2nd Parliament · 3rd Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence, without notice, if he will have circulated amongst honorable senators the full text of the reports which have already been presented by the Tariff Commission? Perhaps I may be permitted to explain that for some reason or other - no doubt through inadvertence - the reports which have been presented have not yet been circulated in their complete form.
– I shall make inquiries. Personally, I see no objection to the reports being circulated.
At a later stage,
– So very full and satisfactory an answer was given in another placeyesterday that I do not propose to ask the question standing in my name, and relating to the consideration of the reports on the distilling and other industries.
-I desire to ask the Minister of Defence, without notice, whether, in view of the fact that there is plenty of business on the notice paper, and that there is likely to be more business presented soon, the Government have yet considered the advisability of asking the Senate to sit four days a week, so as to avoid the usual rush at the end of the session, and the sacrifice of measures?
– That will depend upon what progress we make during the next week or so.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions is as follows : -
There has bees nolater correspondence than that referred to. in the honorable senator’s question as already laid upon the table of the House.
If any other correspondence should come forward I shall see that it is laid upon the table.
– I am informed that, according to the statements of the Premier of South Australia, further negotiations are going on.
-Negotiations are going on, but no communication has yet passed, I think.
Punishment of a Witness.
Referring to the recent dismissal of Jas. Stone, an employee of the British Australasian Tobacco Company, of Sydney, referred to by Senator Pearce, on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate on 21st June, and the promise of the Minister that all necessary inquiries would be made, and a report made to the Senate -
Will the Minister say whether any such inquiry has been made, and, if so, when and under what circumstances?
Is he aware that an arrangement was made between the managing director of the Company and the solicitors for the Union that an inquiry should be made by some independent person, but the Union, on further reflection, declined to be parties to any inquiry into the truth or otherwise of the statements made by Stone?
– The answer to the honorable senators’s questions is as follows : -
The matter is in the hands of the Law Officers for advice..
I sent on the papers to the AttorneyGeneral, but I have not yet received a reply. I believe that the matter is still being looked into.
– Arising out of the answer I desire to ask the Minister of Defence whether he is aware that the British Australasian Tobacco Company have addressed a communication to the Government asking for an inquiry into the facts of the case?
– I have seen such a report in the press. No doubt it has been forwarded to the Attorney-General, andvery likely he will consult the Cabinet eventually.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
Motion (by Senator Stewart) agreed to-
That a return be laid upon the table of the Senate showing -
The total amount of revenue collected since Federation by means of -
Customs duties on sugar.
Excise duties on sugar.
The total amount paid as rebate and bounty to the growers of sugar by white labour from the date of Federation to the 30th of June last.
The cost of paying the said sum as rebate and bounty.
In Committee. Consideration resumed from 2nd August (vide page2217), on motion by Senator Keating -
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 Limited, for the carriage of mails between Adelaide and Brindisi, as per schedule, with the following modifications : -
Article 2 -
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 the ports 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 Adelaide and 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 time . to time, and at any time or times, require to be conveyed.
Upon which Senator Stewart had moved by way of amendment -
That there be added to the motion -
Proviso to article 2 -
On line7, after the word “between,” where it occurs a second time, to insert, “ the ports of Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and Hobart, and.”
Senator Lt.-Col. GOULD (New South Wales) [10.38]. - No doubt honorable senators would have been glad to have come to a division last night at an early hour if it had been possible. It is well that we should have the fullest opportunity to express our views as to the advisability of making the amendment. I think that the general -opinion outside is that if the contract be carried out in its entirety, the Government may very f airly be congratulated. It has been surrounded with a certain amount of mystery, and doubts have been expressed as to whether the contract will be carried out, and also as to whether it is not merely a speculative agreement. The Government have to accept the responsibility of having, after complete inquiry, satisfied themselves that the contractors are prepared and able to carry out the agreement. And if the Senate is in’ a position to show that a mistake is being made by the Government, itis quite justified in doing so. We do not possess, however, the same opportunities of entering into the details as do the Government. If the con- tractors were not able to give effect to the contract, that fact would not become known to us until late in the coming year, and at a. time when it would be utterly impossible for us to make other than hasty arrangements, possibly to the injury of the Commonwealth, for a mail service. The responsibility for such a failure would rest upon the Government primarily.
– The whole tone of this debate indicates that honorable senators regard this agreement as too good to be true, in view of the fact that in the past we have not been able to obtain such favorable conditions as are now offered. If those who tender are offering something more than we require, or ask for, at the price we are prepared to pay, I do not see that we have any ground for complaint.Any honorable senator would admit that if when he goes to purchase anarticle, he is asked to pay less than he expected, he will usually come to the conclusion that he has made a fairly’ good bargain; the vendor may have “fallen in,” but if both parties are satisfied, what complaint can be made? I may say at once that I intend to support, not the Senator Stewart of this year, but the Senator Stewart of last year.
– Has Queensland seven representatives here?
– I do not know that that is the case; but last year Senator Stewart represented clearly the opinion of the people of Queensland, and I am now taking the same stand that he then took, because I realize that the agreement before us gives us exactly what we were asking for. I am not prepared to support a claim for something else, when we are. apparently, getting what we originally desired. The contract under discussion last year definitely stated that the vessels should call at Melbourne and Sydney, on both the outward and inward trips, but no provision was made for their calling at Brisbane.
– The contract under discussion last year also provided for ccol storage.
– And for certain space to be reserved for produce at the different ports.
– No, it did not.
– That was practically provided for by the contract of last year, because a certain amount of space had to be reserved for Brisbane, and that necessarily limited the space available in Sydney and Melbourne.
– Is the honorable senator prepared to give a guarantee that Queensland will not make t’he same claim that was made under the other contract?
– Queensland will make no claim for mileage under this agreement, because it is not provided that the vessels s’hall pass Adelaide. Senator Stewart clearly showed the position last year; but now, apparently, he is able to read in this memorandum of agreement much that is not there. Last year, in discussing the Orient mail contract, Senator Stewart, as reported on page 3667 of Hansard, said -
The contract is the only document which we have to consider.
That is the position I take now.
It says that the company must go on to Melbourne and Sydney, and that whether ic goes further is a matter for itself to decide. On the return journey, it must also call at Sydney and Melbourne. That is what we, in Queensland, complain of ; we object to Melbourne and Sydney being made ports of call, and to the Commonwealth paying for the company’s teats calling at those ports for trade purposes.
All that we have to rely on is the agreement before us; and” I am not able to see that it provides for the vessels passing Adelaide. Senator Stewart’ yesterday told us that the Prime Minister had stated that there was an arrangement or understanding that the- vessels should call at Melbourne and Svdney. I do not know whether there is an arrangement or understanding to that effect.
– Does the honorable senator not accept the Prime Minister’s word ?
– There -is nothing to that effect in the5 agreement.
– The Prime Minister has publicly made the statement.
– The position is that we are asked to adopt this agreement, and not something that has been said outside.
– That is so. The Prime Minister said that the gentleman representing the contractors in the old country had stated in a letter that the boats would go to Sydney and Melbourne.
– But that is not an understanding entered into with the Prime Minister ; and. therefore, we could not compel the vessels to go from Adelaide to Melbourne, or from Melbourne to Sydney. If the Prime Minister has entered into an understanding of the sort, I contend that neither he nor those who are aiding and abetting him, are fit to be in public life, much less to guide the destinies of Australia. Since last year, there has been a change in the State Ministry of Queensland. I then saw the State Premier, and two or three members of his Cabinet, and the position they took up was that if the Commonwealth entered into a contract for mail purposes only, they had no ground for complaint. That is the attitude which “is taken by the present Premier of Queensland, as shown bv the report of a newspaper interview with him, read by Senator Keating last night. Senator Stewart says that he has been able to convert the Premier of Queensland to his way of thinking; but I do not think that is the case. It is not long since the Queensland Premier and Senator Stewart were like the Siamese twins ; where one was the other could always be found, and their opinions coincided. Apparently, however, those two gentlemen are at variance on this question of the mail contract.
– No; we are at one, only I have discovered that this is not purely a mail contract.
– Senator Stewart now tells us that he has discovered something which does not appear in the agreement : but he has not pointed to one word which can be said to indicate that this is not purely a mail contract.
– What about the stipulation as to the vessels being of I I,000 tons?
– If Senator Stewart is of opinion that ships of 11,000 tons are not desirable, he is at liberty to move an amendment providing that no vessels over a certain tonnage, which he regards as high enough, should be employed in the service. The honorable senator has told us that one objection he has to the contract is that it does not apply to the carriage of produce.
– That was the statement first made by Senator Stewart when he submitted his amendment. I admit that the honorable senator has shifted his ground since then, and now contends that this is more than’ a mail contract. As I said before, I am supporting the Senator Stewart of last year, and I think it better to make my position very clear. I did not say much in the course of the debate on the Orient mail contract, for the simple reason that the honorable senator represented my opinions, perhaps better than I could have done. In the debate on the Orient mail contract, Senator Stewart, as reported on page 3669 of Hansard, said -
What I suggest to the Government is this : In any future contract they should omit all reference to the cold storage of goods, and confine it exclusively to the carriage of mails. That is their business. Everything else referred to in the contract is entirely outside their province in dealing with mail matters.
On the same page, the honorable senator is further reported -
We ought, I say, religiously to avoid mixing up the carriage of goods with the carriage of mails. We ought to confine ourselves rigidly to our own business. If the people of Victoria are anxious that these mail steamers should call at Melbourne, the people of New South Wales that they should call at Sydney, and the people of Queensland that they should call at Brisbane for trade purposes, let the States Governments pay, if any payments have to be made.
That is exactly the position I take in regard to the agreement before us. You, Mr. Chairman, will remember that in the Queensland Parliament, at one time, there was an honorable member who spoke on one side of a question and voted on the other, and that, when he was taxed with the fact, he said he regarded it as a very convenient arrangement. That gentleman pointed out that in his district some centres of population were in favour of the proposal in question, whilst other centres were against it, and the convenience lay in the fact that, when before the electors who were in favour, he could point to the division-list, and, when in the other centres, he could quote his strong opposition speeches. I regard Senator Stewart as occupying exactly similar ground in connexion with this mail contract.
– Why so much about Senator Stewart?
-I am giving reasons for supporting, not the Senator Stewart of this session, but the Senator Stewart of last session.
– Things are different now.
– Apparently, Senator Stewart is different.
– I do not know, but it appears to me that Senator Guthrie’s interjection may apply to Senator Stewart. In Queensland, at the present time, people are beginning to produce for export, not only in the neighbourhood of Brisbane, but all along the coast- not only on the Darling Downs, and in districts below the range, but also at Wide Bay, and in the neighbourhood of Rockhampton, where Senator Stewart himself comes from. Even if these mail vessels did go to Brisbane, they would not benefit Rockhampton one bit.
– Oh,yes, they would.
-‘The honorable senator knows as well as I do that the carlling of the vessels at Brisbane would not benefit Rockhampton in connexion with the carriage of produce. The country is being opened up for dairying purposes at the back of Mackay and Cairns, and the same may be said of the Atherton scrub; and it is believed that, eventually, shipping facilities will be required for those districts. What the people interested in this development are advocating to-day is a contract with some shipping line, which shall start at Brisbane or Sydney, and collect all the produce along the coast, for export to the old country. So far as I can judge from the press, negotiations have been entered into with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam; Navigation Company for accommodation in this connexion. Because the Government realize that it is not in the interests of their State to pay additional subsidies for boats that will take the produce of the States only from one corner. What is required is that the boats of such a service shall pick up produce from one end of Queensland to the other, and take it in a direct line to the old country. I am satisfied that this contractprovides for nothing but the carriage ofmails, and that these boats need not go a foot beyond Adelaide unless the company please. Last year Senator Stewart said that if we did not make special provision for it in the mail contract then under consideration, the mail boats would go to ports beyond Adelaide for the sake pf the trade, but last night the honorable senator said that this contract is not confined to the carriage of mails, and that there is an understanding between the Prime Minister and the company that the boats are to call at Melbourne and Sydney. The honorable senator has changed his ground, and has appealed to the representatives of Victoria and New South Wales in the Senate to support his amendment on the ground that if the New Zealand Government hold out sufficient inducements, these boats may go direct from Adelaide to New Zealand, pick up cargo there, and, missing Sydney and Melbourne, go back to Adelaide for the mails, without calling at other Australian ports. If that can be done under this contract, where is the honorable senator’s evidence that it is anything more than a mail contract to Adelaide? From the way in which the honorable member has advocated consideration for the interests of the producers of Queensland, one might be pardoned for imagining that he would be up for election this time. At one time the honorable senator contended that it is the duty of the States Governments to do all that is necessary to provide means of transport for the benefit of the producers. I believe that it is the duty of all Governments to do whatever they can to provide facilities for the export of produceSome fifteen or sixteen days ago a deputation of representatives of Queensland, of whom I was one, waited on the Prime Minister in connexion with this matter. The honorable and learned gentleman told us - and it appeared in the press later on, and has been confirmed by the statement made bv the Premier of Queensland - that the Commonwealth Government realized that it was their duty to enter into a contract for a postal service only, and that they had nothing to do with the export of produce. But he added that he had communicated with the Governments of the States, asking whether they could not arrange amongst themselves to secure that the boats engaged’ in the service should be provided with certain cold storage accommodation. and should call at Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane. He explained that the Premiers “ of the States did not see “their way to adopt his suggestion. The report of an interview with the Premier of Queensland, to which reference has already been made bears out the statement of the Prime Minister to the very letter. I think that the best arrange- ment that can be made has been made. It is not necessary for us to consider anything but a mail contract. Of course we desire, that the boats should run to Melbourne, Sydney, and, if possible, to Brisbane, but if the Governments of the States concerned will not enter into negotiations to make proper provision for the transport by these boats of the produce of Australia, we cannot be blamed for that. I am aware that in connexion with the export of butter, and other perishable produce, regularity of shipment is an important consideration to the producer. At the same time I think with the Senator Stewart of last year, that it is the duty of the States Governments to make arrangements for the export of produce, and it is the duty of the Commonwealth Government to make the necessary arrangements for the carriage of the mails. One reason which Senator Stewart gave in support of his contention that this is more than a mail contract, was that the boats are compelled by its terms to proceed from the Mediterranean port to some port in the United Kingdom. If the honorable senator is prepared to move an amendment, binding the company down to a service between Adelaide and Brindisi only, I shall be prepared to vote for it.
– And not go to England at all ?
– The boats could go to England if the company pleased.
– But the honorable senator would not put that in the contract?
– I am prepared to make this purely a mail contract, and to permit the company, after they have -.Ions the work they undertake to do under the contract, to send their boats anywhere they please.
– The honorable senator would not stipulate, as this contract does, that the boats should go from Brindisi to London ?
– If Senator Guthrie will move to omit that provision, I shall be prepared to vote for his amendment.
– What about the mail matter other than letters?
– I am perfectly satisfied that, whether we make provision for it in the contract or not, the boats engaged in this service will go to England. But, to be logical, Senators Guthrie and Stewart should be prepared to move that the voyages of the boats under this con- tract should begin and end at Brindisi and Adelaide. They contend that what we require is purely a mail service.
– I never said anything of the sort. My whole argument was that the contract should cover cold storage.
– The honorable senator is supporting Senator Stewart in his amendment.
– Yes, that the boats should go to Brisbane.
– On, the ground that this contract is something more than a mail contract. If Senators Stewart and Guthrie believe that the omission of the provision requiring the boats to go from Brindisi to a port in the United Kingdom will make this a purely mail contract, they have only to move to that effect, and I shall be prepared to support them. They ask why we should interfere with business that is not ours, and they contend that the carriage of the mails being a function of the Federal Government, we should make provision for that, and nothing more.
– The honorable senator is entirely misrepresenting my views. I do not desire that this should be restricted to a mail contract.
– What the honorable senator desires to do, apparently, is to revert to the terms of the contract proposed last year, and make provision for cold storage, but he is not concerned with any provisions requiring the boats to go beyond Adelaide to Melbourne, Sydney, or Brisbane.
– I am supporting Senator Stewart’s amendment requiring these boats to go to Brisbane. The honorable senator is making ridiculous statements.
– Last year, Senator Guthrie was the strongest opponent in the Senate of the Government proposal to pay even mileage rates on the voyages of the Orient steamers to Brisbane, in order to reduce to some extent the liability which the Queensland Government had accepted. The State Government- of Queensland agreed to pay the Orient Steam Navigation Company a subsidy of £26,000 a year to continue the voyages of their steamers to Brisbane, and when, on the representations of Queensland representatives/, a proposal was made bv the Government that Queensland should be credited with a mileage rate of 3s. 7d., amounting in all to something like £4,700 a year, and the boats be free of pilotage and light dues, Senator Guthrie strongly opposed the concession.
– I can tell the honorable senator all about what I did last year.
– Let the honorable senator turn up Hansard and read what he said1. He asked whether it was decent for the Queensland Government to make such proposals to the Orient Steam Navigation Company.
– To cut the throats of Queensland seamen.
– The Queensland Government desired that the Orient boats should call at Brisbane, because it had previously been necessary for produce exported from Queensland and requiring cold storage to be sent in the coastal boats to Sydney, and transhipped there. It was because they desired to avoid the necessity for the transhipment of this produce in Sydney that they offered’ these concessions to the company. This contract provides exactly what we were asking for-last year. It provides for a mail service to Adelaide. As a matter of fact, the boats engaged under this contract, need not go any further. As Senator Stewart pointed out last night, the New Zealand Government might offer the company a subsidy of £30,000 or ‘£40,000 -a year, and they might send their boats direct from Adelaide to New Zealand, and then back 10 Adelaide to pick up the mails on their return voyage to Brindisi. So long as they are free to go where they like when they have finished our work, I am prepared to vote for the contract almost as it stands.
– I am a supporter of the amendment, and I should like to indicate the reasons which influence my vote. I am also disposed to support the amendment, which I understand is to be moved bv Senator Guthrie. I am altogether opposed to the idea of making this entirely a mail contract. That is contrary to practice and common sense, and certainly the Government are not adopting the best means at their disposal for safeguarding the producing interests. It has been stated by honorable senators, including, I think, Senator Keating, that every day is of great importance, and’ that if we are not careful, we shall upset the contract. If we did upset the contract, what harm could it do? I believe that it would be wise to arrange at once with the Orient. Steam Navigation Company to renew its contract for a year, and to call for three alternative tenders. In my opinion, the Government made a verygreat mistake when they failed to grasp the opportunity they had of helping the producers. I quite approve of the action of the Prime Minister in communicating with the States and asking for their views as to the provision of cool storage. But because the States naturally shrank from undertaking to guarantee a certain amount of freight, that was no reason why the Government of the Commonwealth should say, “ Thank God.! we can now go in for only a mail contract and leave the other matter to the States.” I believe that every State would welcome a contract which bound eight or nine magnificent shins with cool storage to call regularly and punctually at the chief ports in the Commonwealth. But that is quite a different thing from asking the States to undertake a liability in regard to freight. We all know that the producers can get their produce taken to the old country by outside boats. It does not follow, of course, that they would always be able to make such arrangements.
– The producers would have said, “ Thank God that we have a Federal Parliament.”
– Yes. They would then have derived from the contract a benefit, whereas now it gives them nothing. Is it not business and commonsense for the producers to wish to have two strings to their Low? In my opinion, the Government should have called for tenders first for a mail contract pure and simple, second for a mail contract with cool storage accommodation, and an obligation to call at all ports including Brisbane, and to charge a certain freight for meat, butter, fruit, &c, and third a contract with the rate of freight a little below that fixed in the mail contract, but higher than that charged on outside ocean liners. Suppose that the freight on the mail steamers was 3s. 3d. a case for fruit, and that producers could get outside boats to take fruit at 2s. 6d. a case, had I been PostmasterGeneral, I should have called for tenders Tor the carriage of fruit at a freight of 2s.9d. or 3s. a case. By that means the Government would have secured a tender which would have saved£30,000, or , £40,000, or £50,000 a year to the producers. Was there any commonsense in asking for one kind of service when they might have asked for three separate kinds of service? Is there any commonsense in calling for only a mail service when they might have felt the tone of the market as regards a freight service?I regret that the Government missed that opportunity. As regards the mail contract itself, they have made a most excellent bargain. But I desire to get something more than a mail contract if it be possible. I quite agree with Senator Stewart that the contract as it stand’s does not show much evidence of being a combined contract. Judging from statements which have been made elsewhere as well as here, it is quite certain that Ministers do look forward to the contractors supplying, to a great extent, boats with cool storage. It is provided in the contract that the plans of the ships shall be submitted for the approval of the Government. We are assured that the ships will contain ample cool storage space, and will be bound, in their own interest, to go to the various ports. Why should not all those things be provided for in the contract? Senator Turley has said that the boats would not be bound to go beyond Adelaide. But he knows that they would go on to other ports. He would let the boats stop at the port in the Mediterranean, and would vote that they should not be bound to go on to England. In my opinion, if he were to vote in that way, he would make a great mistake. No one can foretell what is likely to happen during the next ten years. Suppose that these eight or nine magnificent ships could stop at Adelaide? What might happen? A war might break out in another part of the world, and the result of the war might depend upon the ability to get boats for carrying soldiers and stores. By cablegram some boats of the contracting company might be offered an enormous sum to undertake a freight voyage, and persons who were looking, for the vessels to go to Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane might be disappointed. Why? Because we had not taken the precaution of providing in the contract that the boats should do as our mail boats have always done.
– The mail boats have never gone past Sydney.
– Let us take the other suggestion of Senator Turley that there isno occasion to require the boats to go beyond the port in the Mediterranean. Would not that be a great mistake, too? Have not the travel- ling public for years had the option of being carried to the London docks in the mail boats, if they so wished? It is only rich squatters who can afford to get out at Maples and take the train overland.
– The boats would go on just the same.
– No doubt thousands of passengers would be greatly disappointed if they could not proceed in the boats to the London docks. Is that the kind of contract which would redound to the credit and business tact of the Government and Parliament of the Commonwealth? Certainly not. Why should we accept a contract under which such advantages would not be guaranteed? I quite admit that in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred those advantages would be offered, but at times the contractors might not run their boats to the various ports. It would be st mistake not to guard against a contingency of that kind.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the company would took passengers from Australia to England?
– I believe that they would. But suppose that a boat had very few passengers, and that most of them wished to land at Naples, or had booked to that port. It might not suit the contractors to go on with half-a-dozen passengers.
– If the contractors had booked the passengers to England they would have to pay their passage to England from Naples.
– We have evidence that the Government have been considering certain provisions in which Senator Stewart, Senator Guthrie, and .myself are interested, but they have not embodied them in the contract. In my opinion, they have committed an error of judgment. I should hold up both hands to-morrow with delight if they would renew the contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company for another year, and call for fresh tenders. Coming to the provisional contract itself, it appears to me to be a kind of promoters’ “ spec.” It reminds me of a concession for a railway of which we have had considerable experience in Tasmania. This is nothing more than a kind of commercial concession which certain gentlemen in England will carry out if they can float their undertaking with a capital of £4,000,000, but which, if they do not succeed in die attempt, they will drop like a hot potato, and forfeit the amount of their bond. That possibility stands out plainly on the face of the contract. With regard to the question of registered tonnage, I think that Senator Guthrie must be right in his contention, although, at first, I agreed with the view of Senator de Largie, because the Merchant Shipping Act absolutely defines the term. In my opinion, the contractors have not seen one line of this contract. It has ‘been negotiated by their agent and solicitor, and only the salient points have been communicated to the contractors by cable. The omission of the word “ gross “ is enough to damn the contract. If the contractors were held to their agreement, they would have to build vessels of about 20,000 tons register, and they would have all their work cut out to provide a net tonnage of 11,000 tons.
– Is it a bad thing to get more than we bargain for?
– This is merely a promoter’s “spec,” and the contractors will only carry it out if they can place the undertaking on good terms in the London market. At the present time, they are acting with three other large ship-builders. They would have to find a capital of £4,000,000 before they could commence to build, and unless that could be found the contract would.be dropped.
– They could do with a fourth of that sum, because they could issue debentures and do all that sort of thing.
– I know that the contractors could issue debentures, and borrow money on the ships, but at the same time they would have to find at least £2,000,000. It is estimated by some persons that at first the service would be run at a loss of £100,000 a year, or more. We have, as a guide, the experience of the Orient Steam Navigation Company. I take it that that company would not withdraw all their ships from the Australian trade, and that, after having traded here for twenty of thirty years, some of their friends would be loyal to them. If they cannot make the service pay regularly, but can only declare a dividend now and then, is the new company, with magnificent ships, and with more dues to pay, likely to succeed, in view of the fact that a few of the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s boats would remain in the Australian trade and compete with them? It appears to me that the contractors ire bound to lose money. We have no reasonable assurance that a company will be floated, and, of course, if it were not, the contract would not be carried out. I do not think that the ships ought to be compelled to go to Hobart or Brisbane, or to go anywhere outside the mail route, unless they had a guarantee that their expenses to and from would be covered by the freight. It would be of no use for the boats to call at Brisbane simply to satisfy our friends from that State if the producers did not offer sufficient freight to pay the expenses of the voyage. I do not advocate that the boats should call at’ Hobart all the year round. I only desire them to call at that port during the fruit season, when I am certain that they would on each trip get freightage of £2,000, £2,500, or £3,000. As the cost ofgoing from Sydney to Hobart instead of to Melbourne would be about £300, the contractors would make an enormous gain on each voyage.
– Did the Premier of Tasmania give any inducement to the Prime Minister to go on with his proposal?
– The Premier of Tasmania, I understand, declined to give a guarantee in regard to cool storage. Fruit-growers have told me that they prefer to make their own arrangements for space. But I have to look ahead, and to think of things which, perhaps, they have overlooked. If, by agreeing to pay a subsidy of £125,000 a year, I could get the vessels to go to Hobart, why should I not work in that direction?
– Which the honorable senator knows he cannot get.
– I believe that if we were to ask the contractors to send the boats to Hobart during the fruit season, they would not charge one shilling more for carrying our mails. Why? Because they would make a positive gain in going to that port. In any case, the chances are as ninety-nine to one that the boats will go there. But why not make them do what the mail companies have always done? With regard to Brisbane it must be apparent, I think, that if the vessels go there, they will pay expenses and soon earn a profit. The Government will not hear the last of it until theydo go to Brisbane. That is my prophecy. I do not know that we are calle’d upon to alter the contract against ourselves, but I certainly think that we ought to put the word “ gross “ before the word “ tonnage.’’
– No; leave it as it is, but define the term more clearly.
– If we leave it as it is, the Government will probably be called upon to see that the contract is carried out, and then it will be abandoned. I have looked through Lloyd’s Register, where the tonnage of every vessel is mentioned. I find that there are particulars of gross tonnage, tonnage below deck, and deck tonnage. I consider that these vessels will be of 5,500 registered tonnage, and thatwe ought to be perfectly satisfied with that. There has been a slip in the contract. I shall support the amendment.
– I was very pleased yesterday to learn that the contractors had agreed to an alteration providing that an extension of the term of the contract should not take place without the approval of Parliament. There was, from my point of view, a weak point in the contract previously. There is very little doubt of the existence of general distrust in connexion with this contract. I attribute that largely to the Government. When tenders were called for, the Government permitted the names of the tenderers to be kept secret, even after a tender had been accepted.
– That was one of the conditions upon which tenders were invited. It is a very usual condition.
– The effect of the practice is that, though no one knows anything about an unsuccessful tenderer, a successful one is enabled to hawk the contract about all over the world. The impression is that that will be the effect in connexion with this agreement.
– Is it not likely that that feeling has been fostered by unsuccessful tenderers?
– Does the Minister share it himself?
– It may be a wrong impression, but certainly it does prevail. When I was a boy, in Scotland, we used to be told that certain confections were too sweet to be wholesome. This seems to be so good a contract that it makes people a wee bit suspicious. If it is genuine, it is very good. Will the Minister kindly give us information as to the amount of the unsuccessful tenders, including the one which came in too late? I cannot support Senator Stewart’s amendment. I cannot see that whathe requires has anything to do with a mail contract. Nor can I understand why he should find fault with the size of the vessels. As a matter of fact, when the Government calls for tenders for an inland postal contract, it expects that the coaches will provide room for so many passengers. . It is also to be expected that these mail steamers will provide accommodation for passengers. People who can afford it prefer to travel to Europe by mail steamer. It seems to me that the size of the steamers is to be explained by a provision in the contract which most honorable senators appear to have overlooked, and which I will therefore take the liberty of reading -
The Postmaster-General may at any time dur ing the continuance of the contract purchase any or all of the mail-ships at a valuation - or may charter the same at a rate of hire to be agreed upon with the contractor, or failing any such agreement as to a valuation or rate to be decided by arbitration, and the contractor shall not sell any mail-ship to any person other than the PostmasterGeneral without first giving the PostmasterGeneral a reasonable opportunity of purchasing same, either at a valuation to be agreed upon, or to be decided by arbitration, or at the price he is willing to sell it at to such other persons. Provided always that if the PostmasterGeneral exercises the right to purchase or charter all the mail-ships employed under the contract, the contract shall thereupon be determined, and such determination shall not give the contractor any claim for compensation.
I believe that that is the real reason why vessels of so large a size have been provided for. It is hoped that some day we shall have a national system of our own.
– That is one of the very best conditions in the contract.
– It is a very good reason for supporting it from the point of view of honorable senators opposite, and I am surprised that those who have preceded me in the debate have not alluded to that point.
– We are satisfied with it ; that is why we make no noise about it.
– From their point of view, honorable senators are no doubt right. Even from my own point of view, if I am making a bargain, I like it to be a good one. Another reason why it probably suits the contractors to accept what is apparently a small subsidy, is that they are shipbuilders, and may see their way to make profits on the ships, even if they lose something on the contract. When they are building ships costing about £4,000,000, they may consider that they can afford to lose something on the contract for a few years. But that is our advantage, and I see no objection to the Commonwealth getting the benefit of a good bargain. With regard to the vessels calling at Sydney and Melbourne, I am quite satisfied that private enterprise can supply sufficient accommodation for our produce. If these vessels do not see fit to call at our principal ports, we will not be dependent solely upon them, though we should welcome them if they came. We shall still have the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, and the White Star ships, and I hope we shall continue to have the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s vessels. We are well assured that adequate facilities will be available for the carriage of our produce to England. I quite agree with Senator Smith that the Suez Canal dues alone will amount to as much as the price we are to pay for the carriage of our mails. I went to Europe in the Bremen, 11,500 tons, five years ago.
– What ! the honorable senator travelled in a German ship?
– Certainly. I am a free-trader, and I go by the vessel that will supply me with the best accommodation for my money. One of the officers assured me that the Suez Canal dues on the round trip came to £7,000 approximately. If the new vessels are going to be anything like the size we expect them to be, I shall not be surprised if the dues for each round trip come to at least £6,000. Multiply that sum by twenty-six, and you find that the dues paid each year will amount to more than the subsidy stipulated for in the contract. I am veryglad that the term is not to be longer than ten years. I hope that Parliament will not agree to any extension beyond that time. It may be that those of us who live will see railways constructed to Fremantle and Port Darwin by the end of ten years. Then we shall be able to get our European mails carried in three days shorter time. We may even have balloons to carry our mails. I have lately seen in the Queensland newspapers - I get them regularly, and am not sure that I have not a small interest in one of them - that the StateGovernment recognise that their wisest plan will be to encourage, ships to go by the Torres Strait route rather than bring their produce round the south of the Continent. I am glad to notice that movement. I cannot see my way to support Senator Stewart’s proposal. This is no more than a mail contract pure and simple. Its terms are advantageous, and we should not risk losing it, by placing unnecessary difficulties in the way.
– After listening to honorable senators this morning, and last night, I find myself confronted with two entirely different sets of arguments. On the one side we have Senator . Dobson and Senator Guthrie finding fault in no measured terms with the contract, because it does not provide for cool storage and other facilities. Senator Dobson feels so strongly upon the matter that he would absolutely tear up this contract, and1 initiate other proceedings on a different basis. Senator Guthrie in expressing himself in the same fashion, but with equal, if not superior, emphasis, showed that he regarded the absence of these provisions as a vital blot on the contract that we are asked to ratify. But against that we have the view of Senator Stewart, that the vital defect in the contract is that it does provide those very facilities that Senator Dobson and Senator Guthrie say are entirely absent. I am rather inclined to think that by some strange chapter of accidents the Government has stumbled upon a fairly accurate middle course. The features which present themselves to my mind are these: The Government invited applications from the whole world for the conveyance of mails. It invited tenderers who responded to these applications to state what size. vessels they would supply. I put it to Senator Stewart, who has mentioned the size of these ships a.s one of the chief objections to the tender, seeing that it is a mail contract only - whether if two tenders had been submitted for an equal subsidy, one company offering to supply vessels of 11,000 tons, and the other vessels of 3,000 or 4,000 tons, which tender would he have accepted ?
– The reasonable one.
– Surely he would have accepted the tender offering to supply the larger vessels.
– We have not arty evidence.
– We have this evidence - that invitations were published throughout the world for tenders to be supplied for the conveyance of our mails, and tenderers were invited to state what size vessels they would supply. The tender which has been accepted contained an offer to supply 11,000 tons boats. The size of the vessels has been made one of the points of attack. I say that that attack altogether, fails, in view of the admission that Senator Stewart now makes, that other things being equal, he would prefer the larger to the smaller ships.
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– I do not want to deal with the question of tonnage as to which one of two opinions is open to us. Either the contractors have used the term “ registered tonnage ‘ ‘ in. ignorance, or they have done so pursuing the game of bluff, which is tried by all shipping companies in advertising gross instead of registered tonnage. I give the Government the benefit of the doubt - it is a pleasure to me. though I do not often do so - in supposing that they did not really know what “ registered tonnage “ meant. But the other contracting parties knew perfectly well what they were doing, and were, apparently, resorting, as I say, to that species of advertising puff or bluff which is favoured by most shipping firms.
– -If we find contractors bluffing, what should we do? Have nothing more to do With them.
– Just before I pass from the objection raised to the contract on the ground that the vessels are large, I invite attention to clauses 8 and 9 of the general conditions of tender. I make this reference, because last night it was pointed out that the plans have to be submitted to the Government, and it will be seen that these articles provide that this submission is to be only for the purpose of showing that the vessels are suitable and fit for the purposes of the contract. If I read those clauses aright, they mean that the power of supervision is- to be absolutely limited to the maillcarrying capacity of the vessels, and that there need not be any other provision on the vessels beyond that for carrying mail matter. That there will be other provision I have no doubt, but, so far as the supervising power of the contract is concerned, the plans have only to show that the vessels have ample accommodation for the conveyance of the mails.
– If the plans do not show something else, the representative of the Government may refuse to pass them.
– The representative of the Government would have no legal right to do so, as I read the clauses. Clause 8 of the general conditions of tender, amongst other matters, provides that every mail ship shall be “ in all respects suited to the performance of the services herein agreed to be performed,’’ while clause 9 stipulates that every vessel shall be “ always properly and sufficiently equipped in all respects, so as to render her constantly efficient for the said services, and safe for the conveyance of mails.” The supervision which the Government claim, and rightly claim, to exercise over the plans and construction of the vessels, is limited to the purpose for which, so far as we are concerned, they are to be constructed. The clauses I have quoted seem to me to support the contention of Senator Guthrie and Senator Dobson that this is a mail contract pure and simple ; but in proportion as those clauses tend to support those two honorable senators, they correspondingly demolish the position taken up by Senator Stewart. Senator Guthrie seems to think that because the contract does not provide for cargo facilities, some injury will be done to the producers and the trade of Australia. I cannot accept that view. That some additional advantage might have been conferred if there had been added to the mail contract a trade contract, is a matter for consideration and argument; but I cannot conceive that any injury will be done to the producers of Australia if a contract, which we enter into for mail purposes, has the effect of bringing a large and capacious fleet into Australian waters. Although there is no stipulation that the vessels shall be bound to enter any ports but those of Fremantle and Adelaide, it is obvious that the presence of such vessels in Australian waters, increasing as they will the carrying capacity for Australian produce, must have a beneficial effect on those who desire to send produce to the markets of the world. Even if the vessels never pass Adelaide, the effect of their competition will still be felt, because they will take so large a proportion of the South Australian export produce as to leave the vessels now trading here more and more dependent on the ports of the other States.
– But will the vessels under this agreement compete with other vessels ?
– I take the honorable senator to be suggesting that there may be a shipping combination ?
– If that danger ex:ists, as it probably does in these days of big commercial enterprises, there will be a much smaller risk of combination with a multiplicity of companies than with a limited number. For that reason I altogether dissent from the view that, because we have no direct undertaking on the part of the contractors to visit other ports, no advantage will accrue to those who have produce to ship. The presence in Australian waters of such a body of shipping as is projected in this agreement will have an immense benefit, not merely in adding to the number of the shipping companies catering for the trade, but also in the anticipation, which I confidently entertain, that modern, well-equipped vessels of the kind will tend to stimulate the lines already trading on our coasts, .and still further induce, or even force, them to make concessions in order to secure their share of trade in export produce.
.- I desire to explain the position I take up in regard to the amendment submitted by Senator Stewart. The amendment undoubtedly is one that is very attractive to those who live in what is, perhaps, the finest port of Australia; but we cannot shut our eves to the fact - at least, I cannot - that if we force the vessels to call at’ the ports mentioned, we shall have to pay for the accommodation. The position of Senator Dobson is rather anomalous, seeing that he admits that, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, the vessels would, call at the ports voluntarily. Under the circumstances. I see no reason to make a rigid stipulation, and thus run the risk of destroying the contract, which, as I said on a previous occasion, appears to me to be verv favorable to the Commonwealth.
– Senator Dobson desires the vessels to call at Hobart only for three or four months in the vear.
– That is so; but, to make the callings coompulsory, by means of a stipulation in the contract, would, to my mind, be vicious. It would be left open to Western Australia, or any other State, to contend that all vessel’s under mail contract should call at all the ports of the Commonwealth. It might be claimed; for instance, that the vessels of the Vancouver service should proceed to Western Australia, or that the vessels of the New Guinea service should call at Tasmanian ports. There is no doubt that the ports would to a certain extent benefit if those subsidized steamers were required to call, but I regard such a principle as wrong. One reason why it seems to me that the Government are very wise in making this only a mail contract is to be found in the disappointment of the anticipation which they evidently entertained in the case of a former contract, that they would get generous support from the producers if a large space were guaranteed for refrigerated produce. We know what the result was. When they endeavoured to get a guarantee, they were informed, to their surprise, that the principal producers desired to be left alone. I was present at a large meeting in Hobart when the producers distinctly refusedto give any guarantee; and the experience in Sydney was similar. While honorable senators talk about forwarding the interestsof producers, we ought to remember that the latter desire only to be left alone, they having in the past managed their own affairs with profit. For the reasons I have given I cannot support the amendment.
– In the case of a Chamber representative of the States, it is excusable that honorable senators should address themselves to the question from the stand- point of their own States; and I also propose to take that course. There is no doubt that under this agreement Queensland will be at a disadvantage, as compared with some of the other States. But I do not attribute that position to any malice on the part of the present or any past Government ; it arises more from the geographical position of Queensland in reference to any mail service from the West. This question has been in the mind of successive Governments for a very long time past. It was considered when tenders were invited for a mail contract during the Barton Administration. I was then Postmaster-General ; and the tenders invited were of every possible character, including one from any port in Australia to any port in the United Kingdom, affording every opportunity for tenderers of all kinds to offer. I was in hopes at the time that we might have an offer for a mail service by Torres Straits. In fact, in my opinion, the ideal mail service for Australia would approach from the West, with a Home route by the Torres Straits, perhaps alternately reversing the trip. Such a service would not only serve the ports hitherto recognised as ports of call in this connexion, but would afford shipping facilitiesto various centres in Queensland. In all the States except Queensland, there is, we may say, one port for the whole of the territory.
– Not in Tasmania.
– Of course, there are the ports of Launceston and Hobart in that State; but on the mainland, the difference betwen Queensland and the other States, is that in the northern State there are ports which serve distinctly separate districts that would be left out entirely by any mail service involving a call only at Brisbane. That fact has been recognised for a long time past by the Queensland Government. As far back, I think, as 1880 the Queensland Government entered into a contract with the BritishIndia Steam Navigation Company for a mail service via Torres Straits. The subsidy at the start was £55,000 ayear for a fourweekly service. In addition, port dues were remitted, so that, on the whole, the subsidy reached a very substantial amount.
– What were the terminal points?
– Brisbane was the first port of call, but the vessels called at Rockhampton and Townsville on the way Home.
– The vessels called at all the ports homewards - at Bowen, Mackay, and so forth.
– There were intermediate steamers, I think; but, at any rate, cargo was picked up at all of those ports. _ It soon became apparent, however, that this, as a mail service, was a failure, because it was too slow; and it was therefore found more advantageous to use the vessels sailing from Sydney. Consequently letters were almost immediately sent by the old route; but the service of the British-India Steam Navigation Company was retained for cargo purposes with, I think, beneficial results to the whole of Queensland.
– From Townsville, I think, the mails continued to go north.
– Quite so. The result of calling for tenders for the mail service from Australia to England in the first place was that after an interval of eighteen months, there was practically only one tender sent in. and1 that was from the Orient Steam Navigation Company, on very much the same conditions as the company had previously performed the service. I should like here to emphasize the fact that the PostmasterGeneral at that time, Mr. Sydney Smith, endeavoured to induce the company to make am offer to take their boats on to Brisbane. It was one of the conditions of tender that they should state what sum they would require to go on to Brisbane. But the company would not name any sum at all, although they were pressed to do so. At that time, it should be remembered that nearly all the butter freight from Brisbane was going under an arrangement to the Aberdeen line, so that there was no particular inducement for the company to make the offer. But with, regard to Sydney and Melbourne, the position was that they did not care whether the contract made provision for calling at those ports or not If they had been omitted from the contract, the company would not have taken one sixpence less for the service. The insertion in the conditions that the steamers should go on to Melbourne and Sydney from Adelaide was a matter of grace, and cost the Commonwealth nothing whatever. We should not have secured the service for any less if that condition had not been inserted. But its insertion gave umbrage to a number of people in Queensland who contended that if it was a condition of the contract that the boats should go to Sydney and Melbourne, it should also be a condition that they should go on to Brisbane. Last session, Senator Stewart expressed the views of a great number of people in Queensland, when he said that the contract should be ‘ purely for a mail service, and that all arrangements with respect to the carriage of cargo should be left to the States Governments. That is exactly what has been done in this contract. It is possible that the contractors might have been willing that a provision should be inserted compelling the boats to go to Sydney and’ Melbourne without making any extra charge. But the course adopted by the Government is the course which Queensland . asked for last year. That is to say, that the contract should be” purely for a mail service, covering the carriage of the mails from Adelaide to
Brindisi, and of the heavier mail matter to London. That this is purely a mail service is clear, if we consider what the contractors have undertaken to do for the subsidy of £125,000. They have undertaken to carry our mails and nothing else. Everything else has been left to arrangement with the States Governments.
– And they carry our mails only as far as Adelaide.
– Yes, they bring the mails only to the port at which they meet the railway systems of Australia. If we had a mail service via Torres Straits, the port fixed under the contract for such a service would, no doubt, be Broadmount, or Gladstone, and in that case, South Australia would occupy very much the same position that Queensland occupies to-day, and if South Australian producers . required to make use’ of the facilities provided by the mail steamers, they would have to offer sufficient inducements to them to call at Adelaide.
– By-and-by, we expect that the mails will be delivered’ at Port Darwin and sent down to Adelaideover the transcontinental railway.
– If the Panama Canal’ were completed, the position would be altogether reversed.
– That is so. In this contract, the Government have asked thecompany to carry our mails, but it is ridiculous to suppose that any shipping company in the world would build, charter, or use steamers merely for the purpose of carrying mail matter. They would never offer to carry our mails for £125,000 a year if they had not in mind the making of money by the carriage of goods. Thev have elected’ to make a contract simply for the carriageof mails, and leave themselves perfectly free to go where they like to secure freight. The Commonwealth Government communiscated with the Governments of the Stateswith a view to placing themselves in a position to inform the contractors what freight they would get at different ports if they went there. The negotiations fell through, because none of the States’ Governmentswere prepared to make any definite offer. I am not sure that the Government of Queensland were not wise in the attitude they took up, because, if any such arrangement were made, it would involve a corresponding compensation. And if thev had offered the contractors so much freight on condition that their boats went to Queensland^ ports they would have tied their hands for perhaps the number of years contemplated in the contract. They would have had to agree to give the company a certain amount of freight, and, in doing so, they might, perhaps, have been hampering themselves, if subsequently they desired to negotiate for the carriage of Queensland produce, via Torres Straits. I feel sure that the producers of Queensland, and those representing them, will never be satisfied with any cargo service which will not give equal facilities to all the ports on the Queensland coast, and which will not connect them with the principal ports in the East. I think that, eventually, there must be a service for the carriage of cargo via Torres Straits. Whether the Queensland Government, in declining to negotiate with the new company, were actuated by these views or’ not, I do not know, but I believe they were wise in not tying themselves to any southern mail service.
– The Queensland Government are conducting negotiations with regard to the Peninsular and Oriental steamers going round the other way.
– I have not the slightest doubt that, in view of the enormous expansion which has taken place lately, and is taking place now, in connexion with the production of butter in Queensland, and the enormous and increasing output of frozen meat from the State, the exports of the State will be sufficient shortly to warrant a line of steamers being put on to transport them, and such a service will almost certainly be via Torres Straits’. Queensland, of course, desires an efficient and speedy mail service; and, looking upon this contract as one purely for a mail service, I should not consider myself justified in doing anything that would prevent it being carried out. It provides for probably as good a mail service as we could possibly expect to get for the money, and Southern Queensland, at all events, could hardly be better served. The contractors will be under no obligation in regard to the carriage of cargo; but, as I have already said, I think the requirements of Queensland in that respect can be more efficiently met by a line of steamers plying via Torres Straits. In the circumstances, I must vote against the amendment, which has been moved bv Senator Stewart.
Senator Col. NEILD (New South already said on this question as to the possibility of the steamers of this line of steamers, if it should ever be established, ceasing to have -any further connexion with Australia than a call at Adelaide, and being induced to cross the ocean to New Zealand for a New Zealand Government subsidy, which, no doubt, would be forthcoming, I think it my duty to vote for the amendment submitted by Senator Stewart. I freely admit that if the contract is carried out as designed, the amendment will be an absurdity, because the vessels will be of a size that will prevent their entry into Port Phillip, Port Jackson, and Moreton Bay, and will prevent them getting any nearer to Adelaide than the Outer Anchorage, and it will be impossible that they can be utilized in the manner indicated by the amendment. I apprehend that the transparent blunder which some one has committed in the wording of this option agreement will have to be put right some day. Some one will have to own up and admit that he did not know what he was doing. I suppose it will be Mr. Croker. I do not blame the PostmasterGeneral, because I suppose he knew all about it, and was quite prepared to accept the gigantic steamers which Mr. Croker was complacent enough to offer. I really do not suppose that Mr. Croker knew anything about the matter. That is the only way in which I can account for such an extraordinary proposal. We can accept the proposal with more certainty than we could accept the terms of an agreement which the persons alleged to be pledged have not seen, or a warranty to a bond which apparently nobody has seen. I feel that I could not have made the remarks I made the other day without trifling unless I was prepared to give evidence of my belief in their validity bv supporting the amendment which Senator Stewart has moved.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be added - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 19
Question so resolved in the negative.
Article 3 -
That each entire voyage of each of the mail ships in either direction between Brindisi and Adelaide shall be completed within a period of six hundred and thirty-six hours, which period of six hundred and thirty-six hours shall be deemed to be “ the period of transit “ referred to in the said “general conditions of tender.”
– I move -
That there be added to the motion : -
Proviso to article 3 -
Provided that, in the event of the Postmaster General requiring the “period of transit” on the voyage from Brindisi to Adelaide to be reduced to six hundred and twelve hours, the period of six hundred and twelve hours shall thenceforth be deemed to be the “ period of transit” for each voyage from Brindisi to Adelaide, and each such voyage shall be completed within that period.
When the contract was first submitted to the other House, it was objected that it empowered the Fostmaster-General to require the reduction of the period of transit from 636 to 612 hours, but did not definitely bind the contractors to comply with his request. The object of inserting this proviso is to make that point abundantly clear.
– The proviso has also to be considered in connexion with article 5, which provides that where the period of the voyage is reduced from 636 to 612 hours, the contractors shall be reimbursed the cost of extra coal and other incidental expenses in providing the accelerated service. I cannot see where any occasion for other incidental expenses could arise. To a very large extent, this provision would operate in favour of the contractors. Suppose, for instance, that with a large ship they managed to save thirty-six hours in running, they would make a considerable saving. And yet, in addition to that, it is proposed to give them an additional subsidy up to a sum of £23,000.
-I would ask the honorable senator to deal with that matter on article 5.
– I understand, sir, that article 3 also deals with the subjectmatter of article 5.
– No; with another matter.
– I submit, sir, that Senator Guthrie is quite in order; because article 3, as the Minister has indicated, is intertwined with article 5, and deals practically with the same set of circumstances and conditions.
– I do not see anything about incidental expenses in article 3, and the proviso refers to only the period of transit, but incidental expenses are mentioned in article 5. I think it would be more convenient if Senator Guthrie were to keep to the point under discussion.
– The proviso would empower the Postmaster-General to require an alteration in the rate of speed of the vessels. Consequently if the period of the voyage were altered from 636 to 612 hours the question of expense would arise. How it comes to be put in article 3 and not in article 5 I cannot understand. The latter prescribes how the Postmaster-General shall deal with the contractors when he asks for increased speed. Theonly consideration with me now is whether, if article 3 were approved, we could amend article 5.
– I feel very strongly that “ otherincidental expenses “ should be struck out.
Amendment agreed to.
Article 5 -
That in the event of the Postmaster-General requiring the said “period of transit” on the voyage from Brindisi to Adelaide 10 be reduced to six hundred and twelve hours, and pursuant to such requirement the said” period of transit” for each voyage from Brindisi to Adelaide is so reduced to six hundred and twelve hours by the contractors, then the contractors shall, subject as in clause 4 hereof mentioned, be entitled to receive an increased remuneration, namely, a reimbursement to cover the additional cost of making provision for the extra coal and other incidental expenses to provide such accelerated service on the said voyage, and the amount of such reimbursement, failing mutual agreement, shall befixed by arbitration in the manner set forth in the said “ general conditions of tender,” provided, however, that the total amount of such reimbursement shall in no caseexceed Twenty-five thousand pounds (£25,000) per annum.
– I move -
That there be added to the motion : -
Proviso to article 5 -
Leave out “and other incidental expenses.”
– Might there not be other incidental expenses, and, if so, would they not have to be approved ?
– There might or might not be. If the contractors built vessels which were capable of making the trip in 612 hours, the alteration in the rate of speed would be all in their favour.
– But would it not take a larger consumption of fuel to give the higher rate of speed?
– If the honorable senator had read the article he would know that it makes ample provision to compensate the contractors for the use of additional fuel. But it goes further when it provides that they shall be reimbursed other incidental expenses.
– If there should be any other incidental expenses why should they not be reimbursed?
– Would there be any ?
– If there were none the provision would do no harm.
– And if there should be any difference the amount would have to be fixed by arbitration.
– If the PostmasterGeneral calledupon the contractors to make the trip more quickly, and it led to a considerable saving on their part, should not the Commonwealth receive a benefit therefrom ?
– What the honorable senator means is that these “ other incidental expenses” should be “other necessary expenses.”
– Exactly. I do not mind the contractors being recouped other necessary expenses, and I do not know thatany dispute on this point would go to arbitration. In my opinion, it would be left to the Postmaster-General to say what were incidental expenses.
– The amount would have to be fixed by arbitration.
– Article 5 says-.
The contractors shall, subject as in clause 4 hereof mentioned, be entitled to receive an increased remuneration, namely, a reimbursement to cover the additional cost of making provision for the extra coal and other incidental expenses.
Article . 4 is in these terms -
That subject as aforesaid to all the conditions contained in the said “ general conditions of tender,” the yearly subsidy or sum payable to the contractors by the Postmaster-General in consideration of the faithful performance and observance by the contractors of all the covenants, agreements, stipulations, provisos, and conditions in this agreement, and except where or to the extent the same are inconsistent with or modified by provisions herein contained in the said “ general conditions of tender “ contained shall be at the rate of One hundred and twentyfive thousand pounds (£125,000) per annum.
Neither the amount of the subsidy nor the provision of increased speed, nor the matter of other incidental expenses would go to arbitration.
– They might be driven to arbitration.
– No. All that the company would need to do would’ be to say, “ It was necessary for us to consume 1,000 tons more coal of a certain quality and price,” and no doubt, just as lawyers can make up bills of costs, ship-owners would be able to make up bills of “ other incidental expenses.” These might amount to a very considerable sum, but, so far as I can see, the article does not provide for a dispute on those points, to be referred to arbitration.
– The amount is limited to , £25,000.
– So far as coal was concerned, the consumption would be well known, but incidental expenses would be an unknown quantity. I should not, mind compensating the contractors for any extra coal which they might burn; but I object to compensating them for other incidental expenses which might not involve the employment of any additional labour.
– Suppose that they were to use oil, and not coal.
– I should be willing to compensate the contractors for whatever additional fuel they might burn. It is well known that the use of oil on a steamer does away with the employment of labour to a very large extent.
– They might use bottled-up electricity.
– At the present time, there are no ships of any size, certainly not ships of 1 1,000 tons register, which are propelled by electricity.
– What the honorable senator wishes to do is to provide that if any better and cheaper means of propelling ships be discoverecT, the question of the subsidy shall be submitted to arbitration, with a view to its reduction.
– No. I am willing to assent to the payment of that sum for a period of ten years, and if the contractors provide boats with a quicker rate of speed, I should be prepared to compensate them for whatever additional fuel they might consume.
– I think that the words objected to by Senator Guthrie are necessaryIf extra coal is consumed, there must be more labour to handle it. Stokeholds are manned according to the amount of coal consumed.
– That has been recommended, but it is not carried out.
– If to keep up a certain speed, ten men are required in the stokehold of a vessel, twelve may be required to maintain an extra speed. Surely extra labour would be incidental to the consumption of extra coal. The Navigation Commission, of which Senator Guthrie was a member, has reported, and he ought to know that that Commission recognised the principle that manning ought to be regulated by coal consumption.
– It ought to be, but it is not.
– Manning has a necessary relation to coal consumption. The present agreement involves the consumption of a certain amount of coal. Increased speed will mean extra consumption, and incidental to that will be extra cost for labour. Therefore, I think it is necessary that the article should be worded as it is.
– There is no manning scale in any part of the British Dominions, except under the New Zealand law, which depends on the consumption of coal.
– What was the finding of the Navigation Commission?
– That is still in the air, and may be so throughout the continuance of this contract.
– Is the honorable senator in favour of the coal consumption of steam-ships being the factor regulating manning ?
– Of course, I am. Verv likely, Mr. Croker, the contractor under this scheme, is also in favour of manning being determined by the consumption of coai. Very probably, he will say, “ We require a certain number of men if the voyage is to be completed ir. 636 hours. On the basis of a 612 hours’ voyage, we ought to have a certain number more.”
– He could not say that, unless more were actually employed.
– I do not know that he could not.
– It would not he an extra expense then.
– The company might say that it required a certain number of men to bring a ship from Brindisi to Adelaide in 636 hours. If they consumed extra coal in increasing the speed, they might say, “ We ought to have two or three more men,” and charge that as an inci-. dental expense. Thev would not be compelled to go to arbitration on that point any more than with regard to the extra allowance of £25,000.
– Yes, they would.
– I will give way to the honorable senator’s construction of a legal document, but I think that we are only opening the door to claims for incidental expenses. If an amendment is not made, I believe, that honorable senators will have cause to regret that they left such a loop-hole in the contract.
– We have learnt from the Minister that the words at the end of article 6 - failing mutual agreement be determined by arbitration in the manner provided in the said “ general’ conditions of tender,” are to be left out. Words are to be substituted providing for a reference to Parliament. I suppose that this question of additional remuneration will not be referred to Parliament.
– It will be a matter for arbitration.
– It is, I believe, a fact that it is contemplated to add £25,000 to the payment for this service at a future date. That question willnever be referred to Parliament, I understand?
– It will be for the Postmaster-General to request the company to reduce the duration of the voyage to 612 hours. The particular expenditure to which the company will be put by reducing the time may be £18,000 or£20,000. It will depend upon, the Postmaster-General whether he takes the responsibility of exercising the power of agreeing to pay that extra amount, referring it to arbitration, or first consulting Parliament.
– We do not give him the option under article 6 as proposed to be amended.
– No, he must refer to Parliament in that case; but in this instance he is to have the option of agreeing, or referring to arbitration, or he may first consult Parliament. This power will be exercised at his own discretion.
– The Minister’s explanation means that the Postmaster-General would, if he gave notice requiring an expedited service and’ found the cost too great, have the option of leaving the contract as it originally stood. But once he has given the notice the matter will not rest with him. The contractors can go on in accordance with his notice, and call upon the PostmasterGeneral either to pay its claim or submit the matter to arbitration.
– That would be so if he absolutely required the alteration. But he might make inquiries beforehand.
– As to what a future Postmaster-General might do under imaginary circumstances, I cannot say.
– But that is what I was asked.
– The Minister has offered an explanation which he must admit is not literally accurate. Once the notice has been given there will be no opportunity to draw back from it. It will be for the contr’actor to determine whether he will agree to the expedited service or not. The adjustment of the additional price will be a matter for arrangement or arbitration, and the only question that can come before Parliament is that of the extension of the contract. I am not saying that this is a vital blot in the agreement, but I am pointing it out because the Minister seemed to hold a different view. I do not see that a matter of this kind’ can come before Parliament. It is one of adjusting little details for which the Government must take the responsibility. It does not follow, however, that we may not obtain an expedited service without paying an extra penny. I am not saying that we are likely to get it. But the word “ reimbursement “ is used. We call for a. superior service. If the contractors say that that entails additional expenditure, they will have to be paid for it. But they may put in superior machinery which will be more economically worked. It may be more profitable to them to give us an accelerated service without extra payment. It is only in case of additional outlay being caused to the company that the Commonwealth can be approached for additional payment.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2 p.m.
– I should like to reply briefly to the remarks of Senator Millen. The honorable senator has every right to be anxious as to what may be done by any future Postmaster-General and the contractors in the matter of increased speed ; and he pointed out that if a quicker service were desired, the fact would be intimated to the contractors, and the whole question would then be submitted to arbitration. In my opinion, there is nothing in the contract to prevent the present or any future Postmaster-General, before proceeding to the length indicated, from endeavouring to find out from the contractors the probable cost of the accelerated service; and the Government would certainly be guided by any suggestions or statements the contractors might make in this connexion. Of course, the contractors might refuse to give any hint as to the probable cost, and thereupon the PostmasterGeneral -would have to fall back on his powers under the contract. I have no doubt, however, that, in any such negotiations, the contractors would be very willing to assist in arriving at an agreement without resorting to arbitration ; but if the latter course were decided upon, then both parties would be on the same footing. I have no fear as to anything that may occur in this connexion under the conditions.
– I presume it is recognised by the Government that article 6 is entirely optional - that the Postmaster-General “ may “ require, but that the contractors are not compelled to provide the accelerated service.
– We have adopted a proviso that casts the obligation on the contractors to comply with the requirements. As I intimated, that proviso was adopted by another place, and has also been adopted here.
Article 6 -
Amendment (by Senator Keating) agreed to-
That there be added to the motion -
Proviso to Article 6 -
Leave out the words “ failing mutual agreement be determined by arbitration in the manner provided in the said general conditions of tender,” and insert in lieu thereof “ be determined by mutual agreement, subject to the approval of Parliament by resolution. . . . “
Article 7 -
That during the prevalence of the South-west Monsoon the “period of transit” from Adelaide to Hrindisi shall be extended by thirty-six hours.
– Are the Government in possession of any authority by which they can determine the period of the south-west monsoon? It would be rather serious if for six months of the year the time of transit could be extended by thirty-six hours.
– That is what it means.
– There may be some determination by a court as to what the period of the south-west monsoon really means. If it means nine or ten months in the year, we shall be practically entering into a contract in which the time of transit is thirty-six hours more than that stated in article 3.
– I think the southwest monsoon period is about four months - from the latter part of May to the middle of September.
– I desire to know whether the Government have any information.
– Personally, I have not ; but I am told that it is a well understood period, which has been provided for in all previous contracts.
– In the north of Australia the monsoon period extends for seven or eight months.
– The south-west monsoon blows from Aden, in the Red Sea, towards Ceylon from the beginning of May to the end of September, or some time in October. If we allow an extended period! of thirty-six hours between Ceylon - which is the only place in question - and Aden, it will operate for about six months in the year, and will, therefore, be a considerable addition to the time mentioned in the contract. The contract between the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company and the Imperial Government contains a similar stipulation.
– The best course the Government could take, in the interests of the people of the Commonwealth, would be to strike out this article. The Imperial contract referred to by Senator Macfarlane is an Indian contract, the circumstances of which are different from those under consideration. In order to steam against a southwest monsoon, simply a little additional power is required by the vessel, and I do not know why the Government have accepted this article. At the present time the southwest monsoon is blowing, and yet the boats of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam NavigationCompany cover thevoyage in exactly the same timeas they did six months ago.
– Why should we not assume that, under this contract, the same thing will be done?
– We are entering into a business arrangement, in which nothing ought to be assumed.
– Senator Guthrie has said that there is no business at all in this contract.
– I have never so expressed myself, although I may have said that a want of business ability has been shown in the framing of the contract.
– The honorable senator said that the whole thing would come to nothing.
– That is another matter. It is probably very business-like on the part of the contractors to induce us to enter into an agreement which, to a considerable extent, is in their favour, and I have expressed the opinion that, under the conditions laid down, there is very little chance of a company being floated to undertake this service.
– And the honorable senator wishes to make the matter more difficult of accomplishment.
– That is not so. What I say is that, under the existing contract with the British Government, themonsoonal period makes no difference in the time of the arrival of the mail-boats at Adelaide; and I should like some explanation from the Government why a distinction has been drawn.
– It is a usual provision.
– But why is it made?
– It is rather too late in the day to ask that.
– We are now revising previous conditions, and, unless for good reasons shown, this article ought not to be inserted. It cannot be challenged, I think, that, with a head wind, the majority of up-to-date steamers are able to make better speed than they can attain with a fair wind, because the fires burn brighter and ‘better steam is obtained. Every one knows that on their course to Brindisi these boats will has’e to contend against no absolutely bad weather. If they had to go round the Horn it would be another question. I object to the proposed concession for what is an indefinite period. I may feel more strongly on the subject than do some other honorable senators, because I remember that the various States have adopted a load-line, and that whilst the Imperial Act provides that on the coast of Great Britain, during certain months of the year, a winter load-line shall be used, and some of our States have adopted a winter load-line for corresponding months in Australian seas, others of the States have claimed that we have no winter in Australia, and have refused to introduce that safeguard. The result is that, in the natter of loading ships, the men sailing round Australia are in a worse position than seamen in any other part of the British Dominions.
– Does the honorable senator not want a winter load-line?
– I do.
– If the honorable senator admits conditions of that kind he must admit the influence of the monsoons.
– I believe in a winter load-line for ships plying in Australian waters.
– The honorable senator is arguing against it.
– I am not doing anything of the kind; but under the provision to which I have been referring the ships are to be permitted, during certain months of the year, to occupy thirty-six hours longer on the voyage, whether they are loaded down or are loaded light.
– During rough weather.
– Where is the rough weather?
– If there is no rough weather, why should there be a winter load-line?
- Senator McGregor is only showing his absolute ignorance of the subject. The honorable senator should stick to carrying a hod up a ladder, where he would have the same weather above as below
– The honorable senator should speak only about what he understands. He would find it very difficult work to” carry a hod up a ladder in windy weather.
– The honorable senator does not contend that monsoon weather is fair weather?
– I have contended that it is far better for the firemen and more easy for them to keep up a good pressure of steam with a head wind than with a fair wind.
– But the ship might not make as good speed.
– The pressure of steam will force the ship through at her ordinary rate of speed with a head wind in anything like moderate weather. I challenge any member of the Committee to say that there is anything like bad weather on the track between Fremantle and1 Brindisi, unless a ship should happen to meet a typhoon, and such an experience might not occur once in ten years. I should add that typhoons are more likely to occur during the north-east monsoons than d’uring the south-west monsoons.
– What does it matter in which of the monsoons thev are met with ?
– I am objecting to the provision giving the company a concession of thirty-six hours during the time of the south-west monsoons.
– That is only in case the boats should be a little late. As a rule they will keep up to time, as boats running under the existing contract do; but there might be exceedingly heavy weather during the south-west monsoons, which might retard the vessels, and the company claim that it would be hardly fair to fine them for delay in such a case.
– If the extraordinary weather occurs during the season of the north-east monsoons, no such concession is provided for. Where is the logic in that?
– The logic is in the fact that the south-west monsoons would blow against the vessels, and the north-east monsoons with them.
– If this were a contract under which sailing-ships would carry themails, the honorable senator’s argument would be sound.
– Unless the honorable senator desires to destroythe contract altogether, he must agree to the retention of this provision.
- Senator Playford is absolutely unfair, as he usually is. Why should the honorable senator say that I desire to destroy the contract ?
– I do not say that; but I say that if this provision is struck out, it willdestroy the contract.
– Because the contractors would then be able to refuse to accept the contract.
– I have said that a head wind will be far more favorable for these vessels than a fair wind, because it will give them the necessary draught.
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that these boats can be propelled faster against a head wind thanwith a fair wind?
– Yes, unless the head wind is a gale, and there are not many gales encountered between Fremantle and Brindisi.
– Would the honorable senator not give the contractors any concession?
– I remind the honorable senator that by this contract we are making provision in the interests of the company for all extraordinary circumstances. In the event of delay through “ the act of God, the King’s enemies, or pirates,” an extension of time is allowed under this contract. I contend that there is no necessity for the concession proposed, and I do not believe that we should jeopardize the contract by omitting the provision. I believe that if it be omitted, the contractors will be prepared to admit that there is no reasonwhy they should be given an extra thirty-six hours in which to complete a voyage during the south-west monsoons. These winds blow when the sun is north of the line, andwhyshould the company be given the additional time during six months of the year?
– When do the equinoctial gales come on?
– When the sun crosses the line going to the north, and going to the south, that is, in April and
September, and I should not have objected to a provision for an extension of time during those months of the year. But to provide, in a service in tropical waters where thesea is generally like a millpond, for a concession of thirty-six hours in the length of the voyage, for six months of the year, is ridiculous on the face of it. I move -
That there be added to the motion -
Provided that article 7 be left out.
– If I did not think that it would vitiate the contract I should be inclined to vote for the amendment. I agree with Senator Guthrie that the proposed extension of time is quite unnecessary in the case of these high power steamers.
– Then why did the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company ask the British Government to extend the period from twenty-four to thirty-six hours?
– It is, of course, an advantage to a shipping company to secure the longest extension of time they can. Between May and October the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company are allowed an extension of thirty-six hours on the voyage from Colombo to Brindisi. That is an indication that there isheavy weather to be met with between Colombo and Aden during that time of the year. As a matter of fact, it is found that the steamers must go a considerable distance south of their ordinary track to avoid the heavy monsoons. The south-west monsoons do not always blow with the same strength, but at times they bring onveryheavy weather, and the steamers go south of their usual course, to avoid being deluged with water. That is thereasonwhy the concession is asked for.
– The time allowed used to be twenty-four hours, but in the last contract with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company it has been extended to thirty-six hours.
Question - That the words proposedto be added be added - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … … 18
Question so resolved in the negative.
Article 9 -
That as the contractors propose to build mail ships to carry out this agreement, it is hereby agreed that condition Number 39 of the said “general conditions of tender” attached hereto marked “ A “ forms part of this agreement, and that the plans of the new mail ships to be built to carry out this agreement shall, within a reasonable time, be submitted for the approval of the representative of the Commonwealth Government in London.
– According to this article, the plans of new mail ships will be submitted to the sole approval of the representative of the Commonwealth Government in London. I admit that there may be very great difficulty in getting some person who will closely, and possibly more adequately represent the view of the Government, to approveof plans. It is very likely that the Ministry find it utterly impossible, at any rate, very difficult, to provide any other means. But that sort of approval of plans will not satisfy me.
– My honorable friend does not know who may be chosen to represent the Commonwealth in this matter.
– I have assumed that it would be either the present occupant of the office, so far as he does represent the Commonwealth, or his successor.
– I do not think that we would be bound to appoint the occupant of any particular office.
– I am glad to get that information from the Minister. I think it may fairly be assumed that at the present time the Commonwealth Government has a representative in London. It would be rather dangerous to leave the approval of these plans solely in the hands of that officer, or possibly his successor. But if the Minister chooses to say that it is the intention of the Government to appoint a special and properly qualified man for the purpose I shall be glad to get the assurance.
– Undoubtedly we will do that. We might have a High Commissioner, but even he would not be competent to approve of plans.
– I am very glad to hear that statement from the Minister of Defence.
– The idea is to have an agent for this particular purpose.
– The use of the term”representative” in this article is misleading, and it was fair to assume that the approving officer would be the person whom we call the representative of the Government. But with the assurance that a properly qualified man will be chosen for the purpose, I shall say no more on that point.
Senator Lt.-Col.GOULD (New South Wales) [2.36]. - I venture to think that the approval of the Commonwealth Government ought to be required. The plans of new ships might very well be submitted, in the first instance, to the representative of the Government in London, whomsoever he might be, but he should either be directed to forward them for the approval of the Government or receive instructions as to the nature of plans of which he might approve.
– There would be no time to forward the plans to Australia.
– Possibly it might not be necessary to send out the plans. I think that the latter part of the article ought to read in this way: -
The plans of the new mail ships to be built to carry out this agreement shall, within a reasonable time, be submitted to the representative of the Commonwealth Government in London for the approval of the Commonwealth Government.
– I desire to move a prior amendment.
.- That is the only difficulty which occurs to me in connexion with the article.
– The article begins with these words -
That as the contractors propose to build mail ships -
There is not much in those words. I desire to substitute the words “ bind themselves” for the word “ propose.” Everything hinges upon the question as to whether the company intend to carry out the contract or not. It is made with a company which is to be formed, and which only proposes to build steam-ships. It need not build any ships, and if it should not, it could get the whole of the deposit returned. I move -
That there be added to the motion -
Proviso to article 9 -
Leave out the word “propose,” line1, and insert the words “bind themselves.”
Question - That the words proposed to be added be added - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
Senator Lt.-Col. GOULD(New South Wales) [2.43]. - I have two suggestions to offer with regard tothe latter portion of this article. I suggest that it should be altered to read as follows: -
The plans of the new mail ships to be built to carry out this agreement shall, within a reasonable time, be submitted to the representative of the Commonwealth Government in London for the approval of such Government.
Or if the Government think that that procedure would be too complicated, I am quite willing to use the expression “ submitted to a representative of the Commonwealth Government in London for approval,” and to add the words “ appointed for that purpose. “
– Most likely the Government will have a representative in London, and he will not be competent to criticise plans of steam-ships. Suppose that the Commonwealth were represented by a High Commissioner or by Captain Collins, undoubtedly he would appoint some person who had the necessarytechnical knowledge to advise him, and in the light of that advice he would approve of plans. It has been suggested that subsequently the plans should be sent out, and approved of by the Government. But the contractors would desire to begin the building of the ships immediately. The Government will have to oppose any alterations other than those to which we have agreed.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) [2.45]. - I think that the Minister has rather misunderstood Senator Gould’s proposal. He does not intend that the plans of these ships shall be sent out to Australia.
– How can they be submitted to the Government unless they are sent out?
– The Minister has got into the same state of confusion as the agreement is in. Noone suggests that the Commonwealth Government shall consider the plans. Its approval is to be given through its expert. The article is extremely badly framed. No one desires to delay the approval of the contract for a moment. We wish to hasten it. Nor is it intended that an amendment shall be made which would embarrass the Government in any way. But it is right that it should be put on record that this point has been criticised, and that the explanation: of the Government should be forthcoming and recorded. What Senator Gould points out is that owing to the unhappy phraseology used, this article may be understood to mean that the approval is to be that of the ordinary representative of the Government in London. That view is emphasizedby the use of the word “ the” That representative may be eitherCaptain Collins, the High Commissioner, or some one else.
SenatorTrenwith. - Or some one speciallyappointed.
– I believe that that is the intention. It should be some one competent to give an intelligent approval of the plans. All that Senator Gould has done is to suggest an amendment. Whether it is pressed or not is another matter. I do not know that it need be. But he indicates that to carry out the intention it would be better to make the article read : “ A representative of the Government in London appointed for thepurpose.” TheHigh Commissioner would not becompetent. He must have some one to advise him. It would be better if the article had been framed differently. But the Government has said - and its assurance in that respect may be accepted - that it is intended that a competent representative shall be appointed for the purpose. If the article is understood in that sense by the contractors there will be no trouble.
– What Senator Gould is aiming at would be practically accomplished by the article as it stands. As soon as the contract is ratified, 1 suppose that the Government will decide who its representative for this purpose shall be. The AgentGeneral for New South Wales at present represents the Commonwealth.
– No, Captain Collins.
– No, he only represents the Commonwealth in certain affairs; the Agent-General for New South Wales acts as our representative - our ambassador.
– The Government will decide who shall be its representative for the purpose of this agreement. We must give the Government a free hand. I presume that certain instructions will be given to the aopointed representative in order that our interests may be protected, and the regular representative of the Commonwealth will rely upon the advice of the expert. Is it worth while to amend the article when we know that no other intelligible course could! be followed?
.- Personally,I do not care a straw whether the plans of the ships are subiect to inspection or not. I believe that the men who a.re going to plank down their money in this enterprise will take good care to build good up-to-date ships.They would be born idiots if they did not. But I do object to anv whippersnapper having power to knock the contractors plans about for no good end. It would be far better for the Government to appoint an expert to do this work. If they do that I shall he oerfectlv satisfied. I recommend them to do it as soon as this contract is closed.
– Is it not reasonable, to think that they will?
– Hear, hear. Of coursetheywill.
– I hope they will. Therefore I shall support the article.
Senator Lt.-Col. GOULD (New South Wales)[2.53]. - I have no desire to delay theproceedings. But there must have been some reason for inserting this article in the contract. It is only fair that we should see that it expresses the wish of Parliament. This is not the only article that does not sufficiently convey what is really intended. I am satisfied with having directed attention to the matter, and shall not propose an amendment, particularly as the Government is not inclined to accept it. But I very much regret that the articles throughout are not more intelligibly drawn. Had they been, a great deal of misunderstanding and explanation would have been prevented.
It is agreed that the sum of Twenty-five thousand pounds (£25,000) already guaranteed by approved guarantee in London, and held and accepted on behalf of the Postmaster-General shall be accepted. . . .
– Has this guarantee been properly approved? Has any one seen the money, or is it merely a bank guarantee?
– There are personal guarantees, as to the sufficiency of which the Government has communicated with its present representative in London. The Government instructed him to make certain inquiries, and he has an assurance from reputable banks in London that the guarantees are more than sufficient for the purpose.
That each of the mail ships to be employed in pursuance of this agreement shall be of at least 11,000 tons registered tonnage……
– There is a difficulty that we are sure to incur, and be confronted with later on in relation to the tonnage of these ships. The matter has been so thoroughly thrashed out that we are all by this time agreed that the phrase “ 11,000 tons registered tonnage,” as it stands, means if it is correctly interpreted, ships of a tonnage running, we will say, up to anything from 1 6,000 to 20,000 tons gross. If that is what it means, it may be said that the Commonwealth cannot lose by allowing the article to go as it stands. It has been urged by many honorable senators that if the boats represent 11,000 tons gross tonnage, we should be quite satisfied. If they represent a tonnage of very much more they will be equally satisfied. I am going, to assume that the phrase, “ 11,000 tons registered tonnage “ means what it should mean, and what we believe it means - boats of much larger gross tonnage. I believe personally that the phrase has got into the contract through a blunder. Some one put it in who did not understand what it meant, and it nas been passed over by some one else who did not understand it. We may be confronted with the position that if we accept this contract the principals, when they are asked to ratify it, and discover that boats of 11,000 tons registered tonnage are provided for, may say, “ We decline to go on ; there has been an absurd blunder. “ I do not believe that we have power to bind them. Suppose the principals’ say, “ This contract binds us to build ships of something like 16,000 or 20,000 gross tonnage, and we decline to do so.” What will be the position of the Government? Where will the Commonwealth be? We shall certainly, in my opinion, have the Government coming back to Parliament because the principals will decline to go on. If that be so - and I think I have shown good grounds for the opinion - is it wise for us to let this, article pass as it stands, with the sure and certain consequence, in my view, that the principals in England will formally repudiate it, and ask the Government to request Parliament to amend it? I am quite sincere in mv desire to get the contract through. I will not even move an amendment. But I must point out the difficulty that I believe the Government will be confronted with, and I hope they realize it. If the contractors say they will not build such boats as are provided, the Government will have to come to it again to alter the contract. Does Senator Keating propose to run that risk, in order to get the contract through without amendment?
Senator KEATING (Tasmania- Honorary Minister [2.59]. - I recognise the difficulties that present themselves to my honorable friend’s mind, and probably to the minds of other honorable senators. But I am not authorized to ask for any amendment in connexion with this article. I go further, and say that I am not authorized on behalf of the Government to consent to any amendment in it. Even assuming that events did turn out as Senator Clemons suggests that they will, I do not think that the contractors would be able to repudiate the bargain made for them by their accredited agent. If it were necessary - I do not say for a moment that it will be - to come down to Parliament again with a proposal for the amendment of the contract as ratified, well, then, it would be. for Parliament to decide the matter upon its merits.
– What is the objection to put in “ gross tonnage “ now ?
– I have indicated that the Government is not agreeable to such an amendment. I think that the course we are following in proposing to adopt the contract subject to the amendments agreed to, is the better one. It will be attended not only with the least risk, but with the greatest .possible advantage to the Commonwealth.
– As the senator who first called attention to the matter, I desire to emphasize what I said on that occasion. The law is very clear, and the position is serious : but I am prepared to leave the responsibility with the Government. I feel sure that the law will enable any person who feels aggrieved to bring an action against the contractors if they do not carryout what the law requires in reference to the registered tonnage. If the Government are prepared to take responsibility, I shall say no more, because I have no desire to upset the contract.
– Senator Keating has made the position of the Government perfectly clear, but he has also told us that under some circumstances it may be necessary to refer the matter to Parliament.
– I said assuming that were so.
– Quite so. But Senator Keating told us yesterday that an adjournment, even for one day, was a matter of momentous importance, and, believing that the contract is in our favour, I do not desire any delay. I should like to ask, however, what the Government understand bv “registered tonnage”?
– I do not like to let the matter drop, but would rather that we. faced the practical difficulties. In the interval, since this question was first raised, the Government have had ample opportunity to consult the accredited agent of the contractors in Melbourne. There has been abundance of time to ask Mr. Croker definitely what he means by the use of the term “ registered tonnage,” and whether, on behalf of his principals, he is prepared to stand by that term. If the Government have, in the interval, approached Mr. Croker, and pointed out to him the difficulties which have arisen in regard to the interpretation of the article, they may be in possession of information that will make it unnecessary to prolong this debate. It is possible that the Government have taken such a step, but, if so, we have not heard of it ; and, therefore, I should assume that they have done nothing. but have left Mr. Croker to suffer because of his own blunder.
-Mr. Croker has heard the debate in both Houses.
– No doubt. It -would not have taken the Government long to cable to the principals asking whether they intend to construct vessels of 11,000 tons registered tonnage, or vessels of 11,000 tons gross tonnage. If we had that information we should know clearly what the contract is that we are asked to approve. My chief objection to this article, as I said yesterday, is that it contains a phrase about which there is a good deal of uncertainty. To put the matter another way, we are asked to affirm a contract containing a condition which renders it very uncertain whether it will be carried out when it comes to be considered by the principals. Even now, without delaying matters, there is time to cable to England. I have no desire to lecture the Government, but it would have been far better policy to settle the matter in the way I have suggested.
– I suggested thatyes- terday.
– I cannot help thinking that some such step ought to have been taken. There are apparently many honorable senators who feel quite confident that, under this contract, we are going to get vessels of from 16.000 to18,000 tons.
– They do not know what they are talking about.
– That is what the phrase means. I am disinclined to vote for this article. In the interests of a clear understanding as to what we, as a deliberativebody, are asked to approve.I shall be compelled, for the first time since we have gone into Committee, to vote against the agreement.
– I do not agree with what is apparently Senator demons’ definition of “ registered tonnage.” We have debated this matter at considerable length on several occasions, and I shall not again go over the ground, butmerelysay that I am strongly of opinion that “ registered tonnage ‘ ‘ means gross tonnage.
– The tonnage mentioned is that of the smallest-sized vessels we shall get, and we are perfectly satisfied,
– I have already given honorable senators my authority for theopinion I hold, and the only contradiction I have heard is that supplied by the British Merchant Shipping Act. I hold, however, that we are not making this agreement under that Act, but are making it in terms well understood by shipbuilders and shippers generally. Considering the heckling the Government got in another place, and the debates in this Chamber, they would have been well advised to obtain some fresh information for honorable senators. Apparently the Government are themselves not sure of their ground; and, if that be so, they have had sufficient time to make themselves conversant with the facts. If we make any amendment that would have the effect of lessening the tonnage specified, we may be contracting for smaller vessels than are now contemplated, and if,” registered “ means “ gross,” there is no difficulty in the way.
– There is no such thing as “ gross registered “ tonnage.
– There is only one registered tonnage.
– Senator Symon has now entered into the fray !
– I only wish to say that I know of no other tonnage except registered tonnage.
– I shall repeat the opinion of agentleman, whose profession it is to understand such matters, and who, in a press interview, said -
Let us take an example ; the Moldavia is one of the new 10,000-tonners of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s fleet, and Lloyds’ Register gives her gross tonnage at 8,500 tons.
Senator Symon will see that the words used are “gross registered tonnage”; and I take that to be correct.
– Give us the name of the authority.
– I cannot give the name, but Lloyds’ is the authority to which the Board of Trade delegates the power of registering ships.
– The Board of Trade itself registers the ships.
– Lloyds’ has nothing to do with the registration.
– Then what does Lloyds’ Register mean?
– That is for the insurance company.
– Lloyds’ Register is merely a list of names.
– I am very much mistaken if Lloyds is not the corporation which does the business of the British Government.
– Does the Board of Trade not delegate the matter to Lloyds.
– Why does Lloyds have inspectors at most ports ?
– For the purposes of insurance.
– I should like Senator Guthrie to tell us why it is always Lloyds’ Register that is mentioned in any reference to shipping, and not the Board of Trade register? Perhaps Senator Guthrie, with all his knowledge of navigation and shipping affairs, will answer that question.
– The honorable senator ought to know himself.
– I contend that it is Lloyds which register ships under the Merchant Shipping Act.
– Some ships are not in Lloyds’ Register.
– Very few; and that is a fact which tells against such ships.
– Yes. in the matter of insurance.
– I am surprised that Senator Guthrie, with all his knowledge of law, does not know that much.
– The Government cannot accuse me of having made any attempt to impede the progress of the ratification of. this agreement. I should like to say, however, that all through the discussion I have felt that there are a few honorable senators who seem to be desirous to limit the contractors to supplying very small vessels in the Australian service.
– They seem to want dingies.
– Those honorable senators seem anxious for a provision to enable the contractors to run any kind of little fishing smacks, so long as they can carry a few bags of mails between England and Australia. That, however, is not my view of the matter. I probably speak feelinglv. because I am not a good sailor, and, when making a voyage, prefer as large a vessel as possible. If the contractors desire to give us vessels of a registered tonnage of 11,000 tons, why should we complain? If the vessels supplied are of 20,000 tons gross, so much the better for the travelling public. However, we do not seem toknow what is meant by the phrase. Senator Guthrie and Senator de Largie are both nautical experts. They were members of the Royal Commission on Navigation, and, although they might not have known a ship from a soapbox previously, they are now absolute experts on all questions of navigation. And at what conclusions have they arrived ?, Judging from the record of their speeches, they have made the position as clear as mud can make it. As to a vessel of 11,000 tons, there is a difference of 5,000 tons between the interpretations placed by those honorable senators on the phrase “ registered tonnage.” It would be absolutely unreasonable to ask honorable senators to take any notice whatever of such “ experts.” I am half inclined to follow every step of the road taken by the uninitiated Ministry - men who know so little about shipping that possibly Mr. Croker has “ taken them ‘down.” It may be, however, that the Government have “ taken down” Mr. Croker; but what has really occurred I am not yet prepared to say.
– Now is the time, or never.
– If there is a possibility of having11,000-ton vessels engaged in this service, I do not care whether that is their gross register or not.’ I prefer 11,000-tonners to vessels of 3,500 tons, and, consequently, I support the Government in this matter.
– I move -
That there be added to the motion -
Provided that article 11 be left out.
We have been told to-day that it does not matter whether this is gross or registered tonnage. Authorities have been quoted to prove that the register of a ship at Lloyds may be interpreted as registered tonnage under this contract. I say the thing is absolutely preposterous, and the man who uses an argument of that sort only shows his entire ignorance of everything connected with shipping. What is the object of registration? It is that the ships registered shall come under British law. An unregistered ship is exactly in the same position as a person who is not a naturalized subject. I first discovered that the object of registration was to bring a ship under the application of British laws, as the result of a bitter experience, when a vessel was sunk in one of the South Australian Gulfs. Three men lost their lives in the disaster, but no action could be brought against the ship because she was not registered. If these ships were registered at Lloyds, would that registration permit them to fly the Commonwealth flag, of which we are all so proud? It would not. There is a clause in this contract providing that these ships shall . fly the Australian flag. I am very glad to see that clause, and will support it.
SenatorFraser. - Does the honorable senator object to theother flag?
– No; the other flag is included in the Australian flag. We have the Southern Cross combined with the Union Jack. I might heresay that I was an unsuccessful competitor for the design for the Commonwealth flag. I sent in a design comprising the Union Jack, and something representative of Australia.
– The honorable senator showed that his loyalty was flagging.
– My loyaltyto the British Empire has neverflagged from the day I was born, and never will .
– Then the honorable senator’s competition was a flagrant proceeding.
– I have been put through a more severe test of loyalty than has any other member of the Committee.
– Will the honorable senator connect these remarks with the question ?
– I say that unless the 11,000 tons referred to is registered tonnage the ships can have no protection under the British flag, and canhave, no recourse to our law courts. It has been suggested during the debate that as these ships are to be registered in Australia, the registration may take place under some other law than the Merchant Shipping Act. Butthat could not bedone, because the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act respecting the registration of ships apply to the whole of the King’s Dominions, and to every part of the known world to which His Majesty’s jurisdiction extends. There is no escape from the fact that’ the ships must be registered under the Merchant Shipping Act. The provision dealing with the subject will be found in Part 1 of the Merchant Shipping Act, section 2, which reads -
Every British ship - and these ships being registered in Australia must be British ships - shall, unless exempt from registration - and that exemption refers to vessels under 20 tons measurement - be registered under this Act.
That is to say, that every British ship shall be registered under the Merchant Shipping Act of 1904.
If a ship required by this Act to be registered is not registered under this Act, she shall not be recognised as a British ship.
– We are now discussing a question of tonnage.
– We are discussing the question of registered tonnage.
– If the worst should come to the worst these vessels will bevessels of 11,000 tons, and we shall not object if they are larger.
– This contract is laid before me as a representative of the people of South Australia, and when I am told that these ships are to be of 11,000 tons register I want to know what registered tonnage means as referred to in this contract.
– What does it matter to us if we get a ship of 11,000 tons?
– If the Minister will tell me that this means 11,000 tons register under the Merchant Shipping Act I shall sit down. Is the honorable senator prepared to say what the expression “registered tonnage” means? Surely we have a right to expect that the leader of the Government in the Senate will be able to explain the provisions of this contract ?
– We have two experts here, and they differ.
– I am not referring to the opinions of the experts. I am asking what Ministers mean by the use of this expression.
– Let it go, for God’s sake.
– If Senator Fraser, who is sent here to represent the interests of the people of Victoria, is prepared to open his mouth and take anything the Government care to put into it, well and good.
– The honorable senator is expected: to shut his eyes first.
– It the Ministry expect that from me they are expecting something they will never get.
– Is not 11,000 tons enough for the honorable senator ?
– No, it is not.
– Then let the honorable senator move that the vessels should be of a greater tonnage.
– The position I take up is this : These people offer us something, and the question is, are we going to refuse it ?
– We should refuse it if we did not think it good enough, but we do think it good enough.
- Senator McGregor does not know what it is. As the leader of the Senate has said, the honorable senator is accepting something with his eyes shut.
-If a man innocently gave the honorable senator a point on him, would he fake advantage of it?
– Innocently ! Does the honorable senator think that these boodlers have come here with this contract innocently ? I do not believe for a moment that they have.
– The honorable senator should not call them “ boodlers.”
– What should I call them?
– They are decent Scotchmen,too.
– I ask the honorable senator torefrain from replying to interjections which are disorderly.
– I should like to reply to the interjection that these contractors are Scotchmen. I do not know that Croker is a Scotchman, and, so far as I know, the firm of Sir James Laing and Sons Limited is a North of England firm, and not a Scotch firm. I do not attribute all the virtues to the Scotch, butthey are not to be led into a contract without knowing what it is. The view I take is that I am being asked personally to sign this contract on behalf of the people of South Australia, and I wish to know what I am signing. The contract says that we are to have ships of not less than 11,000 tons register. I have no doubt that the contract was con sidered by the Cabinet.. There are two members of the Cabinet present, and I wish to know from them what was the opinion of the Cabinet as to the size of these ships.
– That they were to be of11.,000 tons, and not less.
– I am determined, even if I should have to stand here for a week, to get an understanding, of what the Government thought the term meant when the contract was signed. Mr. Croker has refused to tell me what was meant. I am determined that before the article is passed the Minister shall acknowledge either that it means the registered tonnage within the meaning of the Merchant Shipping Act-
– Surely the honorable senator is not going to “ stone-wall.”
– No. I think that as a representative of South Australia I have a right to get a reply, but if I am to be ignored I shall discuss the point.
– Suppose that the Ministers do not know what the term means, what then? “
– Ministers ought’ to know what is meant by the term.
– Has the honorable senator replied to my argument concerning Lloyds’ Register?
– If the honorable senator had been in his place he would have heard me say that in this connexion Lloyds’ Register is waste paper, because . a ship is only, registered there for the purpose of classification. I stated quite clearly that every ship which expects to get the protection of the British flag and law has to be registered with the Government.
– And not with Lloyds’.
– No; that registration is merely effected for insurance purposes. A ship which is not registered according to British law is in exactly the same position as an alien who has refused to become a naturalized British subject. Just as an alien has no right to the protection of British law, so an unregistered ship has no right to go to a British port, or to fly the British flag.
– Is there any register in Australia?
– If the honorable senator will go to the shipping office in Marketstreet, Melbourne, he can find from the registrar of shipping all the ships which are registered in Victoria, and he can get similar information in Adelaide. The registrar of shipping here, although paid by the Government of Victoria, is appointed by the Imperial Government to register ships in the State, and a corresponding officer is similarly appointed in Adelaide and Perth. The procedure for registration is laid down in section 4, which reads -
The following persons shall be registrars of British ships : -
At any port in the United Kingdom, or Isle of Man, approved by the Commissioners of Customs for the registry of ships, the chief officer of Customs :
In Guernsey and Jersey, the chief officers of Customs, together with the Governor :
In Malta and Gibraltar the Governor :
At Calcutta, Madias, and Bombay, the port officer :
At any other port in any British Possession approvedby the Governor of the Possession for the registry of ships, the chief officer of Customs, or if there is no such officer there resident, the Governor of the Possession in which the port is situate, or any officer appointed for the purpose by the Governor.
In schedule 2 of the Act, the procedure for the measurement of tonnage is laid down. It provides that the measurement shall be the measurement of the whole ship with deductions, in the case of a steam-ship, for her propelling space and crew space.
– We have had this information fifty times, so what is the use of repeating it?
– Is the honorable senator perfectly satisfied that what the Government understood when the contract was signed was that the mails were to be carried in ships of at least 11,000 tons registered tonnage ?
– That does not matter.
– There is no State which has more right to insist upon a clear understanding on this point than has Victoria, considering that she has been bled by the mail companies to a tremendous extent. Mr. Croker has not agreed to put in a provision to protect its producers.
– They have taken steps to protect themselves.
– They cannot protect themselves. The honorable senator knows that the producers are absolutely at the mercy of either the men in Marketstreet or the steam-ship companies. It is absolutely imperative to have ships with sufficient capacity to provide a reasonable space for the purpose of cool storage.
– These boats willhave a reasonable space if they are of 11,000 tons register.
– How much space for cool storage could be obtained in a ship of 11,000 tons gross register?
– We are not talking about gross register. ,
– The agreement says that the boats are to be of 11,000 tons register, and the honorable senator says that that is net register.
– If it is net register, then we shall get a biggertonnage.
– And if it is gross register that is all we want.
– Probably the honorable senator and I read the article differently. If a difference of opinion should arise, by. whom would it be decided? It would have to be decided by the men who signed the contract. I asked the Government for an explanation ; but they will not give it.
– I am quite willing to tell the honorable senator, if he wishes to know, exactly what the Government considered that they would get under the contract which they were signing. I have heard many arguments on this point while I have been sitting very quietly in my chair. The first question I heard was “ Why did you stipulate for boats of 11,000 tons?” It was said that if this was only a mail contract we need have vessels of not more than a few hundred tons. Then we were told that “ 11,000 tons registered tonnage “ meant quite a different thing - that it meant something like 15,000 or 22,000 tons gross. Senator Guthrie, however, informed us that such ships could not go through the Suez Canal, or enter our ports. Nowhehas told us that ships of 11,000 tons gross register would not have sufficient space for carrying refrigerated produce. First he said that we want small ships for carrying our mails, and, secondly, that we want large ships to enable produce to be conveyed. The Government has considered this matter of registration. They think that what is’ meant is gross tonnage. We should be satisfied if the company built vessels larger than 11,000 tonsgross, but we consider that for our purposes ves- sels of that size would be ample. We leave it to the contractors to say whether in the management of their business they consider that larger ships are necessary ; and if so, we shall be very pleased to have them provided.
– I hold in my hand a publication, a perusal of which shows me that we have had a great deal of talk about a very simple matter. The document is the report of a Royal Commission which sat in England some years ago to inquire into the mercantile marine. It shows that Senatorde Largie’s contention in respect of tonnage is absolutely correct - that registered tonnage means not only gross but also net tonnage. There is not only registered gross tonnage, but also registered net tonnage ; but in all cases the registered gross tonnage comes first. For instance, the list of ships contains the name of one which is well known to all Australians, the Suevic of the White Star line. The particulars concerning her are taken from the register. In one column is entered her gross registered tonnage, and in another sub-division her net registered tonnage. The gross registered tonnage is 12,499,and the net registered tonnage 8,180. Both are registered tonnages. That is the contention of Senator de Largie. In the case of this Contract I have no doubt that 11, 000 tons means gross tonnage. At any rate, the words carry that implication, as net tonnage is put in a secondary position in the document before me. Lloyds’ Register differs only from the register under the Merchant Shipping Act in this respect: that it includes not only registrations under that Act, but also foreign registrations. That is to say, Lloyds is the register under the Merchant Shipping Act, plus a register of foreign vessels.
– Senator Pearce seems to have made up his mind onvery small informationThere are many British ships on the British register that are not registered at Lloyds at all. Many are registered with the French Vois Veritas. Some register with a German Association. Lloyds’ Register is merely a classification for insurance purposes. Lloyds is an insurance institution. It has nothing to do with the law. There is no statutory provision that gives any recognition to Lloyds.
– I never said that there was.
– The honorable senator said that Lloyds was a register of British ships. It is nothing of the kind. It is an insurance register. Honorable senators are absolutely at sea regarding this question. Suppose I own a ship. I am compelled by law to register that ship, or I do not get the protection of British law. But I can use my own discretion whether I register at Lloyd’s, with the Vois Veritas, or with a German organization. Honorable senators are voting for this agreement on absolutely wrong premises.
– Let us catch our trains !
– This is too big a matter for us to consider the trifling inconvenience of a Minister who wants to catch his train. It will affect every living soul in this Commonwealth for the next tenyears. That is a far more important consideration than whether Senator Playford shall go to Adelaide to-night. Up till just now we had been unable to obtain from the Government any declaration of what was meant by registered tonnage. Now the Minister tells, us that the Government understands it to mean gross tonnage. . Why was not the other branch of the ‘ Legislature informed of that ? In my opinion, this is too important a matter’ to be rushed through at the end of the week. The public ought to have an opportunity of considering it.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be added - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 22
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Senator Keating) agreed to -
That there be added to the motion -
Proviso to article 15 -
After “legislation” insert “directly”; after the words “with the consent of,” insert “ or subject to approval by”; and after “Parliament,” insert “ by resolution.”
– Before we leave the consideration of the articles of agreement, I desire to move -
That there be added to the motion -
Provided that the following new article be inserted - “16a. That under the option to the Common wealth or the Postmaster-General, acting on its behalf, to purchase the ships under the said contract, neither the said Postmaster-General, nor the said Commonwealth Government, nor the arbitrators, if appointed, in determining the price to be paid therefor, under the purchase clause of the contract shall take into consideration the alleged book values represented ‘ in the books of the builders, who are also the contractors, but that a clause shall be expressly inserted in the said contract forbidding the said alleged book values to be taken into consideration as the basis of valuation in determining the price to be paid, and that the actual then present value of the vessels shall be ascertained by independent valuation in the usual way, quite apart from the alleged book values.”
In reading the history of the great combine between Americanand British shippers in the Western Ocean trade, I found that Pierpoint Morgan,who was virtually the financial manager, brought the White Star Company into line with the Americancompanies. Although the White Star Company had only a paid-up capital of something like £800,000, it received from the combine £8,000,000.
– Why had £8,000,000 to be paid ?
– In order to bring about the combination.
– Would it not have been possible to run the White Star Company off the line for £8,000,000?
– It is a long story, and I know that some honorable senators are anxious to catch the train. If, however, the Government will agree to an adjournment, I shall promise to lay the whole facts before honorable senators next week. This was not a matter of combining the various shipping companies, but of keeping in existence the great industry of shipbuilding in Great Britain. The whole scheme was engineered by one of thelargest shipbuilders at Home; and” it was pointedout in an article in the Times that it did not matter where the registered office of the combination was, or under which flag the vessel sailed, because the hub of the combine would be at Belfast where the shipswere built. All I propose by the new article is that if we take over these ships, the only value recognised shall be that of the vessels themselves, and not the valuesshown in the books. This is a clear cut proposition which, I think, will appeal to every honorable senator. In such a transaction, no goodwill should be considered ; and here I may say that in Adelaide, inconnexion with the Tramway Company, the Government have had to pay according to the value of the shares. In six years’ time if we have to take over these vessels, we shall have to beware of the booming of shares on the Exchange, or we shall find’ ourselves in a big hole. The. sole object of the proposition is to make it clear that the ships shall be taken over at their real, and not their book, value.
Question - That the words proposed tobe added be added -put. The Committeedivided.
Ayes … … … 9
Noes … … … 13
Majority …. … 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Postponed Article 1 -
That the “ general conditions of tender” annexed hereto and marked with the letter “A” shall be deemed to be part of this agreement,
– I think that this article has been carelessly drafted. “ I direct attention tothe fact that the last paragraph of the first clause of the general conditions of tenderreads
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.
When the Outer Harbor is completed and available, there will be no Adelaide under this contract. I therefore think that it is necessary to add a proviso to meet the difficulty. I move -
That there be added to the motion - “ Proviso to clause 1 of the General Conditions of Tender -
Add the words : ‘ Then Adelaide shall mean the Outer Harbor at Light’s Passage and the wharfs thereof. “
I do not know, however, that it is necessary that I should labour the matter, but honorable senators may be aware that the State Government of South Australia have gone to an expense of about £500,000 to provide accommodation for the mail steamers at the Outer Harbor. Under this contract, as soon as the works at the Outer Harbor are completed, it will not be necessary, apparently, for the boats engaged in this service to call at Adelaide at all. I have not been able to carry many amendments, but I hope that honorable senators will assist me to carry this one.
– There is not the slightest necessity for the amendment. The clause provides that Adelaide shall mean the signalling station knownas “Adelaide Semaphore” until the Outer Harbor is completed and available, and then, of course, the Outer Harbor will be the place to which the vessels must go.
– That should be stated plainly. .
– It is perfectly plain as it is. There is not the slightest doubt about it, and there is no necessity at all for the amendment.
– We should put into this contract exactly what we mean, and under clause 1 of the general conditions of tender, when the Outer Harbor is completed and available, Adelaide, according to the definition here given, will be done away with.
– Where else will the ships go ?
– There will be no such place as Adelaide referred to in this contract, and that may be taken by the company as an excuse for breaking the contract.
– If the honorable senator will look through the general con ditions of tender, he will see that Adelaide and Brindisi are referred to.
– That is so, but Adelaide is defined to mean a certain place until a certain time, and after the Outer Harbor is completed and available, it will not be defined.
– I should like to know where we stand. Senator Guthrie is apparently seeking to amend one of the clauses in the general conditions of tender.
– The Committee are now discussing postponed article 1 of the contract.
– I understood Senator Guthrie to move an amendment on clause 1 of the general conditions of tender.
– I understand that Senator Guthrie wishes to add to clause 1 of the general conditions of tender the words “ then Adelaide shall mean the Outer Harbor at Light’s Passage, and the wharfs thereof.” With respect to the point raised by Senator Millen, I may say that the Committee postponed article 1 of the agreement for further consideration. This article says that - “The General Conditions of Tender annexed hereto and marked with the letter “A,’ shall be deemed to be part of this agreement.”
And if the Committee agrees to amend anything in the general conditions of tender I do not see that I can prevent it. .
– If they do theywill break the agreement.
– I think that Senator Guthrie is in order in moving his amendment.
– I point out to honorable. senators that these general conditions of tender are the conditions under which other people tendered for the contract, as well as the company with whom we are dealing.It would be unfair to them to alter- these conditions in any way. I inform Senator Guthrie again that I am perfectly satisfied that the definition of “Adelaide” in clause1 of the conditions of tender will refer to the Outer Harbor, Adelaide, when it is completed and available. …
– The words of the clause which I seek to_ amend define Adelaide to mean the signalling station known as the Adelaide
Semaphore, until the Outer Harbor is completed and available.
– For the mail steamers.
– The clause does not say so. It does not provide that the mail steamers are to use the facilities to be afforded on the completion of the Outer Harbor. The matter is one of very great importance to South Australia. I have said that the State Government are making provision at very great cost to give facilities for these ships, and yet under this clause, as soon as the Outer Harbor works are completed, these vessels need not go to the port at all, because there will be no Adelaide under this clause when those works are completed.
– What will become of it?
– I do not know. The amendment will provide for exactly what the honorable senator desires, and why should he not accept it?
– We cannot alter these contracts in this way.
– What I propose is merely to make the contract clear. The amendment will not matter twopence to the contractors or to the Government, whilst it will make it clear that Adelaide, after the completion of the Outer Harbor, will mean the Outer Harbor, and not the anchorage at the Semaphore.
– There are two terminal ports mentioned in this contract. Brindisi and Adelaide. So far as Brindisi is concerned, we do not say whether the ships are to go to a pier, or a wharf, or to stand out ten miles away from the town. At Adelaide we have an anchorage known as . “ Adelaide Semaphore,” and the State Government are building an Outer Harbor. The words used in clause 1 of the general conditions of tender are used for the purpose of providing that, until the Outer Harbor is completed, the ships shall go to the Semaphore.
– When the Outer Harbor is completed we shall require no definition of Adelaide, any more than of Brindisi.
– That is so. There is not the slightest necessity for the amendment.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be added - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 17
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Before this contract is finally ratified, I think the Senate should express an opinion as to whether, after the results of the inquiries by the Butter Commission, we are prepared to allow another contract to be entered into without seeing that it provides for a sufficiency of space for cool storage, a maximum rate of freight for the carriage of produce and the use of a selfregistering thermometer, in order to prove that proper care of the produce has been taken in transit. There are very strong reasons why those provisions should be made. For instance, in their report, the Butter Commission say -
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 question 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. ,
Since the inception of the export trade in butter, the carriage of this product has been practically in the hands of the mailcompanies. 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 ofyears at a trivial reduction on the existinghighrates. must be looked upon in thelight of the evidence, as in attempt to monopolize the trade.
In the face of that extract, do honorable senators intend to ratify a contract which; would allow the new company to join the others in monopolizing the butter trade? The facts which were elicited by that Royal Commission ought to induce honorable senators to pause.
– Is the extract supported by any evidence?
– It is supported by evidence which was adduced by the very gentleman who signed this contract onbehalf of Sir James Laing and Sons. It has been explained by the Honorary Minister that the Government took the view that the contract ought not to deal with the question of cold storage, because the State Governments would not guarantee to fill a certain amount of space in each ship. But I take up the position that it is not our place to be guided by a recommendation from the StatesPemiers. Probably each senator represents more persons in his State than does its Premier. In South Australia, for instance, it is quite possible for its Premier to be a member of the Legislative Council, and, having been elected on a property qualification, to represent only a third of the population of the State. The present Premier is, I’ admit, the representative of the State, but he is returned for a suburban constituency. A senator, however, is elected on an adult suffrage, and it is our duty to look after the interests of our producers when we are asked to ratify a contract ofthis kind. I can only imagine that the grant of this subsidyof £125,000 is based on two considerations - one being to secure the carriage of a few tons of mails and the other to insure regularity in delivery. But for the necessity to secure regular delivery, we could get our mail matter carried for £5,000 a year under the poundage system. When we are making a present of £100,000 to the contractors, we have a right, I submit, to require thatthey shall provide sufficient cool storage on each ship for carrying a portion of our produce. I may mention that, as the result of the inquiries by the Butter Commission, the rate of freight for butter has fallen from11/8d. to3/8d. per lb. The position in Australia is a serious one. Butter is carried to London from Riga, in Russia, at 24s. per ton, and from Australia at £7 per ton. If we desire to hold1 the European market, ought we not to fake advantage of this opportunity to out our producers on equal terms with theircompetitors in that market? £125,000 a year is too large a price to pay for the carriage of mail mat ter, unless the contract secures to the Commonwealth other advantages. 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.
Original question, as amended, resolved; in the affirmative.
That the Committee approves the agreement made and entered intoonthe7thdayofJuly, 1906, between the Postmaster-General, in and for the Commonwealth, and Sir James Laing and Sons Limited, for the carriage of mails between Adelaide and Brindisi, as per schedule, with the following modifications : -
Proviso to article 3 -
Provided that, in the eventof the PostmasterGeneral requiring the ‘ perioil of transit’ on the voyage from Brindisi to Adelaide to be reduced to six hundred and twelve hours, the period of six hundred and twelve hours shall thenceforth be deemed to bethe ‘ period of transit’ for each voyage from Brindisi to Adelaide, and each such voyage shall be completed within that period.
Proviso to article 6-
Leave -out the words “ failing mutual agreement, be determined by arbitration in the manner provided in the said general conditions of tender,” and insert in lieu thereof “be determined by mutual agreement, subject tothe approval of Parliament by resolution.”
Proviso to article 15 -
After the word “ legislation” insert “directly” ; after the words “with the consent of” insert “or subject to approval by,” and after “Parliament” insert “by resolution.”
Motion (by Senator Keating) agreed to -
That the report be agreed to, and that the resolution be conveyedby message to the Houseof Representatives, with a request for concurrence therein.
Senator PLAYFORD laid upon the table the following papers : -
The Financial Problems of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia. - Memorandum by the Honorable Robert Harper, M.P.
Royal Commission on Customs and Excise Tariffs : Section 36 of Progress Report No.2 - Spirits and Distillation of Spirits.
Report of the Departmental Actuary, Statistical Department of Western Australia, on the question of the distribution of the Commonwealth Revenueon a population basis.
Public Service Act1902. - Return of Temporary Employes in the Commonwealth Public Service during the Financial Year 1905-6.
Senate adjourned at 4.46 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 3 August 1906, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1906/19060803_senate_2_32/>.