14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. WHITE laid on the table reports and recommendations of the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Flags and Banners over one font in length.
Screw Hooks, Eyes and Rings.
Socks and Stockings.
Ordered to be printed.
Sister Kenny’s Treatment
– Has the Minister for Health seen the paragraph which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald of Saturday last, in which it is stated that the secretaryof the British Medical Association, Dr. Hunter, had said that the council of that association had decided to request the Government of New South Wales to afford facilities to Sister Kenny to establish a clinic in Sydney to demonstrate her methods in the treatment of infantile paralysis, and had added, “ The children of the poorest parents have the best of treatment from competent medical men and nurses without any cost. It may be that Sister Kenny, who is a very high-minded and sincere woman, will be able to improve on the results so far obtained “ ? Will the right honorable gentleman state whether the Commonwealth Government is considering the matter of communicating with the Government of New South Wales with a view to co-operating with ii in the establishment of the suggested clinic in Sydney?
– The honorable gentleman was good enough to advise me that he proposed to ask this question. I have seen and read with great interest the paragraph to which hrs refers, and have noted with much satisfaction the statement of the secretary of the British Medical Association, Dr. Hunter, that the council of that association has decided ro request the Government of New South Wales to afford facilities to Sister Kenny to establish a clinic in Sydney l.o demonstrate her methods in the treatment’ of infantile paralysis. The honorable member, and other honorable members, particularly the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Street), have questioned me concerning the receipt of Dr. Galbraith’s report on this matter. His report has now come to hand, and, with the permission of the House, I desire to make a short statement bearing on the nature of it. Doctor Whitaker, a surgeon of high repute, who specializes ir orthopraxies, and is attached to various orthopaedic hospitals in Melbourne, was associated with Dr. Galbraith, the medical superintendent of the orthopaedic section of the Children’s Hospital, Frankston, in investigating Sister Kenny’s treatment, and in the preparation of the report. These gentlemen went to Sydney at my request, and interviewed Sister Kenny. They state, inter aiia, that they had several hours’ conversation with Sister Kenny on consecutive days, that they had seen and given careful study to tho films showing her cases before and after treatment, that they made a detailed examination of the reportsubmitted by Dr. Guinane upon the work of the clinic in Townsville and of the report of Dr. S. F. McDonald, of Brisbane, and that they had interviewed several leading orthopaedic surgeons in New South Wales, including the president of the Royal College of Surgeons of Australasia, Mr. E. B. Wade. They submitted the following recommendation : - lt is our opinion that the only way of demonstrating the value of Sister Kenny’s work and of comparing it with orthdox methods, would be to give tier facilities to treat cases both recent end chronic, in one, or preferably two, capital cities. Such work should be carried out by Sister Kenny in person or by her trainees, it would he wise, and with this Sister Kenny //6.rees, that the location of such facilities be at a. public hospital, and preferably a children’s hospital. Sister Kenny 1ms always worked with the medical profession, and it is hoped Unit a cleavage will not be enforced by establishing clinics apart from such hospitals. Under the hospitals’ commission certain safeguards would he necessary, but we are definitely oi the opinion the t, if the Government requests the committees of management of the hospitals to provide such facilities, some mutually satisfactory arrangement could bc reached. Mr. H. Ii. Wade, the president of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, gives us permission to state that lie is in accordance with this suggestion.
The Commonwealth Government, having been thus advised, is prepared to cooperate with the governments of New South Wales and Victoria, and with the Medical Council of New South Wales, to give effect to the recommendations of Drs. Whitaker and’ Galbraith in order that a clinic attached to any children’s hospital recommended by the orthopaedic surgeons of Sydney and Melbourne, might be established where cases can be treated under Sister Kenny’s personal supervision or under that of her trainees.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister state whether the report of tho Petrol Commission has been received by the Government? If it has, when may the House expect it to be tabled? Will the House be afforded an opportunity during this period of tho session to discuss its contents?
– The report of the Petrol Commission was received by me on Saturday, and I immediately forwarded it to the Government Printer. It is hoped that the printing of it will be completed by the end of this week. I trust that I shall be able to lay it on the table of the House within a week from to-day.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister aware that, although the customs and primage duties on petrol represent a. gallon, farmers in New South Wales are being exploited by the oil companies in that they are charged within 5½d. a gallon of the petrol price for power kerosene used to put in their crops, notwithstanding that there is no import duty on kerosene, and will he ascertain if ft is possible to take action through Commonwealth OilRefineries Limited to protect farmers from the continuance of such impositions?
– I understand that the Petrol Commission has dealt with that aspect of the question in its report.
Effects of War Service
– Has the Minister for Repatriation seen the report which was published in the Melbourne Star, of the 30th March last, containing an attack by Dr. C. A. Courtney, who recently retired from the position of Principal Medical Officer attached to the Repatriation Department, on propaganda calculated to terrify returned soldiers and their families? Has the attention of the right honorable gentleman been drawn to Dr. Courtney’s further statement that the war has “ left no lasting ill effects on the health of soldiers”? If he has seen these statements, will he obtain the opinion of his present responsible medical officers as to their accuracy or otherwise?
– The honorable gentleman was good enough to call my attention to this matter, thus enabling me to avoid falling into the pit in which so many of my hapless colleagues have found themselves when answering questions asked without notice.
I have seen the statement to which the honorable member refers, and I dissent very strongly from the views expressed therein by Dr. Courtney. In my opinion they are not supported by leading medical men in other countries, and moreover are in direct conflict with the facts. Dr. Courtney’s generalizations are fixed on false premises, and characterized by a narrow and unscientific outlook. No attempt is made to support by evidence the statement that poison gas has not tended to increase tuberculosis in soldiers since the war. Broadly speaking, it may be said that anything that reduces the vitality decreases the power of resistance to this insidious disease. The statement that in very many cases the effects of the war have not seriously impaired the health, and prematurely aged the soldiers who took part in it, is unsupported by any evidence, and is in conflict with our everyday experience. The suggestion of Dr. Courtney that a comparison of age groups shows that the returned man’s expectancy of life is greater than that of other civilians who did not go to the war cannot be seriously entertained. The facts are that the death rate is based upon the mortality of the whole community, including infants and weaklings, whose expectancy of life is naturally much less than that of the normal individual, while the members of the Australian Imperial Force were a picked body of men, whose physical fitness was superior to that of the community generally, and whose expectancy of life was therefore much greater.
I shall refer the matters covered by Dr. Courtney’s statement to the present Principal Medical Officer of the Repatriation Department, and if necessary to such other medical authorities as are competent to advise the Government.
– Seeing that the Minister has expressed the opinion that ex-soldiers who have inhaled poisonous gases have undoubtedly had their resistance to tuberculosis reduced, will he take steps to provide for the immediate amendment of the Repatriation Act and regulations to enable the department’s doctors to take a broader view of their duties, thus permitting the review of the cases of ex-soldiers who have been held to be ineligible for pensions in respect of tuberculosisbecause the disease was not in evidence at the date of their discharge ?
-The point raised by the honorable member was brought under my notice by a deputation representative of all sections of the House which waited on me the other evening. I stated then that, while I was in full sympathy with the object of the deputation, I saw some difficulty iu following their recommendations. However, I assure the honorable member that the matter is now being considered very carefully with a view to effecting such amendments of the law as are found to be possible and necessary.
CONCESSIONS to ex-Soldiers
– In view of the fact that the Government of New South Wales has granted travelling concessions on its railways to limbless soldiers and ex-service men and women who desire to visit Sydney for the 20th Anniversary celebrations of the landing at Gallipoli and has also granted leave of absence to ex-soldiers who are members of the State Public Service for the period of the celebrations, is it the intention of the Commonwealth Government to grant a similar concession to its public servants who desire to visit Sydney on this occasion?
– I will take the honorable gentleman’s suggestion into consideration, and will ascertain whether any such request has been made and if so, what has been done in regard to it.
– As legislation to amend the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act by repealing the sections relating to contributions by relatives and those affecting the property of pensioners has passed both Houses of the Parliament, will the Assistant Treasurer consider the advisability of issuing an amended pensions hand-book for the information of pensioners and applicants for pensions?
– A new draft handbookis already in course of preparation, and I hope that it will be issued at an early date. Its publication will be expedited as much as possible.
Motion (by Dr. EARLE Page) agreed to-
That the House at its rising adjourn until 2.30 p.m. to-morrow. m:eat export restrictions.
– I understand that negotiations between the Australian delegates and the British Government began yesterday afternoon at 4 o’clock. No report of such negotiations has yer. been received. commonwealth railways.
– Has the Minister for the Interior any announcement to make regarding my request for a reduction of the freight charges on cattle from stations on the Alice Springs railway to Adelaide?
– I believe that the best means of securing a. reduction of the freight rates on stock from the areas served by the Trans-Australian and Central Australian railways would be by shortening the route, as is proposed by the Government. pearling industry.
– Is the Assistant Treasurer yet in a position to say when money will be made available to assist the pearling industry in Western Australia?
– I am glad to be able to inform the honorable member that arrangements have been concluded for the immediate payment of £2,500 to Western Australia and £1,500 to Queensland, whilst a sum will also be made available for distribution in the Northern Territory. imports AND exports.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the House of the value of the import and export trade between Australia and Italy, Germany and the United States of America, during the last financial year?
– The honorable member was good enough to telegraph to me that lie intended to ask this question. I am therefore able to inform him as follows -
– Is the Acting Prime Minister aware that Australian butter is sold wholesale at 74s. per cwt. in London and 140s. per cwt. in Australia - approximately 90 per cent, higher? If not, does he know that the retail price of Australian butter in London is lOd. per lb., compared with ls. 5½d. in Austmin - a difference of 7£d.? Will he take into consideration the necessity for regulating the price of butter in Australia in order to bring it nearer to world’s parity?
– The prices of butter in England quoted by the honorable member are given in sterling, and the prices in Australia are given in Australian currency. That accounts largely for the difference. The means used to secure an Australian price for butter were approved by this Parliament when it agreed to the enabling legislation.
– I asb the Minister for the Interior whether he is aware that the son of the Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) will lead a inarch of the unemployed to Parliament House unless certain complaints are rectified? Will the honorable gentleman take such action as will render the proposed march unnecessary?
– Such action has already been taken.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister lay upon the table of the House all the papers relating to the agreement between the Commonwealth Government and Tasmanian Steamers Proprietary Limited, in respect of which the mail contract subsidy is being paid to the company?
– I shall give consideration to the honorable member’s request and see whether it can be acceded to.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the fact that the Government of New Zealand is to take legislative action to protect New Zealand shipping from the competition of subsidized American ships? Is this Government co-operating in any way with the New Zealand Government in this direction, and is it proposed to ask this Parliament to pass complementary legislation?
– A statement appeared in this morning’s press to the effect that the Prime Minister of New Zealand had stated in the Dominion Parliament that the Governments of Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand were at present discussing this subject.
– Is the Minister representing the Postmaster-General aware that a considerable amount of overtime is being worked by the permanent staff of the Telegraph Branch at the Sydney General Post Office with the result that former temporary employees have not been able to obtain casual employment?
– I am not aware of the circumstances mentioned by the honorable member, but I shall make inquiries into the subject.
– Will the Minister for the Interior inform the House whether steps have been taken to refute the allegations of ill-treatment of aboriginals in the north to which I drew attention last week?
– Categorical replies have been prepared to every allegation to which the honorable member directed attention. These will be made available to the Australian press and sent to the High Commissioner in London for publication in overseas newspapers. By leave of the House I shall to-morrow inform it of the nature of those replies.
– by leave- Certain statements in the Sydney Sunday Sun of the 31st March in regard to the aboriginal in Central Australia were made by a Mr. T. Anderson, who is said to be a Norwegian journalist.
It is stated in the article in question that Mr. Anderson has just returned from a seven years’ study of conditions in the interior and that everything he mentioned he had seen. I received a telegram yesterday from the Deputy Administrator at Alice Springs stating that Mr. Anderson is. not known in Central Australia. After attacking the work of missions in the territory, Mr. Anderson makes certain statements which I propose to deal with seriatim.
Mr. Anderson claims to be the writer of the article which appeared in the Gothenburg Mail, to which attention was drawn by the honorable member for Lilley (Sir Donald Cameron) a few days ago. If his claim is correct, then it reflects very little credit upon him as an observer or a writer of the truth. Mr. Anderson stated -
There is a white woman missionary in Central Australia - I can give her name and where she is - who is living with a full-blooded aborigine.
My department has knowledge of a white woman missionary who lived for some time with aboriginals in Central Australia, but there has never been any pre vious suggestion as to immorality. The allegation appears to be incredible.
Mr. Anderson stated:
Sixty per cent. of the prospectors in the interior are living with gins and the fettlers on the transcontinental railway are living with gins quite openly.
– That is a lie.
– So far as the Northern Territory is concerned, this statement regarding prospectors is totally incorrect. It is possible that, prior to the recent extensive development in mining in the territory, when a few prospectors were working on fields far removed from the direct supervision of the police or protectors of aborignals, there may have been such intercourse in spasmodic instances, but to say that sixty per cent. of these men were guilty of this is a libel on the prospectors.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– The majority of the prospectors of the territory are now engaged in working their own leases in the established gold-mining districts, where it is possible for strict supervision to be exercised and the provisions of the Aboriginals Ordinance enforced. A fine of ?100 or imprisonment for three months, or both, is imposed upon any male person, other than an aboriginal or a half-caste, who, not being lawfully married to an aboriginal or half-caste, habitually consorts with a female aboriginal or half-caste. The statement that “Fettlers on the transcontinental line are living with gins quite openly “, is an undeserved slur and a cruel libel on a body of decent, clean-living, wellconducted Australian citizens. Most of them are married men, and the railway authorities have no knowledge of any single case of employees consorting with aboriginals.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– While we have no jurisdiction over the aboriginals along the transcontinental line, as it is not federal territory, we have a railway bylaw, No. 58, which prohibits employees from having any dealings with the aboriginals, so that no encouragement may be given them to come to the line. There are some half-caste fettlers on the Central Australian railway and Northern Australia railway who are married to half-castes, and in one instance to a fullblooded aboriginal woman. Some of these men on the Central Australia railway were employed there on the Oodnadatta section before the Commonwealth took it over, and arc excellent employees.
Mr. Anderson also said
It is difficult to find a child who is pure white.
If, by this statement, Mr. Anderson means that there are no pure white children in the Northern Territory, it must lead one to believe that he has never been in the territory. From the South Australian border right up to Darwin there are quite a number of pure white children. The statement makes one hesitate to think what would happen to Mr. Anderson if he made it in the territory.
Mr. Anderson went on to say
At the Jay River Mission Station, 27 miles from Alice Springs, there are half-caste boys and girls of thirteen or fourteen sleeping and living in one dormitory. If the missionaries are questioned about it, they say they are only children. An aboriginal or a half-caste is about adult at that age.
Mr. Anderson is again astray in his facts. There never has been a mission station at Jay River.
When the railway construction work was n earing Alice Springs, the Administration, in the interests of the aboriginals and half-castes, removed the aboriginal camp to the Hermannsburg Mission, and the Half-caste Home, which used to be located in the town, to Jay Creek. The half-caste children were located at Jay Creek purely as an expedient, and were under the control of a superintendent, whose wife performed the duties of matron. The accommodation was of a purely temporary character, and admittedly, was not all that could have been desired, but there was never any suspicion of improper relations between any of the children. The boys were sent out to work as soon as they reached a suitable age. The home was under the control of the administration of the territory and the missions had nothing whatever to do with it. It was abandoned at the end of 1932, when the children were transferred to the new home at Alice Springs. It will be observed that Mr. Anderson states that the children are living there at present under the conditions which he pictures. This demonstrates further how far he is astray in his facts.
In the same issue of the Sunday Sun, Mr. Beecher Webb makes the following statements : -
Mr. Webb is a young solicitor who has been practising in Alice Springs for a few years. His experience in the territory is confined to the southern portion of it. He was briefed a few months ago to defend certain aboriginals who were charged with the murder of another aboriginal. During the course of the trial at Alice Springs he made certain allegations as to the ill treatment of aboriginals by members of the police force and others. The Government has already decided to appoint a board of inquiry to investigate these allegations. The case of the aboriginal with the broken arm is one which will be investigated by the board.
With regard to the statement that the aboriginal in question was unattended for some time and that the arm would be permanently useless, advice has been received from the Deputy Administrator that the native arrived at Alice Springs some weeks after the arm had been broken. He was attended to immediately by the Government Medical Officer. The arm progressed favorably and the aboriginal has now regained the use of it.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister inform the House what stage has been reached in the negotiations between representatives of the Imperial Government and the Government of Russia ?
– At the present time, I have no information om, that matter to lay before the House.
– I ask the Acting Treasurer if any representation has been received by him from the Government of New South “Wales to make available a grant of £2,500 for assistance to prospectors engaged in metalliferous mining? If so, what action does the Commonwealth Government propose to take with regard to this request?
– At the moment, I cannot tell the honorable member- whether or not that particular grant has been claimed by the Government of New South Wales. I will take steps to inquire into this matter and inform the honorable member later.
– Has the Government yet received any word from the High Commissioner in London relative to the alleged imposition of a 10 per cent, import duty by the British Government on foreign scoured wool?
– No information has yet been received from the High Commissioner on that matter.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister in a position to give information to this House regarding statements which appeared in Smith’s Weekly, of the 30th March,’ and the Sunday Sun, of the 31st March, to the effect that overseas trusts, mainly American, are gaining control of the meat industry in Australia and that the operations of these trusts are likely to be harmful to that industry?
– This matter is constantly under consideration by the Commonwealth and State governments.
– Has the Government received a copy of the White Paper on meat presented to the House’ of Commons about three weeks ago? If so, will he have copies of it printed and circulated for the information of honorable members.
– I will ascertain whether a copy of that document has arrived by the air mail. If it has I will arrange to have copies circulated among honorable members.
– In view of the growing dissatisfaction throughout Australia concerning the national broadcasting service and the general conduct of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, will the Acting Prime Minister promise the House that honorable members will have an opportunity to discuss the whole matter of its operations before any of the new appointments are made?
– Honorable members will have an opportunity to deal with that matter when it comes up for consideration under Supply.
– Representations have been made not only by myself but also by other honorable members concerning interference with radio reception and the Commonwealth Government has been requested to take legislative action along the lines followed in New Zealand. I ask the Assistant Minister representing the Postmaster-General if he is prepared to make a statement with regard to this matter; whether, in view of the fact that the Commonwealth Government is receiving certain revenue from radio listeners although listeners are not receiving the benefits for which they aro paying, he’ will allow the present condition of things to continue; or, is he prepared to introduce legislation of the nature to which I have referred?
– It is true that complaints are constantly being made concerning electrical interference with listeners’ receiving sets. The department welcomes any complaint in this regard so that it may have the opportunity to despatch its officers to interview persons responsible for the interference and urge upon them that they should try to abate the nuisance seeing that they have interests in common with all radio listeners. With regard to the legislation suggested by the honorable member, such a proposal is not so easy a matter as it appears. This problem has been considered by various governments. Some have seen fit to bring in legislation to deal with it ; others, particularly the Government of Great Britain and other British governments, apart from that of New Zealand, of whose action I was unaware, hold the opinion that it is just as well not to take legislative action. However, I remind the honorable member that it has not yet been definitely settled legally whether the Commonwealth Government has constitutional power to legislate along the lines he suggests.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) been drawn to an official statement to the effect that as the result of conversations in Moscow between the Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Anthony Eden) and Soviet leaders at Moscow “ there was no conflict of interests between the two governments on main issues of international policy” and also to headings appearing in to-day’s Sydney Telegraph. stating - “ Soviet as Our New Brother - Huge British Chorus of Praise”? In view of these happenings will he now reconsider his policy on book censorship so far as it relates to political literature?
– I have seen some headings in the press above reports dealing with the conversations being held between representatives of the British Government and the Government of Russia but I have seen nothing indicating a cessation of Communist propaganda, nor do I see any reason why we should call one another “ Comrade “.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister if there is any truth in a report attributed to him in the press that after the House adjourns for the recess a Commonwealth Minister will leave for New Zealand? If so, what will be the object of that Minister’s mission?
– I have already told the House it is contemplated that as soon as the House rises negotiations’ will be re-opened with the Government of New Zealand to establish the best possible reciprocity in trade between the Commonwealth and New Zealand.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the House whether the destruction of 1,800 gallons of wine at Camden on the 31st December of last year was due to action taken by the Customs Department owing to the non-payment of duty on the wine or to action taken by the Government of New South Wales under that State’s health laws relating to adulteration of wine?
– I have no information about the destruction of any wine. If the honorable member will supply me with further particulars I shall have inquiries made, but I am sure that it has nothing to do with the Customs Department.
– Has the attention of the Acting Treasurer been drawn to a cablegram which appeared in the evening papers of Saturday last quoting an article in the Economist to the effect that the adverse commodities results are eating into the Commonwealth Bank’s London assets, and that, in the opinion of the writer, unless the extent of the adverse balance for the year is known, it would be impossible to estimate the continuance of the present rate of exchange?
– I did see the telegram, but I have no comment to make beyond what was said by myself and other Ministers during the recent debate in this House on our overseas trade balance. The Government is in no way alarmed by the position.
– Last week I asked a question regarding the installation of automatic telephones in the Newcastle and Maitland districts, and the Minister representing the Postmaster-General stated that if the authorities reported favorably upon the proposal the work would be carried out. Has the Minister taken any steps to obtain a report from the authorities, and if not will he do so immediately so that the work may be done out of the appropriation recently passed by this Parliament?
– WhenI answered the honorable member’s previous question I was of the opinion that he had referred to small rural automatic telephones; now it appears he means an automatic telephone exchange in Newcastle. That is a matter of policy for the department which, I am sure, has already made itself familiar with all the circumstances.
– Immediately after t he return of the Minister in charge of Territories (Senator Pearce) from Norfolk Island, where he had received a deputation from the islanders,I asked the Acting Prime Minister whether any decision had been reached regarding the granting of the requests submitted, and I was informed that a statement would be made to the House in due course. Has the attention of the Acting Prime Minister been drawn to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald to the effect that many of the requests of the Norfolk Island Association have been granted, and if that is true, will he state what requests have been refused?
– The Minister in charge of Territories put certain proposals before Cabinet which, in turn, were submitted for review to the Executive Council of Norfolk Island.
– But, according to the Herald, the council is to be abolished.
– When the Executive Council and Administrator have reviewed the proposal and their report has been received the Government will consider the whole matter, and a full statement will be made.
I ask, Mr. Speaker, that any further Questions be deferred until to-morrow.
The following papers were presented : -
Financial Emergency Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1935, No. 28.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Essendon, Victoria - For Defence purposes.
Norfolk Island Act -
Ordinances of 1935 -
No. 1 - Timber Licences.
No. 2 - Slaughtering.
No. 3 - Gun Licence.
No. 4 Apiaries.
Pounds Ordinance - Regulations.
Debate resumed from the 29th March (vide page 544) on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. Holloway had moved by way of amendment -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words’: - “ this House is of opinion that it is unnecessary and unjustified to interfere in the manner proposed in this Bill with the established national policy of maintaining and extending an Australian mercantile marine service subject to the legislative control of this Parliament and conforming to Australian industrial standards, and that no attempt to redress the grievances of Tasmania, in respect of its shipping disabilities, will satisfy this House or the people unless it proposes -
To secure to that State immediately by means of conditional subsidies an equitable reduction of shipping freights and fares: and
To institute, us soon as practicable, a Commonwealth-owned service providing direct and frequent communication between Tasmanian ports and the ports of the mainland; and this House is further of opinion that the bill should be withdrawn, and a new bill, embodying provisions as to wireless telegraphy apparatus and reduction of shipping freights and fares bo introduced at once” -
.- I am glad that the Government has brought forward this amendment of the Navigation Act, and that all honorable members who have spoken to the bill have shown that they realize the disabilities from which Tasmania is suffering. Tasmania had a better shipping service 30 years ago than it has now. At the present time there is only one passenger ship calling at Hobart. It trades between Hobart and Sydney, and may be taken off at any time. In reply to a question the other day the Acting Prime Minister (Dr.
Earle Page) stated that consideration was being given to a proposal that this vessel should be kept in operation throughout the winter. In 1929-30, when the Scullin Government was in power, a Commonwealth subsidy was made available so that this passenger service might be kept going all the year, but in 1931 the subsidy was withdrawn, and service was suspended during the winter months. In 1928, there was no passenger service to Hobart foi a period of five months. Thirty years ago there was a direct passenger service between Hobart and Melbourne, Hobart and Sydney, and Hobart and New Zealand. However, after the passing of the ‘Navigation Act, the New Zealand service was discontinued. At one time 40 or 50 fruit boats used to call at Hobart every year to pick up fresh fruit for the United Kingdom. They were allowed to carry passengers, with the result that many thousands of tourists travelled on them to Tasmania, and left considerable sums of money in the State. At present these vessels are allowed to carry passengers only if a permit has been obtained from the Minister, who can, if he thinks fit, refuse to grant it. On one occasion a number of passengers had arranged to leave Hobart by a certain vessel, believing that a permit would be issued, but at the last moment it was refused, and at considerable inconvenience and cost to themselves they had to await another vessel. If the Government adopted the proposal embodied in the amendment moved by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), considerable relief would be afforded to the Tasmanian people. They would be compensated to some extent for the disabilities which they undoubtedly suffer as a result of the operation of the coasting trade provisions of the Navigation Act. I intend to support the amendment, but if it is defeated, I shall support the second reading of the bill, which, when enacted, may afford some relief to the Tasmanian people, who for some time have had to contend with difficulties which are not experienced by those on the mainland. The freights from Tasmania to the mainland are higher than those between any of the mainland States. It is recorded in official documents that the freight from Hobart to some Queensland ports is 103s. a ton, which is higher than that from Tasmania to the United Kingdom. In giving evidence before the Commonwealth Grants Commission, one witness stated that this high rate is due largely to the fact that goods transported from Tasmania to Queensland have to be transhipped at Sydney. This is a great disadvantage to the primary producers in Tasmania, who, in ordinary circumstances, have not the same favorable market open to them as have the producers on the mainland. Instances have arisen where Tasmanian passengers have been refused permission to travel on 20,000-ton liners leaving Hobart for mainland ports although no other vessels were sailing for some days. Passenger vessels leave Launceston for Melbourne at certain specified intervals, but, in order to travel*by those boats, passengers have to incur the inconvenience and expense of a railway journey from Hobart to Launceston, and then may be unfortunate enough to miss the vessel or to find that suitable accommodation is not available. Passengers should be permitted to travel from Hobart to the mainland by overseas vessels, because, if that concession should be refused, they are compelled to wait perhaps a week. I do not think that it was ever intended that such unjust conditions should be imposed upon travellers or that one State should be placed at such a disadvantage compared with other States. The Tasmanian people, and particularly the business people, receive very little consideration from the mainland interests. I should be sorry if anything were done. to interfere seriously with the Navigation Act, which lias been the means of improving our interstate shipping service. The accommodation on vessels trading between Fremantle and Brisbane is equal to that available on overseas ships, and the freights and fares are reasonable, but the Tasmanian people cannot derive any benefit from this service. Many of the vessels in the Tasmania trade are obsolete, and the fares and freights are unnecessarily high. When a higher subsidy was agreed upon, we were informed that the Tasmanian people would benefit; but although a new vessel has been placed in the service, the fares between Launceston and Melbourne are still unnecessarily high. Although passengers are on the vessel only one night, the lowest deck cabin fare is £2 15s., and that for a cabin de luxe is £5.
– £5 is nol the average fare.
– The average fare for de luxe cabins is between £3 and £5, which is too high for such i short journey, particularly when the company is being subsidized at the rate of £1,000 a week. Moreover, the Bass Strait service is of little benefit to those residing in the southern portion of Tasmania. The exemptions proposed to be granted will not interfere to any extent with the main provisions of the Navigation Act, and will enable interstate passengers to travel on 40 or 50 overseas boats which visit Tasmania each year. “When the Navigation Act was proclaimed, vessels in the New Zealand trade were not allowed to carry passengers and cargo between Hobart and Melbourne or between Melbourne and Hobart, and, consequently, only two or three 3mall cargo boats now trade between New Zealand and Tasmania. At one of the many inquiries which have been held into the disabilities under which Tasmania is suffering, reference was made to the fact that, owing to the lack of adequate shipping facilities between the mainland and Tasmania, industrial development has been severely retarded. The successful development of Tasmania’s hydroelectric scheme enabled electric power to be produced at a cheaper rate than it can be produced elsewhere in Australia. With the completion of that scheme, manufacturers on the mainland visited Tasmania with the intention of establishing factories, but when they ascertained that the shipping facilities were so unsatisfactory they decided not to proceed with their projects. The Tasmanian Government is now arranging to generate another 90,000 horse-power, but for the reasons I have given it is unlikely that this facility will be utilized to the extent that it should be. Competent economists estimate that under the present system Tasmania is losing at least £420,000 a year. If Tasmania could be compensated to that extent, many of our difficulties would disappear. Until we have a definite statement from the Government that Tasmania will be compensated for the disabilities under which it has laboured for many years, we shall ask for the removal of the coasting trade . provisions of the act. Overseas ships should have absolute freedom to carry passengers to and from Tasmania. It has been said that the only persons who would travel on the overseas liners are those with means to pay for the better accommodation which is usually provided on these vessels ; but I do not agree with that. Many wage-earners and others with small or moderate salaries who have saved a few pounds for their annual holidays wish to travel on luxury liners, and the overseas vessels should be available to them. The fares would not necessarily be higher than those charged on interstate steamers; they might even be lower. One honorable member said that special shipping facilities should be granted to Tasmania to compensate its people for the disadvantage of living in an island State; but I dispute the contention that the living conditions there are less desirable than they are on the mainland. Our State offers every inducement to those who desire to live under good climatic and other conditions at a reasonable cost.
Tasmania is entitled to shipping facilities equal to those enjoyed in other parts of Australia. The Oonah was between 40 and 50 years old, and I was informed that the bottom had been plugged up with cement to such an extent, that at any time the vessel was liable to sink. It is disappointing to find the new steamer, the Taroona, is another flatbottomed vessel. Ships that have to negotiate the river Tamar, with its many bends, can never be completely satisfactory for tourist traffic between Tasmania and the mainland. Hobart, however, has a harbour capable of accommodating vessels of the deepest draught. H.M.S. Renown, on which the Prince of Wales came to Australia, and H.M.S. Sussex, on which the Duke of Gloucester travelled were berthed at Hobart in less than 20 minutes. It is most regrettable that such a magnificent harbour is comparatively idle for a great part of- each year. It is high time that the representatives of Tasmania in this Parliament objected in the strongest terms to the treatment received by that State. It has lost much of its timber trade to South Australia and other States on account of high shipping charges. Prior to federation we could send timber and other commodities direct to Adelaide; but, because of the effects of the Navigation Act, that is now prevented. Instead of making progress, our trade has gone back. Every honorable member has expressed sympathy with our State. The disabilities are even worse than they are represented to be. On various occasions when I have desired to ship produce, I have been unable to do so, because the vessels leaving our ports could not find space for it.
.- I shall need more convincing argument than has been submitted in favour of the amendment of the act as now proposed before I shall be prepared to sacrifice what I conceive to be one of the finest pieces of legislation on the statutebook. The primary reason for the coasting trade provisions was to protect the wage3 and conditions of Australian seamen employed on vessels engaged in the interstate trade, and to give them conditions fit for human beings. The Minister who introduced the bill (Mr. Hughes) is aware of the conditions under which Australian seamen had to live prior to the introduction of the act, and he must realize the absolute necessity . for the protection which it offords to those who go down to the sea in ships. The evidence given in favour of the amendment of the act has not been convincing. Many inquiries have been held into the effects of the coasting trade provisions. In 1924, a royal commission investigated the effect of the act on the various States, and later the Joint Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts reported upon the matter in 1930. Those inquiries were made by members of Parliament; but in 1933 a further investigation was carried out by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, the members of which were the Honorable E. W. Eggleston, Professor J. Giblin and Mr. J. W. Sandford, none of whom could be suspected of having a political axe to grind. None of these commissions endorsed the exaggerated statements that have been made from time to time as to the adverse effect of the coasting trade provisions. Whilst the Public Accounts Committee, in its report, did not give an extensive resume of the evidence tendered as to the effect of the act on the finances of Tasmania, it mentioned certain conclusions arrived at by the royal commission in 1924, which seems to indicate that it rather endorsed the opinions of that commission. Here is an extract from the report of the Public Accounts Committee -
It is claimed that the Navigation Act is a serious disability to Tasmania, perhaps more so than the tariff, because Tasmania is sui dependent on sea transport. It is admitted that it is not possible to assess the liability. It is stated, however, that Tasmania bears a disproportionate amount of the costs imposed by the act on account of the importance of its interstate -and tourist traffic. The Navigation Act was the subject of a royal commission in 1924. The findings of the royal commission wore not unanimous and three separate reports were submitted. The chairman and one other commissioner arrived at the conclusion that the Navigation Act has proved a serious disability to Tasmania, but the other live commissioners did not support that view. Two of those commissioners expressed the view that southern Tasmania had been affected so far as the tourist traffic was concerned, but not nearly to the extent imagined by the people of Hobart. The oilier three commissioners arrived at the conclusion that thu Navigation Act had not affected the tourist traffic, or inflicted injury on Tasmanian industries; also that it had not retarded development or affected the financial position of the State.
That is fairly good evidence that the committee endorsed those views, because it incorporated them, in the absence of other evidence, in that section of its report which deals with the Navigation Act. It is interesting to read the conclusions of the royal commissioners who in 1.924 inquired into the operations of the act, and to ascertain what induced them to arrive at their finding. I have here a quotation from the report of the two commissioners who thought that the Navigation Act had proved a serious disability to Tasmania. - So much did they value a certain piece of evidence which they secured during the inquiry that in their report they cited it in the form of question and answer. Mr. E. T.
Emmett, ex-director of the Tasmania Government Tourist Bureau, had given evidence, of which this is the report -
You opened witha statement that. I think, ought to he enlarged upon. You say, “The tourist traffic to Tasmania is restricted because of the fact that the only really comfortable steamers which ever come from mainland ports to Hobart are not allowed to carry interstate passengers.” Tn your opinion there is no comfort on those boats. Is there no comfort on the Riverina? - I mean in comparison with the Osterley and the Ormonde.
Are those the only boats that you can get comfort on? - The smaller boats fill up to such an extent that they have to use shake-downs.
Has that occurred very often? - It occurred on two out of the four trips.
You say, “ The berthing accommodation is over-applied for, and people are turned away.” Can you give us any further particulars about that? Have you figures with regard to people being turned away? - I have a telegram from my Sydney manager, dated November, 1921,as follows: - “Not even a shake-down either sex saloon now available December twenty-first boat.”
I venture to say that any person intendingto travel during the peak period would be very fortunate to secure a berth if he made application for it only three or four weeks ahead. The gentleman above quoted was greatly upset because on the 21st November no berths were available for the 21st December. The extract proceeds -
Do you know if that condition continued over a series of voyages? - The congestion applies particularly to that boat every year.
The experience of every one is that on train or boat there is a peak period at which congestion occurs, and it is not fair to condemn the operation of a certain line of steamers because on a particular date at the peak of thetourist traffic accommodation is not obtainable at short notice. This witness had word from his Brisbane manager, he said, to the effect that twenty passengers were shut out for trips beginning at Sydney on the 21st December and Melbourne on the 23rd December. He added that he had received another wire stating that on theRiverina on the 20th December only shakedowns were left, and absolutely no accommodation was available for ladies. He had a request from Brisbane for accommodation for four passengers, which he could not supply. That was the class of testimony adduced by the commissioners whose belief was that the
Navigation Act was detrimental to Tasmania ! So much did they think of it that they had it printed in extenso in their report, in order to show that at the peak period of the tourist traffic to Tasmania overcrowding existed to such an extent that four ladies could not make the trip from Sydney. Therefore they say that the Navigation Act must go.
– Is there anything in the report to indicate for what length of time that condition of overcrowding extended?
– I have pointed out that all the bookings were sought to be made late in November for the 21st December - the peak period - and all applied to the one ship, although the requests came from different centres.
– And at the same time in each year?
– Yes, at the peak period. Those two Commissioners came to the conclusions that “ the tourist traffic to Tasmania has suffered by reason of the operations of the coastal trading sections of the Navigation Act” and that “the shipping facilities to Tasmania for passengers during the summer months of each year are inadequate for tourist traffic “. In support they quoted the evidence of an ex-director of the Tasmanian Government Tourist Bureau, which simply amounted to the fact that about 20 passengers in Sydney and four in Brisbane could not obtain accommodation on the peak trip of the tourist season. On that statement they found that the Navigation Act was inimical to the interests of Tasmania. The report of three other members of the royal commission was as follows : -
The remaining two Commissioners made the following report -
In regard to the effect of the act on the tourist traffic to Tasmania, your commissioners are of the opinion that whilst southern Tasmania has undoubtetdly been affected by the operations of the Navigation Act, so far as its tourist traffic is concerned, it has not suffered to nearly the extent imagined by the people of Hobart.
Personally, I am of the opinion that as to neither cargo nor tourists has Tasmania suffered to the degree alleged by those who want to repeal the coasting trade sections of the act. The report stated further -
Nevertheless, Tasmania is dependent to some degree upon the tourist traffic for its prosperity, and anything that militates in any way against the growth or acceleration of this traffic is detrimental to the State’s welfare. The Commonwealth cannot afford to have any considerable portion of the people of any State smarting under what they believe to be an injustice, and something should be done to remove this impression. If the people of Southern Tasmania are so firmly convinced that the few hundred tourists who would come to Hobart each year per medium of the mail boats (if such ships were permitted to carry them) constitute the bridge of prosperity, then, provided too great a sacrifice of principle is not involved, such a traffic should not be prohibited. Your commissioners, in their “ General recommendations,” indicate a means by which this may bo done, without any material injury to” the Australian mercantile marine.
That was the considered opinion of the royal commission which inquired into the position in 1924. As I have pointed out, two of the commissioners declared that the act was detrimental to the interests of Tasmania, two affirmed that it was to a degree, but not to the extent claimed by the people of Hobart, and three of the commissioners held that the act did not affect the tourist traffic of Tasmania or the industries of that State. Since that inquiry was held the act has been amended to permit overseas vessels to engage in the tourist traffic during the peak period of the year. As that is all that is required, there is no necessity now for the proposed amendment of the act.
-When was the act amended ?
– Where is the amendment and what is its nature?
Mr.ROSEVEAR.- In his secondreading speech, the right honorable gentleman said that the act had been amended in 1926 giving the Government power to issue permits.
– As regards the making of regulations, yes. I am talking about the act.
Mr.ROSEVEAR. - Whether or not the act has been amended, it is now possible to suspend the coasting trade provisions of the act to enable overseas vessels to engage in Tasmanian trade during the peak period of tourist traffic, and that, I submit, is all that is required.
– That provision is in the original act.
Mr.ROSEVEAR. - So much the better. It is possible without this bill to overcome the difficulty of which the people of Tasmania complain. According to the statement of the Minister when moving the second reading, Tasmanian business interests are now asking that this privilege of exemption for overseas ships be placed on a statutory basis, the reason being I take it, to enable overseas shipping companies to evade those sections of the act relating to wages, conditions, manning and accommodation of the crew. Those are the business interests which some time ago made representation for the payment of subsidies to existing shipping lines. Dealing with this matter, the Commonwealth Grants Commission made the following comment : -
For some years the shipping services between Melbourne and Tasmania have been supported by a mail subsidy of £30,000 a year. An additional payment is being made this year of £10,000 for improved services. Arrangements have now been completed for a new steamer, which will be running next February-
That, I take it, means February, 1935 - when the subsidy will be increased to £50,000 a year for ten years. A special subsidy of £6,000 was also paid to continue fortnightly services between Sydney and Hobart during the winter months of last year. This is being continued in 1934.
These business interests now desire that the gate be left open for overseas vessels to compete with ships on the Australian register, the evident purpose being to encourage the opposition of overseas lines which makes the payment of these subsidies to Australian ships necessary. I maintain that they cannot have it both ways. They cannot have a special subsidy to enable Australian vessels to trade regularly all the year round between Tasmania and mainland ports and, at the same time, expect Parliament to approve of proposals to enable overseas shipping companies to trade without restriction between the mainland and Tasmania. The Commonwealth Grants Commission, in paragraph 123 of its report, stated -
The Navigation Act is a part of tho Australian policy of protection designed to encourage the coastal trade of Australia. It is not alleged as a grievance by Western Australia, but Tasmania in particular, and South Australia to a less degree, rely on it. Tasmania presented an elaborate calculation placing the damage at £420,000 per annum. There is little doubt that the Navigation Act has been used to establish industrial standards in Australian shipping which are higher than in most countries.
If the act has done that, then I, and I think I can speak for all members on this side of the House, will strongly object to any amendment which may have the effect of lowering the living standards of Australian seamen. The report goes on to say -
The freights in the coastal trade are thus a burden on the States which are not manufacturing States and are forced by the tariff to purchase from, the manufacturing States within the Commonwealth.
That is a debatable point. But assuming that the argument ad.van.ced by the Commonwealth Grants Commission is correct, we must not forget that manufacturers in mainland States have to pay freights on their goods to Tasmania in order to compete with goods landed in that State from overseas manufacturers. The commission states further -
Nevertheless, it seems essential to establish a coastal service; otherwise the shipping needs of the Commonwealth would have to be catered for by overseas liners or by overseas casual services. In either case, the shipping available would be determined by the interests of the overseas companies and liable to be taken away if higher profits could be obtained elsewhere.
That is the history of shipping services throughout the world, and I have not the slightest doubt that it would be repeated in Australia. These overseas shipping companies will not engage in the service for the special benefit of the people of Tasmania; their purpose is to earn profits for their shareholders. Immediately the trade becomes unprofitable, they will cease running their vessels and the people of Tasmania will be forced to rely upon the service given by Australian-owned vessels, which is protected by the Navigation Act. The report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission should constitute a warning to those members of this. House who are inclined to approve of any attempt to “ monkey “ with the coasting trade provisions of the Navigation Act. The report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission continues -
Some protection to the industry is thus essential to secure regularity and efficiency of service, and, from this point of view, the only injury caused is by the higher standards for tho workers engaged and the greater profits, if any, earned by the lines. Whether Tasmania is worse off than she would bp under free competition in shipping is questionable. We do not think the calculations produced on behalf of Tasmania are valid as a measure of the real damage. The real measure of the grant to Tasmania on account of the Navigation Act is the amount necessary to secure by subsidy a reasonably satisfactory and economical transport service.
The Minister who introduced this bill, and some other honorable members who have supported it, would have us believe that immediately the overseas shipping lines are permitted to compete in the trade between various ports in Australia and Tasmania prosperity will return to that State. But the Commonwealth Grants Commission is very definite on the point that it if questionable whether Tasmania is worse off under restriction than under free competition in shipping. I share the belief of the Commonwealth Grants Commission ; it is extremely questionable whether the Tasmanian people will be one whit better off as the result of the bill now before the House.
Another aspect presents itself in any consideration of this matter. To-day, there is intense, and, in some cases, unfair competition in shipping, and it is the duty of the Government not to foster this competition but rather to protect the Australian lines against some of the competition which they have to meet. For instance, the Matson Shipping Line, operating on overseas routes and in the Australian and New Zealand trade, is so heavily subsidized by the Government of the United States of America, that it is able to compete unfairly with British and Australian shipping lines in the traffic to the east coast of Australia. The vessels of this subsidized American line are required to revictual in ports of the United States of America. Only absolutely urgent repair wort is permitted to be undertaken in Australia. Such vessels bring no revenue into this country, and provide little or no employment for Australian workmen. The Government of the United States of America heavily subsidizes the Matson Line in order to force Australian and British lines out of the Pacific trade, and now this bill proposes to amend the coasting trade provisions of the Navigation Act in order to permit British shipping lines to force Australian coastal shipping lines out of business. It is idle to talk about the luxurious accommodation provided by these oversea liners. The figures supplied last year by the then Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart), when introducing a measure similar to this, disclose that the number of passengers carried to Hobart by British ships in 1933 was 4,337, and that in 1934 the number had dropped to 3,871. It would seem, therefore, that 500 fewer people travelled to Hobart by these luxurious overseas ships in 1934 than in the preceding year, thus disposing of the contention that the mere fact of the participation of these luxury liners in the Tasmanian trade will bring about a larger movement of tourists. What is actually the position? We find that during the years 1933-1934 the passenger traffic of the much defamed Australian shipping line between Sydney and Hobart increased by 3,417. Therefore, all this talk about the unsuitability of the Australian ships goes by the board as do disparaging comparisons drawn between the accommodation offered on Australian and British ships. It is apparent, therefore, that the added attraction of the provision of luxury liners will not assist the Tasmanian people. Nor can they be assisted merely by an alteration of the coasting trade provisions of the Naviga tion Act. As indicated by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, the overseas shipping lines will merely pick the eyes out of the Tasmanian trade, placing their ships on that run when it is profitable to do so and leaving the Australian shipping lines to battle on during non-profitable periods. Therefore, I maintain that from the point of view of the Tasmanian people, it is better that encouragement should be given to the Australian shipping lines which give service all the year round.
– But they do not.
– A fortnightly service is now provided right through the winter.
– We are not sure that it will be continued.
– Will the subsidy be continued?
– I do not think the Minister needs to promise that for it is already in the agreement. The result of these amendments will be that during peak periods the overseas shipping lines will carry tourists and apples and other produce - that is to say only when it is profitable to do so - and that immediately the trade becomes unprofitable they will abandon it, so that the Tasmanian people will he forced to revert to the old, or even worse, conditions. After all, if the people of Tasmania say to this Parliament “ Abolish the coasting trade provisions of the Navigation Act and our transport difficulties will disappear “ this Parliament is entitled to say “ If your transport difficulties will disappear with the abolition of those provisions then the subsidy should also be abolished. If you say that the participation of overseas shipping in the Tasmanian trade will solve your difficulty there should be no need to subsidize Australian ships. You cannot have it both ways “. Honorable members on this side must recognize that the shipping service, which is at present receiving a- subsidy from the Government, should recommend itself to their support. I appeal to them not to encourage competition by overseas shipping lines which do not employ Australian workmen but are manned by coolie labour under conditions which are not tolerated in Australia. Members of the Labour party should not give support to any shipping line trading under these conditions in direct competition with, and to the detriment of, the Australian shipping lines which employ Australians at award rates and conditions, and observe all the conditions provided in the Navigation Act.
There is another aspect of the matter that I should like the House to consider. Overseas shipping companies, such as the Matson line, never have major repairs carried out in Australia unless they are absolutely necessary. Many thousands of pounds are spent in repairs to overseas ships in the docking of these vessels not only in Great Britain, but also in foreign ports, when the repairs could be effected in Australia and thus provide employment for our workmen. The Australian companies, on the other hand, have all their work done in this country. Therefore, from every point of view they should receive the utmost support. The major objection of the last honorable member for Denison, Mr. Hutchin, to the vessel that travelled between Melbourne and Launceston, was that it at times carried a cargo of sheep. Although he could not stand the effluvia of these animals, he had no objection to thesmellful coolie crews which overseas ships carried.
This matter has been investigated on a number of occasions by committees of this House and by different commissions. The findings of parliamentarians might be suspect on the ground that they are influenced by political prejudice, but that cannot be said of the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, which is composed of gentlemen who have no association with politics. In not a single instance has the report of an investigating body been in favour of the repeal of the coasting trade provisions of the Navigation Act. While those provisions act as a protection of those who invest capital in Australian shipping companies which cater for the requirements of the Australian public, while they ensure conditions that guarantee to Australian seamen decent living and manning standards and proper accommodation,. I shall require much more convincing evidence than has so far been submitted in favour of this proposal of the Government. I intend to support the amendment of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Hollow ay). He invites the House to express the opinion that the proposal of the Government is unnecessary and unjustified. He goes further, and suggests that no attempt to redress the grievances of Tasmania, in respect of its shipping disabilities, will satisfy the House or the people unless it proposes -
The adoption of the amendment would be far preferable to taking the enormous risk which the Government invites the House to take by amending the coasting trade provisions in the manner proposed by the bill. [Quorum formed.]
.- The House must sympathize with honorable members representing Tasmanian constituencies who have stressed the transport difficulties of Tasmania resulting from the inadequate shipping service which they claim exists at the present time. I contend, however, that we should exhaust the possibilities of every other method for the removal of those disabilities before we attempt to destroy the effectiveness of the Navigation Act. I believe that the amendment of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) would give Tasmania all that it seeks, and I commend it to those honorable members with a view to securing their votes against the proposal of the Government. I feel greatly concerned with respect to one of the clauses of this measure, but not half so concerned as the right honorable gentleman the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Hughes) would have felt had an attack been made upon the act when he practically fathered it during its passage through this House. We are unanimously in accord with the wireless provisions of the measure, which are very necessary. I cannot help thinking, however, that the action of the Minister in driving into the act the wedge represented by the other -provisions is comparable to infanticide.
– He is killing his own baby.
– That ds so. I have every sympathy with him in the difficult position in which he finds himself. The development of a mercantile marine is a fundamental item of policy that has stirred many nations in the past. During the last 110 years, the United States of America have had snipping legislation upon which the Australian Navigation Act was, to a certain extent, framed. To-day, it is not permissible for foreign shipping to trade between one port and another in the United States of America, the great anxiety of that country being so to maintain its mercantile marine that it will be the basis of essential defence measures in the event of war. History teaches us that up to the time of the Civil War in America the mercantile marine of that country was obtaining an increasing share of the world’s trade. To-day, in order that a large proportion of that trade may be carried in American bottoms, a very heavy subsidy is paid. Great Britain has always prided itself upon the large amount of shipping that flies the Union Jack. At one period of the world’s history, seven-eighths of the total trade of China was transported in British bottoms. The spirit underlying the words of the patriotic song Britannia Rules the Waves is that, because of ite mercantile marine, Great Britain exercises among the nations of the world a considerable influence in the maintenance of peace, and possesses, if needed, a strong arm of defence. Are we quite loyal to Australia in disregarding the lessons of the past, and the example set by Great Britain and the United States of America? I know that it will be said that the effect of this measure will not he to destroy the Australian mercantile marine. I contend, however, that if under the act a certain number of vessels manned by coolie crews arc permitted to carry passengers between the mainland and Tasmania, a dangerous situation will be created. I can see the danger to my own State. A State steamship service trades along the north-west coast of Western Australia, while from Fremantle to Singapore a line is run under the system of permits. If this concession is granted to Tasmania, a large number of people in Western Australia, including many of my own electors, will agitate for the granting of a similar concession to the line which trades between Fremantle and Singapore. All that would be needed is an alteration of this amendment to permit the reduction of the tonnage from 10,000 to 2,000 tons. When we grant permits, as is the case to-day, we at least are able to say whether the ships will run in regular rotation with Australian vessels employing white crews, who have their homes in Australia and spend their money in this country. The coolies on these black-labour vessels do not spend money in Australia; they are satisfied with the 50 lb. of rice and the few dried fish with which they are supplied at Singapore for the journey to Australia and back. If these vessels are brought into competition with those employing white crews, they will constitute a grave menace to the Australian mercantile marine. One honorable member urged the abolition of the Navigation Act, or certain portions of it, on the ground that the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was not a success. Even if that line were a failure, it does not necessarily follow that the Navigation Act should be repealed. The honorable member’s argument was aimed at the proposal foreshadowed by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports that there should be a Commonwealth-owned fleet trading between Tasmania and the mainland. I admit that there were foolish strikes by the men employed on the Commonwealth Line of Steamers. They were instigated largely by a man who has since been expelled from the Labour party.- At one time he persuaded Australian seamen to strike because a number of British seamen were on strike. The big shipping interests were determined to get rid of the Commonwealth line, at almost any cost. During my lifetime I have travelled on a number of vessels, but never on any more comfortable than those of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers.
– Where did the honorable member have his meals - with the captain or in the big dining room ?
– I had them in the big dining room.
– Did he not find the conditions there rough?
– I found the service in the big dining room better than anything I had previously experienced on other vessels. It is a pity that the vessels were sold.
– Not “ sold but “given away”.
– On the voyage from London to Fremantle I conversed with the captain, who told me that Dalgety and Company, and others who controlled wool and other freights to and from Australia, made it practically impossible for vessels belonging to the Commonwealth line to return to England fully laden. They were not even permitted to take full loads of Australian wool. The difficulty of obtaining freights was one of the principal reasons for their lack of success.
Western Australia has its own State line of steamers. Honorable members may be interested to hear the reason why the State government of the day established that line. Before 1912 those engaged in a small way in the cattle industry in the north-west of Australia, found it impossible to dispose of their herds, because the big producers of meat controlled the shipping to those ports and utilized the space firstly for their own cattle. The result was that the small producers, after having brought their cattle over long distances to Derby or Wyndham, were sometimes able to ship only a few of them, and were forced, willy-nilly, to take the remainder back into the wilderness, never again to bring them to the seaboard. The small producers were practically ruined until a Labour government in Western Australia established a State shipping line That government gave first preference to the small producers, on the ground that the big producers of meat had shown their ability to look after themselves. No honorable member can deny that I have correctly stated the genesis of the State line of steamers in Western Australia. Those vessels have rendered excellent service to the people of the north-west of that State - an area so . sparsely populated that it offers little attraction to ordinary trading vessels. If the proposals of the Government in this amending legislation are given effect, I see danger ahead of the line of steamers controlled by the Western Australian Government. I fear vessels employing black labour coming into active competition with Australian vessels employing white crews, with the result that the State line will be driven out of existence. A number of the squatters in the north-west of Western Australia are forced against their will to ship their wool by vessels employing black crews, the reason being that they are in debt to Dalgety and Company and other shipping companies, and ave required to ship their wool on vessels controlled by those companies, although if the abolition of the government shipping line in Western Australia were proposed, the first section of the community to be up in arms would be the squatters on the north-west coast, because they realize the value of the service which that line has rendered, and is rendering, to them.
It has been said during this debate that the freights charged by Australian steamship companies are uniformly high. I agree; but that is nothing new in shipping circles. The shipping advertisements in the London Times are evidence that a huge shipping combine ‘ exists in overseas owned lines, for all the advertisements relating to ships belonging to what is known as the Conference lines - the Peninsular and Oriental, the Orient Company, the Aberdeen and Commonwealth Line, and others - are grouped under one heading. The Australian mercantile marine, which this country has endeavoured to establish under its Navigation Act, is in danger. Any attempt to deprive it of its Magna Charta should be resisted, for success in that direction would be most disastrous.
Western Australia had a regular line of steamers trading with eastern ports before the trans-Australian railway was constructed, but the danger of isolation was considered so great that Sir John Forrest, afterwards Lord Forrest, made the construction of a railway line linking the railways of Western Australia with those of the eastern States a condition of Western
Australia’s acceptance of federation. As a Western Australian, I sympathize with the people of Tasmania, a State which cannot be reached from the rest of Australia without crossing the water. The amendment of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has my hearty support, because I believe that, if agreed to, it will solve many of the difficulties associated with Australian shipping, and help to bring about lower freight rates.
.- The proposals of the Government as contained in this bill may be divided into two parts, entirely different from one another. The credit, if credit be due to any one for such a combination of conflicting intentions in one measure, is, I think, clue to the Minister in charge of this bill (Mr. Hughes), who seeks thereby to embarrass the Opposition. The right honorable gentleman knows that with one part of the bill we on this side are in entire accord, although wholeheartedly opposed to the other part, and he seeks by that means to divide honorable members on this side. The amendment of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) shows clearly the attitude of the Labour party towards this legislation. Regarding those clauses which seek to protect the lives of men at sea, there is no difference of opinion ; all sections in this House are agreed that everything possible in that direction should be done. In fact, there is general agreement that legislation to that end should have been introduced years ago, in which case many maritime disasters, and, unfortunately, great loss of life, might have been avoided. This bill is an example of the tendency in modern legislation to provide more and more for the control of industry by the State. One hundred years ago the State had to step in and control hours of labour for children and women working in mines, while in more recent times the State has had to use its power to force employers to provide decent conditions of living for their employees. This has been rendered necessary because as a general rule, private enterprise will not do the right thing until forced to do it. I do not say that all employers are heedless of the welfare of their workers. Some are not but are the victims of the system. Economic pressure forces them-, to refuse proper working conditions until they are compelled by the State to grant them.
The other portion of this amending” bill deals with the coasting trade provisions of the Navigation Act, the purpose of which was to place the control of Australian shipping in the hands of the Australian people, to see that Australian wages were paid to seamen operating under Australian conditions on the Australian coast, and to create an Australian mercantile marine. Probably no other piece of legislation ever received more careful or more extensive consideration than this before being passed by Parliament. The bill was originally drafted in 1902, at a time when governments tended more towards conservatism than now. The bill was introduced in the Senate in 1904, but was withdrawn, and in June of that year a royal commission, of which the present Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) was chairman, was appointed to report upon it. In 1907, the Imperial Conference, at which there were present representatives of the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, considered this draft legislation. On that occasion Australia was represented by the late Sir William Lyne, Mr. W. M. Hughes and Mr. J. Thompson, who were- also members: of the Royal Commission. That conference, which was representative of the various parts of the Empire, recommended that the coasting trade of the Commonwealth be reserved for ships on the Australian register, that is, ships conforming to Australian conditions, and licensed to trade on the Australian coast.
– That is all we are asking for now.
– That is so. On several occasions the Navigation Bill was brought before this Parliament, but it was not passed until 1912. At the request of the British Government it was not brought into operation during the war, but on the 1st July, 1921, it came into force, except for certain unimportant sections. It has now been in operation for almost fourteen years, during which time several inquiries have been held as to its effect upon Tasmania and other parts of the Commonwealth.
Some of those inquiries were initiated by Tasmania, while others were conducted by the Commonwealth. A list of them is included in one of the latest reports on the subject, that by “ The ‘ Economic Case for Tasmania Committee upon the effects on Tasmania of the Navigation Act of 1912, and its Amendments “. This inquiry was initiated by the Government of Tasmania, and the report mentions that a State inquiry was also authorized in 1925 by Mr. J. A. Lyons, who was then Premier of Tasmania. That inquiry concerned itself with Tasmania’s disabilities under Federation, and the effect of the Navigation Act was reviewed. In 1926 the late Sir Nicholas Lockyer conducted an inquiry and submitted a report. There was an inquiry in 1930, and in 1934 the Government of Tasmania conducted this further inquiry. Apart from these State inquiries, the Commonwealth Government appointed a royal commission in 1924 to inquire into the effect of the Navigation Act.. In 1927, the Parliamentary Joint Committee of Public Accounts conducted an inquiry and prepared a report, and in 1929-30 the same committee inquired further into Tasmanian disabilities. Despite all those inquiries, however, the Navigation Act has survived for fourteen years.
I believe it will be found that Tasmania - the State which is complaining most of the Navigation Act - has suffered to some slight extent as a result of it. However, I believe - and the various reports bear this out - that the loss to Tasmania is not nearly so great as many Tasmanians assert. As a matter of fact, it is only in Hobart that there is any real agitation against the act, and most of that agitation is inspired by causes which are quite distinct from the act itself. In 1924, the Government Statistician of Tasmania gave the following evidence before the royal commission which inquired into the Navigation Act: -
It is a very old story. Tasmania is a rough, mountainous country, and rough, mountainous countries are never naturally rich countries. Take, for example, Scotland and Norway. The rich countries have plains. Tasmania’s natural lot was hard work and plain living, and she realized it to some extent fairly early, and kept expenses down, but the other States of Australia, which had more potentialities of easy wealth, with more of the plain country, had not that necessity. It is no use talking about fertile soil when the expenses of production and transport are so high as to counterbalance that advantage. Tasmania has had to keep its belt buckled tight, (though it 1ms felt that it ought to be able to expand, and do what the other States do. When the possibilities of raising loans came along in the 80’s the mineral wealth of Tasmania began to be exploited at the same time. The two things together enabled Tasmania to expand, and if the State could not keep up to the level of the other States it could do much in the way for building railways, roadways, hospitals, and so on. She was enabled to do that on the loan policy, and on her mineral wealth, but loan policies come home to roost and mineral wealth becomes exhausted. Our mineral wealth has been steadily going down all this century, and about 1910 it began to be clear that Tasmania was going to get into a bad position, because the interest on loans was piling up, and her mineral wealth was becoming less productive. There was a good deal of feeling about it, and, in 1914, we were almost ripe for taking action in the way of putting our finances in a good position. Then came the war, and this problem of drastic retrenchment was postponed because of the war. The war was made an excuse for postponing an unpleasant job. The position all the time was getting really worse. But we had a boom in metal prices which helped things, and the soldiers’ pay and separation allowances also helped, so people thought that things were going well. Then we had the after-the-war boom when everything went swimmingly, and it was only during the last two or three years that we began to realize how bad the position was. We had the expense of soldier settlement, which fell to a great extent on the States. The interest on loans got very heavy, and the mineral production fell to about one-third of what it was at its best. It is not only a Governmental financial question. It is not a question of the Government putting on taxes and getting money from the people; the people are relatively poor. They have these obligations of the past to carry, and it is almost impossible for them to carry on. That is why we feel inclined to blame anything we can.
The report containing this evidence was signed by Senators Elliott and Walter Duncan, who stated -
This opinion was supported by statistics. It is quoted because it clears up a great deal of misconception in regard to the question of what is wrong with Tasmania.
The causes of Tasmania’s troubles are quite obvious to even the casual observer, but they do not come within the scope of this inquiry.
It is evident, therefore, that Tasmania’s disabilities arise largely from natural causes, but I do not for that reason say that we should not help her. I believe that the Commonwealth should do what it can to help Tasmania, and that has been the policy of successive Commonwealth Governments for some years past. We have given grants to Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia, which are what has been described as the weaker States. There is no evidence that Tasmania’s disabilities are to any great extent attributable to. the effect of the Navigation Act. As a matter of fact, the report of the royal commission in 1924 referred to other reports stating that the act bore more heavily upon Queensland than upon any other State, yet no representative of Queensland - at least on this side of the House - would vote for the repeal of the coasting trade provisions of the act. It remains true, however, that Tasmania is worse off than some of the other States, and it is our duty to work out a permanent scheme for her assistance.
I have already referred to the inquiry initiated by the Government of Tasmania in 1934. The inquiry was conducted by a committee consisting of the Honorable Claude James, M.H.A., Chief Secretary, (chairman) ; the Honorable Tasman Shields, C.M.G., M.L.C.; Mr. E. DwyerGray, M.H.A.; Mr. H. H. Cummins, Chartered Accountant (Australia) ; Mr. L. Norman, Secretary. On page 11 of that report there is recorded the following resolution, carried on the 22nd July, 1927, at an interstate maritime conference, with only two dissentients: -
That the Commonwealth Government be advised that the only permanent remedy for the distress caused to Tasmania by the lack of suitable communication with the mainland is for the Government to step in and inaugurate a suitable passenger and cargo service. And, in order that the overhead charges may be kept to a, minimum, and the service run as economically as possible, the present organization of the Australian Line of Steamers be used, and the vessels operated under the management of the Australian Commonwealth Shipping Board.
That was before an anti-Labour Commonwealth Government, in its desire to make gifts to its friends, decided to dispose of the Australian Commonwealth line of steamers as a gift. At the conference at which that resolution was carried, the following delegates were present : -
Captain Allen and Captain Wood, representing the Merchant Service Guild; Messrs. C. E. Moate and A. Moate, representing the Australian Marine Stewards; Mr. C. Page, repre senting the Australian Federated Cooks; Messrs. Tom Walsh and Tom Fleming, representing the Australian seamen; Messrs A. E. Turley and F. V. Bates, representing the Waterside Workers of Australia; Alderman F. D. Valentine, representing the City Council of Hobart; Mr. H. H. Cummins, representing the Hobart Chamber of Commerce; the late Mr. Horace Walch, representing the Hobart Development League; Mr. C. B. Black, representing the Tasmanian Shipping Committee; Mr. W. H. Cummins, the general manager of the Mercury, and president of .the Hobart Chamber of Commerce; Mr. J. B. Reid, representing the “ Come to Tasmania “ organization; Mr. J. R. Johnston, representing the Hobart Marine Board; Mr. L. F. Piesse, representing the Hobart Marine Board; and the late Sir Alfred Ashbolt, representing the Tas- mania.ii Shipping Committee.
One could not hope to obtain a gathering more representative of Hobart citizens than that which constituted this conference. The only two dissentients were Mr. L. F. Piesse, one of the two delegates, representing the Hobart Marine Board, and the late Sir Alfred Ashbolt, representing the Tasmanian shipping committee. All of the others, representatives of the major unions connected with shipping, representatives of the Hobart Chamber of Commerce, and representatives of many anti-Labour organizations, carried a resolution at the instance of the then Premier of Tasmania (Mr. Lyons), who is now Prime Minister of Australia, to the effect that what Tasmania wanted was a government shipping service. The fact that no suggestion was then made that the coasting trade provisions of the Navigation Act should be repealed proves how little need there was for an alteration such as is proposed in this measure. The argument that the repeal of the Navigation Act will remedy Tasmania’s difficulties, or that the operation of that act is the sole cause of the State’s economic problems, is a fallacious one. It is wrong to take one factor, and that the least, out of a number of factors and contend that it is responsible for all the troubles that arise from the lot. Such an argument is analagous, to one advanced the other night by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) that because the Scullin Government was in office and brought in a tariff and unemployment continued to increase, the tarin5 was responsible for the increase. As a matter of fact the operation of that tariff ‘had no relation to the increase of unemployment. The two things merely happened to coincide. Causes other than the tariff brought about the increase of unemployment ; the tariff, on the contrary, tended to diminish this increase.
Apart from the adverse effect which this legislation will have on our White Australia policy, and the higher living conditions of our people, many Queenslanders and residents in every district not served by rail have a particular reason for opposing this legislation. As the Minister pointed out in ‘his second-reading speech, and as is obvious to any one who studies the bill closely; overseas ships will be exempted by this measure from the provision’s of the coasting trade provisions; These ships will be able to pick up passengers at any port and convey them to any other port in Australia so long as the two ports are not connected by rail. For instance, a ship could take passengers from Cooktown, in Queensland, which, is not connected by rail with the rest of Australia, to any other port in Australia, whether or not the port of disembarkation be on a railway or not. Also, a ship could carry passengers from a port which is on a railway, such as Cairns or Townsville, to any other port in Australia so long as the port of disembarkation be not connected with the same railway line on which the port of embarkation is situated: ‘Under such circumstances an overseas ship could take passengers all round Australia. Therefore, apart from the Tasmanian aspect of the matter altogether, or the special conditions affecting the north-western part of Australia, ‘ this -legislation will have very much wider implications for persons living in Queensland and other parts of Australia than honorable members have probably observed. Even the Minister himself’ seems’ to have considerable doubt’ as to what may be the limits of this legislation, because, when introducing it, he pointed out that the Government was deliberately leaving in this act the section providing for the issue of special permits under special conditions, and he said that if it were found that the act worked harshly the Government would be able to have recourse to this particu- lar section. For that reason the Minister said the Government was not repealing it. It might be contended that such an attitude reveals the extent to which the Government is concerned with the welfare of Australian seamen and the shipping service; but the position, as I understand it, is that the Minister really admits that this act is going to be unusually wide in its implications, and is somewhat afraid as to whether the Government will be able completely to control its operations, even if it wishes to do so.
In view of the resolution carried by the Interstate Maritime Conference at the instance of Mr. Lyons, this House, I contend, should support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, to provide for an Australian shipping service to Tasmania; and until that desired end can be attained a conditional subsidy should be paid to shipping companies trading to Tasmania on the understanding that they reduce their freights and fares. The amendment provides for such a subsidy decreasing or increasing correspondingly with increases or decreases of freights and fares. Such a plan, would remove the greatest argument put forward at the present time by Tasmania against the provisions of the act.
One argument which may be raised, but which will certainly be met in the amendment, is that the present Australian shipping service is subject to the overseas shipping combine. That is a point I wish to stress, because it strengthens rather than weakens the arguments advanced by honorable members on this side that we need a Commonwealth shipping service.
– There are bo free ships now.
– There are no free ships since a gift was made of our ships to overseas interests. On page 26 of the report of the Royal Commission on the Navigation Act, two of the commissioners, the Chairman, Mr. J. H. Prowse, M.P., and Mr. A. C. Seabrook, an exmember of this House and representative of a Tasmanian constituency state-
While the primary objective of the Navigation Act was to build up an Australian mercantile marine, the act has failed in its purpose, and the Australasian Steamship Owners’
Federation are practically part and parcel of the great English Shipping Combine. Some explanation of this statement is necessary.
It is well known that almost the whole of the overseas shipping of England is in the hands of the shipping combine known as the “ Inchcape Group “, of which the head is Lord Inchcape. There is no secret about this fact, and it is not for one moment asserted that there is anything sinister in this combine. In fact, the combine is openly defended in the United Kingdom, for it is claimed that this shipping monopoly eliminates waste, and instead of one English company fighting another, they are combined to compete with foreign shipping. This, it is claimed, is the patriotic aim of the Inchcape Combine. With the same motives, in order not to waste ships and money in competing with the Australian companies, the English combine has chosen the easier way, and acquired controlling interests in almost every Australian company. Thus we find that the Australian United Steamship Navigation Company is a subsidiary company of the British India Steamship Navigation Company, over which Lord Inchcape has control. The McIlwraith, McEacharn Line is also an English company, the majority of the shares being held in England. Burns Philp and Company are an Inchcape Company. The Union SteamshipCompany is also controlled by Lord Inchcape, and this company, with Huddart Parker and Company, control the Tasmanian Steamships Proprietary Limited while the Huddart Parker Company has a large interest in the Melbourne Steamship Company. The firm of W. Holyman and Sons Limited (Shipowners) is also controlled by the Union Steamship Company and Huddart Parker and Company. The firm of McDonald, Hamilton and Company is also owned by British interests, and the largest shareholders have large interests in Burns, Philp and Company and the Peninsular and Oriental Company, both Inchcape Companies.
This brings us to the position that seeing that our Navigation Act has failed to build up an Australian mercantile marine, we are saddling the whole of Australia with the expense of the Navigation Act, which only benefits a comparatively few seamen, a number of whom have been attracted to the Australian coastal ships on account of the higher wages.
Therefore, in the opinion of your commissioners, the only practical use which the act has is to prevent foreign shipping competition in Australian waters, and, in view of this fact, your commissioners Suggest that the Commonwealth Government should enter into negotiations with the British Government with a view to evolving by mutual agreement an Empire Navigation Act, such act to contain similar conditions (manning, wages, wireless, &c.), to preserve the coastal shipping of Australia to the mercantile marine of the British Empire.
In the preceding section your commissioners have shown that the Australian Steamship Owners’ Federation is, in effect, a branch of the English Combine. The Australian Navigation Act protects this part of the English
Combine from foreign competition. It has a monopoly of Australian shipping. What, then, is the scope of this monopoly?
Your commissioners have found considerable difficulty in finding out what is the extent of the operations of the shipping companies of Australia. Soon after your commissioners began their inquiry it became evident that the shipping companies had other interests, apart from shipping. In some cases they are interlinked with each other, and also have bonds of relationship in other industries. The extent of these relationships and co-partnerships hasbeen very difficult to determine. Your commissioners, therefore, have had to resort to official records of lists of shareholders, which in a number of cases are incomplete and also are misleading. For example, a trustee agency or a bank may be found to hold a large parcel of shares in a company. There is nothing to show for whom these shares are held. Other “ dummies “ are used, consisting of officials of companies and relatives of directors.
Some facts, however, did come to light, of which the following are examples: -
1 ) The Adelaide Steamship Company holds about half the shares of the AbermainLeaham Collieries Limited, and about 35 per cent. of the North Bulli Colliery Limited.
Howard Smith Limited, which originally had coal and shipping interests, separated its interests, and gave its shipping branch the title of the Australian Steamships Proprietary Limited. This company, in addition, holds controlling interests in Caledonian Collieries Limited, Invincible Collieries Limited, Australian Sugar Company Limited, Commonweal th Steel Products Limited, and Brisbane Wharves Limited. In their latest balance-sheet this company shows that the amount invested in other companies is £2,430,000.
Several large shareholders in the North Coast Steam Navigation Company are also large holders in Burns, Philp and Company.
Burns, Philp and Company have controlling interests in the Solomon Islands Development Company Ltd., Burns Philp (South Sea) Company Limited, Choiseul Plantations Limited, Shortland Islands Plantations Limited.
Huddart, Parker Limited are large shareholders in the Abermain-Leaham Collieries Limited, and also in Hebburn Limited (Colliery), and also holds 88 per cent. of the stock of the Metropolitan Coal Company Limited.
McIlwraith McEacharn Limited holds 45 per cent. of Bellambi Coal Company Limited.
There are numerous other examples of the interweaving of shipping interests with other interests, and all these examples point to the fact that the shipping companies of Australia have a grip of the key industries of Australia.
– Because of the Navigation Act.
– Not at all. It was because of the disposal of the Commonwealth Shipping Line which was the only line able to meet the combine on equal terms.
-The sale of the Commonwealth Shipping Line is not under discussion.
– The report continues -
As the great meat trust of the United States built up its business by its interlinking with railroad interests, so the fortunes of the principal shipping companies of Australia (a branch of the overseas shipping combine) are bound up in those of the greatest of Australian industries, and thus it becomes patent that a comparatively few persons, mostly resident outside Australia and with large English and foreign financial interests, constitute an enormous trust, which, to a large extent, controls the economic destinies of . Australia.
The farther your commissioners have investigated this phase of the question the more apparent the trust becomes, and the Australian branch of the trust is of such formidable proportions that your commissioners consider the matter of sufficient importance to warrant the Government examining the matter in all its aspects.
On previous occasions when I have referred to the trusts which control practically all the capital in Australia, I have- been accused by some honorable members opposite of exaggerating the subject; but what I have already quoted from the report signed by the honorable member for Forrest shows that in connexion with shipping at any rate he held similar views at that time. For the reasons that I have given it is necessary for Australia to control a shipping line, and so honorable members on this side of the House intend to vote for the amendment. We hope ultimately to replace the vessels which the anti-Labour Government practically gave away. Only by this means do we consider that the people of Tasmania, Western Australia, and certain other parts of the Commonwealth will be adequately served with vessels that will carry cargo and passengers at reasonable rates.
As another example of the power of the shipping com’bine, I refer honorable members to page 20 of the report, which shows clearly that the Western Australian timber industry was very severely dealt with as long ago as 1910. The vessels belonging to the members of te Shipping Federation succeeded in remov ing all competitive vessels from the Western Australian timber runs by means of rebates given during the preceding ten years, and the seven associated companies then left divided the available trade between them and allocated the runs that each vessel was to take. In this connexion I direct the attention of honorable members to the following comments in the report : -
With regard to the complaint that the shipping companies have a monopoly of timber space from Western Australia to the eastern States, the position was revealed very clearly in the light of the following circumstances. It was found by the timber industry that it could not continue to pay the high freights to the eastern States, and mills were beginning to close. The timber industry made representations to the shipping companies that a reduction of 20 per cent, was necessary. The shipping companies offered a reduction of 10 per cent, and refused to reduce any lower. The timber industry representatives then communicated with Messrs. Scott Fell and Company, of Sydney, who are outside the shipping federation, and who agreed to carry timber from Western Australia to the eastern States at a 20 per cent, reduction on existing freights. As soon as the shipping federation heard of this, they decreased their freight by 20 per cent, and this was satisfactory to the timber industry. Scott Fell and Company did not come into the trade, and when it was evident that that firm1 was not going to compete, the shipping federation raised the timber freights by 10 per cent. The timber industry again opened negotiations with Messrs. Scott Fell and Company, and an arrangement was being made for that firm to carry timber at the 20 per cent, reduction in freight, when the federated shipping companies threatened the sawmilling companies with practically a “ boycott “ if they patronized Scott Fell and Company’s steamers. It is stated that negotiations again fell through on account of the coal strike.
What I have just read gives us ample justification for supporting the amendment and doing our best to overcome the troubles caused by the combine.
Some honorable members will recollect that Mr. Frank Anstey, at that time the member for Bourke, submitted to the Government an addendum to the report, consisting of a’bout six pages; but the Government refused to print it, though it printed the other reports submitted by members of the commission. In his addendum, Mr. Anstey gave illuminating information about the ramifications of the shipping combine, but it did not suit the views of the political party in power at that time to publish it.
I now direct the attention of honorable members to comments made on page 16 of the 1924 report, signed by the honorable member for Forrest.
About the middle of 191.9, when there had been a good season on .the north-west coast, and a good market on the mainland, the shipping facilities at the ports of Devonport, Burnie and Stanley, were so inadequate that the producers were in despair of placing their produce on the mainland market. The position became worse, hundreds of tons of produce were being wasted because of no vessels to take it away, till the people of the northwest coast, finding that no help was likely to come from the shipping companies or the Commonwealth Government, demanded that the State Government should do something. Public men who were opposed to any form of State enterprise, demanded a shipping service from the State, rather than see this fertile part of Tasmania languish. The result was that in May, 1920, the State Parliament passed an act authorizing the Government to purchase or build vessels. In June, 1920, the Government bought the SS. Melbourne (1,739 tons gross register) from the Melbourne Steamship Company, and at the end of 1921, the SS. Poolta, (1,075 tons gross register) was purchased.
The honorable member did not take steps to have mention made in the report of the fact that an anti-Labour Government in power at that time purchased the worst class of ships to put on that route.
– A Labour Government sold the vessels because it was uneconomic to run them..
– That is not correct. If it had been so, it would have been mentioned in the report. The report continues as follows: -
Immediately the S.S. Melbourne began to trade on the north-west coast, the interstate companies entered into keen competition there. The chief market for the north-west coast produce is Sydney, and the bulk of the trade by the State boats has been between the northwest coast ports and New South Wales. The interstate companies at once sent vessels trading front Newcastle to Melbourne across to Tasmania to lift produce, and the date of their sailings from the Tasmanian ports synchronized with the sailing of the State vessels. In other words, the interstate companies were out to crush the State ships, and while previously they had been unable to provide more than an occasional ship for the north-west coast trade, as soon as the State bought one of their vessels and started to meet the needs of the producers, the interstate companies could fmd several vessels to run in keen competition with it. The result has been that since the beginning of the State service, the north-west coast ports have had a service which probably jio other similar part of Australia enjoys. The number of vessels visiting these ports has increased greatly. The amount of cargo lifted shows a remarkable increase, while Ulverstone, which three years ago was not visited by vessels of any kind, suddenly rose to the status of an interstate port. As an example of the increase in shipping, evidence was obtained in 1919 that the total inward gross tonnage for the port of Burnie was 239,053, in 1920, six months after the State vessel started, the total tonnage was 458,529; in 1921, it rose to 532,231, in 1922, to 799,738, and in 1923 to 878,228. The result of- this competition has been (a) to increase shipping facilities; and (6) to increase production.
The fact that those vessels were running on that route increased production considerably. A publicly-owned shipping line would have the same effect to-day.
– Will the honorable member read the findings of the commission ?
– I have pointed out in statements signed by the honorable member himself that government-owned ships were put on runs that privately-owned ships would not operate, and that as a consequence the conditions of life and trade of the people in those areas were greatly improved. I regret, therefore, that the Minister in charge of this bill is to-day endeavouring to destroy what is his own legislative infant. In earlier days, he looked upon the establishment of the Australian Commonwealth Line as a great achievement. It has been said that this line was not successful. Certain balance-sheets submitted to Parliament by the then Prime Minister, Mr. Bruce, made provision for depreciation to the extent of £5,000,000 more than estimated by the manager of the board controlling the line. But those figures were faked, like the budget figures are faked.
That remark is distinctly out of order.
– Then I will say that the figures were declared by the manager of the Australian Commonwealth Line to be incorrect. Another ground on which it was alleged that the Australian Commonwealth Line had proved unprofitable was that it had not been able to pay interest on debentures to the value of £4,500,000, which were held by the Commonwealth Government, and that the line was in debt to the Government to the amount of £1,000,000. This amount was put down at a loss. Under such methods, the most flourishing business enterprise in the world could be made to appear unprofitable.
We all know that in various parts of Australia, government-owned vessels have been put 011 to trade routes that privatelyowned vessels would not serve. In times of emergency, for instance, vessels belonging to the Royal Navy have been sent to Darwin. If the Australian Commonwealth Line had been controlled in the same way as privately-owned shipping lines, and had been permitted to engage in overseas trade at a freight rate of £15 a ton, instead of at a freight rate of £5 a ton, its financial results would have been very different.
In view of a ruling that has been given from the Chair, I cannot pursue the history of the Commonwealth Shipping Line any further. I submitthat good and substantial reasons have been advanced in favour of the amendment. ‘The case we have put forward is irrefutable, as anybody regarding this subject dispassionately and apart from political bias, will readily admit. In the interests of the Australian nation, as well as in the interests of our trade and commerce, I support the amendment.
.- In view of the extracts from the report of the Navigation Commission of 1924, quoted by the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker), it is necessary for mu to remind honorable members that the finding of the majority of the members of the commission strongly urged that the coasting trade provisions of the Navigation Act should be repealed. I shall support this bill, though I should like a few small amendments made to it. It would be a shame, in my opinion, if a State which has suffered as much as Tasmania has from the effects of federation should be denied the small concession now proposed to be made to it. I cannot understand why honorable members opposite should seek to deny Tasmania this small measure of justice. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) must know that if his amendment were carried, the bill would be shelved, for in tie light of our past experience of governmentowned and controlled ships it is not likely that this Government will embark upon another experiment of the same kind. It seems to me that the two combines^ - the Australian shipping companies and the Labour party - are prepared to do everything in their power that might tend to injure Tasmania.
– The amendment provides that whatever ship is used on the Tasmanian service it must be registered in Australia.
– The honorable member must know very well that the bill would be shelved indefinitely if his amendment were agreed to, for no government, other than a Labour Government, would bo foolish enough to purchase and operate another shipping line. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) told u3 of his experience when travelling on one of the Commonwealth-owned ships. I also had the experience of travelling from Melbourne to Fremantle on one of those vessels. I had the privilege of dining at the captain’s table, and so was well treated; but I saw how the passengers at the other tables were served. If the honorable member for Kalgoorlie were satisfied, I assure him that many of his fellow passengers were gravely dissatisfied. It should be made clear to the people of Tasmania that the members of the Labour party are seeking to prevent, this small concession being made to them.
– The concession is so small that a microscope would need to be used to see it.
– If so, then why oppose it? We need many amendments of the Navigation Act. According to one authority practically twice the number of persons are required to man a vessel on the Australian register as are required on a vessel of the British register. In other words, owing to the legislation passed by the Commonwealth Parliament in respect of navigation, it takes about two Australians to do the work of one Englishman. This additional expense has to be borne by those who use vessels in the interstate trade, particularly the people of Western Australia, who obtain most of their requirements in the eastern States, and are compelled to, pay higher freights than would otherwise be the case. I should like the principal act to be amended in other directions so that more reasonable trading conditions than, are provided under the coasting trade provisions would be available. Under present conditions special consideration is being shown to certain shipping interests, and rights are being conferred upon one section of the community which are denied to other sections. The purser of the Zealandia, a vessel engaged in the interstate trade, once informed me that the dishwasher on that vessel averaged between £31 and £33 a month, plus board and lodging. In a report published recently it was stated that a company engaged in searching for oil on the north-west coast of Western Australia had to pay as much to transport goods 300 miles along the coast as it would have to pay to get them to Europe. Conditions such as these are seriously retarding the development of this country. When the bill is in committee I hope to be able to induce the Government to give further consideration to the needs of other than those to whom concessions are to be granted under this bill. This measure is merely to facilitate the transport of persons who may be travelling between certain mainland ports and Hobart, but assistance should also be given to other sections, and particularly those who have to pay unnecessarily high freights. I trust that the Tasmanian people will realize that if the amendment moved by the honorable member for Melbourne -Ports (Mr. Holloway) is carried it will be due to the support of Tasmanian labour members, and that they will realize that its adoption will mean that the bill will be shelved.
– In reply - I feel sure that all the information on this subject which an ordinary person is capable of assimilating has already been made available. I do not wish to disturb the decisions which some honorable members have reached as a result of listening to copious extracts from valuable reports published from the time Captain Cook landed in this country until the present day. But I may be permitted to deal briefly with the position that will arise if this bill becomes law - a point of some importance, which, perhaps, has been overlooked by many enthusiastic members opposing the bill. It has been mentioned that the measure deals with two distinct subjects. On one of them there has been lavished a sustained chorus of eulogy, and, on the other, nothing has been heard except condemnation. I leave that portion of the bill upon which eulogy has been showered so freely with the passing comment that in this world, where one gets so many kicks, the few half-pence that come our way are not to be despised. I should like, however, to make one or two comments on the sections of the bill amend ing the coasting trade provisions of the principal act. Some honorable members opposite have expressed the opinion that the adoption of the proposed amendments will mean the destruction of the Australian mercantile marine. They contend that they are a menace so deadly that it requires only a little time to complete its ruin. If I thought for a moment the bill would have that effect, I would not advocate it. I have some right to speak with authority on the Australian mercantile marine, and on the act to which honorable members have referred, and which has done something to advance the interests of the people of Australia. I shall not say more on this point than that it was my happy fortune to be associated with those who drafted the original bill, and that I helped to pilot it through the House. I was also chairman of the Navigation Commission. The act as it now stands has definitely placed Australia abreast, if not in advance, of the other maritime countries of the world, and this measure will certainly place Australia ahead of other maritime nations in the matter of wireless installation on ships. Turning again to the sections of the bill dealing with the existing trade, some honorable members seem to think that this measure has some novel or sinister purpose. There is certainly nothing novel in its proposals. Exemptions from the coasting trade provisions are deliberately provided for in the act, and have been granted from the day the act was first proclaimed. When practically in charge of the Navigation Bill introduced in 1912, I had to deal with the criticisms of the late Lord Forrest, then Sir John Forrest, who represented Swan. The views of the late right honorable gentleman and my own did not always coincide, and his comments on the principal act then before the House resembled so much those of the present honorable member for Swan that I can almost imagine the deceased gentleman is before me. Let me inform honorable members what the original act provided, and what were the views of those responsible for it being placed on the statute-book. Speaking in this chamber on the 17th October, 1912, page 4407, 1 said -
The right honorable gentleman has left the chamber just as I was about to point out that the Governor-General may declare that the carrying of passengers between specified ports in British ships shall not be deemed to be in the coasting trade. This means that any ship trading from Fremantle to the east or from any Western Australian port to any other Western Australian port, may be, by proclamation, exempted from the operation of the bill. I say, therefore, that there is implicit authority to exempt any port or any number of ports if the convenience of the public so demands. The provisions of the bill are not only amply sufficient, but much more elastic and comprehensive than those in any of the previous hills that have been before this Parliament.
I mention that merely to show that, at the outset, it was realized that in a country such as Australia, where conditions on the eastern littoral differ so widely from those in the north-western part of Australia - or those of Tasmania - provision had to be made for exemptions to meet special cases.
Many years have passed since then and through them all the act has worked smoothly and well. It is perfectly true, as was anticipated when it was put on the statute-book, that it might possibly cause some hardship in certain portions nf the Commonwealth; but, of course, the representatives of Tasmania assented o the original measure, and did so with the full realization of all that it implied. On the surface, it seemed to do something which, perhaps, in the opinion of shortsighted persons, might militate against the interests of Tasmania; yet, on regarding the effects of the act in broad retrospect, we see how idle those fears were. In the main, this act has served Australia well. It is one of the permanent pillars of the temple we have built up under federation. It has been said that the effect of this bill will be to prejudice Australian interstate shipping. I shall quote some figures to show that this charge is groundless. It is claimed that we are in the grip of a combine; that, for all practical purposes, the various overseas shipping companies are all under one control. That may be very true; but, after all, I suppose, if honorable members had to choose, they would rather have British ships calling here than foreign vessels. Competition, in the interests of Tasmania, could be ensured by striking out the word “British”, and in this way any ship of not less than 10,000 tons gross tonnage, and a sea speed of not less than 14 knots, could engage in this trade. In that way, we could avoid the evil effect of this combine.
– That would make bad worse.
– I am not defending the combine, but, as I see it, combination is inevitable, in the circumstances in which British shipping finds itself to-day. Looking at life from the angle from which I see it, if I were a ship-owner I would do what he does - endeavour to strengthen my position as much as possible, eliminating much of the ruinous competition which must have the effect of depreciating wages, and reducing the standard of industrial conditions.
Something was said in this debate which seemed to prove too much. It was alleged that our interstate shipping was controlled by the same combine as that directing overseas shipping. That may be true. In my opinion, the point is not very important from the angle of the Tasmanian tourist trade. What we have to consider is whether the wages and conditions observed on the ships are compatible with the standards we have set up for Australian vessels. For the rest, w«> have the same power over the combine as we have ever had. Whether we hav<* enough power over either the overseas or interstate shipping companies is, of course, a matter for a constitutional lawyer to determine. In any case, we have the same power over a combine as we have over an individual.
It is said that the effect of overseas steamers engaging in the Australian tourist trade will be to prejudice the interests of the interstate shipping companies. Here are the figures showing the traffic by licensed ships for 1931-32, when the overseas vessels did not engage in the tourist traffic, and for the two following seasons, when they did so: -
These figures show conclusively, not only that the local licensed ships were not injured by the participation in the tourist traffic by the overseas liners, but also that they actually benefited from it. It is obvious that the effect of overseas ships being engaged in this tourist trade has been to increase the number of passengers carried on interstate vessels, because some of the tourists who proceeded to Tasmania by overseas steamers returned to the mainland on interstate ships. Since .in 1934, a larger number of passengers than ever before was carried on interstate ships, and 4,000 more were brought back from Tasmania than had been carried to that State, it shows that the extra 4,000 must have been taken there by overseas vessels. The latter steamers carried 4,000 passengers to Tasmania in 1932-33 and 3,600 in 1933-34. After all, when only 4,000 passengers were taken on the overseas steamers out of a gross total of 54,817, could it be said that that would make any serious difference, either to an interstate shipping company or to the seamen employed by it? Is there any suggestion that there has been less employment since the overseas vessels engaged, under licence, in the tourist trade ? The evidence shows that the volume pf traffic has grown and that employment has increased with it.
Silting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– On the figures I have quoted, two things are clear. The first is that, as compared with the season 1931-32, when the oversea boats did not carry tourists, there was in 1932-33 an increase of 3,561, and in the following season, of no fewer than 14,917, or 27 per cent., in the number of passengers carried both ways by the Australianowned licensed ships. The second - and this is a very significant point - is that during both the seasons in which the oversea ships carried tourists, the local ships carried back to the mainland ports more passengers than they took to Tasmania. The excesses in round figures were 1,500 in the first season and 3,700 in the second. The explanation is, of course, that tourists taken in overseas ships to Hobart stayed on in Tasmania for a holiday, returning later to their homes by local lines. That is a condition likely to continue, and it is confidently believed, therefore, that the exemption provided in the bill of oversea liners in respect of the tourist traffic will be of considerable and lasting advantage to the Australian shipping industry, as well as to Tasmania. The bill does no more than give statutory effect to the system in vogue during the 1933-34 season, when the number of tourists carried by interstate passenger ships was, as I have already stated, substantially increased, and consequently more employment was given to Australian seamen.
– The Minister said the bill did no more than give statutory effect to the permit system. I say it does more than that.
– The figures regarding which the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) desires information have already been given, and it is unnecessary to repeat them, beyond saying that the increase was represented by the very substantial figure of 27 per cent. The bill does no more than give statutory effect to the system of permits.
– It does more than that. It obviates the necessity of asking for a permit, and giving reasons why if should be granted.
– I did not interrupt the honorable member, and I shall be obliged if he will allow me to proceed without interruption. This bill does no more than give statutory effect to the system, of permits that was in force during the period in which the tourist traffic to and from Tasmania, carried by Australian-owned licensed ships, increased, in the last year, by 27 per cent.
– Why worry about ii; if it means only that? I know it means more.
– All that has been said to-day and on Friday last against this bill was said more eloquently, if I may be permitted to discriminate, and certainly more effectively, against the 1926 amendment, which gave the GovernorGeneral power to issue the very permits which the honorable member now desires to perpetuate. In the debate on the amending act in 1926 the same arguments were urged against the system of permits as are now urged against this measure, which gives statutory form to it. Further, as I have already pointed out, the principal act when first introduced gave power to the GovernorGeneral to issue regulations to exempt Australian ports in cases where the people would be inconvenienced by the provisions restricting the coastwise trade to Australian-owned ships paying Australian rates and observing Australian conditions of labour. The permit system therefore was recognized in the principal act from the day on which it was first discussed in this Parliament. Permits have been granted, and exempted ships, many carrying coloured crews, have been running since the day the principal acr was proclaimed, without any ill effects to interstate shipping ot to Australian conditions. Thus it would appear thar all the apprehensions that honorable members have expressed to-day are baseless. There is no ground whatever for the belief that the mercantile marine of Australia will be prejudiced by this measure, which, despite what the honorable member for Melbourne Ports reiterates, will do no more in practice than give statutory form to the conditions existing under the system of permits. The important consideration is not the theoretic possibilities of the measure, but its practical effects. The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) said that under this measure a man could be carried on an oversea vessel from Cooktown all round Australia. That may be so; but what of it? I do not know whether the honorable member has ever been to Cooktown. I have, and I assure the House that it is a difficult place to reach. If it be admitted that a man could get to Cooktown and could induce a vessel of 10,000 tons and 14 knots speed to call there for him, he might possibly go all round Australia in it, if he liked to pay the fare; but I put it to honorable members, as practical men, that that is not likely to occur. Very many things could be urged against the democratic system of government; it is open to great abuses, but it is our privilege and our pride to point out that we permit none of those abuses to survive. In spite of the objections urged against the bill it is abundantly clear that it does no more than, at most, to extend a principle that has been recognised since 1912, when the principal act was first passed by this Parliament.
– What gain will the bill be to Tasmania over the permit system, if it does no more than the permit system did?
– It will give statutory form to it.
– That is a theoretical gain ; there is no practical advantage in it.
– .The honorable member would be more satisfied to have the freehold rather than the permissive occupancy of a piece of land. He asks what the difference is. The difference is obvious. Statutory form gives permanency to an otherwise ephemeral order of things. It will enable the Tasmanian people to make the proper preparations for an increased tourist traffic, which the circumstances demand.
It is suggested in the amendment, to which I shall refer later in detail, that Tasmania has been treated badly. I do not think this is true. It fell to my lot to listen to the representations of the Tasmanian people when the principal act first became law, and I then heard the case for Tasmania very clearly put forward. Naturally, the geographical circumstances of Tasmania must always place it at a disadvantage with the mainland; but, with all due respect to the people of Tasmania, that disadvantage is not so great as they imagine. I suppose a man at Alice Springs is more isolated than is a man at Hobart.
– Alice Springs cannot be compared with Hobart ; there is a railway to Alice Springs.
– Then I will go further north to Newcastle Waters, which has no railway. I remind tha honorable member that successive governments of the Commonwealth have not been unmindful of the geographic disadvantages of Tasmania. Honorable members speak as if the Commonwealth were doing nothing for Tasmania, apart from this measure. I should like honorable members, particularly the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) to know the facts. The Commonwealth pays £50,000 per annum for the improved Bass Strait service carried out by the two steamers, the Taroona and the Nairana. It also pays Huddart Parker and Company a subsidy each year - last year it was £5,000 - to keep the Zealandia running during the winter months - May to October - on the Sydney-Hobart route. These are facts that cannot be denied. They represent, what is being done. It is now proposed, in addition, to place at the service of Tasmania these ocean-going steamers during a certain season of the year.
This measure is attacked from two angles. From one it is declared that it will destroy the mercantile marine of Australia; from the other that it will not do enough for Tasmania. I put it to honorable members opposite, of whose being logic is the very foundation, that both arguments cannot stand. It is evident that the gravamen of the attack from certain quarters is that Tasmania demands much more than this. It wants a regular line of palatial steamers, running continuously. Before the dinner adjournment, we had visions of such a line calling at Hobart and other ports. Of course, what was done for Tasmania in that direction would soon have to be done for other places, and where then would be the mercantile marine of Australia? On the other hand it is suggested in the amendment that this measure, which does do something, should be rejected. From the ‘substance assured to Tasmania by this bill we are asked to prefer the shadow in the honorable member’s amendment. The bill gives permanency to the system under which the tourist traffic of Tasmania has reached a more flourishing state than ever before in its history. The amendment proposes that the bill should be rejected and that we should launch a scheme to secure to Tasmania immediately by means of conditional subsidies an equitable reduction of shipping freights and fares, and institute as soon as practicable a Commonwealthowned shipping service providing direct and frequent communication between Tasmanian ports and ports on the mainland. I am not suggesting for a moment that this proposal is not a choice bonne bouche for an election campaign. For that purpose it is most desirable, and I should add that this laudable effort does credit to the honorable member’s imagination. But may I remind the House that for a time the honorable gentleman was a member of a government, and had ample opportunity to do what he now asks this Government to do, and indeed many other things; but he found it impossible to do them. At the time Australia was in the grip of the depression, so he and his colleagues were unable to do anything. This being so I am now entitled to ask the honorable member if he thinks that the circumstances of the Commonwealth at this moment are such as to justify the adoption of the scheme which he has propounded ?
– Very well. I repeat that we are. now spending £50,000 per annum for an improved service with the steamers Taroona and Nairana and we are paying Huddart Parker and Company £5,000 a year to keep the Zealandia on the run between Tasmanian ports and the mainland during the winter months. He wishes the Commonwealth Government to put new and modern steamers on the run. How much does he think we would have to pay, and where would we get the money? His answer is that all the amendment proposes could be done by an equitable system of subsidies. Oh equity ! how many crimes have been committed in thy name !
Th’e facts in support of the Government’s proposal are so substantial that no amount of talking will dissolve them into thin air. The truth is that the Commonwealth is struggling under very great difficulties which, with every passing day, are becoming more formidable, so that it is utterly unable to provide such a service as he has outlined. The honorable member and those of his friends who are committed to support his amendment, are doing their very best to prevent that which can be done for Tasmania from being done. He asks the House to jettison this bill, knowing quite well that unless it passes in substantially its present form, it will not pass at all.
– Of course the honorable member knows this. He knows also that this measure offers something of substantial benefit to Tasmania, and, therefore, is a thing of reality, whereas his amendment is a thing of dreams.
The honorable gentleman knows that the bill deals with two different matters and that its defeat now will mean the rejection, for the time being, of those proposed new sections dealing with the installation of wireless on the smaller vessels engaged in the coastwise trade in Australia.
– Do not put that over us !
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports and his friends know all this. They know that if the hill is rejected now nothing can be done for Tasmania this year. I therefore submit that the course before honorable members is quite clear. They should give the bill their wholehearted support, thus enabling the Government to place on the statute-book a measure which will put this country in thevanguard of the nations so far as the equipment of small vessels with wireless is concerned. The passage of the bill will benefit substantially the State of Tasmania without in any way interfering with the operations of the interstate shipping companies, or impairing one vital principle of the Navigation Act- a measure of which this legislature has every reason to be proud, because it sets an example to the rest of the world.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr.Holloway’s amendment) stand part of the question - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Section 7 of the principal act is amended by inserting at the end thereof the following proviso : - “ Provided also that -
.- I move-
That the following proviso be added to the clause -
Provided further that it shall be a condition of the exemption granted by paragraph (a) of the immediately preceding proviso that the seamen employed on the ship affected shall be paid for the period in respect of which such exemption is claimed, wages in accordance with Part VI. of the act.
It has been suggested that this portion of the bill which exempts certain classes of ships from the necessity of securing a permit to engage in the interstate passenger trade, merely gives statutory authority to a system which is already in existence. If it meant only that the same conditions would operate in the future as have operated in the past this amendment would be unnecessary; but I submit that it goes much further. Nobody knows better than the Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) exactly what the bill does mean. At present a permit is given to a certain class of ship which the officers of the Navigation Department think should be given because certain exceptional conditions obtain. The Minister, in his secondreading speech, pointed out that the Navigation Act from the first has contained a provision, inserted purposely and wisely, to meet the contingency of some portion of the Commonwealth being left without any shipping service whatever. But those provisions have remained a dead letter except when the necessity to apply them arose. Conditions were then laid down governing the issue of a permit. The procedure was for a shipping company to request a permit for a particular trip or number of trips, and upon the recommendation of the Navigation Department the necessary permit was issued by the Minister. But the Minister is quite wrong when he suggests that the alterations now being made in the act are only to give permanency to the system which hitherto has operated. In my opinion the amendments for which this bill provides simply mean that in the future the owners of a ship which comes within its terms need not apply for a permit or give any reason why a permit should be granted them. They may engage in the coastal trade without having to show that exceptional circumstances warrant the granting of an exemption to them. That is very different from the conditions which have operated in the past. The Minister is misleading the House - I certainly cannot believe that he himself has misunderstood the position - when he suggests that these amendments are designed merely to give permanency to a system which already exists. It has also been suggested in answer to arguments put forward by honorable members on this side that the Australian ships are owned or controlled more or less by a trust, a combine or a cartel. The shipping companies have denied that statement though they have admitted that they are controlled by what is termed a conference group and that the members of the group confer with each other from time to time and arrange freights and fares. The Minister has said that our arguments fall to the ground because all the ships are controlled by a combine. Nobody knows better than does the right honorable- gentleman that that is mere piffle. There is no logic in it. He knows full well that even if all the ships were owned by the biggest combine in the world the Navigation Act provides that in order to engage in the interstate trade they must comply with Australian conditions; they must be registered on the Australian register ; their home port must be in Australia; their crews must be engaged in Australia; they must carry the Australian flag; and the wages and conditions laid down under the Navigation Act must be observed. All that I know of the Navigation Act I have learned from the right honorable gentleman himself. He suggested rather flippantly that logic was the very basis of our being; I reply that the basis of his political being is flexibility of conscience. I do not desire however to pursue that line of discussion. The Minister was wrong in endeavouring to influence the members of this House by threatening that if the bill were not passed in the form in which it was drafted it would be withdrawn. Why did he not argue on the merits of the bill and allow the vote to be decided upon them instead of displaying weakness by threatening that the bill, with all its provisions for wireless equipment, would be- scrapped unless agreed to as introduced? The Minister also endeavoured to strengthen his case by quoting figures to show that the number of passengers carried by vessels regularly engaged in the trade between Tasmania and the mainland had increased during the three years 1932-1934. Everybody who knows anything at all about maritime affairs knows that, as an aftermath of the depression, when everybody played safe and placed their money in cold storage, there has been a tremendous increase in the tourist traffic throughout the whole world. Surely that is the answer to the figures given by the right honorable gentleman. Every honorable member knows of the great increase in the number of globetrotters who travel the world as fast as ships can make the round trip. It is common knowledge that the tourist traffic of the world has increased each year during the last three oi four years, and that we in this country are feeling a ripple of this growing traffic. The ships that will be permitted to engage in the interstate trade of Australia under this amending bill will be ships on British registers, many of them carrying coloured crews, and as they will not be obliged to observe Australian conditions, they therefore must encroach upon the White Australia policy. This is a delicate and dangerous piece of legislation. Once we allow British ships carrying Asiatic crews to engage in the coasting trade, difficulties will arise if we refuse to allow ships registered in other countries to engage in the trade because they carry Asiatic crews. The right honorable gentleman in the past has been strongly antagonistic to anything which might weaken the White Australia policy. Under the bill as introduced, no argument could be advanced against a request by Japan that it should be permitted to engage in passenger traffic on the Australian coast. The passing of this measure may result in a nasty aftermath as did the ratification of the Ottawa agreement. I am at a loss to understand why objection is raised to my amendment, which is designed merely to ensure that if overseas ships are permitted to engage in the Australian interstate trade they shall observe Australian rates of wages and conditions of labour as laid down by the principal act.
– I should like to have from the Minister a definition of what is meant by “connexion by rail.” It may be argued that Sydney and Melbourne are not “ connected by rail “ inasmuch as it is necessary to change from one train to another in order to make the journey between those two cities. The same may be said of the journey by railway between Adelaide and Perth, since there are three breaks of gauge. I should like to have from the Minister a definition as to what is meant by rail connexion, so that we may not at a later date provide a harvest for King’s Counsellors.
– The amendment of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) strips the issue of all redundancies. It is designed simply to ensure that, if permits are granted to overseas vessels to engage in the Australian interstate trade, it should be made a stipulation that standard wages and conditions operating in respect of Australian vessels should be observed. That is all Parliament is asked by his amendment to do. It should not be difficult for any honorable member opposite, if he is a believer in Australian conditions, to endorse such a principle. Otherwise, it is logical to assume that he believes that the maritime workers of this country should be forced down to the same low level that prevails on many of the oversea boats. The right honorable gentleman in charge of the bill probably claims to have directed his efforts in the past towards laying the foundation of rates of wages and conditions in the maritime industries that would be the envy of the world. It therefore appears strange that whilst one section of the bill provides for the most advanced conditions in regard to wireless equipment, the other provides for the introduction on our coasts of industrial conditions of the most backward nature. The Minister should be consistent, and we should place ourselves in the position of being able to make a similar claim in regard to the wages and conditions of our maritime workers. If the Australian trade is worth engaging in - and apparently it is - we are not in the least degree unreasonable when we stipulate that the living standards established in this country -shall be observed. lt is appropriate to reply at this stage to the concluding statement of the Minister, that a vote cast for the amendment would be one against the wireless clauses, of which honorable members unanimously approve. During the last four years, there has been a tendency to introduce what may be described as composite or omnibus measures, portions of which are in accord with what is regarded as proper social development, while other portions comprise reactionary provisions of the worst type. When we have voted for the removal of objectionable features, it has been argued that we are opposed to other proposed reforms. There must be a clear understanding on these matters so that we may not bo jockeyed into the position of having it alleged against us that we are discarding principles that we have held dear for a lifetime. “Within the last four years ingenious devices have had to be resorted to by those opposed to reactionary proposals so that a clear-cut decision might be given. That is the position with which we are confronted in the consideration of this measure.
Referring to subsidies, the Minister pointed out that large sums were being paid to Huddart Parker Limited and to the owners of vessels that trade between Melbourne and Launceston. It appears to me that this proposal of the Government lends itself not only to the maintenance, but also to the extension of those subsidies, for the reason that under it the Australian shipping lines will be prevented from enlarging their trade and thus removing the need for a subsidy. It is but logical to suppose that the overseas companies will pick the eyes out of whatever business is offering. It cannot be said that they are so poor as to be unable to conform to the conditions laid down by the amendment. I contend that the argument in regard to subsidies is refuted by the fact that the application of the provisions of the measure will increase the expense to be borne by the tax-paying public for the maintenance of existing services. The amendment is clear-cut in its application to the situation. It removes entirely any apprehension that might be felt of hindrance being placed on the development of the tourist traffic to Tasmania and the stimulation of business activities in that State. The basic principle to be considered is, whether this Parliament believes in the maintenance of a certain standard of wages and conditions in the maritime service, a standard that has been developed over a long period of years by means of agitation, direct action, and legislation. All that the amendment asks is that nothing be done to prejudice that standard. If the overseas shipping interests are keenly desirous of engaging in trade along the Australian coast, they ought to be prepared to observe the standards that apply to our own mercantile marine.
8.51]. - The latest amendment of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) raises practically the same question that was the subject of a lengthy debate on the motion for the second reading of the bill. True, it is now dissociated from the Tasmanian connexion ; but in all other respects it is identical. There has been unfurled tonight the banner of Australian rates of wages and conditions of labour. When the White Australia policy has been raised, we shall feel thoroughly at home. Honorable members know perfectly well that the amendment would be perfectly useless in the achievement of the purpose for which it is intended.
– Because, if Australian rates and conditions were paid, no amendment of the act, no permit to engage in the coastal trade, would be needed; the vessels could be licensed and could carry passengers and cargo. Therefore, the position under the bill is entirely different from the condition properly envisaged in the principal act, wherein it is provided that the observance of Australian rates and conditions shall be a qualification for the obtaining of a licence to engage in coast-wise trade. This is a limited licence - although licence is perhaps not the word that describes it legally; it applies to the carrying of passengers but not of cargo. It can hardly be contended for a moment that, as a business proposition, a vessel which on a round trip travelled 24,000 miles would go out of its way to engage in this trade with any hope of benefiting thereby, if it had to pay Australian rates and observe Australian conditions. It would not pay: the number of passengers is few and the number carried from Hobart would be even fewer than those carried to that port. That is demonstrated by the figures which I have quoted. But the point is this: The original act contemplated the granting of permits; and, as I have shown in the quotation from a speech that I made in 1912, permits were actually granted at that time to vessels to run on the coast of Western Australia. The act provides that the Governor-General may permit ships to carry passengers between specified ports in Australia. Surely the rights of the workers were then most zealously guarded .’ Their guardians were numerous, and they were strongly entrenched in both Houses of this Parliament. Had the conditions of the workers been imperilled, they would have been the last to surrender a citadel not even seriously assailed. From the very beginning, permits were granted to ships that paid any rates. Ships manned by coloured labour, and paying coloured labour rates, may now go - and, so far as I know, do go - to any port on the northwest coast of Western Australia.
– Passengers may travel from Fremantle to Sydney and Norfolk Island on the same sort of ship.
– That amply bears out what I have said. That has been the position ever since the act came into force, even when Labour governments were in office,
– There is no reason why we should aggravate it.
– It is not sufficient, then, to resolve that what you have you will hold; you will set out to climb further heights ! I did not realize that that was the purpose of the present expedition.
The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has asked me to give a definition of “ connexion by rail “. I could give him my definition, and he could give me his, but none could be regarded as permanent and satisfactory that was not given by the High Court »f Australia. Just what the High Court would say of this bill if it were an act, neither I nor anybody else knows. The key condition is the absence of- rail connexion between one portion of the Commonwealth and another, whether in the same State or not. The Constitution prevents differential treatment between States and parts of States; all must be treated on the basis of equality. The geographic circumstances of Tasmania seem to indicate that this provision may apply to that State, because there is no connexion by rail between Tasmania and the mainland. That seems to avoid the constitutional difficulty which has been apprehended in previous legislation.
– That is not the point that I raised. I referred to the possibility of argument arising as to rail connexion between Adelaide and Perth, and between Melbourne and Sydney.
– I could find considerable entertainment in discussing the matter from this angle, but whether such a discussion would be to my profit or to that of the committee is another question. I am mainly concerned with the amendment moved by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) and with the argument advanced by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). I repeat that there is nothing in this bill that alters the system under which permits have been granted for very many years ; there is nothing in it that disturbs or impairs the vital principles of the act; and nothing that threatens the mercantile marine of Australia. We have to consider not theoretical or visionary dangers, but dangers of shape and substance. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) has reinforced my argument by saying that this act from the date of its proclamation has enabled the minister to give permits for the conveyance of people from certain parts of Western Australia by oversea ships on all of which foreign rates and conditions were observed. I regret I cannot accept the amendment.
.- Listening to the speech of the Minister in charge of the bill (Mr. Hughes) one wondered whether he had read the amendment. He says that in effect it is really the same as that moved on the motion for the second reading of the bill. It is true that it contains one vital principle that was embodied in the other amendment; but having failed to carry the original amendment, having failed in our effort to prevent the grant by statute of permanent permission to certain vessels to trade between certain ports on the Australian coast, we are now asking by this amendment that, during the limited period when they are engaged in this trade in competition with Australian ships, they shall observe Australian wage conditions.
– The honorable member knows that such a proposal is not workable.
– It is workable. If the owners of overseas ships satisfied the Minister that they would pay Australian wages while operating on the Australian coast then this act would apply; if that assurance were not given then it would not apply. The amendment ought to be and is workable. The Minister, however, says that it is useless. “If,” says he “ they paid Australian wages they would not need permits; they could trade between any ports and do anything they liked. They could register.” Here again the Minister misses the point or avoids it. If overseas ships were registered in Australia they would have to pay Australian wages.
– I said they could be licensed. I did not say registered.
– If this amendment were agreed to they would not have that freedom, merely because they were licensed, unless they paid Australian rates of wages. If the ships were ‘registered in Australia they would have to pay Australian wages during the whole of their operations. That is the difference. The amendment leaves owners of overseas ships free to pay low wages and to employ coolie or any other kind of cheap labour in the overseas trade; but once they are permitted to enter into competition with our Australian coastal ships, they must pay Australian wages during that period. That is so eminently fair as between shipowner and shipowner to say nothing of Australian labour standards generally that it ought to be accepted.
– Does the honorable gentleman say that the amendment proposes that Australian conditions should be observed only while these ships ave engaged in the Australian coasting trade ?
– That is all the amendment proposes. It says -
Provided further that it shall be a condition of the exemption granted by paragraph a of the immediately preceding proviso, that the seamen employed in the ships affected shall be paid for the period in respect of which such exemption is claimed, wages and conditions in accordance with Part. VI. of the act.
That provision applies to the limited period in which the ships engage in trade between Australian ports. The Minister tried to make us believe that since under the permit system this was not done, there was therefore no reason why it should be done now. I submit that there is a difference. There may be some analogy where a permanent permit is granted to a ship travelling continually from port to port, but the usual procedure in the issuing of a permit under the Navigation Act was that permits should be granted only to meet emergencies. “We have never quarrelled with that principle. It would be stupid to pass an act that would prevent an overseas ship from trading between one Australian port and another where there was no Australian ship to do the work. Where any difficulty or emergency arose owing to the fact that an Australian ship was not available for the run, provision was made in the original act for the granting of a permit to overseas ships, but that principle has always been very jealously guarded. When in office, I had something to do with the administration of this act, and my government never granted a permit unless it was satisfied that Australian ships were not available to do the work. But this amending legislation goes further than some of the present Government’s general permits have gone. When the Government proposes to go so far as to extend the law to allow overseas ships to trade between Australian ports irrespective of whether
Australian ships are engaged on the same run, at the same hour, and are open to the competition of those overseas ships it is elemental justice to require that those overseas ships shall pay the same rates of wages as the Australian ships. With respect to the north-western coast of Australia, permits, which have become practically permanent permits, have been granted to private companies, and some of them perhaps veryreluctantly undertook to fit in their time-tables with the State ships running on that service. There was no hard and fast agreement that this should be done; it was laid down more or less by arrangement. If the proposal contained in this measure is put into effect it is possible that overseas ships will run to time-tables to suit themselves. The quotations made this afternoon by the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) from the report of the royal commission of which, Mr. Chairman, you were a member, show how, when the State-owned ships were running in the Tasmania trade the shipping companies chose to run their ships to certain ports exactly at the very hour the State ships called to pick up traffic, this being done with the sole object of driving the State ships out of business. If this measure is agreed to without the amendment now before us it will be possible for overseas ships to cut into the Australian shipping trade, and, paying coolie wages, to wipe out the Australian ships. Having failed to secure for them the protection that we sought under the original amendment, we now ask the committee to say that when overseas ships run in competition with Australian ships between Australian ports they shall pay Australian wages. The right honorable the Minister sneeringly remarked that the White Australia policy had only to be introduced into the debate to make us all feel at home. As a matter of fact, it was raised by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway). This bill, if not amended as we propose, will have much the same effect that the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) claims for the tariff: it will antagonize many foreign countries who are among our best customers. Under this legislation we shall have the anomaly of ships from Germany, Italy, France, or any other European country, carrying European and not coolie crews, being denied the opportunity to engage in the coasting trade which is given to other vessels employing coloured crews, merely because they fly the British flag. In view of all these circumstances, honorable members on the Government side of the House should be prepared to join with us in demanding that, while overseas ships trade from port to port in Australia, they shall observe the same wages as are observed on Australian ships.
– This amendment is designed to provide that any ships licensed to trade between Australia and Tasmania shall, while engaged on such run, be compelled to observe Australian wages and conditions of labour. The right honorable gentleman who has just resumed his seat knows very well that, if such a provision was enforced - and possibly all honorable members would, at first glance, like to adopt the suggestion - it would completely annul any advantage this bill seeks to give to Tasmania.
– The aim of this bill is to benefit Tasmania; to give to people travelling to Tasmania a better means of transit than they have been able to secure in the past, and to benefit Tas mania by increasing its tourist traffic. When I was in Tasmania at the beginning of last year I found that the tourist trade had increased considerably since the bigger overseas ships were allowed to run between mainland ports and that State. Furthermore, a great deal of extra employment was created through the dissemination of money spent by tourists. I also noticed that, owing to the advent of the bigger ships on this run, the Australian shipping service benefited considerably, because many people going from Sydney to Hobart, afterwards travelled by rail to Launceston, and returned to the mainland by one of the interstate vessels. Figures which have been given by the Minister in charge of the bill show clearly that the local Australian trade has lost nothing as a result of the concessions given to the bigger ships. Rather is it that the Australian ships have gained in the direction I have explained. If it were possible to apply the proposal contained in the amendment I submit that the advantages given to the overseas ships under the bill would disappear, and that they would cease to run to Tasmania, for the simple reason that their owners would not be recouped the extra expense incurred in observing award conditions by the extra number of passengers travelling by those ships. Under such conditions, these ships would not find it profitable to carry on in the trade. That conclusion, I claim, is clearly deducible from the fact that these ships, in the past, of their own volition have not been prepared to pay the extra cost involved in the observance of award conditions to enable them to participate in the coastal trade. If it were possible for the bigger ships to observe Australian award conditions in this trade, why did they not find it profitable to do so in past years ?
– Because they would have had to pay award wages throughout the voyage overseas. The amendment gives a specific concession in that respect.
– I doubt very much whether the bigger ships would find it payable to continue in this trade were the amendment carried. Furthermore, all the advantage we seek to give Tasmania would be annulled; Australian ships also would suffer, and Tasmania would lose in tourist trade. Therefore, I cannot support the amendment.
.- It has been pointed out that the amendment provides that overseas ships shall observe award conditions only during the time they travel from Sydney or Mel bourne to Hobart and back. If the amendment meant what the Minister gave as his interpretation of it, then if overseas ship-owners wanted to register in an Australian port all they would have to do would be to pay Australian rates of wages and provide the necessary accommodation for a white crew. Honorable members opposite claim that they are trying to do something for Tasmania. The Minister in charge of the bill (Mr. Hughes) asks us to applaud him because of the concessions which are to be granted to Tasmania. I deny that Tasmania will derive any benefit from the bill, but a concession is being granted to the shipping companies, which are already exploiting the Tasmanian people. The overseas ships charge 30s. a passenger more from the mainland to Tasmania than does the Zealandia. How then can it be said that they are of any help to the tourist traffic?
– Does the honorable member deny that the tourist traffic has increased since overseas vessels have been licensed to carry passengers ?
– I do deny it, and the most recent figures available from the tourist department in Tasmania support my contention. Of what use is it to Tasmania for tourists to come over on the overseas ships, stay a few hours in Hobart, and then go off again? Why, they do not even have their meals in the city, but eat and sleep on the ship. In 1927 50,000 tourists came to Tasmania on interstate vessels, and another 20,000 on overseas vessels, making a total of 70,000. I am prepared to accept the responsibility of advocating in Tasmania that we give full trading rights to overseas ships between the mainland and Tasmania provided that on those ships Australian wages are paid, and Australian conditions of labour observed. Of course, all the shipping companies now belong to the combine, and it is useless to expect any improvement from them. Recently the. manager of the Orient line, speaking at a Chamber of Commerce dinner, declared that his company would not give an improved service to Tasmania. Their idea is to come down during the apple season, and pick the eyes out of the trade. It is quite clear to me that Tasmania need expect nothing but a raw deal from this Government. The party which supports the Government is too much under the control of hide-bound conservatives for us to expect anything better. We may ask ourselves why the overseas shipping companies did not take advantage of the permits which might have been obtained in 1926. The fact is they did not want to enter into competition with the interstate shipping companies then, and they do not want to do so to-day. Much has been said about the concession which is being granted to Tasmania, but Tasmania is entitled to at least £450,000 compensation for the loss suffered in regard to the transport of goods and passengers by the present shipping services. The Minister said that if the Labour party’s amendments were insisted upon we should lose the bill, and with it those provisions requiring the installation of wireless on coastal vessels. I am not impressed by that threat. The Seamen’s Union does not favour the extension of the permit system, and, in reply to an inquiry from me, the union pointed out that there were plenty of idle ships and men in Australian ports to cater for all the goods and passenger traffic between the mainland and Tasmania. There is no need to employ for this purpose ships manned by coolies and Javanese who work for 4d. a day, and who spend nothing in Tasmanian ports. Honorable members opposite stand for low wages and poor working conditions. The interests which financed the Government at the last election now demand that their policy be put into operation. I know that the Government has the numbers, and that, if it sees fit, it can bludgeon this bill through the House in its present form. However, I hope that honorable members will see the merit of the amendment, and will vote for it.
.- The Labour party seems to entertain a great fear of the small concession for which the bill provides. There is no doubt that had the previous amendment been carried the bill would have been lost. The present amendment is somewhat similar, and members of the Labour party must be aware that they are making an impossible request. I was rather surprised when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) spoke so violently. He should have known that, at any time since the passage of the Navigation Act, if a British ship paid Australian wages and observed Australian conditions of labour, it could carry on trade either in passengers or goods between Australian ports.
– What is the use of telling lies?
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– I do not suggest that the honorable member for Swan is telling lies; what he said was a lie, but he did not realize that it was.
– The honorable member must withdraw unconditionally.
– I make an unqualified withdrawal of the statement because I know that the honorable member for Swan is not a liar.
– One gentleman for whom I had some respect in the past I can have no possible respect for in the future. It is evident that certain blackguardly things can be done even in this chamber. “ Section 290 (1) of the Navigation Act is as follows: - 290. - (1.) If the seamen employed on any British ship were not engaged in Australia, the master shall, before the ship engages in the coasting trade, make and sign, before a superintendent, an indorsement or memorandum on the agreement specifying the wages to be paid to the seamen whilst the ship engages in the coasting trade, a.nd that indorsement or memorandum, when countersigned by a superintendent, shall have effect as an agreement between the master and those seamen.
It is clear, therefore, that if the master of a British ship obtains a licence from the Minister, and pays Australian wages and observes Australian conditions of labour while in Australian waters, he may engage in trade between Australian ports.
– If that is so why did the honorable member say that what honorable members of the Opposition were asking for was impossible?
– Because no British shipping company would consider for a moment doing any such thing. No company could pay its seamen one rate of wages for part of the voyage, and a different and higher rate while the ship was in Australian waters. To do’ so would disorganize its whole trade. I cannot understand the anxiety of the Labour party over this bill, unless it fears that something may be done to destroy the shipping combine which has given us in Western Australia a far worse deal since the enforcement of the Navigation Act than ever we had before. At one time overseas vessels used to call at Albany at least once a week ; bu t now they come only once a month. This bill gives a small concession to Tasmania, which is suffering considerable disability at the present time, and we should do what we can to put it through without delay.
.- This clause is the crux of the bill, in so far as it affects the trade of Tasmania. The only trade “with which it seeks to deal is the tourist trade; it does not purport to deal with cargo at all. The ships that are to be permitted to engage in the conveyance of tourists to Tasmania must be of a given tonnage, and must be British. So long as they comply with those two conditions it is proposed that they shall be empowered to engage indiscriminately, and at their own choice, in the business of conveying tourists from Melbourne and Sydney to Hobart. It is also implicit in the clause that the provision may be extended to other ports in Australia which are not connected by rail. For instance, Carnarvon and Fremantle could be regarded as two ports not connected by rail, so that a passenger may join a vessel at Carnarvon and proceed to Fremantle, and thence to Adelaide, Melbourne or Sydney, as he desires. I am astonished at some of the things which have been said during this debate. First and foremost, I mention the statement that no concessions have been granted to oversea ships to engage in the trade between Fremantle and eastern ports other than Tasmanian ports during the last two years, and that the granting of licences in the case of Tasmanian ports has been responsible for the increase of the tourist traffic to Tasmania. If that be so, what is the explanation of the increased number of passengers who have travelled by sea between Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne, and Sydney during the past two years? There has been no limitation of the coasting trade provisions of the act, but there has been, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) suggested, an increase in the number of people who have travelled by sea during those two years. Prior to the proclamation of the coasting trade provisions of the Navigation Act, most of the passengers between Australian ports were carried by interstate, not by overseas, vessels. It is also untrue to say that the coasting trade provisions of the act have proved to be a penalty upon the trade of Australia in respect of the carriage of cargo, because, for years prior to the proclamation of those sections, the greater part of the interstate sea-borne trade of Australia was carried in vessels other than those which engaged in overseas trade. I cannot see the reason for the Minister’s objection to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. Hitherto, permits have been granted in exceptional cases, and when ships registered under the Navigation Act have not been available those permits have been granted without any other conditions than that an emergency existed. On the north-west coast of “Western Australia, where it cannot be said that an emergency existed, but where a regular service was required, private enterprise did not furnish a satisfactory service prior to the establishment of the State shipping service and the passing of the Navigation Act, with the result that the Pastoralists Association, and persons concerned with the development of the northwest of “Western Australia, made strong representations to the parliament of that State for some other service. Following those representations, a State shipping service was established. Under the permit system, vessels carrying coloured crews and victualled at Singapore come down the north-west coast, pick up cargo at various ports, and unload the greater part of it at Fremantle. They are in definite competition with the State Shipping Service, which was established because those companies, or others like them, failed to provide a proper service. The State Shipping Service complies with part 6 of the Navigation Act. Ships belonging to that line engage their crews and are victualled at Fremantle thereby giving more purchasing power to the community there, and enabling some, at least, of the primary production of Western Australia to be consumed in Australia. Vessels manned by coloured crews expend scarcely any money at all in Fremantle, while their owners have resisted the reduction of freights on the north-west coast for the carriage of wool and other cargo to Fremantle. The State Shipping Service has had to take the lead in making such reductions. It may be argued that the State Shipping Service may carry on at a loss; but it is unquestioned that a shipping line, which desires to give service at the minimum cost to the wool producers and other settlers of the northwest, and to those persons who desire to travel there, must have some resources if it is to meet the active competition of vessels manned by coloured crews.
During the last three years, many of the wealthier sections of the people of Perth, who have desired a more sumptuous holiday than ordinary mortals can afford, have patronized extensively the luxury tours organized by British shipping companies, whose vessels call at Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne, and, before reaching Sydney, call in for about two hours at some island in the Pacific Ocean. In that way they have threatened the competitive ability of the ships on the Australian register, which comply with the Navigation Act.
– The ships belong to the same owners.
– .They do not. At least, the companies are registered as distinct companies. Those which comply with the Navigation Act are incorporated in Australia, whereas vessels belonging to the Peninsular and Oriental Company and the Orient Company are registered outside Australia. My point is that the thing which the Minister says will not happen under this clause is actually happening now, without any exercise of power by the Commonwealth Parliament. Overseas companies take advantage of the Navigation Act to the detriment of ship-owners who comply with the provisions of that legislation.
– In respect of cruises?
– Yes. They purport to give as a destination some island in the Pacific Ocean which is outside the territorial jurisdiction of the act. This tourist traffic is on the increase, and I submit that it is a definite menace to ships on the Australian register. It certainly makes for unfair competition with vessels which comply with the Navigation Act, and which furnish the sole means of transporting cargo between Australian ports. In my opinion, this evasion of the Navigation Act could scarcely he upheld if steps were taken to test the legality of the practice. I maintain that the Pacific Island at which the vessels call is not a terminal port, because the ships do not stay there to unload cargo. The passengers disembark in the afternoon and re-embark before night. They do not spend one hour in residence there. Yet, according to advertisements which appear in our newspapers, these tours have been planned for months ahead. Large numbers of people are induced to travel by such vessels as the Strathaird and the Strathnaver to the detriment of such fine vessels as the Manunda, the Westralia, the Manoora, and the Katoomba, which, over a period of years, have admirably served the passenger requirements of the Australian people.
I support the amendment because it asks that any ship which, as a matter of statutory right, and without reference to the Minister, desires to engage in the Australian coastal trade, shall comply with the wages and other conditions provided for by part 6 of the act. Previously, no ship that did not comply with the Navigation Act could engage in the Australian shipping trade without making application for an exemption. There was then some authority resident in the government of the day to examine the facts and decide whether or not an exemption should be given. This clause alters the right of the Government to refuse that permission to trade. The difference is fundamental. Under the existing legislation the Government can, at any time, put an end to what it considers to be unfair competition with ships on the Australian register, which are helping towards the realization of the objective of this Parliament, namely, the development of an Australian mercantile marine. Hitherto there has been authority in the government of the day to check abuses, but the proposals of the Government put an end to the control which, may be exercised, for, so long as a ship is British, is of 10,000 tons gross tonnage, and has a sea speed of not less than 14 knots, it can engage in this trade indiscriminately. I point out that as those vessels are under no obligation to engage in the trade, the argument that the bill will assist Tasmania cannot be sustained. There is, however, an obligation on this Parliament to maintain the essential steamship service with Tasmania. The absence of . any obligation on the part of British ships to furnish that service compels the continuance of a subsidy. This Parliament has to find £56,000 a year for the maintenance of a steamship service between Tasmania and the Australian mainland. This clause, without eliminating in any way the obligation of this Parliament to maintain and subsidize that service, really invites competition with the vessels so subsidized, thereby making it impossible for them to compete, with the result that this Parliament will be obliged to increase the subsidy from time to time. I could understand a system of licences being granted, not for particular ships, but to companies, which undertook to furnish regular services and to maintain a regular time-table over a period of years; but this clause does not do that. All that it does is to leave it to the option of a British company, if it so chooses, to engage in competition with Australian ships while at the same time it is paying lower wages and observing much inferior manning conditions.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) has stated his case clearly and well, as he always does, but he is under a misapprehension as to the purpose of this bill. In any case I remind the honorable member that the competition to which the State subsidized ships has been subjected was brought about at the instigation and request of the Government of Western Australia. Nothing has been done except at the request of that Government from the time of Sir John Forrest up till the present. The first permission granted at that time has been continued ever since. I understand that the present Government of Western Australia considers that the service of the foreign ships manned by coloured labour is still essential because the State line calls only about once a month at the ports it serves, and this is regarded as inadequate.
– That is quite correct.
– I am notsaying whether it is right or wrong, but I ask the honorable gentleman, when he is thundering forth his denunciations and pointing at me in particular, to acquit me of responsibility for a state of affairs for which I am not responsible. The honorable member has pictured some serious consequences that may follow if this clause is passed, but I point out to him that competition between the State subsidized line and the SingaporeFremantle line is very much more serious than competition between the Union Company ships and the Orient Company ships, because the standard of the Orient ships, although lower than the standard on our own ships, is at least comparable with it, whereas the standard on the Singapore-Fremantle boats cannot be said to be in any way comparable with that maintained on Australian ships. So if there is a mote in my eye there is obviously a beam in the eye of those responsible for conditions on the northwest coast of Australia. Honorable members, generally, seem to be a good deal confused about the whole subject, and I must confess that I myself have not altogether escaped the confusion. Different classes of licences and permits may be issued under the act. Idirect attention to section 286 of the original Navigation Act of 1912 which reads -
The Governor-General may, by order, declarethat the carrying of passengers between specified ports in Australia by British ships shall not be deemed engaging in the coasting trade.
The honorable member for Fremantle spoke about the coasting trade, but the trade to which he specifically referred was not considered coasting trade when the original act was passed. Section 286 was amended in 1926 to read as follows : -
Where it is shown to the satisfaction of the Governor-General that the tourist traffic between any ports in the Commonwealth or in the territories under the authority of the Commonwealth is being injured or retarded and the Governor-General is satisfied that it is desirable that unlicensed ships be allowed to engage in the trade, he may, by notice published in the Gazette, grant permission to unlicensed British ships of such size and speed as are specified in the notice to engage in the carriage of passengers between those ports subject to such conditions (if any) and for such period as arc set out in this notice.
The carriage of passengers between those ports by a British ship of the description specified in any such notice and under the conditions (if any) and during the period set out in the notice shall not be deemed engaging in the coasting trade.
It is provided in sections 288 and 289 of the principal act that ships engaged in the coasting trade must observe Australian wages and conditions until they leave their last port in Australia. But we are dealing with section 286 as amended in 1926, and are seeking merely to give statutory effect to a system in force since that date. It deals with tourist traffic only. Permits have been issued to engage in this traffic, and the condition* are set out in orders in council. The honorable member for Fremantle spoke of these ships being licensed, but they are not licensed or they would have to observe Australian wages and conditions. It is now proposed that the class of ships to which permits under this section, have been issued shall engage in this traffic. The conditions for all practical purposes will be similar to those which have applied under the permitsystem. I sympathize entirely with the object of those honorable members who wish to preserve Australian rates and conditions, and I am satisfied that these will be in no greater danger if this clause becomes law than they are under the permit system. It is obvious that the effect of the permits has been to increase the trade of out interstate steamers.
– Then why not leave well alone?
– It is not the people of New South Wales or any of the other eastern Sta-te who have asked for this amendment. It is the people of Tasmania who have come to us for aid. I ask honorable members to look at the subject in this light, and to support the clause.
.- The Minister in charge of the bill has said that the Tasmanian people have asked us to come to their aid, and he has spent most of the evening in trying to convince us that, even if this amending bill be agreed to, the existing conditions will not be altered. If that is the case, why need we amend the act? We could still carry on under the permit system. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Hutchinson) said that if the amendment of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) had been agreed to, the object of the bill would have been defeated, adding that the bill was necessary in order to permit a better class of steamer to participate in the Tasmanian tourist trade. But the remarkable fact was disclosed by the predecessor to the present Minister for Commerce, in a speech that he delivered some time ago when a somewhat similar bill to this was under consideration, that between 1932 and 1934 the number of passengers carried by local steamers from Melbourne to the Bass Strait ports of Tasmania had increased by 1,603, and the number carried from Sydney to Hobart had increased by 1,814. This does not indicate that people generally desire to travel by the larger steamers. The passenger traffic of the British-owned steamers actually decreased, in 1934 as against 1933, by 478 passengers. The discriminating tourists who visited Tasmania in the two-year period that I mentioned patronized the local steamers to a greater extent than the overseas steamers. It has also been said that this amendment of the act is desired by the business people of Hobart in order that they may reap some benefit from the trade that will be brought to Tasmania by the visits of overseas ships; but I direct attention to the following note which appears at the foot of the table of figures submitted to us by the previous Minister for Commerce : -
The figures for the former year (1933) include two exceptionally heavily-hooked cruises of 1.500 and 1,700 passengers, hence the higher figures for that year.
On these cruises the tourists who go on the Sydney-Melbourne-Hobart run and back to Sydney take practically all ‘their meals on the ship, and also sleep on it. They seldom remain in Hobart for more than 24 hours. The only land trip they take is a short run into the mountains in the neighbourhood of Hobart at a cost of about 7s. 6d. The business of the Hobart people could not be affected by such visitors to any extent that is worth considering. The shipping companies which carry the passengers, and not the Tasmanian people, benefit. I protest against the unfair competition which will result if vessels controlled by oversea shipping companies are allowed to have an “open go “ in the Tasmanian trade. The Government, which is always speaking of fair competition, pays an annual subsidy of £56,000 to the companies engaged in the Tasmanian trade, compels them to provide a regular service, to comply with the requirements of the Navigation Act, and to pay award rates and observe Australian conditions; but at the same time it proposes to set up direct competition by allowing oversea ships manned by coloured crews to take advantage of the additional business offering during tho tourist season. Why should not the oversea, shipping companies be compelled to take the lean with the fat? The Minister (Mr. Hughes) said that if the overseas shipping companies pay Australian wages and observe Australian conditions they can trade in spite of us. Up to the present they have shown no inclination to come into the trade unless “under particularly favorable conditions. If the interstate shipping companies have to submit to certain specified conditions, we should see that those companies with which they have to compete shall be on the same basis.
.- I have listened with a good deal of attention to what has been said on the vexed question involved in paragraph 2 of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), It was refreshing to hear the Minister (Mr. Hughes) say that the Government propose to render some assistance to Tasmania, which for years has suffered extreme disabilities. With a good deal of complacency he referred- to the annual subsidy paid, and to the number of steamers in the service; but I would remind the right honorable member that the vessels now in the Tasmanian trade are slower than many of those engaged in carrying wool from Australia to the home market. Although a new steamer has been placed in commission the fares are as high as those charged in prosperous days, the mail service is the same as it was 20 years ago, and under the present contract is likely to remain so for the next ten years. The proposed amendments of the principal act will not be of any benefit in those respects. Even if the act is not amended the ships now trading to Hobart will provide the same service, and additional vessels will engage in the trade only when there is profitable business offering. The amendment, which provides that if overseas vessels engage in the interstate trade they shall pay award rates and observe Australian working conditions should be acceptable to the Government, because its adoption would be of great advantage to Tasmania which, it says, it is anxious to assist. An amendment of the principal act as is proposed under Clause 3 would be of little benefit, as the position would be much the same as it has been for many years. I remind honorable members opposite that a majority of the people of Tasmania do not hold the same views as apparently are held by the Government. The electors of Tasmania who only recently expressed their disapproval of the late Government are not satisfied that tangible efforts have been made to remove the difficulties under which they are working. I support the amendment.
.- I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Melbourne’ Ports (Mr. Holloway) which provides that Australian rates of wages shall be paid on all overseas vessels permitted to trade between Australian ports. In replying to the statement of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) that vessels on which coloured crews are employed are permitted to engage in the trade on the north-west coast of Western Australia, and in that way come into direct competition with the vessels owned by the Western Australian Government, the Minister (Mr. Hughes) said that all governments, including the present Labour Government in that State had made representations in favour of overseas boats being allowed to engage in the trade on that coast. The late Lord Forrest was responsible for those vessels trading there in the first instance. Labour men did not protest against granting permits to them because the service rendered by the other ships trading to that coast did not meet the full needs of the residents of. the north-western portions of Australia.
As the act stands at present, the Minister can withdraw a permit at any time, but, under the bill, it is desired to give legal sanction to the system. The result of that would be that a permit could be withdrawn only by further legislation. Labour men claim that if permits to engage in the coasting trade are to be given to overseas vessels, some of which, undoubtedly, are manned by coolie labour, they should at least observe Australian rates of wages and working conditions. I am afraid that these permits have been granted too readily. In the. last few months I have noticed with increasing concern that overseas vessels are leaving Australian ports on various tourist trips. I noticed in the Melbourne Age, of yesterday’s date, that the Oronsay is to proceed to Rabaul in the Mandated Territory. The act provides that a vessel must be on the Australian shipping register if it is to be allowed to trade between Australia and an Australian territory, but I do not know whether that includes a mandated territory. The overseas vessels undoubtedly enter into competition with interstate ships which are manned by Australian seamen, and cater improperly for the tourist trade. I noticed that the P. and 0. liner Mooltan, which” has a coloured crew, is to make a tour to Samarai, in Papua. Have permits been given to these boats? I read also that the Tanda, of the E. and A. Steamship Company, which trades between Japan and this country, is to leave Melbourne to-morrow. It is a vessel of 7,000 tons, and calls at Rabaul, Manila, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and five ports in Japan; but it will first proceed- to Hobart. The public is informed that excellent passenger accommodation is available, the first class saloon fare to Hobart being £4, and the second class, £2 10s. This vessel, which sails under the British flag, has a crew composed entirely of Chinese. Obviously, there is danger in readily granting permits to such overseas ships to engage in the coasting trade. It seems to me that the star of democracy is waning in Australia as in some other countries. Had attacks of this nature been made on the Navigation Act a few years ago, such a vigorous protest would have rung throughout Australia that *io government would have dared to introduce such a bill as this. I trust that the reaction to. it will be so great that it will be allowed to lapse.
– I rise merely to support the lucid statement made by the Minister in charge of this bill (Mr. Hughes).
– It was as clear as mud.
– I think it was clear to all other members of the committee, if not to the honorable member who interjects. The bill merely gives statutory authority for a practice that obtains to-day, and it will prove of benefit to Tasmania. As has already been pointed out, the granting of permits to overseas vessels to participate in the interstate trade has not adversely affected the business of the Australian shipping companies. On the contrary, the number of passengers carried by the latter has increased under the present system, and therefore I fail to see why members of the Opposition should be perturbed by the introduction of this measure. I have no great enthusiasm for the interstate steamship services. It seems to me that the Australian companies exercise a monopoly, which honorable members opposite support. 1 regard the fares and freights charged by them as being abnormally high. It may be fair and reasonable to pay the wages and grant the working conditions which are enjoyed by Australian seamen, but what is Australia paying for this advantage to a limited number of seamen ? The Navigation Act has not increased the Australian mercantile marine. With one or two exceptions, the interstate vessels are of such a character that people hesitate to travel in them. I regard this bill as - in the best interests of Australia, whereas the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) would leave the present position unaltered.
– That is the intention of the Government.
– No. The amendment would maintain the present conditions, under which no overseas steamship company desires to avail itself of the permit system. That provision has been in the act for some time. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) said by interjection to the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Hutchinson) that if British shipping companies adopted the principle of paying Australian wages for the trip to Tasmania they would be compelled to pay them for the rest of the journey. I inform the honorable member that that is not so. Section 2S9 of the Navigation Act 1912-1920 provides -
Every seaman employed on a ship engaged in any part of the coasting trade shall, subject to any lawful deductions, be entitled to and shall be paid, for the period during which the shi]) is so engaged -
That is, only the period for which the ship is so engaged - wages at the current rates ruling in Australia for seamen employed in that part of the coasting trade, and may sue for and recover those wages.
That is in effect what the amendment proposes to do - to leave things as they are in the present act. We purpose to go much further by giving legal status to the arrangement that has grown up, whereby exemptions have been permitted. Our object is not, as has been suggested by interjection, to encourage the use of black labour. In any event, the Orient Company does not employ black men. The bill will be of material benefit to Tasmania, Western Australia and other distant parts of the Commonwealth, and I cannot understand any representative of Tasmania voting against it. It must mean a considerable increase in the tourist traffic to Tasmania, and tourist traffic is the life blood of that State. Tasmania, lilt” France, depends upon the tourist for its prosperity. This bill will increase Tasmania’s prosperity by facilitating the tourist traffic. I arn confident that tho people of Tasmania are anxious that an arrangement of this kind should operate. The amendment, if carried, will leave the law as it is at present, and any British company that cares to pay Australian rates of wages to its crews can obtain a licence and carry on business in competition with the interstate shipping companies to its heart’s content.
– That would no;, matter.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) in one breath desires to protect the Australian mercantile marine from competition, and in the next says that the amount of competition is immaterial. There would be no advantage in paying coloured labour twice as much as it is receiving to-day, or in giving it Australian conditions. That would be of no benefit to Australia or Australian seamen. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) has inveighed against the cruises which are promoted by the enterprise of the overseas shipping companies. This practice is now followed in every country, and tends to create an entirely new trade, of the benefits and pleasures of which the honorable member would, apparently, deprive the people of Australia. I see no justification for the honorable member’s remarks regarding cruises. They are not an honest presentation of the facts of the case. In an isolated instance a vessel may stay for only two hours at a Pacific island, but thousands of Australian citizens have participated in cruises on which the vessel has stayed three days and nights at an island in the Pacific or elsewhere. These are perfectly legitimate enterprises on the part of overseas steamship companies, and there is no reason why the interstate companies should not engage in them if they have a vessel that will attract tourists. Apparently the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) does not appreciate the disabilities under which the States suffer in the shape of the poor shipping facilities now provided. Thousands of people refuse to travel to Tasmania, cither across Bass Strait or from Sydney, on the existing steamers.
– Then why does the Commonwealth pay a subsidy of £50,000 a year?
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.The Commonwealth pays £50,000 a year for what is for the most part a mail service. It is obliged to provide Tasmania with a mail service. I am not prepared to say that the money is being paid for an adequate passenger service. Any one who truly represents the interests of the citizens of Tasmania must vote for a system that will afford a better method of travelling to the island StateThousands of people would willingly travel to Tasmania but for the discomforts that must now inevitably be faced. When an opportunity is afforded, as is done by this bill, to provide relief to tourists and benefit to Tasmania, it will be extraordinary if Tasmanian members simply say, “We resist all efforts to improve our lot in this respect ; we desire to stay in our present miserable condition, satisfying ourselves with abusing everybody, and crying out about how badly we are treated.” The bill is fair and reasonable, and I shall not be deterred from supporting it by the catch-cry about employing foreign vessels. The Orient Company and the Peninsular and Oriental Company have rendered great service to Australian development. They should be allowed to engage in this trade, if the people of Australia want them to do so. There is, after all, no compulsion. If people desire to travel by the existing interstate vessels they are at liberty to do so; but those who are not satisfied to use the present methods surely should not be deprived of the enjoyment of what they regard as better travelling facilities, nor should the people of Tasmania be denied the opportunity of getting these people and their trade by means of better methods of transport.
.- A most important point has been missed in this debate. Some honorable members have argued that those who are supporting the Government in this matter desire to encourage overseas vessels to enter the Tasmanian passenger trade in competition with interstate steamers. That is not a correct statement of the position. All that we are endeavouring to do is to ensure a regular and reasonable service between Tasmania and the mainland. Soon the Zealandia, will be taken off the Sydney-Hobart run and unless some other provision is made there will be no direct passenger service between Hobart and the mainland for some months. In no other part of the world would this state of affairs be tolerated. In 1930, at about this time of the year, I had some visitors from Sydney staying at my place on a holiday. Owing to uncertainty about a continuance of the shipping service they were anxious to return to Sydney, but I was able to persuade them to prolong their stay by a few days, fortunately without causing them inconvenience. In the following year, however, the service ceased in March and there was no passenger vessel trading between Hobart and Sydney for five or six months. “We are afraid that may happen again unless action is taken to ensure a continuance of the service. What has happened in connexion with the Launceston service? Tasmanian Steamers Limited received a subsidy of £30,000 last year, and now that the Taroona is on the run the subsidy has been increased to £50,000. This arrangement is to continue for the next ten years. The new vessel is not giving the satisfaction that people were led to expect from it and the company is charging an additional £2 5s., for the luxury cabins. We all know what will happen if provision is not made for overseas passenger vessels to engage in the tourist traffic. The people in Tasmania appreciate the advantage of having ocean liners of 20,000 tons - about 40 of these vessels will load apples at Hobart from the end of February until the end of May - available for the run from Sydney to Hobart or from Hobart to Melbourne on the outward voyage. They supply a long felt want. On one occasion when I was in Hobart I received word at 10 o’clock on a Saturday morning that my presence was urgently required in Melbourne and as I was unable to catch the steamer leaving Launceston I made application to travel by an overseas passenger liner which was about to leave for Melbourne, but my request was refused because the vessel did not have a permit. At present there is no passenger service between Hobart and Melbourne and naturally the people of Tasmania are complaining bitterly of this neglect. Can one wonder that some of the people are thinking of secession? I assure honorable members that this is no idle threat. All we ask for is justice and I hope that this Parliament will give it to us.
I do not doubt the sincerity of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway). His desire, I believe, is to ensure the retention of the coasting trade provisions in the act in the interests of Australian seamen. I am equally certain that the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) may be trusted not to bring forward any proposal which would destroy the effectiveness of the act which has been so beneficial to the Australian mercantile marine. He has assured us that this proposed amendment is designed to assist Tasmania and that it will not injure the passenger service which is being conducted by interstate vessels. Tasmania loses many thousands of pounds in the tourist season each year owing tothe unsatisfactory passenger service provided by existing lines. Although the State spends considerable sums yearly to cater for this class of traffic, many intending tourists decline to travel by the interstate vessels that are on the run. The Taroona, the new vessel engaged in the Bass Strait service looks very nice, but reports concerning her behaviour at sea are not at all reassuring. One of the passengers said that on the last voyage the vessel had a heavy list, and sometimes they wondered if it would right itself again. Everybody who travels by that steamer says that the fare is exorbitant, and that a subsidy of £50,000 a year is not justified. Fancy paying £5 for the privilege of travelling across Bass Strait! But it is impossible to get a better vessel. The Taroona is said to be top heavy and slower than the Nairana. On the last run it took fourteen hours from heads to heads - two hours longer than the Nairana - and the ship was four hours late although it was not a particularly rough trip. I hope that the committee will agree to the clause.
.- I was interested in the remarks of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill), who, whenever there is a case to be presented having for its purpose the breaking down of Australian industrial conditions, can always be relied upon to put it in characteristic fashion. The honorable gentleman drew a comparison between the comfort and convenience offered by overseas ships and that offered by vessels of the Australian mercantile marine. But the Government of which he is a member is prepared to offer a subsidy to the Australian shipping lines and if the service rendered is not all it should be, the granting of the subsidy should be made conditional upon the maintenance of a proper standard. The Minister, in offering such serious criticism of a service which the Government is prepared to subsidize, fails to recognize his obligations. No opportunity is missing by honorable members opposite to endeavour to undermine, as far as possible, the standard of wages and conditions of Australian workmen. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Hutchinson) I was surprised to learn–
I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the clause.
– I am addressing myself to the clause and endeavouring to reply to some of the remarks of previous speakers.
– The honorable member is not in order.
– I submit, Mr. Chairman, that I should be permitted to offer observations concerning the remarks made by honorable members who have previously addressed themselves to this bill. The Chair may determine when I am in order, but the Chair cannot determine what I am going to say. Honorable members opposite have consistently displayed a desire to undermine the standard of wages and conditions governing industry in this country. The amendment moved by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) is sound and his reasoning cannot be disputed. All that honorable members on this side ask is that conditions imposed in respect of Australian ships shall also be applied to overseas vessels operating in competition with them in the interstate trade. There can be no escape from the logic of that claim, and from the justice of the contention put forward by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports in support of it. I cannot understand the reasoning of honorable members opposite who desire to extend to overseas shipping interests specialconcessions not granted to ships on the Australian register. Honorable members opposite are always at variance with those who desire to better the conditions of labour in this country. This attitude is understandable in view of the interests they serve. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill) sought to convince the committee that some special concession was being given to Tasmania by permitting these overseas vessels’ to engage in the tourist traffic between the mainland and that State. The honorable gentleman said that the inclusion of these vessels in that trade would bring about an increased tourist traffic. I am indebted to the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) for providing me with figures concerning the Tasmanian tourist traffic. These show that, in 1934, of 4,337 persons who visited Tasmania on cruises, 3,200 completed the whole of the round trip. Their stay in Hobart was limited to the stay of the vessels, only a few hours, during which time they had their meals on board ship. Therefore the only money spent in Hobart was in connexion, with the hiring of motor cars for sight-seeing and the purchase of a few odds and ends. It is a far better proposition, from the point of view of the Tasmanian people, to encourage the Australian shipping lines than to extend facilities to overseas shipping lines, which would maintain a service only during profitable periods. The standard of wages and conditions on the overseas vessels is considerably inferior to that of thd Australian shipping lines, yet the Australian public is asked to pay the higher fares for passages by those vessels. They demand exorbitant fares from Australians who travel on their vessels, and yet are not prepared to observe Australian standards in regard to wages and conditions of employment. The Navigation Act definitely lays it down that those who trade on our coast shall observe certain conditions. We should discountenance any proposal that might undermine the principles of that act, which has done so much to establish and maintain a standard that is desirable and decent in the interest of those who are engaged in the mercantile marine. I heartily support the amendment of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) because I feel that it expounds a principle that we as an Australian Parliament should endorse.
– I wish to make my position clear, because it has been misunderstood. I agree with the Minister that the question of permits, licences, and registration, has caused a good deal of misunderstanding. Probably it was that which led me to use unfortunate language during the speech of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). I regret what I then said. My statement was that there is a difference between registration, licences and permits. The Minister and several other speakers have said that if my amendment were carried we might as well insist upon the taking out of licences. I agree with that. But the point that I desire to make is that there is a big difference between the granting of a permit under the act and doing what the Government now proposes. The shipowners want what is here proposed because they will not take out a licence Any company registered under the act would have to observe the conditions laid down in it, whether trading in Australian, European, American or any other waters. The provision in the original act to which the Minister referred granted power to shipping companies to take out a licence, but the opportunity to do so was never availed of, for the reason that the wages, manning, accommodation and other conditions would have to be complied with while the licensed vessel was in Australian waters, with the result that a crew one-third larger than was necessary in other parts of the world would have to be carried, with- consequential additions to the accommodation provided. Those conditions were laid down by the framers of the act in order to prevent what is now being attempted. The people of Tasmania particularly complained that at times when they needed assistance they were stranded without a permanent shipping service. Because of those extraordinary circumstances the system of permits was inaugurated. But before a permit was granted the navigation officials had to be satisfied that an emergency warranting it existed. The Government now says that overtures have been made to it for the removal of the necessity to obtain a permit by companies ‘ that are not registered in Australia and have not taken out a licence to engage in a portion of the interstate trade.
– I am sure that that is what is meant. They do not want to take out a permit. They will not be registered here, because they object to manning their ships, paying wages, and providing accommodation, in the terms stipulated by the act. They are opposed to being licensed for the same reason. If the clause is agreed to in its present form, overseas companies will be able to trade on portions of the Australian coast, whether an emergency exists or not, without complying with the conditions of the act, whether their vessels are manned by a coolie or a white crew. My amendment does not mean that they would be placed in the position in which Australian registration would place them. It simply seeks to establish the conditions that were originally intended to apply. If they do not want to register in Australia they must take out a licence to trade on our coast. They object to doing that. The Government proposes to make permanent the system of permits, without requiring the observance of Australian conditions in regard to accommodation, manning, wages or anything else. The statement that the amendment embodies the same conditions as the permit system, is not true. If honorable members wish to preserve the conditions prescribed by the Navigation Act they will vote for the amendment, but if they desire that overseas shipping companies may, without restriction, participate in the Australian shipping trade, whether or not an emergency exists, they will vote against it.
Question - That the proviso proposed to be added (Mr. Holloway’s amendment)be so added - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Pro wse. )
Majority . . 1.4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Section two hundred and thirty-one of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting sub-section (1.) and inserting in its stead the following sub-sections: - “ (lc. ) In this section - cargo ship ‘ means a ship not carrying more than twelve passengers; operator ‘ means a person who holds a valid first-class or a second-class commercial operator’s certificate of proficiency issued under regulations made under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1905-1919; wireless signaller ‘ means a person who holds a valid limited certificate of proficiency in radio telegraphy issued under regulations made under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1905-1919. (1n.)…..
by inserting after sub-section (2.) the following sub-section: - “ (2a.) Before exempting any ship from any of the requirements imposed by or under this section the Minister shall refer the matter to a committee appointed under sub-section (3.) of section four hundred and twenty-four of this act … . .
. - I move-
That the definitions of “ operator “ and “ wireless signaller “ proposed new sub-section (lc) be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following definitions: - “ ‘ operator ‘ means a person who holds -
a valid first-class or second-class commercial operator’s certificate of proficiency issued by the PostmasterGeneral under regulations made under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1905-1919; or
in the case of a British ship, a valid certificate issued by an authority empowered in that behalf by or under the laws of the United Kingdom or a British possession, and recognized by the PostmasterGeneral as equivalent to either of the certificates referred to in the last preceding paragraph; or
in the case of a foreign ship, a valid certificate of proficiency in wireless telegraphy issued by an authority empowered in that behalf by or under the laws of the country in which the ship is registered, and recognized by the PostmasterGeneral as equivalent to either of the certificates referred to in paragraph (a) of this definition; wireless signaller ‘ means a person who holds a valid third-class operator’s certificate of proficiency issued by the Postmaster-General under regulations made, or to be made, under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1905-1919.”.
That after the word “committee,” proposed new sub-section (2a) the words “of three persons “ be inserted.
I assure honorable members that these amendments do not alter, in any respect whatever, the effect of the clause ; ‘but as it has been decided to provide that first class and second class operators shall be employed on certain classes of ships and wireless signallers on certain other classes of ships, it is necessary to recast the definition of “ operator “ and “ wireless signaller”. That is what this amendment does.
– Is the purpose of the amendment to clarify the regulations relating to the issue of certificates?
– Yes. The draft regulations to give effect to the provisions of this clause have not yet come under my notice, but I assure the honorable member that I shall examine them very carefully to ensure that full effect is given to the decisions of the conference.
Amendments agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to impress upon the Acting Prime Minister (Dr. Earle Page) the necessity for giving honorable ‘ members the earliest possible opportunity to discuss the report of the members of the petrol commission. An incident that was brought under my notice during the weekend makes it necessary for me to stress the importance of this request, for it has been proved beyond question that the major oil companies are exercising an influence which is definitely detrimental to the people of this country, and are showing their teeth in a way that this Parliament cannot disregard. I shall give the full facts of this case, so that, when the subject comes up for discussion subsequently, honorable members will be in a position to deal with it, and to protect the public to the full extent of the power of this Parliament. This incident should have the fullest publicity, and Parliament should do its utmost to prevent similar happenings. A garage proprietor, now of Macquarie-street, Liverpool, in the electorate of “Werriwa, has been carrying on business in that town for a long while as a motor mechanic. Recently he removed from his old place of business to a stand in the main street. He had been purchasing oils from the Shell Oil Company for a number of years. Having moved into larger premises in the main street in Liverpool with the object of extending his business, he there installed a Purr-pull bowser, but immediately that installation was made the Shell people refused to supply him any further with the ordinary oils and greases he had obtained from them for quite a lengthy period previously. For these, he was prepared to pay cash and meet every requirement that might be asked by the company but it still refused to fulfil any of his orders.
– Did the company give any reason for its refusal?
– Following a request made by this garage proprietor to the Premier of the State, the company gave it. as the reason for its refusal to fulfil further orders that the district was being adequately catered for by others in regard to the supply of Shell petrol and oils and greases. The answer to that is that up to the period when this man moved into larger premises he had been dealing with this company, and that as soon as he installed a Purr-pull bowser the company declined, to fulfil any further orders. The Purr-pull petrol people, I understand, came into the market as an independent company, and made reasonably good progress in New South Wales. 1 have given the Minister the facts in this particular ease, and I would like him to find out what steps the Commonwealth Government can take to remedy this position.
– Wo have a law dealing with restraint of trade.
– The Acting Prime Minister (Dr. Earle Page) might inquire whether this matter could be in vestigated through the Customs Department ‘or the investigation branch of hia own department. This is a case which can be definitely established, and in order to assist 1 will give the names of the people concerned. The garage proprietors trade as John Garrad and Company, and the Shell representative who refused them supply is Mr. Hayes. There may be many others, although the difficulty arising in such cases is that frequently men in business are reluctant to come forward and take a definite stand against these companies because of the power and influence that the companies wield. In this case, the garage proprietor does repairs to cars, ‘but if a client wants Shell products he must go elsewhere to -get it. I urge the Minister to take action in this matter. A question asked by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) this morning concerned the operations of another petrol company-the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited - ‘and from his remarks also it appears to me that it is time that some action was taken to deal with this company, over which some control can be exercised by the Government. I ask the Acting Prime Minister to give the House the very earliest opportunity to carefully dissect these reports so that honorable members may find out exactly what this Parliament can do to ensure that the public shall get a square deal in its dealings with these companies. ‘
; - As ‘ I stated this morning, the printing of .these reports, which are fairly lengthy, is being expedited. I hope to have them circulated among honorable members before the end of the week.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.28 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
y asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
In view of Hobart’s strategical .position in the Naval Defence of Australia, will be re-adjust the itinerary of the Navy so that it will be at Hobart on Regatta Day of each year?
– The request will receive full consideration when the itinerary of the squadron for 1936 is being arranged.
n asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
What steps (if any) have been taken to provide for the ratification in Australia of the Australia-New Zealand agreement for reciprocity in respect of tha conditions of obtaining old-age pensions’;
– When the Commonwealth Government agreed in 3913 to a reciprocal arrangement with the Government of N&w Zealand whereby residence- in New Zealand should be recognized in the qualification for pensions iu the Commonwealth, and residence in the Commonwealth should bc recognized in the qualification for pensions in New Zealand, the Pension Bill was £2,302,000. The annual liability for pensions is now about £12,000,000, and, as the proposed reciprocity would add considerably to the Pensions Bill, the time is inopportune to give effect to the agreement.
FOREIGN Subsidized Shipping : Empire Policy.
E - On the 29th March, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now in a position to reply as under-r-
Station PIER, Pout Melbourne: Establishment of Post Office.
– On the 22nd March, and again on the 2Sth idem., the honorable member for Melbourne PoTts (Mr. Holloway) asked a question, without notice, relating to the desired establishment of a post office at tho Station Pier, Port Melbourne. 1 am now advised by the department in Melbourne that the investigations in the matter arc not yet complete, and that a decision will be reached as early as practicable.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 April 1935, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1935/19350402_reps_14_146/>.