invasion of the people’s reserves. In this particular case, however, the Minister of Home Affairs is seeking to exempt this measure from the application of that general principle, and, instead of giving the people a chance to protest or to take any action in accordance with the provisions of the Act, he wants to treat park lands ‘the same as ordinary private lands: The only point we raise is that, inasmuch as the engineers have had two or three years in which to survey the route, they ought to know pretty well by this time the quantity of land which they want. We submit that when the Minister comes to invading public parks, it is not a question of compensation at all, because no sums of money will compensate a city or a town for the destruction of park lands. We are quite prepared to give the Minister the power of acquiring park lands, so far as may be necessary to meet the case and in accordance with the agreement. We hold that public lands ought not to be taken over until the Minister has been empowered by the House to take as much as may be necessary. But in this instance he is asking for unlimited power.
– This is a general power, and it appears to me to be quite a necessary one to take. As to the extent to which it is to be used, I quite agree with the honorable member for Mernda. But it certainly would be a most unfortunate thing, and make for unnecessary delay, if every time the Minister found that sufficient land for the ‘construction and maintenance of the line was not available, he should have to come down to Parliament and ask for power to take more land. This clause is the result of negotiations with the Government of South Australia, and before any further lands can be taken, there will, of course, be an opportunity given under their Statutes, so it is understood, to approve of what the Minister is asking for. He must have now enough land to start the work with, otherwise, under the principal Act, he cannot make a beginning. Considering the nature of the country and the whole circumstances of the case, no man can foresee how much land may be required. If oil-engines are used, the Minister may require less land for the purpose of a watershed, and so on, than he would if steam locomotives were used. Again, at a later period, perhaps the railway may become a busy artery of traffic, and the Minister may on that account require more land. Since, after all, there has been an endeavour to give effect to what honorable members on the other side affect to regard as a great principle - I mean consultation and agreement with the States in these matters - it is singularly unfortunate that the first result of an agreement with a State should give rise to this criticism-.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill, by leave, read a third time.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives approves of the distribution of the State of Victoria into electoral divisions as proposed by Messrs. R. C. Oldham, J. M. Reed, and J. Molloy, the Commissioners for the purpose of distributing the said State into divisions, in their report laid before Parliament on the 19th day of June, 1912, and that the names of the divisions suggested in the report and indicated on the map referred to therein be adopted, except that the name “ Henty “ be substituted for “ Caulfield.”
Owing to the large relative increase in the population of Queensland, it has become necessary, in order to give effect to the provisions of the Constitution, to redistribute the State of Victoria into electoral districts. The redistribution proposed is embodied in the report of the Commissioners now submitted, and I trust that it will be adopted.
.- There are associated with this proposal two outstanding features of great importance from a Victorian stand-point to which the Minister has not seen fit to refer. It is only right that some attention should be drawn to the changes in existing conditions involved in this redistribution scheme. In the first place, under this scheme Victoria loses one member of this House, her representation being reduced : from twenty-two to twenty-one members. That result is brought about under the operation of certain constitutional and statistical provisions. Since the time that result became apparent the population of the State has increased to such an extent that she would not have lost that member if the calculation had been made a little later, and even before the presentation of this report. It is only fair that attention should be directed to that fact. It is clear that the decrease in the population of Victoria, as compared with the proportionate increase in population in Queensland, has been merely temporary, and did not indicate any permanent decline or decadence. It appears, therefore, to be wise that the law under which this State has lost a member should be made more elastic, and the statistical calculations should be delayed until the latest period possible before Parliament is called upon to ratify a new scheme involving the less or gain of a member to any State. Victoria is entitled to consider it a grievance that she should lose a member as the result of a statistical calculation made eight or nine months ago, when if the calculation were made now she would not have to suffer that loss. We cannot in this matter complain of the action of the Government or of the Commissioners called upon to redistribute the State; but there is evidence of a grave defect in the law when such a state of affairs becomes possible. I remind honorable members that Victoria has not lost any electoral strength since the distribution in 1906. At that time this State had 616,426 electors, whereas in 1912 she has 727,601 electors. There is a very substantial gain in the number of our electors ; and it is in the circumstances a serious grievance and injustice to Victoria that, when her electoral strength has been increased, she should bedeprived of a member, merely because of an increase in a greater ratio of the population of another State. This indicates a defect in the constitutional quota provisions which ought to be rectified at theearliest suitable opportunity.
– I thought that the honorable member considered the Constitutionsacred. ‘
– Not in matters of machinery such as this. This is not a matter of principle. I may inform thehonorable. member that at the Federal Conventions I drew attention to the rigid character of the quota provisions of the Constitution. I complain in this matter of the rigidity of the constitutional provision and not of any administrative act. I fail to see why the number of members comprisingthe House of Representatives should be absolutely and for all time limited to doublethe number of the members of the Senate..
That is a constitutional provision which operates at the present time to deprive Victoria of a member, notwithstanding the fact that our population has increased, and merely because of the fact that the population of Queensland increased during a certain period at a greater ratio. I direct attention now to another and equally unsatisfactory feature of the electoral arrangements proposed in this new scheme of distribution. It would seem from the figures submitted in the report of the Commissioners that since the statistical results arrived at in 1906 were made known there has been an increase of population in the metropolitan divisions of this State to the number of 80,398. On the other hand, there has been a decrease in the population of the country, or extra-metropolitan divisions, of 5,082. This unfortunate tendency towards metropolitan centralization in Victoria has led the Commissioners to make an alteration in the electoral distribution of the State which seriously affects the representation of the country districts. Victoria’s loss of one member, gained by Queensland, has been, under this scheme, imposed upon the country districts of the State, and, in addition, they lose a second member by reason of the centralization of population an Melbourne. This is a very unsatisfactory feature of the scheme. However inevitable the gain of a member by Queensland may have been under the constitutional provision, it ought not to have been inevitable that the country districts of Victoria should lose a member to the metropolitan districts. Under this scheme ten members are allotted to the metropolitan districts and eleven to the country districts of the State. I find, on comparing the population of the metropolitan areas with that of the rural areas, that there is an excess of 27,797 electors in the latter. It is apparently in respect of that excess that the rural districts have been granted one more representative than the metropolitan areas. But it is the only consideration which the rural districts of Victoria have been granted in this scheme of redistribution. They have been granted one additional representative because of the excess there of 27,797 electors, the quota being 34,648. That quota is the starting point, and it is one of the principal factors which determined the results of the calculations of the Commissioners. But, although it is the starting point, it is by no means a rigid principle. The Commissioners have a discretion in the distribution and formation of electoral districts in that they may assign to a division voters to the extent of one-fifth above the’ quota, or’ onefifth below it. That principle of elasticity enables them to grant 5,000 or 6,000 extra voters to one class of district, and to assign 5,000 or 6,000 less voters to another class of district. They have, therefore, a big margin at their disposal.- It is true that the Act contains no mandate to the Commissioners as to how they shall exercise that discretion. But the discretion is there, and they are at liberty to exercise it as they may think fit. One would naturally expect that, in exercising that discretion, they would take into consideration the question of the density of population, or of its scattered distribution. It is obvious that in large areas such as the country districts of Victoria, where the people are not settled densely, the number of electors allotted to a constituency should be much below the quota instead of being above it. There is no principle in the Act which is more apparent than that. Country residents have not the same facilities for obtaining electoral knowledge, experience, and organization as have the voters in metropolitan areas. Nor are they so accessible to their parliamentary representatives. The latter have not the same opportunities for placing political information before them as have the representatives of city constituencies. The electors in the country have not the same chances of acquiring political ex- perience as have the residents of the metropolitan divisions. It seems a great wrong to inflict upon persons living in remote regions to demand that they shall have approximately the same quota as have the electors in the metropolitan areas. I propose to give a few figures to illustrate how this scheme will work out in the case of Victoria, which is one of the lesser States, territorially speaking. The total area of Victoria is 87,884 square miles. Under this scheme of distribution, the metropolitan divisions around Melbourne will embrace an area of only 340 square miles. Yet the residents of that area will have ten representatives in this Chamber, whilst the electors of 87,544 square miles will be entitled to only eleven representatives. I know it is sometimes urged that honorable members are supposed to represent people and not territory. But we must recollect that people are located on territory, and we must, therefore, consider the question of territory as well as the actual number of electors. The eleven members who will represent 87,544 square miles of country will experience greater difficulties in winning their seats, in getting into touch with the people, and in educating them in electoral matters, than will the representatives of metropolitan constituencies. The electors in that huge area will not have the same influence with their representatives as will the electors in metropolitan constituencies, where the people are in close touch with each other. We ought also to recollect the enormous difficulties which confront those candidates who desire to represent districts outside of the metropolitan areas. Consequently, any scheme of redistribution should place the voters in country electorates upon a par, as regards the quota, with the voters in more densely populated districts.
– The honorable member almost suggests an alteration of the Constitution.
– I do not think so. We have power to vary the quota in each division. There is no necessity for uniformity in the matter of the quota in town and country. That question is within the discretion of the Legislature, and is provided for in the Act,, which declares that the Commissioners shall have power to assign to any electoral division voters to the extent of either one-fifth above the quota or one-fifth below it. I know of no principle which ought to influence them in that connexion, except that of the’ territorial distribution of the people.
– They are only empowered to exercise that discretion “ whenever necessary.”
– It seems to me that the necessity to exercise it can arise only in the case of a contrast being presented between town and country. In this scheme of redistribution, not only have the Commissioners failed to grant any concession to rural, electorates by assigning to them voters to the extent of one-fifth below the quota, but they have actually allotted to some electoral strength in excess of the quota. I will illustrate that. The quota is 34.648. Take the electoral district of Ballarat.
– Surely the honorable member does not call Ballarat a country electorate?
– Certainly it is. The city of Ballarat is simply the centre of a very large country district occupying a space of 50 or 60 miles across. The electoral district of Bendigo is similarly situated. Bendigo itself is the centre, but around it is a large rural population added on to Bendigo proper to make up the electoral district. To Ballarat has been assigned an electoral population of 36,011. So that Ballarat’s electoral ^ population is above the quota. Moreover, the electoral strength of Ballarat is greater than that of several metropolitan electorates. Its electoral population of 36,011 is greater than that of Balaclava, with 32,385 ; than Batman, with 35,829 ; than Bourke, with 34,423; than Caulfield, with 32,537; than Fawkner, with’ 35,453 ; than Kooyong, with 34>335 > a”d than Maribyrnong, with 34,095.
– Every one of those constituencies is growing in population.
– It is not a matter of growth, but of dealing with existing populations. We are not here to indulge in predictions. Ballarat also is surrounded with a growing country population. So is Bendigo. There is certainly no decline of population in that district. To Bendigo has been assigned 34,957 electors. That also is above the quota.
– I think there are only two country electorates whose population is above the quota.
– The population of Corangamite is only thirty-six below the quota. The electoral population of Bendigo is not only, as I have said, above the quota, but is also above the electoral populations of Balaclava, Bourke, Caulfield,. Kooyong, and Maribyrnong. Take Corangamite. The electoral population assigned to that constituency is 34,612. That is very little below the quota ; but even on that standard the electoral population islarger than those of Balaclava. Bourke, Caulfield, Kooyong, and Maribyrnong. There, at all events, are three cases of country constituencies to which have beenassigned electoral populations larger than, those of metropolitan constituencies. It, therefore, seems to me that the country districts of Victoria have not only not received’ the consideration which they should havehad, but that the Commissioners have not exercised the elastic powers given to themby the Electoral Act. In addition to that, an injustice has been done in that they have been placed at a disadvantage compared with a considerable number of metropolitan areas. I” think that such anomaliesas these require to be explained. If the Commissioners had exercised their power, and had allowed a reduction of electoral’ populations of country electorates to the extent of one-fifth below the quota, they need not have sacrificed one of these Victorian country seats. They could have allowed one of them to remain, and could have permitted the loss to be suffered by the metropolitan areas around Melbourne.
– Then we should have a larger number of electorates in the country with a smaller population than in the towns.
– It is unfair that the electoral strength of the metropolitan area should exceed that of the country districts.
– Not if a greater number of people are living in the metropolitan area.
– We should consider, not only the people, but their distribution. We represent, not merely numbers of people, but people differently situated; and the Minister must admit, as a Democrat, that people living in scattered districts have not the same facilities for attending to political affairs as have people who live around Melbourne. Apart altogether from the trouble and burden imposed upon people living in scattered districts in the matter of going to vote, we have also to consider the convenience of the representatives of the people ; and it is quite unfair to compare the position of eleven members representing an area of 87,000 square miles with the position of ten members representing people located in 340 square miles.
– My electorate is bigger than the whole area of Victoria.
– That instance represents the injustice in an intensified form. The time has arrived when we ought to take into consideration whether there should not be placed upon the statutebook itself some discriminating provision, some principle of classification of districts. If the Commissioners will not make an allowance for country districts, and give a better representation to them than is done at present, Parliament itself ought to step in and embody a mandate in the Electoral Act requiring Commissioners to discriminate in favour of country or rural representation.
– I am afraid the honorable member knows that to be contrary to the spirit, if not to the actual letter, of the Constitution.
– There is nothing in the Constitution contrary to what I am advocating. Each State may be distributed according to the discretion of Parliament within certain limits. It is true that the quota provision is too rigid ; if it were not for the rigidity of the constitutional provision, Victoria would not lose the member which she is now losing.
– Is there no possibility of increasing the number of the House of Representatives ?
– The number roust be, as nearly as possible, twice the number of the members of the Senate. The Minister has furnished us with no explanation of this scheme. He has made no statement about it. He is simply leaving honorable members to grope their way through without his aid. I hope that this point as to the difference between country and metropolitan representation will be taken into consideration by honorable members on both sides of the House. Every one is interested in it. It is not a question that interests Victorians alone. The representatives of country districts all over Australia are concerned. lt is a great shame that there should be country divisions containing a larger number of electors than some of the divisions of Melbourne. This is an injustice and an anomaly, and I ask honorable members to assist us to remove it.
– I intend to raise what I consider a rather important point, and to do so I shall read first an extract from the Commonwealth Electoral Act, sections 19 and 20 -
The Commissioners shall forthwith, after the expiration of the thirty days above mentioned, forward to the Minister their report upon the distribution of the State into Divisions, and the number of electors residing in each proposed Division, as nearly as can be ascertained, together with a map signed by them showing the boundaries of each proposed Division.
The report and map shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament within seven days after its receipt if the Parliament is in session, and if not, then within seven days after the commencement of the next session.
I contend that the maps for the distribution under discussion have not been laid before Parliament. I cannot find in the Acts Interpretation Act an exact definition of Parliament. Section 21, subsection b, of that Act says -
References to localities, jurisdictions, and other matters and things shall be construed as references to such localities, jurisdictions, and other matters and things in and of the Commonwealth.
Parliament is referred to in section 17, subsection e, as meaning “ The Parliament of the Commonwealth.” I assert that the provision in the Electoral Act requiring that the maps shall be laid before Parliament means that the maps shall be laid upon the table of this House, Parliament being the place where members assemble for their deliberations. To expose the maps in the lobbies is not to lay them before Parliament.
– The maps now in the lobbies were laid before Parliament in the ordinary way ; that is, they were brought into this chamber, and laid on the table in the way papers are laid on the table, and were afterwards displayed in the lobbies.
– Do the records show that?
– I was present when the Minister of Home Affairs laid on the table the report on the distribution of the State of Queensland, and no map accompanied it. No map illustrating that report has yet been laid on the table. During a discussion like the present, maps showing the alterations proposed should be hung on the walls of the chamber, as was done when we were debating the Northern Territory agreement, and the construction of the railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta. I contend that the maps have not been laid before Parliament as required by the Electoral Act, and that the present proceedings are therefore irregular.
.- There is a great deal of force in the argument of the honorable member for Bendigo against the basis .of this distribution. The Commissioners have done their work conscientiously, but they have acted too much by rule of thumb. They have preserved, as far as possible, the boun-, daries of existing divisions, and, as far as possible, have allotted an equal number of electors to each division, but they have ignored other important instructions of the law. When our Electoral Bill was before the House, the disposition at first was to insist upon the strict equality of divisions in the matter of numbers, but as the discussion proceeded, and reference was made to the disparity of country and metropolitan electorates under the old State system, it began to be recognised that it would be fair and right to allow the Commissioners for distribution some discretion in allotting electors to city and country constituents. This discretion was given to them so that they might give expression to the spirit of the law in regard to territory as well as in regard to equality in numbers. The Act instructs the Commissioners to have regard to community and diversity of interests, means of communication, physical features, and the preservation of existing electoral boundaries, so far as that is possible, but in this instance the physical features of the country seem to have been left out of account. A constituency like Gippsland, which is difficult to travel through, many parts of it being almost inaccessible, is at a disadvantage compared with a city constituency, or a country constituency where the means of communication are ample, and it is within the discretion of Commissioners to have regard to a matter like this. In the present instance, however, it would seem that the distribution has been arrived at almost wholly by arithmetical calculation. Physical differences and disabilities have been ignored. As a country member, I know something of the difficulties that must be met in representing a country constituency, and my division is much easier to travel through than that of the honorable member for Gippsland. The discretion given to the Commissioners was to be used to draw a line of distinction between country and metropolitan electorates.
– Parliament expressly sanctioned such a distinction.
– Yes. The Act provided for flexibility in the allotment of numbers for that purpose. In that debate member after member referred to the necessity of discriminating between country and city constituencies, and finally, at the instance of the late Mr. McLean, who represented Gippsland, and understood the conditions of that difficult constituency, it was provided that the Commissioners, who were supposed to be independent arbiters in these matters, should if they thought fit have the power to discriminate in respect of numbers between town and country constituencies. That provision was inserted in the Bill, not as an ornament, but to be made use of ; and the Commissioners when appointed were supposed to be men competent, to realize the differences between different constituencies, to vary the numbers of electors in them, and to arrange the boundaries according to community of interests, and with due regard to the physical features of the country. I hold that in the scheme now before us something better could have been done as regards community of interests, and that sufficient consideration has not been given to the physical features of the country. In the western portion of Victoria, for instance, a very large proportion of purely wheatgrowing country has been associated with a district in the south where the physical features, the character of agriculture, and the climatic conditions are altogether different. In the eastern part of Victoria, boundary lines are run practically through the middle of mountain chains. In fact, the question of physical features, and the necessity of discriminating between constituencies in regard to numbers, as between metropolitan and country areas, have been altogether ignored by the Commissioners. I believe they took the matter in hand to the best of their ability, and endeavoured to put forward a scheme that would be acceptable to the House; but, probably, they made the allocation within their own offices, without travelling over the different districts, calculating the numbers, and making their divisions as nearly as possible according to the boundaries of State electorates or municipalities. If they had travelled throughout Victoria and observed the difficulties with which members have to contend in dealing with their constituents, they would have had a greater appreciation of the difficulties of country districts, and the need for differentiating between country and metropolitan areas.
– The SurveyorGeneral ought to know all that.
– He should; but even men with a knowledge of country districts would benefit by travelling throughout the State which they are asked to subdivide for electoral purposes. One of the curses under which. Victoria is suffering is centralization, and quite recently a strong movement has begun in country centres to bring about decentralization. Over 40 per cent, of the population of Victoria is within the metropolitan area, and there is no doubt that the greater attractions of the city are constantly drawing people from the country districts. This scheme of redistribution will, I contend, have the effect of intensifying that centralization which we believe is in the worst interests of Victoria. Greater community of interests could have been secured in country districts if the scheme had been based on an entirely different method. Some large country areas have been included in electorates that are almost on the borders of Melbourne. There is no community of interests between the country and city parts of those constituencies. Of the eleven country constituencies, four are over the quota, while of the ten city constituencies, five are over the quota so that in this scheme of re-distribution, we have an almost equal representation of voting value in country and metropolitan seats.
– Does the honorable member say that ‘is bad ?
– It is more difficult to represent 50,000 people in the country than 100,000 people in the city. A member representing a city constituency can probably hold all the meetings he requires for an election campaign in a week, and if there is any matter of dominating interest concerning his electors, they can be quickly organized, and the question brought before Parliament in a day or two. This would be absolutely impossible in a country constituency. When the Electoral Bill was first introduced, it was generally understood that, as the Constitution provided that each vote, whether town or country, should have the same value, and that the larger Federal constituencies would reflect a more national view than would the old State constituencies, the whole scheme should be on a population basis. After that had been discussed at great length, and the pressure of public opinion had been brought to bear on the House by country representatives from all parts of Australia, it was decided that it would be fair and equitable to allow country constituencies to have a smaller number of electors than town constituencies. This had been the practice in all the States of the Commonwealth, and particularly in New South Wales. In fact, I think it was the pressure of the New South Wales members that chiefly influenced the House to make the amendment.
– Was there any debate on that?
– There was a debate on the clause when the Bill was before the House. The honorable member for Grey took part in the debate, and will recollect what happened. During the debate in Committee on the Electoral Bill of 1902 the difficulties of country constituencies were pointed out by several honorable members, and an amendment was moved by Mr. Allan McLean, who then represented Gippsland, in favour of giving the Commissioners the power to discriminate on either side to the extent of one-fourth of the quota.
After further debate, partly at the instance of Mr. Watson, then Leader of the Labour party, it was decided that the discretionary power of the Commissioners should be reduced to the right to vary the numbers either one way or the other to the extent of one- fifth of the quota. The present Leader of the Opposition, who was in charge of the Bill, in suggesting a compromise, said, as reported in Hansard, vol. xi., p. 13,954- 1 have carefully followed the debate in the light of the additional information which I have been able to obtain from the electoral officer. That information shows that under the New South Wales law a considerable latitude is allowed to the Commissioners. The exercise of that latitude to such an extent has been approved by Parliament, so that in looking at the list of constituencies, and the number of electors which they contain, I find that in the remoter country districts 9,000 voters have returned a Federal member, whilst the more popu ous districts, such as Newcastle, consist of 15,000 electors. One electorate in Sydney contained 16,000 voters. These facts show that under the New South Wales Act the margin allowed to the Commissioners has been employed under language closely resembling that which is employed in this Bill. Our whole experience in regard to this matter, as honorable members are aware, is derived from New South Wales, and the clauses in this Bill are supposed to be modelled upon the law in that State. But owing to their division, and the manner in which they are put, it is possible that there may be a difference in interpretation. As a compromise, I suggest that we should convert these two clauses into one, so as to approach more closely the exact language employed in the New South Wales Act. The language of that Act is - “ In making any such distribution due consideration shall be given to the then existing boundaries of electoral districts, the community or diversity of interests, lines of communication and physical features, and the Commissioners in assigning any such electoral districts shall be entitled to adopt a margin of allowance to be used wherever necessary by way of addition to or deduction from the number of persons enrolled in such district.”
I suggest to the Committee that as we are adopting the New South Wales model we should adhere to it still more closely. I think that we might make the clause read as follows : -
The Commissioner in making any distribution of States into divisions shall give due consideration to -
And subject thereto the quota of electors shall be the basis for the distribution, and the Commissioner may adopt a margin of allowance to be used whenever necessary ; but in no case shall such quota be departed from to a greater extent than one-fourth more or onefourth less.
Then Mr. McLean interjected -
That does not go as far as I wish, but I am willing to accept it as a compromise.
He accordingly withdrew his amendment, in which it was proposed that a margin of allowance to the extent of one-fourth more or one-fourth less of the quota should be allowed, and a one-fifth margin was agreed to. It was impossible to instruct the Commissioners, if they were to have power to carry out their work in accordance with this provision, to make any arbitrary discrimination between town and country constituencies ; but they were given definite directions by the Act itself to observe certain specific principles. Why was it directed that discretionary power should be vested in them if the Parliament did not realize, when passing the principal Act, that it was necessary that the difference between the means of communication and physical features of town and country electorates should be taken into consideration ? My complaint is that in this case the Commissioners have partly ignored the physical features of the country, the proper observance of which must have carried with it a discrimination, as far as numbers were concerned, between town and country constituencies. As the representative of a country constituency, I have no personal complaint to make. Situated as my constituency is, in the north-western corner of Victoria, it was hardly possible that it would be largely interfered with. Under this scheme a piece has been taken off one part of my electorate, and two other parts have been added. The piece excised from my electorate, and which has been added to the electorate of Wannon, is similar in character to the areas which have been added, so that I have no complaint to make respecting the redistribution of my own constituency.
– And is the class of voters the same?
– Yes. In neither respect have I room for complaint. I am supposed, however, to represent a section of the important country interests, and, speaking in that capacity, I complain that this scheme of redistribution does not observe the direct instructions given under the Act to the Commissioners, nor does it comply with the spirit of the Act. It will also have the effect of seriously intensifying the evil of centralization now going on in Victoria to the detriment of the development of country interests. Although this may be a National Parliament, it’eannot be oblivious to the importance of developing the rural interests of the continent. We are the custodians of the cardinal interests of Australia,’ sectionally as well as corporately, and it is our duty, in carrying out a work of this character, to see, not only that community of interest is preserved, but that encouragement is given as far as possible to the development of those diversitied country interests without which we cannot regard ourselves as a progressive people. I am sure that if such a scheme of redistribution as that now before us had been introduced in the State Parliament it would have been incontinently rejected. 1 presume that this almost equal representation of town and country has been adopted by the Commissioners largely because of the much greater growth of population in the metropolitan centres as compared with the country.
– It is a very serious business ; three country constituencies in Victoria, and two in New South Wales, have been wiped out.
– It is a serious business; and all I am saying applies to New South Wales as well as to Victoria. The greater the area, the greater the injustice that will be done under this system. Possibly the Commissioners, in view of the larger growth of population in the cities, deemed it necessary to make the numbers as nearly equal as possible, in view of the greater disparity that would be shown if that growth continued for a year or two. But whatever influenced the Commissioners, this system of redistribution can only have the effect of intensifying the growth of the population in the cities. I hope that greater attention will be shown to country interests, in order that” the population may be encouraged to increase more rapidly than in the past. In my own constituency, during the last two years, the number of electors has increased 4,000 or 5,000 above the quota ; and in the electorate of Echuca, where there are schemes of irrigation and subdivision for closer settlement, I believe the increase will be greater than generally anticipated. I hope the Commissioners are mistaken if they anticipate that the relatively higher increase of population in the cities will continue during the next few years.
– The Commissioners are not entitled to anticipate j they have to be guided by the existing rolls.
-It is possible that they may have had such an anticipation, and that they took it into consideration. It is certainly very disappointing to country representatives to find that, in spite of the endeavours made in the building of railways at the different parts, and in the establishment of freezing works-
-I think the honorable member is going beyond the ques tion before the House.
– I merely wish, by way of illustration, to show the disappointment that is felt in this State that, in spite of the efforts that public - spir.ted country residents are making to stem the tide of centralization, they find that a system which aids its flow is to he intensified. I am sorry that it is necessary, after the Commissioners have done their best, no doubt, to have to protest against this reduction in the representation. From the point of view of distances, and in every other respect, it is undoubtedly much more difficult to represent a country constituency than it is to represent a city constituency with twice the number of electors. The State is divided into constituencies with the express idea of having the varied interests, as ‘ well as the men and women, of the community represented in this Parliament; and the present scheme of redistribution quite loses sight of that fact. I regret that the main principles, on which the redistribution is supposed to have been founded have been largely set aside - that the express instructions laid down in the Act for the guidance of the Commissioners have been ignored, and the redistribution made a mere question of addition and subdivision.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fenton) adjourned.
Mr. SPEAKER announced the receipt of a message from . the Governor-General recommending an appropriation for the purposes of this Bill.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
The first business on Tuesday will be the further consideration of the electoral redistribution scheme for Victoria.
– Is it intended to proceed with the consideration of the redistribution schemes until they have been disposed of?
– I understand that that is the intention of the Prime Minister.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.55 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 July 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19120719_reps_4_64/>.