13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H. Mackay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Fees of Commissioners
– Will the AttorneyGeneral give an undertaking that he will make a public announcement within the next two weeks as to the remuneration of the chairman and members of the royal commission appointed to inquire into the trade in petrol and mineral oils? If he cannot make such an announcement within the period stated, will he say when the taxpayers of this country may expect to be given this information ?
– I recognize the enthusiasm of the honorable member for the protection of the taxpayers, and will look into the matter and see when an announcement can be made.
– Because of the difficulties I have experienced in making headway with the pensions department in relation to inquiries into cases of hardship, I bring under the notice of the Attorney-General the case of a person in my electorate whose pension has been suspended. The wife of this man was earning a few shillings by working in a hospital, and was using the money to pay for some furniture which had been bought. When the man furnished certain information to the pensions department he omitted to mention the few shillings his wifewas earning, and his pension was suspended. This man is dying on his feet. Will the Attorney-General see if something can be done to meet this case?
– If the honorable member will forward the name of the person concerned and particulars of the case to the Treasurer, I undertake that prompt attention will he given to the matter.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs to the following paragraph of a letter which . I received this morning from a manufacturer in my electorate: -
I was greatly alarmed this morning to receive the cancellation of an order for 33 pieces of robing, which is equivalent to 1,000 yards, which had been placed with my company yesterday the explanation being that they had received advice that the Sydney market was being flooded with Japanese pro- ductions at half the price.
Will the Minister take immediate action to see that Australian manufacturers are protected from what 1. regard as unfair competition of this kind?
– Many complaints of unfair competition by Japan have been made. The Government, is willing to investigate all such complaints that may be submitted to it. But, as I pointed out in replying to a question the other day, our imports from Japan have not been abnormal. It must he remembered that Japan buys twice as much from us as we buy from her, and that more than onehalf of our imports from Japan consists of silk, which is not manufactured here. If the honorable member will submit to me particulars of the case to which he has referred I shall make inquiries into it. If it can be shown that dumping has occurred, the Tariff Board will be asked to make an inquiry into the subject.
Report (No. 4) brought up by Mr. E.
-Iask the AttorneyGeneral whether the Government, in preparing the budget for the ensuing year will take into consideration the restoration of full superannuation benefits to members of the PublicService? These benefits were reduced under the Financial Emergency Act, but the contributors to the fund, who also suffered reduction under that act, are still required to pay the full contributions.
Mr.LATHAM.- The matter will be taken into consideration.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs been drawn to a paragraph, headed “Trial Shipment of Mandarins from Fiji,” which appeared in the Sydney Sun on the 24th May? In view of the serious position of citrus-growers throughout the Commonwealth, does the Minister intend to take any action in regard to this matter? Will he explain what the present position is?
– Fiji, or any other country, may export mandarins to Australia. The duty on mandarins is 3d. per lb., but there is also primage of 10 per cent., making the protection approximately 5s. a bushel, which should be adequate. If the citrusgrowers feel that they have a grievance, they should bring the matter before the Tariff Board, which is at present making a general inquiry into the citrus industry.
– Can the Minister for Commerce hold out any hope to the citrus-growers of Australia that the restrictions imposed by the New Zealand Government upon the importation of citrus fruit into that dominion will be removed in the near future?
– I cannot give an assurance that the embargo will be lifted, but the Government, realizing the importance of this subject to the citrus growers, is continuing its inquiries, and is not without hope that it may ultimately succeed in having the embargo lifted.
Negotiations with Dubbo Municipal
– I ask the Assistant Minister for Defence whether a settlement has yet been effected between the Defence Department and the Dubbo Municipal Council regarding the supply of tents for the use of the unemployed in the Dubbo district?
– I cannot say whether the protracted negotiations in regard to this matter have yet been concluded; but, if a settlement has not been reached already, I hope that it will be reached at an early date.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral inform me whether early provision will be made for the laying of the cable necessary to provide direct telephone communication between Tasmania and the mainland?
– The Government realizes the necessity and importance of this work, which is listed for consideration in connexion with the budget proposals of this year.
– Is the Assistant Minister for Defence in a position to say whether the grant for rifle clubs will he increased in the next financial year? This grant has been on a reduced scale for a number of years in consequence of the financial position, although I know that it is not the wish of the Defence Department that this should be so. I hope that in view of the improvement of the financial position the grant may be increased next financial year.
– The Government is conscious of the good work that these clubs are doing, particularly now that they are an auxiliary of the defence organization, and has already given very careful consideration to the making of an increased grant to them. I am hopeful that when the Estimates are tabled honorable members will be satisfied with the provision made.
– Can the Minister for Commerce inform me whether there will be any adjustment of embargoes under the reciprocal trade agreement with New Zealand before this House reassembles after its recess?
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has publicly announced that no part of the trade treaty between Australia and New Zealand can become operative until after the treaty has been considered by both the Commonwealth and’ New Zealand Parliaments.
– I direct the attention of the Attorney-General to the following paragraph which was published in the Sydney Sun of the 9th instant : -
Samples to be Sent Abroad.
It was announced to-day by the Shale Oil
Committee that Mr. L. J. Rogers, an oil refining export, would be sent to America and England almost immediately, with samples of crude oils obtained from Newnes shale. Tests would be conducted abroad as to the “ cracking “ possibilities, and on the subsequent report would depend the purchase of extensive “cracking” plant for the manufacture of commercial motor spirit in Australia on a large scale.
I ask whether Mr. Rogers has yet started on his journey? If not, will the Government give an instruction to the Shale Oil Committee that before he leaves Australia he shall fully investigate the claim made by those interested in the A.B.S. retorts, that under this process shale oil can be distilled with results equal to, if not better than, those obtained by the cracking process?
- Mr. L. J. Rogers, the Commonwealth Fuel Adviser, left Australia for Europe and the United States of America on the 9th May. It will thus not be possible for the Shale Oil
Committee to give him personal instructions. I shall, however, bring the honorable member’s question under the notice of the Minister in control of Development and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and ask that attention be given to it.
– Will the Attorney-General inform me how long Mr. Rogers will be abroad conducting his inquiries, and also how long it will be before the Shale Development Committee has completed its investigations into the possibilities of the Newnes shale oil-field?
– It is expected that Mr. Rogers will return to Australia about September next. It is not possible for me to answer, from information in my possession, the second part of the honorable member’s question, but if more precise information becomes available to me, it will be conveyed to the honorable member.
– Has the Minister for Commerce yet had time to inquire into the allegation that our exports to the East are not up to the weights specified on the labels of the containers?
– I have caused investigation to be made into this matter, and only this morning directed my secretary to communicate with the honorable member with a view to securing further data. I assure him that during the coming recess this matter will be subjected to intensive investigation.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Commerce been directed to a paragraph appearing in today’s press which states that a very successful drive has taken place in Bristol, England, to popularize Australian products? Will he cause a similar publicity campaign to be undertaken in Glasgow and other important cities in Scotland?
– The publicity drive to which the honorable member referred is only part of a programme that has been in operation for from six to seven years. With becoming modesty, my department has refrained from drawing attention to its activities. I assure the honorable member that Glasgow has already been subjected to a similar publicity drive, and that it is the intention of my department to continue its endeavours in this direction. The Government contributes some £12,500 annually to the publicity committee that controls this matter. The secretary of my department is a “member of the local committee which issues instructions to Mr. Hyland, the Commonwealth Publicity Director in the United Kingdom.
Brisbane Stations - Wave Length
– Will the Postmaster-General advise whether his department contemplates erecting a new broadcasting station in Brisbane, and if so, when?
– There is no immediate intention to erect a new broadcasting station in Brisbane. While I admit that existing broadcasting stations in that area are capable of improvement in certain directions, they still do excellent work. The policy of the department is to extend the service of broadcasting into the more remote districts, but its developmental work is restricted because the amount of money available is limited.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral advise whether the investigation that has been made into B class wave lengths is completed? If not, when does the Minister expect the inquiry to be concluded?
– Up to a point this investigation has been completed, and I announced the details of the proposed programme about ten days ago. They also appeared in the Government Gazette of yesterday. Further investigations are being conducted with regard to a second developmental programme, which, I expect, will be concluded within a week or two.
– Will the Postmaster-General, when arranging his constructional programme for new broadcasting stations, consider providing listeners in the Bendigo district with a service suitable to the receptive capacity of the average receiving set?
– The importance of the Bendigo district is recognized, and inquiries are being made regarding the establishment of a station there. Consideration will be given to the honorable member’s request for a suitable service.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Health advise whether, in view of the fact that the quarantine embargo against New Zealand potatoes is not part of the proposed trade treaty, it is likely that the Government will remove that embargo during the time that the House is in recess ?
– The only information that I can give to the -honorable member, in reply to his question, is that the matter is receiving the attention of Cabinet, and that further consideration still has to be given to it. If any specific arrangement is arrived at during the coming recess, that I am able to announce I shall be glad to do so.
– Will the Acting Leader of the House advise honorable members when it is expected that Parliament will resume after the coming recess, as such information would assist them in making their arrangements?
– I am afraid that it is not possible at present to give any indication. As soon as an approximate date can be given, it will be announced in the press.
Public Service Commissioner’s Report
– Is it a fact that, in collaboration with the President of the Senate, you, Mr. Speaker, have given consideration to the report presented by Mr. J. T. Pinner, an inspector of the Public Service Board, in respect of the staffing of Parliament House? Have any economies been recommended by the inspector, and what action, if any, has been taken on that report?
– As I have previously intimated, at the request of the President of the Senate and myself, the Public Service Board investigated, and has now submitted a report on, the organization of the parliamentary staffs. That report consists of 160 pages. As the Senate was in recess when the report was received, the President at first was not available for consultation regarding it; but considerable progress was made by me in anticipation of his return, as the result of inquiries from and consultation with the heads of the parliamentary departments. Certain of the recommendations made by the Public Service Board have been put into operation : others, which concern members’ privileges, have not yet been finally dealt with. As a result of recommendations concerning the parliamentary refreshmentrooms, it was anticipated that there could be a saving of from £2,000 to £3,000 per annum. The board recommended that the parliamentary refreshment-rooms should be used only for the service of morning and afternoon teas and light suppers, and that honorable members should go to the Hotel Kurrajong or the Hotel Canberra to partake of their other meals. As the Hotel Kurrajong has now been closed, and is soon to be made available exclusively to a census staff, that recommendation will have to be further considered.
Important recommendations have been made concerning the Hansard staff. Through no fault of their own, members of this staff are largely unemployed when Parliament is in recess, but it is hoped that, as a result of negotiations with the Attorney-General, which are proceeding, an arrangement may be made whereby the valuable services of the Hansard staff will be available for the assistance of the reporting branch of his department.
Important recommendations have also be.en made regarding other branches of the parliamentary service. Too great stress was placed on the inadvisability of having five accountants instead of one. Upon investigation it was found that accountancy duties occupy hut a small portion of the time of the officers concerned. In the House ofRepresentatives actually only a few days each month are needed for the accountancy work of the department. If the accountancy work of the various staffs were consolidated and attended to by one officer, it would result in no reduction in the number of officers necessary, because those concerned have other important duties to perform.
I hope to give honorable members, when the Estimates come before Parliament, all the information that they may desire on the subject. The President and myself have given thematter most careful consideration, and have effected economies where it has been disclosed that they arc possible without impairing efficiency.
-From the reply given to a question asked by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) it would appear that changes contemplated in the control of the parliamentary departments might affect the convenience and privileges of members of this Parliament. May we assume that, before such changes take effect’, the members of this Parliament will have an opportunity to discuss them, and to signify their approval or otherwise ?
– I presume that the honorable member refers to those parts of the report of the Public Service Inspector relating to the privileges of honorable members. An appropriate time for the discussion of such matters will be when the Estimates are before the House.
– Will the Minister representing the Prime Minister advise whether there have been any later developments following upon the communications recently despatched to the various State Premiers suggesting that there should bo a convention to consider the alteration of the Federal Constitution? If any definite reply has been received from the Premiers, will the honorable gentleman state whether the Federal Government proposes to place specific proposals regarding that convention before the next Premiers Conference, or to await the determination of the State Premiers in the matter.
– More or less informal intimations have been received from some of the State Premiers that they favour the holding of such a convention, but formal replies from the whole of the States are not yet to hand. The subject has definitely been placed upon the agenda of the conference, and will be introduced with a proposal by the Commonwealth Government. As, however, such a convention might be aptly described as a joint enterprise, it appears to the Commonwealth Government to be essentially a matter for discussion in order to produce and mould a suitable plan, rather than for the introduction of a plan by which the Commonwealth Government would stand or fall. The representatives of this Government will submit suggestions for the joint consideration of the Premiers of the States and Commonwealth.
– What States are in favour of such convention?
– I should not like to make a statement on that matter without referring to the papers. Sir Stanley Argyle, the Premier of Victoria, is one who favours a convention.
– On the 10th May, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison) asked the following question, without notice: -
As the Commonwealth has invested £350,000 in Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited, will the Postmaster-Gcneral state what amount was expended by the company on advertising during the last twelve months, and the reason for such expenditure? The advertisements state that the company has paid to the Commonwealth Government £450,000. Will the Minister explain what that amount represents ?
I have received a long letter from the company which, however, does not answer the honorable member’s questions. The only definite information the company has supplied is that the amount of £450,000, referred to by the honorable member - up to date, £506,624 - paid to the Commonwealth over the last four years, is made up as follows : -
I wish to add that all the above amounts, with the exception of the dividends, represent payments made in respect of services rendered or taxation. The Commonwealth receives corresponding amounts in taxation from all other individuals and companies liable to taxation throughout Australia. The dividends in question are paid on the £350,000 of public money, which has placed the company in the sound financial position it at present enjoys. No reason can be seen, therefore, why these payments should merit special mention by the company in its advertisements. For additional information, I refer the honorable member to the answer given by me to the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) on the 17th May.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs lay on the table of the Library copies of the report presented by Customs Officers Cooper and Fraser relating to Bonds’ hosiery and Lysaght’s galvanized iron ?
– The subject of Bonds’ hosiery is being investigated by Cabinet, and is being handled by a sub-committee, and by counsel. In the circumstances, it would be impossible to lay the reports on the Library table at the present time.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral been able to make inquiries which will enable him to furnish a report on the very serious interference with radio reception by electric motors and electric power machines generally?
– I thought that the position regarding this matter had been made clear. Whenever interference takes place, an officer of the department is sent to investigate, and to afford such information as may enable the trouble to be overcome. He interviews the parties concerned, and endeavours to come to a satisfactory arrangement. As a result of this, a marked improvement has already been effected. If the honorable member will let me know the places where interference is still occurring, inquiries will be made, and aneffort made to overcome the difficulty. The honorable member, in a previous question, suggested that legislation should be passed to compel people to take steps to prevent their electrical machines from interfering with private reception, but difficulty would be experienced in administering such legislation. In the circumstances, it was thought better to try to meet the situation in a more conciliatory way.
– Has the Minister in Charge of External Affairs had brought to his notice cablegrams published in to-day’s newspapers to the effect that the disarmament proposals of Great Britain at the Disarmament Conference have received a certain amount of support from representatives of France, the United States of America, and, possibly, Germany and other European powers? Is the honorable gentleman able to confirm the report, and to supply its deficiencies by indicating whether the proposals are receiving the support of other important powers, such as the Soviet Union and Japan?
– I am not in a position to confirm the press reports to which the honorable member has referred, but I am aware that discussions are taking place between the representatives of various powers, including those mentioned by him. The latest information I have received is most encouraging and hopeful.
– Will the Minister administering war service homes take action to prevent the department from putting into effect dispossession notices which have been issued to unemployed returned soldiers occupying war. service homes who are unable to meet their obligations?
– It is not the policy of the Government to do what the honorable member has suggested is being done. Under ordinary circumstances, if an exsoldier who is purchasing a war service home is unemployed, and is unable to make any payment at all, he is not interfered with, but a purchaser is required to pay according to his income. If he has . only a small income, he pays on apro rata basis. This is in accordance with the recommendation of the committee of inquiry, which recently investigated war service homes matters, whose recommendations the Government has accepted. Returned soldiers are dispossessed in accordance with recommendation No. 4 of the committee, which refers to soldiers who have got into a hopeless financial position from which there is no prospect of their recovering.
– Is the Minister aware that notices have actually been issued to disabled and unemployed returned soldiers, who have been out of work for periods of twelve months and more, stating that, unless instalments are met, they will be put out of their homes?
– The Government’s policy is to do everything possible to prevent returned soldiers from losing their homes. All the activities of the department are focussed on an endeavour to keep them in their homes. Each individual case, in which action is contemplated against a purchaser who is not meeting his obligations because of a reduction of income, comes under my notice, and no decision is made without my knowledge. Each case is dealt with individually, and the greatest forbearance is exercised. Every effort is made to give the soldiers an opportunity to purchase their homes. When a soldier cannot pay his instalments, because his financial position is so hopelessly involved, and there is no prospect of his ever being able to complete the purchase of his home, we invite him, in his own interest, to vacate the premises and avoid getting still further into debt. Where the circumstances warrant it, we wipe off the arrears, and, in special cases, even offer him a reverted home which has a rental value within the means of the ex-soldier. In this way, we try to conserve the interests of the returned soldier. A soldier who is purchasing a war service home has to pay interest, and has to paint, maintain and repair the premises. If he has got so far into arrears that he owes several hundred pounds, and has no hope of getting out of his difficulties, and is, moreover, in ill health, so that he will not be able to resume payment in the future, he has no chance of ever becoming the owner of the home. If left in the place, he will be in an irritated condition of mind all his life. In such circumstances, we endeavour to relieve him of the obligations into which he has entered. This is done in the interest of the soldier himself in order to relieve him of anxiety. My earnest purpose has always been to keep the soldiers in their homes.
-I wish to know if there is in the report of the committee which inquired into war service homes, a paragraph which suggests the postponement of the adjustment of arrears of unemployed returned soldiers until 1935, and, if so, will the Minister suspend the notices which have been issued, not only in my district, but also in other districts, and bring before the Cabinet the need to grant £ 5,000 to these men who are unemployed and still have to maintain their wives and children, in order to enable them to remain in their homes. I understand that some of these men are sick.
– I shall be glad to act on the honorable member’s suggestion to refer this matter to Cabinet. With regard to the first part of the honorable member’s question, let me inform him that the paragraph to which he refers is governed by recommendation No. 4, which is a qualifying recommendation.
On the 23rd instant, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) made reference in the House to certain action being taken against Messrs. P. R. Haigh and D. V. Anthony, who are occupants of war service homes. The honorable member raised the question again to-day. I have had inquiries made and ascertained that Mr. Haigh is a client of the State Savings Bank of Victoria, the property occupied by him being one which was retained by the bank under its agreement with the Commonwealth. The matter does not therefore come within the province of the War Service Homes Commission, and apparently the proceedings referred to by the honorable member were instituted by the State Savings Bank. With regard to the case of Mr. D. V. Anthony, I am informed that this man is a permanent employee of the State Government, his wages being £41s. 6d. per week, and his dependants consist of wife and three children. The arrears of instalments due by Mr. Anthony to the War Service Homes Commission amount to £71 19s. 7d., representing a period of seventeen months; and the rates outstanding total £18 16s. The last payment received from Mr. Anthony was £3 on 29th July, 1932. In March last, Mr. Anthony undertook to make certain payments to the commission, but he has not honoured his promise. It seems to be clear that this man is consistently and deliberately evading his obligations. However, it is still open to him to submit a proposal to the commission to meet his current instalments and gradually liquidate the arrears, and if he takes this course, and his proposal is considered satisfactory, the warrant will be cancelled. I desire to add that the War Service Homes Commission has made, and is making, every endeavour to lighten the burden of its clients who are unable to meet their repayments in full. However, when occupants of war service homes, such as Mr. Anthony, who are in regular employment and receive good wages, refuse to meet their obligations, the task of the Government in granting special concessions in deserving cases is made more difficult.
– Has the Government re ceived an intimation from Mr. Stott, M.P., the secretary to the Australian Wheatgrowers Association, that a conference of wheat-growers of Western Australia recently carried a resolution urging that a poll of wheat-growers be taken throughout the Commonwealth on the question of the marketing, storing, and shipping of wheat by one Australian authority? If so, has the matter received the consideration of Ministers ?
– The request to which the honorable member refers has been received by the Government, and the matter has been listed for consideration at the forthcoming Premiers Conference.
– Will the Government consider the advisability of preventing the wasting of time in Parliament by the asking of questions without notice, especially as 90 per cent, of such questions are of no importance?
– On this, the last day of the session, the Government does not propose to prevent honorable members from slaking their thirst for knowledge by the asking of questions without notice. On previous occasions Ministers have, after a certain time, requested notice of further questions, and usually it would be impossible to devote to the answering of questions without notice as much time as has been given this morning.
– I have received communications from users of insulin that prices have not been reduced in accordance with the recent remission of duty on imported insulin. Will the Minister for Trade and Customs make inquiries, with a view to finding out whether those distributing this commodity are giving the consumers the benefit of the reduction of duty?
– This matter was brought under my notice by a letter which I received a few days ago, in the course of which the writer made a- complaint similar to that voiced now by the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane). Inquiries are proceeding to ascertain why there has been no reduction in the price of insulin, in view of the remission of duty. The fullest investigation will be made, because of the importance of this medicine to the large number of persons who, unfortunately, need it.
– Is the Government taking any action to support the efforts of the shipping companies trading to Australia and the East to secure a reduction of the heavy Suez Canal dues?
– I am unable to make any statement upon that question, but the Government recognizes the importance of the burden of dues upon shipping visiting Australia, and would be glad to support any fair proposal for a reduction.
– Is the Attorney-General in a position to state whether at the next Premiers Conference it is proposed to discuss the question of uniform working hours and conditions throughout the Commonwealth?
– That question has not been suggested for inclusion upon the agenda. It is a permanent problem, and is always for discussion in some way, but I am sorry that, so far as my experience is concerned, nothing ever eventuates from the discussions.
– Will the Government prepare and submit to the Parliament a report setting out the rates of wages and conditions of work applying to all classes of labour in the Federal Capital Territory?
– I shall ascertain how much information is available on that matter. I am aware that certain information is available, because consideration is at present being given to the Industrial Ordinance in the Territory, but I am afraid that a complete answer to the honorable member’s question would involve considerable work. However, I shall bring the matter before the Minister for the Interior, and ascertain what information can be provided.
– When will the Minister be able to keep his promise to supply to this House information asked for by the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) and myself on the same’ day, regarding customs duties raised and lowered by the Bruce-Page Government and this Government respectively ?
– The honorable member’s original question entailed a search for much more information’ than he has now indicated, because he also asked for the amounts involved. That, of course, will mean considerable research and expense. In a few days I shall have the information for which the honorable member has now asked, but if he still requires a statement of the values I shall be able to supply it by letter within about a week’s time.
– Is the Minister yet in a position to reply to a question which I addressed to him some time ago as to the duties upon British goods either increased or reduced by the Bruce-Page Government and the present Government respectively?
– The honorable member’s question has a bearing on that asked by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. McNicoll), and I am now able to answer it. The number of British rates reduced by the Bruce-Page Government was 74, and by this Government, 192. The number of British rates increased by the Bruce-Page Government was 123, and by this Government, 35. The number of protective British duties reduced by the Bruce-Page Government was 5, and by this Government, 153. The number of British protective duties increased by the Bruce-Page Government was 113, and by this Government, 25. The reductions effected by the Lyons Government took place in accordance with recommendations of the Tariff Board, whereas some previous reductions did not. The information which the honorable member for Werriwa requires involves more than that. He wants to know the percentages in each case. That will be a costly calculation, but if he still requires that information it will be sent to him in due course.
– I require not the percentages, but the range of the increases and decreases.
– The percentages would be embodied in that information.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs state to what extent the present average duties, British and foreign, exceed the average duties in the Bruce-Page schedule?
– Such information obviously cannot be given without notice. If the honorable member will give notice of the question, I shall have a return prepared, although it will prove costly.
– Is it not a fact that some of the present members of the Country party held portfolios in the Bruce-Page Ministry that increased those British duties?
– That is so.
– Having regard to the drastic tariff changes that followed the defeat of the Bruce-Page Ministry and the advent of the Scullin Administration, will the Minister for Trade and Customs have prepared a return showing the reductions that have been made in the British and foreign duties that were in operation when the present Government assumed office, and in regard to which some of the present Ministers protested so strongly when in Opposition?
– The information the honorable member desires would be more clearly indicated if he gave notice of his question.
– Has the Government yet received the full agenda for the economic conference, and, if so, what instructions have been given to our delegates respecting the various items which are to be placed before that conference ?
– The Government has received the preliminary proposals for the agenda, but not the final agenda. Probably that will be adjusted at the actual conference. It is quite impossible to deal, in any answer to a question, with the other part of the honorable member’s question. As he is aware, subjects mentioned on the agenda refer to nearly every aspect of the economic conditions of the countries of the world to-day.
– What is the position in regard to war debts?
– On the subject of war debts, the Government shares the view of the British Government that it would be to the advantage of all countries if those debts could be cancelled, or, if that is not possible, reduced, or, at least, an arrangement made for a substantial delay in the time of payment; but the honorable member will recognize that the matters raised are many and varied, some of them, of course, being controversial, and that there is a great difference of opinion on them. The Government is at the moment in communication with the Government of the United States of America. A preliminary meeting is being held at Washington. The views of the Government have been transmitted confidentially to the Government of the United States of America, and yesterday we received a similar confidential communication of the provisional views of that Government on the subject.
– Will the Government, when considering the advisability of exempting medicines from the provisions of the sales tax, also consider the exemption of hospital and ambulance appliances ?
– Consideration will be given to that matter.
– With regard to the proposal of the Government to build a cordite factory, can the Minister give any further information to this House, particularly as to whether, when established, it will be able to supply all the cordite requirements of the Commonwealth ?
– The proposed cordite factory, to be established in Victoria, was referred to by the Prime Minister yesterday. It is intended to utilize a new British process of manufacturing cordite for shells used by the Navy. At present much of the requirements of the Navy have to be imported. It is hoped that an arrangement will be made with the Government of New Zealand to obtain its requirements ‘ of cordite for shells for naval use from this factory, and it is not unlikely that it will supply the requirements of the British Fleet in the East. This is one method by which it is hoped that much of the unemployment existing in Australia, and particularly in Victoria, will be alleviated.
– Will this House have an opportunity to discuss this proposal before the work of establishing a factory is begun?
– This expenditure will be provided for on the Estimates, and when they are before the House honorable members will have an opportunity to discuss the proposal.
– In view of the urgent necessity for providing an outlet for the surplus citrus crop of the Commonwealth, can the Minister hold out any hope whatever of an early adjustment or partial adjustment of the unfortunate position of this industry in respect of its export trade to New Zealand?
– I have already answered a similar question this afternoon. Unfortunately, we cannot hold out much’ hope of a settlement of the difficulty ;but the Government is working on the matter, and we hope, ultimately, to bring it to a successful conclusion.
– Can the Acting Leader of the House state when the Prime Minister will be able to start on his tour of Queensland, and whether he will be able to accept the invitations of the growers of sugar, tobacco, and cotton to visit their districts ?
– I am unable to answer that question without reference to the Prime Minister.
– In view of the fact that Great Britain is negotiating trade treaties with many other nations, will the Acting Leader of the House state what action the Commonwealth Government is taking to negotiate similar agreements ?
– The Department of External Affairs has already received communications from several countries indicating the concessions they seek from Australia, and, in some instances, the reciprocal concessions they are prepared to make. Until the tariff schedule has been disposed of by both chambers, the Government will have no definite basis upon which to negotiate. Meanwhile, however, the proposals and suggestions are being examined by the Departments of Trade and Customs and of Commerce, and it is hoped that when the tariff schedule is agreed to, the negotiations will progress speedily.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
– I have received from the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) an intimation that he desires to move this afternoon the adjournment of the House in order to discuss a definite matter of urgentpublic importance, namely, “ the action of the Government in withholding wages from the employees of the Commonwealth Railways which had been awarded them by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration “.
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– I rise to a point of order. Various legal proceedings are at present in progress regarding the matter which the honorable member for Darling proposes to discuss. These wages are being sued for in the local court at Port Augusta upon 50 summonses issued against the Commonwealth Commissioner of Railways on the 9th May. To-day the Arbitration Court reserved judgment in a proceeding relating to the same matter, another aspect of which is before the High Court, and has been adjourned pending the decision of the full Arbitration Court. I submit that, as this matter is sub judice, it cannot be discussed in this House.
– The point taken by the Attorney-General might be valid if I proposed to discuss specific cases which are before the court. My desire, however, is to discuss merely the principle of withholding from citizens of the Commonwealth, wages to which they are legally entitled.
– That is the matter which is before the courts.
– I am assured by the Attorney-General that legal actions are pending regarding the wages alleged by the honorable member for Darling to be withheld from employees of the Commonwealth Railways. If that is a fact-
– I have the summonses here.
– If this matter is before the courts, I must have regard to parliamentary practice as laid down in May, and in the rulings of former Speakers of the House of Representatives. In May’s Parliamentary Practice, tenth edition, page 316, it is staged that -
Matters awaiting the adjudication of a court of law should not be brought forward in debate.
Mr. Speaker “Watt gave this ruling on the subject on the 10th July, 1923 -
The Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) earlier in the session, certified to this House that the Kidman and Mayoh contract, and the resultant arbitration proceedings were sub judice. It is an invariable and ancient practice and usage not to permit the discussion of a question before the courts, and I therefore cannot allow the honorable member to proceed on the lines he is now following.
Having regard to this recognized practice, I must, in view of the assurance of the Attorney-General, uphold the point of order and rule that the proposed motion cannot be made.
– I rise to a point of order. Former rulings are that any specific action taken before the courts becomes sub judice as soon as the summons is issued, and, therefore, should not be discussed in Parliament. Does that ruling exclude the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) from dealing with a principle of policy enunciated by the Attorney-General? The desire is to discuss, not whether the daily wage of a railway employee should be11s. 3d. or the award rate of 9s.11d., but the policy of the Government in withholding moneys that, indisputably, are legally the property of these workers. That is not a question that will be determined by the court; it is not arguable. Is the honorable member for Darling to be prevented from discussing a general principle involved in a matter of Government policy?
– I assume that the Leader of the Opposition is not dissenting from my ruling, but is merely asking for an explanation of it.
– That is so.
– The notice of motion given by the honorable member for Darling contains these words - “ the action of the Government in withholding wages from employees of the Commonwealth Railways which has been awarded them by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration “. Apparently the honorable member desires to discuss specifically the wages which, according to the Attorney-General, are now the subject of litigation. That being so, I have no option but to rule the proposed motion out of order.
Motion (by Mr. Latham) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to establish a Supreme Court of the Territory for the Seat of Government and for other purposes.
Mr. LATHAM (Kooyong- Attorney-
General) [3.45]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill provides for the acceptance by the Commonwealth of certain territory in the Antarctic regions. The bill is founded upon an order in council made by His Majesty the King on the 7th February last, and upon section 122 of the Commonwealth Constitution, which provides, inter alia, that this Parliament - may make laws for the government of any territory . , . placed by the King under the authority of and accepted by the Commonwealth.
This territory has been placed under the authority of the Commonwealth by His Majesty the King, and it is now proposed that it shall be accepted by this Parliament. The area referred to in the bill is shown on the small map which has been prepared for the information of honorable members(vide page 1953). It will be seen that it includes all the land in the Antarctic, with the exception of the French dependency of Adelie Land, lying south of the 60th parallel of latitude and between the 45th and the 160th meridian of east longitude. It includes the eastern part of Queen Maud Land, Enderby Land, Kemp Land, MacRobertson Land, Lars Christensen Land, Princess Elizabeth Land, Queen Mary Land, Knox Land, Banzare Land, Wilkes Land, King George V. Land and Oates Land, and certain small islands lying off the mainland.-
Enderby Land was discovered and named by a British sealer, John Biscoe, in February, 1831. Kemp Land was observed by another British sealer, Kemp, between October and December, 1833. Knox High Land was sighted by an American, Lieutenant Charles Wilkes, of the United States Navy, in January, 1840. Adelie Land was discovered by the Frenchman, Captain Dumont d’Urville, on the 19th January, 1840. After these discoveries almost a century ago, there was a long period marked by no further discoveries. With the opening of the present century, active exploration recommenced, and in 1902 the German antarctic expedition, led by Professor Drygalski, discovered and named the Gaussberg, in 67 degrees south 89 degrees west. The area surrounding the Gaussberg was explored by the Australian Antarctic Expedition in 1911-14, and named Queen Mary Land. This expedition also explored and named Wilkes Land and King George V. Land. That expedition was led. by the wellknown Australian, Sir Douglas Mawson, who has done wonderful and distinguished work in these southern regions. It proceeded to the Antarctic in December, 1911, in the ship Aurora, commanded by Captain J. K. Davis. The leader, Sir Douglas Mawson, and a party of seventeen others, were landed at Commonwealth Bay at the western end of what is now King George V. Land. Captain Davis then proceeded 1,500 miles further west to Queen Mary Land, where a party, under Lieutenant Frank Wild, which is known in Antarctic history as “ The Wild Party,” was landed. The Mawson party did exploration work towards the magnetic pole, and in easterly and westerly directions. It encountered very great difficulty, but covered some 300 miles. Unfortunately, two of the party, Ninnis and Mertz, were killed, and Sir Douglas Mawson only regained his base after a feat of almost superhuman endurance scarcely equalled in the annals of history. The Aurora returned in December, 1913, and picked up Sir Douglas Mawson and his comrades, and brought them back to civilization. In the course of the seasons 1929-30 and 1930-31, the British Australian New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition - the initial letters of which form the word Banzare that was given to a part of this territory - explored the greater portion of the sector between 45 degrees east and 160 degrees east, including Enderby Land, Kemp Land, new areas which it named MacRobertson Land and Princess Elizabeth Land, and new land linking Knox and Wilkes Lands which was named Banzare Land. In January, 1930, the Norwegian, Captain Riiser Larsen, in the Norvegia, visited, shortly after the Discovery, the area west of Enderby Land, and gave it the name of Queen Maud’s Land, and in 1931 another Norwegian vessel, the Torlyn, gave the name Lars Christensen Land to an area between MacRobertson Land and Princess Elizabeth Land, which the Discovery had explored some days before.
Honorable members will notice that on the map which is provided for their information there appear a number of Norwegian names. A request has been made that we should continue to recognize certain Norwegian names that have been given to various parts of this area, and the Commonwealth Government is glad, indeed, to accede to the request to perpetuate the association of these intrepid Norwegian sailors with this area.
There are two Australian names which will be forever associated with Australian Antarctic exploration. Sir Douglas Mawson was a member of the party which Sir Ernest Shackleton took to the Antarctic region in 1907 in the Nimrod. He also led the Australian party in 1911-14, and spent two winters at Commonwealth Bay. His record on that occasion, and also in 1929-31, when he did distinguished work in the Antarctic, is one of which Australia is entitled to be proud. Captain J. K. Davis was also one of the members of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s expedition in 1907. He was master of the Aurora in the 1911-14 expedition, and in 1916 was sent with a relief expedition to rescue the survivors of the Ross Sea party of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s expedition. He served with the British-Australian-New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition when he commanded the Discovery during the 1929-30 season, and has therefore rendered distinguished service in the exploration of the Antarctic.
An injustice would be done if I did not also mention the name of Sir Edgeworth David - a gentleman whose name’ is honoured far beyond Australia, and very highly in Australia. At an age when most men would not have contemplated, for a moment, undergoing the dangers, difficulties, and trials of Antarctic exploration, Sir Edgeworth David led an exploration party into this area. There are other regions in the Antarctic than those to which I have referred, with which the names of other distinguished Australians are inseparably connected. I needonlymentionthe name of Sir Hubert Wilkinsto remind honorable members of this fact.
I have endeavoured to describe geographically, the area with which we are concerned, and to show how largely its discovery has been due to Australian enterprise. The need for some authority over this region has arisen because of the development of the whaling industry there. In the absence of some regulation of this industry, it is likely that the stock of whales there would be greatly diminished, and, conceivably, totally destroyed. The following figures show the tremendous growth of whaling activities since the war: -
In 1930-31, 43 floating factories, 232 whale catchers, and 10 transport vessels owned by 33 companies set sail for the Antarctic. In addition, six land stations were in operation. In recent years the methods of whaling have been completely revolutionized. Those of us who got our ideas of whaling from boys’ books, such as those of W. H. G. Kingston, or from Herman Melville’s classic Moby Dick, must revise them very much indeed, in order to bring them up to date. To-day whales are caught by “catchers,” vessels of from 100 to 200 tons, speedy craft which go to the Antarctic under their own steam. Whales are captured by moans of explosive harpoons, and when a whale is killed it is buoyed, and the catcher immediately chases any companions. The captured whales are brought by the catchers to the floating factory, which has a large opening in the rear with an inclined plane leading down into the water. Tackle is placed round the body of the whale, and the carcass is hauled aboard and treated. Some of these vessels cost from £500,000 to £750,000, fully equipped. Once it was possible to send an expedition to the Antarctic, and from one season’s catch practically repay the cost of a floating factory. It will, therefore, be seen that the profits were enormous Speaking without reference to any recent authority, whale oil used to bring £80 a ton ; but now it brings only £13 a ton. Accordingly, the industry is nothing like so profitable as it was. Economic forces have come into play. When the oil produced in 1930-31 was in excess of the demand, the price fell to a level which made much of the industry unremunerative. As a result, an agreement has been reached between the various enterprises concerned to limit the total catch to about 2,000,000 barrels. Not only does this represent a tremendous capture of whales; it also measures to some extent the greatly-improved methods of the whaling industry. In the past, when a whale was flensed alongside a vessel, the skeleton and some part of the carcass, containing much valuable oil, was set adrift. To-day nothing is wasted. The whole whale is taken aboard the vessel, and the oil is extracted from all the fleshy parts; all the internal organs are dealt with. The skeleton and head are crushed, the oil extracted therefrom, and the residue made into a form of manure. Regulations have been made which control, for example, the Norwegian vessels and those fishing from the Falkland Islands, and elsewhere, in an endeavour to reduce the toll on whales in those regions. There was an agreement between some of the enter-_ prises which limited the catches before, but one important enterprise stood out. The present agreement binds all parties. ,
– The season for whaling opens about October; during the winter months whaling is impracticable. In the convention on whaling to which I shall refer, provision is made for- the protection of immature whales and calves. But the protection of whaling has not been allowed to depend on private agreement. Agreement between enterprises is of valuable assistance, because it limits the number of whales to be killed; but, should the demand increase, the restriction may be lessened, or even abolished. Protection of another kind has been given by an international convention for the regulation of whaling, which has .been drawn up and signed by a majority of the countries concerned, including Australia. This was done at the Twelfth Assembly of the League of Nations, in 1931. This convention is likely to come into operation at an early date, as soon as the necessary number of ratifications has been received. The convention prohibits the killing of cer-“ tain species of whales, whale calves, immature whales, and female whales accompanied by calves. It requires the fullest use to be made, in the manner which I have already indicated, of everycarcass. It regulates the terms of employment of the crews, provides for the licensing or notification of vessels engaged in whaling, and for the supply of certain statistics.
The growth of the whaling industry and its regulation, the presence of numbers of vessels every season in Antarctic waters - some of which have from time to time used Australian ports, are matters requiring consideration. I Quorum formed.]. There is need, too, for some protection of other Antarctic fauna and birds, if these are not to be killed off indiscriminately. There have been proposals from time to time to send expeditions to the Antarctic for the purpose of utilizing in a commercial way penguins, penguin eggs, and seals, and it might very well be that special steps should be taken to deal with that subject.
In 1908 the Antarctic territory south of the Falkland Islands was placed under the administration of the -Falkland Island Colony, and ordinances were issued for the regulation of whaling and the licensing of whalers. In 1924, the French Government issued a decree placing Adelie Land under the administration of tho French? Colony of Madagascar, and the / Governments of Great Britain and Australia have tacitly recognized the claim of the French to Adelie Land. The an- nexionof that territory by France called attention to Australia’s unsatisfactory position with regard to the Antarctic regions south of this continent, and in 1925, a deputation from the Australian National Research Council urged upon the then Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) the desirability of seeking sanction for the administration by Australia of; -the area in the Antarctic: ‘between 9Q degrees and 160 degrees s east. - The matter was discussed at the Imperial Conference of 1926, at which both Mr. Bruce andI were present, and a great deal of attention was given to it. The report of that conference placed it on record that there were certain areas to which a British title already existed by virtue of discovery, including Enderby Land, Kemp Land, Queen Mary Land, the area lying to the west of Adelie Land, which had been named “Wilkes Land, after its discovery in 1912, King George V. Land, and Oates Land. In the meantime whaling enterprises, some of them based on Hobart, were beginning to operate in the area, making the matter of its administration more and more urgent. The publication of the report of that conference was a notification tothe world of the British claim to that area.
In 1928, the Commonwealth Government decided that the time had come to make a more thorough exploration of the whole Australian sector. In conjunction with the Governments of the United Kingdom and New Zealand, and generously assisted by certain private individuals - I especially mention the name of Sir Macpherson Robertson, of Melbourne - an expedition was fitted out, and, under the leadership of Sir Douglas Mawson, in the Royal Research ship Discovery, explored the greater portion of the sector between 160 degrees east and 45 degrees east. In connexion with all the arrangements for this exploration, the Government was greatly assisted by the Australian National Research Council, and particularly by Sir David Orme Masson. In the course of the two seasons which Sir Douglas Mawson spent in this area, he proclaimed on various occasions, and at various points, British sovereignty over the whole area between 45 degrees east and 160 degrees east, except Adelie Land. Such a proclamation was made at the Scullin monolith, and another at Cape Bruce, the attribution of these names associating the last two Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth with the history of the territory. As a result of the voyage of the Discovery, the area had been so thoroughly visited and British sovereignty so completely established, that it was considered there was no longer need for delay in providing for the administration of the territory, and for taking it over on behalf of the Commonwealth. When I was in Great Britain last year, I examined the matter carefully as it might be affected by international law, and from every other point of view, in conjunction with the authorities of the Dominions Office and the Foreign Office. The result was that, with the concurrence of the Government of the Commonwealth, it was determined to take definite action in Great Britain and Australia for the purpose of declaring our title and assuming control of this area. On the 7th February last, an order in council was made, affirming that his Majesty the King has sovereign rights over the Antarctic Territory, other than Adelie Land, south of 60 degrees south, between 160 degrees east, and 45 degrees east, and placing that territory under the authority of the Commonwealth of Australia from the date when the necessary legislation is passed by the Commonwealth Parliament. That legislation is now submitted to the Parliament of the Commonwealth, and I have already invited the attention of honorable members to section 122 of the Constitution.
From the Australian point of view, there are good reasons for accepting the administration of this area. It has considerable actual and potential economic importance. It is near to Australia, and it is quite possible that embarrassing circumstances would arise if any other power assumed the control and administration of the area. Parts of it have already been the scene of important whaling enterprises, and there are those who believe that a trade in productions of furbearing animals and bird life could be developed economically. If, however, such economic development is to take place - and he would be a bold man who would set a limit to such possibilities at the present time - without risk of the total extinction of the animals, there must be some regulation of the industry, or, at least, the possibility of such regulation, and there must be some authority charged with the enforcement of appropriate regulations. In the area south of Australia, this would be the duty of the Commonwealth Government. It will be remembered that the country now known as Alaska, containing great goldfields, was regarded as valueless, much of it being within the Arctic circle. The land was sold to the United States of America for what, having regard to its mineral value, was a trifling and negligible sum. No one thought at the time that it was I worth anything, yet it turned out to be a gold mine in the true sense - one of the later Eldorados of the world. No one knows what these Antarctic regions may hold in the way of mineral wealth, of the ice in the Boss Sea. These may bas dreams of the future, but many realities have first been in dreamland.
We ought to accept this responsibility. Some honorable members raised the subject of cost. At the outset, the cost will be nil. At any rate, the necessity for spending money would depend on the development of some enterprise there, and then the expenditure would be abundantly justified. Though I have referred to the
though it is already known that there are in them some fine seams of coal.
There are those who believe that, from the study of the melting of ice in the Weddell Sea, winter conditions in Chili may be forecast. There are also those who believe that, in regard to Australia and New Zealand, reliable inferences could be drawn as to the character of the coming season in Australia and New Zealand, and the amount of rain we are likely to get, from a study of the melting economic value of this area, I cannot regard the matter solely from that point of view. All the activities of the last three Australian Governments in this direction have been directed towards the objective which is to be achieved by the bill now before the House. This measure will, I believe, be treated in an entirely non-party way, and I invite honorable members to support the action of the Government in assuming this responsibility in the southern seas.
.- I am sure that the interesting address of the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) has given deep satisfaction to honorable members. The tale of the discoveries in the Antarctic is not less stirring than those with which we are familiar in regard to the exploration of the North Polar regions. In taking possession of this sector of the great Antarctic Continent’ on behalf of Australia, we have the satisfaction of knowing that the land has come > to us, not by right of conquest, but by right of discovery. The discoveries of Dr. Kane, Sir John Franklin, and, later, of Perry, the man who first carried the flag df any nation to the North Pole, do not stir the blood more strongly than do the stories of the exploration of the Antarctic regions, because these are so much nearer home, and much of the work has been done by Australians.
In 1912, that great British explorer, Scott, found his way to the South Pole, being the first to reach it, with” the exception of Amundsen, who just forestalled him after secretly organizing an expedition for the purpose. Scott’s enterprise was one of the most heroic in history, and furnished the setting for one of the finest acts of gallantry in the records of the British Empire. On their return journey from the pole, he and his companions ran short of provisions, . and established their camp in the Antarctic wilderness. Captain Oates, who had become ill, realizing that it was impossible for the whole party to return to civilization, handicapped with him, and with only- a limited food supply, without a word to the rest of the party, walked out of the camp one day into a. raging blizzard, deliberately going to his death rather than risk the lives of his comrades who, nevertheless, perished.
Australia has been well to the fore in Antarctic exploration. Sir Douglas Mawson, a man to whom every Australian should lift his hat, has led several expeditions to the Antarctic. Sir Hubert Wilkins is another Australian who has done valuable work in that area, but, unfortunately, he, like many other able Australians, has had to go abroad because Australia has not been able to recompense him as he deserves. However, his work for the American Government has reflected glory on Australia. He has the distinction of being the only man to fly in an aeroplane over the North Pole, and later, at the risk of what seemed almost certain death, he attempted to reach the North Pole in a submarine. Besides Sir Douglas Mawson and Sir Hubert Wilkins, another distinguished Australian Antarctic explorer is Sir Edgeworth David, who accompanied Mawson on one of his earlier expeditions. I remember listening to a lecture which he delivered on his return, in which this distinguished geologist described how he used to go in search of specimens, mounted on one of the Siberian ponies which accompanied the expedition. He said that, whenever they approached anything likely to be of value from a geological point of view, his pony would put his hoof on the rock, as much as to say, “ Here, is something in your line “. Whatever credence we may be expected to place in the story, it illustrates, at any rate, the humour and spirit of a man who has done so much to familiarize us with Antarctic conditions.
Australia is not taking possession of this area from a vainglorious desire to enlarge her possessions. We do not wish to dispossess any other people, but because Australia is the largest body of land close to the Antarctic region, we believe that we are entitled to share in the rich whaling industry carried on in those waters. On the coast of Western Australia, at Point Cloates, a whale fishery has been established to take the whales which periodically visit that region, but the exploitation of the valuable Antarctic whaling industry has been left exclusively to Norwegians. I believe that, by taking possession of this piece of coast, we shall be able to interest Australians in the whaling industry, and will develop in them that bold and adventurous maritime spirit which has for so many centuries characterized the people of Great Britain.
.- I support the action of the Government in introducing this bill for the acquisition of sovereignty over a substantial portion of the Antarctic continent. My reason ipr speaking is that I was intimately associated with the organization and management at the London end of the two Discovert/ expeditions, and also with the expedition of Sir Hubert Wilkins. I had the advantage of close association with
Sir Douglas Mawson, Sir Hubert Wilkins, and Captain J. K. Davis. While the expeditions of the Discovery were in progress, I was in daily communication with them, by means of short-wave wireless. This bill is not an isolated incident, but is the culminating point of twenty years of continuous and concerted effort on the part of Australians to consolidate their interests in the Antarctic. [Quorum formed.] Our association with the Antarctic began with the Shackleton expedition in 1908, of which Mawson was a member, and was further strengthened by the Australian expedition of 1911-14, of which Mawson was the leader, followed by the two Antarctic expeditions under Mawson in the Discovery in 1929-30 and 1930-31, and also the activities of Sir Hubert Wilkins in the Antarctic.
The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) referred to Sir Hubert Wilkins. That gentleman, as is well known, is an Australian, though, not being able to raise sufficient funds in Australia for his exploring effort’s, he has worked with the assistance of funds provided by Americans. But Sir Hubert Wilkins, whether exploring the North Pole or the Antarctic, has always carried an Australian flag with him, and has made it clear to his American sponsors and backers that, although assisted with American money, no political inference was to be drawn from the fact. We are now laying claim to almost 115 degrees of an arc, or almost exactly one-third of the coastline of the Antarctic continent. The size of the Antarctic continent is not generally realized. Its area is about 5,000,000 square miles, that of Australia being about 3,000,000 square miles. In other words, the Antarctic continent is roughly half as big again as Australia, and by this bill we are laying claim to sovereignty over roughly one-third of that area. The coastline of this section is, roughly, 2,000 miles in length, which is approximately the length of the Australian coastline between Melbourne and Fremantle. The distance between Melbourne and the Antarctic mainland is about the same as that which separates Melbourne from Perth. We are, indeed, much closer to the Antarctic than is generally realized.
The Attorney-General spoke of the economic possibilities of the Antarctic. Unfortunately, I did not hear the first part of his speech, and therefore I do not know whether he stated that Sir Edgeworth David made mention some years ago of an enormous coal-field in the Ross sector, which is about 1,000 miles > long, and from 50 to 80 miles wide, and described it as the biggest, unworked coalfield in the world. Other economic possibilities of the Antarctic are reasonably well known. This area is a fruitful whaling field, and those who have read Sir Douglas Mawson’s reports are aware that one of the great whaling centres of the Antarctic may be in this new Australian sector, the other two centres being in the Falkland Islands and Ross Sea. The value of these economic possibilities can be estimated by th’e fact that while I was in London connected with the Antarctic activities, I was constantly asked if the Commonwealth Government would be open to negotiation for the exploitation of our sector of the Antarctic in respect of fur, seals, pelagic fishing of the coast, the farming of foxes, and the collection of penguin eggs. There is a definite interest in this sector, and when we are ready to set about its economic exploitation we shall find many private enterprises willing to co-operate with the Commonwealth Government. Inland, this Antarctic area is the greatest desert in the world. It is an enormous refrigerator, millions of square miles in extent, and difficult, of course, to exploit for its minerals.
– It is a high plateau.
– It is a plateau rising to 10,000 feet in height, and almost v inaccessible with the means at present at our disposal. But in the future we may be able quite well to exploit that unknown and possibly attractive geological field. The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) referred to long-range weather forecasting, which, for many years, has been the dream of many scientists. One of those who was early to seize on tha possibilities of such long-range weather forecasting, so far as Australia is concerned, was Sir Hubert Wilkins, and it has been the dream of Mb life to see a rink of meteorological and wireless stations round the rim of the Antarctic continent, for the purpose of collecting day to day weather data to be sent to some common centre with the idea of forecasting weather conditions at long range for the benefit of the continents of the southern hemisphere. As the AttorneyGeneral has said, a wireless station in the Falkland Islands dependency has taken up, in rather a piece-meal fashion, this idea of long-range weather forecasting for the southern tip of the South American continent.
The outer or northern limits of the land-borne ice varies considerably from year to year, and it is surmised by the meteorologists that the annual seasonal ebb and flow of this ice has some appreciable bearing, directly or indirectly, on our weather conditions three to six months afterwards. This theory has not yet been scientifically proved or universally accepted, but a number of meteorologists of consequence contend that there is a great deal in it, and that it is worthy of consideration.
As the Attorney-General has said, Norway is now and has always been in the forefront of the exploitation of whaling throughout the world, first in the Arctic regions and, when that was worked out, in the Antarctic. Norway le by far the greatest individual factor in the world’s whaling industry. It can be taken for granted that Norwegian interests in whaling in the Antarctic will in no way suffer because of the notion of the Commonwealth, in acquiring sovereignty over this large sector.
The reasons for the Commonwealth’s action have been admirably covered by the Attorney-General. I can conceive three principal reasons. The first is that if we do not take this sector, and claim sovereignty over it, some other country will, and it is undoubtedly to the benefit of Australia to be in possession of this land surface, with’ it unknown potentialities, so close to our shores. The second reason is that there are economic possibilities in the Antarctic, the fulfilment of which is by no means distant. When the world is restored to some sort of economic sanity, we shall probably be able to begin, without any great delay, the exploitation of the Antarctic, and, as I have said before, the people who have had many years of experience of Arctic conditions will be willing and ready to co-operate with us. The third reason is that there is the possibility of long-range weather forecasting. It is unnecessary to stress the benefit which the Australian pastoral and agricultural industries would receive if it could be predicted, six months ahead, even in the most general terms what sort of seasons we were likely to experience. The forecast would not, of course, be specific; but even to know in general terms that we would have a dry or wet season, or that the southern part of the continent would be wet and the northern part dry, would be of considerable benefit.
About six years ago, when the Mawson expedition was being considered, the editor of the London Times said to me, “I hope that one of these days we shall be able to write a leading article that we may call ‘Australia, from the tropics to the pole ‘ “. It is, I think, something to be proud of that this day has now arrived.
– There is one phase of this question which has not been touched upon by previous speakers. It seems to me that we shall give some of the strong nations of the East, who are jealous of our possession of Australia, and call it a vacant land, a stronger claim to this country if we add to our territory an area equal to that of Western Australia. I give the Government that warning. The League of Nations’ is much in the nature of a commission, and its dilatory methods remind me of the witty saying of a German scientist to the effect that if the Almighty had placed the making of the earth in the hands of a commission, it would never have been built. The League of Nations has, up to date, cost Australia £400,000, and yet it took eighteen months to decide that there was a war in China, simply because Japan had not actually declared war against that country. Sir John Simon made one announcement, and then ran away from it. He talked like a lion, but his action resembled that of a cat. I thank the Government for the plan of the Antarctic that has been placed in our hands. Two names which appear on it are N those of Amundsen and Scott. Both men died the death of heroes, Scott to save his fellow comrades and Amundsen to save an Italian explorer who had previously tried to rob him. Why should not the nations .of the world combine together to give Australia a mandate over the Antarctic region? I would welcome such a mandate, because it would enable us to preserve forms of animal life there which are at present disappearing because of the ruthless pursuit of men who traffic in the products derived from them. I recall meeting at the little island of Macquarie a man who held a lease there. Ho was making money by extracting fat from unfortunate penguins, which were being killed in thousands. This person said to me, “ I must have oil, and I take it where I can.” I replied, “ You may profess to be a Christian, but I do not think that you are.” I have seen a motion picture film showing huge leviathans of the sea basking near the shore. The same scene, shown 24 hours after, was distressing beyond words. Nothing but the hides had been taken from these enormous creatures, and the rest of their bodies had been left to rot on the beach. It was a picture of desolation which could be surpassed only, perhaps, by the scene left after the slaughter of men, women and children in parts of China by the Japanese troops, who have invaded that country.
I earnestly appeal for some consideration of the possibility of setting up a committee of the League of Nations to supervise this area, mainly because I do not wish to give any justification to the people of eastern countries to charge Australia with greed for additional territory. If that cannot be done, I hope that the Government will make a success of its activities in the Antarctic. I sincerely trust that the expenditure there will not be too great. Ihave some experience of government expenditure, and I know how easy it is to pile up costs.
.- I congratulate the Government upon having made arrangements to assume responsibility for this territory. I hope that one result of its doing so will be that the whaling industry, which years ago was profitably conducted on the south coast of New South Wales, will be reestablished. We know that, in consequence of the unrestricted slaughter of whales at all seasons of the year, the industry has been practically destroyed. It should be possible, by proper regulation, to build up this industry again. Recently, while I was at
Twofold Bay, I was greatly impressed by the information given to me by old residents of the value of the whaling industry there in years gone by. It seems that the industry was destroyed by the practice adopted by Norwegian whalers of practically annihilating every school of whales that came within sight of our coast. It should be’ possible so to regulate this industry as to make it permanently profitable.
I suggest to the Government that steps should be taken to consolidate the two areas shown on the map which will come under our control. At present they are divided by a narrow strip of territory which is a French dependency. Surely some arrangement could be made to exchange part of our territory for the French territory, so that the areas for which we are responsible could be consolidated.
.- I also congratulate the Government upon having introduced this bill. Like the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby), I hope that an arrangement may be made for an exchange of part of our territory for the French territory shown on the map, so that our territory may be administered more efficiently and economically. I hope, also, that the result of this action by the Government will be that the whaling industry, referred to by the honorable member for Calare, will be revived. This should lead to the employment of a number of young Australians in an industry which would tend to develop in this country a liking for a seafaring life. In this way we should be able to build up our naval strength. It is highly desirable, in my opinion, that the naval arm of our defence forces should be strengthened. Whatever may be the result of the Disarmament Conference, I believe that it is likely that some time in the future we may be obliged to defend this island continent. In view of the fact that the territory of certain nations in the Far East is so overcrowded that people have to live on rafts on rivers and harbours, while we have not one person to the square mile in Australia, we must expect that, if ever the League of Nations is called upon to determine impartially whether we are entitled to hold this great continent under present conditions, it will find difficulty in deciding in our favour.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment.
By leave - report adopted, and bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 31st August, 1932(vide volume 135, page 42), on motion, by Mr. Latham, that the report of the Minister for External Affairs on the Lausanne Conference on Repatriations be printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 30th September 1932(vide. volume 135, page 1079), on motion, by Mr. Latham, that the report of the Minister for External Affairs on the Disarmament Conference, held at Geneva in 1932, be printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 8th March, 1932(vide volume 133, page 783), on motion, by Sir Henry Gullett, that the report and recommendation of the Tariff Board on tobacco be printed.
Upon which Mr. Forde had moved by way of amendment -
That the following words be added to the motion : - “ and that the Government reconsider its action with a view to affording Australian tobacco-growers the same margin of protection as that given by the previous Government; and that Parliament be granted an early opportunity to determine the question so as to remove the uncertainty now prevailing in the industry.”
Upon which proposed amendment Dr. Earle Page had moved -
That the amendment be amended by omitting all the words after “that”, first occurring, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following: - “in the opinion of thisHouse, the Government should reconsider the proposals submitted by the tobacco-growers that the rates of excise duty should be, on -
Amendment upon the amendment and original amendment negatived.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The primary object of the bill is to make such amendments in the Navigation Act as will enable the Commonwealth to give effect to the provisions of a number of maritime conventions of recent years, to which all the principal maritime powers of the world are active parties and, which, it is proposed, the Commonwealth shall ratify. The two most important, to which the greater part of the bill is devoted, are those dealing with safety of life at sea, and load lines. Other conventions which the bill is intended to implement are also important in their effect, but are more limited in scope than those I have particularized. Reference will be made to these later. The maritime countries subscribing to all these conventions, pledged themselves at the time of signature to, among other things, the early introduction of legislation to give effect to their provisions. The conventions are not binding on the signatory countries until ratified by their respective governments.
The representatives of eighteen countries, including the Commonwealth, signed the convention for safety of life at sea in May, 1929. Up to the present, seventeen countries, including Great Britain, have given legislative effect to its provisions. This number includes eleven of the countries represented at the conference and certain others which were not signatories to the draft convention, but have since acceded thereto.
The load line convention was subscribed by representatives of thirty countries, including Australia, in July, 1930. Of these, nineteen have since passed the necessary domestic legislation, and given effect to the convention. The text of these two conventions is given in full in schedules 6 and 7 of the bill. Roneoed extracts of the relevant provisions of the other five conventions implemented by the bill are being circulated, for the information of honorable members.
In proceeding to deal with the most important of the conventions, that relating to safety of life at sea, it appears advisable to give a brief retrospect of the circumstances which gave birth to the idea of an international convention, and to the original convention of 1913. The loss of the Titanic in April, 1912, after collision with an iceberg in the North Atlantic, and the appalling loss of life consequent thereon, came as a shock to the whole civilized world. The sinking of that great liner, which, at the time, was the latest word in hipping construction, demonstrated the fallacy of the belief, which was held even by nautical experts, that she was unsinkable, and showed that the construction of an unsinkable ship was practically impossible. The fact that under a cloudless sky and in a calm sea, nearly 1,500 persons were left to drown in the icy waters of the Atlantic, because there was no room for them in the available boats and rafts, brought into prominence a great defect in the then existing law, which failed to make it compulsory for ships to carry boats for the whole of the persons on board. The result was an insistent, worldwide demand that on all ocean-going ships there should be boats for all aboard, including passengers and crew. As a direct result of the Titanic disaster, a conference was called by Great Britain, to which all the maritime powers were invited to send representatives to consider the formulation of such standards of safety as might be generally accepted for adoption by all countries. At the conference, which met in London at the end of 1913, fourteen of the leading powers, embracing practically all of the maritime nations except Japan, were represented. Great Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand having separate representation. Though Japan was not represented at the conference, it subsequently adopted the convention, which, therefore, may be said to have been adopted by the representatives of practically all the maritime powers, subject to ratification. The meeting of this conference and the framing of the resultant international convention of 1913, marked one of the most important steps ever taken by maritime nations to secure the safety of life at sea.
The principal object of the conference was to determine by international agreement certain uniform rules to afford safety of life at sea. It was a novel and ambitious experiment, and * sought to cover a wide field. Except with regard to certain particular provisions, it related to passenger ships engaged on international voyages, that is, on voyages between ports in different countries, and most questions affecting the safety of such passenger ships came within its purview ; problems of construction, boats, lifesaving equipment, navigation, and wireless communication being included.
When drawn up, the convention received the unanimous assent of the delegates, and it was signed at the final meeting in January, 1914. The conference then dispersed, and, within a few months, there came the cataclysm of the Great War.
Although many of the safety provisions that are recommended, such as wireless, and boats for all, were later incorporated in the. laws of various maritime countries, including those of Great Britain and Australia, the convention itself was never ratified by. the requisite number of countries to make it effective, and, to all intents and purposes, it became a dead letter.
Having now obtained the historical background, it will be convenient at this point to consider the later convention for the safety of life at sea, held in 1929. In the light of the knowledge and experience gained in the years which intervened between 1914 and 1929, the Governments of Belgium, Canada, Germany, India, the Irish Free State, Italy, J apan, the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Spain, Sweden, the United States of America, and the Commonwealth of Australia accepted the invitation of the Government of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to take part in a further conference, which assembled at the Foreign Office, in London, in April, 1929. During the fifteen critical years between 1914 and 1929, much time and study had been devoted to the problems of ship construction; provisional conclusions had been tested by actual application to new ships, and great developments had taken place in wireless telegraphy. Wireless was becoming, if in fact it had not already become, the most important element in securing the safety of life at sea. To-day, it not only insures the greater safety of the ship which carries -it, but makes that ship the potential saviour of other ships.
Thus, the latest discoveries ‘ of science have come in to reinforce and make more effective the oldest tradition and practice of the men who sail the seas. Marked advances had also been made both in the types and methods of construction of passenger ships, and a great deal of additional experience had been gained by all the maritime powers.
The principle, that matters which concern all nations must be settled internationally in friendly conference, has received a remarkable acceptance in recent years. This has been strongly exemplified in matters maritime. Consequently, at the 1929 conference, the great objective was to evolve a convention that would ensure, on a basis acceptable to all countries, the utmost safety of life in passenger ships engaged in. international trading. The present convention is the first effective international agreement on this important subject. A word is necessary as to the scope of the safety convention, as drawn, and its application, as proposed in the present bill. As I have indicated, the conference was called together for the express purpose of considering the safety of passenger ships engaged in international traffic, in which the vessels, at different stages of their voyages, would come under the control of different jurisdictions, and in which different governments would have a direct interest in the safety of the lives of the passengers. An international voyage means a voyage from one country to another. The matter of regulating the coasting trade, within its own territorial waters, was left to each country to deal with. It goes without saying that the measures of safety that’ are desirable on an international voyage, which in European waters would mean many short runs of 100 miles or so, or even less, are equally necessary on coasting voyages, in the same waters, and often of similar distances. Thus the British Merchant Shipping Act, passed in 1932 to give effect to the safety and load line conventions, applies, with few exceptions, the provisions of the safety convention to all British passenger -steamers, irrespective of whether their trade is within the United Kingdom or from United Kingdom port’s to foreign countries. Similarly, it is suggested that if those pre- cautionary measures are desirable in the interests of human life on the short voyages within the waters around the United Kingdom, or even on the somewhat longer voyages from ports in the United Kingdom to European countries, they are even more desirable and necessary in Australian waters on the long runs of from 400 to 1,000 miles between the ports in interstate voyages on the 10,000 miles of steamship routes around our coast. So it is proposed to apply such provisions of the safety convention as relate to construction, surveys, boats, and other life-saving appliances, and wireless, to the interstate vessels engaging in that trade.
It will be gratifying to those who were associated with the earlier amendments to the Navigation Act to know that, in a number of important matters, provisions which are already in the act have anticipated the findings of the recent conference and the requirements of the convention.
The general features of the safety provisions of the convention fall under the following heads: (a) Construction; (b) life-saving appliances; (c) radiotelegraphy; (d) safety of navigation. There are also machinery provisions of which the principal relate to (a) certificates; (b) equivalent appliances.
Construction deals mainly with the structural subdivision of a ship, by decks and bulkheads, to secure the greatest practicable degree of buoyancy in a vessel whose hull has been damaged by collision or stranding. Provision is also made in the convention for the fitting of bulkheads designed to limit the spread of fire, and for the official survey of a vessel, its fittings and machinery, not only when new, but also during each succeeding year of its life.
As has been mentioned, the safety convention of 1914 embodied the principle of boats for all, and, for some years past, following British lead, practically all ocean-going passenger shins have compliedwith that standard as regards the number and capacity of the boats carried. The experience gained since 1914, and particularly during the war, has shown the prime necessity, not only for boats to be carried, but to be at all times ready for launching. The time” within which the transfer of passengers and crew from a sinking ship must be completed depends upon the extent of the damage sustained, in relation to the margin of safety provided in the construction of the ship herself. In view of this, the 1929 convention, when dealing with life-saving appliances, provides that-
The life-boats and buoyant apparatus must comply with the following conditions: -
they must be capable of being got into the water safely and rapidly;
it must be possible to embark the passengers in the boats rapidly and in good order;
the arrangement of each boat and article of buoyant apparatus must be such that it will not interfere with the operation of other boats and buoyant apparatus.
The safety convention also provides that all ocean-going passenger ships shall, in addition to life-boats and life-jackets for all, carry light, buoyant apparatus sufficient for the support, in the water, of 25 per cent, of the persons on board. Such apparatus, in the form of light, buoyant rafts, which can be easily manhandled and thrown from the ship’s deck, has, in practice, proved of great value in cases in which the rapidity of the disaster has made it impossible to get the passengers away in the boats. Regulations annexed to the safety convention deal with the matter of means of ingress to, and egress from, the various compartments and decks, and their lighting. They provide also for musters and drills of the crew, and for the assignment of duties in regard, for example, to the closing of watertight doors, the equipment of the boats, and other life-saving appliances, the launching of the boats, the mustering of passengers, and the steps to be taken in the event of fire.
Stringent restrictions are also imposed on the carriage of dangerous goods in passenger ships, and provision is made for the carrying of fire extinguishing appliances. Both these matters are already dealt with, to some extent, in the Navigation Act. The amendments now proposed will bring the existing provisions into line with the convention.
Passenger ships are required to carry an approved form of line-throwing appliance as a means for establishing communication between ship and ship, and ship and shore. This, also, is already a requirement of the regulations under the Navigation Act as regards our local coasting vessels. These various provisions as to life-saving and fire appliances, boat and fire drills, the packing, stowage and carriage of dangerous goods, &c, are voluminous and technical. The bill does not incorporate them in the text of the principal act, but, as has been done in the British act, gives power to deal with them by regulation. Such regulations would have to be approved by Parliament.
The great importance of wireless telegraphy as a means of promoting the safety of life at sea has been fully demonstrated in recent years. Many ships, mainly those belonging to the passengercarrying lines, had been equipped with wireless prior to 1914. The carrying of wireless installations had not, however, been adopted by merchant ships generally. In the intervening years there have been remarkable developments, so that, in 1929, out of a total of 11,000 merchant steamships and motor ships of 1,600 tons gross and upwards owned by the maritime countries of the world, no fewer than 10,000 were so equipped. At the present time, therefore, practically all ocean-going passenger ships, and cargo ships over 1,600 tons, already carry wireless installations. But, to make the equipment fully effective for life-saving purposes, it is not sufficient that a ship in distress shall be able to send out calls for assistance; provision must be made for the reception of the distress calls by other ships in a position to render aid. Fortunately, the necessity for the employment of a sufficient number of operators to have always one on watch, has been obviated by recent developments in regard to the automatic alarm apparatus, which, after several years’ use, has definitely proved its efficiency in the picking up of distress signals, whereupon an alarm is sounded which calls the operator.
In the circumstances, all ships engaged in international voyages, except cargo ships of less than 1,600 gross, are required, under the convention, to carry an efficient installation, and at least one qualified operator. If not fitted with an automatic alarm, always in operation when an operator is not actually on duty, passenger ships over 3,000 tons gross, and cargo ships over 5,500 tons gross, are required to maintain continuous watch. Other ships required to be equipped with wireless are to maintain watch at prescribed hours, the object of the convention being to secure the maximum hours of watch-keeping on the maximum number of ships. nit; provisions in the convention relat ing to the safety of navigation are more general than any others in the convention, as, according to article 33, they apply “ to all ships on all voyages “, and include a number of changes and developments which will be of great interest to mariners. Dangerous derelicts, hurricanes, and other direct dangers to navigation, when encountered are to be reported immediately to the nearest local authority, and the news is to be communicated to all concerned. All the governments represented at the conference are also arranging to co-operate in collecting and disseminating meteorological information in a systematic and uniform manner for the purpose of aiding navigation.
The international collision regulations have been subjected to a comprehensive review. The ordinary “ rules of the road” are untouched, but some important alterations have been made in the rules relating to lights and signals. The use of any light which can impair the visibility of any of the navigation lights is forbidden. The Morse distress signal - S.O.S. - is added to the list of distress signals, and the use of that signal, except for the one purpose of indicating that a vessel is in actual distress, is prohibited. In addition, the range of the -navigating lights to be carried has, in some cases, been increased, consequent on the greater speed of ships, and the position of the lights has been more precisely denned.
Helm or steering orders must, on all ships, be now given in the direct sense, that is to say, when the ship is going ahead, an order containing the words “ starboard “ or “ right “ or any equivalent of “starboard” or “right”, shall be used only when it is intended that the wheel, the rudder blade, and the head of the ship shall all move to the right. This is the direct opposite of the practice obtaining for hundreds of years in the British merchant marine. The conference was agreed that it was essential that the system under which helm orders are given should be international, because ships, in the course of their voyages, have to employ pilots of all nationalities, and may also employ seamen of other nationality than their own.
The new direct method of helm orders came into use throughout the world as from midnight on the 31st December last. To bridge over the interval until the Navigation Act could be amended in that direction, a new article was added to the Commonwealth Collision Regulations, effective as from the date mentioned. Necessary provision in the matter is included in the present bill, and when that becomes law the article, which will then be redundant, will be repealed.
The convention provides for the issue, under the authority of each administration, of safety certificates to such ships as, after survey, are found to comply with the conditions laid down. Similarly, each administration is empowered to issue, in certain cases, exemption certificates specifying the conditions under which it has granted exemption to a ship in accordance with the provisions of the convention.
Certificates by one country, issued in accordance with the convention, are to be accepted by the other contracting governments for all purposes covered by the convention; that is, ,they are to be regarded by the other governments as having the same force as the certificates issued by them to their own ships. No ship is entitled to claim, in any country, the privileges of the convention unless it holds a valid certificate.
In order that technical progress may not be hampered, the convention authorizes each administration to accept in substitution for any fitting, appliance or apparatus prescribed in the convention regulations, any other fitting, appliance or apparatus, which the administration is satisfied is at least as effective as that specified in the convention regulations. So much for the provisions arising out of the convention for the safety of life at sea which constitute the most important section of the bill.
I shall now refer briefly to the second of the more important conventions, that relating to load lines, which, however, does not call for such detailed explanation as the one just reviewed. At the International Boad Line Conference,- held in London in the summer of 1930, an agreement was reached adopting universal rules for the assignment to ships of load lines, fixing the limits within which they may load in different parts of the world during different seasons of the year,.. Representatives, of 30 countries, including Australia, attended the conference.
The convention, which was adopted by the conference has, up to date, been ratified, or acceded to, by nineteen maritime countries. Its provisions will, consequently, apply to practically the whole of the merchant ships of the world. It is the first international agreement which has been made fixing loading limits for merchant ships, although there has been for some years a considerable measure of uniformity, based on the British rules, in those adopted by certain other’ principal maritime nations.
As will bo readily understood, one ot the most important factors in securing tho safety of cargo ships is the enforcement of laws and regulations relating- to load lines and overloading. It is a great step forward that so many countries have come into line on this matter. Incidentally, it may be .mentioned, the adoption of a uniform load line system will be of great benefit to British shipping. Previously, certain countries placed no load line restrictions on the loading of their vessels. Ship3 of those countries, therefore, could and did load more deeply than was permissible under British law for British ships. This was of great advantage to them, as the extra earnings amounted, on certain voyages, to thousands of pounds. The convention will make the rules in the various countries completely uniform, with a far wider application than the old system ever had.
It has sometimes been suggested that any alteration of the original “ Plimsoll “ mark must endanger the lives of seamen. This is based upon a misapprehension. The amount of cargo which any ship can carry safely across the ocean, and, consequently, the depth to which she may be loaded, depend, not only on her size, but also on her structural strength and other characteristics, and rules governing the maximum loading of ships must have regard to these points. The British Load Line Rules of 1890, on which the present
Australian Load Line Regulations have been based, were the expression of the best loading practice of those days; but since that time, great improvements have been made in ship design, construction and equipment, and the present convention makes due allowance for this.
The outstanding points to which attention may now be drawn are the emphasis that is laid in the new convention on the protection of all deck openings and the safety of the crew, and the introduction, for the first time on British ships, of special load lines for timber ships and tankers. The extreme importance of protecting all weather deck openings in a ship against the sea in bad weather is recognized by all seamen, and the rules on this subject are made more definite and more emphatic than they have ever been before.
The experience- of other nations in the past had shown, that, under clearlydefined conditions, ships carrying deck loads of timber, as also tankers - the latter chiefly, by reason of their greater subdivision, can safely be allowed- to load deeper than ordinary cargo ships, but neither the extent of the deeper immersion, nor the conditions under which it can be allowed, had been settled internationally. This has now been done for the first time. These alterations, however, are not of special interest to Australia.
For many years, for load-line purposes, the seas have been divided into geographical and seasonal zones designed, “ Indian Summer “, “ Summer “, “Winter” and “Winter North Atlantic”, such divisions being illustrative of seasonal’ conditions affecting the safety of ships. The seasonal zones have now been re-allotted and re-designated. Apart from the more northerly part, stretching roughly from Bowen to Darwin, which is in the seasonal tropical zone, practically the whole of the mainland of Australia has been placed within the summer zone, which means that, at ports within that area, ships can load to their summer mark throughout the whole year. Tasmania, except ports on the northern coast, is in the seasonal winter zone, the effect being that ships in southern and western Tasmanian waters are restricted to lighter loads from . the 16th April to the 15th October of each year.
During the remainder of the year, from the 16th October to the 15th April, they may load to the summer mark. The extreme south-west of Western Australia, embracing the coast from about Cliffy Head eastwards to Cape Arid, and including the port of Albany, is also included, with Tasmania, in the seasonal winter zone. As, however, it would be but very rarely, if ever, that a ship would be fully loaded in Albany, in the winter season, the practical effect on the trade of the port will be, at the worst, but small.
A more serious effect, though not in itself of great importance, is that in the winter season a ship carrying, say, a full cargo of jarrah from Bunbury, would not be permitted to round the Leeuwin, eastwards, if when she entered the seasonal winter zone, she was loaded deeper than her winter load-line mark. Similarly, a ship leaving the eastern States for the Indian Ocean, cannot cross a line drawn from Cape Arid, Western Australia, to the north-west coast of Tasmania if she, too, at the moment of crossing, is loaded below the winter load line. These ships, however, have an advantage over ships coming from the west in that they can load deeper for the first portion of the voyage from, say, Adelaide, Melbourne, or Sydney. The consumption of fuel and water will lighten the ship, so that the master may, by judicious calculation, so arrange the loading that, at the time the line mentioned is reached, his ship is up tothe winter mark.
The Australian delegates at the International Load Line Conference pressed for at least a “ corridor “ of 20 miles or so in width round the south-west of Western Australia. In view, however, of the admittedly stormy character of the adjacent waters in winter, they got no support from other delegations, the conference overwhelmingly deciding against them. The conference had adopted definite meteorological criteria for use throughout the world, and refused to depart from them to any great extent. The criterion adopted for the summer zone was that there should not be, on the average, more than 10 per cent, of gales of force8 and upward on the Beaufort scale, that is, of the number of winds recorded, not more than 10 per cent, should be gales blowing with a velocity of 30 miles per hour or over. The records over a number of years showed that, in the vicinity of Cape Leeuwin, from June to August, 22 per cent, of the winds were of that force or over, and it was this fact which influenced the conference in rejecting the Commonwealth’s claim.
The southernmost limits of the summer zone in Australian waters are fixed in the convention as follows: - A line drawn from Durban, in South Africa, at 30 degrees south, to the west coast of Australia, at latitude 35 degrees south, thence along the south coast of that State to Cape Arid, then to the north-west point of Tasmania, Cape Grim, along the north coast to the north-east point, Eddystone Point, and thence to the west coast of the South Island of New Zealand, at about 40 degrees south. All waters south of this line are regarded as in the “ seasonal winter zone “ - where loading is permitted to the winter load line only during the winter season, which is from the 16th April to the 15th October inclusive.
Five other international conventions, of relatively minor importance, are also given effect by means of the bill. These relate to -
Provisions in regard to these three conventions are contained in new sections 40a and 40b, proposed to be inserted by clause 5 of the bill.
This is dealt with in clause 7, in the form of an amendment to section 85 of the act.
Clause 43, amending section 351 of the act, relates to a matter under sub-section 2 of that section, which it is proposed to omit, substituting two new subsections, and which was intended, when inserted in the original act of 1912, to give effect to Article 5 of the Convention, which provides, in effect, that liability in respect of damage caused by a collision between vessels attaches to the vessel in fault, even when due to the fault of the pilot carried by compulsion of law. This provision does not, however, definitely impose that liability on the ship in fault, and so failed in its object. The amendment now proposed corrects that omission. As already mentioned, in order that honorable members may have before them the text of the relevant portions of these last-mentioned conventions, I have arranged for typed extracts therefrom to be circulated. The names of the countries which have ratified the respective conventions are appended to those extracts.
So much for matters covered by the bill. It may be well, now, to refer to a few things which are not dealt with in any way in the measure. There is nothing in the bill affecting in any degree what are known as the coasting provisions of the Navigation Act, nor is there anything in it in regard to manning scales, accommodation or - excepting in clause 9, which deals with the case of seamen losing their employment through the loss of their ship - the wages of seamen.
The bill, therefore, is free of any party politics or contentious questions. It is purely a machinery measure, designed principally to give effect to the conventions, and I have no hesitation in asking honorable members to give it a speedy passage. For the convenience of honorable members, a printed memorandum has been prepared and circulated. This shows, by means of italics and black type, the effect of the amendments proposed by the bill upon the relative sections “of the principal act. If desired, explanations will be furnished, when the bill is in committee stage, of the necessity for the several amendments proposed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Hollow ay) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.35 to 7 p.m.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
Clause 4 - (2.) In the absence from any meeting of the Commission of the Chairman, or, where a member of the Commission is appointed to act as Chairman, of the Chairman and that mem ber, the members of the Commission present shall “appoint one of their number to preside at that meeting.
Senate’s amendment. - Leave out “ In the absence from any meeting of the Commission of the Chairman or, where a member of the Commission is appointed to act as Chairman, of the Chairman and that member “, insert “Where the Chairman is absent from any meeting of the Commission and a member has not been appointed under the last preceding sub-section to act as Chairman.”
.- I move-
That the Senate’s amendment be agreed to.
This bill, as originally drafted, provided for a commission of five members, but by an amendment made in this chamber the number was reduced to three. It was originally provided in clause 4 of the bill that in the absence of the chairman from any meeting of the commission, or of the person appointed to act as chairman, the other members of the commission should appoint their own chairman. Such a provision was appropriate with a commission of five members, but not to a commission of three members. Accordingly the bill has been amended to provide that the chairman shall preside over meetings, but a person may be appointed to act as chairman in the absence or illness of the chairman. In effect, this will mean that a deputy chairman will be appointed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Resolution reported, and report adopted.
Sitting suspended from 7.5 to 7.42 p.m.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or request : -
Seat of Government (Administration) Bill.
Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Bill
Financial Emergency Bill.
Supply Bill (No. 1) 1933-34.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker, which time of meeting shall be notified by Mr. Speaker to each member by telegram or letter.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That leave of absence be given to every mernber of the House of Representatives from the determination of this sitting of the House to the date of its next sitting.
Issue of Reserved Naval Stocks - Issue of Surplus Air Force Equipment - Death of Mr. W. E. Woods - Retirement of Mr. M. McMillan.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I desire to inform honorable members that, in accordance with the promise of the then Prime Minister, the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), early in 1931, coal from federal stocks in New South Wales and controlled by the Prime Minister’s Department, was to be made available for the relief of distress in the Newcastle districts. It .was subsequently found that this federal coal was not readily accessible to the areas to be supplied, and in order to give effect to the promise that was made, approval was given to stocks of Welsh coal being made available from surplus naval stocks at Newcastle. Since the present Government assumed office, further requests for additional free issues have been made and approved. The total free issue approved to. the 30th April, 1933 was 2,550 tons, and the quantity actually issued was 2,256 tons. Approval has been given for a further issue of coal from surplus naval stocks at Newcastle, and Parliament will be advised from time to time as to the issues that are made.
I also desire to inform honorable members that on the 7th March, 1933, approval was given by the right honorable the Treasurer to the free issue to aero clubs in the various States of spare parts and tools, representing equipment and surplus requirements of Air Force stocks, and having book ‘.value of £2,056 10s. lid. These stores and equipment became surplus to Air Force requirements following ministerial approval to transfer on loan to aero clubs certain Cirrus Moths. The present market value of the spare parts and tools is considerably less than the book value that I have indicated, and there is a limited scope for the disposal of such articles.
– I regret to have to inform honorable members of the death, which occurred yesterday, of Mr. Whitley Ernest Woods, who was for eleven years in the service of the Victorian Parliament, and for 32 years on the staff of the House of Representatives. Mr. Woods was a valued officer whose services were appreciated by honorable members, and whose decease we regret. I shall request the Clerk of the House of Representatives to send a letter of condolence to Mr. Woods’ relatives.
Before putting the motion for the adjournment of the House, I desire to place on record the appreciation of honorable members and myself of the services rendered by a very old member of the staff of the House of Representatives who is now about to retire, Mr. Mort. McMillan. Mr. McMillan entered the service of the Commonwealth Parliament on the 1st May, 1901, and is retiring because he has reached the age at which, under the Public Service regulations, retirement is compulsory. During his term of service he has, by the efficient and courteous performance of his duties, made many personal friends among honorable members. He has been competent, loyal and conscientious. On behalf of honorable members and for myself, I express the wish that Mr. McMillan may, after his retirement, enjoy, for many years, both health and happiness.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 7.47 p.m., until a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s. - On the 24th May, th* honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) asked the following question, upon notice : -
What is the quantity of surplus or disused military or naval clothing, in tunica, greatcoats, blankets, boots, &c, that has been made available to State Governments for tie use of the unemployed during the last two years, up to April last, in (a) Brisbane; (6) Sydney; (c) Melbourne; (d) Adelaide; (o) Perth; and (/) Hobart, respectively?
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 May 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1933/19330526_reps_13_139/>.