3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 3 p.m. and read prayers.
Collection of Duties : Wages
– In view of a statement published in the press that the Government has postponed the collection of the Excise duty on harvesters, I beg to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council, without notice, if he will indicate the section of the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act which empowers the Government to postpone or forgive a debt legally due to the. Crown? And also whether we may take the statement of the Government’s action in this case as an intimation of the course which they propose to follow in regard to further instalments of the new protection policy?
– I do not propose to trouble the Senate with a rigid examination of the enactment to which my honorable friend has referred, but if he desires an intimation as to what is the policy of the Government in connexion with the Excise Tariff Act of 1906, he may take it that that policy is embodied in the circular which has been published, I believe, in extenso.
– Can the honorable senator indicate the section of the Act giving the Government the power to postpone the collection of the duties?
– I may alsotell my honorable friend that it is the full intention of the Government, so far as they have not legislative power to carry out the objects of that circular, to introduce the necessary legislation.
-I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs and the Prime Minister, without notice, whether the Government will cause to be printed and posted in a conspicuous place in every factory, workshop, or distillery affected by the imposition of Excise duties the award given by Judge Higgins, and the schedule of wages drawn up by the Minister of Trade and Customs ; and whether the Government will cause employers to post in the factory, workshop, or distillery, alongside the above wages schedule, the names, ages, occupations, and addresses of the different employés engaged therein, and the wages paid to each employé per week ?
– I am not quite sure as to whether the Government have the power to carry out all that which has been suggested by my honorable friend.
– The Government have as much power to do that as what theyare doing.
– Of course, if my honorable friend is satisfied, I am, and so we need not quarrel. If Senator Findley will give notice of the question, I shall consult my honorable colleague.
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council, without notice, whether, in view of the fact that the Federal Government contemplate spending£1,000 towards the laying of a cable in Bass Strait, the Government will consider the advisability of installing wireless telegraph stations at Bass Strait, Rottnest Island off Fremantle, and other suitable places on the Australian coast, thus providing a much more efficient and up-to-date service than the proposed cable; and also whether he will inform the Senate as to when the Government propose to make a start with the work?
– Perhaps my honorable friend has overlooked the fact that the Minister of Home Affairs dealt fully with those matters when the second Supply Bill of this session was under consideration. It he will be good enough to refer to the remarks of my honorable colleague on that occasion he will find the information which he seeks to obtain.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, without notice, if he is yet in a position to give the Senate any information in regard to a charge having been made for. the accommodation ofcompetitors at the recent rifle matches at Randwick?
– The question which was asked by the honorable senator previously, and the letter which he then quoted, were referred by me to the Department of Defence, and a reply was given to the effect that it was not aware of any such charge having been made for the use of
Government tents, but that the Commandant of NewSouth Wales had been requested by telegram to state the facts. His reply reads as follows -
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers -
Agreement between the Postmaster-General and the Orient Steam Navigation Company Limited and Royal Mail Steam Packet Company and Law Guarantee and Trust Society Limited, for the continuance of the English Mail Service from 31st January,1908, to 31st January, 1910.
Mail Service to Europe. - Statement showing amounts of the three lowest tenders.
Defence Acts 1903-1904.- Financial and Allowance Regulations. - Statutory Rules 1907, No. 117.
The Acting Clerk laid upon the table the following paper -
Return to Order of the Senate of 13th November, 1907. - Commonwealth Postage Stamp : Report of Hoard of Experts.
– Before asking the Acting Clerk to call on the business of the day, I desire to mention that a little time ago attention was called to the fact that there was some confusion in regard to the sounding of the bells of the Senate and the other House, and that in consequence of that some honorable senators had not appeared in the chamber at division time when otherwise they would have been present. I promised that some steps should be taken if possible to remove the cause of complaint, and in pursuance of that promise to-day there was placed in the Queen’s Hall a gong which probably honorable senators have heard. I think that if we substitute for the ordinary bells a gong of that character there can be no possibility of any one making a mistake as between the bells of the Senate and those of the House of Representatives.
– Will the gong be in addition to or substitution of the existing bells ?
– The probability is that ultimately it will be substituted for the bells, unless, of course, honorable senators desire that they should be retained.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council,upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow - 1 and 2. Newspaper paragraphs relating to the matters have been noticed.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow -
Official Visit to Armidale
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow -
I will not read the document attached, which is simply an itinerary. It will be available to honorable senators.
asked the Vice-
President of the Executive Council, upon notice -
In view of the representations made at the recent. Colonial Conference, relative to docking accommodation for warships, has the Federal Government considered the question of assisting the State Government of Western Australia to build a dock in Fremantle which would have the necessary requirements, and which the Governanent of that State are proposing to construct?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows -
Matters connected with the proposed dock have received the attention of the Government chiefly in regard to its position and equipment from a defence aspect.
– I move -
That the Senate approves the Agreement made and entered into the 15th day of November, 1907, between His Majesty’s Postmaster-General in and for the Commonwealth of Australia of the first part, Orient Steam Navigation Company Limited of the second part, and the Law Guarantee and Trust Society Limited of the third part for the carriage of mails and services to be performed as therein provided, a copy of which Agreement has been laid upon the table of the Senate.
Honorable senators are aware that on Fri- day last I availed myself of an opportunity to deal somewhat fully with the terms of the new agreement. It is not my intention now to elaborate the matter to any great extent. I propose, however, to draw attention to some of the facts connected with the existing contract, and the proposed new contract, with a view to remind the Senate of the advantages derived under the new contract we have been able to secure. I mention for the information of honorable senators that to-day I laid on the table of the Senate a statement showing the amount of the three lowest tenders. By clause 7 of the conditions of tender under which tenders were invited, dated 5th July, 1907, it is provided that -
Except in the case of the tender that is accepted by the Postmaster-General no information whatever shall be given with respect to any tender except as to the amount of the three lowest tenders then under consideration or with respect to the person or persons by whom any tender was made.
– Is there any prohibition against an announcement of the number of tenders sent in?
– I do not know of anything that would prevent an indication of the number. As a matter of fact, it is public property that four tenders were received, one of which was of a speculative character, and was not seriously considered by the Government. In accordance with the terms of clause 7 of the conditions of tender, I have to state the amount of the three lowest tenders as follows : - “A” tender - the one which we are asking Parliament to ratify - £170,000; “B” tender, £180,000; and “C” tender, £150,000. It is also well known that in regard to two of these tenders, each for a monthly service, certain proposals were made which were found, on full consideration, not to be practicable. I desire now to draw attention to one or two particulars of the existing contract, and the proposed new contract. The existing contract is dated 25th April, 1905. It was made between the Hon. Sydney Smith, as Postmaster-General, in and for the Commonwealth of Australia, and the Orient Steam Navigation Company Limited, acting on behalf of themselves, as also on behalf of thePacific Steam Navigation Company, these companies together constituting the owners of the Orient Pacific line of steamers, as contractors of the second part, and the Law Guarantee and Trust Society Limited, of the third part. As honorable senators will see the same guarantee society is introduced in the new contract, but there is this difference, that so far as the new contract is concerned, it is with the Orient Steam Navigation Company itself. The current contract expires on the 31st January, 1908, and, consequently, between that date and the commencement of the new contract, some two years will elapse. This period has been provided for by. an interim contract, to which I shall subsequently refer. The new contract is for a period of ten years, commencing from ist February, 1910. The old contract provided for the carriage of mails from Naples to Adelaide. The new contract provides for the carriage of mails between Brindisi and Adelaide.
– Will the honorable senator explain why the change is proposed to-be made from Naples to Brindisi ?
– The suggestion- was made by the Orient Steam Navigation Company, and as there was no objection whatever on the part of the Commonwealth Government the request of the contractors was conceded. It is, however, quite competent, in accordance with the terms of the contract, if it should be found in the interests’ of either of the parties to make a change from Brindisi to any other Mediterranean port, such as Naples, to do so by mutual arrangement. Both the old and the new contract provide for a fortnightly service. Under the old contract the period of transit from Naples to Adelaide was 696 hours, or twenty-nine days. Under the new contract clause 5 provides that the period of transit shall be 638 hours from Brindisi to Adelaide, or two days and ten hours less than the period provided for under the old contract. The period of transit from Brindisi to Adelaide will therefore be twenty-six days fourteen hours. With respect to the period of transit from Adelaide to Brindisi, the new contract provides for a period of 650 hours, or twenty-seven days and two hours. Practically, and I hope it will be found to be actually, the period of transit under the new contract is precisely the same as that provided for in the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s contract with the Imperial Government.
– The difference in time to and from is due to the monsoonal period.
– Yes, there is a special provision in that regard. The old contract contains a broad provision for insulated space and refrigerating machinery, but. as honorable senators will have noticed, there is in the new contract, in clause 9/ a definite provision on this subject. The contractors have to provide in each ship insulated space of 2,000 tons of 40 cubic feet per ton measurement. The .same clause contains very elaborate provisions in connexion with the fixing of freights, and fixes the maximum freights to be charged for the carriage of butter and fruit. The subsidy paid under the old contract is ,£120,000, and under the newcontract’ it is to be _£i 70,000. It is. no doubt a matter for comment that the contribution under the old contract represented an increased subsidy on previous, contracts from £72,000 up. to £120,000, or an increase of £48,000. Now, with a ‘ subsidy of £170,000 under the new contract, we are actually proposing to pay an increase on the original subsidy of £98,000. Honorable senators are, of course, aware that under the new contract we obtain, not only an improved and accelerated service, but provision is made for a magnificent line of steamers each of 11,000 tons register. It is reasonable, also, to contrast what is payable under the existing contract, so far as transit to Brisbane is concerned, with the provisions of the new contract. The subsidy paid by the Commonwealth Government under the old contract is £120,000, and in addition to that amount a sum of -^”26,000 is contributed under a special arrangement with the Queensland Government to secure the calling of the mail steamers at Brisbane. As I have mentioned on a previous occasion, or’ the £26,000 referred to a sura of £4,880 is contributed by the Commonwealth Government on a. mileage basis.
– Mileage or poundage ?
– Mileage. It is calculated that from the United Kingdom to Sydney, the terminal port provided for under the old contract, the mileage is sp much, and upon that basis for taking their steamers a further 500 miles for fifty-two voyages a payment of about 3s. 8d. per mile, amounting to. £4,880, is paid to the company in reduction of the subsidy paid by the Queensland Government. I come now to the interim agreement of even date with that of the new contract, namely, last Friday, 15th November, 1907, between the same parties as the parties to the former contract. It recites the old agreement of the 25th April, -1905, under which a contract was made for the carriage of mails between Naples and Adelaide, and also recites that -
It has been agreed between the parties to these presents that the Contractors shall from and after the 31st day of January, One thousand nine hundred and eight, continue the services specified in the said Agreement until the 31st day of Janu- ary, One thousand nine hundred and ten, upon the terms and conditions and subject to all the covenants provisoes clauses articles and agreements contained in the said Agreement.
The interim agreement goes on to provide further, and this is a new provision -
That if the contractors or their duly authorized agent shall as such agent during the continuance of this Agreement be convicted of being engaged or continuing in any combination commercial trust or conspiracy in contravention of any of the provisions of the Australian Industries Preservation Act 1906 or any amendment thereof and such conviction is upheld on appeal if any to the Full Court of the High Court of Australia the Postmaster-General by notice inwriting may require the contractors to withdraw from such combination commercial trust or conspiracy as the case may be and failing compliance with such requirement within one week after service thereof the Postmaster-General may determine this Agreement.
It then goes on to provide for a payment of a subsidy of £120,000, and for the continuance of a payment of £4,880 as part of the sum of £26,000 under the arrangement made with the Queensland Government, and it further binds the contractors and the Law Guarantee and Trust Society; in the sum of £20,000, for the due performance of the interim agreement.
– Is the honorable senator in a position to inform the Senate as to the financial status of the Law Guarantee and Trust Society?
– I know of the Society only as one of high reputation, and undoubted financial stability.
– I believe that is so.
– I have not come prepared with any particularsas to its financial position. I have referred to the clause prohibiting, as far as possible, injurious combination in contravention of. the terms of our anti-trust law. That clause, which has been placed in the interim agreement, also finds its place in the ninth clause of the new contract. It is only reasonable that I should tell honorable senators that the Goverment were delayed very considerably in consummating this proposal by an effort on their part in the interests of the butter producers of Australia. A most serious complaint was made by those butter producers in consequence of an alleged combination - it is denied that it is an injurious combination - called an association, to which two of the mail companies and three of the cargo companies are parties. The Government, therefore, set themselves to obtain, if possible, the withdrawal of our contractors from that combination.
– Does the honorable” senator mean by “our contractors” the Orient Company?
– Yes. Perhaps the position of matters may be best illustrated by quoting a circular which was recently issued, signed by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, the Orient Steam Navigation Company, the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company - the White Star Line - George Thomson and Company Limited - the Aberdeen Line - and W. Lund and Sons. This circular was issued on the 26th of September, 1907. It indicates the character of the association, which had been created in regard to the export of butter. It says -
We beg to remind you that the contract for the conveyance of butter by the mail steamers expired on the 31st May last, and the contract for carriage by the steamers of the White Star, Lund, and Aberdeen Lines expires on the 30th inst. In view of these circumstances we -
That is the signatories to whom I have referred - beg to enclose for your information a copy of the form of contract we are prepared to accept under which the rates of freight will be as follows -
The rates of freight and conditions to noncontractors are : -
These provide for penalties which, as the figures I shall read will show, are at the rate of 8d. per box. The figures are -
Per mail steamers, 3s. 2d. per box.
Per Peninsular and Oriental and Orient cargo steamers, 2s.11d. per box.
Per White Star, Lund, and Aberdeen steamers, 2s. 11d. per box.
Applications for space to rank after contract butter applications are fully met in all steamers. All applications tobe for five lines’ space and allotment to going steamers at our discretion. Loss of freight is payable in respect of space allotted and unfilled by applicants. Butter to be tendered for shipment packed in standard boxes and at a temperature not exceeding 28 degrees.
There was the fact that this association or combination existed, and that it provided that in the event of the shipper not undertaking to give the whole of his butter to these five lines, penalty rates would be charged if the shipper subsequently desired to ship by any of these lines. The outcome of this was that a cutting rate was established by the Federal-Houlder Shire line - formerly three lines, and now united under that name - of1s. 10d. But, of course, that line was hardly so expeditious as were the mail and the other cargo lines. This was considered to be a serious menace to the producers of Australia, and the Government thought that the occasion of the making of this mail contract affordedan opportunity of breaking up this combination.
– When the honorable senator speaks of a “menace,” is he speaking of the cheap freights offered by the Shire Line?
– No; I am referring to the penalty rates provided by the other lines, they being such powerful companies as to be in the position to control affairs very largely. The Government, therefore, set themselves as far as possible to put an end to the continuance of these penalty rates; and after considerable negotiations the Orient Company has managed to secure the consent of those associated with them to their withdrawal from the combination referred to. This, of course, is contingent upon another consideration, viz., the result of negotiations going on with the Federal-Houlder Shire Line. I believe that there is reason to hope that the result of those negotiations will be the establishment of a uniform rate of 2s. so far as cargo boats are concerned, and not exceeding 2s. 6d. so far as mail steamers are concerned - the2s. 6d., however, not representing the maximum, but practically being only 2s. 4d., as the limitation under the contract is½d. per lb. of butter. So that I have reason to hope - although I am not at the present moment in a position to make a definite announcement upon the subject - that the result of the efforts of the Government will be the breaking up of the combination to which I have referred, and the establishment of a fair and reasonable rate, viz., 2s. per box, which it is suggested should form the basis of future arrangements.
– If the Minister hopes for that, he hopes for a lot, I am afraid.
– There have been very influential parties at work in the matter, and we,have received the hearty cooperation of our contractors the Orient Steam
Navigation Company. These facts lead us to believe that a satisfactory outcome will be the result. I do not propose to enter any further into the details of this contract, as I dealt with ft very fully on Friday. I would urge upon my honorable friends that details should not be unduly laboured. We have really to look at the fundamental principles of the thing - the term, the periods of transit, the ports of call, whether a sufficient service is being provided, whether adequate provision is made for an improved and accelerated service, should circumstances warrant it, during the period of the contract, whether satisfactory provision is made in regard to cargo, refrigerating space and freights, whether ‘ the policy of the country in respect . of a White Australia has been properly maintained, and finally whether the guarantees for the carrying out of the contract are ample. If we confine our attention to these fundamental principles, I: venture to hope with a degree of confidence that the contract which has been laid upon the table of the Senate for the confirmation of Parliament will be found to meet the requirements in all essential particulars.
– I understand that the refrigerating space will not be under the control of the Commonwealth Government or of the States?
– No. The contractors will have, according to clause 9 of the contract, to provide insulated space to the extent of 2,000 tons of 40 cubic feet per ton; and in that regard there is an interim arrangement as to the quantity of space being less in the case of the Orontes, the Omrah, the Ophir, and the Ormuz. I have great pleasure in moving the motion standing in my name.
– The motion submitted by the VicePresident of the Executive Council recalls memories of a motion somewhat similar in terms which was submitted some little time since. On that occasion, if I remember rightly, very many congratulations were offered from various parts of the Senate, but, unlike the congratulations which may not unreasonably be expected to-day, those offered on that occasion were always accompanied by an “if” or a “but.” The Government were then to be congratulated “ if “ the agreement was carried out. Congratulations were offered, “ but “ with the fear that the thing was too good to be true. Well, I do notdesire to make any more than the slightest of passing allusions to the marvellous monument of business incapacity which the Government then erected. But it does seem to me that they have profited by experience, and, so far’ as the present agreement is concerned, the Government may fairly claim that they have presented us with a businesslike scheme. I do not for a moment say that there are not some details which may not furnish a little around for some disappointment; but we have to judge this agreement as a whole. We must accept ox reject it as it stands. Because, as I understand the position, any alteration of this agreement, any, modification of its terms by this or the other branch of the Legislature, would really mean the throwing of the whole thing again into the “ boiling pot.” For that reason, and because time is a big element in the contract; I assume that the obligation is upon this Chamber either to accept or to reject the agreement without alteration. I pass over the interregnum. Some .period will have to be imposed before the new service commences. That being so, it appears to me that not only is that interregnum inevitable, but the time asked is not unreasonable in view of the extensive ship-building programme contemplated if this agreement is effected. Passing to the main document, the principal feature which we have to consider is this : We are called upon to pay £1.70,000 per annum, or £24,000 in addition to the’ amount which the Commonwealth, plus the Queensland contribution, is now debited with. Well, the question I have to ask myself is - Are we getting value for the money ? That is the proposition which honorable .senators will have to submit to themselves. What is the alternative if we reject this agreement? We could go back to the old poundage rates, and thereby save a very considerable sum pf money.
– Hear, hear.
– Although I hear a -word of applause from Senator Guthrie, I believe that nearly everybody is of opinion that the poundage rate system has ‘ long since been condemned as unsuited to ‘ the requirements of ‘ modern commercial life. No one of business experience could say that an important mail service for a country like Australia could be conducted on the poundage system, ‘except as a temporary expedient. In endeavouring to ascertain whether the price we are now called upon to pay is unreasonable or not, it is perhaps useful to compare it with the contract amount previously paid and with that which is being paid to-day. It is striking to remember that the old contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company was for £85,000, and we may reasonably ask why we are called upon to pay double the- amount which was then regarded by the contracting company as sufficient. We may at once arrive at the conclusion that the £85,000 then paid was not a reasonable and sufficient sum. The company which then carried on the service for Australia was not making even modest dividends, whilst the fact that, since the old contract terminated, the Commonwealth has three times invited tenders, and has only now obtained a satisfactory one, is some indication that the shipping people of the world were not inclined to rush the business. I desire to compare the new with the existing arrangement made some four or five years ago, under which we pay the Orient Steam Navigation Company £146,000 a year ; that is, including the contribution by Queensland. It is interesting and useful to remember that during the currency of the present arrangement, tenders have twice been invited. On the first occasion we were brought face to face with the elusive and delusive offer’ of the Laing syndicate for £125,000, and providing for a call at Adelaide only.
– And Fremantle.
– My honorable friend is right, as he always is. When the Laing syndicate temporarily secured the contract, the Orient Steam Navigation Company also tendered, at what figure I do not know, but we may take it for granted that it was somewhat higher .than that put in by Mr. Croker on behalf of the successful tenderers. The Orient Steam Navigation Company’s tender must necessarily have been above that of the Laing syndicate, or it would haVe been considered by the Government. Therefore, we are at present paying £146,000, while on the last occasion, prior to the present, on which we invited tenders, the best offer that we coul’d get was from an’ unsubstantial syndicate for £125,000, and we have to assume that the Orient Steam Navigation Com,pany’s tender was, on that occasion, in excess of that amount. It therefore appears that the amount- now charged is not greatly in excess of the amount which has been prevailing in the minds of those who have hitherto considered the question of making offers for the conveyance of our mails. The question is : “ What are we getting for the additional £24,000?” In speaking of an additional £24,000, I am taking into account the amount now contributed separately by Queensland, to whose position I shall refer later on. The first advantage is larger boats. I will give the figures showing to what extent the size of our mail boats is to be increased. The present tonnage of the Orient fleet, taking their eight largest boats, gives ain average of 7,097 tons per vessel. For the first eighteen months of the new contract, the average is to be increased to 9,890 tons, or an increase of nearly 40 per cent. From the end of the first eighteen months until the end of .five years, the average is to be . 10,413 tons, an increase of nearly 50 per cent., whilst from the end of five years, and for the balance of the contract, the’ average is to be 10,750 tons, or an increase of over 50 per cent, upon the present average tonnage of the Orient fleet. That in itself means a great deal in the capital required to provide, work, and man those vessels, and it means also a great advantage to Australia in a finer fleet as a. link of communication between ourselves and the outside world. In the matter of speed’, it is not” possible to demonstrate the superiority of the new boats over the old ones in the way I have done with the tonnage. I have been unable to ascertain the declared , rate of -speed of the individual vessels of the present fleet, and another difficulty is that the past practice has been to determine the speed of a vessel by a run over a measured mile. Shipping people are coming now to regard that as unsatisfactory, and to ask for tests under actual working conditions over a longer distance. I believe also from information received that vessels, like human beings, lose the elasticity of youth, and that, as they get older, the speed of which they were capable when new is not always attainable. For that reason, while some of the present boats of the Orient Steam Navigation Company did, when first built, accomplish 16 knots an hour in a trial over a measured mile, it is very doubtful if any of them could now approach that speed on a service run. Whilst I cannot determine the average rate of the present fleet as against the 1.7 knots promised for the new one, one fact made evident in the agreement is that we are to save two days and ten hours on the journey. That will frequently mean an entire week in the answering of correspondence. It is true that we can only save that time in the journey out, but through a mail being delivered two days and ten hours earlier, an Australian correspondent of a London house may be able to send an answer back a week earlier than would otherwise be possible. In these days of keen commercial competition, such a saving of time in negotiations connected with any enterprise or business is not to be regarded lightly. A third advantage, arising from the fact that we are to have new vessels, is that they are to be up-to-date ones. One of the drawbacks to which Australia is subject, and which frequently gives rise to complaint, is the fact that she is not as well known and understood in Great Britain as we would like. We are frequently subjected to misrepresentation and misunderstood because so few people in England have had the opportunity of visiting Australia. The more we can improve and expedite the means of traffic between Great Britain and Australia, the more we shall enable people there to come here and see us for themselves. It is quite a frequent matter now to see by the cables in reputable and established journals, from those whose position in public life adds weight to their words, statements which are a travesty upon facts and conditions as they exist here. The more we can by such an agreement, as the Government now propose smooth the path of those who are inclined to visit Australia and see it for themselves, the better will it be for this country. I want to see every facility given in order that people, instead of taking their views of Australia from the casual impressions of globe trotters, or even from official guideLooks, may come here themselves and read the facts of Australia in the book of our daily life. Let them see our agricultural resources and our still wider pastoral areas, let them listen to the clatter of the stamp head and the whirr of the machinery, and let them, above all, see the kind of people who have demonstrated their ability to solve many of the problems of Australia, and are already turning to face the future with confidence’ and hope.” With a better class of boats, more reasonable freights, and greater comfort for people to travel here, the larger will be the volume of those who visit us for pleasure or business, or with a view to permanent residence here. All that will result from the improved line of up-to-date vessels which this contract promises to secure. The fourth advantage is in the matter of freights. I am a little disappointed that the Government confined their attention to butter and fruit, but I am not going to quarrel with the advantage which they have obtained just because it does not go as far as I, as a representative of a great meat-producing State, would have liked it to go. It appears to me to be a distinct advantage that the Government have secured, not only the abolition of the penal rate to which the Minister referred, but an absolute reduction from 2s. 6d. to 2s. 4d . per box. Twopence is not a very big amount, but, on the output of Australia for the ten years of the currency of the contract, it represents a substantial bonus to the producers of Australian butter. The same applies to fruit.
– Two shillings and fourpence is the maximum. The freight will probably be under that.
– The present rate is 2s. 6d. per box, and the agreement provides that the charge in future shall not be more than 2s. 4d., so that, taking the worst aspect of the case, it is a reduction of at least 2d. per box.
– Does the honorable senator think that a maximum might have been fixed for meat in the same way?
– I entertained the hope that some consideration would have been given by the Government in- their negotiations to an industry which is not only a great one, but which, in my opinion, is going to be one of the most rapidlygrowing of Australia.
– Why not wool as well ?
– Wool is not a perishable product.
– What is the matter with rabbits?
– Unfortunately there is too little the matter with them. I do not differ from my honorable friends on those suggestions but, as the Government saw fit to enter into the question of refrigerating space; and have secured an additional amount, upon which I congratulate them, and have given such careful consideration to the matter of butter, I express some disappointment that a thought was not also given to meat.
– It would be most unusual to do that in mail contracts.
– Possibly; but I thought that we were not boundby use or the traditions of the past. I was looking for something better. There are in the agreement many clauses which were not to be found in previous ones.
– It is necessary to make a departure now and then.
– Yes; but our complaint about most Governments is that they are so slow to make them. One clause in the agreement seems to be open to some doubt, and may cause unnecessary litigation. I refer to clause 6, which provides that if any competing line coming via the Suez Canal provides an improved and accellerated service, the contracting company may be required to bring their service up to that of the competing line. What is a competing line? Is it every line?
– It must be a line of up-to-date mail ships, and we cannot have two competing lines of mail ships.
– There is no line competing with the Orient Steam Navigation Company for the carriage of Australian mails to London. Either the clause means any line of ships, or it means nothing. During the currency of the contract, no line can be said to be absolutely competing with the Orient Steam Navigation Company. The very signing of the contract shuts out competition for its term. Whilst at first sight it looks as if we are obtaining a definite contingent advantage by clause 6, I have come to the conclusion that the clause might just as well have been left out of the agreement.
– It is only a little bit of frill.
– Possibly, or it may have been put in by the Government without proper consideration of the circumstances. There is also a discrepancy between clauses 6 and 23, which gives the Postmaster-General power to change the route from via Suez to any other which he may deem desirable. That, I presume, has been put in in view of the possibility of the Panama Canal being completed. The Government may anticipate its completion within that period, but I do not know that any large number of honorable senators share that anticipation. I point out that whilst clause 6 speaks of any competing line of mail ships via the Suez Canal from Europe to Australia, clause 23 says -
If at any time or times the PostmasterGeneral shall deem it necessary or expedient in the public interest that the mails shall be conveyed between the United Kingdom and Adelaide by any other route instead of by way of the Suez Canal the Contractors as soon as reasonably practicable after receiving notice from the Postmaster-General to that effect shall in lieu of the services hereinbefore contracted to’ be performed convey the mails by means of the mail-ships by such route between Plymouth or such other convenient port or place in the United Kingdom (as may be agreed upon between the Contractors and the PostmasterGeneral) and Adelaide calling at Fremantle.
If we should change the route, clause 6, even if it is operative now, would become inoperative then, because it only speaks of a competing line via the Suez Canal. rD-I suppose that we changed the route, and the vessels went via the Panama Canal, then clause 6 would become entirely inoperative, because it is only so long as the route followed is that via the Suez Canal that the Postmaster-General has power to direct the company to bring its boats up to the standard of those provided by any competing line. That possibly was an oversight which one may pardon in the preparation of a document of this kind. While we must accept or reject the agreement as it stands, still, if it has been merely an oversight, the Minister and the contracting company, without any difficulty, could agree to what is, after all is said and done, only a verbal alteration. Another clause which seems to me to be a little peculiar is that which deals with any breach of the Anti-Trust Act. That, to me, is a marvellous provision. It almost seems to suggest that the ‘Government has not much faith in its own Act. If the Act is operative, and the Government intends to carry it out a little more vigorously and, ‘ as I think, a little more honestly, than it is carrying out the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act, there was no need to insert that clause.. What does it amount ‘to? The Orient Steam Navigation Company practically says, “ If we break the laws of Australia, you can punish us.” Does not the Anti-Trust Act say so? Is not that Act quite capable of dealing with those who break its provisions? If it is not, it ought to be. It seems to me that by that declaration the Government has either some strong doubts about the efficiency of the Act to deal with combines and trusts, or grave doubts, which I share, as to its determination to give effect to that law. There is a clause which gives the Commonwealth power to purchase the vessels engaged in this line if at any time it should so desire. When I first saw that provision, I was inclined to regard it with some suspicion, but I have since informed myself that a similar clause appears in the contracts of the Imperial Government. Naturally one looked for the reason why it was inserted, seeing that the claims of those who believe in nationalization have not been quite so loud or insistent there as in Australia. When we look a little more closely, we can see the reason for the insertion of the provision. Quite apart from the requirements of the mail service, a time may arise when, in a national emergency, it may be necessary either to charter ‘or to purchase vessels. In the circumstances, I see no objection to the clause being retained. Hav-‘ ing spoken generally of the agreement, I want to point out what appears to me to be one difficulty, and that is in relation to the State of Queensland. It is proposed - and herein the agreement marks a distinct advance - that when it commences - that is,- two years from next February - the excess subsidy paid in consideration of the boats travelling to Brisbane shall be borne by the Commonwealth. That, I repeat, marks a distinct advance from the standpoint of not only my Queensland friends, but also those who believe with them that the time has arrived when Brisbane may reasonably be included at the general expense in the list of ports which the mail boats shall touch. But what strikes me as peculiar is that having made that tardy admission, the Government does not seek to give effect to it in the interim agreement. I could understand the Government taking up the position which it did some time ago, and practically saying, “Wo do not think that the claims of Brisbane are sufficiently strong to justify the Commonwealth in shouldering the ‘expense of sending the mail boats to that port.” If it had done so, there would have been some reason and some logic in inserting in the main agreement the clause which forms part of the interim agreement. But it has not done so. It has abandoned that position, and now it says that the Commonwealth ought to bear the cost of sending the boats to Brisbane. If it has arrived at that position, and the agreement shows that it has, why the delay?
– He gives twice who gives quickly.
– It is not a question of giving. The Government admits by the permanent agreement which it is prepared to make with the company, and which it now asks Parliament to accept, that it is a fair and reasonable thing for the service to be continued to Brisbane,’ and the charge to be defrayed out of the general fund. If that is a good argument for two years hence, it is equally good for the previous two years. I can quite understand that so long as we confined ourselves to a pure and simple mail contract, Brisbane, or any other port, had no special claim that it should be visited by the boats. But it would be folly to assume for a moment that of late years or under this agreement, we do limit our so-called mail service merely to the carriage of mails. The clauses in the agreement dealing with refrigerating space, freights and passengers, and other accommodation, show ‘ that we are looking for something more than the mere carriage of our mails. That being so, the only point to be considered in determining the ports of call was whether a particular port, not because it happened to be the capital of a State, but by reason of its trade, was entitled to be made a port of “ call. In the case of Brisbane, not only do I think so, but the Government thinks so, too. Therefore I express very considerable disappointment that it has not seen fit to shoulder in the interim agreement that responsibility, which it admits in the permanent agreement, it is fair and reasonable that it should assume. In other circumstances I would have supported a suggestion for an amendment of the agreement in that direction, but we are face to face with the position of having to accept it as it stands, or reject it. I suggest to the representatives of Queensland that, rather than take any step of that kind, they should endeavour to induce the Government to put on the Estimates for the next two years a larger contribution from the Federal funds towards the amount which is now being paid from the State Treasury for this service. There are one or two factors which must necessarily affect the price asked by the tenderer. I have gathered that the cost of the present “Orient” type of boats ranges from £120,000 to £150,000, and that the cost of the new boats is likely to range from ,£300,000 to £350,000. That is an enormous difference, and it means that the company has necessarily to look for a larger annual income to provide for interest and sinking fund.
– The boats will have a larger carrying capacity.
– Yes; but when it comes to a question of the ‘ carriage of freight, speed is a matter to be seriously considered. The greater the- speed, of course, the more costly it is to work the vessels. I find that after allowing 5 per cent, for interest - which is not an excessive amount for a venture of this kind - and 5 per cent, for sinking fund, the extra amount which the company will have to provide every year for interest and sinking fund on the difference between the cost of the new fleet and the cost of theold fleet will be £160,000, or nearly as much as we are to pay for the service. There is another item which must necessarily enter into the calculations of the tendering company. During the currency of the present arrangement the price of coal has risen 3s. a ton. I think I am well within the mark in saying that theboats to complete their trips would, in the course of a year, require 250,000 tons of coal. If we assume that the company purchases one-fourth of its coal in Australia, and I know, as a matter of fact, that its consumption of Australian coal is greater, that increased price alone represents from £9,000 to /CIO,000 per annum. Remembering the finer vessels to be provided, their greater speed, the extra accommodation for perishable products, the increased outlay by the company, and the increased working expense, it does appear to me that while we might naturally have hoped for a contract making a lighter drain on the Treasury of the Commonwealth, still, on the whole, it is one of which we cannot complain. One other matter for satisfaction is that those who offer the service are people whose financial stability I think we can accept with some confidence. I am sure that if the Government had come down with a contract, other than the present one, there would have been very considerable hesitancy and doubt in the minds of honorable senators as to what they should do. But in this case, I venture to say that honorable senators will be generally satisfied that if this contract is completed the Orient Steam Navigation Company, from its long-standing and wellknown position, will not have gone into it without a fair and reasonable assumption that financially it is strong enough to carry, it out. Whilst that in itself is a matter for congratulation, I think it is also gratifying that it is the Orient Steam Navigation Company that has secured the contract. Of all the big shipping companies, it seems to be the one which has, perhaps, shown a greater readiness than other companies to fall in wilh what I may call the public policy of Australia. I admit that during the payment of poundage rates a little petulance was shown by its directors, but, apart from that, I do not think it can be said that they have done other than shown, so far as business men could do, a desire to meet both the wishes and the legislation of Australia. For the reasons I have given, I express a considerable measure of pleasure that the contract has fallen into its hands, and having regard to its general terms which 1 have read, I feel that there is only one course open to us, and that is to accept the contract in the belief that it is not only reasonable in itself, but is, in all probability, far and away the best contract which we are likely to make at- the present juncture.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [4.15].- I do not think that I shall follow on exactly the same lines of carping and panegyric as those in which my honorable colleague has indulged. I desire to point out in a few words some of the most marked distinctions between this contract and that remarkable document to which the assent of this Parliament was asked a year or so ago. On that occasion exception was taken first of all to the fact that the alleged contract was not a contract for a mail service at all, but merely for an option ; that it was unbusiness-like in its methods; that there was no obligation upon the mail steamers to proceed beyond Adelaide; that there was no maximum fixed for the freightage on butter; that the alleged bond for £25,000 to secure the carrying out of the contract was not a bond at all, but merely some form of indemnity which amounted, to use my own “words of a year back, to purchasing a law suit at the other end of the world - words that have been, unhappily for Australia, most clearly proved to be true - that the deposit was paltry ; that if the Commonwealth had to take the steamers over they might be compelled to do so at inflated values, because the contractors were also to be the builders of the ships used, and could put their own price on their own work; that the registered tonnage provided for was farcical, inasmuch as it specified 11,000 tons without stipulating; whether that tonnage was net or gross ; and, further, that the contract was illegal, inasmuch as the seals of the contracting limited liability companies were not attached to the alleged contract.
Every_ one of those objections will be found in my speech of a year ago. I do not wish to make . any further reference to them now, except to say that I find that in the different clauses of the proposed new contract every one of them has been amply met. A man would be very hard to please if, when every one of the objections he found in one document were remedied in the next, he still found fault. I .do not find fault with the proposed new contract. On the contrary, I offer to the Government my warm congratulations on a document which is most distinctly a business agreement from start to finish. All the persons concerned in drawing it up have displayed an amount of business acumen - I say nothing of the legal acumen displayed, because I’ am not a lawyer - which, as a business man, I commend so far as my feeble voice may go to the people of Australia. The proposed new contract is a business agreement, admirably drawn up, and protecting as far as possible, the interests of the contracting parties. I find that the seals of the limited liability companies concerned are attached to the new document, and that, to my mind, is allimportant, and most necessary. I find that the deposit, instead of being £2.500. which, of course, was ridiculous, is, under the new contract, to be £10,000. That is a reasonably substantial sum, and though it might have been larger we need not cavil over a detail. I asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council a question in reference to the status of the Law Guarantee and Trust Society referred to in the contract, not with any idea of faultfinding, but with a desire that the honorable senator should state to the Senate what I will state now, namely, that the soUth. in question ls a most substantial financial institution, whose guarantee under its common seal ought to be’ amply satisfactory to the Commonwealth. As to possible swollen values of the ships to be built, the objection raised by me in connexion with ships to be built bv the alleged contractors does not apply in this case, because the contractors under the proposed new contract will not be the builders of the ships used, and therefore if the Commonwealth should hereafter desire to take the vessels over at a valuation, it should not be difficult to arrive at their true value, and we need be under no apprehension that the price to be paid would be exorbitant. As to the tonnage, I take some little interest in this particular matter, because I believe I was the first member of the Federal Parliament to indicate exactly the absurdity of the provision in the last alleged contract for ships of about “ 11,000 tons registered tonnage.” Under the new contract, provision is made for the running of ships of”11, 000 tons gross registered tonnage.” There is all the difference between the full tonnage of a ship of 11,000 tons and the preposterous proposition which the alleged contract referred to involved of ships ofno less than about 16,000 tons.
– Yes, but the honorable senator should not forget that in dealing with the other contract he contended that there was no such thing as gross registered tonnage.
– I do not chaffer words with Senator de Largie. If the honorable senator will look up the speech I. made on that occasion, he will find that I alleged nothing more than the exact words of the Merchant Shipping Act which I quoted. I read the speech only yesterday, and I am sure that Senator de Largiehas not read it nearly so recently. The honorable senator will find that I framed that speech upon the very phraseology of the Merchant Shipping Act. To a certain extent, I think, it is possible that the honorable senator and myself may be in perfect agreement as to the facts, though there may be some difference of opinion between us as to phraseology.
– We are always together on facts.
SenatorColonel NEILD. - That being so, we need not worry about little verbal trimmings. The proposed new contract provides for a possible ship, whilst the last alleged contract, which was only an option, did not provide for a possible ship for an Australian service, but for an impossible vessel, which might have been of use in the Atlantic trade, but would be clearly out of place in the Australian trade at present. I took very strong exception a year ago to the absence in the alleged contract of any provision for the butter industry in the shape of provision for a maximum freight on butter. I congratulate the Vice-President of the Executive Council that under the proposed new contract that is provided for. It was about the first tiling for which I looked when I received a copy of the proposed contract.
– Why not provide for all other freights as well?
– A good deal might be said in favour of provision for maximum freights on chilled Iamb, quarters of beef, and mutton carcases, but if we go that far it might be suggested that we should go a stage further, that we should provide for the dead rabbit, that the hare must not be overlooked, and that the muscovy duckling should also be provided for, and where in the name of fortune should we stop ? If a company proposes reasonable rates of freight on leading lines as well as for the carriage of mails, we may expect that the rates charged on other lines of interest to those engaged in the commerce of Australia will be satisfactory. I ask honorable senators to bear in mind that the proposed contract is not going to establish a monopoly. The Orient Steam Navigation Company will be subject to all kinds of competition from all sides all the yearround. There is nochance that in becoming monopolists in the carriage of one class of freight they will become monopolists in the carriage of every other class. While there may be something to be said in favour of fixing maximum rates of freight for the carriage of chilled meat, subsidiary lines could not be conveniently dealt with, and we should be reasonable in limiting our provisions in this regard to those matters which, while not of consequence from a mail contract point of view, are still of the greatest consequence to Australian producers - to the great butter and fruit industries of the Commonwealth. Provision with respect to the carriage of meat will no doubt follow. Senator Millen objected that nothing was to be done for the Queensland trade as regards the two years’ period which must elapse between the present time and the commencement of the new contract. That is all right so far as Queensland is concerned ; but what is the matter with Tasmania? On my left there are two representatives of that State who are just as keen about the interests of Tasmania as Senator Millen can possibly be about the interests of Queensland. But I suppose they recognise that there are limitations in this world. Everybody cannot have a diamond breast-pin, nor can everybody be a millionaire. We must deal with the conditions of life in which we find ourselves. I have not heard that the great State of Queensland is worrying about her contribution to the Orient service during the next two years, and I do not think that the Senate need go out of its way to make itself unhappy for half-an-hour about a subject which apparently does not worry Queensland at all. I dare say that the Queensland Government, having made their contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company, are quite prepared to stand by it, and do not require the cheerful sympathy of the Senate.
– Where does the proposed agreement provide diamond breastpins for everybody?
– My honorable friend surely understands that I only made use of a figure of speech, which, after all, let me say, was really a quotation from Artemus Ward, and was not an original proposition of my own.
– Senator de Largie says that it is a metaphor that he never metafore
– Exactly. “I thank thee, Roderic, for the word.” This last is a quotation from Scott. I fear that whenever I make use of quotations in future I shall have to give the name of the author, in brackets, as I do now. I am willing to make one in taking up the burden of Queensland to the extent of the £35,000 or £36,000 which the Queensland Government is called upon to pay.
– The amount is nothing like that. It is only £26,000, less £4,880, paid by the Commonwealth as mileage.
– Well, if I can get as good a horse for less money I am satisfied. I am willing to make one to shoulder the proportion, whatever it be, of Queensland’s burden in connexion with this mail contract, and as the contract involves the tight little island for six months in the year, if the representatives of Tasmania can show that it is reasonable that these great boats should call at Hobart during the other six months of each year at the present time, or in the immediate future, I shall not be found little-minded if asked to vote for supplies necessary to place the capital of ‘the island State on an exactly even keel with the capitals of each of the other States of the Commonwealth. Feeling, as I do, that the objections urged against the last alleged mail contract have been satisfactorily met in the proposed new contract, and that we are now proposing to enter into a contract with a company which, by experience of its past operations, is capable of carrying out that which it undertakes, backed up by the guarantee of one of the oldest and most substantial financial institutions in the Old
Land, and that the whole* affair is proposed to be carried out in a business-like manner under the corporate seals of the contracting parties, I am in no mood to find small faults or to wa.ste time in suggesting that minor matters might have been handled somewhat differently. Because, after all, an animal can find fault in its- own way. A puppy can bite. The lowest type of intellect is capable of fault finding. In this instance I find no scope for the exercise of that particular faculty. Therefore, I only desire, in the most emphatic and hearty way, to offer to my honorable friend, the Vice-President of the Executive Council, and his colleagues, my congratulations on what appears to me to be an admirably designed document for the protection of the mutual interests of the contracting parties and the carrying out of which, I venture to believe, will conduce to the material advantage of the Commonwealth of Australia.
.- I think that the Government are entitled to our congratulations for presenting to us an admirably designed agreement, and one which I hope will bring prosperity to the Commonwealth generally. But, so far asTasmania is concerned, while we ask for nothing unreasonable, and while we should like the mail ships to call at Hobart every fortnight, what we are more concerned about is that these vessels shall visit that port to carry away our- fruit at the specified time during the whole period of the contract. But I find, reading two clauses of the agreement together, and remembering the coastal clauses of the Navigation Bill, that we are in grave danger of not getting the continuous benefit of the contract rights which the Government, I am sure, desire to secure to us. Under the present contract, as every honorable senator knows, halfadozen ships belonging to the Orient Company, and half-a-dozen belonging to the Peninsular and Orient Company, at least, call at Hobart during February and May in each year. They are amply repaid for so doing, because they get a considerable amount of freight in fruit. But clause 9, sub-clause 8, of this agreement enables the contracting company to do exactly as they please with regard to sending their ships there during February and May. It provides that - if in any year the Contractors shall prove to the satisfaction of the Postmaster-General that calls at Hobart during that year are or would be unprofitable the Postmaster-General may direct that the whole or any of such calls for that year may be omitted.
– What is the honorable senator afraid of? Why should he be afraid ?
– I am going to point out where my fear lies. I have heard it said and believe it to be a fact, that some States, notably Victoria, are increasing very much their production of fruit. Orchards are being planted in all directions. The time may come when the production of fruit in South Australia and Victoria may increase so greatly that the mail steamers may be able to get all the freight that they require from other Australian producers,, and when, therefore, it will not be necessary for them to call at Hobart to get fruit for cargo.
– I hope it is true. I hope that that will come off !
– Suppose it does come off - where is Tasmania?
– Still on the other side of Bass Strait !
– If these mail boats, without calling a.t Hobart, can get all the freight they require, what inducement will there be for them to go to Hobart, where they have to pay light dues, wharfage charges, and incur other expenditure before they take a case of apples on board? Under the present system, during February and May, there is a considerable passenger traffic to Tasmania. Wealthy men in New South Wales and Queensland who do not care to travel by small steamers prefer to pay more for the all-round trip when they can get a comfortable passage to Hobart and back to the port of departure - say, Sydney or Brisbane. But if the coastal clauses of the Navigation Bill are to be passed - and I hope they will not be - or if the Government are even going to present them to the Senate - as I hope they will not - they will abrogate one of the clauses which they profess to have put into this contract for the benefit of Tasmania. The mail companies at present make just about enough to pay their expenses in calling at Hobart. But if we take away from them their passenger receipts, which largely help to recoup them, the question will arise whether it would be worth their while to go to Hobart at all. The directors of the companies will naturally ask themselves whether they cannot get all the fruit they require in Melbourne, and whether it will not be more profitable to stay away from Hobart.
– Would Tasmania guarantee a certain quantity of fruit for each voyage ?
– What is the use of our guaranteeing 20,000 cases of apples if the companies are robbed of their passengers, and still have to pay light dues and other charges amounting to £300 or £400 on calling at Hobart? What is the use of our guaranteeing them fruit, if they can get all that they require from Melbourne?
– If Tasmania guarantees them freight they will go to Hobart.
– It stands to reason that they will not go if Melbourne guarantees them all that thev require. We all know that magnificent fruit is being grown in Victoria and other States. Victoria actually beat Tasmania at the great Exhibition in London four or five years ago. There are portions of this State which are admirably adapted lor fruit-growing. What is the use of putting in thi? “contract a clause for the benefit of Tasmania on the one hand, and then putting in a Navigation Bill clauses which will have the effect of preventing the mail companies from send- . ing their steamers to Hobart? I turn to clause 36 of the agreement, which shows that the contractors are frightened of legislation which may be passed after the agreement is entered into, and which might prejudice them by making their profits considerably less. Clause 36, therefore, provides that if, in accordance with Commonwealth legislation passed into law after this contract is entered into, we inflict an increase of expenditure upon the company to the extent of £5,600 a year, the contractors may give notice and the whole thing will be at an end. No doubt the contractors read the coastal clauses of the Navigation Bill, and saw what would be the effect of them. They probably reflected that other restrictions might be placed upon their trade. I hope that the Government will seriously consider before they take the responsibility of the introduction into the Navigation Bill of exemptions in favour of Western Australia, whilst taking from Tasmania the opportunities which she has hitherto had in connexion with her tourist trade. Our passenger traffic during the tourist season is intimately connected with the carriage of our goods. I have been told that the mere fact of taking away from the mail steamers passenger fares to the extent of £300 or £400 a year must fall UPon the producers. The reason is that if the steamers can get £300 or .£400 in passenger fares they may be able to go to Hobart without loss. But if they are to get no such receipts they may not go to Hobart for fruit if thev can get it elsewhere. This is a most Important subject from the Tasmanian point of view, and 1 commend it most earnestly to the consideration of the Vice-President of the Executive Council and his colleagues. It seems to me that if Australia is to nourish there are two great factors which must be made operative. One is the development in every possible way of our primary industries, and from that point of view we must be careful about the mail ships calling at Hobart for our fruit. The second is the settling in Australia of all the population that we can cram into it, and there is room for thousands and thousands of people here. The contract would have been more complete if the Government had pointed out to the company that the Prime Minister was tremendously in earnest about immigration, and if a clause had been inserted making provision whereby under a large scheme of immigration, the contractors would have carried passengers at a low rate.
– Notwithstanding the complimentary remarks that have been made in regard to the agreement, I think it would be much better if no arrangement had been made in it except for the carriage of mails. The remarks of Senator Dobson support my belief in that respect. While there are in the contract some very good proposals regarding the ports of the eastern seaboard, there is a very great omission in the fact that, as far as Fremantle is concerned, it appears to be the one port that is left out of consideration, because no provision is made for the shipping or unshipping of cargoes there. I find that, according to clause 4, sub-clause 7 -
Each of the mail ships on each call at Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane in pursuance of this Agreement shall remain in each of such ports for such period as may be reasonably necessary to discharge cargo and to receive cargo including butter and fruit.
I hold that if there is to be anything like fair play between the various States, there is just as much reason why” Fremantle should be mentioned in that sub-clause as the other capitals.
– Does Western Australia export fruit and butter?
– She does export fruit, and I am hoping for a great boom there in the butter trade. When we remember how large the fruit trade of Western Australia is likely to be in the future, I think that, in common, fairness, Fremantle should have been placed on the same footing as the other ports mentioned in the agreement. Take again the provisions with regard to general cargo freight. I think that it was the duty of the Government to make an effort to secure fair treatment for all the States if they entered into the freight business at all. The moment the Government set their minds to fix up an agreement which recognised such matters, they should have gone into them thoroughly, and secured fair treatment for all the States so far as trade is concerned. The moment they departed from a pure mail contract, that moment it was their duty to secure fair all-round treatment for every State. But Fremantle has not received the consideration that has been extended to the other States.
– The honorable senator is labouring under a misapprehension. Look at page 5, clause 5, sub-clause 2. The boats have to stay at least six hours at Fremantle.
– Only for the purpose of landing or shipping mails. There is no arrangement for the handling of cargo such as is mentioned in the case of other ports.
– There is nothing in the agreement to provide that they cannot take on cargo.
– -There is nothing to provide that they shall stop at Fremantle to take cargo. They may only take as much cargo as is possible in the six hours, or they may take none. The ports of Adelaide, Melbourne, Svdney, and Brisbane are all provided for as regards the taking of cargo, but there is no such provision in the case of Fremantle.
– Why not put Fremantle on the same footing?
– It ought to be.
– That clause only calculates the hours of transit.
– The honorable senator is getting away from his previous statement. The six hours is for mail purposes only, so far as the agreement is concerned. A better agreement could have been arrived at with regard to freights. There ought to be uniform freightage between England and the various States. If there had been any change, it should have been in the direction of providing that the States which are nearest to the Old Country should have the lowest freights, but, strange to say, under the agreement those States are the very ones that have the higher freights. In the case of freight for general cargo between London and Australia, the rate to Western Australia is about 15s. per ton more than the rate to Melbourne or Sydney.
– I am afraid that the honorable senator cannot go into that question now.
– I should have thought that it was within the rights of honorable senators to refer to the question of proper freightage arrangements in an agreement which deals with the question of cargo such as butter and fruit.
– The honorable senator may approach the question from that stand-point, but I thought that he intended to argue the question of freights generally. .
– I merely wished to show that there is no provision for the steamers to take cargo from Western Australia. We ought to have had from the Vice-President of the Executive Council a statement as to what was done regarding those omissions, or whether any attempt was made to make arrangements in the directions indicated. Was any proposition made to obviate those grievances, which have been referred to morethan once in this chamber? It would have been only fair to the States which are suffering under present arrangements for something to be done to remove their grievances. I hope that the Vice-President of the Executive Council, in his reply, will give more information on these points than he did in his opening remarks.
– I had an idea that this would have been the most opportune time to move an amendment, but from the tenor of the debate it appears that it would be hopeless for me to attempt, on this occasion, to get at the heart of the disease from which we are suffering. I am not sufficiently taken with the proposed contract to offer any particular congratulations to. any one other than the Orient Steam Navigation Company. I think I may heartily congratulate them upon having succeeded in obtaining an agreement from the people of Australia which will, in the course of ten years, put into their pockets the nice little sum of £1,700,000. In other words, they have succeeded in obtaining an agreement which in ten years will pay almost two-thirds of the cost of building a fine new fleet of ships with which to traverse the ocean for the next twenty or twenty -five years. I wish to call attention to the position in which we are placing ourselves by entering into this agreement. I recognise fully the difficulties with which we would be faced if we rejected it. At the same time, it is right that the people of Australia should be made acquainted, not only with their responsibilities, but with the fact that by means of these large contracts which are being entered into one way and another, and particularly by this one, a considerable sum of money is going out of their hands which could be mucin more profitably spent on the establishment of a fleet of mail steamers owned by the Commonwealth itself. The contract provides that we shall pay £170,000 per annum to the Orient Steam Navigation Company for runninga line of mail steamers on a fortnightly service. If we undertook to conduct the service ourselves, and if the necessary vessels cost us £3,000,000 to build, £120,000 a year would pay interest at the high rate of 4 per cent. on that sum, and we should have a balance of £50,000 towards the general management of the concern.
– The increased cost of coal alone would be more than that for the proposed contract with steamers of 11,000 tons, running at the rate proposed.
– The price of coal does not affect my argument. For the ten years of the proposed contract we shall be paying away £170,000 a year, when we could use the bulk of it to pay interest upon the cost of vessels” of our own, and the balance towards the general management of the concern. It is high time that we considered whether it is really advisable or necessary, merely for the sake of offing the wheels of private enterprise, to enter from time to time into contracts which are continually increasing in price. Every change that has taken place during the time I have been in Australia has been in the direction of an advance in the cost of the contract.
– Has not that been caused by the general advance in all expenses?
– That does not follow. During the past twenty years the introduction of new and improved scientific methods has tended towards the reduction of all costs.
– That is absolutely against all experience.
– The honorable senator is wrong. It is absolutely in accord with all the evidence. I do not suppose that it is necessary to pursue that argument, because I have no intention now of moving my amendment. Senator de Largie has put his finger upon a very sore point in regard to Western Australia. Ample provision is made in the agreement for the whole of the States with the exception of Western Australia. I do not forget Hobart, but the arrangement made with regard to that port seems to be fairly satisfactory.
– That arrangement Is only optional.
– It is more than that.
– If the Tasmanian people grow plenty of apples and other fruits for export, they need have no fear as to the conditional feature of the contract, so far as they are concerned. I wish to bring before the Minister the fact that there is always a danger of Western Australia having the very worst of the mail service. Not only is the mail-boat to stay there for a short period, but we find that the incoming mail may re landed and the outgoing mail put on board on. the same day. That I think might be considered by the Government, and especially by the PostmasterGeneral, in the preparation of “the time-table. It would certainly be to the advantage of Western Australia if the incoming mail were landed in that State on one day and the outgoing mail were despatched on the following day. I think every honorable senator will recognise that when the two mails are dealt with on the one day very great difficulty is experienced by the commercial classes. With that exception, I have nothing to say now against the new contract, inasmuch as I do not see any possibility of carrying an amendment to the motion. Otherwise I believe that it would have been infinitely better, in the interests of Australia, if we had agreed to spend this annual subsidy of ,£176,000 on the establishment of’ a line of Commonwealth mail steamers, in order that at the end of that term we might be carrying on just as good a service as will then be run, so realizing the desire of Senator Millen. I heartily agree with him that what is required to insure the true and sure development of Australia is to cheapen as far as possible the cost of travelling between Australia and the Old Land. If ever that cheapness is to be brought about, I believe that it will accrue from the action of the Commonwealth in procuring a line of steamers which will carry out her mail services, not for the purpose of making a profit but for the purpose of meeting the working expenses, and making the way to Australia open on easy terms to those who desire to come here.
.- I do not intend to say more about the contract than that I intend to vote for its ratification. I take advantage of this opportunity to support what Senator Henderson has said with regard to fixing up a time-table under the new agreement. I hope that the Vice-President of the Executive Council will represent to the PostmasterGeneral the advisability of faking into consideration the great disability which will ensue to business men in Western Australia if, in view, of the additional speed of the new vessels, a re-arrangement of the timetable is not made so that two mail vessels shall not arrive in the port of Fremantle on the one day. If the existing time-table is maintained then with the additional speed of the vessels we shall have the incoming boat and the outgoing boat arriving at that port on the same day.
– Of the same company ?
– It might be one company or the other. It really does not matter which company it ii, because the real point is that, with an incoming boat and an outgoing mail-boat arriving on the same day, sufficient time is not given to business men to answer their correspondence by the outgoing bait. If any persons are unable to get their correspondence ready for transmission by the outgoing mail on that day, they at present, have to. wait a week before it can be forwarded to its destination.
– That happens in Sydney very often.
– In Sydney business men have the advantage of the alternative route via America. I do not think that they are placed at the same disadvantage as are business men in Western Australia. I think that a time-table under the new contract can be compiled to convenience the business men of Western Australia without detrimentally affecting the interests of any other port. The only hostile comment which so far as I know has been evoked by the proposals of the Government, as indicated a few days ago, has emanated from the Chamber of Commerce and business men who have taken alarm at the possibility of two mail-boats arriving in Fremantle on the same day, and have taken step’s to urge the Government to see that it does not occur.
– I desire to say a few words about the so-called preference which is given to Hobart. The Government are pluming themselves upon giving the people, of Hobart a slight advantage which they do not at present possess. Lately Hobart has been visited by five steamers of the Orient Steam Navigation Company a year, and now it is proposed “to increase the number to six, but a provision has been made that if the company should not find it profitable it is not to send the boats. I do not oppose the ratification qf the contract, but I suggest that when the Navigation Bill is under consideration the Government might see their way to modify the clauses relating to the coastal trade, so that additional charges and costs shall not be put
On the mail steamers because they carry a few passengers between Sydney and Hobart.
– Senator Millen has covered the ground so ably that he has left very little for one to say on the principles involved in the new contract. But as I adversely criticised the action of the Government in regard to the previous mail contract, I feel bound to add my expression of satisfaction at the very complete contract which has been made. I believe that my view is generally shared by the people throughout Australia. I am one of those who have a sort of sentimental feeling in regard to maintaining, as far as possible, a continuous trade where it has been carried on to the satisfaction of those who have entered into separate contracts. I believe that in the past the Orient Steam Navigation Company has done its best to equip its fleet with modern applications and conveniences. We must all recognise that in a great measure the development of Australia must’ be brought about by means of increased population. It is pertinent to the prosecution of that policy that we should have at our command the most modern ships, equipped with all the conveniences and comforts which mark the steamers running between Europe and America, and which are carrying immigrants to a much larger extent than is done by steamers coming to Australia. If we, can secure a fleet of such steamers to run.’ to our shores,” the news will be circulated throughout Europe, and may assist in bringing into existence a stream of immigration to this country. As regards the business aspect of the new contract, I can heartily congratulate the Government. I believe that the Government has really got the better end of the stick, notwithstanding the statement of Senator Henderson that the subsidy of £170,000 a year will go into the pockets of the company. If, however, he is right in his conjecture, then I suggest that he and every other man who has a few shillings should be glad to secure some of the shares of the company when they are placed on this market.
– Let the honorable senator congratulate the company, and he is safe.
-.- I do not congratulate the company, but the Government which, I believe, has made an exceptionally good contract in the interests of Australia as a whole. I also hope that the Orient Steam Navigation Company has made a good contract in the interests of its shareholders, but of the two parties I certainly think that the Government has made the better bargain. If Senator Henderson will reflect upon the statement of Senator Millen he will realize that ‘the increase of the subsidy from £120,000 to £170,000 will not all be profit. Far from that, indeed. Of late years there has been a marked increase in the cost of running every sailing ship and steam-boat. That has been due to the increased cost of labour, coal, and other necessaries. I believe that, so far as profit is concerned, there will not be very much advance made in that direction under the new contract. If, however, it should mean a considerable profit, I shall be very glad of the fact.
Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia) [S.13I. - Before the debate is closed, I desire to .refer to one phase of the contract, and in no way to offer carping criticism, because on the whole it is an improvement on the last contract, and the Government deserves . to be congratulated for bringing about its consummation. I hope, however, that this is the last occasion on which the Parliament will be invited to ratify a contract of this kind. I sincerely trust that the time is not far distant when the Government will realize the absolute necessity of the Commonwealth having its own fleet of mail steamers.
– The Socialists will be in a majority by the time the new contract will expire.
– I realize that a good many things may occur before the expiry of the new contract. I believe that by that time the Labour Party will have so increased in number in this Parliament that it will not be necessary to make a similar contract, and the Government of that day will have provided a fleet of steamers to carry out the mail service. In my opinion Senator Henderson has shown that an annual outlay of £170,000, which we are giving as a subsidy, could be utilized in this direction. I desire to emphasize the remarks of Senators Pearce and Henderson with reference to the time during which the mail steamers are to remain at Fremantle. I have lived at that port for aboutseven years, and I know that on many occasions the commercial people have been placed at a very great disadvantage by reason of the fact that the outward-bound Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s steamer was in the port on the same morning as the homeward-bound Orient Steam Navigation Company’s steamer. When we remember that the new contract stipulates that the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s steamer shall remain in the port for six hours, and “noless,” honorable senators will perceive at once the great disadvantage in which that places the commercial community of Western Australia in the matter of correspondence. In these days of keen competition in the commercial world, it is essential that the rapid handling of commercial correspondence should be provided for. As Senators Pearce and Henderson have also referred to this matter, it is to be hoped that the PostmasterGeneral, in arranging a time-table, will remember the disadvantages under which Fremantle labours as compared with other ports in the Commonwealth at which the steamers will make a longer stay, and that he will provide that at least aday shall elapse between the arrival at Fremantle of the incoming steamer and the departure of the Orient steamer. Having come into close personal contact with business people in that portion of the Commonwealth, I know that they have a genuine grievance in this matter, and I hope before the contract is ratified something will be done to remedy it. Speaking generally, I think we have reason to congratulate the Government on the business-like manner in which they have arranged the contract, but whilst I offer them my congratulations, I reiterate my hope that the day is not far distant when, instead of being called upon to ratify a mail contract with a shipping company, we shall carry our mails in our own ships.
– I shall not take up much of the time of the Senate in dealing with this matter, but there are one or two points in the agreement which I do not think have been made very clear. Under the proposed contract the Orient Steam Navigation Company have the right to sub-let the portion of the service between Brindisi and Port Said. Who is to be responsible to the Postmaster-General for the proper carrying out of the portion of the service that is sub-let? A mail steamer is defined in the contract to be a vessel provided for the conveyance of mails under this agreement, but it is not provided that mail steamers shall be used in, carrying out the portion of the service which may be sub-let. I think that, so far as the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s boats are concerned, the Postmaster-General will be able to exercise control over them. At page 4 of the contract honorable senators will find that in sub-clause 2 of clause 4 it is provided that -
In the event of the Contractors using a steamship other than a mail ship hereinbefore referred to for the purpose of carrying the mails from Port Said to Brindisi or other approved port or from Brindisi or other approved port to Port Said as aforesaid the conditions herein contained applicable to mail ships for the purposes of this agreement shall not apply to such steam-ships except the conditions provisos and stipulations contained - in, certain clauses referred to in detail. I admit that this agreement covers everything so far as the contractors are using their own ships. I refer honorable senators also to clause 33, which provides -
The Contractors shall not assign underlet or dispose of the services to be performed under this Agreement or any part thereof except the carriage of mails to and from Port Said and Brindisi.
There is provision there for an absolute exception with respect to a portion of the service. Of course the PostmasterGeneral must give his consent to the sub-letting of the contract for a portion, of the service. Provision is made that the mail ships shall be kept in a seaworthy condition, and that their equipment shall be kept in order. In sub-clause 1 of clause 14 it is provided that -
If the Postmaster-General shall at any time consider any mail ship unfit for service under this Agreement he may require the Contractors to show cause why such mail ship should not be withdrawn from the service.
He is empowered also to call for a special examination, but I remind honorable senators that in this clause the words “ mail ship,” and not steam-ship, are used. I should like to know whether these provisions as to examination, and so forth, are to be applied to steam-ships used to take up the running under a sub-contract ?
– What clause does the honorable senator refer to?
– Sub-clauses 1 and 2 of clause 14. Before the contract is ratified, I again direct the attention of the Government to the definition of the term “Adelaide.” I think the South Australian Government should be consulted before it is definitely fixed. They have gone to huge expense in, making provision for mail boats at the Outer Harbor, and, as has been done in defining the port of Brisbane, I think Adelaide might have been defined to mean the Outer Harbor at Largs Passage. The South Australian Government has let it be known all over the world that the Outer Harbor will be ready to accommodate ships from the 1st January next.
– Under the contract”Adelaide” means the signalling station (known as Adelaide Semaphore) at or off the city of Adelaide, in South Australia, untilthe Outer Harbor is completed and practicable for use by the mail steamers.
– The Outer Harbor will be completed on the 1st January next, whilst this contract will not come into force until 19th February, 1910.
– We might in the meantime make representations on the subject.
– Another point to which I might refer is that throughout the contract, take, for instance, sub-clauses 1, 2, and3 of clause 17, the words “ master or commander ‘ ‘ of each of the mail ships is referred to. I know nothing of such an officer as a “ commander “ in the marine service. There are commanders in the Navy, but no such term is used in the Merchant Shipping Act to describe the master of a vessel. I am aware that the shipping company are in the habit of advertising the masters of many of the liners as “ commanders,” but they have no standing as such.
– It makes no difference, as the word master is also used.
– I see no need for the use of the word “ commander.” The point to which I particularly wish to refer is that, under sub-clause 2 of clause 14, should the Postmaster-General declare a mail ship unfit for service, power is taken to have a special examination of the hull and machinery, but a ship may be declared unfit because of deficient equipment, which may have nothing to do with the hull or machinery. The condition of her equipment may be such that it would be absolutely unsafe for the vessel to put to sea. I think that the Postmaster-General should be given power to demand an examination of the equipment of a mail ship, as well as of her hull and machinery.
– I do not intend to detain the Senate very long in speaking to the motion for the ratification of the mail contract. Whilst I admit that there may be some reasons for congratulating the Government upon the proposed contract, I am in exactly the position which has been so well described by Senator Millen on behalf of honorable senators on this side.
SenatorPearce. - Did the honorable senator hear Senator Neild?
– I did not interrupt any honorable senator who spoke from the other side.
– I beg the honorable senator’s pardon.
– The honorable senator seems to have a. penchant for that kind of thing, if he understands the word. It can scarcely be expected that representatives of Queensland will accept the proposed contract without comment, because, as Senator Millen has pointed out, it provides for something more than a mere mail service. I think that it is very proper that it should, and Icompliment the Government for having recognised how useful it is that subsidized mail steamers should be employed incidentally to promote the general welfare of the respective States. I regret that Queensland is not to receive, for some time at all events, the advantages which I think that, in the circumstances in which this mail contract is proposed, she ought to receive. I say so because down here we hear so much about the Federal spirit, and because, when the Federal organization was arranging for a mail service to promote the industries of Australia, since Queensland contributes a most important proportion of the production of the Commonwealth, it would have been well if the Government could have seen their way to have placed that State on a level with the other States of the Commonwealth in regard to the facilities afforded for the export of her produce. T am, unfortunately, forced to recognise the fact that it is of no use pressing our objections to the extent of any attempt to interfere with the contract. On behalf of Queensland, I extremely regret that that is so. That is why I say that I have pleasure, in the circumstances, in joining in the wish so strongly expressed by Senator Millen. Whilst the proposed contract seems to be one which will benefit Australia as a whole, including Queensland, I hope, I do not desire, at this stage, to interfere with its ratification by any direct hostile motion, but I draw attention, as Senator Millen has done, to the fact that it is advisable, as well as just, that the Government should recognise that, in- the meantime, the Queensland Government should be relieved of their contribution under the existing contract. I do not think it can be claimed that the finances of the Commonwealth are in such a strained condition that we are not in a position to relieve the Queensland Government. If this were merely a mail service the objection on the part of Queensland would not lie, but, as I have said, it v something more than a mail service, since it provides facilities for the export of butter and fruit, the export of which products from Queensland is rapidly increasing. That being so, in view of the fact that Queensland will not, until after February, 1910. enjoy the full advantages qf the proposed contract, it cannot be expected that representatives of that State should contemplate the ratification of the contract with unalloyed pleasure. I may mention that, should the Queensland Government be relieved of their contribution under the existing contract, it is not intended that the money should be retained in the Treasury to assist in building up a surplus, but that it should be expended in developing the export trade of the State with the East by the Torres Straits mail service. We are frequently taunted with’ speaking selfishly on behalf of Queensland interests. But I think that I have the right to represent what I believe to be the views of the Queensland people in regard to this mail contract. If Queensland were’, during the ensuing two years, to be relieved of the £20,000 odd which she now pays on consideration of the vessels calling at Brisbane, she would not put that money into her own pocket, but would use it for the development of Australian trade in the
East. There is no State which can do that to such advantage as Queensland can. Even though she herself benefited most of all by a policy of that kind, it is quite certain that the whole of Australia would reap some of the benefit. Therefore, I commend to the Government the remarkably diplomatic suggestion which was made to them by Senator Millen, and hope that they will see their way during the twoyears to relieve Queensland of that contribution, in order that Brisbane may be placed on a footing of equality with the other States capitals in respect to the mail steamers. I know something of the trend of political opinion in Queensland. I know that the people of that State are particularly anxious, not that their pockets shall be spared in this matter, but that the port of their .capital shall be placed^ on a level with the other ports of Australia. I compliment the Government upon having secured a contract which, notwithstanding the difficulties they have had to face, 3ppears to be a very good one for all Australia. The satisfaction with which it will be regarded in Queensland will be greatly increased if the Government accept the suggestion of Senator Millen. I earnestly trust, therefore, that some relief will be given to the Queensland Treasury in that respect.
– I have risen to express my satisfaction at the fact that the Government have at last been persuaded of the necessity of treating Queensland on an equality with the other States in regard to’ the mail contract. I realize that the agreement now before us has practically to be accepted in toto or rejected; and I should be the last to refuse to consent to an agreement which in two years’ time will give to Queensland what I have been very anxious that she should get. In common with a number of my fellow representatives in both Houses, I shall take another opportunity of pressing the claims of Queensland in respect to the interim contract. Meanwhile, I heartily congratulate the Government on having made what I believe to be a satisfactory agreement on the whole; and ai.y remarks which I make upon it are not to be taken as being made in a carping spirit^ at all, but simply for the purpose of pointing out one or two little matters which I think have been overlooked. I notice that in clause 37 provision is made that, in the event of war breaking out, the contract shall be determined. In other words, the moment Great Britain becomes engaged in war with a first-class naval Power the contract comes to an end. Now, the opinion of naval experts - which seems to be well founded - is that probably the next naval war will be very short in duration. If that is the case, it seems rather a pity to provide that the contract shall cease the moment war breaks out, and to make no provision for taking- it up again when the disturbance is over. That, I think, is a provision which might not inadvisably have been inserted. There is another point which I wish to make. Nothing is mentioned in the contract as to the vessels being built so as to be able to look after themselves in case of war, not necessarily with a first class naval Power, but, say, with a secondary naval Power. I am not one of those who are of opinion that it is a good thing to have our mail ships so built as to be capable of being, turned into cruisers, with the idea of their being used to defend Australia. But I think that the scantlings - I believe that that is the term which naval men use - might be made so strong that in time of war the ships would be able to carry a certain number of guns with a view of being able to protect themselves. They have to travel considerable distances. Ships that would possibly make raids upon them in time of war would be, in all likelihood, improvised vessels. I believe that these mail steamers could be so built that it would be possible for them to carry sufficient guns to be able to look after themselves until they reached port. I believe that the Government have the right to approve of the plans of the vessels before they are constructed. It would, in my opinion, be advisable to bear this suggestion in mind, and endeavour to secure that the vessels should be so constructed that, in- the event of such a misfortune as a war breaking out, they would be capable, not of being turned into cruisers available to protect Australia, but to look after themselves until they reached their port of destination.
– The companies would want double the subsidy if they were required to do that.
– That might be so; but I understand that ip the case of some Atlantic ships originally subsidized by the Admiralty, with a view to using them in case of war, when they came to be examined, it was found that the contractors or . owners had put into them a far greater strength, so far as construction was concerned, than was even put into many of the ships belonging to the Navy. I think that the suggestion which I have made is one which the Government might reasonably consider when they come to approve of the plans.
– So many honorable senators have congratulated the Government upon the excellent bargain which they have made with the Orient Steam Navigation Company, that I am beginning to think that there maybe something wrong about it. When I find honorable senators like Senators Millen and St. Ledger, who usually think that everything the Government does is of the very worst description, praising their action on this occasion, I am a little puzzled.
– They have lucid intervals.
– It may be, as- the honorable senator suggests, that those to whom I have referred have occasional, lucid intervals. In any case, so far as I have been able to examine the contract, it appears to me to be all right. Previous contracts were ostensibly mail contracts and nothing more, whilst in reality they were cargo contracts in addition. I am very glad that the Government have seen their way to make Brisbane a port of call, as well as Adelaide, Melbourne, and Sydney. I think that Queensland, if she has not a legal claim to the waiving of her annual contribution, has a very strong moral claim. The contract which we are now proposing to ratify is to all intents and purposes similar to previous ones. Under the old contract the vessels were compelled to call at Melbourne, Sydney, and Adelaide, and to provide certain accommodation for cargo The same thing is provided for in this contract, with the additional stipulation that the vessels are to go on to Brisbane. Under these circumstances, I believe, as I have already pointed out, and as other Queensland representatives have said, that Queensland has a very strong moral claim to the waiving of her annual contribution, and I hope that the Government will take that point into consideration. I join with Senator Needham, in hoping that this is the last occasion upon which the Commonwealth Parliament will be called upon to ratify a mail or cargo contract with any private company.
– The honorable senator’s party has disappointed me by not bringing forward a nationalization proposal to-day.
– The time is not opportune. That is a phrase which ought to appeal very forcibly to the honorable senator. Continual contact with him is teaching the Labour Party prudence.
– It has taught the Labour Party that discretion is the better part of valour.
– Yes, and although we are not in a position to-day to press our claims for a national service, I hope that before 19 10 the party will be in a position to do so.
– The Labour Party are in a better position to do it here . than Mr. Fisher was in the other House, but they have not done it. Were they frightened of carrying it?
– We are in this House ; not in the other House.
– We were afraid that we could not carry it.
– Senator Henderson expresses the matter very much more truly when he says that we were afraid that we could not carry it. We recognised that it would be a great waste of time and ammunition to propose it; and therefore, we did not do so. I trust that before 1910, even Senator Millen will have been convinced of the desirability of the Commonwealth providing for the carriage of its own mails and cargo to and from Europe. Senator Gray dwelt upon the necessity for increasing the population of Australia, but what better advertisement could the Commonwealth have than her own ships sailing into European ports and manned- by her own sons? They would not lie ships owned by the Orient Steam Navigation Company or the Peninsular and Oriental Company, or a German or French company, or any other combination or association of private individuals,- but ships owned by the people of Australia.
-Order ! That question is not before the Senate, by amendment or otherwise.
– I have nothing more to say on the subject. I shall vote for the ratification of the contract.
Senator MULCAHY (Tasmania) [5.49I - I somewhat resent the idea that, this preliminary’ contract must be accepted in globo without any alteration. If it is submitted “>to Parliament, Parliament should have the full right to discuss it, and even to suggest alterations in the details.
– And face the consequences ?
– Why not? What is it submitted to Parliament for? If, on reading it, we find, as we have found, that some of its conditions are not fair to one State in its relation to other States, we have a perfect right to suggest that an alteration should be made. As a matter of fact, I intend to move an amendment, which I hope will commend itself to the sense of fairness that characterizes honorable senators. Sub-clause 8 of clause 9 provides that -
In each and every year during the continuance of this agreement the contractors shall cause at least six of the mail ships to proceed to and call at Hobart, in Tasmania, during the months of February to May inclusive.
I desire all that part of the sub-clause to stand, and move the elimination of the following proviso -
Provided always that if any year the Contractors shall prove to the satisfaction of the Postmaster-General that calls at Hobart during that year are or would be unprofitable the PostmasterGeneral may direct that the whole or any of such calls for that year may be omitted.
Senator Stewart has rightly characterized the provisional agreement as an agreement for the carriage of mails plus the carriage of cargo. Certain conditions are made applicable to all. the States but in this particular case it is left largely optional with the company whether their vessels shall visit Tasmania at the most important time of the year to that State. The vessels do pay such visits at present. In olden times they were induced to go there under specific Agreements. It is of great importance to Tasmania that they should go there. During what is known as the fruit season, the mail-boats on leaving Sydney make it part of their voyage to go to Hobart and collect portion of their cargo in apples there. They go thence to Melbourne, and then to Adelaide. Incidentally they give opportunities for travelling to people from New’ South Wales and other States who can make what is called the “apple trip.” That arrangement is of great benefit to the Commonwealth, because the people who travel see a little of the territories of other- States and come back possibly with a better Federal . spirit and a wider knowledge of the resources of the other States. Parliament appears to intend, by means of certain legislation which is now before this Chamber, to preclude vessels of this kind from, sharing in the transport .of passengers or goods between Tasmania and the other States, and to allow them only to carry passengers or goods from Tasmania to
Europe. If then we preclude them from taking passengers on the round-trip to Tasmania we shall be depriving them of what is at present a very large inducement to them to send their ships to Tasmania - an inducement which will grow even larger if Brisbane is made the terminal port. For the mail steamers to go round from Sydney to Hobart involves extra travelling to the extent of about 400 miles, and Senator Dobson ,has rightly pointed out that if a boat coming from Sydney could fill up her cool chambers at Melbourne, Adelaide, and Fremantle, the company could plead, that it would involve an excessive cost for that boat to go to Hobart, as it would mean travelling 400 miles out of her way.
– It will be .useless for the ship to go to Hobart if she is full before she starts.
– I do not mean that she will be full before she starts, but if she can get the same amount of cargo at mainland ports, why should she go to Hobart ?
– It is not the company but the Postmaster-General that determines that point.
– The PostmasterGeneral may be very easily satisfied.
– The honorable senator must be very innocent.
– I am not speaking with any personal reference to the present Postmaster-General. I am dealing with the Postmaster-General, whoever he may be at the time. t Senator Best. - And I ask the honorable senator, as a practical politician, to “consider whether the Postmaster-General would do what the honorable senator suggests.
– If it can be proved that fruit is waiting at Hobart, and that it would be profitable to the company to send its boats there, it will be no excuse for the company for not going to Hobart to say that other ‘fruit was waiting on the mainland.
– But the power is placed in the hands of the PostmasterGeneral. That is not a fair proposal for Tasmania. We may have the fruit there and want to get it Home by the quickest, boats. Speed is of the greatest moment to Tasmania, because although we produce the best fruit we are the furthest away from the Home market.
– Tasmania is very slow in every -other direction.
– That may be so, but we want to get our fruit into the ship’s hold and on to the London market in the quickest possible time. We bear our proportion of the burden of this contract per capita, and what are we getting out of it? We are being treated differently from the other States. There is no such condition affecting any other State. It is left to the Postmaster-General to agree with the shipping company as to whether it will pay the company to go down to Tasmania for fruit or not. It may not pay them, although a cargo of fruit sufficient to fill the ship may be waiting there.
– The PostmasterGeneral is to be the judge of that.
– Hear, hear: that is the point.
– It is the unfortunate point.
– The Postmaster-General will say whether it will be unprofitable or not, and if the fruit is waiting there to be carried it cannot be said to be unprofitable.
– The PostmasterGeneral will have to determine the matter as a business man, and if the agent of the Orient Steam Navigation Company waits upon him and says, ‘” We have; as many apples waiting for us in Melbourne and Adelaide as will fill our ships “-
– That will be no answer.
– He may say, “ It will therefore be unprofitable for us to go to Hobart.”
– The company could not say that.
– There is a difference between what might be more profitable and what is unprofitable.
– The company . will be able to claim that it would be actually a loss for them to go to Hobart in those circumstances.
– It may be an absence of possible gain, but it cannot be a loss.
– Honorable senators may regard it in that way, but I do not ‘see it in that light at all. It is a’ very dangerous and unfair condition. The fruit industry is a most important one to Tasmania. She is the smallest and weakest of the States, and is singled out . for a condition that does not appertain to any other State. That is grossly unfair. I feel it my duty to move -
That sub-clause 8 of clause 9 be amended by leaving out the following words : - “Provided always that if in any year the Contractors shall prove to the satisfaction of the Postmaster-General that calls at Hobart during that year are or would be unprofitable the PostmasterGeneral may direct that the whole or any of such calls for that year may be omitted.”
– Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
– The honorable senator, having already spoken, cannot second the amendment. There being no seconder, I cannot put the amendment.
.- I must offer to honorable senators a sincere acknowledgment of the generous way in which they have referred to this contract The criticism that has been offered as to its provisions will eloquently indicate that its terms are fair and reasonable, founded upon a solid business basis, and manifestly in the interests of the whole community. Senator Mulcahy is quite wrong in the construction which he has sought to place upon sub-clause 8 of clause 9. The words are, “ Provided always that if in any year the contractors shall prove to the satisfaction of the Postmaster-General . . . .” That is the first point. It mast be proved to the satisfaction” of the PostmasterGeneral, “ that calls at Hobart during that year are or would be unprofitable.” That is the abstract condition’ “which must be proved. If the boat were free and had available .space, the agent would have to prove, to the satisfaction of the PostmasterGeneral, that, if the boat did call, there would not be sufficient freight to make the trip profitable. In those circumstances only would the Postmaster-General have power* to direct that all or any trips for that year might be omitted. The obvious object of the clause is to meet a failure of the crops in Tasmania. If a failure were clearly established, the contractors would have the right to appeal to the discretion of the Postmaster-General. My honorable friend, in common with other representatives” of Tasmania, contemplates the possibility of the various boats being filled by cargoes obtained in Australia and neglecting to call at Hobart. But I assure him that that would not be a factor, nor could it in law be a factor to operate, in the mind of the PostmasterGeneral, in the exercise of his discretion. The spirit of the contract is that space must be available for Hobart, and that it must be shown that there is no cargo of a profitable character to pick up at that port before an exemption can be granted. My honorable friend may safely rely upon it that Hobart need have no serious fear in that regard. If he will examine the; attitude of the Commonwealth to Tasmania in regard to cables and mail services particularly-
– It has always been very unfair. That has been the attitude of the Commonwealth to Tasmania with regard to cables.
– The attitude of the Commonwealth towards Tasmania in regard to mail services. and cables has been most generous, and rightly so.
– At our own expense.
– At all times I, for one, have been anxious to maintain that attitude, and in the future I trust that it will always be my privilege to do so.. I desire now to refer to some of the clauses in the agreement. In the first place, Senator Millen has called attention, to clause 6, which says -
If before or during the sixth year of the fixed period of ten years mentioned in clause 36 hereof any competing line of mail-ships shall then provide an improved and accelerated service via the Suez Canal from Europe to Australia the Contractors shall if so required by the Postmaster-General at any time after the fifth year provide a service equal to such improved and accelerated service -
My honorable friend was of the opinion that that was a mere pious expression iri the contract. It is a clause of substantial’ value, inasmuch as it would be a guarantee to the Commonwealth that in the event of an improved and accelerated service on the part of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s mail steamers, the French mail steamers, the German mail steamers, or any other mail steamers-
– No;’ it refers only to the mail steamers embraced in this definition.
– My point was as tothe effect of the word “ competing.” I hold that not one of these vessels will be a competing mail ship.
– The word refers tr> a mail ship working under this agreement.
– I think that the general construction of the clause would be; that if any improved mail ships were trading to Australia, we could call upon the contractors to provide an accelerated mail service.
– That, I think, was the intention, and I suggest that the word “ competing “ should be left out.
– I think that in its terms the clause carries out the intention, but I have taken a note of my honorable friend’s point. While I cannot but gather that the Senate recognises that it has either to accept the contract as it stands or to reject it, yet it may be possible to draw the attention of the contractors to several of the points which have been mentioned here, and to obtain from them a written statement whereby they will accept certain words as being incorporated for the purposes of construction. I shall make representations in regard to the criticisms of my honorable friend - I see his point - so as to remove any doubt which may exist. He, together with other honorable senators, expressed his regret that no provision has been’ made for the carriage of frozen meat, as well as fruit and butter. My first answer is that it is a little unusual for meat to be carried in large quantities by a mail boat. But, in addition to that, I think it will be recognised that speed and regularity are not of so much importance in regard to meat as in regard to the more perishable products of fruit and butter. . As a rule, frozen meat is picked up by the tramps and other steamers which specially cater for that class of cargo. I point out that in sub-clause 4 of clause 9 even meat is not excluded from the terms of the contract, because it says - the Contractors shall unless otherwise determined by the Postmaster-General provide a chamber in each mail-ship for butter if 300 tons of 20 cwt. are offered for shipment at the ports of loading in the Commonwealth collectively and no fruit cheese or other odorous articles shall be carried in the same chamber as the butter.
If 300 tons of butter were not provided.- it would be quite competent for the mail-ships to take any cargo which was available. But the primary object of the contract is to make firm and definite provision for the carriage of butter and fruit. Mv honorable friends from Tasmania have made special -reference to clause 9. Hitherto there has been no obligation on the part of mail steamers to call at Hobart. It has been profitable for them to do so at times. I believe that, as a rule, five or six steamers have made it a port of call between February and May. Clause 9 makes it compulsory upon them to do so in future, and very strong reasons would have to be given to the Postmaster-General before that service could be broken off.
– Yes ; but the Commonwealth is paying £22,000 extra a year on account of Brisbane, whether the service is profitable or not, and of that sum we have to pay our share.
– Brisbane has so completely established its right to this service that, in my opinion, the argument hardly applies. Queensland has provided for the service at a cost of about £21,200, which it has gladly contributed, and no doubt it has been a profitable extension, and justified itself most thoroughly.
– Arid yet the Commonwealth has to pav for it.
– Senator de Largie has referred to sub-clause 7 of clause 4 -
Each of the mail-ships on each call at Adelaide Melbourne Sydney and Brisbane in pursuance of this Agreement shall remain in each of such ports for such periods’ as may be reasonably necessary to discharge cargo and to receive’ cargo including butter and fruit.
I point out that the scheme of the agreement is that we only attempt to regulate the period of transit between Adelaide and Brindisi, and that it is left practically to the company to regulate on business lines the movements of its ships after .Adelaide has been reached. So far as Fremantle is concerned, it occurs between the two points to which I have referred, and the time that is spent there might ‘have to be limited. We have endeavoured to meet a contingency of that kind by providing in sub-clause 2 of clause 5 -
The period of transit shall include the time allowed for all stoppages of the mail-ships at the intermediate ports and the mail-ships shall stop on both the inward and outward voyages at Fremantle for six hours and no less.
My honorable friends will see that the six hours is not an arbitrary limit. The boats would utilize the allowance of six hours in securing cargo, and no doubt, if there was any profitable cargo to be got there by staying a few hours extra, it would be taken on board.
– No doubt that provision is for the advantage and convenience of Fremantle.
– Exactly; and the object of its insertion is to give reasonable protection to Western Australia, Senator de Largie, evidently under a misapprehension, has complained that the people of his State have not been fairly treated in the matter of freight. In sub-clause 7 of clause 9 it is provided that -
No differentiation of any kind whatsoever as between any ports of call within the Commonwealth shall under normal conditions be made by the Contractors in respect of freight.
And later on it says -
No differentiation of any kind whatsoever as between any ports in the Commonwealth (exclusive of lighterage and other similar special charges if any) shall be made by the Contractors in respect of freight charged for butter or fruit therefrom to the port or ports of discharge of the said ships in the United Kingdom.
It is specifically laid down that both inwards and outwards the freight to all portions of the Commonwealth “must be uniform. I am sure that my honorable friend spoke under a misapprehension. Under normal conditions that would be the case, but the clause goes on to provide that in the event of a cutting rate to Fremantle being adopted, mail-ships shall have the same right to indulge in that cutting rate, so far as Fremantle is concerned, as will any of their competitors. But under normal conditions, the freight must be uniform so far as that part of Australia is concerned. Senators Pearce and Henderson, as well as other representatives of Western Australia, have referred to a very important matter, and that is the probability, under existing conditions, of two mail-ships calling at Fremantle on the same day. There is the amplest power contained in the agreement for drawing up a time-table that would meet the difficulty referred to. I can only assure my honorable friends that not only has Mr.’ Scott, who is assisting me in this matter, noted the remarks that have been made on the subject, but I shall personally consult the Postmaster-General in regard to it. Then we had the criticism of Senator Guthrie, who stated what is quite true, that, it will be competent for the contractors to charter vessels for carrying out that part of the service between Port Said and Brindisi. Those vessels will be subject to the terms of the agreement, so far as the carriage of mails is concerned. In subclause 1 of clause 4, it is provided- that it shall be competent for the contractors to convey the mails (other than parcels mails ad- dressed to the United Kingdom and not marked via Brindisi) to and from Port Said and Brindisi or other approved port by a steam-ship other than the mail-ship which- is under obligation to proceed to and start from a port in the United
Kingdom in which event such last-named mailship shall be absolved from the obligation to call at -Brindisi or other approved port.
But I point out to the honorable senator that the next sub-clause makes the provisions of the contract, with the exception of those affecting cargo, and, I think, wireless telegraphy, applicable to the steamship chartered for trie portion of the service referred to. The honorable senator referred to clause 14, but if he will look at sub-clause 2 of - clause 4 he will find that the provisions of quite a number of clauses of the contract which are referred to, are made applicable to these steam-ships, and in the circumstances they would be subject to supervision. The honorable senator also dealt with the question of equipment, andin this connexion referred to sub-clause 2 of clause 14”. By clause 14, the PostmasterGeneral, if he considers a mail ship unfit for service, has the right to require the contractors to show cause why such mail ship should not be withdrawn from the’ service. In order to enable him to. arrive at a decision, provision is- made for a special examination of the hull and machinery. It is possible, that the wider provision of subclause 1 of clause 14 may be to some extent limited by. sub-clause 2, but I will bear the point in mind, and it may be possible for us, by arranging with the contractors, who I do not think would offer any objection, to provide for a special examination of equipment also. With respect to the honorable senator’s reference to the definition of “Adelaide,” . I’ understand from him that the Outer Harbor at Adelaide will very shortly be ready to accommodate vessels. The proposed contract will not come into operation until 1st February, 1910, and in the meantime representations might be made to the company by the Government should the Outer Harbor at Adelaide be finished. I do not see Senator Chataway present, but with respect to his criticisms, I point out that what he has suggested would, if given effect to, involve an increased subsidy. The contractors naturally desire to protect their own interests, and by clause 37 it is provided that -
In the event of declaration of war or war breaking out between Great Britain and any first class Naval Power it shall be lawful for the contractors to determine this agreement as from the date of such declaration or breaking out of war.
– Would it not be better to leave out the word “first-class “? Great Britain is the first-class naval power.
– I think there are five first-class naval powers. The ships employed in the service under the contract could notpossibly escape from the more rapid torpedo boats and destroyers that might be sent in pursuit of them. And it is reasonable to suppose that the company would not deliberately attempt the continuation of the service if to do so would render their vessels liable to capture. These vessels would not possess sufficient speed to enable them to evade capture by war vessels, and they would not be equipped with the necessary guns to fit them to defend themselves. There can be no doubt that to impose such conditions on the contractors as were suggested by Senator Chataway would involve the payment of a further increase of subsidy.
– The latest torpedo destroyers have a speed of 34 knots an hour.
– Exactly, and, in the circumstances, Senator Chataway’s suggestion is quite out of the question. I am very grateful to honorable senators for the generous consideration they have extended to the contract, and I join with them in the hope that it will serve the best interests of the Commonwealth.
-I hope our representations on behalf of Queensland will not be forgotten.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 15th November, 1907, vide page 6089) :
Clauses 60 and 61 agreed to.
Clause 62 -
Any person detained in quarantine, who is not one of the crew or passengers of a vessel ordered into quarantine, shall, if he is reasonably able so to do, pay to the Commonwealth the cost of any food and medicines supplied to him and those dependent on him during their removal to or detention in quarantine.
– I think the Minister should explain the reason Tor the insertion of this clause in the Bill. People may be put into quarantine through no fault of their own, and under this clause they may be compelled, not only to provide for themselves while in quarantine, but for persons outside dependent upon them during the period of their detention. I think this is far too drastic a provision.
Senator KEATING (Tasmania- Min of the clause is to make persons particularly cautious about boarding vessels that may be ordered into quarantine. If we had not some such deterrent, it is possible that a vessel might be boarded by individuals prematurely, and should the vessel then be ordered into quarantine, those persons, who really had no right to board the vessel, as they were not passengers or members of the crew, would have to go into quarantine, and, but for this clause, they would be under no obligation to provide for their own maintenance while in quarantine, whilst the Government might be called upon to provide for those dependent upon them during the period of their detention. I point out to Senator Guthrie that we have adopted an amendment by which, if the quarantine officer is satisfied that a person is not actually affected with disease, he may deal with him under the provision for quarantine surveillance. In these circumstances, it is hardly likely that the quarantine officer, if he were satisfied that a person was not actually a contact in the fullest sense of the word, would detain him in rigid quarantine. He would probably order him to be released, and return to the shore under quarantine surveillance. It is only by some such deterrent as is provided in this clause that we can effectually prevent people in their haste and eagerness to be the first on board an incoming vessel, from boarding the vessel before she is declared to be free of disease.
– Senator Guthrie is to be complimented upon his vigilance. I have had a personal experience which convinces me of the importance of the observations the honorable senator has made on this clause. When the bubonic plague first broke out in Sydney, I was visiting the city, and intended to call at a certain establishment. Fortunately, I was delayed for about threequarters of an hour, as if I had visited the establishment at the time I had fixed, I should have been detained and removed to Shark Island or some other quarantine station in the Harbor, because the establishment at which I proposed to call was placed in quarantine at the time I intended to be there. A Federal officer might, under this clause, say, “ You have been put into quarantine, and you must pay all the expenses.” Would that be fair in such circumstances as I have suggested. It is quite possible that after the experience we have had of plague, the surveillance provision of the Bill will be very carefully administered, so that such a contingency as I was obliged to contemplate might not arise, but I have frequently congratulated myself upon my escape. Senator Guthrie did right in calling attention to the importance of the clause, but if the Minister assures the Committee that the administration of the quarantine surveillance provision of the Bill will be such that even in the’ case of bubonic plague, no such inconvenience as persons might be subjected to under this clause is likely to arise, I shall be prepared to let the clause go.
– [ join with Senator Guthrie in his objection to this clause as it stands. A person might easily find himself upon a vessel on which there was some infectious disease. He might be there under orders as the employe’ of a shipping company, and he might be receiving wages which the administrators of the law might think sufficient to warrant them in calling upon him to defray the expenses of his detention.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– I really think that the clause must have been very hurriedly drafted. I am under the impression that if it is passed as it stands, an injustice will be done to some people. Take the case of stevedores, who may be ordered on board a vessel. 1 will give an instance of what might occur. Take the port of Fremantle. The doctor in all cases boards vessels in Gage Roads at the entrance to the harbor. He may come to the conclusion that everything on board is all right and may grant pratique. The vessel may be called upon to discharge her cargo per medium of lighters. The employes of a stevedoring company may be ordered on board. The work of discharging the cargo may take from twenty to forty-eight hours. During. that time disease mav break out. Under this clause the stevedores not being members of the crew or passengers are to be held responsible for their own maintenance while they are in quarantine. I do not believe that the Committee intends such men to be called upon to meet that expenditure. But it is in the administration of such measures as this that people are made to suffer.
– How does the honorable senator propose to obviate the difficulty ?
– By leaving out the clause. The conditions under which the doctor boards a vessel are not the same in all the ports of the Commonwealth. While at Fremantle the doctor leaves the wharf and goes out to the vessel on a launch, in other ports the vessel comes right into the wharf where the doctor boards her. That is so at Port Darwin. I noticed when I was there that there was nothing to prevent a resident who expected to meet a friend going on board a vessel. Sickness might be discovered while such a resident was on a ship, and he might be compelled to go into quarantine. Take another case. In some instances vessels entering a port do not leave again for three or four days. Disease might break out . during that period, and persons going on board to see officers or members of the crew might suddenly be placed in quarantine. Is it reasonable that such persons should be called upon to pay the costs outlined in this clause If the Minister persists with the provision, I shall be compelled to vote against it.
– - Circumstances may arise which may enable persons who are subject to quarantine to land and remain on shore under surveillance. This clause does not therefore contain the element of danger that Senator Needham contemplates. It is possible that stevedores might do their work on a ship on which an infectious disease was “discovered. It is probable that’ under those circumstances such persons, who would only be on board for a short time, and would not be in contact with infected persons, might be allowed to return to shore and be subject to surveillance. There would be no great hardship in that. But it would be extremely, dangerous to relax the provision to .any material degree. The honorable senator has referred to persons who might go on board a vessel to meet friends. Well, people travelling on oceangoing vessels know that a great number of persons rush on to those steamers if not prohibited.
– As a rule, they are prohibited from rushing on board.
– People who have an idle hour or two to spare sometimes go on board ships. They deliberately take a risk, and if any trouble occurs in consequence of their recklessness they should be called upon to bear the responsibility.
.- The argument of Senator Trenwith is quite right so far as it goes, but what about people who by the nature of their calling are compelled to go on board vessels ? Honorable senators are looking at this matter from the mail steamer aspect.. But diseases also occur on board sailing ships. Take a pilot who. goes on board a ship outside the Heads. Say that the doctor refuses to grant pratique, and declares that the case of disease is one of so serious a nature that he cannot release those on board under surveillance. Perhaps the pilot has been on board a couple of days, mixing with the crew, and working the ship up the Bay. The doctor orders him into quarantine. Is he to be compelled while he is in quarantine to pay for his food and medicines and the attendance of the doctor?
– Not in all cases.
– That is possible under this clause. Take the position in Melbourne. A pilot who has been engaged in working a ship up the Bay may be put into quarantine for forty days. His earning power during that time is entirely gone, because the pilots are paid by results. If the pilots were Government officers the case would not be so hard. But our pilots only receive what they earn, in addition to which they have to pay contributions towards the pilot steamer. A pilot in such a case would still have to bear his share of maintaining the steamer while he was not employed through being in quarantine ! Customs officers may be placed in the same position. The doctor may grant pratique wrongly. A disease may afterwards be discovered. But in the meantime persons may have gone on board to see their friends. They would do so under the belief that the doctor had given permission. The quarantine flag would have been lowered. But under this clause such persons could be put into strict quarantine. The Minister has, to some extent, relaxed the arbitrary nature of the Bill by his new clause, but there is still danger in it. There is a heavy penalty on any person who goes on board a ship before pratique is granted. The only other person, apart from passengers and crew, who would be likely to be on board a ship before the granting of pratique would be a stowaway.
– Are not stowaways passengers ?
– They are not. As generally understood they are not members of the crew, nor are they on the passenger list. In the case of a stowaway it would be impossible to exact payment during the period of quarantine.
– The honorable senator does not think that this would be a hardship on stowaways?
– No; but it would be hard on pilots. I should prefer to see the clause struck out rather than have an injustice done in any case.
– We might insert words exempting persons having legitimate business on board. That would cover the case of pilots.
– Then the question would arise as to what was legitimate business. Any person who went on board to transact any business - even to see a friend - would be doing legitimate business in my opinion. The Minister should agree either to strike the clause out or to exempt all those employed on board the ship. I move -
That after the word “vessel,” line 2, the words or person in the employment of the ship “ be inserted.
– I pointed out previously that it was desirable to provide deterrents against individuals getting on vessels before pratique was granted, because they might go aboard without authorization, or without having business on board, and be ordered into quarantine. There should be no obligation upon anybody but those persons themselves to pay for food or medicine supplied to them in quarantine, because they would only be there by their own act or omission or default. There may be some cases in which the clause, if applied, would work hardship. I should not like Senator Guthrie’s amendment to be adopted. In order to meet the cases referred to by Senator Guthrie and Senator Needham, it would be better to allow the Administration at its discretion to call upon persons who had put themselves into quarantine by their own act or default to” pay the necessary charges. That could be done by inserting after the words “ soto do “ some such words as “ and is thereunto required by the Minister.” It would then be for the Ministertotakethe circumstances into consideration, and if he thought that a man had been taken into quarantine through no omission or default on his part, and could not be admitted to quarantine surveillance, he need not call upon that man to pay at all. He would have a discretion which the clause does not give him at present. In cases such as have been referred to there would be no obligation upon the Minister to call upon those persons to pay. He would have the alternative of not using his powers, or the quarantine officer would have the alternative of ordering those persons into quarantine surveillance, so that they might not lose their daily earnings.
– Senator Guthrie’s amendment could hardly be put in after the word “ vessel,” because it would separate that word from the words “ ordered into quarantine.” If it is to be pressed, it should be moved after the word “quarantine.” If, by adopting the amendment, we propose to relieve from personal liability persons employed on the vessel, we ought, to be consistent, to alter clause 50, which makes the vessel responsible for the maintenance and medicinal comforts of any one employed thereon.If the principle isgood in the one case that the ship should bear the cost of maintenance of those upon its register, it should be good with regard to other employés who are outside the crew. On the whole, the Minister’s suggestion is probably the best. I say that as one who has a rooted objection to placing more power than is necessary in the hands of Ministers. I see great difficulty, however, in laying down a hard-and-fast line to meet the circumstances referred to by Senators Guthrie and Needham. I suggest to Senator Guthrie that he should adopt the Minister’s offer.
– I will accept the amendment suggested by the Minister, if he will move it. I simply desire to put people who run those risks in a safe position. I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I understand that the Minister intends to move the amendment which he has suggested. If he is not prepared to do so now, I presume that he means to recommit the clause.I am prepared to accept the compromise which he offers. It will be better than the clause as it now stands.
– I move -
That after the word “ do,” line 4, the words “ and is thereunto required by the Minister “ be inserted.
That will meet the cases referred to by honorable senators. Instead of imposing a hard and fast rule, it will enable the Administration to take into consideration the peculiar features of any case.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
When a vessel is ordered into quarantine, the Minister may -
Such remuneration shall be paid by the owners or agents of the vessel to the Commonwealth.
– I move -
That after the words “appoint a,” line 3, the words “ legally qualified “ be inserted.
In making provision of this sort, we ought to put on board ships doctors who are properly qualified.
. -It is far from my intention or desire to prevent the confining of employment and responsibilities of this character to legally qualified medical officers. It occurs to’ me, however, that there might be some difficulty in determining what was meant by “ legally qualified.” Different standards are imposed for admission to practise medicine or surgery in the six States. A person who is a legally qualified practitioner in Victoria may be fined £100 by two justices of the peace if he attempts to practise in Tasmania. A man of the highest attainments and with a great reputation may be qualified in New South Wales, but not in Victoria. A qualified medical officer coming from England may not be qualified to practise in Australia, so that there is . a little danger that the introduction of the words proposed by Senator Guthrie may defeat the very object which we have in view. “ Medical officer “is defined in the definition clause thus - “ Medical Officer “ in relation to a vessel means any person on the vessel acting as the medical officer, doctor, or surgeon of the vessel.
A duly qualified medical practitioner of the United Kingdom who has not gone through the ordinary form of obtaining admission to practise in any of the Australian States might not be a duly qualified medical officer so far as South Australia was concerned when he arrived in that State. If we say “legally qualified medical officer” that would mean “ legally qualified in relation to some place or other. ‘ ‘ We have no general standard of legal qualification for medical men for all Australia. Obviously the standard which would be required, if the amendment was agreed to, would be the legal standard obtaining in the State in which the port was situated.
– The paragraph in the definition clause does not apply to this clause. It refers only to the doctor of the ship.
– That is so. This clause refers to the medical officer appointed by the Minister, who may be the ship’s own medical officer.
– I suggest that the clause should be left as it is. It empowers the Government to appoint a medical officer - for what purpose? - to take charge of the lives of the crew and passengers of a vessel. I cannot conceive of any Government making an appointment to such a position unless they were satisfied that the appointee was properly qualified to protect life in the case of an outbreak of infectious disease.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 64 to 74 agreed to.
Clause 75 -
Penalty : Five pounds.
– For some years I have given attention to the question of vaccination.
– Was the honorable senator ever vaccinated?
– I was.
– What happened to the honorable senator?
– Perhaps it may have prevented my growth ; but I do not feel that it is necessary at this stage for me to give the reasons for my objections to vaccination. I recognise’ that in some States there are Vaccination Acts which are compulsory and in other States, Vaccination Acts which contain an optional provision, the latter being the result of matured research on the part of eminent medical men as to the merits of vaccination as a preventive of the Spread of small-pox.
– Surely the honorable senator cannot apply the general law of vaccination to the crew or passengers of -a ship in quarantine?
– If the honorable senator will allow me to pursue the tenor of my argument I think I shall prove to his satisfaction that the clause before the Committee is too drastic. In my opinion, it should give an option to the member of a crew or a passenger on a ship on which small-pox has broken out to say whether or not he shall be vaccinated.
– What would be the good of vaccinating the rest of the persons on board if he were allowed to go unvaccinated ?
– My opinion is that in that regard vaccination is of no material use.
– The experience of the world is against the honorable senator.
– I can refer the honorable senator to many eminent medical men in Australia as well as in the Old World.
– But the enormous preponderance of evidence is on the other side.
– No. I might cite very eminent medical men in the Old World, who have expressed the opinion that vaccination has been proved to be absolutely useless as a preventive of the spread of small-pox. It might be wise for us to insert in this clause some words giving an option to a person. In the English Act of 1898 and the South Australian Act of 1901 we find words which give to the parent of a child the opportunity of making a declaration before a justice of the peace that if his child is vaccinated it may be prejudicial to its health. It has been proved by the medical men to whom I have referred that if it may injure the health of a child it may also injure the health of an adult. We shall not be defeating the object which we are endeavouring to achieve if we give an option in the clause. With that object in view I, as one who has always opposed compulsory vaccination, move -
That after the word “shall,” line 5, the following words be inserted : - “ unless he makes a declaration before a justice of the peace that he conscientiously believes that vaccination would be prejudicial to his health, and that within 24 hours he is prepared to sign a declaration to that effect.”
– Suppose that there is no justice of the peace on board.
– Then the honorable senator proposes to bring on board a justice of the peace to be vaccinated, and if he has any conscientious scruples he is to suffer.
– I recognise that there will be some difficulty in getting a justice of the peace on board a vessel.
– And there will be much greater difficulty in getting him off the vessel.
– In Australia the principal medical officer of a port or the doctor who visits a ship is almost invariably a justice of the peace.
– In almost every instance he is.
– In the country.
– In the other cases it would be quite easy for the Government of the State concerned to make the medical officer a justice of the peace.
– But he might not be a fit person to be appointed.
– The only objection I know to appointing a citizen to the Commission of the Peace is that he is not fit morally or intellectually for such appointment. If a doctor is quite fit to board a vessel, examinethe passengers and crew, give the vessel pratique and report to the Minister in charge of the Quarantine Department, surely he is also fit to be enrolled in the Commission of the Peace ? I do not believe that any medical officer would object to be appointed a justice of the peace; in fact, I think it is an honour which any medical officer would appreciate.
– Does the honorable senator also approve of the medical officer being made a commissioner to take affidavits on board a vessel in quarantine?
– Yes. I hope that my amendment will receive that consideration which its importance deserves.
.- The honorable senator is, I think, confusing this measure with a totally different one, and that is a State Health Act in which provision is made for compulsory vaccination subject, however, to the right of certain persons to protest their conscientious objection to such a system. In this Quarantine Bill we are providing that in the case of small-pox, where the quarantine officer thinks it desirable he may order all persons on the vessel to be vaccinated.I draw attention to the use of the word “ may “ in the clause. Vaccination is not made obligatory in every instance. It is a matter which is to be determined by the quarantine officer only in relation to an outbreak of small-pox on a vessel, and with due regard to the whole of the surrounding circumstances. If in his opinion the circumstances warrant him in making such an order, he can order any person subject to quarantine or performing quarantine - not necessarily every person who has been ordered into quarantine because we have provided for quarantine surveillance - to be vaccinated, and any person so required to be vaccinated shall submit to be vaccinated accordingly. That provision is totally dissimilar from the legislation which makes vaccination part and parcel of the general health system of a State. Under the State laws the vaccination of infants must be carried out before they have attained a certain age, whether there is an outbreak of small-pox or such an outbreak is anticipated or not, and even though years may have elapsed since there was any sign of small-pox in the community. In this case, however, it is only when we are faced with the danger of an immediate outbreak of small-pox and the community is threatened with destruction from that disease introduced from oversea that the quarantine officer, in the interests of the community, may, if the circumstances surrounding the case in his opinion warrant him in doing so, call upon certain persons to submit themselves to vaccination. This Bill does not deal with the application of a general system of vaccination. I can refer honorable senators in this connexion to the report of the Quarantine Conference which sat in Melbourne some time ago, to which I have previously referred, and from which extracts have been read by honorable senators in discussing this Bill. In one paragraph of their report they say -
As regards public vaccination the Conference desires to affirm most emphatically that vaccination and re-vaccination afford to the individual the only defence against infection by small-pox, and that if vaccination and re-vaccination were compulsory throughout the Commonwealth -
We are not proposing that, far from it - and were uniformly carried out quarantine as against small-pox would become unnecessary.
That is a very unqualified andemphatic statement to make. They add -
Accordingly, the Conference is of opinion that an Act providing for compulsory vaccination and re-vaccination would be of the utmost benefit to the Commonwealth.
We do not propose to go as far as that, but we say that where a vessel is detained in quarantine because it is infected with small-pox discretion should be given to the quarantine officer to say that any person on board should be obliged to submit himself to vaccination. Who are the persons who make the very unqualified statement as to the application of vaccination and re-vaccination as a general system rendering a community almost proof against an outbreak of small-pox? The report from which I have quoted the statement is signed by the delegate from New South Wales, Dr. J. Ashburton Thomson ; Queensland, Dr. B. Burnett Ham; South Austra- lia, Dr. W. Ramsay Smith; Tasmania, Dr. J. S. C. Elkington; Victoria, Dr. Astley Gresswell; and Western Australia, Dr T. H. Lovegrove. There wasno dissent on the part of any one of these doctors. Their opinion should influence our minds to some extent with respect to the value of vaccination as a system to be generally adopted; but honorable senators must recognise that in this clause we are asking merely for a discretionary power to be exercised by the quarantine officer where he considers the circumstances warrant its exercise. I do not think we should attempt to qualify the clause by leaving it to any individual to destroy the whole value and efficacy of this salutary provision for vaccination by saying that he wishes’ to be exempt. We might just as well not have the clause in the Bill at all, as permit a single individual to constitute himself an exception In such a case. It should not be forgotten also that those who would decline to be vaccinated would, in many instances require to be detained in quarantine for a very much longer period than would otherwise be necessary. We know that, as a matter of fact, in many countries, a system of vaccination and revaccination is generally favoured by those charged with the preservation of the public health. It is certainly so in many continental countries, and I think also in Great Britain and in France. So consistently is -the system carried out in Germany that I am given to understand, by competent authorities, that when a case of small-pox occurs in Germany to-day, isolation is considered unnecessary, and the patient is treated in wards occupied by persons afflicted with other ailments of an ordinary kind without any risk of infection. So general is the application of the systemin Germany, and so effectually hasit been administered for years past that a. great proportion of the people are now more or less immune from small-pox. If we are to preserve any means in the nature of vaccination to prevent the spread of small-pox, it would be highly dangerous to introduce any exception at all to the application of such a means to persons on board a vessel quarantined on account of the presence of the disease. If honorable senators believe that it is inadvisable to adopt this means of protection they can vote for the amendment, but I think that on reflection they will agree that to introduce an exception would be to render the provision with respect to vaccination absolutely valueless. I hope that Senator Needham, after the matter has been ventilated, will see his way to withdraw the amendment.
– It seems to me, looking back over a few years, that immunity from danger of Small-pox is the fertile parent of conscientious scruples, but the moment a risk of the spread of the disease brings about a scare the persons afflicted with these conscientious scruples against vaccination are found tumbling over each other to get to the vaccinating officer.
– It is not always so.
– I am giving my own experience. I had not met the honorable senator then. So far as this clause is concerned, I think the only weakness is that contained in the term “ quarantine officer.” I do not wish to re-open the discussion which took place on clause 9, but it seems to me that we should have an absolute assurance that only a qualified medical man should be in a position to order the vaccination of any person.
– And a guarantee should be given that the lymph used is pure lymph.
– Yes. It is recognised that there may be some slight danger from vaccination through a lack of cleanliness in the operation. We should have some better provision than the mere statement that “a quarantine officer,” who might or might not be a duly qualified medical man, should be intrusted with this power.
. - I think that Senator Millen only a few minutes ago answered the objection he has just raised. The honorable senator then said that it was almost impossible to conceive that a Government charged with the responsibility of administering’ this law would think of appointing as quarantine officer any other than a duly qualified medical man. I think that is a fair answer to the honorable senator’s present objection. We can have no doubt that in administering this provision no Government would dream of appointing any but a duly qualified person to the position.
– Senator Trenwith has quite overlooked the definition of “ quarantine officer.” I do not for a moment believe that the Government would appoint any but a duly qualified man to carry out vaccination, but under the Bill a quarantine officer need not be a qualified man.
– He will be, or will act under the advice of a duly qualified man.
– A person who is not a- medical man may be appointed a quarantine officer, and intrusted under this clause with powers which should only be given to a duly qualified medical man. If the clause provided for the appointment of a medical officer, my remarks on a previous clause, to which Senator Trenwith has referred, would hold good, and there would be some force in what the honorable senator has said; but “quarantine officer “ would cover a person who was not a medical man, and I say that it is wrong to intrust any but medical men with the powers conferred by this clause.
– It is not desirable to limit these powers to medical officers. It might happen that at some outlying port a quarantine officer would not be a medical man.
– Would the Minister give such a man the power to order vaccination ?
– A grave emergency, in which an outbreak of small-pox was threatened, might arise, and although the quarantine officer might not be able to judge whether or not persons should be subjected to vaccination, he would be able to seek advice as to whether he should exercise the power conferred by this clause. What was required to be done might have to be done very rapidly, and before a medi cal officer, who was also a quarantine officer, could arrive on the scene. I do not think that a layman would dream of acting in a case like this without reference to some medical authority.
– Still, it is possible that he might do so.
– Anything is possible.
– The honorable senator admits that a quarantine officer who was not a medical man might report to a medical man at a distance, describing conditions which he regarded as serious, and might receive a reply by wire ordering vaccination ?
– He might have to refer the matter for medical advice, and it. might not be necessary for him to carry out the vaccination. There might be a medical officer at hand to whom he would be instructed by the Department to refer. It would be lamentable if, by limiting this power to medical officers, we should later on, in such a case as I have suggested, have to regret that we did not give this power in wider terms.
– If Senator Needham pushes his amendment to a division I shall vote in favour of it, although it is expressed rather crudely, and in a form which is not best calculated to effect the object he has in view. In my opinion, passengers should be given the option of submitting themselves to vaccination or not, as- thev thought fit. That would not necessarily imply danger to any individual in the Commonwealth, since a passenger who exercised the option and declined to be vaccinated could be made to undergo a sufficiently long period in quarantine to remove all danger that he would be the means of spreading the disease. If he were willing to undergo a longer period of quarantine rather than submit to vaccination, he would prove the force of his conscientious scruples against vaccination. We know that “ doctors differ and patients die,” and I know, from my own experience, that some duly qualified medical men with high qualifications are amongst the worst quacks in Australia. Under the clause one of these persons might order a passenger to be vaccinated, and the Minister has said that it might be necessary in some instances that a person without any medical knowledge should be given the power to order people to be vaccinated.
– Under medical advice.
– What advice couldsuch a -person get .by telegraph?
– It is certain that a man could not be vaccinated by telegraph.
– Who would perform the operation? “Would it be a quarantine officer, who was not a qualified medical man ? Why give the power in ‘ order to force persons to be vaccinated against their will ? If a medical officer has to be called in in the second instance why not bring him in in the first instance ? It has been proved that vaccination may inoculate healthy people with filthy and horrible diseases.
– Anything but proved ; the balance of evidence is against it.
– Some of the highest medical authorities in the world hold that view. One of the principal living scientific men has publicly stated that it is a crime to force any one to introduce a poison into his system by means of vaccination. That authority is none other than Professor Alfred Russell Wallace.
-Would he object to an injection of strychnine as an antidote to. snake bite?
– There is enough evidence to warrant us in determining that a poison shall not .be introduced into the veins of a healthy person against his will Of- course, medical authorities disagree on this subject as they do on others. Many medical men hold that alcohol is a poison, yet we have had recently sixteen of the greatest medical authorities in England publishing a manifesto in the Lancet to the effect that the use of alcohol is not injurious.
– Which side does the honorable senator follow ?
– I follow my own’ inclinations, and that is what I want people to be at liberty to do in this instance. During a small-pox scare many rash things ‘ are done. There may not be much danger in vaccination if the vaccinators use absolutely pure calf lymph. But there is danger if they use lymph taken out of the veins of another individual. During a small-pox scare it is quite usual for doctors to use’ arm-to-arm lymph - that is, after a patient had been operated- upon, they take lymph from his veins and use it for the next patient. If there is disease in the first individual, it is injected into the second; and diseases spread in that- way may be much worse than small-pox. A member of a crew should be given the option of un dergoing an extended period of quarantine instead of being vaccinated, on making, a declaration that he has conscientious objections to vaccination. He would prove his bona fides in that way, and the- community would be safeguarded by the extended period pf quarantine.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted, be inserted - put. The. Committee .divided.
Ayes ‘ … … … 5
Noes … … … 24
Majority …. … 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed- to.
Clauses 76 to 87 agreed to.
Postponed clause 5 (General . Definitions) -
– As there is a subsequent clause which has also been postponed,. I intend to ask the Committee to further postpone clause 5. It is the usual practice to deal with the definition clause last. I therefore move that the clause be further postponed.
Clause further postponed.
Postponed clause 23 -
The quarantine signal shall in the day-time be a yellow flag of six breadths of bunting and in the night-time a large signal lantern.
– My honorable friend, Senator Guthrie, drew attention to the fact that if we provide in’ the Bill what the quarantine flag and signal shall be, we shall possibly find that both are out of harmony with regulations prevailing in other countries.. Since my honorable friend asked for inquiries to be made, I have found that the more inquiry. is pursued the more difficult it is to ascertain . with absolute certainty what would be a correct quarantine signal. At any rate, I cannot undertake with sufficient certainty at the present time to provide for it in a statutory enactment inquiries have been made amongst various persons regarded as authorities, but there is no unanimity in the information supplied. I therefore propose to amend the clause so as to enable the flag and signal to be as prescribed. It will then be necessary for the Administration to prescribe by regulation what they shall be. If it is found in any particular instance thatour signals are in conflict with the recognised practice in other countries, we can make them conform. I move -
That all the words after “shall,” line1, be left out, with aview to insert in lieu thereof the words “be as prescribed.”
– I wish it to be absolutely clear that the Minister’s amendment will cover signals by night as well as by day. The night signal is most important. So far the custom has been as soon as a vessel enters a port with disease on board, for the flag to be hoisted, and to be kept hoisted day and night until pratique is granted. The provision of a lantern by night is a new departure, and I should like it to be mentioned in theBill that power has been taken to require signals to be hoisted both night and day . We are imposing heavy penalties on any one who goes near a quarantined ship; but at night-time in harbors, people out in boats may run against a ship, and are very apt to make fast and even to go on board, unless there is a signal warning them off. In that case, they would be placed in an awkward position, and the country would be burdened with unnecessary quarantine expenses. It is therefore absolutely necessary to prescribe a distinct signal for use at night.
.- The words as prescribed will make it necessary to provide for a signal for the night and another for the day. It would be almost impossible to prescribe a single signal that would do for both. I first drafted the amendment in the following form : - “ The quarantine signal shall in the day-time be as prescribed, and at night as prescribed,” but I regarded that as too cumbersome, and left it simply thus -“ The quarantine signal shall be as prescribed.” It will be undoubtedly necessary to prescribe botha day signal and a night signal.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Postponed clause5 (General Definitions).
.- I called attention previously to the fact that no qualification was required for officers who had to pass animals, and that it was as much a necessity to have duly quali- . fied persons for that duty as in the case of human beings, because Australia has an enormous number of flocks and herds upon which the prosperity of the country depends, and many diseases of animals are communicable to human beings. The matter was discussed at some length and it was objected that to confine the duty to duly qualified veterinary surgeons would not be operative everywhere, and at the same time would throw out of work a number of State officers who had been performing the duty satisfactorily for many years, but who were not known as duly qualified veterinary surgeons. That matter was held over, and I now intend to submit the proposal in an altered form. It is provided that - “Quarantine officer” means a quarantine officer appointed under this Act.
I move -
That after the word “Act” the following words be added’: - “and Quarantine Officerin relation to animals means an approved expert officer in the service of the Commonwealth or any of the States at the passing of this Act, or an approved qualified veterinary surgeon.”
That will allow all those officers who are now acting under the Commonwealth and the States to continue to act, butat the same time it will mean that those who are going to act in future years, when the present officers have retired, will have to work themselves up to the position of duly qualified veterinary surgeons in order tosecure the right to carry out duties in relation to the passing of animals under this measure. In view of the enormous interests involved, and of theknown facts that almost every disease affecting stock in Australia has been imported through the want of proper supervision at one time or another, and that many diseases affect not only flocks and herds but human beings and the general health of the community, I trust that the Committee will recognise that the supervision and examination of imported animals must be made as effective as possible. My amendment will do no injustice to those at present acting, but will secure that in the future none but duly qualified persons shall act, for none but duly qualified persons can possibly detect diseases in stock.
– The question of the status of quarantine officers who would be acting under this Act with regard to animals arose on a subsequent clause, and it was then pointed out that the whole question could be tested upon this postponed clause. I indicated at that stage the difficulty With which the administration would be confronted, in. that in the. States officers have been engaged in the past in doing work of this kind, although they have not called themselves or perhaps been entitled to call themselves veterinary surgeons. The proposal at that stage was to confine the performance of the functions of quarantine officers in relation to animals to approved veterinary surgeons, but I pointed out that if that was carried it would be impossible to employ officers in the States services such as I have mentioned. The Commonwealth would be unable under the amendment, as was then proposed, to take advantage of their tried knowledge and ability. I also asked, but in vain, for information as to the exact qualifications of a veterinary surgeon. The amendment, as now submitted, is shorn of some of the dangers of the previous proposal, because it allows the appointment of existing State officers who are not qualified veterinary surgeons or who do not call themselves such. Honorable senators know, as I do, that there are officers occupying high positions as inspectors of stock and so on, who could not, or do not, call themselves veterinary surgeons, and yet are thoroughly competent to deal with matters that would arise with relation to animals under this Act. The amendment is intended, to some extent, to allow the employment by the Commonwealth of those very competent and trustworthy State officers whom it would be very desirable to employ in carrying out a Commonwealth Quarantine Act in relation to animals, but I am doubtful whether any very great advantage is to be gained by inserting a definition that a quarantine officer shall with certain exceptions possess certain qualifications, and be limited to a certain definite class. The amendment might very largely limit the Administration in the selection of officers for this work, and. I would sooner see the Bill stand as it is now. I am certain that the quarantine offi cers who will be selected from time to time to deal not only with animals and plants, but also with human beings, will, in all the circumstances, be the best that can possibly be obtained.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Motion (by Senator Keating) agreed to-
That so much of the Standing Orders he suspended as would prevent the Bill passing through its remaining stages without delay.
Bill read a third time.
Senate adjourned at9.17 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 November 1907, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1907/19071120_senate_3_41/>.