2nd Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I should like to ask the Attorney-General if he can give us an idea as to when the papers relating to the Departmental Inquiry on the scheme of defence, together with the covering memorandum laid upon the table, will be printed ?
– I hope that the papers will be laid upon the table to-day.
– I beg to ask the AttorneyGeneral whether he has any objection to place upon the table of the Senate the comprehensive letter written by Burns, Philp, and Co., to the Honorable William Hughes* ex-Minister of External Affairs, having reference to the proposed improved steam-ship service to the New Hebrides?
– Will the honorable senator leave out the word “ comprehensive “ ?
– That was the term used by Colonel Burns, and it appears that it distinguishes that letter from a number of others which I understand have been written to the Department.
– I am not personally acquainted, with the letter, and will ask my honorable friend to repeat his question at the next sitting day. I will attend to the matter in the meantime.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
Motion (by Senator Clemons) agreed to -
That one month’s leave of absence be granted to Senator Millen on account of illness.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 17 th November, vide page 71 11):
Proposed new clause 72A -
That part of this Act shall come into operation on a day to be fixed by proclamation, not being less than six months after the commencement of this Act.
– The new clause which my honorable friend, Senator Guthrie, has moved is the first of a series of clauses in which he proposes to effect a very considerable departure in respect of the Bill upon which we are now engaged. I think that the honorable senator has done wisely to discuss the whole series of clauses in moving the first of them. They open up some very grave questions.- There is no one who has taken a deeper interest in the subject involved than the honorable senator. But I believe that the clauses are by no means what he -described as “ machinery.” They involve a good deal more than that. Senator Guthrie seems to be of opinion that the language of the earlier part of the Bill includes seamen on board over-sea vessels, that is, vessels sailing under foreign flags, or under the British flag. As to that I think he is mistaken. At any rate, whether mistaken or. not, whatever may be the correct view, the Senate will’ recollect-
– I think he stated that the first definition included only the InterState seamen.
– If I gathered Senator Guthrie’s view correctly he put the argument - and if it were well founded it would be a very strong argument - that the definition clause covers all seamen coming into territorial waters, whether on board British or foreign ships, or on board Inter-State ships.
– He said that the definition clause should do so.
– I gathered from my honorable friend that he considered that all these seamen were within the definition, but that machinery was necessary in order to bring the Bill into operation in respect of them ; and from that point of view he commended these clauses to the Committee as only embodying machinery which would give effect to the provisions covering all these seamen. If I am mistaken I shall, of course, be only too pleased to acknowledge it. But I regard that as the argument which Senator Guthrie submitted to the Committee as the foundation of his contention that these were merely machinery clauses, and that, therefore, we ought not to look upon them as involving any point of policy or any substantial piece of legislation. He said that they were in effect - to use the word again - “ machinery,” to bring to bear the provisions of the measure upon a class of employes already included, or possibly to be included, under the definition clause of the Bill. He used the expression “ by. land or by sea.” That is how it struck me; and I took it that his reason for describing these provisions as merely “ machinery “ clauses was because of his taking that view.
– I think Senator Guthrie’s view is that these clauses are necessary to bring the over-sea seamen under the Bill.”
– If what I have described be the view which Senator Guthrie suggested, I reply that these are not machinery clauses. I think the Committee will be making a mistake if they regard them simply from that innocuous point of view, because if the definition clause is already extensive enough to cover this particular section of employes, then clearly a very different question is involved in dealing with these clauses than if the clauses themselves are necessary to bring employes on over-sea ships within the ambit of the Bill. If they are within the Bill, and machinery only is necessary, a less serious question is raised. If the Bill does not extend to such employes, and these particular provisions are necessary to bring them under the Bill, then, to put it without being too emphatic, I think Senator Guthrie is mistaken, and that the question is more serious. I may remind the Committee that it was on this very point that the original author of this Bill retired from the Barton Government. The question upon which that difference of opinion took place was as to the desirability of dealing with this subject in a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, rather than in a Navigation Bill. The right honorable member for Adelaide, after having retired from the Government, indicated an amendment expressly to bring the seamen on over-sea ships within the operation of this Bill. His view, evidently, was that they would not be included unless words were added to the definition clause to the effect that the definition of “ industry “ should include “ all ships carrying goods or passengers coastwise in Australia.” I agree that the definition clause of this Bill does not extend to these over-sea seamen, and that it would be necessary to do what Mr. Kingston apparently intended, if he had not, unfortunately, been laid aside by his lamentable illness. He intended to test the question by proposing to enlarge the definition and that is the true view. If that be so, then these particular clauses, which are moved by Senator Guthrie, involve the consideration of all the questions which are entailed in the enlargement of the definition. That is to say, we have to determine, as we have undoubtedly a right to do, whether over-sea seamen shall be brought under the Bill. I agree with Senator Guthrie that we may forbid any vessels that are not registered in Australia from participating in our coastal trade. I do not doubt for a moment that the Commonwealth Parliament is entitled to legislate in that direction. But having that power, what we have to determine is, first - and this question lies at the root of these provisions - whether we are prepared at present to forbid over-sea ships, whether flying the British flag or foreign flags, to participate in the coastal trade of Australia. The second question we have to determine is: if not prepared to forbid their participation in the coastal trade of Australia, are we prepared to limit its operations ; are we prepared in any way to disturb that participation as far as it may extend ; are we prepared, in other words, indirectly to prohibit it? We have a perfect right to prohibit it directly or indirectly as we please. Are we prepared to do indirectly what we are not prepared to do by direct prohibition ? The next question is : are we prepared to impose a prohibition having in view the interests of ‘ remote States of this Commonwealth - I allude of course to Western Australia, to Tasmania, and to Queensland, which are largely dependent upon communication by sea. That consideration applies less, perhaps, to Queensland than to Western Australia and Tasmania. Are we prepared to throw difficulties - I only put it that way at the present stage - in the way of facilities at least for passenger traffic in relation to those States ? Because of course, these clauses would extend to all States. We must remember, under that heading, that we are not at all in the same position as America. I am now dealing with the matter as one of prohibition. I do not intend to deal with the subject at any length, as I. had an opportunity to refer to it on the motion for the second reading of the Navigation Bill and expressed my views freely on the whole matter then. I say we are not in the same position as America. Of course there is prohibition in America in regard to coastal trade. But we must recollect that America is first of all a country of some 80,000,000 people; and, in the next place, that oversea communication between Europe and America is by direct communication from’ port to port. That is, vessels go from Liverpool to Boston, from Liverpool to New York, and between other ports of that description ; and the United States are not situated as are, for instance, Western Australia and Tasmania.
– What of Honolulu?
– Well, what about it? Honolulu is not in the same position in regard to the United States as is, for instance, Western Australia or Tasmania, which are integral States of this Union. These States ought, I think, to be afforded every possible facility of communication with the other States. Instead of creating any difficulties whatever to disturb or embarrass their trade, we should remove all that we possibly can. For instance - again referring to Western Australia - we have ships at present coming from Europe and calling at Fremantle. On the -face of it there is no possible reason why they should not be permitted to meet the convenience of passengers. The matter should be looked at not from the point of view of the steam-ship owner, but from the point of view of the community.. What reason can there be for throwing difficulties in the way of the people of -Western Australia having that means of getting to the other States, in addition to whatever else is at their disposal ? If difficulties are thrown in the way of these ships they may refuse to take passengers - because that is the only method by which they can escape the net sought to be cast round them - or they may refuse or omit to call. We cannot have all things to please us ; we must get as much as we can. It must be remembered that owing to circumstances, with which we are all familiar, the mail service is not exactly bound in the way in which it hitherto has been. When the mails are carried under other conditions there is no binding obligation on the mail ships to call at these ports. They will not be bound to call at all, and by enacting these clauses at this particular stage, we may be putting into their hands a means of causing trouble and inconvenience to the people at these different places.
– That is, if they have no other means of communication.
– The people of Western Australia are entitled to every possible facility of communication. We ought not to say to them, “We shall give you so much facility, and you must be content with that.”
– Western Australia has prohibited the foreigner from trading on her own coast.
– I am not talking about that. We have the power to prohibit the trading if we think it advisable in the interests of Australia. Tasmania would be in just the same position as Western Australia. We should prohibit all the . vessels which go from Sydney to Hobart during the fruit season, from carrying a single passenger unless they rendered themselves liable, whilst they were in Australian waters, to the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
– To the laws of the Commonwealth.
– Does my honorable friend wish to encourage the trade, and to give facilities to our own people ?
– Then, at the early stage of this young nation’s existence, do not let us throw difficulties of this kind in the way of commerce, and trade, and facilities for passengers.
– The same argument applies to ships calling at North Queensland.
– Yes. Under what my honorable friend referred to as “ machinery “ clauses, he proposes to enact that -
A ship shall be deemed to be engaged in the coasting trade if she takes on board at any port or place in Australia, passengers or cargo to be carried to and landed or delivered at any other port or place in Australia.
It is all made dependent upon the carrying, it may be, of one passenger. Suppose that, by inadvertence, a vessel were to take on board one passenger at a Western Australian port.
– How could that occur ?
– Because of ignorance of the law. Of course, every man is behind to know the law, but that is a truism which is more forcible by its exceptions than by its applicability.
– Is the honorable and learned senator trying to make us believe that the agents of the Peninsular and Oriental and Orient lines are so innocent as not to know the law ?
– I am trying to point out what the provisions would do. It might happen by inadvertence so far as the agent was concerned. If a passenger or a parcel of cargo be taken on board, then immediately the ship is brought under theoperation of the Act, from which it cannot escape, and, on the other hand, the men on board lose all the protection of its provisions in territorial waters if the ship does not take a passenger or parcel of goods.
– The honorable and learned senator is straining the argument.
– That is what the clause says.
– The Court has to construe it in all good faith.
– What we are dealing with now is the definition. What makes a Peninsular and Oriental steamer a coaster ?
– Do notbring in the question of inadvertence.
– It might occur. A vessel would not escape the law because she took in two or three passengers in a hurry just as she was leaving her anchorage.
– Say deliberately, not inadvertently.
– Well, having got on board one passenger, deliberately or knowingly, the master would have to enter into an agreement with the members of his crew in accordance with schedule C. That is an entirely new departure ; it is a fresh enactment. We do not bring the vessel within the ambit of the Act until we make the master and crew at Fremantle first have on board this passenger deliberately, and secondly enter into this agreement, bringing him under the operation of the Act. I am perfectly certain that, in effect, it would become an absolute prohibition.
– We should never get these ships to do it. What we should do would be to destroy the trade and do no good to those whom we seek to benefit. Then, having done that, the clause would impose a penalty on the agent or master who suffered or permitted the ship to engage in the coastal trade, that is, by taking a passenger or parcel of goods without- having entered into this agreement. My honorable friend will see that these provisions are not machinery. Literally they constitute a new kind of Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. Under the provisions of the Bill as it stands, seamen on over-sea ships are not included. It is now sought to bring them in by means of what is really a combined Navigation and Arbitration Bill. My honorable friend makes use of the navigation provisions, and the principles he desires to embody in the Navigation Bill, in order to give a foundation for the applicability of the awards. When I began my remarks I stated what I believed to be the view of the author of the Bill at the time of his parting company with the Barton Government.
– He said that if a declaration were made?
– The amendment which he indicated was to add words so as to bring ships within its operation.
– Only to emphasize it.
– To remove the possibility of doubt. Without this new enactment, the Bill would probably have no application, and, therefore, it cannot be viewed from the stand-point of machinery. These clauses are more appropriate to a Navigation Bill than to this Bill. The questions as to what a ship may or may not do, as to the character of the trade in which it may engage, and as to what constitutes a participant in the trade, are all matters for. a Navigation Bill. These were all embodied in the Navigation Bill, which was dropped, and is now undergoing investigation by a Royal Commission.
– The same principle was enacted in the Immigration Restriction Act
– I think not. My honorable friend said yesterday there was an analogy in that Act in regard to no labour being admitted into the Commonwealth when bound by contract. But that is no parallel at all. The case of the six hatters has no application to this kind of enactment. In that Act we simply say that a man under contract, under the conditions therein referred to, shall be, in effect, a prohibited’ immigrant. But these clauses propose to regulate navigation. To say that if a ship does a particular thing she shall be deemed to be engaged in the coasting trade is totally different from prohibiting a man under contract, or a man who cannot answer the educational test, from coming in.
– “ Prohibited immigrants “ include -
Persons under contract or agreement to serve as part of the crew of a vessel engaged in the coasting trade in Australian waters, if the rates of wages specified therein are not lower than the rates ruling in the Commonwealth.
– We prevent them from coming in, but that has nothing to do with the present question. It is a pity that we should deal with this matter in an off-hand way by means of an amendment in the Bill now, when, as the result of a disturbance of the Barton Ministry, and subsequent policy, it was embodied in the Navigation Bill, where it certainly Is appropriate, although there is no doubt as to the power of the Parliament by a separate Bill to so legislate.
– Will the honorable and learned senator support these clauses in the Navigation Bill ?
– I opposed them in the Navigation Bill, as I shall do again.
– The honorable and learned senator would oppose them everywhere.
– I should at the present stage of the condition of this country. I do not wish to interpose obstables in the way of our trade, and prevent people living in remote parts from getting from place to place. It is a pity to take these provisions away from the Navigation Bill. I recognise what my honorable friend says as to competition being the basis of his whole contention. It is a competition which is for the benefit of the people of this country. It is a competition which cannot be disposed of in my humble view without absolute prohibition.
– Make the competition, equal.
– It cannot be made equal. It is a petty and trivial matter. Is it not ridiculous that in the case of a German mail-ship calling at Fremantle we should be so interested in her seamen that we should wish to vary the terms of their wages contract between Fremantle and Adelaide? When is the engaging in the coastal trade to begin and cease? It is to begin when a ship takes a passenger on board ; is it to cease the moment she- puts him ashore?
– Exact! v.
– If a steamer takes a passenger on board at Adelaide for Melbourne, then for a day and a half we are to apply all these complicated clauses in order to give the seamen on board a few shillings.
– There must be a minimum.
– Of course there must be a minimum, but the benefit is absolutely trivial to the seamen, and the advantage here will appertain to nobody except the local steamship owners. I wish them all- good luck; my good wishes are with them.
– What about the men engaged in the industry?
– If the prosperity of the Inter-State steam-ship companies is to depend on this kind of harassing restriction on a mail boat taking passengers from Western Australia to Melbourne
– It is no more than we propose to inflict on our own shipping.
– It is all a phantasmagoria, as Senator Henderson remarked the other day.
– To bring our seamen down to the level of lascars?
– I should like my honorable friend and all seamen to have every possible comfort, and the highest rate of wages which can possibly be maintained. Would my honorable friend have lascars paid the same wages as white seamen?
– Why not, if they compete with them?
– My honorable friend says that he would give lascars the same rate of wages as white men. I do not object to that being done, but I object to the trade of Australia being hampered, and passengers in these remote places being inconvenienced for the sake of a mere fanciful advantage. However, we shall have a much better opportunity to deal with the subject in the Navigation Bill, and we shall then have the advantage of the investigation being made by the Commission of which the honorable senator is a member. In the circumstances I hope that the amendment will not be pressed to a division.
Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia).The Attorney-General has tried to make little of my proposed amendments. There is no doubt that they are of no great importance in the opinion of the adherents of the Manchester or free-trade school, to which the honorable and learned senator belongs, and whose doctrine is to secure labour as cheaply as possible. That is the doctrine underlying the whole of the honorable and learned senator’s argument.
– I never said a word about getting labour as cheaply as possible.
– The honorable and learned senator contended that obstacles should not be put in the way of certain people. The only obstacle which would be raised by these new clauses would be an increase of wages to those engaged in the coastal trade in Australia who are not at present included in the Bill.
– Between Adelaide and Melbourne.
– lt is true that the Attorney-General referred to a minimum in order to ridicule the proposal, but in some branches of his own business the honorable and learned senator may charge only is. 8d. for some services he renders.
– Never !
– I think is. 8d. is the professional charge for licking a postage stamp. We have been told that it is possible for a passenger to inadvertently go on board a ship, but Senator Symon is aware that no ship can clear a port until her passenger list is produced to the authorities.
– What I said was that, not knowing the law, the captain of a ship might take a passenger on board.
– It is ridiculous to suppose that the captain of every ship arriving in Australia knows the whole of the laws of Australia.
– He ought to know the navigation law.
– There is not a man alive who knows the navigation laws of Great Britain. Under this Bill we give the Court power to make a common rule in respect of every industry throughout the Commonwealth, with this one exception. Why should the seafaring industry be excluded? The reason for the common rule provision is to prevent one employer competing unfairly against another. But this provision in the Bill is not applied to the industry in which unfair competition is most easy. Under our Alien Immigration Restriction Act we prevent the introduction of men under contract unless they are engaged on account of their special skill, and yet in this industry the doors are open to the cheapest and nastiest labour in the whole world’. I am not intending to make any forecast, but I call the attention of the Committee to the fact that up to the year 1848, under the laws of Great Britain, certain stipulations were made that every British ship, and not only those engaged in the British coasting trade, should carry a certain proportion of Britishers. Those laws were effective in laying the foundation of and building up the British mercantile marine. During the period in which they were in force, Great Britain assumed the supremacy of the sea, and wrested the carrying trade of the world from the Dutch. In 1854, the supporters of the free competition and freedomofcontract school were successful in repealing those navigation laws, and British ships were thrown open to .the cheapest crews to be got in any place in the world. The result has been that the British mercantile marine to-day is British only in name, and is manned chiefly by foreigners. This, in the opinion of practical and thoughtful men in Great Britain, is a national calamity.
– It has cut off all the British naval reserves.
– It is fully recognised that if Great Britain is to maintain her supremacy she must maintain it at sea; and do honorable senators expect that the lascars, Chinese, Frenchmen, and Germans, to whom we are giving special concessions under this Bill to trade along our coast, will assist to maintain the British flag?
– Does the honorable senator propose to cure all that by his clauses ?
– I say that they will help in the matter. No legislative measure can be said to be a cure-all for any evil. Senator Fraser, who is so patriotic that he is prepared to die for the flag, is yet prepared to destroy what should be ,the recruiting ground for the British Navy. I direct the attention of the Committee to the fact that 60 per cent, of the men engaged in the British mercantile marine to-day are. not Britishers. That is the result which has been brought about entirely by competition. “ Hans Olsen,’” who has a wife and family in Denmark or in Sweden can maintain them on very low wages, whilst the man who settles in our midst, and whose wife and family reside in Melbourne, Sydney, or Adelaide, cannot afford to work for the same wages. In competition with the foreigner he is forced to say, “ I cannot work for these wages, and therefore I shall not go to sea. I must go ashore, and compete with others engaged in shore industries to get a living.
– Mr. Walpole says that employers have no need to bother themselves about giving a man wages to support a wife and family.
– I know that it is said by many persons that a sailor has no right to have a wife and family. If there is any Australian national spirit in this Committee honorable senators will strive to foster it by doing what they can to keep our coastal trade for our own people. We saw in the newspapers only last week that a vessel manned in Australia was sent to New Guinea to trade, but the licence-fee charged by the authorities of German New Guinea was so heavy that her owners brought her back to Sydney. This has arisen, because of the unfair tax imposed on a British ship by a nation to whom honorable senators are under this Bill proposing to give preference.
– We are not proposing to do anything of the kind.
– Probably the honorable senator is strictly correct in saying that we are not proposing to do that, but I will show him how the Bill would operate. A dispute arises between Australian steam-ship-owners and their crews. The crews appeal to the Court to maintain even the present rate of wages and conditions, and the ship-owners may say, “ Look at the competition which we have to meet. We are in competition with ship-owners who pay firemen 13s. 4d. a month.”
– £8 a year?
– Yes, £8 a year. Those are the wages paid to:day to firemen on board ships that are competing with vessels owned by Australian ship-owners. The ship-owners will say to the Court, “ We cannot carry on our business in competition with others who are paying such wages, and we ask the Court to put us on a level with those who are competing against us.”
– We can best deal with that matter in a Navigation Bill.
– It is not a navigation question ; it is a question of wages.
– Handicap the foreigner by a Navigation Bill ; that is the proper course.
– If Senator Fraser were prepared to support my proposals in a Navigation Bill, he would support them as applied to this Bill. There is no more virtue in a Navigation Bill than there is in a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. The honorable ‘senator desires only to postpone dealing with this matter. His interjection, however, is an admission that it is unjust to ask Australian ship-owners to pay firemen £8 10s. a month when their competitors pay them only 13s. 4d.
– Who are the ‘ men who work for 13s. 4d. a month?
– The lascars on the Peninsular and Oriental steamers. The Australian ship-owners do not fear the .Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. We. have been told by them that all they ask is that they shall be placed on an equal footing with those who are competing against them. Even if Senator’ Dobson were President of an Arbitration Court under this Bill, Ke would have to admit that the Australian ship-owners would have a very good case. Senator Fraser, in view of what I have said, must admit that, by the exclusion of the seafaring industry from this Bill, if we are not giving foreigners a preference we are at least compelling our own people to come down to the level of the foreigners engaged in the industry. The result of fifty years operation of the Merchant Shipping Act has been that ships of the British mercantile marine have been flooded with lascars, Chinese, Japanese, and other races having a lower standard of living than the British. Instead of bringing others up to the level of the British seaman the tendency has been to bring British seamen down to the level of inferior races. Many with pluck and spirit have left British ships, have gone into American ships, or have given up the sea altogether. The AttorneyGeneral has advised that I should withdraw my proposed new clauses, and try to get them inserted in the Navigation Bill, but I have a good precedent for what I propose.
– I think it is quite competent for the Committee to introduce the clauses in this Bill, but as they are in the Navigation Bill I think we had better deal with them there.
– I would ask the honorable and learned senator what the Government has done in connexion with another matter? I remind him that bills of lading were fully dealt with in the Navigation Bill. But the Government, for some reason of their own, took out of that measure the provision which was referred to a Rova Commission. But without even consulting the Royal Commission the Government came down and asked leave to introduce a Bill to deal with the subject.
– The honorable senator can introduce a Bill to deal with this subject.
– I do not want a separate Bill. The Attorney-General told us that the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill may cover ships engaged in our coastal trade, and that there is only one exemption. But I am not too sure that even the ships that are not owned in Australia, and whose first port of clearance and port of destination are within the Commonwealth, do not come within, the operations of the Bill. The honorable and learned senator has not made that point clear. My own opinion is that they do come within the definition of industries on the water no matter where the vessels are owned. Do honorable senators think that because a factory is erected at Footscray, and the owner resides in London, he will escape the provisions of this measure? My own opinion is that every ship that engages in Australian industry will be brought under the measure, and the clauses which I propose are absolutely machinery clauses to reach those ships whose owners are not resident within the; Commonwealth.
– Does not the honorable senator say that they will be reached as the Bill stands now ?
– There is a possibility of their evading the measure as it stands, unless machinery clauses such as I propose are adopted. For instance, we say that when a ship arrives at the first port in Australia; if it intends to engage in the coastal trade, the master shall make an agreement with his men.. That is fair. Until he gets out of the jurisdiction of our Courts he will have to pay an extra amount of money to his men. That is all that my clauses mean. If honorable senators are of the same opinion as I am, and think that the Bill does not cover these ships, I hope they will assist me to make it effective by passing the necessary machinery clauses.
– I think that a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill is not the proper measure in connexion with which to discuss these clauses, and I can only express my astonishment that my honorable friend. Senator Guthrie, has brought them forward. If I were a member of the Navigation Commission which is considering these clauses - and which I should imagine would consider them with more earnestness than any other clauses in the
Navigation Bill - and if I found that a Member of Parliament, who was also a member of that Commission, suddenly attempted to propose the clauses in connexion with a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, I should think that he had taken a very improper course. 1 do not desire to credit my honorable friend with improper motives, but in my opinion the course which he has taken is improper. The people of Tasmania entered into Federation so that they might enlarge their privileges, increase their prosperity, and widen their constitutional freedom. But session after session we see our privileges taken away from us, our liberty curtailed, and even the advantages that we had when we were a separate State limited. These clauses affecting the coastal trade will, as the Attorney-General pointed out-, inflict a serious wrong upon the outlying” States, especially upon Tasmania, which is the only island State in the Union. Let me give an instance. It is perfectly true that the large steamers would still come and take fruit from Tasmania to Great Britain. But we hope to do a large fruit trade under Inter-State free-trade with the other Australian States. Suppose a fruitgrower in Tasmania sends a large shipment of fruit to England, and at the same time sends 100 cases to Melbourne, 200 cases to Adelaide, and 200 to Fremantle. Under these clauses the vessels could not take them.
– What vessels?
– The Peninsular and Oriental and Orient vessels could not take them unless they conformed to the arbitration award.
– Do they take fruit for the Inter-State trade now?
– To some extent, but in the future we hope to increase our Inter-State trade. We expect to enlarge our markets considerably. These clauses would cut into the means of communication which already exist. Then take our tourist traffic. We are creating a considerable tourist traffic between Sydney and Tasmania. Tourists who are fairly well off, and have money to spend, will take an allround ticket by means of which they can come to Tasmania in a Peninsular and Oriental or Orient boat, spend a holiday there, and afterwards come on to Melbourne, returning to Sydney by rail, or by means of another Peninsular and Oriental or Orient steamer. The tourist traffic is a great asset for Tasmania. We hope that our State will become the playground of the Commonwealth. But if we take away the means of coming to Tasmania in that comfortable fashion, great injury will be done to the trade. The AttorneyGeneral instanced the case of one passenger going on board a large oceangoing steamer. But suppose that a passenger gets on board a steamer at Fremantle, to come to Melbourne to see his dying son ; or that under great stress of business or illhealth, he desires to take a trip in a Peninsular and Oriental boat. He will be debarred from doing so under these clauses, because the Peninsular and Oriental and Orient Steamship companies will not agree to our Australian conditions, and, very properly, will not consent to be bound by an award of our Arbitration Court.
– Are there not coastal boats running every second day ?
– Do we not know that the more we increase the facilities for travelling, the more people will travel ? Travelling is good for trade. Then again, suppose there is a conflict between the navigation laws of Great Britain and the navigation laws of the Commonwealth. If that should happen, should we have the temerity and the stupidity to maintain that these great ocean-going steamers from Great Britain, sailing under the navigation laws of that country, must conform in all details to the award of an Arbitration Court in Australia? The navigation laws of Great Britain may prescribe a certain space for each seaman, whereas the Commonwealth navigation laws may impose a different condition. The navigation laws of Great Britain may provide that there shall be a certain number of apprentices, whereas our laws may prescribe a greater or a lesser number. The navigation laws of Great Britain may lay down regulations with regard to food and working hours which are entirely different from ours. Can we, as legislators and men of common sense, say that if one of these great steamers takes on board a single passenger, or a ton of cargo, from an Australian port, she is to be regarded as a coastal steamer for the purposes of the Arbitration Bill, and that the award of the Court must be carried out on board?
– The honorable and learned senator puts the argument the wrong way. The English navigation laws prescribe that Colonial legislation shall have the effect of British legislation in the coastal trade, but that all British ships must be treated alike. Senator Dobson proposes to make exceptions.
– The honorable senator cannot get out of the difficulty in that way. My point is as to what will happen when there is a conflict between the navigation laws of Great Britain and an award of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court. Then, again, my honorable friend, Senator Guthrie, seems to me to be unreasonable in desiring to apply the same rules and arbitration awards to our own sailors as to French, German, or English sailors. The conditions are not the same. A wage of £5 per month to an English sailor might be as good to him as £& per month to an Australian. The things which he has to buy may be cheaper in England than they are in Australia. For instance, house rent may be lower there than it is here. He may be getting his food cheaper in England. He will almost certainly get his clothing cheaper. Why. then, should the same arbitration award apply to him as to our own seamen? In one breath my honorable friend says that we are opening our ports to the “ nastiest labour in the world,” and in the next breath he says that he desires to pay the “ nastiest labour in the world “ the same wages as he would pay to the Australian workmen.
– For doing the same work.
– We know that the Peninsular and Oriental and Orient Companies employ men for different classes of work at different rates. Surely the honorable senator does not desire to pay a coloured man who can only do half the amount of work that an Australian or an Englishman can do, full Australian rates. If any one on this side of the Senate were to enunciate such a proposal he would be almost hooted out of the Chamber. But it shows to what extremes honorable senators are prepared to go in support of their labour legislation when they desire to pay to lascars the same wages as they would pay to Australian seamen. Their desire seems to be simply to create trouble and bother. Think of the columns of newspaper articles and the pages of Hansard which have been filled with regard to the employment of black men on the steamers that carry our mails. And how has it all ended? In smoke ! It is impossible that this legislation can have any practical effect. I should like to ask my honorable friend - has he a brief or any instruction from .the local ship-owners to introduce this clause?
– I rise to a point of order. I think that remark contains an imputation concerning me which I have a right to resent.
– I did not mean anyimproper imputation concerning the honorable senator.
– I object to the remark as being obnoxious to myself
– Then I ‘absolutely withdraw it because I feel that my honorable friend is hurt by it. But is there any outcry on the part of the local shipowners? Have they petitioned in favour of these clauses? Do they want them? I understand that the local ship-owners are doing exceptionally well under present conditions. They do not complain of competition. They are paying better percentages and better wages to their men than three-fourths of the factories. I understand, from figures quoted by Sir Malcolm McEacharn, that of the total annual trade, only about one-thirteenth is done by ships owned outside Australia. Do the local ship-owners think that the competition of the oversea ocean-going boats is unfair to them? In connexion with the Tasmanian tourist traffic I have repeatedly made application to the. Peninsular and Oriental and Orient Companies to put on two or three large steamers during Christmas time, because the Oonah, although she is a good little boat for the trade, is most uncomfortable when she is crowded with people during December and January. But the companies would not do it. They look upon the trade as belonging to the local ship-owners, with whom they have no desire to be unfriendly. They do not wish to encroach on their domain. But if we pass clauses of this kind affecting the coastal trade, we shall have the Peninsular and Oriental and Orient steamers coming down in the summer months, and they will enormously cut into the local traffic. I do not think that the local ship-owners will thank Senator Guthrie for asking for this protection for them.
– I never asked for protection for them. I ask for it for our seamen.
– I hope that the honorable senator will withdraw his clauses. We can consider them much better in connexion with the Navigation Bill. The
Royal Commission is collecting a large amount of evidence which will affect our minds on this subject. I therefore hope that he will not press them to a division.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia).I wish to give an indication of the reasons which will actuate me in the vote which I am about to give. Unlike Senator Dobson, I realize that Senator Guthrie is acting in this matter thoroughly in the interests of the seamen of Australia from his point of view.
– We all think that.
– The honorable senator thinks that the clauses which he has proposed are necessary for their interests. If the evidence shows me that the clauses are necessary I shall be prepared to support them at a later stage. But there is another point of view from which I must consider the question. The State which I represent is in a different position from the other States - excepting Tasmania - inasmuch as it has no railway communication with the rest of the Commonwealth.
– North Queensland is in the same position.
– -But North Queensland does not ask for any special exemption.
– North Queensland is not exactly in the same position, because the two nearest points on, the railway are not very far apart, whereas the journey from Fremantle to Adelaide occupies seven days.
– We cannot call a thousand miles a short distance.
– We have submitted this question, to a Royal Commission. That Commission, I take it, will inquire into the whole question of competition. It will have the opportunity to do so, and I hope will avail itself of that opportunity freely. It will probe the question of competition. I may add that whatever views I now hold I shall consider myself to be free; and if the evidence of the Commission is such as to induce me to change my vote when the Navigation Bill is brought forward, I shall do so with the greatest readiness. But until the Commission has reported I submit that there is nothing that has happened since 1 spoke on the second reading of the Navigation Bill that should induce me to alter my decision on the question. I would suggest to my honorable friend that it would be far better for him to see that the case is put as forcibly as possible before the Royal Commission, and backed up by. convincing evidence. It is possible for him to get all he aims at in the Navigation. Bill, and at the same time to thoroughly safeguard the position of seamen. I propose to quote a few figures to show that the position is not quite so bad as he says it is. The part played by oversea ships in the coastal trade is very small and insignificant. Taking the coastal trade of New South Wales at .£11,363,927, only ,£20,000 worth was carried in oversea boats, while of 70,778 passengers carried from that State only 6,671 were carried in oversea boats. In 1903 the coastal cargo trade of Western Australia was carried solely in locally-owned ships, and of 41,402 passengers only 13,144 were carried in the mail boats. Let us now consider the competition. In his Australian Joint Stock Companies Year Book, Mr. R. L. Nash, financial editor of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, gives the dividends paid by the Adelaide Steam-ship Company on a capital of .£507,175. In 1896 - very largely as the result of the Western Australian trade - it paid a dividend of 12 per cent. In 1897, 1898, and 1899 it paid a dividend of 9 per cent. In 1899-1900 it paid a dividend of 11 per cent., and a bonus of 10s. per share. In 1900 it enlarged its capital, and in 1901 it paid a dividend of 8 per cent, on the enlarged capital. Let me explain how the capital was enlarged. In 1890 its £10 shares were worth £4; in 1896, as the result of the Western Australian trade, they were worth ,£4 10s. ; and in 1900, each nominal ,£io share was converted into five £5 shares. On that watering of stock the company paid a dividend of 8 per cent. Let me now give the figures for the company with which the Adelaide Steamship Company had to compete on that particular line. Until 1890, the Orient Steam-ship Company’s dividend ranged from nothing to 5 per cent. In 1890 it was 3 per cent. ; in 1895, 1896. and 1897, it was 2J per cent.; in 1898 it was nil; in 1899 it was 3 per cent. ; and in 1900, a profit of .,£51,000 was made, and ,£27,902 was distributed among the shareholders. If the Adelaide Steam-ship Company’s trade is not paying, it has a very easy remedy at its command, and that is to raise its fares For it must be remembered that as regards the fares, the mail ships charge from 25 to 50 per cent, more than do the local companies. A single fare by a mail boat from Sydney to Fremantle is £14 for first class, £11 for second class, and £6 for third class, while the local steamers charge £9 for first class and £5 for steerage. A single fare by a mail boat from Melbourne to Fremantle is £12 for first class, £9 for second class, and £5 for third class, while the local steamers charge for first class and £4 for steerage. In the face of these figures, can it be claimed that there is unfair competition between the two lines?
– The object of these clauses is not to protect any line, but to protect the wages of the men.
– It is for those who contend that the mail steamers should be brought under the provisions of the Act to show that they are in some way injuring the trade of Australian steamers. It must be recognised that in the true sense of the term the mail steamers are not engaged in the Australian trade. We have no guarantee that if this legislation were passed it could be enforced. Mr. Higgins, the AttorneyGeneral in the Labour Government, admitted that it would be very difficult to enforce the agreement. Take a seaman who signs on in England, or Germany, or France’. He signs on in his own country, and for the rate of wages current therein. It is not stating the case fairly to say that the wages in England are low. Compared with Australia, that is the case-, but it should always be remembered that the seaman signs on at the English rate of wages. Does the Commonwealth intend to claim the right to alter the rate of wages current in Germany or England? Have we the power to enact such a provision? Supposing that we were ,to say to the British mail boats - “We shall compel you. while on the Australian coast, to pay the Australian rate of wages.” When a crew sign on, they sign” for the voyage at the English rate. The master of a ship would say to the men - “ I shall sign you on at that rate, but, owing to the operation of the Commonwealth law, I shall have to pay you, while on the Australian coast, at a correspondingly higher rate.” What is to prevent the master from saying to his crew - “ I shall give you for the round voyage the same amount as would be paid according to the English rate? On the Australian coast, I shall give you so much ; and, when you are away from the Australian coast, I shall give you so much less, but you shall get the same amount for the voyage as if you were paid at .the English rate all the time?” There is nothing to prevent a master from taking that course. It is contended that the new agreement made here would over-ride .the old agreement, and that the seamen could sue in the English Courts under the new agreement.
– That has never been contended.
– It has been contended in another place. Would any British Admiralty Court allow a Colonial Act to override the Merchant Shipping Act? I do not submit these considerations in a spirit of hostility, but merely to show the difficulty of enforcing these provisions, and the necessity of having the whole subject investigated by the Navigation Commission. It is in the power of Senator Guthrie, and any other person, to bring before that body the fullest possible evidence, in order to get a measure which would deal effectually with this question. Although I shall vote against his proposal on this occasion, still, if evidence should show that this legislation is absolutely necessary in the interest of Australian trade and seamen, and that it would be efficacious, I shall be prepared to reverse my vote on another occasion.
Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia). - This question needs more consideration than it has received. I cannot allow such statements as have been made to pass without contradiction. Senator Dobson has opposed my proposal because, as he thinks, it would interfere with the tourist traffic of Tasmania. He says that the people who visit Tasmania are all well-to-do, and can afford to travel on better boats than are usually engaged. If that be the case, surely they will not object to the Australian rate of wages being paid to the seamen? His argument will not hold water for a moment. Why my proposal has been received with so much hostility I do not know. I did anticipate that it would be considered on its meirts. It has been urged by Senator Pearce that these clauses should be enacted in the Navigation Bill. I am only asking that an act of justice shall be done to the seamen who are engaged on our coast. The Navigation Bill may never come before the Senate again, or if it is brought forward it may not be submitted in its present form. The Attorney-General has said that he will not be favorable to the clauses being enacted in the Navigation Bill’. Surely that is a good reason why I should ask Senator Pearce to support the insertion of the clauses in this Bill? He quoted some figures from Mr. Nash’s book in regard to the dividends paid by local companies.
He has not looked into this matter as much as he might have done. He quoted the dividends paid by one local company during the years when there was a fair amount of trade, but he overlooked the fact that for some years it paid no dividends, and its shares could be obtained for almost nothing.
– That was in the early days, before there was much trade.
– No. During years of depression, when the company was building up its trade no dividends were paid. Senator Pearce compared a public company with a proprietary company, but he did not mention that nearly all the proprietors of the Orient line draw very large salaries for supervision. Some figures have been quoted to show that the Peninsular and Oriental Company is not making any money. But the dividend paid does not fairly represent the value of the business which is done. Although its .£100 debentures are quoted in the Times at £208, yet it is said that it is crippled, and ought to receive a preference.
– A debenture is not a share, but a mortgage on the shareholders’ capital.
– Persons who lent £100 to the Peninsular and Oriental Company at 3 J per cent., can realize £208 if they like to sell their debentures.
– They are 7 per cent, debentures.
– The representatives of Western Australia who are opposed to my proposal are most inconsistent, because no foreign competition is allowed in its coastal trade. It is the only State in the Commonwealth which has prohibited foreign ships from trading along its coast. My authority for that statement is the Navigation Act which was assented to in 1896.
– Is the honorable senator aware that it ‘has never been assented to?
– Well, the Act which I hold in my hand bears the signature of Governor Onslow.
– It was disallowed because the measure was ultra vires of the Merchant Shipping Act.
– I believe that the Act is in force.
– The figures quoted by the honorable senator bear out my statement. He said that the coastal trade of Western Australia is carried on in British ships, proving conclusively that no foreign ship is engaged in trading between any two ports in that State. It is urged that there is no railway between Fremantle and Adelaide. Although there is no railway between the northern parts of Western Australia and Fremantle, still the carriage of passengers and cargo in foreign ships is prohibited. I do not propose to take up more time, because there seems to be a consensus of opinion that this matter needs still further investigation, and should be left to the Navigation Commission. I shall pursue the matter no further at present, but, whether they are dealt with in the Navigation Bill or not, I promise honorable senators that they will hear more of these clauses, and at a very early date. I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clauses 73 to 92 and schedules agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON laid on the table -
Defence Forces. - Memorandum by a Committee in regard to the command and administration of the Military and Naval Forces of the Commonwealth, together with memorandum thereon by Senator the Hon. A. Dawson and MajorGeneral Sir Edward T. H. Hutton, K.C.M.G., CB.
Ordered to be printed.
– I may be permitted to congratulate honorable senators on the praiseworthy, indeed excellent, progress which we have made in connexion with the exceedingly important Bill, the report of which has just been adopted. In view of the progress which has been made, I do not propose to proceed with any other business to-day, nor do I think it is necessary that the Senate should meet on Tuesday next.
– We might deal with the report stage of the Trade Marks Bill.
– I donot propose to go on with that Bill in theabsence of Senator Best, but I hope to be able to take it on Wednesday next, after we have dealt with the third reading of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. I therefore move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday next.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 12.19 P-m-
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 18 November 1904, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1904/19041118_senate_2_23/>.