2nd Parliament · 3rd Session
The President took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish, sir. to draw your attention to the following paragraph in the Melbourne Age of Saturday last on the state of the atmosphere in the chamber, more particularly in the press gallery.
Professor Osborne, of the Melbourne University, has verified completely the conjecture put forward in a paragraph published in the Age on 30th August, in which complaint was made ofthe state of the atmosphere in the press gallery in the Senate chamber at Federal Parliament House. Professor Osborne visited the chamber on Thursday last, and, making his way unostentatiously to the press gallery, he obtained samples of the atmosphere. The visit was paid at about10.20 p.m., and on completing his scientific tests Professor Osborne found that the sample contained carbon dioxide in the proportion of27.7 per 10,000. This is the most vitiated sample yet obtained by Professor Osborne, who in a lecture which he delivered a few days ago declared that if the percentage of this gas rose above 10 per 10,000 life could not be maintained at its best.
I desire to ask you, sir, if some action cannot be taken to improve the atmosphere in the press gallery, and also in this portion of the chamber, to which, I may add, Senator Pearce referred some time ago.
– Senator Pulsford drew my attention to the paragraph a few moments ago. It is perfectly easy to alter the state of affairs; but then, if we made an alteration, the probability is that at least one half, if not more than one half of the senators, would complain of draughts in the chamber. Suppose, for instance, that the curtains were removed and the side galleries opened, it. would give us an immense supply of air in the chamber. I understand that Professor Osborne made his test under very exceptional circumstances - when we were sitting until 3 o’clock in the morning.
– No, the sample was taken at 10.20 p.m.
– Of course, it is perfectly easy to alter the state of affairs, but the question is whether if an alteration were made it might not lead to draughts, which would be very objectionable to a great many senators. If the Senate expresses a wish to have the curtains removed and the side galleries opened, that can be done.
– The ventilators could be opened. They are closed at present
– I can have the ventilators opened if it is desired. I am only too happy to have anything done which the Senate may desire. In this matter of ventilation, it is very difficult to please everybody. Schemes have been tried all over the world, in all manner of chambers, and a satisfactory solution has not yet been arrived at. However, I shall have the curtains taken down if honorable senators so desire.
– Try the opening of the ventilators first.
– If the curtains were takendownit would only enlarge the space, and would not admit fresh air.
– Oh, yes it would.
– The doors are closed. I would suggest, sir, that in the first instance, an experiment be made to see if bad air cannot be let out through the ventilators.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear.
– That shall be done to start with.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence, without notice, the following questions: -
Will the Government have returns prepared and laid on the Table without any needless delay showing : - .
The increases and decreases of revenue expected to result from the proposed Tariff changes.
The basis of the preferential arrangements made by Canada, South Africa, and New Zealand respectively.
The amount of the imports that have paid duty under (1) the preferential rates, and under (2) the ordinary rates year by year in each of the three countries since preference was adopted, giving also the totals of dutiable imports for the three preceding years,
In the case of Canada, the imports subject to duty from the United Kingdom and the United States respectively foreach of the last ten years,
The percentage of theamount of the imports subject to preference as compared with the duty-paid goods not so favoured.
A division of the imports for 1905 of the articles now proposed for preference by the Commonwealth, showing in regard to each item the respective imports from - (1) the United Kingdom, (2) Canada, (3) India and other British Asiatic Possessions, (4) other British Possessions, (5) Japan and China, (6) United States, (7) all other foreign countries, (8) the totals.
The imports into the Commonwealth during 1905 which, under the suggested arrangement with New Zealand would be subjected to higher duties, showing separately the imports - (1) from the United Kingdom, (2) from other parts of the Empire, and (3) from foreign countries.
Any other information considered necessary to a full and correct understanding of the proposed agreement with New Zealand, and of the preference proposed to be given to the United Kingdom.
– Under ordinary circumstances I should be very pleased to tell the honorable senator that I would obtain the information for him, but I am not in a position to say whether it can be readily obtained, or whether it would entail a large expenditure to comply with his request. I think that he ought not to press for a reply at once, but should give notice of a motion for a return. We should then be in a position to see whether the return could be readily obtained, whether it would entail a large expenditure, whether we could agree to all the terms of the return, or whether we might wish to vary them.
– I can assure the Minister that the whole of this information can be obtained without incurring any expenditure.
– Under ordinary circumstances I am willing to take the assurance of the honorable senator, but in this matter I prefer to fake the assurance of my expert officers. I think that he had better give notice.
– I think that the information ought to be obtained in the form of a return. Of course, I do not give a ruling, but merely express my opinion. I cannot bear all the details in ray mind. Does the honorable senator give notice of a question, or a motion for a return.
– Will the Ministry accept the motion as formal if given notice of?
– No, I might want to speak upon it.
– The Minister will not oppose it?
– I might oppose part of it.
– I prefer to give notice of a question. I can assure the Senate that there will be no difficulty in obtaining the information - in fact, within half-an-hour I could give the Minister nearly all the information. I ask for.
– Then why ask for the information ?
– I Want the information to be given officially.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, without notice, the following questions : -
– The honorable senator asked these questions pursuant to notice on the 22 nd August, when I informed him that inquiries were being made, and that the information when forthcoming would be supplied to him. The Deputy Postmaster-General for Queensland has furnished the following answers : - 1 and 2. Owing to awkward running of trains sorters leave Toowoomba once a fortnight, on Thursday for Roma and back, travel continually 20 hours, and once a fortnight leaving Toowoomba on Friday they travel continuously 211/2 hours. Efforts have been made to reduce these long hours, but present sorters are opposed to any change in their running while existing railway time-table is maintained, as they state return trip from Roma on each occasion referred to admits of a little rest being taken, and on conclusion of Thursday’s trip they have four clear days off duty, while the intermediate trips always allow good rest at Roma and Toowoomba.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions is as follows : -
The matter has been forwarded for the consideration of the honorable the AttorneyGeneral.
We are not in a position to answer the questions straight away.
Punishment of a Witness.
SenatorPEARCE asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
Have the Government completed their inquiry into the case of James Stone, who, it is alleged, was discharged by the British Australasian Tobacco Company. Sydney, because of evidence given by him before the Royal Commission on Tobacco Mononoly?
If so, do the Government proposeto take any further steps in the matter?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions is as follows : -
Consideration of this matter has been delayed by urgent public business, but it is expected that definite information will be placed before the Senate in a few days.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions is as follows: -
No, but a telegram was received from the Collector of Customs, Fremantle, on the 3rd September, stating that the papers in the matter are still with the police authorities, and that exhaustive inquiries are being made. The Collector hopes to be able to forward the result of the inquiries this week.
When those are forthcoming we shall be only too pleased to give the honorable senator the information.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions is as follows : -
The mattes, is still under consideration. The officers of the Department have reported that if any trial be decided upon it will be more prudent that it be at a by-election than at the forthcoming general election, when the electors and the staff will have, on the one day, to deal with voting for candidates for the Senate, the House o£ Representatives, and possibly alterations of - the Constitution and a State referendum.
– The answer to the first question is that the matter is still under consideration, and I desire to know whether the Government will come to a conclusion, so as to give the Senate definite information, before the close of the session?
– The answer to my honorable friend’s inquiry is that the difficulties presented by the forthcoming general election are such that, in the opinion of the officers of the Department, a test could not properly be made, but I can assure him that there is every desire on its part to adopt the latest and most uptodate method with regard to the recording of votes. The reply indicates that, in the opinion of the officers, who are experienced in these matters - necessarily much more experienced than the Minister - a by-election rather than a general election, such as is before us, would afford the best opportunity for making a test. Any information which the honorable senator may require with regard to the matter, I shall be pleased to supply to him either in answer to a question or on representations which he may make either to me or to the Minister of Home Affairs. I can assure him that the Department is fully alive to the necessity of making the method of recording votes thoroughly uptodate.
Senator KEATING laid upon the table the following papers: -
Repeal of general postal regulation 1 (prepayment of postage), and substitution of new regulation ; and amendment of telegraphic regulations (telegrams within and beyond the Commonwealth), Statutory Rules 400, No. 62.
Amendment of telephone regulation 6 (private telephone lines in country districts), Statutory Rules 1906, No. 69.
The CLERK laid upon the table : -
Returns to orders of the Senate, dated 29th
August, relating to the O’Brien and Richmond cases, Administration of Papua.
Ordered to be printed.
Debate resumed from 31st August (vide page 3739) on motion by Senator Playford -
That the report be adopted.
– I move - ‘
That the Bill be recommitted for the reconsideration of clause I 7’ and sub-clause 2 of clause 18 ; and for the consideration of a new clause.
I do not think it necessary at this stage to speak to the motion.
– I second the motion for re-committal. When this order of the day was before, the Senate on Friday, I rose to speak ; but while I was addressing the Senate a point of order was raised by Senator Millen. Afterwards the adjournment of the debate was moved by
Senator Clemons. I had not finished what I desired to say at that time. Perhaps Senator Playford will indicate whether he is villing to consent to the recommittal of the Bill.
– It is merely a matter of convenience. Had the Bill gone into Committee again, I should have been able to speak upon the two principal subjects as to which I desire to see amendments made. As it is, I shall have to discuss the two matters together. What is now sub-clause 2 of clause 1 8 was amended at the instance of Senator Pearce. It was formerly sub-clause 3 of clause 18. It reads at present -
In determining whether the competition is unfair, regard shall be had to the management, the processes, the plant, and the machinery employed or adopted in the Australian industry affected by the competition being reasonably efficient, effective, and up-to-date.
Senator Millen expressed a desire that the Bill should be recommitted, in order that we might see how that sub-clause would read .as amended. As it stands now, I venture to say that it is not such a provision as ought to be passed by the Senate. Its grammatical construction is faulty; it is ambiguous ; and it is vague. Those are three defects which would be considerable in any Act of Parliament. Let honorable senators read it carefully.
In determining whether the competition is unfair regard shall be had to the management . . . being reasonably effective - and so on. That is not the best possible way to express the evident meaning. The provision is also ambiguous, inasmuch as it does not say, as it should do, what is to be the effect of the consideration upon the processes, plant, and machinery.
– It says “ regard shall be had.”
– It does not say whether the “ having regard “ to these matters is to result in a- more or less favorable consideration being given io the case. When the subject was first discussed, several honorable senators were under the impression that young industries that were struggling, and which consequently had less efficient machinery than well-established industries might be expected to have, would have greater consideration shown to them than the more highly developed industries. That is to say, it was understood by some that the owner of a business which was struggling along under difficulties through want of capital would receive more consideration than would the proprietor of a highly-capitalized factory. But we now have it from the Government that what the provision means really is that an industry that is struggling through want of capital, and inefficient plant and machinery, is to be actually handicapped under this Bill.
– It does not say that. It says that that shall not be the sole rea-v son.
– But what does it mean? We have been discussing the Bill up to the present time on the understanding that what it meant was that help was not extended to a factory unless its processes, plant, and machinery were efficient and uptodate. If it does not mean that, let its meaning be clearly expressed. Let there be no doubt about it. The ambiguity that I complain about is that the sub-clause does not state whether the inefficient machinery is to be the only matter dealt with.
– We have similar words in clause 10 ; why did not the honorable senator object to them ?
– That clause may have slipped through when I was not watching the Bill so closely. But it does riot justify our leaving sub-clause 2 of clause 18 in its present condition.
– We can recommit clause 10, also.
– I draw attention to this sub-clause, because it throws a flood of light upon clause 17. It is, I repeat, ambiguous in that it says that regard is to be had to certain things, whilst it does not say that having regard to those things is to secure more or less favorable consideration. It is terribly vague. The word “ reasonably “ has been inserted - a very comforting sort of word for weak consciences; because in its present form the clause satisfies some honorable senators, perhaps, that it cannot be pushed quite so far as it could have been pushed originally. But it is left entirely for the Court to determine what “ reasonably “ means; and there is not a more dangerous practice than to put words like that into Acts of Parliament, leaving it for the Court to construe them. In every case, the Court will have to construe the word “ reasonably “ with the probability that in no two cases will the same meaning be attached to it. There are, therefore, three faults which justify my action. The sub-clause is ambiguous; it is vague in regard to conveying exactly what is intended, and it is ungrammatical. As I said before, it is not a right thing that the efficiency pf the machinery, the plant, and the processes should be the sole test. We can .easily understand cases in which a young industry struggling with difficulties, if it complied with all the requirements of this Bill, and could show that it was being crushed by unfair competition on the part of importers, would afford a case in which it would be far more justifiable to exercise the pow’ers contained in the Bill than it would be to use them for the benefit of an industry that was fully equipped and up-to-date. We can imagine such a case, at all events. I should be in favour of striking the sub clause out. It has got in, I feel perfectlysure, through a misapprehension. The Government has not before dealt with a Bill of this character prohibiting imports. It contains a principle that is very good when applied to protective duties which operate fairly all round, and give just as much benefit to the small as to the big producer. The correct principle with regard to import duties is that they shall operate to protect an industry as long as it is carried on by efficient methods, but that competition shall not be prevented if there is any slackness with regard to machinery, processes, or management. Such duties do not amount to prohibition. But this provision can only operate for the benefit of the big manufacturer, and not of the small man. Therefore. I urge that this test of efficiency and up-to-dateness in machinery, plant, and app.lia.nces should not be the test in this case. Clause 17 is closely connected with the provision which I have been discussing. It may be, perhaps, that in consequence of my action, the Senate did not ha.ve an opportunity to vote in favour of any modification of the clause. Perhaps I was over sanguine, when. I pointed out the objections to it, in thinking that honorable senators would be willing to reject the whole clause. Therefore. I devoted mv efforts to defeating it. The consequence was that, after a vote had been taken upon the clause as a whole, it was impossible to move any amendment. What I now desire is that the Senate shall recommit the clause, in order that an amendment mav be proposed in it. At present it reads: -
Unfair competition has in all cases reference to competition with those Australian industries the preservation of which, in the opinion of the Comptroller-General or a Justice, as the case may be, is advantageous to the Commonwealth, having due regard to the interests of produced, workers, and consumers.
The amendment that I propose to move in Committee is to omit the words “Comptroller-General or” and the words “as the case may be.” The clause would then give power to a Justice of the High Court to say that an industry which made an application for assistance was not worth preserving, but it would take away that power from the Comptroller-General. This, I think, would be a very fair compromise. When we speak of the Comptroller-General we do not refer to ai particular person, but merely to the principal officer of the Customs Department ; and I say that it would be almost an unheard-of thing to give such a power to the Comptroller-General. According to clause 16, an industry is not an industry within the meaning of the Bill unless it pays adequate remuneration and complies with the provisions regarding fair terms and conditions. Honorable senators may remember the agitation started by a. certain newspaper in Melbourne on behalf of what were called “ strangled industries.” That newspaper sent out its young men to ask manufacturers whether they did not require some more protection. Not only were the big manufacturers in Collins-street interviewed, but also the smaller men in the back streets and suburbs; and the latter certainly did not imagine, when they were supplying, the information, that they would be placed in the position in which this Bill places them. The smaller manufacturers did not imagine that if they went to the ComptrollerGeneral with a” compaint that they were being crushed out ‘by foreign competition, thev would be told that the Commonwealth law was not for such as they - that if thev could not stand against foreign competition they must go down. It was never imagined that the ComptrollerGeneral would have power to say, “ You go away and economize; cut down your wages and employ five apprentices for every man ; enter into combination and crush out your rivals ; and when you have established a big business, and, by means of up-to-date plant and machinery, have strangled your rivals, and have set up a palace in Collinsstreet, with plate-glass windows, and you are making ^20,000 a year, you may come to us, and we will help you to estabish a monopoly.”
– The honorable senator exaggerates capitally !
– That is what will happen if we give this power to the ComptrollerGeneral to act on what is necessarily incomplete evidence. I should have liked to strike out the clause; but the amendment which I now suggest would leave this enormous power with the Justice, while removing it from the Comptroller-General. In a Bill of this kind we should certainly not give the 1,0wei to an officer of the Customs to check any application from an industry which has been described as being “ strangled.”
– Would it not be enormously expensive to take every case to the High Court?
– It would have to be proved that the applicant represented an industry which was paying fair remuneration and observing proper terms and conditions, and that the industry was in danger of being destroyed bv unfair competition. According to clause 18, it would have to be shown that the industry was being crushed by unfair foreign competition. Why, then, should the representative of such an industry be prevented from going before a Justice of the High, Court? Why should all the powers to prohibit imports be reserved for cases of big businesses, which have been built up, perhaps, by the destruction of rivals, and have arrived at a stage when they are able, at all events, to make a bid for a monopoly? The peculiar thing about the Bill is that it is absolutely opposed, in substance, to what it pretends to be. The title of this Bill describes it as one to repress monopolies, whereas in reality it is a Bill to create and maintain monopolies. It is called a Bill for the Preservation of Australian Industries ; but we find that it is a Bil] to preserve only certain industries which the Comptroller-General is prepared to certify are worth preserving. I trust that the Senate will allow the recommittal of the Bill, in, order that we may reconsider this clause. I should like to remind honorable senators that when the Watson Government went out of power, the great complaint was that the majority in another place would not allow the Arbitration and Conciliation Bill to be recommitted for the purpose of reconsidering a clause. But the case for recommittal on that occasion was not nearly so strong as the case we have before us to-dar. Clause 48 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Bill had been thoroughly discussed, and the majority were not prepared to state the exact alteration that they desired; the real object was to put the Bill into the melting pot, in order to see in what form it would emerge. I ask honorable senators to recommit this Bill, iri’ order to consider an amendment of a clause which was decided upon, on a division, before an amendment had been moved. I have been informed that if an amendment had been proposed, it would have obtained more support than I was able to get for the striking out of the clause. I ask honorable senators to recommit the Bill in the interests of those smaller industries, which, in consequence of want of capital, are in more urgent need of help. There is another ground for a recommittal that has occurred to me more recently - certainly since we finished the consideration of tine Bill in Committee. We have had laid on the table since then a preferential trade treaty with new Zealand, and also a statement of a new scale of duties with regard to our trade with Great Britain and the world. I know that I must not anticipate discussion on those proposals, and that I can only refer to them in order to show how closely they are connected with the measure before us. In the case of New Zealand, we have actually entered into a preferential trade treaty, and the duties are now being collected. Under that treaty, we agree to a certain scale of duties on goods as between the two places. I have no doubt that it has already struck the Government that one of the effects of a trade treaty is that we. to a certain extent, stereotype our duties. After we have made a treaty in regard to the duty on a certain article, Parliament is not free to alter that duty during the currency of the treaty. That is a good reason, perhaps, why, if more of our duties were fixed by treaty-
– Have those treaties been ratified by either House of Parliament ?
– The treaty power lies with the Executive, which makes the treaty. I may say, in regard to the agreement with Great Britain, that that does not occupy the same position exactly as the treaty with New Zealand. In the case of Great Britain, we are getting no consideration for the treaty, and, consequently, it is open to us at any time to go back from the offer we have made.
Still, I think most of us will agree that we should consider ourselves bound not to do anything in derogation of the offer we have made. In the case of New Zealand, however, we have made a treaty that, from a certain date, goods from that Colony shall be received at a certain rate of duty ; and it must be clear that, without breaking the treaty, we could not raise those duties in the slightest degree against New Zealand. Is is not a clear a fortiori that we could not prohibit those New Zealand goods - that we could not prevent them coming in at the rates of duty decided upon ? It is clear that in passing this Bill, which gives power to the Executive to refuse to receive certain goods even when they pay the fixed rate of duty, we are making a Jaw with provisions in derogation of the treaty. We have made a bargain with New Zealand that on condition they receive certain of our goods at certain rates of duty, we shall receive certain of their goods at certain rates of duty.
– If we receive them at all.
– No, not “ if we receive them at all.” Such a condition as that has never been put in an agreement of the kind, nor ever will be; it would be absurd. Fancy a nation starting, out to make a treaty and-
– Does the honorable senator say that, if we had a treaty with New Zealand in which opium was included, and we adopted as a general policy the exclusion of opium, we should be compelled to receive opium under the treaty ?
– We could not alter the law without breaking the treaty. India is the country which produces opium, and, if we had a trade agreement with that country, under which we undertook to receive opium without charging a dutv, on condition that India freely admitted certain of our goods, we could not, during the currency of that treaty or agreement, impose a duty on opium. And’ if we could not impose a duty, we certainly could not prohibit the importation of opium without a breach of agreement. Senator Trenwith must know what is involved in a treaty. By a treaty we bind ourselves absolutely to do certain things; and, if under a treaty with New Zealand the dutv on a certain article were 3s., we could not. without breaking the agreement, impose a dutv of 3s. fd. If that be so, how much less would we be in a position to prohibit the importation of an article. I desire that honorable senators should see how flagrant a breach Of the treaty that would be. In the case of Great Britain we have not made a treaty, but an offer to grant certain preferences, and apparently we can withdraw our offer next week if we like. We are saying to the manufacturers and exporters of Great Britain, “ You send out certain goods, and we will admit them at a duty of 2s., whilst we will charge 3s. to manufacturers and exporters from all other countries of the world.” Australian importers who may previously have been doing business with foreign countries may transfer their orders to Great Britain. An Australian importer, in anticipation of a big trade, may place a large order with a British manufacturer or exporter, and on getting the goods here he may sell them cheaply on the local market. A local manufacturer producing the same article may complain to the Comptroller-General that his industry is being crushed by this foreign competition, and if he makes out a good case the Government who have made the treaty with Great Britain will prohibit the landing of the goods. The subject of the nation with whom we have made the treaty may be perfectly innocent of what is intended to be done on this side, and yet because the goods he is sending out are being sold here cheaply contrary to the policy of this maker, he may get a telegram telling him not to proceed with the order because the importation of his goods is prohibited in Australia. In the meantime, another local importer importing the same goods from a foreign country, and selling them without any reduction in price, is permitted to continue his business, and the manufacturer or exporter in the foreign country with whom we have no treaty is allowed to continue his operations.
– Because he is not dumping.
– Whilst the Australian Government prohibit the importation of goods exported by the subject of the favored nation.
– Because by that importation the Australian law is being broken.
– No such law may have existed at the time.
– There will be such’ a law.
– I direct the attention of honorable senators to the morality of Senator McGregor’s interjection. There is r.o such law at the time the treaty is made, and the honorable senator says - “ We will make a law to-morrow.”
– The treaty has not been assented to by Great Britain.
– So we are in a position to break it? We can offer .something this week, and withdraw our offer next week ?
– Great Britain has not yet accepted our offer.
– Is not this a deplorable beginning in setting out as a treaty-making nation? We start by saying, “We shall make a treat)’ this week, and if we please will break it next week.” What reliance could be placed on a Government that would make a treaty with a reservation in the terms of Senator McGregor’s interjection, “ We can make a law to override the treaty to-morrow”? It will be a very bad thing for us if it goes forth to the world that our Administrators are prepared to make treaties this week, and to pass laws to evade them next week. I said that I would come back to the point about an offence being committed here as the result of which the subject of a nation with whom we have made a treaty will lose the advantage of that treaty.
– The honorable senator does not describe the Government proposals with regard to Great Britain as a treaty?
– No ; I have. said that they do not constitute a treaty, but as an honorable Parliament and Government those proposals should be as binding upon us as if they did constitute a treaty. Under this Bill, apparently, we shall be justified in breaking the treaty actually made with New Zealand.
– That is a different thing.
– People are differently constituted, and. to my mind, it is on exactly the same plane. The one is a treaty, and’ the other is an offer of preferential trade without’ any consideration. In respect of the latter, at all events, we have claimed, in the eyes of the world, as much credit for’ it as if it had been a treaty. Every lawyer is aware that an agreement is not binding if it is made without consideration, but a man who received the benefit of such an agreement and evaded it would consider himself a very mean creature if he set up the defence that it was made without consideration.
– There must be two parties to an agreement, and in the case of the proposal with respect to the United Kingdom there is only one.
– Yes; but we have made an offer, and if Great Britain gave us anything at all in return it would be binding.
– We have made no offer at all. We have simply done something ourselves, without any offer from Great Britain.
– We have done something ourselves, and have talked to the world about it as though we had concluded a preferential treaty.
– I thought the honorable isenator was in favour of it ?
– I was, and I am in favour of it now; but I am absolutely against this Bill, which is in derogation of that policy. We are taking the right, under this Bill, to prohibit the importation of goods we have agreed to admit at a certain duty.
– We are taking the right to prohibit their importation if they are imported under improper conditions.
– When the honorable senator refers to “ improper conditions,” I might quote from a magazine article just published with regard to the Sherman law to show that some of these trade agreements are quite right, whilst others may be wrong ; but, under this Bill, we bunch them all together, and assume that they are all criminal. That, however, is by the way. I moved an amendment in clause 19, which, I think. Senator Pearce described as “ frivolous.” The honorable senator might, I think, have attached to it almost any other epithet but that. If he intended to convey that the Government, having their majority, were not prepared to listen to reason, the honorable senator might have described the moving, of my amendment as a waste of time, but certainly not as frivolous. Under this Bill an offence may be committed by a single person, and probably by a person, operating in Australia. I desire to amend that to provide that no offence should be assumed to have been committed unless there was proof of a combination. Having regard to the apparent scope of the Bill I thought that it was meant to deal particularly with combinations, and amongst others, with a combination of a merchant or importer here and a merchant or manufacturer in another country with the object of flooding the local market. My amendment was rejected, and under the Bill as it stands an offence might be committed solely by some person in Australia. I commend that to the attention of Senator Trenwith. We make an agreement with another nation that we will admit goods produced by the subjects of that nation at a certain rate of duty. We continue to do so for a time. Some one in Australia orders goods . from the favoured country, and the manufacturer or exporter there from whom the goods are ordered knows nothing whatever about what the local importer intends to do with the goods. When the goods are landed in Australia the local importer sells them cheaply, contrary to the policy of this Bill, and, as a consequence, their importation is prohibited. We refuse to take the goods exported by the subject of the favoured nation because of some offence against our law committed by a local importer. Could Senator Trenwith justify that?
– We refuse to take those goods through an offender against our laws, but the exporter may continue to send his goods through any one else.
– But, in the . meantime, the importation of the goods is prohibited, and the business of the man sending them out may be ruined.
– We prevent the man here who has offended against our law from continuing to import the goods, but the man on the other side is not prevented from continuing to export his goods to Australia.
– The admission of the goods is prohibited here, and the man sending them gets a cable from Australia to say that his goods are prohibited. Some manufacturer in Australia, who may previously have been getting his goods from Germany or the United States, transfers his orders to Great Britain, because of the preferential duties offered to British exporters. He may place a large order with a British manufacturer for shipment after shipment of his goods covering a period of six or twelve months. The British manufacturer may be perfectly innocent of all knowledge as to what the local importer intends to do with the goods. When the local importergets the goods here, he commences to sell them cheaply. A local manufacturer of similar goods complains to the Comptroller-General that the local importer is importing these goods from abroad and selling them too cheaply.
– The honorable senator knows that selling, the goods too cheaply is not the offence. It is selling them with the intent to destroy the Australian industry that is the offence.
– Selling them at a price greatly below their ordinary cost of production is the offence, and if they are sold in Australia at a price which does not give the person importing and selling them a fair profit on their fair foreign market value it is also an offence.
– The honorable senator is assuming legitimate trade, but what he refers to now is illegitimate trade.
– I shall assume illegitimate trade if the honorable senator pleases. Because of these preferential proposals a local merchant previously doing business with the United States manufacturers sends a large order for goods to a British manufacturer, he accepts the British manufacturer’s prices, and when he gets the goods here, sells them at a lower price. That is an offence against this Bill.
– Not unless the manufacturer sells the goods at a price less than the cost of production.
– There is nothing in the clause to which I refer about the cost of production. The manufacturer can sell his goods at any price he pleases. Surely it would not be an offence for 3 British manufacturer to sell his goods cheaply to a local importer? How can the priceat which a manufacturer on the other side of the world sells his goods to a local importer injure the local industry for the production of those goods? How can the local industry be interfered with in any way other than by the price at which the goods aresold here. To continue my illustration, a local importer places an order with a British manufacturer for goods to be sent out month after month for a period of six or twelve months. He sells those goods in the local market at a certain price. A local manufacturer complains, and if his complaint is held to be good the importation of the goods is stooped at the Customs House.
– Even under a treaty.
– Even under a treaty, and although no offence whatever may have been committed by the subject of the favoured nation with whom we have made the treaty. Because goods are sold cheaply by a local importer, a cablegram is sent home to the British manufacturer telling him to cease sending out his goods, as. their admission to Australia is prohibited. What will the people of Great Britain think of us?
– We have not made any treaty with them yet. The honorable senator’-s arguments are merely assumptions.
– If the proposed new scale of duties is not as good as. a treaty, I should like to know what justification the Government have for taking credit to themselves as though it were. They have tabled a new scale of duties giving a preference to British goods, and ostensibly intended to accord preferential treatment to British manufacturers, and at the same time they are prepared to pass this legislation which is in derogation of those preferential proposals - legislation which will deprive the people or the nation with whom we are making a treaty of all the benefits that might be expected to arise from them.
– We are making no treaty with the United Kingdom.
– Would the Minister like this statement to go forth to the world : “ We are not making any treaty with Great Britain. They are not going to get any preferential treaty with us- “
– I did not say that.
– We are going to lay on the table of the House another list of duties, and commence to collect those duties from to-day, but we reserve to ourselves the power at any time to raise them?” What would be the use of that? Surely if it is an offer it is one that is meant to be permanent.
– For ever?
– It may be open to reconsideration, but I should think that an ordinary Government, when it made a proposal of that kind, would look a week ahead.
– The new scale o£ duties should operate until it is repealed or amended.
– Certainly. I should think that the Government would not knowingly agree to pass a Bill containing provisions in derogation of a treaty which they have already made, or in derogation of the preferential treatment which they have offered to accord to Great Britain. I anticipated that the Government would be pleased to embrace the opportunity to put in an amendment of this kind. I can hardly think it possible that, with their eyes open, they will pass a Bill of this kind without inserting an amendment which would make it perfectly clear that the treaty and the proposals it contains would not be injuriously affected thereby. I am not wedded to the exact wording of the new clause I propose to move, but I think that it should read in this way -
The provisions of this part of this Act shall not apply to the importation of goods which are subject to a differential rate of duty.
– I think that Senator Drake has made out a very good case. If in Committee he could not substantiate his statements!, then no harm would be done, but they appear to me to be so forcible that I would ask the Government to give way. In either case, not much time would be wasted.
– - I only wish to say that, with the exception of the last point which has been taken by Senator Drake, I have heard his arguments over and over again, until I am sick and tired of hearing them, and, therefore, we do not propose to agree to his request.
– What do we sit here for?
– I do not know that we sit here to listen to unnecessary repetition.
– There has been no repetition. This is quite a new feature in the discussion on the Bill.
– We have had a free and fair discussion. A necessary amount of repetition can be passed over, but the measure has been thoroughly threshed out, and in speaking at great length on the question of recommittal - which, of course, he was entitled to do - Senator Drake appears to me to be wasting time to a very considerable extent.
– The Minister had no right to say that he was “ sick and tired “ of hearing the arguments.
- Senator Drake has referred to the preference which the Government propose to give to British goods over foreign goods, and also to the treaty which we have entered into with New Zealand. Of course, he fought shy of the treaty with New Zealand, because he could nor connect it in .any way with the Bill.
– Evidently I did not talk long enough.
– The honorable senator put supposititious cases. His contentions all rested on the word “if.” “If,” he said, “a treaty were made a certain result would follow.” I contend that no such result would necessarily follow.
– Have not the Government induced him to believe that a treaty will be made with Great Britain?
– No. Not at the present time.
– Have the Government merely advertised themselves?
– Exactly as Canada has advertised herself for a great many years. I think that without asking for a quid pro quo, we have sufficient love of the mother country to do as our sister Canada has done, and say, “ Where you and foreigners, who set up hostile Tariffs against us, come into competition in our markets, we shall give you a preference over the foreigners and ask for nothing in return.”
– Is that the measure of our affection?
– We are perfectly justified in taking that course. So far as I can see, we are not asking for or proposing a treaty with Great Britain. I anticipate that Great Britain will alter her policy so far as free-trade is concerned, and that if by-and-by she should, give us a first preference it would be a matter of treaty. At the present time, however, we are not asking her to give us any preference. We are giving a preference to her out of real good-will - out of what we’ might call our love and affection for the mother country.
– That is the measure of it?
– Whether that is the .measure of it or not it is not a bad one. It is a very good preference. It is contended that if we entered into a treaty certain things would happen-.. I contend that Senator Drake’s anticipations will not be realized unless there should come from the mother country goods with the intention of destroying an Australian industry in an, unfair way. Surely the Government with which we had a treaty would not deny to us the right to prevent an injury to our own manufactures attempted in an unfair way !
– Even under a treaty.
– Even under a treaty. The treaty will not be made until the Bill is placed upon the statute-book, and then everybody will know all about its provision.
– The treaty with New Zealand has been made.
– We had many supposititious cases argued in Committee, and now we have had a number of them put to the Senate itself. Senator Millen, for instance, put a supposititious case so plausibly thai I could not see the answer for the moment. It had reference to the following new paragraph, which, at the instance of Senator Best, was inserted in clause 6.
If the defendant, with respect to any goods or services which are the subject of the competition, gives, offers, or promises to any person any rebate, refund, discount, or reward upon condition that that person deals, or in consideration of that person having dealt, with the defendant to the exclusion of other persons dealing in similar goods or services.
Senator Millen said that he knew of a case where a gentleman had made an offer to a number of dairy farmers in a district that if they would agree for a period to sell all their milk to him to the exclusion of everybody else he would build them a creamery - I do not know what the condition as to price was - and help their industry. He contended that that person would come under the operation of the new paragraph. Senator Best pooh-poohed the contention. I, as a layman, could not see the answer to the proposition, exactly ; but I promised to refer the point to the draftsman of the Bill, and, if necessary, to the Attorney-General. I had the facts of the case laid before the AttorneyGeneral, and I have his opinion, in his own handwriting, as follows -
In the opinion of the Attorney-General, the amendment could have no application to the class of cases mentioned by Senator Millen.
In a similar way, we could dispose of almost all the supposititious cases. It has been argued dozens and dozens of times that such and such would be the effect if the Bill were passed, when it would not have that effect at all, It has been pure imagination on the part of honorable senators. Senator Drake has allowed his imagination to run riot, and the cases upon which he has laid so much strength, and spoken with so much earnestness, will not- occur. The Government must oppose the recommittal of the measure.
– Senator Drake has occupied a considerable space of time to-day, as he was entitled to do; but bis statements reT garding the amendment which he desires to submit in Committee were of a very peculiar character. He said, first, that the clause was ambiguous, and then that it was had grammar. Would the omission of the words “ Comptroller-General “ make the clause less ambiguous, or mend the bad grammar? It is inconsistent on the part of the honorable senator to try to make the Senate believe that this, that, or the other is wrong - to propose to cure the wrong, and then to indicate an amendment which would not have the slightest effect in that direction.
– The honorable senator is talking about two matters. I said that one clause was ambiguous, and I proposed to move an amendment in another clause.
-Does any other senator desire to speak?
– Mr. President-
– The honorable senator cannot speak again.
– Have I not the right of reply?
– The motion for the adoption of the report was moved by the Minister of Defence, and an amendment has been moved.
– I wish to speak to a point of order, and I presume that, before the question is put, I may do so.
– Very well.
– I rise to point out that I moved a motion-
– No; the Minister moved the motion.
– Pardon me, sir.
– I talked over this very point with the clerks, and, perhaps, the honorable senator will allow me to refer to the standing order.
– Iwill allow you, sir, if you like; but, still, I am going to submit a point of order.
– The honorable senator will see that I have put the motion, and that it has now become a substantive question.
– I merely moved that the Bill be recommitted, and did not move an amendment. I submit, therefore, that I have the ordinary right of reply.
– I was first of opinion that the honorable senator’s contention was correct, and I was going to put this as a motion; but it was pointed out to me by the clerks that there was a motion already before the Senate. Standing order 205 contemplates that, before the motion to adopt the report is put, an honorable senator may move for a recommittal of the Bill, and then it becomes the question. It must be understood that this debate was adjourned from last Friday until to-day. It has been moved and seconded that the report be agreed to. That has been put by me from the Chair, and has become a substantive question. It has passed out of the application of standing order 205. When there is a question before the Senate, and an honorable senator wishes to alter the question, he must move an amendment, and I shall put the proposal of the honorable senator as an amendment. If the honorable senator, before I put the question, “ That the debate be adjourned,” had moved “ That the Bill be recommitted,” it would have been an original motion, and the motion that was proposed by the Minister of Defence would not have been a question, at all. That is the difference. I did not see the point myself at first, but my attention was called to it by the clerks, and I think that they are right.
– It is rather a difficult question, but I have asked you to recall the circumstances under which this matter came before us. I think that you, or any other honorable senator who was present, will agree that there was no motion for the adoption of the report.
– Yes, I moved the adoption of the report.
– I say distinctly that there was no such motion. I wish to remind you of what happened. The moment Senator Playford rose to move the adoption of the report a point of order was taken whether that motion could be moved under the circumstances. That point of order was debated by several honorable senators. You yourself suggested a way out of the difficulty we had got into, and the debate was adjourned. Perhaps it was adjourned without due regularity, but I am perfectly certain that no motion was made by the Minister.
– Yes; I certainly moved that the report be adopted.
– I am bound by the records, and they show that Senator Clemons is incorrect.
– I hope that you will allow me to appeal to your recollection.
– I have no recollection on the matter.
– May I remind you ?
– Here are the records, and they show that the Minister of Defence moved that the report be adopted. Another motion, that the debate be adjourned, was afterwards moved. I have no recollection: myself, and I must be bound by the records as taken down by the clerks.
– Senator Clemons’ statement proves the records to be accurate.
– I take no notice of a ridiculous interjection by a senator who is seldom present.
– The records show that the motion of the Minister of Defence was moved, and put to the Senate, and that the debate was adjourned. The debate could not have been adjourned if the motion had not been put.
– I ask you not to give a ruling until you have heard my version of the facts. I submit for your consideration that the moment Senator Playford rose, at the last sitting of the Senate, to move the adoption of the report upon this Bill, a point of order was taken. No one seconded the motion. It was never put to the Senate, for the reason that the point of order raised bv Senator Millen led to the ruling that the business could not be gone on with.
– The point of order was afterwards withdrawn.
– On that point of order being raised by Senator Millen, the Senate found itself in a difficulty, and the President said ihat he could see only one way out of it, and that was for some one to move the adjournment of the debate.
– But two or three honorable senators had spoken before then.
– If there was a motion, before the Chair this afternoon, howcould you have allowed me to move my motion for the recommittal of the Bill?
– It was an amendment that the honorable senator moved. ‘ I put it as an amendment.
– I did not move it as an amendment. This is what happened : I Moved a recommittal motion and sat down, because I relied upon my right to reply in the ordinary way. I will admit at once that if you, sir, put my proposal as an amendment, that disposes of my right of reply.
– That is so.
– I think, nevertheless, that I might be allowed the opportunity to speak.
– I have to administer the Standing Orders.
– I did not submit my proposal as an amendment, but as a motion. I understood that it was accepted as such. A modification was, however, made, after I sat down. The consequence is that under your ruling I have- nc right of reply, as I should have had if my proposal had been put as it was originally moved as a motion.
– I must administer the Standing Orders as I find them. My own recollection as to what happened oil Friday is not very clear, but my belief is that Senator Playford moved that the report be adopted. I see from the Hansard record that three honorable senators spoke after that. They could not have spoken unless there was a motion before the Senate. Subsequently Senator Clemons moved that the debate be adjourned. Now it comes before us as an adjourned debate.
– I admit all that.
– After a motion has been put, and become a question, no proposition can be made for the recommittal of a Bill, except as an amendment.
– Before you give your ruling, sir, may I say a word or two ?
– I have given my ruling. I cannot go back upon the records of the Senate and upon the Standing Orders.
– I desire to speak on a point of order.
– I have given my ruling, and I cannot see that I can alter it.
– I am simply asking you, sir, to allow me to say a word or two.
– Why does the honorable senator wish to speak?
– I have endeavoured several times to speak on a point of order.
– I really do not wish to shut out any honorable senator, though I do not see that there is the slightest necessity for more to be said.
– The facts in dispute are fully known to me. My honorable friend the Minister of Defence on Friday moved the adoption of the report, and I have no doubt that the motion was seconded. I rose immediately afterwards in order to speak, and for the purpose of moving the recommittal of the Bill. I then drew attention to the fact that we had not printed copies of the Bill before us.
– Several honorable senators spoke before Senator Drake did.
– A debate took place on the motion for the adoption of the report. That debate could not have taken place unless there had been a motion before the Senate.
– I admit all that, but still I consider that I was in possession of the chair ; and I only sat down in consequence of Senator Millen rising on a point of order. After that Senator Clemons moved the adjournment of the debate. Senator Clemons moved the recommittal in the belief that it would be a motion, and that he would have an opportunity to speak upon it. I think that the Senate should hear him.
-The honorable senator is mistaken as to the facts. Several senators spoke before he did on Friday. Senator Clemons has no right to reply.
– May I ask for your direction on a point?
– There is no point of order before the Senate.
-I wish to ask whether I should be in order in moving that Senator Clemons be heard ? I think he should have a right to speak.
– No. The Standing Orders are clear. Of course, if the Senate likes to suspend the standing order to give Senator Clemons the right to reply, that can be done. The question now is -
That all the words after “the” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “Bill be recommitted for the reconsideration of clause 17 and sub-clause 2 of clause 18; and for the consideration of a new clause.”
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 30th August (vide page 3752), on motion by Senator Keating -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The point to be considered, in connexion with this Bill, is the convenience of electors., I do not think that the convenience of members or candidates would justify such an important action as the alteration of the Constitution. It seems to me that we ought to satisfy ourselves that the Bill is required in order to obtain better results in the electorates - that is, a larger number of voters at each election. Taking the results of the last two elections, we cannot feel satisfied that the percentage of voters will go to the polls at future elections that we should like to see.
– We ought to have compulsory voting.
-I do not know that compulsory voting would do much good. Even if we had compulsory voting, we ought to take into consideration whether the, elections are held at the most convenient time of the year for the great bulk of the electors. If we compel the electors to leave their work for the purpose of voting, it should be at a time when their doing so will result in the least inconvenience and loss to them, so that whether we believe in compulsory voting or not does not affect the issue. I have here a return given me by the electoral authorities, showing the percentage of voters on the rolls who voted at the first and second Federal elections. In 1901, taking the two Houses together, 54-35 per cent, of the electors on the rolls voted.
– That election was in March.
– At the last Federal elections, which, were held on 16th December, the percentage of voters on the roll who voted for the Senate was 46.86, or near 1 - 47 per cent. ; and 50.20 per cent, for the House of Representatives. Taking the two Houses together, on that occasion the percentage was about 49 per cent., as against 54J per cent., or thereabouts, in 1 901. These figures indicate that March is certainly a more convenient time of the year for the large percentage of voters.
– In what part of Austrafia is March the best time?
– Let us take, for instance. Oueensland.
– The elections need not be in March, but mav be in April or May.
– All I say is that the figures seem to indicate that March is a more convenient time than December.
– If a larger percentage voted next December, would that alter the opinion of the honorable senator?
– We have to consider the enthusiasm at the first elections.
– The figures I have quoted are the only data we have. We do not desire to form our opinions on what might have been, but on what actually occurred.
– Does the honorable senator not make any allowance for cleaner rolls on the second occasion?
– It has to be remembered that in Western Australia a number of people were off the rolls who ought to have been on them. If we compare the rolls for the two elections, it will be found that there were as’ many influences at work to keep people off the rolls at “the second election as at the first.
– Has the honorable senator got the number of those who voted at the two elections?
– Yes, but it has to be remembered that, at the second election, there was female suffrage in four of the States.
– That would bring the percentage down a lot.
– I shall give the figures. The number of voters enrolled for the first election was 974,594, and of that number 529,704 voted. On that occasion there was female suffrage in only two of the States. At the second election, there were 1,893,586 electors enrolled for the Senate, of whom 887,312 voted; while for the House of Representatives there were 1,470,902 voters enrolled, ©f whom 739,402 voted.
– For districts in which contests were held ?
– Yes, and that accounts for the discrepancy between the rolls for the Senate and the House of Representatives. There is the significant feature that, at the first election, all the seats for the House of Representatives were contested, whereas at the second election a number were not contested ; and that might have some effect in lowering the average.
– I think it would be the other way about.
– I do not think so.
– That would not apply to the percentage, which is based on the figures where there were contests.
– The percentage for the Senate election is based on the whole State ; and, therefore, it is better and safer for the purposes of comparison to take the figures for the House of Representatives alone for the second election, and the figures for the two Houses together for the first election.
– The fact that some constituencies were contested did not have the effect which the honorable senator imagines.
– I think that clear proof of the correctness of my view may be found in the case of Western Australia. In that State, at the last Federal election, there was a contest in every division but that of Swan, and there the percentage for the Senate was as low as. 2 7 per cent., whereas in the other electorates, where there were contests, the percentage was as high as 40 per cent. I think a fair comparison is to take the figures for the House of Representatives for the last election, and compare them with the figures for the two Chambers at the first election, when we have the result that at the last election for the House of Representatives, the percentage of voters was 50 per cent, as compared with 54 per cent, at the first election. It will be seen, therefore, that when the elections were held in March, 4 per cent, more voters polled than when the elections were held in December.
– In Western Australia alone?
– No ; over the whole Commonwealth.
– That does not show that the time of year - March or December - made all the difference.
– I think it is a fair inference.
– There may have been a * hundred and one other contributing causes.
– I think I have allowed for the contributing causes in leaving the Senate out of the calculation for the second election. Taking all the facts into consideration, I think I have applied a fair test in order to ascertain which is the best month for the great majority of the people of Australia, though not, perhaps, for the people of one State.
– Will the honorable senator give the figures for Queensland? Would not December be more convenient than March in that State?
– At the first elections, which were held in March, the percentage of voters who polled in Queensland was 48.82 per cent., whereas when the elections were held in December the percentage was 57.3 per cent.
– That assists Senator Pearce’s argument.
– I think it altogether breaks up the honorable senator’s argument.
– The figures I have given were for the House of Representatives ; the percentage for the Senate was 54.83 per cent. In a matter of this kind we ought to study the convenience of the bulk of the electors of the whole Commonwealth. If we are to have the elections at a time to suit one State, it becomes a question of which State - the largest or the smallest ?
– Not at all ; the elections could be held at different times.
– That is so; there is nothing in the Bill to prevent the elections being held at different times.
– Then why alter the Constitution ?
– In order to make it possible to have the elections for the two Houses at the one time. I think the figures I have quoted show that some month nearer the time suggested in the Bill would be preferable to the dates hitherto selected for the elections. Any one who knows the state of ‘affairs in the southern States of Australia can have no possible doubt on the question. I have looked up the figures for what are largely the farming States - South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales - and, especially in the two former, I find that, when the elections were held in December, there was a large percentage of votes cast in the metropolitan areas, and a small percentage in the rural districts. We know, of course, that the reason is supplied in the fact that December is the harvest time, when farmers are very busy, and an idle day may mean a considerable loss. That is a very good reason why the elections should be held either before or after the harvest.
– That was not the cause of the small percentage of voters in Western Australia?
– I do not say that it was; I am, speaking of Victoria and South Australia.
– Where there were no farming operations there was a lower percentage.
– I have not said that the lower percentage in Western Australia was due to the elections being held in December, but that the percentage for the Senate was lowered owing to there being no contest in the Swan division. In that division the lowest percentage of votes recorded in the Commonwealth was polled, owing to the fact that there was no contest for the House of Representatives. But in those divisions in which there was a contest for the House of Representatives a very much larger percentage of votes was recorded for candidates for both the Senate and the House of Representatives. I may add that even in the division of
Swan a more inconvenient month than December could not be suggested. There is a reason also why December is not convenient for electors even in our mining districts. Since the inception of mining in Western Australia, it has been the practice, except in the case of very rich mines on the Golden Mile, for mines to obtain exemptions a fortnight before Christmas for two or three weeks. There is practically a holiday of a month established, and miners during that period go down to the coast. A date late in December would not, therefore, suit even the mining districts of Western Australia. I understand that the reason for the introduction of the Bill is that it is thought that by the alteration proposed we shall be able to hold the elections in March or April, and it is manifestly undesirable that honorable senators who have been defeated at an election should continue to act in the Senate for nearly twelve months after their defeat.
– That would not be necessary.
– It would not be necessary if senators so placed chose to resign.
– Parliament might be called together earlier.
– There is no doubt that we could alter the date of the meeting of the Parliament, but if we were to continue the present practice we might have a defeated senator, a man in whom the State had expressed a want of confidence, continuing to sit here and take part in Commonwealth legislation. I understand that the object of the Bill is to enable the Government to fix some more convenient date for the elections for the majority of the electors, and that to overcome the difficulty of a defeated senator continuing to take part in Commonwealth legislation they propose to put the date on for six months, and to hold the elections between March and June. My knowledge of Australian conditions convinces me that by adopting this course we should secure a larger percentage of the votes of electors, and would enable the majority of the electors to record their votes with less inconvenience than they can do under existing circumstances. Whether the date be fixed for December or June, the election of senators will, no doubt, be fixed as near to the end of the senatorial term as possible. That would be the invariable practice adopted. If we retained the provision under which the senatorial term ends on the 31st December, there can be no doubt that the Senate- elections will be held in November or December. I think that the balance of advantage is shown to be with the course proposed to be adopted, and I shall vote for the second reading of the Bill.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania) [4.50). - It is very singular that the first attempt made in the history of the Commonwealth to enter upon the important task of amending the Constitution should be made during the last month of an expiring Parliament. There are other circumstances connected with this Bill which are more than singular. It will not add to the dignity, good name, or reputation of the Senate if this measure is passed. Probably the most significant circumstance in connexion with it is that on the first occasion what an attempt is made to alter the Constitution a proposal is submitted to benefit sitting members of the Senate, and those who hope to be elected at the next election. I say that it is discreditable, if not disgraceful, that the first time we attempt to alter the Constitution we should do so with the object of adding six months to the term of office of sitting senators, and six months to the term of office of those who may be returned at the next election.
– If that were the only reason it might be so.
– The honorable senator will understand that-I do not contend that that is the only reason for the introduction of the Bill, but we should seriously consider that that is a consequence which will follow the passing of this measure.
– We are not asking for this Bill. The country is asking for it.
– The Senate is going to pass or reject the measure. The country has not asked that sitting senators should have their term of office extended for six months, or that incoming senators at the next election should have their term extended for the same period.
– That would be an incident of the proposed alteration, unless we postponed the operation of the measure for six years
– That such a consequence should be incidental to the passing of the measure, even though it should not be a reason for its introduction, should be sufficient to induce honorable senators to hesitate to support this Bill. I do not desire to repeat the arguments previously used against the Bill, but one of the first good grounds advanced for opposing the measure was that, under the Constitution, power is reserved to each of the States to fix the date of its own Senate elections. The passing of this Bill will not in any way abrogate that provision, because it is not here proposed that the Constitution shall be so amended as to take away that right from the States. That being so, this measure will be rendered entirely inoperative should any State, or the whole of the States, decide to determine the date of the Senate elections for themselves. Another good ground for refusing to pass the Bill is that the first penal dissolution will entirely destroy its value. We cannot legislate in the Senate on the assumption that there will not be a penal dissolution of the House of Representatives. So far as we can predicate the future, such a dissolution is bound to come sooner or later, and if it should arise within the next three years the whole of the advantage sought to be gained by this Bill will be destroyed. Senator Pulsford raised an important question affecting the Constitution in connexion with the allowances to members of the Federal Parliament, which this Bill does not meet. I do not propose to repeat the honorable senator’s observations ; but I remind honorable senators that the point raised is important in the discussion of this measure.
– What was it?
– I need not repeat Senator Pulsford’s observations in detail ; but, if Senator Stewart will look the matter up, he will find that the provisions of this Bill are in direct conflict with the provisions of the Constitution in. respect to the allowances to members of the Federal Parliament. The reason assumed for the introduction of this Bill is that it is desired that the elections shall take place during some time of the year that will not be inconvenient to farmers. If honorable senators take into consideration the area of the continent of Australia and Tasmania, they will find that there is no month in the year which for . the purposes of the elections could be held to meet the convenience of all the farming electors in the Commonwealth. If we were to alter the date of the elections from December to March, whilst we might convenience farmers in one State, our action might be inconvenient to’ farmers in an other State. No one who knows the conditions of Australia will deny that, while March might be a convenient month in which to hold our elections in Victoria, it would be distinctly inconvenient for Queensland electors. Further, I say that the farmers, as a class, have no right to expect the Federal Parliament to seek to alter the Constitution merely in order to meet their convenience. We, as a Parliament, have no right to cajole the people into voting at elections by trying to discover for them a suitable time to go to the poll It is the duty of every elector in the Commonwealth to record his vote, and I do not think we are asking too much of the farmers of Victoria when we invite them to go to the poll in. November or in December once in three years. What idea of his duty as a citizen of the Commonwealth can any elector have if once in three years he will not sacrifice an hour to record his vote at a Senate election.
– It may mean a day to some men.
– Let it be so; and is the value of the franchise of so little account that a farmer is entitled to raise a personal grievance because once in three years he is asked to put himself to a little inconvenience in order to exercise it? In my opinion, it is absurd to say that we shall fix upon one month of the year rather than another in order to enable individual citizens to go to the poll. Seeing that they are asked to go to the poll only once in three years, it should not be too much to ask them to attend to their duties as citizens in this respect on any date, or in any month of the year. The Bill is introduced bv Ministers with the avowed object of altering the date of our elections ; but I am convinced that it is supported with the view of amending the Constitution. I do . not know what reason we have to assume that honorable senators opposite are so desperately anxious to secure the convenience of the farmers that they are prepared to go the length of proposing an alteration in the Constitution in order to give effect to such an object. I do not pretend to have so particular an interest in the farming community as to desire to alter the Constitution in order to give them facilities for voting. I believe there are many members of the Senate who desire that the Constitution shall be amended, and this reason for amending it is as good, as another, and, n their opinion, is just good enough. I have little hesitation in saying that if the Bill be passed, it will be, not because it will convenience a few electors, but simply because it will afford an opportunity to alter the Constitution. If honorable senators who rely upon .the ostensible reason for the introduction of this Bill as a justification for voting for it would but listen to reason on the subject, they would change their minds as to the desirability of passing it. There can be no doubt that, if we alter the date of our elections by this means from December to March, we shall inconvenience a certain number of the citizens of the Commonwealth. No member of the Senate will deny that March will be an inconvenient month to many of the electors.
– Who are they?
– Senator Stewart should, know them as well as I.
– The same might be said of any month in the year.
– That is just the point I aim making. There is bound to be some body of electors in each of the States to whom any particular month would not be as convenient as some other month. When it is certain that the passing of the Bill will involve inconvenience to many electors, it is ludicrous to propose to alter the Constitution for such ai purpose. Honorable senators are aware that the machinery provided for the alteration of the Constitution is very cumbersome and complicated ; and is it worth while to put it in motion in order merely to consult the convenience of a number of electors when we know that what we propose to do will inconvenience other electors? I do not believe that honorable senators who support the measure do so for that reason. If it is not for that reason, then let them come out into the open and say what their reason is. I am firmly convinced that, in their opinion, it is thought desirable that the Constitution should be amended, not only in this direction, but in many others. If the Bill were passed, the opportunity would then be immediately seized to say, “ Seeing that all the machinery for altering the Constitution will have to be put in motion, we might as well submit to the people the question of amending it in half-a-dozen other directions.”
– Suppose that were the case, each Bill would have to pass both Houses.
– If that is the case, I shall be no party to making the Bill the means to such an end. I am not going to pretend, in mere hypocrisy, that I wish to convenience certain electors, if what I really want to do is to get the Constitution altered in a dozen different ways.
– It cannot be altered without the consent of the people.
– And it cannot be submitted to the electors without a Bill having been passed.
– Once this Bill was passed, the reason which many members of the Senate and the other House may have for objecting to a referendum of the people being taken on other matters in the Constitution would be seriously weakened. They would be told at once, “ The people will have to be consulted on the question of altering the date of holding the Senate elections. Seeing that a referendum of the people must be taken on that point, and that certain expenditure must be incurred^ why not submit to them at the same time other questions?”
– Will not the majority of the people have to agree to the proposals ?
– I know, as honorable senators generally know, that the object of the Ministry in introducing the Bill is not to convenience the farmers, for that is a mere idle pretext-
– This is the’ first time that I have ever heard that consideration urged.
– No doubt it is the first time that the Minister has ever Heard it urged here, but I am sure that it is not the first time that he has .heard it urged elsewhere.
– I can assure the honorable senator that this is the first time I have ever heard it urged anywhere.
– I accept my honorable friend’s assurance. But he must recognise that we could not give a stronger argument to those who wish to submit an alteration of the Constitution in other directions than the fact that we have already passed a Bill which provides for the holding of a referendum for that purpose. It would be asked at once, “ As you are going to consult the people, why object to ascertaining their will on other points at the same time, and so save expense?” That is the very great danger I see in passing the Bill. In consideration of what is expected to be gained by its enactment, if anything is to be gained, are we going to run that risk? Are we going to ask the people, as well as the Parliament, to incur the risk of altering the Constitution in a dozen directions, under the pretext of getting something for the farmers, and not for every class -of electors ?
– The honorable senator’s opposition is not so much to the Bill as to what might happen if it were passed.
– I have stated my reasons for opposing the Bill. Even if it contained a provision that no referendum should be taken on any other subject for a period of ten- years, the Bill would standselfcondemned in its essence. It is a Bill to give six months’ additional tenure to honorable senators. It is not worth a flip of the fingers, because it is over-ridden by certain provisions of the Constitution. It is a measure which a penal dissolution of the other House would convert into wastepaper. There are a dozen good reasons why on its mere merits it should be thrown out. Nevertheless, I am perfectly certain that, for various reasons, Senator Findley and others will vote for its second reading.
– I shall be on safe ground when I vote in a direction opposite to the honorable senator.
– The honorable senator will be on perfectly safe ground in so doing if he wishes to attain his object. If. as I believe, he wants the Constitution altered, not for this reason, but for other reasons, he will vote for the second reading of the Bill, in order to achieve those other objects, which from his point of view are vastly more important than the conveniencing of a few farmers in Victoria. I do not imagine that, whatever any one else mav do, he will make the idle pretence that he wishes to .see the Bill passed in order to help Victorian farmers. I shall oppose the Bill at every possible stage, because on its merits its passing would be discreditable to the Senate. I wonder that honorable senators cannot realize that if it were passed, when the history of the Commonwealth came to “be written the historian would have to record that the first time its great Constitution was ordered to be amended was on the occasion when it was thought desirable, amongst other things, to add six months’ tenure to the term of those senators who were then legislating, and to give a tenure of three years and six months to their successors.
– It will not cost the country any more.
– It may not, but is that a reason for altering, the Constitution ? Was the American Constitution ever altered under a pretext of that kind? Let us remember the great fight which took place before it was altered. Could any American nowadays read the history of his country with pride or pleasure if he had to recognise the fact that the first time its Constitution was altered was to increase the tenure of the senators under an idle pretext? Granted that honorable senators have a right to pass the Bill, what would be the result? The result would be simply to alter the date for the election of senators.
– Could we not put against that argument the fact that during the first Parliament the members of the other House freely cut off four or five months of their tenure?
– My only concern is to uphold the credit of the Senate. If the members of the other House did what my honorable friend has said, let us follow their example, but we shall not be doing that by voting six months’ more tenure to ourselves.
– Could we not take off six months’ tenure? That would effect the same object.
– I would not. as the honorable senator knows, make the question of tenure an excuse for altering the Constitution. It is asserted that it is very desirable to alter the date for holding the Senate elections, and that, therefore, the Constitution must be amended. That is not necessary. Under the Constitution as it stands; the elections for the Senate can be held in any month from August to December. Does not a choice of any one of the five months meet all requirements”? Would not any one of those months answer just as well as the month of March?
– I think that the month of October would be better.
– In that case, is the honorable senator going to support the Bill in order to produce the one avowed result of altering the date of elections to March?
– There is no necessity to alter the Constitution if the month of October would be better.
– Not the slightest necessity.
– I was only expressing my own opinion.
– When Senator McGregor and others admit that October is a better month than March, are they going to vote for the second reading, of this Bill?
– It would be necessary to alter the time for holding the sittings of Parliament.
– If we are going to consult the convenience of a class, or of members of Parliament, what reason is there for not meeting earlier in the year? I know of no reason why Parliament should not assemble in February instead of in May. If it met in February and sat until the end of August - which would represent the duration of a session - it would leave six months available to the Executive for choosing a date for holding the elections.
– The fact that the financial year ends iri June mixes up things a little.
– Yes ; but so would this Bill, if passed. Senator Millen pointed out the other day that one of the chief objections to its enactment as it stands is, that it is in conflict with the termination of the financial year, but that could be got over in any case. I submit that the scope which is offered to us at present for holding the elections is ample to meet the requirements of every class of citizens in every State. I go further, and say that in my opinion the Senate has no right to consider an V particular class of the community when it is fixing upon the date for holding the elections. It is absurd that we should attempt to practically briber - because it is a species of bribe - electors to go to the poll.
– That is not the case.
– It is almost going that far. It is practically saying to the farmers. “ We recognise that, under existing arrangements, you have good and sufficient reasons for not voting.” I do not hold that view. Seeing: that the elections occur only once in three years, a man, whether he be a farmer or not. has no excuse for not recording his vote. For this reason. I do not think that the Senate is justified in sanctioning a referendum, to the people in order to fix a better date for a particular class to vote.
– Do not call it a bribe, and so spoil a good speech.
– I have not called it a bribe in the ordinary sense, but it is an approach to that. What are we doing? We are dispensing special privileges to a particular class.
– I do not think it is a privilege. We are endeavouring to meet the general convenience.
– Giving special facilities to one class.
– If it injures the facilities of no other class, what objection can there be?
– We have already agreed that if we alter the date to suit the convenience of the farmers, we are certain to inconvenience some other class.
– We have not heard from them.
– As Senator Drake says, we have not heard from them. But I am sure Senator Trenwith will recognise with me that it would be easy for many other classes to allege just as good and satisfactory a reason as the farmers have alleged.
– I suppose that if a day were chosen every other day in the year would be more convenient to somebody else.
– There is not the slightest doubt that it would. Surely it is a serious thing to alter the Constitution for the ostensible purpose of suiting the farmers. For the reasons I have indicated, I shall oppose the Bill in every possible way.
– I do not like the Bill for many of the reasons which have been mentioned by Senator Clemons. Arn alteration of the Constitution is a most serious matter, and ought not to be attempted unless the occasion absolutely demands it. But, apart from that consideration, I do not think that the remedy proposed is as good as it might be for the purpose of overcoming the inconveniences attached to the present system. It appears to me that the Constitution in some respects needs to be made a little more elastic than it is. Undoubtedly the time when elections take place at present is exceedingly inconvenient to large numbers of people who are compelled at that period to devote attention to their own affairs. It is not merely that the duties which necessarily have to be performed by the farming population prevent their going to record their votes. The electors desire to do something more than that. They wish to have an opportunity to “hear the views; of the various candidates, and to educate themselves in the affairs of their country. They cannot have that opportunity when the elections take place at harvest time. That seems to me to be a sufficient reason for the introduction of a measure to permit an alteration of the date to suit the convenience of the people. But under this Bill we are asked to proceed from one arbitrary date to another. It seems to me that it would be very much better to give an elastic power to the GovernorGeneral to enable him to prolong the term of the Parliament for a limited number of months, if an election could not conveniently take place at the ordinary date.
– Does the honorable senator mean that he would give a general discretion ?
– There is a discretion now.
– But it is specific.
– I do not see that there would be great harm in giving the Governor-General such a power. Another defect in the measure is that it assumes that the parliamentary term for the Senate will always expire at a time when an election for the House of Representatives is imminent. We have no right to make such an assumption. It ig possible, under our Constitution, to have a penal dissolution of both Houses. I do not say that it is probable that such a. thing will take place; I hope not. But in. any case, it is inevitable that sooner or later the time for the parliamentary elections for. the two Houses will not be concurrent. Is it justifiable for us to alter the Constitution in this way merely for the sake of the Senate? I shall not oppose the Bill at this stage, but in Committee I should like to see an amendment such as I have suggested made in it.
– If we adopt the Bill in any form it will involve an amendment of the Constitution.
– One argument used by Senator Clemons appealed to me, namely, that it is not justifiable to alter the Constitution for this purpose alone. He seemed to think that the desire was to use the power to alter the Constitution in some other direction. I should oppose the Bill altogether if I did not see that it is inevitable, sooner or later, that we must amend the
Constitution in a far more important direction than this. Even now there is an alteration necessary in connexion with the taking over of the States debts. I do not like the idea of a proposed amendment of the Constitution coming before us in such a shape that it will go forth to the world that we have been actuated by selfish motives in seeking to add six months to our term. But even that proposal has to be submitted to the people. While I shall not vote against the second1 reading of the Bill I reserve to myself the right to oppose its third reading if it is not amended in Committee.
.- This debate has revealed an extraordinary phase that never for a moment struck me previously; namely, that there is supposed to be a base design on the part of the Government in the introduction of the Bill. . We are led to believe that
Ave must not take the Bill on its own merits, but that it is brought in simply for the purpose of making it easier for a certain section to effect future amendments of the Constitution. Personally, I do not think for a moment that that is the intention of the Government. I am prepared to judge the Bill on its merits, recognising, as I do, that every innovation, so far as the Constitution is concerned - every departure from it or amendment of it - must be submitted by separate Bill, and be dealt with on, its merits. I am aware, and we must all be aware, that much as we prize our Constitution, and reluctant as we are to alter it unnecessarily - or to alter it at all, indeed - the fact remains that it must be altered to meet the convenience of the people, and for the purpose of bringing it more into line with the requirements. There is one direction in which an alteration of the Constitution may be necessary, perhaps, at an early date, namely, to enable proper facilities to be given for taking over the States debts. My honorable friend, Senator Clemons, who raised the objection to which I have referred, and regarded it as a serious reason why the Bill should be rejected, will realize that an alteration may become necessary to effect what was originally the design of the Constitution in that respect. I give that as one example only, and I reject the suggestion, so far as I personally am concerned, that the Bill will give any additional facility for the introduction of matters which do not meet with my approval. The most extraordinary suggestion I have heard was one made con.cerning the dignity of the Senate. It” was regarded as most discreditable that we should be engaged in giving to ourselves an additional six months’ term. I look upon that merely as incidental to the carrying out of the objects of the Bill. What I specially dra.w attention to, however, is this : that, while it is regarded as necessary to carry out the aim of the Bill to do that, the measure does not come into operation when we alone pass it. It has to be passed bv am absolute majority of another place, which certainly has no selfish or discreditable motives for agreeing to it. In addition to that, the Bill has to be submitted to the electors themselves, and it will be for them to say whether they deem it wise that this “extension of term should be made. I point out, also, that those honorable senators who are returned at the next election will be elected by the people knowing that thev are to be chosen for a term of six years and six months. I therefore think that my honorable friend, Senator Clemons/ rather overdraws the picture when he represents that the additional six months is to be given for the purposes suggested. My honorable friend went on to say that the Bill might be rendered nugatory bv one of two reasons. First of all. he’ said the States themselves might refuse to agree to any particular date that we as a Commonwealth might fix for the elections. But it is idle to suggest that the States are deliberately going to put the electors of Australia - who, whether they be electors for the Commonwealth or the States, are the same people, and have to bear all the burden of the expenditure - to additional expense, and that their anxiety for economy will not be insisted upon in the matter of choosing senators and representatives. I am inclined to think that there will be cooperation on the part of the Commonwealth, and the States for the purpose of securing economy, and that they will make every effort to achieve that object. My honorable friend made another objection to the Bill - that taken bv Senator Millen last week. Senator Millen said that the most serious objection to the measure was that it would involve the expenditure of money without the sanction of Parliament. He pointed out that an election might take place in April or June, and that probably Parliament would not be able to meet till July That could take place only once in three years. But suppose that we did not meet till July. The financial year, ending, of course, on the 30th June, the Government would in July actually be incurring expenditure without the vote of Parliament. Certainly the Government could not go on doing so beyond the 1st August. Parliament would have to meet some time in July, in order to vote supplies. If, however, Parliament did not meet until towards the’ end of July, the Government would commit the Commonwealth to expenditure for the ordinary services of the year during that month. It is certainly a very wise and prudent principle that we should endeavour to secure that Parliament shall authorize the expenditure of money before it is incurred. But when we remember that the expenditure can only be for the ordinary services for less than a month, I do not think that any very serious consequence can be suffered by the Commonwealth in this connexion. Of course, there is one objection incidental to the present condition, of affairs. That is that a penal dissolution of the House of Representatives might result m different dates being fixed for the elections for the two Houses. That might, of course, occur under existing conditions; but my honorable friend, Senator Clemons, went on to say that the full value of this Bill might be altogether lost if that occurred. It might; but as a matter of fact there will be a big effort on the part of the Government to fix upon as convenient a date as possible for the purpose of securing concurrent elections. That is best exemplified bv the action taken by the House of Representatives in agreeing even to forfeit part of its own term for the purpose of securing economy in having the elections for the two Houses on the same date. I support the Bill on its merits. Its design and object are good. I believe it has been proposed” with the object of meeting the convenience of the greater number of- the people of the Commonwealth. I do not suggest that the month of March is the most convenient month for every State. ‘ I believe that my honorable friends from Queensland urge objections to it.
– It is the worst month in the vear from our point of view.
– But the same objection would not attach to the month: of April or May, and, according to the terms of the Bill”, the elections could be held in either of those months.
– Most probably in May.
– That is so.
– The elections could now be held in May.
– According to the Constitution, the elections could undoubtedly now be held in May. But there is the same objectionable feature that attaches to the American Constitution, namely, that if the elections were held in the earlier portion of the year, a defeated candidate might actually sit in the Senate, andtake part in its deliberations, for the balance of his term.
– Surely that would be no calamity.
– It might vitiate every Act passed by the Senate.
– At any rate, such a position is against the principles of representative government.
– It introduces representation without responsibility.
– That is so. We know, as a matter of fact, that the Government seek to show some intelligence in the administration of the Electoral Act; and the desire would be to fix the election for the Senate as near to the end of the term as possible, so that there might be a joint election towards the close of the year.
SenatorGivens. - The end of the financial year ?
– At the end of the time mentioned in the Bill. Every honorable senator is iustified in referring to his own State : and I can say for Victoria that March, April, or May is universally admitted to be infinitely more convenient than either November or December. Consequently, if April or May were found equallv convenient to all the States-
– Either would be excellent for Queensland.
– Exactly. Why should we be restrained from fixing a convenient time merely because of some sentimental objection to altering the Constitution? It is the duty of Parliament to afford every possible facility to the people to vote, and that is my sole reason for supporting the Bill. It is a reason which justifies Parliament in making this alteration in the Constitution, in order that the fullest representation shall be secured at the elections.
Debate (on motion by Senator Trenwith) adjourned.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 31st August, vide page 3758).
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clauses 2 and 3 postponed.
Home Affairs Department : Customs House at Broome: Trawler and Equipments : Rifle and Artillery Ranges : Naval Forces : Grants to Rifle Clubs : Military Stores, Brisbane : Drill Halls : Magazine at Launceston : Armament of Hobart.
Divisions 1 to 4 (Home Affairs Department), £13,502.
– Can the Minister give us any information in regard to the item of £1,500 for the erection of a Customs House and bond at Broome, Western Australia?
– The note I have as to this item is as follows: -
The business at Broome at present is being carried on in premises leased from Messrs. Newman, Goldstein, and Co., at a rental of £200 per annum. The present premises are under offer to the Commonwealth for a sum of £1,200. The Collector of Customs, Western Australia, recommends the erection of suitable premises on the vacant land at the south end of the Government goods sheds, as he believes it is possible to erect a more suitable building for the same amount of money, viz.,£1,200. He also points out that some of the blocks on which the present building is erected have sunk into the ground considerably, causing the floor to drop a lot in the centre. There is also a danger, when heavy rain falls, of the ground softening, and with a heavy stock in bond the weight will cause the blocks to sink lower, thus making the building unsafe, and liable to be infested with white ants if the floors drop too near the ground. It is considered that Broome will be the centre of the pearling operations for many years, as it has been ascertained that the grounds extend for 200 miles on either side of that port, also the shopkeepers and others who possess a great interest in the pearling fleet will not readily consent to transfer, seeing they have established their headquarters at Broome.
– I see there is an item of £8,000 for a trawler and equipments. I should like to know whether this vessel is intended particularly for use on the Western Australian coast. I ask the question because the item is under the heading of Western Australia, and that makes it appear as though the cost would be debited to that State.
– The item is under a different sub-division from that of Western Australia.
– I observe that in debate in another place this trawler and equipments were debited to Western Australia, and I should like to know whether the Government have yet decided on what part of the Australian coast the vessel will be used?
– The Government have not yet decided on what particular part of the coast this trawler shall be used; but, in any case, the expenditure will be debited, on a population basis, to the whole of the Commonwealth. The trawler is really intended for the purposes of exploration, in order to ascertain whether, and if so where, there are good fishing grounds to be found.
– Is the trawler to be an aid to private enterprise ?
– It is to be an aid to private enterprise. The Government do not expect to have a trawling fleet of their own ; but hope to do what has been done with some success in South Africa. At the Cape, the Government purchased a trawler, and as a result of the exploration made, good fishing grounds were found, and now, after the lapse of a few years, there are four or five trawlers at work with profit.
– Who has the profit - the State or private individuals?
– The State is made up of private individuals, and when private individuals make a. profit, the State makes a profit?
– That is too thin !
– That sort of argument will not do.
– As I say, the trawler has been purchased for exploration purposes; but, of course, if the Government think they can undertake the general work of trawling to better advantage than can private individuals, that may be done. However, apart altogether from whether the trawling will eventually be conducted by the State or by private enterprise, it is a wise step to explore the coast in order to ascertain whether or not there are good fishing grounds.
– It is evident that the Government are exploring in all parts of the world, both above ground and under the sea. I should like to know whether the Government have gone so far with their exploring ideas as to have actually purchased this trawler?
– It has been stated in the press that the Government are going to lease the trawler.
– Has the trawler really been bought?
– No; it is not yet purchased.
– Are the Government going to buy or rent the trawler?
– The Government are going to buy the trawler.
– Can the Minister give the Committee any information as to the persons with whom the Government are in treaty for the purchase of the trawler ?
– We are not in treaty with anybody, so far as I am aware. We are waiting until we get the approval of Parliament for the expenditure of the money.
– What is the basis of the estimate of £8,000 ?
– It is based on the price which Cape Colony paid for the trawler.
– Without any severe comment, I suppose we may describe this as a “ fishy “ sort of vote. I do not know that there is any great objection to it.
.- The Government have frequently contended that the Common-wealth has no power under the Constitution to engage in any industrial enterprise, and it is, therefore, a little peculiar that they should now be proposing to undertake such an enterprise of their own volition.
– It is only like giving a bonus, or helping the sugar industry, for instance.
– This vote is a distinct departure. The Government propose to purchase a trawler, and to engage in trawling. If they do not intend to follow the industry, for what do they require the trawler? If by the operations of this trawler any fish are caught, do the Government propose to sell them, or will they throw them overboard again, because the Commonwealth has no power to engage in anv industrial enterprise ? Some members of the present Ministry, and some members of the party behind them, are opposed to the State undertaking any industrial enterprise whatever, and yet they have not the slightest compunction in spending the money of the State on a partially socialistic enterprise, not for the benefit of the whole of the people who provide the money, but for the benefit of a few people.
– If the Government have this trawler they will be able to find out whether there are fish in certain waters.
– The Government propose to expend Commonwealth money in connexion with this industry, not in order to preserve it for the people of the Commonwealth, but to explore the fishing grounds, and then withdraw and leave them for the benefit of a few private individuals. There is neither reason nor logic in such a proposal. If it is permissible to spend public money in aid of private enterprise for the benefit of a few of the people, it is far more justifiable to spend public money for the benefit of the whole of the people. In fact, any other system is unjustifiable. This sort of mongrel Socialism is enough to make the so-called logic of anti-Socialists stink in the nostrils of intelligent men. I desire a great deal more information on the subject before I shall be prepared to support this vote. I wish to know what representations have been made to the Government, what reports they have had, and what was the motive force inducing them to take this action.
– The example of Canada. Cape Colony, and other countries.
– The Committee is entitled to the fullest information on the subject. Before I shall be willing to allow the vote to go, I shall have to be taken into the confidence of the Government, and shown what is behind the vote, and the reason whv it appears before us. When we are asked to vote entirely new expenditure of this sort we should be given some reason for the proposal. I am not willing to vote this money to establish an industry in which the whole of the people of the Commonwealth will not be at liberty to share. I shall vote against this particular item unless, Ministers can give some good reason for its appearance in the schedule to this Bill.
– We have not received all the information which should be given before we are asked to vote this sum, of£8,000. I understand from the Minister that the proposed trawler is to be engaged in exploration to discover new fishing grounds, and what fish we have along our coast-line. I should like to know if Ministers have some hope that the canning or preserving pf fish will be undertaken as the result of the operations of the trawler?
– I should like to know whether it has been decided where the vessel is to work, and whether the Government have had any reports as to the places along our coast-line most likely to give the best results from an exploration of this character ? Fishing is a very simple industry indeed. We are told that the only machinery required to carry it on is a line “ with a bait at one end and a fool at the other.” I should think that the fishermen of Australia must have information as to where fish should be sought for along our coast-line, and I suppose that Ministers have had reports on this subject. I was glad to hear that trawlers have been worked successfully on the coasts of South Africa and ot Canada, and Ministers might be able to obtain information as to the working of the trawlers in those waters which would be applicable to Australian conditions. I think that the vote should be postponed until the Minister is armed with reports from persons able to express an opinion on the subject as to what is likely to be the result of the operations of the trawler in Australian waters. We have a coast-line of some 8,000 miles, and it would take a trawler a very long time to explore Australian waters. I understood that the trawler was to be leased, but we have been informed that it is to be purchased. I believe that £8,000 is the estimate of the cost of a trawler, and its upkeep for a year. If the vessel is to belong to the Government, I suppose its operations will be continued year after year.
– As long as Parliament votes the necessary money.
– Can the Minister say what proportion of the £8,000 represents the cost of the trawler, and what the cost of up-keep?
– I think I gave that information in rav speech on the second reading of the Bill. I believe the cost of up-keep is estimated at £1,500ayear.
– I am inclined to think that we are going bonus mad during the present session. I do not think that it is statesmanlike to give a bonus in aid of so simple an industry as that of fishing, whichmust require a very small amount of capital and labour. It is an industry which private enterprise should be well able to carry on without assistance.
– Yet people all over the world assist it. A bonus was given by Great Britain to the fishing industry.
– England gives ‘ a bonus to the fishing industry - since when?
– I know that England used to do so.
– I think that we should have some more precise information as to what the trawler is to do.
– There used to be- a bonus given in England on the export of fish.
– A few centuries ago !
– I think it must have been in the dark ages-. I do not think that such a bonus is given now. I shall oppose this vote unless some further information is given to the Committee concerning it.
– In common with Senator Givens, I do not favour the proposed vote of ^8,000 for the purchase of a trawler to aid private enterprise. The Government profess to have been influenced by the example of other countries in this connexion, but they might follow the example in a more concrete way by entering definitely into the business, and making it a Commonwealth concern in the interests of the whole of the citizens of Australia. I believe in the collective ownership of industries, and if the Commonwealth is to purchase a trawler at a cost of £8,000, it should be utilized, not in the interests of private individuals, but in the. interests of the whole of the citizens of the Commonwealth. According to the Minister, the up-keep of the trawler will cost £1,500 a year, but if Parliament refuses to vote the money, what will become of the trawler ? “ Do the Government propose to sell it?
– We should be told all that.
– Senator Givens very properly asked what is going to become of the fish caught by the trawler.
– We are going to sell them.
– Then the Commonwealth will have- entered upon an industrial enterprise, and we have frequently been told that that cannot be done under the Constitution.
– The Minister” explained that certain waters would be explored to discover whether they contained fish, and if it was found that they did,, private enterprise could then be called upon to -work those waters.
– I did not say that the fish caught bv the Government trawler would not be sold by the Government.
– If it is sold by the Government the Commonwealth will be engaging in an industrial enterprise.
– We shall have a perfect right to do “that under the Constitution.
– That is what I have always contended.
– After we have discovered good fishing grounds in certain waters, is it proposed that the Government trawler shall push on to some new place, and try to discover other grounds?
– I do not know.
– I wish to know before I am asked to record my vote. If we discover good fishing grounds by the operation of the trawler, the fish in those waters will belong to the people of. the Commonwealth, but, apparently, the moment we make the discovery, the intention is to announce the fact to the world, so that private enterprise may then come along and work the ground, and the Government trawler will move off to other waters. Until we are given full information on the subject, I am not prepared to support the vote.
– We have always been informed that, under the provisions of the Constitution, the Commonwealth cannot undertake any industrial enterprise. This vote is submitted with the idea of exploration, and we are to assume that the men engaged in the fishing industry in Australia for years do not know where or how to catch fish, the best appliances to use, and the nets re- 1 quired to give them the biggest return for the labour they put into the industry. We are told that this proposal will operate in much the same way as a bonus. We are informed that the trawler will explore a portion of the coast, and thus induce people to put money into the industry, and will, in that way, confer a great benefit on the Commonwealth. A bonus is a different thing. The Bounties Bill which’ we shall be asked to consider by-and-by provides for the grant of a bounty to those persons who may be able to get a sufficient quantity of fish. I am inclined to vote against the item, because, in my opinion, the question has not been thoroughly considered. I do not believe that it is in consequence of a report from any part of Australia that the item appears on these Estimates. The experience of certain States is quite opposed to any such’ attempt being made. Years ago, for instance, New South Wales spent a good many thousand pounds in this direction, but the experiment was an absolute failure. I do not suppose that it yielded a return of is. to the State.
– When was that?
– Some years ago thousands of pounds were voted by the New South Wales Parliament to enable Mr. Frank F arnell, who was regarded as an expert, to prepare the way for developing a large industry in the waters of that State. I do not remember whether the vote amounted to £8,000 or £10,000, but it was passed to enable Mr. Farnell to conduct an experiment, not in seine or drift net fishing, but in trawling, and it was a miserable failure. Queensland has had a similar experience. A few years ago a number of enthusiasts, who believed that it was possible to create a large fishing industry in Moreton Bay and the adjacent waters, formed a company, and collected a sum of money ; nets were made, and the Government were asked for assistance.
– Was the experiment to be made bv ordinary net fishing or by trawling?
– It was to be carried out by trawling. To the promoters the Government said, “ If you want to try the experiment we will lend you a Government steamer. “ Accordingly, the promoters had the loan of a Government steamer, and had the services of the men who possessed the best knowledge of that portion of the Queensland coast. The trawl beam got stuck on a rock, and pulled the vessel up. It had to be taken back, and the trawl turned over before it could be released. They made several attempts. On one or two occasions -they had their net torn to pieces, and the return to the company and the Government was absolutely nothing. According to a speech made by a member of the other House, Tasmania has had a similar experience of trawling.
– Of steam trawling?
– Whether the trawling is done by steamer or by sailing vessel, what is the difference? As a matter of fact it is only within the last few years that steamers! have been used for that purpose. In my time the hundreds of boats which used to trawl off the English coast were sailing vessels.
– It is about a quarter of a century since steam trawling was started on the west coast of Scotland.
– That may be; but prior to that time the only use which was made of steam vessels was to collect the fish which the smacks had caught, and take them into market. Is it not reasonable to believe that the fishermen on the Australian coast have tested the grounds, and know the best methods of fishing to adopt ? Is it not reasonable to think that they know the habits of the varieties of fish which they are most likely to get? It is stated that a large quantity of fish go up the east coast of Australia every year. If we had fifty trawlers on the ground we should not catch one of these fish, because the largest proportion of them are mullet, which, of course, could not be caught with a net of that description. At the present time mullet are caught with the seine, and that is the only net I know of by which a man is able to catch such ‘fish in a large quantity. So far as I can gather, that is the largest sort of migratory fish on the coast of Australia. The Government has supplied no information to the Committee, except that the Government of Cape Colony had bought a trawler, and carried out some experimental work. Senator Playford’ did not even state whether the Government had received any reports from persons who have been engaged in the fishing industry, and who are able to indicate that what we want is some assistance to develop the industry. He told us that in Canada the fishing industry yielded so many pounds of fish per head. I do not suppose he could tell us that one-half per cent, of the catch was obtained by trawling. The success achieved is nearly all due to the great cod fish industry, which has been carried on there for, I dare say, 150 years. Not one solitary fish of that description is caught by means of a trawler. If the honorable senator has ever been in that part of the world, he knows very well that the cod fishing is carried on from boats by line; and not by net, off the coast of Newfoundland, Labrador, and other places. If he went to the Mediterranean, which he quoted, would he find any trawling done? I do not believe that he would find a trawler in that ocean. When he was speaking of the fishing industry there he was really referring to the little fish which are caught in very small mesh nets. I know of no places where trawling has been so successful as it has been round the coast of England and Scotland in the different channels Those are the only places where, so far, it has been a success. The Government, I’ repeat, have come down without any information, except that Cape Colony has made an experiment in this direction. If they think it necessary ti make this proposal, and the persons who are engaged in the fishing industry are able to supply them with any information on the subject, it ought to be given to the Senate, especially in view of the ghastly failure of the experiments carried out at large expense in Queensland and New South Wales. Ministers must knowvery well that such experiments have taken place, and have not induced outside persons to put money into the business. The fishing industry is not carried on by trawlers in Victoria, nor, so far as I know, anywhere else in the Commonwealth.
– There are trawlers on the New Zealand coast.
– When I was in New Zealand some years ago there was no trawling carried on.
– There is now, in consequence of the Government having expended public money in finding out whether it could’ be done successfully or not.
– Does the Minister say that in New Zealand the Government undertook trawling?
– Yes; the Government hired a steamer for the purpose, and sent it round the coast.
– I have never heard before that that was done.
– The New Zealand Government started the experiment in 1900.
– In all probability the Government of New Zealand were able to furnish some information to the Parliament when they submitted their proposal to send out a trawler.
– We have not information, and we want a trawler in order to get it.
– Probably the Government have not yet taken the trouble to ask the fishermen of Australia for information. I ‘intend to call for a division on the item.
– There was nothing very startling in th’e statement of Senator Turley that we have no steam trawlers on the Australian coast, because a man requires to possess considerable capital before he is in a position to operate in that way.
– Not a very large amount of capital.
– A man needs, as this item shows, a capital of at least £8,000 to purchase one trawler. I know that on the west coast of Scotland where the herring fishing is a very great industry only large companies were able to fish with steam trawlers.
– Did the honorable senator ever know herrings to be caught by trawling?
– I am not quite sure whether it was the herring or not that was being caught on the west coast of Scotland, but I was under the impression that it was. At any rate, the steam trawlers which were operating on that coast were the property of large companies, and the small fishermen were not able to fish by that means.
– In the English channel there are scores of trawlers which are practically owned bv the men who work them.
– It is not every fisherman who can find £8,000 to get the necessary apparatus for deep-sea fishing. That is a very good reason for concluding that there are no steam trawlers operating on our coast.
– According to the Minister the up-keep of the trawler would amount to ,£1,500 a year.
– I quite agree with Senator Givens that information on various points should be furnished to the Committee. But at the same time, to find fault with the Government for going into this new industry because private individuals have not yet gone into and made a success of it> is a very foolish way to look at the matter. So far as I am aware,’ the efforts made by the New South Wales Government have not been systematic or more than temporary.
– The New South Wales Parliament voted thousands of pounds for this purpose.
– How much money did it vote?
– I think about £ 12,000.
– I have been through the reports prepared by the Fisheries Board, of which Mr. Frank Farnell was president, and find that very little money has been spent, and very few efforts made in the direction of deepsea fishing. We know all about the fishing in our rivers and lakes and close to our coasts, but nothing has been done to develop our deep-sea fisheries. I should be verv sorry, however, to see the Government go into this matter, and drop it if they find the industry to be successful. Why should the taxpayers of this country be asked to spend £8,000 to experiment in order that private individuals may reap the benefit? Surely the Government has sufficient expensive Departments, without giving up the profitable results which may accrue from the money which we put into these experiments. It is time that the Government began to look out for new sources of revenue. It should not be continually spending money to find sources of income for capitalists. We have heard outcries against Socialism, and are often asked why it is that the Government cannot manage things as well as private individuals. The Government will never be able to understand what it can do so long as it merely paves the way for some one else to reap all the profit from the efforts it makes. It would be foolish for the Commonwealth Government to enter into this enterprise and to drop it as soon as it is likely to become a profitable investment. So far as I can understand, there is a good prospect of the deep-sea industry becoming profitable. I have travelled round a considerable portion of our 8,000 miles of coast line. During the last recess I had an opportunity to go to the north-west coast, the waters of which perhaps present the most favorable fishing opportunities to be found in Australia. I witnessed there a scene which probably could not be matched in any part of the world. I saw at Port Headland shoals of fish playing around the vessel. It was marvellous to think that such a splendid field for exploitation should be left without any one having gone into it in a serious way.
– Did the honorable senator ever know school fish to be caught in a trawl ?
– I am satisfied that a great industry could be opened up on the western coasts of Australia if it were undertaken on a Large scale. Something more will need to be done than the mere catching of fish. We shall have to provide some means for preserving them. The fish will be of very little commercial value unless we go in for fish canning and preserving on a large scale, in order that we may put the commodity on the market at a considerable distance from the fishing ground. These are aspects of the case which the Government would be wise to consider. It was shown to meby men on the north-west coast, who are equally as reliable experts as Senator Turley in these matters, that the waters there are so favorable, and so full of feed, that there must be splendid deepsea fishing. Apparently, the Government of Western Australia is of the same opinion, because a Commission is at present inquiring into the subject. The Federal Government will be able, in time, to make use of the results of its inquiries. There has been some amount of experiment by the Western Australian Government in this direction; but the subject has never been gone into systematically. Grounds have been located, but the proper means of catching the fish have not yet been devised. Consequently, we know very little as to whether the industry is worth developing. Personally, I believe that it has a great future before it, and would have the very best prospects possible if it were in the hands of the Government. A valuable illustration of the need for nationalizing the industry is afforded by the fact that individualism has practicaly ruined the pearl shell fisheries.
– It has depleted the beds in many instances.
– That is so; and, in addition, the shell has been sold for a grat deal less than its true value.
– Where there is combination in the fish trade, there are also rings to keep up prices, so that private enterprise is bad for the industry and for the consumer.
– I have given some, attention to pearl fishing, and know that it is due to keen competition amongst the fishers that the industry is in the bad way that we understand it to be in now. If the same state of affairs is to be brought about by private companies going into the deep-sea fishingindustry, very little satisfaction will result from this proposed expenditure. A very great blunder indeed will be committed if the Commonwealth merely goes into the industry to prospect, and proceeds no further. We are entitled to know that, onceParliament assents to the expenditure of£8, 000 to open up what is practically a new industry, if any profits accrue they will go into the purse from which this money is to be taken. Unless that is done, the results will be really mischievous. Private enterprise in respect of deep-sea fishing has been a miserable failure in Australia. Are we to understand that, after we have proved that there is profitable work to be done, the private enterpriser is to be allowed to pocket the profits? It is no part of the functions of the Government ofthis country to find means for the private enterpriser to promote his interests at the expense of the ordinary taxpayer. I am satisfied that nine-tenths of the people of Australia would object to anything of the kind, and I hope that the Government will make up its mind that, if the steam trawler isa success, it will make the most of it for the benefit of the country as a whole. On this understanding, I intend to support the proposal.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7. 45 p.m.
– When this item was mentioned by the Minister of Defence in introducing this Bill, I felt that the Government were taking a step in the right direction. I have no fault whatever to find with the information presented to us by the Minister in support of the proposal to establish, if possible, a trawling business on the coast. That information may be regarded as being as complete as it was possible to make it. In the first place, the Minister told us of similar enterprises in South Africa, Canada, and England; and I think he told us that almost all Governments in the civilized world had, at one time or other, taken some such step.
– When did the English Government do such a thing?
– A long time before I was a boy. I am now simply repeating the information which was given by the Minister to the Committee ; and more could not be looked for, because, as Senator de Largie has pointed out, it is utterly impossible to get anything like reliable statements from the fishermen on the Australian coast. The disabilities under which those engaged in the fishing industry suffer are such as to render their information almost useless in connexion with a proposal of the kind before us. Under the circumstances, I think the Government have taken a very wise course. The Minister of Defence gave us to understand that the cost of fish in Australia at the present time is something like 66 per cent. higher than in any part of the United Kingdom.
– In Australia?
– In Australia.
– That is not so, if one may judge from the prices charged in restaurants.
– I am judging only from the information presented to us by the Minister of Defence, who told us thatin Australia we pay three times the price that is paid in the United Kingdom for fish. In any case, we know there are many occasionson which we have a very limited supply of fish, in spite of the fact that we have an immense coast line.
– The price of fish in the old country has come down very considerably since steam trawling came into vogue.
– There is no doubt about that; in my own experience, herrings have been sold twelve for1d.
– What size?
– About a quarter of a pound in weight. Where I disagree with the Government is in their having decided to hand the industry over to private enterprise after they have purchased the trawler and prospected the coast line. Immediately the fact is established that trawling is possible and profitable, the Government propose to leave future developments to private enterprise. If the Government feel disposed to be socialistic, why should they not honestly admit the fact?
– Hear, hear.
– Quite so. If would be just as well for the Government to honestly admit that they believe Socialism is a growing and a right principle, and that the people generally ought to share whatever benefits may result from the establishment of this industry. Why should the Government declare that they are socialistic until the possibilities and probabilities of, the industry have been ascertained, and then say that they are anti-socialistic? I do not agree with that ‘attitude on the part pf the; Government, and would much prefer, if we do undertake this trawling business, to go ahead with it. I shall support the item, because I believe that once the industry is proved to be payable the same power that initiated it will be able to continue it - that once the business becomes prosperous it will take a great deal to persuade the people to permit the Government to hand it over to private enterprise. I know that in days gone by many industries have been coddled into success by the Government, and then given oven to private enterprise, which exploits both men and material. I hope that in the trawling business we shall have no such result, but that the industry will be conducted for the benefit of the general taxpayer. As I say I support the item in the belief that once the industry becomes a success the people of Australia will have too much good sense to allow the Government te relinquish it to private enterprise.
– Senator Henderson prefaced his remarks by pointing out that the people of Australia have no reliable information with regard to the possibilities of trawling. The people of Australia have had some experience in, trawling operations, but no information as to that experience has been placed before the Committee. Senator Turley told us that the” Queensland Government made efforts to ascertain whether there were proper trawling grounds off the coast of that State, and that the experiment was a failure.
– An absolute failure.
– And I think the honorable senator also told us that a similar result followed trawling operations off the coast of New South Wales. We know that in Victoria efforts have been made to ascertain whether there are suitable trawling ground and the right kind of fish for trawling operations. So far as I know, al! these experiments, have been an absolute failure. Speaking subject to correction, I think the Victorian Government sent out the Lady Loch on a trawling expedition.
– Experiments have been conducted under private enterprise.
– I am now speaking of the experiments conducted by the Government of Victoria. Great hopes were held out that profitable fishing grounds would be discovered, and that the result would be the establishment of curing factories, and the foundation of a prosperous industry. However, failure met those efforts, but whether that was due to the nature of the fishing grounds we cannot, of course, say. We know that unless the bottom of the sea is perfectly smooth, it is impossible to trawl, and it may happen, that the right kind of fish are not present. The Rip, a. former pilot vessel of Port Philip, was also used in experiments of the kind by thi: Victorian Government; but no trawling ground was discovered.
– How long were the experiments continued ?
– I have no information. When it is proposed to spend £8,000 in this direction the Government should place before us all the facts relating to previous efforts. We aire really being asked to vote this £8,000 blindfold, and, apparently, without the Government themselves being aware that previous, efforts of the kind have been a failure. I understand that the *Rip was sent to Western Australia in 1904, but that the experiment there also was a failure.
– What evidence is there that that experiment was a failure?
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.I am so informed ; I do not know of my own personal knowledge. I believe that every State in Australia has engaged in trawling operations, with the exception of South Australia. When we are asked to vote a large sum of money for such a purpose we are at least entitled to know what efforts in a similar direction have previously been made, what the results of those efforts have been, and if unsuccessful, the reasons for their want of success. We have had no such information given us in the present instance. We are not told where the trawler is to be worked, or whether it is intended that it should work right round the coast of Australia.
– The honorable senator does not suppose that the Government propose to keep the trawler in Bass Straits all the time.
– I do not care to say so, but I aim somewhat suspicious of Bass Straits and Kangaroo
Island. It is the experience of Western Australia that that State has not in a single instance derived benefit from any subsidy voted by this Parliament. I should like to know where the Government propose to trawl. It will be of no use to carry out such an experiment in one place, and we know that it would take years to properly explore the waters of Australia’s 8,000 miles of coast line. The Government should certainly tell the Committee on what portion of our littoral they intend to commence trawling operations.
– Judging by the local spirit the honorable senator has suggested he would object if we said that we intended to commence at Sydney, and work round to the west.
– I have so far never objected to any subsidy proposed, and yet no subsidy we have voted has been of any advantage to Western Australia.
– I think there is something of the kind on the business-paper.
– And the honorable senator will wipe it off if he gets the chance.
– I referred to subsidies already passed. The Eastern States are deriving the benefit of the £400,000 a year spent on the Australian Squadron, and when we asked that the vessels should go round to Albany to become acquainted with the advantages of that strategic base the request was treated with derision. The squadron remains at Sydney during the greater part of the year, but during the Melbourne Cup week the vessels come to Melbourne, and in the fashionable season they go to Hobart. I believe that great wealth is to be derived from our waters, but I am not satisfied that we should endeavour to exploit it by trawling. If the Government could give any reason for believing that this proposal will be a success we could vote the money asked for with some assurance that it would not be absolutely wasted. If this vessel is purchased, and it is shortly afterwards decided not to continue the hobby, what is to become of the trawler ? Have the Government some idea of maintaining the trawler as a yacht for the use of members of the Federal Parliament in imitation of the practice adopted in New South Wales and Victoria? Why should we purchase a vessel df this kind at such a cost when wemight charter such a vessel for a year or two at very small expense? It seems to me that other methods might be adopted for exploiting the wealth of our seas. When at Thursday Island, I found that a small silver fish about three inches in length is to be found in myriads swarming around the piles of the pier there, and Mr. Saville-Kent, the expert, has stated that these fish are the true sardine. If that be so, there should be no reason why a very valuable industry in the canning of sardines should not be established at Thursday Island. The Government might put money on the Estimates to encourage the establishment of such industries. It might be better to encourage industries connected with fishing in that way than to tie the Commonwealth down to the purchase of a vessel for trawling at a cost of £8,000, when it is known that trawling operations conducted by the States have so far proved to be unsuccessful. I find that the sum of £9,000 is proposed to be devoted under the Bounties Bill to the encouragement of the fish canning industry. Possibly this is a supplementary proposal. I point out that the provision proposed to be made under the Bounties Bill might be sufficient to induce private enterprise to start trawling to secure a fish supply that would enable the parties concerned to get the £9,000 proposed to be given for the canning of fish. If that be so, it is possible that we might secure the same result with the one expenditure. An important consideration is the kind of fish that can profitably be canned. It seems to me that, with the exception of salmon, herrings, sardines, lobsters-
– I do not think that mullet are largely sold.
– It is a splendid fish canned.
– I do not think there are many fish in Australian waters that will become marketable products if canned. The popular taste is such that certainly many of our fish would be quite unsaleable if canned. In the Canadian rivers salmon swarm in such enormous numbers that thev are caught by the ton, and it is very unlikely that we shall be able to establish an industry in the canning of fish in Australia that will be in a position to compete with the canning of salmon in Canada.
The same remark applies to herrings, and we know that there are very great industries established in other countries in the canning of lobsters and sardines. On the north-west coast of Western Australia, at a place called Beagle Bay, an immense number of green turtle - the true aldermanic turtle of commerce - are found, and it is possible that a valuable industry might be started there in preserving those turtle. On the northern coasts of Australia the green* turtle exists ins great numbers, and at times small sandy islands on the coast are covered with them,
– They would not be caught with a trawler.
– No; I am showing that the ‘Government might expend money for the exploitation of the wealth to be derived from the sea without entering upon trawling operations, which, so far. as the experiments of the States are concerned, have been proved to be unsuccessful. There is another important fish, which is a warm-blooded mammal, discovered on the coast of Queensland.’ I refer to the dugong. Dugong oil is said to be one of the most valuable oils for medicinal and nourishing purposes that is produced from fish.
– Would the dugong fishing benefit under the Bounties Bill, seeing that the dugong is described as a mammal ?
Gould not say. I know that it is a warmblooded fish.
– They cure it and make bacon of it.
– And even Jews can eat dugong bacon.
– There should be great possibilities in that direction. The Government should have made full inquiries into these matters, and if thev had done so they might have been in a position to propose the expenditure of money to encourage the establishment of such fishing industries as I have referred to. I do not desire to oppose a vote especially submitted to develop an Australian industry. The attitude I have adopted has been wherever possible to assist investigation, but I think that it is possible that, if the Government had obtained information as to the results of trawling experiments bv the various States, they would not have submitted this vote. If we study the charts of the Australian coast we shall find that on many portions of the coast of
Australia the bottom of the sea is so uneven, and the formation is such, as to render it entirely unsuitable for trawling. Trawling cannot be carried on over a rocky bottom, because in such a place the nets would be torn to pieces. We know also that trawling can be carried on only over a perfectly smooth bottom, and we have no information as to the portions of the Australian coast at which trawling could be successfully carried on. While I do not say that I shall vote against, the item, I think that the Committee is entitled to ask the Government for some information on these heads. We should be informed of the experience of trawling by every State except, I believe, South Australia. We should also be told whether the Government propose to trawl in various waters round Australia, what kind of vessel they intend to purchase, and how long the investigation is to last. If the Government can give reasons which, would justify us in voting in favour of trawling operations being carried on, I shall be quite prepared to vote for the item.
– I am quite surprised at the continued reticence of the Government as to the genesis of this proposal. Surely the idea originated in some way or other ! I suppose that, after partaking of a fish supper, the Minister did not dream that there were great supplies of fish along our coasts, and at their next meeting suggested to the Cabinet that they should get a trawler? It is time that Senator Playford put an end to this discussion. I suggest that he should explain who suggested this experiment, and what the probabilities regarding it are.
, - The Committee seems to be in a most inquisitive mood this evening with regard to the innocent-looking proposal of the Government to spend the paltry sum of £8,000 on trawling. One honorable senator wishes to know where the idea originated. Where would such a brilliant idea originate except in the brain of a member of the Cabinet? At any rate, the Cabinet has submitted the proposal, and it is for Parliament to express its opinion. Senator Smith is also in a very inquisitive frame of mind. He has put quite a number of questions, but I suppose that he “could answer all of them much more to his satisfaction than the Government is likely to be able to do. Then other honorable senators art opposed to the item because the Governis not going the whole socialistic hog, is not going into the industry of trawling on its own, and giving a very wide berth to private enterprise. If the Government owned the lands of the Commonwealth and brought forward a proposal to spend £100,000 in prospecting for minerals, what member of the Senate would oppose it?
– Every man who believes in collectivism would if the industry was to be handed over to private enterprise afterwards.
– I do not believe that any collectivist, who knew exactly what he was doing, would do anything of the kind. We know that this is not a socialistic Parliament. A comparatively small, but I hope growing, section of Parliament is socialistic, but one cannot establish collectivism straight away. What is our best alternative ? To give private enterprise every encouragement we possibly can to develop the resources of this huge Continent. That should be our policy while we remain in a minority. Are we going to adopt a dog-in-the-manger attitude and say that, because we cannot have collectivism we shall have nothing else? Surely honorable senators do not seriously put forward such a proposition. Again, if we owned the lands of the Commonwealth, would we not be justified in sending out prospecting parties to see where good land existed, -to classify the land, to cut tracks, to prepare plans, and to make all arrangements for settlement?
– And after we had developed and classified the lands, does the honorable senator think that we should be justified in selling the results ?
– If the Commonwealth had developed and cultivated lands of its own I suppose that, like any business firm, it would retain the proceeds.
– Hear, hear ! That is what we want to do with, the fish.
– The Government has only control over the waters beyond territorial limits, and it has determined to explore the possibilities of those waters as a probable source of industry, and employment, and wealth for the purposes of the Commonwealth. I think that instead of being criticised adversely the idea is worthy of approbation. Some honorable senators have pointed out that attempts have already been made to establish the industry of trawling, and that every attempt has failed. Is that any argument? We know perfectly well that the food of the first persons who came to New South Wales had to be imported. Although thev were surrounded by millions of acres of rich land, yet they could not grow a potato or a bushel of wheat. They could not keep themselves alive, except with imported foods. But because those men failed, therefore, according to the arguments of honorable senators no further attempt ought to have been made. If a thousand trawling experiments had failed I submit that another experiment ought to be made. It is perfectly well known that the coast of Australia is teeming with fish, and that no Australian industry is in such a backward condition as that of fishing. No attempt has ever been made to organize it. It is carried on in a most haphazard fashion. Instead of the people of Australia having fish for breakfast every morning, they get it only now and again as a rare delicacy, and even then at the good will of a fishing ring, composed of Greeks or other foreign people about whom I do not know very much. In these circumstances the Government come forward with a proposal to rescue the fishing industry, and honorable senators are so critical that one would think that it was the most extravagant proposal ever submitted by a Government.
– They want to go into the fishing business thoroughly.
– If the honorable senator has not a very close connexion with the fishing business he has one of the habits which are usually associated with fishermen - that of exaggerating. In any case, I think that the item ought to be passed. I believe that if the Government is allowed to carry out the experiment some good will result to the fishing industry, and probably employment will be provided for large numbers of men who are now idle, and what is more, the people of Australia may get more fish to eat than they get now. Some honorable senators have threatened to vote against the item if the Government does not give them information. It is not very often that I am satisfied with anything the Government does, but I am quite prepared to take this proposal on trust.
– Without getting any information?
– I am not particular about getting any information concerning this proposal. I am quite prepared to trust the Government.
– Since Senator Givens asked for some information other honorable senators have spoken to the item. Quite recently Senator Pulsford expressed a considerable amount of surprise that Ministers had not furnished some information in reply to many requests. Unless we were prepared to take the place of other honorable senators who had caught the Chairman’s eye first, it was absolutely impossible for us to comply with the requests. I listened with considerable interest to the remarks of Senator Stewart, and I think I may say that honorable senators will be well minded if they will follow the example he has set.
– Accept the Government proposal on trust?
– Honorable senators are well aware that in first asking the Parliament to exercise other legislative powers the Government necessarily had to ask for a vote before it could proceed to organize a Department. The same kind of argument was offered when we proposed to establish a statistical Department, and it will be offered in connexion with every other power that the Commonwealth proceeds to exercise other than those which it acquired by immediate transfer under the operation of the Constitution. Senator Pulsford has asked wonderingly why it should have occurred to the Cabinet to make provision in the Estimates for a trawling experiment, and he has suggested inferentially that it was prompted by some ulterior motive. Previous speakers suggested that the Cabinet had been moved in this direction by some outside impelling influence which they did not desire members of Parliament to know anything about. To disarm any such suspicions I would mention at the outset that one of the first things which the Cabinet did, when it got into recess, was to appoint a sub-committee to inquire and report upon the question of the practicability of assisting many of the natural industries of Australia. One of the results of the investigation appears in the Bounties Bill, in connexion with which I understand there was circulated amongst members of the other House the report of the sub-committee. No less than three or four pages of that report are devoted to the question of trawling, and the possibilities of furthering the fishing industry of the Commonwealth. Under paragraph xx. of section 51 of the Constitution Act the Parliament has power to legislate with respect to-
Fisheries in Australian waters beyond territorial limits.
– To make laws; but does that enable the Commonwealth Government to do trawling?
– Yes, certainly.
– We were perfectly well aware, when we came to consider the possibility of encouraging the fishing industry, that the States had taken steps in the same direction heretofore; but we recognised also that the States could only act in a limited way in that regard. Some honorable senators who have spoken on this matter have referred to the 8,000 miles of coast-line that Australia possesses ; and it is only a reasonable assumption that, outside the territorial limits of our 8,00 miles of littoral, there must be ample opportunity for successful trawling. So far as other countries of the world are concerned, the Cabinet made inquiries, and found that the principal countries of Europe, the United States, Canada, South Africa, and New Zealand have all been doing trawling work. So that, practically, Australia is the only country amongst the civilized countries of the world in the first rank that is doing nothing. Is not that a reasonable and impelling, cause for asking Parliament to make some provision to enable us to do something of the same character here?
– Why did not the Minister say this an hour ago ?
– Did I not tell the honorable senator just now that, unless a member of the Government had interposed in the debate at an earlier stage, we could not have given this information? My honorable friend is always ready, willing, and anxious to believe that anything done by this Government is done with the object of promoting some unworthy end. If my honorable friend had given attention to this report-
– It has not been circulated amongst honorable senators. Why is that?
– It has been circulated in connexion with the Bounties Bill, and when that Bill is dealt with in the Senate it will be circulated here. The
Committee of the Cabinet quotes extracts from some interesting reports in >connexion with the fisheries of the different States. I do not wish to weary honorable senators by reading, it at length, but I think I shall be justified in making some extracts from it. In an extract from Australia To-day, consisting of a report by Mr. W. Saville Kent, F.L.S., &c, on the Barrier Reef, it is stated -
In other words it embraces - he is speaking of the coast of Queensland - two-thirds of the entire marine and fresh water fish Ianna of the Australian continent. Out of the foregoing total number, over 300 species may be classified as of more or less value for human food. They present almost unlimited possibilities of profitable employment. The waters abound with shoals of fish akin to the European mackerel, herring, anchovy, and pilchard, which up to the present date have been literally allowed to run to waste. And yet with these indigenous supplies swarming at their doors, Queensland and all the neighbouring Australian colonies import vast stores of canned, smoked, and sailed fish, from the lordly salmon to the lowly sprat, from Europe and America.
A further extract from the same report says -
Unprecedented natural facilities also exist at numberless stations within the precincts of the Barrier for the institution of large turtle breeding ponds and lagoons, which might outrival in importance the celebrated establishments in the Island of Ascension.
In another portion of the report it is stated -
Mr. Kent considers that the cultivation experiments made in the Mediterranean and at Florida might bc repeated with even greater success here. This, however, is one of the industries which Queensland is leaving for the future.
In a pamphlet entitled The Fisheries of New South Wales, published in 1896, considerable attention is bestowed upon herrings, anchovies, and other varieties of fish in New South .Wales waters. The extract which I quote, dealing particularly with herrings, says -
The amazing abundance of these fish makes it indeed regrettable that, from the mere lack of the necessary appliances for canning, salting, and otherwise treating them, tons upon tons were permitted to leave our shores.
After making reference to the shoals of fish that are to be seen at different portions of the New South Wales coast, the pamphlet gore on to refer to another important aspect of the matter.
– Shoal fish are not caught by trawling. v
– My honorable friend may not be acquainted with the work carried on by trawling steamers, which not only do trawling, but also make provision for employing other nets than those used at the bottom of the sea.
– Not for trawling.
– Other kinds of fishing are carried on in conjunction with trawling from these steamers.
– Where are they worked?
– In the North Sea.
– Not one.
– My honorable friend will be able to inform the Committee upon that point, no doubt. The Statist of Tasmania, in a report upon this subject dealing particularly with the Tasmanian fisheries, states -
The barracouta, king fish, and rock cod appear periodically in such vast numbers that frequently the supply is greatly in excess of the local demand. Owing to the absence of proper fishcuring establishments, large quantities have at times been known to be wasted, or merely utilized as manure. It is known also that large shoals of sprats and anchovies appear upon our coasts at regular seasons, but for the reasons already mentioned, and because the fishermen lack the proper appliances in the shape of nets, no attempt hitherto has been made to open up an industry in this particular direction.
Then he says, speaking on the matter to which Senator Turley has made reference -
Trawl nets have been. tried on the coast, but without good results. Either the class of bottom fish are absent in our watery, or the proper grounds have yet to be discovered suited for this mode of capture.
The Government is of opinion that whatever efforts have been put forward on the part of the States have been necessarily very limited - not of a character calculated to conduce to success. We think, on the other hand, that the Commonwealth can successfully enter upon some enterprise of this character. The report from which I am still quoting goes on to show the action taken by the governments of different countries to develop the fishing industries. It says -
As illustrating the importance of deep sea fisheries to other nations, it mav be pointed out that the British Government has spent large sums of money in furthering the fishing industry. The French and other Governments have done likewise, and the Government of the United States are stated to have expended a quarter of a million of money in conserving, developing, and extending the magnificent fisheries belonging to that country. In Canada a Cabinet Minister holds the portfolio of Marine and Fisheries, and in 1S92 the money voted for fishery purposes by the Dominion Government was £108,000, while the Department has seven well equipped steamers and two sailing vessels at its disposal for the purpose of carrying on its operations.
Further on in the report it is stated -
In addition to this individual work on an extensive scale, the nations adjoining the North Sea -
And here comes in the comparison to which I have already made reference in, regard to the extent of our coast-line - have lately combined in an international scheme of investigation ; experimentary provision has been made for three years, and Great Britain has arranged to provide as her share £42,000 during that period.
Particulars are given of some of the vessels engaged in this international work.
– What are they engaged in doing?
– In connexion with fisheries.
– Protecting the fisheries.
– They are engaged in investigating the possibility of successfully engaging in the fishing industry, and ascertaining the habits and locations of different kind of fish at different seasons. Some particulars are given of some of the vessels engaged in the international work, together with the cost, exclusive of working expenses -
Great Britain. - Two hired fishing vessels, approximate value, including equipment, £16,000.
Germany. - S.S. Poseidon, cost and equipment, £16.500.
Russia. - Special steamer, £16,000 ; outfit, say, £1,500; total, £17,500.
Norway. - S.S. Michael Sars, cost and equipment, £9,500.
Sweden. - A revenue cutter.
Netherlands, Finland, Denmark. - Additional, but details not to hand.
Amongst other investigation vessels must be mentioned the United States fishery cruiser Albatross, probably the finest and best equipped vessel of its kind in the world.
The report goes on to show the work which is being done by South Africa, the United States, Germany, Russia, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Canada.
– The work done by the Albatross is similar to that done by the Challenger on its famous expedition.
– In greater detail particulars are given in respect to Canadian fisheries. Here is a paragraph from the chapter dealing with the Canadian, New Zealand, and Japanese efforts in this direction -
The seas that wash New Zealand and some parts of the Australian coasts teem with fish. This source of work has not yet been sufficiently exploited. In Japan the fisheries are a very great national concern ; some 380,000 fishing boats, and over 3,500,000 persons are wholly or partially employed in fishing.
Honorable senators are aware that both the Canadian and the British fisheries involve the employment of a considerable number of men. Anything that can be done in Australia to promote the fishing industry, and which may be succesful in that direction will also lead to the employment of a large sea-faring population - a circumstance which, I think, will be welcome fo the people of Australia generally. Since consideration was given to what has been done in other countries to which I have already made reference, the work done by New Zea: land which is close to our shores, and by South Africa has been brought under the notice of the Government, and I may inform honorable senators of what has been done in South Africa in this regard. It is quite recently that South Africa has done anything in connexion with the matter. As recently as 1897 that country obtained a boat called the Pieter Faure, and it is stated in the document from which I quote -
The Pieter Faure is a modern type steaming vessel. (Mr. Dannevig, Fishery Expert of New South Wales, is of opinion that an up-to-date boat could be purchased for about seven or eight thousand pounds). A skilled crew was placed on board. The report by the Government Biologist states : - “ It was soon demonstrated that there was an abundance of fish, notwithstanding what was said to the contrary, and that there was -an excellent trawling ground rivalling with the North Sea in productiveness.”
I have been asked whether, when the Cape Government asked Parliament for a vote to enable it to embark on this industry to a greater extent, it was prepared to furnish information to members. I do not think that the Cape Government was in any better position than the Commonwealth Government is at the present time. They hoped, as we do, that there were supplies of fish on their coasts. This particular boat has demonstrated that fact beyond doubt. Similar results were obtained from investi’gations on various parts of the coast -
Apparently about 1899 the Government took in hand the question of proving that the fish could be commercially dealt with, and the results from the work of the Pieter Faure showed at times a profit of over three hundred pounds per month.
– To whom did the profits go?
– To the Government. Profitable results have been secured by the Government which have induced private enterprise to enter into the business. In 1902, five years afterwards, 4 vessels were engaged in the work, and in the following year, 1903, the report of the Government Biologist states that -
In 1902 four trawlers were engaged on the work, and a large number of fish were landed.
In 1903 the report of the Government Biologist states that “ Four large steam trawlers, each considerably larger than the Pieter Faure, and over ^30,000 in value in all, have arrived during this period from Europe, in order to follow up the work initiated by the Cape Government. Further : “ Two other vessels fitted up with special refrigerating arrangements for South African trade, have arrived during the course of the year. .- . Another large boat, 250 tons gross register, designed as a carrier and trawler, was valued, at £7,500. Other trawlers are at work in addition to those mentioned, and continue to do profitable business.
As a result of the investigation into what had been done in South Africa, communication was opened up with the Premier of Cape Colony, who, in April last, ‘ sent a letter to the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, in which he said -
The latest information from the trawling companies now established indicates that they are doing well, and are sending large quantities of fish to the inland towns.
– It is a good thing for the companies.
– It is a good thing for the public to have an industry of this kind firmly established. Inquiries were made into the operations in New Zealand, and it was found that as recently as 1900 the Government; of that Colony had entered into an enterprise of this character. One of the efficials connected with the trawling expedition reported as follows : -
With regard to the value of the work done for the Colony bv this expedition, I maintain that the favorable conditions for successful trawling that we have proved to exist in Tasman, Golden, Pegasus, Riverton, and Tewaewae Bays is worth to the Colony ten times more than the whole amount expended on the cruise, while the knowledge gained of the nature of the ocean’s bottom and fish life existing round other parts of the coast that were explored, is of considerable value and interest in dealing with our fisheries. The Government can assist the fisheries of the Colony ;n no better way than by carrying the experimental trawling round other parts of the Colony. I would therefore respectfully recommend that experimental trawling be continued round the coast of the North Island, and that a suitable vessel should be chartered sufficiently early to allow her to be fitted out, and the work commenced, by the beginning of January. And also that a scientific expert be appointed to accompany the expedition, so that a biological survey of the areas prospected may be carried out.
The report that was furnished to the Minister of Marine contained this reference: -
I consider the Government were very wise to carry out the recent trials, for they have proved beyond doubt that many valuable fishing grounds exist around these shores, and if private enterprise were’ now to take the matter up, I have no doubt that deep-sea fishing in this Colony would soon become a great and valuable industry. Comparing the quality and class of fish that abound in these waters with those in the old country, and taking into consideration the great difference in their present value, I believe that a large and profitable export trade could be established in frozen fish.
As in the case of South Africa, communications were opened up with the Premier of New Zealand, who, writing to the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, on the 1 8th April, 1906”, stated -
There has been a considerable increase in the number of fishing boats within the last five years-
Honorable senators will remember that it was in 1900 the New Zealand Government embarked on this enterprise - and larger vessels, propelled by oil engines, are now coming into use with satisfactory results. Trawling by means of steam vessels is on the increase, and there are now ten such vessels at Napier, one at Gisborne, one at Lyttleton, two at Dunedin, and one at the Bluff. The new vessels brought to Napier during the last few years are larger and! better adapted for trawling than those formerly in use.
I could go on reading information which I am certain would be of great interest, but I think that what I have quoted will clearly bring home to honorable senators the fact that experiments of this kind are being conducted practically in every country in the world. We have no reason to believe that we cannot carry out experiments of a similar character with equal success in Australia; on the contrary, we must all be inclined to think that with our enormous coast line of 8,000 miles, we ought to meet with a still greater measure of success. When we remember the varied climates which different portions of Australia enjoy, we can readily understand that not only in quantity, but in variety, the fish outside the territorial limits should rival, if not excel, that found in other parts of the world.
– Have the Government made inquiries as to why the experiments by the States Governments were unsuccessful ?
– Those experiments, compared with experiments elsewhere, were spasmodic and inefficient. The Government do not think that anything done by the States was sufficient - we do not think that the experiments were of such magnitude as to warrant us in believing that because they were a failure, properly conducted experiments should also be a failure. The sum of £8,000 is based on the consideration of the cost of similar vessels employed in other parts of the world; and the Government believe that with that amount they can conduct investigations similar to those to which I have referred at Cape Colony and in New Zealand. If honorable senators, like honorable members of another place, will grant this sum bv an overwhelming majority, the Cabinet feel hopeful that the application of the money will have results at least as beneficial as the results of similar operations elsewhere.
– For about a couple of hours the Minister treated with silent contempt the requests made by one honorable member after another for information. At last the Honorary Minister has risen in his place, and, after making a considerable show of indignation at my action especially, has given information which is most interesting, and which, if given before the adjournment for dinner, might have put an- end to the discussion. The information which has now been supplied affords ample justification for anything I may have said.
.- When previously I addressed the Committee on this question I said I did not feel inclined to vote for the item without that full information to which the Committee are entitled. Notwithstanding Senator Stewart, I hold that the Committee have a. right to scrutinize every vote, more especially every new or unusual vote. Senator Stewart was rather severe in his criticism of honorable senators who desired information. There is no doubt that he was perfectly within his rights in being even severe; but honorable senators, who have been criticised, have an equal right to show the fallacy and sophistry of his position. The honorable senator waxed facetious at other honorable senators because of their thirst for information, but I do not think there is one who has a greater thirst of the kind that he has himself.
– I am satisfied with the information given.
– Because Senator Stewart is satisfied to take the vote on trust, he thinks that every honorable senator ought to follow his example. The honorable senator became quite sarcastic because we had ventured to criticise the vote at all ; he evidently thinks that, inasmuch as it meets with his approval, it should meet with the approval of everybody else. On this occasion Senator Stewart has departed from his usual logical attitude. For instance, the honorable senator contends that because we have control of the waters surrounding Australia we should proceed to act in exactly the same way as we should if we had control of the land. The honorable senator asserted that if we had control of the land we would think nothing of spending £100,000 in exploration ; in fact, the honorable senator will soon rival Sir John Forrest, .and ask us, “ What is a million or two?” The honorable senator said that we would be quite willing to expend large sums in prospecting for minerals. That may be ; but it would be exceedingly foolish for the Government to search for minerals, and, having found them, hand them over to private individuals. If I spend money in searching for gold and find it, I reckon that gold is mine; and so with the community as a whole. The members of the party to which I belong desire to initiate new and more equitable economic conditions ; and if we are to be guided bv what has been done bv our political enemies and opponents in the past, there is no justification for our existence in this or any other Parliament. Senator Stewart said that if we owned the land we would have an army of surveyors exploring and classifying the ground. But let me point out that, under such circumstances, we would expect an enormous revenue from that expenditure, just as we should if we owned the mines. Neither instance cited by Senator Stewart is on all-fours with the present proposition. Senator Stewart pointed out the great evil, which I have not the slightest hesitation in admitting, that the fishing industry is in a totally disorganized state in
Australia. But, even if the proposed trawler were successful in opening up new fishing grounds, it would not have the slightest effect in placing the fishing industry on a better basis. It. is when fish are most plentiful that the disorganization is the greatest. It is currently said in Melbourne that when fish are plentiful, either in the Bay or outside the Heads, they are destroyed in order that the dealers may get their own price in the market.
– It is so in Queensland.
– Therefore the more Ash we get, the more disorganized will the industry be.
– That is private enterprise !
– Yes ; and yet Senator Stewart takes us to task for daring to criticise private enterprise.
– Not at all.
– The proper way to develop an industry of this kind is by means of protection! or a subsidy, whichever may be deemed most desirable. Certainly I do not hold with our finding out new fishing grounds and developing the industry, and then allowing private individuals to take advantage of the discovery with their trawlers, while the Government vessel moves on to find other fishing grounds. I am in favour of the imposition of protective duties for the support of any industry which it can be shown has a reasonable prospect of success in Australia. I refer to protective duties that will really protect, and not to such duties as are imposed by the mongrel Tariff we have at the present time. I am in favour also of the granting of subsidies for the establishment of new industries. But I believe that it is entirely wrong for the Commonwealth to expend money to discover a source of wealth, and then hand it over to private enterprise. We have often been told that we should do nothing to interfere with States rights, and I should like to know if we have any assurance that the States will not regard this proposal as an infringement of their rights. I have a word or two to say in reply to Senator Keating, who gave the Committee some very interesting information, and quoted authorities which in no way justify the Government proposal. The honorable and learned senator quoted Mr. SavilleKent, one of the most eminent authorities on fisheries that we have ever had in Australia, as to the quantities of fish to be found along the Barrier Reef, on the north eastern coast of Australia. If the Minister knows anything of trawling, he must know that it would be absolutely impossible to trawl anywhere near the Barrier Reef, because the sharp coral of which the bottom is composed would cut the nets to pieces. To insure successful trawling, the operations must be carried on over a fairly even bottom, and preferably over a sandy bottom, such as exists on the Dogger Bank in the North Sea. It is quite impossible to trawl over a sharp rocky bottom, though other methods of fishing in such waters might be adopted successfully. Senator Keating also quoted Mr. Saville-Kent as to the shoals of fish to be found on the coast of Australia; but trawling would be useless for catching those fish. Trawling is carried on to catch fish that keep close to the bottom, and we know that fish that travel in shoals are usually found close to (he surface of the sea. My chief objection to the vote is that I object to the money of the people of the Commonwealth being spent to assist private enterprise, when I know that every available excuse is put forward to prevent the expenditure of the people’s money for the benefit of the citizens of the Commonwealth as a whole. I know that the Government will scout the idea of engaging in Commonwealth enterprise for the benefit of the whole of the people. Whenever any such proposal has been made the whole force of the Government has been employed to defeat it.
– Is the honorable senator quite sure of that?
– I am quite sure of it. I challenge Senator Clemons to refer me to a single occasion on which a proposal bv any member of the party to whicli I belong that the Commonwealth should engage in an industrial enterprise for the benefit of the whole people has not been opposed by every Government of the Commonwealth, with the exception of one.
– Surely the honorable senator cannot object to the Government improving their ways now that they have learnt better.
– No one would be more pleased than I should be to see the Government doing what I think should be done, but they are not proposing to do that here. They are proposing to spend the people’s money to assist private enterprise, and even the leader of the antiSocialist party, Mr. George Reid, is prepared to do that. He is willing to hand out the taxpayers’ money wholesale to assist a handful of people who are better able to take care of themselves than are the majority of the people of the Commonwealth.
– He does not support a protective Tariff,- which is the form usually adopted for giving public money to private individuals.
– We know that there are no anti-Socialists, because members of all parties are Socialists so far as it suits themselves ; but it is a well-known fact that Mr. George Reid, the leader of the so-called Anti-Socialist Party, lias frequently announced his willingness to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds of the taxpayers’ money to further private enterprise. If it is wise that we should expend public money to assist individuals, why should “ it not be right and just to spend public money to help the whole people? Until I get a satisfactory answer to that question, I shall be prepared to vote against this and every other similar proposal.
– If I vote against this item, as I probably shall, I shall do so for reasons which differ from those expressed by a number of honorable senators. I have the greatest objection to any unnecessary expenditure at the present time, when I think that it is necessary that we should be very careful of the finances of the Commonwealth. I believe that this year the Government expenditure is within £300,000 of our constitutional spending limit, and there are several works which they propose to undertake which will increase our expenditure. Unless some action is taken to restore the financial equilibrium, we shall soon be jammed up against the Braddon section, and will have to consider reductions in expenditure which will be found to be very unsatisfactory and very unwelcome. In the circumstances, I think that we should do what we can, in dealing with these and other Estimates which come before us, to reduce the expenditure proposed where that can be done without a sacrifice of efficiency. This item does not appear to be the outcome of any thought-out scheme. Senator Keating has given the Committee a very interesting discourse on what has been done in other countries, and concerning what no doubt it would be desirable for us to do by-and-by. It seems to me that the enterprise involved in the particular vote under discussion is not one of urgent necessity at present. We have power over fisheries only outside the three-miles limit, and I assume that fishing outside that limit will not be essentially different from fishing within the limit. I believe that the same appliances as are required for exploring the bottom of the sea within the three-miles limit of the coast will be required to explore the bottom beyond that limit. At the present. time . the States have, and will continue to have, the exclusive right to deal with fisheries within the three-miles limit, and until the Commonwealth Parliament passes laws dealing with that subject, the States laws will apply to the waters outside the three-miles limit. The matter is therefore one which, I think, might very well be left to the States at the present time. If we vote this money for the purpose of an immediate experiment, we shall have power to carry out that experiment outside the three-miles limit, but we will not have power to explore the waters of the coast within the three-miles limit.
– We should have that power with the consent of the States.
– That is to say, they might raise no objection to our doing so. But it is probable that the people of the Commonwealth as a whole might object to trawling operations being carried on within the three-miles limit of the coast of any one particular State. It seems to me that the scheme is very imperfect. The question involved is not like that of meteorology or quarantine, one which car.’ be very much better dealt with by a central authority than by a number of separate authorities, and when we take into consideration the fact that the States; have now the exclusive power to deal with fishing within the threemiles limit of their coasts, and with fishing outside that limit until the Federal Parliament takes action in the matter, we might very well leave the subject to be dealt with by the States Parliaments, and for the present save the proposed expenditure. Two sets of opinions are being submitted to the Committee, and, whilst I agree entirely with those who consider that it is justifiable for the States to spend money for the purpose of developing or exploring an industry in order that private enterprise may derive benefit from it, I disagree with those honorable senators who have taken up the position that if States moneyis to be expended at all it must be in the establishment of a Commonwealth industry, to be worked by profit by the Commonwealth Government. That, to my mind, would not be constitutional . I do not think that under the Constitution the Commonwealth Government are entitled to undertake the conduct of any industry except for the supply of Commonwealth wants.
– -Then the Commonwealth Government could not undertake the conduct of this industry at all, and could not even prospect it?
– That is a very different matter. I see no reason for giving a vote in favour of the establishment , of a fishing industry to be carried on by the Commonwealth. I wish it to :be understood that in voting against this proposal I am not against the principle involved. I. think it is quite correct that pioneering work for the benefit of the whole community, and not for the benefit of any particular body or individual, should be carried on at the expense of the States. It is justifiable for the States to undertake whatever pioneering work may be necessary for the development of great industries, and I should look upon the proposed expenditure as being justifiable in other circumstances, and at seme other time. I hold that at present we have no money to spare for this work, and that as the conduct of fisheries within the three-miles limit off the coast, and until we enact legislation dealing with the subject beyond that limit, ls at present the absolute right of the States, we had better leave the work for the present to the States.
– It seems to me that the proposal is a very desirable one. I dissent from the attitude taken up by the last two speakers. Senator Drake pointed out that the proposal was incomplete - maimed,- I think he said - because of the inability to prospect within the three-miles limit, inasmuch as the States might object. When I interjected -that probably some of the States would be verv glad to permit the investigation to be made within their territory if the Commonwealth so desired, he looked upon my suggestion as objectionable, because he thought it would be unjust to other parts of the Commonwealth. But as each State has a considerable stretch of coast line, it is quite possible by mutual consent that an investigation might be made by a Commonwealth vessel of this kind, both within and without the three-miles limit round the entire coast. And if it led to the development of a vigorous fishing industry within Australian waters, it would be an immense advantage to the Australian people. Unfortunately, the Commonwealth is very limited in its power ..o attract persons to engage in industries, as it has no land. We all admit that it would be a great thing for the Commonwealth if its population were very much larger, and this appears to be a direction in which the Commonwealth has power to develop fields of industry which may attract and maintain population. I sympathize entirely with Senator Givens in his statement that if this be discovered to be a profitable business, it would be a good thing to have it prosecuted by the Commonwealth in its own interests. I do not agree that there is a constitutional bar to that. I believe it is quite competent for the Commonwealth to undertake fishing or other work in the way of commercial enterprise in its own interests. However, if there be a constitutional difficulty, that seems to be an insufficient reason for not doing what we can within the Constitution. I also agree with Senator Givens that the States have not pursued a wise policy in undertaking all the initial and unprofitable expense in connexion with mining, agriculture, and other industries, and leaving them when profit-making. But it is better to go that far than not to do anything in assisting to develop industries. ‘ This appears to me to be a step in a direction in which my honorable friend desires to go. I agree that it does not go the whole way, but it is a step which would facilitate matters, and which would have to be taken by the Commonwealth in carrying out’ the complete undertaking, which both he and I desire. Those who think that the Commonwealth Government should do whatever it can to develop sources of employment, should certainly vote for the item. It .is objected that we are approaching the limit of our spending power, but I think that we are still a long way off the point of danger. It should be remembered that the Commonwealth is undertaking, and I think properly undertaking, many public works out of revenue, and it is because of that policy that we are as near as we are to the limit of our spending power. This trawling experiment is in the nature of a public work, which even some States might carry out with loan money, but which we propose to carry out with revenue. There will be some expenditure for maintenance, which may recur ; but the initial expenditure will not recur, and we shall have £8,000 to spare for some other useful work, I hope in the years that are to come. I strongly urge upon those who are members of a party which claims, and rightly claims, and always aims to secure the best possible means of profitable employment for those who toil to live, that this experiment, if successful, would open up another avenue of employment.
– Does ‘not the honorable senator think that the most proper way is by means of a bounty and a duty ?
– Both ways are good, and this proposal is in a degree in the nature of a bounty. I agree with the honorable senator that if we discover a profitable fishing; ground, it may be necessary to take steps to keep our market absolutely to ourselves, that is to initiate a protectionist Tariff. What I look forward to, first of all, is a better system of fish supply for Australians. It has been very properly pointed out that in the case of each State, the fish supply is not well organized. This expenditure may, probably will, .initiate an organization by the Commonwealth of the fisheries over which it Kas control, and if there is evolved a fishing industry, I should hope to see regulations^ - a law, if need be - providing that when fish are plentiful, they shall not be permitted to be turned into manure, to the detriment of those who would be glad to pay a reasonable price for them.
– We import 13,000,000 lbs. weight of fish per annum.
– Valued at £300,000.
– I was not aware of the figures. For these reasons, I shall vote for the item.
– I propose to divide the Committee on this item, and I trust that it will be struck out. I do not think that the experiment, if made, would be successful. The business of the Committee has been carried on in a very peculiar way. In his secondreading speech, the Minister of Defence gave very little information concerning this item. He merely said that an experiment had been tried in South Africa, and in Canada, and that the value of the fishing industry to certain countries was so and so. Senator Pulsford was right when he urged that we were entitled to get full information, if it was in possession of the Government, before we were asked to vote on the question. For nearly two hours senator after senator rose and asked if there was any information in the possession of the Government which could be given, and it was not until long after the resumption of the sitting that we were able to get certain information from Senator Keating.
– I was ready to give it before the dinner hour, but I could not stop senators from talking.
– The honorable senator could have got an opportunity quite easily if he had risen to speak. He started off by saying that there was always an objection to expenditure, and said that the expenditure proposed in the Census and Statistics Bill was criticised on much the same lines as this item. This proposal is essentially different. That Bill provided for the appointment of a Federal officer to do certain work which could be better done by the Commonwealth than it apparently could be done by the States acting separately. But this proposal deals with a subject which has engaged the consideration of a number of the States. Until Senator Smith spoke, I was not aware that Victoria had made an experiment in this direction. Apparently all the States except one have spent a considerable sum, but each experiment has been a failure. Senator Keating quoted the evidence of Mr. Saville Kent in regard to the Queensland coast, That gentleman was employed by the Queensland Government for a number of years in connexion with the pearl-shelling industry. I do not yet know whether the work for which he was paid has been of any particular value to the people of the State, or to those who are engaged in the pearl-shelling industry.
– He gave us a very interesting report.
– I admit that, from a scientific point of view, Mr. Saville Kent furnished a most interesting report. He pointed out that, in all probability, the best way to develop the pearl-shelling industry would be by means of nurseries. I believe that some thousands of pounds have been spent in experimenting as he suggested, but, so f ari, no success has been met with. Senator Keating, spoke of the fish that are to be found inside the Barrier. Does the honorable senator believe that fish similar to the English herring, pilchard, and mackerel are caught either in Australia or elsewhere by trawling? I have a little knowledge of the way in which those fish are caught, but I have not heard of that being done yet. They are caught by drift or seine net.
– They are caught by trawling.
– As the honorable senator seems to be an authority on everything under the sun, I suppose I must take his word.
– On this trawler we shall have nets.
– The information is dribbling out. Previously, the Minister did not give us a solitary item of information. We have been told about the sums of money spent in Canada and other places, but thathas been mostly in connexion with the protection of fisheries. Senator Keating pointed out that England has entered into an agreement with the countries on the Continent) and that they are going to spend a large sum. I venture to say that the English Government has never spent a penny in fitting out a ship to trawl, or do anyother sort of fishing, but has merely kept its own ships on the coast - as has been done, I suppose for 200 or 300 years - with the object of protecting the fishing industry. There are prescribed limits within which certain nets are not allowed to be used on the English coast, and the British Government has to keep vessels going round the coast to see that the fishing boats do not poach within the limits marked out for them. That is the reason for the expenditure incurred around the coast of Great Britain, and not that the British Government goes in for fitting out ships for certain kinds of fishing work. Nothing of the sort takes place.
– But the British Government has done it.
– I hope that the honorable senator will be able to give us some authentic information as to when it was done. I never heard of it. My belief is that the fishing industry in British waters has been carried on for hundreds ofyears and that there has been no necessity for the British Government to show the people how to do their work.
– Because the honorable senator has never heard of ithe need not flatly contradict others.
– Senator de Largie appears to be an authority on this subject as well as on others. He tells us that on the Scotch coast herring are caught by trawlers. I am satisfied, from that remark, that he knows very little about fishing. The fishing people will have a good laugh when they read that Scotchmen like Senator Stewart and Senator de Largie tell the people of Australia that in Scotland people trawl for herring.
– That shows how much the honorable senator knows about it.
– I fancy that I know something about the subject, and that Senator de Largie knows very little. He also told us that when he was in Western Aus tralia fish were playing around the boat in which he was, and he wondered whether trawlers would be able to develop an industry by catching the fish that he saw schooling.
– I said that I saw them in the harbor.
– We are not dealing with harbor fishing now, but with quite a different proposal. While people may be able to catch herring with a trawler in Scotland, T venture to say that it is not done anywhere else in the world.
– Perhaps Scotch herring are caught in that way.
– They may be. Senator Keating, when I interjected, said that these steam trawlers carry all sorts of nets. I asked, “ Where ?” and he replied, “ In the North Sea.” He added that he would give me some information in that regard. I am still waiting for that information. I know something about the work carried on by those vessels, and venture to say that they carry no nets, except for trawling purposes, and that they do not go in for herring fishing at all. Boats for herring fishing are fitted out in an entirely different manner, with different appliances of every description. Thev go out with the object of catching one kind of fish, and do not attempt the operation of trawling. Trawlers are vessels that go out from Hull, Lowestoft, and other places around the coast of England for perhaps seven or eight weeks at a time, attended upon bv other vessels that pick up the fish from them, and take it away to market. They do not use drift nets, or anv other kind of nets. I do not believe in this proposal at all. In my opinion, the men engaged in the fishing industry in places like Melbourne are as well acquainted as any one can be with the habits of the fish that they go out to catch. They know the means by which they can obtain the best results from, the work that they do. It may be suggested that their operations are restricted, because they have not sufficient capital. But there is. a fairly large organization in Melbourne that would put money into this business for experimental purposes if there were a reasonable prospect of success; and if they believed that there were fish to be caught by trawling they would go in for it. A trawler does not catch fish on the top of the sea. The trawl beam is only about 4 feet from the bottom. It rests upon two trawl yards ; and it is only the fish that can go under that beam that the trawlers are able to get into the nets at all. If the people engaged in the fishing industry believed that it was possible to trawl profitably, or that the fish existed, or that the bottom was sufficiently smooth to enable the operation of trawling to be carried on, and that they would get a large return for their money and for the labour that they put into the work, they would undoubtedly go in for it. Many of them have made a life’s study of fishing, and are naturally on the look-out to improve their opportunities. Men who have teen a lifetime in the industry will laugh at this idea of the Government. The experiment has already been tried in Queensland, in spite of the ridicule of those who knew that it would be a failure, but who were proved to be perfectly right. The whole scheme was torn to pieces before the trawlers had gone out more than a mile or two. The experiment will be extremely expensive. It is possible to get to know what the bottom of the sea is like without bringing a trawler into play. It is easy to find out if there is any obstruction in the w7ay by a much simpler method. It is not to be denied that there is a large quantity of fish around the coast of Australia. I have seen far more fish caught in Queensland at one. time than all the towns in the country would be able to consume. It has to be remembered that the up-country towns cannot afford to buy fish! in large quantities. The cost of transit, and of packing in ice to send fish to the back country is very great. As a matter of fact, therefore, a large quantity of fish is not consumed in the interior. It is urged that the fact that we import large quantities of fish shows that there is a necessity for developing the industry. It shows nothing of the kind. Great Britain imports large quantities of fish - in all probability more than we do, although millions of tons of fish are caught in the British seas. Yet
I have seen the time when fishermen would not attempt to put their boats out when fish were plentiful, because, even if they were successful, there was no market for their commodity. In Queensland, when sea mullet has been in, I have known occasions where there must have been thousands of tons of fish available. Quantities more than sufficient to supply any demand could easily have been caught. But there was not a sufficient market for it. The idea of going out to trawl for mullet, however, is all nonsense. I sincerely hope that the Committee will reject the item under discussion, because I believe that the money will be wasted.
– Had it not been for the criticism of the action of the Government in regard to the purchase of the trawler I should not have spoken again. But I wish to point out that what has been done by the States Governments in this direction has not been anything like complete. That work, however, gives promise “that much more satisfactory results would be achieved if a more thorough experiment were undertaken. That remark is borne out by an official report upon the trawling operations in Western Australia during 1904. I will quote 0111 v a short paragraph to show that there is fair promise of a future for this industry. The report says -
Operations were commenced in Geographe Bay in the early part of the year, and although the ocean floor proved suitable for trawling in many places, no fish of any value were captured, owing, I think, to the hungry nature of the bottom, coarse sand and shell, showing very little feed on it. Similar ground to this was met with as far north as Geraldton, when the nature of the ocean floor changed, and better prospects were obtained, and a large extent of splendid trawling ground was discovered between the Abrolhos and the mainland, and although fish were not caught in payable quantities, further prospecting at other seasons of the year might be successful. Being guided by the experiments of South Africa and New Zenland in their trawling experiments, I was anxious to try and find a muddy bottom, which seems conspicuous by its absence along our Southern coast : the nearest approach to it was found in the vicinity of Bernier Island, 40 miles west of Carnarvon. Here we discovered a very large extent of trawling ground with good feed upon it, and where ,1 large quantity of our principal food fishes were caught.
I think it will be admitted that, while some work has been done bv the States, more remains to be done, and I hope that when the Commonwealth trawler commences operations the work initiated bv the States
Governments will be carried to a successful issue. I should also like to read a short statement from the Encyclopedia Britannica on “ Fisheries,” to show that the British Government has done something similar to what is proposed to be done by the Commonwealth Government.It is stated that -
Under the Sea Fisheries (Scotland) Amendment Act of 1885, the Board closed the Firth of Forth and St. Andrew’s Bay against trawlers as an experiment for the purpose of ascertaining the result of such prohibition on the supply of fish on the grounds so protected. The Treasury also, by a further grant of £3,000, enabled the Board to purchase the steam yacht Garlanâ as a means of carrying out regular experimental trawlings over the protected grounds.
– That means that fishermen arenot allowed to fish in the protected grounds. That is what I said. That is where the money has been spent; not in developing, but in protecting fisheries.
– I understood the honorable senator to say that the British Government had done nothing. It is clear that this money was spent for experimental purposes. I should also like to quote an extract from the Glasgow Weekly Mail as to trawling on the Moray Firth. A case wasbrought before the Full Bench, of the Scottish Courts affecting the right of foreign trawlers to fish within certain limits of the Moray Firth. The report says -
The question arose on an appeal to the Judiciary Court on behalf of Emmanuel Mortonsen, 24 Montague-street, Grimsby, the master of a Norwegian trawler, against a decision of Sheriff Guthrie at the Sheriff Court at Dornoch, convicting him of having contravened the Sea Fishing Acts and Herring Fisheries (Scotland) Acts by having used the method of fishing as otter trawling in the Moray Firth, within the area specified in a by-law made by the Fishery Board for Scotland.
– That is whatI say. Trawling is not allowed within certain limits.
– When speaking this afternoon I referred to trawlers being used on the west coast of Scotland. At that time I was not quite sure as to the kind of fish they caught. But this I know perfectly - that the same steamers as are generally referred to as trawlers go in for herring fishing just as they go in for ordinary trawling. Although they go in for net fishing, for instance, they are always referred to as trawlers. In ordinary language these vessels are called steam trawlers; but, as a matter of fact, the trawleris merely the gear, and the steamer could be used for either net or trawl fishing. I might point out that the survey of a great portion of our coast is very incomplete, and the steamer might be made good use of in this connexion. In my opinion the Government are quite justified in making this experiment, and on that ground I support the item.
Question - That the item, “Trawler and equipments, £8,000,” stand part of the schedule - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I should like to know whether any provision is made in these Estimates for ranges for artillery practice. InspectorGeneral Finn in his report recommends that the Government should at once provide artillery ranges ; and I should like to know whether anything has been done in that connexion. The longer this work is put off the more expensive will it become, owing to the increase in the price of land.
– Nothing has been done definitely in the way of providing artillery ranges. The cost is practically prohibitive, considering that a range must be ten miles long and several miles broad. The Government have under consideration the purchase of a range in Queensland, where there is rough country which might be obtained in sufficient quantity for the purpose; but to get an artillery range near any centre of population is practically out of the question.
At present in South Australia, Victoria, and elsewhere, the rule is to practice the artillery over the sea, and the Government are not prepared to put down a sum sufficient to obtain a suitable range on land. In Sydney, at the National Park, artillery practice is allowed on certain days at certain hours; but the State Government would certainly not part with any of that reserve, which has been set aside for recreation purposes. With the exception of that land, I do not know any within hundreds of miles suitable for artillery practice.
– I should like to have some information regarding the item of £1,424 for a site for a rifle range at Kyneton?
– The note I have as to that item is as follows: -
Approximate area 43S acres. This site is admirably suited for a rifle range ; is private property ; it is close to Kyneton, and the centre of a sound and growing district. It is pointed out that if this opportunity to purchase now be missed, no other site is known of in the district. The owner will not sell the portion actually necessary for the range itself, but will sell the whole area shown on plan. Purchase money asked for, £3 5s. per acre. Lessor and owner will not sub-divide.
– How many members are there in the rifle corps at that place?
– I do not know.
– I suppose that honorable senators recognise, as I do, the meagre amount of money we are asked to vote in connexion with the Naval Forces. Almost the whole of the expenditure is in connexion with the military; but there is one item, small as it is, of £260 for alterations and additions to existing works and buildings for the Naval Forces. If the Minister has brought himself to recommend such an expenditure on naval defences, I should like to know what is the meaning of the item.
– This expenditure is in connexion with the torpedo^ dep6t at Williamstown. When I was at the depot some time ago, I was perfectly satisfied that an expenditure of this kind was necessary for the purpose of asphalting the depot, and concreting an area of land recently added to the property.
– I see there is an item of £1,000 as the first instalment towards the cost of a rifle range at Brisbane for the metropolitan troops. This item has appeared, regularly year after year, since, I believe, the inauguration of the Commonwealth. Apparently none of the money has been spent, and, perhaps, the Minister will tell us how the matter stands.
– The matter stands exactly as it did when I took office, and, I think, also when the two, preceding Ministers took office. However, this is no laughing, .matter; because there are great difficulties in the way of obtaining a suitable range for Brisbane and neighbourhood. Honorable senators know that at present a reserve is being used for the purpose, but practically on sufferance. We have been looking out for a range for a long time past, and certain of the military authorities chose a site at Sandgate. This land, however, is in connexion with a Roman Catholic orphanage, and the owners strongly object to any portion of it being used for a range.
– Did not the Marine Board also object ?
– Yes ; the Marine Board first gave permission, and then they objected to the land being used for the purpose, When I was in Brisbane I went over the site, and came to the conclusion that, if we could find a suitable range anywhere else, we ought not to deprive the Orphanage people of the land, on which they appear to set much value. At the present time a thorough examination, is being made of a site at Woolston, which is situated about half way between Ipswich and Brisbane ; and I have received a report from which it appears that the land is in every way suitable. The trouble, however, is that it is so far from Brisbane that it will cost the men is. 9d. or 2s. for a return ticket.
– How much further from Brisbane is this site than the site at Sandgate ?
– It is just a mile further.
– I know that a great deal of fuss was made about the cost of travelling to the Woolston range. At present I understand that the people of Brisbane are not willing to permit the extension of their cemetery to the portion of the cemetery reserve which is now being used as a rifle range at Toowong. If the Department can purchase the land they occupy there we shall be able to establish a very good range, which is almost in Brisbane, since it is connected with that city by a tram service. The members of the rifle clubs interested will be only too pleased if we can permanently secure that site for a. range.
– Can the range. there be made safe? I ask the question, because there has been one legal action in connexion with it already.
– It can be made perfectly safe. That will involve only thealteration of a road now made to the top. of Mount Cootha. The Commonwealth Government would, of course, have to meet the expense necessary to alter that road. I have instructed the officers of the Department to make inquiries as to whether it is possible to get the cemetery reserve now occupied into the hands of the Commonwealth for the purposes of a rifle range. If that be found to be possible there will be no further trouble in connexion with th matter. If we cannot secure that land it appears to me that we shall have to establish the range at Woolston, where a large proportion of the land that would be required belongs to the State Government. Although the States Governments make as high a charge as they can for property transferred to the Commonwealth, I think we should get the land at Woolston for something like a reasonable price.
– I am .glad to have heard the Minister’s explanation of this vote, because the matter dealt with has hung fire for two or three years. I am very pleased to know that it is not the intention of the Government to interfere with the land granted many years ago to the Nudgee Orphanage. There are some 800 or 900 children provided for in that institution, some cattle are kept, a little gardening is done, and a considerable area of land is required for the work which is being carried out there. I know that some objection was taken by the military authorities to the Woolston site, but I am inclined to think that the Commonwealth would save money bv securing the land at Woolston.
– It would be better, if possible, to continue the range to Toowong.
– That is so, but whilst the land at Toowong would probably cost from £10 to £12 per acre to resume, it should be possible to secure the Woolston land for about £1 per acre. In connexion with the proposal to establish the range at Nudgee, the opinion seems to be that the riflemen desired to combine rifle practice with a visit to the seaside. I am glad that the Minister has decided that, if possible, the Toowong range shall be retained, and in the event of the Department being unable to secure that site, that the Woolston site shall be secured. I think that there is only about a mile in the difference between- the distance from Brisbane to Woolston and from Brisbane to Sandgate.
– But men visiting a range established at Nudgee would leave the train at Cabbagetree Creek and would not go on to Sandgate.
– That is so, but, allowing for that, the difference in distance would not be more than about two miles. I might inform the Committee that the suburban train service from Brisbane runs as far as Oxley, and the local Railway Commissioner has stated that the Department would be prepared to run regular trains to the next station at Woolston if any considerable number of men desired to go to Woolston for rifle practice.
– A range at Woolston would be convenient for rifle men at Ipswich.
– It would, and it would be more convenient for men travelling from Toowoomba than would a range at, Nudgee. The bulk of the men who comprised the Queensland contingents who went to South Africa were recruited from the farming districts between Brisbane and the foot of the range, and a rifle range established at Woolston would be conveniently situated for men residing in those districts. I believe that the States Governments should be interested in defence matters as well as the Federal authorities, and they should be prepared to stretch a point, if necessary, to give facilities to men. desiring to attend rifle ranges to render them a.s efficient as possible. I repeat that I am very glad that it is not the intention of the Department to take any land from the institution established at Nudgee.
.- I should like the Minister to explain the principle on which these grants t» rifle clubs are j submitted for riffle clubs. We are at present dealing with a vote of ,£300 for rifle clubs - there is a vote of £300 for rifle clubs for South Australia, another vote of £300 for Tasmania, and under the heading of Western Australia I find an item, “ Grants to rifle clubs for rifle ranges - £600.” Are the votes of £300 which I have enumerated in the nature of subsidies paid to rifle clubs?
– These votes are for the purpose of constructing, butts in connexion with rifle ranges. Under the regulations, according to the number of members in a rifle club, a vote of £20 or £50 is given for the purpose of erecting butts for the use of the members pf the clubs.
– I see nothing on these Estimates for Queensland to provide storing accommodation for vehicles, and a considerable amount of other equipment belonging to Ambulance .and other corps in Brisbane. When I was last there, I was informed that while a considerable amount of equipment had been provided, thev had nowhere in which to store it. I believe that’ the Minister promised that a vote of something like £200 would be put on the Estimates for the purpose. In view of the fact that the equipment cost a considerable amount of money, a small sum might wisely be expended in providing proper accommodation for it.
– Provision was made out of last year’s grant for the purpose of providing additional accommodation for stores at Brisbane. When I was there, I went over the military stores, and I came to the conclusion that by getting rid of a. lot of obsolete stores the accommodation required for all necessary equipment would lae ample.
– Have the instructions given to get rid of obsolete material been carried out?
– I believe they are being carried out by degrees.
– I should like some explanation of the item No. 8, under the heading of South Australia, “ Land and construction of drill halls for country corps - £525.” I find that there are special votes put down for a drill hall and orderly room at Narracoorte, for land and building at Orroroo, for a drill hall and orderly room, and for land and building at Yankalilla for an orderly room and store. In the circumstances, I should like some explanation of the somewhat indefinite vote of £525 to which I have referred.
– The vote of £525 for land and construction of drill halls for country corps is simply a re-vote to complete the drill hall at Port Pirie.
– Then why is not Port Pirie mentioned?
– I do not know why it should not be mentioned, but the explanation of the vote given, me is merely that it is a re-vote for the purpose stated.
– We had as our InspectorGeneral an expert in military matters in the person of Major-General Finn. He was paid a big salary, and looking through his report, which I presume is intended for our guidance in military matters, I find that, speaking of Northam, he says -
The range is very much out of repair, and requires immediate attention.
He proceeds to quote the local report, from which it would appear that the range is so much out of repair as to be almost useless.
– When was that report issued?
– On the 30th October, 1905. Major-General Finn reports that -
There are three troops of Light Horse at Northam. It would be advisable to extend the mounds and make the range a two section one.
I should’ like to hear from the Minister whether any steps have been taken to improve that range, and whether a vote for the purpose is included in the schedule to this Bill?
.- I do not think that any sum for the purpose is included in these votes. I am not quite sure, but I am inclined to think that the matter was attended to last year. I know that if the range was so much in need of attention as Major-General Finn reports, and if .the matter had not already been dealt with, I should have been asked by the Commandant of the State to put a sum on the Estimates for the purpose. I think that all necessary improvements to the range in question must have been attended to.
– I observe an item of £300 for alterations to the rifle range at Sandy Bay, near
Hobart. The Minister knows how disappointed the people of that locality are that they cannot get the range removed. Will he instruct the local military authorities to inquire whether, by shifting the butts a little more to the south, it would not be safe for us to continue the road to Mount Nelson? The road, if finished, would be one of the most magnificent roads in the world, I believe, but the work cannot be proceeded with because the bullets from the soldiers’ rifles would whistle about the heads of the workmen. My idea is to move the butts a little more to the left, in order to make it safe to continue the road.
– That is exactly what is proposed. Under the head of alterations to the Sandy Bay rifle range, I have a note to this effect -
One of the long distance ranges is considered to be unsafe, and it has been found necessary to effect certain alterations to bring the firing well within the boundary of the range, so that the present clanger may be removed. It may be necessary to swing the end of the range in, say, twenty yards, and make alterations to the mounds, &c.
I believe that it is the intention of the Department to accomplish what Senator Dobson desires. They are going to swing the range round.
– To the right or to the left?
– It is not stated in my note.
– I observe an item of ^600 for drill-room and offices at Launceston, and also an item of £6°° for a magazine there. I desire to ascertain from the Minister whether it is really the intention of the Department to spend the money before the 30th June, 1907, in the construction of those new buildings, and, if so, what has become of the present magazine in Launceston.
– I cannot tell Senator Clemons what has become of the present magazine; I did not know that there was one in Launceston.
– What about the two items ?
– I understand that the plans are ready, and that the Department is prepared to go on with the works at once, but, of course, I cannot promise that they will be completed before the end of the year. I have no doubt that they will be completed as early as the Department of Home Affairs can manage. The information which is furnished to me on the subject is as follows : -
For erection of magazine on rifle range. Site and other buildings to be considered as “ transferred property.” The proposed new building is to be set apart for State purposes, for mercantile explosives, the State to pay rental, and the Commonwealth to utilize present buildingsfor its purposes. There is no military magazine or shell store at Launceston ; both are urgently required, as at present filled shell fuses, tubes, &c, aTe stored at the barracks.
– The Minister has stated that at the present time there is no magazine in Launceston. He will now understand why I ask if it is seriously intended to push on the construction of a magazine there before the 30th June, 1907.
– I am glad to hear the Minister says “ Undoubtedly.” .1 ‘hope that he will pay attention to my remarks, and see that the work is expedited.
– Are the miniature rifle ranges for which £100 is required intended for the cadets?
– We have miniature rifle ranges idi connexion with the militia and volunteers. All my note on the subject says is “ For the purpose indicated,” but whether they are intended for the use of cadets or for the use of militia and volunteers I do not know.
– Where could I see one of them?
– Down at the Naval dep6t. They are provided with targets of reduced size.
– I observe an item of .£2,500 for site and constructing gun, emplacement, and accessories at Hobart. Is that money required for a fort situated two or three miles below Hobart, where some land was resumed ?
– According to my note -
The armament of Hobart is insufficient. It is necessary to mount a modern gun commanding the approaches and the Derwent. The design is such that, at a future date, another gun can be mounted by extending the proposed work.
– What is the size of the gun?
– I suppose that it will be a 6.7 inch gun, as recommended bv the Imperial Defence Committee.
– No doubt the Minister was impressed by some recent remarks of the InspectorGeneral with reference to the desirability of having moving targets. Perhaps the Minister has that in contemplation; but throughout the Bill I cannot find any appropriation for that purpose, whether for Tasmania or any other State. I therefore ask him if he intends to pay serious attention to the very strong recommendation which was made by Major-General Finn, or if an appropriation for that purpose will be made in another Bill?
– Of course, we have not moving targets in connexion with all rifle ranges, but steps are being taken in those places where rifle ranges are very much used to have them.
– There are none in Tasmania.
– Are they not used some times at Sandy Bay?
– I think that Senator Clemons will find that there will be moving targets at the Launceston range when it is finished, because it is proposed to have an Inter-State contest there soon.
Postmaster-General’s Department : ReVotes : Post-offices. ‘
Division 5 (Postmaster-General’ s Department), £217,722.
– In my second-reading speech I said that in my opinion there is something wrong in the way in which these Estimates are always prepared, inasmuch as the re-votes invariably amount to a very large sum. The Minister will see that in the case of New South Wales we aire asked by the Post and Telegraph Department to re-vote the sum of £8,147, when the new votes amount to only £4,982.
– That is owing to the fault of the Department of Home Affairs in not getting the money spent within the financial year.
– Again, in the case of Victoria, a sum of £13,197 was notspent, and we are asked to pass new votes to the extent of £11,059. My experience of estimates for public works has been that the officers, whether road inspectors or otherwise, put down a number of items which they are informed are wanted ; the Minister goes through the items, and cuts them down, knowing that economy is essential, and then in Cabinet they are cut down again. It appears to me that in the case of the Federal estimates for public works everything” which has been mentioned or suggestion is put down, and that every year we vote thousands of pounds which cannot possibly be expended within the year. In my opinion that system is likely to lead to carelessness and extravagance, and to create in the minds of our citizens the impression that they have only to ask the Government for a post-office or a rifle range when it will be granted. We ought not to vote a large sum if only about onehalf of it can be spent within the year.
– It is not a question of voting a large sum, and of being able to spend only one-half of it within the year. We do not know whether we shall be able to expend the whole of the vote; we do not know what trouble may arise in connexion with contracts. I have an explanation of all the items to which the honorable senator has referred as representing re-votes. I find that all the works on the 30th June last were unfinished, and are in progress at the present time. There is still a large sum to be paid in respect of them. This position of affairs arises wherever responsible Government prevails and Estimates have to be passed. A Minister has to provide for certain works, but cannot say when preparing his Estimates whether he will be able to expend within the financial year the whole amount for which he asks. In many instances he cannot do so. The whole thing, however, balances itself. On the one side of the ledger the Minister has a statement of the works authorized, but not completed, and on the other side he has some excesses of votes set out. In South Australia the excesses of votes were generally equal to the unexpended balances. We used to bring them forward, and the unexpended balances required to be re-voted. That is the position here. I am advised, for instance, that the post office at Bangalow has been authorized and a contract will be let shortly, that the work of constructing the Kurri Kurri post office - a brick building - has also been authorized, and the contract is in progress, whilst the Mosman post office is almost completed.
– I have been accustomed to a different system.
.- I should like the Minister of Defence to give us some information as to the item “ site for post-office at Windsor, £850.” Perhaps he will tell the Committee what is the area of the land and the price paid, or proposed to be paid, for it.
– The information I have on this subject is as follows-: -
The site is of the following dimensions : 40 feet g inches in Albert-street, 4r feet 3 inches in Vine-street ; depth, 9,0 feet 6 inches, on which is erected a brick villa of seven rooms, with outhouses. The position is one that is gradually assuming a business importance, being a few steps west of Chapel-street, and nearly opposite the Melbourne entrance to the Windsor railway station. The question of effecting alterations and additions to the present premises was considered, and it was decided that there would not be sufficient accommodation to provide for the extension of the switch board. Another phase of the question was the terms with the Railway Department, and the land required would need to be leased for thirty years, after which the buildings would revert to the Railway Department : notice to quit might be served at any time after the expiry of the before-mentioned period. It was considered undesirable to provide for the switch board extension in the present building, as it was deemed necessary to provide sufficient accommodation to meet future expansion, in addition to present need.
I ha.ve no information as to the price per foot paid for the land.
– I rise with considerable diffidence to refer to ia question relating to Queensland. We have just passed an item providing for the construction of the Warracknabeal post office, which was keenly criticised last session, when it was pointed out that the proposal to expend £2,486 upon a postal building in such a town seemed to be excessive. We now find that £3,609 is to be expended in constructing a post office at Cairns.*
– It is a very important town.
– I have been (o Cairns, and unless its population has increased at a most remarkable rate since I visited it some time ago it will have in proportion to its size the most palatial post office in the Commonwealth. I ask the Minister to explain, if he can, why such an enormous sum - a sum which, he will agree is quite out of proportion to the amounts usually voted for postal buildings - is to be spent upon this structure. Apparently the original vote was £2,499.
– The erection of a wooden building was contemplated, but the Cairns Council pointed out that the erection of such a building was not permissible within the area proposed.
– I presume that the £2,499 which I see in the subdivision relating to Queensland as a re-vote was the sum originally proposed to be expended on this post office.
– I believe that the original vote was larger.
– I am merely dealing with this item on the assumption that the total amount to be expended, and which will have to be borne by the Commonwealth per capita, is to be over £3,000. The item is sufficiently large to justify a demand for an explanation.
– If the honorable senator turns to last year’s Estimates he will find a footnote showing that the £2,499 to which he refers represented only a portion of the amount required. I do not agree with his view as to the postal requirements of Cairns. I visited the town not long ago. I then looked at the proposed site, saw the work being done at the post office, noticed the overcrowded condition of the present building, and, having examined the plans, arrived at the conclusion that the increased accommodation proposed would only be slightly in excess of actual requirements. I considered that we ought to spend a larger sum, and suggested that the vote should be £5,000. The honorable senator has not even a remote idea of the great increase of the work at the post office in Cairns. It is a station from which mails are distributed to various parts of the State, and, having carefully considered the whole question, I wrote a minute recommending my colleague, the Minister of Home Affairs, to so increase the proposed vote as to enable accommodation to be provided in excess of that shown in the plans then prepared. I strongly urged upon him the necessity of doing this if the requirements of the future were to be considered. He pointed out that the building was so constructed that additions could be made to it. without considerable expense, and that before enlarging it further it would be better to wait until the demand for space again overtook the accommodation. Cairns is a growing township, and the amount of work done at the post-office there is exceedingly large. Personally, I should like to see £5,000 spent on the new post-office.
– What is the total amount to be expended ?
– The actual contract price for the building is £3,609; and unless there are extras that sum will not be exceeded.
– What Senator Clemons does not know about Cairns and its requirements would fill a large library, and the task of supplying his deficiencies would be so colossal that I do not propose to undertake it at this hour of the evening. In my opinion, the proposed new post-office will not be adequate for the work to be transacted there. The plans have already had to be altered in order to provide for a larger number of private letter-boxes, there being now over 200 of these rented. The Cairns post-office is one of the most important distributing offices in Queensland, mail matter being made up there for a large area of country inland and as far as the Gulf and Burketown. There is a fair-sized mail room, but it is totally inadequate for the work which has to be done there.
– What was the value of the old post-office?
– It was built twentytwo or twenty-three years ago, since which time a number of gunyahs and lean-to’s ha ve been added, making it a conglomerate structure, without any definite character. The Department propose to replace it with a one-storied building, shifting to the rear a structure which was erected twenty-three years ago, to be used there as the residence of the postmaster. That, in my opinion, is a mistake. A new two-storied building should have been erected, to provide quarters for the postmaster in the upper story. There is not a village or township in Tasmania with half the population of Cairns which does not possess a better and more expensive post-office, and there are places in Queensland with a population one-half or onethird that of Cairns which are better off. Stanthorpe, for instance, has a post-office which cost the State Government £7 ,500, and its population is only one-third that of Cairns. Then in Victoria there are places with a population only one-fourth that of Cairns, possessing post-offices on which more money has been spent. Senator Clemons has not objected to other post-offices.
– Yes, I have. I objected to the Warracknabeal post-office last year.
– What is the population of Cairns?
– The white population of Cairns is about 5,000, and there are over 20,000 white persons in the district When the coloured labour there now has been deported, the white population will increase rapidly. The mining districts at the back of Cairns which are served by this post-office are increasing in population enormously, and within the next ten years the accommodation will have to be doubled to make it adequate.
– I notice that in South Australia it is proposed to spend £1,787 on sundry post-offices, £1,580 on the Mount Gambier post-office, and £18 on the Kingscote postoffice. Why is the proposed expenditure on the Kingscote post-office set out as a separate item?
– Of the £1,787 set down for sundry offices, £803 is a re-vote to cover the cost of additions already authorized, while £984 is asked for to provide for additions and alterations to post-offices at Port Broughton, Elliston, Port Elliot, the General Post-Office, and small additions at sundrv other places. The Mount Gambier post-office is in progress, and the £18 asked for in connexion with the Kingscote post-office is a re- vote to cover a small payment which was not made before the end of the financial year.
– I notice that in Western Australia revotes are asked for in connexion with no fewer than eight post-offices, in regard to six of which no new appropriation is proposed. Possibly contracts may have been entered into; but the fact seems to me to show that what has been proposed there is a little in excess of requirements.
– The work at the Derbv post-office has been authorized, but therehas been some trouble about getting a site. At East Perth the work has been authorized, but the question of site is involving delay. At Fimiston and Fitzroy works are in progress. At Fremantle works have been authorized, and it was expected a month or two ago that the contract would be let in a week. At Laverton the contract is in progress. At Princess Royal there has been trouble in connexion with the site, and £267 is a revote to pay for sites the purchase of which has already been authorized.
– I trust that progress will be reported now. There are several large items in this division which it is incumbent upon us to consider seriously if we are to do our duty. I may refer especially to the item for the trunk telephone line between Melbourne and Sydney, and that for wireless telegraphy.
– I also should like to have an adjournment at this stage. I shall have something to say with regard to the vote of £1,500 for the purchase of machinery and plant at the Government Printing Office. It is too important a matter to be discussed properly at a late hour.
Senate adjourned at 10.47p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 September 1906, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1906/19060904_senate_2_33/>.