10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the .chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Minister for Markets received any confirmation of the newspaper report that the British Government proposes to ask parliament to increase the duty on wines from ls. to ls. 6d. per gallon ? If so, can the Minister say whether the duties on higher grade wines will be affected?
– I have read in newspaper reports of the budget speech delivered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the excise duty on British wines is to be increased from ls. to ls. 6d. I have no doubt that that report is correct.
– On the 7th December I asked the Prime Minister when the final report of the Development and Migration Commission upon the GoldMining Industry would be laid upon the table of the House. The right honorable gentleman said that he believed that it would be available at an early date. Can he say now when the report will be presented ?
– I shall make further inquiries of the chairman of the commission.
-Will the Minister for Home and Territories make an official statement to the House on the proposed liquor poll in the Federal Capital Territory dealing specially with the following points - (a) the date of the poll; (b) the specific questions to be placed on the ballot paper and their order; (c) the franchise qualifications; (<2) when the preparation of the roll will commence and the latest date for enrolment; (e) the method of voting; and (/) the period between polls?
– The matter is still under the consideration of the Government, but I hope to be able to make a statement to the House on Wed- nesday next.
– In one of last evening’s newspapers appeared a statement under the headings “Economic Council to be appointed - Federal Government’s latest plank - Body to advise Cabinet.” The report proceeded to explain that the proposed council is to provide a thinking department, within the administration at the elbow of the inner ring of Cabinet, which will warn Ministers of what is ahead and advise them on all board questions of economic policy. I ask the Prime Minister whether it is the intention of the Government to appoint such a council, and, if so, whether its duties will be as stated in that report?
– I have not seen the paragraph to which the honorable member has referred, but it is obvious, from the language employed, that it is based upon the “ Yellow Book “ published by the Liberal Party in Great Britain after continuous investigation by many members of the party and leading economists over a period of two years. The Government does not propose to take action of the nature suggested, but the subject of economic research with a view to greater and more accurate information being made available to the people of Australia generally, has been under the consideration of Ministers for some time past.
– Has the attention of the Treasurer been drawn to newspaper cables reporting the marked success of the latest Western Australian loan ? If so, can the honorable gentleman explain why that loan was so successful in comparison with flotations by the Commonwealth Government ?
– The Western Australian loan was floated under the auspices of the Australian Loan Council, and I assume that one reason for its success is the recent passage of the Financial Agreement Bill.
– Will the Minister for Markets say whether the prices fixed for grapes for 1928 under the Wine Bounty Act were recommended by Mr. Gollan ?
– I believe so.
– When Mr. Gollan made his recommendation, was he aware of the Government’s intention to reduce the wine bounty?
– This question should have been addressed to the Minister for Trade and Customs, but I can assure the honorable member that the prices for grapes were fixed with a complete knowledge of all the facts.
– As the recent courtmartial at Gibraltar disclosed that the bandmaster of the Royal Oak had been subjected to violent and abusive language which Australians would probably not understand, and as Australia’s only seagoing Rear-Admiral and other officers and midshipmen are at present in British waters, will the Minister representing the Minister for Defence consider whether, in order to fortify them for experiences that may come their way, it would not be advisable for them to receive some preliminary coaching from the High Commissioner in London, Sir Granville Ryrie ?
– I shall refer the honorable member’s question to the Minister for Defence.
– Will the Treasurer inform the House whether the expense of his travels by aeroplane on a recent vigorous and extensive electioneering campaign in Victoria, was defrayed by the Government or from his own pocket?
– I travelled by aeroplane from Hay to Kerang to keep an important public engagement. In my passage through the north-west province of Victoria, I travelled entirely in private cars at my own expense.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs received a copy of the unanimous resolution of the recent conference in Hobart of the Associated Chambers of Commerce requesting the introduction of uniform customs duties?
– I have received a copy of the resolution, and in compliance with the unanimous request of the Chamber of Commerce, the matter is receiving the careful consideration of the Government.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House of the present position in regard to the proposed industrial conference and when the debate on the amending Arbitration Bill is likely to be proceeded with?
– The Australian Council of Trade Unions is now meeting in Sydney. I was assured that that meeting would be held soon after Easter and that a reply would be sent to the invitation I issued to representatives of trade unions and employers to attend a conference in Canberra. I have asked the President of the Council to let me have a reply at the earliest possible date, and as soon as it is received the Government will determine what action it will take in regard to the amending Arbitration Bill.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether the information sought by a question on the 23rd March last by the honorable member forReid, relating to importations of petrol pumps, has yet been obtained, and, if so, what action, if any, has been taken or is contemplated?
– Yes, the information embodied in the honorable member’s previous question is substantially correct. Regarding what action has been taken, I might state that’ some time ago four local manufacturers of petrol pumps requested increased duties. As there were a number of other manufacturers in the various States these were communicated with, and the result was that three manufacturers informed the department that the present rates of duty were sufficient to adequately protect the industry, whilst seven did not reply. This want of unanimity and apparent indifference may be because all the petrol companies distributing here are understood to be now obtaining their pumps from local manufacturers. Another company which is entering the trade will I hope in future do the same, and thereby fall into line with the strong local feeling regarding the matter. I understand that further representations will be made by the petrol pump industry on the subject.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Parliament House - Conditions Imposed under Building Contracts - Plan of Lay-out of City.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– I am looking into the matter, and shall advise the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– I shall look into the matter and advise the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and will be furnished as soon as possible.
– Yesterday the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) asked me whether it was true that the North Australia Commission or some other Government authority had granted leases to Afghans adjacent to the established camp of aborigines at Alice Springs. I have since ascertained that four leases are held by Afghans at Alice Springs. Three of these were granted six years ago, and one seven years ago. All of these leases were granted prior to the appointment of the North Australia Commission and prior to the appointment of the Government Resident. I am assured by the Government Resident of Central Australia that the aboriginals’ camp is half a mile distant from the nearest town block and that every possible precaution is taken by the local police to safeguard the moral well-being of the aboriginals. There is also a resident missionary at Alice Springs who assists in this work. Arrangements have been made in connexion with the advance” of railway construction to remove the aborigines’ camp to a distance of at least 5 miles from any construction work.
– On the 7th March the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) asked the following question, upon notice -
Oranges and other fresh fruit excluding apples :
Butter and lard;
Hides and Skins;
Other exports usually classified as “General cargo.” and what was the amount of freight saved on each of these classes of shipments owing to the reduction in the freight rates announced by the Shipping Board in July, 1926?
I am now in a. position to furnish the following reply: -
The honorable member’s questions are so framed as to suggest that all the reductions in freight on the commodities mentioned, whether carried in ships of the Commonwealth Shipping Line or in other ships, were the result of action taken by the Commonwealth Shipping Board. This suggestion is not justified.
The following freight reductions were announced in July, 1926, by all Britiish lines trading regularly to Australia, and the following quantities of the commodities mentioned were exported in the year ended 30th September, 1927:-
As to cased goods and general cargo, if. has not been possible to compile accurate information in respect of these items, owing to the fact that the bases of statistical record and the freight tariff are not comparable.
Debate resumed from 24th April (vid»page 4351), on motion by Mr. Bruce -
That the paper be printed.
.- To the motion moved by the Prime Minister, that the papers in connexion with the sale of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers be printed, I move the following amendment : -
That all the words, after. “That” be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ in the opinion of this House the Government, by the sale of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers, has sacrificed valuable public assets and has placed Australian producers, shippers, and our people generally at the mercy of the shipping combine.”
That amendment is an indictment containing two counts, which I propose to place before honorable -members of this House. The first is that these ships, which were the property of the people of Australia, have been sacrificed; and the second is that the producers, the shippers and the people of Australia generally, have been betrayed to a shipping octopus..
In the dark days of the war, when we were dependent upon private shipping companies, a chaotic position existed with respect to the export of Australia’s produce abroad. Our producers and our people generally were exploited ; but in spite of the high charges which were levied, and which amounted to profiteering and exploitation, the goods of this country were piled up on its wharves and in its warehouses, and we were unable to secure their exportation. Our trade was almost completely paralyzed. What action was taken by the Government of the day? It discarded private enterprise and turned to government control with the object of rescuing Australia from the position which it then occupied. When he launched this discussion the other day. the Prime Minister quoted from a number of conservative newspapers that had challenged his sincerity in regard to the sale of the Line. He waved triumphantly the papers containing the tenders as a proof that he always had been and still was sincere. There was no necessity for him to furnish proof of his sincerity in that matter. I give him full credit for it, if any credit can attach to him for it. Any. person who doubted his desire to sell the Line did not know the right honorable gentleman or his political views. It has been one of the principal aims of his political life to dispose of the Line. One of the first important speeches which he delivered in the Commonwealth Parliament after his entry into it as a private member consisted of an attack upon the Line and a suggestion that we should get rid of it. When the Line was making huge profits it was attacked by honorable members who today sit behind the Government, on the ground that it was profiteering against the producers of Australia; yet when the board of management repeatedly reduced freights, thus compelling the private companies to come down to their level, and as a consequence showed a loss on their operations, those same gentlemen found fault with them on that account. Whichever way the Line operated, it did not suit them, because they have always clung to the fetish of private enterprise, and refuse to recognize anything good in Government control.
The Prime Minister realized that he had not a good case. He padded out his speech by quoting at length a number of foolish or impossible conditions that were attached to some of the tenders, using those tenders as a foil with the object of proving that the tender of the White Star Line was a considerable improvement upon them. He then proceeded to reply solemnly to an anonymous writer in a newspaper, whose communication I do not believe any other honorable member had read. It is a departure from ordinary procedure for the Prime Minister to attempt to bolster up the sale of valuable public property by answering arguments advanced by an anonymous writer in a newspaper. But he followed that by action which was equally amusing; he solemnly set himself the task of answering arguments which his mind suggested would be used by “ the man in the street.” According to him, the opinion of the man in the street was that these vessels had no value because they were losing money. What strange conduct it was for a Prime Minister to argue seriously on a subject of this importance, that our five beautiful “Bay” and two splendid “Dale” steamers have no value, and to pretend that he is putting the case for both sides ?
– The Leader of the Opposition should not forget that the Prime Minister referred also to the misstatements of the Leader of the Opposition.
– I intend to deal with the statements that I have made; and after I have done so the honorable member for Franklin will not interject so glibly. The Australian Commonwealth Line has been sold. As some one has said, not only it, but also the people of Australia, have been sold.- The price to be paid is £1,850,000, to which will be added the sum of £50,000 to bring our Australian seamen back to their native land. The Prime Minister claims that that is a fair and reasonable price for the ships. The total cost of their construction was £7,527,000/ The five “Bay” boats were built in Great Britain.
– Under navy supervision.
– As the honorable member for Newcastle says, they were built under the supervision of the Navy Department. The two “Dale” boats were built in Australia. The “ Bays “ are only six years, and the “ Dales “ only f our years, old. They are practically the last word in vessels of the kind that are required for their class of trade. In any reasonable or fair estimate their value to-day could not be stated at a figure lower than £3,000,000.
– That depends upon what they are capable of earning.
– I shall give evidence to support my contention. Earlier in this session, during the discussion of a censure motion, the Treasurer (Dr.
Earle Page) delivered a speech in which he said -
That interest, of course, would be saved if we were able to sell the Line say for £4,000,000. The saving of interest at 5½per cent on that sum, and½ per cent. paid into the sinking fund, would represent about about £240,000. In addition, there would be the saving of £200,000 for depreciation, and a similar amount representing the loss of working the Line. The total saving would be £600,000.
The honorable gentleman insisted that, by the sale of the Line, Australia would save £600,000, and he based a portion of his calculations upon the belief and the assumption that it could be sold for £4,000,000. If he did not believe that that was what it was worth, why did he use those figures? I turn now to another piece of evidence. During the speech delivered by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) he quoted the contents of a cable, the authenticity of which has not been challenged, in which it was stated that a cable had been sent to the Commonwealth Government asking if it would consider an offer of £3,500,000 for the ten ships that were then in commission. In reply, a cable was sent to Mr. Larkin, the manager of the Line, who at that time was in London, to the effect that the Prime Minister had stated that, subject to the price being not less than £3,500,000, the Government was prepared to consider an offer. Those ten vessels comprised the seven which have just been sold and three others which were then in commission but were sold subsequently for the sum of £77,670.
– They were the few obsolete vessels of the Line.
– That is so. Deducting that £77,670 from the £3,500,000, we have £3,422,000. Allowing for depreciation for the period which elapsed between January 1926 - the date of the sending of that cable - and the date of the recent sale, say £422,000, we can estimate the value of the five “Bays” and two “Dales,” based on the 1926 offer, at £3,000,000.
Examining the price which has just been accepted, the Prime Minister said, “ We have some recent sales to compare with,” and he cited the sale of two Italian boats. On the Prime Minister’s own statement, they are not comparable with the Commonwealth ships either in tonnage, age. equipment or anything else, so I pass them by. I take a vessel that is more nearly comparable, according to the Prime Minister’s own statement. I take the Ormuz and contrast it with the “ Bay “ boats. The tonnage and speed are somewhat similar, the net tonnage of the “Bay” boats being a little higher than that of the Ormuz, and the gross tonnage of the Ormuz being a little higher than that of the “ Bay “ boats. Not one word did the Prime Minister say about the cargocarrying capacity of the Ormuz. He merely compared the passenger-carrying capacity. He said that the Ormuz carried more passengers, but he failed to mention the superior passenger accommodation provided by the “ Bay “ boats. It is well known that improved accommodation means fewer passengers. Any man who has travelled across the seas knows that the passenger accommodation on the “ Bay “ boats is unsurpassed. Again, the Prime Minister was silent upon the subject of refrigerated space, which is most important from an Australian point of view. The cargo space on the “ Bay “ boats is 13,000 tons each, totalling 65,000 tons for the five vessels. On each boat, there is 350,000 cubic feet of refrigerated space. The Prime Minister said not a word concerning the refrigerated space on the Ormuz. Even if the tonnage, speed, cargo-carrying capacity and refrigerated space are the same, we should have to compare the ages of the vessels. It is generally accepted that the life of vessels of this class is about 20 years. The Ormuz, is fourteen years old, because, according to the Prime Minister, it was built in 1914. It has, therefore, a life of six years. The “ Bay “ boats are six years old and have a life of fourteen years. The Ormuz was recently sold for £257,000, and dividing that figure by the six years that the vessel has yet to live leaves the sum of £42,833 for each year of its life. By multiplying that sum by fourteen years, representing the life of the “ Bay “ boats, we arrive at the sum of £599,662 for each vessel. Yet these boats have been sold for £300,000 each. Let us compare last year’s running costs, taking the Prime Minister’s figures, with what will be their cost when controlled by a private company. The interest charge to the Commonwealth Line on £4,725,000 was £236,282, depreciation £171,265, or a total of £407,547. The cost to the private company will be interest on £1,900,000, £95,000, depreciation, say, £105,000 or a total cost of £200,000 a year, as against £407,000. The difference in the cost of wages owing to the difference between Australian and British standards is £220,000 ; therefore the Commonwealth Line had to meet an annual charge of £427,000 more than the private enterprise will have to pay. It is true that last year the loss on the Line was £558,000, still leaving a deficiency of £131,000, but it must be remembered that this Line has been operating under considerable and serious handicaps. I say frankly that some three or four years ago there were difficulties with the seamen, but for more than two years there has been no such handicap. The position improved, largely because the two members of the board who remained in Australia knew how to treat men. One of the chief handicaps of the Commonwealth Line was the fact that for three years it was under sentence of death. It was for sale, and as a result shippers would not enter into long contracts with it. That was a most serious handicap. Every business man knows that once the report is circulated that his business is for sale, his customers lose confidence in him.
I wish now to refer to the agreement which has been entered into with Lord Kylsant of the White Star Line. The Prime Minister has stated that we are to have a fortnightly service, which will be a great improvement upon the present service, but there is this proviso, “Provided trade justifies it. “ An agreement with such a proviso is not worth anything, because the decision as to whether trade justifies a fortnightly service is left to the company. Even if a fortnightly service is provided there will be no increase in the number of boats trading to Australia. The Commonwealth Line has been providing a monthly service and the White Star boats on the Australian run are also providing a monthly service. Therefore, by running the two lines alternatively, a fortnightly service will be given without increasing the number of boats on the Australian run. I come now to the most important feature of the sale of the Commonwealth Line. Beyond any other consideration is the value of the Commonwealth Line to Australia, as a competitor with the shipping combine, in keeping down freights.
– There is no evidence of that.
– All the evidence is against the opinion of honorable members supporting the Government, and I can give the doubting Thomases opposite statements from the Prime Minister’s own lips to prove my contention. I do not propose to traverse the whole of the arguments that were put forward a few months ago. I shall merely deal with the recent statement of the Prime Minister. He told us that when tenders were called in 1925, it was laid down that there should be no increase in the rates of freight or passage money without reference to and approval by a committee comprizing one representative of the purchaser, one representative of the shippers and an independent chairman. The Prime Minister said that the same onerous conditions were not stipulated in these tenders, but that the terms of the contract practically complied with the conditions laid down in 1925. I ask honorable members to contrast the conditions of tender and see how far that statement can be borne out by facts. The condition of the contract now is that no general increase in homeward freights will be made without reference to a responsible authority representative of the interests concerned. There is no mention of the important words “ and approval by.” I shall now examine the cables that were exchanged to show at what period their omission took place, for which the Prime Minister gave no explanation. He glossed it over by saying that the conditions were practically the same, but I contend that there is a vital difference between them. On the 3rd April the following condition was contained in a cable sent to London by Mr. Larkin after a conference with the Prime Minister in Melbourne : -
Some agreement that no general increase homeward freights without reference to and consent of some responsible authority. Latter point of great importance in view of public opinion here. ‘
– Was that cable sent by the Prime Minister?
– It was sent by Mr. Larkin, but it was the Prime Minister’s draft. I draw particular attention to the words “ of great importance in view of public opinion here.” The Government knows that public opinion here is against being exploited by a shipping combine, and that the one thing that stood between us and exploitation was the Commonwealth Line. On the 4th April this reply was received : “ Agree no general increase homeward freights without reference to responsible authority.” The vital words “ and consent of “ were omitted.
– The cable referred only to homeward freights.
– Yes. It has been claimed that there is in London a committee, which the Government at times refers to and consults, but there is in this instance no proposal to obtain the consent of that authority before increasing freights. There has been a disregard of the 1925 conditions, and yet the Prime Minister says that the conditions of this agreement are practically the same as those that were previously laid down. He has misrepresented the position to this House. On the 7th April a cable was sent from Australia to London in which the tender of Lord Kylsant was accepted subject to certain conditions which were outlined by the Prime Minister. They were that £50,000 extra should be paid to provide for the repatriation of the Australian seamen, that a fortnightly service should be maintained, and that a responsible body should be established in Australia, and no general increase made in homeward freights “without reference thereto “ There is nothing whatever about “ with the consentof “; those words entirely disappeared from the messages. The Prime Minister in explaining the position on Tuesday said that there was to be “ no general increase “ in freights until the matter has been referred to the board. “ I asked by interjection, “ Will the board have the power of veto ? “ The Prime Minister replied “ No. “ Yet he said that practically the same conditions would obtain as were laid down in 1925, when there was a definite power of veto, because any alterations, to become effective,had to receive the approval of the board. Mere reference to the board would be only an act of courtesy and would not impose any restraint. With regard to outward cargo thereis, of course, the Imperial Shipping Committee to be considered. Australia has been represented upon it by Mr. Larkin. We were told that it was “ consulted by the shipowners. “ Of what use is consultation where there is no power to veto, control, or withhold approval or consent? The fact is that the only obstacle in the way of the overseas shipping companies increasing freights was the Commonwealth Shipping Line, it has been- an insurmountable obstacle for the last ten years. It was not only able to prevent increases in freights, but actually effected reduction on more than one occasion. In February 1921, the Combine fixed the freight on beef and mutton refrigerated cargo. I quoted the figures in a previous speech on this subject. In March of that year the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers fixed its rate at approximately £2 per ton less than the rate fixed by the Combine, and the Combine had to come down to those rates.
– It was the Combine that forced the rates down.
– If the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) would take the trouble to examine all the facts ofthe case, he would see how incorrect his interjection is. A further reduction of10s per ton was made by the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers in 1923, and Mr. Larkin, the manager of the Line, definitely stated to myself and others, that it caused a terrible row among the shipowners of the Combine; but they had to reduce their rates accordingly. This reduction effected a saving of £2,000,000 a year to the people of Australia. No one has disputed that statement.
– That is only rumour.
– If the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) is of that opinion let him consider the statement made in this House by the Prime Minister in discussing the Shipping Bill, that when our Line was established it carried our wheat for £7 10s. per ton while the British ships charged £13 per ton and foreign ships £15 per ton.
– The Commonwealth Government ships do not now carry any wheat.
– The honorable member is too impatient. He may rest assured that I shall trace the history of the Line right down to the present day. The statement of the Prime Minister to which I have just referred is recorded in Hansard, and the honorable member for Forrest may check my reference if he desires to do so. I come now to 1926, in which year a further reduction was made in the refrigerated cargo freight rates by the Commonwealth Line of steamers. This also forced the ships of the Combine to reduce their rates. On that point I quote the following statement by the Prime Minister, which appeared in the Age and Argus and doubtless in other newspapers on the 13th of July of that year -
It is presumed that the reductions made by the Commonwealth Line will also be put in force by the combined steamship lines.
The right honorable gentleman went on to say that he estimated that the resultant saving in freights on our meat, wool, butter, dried fruits, &c, would be about £522,000 per annum. I could adduce further evidence in support of my contention; but it is already in Hansard. I have made these statements to show the substantial value which the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers has been to the country. They are such effective answers to the argument used by the Prime Minister in favour of the sale of the Line that only those who are blind with prejudice against government-owned ships, or government-owned business undertakings of any description will refuse to accept them. If it could be shown that any privately controlled company had saved large sums of money for our producers, honorable members opposite would be vigorously advocating that it should be heavily subsidized. They are quite prepared to spend millions’ of pounds per annum in subsidies, but are not prepared to admit the value of this shipping undertaking. Last year we paid almost as much in a wine export bounty as the Commonwealth Shipping Line lost. Surely we should bear it in mind that, against the losses incurred in operating the Line, we must place the millions of pounds which have been saved to the producers in freight charges. I have no objection to the payment of bounties when it can be shown that they are justifiable; but if there is one industry above all others that we should subsidize, it is the shipping industry, for the future progress and prosperity of our country are bound up with it. Yet this is the one industry which honorable members opposite will not subsidize. There is not a progressive nation in the world which at some time or another has not subsidized its shipping industry. If we had to re-establish the Commonwealth Government Shipping Line it would cost us well over £1,000,000 each for these vessels, which we are sacrificing for less than a third of that sum. A gentleman in Victoria referring recently to the losses incurred in operating the railway system of that State, observed, “If the railways were sold, they would pay.” The people of Victoria would also pay.
– What has that to do with this subject?
– It has this to do with it, that if it is argued that we should part with a great public utility like the Commonwealth Shipping Line because it is losing money, it may also be argued that we should sell our State owned railways for the same reason.
– That is a poor analogy.
– The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) has stated that if he could, he would sell the State-owned railways. We are sacrificing our ships to the biggest shipping octopus in the world. The Kylsant Combine is bigger and more far reaching in its power and influence than the combine controlled by Lord Inchcape.
– The honorable member did not say that previously.
– If the honorable member knew anything about the shipping world, he would know that Lord Kyslant is the rising star in it.
– He is “ the white star.”
– He is also the rising star. A few years ago Lord Inchcape was the man ; but to-day Lord Kylsant is the much more important figure. That is why our ships are going to him. The following is a list of the official positions which Lord Kylsant occupies in important shipping companies throughout the world : -
He is thus the chairman, the managing director, a director, or holds a controlling interest in shipping companies with a total capital of £86,453.400. The Sydney Sun, in its issue of last evening published a striking cartoon. It represented a huge man towing seven ships away from Australia. This man was “ Gulliver “ Kylsant, and the crowd of Lilliputians looking on were the Australian people.
I now come to the point about which the honorable member for Franklin is so impatient. The Prime
Minister charged me with having grossly misrepresented him, and with having descended to that mean form of controversy which consists of tearing portions of a speech from their context and only partly quoting his remarks. I hope that I shall never be guilty of such a trick as that. I certainly quoted only certain passages from the speech; but nobody would have expected me to quote the whole of it, and if I had done so it would not have been published in a newspaper; but I quoted in full the relevant passages. I ask honorable members to read the speech, and then challenge my statement if they can. The Prime Minister quoted what I said, and dramatically remarked, “Now let me read what I said.” When he had done that, his quotation proved to be merely an answer to the argument that the Commonwealth Line of Steamers had been of value in the coastal trade. He went on to show that the Line had carried only a small percentage of the total passenger and cargo traffic, and he said that its continuance could not be justified. There was not one definite statement in the whole of the speech to the effect that the vessels were to be taken out of the coastal service. The Prime Minister said that his remarks indicated that they were to be removed from that trade. If honorable members read the whole of his speech, they will find that the same sneering remarks that were used with regard to the part that the Line played in the coastal trade were made concerning its activities in the overseas trade. Are we to take it that the right honorable gentlemen meant his speech to convey that the vessels were also to go out of the overseas trade? There was not one definite statement that they were to go out of the Australian trade, but the Prime Minister clearly said more than once - and I quoted the statement in my remarks in the press - that one of the conditions of sale was that the purchaser should provide an equivalent of the existing services.
– If the vessels were sold, how could they remain in the trade?
– I quoted two passages from Hansard, in which he definitely said that one of the conditions of sale would be the maintenance of an equivalent of the existing services. Those who have travelled round the coast on the “Bay” boats cannot say that they will have an equivalent service when those vessels have gone out of the trade. Those who contend that they knew quite well that the vessels would go were aware that we have an anti-Australian Government in office.
– How could the ships remain in the trade if they were removed from the Australian register.
– In reply to the honorable member for Swan, I shall quote his remarks, reported in Hansard of the 10th November, 1927, page 1254, when he said -
Surely if the ships can be sold on the condition that for a period of ten years they will remain on either the British or the Australian register, and trade along our coast, that is as far as honorable members should ask the Government to go..
The Prime Minister complained of misrepresentation. I have listened to many debates, but I have never witnessed a trick such as appeared to me to have been practised by him when speaking last Tuesday. He may not have done it intentionally; but, if it were unintentional, he should have made reparation as quickly as possible. I refer to his quotation of a press statement by an anonymous writer who signed himself “ Traveller.” Some absurd figures were mentioned in this letter. I have never seen it, and I do not know what newspaper it appeared in, but the Prime Minister squeezed that quotation in between two quotations from my statement, and I believe that 90 per cent, of honorable members listening to his remarks believed that he was answering my argument. When I challenged the right honorable gentleman, and said that he was conveying the impression that the figures mentioned were mine, did he utter one word to suggest that he did not wish to convey that impression? No; he remained absolutely silent. If he did not desire to convey a wrong impression he should have said so. Undoubtedly he left the impression that the statement of the anonymous writer was my statement.
The Prime Minister said in his speech that it would be wrong to make any announcement concerning the sale ~ of the Line until the matter had been settled. What would there be wrong about that? Surely the public, who paid for the Line and owned it, were entitled to some information and consideration. There was nothing to prevent a firm tender being received and accepted subject to the condition that it was to be referred to the representatives of the people for ratification of the sale. Of course, it would never do to publish all the tenders while the negotiations were proceeding; but when a tender that the Government was prepared to accept had been selected, it could have been taken as a firm offer, subject to approval by Parliament. But Parliament was not consulted. The Prime Minister has changed his attitude on that aspect of the matter. At one time he believed that Parliament should be consulted prior to the acceptance of any offer for the purchase of the Line. I quote again from the cable read by the honorable member for Batman. When the inquiry came from Mr. Larkin whether an offer of £3,500,000 would be considered, the reply sent back was -
The offer will be placed by the Cabinet before Parliament. Purchasers must clearly understand that any agreement arrived at must be subject to ratification by the Commonwealth Parliament.
A further cable announced that “ there would be no difficulty in obtaining the ratification of Parliament.” Now the Prime Minister says that it would have been quite wrong to make any statement until the matter had been finally settled. How does the Prime Minister’s attitude of 1928 square with that of 1926? He made much of the date on which the contract was signed. Let me give the dates mentioned in his cables. On the 7th April there was a cable accepting the tender of Lord Kylsant, subject to the proviso that I have mentioned. On’ the 12th April Lord Kylsant confirmed the sale. On the 13th April a cablegram from London was published in the Australian press definitely stating that the ships had been sold to Lord Kylsant for £1,900,000, and that £250,000 had been paid by way of deposit. The Australian people, who owned the ships, got the information by cable from London; yet the Prime Minister said, “After we have settled the matter and sold the ships, we will afford an opportunity to Parliament to debate our action.” The Government’s generosity is overwhelming! This Parliament represents the whole of the people; the Government does not represent all the people. If Parliament stands up to its responsibilities, it will demand that its consent be asked before a valuable public utility is’ sold. These ships were thrown away for millions less than their true value, and, as a consolation to the people who have been betrayed, their representatives in Parliament are to be allowed to discuss the Government’s action. Brutus, having plunged the dagger into the heart of Caesar, allows Anthony to make an oration over the dead body! That could not restore the dead to life, nor can we restore to Australia the ships that have been sold. We can merely draw attention to what has been done, in an endeavour to prevent this Government from having a further opportunity of similar wrong-doing. The Prime Minister talks about the need for a navy. He tells the people that they must consent to be taxed so that millions may be spent on naval defence. Yet the Government had in the waters of Australia seven fast vessels capable of carrying heavy guns. They were auxiliary cruisers and more powerful than the Sydney, which sank the Emden But the Government has parted with them. Will Lord Kylsant mount guns on those cruisers, if ever Australia should be in trouble? Will he send them to our aid? Is that provided for in the agreement?
– Were they passenger vessels or battleships?
– They were built under the supervision of the Admiralty, and were able to carry heavy guns. They were constructed as auxiliaries to the Australian Navy. The Australian crews are to be repatriated. Some 500 Australians are to be cast on our shores workless like so much flotsam thrown up by the ocean waves. The Government have lightly parted with one of the essential utilities, without which no people can claim, to have a standing as a nation ; but are we a race of sycophants to be always calling on some noble lord on the other side of the world for our shipping service? Why should we be dependent on the wealthy sea lords of Britain for the carriage of goods to and from Australia? This is an island continent, and yet we are asked to place our destinies in the hands of Lord Kylsant and other members of the shipping combine. The flags of practically every nation float in the breeze on every ocean highway ; but the Australian flag has been hauled down by this Government. Students of the history of the British Isles cannot but marvel at the manner in which a mere speck of land in northwestern Europe has become a great world power recognized by all countries. It is undeniable that the biggest contributor to that growth was the British mercantile marine. By it, the flag of Great Britain was carried into every port and every clime, and before distant peoples even knew the size of Great Britain, or where it was situated, they recognized and, sometimes, feared its great wealth and power. That was one of the great services that the mercantile marine rendered to the British people.
– And men like Kylsant have rendered that service.
– The honorable member must know that the mercantile marine was developed, not by the Kylsants, the money magnates who sit at home in comfortable offices and draw dividends, but by the old sea dogs who went abroad in tramp ships and little trading packets, and suffered privations and faced danger on all the waters of the globe. The mercantile marine was developed by the men who went to sea and did the work of sailing and managing the ships, trading with distant countries. Honorable members opposite who interject in disparagement of the seamen, would not endure 24 hours of the conditions under which those men work.
This Government’s betrayal of the people of Australia is evidenced by its reckless disposal of their valuable assets. This is merely a continuation of what has been the Government’s policy ever since it came into office. Regardless of the nature of a State enterprise, if it showed a loss it must be sold; if it showed a profit, it must be sold, in order to clear the way for private enterprise. In this case, the Government is giving the freedom of the seas to a profiteering combine. It is true that in the past we have appealed to the people against similar destructive actions by this Government, and have been twitted by the Ministry and its supporters with the statement that the people had condoned or approved their actions, and that our appeal had fallen on deaf ears. Honorable members may twit us as much as they please, but we shall continue to appeal to the people against such betrayals, and we rely, with confidence, on their ultimate good judgment. The Prime Minister may threaten to put into operation the Crimes Act, which is a disgrace to the statute-book, but we make our appeal to the people. The members of the Labour party do not depend upon penal laws to enforce their views; we rely upon the authority that comes from a great democracy.
I propose to read to honorable members a telling indictment of the Government published in the Melbourne Age of yesterday. This journal has always supported the Government’s proposals to sell the Commonwealth shipping Line, but this is what it said in a leading article in regard to the Prime Minister’s threats and spread-eagle declaration of his intentions -
From a Prime Minister such sinister utterances are pitiable. Does he believe that important public issues can be helpfully debated in the terms of the “ raging and tearing “ propaganda of 1925 ? If, as may bo. his mind is on the approaching election, he made a most unworthy use of the occasion.
These phrases are strangely reminiscent of those that were current nearly three years ago, when the Bruce-Page Ministry was lifted into its present position, mainly on a wave of invective inspired by the British seamen’s strike. Is the next general election also to be a carnival of invective? May the fates forbid!
The desire of the Government is to inflame the minds of the people and to take advantage of a threat here or an action there by a number insignificant in comparison with the great mass of the workers, in order to suggest to the world that the whole nation is in danger. The Government has misused its political power to do this wrong, and we propose to tell the people that the only effective way to right it is to transfer the control of public affairs to a Government with an Australian outlook.
.- As a private member, I congratulate the honorable member for Yarra upon the attainment of the distinguished Parliamentary position he now holds. Whilst I seldom find myself in complete agreement with him, I, as a comparatively new member, have benefited by his example of industry in the study of great public questions, and his singular debating power.
The honorable gentleman almost charged the Prime Minister with being insincere in his professed endeavour to make a success of the Commonwealth Line. In my opinion the Leader of the Government has behaved with extraordinary fairness towards that enterprise. It is well-known that as a private member he was opposed to its continuance, and that many years ago he advocated its sale. Later he joined the Hughes Ministry and eventually became Prime Minister. Finding that an overwhelming majority of the members of the House favored the retention of the Line, at any rate until this experiment in government trading had received a thorough trial, he loyally subordinated his own views to the will of the majority, and did everything possible to make the Line a successful trading venture. The change which has occurred in the attitude of ministerial members is in no degree attributable to the influence of our leader. The conviction has spontaneously grown in the minds of individual members that the best interest of Australia will be served by the disposal of these ships, and I welcome the Government’s decision to that effect. It affords an opportunity for an emphatic demonstration by ministerialists of their opposition to any increase or perpetuation of State trading. By approving of the sale of this Line we are reasserting our belief in the efficacy of private enterprise in this young country, as” against, government enterprise, especially in trading ventures. I have never supported the retention of the Commonwealth Shipping Line, and would have voted for its sale years ago, but the existing circumstances in Australia make it particularly desirable that we should get rid at once of this obstacle to economic progress. I do not take a pessimistic view of the future of this country, but I believe that wherever possible we should economize in our public finances in order to lighten as much as possible the burden that oppresses the taxpayers. To that end, it is our duty to withdraw from hopelessly fantastic enterprises like the Commonwealth Shipping Line. To realize the seriousness of the present economic position we have only to remember the somewhat astounding fact that after very many years of abnormally good seasons - good in respect of both yield and price - a merely partial failure of the wheat crop’ has placed us in serious financial difficulty. Being responsible to the people for the management of their affairs, we should take heed of that warning and adopt every means within our power to improve the economic situation.
The relation of the Commonwealth Shipping Line to the financial situation can be expressed in a very few words. We have been told that those vessels have been a powerful factor in the reduction of freights between Australia and the United Kingdom. The amount of the reduction for which they are responsible, if any, has never been established; it is wholly conjectural, if not mythical. It has been said to amount to millions of pounds, but that assertion has not been, and probably cannot, be proved. In opposition to the claim that the Line has been responsible for the saving of millions of pounds in freight, we have the undoubted fact that in the sister dominion of New Zealand, where the government does not compete against the so-called combine, the freights for years have been at least as low as ours.
– But their rates are governed largely by ours.
– Where does the influence of this precious Line end? The alleged influence of the Line in reducing freights is purely mythical. On the other hand, we know what the Line has cost the Australian taxpayer in hard cash, what it is costing at the present time, and what it will continue to cost if it is retained. In the last report of the Auditor-General will be found the net expenditure upon the Line out of loan funds up to the end of March, 1927. The total is almost £15,500,000. Up to that time the Line had earned just under £6,000,000; therefore, the net outlay was almost £9,500,000. Against that must be placed the estimated value of the ships a year ago, of £3,300,000. At that time, therefore, the net loss to the taxpayer was £6,167,000. The calling of tenders for the sale of the Line, however, proved that we had over-estimated the value of the Line, and that the fleet is worth only £1,900,000. In other words, our net loss at the present time is £7,574,000. That loss is increasing at the rate of £500,000 a year, and each year the depreciation becomes more rapid. It is claimed that the loss cannot be considered an important factor because of the inestimable boon which the Line is said to have proved to primary producers, particularly by keeping down freights. Surely the representatives of the primary producers who sit on this side are not incapable of appreciating the value of these vessels in that direction! Is it conceivable that those who represent an overwhelming majority of the primary producers, have lost their financial and economic sense? The decision of Government members to support the sale of the Line was arrived at in a purely voluntary and spontaneous manner. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) exclaimed at the price which has been accepted, and has almost suggested that in the interest of private enterprise the vessels have been deliberately given away to this mammoth shipowner, Lord Kylsant, who has replaced Lord Inchcape in the nightmares of honorable members of the Opposition. Any one who looks carefully into the matter, however, must come to the conclusion that the price is a fair one. Considering the prospective earnings of the seven boats in question, the price appears to me to be fairly high. It cannot be denied that all the ship-owning interests in the Empire had the opportunity to tender. Honorable members opposite will argue that there is only one shipowner, but we know that there are at least two great combines, and the Runciman tender came from a most reputable source, which commands an enormous capital.
Mr.Fenton. - Do not they all belong to the Conference Line ?
– We have, too, the opinion of the chairman of the board, who considers that this is a fair price, and whose estimate of the value of the vessels, made immediately prior to the sale, was about £2,000,000. In dealing with the question of price it might be- as well to examine the position in which the new owners are likely to find themselves in relation to prospective profits. The value of the ships in the books of the Commonwealth is about £4,500,000. The interest charge each year was £228,000. In addition to that, the Commonwealth had to pay in wages £220,000 a year more than would be given under English rates of pay. The White Star Line, on a purchase price of £1,900,000, will pay in interest at the rate of 5* per cent., £104,000 a year. In interest alone it will effect a saving of £124,000 a year. Its wages bill annually will be £220,000 less than the Commonwealth has been paying. Under those two heads, therefore, the saving will be £344,000. But the present loss is approximately £200,000 a year in excess of that amount. I know of no means by which I could illustrate with greater force the efficiency and economy of private enterprise compared with government enterprise, than, by quoting those figures. Even when allowance is made for the lower interest bill and wage payments, at the present rate3 of freight the purchasers are faced with a net loss of upwards of £200,000. Of course, the White Star line does not intend to lose money on this enterprise; it will make the vessels pay, despite the apparently adverse circumstances. I venture to prophesy that the sale of the Line will not result in an increase of freights. Under the terms of the contract we are safeguarded against such a contingency ; but, even so, my faith in private enterprise leads me to the opinion that the result of the sale will be a lowering of freights. Under government management, the running of the Line has been expensive and extravagant. We made an utterly hopeless attempt to enter into competition with the world at Australian rates of wages. That has had the effect of bolstering up, rather than of reducing, freights. Honorable members opposite have, by interjection, charged honorable members who sit on this side with being actuated by the desire to serve big interests. That charge is frequently made in this chamber. It is my belief that Opposition members have contributed largely to the failure of the Line, and that its sale has been rendered necessary by the attitude of Labour towards i’. The seamen and the employees generally have been guilty of continued acts of disloyalty to unionism, the Labour party, and Australia as a whole. There has been a long series of revolts, pin-pricking and obstruction. These men were given the best working conditions, the most comfortable living quarters, the highest wages, and probably the best food, enjoyed by seamen in any part of the world. I ask honorable members opposite what steps they took at any time to remove obstructions, and to end strikes and hold-ups.
– Will the honorable member state specifically what strikes and hold-ups have taken place?
– That would merely be to delay the House. . The Deputy Leader of the Opposition knows that such occurrences in connexion with the Line have been a scandal in this country for years. This grand venture in State trading was placed in the hands of Labour, and it has deliberately cut its throat. Honorable members opposite on this, as on previous occasions, are posing as the friends of the primary producers. Such a pose will carry very little conviction to the minds of the people of this country. I rejoice to learn that the Government has decided to sell the Line. The price received is a very satisfactory one. The taxpayers will be relieved of the burden of making good a loss of at least £500,000 a year. I have no fear that freights and fares, and communications generally between the Commonwealth and outside countries, will be prejudiced by this action of the Government. Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
.- I suppose that during the history of this Parliament no more important question has been discussed than the sale of the Australian Commonwealth Line of steamers. For some considerable time all honorable members have known that it was in the mind of the Government to dispose of the Commonwealth fleet. Whether the Line was profitable or not did not enter into its calculations. Since this Government obtained office it has sold several government enterprises, including the woollen .mills at Geelong, which, besides paying well, were providing clothing to returned soldiers at a cost much lower than that charged elsewhere. I mention that to show that it is not the loss on the operations of the fleet during the last few years that has affected by one iota the Government’s determination to sell the line. The fleet was a source of annoyance to the overseas shipping combine, certain members of which are friends of this Ministry, and it was arranged between them that the fleet should be sold. For two or three years the fact that the Line was for sale has been known to the public, and this placed a serious handicap upon its operations. In trading between Great Britain and Australia, our fleet has had to contend with the competition of the biggest shipping combine that the world has ever known, and, in addition, the agents of the combine have refused rebates to shippers who dared to ship their goods by the Commonwealth Line. Another handicap to the fleet was the fact that its vessels were diverted to the ports on the west coast of Great Britain instead of trading with the more important English ports. Since the inception of the Line many forces have been operating against it. For some time considerable profits were made by it, and, in trading concerns, private or otherwise, it is usual to use the profits of good years to balance the losses of lean years.
– There were no profits except war profits.
– Had it not been for the operation of the Commonwealth fleet during the war, very little of our goods would have left these shores. Up to the last two or three years the Line made a profit of £5,000,000. I admit that it has since made a loss, but we cannot have it both ways. If we cut down freights we cannot make profits.
The Government has given no good reason for selling the Commonwealth fleet. What is more, the Line has not been sold, but has been given away. The company purchasing it is to make a first payment of £250,000, but the balance will be provided by the people who will pay increased prices for imported materials, and by the primary producers who will be faced with higher freights. The Prime Minister stated that the Commonwealth fleet was becoming obsolete, and that, therefore its value had dropped from £8,000,000 to less than £2,000,000. As a matter of fact it is common knowledge that this class is among the best on the seas to-day. Less than twelve months ago the Fordsdale made a record trip from Australia to Great Britain ; in fact, it overtook one vessel that had left these shores a week earlier.
– How much profit did that vessel make?
– We cannot have it both ways. If vessels are used to break records they cannot have an economical oil consumption. But the increased cost of that run cannot be attributed to the high wages paid to the seamen. The Canadian Government is continuing to operate its fleet although the wages paid on its vessels are as high as those paid on the Commonwealth liners. That Government is sending ships regularly to these shores, and is trading with almost every country in the world, despite the fact that its vessels are worked under similar conditions to ours.
– Is not the Canadian Government extending its fleet?
– Yes. The wages and conditions of seamen throughout the world are regulated by arbitration courts and wages boards, and therefore all this talk about the seamen on the Commonwealth vessels receiving higher wages than those paid to seamen on other overseas vessels trading to Australia goes by the board. All of us are opposed to stoppages of work on Commonwealth vessels, and in other government functions, but although these frequently take place, the facts are against the assertion constantly made by honorable members supporting the Government, that more stoppages have taken place with Commonwealth vessels than with other vessels. In actual fact, more stoppages are taking place with privately-owned boatsMr. Seabrook. - Who is to blame for the stoppages?
– That is a matter of opinion. They may be due to the action of some “pommy” boss like the honorable member, who builds small cottages and wants his employees to work for nothing. The Commonwealth fleet has been sacrificed. The Prime Minister well knows that the tenders were not competitive. The Shipping Combine had, been patiently waiting until the value of the Commonwealth fleet had declined. Lord Kylsant himself said that he did not intend to give too much for it. The Prime Minister tried to compare these modern vessels with an obsolete vessel like the Ormuz, which, I believe, was originally German. He quoted figures showing the small percentage of goods carried on the Australian coast by the two Commonwealth cargo vessels, as compared with privately-owned vessels, including those carrying coal, iron ore, limestone, and other goods. The comparisons that have been made take us nowhere. It has been said that the Commonwealth Government vessels have done very little work on the Australian coast. The way to have more coastal work done is to obtain more ships. In spite of the views which have been expressed by honorable members opposite, chiefly by interjection, the sale of these vessels is the most dastardly action that has been taken by any Australian Government.
– It is the best thing that has ever happened.
– The honorable member knows very little about the matter. It has been said that the accommodation of the Commonwealth boats is not as good as that provided on other passenger vessels which visit Australia; but it should be remembered that ours are one-class vessels, whereas most of the oversea passenger boats with which they compete provide for two or three classes. There may be a few cabins in these boats superior fo those of the Commonwealth steamers, but, generally speaking, the average accommodation on our ships is infinitely superior to the average on the other boats. It has also been argued that the “Bay” liners have deteriorated greatly, and that on this account the Government was justified in selling them for the price offered by Lord Kylsant. But everybody knows that ships which are properly used and cared for do not deteriorate rapidly. It cannot be said, truly, that a vessel which is only five or six years of age has deteriorated very much. There is no justification whatever for the Government selling a fleet worth £8,000,000 for a paltry £1,850,000.
Is Australia never to possess a mercantile marine of her own ? Is she always to oblige her primary producers to depend upon the ships of companies the registered offices of which are 13,000 miles away?
– We had cheaper freights before the Commonwealth Government established this Line.
– That is all the honorable member thinks about. It shows his nature. I contend that one of the reasons why more than half the population of New South Wales is centralized in Sydney is that the overseas companies obliged our people to concentrate their export trade on one port. That is also the reason why 50 per cent, or more of the -population of some of the other States is to be found in their capital cities.
– :The honorable member appears to be a believer in the new States movement.
– I am more than that. I am not a half-bred, but a purebred unificationist. I well remember the fight pf the people of Brisbane to get oversea mail boats to call there.
– Brisbane had a better oversea mail service twenty years ago than she has to-day.
– I do not think that it is more than twenty years since they had to fight strenuously to get the Orient liners to call there.
– Brisbane always had the British-India service.
– She had tramp steamers, but they go everywhere.
– It was a case of Kanakas in ‘ and goods out.
– That is so, and the Brisbane people were not satisfied with the arrangement. The concentration of our shipping upon one port in each State also obliged us to concentrate our railway systems on one port, which was bad for the country. That policy has been persisted in, and this Government has done nothing to alter it. I am a Britisher, but I am forced to confess that British traders are no different from the traders of other countries. They are out chiefly for profits. Some of them maintained commercial relations with Germany throughout the recent war. When I was in London in 1916, I said at a public gathering which I attended, that some British traders would sell their souls to trade with Germany the next day, and a gentleman who spoke after me said, “ They are trading with Germany now.” I am not making these statements as a reflection upon the British people, but upon the exploiters of the Empire who would be prepared to bludgeon the people to death in order to make profits. The reasons which have been given for the sale of these boats have been paltry and flimsy, and will not bear examination. Instead of selling the vessels, we should follow the example of Canada and add to our fleet, for nothing will cause such effective development in Australia as the building up of a strong mercantile marine. ‘
I regret to say that almost every action that this Government has taken within the last few years has had the tendency to reduce the Commonwealth to the status of a crown colony, and to make our people hewers of wood and drawers of water. This has been particularly noticeable since certain British visitors came to Australia some time ago. We have now made practically a free gift of our ships to the biggest shipping combine in the world, and we are to receive only £250,000 in cash for them. This fleet was in the nature of an insurance policy against high freight and passenger rates and it was worth keeping for that reason alone. It is regrettable that we are doing nothing to make a seafaring life possible for our youth, for we are an island continent and we need an adequate shipping service. I feel sure that before very long the producers of Australia will realize that they have been sadly misled by the Government in this matter. It is all very well to say that certain conditions have been laid down which Lord Kylsant must observe. When once we have passed the ships over to him, we shall find it impossible to enforce those conditions, and he will be able to give us any kind of service he pleases.
The Commonwealth fleet was a valuable adjunct to our defence forces and would have been able to back up the efforts of our cruisers to defend our shores if that ever become necessary, for all the ships were built under Admiralty supervision. Each of the vessels could carry heavier armament than that with which the Sydney and Melbourne were equipped. They were built to act- as auxiliary cruisers. No honorable member has suggested that they were capable of outclassing regular cruisers.
– They could defend themselves against raiders of the Wolf type.
– Of course they could. We learnt during the last war that such auxiliary cruisers could do an immense amount of damage before they were put out of action. No matter from what angle we view this subject, we should not debate it upon the basis of the value placed upon the Line by the Government. Although the vessels may not have paid their way during the past few years, we must not lose sight of the fact that a mercantile marine is essential to Australia’s trade development. Are we to leave our primary producers to the mercy of the shipping combine, or are we to have ocean-going ships on an Australian register to provide us with means of transport at all times ? Other parts of the Empire, such as Canada, are extending their government shipping lines. When their vessels do not pay, they look for the causes, and remedy them. The financial failure of the Commonwealth Shipping Line was not due to the occasional stoppages of work, or to the rates of pay, so much as to the bad supervision of the Line from its inception. This Government’s most serious mistake was to dispose of the great asset that Australia possessed in the form of a mercantile marine, and I hope that before long this countrywill either re-possess the Line or have even a better fleet to serve the interests of the people in the future.
– I join the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) in extending congratulations to the new Leader and the new Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and as a member who came into the House after the last election I should like also to express to the late Leader of the Opposition my thanks for the unvarying courtesy that he has extended towards me.
This debate concerns a most important feature of the Government’s policy, and 1 take the opportunity to say at once that I am totally opposed to the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition. As a member of the Public Accounts Committee, I made a thorough investigation of the operations of the Line, and I could come to no other conclusion than that it would be in the public interest to sell it. Speaking as a primary producer, and representing a large number of primary producers, I fail to see that any concrete benefits have been derived through the existence of the Line. On the other hand, I realize that it has proved a decided handicap to the producers because of the tremendous losses it has caused to the taxpayers generally. My electorate is mainly concerned in primary production, -and yet I have not heard a single objection taken to the policy of the Government in disposing of the Line. Had the intended sale of the ships met with the disapproval of my constituents I should certainly have heard about it. On one side there was .a theoretical saving of freight.
– The Prime Minister did not say that it was theoretical.
– I cannot see that the savings have been concrete; but there has been a concrete loss of over £8,000,000. Undoubtedly the losses have been great, and the extent of the benefits is entirely problematical. Even granting that the producer has reaped benefits from the Line, these are overwhelmingly offset by the terrific losses incurred since its inception. However, the Line has been sold, and, according to the Leader of the Opposition, the Australian people have been “ sold “ with it. I cannot see that the disposal of five passenger ships and two cargo vessels, carrying less than 10 per cent, of the freight and less than 10 percent, of the passenger traffic between Australia and the other side of the world, and an infinitesimal proportion of the coastal freight and passenger traffic, has delivered this country into the hands of the shipping combine. If all we had, to save us from the combine was five passenger and two cargo ships it was a very slender protection indeed. I cannot help wondering whether we would bp wor se to be in the hands of the shipping combine than under the industrial control that is rapidly threatening Australia. The utterances of certain industrialists and their attitude towards constitutional government, will do Australia far more harm than any problematical benefit that might be derived from the possession of a government shipping line. I was interested to hear the Leader of the Opposition say that for four years no strikes had occurred in connexion with the Line. lt will be recalled that only a few months ago the stewards on the Hobson’s Bay went on strike declining to serve afternoon tea to the Governor-General. It is a serious matter that a body of men should so take control of one of the ships of the Line. Their argument was that it was too much to expect them to serve afternoon tea to several hundred visitors. Whether that was so or not, we need not inquire; but the consequence of their action concerns us a great deal. The ship was unable to complete its journey to Brisbane. The cargo had to be taken off and transhipped, with the result that the vessel was unable to make its usual trip to England. As a matter of fact, the taxpayers were saved £10,000 by that strike, because that is the amount that would have been lost had the voyage been undertaken. The secretary of the Steward’s Union had the colossal hide to say, when reason came to him, that if the ‘ship did not sail, it would not be the fault of his union. During the previous debate on the proposal to sell the ships, I said that I did not consider that the saving in freight had been of great benefit The Leader of the Opposition followed me, and, so far as my memory goes, he quoted the reduction in the freight- on wool, and challenged me to say that that had not been of benefit to the primary producers. I understood at that time that the evidence submitted to the Public Accounts Committee, which had been given in camera, could not be used in the debate, and, therefore, I was unable to say then that I knew quite well that the reduction in the freight on wool had been- brought about by the Holt’s Blue Funnel Line, and not by the Commonwealth Line. That fact should be given every prominence. That reduction in freight to the primary producers was brought about by the Conference Line.
– As a member of the Public Accounts Committee, I maintain that that is not so.
– My statement can be corroborated by other members of the committee.
– The honorable member might refer to beef, rabbits and butter, while he is on the subject.
– I am dealing with the wool industry, which has been the salvation of this country. We find that the Government Line, between its inception and the formation of the Shipping Board, was written down by £8,000,000, and, since the appointment of the board in 1923, a further shrinkage of assets has occurred to the extent of nearly £3,000,000. I cannot see the use of talking about the benefit that might have accrued from the Line in the past, if in the last four or five years it has been a steadily losing ‘ concern. When one engages in a business enterprise, one is always buoyed up by the hope that it will eventually’ prove profitable; but when it is found that the probable result of the enterprise has- been miscalculated the proper course is to withdraw from it. Therefore, I think that the Government has done right in giving up the shipping venture. Even if it were decided to continue the Line, we should be faced with the tremendous problem of augmenting the fleet. That aspect of the matter has been ignored by previous speakers. It is futile to argue this matter on the basis of what the Line did in the carriage of wheat during the war period; that is past history. We must have regard to the circumstances of the present and the future, and I see no possibility of the Line being of substantial benefit to the primary producers; certainly any slight savings in freight are not likely to offset the losses already incurred, and likely to be continued if the Line remained under Government control.
In regard to the sale price, I think the Government has made a fair business deal. The amount to be paid by the purchaser may seem small, in comparison with the original cost of £1,000,000 for each of the “ Bay “ liners, but we are concerned only with their present-day value. A motor car purchased in 1920, and kept unused in a garage, would be practically as good to-day as when it was bought, but it would be worth in the market only the value of a similar car of the same period; the owner could not expect to obtain for an out-of-date car the price he paid for it when new. The same argument applies to ships, and is strengthened by the fact that building costs in Great Britain have decreased considerably during the. last few years. I suppose that a ship similar to the “ Bay “ liners could be built to-day for between £500,000 and £600,000. During the course of the investigation by the Public Accounts Committee, I inspected some of the “Bay” liners, and I came to the conclusion that they were » very good type pf vessel for a particular class of trade. They carry a certain quantity of cargo, and cater for passengers who do not want to pay big fares between Australia and the United Kingdom. They handle very satisfactorily that class of traffic, which, however, is only part of the general business of ocean transport. The vessels have been running constantly since they were launched, and having regard to the fact that before long an expenditure of from £7,000,000 to £S,000,000 would be required to replace or augment the fleet, the taxpayers of Australia will be well satisfied to entrust their destinies so far as overseas carriage is concerned to private lines which have served this country well for many years, and are serving the rest of the world without detriment to those engaged in primary production. The honorable mem-, ber for Henty (Mr. Gullett) cited the circumstances of New Zealand, which manages quite well without a State-owned line. Other countries to which sea transport is vital, manage to maintain their commerce and industries without incurring the expense which a governmentowned line involves, particularly in Australia, where costs are unusually high.
– Without Government subsidies ?
– I have no objection to subsidies, and at the present time the Commonwealth is paying a substantial sum to the Orient Company in respect of the mail and passenger service between Australia and Europe. Members of the Opposition no longer defend the Line as a business undertaking, but rely upon sentiment, and argue that it is of great advantage to Australia to have its flag flying on its own ships, and that the Line gave to the primary producers a safeguard which was well worth the loss of millions of pounds. The honorable member for Newcastle spoke about the suitability of the “ Bay “ liners for use as auxiliary cruisers in time of war. But the conditions of naval warfare are changing from year to year. The methods employed in even the last war are now more or less obsolete. In the next great war aircraft will be one of the dominant factors.
– Is that why the Government ordered cruisers from Great Britain ?
– Probably we shall always need war vessels, but as the years go by aircraft will take an increasingly prominent part in both offensive and defensive operations. The “Bay” liners are not armoured, their decks are not protected, they steam only 16 knots an hour, which is a very, slow speed for a war vessel, and they would be extremely vulnerable to attack from the air and from submarines. During the Great War there were several engagements between armoured merchant cruisers, but such vessels as the “Bay” liners would ,be as helpless against a warship as the Emden was against the Sydney because of inferior armament .and speed. Therefore, the naval aspect need not weigh very heavily with us when considering the propriety of the sale. The Government is .to be congratulated upon the terms it has obtained from the purchaser. The price is satisfactory, and the ships are to ,be placed on a British register and operated by a company controlled by Britons. It would be impossible to retain them on the Australian register if they were to compete with other ships. Brigaded with the ships of the Aberdeen White Star Line, they will serve Australia more usefully than as a separate trading unit. The Leader of the Opposition referred to Lord Kylsant and his tremendous commercial interests. As the honorable gentleman enumerated his lordship’s shareholdings in various shipping companies, I could not help regarding him as almost a public benefactor; he carries passengers and merchandise on the seven seas, and in so doing is benefiting, not only himself, but the rest of the world.
– Does the honorable member think that Lord Kylsant is a philanthropist ?
– He works for a return just as the honorable member serves his constituents for a return. The contract of sale provides that there shall be no general increase in freights, and whilst one may quibble over the wording of the cables which have passed between the Government and Lord Kylsant, I dp not think that the general tenor of the agreement is disturbed. Of course, one cannot foretell what will happen. Even on State-Owned railways, freights have had to be increased because of Arbitration Court awards, and I assume that any proposal at any time by the purchasing company to increase freights will be considered on its merits. The Commonwealth is well safeguarded by the terms of the Prime Minister’s cablegram of the 7th April-
Buyers to guarantee to inaugurate a fortnightly service via the Suez Canal, supplementing present fleet with suitable vessels as soon as possible after delivery, say, within nine months, provided trade justifies it.
That is a perfectly legitimate proviso. This is a business transaction, and if sufficient trade is -not offering it would be foolish to require the company to run its ships -empty. We hope and believe that the trade will be available to kee.p the fleet profitably occupied. The cablegram continued -
The establishment in Australia of a responsible body representing all interests concerned, and no general increase in homeward freights to be made without reference thereto. Such body to -be selected by the Government and thebuyers.
That is a satisfactory safeguard. This undertaking by Lord Kylsant links up the whole of the Conference lines and ensures that there shall be no increase in freights immediately, and probably not at all. The Government has disposed of the ships in a businesslike way, and the taxpayers of Australia, who are closely interested, will benefit materially by the transaction. The primary producers, particularly will be advantaged by the regular service which will be instituted, and probably maintained long after the vessels of the Commonwealth Line are worn out. *
In regard to the threat of the unions to boycott all ships controlled by Lord
Kylsant, and to hold up the shipping commerce of Australia as a protest against the sale of the Commonwealth Line, I was glad to understand the Leader of the Opposition to dissociate himself entirely from such tactics. But industrial affairs in Australia are approaching a crisis, and the attitude of the seamen cannot be allowed to continue unchallenged. It is not right that a few men outside Parliament should be able to say to the legislature that if it does not act as they wish they will compel it to do their bidding. The constitutional authority of the people as exercised by this Parliament cannot be delegated to a few. irresponsible people who do not understand, or are indifferent to, the terrible consequences of their actions. Nothing hurts the primary producer so much as the holding up of his exportable produce through shipping strikes. And speaking as a primary producer, I say that if these tactics are to continue, we shall be forced to take the law into our own hands and go to the capital cities, and place the extremists where they should be. As a representative of the primary producers, I would be glad to lead men from my electorate in any endeavour to maintain constitutional government.
.- Honorable members must have been amazed at the declaration that has just been made by an alleged apostle of constitutional government, that he and his fellow primary producers are prepared to take the law into their own hands. No similar utterance has been made by any person who is associated with organized labour. I hope that the country will take due notice of the fact that these persons are prepared to break the law if they feel that in any respect it is likely to interfere with their “private interests. It does not become the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott), who professes to represent a constituency that enjoys all the advantages of self-government, to utter a threat of that description. It is entirely contrary to the sentiment that should actuate a man who occupies such an honoured position.
– The extraordinary thing is that those sentiments should be cheered by honorable members who sit with the honorable member for Gwydir.
– The utterance of the honorable member found a ready acceptance with and the approval of those who sit on the Ministerial side. It is clear that in a moment of forgetfulness or indiscretion the honorable’ member gave utterance to the conviction that is in his heart and in the hearts of many of those who sit opposite. I ask that in future those honorable members who in the past have spoken with their tongue in their cheek about the desire of other persons to destroy the effectiveness of constitutional government and to abrogate the principles of law and order will hold their peace and hang their heads in shame. Some honorable members opposite are prepared to take the law into their own hands even to the extent of stringing up persons who dare to assert their right to what is their constitutional due. This latest declaration is entirely contrary to the views that were expressed at the last general election, when on the plea of the maintenance of law and order honorable members opposite professed an anxiety to preserve to this country, everything that is sacred in the Constitution. This afternoon we have had the open declaration, without qualification or reservation, that they are prepared to take the law into their own hands, and in the most lawless and unworthy way to string up their .own fellow citizens because of some action that they might take.
The sale of the Australian Commonwealth Line is a gross misuse of power. No declaration was made at the last elections that would convey to the people an intention on the part of the Government to dispose of the Line without a direct reference of the tenders, together with all the particulars and circumstances, to this House, which represents the interests of the people. In the absence of any such declaration in either the policy speech or the public utterances of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), or any responsible Minister, surely we had a right to expect that the fullest information would be afforded to this House, and that we would be given the opportunity of either accepting or rejecting any of the tenders submitted. I deprecate strongly even the suggestion that the Line should be sold. The interests of this country have been sacrificed. It appears to me that honorable members opposite have only one consideration, that is, how to extract profits from the pockets of the people of Australia to satisfy their friends who are associated with private enterprise. It is obvious to me that freights will be increased to provide largerprofits and greater dividends in the future. Private enterprise cannot run a utility or an enterprise more economically than the Government.
– That is nonsense!
– It is not nonsense. If the honorable member for Kennedy so designates my remark, he proves that he is not competent to express an opinion upon the subject. It will be found that there is more economical working with respect to utilities that are run for service and not for profit, than is the case when additional charges are added by those who desire to make a concern earn profits. That being so, I am confident that no great length of time will elapse before the primary producer will be made to recognize keenly the manner in which his interests have been subordinated and the extent to which his already heavy burdens have been increased, so that these Caesars of commerce and shipping, and others interested in the affairs of big business, may obtain further tribute. I do not ask honorable members to accept my word upon the point. I shall quote the remarks of others who are in a position to give advice in matters such as this. They are not Labour men, but the positions which they occupy entitle them to have their views treated with respect. Mr. Harold Burston, the editor of the Investors’ Guide, and a man who is associated as financial editor with other public journals, has expressed the following view : -
That the Commonwealth Line has had some effect on freights is generally admitted, and it is certain that its withdrawal, leaving the Commonwealth without any locally-owned overseas fleet, would immediately place shippers at the mercy of the world’s big shipping combines.
That language is definite, and it conveys only one meaning; that is, that with the
Commonwealth Line out of the way, there will be a clear field for the privatelyowned shipping interests, which, no doubt, work together in perfect understanding, to so raise freights that they will be able to secure in the future greater advantages than they have enjoyed in the past. In 1923 Mr. Larkin, who, as is well known, was the managing director of the Australian Commonwealth Line, gave expression to some rather startling views, in which he emphasized the power of the combine, and showed how they were prepared to fight against any agency that was likely to affect their interests and deprive them of the profits and dividends to which they felt they were entitled. A Sydney journal of the 15th March, 1923, contains the following paragraph: - “Australians shall not ship goods in their own ships without being fined by the Commonwealth. This, in effect, was the law laid down by the great London conference of the Shipping Combine which caused me to take a contra action that resulted in freights to Australia being appreciably lowered.” So Mr. H. B. Larkin, General Manager of the Commonwealth Line, wrote in an official communication which reached Melbourne to-day. He explained how this important freight reduction was brought about. Mr. Larkin’s letter states that no underlying political or other motive prompted his action, but that his hand had been forced by the discriminating methods used by the combine against the Government line. “My experience since the reduction was made,” he said, “ clearly shows that the decreases in freights are going to give a muchneeded fillip to the Australian overseas trade.”
The honorable member for Gwydir argued that any reduction in freight had been secured through the agency of the privatelyowned shipping companies. This statement of the late managing director of the Commonwealth Line is altogether contrary to that, and proves that the Commonwealth Line was the first to bring about freight reductions in regard to primary produce, the object being to give a much-needed fillip to the overseas trade, in which we are interested. Therefore, it is idle for honorable members opposite to endeavour to make the people believe that this Line has not had a great effect upon the combine with respect to the freights and fares that they were formerly charging. We should face the facts, and be prepared to admit that the Commonwealth fleet has served the interests of the Australian primary producers. The Line has been responsible for many freight reductions. A substantial reduction has been made in the rates- on refrigerated cargo freights, such as butter, cheese, rabbits, and mutton, and there has consequently been a considerable saving to the Australian primary producers, who are at an advantage compared with the producers of New Zealand.
– I do not think so.
– The Treasurer gave the figures.
– There are other figures that give the true, position. In view of the great benefits that the Line has conferred upon primary producers, that any honorable member representing a country constituency, and posing as the ardent supporter of the man on the land, can lend himself to the sale of this Line passes my comprehension. There will surely be a- day of reckoning. We look 10 the people to rectify at the next elections this grave misuse of power by the Government. We feel confident that they will express their opinion in no uncertain terms respecting the sacrifice of this great public utility. Let me place on record figures relating to freights. If Australian consignors had been obliged, during the last financial year, to pay the New Zealand rates on their refrigerated cargo, they would have paid £239,000 more than they actually did pay to place their products on the British market.
– Whose figures is the honorable member quoting?
– If the honorable member doubts my statement he is at liberty to examine the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures, which are published annually. The extra payments by our producers would have been as follows: - Rabbits, £8,055; eggs, £42,500; apples, £66,375; lamb, £6,059; mutton, £7,729; and beef, £108,838. Those figures clearly show how improper has been the action of the Government in sacrificing the Commonwealth fleet.
I wish now to refer to the safeguards that the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott) alleges will be :given to the Australian consumer, because of the fact that a board is to he appointed to review any proposed increases in freights. When I pressed the honorable member to amplify his statement, he was unable to proceed very far. It must be remembered that increases in freights are not to be determined by this board, but are merely to be referred to it. The shipping combine will act first, and refer to the board afterwards, in striking analogy with the administration of this Government, because Ministers have made a practice of performing certain acts of administration, and seeking parliamentary authority for them afterwards. It is idle for honorable members behind the Government to endeavour to make the primary producer believe that his interests will be safeguarded through an agency of this description, especially in. view of the fact that that portion of the agreement which would have safeguarded his interests has been purposely omitted so as to give absolute freedom to the shipping combine to exact its demands upon the Australian people.
– In any case the agreement will not hold once the vessels are taken over.
– That is another matter to be considered. I can hardly conceive of any shipping combine permitting itself to be dictated to by a local body concerning the freights and fares to be charged on the combine’s vessels. Even if the terms of the agreement are carried out, the people of Australia will not be safeguarded against the demands of the combine.
It is most important, in view of Australia’s insular position, that we should have a government-owned line of steamers. I suppose that there is not another nation in the world that has a greater need for such a safeguard. Through the sacrifice of the Line we are robbed of that independence that we previously enjoyed with regard to means of transport, and are now solely dependent on outside shipping interests. We must now accept what others are prepared to give us, and must pay whatever charges they care to impose upon us. The sale of the Line will seriously and directly affect not only our primary producers, but the community generally, and as Australia progresses as a manufacturing nation, the sale will seriously affect the efforts of .our manufacturers. Henceforth we shall have to depend on outside interests for an essential service, and the sacrifice of the Line, when our geographical position and our isolation from the markets of the world are considered, is nothing short of a national tragedy. Such nations as France, Belgium, Brazil, Spain, and even Great Britain itself, have made liberal subsidies and bounties to shipping interests in order to obtain some measure of protection from foreign shipping interests. Great Britain advanced £2,000,000, without interest, to British shipping interests, merely to protect itself against the demands and the power of American shipping interests.
– That .was done as an appreciation of private enterprise for its assistance to the nation.
– It was done with the desire to protect the country, against the private enterprise and shipping interests of another nation. Honorable members opposite will find it difficult to justify their action in depriving the nation of an essential service which has thoroughly proved its worth. Every Australian citizen received direct or indirect advantages from the operations of ‘ the Line. The cost of living was reduced through the reduction of freights, and a sense of security was given to the community generally. Honorable members opposite waxed indignant at the thought that working men were enjoying the standard of living and working conditions which obtained on the ships of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers, and they welcome an opportunity to place those ships on a register which will necessitate a lowering of that standard and of the wages paid to the men. It makes rae wonder whether those honorable members are truly Australian in their outlook; whether they really appreciate the wonderful possibilities that Australia offers to its citizens. Surely they are out of touch with the true Australian sentiment, and are unable to appreciate what has been one of the greatest factors in the building up of our nation - the superior conditions of employment that are enjoyed by our people. Now that the opportunity has arrived permitting them to hand over this public utility to private enterprise, involving the transfer of the ships to another - register, and necessitating a lower standard- of -wages and conditions for the workers, and reduced security, honorable- members opposite applaud the action of the Government, and apparently consider it well in keeping with the policy and principles that they espouse. By lowering the wages of the workers they increase the profits of their supporters. By sacrificing public interests they serve those private interests that demand more and more from our people in wealth, health, and well-being, that seek at all times to fatten and batten upon those who are the true producers, those who truly add to our national wealth. I ask leave to continue my remarks on a later occasion.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the Howe at its rising adjourn until Wednesday next, at 3 o’clock p.m.
League op Nations Assembly: Representative - Industrial Peace Conference.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
For the information of honorable members, I desire to announce that, in accordance with the custom that has grown up during the last few years, the Government proposes to send a Minister of the Crown as the chief representative of Australia to the forthcoming meeting of the Assembly of the League of Nations, which takes place on the first Monday in September of this year. Senator McLachlan will be the Minister who will go on this occasion.
This morning the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) asked a question with regard to the industrial conference which I have been endeavouring to bring about between employers and employees. I then informed the honorable member that I had not received any reply from the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Just prior to luncheon T received a letter from Mr. Crofts, the secretaryof thecouncil, intimating that his council was not prepared to accept theGovernment’s imitation to attend theconference. Honorable members will remember that a similar position occurred previously, but that then, on representations which I made to the council, it was agreed that the matter should be re-considered at a full meeting of the council. That re-consideration has now taken place, and we have received the intimation that I have mentioned. In these circumstances there appears to be no alternative for me but to abandon, for the present at all events, the idea of arranging a conference with the object of doing something towards ensuring industrial peace and a better spirit in industry generally. I am consequently replying to the council that I regret its decision, but that in the circumstances there would seem to be no advantage in making further efforts to bring about the conference. I am also communicating to that effect with the various associations of organized employers which had agreed to send representatives to the conference.
Next week honorable members will be asked to proceed with the discussion of the motion to print the paper relating to the sale of the Commonwealth Line of Steamers. The Government desires also to give the House a further opportunity to consider the report of the delegates to the Eighth Assembly of the League of Nations. I promised several honorable members some time ago that I would give notice when it was proposed to deal further with the report of the Imperial Conference. The Government hopes that it will be possible to do so next week.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.52 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 April 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1928/19280427_reps_10_118/>.