11th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr, Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– In the Sydney Even ing News, of the 27th instant, the following cablegram was published : -
Capetown, Tuesday. - Replying to the toast of “ Agriculture “ at the Capetown Show Luncheon to-day, Mr. Petrus van Heerden described Australia as South Africa’s greatest competitor in wool. But they need not be perturbed, as the costs of production were £19 per bale in Australia, as compared with £5 in South Africa. “ Australia,” he declared, “ had gone protection mad. The majority of her people lived in towns, although he had seen the finest wheat land crying out for settlement.”
Will the Prime Minister bear in mind, when framing future legislation affecting the wool-growing industry, the great discrepancy between the cost of production in Australia and South Africa, and will he request the Development and Migration Commission to investigate and report upon the industry ?
– I have not seen the report to which the honorable member has referred, and of course I cannot accept the figures mentioned by Mr. Van Heerden as accurate until they have been verified. I assure the honorable member that the value of the wool-growing industry to Australia has always been borne in mind by the Government when framing legislation for submission to this Parliament. I do not propose at the present time to instruct the Development and Migration Commission to conduct such an investigation as the honorable member has suggested, . but I shall be prepared to receive from those engaged in the pastoral industry representations as to the desirability of an inquiry.
Baths - Housing - Rating - Foundation Stone on Capitol Hill.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice-
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice- -
With reference to the question by the honorable member for Melbourne on the 20th inst., regarding houses at Acton, and the Minister’s reply thereto -
Is it a fact that for a period of some months norent was received from the present residence of the Chief Architect of the Federal Capital Commission?
Was the officer’s furniture stored in th is residence free of charge during this period ?
What length of time elapsed between the occupancy of this residence by the Architect and its being vacated by the previous tenant?
Were any steps taken to receive revenue from this residence during this period?
– The information will be obtained, and will be conveyed to the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice–
– The answers tothe honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Supervision of Postmen - Petrol Supplies at Geelong - Tenders.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made and a reply will be given as soon as possible.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice - 1.Is Mr. M. J. Burke, Acting Overseer of Postmen, Melbourne, the senior efficient officer; if not why is the senior efficient officer not chosen as acting overseen of postmen ?
What special qualifications does Mr. Burke possess to warrant his -
– Inquiries are being made and a reply will be given as soon as possible.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made and a replywill be given as soon as possible.
“Ch arles worth “ Patent.
asked the Minister for Markets and Transport, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Markets and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Markets and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Five hundred and eighty-six miles ballasted. 465 miles yet to be ballasted. 2. (a) 59 miles- £47,342.
Woocala - 75 miles from Port Augusta.
Tarcoola - 262 miles from Port Augusta.
Naretha - 846 miles from Port Augusta.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Deductions from Salaries of Employees - Tractors.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
What is the type of tractor laid aside
– The information will be obtained, and will be conveyed to the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Markets and Transport, upon notice -
– Assuming that the honorable member’s question refers to the Board of Inquiry offered by the War Service Homes Commissioner to the seven men dismissed from the Sydney branch of the War Service Homes Commission, the answers to the questions are: -
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
In Queensland, the existence of a “ wet” gas at Roma (some 300 miles west of Brisbane) has been known for about thirty years. Spasmodic attempts have been made from time to time to exploit this natural gas. The earlier attempts ended in failure for various reasons. During the last two years, however, a bore has been sunk, aided by financial assistance from the Federal Government, which has definitely proved the large volume, high pressure, and petroliferous nature of the gas. A second bore, close to the first one, is within a few feet of the gas zone at the time of writing. It is intended to carry this bore to the greatest possible depth, in order to determine the geological character of the deeper strata, and to determine whether there is a likelihood of other deeper gas and oil sands. The known gus horizon at Roma lies at a depth of 3,700 feet from the surface.
At the Roma gas bore, small quantities of natural kerosene are obtained, along with the gas. Chemical and physical investigations indicate that this light oil is almost certainly to bc regarded as a “condensate” from the gas. This being so, doubts are entertained in some quarters as to the existence of any nearby source of normal crude oil. That such oil may exist in the vicinity is by no means improbable, and strenuous efforts are being made to locate such a supply. Some of these efforts are being directed along admirable lines; but many, unfortunately, constitute ‘“wild-cat” drilling of an undesirable kind.
Connecting . Road to Karrakatta Military Reserve
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are a? follow : -
War Time Profits Tax Board of Referees - Income Tax Board of Appeal - Shell Oil Company Appeal
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Tariff Board’s Report
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Their installation was, however, carried out in conjunction with other work.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1.. Ten.
Number and Duration of Sittings
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
Cost of Administration - Exhibits
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Sales to Oil Companies
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will supply a return showing -
The quantities of petrol, benzine, kerosene, naphtha, and any other product or goods produced at the Commonwealth Oil Refineries or imported by that company, which have at any time been sold or delivered to any other firm or corporation, and in particular to (a) the British Imperial Oil Company; (b) The Tydol Company; (c) The Golden Fleece Company; and (d) The Vacuum Oil Company ?
The labels and descriptions under which such products of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries sold to other firms have been re-issued?
The values of such supplies and deliveries made at (a) the price charged by the Commonwealth Oil Refineries, and (b) current selling prices?
The amount of customs duty which would have been payable on such goods if same had been imported?
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 to 3. The Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited is a trading corporation, and, except where the public interest seems to require it, it is not expedient that Ministers should be the medium for asking for information about details of the company’s business. It is not considered to be in the public interest that the information asked for in these questions should be given.
– On the 14th February the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
The following interstate and foreigngoing vessels were added to the register between July, 1921, and July, 1928:-
The above information does not include vessels trading within a single State, such vessels being under State law.
– On the 8th February, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), speaking on the motion for the adjournment of the House, raised the question of the Commonwealth Government assisting in the provision of relief for destitute and needy families in Port Adelaide, and I promised him that I would have inquiries made into the circumstances.
I lay on the table a copy of a report by the chairman of the Children’s Welfare and Public Relief Board of South Austra lia, which has been supplied to me by the Premier of South Australia in response to my inquiries. In view of the circumstances, the Commonwealth Government does not feel justified in taking any further action in the matter.
The following papers were presented : -
Elections, 1928 - Statistical Returns showing the Voting within each Subdivision in relation to the Senate Election, 1928, and the General Elections for the’ House of Representatives, 1928, viz.: -
New South Wales.
Ordered to be printed.
– I move -
That, in the opinion of this House, the mail and transport services between the mainland of Australia and Tasmania, and between Tasmania and the overseas markets, are quite inadequate and wholly unsatisfactory, consequently the progress and prosperity of Tasmania are very seriously retarded.
In moving this motion, I am confident that I have the sympathy of members of all shades of political thought. Because of her geographical position and temperate climate, Tasmania would, if afforded a proper steamship or oil motor service, become a recuperative resort for tens of thousands of persons from the mainland States. We could also vastly increase our fruit and vegetable production, especially for New South Wales and Queensland, States which are our natural markets.
Being an island, Tasmania depends wholly on sea carriage for interstate communication, and its must be universally admitted that our State is being badly served. The Navigation Act has given the shipping combine a complete monopoly of the Tasmanian trade with the mainland, and the fullest advantage is taken of that monopoly. Those parts of the State for which Hobart is the port, suffer especially from the effects of this monopoly. Hobart has one of the finest harbours in the world, which affords a perfect anchorage, and the largest ships afloat can berth at its wharfs, in the heart of the city. To-day, because of the monopoly to which I have referred, the wharfs are for the greater part of the year partially deserted, and the overseas steamships that carry our fruit to England have to be chartered at the risk of the fruit-growers. Our trade with the mainland is two and a half times that of the average of all the States. Our total trade is roughly £20,000,000 per annum, about 70 per cent, of it being with Australia. Tasmania provides annually a market for about £7,000,000 worth of Australian goods. Its interstate trade is over 5 tons per head of population, and upwards of 20,000 tourists from the mainland journey annually to Tasmania, despite the discomforts of the service. In 1920, the freight on timber from Hobart to Melbourne was 4s. 5d. per 100 super feet, and it is now 5s. 3d. The freight on general cargo has advanced from 16s. 6d. to 20s. a ton, and on fruit from 9d. to11d. a bushel case. Since 1913, the interstate rates have increased on the average 50 per cent., and the refrigerated rates for fruit have similarly increased. That is what I have to say about the Australian coasting monopoly and the shipping combine.
The Prime Minister, presiding at a transport conference held in Melbourne last year, said:-
It is only in recent years that the paramount importance of transport as a separate branch of national and international economy has been widely recognized. The truth that transport means civilization holds everywhere; but it applies with particular force to the Commonwealth. A great part of our future development hangs upon the problem of transport.
That statement will be universally endorsed, but so far as Tasmania is concerned, the word “ entire “ should be substituted for the words “great part,” for Tasmania’s entire future development depends upon the problem of transport. This House has heard ad nauseam Tasmania’s protests against the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act. As that legislation is about to be dealt with by the Government, it is sufficient at present to state that the late Sir Henry Jones estimated that the Navigation Act is costing the primary producers of Australia from 10s. to 20s. a ton on all produce exported. Last year, Professor J. B.
Brigden, Professor of Economics at the University of Tasmania, and Mr. L. F. Giblin, Commonwealth Deputy Statistician of Tasmania, in an exhaustive treatise prepared for the Commonwealth Royal Commission on the Constitution, placed the cost of the Navigation Act to Tasmania at 10s. per head of population per annum. The abnormal extent of Tasmania’s interstate trade is demonstrated by the fact that in 1927 the quantity of cargo passing between Tasmania and interstate ports was greater by 161,837 tons than Queensland’s interstate trade, and 456,000 tons greater than the interstate trade of Western Australia. The total number of passengers carried by Australian coastal steamers during that year, excluding Tasmania, was 269,609. The number carried between Tasmania and the interstate ports was 100,912. Yet the passenger steamers between Tasmania and the mainland are the Nairana - 3,000 tons, and eleven years old; the Loongana - 2,400 tons, and 24 years old ; the Oonah - 1,750 tons and 40 years old; and the Zealandia, which has been chartered by the Tasmanian Government - 6,600 tons and seventeen years old.
Mr.Stewart. - It is a wonder to me that the Edina has not been plying between Tasmania and the mainland.
– I am glad that that vessel is profitably employed elsewhere, otherwise I am sure that it would have been placed on that route. Since the Navigation Act has been in force, the rates of freight on general cargo from Hobart to Melbourne have increased by 2s. a ton ; to Adelaide, 4s. a ton ; to Sydney, 2s. a ton, and to Brisbane, 5s. a ton. From Australian ports to London the freights have decreased from 105s. a ton in 1921, to 50s. a ton to-day. In 1913 the freight on general cargo from Hobart to Melbourne was 12s. a ton. It is now 22s. a ton or an increase of83 per cent. The freight to Sydney was 12s. a ton and is now. 22s. a ton, or an increase of 83 per cent. The freight to Perth was 45s. a ton and is now 74s. 6d. a ton, or an increase of 65 per cent. The freight to Brisbane was 30s. 6d. and is now 81s. a ton, or an increase of 59 per cent. The rates from Australia to London have fallen from 105s. to 50s. a ton, a decrease of 50 per cent. These figures amply demonstrate that the shipping combine has taken the fullest advantage of the monopoly which has been given to it on the Australian coast. According to the latest figures available, the Australian ship.owners in 1925-26, earned revenue on about 6,000,000 tons of goods. The lowest rate between capital ports is SydneyMelbourne, 18s. a ton, and the average from Melbourne to Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Hobart, is 29s. a ton, and putting the average at £3 a ton we have a revenue of £6,000,000, exclusive altogether of passengers’ fares and stacking charges of ls. 9d. a ton. Those figures were taken from the Transport and Communication Bulletin No. 18, Bureau of Census and Statistics. Surely the bestowal of this vast monopoly demands better consideration than Tasmania has received.
A committee of representative men recently demonstrated that Tasmania is suffering from a serious loss of shipping facilities, both for cargo and passengers, and from an excessive rise in interstate freights, including those affecting the tourist traffic, which makes her susceptible to injury on these accounts to a very much greater degree than any other State. The Navigation Act is accepted as the expression of the policy of Australia, to protect and encourage Australian shipping. Such protection and encouragement should be at. the expense of Australia generally; but as the only shipping that it is possible to encourage is that within Commonwealth waters, and as Tasmania’ is in proportion to population much more deeply interested in such shipping than any other State, it follows that the cost falls very much more heavily on Tasmania than on any other State, and in fact offers at present the most serious threat to her present and future solvency.
The service between Hobart and the mainland is worse than it was 30 years ago. The sale of the Commonwealth Line seriously affected the passenger tourist trade, that line carrying passengers between the mainland and Hobart during the apple export season.
Last year, for the first time in 60 years, Tasmania was left without passenger communication with New South Wales, and not one passenger steamer left
Hobart. Then the combine put on the Bombala. The Tasmanian Government paid a subsidy to the combine to put on the Zealandia during the tourist season. Yet Hobart’s trade is worth £10,000,000 per annum, equalling 54 per cent, of the entire trade of the State. Whilst Tasmania pays her proportion towards the overseas mail contract, we never see a mail steamer in Tasmanian waters unless it is chartered to carry fruit to England. Yet these mail boats carry produce from mainland ports without charter. The passenger fare between Sydney and Hobart is £11 10s. first return - good old combine monopoly !
Being an island State with a small population, Tasmania’s sea-borne trade is relatively enormous. Great Britain obtains 25 per cent, of her national wealth from, exports, and Australia 30 per cent. Tasmania, obtains 62 per cent, of her national wealth from exports, the greater part of her trade, excepting in wool, being with Australia. Her average interstate cargo trade is two and a half times the average interstate cargo trade of al] the States. In 1926, according to the latest figures obtainable, the interstate Tasmanian cargo traffic was 4.13 tons per head of population, the average of all the other States being 1.83 tons per head. Out of £19,000,000 worth of trade in 1926-27, £14,600,000 worth was with Australia, Tasmania importing from the mainland goods of a value of £6,000,000. In 1927 over 98,000 persons, equal to 38 per 100 of the mean population, travelled between Tasmania and the mainland. The interstate journeys on the mainland, chiefly by rail, amounted to only 26 per 100. The interstate cargo trade in the same year was 1,083,000 tons, the overseas trade being only 147,000 tons.
I wish to show how the trade of the port of Hobart has suffered under the conditions of which I complain. Let us take a steamer of 7,830 tons burden. Prior to federation the light dues at that port were £25; under the Commonwealth they are £163 3s. Thus in a fortnightly service on the LondonHobartNew Zealand trade the light dues were increased from £650 per annum to £4,257. This, together with the increases in coal and costs of handling cargo, went far to favour the Panama route. Last year a steamer calling at Hobart for fruit found that to earn f 1000 an expenditure of £600 in port dues and loading charges would be required.
A recent conference of the Hobart Chamber - of Commerce, Marine Board, City Council, and Development League unanimously adopted, inter aiia, the following resolutions:-
Tasmania has to pay from 35 per cent, to 40 per cent, more upon four ar five times the average amount of business of the other States. The committee which was appointed by the Tasmanian Government to consider “her claims stated that in recent years Tasmania’s interstate trade has suffered in two ways - by the curtailment of services and the increase in freights and fares. Without exaggeration, Tasmania bears a cost enormously in excess of the average for Australia. The costs cannot be passed on. Because of our size and relative bargaining power with our competitors on the mainland markets, the freight charges have to remain with the primary producer. Since that report, interstate freights have increased very largely, overseas freights being lowered to a similar extent.
In 1927-2S the Tasmanian export interstate trade amounted to 616,698 tons, whilst her overseas trade was only 167,908 tons, indicating the vast extent to which Tasmania depends on her interstate trade and also demonstrating how greatly the mainland States are interested in this trade. In the previous year the figures were - 659,747 interstate, compared with 99,469 tons overseas. Excessive freights are killing Tasmanian industries. The timber industry, for example, is practically dead. It costs about 48 per cent, of the value of Tasmanian hardwood to freight it to Adelaide. Timber is to-day freighted from the Baltic to Adelaide for 3s. 6d.. per 100 super, feet. From Hobart to Adelaide the rate is from 8s. to 8s. 6d. Timber is freighted from Vancouver to Brisbane for 5s. 6d. per 100 super, feet, while from Hobart the rate is 13s 4d. To a lesser extent the same differences apply to Sydney and Melbourne.
I have shown the extent of the Tasmanian trade with the mainland. The value and importance of this trade are rarely realized. The production of the splendidly fertile agricultural country known generally as the North-West Coast is a case in point.
The production of potatoes - the staple product of that district - is from 70,000 to 80,000 tons annually, and it can fairly be said that for every 50 acres planted the produce of at least 49 acres is exported to Sydney. At least 99 per cent, of the apples produced are grown for export, about 2,000,000 bushels - equalling half the crop - being exported to Sydney. Sydney is to-day, and has always been, the principal market for Tasmanian produce, and from that port a considerable portion is transhipped to Brisbane. Hay, oats, peas and processed fruit also find their principal market in the semi-tropical States. In 1927, for the first time in 60 years, not one passenger steamer left Hobart, the trade of which is worth £10,000,000, and equals 54 per cent, of the entire trade of the State.
The Federal Government has announced that, while it accepted liability to provide mail services, it did not accept any responsibility in respect to commercial transport. But I claim that the Federal Government has, in other ways, accepted responsibility for and stands committed to assist commercial transport. For example, the railway now being constructed from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs is primarily a transport, line.
The same could also be said of the railway from Grafton to the Queensland border, and the proposed line from Red Hill to Port Augusta discussed yesterday, which, when completed, will be used wholly for transport purposes. Tasmania makes no protests against these commercial undertakings, and personally I am glad that such lines are being con structed, as they will enable the settlers in the localities to be served to market their produce expeditiously. But we claim that, as Tasmania is paying a proportion of the cost of these lines, the Government should assume similar responsibility in connexion with Tasmania’s sea carriage. I can see no difference between a railway to connect mainland States and an efficient steamer service between Tasmania and the mainland, the latter being our only means of communication. I am aware that the present contractors for our Melbourne-Tasmania service are asking a prohibitive price for a proposed partial improvement of the service. We have long realized that Tasmania does not owe anything to the shipping companies. Parliament has given the combine a monopoly of the trade, of which it has taken the fullest advantage. I wish to repeat that there is not a steamer at present trading between the mainland and Tasmania that is not under the control of the Inchcape combine.
I regard a greatly improved service between Tasmania and the mainland as so vitally important that I am prepared to accept either a subsidized service, or a fleet owned and conducted by the Commonwealth, as is the east-west and other Government railways. With the knowledge that the Inchcape combine controls the present service, I have been forced to the conclusion that a fleet of oil-burning ships, to trade between Tasmania and ‘the mainland, is the only way out of the difficulty. The Government has endeavoured to obtain better mail facilities ; but has been blocked by the greed of the combine. In response to requests for an improved service, I believe I am correct insaying that only one tender was received. That is not surprising. For increasing the bi-weekly Burnie service to a service tri-weekly, the company asked, I believe, an additional £60,000.
– I believe it was £65,000.
– To place the Loongana in the trade for the whole year, a subsidy of £750 per week was asked. I urge the Government to stand up against these bushranging tactics, to give immediate, notice of the termination of the contract, and to provide a fleet of modern oil-burning boats. In refusing to allow this greedy combine to run the Commonwealth, the Government will have the support of Parliament and the people.
.- In seconding the motion, I wish to support the opinions expressed by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams). This subject has been discussed in this chamber on many occasions, and representations have from time to time been made to the Commonwealth Government by public bodies in Tasmania concerning the urgent need for improved communication between Tasmania and the mainland. The representatives of Tasmania have devoted more time to this subject than to any other. After representations had again been made concerning Tasmania’s position, the Government early in 1927 requested the Public Accounts Committee to inquire into, and report upon, the communications between Tasmania and the mainland. That committee conducted a very exhaustive inquiry into the whole position, and submitted a comprehensive report, which proved to every one familiar with the conditions in Tasmania particularly in regard to the lack of adequate means of communication, that the committee had a thorough grip of the whole situation. The opinions expressed by the committee and the recommendations submitted were endorsed by every public body in Tasmania that had previously made representations to the Commonwealth upon the subject.
I endorse what the honorable member for Franklin has said concerning the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government to provide adequate means of communication. That responsibility was accepted by the Government at least to a degree, some years ago, when it subsidized the steamer service and stipulated in the contract certain limitations in relation to freights and fares. At present the Commonwealth is subsidizing the passenger service across Bass Strait, and it is to the Bass Strait service that I intend to confine my remarks almost exclusively. The honorable member for Franklin has dealt exhaustively with the difficulty experienced by Tasmania in consequence of the high freights charged, the effect of such freights upon industry, and the general disability occasioned by excessive overseas and interstate freights.” I wish to protest against the delay of the Government in carrying out a definite undertaking. The report of the Public Accounts Committee states -
In approaching the question of what can be regarded as adequate communications between Tasmania and the mainland, it must be borne in mind that Tasmania, because of her comparative isolation and her separation by water from the mainland, is in a position entirely different from that of any other State of the Commonwealth, and it is on account of such special circumstances that efficient means of transport are essential if Tasmania is to develop and progress. The Commonwealth has already assisted Tasmania financially and has further expressed its intention of helping Tasmania to overcome her difficulties, to retain her population and to increase her production; but unless adequate, regular and continuous means of communication are provided to enable the products of the State to be readily and cheaply marketed, these efforts will be largely wasted.
That is the opinion of a committee that acquainted itself with the whole of the circumstances, and its report has met with the approval of everybody who is familiar with the position. Further on, the committee says -
Tasmania, as well as other States of the Commonwealth, though perhaps to a greater degree, has, in the opinion of the committee, suffered as a result of the operation of the Navigation Act; its industries have been handicapped, the establishment of new businesses has been prevented, and, generally, the development of the State has been hindered. Not only has the act failed in its purpose to create an Australian mercantile marine and to improve transport facilities, but it has, in effect, created two monopolies - the interstate shipping companies on the one hand, and the seamen on the other. The committee, therefore, recommends that the coasting trade sections of the Navigation Act be repealed.
I do not propose to enlarge upon that matter; it is the subject of an inquiry by the Tariff Board. All who are familiar with Tasmania’s, position, know that the State is suffering because of the effects of that act. It has brought about two monopolies between which Tasmania is being crushed. The responsibility for re medying these conditions by providing a better shipping service across Bass Strait has been accepted by the Commonwealth Government. I agree with the honorable member for Franklin that hitherto the Government has not admitted its responsiblity for the services between Hobart and Sydney, and between Hobart and the overseas markets, although the honorable member has submitted a good case in that behalf. I am dealing only with the responsibility that has already been accepted by the Government, and its failure so far to carry out its promise. The report of the committee continues -
Concerning the Bass Strait service, the committee is of opinion that this important service should be improved, firstly, via Burnie, and by means of an 18-knot oil burning vessel, with adequate cargo space and at least half of its passenger accommodation in two-berth cabins; the frequency of the service to be three trips weekly in summer, and two trips weekly in winter.
The report was considered by a Cabinet committee, which was good enough to ask honorable members from Tasmania to give it their opinion as to the best means of providing the improved service required. Following that investigation, the Prime Minister made a statement to the House on the 13th December, 1927, and in effect he endorsed the recommendation of the Public Accounts Committee regarding the Bass Strait mail service. In the course of his remarks he said - .
The question of the provision and maintenance of a satisfactory steamer service between Tasmania and the mainland of Australia has been under the consideration of the Government for some time. We recognize that such a service must cater for the tourist traffic as well as provide effective transport for mails and cargo.
Surely that amounted to accepting responsibility for communications with Tasmania generally. Further on, the Prime Minister said, “ The Government intended to call tenders for an improved service,” and he outlined the conditions of those tenders, adding -
The Government is impressed with the desirability of improving the frequency of the Bass Strait service during the summer season, and for the employment of a more efficient and faster vessel on the Burnie route. It hae also formed the opinion that a much improved service could be given if the difficulty in connexion with the tides at Launceston were overcome by terminating the service at some point on the river near Rosevears.
I am . in agreement with that view, although I know there is a difference of opinion among the public regarding the decision to land mails near Rosevears. As the representative of a north-western electorate in Tasmania, I personally am not concerned, except that I am very earnest in my desire to see the best possible mail service given to Tasmania generally. My friend, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson), knows more than I do about the port facilities on the Tamar. The Public Accounts Committee, in giving its reasons why the service should be improved, in the first place, via Burnie, said -
As a commencement, an improved service between Burnie and Melbourne should be instituted by means of an up-to-date cargo and passenger oil -burning steamer with a speed of at least 18 knots, which should moke three (3) trips weekly in summer and two (2) trips weekly in winter. Details as to the type of steamer should, however, form the subject of consultation with the Tasmanian authorities.
In recommending that the first service should be to Burnie, the committee had in mind the fact that -
Burnie is the nearest deep-water port to the mainland, and possesses many advantages, being devoid of navigation difficulties and having good wharfage accommodation; moreover, mails and passengers landed there can reach all parts of the State within a day. Improved rail services from Burnie would undoubtedly overcome many of the present objections by travellers to the use of the Melbourne-Burnie route.
I point out again that the committee fully understood the position, and its opinion is endorsed by every traveller familiar with that route. Tenders were invited early in 1928, and they closed some time before the middle of the year. The PostmasterGeneral tells us that he received one tender only, which was for the provision of the service set out in the terms of the contract for £96,000. The Minister says in effect that this was an attempt at extortion, and, while he is most anxious to provide the service, he is not ready to pay the sum required by way of subsidy. I am not in a position to say whether or not a subsidy of £96,000 is excessive, for I do not know what is the amount of business done by the steamers or what profits they earn. But the man in the street would naturally conclude that it was more than adequate in view of the fact that it actually represents an increase of £65,000 on the present subsidy, and that only one new steamer, or a vessel better equipped than the vessel now on the run, is necessary to meet the needs of the north-west ports. The Oonah is over 40 years old and of course is quite out of date ; but those responsible for sailing that ship are doing everything possible for the comfort of the passengers; but the ship itself is out of date and much too slow. The present service to Burnie would not be tolerated in any other part of Australia. No new vessels are required between Melbourne and Launceston. The Loongana and the Nairana are well equipped passenger ships. We have been told that only one tender was received for the suggested improved service. The Government should not allow any combina tion of ship-owners to extort from it an excessive subsidy. The Prime Minister definitely stated that the Government would take action to improve the shipping service of Tasmania. Are we’ to understand now that this improved service cannot be provided because the PostmasterGeneral declares that the shipping interests are demanding an excessive subsidy? If this is the position, it is the duty of the ‘ Government to give effect to the Prime Minister’s undertaking by some other means. It is not my place to point the course to be followed. I have told the Postmaster-General what he ought to do in the matter, and I would impress upon him that it is the business of the Government to provide the improved communications so urgently needed. This business has been delayed altogether too long. For many months it has been the subject of negotiation between the PostmasterGeneral and the shipping interests and representatives of the people of Tasmania. The Minister has been good enough to inform me from time to time of the progress of the negotiations, and I have had an opportunity to peruse the official files. It seems to me that there is a misunderstanding between the shipping company concerned and the PostmasterGeneral as to what is required. Mr. Appleton, the chairman of the Tasmanian Steamship Proprietary Limited,” is reported in the press” to have stated that, in order to comply with the terms of the new contract, it would be necessary to have vessels with a speed of twenty knots an hour on the run to Launceston. The Nairana and the Loongana have a speed of only eighteen knots; but I am satisfied, from an examination of the terms of the contract, that the two vessels mentioned could carry it out, because in fair weather they complete the run from Melbourne to the wharf at Launceston in seventeen hours: The terms of the new tender require the journey to be done in sixteen hours, but there is provision that the mails shall be landed at Rosevears, which is an hour down the river from Launceston, so the Nairana and Loongana could comply with the terms of the contract. I understand that Mr. Appleton advances, as one reason why the subsidy should be increased, the fact that twenty-knot vessels would have to be placed on the run, so I cannot help thinking that there is a misunderstanding about the actual terms of the tender. This is a matter that should be cleared up without delay. There is no conflict of opinion between myself and the honorable members for Franklin and Bass with regard to the Tamar river or Burnie. Our one concern is that the shipping service of Tasmania shall be improved, and the report of the Public Accounts Committee shows quite clearly that the need of the North-West Coast is the greater. Unfortunately, this improved service is being delayed because of some difficulty over the Tamar river port, which, at present, is reasonably good. Whatever may be the reason, I can assure the Postmaster-General that there is grave dissatisfaction in Tasmania with the existing services, and that action should be taken to give effect to the promise of the Prime Minister that a better service would be inaugurated within a reasonable time. There has been unreasonable delay, and responsibility for it must rest upon the Government. If the Postmaster-General considers the subsidy excessive, there are other ways of meeting the wishes of the people of Tasmania.
– What are the other ways ?
– If the Government were prepared to stand up to this shipping monopoly, as it stood up to the oil interest a few years ago, it would . bring the shipping combine to its senses in less than a mouth. Nothing that the Prime Minister has ever done has given the public more confidence in the present Ministry than the action of the Government in introducing the petrol tax. He gave the oil interests clearly to understand then that he would not allow the policy of the Government to be dictated by any monopoly. The Ministry should take the same stand now.
– If the workers were involved, the Prime Minister would soon take action.
– If the honorable member for West Sydney and his colleagues in the Labour party would work amicably with honorable members on this side of the House iu controlling monopolies that are attempting to cripple industry in Australia, we should very quickly overcome all our major difficulties. I have mentioned two monopolies that have been created by the Navigation Act - the Seamen’s Union, and the shipping combine. The act was intended to protect the Australian mercantile marine, but its provisions have been abused by both the seamen and the ship-owners. It is the duty of all honorable members to work together to control those who abuse privileges that are given to them under Commonwealth legislation.
– Let us repeal the Transport Workers Act.
– I repeat that there has been altogether too much delay in improving the shipping services of Tasmania. The people in that State have become very dissatisfied, and for very good reason are now impatient. I hope, therefore, that the Government will, at an early date, take the necessary steps to redeem the promise made by the Prime Minister. It is the duty of the Government to discover a solution of the problem. If it considers the charges to be excessive, it should take steps to break down the combination which is preventing it from carrying out part of its policy as announced in this House. I am not in favour of the establishment of a Commonwealthowned service, except as a lastresort. It would not give satisfaction. We have had sufficient experience of the Commonwealth Shipping Line to know what a costly and unsatisfactory government service would be. A government owned shipping line would be justified only if a monopoly were trying to extort unreasonable rates for services. If there is no other way of breaking down such a monopoly, the Government should run its own ships, but I would rather continue the subsidy to a private-owned shipping company, even though that subsidy were excessive, than have the Government establish a shipping line of its own.
– We at least should know what it was going to cost us.
– As the honorable member for Bass says, at least we should know what the subsidy would cost us; but we have no means of gauging our possible losses if we start a shipping line of our own. The Tasmanian members, in bringing this matter forward, have not only the sympathy, but the support of the whole House. On every side emphasis has been laid upon the need for an improved service to Tasmania. The Leader of the Opposition said, during the recent election campaign, that his party would provide a better service if put in office. Of course, he would use his own means for doing it. The want of proper communication, more than anything else, is making Tasmania dependent upon the Commonwealth Government for financial assistance. The Government should take immediate steps to remedy the trouble, and to carry out its pledge to the people of Tasmania.
– The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) has couched his motion in somewhat extravagant language. We must admit that the Government has been endeavouring to give a better service to Tasmania. The fact that we have been paying a subsidy to the shipping company operating between the mainland and Tasmania is sufficient proof of our interest in the Tasmanian service. Although the matter is administered by my department, this is not regarded by the Government as a subsidy for merely carrying mails. If it were, £12,000 a year would be sufficient on a poundage basis to pay for the carriage of mails, but since 1921 we have been paying £30,000 a year. There are many conditions attached to this subsidy.
The honorable member for Franklin has referred to some, but not to the conditions attaching to the service from Launceston to Melbourne, and from the north coast to Melbourne. There is one condition which lays it down that no freights or fares can be increased on those routes without the consent of the PostmasterGeneral.
– The PostmasterGeneral has consented to an increase in freight-rates.
– There has been no increase in freights to the north-west coast since 1912, except one of 10 per cent, and no increase in fares. To-day, the producers on the north-west coast are paying lower freights from these ports to Melbourne than the producers in Victoria are paying for the carriage of goods for the same distance by the Victorian railways. Freights have been increased on the route from Launceston to Melbourne only once, and that was in 1926 or 1927. These freights are, I think, extremely low; if we were to allow the Tasmanian Steamship Company to fix its own rates, there would be no need to pay much by way of subsidy. As the matter is now arranged, the producers on the north-west coast are reaping a big advantage, because the exports and imports passing through north-west coast ports are valued at about £1,000,000 a year. Most of the trade from the north-west coast goes to Melbourne, while Burnie and Devonport import largely from that city, securing the advantage of low freight rates fixed by agreement.
– Much of their produce goes to Sydney.
– I admit that quantities of potatoes and oats are shipped from Burnie to Sydney, but the concession on freight rates to Melbourne remains a very valuable one. This problem of Tasmanian communication was referred to the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, which, after investigating the matter closely, stated in its report -
Independent steamship services cannot be maintained solely for mail purposes, and the frequency of the running, and the class of steamer employed, must be determined very largely on the basis of the amount of cargo and passenger traffic to and from Tasmania.
To my mind, that is the key to the situation. If we demand more services than we can get freights and passengers for, it is necessary to pay a subsidy for running the ships. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) quoted the report of the Public Accounts Committee on the services to the north-west coast. I shall refer to the report on the Launceston service. Three trips a week were run to the north-west coast during the summer, and two in the winter. The committee considered that the services should be continued on those lines. The report stated -
The Launceston service, the committee considers, should continue as at present until better facilities are available in the Tamar River. The vessels on this run - Nairana and Loon/jama - still have a useful life, and are, moreover, the fastest steamers engaged in the Australian interstate trade. Larger vessels with more two-berth cabin accommodation and greater space for the conveyance of motor cars, should be procured when the present steamers are due for replacement, or even earlier, provided the navigation difficulties in the Tamar have been sufficiently overcome. The use of a tender is one of the greatest handicaps to the traffic entering and leaving Launceston and its early abolition is urged. It would also be a great advantage if oil-burning vessels were employed in this trade, and their use is recommended by the committee.
The recommendations of the committee were embodied in a speech made by the Prime Minister in the House and incorporated in the tender form on which the shipping companies were asked to tender for a service of three steamers weekly during the summer months .and two steamers weekly during the winter months both to Burnie and Launceston. The point made in the report of the Public Accounts Committee was that a service to Launceston could not run to anything like scheduled time, and a report furnished by the Internal Transport Committee in connexion with the investigations made by the Development and Migration Commission bears this out in the following paragraph: -
The port of Launceston is considered as having an influence on the whole State. It is recommended that the Government take action for the establishment of a wharf in the vicinity of Windermere, with necessary road and railway connexions to enable the passenger and mail shipping service and connecting rail services to maintain a fixed schedule.
The Government called for tenders on those lines, suggesting that mails and passengers should be landed at a deepwater wharf ten or twelve miles from Launceston, well knowing that until that was done it would be impossible to provide a satisfactory mail service from the mainland to Hobart and Southern Tasmania. The reports of both committees confirm exactly what the Government has been trying to do for the last three or four years. It is a considerable time since I promised that mainland mails would be delivered in Launceston and Hobart on the same da.y if a deep-water wharf .on the Tamar river were made available. The choice of the site lay with the people of Tasmania. I understand that the matter rests with the Marine Board of Launceston. The Launceston newspapers have stoutly opposed the proposal, but people in Southern Tasmania have equally stoutly supported it. When Mr. Lyons was Premier of the State, he was in favour of the idea. He regarded it as being the only satisfactory way of giving a proper mail service to the whole of the State. At present a steamer cannot proceed up the Tamar river and discharge its mails and passengers at Launceston in time to catch the train to Hobart and have the mails delivered the same evening in that city except under favorable conditions.
– That happens only once in every three trips.
– That is so. Mr. Lyons told me that if the Marine Board would not provide a deepwater wharf his Government would see that the work was carried out. He did not offer to build a railway between the new wharf and Launceston, but he said that means of transport would be provided to convey mails and passengers from the wharf to that city. At present a tender meets the steamers in the Tamar and conveys the passengers and mails to the wharf at Launceston when the boat cannot go into port. It is a dangerous practice and liable at any time to lead to some tragedy. If the Government of Tasmania will do its share, the Commonwealth Government will see that a steamer service runs to a time-table to a point on the river Tamar. Mr. Hill, the Tasmanian Commissioner of Railways, said that this was just what his department. wan ted. He said that if the Commonwealth would run a steamer to a schedule time, he would undertake to see that a train would leave Launceston at 9 o’clock each morning reaching Hobart in time to enable the mails to be sorted and delivered the same day. That is not possible at the present time, because very often the train reaches Hobart at 6 o’clock at night. If the Tasmanian Government or the Marine Board of Launceston will build the deep-water wharf, the Commonwealth Government will see that the mail steamers run to schedule so that mails may be delivered in Hobart the day a vessel reaches Launceston. I think that is all the people in the southern part of Tasmania require.
In regard to a service between Melbourne, Devonport and Burnie, the Postal Department received only one tender for the two services - Melbourne to Devonport and Burnie and Melbourne to Launceston. No separate tender was received for the north-west service and no proposal was made to provide for more trips than are run at the present time. A proposal was made to provide a vessel with a greater capacity than the Oonah, for which the Commonwealth Government was asked to pay £96,000 against the £30,000 now being paid. I do not think any honorable member representing a Tasmanian constituency, if he were in my position, would pay £96,000 for a better steamer to provide a service which can now be obtained for £30,000. The Government cannot see its way to pay the £96,000, but is still carrying on negotiations in the hope that it may be able to provide an improved service for the north-west coast of Tasmania as well as the service to Launceston I have already described.
An endeavour was made to get an extension for four weeks of the period in which the Loongana runs on the Devonport and Burnie service. The present company is Under contract to run this vessel for eight weeks on this service, and it asked £750 a week for the additional four weeks. I do not think the Government would be justified in paying that extra amount for the service required. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) has said that a lot of time has been wasted without finality be ing reached, but I fail to see how finality could be reached when the only tender received was for the amount stated.
In regard to the other services mentioned by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams), under the contract with the Orient Company provision is made for three Orient steamers to call at Hobart each year, during the months when apples and other perishable products are ready for shipment.
– What does that cost ?
– The cost is included in the subsidy of £130,000 a year paid by the Commonwealth Government to the Orient Company. Last year, when the people of Tasmania had large quantities of apples for export, the Orient Company sent five boats to Hobart. As pointed out by the Public Accounts Committee, the whole matter hinges upon the amount of cargo offering. If cargo is offering in Tasmania, steamers will call at Tasmanian ports. The coasting trade provisions of the Navigation Act were suspended by permits by the present Government in 1926, but unfortunately the shipping companies have not availed themselves of the opportunity thus afforded to them, and so far I do not think the step taken by the Government has benefited the people of Tasmania. The Government has now announced its intention of repealing the coasting provisions of the Navigation Act. The matter has now been submitted to the Tariff Board. The people of. Tasmania should derive considerable benefit if overseas shipping companies will make use of the opportunity afforded to them to engage in the Tasmanianmainland trade. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) is still evidently of opinion that the overseas steamers will not carry passengers from one State to another. The opportunity is there, however, for the companies to do so if they wish. In the summer months the shipping companies provide a time-table to cope with the tourist traffic on which Tasmania relies very largely. If the tourists are offering, the boats are available. During a portion of the summer there is a service to Tasmania for six days a week. It is quite evident that if the cargo and passengers are offering the steamers are made available. The
Commonwealth Government is not prepared to provide £96,000 for the Launceston service, but is willing to give an increased subsidy for a service acceptable to the people of Tasmania and fair to the Government.
– If the company will not reduce its demands, what then?
– It is hard to say. This Government is not likely to propose the establishment of another Commonwealth shipping line. It could not consistently sell its ships one year and buy a new fleet in the following year. The Tasmanian Government has a State steamship line of which it would be glad to get rid, because it is a losing concern. Any line established by the Commonwealth to maintain a service between Tasmania and the mainland would probably meet with the same fate as that of the Line of which we disposed last year. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) said that there was probably some misunderstanding between the Commonwealth Government and the Tasmanian Steamship Company in regard to the 20-knot vessels for the new service. I know nothing of such a statement. The Government did not stipulate that the vessels to be engaged on the contract should have a speed of twenty knots; we merely specified a time of departure from Melbourne and a time of arrival in deep water some distance from Launceston.
– That time-table could be carried out with the present boats.
– Yes. The statement that 20-knot vessels will be required is not in accordance with the conditions of contract. Let me summarize the position: If the Tasmanian Government will build a wharf atWindermere, the Commonwealth Government will see that the vessels arrive there on schedule time. The Tasmanian Government will be asked to arrange for transport of passengers and mails from Windermere to Launceston, and I do not think we need anticipate the slightest difficulty in arranging with the Railway Department to land the mails in Hobart in time for the evening delivery. That is what is desired by the people of Hobart and southern Tasmania. We are still con ducting negotiations which we hope will produce a better service to the northwestern portion of the State.
.- The need for improved means of communication between Tasmania and the mainland has been a burning question for years, and is of vital importance to the people of the island State. During the election campaign three years ago, the Prime Minister made certain promises, which, no doubt, would have been carried out if the Government could possibly have arranged for it. The trouble appears to be that a. shipping combine controls the destiny not only of Tasmania, but of Australia and a big part of the world. I congratulate the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) on the complete and convincing case he has presented. There is no need for me to reiterate his arguments; I propose to state the matter briefly as it appears to a Tasmanian. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) also spoke not only as a representative of the west and north-west of the State, but as a champion of the rights of Tasmania as a whole, and I appreciate his attitude. It is well to face the facts as we see them, and, unfortunately, this matter is complicated by a certain amount of parochialism which is detrimental to the whole State.
– It is so, and that will be proved conclusively in time. The Postmaster-General has stated that until the State Government makes provision for the landing and carriage of mails from Windermere to Launceston, the proposed contract between the Government and the shipping companies cannot be completed.
– We do not require that the boats shall stop there. We say that they should go on to Launceston when possible.
– I am afraid that this will arouse a big opposition amongst the people of Launceston, despite the fact that it would be of immense benefit to the people in the south.
– Is not the trouble with Tasmania that the north and the south are hopelessly divided?
– That is the trouble. The Postmaster-General has correctly stated that, the former Premier, Mr. Lyons, promised that if the Marine Board would not build the deep-water wharf the Government would do so. I am afraid the Marine Board will play an important part in endeavouring to prevent the landing of mails at Windermere because of certain obligations which have been entered into with people in Launceston. I hope that Tasmania will not have to wait for proper communication with the mainland until this matter is disposed of. Three years ago the Prime Minister said that he would give relief to the people of my State by a suspension of the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act, to enable overseas vessels to engage in the tourist traffic, which means so much to Tasmania during four or five months of the year. It was believed that the various overseas companies would be glad to pick up passengers on the mainland and convey them to Tasmania, but when the opportunity was afforded them, they declined to take advantage of it.
– Because the wharf labourers said they would not load the boats.
– The wharf labourers of Hobart have loaded every boat that has entered the port.
– Did they not issue a threat?
– No. Apparently the overseas companies are not prepared to break some compact they have made with the Inchcape combine. I had personal experience of their attitude. I was to travel to Geneva at the invitation of the Commonwealth Government and was booked from Melbourne to Toulon by the Osterly. That vessel came to Hobart to load apples and I was refused permission to board the vessel there until lengthy negotiations had taken place between the Hobart office, the head office in Melbourne, and, I believe, the Prime Minister’s Department. Only at the eleventh hour was I allowed to go aboard practically as a guest of the company from Hobart to Melbourne. Although the overseas companies have the right to pick up passengers, and convey them to the mainland, they are not prepared to do so.
– Because they do not know what may happen if they do.
– That is not so. As the honorable member for Franklin has pointed out, the ship-owners are in effect, holding a gun at the head of the Commonwealth Government. They say ‘that unless the Government will pay a subsidy of £96,000 they will not improve the present service between Tasmania and the mainland. The Postmaster-General asked whether any honorable member would be prepared to yield to such a demand. My answer is that the Minister should lose no time in recommending Cabinet to ask Parliament to establish a Commonwealth line of ships to carry out this service. Rather than that, the honorable member for Darwin would pay the company the £96,000 it is demanding.
– No ; I said I would be prepared to pay a big subsidy to a private company.
– In the final resort, the honorable member would be prepared to pay the £96,000 to the ship-owners rather than risk the possibility of the Commonwealth losing £96,000 on a line which it owned and controlled. A government owned line is the only solution of the problem. At one time the Commonwealth Government did enter into competition with the private ship-owners and thereby helped the fruitgrowers of Tasmania considerably. I was rather surprised that certain honorable members who represented Tasmanian constituencies in the last Parliament voted as they did on the proposal to sell the Commonwealth Line of Steamers. Some of them have paid the penalty for doing so. The shipowners have, without any question, held a pistol at the head of the Government and demanded a subsidy of £96,000. They have made it quite clear that they would not provide a reasonable service unless that subsidy was granted. The vessels at present serving the north-west and northern ports of Tasmania are a mixed lot. The Oonah, which runs to Burnie, has been crossing Bass Strait for the last 40 years. The Loongana is also an old boat, though she may have a good deal of service still left in her. The Nairana is quite a decent sort of vessel, and suitable for the needs of this service. It certainly does not meet with the approval of persons who wish to travel de-luxe.
I wish briefly to refer to the HobartSydney service. For a considerable period after the Riverina was wrecked off the coast of Victoria, no passenger boat ran between Sydney and Hobart. It was the first time for many years that that service had broken down. Many deputations representative of important interests in southern Tasmania waited upon the shipowners to request that another boat should be put on the run, but for a long time their efforts were unavailing. Ultimately some of the boats belonging to the Eastern Line took advantage of the suspension of the coastal sections of the Navigation Act and accepted passengers between Hobart and Sydney, but the fare was increased from £4 16s. to £1 10s. It was not likely that people would quietly accept an increase of that kind for the privilege of travelling upon Chinese boats. After a good deal of discussion the run of the Bombala was extended from Sydney to Hobart, making her full trip from. Brisbane to Hobart, and the fare was increased from £4 16s. to £5 los.
– She is a poor type of boat*
– That is so. She is one of the oldest boats trading on our coast. With the approach of the Tasmanian tourist season a request was made that the Zealandia, which had formerly engaged in the tourist trade during the busy season, should again be made available. But the company would not accede to these requests until it had been granted a cash subsidy of £2,000 by the State Government. This, we contend, was pure imposition. The State Government offered to guarantee the company against any loss after three months operating; but nothing was acceptable but the unconditional £2,000 subsidy. The State Government was practically forced to agree to the company’s request, for the tourist traffic of Tasmania is an important factor in her prosperity. I understand that the Prime Minister has promised that this amount will be reimbursed to the State Government.
The Postmaster-General (Mr. Gibson) put the case very well from the point of view of the Government, but he did not fact is that the shipping combine is not touch upon the real problem.. The plain prepared to provide Tasmania with the service that her trade merits, and the people in the southern part of the State have made up their minds that existing conditions must be improved’. Unless the Government does something to improve them, it will lose more of its Tasmanian supporters in this Parliament. I am convinced that my election was due in part to the failure of the Government to fulfil the promises that have been made from time to time that Tasmania would be given a more adequate shipping service. I. do not consider that the promise of the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General to take steps to repeal the coastal sections of the Navigation Act, and to refer the whole matter to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report, will provide a way out of the difficulty. I disagree with the view of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) that the Navigation Act has had a great effect upon the Tasmanian situation. Even if the whole measure were repealed, Tasmania would still be in difficulties,’ for the combine would continue to do as it liked. But some drastic change will have to be made. Tasmania must be provided with better transport communication with the mainland or the Government will undoubtedly be called to account. Tasmania requires the same consideration as other States in the Commonwealth on the question of transportation.
.- For a number of years I have made a close study of Tasmania’s transport services. As the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) has said, this subject has received more attention than any other from honorable members of this Parliament who represent Tasmanian constituencies. The need for the improvement of this service is obvious ; Tasmania cannot hope to increase her tourist trade until her transport service has been improved, and better accommodation provided. The two ships which run to the river Tamar are the Loongana and the Nairana. The Loongana was built in 1903, and what is styled her first-class accommodation contains, among others, cabins with as many as 30 berths in them. These are known as the “flats”.
– I should think thai only the flats go into them.
– On many occasions during the summer intending travellers to Tasmania are glad to accept any kind of accommodation. The fare for such firstclass accommodation is 50s., an extra 5s. being charged for a berth in a deck cabin. In these circumstances it is not surprising that there is not an insane rush to Tasmania in the busy season by those who desire to travel in comfort. It is not my purpose now to castigate the shipping companies for this state of affairs, because, unfortunately, during eight or nine months of the year the trade does not warrant the accommodation provided by the Nairana, which has four-berth cabins chiefly, and a limited number of two-berth cabins. That steamer repeatedly crosses Bass Strait with about a . third of her passenger accommodation occupied. People are able to travel from Melbourne to any part of the Commonwealth, except Tasmania, in comfort, and we desire that the conditions of travel to Tasmania may be made comparable with those between other parts of the Commonwealth.
Mr.West. - The members who represent Tasmania are to blame for the present situation. It continues because of their own stupidity.
– The honorable member should be a good judge of stupidity. It is no fault of those who represent Tasmanian constituencies that better ships are not running. The lack of facilities for berthing is one of the reasons why it is not possible to make larger vessels available during the tourist season. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Culley) observed that there would be a considerable fight against the proposal to improve the berthing facilities in the Tamar by a down-the-river jetty.
– The objection is only from a section of the people.
– It is a substantial section, and it might be advisable for me to acquaint honorable members of the reason for this objection to the proposal. In 1912 the Launceston Marine Board brought Mr. Hunter, a thoroughly qualified engineer, from England to suggest a plan for improving the Tamar. His scheme included the deeper dredging of the river between Rosevears and Launceston. I need not relate in detail the history of the Hunter scheme,but, as a ratepayer of the Tamar area, I re gret that that scheme has been a tragedy. The sum of £350,000 has been expended on the work - that being a local liability of the municipalities of Launceston, Beaconsfield, Lilydale, St. Leonard’s and George Town - but there is practically nothing to show for that expenditure. Those municipalities were authorized by the Government to incur expenditure not exceeding £360,000, and they now have less than £10,000 available to complete the scheme. So far as the dredging portion of the scheme is concerned, the state of the river to-day is no different from what it was when the expenditure commenced in 1913. These people think the scheme should be continued. The Transport Committee, which has recently submitted its report, now says that a downriver wharf is necessary. That is one of the reasons why the people of Launceston, or a section of them, are incensed with the Government’s proposal. Another reason for their indignation, is that they believe that it was the PostmasterGeneral’s intention to make the downriver jetty the terminus of the Melbourne steamers, and that the steamers would not proceedto Launceston at all.
– That was never suggested.
– I know that. But the Launceston press has consistently stated not only that that was suggested, but that the boats would not come to Launceston, and would stop at the downriver wharf altogether, and that that wharf would be the terminus for the mail contract. I have repeatedly told the people of Launceston that that was never intended.
– It was never even thought of.
– I am glad to have the Postmaster-General’s assurance that it was not even thought of. I have advocated nothing more than the occasional use of the down-river wharf. The PostmasterGeneral referred to the use of tenders to take passengers and mails down the river to the steamers. His department is trying to establish a regular hour for sailing from Melbourne and from Launceston, and I heartily approve of its efforts in that direction. At present, the hour of sailing alters every day, both from Melbourne and from Launceston, and schedules have therefore to be made up by the Mails Department every mail day for the sorting of the mail. The arrival of mails cannot be gauged within an hour or two.
– That applies also to the receiving of the mails.
– That is so. It would be an excellent thing for Tasmania to have a regular mail service, and it would also be of immense convenience to the travelling public to have a fixed sailing hour. I know of no reason why there should not be the same regularity in the sailing of boats to and from Tasmania, as there is in the running of trains on the principal routes of the mainland. I make bold to say that tenders are being used more to-day than they were twelve years ago. I have looked up the records for this year, and I find that the tender has already been used seven times outward from Launceston.
– Surely not in the last two months !
– In the last two months the tender has been used outwards seven times from Launceston. On that average, there would be about 40 tender trips in a year. The year before last, the tender was used on about 40 occasions. I ask honorable members who have not witnessed the transfer of passengers from a tender to the vessel, to try to visualize what it means when from 300 to 350 passengers are crowded on a small river boat with their luggage. Many of them carry little grips which they do not wish to lose sight of; but these are not allowed to be carried on board by their owners, as there is not sufficient room where the passengers sit or stand. In wet weather the conditions, of course, are utterly wretched. On one occasion a lady, on reaching one of our principal hotels, was not allowed to take her luggage upstairs until it had been dried. In 1922, when the Prime Minister, who was then the Treasurer, on the eve of his departure for Tasmania, telegraphed asking me to get him taken off the boat atRosevears, and motored to Launceston. I replied that I would make the necessary arrangements, and on the same day I received a wire from Mr. Appleton, the manager of Messrs. Huddart Parker & Co. Ltd., to say that he would be on the steamer, and would be glad if I were to make arrangements for him also to leave the boat at Rosevears. The vessel arrived, with a big passenger list, and when the tender came alongside it was soon crowded. As we left for the shore in a small motor boat, I said to Mr. Appleton, “ I want you to have a good look at that tender.” The tender was then leaning well towards the bigger vessel. I said “ There will be a tragedy here one of these days, and after such an event your company will never again lift its head “. Mr. Appleton. replied, “ What can we do ? We are not in charge of the dredging of the river Tamar. We have been promised year after year that the river will be dredged, and that there will be no further need to use tenders “. Yet, in the year 1929, tourists are still required to travel to and from Tasmania under the discomforts that I have outlined. When the members of the British Economic Mission visited Tasmania last December, did they go down the river on the tender? Certainly not; they were motored to Rosevears, and taken on board the steamer from there, and what was considered proper for them should be provided for all other travellers. The PostmasterGeneral will do Tasmania a good service if he insists on the use of a down-river jetty, where passengers may land if they so desire, and thus expedite their journey. The carriage of mails can be expedited in this way, and passengers who did not wish to travel up to Launceston by land could remain on the steamer for another two hours or so, as at present. The Postmaster-General spoke of the number of times that a down-river jetty might have to be used. I have carefully examined one of the logs of the vessel - it was published in the Mercury some time ago - covering a period of one year, and it showed that on 47 of 141 trips, the vessel arrived at Launceston before 9 a.m. ; on 48 trips between 9 and 11 a.m., and on 46 trips between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., the arrival at the lastmentioned hour, however, being an extreme case. It is not uncommon to-day for the vessel to arrive at noon, and on the first day of this year the mails did not reach the Launceston post office until 12.30 p.m. The boat was atRosevears somewhere between 8 and 8.30 a.m., and it is only a little over an hour’s journey from Rosevears to Launceston.
Why it is that there is a monopoly of shipping so far as the river Tamar is concerned? Briefly, it is because the Tasmanian Steamships Limited own the only vessels in Australia that have a sufficiently shallow draught to maintain some sort of regular service between Port Melbourne and Launceston.
– Who are the Tasmanian Steamships Limited?
– I think that the honorable member knows that as well as do most folk. The organization is the Union Steamship Company Limited and Huddart Parker Limited in combination.
– One of Inchcape’s tentacles !
– On that subject I am perhaps not so well informed as is the honorable member. The reason for the monopoly is that there are no other vessels in Australia that can be engaged in the Launceston trade. The provision of the facilities outlined by the PostmasterGeneral, and recommended by the Transport Committee, will make possible the use of bigger vessels in the Tamar river service during the tourist season.
– What depth of water is there at Windermere?
– At the spot where it is proposed to build the wharf at Windermere there is a minimum depth of 25 ft. 6 in. at low water. But I understand that about one-third of a mile further down the river there is a minimum depth of over 30 feet, continuing to the Heads.
– What is the draught of the vessels?
– The draught of the Loongana is 12 ft. 6 in., and of the Nairana from 14 feet to 14 ft. 6 in. The latter vessel, when fully loaded, and with all tanks full, draws just over 15 feet. The Tasmanian Steamships Limited have said over and over again that they will not build any more vessels of a special type. These shallow boats have to be specially built. The boats that are running on the Australian coast, like the Zealandia, are vessels of the ordinary type of construction, and, in proportion to their cost, provide much better accommodation and comfort than do the specially constructed vessels mentioned. The Nairana and the Loongana were very costly to build, because the accommodation and everything else pertaining to those vessels had to be got into a comparatively small space.
– They have paid for themselves over and over again; though they are dangerous vessels.
– I would not go so far as to say that they are dangerous. Certainly they look so small to tourists arriving in Australia in ocean liners from overseas, that such persons not infrequently refuse to go to Tasmania by them, and cancel their passages. I know scores of persons who have travelled the world without being seasick, yet when they have journeyed to Tasmania on the Nairana or the Loongana have had the sickest time of their lives. I am not blaming the vessels. The trouble is that Bass Strait is one of the worst stretches of water in the world, and should be traversed by better and bigger boats than are in use to-day.
– The honorable member’s speech is very muchlike an attack on private enterprise.
– I do not think so. Private enterprise can only be expected to provide for the trade that is offering.
– Would the honorable member say that that provision is adequate ?
– I rather think that the company has made provision for the trade that is offering. It has done very well, indeed, so far as the Tasmanian trade is concerned. Those of us who represent Tasmanian constituencies ask that an improvement be effected in this service; but we realize that that object cannot be achieved unless the company is given a larger subsidy. The island of Tasmania is too small for us to take a parochial view of this matter. The people who live in the southern part of that State are practically dependent on the Tamar - which, according to their view, is the front door to Tasmania. Although the mails could be landed at Burnie in time for delivery in Hobart and suburbs on the same afternoon, it is the stated opinion of the residents of Hobart that the service should be through the Tamar. The Postmaster-General has stated that it is not a question of mails only, and that the subsidy has been granted with a view to a better service being provided for Tasmania. The managing director” of Tasmanian Steamships Limited has stated definitely that during the last six years the earnings of the company in the Tasmanian service - the only service in which the company engages - represent a return of 6.7 per cent., or, at any rate, under 7 per cent. I regret that parochial considerations have obtruded themselves, and have led to the suggestion that, willy nilly, this service must go to Launceston. I disregard the contention that the building of a wharf with rail communication down the river will injure Launceston. The experience of that city will be similar to that of Perth, which has its port at Fremantle, and the city of Adelaide, with its port at Port Adelaide and also Outer Harbour. No one at Port Adelaide will say that Outer Harbour has not been beneficial to them. I could cite many other similar cases not only in Australia but also in other 2>arts of the world. The provision of these facilities would not only lead to larger shipping entering the River Tamar, but also attract a greater number of the better class of tourists to the city. By that I mean those tourists who would take their motor cars with them. What is the position to-day? Apart altogether from the exceedingly high cost of taking a car, space for it has to be booked months ahead. In the tourist season one cannot book space for his car in the month in which he wishes to travel. Take the case of a man who has been accustomed to a reasonable amount of comfort. He would approach the shipping company and apply for a two-berth cabin for himself and his wife, and would probably be told that all two-berth cabins had been booked up months previously. Even if he offered to pay for a four-berth cabin, he would probably be told that he could not obtain one, as there were too many passengers offering and that he would have to go in a male four-berth cabin and his wife in a four-berth ladies’ cabin. In most cases such men decline to travel under such conditions. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Culley) has said that Tasmania’s tourist traffic has been increasing. According to my reading of the figures, that is not so. I have been informed that, although it is very fair this year, it is not so great as it was last year, although the latter did not realize anticipations. We cannot hope to build up our tourist traffic unless and until better shipping accommodation is provided; and I believe that the river Tamar is the best agency for achieving that object. I desire it to be distinctly understood that I heartily approve of the proposal to provide a new ship for the service to the north-west coast.
I wish to touch for a moment upon the proposal to construct a railway down the river to link up with the Tasmanian railway system. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) has asked who will provide the facilities outlined by the Transport Committee. It has been said that that is the function of the State. At the present time a special boat-train leaves Launceston upon the arrival of the boat, and one leaves Hobart to connect, in addition to the two ordinary expresses that depart at 11.30 a.m. and 5.30 p.m. daily each way. The boat arrives at and leaves Launceston on the same day. The Railway Commissioner could cut out both of those special trains. The Transport Committee in its report to the State Government, which was tabled in this House the other day, said that the money which would be saved by cutting out those two special trains would be sufficient to meet the whole of the interest and sinking-fund payments or* the proposed wharf, road and railway, which they estimated would cost at the outside £120,000. The Launceston Examiner has already raised that figure to £150,000, and it will probably increase still further as they go more deeply into the subject. But on that committee were Major Northcott, the chairman of the Mechanical Transport Board attached to the Development and Migration Commission and Defence Department, Mr. Remfrey, an official of the Victorian Railways Board, and Mr. Fricke, a member of the Victorian Country Roads Board. They co-opted the services of Mr. Kermode, the Victorian Engineer for Ports and Harbours. I wish honorable members to realize that they had under consideration the construction of a wharf, a road and a railway, and that there was an expert to deal with each subject. Their report stated definitely that these facilities can be provided at an outside cost of £120,000. My own opinion is that the work can be carried out for less than that. The Tasmanian railways would be saved something, in the vicinity of £8,000 a year, thus meeting the cost of the new facilities. Our trade would’ be increased, the delivery of our mails would be expedited, a tremendous amount of time would be saved, and those who travel to Tasmania would not have to put up with that most objectionable tender, the disabilities of which we experience about forty times a year outwards and goodness knows how many times a year inwards if it is to be run on the inward journey as formerly. Sometimes as many as 300 or 400 passengers are kept on the ship down at Rosevears for two hours and even longer, and then it has to crawl up the river. So many complaints were made in Launceston that the company decided to dispense with it almost entirely as far as inward trips are concerned. The majority of those who travel to Tasmania are not tourists but business men and Tasmanians. Out of 30,000 people who arrive at Launceston each year, there are not more than 8,000 tourists. The Minister should again approach the company and inform it that the downtheriver jetty would be used only when the boat could not reach Launceston wharf at 8.30 a.m. He has stated that it is desired that the mails shall leave Launceston for Hobart by train at 9, a.m., and in this case it would be necessary for the boat to reach Launceston at 8.30 a.m. That object can be achieved by leaving Melbourne at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. It will not be necessary to use the wharf down at Windermere more than each alternate trip. It must also be remembered that whenever a boat goes into the Tamar at least half an hour or three quarters of an hour can be saved by dropping the mails and passengers at the down-the-river wharf. The opposition of some of the people of Launceston is due in the main to the fact that they had been led to believe that it is the intention of the Government to make the down-the-river jetty the permanent terminus of the mail service. That is not the case, and it was never so intended.
I cannot say whether a Commonwealthowned service would give us all that we desire. The Transport Committee has recommended that the present State shipping service, which comprises two small vessels - one of which runs to King Island and the other to the Furneaux Group or Flinders Island - lost last year £13,000 or £14,000, and for a subsidy amounting to much less than that a vastly better service could be given to those islands. The other vessels which maintained an interstate trade between Tasmania and the mainland were sold because the service was not a payable proposition. That sale was effected by Mr. Lyons when he was . Labour Premier of Tasmania.
– The Postmaster-General (Mr. Gibson) has dealt more particularly with the aspect of this subject raised by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) which concerns chiefly the mail service between Tasmania and the mainland. He has shown that as soon as a jetty is erected in water of . sufficient depth in the Tamar to enable the steamer time-table to be kept, the Government will make such arrangements as will dispense with the running of extra trains to meet the vessels, and permit the mails to arrive in Hobart sufficiently early to be delivered on the day they reach Launceston.
I wish to deal more particularly with overseas and interstate transport. A good deal has been said concerning the disabilities under which Tasmania labours in consequence of the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act. The effect of that act is also mentioned in the report of the Public Accounts Committee presented to this Parliament. Early in the last Parliament, the Government introduced legislation which was intended to relieve Tasmania of some of the difficulties she was experiencing in consequence of the operation of the Navigation Act. It is said that that relief has not been, very great, and that Tasmania has not benefited to any extent from the action then taken. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Culley) said this afternoon that notwithstanding the concessions made under that legislation, he found it extremely difficult to board a vessel to come to the mainland.
– The vessels are all controlled by the same people.
– The Government proposes, very shortly, to go much further, and to introduce legislation repealing the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act. When that is done, the Australian mercantile service will be afforded protection, but not to the extent of placing an absolute embargo on overseas vessels. It will no longer be in the position of an absolute monopolist. Earlier in the debate, the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) by interjection, said that it was rather absurd to refer this subject to the Tariff Board for investigation, but I cannot understand the honorable member’s contention, as the Tariff Board was appointed to make recommendations as to the protection to be afforded to Australian industries. With the exception of the competition in transport facilities made possible, as regards Tasmania, by the Amending Act referred to, the Australian mercantile marine has, up to the present, enjoyed an absolute monopoly over overseas vessels in the interstate trade. It is now proposed to ask the Tariff Board to submit a recommendation as to the measure of protection necessary either in the form of a tax on British or foreign-owned vessels engaging in interstate trade, or by the payment of a bounty to vessels on the Australian register. That should give the Australian mercantile marine some measure of protection without placing it in the enjoyment of an absolute monopoly.
– They are all controlled by one combine.
– This legislation will, I believe, result in more competition, and give some relief to Tasmania in the direction suggested by the honorable member for Franklin. For the information of the House. I wish to read a list of oversea vesselswhich have called at Tasmanian ports for cargo from the beginning of 1928 until the end of the year. Although the list is fairly lengthy I trust honorable members will bear with me while I read it as it shows that in the matter of sailings, Tasmanian ports have not been neglected to the ex tent suggested by the honorable member for Franklin. The list is as follows: -
Complaints have also been made to the effect that ‘there have been insufficient sailings from Hobart, particularly to Sydney. I have also a list showing the sailings from Tasmanian ports to some of the mainland ports. It reads -
A certain trade in apples is developing between Tasmania as well as the other States and the Continent. The “Port” boats, which call every month to pick up zinc, also take shipments of apples to continental ports such as Hamburg. Our experience with such shipments has been that the prices realized on the Continent last ‘ year were better than those obtained in London. I have spent some time in submitting a fairly long list to show that a large number of vessels called at Hobart and Launceston during last year.
– Chiefly during the peak period.
– During the apple season the number would be greater, as so many vessels could not profitably call when the cargo offering was insufficient.
– Is the Minister aware that the fruit-growers have to guarantee a certain quantity, and if that is not available- they are financially responsible.
– During the apple export season there was considerable difficulty, not only in Tasmania, but also in Melbourne and other ports, in finding sufficient space to despatch the record crop of 4,000,000 cases of apples and pears - principally apples - awaiting shipment. I am now speaking of overseas export and not export from Tasmania to the mainland. When a large crop is produced even the orchardists cannot accurately estimate the quantity until it is actually being gathered, and sometimes a shortage of tonnage for a particular crop may result. Last year the orchardists were surprised at the magnitude of the crop available in a number of districts. Representations were made by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) concerning the difficulties which the Tasmanian exporters were experiencing in obtaining space, and my department, after inquiry, found that space could not be obtained for approximately 100,000 cases of apples which it was desired to ship not later than May of last year. Representations were then made by my department to the chairman of the Overseas Shippers Association, who cabled to London for an additional steamer. Their London principals advised that a vessel could not be sent to pick up the apples in May, but that one could be made available early in June, provided that a guarantee could be given that not less than 200,000 cases would be shipped. As that guarantee could not be given the proposal lapsed; but about that time the Tasmanian shipping agents negotiated with the agents for the Cathay to lift apples from Hobart, about the middle of June. According to the list that I have read, the Cathay sailed at that time, so it appears that that quantity was disposed of by means of that vessel. But even if 100,000 cases out of a total export from Tasmania last year of 3,000,000 cases could not be shipped away as fresh fruit, and had to be marketed as evaporated fruit, it only amounted to about 3 per cent, of the exportable surplus, since 97 per cent, of the crop was shipped in the ordinary way. Undoubtedly a much larger percentage than usual of Tasmanian apples was evaporated last year, owing to the difficulty in obtaining shipping space, but, fortunately, the price obtained overseas for the evaporated fruit was exceptionally good. While this is a class of trade that Tasmanian evaporators find it difficult to carry on in ordinary years in competition with the huge production of evaporated apples- from America, they did well with it last year.
Probably in May of this year, a conference will be held between representatives of the Commonwealth’ and the States in connexion with transport matters. There will be a fairly wide field of discussion, ranging over problems concerned with rail transport and development generally by means of road and marine transport. This will afford an exceptional opportunity for the Tasmanian Government to bring its case again to the notice of the Commonwealth - and of the other States, for that matter - pointing out any particular disabilities under which it considers that Tasmania suffers. I think that I have said sufficient to convince honorable members that Tasmania is at least catered for to a great extent by the large vessels that call there during the apple season, and to a lesser degree, during the remaining part of the year.
.- The people whom I represent are cosmopolitan in their views, and I shall endeavour to deal with this subject in its broad aspect, rather than in the somewhat narrow way in which some honorable members have discussed it. I shall try to show that a huge blunder has been made in the management of the tourist business between the mainland and Tasmania. The people of that State regard the tourist traffic as one of their means of livelihood, and any curtailment of that trade produces a shrinkage in revenue and a falling off in the general prosperity of the State. Unfortunately for Tasmania, she has herself to thank for the position in which she finds herself. I have paid a number of visits to that State. I was last there a year or so ago with members of the Association for the Advancement of Science and we were rather impressed by the fact that an island like Tasmania should suffer so much depression as had been experienced by it; but we could obtain little information from the inhabitants as to the reason for this stagnation. The main subject under discussion this afternoon has been the need for improved means of transport between Tasmania and the mainland, and in my opinion, the means adopted in the past will never meet the requirements of that State. A resident of Sydney should be able to purchase from the Tourist Bureau, or some other establishment, a ticket for a steamer trip to Tasmania as easily as he can obtain a railway ticket to Melbourne or Adelaide. Under government control safety and speed would be ensured.
I am not so much concerned about suggesting ways of bringing wealth to Tasmania as I am about providing the people on the mainland with ample opportunities to visit that attractive tourist resort. The shipping companies themselves are largely responsible for the falling off in the tourist traffic. I believe that a large number of persons who now visit such countries as Java and Ceylon would be glad to go to Tasmania for health and recreation purposes, if sufficient inducement were afforded in the way of up-to-date travelling facilities. There are probably at least 100,000 families in Sydney who would avail themselves of a trip to that wonderful sanatorium in the south, if comfortable berths on large vessels could be booked conveniently and with certainty, between October and March. Why should not three or four passenger vessels be engaged in this trade every week during the tourist season? With the aid of wireless telegraphy, there is no difficulty now in estimating, within a couple of hours, the time of arrival of vessels at Australian ports, even from Great Britain. Two years ago, a meeting was held in Tasmania, and I believe that all sections of the community, such as the municipal bodies, the Tourist Bureau, sports clubs, and hotel and boarding house keepers, National and Labour leagues, women’s progress associations and others were represented. It was decided that the Federal parliamentary representatives of Tasmania should endeavour to induce the Commonwealth Government to provide an adequate steamship service between that State and the mainland. Subsequently, I asked a question in this House, upon notice, to ascertain the result of any representations made to the Government, and the reply that I received was that the resolution of that meeting had not been forwarded to the Prime Minister. Is that not a reflection on honorable members from Tasmania?
Ministers should approach the problem in a practical way by deciding to establish a government-owned service, instead of relying on commercial rascals, who study merely their own pockets, and are not prepared to consider the interests of the people as a whole. Owing to tidal movements at Launceston, steamers using the Tamar river must be of light draught. I take a common sense view of the matter, and suggest that these steamers should be equipped with water tanks, so that they would have ample draught when in deep water, and by emptying their tanks would be able to negotiate the shallower waters of the Tamar. We have been told that it would not pay to run large steamers between the mainland and Tasmania throughout the year. A business man who cannot use all his motor lorries when trade is dull, simply places them out of commission, and this could also be done at certain periods with the steamers required for only a part of the year to cope with the Tasmanian traffic. The people of that State have been warned that the provision of a governmentowned service would be a socialistic action, and consequently the Government of that State is now in the position of having to ask the Commonwealth Parliament for a compassionate allowance, although the cultivable land there is twice as productive as 60 per cent. of that on the mainland. If adequate measures were taken to develop the tourist traffic in Tasmania the primary producers, and particularly the fruit-growers in that State, would benefit materially. There should be an attractive steamship service between Sydney and Hobart during the apple season. Instead of endeavouring to develop this traffic, the people of Tasmania appear to be devoting their attention to the apple market on the other side of the world. Under existing conditions it is almost impossible for people in Sydney to purchase good Tasmanian apples at a reasonable price. I am prepared, as a representative of the people in this Parliament, to give Tasmania all the assistance that lies in my power. My constituents did not elect me for the sole purpose of watching the interests of Circular Quay or Woolloomooloo Bay. As a member of the national Parliament they expect me to take a broad view of all questions that come up for discussion in this House. It is obvious that there is something wrong in the affairs of Tasmania. One has only to visit that State to realize that things are not as they should be. In recent years there has been an exodus of its young men, who are seeking better opportunities on. the mainland. Steps should be taken to put an end to this trend of population. It is not conducive to the best interests of Tasmania. As members of the national Parliament we should realize that if one State is in a serious position the Commonwealth as a whole must suffer. I suggested some years ago that one solution of Tasmania’s difficulty under federation would be to include that State in the representation for Victoria, as a joint State, and by means of the added voting strength in the Federal Parliament bring influence to bear upon the Government of the day to provide improved communications and in other ways help the State. It is obvious that the situation of Tasmania calls for statesmanlike action; otherwise it will become a further charge upon Commonwealth finances. In recent years the tourist traffic has been so slack in the off season that hotel-keepers in Hobart and other centres have closed practically the whole of their premises, in order to keep down expenditure. Thousands of people living in Sydney would be only too glad of an opportunity to escape from the unpleasant weather conditions experienced there in January and February. If we had a regular passenger steamship service between Sydney and Hobart they would take advantage of the opportunity to spend a holiday in that State; but, owing to the stupidity of the
Commonwealth Government, and, perhaps, also the stupidity of the people of Tasmania, nothing has been done to develop the tourist trade. If this were done the increased trade that would result would more than compensate for any disadvantages which Tasmania may be suffering from under federation. Experience in the Commonwealth has shown that railway construction, often with little prospect of remunerative returns, must be undertaken in order to develop new country. I could name a dozen or more railway projects in New South Wales, built largely in the interests of the pastoral industry of which the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) is a worthy representative in this chamber. The construction of such railway lines has developed an important industry and incidentally has largely increased the values of squatters’ holdings. In the same way it should be possible to expand the tourist and other traffic between Tasmania and the mainland. The one thing certain is that Tasmania’s position will not be improved until we have better communications. The success of the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Culley) as a labour candidate at the last election suggests that the people of Tasmania are determined to send more Labour representatives to this Parliament. They are convinced that if Labour were in power prompt action would be taken to help the State by practical and statesmanlike proposals. I have discussed the position of Tasmania under federation with many people from that State and invariably I have found that their views coincide with my own. Forty or more years ago there was a very considerable trade done in Sussex-street, Sydney, in Tasmanian potatoes. I question very much whether that important trade has expanded to any extent, notwithstanding the great increase in population in New South Wales. We all regret that Tasmania is suffering certain disabilities under the federaton; but other territories are in much the same position. I have had a good deal of trouble in endeavouring to secure an improved service for Lord Howe Island, and despite all my efforts the shipping combine appears to be too strong. I do not know whether the Prime Minister and his Government have sufficient courage to Stand up to the Tasmanian shipping monopoly which is demanding what I regard as an excessive sum by way of subsidy for improved communications; but if the Ministry does not fight the combine the people of Tasmania will suffer. There should be greatly improved shipping services between Sydney and Hobart, and between Melbourne and Launceston and the north-west coast ports. The Government should have its own steamers running backwards and forwards to the mainland.
– Would the honorable member have us repeat the tragedy of the Commonwealth Shipping Line?
– The only tragedy associated with the Commonwealth Shipping Line was its management. It was the rascality of those in charge that destroyed the efficiency of the Line. There were six managers in Australia, and one in England, while the P. and 0. Line and the Orient Line have only one each. The manager had to have several nice little typists around him, a boy to hang up his hat, another to open the door, and others to see that his correspondence did not go astray. However, the less I say about the matter the better. I have no desire to pull any man down, but it must have been evident that the management of that Line was diametrically opposed to its best interests. That was known to the heads of Government departments, and it must have been known to Ministers. The Line was sold because the Prime Minister, and the members of this Government, are opposed to national ownership. In their opinion everything must be done by private enterprise or, as some would say, by private robbery.
In my opinion, something should be done to provide Tasmania with a better shipping service. The people there are entitled to the same facilities as those who live on the mainland. I have studied this matter from a national stand-point not from a parochial one. It is not right that the Tasmanian people and their representatives should have to appeal in. this servile way to the Government for the help to which they are entitled. Tasmania is a rich island with great potentialities, and its people should be prosperous. Yet she has to send thousands of her young men away to make a living, because there is nothing for them to do at home.
.- The replies given by the two Ministers who have spoken on this subject, have shown that the Government has the interests of the Tasmanian public at heart, and that it has done much to meet the demand for better shipping services. The Postmaster-General demonstrated that a better passenger and mail service could be given if the Tasmanian Government fell in with the proposal for the construction of a down-the-river wharf at Launceston. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Culley) pointed out that this work was being delayed largely as a result of the parochial jealousy between the north and south of the island. The opposition of the northern part of Tasmania, particularly Launceston, to the very sound proposal that has been made for a deep-water wharf on the Tamar, has done more than anything else to delay the extension of the maritime services to Tasmania. The suggestion of the local marine board was that, instead of a wharf being constructed, as proposed, the Commonwealth Government should dredge the river Tamar from the present deep water up to Launceston. What that would cost is problematical. We know that the Tasmanian Government itself started to do this work, and spent tens of thousands of pounds on dredging a couple of hundred yards. Even if this work were completed there is a great likelihood that it would silt up again. The annual expenditure on maintenance would be very heavy. The time has come when this Government should say to Tasmania that it must do something to help itself. The Premier of Tasmania undertook to carry out a deep-water wharf scheme; but immediately met with opposition from the representatives of the northern part of Tasmania. If the Commonwealth Government were to undertake a merely local work like dredging the river Tamar, because the State Government could not find the money to do so, it would lay itself open to demands from all parts of Australia. This Government has not been unmindful of the peculiar difficulties of Tasmania. As a matter of fact. Tasmania expends more per head on State government than does any other other State in the Commonwealth, and more than half of the State Government expenditure is obtained from the Commonwealth Treasury, if we include the income tax from Tattersalls, which was given up by this Government. According to the figures I have here, the Tasmanian. Government raises per head, in taxation, £3 12s. 4d., and receives special assistance from the Commonwealth Government to the extent of £3 17s. 5d. per head.
– How is that made up?
– It is made up by the remission of the taxation of Tattersalls, by the special Commonwealth grant, and by the per capita payments. These figures were given to the commission on the Constitution of Australia, by Professor Brigden, Professor of Economics at the University of Tasmania, and by Mr. Gibbie. I think that it has been proved to-day that, when the freight and passengers are offering, the necessary shipping service is supplied. Our contract with the Tasmania Shipping Company provides for three trips weekly; but we know that, during the summer, when the tourist traffic was at its height, the company ran six trips a week. It received no subsidy for the extra trips, but ran them because the passengers were there to be carried. It is true that at peak periods passengers who wish to go to Tasmania have to book a considerable time ahead. It is also true, as the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) has said, that persons wishing to have motor cars taken to Tasmania must sometimes book two or three months ahead. These things, however, can be remedied by the shipping company without very much trouble. The important thing to remember is that when the trade warrants it, the shipping companies themselves will provide the necessary services. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) said that the apple boats, which ran almost daily during the season, were on a guarantee, or charter, from the growers. This was a guarantee that freight would be available if the ships went. The freight was available, and the ships did go. The same thing applies in regard to overseas shipping, namely, that the service is provided if the trade warrants it. The Commonwealth Government has stated that it proposes to repeal the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act. That ought to help Tasmania. Every Tasmanian who has spoken on the disabilities of his State has emphasized the great handicap which these clauses impose on its development. All parties have joined in asking for their repeal. Every reasonable request put forward by Tasmania has been met in a generous manner. The Commonwealth Government has not looked upon this matter from the point of view of economy. It has recognized that the prosperity of the Commonwealth as a whole is bound up with that of its members, and in that spirit has met the people of Tasmania. The Postmaster-General has pointed out that a subsidy of £12,000 a year would give him all that he requires in postal services. As a matter of fact the subsidy of £30,000 a year is mainly paid to maintain a decent passenger service between Tasmania and the mainland.
– In a few years the mails will be carried by aeroplane.
– That is more than probable, and is an additional reason for a review of the whole subject. The honorable member’s interjection reminds me of a suggestion that came from one of the leading business men of Hobart that the “Commonwealth Government should pay about £35,000 a year to subsidize an aeroplane service between Launceston and Melbourne. If that subsidy had been given and the subsidized aeroplanes had carried full complements of passengers on each trip, the Commonwealth would have been paying £20 per head per trip.
– Was it not a Victorian company that put up the proposal?
– The suggestion was made by a prominent business man of Hobart, who was formerly Agent-General for Tasmania in England. Suggestions of that sort make one doubt whether the people of Tasmania are not trying to get all they can out of the Commonwealth Government by any means that can be employed.
– That is not a fair statement to make.
– I do not think thai is the attitude of the majority of the people of the State, hut I do think the people of Tasmania have got into the habit of looking to the Commonwealth Government for help in every case of emergency.
– And they are justified in doing so.
– I think that the people of Tasmania ought to try to do something for themselves. Whenever the State does not get what it wants the cry is raised by some persons that it would be very much better off if it were not in the federation. They forget that federation opened the markets of the mainland to the people of Tasmania for the sale of their produce. Every honorable member is anxious to help the State “ in every reasonable way, because the progress of the whole, of the Commonwealth depends upon the progress of each part of it, and the Commonwealth Government has always met the Tasmanian Government with every sympathy and done everything possible to meet the wishes of the people of the State. But it is going too far to suggest that £96,000 should be paid as a subsidy to increase the means of communication between the mainland and the island. The other suggestion which has been put forward, that a line of Commonwealth steamers should be established to run between some point on the mainland and some port in Tasmania, I am sure would not meet with the approval of the majority of honorable members or of the people of the Commonwealth.
.- I listened with pleasure to the strong case so clearly and ably put by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) this afternoon. I am with him in his demand that the disabilities suffered by the people of Hobart in respect of their means of communication with Sydney should be removed. For a long time I have endeavoured to the best of my ability to secure a better transport service to Tasmania from the mainland. When the Navigation Bill was under discussion in this Parliament in 1912 I pointed out what was likely to happen to Hobart, and my forebodings, unfortunately, have been fully borne out. On that occasion the late Lord Forrest and others, including myself, submitted an amendment, which, if it had been agreed to, would have been of great help to the people of Hobart. Its effect was that any capital city not linked by rail with the Federal Capital should be exempted from the operation of the coasting trade provisions of the act. Perth would have been benefited at that time, because the east-west railway had not then been built. But Hobart can never be linked with the Federal Capital by rail, so that if the amendment had been agreed to it would always have been exempted from these coasting provisions of the Navigation Act and all the overseas vessels could have called at the port. The primary producers of the State would have benefited, because as the overseas vessels generally run to a fixed time-table, the shipper, after loading his apples, could immediately cable to his representative in London letting him know exactly when the fruit was likely to arrive.
Prior to the coming into operation of the Navigation Act, quite a big tourist trade Avas growing up in Tasmania. Many people of leisure were accustomed to take what is known as the apple trip to Hobart. Thousands of people go to New Zealand and elsewhere now instead of Tasmania, because they can travel by routes that suit their convenience. Formerly they went to Tasmania and occupied houses there for the summer. There are only two things required to make the Tasmanian tourist trade successful within a reasonable time. The first requirement is that Australia shall grow and prosper and have a sufficient number of people able to afford a visit to Tasmania for the summer or part of the summer. The second is that proper means of transport should be available between the mainland and Tasmania. Wherever I go I am met by people who want to go to the island, but will not travel on the vessels available. The Nairana is a very good steamer, but I have heard numbers of people complain about her. They have been accustomed to travel on interstate vessels or on oversea liners, which have every luxury and ample deck accommodation, and they object to spending even one night in a four- berth cabin on the Nairana. I am speaking of first class passengers. I have met very many people who, while not taking exception to the Nairana complain of the other vessels on the Tasmanian run. From a construction point of view, a better boat than the Oonah has never come to Australia. Her engines and hull are evidence of the splendid workmanship put into her.
– What is wrong with her ?
– The Oonah is now old fashioned, she has become not too savoury, and she has no deck accommodation. People accustomed to travelling on the big coastal boats will not give her a chance. If you give a dog a bad name you may as well hang him. People who have never seen the Oonah know all about her, and declare that “ they simply will not travel on her “. If we could secure a really up-to-date transport service the tourist trade of Tasmania would go ahead by leaps and bounds. The Tasmanian Government can rely on that. The magnificent scenery of the island will not run away. There are lakes, mountains and rivers not known to present-day tourists, which will be the most attractive feature of the island when proper roads are made and proper chalets provided. Tasmania is not like the mainland, with its great vast spaces and one picturesque spot, here and another 100 miles away. It has hundreds of picturesque spots, and every variety of magnificent scenery within a comparatively small area.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m..
– If honorable members will study the figures given by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr.
Mcwilliams) they will realize that Tasmania has suffered severely, not only from the operations of the Navigation Act, but also because of the increase of freights caused by. the Arbitration Court’s awards on produce sent from the island to the mainland. I understand that the Government has refused to subsidize a steamship service from Hobart to Sydney, on ‘ the ground that, if it were to subsidize communications, it would create a precedent of which other parts of Australia, wanting improved communications, would take advantage. That argument is not convincing. Communications in and about Australia are of various kinds, and some of them are not concerned with the carriage of mails; they are purely transport. That is true of the railway that is being built to Alice Springs, the railway from Kyogle to South Brisbane, and the transcontinental railway. These are regarded as essential links between people living in different parts of the Commonwealth. The people of Tasmania feel that they, also, are entitled to be linked with their brothers and sisters in other States of the federation. Remember, also, that the circumstances of Tasmania are quite different from those of other States, because of its dependence upon sea communication. There may be other places which consider that sea communication would be of advantage to them; but they can be served by railways and roads - Tasmania cannot. Another fact to be borne in mind is that all the produce of the island must be exported. The home market is so limited that only a small proportion of the fruit can be consumed locally; almost all of the apple crop has to be exported to the mainland or overseas; whereas, growers in Victoria andNew SouthWales have the advantage of a big local market. If the Commonwealth Government is to be federal in deed as well as in words, it must recognize that Tasmania has a strong moral claim to be linked up more closely with the mainland. As the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr.West) and others have well said, if one part of the federation is languishing, the other parts should go to its assistance. That is of the essence of the federal compact. I understood the honorable member for East Sydney to say that he and other honorable members had received from Tasmania a complaint of inactivity on the part of the representatives of that State. My answer is that no appeal has ever reached me from my State to which I have not attended promptly, and I am sure that the same can be truthfully said of my colleagues from the island. Individual members may not be prominent at times, but it must be understood that the Tasmanian representatives meet regularly for combined action. The representatives of no other State co-operate in that way. We may rightly claim that we are more atten tive to the needs of our constituencies, because of the particular problems of our State, which necessitates concerted action. A great deal of our most effective work takes the form of interviewing Ministers. If our constituents want something done and we cannot get an opportunity to discuss the matter in the House, we jointly interview Ministers, and all the Tasmanianpeople know of our activities is a published statement that the Government has, or has not - usually has not - acceded to our request. No State representatives are more importunate to Ministers than are those from Tasmania, but because of the isolation of the island a false impression is created amongst our people as to what members are doing. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) appears to have been very muchimpressed by his visit to Tasmania. Years ago I said in this House that it would be to the advantage of that State if Federal members could be induced to visit it more frequently and for longer periods. It is not sufficient to spend two or three days there and then rush back to the mainland like a scared rabbit. A visitor should spend at least a fortnight on the island, and I think it would be well worth while for the Tasmanian Government to invite members of the Federal Parliament to visit the island in parties.
– What is the best season of the year?
– All seasons. Individual members who have been there and had a chance to look about quietly, interview the people and get explanations of local conditions, have been favorably impressed. They no longer talk about the “ speck “ but show proper respect for the inspiring scenery of the island and its area. The motion has my cordial support. I and other Tasmanian members, have done all that was possible in the past to improve the transport service across Bass Strait, and shall continue to do so. I am not satisfied with the Prime Minister’s refusal of a subsidy. The Tasmanian Government offered to guarantee the shipping company against loss, if it would continue the Zealandia on the HobartSydney run for a longer term, but the company would not accept the guarantee ; it insisted upon reeciving £2,000 in cash.
Strictly speaking, the onus is on the Federal Government to provide the subsidy, although an effort is being made to place it on the State Government. The position in Tasmania can be differentiated from that of every other State, and there would be no danger of establishing a precedent if the Commonwealth Government provided the amount required for this subsidy. I know that the Government has been trying to bring the company to a reasonable position ; but hitherto it has not met with much success.
The Public Accounts Committee reported some time ago that a certain type of vessel was desirable for the MelbourneBurnieDevenport service. “Subsequently the Prime Minister made a statement in the House which, although not altogether an acceptance of the Public Accounts Committee’s recommendations, was, nevertheless, acceptable to Tasmania, and particularly to the municipal bodies, progress associations, tourist bureaux and other kindred organizations concerned. But only Tasmanian- Steamers Limited - - a. firm closely associated with the Huddart Parker and Union companies, put in a tender, and it requested an increase in the subsidy from £30,000 to £96,000. The Government and the people of Tasmania rightly regarded this as excessive. At the time that tender was invited tenders were also invited by the PostmasterGeneral for the Launceston service, and the form of tender included a condition that the mails should be landed at deep-water, 12 miles down the Tamar. This condition caused a great deal of trouble. The company mixed the two tenders in submitting its price. I suggest to the Postmaster-General that he should get -a separate offer for each service. The north-west coast service is most necessary; there is no imperative need to interfere with the existing Launceston arrangements. By its inaction over this matter the Government is getting into very bad odour in Tasmania. The negotiations are taking far too long. Honorable members representing Tasmanian constituencies have frequently asked members of the Government questions in the -House on this subject, but the reply is always that negotiations are still going on. It is high time that something was done. I would not say that it is a fair thing to condemn the Government at this point; but if it does not take some stronger action than hitherto to get the company to adopt a reasonable attitude, it will certainly cause trouble for itself. We have now reached the position of the Commonwealth versus the Combine. I must confess that ever since I have been a member of this Parliament, the Government has been , practically at the mercy of the combine, for only one company has ever tendered for the service. If the Government were to say, “ We will give you a month to submit a reasonable offer,” and the company refused to take any action, a deadlock would be reached.
– Why did the honorable member vote for the sale of the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers 1
– What has that to do with the subject? I shall say this, however, that in the last extremity I would support a proposal for the Government to provide the service. That might be an expensive business for the. taxpayer; but something has to be done for Tasmania. I have never said that it is impossible for a government to conduct a business undertaking successfully; but on the other hand I have never adopted the attitude of honorable members opposite, who say that every public service should be nationalized, and that a duty should be put on everything, irrespective of whether we can successfully grow it or make it in Australia. There are occasions when the nationalization of a service may be necessary, if only for a while.
I differ slightly from my colleagues with respect to the Tamar. I maintain that the contract between the Government and the shipping company should provide that while the Loongana and Nairana are the ships in commission Launceston should be the terminal port, and not a place 12 miles down the river. These two boats can generally reach Launceston without having to wait for the tide. As a rule, not much time would be saved by landing mails and passengers ‘ at Rosevears or Windermere and transporting them 12 miles to Launceston by car as against taking them up the river to the Launceston wharf.
It appears to me that the shipping company is trying to hoodwink the Government by confusing the north-west coast and the Launceston services. It should be required to put in a separate tender for each service. I have been informed that, in recent negotiations, the company has asked for a subsidy of £130,000. Although this company may not be part of the Inchcape combine, it is certainly connected with the combine which controls Australia’s coastal shipping, and that is what makes the situation so difficult to handle. At different times tenders have been invited for a daily or a tri- weekly service; but only one company ever submits a price. The shipping company has always been eager to tender for the tri-weekly service to Launceston and the bi-weekly service to Burnie. It has never tendered for any other service to Tasmania. The Government is, indeed, in a very serious position unless it is prepared to run a Commonwealth service to Tasmania. If it were prepared to do that it would have the backing, not only of the Tasmanian members of this House, but also of the whole of the people of Tasmania.
– The solution of the problem is to get rid of the Government.
– That would be out of the frying-pan into the fire. I hope that the Government will take some action to prevent the shipping companies from continually flouting the wishes of the people of Australia. This subject concerns, not Tasmanians only, but also the people on the mainland. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) sagely said that it means as much to themainland as it does to Tasmania. With proper shipping facilities, the people from the mainland would flock in thousands to the island State. I am always urging the Tasmanian Government to make adequate arrangements for a large tourist invasion, because I know that it must eventually come. If Tasmania is to share in the increasing prosperity of this great continent, an improved shipping service is essential. No State has so much to offer tourists as Tasmania has in respect of scenic attractions, sport and hospitality.
.-Ever since I entered the Federal Parliament in 1917, we have had this hardy annual of Tasmania and its disabilities. When we fully appreciate those disabilities, our sympathies must be with that State. It was my privilege, nearly two years ago, to visit Tasmania as a member of the Public Accounts Committee, and that committee subsequently furnished to this House a report containing certain recommendations for the removal of some of the disabilities suffered by Tasmania. The more I saw of that island during that and a subsequent tour, the more I recognized that some assistance was needed to enable it to develop as it should be privileged to develop, as a portion of this great Commonwealth. I recognize the disadvantages of travelling to Tasmania. At times it is not a very nice experience. In some instances from 20 to 24 passengers are crowded into one cabin, and others, who pay first class fares, have to accept a shake-down. Steps should be taken immediately to remove a disability of that kind. We have been told to-day by almost every honorable member who has spoken on this subject, that Tasmania is an ideal land for tourists, possessing as it does wonderful scenic and other attractions. If we refuse now to give Tasmania the assistance necessary to enable it to provide improved facilities for travelling, we shall restrict its tourist traffic, which, given favorable conditions, promises to be a large source of revenue. At the time that the Public Accounts Committee was making its investigations in Tasmania, the then Premier, Mr. Lyons, gave evidence before it. In reply to questions which I put to him he intimated that the benefits accruing to Tasmania from the tourist traffic amounted to about £500,000 per annum. I then contended that to encourage that traffic the State itself should provide an improved shipping service. Mr. Lyons informed the committee that Tasmania had had one experience of running a State shipping service, and that it had by no means been a happy one - certainly not a profitable one. As one who is totally opposed to the establishment of another Commonwealth shipping line, I suggest that the best way out of the difficulty would be for the Commonwealth
Government to pay a subsidy to the Tas- manian Government to assist it in running a shipping service in its own interests. The subsidy that is paid to the shipping company at the present time is by no means inconsiderable, and could be used for that purpose. It seems to me that the people of Tasmania want additional shipping facilities, without being prepared to accept any responsibility for that service. As that State derives considerable revenue from the tourist traffic, it should be prepared to pay something towards improving the shipping service in order to augment that traffic. There is urgent necessity for an alteration of the present shipping service, and particularly in the type of vessel used. I have travelled a number of times on the Nairana and the Loongana, and have seen the erosion of the banks of the river Tamar caused by the passage of those vessels up and down stream. It is practically impossible for any deepening in the upper reaches of the river to remain permanent. Considerable sums have been expended in endeavouring to make the river Tamar more navigable; but it has largely been useless expenditure. The vessels engaged in the service have a draught of from 12 ft. 6 in. to 14 ft. 6 in. Although of such shallow draught, they cannot traverse the river without stirring up mud, and frequently having to cut their way through accumulated slime which has been brought down from the water-shed. Under such conditions it seems impossible to get an improved service unless a suitable and more accessible terminus is found. It has been stated that a better service would be given if the terminus were in the vicinity of Windermere or Rosevears, and a railway or road constructed from either of those places, whichever is decided upon, to the city of Launceston. When in Tasmania I had the experience of travelling on the tender that at various times is used to convey passengers and their luggage from Launceston alongside the vessel waiting down-river. On that occasion the steamer left the Launceston wharf some two or three hours before the time of sailing. The passengers were bundled on board a tender and their luggage after them. There was practically no covering for them on the tender. When alongside the vessel, the passengers were transferred by means of a narrow gangway. It is a most dangerous proceeding, and one which, as has been stated in this House this afternoon, is likely to end in tragedy. The State Government, recognizing the benefits that will accrue to it as a result of an improved tourist traffic, should be prepared to shoulder some of the responsibility of maintaining an improved shipping service.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bourke via Camooweal to Northern Territory.
.- I move -
That in the opinion of this House the Federal Government should take early action to convene a conference representative of the Governments of New South Wales, Queensland and the Commonwealth, to consider the question of building a railway from the head of the Northern Territory line, across the Barkly Tableland to Camooweal, thence connecting up the three east-west railway systems in Queensland, with Bourke, in New South Wales.
My object in moving this motion is to bring this project prominently before the Commonwealth Government and Parliament, and the people of Australia. It is a question of great national importance, and the initiative should be taken by the Commonwealth Government. I wish to remove the impression that prevails in certain quarters in South Australia that the construction of this great national railway would conflict with the northsouth line. That Statehas every right to demand whatever consideration is due to it as a result of the promise which was made when the Northern Territory was taken over by the Commonwealth in 1911.
– But the honorable member is prepared to divert the northsouth line, if possible.
– There is no question of diverting the railway from South Australia. This proposal will stand the most searching inquiry, and it can be justified from every angle. Although I wish the South Australians good luck in their efforts to obtain the redemption of the promise that was made to them, I urge them and other honorable members not to seek to delay the construction of this line, which would make it possible to place thousands of additional settlers along the route of the proposed line and bring under closer settlement the Barkly Tableland, which comprises 50,000,000 acres of some of the finest pastoral country in Australia.
– Is the honorable member in favour of the north-south line being built?
– I am in favour of giving effect to whatever promise was made to South Australia. This proposal is quite independent of that line. It vitally concerns this Parliament, because it would be the means of providing ports for the Northern Territory and would bring that territory into readier communication with the big centres of population on the eastern seaboard of Australia. If the northern and central portions of Australia are to be developed, transport facilities will have to be provided. The Commonwealth must no longer tinker with the matter as it has done in the past. In the Northern Territory railways will have to be built and roads laid down.
– Money will have to be borrowed.
– I agree that money will have to be borrowed to carry out this and similar works. Nothing is gained by holding up such a vast territory. The statistics disclose the fact that in 1871, eight years after the Territory was taken over by South Australia, its European population numbered 201 persons. The figures for subsequent periods are as follow: 1901, 1,055; 1911, 1,418; 1921, 2,459 ; 1927, 2,356. It will be seen that between the last two periods there was a decrease of 103.
– After the closing of the meat works
– What does the Government propose to do? I expect a pronouncement from the new Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Abbott), who, I understand, proposes to make a tour of the Northern Territory. A railway such as this would be a great boon to the large wealth-producing and labour-employing cattle and sheep industries, which would be enabled to increase their output substantially. It would also be the means of opening up a number of new avenues of employment.
– Many thousands of head of stock would be saved by it.
– That is so. Every five years merino sheep to the value of £22,000,000 die as a result of droughts. The territory which would be servedin western Queensland comprises the best sheep country in that State, and carries practically the whole of its sheep.
– Oh, no.
– It all depends upon where the honorable gentleman thinks the railway should run. While that is a matter for experts, I personally consider that the more easterly route would be the better one.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) deceived the people of Queensland on this important question. He went to Longreach, which is the centre of a big pastoral district, and made a glowing speech which led the people to believe that the railway was in sight. They were super-optimists when he left. I make the following quotation from the report of the right honorable gentleman’s speech which appeared in the Sydney Mail of the 10th August, 1927 : -
Mr. Bruce said they must be provided with facilities to move their stock in drought time into areas where drought did not prevail. The great disadvantage obtaining in Queensland to-day was that they had three great railway systems running east and west and they were not linked up in the western part of the State by a line running north and south, and, if possible, running south as far as Bourke in New South Wales. It might be advantageous to construct a line from the Federal Territory linking up the train systems of Queensland and New South Wales.
The right honorable gentleman was cheered when he made that speech, and the audience sang “ For he’s a jolly good fellow.” Now they want him to live up to his promises. I hope that the new Minister for Home Affairs will make this his pet hobby, and see that it is brought to fruition during his stay in the Cabinet.
Last year, the present Government appointed a Federal Pastoral Advisory Committee, which, at a cost of thousands of pounds, carried out an extensive investigation.
– Was the expenditure not worth while?
– An excellent recommendation of the committee, after exhaustive evidence had been taken, was that this line should be built. That recommendation was couched in the following terms : -
The committee considers that the construction of this line is of urgent national importance and should be put in hand immediately. To enable this to be done it is recommended that the Federal Government should approach the States concerned with a view to the early construction of the line, and that the Federal Government should render financial assistance either by making moneys available under the development agreement with the British Government or in some other way. With a furtherl ink between Dajarra and Urandangie, it would prove of very great value to the Northern Territory, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and to some extent, to Tasmania also.
The proposed line can be justified from the viewpoint of economy, defence and commerce.
– And Queensland.
– Not more than New SouthWales, South Australia, or the Northern Territory. The people in certain parts of Queensland do not wish the line to be built, because they are afraid that it might divert certain traffic to Sydney through Bourke. Since its appointment the North Australia Commission has travelled over the whole of the Northern Territory. In its report last year, it made the following recommendation : -
That the Darwin-Daly Waters railway be forthwith extended to the Queensland border, a distance of 450 miles, with the ultimate definite object of connecting with Bourke, New South Wales.
I should like to know what action the Government proposes to take upon that recommendation. Two routes are suggested. One is the eastern route to connect Camooweal with Dajarra. The link between Longreach and Winton has already been built. Lines would need to be constructed from Blackall to Charleville, a distance of 160 miles; from Cunnamulla to Barringum,80 miles; from Barringum to Bourke,80 miles; and from Sydney to Bourke, 530 miles. The more western route would go from Bourke through Hungerford, Thargomindah, Eromanga and Boulia to Camooweal or thereabouts.
– What does the honorable member estimate would be the total cost of the line from Bourke to Daly Waters?
– The Pastoral Advisory Committee stated that the cost of connecting Bourke with Cunnamulla and Charleville with Blackall would be approximately £2,000,000. It is for the railway experts to estimate the cost from Dajarra to Camooweal and across to Daly Waters. During the last big drought in Queensland and New South Wales the live stock lost represented a value of £15,000,000. If this railway had been built stock could have been travelled from the north-west to central Queensland, or from central Queensland to southern Queensland, in a direct line, and the cost of the line would have been saved. It was practically impossible to take them the 400 miles from Longreach to Rockhampton, then another 400 to Brisbane, and finally an additional 400 to the south-west of Queensland.
– They could not get them to Longreach.
– A large area of the country which this railway would traverse is not being used for sheep-raising because of the long distances they would have to travel. The construction of the line would remove that difficulty, and millions of pounds would be added to Australia’s wealth.
As the time for private member’s business has expired, I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Coal Mining Industry: Appointment of Royal Commission. - Unemployment: Prosecutions at Darwin. - Distress in South Australia. - Old-age Pensions. - CottonGrowing Industry.
Question. - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair - proposed.
.- I wish to take this opportunity to bring before the House the fact that when the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) was discussing the coal position last week, he led honorable members on this side of the chamber to believe that it was the intention of the Government to appoint immediately a royal commission to inquire into the coal industry, the work of which would not be restricted in any way ; but we now find that the proposal is to appoint a royal commission only in the event of the miners agreeing to a reduction of ls. per ton in their wages.
– That is not so. I am afraid the honorable member misunderstands the position.
– If that is so, I should like the right honorable gentleman to state exactly under what conditions the royal commission is to be appointed. As a representative of a constituency that produces 80 per cent, of the coal produced in Australia, I should like a definite pronouncement in this House as to the decision actually reached at the conference held in Canberra on Monday last. If I did not attempt to secure at this stage a definite statement as to the intention of the Government and have the atmosphere cleared in this regard, I should be unfit to represent the miners in the northern districts of New South Wales. According to the published reports, the Prime Minister also said that if it could be shown that the mine-owners were not making a profit of more than 2s. per ton the men’s representative should ask the coal-miners to accept a reduction of ls. per ton. Let us examine that statement. I have spent a great deal of- my life in the coal mines, and I am not prepared to allow the mine-owners to make a profit of even 2s. per ton on coal which they do not in any way help to produce. One man whom neither the Commonwealth Government nor the State Government has ever had the courage to bring to heel, owns two collieries with an average daily output of 5,000 tons. He owns the whole issue. A profit of 2s. a ton on an average daily output of 5,000 1 tons would return this owner a profit of £500 a day. There are 208 working days in a year, and as these two coal mines work better than any other coal mines in Australia, at the rate I have mentioned this means a profit of £104,000 annually. The Prime Minister, when speaking in this House last week, created the impression that a royal commission was to be appointed in any event because, amongst other things, he was not altogether satisfied with some of the statements made by the mine-owners ; but it seems to me that the right honorable gentleman has since been disciplined by these people. According to reports, he now says, “If it can be shown that a profit in excess of 2s. a ton is being made, the question will be re-opened.” The president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants is to nominate three firms of chartered accountants, any one of whom may be selected by the miners’ representatives to make an investigation with a view to justifying their statement that the profits are in excess of 2s. per ton. Having regard to the manner in which balance-sheets were manipulated by Kidman and the Abrahams Brothers in order to evade taxation, there is every possibility that the coal-owners have also two sets of balance-sheets. As a worker in a -coal mine, I have repeatedly heard coal-miners challenge the amount of the earnings attributed to them by the mine-owners. Of course, the more a worker earns, the higher is the wages bill and the lower the taxation paid by the coal mine-owners. The Premier of New South Wales (Mr. Bavin) stated at the conference that £260 is the average annual earnings of a coal mine-worker. I challenge that statement, and the absurdity of it will be recognized when I mention that Mr. Bavin is also credited with having said that the child endowment payments are heavier in the coal mining fields than in any other part of the State. If that is so, the average earnings of the coal miner cannot be £260.
– If it was, the miner would not get child endowment.
– That is so. When Mr. Bavin brought the coal proposals before the New South Wales Parliament he said that the public of New South Wales would get a surprise. He was convinced, he said, that they did not understand the position of the coal industry, and that many hundreds of the employees on the coal-fields were not earning the basic wage. As that statement was made by the Premier of a State - a person occupying a very responsible position - it should be very carefully considered. If many hundreds engaged in the coalmining industry are not earning the basic wage, why on earth should they be asked to accept a reduction of ls. a ton ? The whole position is ridiculous. When we were on a rising tide, the greatest increase which the workers in the coal-mining industry enjoyed was an increase equivalent to one-third of the amount by which the price of coal was increased; hut now that the tide is receding, we are asked to work in with the owners on the basis of a fifty-fifty reduction. That is most unfair. Another point is that the wages which the miners are said to receive represent only gross earnings, and these figures are used by the mine-owners for taxation purposes. Those who have a knowledge of the industry know that certain deductions must be made. In the first place, the explosives used by the men cost them from 4d, to 5d. a ton to produce the coal. Then, again, the miners also contribute to hospital, medical and sick funds, but the owners have refused to contribute anything. We have our hospitals, but what are they? They are only “ repair shops,” into which the maimed, crippled, bleeding men injured in the mines are carried. The mine-owners, with one exception, have not only refused to subscribe to these hospitals, but have declined to give even a ton of coal to them when we have appealed to them for donations. The one exception is the Abermain Collieries Limited - which subsidizes the contribution of its employees on a £1 for £1 basis.
– All the big mines in Tasmania subsidize the hospitals in the same way.
– It is pleasing to know that that is so, but in the northern district of New South Wales, where 80 per cent, of Australia’s coal is produced, no such assistance is given, except by the Abermain Colliery. These deductions must be taken into account in considering the earnings of the men. The maintenance of a sick fund is necessary in order to provide for the wives and children of men whose cases do not come within the scope of the Workmen’s Compensation Act; but these and other deductions are never mentioned by the representatives of the coal-owners, who regard the men whom they employ as inhuman monsters. They seem to have no regard for the men who are down and out. The men, even when conditions are favorable, are always within fourteen days of starvation. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) said that I have earned £2 a day.
– Every day the honorable member worked in the coal mines he earned £2.
– I should be a superman, if I could earn that.
– It is a fact. The records show it.
– The honorable member, as I told him the other day, should have obtained the correct figures from Mr. J onas.
– I did.
– The honorable member did not understand them.
– Every day the honorable member worked he earned £2.
– I wish to show what a stupid individual the honorable member for Warringah is.
– The honorable member must withdraw that remark. He is not entitled to make a personal reflection on another honorable member.
– I withdraw the remark, Mr. Speaker, but I still think I am right.
– Order !I ask the honorable member to withdraw the remark unconditionally.
– I withdraw it; but the honorable member is ignorant.
– The honorable member is demonstrating his own ignorance to-night.
– I ask the honorable member for Warringah to cease interjecting. He will have an opportunity to reply to the honorable member for Hunter if he desires to do so. I also call on the honorable member for Hunter to address the Chair, and not to address honorable members individually.
– Taking into consideration the price per ton that a mirier receives for filling coal, it would take a superman to earn £2 a day on the average. I do not think that there is anything “ super “ about me.
– If you do not hold your tongue I will give you some more.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to address the Chair.
– Put this super-larrikin out !
– Order ! Honorable members must be silent when the Speaker rises. I ask honorable members to refrain from making interjections, since they tend only to provoke feeling. If they do not cease interjecting when requested to do so, it will be necessary for me to name them.
– I may have committed breaches of the rules of debate in this House, but I point out that I am a new member, and I think it behoves a man with the experience of the honorable member for Warringah to give a new man a chance. When he first interjected I was pointing out that, having regard to the average earnings of the miners, there were only fourteen days between them and starvation. I was demonstrating that it would require a superman to earn £2 a day on the average. The highest rate paid for machine coal in the colliery in which I worked is 2s. 5 ll-16d. per ton, from which 4d. to 5d. per ton must be deducted for powder alone. The difference between the remaining sum and 2s. per ton provides for doctors and sick-fund contributions. In order to be able to earn £2 a day I should have to fill 20 tons of coal every day. I should like to see honorable members opposite at the business end of a shovel trying to put 20 tons of coal a day into skips down a mine. They would find that it was not so easy as parading Manly Beach. Surely we are not prepared to accept statements from one side only, and to condemn the miners without hearing their case. In the district from which I come, and where I have worked for years, can be seen an army of crippled men, and a vast army of widows whose bread-winners have been cut off while producing wealth for the coal-owners. If honorable members opposite could see them their condemnation of the coal-miners would be toned down. On many occasions I have had the sad duty of breaking the news to the wives and children of my comrades who have been killed. It is only necessary to look up the annual reports of the Mines Department from time to time to see that there is a greater toll of life in the coal-mining industry than in any other. While much has been said about the big money that the miners get, and a lot has been heard about coal companies that are not paying, nothing is heard of the “cavilling” system of mining, which few people understand, but under which the position of a miner is changed four times a year. He may “cavil” a place in which he may not be able to earn even the minimum wage. The “ boss “ is not prepared to make up the man any shortage below the minimum wage; in fact, he has refused in many cases to bring these miners up to the minimum. So far as the mines that are not making profits are concerned, it must be remembered that there was overdevelopment of the coal industry during the peak period of the late war. Mines that were opened up in those days find that there is now no market for their output. A considerable expenditure is involved in overhead charges, however, because a certain amount of staff has to be maintained to keep those mines ventilated, otherwise they might catch fire. These will be ready at any time when - the trade brightens up. In the meantime, the cost of their upkeep is assessed against the profits of the mines that are paying huge dividends.
A large sum of money is being spent on doles to unemployed in the coal-mining industry, and that expenditure is unproductive. If I were a business man spending as much money as the New South Wales Government is devoting to unemployed relief, I should endeavour to provide the men with work that would be reproductive. Australia is lagging far behind the rest of the world by failing to grapple with the problem of manufacturing by-products of coal. In my speech last week I pointed out that, within ten years, Germany will be independent of the United States of America for her oil supplies. Australia imports hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of oils annually. Why do Ave not set up a thoroughly up-to-date by-products plant here? It would be an economic saving to the coal-owners, and in the long run would give employment .to thousands of men, many of whom are to-day receiving the dole. To show his sincerity when he placed this matter before the House, I now ask the Prime Minister, first, if he will take steps to influence the owners to withdraw their notices dismissing 12,000 mine-workers from their employment, and, secondly, if the mineowners persist in the wholesale dismissal of their employees, will he bring the owners within the scope of the Crimes Act ? If the Prime Minister was sincere in his speech last week, he must now see that there is concerted action by the coalowners to create an industrial upheaval, because on Saturday, when their notice expires, 12,000 coal-workers will be thrown out of employment. If it is fair to prosecute the workers for concerted action to cause an industrial upheaval, is it not also fair to prosecute the mineowners for the same offence?
.- I think it desirable that I should say a few words regarding the matter raised by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), because he is obviously labouring under a complete misunderstanding as to what occurred at the conference over which I presided on Monday last. A discussion took place in this House last Thursday concerning the present situation of the coal industry, and I hope that I then made it clear that the Government proposed to proceed - having consulted with the Government of New South “Wales on the subject - with the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into the whole matter, irrespective of any action that might be taken by the coal-miners concerning the scheme of the Premier of New South Wales (Mr. Bavin), in which the Commonwealth was co-operating. The negotiations that have been proceeding for a considerable period were in relation to a scheme under which a measure of assistance was to be given by the Commonwealth, while the New South Wales Government was to make certain reductions in charges levied upon the industry, the mine-owners were to ‘reduce their profit by ls. a ton, and the wages cost of production was to be reduced by ls. per ton of coal produced. Subject to a reduction in the price of coal being brought about in that way, the Commonwealth Government and the New South Wales Government were prepared to co-operate in the appointment of a royal commission to investigate the conditions of the industry generally. That was the position up to Thursday of last week, when a debate on this sub,ject took place in this House. I then explained that the Government feared that if a royal commission were appointed to inquire into the industry, the necessity for an immediate reduction in the price of coal might be lost sight of, and possibly nothing would be done to place the industry on a more satisfactory basis pending an investigation by the royal commission. I emphasized that the suggested inquiry would be a lengthy one, and that considerable time would elapse before any concrete results could follow from it. This, I explained, was the reason why the Government had not up till then appointed a royal commission. On Thursday last I made it clear that the Government had reached the conclusion that as the negotiations for a reduction in the price of coal had been in progress for a long time without reaching finality, we felt that we could not longer delay action for a full investigation by means of a royal commission. I pointed out then that the inquiry would be made without regard to the attitude of the miners towards the proposal to reduce wages. That, I repeat, was the position up to Thursday last. It has not been altered in the least as a result of the conference that was held on Monday. In my address to the representatives of the mine-owners and miners on that occasion, I stressed, as far as in my power lay, the fact that an investigation by a royal commission could not meet the immediate circumstances of the industry. I added that, so far as it was possible to see, the only way in which a further diminution in the trade could be prevented, with a resultant increased intermittency in employment, would be to reduce the price of coal by at least 5s. a ton. I also stressed the point that a reduction could not be made unless all the parties concerned agreed to make certain sacrifices. The Commonwealth Government, I explained, could not be expected to pay ls. per ton on export of coal overseas or interstate unless the entire scheme to effect a full reduction of 5s. a ton were agreed to. I pointed out, and in this I was supported by Mr. Bavin, that the State Government could not be expected to bring about a reduction of 2s. per ton in its charges except as part of a general scheme in which all the parties concerned in the industry were prepared to make some sacrifice to meet the immediate situation. I emphasized that there could be no complete reduction; that there must be complete agreement in fairness to the general taxpaying public of New South Wales, upon whom would fall the burden shifted from the coalmining industry. The mine-owners, I explained further, could not be expected to make a cut in their profits, except as the result of a general agreement, because, naturally, the shareholders would feel that they were entitled to some return upon their investment. The shareholders in many of these companies are not the great “ coal barons “ about whom we have heard so much lately. In the majority of cases, the mines are owned by a large number of small shareholders. It would not be just, therefore, to make a reduction in profits unless a general reduction was agreed to by all the parties concerned. I further pointed out that if there was not an immediate reduction in the price of coal, it was absolutely certain that a considerable amount of trade would be lost, so that profits would have to be made on a greatly reduced turnover. In the circumstances, it was essential that all parties should assent to the scheme.
The conference discussed the problem from this viewpoint on Monday last, and as a result of our deliberations, the representatives of the men agreed to submit the proposals, made at the conference, to a full meeting of the miners’ representatives in Sydney this week. One important suggestion made at the conference, and which the miners’ representatives promised to place ‘ before the men, was that the president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in New South Wales should nominate three firms of chartered accountants, from whom the representatives of the miners would select one firm to make a full’ investigation of the figures collected by the Premier of New South Wales with respect to costs and profits in the industry. This firm would then certify whether the profits of the owners, on the basis of the difference between the cost of producing a ton of coal and the price at which it was sold, was 2s. a ton or less. It was understood that if this investigation disclosed that the profits were 2s. a ton or less, the men would accept the proposed reduction of ls. in the wage costs of producing a ton of coal.
– Did the representatives of the miners say that they would accept a reduction ?
– Let me repeat, as concisely as possible, what I have just said, so that there may be no misunderstanding as apparently there was on the part of the honorable member concerning the immediate appointment of a royal commission. An offer was made at the conference, that if the representatives of the miners had any doubt about the figures quoted by Mr. Bavin - it was suggested that, although Mr. Bavin was absolutely sincere and perfectly straightforward and honorable, he had had the “ wool pulled over his eyes “ - they could have those doubts resolved by an independent investigation by a firm of chartered accountants, to be chosen by the miners’ representatives from three firms nominated by the President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of New South Wales. It was pointed out that the firm selected would have every opportunity to investigate the figures, and certify whether they were correct or not. If it were shown that the owners’ profits on a ton ‘ of coal, on the basis of the difference between the cost of production and the selling price, did not exceed 2s., the accountants would certify accordingly, and the men would then accept a reduction of ls. a ton in the wage costs of producing the coal.
– Is the Prime Minister satisfied that the chartered accountants would have access to the books of the coalmineowners ?
– There is no question about that at all. When this proposal was discussed at the conference on Monday, the representatives of the men said that they would like an opportunity to consider the matter, and, accordingly the Premier of New South Wales and myself, with the representatives of the owners, retired from the conference room for about half an hour. When we returned, the representatives of the men said that a full meeting of miners’ representatives would be held this week in Sydney, and they were prepared to submit to that meeting the proposal that the figures relating to cost of production and profits should be investigated by a firm of chartered accountants. They added that if the full meeting of miners’ representatives assented to the appointment of a firm of chartered accountants, and if the result of its investigation showed that the owners’ profits were 2s. a ton or less, they would be prepared to advise the men to accept a reduction of ls. a ton in the wage costs.
– Did the conference unanimously agree to that proposal?
– The representatives of the miners did not say that they would accept it, but they undertook to submit it to a full conference of the representatives of the miners that is being held in Sydney this week.
– What will be the position if the profits are shown to be over 2s. a ton?
– In that event an entirely new set of circumstances will have been created. The whole of the suggestions put forward to help the coal-mining industry have been based upon figures quoted by Mr. Bavin.
– What is going to happen in the meantime? Will the miners be dismissed? Does the Government intend to take any action?
– I shall come to that point presently. At the conference on Monday there was a feeling that possibly the figures upon which Mr. Bavin had been basing his calculations, might not be correct; but it was explained that they had been taken from returns furnished to the statistician of New South Wales, and sworn to by the persons responsible for their compilation. I may add that these returns were furnished before the present negotiations commenced. Actually they were the starting point of the negotiations between the Government of New South Wales and the mine-owners. The latter were asked whether they would be prepared to allow the whole of their books to be examined, and with one exception they agreed that this should be done. An investigation has been made by the officers of the State Government and an accountant, with the object of ascertaining whether the figures that were put in, and upon which the calculations were made were correct or not.
– Were all the figures for the same period ?
– In the northern district the figures were for the calendar year 1927, but for the south coast district they were brought further forward - to 30th June, 1928. Both sets of figures were for fixed periods. At the conference on Monday the question was asked, and I considered it a natural question, whether it would be possible for the accountants to secure additional figures which they might consider necessary, in order to issue a certificate or would the investigation be based on the figures at present in the hands of the State Government? On that point I can say that if the figures available are insufficient, the chartered accountants will be able to get additional figures and further information that may be required from the mine-owners.
– Would the chartered accountants be justified in challenging the owners’ figures relating to the difference between wage costs and the selling price of a ton of coal?
– The figures relating to the cost are, I understand, based, first on the cost of production at the pit’s mouth, and secondly, on the cost over slings at Newcastle. All these figures will be the subject of consideration. They are divided into groups. I have not seen the complete figures, but I have seen the sub-division of them, and they cover every individual operation connected with getting the coal out of the ground, and every transaction concerning it until it is’ over the slings at Newcastle. The figures have been taken out for all the charges involved in winning a ton of coal, and they are subdivided to show the minutest detail df expenditure such, for instance, as the cost of child endowment. These figures will be available to the firm of chartered accountants which will examine them.
– Will the accountants consider the charges of the selling agents ?
– We cannot go over all the ground in this discussion. That matter was dealt with to some extent during the debate last week, and it was dealt with at great length at the conference this week. It would be hopeless to start the coal discussion all over again now. I rose to clear up points as to what happened during the conference last Monday, concerning which the honorable member for Hunter appears to be under a misunderstanding.
– May the figures which the Prime Minister had before him at the conference be made available to representatives of the miners?
– Any figures which I had at the conference were made available to the men’s representatives there; but they were not the figures which are the subject of the inquiry. Those figures, however, are of no real value from their point of view, because they deal only with the cost of production at the pit head, showing the. different items which made up that cost, and also the cost over slings at Newcastle. They imposed not the slightest, check on the accuracy of the allegations put forward by one side or the other. If figures of this character are to be fully investigated that can be best done by persons who have had a first-class training as accountants, and as to whose integrity there is no question. It was decided that three firms of accountants should be nominated by the president of the Chartered Accountants Association, and that the miners’ representatives should have the right to choose one of these three.
– What would the Government do regarding the payment of a subsidy if it were shown that the owners’ profits were above 2s. per ton.
– In that event, it would be necessary to look at the matter from an entirely new point of view, because the previous basis of discussion between the Commonwealth and the States would have been destroyed. For the moment, I cannot say what action would be taken. However, the first thing to do is to determine whether or not these figures are right. It has been said that the average earnings of those engaged in mining are £260 per year. That statement can also be checked if the proposed investigation takes place. The figure mentioned is based Upon the wages paid, not on salaries also. Salaries are regarded as something separate, and they are so dealt with. The sum of the wages paid has been divided by the actual number of the men em ployed. That figure was the subject of some discussion the other day at the conference. The cost of explosives was also discussed. It was difficult to determine exactly whether explosives were included in the wages mentioned. The owners were inclined to think that the cost of explosives had been deducted from the wages mentioned, but that was not made quite clear.
– The owners did not know anything about it.
– They may not have known, but two of them, at any rate, said with the utmost confidence that the cost of explosives had been deducted. I admit, however, that the point was not cleared up. That is one point which should be cleared up quite definitely upon investigation. If all the information which is available in Sydney had been available in Canberra, we could have found out what we wanted at once.
– Would it not make the task of the miners’ representatives easier if the Prime Minister used his influence with the mine-owners to have the notices of dismissal withdrawn.
– Let us stick to the subject of the figures, while we are dealing with them; I shall come later to the notices of dismissals.
Another point which has been raised is the application of scientific methods to the coal-mining industry. The statement has been freely made that in Germany the whole problem of the utilization of coal has been solved, that by a special process they are now obtaining petrol supplies from coal. It is said that there is not the slightest reason why we should not do the same thing here. Those who have been saying this are just a little bit ahead of the times. In Australia to-day this phase of the coal industry is being watched very closely with the idea of determining just how far science has gone. We are in touch with British experts who are doing research work along these lines. They have access to all that the Germans are doing, and the Imperial Chemical Company, with a capital of £60,000,000, is working on the matter. Samples of both Australian brown and black coal have been sent to Britain and to Germany for testing. While I hope that very soon it may be possible to extract motor” fuel from coal in a commercial way, it has to be admitted that that time has not yet arrived. One offer has been submitted by a company which is prepared to erect five plants. I have forgotten exactly how much coal it is proposed to treat;, but it is a very substantial quantity, and the work given would be of great value to the industry. At the present time we have a committee investigating this particular proposal. The company has asked that some government money be put into the concern. The investigating committee consists of a representative of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, a representative of the Development and Migration Commission, and technical experts of the railways commissioners of New South Wales and Victoria. A representative of the Navy, Captain Sydenham, is chairman of the committee.
I wish now to say a word about the notices of dismissal that have been mentioned, and the legal position of the owners. At the conference I dealt with the question whether the owners were guilty of any offence against the laws of the country. I said that the Government would take action against the owners in just the same way as against the men if there was any evidence of an offence having been committed. I invited the representatives of the coalminers to place any evidence they had on the subject in the possession of the Crown Solicitor, and it would be investigated. I pointed out to them that, unless something happened to check the f ailing.off in the demand for coal, there would inevitably be a serious dislocation in the industry, and the evil of intermittent employment would be increased. The mines would have to close down, because the owners could not carry on when they were losing their capital, and were unable to make profits. I pointed out that the position was the same for the mineowners and manufacturers as for the individual workman; there is no law in this country which compels an employer to carry on his business if his capital is disappearing, just as there is no obligation on the individual workman to offer his services if he does not wish to do so.
– Would it not make the miners’ representatives task easier if these notices were withdrawn. It does not tend to produce a peaceful atmosphere for the employers to virtually hold a revolver at the heads of the workmen.
– Unless a reduction in the price of coal can be brought about, there must inevitably be an increase in unemployment, and mines must close down not because of a combination but because economic circumstances will not enable them to carry on. On the other hand, if the Government is furnished with evidence that the owners have done something which is outside the law, it will prosecute them. It is also within the power of the unions to take action against the owners, if they think that the Government is recreant to the duty it owes to the community.
In regard to the notices, the conference which was to be held in Sydney to-day or will be held to-morrow, will decide whether the men are prepared to accept the investigation offered by the owners, with all the consequences involved in the acceptance of the offer, namely, that if the owners’ profits are 2s. per ton or less the men will be prepared to accept a reduction in the wage cost by ls. per ton. If the decision goes that way, the present trouble will disappear. If it goes in the other direction a serious position is likely to be created, but I, as Prime Minister, have no more power to influence the coal owners to withdraw their notices to the men, than I have to influence the miners’ representatives. The coal-owners came to the conference and heard the whole of the discussions, and I am perfectly certain, that if the proposals put forward at the conference are accepted, the present trouble will disappear and the coal mining industry will be placed on a sounder basis.
p.m. - It must be evident to the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) that the poor downtrodden coalowners who are merely making £500 per day profit, are, after all, only doing what the timber workers are doing; they are striking against an award. But by some peculiar process of reasoning on the part of the Government, what is regarded as a vice in the case of. timber workers, becomes a virtue in the case of coal-owners. The employers are permitted to disobey awards with impunity, but the workers who endeavour to do the same, are stigmatized as being outside the pale of the law ; they are regarded as being unworthy of any consideration from the Government. Sir Hugo Hirst must have been referring to the honorable member’s district when he said that in Australia he had met very reasonable and rational industrial leaders; but that he had also met employers who advocated the starving of employees into submission.
The honorable member who thinks that the Commonwealth Government will deal sympathetically with workers is surely an optimist. There are several hundred unemployed in Darwin, who are directly the concern of the Commonwealth Government. This afternoon I asked the following questions : -
The replie’s furnished to me by the Minister for Home Affairs were as follow : -
These were unemployed who went in a deputation to the Government officers at Darwin. I had previously headed a deputation of them to the Government Resident, but apparently after I left for the South they attempted to repeat the process with disastrous results to themselves. They did not seek rations. I know that they put up a dozen schemes, such as prospecting, in which they might be usefully employed for the development of the Territory. But because they remained arguing matters on the verandah of the Government offices they were thrown into prison. That is the sympathy the Bruce-Page Government extends to the unemployed. These men we’re imprisoned for one month, and I am informed that when they refused to do hard labour, with the consequent indignity of having to work alongside aborigines, their sentences were in some cases almost doubled. Apparently, the Government thinks it can do as it likes with these people in the far-flung spaces of Australia; but what it has done in Darwin it would do in other parts of Australia if it had the power. A bill was passed last session for the construction of a railway in the Northern Territory, and money was allocated to the work in the schedule to an appropriation bill. Men were dragged 3,000 miles to help to build the line.
– Who dragged them?
– They were enticed to go to the Northern Territory by offers of work on railway construction. The Government said that it required the services of so many workers, and men went to the Territory in good faith. Some of them even accepted contracts from the Government, but these contracts were repudiated in a wholesale fashion, and the men were left stranded in Darwin without being in a position to earn sufficient to recoup them the expenses incurred in reaching the Territory. We have heard a lot about peace in industry and round-table conferences, and about what should or should not be done. We have heard a lot about the timber workers refusing to surrender conditions of labour which have existed in their industry for years, and we have had their action described as a repudiation of an agreement with the Arbitration Court. This Government proclaims the principle of adherence to agreements, yet it is repudiating in a wholesale fashion agreements it made with workers in the north, and even gaoling the workers. It is true that the Department for Home Affairs has offered to pay the fares of a number of these unemployed in the north of Australia to other States.
– To any part of the Commonwealth to which they desire to go.
– It is merely an attempt on the part of the Commonwealth Government to shirk its responsibility to the unemployed of the north and make the States carry the baby of unemployment. It is not fair for the
Commonwealth Government to aggravate the already serious unemployment in the States by offering to idle men in the north steerage passages out of the Territory. There is an obligation upon the Federal Government to develop that portion of Australia, and there . are hundreds of men there willing to do the spade work of development. They went there to do the work which the Government assured them would be offering, and the Government should not now treat them as convicts. I have endeavoured to get some of those who have sufficient capital to settle on the land; but, under the laws placed on the statute-book by this Government, the land is tied up; two years’ notice has to be given before agricultural land can be selected, and because of that men who had saved a few pounds were compelled to leave the Territory. I ask the Government to release the men who were imprisoned, and also to provide them with work, so that they may become useful citizens.
.- I trust that I shall be excused for again bringing to the notice of the House the distress existing in the industrial suburbs of Adelaide, particularly in the district of Port Adelaide. On. other occasions I have sought from the Government sympathetic consideration for the sufferers. Throughout South Australia there is serious depression and unemployment, and many people have almost reached the. limit of their resources and are in dire poverty and. distress. I have tried to impress upon the House the urgency of affording relief to them, and the Prime Minister promised that the statements I had’ made would be investigated. I followed up my representations in this chamber by forwarding to the right honorable gentleman extracts from the newspapers of South Australia, describing the widespread distress prevailing in that State. That communication has not even been acknowledged; but to-day, in answer to my remarks in the House, the Prime Minister presented a report by the chairman of the Children’s Welfare and Public Relief Board, which had been forwarded to him by the Premier, Mr. Butler. When I asked that the Commonwealth should investigate the conditions that I have described, I em phasized that it was desirable that the Government should not merely refer the matter to the State Premier, because I recognized that he would not be likely to admit the’ exist’ence of a state of affairs which proves the ineptitude of his administration. But the Prime Minister seems to have accepted the report forwarded by Mr. Butler as a complete answer to my statements. I remind the right honorablegentleman that that evidence reached him secondhand, because it had been already used by Mr. Butler, in the South Australian press in an attempt to answer my charges and excuse his Government. But taking even the evidence in this document the number of persons receiving relief, as disclosed by it, shows the unfortunate state of affairs that exists. We are informed that at Port Adelaide alone 1,096 families are receiving relief. But the Children’s Welfare and Public Relief Board does not cater for the needs of all who are in want, or even adequately cater for those who are men- tioned in its report. The Prime Minister has not acted fairly in accepting a report that does not deal fully with the conditions. I invite the Government to have an investigation made by an independent person, and not to rely upon the report of the State Premier, who naturally tries to gloss over the discreditable conditions that havedeveloped through his lack of statesmanship. The fact that the Register, a journal that does not represent the Labour view-point, has made a public appeal for subscriptions to relieve the distress, and has headed the fund with a donation of £100, should convince honorable members that the situation calls forserious and sympathetic consideration, even by a Federal Nationalist Government. Unfortunately, the claims of theunemployed and poverty-stricken people in the Port Adelaide district have been unfairly prejudiced by the action of the Premier in submitting tothe Prime Minister a report that doesnot fully disclose the prevailing distress. 1 greatly regret that it is necessary for me to give Australia such, a poor advertisement. The need is so pressing: that I should fail in my duty as theirrepresentative if I did not importune the-
Government to grant relief. The Mayor of Port Adelaide, who, with his good wife, has done a great deal to awaken the public to the seriousness of the position, has written me a letter of thanks for requesting the Government to supplement the effort being made to provide food, clothing and work for these unfortunate citizens. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price), who represented Port Adelaide in the State Parliament for a number of years and also resides in a locality adjacent to Port Adelaide, can support every statement that I am making, for he has first-hand knowledge, as I have, of the poverty that exists.
– To what extent does the Destitute Board of South Australia relievo poverty of the kind mentioned by the honorable member?
– It grants only bare food rations. No provision whatever is made for the needs of young children. To my mind that is one of the most serious aspects of the situation.
– Do these people have to pay rent?
– They do; but I am not concerned at this moment about the landlord. I want the Government to realize the necessity of helping the women and children to obtain essential food and clothing. On my way home recently from Port Adelaide, where my mission had been, to relieve certain acute distress, I met a man and. his wife and baby of six months walking along the road in the rain towards Adelaide. I pulled up my car and asked whether they would like a lift. They gladly accepted the offer. As we were travelling towards the city, they told me that they were going to the office of the Destitute Board to see whether they could get some additional assistance. They said their baby had been ill and that they had not been able to afford* to give it suitable nourishment. This is but one of scores of such cases. I appeal to the Government to do something to relieve cases of this kind. The need of; the men and women is great, but that of the children is greater. These children will be the citizens of to-morrow, and they should not be allowed to suffer privation and want.
– I can understand the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) feeling incensed at the replies given to his questions. This is a matter of vital importance to his constituency. I know something of the facts of the case, for I had the privilege of representing Port Adelaide in the State Parliament for twelve years. The honorable member for Hindmarsh has not in any sense exaggerated the position. These people merit every consideration that the Government can give them. If no relief has been granted so far because of lack of funds, I suggest that some of the royal commissions and boards of inquiry that the Government has set up should be abolished and the money spent on them devoted to the relief of this distress. I have asked in this House whether recommendations contained in the reports submitted to the Government by the various boards and commissions appointed by it have been given effect; but up to the present I have received no reply. If some of these boards and commissions were dispensed with, this country would be rid of considerable unnecessary expenditure. If it came to a vote I should be prepared to support the abolition of most of the boards and commissions that are now in existence. The only solution of the unemployment problem is to make money available for public works. The men want, not charity, but work. There are many works of a reproductive nature that could be put in hand, and thus help to develop this wonderful country of ours. The distress existing at Port Adelaide has not been overstated by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), and I regret that his request for assistance has met with no response from the Government. I suggest that the Prime Minister institute a private or independent inquiry into the case which the honorable member for Hindmarsh has put before him.
– I wish to refer to a question which I asked the Treasurer on Wednesday, the 13th February, dealing with the payment of old-age pensions. The post office at Glebe is situated in my electorate, and I have found from inquiry that considerable delay takes place there in making payments to old-age pensioners. The local council has discussed this subject on several occasions, and has made several applications to the department with a view to altering the system of payment generally, and particularly at the Glebe post office. In that locality there are a large number of old-age and invalid pensioners, and the system of payment carried out at the Glebe office causes much congestion. In answer to one portion of my question, the Treasurer said that one of the reasons for the congestion was that in many cases a number of pensioners attended at the post offices long before the time for payment. That is not the case at the Glebe post office. As a matter of fact, the congestion there has existed on some occasions until late in the afternoon. I have ascertained that the staff that is usually employed on postal work is also called upon to make payments to pensioners. Consequently, as their time is almost fully taken up by ordinary duties, they have little opportunity to attend to the pensioners. On several occasions, and particularly is it so in the hot weather, some of these old people, because of waiting so long, have fainted, and it has been necessary to secure stimulants for them. I ask the Treasurer to obtain a report with a view to making further provision at the Glebe post office to meet the circumstances that I have referred to.
There is need for drastic amendment of the pensions system generally. At present it involves a tax upon thrift. If an old-age pensioner, during years of service in industry, has accumulated, say, £100 or £200, that is taken into consideration by the pension authorities when fixing his pension. I do not think that is fair. I can quite understand that precautions must be taken to prevent pensions being paid to wealthy people, but in cases in which it is shown clearly that the pensioner has, by dint of hard work, secured a few pounds, that fact should not be taken into consideration when his rate of pension is being decided. It appears to me, from cases that have been brought under my notice and admitted by the Pensions Department, that a serious injustice is being done to a large number of persons who are in receipt of invalid pensions. The medical officers of the department, when applications are made for pensions, make inquiries, and very often they report that suitable light employment may be carried out by the persons concerned. In many cases it is very difficult to find suitable light employment. I have in my mind the case of a girl who is paralyzed down one side. The department decided that she was not totally incapacitated, and could, therefore, perform light duties. Naturally, the department was asked what duties could be undertaken by this person, and its answer was that its business was not to decide that. This girl endeavoured to secure employment as a help in a private home; but, after two or three weeks’ employment, it was found that she was incapable of carrying out the duties which she was asked to perform. Consequently, she was unable to earn a living. There are many similar cases. The Treasurer should at least give this House an opportunity to revise the law relating to invalid and old-age pensions.
There is another direction in which the policy of the department imposes a good deal of hardship. I refer to the case of pensioners who are able to secure intermittent employment, and thus earn a small amount each week. I know of a pensioner who is able to earn on the waterfront sums which do not exceed 35s. a week, but because of that fact the department declines to continue to pay him a pension, although he has been receiving one for many years. A pension of £1 a week cannot from any standpoint be considered sufficient to meet the requirements of these people, and if in a legitimate way they can supplement it, that should not be a bar to their receiving a pension. The department could safeguard itself by fixing the maximum amount that may be earned. The small amount that I have mentioned ought at least to be allowed.
.- It is with reluctance that I rise at this hour to bring forward a subject that is of considerable importance to my electorate, namely, the protection of the cotton-growing industry; but, as Parliament is likely to rise at the end of three weeks, this will probably be the last opportunity I shall have to raise the question. The Minister for Trade and
Customs (Mr. Gullett) may laugh, but it is nota laughing matter to thousands of farmers who are making a living by the growing of cotton. During the election campaign they were told that they could trust the present Government to give immediate consideration to their needs when Parliament was called together, and that even if the Nationalist party failed to take action the Country party wing of the Government could be depended upon to look after their interests. Some months ago Mr. D. C. Price, chairman of the Queensland Cotton Pool Board, rightly said -
Scant consideration has been given to the industry since Mr. Pratten’s death. The policy of the present Government isa spike in the wheels of progress, and is dragging the industry down.
Mr. Price had in mind a deputation that, on the 9th May last, waited on the then Minister for Trade and Customs, the late Mr. H. E. Pratten, and received from him a promise to refer the matter to the Tariff Board. It was so referred on the 21st May, 1928. Over nine months have elapsed and no report has been received. The board did not make any inquiries for five months, but has sat many times and taken evidence since then. The reference of such matters as this to the Tariff Board is evidently a means of shelving them. The Government should not hide behind the board, but should accept its responsibility and place before Parliament at once a proposal to increase the duties upon raw cotton and cotton yarn. The justification for doing so is overwhelming. During the last election campaign Nationalist members promised that such a proposal would be brought down as soon as Parliament met. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) said that the Tariff Board would submit a report before the end of last year, yet that report has not been submitted. Why? I say definitely that it is because of the influence which is being wielded by the big importing interests in Australia, who are making large profits by importing raw cotton from China and cotton yarns from Japan, China and other countries. On the 28th March last the present Minister for Trade and Customs made the following statement : -
We are carrying the policy of fiscal protectionmuch too far. A tariff holiday is what we want.
Was the honorable gentleman appointed to his present position because he exhibited a freetrade tendency, and on that account would suit the alleged Country party wing of the Government? He has always received courteously deputations from the cotton industry that have waited upon him and representations by honorable members, but there has been no business in his replies. He has claimed that he has the interests of the cotton-growers at heart; but I maintain that nine months is far too long a period to devote to the consideration of such a question. The Government should see that the Tariff Board completes its report immediately; otherwise I shall suspect that it is exerting an influence upon the board to withhold the report until Parliament rises. If that is done there will not be an opportunity to take any action until July or August, or probably September next. That would be far too late. The cotton-growers ask that action be taken in time to allow them to place on the Australian market the present season’s crop. The Australian manufacturer will not buy any cotton to-day, because he is unable to sell his yarn on the Australian market in competition with that which is brought here from Japan and other countries. The local manufacturers have a right to claim protection, and if that is afforded to them they will be able to purchase the whole of the cotton crop, as they did in 1926-27. If the grower could sell his crop on the Australian market, he would receive at least 2d. a pound more for it. Why should he be forced to sell raw cotton on the Liverpool market, while 2,000,000 pounds raw cotton is brought into Australia every year from China and utilized in the Australian factories? The cotton-growers ask for protection against the product of black labour countries, and they havea right to get it. As the representative of 75 per cent, of the cotton-growers in Australia, I respectfully request the Minister to see that the report of the Tariff Board is submitted without further delay, and to indicate to-night what the Government intends to do and whether action will be taken before the House rises.
Question resolved in the negative.
House adjourned at 10.49 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 February 1929, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1929/19290228_reps_11_120/>.