4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Deputy-Governor: Savings Bank
– I wish to know from thePrime Minister if the Deputy Governor of the Commonwealth Bank has yet been appointed ?
– Mr. James Kell, an inspector of the Bank of Australasia, has been made Deputy Governor.
– At what salary?
– At the salary mentioned in the advertisements which were published for over a month, asking for applications, namely, , £1,500 a year. The appointment is for seven years, the term fixed by the Act. It is proposed to allow travelling expenses at the rate of 25s. per diem.
– In view of the fact that in many towns in New South Wales, and, I presume, throughout Australia, expensive sites are being purchased and expensive buildings erected for banks, and two, and, in some cases, three sets of officials are required to do the work done by one set of officials before, I wish to ask the Prime Minister if something could not be done by means of a Conference with the State Governments to bring about an amalgamation of Savings Banks, or something of that sort?
– I did meet the Premiers in Conference, and put a proposal before them. That proposal was of such a nature that I believe the Commonwealth would have been placed at a disadvantage by it. The Premiers declined to accept it, but the Government are still ready and willing to confer with them on any matter that will promote the interests of the people generally and conserve the interests of the
States. We are not responsible for the actions of the State Governments in the matter referred- to by the honorable member. We did not encourage them to take them.
– You declined to give them any part in the government of the bank.
– That statement -is not correct.
– Following on the question asked by the honorable member for EdenMonaro about the State and Commonwealth authorities co-operating, as we both’ represent the same body of electors, will the Prime Minister again hold out the olive branch to the States?
– Yes, and they know it.
-I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether, if he intends to extend the olive branch to the States in connexion with the Savings Banks, as suggested by the honorable member for Maranoa, he is prepared to give to the States a part in the management of the Commonwealth Savings Bank?
– The proposal laid before the Premiers in Conference gave them as large a share in the management of the Savings Bank as we had ourselves. We do not propose to offer them any, more. This Parliament has control of legislation on the subject.
– In view of the sentiments which have been expressed by the Prime Minister, will he submit a direct proposal to the State Premiers, and try to. prevent this duplication? Will he take the initiative and lay a proposal before the State Premiers again so that the people may know who are to blame /or the duplication?
– Not a word of reflection on the States has been uttered by me. On every occasion I have suggested that the offer put before the State Premiers was the best that could possibly be made. Indeed, I am not sure that it was not largely the excess of what we could reasonably be -expected to make to them. But the offer was rejected in a_ contentious manner. Therefore, I have said publicly, as I have also said privately, that we are not responsible for the duplication. I publicly stated in Sydney the other day that I hoped that before too great expenditure was incurred by the States good sense and good’ feeling would prevail, and that soon one bank would do the business of Commonwealth and States.
– I also should like to ask the Prime Minister a question with reference to the Savings Bank matter. Is it not a fact that, whilst the right honorable member did offer the States a voice in the management, he declined to allow them to have a part in the final decisions? That is to say, he insisted that the Governor of the bank, and the Governor alone, should finally decide all matters connected with the bank.
– The policy of the Commonwealth, laid down in the Act passed by this Parliament, is that the Governor of the Bank is to manage the institution. I proposed that periodical conferences should take place between the Governor of the Bank, representatives of the Commonwealth, and representatives of the States; and that the Governor should have a voice equal to the whole of them, and a casting vote, so as to carry out the law as established by Parliament. The intention was that both Governments should be amply acquainted with everything that was going on.
– How could they have half the management under those circumstances ?
– They would have had as much as the Commonwealth Government had, but they wanted more.
– Is it not a fact that the Prime Minister offered to leave undisturbed the present Savings Bank business of the States, and to give them 75 per cent, of the new business and a call on the remaining 25 per cent. ?
– The first call on 75 per cent, of the money available for investment.
– Futhermore, did he not offer them the free use of post-offices, - and of Commonwealth officials to carry out the banking system?
– We did not go as’ far as .that. Practically, what the honorable member ‘has suggested is a fact. That is to say, we offered the States a share of the business in proportion to the amount they put in as capital, and they were to be responsible for any loss to the same extent. In other words, the Commonwealth would not gain at their expense, nor would they gain at ours.
– The Savings Bank bust ness would be conducted in the post-offices free of charge?
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister when it is intended to issue the Australian notes that are now being prepared ?
– The Australian notes will be issued and paid every day, the new issue being conducted in the same manner as the old issue.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister whether it is the intention of the Government to grant a sum of money to the widows and orphans of the Mount Lyell disaster?
– The Government propose to recommend a grant of , £2,500 to the fund for the relief of the sufferers by that unfortunate accident.
Naval Construction - Naval Policy
– I wish to know from the Honorary Minister representing the Minister of Defence if he has read the statement appearing in this morning’s Age, reported to have been made by Mr. H. W. E. Manisty, an important officer of the Defence Department, that “ the first obstacle” - I presume to the efficiency of the Naval Branch - “ of the Home Affairs Department, would soon be removed from their path.” Can the Honorary Minister shed any light on that statement? Can he tell us how the Home Affairs Department is an obstacle in the path of the Naval Branch of the Defence Department?
– I do not know what was in the mind of the officer referred to, but the newspaper report has been brought under the notice of the Minister, and, no doubt, he will be able to make a statement on the subject.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister whether the opinion expressed by the Minister of Defence yesterday, as to the necessity for the Australian Navy immediately co-operating with the British Navy in time of war, is the opinion of the Government?
– From what publication is the honorable member quoting?
– I base my question on a speech reported in the Argus and in the Age. If that is the opinion of the Government, how is it proposed, should
Parliament not be sitting, to get over that provision of the Naval Defence Act which requires Parliament to be called together?
– I have not seen the reports of the speech of my honorable colleague, but the policy of this Government from the first, and of a previous Government of which I had the honour to be chief, was that, although we took part in the delimitation of Australian waters that would not so affect any action that we might take as to prevent full co-operation. It was not our intention that our vessels should go only so far as certain boundaries, which were not to be crossed or fired over. On the contrary, we hold that we should cooperate in the defence of this part of the Empire and of the Empire generally.
– The portion of the speech of the Minister of Defence to which I referred just now, and to which the Prime Minister did not direct his attention, is as follows - “ With the other Dominions we must fight side by side the moment the warning is given.” How does the Prime Minister propose to do that if Parliament should not be sitting, seeing that Parliament has to be consulted?
– 1 can relieve the honorable member’s mind on that point, if I am in office.
– Has the attention of the Minister of Trade and Customs been called to the following cablegram, which appeared in yesterday’s Melbourne H erald -
London, Sunday night. - The conveyance of foot and mouth disease to Kildare is officially attributed to the straw packing of French wines and groceries sent to the Curragh camp. The straw was subsequently used as litter for pigs.
I asked the honorable gentleman a question on the subject some time ago, and I wish to know now whether he will take steps to prevent the introduction of this disease into Australia in the manner spoken of in the cablegram ?
– I had not seen the cablegram referred to, but, speaking from memory, it was determined, about the time that the honorable member last asked a question on the subject, that, to prevent the introduction of disease into Australia, straw-packing should, where possible, be destroyed. I shall look into the matter again, and shall do my best to have such steps taken as will protect Australia from the disease mentioned.
Sleepers - Personal Explanation
– I wish to know from the Minister of Home Affairs if it is a fact, as stated by the honorable member for Fremantle, that his Department, knowing that it has to deal with an inferior timber, has increased the length of the sleeper to be used on the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway to 9 feet, and is the honorable member’s statement that on the best line in the world, that between Adelaide and Melbourne, an 8-ft. 6-in. sleeper is used, correct?
– The honorable member having informed me of his intention to ask these questions, I am in a position to give him the following replies -
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs state what he is paying for unpowellised karri sleepers delivered at Port Augusta?
– We are not going to have any unpowellised karri sleepers. The Western Australian Government would not allow us to take any unless powellised.
– What price are the Government paying for powellised karri sleepers delivered at Port Augusta?
– I hope, in a very few days, to lay particulars of the whole matter on the table of the House.
– I wish to make a personal explanation regarding the following paragraph that appeared in the Age of 19th October -
During the Budget speech the Premier, Mr. Scaddan, said Mr. Hedges had represented himself as a disinterested party on the karri and jarrah question, but he found that a lease of 5,450 acres in a belt of the jarrah country had been transferred to Mr. Hedges in April, 1910, for £2,500.
I have never held a lease in timber country at all. In 1910, I purchased land for a company on the gold-fields of Western Australia, in which I have shares. I wired to the secretary of the company for particulars, as follows -
Kindly reply stating on what date I, as managing director of company,’ purchased the block of land in Murray for company. When did company complete purchase by paying me? Where are the deeds?
The reply was as follows -
You, as managing director of this company, on March the fifteenth, nineteen hundred and ten, purchased Murray location five two eight, and we on same date paid deposit five hundred pounds and totally completed purchase of this land August nineteen hundred and ten. We hold the deeds.
This block of land is first class soil, and is situated 450 miles from where the company operates, and the company are forbidden by their articles of association to deal in jarrah in any form.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether it is a fact that the Western Australian Government, which is to supply karri sleepers to the Commonwealth, has not yet a mill for the cutting of sleepers? If so, what binding understanding is there with the Western Australian Government for the due and immediate supply of the karri sleepers which they have undertaken to provide ?
– The Western Australian Government are putting up mills as fast as possible, and they have agreed to meet us in every possible way. There will be no delay. She will move right on.
– On the 8th inst., the honorable member for Illawarra asked the following questions -
Is it a fact that the effect so far of the bonus on wool tops, amounting to over £30,000 of public money, has been threefold, viz. : -
The replies are as follow : -
No. 2.(a) No.
– Can the Minister of Trade and Customs state whether the 300 males employed by. Messrs. Hughes are engaged solely in the production of wool tops?
– I understand that the firm are compelled to buy the skins and treat them. Unless they buy the skins themselves other people refuse to treat them for them. The men are employed in the production of the wool for making into wool tops, and I understand that the numbers I have given are correct.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs under what conditions the bounty on flax is granted, and why some of those who are growing flax are not receiving the bounty due to them?
– I cannot say, off-hand, what the conditions are ; but if the honorable member will give notice of a question for to-morrow, I will have the matter insquired into, and will give him a full answer.
Remarks by Chief Justice.
– Has the Attorney-
General seen the remarks of the Chief Justice to the effect that we are no longer governed by any sense of fair play, but by technicalities and quibbles? Seeing that the Chief Justice desires to be informed of the fact if he is possibly wrong, is it the intention of the Attorney-General to inform him in what way he is wrong?
Was Mr. Justice Isaacs wrong, and not governed by a sense of fair play in view of the fact that he disagreed with the Chief Justice?
– I have read the report of the Chief Justice’s remarks, delivering the judgment of the majority of the Court, and have noticed the references to which the honorable member has drawn attention. I most strongly resent them, and regard them as a gratuitous and deliberate insult.
– I rise to order. Is the Minister in order in reflecting upon the Judiciary without a special motion?
– The honorable member so far as he had gone was not out of order.
– The remarks of the Chief Justice are not warranted by the facts. It is not true that the Crown resorted to technical points. It is quite untrue. The Crown stood upon its rights and was moved in this matter, as I assume it always has been, by a regard for the welfare of the people and the enforcement of the law as it stood. I regret very much that the Judiciary in this case has thought fit to depart from that admirable and salutary principle
– Order ! The honorable member is now going beyond the reply to a question.
– I think it is moat unfortunate that imputations as to the motives of the Crown should be indulged in, and I resent them most deeply.
– As Mr. Justice Isaacs disagreed with Chief Justice Griffith, I wish to ask the Attorney- General if that gentleman was animated by an absence of fair play, and did he give a judgment based upon technicalities and. quibbles?
– Certainly not. I am at a loss to understand why the Chief Justice should have said what he did. All I can say is that there is no justification for such remarks. The Crown in this particular instance exhibited the same regard for fair play that it is presumed that the Executive authority always will exhibit. The whole thing is gratuitous and uncalled for.
– Without in the slightest degree expressing an opinion as to the merits of the particular question which has been raised, I should like to ask the AttorneyGeneral whether it is not the general rule that, when a complaint is made in relation to observations from the Judiciary, it is made by the Law Department, if that be the Department affected ; and whether it is not contrary to all usage to have the matter aired in Parliament?
– We will air it here all right.
– I should also like to ask the Attorney-General, on that point, whether he is aware that, when an attempt was made recently in England, in connexion with an expression of an opinion by Mr. Justice Grantham concerning an election petition, to air the matter in the House of Commons, that course was strongly resented on the ground that it was a breach of ordinary usage?
– I am not disposed, nor am I called upon, to express an opinion as to what has been the practice. I am merely called upon to deal with circumstances as they arise. But I venture to say, as my honorable friend has recalled the case of Mr. Justice Grantham, that that was not a case in which the Judiciary expressed in clear and. unambiguous terms its contempt for the Crown.
– I wish to ask the AttorneyGeneral a question with reference to a general statement made by him in the House on the 2nd October, to the effect that the crews of foreigngoing vessels are paid from £3 10s. to £4 per month at most, which works out at less than 6d. per hour, whereas, under an award now current, Australian stevedores are paid1s. 6d. per hour. Is he aware that the oversea mail companies, and some other lines, pay, in addition to their ordinary rates, to their crews when they are working cargo, the full local rates of wages ; and, if he is aware of that, will he inform us what type of ships and what companies are acting as alleged in his statement in the House ?
– The honorable member for Wentworth was not here on Friday, when I took the opportunity of putting myself right in respect to the matter which he has mentioned. It is quite true, as I explained on Friday, that the mail companies - as far as I know, all of them - pay the full rates for shore labour, whatever they are, on those rare occasions when their crews work at unloading cargo. I made that explanation on Friday, and again make it with pleasure,
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Defence Act - Regulations Amended (Provisional) -
Universal Training - StatutoryRules1912, Nos. 200, 203, 205.
Military Forces - Financial and AllowanceRegulations - Statutory Rules 1912, Nos- 199, 201, 202, 204.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1912, Nos. 168, . 169, 173. (Provisional), 186 (Provisional), 187,188 (Provisional), 189.
Public Service Act - Department of HomeAffairs - Appointment of J. Orwin to new position of Works Inspector, Class D, Professional Division, Public Works Branchy New South Wales.
Allowance and Official Post Offices
– I have received an intimation from the honorable member . for Richmond that he desires to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The action of the PostmasterGeneral in increasing the minimum of revenue required for raising allowance postoffices to official status from£200 to £300, which action is detrimental to the best interests of the public and officers of the. Public Service.”
Five honorable members having risen in theirplaces,
.- I make no apology whatever for bringing this matter up in this particular way. It so happens that the Postmaster-General, through sickness, has been absent whenever the Estimates or Supply Bills have been under consideration; and on the last occasion, when he was present, the Government took the opportunity to prevent us from discussing any grievances whatever. The position is that the Government, through the Postmaster-General, made a definite statement of policy to the House, and I shall be able to show from Hansard that he distinctly promised that, when the revenue of allowance offices reached”. £200 a year, those offices, there and then,.. would be made official offices - not semiofficial offices, but official offices.
– That was the late PostmasterGeneral.
– Yes, the late PostmasterGeneral, or, perhaps, I ought to say the recent Postmaster- General, who is the present Minister of External Affairs. Or- the 14th August, I put a question to the present Postmaster-General, which, in his absence, was answered by the present Minister of External Affairs. I asked whether the Postmaster- General had made the definite promise to the House that I have stated, and the reply was that he had. I then asked if there had been any departure from that policy, and the reply was in the affirmative. When I asked, further, what was the reason for the departure from the policy as laid down, the. answer he gave me was that £200 per annum, including £30 per annum for telegrams, was too low a minimum, as the work involved would not occupy the full time of a permanent official, and the expenditure, therefore, was not’ warranted. The question of expense was one that came up when the Postmaster-General made the statement of policy to which I have alluded ; and this brings me to the reason why the present Government have decided on the change. Under the old regulations a semi-official office was created when the revenue reached ^200.
– It may have been.
– That was the recognised limit at which a semi-official office was created.
– That is not so; it may have been done at that particular stage.
– The Postmaster- General stated then that, in his opinion, when a semi-official office was created - and it was recognised that ^200 was a fair limit - it occupied the time of one official for practically the whole of the day, and therefore, the person in charge of a semiofficial office should receive ;£no a year. On the 18th November, 1910, the present Minister of External Affairs, as reported in Hansard volume LIX., page 6409, said -
It is intended to increase the remuneration of those in charge of semi-official post-offices to £110 a year, because it is thought that persons employed in the service of the Department for eight hours a day, and over twenty-one years of age, should receive at least that amount. Permanent employes of the Department could, however, be employed at very little more, because the minimum salary for positions of the kind is £114, and we think it would be well to substitute permanent officials in most -cases.
That puts the whole question in a nutshell, so far as the expense is concerned. The then Postmaster-General acknowledged that it was fair, when the time of one person was practically engaged for the whole of the day - and it really means the whole day in the case of an office with a revenue of £200 a year - that the Department should pay a living wage of £110. The honorable gentleman pointed out that it would only require £4. a year more to employ a permanent official, so that the extra expense was very little.
– What is the extra facility?
– The extra facility afforded by an official office, as compared with an allowance office, is very great.
– In some cases it is the other way about !
– The extra facility is very great, and the improvement in status is desirable for many reasons. Any one who knows the conditions under which country allowance offices are carried on will realize that the business cannot be transacted with any degree of secrecy; and the people strongly object to having their affairs practically made public. When there is an official office, the people know that the business is transacted with a fair amount of secrecy, and that the local storekeeper, or whoever may be placed in charge of an allowance office, is not made aware of their affairs. This is, as I say, an important matter for people resident in the country districts, and affords one of the chief reasons why they are always anxious to have official offices. Although the then Postmaster-General, on the 18th November, 19 10, said that the extra expense involved would be very small, we find that two years afterwards the Government turn round and make the expense a ground for going back on the promise made to this House and the country. That was not a decision hastily arrived at. It was come to deliberately, after a good deal of consideration, and in order to meet complaints brought under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral from time to time. 1 find at page 5635 of Hansard for 1910, when the Postal Rates Bill was under discussion on the 3rd November, and members had been suggesting that the introduction of penny postage would probably lead to reduced facilities in the country districts, the then Postmaster-General said -
I have recently been investigating the position of semi-official offices, but have not yet had sufficient time to come to any determination regarding them. It is an open question whether it would not pay to make many of them official offices, but that point cannot be decided yet. When the revenue of an official post-office falls below £400 it becomes a semi-official post-office;
On the 8th November, the honorable member for Darling complained about the same matter, and said -
These allowance offices, as their business increases, gradually become semi-official, or contract offices. I have been, and am still, opposed to the contract post-office system, for it certainly is a system of sweating. In some cases the man in charge of a contract office receives £150 per annum, in return for which he has to provide a suitable building for postal business and pay a telegraph messenger, whilst, possibly, he must also be a telegraphist. The contract offices stand in a different position altogether from the official post-offices in large towns, for, unless a special report is obtained in regard to them, Parliament does not know the true position. The system is not a good one.
At this stage the Postmaster-General interjected -
It is probable that, to a very great extent, it will shortly be swept away.
That is to say, the system of semi-official offices was to be swept away.
– And that promise is being kept, because we are not establishing any additional semi-official offices.
– That is so, and that, is one of my complaints. The honorable gentleman will not make the contract offices either semi-official or official, but is carrying them on as allowance offices, until the revenue reaches ^300 a year. On the 9th November, 19 10, when the honorable member for Barker was speaking, the then Postmaster-General again interjected -
Before Parliament meets again, the semiofficial office will have practically disappeared.
The honorable gentleman, had evidently been making up his mind, and on the 18th November he made his decision known to the House. In answering a question put by the honorable member for Grey, he said -
Those in charge of allowance offices are paid according to the work done, and are not called upon to devote the whole of their time to the service of the Department. In the semi-official offices, those in charge, however much or little work there may be to do, must devote eight hours a day to attending to the offices.
– They are paid fixed salaries.
– Yes ; but they have not been getting as much as £110 a year.
He then dealt with the semi-official postoffices, and said that he did not intend to dispense with them and those in charge of them, but that the new regulation would apply only to new offices that came up to the ^200 limit. He explained that he did not intend to take advantage of the position that would be created owing to the decrease in revenue on the establishment of the penny postage. He said -
The revenue of an allowance office is sometimes only £15 a year. An office becomes semiofficial only when its revenue reaches £200 a year. I do not intend to ask those at present in charge c-f semi-official offices to leave, as that would be a hardship; but in the future all appointments to such offices will be from the permanent staff, and the offices will become official. Of course, I shall have to consult the Public Service Commissioner to see how the change cam be arranged.
The honorable member for Cowper asked the question -
Does the Postmaster-General intend to fix’, official offices at_ a minimum revenue of £200 a. year, and a Morse instrument?
The then Postmaster-General replied -
I cannot say what will be done with regard to the Morse instrument, but official post-offices, will in future start at a revenue of £200 instead of £400.
There is a definite and straightforward” statement of Ministerial policy, decided upon after due deliberation, and taking the whole of the circumstances into consideration. We had at that time from the PostmasterGeneral a definite assurance that once an office reached a revenue of ,£200 it would, by virtue of that fact, become art official office; and be placed in charge of a-, permanent officer.
– It is only fair to say that-, the present Minister of External Affairs did not reverse that policy.
– I shall deal with thereversal of the policy in a moment. I say that such a promise having been made tothis House and the country it should be - kept.
– In addition to that promise, a number of official letters were sent to honorable members.
– That is so. I have letters showing that the Department started to act upon that promise, and one office was established in my electorate on the strength of the promise. There were three other places in my electorate - Nimbin, Wardell, and Torrington - where the authorities were written to by the Department, and informed that once their offices - reached a revenue of ^200 a year, they would be given official offices. When a member of the Government has made a definite promise of this sort, and his Department have acted upon it, it should certainly be kept. That is all I am asking - for. I suppose that Ministers have a right to reverse their policy, but that should be - done only after a formal announcement on the floor of the House. If the Government have determined to go back upon the policy which they announced to this House through the responsible Minister of the Department, surely we are entitled to be informed of the fact, and of the reasons which have actuated their decision. But, instead of that, what do we get? Merely a letter from the Department couched in these terms - Sir,
Referring to my letter of the 10th ultimo, relative to the question of raising Nimbin office to official status, I have to intimate that, as the revenue from this office is less than £300 per annum, it has been decided to continue the conduct of the office under allowance conditions.
I think that that is adding insult to injury. Not only have the Government gone back on the promise given to this House that postoffices would be granted an official status when the revenue from them reached .£200 a year, but they now propose to deprive certain offices even of their semi-official status, which, at least, guarantees to the public greater facilities than they can hope to enjoy under allowance conditions. The reason advanced for the change is alleged to be that of expense. But if, when twopenny postage was in operation, it was a proper thing to say that an office should be granted a semi-official status when the revenue from it reached ^200 per annum, surely it is only fair that, under penny postage conditions, the person in charge of a semi-official office returning that amount of revenue should receive a grant of ^110 per annum ! I am quite sure that when a post-office is earning £200 per annum, the work of conducting it practically occupies the whole of the time of the person who is in charge of it. He has to issue a stamp here, and to receive a penny for a telephone call there, so that his time is exclusively taken up in official work. I contend that we are not paying a fair salary to the persons who are charged with the management of post-offices which are returning anything like ^200 revenue per annum. I have stated my case as clearly and as briefly as possible.
– But the honorable member has not proved that there has been any public inconvenience as the result of the change.
– I have.
– The honorable member has mentioned only one specific case in which he affirms that an alteration should be made.
– I do not understand the Postmaster-General.
– The honorable member has not proved that public inconvenience has resulted from the alteration.
– I say that public inconvenience has resulted from it. It is a great convenience to country residents to have an official office established in their midst, because they desire to conduct their business with reasonable secrecy. They do not like the local storekeeper to know all their business. That is a point which weighs with them more than does anything else. Any honorable member who is familiar with the conditions which obtain in the country is aware of that. People object to going to an allowance or semi-official office which is run by the local storekeeper, and practically telling him all ‘ the business which they are transacting. All I ask is that the promise which was made to this House shall be observed, at any rate, in regard to those post-offices as to which the ‘ Department gave that promise. If the Government see fit to alter their policy in regard to other offices, we cannot complain so long as they tell us what they are doing. But the promise which was deliberately made on the floor of this House, and which was subsequently passed on by the Department to various places should at least be honoured.
.- I trust that the Postmaster-General will recognise that there is more in this matter than he apparently thinks if one may judge by the nature of his interjections. If he wishes to know whether public inconvenience has resulted from the reversal of the policy which was announced in this chamber, he has merely to visit an average post-office in the country. There, he will see partitioned off at the end of the storekeeper’s counter, the public telephone and postoffice. The result is that messages have to be transmitted from that office within the hearing of every person who may be present in the store purchasing supplies. Surely that is a state of things which ought not to be continued a moment longer than is avoidable. It is the ambition of every resident in country districts to get official post-offices established in their midst, because it is recognised that they provide more secrecy in connexion with business transactions. I do not know who originated this new idea. I confess that it came as a surprise to me, because, in respect to certain applications ‘ for official post-offices, I had been informed by the Department that- they would be given official status when the revenue from them reached ^200 a year. In one instance, the revenue actually yielded within £5 of that amount. Yet the next intimation which I received was that for some unexplained reason - there seems quite a mystery about this jump in the revenue conditions from £200 to ,£300 a year-
– There is no mystery about it. It was the subject-matter of an inquiry by the senior inspectors in all the States who investigated it at my request. They met in Melbourne.
– A promise was made upon the floor of this House that postoffices would be granted official status when the revenue from them yielded .£200 per annum. A number of honorable members who hesitated to support penny postage, because they knew it would jeopardize the chance of certain post-offices being given an official status, were emphatically assured that those post-offices would not be placed at any disadvantage as a result of its adoption.
– Where was the promise made?
– It is on record in
Hansard. The honorable member for Barrier was Postmaster- General at the time, and on two occasions - when the proposal for penny postage was under consideration, and also when the Estimates were under review - he gave the House a distinct pledge on this matter. The honorable member for Richmond, I think, can supply the dates upon which those promises were made. Under these circumstances, I was very much surprised when I received an intimation that it would be necessary for the offices in which I had interested myself to return a revenue of ^300 per annum before they could be granted official status. If the recommendation of the inspectors who investigated this matter is based on the ground of expense alone, the matter ought to be further looked into, because, if every country post-office is to be dealt with from that stand-point, the residents of our rural areas will obtain very few facilities for communication indeed. There could not be very much wrong done by adherence to the pledge of the previous PostmasterGeneral. It is important that country residents should be able to conduct their business transactions with secrecy. Upon my last visit to my own constituency, I called at three post-offices, and in each of them I found that a small space for the purpose had Been partitioned off at the end of the local store. There was a double counter in the shop, so that the customers who were there making purchases could hear everything that transpired. I heard messages being despatched to Western Australia, and to various parts of my own district. In two or three different places I could hear every word of the messages that were sent. That state of affairs should not continue one day longer than is absolutely necessary. .
– You mean that there is not a silence cabinet in any of these offices?
– That is so.
– We are getting the silence cabinets in as fast as possible.
– In some of the offices that I visited one could hear messages of all kinds being sent. In some cases one could even stand outside the building and hear messages being sent away. I hope that the Minister will look into this matter, and I am glad that it has been brought forward. The honorable member for Richmond said, in moving the adjournment of the House, that there was no occasion for him to apologize for the action he was taking, and. I agree with him. The question affects many country districts where post-offices are on the verge of reaching the official status.
– I desire to deal briefly with this question, which is of vital importance to residents of country districts throughout Australia. Secrecy should be a fundamental feature of the Postal Service. In its absence, the first principle that should govern the administration of this vast Department must be undermined. One of the weak features of allowance offices is that in many cases they have to be conducted by persons who have but limited accommodation, with the result that information which ought to be kept secret is divulged, sometimes to the injury of the persons concerned. The honorable member for Richmond has referred to a promise that was made by the exPostmasterGeneral, and I certainly relied on the promise that post-offices which had hitherto been conducted as allowance or semi-official offices were to be established as official offices when their revenue reached ^200 a year. The former requirement was that the revenue should be not less than £400 a year. I felt that the Minister, in making this promise, had not taken into account the depreciation of revenue that was likely to accrue from the adoption of penny postage. I considered that while ^£400 a year on the basis of a twopenny postage was a rather high standard for official offices, the drop to ^200 per annum was a big one, but that having regard to the reduced postage it would make the standard equal to about £300 a year under the’ twopenny postage conditions. The Minister says that his inspectors have reviewed the situation, and that he is guided by their decision. They have, I presume, weighed the evidence on the effect of penny postage upon the revenue, and, instead of reducing the status of the official offices, they are really maintaining it at what would have been the standard under twopenny postage. With penny postage the old revenue of ^400 per annum would be reduced to somewhere in the neighbourhood of ^300 per annum. The semi-official offices were a buffer between the official and the allowance offices. There was certainly more secrecy in connexion with them than was possible, as a rule, in connexion with the allowance offices. Their abolition, in the absence of the immediate substitution of official offices, tends only to deteriorate the administration of the Department so far as country districts are concerned, because we practically have allowance offices with a revenue up to ^300 a year, and no semi-official offices at all. The allowance office is a makeshift which we cannot do without, but it is a makeshift that we should, as far as possible, avoid. When the Public Service Commissioner was reviewing the position of the Public Service - the possibilities of promotion and the openings for advancement among the lower ranks of the Service, he went out of his way to change the whole position with regard to a large army of public servants who had hitherto been illpaid. I refer to the postal assistants, who constitute a large army in the rural districts of Australia, and whose chance of promotion to a position which would enable them to support a wife and family was practically nil. The Public Service Commissioner went out of his way to indicate that these men would be raised to an even higher status than the Postal Commission had recommended. In that regard he excelled himself. He recognised the value of the work done by these men after we had pointed it out to him, although he was unable to do so before, and, having done so, he proceeded to make some provision for their advancement. His scheme was to alter the status of postmasters. He decided that postmasters should be able to commence at the reduced salary of ;£i6o a year, and pointed out that, in this way, openings would be found for a number of postal assistants. Postal assistants, we were told, would have an opportunity for promotion under his scheme for increasing the number of official offices, by fixing the minimum revenue for such an office at ^200 a year. He was really making an opening for these men in this way-, but the Minister is now closing up that opening altogether. Postal assistants will still have to mark time, because the very opening which the Public Service Commissioner considered it was necessary to make for these men will be practically closed under the new rule. The position will be that we shall have official offices wherever the revenue reaches ,£300 a .year. Any postoffice, outside those which sell a large quantity of stamps, is rather important if its revenue reaches £300 a year, and even if its revenue reaches only £200 a year it is entitled to some consideration in the matter of administration. There should be an opportunity for postal assistants to advance, because they are men who, as a rule, cannot get into the Clerical Division. There are many of them who cannot get into the telegraphic branch, and the door is closed against them in every other direction. Here was an opening which the Commissioner saw for these ambitious, worthy servants. He opened the door by altering the status of postmasters, believing that he would be able to put a number of other men in charge of the small post-offices which were raised to official rank. I should like the Minister to consider these two positions which were thought out, I believe, very carefully by the Commissioner when he was trying to do justice to a body of men who had been treated very unjustly. I do not want to do more than to raise these three points. First, I believe that there has been a breach of promise. I do not care whether the officers have recommended a basis of ^300 to-day or not. The position is that the Minister of the day, in the light of experience, the guidance of his officers, and everything else, decided and promised to us that the basis of an official office should be .£200 a year. I take it that he understood what he was doing at the time. And having cultivated, at least, a hope in the minds of many of those in districts having allowance offices and formerly semi-official offices that they would be entitled to an official office when they collected a revenue of .£200 a year, it is not fair, I submit, to disappoint their expectations. Secondly, it is not fair to the postal assistants to shut the door against their advancement, nor is it fair to the Department or the administration, because the more we can introduce officers into a higher branch of the service the more responsible we shall make them feel, and the better we shall fit them for the fulfilment of more important duties as time goes on. It is really crippling the service itself to make this limitation, which is, I may mention, a very important factor in the whole of this discussion. This is a question of how we can utilize the ability of the best of our public servants, offer them some hope of promotion, and establish in the public mind that sense of security which should accompany the administration of any post-office. Probably the Minister will explain that this cannot be done, that £300 a year is the lowest basis the Department can adopt, that its financial necessities require that limitation to be fixed. All that I can say is that the financial necessities of the Department are not all the necessities to be considered. The public interests are what a Department of this kind is maintained to conserve. The object of a postal service is to meet the public requirements as perfectly as possible. But that cannot be done if we permit allowance offices to exist up to a status of ^300. In the Old Country, or any country where the Postal Department has attained any dimensions, you will not find that any such rule prevails. You will find that in some places small offices are intrusted to storekeepers and other persons, but they are very few in number compared with the larger percentage of official offices that are on a lower status than the Minister has approved. In regard to the country districts, there is another feature of administration which enters into the consideration of this matter, and it is that the Department is too much in the habit of assessing everything upon individual value. For instance, the revenue of a post-office in the country is made the basis on which it may go up or down in status. I contend that, as regards mail routes and matters, affecting the status of post-offices, the ground of observation as to the value is not broad enough. In my opinion a mail route should not be valued from the stand-point of its revenue-producing qualities. My experience has taught me that the only way in which we can act with anything like equity is to take a postal district as a whole, and ascertain the revenue which is derived from the many towns in the district, and if the general revenue of the whole district will warrant further concessions to outlying portions, they are entitled to get them on that ground. That’ is the position which is being taken up by the postal servants. From time imme-moriah so far as I know, the Department has laid down the rule that if a telegraph line or a mail is required, the probable revenue must be ascertained, or if the establishment of a post-office is wanted, the status of that post-office must be fixed according to its probable revenue. Under these conditions, what happens? The metropolitan areas and the large towns in the Commonwealth get concession after concession which are not known to the people in the bush. These facilities are part and parcel of the whole, which should be considered in relation to the extension or expansion of the service, as the case may be.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I hope that the Minister will view this matter from a broader stand-point than that which has been laid down.
– Order !
– I am not sorry that the honorable member for Richmond has brought this matter forward. It is not one of those questions upon which my mind is sealed for ever. It may be that a better plan of estimating when an office should be converted from an allowance to an official office will evolve itself out of the discussions and the interchange of opinion in this House. In regard to the main issue which has been raised, I think that on many occasions I have expressed the opinion that so soon as we got penny postage there was likely to be trouble in some of the country districts in regard to the mail services. And, after a year’s experience as the Ministerial head of the Postal Department, I find myself with a deficit of nearly half-a-million. I do not think that it can be argued for a moment that during that time a very strenuous policy has not been pursued by this Government in the matter of extending facilities in the outside areas.
– They are very good in making promises, but not too good in carrying out the work.
– I have made promises. I have given an instruction that in the case of all country works a generous view is to be taken of the possible revenue, and that the cost of the work is not to be overestimated. I do not mean to say that the instruction is to make things necessarily fit in. When this instruction was given to the Deputy Postmasters-General, I asked that the municipal councils, the Labour organizations, the shire secretaries, and the progress committees in the various States should assist the Department with their local knowledge, in order to get the works carried out expeditiously.
– It is good, from your point of view, but it is not carried out.
– The instruction is in force, and I believe that my officers are carrying it out. I find that in twelve months we have constructed 42,000 miles of telephone line and 3,078 miles of telegraph line, while the expenditure in connexion with the Department has run into ,£4,381, 522, or £500,000 more than the revenue received. But there must come a time when it is necessary to consider how far these concessions can be taken. Australia, notwithstanding its tremendous distances, is possibly as well served with postal facilities as any country in the world. Postal services and telegraph communications extend all over the country, from the Gulf of Carpentaria to Cape Leeuwin. But it has been demonstrated to the Department, beyond reasonable doubt, that an official post-office cannot be conducted for much less than £250 a year. In many cases buildings must be found, and there is an officer, and sometimes . an assistant, to pay. Therefore, before an office can be made an official one, regard must be had to the amount of revenue that it returns. The honorable member for Barrier, when Postmaster-General, did not reduce the amount of revenue required for the establishment of an official post-office from £400 to .£200; it was open to the Department to make an office an official one directly its revenue rose to .£200, but there was no obligation on the Department to make it official, and there is no obligation now on the Department to make an office official when the revenue has risen to £300. With regard to cases like those mentioned by the honorable members for Richmond, Gwydir, and Grey, I shall feel obliged to give effect to whatever promises may have been made by my predecessors ; but, speaking generally, I would like the House to know that the senior inspectors, having at my request conferred on this subject, unanimously recommended that the alteration that has been complained of should be made. A number of offices have been picked out indiscriminately, with a view to showing the effect of the new arrangement - offices having a revenue of more than ,£200, and less than ,£300. At Wardell, in the Richmond electoral division, the number of articles posted daily averages sixtyseven, and the number of articles received, 100 j the telegrams despatched daily average 4J, and the number received 2.8. Four postal notes a day are issued on the average, and 5.2 paid. The average number of Savings Bank deposits is 4.8 a day, and the average number of withdrawals 1.4. Such an office, conducted as an official office, would’ cost practically ,£250 a year, and its revenue is only .£229 a year, of which .£120 is received from the sale of stamps, and ,£58 from telegrams.
– Those in charge of allowance offices have to be on the premises all the time.
– Under this Government there has been a general levelling up, so that no one receives less than ,£110 a year.
– That is, those in charge of semi-official offices.
– The position of this Government in regard to allowance offices is unassailable.
– Those in charge of allowance offices are the worst paid persons in Australia.
– They were; but we are now paying something like £67,000 for the conduct of allowance offices - I am speaking from memory - and when the Estimates have been passed, I propose to -increase that expenditure by £45,000. No one can be more desirous than I am of providing for the utmost secrecy in the conduct of postal business, nor more ready to assist the ambition of those who desire to have official post-offices in their district. But in view of the loss now borne by the Department, and the growing demand for the extension of mail services, and telegraph and telephone facilities, I should not be justified in departing from the policy which I have adopted. At the same time my mind will not be closed to suggestions on the subject, and I shall have constantly before me the desirability of establishing official offices where possible. As matters stand, I believe that the facts are against the honorable member for
Richmond. I believe the whole of the facts justify the Ministerial position, which I think is best for the officers themselves. As soon as a non-official post-office is converted into an official office, out goes a poor unfortunate servant who has probably been working in the Department for twenty years.
– But we do not ask you to interfere with existing cases.
– The honorable member does ‘ask me to alter existing cases. I have had representations made to me by nearly every member of the House on behalf of some unfortunate who has probably been employed in one of these non-official offices for something like twenty years, and has had to go. out as soon as a change took place, with no other position available for him. I have been trying to get people in that position into allowance offices, and into various other positions in the Department, because, like others, they deserve consideration. The whole matter is surrounded with difficulties, and I am pleased to have had this discussion on it, because, as I say, my mind is not definitely closed regarding it. I believe there may be a method of arriving at some basis which will more accurately and completely meet the needs of a district than the revenue basis which is used at present. I think the discussion will do good, and am pleased to have had the views of honorable members on the subject.
– I am pleased to hear that the Minister has an open mind on the question, because it is very important, especially in the country districts ; but I cannot agree with his statement that a great deal of the stringency and trouble in the Department is due to the introduction of penny postage. That is not the real trouble at all.
– I did not say it was due to penny postage. I pointed out that we lost about ^400,000 of revenue last year, and that the business had been increased. I was not complaining about it.
– I cannot see where it has cost so much more to do the business. If 200 letters are posted in an office, the work can be done just as cheaply as if only 100 letters were posted. We are on a wrong basis. We ought not to go on the revenue basis at all. We should go more on the amount of work done when fixing the salaries to be paid to these people. There may be a large amount of work to do in an office with mails coming in and going out at awkward hours, and yet there may be very little revenue. I was under the impression* that the Minister rather gloried in penny postage. I do, because I think it is a step in the right direction.
– Penny postage disarranged everything. You were one of the instigators of it.
– The Labour party have taken great credit for it, and I am surprised to hear a progressive member like the honorable member for Melbourne Ports decrying it. We ought to give the people all the facilities we can,, and should try to get away from many of the existing conservative methods. In> my own district passengers can start from Cooma, the end of the railway line, at- 8.30 in the morning, and reach Bega or Bombala by midday; but letters do not arrive till night-time, because the Postal Department say they cannot afford to send them by motor car. If passengers can afford to travel by the regular motor service that has been established, surely the mailscould be sent by it. The same appliesto the Moruya service.
– That may be a casewhere a contract was entered into before the motor service was established.
– No contracts were recently let for those places. It is a conservative policy to say that the Department cannot have the mails carried as fast aspassengers. Another instance of conservatism in the Department is the fact that where any little troubles occur, they have to be brought under notice in nineteencases out of twenty by the member for the district. The inspector goes round, but never seems to realize that the people are under disadvantages, or suffering inconveniences, because none of the little conveniences that are. extended to the peopleseem to emanate from the inspectors as they ought to do. The member for the district has to be appealed to every time. TheMinister is on the wrong track when hesays that he cannot lay down a golden rule. I believe a golden rule can be laid down. The Minister says that he intends to stick to promises that have been made, but are we to have the rule laid down that only those who can get promises will have thingsdone in their districts?
– All I say is that, although I may alter the policy, I am not- going to repudiate promises made by my predecessors.
– I agree that there should be no repudiation of promises, and do not complain personally, because I have had every courtesy and consideration from the Minister, and believe that he would give every honorable member fair play. But it is laying down a bad rule to say that we must depend on our persistence in agitating for these facilities, and not have a settled, policy. If we took the work done, and not the revenue received as a basis, we should have a much better system. I am pleased to hear that the constant pressure of honorable members is having effect, and that the Minister is going to pay the small allowance offices better. They are the worst off of all. I take it that he is prepared to double the allowance throughout Australia.
– I have provided . £45,000 on the Estimates.
– And the Minister tells us that the total cost is now about £67,000. While I have every sympathy with the ambitious postal assistant, we ought to keep in front of us the public interest and convenience, and not the interest of the public servants only. In many of these offices, the Minister could get over the difficulty by adopting a good system of silence telephone cabinets. That would give a good deal of secrecy. The other day, I pressed, the Minister very hard on behalf of a postmistress at Nethercote, who had been doing a great deal of work, with mails coming in early every morning, and the revenue of the office not being large. Her salary had been increased by the magnificent sum of 10s. a year ! I urge the Minister to look into the question of carrying mails as fast as passengers are carried. If there is an important town 60 or 70 miles from the end of a railway line, it is. a great anomaly that a commercial traveller can start by motor, and arrive in the town at midday, but cannot get his invoices and letters till night. The reason given is that the Department cannot afford to pay the price for a quicker service. It is said to be too expensive. I do not think that the blame for the increased cost is to be attributed to penny postage. One cause is that people who have been undertaking mail contracts have been working at starvation rates which did not pay them. They are now realizing that they ought to receive reasonable payment. The Minister also has to face the trouble that he has to compete against motor cars. A mail contractor who could carry a mail for £200 a year, while he also had passengers travelling by his coach, is now unable to undertake the work for that price. Consequently the Department has to pay, perhaps, double as much. That is what is causing the extra expenditure in very many cases. The Minister is on the right track in considering these allowance offices, because they are the real feeders of this great Department. Those who look after them are entitled to every consideration. Payment ought to be allocated on the basis of work done, and not on that of revenue received. An allowance office may have a revenue of £100 a year, though the work done there may not be as considerable as that done in an office with a revenue of £50 a year.
– I quite agree with the honorable member, but the difficulty is to get a rule of thumb that will meet every case.
– The rule of revenue is the worst possible one.
– What other rule can you have?
– I am glad that the Minister agrees with me, and feel that he must be right in doing so. I also ask him to look into the question of whether mails in country districts cannot be carried as fast as passengers. It is not right that a passenger should be able to accomplish a particular journey in three or four hours, whilst it takes fourteen or fifteen hours to carry mails over the same distance. The delay is not due to old terms of contract, because the Cooma to Bega and Eden and Cooma to Bombala cases exist under comparatively new contracts. I am told that, the conditions , are not improved because of the expense. It would cost too much to carry mails by motor. If we can have four postal deliveries per day in the big cities, why cannot extra facilities be extended to people in the back country - those who are doing the pioneering work, who are making ways in the wilderness and rivers in the desert? I trust that the Minister will give consideration to the cases I have mentioned, and will see whether we cannot have our country mail services put upon a more satisfactory basis.
– This is one of the few opportunities we shall have of dealing with the matters that have been brought under review, owing to the fact that the Estimates are usually rushed through at an all-night sitting. I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister the condition of affairs prevailing at some of our assisted country post-offices. The business of a country office, where it is a telephone office, as many of these small offices are, absorbs the whole of the time of the person responsible for it. She has to pay her own rent; she does the Commonwealth old-age pensions work, the savings bank work, and its money order work ; and, after deducting rent, receives the munificent amount of IOS. per week. For a great Commonwealth like ours to employ people at such absolutely starvation rates is not creditable.
– Formerly in Tasmania the people looking after such offices got no payment at all. They simply took what they could make.
– The honorable member’s statement is absolutely incorrect, nor does it affect the point at issue. We are dealing with people who have been in the employment of the Commonwealth for twelve years, and I maintain that some ot the rates paid to them are a disgrace to us. When a complaint is made, we are met with the answer that the revenue received does not warrant the Department in paying more. But it is not the fault of the unfortunate people who are doing the work that the revenue is not great. That is why I interjected when the honorable member for Eden-Monaro was speaking, that the basis of revenue is the most unfair one that can be adopted. We do not permit payment by results in any other Commonwealth Department. If any one were to suggest that we should have payment by results in other connexions, Ministers and the House generally would refuse to listen to the idea. There is another mistaken policy in relation to the Department which I may as well mention. Payment is made for telephones in the country districts according to a mileage scale. If the people in an outlying portion of Australia desire a telephone, and the Department thinks that it will not be remunerative, a guarantee has to be given that those making the request will make up a certain amount of money. Even then the Department places such an extortionate price upon the telephone as practically to prohibit people from using it. Why should the Department have a zone system in connexion with telephones any more than in connexion with the mail service? Why should we saddle people who go out further and further from the centres of population with increased cost for their telephones, and reduce the rates to those who live nearer to the great centres? But at present the further people go from the cities the more it costs them to use a telephone. There is no more reason for that than there would be to have a mileage rate in connexion with telegrams and mails. If one drops a letter into a pillar-box, and it has to go only 50 yards, the charge is one penny, and it is no more if the letter has to go from one end of Australia to the other. Yet in the case of telephones, we increase the cost according to the distance from a populous centre, with the result of making these conveniences almost prohibitive to many of those who require their use. Moreover, extraordinary conditions apply in some cases. If, for instance, one sends a telephone message right through from A to C, the cost is, we will say, is. 6d. ; but if one sends a -message from A to B, and it has to be repeated from B to C, the cost is about is. 3d. There is a condition of affairs which in any but a Government Department would be looked upon as stupendously ridiculous. It is an extraordinary anomaly that if you give a second office the trouble of repeating a message it goes for less than if you sent the message straight through from one place to another. These are matters which require the serious attention of the Minister. I thank the Postmaster- General for giving at least some slight consideration to officers, who, I think, have the sympathy of every honorable member. Those officers give the whole, of their time to the work, and it is not their fault that a larger revenue is notreceived. I repeat that they are to-day the very worst paid servants’ in the whole of Australia; and I hope that, instead of increases being given to the larger-salaried officials, who can very well wait a little longer, the Minister will, so far as funds permit, see that the lower-paid officials get something like a living wage.
– I was not in the Chamber when the Postmaster-General spoke, but I am glad to be informed that he has agreed to honour the promises made by his predecessor. I agree with other speakers that it is just as well not to associate too closely country offices with a cash basis, though one has to admit that, in this regard, the Department, as a whole, is a long way behind at the pre sent time. This, however, is a case in which we have had a definite promise, or pro- mises, made and repeated on several occasions, with the result that people in the back country have been led to expect that a change would be made. The PostmasterGeneral has, I think, realized his duty in this respect, in so far as he says he will carry out what was definitely promised by his predecessor. I should like to see some sort of inquiry, though the trouble is that when inquiries are made, very little comes of them. There are numbers of anomalies in the Department, and I am not sure that they are not increasing with the passing of the years. This is, no doubt, due to the constant changes in the control, the present Postmaster-General being, I think, the eleventh in the eleven years of Federation.
– If “new brooms sweep clean,” the Department ought to be “ clean “ enough by now !
– But one PostmasterGeneral sweeps the dirt up, and another Postmaster-General sweeps it back again ; before there is time to take the dirt to the dust-cart, a new Postmaster-General sweeps it to the very spot at which his predecessor started to clean up.
– Let us hope that we shall grow out of those bad habits.
– I think it is time we grew out of them, because what is required more than anything is continuity of policy, without which, in a large Department like this, no substantial reforms can be made. There are many other reforms I should like to see effected, one cognate to that under discussion, from which I, and the whole of the people of the countryside where I live, suffer every day of our lives. In the local post-office, over the minimum number of letters are dealt with necessary to entitle us to a delivery; but, because sufficient revenue is not earned, we have to travel half-a-mile or a mile to get our letters. This occurs within 17 miles of Sydney, and the position arises from the fact ‘that the business men who live there, and the fruit-growers who take their fruit to Parramatta market, buy their stamps in the cities. The money is being earned from the residents, but because it is not taken at the local office, we have to suffer a disability ; and, as a matter of fact, we are as badly off 17 miles from Sydney as the people are in many places 300 or 400 miles distant. I am glad that the Postmaster-General proposes to confer a substantial modicum of increases on some of the poorly-paid men in the back country.
Question resolved in the negative.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 1 8th October, vide page 4445).
.- I have moved -
That the following new clause be inserted : - 416A.- (i.) The agents in Australia of any ship not registered therein shall be deemed to be the legal representatives of the master and owner of the ship after the departure of the ship from the port at which she was discharging for the purpose of receiving and paying claims for short delivery or pillage of cargo, and the amount of any such claim may be recovered from such agents in any Federal or State Court of competent jurisdiction. (2.) Provided that it shall be lawful for such agents, by notice in writing delivered to the collector not later than twenty-four hours before the departure of any ship, to decline to accept any responsibility under this section in respect of that ship, in which case the master shall, before the ship is allowed her clearance, give security to the satisfaction of the Minister for the payment of any sum which, together with costs, may be recovered against the agents of such ship. (3.) No proceedings for the recovery of any claim under this section shall be taken unless notice thereof is given to the agents not later than seven days after the delivery of the cargo in respect of which the claim is made.
I do not know whether the Minister is prepared to accept this proposed clause. If he is, it will very much shorten the debate, and I think he ought to do so; seeing that we have accepted so many new clauses proposed by him. The discussion of this clause, when I first suggested it, was postponed in order to give the Minister an opportunity to consider it, and I think that at the time he seemed inclined to accept it.
– I took that to be so; at any rate, he could urge no objection, and I tried to improvise a possible one, which, however, I find does not hold water. I was under the impression that this clause, which appeared in Part VI. of the Bill of 1904, was somewhat incongruous to the other provisions of the Bill before us, and that that was the reason it was not adopted. I find, however, that while the whole of Part VI. was left out, some of its provisions have been incorporated in the Bill as it stands. As a matter of fact, nearly all, if not all, the provisions of Part VI. of the Bill of 1904, which relate to the delivery of goods and bills of lading, were in the Merchant Shipping Act, so that they were really not out of place in a Navigation Bill. They may have been knocked out then, because I think the Sea Carriage of Goods Act was passed as a special Statute in anticipation of the passage of the Navigation Bill. It was thought that all these provisions might be included in .the one Act, but that has not yet been carried out. Part VI. of the Bill may have been postponed with a view ultimately to carry out that idea. I ask the Minister to accept this clause, first, because of its general merits. It is advisable to include such a provision. The clause, in effect, declares that where a vessel . not registered in Australia may clear out quickly after arrival after depositing cargo, at Port Adelaide, for instance, where the accommodation is not as extensive as in other ports of the Commonwealth, and there is no opportunity afforded to the consignees to examine the goods, the owners shall be held responsible for short delivery or pillage. The cargo may be short delivered, or during the interval between its discharge and the time when the consignee has first an opportunity to examine the consignment, pillage may occur. Inasmuch as this would have been caused by the act of the ship-owner, he ought not to be able to avoid his liability by clearing out, and leaving no one at the port to answer for it.
– If pillage occurs that cannot be said to be the fault of the shipowner.
– From the time of the discharge of the goods on the wharf there may not have been time, before the vessel leaves again, for the consignees to examine them. This matter was twice referred to before the Navigation Commission, who took evidence in 1906 on the draft Navigation Bill. It was pointed out that very often time is not afforded before the vessel leaves to make an examination of cargo to discover whether it is in accordance with the bill of lading. I notice that a Mr. W. M. McPherson, who appeared before the Commission as a representative of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce and the Importers Association of Victoria, in answer to Question 3940* referring to the clause I wish to have inserted, and which appeared as clause 291 in the draft Bill, said -
As regards clause 2or, .the mercantile community consider that it is a distinct advantage and a gain. For very many years some ships have come to this port with unprincipled captains. Where cargo has been short delivered, the captains have on occasions hoisted sail or got up steam without settling the claims. We are delighted to see such a provision in the Bill.
I find that, in answer to Question 138 17 a, there is a further reference to this clause by Mr. W. D.. Cleland. He was ex amined at Adelaide on behalf of the Importers and Agents Association of Port Adelaide. He said -
An order authorizing the steamer to commence discharging cargo immediately on arrival is usually issued by the Customs prior to her arrival in port. Thus a steamer might work through the night, fill up the sheds, and be away before consignees could inspect their cargo. Port Adelaide is rather differently situated to both Melbourne and Sydney in regard to wharfage accommodation. They are very much smaller sheds here than in the other States. The consignees do not probably get possession of their documents in time to inspect their goods before the steamer has left Port Adelaide. Owing to this arrangement, it is almost impossible for the goods to be examined until days after the steamer has left. i think clause No. 291 in this Bill gives us what we require.
Then followed an examination as to what ought to be the provisions of the clause, but I may say that the clause was left intact, and was identical with the clause I am now moving. I think that answers the Minister’s question. It is clear that sometimes there is not time between the discharge of cargo and the departure of the vessel for consignees to make an examination of their cargo.
– But a vessel could not be asked to wait until all the consignees examined their cargo.
– What the clause proposes is that if the vessel clears out she should leave an agent at the port, who would be responsible for receiving and paying claims for short delivery or pillage of cargo. Those are the two things which, there may not be time for consignees to inquire into before a vessel leaves a port after discharging cargo. We should afford protection to consignees in such circumstances, as a matter of common sense. I do not think that such a clause will be at all out of place in the- Bill. All that is required is that there shall be an agent to receive, and be answerable for, claims on the owners of a vessel. I point out that it is also provided in the clause that if the agent refuses to be responsible for such claims he may give the Collector of Customs twenty-four hours’ notice before the departure of the ship that he will not accept the responsibility. The consignee will then have twenty-four hours in which to examine his goods.
– Vessels often do not stay for twenty-four hours at a port.
– In that case, under the clause, the agent would be responsible. That would not be the fault of the consignee, and the ship-owner should make provision for the payment of ordinary legitimate claims. The clause will not create a liability, but deals with a liability that exists at common law and by Statute. All that we are asking for is that security for the discharge of that liability should be given. Surely when ships arrive from other parts of the world, and then clear out, leaving people in the lurch, and we can provide against that by such a clause as I submit, there can be no reason why it should not be accepted. I have quoted the evidence of representatives of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce and of Port Adelaide shipping agents, but I may add that I have a letter from the Adelaide Chamber of Commerce, requesting that some amendment should be submittted for consideration, and, they hope, passed. I think that other honorable members also have been approached from other parts of Australia in this matter. In all the circumstances, I ask the Minister to accept the clause. The honorable gentleman must be so much of a lawyer by this time as to have some respect for precedents, and if he wishes a precedent for the insertion of this clause, I may refer him to the New Zealand Act. The marginal note attached to the clause in previous drafts of the Bill shows that section 96 of the New Zealand Act was the authority for its insertion. I need not read the section, which, I believe, is verbatim the same as the clause I am asking the Minister to accept. I hope that, on reconsideration, the honorable gentleman will agree to do so.
– The Minister will be well advised to seriously consider the new clause proposed by the honorable member for Angas. It makes provision for a safeguard which experience has shown to be very necessary, and it is already included in the New Zealand Act and in some other existing Acts. I suggest, however, to the honorable member for Angas that his clause requires some amendment to include damage to goods. I have had some correspondence on the subject from people interested as owners of cargo. They point out that this is a very serious omission in the Bill. I propose to ask the Committee to consider some of the points which they urge and which are clearly set out in a letter which I received no later than this afternoon. The new clause proposed by the honorable member for Angas deals with short delivery or pillage of cargo, and I suggest that it should also deal with damage to cargo.
In reference to this matter, I have received the following communication from the general manager for Australasia of the Union Insurance Society of Canton Ltd.,. of Pitt-street, Sydney -
I refer to the fact that there is no provision by which shippers and consignees of cargo are adequately protected from claims against the ship. I specially refer to claims for damage. Under the present condition of the shipping business, a. steamer can come from a foreign port, and, in the case of cargo damaged on the way, claims may be sent in to the agents or representatives at the port of discharge, and, after the vessel has sailed, the agents are able to ignore the claims on the grounds that they are only agents, and have no funds to enable them to pay same. Thishas occurred over and over again, both in Australia and New Zealand.
In New Zealand, the Navigation Act No. 178- of 1908 certainly has a provision with regard toshort delivery and pillage under section No. 302,. and I notice that the South Australian Chamber of Commerce recently passed a resolution requesting the South Australian members of theHouse of Representatives to endavour co have a. similar clause placed in the Navigation Bill now before Parliament. This clause was also embodied in the Navigation Bill proposed in 1907.
I think that is a mistake. I am of opinion, that the figures 1907 should read 1904.
Perhaps the clause will now be adopted, but. the point is that it does not go far enough, and if claims for pillage and short delivery can be dealt with in tile Bill, there is surely no reason, why claims for damage also should not be included.
That seems to me to be a very reasonablerequest. It is only fair that some protection should be afforded to consignees of cargo in the way of enabling them tosecure the adjustment of their claims for damage done to their goods owing to negligence on the part of some person on board’ the ship, or on the part of those charged1 with loading her, or on the part of someother responsible individual. We know that goods may be damaged by improperstowage. A cargo of flour, for example, may be damaged by reason of being stowed1 in proximity to leaky goods or as the result of salt water getting into the ship’shold consequent upon the hatches being left open. The writer of this letter goes on tosay -
I cite these two cases, one in New SouthWales, and one in Auckland. In the former the steamer carried flour in the hatchway. Thishatchway was kept open to provide ventilation for passengers, but the flour was damaged; and, not being insured against this special class of risk, the owner endeavoured to recover from the agents, and sent in a claim before the steamersailed. After the steamer sailed he could get nosatisfaction, and the only reply the agents gave was that the ship had sailed, and they had nofunds.
It appears, therefore, that a ship has only to get clear of a port to enable its agents to disclaim responsibility.
In the New Zealand case the damage occurred by bad stowage (which could have been clearly proved, as the vessel discharged a large portion of her cargo in Sydney, and the remainder or the New Zealand cargo was not properly secured), consequently a consignee had a large amount of damage through breakage and leakage of oil, &c. In this case, the claim was presented to the ship’s agents, and a demand was made for settlement before the steamer sailed. The agents referred the consignees to the master, on whom the former .endeavoured to serve a writ, but the master had quietly skipped. Later on this steamer called at a southern port of New Zealand, where he was taken on board some miles from land from a steamer.
Presumably, a small launch had been despatched to land the master on board the steamer so that he might resume charge of her. In that way the agents evaded all responsibility.
– This clause would not meet a case of that kind.
– I suggest that it should be amended to meet it.
– This clause does not deal with navigation at all. It would be a proper provision to insert in a Sea Carriage of Goods Bill.
– In this Bill we are dealing with the sea carriage of goods, and the stowage of cargo, as well as with other matters. I think, therefore, that such a provision might fairly be included in it. The letter proceeds -
In another case, goods were damaged by an act of the ship through improper stowage, but, as the amount involved was not large, the goods were accepted by the consignees subject to survey. In the meantime, before the surveys were complete, the vessel sailed, and when the claim was finally sent in, no satisfaction could be got from the agents, the reply being that they only acted as agents, and there were no funds available.
It will probably be urged on behalf of ships’ agents that any legislation to get over these difficulties would affect the shipping interests, but this argument is, of course, unsound, and it is well known that, in case of any claims which they may have against the ship for damage to their own cargo, and also in connexion with their agency commission and expenses, ships’ agents are always able to protect themselves. This being so, there is no reason why consignees of cargo should not also be protected. In fact, there is more reason, because collusion can, and perhaps in some, cases does, occur to enable ships to get out of the way.
I inclose herein a short memo., which I drew up some years ago for the use of counsel with the idea of submitting the matter to the Government of the day for consideration, with a view to a small Act being adopted.
– I think that a separate Bill dealing with that matter would be all right. As I told the honorable member last week, that question is under consideration; but I do not think this is a proper place to deal with it.
– I am rather inclined to take a different view.
– Provision is made for it in the New Zealand Act.
– I would remind the Minister’ that provision is made for this matter in the Navigation Acts of New Zealand and South Australia, and that this Bill contains a division in which special reference is made to the stowage of cargo, and cognate matters. Consequently, I fail to see why we should not insert the clause here. I ‘hope that the Minister will give the question further consideration before pronouncing a final decision upon it. In my opinion, the clause should be embodied in this Bill, because it is cognate to other matters for which provision has already been made. I would like to refer now to a case which was reported in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of August, 1900.
– The Indramayo case?
– Yes. It is a very interesting and important matter. The report is as follows : -
The case of “ Buckingham v. the Indramayo Steamship Company.” decided by the Full Court last Monday, appears to involve what may be a serious hardship to importers of goods into the colony. The case arose out of a shipment of gloves by the steamer Indramayo in September last, which the plaintiff stated arrived in a damaged condition. The damaged case was surveyed and ^32 is. 1 id. was the assessed amount of the loss, and a writ of ‘ attachment was issued under the Absent Defendants Act to attach the ship when she returned to port, which was early this year. But the company, through their agents, appealed and the writ was set aside on the ground that there were no assets of the co’mpany under the jurisdiction of the Court. There does not appear to have been any dispute as to the damage. But the reasons why the writ was set aside would seem to have been these : - (r) The contract was made in England, and (2) there were no assets of the company here which could be attached - including the ship.
But are not practically all bills of lading issued in England upon goods shipped to Australia contracts made in England? Will it be imperative, therefore, to bring an action in the English Courts to recover upon goods landed here in a damaged condition? If, too, the goods came from a Continental or American port, redress, apparently could only be obtained at the port of shipment. That would practically put it out of the power of the majority of our im- porters to obtain compensation, and appears toinvolve a principle which, however much it may be law, is a serious one for the owner of the goods.
It will be seen that a very serious situation arises. The writer of the letter which I quoted a few moments ago, suggests that authority might be vested in the Commissioner of Customs to deal with small claims against inward vessels having cargo on board ; that any one having an unsettled claim should lodge the same with the shipmaster and the ship’s agents; that he should also lodge a copy with the said authority ; and that no clearance should be granted by the authority while such claim was unsatisfied. This, however, he suggests, should be subject to the immediate right of the ship-owner to go before the authority with the claimant, and fix an amount to be left in Sydney or elsewhere as the case may be, or to give a reasonable bond or guarantee, to the satisfaction of the authority, to meet such claim and costs, should the claim be successful. He further suggests that clearances might be given, subject to these safeguards ; that all claims should be rendered within a certain number of days after receipt of the goods by the consignees, and that claims should be considered by the authority only when they do not exceed a certain . specified amount. These suggestions were made by him at a time when it was thought that they might be embodied in a short Bill. The Navigation Bill was not then under consideration, but it seems to me that these matters might very well be considered by the Minister in connexion with the clause which we are now discussing. I ask him to look further into the matter, and to consider whether he ought not to incline to the opinion that these matters instead of being dealt with by a separate measure should be embodied in this Bill. They are cognate matters to provisions dealing with cargo to which we have already agreed. I would point out that confusion always arises where different Acts of Parliament apply to the same question. This is essentially a matter that might well be dealt with in connexion with a Navigation Bill. I therefore move, with the concurrence of the honorable member for Angas -
That the proposed new clause be amended by inserting after the word “ for,” line 6, the word “ damage.”
– I regret that I cannot see my way to accept this amendment. As I have said, by way of interjection to day, and as I pointed out last Friday, I do not think it is relevant to the Bill. It would be pertinent to a Sea Carriage of Goods Bill, or to a measure dealing with pillaging.
– Does the Minister propose to bring in a Bill of that kind?
– I doubt whether there would be time to deal with such a measure this session, but the matter has been under the consideration of the ComptrollerGeneral. Together with him, I have gone into it during the last twelve months, and particularly during the last six months. Shortly after I returned from Western Australia, the question of pillaging was brought under my notice, as well as on other occasions.
– Pillaging is carried on to a very serious extent.
– Undoubtedly. It is assumed that a large proportion of this pillaging of ship’s cargo takes place in Australia, but I do not share that view. In last Friday’s or Saturday’s newspapers there appeared a report to the effect that one of the Peninsular and Oriental steamers, I think, had sent a wireless message asking that detectives should be sent on board before the vessel reached Adelaide. I think that the detectives boarded the steamer at Largs Bay. It was found that some of the crew had opened cases, and that about £800 worth of goods had been removed. Some of these goods had been thrown overboard by the culprits, with the object, no doubt, of escaping detection. The matter of bringing in a Bill to deal with this question is under consideration. One reason why I think we ought not to deal with an amendment of this kind at the present stage is that it has been suddenly sprung upon us. Until last Wednesday or Thursday, it had not even been mentioned. We have had the advice of the Chamber of Commerce on this Bill, but I do not think the amendment has been published, in the press. No publicity has been given to it. We have not had an opportunity of hearing whether there are any objections to it on the part of the shipowners or the agents themselves.
– I am afraid that that would disqualifv many amendments.
– I think not.
– It would disqualify many of our laws.
– As to that, I have only to say that this amendment would make a fairly radical alteration in the matter of liability. In some cases, it would shift the liability from, and in others to, the agents. Within twenty-four hours of a ship leaving port, an agent would be able to give notice that he intended to absolve himself from any liability. I do think that we have a right to hear what is to be said on the question; and in view of the fact that I will give the honorable members for Angas and Lang a promise that a Bill will be prepared dealing with pillaging and matters relating to cargo, and that it will be a proper measure in which to insert a provision of this kind-
– Do you say that the Bill is being prepared now?
– It is under consideration.
– Will you give an instruction for the preparation of a Bill to deal with this question ?
– I shall give a definite instruction for a general Bill to be prepared.
– Including this proposal?
– If that is so I will not test the opinion of the Committee now, because it opens up the question of damage.
– I do not say that it will be done this session.
– You can give an instruction now to have a Bill prepared.
– I promise the honorable member that.
.- I am glad that the Minister has given that assurance, because this matter was brought under my notice some time ago, especially in connexion with the question of foreign bills of lading. The question was also raised, I think, as regards clauses which were put in the bills of lading relative to the Court in which a person had the right to sue. I think that the Minister will find on inquiry in the Department that the matter has been referred to there. I believe that it originated with a chamber of commerce.
– That would be rather a matter for a Sea Carriage of Goods Bill.
– It would be. The case which the honorable member for Lang mentioned was not a case of pillaging; it arose out of the negligent stowage of goods. The whole question relates to the right of recovery. In many instances the right of action exists : the cause has occurred, but the person who has committed the wrong has got outside the jurisdiction and left no assets. All that we want is some machinery for the purpose of recovering a judgment.
.- In the circumstances, seeing that the Minister has stated that he will give an instruction for the preparation of a Bill, there can be no harm in leaving this matter over till another occasion, because, as the Attorney-General has mentioned, it may take ten or twelve months before the Navigation Bill can be brought into operation.
– One of the reasons why I thought it was a matter of urgency was because it has only come under my notice quite recently that cargo is handled in a most reckless way in our ports. I have stood on the break of a ship’s passenger deck and watched the loading and unloading of cargo. There seemed to be nobody responsible on the ship for the proper loading or stowage of the cargo. I have seen the cargo brought up in a sling out of the lower hold, allowed to swing about in the lower hatchway, and catch under projecting cargo in the ‘tween decks, with the result that the cargo in the sling and the cargo in the ‘tween decks were both damaged. I have seen goods scattered all over the ship’s hold in this way, having been precipitated from the ‘tween decks bodily into the lower hold, and sometimes over the wharf and over the side. I have seen that happen here on our coasting-trade ships, and it seemed to me to be a wicked and wanton destruction of goods, which a little care and supervision would prevent. It. is, I think, a great hardship upon shippers and consignees that they should have to bear the brunt of this wanton destruction and preventable loss. There ought to be some authority responsible for loading and unloading. However, as the Minister does not seem inclined to put this provision in the Bill, and proposes to deal generally with the handling of cargo in a Bill which he intends to introduce sometime in the future, I suppose that we must put up with that assurance. I am very sorry indeed that the Minister has not seen his way clear to adopt this amendment, because I feel that we ought, at the earliest possible date, to afford some protection to the owners, the shippers, and the consignees of goods.
– I hope that even now the Minister will see his way to accept the amendment. As a rule, a Minister does not like any new provision to be included in his Bill, but this measure is now so large and contains so many provisions that we could well include one or two more without materially altering its size. There should be more responsibility for the proper treatment of cargo. The way in which fruit is handled and knocked about on the Inter- State boats is disgraceful. I think that our local stevedores are careful, because they know what rough handling means to the fruit. But the persons who handle fruit at an outside port do not seem to understand that it ought to be handled almost as carefully as eggs.
– You ought to see some of the fruit when it is reshipped.
– I am speaking now of the transhipping or re-shipping. The fruit is bumped down on to the wharf, and then dumped on to the ship, and then bumped out of the way without the slightest care being taken. Thousands of pounds’ worth of damage every year is done to fruit in that way. At present nobody is responsible for the damage. The unfortunate grower receives a letter stating that his fruit arrived in a damaged condition, and generally the growers have to make up about two cases in twenty for shortages in cases which, it is alleged, have been pillaged during the voyage. I do not like the idea of further postponing the consideration of this matter. It ought to have been dealt with before. We have been told from time to time that all these matters affecting cargo could be dealt with whenever a Navigation Bill was before the House. If action is deferred now other matters which may be considered of greater importance are likely to arise next year; in fact, I do not think that the House will feel disposed to consider a Navigation Bill within a year or two. If the Minister thinks that the amendment requires revision, let him submit it to his officers for their consideration, and any other persons whom he wishes to consult, and then let it be forwarded to the Senate, and inserted in the Bill there. It is really too important a matter to be postponed.
– It is quite possible that it may be dealt with more quickly in a separate Bill than it could be dealt with now.
– We do not know when the promised Bill will make its appearance, and it is only common sense to deal with the question at once. If the opinion of the Committee and the Minister is that the matter should be dealt with we ought to legislate now. The honorable member for Denison and every one else who takes an interest in the fruit trade knows that every year there is a general complaint of the enormous damage done to fruit by rough handling.
– This amendment would not affect that in any shape or form’.
– it would give the growers a protection which they do not possess at present.
– Not the slightest.
– it would with a slight alteration. We ought to afford the necessary protection now to the unfortunate grower or shipper of fruit who merely receives a bare announcement that certain damage has occurred. Some persons say that the damage happens on the wharfs, but those who are connected with the wharfs and the work there reply that they do their work all right, and that the damage is done on the boat. From’ personal observation I can say that the damage occurs both on the wharfs and on the steamers, where proper care and attention are not given to the handling and stowing of perishable articles. If it is necessary to add to the clause, i hope that the Minister will do it now, or will consider the advisability of introducing in one of the schedules a provision under which a person who has suffered loss through wilful carelessness, or the want of proper supervision, in the handling of perishable cargo, may obtain redress.
– The matter raised by the honorable member for Franklin is not covered by the clause, which would have to be redrafted to give effect to his suggestion. It would be far better, should it be thought necessary, to have a Bill drawn up to deal, not only with InterState shipments of fruit, but also with’ oversea shipments.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Proposed new clause, by leave, withdrawn.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Motion (by Mr. Tudor) proposed -
That the Bill be now recommitted to a Committee of the whole House for the reconsideration of clauses 1, 12, 22, 35, 41, 56, 134, 135, 139, 218, 352, and 421.
– - The Minister has not proposed the reconsideration of the schedules, but, as I pointed out on Friday last, we should have some explanation of the increase in the manning scale for which the new schedules which were then inserted provide. The ship-owners of Australia recognise the need for building up an Australian mercantile marine, and for encouraging boys to enter upon a seafaring career, but schedule II. provides for an increase of the manning scale by the employment of a larger number of boys, and I should like the Minister to give some reason for this increase. We had very little time to consider the matter on Friday.
– I should like the Minister to give attention to clause 133, which provides -
The owner or master of every -
Australian-trade ship on a voyage between consecutive ports of call which exceeds a prescribed distance, having one hundred persons or upwards on board shall cause to be carried as part of her complement, a duly qualified medical practitioner.
Penalty : One hundred pounds.
There is considerable dissatisfaction among shipping men, because they do not know what distance may be prescribed. Many vessels carrying passengers travel such short distances that the services of a doctor on board are not needed. Perhaps the Minister will consider the advisability of recommitting the clause, or, in framing the regulations, will remember the need for fixing a minimum distance. There is another matter to which he promised to extend his consideration. The Bill provides that vessels travelling for less than 20 miles need not carry an assistant officer, no matter how many passengers they may have on board ; but vessels travelling beyond that distance, however small, and however few their passengers, must carry a second officer. I have already drawn attention to the need for a second officer to meet the contingency of something happening to the captain. There are vessels which travel less than 20 miles, which, at times, carry over 1,000 passengers, and the Minister should consider whether it is not necessary to have a second officer in addition to the captain on such vessels.
. -I am sorry that the Minister does not propose the recommittal of the schedules. No doubt he has not done so, because he does not intend that they should be amended, but they are causing a good deal of discontent. Last week I drew attention to the fact that a great many vessels of 50 tons net register, river and bay ships, will be obliged, under the Bill, to carry a mate as well as a master, although their voyages are so short that the services of a mate are hot required. A provision of this kind should not be applied to many of the vessels trading in South Australian waters, though it may be necessary in some other parts of Australia. Injury is being done under a false idea of the necessity for uniformity. We are not obliged to have absolute uniformity throughout Australia in this matter, though we should try to get as near to it as the circumstances will justify. In a letter which I have received from Sydney, reference Is made to the manning provisions of the Bill, and the objection to the provision for an officer in addition to the master applies also to the provision of a second engineer. In South Australia, vessels like the Juno and the Warrawee will, if the Bill passes as it stands, have to carry two engineers. These vessels. make trips which last only a few hours, and are back at the home port every night, so that only one engineer is needed. Employment on them is eagerly sought, because it is almost as good as employment on land, and a second engineer is not needed, and, indeed, would have nothing to do. As recent awards have raised the rates to a higher level than previously prevailed, this may mean, in connexion with some of these steamers, a pretty large draft upon the slender amount available for profits. The same objection is taken by a Sydney correspondent, who says that it is a very burdensome provision, and also draws attention to the fact mentioned regarding the engineers.I regret in the circumstances that an opportunity has not been given for reconsidering that part of the Bill. I raised also the question of the position of vessels such as those of Archibald Currie and Company, and the Minister said he would consider whether anything could be done. They are the only vessels registered in Australia that really do an outside carrying trade. The company say they cannot comply with our conditions without very serious effect upon their revenue, considering the competition to which they are subjected by non-Australian ships. I have a list of the wages they pay, showing that these are very substantially higher in some cases than those paid by their competitors, whom we cannot touch. It seems unfair in the circumstances that the company should be subjected to all the provisions of the measure. The Minister will remember that I asked him if they might not be exempted from some of them.
– So far as I know the Currie line will probably register outside Australia.
– They tell me that they will probably have to register in England. I regret that they feel it necessary to shift their registration at all.
– There is very little advantage in their registering here.
– Perhaps not, but we pride ourselves on having a purely Australian mercantile marine, and where we find men endeavouring to comply with Australian conditions and voluntarily paying higher wage rates than their competitors, we surely might consider whether their case could be met by exempting them from the operation of some of the provisions of the Bill. As the Minister has not done so, I can only express my regret.
.- On the second reading of the Bill I brought forward a consideration that I regarded as of great importance, namely, the stability of ships as affected by their superstructure and the wind pressure on it. I have spoken about the matter with the Attorney-General, and he has given- me to understand that something will be done in this respect in the regulations.
– An amendment dealing with that matter was moved in clause 424.
– I have not yet seen anything definite dealing with the question of stability. I submitted an amendment to clause 211, but the Attorney- General thinks that the necessity for it will be obviated by the regulations. I should very much like to hear from him what kind of regulation he proposes. I am satisfied that in this matter we have something of considerable importance for the safety of shipping and of the travelling public. I do not want to suggest that my sub-clause should be considered, if the Attorney-General will give some indication of the lines upon which he proposes to go.
– I think it inadvisable to recommit the schedule for the purposes of which the honorable member for Darling Downs and the honorable member for Hunter spoke. Representations have been made to the Government with relation to the Question of appren tices and boys, and there is a conflict of opinion as to the practicability of the proposal, the extent to which it should apply, and the manner of its application. These representations seem reasonable, and ought to be considered. It is proposed by the Government to consider them. One set of objectors contend that it is impossible to obtain boys. It is urged by another that there is a system of training ships which’ deals in a wholesale and more effective fashion with this matter than does the proposal in the schedule. A suggestion was made that companies who have such training ships should not be compelled to observe also the conditions of the schedule. If the honorable member for Darling Downs will let the matter go at that, we will consider it from every stand-point, and make such alterations in the schedule in the Senate as, on the representations made here and by those interested, seem proper.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee (Recommittal) :
Clause 1 -
Amendments (by Mr. Tudor) agreed to-
That “1911” be left out, and “ 1912 “ be inserted in lieu thereof ; that “ assent “ be left out, and “ approval “ inserted in lieu thereof.
Clause 12 -
Provided that the regulations shall be so framed as to allow any holder of an engineer’s certificate to serve in such ships and for such voyages and in such capacities as will enable him to qualify for a certificate of the next higher class.
– I move -
That the proviso be left out, and the following new sub-clause inserted : - (6.) The regulations shall be so framed as -
to allow the holder of an engineer’s certificate of any grade to serve in such ships, and for such voyages, and in such capacities, as will enable him to qualify for a certificate of the next higher grade ;
to allow the holder of a third or second class coast engineer’s certificate . to qualify for a coast engineer’s certificate of the next higher grade by service in river and bay ships.”
This amendment is being made in- order to safeguard the interests of the thirdclass engineers. Honorable members know the position in which those engineers are to-day. They are called third class engineers in most of the States. I think that in some States they have been called marine engine-drivers. Some of them drive little tugs of less than 20 horsepower. Last week honorable members were unanimously of opinion that a way should be found for these men, provided they have the ability, to secure an opportunity of getting into the higher grades. As I stated when the matter was formerly discussed, the certificates issued in the various States were of different values. I am. informed that in some cases these men were enabled to get their certificates after working as deck hands or firemen on vessels. In other cases, they had to submit to examination. We want to give them an opportunity to obtain the qualifying service in river and bay boats to which they have been accustomed. If it is said that they should only obtain their certificates if they go’ to sea, the reply is that they must have sea service to qualify for the Board of Trade second class certificates, but that they have hitherto been able to hold third class engineer’s certificates without sea-going experience. I do not think that we ought to make it more difficult for these people - who, perhaps, have not in early life had opportunities for acquiring technical training, or whose parents could not pay a premium to enable them to learn engineering - to obtain these certificates.
– I take exception to paragraph b of the amendment, under which it is proposed -
To allow the holder of a third or second class coast engineer’s certificate to qualify for a coast engineer’s certificate of the next higher grade by service in river and bay ships.
What does that amount to? Of course, I do not object to affording opportunities for any man to improve his position, but I do protest that this proposal is a sheer absurdity. More than that, it offers a menace to the well-being of the travelling public. It means that a second or third class engineer who holds a ticket for river and bay ships may without sea-going experience qualify for a coast engineer’s certificate of the next higher grade. This privilege has hitherto never been extended to men without technical training, and whose experience has been confined to rivers and bays where perhaps they had merely served on small launches.
– The honorable member objects to that being taken as service on the high seas ?
– I think that an engineer before he rises to the position of first class engineer should continue his service at sea, and not obtain his certificate by service on a river or bay ship. Does it not seem absurd that a man who has served on a river or bay ship of very small tonnage and horse power should be able to qualify to enable him to serve as a second class engineer at sea? From top to bottom the sub-clause to which I have called attention is an absurdity, and an insult to trained engineers. I raise my emphatic protest against it.
– I think that the honorable member for Dalley is under a misapprehension. The amendment does not allow the holder of a third or second class coast engineer’s certificate to qualify for a second engineer’s certificate unless he has had sea experience. We are doing no injustice to holders of Board of Trade second class engineer’s certificates. The proposal will work no injustice to anybody. It simply allows the holder of a coast engineer’s certificate to qualify in a river or bay ship for a coast engineer’s certificate of the next higher grade, but it does not enable him to qualify by such service for a sea-going or Board of Trade engineer’s certificate.
.- The point is that no man can hold a second class engineer’s certificate to-day under the Board of Trade regulations without sea service. But under the provision to which I have called attention, a man without sea service will be able to qualify for a first class engineer’s certificate which will enable him to take a vessel up the coast, that is, to go to sea. In other words, instead of compelling a man to go* to sea to qualify himself to take control of larger and more powerful vessels carrying heavier cargo, and probably more human lives, the clause will enable him to go into a river or bay ship and obtain his period of service there necessary to enable him to graduate as a first class engineer.
– Only as a coast engineer, and he can do that to-day.
– He can as a third class engineer, but under this clause he will be enabled to graduate on a river or bay ship for a higher class certificate, whereas, as a matter of fact, the size of the vessels on which these men have been employed, the tonnage and horse power, and the nature of the service, do not furnish experience which should enable a man to dispense with sea sendee. For larger experience he should be compelled to stay at sea, and thus graduate as a first class engineer. I think a great mistake has been made in this connexion, and I must again enter my protest.
.- Would it not be better to leave out the sub-clause in deference to what the honorable member for Dal ley has said?
– This does not touch the Board of Trade certificate.
– I submit it does.
– The Board of Trade provisions do not allow this to be done, and I find nothing in the Bill similar to what is in those regulations. The Minister desires to provide that the regulations must prescribe what is intended, instead of leaving the regulations to be determined by circumstances. The honorable member for Dalley points out that the means of acquiring sea service qualifications by a man on an ocean steamer might be stopped by allowing him to come on a river and bay vessel. What this sub-clause seems to provide is that there must be a regulation made providing that service on a river and bay ship by a third or second class coastal engineer would be considered sufficient, although he never goes to sea. In the light of what the honorable member for Dalley has said, would it not be better to leave the discretion to those who frame the regulations?
– I do not say whether this is or is not the best method of doing what manifestly should be done, namely, justice to a section of the community known as coast engineers. Broadly speaking, on the coast of Australia, and in the rivers and bays, a number of men have arrived at what may be termed a “ dead end,” simply because they started their engineering in a particular manner. In some States these men are permitted to obtain river and bay certificates, and in other States to obtain what are known as third class engineer’s tickets. These tickets enable them to take charge of a boat up to 50 nominal horse-power on any part of the coast of the State in which “the tickets are obtained ; and I find that by usage the tickets are interchangeable in New South Wales, Queensland, and a portion of the coast of Western Australia. On these boats they cannot qualify by sea-going service for examination for second class Board of
Trade certificates. Consequently, I do not think that we ought to tell those men that no matter what their ability may be, they shall not qualify for a higher position.
– Nor do I.
– Well and good; the question is what can we do in this Bill to permit these men to qualify.
– Let them go to sea.
– Before they can qualify they must have sea-going service in a boat of 66 nominal horse-power or over; they may then sit for examination, and, if they have ability, obtain their tickets. The honorable member for Dalley has practical knowledge, and we should carefully listen to what he says; and he agreed that we ought not to stop these men at their “ dead end.” The Minister provides an opening, which though not all that the third class engineers ask, is still an opening. The conditions differ in the various States. In Victoria a third class engineer may take a river and bay boat up to 95 nominal horse-power.
– A vessel of 100 nominal horse-power.
– In New South Wales there is no limit.
– In the rivers and bays there is no limit. In South Australia there is only one third class ticket, which covers rivers and bays, harbors, and, not merely gulfs, but the coasts. So far as the Bill is concerned, if the vessel is not of more than 50 nominal horse-power, such an engineer may take her round the coasts of New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia.
– The fact is that where there is no limit there are no rivers and bays in which such vessels run.
– No one, of course, desires “ duffers “ or incompetent engineers on a vessel.
– We shall have “ duffers “ if men are allowed to qualify as first class engineers on river and bay boats.
– I fear that the honorable member for Dalley has wrongly read the proposal of the Minister. A man will not be qualified by reason of any. service in a river or bay boat - that is, qualified to sit for examination for a second class Board of Trade ticket.
– It will qualify a man to go to sea on a first class ticket on the coast.
– There will in future be three grades of coastal tickets, first, second, and third. Services under the third grade will enable a man to quality for the second, and service under the second will enable him to qualify for the first grade coastal ticket. This will be for service on river and bay ships, but it will not enable a man without sea-going service to sit for examination for a Board of Trade second class certificate. I am not sure as to the actual details, but under the Bill a man who with a third class ticket can take charge of an engine of, say, 50 nominal horse-power can qualify for the second class coastal ticket which will enable him to take charge of a vessel of higher nominal horse-power. With service in this latter boat, he will be able to qualify for a first class ticket which will enable him to take charge of a vessel with engines up to, say, 100 nominal horse-power, in a river or bay ship. It will then be necessary for him to have sea-going service before he can sit for examination for the Board of Trade second class ticket. I am sure that meets with the approval of the honorable member for Dalley.
– Not in any way, but I have entered my protest.
– The honorable member apparently forgets that a man who has sea-going service in a boat whose engines are 66 nominal horse-power can at present sit for examination for the Board of Trade second class engineer’s certificate.
– There is no limitation here as to the horse-power.
– Yes, there is.
– Under this Bill the road will be left open for the holder of a third class ticket to qualify for a second, and then for a first-class ticket, and later by sea-going service to qualify for the Board of Trade ticket. We have not made it more easy for men to do this, but we have opened the door for it. I hope that we have solved the difficulty, and that the way to promotion will, under the Bill, be opened to these men.
– I think that the Minister has made a mistake in connexion with this clause, and I ask him to reconsider it. I understood that the object was to enable a man on the lowest rung of the ladder to reach the top, provided he passed the necessary examinations, but under this clause a man could never get a Board of Trade certificate?
– Why not?
– The clause provides that the holder of a third or second class ticket may qualify for a coast engineer’s certificate of the higher grade for a river and bay ship.
– And once a man has a first class coast engineer’s certificate, and has sea-going experience, he can qualify for the Board of Trade certificate.
– He can get no experience except in a river and bay ship, and it looks as if this clause were inserted to provide for the Manly ferry boats. I thought it was intended to give these men an opportunity to rise in the world, but their way will be blocked. No ship owner who was not mad would put the holder of a first class coast certificate, who had only served in a river and bay ship, in charge of a vessel going round the coast. I confess that I do not know what the honorable member for Dalley has been grumbling about. When he interjected a little while ago, I said he was all right. I understood that the object of the Bill was to give a third class engineer, the man who has practically come from the stoke-hold, an opportunity to get to the top of the tree in his profession. He will be blocked under this provision, unless he has sea service, and has been a watch-keeping officer. I am satisfied that the clause will be the laughing stock of marine engineers.
– How does the honorable member suggest that we should alter the clause ?
– I suggest that a man should not be allowed to get his first class coast certificate unless he has had sea service - service outside a river or bay. There are hundreds of young fellows with third-class engineer’s discharges, but what are they ? They are mostly youngsters who have come out of the various shipping yards, and are to be found on all the oceangoing boats. A third class engineer’s certificate is not recognised by the Board of Trade at all. It is a complementary ticket given to these lads to certify that they have acted as engineers, and have served a watch. There will be a laugh from one end of Australia to another if we include this provision in the Bill.
– What the clause provides is that a third class coast engineer may qualify for a second class coast engineer’s certificate, and a second class coast engineer may qualify for a first class coast engineer’s certificate on river and bay ships.
His operations will be confined to river and bay ships, and he cannot take a ship to sea, so that all the talk upon the clause has been quite out of place.
-I think that if the Attorney-General will look, at the schedule he will find that a first class coast engineer can take a vessel of considerable horse-power all round the Australian coast.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to8 p.m.
– The amendment proposed bythe Minister requires to be read in conjunction with the schedule of the Bill, and, I think, may well be accepted by the Committee. It will not affect the Board of Trade ticket for the reason that nobody desires that any of our young engineers should possess a certificate which is not recognised by that body. Even river and bay steamers ‘of 200 nominal horsepower and over, which run only a distance of 20 miles from the port of their departure, are required to carry a second class -Board of Trade engineer. The amendment will apply only to river and bay vessels, and if the Minister thinks that a certificate of that character should be earned by all. grades of engineers engaged upon the same class of steamers, I have no objection.
.- It seems to me that the only objection which can be urged to this proposal is that the men who qualify as engineers in river and bay vessels may become seasick when they go to sea. Under the Bill as it stands a man must have a certain amount of sea experience before he can qualify as an engineer, and must become inured to the inconvenience of looking after the engines in heavy weather, whereas, under the amendment proposed, he will be able to qualify absolutely on an even-bottom, and may afterwards go to sea with unpleasant results.
– Wonderfully smart, but equally stupid.
– I do not know why the honorable member always speaks in that fashion.
– Get down to the solid facts of the Bill.
– I frequently wish that I could get my honorable friend down to solid facts. We cannot all view this proposal from the same altitude, or through the same clouds, as he does. Under the Bill as it stands I take it that a man cannot qualify by service in a river and bay vessel. I wish to ascertain whether my interpretation of the clause is correct.
– I have been endeavouring to reconcile the conflicting objections to this proposal, but I confess that I am unable to do so. The proposal set out in the Bill in regard to engineers would enable a man to proceed from one grade to another, provided that he is competent to pass an examination, but not otherwise. When this matter came before the Navigation Commission it was pointed out that a very grave injustice would be done, since the Board of Trade regulations provide that a candidate for an engineer’s certificate must have served as an engineer on the watch on board a steamer of not less than 66 nominal horsepower, and have had four years’ shop experience. But as, in New South Wales, the law was that a third class engineer’s certificate would not enable a man to take charge of a vessel of more than 65 nominal horsepower, it was perfectly clear that a third class engineer wasfor ever barred from even presenting himself for examination. To remedy this, the Bill contains certain provisions, which are set forth in the schedule, and the regulations under the proposed new sub-clause will be framed in such a way that all engineers will be permitted to work in such vessels as will enable them, by virtue of their current certificate, to present themselves for the examination for the certificate of the next highest grade. That is a perfectly sound and logical principle. If honorable members will look at the schedule, they will see what coast engineers may do. The objection, I understand, is to proposed new sub-clause (b), which provides - “ The regulations shall be so framed as -
Objection has been taken to the words “ river and bay ships,” and the provision that service in such ships is sufficient to qualify for examination for a first class coast engineer’s certificate. I think that that objection is unsound. It may be fairly said that 95 per cent. of the persons who now hold third class engineers’ certificates are employed in river and bay services. They propose to continue in that kind of employment, and do not desire any other kind.
– Do they not?
– Ninety-five per cent, of them desire to be able to qualify by river and bay service. If we do not include river and bay ships in the proposed new sub-clause in order that a man may advance from a third class coasting engineer to a second class coasting engineer, he will have to qualify by service at sea. Why should a man who wishes to get his living inside our harbors be compelled to go outside?
– To grant him a certificate inside when he wishes to go outside would be sheer rot.
– Why should a man who desires to get his living inside our harbors be compelled to go outside of them in order that he may sit for a certificate which will enable him to obtain employment inside. I come now to another point, namely, whether a man can qualify for a first class coast engineer’s certificate by river and bay service only, since a first class coast engineer’s certificate will enable him to take a steamer of under 85 nominal horsepower a distance of 100 miles and over from the place of departure? I see no reason why a certificate should not issue, and for this reason : The most that the possession of such a certificate will enable him to do is to take a vessel of 85 nominal horse-power a distance of 100 miles and over from the place of departure. He may get a first class coast engineer’s certificate in half-a-dozen different ways. He may obtain it by putting in the requisite service inside our harbors on river and bay vessels, or he may secure it by service on limited coast trade ships. When he has it he is eligible for employment in any river and bay ship up to 200 nominal horsepower running under 20 miles from the place of departure, and any limited coast trade ship up to 85 nominal horse-power running under 100 miles from the place of departure. All that the clause, as it is proposed to amend it, does, is to enable a man who has qualified as a first-class coast engineer to obtain employment. And he can select such employment as will enable him to qualify for a second class Board of Trade certificate. He can either go on a limited coast-trade boat under 85 horse-power, or on a vessel of any horsepower trading inside a river or bay. If he selects the latter his service on such ships will not entitle him to sit for a second class Board of Trade certificate.
I cannot see- where the objection arises from the stand-point of the second class engineer. What is the present position of the third class engineer? Is he, as a fact,, limited to river and bay service?
– There is a limitation as to horse-power.
– There is, but subject to that and to State laws, which differ, he may take a boat anywhere. If he were in Great Britain, he might take certain vessels of any horse-power without- having any certificate whatever. For instance, inGreat Britain a passenger steamer of 100 nominal horse-power need carry only one engineer. Since there must be three engineers, or at least two, if they are working watch on watch-
– He is an engineer; but what are his qualifications?
– I am dealing now with the condition of affairs in Great Britain under the Board of Trade, which issues second class and first class engineers’ certificates. All the argument directed against the competency of the first” class, second class, or third class engineers utterly fails owing to the fact that under this Bill no man can step from one rank to the other unless he shows his competency by practical examination. All that we do is to remove the barriers that prevent a man from presenting himself for examination. In New South Wales to-day a third class engineer may take a boat, subject to its nominal horse-power, anywhere up and down the coast. Under the Bill he will be able only to take a boat running 100 miles and over from the place of departure, provided that it is under 85 horse-power. Before that third class engineer can obtain a Board of Trade certificate - that is a second class engineer’s certificate - he has to qualify by sea service. I submit that the honorable member for Dalley’s argument fails just at that point, because a man cannot sit for a second class Board of Trade certificate unless he has had sea service on the watch. He must have been, not a supernumerary or a learner, but an engineer on the watch in a vessel over 66 nominal horse-power.
– What, then, is the value of the certificate we are giving the third class engineers?
– It will bridge, as it were, the gap that now exists between the third class coast engineer’s certificate and the second class Board of Trade certificate. Instead of being confronted with impossible barriers, an ordinary practical working man, who has learned all he knows, not by shop experience, but by driving an engine, will be enabled, by practical work and application, and by sea, or river and bay service, as the case may be, to rise step by step, until at last he can become a first class engineer with a foreign-going certificate. The value of the coasting-trade certificate is that, while a first class coast engineer’s certificate may be acquired by river and bay service, yet without sea service it will not avail the holder to sit for a second class Board of Trade certificate. He must have sea service. That being so, I fail to see what objection can be taken to our proposal.
.- 1 -quite agree that this clause provides better facilities for men to obtain certificates of a higher character, but I take a differentview from that urged this evening byseveral speakers in regard to the position of those who will be entitled under this Bill to a third class engineer’s certificate. I hold that it is the duty of the Committee - and I believe Ministers in charge of the Bill share this view - to preserve, as far as possible, the existing rights of. the third class engineers. To my mind, we are not’ doing so. I expressed that opinion on Friday last, and I see no reason to depart from it. This Bill limits considerably the rights now enjoyed by holders of third class certificates in the different States. It is idle to say that under clause 21 we are preserving their existing rights, if at the same time we do not make the value of the certificate which they are to receive under this Bill the same as those which they hold to-day. I find that in New South Wales to-day a third class engineer’s certificate entitles the holder to take a vessel of 50 nominal horse-power to any part of the New South Wales coast, whilst the holder of a third class engineer’s certificate in respect of harbors and rivers is allowed to take a vessel of any nominal horse-power in rivers and bays. The holder of a third class certificate may take a vessel of 50 nominal horse-power anywhere along the New South Wales coast.
– The position is the same in Queensland.
– That is so. Tasmania issues a port engineer’s certificate, allowing the holder to take charge of a vessel of any nominal ‘ horse-power within arty of the port limits of that State, while Victoria issues a marine engine-driver’s certificate, entitling the holder to take charge of engines under 100 nominal horse-power, applicable to all ports and harbors in Victoria. Then, again, South Australia issues a third class engineer’s certificate, which allows the holders to take charge of steamers of unlimited nominal horse-power on the inland waters, and up to 50 nominal horse-power on the coast. These certificates are recognised by the authorities as being practically of equal value, and holders have been allowed to work on them in any of the States mentioned, thus making them interchangeable by usage. We are going to limit the rights enjoyed by holders of these third class engineer’s certificates to-day, because we provide in the schedule that, so far as river and bay boats are concerned, a third class engineer shall only be permitted to take one up to 100 nominal horse-power. To-day, irrespective of what the horsepower may be, he has the right to be employed on harbors and rivers, but under the new certificate which is to be issued he will not have that right, for he can only be employed on a boat of 100 nominal horse-power. In the coast trade we limit the use of the certificate to a boat of 85 horse- power and a steaming distance of 100 miles, whereas to-day a man in New South Wales with the- same qualification can go anywhere along the New South Wales coast. If that be so, how are we preserving the existing rights of those who hold third class certificates? I do not think that we are. I do not believe that we desire to do any injustice to the present holders of engineers’ certificates. In all legislation which has been passed in my parliamentary experience, existing rights have been preserved. Take, for instance, the Coal Mines Regulation Act of New South Wales. All under-managers and managers were conceded the right to a certificate of service. In this Bill, however, whilst it is claimed that we are preserving the existing rights, we are at the same time making a third class certificate to be issued thereunder of less value to the employe than his third class certificate is to-day. We cannot preserve a man’s rights if we limit those rights to something less than what he has to-day. That is the position, it seems to me. I agree with the clause which has been drafted to ease the way to promotion, but I say that we should be careful not to do anything which might operate detrimentally to the interests of these men, and possibly throw some of them out of employment. There may be engineers employed on certain boats in the different States who hold third class certificates, but when we pass this Bill limiting the sea area over which they can travel, the owner of a boat exceeding that limit may have to say to a man, “ Although your services are satisfactory to me as an employer, I must dispense with them because the Act provides that I cannot carry a third class engineer over 100 miles, and my boat is going outside that distance.”
– No. The honorable member has been told that, that is not the effect of the new sub-clause. If the third class engineers hold that view it is wrong. This provision will give them all their rights whatever they are. They will continue to hold them.
– I disagree with the honorable member. How can we give these men the rights which they now enjoy if we set out in the schedule that, an owner can only employ certain men on his ship to run a certain distance ? Suppose, for instance, that a boat carries a couple of third class engineers, and runs 300 miles along the coast, and that we limit the distance to 100 miles. The owner will say, “ Here is an Act which states that I cannot employ a third class engineer to run beyond 100 miles,” and he will naturally dispense with his services. What protection will that be to the man? From my point of view as a layman the future certificate will not be of the same value as the present certificate, and in consequence men may be thrown out of employment. That, of course, we do not want to see. In order to test the question, I move -
That the amendment be amended by adding the following words : - “ Provided that the holder of a State certificate shall be entitled on this Act coming into force -to a second class coast engineer’s certificate.”
We ought to do nothing which will take away existing rights from persons in the employment of different ship-owners. If the proposed new sub-clause be allowed to pass without an amendment of this kind, we shall deprive these men of certain rights, because we are creating a third class certificate, which will not be of the same value as the existing certificate, and, consequently, these men will not be able to get employment in some boats as they can to-day.
– If the honorablemember for Hunter will look at clause 21 sub-clause 3, he will see that theholder of a State certificate may,, subject to any prescribed restrictionsand limitations, surrender it for a certificate of a similar or corresponding grade under the Bill. Every one of the men who are making this complaint knowsthat that clause is in the Bill, and that a certificate as good as the existing one may be obtained. The honorable member savethat the schedule does not give them that right, but if he will refer to the schedulehe will see that, in the limited coast tradesome of the State certificates may be found’ equal to second class coast certificates, and’ will be graded accordingly, as I have said* more than once. Clause 12 provides for three classes of coast engineers, namely, third, second, and first class. All the menwho hold third class certificates to-day willnot be placed as third class coast engineers. Some may be graded as second class coast engineers, and others as first class coast engineers. Those who are first class coast engineers will be able to take a vessel of 85 nominal horse-power as far as they likeon the coast, and the certificates which they hold to-day may be equal to first class certificates issued under this measure. If” they are second class coast engineers they can take a vessel under 55 nominal horse.power as far as they like.
– By what means will’ you ascertain that the certificates are equal ?>
– By ascertaining what examinations the men have passed.. It is well-known that the certificateswhich have been issued by the Statesare of varying value. The certificates of some States are more valuablethan are those of others, as the honorable member for Dalley knows quite well. In some States the holders of the certificates are known by the people whotravel on the boats as “shovel” engineers - that is, men who have graduated from theposition of firemen, and good luck to them for doing so. But we have no right to enact that the third class certificates which are held to-day shall be replaced withfirst, or second, or third class coast certificates. All that we are trying to do by this amendment is to make the positioneasier for the men. The honorable member for Dalley states that we are making it too easy.
– That is so.
– The honorable member and I differ on that point.
– I want to make the position better still.
– I think that a happy medium has been arrived at in the new clause which I have proposed, and I trust that it will be carried.
– Will the word “ may “ in sub-clause 3 of clause 21 have a mandatory meaning? Usually the word “ may “ in an Act of Parliament is interpreted in a mandatory sense.
– If a man wants to surrender his certificate, yes.
– And if he does not, no.
– I have listened to speeches deliveredfrom the other side of the chamber, and it seems to. me to be a case of the doctors differing. I am inclined to think that the honorable member for Hunter has a great deal of common sense on his side, and that is why I rose to support him. I gathered from the remarks of the Minister that he does intend that, before the men whom he called “shovel” engineers, and others, who today are not restricted as to the tonnage of the vessels which they can operate-
– They are restricted as to the horse-power.
– Yes, but the honorable member proposes to impose a further restriction upon them.
– The honorable member proposes that the holders of third class certificates must be examined-
– No. We propose to find out what sort of examination a man has passed to get his certificate.
– But suppose no examination has been passed ?
– Then a third class coasting certificate is given.
– I understand that it is proposed to substitute Australian certificates of definite standards for the various State certificates. Will the certificates be of a higher or lower grade than those now held ?
– Those who hold State certificates will be given Commonwealth certificates of equal value.
– If there is to be equalization, a man holding a high grade certificate must accept a certificate of lower grade, while the one holding a low grade certificate will be given a certificate of higher grade. The contention of the honorable member for Hunter is that there may be a levelling down which should be avoided. A man who has beenengaged in the practical business of engineering should not be humiliated.
– We do notpropose to humiliate any one.
– A man is humiliated if you reduce his status.
– There will be no reduction of status.
– The honorable member for Hunter, who generally knows what he is speaking about when dealing with a practical question, has asked very pointedly whether it is intended to preserve the status of those who have proved their fitness in a practical way.
– That is intended.
– I desire that no injustice shall be done to those who have proved their practical worth, but I understood from the Minister that it is intended to ascertain by examination the value of the present certificates.
Mr.Tudor. - It is intended to ascertain the value of the present certificates, so that first, second, or third class coasting certificates may be substituted for them. A man will be given a Commonwealth certificate of equal value to the State certificate that he holds.
.- In a circular which has been sent to me by the engineers, attention has been called to the fact that the value of third class certificates varies in the different States. Clause 21 says that whatever value certificates may have under the laws of the States under which they were issued, those values will be retained. Therefore, if a third class certificate issued by one of the States will allow its holder to take a vessel of a certain horse-power a certain distance, it will continue to do so, though a certificate that in some States may be called third class may be adjudged as equivalent to a second class Commonwealth certificate. I do not see that any right is to be taken away, though it is very properly provided that a certificate issued under a State law is not to have a greater value under the Commonwealth law than it has now. While a third class State certificate may, in some instances, be exchanged for a second class Commonwealth certificate, no man will be given a certificate of higher value than he now possesses, but we have the assurance of the Government that whatever value a State certificate now possesses that value will be maintained.
– A State certificate might not come up to the standard of a third class Commonwealth certificate.
– The Commonwealth cannot apply a standard which would cancel the value of a State certificate.
– Still a man might be left without his boat.
– Ship-owners will know the values of the State certificates, even though they may be exchanged for Commonwealth certificates of a different denomination. I do not think that the clause allows the cancellation of existing rights.
Mr.ATKINSON (Wilmot) [8.38].- It seems to me that some of those who now hold third class certificates may be awkwardly placed by this provision, because these certificates are of various values, and while some may conform to the standard of a first, second, or third class Commonwealth certificate, others may be below the standard of the third class. There may be good practical men holding certificates who have not passed an examination such as would be needed to secure a third class Commonwealth certificate, and are too old to study for an examination.
– The holders of State certificates will not be required to submit to an examination. They will merely have their State certificates exchanged for Commonwealth certificates of equal value.
– A man holding a State certificate may not, in some cases, have the qualifications required of the holder of a third class certificate.
– Holders of State certificates will be given, without examination or any other test, Commonwealth certificates of equal value.
– I have not studied the clause closely enough to dispute the Minister’s statement, but from a casual reading of it I should have come to a contrary conclusion.
.- Clause 21, which is the basis of the Government’s claim to have safeguarded all the existing rights of engineers, is a little vague. The “ certificates of competency under any State Act “ referred to in that clause apply only within the jurisdiction of the State. The moment we exchange a State certificate for the equivalent under the Commonwealth, if we are bound under clause 21 by the “ extent to which that certificate applied under the State law,” we shall still have to confine its operation to the State in which it was issued. If we apply the State certificates only within each State boundary, we shall be “bumping up “ against the sections of the Constitution which demand that we shall treat. Australian subjects alike in all States.
– The certificates were practically uniform in the States.
– Were they absolutely uniform?
– I will not say absolutely.
– Perhaps they were practically uniform, but the actual wording of clause 21 may possibly have the effect I have indicated.
– There is no State certificate that I know of that will allow a third class engineer to take a boat of 84 horse-power anywhere outside the coast. The Bill confers that right on a first class coast engineer.
– If the Attorney-General gives me that assurance-
– It limits them to 100 miles.
– No, it does not. It gives them unlimited power to go anywhere they like.
– I should like to hear some one specially qualified, such as the honorable member for Dalley, deal with the subject.
– Do I understand that, if a third class engineer’s certificate entitles him to operate a boat of, say, 100 horse-power, and if, under this Bill, we reduce the limit to 75 horse-power, the Government, in order to preserve that man’s right, give him a higher qualification?
– We have not taken away a single right.
– I understand that the Bill will mean a levelling-up rather than a levelling-down, and give a greater value to some certificates.
– The third class engineer’s certificates to-day are of varying value throughout the States. We provide for first, second and third class coast engineers ; and the certificates which the men hold to-day will be changed in each case for one of equal value, as nearly as can be ascertained.
– That is, they will receive a certificate which will enable them to do work-
– Equal to what they are doing to-day. The schedule in the Bill is the one which the third class engineers and marine engineers have agreed upon as more nearly meeting the views of both parties than did any previous schedule.
.- If the Government are going to issue certificates of different value, according to the value of certificates now in force in different States, I cannot see where a uniform Australian certificate will be of any value at all when it is introduced. One difficulty is that a man employed in one State to-day may get a certificate according to the conditions operating in his State, and then may secure employment in another State, where the conditions are different. The fact that he holds a different certificate will prevent him from accepting that employment, unless he sits for an examination. Even if, as the Minister states, existing rights are preserved under clause 21, that must be the effect of the Bill.
– The certificates are not the same now.
– But the States interchange them to-day.
– Only to the extent to which they are interchangeable.
– Even that offers better conditions than will obtain under this Bill. Under this Bill no one could be employed unless he had a certificate equal in value to that furnished to him by the State.
– Their exchange certificates will enable them to get employment in the same ships as at present.
– It is not a good thing from the point of view of Australian shipping to have different certificates operating. Certificates ought to be uniform throughout Australia. I wish to mention another point, as to which I may be wrong. The Minister interjected some time ago when I referred to third class certificates, that they were not limited to 100 miles, but if he looks at the schedule he will find that on limited coast-trade ships running under 100 miles from place of departure, from 40 to 85 horse-power, a third class engineer can be engaged. On ships going beyond 100 miles distance there is no provision for a third class engineer.
-The certificates they have to-day might be equal to the certificates of second class engineers.
– It is all a matter of “might.” They ought to get certificates equivalent to those which they have to-day.
– So they will. I have said so a dozen times.
– I take the Minister’s assurance on the point, but if after the Bill comes into operation it is found that it does not meet the position which I have placed before the Committee, I trust that an amendment will be introduced to insure that these men shall suffer no injustice. .
Amendment of the amendment negatived.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 22 (Employment of uncertificated persons).
– I move -
That the following new sub-clause be added : - “(2.) For the purpose of this section, ‘officer ‘ means an officer who is required to be duly certificated in compliance with section11 of this Act, but does not include officers carried in excess of that requirement.”
It is well known to honorable members that vessels that are only required to carry four engineers sometimes carry five, six, seven, or eight. That is to say, they carry engineers in excess of the number required. Men obtain their training like that. The new sub-clause is intended to provide that a ship shall not be guilty of a breach of the law for carrying engineers who are not certificated, as long as she carries sufficient who are certificated.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 35 -
The master of every ship, except limited coasttrade ships of less than fifteen tons gross registered tonnage, shall, before taking an apprentice to sea - ….
Amendment (by Mr. Tudor) agreed to-
That the word “fifteen,” line 2, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ fifty.”
Clause 41 -
Every ship registered in Australia, and every other ship (British or foreign) engaged in the coasting trade, shall carry as crew the number and description of persons specified in the scales set out in schedules 1 and 2, or prescribed, or specified for the ship by the Minister, after advice from the Marine Council to be appointed under this Act…..
Amendment (by Mr. Tudor) proposed -
That the words “ schedules 1 and “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ schedule.”
– I suppose the reason for this amendment to be that in schedule1 the proportion of officers is fixed, and schedule 2 refers to the crew. As the clause stands it is irregular.
– As the clause stands it overlaps and conflicts in some degree with clause 11, which provides that officers shall be carried in accordance with schedule 1.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 56 -
The master of any ship
Amendment (by Mr. Tudor) proposed -
That after the word “him “ the following words be inserted : “ who is required to be certificated.”
– From the point of view of grammatical construction it would be better to insert the amendment after the word “officer.”
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 134 -
– I move -
That the words “ or engaged in the coasting trade” be left out.
This amendment is designed to remove an anomaly in the clause, which comes into effect only when a ship clears for some port beyond Australia or New Zealand. Only ships under foreign-going agreements would clear for such ports, and as soon as they did so they would cease to be engaged in the coasting trade.
Amendment agreed to.
Clauses 135 and 139 verbally amended.
Clause 218 - (2.) Provided that where the complaint is made by one-fourth of the seamen belonging to the ship, and is not, in the opinion of the Minister, frivolous or vexatious, such security shall not be required. . . .
Amendment (by Mr. Tudor) proposed -
That the words “ one-fourth “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ three or more.”
– I think the Minister is now varying an amendment which he accepted at my suggestion. But he did not accept the whole of it, and as a result he finds that he has now to revert to the original clause. The New Zealand Act is in line with the suggestion which I made. What the Minister is now doing is to amend the clause so as to bring it back to its original form, except that he requires the complaint to be made by ‘ ‘ three or more” of the seamen.
– The reason why I propose to go back to the original clause is thatI considered the suggestion made by the honorable member for Angas reasonable at the time, but I now consider it to be undesirable. I may mention that I realize the difficulty of dealing with these amendments without having a clean copy of the Bill before us. But it is not my intention to ask for the third reading until the Bill has been re-printed.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 352 (Immunity of owner when pilotage is compulsory).
– I move -
That the following new sub-clause be inserted at the beginning of the clause : - “ (1.) The duty of a pilot in compulsory charge shall be to pilot the ship subject to the authority of the master, but the master shall not be relieved, by reason of the ship being under compulsory pilotage, from responsibility for the’ conduct and navigation of the ship.”
It will be remembered that we had some discussion on the question of compulsory pilotage and the liability of pilots. We also made an alteration in clause 351, saying that the pilotage only of a ship should be given into the charge of a pilot. Since then, after consultation with some of the pilots and captains, I have amended the sub-clause by leaving out the words “ advise the master in the conduct of the ship,” and inserting in lieu thereof the words “ pilot the ship subject to the authority of the master.” This will leave the whole responsibility of the piloting’ to the pilot. If we adopted the sub-clause as drafted, the pilots were afraid that, while nominally in charge of a ship, the word “ advise “ might be construed in a way unjust to them. By leave, I move the sub-clause in the amended form.
– When this clause was under consideration I remember suggesting the inconsistency that, while making the owner responsible for the negligence of the pilot, we were not giving the owner power to direct the pilot; in other words, while extending the liability of the ship-owners, we were not correspondingly increasing the control of the master. I suggested that words should be inserted to the effect that the owner’s control shall not be affected by the fact of the compulsory pilotage. As the Bill stood, the pilot would be charged with the duty of piloting the ship, while the master would be responsible for the pilot’s negligence ; and I suggested that the master should be given more control over the aberrations of the pilot. The meaning was that the final say should be with the master, and that seems more consistent than the clause with the new obligations of the owner.
.- In a case of compulsory pilotage, where there is a wreck or accident, what is the position of the master ? Is the master exonerated ?
– The clause sets out the position. .
– What is the position of the master in reference to his company ?
– Is this a question,or what is it?
-It is a question.
– Submittedby the owners ?
– I understand that even when a pilot is aboard, and damage or wreck has happened, the master has been heldresponsible. Is the position of the master better under this clause than it has been hitherto? It seems a harsh thing for a shipping company to remove a master simply because he cannot stop a pilot from running a ship ashore. A master seems to be in a very awkward position; and I should like to know whether this Bill gives him any relief.
– The position of the master is set forth in clause 351, and the position of the master and pilot in clause 352. The present position of the master is that he is always liable; but the practice has been to give up the authority of navigating the ship to the pilot, and for the master to interfere and assert his authority only when danger is imminent and almost unavoidable. As has been pointed out by me, in a quotation from the report of the British Pilotage Committee, the present condition of the law is unsatisfactory, because, although, legally, the master is liable, and his authority unimpaired, the Courts, in the present form of the statutory law, have always found that the pilot’s authority ought to stand, and that the master exercises his authority at very great risk. Under the amendment, the position of the master is changed for the better. His liability continues, but it is never superseded, even by a fiction, by that of the pilot. Under the Bill, the master will always be in charge of the ship. The pilot will be on board to pilot the ship. Pilotage and charge of the ship will be clearly separable functions. The pilot is an expert employed to take a ship through narrow and dangerous waters, but the liability for the safety of the ship will rest wholly on the master. Not that that relieves the pilot of responsibility for negligence or want of skill. It will not. He is always supposed to exercise skill and care, but under the proposal now made the master will be able to assert his authority without incurring the tremendous responsibility he has now to incur if he countermands an order of a pilot.
– Is the pilot to be punishable equally with the captain?
– The whole thing will turn on the facts,. If a master asserts his authority to countermand an order of a pilot, the Court will decide, in view of all the circumstances, whether he was justified in doing so. Supposing a master tells a steersman to disregard an order of a pilot, and assuming that the ship is in “a crowded river, when it may be a matter of a moment to avoid disaster, and suppose that almost simultaneously a disaster occurs, no Court would hold the master responsible, because he had done what was humanly possible to avoid the disaster. The pilot would, in such a case, have to take the responsibility. And vice versa, if by an order of the master superseding an order of the pilot damage resulted, the responsibility would rest with the captain.
– Suppose the captain leaves the pilotage of the vessel entirely with the pilot, is he still to be responsible ?
– As I have said, everything will depend on the facts in each case. In practice, of course, the master stands by the pilot on the bridge. He is supposed to see what the pilot is doing, and to follow the possible consequences of every order that the pilot gives. If it is apparent on the face of it that the consequence of an order by the pilot in a narrow channel such as the Yarra would lead to disaster, the master may interpose. But how is a master to know the consequences of a pilot’s order when he is navigating shallow or dangerous waters where the danger is beneath the ship, and is not known to him? The Court would, of course, have to review the whole of the circumstances in each case. What this new sub-clause does is to put the position clearly and in statutory form. It makes it clear that the liability of the master never ceases, and he may exercise his authority when he pleases, but he must do it only in such circumstances as, in his opinion, justify his action on the ground that the pilot has issued a wrong order.
.- I quite agree that the amendment will bring the position of pilot into conformity with the general framework of the Bill, but there is one question which I should like to ask in connexion with it. I have followed the Attorney-General so far as he has gone, but I submit the case of a ship going into a port like Newcastle. It is quite conceivable that a pilot might be quite willing to take a ship into that port in rough weather in order to take away coal so as to avoid the hanging up of a mine. The master of the ship may not know that the entrance to the port is very dangerous under certain conditions. The pilot does know that. and’ I wish to learn from the Attorney-General how far the pilot will be expected to make the master of the vessel acquainted with all the circumstances before getting his acceptance of the risk involved in seeking to enter.
– When the pilot acts entirely on his own initiative, he will be entirely responsible. When he” acts in accordance with the master’s wishes - if, for instance, the master should “say, “ Take her in, I will accept the risk,” - he will not be responsible.
– Is the pilot expected tolet the master know that there is some risk ?
– The pilot no doubt will be expected to tell the master the probableconsequences of attempting to take his shipin at a particular time.
Mr. Mcwilliams (Franklin) [9.16]. - This is a very important question. It is clear that there cannot be two men in charge on the bridge at the same time. If the pilot takes charge, the master must stand on one side. I admit that in this Bill we are following the English law to some extent, but I think very unfairly, because the whole object appears to be tomake the ship-owner responsible for all damage and to make the pilot, our servant, quite free from all responsibility. We have passed a clause which I believe to be one of the most unfair provisions ever put into an Act of Parliament. I take the case of a master who is a perfect stranger to Port Phillip. He has never been on the Australian coast before, and has never been inside the heads at Port Phillip, and can know nothing of the dangers of the entrance. As this is a compulsory pilotage port, he will Be bound by law to surrender his ship to a pilot. If that pilot runs the ship ashore, he will not be responsible under this Bill.
– There is responsibility under the criminal law.
– There may or may not be such responsibility. The AttorneyGeneral must know that it is exceedingly hard to prove criminal negligence in a case of that kind. But Ave have gone a good deal further than that. We have provided, for instance, that if there is a second ship lying in the bay, and the pilot compulsorily placed in charge of the first vessel runs her down, and wrecks both, the owner of the first vessel is responsible for the damage to both ships. That is most unjust.
– So he is now.
– We have taken away the personal responsibility of the pilot.
– That is the law now.
– I know it is, and I say it is a most unjust law.
– What would the honorable member do to meet the difficulty?
– I have always held that pilots, and those responsible for their employment, should accept complete responsibility for their action the same as any other employers must accept responsibility for the actions of their agents or servants.
– Who is the employer of the pilot?
– Under this Bill, it would be the Commonwealth Government. We compel a man to surrender his ship to our pilot, and if he piles up the ship on the rocks the owner has to meet the loss.
– Is that the law anywhere in the world?
– In this Bill it is proposed to go even further, and to say that if the pilot of a vessel runs down another ship, and wrecks both of them, the owner of the vessel on which the pilot is engaged shall not only suffer the loss of his own ship, but pay compensation for the wreck of the other.
– We have not altered the law in that respect.
– But we are enacting a law which is an unfair one.
– The honorable member would not think that if he were the owner of the ship which was run down.
– I am thinking of the injustice we are doing. We are dealing with the responsibility of the pilot; and I say that the Bill is unfair to shipowners, and especially to the owners of sailing ships. It very often happens that the master of a sailing ship has an interest in it, and beyond that interest does not possess a penny in the world. If the pilot on such a vessel were to run down and wreck another ship, the master would not only lose his own ship, but would be compelled to pay damages for the loss ofthe other vessel, although he had been obliged to stand down from the bridge and to hand over his command to the pilot.
– How could he be compelled to pay damages if all he possessed were represented by his interest in the ship?
– Suppose that the vessel were insured for half her value.
– Suppose that she were insured for double her value. One is just as sensible an assumption as is the other.
– I hope that the Attorney-General did not hear what I said. Had he done so, I scarcely think he would make that interjection. Suppose that the ship were insured for one-half or threefourths of her value. Her master would lose, not only the difference between that value and the insurance upon her, but the whole of that insurance would probably go to compensate the owner of the ship which the pilot had run down.
– The honorable member suggests that as soon as a pilot goes on board a vessel he will indulge in a game of skittles with all the other ships in the harbor.
– I do not. But take the case of the steamer Australia, which was wrecked by the act of a pilot-
– That is ancient history.
– It is, comparatively, recent, and, unfortunately, the same thing may occur again.
– What was done to the pilot on that occasion?
– Nothing, as usual. However, it is evident that the Committee intend to pass the clause, and to relieve the pilot of all responsibility in case of accident.
– I see a great many difficulties in connexion with this matter. Under a given set of conditions, a divided responsibility always entails more or less serious consequences, or else it has the effect of attaching no responsibility to anybody. It is now generally recognised that the master of a ship is never supposed to lose entire control of it. But he has to accept personal responsibility for any interference with the orders given by the pilot, who is temporarily in charge of the vessel. Very few masters would interfere with a pilot unless they thought that he was not in a fit condition to take charge of the ship, or that he was making an error of judgment which would jeopardize its safety. Under such circumstances, a master would conceive it to be his duty to interfere, and thus to take upon himself full responsibility. I would like to .put a supposititious case. In the dangerous waters to be found along the Queensland coast, inside the .Great Barrier reef a certain course has been laid down in the Admiralty charts. A strange master navigating those waters for the first time, and having studied the charts and sailing regulations, would naturally follow that course. But in conversation with several masters and pilots who are accustomed to travel those waters, I learned that it is never safe to follow the Admiralty course. The position is so affected by continually changing currents that it would be impossible to follow that course without incurring very great risk indeed. Suppose that the master of a ship, in ignorance of the fact that the currents are constantly changing - that a current which ran in one direction to-day would to-morrow run in an entirely different direction-
– What does the master usually do under such circumstances?
– It is conceivable that a case of that kind might happen. The master in charge of a large vessel, upon seeing that the pilot was not following the Admiralty course, might very reasonably apprehend that he was making a mistake. In such circumstances, he might himself assume responsibility and direct the helmsman to disregard the pilot’s orders.
– I think this is a game of bridge.
– The honorable member may think it is a matter of no moment, but such an occurrence as I have suggested is not only possible, but probable. A nervous or conscientious skipper, desirous of doing what was right, although his judgment might be wrong, might, relying on the accuracy of the Admiralty charts, direct that the pilot’s orders be disregarded by the helmsman. In that case, would he be relieved of liability in the event of mishap arising? I see here great difficulty in attaching proper responsibility. The master might have stepped in, believing the vessel to be in danger, and that the pilot was making a mistake. The pilot, on the other hand, would know that the master, because of, his ignorance of the peculiar currents running there, would probably run the ship into danger, and yet if the master took charge, as he would be entitled to do, the pilot, I presume, would be relieved of responsibility. But what culpable responsibility would attach to the master in respect of any damage to the ship or loss of life that might occur as the result of his interference? In the exercise of his right to interfere, a master, acting from perfectly good motives, might in this way pile a ship up on a reef in the waters to which I have referred. I do not know what position the master would occupy in such circumstances. I merely point this out as one of the possibilities. I do not. see how we could make provision to meet it, but in ordinary circumstances I think the clause as it will now read is not unreasonable. I do not altogether share the view expressed by the honorable member’ for Franklin.
– How would the honorable member divide the responsibility ?
– I think that it is divided now. The master of a ship, notwithstanding that a pilot may be in charge, and responsible for its safe navigation while in charge, may intervene, as he has a right to do, under present conditions. The moment that he does so the pilot is relieved of responsibility. The responsibility is transferred to the master.
– Then what is the difference between this Bill and the present law in this regard?
– There are some differences. Here is an experience of my own. At one time I was on a vessel which, while in charge of a pilot, put into Cardiff Roads, in the teeth of a gale, and anchored there. The master, although on board, was not in a fit state of health to take charge. The first and second mates, together with nearly the whole of the crew, had died of scurvy, and had been buried at sea. The master was dangerously ill.
– And where was the honorable member?
– I was taken to the hospital with others who were suffering from scurvy. About half-an-hour after we had anchored, the pilot left the vessel, and she began to drag her anchor. The pilot had put down only one anchor when, perhaps, he ought to have put down two. The result was that the ship dragged her anchor, fouled another ship, cut away the jibboom and bowsprit of that vessel, and stove in the skids of her own boats, besides doing other injury. In this way both vessels were damaged. Court proceedings took place, but I do not know what was the issue, but clearly the master was in sole charge of the ship, although he was hors de combat. He was in his bunk, absolutely unable to move, but there was no other responsible person on board. Would it be said that the master in that case was to blame, seeing that as the pilot had left the ship he had not ordered another anchor to be put down. This is a problem which the Attorney-General might perhaps be able to solve. I am afraid, however, that he has not followed it very closely, so that we are not likely to have his reading of the relative positions of master and pilot in such conditions.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 421 verbally amended.
Bill reported with further amendments.
Motion (by Mr. Tudor), by leave, proposed -
That the reports be now adopted.
– I understood that the Minister of Trade and Customs promised to see if he could not make some alteration in new clause 5A, but nothing has been done, and for that reason I desire a recommittal of the provision. It seems to me most peculiar that, while we have imposed upon every State in the Union certain conditions, we have not applied those conditions to a Territory which we really govern.
– We do the same with the Tariff.
– The honorable member knows very well that the imposition of taxation has been left to the Legislative Council of Papua. The white people in Papua make the blackfellows pay the local taxation, and we find the rest of the revenue, so that the white residents have nothing to grumble about in that regard. In spite of the fact that they pay no taxes, they object to being brought under the same shipping conditions as the rest of Australia. I regret that the Minister is supporting the stand which they have taken in this matter. It is impossible to separate the Australian shipping of Papua from the rest of the shipping of Australia. By every possible legislative means the Commonwealth and the States are endeavouring to improve the shipping of Australia, and yet we are leaving a black spot in Papua. I do not think that this is a proper stand for this Parliament to take. Indeed, I am surprised that the Government are content to allow this matter to go by the board. I was out of the chamber the other night when new clause 5A was finally dealt with, but I understood that a distinct promise was given by the Minister that an opportunity for reconsideration was to be afforded. In asking for a recommittal of the provision at this stage I am at a disadvantage. The other evening we had the advantage of the position. I think that the Minister ought to give us some information as to why the Government have nob considered my suggestion favorably, so that we may know where we are.
– We have considered it.
– Papua is a portion of the Commonwealth in every sense of the word. Seeing that we pay a subsidy, the people of Australia are really the taxpayers of the Territory, and for that reason I think that its people ought to be prepared” to conform to the shipping law of Australia. If we allow this provision to pass as it is, we shall be subsidizing a portion of Australia which is encouraging German and Dutch shipping to the disadvantage of Australian shipping. I should not be so keen on this matter if only British shipping was concerned. The Ministry have stated that one of the reasons why they cannot place Papua under the same shipping provisions as the rest of Australia is the fact that it would place Papuans at a disadvantage, as there is no British shipping trading to the Territory. I cannot help thats fact. The Government are subsidizing Australian shipping round the coast of Australia. They subsidize the Government of Western Australia for running a mail service from Albany to Eucla, and have undertaken to give that Government another subsidy for running a service from Derby, via Wyndham, to Port Darwin. If the people of Papua are peculiarly situated as regards shipping accommodation, surely the Government will consider the question of extending the subsidy to the present company - running to Papua, or enabling other companies to trade to and from Papua under exactly the same conditions as the shipping in the rest of Australia. We shall fail in our duty if we leave a black spot in this Bill, as we shall do if we allow the shipping of Australia to be exploited by German and Dutch mail-boats. I have much pleasure in moving - .
That the Bill be now again recommitted for the reconsideration of clause 5A.
– No doubt there is a good deal to be said for what the honorable member contends, but I again remind him that the effect of his amendment, if made, would be not to apply the Bill as a whole to Papua, but to affect its coasting trade, not between Australia and Papua, but between only Papua and Australia. Take, for example, a Papuan ship, manned wholly or partly by Papuans, trading from Port Moresby to Thursday Island. Surely it could hardly be contended that the Australian rates of wages also ought to be paid to Papuans on that ship. Yet the honorable member’s amendment would compel the owners of the ship to do so. It would practically put Papuans out of the business. They could not trade between their own ports.
– They could trade round their own coast, but not to Australia.
– Under the amendment they could not.
– That is not insurmountable.
– The whole difficulty is “that Papua is a country with a Legislature of its own. The Papuan Act contemplates that their legislation will be sufficient for the needs of the Territory, and it provides that the Commonwealth legislation shall not apply unless it be expressly so declared therein. This Bill has been drawn with a view to enable Papua to do in this matter as it pleases. To endeavour to apply a Commonwealth Statute in part to a Territory situated as Papua is would be to involve us in very great difficulties indeed for a very doubtful benefit. It is only contended, for example, that the conditions of competition will be unfair so far as, say, Burns, Philp, and Company are concerned.
– It does not matter what firm it is.
– Suppose that Papua is put in the same position as a port in Australia. The honorable gentleman does not contend for a moment, I am sure, that it should not get the benefit of any proclamation the same as any other port.
– Hear, hear !
– Suppose that we proclaimed Papua, and any port in Australia, as exempt for a period from the provisions regulating the coasting trade. Under the Bill Papua will not be in the same position as Fremantle, because, when we exempt Fremantle and the eastern ports from those provisions, we shall permit all the English mail companies to carry passengers, but will exclude the Messageries Maritimes and the Norddeutscher Lloyd companies. But as no English company trades regularly with Papua, we should leave Burns, Philp, and Company in possession of the field.
– The Commonwealth Parliament could provide against that. It might grant a subsidy to some other company.
– No doubt. I wish to promote the interests of Australian shipping in preference to those of foreign shipping, but the amendment would give a monopoly of the trade of Papua to Burns, Philp, and Company. If the Parliament desires this, well and good. ‘ But it is as well that honorable members should go into the matter with their eyes open. Under these circumstances, the Commonwealth should have from that firm a guarantee that it would give to Papua the facilities for transport that the Territory deserves.
– Has the company been approached ?
– Some one representing the firm approached me, and expressed a readiness to do what is needed, but no definite offer has been submitted. If, without a guarantee such as I speak of, we agreed to the proposal of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, we should be establishing a monopoly with our eyes open, and unless the natural uneasiness which the knowledge of that fact must create can be allayed, I do not see how the Government can depart from the position which they have taken up.
.- I shall co-operate with the honorable member for. Melbourne Ports in protesting against clause 5A. The important object which we have in view is the building up of an Australian mercantile marine; thatis the whole purpose of the Bill, and I fail to see how it can be accomplished if we exempt from the conditions which we have applied to Australian shipping the foreign vessels which trade from the East to Papua and down our coast. I no more than any one else desire the establishment of a monopoly, and I recognise that Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Company at the present time have a great hold on the trade of the Pacific islands, but the question we have to consider is whether it is not better to give them a slight advantage for the sake of establishing a White Australian mercantile marine, under proper conditions than to allow Dutch “ and other foreign companies to compete with our ship-owners, with coloured crews, paid at lower than Australian rates,. and employed under inferior conditions. Burns, Philp, and Company are’ subsidized for the conveyance of mails, and I do not see why the subsidy should not be increased to secure a better service.
– Or a subsidy given to some other firm.
– Yes; to induce it to enter the trade. The position of Burns, Philp, and Company is such that they should be ready to make an agreement which will give the Commonwealth reasonable and legitimate control, so that Papua shall not suffer from a monopoly, and the. trade between the Commonwealth and the Territory may be conducted under reasonable conditions.
.- This question is not an easy one. Undoubtedly the interests of the Territory require the freest communication with Australia, but a difficult position would be created if Papuan shipping were exempted from the provisions of the Bill to the advantage of a Dutch company. It would appear that we are yielding in some degree to the political pressure of the people of Papua. Being indirectly a shareholder in Burns, Philp, and Company, I shall not vote on the question, but I feel at liberty to point out that if we grant this exemption for the benefit of the Dutch company which trades with Papua, the protests from the big German companies to which the provisions of the Bill will apply will be all the stronger. On the second reading I expressed the opinion that all foreign companies must be. treated exactly alike, if it is desired to avoid difficult objections. We must expect to receive from foreign countries strong protests against our navigation law ; and we ought to place ourselves in as strong a position as we can to meet it. I should like to see some step taken by the Commonwealth authorities whereby competition for the trade of Papua by Australian companies could be secured. I do not see why Burns, Philp and Company should have a -monopoly of that business,, if Papua is not exempted from the operation of the Bill.
– It is exempted.
– At present it is, but the Tasmanian and Western Australian trade is not exempt. The result is that all the other overseas companies doing business with Australia will have to cease to carry passengers on the Australian coast unless they subscribe to Australian conditions ; and the only exemption made with regard to the whole of Australia’s territories relates to a Dutch company and to Papua. The German, French, and other nations doing business with Australia will be correspondingly angry. A German will naturally say, “If a German ship carrying a white crew cannot carry passengers on the Australian coast-line, why do you allow a Dutch ship, carrying a black crew, to carry, not only passengers, but cargo, from an Australian Dominion to the Australian Commonwealth ?”
– That is. the position which we want to alter.
– I do not think that such a position can be maintained with any claim to logicality for the Bill.
– Papua is not part of the Commonwealth.
– It is a Territory of the Commonwealth .
– The Germans, as well as the Dutch, trade to Papua.
– If we want to obviate protests from other parts of the world against differential treatment in favour, mainly, of one particular nation - no doubt accidentally - we ought to make some special provision, outside this Bill, for giving Papua a better service than it is now getting from Burns, Philp, and Company. We ought to face the matter squarely. The Government should’ deal with Papua just as they deal with any other part of the Commonwealth. I do not propose to vote upon the amendment, being indirectly, although not directly and personally, a shareholder in Burns, Philp, and Company; but it ought to be possible to give the Papuans a better service, irrespective altogether of that company, without making the Bill self-contradictory, as it is now.
.- The Government have taken the right course in° this matter. It is difficult to induce people to go to Papua now, and we want to get as many white settlers there as possible. We ought not to deprive the people of Papua of any of the steam-ship services which they are now getting, and which bring them their mails fortnightly, and also foodstuffs from the East. If we left them to the tender mercies of Burns, Philp, and Company, we should be doing a very silly and narrow-minded thing, and I am glad the Government have followed lines of high policy in this matter. I am only sorry they did not make similar exemptions in one or two other instances. As the honorable member for Dalley said, the object of the Bill is to build up a strong coastal marine service for Australia, but no damage is done to that service by the action the Government have taken. If the German, Dutch, and other steamers were prevented from going to Papua, Burns, Philp, and Company would be given a monopoly, and it would cost the Commonwealth a great deal of money to subsidize other ships to compete with them. That would not be a profitable transaction. Any subsidized service would be only in relation to the trade between Australia and Papua, and would not make up for the benefits which Papua now gets from the trade with the East. The Government have taken a broad view of the matter, and have not in any way injured the main principles of the Bill.
– I informed the honorable member for Melbourne Ports last Thursday evening that I would have this matter looked into. I have kept my word, with the result stated by the AttorneyGeneral. Had the honorable member been present this afternoon, when re-committals were being moved, I should have offered no objection to a re-committal in this instance. The vote that will be taken on the motion now before the Chair will, I presume, be the same as would be taken in Committee on the amendment. The amendment which the honorable member desires to move would have a much further-reaching effect than he supposes, because it would bring the whole of the Papuan trade, coastal and other, within the Bill.
– Could not a clause be put in to obviate that?
– There is a proviso to clause 286, so far as British ships are concerned. I understand that the only other vessels that trade to Papua are Dutch and German. I trust that the honorable member will not think I broke faith with him, because I did have the matter looked into, and was informed that if such an amendment were made it would possibly lead to other complications. If all or most of the white people in Papua were to petition the King against the Bill, I have no doubt that the Imperial ‘Board of Trade would not offer any violent objections to their request, on account of other objections which it has to the measure.
Question - That clause 5a be recommitted - resolved in the negative.
Question - That the reports be now adopted - resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I should like to ask the Minister of Home Affairs when he proposes to take the New South Wales redistribution scheme? I asked him some time ago whether he would give us reasonable notice when this business was to be dealt with, and he assured the House that he would. I understand that the report of the Commissioners is now in his hands, and he may produce it any day. In view of his promise, I think he ought to give us a few days’ notice as to when the scheme is to be brought forward.
– The businessreferred to by the honorable member for Wentworth will not be taken to-morrow. I understand that the report of the Commissioners came . to the Minister of HomeAffairs in an incomplete state, and has had to be sent back. There will be no delay.
– The Government will give, us plenty of notice?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.14 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 October 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19121022_reps_4_67/>.