3rd Parliament · 3rd Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I think that the honorable senator hid better give notice of the question. The stationery to which he has referred is possibly stationery of the Parliament, and not stationery of the Department. From time to time the Department has forwarded to the offices reserved to members of Parliament in the State capitals stationery of the Parliament, but it is in no sense responsible for the get up of the stationery. It merely obtains a supply from the Parliament, and has it forwarded through its offices for the use of members of Parliament in the places reserved to them.
– Instead of giving notice of a question I shall make private inquiries, as the matter does not appear to be dealt withby the Minister’s Department.
– I beg to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council, without notice, whether he is ready to-day to give that information about the tobacco industry which on Tuesday last he said that he was seeking to obtain ?
– On that occasion I assured my honorable friend that the matter was in hand, and would receive prompt attention. It is receiving prompt attention. The information is being carefully collected, but every other business cannot be put aside on that account.
– I rise to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council, without notice, a question regarding the omission of a clause dealing with the delivery of goods from the present edition of the Navigation Bill. Importers and agents in various parts of the Commonwealth are very much interested in this matter, and I desire to know why the provision on the subject in the last Bill was not included in the present Bill, and what are the intentions of the Government in that regard?
– Unfortunately, I have nota copy of the Bill of 1904 at the present moment, but I remember the clause to which my honorable.f riend has referred, and which was included under the heading of “Goods.” After full consideration, and having regard to the fact that each State had a law with regard to the delivery of goods, and that if we attempted to deal with that big subject it should be dealt with in a comprehensive measure, so as to have a uniform law for the Commonwealth, it was considered desirable to delete the clause, especially so as we wanted to in- clude within the four corners of the Bill only matters relating to navigation and shipping. As the subject of goods was outside that category, it was thought desirable that it should not be partially dealt with in the Navigation Bill, but that on a future occasion it should be dealt ‘with in a comprehensive measure.
– I am aware that in the New Zealand Tariff, a difference in duty does exist as between Commonwealth and South African produce. I am also aware that last year, the imports of South African wines into the Dominion were valued at £20, and those of Australian wines at £22, 000. So far, the latter has not felt very seriously the competition of the former. This, of course, is a matter over; which, we have no control. It will be remembered that we did negotiate with the late Mr. Seddon, and entered into an arrangement with “him for a reciprocal treaty. That treaty, as my honorable friend knows, was not accepted by New Zealand. We shall be glad to enter into a mutually satisfactory arrangement with the Dominion, and in any future negotiations the subject mentioned by ray honorable friend will receive consideration.
– Will the honorable gentleman consult his colleagues as to making representations on the subject to the Government in New Zealand?
– I shall be very happy to do so.
– WhenI asked the Vice-President of the Executive Council yesterday whether the Government intended to bring in legislation regarding lighthouses, harbor lights, and buoys, first of all he said “ Yes,” and then, on a hint from Senator’ Guthrie, he said, “As to lighthouses ‘ ‘–
– I ask the honorable senator not to debate the matter.
– The Minister replied “ Not as to harbor lights, and buoys,” or “so far as the Constitution allows.” Is not power to deal with harbor lights and buoys included in the Constitution, and were the Government sincere in the answer which they gave to my question?
-I can only tell my honorable friend, as I thought I told him yesterday, that under section 51 of the Constitution, we have the powerto legislate with regard to lighthouses, lightships, beacons, and buoys, and that under section 69, we have the power to take over lighthouses, lightships, beacons, and’ buoys on a date or dates to be proclaimed by the Governor-General,
– Beacons and buoys.
– So far as we have power to take them over, it is proposed to introduce the necessary legislation. This is practically the answer which I gave yesterday -
Yes, but not necessarily as to harbor lights and buoys only.
– I beg to ask the acting Minister of Trade and Customs, without notice, whether the Department has received any complaints as to the withholding of the bounty in cases where coffee has been sold in the parchment to merchants in the cities, pending the actual hulling of that coffee, when it arrives at the factories?
– I am sorry that I am not in a position to give a direct answer to my honorable friend. I shall make inquiries, and if he will give notice of a question, I shall be in a position to give him an answer later.
Advertisements in Press.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
In reference to the promise given to the Senate by the Minister, on 3rd June, 1908, as reported in Hansard, page 11865,of that date, to the effect that the advertising in the daily press of the alterations, additions, and disconnections of the telephone system would be discontinued, will the Minister explain how it is that the Sydney Morning Herald of 3rd October, 1908, contains three-quarters of a column advertisement of the same character?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
The old system of notifying alterations in quarterly telephone lists by the issue of supplementary lists, has been reverted to in accordance with the intimation given in answer to questions in the Senate last session. In New South Wales it had not been the practice to issue such lists but to notify the alterations in the press. Instructions to bring New South Wales into line with the other States in this respect are in abeyance pending the result of a trial now in progress of a new system of distributing these lists which, if satisfactory, will remove a serious objection raised to the adoption of such lists in Sydney.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Will the Wireless Telegraph Station, proposed to be erected on the coast of Western Australia, be placed on the mainland, at or near Fremantle, 01 on Rottnest Island?
– The intention is to place the station referred to on the mainland.
– The PostmasterGeneral, in reply, informs me -
Motion (by Senator Dobson) agreed to -
That leave be granted to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Defence Act 1903.
Bill presented and read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Henderson) agreed to.
That the report from the Printing Committee, presented to the Senate on the 8th October, 1908, be adopted.
In Committee: (Consideration resumed from 8th October, vide page 917).
Clause 6 -
This Act shall be administered by the Minister for Trade and Customs, and the Department of Trade and Customs shall be the Department to carry it into effect.
Upon which Senator Millen had moved by way of amendment -
That the words “ Minister for Trade and Customs “ be left out.
– Now that the heat which was engendered by yesterday’s debate has probably evaporated, it may be well for us to get back to the bed-rock of the question under consideration. It is of very little importance whether or not Senator Trenwith’s statement that most Boards of which he has any knowledge consist of “ disappointed politicians and bank wreckers “ is correct or otherwise. It would be well for us to confine ourselves to determining the simple question of whether in matters of this kind it is desirable that a certain amount of management should be undertaken by an independent Board. Of course the Ministry will always be responsible for questions of policy, but personally T am of opinion that the administrative portion of the Act should be vested in an effective Board. I thoroughly appreciate the position of those who urge that we ought not to create an independent Board to administer this measure, but that the Minister himself should personally attend to all matters in his Department, and be responsible for every detail in administration. But I would remind my honorable friends that if they take up that attitude upon this subject, they must adopt a similar attitude in respect of all other matters. If the argument that Parliament must be in a position to criticise and discuss every point of Government administration is to have any weight, then the Government must always be responsible directly to Parliament. My own view is that a certain amount of power should be delegated to an independent Board. If that were done, the Minister would not be open to criticism if certain actions of the Board did not meet with parliamentary approval. I quite recognise that at the present moment it is not our function to discuss certain proposals which are likely to claim our attention before long. But I’ understand that the Government contemplate handing over very definite powers to a Board which they intend to appoint. Should that Board be established will it be composed- - as Senator Trenwith has suggested - of “ disappointed politicians and bank wreckers?” That was the strongest argument which was advanced by the very versatile Government whip. Indeed, it is the principal argument which has been adduced against the appointment of an independent Board such as Senator Millen proposes. I need scarcely point out that the more the Commonwealth takes over duties for the community as a whole, the more it will be found necessary to delegate certain of its powers to independent bodies. For instance, if we nationalize industries, how can every detail in their management be discussed upon the floor of Parliament ? The necessity for creating such bodies has already been recognised in connexion with the construction of roads and bridge’s. Parliament, has deliberately delegated the power to make roads, bridges, and harbors to independent bodies. The only power which Parliament can exercise over these bodies is that of controlling their borrowings.
– And it also possesses the power of taxation.
– That is contained within the four corners of the Acts of Parliament constituting such bodies. Take the case of the Harbor Boards of Queensland.
– They are not independent Boards. They are elected bodies., and are responsible to the people.
– Some of them are elected by the ship-owners. Senator Millen has not stated that the Board which he proposes should not be elected partly by the ship-owners and partly by the seamen. Indeed, I think that he had some idea of that kind in his mind. The point at issue is not whether the Archbishop of Canterbury is a member of the Board of Trade which was established some 300 years ago. All the nonsense that was talked in that connexion, yesterday was quite beside the question. The issue which we have to determine is : Are we prepared to affirm that in the management of such an immense business as that of navigation, Parliament should delegate certain powers to a Board specially constituted for the purpose - a Board which will be independent of the Ministry of the day, but not independent of Parliament?-
– I entirely disagree with the amendment submitted by Senator Millen. One of the chief reasons why he advocates the creation of a Board to administer the Act is that the Minister of Trade and Customs will probably be amenable to back-door influence. He fears that members of Parliament might buttonhole the Minister in his back parlour, with the result that for the time being he might administer the Act in a way that would not be in the public interest. But I would point out that all his fears in this connexion apply with much stronger force to any Board which might be created. Under such a system we should have the ship-owners and persons interested in shipping buttonholing the members of the Board at their club table every clay in the week. Senator Chataway has pointed out that certain powers have been delegated by Parliament to various bodies.*’ In that connexion I would remind him that the experience of Queensland has been a1 very lamentable one. That is the conclusion at which the public of that State have long since arrived. In order to control Government advertising in that State, a Board was created. With what result? When the party of which Senator Chataway is a member was in Ministerial office, that honorable senator’s newspaper always received fat advertisements, whilst the unfortunate Labour newspaper could not secure a solitary advertisement. That is absolutely solid fact. In the same State a Public Service Board was appointed, which proved the veriest of dead letters. It merely served as a rampart behind which Ministers were able to shelter themselves whenever it suited their purpose to do so. That Board had neither power nor authority, or if it had, it had. not the courage to exercise it. Eventually it had to be wiped out, because of the scandalous condition of things which developed under it. The representatives of Queensland in this Chamber must be aware of these facts. There is no analogy whatever between the proposal of Senator Millen and the creation of bodies charged with the control of Roads and Bridges and Harbor Boards. The vesting of such bodies with certain powers merely involves an extension of local government. They are thus rendered more directly responsible to the persons immediately concerned than they would be if the control of such matters remained with Parliament.
– Then all we have to do is to give the Board proposed by Senator Millen enlarged powers.
– The honorable senator is afraid to trust the Minister of Trade rind Customs, who is under the direct eye of Parliament, to administer this measure. He desires to set up a so-called independent body which will be subject to all sorts of backstairs influence, and which will not be responsible to the representatives of the people.
– And they will transnet the greater part of their business with the press excluded from their meetings.
– No doubt. If such a Board were appointed there would be no opportunity to discuss the motives which actuated it in its administration. But if we retain Ministerial control, the administration of the Act, even down to the minutest detail, wilt always be open to full discussion in Parliament. I repeat that we could not secure that discussion under a Board system.
– Oh yes.
– We could not, unless we chose to summon the members of the Board to the bar of Parliament to ascer tain the reasons which animated them in adopting a particular course of action. The idea underlying the amendment is the old Conservative one that the people cannot be trusted to govern themselves - that they require a king or a despot to rule them.
– It is exactly the reverse.
– It is not the reverse that I am advocating. There can be control by the people’s representatives over the persons chosen. From the point of view of honorable senators opposite, a Board under this Bill would be absolutely useless unless it occupied the position of a Judge, who cannot be removed except upon an address from both Houses of the Parliament. Otherwise the Board would not be independent. A member of it would have to be so situated as to be irremovable, unless he was guilty of something outrageously wrong. The control of a Minister is a much simpler matter. The history of Australia furnishes many instances of the removal of Ministers for breach of trust. That fact shows that Parliament can and does exercise control over Ministers. There have been times in Australia when Governments have been exceedingly short-lived. It has only been when Conservatives have got into power that, by means of machinations, and by resort to all sorts of dodges to retain office, the practices to which I refer have been perpetrated.
– The honorable senator is on dangerous ground.
– The party to which I belong has rarely had an opportunity of holding and continuing in office.
– I thought the honorable senator was about to cast reflections on a near neighbour of ours.
– It is not my habit to cast reflections. If I have anything to say about people, I say it right out. In Queensland we had in office what was known as “ the Continuous Ministry.” lt was supported by a combination of all the reactionary forces. Senator Gray, in pursuance of his old conservative ideas, wants to take from the people the power of control which they ought to have, and can only exercise by insisting that the Government shall be held responsible for everything done under this Bill. If he could have his way he would have an hereditary Board.
– And power would descend in the Gray line !
– So long as we have Ministerial control, the people of Australia hold authority in the hollow of their hands, and can insist upon fair and honest administration. For that reason I am against the amendment.
– Honorable senators who oppose the amendment have a strong objection to the appointment of a Board, which would act as a buffer between the Minister and the shipping interest. How “comes it, however, that there is in England a Board of Trade which has become the most influential and authoritative body in the world on questions of shipping and mercantile administration ?
– It is a Departmental Board-
– The Board of Trade is the Minister. That is the true way of expressing it.
– We have had the history of the Board of Trade explained, and because it originated in an imperfect way, and was at first endowed with undefined powers, it has been condemned.
– May I read the following passage from Hazell’ s Annual for 1908, concerning the Board of Trade -
The working of the Department is now similar to that of the other great offices of State, its work being done by the President, aided by a permanent staff.
– That is so; but I do not put the same interpretation upon the constitution of the Board of Trade . as the Minister does. The President has a permanent staff of officials, and he himself occupies a seat in the Cabinet.
– Not necessarily.
– At any rate, the Minister is a member of the Government, and he selects his permanent officials.
– No ; they are selected just as other public servants are.
– The officials are well known as being capable of giving to the Minister authoritative advice, to aid him in the discharge of his important functions. The Board of Trade corresponds to what is generally known as a Board both in England and Australia.
– That is precisely what it does not.
– The report of the proceedings of the Navigation Conference shows that over and over again the President said that he would consult with the Board of Trade to obtain their opinion. It is quite distinct from a mere committee or a -set of officials directive under the control of the Minister. It act’s.. as Boards usually do, and has become at very influential instrument for the administration of commerce within the ambit of itsauthority. It is in this respect the most, authoritative body in the world. It is useless for honorable senators opposite to depreciate the Board of Trade in that respect, because the Navigation Conference report shows that our delegates, as well asthe English representatives, consulted it frequently.
– Why does not the honorable senator admit that the comparisonwith the Board of Trade was a most unfortunate one from his point of view ?
– I will admit nothing of the kind.
– The Board of Tradeis a myth.
– One of the membersof the Navigation Conference told me that he was there several days before he dis- 1 covered that a gentleman whom he had’ taken to be a representative of the shipowners was an official of the Board of Trade.
– It is simplyjuggling with terms to call such a body a myth, and to say that it does not exercisegreat authority. One justification forSenator Mil len ‘s amendment is that the railways of this country have practically been taken out of the hands of Ministersand put under the control of Commissioners. The former practice was to have the railways directly under Ministerial control. Owing to political weakness, orcorruption, which arose in connexion with that administration, and formed an impediment to the development of thecountry, the Australian States took out of the hands of the Minister the control of therailways, and intrusted it to Commissioners.
– Is there not an essential difference between running a railway and administering a purely administrativedepartment ?
– I do not think that there is. I shall be able reestablish a close analogy between railwaysadministration and the management of affairs under this Bill. The powers of the Railways Commissioners have from time totime been modified, but the principle hasbeen unchanged.
– But the Commissioners of Railways have no control over policy. They merely manage the business as a business concern.
– That is quite correct ; and if I understand Senator Millen’s object rightly, he simply desires to do in regard to navigation what the States have done in regard to railways. By means of shipping and navigation we do on sea precisely what the railways do on land. Both systems exist for the same purpose, and achieve the very same results.
– Did not the honorable senator admit a few minutes ago that the Commmissioners of Railways had no control over policy?
– The carriage of goods and passengers by sea and the discharge of the same functions by land do not involve policy. If the business side of the carriage of goods and passengers on land has been placed in the hands of Commissioners, what reason is there for resisting the appointment of a body of men to exercise similar powers under the Navigation Bill?
– Would the honorable senator be in favour of handing over the administration of justice to a Board?
– Certainly not. The administration of justice is largely in the hands of the Attorney-General.
– Who is a Minister.
– No one desires to take the administration of justice out of the hands of the Attorney-General ; in the same way as no one would desire that the enforcement of the law and the imposition of penalties should be intrusted to a Minister.
– Is not this Bill largely concerned with a question of justice ?
– Not in the sense in which the question has been raised.
– Not in the sixandeightpence sense !
– The honorable senator knows the sense in which the term “justice” was used by Senator Guthrie. If the principle of management by Commissioners has proved sound, and has not been seriously challenged, in the administration of railways, why should it not be applied to the administration of navigation and shipping?
– Under this Bill we have no control over actual business on the sea.
– The analogy I suggest in the case of the Railways Commissioners, if not complete, is certainly so close as to demand an answer from those who are opposed to the amendment. Let me remind honorable senators that under this Bill two or three Committees may be appointed. Provision is made for the appointment of an Advisory Committee. .
– To deal with the question of manning.
– Just so, and Committees may be appointed under this Bill for other purposes. We shall be entitled when we come to those provisions to ask how those Committees are to be constituted, and what are to be their functions, powers, and limitations. Will, for instance, the Advisory Committee referred to consist of independent men, or of officials of the Public Service? Will it consist of experts taking independent action, or of officials under the control of a Minister? If this Committee and the other Committees contemplated under the Bill are to consist of officials under the control of the Minister, we may be sure that, if he is a strong man, he will sooner or later bend them to his will. If, on the other hand, we established a Board to administer the law, and set out its powers plainly in the Bill, it would not be possible for any Minister to influence its members.
– Does the Board of Trade work under an Act ?
– Certainly. A great deal of the work performed by the Board of Trade is laid down in the Merchant Shipping Act, and there is such a thing as common law and maritime law, portions of which are included in the Merchant Shipping Act, and some portions of which are not included in that measure. If the administration of this Bill is placed in the hands of officials coming directly under the control of the Minister, they will sooner or later, if he is a strong man, be brought under his heel. On the other hand, if we appoint a Board to administer the measure, and define its limits and powers, we shall have a body of men who will, in the interests of the people, be in the fortunate position of being able to meet the Minister, however strong he may be, with the well-known quotation from Shakspeare, “ Go to.” It would not be so with a Committee, advisory or otherwise, composed of men taken from the Public Service. Honorable senators must be aware from their knowledge of the history of government in every State in Australia, that a strong Minister, sooner or later, is able to make the officials under him come round to his way of thinking.
– That is what he is there for.
– If Senator Millen’s amendment is adopted, we might subsequently establish a Board of Control possessed of sufficient power under the law to enable them to use the very strong quotation I have made from Shakspeare, whenever a Minister attempted to bring pressure to bear upon them. For the reasons I have given, I shall support the amendment.
– If instead of quoting Shakspeare on matters which have no bearing upon this Bill, Senator St. Ledger had quoted that authority on navigation, his remarks would have been more to the purpose. Senator Millen has declined to submit any tangible reason for his amendment. Seeing that the honorable senator has proposed so radical an alteration of the principle of the Bill, we might very well have expected him to submit his proposal in some definite form. The honorable senator has adopted a very unfair course in springing upon the Committee an amendment involving so important an alteration of the measure, without letting honorable senators know anything definite about what he really intends. He was asked whether such a body as the Board of Trade would fit in with his idea of the control of the administration of the measure. So far as I could gather the honorable senator appeared to agree that it would. May I remind the Committee that the Board of Trade represents probably the most comprehensive department of government in the Old Country. It is intrusted with nearly every function of government in the sphere of industry and shipping. It deals with harbor and marine work, under the Shipping and Navigation laws ; and it controls the railways of the United Kingdom, so far as the Imperial Government exercises any jurisdiction over them. It deals with matters of finance; it administers the whole of the labour laws, and collects information affecting industrial conditions, which is distributed in a circular published every month; it has to deal with almost every matter connected with commerce; it has a statistical department of its own, and it deals withquestions of bankruptcy. If there is any intention on the part of Senator Millen to establish such a Board here, to control the administration of this measure, it is only fair that we should ask the honorable senator to give the Committee some clear indication of what his proposal involves.
– Would any body which I might suggest alter the honorable senator’s desire to keep the Bill under political control?
– The honorable senator’s proposal, so far as it has been explained, is so nebulous that it is impossible to understand it. He has been so indefinite that I am justified in asking whether he has really proposed anything at all. He has only referred to the Board of Trade apparently as a model of the Board of control he would suggest.
– Up to the present the honorable senator has only been on a voyage of discovery.
– I have submitted to the Committee a definite proposition : Are you in favour of political or non-political control ?
– It has been, shown that the President and Secretary of the Board of Trade are parliamentary representatives.
– I did not advocate the establishment here of a Board resembling the Board of Trade.
– One of these officers is a member of the Cabinet, and both are at all times members of the Ministry, sit in Parliament, and represent the Board of Trade there.
– The honorable senator is assuming that I have advocated the establishment of a Board similar to the Board of Trade. Just now he complained that I had put forward no definite proposal, and he is now attacking me for having done so.
– I have certainly criticised the honorable senator for not having submitted something definite: Last week the Vice-President of the Executive Council invited honorable senators who had amendments to propose to have them printed. That would be only fair to the Minister, and to honorable senators generally, as they would then be given an opportunity to consider the proposals made. and would be able to discuss them. At the present time, it is not too much to say, that the Committee does not know what Senator Millen has put before it. He has certainly submitted an amendment which. involves so radical an alteration of the principle of the measure that he ought to have dealt with it on the second reading.
– So I did.
– I admit that the honorable senator mentioned the matter, but in so indefinite a way as to give little or no information.
– I drew attention to the matter, and intimated my intention to move in a certain direction.
– The honorable senator indicated his intention to propose an alteration, but he has not yet been definite. What I understand him to propose would require a separate Bill to give it effect.
– Is the honorable senator not aware that the principle advocated by Senator Millen is already affirmed in some of the provisions of the Bill?
– Then the honorable senator should be satisfied.
– No. It is a question whether that principle has been sufficiently applied.
– We should say at once whether the controlling power should be a Minister having responsibility to Parliament, or a Board of officials whom Parliament will be unable to criticise.
– Parliament can criticise everything and anybody.
– Parliament cannot criticise a Board of officials as readily as it can criticise a Minister. As a case in point, I refer honorable senators to the Public Service Commissioner. We are loath to criticise him, no matter what he does, because he cannot be here to defend himself. It is wrong in principle to place an important Department of government under officials so far removed from parliamentary control. Senator Millen, in discussing the matter, made some reference to the Inter-State Commission, saying that possibly the Board which he suggested might take over the work of the Inter-State Commission when created.
– The honorable senator is reversing what I said - a thing which has been characteristic of the whole of his speech this morning. What I said was that, if the Government intended to appoint an Inter-State Commission it would not be unseemly to hand over to it the administration of this measure.
– The honorable senator has referred to a characteristic of my speech. It is unfortunate that every one who attempts to quote or tries to understand him should be met with a charge of misrepresentation.
– The honorable senator certainly did misrepresent me, because he reversed the position which I put.
– I have not the Hansard report before me, but I under stood the honorable senator to say that the Board which he suggested would do the work of the Inter-State Commission and administer this measure. If it is to be intrusted with all these functions, there are other branches of government which might just as reasonably be handed over to it. This is too big a question for us to deal with in Committee. From the latest files of English newspapers to hand I learn that Mr. Lloyd-George, the President of the Board of Trade, has returned from a trip to the Continent, where he had gone to do official work. That reminds me that that Board has the power to arrange treaties with foreign Powers. Accompanied by Captain Chalmers, who is, I think, the leading officer of the Board in regard to navigation and shipping matters, Mr. Lloyd-George proceeded to the Continent, where he arranged with Germany a treaty regarding the load line. To show the enormous ramifications of the Board of Trade I may mention that while he was in Germany Mr. Lloyd-George also inquired into the working of the oldage pensions system and other industrial matters, which in the Old Country are controlled by that Board. From those facts it will be recognised, I think, that this is too big a proposal for us to consider in Committee and on such short notice.
– It will involve practically a reconstruction of the Bill in order to provide the necessary machinery.
– I agree with that view.
– That would not be serious if the principle were approved.
– The whole of our work wouldhave to be re-done, and I do not thinkthat we are prepared, at this stage, to undertake that task.
– No doubt if honorable senators were to make an earnest attempt to thoroughly understand each other they would ultimately come to the same conclusion. I believe that every honorable senator is endeavouring, from his point of view, to make the Bill as effective as possible with respect to navigation and shipping. I agree to a very considerable extent with Senator Millen that ultimately it may be found necessary to create another Department to deal with Customs and other matters of a kindred character. But if we adopt the principle which he advocates we might as well throw out the Bill, because it would require to be amended from beginning to end.
– All that we should have to do would be to substitute “Board” or “Commission” for “Minister.”
– That is incorrect.
– It is necessary to pass a Bill in order to bring into existence Commissioners and officers, and invest them with the necessary powers. Let us consider the difference between a Bill dealing with navigation and shipping and a Bill dealing with the railways or the Public Service, or anything which is owned and controlled by the Government. I do not wish to discuss whether it was wise to place the railways in Commission-, but merely to point out that in each State the railways are owned by the Government, and are worked as a business concern. It was for that reason that in practically all the States the railways were intrusted to the management of Commissioners. But in this Bill we are dealing with ships which for the most part are owned by private companies, some being registered in Australia, and others in foreign parts. The object of this legislation is to control the relations between those private companies and the general public. That is an entirely different thing from dealing with our own ships. Suppose that the Commonwealth had assumed the entire control of the Inter state trade, and was running its own ships. Then there would be something in the argument that they should.be placed under the control of Commissioners in order that they might be on exactly the same footing as the railways of the States. There is no analogy between the control of public railways and the control of privatelyowned ships. We are piling on to the different Ministers function . after function. The Minister of Trade and Customs has to deal with many things other than Customs matters, and his Department is to be intrusted by this Bill with the control of the navigation and shipping affairs of Australia. The administration of trade marks, patents, and industrial affairs would probably be intrusted to the Board of Trade, if such a body were instituted here. But if we followed the example of the Old Country, I think that Senator Millen and his friends must admit that our Board of Trade would be a Government Department. In the Old Country the Board of Trade is as much a Government Department and as much under political influence and parliamentary control as is our own Trade and Customs Department.
– I explained that we were proceeding on the same principle.
– That is what I am endeavouring to point out. When any or all of the existing Departments are found to be overburdened with matters of an entirely different character from those which they were originally intended to administer, it may be found necessary to create another Department. When that time arrives, a Bill can be introduced and properly discussed, and such questions as navigation and shipping, patents, and industrial matters can be handed over to the new Department, and so relieve the others. I think that it would be unwise and injudicious to take that step at the present time. It will be seen that the next clause of the Bill empowers the Minister to delegate his powers.
– He can form any number of Boards.
– Yes, he can form a Marine Board in almost every part in the Commonwealth. He can form Boards or appoint Commissioners to represent him in almost every port. But that power is given to the Minister on the understanding that it is to be judiciously exercised. If it is not exercised judiciously, he can be brought to book in Parliament for any act of mal-administration either by himself or by any Commissioner whom he appointed to discharge certain duties. Something has been said regarding the appointment of the Inter-State Commission. Notwithstanding that under the Constitution that body has specified functions, there is. nothing to prevent this Parliament decreeing that its services shall be at the disposal of the Minister to assist him in matters of this kind. But in order that such a body might be placed on all fours with the British Board of Trade it would require to be created a separate Department. I hope that the clause in its present form will be retained with a view to giving it a fair trial. I am sure that should the necessity arise, every honorable senator will be only too willing to assist in the appointment of special Boards or Commissioners for the purpose of assisting the Minister to carry out the functions vested in him.
– I do not think that Senator Millen ought to be blamed in any way for having raised the very grave issue of whether the administration of this measure should be in the hands of the Minister of Trade and Customs, or be vested” in some kind of Marine Board. That is a very fair issue to raise, and I do not agree that its discussion has involved a waste of time. Under this Bill very great powers are vested in the Minister, and the point we have to consider is whether it would not be better to vest those powers in a Board. Senator McGregor has admitted that by our legislation we are continually multiplying the Departments under the control of Ministers. Already the Minister of Trade and ‘ Customs is charged with the administration of fifteen or sixteen Acts of Parliament. How is it possible for any Minister to thoroughly master all the details connected with the working of so many Departments ?
– He has to deal with principles rather than with details.
– I am thankful to the honorable senator for his interjection, which puts the position admirably. Instead of the Minister being required to investigate every matter for himself he becomes rnerely an automaton in the hands of his secretary who submits recommendations for his approval.
– tie is a kind of indiarubber stamp.
– Exactly. This will be the case more and more if we continue to pile up the number of Departments in the charge of individual Ministers. It is impossible for the Minister of Trade and Customs to grasp the whole of the details connected with the administration of so many different Acts of Parliament, and he must necessarily depend upon .his chief officer in each case. Now, I doubt whether that course is a wise one. Very great powers must be conferred in connexion with the administration of this Act, and very great interests - commercial and industrial - have to be considered in its working. To my mind, that is another reason why we should appoint a Board of experts consisting of men who possess knowledge, both of the commercial and industrial aspects of navigation, to superin tend its administration. It has been said that we have already adopted the system of allowing our State railways to ,be controlled by Commissioners. I recognise, however, that the two things are scarcely analogous. For all questions of policy connected with the working of our railways the Ministry of the day accepts responsibility. The Commissioners are appointed merely to administer the Act as they find it, and they cannot frame a regulation unless it has first been approved by Parliament. I take it that the position of a Board such as is contemplated by Senator Millen would be an exactly similar one. My own impression is that this measure would be better administered by an expert Board than by the Minister. Senator Millen has left the composition of* the Board entirely open. At this stage he merely desires to affirm a principle.
– What sort of Board does the honorable senator suggest should be created?
– Is there not a Marine Board in almost every State?
– Such Boards are principally engaged in. the work of harbor management, upon which it is not competent for us to legislate.
– THey also perform a good deal of other work in connexion with shipping. The fact that such Boards exist implies that the appointment of a somewhat similar body to administer this measure would afford a relief to the Minister, and conduce to better administration.
– We should require to pass a separate Bill before a Board could be created.
– I am quite aware of that. I can well imagine that a time may come when there may be a Ministry in power which possesses only a very small following, but which may be kept in office by a numerically stronger party.
– Imagine it? Is not that the position to-day?
– Such a Ministry might be retained in office only so long as they were willing to pass measures which would command the support of the larger party.
– Do not all Ministries do that?
– No. There are times when a Government has a sufficient following to enable it to give effect to its own policy.
– Is that possible at the present time?
– It may be. But we have to remember that Ministers are only human. If I were Minister o’f Trade and Customs I might possibly be disposed to administer this measure in a way, that would please my political supporters, but if a- Board were appointed to administer it I should be relieved from that temptation. It has been admitted by Senator McGregor that the time may come when Boards of this kind will have to be created, and it is for Senator Millen to consider whether he will recognise that fact or press his amendment at the present stage. Personally I believe that we should secure more efficient administration of this measure by the appointment of a Board thoroughly familiar with the interests affected by it, than we shall by leaving its administration entirely to the Minister. If Senator Millen decides to press his amendment I shall be found voting for it; but, perhaps, in view of what has been stated by Senator McGregor, he will deem it wise to withdraw it. I quite recognise that the appointment of an independent Board would necessitate the passing of a special Act of Parliament. But such a body, I contend, would be free from all political influence, and would be able to discharge its functions without fear of the consequence of its acts.
– I candidly confess that I fail to thoroughly understand the position taken up by the supporters of this amendment. In the first place, they have one and all praised the work which is performed by the Board of Trade in respect of matters affecting navigation in the Old Country.
– I did not say anything about the Board of Trade.
– The honorable senator did not mention that body specifically, but he adopted precisely the same line of argument that has ‘ been adopted by. those honorable senators who have supported the amendment. He also pointed out, in reply to the remarks of Senator McGregor, that the Minister of Trade and Customs has already thirteen or fourteen Departments under his jurisdiction.
– I said that he had fifteen or sixteen Departments under his control.
– I admit that. But I think it has been clearly proved that the Board of Trade has more than double that number of Departments under its control. If the President of the Board of Trade controls so many Departments, why should not the Minister of Trade and Customs in Australia be capable of dealing with the administration of the fifteen or sixteen Acts of Parliament intrusted to him? Senator Vardon admits that we are all human. He even goes so far as to admit that Governments are human, and may be controlled by the parties sitting behind them.
– He does not even propose an inhuman Board.
– Any Board appointed, unless its members were cut out of a log, must consist of human beings; and being human, they would certainly be susceptible to the self-same pressure and influence as would the Minister.
– They would probably know a great deal more about the matter than the Minister.
– They might know infinitely less. History shows us that it is not always the capable men who are appointed to such Boards. But Parliament would always have control over the Minister. Senator de Largie put the matter admirably when he said that we always have the Minister before us. He always feels his responsibility to Parliament just as does the President of the Board of Trade. But the member of a Board may be a woodenhead, so far as much of the business that he has to do is concerned. Place the responsibility upon such a body, and Parliament can do nothing but criticise. The Minister will then be in. a position to answer any criticism with the remark - “ What you say may be perfectly true, but I am not responsible for it. It has been done by the Board appointed under the Act.” If we pass Senator Mullen’s amendment, we shall establish a principle that will alter the construction of the Bill absolutely. It will involve the application of a system of which we have absolutely no knowledge in Australia in matters of this kind. Therefore, I shall- vote against the amendment.
– The attention that honorable senators have directed to my amendment affords full warrant for my action in proposing it. The criticism directed to it may be divided into two. classes. One kind of criticism had relation to the principle which I have sought to bring under review, namely, that we should establish a Board removed from political influence rather than have control by a Minister. I am rather sorry that so little of the criticism of honorable senators has been directed to that main principle. With the exception of Senator Turley, Senator Givens, and Senator McGregor, most honorable senators have not directed attention to it. The Minister himself led off by saying very little about it, and by attacking the character of the Board which he was good enough to construct, as the one which he said I had suggested. »
– Not at all; I pointed to the Board of Trade as the only instance given.
– The Minister attacked the Board of Trade, and suggested that I had advocated that a similar body should be established here. I am going to quote my own speech from the Hansard report, to show what it was that I did advocate. But let me first point out what a nice muddle I should have been in if I had really advocated any particular form of Board. Senator de Largie and others have said that I should have suggested in my amendment a scheme to take the place of that proposed by the Government. If I had done so, the Minister would have attacked the details of the scheme, and would have said nothing about the principle. I took a course which I thought would be convenient to the Committee, and which was, in fact, the only course which would enable every honorable senator to give a vote on the question of whether he was in favour of leaving the administration under political control or not. Now let me quote from what I said yesterday. My words were -
I have no desire to multiply officers and offices, and increase the demands upon the public Treaosury. It would be idle to suggest the creation of a body specially for this Act if there is in the minds of the Government a fixed intention to call into being some such Board as I have indicated. I cannot say whether the Government intend to appoint a Board of Trade or an Inter-State Commission, or both, or neither, and, until the Minister makes the position of the Government clear, I am not in a position to advocate one or the other.
That made my position abundantly clear ; and I felt a ‘little bit hurt and disappointed that honorable senators should have sought to make out that I was neglecting my responsibility in not coming forward with a scheme to take the place of that of the Bill. I wish to refer only to one other matter. The Minister said that if we adopted the amendment we should have to recast the whole Bill. That is entirely incorrect. All that would be necessary would be to substitute the word “ Board “‘for the word “Minister” wherever it occurred. For the most part, the powers conferred on the Minister could be conferred on the Board, and the necessary functions could be discharged by it without reference to him. The Minister is given power 10 do certain things “ as prescribed.” They would be just the same, whether prescribed by the Minister or by the Board. There need not be five minutes of time spent in altering the Bill if my amendment is carried.
– I also said that if we adopted the amendment, the trouble would be about bringing in a new Bill.
– Nothing of the kind would be required. But even if it were, is that a serious reason for objecting to the principle of my amendment? There are honorable senators who have not merely hesitated to propose the passing of Bills but have asked that the Constitution should be altered, when something which they thought desirable was prevented by a provision in it. tOn the same ground, I say, that the mere fact that we should have to pass another Bill is no argument against my amendment. If it is desirable to do’ something, anc! we have to amend the Constitution to enable it to be done, the mere fact that a fresh Bill would be required is no reason for not doing it. I have submitted the amendment with a recognition of the fact that it is not likely to be carried. But still it seemed to me to enunciate a principle that is not merely important so far as this Bill is concerned, but also in relation to the discharge of the functions of government in this country.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out (Senator Millen’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
In relation to any particular matters or class of matters, or as to any particular part of the Commonwealth or port, the Minister may by writing under his hand delegate any of his powers under this Act (except this power of delegation) so that the delegated powers may be exercised by the delegate with respect to the powers or class of matters specified or the part or port defined in the instrument of delegation.
– Does this clause give the Minister power to delegate his powers under the Act to Committees or Boards? I ask the question because the vote just given indicates that honorable senators are not in favour of the delegation by a Minister to Committees of any of his powers under the Act.
– If he is to adminster the Act, the Minister must delegate some of his powers.
-Colonel Cameron. - He would still be responsible.
– I should like to know whether, under this clause, the Minister would have power to establish a Board to administer the Act in any port in Australia. If so, it appears to me that it is proposed in this clause to reverse what the Committee has decided by the vote taken on clause 6.
– I have great difficulty in discovering the reason for this apprehension on the part of Senator Guthrie. The honorable senator should know that this is the usual clause introduced in all similar legislation since the commencement of the Commonwealth. A similar provision will be found in the Customs Act, Post and Telegraph Act, Quarantine Act, Patents Act, and other Acts. It is essential for the purposes of administration. It would be impossible to administer this measure, or any of the Acts I have mentioned, unless this power were provided. The clause would enable the Minister, if he thought proper, to appoint a chief navigation officer in each of the States, who would be responsible for the administration of the Act in that State. But the Minister, as head of the Department, would, of course, still be responsible for everything that was done. The Bill provides for the appointment of advisory Committees for certain specified purposes. The appointment of such a Board as was involved in the amendment on clause 6, submitted by Senator Millen, is quite a different matter. Such a Board would require to be a corporate body.
– Clause 7 would be necessary, even though we agreed to the appointment of such a Board.
– Undoubtedly. If it was desired to create Boards such as that involved in the amendment proposed by Senator Millen in the last clause, we should have to come to Parliament to provide the necessary machinery. Were it not for a clause of this kind, the centralization of the administration would be intolerable, and the Act would be unworkable. It is everywhere demanded that matters of administration shall be distributed throughout the Commonwealth. I assure Senator Guthrie that there is no room for apprehension. To strike out the clause would be to render the Bill absolutely unworkable.
– That is not fair. I never suggested that I merely asked a question.
– A verbal amendment of this clause would be desirable. It reads -
In relation to any particular matters or class of matters, or as to any particular part of the Commonwealth or port -
I think that would read better if worded in this way - “ as to any particular part or port of the Commonwealth.” The form adopted has probably been due to the fact that a State Act was being followed in the framing of the clause, and the draftsmen found it necessary to introduce the words “of the Commonwealth.” I move -
That after the word “ part,” line 2, the words “ or port “ be inserted.
That part of the clause would then read, “ any particular part or port of the Commonwealth.” As the clause now stands, the phrase used would mean any particular part of the Commonwealth, or any particular part of a port.
– There is a distinction, although I think it is a very small one. As the clause stands, it would be competent for the Minister to delegate certain powers in regard to a part of a port.
– That would be a part of the Commonwealth.
– Possibly it would be better to strike out the words “ or port.”
– I suggest that the clause as it stands is more complete than it would be if altered as proposed. I do not think that the amendment would be an improvement.
– I have submitted what seems to me to be a very simple amendment. I endeavoured to show that the clause appears in its present form merely because of the necessity the draftsmen were under to insert the words “ of the Commonwealth “ in following a provision of a State enactment. If the Minister objects to the amendment, I shall not bother about it.
– I should like to ask whether it is intended to give the Minister the power of delegation with regard to New Guinea. So far as I can see, under this clause the power of delegation is limited to the Commonwealth.
– That should be considered.
– Whilst this clause gives the Minister power to delegate any of his powers under the Act, I see no provision for a withdrawal of a power which has been delegated.
– Where the power of delegation is given, that is involved. I think it is provided for in the Acts Interpretation Act.
– It might be that no difficulty would arise, but I have some recollection of a case in Victoria where a public official insisted upon continuing in his office, notwithstanding the fact that he had been stripped of all authority.
– He was mad.
– It was thought wise to take, in other measures, the power to cancel an appointment, and I submit for the Minister’s consideration that just as there is power in this measure to delegate authority, so for the purpose of simplicity there should be power to revoke that authority. I think that we should insert in this clause the same provision as is contained in section 11 of the Customs Act.
Every delegation, whether by the Minister or Comptroller, shall be revocable in writing at will, and no delegation shall prevent the exercise of any power by the Minister or Comptroller.
It will be seen that in the Customs Act it was considered necessary to take the power of revoking any authority which had been conferred on any official.
– If the honorable senator will refer to section 33 of the Acts Interpretation Act he will see that as regards all Acts the power to make rules includes the power to rescind and that the power to appoint a person includes the power to remove him.
– I think, subject to the opinion of the Minister, that it would be a safe plan to follow the course which was adopted in connexion with the Customs Act.
– I think that I can satisfy my honorable friend that it is not necessary to alter the clause. If he will refer to section 33 of the Acts Interpretation Act he will see that the first two sub-sections provide for the exercise of powers and duties by the holder of an office. Sub-section 3 provides that the power to make regulations includes the power to rescind them. In sub-section 4 it is provided that the power to appoint a person includes the power to revoke the appointment. It reads as follows : -
When an Act confers upon any person or authority a power to make appointments to any office or place, the power shall, unless the contrary intention appears, be construed as including a power to remove or suspend any person appointed, and to appoint another person temporarily in the place of any person so suspended or in place of any sick or absent holder of such office or place.
– When was that measure assented to?
– On the 12th July, 1 901.
– Why was it necessary to enact sectionii of the Customs Act which was assented to on the 3rd October, 1901 ?
– I cannot say I shall be very glad to look further into the matter. I think that the Acts Interpretation Act is pretty clear on the subject.
– - In the face of the section which the Minister quoted, and which I believe applies to the interpretation of all Acts, I want to know where is the necessity for enacting clause 7 of this Bill. If there is a necessity, is the power contained in the Acts Interpretation Act enlarged or curtailed by clause 7? In that Act Parliament gave very wide powers in regard to delegating and appointing on the part of a Minister when he has the right to do certain things. In view of that fact at first sight it would seem that clause 7 of this Bill is unnecessary.
– First of all, we must give the power, and then the question arises, Does the power of appointment include the power to rescind the appointment? The Acts Interpretation Act conies in and says that it does.
. -On previous occasions the Government have expressed their satisfaction in following directly a New Zealand Act. In this matter the Parliament of New Zealand did not give the power of delegation.
– That is another thing. New Zealand is a unitary body - a Dominion.
– New Zealand has ports scattered around its coast just as we have.
– The honorable senator means officers.
– No, ports. Probably New Zealand has not the same volume of trade as has Australia, but it has a considerable trade, and hopes to get more. In this matter its Parliament did not give the power of delegation to the Minister. What it did was to enact this provision -
There shall be a Department called the Marine Department, which shall undertake the general superintendence of all matters relating to merchant ships and seamen, and shall be authorized to carry into execution the provisions of this Act and all other Acts relating to merchant ships and seamen in force for the time being in New Zealand.
– In this Bill we say the same.
– Under this Bill the Minister has the right to delegate certain powers to somebody else.
– Only in outlying places.
– Either in outlying places or in centres. For instance, the Minister may appoint a Marine Board in Melbourne.
– The power would never be used for that purpose.
– The Minister could not act in that way without the sanction of Parliament. There must be a positive law on the subject.
– I think it is perfectly clear that he could .
– No, the necessary machinery must be provided.
– What machinery is necessary for appointing a nominee Board in any part of Australia? None.. I am surprised at any honorable senator who in the last division voted against the Minister being intrusted with the administration of the measure, consenting to allow the Minister to delegate his powers under this clause.
– The Parliament can always remove the Minister if he does anything of which it disapproves.
– If he does what an Act of Parliament says he may do !
– If he delegates his. authority either unwisely or improperly.
– This will be an instruction to the Minister that he may do certain things.
– No, it affords facilities to do things which otherwise it might be impossible to do.
– Under this clause the Minister will have power to refer to a Board the question of the shipment of seamen.
– Clause 416 gives that power to the Minister.
– No; it only enables the Minister to delegate certain powers to a number of civil servants.
– It enables the Minister to appoint Committees for certain purposes which are therein set forth.
– The Bill provides for the appointment of examiners for masters, mates, and engineers. Do honorable senators propose that those examiners shall be selected outside the Public Service ?
– That, is not involved in the question of the delegation of powers.
– I think that it is. I recognise that the Minister cannot exercise all the powers which are conferred upon him by the Bill; but we ought” to take care that no powers are to be delegated to persons outside the Public Service. I object to the delegation of any powers to independent Boards.
Clause agreed to.
The provisions of this part of this Act relating to ships and to their owners masters and crews shall, unless the subject-matter requires a different application, apply only to British ships and to their owners masters and crews.
. We are now invited to consider the first clause of Division 1. The. division is headed “ General’” and the clause provides that the provisions of this part of the law shall apply to only British ships, but clause 12 deals with “a ship registered in Australia.” Does it differentiate between ships registered in Great Britain and ships registered in Australia? Is one ship British and one not, or are both ships British ?
– I cannot understand my honorable friend taking this objection. First of all we deal with the general subject and say that the provisions shall apply to all British ships. But when we want to make any provisions distinctly applicable to ships registered in Australia and ships trading on our coast we say so.
– After the words “ British ships “ we ought to insert the words “ unless otherwise provided.”
– That is not necessary.
– It is desirable to notice the alteration which has been made in the wording of this clause. In the original Bill the provision was drafted so as to apply only to British ships registered in Australia or carrying passengers or cargo. But in this Bill it is made to include British ships that trade everywhere, and of course it excludes foreign ships. To the extent to which it restricts the operations of British ships it is helping the foreigner against the Britisher.
– My honorable friend knows that that is not so.
– I shall be glad if it can be shown that it is not so.
Senator BEST (Victoria- Vice-Presi
It is very hard that I should be called upon to repeat elaborate arguments time after time. I need scarcely remind the Committee that in replying to the criticisms of honorable senators upon the motion for the second reading of the Bill I dealt with this very question at great length. I showed that British legislation did not attempt to interfere with foreign ships in matters of this kind. I also showed that by the terms ‘ of the Merchant Shipping Act - by sections 735 and 736 - we are invited to deal as we think proper with this class of matter. I pointed out that we are merely legislating in the way that the States were accustomed to legislate prior to Federation, and in the way that New Zealand legislated in the Act of 1903, which was assented to by the British Government. As to the altered form of this provision, that is substantially a matter of draftsmanship.
– The wording of this clause is absolutely on all fours with the wording of the corresponding section in the Merchant Shipping Act of 1894. But I would point out that in 1906 the Imperial Parliament made a considerable alteration in respect of this provision. Section 260 of the Merchant Shipping Act of 1894 reads -
This part of this Act shall, unless the context or subject-matter requires a different application, apply to all sea-going ships registered in the United Kingdom, &c.
But the Act of 1906 sets out that -
The definition of “passenger steam-er” in section 267 of the principal Act shall be amended so as to include every foreign steam-shin (whether originally proceeding from a port in the United Kingdom or from a port out of the United. Kingdom) which carries passengers to or from any place, or between any places, in the United Kingdom.
As a result of that amendment, foreign passenger steamers calling at ports in England for passengers are now subject to the whole of the regulations of the British Board of Trade. The Act of 1906 hasthus completely altered the provisions of Parts II. and III. of the Merchant Shipping Act 1894. I wish to know whether effect has been given to the amended legislation of Great Britain in the clause which is now under consideration.
– Of course, the question asked by the honorable senator is a very big one, but, speaking generally, I do not think that the Merchant Shipping Act of 1906 has altered any of the matters referred to in Part II. of the principal Act, so far as foreign ships are concerned. I make that statement subject to correction. Part II. refers amongst other things to contracts entered into by masters and foreign owners with their own people. The whole trend of British legislation is in the direction of noninterference with those contracts. But under the legislation enacted by the Imperial Parliament in 1906, a foreign vessel which is deemed to be unseaworthy may be detained and the same penalty may be imposed in case of overloading or undermanning. It is only in respect of these matters that British legislation attempts to interfere with foreign ships.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 9 and 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 -
The Minister may permit any matters required by this Act to be transacted in a Mercantile Marine Office or before a superintendent to be transacted elsewhere and before such other person as he appoints for the purpose.
– I move -
That the word “ or,” line 3, be left. out.
This clause provides that a superintendent may engage or discharge seamen either at the mercantile marine office or on a ship.
– Before an authorized officer.
– The clause declares that a superintendent or some other person shall be at liberty to engage or discharge seamen either at the shipping office or at some other place which is not specified.
– Cannot the honorable senator trust the mercantile marine office?
– But the clause provides that seamen may be engaged or discharged either before a superintendent or “ such other person “ as he may appoint.
– That may be desirable in places where it is not necessary to have a marine officer.
– Is there any port in Australia at which a Customs officer is not stationed? If so, I should like to know of it.
– Suppose that there were a collector or sub-collector of Customs at a port, would it not be desirable that he should be appointed ?
Sentor GUTHRIE- That is not my objection to this provision. My point is that at every port in Australia there is either a superintendent, a deputy-superin tendent, or a Customs officer, who has an office in which to transact his business. Why, then, should the shipping and discharging of seamen not take place in that office ?
– There is nothing to prevent that being done.
– But the VicePresident of the Executive Council knows the meaning of this provision perfectly well. It means that if a dispute takes place, and ship-owners are obliged to scour crimping boarding-houses, the seamen secured there will not be signed on at the shipping office, but will be taken elsewhere. Only a few months ago men were signed on in a tobacconist’s shop in King-street, Sydney, before a Government official.
– A Government official would be just as honest in a tobacconist’s shop as he would be in his own office.
– But why should he be taken there ? He has an office which has been established for a particular purpose. If I were to request an officer of the Supreme Court to transact business with me in the parliamentary lobbies, would he be likely to do so?
– I dare say that he would, if the adoption of that course were a reasonable one.
– This clause gives a Government officer power to transact his business either in his own office or elsewhere. I submit that the shipping office is the proper place in which to engage seamen.
– But if the shipping officer chooses to visit a ship, and to sign on fifty men there, in order to save their time, ought he not to be at liberty to do so?
– While he is absent there may be fifty men at the shipping office waiting to get their wants attended to. We must either place an officer upon each ship, or else insist that seamen shall be shipped only at the shipping office.
– How about men who live at a place like Flat-top, in Queensland ? Would the honorable senator require them to go all the way to town for the purpose of sighing articles?
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– If honorable senators are sincere in their declarations that they intend to deal stringently with crimping and desertion, they will support my amendment; because this is the first step that should be taken to put down such offences. If every man who signs ships articles, or who is discharged from a ship, has to go to a shipping office, there is a means of checking where he comes from. But to pass the clause as it stands means leaving a loophole to crimps and others to carry on their nefarious traffic. The present practice is absolutely accountable for crimping and desertion. Say that a ship’s master has promised an engagement to some man who he knows has deserted from another ship. He goes to the superintendent and says, “ Will you oblige me by coming to some other place than your own office to sign on some members of my crew.” The superintendent answers, “I cannot come now, because I am busy.” Then the master says, “ Come at 5 o’clock, and I will pay your overtime.” That overtime is not paid into the Treasury, but goes into the pocket of the superintendent, who is only too glad of such an opportunity to make a few shillings. But what is the result? If one of the men who signed on has deserted from another ship, the superintendent, not having his office records with him, knows nothing about it. If honorable senators say, “ Let us abolish the office of . superintendent, and give the seaman the right to engage where he likes, leaving the shipowner to get his men where he can,” I reply that it would be far better to do that than to perpetuate the present practice. We should not offer encouragement to Government officials to make additions to their salaries. When the Electoral Act was under consideration - a measure in which honorable senators were directly interested - they strongly objected to a justice of the peace visiting houses and taking the declarations of absent voters. The same principle applies here. We supply the superintendent with offices for the transaction of his business. His business ought to be done at the office, and not elsewhere. This “ elsewhere “ provision has been the greatest curse that seamen have had to put up with under our maritime laws. Some honorable senators may say that this is a trifling detail. But, as a matter of fact, it is a loop-hole for invading the intention of the law. The seamen are asking for nothing that is unjust, because it has to be remembered that they pay for the service rendered. Every time a sailor signs on a ship’s articles he pays is., and every time he is discharged he pays another is.
– What becomes of. that money ?
– It goes into the Consolidated Revenue. But in the event of agreements being signed after office hours “ elsewhere,” the overtime paid to the superintendent goes into his own pocket.
– I suppose that “ elsewhere “ means a place nominated by the superintendent.
– Not necessarily. For many years, in the port of London, where shipping offices are established at Poplar and Tower Hill, the whole of this work was done for the coasting trade at a low public- house in Lower Thamesstreet. There is nothing to prevent anything of the same kind occurring here. Matters are not so bad in Australia as they are in England, but during the last few months men have been engaged in tobacconists’ shops in King-street, Sydney. There could not be anything worse than the Lower Thames-street business in London. It has led to. practices as bad as the old Fleet marriages.
– It is nearly as bad at Newcastle, New South Wales, as anywhere.
– If we establish an office for certain purposes, we should insist on the business being done there. Would honorable senators be prepared to allow a shipping agent to clear his goods at any other place than the Customs House? Even though that is not allowed, we have had frauds on the revenue to the extent of £60,000.
– Could not the honorable senator draw attention to derelictions of duty on the part of the superintendent?
– How could we?
– The honorable senator’s contention this morning was that this part of the Bill can be properly administered through the Minister.
– The things of which I complain have been going on for the last 100 years.
– Yet we have had Ministerial control.
– The Commonwealth has not yet had a navigation law of its own. We are, I hope, going to make some useful departures. Hitherto every State has desired to do as much shipping business as it could. One State has been in competition with another. There are ships now trading on the coast of South)
Australia, and that have never left that State, which, on account of a little bit of advanced legislation there, have been registered, not where their business is done, but in Melbourne. That- is1 the kind of thing that has kept the seamen from the benefits of progressive legislation.
– The honorable senator said the other day that it did not matter where seamen were registered.
– I think that the honorable senator is going beyond the subject now under discussion.
– It is owing to the reason I have given that the States have not been able to make their legislation as liberal as some of them would have liked to do. I think I have said enough to show why my amendment should be agreed to.
.- I do not think that Senator Guthrie has made out a good case for the alteration of the clause. Every member of the Committee 0 is in favour of minimizing crimping. We desire to protect the sailor against cruelty and injustice in every way. But, at the same time, we must preserve a due sense of proportion, and because 4 or 5 per cent, of sailors who go on board vessels are subjected to practices such as have been described, are we to interfere with the convenience of the other 95 per cent. ? Cannot we have some remedy for crimping, without taking away the privilege which the Bill proposes tq confer? If Senator Guthrie’s amendment were carried, a great deal of needless loss would be inflicted, whilst no good would be done. He talks about men being engaged at tobacconists’ shops in Sydney. Is there any harm in that? He speaks of an enormous amount of business being done at a public house in London. I have no sympathy with business being done at public houses.
– Is there any harm in that?
– Yes, because it affords a temptation to drink. Probably men are there induced to sign when they are in a state of drunkenness. I am decidedly opposed to official business, whether under this measure or under the Electoral Act, being conducted at public houses. But my honorable friend considers only one side of the question. We all admit that he has done magnificent work as President of the Seamen’s Union. But he should surely remember that he is here as a legislator, to make laws for all classes of the community ; and he should help us to make this the best Bill that we can possibly devise. If a vessel happens to be a mile or two from the shipping office, and there are fifty or a hundred sailors to sign on, for the convenience of all concerned, it has been a common practice for the superintendent or deputy superintendent to go on board the vessel at meal times, or after office hours, to witness the signing on.
– And to be paid overtime for it.
– Where is the harm in their being paid overtime? If they give up their meal time to do this work, it shows a desire to facilitate business. By their attendance on board a vessel, fifty or a hundred seamen can be signed on in a few minutes. Senator Guthrie proposes that if the shipping office is distant one mile or five miles from the ship, men must still attend at the office to be signed on. Why he should wish to impose such an intolerable burden on the men and on the owner of the vessel, I do not know.
– The signing on could be done after 5 o’clock at the shipping office, and no time would be lost.
– I do not know why it should not be left to the superintendent or deputy superintendent to transact this business, where and when it will be most convenient to himself and to the men who are to be signed on. I do not think that sailors will thank Senator Guthrie if they are obliged to lose half a day’s pay in attending at a shipping office to sign on. I have not the slightest doubt that they would like to have a run on shore, and be idle for half a day at the expense of the owners. We have heard something about desertion and crimping, but has Senator Guthrie considered the opportunities for desertion which his proposal would afford ? If a hundred men had at the very last moment to be taken to. a shipping office to sign on, it is possible some of them might desert.
– As a rule, the man signing on is out of work, so that no time would be lost by the ship-owner, or anybody else, if he was compelled to attend at a shipping office for the purpose.
– Another objection I have to the proposal is that Senator Guthrie, in this case also, wishes to depart from the provision of the Merchant Shipping Act without any good reason. Section 249 of that Act provides that -
The Board of Trade may dispense with the transaction in a mercantile marine office or before a superintendent of any matters required by this Act lo be so transacted, and thereupon those matters if otherwise duly transacted shall be as valid as if they were transacted in such an office or before a superintendent.
– That legalizes signing on in a low public house.
– No one suggests that this work should be transacted in a low public house. Senator Guthrie is proposing to prevent the adoption of a businesslike system, under which a superintendent or deputy superintendent may go on board a vessel, and have a hundred men signed on in a few minutes. Why should that practice, which has continued for years, be prevented? Honorable senators opposite might, if they think it necessary, provide that the superintendent or his deputy in signing a man on should ask him whether he signs on with his own free consent.
– Under the Bill, he would have to do so.
– If that safeguard is already’ provided for, what more do my honorable friends want ? We are not here to curtail the liberties of people, but to protect the interests of all concerned ; and before this Bill is passed, I am sure that the interests of the sailor will have been amply protected by the provisions which will be agreed to. »
– - I have a great deal of sympathy with the position taken up by Senator Guthrie in this matter. Senator Dobson magnifies the convenience of the’ practice of signing on on board ship. As a rule, a man is looking for employment when he signs on, and could attend a shipping office for the purpose without inconvenience. For what purpose is a shipping office established, if it is not to carry out this kind of work? That is one of the reasons why it is provided for in the Bill. Senator Guthrie has mentioned many objections to permitting sailors to sign on “elsewhere,” 01 anywhere, because that is what “ elsewhere “ means. When those who had the framing of measures of this kind in the past, provided for the signing on of sailors “ elsewhere “ than at the shipping office, they had no idea that advantage would be taken of the provision to take sailors into low public houses, tobacco shops, and places of that kind to sign on. I think that Senators Guthrie and Turley would achieve all they desire, and would prevent the signing on of seamen in low public houses and tobacco shops, by the insertion of a proviso that where no shipping office is established, the work might be transacted elsewhere. Where ft shipping office i’s established, signing on at the office should be compulsory; but where nol shipping office is established, or where it would be very inconvenient to require the signing on to be done at the shipping office, permission might be given to transact the work elsewhere. Senator Guthrie has said that there is a shipping office everywhere.
– There is at least a Customs office wherever this work would require to be done.
– There are exceptions to that rule; and whilst Senator Guthrie, and those who think with him, have a right to say that where there is a shipping office or Customs House at which this work could be transacted, it should be transacted there, they might agree to provision being made for the exceptional cases in which that would be impossible or very inconvenient. If they do so, they can look for the support of all who object to men signing on 1 at low public houses or tobacconists’ shops, and who would like to see the work transacted in a proper manner.
– - In the majority of instances, the operation of this clause will be confined to Newcastle, as it is in that port that desertion from ships is most common. As a member of the Navigation Commission, I am able to say that the evidence taken showed that that was the only port in Australia in which crimping was practised to any great extent. It may be said that it scarcely exists in such ports as Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, or Fremantle.
– The honorable senator would hamper the operations of shipping in every port, because of the practices carried on in one.
– I would not. But I should not like to do anything to continue the disgraceful traffic which was exposed in Newcastle. It is of no use for Senator Dobson to say that he is anxious to put down crimping, when at the same time he proposes to continue in operation the principal means by which it is carried on. If. we are to do away with crimping, we must see that seamen are compelled1 to sign on at a shipping office. It is useless to say that crimping does not exist.
I have cited the evidence of witnesses of standing, such as Dr. Doyle, and the shipping inspector at Newcastle, to prove that it does exist.
– We admit that it exists.
– Then the honorable senator should make some earnest effort to put an end to it. If we permit sailors to sign on on board ship, we shall merely lend ourselves to the continuation of this shocking traffic.
– That is not so.
– I am stating the opinion of every witness who appeared before the Navigation Commission at Newcastle. So much were the members .of the majority of that Commission impressed by the evidence received there, that they recommended that, in the framing of the Navigation Bill, the clause now before the Committee should be left out. They came to the conclusion that there was only one way to put an end to crimping, and that was to compel seamen to sign on at a shipping office, and at a shipping office only. We shall not put an end to the practice if we permit men to be taken on board a ship at the last moment in perhaps a drugged and drunken condition.
– Why not say that they shall not sign on at a public house.
– I should make no exceptions of that kind. There are persons engaged in this traffic of crimping who are neither hotelkeepers nor boarding-house keepers. Men are engaged in it who do not possess a house at all. They take deserters into the bush and keep them there until a favorable opportunity occurs to rush them into the port and place them on board a ship at the very last moment.
– That has occurred under the Ministerial control for which honorable senators have been contending all the morning.
- Senator Gray must be very innocent if he does not see that the argument about Ministerial control does not affect this matter. A superintendent should certainly be under Ministerial control, but what control can the Minister exercise upon a superintendent who goes on board a ship to transact this business ? Am I to be told that these officers will, in every case, be above taking a bribe? Suspicion was cast upon shipping officers in the port of Newcastle, and it was suggested that some of them were mixed up with the crimping traffic carried on there. We had direct charges of lawyers and doctors assisting in the traffic, and it was said that there was scarcely any man in official life in the port who was not to some extent connected with it. Why should we assume that nothing of that kind will take place in the future, when there is more than a suspicion that it is taking place at the present time-? I repeat that the only way to put an end to crimping is to see that seamen sign on only at a shipping office.
– I hope that no undue heat will be introduced into the consideration of an important matter of this kind. There is involved in this clause the more or less successful working of the law in regard to a very important branch. The provision is contained in -the Merchant Shipping Act, and it has been the law of, I think, nearly every State in the Commonwealth. While, of course, most provisions ih an Act of Parliament may be open to abuse, stilly on the whole, this provision, if honestly administered, works well. It offers excellent facilities to both master and men. It is a sort of emergency clause, to meet cases such as I propose to indicate. For instance, a ship, 0while bound to another place, may enter Port Philip Heads with a member of the crew invalided. It is contended that, instead of requiring the ship to come up to the port, and possibly to pay heavy fees, it would be only reasonable to allow the new man to be sent down to Queenscliff and to sign on there. As a matter of fact, there is no Customs officer at Queenscliff.
– Has not the master of that ship to come to town?
– He may, or may not, be able to do so.
– In the Melville Island case, he had to do so.
– That may have been so. It has been found to be a convenience to be able to sign on a man at Queenscliff. Let us next take the case of Queensland. Rockhampton lies about 40 miles back from Broadmount, where the mercantile marine office is situated. This clause will enable an officer at Broadmount, which is the port of Rockhampton, to perform the duty.
– And the man to be appointed will be the deputy shipping master.
– In clause 10 we have provided that a deputy superintendent may be appointed to perform those duties. Even if this clause were omitted, it would be possible under clause 10 practically to carry out the same practice. This is the working clause, and it has been recognised as a good and reasonable one. It is said that it has been abused. It is said, for instance, that men have been engaged in a tobacconist’s shop. I cannot pretend to know the circumstances under which any men were engaged in a tobacconist’s shop; but I know that if a responsible official did the work, no serious injury was done to either party. If any person is appointed to do this work, the onus is cast upon him to do exactly what the superintendent has to do. That is set Out in clause 39. After providing for an agreement to be entered into, it says -
Penalty : Five pounds in respect of each sea- man.
The agreement shall be -
If my honorable friends desire paragraph g to be strengthened, so as to avoid the serious contingencies which they have mentioned, it can be discussed when ft is reached. But the agreement has to be read over and explained to the seamen by the superintendent.
– We know what sort of reading it is.
– We might even go on to provide that the person should have to be satisfied that the agreement was thoroughly understood and willingly signed by the seamen. Some qualification of that kind might be inserted. It appears to me that the whole thing depends upon the character and competency of the person appointed.
– And also upon the fact that he cannot, if permitted to go “elsewhere,” always have the office records with him.
– The man is intrusted with a responsibility, and is liable to a penalty if he fails in his duty. What we have to do is to see that a trustworthy person is appointed. The Minister will be responsible for every appointment which he makes. If he appoints a worthless, or unfit, or dishonest, man, he will have to answer for his act. But the desire of the Minister will be to select a person who will act bond fide between the parties, and faithfully carry out the terms of the law. A fair and reasonable protection is assured in the responsibility of the Minister. But, recognising this to be the kernel of the whole thing, I would go further, and, if it is so desired, substitute “official” for “person.” That would meet every argument which has been adduced against the clause, because under clause5 - “ Official “ includes all persons in the service of the Commonwealth employed under this Act for any purpose or duty in relation to which the term is used.
There we have a guarantee that only a responsible public servant will be appointed. If the clause is strengthened in that way, it will be a complete guarantee of bona fides, and will not be open to any of the objections which have been taken. This is merely an emergency clause. In clause 42,. also, we have to provide for an emergency, if we intend to practically assist in the shipping of seamen. It reads as follows -
That clause deals with a different class of emergency - the case where a man has signed on, but has not turned up at the last moment. The Minister, I repeat, will take the responsibility of appointing the right person, and the public will have a guarantee that the duties will be performed by an officer of good character. The amendment which is urged by my honorable friends would, if made, simply emasculate the clause, but the amendment I have suggested would meet all their objections.
– Would it make any real alteration to substitute “ official “ for “ person ‘ ‘ in the clause ?
– Yes, it would.
– Would not that person really be an official, according to the definition clause?
– Not necessarily. An official is some person who is in the Commonwealth service.
– A man may be in the service of the Commonwealth for one day for a particular purpose.
– I do not propose to argue against a suggestion of that kind.
– If I understand the Minister’s proposal aright, it is to limit the discharge of this work to those persons who are in official positions of some kind.
– Yes, and that answers all the objections that have been taken to the clause. The provision I have suggested would furnish a guarantee that justice would be done between the parties by appointing to these positions only men who had been admitted to the service of the Commonwealth by reason of their competency and good character.
– The Minister, in stating his case, relied greatly upon clause 39, and told us what a shipping master has to do when he is signing on a. crew. He pointed out that an agreement has to be read over and explained by the superintendent to each seaman before he signs on. I wonder if the honorable senator has ever been in a shipping office when a crew was signing on ? I wonder if he would be able to understand two words of an agreement which was being gabbled ever by a shipping master? I have heard agreements read a number of times in different shipping offices, but knew practically nothing of what the shipping master was reading. He was merely complying with a formula, and no one was able to understand what he was talking about.
– Does not that apply in hundreds of other cases?
– Yes. The Minister has stated that if the discharge of this work is intrusted to an official, that will be a guarantee to the public that it will be carried out satisfactorily. Has that been a guarantee in Newcastle? Has it been a guarantee in. any port where crimping has been carriedon ?
– Let us endeavour to make the provisions relating to crimping as stringent as possible.
– The VicePresident of the Executive Council declared that this is an emergency clause. He then proceeded to quote another provision which is an emergency clause, and which practically destroyed all his previous arguments. The very clausewhich the honorable senator quoted gives the master of a vessel power to sign on men in cases of emergency, but provides that their agreement must be indorsed by the shipping superintendent at the next port of call. We have been urged to trust the officials. But we must recollect that it is possible for officials to make a considerable addition to their income by winking at crimping.Some honorable senators have expressed a desire to exclude seamen from signing articles in a public house. But what is to prevent them from being made drunk in an hotel and signed on next door?
– Is the honorable senator opposed to the exclusion of public houses?
– I want all this work to be done at the shipping office.
– Could not a seaman be made drunk at a public house and signed on at the shipping office?
– Not with the same facility. The evidence taken before the Navigation Commission shows that nearly all the crimping that has taken place in Australia has been rendered possible only by reason of the superintendent having power to sign men on in the masters cabins on board ship. If we allow seamen to be signed on outside the shipping office, we shall play into the hands of agents who gain their livelihood by crimping.
– We ought to abolish the shipping office.
– No. If all the work had to be done at that office we should always find a crowd of men congregated around it. The office of the superintendent would be open to the public, and as a result we should put an end to a system which everybody deplores. What can be urged against the transaction of Government work in a Government office? The seaman is required to pay his fees each time that he signs articles and obtains his discharge. So long as the work is being paid for, surely there is no reason why it should not be done at the proper place. How - would it have been possible for all the crimping which has taken place in Newcastle to ‘ have been carried on without the aid of Government officials?
– Does the honorable senator say that those officials have been corrupt ?
– If they had not had power to sign on seamen in the masters’ cabins it would have been impossible to carry on. one- tenth of the crimping that has occurred.
– The honorable senator is imputing dishonesty to the officials.
– If they had been compelled by law to transact their business in the shipping office crimping would have been rendered impossible. In this connexion I am reminded of what occurred in Queensland some time ago, when Commissioners were appointed for the purpose of dividing runs. What happened ? These officers were the guests of the very men whose runs they were called upon to divide, and in more than one case it was publicly stated that they had been the recipients of presents, with a view to inducing them to do whatever they could in. the interests of those who held the land. In the same way this clause makes it possible for the master of a vessel to visit a shipping superintendent, and say, “ I want to sign on a crew. They will be on board at 7 o’clock this evening.” He is not required to say whether that crew will be taken on board by a crimping agent. If the shipping master inquired, 1 Why do you not bring them here ‘ ‘ ? his reply would probably be, “I could not get them here before the office closed, and I wish to sail earl v in the morning. I will send a cab for you at any time you may choose to appoint, and I will also pay you for yOur overtime.” In such circumstances, I contend that the shipping superintendent is practically the guest of the master. Is it likely, then, that he will trouble himself about the seamen?
– That is a very serious charge to make.
– Has the honorable senator read the evidence taken at Newcastle by the Navigation Commission ? In, a synopsis of that evidence the statement is made that -
Crimping exists at Fremantle and Port Adelaide, and it is very bad at Newcastle. There are many desertions at Brisbane. The Superintendent’ certifies to desertion before the ships leave port.
We want to stop that sort of thing.
– We all want to stop it.
– Then why create conditions which render it possible for such a state of things to continue? I desire to see the light of day let in upon the whole business. This can best be accomplished by providing that the engaging and discharging of seamen shall take place at the shipping office. Some honorable senators have declared that they do not believe in such work being undertaken in a low public house. At the same time, they see no objection to its being done upon board ship. They say, “ Do not let it be done in. an hotel,” although it may be done next door. We want the whole business to be transacted in the light of day. What happens in the coasting trade? Men who want to be engaged go down and get a ship. The master says, “Be at the shipping office at n o’clock and we will sign you on.” There is no crimping in the coastal business. It is in connexion with the foreign trade that the evil takes place. No objection is raised by local ship-owners to the work being done at the shipping office. Page after page in the evidence taken by the Navigation Commission shows how great an evil crimping is. We want to insure that men shall not be taken in a drunken condition and induced to sign on to a ship.
– One might imagine from the statements that have been made that the Navigation Commission took only one class of evidence at Newcastle. I turn to the report and minutes of evidence, where I find that the President of the Chamber of Commerce, Mr. J. B. Brown, gave evidence. He was a very able witness, who was asked by the Commission to draft a clause to prevent crimping. I quote from his evidence^ -
By the Chairman. - Are you appearing to give evidence in your official capacity? - Yes. I am representing the Chamber of Commerce at Newcastle.
Have you read the provisions of the Bill? - Yes, I have gone through the Bill, and I desire to make some criticism on certain clauses which I would prefer to deal with seriatim. I quite approve of Clause n in Division 2 as it is beneficial to the ship owners and the seamen alike who are working on board the vessel. That is, so far as the crew is concerned when they intend going in the ship. For instance, if it were decided that they should sign on articles, say, at 2 p.m., when they go down to do so the chances are that they do not get back to the vessel that afternoon; the ship-owner loses the benefit of their work and the men probably, I do not say necessarily, get into bad company. . . .
By Senator Guthrie. - Have you been on board ship when the men have been signing on? - Yes.
There is the evidence of an expert witness, who says that it is by no means unusual’ to engage men on board ship.
– The honorable senator should read what the superintendent of police says.
– The Commission in their report did not recommend that the superintendent should only be allowed to sign on men at the shipping office. They recommended -
No person other than a superintendent shall supply or engage a seaman to be entered on board a ship.
They simply held that seamen should be engaged by a Government officer.
– And at the shipping office.
– No. There is no such provision in the Commission’s recommendation.
Question - That the word “or “ proposed to be left out (Senator Guthrie’s amendment) be left out - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
– - I move -
That after the word “ elsewhere,” line 4, the following words be inserted : - “ but not in hotelsand taverns.”
The reason for preventing seamen from signing on in public houses has been made plain.
– I have a prior amendment to move.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Senator LYNCH (Western Australia [3.28]. - I move -
That after the word “or,” line 3, the following words be inserted : - “ if there be no such Mercantile Marine Office.”
My amendment would leave it open for captains to engage crews at a convenient place where there was no marine office. That is a fair compromise.
– No office within what distance ?
– I should have no objection to inserting a fair distance. Without such a provision there is no doubt that men will be engaged in hotels and in the by-places of large cities. Senator Gray’s. amendment is not sufficient, because it would leave the road open to crimpers to resort to other places than hotels. They could carry on their unlawful traffic at fruit shops without interference. It would be impossible to enumerate all the places that would lend themselves to the tricks of the crimper. It is easy to imagine that there may be many ports in the Commonwealth where there will be no mercantile marine office established for some time, and’ it would not be unreasonable to permit a shipmaster in such ports to engage his crew where and when he pleases. But I remind the Committee that, if the clause is permitted to pass in its present form, the shipmaster, in engaging his crew, will be at liberty to ignore the shipping office every time. That, I am sure, is not the intention of honorable senators. We may discount some of the evidence of crimping: given before the Navigation Commission, or may, at least, regard some of it as highly coloured.
– Not a word of it.
– I am giving a little away to honorable senators on the other side. But no man can deny that crimping is carried on at Newcastle to such an extent as to call for an effective remedy.
– The honorable senator says that the shipmaster may ignore the shipping office every time. Let me remind him that this clause only permits the signing on to be done elsewhere than at the shipping office, but if a shipmaster desires a superintendent to transact the work elsewhere, when the shipping office is a proper and convenient place, the superintendent can refuse to do so.
– My objection is that under this clause a shipmaster might be permitted to sign on his crew at some place other than the shipping office.
– The superintendent would be under the control of the Minister, and the Minister under the control of Parliament, and, if wrong occurred under Ministerial responsibility, could we not deal with the Minister here?
– Decidedly. But if the honorable senator will read the clause, he will find that die Minister may permit -any matters required by this Act to be transacted in a mercantile marine office to be transacted elsewhere, and one of these matters is the signing of agreements by a ship’s crew. We might possibly ‘have Ministers who would be an improvement upon those at present holding office, though, judging by the last division, ‘ that does not appear to be the- opinion of honorable senators opposite. My point is that this clause leaves it open to the Minister to permit a shipmaster to have his crew signed on anywhere he pleases.
– Subject to his responsibility to Parliament.
– I am not disposed to give the Minister power to enable a crew to be signed on wherever a shipmaster pleases. The chief objection to the proposal made from this side is that it might “be injurious to the interests of ship-owners, since, whilst men were taken from a ship “to the shipping office to sign on, the owner would lose the benefit of their services. That is an argument which was submitted by Senator Macfarlane. But how would the ship-owner be injured when he would not have to pay the men for the time they were away ? If the honorable senator employed a man to work for him at 8s. a day, and the man did not turn up, the honorable senator would not have to pay him and would be at no loss.
– Does the honorable senator say that the ship-owner would be at no loss if a dozen men belonging to a ship’s crew did not turn up to their work ?
– The ship-owner would be involved in no loss by the. men being required to attend for an hour at a shipping office to sign on. This much, at least, can be conceded, that the seamen will be willing to go to the shipping office for this purpose in their own time.
– As in the majority of cases they do now.
– As they do now. If honorable senators are prepared to put an end to the infamous practice of crimping carried on -by the harpies in Newcastle and in other important ports of the Commonwealth, they will support my amendment I ask merely that the shipmaster shall get his crew to sign on at a mercantile marine office wherever such an office is established, and where there is no such office, I leave’ him free to sign on his crew wherever he pleases.
– The amendment opens up, perhaps, a bigger discussion than we have yet had on the clause. A number of honorable senators wish to get away to Tasmania, and, as the discussion is likely to extend beyond the time when they must leave, I suggest that the’ Minister might consent to report progress at this stage.
– I have no objection.
Senate adjourned at 3.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 October 1908, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1908/19081009_senate_3_47/>.