1st Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator DOBSON presented a petition from eighty one electors of Tasmania, praying the Senate to delay the erection of aFederal capital. -
Petition received and read.
– Is there any rule, sir, by which we can have the names of the petitioners read ?
– I do not know that there is a rule to that effect.
– The petition is not really read unless the names are given.
– Suppose that there ‘ are 1,500 names to a petition 1 If the Senate desires tho names in this case to be read, I am not going to say that it cannot bo done.
– It will not takelong for the Clerk to read eighty-one names.
– Does it matter What the names arc 1
– I should like te hear the names read.
– I do not think it is a desirable course to adopt, because we might have 15,000 names to a petition. Does the Senate desire the names to be read t
Royal assent’ reported.
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council, without notice, whether, when he is moving the motion regarding the selection of a site for the Capital, he will give us the best indication he can of the policy of Ministers with regard to three points - first, when they propose to commence the construction of the capital ; secondly, the sum of money per annum which they propose to expend in its construction ; and, thirdly, is the money to be paid out of general revenue or out of loan account 1
– I think that the honorable and learned member will find all that information in a speech by the late Prime Minister.
– Not the whole of it.
– The AttorneyGeneral has charge of this business, and therefore it will devolve upon him to make any statement of the kind desired.
– I desire to ask the Attorney-General, without notice, whether he has taken any steps to get from the General Officer Commanding the return for which the Senate called a month ago. I understand that he could furnish a portion of the return immediately, if asked.
– I have specially requested that a report may be made as early as possible.
– Has the honorable and learned senator received an answer ?
– I have communicated with the General Officer Commanding to that effect.
Senator PLAYFORD laid upon the table the following paper : -
Temporary Public Service Employes.
The Clerk laid upon the table the following returns to orders : -
Rent for Ministers’ offices and for departmental offices.
Applications for patents and patents issued. 11 p
– I have to acquaint the Senate that I have received the resignation of Senator O’Connor in a letter, which reads as follows : -
The Senate, 27th September, 1903.
Dear Mr. President, -
I beg to resign my place as senator.
I am, yours sincerely,
The Honorable the President, The Senate.
I have also received from Senator O’Connor a letter, which, considering that he was leader of the Senate for a long time, I think it may not be inappropriate that I should read. It is as follows : -
The Senate, 27th September, 1903.
Dear Mr. President, -
I enclose the formal resignation of my seat in the Senate.
In doing so, I cannot refrain from expressing my regret at ceasing to be a Member of the House whose deliberations I have had the honour of leading in the first moment of its existence, and during the strenuous and eventful years which have since passed by. ] have ever felt a pride in my position, and a keen interest in its duties, the discharge of which was made a pleasure, not only by the loyal and warmhearted support of my friends, but by the generous consideration of opponents. Circumstances have made it impossible for me to take my farewell of my fellew Members in the House, and I beg that 3’ou will convey to all of them my best wishes.
For yourself, the Chairman of Committees, and the Officers of the House, accept my deepest gratitude for counsel and guidance in many difficulties, invaluable to me in the discharge of my duties, and ever freely and loyally given.
With kindest regards, I am,
Ever yours sincerely,
E. O’Connor.. The Honorable the President, The Senate.
I lay the letters on the table. In pursuanceof that notification, and of the provision of the Constitution Act, I have to inform the Senate that I intend to acquaint the Governor of the State of New South Wales of the vacancy which has occurred.
– I desire to ask the Attorney-General, without notice, if it is the intention of the Government to protect the members of the Senate from being called upon to pay income tax to the Government of Victoria when they are not resident in that State ? I have been asked to pay.
– I cannot say that it is the duty of the Government to protect an honorable senator from a claim of that kind
I believe that there are cases pending in regard to claims which have been made against Ministers.
-Col. GOULD. - Is the honorable and learned gentleman aware that it was generally understood that there was to be a test case in connexion with the claims made against the present Prime Minister, in order that the liability to pay or otherwise might be ascertained by a decision of the Supreme Court, without individual Members of the Parliament being worried, when only small amounts were involved in each case %
– I believe that there have been two test cases - one in regard to a permanent officer of the Commonwealth and one in regard to a Minister. If the honorable and learned senator will give notice of his question I have no doubt that I shall be able to ascertain for him exactly how those cases stand.
-Col. Gould. - What Minister is the honorable and learned senator referring to?
– The present Prime Minister.
– That is not a test case, because be is a “Victorian.
Debate resumed from 23rd September (vide page 5361), on motion by Senator Dobson -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– When my second-reading speech was interrupted by virtue of the sessional order, I was quoting from the report of a committee, which was specially appointed by the Board of Trade to inquire into the causes which led to the employment of a large and increasing number of lascars and foreigners in the mercantile marine. Senator McGregor and his followers ought to pay a very great deal of deference to the report, because it was unanimously arrived at by a committee of ten members, which included Mr. Thomas Burt, M.P., and Mr. Walter J. Howe, practically labour leaders, and very experienced ones, too.
– Back numbers. Obsolete!
– At all events, I place some reliance on a report of this kind. It is about the latest report on the subject that is available. In paragraph 19 the committee say -
It seems to us unlikely that, in the event of any great naval war, it would be practicable to draw men to any considerable extent from the crews ot the sea-going vessels of the mercantile marine. At present the great mass of the Naval Reserve men come from the fisherman and yachtsman class, and from the seamen on coasting vessels, and in case of war it is upon these classes that reliance must mainly be placed. We were, however, struck with the comparatively small number of seamen from foreign-going ships in the Royal Naval Reserve, and we would recommend improved inducements and more active recruiting, which would doubtless result in an increase of this number.
I have read that paragraph in order that my honorable friends may understand that so great is the scarcity of men available for the Royal Naval Reserve that this committee advised that further inducements should be held out to foreigners as well as Britishers to join the reserve. It goes to show what I have said more than once - that certain shipowners, if they wish to carry on a trade in tropical regions, are practically compelled to employ both foreigners and lascars in large and increasing numbers. Therefore it should be apparent to the Senate that it would be a grave error to exclude from our mercantile marine these coloured men. The committee also state in their report -
We regard both failure to join, and desertion, as serious evils, and as often causing inferior seamen and foreigners to be shipped at the last moment in order to meet a pressing emergency. As regards desertion, we can look for a remedy mainly in the improved condition of seamen. There is no doubt that in some foreign ports, notably in San Francisco, as to which we have had clear and valuable evidence, desertion is encouraged not only by the prospect of higher wages or profitable employment on shore, but also by the direct action of crimps. . . . We think, however, that there is a better prospect of obtaining an increase of British seamen by means of the employment of boy sailors than by means of training ships ; and we recommend ship-owners to take boys of good character on their ships, with a view to their becoming seamen.
The whole of the evidence goes to show that further inducements must be offered and further efforts made to increase the number of sailors who are willing to serve, not only in the mercantile marine, but in the Naval Reserve. I desire next to quote some remarks which Lord Dudley made in the House of Commons, and which may have a very practical bearing on the question before the Senate -
It was obviously impossible to rely upon the merchant marine as a reserve for the Navy in anything like the same proportion as in days gone by At present there were 247.000 sailors in the mercantile marine and 119,000 in the Navy; but thirty years ago the figures were 197,000 and 48,000 respectively. If all the merchant seamen were British, they would not constitute a source of supply to meet the wastage of a great naval war in anything like the proportion of past times
He then goes on to say -
At the present time we owned al per cent, of the gross steam tonnage of the world, and employed in our merchant vessels 247,448 seamen, of whom 36, 123 were lascars, and 3li,S93 foreigners, leaving about 175,000 British born. Taking the estimate of the male population in 1898 as 20,000,000, that gave one in 112 as the proportion of those who went to sea. Then, adding the 119,000 men in the navy, it appeared that in every sixty -eight of the male population there was one afloat in one service or the other. Comparing these with the figures of thirty years ago, the result, worked out in the same manner, gave the proportion of one in every sixty-seven of the male population in the merchant or naval services. No doubt the increase since .1871 of the men employed in the navy from 48,000 to 119,000 had had a considerable effect on the supply of seamen to the merchant service.
Honorable senators will thus see that about 69,000 men have been added to the naval forces, and that to a very considerable extent must have diminished the number of men available for the mercantile marine. That is an additional consideration in the argument as to whether the men who have to undertake the strenuous work of stoking in the tropics should be our own citizens or whether we ought to object to the employment of lascars and others. Lord Dudley says-
The conditions of life in the British merchant service were better than those in any other mercantile marine in the world, and. as a consequence, foreign sailors were always ready and. anxious to engage on board British ships.
Then the Sydney correspondent of the Daily Mail mentions that the Orient Company is about to employ lascars as firemen, and he goes on -
It should be added that in these days of steam the fireman is just as important a member of the crew as the deck hand. The company, which carries mails, has been caused a good deal of trouble by the incurable propensity of the firemen to desert. Immense inconvenience is caused by this practice. A steamer carrying mails is bound to time, and the greatest possible difficulty has often been experienced in replacing the deserters at a necessary short notice. The step so far is, I , understand, an experiment. The company has ‘ 11 f 2 for a year or two tried Scandinavians in the engine-room, but the heat in the Red Sea is more than some of them appear to care to face. Therefore, the company is driven as a last resource to fall back upon lascars. The P. and O. and other companies trading to the East had to take this step years ago : the Orient Company has stuck to European crews, until it has found, as the P. and O. Company found long since, that the men were not to be relied on.
There it is pointed out that the men who are not to be relied upon are those who are enduring this enormous strain in the stokehole ; and I shall come by-and-by to one or two quotations which will show that other nations, while trying to restrict employment in their mercantile marine to men of their own stock, still admit that it is desirable to employ coloured men and foreigners in the stokehole. I think we shall do well to take notice of what our friends in Calcutta think of us, as they belong to the great country whose coloured in habitants have been grossly insulted and treated with cruelty by this Commonwealth in taking the grave step which would deprive some thousands of them of their living if any one line of steamships got rid of their Iascar crews. Let me direct attention to what is stated by the Englishman, a leading newspaper published in Calcutta. I find this passage in its comments -
Unhappily there is no disguising the fact that the Australian attitude upon every question into which the element of colour enters is one of the strongest cases of popular prejudice of recent years. The Bill to which the Chamber of Commerce refers passed the Senate amid cheers for a “ white Australia.” Nor is it easy to see what the Government of India or the Imperial Government can do. It would undoubtedly be a mistake to speak severely to the Commonwealth, because the only notice which the Commonwealth would take would be to get angry and talk of “cutting the painter” - a favourite expression of certain Australian politicians. Nor, it is to be feared, would the tone of ‘ sweet reasonableness “ prove very effectual in the face of the grotesque stupidity which can identify the carrying of the mails by non-lascar labour with the idea of a white Australia.
Then, if we turn to the opinion of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce, we find that a protest has been made by those men who are carrying on an enormous trade between Great Britain and India. They know better than any one the unwisdom of doing anything to check that trade, or to offend our coloured subjects. In point of fact, they know that practically the prosperity of the Empire is at stake in what we are doing if we insult these coloured subjects. The
Committee of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce point out in their protest -
The committee of this Chamber are quite at a loss to understand the motives which have prompted the inclusion of this section in the Bill, or on what principle of. right and equity it is based. The committee have had the opportunity of perusing another Bill introduced into the Australian Parliament which, they understand, has since been passed, the object of which is to place certain restrictions on immigration, and to provide for the removal from the Commonwealth of prohibited immigrants. The provisions of this Bill appear to the committee sufficiently farreaching and drastic to protect the interests of the Australian Commonwealth (if it is considered they need protection) from the importation of foreign elements or cheaper labour from abroad. The provisions of the section of the Postal Bill now under reference, on the other hand, appear to have no well -defined object, as the fact of mail steamers bringing coloured crews into the ports of Australia and carrying them away again cannot possibly interfere in any way with the internal conditions of the Commonwealth. The committee …. would point out that the interests of the Australian Commonwealth cannot possibly derive any benefit at all from the provisions of this section of the Postal Bill, which would also be in favour of foreign as against British lines of steamers. It is obvious that under the conditions which the Australian Senate seeks to impose it may become impossible to conclude mail contracts on the terms hitherto obtained, with the result that increased rates for postal communication would have to be paidby British subjects in different parts of the empire. The committee cannot but regard the policy which is indicated by this section of the Bill as distinctly retrograde and utterly unworthy of the legislation of any part of His Majesty’s dominions.
Then the Chamber of Commerce goes on to say-
The committee would now turn to the injury which, if this Bill receives Imperial sanction without amendment in this particular direction, will be inflicted on a large number of British subjects in India who gain their livelihood by maritime service. The number of Asiatic seamen and firemen who are at present employed on ocean going steamers may be estimated probably at 70,000. These men are among the most deserving and law-abiding of His Majesty’s subjects, and it appears to the committee more than unreasonable that any section or number of them should be excluded from earning their living on the high seas by reason of their colour. As pointed out above, the Australian Parliament have taken sufficiently effective steps to prevent the immigration of Asiatics into Australia, and it appears to the committee incomprehensible that any Government should seek to dictate to the owners of steamers which visit their shores, but which are owned outside of their dominions, how their steamers are to be worked, or what description of labour they shall employ on board.
The protest of this committee is based upon the fact that hardship and injustice is inflicted upon these men. What they point out is that under our Immigration Restriction Act we can do everything which is required to maintain the policy of a white Australia, and keep the work of Australia for those who are, strictly speaking, part of our industrial life. I could produce quotation after quotation to show that all persons who are capable of thinking and forming an opinion on this subject say that the)’’ cannot conceive how in any way our endeavour to exclude lascars from the stokehold can affect the policy of a white Australia. I may mention that when Lord Lonsdale came to Australia the other day, he expressed himself as decidedly against this policy; and Lord Lonsdale has travelled round the world, and understands something about practical politics.
– D - Does he know something of Australian politics?
– It is not a question of Australian politics ; it is a matter of carrying our mails from Australia to the old country, and from England to Australia. It is a question of the commerce of the world. What my honorable friends do not seem to understand is that we are poking our nose into other people’s affairs, and at the same time damaging our own interests. Lord Lonsdale pointed out in very terse and emphatic language how this and other Commonwealth legislation is doing harm to Australia. If my honorable friends would only read the financial articles in the Argus and Age, they would see what is the effect of some of our legislation.
– What nonsense !
– I believe it is not nonsense. Our legislation is one determining cause of our financial position. I could give my honorable friend who interjects quotations from scores of men who are better able than he is to tell us most definitely that our legislation has had a disastrous effect upon Australian stocks at home. Does my honorable friend think that we can borrow another £200,000,000 odd for the purpose of carrying on works in Australia, if we enact legislation which is based upon injustice and gross wrong to men who, recollect, belong to the British Empire ? That is a fact which we sometimes forget. This Commonwealth will be tried by the legislation which it passes, and by that only. It is not merely our talk, but it is the legislation which we place upon our statute-book, which has an effect in -the old world. We shall not be tried by the chatter in this Chamber or upon the platform at election times, but by our own acts. Senator McGregor and others think they know all about this subject, but they should obtain a little more information. I have already called their attention to the fact that bodies like the Bengal Chamber of Commerce have condemned this legislation. Let me now give the result of the proceedings of the Steam-ships Subsidy Committee of the House of Commons. We all know that it has been found to be a very difficult thing for some of the great steamship companies of England to hold their own against the competition of America, Germany, and France, on account of the excessive subsidies granted by those nations. Therefore a Committee of the House of Commons was appointed to inquire into this very matter.
– Do the shipping -companies of America, France, and Germany -employ lascars ?
– They permit the -employment of coloured labour in the stokeholes. I am now pointing out that this Committee of the House of Commons, appointed to inquire into the effect of subsidies upon the carrying trade of the world, point out how steam-ships are handicapped, and where they think the handicap could be removed or modified. They say -
In the Admiralty subvention there is a condition that a special number of reserve men are to be carried according to the amount of the subvention, but the companies have not been able to quite fulfil what the Admiralty require as regards engine-room staff, and the penalties which were to oe enforced have had to be waived, because the companies, one b3’ one, said they could not see their way to insure having enough naval reserve men.
Here we have another committee pointing out that it is impossible even to carry put the Admiralty regulations, as the men are not to be obtained.
There is a growing difficulty in securing that these ships, which are reserve ships, should be manned by people of British allegiance.
Here is a second inquiry which has come to exactly the same result. Then the committee go on to say -
The next condition of subsidies to be considered relates to the nationality of the crew. Importance is attached to the manning of ships by national officers and crews in German3’, Russia, Italy and Japan, and the British Admiralty hold that no postal or other contract should be given unless all captains and officers are British subjects, and a certain proportion of the men, while British born apprentices and boys should be carried according to the size of the ship. This is also the opinion of your committee. As to the precise proportion of men it is worth notice that France has, in the law of 1902, very considerably relaxed her regulations for vessels engaged in tropical waters, allowing the employment of crews composed almost entirely of foreigners, with the exception of the officers and petty officers, and that American proposals in this respect, in the Subsidy Bill of 1902. were very moderate. The provisions appear in the appendix. The article with regard to crews (31) of the North German Lloyd Company runs as follows : - “ All adult deck hands and members of the engine-room staff engaged in Germany are to consist of men belonging to the naval reserve of Germany, or of persons engaged in writing, to serve under the Imperial Navy if steamers are requisitioned, hired or bought d3’ the German Government. Coloured men are only to be employed in the engine and boiler rooms when the employment of European firemen^ and stokers is ill advisable for sanitary reasons.’’
Germany, Italy, Russia, and Japan all have similar laws, showing that although they desire to encourage the employment of men of their own nationality they permit the employment of coloured firemen in the stokeholes.
In Austria-Hungary however, there is no stipulation as to nationality, treatment, or accommodation of the crews of subsidized vessels except that the master and the mate must be Austrian or Hungarian subjects. The British Admiralty point out that it is apparent that if this question of nationality is not recognised in time, British vessels, whenever the occasion for their use b3’ the Admiralty arises, will be extensive^ maimed by foreigners who would have to be largely, if not entirely, replaced by British subjects on the outbreak of war.
This is a very important matter. The Committee of the House of Commons find that unless we try to employ fewer foreigners, and to get more Britishers into our mercantile marine, particularly on those vessels which under a subvention to the Admiralty are bound to give their services in time of war, we shall be in serious difficulties when trouble comes. This is the most important reason for employing coloured labour in the stokeholes, and for retaining the services of the 36,000 lascars who are proud to serve under the British flag, rather than the 37,000 foreigners of all descriptions who may or may not have a grudge against Great Britain, and who may in time of war cause endless trouble. One sentence in this report furnishes an unanswerable argument in favour of my Bill. It is as follows : -
It is also necessary to observe that ship-owners have repeated^’ stated that British seamen of the class they desire are no longer always procurable- . . . The deficiency of supply of good British seamen has been attributed, among other causes, to the better and more varied character of employment on shore, and to the circumstance that Great Britain makes a demand upon a population of less than 40,000,000 to supply seamen for 15,000,000 tons, whilst Germany, for instance, makes a demand upon a population of 45,000,000 or 46,000,000 to supply seamen for 3,000,000 tons.
Here, again, is a point which honorable senators ought to take into consideration. It is one of the facts of Empire. How can we carry on the enormous carrying trade that we have got - 51 per cent of the world’s carrying trade - if we are to obtain our men only from our own population of 40,000,000? Germany has 3 per cent, of the world’s carrying trade, and has 46,000,000 of people from whom to take her seamen.
– We could hire out our carrying trade just as we hire out our naval defence.
– The report goes on -
Though the difficulty no doubt exists, it is considerably lessened in respect oE Oriental and tropical traffic, because the Iascar, a British subject, is also accepted as a British seaman.
This very committee points out that the employment of lascars will help us to get rid of the difficulty, but that it will be accentuated if their employment is discontinued.
– - Would the honorable senator like to have a Iascar marrying into his own family?
-T -That remark has just about as much to do with the subject as it would be if I asked my honorable friend if he had been to the moon.
We have been foremost at sea with the finest mercantile marine in the world ; we are meeting with severer competition than we have ever experienced, and our efforts must therefore be proportionately greater if we are to maintain our supremacy.
The last remark of Senator Higgs leads me to suppose that nothing I or the foremost men in the world can say will ever knock out of the heads of the members of the Labour Party the idea that the Iascar question is mixed up with the question of a white Australia. We all desire to keep our blood pure, and to insure that these men shall not assimilate with our civilization and drag it- down. But the employment of acars in the stokehole who do their work and look over the bows of the vessel in their leisure time, or wander harmlessly about the streets when they are in port, and go away again, does not affect the whiteAustralia policy. There is no one fact that I have heard in regard to a white Australia that can justly and reasonably be applied to the employment of lascars in thestokehole.
– But the honorable and learned senator’s Bill does not restrict theemployment to the stokehole.
– My Bill could hardly do that. It is simply a Bill to revokeabsolutely an unjust section of the Post and Telegraph Act. But, if I cannot carry the Bill in its present shape, or if, as I venture to prophesy will be the case, thePostmasterGeneral is not able to obtain a successful tender for the carrying of mails, and a modification of the section is desired, then I think there might be some alteration, of the absolute restriction of the carrying of our mails in ships employing black labour. We could provide that there might be a certain proportion of British seamen and a certain proportion of foreign seamen upon our vessels, and that the men should be keptto certain specified duties. I am not prepared to say that such a modification would be right or wrong, but I should be prepared: to take it if I could not get anything better. I now come to a very important matter, towhich I refer with considerable regret. I shall have to allude to an act of the latePrime Minister, which has laid him open to the very gravest criticism. The PrimeMinister had to justify this legislation tothe Imperial authorities.
-Did the honorable and learned senator not say that a Judge wasabove criticism?
– I do not know and I do not care what I said in that relation. I withdraw nothing of what I said. I take itthat, in his political career, a man may doan act which lays him open to the gravest criticism ; and I feel it my duty in the present instance to give the facts to the Senate. On the 2’7th January, 1903, the PrimeMinister sent this memorandum to theGovernorGeneral -
Mail contract. Should be glad if you will inform Secretary of State for the Colonies by telegraph that 3’our Ministers regret that HisMajesty’s Government cannot agree to stipulate that coloured crews shall not be employed, on grounds that such crews may be British subjects. Your Ministers are bound by laws of Commonwealth. His Majesty’s Government intimates that it will be necessary to abandon joint contract and make other arrangements tor Australian service, unless Commonwealth condition can be modified. I am bound to say that I can see no prospect of modification suggested, and, in absence of such, your Ministers cannot enter into arrangements by which employment of coloured crews after 31st January, 1905, will be sanctioned. Your Ministers therefore adhere to determination expressed in your despatch to Secretary of State for the Colonies on 9th December, 1902.
That was the ultimatum by the Prime Minister - that the provision could not be modified. The despatch of Mr. Chamberlain on this subject is of the gravest importance, and I shall read certain paragraphs. Writing to the Governor-General, Mr. Chamberlain said -
In the telegram from this Department of the 20th January you were informed that, with the exception of your Government, the Postal Administrations which are interested in the present contracts were generally in favour of their extension, if increased speed could be secured, and that the Postmaster-General thought it possible that the desired acceleration could be obtained for the present subsidy ; but that as regards the proposed exclusive employment of white labour on the mail packets, His Majesty’s Government were unable, in accordance with the policy indicated in my despatch to the Government of Victoria of the 10th November, 1896, to agree to introduce into a mail contract to which they were a party stipulations intended to exclude certain classes of British subjects from employment in the contract vessels. -
If Sir Edmund Barton and his Ministers had remembered the purport of the despatch of the 10th November, 1896, they never would or could have agreed to this provision in the Act; at any rate, they could not have agreed without a most stubborn fight, and after it had been forced on them by a division. There can be no justification -for the provision, but the excuse of the Ministry must be that they had forgotten the important despatch to the Government of Victoria in November, 1896. Mr. Chamberlain went on to say -
You were further informed that the condition as to the exclusive employment of white labour thus rendered it impossible for His Majesty’s Government to co-operate with your Government in a new contract, and that, unless that condition could be modified, it would be necessary to abandon the idea of a joint arrangement, and to make other plans for an Australian service, and you were asked to report whether, having regard to these considerations, your Ministers still desired the existing contracts to be terminated at the earliest possible date, or whether the PostmasterGeneral should, without terminating the contracts, endeavour to secure an improved :service. ! In your telegram of the 27th January you rej ported that your Prime Minister could see no prospect of being able to modify the condition as to the exclusive employment of white labour, and that your Government consequently could not enter into arrangements by which the employ- 1 ment of coloured crews, after the 31st January, I 1905, would be sanctioned, and therefore adhered I to the determination expressed in your despatch of the 9th December last. This announcement left the Postmaster-General no alternative but to gi ve formal notice to both the contracting companies to terminate the existing contracts on the 31st January, 1905, and, as you are already aware, from my telegram of the loth instant, such notice was accordingly given.
Although Sir Edmund Barton tried to get out of this point, he, by his unyielding reply to the effect that there could be no modification, and that the law must be carried out, compelled, rightly or wrongly, the PostmasterGeneral of England and the Secretary of State for the Colonies to cut themselves off from any union with us in the carrying of these mails - he compelled them to give notice that the contracts must cease and could not be renewed if coloured labour were employed. Mr. Chamberlain proceeded -
His Majesty’s Government much regret that the legislation which has recently been passed in Australia has made it impossible for them to be associated in future with the Government of the Commonwealth in any mail contract. They recognise the importance to the cause of Imperial unity of joint action in such matters as postal communication between the mother country and the great self-governing colonies, and they would not on slight grounds withdraw from such cooperation ; but the legislation in question, affecting as it does principally Indian subjects of His Majesty, leaves no other course open to them. By the Mutiny Proclamation of 1858, the Crown declared itself bound to the natives of its Indian territories by the same obligations of duty which bind it to all its other subjects, and undertook faithfully and conscientiously to fulfil those obligations. It would not be consistent with that undertaking for His Majesty’s Government to become parties to a contract in which the employment of His Majesty’s Indian subjects is in terms forbidden, on the ground of colour only. His Majesty Government have shown every sympathy with the efforts of the people of Australia-
Do my honorable friends of the labour corner believe that t I hope thev do.
– Go on ; “it does not matter.
- Mr. Chamberlain’s reply proceeded - - to deal with the problem of immigration, but they have always objected, both as regards aliens and as regards British subjects, to specific legislative discrimination in favour of, or against, race and colour, and that objection applies with even greater force to the present case, in which the question is not of the rights of the white population of Australia as against an influx of foreign immigrants, but merely of the employment of His Majesty’s Indian subjects on a contract to be mainly performed in tropical or subtropical waters. Even if the service were one upon which His Majesty’s Indian subjects had not hitherto been employed, it would destroy the faith of the people of India in the sanctity of the obligations undertaken towards them by the Crown if the Imperial Government should become in any degree whatever parties to a policy of excluding them from it solely on the ground of colour. But where they have already been employed in the service for a long period of years, to proscribe them from it now would be to produce justifiable discontent among a large portion of His Majesty’s subjects. His Majesty’s Government deeply regret that their feeling of obligation in this matter is not shared by the Parliament of the Commonwealth, and that in regard to a matter which cannot affect the conditions of employment in Australia, and in no way affects that purity of race which the people of Australia justly value, they should have considered it desirable to dissociate themselves so completely from the obligations and policy of the Empire. In the circumstances, it now devolves upon His Majesty’s Government to consider what arrangements they should make on their own behalf on the expiry of the existing contracts, but at the outset they are confronted with a difficulty.
Mr. Chamberlain then went on to allude to the question whether or not, under section 69 of the Post and Telegraph Act, mails could not be placed on board any steamer, regardless of whether it carried Iascar or other coloured labour either in the stokehole or out of it, and be paid for in poundage according to weight. The present Prime Minister, as AttorneyGeneral, on two occasions asserted that it would be no breach of section 16 of the Act for the Postmaster-General to place tons of mails on every steamer which leaves port, with or without coloured crews, and pay for them according to poundage.
– Rather curious morality, is it not t
– It is a question of law, and not a question of morality. The question is whether section 69 can be read with section 16, and the present Prime Minister, when Attorney-General, said that the word “ arrangement “ referred only to section 16, and not to sections 69 and 70, under which the Postmaster-General has the right to compel ship-owners to carry mails.
– Does it not seem absurd to decline to make a contract with the very ships which the Postmaster-General may compel to carry mail matter 1
– It does appear to be absurd, and that is one of the difficulties which senators in the labour corner haveto face. Those honorable senators assisted in passing an Act which compels any shipping company, even those which may employ a great majority of coloured men in their crews, to carry mails, and yet when it is proposed to enter into a contract with the P. and 0. and the Orient Companies, who. have served us so magnificently in the past and promise us quicker and cheaper facilitiesin the future, section 16 is quoted ; and that is the section which I want eradicatedThere is a statesman-like letter from MrChamberlain regretting that he has beenforced to give notice to terminate the existing contracts, and stating that under nocircumstances can the Empire even indirectly be a party to such legislation. Mr. Chamberlain points out that suchlegislation would be a breach of faith with ourIndian subjects, who would lose all respectand confidence in the British Crown. Tothat statesmanlike letter, Sir Edmund Barton, in a letter addressed to the GovernorGeneral, replied as follows : -
While, however, 3’our Excellency’s Ministers; regret that the co-operation which has so long existed between the mother country and Australia in respect of the carriage of mails is to bebrought to an end, the3’ are prepared to accept, the position as stated in the despatch, lt may be here mentioned that the insertion of the clausewhich is now section- Ki of, the Post and Telegraph Act 1901 was dealt with as a matter quite apart, from those proposals of the Government which had for their object the preservation of the purity of race of the people of the Commonwealth.
I hope that Senator McGregor and others, will notice that the late Prime Ministersaid that this section was inserted quiteapart from the question of the preservation of the purity of the race. It must be apparent to everybody that this section doesnot enter into that question, and therefore we ought to get rid of the suggestion thatit has any relation to the policy of a whiteAustralia. Sir Edmund Barton continued -
A perusal of the debates in both Houses of Parliament makes that fact abundantly clear. Various motives influenced those who were favourableto the amendment, one of which might have been expected to commend itself to His Majesty’s Government, but to which no reference is made in the despatch now under consideration. The motive to which I allude, and which found expression in the speeches of many members, wasthe desire to encourage the employment of seamen oE British race in the British mercantile marine, and thus to recruit the diminishing classoE trained seamen, to whom the nation looks for the manning of its war- vessels in time of trouble.
This is the part of the letter which I think is open to the very gravest criticism. Sir Edmund Barton ought to have known that it is impossible to get those seamen, whether Britishers or foreigners, so that it was absolute nonsense - all moonshine - for him to tell Mr. Chamberlain that section 16 was an effort to encourage the employment of British sailors. At the other end of the world, from which these sailors must come, the evidence is that they cannot be obtained, so that the whole of the late Prime Minister’s argument falls to the ground. So far as I can make out, however, Sir Edmund Barton tried to show that, his policy, under section 1 6, was more Imperial, more generous, and more statesmanlike than the policy of Mr. Chamberlain. As a matter of fact, section l’i was put in for no such purpose ; and, even if it were, it would be perfectly futile, as the sailors are not to be obtained. Sir Edmund Barton was running in the face of the two reports which I have read, and both of which must have been known to him. The evidence in those reports is completely ignored in Sir Edmund Barton’s letter, which continued -
So far, therefore, from deserving the strictures -which the Secretary of State for the Colonies casts on the Parliament of the Commonwealth, its members may justly claim that they have acted with a far truer regard to the real interests of the Empire than if they had continued to encourage shipping companies to employ, for their own profit, a race of people not equally adapted for maritime pursuits, and who could not conceivably be regarded by the Admiralty as material from which the crews of wai’ vessels might be replenished if they became depleted. It does not, however, appear that the feeling of obligation to treat the Indian and white subjects of the Empire on terms of equality is shared by the Lords of the Admiralty. Many of His Majesty’s ships spend long periods in tropical or sub-tropical waters, periods extending far beyond the few weeks occupied in those seas by mail vessels trading to Australia, but your Excellency’s Ministers are not aware that the services of the British seamen employed even in the stokehole are so inadequately rendered that these men need be supplanted, or even supplemented, by the inhabitants of 1 India or any other of the Asiatic provinces of the Empire.
The Prime Minister here credits himself with a greater Imperial policy than even that of the Board of Admiralty, and rather twits the Secretary of State for the Colonies that the coloured subjects have not been compelled to go into the stokehole and serve in time of war. We all know what a very delicate question is raised by the employment of our coloured or Indian subjects in the wars of the Empire. A few years ago such a thing would not have been thought of, and we know the great comment there was throughout the Empire and the world when Lord Beaconsfield did employ a few in a very peaceful affair. The committee, whose report I have read, point out that they believe from the evidence, that the lascars are now ready, willing, and able to serve in the stokehole in time of war. The question, however, is developing, and it is not for the Prime Minister to throw in the teeth of Mr. Chamberlain and the Board of Admiralty the fact that these coloured nien have not hitherto been employed. It would be quite sufficient to employ these men in the stokehole of mail steamers, and allow some of the white stokers and sailors to go to the. naval vessels, when we have a great maritime war, and the regular seamen have been destroyed or drowned. Sir Edmund Barton’s letter continued -
Considering then, the policy which influences the actions of the Imperial Government in regard to its own vessels, Ministers are unable to agree with the Secretary of State that the action taken by the Federal Parliament evinces the desire to “ dissociate themselves so completely from the obligations and policy of the Empire.”
Sir Edmund Barton then refers to the late Attorney-General’s opinion on clause 69, which was asked for bv Mr. Chamberlain, and was as follows : -
In my opinion the word “arrangement “ in section 16(1) refers to arrangements under section 14. The enforcement of the statutory obligation imposed by section 69 on the master of a vessel is not an “ arrangement “ within the meaning of section 16 (1). See my opinion of 20th May, 1902 (No. 339102), given to the Postmaster-General in connexion with mails placed onboard the Japanese mail steamers in pursuance of Act 4 of the Universal Postal Union Convention,
Consequently mails may, under section 69, be placed on board an outgoing vessel with a coloured crew without any breach of section 16(1).
That is exactly what I believe it is coming to. At Adelaide, the Chambers of Commerce of all Australia had a conference, and resolutions were passed and protests made, which, I think, are worthy of the consideration of the Senate, because mercantile men ought to know a great deal more about the carriage of mails than any other persons. It was moved and carried -
That the restriction in sub-section 1 , of clause 16, of the Post and Telegraph Act 1901, limiting the carriage of mails to conveyances on which only white labour shall be employed, must prove not only a serious menace to the commerce of the
Commonwealth, because it imperils the securing of satisfactory contracts for the conveyance of oversea mails, but it is a violation of the existing obligation of the British Government to a large section of its subjects, and should therefore be repealed.
The Chairman of the Conference, Mr. Phillips, said -
After many years they had brought the mail service up to something like an excellent standard, but the large companies had found it absolutely necessary to em ploy coloured labour, men who by their birth and constitution could stand the great strain of working in the stokeholes of the vessels. White men suffered so much that it was positive cruelty to force them to do the work, yet the Postmaster-General seemed to think it would be the easiest thing in the world to secure contracts with white labour. They found that large steamers like those of the Orient Company, which had been running for 3’ears, even with its subsidy was scarcely paying its way ; the previous year’s balance-sheet had, in fact, shown a material loss. Was it therefore probable that other companies would rush into what had apparently been to a well-organized company an unprofitable trade ?
Mr. Meeks, M.L.C., of Sydney, said -
He did not know whether the Postmaster-General proposed making a mail contract with foreign companies, but the Commonwealth was facing a great danger. They knew that the two great competing lines - the German and the French - received large subsidies, and that was largely the reason of their having developed their trade and increased their fleets. He believed the North German Company’s subsidy was .-?300,000 (or at any rate nearer that figure than ?200,000), and as a result of that they were able to offer a service to Australia. It would be a disgrace to , the Commonwealth to offer a subsidy to a foreign line to compete with British lines. As to the idea of a new line being started to curry the mails, it was altogether out of the question unless the company received a large” subsidy. Australia had done nothing to- open up new markets by giving subsidies. They had to face a good deal of opposition on the Eastern lines, because the Japanese Government gave a large subsidy to their steamers to carry mails. If the Government could not come to terms with foreign companies, he supposed they would fall back on the poundage system, which would result in the disorganization of banking and commerce. He felt sure that any system of that kind would be insupportable. They must have a fixed time for the arrival and departure of the mail boats, and they should be prepared to pay a large subsidy for an efficient service.
Senator Macfarlane made some useful and practical remarks which probably he may repeal, and Mr. Alcock, of Melbourne, said -
It seemed to him a very unfair thing to attempt to deprive fellow subjects of the right to earn their living, and that was what the Bill would do. The P. and O. Compaq’ had always engaged lascars, and the Orient had been driven to do so because they found them more reliable than the white firemen. If the clause were carried out, it would result in the engagement by the great lines of foreign seamen, as it had been proved that”, there were not sufficient British seamen to man the vessels, and, therefore, from coloured labourthey had to go to foreign labour. He did not think there was much difference between them. (Senator Mafcarlane - “It is better to have a coloured, peaceful British subject than one of a nationality which is likely to be at war with us.” It would not interfere in any way with the fetish of a white Australia - for the reason that they were prevented from landing at the various ports by the provisions of another Bill - if the lascars were employed. A numerously-signed petition had been presented to both Houses by the Melbourne Chamber urging the repeal of the clause, and he thought it would help the matter if similar steps were adopted b3’ the other States.
Mr. Paxton, of Sydney, said
It was 011I3’ during the previous two or three years that the Orient Company had been forced into the employment of black labour in self-defence, inasmuch as the3’ could not get a sufficient number of sober white stokers on leaving port. It was a matter of great importance to the whole Commonwealth. The mail steamers were used to a large extent for the carriage of perishable products from Australia to the markets of the world, and, therefore, they should be careful lest anything was done to affect the producing interests. If the producers were deprived of the regular means of transit, b3’ which the3’ could now regulate the despatch of supplies to the London market, it would mean that the3’ could not prevent the glutting of the market, nor could the3’ help the continual upsetting of their prices. That was a most serious matter. He could not imagine that the Postmaster-General had given the matter consideration when he suggested the subsidizing of a line as far as Colombo and no farther. The subsidy which would be required to warrant a company undertaking the business with steamers would be much greater than the price given to the lines which had served Australia so well.
Some time ago a deputation waited upon the late Prime Minister, and I think I am justified in quoting the remarks which Mr. Sawers, the President of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce, made on that occasion. He said : -
The restriction imposed by section 16 of the Post and Telegraph Act would prevent the continuance of a joint contract with the Imperial Government, and it was felt that, despite our protestations of loyalty. we were ill requiting the British Government for all they had done in the past for Australia 03’ placing this vexatious and unnecessary obstacle in their way. The point had really nothing to do with the question of a White Australia, as the Prime Minister himself admitted in his latest letter to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. The work of stokers in tropical seas was specially suited to a coloured race. It was not a suitable employment for Englishmen, and only the waifs and strays of white humanity could be got to undertake it. (Hear, hear.) He also understood that a sufficient supply of Englishmen was not available even as seamen, so our present position was that we flouted “the British Government merely to give employment to men of other nationalities, to the detriment of our own coloured fellow subjects.
– That is a libel.
– Does the honorable and learned senator believe that?
– I have given evidence of the truth of the statement. My honorable friends in the Labour Party seem to have got into their heads some extraordinary notions, which nothing, I am afraid, will remove. It is a question of absolute fact ; not a question of belief at all.
– It is absolute nonsense.
– If my honorable friends will refer to the police records, to the water police, or to the agents of the Orient and P. and 0. Companies, they will find that it is a positive fact. I do hope that, if they intend to debate the second reading of the Bill, they will accept these verified statements.
– The honorable and learned senator is defaming the British “workman.
– I heard that cry when the Bill was introduced, but I am no more defaming the British workman -than is the honorable senator.
– Not when the honorable and learned senator says that a white stoker cannot work in a stokehole near Sydney Heads 1
– And white stokers -are employed in the British Navy.
– Does not Senator Keating know that the men in the Royal Navy are picked, subject to discipline, well looked after, and entitled to a pension ? Does he not know that many of the white stokers in other ships are waifs and strays of humanity 1 I do not mean to say that white men cannot do the work, but I submit that it imposes upon them such a strain that when they have the slightest inclination to drink they are tempted to become absolute drunkards.
– Why do not Senator Dobson’. friends get men similar to those in the Royal Navy 1 Are there none to be had?
– I have been quoting extract after extract to show that the men cannot be got, because employment ashore is more attractive than life at sea.
– The men can be got if the pay is offered.
– It is quite apparent to me that my honorable friends perceive that the facts of the case are opposed to their theory. No more startling fact could be cited than the experience of the Orient Company. They gave up employing white men in the stokeholes because they could not get men to do the work.
– How long did thev employ white men ?
– After an experience of twenty years they gave up the employment of white stokers, because they found it was hopeless to go on with them.
– Because they could not compete with the P. and 0. Company.
– It is all very well for the honorable senator to repeat parrot cries ; but they are disposed of by absolute facts.
– It is the honorable and learned senator who is repeating the parrot cries.
– When I quote the late Prime Minister’s reply to the deputation honorable senators will see that he had nothing better to tell the Chamber of Commerce of the first city in this part of the world that the whole thing is an experiment, and that the Government can be expected to give up this position until it has received a fair trial. The word “ trial “ occurs in almost every sentence of his reply. He said -
He scarcely thought the deputation expected from him a promise that he would endeavour to obtain the repeal of the section before any trial had been made.
What a nice thing it is to experiment with the trade and mail service of the Commonwealth, to get rid of our coloured fellow subjects in order to ascertain whether a dozen Australian men can be induced to go into a stokehole and become drunkards.
It was inserted in the Act only after very ful discussion. Up to the present there had been no opportunity of giving it any effect, but in the early part of 1905 the existing contract for the Suez mail service would terminate. The deputation seemed convinced out of hand that the section was bad and inoperative, but he, with others, was inclined to think that it would work when tried. While he was told that white labour was unreliable, that it was frequently drunken, and that ‘ the question was not- one of economy, he nevertheless did not take so bad a view of our own people as to come unreservedly to that conclusion. Moreover, any member who before a trial of the section would propose its repeal to Parliament would find himself opposed in such a way that his hope of being successful would be not only shadowy, but non-existent. He did not believe there was a man in Parliament who thought he would get the support of anything but an insignificant minority in an attempt to repeal this clause without trial. It was not the habit of Parliaments to pass legislation and then destroy it before it had been tried.
We are not asked to employ lascars in this country, but we are simply asked to leave the great carrying companies of the world to do .their business in their own way. We were asked by Mr. Chamberlain not to put him in a position which would compel him either to break away from the Postal Union, or to do injustice, and . ignore a treaty with the King’s Indian subjects.
At first he was an opponent of this section, because he thought we would have difficulty in making our contracts, but after giving it considerable thought he had come to the belief that it was worth while trying under what conditions we could run a service without employing those whom in this country we did not wish to employ. He felt bound to test the operation of the section and he felt he would be wanting in fidelity if he did not do so.
The answer of Sir Edmund Barton to the deputation was that the section of the Act must receive a trial. “We have a little evidence which indicates how the trial is likely to result. The Canadian Government called for tenders for a very fast line of steamers to carry their mails across the Atlantic. One tender was illegal and the other was for the sum of £300,000. No tender was accepted, and fresh tenders have been called for. What subsidy do my honorable friends in the labour corner think that any shipping company will demand for carrying our mails for a distance of 1 2, 000 miles, calling at various ports, and being bound down to time, and. to run good steamers with cool chambers at an enormous speed, when a shipping company required a sum of £300,000 from Canada for carrying the mails across the Atlantic, a distance of 2,000 miles 1 No one can foresee what trouble and expense may be caused by this miserable provision in our Post and Telegraph Act. I am quite certain that honorable senators will be surprised to .find how many foreign ships will be included in the combine, and how many foreigners will be employed. They will then realize that it would have been better and wiser to pay our money to the P. and O., and Orient Companies, even though they employed some lascars, than to employ other steamers with a large proportion of foreigners in their crews. The practical aspect of the matter is that we shall find that an enormous subsidy will be required, that the contract will be unacceptable because of the large number of foreigners who will be employed, that weshall have to revert to the employment of lascars. But as a stop-gap for a few months, we shall put our mails on board the steamers and paypoundage fees, and in the next session theGovernment will proceed to repeal section 16 of the Act. The political aspect of the* matter is that the provision is no part of thepolicy of the Government. We all recollect that when Senator Glassey moved’ the insertion of the clause, he was defeated1 by a vote of seventeen to nine. TheBill was sent down to the other House. After a very brief discussion, and without Sir Edmund Barton pointing out, as heought to have done, that it would conflict with the Mutiny Acts and treaties withIndian subjects, or how it would embarrassand vex the Colonial Secretary, the clausewas accepted by the Government, and, without a division, inserted in the Bill. Whenthe Bill was returned to the Senate the clause was carried by a majority of four votes, owing to the fact that the twoMinisters here were bound to support theaction of the Government. I know thatSenator O’Connor said that he only voted for the acceptance of the clause because theGovernment in another place had agreed to its insertion. In one sense the late PrimeMinister may have been right in telling Mr. Chamberlain that the Parliament approved of the provision, but in another sense it did’ not approve of the provision. It was only because of the Government giving way in another place, without proper debate and’ without being seized with the facts, that theclause was passed at all. In the last number of the Review qf Reviews there is a paragraph headed “ Painting the Seas White,”’ which reads as follows : -
The clause in the new mail contracts forbidding ships carrying Australian letters to employ coloured labour, shocks the common sense of theEmpire exactly as does the case of the six hatters, and for precisely the same reasons. It represents a policy of an almost unspeakablefoolishness, worthy ‘of children rather than of statesmen. It is an attempt to paint the seas of the planet white. It is certain to cost us, directly and indirectly, enormous sums. An independent mail service must be more expensive than one in agreement with Great Britain. Any service, too, which involves the transhipment of mails either - at Colombo or Vancouver will practically destroy all those great natural industries which arebeginning to find a rich market in the old world..
But the worst element in this hew policy is its i contempt of Imperial interests and obligations. It represents an attempt to boycott, on mere grounds of colour, one great section of the sub- jects of the Empire. Mr. Copeland’s account of j how this affects English opinion may be accepted : “ How was the Commonwealth proposal received in England that no coloured labour should be employed on the mail boats ?”
- Most adversely. The English people failed to see what possible objection there could be to the employment of coloured people, and British subjects too, in the stoke-holes of the mail boats. The deprivation imposed on these people on account of the colour of their skin was, as the)’ regarded it, most unfair, especially in view of the fact that the British Empire holds India.”
The London Spectator, perhaps the most friendly of all British journals to Australia, puts the matter with an emphasis which is none the less effective for its mildness : “As the lascars [employed’ as stokers] are British subjects, as no one complains of their conduct; and as the’ do not settle in Australia, the Australians’ restriction is unreasonable. Nobody wishes to interfere with their policy in their own continent, but to deny to the mother-country the right to man her ships as she pleases cannot be called friendly, or good Imperialism.”
The tenders for the new mail contract, it is to be noted, do not limit the service to the British flag ; but it may be taken for granted that Australians generally, wiser than their politicians, would not tolerate the actual payment of subsidies to foreign ships as against a service flying the British Flag.
I think these are very strong quotations indeed. I have no more to quote, but I should like to point out that the Chairman of the P. and O. Company, in a speech at one of the annual meetings, pointed out that his company had to earn about two and a half millions of money before it could possibly pay any dividend whatever. I have already shown that at the last meeting of the Orient Company no dividend was declared, because none was earned. Even with our subsidy that company is earning no dividend for its shareholders.
– Has the employment of Iascar labour driven the company into bankruptcy?
– I am only stating the fact - that the company paid no dividend because it earned none. If we are going to take away from the companies their share in this subsidy, and give it to other companies which employ no lascars but hundreds of foreigners, I am sure that my honorable friends will see that we shall be making a mistake and doing a wrong thing. Sir Thomas Sutherland points out that it is not a question of economy or of wages, but simply one of getting the right and proper kind of men to do most onerous work, which white men ought not to be expected to do in the tropics. It is admitted that when white men can be obtained to do the work they are much better than coloured men, but the effect of this labour is to turu decent white men into drunkards, and perhaps to convert them into the scum of the earth.
– The honorable and learned senator ought to be ashamed to say so.
– What I am contending is that it is the Labour Party whose policy it is to turn honest, sober white men into such a class by putting them into the stokeholes of vessels. By reason of sending him into the stokehole, a decent white sailor is liable to become classed, as I said, with the scum of the earth.
– Is the honorable and learned senator going to stand by his language ?
– I am not going to give in when I know that I am right ; and when I know that my honorable friend and those associated with him are, by their policy, bringing down the character of the white man. But what is the use of my reading these reports hour by hour, and showing that it is impossible to expect white men to bear the strain of work in the stokehole ?
– Do they bear it in the German boats ?
– We know how the Germans stick to one another, and the efforts they have made to subsidize their steamers and to extend their trade. But I have already pointed out that the Germans make an exception of the stokehole, and do admit black men there. Therefore, any argument that my honorable friends can adduce from the pages of history, or from considerations of humanity, will not disprove my point. I submit my Bill to the Senate with every confidence. I believe that every thinking man will know that its principle is right. We have by our legislation struck a blow at the commerce of the Empire by this condition which we have imposed with respect to the most important contract - the naval contract not excepted - into which we can ever enter. We are doing that, in the language of the ex-Prime Minister, to “give a trial “ to what I contend will prove to be a very foolish piece of legislation.
– This subject has been discussed in all its phases, and from every stand-point, during the present session, but nothing has arisen to make it necessary or desirable that Parliament should reverse the decision to which it came in 1901. We have certainly heard a great deal of controversy upon the subject since that time, but that controversy has not brought out any fresh facts whatever. The arguments used against what Senator Dobson has been pleased to call this “ miserable “ section - though an epithet of that kind can hardly amount to an argument - seem to me either to mean that our action in putting the section in the Act was inimical to the British Government, or else that by reason of it we shall have to incur very large extra expenditure in connexion with the conveyance of our mails. Sometimes one of those arguments is put before the other, and on other occasions we are treated to a mixture of the two. I think that the argument that i our action is inimical to the British Govern- I ment is entirely unfounded ; and that a heavy increased cost is going to fall upon the Commonwealth is a gratuitous assumption. We are told that our action is in some way hostile to the British Government, because we are dictating our policy to them. We are doing nothing of the kind. It is simply that the policy adopted by the Commonwealth is, in the opinion of this Parliament, such as to make it desirable that when we pay a subsidy for the conveyance of mails we should insist upon the condition that the crews of the vessels carrying them shall be white crews. I do not attach so much importance to this matter as does the honorable and learned senator who has moved the second reading of the Bill ; nor can I see that there was any very great inconsistency in 1901 between the attitude taken up by those who opposed the section of the Act in question and the attitude of those who favoured it The difference of opinion was really only very slight. Most of us were agreed that j in cases where we paid a subsidy to a com- pany we should insist upon the mails being . carried by white labour, as they had been carried previously in every case of a con- tract. I am speaking of every case where we made a contract within the meaning of the Post and Telegraph Act ; that is to say, j where we had paid the subsidy ourselves we had always insisted that the mails should be carried by steamers employing only white labour. We had previously made an arrangement by which we participated in a contract entered into by the British Government, and I felt, as PostmasterGeneral, that it was not inconsistent with our policy of a white Australia that we should allow that arrangement to continue. However, there were others in the Parliament who held that it was inconsistent, and that we should decline to enter into another arrangement to participate in any contracts that did not contain the white labour condition. That was the difference of opinion that existed between us, and it was emphasized by the passage of the section by which it was decided that we should not participate in such contracts. That decision was communicated to the British Government, and the Postmaster-General in England decided that his Government must continue their contracts as before without the white labour condition. That only meant that the British Government felt that it was called upon to pursue a line of policy in that respect that was somewhat different from the line of policy adopted by Australia. Surely because we act according to the policy deliberately adopted by the Commonwealth, we are not endeavouring to dictate to the British Government. The British Government is still perfectly free to make its own contracts for the conveyance of its own mails under whatever conditions it pleases. What can we do to prevent that? My honorable and learned friend says we are depriving the coloured man of his right to earn his living by insisting upon the employment of white crews.
– Of course we are.
– We are not interfering in the slightest degree.
– Not interfering ?
– No. We simply say that in consequence of the policy adopted by the Commonwealth we cannot participate in the contracts entered into by the British Government, and that we cannot enter into any contract that provides for the carriage of mails on ships employing coloured crews.
– The Government want to run in absolute rivalry to the ships of Great Britain.
– How can that be?
– What else can it be?
– At the time that section was passed we had not the means of knowing that the British PostmasterGeneral would adhere to the old condition in connexion with the carriage of mails ; but certainly by adopting it we did not in any way dictate to the British Government, nor did we interfere in the slightest degree with the employment by the British Post Office of vessels carrying coloured crews.
– “What about the cost to the Commonwealth ?
– Probably the conveyance of mails under a condition of that kind will involve increased expenditure.
– How much 1
– That is a question the future will determine. I cannot even give an estimate. What we are doing now is to call for tenders. I do not know what it will be necessary to pay, but we know that other contracts entered into by the Australian Government for the conveyance of mails have always been subject to the condition necessitating the employment of white crews. That condition is in every contract entered into by the Australian Government ; and it is only in the case of one contract entered into by. the British Government, and in which we participate, that coloured crews have been permitted to be employed.
– We have had no other contracts.
– Yes, we have.
– Nothing to speak of.
– We have the Vancouver line, the ships carrying the mails on the Queensland coast, and those carrying mails on the Western Australian coast. There has never been coloured labour upon those ships, and we have never heard any complaint as to the amount of the subsidy we have had to pay. Senator Clemons asks what the extra cost will be, as though the amount was going to break the Commonwealth. My answer to that is that our contracts in the past have been subject to the white labour condition, and the only exception has been the contract entered into by the British Government, in which we participated.
– We have no British service but that.
– We have paid a subsidy for a service ma. Torres Straits. The ships on that line are now running without any subsidy. It is now a cargo service. “We have nothing to show that the white labour condition will involve a large extra expenditure. I anticipate that it will involve some extra amount, but we have nothing to show that it will involve such an expenditure as the Commonwealth will not be prepared to bear, to secure the employment of white instead of coloured crews. I think my honorable friend, Senator Dobson, is a little bit wrong in quoting from the minute of the ex-Prime Minister in this respect. What I understood him to say was that Sir Edmund Barton had stated that the reasons contained in the minute were the reasons why the section was inserted in the Act. I speak only from memory, but I believe that if my honorable and learned friend looks at the minute again, he will find that those were not given as the reasons which induced the Parliament to put that section in the Act, but that what Sir Edmund Barton stated was that the presence of that section in the Act would have the effect of encouraging the employment of white instead of coloured labour. The late Prime Minister very rightly put that forward as a most important circumstance, worthy to be urged as a reason for the adoption of the condition requiring white crews. It is our duty, and it is to our highest interests to encourage the employment of white labour on these lines of steamers. If we can, as a result of the tenders which are now being invited, get a line of steamers to carry our mails at a reasonable cost, and at the same time employ white labour only, we shall do a very good thing, and the action of Parliament will be thoroughly justified.
– Yet Senator Drake and the Government opposed section 16 when it was first proposed to the Senate.
– The honorable and learned senator cannot have been listening. I admit that I opposed the section, and I have given my reasons for my action on that occasion. I was in charge of the Bill, and when the provision was first proposed I opposed it. I hold very much the same view now, namely, that it was not a matter of very great importance. So long as any contract directly made by the Australian Government for the payment of a subsidy contained a condition that the crews should be white, I regarded as comparatively unimportant the continuance of the arrangement with the British Government by which we made use of thencontract. I myself then made some remarks in regard to the poundage ; and seeing that we now place, and intend to continue to place our mails on board any steamer, whether the crews be black or white, and pay poundage, I considered that it would be no derogation from our white labour policy to continue our present arrangement with the British Government. 1 may have been wrong, but at all events, that was my opinion. It was not, however, the view taken by the whole Parliament. Parliament inserted section 16, thereby deciding, as I take it, that the policy of a white Australia required us not to enter into an arrangement with the British Government to participate in their contracts on the former conditions.
– Why not bar the importation of tea unless it is grown by white labour ?
– So we should if tea could be grown here.
– We must abide by the law as it is, and we have asked for tenders, subject to the condition that the crews be white. It remains to be seen what the result will be, and, until we know the cost, it is entirely premature to argue that the provision will involve us in expenditure beyond our means. It would be most unfortunate if we were to alter our law when the present contracts are running out, and we are asking for fresh tenders. With the exception of the one arrangement with the British Government, all our mails are carried on steamers with white crews.
– What about the mails to Japan?
– They are not carried under contract.
– But they are carried. Does the honorable and learned senator quibble about the word “ contract “ ?
– I have already dealt with the matter of poundage, which we all understand. If we alter the law, in the way proposed by Senator Dobson, we shall be practically inviting the shipping companies to tender for the conveyance of mails in steamers worked with coloured labour, instead of, as hitherto, on steamers worked with white labour - that is, we shall invite tenders without any condition as to colour.
– Mr. Chamberlain asks us only to modify the provision.
– There might be alternative tenders.
– We do not desire to call for alternative tenders. We have adopted what we call a white Australian policy, and by that policy we should abide. It would be very unfortunate if, when we are calling for tenders, we were to alter the law in regard to the white labour condition.
– That is a bogy ; we are only asked to modify the Imperial contract.
– It would be unfortunate if now we were to repeal the law or to ask for alternative tenders with coloured labour. We have adopted for good and all a white labour policy, and we ought not to do anything which would show to the world a weakening in our position. It is inadvisable on any ground to make any alteration, and therefore, the Government must oppose the Bill.
Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia).rIt is quite unnecessary for me to say that I am entirely opposed to the Bill. It is a great pity that at the tail end of the session, when so many important matters are awaiting attention, a whole afternoon should be a little short of wasted in the discussion of a question which has already been debated at great length. I am quite sure that no honorable senator who helped to pass the present law will reverse his vote. No new light has been thrown on the question ; I feel convinced that public opinion in Australia has not altered. I may go further, and say that during the last eight years public opinion has not altered. Senator Dobson has accused the Labour Party of forcing this white labour policy on the Government; but he ought to remember that it was a live question long before the Labour Party was represented in the Senate. At the Postal Conference, representative of the whole seven Colonies, held in Hobart in 1895, a resolution in favour of the employment of white labour on the mail-boats was unanimously passed. In the face of that fact how can Senator Dobson declare so boldly that the Labour Party are now pushing the principle to extremes. As a matter of fact, they were not members of the Labour Party who actually moved in the matter years ago. From the Victorian Parliamentary Papers, I find that the Postal Conference at Hobart, in 1895, was presided over by Mr. J. G. Duffy, of Victoria, and attended by Mr. Joseph Cook, of New South Wales ; Sir John Cockburn, of South Australia; Sir Philip Fysh, of Tasmania; Mr. Thynne, of Queensland ; Sir John Forrest, of Western Australia; and Sir
Joseph Ward, of New Zealand. The motion, to which I have referred, was submitted by Mr. Cook, who was at that time PostmasterGeneral in the Ministry of Mr. G. H. Reid. The action of Mr. Cook on that occasion may appear somewhat inconsistent with remarks which have been made by Mr. G. H. Reid on section 1 6 of the Post and Telegraph Act, seeing that Mr. Reid has expressed his readiness, if opportunity offers, of repealing the provision. The resolution was as follows : -
That it be a condition in any future contract that mail-boats be manned by white labour only.
To that resolution an unfavorable reply was given by the Imperial Government, but those who had agreed to it were in earnest, as was shown by the following resolution passed at the next meeting of the Conference : -
This Conference, having considered the reply of the London Office to the stipulation of the Hobart Conference with regard to the manning of the mail-boats by white instead of coloured labour, recognises fully the force of the reason given by the Imperial Government against insisting on the exclusion of coloured labour, viz. , the necessity of discriminating between various classes of British subjects, out in reply would respectfully point out that by some steam-ship companies the labour of the contributing colonies is excluded from employment, and an invidious preference given to the labour of countries which do not contribute to the maintenance of the service. No injustice would thus be done by the stipulation that the labour of the countries subsidizing the service only should be employed. And, therefore this Conference is of opinion that the mails to and from Australia and Great Britain should be carried by ships manned by white crews only. The Conference concurs with the London Office in the other points raised in connexion with the new mail tenders.
That resolution was signed by Mr. Reeves, on behalf of New Zealand, and by Mr. Thynne, Sir John Cockburn, Mr. Duffy, and Mr. Joseph Cook, lt will be seen that the employment of coloured labour on the mail-boats is an old standing grievance, and it was always contemplated that one of the first effects of Federation would be the manning of the boats by white labour exclusively. It was quite impossible, at the time to which I refer, to put the policy into operation, but in the face of all that has occurred since, it must be evident that section 16 is quite in accord with Australian public opinion. I am sorry that Senator Dobson should go out of his way to libel the character of the British seamen. It is deplorable that a gentleman, who poses as a strong Imperialist, and is ever playing on such words as “the dear old mother country,” should have such contempt for the. working classes at home. If I had such an opinion of the people of the old country - and I do not pose as an Imperialist or a jingo - I should be ashamed to be associated with them in any way. I can, however, quote authorities which show the different character which is borne by the men whom Senator Dobson has so glibly defamed. First, there is Admiral Fremantle, who is one of the greatest authorities on seafaring matters in the United Kingdom, and then there is the Marquis of Graham, who takes a very great interest in British seamen, particularly those connected with the mercantile marine. The latter gentleman goes into statistics, dealing with the relative criminality amongst British and foreign seamen in some of the leading British ports, and he entirely disproves the libel which has been cast on the sailors of our own race. The article I am about to quote from appeared in the Notional Revie.u of 1902, and there it is said by the Marquis of Graham -
As a derelict goes voyaging about the ocean with no one in charge, sometimes submerged, sometimes awash, and sometimes afloat, its true position in the sea known definitely to few, so drifts along from year to year the question of the disappearance of British merchant seamen, unsolved as regards the truth and unessayed with a solution. It was not long ago insinuated in the columns of the St. Jame’ Gazette* that British merchant sailors represented the scum of the cities -
That sounds very like Mr. G. H. Reid’s remark. - and were nothing more nor less than a set of drunken rascals -
That reminds me of Senator Dobson’s utterances. - while seaman hailing from foreign lands were patterns of obedience and sobriety. Never was a delusion more hard to blot out from the public mind ; not because the man in the street is unwilling to hear the truth of the case, but because the matter has never been properly thrashed out, or given unreservedly to the country. That British seamen are not as saintly ;is could be wished is freely acknowledged, but they are no worse than their neglected surroundings make them. So long as the law regards with nonchalance the existence of dens of vice in the neighbourhood of docks and wharves, and permits to go unrestricted the evil practice of the harpy and crimp, so long must people not be surprised if simple and uneducated seamen sink to the level in morale and physique of those who corrupt them on shore. The fallacy that Dutchmen (foreign seamen) are more economical to employ than are British sailors may be controverted at once. It has many times been stated, both by ship-owners and authorities on shipping affairs, that all seamen ‘ ‘ sign on “ thenships at the current rate of wages existing in the port, which statement can be verified by reference to the books kept by the superintendent of seamen, at any shipping office. Foreign seamen are not more economical to employ as regards wages, than British seamen ; though it may be possible they are found more cheap in another way ; and that is that a low-class foreigner is not so particular regarding what he eats as a British sailor, and therefore in the absence of a statutory dietary scale, it may be found a profitable investment to ship the un-self-respecting foreign seamen in preference to the more particular and more polished British sailor. To refute the idea that foreign seamen are more sober and more amenable to discipline than British sailors, it becomes necessary to put the matter to a statistical test ; let us therefore examine the figures of crime standing against the seamen who visited the port of Glasgow (the port with which the author is best acquainted) during the three years, ]89fl, 1900, 1901.
These were the words of a man who knows his subject, and who thus conclusively proves that the British seamen is actually more sober and better behaved than the foreign seamen. It is quite sufficient to give a’ general idea as to whether the statistics dealt with can be relied, on. We find that in the year 1899, at the port of Glasgow, the percentage of offences connected with insobriety was ‘53 amongst British sailors, and “41 amongst foreign sailors. In the following year, however, 1900, the percentage was -40 amongst British sailors, and ‘56 amongst foreign sailors, while in 1901, the percentage was 27 and ‘35 respectively. Over the three years the average percentage was -40 amongst British sailors, and “44 amongst foreign sailors. It will therefore be seen that for the three years a greater percentage of foreigners were convicted at the port of Glasgow than of British seamen. If there be anything in figures, this should go to disprove Senator Dobson’s rash statements as to the insobriety of British seamen, and to throw discredit upon his statement that crews of British seamen leave the port of Sydney half drunk. The figures would appear to show that if there were any truth in such statements they might be applied with even greater force to foreigners. The Marquis of Graham says -
Having traversed the insinuations most frequently put forward as an explanation of the disappearance of British seamen From the mercantile marine and found them void of any real truth, one must look somewhere else for facts to form a basis of the cause. About the year 1S40 it became apparent to legislative authorities that British seamen for the mercantile marine were becoming scarce, and, in order to prevent the total extinction of the British sailor, they enacted, in 1844, that British ship-owners be compelled to carr)’ apprentices in their ships according to a certain manning scale, with the result that the number of apprentices indentured annually to a sea career rose in one year from 6,259 to 15,704. After this date the normal rate of apprenticeship maintained a steady increase until the year 1853, when the navigation laws were wholly repealed.
I direct the attention of my free-trade friends to this, because protectionists always urge that it has been the navigation laws of Great Britain that have placed the British mercantile marine in the prosperous position it occupies to-day.
– I shall give the honorable senator authorities presently, and amongst them political economists of such eminence as Adam Smith himself. If Senator Pulsford desires to combat these authorities, he will have his work cut out to do so, even if his figure factory machinery is in full swing. The quotation continues -
After this date the normal rate of apprenticeship maintained a steady rate of increase until 1853, when the navigation laws were wholly repealed, with the consequent result that the number of boys- 29,970 - then employed at sea, steadily decreased until to-day, when their number is no greater than 5,6.17. In the same period, 1S53- 1900, the annual rate of apprenticeship has fallen from 5,845 to 1,215 of the present year, which is the smallest number of apprentices ever known tohave been enrolled.
Those are pretty strong remarks, and they give us a good idea of the decline in the number of British seamen. It naturally follows that if fewer boys are going to sea, there must be fewer seamen of British nationality engaged.
– There are more seamen engaged, but a very great many are coloured seamen.
- Senator Dobson’s contention is that there are not enough Britishers to supply the places of those who are leaving the service of the sea, quite forgetting the constant stream of immigration that is all the time leaving Great Britain to cross the Atlantic and to go elsewhere. It is really the objectionable conditions of employment and the lack of encouragement that supply the cause for the decline in the number of British seamen. I propose to quote from so high an authority as Admiral Fremantle on this question. He condemns the unpatriotic action of
British ship-owners in selling their fleets to foreigners, as was done in the case of the Navigation Trust, of which we heard so much recently. Senator Dobson, when denouncing in a wholesale way poor seafaring men, did not refer to this, for what reason I do not know. When the honorable and learned senator has such strong words to use in denouncing the poor British seamen, he might give some attention to the actions of the great ship-owners of the old country, who are prepared to play the enemy’s game by handing over fleets of vessels to foreigners to be made use of, if the occasion should arise, against British interests.
– The honorable and learned senator could not be expected to speak against capital.
– I am aware that Senator Dobson avoids that aspect of the question. Admiral Fremantle, in an article in the National Review, says -
It is generally admitted by all connected with shipping that “something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” but whereas both the undue expansion and precarious position of our mercantile marine is mainly due to too little supervision, too feverish a haste to get through a voyage somehow, everything, crew included, being regulated on free-trade principles -
Is Senator Pulsford listening 1 - the ship-owner is only anxious to be relieved of all safeguards and restrictions which hamper him, as he. believes in his competition with his rivals.
– What does Senator Pearce think of that?
– Senator Pearce is quite prepared to apply the remedy, and I wish our other free-trade friends in the Senate were prepared to take as sensible a view of the matter. Admiral Fremantle writes -
Government interference may not have been always judicial ; but the fault lies not in its being too great, but in its being too limited, and not always in the right direction.
Are we not proposing Government interference really in the direction of fostering the mercantile marine and preventing the total extinction of the British seamen ? Admiral Fremantle is advocating this very thing in the article from which I am quoting, and we hear Senator Dobson, who, in comparison with this great authority, knows absolutely nothing about navigation, condemning what Admiral Fremantle advocates. The Admiral further writes -
In naval and military matters we hear much of “ the mau behind the gun,” or, as Captain Mahan expresses it in his recent work, Type qf Naval-*
Officer, “ the* artist is greater than his materials, the warrior than his arm.” Yet in the British mercantile marine this has been almost entirely ignored. True the Board of Trade insists on masters and mates’ certificates, and on certain provisions as to sleeping accommodation and food for the crews, but ‘there the supervision of the personnel ends, and as the result- ships are frequently dangerously undermanned, notwithstanding reports of numerous manning committees ; the British seaman is being rapidly eliminated -
And this is the gist of the quotation - as being an expensive and troublesome article. That is really the cause. The British seaman is too expensive. He is not prepared to work for the same wages as the Iascar. He requires a white man’s rate of wages and conditions of comfort not to be found on board these boats. Any one need only go into the lascars’ quarters on boats carrying those seamen to find that five seconds is about as long as he cares to stay there, because the stench and insanitary conditions are such that no white man could be expected to put up with them.
– There is twice the space provided that is required by the Indian Navigation Act. That is where the honorable senator is wrong in his facts.
– Then the regulations under the Act must be extraordinary. Admiral Fremantle further writes -
The British seaman is being rapidly eliminated as being an expensive and troublesome article, and it has been truly said of many ‘ ‘ British “ ships that the only British thing about them was the ensign. These diseases are becoming more serious yearly ; especially is the British seaman disappearing.
– The ensign is at times “ made in Germany.”
– Even the very flags will come in time from Germany. These are facts stated by a man who cannot be called a labour advocate. Admiral Fremantle’s leanings, if he has any, are more likely to be in favour of the Conservative than of the Labour Party, but he speaks out clearly and boldly on a question on which he should be an authority, and his words should have some weight with honorable senators like Senator Dobson. The Admiral gives figures which show the increase in the number of lascars employed. He shows that the number of lascars employed in 1S60 in the mercantile marine of Great Britain was only 335, and up to the year 1 900 the number had increased to no less than 36,023. That is surely an alarming rate of increase when we consider that, in the past, a very large number of Britishers found employment of a profitable kind in a seafaring life. The Admiral comments upon the figures in the following way : -
The increase of foreigners and lascars is very evident from these figures, but if we were to eliminate stewards, stewardesses, and other persons of nominal British nationality, we should probably find a far larger proportion than is shown above of the working crews to be composed of men not of British race. I have only space here, in concluding this part of my subject, to call attention to two papers by Commander Caborne, R.N.R., read before the Shipmasters’ Congress in London in 1897- 1899 respectively, Sir Charles Dilke being in the chair, and to the discussions following the reading of the papers, in which men well acquainted with the mercantile marine took part. From these papers I take the following : - Captain Froud, in the discussion on Commander Caborne’s first paper, gives statistics of the crews of twentynine sailing vessels from various ports of England and the north of Europe. Of these he says that : “ Nearly 8 per cent of the officers, one-third of the petty officers, and rather morethan half of the other deck hands were foreigners. In two of the vessels, with the exception of two or three of the officers, the crews were all foreign.” Captain Blackmore, in the same discussion, says : - “ It is quite possible for a set of foreigners to come over to this country, put up an office in Cornhill, buy ships and register them as private ship companies, and have masters and officers and seamen, without a British subject having anything to do with the matter ; and wo know that there are ships sailing under these conditions. They are not the slightest value to Britain as a nation, and all the money earned in them is carried away and spent in foreign countries.”
Admiral Fremantle comments upon this in the following way : -
The statistics in certain ports abroad, such as theRiver Plate and San Francisco, are simply appalling. The missions to seamen have done good service for some years past in calling the attention of the Board of Trade to these subjects, and in endeavouring to supply the lack of good influences among British crews. Commander Caborne gives some interesting details as to how crews are supplied and got rid of. He tells us a shipmaster reports that the shipping agents of Baltimore put the crews on board at the last moment “ like prisoners,” andyou takeyour chance as to whether they are “ tinkers, tailors, soldiers, or sailors “ Commander Caborne quotes letters which were read in the House of Commons from ship-managers to captains, as follows : - “ Give your crew salt beef only, and keep them hard at work. They will never agree to forfeit.” . . . “We should like you to get rid of as many more men as possible.” Naturally under such conditions men desert, and good men are scarce in the merchant service. We may well blush for such dealings, asRudyard Kipling, with his poetical insight, tells us. “ We may not speak of England, her flag’s to sell or share. “ It is important to note that Sir Charles Dilke, in his concluding remarks on Commander Caborne’s first lecture, said - “lam a strong free-trader, but . . . we should not be prevented from taking measures which might, on any other grounds than national defence, savour of protection.”
Perhaps Senator Pulsford will undertake to refute the great Sir Charles Dilke’s remarks as to his views of fiscalism being applied to the navigation laws of the old country. Admiral Fremantle continues : -
In this, a? is well known, he is following the example of Adam Smith, who consistently supported the navigation laws as necessary from a national point of view, although contrary to free-trade theories.
These are the remarks of a man who has. written as a free-trader.
– Is the honorable senator arguing from the free-trade standpoint?
– The honorable senator ought not to enter into a discussion of the merits of free-trade and protection.
– I feel that unless the navigation laws are considered in a discussion of this kind, honorable senators cannot fully understand the purport of section 16 of the Post and Telegraph; Act.
– I should not prevent the honorable senator from discussing the navigation laws, but there ought not to be a discussion on the merits of free-trade and protection.
– I shall keep as close to the point as possible. I desire to draw Senator Pulsford’s attention to these remarks, and if the honorable senator can contradict the statements made I shall be interested to hear him do so. Admiral Fremantle further writes -
The letter of Mr. Munro, who writes from the Merchant Service Guild, Liverpool, in the Times of 24th A pril, gives instances of thescandalous way in which our flag is used at times by foreigners, who, as he says, “hate us in their hearts,” and he concludes : “ Let our British mercantile marine be strictly and genuinely British, and however unpalatable the truth, we shall then be able to the more correctly estimate the correct position, and deal with it accordingly.” I have, however, dwelt long enough on this subject, but it is an all-important one, as it is a principal item in the denationalizing of so-called British ships. So that speaking generally, though there are some bright exceptions, the mercantile marine is a sham, sailing under false colours. In former days, when Commodore Dance with his East Indiamen beat off the French Admiral Linois, the British merchant captain felt some pride in his nationality ; he commanded a British ship with a British owner, and she was manned by English seamen. There could be no question then of a change of nationality. Now, when, as I have shown, the so-called British ship is only English in name, the transfer is easy to another flag, and patriotism has no part in the transaction. Unless there is a change in these matters, ship-owners, bred up in cosmopolitan liberal ideas, will neither be debarred by scruples or by other considerations from selling to the highest bidder; but the danger is evident.
I think we may fairly give our deepest consideration to the words of warning from the authorities I have quoted. They are not political partisans who may be trotted out to suit a particular occasion. They are men who have given this matter serious consideration. As every one knows, the Marquis of Graham has long been the friend of British seamen, and the figures he supplies prove the sobriety and reliability of the British seamen when compared with the foreigner. He gives a complete answer to Senator Dobson’s contention that British seamen are not reliable, and that ships manned by British seamen are manned by drunken crews. I hope that he will have the manliness to withdraw the charges now that I have furnished the disproof. We need have very little doubt as to the fitness of white men to do this work. Do we not see white men employed in every ship on our coast? The Australian mercantile marine is manned wholly by white crews. ‘ Ship-owners experience no trouble in getting white men to work in the stokehole : they could get more men than they needed by paying a decent rate of wages. The same result could be obtained in the ports of Glasgow, Liverpool, and London, if fair conditions and good wages were offered to the men. It is not reasonable to expect any white men to join a boat which is manned to a certain extent with lascars and coolies. If we wish to remove the disease which has taken possession of the British mercantile marine, and which I may describe as a kind of galloping consumption ; if we wish to improve the lot of the British sailor, we must be prepared to extend this kind of legislation. It was the navigation laws which placed the mercantile marine of the old country in a proud position ; and she will have to revert to such legislation if she desires to regain her old position-. I think that the time of the Senate this afternoon could have been devoted more reasonably to the consideration of some other question. I believe that public opinion would be outraged if the Senate were to read this Bill a second time. I hope that the motion of Senator Dobson will be defeated by such a decisive majority that he will not think of bringing the subject before the Senateagain.
– I rejoice very much to have another opportunity of saying straight out how greatly I regret the placing in an Act of Parliamentof a provision such as that which SenatorDobson desires to see repealed. I do not hesitate to say that it is very regrettable ;. that itis a disgrace to Australia and to the Empire. I notice that Senators Drake and De Largie -very carefully avoided the real objection to the provision. The latter madea long speech, which really had nothing todo with the question at issue. He tried toput into the mouth of Senator Dobson wholesale charges of insobriety against the whole of the British mercantile marine.
– Which never weremade.
– I did not understand the honorable and learned senator tomalign the whole of the British mercantilemarine.
– He maligned asmany of them as he could.
– If anything of that kind had been done I should have had to fall foul of Senator Dobson, because I, as a Britisher, have a very high opinion of the British mercantile marine. I think thatit is composed of too good men to be forced into the stokeholes of steamerswhen passing through the Suez Canal. I have seen passengers doing their best, to withstand the heat of the tropics. If,, with the aid of fresh air and refreshment,, passengers could hardly pass the day on. deck, what must have been the position of the men in the stokeholes 1 The statement which has been made with regard to thecharacter of the work in the stokeholes certainly cannot be contradicted, .but themain point about this legislation is the insult it offers to India. I think that Great Britain’s duty to India is the greatest and most solemn responsibility which hasever rested on a nation. In what way does this provision affect the whiteAustralia question 1 I do not think it can be honestly claimed to even touch thefringe of that question. I am in favourof a white Australia, but because I hold that belief I am not going todo evil to the natives of India, my fellow subjects. Tens of thousands of them: have for centuries found a living in seamanship, and because some of them are employed in the vessels which occasionally come to Australia from Europe - it is not quite true to say that they are employed on our coast - am I to set to work to hunt them away and to say to them, “ You may be British subjects, but you shall not come on the coast of Australia” ? Are we to initiate a crusade to hound our coloured fellow subjects out of all ships on the coast of India itself? There are ten times as many white men to be found on the coast of India as there are coloured men to be found at any time on the coast of Australia. A love of fair play, which is the strongest element, I believe, in the British character, leads me to say that this policy will be repudiated by the working men of Australia. There are two ways of speaking to the working men of Australia.Wecan appeal either to their prejudice or to their honour, “their instincts, their belief in that which is right and true. I have to go up for election in the course of a few weeks, and I shall not hesitate to ask the working men of New South Wales to support me in my effort to get this provision repealed, and to do justice to our fellow subjects in India. I hope that if any other honorable senator rises to oppose the Bill he will endeavour to reply to the arguments which have been used. Neither Senator Drake nor Senator De Largie mentioned that important despatch from the Colonial Secretary. It was a statesmanlike document, which was entitled to a reply from any opponent of this measure. The -speeches of those two honorable senators, such as they were, had nothing to do with the real kernel of the subject. I hope that the second reading of the Bill will be carried. I do not know that it would have any immediate effect, but it would mark the feeling -of the Senate, and, I believe, the feeling of Australia, in regard to legislation of this kind.
Senator MACFARLANE (Tasmania).I was very much disappointed with the speech of the Attorney-General. It seemed to me that in raising the bogy of a white Australia he was quite wide of the mark. Section 16 of the Act has nothing to do with that question. He admits that it will probably cost much more money to carry the mails with white crews than with mixed crews. And yet the late Prime Minister asked the Governor-General to telegraph to the Colonial Secretary that it was hoped that by the new contract we should get greater speed at less cost. The AttorneyGeneral has discovered that we are not likely to get greater speed at less cost. To imagine that we shall shows an entire ignorance of the commercial position. I am quite sure that the cost will be very largely increased.
– It may or it may not.
– Eighteen steamers with a speed of 16 or 17 knots will be required for the service, and that will leave a very small margin. The Orient and the P. and O. Companies have nine steamers each, and they cannot run the service with a less number.
– Would either company require more vessels if Brisbane were made a port of call ?
– I understand that an extra boat would be required to go to Brisbane so as to give time for refitting at Sydney. There is no doubt that if the conditions laid down in the advertisements calling for tenders are insisted upon the expense will be very largely increased. For that reason, if for no other, we ought to hesitate to retain section 16 in the Act. What possible good can it do to Australia? Senator De Largie has read a long extract to show that British seamen are becoming more difficult to get. One of Senator Dobson’s arguments in favour of this Bill is that the mail companies are compelled to take lascar seamen. Senator Pearce has said that the companies can get plenty of men at £6 a month. In my speech on the address in reply at the beginning of this session I urged the Government to bring in a repealing measure for the very reason which was given by Mr. Chamberlain in his despatch of 17th April -
His Majesty’s Government much regret that the legislation which has recently been passed in Australia has made it impossible for them to be associated in future with the Government of the Commonwealth in any mail contract.
That of itself ought to make us pause -
They recognise the importance to the cause of Imperial unity of joint action in such matters as postal communication between the mother country and the great self-governing colonies, and they would not on slight grounds withdraw from such co-operation : but the legislation in question, affecting, as it does, principally Indian subjects of His Majesty, leaves no other course open to them.
We seem to consider that the grounds are very slight, and of no importance to us. “What is our remedy ? We propose to employ not British seamen but cheap foreigners. Spaniards, Norwegians, Danes, and Italians - often starving in London - seek employment in the mail-boats. The)7 will take positions for which physically they are often unfit. It is difficult for mail steamers to keep up the rate of speed when the services of these stokers have to be depended upon. A steamer which did not require to coal on the way out actually took two days longer than she need have done, simply because she could not get the stokers to keep up the fires ; they were physically unfit, and very unwilling.
– I shall cite the case of a ship which carried a Iascar crew, and which had the same experience.
– It has been proved that lascars make very good helps. Our contention is that the British sailor cannot be got very easily to assist the British Navy. There surely cannot be any objection when we can pass a law to prevent them from landing in the Commonwealth. Sir Edmund Barton, in his reply to Mr. Chamberlain, seems to me to have made out a very weak case indeed. His reply was dated 19th June, He says : -
It is a fact that was well known to the members of the Federal Parliament that of the lines of steamers trading to Australia, some of those coming via Suez, and practically all those coming via the Cape, are manned exclusively hy white labour; and it cannot be considered unreasonable that Parliament should have directed that in the distribution of Government subsidies raised by Australian taxpayers, preference should be given to those vessels which employed men of a kind at any rate most likely to be of service to the Empire in time of need.
Who are most likely to serve the Empire in time of need? Italians, Spaniards, Norwegians, and Danes, or British subjects like the lascars? They are very independent men, and in spite of what we have heard, very cleanly in their habits. Mr. Chamberlain asked Sir Edmund Barton for his interpretation of the word “arrangement.” I remember that this question arose when the Post and Telegraph Act was being considered. I think it arose in reference to an interjection of my own, and the AttorneyGeneral then stated that an “arrangement” could be made with vessels carrying black crews under the section.
– The honorable senator means by paying poundage? That is right. It is provided for under another section of the Act.
– The interpretation of the word “ arrangement “ given by the present Prime Minister, who was then Attorney-General, was that our mails could be put on board any vessels and paid for at poundage rates. Is it to be the policy of the Government to put the mails on foreign ships ?
– We shall continue todo it, no doubt.
– Will theGovernment do that in preference to carrying the mails on British ships ?
– Not in preference.
– The Government are going to debar British ships from doing what they allow German ships to do. ‘
– We are not going to debar British ships.
– They aregoing to pay poundage rates for carrying mails on foreign ships employing coloured, crews.
– Also on British ships with white crews.
– It must beremembered that when we, pay a subsidy to a mail steamer, we pay it under a contract, which binds the steam-ship company to do things which they would not do otherwise in a commercial sense. But if we are merely going to pay poundage, and have no contracts, we cannot expect the companies to do for us what they have done in the past.
– The American Government pays poundage on mails from New York to England.
– But Great Britain has not adopted that policy.
– It seems to me that it would be a very good thing to have all our mails carried without paying any subsidy.
– I think we ought to look at what commercial men say with regard to this subject. I will only read one extract from the proceedings of what is called the commercial Parliament - the General Council of Chambers of Com- merce, held in Adelaide in June last. They passed the following resolution : -
That the restriction in sub-section 1 of clause 16 of the Tost and Telegraph Act, 1901, limiting the carriage of mails to conveyances on which only white labour shall be employed, must prove not only a serious menace to the commerce of the Commonwealth, because it imperils the securing of satisfactory contracts for the carriage of oversea mails, but it is a violation of the existing obligation of the British Government to a large section of its subjects, and should therefore be repealed.
– Was that resolution moved by the Tasmanian representative ?
– No ; but I was there, and heartily concurred in it. A good number of other Chambers of Commerce have also passed resolutions, and have forwarded petitions to the Senate, dealing with the same subject. I really hope that the Government, during the recess, will see their way to take steps for the repeal of the section to which we object.
– I ‘ am sorry to see that the reconstructed Government are pinning their faith to the same old policy.
– T - The Australian policy.
– I deny that it is the Australian policy, and I deny in toto that the people of Australia will tolerate it. They are not in favour of subsidizing foreign ships as against British ships. They want to help British ships.
– Ships manned by British sailors.
– If we can, by turning thousands of white men, who are not British subjects, into British ships, convert them into British subjects, are we not increasing the power of the nation ? Why should any man with British blood in his veins be opposed to the exodus of Europeans into British possessions 1 Does not the Vice-President of the Executive Council, who is a very capable man, know that in his own State there is a large population of Germans, who are now as loyal as any Britishers on the face of the earth ?
– Why object to their employment on ships ?
– We do not object to their employment. It is the Labour Party that objects. That party would subsidize foreign ships to a greater extent than British ships ; because by handicapping British ships, we indirectly benefit foreign ships. The United States, which has been mentioned, does not pursue this policy. That country helps the ships of its own people. I hold that any honorable senator who has any pretence to representing the people of this country, ought to be in favour of helping British ships. But section 1 6 of the Post and Telegraph Act is the direct negative of that idea.
– How do we help British shipping by subsidizing vessels manned by coloured crews ?
– Some of the finest British ships on this earth are manned by coloured crews. There is no comparison between voyages across the Pacific and voyages through the Red Sea. I have crossed the Pacific several times to San Francisco and Vancouver. There are no hot latitudes on that journey such as there are in going through the Red Sea. The two voyages areas dissimilaras night is from day. In crossing the Pacific, coloured labour is not required in the stokehole. But in the Red Sea it is not possible for white men to work satisfactorily in the stokehole and retain their health and longevity. Why should the Labour Party desire to compel white men to do work that is not suitable for them?
– Because we think we can do anything a black man can do.
– They cannot. Nature has; not given us a black skin, and until white men have black skins they cannot do what black men can do. If honorable senators who interrupt me go and live in the tropics, their descendants in a few centuries will be black men, and they might be able to do black men’s work. Coloured men are inured to this work, and can do it easily ; but it is utterly unfit for white men to do. We have disorganized our postal contracts at the dictation of a minority. I do not want to be too hard upon the new Government, but if they adopt the policy of the old one my face will be as dead against them as it was against the old one. We have handicapped ourselves in making postal arrangements instead of increasing the facilities to the people of this country. The large vessels of the P. and O. and Orient companies ought to have been encouraged to- go to Brisbane, and to take frozen meat, butter, and fruit and other perishable stuff to London in their refrigerating chambers. They ought to be encouraged to take away to European markets produce that at present is running to waste. The steamers ought to be made Federal steamers now, and employed in such a way as to suit the whole of Australia, being compelled to call at Brisbane for cargo such as butter and fruits, and then to continue their journey via Sydney and Melbourne to London. But the very proper representations made by Mr. Philp to the
Government have not been listened to, though all our legislation and administration ought to be of a Federal character, designed particularly to help the producers.
– Does the honorable senator think that his remarks have anything to do with the question of the employment of coloured labour on mail steamers ?
– I do ; and I am contending that the mail steamers which now end the voyage at Sydney ought to go to Brisbane. Instead of calling for alternative tenders, the Government ought to impose the condition that the vessels must go to Brisbane. The British Nation’s only protection consists of British ships belonging to both the navy and the mercantile marine, and anything that stands in the’ way of the progress of shipping is contrary to British, interests. The people of Australia are in favour of maintaining the sea power of Great Britain, and that end should be kept steadily in view.
– I I have not the least doubt that Senator Dobson and those who support him are actuated by motives as sincere as are the motives of those who oppose the measure. J have no intention of dealing with the question at length ; but I desire to refer to one phase of it which was dealt with at great length by Senator Dobson, and was also mentioned by Senator Fraser. It is contended that the work performed by the lascars on board mail steamers is not fit for white men. I take it that that forms the principal cause of the opposition to section 16 of the Post and Telegraph Act, and I do not know but that to a certain extent I agree with that view. The work is not fit for white men in the fullest sense of the word, but it is the misfortune of thousands of white men to have to do work for which, in the fullest sense of the word, they feel they are not suited. Honorable senators who base their main objection to section 16 on that pleahave never signified any intention of relieving white men of other classes of work for which they are equally unfitted. We must remember that there are tens of thousands of white men in the British Dominions who have to do such work in order to earn a living. I have no doubt that many of the stokers would prefer other work if they could obtain it at a reasonable rate of wage. Senator Fraser knows, if Senator Dobson does not, that to-day there are thousands of miners in the State of Victoria working at a j depth of 3,000 feet or thereabouts in a temperature which, if not higher, is at any rate as high as that of any stokehole on a mailboat. I believe that the greatest depth in the gold mines of Victoria is 3,200 feet, and that the atmosphere is most impure is shown by the fact that, except within a few feet from where the machinery is working, there is absolutely no fresh air. That is hardly fit work for white men, but they do it in order to maintain themselves and their families and it is one of the misfortunes of our social system that each man cannot follow the employment he would like. When honorable senators base their objections to section 16 on the ground that the work in the stokeholes of mail steamers is not fit for white men, it is just as well to remind them that similar objectionable work has to be done in Australia. We who support section 1 6 did not do so on the ground that under it the best kind of work can be afforded for white men ; we support the section on the patriotic ground that, in the first place, it may assist in increasing the number of British sailors. That is a motive which I am astonished does not appeal toSenator Dobson.
– Why not confine the section to Australian shipping? Why interfere with the British mercantile marine ?
– W - We are paying our share of the cost of carrying the mails, and it is quite within our province to stipulate the kind of labour to be employed on the mail steamers. Senator Dobson has contended very strongly that section 16 of the Post and Telegraph Act is an insult to our fellow subjects in India. But Australians need not concern themselves very much abourthat phase of the question.
– Surely 1
– D - Does not the honorable and learned senator know that even, the British war authorities take very much the same stand as we are taking in Australia?
– The British authorities would not employ our Indian fellowsubjects in the South African war.
– Tha That is so, but we do not say, on that ground, that the British authorities insulted Indian British subjects.
– Indian subjects are not employed on British men-of-war.
– I - If we sin in offering the so-called insult, we sin in good company. This is a purely Australian matter, and it is time the Australian Parliament exercised some voice in the management of Australian affairs. I sincerely hope that the vote on this question will not reverse what is the declared policy of the Australian Parliament and, I believe, the Australian people.
– I am sorry that Senator Dobson has not afforded an opportunity for this legislation to be put into practice. The Government have called for tenders under the new law, and Senator Dobson and his friends, if they are true prophets, would have had an excellent opportunity for pointing out the absolute failure of the new contracts under the white labour policy. If Senator Dobson and his friends are so sure that they are right, they have displayed bad generalship, because they had only to wait for the operation of the new contract in order to show the disastrous effects of the policy which I and others uphold. It appears to me, however, that those who are -averse to section 16 of the Post and Telegraph Act are afraid that, as in the case of the kanakas, their prophecies may be unfulfilled. It was prophesied that the abolition of the kanaka would mean the ruin of the sugar industry : and that was the view taken by the very men who now oppose the section of this Act which it is proposed to repeal. The prophecies were falsified in the case of the kanaka, and in the case of the Iascar it is sought to prevent that result by -annulling the provision before it has been put into practice. It was unfortunate for them that the Pacific Island Labourers Act was allowed to be put into operation, because the result has been the vindication of those who supported the measure.
– That is not the case yet.
– I do not desire to be led away from the question under discussion, or I could show the honorable senator how the supporters of the Pacific Island Labourers Act have been vindicated. I ask Senator Dobson and those who support him whether if they had the choice between a skinny, emaciated, half-starved Iascar-
-Col. Gould. - Why skinny ?
– Because that is the most accurate term, but I use it in pity and not in scorn, because it is the conditions of their life which cause them to be skinny.
– Does the honorable senator wish to bring white men to the same state?
– White men will never consent to be brought to the same state, and that is the trouble with those who are trying to repeal section 16 of the Post and Telegraph Act. Supposing a skinny Iascar and a brawny British sailor were offering to work for the same wage, would Senator Dobson, or Senator Fraser, or Senator Macfarlane have any difficulty in making up his mind as to which man to employ ?
– Who ever said that the black man was equal to the white man 1
– Senator Fraser now says that the black man is not equal to the white man.
– I say that the black man is not equal to the white man in work for which the latter is suited ; but the white man is not suited for the work in a stokehole in the Red Sea.
– Senator Fraser said that the white man was not fitted for work in the sugar plantations of Queensland.
– And as to Cairns, I say so still.
– But the white man is proving every day that he is fitted for the work in the sugar plantations. The unhesitating choice which would be made of the brawny British sailor, under the circumstances I have indicated, shows that this is a question of cheapness. The Commonwealth Parliament have a certain amount of money to spend belonging to a country which has declared emphatically in favour of a white Australia.
– Does the honorable senator say that this is a white Australia question ?
– I propose to show that it is a white Australia question. Should we be consistent in our policy if we said that in every occupation on the mainland it should be our undeviating principle that white men should live and should be profitably employed, but that there is one industry peculiarly British, one in which Britain leads the world at the present time, the maritime industry, which has made Great Britain what it is, for which the sons of Britons are not worthy, and in which we must employ the Iascar and the black foreigner of every shade and hue ?
– That is very far-fetched.
– T - That is what Senator Dobson would do.
– ISo one has suggested it.
– It is not at all farfetched. We are dealing with money which Australia spends on mail contracts between the Commonwealth and the old country. If it is right that money should be spent in subsidizing coloured labour boats it is equally right that money should be spent in subsidizing mail-boats between Adelaide and Fremantle, even though those boats should carry coloured crews.
– There is no necessity that they should carry coloured crews. It is absurd of the honorable senator to talk in that way.
– I remind Senator Fraser that there is no necessity to have any but white crews on the boats carrying the mails between England and Australia.
– There is no necessity for coloured crews in any temperate latitude.
– Senator Fraser is one of those who are very anxious that white men should not be engaged in unfit occupations. The honorable senator has great sympathy with them. There are, unfortunately, white men in Australia, and even in the State represented by the honorable senator, who are working at occupations which will shorten their lives by onehalf.
– Where are they working?
– In the deep mines of Bendigo.
– In the deep mines of Bendigo, and in smelting works where refractory ores are being treated.
– Where they get leaded.
– Yes, in the smelting works at Port Pirie and Broken Hill, men are employed under conditions which will shorten their lives by years, because they are working in fumes which are detrimental to their health.
– Why not get black men to do that work ?
– I could take Senator Macfarlane to smelting works at Launceston in his own State, where men repeatedly go down underneath a furnace, and work amidst fumes which are injurious to their health.
– I should get black men to do that work.
– The honorable senatorcould not get black men to do it.
– Honorable senators have never raised their voices to shorten the hours of labour of these men, or to improve the conditions of their work. There is a match factory in Victoria, but we have never heard Senator Fraser raise his voice against the conditions under which peoplework in that factory.
– Yes ; I referred to thematter on the Tariff.
– The honorable senator voted for a reduction of the duty proposed upon matches, but he never concerned himself about the conditions under which the hands in the factory have to work.
– Yes ; I said the industry was not worth supporting; and I say so still.
– Do come to some relevant point.
– Senator Dobson wandered around a good many points. Thepoints with which I am dealing are thosewhich the honorable and learned senator would rather were not touched upon. I am dealing with what is really the basis of the action suggested by the honorable and learned senator, and that is cheapness. Senator Dobson in advocating the repeal of section 16 of the Post and Telegraph Act is here as the advocate of cheapness. Honorable senators who agree with him admit that the white man is superior to the coloured man, and do they mean to contend that thesteamship owners are less capable business men than they are themselves. Is it not a fact that the Orient Company previously had white crews ?
– They have them now.
– They haveblack stokers.
– Up to a certain timethey competed with the P. and 0. Company, which was carrying Iascar crews. Is it not a proof that this is really a question of cheapness when we find that the Orient Company in order to compete with the boats of the other line discharged their white stokers and employed Iascar stokers ?
– Is it not a question of competition ?
– Undoubtedly it is a question of competition. What is it that has brought Iascar crews into the mercantile marine of Great Britain ? Is it not a fact that the majority of the vessels comprising the mercantile marine of Great Britain are trading, not in the tropics, but in the temperate zones 1 I say that this is purely a question of cheapness. I would ask Senator Dobson, and those who agree with him, why the British House of Commons found it necessary to appoint a committee to inquire into the way in which lascars were being treated ? Is it not a fact that they discovered that less accommodation was provided for Iascar seamen than for white seamen ?
– That has been altered since.
– It has only been altered by the strong hand of legislation.
– The committee reported that they were well satisfied with Iascar labour.
– The committee had not to deal with the question of Iascar labour. They were appointed to inquire into the accommodation provided for lascars, and the evidence they elicited showed that the lascars were abused in the matter of the accommodation provided for them, whilst the white seamen were not so abused. Why were the white seamen not so abused ? Was it not because of the independence of the white British seaman, who, through his unions, protests against the treatment that would otherwise be meted out to him by callous, hard-hearted ship-owners 1
– I have told the honorable senator that the committee reported that the accommodation provided was double that required by the Indian Navigation Act. The honorable senator is misrepresenting facts.
– I would ask Senator Dobson, and those who think with him, whether they believe that the Britisher is less capable than the German ?
– What has that to do with the question ?
– Senator Dobson is always talking about loyalty and his belief in the British Empire, and I propose to put the honorable and learned senator’s Imperialism to the test. If he believes so much in Britishers, does he think the Britisher less capable than the German ? We have German mail-boats Coming every month to our shores along the same track as that followed by the boats of the P. and 0. and
Orient Companies, and they are manned exclusively by German labour from the stokehole to the quarter-deck.
– The honorable senator misses the point. We require about ten times as many seamen as does the German nation.
– I ask Senator Dobson whether the point he has desired to make is not that it is necessary to alter the Post and Telegraph Act, because it is impossible to man the mail-boats exclusively with white labour, as white labour cannot be satisfactorily employed in vessels having to go through the tropics?
– More British seamen go through the tropics than German seamen. The honorable senator misses the point that we require ten times as many as do the Germans.
– Before I sit down, I propose to show the honorable and learned senator how we may get them, and we shall certainly not get them by employing lascars on our mail-boats. How is it that the German mail-boats employ white men when the British boats do not ? Let me say that I do not give the German companies any credit for employing white labour exclusively.
– They have big subsidies, and they pay low wages.
– They employ white labour exclusively, because they are compelled to do so. The German people have seen to that. The German people have put into their laws an exact copy of the provision we have inserted in ours, and they have said to German steam-ship companies - “ If you want German money you must employ German seamen.” We say only the same thing in the Post and Telegraph Act.
– British shipowners cannot obtain white seamen for all their ships.
– I do not propose to leave this point until I have dealt with it, though Senator Fraser would no doubt prefer that I should do so. I can show the honorable senator that British ship owners can get the men if they require them. I remind Senator Dobson of the old jingoistic lines, which would have appealed to him at one time -
AVe don’t want to fight, but, 1)3’ jingo, if we do. We’ve got the men, we’ve got the ships, and we’ve got the money, too.
Unfortunately, though we have the money we do not give the men the money, and consequently we have not the men. The German Government, before they pay a penny of subsidy, insist that the companies shall employ German sailors in their steamers. Why do they do that ?
– Because they are patriotic.
– Because they are patriotic, and in order to secure a naval reserve that may be called upon in time of war.
– That is the point.
– Coloured men can be employed in the stokeholes of the German steamers.
– Not- the German mail steamers.
– I beg the honorable senator’s pardon ; they can.
– I was told by the commander of a German mail steamer that recently visited these shores that it is a condition of their contract that every man -employed on their boats shall be a German citizen.
– As a matter of fact, they have no’ coloured men employed.
– That may be so ; but coloured men can be employed under their articles.
– I take the honorable and learned senator on his own ground, and I say that if what he states is -a fact it but strengthens our position, because it shows that what the German companies are doing they are doing voluntarily.
– The English ships are not being subsidized in the same way as the German ships.
– I propose to deal with that subject before I conclude, as I expect to speak for some little time upon this question. Senator Dobson appears to have overlooked the fact that, under one of “the conditions upon which a subsidy is paid to the P. and 0. and Orient companies, all the white men employed on certain of their boats must be members of the Royal Naval Reserve. I discovered that condition only this afternoon in the report to the Naval Reserves Committee, appointed by the House of Commons last year. As a large number of the seamen in the mercantile marine of Great Britain are not members of the Royal Naval Reserve they are not eligible to serve upon certain of the steamers belonging to these companies. That has constituted a difficulty, and the committee to which I refer point out that these steamers have a difficulty in getting a supply of white stokers and seamen. They further point out that if the condition were removed the steamers would have no difficulty in securing an ample supply of white stokers and of white seamen. But they have another alternative. They can employ coloured men, and there is no restriction whatever upon their employment. The condition to which I refer applies not generally to the boats of British companies, but to those that receive an additional subsidy as reserve ships for use in time of war. So that on these boats the companies have either to employ white men belonging to the Royal Navy Reserve, or to take a coloured crew indiscriminately. A disability is placed on the company in so far as the employment of white crews is concerned, but the advantage is given of an unlimited choice in so far as the employment of coloured crews is concerned. By their votes recently, honorable senators have committed the Parliament and the Commonwealth to a partnership with Great Britain in naval matters. By the payment of that subsidy, although it is a small one, we are committed to an interference in British naval matters. I hold that we have now a right to inquire into the management and the manning of the Navy. I cannot see how to commence in a better way than by dealing with these vessels, which, to all intents and purposes, are a recruiting ground for the Royal Naval Reserves. I wish to point out to Senator Dobson that a comparison of the permanent and reserve forces of the British and foreign fleets indicates very serious trouble ahead for Great Britain. In the case of Great Britain, the permanent forces number 122,666, and the reserves 41,540. In the case of France, the permanent forces number 53,000, and the reserves, 50,000. In the case of Germany, the permanent forces number 33,500, and the reserves 40,500. In the case of Great Britain, however, owing to the Iascar pushing the Britisher out of the mercantile marine, her naval reserves are equal to only one-third of the permanent forces.
– Not enough to man the war vessels.
– No. A large number of the ships in commission could not be manned with skilled men.
– To what cause does the honorable senator say it is due 1
– That is the result of the policy of pushing the Britisher out of the mercantile marine and replacing him with the lascar.
– There is no such thing as pushing out the Britisher. They cannot get British seamen.
– A committee of naval experts has declared that the men can be got. The introduction to Brassey’s Naval Annual points out that the weak spot in naval matters is the low proportion which the reserves bear to the permanent forces. To show how the lascar has gradually pushed out the British sailor, I may mention that our mercantile marine comprised in 1857 96,914 British sailors, not including lascars; in 1875, 82,000, being a loss of 14,914 ; in 1889, 60,709, being a loss of 21,291 ; and in 1901, 44,290, being a loss of 16,419. In other words, between 1857 and 1901 the number of British seamen had decreased by one-half. There has been such an enormous shrinkage in the number that the recruiting ground for the Navy has practically been destroyed. In the mercantile marine the firemen have not decreased in the same ratio. In 1875 they numbered 13,000, while in 1901 they numbered 23,500. Of late years, owing to the lascars invading the stoke-hole, even the firemen have ceased to increase in number, and are gradually decreasing. In the Navy, on the other hand, firemen have increased from 4, 200 in 1875 to 21,400 in 1901. In other words, in that year there were nearly as many firemen in the British Navy as in the mercantile marine. It may be said that we cannot alter the policy of the British Navy. But I would remind honorable senators that the Parliament of Australia has some weight and influence, however small it may be, in regard to the policy of the Empire.
– I - It has a good dealin connexion with the British Navy.
– Yes. For years past, in the House of Commons, there has been a growing recognition of the danger of this weak spot in the naval defence of the old country. Committee after committee has investigated the subject; member after member has in various ways - on the Estimates and otherwise - called attention to the matter ; and all are agreed that it is the introduction of the lascar and the foreigner into the mercantile marine which constitutes the danger. The problem is, not how to get sufficient men for the Navy, but how to devise a means by which the foreigner and the lascar in the mercantile marine can be replaced by the Britisher.
– How is that going to be done ?
– By paying good wages and offering fair conditions.
– It would take the men out of other occupations.
– If the British Navy is the first line of defence, surely it is imperative that it should be kept in an efficient state. The only way to secure that result is to see that the men who man the mercantile marine belong to the race which has made the British Navy what it is.
– Will the honorable senator vote for the exclusion of foreigners ?
– I am prepared to vote for a Navigation Bill which will provide for fair conditions and good wages. On those terms the Britisher can beat the foreigner every time. The question of the stokers was considered in 1902by a Naval Reserves Committee, which consisted of Admiral Sir Edward H. Seymour, Sir Francis Mowatt, Rear Admiral R. Henderson, Sir A. L. Jones, Commodore Lambton, Mr. J. Clark-Hall, with LieutenantColonel G. G. Aston and Mr. C. E. Gilford as joint secretaries, and Sir Edward Grey as chairman. It will be noticed that it included no labour member or seamen’s representative.With the exception of a joint secretary, who was a military man, it consisted entirely of naval men, and Sir Edward Grey. Reporting so recently as the 9th January, 1903, the committee pointed out in paragraph 9 that -
Since 1859 the requirements of the Navy have outgrown the power of the mercantile marine to supply them. The former have increased ; the number of British seamen in the latter has decreased.
In paragraph 15 they say -
The committee do not overlook the importance, both as regards naval and other considerations, of securing that as large a proportion as possible of the crews of merchant ships should be of British nationality.
Can it be said that the servile races of India are of British nationality. No selfrespecting person who has seen lascars herding and feeding like so many wild beasts on the mail-boats will say that they are of British nationality.
– That is a gross exaggeration
– Can it be denied by any one who has ever seen five lascars squatting round a dish of rice and eating with their fingers ?
– That is their habit.
– I think it is a habit which Senator Dobson does not wish the rest of the Empire to acquire.
– I do not like to hear the Empire being libelled in this way.
– If Senator “Dobson thinks that that statement is a libel on the Empire, I hope that he will pay a visit to the next mail-boat which comes to Port Melbourne.
– I have been down to Port Melbourne, and I declare that the honorable senator’s statement is a gross exaggeration of the facts.
– Has the honorable and learned senator never seen the lascars squatting round their dish of rice, and eating with their fingers 1
– Has the honorable senator never been seen squatting round a table and eating with his fingers ?
– I use a knife and fork, although Senator Dobson may not believe the statement.
– Knives and forks are not supplied to the men in the Navy. They use their fingers and their claspknives.
– Dealing with the mercantile marine as a source of supply, the committee say -
In considering the extent to which the Navy should depend upon the mercantile marine it has to be borne in mind that it is undesirable to draw too largely upon it for a reserve. One of the objects of a strong navy is to enable our merchant ships to keep the sea in time of war, and this object would be defeated if too many seamen and firemen were suddenly withdrawn from the mercantile marine, and a considerable portion of it laid up in consequence for want of crews. Under present conditions, the Navy cannot be dependent for a reserve mainly upon this source unless the mercantile marine becomes practically a State-subsidized and State-regulated service ; and even if this were done, it would be necessary to provide a reserve for the mercantile marine, to enable oversea trade to be carried on in time of war. The mercantile marine is, and should continue to te, a valuable source from which to draw a portion of the naval reserve. The committee feel that the numbers which at present come from this source may and should be increased : they desire to encourage the entry of men from it into the naval reserve, and to stimulate future enrolment but the present reserve is
I already drawn largely from other sources, and this must be still more the case with the larger reserves required in the near future.
In their report I do not find any suggestion that it is injurious to the health of white men to stoke in the Mediterranean or the Red Sea. It has been left to our naval I experts in the Senate to suddenly discover ; that it is injurious for white sailors to take i warships through the Red Sea. The comjmittee recommend that, in order to make the Navy efficient, the number of stokers in the reserves alone should be increased to 6,000.
The committee estimate that an increase of 8,000 firemen could be obtained by the methods recommended, and they consider that until the full numbers of firemen can be obtained, Royal Naval Reserve seamen should replace them as far as may be necessary.
– Who is to find the money to pay these men 1
– I think the honorable senator told us that the money we spent under the Naval Agreement was the best expenditure we could incur. Surely he does not object to finding the money for keeping the Navy efficient. How would he like it if, suppose on one of our war vessels the white crew was struck down by bubonic plague, and the authorities refitted her with a craw of lascars 1 Would he consider that an efficient defence for Australia ? But if Senator Dobson’s proposal were carried that is what it would come to. Here are the recommendations -
The committee are impressed with the importance of re-opening the entry of seamen and stokers on the non-continuous service system. As above pointed out the continuous service system provides an invaluable reserve of long service pensioners, but the provision of a sufficient reserve of lower ratings trained in His Majesty’s Navy, which the committee consider to te the greatest importance, is incompatible with the system of manning the peace fleet entirely with continuous service men.
They contemplate that fishermen and men employed in the merchant vessels would be available at stated periods for a short term of service in the Navy so as to qualify them to be an efficient naval reserve. But if there are no white men to be employed in the mercantile marine this recommendation falls to the ground. The committee also say : -
One of the objects of a strong Navy is to enable our merchant ships to keep the sea in time of war, and this object would be defeated if too many seamen and firemen were suddenly withdrawn from the mercantile marine and a considerable portion of it laid up in consequence for want of crews. Under present conditions the Navy cannot lie dependent for a reserve mainly upon this source, unless the mercantile marine becomes practically a State subsidized and State regulated service, and even if this were done it would be necessary to provide a reserve for the mercantile marine to enable oversea trade to be carried on in time of war.
They contemplate that the mercantile marine should be State regulated and subsidized. What do they mean by State regulated ? Is it not plain that they mean regulated in such a way as would insure the employment of British seamen 1 Some of the other statements are very important. The committee say, dealing with the question of the formation of a naval reserve -
The evidence which has been given to the committee satisfies them that the merchant service fireman makes a very useful reserve man, and is amenable to naval discipline.
How does Senator .Dobson explain that? He said this afternoon that the firemen in the mercantile marine were drunken scamps who could not be relied upon, that they would desert their vessels, and were up to all sorts of tricks. But here we have the highest naval authority in Great Britain saying that they made very useful reserve men, and are amenable to naval discipline. The report goes on to indicate that there are a number of firemen employed in coastal work who are eminently suitable for reserve firemen on war-ships, and that these should be trained. I should like to direct the attention of the Senate to the following paragraph, one of the most valuable in the report : -
The attention of the committee has been called to the clause in the agreement as to Subsidized merchant steamers which stipulates that if white firemen be employed a certain proportion of them must be reserve men. The owners state that they cannot get the necessary number of reserve firemen ;
Will honorable senators remark that the committee do not say they cannot get white firemen, but that they cannot get the necessary number of reserve firemen - and they are accordingly driven to employ lascars. Driven by what? Not by the scarcity of white firemen, but by this particular clause - which is admissible under the terms of the agreement.
That seems to me to throw a wonderful light upon the reasons why some of these vessels employ lascars. The c committee recommend that the entire crews of the subsidized vessels should be either naval I reserve men or royal fleet reserve men. I
That means that those who signed this report are against the employment of lascars in those vessels which are under an agreement to the Navy, and that the entire crew should be members of the Royal Naval Reserve.
– Is there a line in thereport which says that the Iascar should bes dispensed with?
– I take it that what I have quoted says so. It says that on these? vessels the owners have been driven to employ lascars because of the clause which provides that if they employ white seamen they must employ men from the Royal Naval Reserve. The consequence is that they have to employ lascars. The committee 1 recommend that they should not employ lascars, but that the whole of the crews of” the subsidized vessels should be white men. This committee was instructed to inquireinto the possible employment of lascars in. stokeholes, and I shall read the twoclauses dealing with that point, although they do not particularly favour my view. It is only fair, however, that I should giveboth sides in quoting from the report -
The committee have had a very favourableaccount of the efficiency both of lascars and kroomen as stokers, but think that the details of any plan forming a reserve for service when needed should be discussed with the Governors; and the Commanders-in-Chief of the respective Naval stations. The committee consider that amongst lascars and kroomen there is a supply of stokers for emergency which is too valuable tobe neglected. Local arrangements should bemade in time of peace which would insure a supply of such stokers being readily available in, time of war. The committee are without such full information about the prospects and desirability of employing Chinamen as to-be able topronounce fully on the subject ; but they feel nodoubt that desirable men could be found at Hong Kong and Singapore, and in view of thepossible great supply of stokers from this source, they consider the question, like that of lascars, and kroomen, to be well worthy of attention.
That is all the committee have to say on that question. But the whole of the reportright up to those two clauses - although thecommittee were specially directed to inquire into the possible employment of lascarseamen - hinges on that one question thatthe mercantile marine is a recruiting ground for the Navy, but that owing to the employment of foreigners and lascars in the mercantile marine the area of the recruitingground is being dangerously narrowed, and that there should be a special subsidy and special regulations to safeguard that ground- *
– It all depends on the words “ State subsidy.”
– I want to say a word about the employment of foreigners. Senator Eraser reminded us that there are thousands of German colonists in South Australia, and he says that they are the most loyal of all the colonists, yet he contends that although the German when he settles in Australia becomes loyal, if he becomes an Australian seaman he is not loyal. That is to say, a German farmer in Australia is loyal, but a German sailor on a steamer is not.
– When he becomes an Australian farmer he settles.
– Would not a German fireman employed upon an Australian vessel make his home here, and be an Australian subject ?
– No, not if he were under the German flag.
– An Australian seaman would be under the Australian flag. I do not hold a brief for the German seaman ; I am only arguing with Senator Fraser on his own ground. All sorts of foreigners come into Australia, and their competition is not feared wherever wages are regulated by law. The British workman always shows himself superior to the foreigner when the conditions are fair. But too often the foreigner comes from a country where wages are low, and where the conditions are of the worst kind, and he is prepared to work for less wages than the workmen of British origin will accept. I am surprised that honorable senators who say that white men cannot do the work have not taken into consideration the fact that many Australian steamers traverse the Torres Straits of Northern Queensland to Port Darwin, right through tropical seas to the north-west of Australia. The climate they have to face is quite as hot as any encountered on a trip to the old country ; and yet we never hear of the firemen employed being unreliable or deserting their vessels. The reason is, that they are paid at least a fair wage on which they can exist, receiving £6 a month, though not £6 a week, as Senator Macfarlane seemed to indicate. There is never any danger of those vessels not getting a sufficient supply of firemen, because more offer than work can be found for.
– And good men, too. 11 g
– Senator Charleston is a manne engineer, and he ought to know. We never hear of these steamers being delayed in port because firemen have deserted, and if there were deserters, there are hundreds ready to fill the vacancies. These steamers go through tropical waters, not once in three months, as the mail steamers do, but every week, and, indeed, some continuously trade there. Australia has just as much right to develop her maritime industry as she has to develop her farming, sugar-planting, or cabinetmaking industries. One of the arguments in favour of a white Australia was that the cabinetmaking industry was becoming monopolized by Asiatics. We said to the cabinetmaker that we would safeguard him by preventing these Asiatics from coming into the country, and we safeguarded those engaged in the sugar-planting by legislating for the removal of the kanaka. It appears, however, as though we did not value the maritime industry, but were prepared to neglect Australians who desire to become seamen, and to hand over the occupation to lascars.
– Does the honorable senator call stoking a maritime industry ?
– Senator Dobson does not contradict my statement that there are hundreds of white men willing to take the position of firemen.
– The honorable senator must not speak of the stoke-hole as representing the maritime industry.
– It is a most important branch of the industry, seeing that steamers cannot get along very well without firemen. But let us return to thewhite stoker, with whom Senator Dobsonhas little sympathy, and whom he has alluded to as “ a drunken scamp,” from the”dregs of the Empire.” I have here an extract from the London Daily Telegraph,. which was quoted in the Melbourne Herald,. relating the experience of a newspaperrepresentative on a small torpedo boat in the Mediterranean. The extract is as follows : -
For as it may be only a few hours that the pressure will last, but were it clays the strain would be borne with cheerful fortitude They have their growl ; stokers are wide in their assertions, and emphatic in the forms with which they clothe them. At heart they are men among men, and let England never forget it. Senator Dobson apparently has forgotten the fact. The extract proceeds -
If .you want the mark of their worth you will find it in the record of the Im’ rush to China when the war scare came. Down the Mediterranean, through the Red Sea, they worked till they dropped, and revived to go down and toil again. Full speed all the way ! Think of the stoke-hole when the thermometer on deck is 120 degrees !
– Think of it, p-nd do not send our white brothers into the stokehole.
– The extract concludes -
Imagine the pluck that accomplishes so much ; the patriotism that, in face of the country’s danger, would go through to the end if needs be.
– We all admit and admire the spirit.
– Those stokers came from the cool climate of England, and were working in a little torpedo boat, where the newspaper representative had barely room to turn round. They took this vessel at full speed to China for the greater part of the voyage in tropical waters, but none of them died.
– They only dropped at the work occasionally ! Does the honorable senator expect vessels to go at war speed all the time 1
– The honorable senator must know that in places not outside of Australia, there are men who drop at their work,- but I do not observe that the honorable senator protests against that work being carried on. White women drop at their work in the laundries of Melbourne.
– Nonsense !
– These women work in an atmosphere as bad as that of any stoke-hole, because there is not only the heat, but the steam to contend with.
– That is a libel.
– I shall say that these things take place in Perth, if Senator Zeal does not like me to mention Melbourne. In Perth I have seen four or five laundry women in a room 10 feet by 12 feet working in an atmosphere of steam on a hot summer’s day, when the temperature inside was twice as high as that in the open streets. I was ashamed that work under such conditions should be permitted.
– It is people like Senator Dobson who would perpetuate such a state of things.
– I wonder that Senator De Largie is not ashamed to make so unjust a remark.
– It has been said that section 16 of the Post and Telegraph Act is one of the greatest insults that could be offered to India. But the greatest insult to India lies in the fact that Imperialistic senators of the type of Senator Dobson are not prepared to ask the British Parliament to give our fellow subjects in India the right to govern their own country. What greater insult can there be to a people than to tell them that they are not fit to govern themselves ?
– Does the honorable senator think that his remarks have anything to do with coloured labour in stokeholes ?
– Would Senator Pearce grant our Indian fellow subjects selfgovernment 1
-No ; I should not.
Debate interrupted under Sessional Order.
On the order of the day being read for the further consideration in Committee of proposed resolutions relative to the Federal Capital site,
– I move -
That the order of the day be discharged.
The object of the motion is thi3 : Honorable senators will remember that the proposed resolutions with regard to the selection of a Capital site which we had under consideration last week were dealt with in Committee, but no report has been made from the Committee. In the meantime a message has come to the Senate from the other House, asking our concurrence in a series of resolutions which are not identical with those which we considered, but which deal with the same subject.
– Will they not involve the reconsideration of the same question t
– I think not. In any case, if this order is not discharged, we shall have to go on with a discussion which will be practically similar to the discussion which must take place upon the message which has come to us from the House of Representatives. As a matter of ordinary courtesy we should discuss the message from the House of Representatives, and, having come to some determination upon it, send a reply to another place. It is, therefore, from all points of view, desirable that we should first of all discharge this order of the day from the notice-paper.
– Why did not the honorable and learned senator consider this before the other proposed resolutions were dealt with?
– Senator Zeal will remember that the proposed resolutions in the form in which they were first submitted to the Senate were introduced simultaneously in the two Houses with the idea that they should be discussed separately in each. In Committee in the Senate, a motion negativing the first ‘ of the proposed resolutions was carried, but in the meantime the discussion proceeded in the other House, and they have sent a message asking our concurrence in the resolutions they have adopted. It is necessary that we should continue the discussion in some form or other, and I submit that it will be very much better that the Senate should discharge this order from the paper, and continue the discussion upon the resolutions which have come to us from another place. Whatever view honorable senators may take of the question, there can be no disadvantage in adopting this course, and it is in my opinion the course which will enable us to discuss the matter at the earliest possible time.
– Why was not this procedure adopted in the first instance t
– I have twice explained that, in the first instance, the procedure adopted was to introduce certain proposed resolutions simultaneously in both Houses, and the discussion was proceeding upon them simultaneously in both Houses.
The PRESIDE N’T. - The discussion was not taken in Committee in the House of Representatives.
– No ; in the House, whilst here the matter was referred to a Committee of the whole. In the Committee the first of the proposed resolutions was negatived and the matter has not since been proceeded with further. In the meantime the’ discussion was proceeded with in the other House.
– Because the members of the Government in another place ignored the Senate’s decision.
– Having agreed to the resolutions in a certain form, the House of Representatives sent them on to the Senate asking us, in ordinary form, for our 11g2 concurrence. Ordinary courtesy between the two Houses requires that we shall discuss the message from the House of Representatives, and send our answer to it. In discussing the message, we shall necessarily discuss the whole matter connected with the selection of the Federal Capital site, and I submit that it is much better that we should do so in connexion with the message from the other House than that we should take up further time discussing the proposed resolutions which were referred to the Committee of the Senate.
– If we had discussed the proposed resolutions in the Senate instead of in the Committee, we could not now have been asked to discuss the message from the House of Representatives.
– The point is open to argument, but there can be no doubt that it is at present much better for us to proceed at once with the discussion of the message which has been sent to us from another place, rather than that we should devote more time to the consideration of the proposed resolutions, the first of which has already been negatived in Committee.
– We are obviously being asked to adopt a very extraordinary course, and the arguments we have heard from Senator Drake in support of it are not even plausible. The Attorney-General has reminded us that out of courtesy to the other House we should consider their message.
– And at an early stage.
– I put it to the honorable and learned senator that if the division which we took a few days ago had had a different result, and the Senate had supported the proposed resolutions submitted to the Committee, we should not have been asked to do anything out of courtesy to the other House. The draft resolutions were introduced in the Senate simultaneously with their origination in another place.
– Out of courtesy the House of Representatives should not have sent us this message.
– If the division which we took in Committee had resulted differently, we should have heard nothing about the necessity for showing courtesy to the other House, nor should we have been asked to drop the work with which we were proceeding in order to consider the message from the House of Representatives.
– If identical resolutions had been carried in both Houses, there would, of course, have been no need for the message.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether, if the result of the division in Committee on the first of the proposed resolutions had been otherwise, he would have taken this course ? Obviously, the honorable and learned senator cannot say “Yes “ to that question.
– Senator Clemons said that he intended to move an amendment upon another of the proposed resolutions.
– I did, and should the opportunity arise I should still be prepared to move that amendment. But while the other day we were an originating House in regard to a set of proposed resolutions simultaneously with the other House; we are now being practically asked to reverse our decision because certain resolutions have been carried in another place.
– I point out that the Senate arrived at no decision. The motion that certain proposed resolutions be agreed to was referred to the Committee, and the Committee has not yet reported. Strictly speaking, the AttorneyGeneral should not have referred to the proceedings in Committee, because the Senate knows nothing of what is done in Committee until it is reported. That is a strict rule, but the circumstances of this case are peculiar, and inasmuch as I did not prevent the Attorney-General making reference to the proceedings in Committee, I shall not prevent Senator Clemons from doing so. I remind honorable senators that the position is that this matter has been referred to a Committee of the Senate, and the Committee has not yet brought up its report.
– I recognise that that is the position, and seeing that the President allowed Senator Drake to refer to the steps we took, in Committee, I, naturally, also referred to them. The position I take up is that the proper course for the Senate to adopt is to get a report from the Committee. It is true that we did not finish our work in the Committee, and we are not now prepared to bring up a report to the Senate. But it will be admitted that the draft resolutions placed before us in Committee were practically negatived, because the AttorneyGeneral knows that the result of the division was to destroy the effect of the whole of them. So far as the work of the Committee was concerned, another five minutes would have enabled the Committee to submit a report which would have finished the whole thing. In the circumstances of the case our proper course is to finish the work of the Committee, which we may do in a few minutes, and let the Committee report to the Senate. If we do not we shall stultify the work of the Committee, and I ask whether the Senate is going to turn its back in this fashion on the work the Committee laboriously did. That would be an absolute insult to the Committee, offered simply because the work done by the Committee was not favorable to the Government, and should not, therefore, be reported to the Senate. It is perfectly clear that if the division on the first of the proposed resolutions had been carried in favour of the Government, the Committee would have proceeded with its work in the ordinary way, and would have made a report to the Senate, and it is only because another opportunity is being offered to the Government to deal with the question, as the result of certain events which have transpired in another place, that we are asked to turn our backs on the work we did in Committee. That is a wrong course to adopt, and I am going to oppose it. It is wrong to establish such a precedent, and with regard to the circumstances with which we are confronted at present there is no necessity for it. I am not taking up this attitude because I am opposed to the selection of a capital site. If I could select one to-night I should do so. I ask the Government to adopt stronger measures and to exhibit a more determined spirit. If they are determined in this matter of the capital site - about which I say frankly that I have the gravest doubts - let them originate the matter in the Senate by means of a Bill including a capital site, and let us send the Bill to another place and ask honorable members to agree with our selection. There is nothing in our procedure which would render that course difficult, if members of the Government in the Senate are in earnest in the matter. The course now proposed by the AttorneyGeneral would only bring about delay. We are being asked now to enter upon another long debate on the question which we have already debated, because the other House requests us to do so. In the one case we dealt with the matter as an originating Chamber, but in this case we are being asked to go through the whole debate again, because, although the Attorney-General has said that the resolutions are not identical, he is well aware that there is no material difference between them, and that the same debate will be repeated in the Senate, with, I hope and believe, the same result. As that is the position before us, I object to the present proposal, because it involves delay in the ordinary course pf our business, because it means delay in the selection of the capital site, and because I have suggested a better method which the Government may pursue if they wish to select a capital site. While there is yet time, I urge the Government to take the matter in their own hands in the Senate, and proceed by a method upon which we can easily agree to the selection of a capital site, so far as the Senate is concerned. When that selection has been made, the site selected can be incorporated in a Bill which, when it has received the proper sanction of the Senate, may be sent on to the House of Representatives in the ordinary way. If the Government adopt that course, they will give an assurance to the Senate - which I believe honorable senators require - that they are in earnest. Reflections have been cast upon some honorable senators that they have objected to a Conference because they are not in earnest in their desire to select a capital site. I repudiate the charge.
– I only said that those who are in favour of delay voted against the first motion.
– I am not in favour of delay. I have indicated my strong objection to a Conference. I object to a short cut at the sacrifice of the power of the Senate. I object to the vote of the Senate being swamped by the overwhelming vote of another place, and, although I am most anxious to select a site, that consideration is paramount with me. Seeing that there is a chance to assert our rights, and, at the same time, to secure the object which the Government apparently wish to attain, I would urge Ministers to adopt my suggestion.
– Perhaps it is advisable that I should state what I consider to be the position from the point of view of the Standing Orders. I do not think that there can be two discussions - one in Committee and one in the Senate - going on simultaneously, and that we must either refer the message of the other House to the Committee which has been appointed to consider this matter, or discharge the Committee. It would lead to manifest absurdity if we were to discuss this matter in the Senate and arrive at a certain conclusion, and then to discuss the matter in Committee and arrive at another conclusion.
– I am as anxious as any honorable senator to see this matter settled. It is just as well to look the situation plainly in the face, and to consider what is the easiest course to adopt. Certain proposed resolutions have been referred by the Senate to a Committee, but no report has yet been made. It is suggested that it would be very much better for the Committee to finish its deliberations and to bring up a report. Suppose a report is brought up and adopted, the Senate will then have arrived at a definite decision. When the message of the other House is brought forward for consideration we shall be placed in an anomalous position. We shall have adopted a course of action which will preclude a Conference. I take it that in any case we have to consider the request from the other House. I understand that the Attorney-General recognises the fact that the resolutions which were passed in the other House are in substance the same as the proposed resolutions which were remitted by the Senate to a Committee of the whole.
– The same with a difference.
.- The difference is so slight that it would not help the honorable and learned gentleman.
– I think so.
– Standing order 126 says -
No question or amendment shall be proposed which is the same in substance as any question or amendment which during the same session which has been resolved in the affirmative or negative, unless the order, resolution, or vote on such question or amendment has been rescinded.
Before we can assent to the request from the other House we shall be confronted with the necessity of having to rescind a prior determination.
– Not to rescind but to discharge an order of the day.
-Col. GOULD. - I am arguing against the contention of Senator Clemons. Standing order 127 says -
An order, resolution, or other vote of the Senate may be rescinded, but no such order, resolution, or other vote may be rescinded during the same session unless seven days’ notice be given, and at least one-half of the whole number of the senators vote in favour of its rescission.
If we were to adopt the suggestion of Senator Clemons we should be confronted with this difficulty : that however anxious we might be to adopt a different course, we should have to wait, at any rate for a period of seven days, and get the presence of a certain number of honorable senators to consider the question. I would urge upon honorable senators that it is much better to agree to the motion of the Attorney-General and to consider the request for a Conference.
– Is not that exactly the same question as we have been considering in Committee ?
.- The Senate can have no knowledge of the proceedings ‘in the Committee until it has reported. If the order of the day is discharged we shall be bound to consider the request from the other House, and honorable senators will be quite at liberty to record their votes if they see fit against going into a Conference - of course, assigning reasons for their decision. If the order of the day is discharged, it will afford an opportunity to honorable senators to say to the other House in a courteous way - “ We are not prepared to consider the question for certain reasons,” or “ We are prepared to go into a Conference subject to certain conditions.” By adopting the proposal of Senator Drake we shall get a decision in the most expeditious manner possible. If, however, the Senate should decline to confer with the other House, the Government - who, I believe, are prepared to deal with this question this session - could give notice to-morrow in the other House of their intention to introduce a Bill.
– Why not introduce the Bill in the Senate 1
– I do not care where the Bill is originated so long as it is made clear that the Senate can initiate a measure of that kind. I am not quite clear that it can, but I am not prepared to express a definite opinion. Even if we went back into Committee and a certain resolution were reported to the
Senate, the Government would then be called upon to bring forward a Bill. Why should we not adopt the proposal of theGovernment in order that the question may be dealt with as expeditiously as possible ?
– I feel sure that honorable senators would like to see this important question settled at the earliest possible time. The proceedings are extraordinary, because the circumstances which led up to them were extraordinary.
– Because the Government made them so.
– The Senate, not the Government, made them so. In the first place, the late Government introduced into each House a series of proposed resolutions in the belief that they were adopting a course which would lead to definite results. Their proposal was that the site of the Federal capital should be selected by meansof an exhaustive ballot at a Conference of the Houses. Ths Senate, unlike the other House, went into Committee to consider the proposed resolutions, otherwise the position would be considerably different. Before the other House had decided upon its course of action, the Senate in Committee refused to agree to a Conference, and progress was at once reported. The news of our decision reached the other place, and, at the instigation of the late Prime Minister, it decided to give the Senate, if possible, another opportunity to consider the question. The other House has asked the Senate to concur in a series of resolutionswhich, I may say, were passed unanimously. We are now confronted with what we did in Committee, and we cannot consider the message from the other House without firstdisposing of the order of the day. Senator Clemons said that if the course had been different we would have acted in another way. Of course we would. If the Senate will agree to the unanimous request of the other House, the Government will soon show whether they are in earnest or not, in spite of Senator Clemons1 grave doubts on that point. I can assure the honorable and learned senator that the Government are in earnest in their endeavour as far as possible to settle this question. If it cannot be settled by this means we shall propose some other means. >
– I did not refer to the representatives of the Government in the Senate.
-The honorable and learned senator will find that the members of the Government in the other House are equally determined as far as possible to settle this question. I think it would simplify matters very much to discharge the order of the day. There is nothing improper or unusual in taking that course.
– Is there not ?
– I ask honorable senators to remember that there is another branch of the Parliament. Surely, as a matter of common courtesy, we should consider the request. If we sent a message to the House of Representatives, how should we like to have it ignored? Some honorable senators suggest that we should not take the measure into consideration at all. I think the matter can be settled this evening by first adopting the course which has been proposed by my honorable and learned friend, the Attorney-General, and then considering the message of the House of Representatives. If honorable senators are of the same opinion as they were in Committee, it is very evident what the decision will be. I expect that we shall not agree with the resolutions sent to us by the other House. Then the matter would be settled, so far as the Senate is concerned, without any trouble or ill-feeling between the two branches of the Legislature ; and the Government would take another course, so as to give the two Houses an opportunity of dealing with the question in another manner.
– The Government would have prevented a lot of trouble had they dealt with this subject in
Another manner in the beginning. The trouble has been caused by the tortuous action of the Government.
– They had the unanimous support of the other House in what they did.
– No doubt the other House will always be unanimous in wishing to swallow up the Senate. Why should they be otherwise? They will always desire to get us to a Conference. But why should we agree to a Conference on this subject.
– They want to get the tiy into the parlour.
– Yes. The trouble was that the Government did not take the regular parliamentary course. Why should not the Vice-President of the Executive Council, who is a strong man, ask the Government to go back and take the proper course ?
– Before I joined the Ministry they had obtained the assent of the House of Representatives to the course that they have taken.
– TIhe honorable gentleman cannot wonder that the Senate objects to taking this course.
– I hope that at this late stage of the sessio we are not going to trouble about the mistakes which the Government may have made in the past, or may be making now. A majority of honorable senators have declared that they are in favour of settling the locality in which the permanent home of the Federal Parliament is to be. Apart from what the Government may have done, or another place may have decided, we ought to do all we possibly can to bring the matter to a complete issue. We do not want to occupy the time of the Federal Parliament for another month on this question. I am only expressing my own views, because it has already been declared that this is not a party question. I believe there is no member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives who is not actuated by motives conducing, in his opinion, to the best interests of the Commonwealth. Whether honorable senators agree to the selection of the capital site this session or not, they are doing what they think best in the interests of the Commonwealth. I think the Government made a mistake in introducing the proposed resolutions simultaneously in the two Houses, and I am confirmed in my opinion by the result. The action of the Government has given an opportunity to those who wish to delay the selection. But we ought now to consider seriously what can be done to get ourselves out of the difficulty, and I think that the best thing to do is to allow the Government to withdraw this order of the day. We have no official knowledge of what has been done in Committee, and another place has, strictly speaking, no right to know what we have done. The House of Representatives carried through its business independently of what we have done, and we have a right to carry on our business independently of anything that they may do. If the Government are permitted to withdraw the proposed resolutions, and the message of the House of Representatives is considered, I am prepared to move or to support any other honorable senator who moves that all the words after “ That “ be struck out, with a view of inserting an expression of opinion that the Government should introduce a Bill providing for the method in which the territory for the Federal Capital shall be acquired, and, secondly, for the selection of the site by an exhaustive ballot. It does not matter which House the Bill is introduced in. It may be introduced in the Senate. ‘
– It ought to be.
– I am not going to question that. But when the Bill is introduced, and the site is settled by whichever House first considers it, it will be sent by message to the other House, which may either agree to the selection, or substitute another name. Then the very worst position we shall be in will be that, instead of having to select from nine sites, the choice will be reduced to two. I also want to point out that, although this Parliament may this session reduce the number of sites to two, or may select the site, there is no possibility of our removal to Tumut or Bombala, or Armidale, or any other place, for a number of years to come. Before any large sums of money are spent, the land will have to be cleared and surveyed, and a number of other preliminary works will have to be carried out. But it is our duty to the people of New South Wales and to the Commonwealth to select the site as soon as possible. The delay means that the Government of New South Wales has to hold in reserve areas of Crown land in all the possible sites, and individual land-holders in each of the localities are in the same position of uncertainty. It is our duty to decide the method of land acquisition, so that the people of the Commonwealth may be protected from any attempt, by an undue increase of land values, to fleece the public Treasury. I agree entirely with the Vice-President, of the Executive Council that if we go into this matter seriously we can settle it to-night. If the motion is rejected the Government can introduce a Bill, and the whole question can be settled in the best interests of the Commonwealth.
– Although we shall all agree with Senator McGregor that it is very desirable to get this question settled as soon as possible, he seems - to have evaded the main question before us, and that is the method by which that very desirable result is to be brought about. Senator Playford urges us to deal with the matter upon the message from another place, and he points out that it would be more polite to do so. But it appears to me that he gave his case away by prefacing his remarks with the observation that the other place was perfectly well aware of the determination we came to in Committee before they passed the resolution which they have sent up to the Senate. They knew that we would not agree to this Conference. Let us deal with the thing as reasonable beings. Do not let us trifle with the matter. The Vice-President of the Executive Council admits that the position is as I have stated it, and, therefore, I submit that the other Chamber were simply trifling with their time and our time when they sent up this message. The Vice-President of the Executive Council shakes his head, but it stands to reason that the other place was trifling with the matter, or that thev believed the Government, on a re-vote, would get a majority.
– There was a majority of only one against the Government.
– The House of Representatives knew exactly what we had settled iri Committee, and it is fair to assume that we shall come to the same decision when we sit as a Senate. The position is that we in Committee absolutely resolved to negative this proposal of the Government - we refused to allow ourselves to be swamped in a joint sitting. If we debate the whole question again we shall waste a whole evening over a matter on which we have come to a very definite conclusion.
– Let us take a vote straight away.
– I was going to suggest that if we take a vote on the proposition now before us, that will practically deal with the whole question. .If the Vice-President of the Executive Council can carry a motion that the order of the day be discharged, he will practically have a majority to carry the proposal for a joint sitting.
– Not at all ; we shall have to consider the House of Representatives’ message.
– In common courtesy we ought to consider the message.
– I would point out that the House of Representatives does not deserve that courtesy.
– It is not fair to say that.
– I hope Senator Matheson will not try to cause trouble between the two Houses.
– I do not in the least desire to cause trouble ; but Senator Gould remarked that what X said was not fair.
– It was not fair.
- Senator Playford admits that the House of Representatives were perfectly well aware of the decision of the Senate in Committee.
– They had just heard a rumour a minute or two beforehand.
– It was stated in the House of Representatives.
– I understand from Senator Dobson that it was stated in the House of Representatives that we had come to a conclusion, and somebody apparently said - “It does not matter - send up the message.”
– Nothing of the sort was said as that “it does not matter.” The honorable senator is drawing on his imagination.
– That is equivalent to what happened.
– No, it is not.
– I admit that what I say is sketchy, but it is practically what happened. It was decided to send up the message, and that certainly is wasting our time. Senator Playford asks us to adopt this motion, but says that it does not entail the Government carrying the adoption of the message.
– It certainly does not.
– But it entails a very lengthy debate.
– Not necessarily.
– It means an absolute waste of the time of the Senate.
– We do not want to debate the matter a second time. Let us vote and have done with it.
– Why have a second vote ?
– Because we have a message from the other House, and out of courtesy we ought to consider it, as the simplest and quickest plan.
– The VicePresident of the Executive Council simply proposes that we should take a vote in order to gratify the other House.
– We ought to treat the message with decent courtesy.
– I would say incidentally that we have not been quite treated with decency “in the way this message has been sent up. I reiterate that the message is quite unnecessary, because the other House knew the conclusion to which we had come, and the matter might have been very well left there. Senator Playford asks us, as a matter of courtesy, to deal with the question, though he does not expect that the Government will be able to carry their proposal. I think that a waste of time is involved, and I shall vote against the motion.
– I certainly concur in the remark that we are wasting time, because we are discussing a question of procedure where one course is almost as good as another. I want honorable senators to see exactly what will take place under two contingencies. Suppose we continue the discussion in Committee, and we come to a certain decision in regard to the balance of the motions, and these are reported to the Senate - I am assuming, df course, that the present motion is rejected - the Government will then have the opportunity of testing the same question in another way on the report. The Government will move that the resolutions be referred back to the Committee, with an instruction to alter them in a particular direction.
– Why should they ?
– The matter of procedure is one on which there is very little difference of opinion, and it is for us to adopt the simplest course we can. I have no hesitation in saying that the proposal of the Government is, under existing conditions and circumstances, the simpler course.
– It will lead to a longdebate.
– It is useless for honorable senators to think for a moment that the real matter of substance is going to be evaded under any circumstances. If the Government do not succeed in one way they will have an opportunity of submitting their motions in another way, probably in that which I have outlined.
– Had we dealt with the matter in the Senate that could not 1 have been so.
– The honorable senator must see that we have not dealt with the matter in the Senate.
– It is a subterfuge.
– There is no use in talking about subterfuge. We are trying to deal with the question under the conditions in which we find them.
– Extraordinary conditions.
– The Government are responsible for the conditions.
– Even if the Government are responsible for the degree of confusion which exists, that is a matter of no moment. If the Government have made a mistake, that does not concern us at the present time. We are invited to take what is manifestly the simpler course, and it has the additional advantage that it enables us to act with becoming courtesy to the other Chamber, and to follow the ordinary procedure.
– What about the “ becoming courtesy “ of the other Chamber ?
– I see no discourtesy in the action of the House of Representatives. Honorable senators are aware that on many occasions in . connexion with Bills and other matters, the other House, after disagreeing with a decision of the Senate, has sent the matter back, and this Chamberhas, on reflection, altered its decision.
– This is not a case of sending back.
– I am discussing principles, and I say that this Chamber has no reason to think that the remotest discourtesy has been attempted. More than that, is it not desirable, when the same end can be achieved in two ways, to adopt the simpler, which has the advantage of following the usual method of intercourse between the two Chambers, and of courteously discussing the message. As I was in the chair when this matter was discussed previously, and had not an opportunity of speaking, may I say that I regret very much the assertion which has been made, times out of number, that this Chamber would be swamped in the case of a joint conference. For two reasons no suggestion could be more idle.
– Has that anything to do with the question we are now discussing ?
– I may be permitted to say a few words under the circumstances.
– Would not a joint Conference swamp us?
– Certainly not.
– Certainly it would.
– Does Senator Best think that his remarks have anything to do with the motion before the Senate 1
– I am not desirous of diverting from the question before the Senate, but honorable senators must be aware that when my mouth is closed asthe occupant of a certain position, I am under peculiar disadvantages. I will not pursue my remarks if they will create discussion ; but may I be permitted to say in a very few words that a number of honorable senators, including myself, indicated through Senator Clemons that it wasour intention to support the joint Conference, with the alteration that each Chamber should vote separately, so that a majority would in each case be assured ? The same end can be achieved if this motion be rejected, but I urge the Senate to adopt the simpler courses proposed by the Government.
– Senator Best has, I think, accurately stated the practice and the constitutional aspect of thequestion, but he appears to have left practical politics out of consideration. As a. number of honorable senators who voted against the motion when it was considered in Committee are still, I suppose, opposed to a joint Conference, why should they be asked to help the enemy a step towards their goal 1 I agree with Senator Best that, in the longrun, if we go into Committee, fresh instructions may be given to it by the Senate to consider the very small amendments which occur in the new motions. Why should those who> oppose a joint Conference vote for a- recommittal or reconsideration of a proposal to which we are absolutely opposed ] I take it, therefore, that honorable senators whoobject to a joint sitting will support Senator Clemons. If Senator Clemons obtains a majority of three or four, I take it that the Government will drop the matter.
– We cannot drop a. message from the other House.
– It is obviously wrong to throw it in our faces that we aretreating another place with discourtesy. Sofar from members of another place desiring to give us an opportunity of considering the matter, they desire only to induce or coax us to change our minds. Whyshould we be placed in that position 1 From: the view of practical politics, I do not feel inclined to help the Government towards a wrong determination.
– The honorable and learned senator is opposed to settling the question of the capital site.
– I am opposed to coming with undue haste to a settlement which has to last for centuries, and in such a matter I shall not help my adversary. Another difficulty is that the Constitution says that the capital site is to be selected by Parliament, and I do not see how, with any regard to constitutional practice, we can commence the process of selection with a joint Conference.
– I draw the attention of the honorable and learned senator to the fact that the joint Conference is not now under consideration.
– That is true, and I am only referring to it by way of illustration. When my coaxing friend, the VicePresident of the Executive Council asks me to take the step he proposes, I point out that he desires to settle this important question in a thoroughly unconstitutional manner.
– I call honorable senators attention to the new standing order, which- provides that on a division being called for, honorable senators shall take their seats on the side on which they intend to vote.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Order of the day discharged.
Consideration of House of Representatives’ message (vide page 5439) :
That, with a view of facilitating the performance of the obligations imposed on Parliament by section 125 of the Constitution, it is expedient that a Conference take place between the two Houses of the Parliament to consider the selection of the seat of government of the Commonwealth.
That this House approves of such Conference being held on a day to be fixed by Mr. Speaker and Mr. President, and that it consist of all the Members of both Houses.
That at such Conference an exhaustive open ballot be taken to ascertain which of the following localities, viz., Albury, Armidale, Bathurst, Bombala, Dalgety, Lake George, Lyndhurst, Orange, and Tumut, reported on b3’ the Royal Commission on Sites for the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth, appointed by the GovernorGeneral, on the 14th day of January, 1903, is in the opinion of the Members of the Parliament the most suitable for the establishment within such locality of such seat of government.
That Mr. Speaker be empowered, in conjunction with Mr. President, to draw up regulations for the conduct of such Conference, and for the taking of such exhaustive ballot.
That the name of the locality which receives an absolute majority of the votes cast at such Conference be reported to the House by Mr. Speaker.
That it is expedient that a Bill be introduced after such report has been made to the House, to provide for determining, as the seat of government of the Commonwealth, a site within the locality so reported to the House.
That the passage of the last preceding resolution be an instruction for the preparation and introduction of the necessary measure ; and that leave be hereby given for that purpose.
That so much of the Standing Orders of this House be suspended as would prevent the adoption or carrying into effect of any of the above resolutions.
That these resolutions be communicated to the Senate by a message requesting its concurrence therein.
The first of these resolutions affirms the desirability of a Conference taking place. I desire to emphasize the fact that it is a Conference that is asked for, and not a joint sitting of the two Houses. It has been frequently stated that there has been a proposal that there should be a joint sitting of the two Houses, and, as the Constitution provides in certain cases for a joint sitting of the two Houses, some confusion may have arisen as to what was proposed in these resolutions. I emphasize the fact that the proposal is not for a joint sitting of the two Houses, but fora Conference.
– If we have an open ballot we shall know how each member of both Houses votes, and it will be a very simple matter to ascertain in that case what would be the decision if the voting had been by the House of Representatives and the Senate separately.
– Would the votes be recorded separately ?
– I do not know whether they would or not. That is a detail which I presume will be arranged by the President and Mr. Speaker, because one of the resolutions provides that they shall make regulations for the carrying out of the ballot. In any case with an open ballot it would be very easy to see what would be the result if the House of Representatives and the Senate had voted separately.
– Will the honorable and learned senator make that proposal at once?
– It is not for me to do so. The House of Representatives has passed these resolutions, and, as honorable senators are aware, they have made an important alteration providing for open voting. This is so important that to a certain extent it should neutralize or destroy the objections hitherto entertained to the proposed proceedings.
– The honorable and learned senator does not mean to suggest that we should accept or reject these resolutions in their entirety, and that there is no other alternative ?
– It is not for me to invite honorable senators to move amend? ments upon the motion I propose to submit, but they know that it is perfectly competent for the Senate to ask for any condition or to suggest any limitation. I am referring to the resolutions as they stand, and I shall presently mention the message which I propose the Senate shall send to the House of Representatives. I think there should be no objection to the Conference proposed. As I have urged once before, it will have the great advantage that it will increase the probability of the two Houses being able to agree upon a particular site. We all admit that the question is one which cannot be decided unless at some stage the two Houses are in agreement upon it.
– Will the honorable and learned senator deal with the whole of these resolutions in one motion 1
– Yes ; I shall state presently the message I propose in reply to that from the House of Representatives. It seems to me that there can be no objection to a Conference, and that it is much . better that we should hold a Conference on the subject before the matter is discussed in either House in such a way that a partisan attitude may be adopted with regard to any of the sites suggested. It has been said that it would have been better if this matter had been dealt with in the form of a Bill. The disadvantage of that course would be that unless both Houses agreed at once upon some particular site, we should have one House in favour of one site and the other in favour of another. And though we might ultimately have a Conference, it would only be after each House had to a certain extent pledged itself to a different site.
– It would reduce the number of sites to two.
– That would be of no very great advantage, because there could be no compromise between two sites. If the Houses adopted a partisan attitude, and one voted for one site and the other for a different site, a settlement of the question could only be arrived at by one giving way entirely to the other. Surely it is desirable that we should, if possible, avoid that position. It has been said that the Government should have come down with a Bill including a particular site. I think that would be very undesirable, because this is not a matter which the Government should decide. The Constitution says that it is to be decided by the Parliament, and if the Government were to adopt that plan and bring down a Bill embodying the name of a particular site we should be told at once, as »we have been told in connexion with other matters, that the Government having embodied a particular site in a Bill, Government supporters, at all events, would not be absolutely free to vote for any other site which they preferred.
– The Government could bring down a Bill with a blank in it.
– The result would be the same, because some one would have to move that the blank be filled by the name of a particular site.
– Not necessarily a Minister.
– It might be a private member ; but, in any case, the Government would be called upon to support one site, and the element of partisanship would be introduced at once. The Government are endeavouring by the means suggested to secure the selection of a site by Parliament and not by the Ministry. I think that the course which was proposed is free from the objections which would accompany any initiative on the part of the Government in the matter. It is entirely a mistake to suppose, as some persons have done, that by this proposal one House would be absolutely swallowed up by the other. It is not as though both Houses sat and voted together to decide upon the Federal Capital site. The Conference is only proposed to ascertain which site should be put into the measure which must subsequently be adopted by Parliament. When the Conference has come to a conclusion we can proceed in the ordinary way by means of a Bill, and it will then be competent, as I have said before, for every member of both Houses to vote for any site he pleases.
– Submit a Bill straight away, and save time.
– By the adoption of the proposal for a Conference no honorable senator will be placed under any binding obligation, or in any worse position as the result of a Conference having taken place. Senator McGregor asks why we should not. submit a Bill at once and save time, but I have given the reason over and over again..
– Because theGovernment would have to accept som& shred of responsibility which they do not accept now.
– I have pointed out that it is not right that the Government should take the responsibility in this matter.
– That is what they are there for.
– The Constitution says that the site shall be selected by Parliament, and not by the Government, and at the very earliest stage we should give Parliament an opportunity of dealing with the question. If at the Conference it should happen that the site selected is one which will commend itself to both Houses, so much the better. If it does not, then neither House will be placed in a worse position ; we can proceed by Bill afterwards. On the other hand, if we meet in Conference, and the matter is discussed, there will be a stronger probability of our coming to an agreement on one site than there would be if the proposal had first been made in a Bill, and the matter discussed in each House. It will be noticed by honorable senators that two of the resolutions relate particularly to the. House of Representatives.
It would be inappropriate for us to concur in those resolutions, and therefore it is necessary to pass similar resolutions. I move -
Conference be reported to the Senate by the President.
I know that most honorable senators desire that this question shall be settled during this session. To my mind it is very important indeed that it should be done. I hope that honorable senators will discuss the motion in that spirit, and endeavour, within a reasonable time, to arrive at a conclusion.
– I rise to move the amendment of which I have given notice. I think it is absolutely necessary to first provide how the land should be acquired. W e have had sufficient experience in the acquisition of land for public purposes to know that some steps should be taken to prevent persons from getting an enhanced price for their land - at the expense of the people of the Commonwealth. The second proposition in my amendment is that from a certain number of sites one should be selected by means of an exhaustive ballot. I have made the scope of the amendment as wide as possible for the purpose of giving an opportunity to the Government to introduce a Bill which will meet with the approval of a majority in each House. It does not matter whether it is introduced in one House or the other. The least which can be done is to reduce the number of sites to two. If that reduction were made it would be much easier to hold a Conference with some prospect of settling the question this session. I do not wish to speak at any length because we have had a long discussion on this subject. I hope that the amendment will be carried tonight, and that next week the Government will introduce a Bill to carry out the intention of the Senate. Some honorable senators may say, “Why not negative the motion of the Attorney-General, as it will amount to the same thing.” I would point out to them that by carrying my amendment the Senate will not only decline to concur in the request which has come from another place, but will actually direct the Government as to what course of action will meet with its approval.
– We practically gave that direction to the Government, and they took no notice of it.
– The honorable and learned senator knows that the decision of the Committee was not reported to the Senate, and that until a decision of the Senate is reported to another place it ought not to be noticed by them. I am sure that the honorable and learned senator takes very little notice of what is done in another place until it is reported to the Senate in a proper manner. I hope that my amendment will be adopted, because, to my mind, it offers the easiest solution of a difficult question.
– Perhaps it would be better for the honorable senator to move that his amendment should be inserted after the word “ That,” so that if it is negatived the Senate will have an opportunity of further considering the motion.
– I move-
That, after the word “ That,” line 1, the following words be inserted : - “The Senate respectfully requests the Government to introduce a Bill containing provisions (1) for the method of resuming land for the Federal territory, and (2) for selecting the Federal territory by means of an exhaustive ballot.”
– I ask, sir, whether that amendment is any answer to the message from the other House ?
– It appears to me that it is irrelevant, and therefore out of order.
– The subject-matter which is being discussed is the method of choosing a capital site; and I think that the amendment is relative to the subjectmatter. It may be that if it is carried the resolution of the Senate ought to be communicated by message to the other House.
– I ask, sir, if you will put the questions seriatim ?
– If the amendment is lost, I will put the questions separately.
– Is this the correct stage, sir, to propose as an addition to the amendment that a communication be sent to the other House, or can that be done later?
– It may be moved now.
– I do not propose to move an addition, but to vote against the amendment. It appears to me that we ought to proceed in an orderly way, and I submit, sir, that the amendment is no answer to the message from the other House.
– I do not think it -would be at all irregular to move the amendment now. The honorable senator may, however, prefer to wait until the words are inserted in the motion, and to then move the amendment. Either course is in accordance with ordinary practice.
– I would warn honorable senators who desire a site to be chosen to vote against the amendment. It is well known that a majority of the Senate are against a Conference being held, and that the only way in which the Federal territory can be selected is by means of a Bill. If honorable senators who are in favour of a Conference voted against Senator McGregor, his amendment asking the Government to introduce a Bill would be lost, and the proposal of the Government asking for a Conference would also be lost. I ask those honorable senators whether they desire to put the Senate in that position 1
– - I intend to vote for the amendment. On a previous occasion I said that I did not believe in a Conference, because, in my opinion it was not the correct method of procedure for the Government to adopt. I do not share the views of Senator Dobson and others who have openly declared that they do not wish a site to be chosen this session. I desire the Senate to have an opportunity of making a choice this session. The amendment, I think, puts the position very clearly. If it is carried, the Senate will have declared to the other House that it is not in favour of interminable delay, and is in favour of choosing a site. I believe that it is the correct course to adopt. I indorse the remarks of Senator Higgs. A number of honorable senators are very anxious to have the site chosen, and yet some of them intend to vote against the amendment which offers the only possible alternative to a Conference.
– The amendment if carried will shelve the proposal for a Conference.
– But But it will open up the only possible alternative for those who desire the selection this session. It has been shown that there is a majority against the joint sitting, and I am prepared to believe that there is now even a larger’ majority against the Conference than there was on the former occasion. I ask those who are anxious to have the site determined this session to consider fully what they are doing before rejecting the amendment, because, if they buoy themselves up with the hope that we shall reverse the vote taken a fortnight ago, they are mistaken. It is because I am earnest in my desire to have the matter settled this session that I shall support the amendment.
– It has been represented to me that if I put the motion in the form, - “ That all the words after ‘ the ‘ be struck out,” with a view of inserting Senator McGregor’s amendment; it will give honorable senators a fuller opportunity of voting on all the issues than if I put the question in the manner I first indicated. I shall therefore put the question - “ That the word ‘ the ‘ be struck out, “ with a view of inserting Senator McGregor’s amendment.
– That method of putting the question will give us an opportunity of voting for the retention of the word “ the.” If that is struck out, it will be an indication that the Senate will not agree to the proposal made by the AttorneyGeneral. It will then leave the Government in the position of being able to support Senator McGregor’s proposal if they so choose.
– I understand that Senator McGregor’s proposal is merely an alternative to that of the Government. The Government propose that the Senate go into a Conference ‘with the House of Representatives to consider certain resolutions passed by them, and certain additional matters proposed by .the Senate. Thea Senator McGregor submits an amendment, the terms of which I urge honorable senators to consider. I think I shall be able to satisfy them that to adopt it is .the very course that will lead to interminable delay instead of hastening the consideration of the subject. In the first place, Senator McGregor wants the Bill to provide for the method of resuming the land for the Federal territory, and also to provide for the selection of thecapital by means of an exhaustive ballot. The plain meaning of the latter portion of this proposed amendment, to which I urge the particular attention of senators, is that a Bill has to be submitted to provide for the taking of an exhaustive ballot, and thus delay the selection of the capital site until after an Act of Parliament has been passed authorizing the exhaustive ballot for such purpose. Then I would ask in which Chamber is the exhaustive ballot to take place? Is it to be in the House of Representatives, or in the Senate, or in both Houses? If there is to be a joint sitting of the two Houses for the purpose of holding the exhaustive ballot, that would be the ; same thing as going into a joint Conference, and accepting the decision of the majority. If we are going to do anything to-night, we had better follow the course suggested by the honorable andlearned Attorney-General than adopt the proposal of Senator M cGregor, which, as I have already said, means interminable delay ; certainly such delay as will prevent the selection of the capital during the life of the present Parliament. If the motion is negatived, what position will the Government be in? They will have to introduce a Bill if they are to carry out the promise made to us. It may be that I am doing Senator McGregor an injustice by the interpretation I am putting upon his amendment, but what I have suggested is the plain meaning of its language. I therefore hope that honorable senators will not accept it, but will adopt the original motion. It is my intention to vote with the Government, because I am desirous of bringing together the two Houses to discuss the question. Of course, as I have already said, it would have been much more simple if the Government had, in the first instance, submitted a Bill proposing a site, leaving it to Parliament to decide the best one amongst the many suggested. But we have got into such a position that the shortest course for us to take is that suggested by the Government.
– I find myself on the horns of a dilemma. I wish to vote for a Conference, but if I vote against Senator McGregor’s amendment, I shall be voting so as to declare that the Government shall not bring in a Bill. I believe that the best way out of the difficulty is to have a Conference. Senator McGregor’s amendment proposes that a Bill shall be brought in. But should that be negatived, and should the Conference proposal be rejected, it will be said that the Senate does not want a Conference, and does not want the Government to introduce a Bill. It will be inferred, therefore, that we do not want to have anything done in the matter of selecting a capital site. I am inclined to appeal to Senator McGregor, and to those supporting him, to let us have a straightout vote on theConference question. If we cannot carry it, it will be for the Government to take the responsibility of introducing a Bill, or of not doing anything this session to decide the question. But we cannot have a straight-out vote while the amendment is before the Senate. There are two forces in the Senate - those who wish for interminable delay, and those who wish a different course to be adopted from that proposed by the Government. Those two forces are going to combine, in order to defeat the Conference proposal. But Senator McGregor and those who do not wish delay, but who wish a different course to be adopted, by defeating the Conference may tend to prevent any settlement. It would therefore be much more satisfactory if Senator McGregor would withdraw his proposal. Of course, the best course of all would have been for the Government to take upon themselves the responsibility of introducing a Bill. But we have to deal with the message that has come to us from another place. If Senator McGregor does not withdraw his amendment, I shall vote for the Government motion.
Question - That the word “ the “ proposed to be left out be left out - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be inserted - put. The Senate divided.
Majority …. … 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Senator McGREGOR (South Australia). - Before the balance of the words are struck out I should like to move an amendment, or leave it to the Government to move an amendment, to the effect that the Senate disagree with the resolutions of the House of Representatives.
Question - That the- remaining words of paragraph 1, and paragraphs 2 to 4, be left out - resolved in the affirmative.
That a message be sent to the House of Representatives informing them that the Senate doea not concur in the resolution of the House of Representatives.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear.
Motion (by Senator. Drake) agreed to -
That a message be sent to the House of Representatives informing them that the Senate does not concur in the resolutions of the House of Representati ves .
– I move -
That order of the day No. 4 - “Eastern Extension Company’s agreement : Further consideration in Committee of message No. 13 of the House of Representatives “ - be read, and discharged.
The Government have agreed to a Conference. I cannot inform the Senato at present as to when and where the Conference will be held, but I shall do se at the earliest opportunity.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Order of the day discharged.
Senate adjourned at 9.50 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 September 1903, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1903/19030930_senate_1_17/>.