2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
SenatorFINDLEY. - I desire to ask the Minister of Defence, without notice, a series of questions relating to Chinese immigrants.
Senator PLAYFORD.- I would ask the honorable senator to give notice of the questions for the next day of sitting.
Senator FINDLEY. - I beg to give notice accordingly.
The PRESIDENT. - It seems to meand I think that the principle was adopted last session by the Senate -that information of this nature ought to be obtained by means of a motion, and not a question,because it really involves a return. However, I am not prepared to rule the notice out of order.
NEW ADMINISTRATION: SPECIAL ADJOURNMENT.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia -Minister of Defence). - Honorable senators will recollect that when we met last Wednesday the Minister then leading the Senate informed this House that in consequence of a certain recommendation which the then Ministry had tendered to His Excellency the Governor-General, arid which hadnot been accepted, they were only holding office until their successors were appointed. Mr. Deakin was sent for by the Governor- General, and on Wednesday afternoon he submitted to His Excellency a list of the new Ministry, as follows : -
The Honorable Alfred Deakin - Prime Minister, and Minister of State for External Affairs;
The Honorable Isaac Alfred Isaacs - AttorneyGeneral ;
The Honorable Sir William John Lyne - Minister of State for Trade and Customs ;
The Right Honorable Sir John Forrest - Treasurer ;
The Honorable. Austin Chapman - PostmasterGeneral;
Senator the Honorable ThomasPlayford - Minister of State for Defence ;
The Honorable Littleton Ernest Groom - Minister of State for Home Affairs ;
The Honorable Thomas Thomson Ewing - Vice-President of the Executive Council ;
Senator the Honorable John Henry Keating - Member of the Executive Council.
His Excellency was pleased to approve of the list, and on Wednesday afternoon Ministers were sworn in. They now have to ask each House to grant a reasonable adjournment, so that when business is resumed they may be able to state the measures with which they intend to occupy the attention of Parliament during the remainder of the session. I move- -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday, 26th July, at 2.30 p.m.
On that date I, on behalf of the Government, shall be prepared to fully state to the Senate the’ measures which we intend to submit for its consideration.
Senator WALKER (New South Wales). - In the absence of the more prominent members of the Opposition, I desire to congratulate our friend’s upon their accession to office. I am sure that we are all delighted to see our friend Senator Playford representing the Government in the Senate ; and I congratulate Senator Keating, the youngest member of the Ministry, upon his rapid and well-deserved promotion. I take this opportunity of saying that I deeply regret the very ungenerous action of a section of the press towards the ex-Prime Minister. When persons meet with what is popularly called misfortune, their opponents in politics do not go on blackguarding them, to use a common expression, but rather extend to them some degree of sympathy. I exceedingly deplore that in a leading article yesterday a leading newspaper in this city uses such extraordinarily vituperative language against the Right Hon. G. H. Reid. I feel the less hesitation in mentioning this matter, because I am aware that many members of the Labour Party quite agree with what I am saying. It seems to me absolutely ungenerous that once a man is down, so to speak, a person should use Red Indian tactics, indulge in tomahawking and scalp hunting, and try to make his name a by-word and reproach. Whatever Mr. Reid’s failings may be, he certainly does not deserve that treatment from his opponents. I think we are all glad to notice that the rising generation of Australia are taking such a prominent part in its government. In the new Ministry I notice that there are no fewer than eight Australians, and our friend, Senator Playford, is the sole representative of the mother country by birth, but a splendid representative he is. I think we shall all be ready to back our British representative, in size at all events, against any of his colleagues.
Senator Higgs. - Holding these views, the honorable senator should be sitting on this side.
Senator WALKER. - Oh, no. I hope to be able to give an independent support to any good measures which may be brought forward. ‘ We have all heard before now that adversity makes strange bedfellows. It seems to me that on the present occasion prosperity has had the same effect, because not a few of the gentlemen in the Ministry have at times differed very materially in sentiment towards one another. We have now, I take it, a happy family in the Chamber.. I am very sorry that the benches on this side are not more fully occupied. But I think I may take it upon myself to congratulate the individual members of the Ministry on their accession to office. We trust that nothing will be done to weaken the good feeling which does and which ought to prevail between honorable senators on both sides of the chamber.
Senator McGREGOR (South Australia). - I also rise to congratulate the members of the new Ministry, whom I claim to be personal and very good friends of my own. I also congratulate them upon the appearance of the Senate. I wonder where the Opposition is to-day? To my dim vision there only appears to be a quartette, and although Senator Walker has1 posed as the leader on this occasion, I really believe that the natural leader would be Senator Dobson, because he is the only singer amongst them. If they were up to his leadership then the Senate might look forward to a considerable amount of enjoyment.
Senator Pearce. - Harmony.
Senator McGREGOR. - An honorable senator interjects “ harmony,” but I do not know much about that. I hope that the representatives of the Government here will carry out their duties as successfully as the Attorney-General in the last Government did ; and I have to thank that honorable and learned gentleman for the very kindly manner in which he spoke respecting myself. I have not the least doubt that, with the advantage of Senator Playford’s past experience, and Senator Keating’s known ability, the present Government will have no reason to complain of the way in which its business is carried on here.
In the interest of the Government, I am very glad to hear that Senator Walker is prepared to give them a general support.
Senator Pearce. - An independent support.
Senator Walker. - To good measures.
Senator McGREGOR. - I am very glad to hear that the honorable senator is prepared to give the Government an independent support. We are all prepared to do that, and for that reason I hope that a great deal of useful work will be done this session. To a very great extent that will depend upon the programme which will be submitted on the 26th instant by Senator Playford. I hope that it will give satisfaction, not only to the members of the Senate, but also to the Parliament as a whole, and to the people of Australia. I trust that the major portion of the programme will be carried into effect, and that Australia will derive a benefit from its enactment. I have much pleasure in supporting the motion and congratulating the members of the Ministry.
Senator DOBSON (Tasmania). - I understand that a number of Bills have been prepared by the late Government, and I suppose that the present Government will accept some of them. Will the leader of the Senate do his best to distribute any Bills which may be ready before the 26th instant, so that during the holiday, when we shall have little or nothing to do, we may make use of the opportunity to equip ourselves for the work of the session?
Senator Playford. - I will mention the matter to my colleague’s, and we will do the best we can.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I desire that the question standing in the name of Senator Macfarlane shall be postponed.
– Does the honorable senator ask for the postponement of the question at the request of Senator Macfarlane ?
– No, sir.
– An honorable senator can request another honorable senator to ask for the postponement of a question, but as Senator Macfarlane has not requested Senator Walker to ask for a postponement, he cannot do so, and the question must lapse.
Debateresumed from 29th June(vide page 135), on motion by Senator Fraser -
That the following Address be presented to His Excellency the Governor-General : -
To His Excellency the Governor-General.
May it please Your Excellency -
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– Owing to the altered position that has been brought about in the politics of the country, I am afraid that the speech which I was mentally preparing to deliver in criticism of the few words that fell from the lips of His Excellency the Governor-General will require to be materially altered. I do not think that it will be necessary for me to say all that I should have had to say had not circumstances altered cases. But still I believe that there is some little necessity for an expression of opinion, and I desire, as briefly as I possibly can, to express my views without boring honorable senators who have come here anxious to do business. I should like to know what tha intentions of the late Government really were in endeavouring - as many have said - to flout the Parliament by presenting such a Governor-General’s speech. What was their idea ? Was the idea to carry out the very often repeated threat of the leader of the late Government to bring about a dissolution ? I contend that the late Prime Minister had no greaterdesire for a dissolution than had any other member, and that the course of action adopted was for the purpose of frightening some individuals to acquiesce in the late Government holding office for a longer period. Of course I have no right to attribute motives to anybody, but under circumstances of this description, we are bound to inquire why a certain course was pursued. Senator Walker, in a very kindlv and courteous manner, has referred to the action of a certain section of the press in - as he termed it - jumping on a fallen man. But I should like the honorable senator also to read a leading article in the contemporary of the newspaper to which he referred, and to characterise it in exactly the same way. We are not here, I hope, to be entirely guided - although we may be very well informed - by the press of Melbourne, and I do not think it matters very much to us what side they take. They will, in my opinion, take any side that suits them. But we, in this Senate, were prepared to give all our attention to carrying on the business of this country, and I think we had a right to be offended at the manner in which we were treated by the late Government. Look at the position. I have attended a great many meetings which were addressed by the late Prime Minister. At every one of those meetings he referred, in an emphatic and positive manner, to the necessity of passing standing orders for the House of Representatives. Was the House of Representatives, for another year or another year and a half, to carry on without anystanding orders ! Were the interests of the people of Australia to be sacrificed in the manner in which they have been sacrificed for the last two or three years for the want of standing orders ! If the late Government had done their duty they would have put every other consideration aside, and would have still further sacrificed their principles for the purpose of doing something that was in the interests and for the benefit of the people of this Commonwealth. But did they doit? No. They were prepared - or at least they pretended to be prepared - to send the House of Representatives to the country and to sacrifice .£50,000 of public money on a general election. And that would not have been the only consequence of what they recommended. It would have resulted in bringing about a Federal election every eighteen months at a cost of £50,000, which would have been an almost continually recurring expense to this community. I think it was their duty to cast every other consideration aside and to come forward with a policy that meant something more than the adoption of Standing Orders for thb House of Representatives. In connexion with the crisis that has just happily passed, we as a party - I am not now speaking of the sup_porters of the Government, but of the Labour Party, not only in the Senate, but in the House of Representatives - feared a dissolution just as little as did Mr. Reid or any of his followers. But we were honest in that respect. Although we never feared a dissolution or its consequences, yet we recognised that we had no right to force a dissolution on the country. We may fear certain things very little, but there are a great many things that we do not like. There is no member of the House of Representatives - I do not care to what party he belongs, nor what his opinions are - who likes an election. He knows very well that it means going all over his constituency and putting him to a considerable amount of personal expense. He also knows that it means putting the country to a considerable amount of expense. Therefore, although members of another place may not fear a general election, yet they do not like it. Those who talk most glibly of a dissolution like it least of all. But the thing was done as a trick. It was done for the purpose of frightening weak-kneed individuals and compelling them to support the Government. But the weapon failed. It was like a boomerang. When it was thrown it missed its mark, and, returning, slew the thrower. That is exactly the position of the late Government. With respect to the future prospects of the country, and particularly to what would have happened if the ruse of the Government - or whatever honorable sen a.. tors like to term it - had succeeded, they made it clear that what they wanted was a redistribution of seats. They wanted to set the electoral machine in order, and then to go to the country. Now, how was it proposed to set the electoral machine in order? First, as I say, there was to be a redistribution of seats.
– Surely that is necessary ?
– Certainly, it is always necessary. But I should like the honorable senator to take out his copy of the Constitution, to look at it, and then to ask himself whether the proper time has arrived for a redistribution of seats. If he looks at section 24 he will find that the proper method is there set forth. It is distinctly stated that any redistribution is to be based upon statistics prepared by the Commonwealth.
– No; that is not what it says.
– Let the honorable and learned senator read the section, and he will find that it comes very close to what I have stated. The statistics are to be Commonwealth statistics. As the Commonwealth has, up to the present time, had no statistical department, how, in the name of heaven, can it be possible for anything of that description to take place? I am not now talking about dividing the States into electoral districts, according to the Electoral Act. I am talking of a redistribution of seats ; and, in order that that mav be done, the first thing we ought to do is to establish a Commonwealth statistical department, if we are to read the Constitution as it would be read in a court of law. Section 26 states that the number of members in each State shall be as set down ; and until a Commonwealth department of statistics is established, and the statistics are obtained in a proper manner, I say that the time has not arrived when a redistribution of seats should take place.
– Has the honorable senator read section 29 of the Constitution, which contains the words, “ until the Parliament otherwise provides.”
– Certainly ; but the Parliament has not otherwise provided.
– It may by a redistribution of seats Bill.
– Parliament is supreme in that respect. Parliament is even given power to alter the Constitution itself in certain particulars. But the necessity for such a Bill has not come yet. Until it does come, people should not talk in the way they do now of the proposed redistribution. But we find that some of the parliamentary representatives of Victoria, which is likely to lose a seat under a redistribution, have agreed. The late Minister of Trade and Customs says that he has perused .and considered the advice of the late Attorney-General, and has come to the conclusion that all is right ; and S’enator Fraser, in his speech the other day, told US that he is of the same opinion. I do not believe, however, that either of these gentlemen are seized of the true facts, or of all the facts, of the case. They ought to have regard to the method that has been adopted in the past in regard to census returns, and to the differences and discrepancies and the haphazard computations made by State statisticians at other times. It is always found that any calculations of the kind, made apart from census returns, are incorrect.
– Victoria ought not to object to the loss of a representative, seeing that that would be in consonance with the “ Kyabram “ policy.
– I am not saying that Victoria ought to object. The two gentlemen whom I mentioned do not object, and, therefore, it must be all right. But I do not agree with them.
– “ Kyabram” wanted a reduction of members.
– I am not a “ Kyabramite “ and, consequently, agree neither with Senator Fraser, Mr. McLean, nor “Kyabram.” So far as my influence goes, while I am here, everything shall be done in a constitutional manner ; and until we have a statistical department, and the Commonwealth has taken a census of the people of Australia, I say that the time has not arrived for a redistribution of seats in the manner indicated on several occasions by the late Prime Minister. I do not think, however, that we need deal with that aspect of the question much further. Steps ought, in my opinion, to be taken in Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria to carry the Electoral Act into effect, and map, out districts on the basis of population. I know the differences there are between the number of electors in the various districts at the present time; and I shall not be satisfied until something is done to create conditions similar to those which are found in South Australia and some of the other States. Every honorable senator from South Australia will agree with me that the Chief Returning Officer for South Australia, Mr. Boothby, made a division of the districts in that State in a very satisfactory manner. I do not think I have heard any complaint, and we want a gentleman of that sort to do similar work in Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland. I hope that the present Government will endeavour to bring about such conditions as I have indicated, and that honorable senators will assist in that work. Another matter has been agitating the minds of the people of Australia for some considerable time. Although I had no desire that anything should be done when the country was in an alarmed condition, I should like to call public attention to the state of the defences ; and it is because we have the political head of the Defence Department in this Chamber that I shortly refer to the subject. Much money may be spent and wasted, and much time sacrificed in this Department, with, perhaps, no good result ; and my desire is that the people of Australia shall so arrange matters as to provide a guarantee of safety against any contingency that may arise. The RussianJapanese war has alarmed many people, who fear that, if Russia be beaten, nothing will prevent Japan over-running the whole of.
Australia. That is similar to what was said by a lady the other evening, when she declared that the Socialists had swept the polls in South Australia, and that, unless something was done, they would do the same in Victoria.
– Senator Dobson must have been speaking to her.
– I think that must be so. However, as I say, that is the view some people take of the likely result of a Japanese victory, and we ought to be in a position to protect ourselves. What has been done up to the present time to place us in that position? Ordnance and small arms are being imported from outside the borders of Australia; and, under such circumstances, all the Japanese fleet would have to do would be to stop the vessels containing those warlike’ stores, and sail away with them to Tokio, while we were left lamenting. Australia should never be exposed to such a danger; and if we desire to make ourselves a nation which can protect itself from any ordinary aggression, the manufacture of arms and ammunition ought to be established within the Commonwealth.
– We cannot even chase-hoop a gun.
– The work ought to be done now, and I hope the present Government will take the matter into consideration. I do not say that the Minister for Defence, or the present Government, can immediately carry out what is desired, but the Government could make a move in the direction I have indicated. If that were done, we should be in a position to protect ourselves, no matter what might occur on the high seas. In my opinion, a majority of the people of Australia are beginning to think about the matter, and would be very glad if they could go to sleep at night feeling assured that Australia was in a position to produce arms and ammunition, as well as men, if danger should arise. There are many other matters with which I should like to see the Government deal - matters which found no place in the policy of the late Government; but there is really nothing before the House. The Address-in-Reply is a matter of such insignificance, under the circumstances, that it is scarcely worth while spending time in its discussion. I again congratulate the members of the Ministry in this Chamber on the large support which they seem to have, as compared1 with the small Opposition.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia).I also recognise that we are, to a large extent, “flogging a dead horse.” The only point with which I desire to deal has reference to a legacy left to us by the late Ministry. I refer to the mail contract which has been entered into, and on the final acceptance or otherwise of which, I suppose, this Parliament will have to decide. There is certain information I should like to place before honorable senators, which may have some effect when the contract comes before us for consideration. We know that under the new contract, the clause in the Post and Telegraph Act relating to employment of white labour has come into operation. On the R.M.S. Ormuz, which was the first of the boats to leave England under the new contract, the Iascar crew was replaced by a white crew. But in the old country, certain circumstances have, arisen of which I think the Senate ought to be informed, and which should be seriously considered before the arrangement entered into is indorsed. Some little time ago, when we were discussing the question of preference to unionists, we heard from the then Government side of the House strong objections to that policy. Government supporters declared that they would oppose preference being given to anybody. It appears, however, that, in connexion with the new mail arrangements, distinct preference is given to non-unionists, while unionists are boycotted. That being so, we ought to pause before we indorse the action, of the late Government. We ought to decline to practically give the Orient Company L1 20,000 per annum, unless the company give an undertaking that they will treat the Britons, who follow the occupation of firemen, in a fairer spirit than they have exhibited towards them in the past. When the Ormuz arrived at Adelaide, the Melbourne Argus of 1 6th May, reported the occurrence as follows : -
Adelaide, Monday. - The Orient-Pacific liner Ormuz arrived from London to-day, and, in accordance with the new mail contract, she has no lascars employed on board. It is three years since the company first shipped black stokers and firemen. The reason for the change was the unreliability of white stokers, and their alleged over fondness for intoxicating liquor.
The chief engineer (Mr. Mcinnes) to-day expressed his deep regret that the political action of the Commonwealth should have forced the company to revert to the employment of white stokers and firemen. Their stoking of the ship, he stated, is not so satisfactory as that of the lascars. The whole of the present crew are members of the Shipping Federation, an organization which aims at giving ship-owners a guarantee of the qualification and character of its members.
I ask honorable members to bear those words in mind, in view of developments disclosed in further correspondence. -
It is supported financiallyby the general public; receives subsidies from the shipping companies, and its members, who include officers, and must be British subjects, contribute1s. per year, and receive, in the case of death, amounts which vary in accordance with the rates of wages paid. The Orient-Pacific Company has always shipped its white crews from the Shipping Federation. The total crew of the Ormus under the new conditions is188, compared with 222 when black labour was employed in the stokehold. With lascars, the total complement in the engineroom department was ninety-nine, of whom seventy-six were dark-skinned. Now it is sixtyfive.
The lascars whom the white stokers and firemen displaced in London were taken to Colombo in the Ormuz as passengers.
Just a day or two previously, I had been fortunate enough to receive from Mr. Havelock Wilson, the general secretary of the National Sailors and Firemen’s Union of Great Britain and Ireland, a letter on the subject, dated 1st April, 1905, as follows : -
Maritime Hall, West India Dock-road,
London E., 1st April, 1905.
Hon. G. F. Pearce,
The Senate, Melbourne.
I have been watching with considerable interest the negotiations which have been going on with the Commonwealth Government and the P. and O. and Orient Steam-ship Lines respecting the future of the mail contracts, and the employment of lascars. I have ascertained that the P. and O. Company have practically completed their contract with the Imperial Government for the outward mails, and that they intend to continue to carry lascars. The Orient Company are prepared to carry white labour if their price, £150,000, is accepted, but, in any event, the Orient Company must have the price for which they tendered. I have gone into the matter very closely with a number of shippingexperts, and we find that for any shipping company to do justice in the carrying of the mails - on anything like decent boats -£150,000 for the outward and homeward mails is not at all too much. I am further informed that the Orient Company have inserted a clause in the contract that they are compelled to carry white men, and that if, as a consequence of insubordination of the firemen, there is any delay in the delivery of the mail, the fine which should be imposed shall not be insisted upon. I sincerely hope the Federal Government will not agree to this, as it would give the company the opportunity to put forward the plea of incompetent firemen whenever the mails were late from whatever cause.
Now follows a challenge, to which I hope the champions of black labour in the Senate, most of whom I notice are at present absent from the Chamber, will give their attention. He says -
Our union is prepared to meet the Orient Company on this point in the following way : - If the company will make a contract with our union for one or a number of years, we will supply them with competent firemen at a rate of wages to be agreed upon, and with competent sailors; and if any trouble should arise, or any delay be occasioned in consequence of misconduct on the part of the men supplied by us, we would undertake to make good the damage sustained by the company as a result of this, provided the Federal Government agreed to this, and that the men’s default was fully proved after a full and impartial investigation. I am conversant with the trouble experienced by the Orient Company with regard to the white firemen. It was due, in my opinion, to the fact that the company would insist upon these firemen belonging to a free labour association - the Shipping Federation.
We, in Australia, would call them “blackleg “ associations -
Good men would not submit to be forced into that organization; and, as a result, the company had the misfortune to get only the poorest class of stokers available in the market, although they paid the same wages as other firms and treated them as well. I believe, if the Labour Party of Australia will agree to the price which has been tendered by the Orient Company, which we have found not to be in any sense extortionate,and stipulate for the enforcement of the penalty for delay in delivering the mails, the company may be willing to arrange with our union for the supply of crews for their ships. Certianly I think that one year’s experience of such an arrangement would demonstrate its advantage to the company in twelve months.
On receiving that letter I deemed it my duty to write to the Argus, which published the account I have read in its columns, in the terms of Mr. Wilson’s letter. For some reasons, and, perhaps, reasons of policy, the authorities of the Argus cut out all the sting of my letter, and inserted such portions of it as they thought fit, in the following condensed form: -
On the arrival of the Orient-Pacific liner Ormuz at Adelaide on Monday the chief engineer stated that the white stokers, all of whom were members of the Shipping Federation, had not stoked the ship so satisfactorily as the lascars, who could not be carried under the new mail contract. Senator Pearce (Western Australia) has written, stating that the Shipping Federation was formed and subsidized by ship-owners for the express purpose of fighting the Seamen’s and Firemen’s Unions of Great Britain and Ireland, the secretary of which had complained to him that its members, who were alleged to be a better claof stokers, were practically boycottedbythe Orient Company.
The Ormus, in the meantime, had arrived at Melbourne, and on the day after the appearance of the paragraph containing portions of my letter, there appeared the fol- lowing letter from Mr. Kenneth Mcinnes, chief engineer of the Ormus, the report of the interview with whom led to my writing to the Argus : -
With reference to your telegram from Adelaide in the Argus of the 16th inst., in which you make a statement to the effect that I had expressed deep regret that the Orient Company had been compelled to revert to the employment of white firemen and stokers, and that the stoking of the ship was not so good as when lascars were employed, I deny that I made any comparison between white and black stokers as far as their ability went. With regard to the white firemen on board this present voyage, I never sailed with a steadier or more obedient lot of men, and I hope to be able to say the same at the conclusion of the voyage.
In justice to the men and myself, i beg you to give publicity to this letter, both in Melbourne and in Adelaide, where the above erroneous statements have been made. - Yours, &c,
S.S. Ormus,18th May.
In the Argus of 20th May, 1905, the following telegram from Adelaide appeared : -
With regard to Mr. K. Mcinnes’ denial of the statement of comparison between white and black stokers, i assert positively that he did make such a comparison. I met him on the upper deck of the Ormus, told him who i was, and engaged him in conversation, in the course of which he referred tothe relative merits of white and black stokers. He stated that on the trip out the stoking had not been so good as with the lascars.
– Who said that?
– That is from the reporter who had the interview with Mr. Mcinnes. When one notices so sudden a recantation, one is tempted to look for motives.
– It reminds one of what took place in the House of Representatives not long ago.
– The only motive one can suggest is that my letter to the Argus had disclosed to the Orient Company that the men in the union which they were fighting in the old country, had correspondents and friends in Australia, and that it might be very awkward for them in their fight with the Seamen’s Union of Great Britain, if the character which their officers gave to their creatures in Australia were sent Home to Mr. Wilson that he might use it, by publication in the press.
– It will be sent Home.
– It has been sent Home. I have seen to that. Here is a leading officer of one of their own ships saying that men who are members of the organization which they have themselves formed, and which they subsidized, and from which they always draw their white crews, are drunkards, and unreliable. Here we have proof that this company, which has branded its stokers as unreliable and drunken, has by its action in the old country, refused employment to the sober union firemen of Great Britain. We are entering into a business arrangement with this company. We have heard a great deal about preferential trade, and have been told that, we should take an interest in the affairs of the Empire, and I say that’ we should give this company to understand that if we are to enter into this bargain, it will not be until they treat the union firemen of Great Britain with fairness. I do not say that we should ask them to give preferential treatment to the union firemen of Great Britain, but I do say that the fact of a man being a unionist should not be a bar to his employment on the ships of a company receiving , £120,000 a year by way of subsidy from the Commonwealth Government. There have been statements made in this Chamber and elsewhere that the Orient Company employed lascars, and that they were asking an increased contract price because they would be compelled to replace them with white seamen under the agreement. In the Age of 5th June, 1905, in the commercial columns, there appears an account of a meeting of the shareholders of the company, and I quote this extract from the statement made by Mr. Frederick Green, the chairman of the company -
One of the obligations imposed upon us by the contract is that we should carry only white crews, and we arranged to do this. We part with our lascars with regret; they are efficient firemen, and more fitted for work in the tropics than white men. An idea was abroad that we were seeking an increased subsidy because of these obligations, but such was not the case. There is little difference in the cost of employing white or black crews ; we have to take more black men or lascars because they are not so strong as white men, and the increase about compensates for the higher pay we give to a white crew. We simply wanted more money for our subsidy, because, after many years experience of the trade, we have come to the conclusion that what we had been receiving was not sufficient.
We have had that information already from Mr. Anderson, the local manager of the company, and yet the friends of thelascar in the Senate, and in other places, never accepted Mr. Anderson’s view. I now give them the statement of the chairman of the Orient Company, and I ask if they are prepared to accept it? I wish to read one other extract to prove the statements of the Seamen’s Union. I quote from a paragraph headed, “ A White Ocean,” which appeared in the Kalgoorlie Miner, of 19th May, 1905 -
On 6th April, the Orient liner Ormuz signed on her first “ all-white “ crew in accordance with the terms of the new contract. According to the London Star, the change from Iascar to white labour was not affected without a slight hitch. It writes - “ Members of the Seamen’s Union who presented themselves for employment were surprised to find that an agent of the Shipping Federation was allowed to attend and object to the engagement of union men who were unable to produce fully paid Shipping Federation tickets. Many of the men were naval reserve mcn of unblemished character, and, owing to this restriction, they were unable to take up employment.”
I specially direct the attention of Senator Dobson to these statements. Here is this powerful so-called British Company, with patriots on its directorate, refusing to men who are prepared to take their part in the defence of their country as naval reserve men, the right to earn their living, because they happen to be union seamen. The paragraph proceeds - “ The action of Hie Orient Company will not, however, pass unchallenged, for the committee of the Seamen’s Union held an urgency meeting this afternoon, and decided to cable to the Australian Labour Party stating that the company were acting unfairly towards members of the union. It should be explained that the holder of the Shipping Federation ticket pledges himself to work with union or non-union men, so that though it is professed not to be antagonistic to unionism, it, in fact, deprives its holders of the right to go on strike against non-union labour.” The truth is (writes the London corespondent of the Adelaide Advertiser) that the Orient Company, when issuing notices relating to the engagement of a crew for the Ormuz, stipulated that all men desirous of employment should possess the Federation ticket and benefit books fully paid up. The company has done this for years. The fact that a man is a member of the Seamen’s Union is not prejudicial to his chances, providing his discharges are right.
I leave this matter now in the hands of the Government. I ask that in bringing the matter of the mail contract before Parliament, they shall see that the Federal Parliament is not made a party to actions of this character. I also ask those who so virulently attacked the Labour Party and certain other honorable members in both Houses of the Federal Parliament, who fought and worked to secure the insertion of that stipulation in the Postal contract, to remember that the white crews against whom they have been pointing the finger of scorn as being unreliable, are men who have been banded together and organized by the Shipping Federation of England for the purpose of defeating the Seamen’s Union of England, and that the Orient Company is itself responsible for the hardships and difficulties it has had to undergo, because they have been the result of its own acts. We know that when employers form an organization of this kind, men will only join it as the last resort to enable them to get work. They feel that in joining such an organization, they are losing caste, that they are debasing themselves, and making themselves tools to be used by their employers. When the Shipping Federation- has adopted these tactics, it can hardly be wondered if the men whom they secure to work in the stoke-holds of their vessels are not seamen who prove reliable. I trust that the Government will take such action as will give the Orient Company to understand that if they wish Parliament to ratify the agreement we must have some undertaking that they will cease to boycott the sober union firemen of England, and that there shall be no brand placed upon a man simply because he happens to do what they regard as a crime in joining a union which is independent of their control. As regards the loss of a member for Victoria, which was foreshadowed in the opening speech, I must confess that I have very little sympathy with the Victorian people or press in their outcry against the proposal. Only two or three years ago we were led to believe that the great desideratum was to decrease the number of members of Parliament at any cost, and at any consequence.
– But taking a member from Victoria and giving a member to New South Wales will not decrease the number of members.
– It seems to me that at that time Victoria did not care what became of the members. Their main desire was to get rid of them. They thought that the royal road to prosperity lay in a decrease of the number of Members of Parliament.
– Who said that?
– The people of Victoria were appealed to on the question, and they said so most emphatically.
– Not with reference to the Federal Parliament.
– On the general question of decreasing the number of Members of Parliament the people of this State, with great unanimity, said “Yes,” and as a result they got what is called a Reformed Parliament. We cannot sympathize with them very much in their objection to a further economy of £400 per annum in the Federal arena.
– There is not much direct interest now in this debate, seeing that the Address-in-Reply has been carried in another chamber with an amendment. But one or two things have been said from which I should like to express my entire dissent. One of them was a statement made by Senator McGregor that the late Government was not in earnest in putting into the mouth of His Excellency a speech which meant a dissolution. I hardly think that the honorable senator will get any one to agree with him on that point. Honorable senators who are acquainted with the Constitution must know very well that a speech of that kind put into the mouth of His Excellency means that his Ministers advise that there should be an appeal to the country, because it proposed only the passing of one measure which the Government considered to be necessary before a dissolution of the House of Representatives.
– After they had rigged the rolls.
– I shall speak di*rectly about the view adopted by the late Government with regard to the distribution of electoral power. On the question as to whether the Government were justified in declining to carry on under the circumstances there may be a difference of opinion. But I think that they were entirely justified in the action they took.
– They could not help themselves.
– My honorable friend is wrong on that point, and I ask him not to interject in that way. As a matter of fair p,lay, he should give me an opportunity of making a statement. Under ordinary circumstances, the late Government would have carried on, and would have embodied in the Governor-General’s speech a statement of the measures which they proposed to submit during the present session. But circumstances arose which convinced Ministers that they would not have the necessary majority, and therefore they drew up a speech in which they proposed the passing of only the one measure. It will be recollected that the Government which was formed eight months ago was avowedly a combination of two parties, one of which had been advocating what is called protection, and the other free-trade. The idea was to form a coalition of these two parties,, in order that they might be able to carry on the government of the country without being dependent upon any third party.. That is putting the thing very clearly, I think.
– Mr. Reid tried to create a bogy to frighten timid people.
– I am not saying anything about Socialism now. We know that for some time past there have been three parties in Parliament. The late Prime Minister, Mr. Reid, strongly deprecated the three-party system, and in order that it might not continue, a Government was formed which was a combination, or coalition, to carry on without the assistance of the third party. It became apparent just before the meeting of Parliament last month that the Government would not have the majority necessary to enable them to carry on, and therefore they came down with a speech which was avowedly-
– A deliberate insult.
– No; it simply indicated the necessary prelude to a dissolution and on appeal to the country. The late Prime Minister interpreted the compact which was arrived at between the two sections of the late Government very fairly and even generously towards the protectionists. He has .a right to complain of having been badly treated, because he had expected a fairly equal amount of help from his free-trade and protectionist supporters. He certainly exerted himself tothe greatest possible extent, and he found ultimately that he was not receiving from the protectionist wing of his party the support which he had every reason to expect.
– Could he fairly expect the protectionist wing of the party to help him in his fight against Socialism ?
– The late Prime Min,ister had a right to expect support, I think, in the action he was taking for the purpose of terminating the three-party system. When a combination was formed of the free-traders and protectionists, in order to carry on the business of the country, it followed of necessity that that party was in fair, reasonable opposition to the Labour Party, who had identified themselves with Socialism.
With regard to the distribution of electoral power, when I corrected Senator McGregor just now, of course I recognised that he was only stating his recollection of the exact terms of section 24 of the Constitution, because he said that the words were “until statistics had been prepared by the Commonwealth.” It is only a small matter, but it is important to consider what is the interpretation of the term “ latest statistics of the Commonwealth “ in that section. What are the latest statistics of the Commonwealth? On this point I differ from :my honorable friends opposite who represent Victoria. It is a dry point of law, which perhaps can be argued, and should be argued, without any heat or temper. We have a right .to go back to the passing of the original Constitution Bill, and even, I think, to the debates in the Convention to see what its framers meant when they used the expression “latest statistics of the Commonwealth.” If we do that we shall get a great deal of light on the subject. There are some persons who think and say that there should be no alteration of political power until a census has been taken, because only a census can fulfil the meaning of the term “ Commonwealth statistics1.” The idea of having a census as the basis of distribution was proposed in the Constitution Bill of 1891 ; and subsequently, in the second Convention, it was deliberately rejected, so that the framers of the Constitution clearly meant that, whatever might be the statistics on which this division should1 take place, it should not be those of a census.
– But the honorable and learned senator is talking of the Constitution Bill of 1 89 1.
– I am speaking of the Constitution Bill, which was framed by the Convention of 1891, because the word “census” was used.
– But that did not become the Constitution Act.
– No; the word was rejected when it was framed. It will be remembered that the draft Constitution Bill, as it was sent home, contained a provision with ai blank to be filled bv the Imperial Parliament, with the number of members that each State should be entitled to. A discussion on this very point took place in the Convention at Melbourne on the 3rd of March. 1898. From page i8.-?8 of its Hansard I shall read the clause which was put in by the Convention, and which will be found in the Constitution Act, with the blank filled -
Notwithstanding anything in section 24, the number of members to be chosen by each State at the first election shall be as follows : -
Then, within brackets, and in italics, we have these words as an instruction -
To be determined according to latest statistical returns at the date of the passing of the Act, and in relation to the quota referred to in previous sections.
Mr. O’Connor, representing New South Wales, moved this merely formal amendment -
That the words “section 24,” line 2, be struck out, and that the words “ the last preceding section,” be substituted.
Then Mr. Higgins, representing Victoria, made these remarks -
I see in this clause that there is a gap after the words “ as follows.” At what stage is it proposed to have that gap filled up? Is it before this Bill is sent home or afterwards?
To that inquiry Mr. O’Connor made this reply -
It is to be filled up according to the latest statistical returns, at the date of the passing of the Act, by the Imperial Parliament.
– Of course, that was obviously necessary for the first election. Nothing else could be done.
– Let me read the remainder of the passage -
Mr. Higgins. You leave it for the Imperial Parliament to fill in the gap ?
Mr. O’Connor. Undoubtedly. The1 figures may change in the meantime.
So that the Constitution was passed on the basis that this distribution should be according to the latest Commonwealth statistics. The Bill went home.
– There was no Commonwealth at that time ; there was no Commonwealth until the Bill came back and was put in force.
– Therefore the Imperial Parliament had to decide upon the figures to be adopted. They adopted the latest returns for the various States. That seems to show that what was meant by the latest Commonwealth statistics was the latest returns for the Commonwealth. In 1903 it became necessary to make a division of the States into electorates. What the Government did then was to adopt, as the Imperial Parliament had done by Executive action, the figures collected by the various States. The occasion has arisen, I. think, for a fresh division, and what the late Government did was exactly the same as the previous Government did in 1903. That is to say, they adopted the States figures. I take it that the time will come when there will be a Commonwealth Statistical Department which will collect statistics for us. But in the meantime the next best course to be pursued in order to carry out the Constitution is clearly to adopt the statistics that have been taken in the various States. No protest or objection was made to that course in 1903, and I venture to say that no objection would have been made on this occasion had it not unfortunately happened - a most regrettable circumstance - that by the latest figures obtainable the number of members to be returned by Victoria was one less than the number had been before.
– The same reason did not exist for a protest then as exists now.
– It did indeed. Although no alteration was made in the number of members in consequence of the action of the Government in 1903, if that Government did wrong the course was open to exactly the same objection. I accepted what was then done as right. It was generally accepted, and it would have been accepted now had it not been for the fact of the loss of a member by Victoria. The contention is that, in the redistribution of political power, we should adopt the census returns taken in 1901.
– Or later ones ; you can have a census at any time.
– The Convention was sitting in 1898. That Convention did not adopt the previous census statistics.
– The census was taken tpo far back; eight or nine years.
– What rule is there? There is nothing in. the Constitution to say how far back we should go, or to what census we should refer. There is nothing in the Constitution referring to any census. It is perfectly clear that the census was not intended to be taken into consideration; and I contend that the Government was perfectly right in adopting the same practice as was pursued in 1903, and as was pursued by the Imperial Parliament in making the distribution according to the latest statistics available in the Commonwealth. Senator Pearce has referred to the mail contracts. I was much interested in what he had to say, although it is hardly necessary that we should debate the subject now, especially as it must come before Parliament again. The contract which has been made is subject to ratification by Parliament. I can only tell the honorable senator this - and I have no doubt that he knows it already - that the making of that contract was a subject of enormous difficulty for the late Government. My late colleague, the Postmaster-General, devoted himself incessantly for months to the endeavour to overcome the difficulties, and he got a contract made which he considered would be satisfactory to the people of Australia. If anything has gone wrong in connexion with the contract, such as the honorable senator seems to imply, that has no bearing whatever on the action of the late Government. Indeed, I do not think that the honorable senator desired to show that the action of the late Government was in any respect faulty with regard to the contract. I can only hope that when the subject comes before the Senate it will be carefully looked into. There is no other matter upon which I wish to dwell except that I should like, if I am not too late, to offer my congratulations to the representatives of the Government. I am not entitled to speak for the Opposition ; but personally i should not like the opportunity to pass without offering my sincere congratulations to my old colleague, Senator Playford, and also to Senator Keating, who is new to Cabinet rank. I can assure them that I shall do whatever is in my power to assist them in performing the duties of their office.
– It had npt been my intention to speak ; but after what has been said I must offer a short contribution to the debate. I desire, first of all, to congratulate the members of the Government in the Senate. We have as the leader of the Government in this Chamber that good old stager Senator Playford, and in that we are fortunate. I welcome his return to. office. I also desire to congratulate Senator Keating. I may remind the Senate that on the occasion of the first address which I bad the honour to deliver in this Chamber I ventured to remark that we should hear somethingof Senator Keating later on. Now he has his foot fairly on the ladder. He is a young man, and he has, I believe, a great future before him. I trust that he will take full advantage of the opportunity now offered to him, and will justifv the hopes we have of him. I am pleased that we now have a protectionist
Ministry in the Comm.onwea.lth. We have for some time had the rather curious spectacle of a free-trade Ministry administering the affairs of a protectionist Commonwealth.
– Not a free-trade Ministry.
– I am speaking of the Reid Ministry, which had a free-trade leader in the other House, and a free-trade leader In the Senate, although there was a majority of protectionists in this Parliament. That was rather an anomalous state of affairs. Now, I repeat, I am pleased that we have a protectionist Government in power. .1 was almost congratulating Senator Drake on having joined the Ministry. I had come to look upon him as a kind of Vicar of Bray - as a fixture at the table. Surely there is something wrong when the honorable and learned senator is not a member of the Government.
– I must have a holiday sometimes.
– There is something queer in the scheme of things, when the honorable and learned senator is seen taking a back seat. He is generally in the front. I do not know that I should grumble very much if he were there now. The speech which he has just delivered was a very mild utterance. He contrives to get along in life without causing offence to any one. With reference to the redistribution of seats, the honorable and learned senator has gone back to the Convention of 1891. I wonder that he did not go a little further back and refer to the Constitution of the United States, upon which our Constitution is largely based. In the United States, no alteration in the representation of a State is made until a census has been taken. That, I think, is a good and sound principle. Mr. Coghlan also thinks that it is a good and sound principle. So likewise does the statistician of this State. Both of them have warned us not to accept their figures as being sufficiently reliable to justify an alteration of the representation of any State. I was talking only the other day to Mr. McLean, the Victorian statistician, who said that although he had supplied statistics, they were not sufficiently reliable for the representation of any State to be altered upon their basis. Reference has been made to the figures submitted to the Imperial Parliament. As a matter of fact, those figures were proved to be very erroneous. Those figures showed that New South Wales had 2,000 more people than she actually had when the census was taken nine months afterwards. There is no one who can believe it to be correct that New South Wales lost between 30,000’ and 40,000 people in that time, making allowance for her natural increase. On the other hand, when the actual count, of population came to be made, it was shown that Victoria had actually nearly 38,000 people more than she was credited with in the statement submitted to the Imperial Parliament. Further, it was shown that Victoria was more entitled to twenty-three members in the House of Representatives, than New South Wales was to twenty-six. The figures that have been submitted at the instance of the present Government, are not Commonwealth statistics in any sense. They are simply compiled from statistics furnished to the various States Governments, and any one could lump them together in the way that has been done. It has been admitted by the statists themselves that the result is mere guesswork. It cannot be anything else. How can we tell the number of people who have travelled backwards and forwards from one State to another? It must be merely guesswork. I apprehend that what the Constitution means by statistics are ascertained facts, and not guesses. I ‘have something further to say upon the point, but as I understand that the Supply. Bill has now reached the Senate, I will conclude my remarks.
Debate (on motion by Senator Trenwith) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and passed through’ all its stages.
Senate adjourned at 4.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 July 1905, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1905/19050707_senate_2_25/>.