4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to know from the Minister of External Affairs if he has seen the report in this morning’s newspapers regarding certain troubles that have arisen in the Northern Territory? Will he explain why the Heads of the Departments there are away from their offices ?
– I have read in to-day’s newspapers of some trouble in the Northern Territory, but I shall be glad if the question is repeated on Tuesday, because I have sent to the Administrator, who will be at Darwin to-day at latest, a long telegram asking for a full report of the circumstances. . The Heads of the Departments, who are away, are in the country engaged on the work of their offices.
– The country is the proper place for them.
– I do not wish them to stay in their offices. They should go about and see as much of the country as possible.
– Will the Minister of Trade and Customs lay on the table all the correspondence between his Department and Mr. A. L. Norman in reference to the latter’s claim to the. discovery of the causation of bitter pit in apples, together with all reports and other documents connected with it?
– I should like the honorable member to repeat the question on Tuesday, because, if I remember rightly,’ this gentleman has written saying that he intends to sue me, or the Department, for £500,000. I wish for an opportunity to look through the correspondence.
– Has anything further been done towards making arrangements with Canada for a reciprocal Tariff ? Has any further information been received regarding the visit of the Canadian Minister who is expected to conduct the negotiations ?
– The last information was a statement in the press that he expected to be here in March, or April next.
– There has been nothing official?
– No. This morning’s newspapers announce that Sir James Mills has stated that he considers that Australia is anxious to enter into a reciprocal trading arrangement with Canada, but no communication has been received by the Department.
– The following paragraph was published in yesterday’s Argus : -
Since the beginning of the financial year the health authorities have discovered 27 instances in which passengers from overseas have arrived in Melbourne suffering from consumption. Of these, seven have been disclosed at the Department’s special bureau in Lonsdale-street during the past few weeks, those affected having applied for admission to the State sanatoriums.
In one family who only recently landed in Melbourne four persons have been reported as being affected by consumption in different stages. These sufferers were not, however, brought to Victoria with Government assistance, but paid their own passages to another State.
I wish to know from the Minister of External Affairs if the Department is doing anything to prevent the introduction of consumption into this country?
– There is no medical inspection of immigrants before they leave England or any other country, and it is difficult for two or three medical officers here to thoroughly examine perhaps 500 or 600 persons who are arriving at one time; but it is our intention to introduce within the next few days a Bill providing for the compulsory medical inspection of all persons coming to Australia from European and other ports. It is only fair to say that most of the immigrants who have been found to be in bad health are not persons who have been assisted by the State Governments, which carry out a certain amount of medical inspection before the immigrants leave England. Sickness has been discovered chiefly among those who have paid full fares to come here. The present system, however, is not a good one, because, I understand, an immigrant who may have been rejected by the medical officer of the Victorian Government is sometimes able to pass into some other State, or vice versa. It is the intention of this Government that all immigrants shall undergo a medical examination.
– Will the Minister of External Affairs, with a view to introducing the necessary legislation, make inquiries from the British authorities at Hong Kong as to the practice there? I believe that the shipping company is made answerable to the extent of .t, I 00, if any one lands in Hong Kong who will be a charge upon the colony.
– I shall certainly make inquiries.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister if he will lay on the table all the papers connected with the establishment of the machinery which he told us yesterday had been devised for the circulation of advice to those likely to become mothers, in time to be of use to them.
– Papers have been sent to medical men with a view to enabling those likely to become mothers to make themselves acquainted with all that is necessary for them to know before the birth of their children. Forms making application for this information to be filled in before the event have been prepared.
– Will the Prime Minister, lay all the papers on the table?
– Will the Minister of External Affairs inform the House what, action, if any, has been taken by the Government in regard to testing those places in Papua that are reported to be oilbearing?
- Mr. Carne, the Government Geologist of New South Wales, who has been kindly placed at our disposal by the Government of that State, has been sent to Papua to inspect fields reputed to be oil-bearing, and his report is extremely satisfactory. We have engaged a person who is an oil expert.
– An expert in the matter of boring for oil ?
– Yes, and we have also obtained a plant, which is the finest and largest of its kind that has .ever been made in Australia. This plant has been practically completed ; the derrick is in position. I saw it this morning, and I shall be glad if honorable members who are interested iri Papua will inspect it before it is dismantled to-morrow.
– Where is it?
– In Sturt-street, South Melbourne. Part of the plant has been sent away, and the rest of it will be despatched in the early part of November.
– What is it made of - steel ?
– Is it the intention of the Minister to have Mr. Carne’s report on the mineral possibilities of Papua published ?
– When semiofficial post-offices are converted into official post-offices, is care taken to conserve the interests of those who have been in charge of them for many years? Are they given an opportunity to continue in the service of the Department?
– This is one of the difficulties which I mentioned the other day. Hitherto, when non-official have been made official offices, I have endeavoured, as far as possible, to find positions in the Department for those who have been in charge of them, but it is becoming increasingly difficult, and, should the Public Service Act remain unaltered, it is only a matter of time when it will be impossible.
– In view of the facts which the Reverend Mr. Spurr has placed at my disposal, on behalf of himself and others, as to the unfair charges made by the Metropolitan Gas Company, will the Prime Minister say, whether, in the event of the referendum proposals being carried, the Commonwealth will have power to control the various gas companies of Australia ?
– If such powers are granted to the Commonwealth as will enable the Parliament to pass an effective company law, the operations of corporations of the kind referred to by the honorable member could be regulated.
– I wish to draw attention to the following paragraph which appears in this morning’s Argus -
Suva (Fiji). Thursday. - The Legislative Council agreed to a motion favouring reciprocal trade relations with New Zealand and Canada.
It was decided to appeal to the Commonwealth, through the Home Government, to remove the duty on Fijian bananas.
Is the Minister of Trade and Customs aware that, at present, in this part of Australia bananas are being sold at famine prices ? Will the honorable gentleman take steps, in the direction indicated, to make this popular and wholesome fruit available at the lowest possible prices to the children of the poorer classes?
– I have not seen the paragraph, and no representations have been made recently on behalf of the Fijian growers of bananas. There will be no alteration in the duty on bananas, or any other duty, until a new schedule has been laid on the table, and I have intimated that it is not likely that any item of the Tariff will be altered this session.
– Has the Minister any information regarding the quantity of bananas grown in Australia by white persons, and the quantity grown by Chinese or other aliens?
– I think that there is some information on the subject,which was given to me when I visited Queensland some eighteen months ago.
– I wish to know from the Treasurer whether a definite agreement has yet been arrived at regarding the Liverpool manoeuvre area?
– I can only repeat what I said before, that if words can make it, it has been made.
– Will the Prime Minister state when the private holders of land in the Liverpool manoeuvre area may expect something more definite than words ?
– I have promised to provide the money to enable the New South Wales Government to resume the land and pay the holders. No further difficulties should arise.
– In view of the admitted unsatisfactoriness of the Public Service Act, the matter having been referred to even this morning by the PostmasterGeneral, I wish to ask the Prime Minister if the Government propose to amend the Act to overcome those difficulties in regard to administration?
– The matter is under the consideration of the Government at the present moment.
– Has the Minister of Home Affairs taken the necessary steps to proceed with the printing of the electoral rolls for Queensland at the earliest possible date?
– Yes Yes, we are on it now.
– Has the Prime Minister any objection to making available information showing what applications have been made by the States for loans from the Commonwealth during the last twelve months?
– Applications, generally speaking, are confidential, but immediately they are completed and loans made the House will be informed. I shall lay on the table next week a statement showing any rearrangement that has been made. I do not think applications should be laid on the table.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether it is the intention of the Vice-President of the Executive Council, and of himself, and of the other Ministers concerned, to refund to the Treasury the amounts drawn by them as travelling allowances during the time that they were canvassing in connexion with the Queensland and Tasmanian State elections ?
– I drew no expenses in Tasmania at all. I have no intention of refunding the expenses drawn for Queensland, and I do not think that any honorable member but himself desires me to do so.
– On Thursday, 17th October, the honorable member for Brisbane asked me the following questions -
The replies are -
Administrator and Employes
– The honorable member for New England has sent me the following letter : -
Dear Mr. Speaker,
I desire to move the adjournment of the House to call attention to a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, the relationship between the Administration and the em,ployes in the Northern Territory.
Five honorable members having risen in
– It is with some regret that I take this step, but I am forced to do so by the action of the Minister of External Affairs himself. I have been approaching the Minister on this matter for some time, and, although I have given him ample opportunity to fix the whole business up, he has refused to do so. To show honorable members that this is not a trifling question, let me read the last wire received this morning from the president of the Australian Workers Association at Darwin -
Holding meeting to-night. Carpenters still refuse to work with non-union new foreman. Men determined help them. Trouble coming if not fixed up. Waiting your wire.
This shows that the matter is still fresh and urgent. In regard to labour difficulties between the Administrator and the men in the Territory, the proper time to get to work is now, before we send a large body of men there, because I do not wish to see strikes occurring in this far-distant outpost of the Commonwealth. The Administrator’s position up there is one of difficulty, and if we can by any means minimize his troubles, we ought to do so. The following is the first letter received on this matter : -
Darwin, N.T., 9th September, 1912
Mr. F. Foster, M.H.R.,
About three weeks ago Mr. Kellaway, Superintendent Public Buildings, advised the workers of his Department that they would have to start work at 7 a.m. in lieu of 8 o’clock. The secretary of our union, a branch of A.W.A. of North Queensland, replied that he would submit the alteration of hours at a special meeting of the union. He was informed by Mr. Kellaway that notwithstanding the decision our union may come to, His Excellency’s orders would be enforced on the following Monday. At a special, general meeting on the Saturday, it was unanimously resolved that His Excellency be waited upon and informed that this meeting has unanimously voted in favour of the present working hours- 8 to 5. It was subsequently put before the Administrator, and also pointed out to him that the publicans would not serve us with a 6 o’clock breakfast. It was further pointed out to him that the Minister said at a deputation, in His Excellency’s presence, that the men shall decide by majority how they shall work the 44 hours.
If it had not been for that promise, I should not be taking my present action.
However, His Excellency informed us that those who did not turn up at 7 o’clock would not have their “ time “ booked. The men stuck to their guns and turned up as usual at 8 a.m. When 4 o’clock struck the men were told to cease work, but they refused, and worked on until 5 o’clock. They were informed that they would not be paid for time after 4 p.m. When pay-day arrived, all hands were docked one hour per day, or, in other words, were paid only for seven hours’ work, although they worked eight hours. They are still working from S to 5, and are receiving their pay under protest. The publicans also waited on His Excellency and refused to serve breakfast at 6 a.m. The Administrator gazetted a Proclamation (after he failed) that all Government employes must start work at 7.30 a.m. This Proclamation was ignored. The men are working away at the same hours, 8 to 5, and, as I said before, receiving their pay under protest. Our head office advised us per “wire” that the Minister “ wired “ them that the dispute was settled.
If this were a large body of men in any of the States, there would be a wholesale rush to give them arbitration, and some one would be asked to step in between the employer and the employes to see that fair play was given-, but there seems to be a tendency to neglect these men because they are far away.
– That is an unfortunate fact, but it is all the more reason why they should receive some representation on the floor of this House. People who have votes and members representing them in the House can pull wires through those members, and so are in a better position, but the only chance which men in the Territory have of representation here is through the Minister or through some honorable member who will take up their case for them. The next wire that I received from the Territory was as follows : - .
Men still working from eight to five. Why wages paid short? Please see Minister.
I saw the Minister, and showed him the communication, and he advised me to send the following reply -
Minister informs me that if that is so that mert are working some time not authorized by the Department Minister. Is that so?
The following answer immediately came back -
My wire correct. Men still determined to work old hours. Prevent trouble if you can.
I was rather anxious that something should be done, but I did not want to force the Minister’s hands too much, so I left the matter with him, but I gradually learnt’ from other sources that it was said that the trouble was only a tiny flash in the pan caused by a few grumblers. I therefore wired to the Territory to ascertain the real position, and this is the reply I received -
Last meeting sixty-five voted for the old hours, only three old hands and two new arrivals working half-past 7. Trouble only confined Darwin.
That was sent to me on the 15th October, and, again, on the 17th, the following wire was sent -
Holding meeting to-night. Is expected strong action prevent trouble. Wages still cut short.
On the 19th, this one came to hand -
Men still determined for old hours. Carpenters ceased work to-day. ‘ Will not call others out yet. Waiting on your wire.
I quote these communications to show that it has always been my desire to prevent a strike and trouble in the Territory, bub the Minister has refused to do anything definite in the matter at all. He has simply held on, leaving things to the Administrator, who, before he left on his motorcar trip, finally decided that the men must go on, and issued his proclamation accordingly. It is rather unfortunate that we have in the Territory an Administrator who has had no industrial and no political experience. We cannot expect a man who is absolutely without experience with regard to employes in a general way to grip in a moment the things that it takes other men years to understand.
– He has had industrial experience in New Zealand.. He was in charge of a very big Department over there.
– He has never shown himself to be a man who would give way in the slightest, and it is his autocratic nature that is going to cause labour troubles in the Territory. Anybody who takes up an emphatic stand to-day towards Australian workmen must expect trouble. The Australian workman has been thinking things over, and feels that he is justified in demanding a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, fair hours of labour, and reasonable treatment generally. Although we may call the Administrator “ Excellency,” that is not going to make them kneel down and accept all that he says without question. Another matter which is incensing the workers there, and preventing them from being contented, is the employment of Asiatics. I submit this letter, which comes with the stamp of the Amalgamated Workers Association of the Northern Territory, for what it is worth -
At a general meeting of the members of this Association, held here on the 2nd inst., the following resolution was unanimously carried, protesting against the employment of Asiatics in the various Government Departments of the Northern Territory, viz. : -
Domestics employed at Government House; employes in Railway Department and Hospital; also a Chinaman employed in printing the Government Gazette.
Kindly do your utmost to rectify this anomaly.
We are writing for co-operation from Broken Hill Trades Hall Council, also writing the Minister of External Affairs.
Alf. H. Hilder,
I understand that a subsidy of some£300 or£400 a year is given in connexion with this Gazette, and I am informed, though not officially, that that subsidy has recently been increased by £100. Yet we find that the publisher, who is distinctly anti- labour, and who is probably opposed to the White Australia policy, employs a Chinaman on the staff. I admit that there may be some extenuating circumstances in connexion with the employment of Asiatics in the Territory, but it is two years since the Territory was taken over, and it will be two years in January next since the final settlement was arrived at. With anything like an active administration, some scheme ought to have been devised for letting the people of Australia know that employment was available there. I do not see why some kind of a department should not have been created with the object of informing the people in the southern States as to where employment could be obtained, and what were the wages and conditions. On the floor of this House I have informed the miners that the wage paid is £4 a week, and a number of them desire to go; but I have advised them not to think of doing so until next year, in view of the delay there has been on the part of the Government. I should again like to issue a warning against men going to the Territory until after the wet season, which commences next month, unless there is special work waiting for them. As a matter of fact, we have “ fooled “ away the whole of the dry season ; and until March I could not advise any general migration to the Territory. I feel very strongly on these matters, but I have to say that there is no personal feeling between myself and the Minister. I consider that I am right in demanding for the workers and employers in the Northern Territory the same treatment that is given to workers and employers at Broken Hill. That is a fundamental principle which should be adhered to by every Labour representative.
– The honorable member speaks as though he stood alone in that regard !
– Now that the honorable member has interjected, I may say that I stood for such principles long before he did.
– The honorable member is claiming for himself that for which he will not give credit to others. We are all desirous to have proper labour conditions in the Northern Territory.
– Hear, hear! I expected the endorsement of the honorable member, but I thought he was trying to throw a slur on me.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong does not desire the advertisement that the honorable member for New England does - that is the difference !
– I like that from the honorable member for Maranoa, who is absolutely the best advertiser in the House. Had I wished to advertise myself I could have brought up this subject on the general Estimates, and also on Supply, but I refrained because I do not believe in “holding up” the Estimates of my own Government. I introduce the subject on a motion for the adjournment of the House, because I have waited so long for something to be done. I hope the Minister of External Affairs will be prepared to meet these men half way, and lay down some sort of general scheme of which they may avail themselves. That, of course, is a matter for the future, and what I now desire is to know what the Minister proposes to do to solve the difficulty. In the Bulletin of the 24th inst., there appears the following, in an article on “ The Territory and its Calamities “ : -
Gilruth is likely to be a calamity. With about 100 men in the Government employ, he has made chaos. Give him a few thousand on railway construction, and he will make Sheol.
– Who signs that?
– It is not signed, but published under the name of “ Larrakeeyah.” What I have stated is only indicative of what is going on generally. From the time the present Minister visited Port Darwin I have been making representations in regard to employment in mines. The Chinese tributers have ruined mining in the Northern Territory, and there is no doubt that if the work had been restricted to white men we would have had a much sounder population there. I did expect that, a Labour Government being in office, some firm steps would have been taken to make the Territory white j and I ask that these Chinese tributers shall not be permitted. To give an idea of the difficulty of whites and Chinese working together in the same shaft, I may say-
– The honorable member is getting a little beyond the question.
– I merely desire to give an illustration. Chinamen working on the top levels drop stones down on the white men below, and, when a Chinese engine-driver is bringing men to the surface, he lets out a 10T of slack, then sets the engine going, and gives them a sudden “ lift.” This sort of thing cannot be allowed to go on ; and if some proper scheme to insure white workmen is not provided, there may be serious conflict. There are, I understand, about 1,200 Chinamen and a similar number of white people in the Territory ; and any conflict under these circumstances would be very undesirable.
– I think there are 1,500 odd Chinese and 1,100 odd whites.
– We all understand the temperament of the Australian workmen ; and it would be lamentable if anything in the shape of rioting should occur. I admit that there are some special kinds of work, such as cooking, which, even in North Queensland, have largely to be left to the Chinese ; but it is against their general employment that I offer my strong protest.
– Does the honorable member say that the hours fixed by the Administrator are unsuitable?
– The men have protested against them.
– Assuming the hours to be unsuitable, does the honorable member think that the proper remedy for the men is to disobey the Administrator?
– No; but I am now only laying the case of the men before the House, and doubtless the honorable member, with his judicial mind, will be able to weigh the facts. I do not uphold disobedience as a general principle ; but, at the same time, I ask what is a strike but disobedience? These men, when they refuse to work the hours laid down, are really on strike, although they have not altogether ceased work.
– Have the men not a right to say how long thev will work ?
– I am not reflecting on the stand taken by the men. The Minister of External Affairs promised that they should work forty-four hours in the way they thought fit; and I contend that, as a man’s labour is his capital, he has a right to bargain with his employer, and obtain the best terms consistent with common sense and reason. So far, I uphold the men; but I cannot say that I altogether indorse the action that they have taken, because, in my opinion, it would have been better if they had struck at once, and brought matters to a crisis. However, it is all very well to talk about striking in Melbourne or Sydney, but it is a totally different matter in hot Port Darwin; and these men ought to have special consideration.
– What does the honorable member suggest that the Minister should do?
– I suggest that he should appoint the Judge in the Territory, or some other responsible person, to arbitrate in the matter.
– Would the men abide by his decision?
– I should think they would agree to anything reasonable. They have been depending on the Minister the whole of the time; and I should like to see the general principle of arbitration established for dealing with future disputes in the Territory.
– Did I not tell the honorable member that the Government were going to introduce an Arbitration Bill?
– Exactly ; but the Minister made me promises in this matter over a month ago. The letter I have read is dated the 9th September, and it states that the trouble started three weeks previous to that. It is true that the Minister promised an arbitration scheme; but how do I know that he is not going to leave it over until next year?
– The honorable member asked me about the matter three or four days ago, and I requested him to put a question on the notice-paper.
– That is correct ; but I prefer to bring the matter forward on a motion for the adjournment of the House, because, as the Minister has been so slow in regard to the other matters, I do not trust him in regard to the introduction of an arbitration measure. 1 know the Minister will carry out his promise; but I want to see arbitration at once between the men and the Administrator.
.- All this is the inevitable outcome of not appointing the right man as Administrator. I am quite sure that if either the honorable member for New England or myself had been appointed, none of this trouble would have arisen, because we have all the necessary qualifications for the office. The honorable member appears to have two grievances : one connected with the working hours, and the other connected with the employment of Chinamen. But the honorable member completely gives his case away on the latter point, because he admits that there are extenuating circumstances, and that, even in North Queensland, there may be conditions under which we must either employ a “ Chow “ or go without our food. Then what is all the trouble about? The difference is that between commencing work at half-past 7 or 8 o’clock. Is the question of halfanhour one on which the National Government should be “ held up,” and its administration assailed? It is quite true that the Northern Territory has been under the control of the Commonwealth for about two years; but, after all, what time has elapsed since the Administrator was appointed? I am not going to raise the question of whether or not the Administrator is an autocrat ; but if we are to have an Administrator of the Northern Territory L if we are to lay down a certain principle as to how many hours a week the men shall work, and what shall be their remuneration, the Administrator must be supreme in the carrying out of that determination, or else we can expect nothing but chaos. When wharf-labourers, engine-drivers, and other workers are bargaining as to their hours of employment and rates of pay, they do not ask whether they shall start work at 7.30 a.m. or 9 a.m.
– They do.
– They do not.
– They do not. They simply bargain as to what the hours of labour shall be, and what remuneration they shall receive. .This is certainly not the time to assail the Administrator. I do not know whether he is the best man or the worst man we could have selected for the position, but I do know that this attack upon him cannot be described as fair play. Let us think for a moment what would happen if the honorable member for New England himself were appointed Administrator, and in that capacity arrived at a certain decision as to what should be done in a matter of this kind.
– I want these men, like the officers of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, to have an opportunity to appeal to the Conciliation and Arbitration Court.
– The honorable member is not even treating the Minister fairly. I am no slavish follower of the Minister; I am prepared to criticise him when I think he ought to be criticised, and to take his place when the tune comes ; but by all means let us have fair play. I am quite prepared even to furnish sound reasons to satisfy my party that there are amongst the supporters of the Government men who are better qualified to occupy the front Treasury bench than are those who at present occupy it; but, by all means, let us have some tangible ground to go upon when we take an action of this kind. The Minister of External Affairs has been called upon in respect of the Northern Territory to tackle a vast problem - one which has hitherto “‘remained untouched. He has had to appoint an Administrator and other officers; and the present Administrator has been but a few months in office. It is easy to lay down a policy, but often very hard to carry it out. The Administrator has indicated what hie desires the men shall do, and the men have objected ; and when such a situation arises, there can be only two parties to it, the Administrator and the men ; and it can be settled only by an appeal to the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. The Minister is distinctly bound by the policy of his party to furnish the machinery for the settlement of such disputes ; but, until he has had a fair opportunity to provide that machinery, there can be no justification for criticism in this regard, either by his party or bv the Parliament. I feel perfectly satisfied that the Minister will provide the necessary machinery for the settlement of such grievances. This complaint on the part of the honorable member for New England is but a twopenny-halfpenny business, and it has been brought forward at a most inopportune time for securing justice, either to the Administrator or to the Minister himself.
.- Whilst I admire the breezy way in which the honorable member for Bourke has addressed the House, and has endeavoured to make it appear that this is a matter of no importance, I differ from the view taken by him. It is undoubtedly of importance that the first steps we take in the government of the Territory should be in the proper direction. It is a matter of importance that every step taken should be worthy of the Government, and do justice to those who are employed by the Government. The whole of this trouble has arisen, I am sorry to say, from a somewhat irresponsible promise made by the Minister to the men. But for that promise there would probably have been no discontent; the men would probably have abided by the edict of the Minister,
– What was the promise?
– The promise was that, as long as the men put in forty-four hours a week, they could determine for themselves the hour at which they should start, and the hour at which they should cease, operations. Having regard to the climate of the Northern Territory, I think it was reasonable to say to these men, “ Choose the hours that will best suit yourselves, and which will give to the Department the best results. We do not care when you start as long as you put in the forty-four hours per week.” As one who has worked in a hot climate, I am able to say that there is a material difference between starting work at 7 o’clock and 8 o’clock. After a man has put in four hours without a meal, he has come to about the length of his tether, and, if he has to put in an extra half-hour before dinner, he is rendered less fit for his work when he resumes than he would otherwise have been. It is all very well for the honorable member for Bourke, who has, perhaps, never had to work in a hot climate, to assert that the difference of half-an-hour in the time of starting is of no importance.
– He has been more in the tropics than we have been-.
– -That may be; but it is not a fair division of the hours of labour to require the men, as the Adminis trator has done, to start at half-past 7- and work until noon. It is not fair to themen or to the Department. Better resultscould be obtained if they started at &’ o’clock and knocked off for dinner at noon. The extra half-hour in the morning givesthe men a fair chance of obtaining breakfast before they make a start. If thosewho have to provide their meals have informed them that they cannot induce their dependents to prepare the morning meal intime to enable them to start work at halfpast 7, there is logic in the position takenup by them. The whole quibble is onthe part of the Administrator, and not on the part of the men. Better results would be obtained from them if they worked from 8 a.m. till 12 noon, and from 1 p.m. till 5 p.m., than are likely to be obtained if they have to start at 7.30 a.m. and work, only three and a half hours in the afternoon. The Administrator ought to be ableto adjust this trouble without any friction. It has arisen owing to the action of the Minister in making a certain promise and failing to see that the promise was carried out. The men naturally think the Minister is supreme in this matter, and expect theAdministrator to carry out the promise made by him. This experience should show the Minister of External Affairs that it is unwise to make promises that may clash with the decision of his officers. The trouble in connexion with the postal service in South Australia is due to a promisemade by the Minister-
– Order !
– That matter has & bearing on the action of the Minister in this case. Incidents of the kind give riseto irritation, but it should be possible for any man of common sense to allay it. If the Minister had intimated that he desired’ that his promise should be carried out I am sure that the Administrator would have at once seen that it was, but if there are to be two Caesars in the field, chaos must prevail. In matters of policy governing the relations of the men with their employers the proper authority is the Minister, whois responsible to this House. As to the question of Chinese labour I fail to seehow it can be adjusted until the mining laws and regulations have been promulgated. When they have been framed weshall be able to settle the matter of Chinese working at the behest of whitemen, under authority given by the Crown to carry out tributing or other mining: work for the advantage of the white citizens. I have worked in the hot climate of north-west New South Wales, and know that if one is following a vigorous calling one is practically prostrated before dinner time, and is glad of the hour’s rest. The position must be still more acute in the Northern Territory, and the Minister has no right to allow the Administrator to compel the men to start at 7.30 instead of 8 o’clock. The honorable member for Bourke said that either the Administrator or the employes must govern. Surely we are not going to put the Administrator in the position of an autocrat. Surely we are not going to say to the workmen, “ You shall not even appeal to the Minister when he is on the spot, to give you the hours which suit you best.” These men approached the Minister, who gave them a promise, and told them what they could do. That promise not having been kept, I ask the honorable member for Bourke, does he condone the breaking of it? Mr. Gilruth has overruled the promise, and tried to force other conditions on the men. The honorable member for Maranoa, if in that position, would not stand it for a moment.
– This is a fine bit of acting.
– I leave that to the honorable member, who is the actor far excellence. I do nothing of that kind in this House. But he cannot get the press to take notice.
– You and your press ! The honorable member is posing.
– The only thing the honorable member is fit for lately is to interrogate members who are doing what they believe to be right, but what he, in his. mighty intelligence, believes to be wrong. He comes here to “ barrack “ like a footballer.
– I have the same voice and vote as the honorable member.
– I do not wish to enter into controversy with the honorable member, because to do so would be disorderly, and’ I do not care to break the rules of the House.
– Here is a pattern of order !
– I speak without feeling. A misunderstanding has arisen, but a very small matter is likely to create a great deal of trouble, especially in Labour circles. If we can remove the cause of the trouble before it becomes serious we are entitled to try to do so. We do not wish for trouble in a Department for which we individually, as well as the Minister, are responsible. I urge the Minister to take steps to redeem his promise if he caa If he cannot, he should tell the men why. Let him issue his edict; let him tell them that they must obey Gilruth, and that his promise will not be kept, or let the promise be kept. If it is kept, I believe that the trouble will cease immediately.
– I did not know that the representatives of New England and Gwydir are also representatives of the Northern Territory. Both are candid friends of the Government they sit behind, but if I held the same opinions about Ministers as they do, I would cross to the other side of the House. That is where we want our political enemies to be ; we do not want to have them behind us.
– The honorable member is jealous.
– When I have done with him, the honorable member for Gwydir will be jealous. I am a Labour man before everything, and when I cease to be a Labour man I hope that I shall cease to be a member of this House. I can understand that the honorable member for New England feels sore. He wishes to run the Northern Territory, being under the impression that the wrong man is there as Administrator. He calmly and coolly said so this morning. He said, too, that the man who should be there is a man who knows something about industry.
– Political and industrial questions.
– I never heard a more bare-faced statement. If the honorable member is not suffering from sore head in connexion with the Administratorship I never knew any one who was suffering from that complaint. Had he been appointed Administrator everything in the garden would have been lovely ! There, would not have been a Chinaman in the Northern Territory, nor would there have been any white man there beside himself ! He would have had nothing to administer but the Northern Territory.
– And the white ants.
– He would not even have had the white ants. This is all a storm in a tea-cup, and the honorable members for New England and Gwydir could have got the trouble settled without bringing it under notice in this House. What good are they going to do to these men by this discussion? Does the honorable member for New England conscientiously think that he will better their condition by the action- he has taken ?
– I take the honorable member’s word. The Minister of Trade and Customs told us the other day that the only Latin phrase he knows is ultra vires. After this debate has finished, the honorable member will be “ down and out.”
– It would be a case of mutatis mutandis then.
– Is the honorable member for Maranoa speaking on behalf of the Minister?
– I am speaking as a humble member of the Labour party.
– Has the honorable member no confidence in the Minister ?
– I have every confidence in him. When I have not, I shall deal with him in another place j that is where the honorable member can deal with him. The honorable member for Gwydir shed crocodile’s tears about the hard work in the Northern Territory. No man knows better than you do, Mr. Speaker, the work that white men do in the tropics. The honorable member for New England knows it, too. When you, Mr. Speaker, and I were in northern Queensland, did we cavil at starting work at half-past seven in the morning? Did the honorable member do so? I have spent thirty years in northwestern Queensland, and the stock is as good as the sample. I say - and you can confirm it, Mr. Speaker - that there are no smarter nor better men in Australia than the western Queenslanders; they are men in every sense of the word. Had it not been for them, the party now sitting on the Treasury benches would not be in existence. The honorable member for New England tells us that the publicans will not give breakfast to the men in the Northern Territory who have to commence work at half-past seven in the morning. Did the publicans always supply you with breakfast, Mr. Speaker, when you were in northern Queensland, or did they supply the honorable member? He rose and got breakfast for himself,- as many more of us have had to do. We have had protestations of friendship from the honorable member for Gwydir, but whenever he gets a chance to wallop the Government, he takes it. His attacks on the Government are so frequent that even the Opposition does not cheer him now. Is he an other disappointed officer-seeker ? Why is he not candid ? Why does he not own up like the honorable member for New England?
– I do not make arrangements with the Minister for his defence.
– If the honorable member suggests that I have done so, he is telling an absolute untruth.
– It looks like it.
– I have not spoken to the Minister about this matter. Honorable members will take his word.
– That is so.
– We accept the word of the honorable member.
– I have no axe to grind, but, having heard what the honorable member for Gwydir has said about this extra half -hour, let me say that I have risen at 4 o’clock in the morning and gone out timber-getting, and have done a day’s work before half-past seven.
– The proper time, too.
– Yes. Many a time I have been glad when the dinner hour came for the spell it afforded. In Queensland,, north of Gladstone, the railway servants- - maintenance gangs, and others - startwork at 6 o’clock in the morning. They work until 8, when they have an hour for breakfast; then “they go on until 12, whenthey have two hours for dinner, knocking off finally at half-past 5. In these hoursa man can give the best that is in him; Not being a machine, a man needs rest. As you know well, Mr. Speaker, it isnot a case of an extra half-hour among, those with whom you have associated ; they have worked, not seven and a half or eight hours a day, although in the tropics, but as long as they could see. When I went to Queensland, my_ ambition was to make a competence, not to work only four, or five, or six hours. I never did day-work in my life when I could get piece-work, nor would I do it now. When the honorable member for Gwydir sheds crocodile’s tears about half-past seven in the morning being too early for men in the Northern Territory to start work, because the publicans will not cook their breakfast, I say that I never heard of such a complaint before. I know that he has had to work very hard himself, and, therefore, must be talking now with his tongue in his cheek. I suppose he thinks that this is a chance to have a go at the Ministry. The honorable member for Bourke said that there cannot be two bosses in one camp. If the Administrator cannot run the Northern Territory, he should be removed.
– Is the honorable member against arbitration?
– What is the use of putting such a question to me, the honorable member having known me so long? He is aware that arbitration is one of the principal planks of our platform, and no one is a louder advocate of it than I am.
– Why not try it in the Northern Territory?
– Rome was not built in a day. South Australia had control of the Territory for ‘many years, and does the honorable member think that the Minister can revolutionize things there in a few months ?
– Yes ; in this matter.
– He is not averse to arbitration.
– Then apply it.
– He will apply it. Every session since the beginning of this Parliament we have talked and worked for arbitration. I am sure that the Minister is not opposed to arbitration, but I know him, and know that if one puts a revolver at his head he is like a pig in his obstinacy. And rightly so, too. If a man points a revolver at my head, and wants to force me to do a thing, I will not do it. I would rather say, “Shoot, Colonel.”
– Nobody points a revolver at the heads of Ministers more often than the honorable member does.
– Give me one instance.
– I could quote hundreds.
– The honorable member has no right to make serious charges of that sort against me. The honorable member stands condemned out of his own mouth to-day. He made one of the most foolish speeches that he ever made in his life when he pleaded that half-past 7 was too soon for a man to go to work in the tropics. Why, he ought to be knocking off then. The honorable member for New England read from a letter a statement that the men could not start work earlier because the publicans objected to cook their breakfast. How many of us sitting on this side have had to turn out at 4 in the morning to get to work at 6? Yet the honorable member for Gwydir says that half-past 7 is too soon to start work in the tropics, when the sun is very nearly overhead.
– I did not say anything of the kind. I said that the Minister’s promise should be kept.
– It is no use for the honorable member to try to sidetrack the matter now. He said so much that he does not know what he said.
– You are wilfully misleading the House.
– The honorable member for Gwydir must cease these interjections.
– If he says what is not true he will get it from me.
– I would remind the honorable member that when the Speaker is on his feet he must not interject.
– I am very sorry the honorable member for Gwydir is showing such heat in the matter, because no one gives gruel harder and thicker than he does. Let me tell the honorable member that my character will bear investigation quite as well as his will. I was under one employer for fourteen and a half years, and only left him because there was no more work for me to do.
– Was it day work ?
– It was not; but I was travelling ganger for him for seven years at/i a day. No one knows better than the honorable member for Herbert, who has lived in the tropics all his life, what white men can do there, especially in regard to the hardest work that it is possible to do.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I was prepared this morning to listen to the honorable member for New England and form my opinion on the case that he presented ; but either the honorable member has not prepared his case with the care that he usually takes, or else he is deficient in the material of the case itself. I want it to be distinctly understood that after the men in the Northern Territory have exhausted those remedies which are open to them, I am prepared as a member of this House to do all I can to help them in their legitimate difficulties and grievances. T have watched the papers in this case, and noticed a little while ago that when instructions were given for work to be started at half-past 7 in the morning the men refused to carry out the instruction, and started work as usual at 8 o’clock. The thus placed themselves in a very difficult position. They should have commenced work at half-past 7 and then taken steps to secure an alteration of the new hours if they were undesirable.
– Were they not entitled to retain what had been already in existence?
– I am responsible for administrating the affairs of a union of about 15,000 men. I have an office in Sydney with seven or eight employes in it, and I can tell the honorable member that, with those responsibilities on my shoulders, if I gave instructions that the work of the office was to start at half-past 8 instead of 9 in the morning, and those working in the office refused to obey, they would have to go out, or the union would have to get somebody else to run the show for them.
– If the established rules of your union are broken you should fight for them.
– No evidence has been put before the House this morning that any of the established rules of the organization have been violated. If the only matter in dispute is the question of half-an-hour, I certainly do not think it is a large enough grievance, to warrant action of the kind that has been taken.
– It is not a question of what you think, but of what the men up there think.
– I am here to say what I think. I do not wish to impute motives to my fellow members, or to catechize them for doing what they think to be their duty. That is their business, but I have my responsibility, and intend to discharge it.’ I have no means of communicating with the men in the Territory, and desire to take this way of informing them that I think they have not taken the right course to ventilate this grievance, and that if they are suffering from a grievance at any time, and proper means are taken to seek redress for it, they will have no stronger supporter than myself in the endeavour to put matters right. Probably the men in the Territory are not in the best of humour. Men come to me day after day who want to rush off to the Northern Territory because the Commonwealth has control of it. My advice to them is to go slow and make inquiries and understand exactly what the conditions are before they go. Probably a number of the men now there rushed off to the Territory only to find that the climate and general conditions were not to their liking, and they- are probably a little more irritable on minor matters than they would be if working in a more temperate zone. I hear that men are leaving the Territory, but probably these men are not able to leave it, or have made arrangements to stay there for a certain time. The conditions there are certainly not as favorable to work in as they are in the southern parts of Australia. lt is rather unfortunate that there should be criticism of our own Government in regard to what they should do in the direction of restricting the employment of aliens in the Territory. If it is true that the Government are wilfully or through neglect giving preference of employment to Asiatics, or not giving preference of employment to white people over Asiatics, it is a rather serious state of affairs.
– That is not so.
– I am not saying that it is. I would first like to point out to the workers in the Northern Territory that they were compelled to take advantage of Asiatic labour in order to get there. The very boats that carried them were chock full of Asiatics. If they had paid strict regard to those principles which have been discussed here to-day they would have absolutely refused to go on a boat that employed Chinese and lascars. When they were travelling to the Territory, Chinese had to cook their food, and they had to take it from Chinese who waited on them at the table. They could not, as reasonable men, refuse to go to the Territory until all the Asiatics were cleared out, however much they might desire it. We hear that they are boarding at hotels in Darwin. I doubt whether there is one hotel in the Territory that does not employ Asiatics.
– What is the argument you intend to make?
– I am arguing that it is unfair to charge the Minister with not clearing the Asiatics out of the Territory, when in the circumstances that has not been possible. I might ask the honorable member what this criticism of the Asiatics means. Does it mean that they ought to have been cleared out of the Territory? The white workers in the Territory must know that if they stood strictly by their opinions in regard to Asiatic labour - opinions that many of us hold also - and simply refused to Be associated with it in any form, they would not get their meals from the hotels at all. Before any point can be made in that connexion it ought to be shown that other labour is available in the Territory. If that can be shown, and it can be proved that Asiatics are being employed in preference to white people, then I am up against the Government. But if there is necessary work to do there, and there are Asiatics there, many of them naturalized British subjects, prepared to do it, and nobody else is available to do it, I cannot see any point in making a complaint against their doing it.
I rose, however, to take this means of assuring die workers in the Northern Territory that when they have any reasonable grievance and take proper means to redress it, putting themselves in a reasonable attitude when seeking redress, they will have no stronger supporter in this House than the honorable member for Cook. I should like to see in the Territory those means available for the redress of grievances that exist in the southern parts of Australia.
I should like to see an arbitration system in existence there, but we cannot refuse to commence operations in the Territory until that is established. The Territory had to be taken over with all its disadvantages, and during the time that must elapse before we can put into operation all those schemes which we should like to see working there, the necessary work must be carried on under the old conditions. On the merits of the case, seeing that only halfanhour is involved, the men would have done well to commence work at the altered hour. If the commencing time is halfanhour earlier, the break for the midday meal would also be half-an-hour earlier.
– Not necessarily.
– In all probability, it would be so.
– Has the honorable member ever found that to be the practice?
– I took ‘part in arranging the hours of work for the permanentway men on the New South Wales railways, and I know that in the summer time, when they commenced an hour earlier, they knocked off for their midday meal an hour earlier.
– Did the honorable member ever know of men breaking off at half -past ii o’clock for the midday meal?
– Yes ;. indeed, it is the practice in shearing sheds to knock off at 11 o’clock.
– That is absolutely true.
– I have no desire to come into conflict with honorable members on this side, and I do not know why they should seek to put me in an attitude of opposition. I am discussing the question on its merits, and I have not a word of censure for those who may take a different view. I assure those men, again, that when they have any reasonable grievance, they should, before appealing from the Administrator, exhaust their local remedies ; and then this House should accept the responsibility of seeing that justice is done.
.- The honorable member for Cook has spoken of a “ reasonable grievance “ ; but what is a “reasonable grievance”? Is it a grievance in the mind of the honorable member for Cook or a grievance in the minds of the men in the Northern Territory? An unreasonable grievance in the case of the honorable member for Cook might be an eminently reasonable grievance in the case of the people of the Territory. If the question be one of hours, who are the people best fitted to decide it? Shall the decision be left to some one who is not doing the work - to some one who sits, or stands, over the men as a would-be boss :: or to the men themselves, who know and appreciate the peculiar conditions? I respectfully submit that if the men in the Northern Territory see that they can best do this work from 8 o’clock in the morning, they are the best fitted to judge and determine, and their desire should be acquiesced in. That, I think, is a very fair proposition. If men, whether working for the Commonwealth or for private employers, have decided that it is desirable they should start at 8 o’clock, rather than halfpast 7 o’clock - if they feel this so intensely that they are prepared to strike in support of their contention - surely there is something in the position that is understood by the men, but that is not understood by the Minister, and certainly not by the Administrator? If the Commonwealth gets the stipulated work from these men, for which they are paid, why take exception to the starting hour which the men think essential and beneficial ? What more does the Commonwealth desire than the efficient work stipulated for? Why should any one insist that the men should rise at a certain hour, and start at a certain hour, to perform a certain piece of work? If the work is done by the men, surely we might reasonably allow them to determine the hour of starting ? Of course, I am not suggesting that the men individually should determine the hour; but we know that nowadays every business and industry is organized, and the very fact that these men are standing together, or going out on strike, shows that there is some organization and a general consensus of opinion. Why, then, should the Minister or the Administrator take any exception? I hope that the men will say that, in spite of the Minister or Administrator, they will go to work at such hours as they think best - that they give the service for the remuneration which is paid to them, and, therefore, the time of starting and of knocking off is a matter for themselves. They are the people who are doing the work, and not the Minister or the Administrator.
– We should have a nice state of affairs if that sort of thing were done all round !
– Organized labour is doing that every day.
– But the men are not taking everything into their own hands.
– The men engaged in the industries of the world are taking things into their own hands every day. It is our purpose, and we are doing so; and we shall do it still further before we have finished.
– We like to hear the truth.
– The honorable member will always get the truth from me.
– The honorable member is certainly giving us the truth this time.
– I am, indeed, and I mean to. I rather cheered a remark quoted as having been made by the Minister of External Affairs to a deputation which waited on him in the Northern Territory. Several members of the Australian Workers Association have spoken to me about the matter, and they expressed their appreciation of the attitude, or supposed attitude, of the Minister in relation to the starting hours. I hope the Minister will see his way clear not to dominate the men concerned. I shall be pleased if some system of arbitration can be established, but, if not, I hope that the men in the Northern Territory, and not the Minister or the Administrator, will be permitted to decide the starting hour.
– I feel a certain amount of reluctance in interfering in this family quarrel. In fact, I feel like the man in one of Moliere’s plays, who was rash enough to interfere when he found a woodcutter beating his wife, and who presently found both of them on his back. It is rather like intruding into that room upstairs, to which the honorable member for Maranoa has referred.
– This is child’s play compared to upstairs !
– If there is one thing on which we can congratulate ourselves this morning it is the fact that we are having the veil lifted in several of its corners. I quite sympathize with the honorable member for Maranoa, who considers it practically indecent for honorable members opposite to place Ministers on the grid-iron in public, instead of doing it in the usual place.
– It shows that we have some of that liberty which the honorable member says we have not !
– The honorable member for Dalley is unusually candid this morning. He put forward - I assume it is not on behalf of the party of which he is a member, but certainly on behalf of himself - the very broad principle, which I believe actuates, not merely the honorable member, but some other honorable members on that side, though not, I believe, the majority-
– Mention one.
– At all events, we have the statement by the honorable member for Dalley that he looks forward to the time when the industrial classes - the workmen - will in every case adopt the attitude which appears to have been adopted in this case in the Northern Territory. I know nothing whatever of the merits of the dispute, and, therefore, I do not propose to discuss them; but I should have thought it the very essence of government, especially in such a huge undertaking and difficult problem as face this Parliament in the control of the Northern Territory, that the Administrator should be placed in a position in which his orders shall be obeyed. If the men think the conditions imposed by the Administrator are too severe or harsh - and on that I prefer the testimony of the honorable member for Maranoa to that of the mover of the motion - surely there is a legitimate channel through which they can voice their opinions? The Minister has not yet spoken; and I should like to say what I am going to say now, so that we may have a clear statement from him. It has been announced that the Minister has promised that there shall be arbitration for the settlement of any dispute that mayarise between the Administrator and those working under him. I say at once that no Administrator capable of doing the work - no Administrator worth his salt - would continue to hold the position if all the conditions are to be fixed by an arbitrator; because, under such circumstances, the arbitrator becomes the Administrator. We are now reaping, for the- first time, the fruits of that determination, which I always opposed, and which I shall always oppose - the determination announced by the Government some time ago, and carried into effect, to bring all the public servants under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Whatever reasons there may bo to urge in favour of such a course in connexion with the ordinary Civil Service, and ordinary administrative functions in the settled parts of the country, we are now breaking new ground in the case of the Northern Territory. We ought to place at the head of affairs a man of energy, who understands his business, and whom we can trust, with a free hand, subject, of course, to the control of Parliament. He is responsible to the Minister, and the Minister is responsible to this House.; and if we say to him that every step he takes in connexion with the employment of men in regard to hours, wages, or other conditions, may be made a cause of complaint by those men, and that the question must be determined by an arbitrator, the control, as I say, is taken out of the hands of the Administrator and put into the hands of the arbitrator.
– The Railways Commissioners had to do so.
– I am glad that the honorable member has interjected. I, for one, am not opposed to the administration of Departments by Commissioners where that system can be applied, but the honorable member must recognise that the Railways Commissioners are directly under the control of a responsible Minister. If the Administrator of the Northern Territory is to devote all his energies to the discharge of his duties, and it will require all the energy of which a human being is capable to make a success of the task which he has undertaken, then the Government, if they are going to make a business, and not a fiasco, of the work, must give him the 1 power to deal fairly with the men. He must have the power to fix the conditions of employment, to tell the men what they are to do, and when they are to do it. If he acts in a harsh, autocratic, or arbitrary manner, then his conduct ought to be brought before the House, or the Minister himself should take action. But if the Government are not going to allow the Administrator, whoever he may be, to carry out this business - if every dispute that the men raise, no matter what it may be, is to be referred to a Judge to be sent up from Melbourne or Brisbane to deal with it, they might as well give up their attempt to develop the Northern Territory.
– I think that the honorable member for New England might at least have paid me the courtesy of giving me some little notice of his intention to move the adjournment of the House in order that I might Have come prepared to deal fully with the case which he has brought forward. When a member of the Opposition proposes to move the adjournment of the House, he invariably gives notice of his intention to the Minister concerned, and I might reasonably have expected a like courtesy from a supporter of the Government. There art before the House, in connexion with this motion, two questions; the one relating to the existing difficulty in the Northern Territory, and the other concerning what is to be done in future industrial troubles. I feel sure that every honorable member realizes that the problem of developing the Northern Territory is a very difficult one. Some time elapsed before the present Government were able to select a man for the position of Administrator, and whatever disqualifications the present Administrator may possess, I think those who know him will admit that he is at least a man of great energy. Since he has been in the Territory he has travelled considerably, and has endeavoured, as far as possible, to make himself acquainted with local conditions. In every direction he has displayed a great deal of energy. The honorable member for Gwydir, who was not in the Northern Territory on the occasion of my recent visit, said that this trouble had arisen wholly and solely from a promise made by me to the men that thev should start work whenever they pleased, as long as they put in forty-four hours per week. I understood the honorable member for Dalley to interject that he was present at the deputation at which such a promise was made
– I did not.
– Let me explain what actually happened. A deputation waited upon me, and, in the course of the interview, some one suggested that the men should start early in the morning, have a fairly lengthy break during the afternoon, and complete their day’s labour in the cool of the evening. I replied that I had no objection to that course being adopted, but that before I should be prepared to agree to it I would require to be informed that a majority of the men were in favour of it. Honorable members will recognise that such a system would mean the introduction of what are known as broken shifts. While I held office as PostmasterGeneral there was a great deal of dissatisfaction in the Department in regard to this very matter. We had in the Department men who had to come on duty at a certain hour, work for a time, and then after a break of three or four hours complete their day’s work. If we adopted in the Northern Territory a system under which the men would start in the early morning, work for three and a half hours, and, after resting for four hours, put in another three and a half hours, they would have a very long day, and, having regard to the possibility that dissatisfaction might arise under such a system, I said that before I would agree to it I should require to be satisfied that the majority of the men themselves approved it. I would be only too pleased, I said, in such circumstances to allow the men to break up in that way the work of the day. The present system, of which the men complained, however, is something entirely different. By no stretch of the imagination can it be said that they are asked to work broken shifts. They simply start half-an-hour earlier in the morning, have a reduced break for dinner, and knock off considerably earlier in the afternoon than they would otherwise do. To that system I, as a matter of fact, consented. The Administrator telegraphed to me inquiring whether I would approve of it, and I replied in the affirmative. I have no desire to place upon the Administrator the responsibility for this matter. I would not place upon the Administrator anything that I was not prepared to father. The honorable member for Dalley will recognise, I think, that the working of broken shifts, which was suggested to me at the deputation in question, is something altogether different from what is now under discussion. The majority of our employes in the Northern Territory - not the majority in Darwin alone - approve of these hours of labour, and quite a number start work at 7 instead of 7.30 a.m. The men on the farms jumped, so to speak, at the proposal that they should start at 7 o’clock in the morning instead of 8 o’clock. It enables them to get through their work all the earlier ; they avoid work during the heat of the afternoon, and have the cool of the evening to themselves. This morning I received from the Administrator a telegram, which had nothing whatever to do with this motion for the adjournment of the House, but which contained a statement that has an interesting bearing upon it. There has been some difficulty in Darwin in regard to the appointment of a foreman carpenter, the objection being that he is not a member of the Amalgamated Carpenters Society. I telegraphed to the Administrator in reference to it, and received, this morning, a lengthy reply, in which there is a statement to the effect that the union, whileobjecting to these hours, so far as Darwin is concerned, had given its members working in the country a free hand, and that the carpenters in the country are consequently working early hours. I did not ask for this information in view of this motion for the adjournment of the House,, and, as a matter of fact, the telegram wa« only received by me after the House had met this morning. I am one of those whohold the view that, in appointing a man to administer the affairs of the Northern Territory, it is necessary that we should give him a good deal of power and responsibility. When at Darwin, I said, again and again, that I should not try to govern the Northern Territory from Melbourne, but that it was my intention to send there officers in whom we should have every confidence, and to ask them to assist in working out the problem for us. I said that, whilst it was quite possible that I might not see eye to eye with them in regard to every matter, I thought that if in ninetyseven cases out of 100 I could do so, it would be my duty not ‘ to disagree with them in regard to the remaining three cases. As to the question of conciliation and arbitration, I may say at once that the Government feel that they cannot deny tothe public servants of the Commonwealth in the Northern Territory the right which has been given to Commonwealth servants elsewhere to appeal to the Conciliation and Arbitration Court.
– What sort of Arbitration Court will the Government appoint ?
– I do not care to go into details at the present time, but, roughly speaking, the Court will be practically the same as that to which Commonwealth public servants elsewhere have a right to _ appeal. I see no reason why the Administrator of the Territory, whoever he might be, should object to such a system. If we appointed as Judge of the Arbitration Court for the Northern Territory a man in whom the Administrator had absolutely no confidence - a man. who he thought would hamper him in his work - the Administrator would, no doubt, resign, but, on general principles, we cannot refuse to the workers in the Northern Territory the same right and opportunity to go to a Conciliation and Arbitration Court that we have given the people in other parts of the Commonwealth. I am hopeful that before the present session closes some arrangement of the kind will have been made. As to the present difficulty, the Administrator has arrived at Pine Creek, so that he will reach Port Darwin to-night or to-morrow, and I am hopeful that any difficulty that exists there will be smoothed over as the result of his good judgment and tact. I am sure none of us desire to see an industrial difficulty in the Northern Territory, and anything that can be done, either by the Administrator or myself, to remove any cause for industrial trouble will be done. At the same time, authority must come in at some point or other. Those of us who have visited the Territory realize that those in charge there have in many ways to face difficulties such as do not confront our officers in other parts of the Commonwealth. Whilst it may be that the Administrator has not had much experience in the industrial world, such a statement cannot be made in regard to Mr. Kellaway, the foreman carpenter, whom we met there. He is a member of the Amalgamated Carpenters Association, and is held in high repute by his own society ; but he holds the opinion that the men could commence work a little earlier in the morning than usual without any disadvantage to themselves, and with advantage to the Department. He believes that by starting earlier they will render better service to us, and a man who is charged with the expenditure of public moneys in the development of that great Territory is fairly entitled to take that matter into consideration.
– Order ! The time allotted under the Standing Orders for the consideration of such a motion has expired.
– May I not speak, with the leave of the House, for another ten minutes ?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– The time for the discussion of the whole matter has expired. Standing order 119 distinctly states that the discussion of motions shall not last more than two hours.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a third time. Several honorable members have taken a keen interest in the measure, and I believe that it is now infinitely better than it was when it came to us, and will prove one of the best of its kind in the British Dominions. It is thought by some that certain of its provisions are too far-reaching. The honorable .member for Swan, no doubt, feels that the provision prohibiting the carrying of passengers between ports by other than vessels conforming to Australian conditions goes too far. But under clause 286 the Government ‘ of the day will be able to exempt specified ports from this prohibition. The honorable member for Hunter was afraid that clause 133, which, provides for the carrying of doctors, might apply to vessels going only as far as from Sydney to Newcastle, and to the vessels of the North Coast Navigation Company. It is not intended, however, that vessels making only short journeys shall have to carry doctors, and the clause refers to a “ prescribed distance.” Effect will have to be given to it by regulations which will not be unreasonable, and which Parliament would be able to disallow. The honorable member for Melbourne, on the other hand, thinks that any vessel making a voyage extending over ten. or twelve hours should carry a doctor, but it is not intended to require vessels in the limited-coast trade to carry doctors. Of course, some of the vessels of the North Coast Navigation Company, by reason of the length of their voyage, come under the definition of Australiantrade ships, but I do not think that it will be found necessary to require them to carry doctors.
– They enter a port every few hours.
– These and many other matters, such as wireless telegraphy, have to be dealt with by regulation, ft being impossible to prescribe hard and fast rules by Act of Parliament. The honorable member for Franklin expressed the fear that the men employed on small Tasmanian vessels trading from port to port on the coast;, or up the rivers and bays, would under the Bill lose their employment, because able seamen would be required to do their work, but inquiry from the Marine authorities at Hobart shows that it is not necessary that these small craft shall be manned by able seamen, though, at the present time, when they cross the Straits to Melbourne and other places, they are required to have one or two able seamen on board. Therefore we are not altering the law in respect to the manning of them. The honorable member for Angas seems to think that a definition of “ master “ is required, but I am advised that such a definition is not necessary, because every vessel, even though she may be of only a few tons register, must be registered, and the person in charge of her is the master. I think that the honorable member raised the question in connexion with the South Australian gulf trade.
– In connexion with the schedule.
– It is not necessary that the masters of small craft should pass the same examination that it is obligatory upon the captains of large steamers and sailingvessels to pass. They must hold certificates, though of an inferior character.
– They are nor, really mariners.
– They are fresh-water sailors, perhaps.
– I believe that they are called mud-bank or sand-bank sailors, because they trade in the shallow waters of bays and harbors. Not only is this the longest Bill that has ever been before this Parliament, but the number of amendments made is also a record.
– The proceedings were evidence of sweet reasonableness.
– Yes. The Committee was referred to in one newspaper as not being a Committee of the whole House, but a Committee of four; two seated on each side of the table. I trust that the measure will pass easily through the Senate, and speedily become law. Doubt has been expressed as to the extent of our powers regarding navigation ; but, until the Bill becomes law, that matter cannot be tested. Certainly the people, when accepting the Constitution, thought that this Parliament would be able to control navigation on the coasts of Australia; and I believe that many honorable members opposite would not like to think that that power is limited. It was stated, when we were discussing the schedule, that it is not possible to obtain boys to work on board vessels. If that be so, it is because employment at sea has not been made as attractive as work ashore.
– For years past, conditions on board Australian ships have been very good.
– Yes; and they are constantly improving.
– The Minister said that he would reconsider the schedule in regard to the employment of boys.
– I believe that the AttorneyGeneral made that promise. If he did not I make it now. The matter will receive careful consideration in another place. No obstacle should be put in the way of providing opportunities for sea training for our boys. The increasing number of steamers of large tonnage is creating an increasing scarcity of seamen trained on sailing ships ; and I trust that our shipowners, and seamen, too, will take care that boys are encouraged to go to sea, and that they are trained effectively for their work. If we have done anything to make the sea more attractive to Australian youths, that is an advance in the right direction. We must have a training ground for our own Navy, and bring forward men to take their places in the defence of this country by sea. I trust that the Bill will prove in its working that we have made the position better for the men who are compelled to earn their living at sea, for the passengers who are compelled to use ships as a means of transport, and for the ship-owners, if that is necessary, although we have been informed that they do not require any assistance. I believe the Bill is as far advanced as any in the British Dominions to-day, and “ although many objections were urged against it originally by the Board of Trade, I trust that it will receive an early assent, so that we may know exactly how far our powers go in regard to navigation.
.- This is a very comprehensive measure, and I think we have done our best on both sides, while assuming that the policy was sound, to make it as perfect as possible from the point of view of draftsmanship. I regret that a few matters have been put into it that are really not altogether connected with the subject of navigation. We have attempted, for instance, in the coastingtrade provisions to apply a principle of ultra protection to our local vessels by denying the public the right they have hitherto enjoyed of going on the ocean steamers, because that will be the practical result. The honorable member for Swan is much more conversant with this matter than I am, but 1 exceedingly regret that within, perhaps, twelve months we shall come to a time when the large ocean steamers cannot be used by people in Australia for the purpose of going from port to port. .It is utterly impossible for them to alter all the arrangements of a 14,000 or 16,000-mile trip to comply with the conditions of perhaps a few hundred miles. That is what it practically amounts to, and as there was no substantial interference with local conditions by such competition, I regret that the Minister did not display in that regard the reasonableness that he showed in other instances. Perhaps, he had there an inheritance of woe, which, to some extent, was handed on to him, and the policy was not altogether extemporized by him. I should like to refer to clause 11, in connexion with the schedule of officers. That has been amended, and during the course of the discussion I think I half expressed the opinion that perhaps the schedule dealing with officers fixed the proportion of officers to the various vessels included in the clause. I think, as the clause now stands, the regulations can alter the number of officers required by schedule 1, and also the number of engineers and greasers required, because they are included in schedule r also. The clause says that if a ship registered in Australia or engaged in the coasting trade goes to sea without a duly-certificated master and officers, “ according to the scale set out in schedule 1, or as prescribed,” the master and owner shall be guilty of an offence. I hope that is so. During the course of the discussion, the opinion was expressed that the Minister could not alter the schedule. The Bill gives him a general power to make regulations prescribing all matters which by this Act are required or permitted tobe prescribed, and although in the specific enumeration of powers to make regulations, there is no reference to the power to alter schedule 1, I think it is in cluded in that general power. As the Minister promised to consider the matter of the scale of officers when the Bill goes back to the Senate, I trust that if the Law Department thinks there is any doubt about the power to make that alteration, he will see that the matter is made clear, and that an alteration is made contemporaneously with the coming into force of the Bill. The Minister may have ten or twelve months in the meantime to make inquiries, and when doing so he might specially look into the conditions that I mentioned as obtaining in South Australia. I think the Minister is under a misapprehension as to the class of officers engaged there. There are very few vessels there in which the class of master that he has referred to this morning is employed. I had to look the matter up in connexion with some of the arbitration cases, and found that some of the masters were men who had been on oversea vessels. It is the ambition of many oversea masters to get on the coasting trade. In the case of South Australia, the home port is reached in a great many cases every night, so that the conditions have resulted in masters who have qualified for the oversea vessels seeking engagement there. It has been pointed out to me that unless some alteration is made in the schedule as regards officers, the conditions in the South Australian ports will be bad. In fact, one correspondent says that the scale required will render it impossible to get the necessary mates. There are thirty vessels trading beyond the 50 mile radius in the Gulf, and over 100 vessels in the Gulf trade, possibly a greater number in that class of trade than in all the other States put together. My correspondent adds that if the scale is adhered to they will not be able to obtain the necessary mates, it being difficult to fill a single vacancy at present. The Minister will therefore see that this is a matter of substance. I urge him to make inquiries into the facts, and if he finds that adherence to the scale for the class of craft affected by schedule 1 would be injurious to the shipping interests there, I trust that, under the powers conferred by clause 11, he will see that the necessary alteration is made in the schedule. The reason why I had a doubt whether the Minister could alter the schedule by regulation was that there is no reference to the Marine Council in clause 11; but I think the words “as prescribed “ do all that is necessary. My opinion is that the Minister can alter the schedule by regulation, and if the Minister will see whether the conditions justify it, and the alteration is made about the time the Act is proclaimed, he will have done something to meet the reasonable anxiety of some of the shipping people in South Australia and other parts of the Commonwealth. It seems to me hypertechnical, but I have a doubt whether, if a false discharge is given under clause 59 from a vessel of less than 50 tons gross register or a river and bay ship, a prosecution can ensue under clause 61. Sub-clause 1 of clause 59 provides that the discharge shall be given to the seaman in the case of any ship except a limited coast trade ship of less than 50 tons or a river and bay ship. Sub-clause 2 provides that when a seaman is discharged from a limited coast trade ship of less than 50 tons or a river and bay ship, the master shall deliver the discharge to the superintendent. Although, doubtless, what is meant is that it shall be given to the superintendent for the seaman, you cannot in criminal law convict a man by loose intendment. Clause 61 provides that no person shall give to any seaman a false discharge ; but, as sub-clause 2 of clause 59 is worded, a man may give a false discharge to the superintendent in the case of certain vessels without being subject to the penal provisions of clause 61. If there is a reasonable doubt upon that point the Minister has now an opportunity of removing it. I do hope we shall realize what we expect from the improvement of our navigation laws. The conditions of the seamen here are certainly exceptionally good, and there is no reason why we should not receive for all our purposes, mercantile marine as well as navy, the full complement of crews required. Bullen, one of the greatest authorities upon seafaring matters, has described the condition of the Australian seaman as exceptional, and if that is so one of the chief deterrents to men joining our mercantile marine seems to have been removed by the improved conditions of the last ten or fifteen years.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
– We have reached the final stage of this very important and voluminous Bill of 424 clauses, and I think it can be truly said that the House has dealt with it for the most part as a non-party measure, inasmuch as there has been no semblance of any desire to obstruct its passage. The greater portion of the Bill is necessary and suitable, and is a splendid addition to our Statute law, but as I said on the second reading, I think that the Bill attempts to do too much, and, as a consequence, embodies much which may be described as very controversial, and a good deal the constitutionality of which is doubtful. In some particulars, in my opinion, the Bill is in advance nf the time. It seems to be forgotten that Australia is a new and sparsely populated country, and that, for its advancement and development, facilities should be afforded for its opening up and settlement. I have not taken a prominent part in the discussion of the Bill in Committee, as it was arranged to leave the legal and some other matters, so far as the members of the Opposition were concerned, in the hands of the honorable member for Angas and the honorable member for Darling Downs, and the thanks of. the whole House are due to those honorable members for the good services they have rendered. I have, however, taken a ‘ particular interest in the coasting trade clauses and I desire now, in very few words, to enter my final protest against some of those provisions. _ On a previous occasion my criticism was principally directed to the clauses which prevent mail steamers and other vessels from oversea from carrying passengers on the coast. Since then I asked the Prime Minister what the views of the Government were in regard to the operation of the clause which gives power to the Governor-General in Council to exempt vessels between special ports from the prohibition as to carrying passengers, and the answer I received was that the action of the Government, when the Bill became law, would Hp dictated by the convenience of the people, and that it was undesirable in the meantime to express any opinion. If the convenience of the people is the main consideration, it will mean that passengers will be able to travel around the coast on those steamers whenever they choose to do so. At any rate, I hope that that will be the construction which the Government will place on this part of the Bill, which, however, is far from satisfactory, inasmuch as it leaves it to the Executive to say when people shall and shall not be permitted to travel. I therefore regret that the Government could not see their way to accept the amendment I suggested, which would, at any rate, have given us time to consider the question, and could not have done the slightest harm in the interval. I proposed that so far as Western Australia was concerned - though, of course, Tasmania and other States were also affected - people should, until railway communication was established with, the capital city of the State, be permitted to travel by British mail steamers. I should have liked to have seen the clause made even wider. When we enter upon legislation which places restriction on the movements of those who live in isolated parts on this immense continent, we are not acting in the interests of the country. Under existing conditions, I am much opposed to any restrictions, or unnecessary conditions, being imposed on sea travel when there are no rapid means of journeying by land. In the north-west of Western Australia, on the north coast, .right round by the Gulf of Carpentaria, and on the east coast, there are no means of communication except by sea. No railway connexions are to be found north of Rockhampton in Queensland, or Geraldton, in Western Australia, so that on three-fourths of the coastline of Australia the people are dependent on the sea for the transport of themselves and their produce. It is scarcely conceivable that a National Parliament should embark on legislation with such an object in view, and that it should be necessary to obtain an Executive warrant of the Government of the day to permit that which should be exercised as a right. This is a new country, and facilities and opportunities for its development must be afforded; and for us to jeopardize development is to act adversely to. the progressive interests of the community. This Bill has to be reserved for the Royal assent, and I can only hope that there may be a change of Government before it becomes law. If the people of the country declare against the party now in power, I feel quite certain that no Government, constituted from this side, would propose or sanction provisions of the kind to which I am now objecting.
– Study every other country but our own !
– I can understand such a remark from the honorable member, whose horizon is limited by Rundle-street or King William-street, or, at the most, by Port Adelaide. I do not see how we can expect to settle people on our 8,000 miles of coastline, and make it productive, while we deny them the full use of every means of communication now available, viz., transit by sea. It seems absurd, in these pioneering days, that magnificent steamers should call at our ports, and that persons desiring to travel by them should not be permitted to do so; and this is surely not the way to assist the progress of the country. The most enlightened, progressive, and civilized countries are those with the best means of communication ; the dark places of the earth, where ignorance, slavery, and cruelty are found, are always isolated and far removed from the full light of public opinion. I am very sorry, “indeed, that these unnecessarily restrictive clauses should find a place in our navigation law so early i’n the history of the Commonwealth. I have always been in favour of building up our mercantile marine and protecting it in every reasonable way ; that is a point, I think, on which we are all agreed. But I am not in favour of doing anything to injure the producers and pioneers of the country. When the interests of those pioneers come into conflict with the interests of the mercantile marine, the latter must give way. Those who live in isolated places on our immense coastline who are engaged in building up this country ought to have the right to avail themselves of every means of travelling. I cannot understand the actionof the Government; but I suppose they are only following out the principle they have laid down for themselves - the principle of restriction and the curtailment of liberty and freedom. Our fathers came here in the early days as free men.
– Does the right honorable member intend to connect his remarks with the question before the Chair?
– I do so, sir,, by pointing out that this Bill imposes restrictions upon a right which was possessed1 by our fathers when they came here, and’ which we, too, have hitherto enjoyed, viz.,. to avail ourselves of whatever facilities for transit offered. That privilege- is now to be taken from us. I regret tosay that we are engaged, year by year, in making Australia a land where one section of the community tyrannizes over another.
– The right honorable member is now going beyond the scope of the Bill.
– I have no desire to do so; but I contend that the portions of Part VI. to which I have referred do produce inequalities. They impose a restriction upon the right we have hitherto enjoyed to avail ourselves of any means of transit that presented themselves. They declare that we shall not travel on vessels other than those which observe certain conditions, when there are no other means of travelling available, and I look upon this as a restriction upon liberty and freedom. It is a suicidal policy. The Bill is restrictive ; it interferes with our liberty, and with the opening up and development of Australia. I therefore enter my final protest against it. I can only express the hope that it will not come into force. I trust that the people will rise up in their wrath and remove the Labour party from power, so that we may possess again that freedom and liberty which we enjoyed before they took office.
.- Unlike the right honorable member for Swan, who has declared this Bill to be restrictive in its scope and an invasion of popular liberty, I welcome it as a humane and prudent advance in progressive legislation. I believe that, on the whole, it will make for the interests and welfare of the community.
– I was referring only to the coasting-trade clauses when I spoke in that way
– The right honorable member placed no such limitation on his denunciation of the measure. He uttered a general opinion that the Bill was an invasion and a restriction of the liberties of the people.
– I was referring to the coasting clauses.
– This qualification is the product of “ second thought.”
– I did not mean to refer to the Bill generally in those terms. The honorable member knows that I did not.
– If the right honorable member chooses to withdraw his statement, well and good; but he certainly made the remarks that I have attributed to him. The Bill, on the whole, is commendable, both as to what it amends and what it constructs. It was sadly needed to protect the lives and interests of the long-suffering “ men who go down to the. sea in ships.” Whether it will accomplish all that we desire is a matter which only time and trial will determine. Adverting to what the right honorable member for Swan has said as to /he dark places of the earth always being marked by an absence of travelling facilities, I feel that he must have forgotten that he was a member of a Government which fathered a measure that would have -excluded from engaging in the Inter- State passenger trade some of the finest ships that ever came to Australia.
– I deny that.
– My charge is absolutely correct. That act on the part of the right honorable member was a piece of ingratitude, inasmuch as the first line of steamers to open up the port of Fremantle, and to prove its safety for large steamships, was a line flying the German flag. Under the Bill which was introduced by his Government, and to which he had doubtless given his sanction in Cabinet, he was quite prepared to allow the fine steamers of that line to be excluded from the Inter-State passenger trade. That being so, his appreciation of transit facilities, as indicative of high civilization, sounds somewhat hollow. Has he forgotten the restrictive provisions of the measure of which he was one of the authors ? Now, while it is right that Parliament should do its utmost for the protection of seamen, I think it might have done more to safeguard the lives and comfort of passengers.
– I think that clause 271 makes provision for the accommodation of passengers. It will give us power to prescribe whatever we think necessary.
– It is all very well that the Minister should. have power to prescribe the observance of certain conditions, but the Government might have embodied in the Bill itself specific provisions so that passengers would know their rights under the law. I hope the Minister will be as rigidly careful of passengers’ interests as we have tried to be in the interests of seamen. And, before the Bill is finally passed, I think we should have from some member of the Cabinet a definite statement as to the extent to which the Government propose to exercise the power conferred upon them to deal with ships engaged in the coasting trade. A few weeks hence this Parliament will have been prorogued. All criticism will then have been silenced, and for many months to come there will be no opportunity to make representations to the Government concerning this matter. That being so, the Ministry should now make up their minds as to the extent to which they intend to exercise the power which the Bill confers upon them. We ought to be informed whether they intend to prevent those who have occasion, for instance, to travel between the eastern States and Western Australia from using the ocean-going steamers. They should tell us, also, whether they intend to compel those who have to visit the Northern Territory, or the far north of Queensland, to travel by the rotten Warrego. The right honorable member for Swan was well justified in pointing to our wide extent of coast-line, and to the fact that, since the greater proportion of our population is settled along the coast, many people require to travel by sea from place to place. I agree with him that they should not be restricted to such accommodation as the local monopolists choose to make for them. The Government should hold its hand hi this matter for some time, and before enforcing the Act take care that the Inter- State steamers are brought up to date. I do not refer altogether to the steamers trading between Fremantle and Melbourne. They are very fine vessels, but on some of the other lines - and particularly on the north coast of Queensland and the northwest coast of Western Australia - we have steamers that are quite unsuitable for the trade. The Government should indicate that they do not intend to put this power into force until the accommodation provided on coasting vessels is considerably improved.
– And that they will see that freights are not unfairly increased.
– If the cost of manning and maintaining vessels engaged in the Inter-State trade is increased all round, we cannot reasonably object to the shipping companies recouping themselves by making a slight addition to the passenger fares and freights. I do not think that a man who urgently requires to travel would regard as a very great hardship the fact that he had to pay a few shillings, or even a few pounds more, provided that he had some assurance that his life would be tolerably safe, and that the conveniences available on other lines of steamers would be forthcoming on those engaged in the Inter- State trade. I have no desire to delay the passing of this Bill. I have taken but little part in its discussion, but I appeal to the Government, before exercising the power conferred upon them by clause 286, to see that the accommodation on steamers plying for trade along the Australian coast is more up to date ; that the ships are better fitted to meet the perils of the sea, and more adequately equipped with life-saving appliances.
.- I am sure we are all pleased to have before us the measure in its completed form, and to acknowledge the reasonable way in which the Minister has accepted suggestions made by the Opposition. We feel that some of the suggestions which he declined to adopt might well have been accepted by him, but, on the whole, many of the amendments made in the Bill must tend greatly to improve it. The honorable gentleman was certainly wise in accepting our suggestion with respect to the matter of jurisdiction. I desire now to refer to the criticism in which the honorable member for Coolgardie has indulged in regard to the attitude of the right honorable member for Swan. As a matter of fact, the right honorable member, ever since he has been a member of this Parliament, has taken up an absolutely consistent attitude in this regard. He has pointed out the isolated position of Western Australia, and has, again and again, urged that in our legislation we should show some consideration to that State. He has riot only voiced that sentiment, but has given practical expression to it in legislation submitted to this Parliament. In the Navigation Bill of 1904, which was introduced by the Government of which he was a member, it was provided, by clause 296, that -
Until the railways of the State of Western Australia are connected with the railways of the State of South Australia, the carrying of passengers between Western Australia and South Australia by any British ship ordinarily carrying mails to or from the Commonwealth shall not be deemed engaging in the coasting trade.
He also realized the difficult position of the northern ports of his State, and sought to meet it by providing, in clause 297 of the same Bill, that -
If the Governor-General is satisfied that any British ship not registered in Australia trades, or intends to trade, between places on the west, north-west, and north coast of Australia, between Fremantle and Cape York, and that it is desirable in the interests of those places, or any one of them, for the ship so to trade, he may, by order, exempt the ship from all or any of the provisions of this Part of this Act, either unconditionally or subject to such conditions as he thinks fit to impose, for any period not exceeding three years.
That shows the mind of the Government, of which the right honorable gentleman was a member, and his attitude has been consistent throughout. The position he has always taken up is that, no matter what protection we may give to Australian shipping, we must not forget the situation of those who are living in the isolated parts of Australia, and must do all that we can to assist them. The honorable member for Herbert made a similar plea for consideration for the northern parts of Queensland, Papua, and the Northern Territory, and it is a pity that his suggestion was not adopted, as it could have been, without violating any principle or doing injury to the measure. I hope that in a higher and rarer atmosphere his influence may still be felt, and may be sufficient to secure the amendment we desire. What he asked for may seem very little to us, but it is a great deal to the people concerned.
– It is a question of life and death to some of them, especially at Port Darwin.
– In clause 65 it is provided that a master in giving a discharge must no longer write on it “ decline to report,” but must tell the truth. It is evident that this may give opportunity to unscrupulous men to try to intimidate by threats of action.
– Generally speaking, the intimidation is all the other way.
– Still I should like the Minister to consider the matter, and see if he cannot insert a clause to protect the master from being harassed. There are other matters which might well be discussed again, but this is not the stage for discussing them. I still hope that some of the suggestions which were not accepted in Committee will be adopted in another place, because I do not think that we have seen the last of the Bill. The sooner we have a good and proper Navigation Act the better it will be for all concerned.
.-I, for one, do not wish to delay the passing of this Bill, which, considering its colossal dimensions, has gone through this House in record time.
– That is testimony to the reasonableness of the Opposition.
– I am sure the Minister welcomed the help that he received, wherever it came from. I indorse the remarks of the honorable member for Coolgardie, and protest against any Australian money being spent in subsidies to a company owning a boat like the Warrego. It is an impertinence to the British flag for the Australasian United Steam Navigation Company to run that steamer, to which there is no epithet too bad to be applied. Disgraceful as is her first-class accommodation - I being a good sailor could walk about the decks without discomfort - the infamy of her second-class and steerage accommodation is a stigma upon the company’s flag. So long as I am a member of this House I shall vote against money being granted to that company while it is run ning such boats as the Warrego. I have heard talk about other companies on the coast, I suppose by interested persons, perhaps paid by that company, but I have been shown a judgment by Mr. Justice Higgins of the High Court, in which it is stated that the Dutch company which trades to our shores pays its captain and officers much better than the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company does. These mighty mail-ship companies, whose vessels come from Europe to Australia, do not pay as good salaries as the little Dutch company. So that the exact information may be in Hansard, and available when the subject is again up for discussion, I will read a letter which I have received from a friend who holds a position of some importance in the shipping world, and who, at my request, investigated the matter on which he writes. That letter is as follows: - 18th October, 1912.
Dear Dr. Maloney,
Dutch Line of Steamers.
You will remember my speaking to you one evening regarding the wages paid by these people to the crews engaged in their Australian line. I did not then have exact data, but have now got reliable figures. The wages, including bonuses, amount to as follows : -
Captain, about , £940 per annum.
Chief officer, £240 to£280, according to seniority. 2nd officer, £160. 3rd officer,£110. 4th officer. (This I did not get.) 1st engineer,£325 to£400 per annum, according to seniority. 2nd engineer,£160 to£180. 3rd engineer,£140 to£160. 4th engineer, £80 to£100.
Captain and chief engineers retire at 45 years at a pension of about£150 per annum.
The captain is also paid a commission on the work done by the steamers, and, I have been told, can retire on a pension of £200 a year -
The sailors, firemen, and stewards are all Javanese, and these are paid a good deal less than a white seaman would get, but as against this a crew of something like 80 Javanese all told is carried, which makes matters more expensive than a white crew, on account of the number carried.
Practically speaking, wages amount to£300 per month upon a steamer of a net register of 1,886 tons, which is much higher than what an English boat would pay.
The Javanese crew are very well treated, the company, at their own expense, providing them with warm underclothing and uniforms whilst a steamer is in Australian waters in cold weather.
The honorable members for Lang, Herbert, Franklin, and Coolgardie will recall, in this connexion, the statements that we heard about the terrible death roll in connexion with the carrying on to Sydney, and the detention there, of certain Malays, who were provided only with miserable cotton garments, so that most of them died after they got back to Thursday Island -
They also give them a night at a theatre or circus upon arrival at Melbourne..
The white officers of the company are given a seven months’ holiday every four years at half-pay, with a free ticket to and from Europe,” 1st or 2nd saloon, according to grade.
You will see from these figures that what has been lately said in the House is not correct, and that Dutchmen do not pay low wages. In fact, these wages are a good deal higher than what is paid upon the coast. Against this, as far as i can see, the Dutchman seems to work a bit harder than a Britisher, but is better fed, and has better quarters, so that all the talk about cheap labour does not apply in this case.
To make their men almost secure from two of the most terrible and destructive diseases that life is punished with, their officers are supplied free with two remedies, in cases like those I hold in my hand, which in Germany cost respectively 2s. and 4d. each. I hope that when we have ships of our own we shall look after our officers as well as the Dutch company looks after its officers. If Papua and Thursday Island were centres of communication, I would say that they should be compelled to use only steamers complying with Australian conditions, but knowing from personal experience the infamous nature of the accommodation on many of the coastal vessels which they have now to use, I think that the Bill should not apply to them. I believe that by clause 5A the Northern Territory is exempted, and I am glad of that.’
– Papua is not under the Bill at all. They say’ the Senate are going to alter that.
– I hope they will not. I hope that when any subsidy is being granted for a line of steamers whose head office is in Australia, the Minister will consider the necessity of insisting upon baths being supplied, especially in the tropics, for the second saloon and the steerage^
– I think that can be compelled under this Bill, independently of any subsidy.
– The Minister very courteously brought under my notice clause 271, which pertains to that matter. ExJudge Casey, who is highly esteemed in Victoria, has sent me a most interesting letter in which he speaks of the terrible ordeal which steerage passengers have to undergo in travelling from Europe to Australia, particularly in English vessels. He said it would be a good thing if in any navigation legislation that we passed we insisted that every individual should have so much cubic feet of sleeping accommodation. If that were done passengers could not be herded together as they have been. It was my privilege on two occasions to bring immigrants to Western Australia, and to say the least of it, the accommodation on the vessels was infamous. I have never seen cattle or sheep penned as closely on board ship as men, women, and , children were packed in those cases. The captain of one ship that brought several hundreds of immigrants out here said that the Board of Trade in England did not insist upon the provision of baths, and he considered it was kindness on his part, and on the part of his company, to have provided one bath for 400 or 500 passengers. We have no power over the ships that leave the Homeland, but if we set a good example the statesmen of the Homeland will copy us, as they have copied our laws in other ways, particularly in reference to. the Transfer of Land Statute.
.- I congratulate the Government on having passed this measure, in which all parties have had a share. It could only have been brought to a successful issue as the result of a great deal of labour spread over a very long time. The Minister must recognise that the work done by his predecessors, including their negotiations with the British Board of Trade, helped to facilitate the passage of the measure to a large degree, and had it not been for that work, we should not be in the position of having the Bill practically through. I think we all hail it as a progressive measure, which should insure verv much more favorable conditions for those who have to work on the sea. We are all at one as regards its main provisions, although there is a certain amount of difference of opinion as to the application of certain portions, and a great deal of power is left in the hands of the Minister to do by regulation what he thinks right. I hope the Minister will use every discretion in regard to the coasting trade provisions when the Bill becomes law. It is not likely to become law for some months, and the Minister may not have power to pass any regulations on the subject before the House meets again. I hope he will take seriously into consideration the representations made to him by those who come from the more distant parts of the States, and see that every possible facility is granted to the Australian public without doing what is unfair to our own people, or doing anything that will tend to undo the good work which we hope the measure will accomplish. If the Minister finds that he is in a position to issue regulations before Parliament meets again, he knows that he has power to prescribe certain requirements as to false bottoms in ships, and so on. I would draw his attention at this stage to the fact that the bottoms of many of the small boats that travel along the coast of New South Wales and have to cross bars, are necessarily very flat, and the draught very shallow. I hope he will also take into consideration the question which he himself mentioned during his third-reading speech, in relation to the working of cargoes by the crews as the ships go up and down rivers. We must not lose sight of the fact that, having required additional room to be provided for the crew, and having compelled an increase in the actual number carried, we are restricting the cargo space very considerably. If, in addition, these flat-bottomed vessels are compelled to have false bottoms, seeing that sometimes the draught is as little as 8 or 9 feet crossing the bars, it will mean a still more restricted cargo space, with a corresponding increase in freights and fares.
– They will have to build new boats.
– Some of the vessels can be altered, but, in the majority of cases, it would mean building new boats altogether. I hope that when the Minister comes to deal with the regulations he will take these matters fully into consideration, and do nothing that would tend to put an extra burden on the producers of the country, because that is what would undoubtedly happen. If regulations are made carrying out to the letter all the provisions in the Bill, the result must be a very large increase in freights and fares. We do not want to do anything that will prevent the majority of the provisions of the Bill being carried out in any particular, but there are certain matters regarding which the Minister ought to exercise a certain amount of sweet reasonableness, and do what is a fair thing by all concerned. In that way he will do what is best for the country ai a whole.
.- I wish to make an appeal on behalf of those ports regarding which I spoke previously. I am not desiring the Government to do anything of a definite character now. All I ask them to do is to reserve to themselves power to do something later on. Power is given in the measure to the Government to exempt British ships. I ask the Government to go a little further and reserve power to exempt other ships, so far as Thursday Island and Darwin are concerned. Later on there will be such an outcry from the people concerned that the Government will find it absolutely necessary to take action. This may mean bringing in an amending Bill which will have to be passed by Parliament before the Government can do anything. If, however, the Government, by making an amendment in another place, reserve* to themselves the right to do what they are certain to be called on to do later on, I shall be perfectly satisfied, and the Government will not be in any way departing from their policy, but will be helping themselves to avoid a dilemma that’ is almost certain to occur. I have suggested that the Government, if they will not consent to anything else, should provide that passengers at least may be carried from Townsville to and from Thursday Island and Darwin, This would mean that passengers going to either of those places would travel by coastal vessels to Townsville, and tranship there to boats trading to those ports. I trust the Attorney-General will take this matter into consideration. If he were living at Thursday Island or Darwin he would feel much more acutely than does any member of the .House at the present time the disabilities under which the residents are placed. It incenses a man who desires to get away from one of those places to see a fine ship passing the port, and know that he is not able to take advantage of it. It seems to me that we are not looking at this question from a commonsense point of view. There is no more strenuous advocate of a White Australia policy in this House” than 1 am, and have been, but we ought to interpret the navigation law with more elasticity than is now proposed. I, therefore, make a final appeal to the Attorney-General to give consideration to this aspect of the question.
– I shall bring the remarks of the honorable member under the notice of the Minister of Trade and Customs.
.- Like other honorable members, I am glad to feel that this Bill will now be out of our way. It has come before us at odd moments, when there was apparently no other business to submit. Both sides of the House have done their best for it, and I think the Ministry are particularly__indebted to the honorable member for Angas and the honorable member for Darling Downs for the profound and selfsacrificing assistance they have given, especially on the legal side of the measure. It is very fortunate that two constituencies should have sent here men who could help to make safe, so far as legal pitfalls are concerned, a measure for which they are not personally responsible.
– They are responsible for a great deal of it. The honorable member for Darling Downs originated a great part of the Bill.
– We are now discussing the Bill with amendments, of which the honorable member knows a vast sheaf has been introduced. The Bill, as it leaves us, seems to me to be marked by one veryserious blemish. We have been extraordinarily careless in our description of what constitutes trading on the Australian coast within the meaning of the Bill, and I think that the suggestion of the honorable member for Coolgardie might well have been accepted. That honorable member suggested that, instead of preventing oversea vessels carrying either cargo or passengers unless they comply with Australian conditions, the Bill should be applied rigidly with regard to cargo, but that the convenience of the Australian travelling public should be the first consideration, and the carriage of passengers not regarded as an infringement- of the privileges of the Australian shipping ring. I am all the more sorry that the Government have not accepted that suggestion, or some thing approximating to it, because I recognise that what the big oversea companies are doing on the Australian coast does not constitute competition with the local companies. The oversea vessels charge higher rates for passengers than do the local companies.
– On “apple trips,” for instance.
– Quite so, and, indeed, anywhere on the Australian coast-line. The reason this is done is, I think, simply because the oversea shipping companies desire to be free from any suspicion of competing, in any shape or form, with the Australian shipping companies. The local companies, however, apparently have the ear of the powers that be ; and even this competition, which is not competition - even the right that the Australian public now have to be carried in the best steamships at the higher rates - has been taken away, in order to still further swell the profits of one of the most profitable enterprises Australia has. We know that the Government propose to make certain exemptions, and I suggest that the time for stating what those exemptions are to be is just as this measure leaves the Chamber. If I may be pardoned for using the phrase, it seems almost like treating Parliament with contempt when the Government do not take the House into their complete confidence. We do not know what the Minister of Trade and Customs proposes to do. Are the exemptions merely to apply to Western Australia, or are they to apply also to the Tasmanian apple trade? From inquiries I have made, I believe that there is great likelihood of the mail steamers no longer continuing to call at Hobart, if no exemption is granted in regard to passengers. That is important to a small State whose financial exigencies we have had to consider only this week. If this concession is refused to Australian tourists, and if the Tasmanian fruit export trade is penalized, that State will be placed in a worse position than it is in to-day, and we shall again be asked to give some assistance in the light of the injustice that our laws impose. The Australian travelling public will find themselves in ihe position that the honorable member for Herbert has shown some of his constituents to be, and it seems to me absurd that the rights of Australian citizenship shall not include the right to travel about in any ships the people please. I hope the Minister of Trade and Customs will let us know something as to his intentions before the Bill leaves the House.
– I cannot speak again.
– But the AttorneyGeneral is quite at liberty to speak on behalf of the Government. The position is somewhat anomalous at present. There is one exemption in the Bill itself, inasmuch as a ship, without subscribing to Australian conditions, and whether worked by black or white labour, may carry passengers or cargo if travelling from Papua to Australia. Apparently, the interests of the Papuans are considered to be of more importance than the interests of the Australian people. However, I hope that the Government will do by exemption what might more properly be done in the measure itself. Now that the Government have insisted on taking power to prevent the public travelling on what ships they please, I hope that, as they have learnt their strength, they will show consideration for those who have to travel, and make liberal exemptions. I trust that some responsible Minister, before the Bill leaves the House, will enlighten us as to the intentions of the Government - that the dignity of Parliament will not be insulted by any neglect to impart the information.
Mr. WcWILLIAMS (Franklin) [3.36]. - I have to thank the Minister for having acceded to the reasonable request I put forward on behalf of the river boats. In that, the honorable gentleman has only done justice, and he has prevented a great deal of trouble that would have ensued on the original provision. The permit system introduced by this Bill is a very bad one. The trade and commerce of a country like Australia, should not be left to the individual discretion of any particular Minister. According to the Bill, the whole of the Inter-State trade from Port Darwin to Brisbane, and between Sydney and Hobart, may be very seriously affected by a mere stroke of the pen; and this is too much power to give to any Minister. The system we are adopting so largely of legislating by regulation has assumed proportions which have become almost dangerous. The trade and commerce of the country are, as I have indicated, too important to be chopped and changed about, even, it may be, in one Cabinet, or, at any rate, when there is a change of Government. There is another question in regard to which great difficulty may arise. The Japanese boats occupy from fifty-two to fifty-six days in travelling to Australia and back again, and out of that time they are from eight to twelve days on the coast. I desire to point out that if those Japanese vessels choose to comply with Australian conditions while they are on the coast, they can trade with absolutely no interference from the Government. The question arises, What would the position be if the Government refused those vessels permission to trade under Australian conditions? International trouble would arise, and we should have to appeal to the British Government for protection, while, at the same time, we do not allow British mercantile ships to trade on the same lines. We may do much when we are dealing with our own people only that we cannot do when outside interests are concerned, and international complications may be involved. Doubtless, this matter will receive very serious consideration elsewhere. I believe, with the honorable member for Hindmarsh, that we have not seen the last of the Bill. The Board of Trade will not, I think, sanction the proposed restrictions on British commerce while we, at the same time, call on the British Navy for protection.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Hughes) read a first time.
Mr. ROBERTS laid upon the table the following paper: -
Defence Act - Military Forces - Regulations Amended (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1912, Nos. 206, 207, 208.
Advertising by Federal Departments - Return showing cost - Return to an Order of the House, dated 9th August, 1912.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I desire to intimate that the first business on Tuesday next will be the Workmen’s Compensation Bill, and that it will be followed by the Trade Marks Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.46 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 October 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19121025_reps_4_67/>.