2nd Parliament · 3rd Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask theMinister of Defence, without notice -
If, to use his own language, the Government consider the interval between the 16th May last and the present date a proper, time afforded them to properly consider the reports presented on the first-mentioned date by the Tariff Commission relating to the distilling and other industries, and whether they will submit such reports for consideration of Parliament this session?
– I think I can say that we shall submit the reports this session, but I would ask the honorable senator to give notice of the question, so that I can write out a proper answer after consultation: withmy honorable colleagues.
– I forwarded the papers to the Attorney-General, but I do not know what the result is. I know that inquiries have been made, and possibly they are still being made, but I do. not know the facts. If the honorable senator will give notice of the question, I shall get full particulars.
– I beg to give notice accordingly, and also to ask the Minister, without notice, whether he is aware that an arrangement had been made between the solicitors of the Tobacco Workers’ Union and the managing director of the British -Australasian Tobacco Company for the purpose of having an inquiry made, but that the union afterwards declined to beparties to any inquiry?
– I am under the impression that when SenatorPearce brought this matter before the Senate he made a statement to that effect.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, without notice, if he is prepared to lay upon the table of- the Senate the cablegram giving-Mr. W. H. Croker authority to sign the mail contract on behalf of Sir James Laing and Sons Limited ?
– I would ask the honorable senator to give notice of the question.
-I beg to give notice of the same question for to-morrow, but at the same time I desire to remind the Minister of the promise which he made yesterday to bring the matter before his colleagues, so that we could see the cablegram before the debate on his motion was closed.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, without notice, whether the Government have any intention of altering the port of arrival for the mail steamers running between the mainland and Tasmania from Launceston to any other port?
– The Government have no definite intention with regard to the matter at present. Alternative tenders have been called for, and the determination of the port for landing and embarking mails will be governed very largely, if not entirely, by the responses to that call.
– Arising out of the answer, I wish to ask the Minister whether it is possible that the tenders that will be submitted to the Government can’ under any circumstances, induce them to alter the port of arrival for the mail boats from Launceston to any other . port? I hope that I have mademy question intelligible. I want to know if it is within the consideration of the Government to prevent mail boats from going to Launceston.
– I cannot say because the circumstances are purely hypothetical at! this juncture. The PostmasterGeneral has called for tenders for a mail service. The conditions of tender are specified, and the Minister will necessarily regard the whole of the circumstances in any particular tenders, and do his duty.
But at this juncture the circumstances are peculiarly hypothetical. Alternative tenders would not be called for unless such a possibility did exist. I may add that on the last occasion alternative tenders were called for.
– I should like to ask the Minister whether, if after receiving tenders the Government should consider seriously the possibility of diverting the mail boats from Launceston to any other port, it will give Parliament an opportunity of considering the matter, or whether it intends to accept a tender without reference thereto?
– The Government will follow the usual course, as it did on the last occasion.
– What is the usual course ?
– The course that was followed on the last occasion.’
– I would again ask the Minister if he can answer my question.
– The honorable senator can only ask a question arising out of the answer to his previous question.
– I desire to ask whether the Government will refer the matter to Parliament?
– The honorable senator has already asked that question.
– I leave the matter to Senator Keating. If he is content with his evasive answer - which means no answer at all - I shall say nothing further.
– I regret that the honorable senator should! consider my remarks evasive. I think that, on the spur of the moment, . I gave a great deal more information than any honorable senator could expect to extract from any Minister. If my honorable friend wants further information, I would ask him to give notice of the question..
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, without notice, if he will cause the paper which contains a report on the proposed penny postage by the PostmasterGeneral, and which I may say was distributed in the other House a few days ago, to be distributed amongst the members of the Senate?
– I understand that all papers laid upon the table of the other House have been distributed.
– We have not received this paper, and the Budget paperswere only distributed last night.
– The honorablesenator cannot fairly expect papers to bedistributed much more quickly.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives with an amendment.
Senator PLAYFORD laid upon the table the following papers : -
Provisional regulations under the Commerce Act, Statutory Rules 1906, No. 52.
Military Forces, addition toparagraph 224. (medical officers) of the financial and allowance regulations, Statutory Rules 1906, No. 53.
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
This matter comes within the province of the Public Service Commissioner,who has furnished the following answers to questions 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 : -
No. The Commissioner certified that there was no available senior officer as capable of satisfactorily performing the duties of the position.
No certificate as to incompetency of applicants is required, but the Act provides that relative efficiency must be considered in making promotions, and that when a junior officer is recommended, a certificate must be issued as mentioned in question 4.
The papers are in Western Australia, but they will be obtained, and laid upon the table of the Library as early as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– I laid these regulations upon the table a moment ago. The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
– When shall we have an opportunity?
– If the honorable senator will turn to the Customs Act, he will find that there is a provision to the effect that regulations shall be published in the Gazette, and shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament ; and, if either House passes a resolution within fifteen days disallowing any regulation, it will not come into operation. The honorable senator has only to give notice of motion to disallow any regulation to which he objects.
Senator Col. NEILD (New South Wales) [2.46]. - I move -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Judiciary Act 1903, so as to extend the right of appeal in connexion with indictable offences.
It is customary - almost invariably - when application is made to introduce a Bill for it to be allowed to go as formal. But I suppose it is necessary for me to say a few words of explanation on this occasion. I cannot produce a copy of my Bill, because I have not obtained leave to introduce it. The object that I desire to achieve is to follow the course of procedure now being taken in the Imperial Parliament, to allow appeals against conviction on matters of fact as well as on matters of law. Of course, there is a right of appeal on matters of law, but on matters of fact - no matter how transparently wrong a verdict may. prove to be on the production of further evidence - at present, there is nothing to be done but to seek the Royal pardon for an offence that has not been committed. While it is possible ‘to litigate over a matter of or £10, having appeal after appeal - while in respect of a bank note or a trifling matter of property, it is possible for a litigant to pursue his case through Court after Court - there is no right of appeal except on a bare question of law where a man’s life or liberty is at stake. This Commonwealth has, in the course of five years, created an abnormal number of new offences. We have created them by the score in one Act after another. I simply ask leave for permission to bring in a Bill which will more adequately specify all that I desire to achieve, than I can possibly explain it at the present time. I hope that leave will be given. The Bill will then .be introduced, and honorable senators will understand precisely what I desire to do. That will be more satisfactory than debating the Bill in advance.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) [2.50]. - There ought not to be a moment’s hesitation in granting to my honorable friend, Senator Neild1, the leave that he desires. As he has pointed out, it is the invariable parliamentary custom for motions of this kind to be treated as formal. The honorable senator would be at a considerable disadvantage in attempting to explain the provisions of such a Bill as he has indicated1 before copies of it were in the hands of honorable senators. But I should like to say that my honorable friend is undertaking - I knew that his sense of responsibility is very keen - a large matter. In the first place his real object seems to be to establish a Court of Criminal Appeal in relation, I take it, to Commonwealth offences.
Question resolved in. the affirmative.
Senator Col. NEILD (New South Wales) [2.55]. - When notice of motion was given on my behalf by mv colleague, Senator Gould, in regard to the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the desirability of constructing a railway between the Eastern and Western States of the Commonwealth, I was not aware of the intention of the Governmentto bring in a Bill dealing with the same subject. I was in New South Wales when Senator Gould was kind enough to give the notice for me. But I found yesterday that a Bill had been introduced in another place, and has now been sent up to the Senate, and the second reading is down on the paper for to-morrow. It would be wasting the time of the Senate and trifling with the public interest for me to submit this motion this afternoon when the whole subject will be discussed to-morrow. Therefore. I propose not to go on with mv motion ; but I wish to indicate that, shouldby any chance the second reading of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill be carried, I will then, under the
Standing Orders, move for the reference of the Bill to a Select Committee. Therefore. I do not move mv motion.
-The honorable senator cannot make a speech, and then say that he will not move his motion.
– I ask leave to withdraw the motion. I was not making a speech in the way of advocating the motion, but was explaining what I wished to do.*
-The honorable senator was either moving his motion, or he was out of order.
– I am afraid I was out of order under your ruling, and I apologize for it.
– Does any honorable senator second the motion ?
– I have not moved it.
– The honorable senator has moved it. He had no right to speak at all unless he was moving the motion. The motion is not seconded, and, therefore, it falls to the ground.
– I move -
I shall be as brief as possible in submittingthis motion, and shall not quote any morefigures than are absolutely necessary for the purpose of proving my case.I admit at once that it may be charged against methat this motion, if carried, would act inequitably to some States. But while I reply that there is only one State that has any serious cause for objection to the motion, and while I admit that my proposal does appear to be inequitable to that State, the view which I take is that it is only by means of the bookkeeping system that perfect equity in the distribution of surplus revenue can be maintained. But does the present bookkeeping system achieve for us any real and true Federation? I say that it assuredly does not;. seeing that we have not any bookkeeping system for dealing with the expenditure. The’ Treasurer, in delivering his Budget in another place 011 Tuesday, mentioned a number of. items of expenditure. Amongst them is a proposal to .spend £37,000 in the construction of a telephone system between Melbourne and Sydney. No one, I am sure, will contend for a moment that the State which I represent will derive any benefit from that expenditure. I merely use this item as an illustration - I think a forcible one - to show that our present system of distributing surplus revenue under the bookkeeping system, and distributing new expenditure according to the population of the different States, is inconsistent, and utterly opposed to the true spirit of Federation. While those two systems are running; side by side, it is impossible that there can be a true Federal spirit created amongst the people of Australia, and especially in those States which seem to suffer most. We know that the consuming . power per head depends largely on the proportion of adult males in each State. The enormous discrepancy between the amount contributed per head to the Customs and Excise revenue in Western Australia, and the amount contributed per head in the other States, has been almost entirely due to the cause 1 have mentioned. We must remember, however, that there are large areas of unexplored country in South Australia, Queensland, and the far back portions of New South Wales, which may at any time attract a rush of population for the purpose of developing mining or other newlydiscovered resources. It seems possible, and, in fact, probable, that for many years we shall be subject to changing conditions, with the accompanying, result of an excess of males over females and children in particular States. To-day the excess is in Western Australia,, but next year it may be in some other State, possibly Queensland, South Australia, or New South Wales, or even, to some extent, in the more thickly populated State of Victoria, or the smaller State of Tasmania. These conditions could not, of course, operate to so large an extent in the latter places, but we may find them present in the larger States as time goes on. The present dissatisfaction, which exists in Tasmania - I leave honorable senators to speak for other States - was foreseen bv the keenest financial minds at the Federal Con vention ; and in support of my contention I shall read some brief extracts from the report pf the Convention “debates. In my remarks under this head, I am subject to correction, because there are in this chamber several senators who were members of the Convention. Senator Symon, Senator Dobson, Senator Fraser, Senator Walker, and also the President, were members of the Convention, and thev will recollect what took place. Sir George Turner fought strenuously from beginning to end for the per capita system of distributing the surplus revenue, and Sir Frederick Holder, who was also regarded’ as a financial expert, favoured that system, only accepting the bookkeeping proposal for five years as a. compromise. Then I think I am right in saying that Senator Symon favoured the system.
– He will have to favour it now, at any rate.
- Senator Symon, I think, opposed the provision for a bookkeeping system for so long a period as five years, and contended that it ‘ should be limited to three years.
– He was never more right than then,
– That is so..
– The average contribution of the whole of the States was exactly the contribution of South Australia, so that! it would have made no difference to that State if the per capita system had been adopted.
- Sir John Downer , regarded the book-keeping system as objectionable, and Mr. Deakin, the present Prime Minister, in that debate said that the financial position of the States should be made secure, and he was in favour of the per capita system after five years. A clause was first drafted providing that after five years there should be a per capita system of distribution, and Sir Edmund Barton submitted :in amendment providing
That after the first word of clause 93 the following words-“ Five years from the imposition of uniform duties of Customs, all surplus revenue over the expenditure of the Commonwealth, shall be distributed month by month amongst the several States on the bas’is which the Parliament deems fair,” be inserted.
Tn the debate that followed, Sir George Turner spoke as powerfully as he could in favour of the per ‘capita system, and Sir William Lyne said that he would like to see that system adopted as soon as Federation was an accomplished fact. Senator Eraser pointed out that the federation of Canada was begun with a per capita system ; and it is interesting to quote the following remarks of this gentleman on that occasion : -
The sooner the distribution is madeper capita the better, and we have only departed from that principle because of the serious difficulties that seem to confront us. In Canada the per capita system of distribution was adopted at the very start, and it has not caused any dissatisfaction. If this matter is left to the Federal Parliament, that may be an inducement to some of the States to be extravagant ; they, may waste their money, get into financial difficulties, and appeal to the Commonwealth Parliament to rescue them. If the per capita system of distribution is adopted, each State will know what its position is, and the sooner that is done, in my opinion, the better.
Sir William Lyne, in the course of the debate, said: -
I agree with what has fallen from the Right Honorable the Treasurer of Victoria. I should like to see the per capita distribution applied as soon as possible.
Sir John Forrest. You can’t get it.
Mr.LYNE. - I would like it to take place the moment Federation is accomplished. I have heard some say that it could not take place until twelve ‘months, but I hope the Convention will not agree to extending the period to ten years. Five years is a long time - a great deal longer time than a State should be called on to be bound, and go cap in hand to the Federal Treasurer.
Then Senator Walker spoke in approval of the application of a sliding scale to the distribution of the revenue after the first five years ; and Sir George Turner, when he saw that he could not get his way, moved that the difference between the revenue collected in each State under their Tariff before Federation, and the amount they would receive under the Federal Tariff, should be made up to the State concerned. This was to guarantee the State Treasurers against any loss. Mr. Deakin then suggested a special Tariff for Western Australia for the first five years, and1 Mr. Isaacs, the present Attorney-General, contributed to the debate the following: -
Then we come- to the proposal of Mr. Deakin. But before we consider that, or any proposal, I think that all we ought to do - the position is difficult enough - is to see that each State does obtain some guarantee on the face of the Constitution that it will not suffer any diminution of its revenue from what it received immediately “before the imposition of the Customs duties.
Mr. Isaacs moved accordingly. I quote these extracts to show that the members of the Convention foresaw the great disar rangement of the finances which must ensue in some of the States, owing to the operation of Inter-State free-trade. That disarrangement has been greater in two of the States - especially in Tasmania - than in the other States ; and it is that fact which prompts me to submit this motion. I invite honorable senators, who arelikely to oppose the proposal I now make, to note the amounts collected in Tasmania from Excise and ‘Customs in the three years preceding Federation. In 1898 the amount collected from this source in Tasmania was ?429,700; in 1899 it was ?440,660; and in 1900 it was , ?492,459. Now observe the difference since Federation - the great loss tothe Tasmanian Treasurer. I speak of this as a loss to the Tasmanian Treasurer as distinct from a loss to the people. In 1901-2 the amount collected from Customs and Excise in Tasmania was ?315,540, though I think the Federal Tariff did not apply to the whole of that financial year; in 1902-3 the amount was ?301,978; in 1903-4 it was ?263,191; in 1904-5 it was ?259,099 ; and in 1905-6 the estimated amount was . ?247,162, but I believe, though I am not sure, that there was a little increase on the estimate.
– The honorable senator might summarize the total loss, which is something under ?1,000,000.
– I shall do so later. That there is ample justification for a motion of this kind by a Tasmanian senator is shown in the fact that the revenue which has flowed into the Tasmanian Treasury for the needs of that State since Federation, has gradually dwindled from an averageof ?450,000, prior to Federation, to the” amounts I have just mentioned. It must be patent to any one that such a. serious disarrangement of the finances, particularly in a small State, the total revenue ofwhich was, before Federation, only about ?1,000,000, all told, must cause great trouble to the Government in finding the money necessary to carry on the work of the State. In this connexion it is interesting to look at a table submittedby Sir John Forrest, when making his Budget speech on Tuesday last, showing the gain or. loss to each State in Customs) and Excise revenue from 1 st July, 1901, to the 30th June, 1907, on the basis of the revenue received in 1900 in each State. I may say that I do not regard that as a fair basis, because, in consequence of merchants loading up in view of the Federal Tariff, the revenue received in the former year was rather greater than it otherwise would have been. New South Wales, under the Federal Tariff, has made a total gain of £7,475,188.
– Do not call that a gain. We were taxed all those millions extra.
– I am not putting the case from that point of view. I have been careful to say that I do not call any loss a people’s loss, but simply a Treasurer’s loss.
– I understand.
– I am arguing from the point of view of the States Treasurers, who have been put to great trouble by the disarrangement of their finances. The Treasurer of New South Wales has certainly had reason to. bless Federation. If the figures I have read are correct, the Treasurer of that State has had quite a rosy time in the matter of finances.
– The honorable senator is assuming that during the five years there would have been no natural increase in the revenue of New South Wales, ‘had the conditions remained as they were prior to Federation.
– I have to assume that for the purposes of my_ argument.
– I am seeking information, and not contraverting the statement of the honorable senator.
– I am simply showing the extra amount received by certain States over and above what would,1 under other circumstances, have been received, taking the last year prior to Federation as a basis. . I should like to remind honorable senators from Western Australia that the figures. I quote for that State have no- reference whatever to the Western Australian special Tariff. That State has gained under the ordinary Tariff to the extent of £468,122.
– At the expense of the Western Australian taxpayers.
– I am not . saying that this has been a gain to the Western Australian taxpayers. I have already said that I am putting the matter from the point of view of the States- Treasurers: If it will satisfy Senator Pearce, I am prepared to admit that one of the reasons for which I advocated Federation in Tasmania was that I thought that in that State too much money was being raised from Customs taxation prior to Federation, and I thought that the amount raised in that way would be less after Federation. I am dealing with this subject from the point of view of the Tasmanian Treasurer, whose financial arrangements have been so completely upset. The Western Australian Treasurer, if I must put it in thai way, has been a gainer under the system adopted to the extent of £468,122 under the operation of the ordinary Tariff. Victoria has gained £19,431. Queensland has lost £2.608,208, and Tasmania’ has lost £908,112.
– Why has the honorable senator left out South Australia?’
– I was not aware that I had done so. South Australia has gained to the extent of £59,337. I wish to make it clear that these figures include the Treasurer’s estimate of revenue for the current financial year ending 30th. June, 1907. These are the facts undertime existing system, and it will be interesting to honorable senators to know what the position would have been under the per capita system of distribution of revenue. I shall give the figures for Tasmania for 1901-2, although, as that was the yearin which there was so complete a disorganization of business, it can hardly be accepted as a fair basis. If the surplus: revenue had been distributed on the percapita basis, Tasmania would have gained’ in. that year £11,040. In 1902-3, she would have received an additional sum of £62,161; in 1903-4, £65,332; in 1904-5,£57,450; and for 1905-6, according to the estimate of the Treasurer, the amount which she would have received’ in addition would have been £52,786. Though Tasmania has suffered greatlyin loss of revenue since Federation, Queensland has suffered in a much greater degree,, and the Treasurer of that State must havebeen inconvenienced in his financial arrangements, even to a greater extent thanthe Treasurer of Tasmania.
– Did the honorablesenator quote what the loss to Western Australia . would be under the per capita System ?
– I did not. I amquite satisfied that Senator Pearce will dothat, and it is hardly worth while to give the figures twice over. I am prepared togrant that Western Australia would haveshown a loss if the distribution had. beenper capita.
– Has the honorable senator figures which show how much Tasmania has gained from the totalizator?
– I ask the honorable senator not to put such totally irrelevant questions. I do not object to interjections, but a question of that sort is irrelevant. It is quite probable thai Tasmania has not gained anything like . as much from the totalizator as has Western Australia. It is notorious that the totalizator in Western Australia brings in more revenue than in any other State of the Federation. I have stated the amount by which Tasmania would have gained in revenue under the per capita system of distribution.
– The honorable senator has given the figures only for Tasmania.
– That is so, and it is because I desire to be brief. I might supply the figures for the whole of the States, but I take it for granted that honorable senators may be trusted to quote the figures which affect their own State.
– It would make the honorable senator’s statement more complete if he gave the figures for all the States.
– While on this part of my subject, I may say that I have made a calculation to show the difference between the figures of the two systems of distributing the revenue. It should please Western Australian senators to know that in making this calculation, I have excluded that State, and have assumed, if that were constitutional, that the per capita system should be applied only to the other States, in order to meet the special circumstances of Western Australia.
– That is only what has been done during the last four years.
– Is this an afterthought suggested by Senator Pulsford?
– No, it isnot Under a per capita system of distribution, excluding Western Australia, Tasmania in 1901- 2 would have lost £22,000. In 1902- 3 she would have gained to the extent of£37,804; in 1903-4, £40,788; in 1904-5,£35,309: and in 1905-6, according to the Treasurer’s estimate, the gain would be £37,359.
– Those figures differ from mine.
– I have been asked by honorable senators to quote the figures for the other States, and I think it will be sufficient to quote those for Queensland. Under the actual distribution which has taken place, Queensland received in 1901-2 £904,775. If the surplus revenue had been distributed on the basis of population, she would have received , £947,284, or an increase of £42,509. In 1902-3 Queensland would have gained by the per capita system of distribution to the extent of ; £142,974; in1903-4,£132,439; in 1904-5, £163,828; and, according to the Treasurer’s estimate for the current year, she would gain to the extent of £139,000. Honorable senators representing Queensland might, in the circumstances, be anxious to see some system adopted for the distribution of the revenue other than that which is at present in force.
– Queensland has received a fair share as it is between bounties and other concessions.
– Although, on the figures, Queensland as compared with Tasmania might appear to be in very much the worse position, there can be no doubt that that State has received a great deal of consideration in the matter of the bounties on sugar grown by white labour, which I ardently supported, and I am inclined to think that if there be a Cinderella in the Federation, it is Tasmania. In order that the position may be thoroughly understood, it is absolutely necessary, in dealing with this matter, to place side by side with the revenue figures the figures showing the actual expenditure and the expenditure debited to each of the States. From these figures it will be seen that the finances of Tasmania are affected in both ways. There has been, as I have shown, a very serious disarrangement of the finances of that State as the result of decreased revenue every year since Federation. But Tasmania has also been debited with expenditure very largely in excess of the amount which has been actually expended in the State.
– She has been paying for luxuries for New South Wales.
– I direct the attention of honorable senators to the figures connected with the expenditure. Tasmania in 1901-2 was debited with a total expenditure amounting to £158,982, whilst there was actually expended in that year in the State, only £149,654, or some £10,000, inround figures, less’ than the expenditure with which the State was debited. In 1902-3 Tasmania was debited with £154,521, whilst the amount actually expended was .£140,604. In 1903-4, thefigures debited were £^182,654, actually expended, £168,098 ; in 1904-5, debited, £[185,712, actually expended, ^165,154; and for 1905-6, the actual figures are not yet available. Honorable senators will see that for every year during the past five years, Tasmania has been debited with sums varying from ,£10,000 to £20,000 in excess of the money actually expended in the State. I am therefore justified in saying that in a financial sense, the State which I represent has had to suffer in both ways. As I said at the outset, a number of new items of expenditure are included in the Treasurer’s Budget speech, and I am satisfied that under the present system of allocating new expenditure according to population, Tasmania is likely to be a greater sufferer in the ensuing, year than she was in the past. I may refer to one item of £37,000, which it is proposed shall be spent on the telephone line connecting Melbourne and Sydney. If this is a necessaryservice, it would be unfederal of me to object to it. But I can surely claim some sympathy for Tasmania in this respect. So long as these heavy items of new expenditure are to be distributed on the population basis, it seems distinctly unfederal that the present bookkeeping method’ should be continued, so far as revenue is concerned.
– Has the honorable senator got any figures showing whether Western Australia has made a gain or a loss with regard to expenditure?
– I have the figures; but I do not know why the honorable senator wishes me to pick out Western Australia more than any other State.
– Because I recognise that she must have special terms if we are going to do away with the book-keeping system.
– In 1901-2 the amount debited to Western Australia was £339,589, and the amount expended was £328,324. In 1902-3 the amount debited to the State was £365,000 and the amount expended was £348,000. In 1903-4 the amount debited to the State was ^429,661, and the amount expended was .£405, 000. In 1904-5 the amount debited to the State was -£400.464, and the amount expended was £397,728. I am not Quite sure, but I think that the figures are exclusive of the expenditure on defence.
– Then the figures are of no use for the purpose of making a comparison.
– They may be exclusive of the transferred portion of the defence expenditure.
– That would bring things about square,- but is it exclusive of defence expenditure ?
– According to the footnote it is not. I have not claimed that more money was expended in Western Australia than was debited to her. ‘ What I have claimed is that more money was debited to Tasmania than was expended therein.
– And the honorable senator tried to show that she was faring worse than other States.
– Yes, because side by side with that system of distributing the expenditure is the book-keeping system of distributing the revenue. Cannot the honorable senator see the point? I am quite willing that “ new “ expenditure should be distributed oni a population basis in Tasmania if he would agree that the Federal revenue, should be distributed on that basis. Probably I have used sufficient figures to weary honorable senators, and I shall not weary them any longer in that way. I admit that Western Australia would seem to be treated unfairly if, after October next, we were to adopt straight away the per capita system of distributing the revenue. Even although the discrepancy between the consuming power of the population of Western Australia and that of other States is very great, it is gradually and rapidly diminishing. The last Budget shows that in that State the contribution per head to the Customs and Excise revenue has decreased from £5 16s. 4d. in 1901-2 to ,£3 12s. 5d. - that is estimated - in the current vear, being a decrease of £2 3s. nd. To show how nearly .that’ approximates to the consuming power of the population of other States. I may mention that in the current year the Treasurer estimates that the contribution per head to the Customs and Excise revenue will be -£2 4s. yd. in New South Wales, -C2 is. 8d. in Victoria. .£2 3s. in Queensland. £t 16s. in South Australia. £3 12s. t;d in Western Australia, and £1 1.6s. id. in Tasmania. While I admit that as regards Western Australia the discrepancy in the contribution per head is very large, and that necessarily the adoption ‘ of the per capita system of distributing the revenue would work a seeming injustice to that State, I submit that after October next there should be a financial re-adjustment in the interests of other States, particularly Tasmania. Now, how are we going to effect that re-adjustment without doing a seeming injustice to Western Australia? A suggestion has occurred to me. Certainly it originated with Senator Walker, because in poring over the debates on the financial clause of the Constitution in the Convention, I found that, after all- the keenest financial minds had discussed the question from every possible point of view, and had agreed to the present system, Senator Walker was still of his original opinion. Here, perhaps, I ought tq do justice to Senator Dobson bysaying that one cf the most statesmanlike speeches on this subject made in the Convention was made by him. Although I do not often agree with him in politics, still, I think that I ought to pay him that tribute.
– When the honorable senator does agree his unanimity is wonderful.
– Yes. Senator Dobson was just as far-sighted as were any of the financial men who sat in the Convention. If the other representatives of Tasmania had backed him up as they should have done, and’ not remained dumb dogs, as a good many of them did, I think-
– We should net have had a Federation.
– I think that we should. At any rate, I believe that Tasmania might have got a fairer deal, and that special arrangements might have been made in the interests of her finances just as was done in the case of Western Australia. Now, how are we going, without doing an injustice to Western Australia, to readjust this financial system, which admittedly is causing so much dissatisfaction in the States, and which is a constant bar to the growth of the Federal spirit, which we all wish to see growing.
– The Tasmanians knew the conditions under which they entered the Federation.
– If there is one State in the group which has benefited by the Federation, it is Victoria.
– And she has benefited particularly at the expense of Tasmania through pursuing a wise policy.
– I am not jealous that Victoria has benefited in that way. It reflects credit upon her statesmen that before the consummation of the Union they had adopted a policy which afterwards enabled their manufacturers to swamp other States, and probably to knock out a few small manufacturers in Tasmania. Can we readjust the financial system without doing an injustice to Western Australia, and without, at the same time, putting her Government to a great deal of inconvenience such as other States have been put to? One way out of the difficulty has occurred to me, and I hope that it will be discussed by honorable senators from their particular point of view. Perhaps better suggestions may be offered for the solution of the difficulty. When the time arrives to take a vote I can say whether I shall submit my proposal or not. If we take the difference between the amount which Western Australia would1 have received under the per capita system during the last financial year, and the amount which she did receive under the present system, of” course excluding her receipts under her special Tariff, we shall find that it amounts to £400,000. Would it not be fair to take that amount as a basis, and to say that the per capita system of distribution should come into force in October next, and that there should be made to that State a special vote for a period of five years, but decreasing bv twenty per cent, in each year. In the first year, she would get one-fifth less than £400,000, that is £320,000, and in each following, year she would get £80,000 less than in the previous year until the vote disappeared.
– Why not put in a provision that Tasmania shall get a special donation from Western Australia?
– I am not asking for a special donation for Tasmania. If the representatives of Western Australia will only remember how the discrepancy in consuming power has been disappearing, they may come to the conclusion that it will continue to disappear at the rate of about twenty per cent, in each year during the next five years. Possibly, if it has disappeared by the end of that term, Western Australia will have nothing to complain about. What we do. contend is that we should end the present unfortunate system of dividing the revenue in one manner and the expen- diture in another. If any method can be devised or any suggestion thrown out during the debate which would be acceptable to the majority of honorable senators from other States, and would not work injustice to Western Australia, the discussion will not have been in vain. I ask honorable senators to remember that the State which I represent has been struck at both ends. Her Treasurer and her Governments have, for the last five years, been considerably inconvenienced - perhaps more inconvenienced than the Government of any other State except Queensland. We shall never have a real and true Federation until a true system of dealing with finance is adopted. I am a Federalist, and always have been. I am as sincere a Federalist to-day as ever I was. But I recognise that, until the present system is altered, it will be impossible to create a better Federal feeling in the minds of the Tasmanian electorsthat is there to-day. Wherever a Federal member goes on to the platform, in any portion of Tasmania - even in the remotest parts of the State, where one might think that the people would not take much interest in politics, and especially in financial questions - he invariably meets with an expression of the feeling that Tasmania is not receiving fair treatment. I always reply to such criticism : “ It is simply constitutional ; it cannot be altered, and you cannot, strictly speaking, call it unfair treatment.” Then the argument used is, “ The system should be altered in fairness to this State.” It is impossible to make any elector in Tasmania see the fairness of a financial system which adopts two methods of distribution for revenue and expenditure. I hope that those honorable senators who address themselves to the motion will do so in the same spirit as I have endeavoured to maintain. I trust that those who think their States would be disadvantaged or unfairly treated if my motion were carried, even with the suggestion which I have thrown out, will try to look at the subject from the point of view of the people of a State where the disarrangement of the finances has caused so much trouble and complaint, and has prevented the growth of that Federal spirit which I am sure we all wish to see nourished.
– I am sure that we have all listened to’ Senator
O’Keefe with a great deal of interest. He has placed the mattervery fairly before us. I point out to him, however, that if he will turn to the Treasurer’s Budget speech, delivered on Tuesday last, he will find that- the Government has fully dealt with this matter. We realize the difficulties under which some of the States are labor: ing under the present manner of distribution. But any system except that which we have adopted would have been unfair to some States. The system recommended by Senator O’Keefe would have been grossly unfair to Western Australia. In some of the States the revenue derived from Customs and Excise amounts to £4 and over per head of the population ; in other States it does not amount to half so much. If we were to distribute that revenue on a per capita basis, some States would therefore be robbed at the expense of others. Tasmania may think that she is injured by the existing system. Personally, I fail to see that she has been injured to any great extent. At the present time she is getting the whole of her share of the revenue collected from Customs and Excise after the Commonwealth has taken a proportion to cover necessary expenditure.
– No, she is not.
– Tasmania, I think, pays £1 16s. 81/4d. per head, and Western Australia pays £4 5s. per head-
– £3 odd, I think.
– £4 5s. I have the latest figures, laid on the table of the House of Representatives by the Treasurer. On page 11 of the Budget papers for 1905- 6 these figures are given.
– I took a newspaper report, which shows that the amount paid in Western Australia is £3 12s. 5d. per head.
– If the honorable senator’s motion were carried to-morrow, an injustice would immediately arise to Western Australia far greater than any that he can now allege.
– Is the honorable senator quoting from, last year’s Budget papers or this year’s?
– From the papers for 1905-6.
– Senator O’Keefe quoted the latest figures.
– The figures for 1906- 7 can only be an estimate, not an ascertained amount.
– It was the estimate I used. I said so.
– I prefer to rely upon an actuality, not an estimate. I find that the figures for 1905-6 show that the Customs and Excise receipts for Tasmania per head of population in successive years from J900 to 1905-6 were £2 16s. 6d., £2 15s. 2fd., £z 2s. rod., £2 os. 8£d., £1 18s. rd., £1 16s. 8Jd., and £1 16s. ojd. In Western Australia, however, the receipts in the first year were £5 6s. 2d. per head of the population. They rose to £5 16s. 4¾d. in 1901-2. In the next year thev dropped to £5 8s., then to £4. 13s. £4 4s. 11¾d., and £3 14s. 9%d. So that apparently the consumption of Western, Australia is gradually coming down to something like the level reached in the other States of the Commonwealth. It may come down further within the next five years.
– If the Tasmanians do not shoot we will come down.
– These figures show the reasons why Tasmania is receiving so small an amount per head of population, and they also show why. if the distribution were made all over the Commonwealth per head of population, Tasmania would gain largely at the expense of her neighbours. Even supposing that an injustice is inflicted upon her now, which I do not conceive to be the case, if effect were given to Senator O’Keefe’s motion a considerably greater injustice would be inflicted upon other States.
– - Is the honorable senator in favour of continuing the expenditure upon the present system?
– The present is a hybrid system. The “transferred “ expenditure, that is expenditure in connexion with services taken over from the States, such as expenditure in connexion with militan matters - is put under one heading ; and “other” expenditure is dealt with in a different manner. The “ other “ expenditure is divided amongst the’ State on a per capita basis. Western Australia is a goahead State, requiring a large number of new works. Since Sir George Turner provided that all new public works should be paid’ for out of “other” expenditure, Western Australia, so far as concerns money spent on public works, has apparently had more than her fair share. But it must be recollected that, although that may be the case, the State that is gaining least from this system is Victoria. Victoria has not had anything like the amount of “ other “ . expenditure within her territory that little Tasmania has had in proportion to population. At the present time we are building a fort at Hobart. The payment is debited to “other” expenditure.
– Building a fort at Hobart !
– All that is being clone is to provide for one gun on a hill !
– We have to spend some thousands of pounds. That is not “transferred” but “other” expenditure.
– One gun to defend all Tasmania !
– So far as concerns the distribution of revenue on a per capita basis a paper distributed by the Treasurer shows what the effect would have been, if the distribution had been made on the basis of population. First the table shows the actual amount distributed, and then the amount that would have been distributed if on the basis of population. In the first year of the existence of the Commonwealth we find that New South, Wales would have gained £192,534; Victoria £344,271 ; Queensland ,£42,509, and South Australia ‘£67,902. Western Australia, however, would have lost, if the amounts paid to the State Treasurers had been distributed on the basis of population, £658,256 in that one year. Tasmania would have gained the very small amount of £11,040. In the following year the tables would have been turned against New South Wales, which, instead of a gain., would have experienced a loss of £171,696; Victoria would have come out with a gain- of £373,089 ; Queensland with a gain of £142,974; South Australia with a gain of £173,306; Western Australia with a loss of £579,834 ; and Tasmania with a gain of £62,161. In the year 1903-4, New South Wales would have lost £71,659; Victoria would have gained £209,116; Queensland would have gained £132,439; South Australia would have gained £117,908; Western Australia would have lost £453,035 ; and Tasmania would have gained ‘£65, 231. ‘ If the matter be put in another way, and the gain or loss to the States shown if the actual distribution had been varied by charging new works and buildings on a population basis - what we are doing now - as compared with the result if the whole surplus had been distributed on a popu- lation basis, New South Wales would have lost £[78,533 ; Victoria would have gained £[233,866 ; Queensland would have gained £[144,996 ; South Australia would have gained £[114,240; Western Australia would have lost £478,575, or still more than under the per capita system ; and Tasmania would have gained £64,006. In the year 1904-5, there would have been a turn, I do not know for what particular reason, in favour of New South Wales, which State, under the per capita system in that year, would have gained £30,788, although previously she had* suffered a loss, except in the first year of Federation. Victoria, in 1905-6, would have come down to a gain of £[100,402 ; and Queensland would have come down to a gain of £95,215. South Australia, in that year, would have come out pretty well, with a gain of ,£122,636, and, therefore, the system would have suited’ my own State. Western Australia, however, would have come out with, a heavy loss of .£335,868. It is estimated that in the year 1906-7, New South Wales, under a per capita system, would . come out with a loss of £1.73,089 ; Victoria with a gain of £.104,643; Queensland with a gain of £[r55’,668; South Australia with a gain of £141,139; Western Australia with less loss than she Has ever experienced before, namely, £[309,279. Bui) Tasmania, it is esti-mated, would make a most marvellous jump to a gain of £80,000. I have now shown honorable senators what the position would be if we were to pass this motion - that New South Wales would lose heavily, and Western Australia would lose most disastrously. How would the result in the case of Western Australia be brought about? The Western Australian people, through the Customs, are paying p-r h-id into the Commonwealth Treasury, an amount considerably in excess of that paid by any other State; and under the system now proposed, money thus paid would be simply placed to the credit of the other States. I suppose that some people would call that robbery; at all events, it is much like robbery.
– The figures quoted do not take into consideration the per capita distribution of the transferred expenditure that would have to take place.
– I have not touched on the question of expenditure, but only dealt with the receipts out of which the expenditure has to be made.
The discussion has special reference to Tasmania; and all I know is that that State is treated in precisely the same way as is every other State, so that there can scarcely be any complaint on that score. Tasmania is credited with the amount of Customs and Excise revenue she pays, less any sum which the Commonwealth Parliament may deem necessary for the purposes of Commonwealth administration; and she is debited with all transferred expenditure on a per capita basis, as are all the other States. For instance, the expenditure on Thursday Island is called “ other “ expenditure; and why? Because, originally, Thursday Island was fortified at the joint expense of most of the States; and it was contended that all the States should contribute to the maintenance of the fortifications, just as in the case of Albany. Then, again, we have taken over the administration of Papua, which costs £20,000 or £[30,000 a year ; and towards this expenditure Tasmania simply pays in proportion to population ; in short, Tasmania is treated in exactly the same way as is every other State. If we adopt this motion, and alter the system, the result will be that Tasmania will dip her hands into the pockets of New South Wales and Western Australia; and I do not think that that is the desire of the people of Tasmania. Surely Tasmania does not want to use for her own special benefit money contributed by the people of New South Wales and Western Australia ?
– Was that state of things not contemplated when we federated ?
– I am not going into the question of what was contemplated when we federated. We know that all sorts of things were contemplated ; but the men who framed the Constitution were wise in their generation. They foresaw the difficulties, and knew that, unless they adopted the system of each State being credited with the amount contributed through Excise and Customs, and of each State paying its expenditure on a fair basis, the grossest injustice would be inflicted on certain of the States.
– Do I understand the Minister to say that Tasmania pays a quota in the case of Thursday Island”?
– Tasmania, like every other State of the Commonwealth, pays on a per capita basis for the upkeep of the fortifications.
– And also for. the upkeep of the fort at Fremantle.
– Tasmania contributes neither in the case of Thursday Island nor in the case of Fremantle.
– Tasmania contributes towards the cost of new works, and so forth. In regard to the expenses of New Guinea, she contributes exactly in the same way as Western Australia and the other States.
– Tasmania does not contribute to the upkeep of the fortifications at Thursday Island.
– Tasmania also contributes per capita to the cost of making the fort at Fremantle.
– Why was the five years’ limit put in the Constitution?
– I do not know. I was in England, as Agent-General for South Australia, when the Federal Convention met, and I did not follow the discussions very closely. It appears to me, however, that the members of the Convention were able to present to the people of the various States a statement of how the revenue was to be derived and expended ; and they concluded that this could not be done fairly on a per capita basis, but they left it to the Parliament to decide whether that basis should be adopted after a certain period. Senator O’Keefe has told us that Western Australia appears to be the “ lion in the path.” .
– The only stumblingblock.
– I do not know how the honorable senator can call Western Australia the only stumbling-block, when we recollect that New South Wales would, under the system proposed, lose £173,089, in 1906-7, which, with the £309,000 already alluded to, would make a total loss of very nearly ,£500,000. But Senator O’Keefe practically suggests that Western Australia should be left out of consideration, and that we should then see how the figures would come out. Sir John Forrest, following the example of Sir George Turner, has afforded the Commonwealth information of the most valuable character relating to these matters. Amongst the tables laid before another place, when the Budget speech was delivered, was a statement comparing the amounts paid to the States Treasurers with the amounts which would have been paid if distributed on the basis of population, excluding Western Austra lia. This table shows that under such circumstances New South Wales, in 1902, would have lost £43,685, Victoria would have gained1 £106,609, Queensland would have lost £46,123, South Australia would have gained .£6,153, and Tasmania would have lost £22,954. It will be seen, therefore, that Tasmania would have started with a loss on this particular basis. Senator O’Keefe has suggested that we should practically exclude Western Australia. That, however, could not be done under the Constitution, which, provides that in these matters there shall be uniformity. But, supposing it had been possible to exclude Western Australia, Tasmania, it will be seen, would have started with a loss of £22,954.
– I said so ; the Minister is only repeating the statement I made.
– Although Tasmania would have gained under that system in the year following, the loss to New South Wales would have amounted to £399,892. We should here be met with another difficulty. The honorable senator would eliminate Western Australia, but other States would be very badly off under the system he proposes. Honorable senators must remember that I am quoting actual figures, and not merely estimates.
– I used actual figures also.
– Under the honorable senator’s proposal New South Wales would have lost in 1903-4 £263,151; .Victoria would have gained £77>5o6, Queensland £78,320, . South Australia £66,537, and Tasmania £40,788. A wonderful change would have taken place in the next year, because, whilst Victoria in the previous years would havegained considerable sums, under this peculiar system of distributing the revenue, she would in 1904-5 have lost £39,999, New South Wales would have lost £.148, Z4r, Queensland would have shown a gain of £99,741, South Australia a gain of £53,190, and the gain by Tasmania would have dropped to £35,309. So the figures would run on, until the current year, for which an estimate only is given. Honorable senators will notice that in this table New South Wales is placed in exactly the same position as Western Australia occupies in the last table, because she would be the State to lose all the money under the system which Senator O’Keefe thinks would be so fair. Taking the esti- mated figures for the year 1906-7, under this system New South Wales would lose £295,548, Victoria would gain £5,964, Queensland £112,742, South Australia £110,433, and Tasmania £66,409. I do not know that I need” labour the matter any more. I have shown 4he exact position, and honorable senators are aware that the reason why Western Australia loses a larger sum than other States is that her population consumes per head dutiable goods to a much greater extent than do the people of the other States, And especially the people of Tasmania. I have shown, also, that if the system advocated by Senator O’Keefe were adopted its effect would be to inflict very grievous injustice ora Western Australia. The real point ia that the honorable senator cannot show that under the existing system any injustice is inflicted upon Tasmania. Tasmania receives the whole of the revenue from Customs and Excise collected in the State, less that which the Commonwealth spends, in just the same way as every other State does. So far as expenditure is concerned, it is not germane to the subject, and I need not deal with it.
– It is most important.
– In respect to expenditure, Tasmania is treated in precisely the same way as every one of the other States.
– And yet during the last five years she has come off very badly.
– There is no injustice to Tasmania, or to any of the other States. Tasmania is treated, with respect to expenditure on transferred services, and new expenditure, in just the same way as the other States. Where is the injustice? I can see none, and in the circumstances I think I may fairly ask Senator O’Keefe to withdraw his motion. The question is not one which the Government should shirk, and they do not propose to shirk it. When the five years is up, we shall be in a position to alter the mode of distribution. Honorable senators who have followed what has been taking place within the last few years are aware that meetings have been held between the States Treasurers and the Federal Treasurer, with the object of arriving at some mutual arrangement in connexion! with the operation of the Braddon section of the Constitution, and the larger question of the taking over of the States debts by the Commonwealth. At one time the Braddon section was looked upon as a fearful blot on the Constitution, but the
States d’o not now look upon that section as a blot. It is looked upon now as a bright and shining light, and a safeguard rather than as a blot. What the States Treasurers say now is that the Braddon section should be continued in operation for the next thirty years.
– At the last Conference they asked that it should be continued for ever.
– I was not aware that thev had gone that far. I am afraid that Judgment Day would intervene to prevent that. However, we are now told that the “ Braddon blot “ is no longer a blot, and should be continued in operation for ever. It is the duty of the Government to deal with these questions, and they have not failed to do so. If honorable senators will read the Treasurer’s Budget speech, thev will find in it a statement of the views of the Government on these questions. As far as the money to be returned to the different States is concerned, the Treasurer’s proposal, which is acquiesced in by the other members of the Government, is that it shall be a fixed amount, instead of, as at present, an uncertain amount, dependent upon what is spent by the Commonwealth. The existing state of things in this respect is very unsatisfactory. If I were the Treasurer of a State, I know that I should be very much better pleased to be able to say that mv revenue from Customs and Excise would be a certain sum. If I were uncertain as to what it would be, I should have difficulty in balancing revenue and expenditure for the State. What the Government propose in this respect is that, instead of continuing the present uncertain system, under which the amount “handed to each State depends on the amount collected from Customs and Excise in each State, less the amount of Commonwealth expenditure, we should’ take the last five years’ receipts in each State from Customs and Excise, deduct what might be considered a fair amount for Commonwealth expenditure, and strike an average. We should then be in a position to say to the Treasurers of the States that for the next five years they will get so much. An account would be kept of the amount received by each State, and, at the end of the next five years, we could continue the process.
– Would not the States also receive a share of any surplus above the stated amount?
– No. If after having said to the States Treasurers, “ We will return to you a certain sum of money, based on a fair estimate of your receipts from Customs and Excise, less Commonwealth expenditure,” we altered our Tariff so as to increase the amount derived from Customs and Excise revenue we should require to spend the increased revenue ourselves.
– Only if the Customs and Excise revenue is increased for some special purpose?
– There should be a distribution amongst the States of any surplus over and “above the fixed sum.
– The increase might be for a special purpose, towards defence, for building a fleet to carry Our mails, or for any other undertaking that Parliament might approve. That would be a very much more satisfactory way of dealing with the matter. I do not propose to discuss the question of the taking over of the debts of the States, but that has also been dealt with in the Treasurer’s Budget speech. The right honorable gentleman has submitted an exceedingly valuable memorandum on the subject,, to which Ministers have given a great deal of consideration, and I think that it proposes a satisfactory system, under which we might work for years to come.
– Is it proposed that the bookkeeping system shall continue for ever ?
– We do not wish the bookkeeping system to continue, ‘ and it will not be continued if we agree to pay to the States a certain fixed sum, but we must keep a record of the amount paid to each State. I think that the Government have submitted a scheme which offers a satisfactory solution of the difficulty.
– The Government do not propose that there shall be any termination to the bookkeeping system.
– Certainly we do.
– The honorable senator has been arguing the other way.
– I have been saying that we propose, to return a “fixed sum to each State.
– Exactly ; and to keep a bookkeeping account for each State.
– We shall2 of course, keep a bookkeeping account for each State in connexion with the Customs.
– For all time?
– For all time, so long as we continue to collect Customs duties.
– And return to each State the amount collected in that State. t
– That is what the honorable senator said.
– No, I did not say that. ‘ I said that we propose to return a fixed sum to each State.
– The Government proposal is to substitute for the bookkeeping system and the present per capita distribution the payment of a fixed sum to each State.
– That is so. It is proposed that that shall go on for five years, and thé sum to be paid to each State will be based on actual contributions for the previous five years, less Commonwealth expenditure, divided by five. That will give the starting-point. Instead of paying, as at present, an uncertain amount to each State, we propose the adoption of the system in operation in Canada of paying, a fixed sum to each State. I believe that that will be found to be a much more satisfactory way of dealing with the matter. I am sure that honorable senators will read the memorandum on the subject submitted’ by the Treasurer with a considerable amount of interest, and I think they will see that Ave have proposed ‘a fair solution of the difficulties relating to the transfer of property, the taking over of the debts of the States, and the amount to ‘be returned to the States as their share of the revenue derived from Customs and Excise. I ask Senator O’Keefe, -possibly after the discussion has taken place on the subject, to withdraw his motion.
– Does the memorandum suggest that we should never have a per capita distribution ?
– There is no other logical interpretation of the honorable senator’s speech.
– I cannot go on indefinitely trying to knock things into people’s heads. I may give them reasons, but I cannot give them something else.
Debate (on motion by Senator Pulsford) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 26th July (vide page 1848), on motion by Senator Pulsford -
That the Bill be row read a second time.
Senator Col. NEILD (New South Wales) [4.29]. - In resuming the debate on the ^second reading of this Bill, I should like, first of all, to direct the attention of honorable senators to the great difference in the attitude of the supporters and of the opponents of the measure. I do not do so in any unkindly spirit, but I think that I am justified and required to draw attention to something that was said by Senator Pulsford, in moving. the second reading of this Bill, last week -
The very fact that the honorable senator who was moving the second reading of the Bill made such a statement - 110 doubt in good faith, believing that he was advocating sobriety, while I was an advocate of drunkenness - indicates that he, equally with many of its supporters, are most unfortunately unacquainted with the subject with which they undertook to deal.
SenatorCol. NEILD. - My honorable friend may be quite sure that the teetotal bodies would make every representation they possibly could n opposition, and I do not suppose that the Commonwealth authorities would have any locus standi in a magistrates’ Licensing Court. In respect of any such affair, what right would they have to go there?
The purpose of the canteen, as officially announced, is to supply troops with goods at a low rate of profit and to afford rational recreation and amusement to all enlisted men. The sale of ardent spirits is strictly prohibited therein, but commanding officers are authorized to permit light beer and wine to be sold by the drink, on week days, in a room set apar for the purpose, when in their opinion such action is promotive of temperance. Gambling of any character is forbidden. Each canteen is managed by an officer selected by the jjost commander for his fitness for the position, he being allowed one or more enlisted men as assistants; under recent orders civilians only being allowed to serve as bar keepers. As showing the favour with which the canteen system was received by troops, it is only necessary to say that in 1894, five years after ils inauguration, there were seventy-five canteens in successful operation in our service, and that during that year the total receipts were $1,417,079.62 ; of which sum no less than $304,649.91 were returned to the men as dividend profits, or about one dollar per month per man. During the year ending 30th June, 1898, the aggregate receipts of the exchanges in operation in the army amounted to $1,621,398.67, and there was received as money on deposit $189,258.81 ; making the total amount of money received $1,810,657.48. There was expended for merchandise purchased, rent, fixtures and repairs, and expenses of operation, $1,297,737.16- which, less deposits, gave a profit of $323,661.51- From this amount donations to the funds of the several regimental bands aggregated the sum of $9,154.51 ; to the maintenance of post gardens, $1,559.17; to post libraries, $640.06; the gymnasia, $2,913.75; as prizes for the encouragement of athletic sports, $3,336.41 ; and, after selling aside the sum of $60,877.58 as a reserve fund to meet the anticipated expenses foi at least one month, the sum of $254,890.93 was returned to the members in the form of dividends. The effect of the introduction of the canteen system upon sick rates with respect to alcoholism, as shown by the reports of the surgeon-general, was prompt and marked. For the decade 1878-87, the average number of admissions for alcoholism and its direct results amounted to 64.28 per thousand of white troops. This rate diminished during the next ten years, in proportion, as canteens were gradually established at various posts, omitting fractions, in the following ratio : - 44, 46, 44, 44, 4’, 37, 34. 32, 31, 3°-
Those figures show a reduction of considerably more than one-half in cases of alcoholism. Surely that fact is of value. Surely it indicates that canteens do not make “for insobriety. I will quote another passage -
On observing the admissions for alcoholism for the seven years, 1885-91, which immediately preceded the general establishment of the canteen system upon a satisfactory basis throughout the army, it is found that a yearly average ot 1,214.8 men found it necessary to apply for treatment from this cause; while for the six years, 1892-97, after canteens had been generally established throughout the army, an average of only 928.4 men required medical care as the result of alcoholism - a reduction amounting to 23.6 per cent.
Then, there is a paragraph of more general character, which, as applying to tropical countries, will be of interest in view of the remarks of some speakers -
In 1890, there were 17 posts, at which the admission r.ite for alcoholism exceeded 10 per cent, of the strength. In 1891, the number of such posts had decreased to 11, and in the six subsequent years diminished at the following rate - 10, 7i 4, 5. 2> 2- ‘J-‘u’s favorable showing for the army at large was duplicated in the case of each individual post; the introduction of the canteen, at a military station, in no instance failing to be promptly followed by a diminution of alcoholism. For certain stations this improvement was extraordinary. In 1889, Willet’s Point had an admission rate for alcoholism of 222.97 Per thousand. For 1890, the year during which the canteen was established at that post, it fell to i57-5°i and in the next year was reduced to only 70.46. At Fort Spokane, the amount of sickness resulting from intoxicants was reported by the surgeon as having diminished 50 per cent, during the six months following the institution of the canteen. At Fort Douglas, in 1888 and 1889, the total number of admissions attributed to alcoholism amounted to about 85 per thousand strength; while during the period 1892-94, this rate fell to 52.95 per thousand strength - and such instances might be largely multiplied.
I may state that this is a quotation from The Theory and Practice of Military Hygiene, by Edward L. Munson, Captain, Medical Department, United States Army.
The cases of delirium tremens will be accepted by all as furnishing reliable data by which the gravity u.f the admissions for alcoholism may be determined.
This book, and another that I have here., published bv the British Medical Institute, were sent to me by one of the very highest military medical authorities in Australia - a gentleman who has not only seen service under the British flag, but, before he became a naturalized subject, had seen service on the Continent of Europe.
It is, therefore, of interest 1.0 observe that for the seven year period above noted, pr or to the complete adoption of the canteen system, the average annual admissions for this cause, actual numbers, was 23.8; while for the six year period following the general establishment of this system, the average number of men admitted yearly for delirium tremens was 16.6 - a reduction of 31.3 per cent, in this serious class of cases.
Surely a system that reduces alcoholism in so remarkable a manner, and reduces the number of cases of delirium tremens to the extent of 31 per cent., must have some of the merits claimed for it by those who think that the consumption of liquor, under discipline and responsibility, is much more likely to make for sobriety and good order than is indiscriminate consumption.
Tt can scarcely be doubted that this remarkable decrease was chiefly influenced bv the genera1 substitution of beer, a milder beverage, which rarely produces delirium tremens, for distilled liquors the free use of which is well known to result in mental excitement and nervous exhaustion.
Now, as to some other results of the canteen system -
The canteen, for the maintenance of good order, in which a commissioned officer is held responsible, is as aid to discipline as well as to the health and morals of troops. It provides a resort which, while under thorough military control, offers inducements to the men to remain at home, and spend their idle time within the limits of the post; this condition obviously being far preferable to the one formerly existing, when the nearest and generally patronized places of amusement and refreshment were the grog shops, usually the gambling room and brothel annexes, which marked the limits of each military reservation. Except with the most dissolute class of men, the soldier is well satisfied to patronize the canteen to the exclusion of outside saloons; knowing, as he does, that he receives good value for his money in articles of excellent quality, and fully appreciating that the profits of the institution ultimately accrue entirely to his benefit, and are not, as with the case of outside establishments, diverted to the advantage of others.
As to the matter of good order amongst the troops, I think the figures relating to desertion would surely prove something. In the six years before the canteen system was established in the United States, the percentage of desertions was 9.18, while the six years following, the percentage was 4-53-
From the above table, it is observed that during the first year after the canteen system was officially established, the rate of desertions fell 30 per cent., while in the next year the rate was further reduced to 48 per cent. For the five years previous to the establishment of the first officially recognised canteen, the number of men annually deserting from the service, per thousand strength, amounted to 101 ; while for the eight years immediately subsequent to the institution of this system, the annual number of desertions was reduced to 50 per thousand strength.
The writer goes on -
Drunkenness is certainly prevented by the constant military supervision to which the canteen is. subjected. The men themselves are usually careful not to indulge in alcoholics to the point of” inebriety ; while such few individuals as are inclined to be forgetful of the dangers of excess, will usually be restrained by companions, or by those connected with the establishment - who have no personal interest in promoting the sale of liquor, as does the saloon keeper of civil life - from passing the bounds of actual intoxication.
There is one other table to which I propose to refer, as showing the total number of trials and convictions in the Army for all causes, and the number of trails and convictions for drunkenness, and conditions arising therefrom. The table showsthat for the six years before the canteen> period the total number of trials and conviction of all kinds was 1,838, as compared with 1,605, or a reduction of 233, after the establishment of canteens. The total number of trials and convictions for drunkenness for the same periods were- 372.5 and 160.6 respectively, a reductionof materially more than one-half. Thistable is of importance, as showing that the reduction was greater in reference tocases of< drunkenness than in reference togeneral crime; and the fact is signally pertinent to this Bill. There was quite a moderate reduction in general crime, but an enormous reduction in drunkenness. I desire to occupy as little time as possible,, but. I hope that honorable senators recognise that I am speaking on a subject of which I have some knowledge, and in which I take some interest, and that I am no longer sufficiently actively connected? with the Military Forces to have any personal interest in the outcome of this Bill. I do not think there are many, either inside or outside the Chamber, who would* regard me as an advocate of either looseliving or loose drinking, and. therefore, if” I take a strong view, it is not because I believe in reckless consumption of liquor, but in the belief that what is proposed* will be injurious rather than beneficial. Had I the least idea that the Bill’ would have the good effects that some honorable senators claim for it,. I should give it mv strongest support. But I am convinced that it will not dogood, and that, on. the contrary, it Wil do harm. It is for this reason I am adopting an attitude, which, no doubt, will get one into hot water with a considerable number of very worthy people, who, knowing nothing whatever about the subject, will very much resent my action. I propose now to quote from a work from the pen -of “Robert Caldwell, F.R.S., D.P.H., Lieutenant-Colonel, Royal Army Medical Corps. Formerly Medical Officer in Charge, District Laboratory, Meerut; Member of Committee On Field Sanitation in connexion with Surgeon-General’s Report on South African Campaign; Medi>cal Officer in Charge, District Laboratory and Isolation Hospital, First Army Corps.” It cannot be claimed that this work is not of a recent date, since it bears the date 1905, and it was sent out to Australia, as is shown by a piece of paper pasted in it, in order that it might be reviewed by the distinguished gentleman who has lent me the volume so that I may make use of it here. The writer says -
Whether universal teetotalism is or is not desirable is too vast a subject to be entered on “here. Whatever individual views may be entertained, there is no getting over the fact that the average man, whether soldier or citizen, will partake of alcohol as a beverage, and, this being the case, it is better to make the habit as little deleterious as possible, instead of violently reprobating a custom which, even if undesirable, is, nevertheless, indulged in by an enormous number of self-respecting people of both sexes, whose lives and conduct are absolutely above reproach. If the soldier has an uncomfortable canteen in barracks he will drink in the town, where the chances are he will consume bad liquor in company of corresponding quality, and where’, being free from military control, he can indulge in libations and in a style of behaviour which would be impossible, or, at any rate, promptly followed by unpleasant consequences, within the precincts of an institution under official management.
Many canteens are the reverse of comfortable, being cold, bare, and often detestably lighted. To maintain uncomfortable and cheerless regimental institutes is the surest way to drive men into the town, and to drive men into the town invariably means an increase of drunkenness and -crime.
Here is something with reference to the abolition of canteens, during the last three years, in the American Army. I propose to quote, as does Colonel “Caldwell from - The Military Medical Condition in Pekin China, by Captain Frederick M. Hartsock, United States Army Journal of the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States, October, 1904.
In the United States Army the absence of canteens has made itself seriously felt, and, at the same time, their good is fully appreciated.
The habits of the men depend largely on the nationality. I am sorry to say that although the Americans preserve most excellent discipline, drunkenness is more prevalent among them than the other nationalities. *
That is of some consequence, seeing that this Bill is based upon alleged American experience.
Possibly this is due to the lack of the canteen system with us. The British have a well-estab lished post exchange where light beer is sold, and in connexion a club-room, which tends to keep the soldier in barracks and preserve sobriety. The French give a ration of wine ; likewise the Italians and Austrians. The Japanese sell beer and sake in their compound, but never have a case of drunkenness. The Germans have a home like Rathskeller where beer and German foods are sold, and their drunkenness is nil. The Russians have no post exchange as the sol- dier only gets about 20 cents per month, and therefore has little to spend in liquor; but often the soldiers convive with other nationalities, and there is likely to be drunkenness if the liquor is obtainable.
I direct the special attention of honorable senators to what follows, because it describes the condition of affairs in America since the canteen has been done away with -
The American soldier, however, is forced to the low groggeries and dives, dozens of which exist on the outskirts of the legation quarter, and the result is he either imbibes an extra quantity of alcohol to last until he reaches the barracks or buys cheap whisky in bottles and secretes it for use in the garrison. The American soldier is the most sought after, as he has far more pay to spend than the other nationalities, and the result is the extra tendency to fall into the hands of these brothel and saloon keepers who especially cater to encourage this trade. I believe this accounts for the extra large venereal rate among our soldiers.
I make one other quotation, which, I think, will be the last, although there is very much in this volume I should like to read -
From the reports of the Surgeon-General of the United States Army, for the past twenty years it is found that alcoholism is not nearly so great an evil in the Army as it was prior to the establishment of the post exchange allowing the sale of beer and light wines to the soldier. From 18S3 to 1888 the annual admission rate from alcoholism varied from 69 to 40 per 1,000. When the last figure was reached, the SurgeonGeneral reported in 1889 - “ There is here manifested a gratifying temperance movement which it is hoped the canteen system may render more actively progressive.”
Surely we can place some reliance on the opinion of a Surgeon-General of an Army ? Such an officer cannot be concerned in promoting the miscellaneous consumption of liquor. The quotation proceeds -
And in 1890 prohibition on the military reservation has been suggested and tried, but this has immediately invited the establishment of dens of dissipation and disease just beyond the jurisdiction of the commanding officer.
I wish Senator Best were here to listen to that statement.
Licence on the reservation, in the opinion of our medical officers, is infinitely preferable to unbridled licence outside of it. It is believed that the canteen system will have a greater effect in reducing the statistics of alcoholism than any measure that has yet been tried.
I feel that I cannot trespass upon the time of honorable senators bv a further quotation from these two very valuable works, but their temperate phraseology, and the sources of the information from which they are drawn, are of such a character as must commend the extracts 1 have made .to the acceptance of those who have heard them.
I do not propose to give the names of those who have sent these answers to my question. I shall give the names of the writers of some letters I have received, but I have no authority to use the. names of the gentlemen who sent these wires. If. However, it is considered desirable, I am prepared to submit the actual telegrams to Senator Pulsford, in order that he may check my statements. These are the answers I have received. From a colonel -
Bill most objectionable for camps. Hardship on men more than officers, particularly permanent men.
From another colonel -
Against Bill. Unpopular. Create more crime.
From a lieut. -colonel -
Every man in regiment violently opposed, grounds of discipline, efficiency, and comfort.
From another lieut. -colonel -
Military canteens preferable to drinking in neighbouring public-houses.
From another lieut. -colonel -
No. Entirely opposed to it. Letter posted.
From a major - -
No. Consider it will be responsible for more crime than ever anticipated.
From a lieut. -colonel -
This gentleman is a total abstainer. From another lieut. -colonel -
Strongly disapprove Canteen Bill. Will be extremely harmful.
From another lieut. -colonel -
Strongly disapprove Canteen Bill. Will indirectly seriously affect good order.
From another lieut. -colonel -
Disapprove abolition of canteens.
From -the sergeants’ mess of a very wellknown and prominent regiment of the militia I received this telegram -
Strongly opposed to Canteen Bill.
From another sergeants’ mess came this telegram -
Mess strongly opposed to Bill.
Here is an opinion from two colonels -
No; think canteens absolutely necessary.
Another colonel wires -
I think it will be a big mistake to do away with canteens, for reasons which must be obvious to every officer.
No doubt it will be convenient if I read a fairly long letter from a lieutenantcolonel, who, as he1 says, has had over twenty years’ experience in the Permanent Military Forces. He is on the retired list under the age regulation. I know that he has been intimately .connected with the military service, and has had a very extensive knowledge of the working of ‘ the canteen business. I allude to Lieutenant-Colonel Murray, late of the Royal Australian Artillery, who writes as follows : -
Military canteens - referring especially to the Liquor Department - are established for the purpose of enabling the rank and file (sergeants having, of course, the accommodation of their mess), to obtain the best possible quality at the lowest possible charge, in comfortable quarters, and in the congenial society of their own class.
Intoxication is guarded against bv limiting the hours of sale by the strict injunction upon the canteen steward not to serve any man beyond a certain margin ; and by the circumstances that a non-commissioned officer, called the “canteen orderly,” is detailed daily to attend the canteen to see that there is no irregularity or drinking to excess. No inducement is held out to the soldier beyond those stated ; he is in no way tempted or solicited to patronize the canteen.
The liquor canteen is only open from 12 to 1 p.m., and 4 to 9.30 p.m.
The profits, which are cut down to the lowest possible margin, after payment of working expenses, are devoted to the benefit of the soldier either in the purchase of sport materials, such as cricket and football gear, &c, indoor games, newspapers and periodicals for the recreation room, or otherwise as may be suitable. Occasionally prizes are awarded for athletic contests, military sports, &c.
Writing after 26 years in the regular military service, during which I have been actively concerned in the administration of canteens, I am perfectly satisfied that such institutions are for the benefit of the men - that no young soldier was ever led into intemperance in a military canteen, for the reasons already staled, viz.’, strict supervision, no solicitation to drink, prevention of excessive drinking, limited hours.
If the canteen is closed the effect will be that the soldier, instead of obtaining wholesome liquor at tha minimum price in a private establishment, conducted upon reputable lines, will go to a public house, where he will be served with inferior liquor at a higher charge, and where there will be every incentive upon him to drink to intoxication.
The inducement to remain in barracks will be removed, and he will have a direct temptation to loaf about the town. Drinking will be increased, not diminished, and the soldier will become liable to the evil effects which flow from such excess.
With regard to camp canteens, depriving men of the accommodation which the canteen affords, amounts to treating respectable citizen soldiers upon the assumption that they are unable to exercise any restraint over themselves, and that if they are provided with a canteen they will necessarily drink to excess.
To abolish camp canteens would be a step which I am quite sure will be resented in the highest degree by all except fanatic prohibition lsts -
If a town or village were handy, they would go off there, whenever they could, and probably, when “ happy and glorious,” proceed to “ paint it red.”
Again, it is to be remembered that very frequently inclement weather prevails during camps, when a little stimulant becomes almost a necessity.
It is stated - (but of course I cannot say with what truth) - that it ‘is the publicans themselves who are behind this movement, and that for obvious reasons they are extremely desirous that there shall be no establishment to minister to the soldier beyond themselves.
For all these reasons I am quite satisfied that the Canteen Bill is distinctly a step in the wrong direction, inasmuch as it is entirely uncalled for; it will not in the least degree promote the cause of temperance; it will play into the hands of the publicans; and in camps will promote sotting in the tents, and absence from the lines.
That gives a description of how the canteen is managed, as well as an opinion with reference to the system.’
That the Regimental Sergeant-Major, theBattery SergeantMajor, and the Company SergeantsMajor be elected as representatives of this meeking to bring the following matters under the notice of the Officer Commanding Artillery at as early a date as can be arranged : -
That this meeting of Warrant Officers and Sergeants of the Royal Australian Artillery view with much concern the proposal to prohibit thesale of spirituous liquor in the military barracksand camps of the Commonwealth, and respectfully ask that the Officer Commanding Artillerymay see his way to forward this respectful protest through the official channel to the Minister for Defence.
As the effect of the Bill under consideration, if approved by the Senate, would be to close upthe sergeants’ mess premises, the same being almost wholly maintained from the profits derived from the liquor bar, it is felt that the well-being of the members of the mess will be seriously affected thereby, as explained hereunder : -
That the status and dignity of the sergeants will be considerably lowered ; sergeants’ messes being established all over the British Empire for the purpose of maintaining the position and’ dignity of the sergeants, and to place them above the ordinary barracks-room life.
That the senior non-commissioned officers of” the Regiment look with dread on the task before them in the matter of prevention of crime, which must arise if this measure becomes law. Therecords of crime are at the present practicallynonexistent.
That this measure places soldiers living in (barracks on the same footing as criminals and lunatics, and below that of paupers.
That the present sergeants’ mess premises (the home of the single sergeant), established on the formation of the Regiment nearly 35 years ago, and which have cost the members a considerable sum, will have to be broken up.
The following resolution was passed by a sergeants’ mess in the militia branch of the Military Forces: -
That a protest be entered by the mess against the Bill passed in the House of Representatives abolishing canteens, and prohibiting the sale of liquors in military camps or barracks.
The letter which covers the resolution, and which is signed by the chairman, who is a warrant officer, and the secretary, who is a quartermaster-sergeant, both being of the highest rank of the non-commissioned service, explains -
The objects of a mess are to bring its members more frequently together, thereby forming a bond of union, and the establishment of a school of instruction. We would, therefore, strongly point out that the abolition of canteens in military encampments would eventually mean the ^abolition of all sergeants’ messes. We would -also point out that throughout the British Empire -sergeants’ messes and canteens exist and are encouraged.
I have a further letter from the same noncommissioned source. Necessarily, I must omit reading some of the matter that I possess, and therefore I cannot find time to quote that letter.
Senator- Dobson. - Do I understand that the profits derived from the sale of the drink keep the sergeants’ mess going?
My Dear Neild,
I received your telegram on Thursday and your letter of 26th inst. re the Canteen Bill. I at once replied to your telegram, and am thankful that you are interesting yourself in this important matter. The Bill is a gross insult to the citizen soldiers and permanent force too. It means imposing on them the disabilities imposed on lunatics, aborginals, and convicts.
At a meeting of commanding officers on Thursday all were very indignant when I mentioned the subject.
I submit that there cannot be any suspicion that a .number of gentlemen charged with maintaining discipline and good order in their regiments would be found unanimously acting in a direction that would be calculated to produce disorder. It is not credible 5 that regimental commanders would seek to advance the cause of intemperance in their commands. The idea is absolutely beyond the possibility of acceptance. This officer continues -
And passed a unanimous resolution that such legislation would seriously injure the force, and General Gordon was asked to make their views known to the Minister.
As I said in my telegram, stopping canteens would be a greater hardship on the men than the officers, for the officers are better able to provide for themselves. There is no need for such a law, and instead of preventing crime it would create it. At our last camp near Liverpool we had a canteen run by the brigade, and in the whole 2,000 men there was no drunkenness or crime, but if the men had to go outside of camp and get bad grog at the hotels without the restraint of camp discipline, then there would be crime. Men will not come into camp for several days training if they are to be treated in the way proposed. When cold and wet a glass of grog is a necessity to many men. I hope yon will put the case strongly and prevent this proposed gross injustice being carried out. At the meeting of commanding officers referred to (all being present), even the teetotaller was against the Bill. I fear if the Bill is carried there W 11 be no camp next year. I believe the force in all the States are .unanimous in their opposition to the Bill.
Dear Colonel Neild,
I duly received your telegram dated 27th inst. asking whether I approved of the Canteen Bill now before the House of Representatives.
You will possibly have learnt ‘that at a large meeting of nearly all the military officers in Sydney last week, this Canteen Bill was mentioned, and the whole were unanimous in condemning it. They looked on it ‘as a strong and unnecessary interference with rights which they have always possessed, and there is not the slightest occasion, to my mind, for bringing in such a Bill.
I understood General Gordon was telegraphing privately to the Minister of Defence, stating that if such a Bill were passed it would do in calculable injury to the Commonwealth military. I can only indorse this view, and think that the whole of the officers in New South Wales are unanimous in thinking similarly.
Here is another letter from an officer, who has likewise authorized me to use his. name - 2Sth July, 1906.
Dear Senator Neild,
You will have earned the gratitude of all who wish well to the soldier, who is in arms to defend the Commonwealth.
You are perhaps aware that I am an abstainer, and therefore have no personal need for canteens, but, having had over twenty years’ ex- 1perience of soldiering as a citizen, I unhesitatingly say that the removal of canteens from camps of training would have a most pernicious effect on discipline.
The work of the soldier is much more trying physically than those who have not experienced’ it can believe, and men used to stimulants will have them. They will either march to publichouses in the nearest town or have it brought tothem and stored in their tents. The senators, knowing what human nature is, cm easily picturethe effect on discipline. The canteen is always under observation. A steady reliable noncommissioned officer is always on duty there with it small picket, and acts as a restraint on overindulgence.
In three camps I can only remember one case of drunkenness in the regiment under my command. On investigation, I found that it resulted from the man hearing bad news from home, and his comrades showed their sympathy by invitations 10 liquid refreshment.
There is nothing unreasonable in that. If a man is in trouble and meets a friend, it is generally a case of “ Come and have :r. drink, old fellow.” We all know it. It is; of no use, because we are sitting in a stately chamber,- to put from our thoughts the common attributes of humanity, with its weaknesses and its sympathies. It isone of the commonest ‘ features of social1 life for a man who meets a friend who is; in trouble to invite him to have a drink. E am not saying whether it is right or wrong, desirable or undesirable. We are not discussing that point of view. We are discussing the probabilities of doing away with military canteens.
Its effect on the non-commissioned officers of the regiments would be no better than on the men, and not unlikely lead to it being more difficult to get a desirable stamp of man for the post.
Remember that I am quoting from a letter by a teetotal officer -
It is a wise rule to leave “well enough”’ alone, and it should cause us to pause when weremember “ that the consequences of any course of action that can be foreseen are infinitely smaller than those which cannot be foreseen.”
That letter is from the commanding officer of the second regiment. I have next a letter from the colonel commanding a militia regiment. He is a gentleman who has served on both sides of the equator. He writes to me - 28th July, 1906.
My Dear Colonel,
At a meeting of brigadiers and commanding officers, held on the 26th inst., it was unanimously resolved to ask the General to wire to Minister saying that we were of opinion the passage of the Bill would prove detrimental to the best interests of the forces, was a reflection on the men in the ranks, and instead of doing good would lead to an increase of crime and drunkennessboth in camp and barracks.
I understand the General wired this, same evening.
The non-commissioned officers and men all through the force are expressing their objection in no unmeasured terms, and threaten to resign rather than submit to the indignity.
The next letter before me is one from which I shall quote only a portion, because the writer does not authorize me to mention his name. I may say, however, that he is a gentleman ofvery great experience, who has served in South Africa more than once I think. He is a member of a military order by reason of his services. He says -
Encampments, as a matter of convenience, are, as a rule, held fairly close to populated centres, alongside a railway line. If the men after, say, a long day’s march or exercise, cannot get the refreshment they require in the camp, where, too, the consumption of liquor is under strict supervision by the Military authorities, and no man is allowed to be served with more than is good for him, they will go off to the publichouses in the town, where they can drink without supervision, the resultbeing that an increase of liquor consumption generally, and probably, drunkenness will ensue, to the detriment of the discipline of the camp and the good name of the forces.
Take, for instance, the camp at Liverpool this year. Speaking of my own regiment, I took 514 men into camp, and during the whole period of the training, not one single case of crime or misdemeanor of any sort was brought under my notice. Yet there was a canteen, controlled directly by the brigade, in the camp.
As a result of the canteen this year being in our own hands, the right not being leased to an outside person as formerly, we were enabled to pay over to each officer commanding infantry regiments no less a sum than about£19 profits, which was utilized, in the case of my regiment, for the purpose of gymnastic appliances and extra rations, and in other ways it contributed to the comfort of the troops in camp and afterwards. If military canteens are abolished, there will be more drinking - considerably more drinking, instead of less, and the profits will go into the pockets of the publicans, instead of being devoted to the benefit of the men themselves.
It wouldappear that this movement for the abolition of military canteens has emanated from the teetotal party,” but I am inclined to think that this is not so, but is the work of the licensed victuallers, who, I know, this year are grieved that the canteens have been kept in our own hands and run by a’ committee of our own officers, which experiment has proved, in every sense of the word, successful.
I hope that my honorable friend, Senator Styles, will not think that what occurred at a certain place a few milesfrom Melbourne is common at military canteens. As far as my knowledge goes, that is by no means the case. I was never more shocked than I was by the production of two pricelists, one for officers and’ one for men. It was the most disgraceful thing I ever heard of in connexion with the Commonwealth Military Forces - a shameful thing. I shall next quote a letter from a colonel of artillery, of at least thiry years’ service. He says - 28th July, 1906.
Dear Col. Neild,
In reply to your wire of yesterday re the Canteen Bill, I am of opinion that this Bill should not become law, the freedom and manhood of the soldier would almost be reduced to that of serfdom. Why should the soldier be’ denied the privilege of having a glass of beer with a comrade in his own home, “ the barracks,” where he is under the eyes and control of his officers?
I consider it necessary, in the interest of the militia and volunteer troops, to establish a canteen at the Easter encampments.
During my thirty-eight years experience in the Militia Force in this State, a very limited number of cases of drunkenness have come under my notice, none of which being caused by the men getting the drink in camp, but probably by obtaining drink of a worse quality outside of the camp lines, and not under the supervision of their officers. I am strongly of opinion that the militia troops, “ as free men,” will resent this encroachment on their right to have a glass of beer on returning to camp after a long march or after a heavy day’s work; should this be denied them it may probably be the means of preventing a large numberof men from attending camp who may consider that their liberty and freedom has been unduly curtailed.
That letter is from Colonel Kircaldie of Newcastle. I have very little else to read, and I shall be glad to complete my speech, the length of which I regret for some, though not for other, reasons. Here is a letter I received from a lieutenant-colonel commanding, who has had a very large experience in more States than one -
There is an overwhelming mass of uncontrovertable testimony in favour of the retention of canteens in the Service. To give headings : -
The actual consumption of alcohol is ridiculously small, infinitesimal, in fact.
What is sold is of excellent quality.
The prices are 60 per cent. to 70 per cent. less than those ruling outside.
Drinking is under the supervision of a noncommissioned officer on duty always, who is responsible for order and good conduct - although I have not found that such supervision was rendered necessary, still it is a safeguard, and is not in any way resented by the men.
Men can and do regularly sit in the canteen rooms for hours nightly, and do not call for, or obtain drink of any kind.
The whole of the accessories for sports and games are purchased from canteen funds, and many other benefits accrue from the same source for the general good.
I shall now read the opinion of LieutenantColonel Baynes, a very old and experienced officer of the Permanent Artillery, who is now on the retired list -
In my opinion, having had many years experience, if the Bill passes, it will mean increased drunkenness, and discipline will be a thing of the past.
Another regimental commander writes as follows : -
I do not know a single officer of the Forces who approves of the proposal to abolish the canteen. The discipline of the Forces must be affected injuriously if the men are compelled to frequent public houses for the purpose of obtaining such liquor as they may desire. Further, at the Easter Encampment, as you well know, it has happened that the troops have had to camp during rainy weather, and under conditions which make the use of stimulants necessary, even from a medical point of view.
It seems to me that the proposal is of the wild cat order, and would have the effect of treating the troops as children, lunatics, or aboriginals.
Re Canteen Bill. I am an abstainer, but am strongly opposed to the ill-advised interference of the powers with the rights of the citizen soldiers. They cannot make us all abstainers, nor yet moderate drinkers, and if grog cannot be purchased in camps or barracks, it will be got elsewhere of inferior quality, dearer and under no supervision. Large annual meeting of Commanding Officers on Thursday last gave unanimous -vote against the abolition of canteens.
I shall conclude these quotations with a letter from a very well known and distinguished officer, who has had English training, Indian training, and long service in Australia, and who has been at least twice on service in South Africa -
It appears that the proposition is to take away the officers’ and sergeants’ messes, and the canteen. These institutions are part and parcel of the Army of every country in the world, and have stood the test of lime. They ,are practically the home of the officer and noncommissioned officer after his work is done. All he gets there is the best and most wholesome of its kind, and supplied at moderate cost. There he gets a substitute for the comforts of the domestic hearth he forfeits to join the service. The canteen gives him his groceries and necessaries at a price far below what he would pay outside, better quality, and the place is under rigid supervision.
The profits supply the soldier with his sole perquisites and luxuries. The Government give him none. Without these he will have no gymnasium, cricket, football, recreation room, and the hundred and one other small things he enjoys, and for which he himself contributes.
Take these away, and you drive him outside to. get them of worse quality, and more expensive, and his home is robbed of the only semblance of domestic comfort the soldier has the means of supplying.
I also believe sobriety and temperance are more possible when the soldier is under his superior officers’ supervision. In barracks he cannot spread himself. I have seen soldiers in and out of barracks, and in various parts of the world. I am altogether opposed to the limitations it is proposed to place upon his privileges, seeing that they work for his improvement rather than for his deterioration.
I, as a Commanding Officer, have always encouraged my men, and assisted them to a mess, modest, perhaps, but the far reaching effects of keeping your men together, cannot be apparent to an outsider. ,
– I move -
That the debate be now adjourned.
In doing so, I wish to ask the Minister of Defence whether he will let us have the information he promised to get, and when he can supply it.
– I promised no information to anybody.
– I wrote out some questions for the Minister, and he promised to supply answers to them.
– This motion cannot be debated.
– I should like to be allowed to say that I am endeavouring to secure all the information possible from officers of the Defence Forces in all the States on this very important subject. When I have received the information, I shall be only too pleased to lay it before honorable senators, but I shall certainly reserve it for my own use when speaking on the measure.
Motion ‘ agreed to ; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Pulsford) proposed -
That the resumption of the debate be an order of the day for this day fortnight.
.- The Minister of Defence admitted that this Bill was not very fully considered :n another place. When some honorable senators .asked for. certain information, he said that he would get it. The honorable senator asked me what information I desired, and I wrote out two or three long questions, that he might be able to secure answers to them. The Minister now states that he is getting information from all the States, but will not give honorable senators the benefit of it until he speaks himself. The honorable senator may be perfectly right in that ; but, in view of the fact that the information, will be of no use after the matter has been dealt with, I should like to ask if the honorable senator will continue the. debate when it is resumed ?
– - I will give the honorable senator some powder to fire off, but I propose to keep a little for myself.
– Are we to understand that before the debate is resumed the information will be supplied by the Minister?
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia^ [6.25]. - I understand that Senator Dobson is urging that the Minister shall carry out his promise to supply the Senate with information on this subject before the debate is resumed. No one desires to poach upon the Minister’s preserves,, or to obtain information which he desires to keep up his sleeve for his own speech; but, if there is information which can be laid before the Senate before the debate is resumed, I hope that the Minister will furnish it.
– I will furnish certain information, but not all the information I obtain.
– Nobody has asked for that. But if there is any information which is not specially required for the Minister’s speech, I hope he will enable honorable senators to get the benefit of it.
– I will give Senator Dobson a great deal of information - enough to enable him to make a very good speech.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 6.26 to J. 4.5 p.m.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Keating) read a first time.
Order of the day for the resumption of the debate, on motion by Senator Keating (vide page 2077), in reference to Mail Service to Europe read - 1
Motion (by Senator Clemons) agreed to-
That the Senate forthwith resolve itself into a Committee of the whole for the consideration qf the motion in reference to the agreement between the Postmaster-General and Sir James Laing and Sons Limited.
– As this proceeding is somewhat unusual, perhaps it would be well for the Minister to move his motion, and then for honorable senators to move their amendments to the clauses of the contract in the form of provisos.
– I desire to ask you. sir. whether the procedure which you have indicated will allow you to put the articles of agreement clause bv clause. I gathered from your statement that it is not your present intention to put the clauses one by one, as you would do in the cape of a Bill. I venture to suggest that, if it be possible, it would be a more convenient form for the Committee to deal with the contract in that way.
– If it be the wish of the Committee that the clauses of the contract should be considered seriatim, I am certainly in its hands.
– I desire to have a clear understanding, because, in my opinion, we are proposing to adopt an extraordinary procedure. I gave notice of my intention to move some amendments, more as an addendum to the contract than anything else. I intended to move that no contract will be acceptable to the Senate which does not contain special provisions for cool storage, and lay down the maximum freight to be charged on produce, especially in the cool chambers. We cannot interfere with the conditions of the tender, because They were distributed to the world, and ship-owners based their tenders thereon. There is a question of principle involved. The Minister, I think, dealt fully with the whole matter yesterday in submitting his motion.
– Yes, but the conditions are all subservient to the terms of the contract.
– It is only the articles of the agreement that we can amend.
– Exactly. When they were tendering, ship-owners had before them conditions of tender in which no provision was made for anything but the carriage of mails at a certain rate of speed, but the size of the ships has been brought into the terms of the contract-
– The honorable senator’s amendments mean the rejection of the proposed articles of agreement.
– I do not think so.
– The honorable senator’s proposals ought to have been embodied in the conditions of tender.
– What is it that the honorable senator proposes to do?
– If the honorable senator will refer to the contingent notices, he will see that my contention is that no contract should’ receive’ theapproval of the Senate unless it provides for a certain amount of cool storage on each ship, the maximum freight to be charged on produce, and the use of a self-register ing thermometer in order to assure producers that a temperature low enough topreserve their produce to the port of discharge shall be maintained.
– The plan of procedure which I propose to adopt is that the Minister shall first move his motion. It is his intention to move afterwards a proviso to article 3 of the agreement, but if any honorable senator desires to move a proviso to article 1, I suggest that as soon as the Minister has submitted his motion that proviso should be moved, and similarly any proposed amendment to article 2 can be submitted. The Minister willthen propose his proviso to article 3, and theCommittee can pass on to the other articlesof the contract.
.- I desire to suggest that if the Minister would move his motion down to the word “ Brindisi,” with the addition of the words “asset forth in the schedule hereto,” we could then go through the agreement article by article, and if the Committee saw fit tomake any alterations or amendments that could be done. The effect of adopting my suggestion would be that the agreement, asprinted, would be definitely placed beforethe Committee.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (SouthAustralia) [7.56]. - I would suggest to theMinister that he should move his motion down to the word “Brindisi,” with the addition of the words “ as set forth ire parliamentary paper No. 7.”
– So long as the paper isidentified that is all I desire to secure.
– It is for the Minister to say which suggestion’ he prefers to adopt. Of course, it might be more complete if he were to follow the suggestion of Senator Best. It seems to- me that the plan of procedure which hasbeen suggested by the Chairman is an effective and business-like one.
– If that course isacceptable to the Committee, I shall call upon Senator Keating to move his motion.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear.
– I move -
That the Committee approves the agreement made and entered into on the 7th day of July, 1906, between the Postmaster-General, in and” for the Commonwealth, and Sir James Laing and Sons Ltd., for the carriage of mails between Adelaide and Brindisi, as per schedule, with the following modifications : -
– Of course, the Minister does not include the provisos to articles 3 and 15 of the agreement, but intends to move them afterwards? Otherwise some amendments might be shut out.
– I do not wish to embarrass the consideration of the matter by the Committee. We submit the motion in a form which will enable honorable senators to fully discuss the terms of the agreement. But I think it will meet the general wish if I do not attempt, at any rate at this stage, to repeat any of the’ arguments I advanced yesterday when submitting the motion in the Senate. I would say now that after having listened to the expression of opinion from various honorable senators, certain action has been takenby the Government. Honorable senators are, of course, very well aware that this contract, embodying as it does articles of agreement and general conditions of tender, has been signed by Mr. Croker as the representative of the contractors. Since the discussion yesterday, Mr. Croker has been communicated with by the Government, and he himself has communicated with his principals. I am in a position to state to the Committee now that so far as article 6 is concerned’., we shall be in a position to amend it by striking out the last two lines of the article with the exception of the word “ shall.” That is to say, we shall delete the words -
Failing mutual agreement be determined by arbitration in the manner provided in the said “ general conditions of tender.”
It is proposed to insert after “shall “ the following words : -
Be determined by mutual agreement, subject to the approval , of Parliament by resolution.
I might as well say at this juncture that in order that I might be able to make this statement, it has been necessary for Mr. Croker to communicate by cable with his principals, and he is authorized on their behalf to vary the contract to that extent; and to that extent the contract when ratified will be acceptable to the other parties to it. and may be proceeded with at once.
– What about article
– That is all that I can say.
– I move -
That all the words after “ That “ be left out. -with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ in the interests of the producers, no mail-ships’ contract should be let by the Commonwealth Government until there is a guarantee as to the cool storage to be provided, the maximum freight to be charged, and a guarantee as to maximum temperature, so as to insure the effective preservation of produce shipped.”
I do not intend to proceed with the second part of the amendment, ofwhich I have given notice, providing that the contract shall not be assigned to any. speculative or other company, and that Parliament alone shall sanction any proposed assignment of the contract, because the Minister has already stated that part of that provision has been agreed to.
– I think the honorable senator makes a mistake when he says that the Minister has accepted the second portion of the amendment which he has circulated.
– He has accepted a part of it. The Minister in his opening speech yesterday read correspondence from every one of the States of the Commonwealth, in which the States Governments were rather indefinite as to whether they would take any responsibility with a view to assist the producers in connexion with the Commonwealth mail contract. If the States Governments do not know their duty to the producers, let us show that the Commonwealth Government, at any rate, have the interests of the producers in mind.
– This amendment would clearly burst up the agreement.
– I question that.
– It must. ‘
– The matter of cool storage should have been mentioned in the tenders.
– The honorable senator’s amendment would negative the agreement.
– Well, if it does-
– So much the worse.
– So much the worse for the producers of the Commonwealth if the agreement is ratified without such an amendment. When, two years ago, the Commonwealth Government called for tenders for the carriage of mails between Australia and Europe, we inserted a condition that the vessels should supply a certain amountof space for cool storage. On this occasion tenderers, no doubt, had it in their minds that absolutely the same conditions would be required of them.
– They knew the conditions under which they tendered.
– Why should it not have been in their minds ? There are other conditions which the Minister himself said in his speech that it was not necessary to insert, because they were in previous contracts. Some time ago a Royal Commission was appointed by the State of Victoria to inquire into the butter industry. It was found that the producers of Australia were being bled, not only by the ship-owners, butby agents. The revelations were so strong that, on application being made to the Commonwealth Government, it said, We will make this a Royal Commission!.”
– That was only in order that evidence might be taken in two States.
– The Royal Commission has since reported. What was the effect of its reports? Its first report was signed on the 2nd November, 1904. A further report was issued on the 24th January, 1905. In those reports the Commissioners absolutely state that it is essential that any mail contracts that are made shall contain provisions for the carriage of produce from Australia to London. If the States neglect their duty to the producers in this respect, that is no reason why the Commonwealth Government should fail in its duty.
– I hesitate to interrupt the honorable senator, but it appears to me that his amendment is, at this stage, contrary to the understanding at which we have arrived - that we should take the motion of the Minister, and make in the articles under consideration, in their proper order, any amendment that it was desired to introduce. If Senator Guthrie wishes to provide that accommodation shall be furnished for cool storage, he can at a convenient stage move to that effect. But if I allow the honorable senator to move the amendment to which he has been addressing himself as an amendment to the motion of the Minister, I shall also have to permit a number of other amendments. That would lead to a departure from the plan which has been suggested and adopted by the Committee. I urge the honorable senator to accept mv suggestion that we should deal with article 1. If no honorable senator has any amendment to submit we shall pass the article, and proceed with others, until we come to that stage when
Senator Guthrie wishes to insert an amendment providing for cool storage.
– I am prepared toaccept your suggestion, Mr. Chairman. I do not care where the amendment is made, as long as I get it in. The last paragraph in article 1 of the general conditions of tender reads as follows: -
The term “Adelaide” shall mean the signalling station (known as “ Adelaide Semaphore “) at or off the port of the city of Adelaide in South Australia, until the outer harbor is completed and available.
– We shall deal first with article 1 of the articles of agreement, not with article 1 of the general conditions of tender.
.- I desire to point out that if Senator Guthrie wishes to make an amendment relating to the paragraph which he has quoted, he might lose his chance if he allowed article 1 of the articles of agreement to pass. It seems to me that he has, to take advantage of his opportunity now. Consequently, he will have to move art amendment at this particular stage, or the article will have to be postponed.
Article 1 postponed.
For a period of ten years, from and after the first day of February,1908, the contractors shall in the manner and subject to the conditions specified in the said “ general conditions of tender “ by means of mail ships between theports of Adelaide and Brindisi (which port of Brindisi is hereby substituted for Naples mentioned in the said “general conditions of tender,” and shall be deemed to be “ the approved port in Southern Europe “ therein referred to), and between the ports of Brindisi and Adelaideand between all other ports from which the said mail ships shall start or at which they shall call or arrive under the provisions of this agreement convey all mails which the Postmaster-General or any of his officers or agents shall from timeto time, and at any time or times, require tobe conveyed.
– I move -
That there be added to the motion -
Proviso to article 2 -
On line 7, after the word “between,” whereit occurs a second time, to insert, “ the ports of Melbourne, . Sydney, Brisbane, and Hobart, and.”
The reason I submit this amendment isthat ostensibly this is a. mail contract, whereas, in reality, it is both a. mail and* a cargo contract. When speaking on the subject last year. I declared myself opposed to the Commonwealth Government having anything to do with the carriage of goods. I expressed the opinion that the Government should confine itself wholly te the carriage of mails, and that if the States wished to subsidize vessels foi’ the conveyance of produce, they ought to provide the subsidy themselves. I still hold lo that opinion; and if the Government had made this a purely mail contract, I should never have submitted this amendment. But I have come to the conclusion, faking the contract itself, and judging by the evidence contained in it, that it is more than a mail contract.
– T think the Government have tried to get as near a mail contract as they could in accordance with Hie request of the honorable senator.
– In any case, I am satisfied that this is not purely a mail contract. I have come to the conclusion that the Government, fearing it would raise opposition if they provided that the vessels should call at Melbourne and Sydney, and not at Brisbane and Hobart, have intentionally omitted this condition from the contract, while substantially subsidizing the contractors to allow the vessels to call at Melbourne and Sydney. I may be wrong in that conclusion ; but that is the inference I draw from “the way in which the contract is made out. If I am wrong, and there is no idea of subsidizing the company for the carriage of cargo, why is there the stipulation that’ the steamers shall be of such a tonnage? One honorable senator told me to-day that the steamers will be of such magnitude that they will not be able to enter a single port in the Commonwealth.
– The honorable senator will except Hobart.
– Not even excepting Hobart.
– The vessels will be able to moor somewhere outside Adelaide, but I am told that they will not be able to enter Sydney Harbor, and certainly will not be able to enter the Melbourne port.
– And still the honorable senator is moving that the vessels shall call at those places !
– I am quite sure the vessels will not be able to get into Brisbane Harbor. Why, under these circumstances, am I moving that these vessels shall call at the ports I have named? If it be the case, as Senator Guthrie states, that these vessels cannot enter any of the Australian harbors-
– With the exception of Adelaide.
– If the case be as I have stated, the contract should be immediately set aside, and sent back to the Government.
– The contractor would then have an action for enormous damages against the Commonwealth for breach of contract.
– I am not stating from any knowledge I possess that the ships will not be able to enter our harbors; I am merely repeating what I have heard. In any case, I submit the amendment, because I believe this to be a compound contract - a mail contract and a harbor cargo, contract. So far as I can make out, there is a deliberate attempt to deprive Queensland of the undoubted rights she possesses under the Constitution. By a subterfuge the boats are to go to Melbourne and Sydney, without the fact being mentioned in the contract, and, under such circumstances, Brisbane, of course, will have no claim.
– What about the attractions of Queensland?
– Queensland will have to pay her share, whether the boats call at Brisbane or not. Senator Symon has asked what about the attractions of Queensland ; and the question shows that the honorable senator has never been to that State.
– I never have.
– Had Senator Symon visited Queensland, he would not have put such a question, because the attractions are so self-evident that no one who has seen them, can fail to appreciate them.
– The honorable senator misunderstands me; I mean that the attractions are so great that the vessels will go there without any stipulation.
– The trade attractions are great, and, I believe, will be greater. But the fact remains that, under this contract, the steamers are subsidized to call at four ports of the Commonwealth - Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne, and Sydney.
– That is not so.
– That is the fact in substance. It is not so stated in the conditions; but, if this is a mail contract. why stipulate for these huge floating hulks of 11,000 tons? Vessels half the size would, I suppose, be more than sufficient to carry the mails. Again, if this is merely a mail contract, why insist on the vessels continuing their voyage to the United Kingdom, after they have delivered the mails at Naples or some other port?
– Why does the honorable senator not move to leave out the provision that- the vessels shall go past Naples, and thus make this a mail contract?
– I am quite certain that such an amendment would not be carried, because the Government have made up their minds to enter into a mail contract.
– Why does the honorable senator not try such an amendment?
– I prefer to do things in my own way. If Senator Turley desires to make this a purely mail contract, he ought to move in the direction he indicates. I have come to the conclusion that it is not possible, in view of the opposition that would be found in the Chamber, to make this a purely mail contract; therefore, I shall not attempt what I know I should not be able to accomplish. I am trying to get the Senate to agree to a proposal which I consider, in the circumstances, fair and reasonable - to state in the contract what is implied in reference to Melbourne and Sydney, namely, that the vessels shall not only call at these two ports, but proceed also to Brisbane and Hobart. I do not know that I am doing this in the right way, but I have taken the step which appears to me most likely to bring about the result I desire. I have given the reasons why I came to the conclusion that this is something more than a mail contract; and if those reasons appeal to honorable senators they will support me. On the other hand, if honorable senators regard this as a purely mail contract, they will not support the amendment. But from the internal evidence of this document, I have come to the conclusion that it means something very much more than a mail contract ; and, that being the case, all the principal ports of the Commonwealth should be placed on an equality, so far as calling at each of them is concerned.
– I hope honorable senators will not support the amendment, which, as those who were present yesterday when we discussed the matter will see, is of far-reaching importance. In introducing this agreement, I pointed out that the Government had followed the course of calling for tenders for a purely mail contract. An expression of opinion to that effect was made in this branch of the Legislature, if not in another place, when we discussed the Orient contract last year. Honorable senators who have perused the general conditions of tender, and the articles of agreement, must recognise that, on the face of it, and in substance, it is purely a mail contract. If those persons who are going to provide the means of transit choose, as is only natural, to, at the same time, use the ships for other purposes, it is purely their own affair.
– Why mention the tonnage ?
– Those persons have offered to give us ships of 11,000 tons ; and, although such vessels may not be necessary in themselves for the purposes of the mails, is there any reason why we should refuse the offer? Senator Stewart was, I think, better minded last session than he is now on this subject. I can assure the honorable senator that the Government, in framing the conditions, were very much impressed with what the honorable senator then said.
– Like the honorable senator on another occasion, I then approached the question in “ an attitude of inquiry.”
– The Government endeavoured to give effect to Senator Stewart’s wishes.
– That is so. The honorable senator is reported at page 3666 of Hansard for last year to have said -
There is one objection, however, to this contract, which I think may be very fairly urged from the Commonwealth point of view. To my mind, it unnecessarily mixes up the conveyance of produce with the carriage of mails. We have nothing to do with the export trade of the various States. All we ought to interest ourselves in is the carriage of mails from Naples to Adelaide. No doubt it is extremely desirable that vessels coming here should take away produce on the most favorable terms, but that is not our business ; it is the duty of the States to arrange that matter. Would the Commonwealth make an arrangement between different POStoffices within its jurisdiction for the carriage of goods as well as for the carriage of mails?
Later on he said -
Of course, if any matter could properly be brought within the category of mail matter, it would be the business of the Post Office t» arrange for its transmission. But surely it would not enter into competition with the railways in the carriage of wheat, or turnips, or potatoes ! Under existing circumstances that class of business would be considered to be outside its sphere. The carriage of produce between Australia and Europe is in exactly the same category. No doubt it is desirable that we should have cold storage and low freights by steamers visiting the different ports at regular intervals. But it is the business of the States to arrange for the steamers to call. When we have arrived at a state of unification, it will then be the duty of the Commonwealth to make the arrangements in these matters. Until that event occurs, however, we ought not to interfere with the functions of the States. In the contract it has been expressly stipulated that whilst the mails are tq be landed at Adelaide, the steamers must proceed to Melbourne and Sydney.
We provide in this contract that the steamers shall call at Brindisi, and, so far as Australia is concerned, at Adelaide. There is1 no provision made obliging the boats to call at any other port.
– They are to call at Fremantle.
– They call at Fremantle en route.
– They are not compelled to do so.
– Under the contract they may stay there for six hours.
– They are obliged to go on to London from Brindisi.
– They are obliged under the contract to go on from Brindisi to some approved port in Great Britain, and to leave from some approved port in Great Britain. The reason for that, as honorable senators are well aware, is that it is necessary to transport a certain portion of the mail matter by sea. If the heavier portion of the mail matter had to be transported overland across Europe the result would be a serious loss to the Post and Telegraph Department.
– Will the boats carry the heavier matter from Brindisi to London free?
– The subsidy covers that. If the bulky mail matter, on which low postage is charged, had to be transported across Europe by rail, the cost would be so great as to involve a heavy deficit to the Post’ and Telegraph Department on our mail service to Great Britain.
– The conditions provide for the boats calling at Fremantle and Colombo also?
– Under the contract the boats stay at those ports for six hours en route.
– If they did not call at Fremantle they would not be able totake the Western Australian mails.
– Of course they would not. The idea of the contract isthat Adelaide is to be the terminal port for the eastern States, so far as the carriageof mails is concerned. If the boats did not call at Fremantle, it would be necessary for the Western Australian mails to> be brought over to Adelaide. Senator Stewart has spoken as if the people of Queensland would necessarily have a grievance if the provisions of this contract wereallowed to stand. As opposed to the honorable senator’s suggestion, I venture to> submit to the Committee some views that have been recently expressed in Brisbane. In speaking yesterday I said that on thelast occasion on which we dealt with an English mail contract the Government and* people of Queensland expressed an opinion that that contract was so framed, and itsterms were such, that Queensland was unfavorably discriminated against. I havehere an extract from a report of an interview with Mr. Kidston, the Premier of Queensland, which appeared in the Brisbane Courier of the 20th of last month.. This report says -
Referring to the mail contract yesterday afternoon, the Premier made an important statement : “ Mr. Deakin’s action in the matter, so far as. I can see, has been quite correct,” he said. “ He tried to get the several States to arrangeto pay the subsidy for what might be called a commercial service, in addition to the mail service, and the Southern States naturally refused’ to agree with it. They knew quite well that they would get the steamers without it. Mr. Deakin was then left to provide for a postal service, terminating at Adelaide. I am givingthe matter according to mv understanding of it. Adelaide is the end of our railway system in Australia, and Queensland has no more right tocomplain than Victoria or New South Wales would have. But, as Mr. Deakin knew - and every one else knew - these steamers were likely to come on to Melbourne and Sydney- for commercial reasons ; and the fact that the agents of” the company wrote a letter saying that they would do so does not alter the fact in any way, and did not constitute an engagement to do it insuch a way, but it became a part of the mail’ contract. As I understand it, the mail contractwas a separate thing, and the mail service was; to terminate at Adelaide.
The report goes on further to say, quotingthe words of the Queensland Premier: -
Mr. Deakin offered to negotiate on behalf of” Queensland if she wished the steamers to comeon to Brisbane. The only thing we could do was to say that if the company had any offer tomake we would be very pleased to get it, and” we .would consider what seemed best to do in the interest of Queensland.
Further on in the same report Mr. Kidston is stated to have used these words: -
The only thing that would have justified us in complaining of the action of the Federal Government would have arisen if they had provided in the contract for other States to get an advantage from the service, in which Queensland was not sharing. So faT as I understand at present, that has not been done. The Federal Government have simply completed what seemed to them a desirable postal contract; and although the arrangement may not suit us so well as if we had been included in the service, I cannot see that any intentional injustice has been done.
– In other words, Mr. Kidston says that so long as we adopt Senator Stewart’s earlier advice, we shall be all right.
– I rom the opinions he expressed we might assume that Mr. Kidston was satisfied that Senator Stewart’s suggestion had been adopted. On the same day - the 20th July last - an article appeared in the Brisbane Daily Mail commenting on Mr. Kidston’s views. I do not propose to read the whole of that article, but I shall make one or two extracts from it which serve to indicate that there must be in Queensland some opinions on this matter which do not coincide with those to which Senator Stewart has just given utterance. The writer of the article in the Daily Mail says: -
When the Commonwealth Government came to renew the service two or three years ago, it stipulated for cold storage, which gave Queensland an undoubted claim to an extension of the service to Brisbane. The people had a distinct and unanswerable grievance. But they have no grievance now that the subsidy is paid for a service purely for mail purposes, with Adelaide as the Australian terminus, in so far as oversea transport is concerned.
In the concluding passage of the article it is stated : -
Let us hope for the credit of our mercantile community that hysterical denunciations, such as have disfigured the press for some weeks past, will now cease. If the new service starts and is maintained as proposed, it will be a splendid thing for Queensland. She will get a full share of the postal benefit, and if she does not become the terminus of the line it will be the fault of her Government.
– Let the honorable and learned senator read the Courier’s comments.
– I ‘have not the Courier’s comments before rae. but I have read from the report of the interview with Mr. Kidston which appeared in that newspaper. Honorable senators will see that the suggestion that this is more than a mail contract has no more foundation than Sena tor Stewart’s personal suspicion, if I may say so without offence to the honorable senator. Honorable senators must see that there is a feeling on the part of the State Government of Queensland that the grievance, from which Queensland suffered, or thought she suffered, under the provisions of the previous contract, does not arise under the provisions of this contract. I hope that >the Committee will not accept Senator Stewart’s amendment, and that the honorable senator will be minded1, as he was last year after hearing the expressions of opinion from other honorable senators, and will not press the amendment.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) [8.41]. - I hope that Senator Stewart will not press his amendment to a division. It is perfectly plain, as the Minister has pointed out, that this is a mail contract. In the article in which Senator Stewart proposes to introduce his amendment, only the terminal ports in relation to the carriage and delivery of mails are mentioned - Brindisi at one end and Adelaide at the other. The moment one of these vessels leaves Adelaide the duties and responsibilities of the contractors under this contract will be at an end. Senator Stewart will find in sub-cla,use 2 of clause 5 of the general conditions of tender attached to the contract that permission is given to the contractors to go to other ports beyond Adelaide. The intention of the contract clearly is that the terminal port shall be Brindisi at one end, and Adelaide at the other. The only mention of other ports is the reference to Col.lombo and Fremantle.
– En route.
– As ports of call, as Senator Best says, en route. There is, of course, the idea that these ships will come here not merely to carry our mails, but also to carry our produce for the sake of trade. Does any one suppose that, lovely as Adelaide is, and beautiful and commodious as her harbor is, these vessels would remain there if they were given the opportunity to go on to Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane, “for the purposes of securing trade? The desire of human nature for business and profit is no weaker amongst persons forming shipping companies than amongst other human beings, and I therefore submit that we may take it for granted that if the attractions of Queensland in the way of trade are sufficiently great, these vessels will go to Brisbane, as well as to Melbourne and Sydney, in which case the object which Senator Stewart has in view will be sufficiently served bv allowing these ordinary human motives to come into play. In the circumstances, we might very well leave the contract as it is, a purely mail contract, fixing the termini at Brindisi and Adelaide.
– I should like to ask the Minister what arrangements have been, or will be made for the conveyance of the heavier mail matter from Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane?
– There is the railway service.
– That is so, but I understood the Minister to say that there was a serious objection to the cost of carrying the heavier mail matter from the terminal port in Southern Europe across that Continent. I imagine that the same drawback would operate in the transport of the heavier mail matter from Adelaide to Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane. At all events. I ask the Minister what arrangement is to be made for the conveyance of the heavier portion of the mails eastward from Adelaide?
– As was pointed out by Senator Symon and by others previously, it is only reasonable to expect that these ships will not confine themselves simply to the earning of the subsidy they will be entitled to receive under this contract. And, as he also pointed out, the general conditions of tender contemplate the possibility of the ships going beyond Adelaide, in which event they will be bound, without getting further remuneration, to carry mail matter.
– Under what provision ?
– Under paragraph 3 of clause 4 of the general conditions of tender -
The contractor shall be at liberty at his own option to continue the inward voyage (that is from the United Kingdom) of any mail shin beyond Adelaide after calling at Adelaide and to commence the outward voyage (that is to the United Kingdom) of the said mail ship from any port provided she calls at Adelaide.
If the contractor for any reason continue the voyage of any mail ship employed under the contract to any port in Australia other than those provided for (Fremantle and Adelaide) he shall without being entitled to any further or additional payment convey any. mails which the Post master-General tenders to him or his agents for conveyance to or from any and all such ports.
– Failing that?
– An arrangement, I presume, would have to be made with the railways, or with a shipping company.
– I intend to support the amendment. That this is more than a mail contract alone is shown by the fact that the Government insist that the company shall provide. 11, 000-ton boats. To carry our mails from Brindisi to Adelaide there is no necessity to have boats of that tonnage. Clearly. the boats are intended to carry something more than mails. The Commonwealth Government converted the Butter Commission, which had been created by the Government of Victoria, into a Federal Royal ‘ Commission, and it made two reports to the Governor-General. Regarding ocean freights, it said -
After much deliberation upon the evidence regarding ocean freights, we are of opinion that this is one of the most pressing questions concerning the butter industry. It is also a ques tion of vital importance to the Commonwealth, inasmuch as the majority of our rural producers are interested in the export of butter. This trade, therefore, may now be recognised as one of the most important to the people of Australia.
The argument of the Minister was that the States Governments are not prepared to take up this question, but a Commonwealth Royal Commission reported in those terms to the Governor-General. Further, it said -
Since the inception of the export trade in butter, the carriage of this product has been practically in the hands of the mail companies. Whilst readily acknowledging the fact that the facilities offered by the mail companies assisted the butter industry at its inception, the present action of these companies in endeavouring to secure a contract for a number of years at a trivial reduction on the existing high rates, must be looked upon in the light of the evidence, as an attempt to monopolize the trade.
According to this report, the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company and the Orient Steam Navigation Company were monopolizing the principal industry of Victoria.
– And the honorable senator wants to clinch the monopoly !
– No. I want the contract to set out that the proposed company shall provide a sufficient amount of cool storage, not only for the producers of Victoria and South Australia, but also for the producers of every State.
– And the same freight from each port?
– No. The contract ought to prescribe the maximum freight which the company could charge from the various ports. It is to start with a subsidy of .£125,000 from the Commonwealth to compete against all the companies which are now engaged in this trade.
– That ought to assist the contractors to break down the monopoly of which the honorable senator speaks.
– Exactly ; But in the contract there is no guarantee that they will provide any cool storage.
– The honorable senator does not want a mail contract, then?
– Only a short time ago, when we were asked to ratify the contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company, the honorable senator stood up here and said that it should be not only a mail contract but an assistance to the producers, and it provided for cool storage.
– I have not yet stood up to speak on this question.
– Well, the other representative of the Government did.
– We tried to get the States to agree, but they would, not, and then we went in for a mail contract pure and simple.
– No; because, in accordance with the conditions of tender, the contract with that company contained a special provision for cool storage. In the contract under consideration to-night, there is no such provision made. Unless it be made, it would be far better for the Commonwealth to get its mails carried on the poundage system, Because the cost would be a good deal less than ^125,000 a year.
– Under that system, we could not compel a boat to come here.
– No. Unless we can compel the boats to come here, we had better resort to that system, as we should only have to pay for the carriage of the cargo, whether letters, or anything else, by weight. I think that Senator Stewart is absolutely right in his contention, and that if the representatives of Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland are alive to the interests of their States, they will vote with him. It is suggested that the proposed company will send its boats from
Adelaide to New Zealand, where it may get another subsidy, to take in loading.
– Why should it not if it carries out our contract ?
– There is no contract in existence yet. My opinion is that the proposal of the Government is really to hand over to a few speculators a concession to be traded off in the London market. The duty of Parliament is not to play into the hands of a few speculators, but to consider the interests of the people of Australia. On these grounds, I intend to vote for the amendment.
.- There are very many desirable alterations which I admit we should like to make in the articles of agreement. I suppose that a number of us sympathize with the desire of Senator Stewart, to bind the ships to call at certain ports, and with the contention of Senator Guthrie that cargo accommodation should be provided for. We should have been all the more satisfied if this had been not only a mail contract, but also a producecarrying contract.
– Let us make it one.
– At the very beginning, every effort was made by the Government to achieve that object.
– Generally, it takes two parties to make a contract.
– Undoubtedly it does. If we impose terms to which the other side will not agree, there will be no contract.
– At this stage, we could not convert this into a producecarrying contract.
– Of course we could not.
– But the honorable senator said that provision ought to be made for cargo accommodation.
– Undoubtedly. What we are dealing with now is a mail contract alone. What is the use of Senator Dobson suggesting that it should be turned into a different class of contract? That would involve the rejection of the agreement.
– We do not want 1 1, 000-ton boats.
– If the amendment were incorporated it would become a different agreement, and certainly it would not be carried out. From the Minister we have an assurance that he did all he could to arrange for the boats to call at these ports, but that he failed to achieve that object.
We can readily understand that in order to secure the trade the boats will go to Melbourne and Sydney, and possibly to Brisbane. Surely Senator. Guthrie must realize that the boats will also provide cargo accommodation with the necessary refrigerating apparatus in order to secure the trade, and to compete with the other companies.
– They may compete for some trade other than the Australian trade.
– The honorable senator need not be apprehensive as to the provision of cool storage.
– We are absolutely assured by the contractors that they will provide an extraordinary amount of space for cool storage. *
– If that is the understanding, then, according to the terms of the agreement, it will be within the power of the Ministry to see that it is carried out when the plans of the ships are submitted for their approval.
– To carry mails !
– No; the plans of all new ships which have to be constructed have to be approved by the Ministry. The honorable senator may take it for granted that the company will provide ccol storage accommodation. If we desire to have the contract, let it be adopted as nearly as possible in its terms, and do not let us attempt to turn it into a mail and producecarrying contract.
– I trust that not much more time will be spent in debating this point. The proposal to add these ports of call is really tantamount to a proposal to put the contract into the waste-paper basket. When I look at the articles of agreement, I am quite surprised at the unbusiness-like character of certain of the proposals from the point of view of the contractors. I do not think that we should risk what is now offered. I say that with very keen regret, on account of the probability - almost the certainty - that we shall shortly lose the services of the Orient Steam Navigation Company for the carriage of our mails. I do not like to see an old servant - a company that has faithfully for many years, during hard times, and with little remuneration, performed its duties - terminate its connexion with the Commonwealth.
– Is this a requiem over the Orient Steam Navigation Company?
– I believe, however, that the proposals made are, from a business point of view, eminently in the interests of the Commonwealth, and I do not imagine that! any honorable senator will spend much time in discussing such proposals as are now made.
– The honorable senator comes from New South Wales, where the vessels will go.
– I am prepared to rely upon the attractions of New South Wales to draw the vessels there, and think that the ‘Brisbane people should dothe same. As to the question of tonnage, about which Senator Guthrie has made some remarks, I ask him to remember that high speed implies great tonnage, and it is because we want high speed that these large vessels are found necessary.
– I do not think that that is correct.
– It may not be correct in the case of vessels that travel along the coast, or go over to Tasmania, but it is necessary in the case of vesselsthat are built to travel over practically half the world. We find that on the Atlantic the vessels that travel between twenty and thirty miles an hour are of immense tonnage. The larger the tonnage the higher the speed is the general rule for mail . vessels, and that is the reason why we are to have large vessels on this service. I do not trouble very much a”bout the term “ 11,000 tons registered tonnage.” The .provision is drawn loosely and improperly, but I have no doubt that it means gross tonnage. But that is one of the articles that I point out as being loosely drawn from the contractors’ point of view. I believe that, on a strictly legal interpretation, the term 11,000 tons might be construed to mean net tonnage, which would require vessels of SUCH large tonnage that they could not come through the Suez: Canal.
– That would be the contractors’ loss, not ours.
– That is what I say. It is the contractors who stand tolose in that respect.
– When speaking yesterday I certainly felt a little alarm about some of the articles of the contract. I am glad that the Minister has cleared away one of my difficulties. I feel very much relieved in that regard. I should have preferred to see an article in the contract as to the vessels being compelled to call at Melbourne and Sydney. I should also be glad if there had been an article providing for cool storage. The Orient Steam Navigation Company at the present time is complying with the conditions that I have mentioned. The company is under contract to supply cool storage, and to call at Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane. I believe that the contract under consideration would not be affected to the extent of a one-pound note if the company were asked to do the same as the Orient Steam Navigation Company are doing now. But I see the difficulty that the Government has had. The Premiers of the States were communicated with, and asked if they would do anything in regard to the carriage of produce. I am very sorry that they did not do something, even if it was only to contribute a sum between them. But, that not having,been done, the Commonwealth Government was relieved of responsibility to a great extent.
– The Commonwealth Government represents the producers just as much as the Premiers of the States do.
SenatorFRASER. - It does, and it does not. This is a mail contract. The carriage of produce is more the concern of the States than of the Federal Government. I recognise that.
– Does not the honorable senator recognise that he represents the producers just as much as members of the States Parliaments do?
– I recognise that the vessels will come to Melbourne.
– They cannot come to Melbourne. There is not water enough to allow them to come. .
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that they will draw too much water to enable them to enter the port of Melbourne? I do not believe that the contract means anything but gross tonnage, and, for my own part, I consider that11,000 tons is quite sufficient. I do not want to see 20,000-ton vessels coming here just now. Vessels of 11,000 tons registered tonnage could not turn round in Brindisi, and would have to pay£78,000 per annum in dues through the Suez Canal. There is no doubt, in my opinion, that 11,000 tons gross is meant in this contract; and that the term “11,000 tons registered “ is a mistake.
– Made by whom?
– Made by the contracting parties. The very fact that the vessels are to be so large implies that they will carry cargo. They must, in order to make them pay. The amount paid to them by the Government would be a mere nothing if they did not earn a lot of money in carrying cargo. There is just a bare possibility that the New Zealand Government may subsidize the vessels. In my own opinion that is a remote contingency ; but if I thought that there was any danger in that direction, I should vote for Senator Stewart’s amendment. Believing that there is no danger, I must support the contract as it stands.
– I think it is very ungrateful of Senator Stewart after not only suggesting, but urging - in fact, entreating and pleading - on a previous occasion that the Commonwealth Government should contract for nothing but the carriage of mails, and that the vessels should stop at Adelaide, that he should express dissatisfaction with the proposed contract. Every honorable senator remembers how pathetic Senator Stewart was on that subject. His eloquent words burnt into the very soul of nearly every one who heard him. The Government, when an opportunity occurred, took up almost every one of his suggestions, and is now endeavouring to put them into a contract. According to what the Honorary Minister has read, the very Premier of Senator Stewart’s State has been influenced by his pleadings and suggestions of several months ago. Yet the honorable senator is not satisfied. He ought to be the happiest man in Australia; unless, as on another occasion, he has met some man from North Queensland who has influenced him in quite another direction. I am sure that every honorable senator is anxious that a favorable bargain should be made with respect to cool storage with any company that contracts to carry our mails. ButI differ from some honorable senators with respect to a contract of this description. The paper placed before us contains the conditions under which tenders were furnished. When the Commonwealth Government called for tenders, the offer was open to all the syndicates and private firms in the world. Certain conditions were laid down. Tenders were sent in under those conditions. Now the agreement comes be- fore us, and some honorable senators object to it. These objections should have been raised when the conditions were being formulated. If any one could showthat the terms of the contract are not in accordance with the conditions of tender, there would be some excuse for radical amendments. But honorable senators know very well, and I believe that the Government know very well, that if this agreement is not accepted, practically as it is, or if any material alteration is made in it, the contract will be set aside altogether. We shall then be in the same difficulty that we experienced someyears ago, seeing that on 31st January, 1908, the present contract will come to an end. Senator Guthrie’s objections are of a varied character.
– The honorable senator complains that the ships are too big !
– Or that our harbors are too small. For the last twentyfive years we have been hoping that the improvement in navigation between Great Britain and Australia would continue; but Senator Guthrie seems to be of opinion that the improvement has gone too far.
– I do not say anything of the sort, and the honorable senator knows it.
– I do not know anything of the kind. When the honorable senator objects to a tender for the carriage of mails, because the contractors provide vessels of a larger size with vastly greater accommodation-
– No accommodation at all.
– Does the honorable senator imagine that people build ships of that size for the purpose of carrying wind or ballast?
– Or merely to carry the Commonwealth flag?
– People are building ships twenty times larger than some of those which at present carry our mails.
– Fifty per cent. larger.
– Let us say 50 per cent. Do people do that simply for the purpose of carrying the Australian flag, or a few hundred tons of mail matter? Does the honorable senator know that a company, with the capital and shipping facilities to carry out a contract of this character, would find the subsidy of £125,000 sufficient to pay only a very small proportion of their expenses.
– What is the capital of the company ?
– I shall talk about the capital presently. People build ships of this character with the intention to work them to their fullest capacity, as they must be worked if they are to pay.
– The ships are not built yet.
– Senator Guthrie has expressed the opinion that the vessels will not be able to enter the port of Melbourne. Well, I do not suppose that the vessels will come up to Prince’s-bridge, if only because the Queen’s-bridge is in the way ; I do not suppose, indeed, that it is intended to bring the vessels into the Yarra at all. But if there is not depth enough at Port Melbourne or Williamstown, surely, with the dredge that was obtained from England some time ago, the Harbor Trust or the Government could make the port capable of accommodating vessels of the kind. In the place from which Senator Guthrie comes, it was possible, some years ago, to wade across the river, whereas now vessels of the size which has been mentioned canbe built and launched there.
– It might have been possible to wade that river 150 years gao.
– There is no necessity for Senator Guthrie to be alarmed about the size of the vessels. I do not think that the representatives of Sydney will agreewith Senator Guthrie that vessels of11,000 tons could not berth in Port Jackson. At the present time vessels quite as large, and drawing as much water as would benecessary for the proposed vessels, go into Sydney Harbor.
– What are those vessels?
– There is, for instance, the Grosser Kurfurst, which I saw lying at Circular Quay.
– That is about half the tonnage of the vessels mentioned in thecontract.
– The Grosser Kurfurst is 13,000 tons.
– The vessels under the contract will be 3,000 tons larger.
– There are vessels belonging to the White Star Company which are probably as large, or, at any rate, nearly as large, as the vessels will be under this contract.
– The White Star vessels are 12,000 tons.
– Yes, gross.
– I am merely endeavouring to show how ridiculous Senator Guthrie’s arguments are in regard to the tonnage of the vessels. I do not care whether the tonnage mentioned be net or gross ; if the vessels were 20,000 tons it would be the duty of the different Governments in Australia to make provision for them, in the interests of the producers. Such arguments as Senator Guthrie has used do not weigh with me for one moment. According to the amendment, the vessels would be bound to call at Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and Hobart.
– And yet the proposer of the amendment says that the vessels would not be able to enter the ports at those places.
– I am not going to decry the shipping facilities of the Commonwealth. If those facilities are not equal to any in the world, they can be made so. Our natural advantages in this respect are greater than can be Found anywhere else. If the ports at present are not able to accommodate vessels of the size proposed, they can easily be made to do so, because our ports, in their natural conditions, are superior to any to be found in the old world. I have not the slightest doubt that the vessels under this contract will always call at Melbourne and Sydney for the purposes of obtaining a full cargo. If this amendment were carried, the vessels would be compelled every trip to call also at Brisbane and Hobart; but honorable senators know very well that there are certain times of the year when no cargo can be procured at those ports. Under those circumstances, why should the vessels be compelled to call, when, it might be,they could only do so at great loss ? We may rest assured that the vessels will call at every port where they can find cargo that will pay, and there is no need forany compulsion in the matter. The greater the number of shipping companies trading to Australia the better it will be for the producers of this country, because competition must result in reasonable freights.
– How canany industry, such as the butter industry, for instance, be built up unless vessels call regularly at the ports?
– Vessels do not call for butter when there is no butter to be got. I never knew a shipping company send vessels to a country for butter where they could get nothing but wheat, or send them for wheat where they could get nothing but rice. Each shipping “company sends vessels to places where they can get the cargo that is wanted, and so it will be with the company under the contract. This is a serious matter, and I am endeavouring to show that we ought to adopt this contract. What those who support the amendment desire will be gained if it will pay the shipping company to call at the ports mentioned. Senator Guthrie has described this as a mere option agreement which is going to be hawked about Great Britain in order to form a company with the object of robbing the people of Australia. But the Government have given us an assurance-
– Let the Government lay the full particulars, on the table.
– In endeavouring to effect a favorable bargain with anybody on the face of the earth, is it always thebest way to expose everything? The Government will give the fullest informationat the proper time ; and in the meanwhile I am satisfied with the assurance we have received. Let us suppose that all Senator Guthrie’s predictions come true, and that this business is a fraud from beginning to end ; we are doing the best we can, and we should only be thrown back on the poundage system at the termination of the contract. Then if the public were dissatisfied with the poundage system we should be in a position to say that the Government had done all they possibly could, and that private enterprisehaving failed, it was an opportune time tocharter a line of steamers of our own. The position would afford justification for such a proposal. We must remember that the contract is for the carriage of our mails from Adelaide to Brindisi, and that, sofar as the producers are concerned, there will always be the competition of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company.
– Yes ; seven dayslater.
– Another line of steamers would run once a fortnight, and the competition would guarantee fairly low freights and regular transport to-
England. Suppose the company carries out this contract and does not. go to Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, or Hobart, and it becomes evident to the people of the Commonwealth that the company is not -doing justice to our producers, will they not rise up and say, “ This is a contract which we think should continue no longer” ? What, then, would be the position of the Commonwealth Government ?
– They could not break the contract.
– No; but they could carry it to its legitimate conclusion. If the company were not doing what was in the best interests of Australia, the Government would have power under the contract to say, “ You are not doing what is right, and we shall therefore put into operation one of the provisions of this agreement. We shall take over your boats, and run them ourselves in the interests of the Commonwealth.” Is not that a safeguard in the interests of the producers of the Commonwealth ?
– The company might be very glad to. sell the boats.
– If we were glad to buy them, and they were glad to sell them, where would the trouble be? It is even now predicted that there will be cutthroat competition between the existing companies and the new company.
– All the better for the producers of Australia.
– That is just what I was going to say, and I am glad that Senator Fraser, with his customary powers of perception, is able to see that.
– I thought the honorable senator was opposed to competition ?
– I shall satisfy Senator Millen before I have finished. Suppose that the existing shipping companies agreed to carry produce at such low rates that in three or four years the contractors for this mail service would have to cave in ? The same power would still lie with the Commonwealth Government to take over the vessels, and continue to run them. Then the cut-throat competition would be against the Commonwealth vessels, and if the producers of Australia saved £t, 000,000 or £1,500,000 in reduced freights, could they not afford to pay a little in taxation to support vessels owned by the Commonwealth when it was by the competition of those vessels that they were enabled to secure the low rates of freight? I hope that honorable senators will see that, so far as the cut-throat competition is concerned, it can do the Commonwealth no harm. I hope that the amendment, if not withdrawn, will not be carried, and that we shall do the best we can to have this contract agreed to. If it is agreed to the Commonwealth will be placed, so far as a mail service is concerned, in a better position than any of the States Iba ve ever occupied under a mail contract. Honorable senators will see that I support the ratification of this contract, not from any great anxiety to support the Government, or to defeat the opposition to the contract, but because I believe that, so far as the carriage of our mails is concerned, this agreement will be in the best interests of the Commonwealth, and that ultimately it is bound to be also in the best interests of the producers of Australia.
Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia) [9.35J. - I am quite in accord with the sympathetic remarks which Senator Pulsford made concerning the loss of this service by the Orient Steam Navigation Company. We have to remember that the Orient Steam Navigation Company is a White-labour company, and on that ground most honorable senators must have considerable sympathy with it in the circumstances. It is possible that they would prefer to have seen the Orient Steam Navigation Company in the position of the contractors for the new service, but there can be no doubt* that if the size of the boats to be provided is any indication, the new company will give us a better service than the Orient Steam Navigation Company has supplied. Whilst the Orient Steam Navigation Company has failed to obtain the contract for the new service, they will have the comfort which every free-trader is every ready to give to the man who is cut out of a job, that they can turn their attention to something else for the time being. I do not know whether they will succeed in getting something, else, but the opportunity to try for it will be open to them. I can agree with many of the remarks which have fallen from Senator Guthrie. I should like to have seen this contract made more of a cargo contract than it is, but apparently all the efforts of the Commonwealth Government to secure the co-operation of the) States Governments to that end ‘were in vain. They could not induce the States Governments to meet them, and were consequently obliged to make terms for a mail contract pure and simple, and, with the exception of the reference to the size of the vessels to be provided, to leave all questions affecting the carriage of cargo out of consideration in the preparation of this contract. With respect to Senator Stewart’s amendment, I believe that if it were inserted we might as well tear up this contract at once, as it would become necessary to start the whole of the negotiations over again. I am satisfied that if the amendment is accepted, it will be impossible for any one, to deny another claim which will be brought forward, and that is the claim that the Vancouver service shall be continued to Fremantle for the benefit of Western Australia. If the one claim is granted, the other cannot be denied, and so the whole thing would be made ridiculous. Our business at the present time is to secure as good a contract as we can get for the carriage of our mails to and from the most convenient port in Australia, for their distribution and collection. In order if possible to a’waken the consciences of some honorable senators, and particularly of Senator Stewart, I should like to say that rather than that the Committee should accept the amendment, I should prefer that the word “ Adelaide “ should be left out, with a view to insert the word “Fremantle.” Fremantle is the first Australian port at which these boats will touch on the voyage from Europe, and why should they go beyond that port?
– What would the honorable senator do with the mails after they reached Fremantle?
– They could be distributed from Fremantle as they now are distributed from Adelaide.
– Hear, hear; by balloon.
– I do not care about the means adopted for their distribution.
– But the honorable senator would prefer trie railway.
– I should prefer the railway, and perhaps if the course I suggest were adopted, the consciences of Senator Stewart, and other honorable senators holding his views on the subject of the railway, might be awakened to its advantages.
– The railway would take longer to bring on the mails than the steamer would.
– I am afraid that Senator Guthrie in that statement has allowed his admiration for the sea to out weigh his better judgment. With reference to the honorable senator’s suggestion that we should provide in this contract for maximum rates of freight, I am able to say that such a provision would suit Fremantle, because, notwithstanding the fact that Fremantle is the first port of call, and’ the nearest port_ to Europe, freights from Europe to that port are actually higher than from Europe to Adelaide.
– That is due to the Fremantle combine.
– It is due, not to the combine alone, but to the operations of all the shipping companies. It is notorious that freights to Adelaide are higher than to Melbourne, and I believe that in the same way freights from Europe are also higher to Melbourne than to Sydney. The proposal to fix freights would probably meet the views of commercial people in all of the Australian ports, but we know very well that, at the present time, such a proposal is impracticable, and it is useless to waste time in discussing it. If all these conditions are to be dragged into this contract it will be torn up, and we must begin negotiations for a new contract. I regret that, after further light has been thrown on the subject, reference should again be made to-night to the tonnage of these boats. We have had no fresh proof from those who hold that the registered tonnage of a ship is her net tonnage. Undoubtedly it is the gross tonnage.
– Nothing of the sort.
– Senator Guthrie, with all his knowledge of shipping, has actually failed to grasp the proper meaning of this term. I am the more surprised that the honorable senator should not understand the meaning of the term now, because a few months ago he did understand it.
– The honorable senator is getting older.
– He is a few months older, and he has forgotten his own words in denning the meaning of the expression “registered tonnage.” In looking over the evidence given before the Navigation Commission, I found that Mr. Paxton, of Sydney, was under examination by Senator Guthrie, in connexion with clause 421 of the Navigation Bill. That clause reads -
As to every ship registered at any port in the British dominions, the amount of tonnage specified in the certificate of register shall be the registered tonnage of such ships.
In order to clearly define what was the registered tonnage, Mr. Paxton suggested that the word “net” should be inserted before the word “registered” in the last line of this clause. He wished the clause to read “net registered tonnage,” but Senator Guthrie said, in reply-
– No, I asked ques-. tia r is, [ did not give evidence.
– We have it here in black and white, in the minutes of evidence given before the Navigation Commission, that the honorable senator, in reply 10 Mr. Paxton, said -
The clause says that the certificate of register shall be the tonnage of the ship, and that is the gross tonnage, not the net tonnage.
The honorable senator was actually assuring Mr. Paxton that the registered tonnage was the gross tonnage.
– When making a declaration as an authority.
– The greatest shipping authority we have in- the Senate at that time agreed that the registered tonnage was the gross tonnage.
– In these matters, fortunately, I do not need to depend upon the word of the honorable senator. The authorities I have consulted bear out my view and his own contention of a few months ago.
– It was not my contention at all. How does a man generally cross-examine a witness?
– For the information of the honorable senator, I shall read the following extract from the Argus of the 26th July -
Yesterday a representative of the Argus sought the opinion of a gentleman prominent in shipping circles on this question, and obtained the following statement : - “ What we mean by registered is gross tonnage always. * It is really the total measurement of the interior of the .hull combined with that above deck. Lloyd’s Register gives, in connexion with every steamer, first the gross tonnage, then the tonnage under deck -
– Who said that?
– A gentleman who is prominent in shipping circles.
– What does that mean? Take the Merchant Shipping Act, which is an authority, and see what it says !
– The name of this gentleman has been supplied to me, and if I were at liberty to disclose it, I am satisfied that the honorable senator would agree that he does know something about this question.
– If he made that statement, he does net.
– The gentleman goes on to say - and, lastly, the net tonnage.
That is exactly what I contended last night.
Tonnage under deck means the total measurement under the weather deck. To arrive at the net tonnage you must deduct (1) the measurement of the houses on deck and the superstructure ; and (2) the space taken up below deck by machinery, accommodation for the crew, and the bunkers.
Let us take an example. The Moldavia is one of the new 10,000-tonners’ of the P. and O. Company’s fleet. Lloyd’s Register gives her gross registered tonnage as 9,500 tons, her ion.nage under deck at 7,202 tons, and her net tonnage as 4,92s tons. So you see, her net tonnage is only about half of the gross tonnage. Without doubt Sir James Laing and Sons referred to the gross registered tonnage when they contracted to supply steamers of 11,000 tons registered tonnage. The tonnage is measured by a formula. When shipping people speak of registered tonnage they always mean the gross registered tonnage.
– That is rubbish.
– We can stand Senator Guthrie posing as an authority on shipping questions, but I think it does not become an ex-draper to question that statement.
– He is also an exshipwright.
– This gentleman goes on to say -
As a matter of fact, all three classes of tonnage are registered. A steamer to have 11,000 tons net register, and r6-knot power, would require to be at least 20,000 tons gross register - a mammoth vessel.
I have taken the trouble to look up the definition of the word “ registered tonnage “ in some leading dictionaries. After explaining the method of measuring ships in order to arrive at the registered tonnage, The Century Dictionary goes on to say -
These, together, give the gross register tonnage -
I may mention that the words “ gross register tonnage” are underlined. each ton (called a register ton) containing 100 cubic feet.
Webster’s Dictionary says -
There are in use the following terms relating to tonnage : - (a) displacement; (i) register tonnage, gross and net, and &c.
There is another dictionary which confirms my contention -
Gross tonnage expresses the total cubical interior space of a vessel ; net tonnage, the cubical space actually available for freight carrying purposes.
– Which is her proper registered tonnage.
– Hear. hear.
– When Senator Mulcahy is backed up by Senator Macfarlane on this question, Webster and all the other authorities ought to take a back seat. I am quite prepared, however, to abideby the definitions in these dictionaries. I am satisfied that the registered tonnage referred to in the contract is the gross registered tonnage, and, as the shipping authority whom I quoted says, shipping people always refer to the gross registered tonnage. It now remains for Senator Mulcahy to disprove what I said, and to make good his contention.
– To put up a Better man.
– I am afraid that it will need a better man than the honorable senator to refute these authorities.
– There has been a considerable amount of discussion as to what “tonnage “ means, and I have been quoted as an authority. Senator de Largie knows very well that I did not give evidence before the Navigation Commission, and that in cross-examining a witness the object of a question is to elicit what he does know. Surely he must remember quite well that I put crucial questions to Mr. Paxton to discover exactly what he did know. I questioned him about the net line, the load line, heaving the lead, the marks and deeps on the lead, and the tonnage question. All the authorities which have Been quoted by Senator de Largie count for nothing as against the decisions of the Court on this point.
– Does notLloyd’s Register count for something?
– No. I am prepared to admit that there are two tonnages. Gross tonnage is absolutely a builders’ tonnage, and is not registered.
– Are not Sir James Laing and Sons builders?
– In the contract they are described, not as ship-owners or ship-runners, or ship-contractors, but merely as” ship-builders. The position I take up is that the tonnage referred to in the contract is a builder’s tonnage. The way in which it is arrived at is explained in Rhodes’ s Steam-ship Guide, an authority which is published in London, in these terms -
The “ deadweight capacity “ of a ship in the case of a cargo boat means the total weight she will carry, and includes cargo, coal, crew, and consumable stores. The following example will show how. the total weight of a ship and her lading is made up : -
– What does the honorable senator call that?
– That is the gross tonnage of a ship.
– I thought that that was the displacement.
– That shows the displacement.
Let us now see what the Merchant Shipping Act says.
– What does it matter?
– I do not think that it matters two pins. The only point is, ought we, as custodians of the public purse, to agree to something in a contract when we do not know what it means? I take it that the best authority we can get on this subject is the Merchant Shipping Act, which operates in all British Possessions.
– If we agree to the contract we shall know that it is 11,000 gross.
– No; the contract says that it shall be 11,000 tons registered. Chitty, who is an authority on the Merchant Shipping Act, says -
There are two kinds of tonnage under the Act, viz., gross tonnage, which is the full measurement of the ship, and register tonnage, which is the net result after the deductions authorized by section 79 have been made from the primary or gross tonnage. Dues and charges are based on net or register tonnage, showing that net and registered tonnage are one and the same thing.
– So is gross tonnage.
– No ; that is a different thing.
As is the ship-owner’s liability in the case of a sailing ship, but in the case of a steam-ship that liability is based on the gross tonnage after deducting crew space where section 6 has been complied with.
Section 79 of the Merchant Shipping Act provides for deductions for ascertaining tonnage in measuring or remeasuring a ship for the purpose of ascertaining her registered1 tonnage.
– We are not making a contract under the Merchant Shipping Act.
– But the Merchant Shipping Act itself provides that it shall apply to the “ whole of Her Majesty’s Dominion, and to all places where Her Majesty has jurisdiction. “ The Royal Commission on Navigation, of which Senator de Largie was a member, did not touch that part of the Act, thereby acknowledging that the Commonwealth has no power to affect a single letter of it. Section 79 of the Act provides how the registered’ tonnage shall be arrived at. In the case of sailing ships allowance is to be made for space for the crew, space for storage of sails, and stowage. In the case of a steam-ship, allowance is to be made for the space occupied by the propelling power, the space necessary for the crew and for stores. When these factors are deducted from the gross tonnage you arrive at the registered tonnage of the ship. Yet Senator de Largie has stated that what I have asserted is absolutely wrong. He puts himself up as an authority above Chitty. . If the honorable senator will go down to the wharf to-morrow, and board any British ship, he will find indelibly cut into the main hatch her registered tonnage. When any proof is wanted regarding the tonnage of a ship, it is not necessary to go to Lloyd’s, or to look at the ship’s papers. Her registered tonnage is cut with a chisel into the main hatch ; and she is charged her dues in every port in the British Dominions on that tonnage. I intend to try to make it absolutely clear that 11,000 tons’ registered tonnage in this agreement means 11,000 tons registered tonnage within the meaning of the Merchant Shipping Act. I feel certain that if we could bring the Postmaster-General to the bar of the Senate, and examine him, the honorable gentleman would have to acknowledge that when he signed the contract he thought it meant 11,000 tons “registered,” within the meaning of the Merchant Shipping Act, and1 not 11,000 gross. There is a considerable amount of mystery about this matter. If we were entering into a contract with an existing shipping company we should know whom we were dealing with. But what is our position now ? We do not know who the contractors are. I asked the Minister yesterday to give us a copy of the cablegram authorizing Mr. Croker to enter into this agreement. It was not forthcoming to-day. I asked the question again, but Ve have no notification that we are to get the information. We are, completely in the dark, entering into a contract with Mr. W. H. Croker to supply us with a fortnightly service with vessels of 11,000 tons registered tonnage.
– Do we not know that £27,500 has been deposited - £2,500 in cash, and £25,000 by bond?
– We have proof of the deposit of £2,500.
– And what about the bond?
– We do not know who has entered into it.
– It is approved by the Government, at any rate.
– Even if we accept it as a fact that £27^00 has been deposited, yet if these people fail to carry out their scheme, and take twelve months in which to fail, what will our position be? I want to make sure that there is somebody behind this contract other than Mr. W. H. Croker. If I am assured that there is a substantial company formed for the purpose of carrying out the contract, I shall be to a large extent satisfied.
– Does the honorable senator doubt the bona fides of the company ?
– I do. I say that there is no company.
– Surely we have evidence that there is a large company of shipbuilders, who are prepared to build the steamers.
– I have seen paragraphs in the newspapers - I suppose they were inspired - stating that this is a contract entered into by Sir James Laing and Sons Limited. They are described as shipbuilders, not ship-owners. I do not know whether their articles of association allow them to enter into a contract of this description. The Minister, in reply to a question, informed me that they did not know, but that they assumed the formalities were all right. What right have we, as custodians of the people’s interests, to assume that the articles of association of Sir James Laing and Sons allow them to enter into such a contract? I asked Senator Keating if he would make such an assumption in the case of a private client of his own.
– We have a deposit of ,£27,500.
– In a contract which will involve millions !
– °Have the Government no agents in the old country ? We may be sure thev have.
–:If the Government have agents there, the Parliament has not been so informed.
– The Secretary for Defence is there-
– I understood from the press reports that the Secretary for Defence was sent Home to look after warlike stores, and not mail ships. We have been further informed by the press that the firm of Lord Armstrong and Company and Messrs. Vickers are associated with Sir James Laing and Sons. If the company formed is what is known throughout the British Possessions as a “ one boat company, “-
– The question before the Chair is that certain words be inserted. I have given the honorable senator a good deal of latitude.
– I shall connect my remarks with the proposal that the vessels shall call at Brisbane. Supposing that the contract becomes an accomplished fact, and one steamer is built by Lord Armstrong and Company, and another by Sir James Laing and Sons ; under such circumstances, if one of these boats did not call at Brisbane, I should like to know whether the owners of the other boat would be in any way liable in connexion with the penalty that would be imposed, for breach of contract? I am quite certain, from the paragraphs which have appeared in the press, that if this is going to be a “oneboat company,” one firm will be in no way liable for any breach of contract bv the other.
– One ship, one trip.
– And liability for one trip only. If there is a guarantee that this is a bona fide tender, and that the contractors are in a position to carry out the agreement, probably a good deal of my opposition .would fall to the ground. At the present time, however, the contract appears to me to be an absolute shadow. There is as yet no company in existence, and we have no guarantee that the articles of association of Sir James Laing and Sons permit them to run vessels of the kind. My own opinion is that a company has vet to be floated, and that the contract will have to be assigned to that company per Mr. W. H. Croker. Under the agreement, the Postmaster-General has an absolute right to make that assignment; and I hope that when the time comes, we shall provide that it shall not be made without the sanction of Parliament.
– I should like to reply to the remarks of Senator Keating on the observations which I made on this subject twelve months ago. I adhere to every word I uttered on that occasion. I believe that the Government should undertake a mail contract only ; but since they have seen fit to make it also a produce-carrying contract, I am not going to permit dust to be thrown in my eyes.
– Where is it stated that this is a produce-carrying contract?
– That is exactly where the cunning of the document comes in. The understanding is so cleverly concealed as to be invisible to people who do not want to see it, but to others it is so plain that he who runs may read. Why is there this stipulation as to the tonnage of the vessels? It is ridiculous to assume that it is for the purpose of carrying mails. The Government stipulate not for one vessel, but for a whole fleet. The Government say to the prospective - and prospecting - company not only that they must build vessels of 11,000 tons, but must submit the plans and specifications to the Government representative. If there is no understanding that they are to be cargo vessels, why all these stipulations? The Prime Minister said that an arrangement, or understanding, had been arrived at sub rosa - though he did not use those words - that the boats were to proceed to Melbourne and Sydney ; and he might have added that that condition was not included in the contract, lest the Queensland people should desire them to also call at Brisbane.
– Is that true ?
– That is the first I have heard of it.
– I do not know that these things are expressly mentioned in Cabinet, and, even if they were, there would be no record. Every Minister is bound in honour not to reveal what occurs at a Cabinet meeting. No honorable senator has yet attempted to explain why the Government insists on the stipulations I have mentioned.
– Because the conditions were offered.
– The honorable senator must be very silly. If these conditions were offered, why are they included in the contract? Does any honorable senator imagine- that the company is going to build vessels of this tonnage, and submit plans to the Government unless it expects to be paid ? And is not the payment included in the. subsidy^?
– Certainly not.
– I shall not dwell longer on the question of the tonnage. I can understand Senator Smith, and honorable senators from South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales, being perfectly satisfied with the contract - it is not “the”ir funeral.”
– Why would the vessels go on to Melbourne and Sydney?
– Presumably because there is business to be got at Melbourne and Sydney.
– And the only reason why the vessels would not go to Brisbane would lae that there was no business.
– If the honorable senator had listened he would have understood that my objection to the contract is that it is more than a mail contract, and if I am right in that, the vessels ought to be bound to go on to Brisbane and Hobart. If this is a mail contract only, the company’s connexion with the Commonwealth should end at Adelaide and Brindisi. I have pointed out that the internal evidence of the contract itself convincingly proves to any man open to reason that a. cargo contract is contemplated, as well as a mail contract. It is as plainly there in the terms of the contract as the nose upon a man’s face. I have pointed out that it does not affect the representatives of Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, or New South Wales, because the vessels will call at Fre mantle, at Adelaide, and probably also at Melbourne and Sydney.
– They may or may not do so.
– They are not bound by this contract to call at Melbourne or Sydney, and. our Victorian and New South Wales friends may find themselves in a difficulty some early morning. We have had some experience of the operations of shipping rings- in Australia already. I remember that the Aberdeen Company was in the habit of Bringing goods from Europe consigned to Queensland, and of actually taking them out of their vessels at Sydney to be sent on to Brisbane by other vessels, whilst the vessels in which’ they were brought to Sydney continued their voyage to Brisbane. That foolish and vicious action was compelled by the shipping ring. What security have we that this company which is now being organized will not be a member of the same shipping ring, and that as a consequence the fierce competition amongst the shipping companies, on which some of our friends seem to rely so strongly, will not vanish into thin air? It is quite within the bounds of possibility that the New Zealand Government will offer this company a subsidy, and that, as a consequence, instead of sending their boats on to Melbourne and Sydney from Adelaide, as some of our friends fondly expect they will, they will prefer fo send them on te New Zealand,’ and thus place the producers of the eastern States in a most difficult position.
– The honorable senator is proving that this is only a mail contract.
– What I have said does not prove anything of the kind. Senator Turley does not see anything in this contract but what he desires to see. I repeat that these vessels are not bound to go to Sydney and Melbourne, and that is just where the company are getting the better of our friends from New South Wales and Victoria. Honorable senators representing those States believe that in this contract they are getting the better of Queensland, and that is why they propose to agree to the bargain. But the company, while aiding and abetting them to outwit Queensland, are at the same time outwitting themselves. That is the position. A threat on the part of the company not to call at Melbourne and Svdney would compel the producers in the eastern States to come to any terms which the combine might exact. Any one can see that, and even if honorable senators from New South Wales and Victoria do not care very much about the interests of Queensland, they should try to conserve the interests of their own State. Senator Keating was kind enough to tell the Committee what the Premier of Queensland thinks about the subject. I may inform the honorable senator that I had a conversation with the Premier of Queensland not very long ago, in which I believe I persuaded that honorable gentleman, much against his will, to my own way of thinking with regard to these contracts, and that is that they ought to be mail contracts pure and simple.
– Was this last session?
– No, recently. The Premier of Queensland evidently has not realized that this contract is something more than a mail contract, and that is why he has spoken in the terms quoted by Senator Keating. The honorable and learned senator gave the Committee the benefit of the opinion of one organ of public opinion in Queensland, and I will read the opinion of another. Not that I care very much for either, because I very seldom agree with them, or they with me. Just in order to show that there is some difference of opinion in Queensland on this subject, I take the liberty of reading what the Courier has to say about it. I ask the special attention of honorable senators to the following article, which appeared in the Brisbane Courier of Friday, 27th June: -
The statement made that either the letter or the spirit of the new mail contract provides for Adelaide being the terminal port of call for the mail steamers received a flat contradiction from the Prime Minister’s own explanation, as given in the House of Representatives. One need not question that it may, as he says, be the best mail contract - for the southern States - that has yet been entered into; but, so far as Queensland is concerned, no advantage whatever has been gained. The vessels, remarked Mr. Deakin, were to” be constructed according to plans submitted to the Government, with a provision for more than three times the cold storage of the present liners. Here, then, is the assumption that the purpose of the contract is, not only the speedy and regular delivery of mail matter, but also the regular and speedy carriage of refrigerated produce from Australian ports to the markets of the United Kingdom. If the only question to be considered was the saving of time between Brindisi and Adelaide, the two terminal ports for the receipt of the mail bags, why should it have been deemed necessary to submit plans of the steamers to the Federal Government, and why should there have been any reference to the fact that the new steamers will have more than three times the frozen space of the present steamers? From first to last, within and outside the terms of the mail contract, there is a clear understanding that it has as much to do with the carriage of produce as with the regular delivery of letters; and the boast made about increase of space has no meaning unless. there isa definite assurance that the mail steamers wilt call at other ports as well as Adelaide. Thesame conclusion is reached by other lines of argument.
I ask honorable senators to pay particular attention to this part of the article.
Suppose, for example, that there has been> any uncertainty as to whether the mail steamerswould call at Melbourne or Sydney there would1 have been no meaning in the Prime Minister’sreference to greater facilities for the carriageof Australian produce, as South Australia has not developed at such a rate as to require threetimes the frozen space for her products, and it is certain that the shippers of Melbourne and’ Sydney would not send the produce of their ownStates by subsidiary steamers for transshipment at Adelaide. It is only a quibble to say that thetwo southern ports were not specifically mentioned’ in the mail contract, when its general terms imply the inclusion of these ports in any contract that might be accepted, and when Mr. Deakinhas been given the private assurance of the agentsof the new company that for commercial reasonsthe steamers would continue their voyage to Melbourne and Sydney. Another consideration must be duly weighed in connexion with the comparatively high subsidy to be paid. The only justification for such a subsidy is found in increased1 speed and better accommodation for frozen produce. There never yet has been a mail contract in which the two things have not been associated ;. and supreme folly would be shown’ in their dissociation. Where a subsidy has to be paid for the carriage of the mails it is surely cheaper and more efficient to arrange that the steamerswhich carry the mails shall also be thoroughly equipped for the carriage of frozen produce, asthe same canal and port dues have to be paid, and there is practically the same cost of working the steamers.
– Is the honorable senator reading this in support of or irc opposition to his own views?
– Partly in support of them. The writer of the articlecontinues -
The principle here involved was practically recognised at the last general election when the present Queensland members and the Commonwealth Parliament painted fine pictures about the advantages that would be given to the States by a superior class of up-to-date steamers fitted’ with all the improvements that science could devise for taking frozen meat and butter round: half the world. And the result of all this boastful talking and argument is that Brisbane hasbeen treated as utterly unworthy of consideration, and that Queensland producers shall pay taxesin order to give the producers of other St ites advantages which they themselves do not enjoy. The splendid mail steamers of 11,000 tons, fitted to carry three times the former amount of produce, will call at Fremantle and Adelaide - by- compulsion ; at Sydney and Melbourne - according to a definite understanding ; but Brisbane, -which commands a wider scope df country and greater natural resources than are tapped by any other Australian port, is asked to accept an arrangement in which there is neither compulsion nor understanding that Queenslanders would be given the same benefits conferred on other Australians. The people of southern Queensland must contribute in cash for a subsidy that will give the other States a fortnightly service of splendid cargo steamers; but if they want the same service they must arrange for a special subsidy. And yet, according to the Constitution of the Commonwealth, no differentiation is supposed to be made between State and State. Tn a matter of this kind, one might expect that Queensland’s representatives will’ show a united and resolute front against the Federal Government. Their failure to do so should make electors pause and consider when the next appeal is -.-made to the country.
I quote that article for what it is worth. As Senator Keating kindly gave us the Daily Mail on the subject, I have given the Brisbane Courier on the same subject. Honorable senators now have Loth sides of the shield presented to them, and -can decide the matter in which ever way thev please.
Senator Lt.-Col. GOULD (New South Wales) [10.44]. - I do not know whether the Government propose to go on with the -debate, or to adjourn at this stage. Three or four other honorable senators desire to speak, and I therefore suggest that the -debate be. adjourned.
– I have no desire to stop the discussion of this question. “We went into Committee tb-night for the purpose of, perhaps, more expeditiously dealing with it.
– I thought that the -object was to facilitate discussion.
– I thought so too. It has given some honorable senators an opportunity to go over the terms of the contract, although, nominally, a particular article only is before the Chair. I sincerely hope that at the next sitting they will, as far as possible, endeavour to confine their arguments to the amendment before the Committee. I feel that it is my duty to state that, probably, any delay in the ratification of the contract may to some -extent prejudice our prospects thereunder.
– The Government have the bond. Surely we are not -expected to rush the thing ^through when the consideration of the contract occupied <the attention of the other House for nearly a fortnight !
– I do not wish to block discussion. I merely desire to point out to honorable senators for their consideration
– The honorable senator will have art opportunity of making those observations to-morrow. The question before the Committee is the insertion of certain words, and I ask him to do as he has invited other honorable senators to do, and that is tb confine his remarks to that question. -
– With the permission oi the Committee, I should like to say a few words in assenting to report progress. I think it is desirable to offer one or two observations which may possibly cause them to expedite the consideration of this proposal to-morrow.
– The honorable senator will have an. opportunity of making those remarks when he is asking leave for the Committee to sit again.
– I move -
That the Committee have leave to sit again to-morrow.
The consideration of this contract was begun at the earliest opportunity this week, and, of course, to-morrow will be our last day of sitting in this week. Tor some time the terms of the contract have been under the consideration of the members of each House, if not legislatively, at any rate privately. The contractors are at some distance from the scene of our deliberations, and they can only receive information by cablegram. From communications which have been received from the contractors, I have every reason to assume that they are informed to the effect that their capacity .to fulfil the terms of this contract has been, very seriously canvassed both inside and outside the Parliament of Australia. With regard to the amendments which it was indicated would be made in the Senate, arid the amendments which have been made elsewhere, the Government have taken the precaution in each instance of securing in advance the signature of the representative of the contractors thereto, so that under no circumstances could it be said afterwards that the adoption of the amendments was a ground for them to abandon the contract.
– Are we to make no amendment’s of which Mr. Croker does not approve ?
– I donotsay that. So far the policy of the Government has been to get an indorsement of any amendment before it has been approved, because it is quite possible that, upon the adoption of certain amendments, it might be open to the contractors to retire from the position they have taken up.
– Let them retire, if they want to do so.
– It might be a very good thing for them to retire.
– And it might be very bad for us. I am pointing out these natters for the consideration of honorable senators.
– That suggests an inquiry into the nature of the bond.
– The Government instructed its representative in London to make certain inquiries, and the result of them is most satisfactory.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) [10.53]. - I think that we all reciprocate the Minister’s desire that the consideration of this contract should be pushed on with, and I am quite sure that be will have no reason to complain in that respect. He must take a lenient view if he is in a critical humour, because, although . the contract was under consideration elsewhere for a good long while, it has only been under active consideration here since yesterday afternoon. I think that a little consideration must be given to the Senate.
– We should like to get the contract dealt with in, this week.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Playford) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I desire to inform honorable senators who have received from the Minister of Home Affairs an intimation that arrangements were being made for visiting the proposed Capital Sites, at the invitation of the Government of New South Wales, that some alteration has been made in the itineraries. Instead of Canberra being visited on the second occasion in conjunction with Dalgety, it will be visited on the first occasion in conjunction with Mahkoolma and Molonglo, and on the second occasion Lake George will be visited in conjunction, with. Dalgety, and not, as originally intended, on the first occasion in conjunction, with Mahkoolma and Molonglo.
– Will amended itineraries be sent out ?
– I presume so.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.55p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 2 August 1906, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1906/19060802_senate_2_32/>.