3rd Parliament · 4th Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– In a speech which Senator Needham made at the last meeting of the Senate, he alluded to a newspaper report blaming the Opposition party for delaying the business of the country, and when I interjected “ That is true,” he said “ It is false.” I believe that his reference was to the report in the newspaper and not to my remark. Apparently he was misunderstood, and I am sure that it is only fair to him that I should make this explanation.
– I desire to announce for the convenience of honorable senators the Ministers to whom questions should be. addressed - an omission for’ which I apologize. My honorable friend and colleague. Sir Robert Best, will answer questions relative to the Department of Trade and Customs, the Department of the- Treasury, the Department of External Affairs, and the Department of the Attorney-General, whilst I shall be glad if honorable senators ‘ will address to me questions relative to the Prime. Minister, the Department of Defence, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, and the Department of Home Affairs.
– I beg to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs, without notice, whether the Government can make arrangements for the Commonwealth trawler to visit South Australia with a view to testing the fishing grounds on its coast?
– In due time, of course, such arrangements will be made, but if my honorable friend will give notice of the question I may be able to give him more definite information. At the present time the trawler is on the coast of Tasmania, and I canhardly say now when, according to- its itinerary, it is likely to go to South Australia, but that State will be visited.
-The trawler will go to all the States?
– I . desire to ask the Minister who represents the Minister of Defence, without notice, if . we can correctly interpret a speech made by his honorabie colleague at Randwick, on the 10th July, as indicating that it is not the policy of the Government to bring about compul- soryadult training for at least three or four years.
– My honorable colleague has since informed the press and those who took exception to the report that he made no such statement.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Lands Acquisition Act 1906. - Port Kembla, New South Wales : Defence Purposes. - Notification of the Acquisition of Land.
Papua. - Native Regulation Ordinance of 1909.
Public Service Act 1902. - Documents in connexion with the promotion of Mr. Edwin Broad to the position of Manager, Telegraph Branch, 2nd Class, Clerical Division, Postmaster-General’s Department, Adelaide.
Report of the Committee appointed to inquire into the question of the supply of Uniform Clothing for the Commonwealth Services and the establishment of a Government Clothing Factory.
Report of Committee on the proposed scheme of the Defence Department for the ownership of horses, &c, for military purposes.
Precis of Proceedings in connexion with the tenders for Machinery for Small Arms Factory.
Quarantine Act 1908. - Provisional Regulations. - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 73.
Post and Telegraph Act 1901. - Amendment of General, Parcels Post, and Postal Notes Regulations. - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 87.
– I desire to ask the
Vice-President of the Executive Council, without notice, whether he has laid upon the table the whole or only a portion of the correspondence on the subject of tenders for the erection of a small arms factory ?
– I am unable to answer the question without a perusal of the papers. As they have been- tabled, my honorable friend will be able to examine them, and if he will repeat the question to-morrow I may be able to give a more definite answer.
Withdrawal of Support
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– My. honorable friend’s thirst for knowledge is most commendable.I have ascertained that Messrs. David Syme and Co. are the proprietors of the Age, and that their address is Collins-street. I suggest to my honorable friend that probably a polite note would bring forth the desired information.
– Mr. Presiden t, do you think that the question has been properly answered? Is it within the province of a Minister, when he is answering a question, first to comment upon it, and then to give a reply ?
– I cannot judge as to whether or not a question has been fully answered. Certainly a question should be answered directly, or the Minister should intimate that he declines to answer it.
– Arising out of the reply, sir, I desire to ask a question. The Minister has informed me that the address of the Age is Collins-street, Melbourne. Do I understand-
– Order ! The honorable senator cannot make a speech. If he wishes to ask a question arising out of the Minister’s answer, he will be in order in doing so. If he wishes to ask a fresh question, it must be put upon the businesspaper.
– The Age is alleged to be the organ of the Commonwealth Liberal Party.
– That is an allegation, not a question.
-I understood that this organ represented the views of the Government.
– If the honorable senator makes a statement ot that kind, the Minister may consider it necessan to reply by pointing out that that newspaper is or is not representative of the views of the Government, and that would lead to argument.
– It seems that one cannot get an) thing out of this Government.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answer to both questions is “ No.”
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– My honorable friend does not attempt to disguise that he had an offensive object in view in asking this question-
– Order ! It is not in order for the honorable senator to make such a statement. He can, if he chooses, decline to answer Senator de Largie’s question.
– I decline to answer the question in the circumstances stated, but I wished to make an explanation.
– I must ask the Minister to withdraw the expression which he used.
– Certainly, if any objection is taken to it. But I had no desire to be personally offensive. What I said was by way of explanation only.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Does the Government regard the explanation of the Associated Banks, in regard to the proposed charge on postal notes, as satisfactory?
– The PostmasterGeneral is not at present in a position to express any definite opinion as to the explanation of the associated banks.
Victorian Brandy and Whisky
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
To what extent Victorian distillers have taken advantage of the provisions of the Excise Act to produce both brandy and whisky of the highest grade, and upon how many gallons of
brandy (2) whisky, the Excise authorities have levied the lowest duty under the schedule to the Excise Act?
-The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
No separate record is kept of the quantity of Victorian brandy and whisky upon which Excise duty is paid, but the attached returns (2) show : -
The respective quantities of brandy and whisky complying with items1 and 3 of the “ Excise Tariff 1906,” upon which Excise duty has been paid in Victoria, the bulk of which is, no doubt, Victorian production ; and
the quantities of such brandy and whisky produced in Victoria since the operation of the Excise Act 1906. (a)
Commonwealth of Australia.
Return showing the number of proof gallons of brandy and whisky on which Excise duty was paid in Victoria at the lower rate of 10s. per proof gallon (vide items 1 and 3, Schedule to the Excise Tariff 1906 - Spirits).
Commonwealth of Australia
Return showing the production under the Excise
Tariff 1906 (Spirits) of Brandy and Whisky respectively of the highest grade, in the State of Victoria.
Senator GIVENS called the attention of the Vice-President of the Executive Council to a statement made by Mr. Membrey in the Victorian . Legislative Assembly, as reported in the Age of the 1st inst., that it was the intention of the Victorian Government to proceed with the policy of “settling poor people on the poor lands of the State,” and asked the Minister, upon notice -
– This Government has no official knowledge as to what the policy of the Government of Victoria is ; and., even if it had, it would not feel justified in expressing any criticism upon’ a matter within the jurisdiction of the State.
asked the Vice-
President of the Executive Council, upon notice -
Whether the Government has negotiated, or intends to negotiate, with the proprietors of the London Daily Chronicle for advertising or other space in that journal on behalf of the Commonwealth ?
– Proposals have been submitted by the Daily Chronicle with reference to advertising in that paper. These are awaiting consideration.
– Arising out of the Minister’s answer, I desire to inquire whether the Senate will have an opportunity of considering the terms for advertising, and the conditions generally in connexion with the contract, before they are finally approved.
– Will my honorable friend kindly give notice of that question ?
Newspaper Trust : Shipping Combine : Amending Bill
Senator PEARCE drew the attention of the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral in the Senate to the following paragraph appearing in a circular headed Joseph Palmer and Sons’. Monthly Share List : -
In Australia there is scarcely a business or occupation of any kind that is not now regulated by an agreement or understanding as to prices and conditions, and the results to the public are altogether satisfactory- and beneficial. Space will allow here but a single illustration of this, and we choose one that may, at the same time, help to show the absurdity of the law, namely, the Newspaper Trust. It is well known that there is among the newspaper proprietors of Australia an agreement that all cable messages from Europe shall be obtained through one channel only, and which in restraint of trade forbids any paper to receive and publish any independent cables. This it is that explains why the cables published daily in all the different papers are identical. As a result of this arrangement, instead of cable news appearing in a small number of larger papers only, every newspaper throughout, the Commonwealth, even in the remotest backblocks, is enabled to supply its readers daily with the latest intelligence from all parts of the world. But however beneficial this may be to the public, it is, under the Australian Industries Preservation Act (section 7), an offence, for which the penalty is £500. However, it is quite certain that no Government will dare to put the law in operation against so powerful an organization as the press. and asked the Minister, upon notice -
The statements in the paragraph seem to be inconsistent. If the agreements are beneficial to the public as alleged, the persons entering into them cannot well be deemed to have thereby committed offences within the meaning of the provisions of an enactment directed only at agreements to restrain, or monopolies of, or attempts to monopolize, trade and-commerce “to the detriment of the public.”
The paragraph does not suggest that the firm is in possession of any evidence of an offence against the Act in question, nor allege facts which, if proved, would justify a prosecution^ but if there are any facts available from any source calling for inquiry, they will be given full consideration.
– I draw attention to question No. 2, in which I state that the circular is signed by Joseph Palmer and Sons, and particulars are given. I wish to ask whether the Government will afford this firm an opportunity to give evidence? The Minister has not replied to that question .
– I have given the reply supplied by the AttorneyGeneral, who considers that there is no case on the information stated.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
COASTAL, SHIPPING TRADE.
Affiliation of Steam-ship Owners and Coal Merchants.
An important development in connexion with the coastal shipping trade was announced to-day, when, at a conference held between the New South Wales Coastal Steam-ship Owners’ Association and the Sydney coal merchants, it was arranged that, with a view to consolidating, the two bodies should affiliate on all matters of mutual interest. The shipping companies include all those engaged in the coastal trade, and the coal interests concerned are the Howard Smith Co., B. Byrnes, Warburton and Sons, Jones Bros., and others.
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions is as follows : -
The only assurance that can be given is that if any contravention of Commonwealth law is brought under notice, such action as the lawofficers advise will be taken.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, uponnotice -
If it is the intention of the Government at an, early stage of the present session to introduce a Bill to amend the Australian Industries Preservation Act in such a way as to cover the defects disclosed by the recent decision of the High Court?
– Theanswer to the honorable senator’s question, is as follows: -
The decision of the High Court disclosed nodefect in the Act, but only an excess of jurisdiction as regards two clauses - which aredirected against interference by corporationswith purely local trade.
The Government has under consideration the question of securing, by amendment of the Constitution or otherwise, power to legislate against combinations in restraint of trade within a State..
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council,upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, uponnotice -
– The answer to both questions is “ Yes,” and, as my honorable friend is aware, the papers have already been laid on the table.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
Will the Government expedite the settlement of details connected with the Capital site question, so as to permit of the Parliament and Government being housed in Federal territory at as early a date as possible?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is “Yes.”
– Arising out of the
Answer to the question, I should like to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council if he can indicate the stage at which the negotiations have arrived, that we may have some idea as to when we can expect a settlement of the question?
– If the honorable senator gives notice of his question for tomorrow, I shall possibly be able to obtain the information he seeks.
Relative to the press-announced desire of the Postal Department to extend the public telephone system -
Is it correct that some order, instruction, rule, or practice of the Department prevents the establishment of such facilities in hotels?
Is the Department aware that the absence of such facilities is productive of great inconvenience to guests residing in large and reputable hotels in the more populous centres of the Commonwealth ?
Since when has such order, instruction, rule, or practice (if any) been in existence; what is its form or nature; and upon what is it based ?
Will the Department cancel any such order, instruction, or rule, or abolish any such practice?
– The .answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
This circular was based upon the principle that public telephones which are supplied at the sole expense of the Department should not be established in hotels.
Aerial Navigation - Colonel Foxton’s Instructions
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
If the instructions given by the Government to the Honorary Minister who has proceeded to England to join in the Defence Conference include a reference to the question of /Urial Navigation, as affecting the question of Defence ?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
The possibilities of serial navigation in relation to the defence of Australia were discussed by the Cabinet with Colonel Foxton.
– Arising out of the answer to that question, I wish to ask whether Colonel Foxton received any instructions from the Cabinet to make further investigations when in London in regard, to the possibilities of serial navigation; and whether, if the Government are satisfied as to the wisdom of that course,, we are to understand that they will, in the interests of Australia, introduce such a system for its defence?
– The Prime Minister has already indicated, in reply to a similar question in another place, that it is not the practice or the custom of the Cabinet to give instructions to one of its members. As to the rest of the honorable senator’s question, I ask him to be good enough to give notice of it.
– Arising out of the reply to Senator Findley, I wish to ask if the Senate is to understand that Colonel Foxton has gone to England as
Ihe representative of the Government, without having received any instructions from the Government as to what his attitude or conduct there is to be?
– The honorable senator will see that his question is alreadydealt with in a question which appears later’ in the business-paper, and it is irregular to anticipate a question.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Do the Government propose to inform Parliament as to the instructions issued to Colonel Foxton, M.P., as delegate to the Imperial Naval and Military Conference, and if so, when?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
As the honorable senator is doubtless aware, a Government does not issue “ instructions “ to one of its own members.
Colonel Foxton is proceeding to London as a member of the Cabinet to attend a confidential, consultative conference convened by the Prime Minister of Great Britain. He is acquainted with the views of his colleagues upon the questions expected to be discussed, and will communicate with them, by cable, during the sittings of the conference should the necessity arise. The proposals of the Government in this regard will be submitted to Parliament.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice-
Will he lay upon the Library table the correspondence which has passed between Mr. John Baker, of Port Pirie, South Australia, and the Defence Department, in reference to the claim for compensation on account of the death of his son, Private George Edward Baker, which occurred while on duty at the Rifle Ranges at Port Pirie on the 27th May, 1908?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is “Yes.”
Relative to a question asked on 9th December, 1908, regarding oil-fuel deposits in Australia and other parts of the Empire -
Has the Government, since the date named, taken any action?
If so, what is the present position of the matter ?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : - <>
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the inquiries he is said to be making in respect to a number of anomalies in the Tariff, he will introduce a Bill for the rectification of the anomalies during the present session, to safeguard the interests of the producers and manufacturers of the Commonwealth ; and, if the Bill is to be introduced, will it be in the direction of higher duties?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
Consideration is being given to the adjustment of anomalies in the Tariff, and any Bill on the subject would, as a matter of course, safeguard the interests of the producers and manufacturers of the Commonwealth.
I cannot fix a date for introducing such a Bill, as the Government will be guided by any circumstances which might make a measure of the kind urgent, and by the state of public business.
Each anomaly will be dealt with according to its character ; the general policy of the existing Tariff being maintained.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
In view of the necessity for the removal of all doubt as to the adequacy and purity of the water supply in the proposed Federal Capital, and the fact’ that the experts who supplied the report are the servants of the State Government of New South Wales, will the Government obtain an independent report by experts who are not in the employ of the Government of New South Wales?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
The adequacy and purity of the water supply for domestic and civic purposes at the proposed Federal Capital at Canberra are sufficient for a population up to 250,000.
The officers who have reported are competent and trustworthy, and there is no warrant for impeaching their opinion. Two of the four members of the Board - whose report was unanimous - are in the service of the Commonwealth, and not of the State.
– Arising out of that answer, I should like to know whether the reference is merely to a domestic supply, or to a supply sufficient also for power and sanitation purposes ?
– The figures I have given clearly -apply to domestic and civic purposes.
asked the Vice-
President of the Executive Council, upon notice -
Will he place on thetable of the Library the files relating to the case of P. J. Leyden, a Postal employe in Western Australia?
– The papers in question will be laid on the table of the Library as desired.
asked the VicePr.esident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
Will he inform the Senate as to what further progress, if any, has been made in connexion with the installation of a wireless telegraph station at Fremantle, Western Australia, and other places on the Australian coast?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
No further progresshas been made. The matter will be considered in connexion with the Estimates fbr the coming financial year.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of. Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : - .
The PRESIDENT reported the receipt of messages from the House of Representatives, acquainting the Senate that, in compliance with its request, it had resumed the consideration! of the following Bills: -
Motion (by Senator Sir Robert Best) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Australian Industries Preservation Acts 1906-1907.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
[3.7]. - I desire to move now that the Bill be printed and read a second time at a later hour to-day.
SenatorDE LARGIE (Western Australia) [3.8]. - I object to this unnecessary haste. I would point out that the Bill has not yet been printed, and whilst I am sure that nobody desires to delay its passing, it should, at least, be in print and in the hands of honorable senators before we are asked to proceed further with it.
– I would point out to the Minister of Trade and Customs that before his motion can be moved it will be necessary to suspend the Standing Orders.
Senator Sir ROBERT BEST (Victoria - Minister of Trade and Customs) [3.9]. - I thought that a reasonable understanding had been arrived at in regard to this matter. I believe it was Senator de Largie who on Wednesday last asked my honorable colleague what would be the order of business to-day, and it was then intimated that, providing a certain motion had been disposed of elsewhere, we proposed to move the second reading of certain Bills here, and that we should ask for a suspension of the Standing Orders to enable that course to be adopted. The only object we have in view is, of course, the saving of time.
– The Government do not intend to do more thanmove the second reading’of certain Bills to-day?
– Certainly not. We merely propose to move the second reading of this Bill and of two other measures. The adjourned debate upon those motions will be proceeded with later.
– I am quite agreeable to that course being followed.
– Then I move -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the second reading of the Australian Industries Preservation Bill being moved this day.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Sir Robert Best) proposed -
That the second reading of the Bill be an order of the day for a later hour this day.
– May I suggest to the Minister that in the meantime the Bill should be circulated? It has always been the practice with every Government when a Bill hasbeen read a first time here, to thereupon circulate it.
– Ordinarily a Bill is read a first time on one day, and circulated on the following day.
– What I have suggested to the Minister has usually been done here.
– I want to point out the most extraordinary position in which we stand. It appears that this Bill, the second reading of which is to be taken at a later hour of the day, has not yet been printed. During the past week or two we heard a great deal of complaint from the Government about the conduct of the Labour party in obstructing business, and now we find that the Government, who have been so exceedingly anxious to get on with their work, are not prepared with a single Bill. They have not, in print, the first Bill on their programme. That is an exceedingly forcible comment on the attitude of the Ministry during the past few weeks, and I understand that the same thing occurred in another place. Apparently the sudden collapse of the Opposition has placed the Government in an exceedingly difficult position. Ministers have no business ready, though they were anxious to proceed with work.
– Order ! The only question before the Senate is that the second reading of the Bill stand an order of the day for a later hour, and the debate must be, confined to reasons for or against the motion. I remind the honorable senator that the Senate has already suspended the Standing Orders to enable that course to be taken.
– I do not know, sir, whether I was in order or not, but I was endeavouring to point out that the Bill has not yet been printed. Has an order been given by the Senate to print it ? . I did not hear any motion to that effect made.’
– Yes, on the first reading.
– The form of the motion is usually that the Bill be printed, -and the second reading stand an order of the day for a later hour.
– I did not hear any motion made to print the Bill. But in any case, I think I am quite in order iri pointing out the peculiar position in which the Government have, placed tine Senate. I, as a member of the Senate, object to the second reading of any Bill being taken unless I hold in my hand a copy of it, so as to be able to follow the explanation given by the Minister. Are we to have a copy of this Bill before its second reading is moved? Will some member of tha Government give an answer “to my question ?
– Will the honorable senator repeat the question, as I did not hear him ?
– The Minister is not listening.
– I am listening as attentively as I can.
– Well, the honorable senator must be horribly deaf, because I am not in the habit of speaking in a subdued tone as he does. I asked, pertinently, whether the Senate is likely to be put in possession of the printed Bill before its second reading is moved. The Minister can reply bv interjection.
– The Senate has only just given a direction to have the Bill printed.
– Yes; that -order has just been passed.
– On that point I should like to examine the records of the Senate. I certainly did not hear any proposal about printing the Bill.
– The’ Senate has -already determined to suspend so much of “its Standing Orders as would enable the Bill to be proceeded with this day, and therefore the Minister is entitled to go on with the Bill without bringing forward a printed copy of it to-day. Of course, it is for the Senate to determine whether or not it will agree to that course being taken.
– My brothers in Opposition now realize the peculiar position in which they find themselves. Some of them objected strongly to those who were opposed to the suspension of the Standing Orders.
– We naturally thought that the Government .would follow the* usual course.
– I hope that my honorable friends now realize what they have agreed to.
– They have agreed to sacrifice the rights of senators.
– Exactly. They have agreed to take the second reading of a Bill which they have not seen, which is not in print, which, so far as we know, will not be in print when the second reading is moved and taken, and the pro visions of which they will not be in a position to intelligently follow when the Minister is explaining them. That is a position unparalleled in the history of parliamentary government. I do not think that it would be tolerated in any legislative cham-ber under heaven except’ the Commonwealth Senate. I do not think that any Government would be so stupid or so unmindful of what is due to honorable senators as to bring in its measures in such a slipshod fashion. I can characterize it by no other term. It is unworthy of any Government. Any self-respecting Senate would reject a proposal of that character with scorn and indignation.
– I rise to order. The honorable senator has said that no selfrespecting Senate would do what the Senate has just done. That, I submit, is a most severe reflection upon the Chamber.
– Of course it is a clear rule that an honorable senator cannot reflect upon any vote of the Senate except on a- motion for the rescission of the vote. He has to accept the decision which has been arrived at. I understood that Senator Stewart was desiring not so much to comment upon the decision of the Senate as to object to a time for the second reading of the Bill being fixed until it had been printed. It will not be in order to reflect upon or to canvass the decision of the Senate, but of course I cannot prevent the honorable senator from alluding to it.
– I have no desire to reflect upon the action of the Senate, but I would point out that honorable senators have jettisoned every tradition of par- 0liamentary government.
– Order ! The honorable senator is now commenting upon a decision of the Senate. That is not permissible. The honorable senator will be in order in alluding to the matter, but not in reflecting upon what has been Jone, or in discussing the decision.
– I may be. allowed to point out that honorable senators have themselves done something that is without precedent, as far as I know.
– Order ! The honorable senator must see that he is now casting a reflection upon a decision of the Senate. He is a member of the Senate which has arrived at a decision, and it is always assumed that all honorable senators will respect a determination of the whole body. Of course, if the honorable senator were moving to rescind the resolution arrived at, he could reflect upon that resolution in order to strengthen his argument. But he cannot debate that matter now.
– I merely wish to point out that the Senate has agreed to a resolution which permits the second reading of a Bill to be taken to-day, although the Bill is not yet in print.
– That position is due, not to the suspension of the Standing Orders, but to the fact that the Government have not taken the precaution to have the Bill printed.
– The Bill may not be in print when the second reading is proceeded with. 1 do not think that I shall be out of order in saying that such a course of conduct, although it may be perfectly right, and may be justifiable from some points of view, is not on all-fours with usual parliamentary procedure. T should like to ask the Minister whether the Senate is likely to be in possession of copies of the measure before the second reading is taken ?
– Of course that will be so. We do not ask that any decision on the second reading should be arrived at to-day, but only that the Minister should be permitted to n-.ake his explanation on the motion for the second reading. Then the debate can be adjourned.
– I quite understand that. I know that the Government purpose is that the Minister introducing the measure shall rise in his place, move its second’ reading, and give an explanation of its provisions. But the usual course, when the second reading of a Bill is moved, is to furnish honorable senators with copies, so that they may be made familiar with its scope and its leading provisions. I cannot speak for honorable senators opposite. I have no conception, what their capacities are. But I am modest enough to admit that I am not sufficiently intelligent to follow the Minister in his expo sition of a Bill which I have not seen, unless I have a copy of it before me. I desire to be placed in a position to do my duty to the people who sent me here in the most effective fashion ; and I shall be prevented from doing that in the present case in consequence of the procedure adopted by the Government. I shall certainly object to the second reading being taken until a printed copy of the Bill is placed in. my hands, and I can come to an intelligent decision with regard to it.
.- I object most decidedly to the second reading of this Bill being taken to-day. I fail to see what reason there is for this kind of undue haste. There is plenty of time for us to devote full and proper discussion to all the Bills which the Government have announced their intention to bring before the Senate. If the business which we have to do cannot be transacted by the Senate sitting three days a week, I am prepared to sit four days. There is no good reason why we should sit only on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. I am prepared, if necessary, to sit on Mondays and Tuesdays, and even on Saturdays. There is plenty of time for the Senate to devote itself to the work which it has to do in a proper manner, and without undue, and, I might say, almost indecent haste.
– How did the honorable senator vote just now?
– I voted as I always do, in favour of the course I considered right.
– To stop business.
– I ask the honorable senator not to interject.
– I could make an effective reply to the honorable senator if I did not desire not to be side-tracked.
– I ask the honorable senator not to take notice of interjections.
– That is all very well, Mr. President; but Senator Pulsford’s interjection has gone into Hansard, and am I not to be allowed the right of reply? He has accused me of desiring to. block business. As a matter of fact, I am ‘ prepared to facilitate business by sitting; every day in the week if necessary.
– Not on Sundays.
– If it were a work of necessity, I would not even object to sitting on Sundays. But what I rose to’ point out is that constitutional practice has proved conclusively that such safeguards against undue haste as are provided by our Standing Orders are necessary. That is the reason why they have been embodied in Our Standing Orders, and why they are ‘included in the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, from which ours are derived. Those Standing Orders should not be suspended except in case of extreme urgency. There can be no extreme urgency in this ease.
– The honorable senator is now discussing whether the Standing Orders should be suspended or not. The Senate has decided that, they shall be suspended.
– I am not discussing whether the Standing Orders should be suspended or not; I am discussing whether we should proceed with the second reading of this Bill to-day. That is the question before the Chair, and I am entitled to discuss it. No urgency has been shown for this course. It is probable that after this Bill and a few other measures have been disposed of, the Senate will be asked to adjourn for a week or two while the Government get other measures ready. There is no reason for suspending the safeguard against undue haste and against Bills being passed without proper discussion. I am quite prepared to facilitate the transaction of necessary business. Every measure which can be shown to be of advantage to the country I am prepared to assist to the best of my power in passing. But there is no reason why we should take the second reading of this Bill to-day.
– No one suggests such a thing.
– But that is the matter that we are now discussing. Is Senator Pulsford so stupid as not to know what the terms of the motion are?
– That is not a proper remark to make concerning another honorable senator.
– I do not know whether any bargain has been made amongst honorable senators opposite, but I know what the motion is. I am opposed to the second reading being taken until the Bill is in print. It may be a measure of very great or of trivial importance. I do not know. I cannot know until I have seen a copy. The Government should not ask the Senate to proceed with the second reading until we have the Bill in print, and know what we are asked to discuss. In these circumstances, I shall vote against the motion. We cannot expect good legislation to be produced in such a fashion.
– We must be either extremely friendly towards the Government, or comparatively blind, if Ministers are to get themselves out of the difficulty into which they have put themselves. We have suspended the Standing Orders, in order that the present motion may be made. The reason for suspending the Standing Orders was that the business to be transacted was a matter of urgent necessity. The position in which we find ourselves, owing to the statement of the Government, is, therefore, that it is a matter of urgent necessity that the second reading of this Bill should be taken without any senator seeing a copy of it. I supported the Government in suspending the Standing Orders, although, as both representatives of the Government know, when they sat in opposition there was nothing to which they objected so consistently as suspensions of the Standing Orders. Yet they commence, in the present case, by submitting such a motion themselves. I must say that I shall regret it if the Government, having secured the suspension of the Standing Orders, ask members of the Senate to deal with a motion for the second reading of the Bill without enabling every one of us to have a copy of it. It is an insult, either to the Minister himself who moves the second reading, or to the Senate which listens to him, to adopt such a course. Either the Minister who moves the second reading of the Bill assumes that his remarks are of so little importance that it does not matter whether honorable senators have copies of the measure or not; or it is considered that the opinions of honorable senators about it are so unimportant that the Minister does not care whether or no’t they understand what he says about it. I should like the Government to get out of the position in which they have placed themselves, but I . do not see how they are to do it. May I ask Ministers whether it is not possible to obtain copies of this Bill by a later hour to-day ? . For myself, I can see no objection to the second reading being proceeded with if we have copies.
– The order has already gone over to the printing office.
– Cannot the Minister give the Senate the assurance that he will not take the second reading until such time as he is able to furnish every member of the Senate with a copy of the Bill ? If he cannot do that, it will be seen that a very undesirable practice is being adopted in asking the Senate to listen to a motion for the second reading of a Bill which they have had no opportunity of reading for themselves. We ought not to initiate a practice of this kind. It ought not to be done even once. I ask Ministers whether they have not another Bill, which is in print, and with which they can proceed? I gladly assisted them in the matter of the suspension of the Standing Orders, but I must confess that I do not like to proceed with the second reading of a Bill without seeing a copy of it. I am afraid that I shall have to vote against the present motion, although I desire to help the Government. The course proposed is an insult to us, and the Senate ought to object strongly to it.
– The Government cannot say that the Opposition were not prepared to assist them to proceed with business. I agree with Senator Clemons that Ministers should have the Bill before the Senate, or postponeits consideration until it has been circulated, and in the meantime go on with other business that they have ready. If they cannot do that, I think . we should amend the motion by adding the words, “when the Bill has been printed and placed in the hands of honorable senators.” We should have the Bill before us in less than half an hour if the Government are in earnest in their professed desire to go on with business. Last week we were given an intimation that Ministers would ask for the suspension of the Standing Orders to enable them to make their second-reading speeches on the measures they intended to introduce. No one objected at the time, because every member of the Senate who has seriously considered parliamentary procedure had it in mind that the Bills wouid be printed, and in the hands of honorable senators. I move -
That after the word “ day “ the words “ after the Bill has been printed and placed in the hands of honorable senators “ be added.
– On a point of order, I . ask whether it is not necessary to include in the motion a direction that the Bill be printed and read a second time at a later hour of the day.
– That is not a point of order. The words proposed to be added merely qualify the motion.
– Five minutes after I have given the first vote I have cast in favour of the Government, I am obliged to rise and say that I am sorry I did so. I rose before to object to what I regarded as the unnecessary haste of the Government, but I was informed by Senator McGregor that the motion submitted was of a formal character, and that as soon as it was carried the Bill would be circulated. In the circumstances, I naturally resumed my seat, and voted with the Government, in the belief that the Bill was in print, and would be in the possession of honorable senators before any further steps were taken ia connexion with it. If I had understood that the Bill was not in print I would not have voted as I did. In the circumstances the amendment moved by Senator McGregor proposes the only reasonable way out of the difficulty. I hope that the Government will recognise the dilemma, in which they are placed, and accept the amendment.
– It is quite evident that the Government have got into a very great difficulty. One might readily sympathize with them for having been caught napping at so early a date. They have had control of the, affairs of the Commonwealth now for a month or five weeks, and have not yet had time to prepare their business for submission to Parliament. I decidedly object to the procedure suggested by Ministers.. I feel that the motion before the Senate, even if amended as Senator McGregor has’ proposed, would not entirely satisfy honorable senators. It appears that we are to he asked to listen to a second-reading speech by the Minister, without any knowledge of the text on which it is to be based,and that the Bill is then to be circulated, and we are to proceed at once with our criticism of it without knowing anything of what it contains.
– That is the meaning of the motion before the Senate.
– The motion is merely that the second reading of the Bill stand an order of the day for a later hour. Honorable senators must be aware that when a time is fixed for the second reading of a Bill, it does not follow that a vote is then to be taken upon it, or even that it is to be discussed. Honorable senators have, often known Ministers to move the second reading of a Bill and immediately consent to an adjournment of the debate.
– There is nothing to prevent them, if they have a majority, from forcing the measure right through.
– Yes, I made a statement on the matter.
– We have heard so many varying statements since we met this session that we may be excused if we have become confused by them. Some of the statements made have not been of the most reliable character, and I am not disposed to accept another off-hand. If the Government intended to proceed with the Bill, there would be nothing to prevent them from doing so if the motion before the Senate were carried. Of course, the unfairness of such a course would be so apparent as to appeal to any but a party majority. It is probable that nothing would appe?.r to be unfair to the Government majority at this moment.
– Does the honorable senator speak feelingly?
– I speak with knowledge of some things which have occurred during the last few weeks. Judging by its subject matter, this should be a very important Bill. The Minister of Trade and Customs must admit that he is placing honorable senators in a position which they should not be asked to occupy, in proposing that he should make a second-reading speech upon the Bill, while they must remain in blissful ignorance of whether he is keeping within even measurable distance of its text. As I do not intend to occupy any such position, I shall vote against the motion.
Senator Sir ROBERT BEST (Victoria - Minister of Trade and Customs) [3.54]. - I am very sorry that the action of the Government, which had for its sole object the expediting of public business, should have been so misunderstood.
– Bunkum !
– The honorable senator should really apologize for saying that.
– My honorable friends may interject unworthily as they have done, but let me point out the facts. Honorable senators are aware that, in accordance with the practice of the Senate, the
Government could not go on with Government business while a certain motion was pending elsewhere. Accordingly, on Wednesday last, we intimated that as there was a prospect that the motion of want of confidence moved in another place would be disposed of on Friday, we were desirous that we should meet to-day not merely to do formal business, but to get on with as much public business as we possibly could. With a view to expediting public business, we intimated at the same time that we should ask that not only the formal motions for the first reading of certain measures should be taken, but also that Ministers in charge of them should be permitted to move the second reading, and give an exposition of them. Then, as soon as the Minister had sat clown it would have been the duty of a member of the Opposition, in accordance with the usual practice, to move the adjournment of the debate.
– Why did not the Minister make his arrangements accordingly?
– My honorable friend has had some experience of these matters, and must know what is the ordinary practice in circumstances of a similar character. If, for the sake of expedition, we had not made the suggestion which we did, it would have been the duty of my honorable colleague and myself to have submitted the ordinary motions that leave be given to introduce certain Bills for certain purposes. These formal motions having been disposed of, we should have had to adjourn until tomorrow.
– The Minister knows that that question is not at issue.
SenatorSir ROBERT BEST. -I am merely stating what was the object and desire of the Government. Now we are met with the objection that honorable senators have not copies of the Bills before them, and are not, therefore, in a position ‘ follow the second reading speeches of Ministers. There are two answers to that contention. The first is that the course which we desire to follow is not an unusual course under like circumstances. In the House of Commons, times out of number, the explanation of. Bills is made upon the motion for their first reading, and when there isnot a line of their text before honorable members. Then the Bill is circulated, and’ the second reading is proceeded with in the ordinary way. We are simply following the principle involved in that practice on the present occasion. I also point put to Senator Pearce that the Bill could not have been circulated until leave had been given to introduce it.
– But it could have been in print.
– It is in print.
– Then why has it not been circulated?
– It could not be circulated until the motion for its printing had been carried. Copies of it cannot be struck off in five minutes. I repeat that the Bill is in print, and that all the Government desire is to be allowed to explain its provisions. It is a short measure, so that honorable senators could not possibly be mistaken as to its terms. It contains but nine small clauses, only two of which are important. I should have taken the trouble to read each clause, so that honorable senators could not possibly be under any misapprehension regarding its provisions.
– Why has the old practice of the Senate been abandoned?
– Simply for the purpose of expedition. The Bill will be open to the fullest discussion tomorrow, or when the adjourned debate upon it is resumed. In the circumstances, I submit that I am making no unusual request.
– Will the Minister give us an undertaking that the Bill will be circulated before he moves its second reading?
– Immediately honorable senators intimated that they desired copies of the measure, a message was despatched to the Government Printer requesting him to strike off fifty copies. But even if honorable senators were armed with those copies, they would be in possession of no more information than I intended to give them in moving the second reading of the Bill. There was not the remotest intention on the part of the Government to seek a division upon that motion to-day, and we have given a definite undertaking to that effect.
– The Government neglected their duty by not having the Bill printed.
– The Government neglected no duty whatever.
Senator MILLEN (New South WalesVicePresident of the Executive Council) consequence of the action taken by the Government, the moment the first reading of the Bill had been carried, it is probable that copies of it will be in the hands of honorable senators very shortly.
– When did the Senate give authority for its printing?
– Here is inconsistency on the part of my honorable friends. In the first place we are criticised for not having the Bill printed without authority, and then we are asked by Senator Givens by whose authority it has been printed.
– The Government have abandoned the usual practice of the Senate.
– No. The usual practice is to get Bills printed after the. motion for their first reading has been carried. I challenge my honorable friend to point to any Bill which does not bear upon its face the date on which its first reading was carried.
– There is a Bill on the business-paper in my own name which does not. Government Bills have always been circulated when their first reading was moved.
– The Bill referred to by Senator Pearce bears upon its front page the evidence that it obtained the assent of the Senate to its first reading. That is in accordance with the usual practice. Had we departed from that practice we should have had Senator Givens criticising us for our action. The Government do not misunderstand the nature or the purpose of the criticism which has been levelled against them. We have had Senator Stewart declaring that the reason copies of the Bill were not available to honorable senators was that we were not ready to proceed with it. Senator Givens, on the other hand, has accused us of undue haste. Of course, it is easy for critics to make such charges-
– But copies of the Bill ought to be available now.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition think that Ministers have any object to gain by delaying the turning round of the printing machinery ? I hold in my hand evidence that the Bill is in type. The Government are not now considering its provisions.
– Apparently they were up to the time of the meeting of Parliament to-day.
– The honorable senator’s statement is absolutely incorrect, and without warrant. It is one of those reckless statements that he and other honorable senators opposite are in the habit of making. I repeat that we are following the usual practice to which Senator Pearce has asked us to adhere.
– It is not the usual practice to suspend the Standing Orders at the beginning of a session.
– Of course, I know that anything we may do will be displeasing to honorable senators opposite. When I declared the intentions of the Government last week, I assumed that the Senate recognised the inconvenience to which it would subject itself by adopting the course which I suggested. I credited honorable senators with being familiar with the ordinary practice. Senator Pearce must know that that practice is to have Bills printed during the period that elapses between their first and second readings. When I made the announcement which I did last week, I assumed that honorable senators realized the inconvenience to which they would be subjected by following the course which I then outlined. The Government have taken up the position that it is desirable to ask the Senate to submit to some little inconvenience in order to effect a saving of twentyfour hours of our time. Honorable senators supported the proposal to suspend the Standing Orders, but apparently many of them did so without realizing what their action involved. It is quite possible that they were not then aware of the fact that copies of the Bill would not be available immediately. The Government do not desire them to proceed with its consideration if they are not ready to do so. I say again - and I defy honorable senators to controvert it - that the practice of the Senate has been to have every measure printed during the period that elapses between its first reading and the motion for its second reading.
– There might have been 500 copies of the Bill available by this time.
– The moment its first reading was carried, the measure became the property of the Senate, and it then devolved upon the officers of this Chamber to communicate with the Government Printing Office, and to arrange for its printing. They did so, and we have the assurance of the Government Printer that copies will be available at the earliest possible moment. That is all the Government could have done in the circumstances.
If honorable senators voted to suspend the Standing Orders under a misapprehension, the Government do not wish to take advantage of them. It is quite possible to fix the resumption of the debate at a later hour of the day, when copies of the Bill will be available.
– If the Minister gives that assurance to the Senate, I will not press my amendment.
– I ask the Minister to recall what happens when a Supply Bill is received. Immediately the motion for its first reading is passed the Bill is circulated.
– My honorable friend knows that there are three reasons for that practice. As a rule, there is a contingent motion on the notice-paper in anticipation of the arrival of the Supply Bill. On the motion for its first reading the main portion of the debate on the Bill is taken. And as a Supply Bill originates elsewhere, it is always in print and available to honorable senators. This Bill, however, has been originated here. The Government have no desire to proceed with the motion for its second reading if the Senate considers that it would be under a disability in that course being taken. As this discussion has lasted some time, it is anticipated that very shortly, probably in a few minutes, the Bill will be available for circulation. If my honorable friend will withdraw his amendment, the Government, having done everything they can to expedite the printing of the Bill, will see that its second reading is not moved until copies are made available to honorable senators.
– With that assurance, I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Millen) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to compensation to seamen for injuries suffered in the course of their employment.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– I move -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the second reading of the Seamen’s Compensation Bill being moved this day.
I desire to inform honorable senators, as I did in regard to a similar motion .just now, that I will not proceed with the motion for second reading if copies of the Bill are not available for their consideration.
– No leave has been given by the Senate to the Minister to submit the motion, and if any one objects it cannot be put.
– Standing order 433 says-
In cases of urgent necessity, any standing or sessional order or orders of the Senate may be suspended on motion, duly made and seconded without notice : provided that such motion is carried by an absolute majority of the whole number of senators.
The Minister is perfectly within his rights in submitting the motion, but, of course, it ‘will have to be carried by an absolute majority of honorable senators.
– Only on the ground that it is urgent.
– The Senate will judge that question by its vote.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Millen) agreed to -
That the second reading of the Bill be an order of the day for a later hour this day.
Motion (by Senator Sir Robert Best) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to lighthouses lightships beacons and buoys.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Senator Sir ROBERT BEST (VictoriaMinister of Trade and Customs) [4.12]. - I beg to move -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the second reading of the Lighthouses Bill being moved this day.
Of course, I give an assurance to honorable senators that the second reading of the Bill will not be proceeded with until it has been circulated.
– I do not think that the Minister of Trade and Customs should ask the Senate to suspend the Standing Orders in order to enable the second reading of a third Bill to be . proceeded with to-day. The Government should be satisfied with the concession which they have obtained. When the second reading speeches on the two other Bills are concluded it will be a reasonable time to adjourn. The second reading of any other Bills might reasonably be made orders of the day for tomorrow.
– If that isthe general wish, I certainly shall have no objection lc that course being taken.
– The Minister’s justification for asking the Senate to suspend the Standing Orders has been that he wanted to fill up time. I am sure that the introductory speeches on the Seamen’s Compensation, Bill and the Australian Industries Preservation Bill will occupy the time of the Senate to-day, after those measures have been made available. If we agree to this motion, it may be urged hereafter that because we suspended the Standing Orders to enable the second reading of two Bills to be proceeded with, that course should be taken in all cases. In my opinion, it will be a dangerous precedent to establish, unless, of course, there are-good reasons for doing so. I admit that there were good reasons for suspending the Standing Orders in regard to the other Bills. The Minister will be well advised if he does not press the mo’. ion.
– We will not press the motion if there is any objection to it.
– The previous discussion and. the remarks of Senators McGregor and Pearce on this motion have rather amused me. So far as [ understand the position, we have given leave to the Ministers to move the second reading of two Bills, because we want to fill up our time, and they are quite prepared to do that. We have also understood that, as soon as each Minister’s secondreading speech is concluded, the debate will probably be adjourned. In carrying out this idea of filling up our time, no assistance is expected from, or can be given by, any one except the Ministers. The whole onus of filling up our time to-day is upon the Ministers. I also gather that they are quite willing to see that an opportunity is given to them to fill up our time.
– We will advance the Bills a stage, though.
– The honorable senator will agree with me that if the two Ministers were to occupy our time until 10 o’clock in moving the second reading of two Bills, their speeches would be very lengthy ; in fact, before they had finished we should probably be asking them to resume their seats, and, before they had been speaking a great while, they would probably be asking us to allow them to do so. Seeing that we have committed ourselves to this idea of filling up time, I think it is inadvisable to prevent the Ministers from moving the second reading of the other two Bills, if they so desire. I venture to suggest that they can take that course and yet not occupy our time until 10 o’clock.
– I think that there is a good deal in the views which have been expressed from this side, and also in the statement by the Minister that he does not propose 10 proceed with this particular Bill to-day. It is provided in the Standing Orders that sufficient time shall elapse after a Bill is introduced and circulated to enable its provisions to be considered by honorable senators. The second reading of two important Bills will be moved to-night, and the debate thereon adjourned until to-morrow, and we are now asked to allow that course to be taken with a third Bill. I ask Senator Clemons if, when the Senate assembles to-morrow, he will be prepared to discuss the whole question of the light-houses, beacons, and buoys of Australia, and the constitutional point which is involved in the Bill? If, however, the second reading of the Bill is not moved until to-morrow, we shall have another day in which to consider its provisions before the debate is resumed. I think that at least a day should be allowed to elapse before the second reading of the measure is moved.
– Does not the honorable senator see that if the Minister moves the second reading of the Bill to-day, it may be a week before any one will be expected to discuss that question?
– That may be so, but if the Government wish to hurry on the consideration of any Bills, they will set them down first on the notice-paper, and expect us to be ready to proceed with them.
– Let the Government getall the Bills they can in print.
– I prefer to see the Senate make haste slowly, so that these measures may receive full consideration at our hands. I trust that the Minister will be induced to fix the second readingof this Bill for to-morrow.
– We shall not be depriving honorable senators of an opportunity for consideration, and will be expediting business, if we allow the Ministers to carry forward these measures a stage to-day. We suspended the Standing Orders because we recognised that the circumstances of to-day are peculiar, and that we should do something to-day which ordinarily we could not do. If it was right to take that course with reference to two Bills, there can be no reason against doing so in the case of other Bills. I heartily indorse what has been urged by Senator Clemons. The only two senators who can engage the attentionof the Senate tonight are the two Ministers. It would be ridiculous to assume that they could occupy the time until10 o’clock in moving the second reading of two Bills. I think that it is quite possible that they may. The Ministers may, by dinner time, have moved the second reading of four Bills, and we can proceed with the discussion of them at a later date.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Six Robert Best) agreed to -
That the second reading of the Bill be an Order of the Day for a later hour this day.
Motion (by Senator Givens) agreed to -
That there be laid on the table of the Senate a return showing -
The total cost (exclusive of the cost of reporting) of printing, publishing, and circulating Hansard for the year ended 30th June, 1909.
The total cost of printing, publishing, and circulating the Commonwealth Government Gazette for the year ended 30th June, 1909.
The total amount paid for Government advertising for year ended 30th June, 1909;
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 8th December 1908, vide vol. xlviii., p. 2843):
Clause1 (Short title and citation).
– I should like to say a few words of a general character in regard to this Bill. It will be recollected that the measure was introduced last session by Senator Pearce. The second reading was agreed to. At that time there was a fear in my mind, and in the minds of other honorable senators, that it might be possible to manipulate the recording machine in some way or other.
– Some of us have that fear yet.
– I admit at once that it is a fear that is not to be pushed on one side lightly. I have no objection to, but rather I regard with pleasure, any mechanical contrivance designed to save time and labour both to the public and to private firms. At the same time, last session 1 expressed grave doubt as to whether the machine had been subjected to sufficient tests. Senator Pearce did inform us that he had had reports from New Zealand; but unfortunately he omitted on that occasion to show that friendly desire that honorable senators should be supplied with the printed matter which he has displayed today, and we were not furnished with copies of the reports. Consequently, although they were satisfactory to the honorable senator, theyleft something to be desired from the point of view of the Committee generally. Since then the reports from New Zealand, coming practically down to date, have been printed and circulated. I think that if honorable senators have read them they will see that there can be little doubt that the confidence which Senator Pearce expressed last session, can find an echo in the minds of all of us at the present time. I, at that time, expressed the necessity for manifesting caution. I have satisfied myself since by reading the reports that the measure may be safely adopted. I have now brought the Bill again under the notice of the Senate in the hope that the good work commenced by Senator Pearce will be completed.
– Of course, I had an opportunity of reading the reports referred to by Senator Millen before I moved the second reading of this Bill last session. Having been responsible for the measure then, subjects connected with it have naturally attracted my notice since. Probably honorable senators have observed from the newspaper reports that there has been an’ unusual number of frauds perpetrated principally by lads upon mercantile houses. During the recess I noticed reports of a large number of stamp frauds.
– I doubt whether more frauds have been committed, but I think that more have been detected.
– Frauds, how committed ?
– By lads who have purloined stamps. In two cases lads were given a large quantity of invoices to post. They removed the stamps and destroyed the invoices. In one case a large amount of trouble, and I do not doubt considerable expense also, was caused to a firm. I am certain that this measure will be of great benefit to large mercantile houses in preventing stamp frauds. I satisfied myself as far as I was able that the machine is safe from a departmental point of view. I do not think that it would be possible to “fake” the machine in the interests of those who use it.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 -
The following part and sections are inserted after part1 of the principal Act : -
Part Ia. - Recording Machines. 65a. In this Part, unless the contrary intention appears, “ Recording Machine” means a machine for the purpose of making impressions upon postal articles and telegrams, indicating the value of the postage or charges chargeable in respect of their, transmission by the Department, and of recording the amounts of the values so indicated.
– Senator Pearce and Senator Millen have both made general remarks concerning this Bill. Probably both honorable senators were justified in making what were virtually second-reading speeches in Committee. But, as we have now reached the part in which I take an interest, I should like to point out that the measure is one for the introduction of a machine which will render the use of adhesive stamps unnecessary. It is not a Bill to facilitate the sale of stamps; it is a Bill to enable them to be done without. The machine is one which makes a mark on an envelope, showing that a certain amount of money has been paid. Now, I happen to know that there is also available a very ingenious invention which may be used to supplant the machine mentioned in this Bill. It provides for the automatic delivery of adhesive stamps. There is such a machine in use in the precincts of the House of Commons at present, and it is largely used.
– There was such a machine at the General Post Office, Melbourne.
– That machine might, in the ordinary course of things, come into competition with the machine mentioned in thisBill. If we are not careful, we may exclude the use of the rival machine. If the Minister can assure me that there is no possibility of the Bill excluding the use of the other machine, it will not be necessary for me to continue my observations.
– The machine mentioned in the Bill does away with the adhesive stamp. It supplies an optional form of stamp.
– But, as I have said, there is an extremely ingenious invention which provides for the automatic supply of adhesive stamps, and which would enable the public, where the machine was used, to secure postage stamps much more readily than they could do by obtaining them at a postoffice. Moreover, it is an invention which will save a considerable amount of labour, because it is automatic. I shall not enlarge upon the subject if I am given to understand that it is not the intention of the Government to allow of any monopoly of the machine mentioned in the Bill precluding the possibility of another machine being used by the Post Office. Can the Minister give me that assurance? The rival machine, though different in operation, is similar in results, and in securing efficiency, economy, and convenience to the public. I do not desire to defeat the object of this Bill at all, but to secure freedom for the use of the rival machine.
– - I quite recognise the validity of the point of view from which Senator Clemons has just addressed himself to the Committee. I should be with him in being disinclined to sanction this or any other machine which would be a convenience to people in a large way of business, if I thought that it would place any obstacle in the way of facilitating those whose business with the Post Office is of smaller dimensions. I readily give the honorable senator the assurance that this Bill is not brought forward to provide an alternative to the mechanical stamp-seller. The mechanical stamp-seller is for the purpose of selling stamps to people who generally want to buy one or two stamps at a time. This machine is to meet the convenience of people who require to stamp hundreds of letters in the course of a day, and it can in no way come into conflict with those who desire to make use of penny-in-the-slot machines for the purchase of a shilling’s worth of stamps and who would never be justified in purchasing or hiring one of these machines. I direct Senator Clemons’ attention to the following words of the clause under consideration: - unless the contrary intention appears “ Recording Machine “ means a machine for the pur pose of making impressions upon postal articles and telegrams.
The point I make is that the Bill is intended merely to authorize the use of a machine which, under certain restrictions,and within certain limits, shall be available for people to whom it would be convenient to substitute an impressed for an adhesive stamp, and it in no way proposes to interfere with the use of slot machines or mechanical stamp sellers. It might later on be found that, because of some defect in the stamp-sellers, or in the recording machine dealt with in this Bill, the Department would find it necessary to discountenance the use of either. It is in no sense intended by authorizing the use ‘ of this machine to abolish the use of such a machine as that which is now placed in the Melbourne Post Office, and, for all I know, elsewhere, enabling small customers to rapidly supply their wants in respect of a. few stamps. It is not the intention under this Bill to provide in any way a substitution for anything, but merely an alternative form of stamping for the convenience of people whose correspondence is large in volume.
– The main question to be considered in connexion with this Bill is the absolute reliability of these recording machines from the point of view of the Department, who will hire them to those who desire to use them, and from the point of view of those who will use them. I have not read the report to which the Minister referred ; but, granting that the machine is absolutely reliable, it must be admitted that its use would be of very great advantage to large business houses, who, instead of having to buy a large number of adhesive stamps, would be able by its use to impress the necessary stamps on all their correspondence. There cannot be the least doubt that very many large business houses would be glad to use such a machine, if it were only to avoid the results of fraud, to which they are sometimes subjected. Business houses that frequently send out a great many invoices and circulars, find that, instead of their being properly delivered, they do not reach their destination at all, and that the boys intrusted with the posting of them, unable to resist the ‘temptation, pocket the stamps. That would be prevented if the recording machine could be relied upon. We do not want a machine which can be used in such a way as to defraud the Department, or which might be the cause of loss to the user. I am willing to accept the statement of the Minister that on the experience of the New Zealand Government this recording machine is absolutely reliable, and, if that be so, its use should represent a considerable saving to the Department in the printing of stamps, as well as a very great convenience, and a saving also to the users in preventing the peculation of stamps.
– - I am sorry that I have not seen the report circulated by the Minister in connexion with this matter. I do not think this business is quite so simple as it would appear at first sight.” Our first consideration will be to try to find out how the use of these recording machines is going to affect the Post and Telegraph Department. I gather that they are to be issued to large mercantile firms. Persons in a small way of business will not require them, as it would not pay them to incur the cost of using one of these machines. Mercantile firms will stamp letters, circulars, newspapers, and postal matter of every description in their own places of business, and then deposit them in the usual way in the Post Office. I believe there is a. recorder attached to each of these machines purporting to indicate exactly the debt of the firm using the machine to the Post and Telegraph Department. If the machine is accurate, it will be all right, so far as the business firm using it is concerned. But we have to look at the Department’s side of the matter. The Department receives a letter stamped by one of these machines, and they must make a note of it, because the person sending it has become their debtor for the postage of that letter.
– The debt is shown on the machine.
– Undoubtedly, but there ought to be some check in the Post Office as against both the machine and the firm using it, and I am inclined to think that it would involve considerable trouble and expense to provide such a check.
– It would involve very great labour. If the machine is not absolutely correct, it will not be worth anything.
– If there is no check on behalf of the Department, we must rely entirely on the machine. But I have been told a number of times that there is not on the market a single invention in the shape of a cash register that will entirely prevent fraud, and which it is not possible to manipulate. If that be so, what guarantee have we that this machine cannot be manipulated?
– We have the authority of the New Zealand Government, and we may assume that they have not approved of it without some experience.
– It is possible to have a check in the Department, because each machine- issued will be numbered, and it will be possible to check the number of letters going through the Post Office from each firm using one of these machines.
- Senator Gray should not assume anything. He knows that this business should be conducted in a business-like and honest fashion. Senator Pearce says that there would be a check in the Department. I have said that the Department would need to keep a check upon the correspondence of each firm using one of these machines.
– They need not do so continuously. They could do so occasionally as a check.
– This is one’ of those matters in connexion with which we ought to go slow. Unfortunately, we know that people look upon the Government as fair game. They do’ not, for instance, consider it a sin to cheat the Customs Department.
– Especially ladies.
– I am not going to say that. I do not think that ladies are the worst offenders. I believe that business houses are the principal delinquents. I know that* a great many people try to “have” the Post Office. If they can send a letter or a newspaper without stamping it sufficiently, they will do so. That inclines me to the belief that in the use of these machines, there might not be freedom from fraud, and if fraud is possible with these machines, it will be the duty of the Department to keep a continuous check upon the correspondence of every firm using them. If that has to be done, the cost will outweigh the profit to the Department. With the exception of a reduction in the cost of printing stamps, referred to by Senator Vardon, and that would not amount to very much, all the advantage in their use would be on the side of the commercial firms using them. If I could be persuaded that there would be no danger of fraud, I should be very much inclined to permit every possible facility for the use of these machines, but until it can be proved that that danger is non-existent, I must remain doubtful about the wisdom of supporting this measure. One reason given for the introduction of the Bill was to save these large firms from the peculation of their employes. I do not think it is the duty of the Post and Telegraph Department to do anything of the kind. The Department should look after its own affairs. If the employes of private firms are not honest, it is the duty of those firms to look after them.
– I thought the honorable senator believed in State Socialism.
- Senator Walker thinks very many things about myself and other honorable members on this side for which we are not responsible. By the use of these machines, if they are not entirely reliable, we might have the employers peculating from the Government instead of the employes peculating from the employers. I am sent here to look after the interests of . the State. I am a State Socialist to that extent, if that is any information to Senator Walker. It is my. duty to see that the public revenue is safeguarded, and if there are peculations of postage stamps, they shall not be transferred from business houses to the Post Office itself. I think we ought to be satisfied on that point before we proceed further with the Bill. My own brief examination of it does not induce me to believe that the machine is one which will work to the advantage of the Post and Telegraph Department. So far as I can gather, the experience of New Zealand guarantees us nothing. It has merely used these machines, and they have proved fairly satisfactory. But we have no evidence that a continuous check has been kept upon their operations. Until that is forthcoming, I am so much a Conservative that I am quite prepared to allow things to remain as they are rather than risk a leap in the dark, which may perhaps involve the Post and Telegraph Department in a very heavy loss of revenue. If more light can be thrown upon the subject, I shall be extremely glad, but, in the meantime, I must vote against the provisions of the measure.
– I should like to again assure Senator Stewart that there is no perfect machine in the world,, just as there is no perfect man. For instance, I frequently find that I am considerably overcharged for the water which passes through my water meter.
– The same remark is applicable to gas meters.
– We all recognise that the adoption of this machine would prove a great convenience to the Government, as well as to private individuals, and we know that it has proved fairlysatisfactory to the New Zealand Government, which has tried it. I conclude, therefore, that it is a machine which might fairly be subjected to a trial in this country. The Government do not usually give credit-
– They must give credit if we sanction the use of these machines.
– No. I presume that the Government would require a large deposit from the firms who used them. Consequently, we have adopted every reasonable safeguard, so far as the revenue is concerned, when we countenance the use of these machines.
– The report from the New Zealand Go,vernment regarding the use of this automatic stamping machine for postal purposes- does not appear to me to be of an entirely satisfactory character. For instance, it states -
The machine unfortunately is only fitted with, indicators of the ½d., id., ad., 6d., and is. values.
Suppose that a person desired to send a letter which required stamps to the valueof more than is., would the machine work satisfactorily ?
– How can that beso if it be fitted only with the indicatorsmentioned ?
– A person could use a is. stamp and a 3d. stamp, or a is. stampand a 6d. stamp.
– A letter may be stamped twice.
– I am merely basing my remarks upon the report with which wehave been favoured from New Zealand. I do not admit that there is any great demand for the adoption of these machines. It seems to me that they are merely in theexperimental stage. The report states -
During the period the machine has been under trial postal matter amounting to ^43 os. 2d. hasbeen franked.
– The honorable senator is quoting from a copy of a memorandum from the Secretary of the Department of External Affairs, and not from the New Zealand report.
– For the moment, I was under the impression that I was quoting the New Zealand report. The memorandum proceeds -
As was to be anticipated, the officer operating the machine suffered at first from want of experience, but as this was acquired and confidence gained, he was able to pass the matter through the machine with great celerity.
Apparently, the operation is not so simple as Honorable senators would make it appear.If an officer requires time in which to learn how to operate the machine, it is obvious that its working cannot be such an extremely simple matter. That being so, business people would probably have to employ an expert to operate it. My experience teaches’ me that all machines, such as cash registers, are capable of being mani pulated. Consequently, I think that this automatic stamping machine might lend itself to fraud being practised against the Government. At any rate, we require more information than is contained in this memorandum before we are warranted in embarking on the experiment proposed. Senator Pearce has said that a check might easily be kept upon correspondence passing through the post. But if the members of the postal staff are called upon to check stamps of½d.,1d., 2d., 6d. and1s. values, instead of lessening the expense of the Department, additional hands will certainly be required. If that is the idea underlying the change, we ought to know it.
.- I agree that the use of this machine marks a departure which ought to be regarded with a great deal of caution, particularly, as was pointed out by Senator Stewart, as it is a departure which is to be made, not so much in the interest of the Post and Telegraph Department as in the interest of certain firms. I claim that it is almost impossible for the ingenuity of man to invent a machine which the ingenuity of another man will not enable him to” fake.” I have had the privilege of examining this automatic stamping machine, and whilst I admit that it is an exceedingly ingenious contrivance, there are two ways in which the Department could be defrauded, apart from the accuracy of its recording powers. In the first place, the stamp is impressed upon the envelope or article which it is desired to forward through the post. A spring is released, and the stampcomes down and leaves its impression upon the letter or telegram as the case may be. But it appears to me that there is nothing to prevent two or three envelopes being simultaneously placed in the machine with a specially prepared carbon between them, and in that case the one stamp would be impressed upon all. I am assured by the expert that the plan which I have suggested would not work, because the pressure exerted by the stamp is too light. But if that be so the pressure might easily be increased. It is also urged that letters are too thick to permit of the idea which I have outlined being practicable. But that contention will certainly not hold good in respect of telegrams which are usually written on very thin paper. Three or four telegrams might be stamped simultaneously, and in that way the Department might be defrauded. I know that the fact that each die would bear a certain number would enable the Department to trace the articles sent through the post by any firm. But honorable senators are aware that letter-sorters are required to discharge their functions with extreme rapidity. Consequently it is scarcely possible to have an effective check kept in that way. There is another method by which I think fraud could be practised. It is true that the dies which make the impression are to be made with a secret mark which will be known only to the engraver and to the Department, and that the latter will thus be enabled to trace any particular impression of a stamp which passes through the post. But I would ask, “ What is to prevent any ordinary individual who knows that a firm has a No. 6 die on its machine manufacturing a facsimile of the impression stamp made by that machine? “ With an ordinary hand stamp he would thus be able to stamp as many letters as he chose, and these would continue to pass through the post until the fraud was detected. In such a contingency I venture to say that it would be almost impossible to trace the culprit. Of course, we may be told that forgery of the present stamps is possible. I admit that it is. But we know perfectly well that the difficulty that would be experienced in laying down a plant with which toforge postage stamps is so great that it would not be worth anyperson’s while to attempt it. The practical test to which these automatic stamping machines have been subjected in New Zea land does not say very much for them. A highly respectable individual who occupied a very responsible position was convicted of embezzling money, and he had a host of persons in the witness-box to prove what an excellent character he was, but the Judge pointed out that every one bore an excellent character until he was found out.
– That has nothing to do with the testing of this machine by the New Zealand Government.
– The character which that Government give the machine is an excellent one, but that may be because they have not yet found out that it has any defects. So far the test has been a very limited one. Persons here do not speak about it in such very high terms, and I want to put on record a passage from a letter dated 14th July, j 908, from the Secretary to the General Post Office, Wellington, to the Secretary to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, Melbourne -
I have the honour to inform you, in reply lo your telegram of the 10th instant, that the undermentioned methods are adopted by this Department to remove the possibility of the revenue being defrauded by the use of the franking machines of the Automatic Stamping Company, Christchurch.
They go on to indicate ten precautions which are taken - for what purpose? To remove the possibility of the revenue being defrauded. That goes to show that the Department considers that otherwise there is a possibility of the revenue being defrauded. But is there any guarantee that in spite of those precautions being taken the revenue will not be defrauded ? That is the only experience we have to guide us. I admit that the machine is an exceedingly ingenious one, and if it can do all that is claimed for it, without laying us under an undue liability to be defrauded, I have no objection to the use of it. In fact, I would gladly welcome the introduction of such a machine, but, with the knowledge I have, I am not satisfied that it will do all that is claimed for it. I was not satisfied when the Bill was last under consideration, nor am I satisfied now, that the Department will be placed in a better position. In fact, I am positive that it will be placed in a very much worse position. I am not complaining of any faults or defects in the present system. Only large insurance companies and big mercantile houses will use this machine. I am credibly informed that there are not above a few hundred of the machines in the whole of New Zealand at the present time.
– It is only right to say that in New Zealand the Government have proceeded cautiously. First of all, they issued a limited number of machines.
– In the first instance, the issue of the machines was limited, but now it is not limited beyond the fact that an applicant has to be approved by the Department, and a certain deposit made. 1 think that the Minister will admit that I am right in saying that at the present time only a few hundred machines are in use there. In view of the fact that a selfcontained country like New Zealand, with a population almost equal to that of New South Wales, has only a few hundred of these machines in use, is it worth while for the Commonwealth to make a great flurry in order to suit the desires of an exceedingly limited number of persons who are fairly well served by the present method ? We are told, and I admit that there is soma force in the argument, that the use of this machine will remove the opportunities for peculation and fraud indulged in by the employe’s of big firms, but I submit that it is no part of the duty of the Department to look after the morals of the emploés of any one else.
– What about ‘the gambling sections in the Post and Telegraph Act?
– I do not think that they should have been included in the Act. I hold that the Commonwealth, if it wanted to interfere, should have had the courage to deal with the question separately from that measure, and in a proper way. 1 hope that my honorable friend will not try to make me responsible for something with which I had nothing to do. The business of the Department is to carry letters and parcels, to transmit and deliver telegrams, and to provide the fullest possible facilities for those purposes. It is no part of its duty to try to give to private firms facilities which are not available to, or needed by, the great bulk of the people. Every employer should- be able to keep an easy supervision over his employes with regard to the number of stamps used. He knows the number of letters required to be posted in a day, and he can easily issue the requisite number of stamps, and see that the letters are all properly stamped before they are taken to the post-office. The employers should not ask the Department to look after their employes. Again, I do not think that there is very much in the suggestion that the boys are always peculating. I believe that any of the big firms which are respectable employ decent boys. Such firms ought to pay decent wages. They should not try to sweat down the boys to a miserable living, and so tempt them to indulge in miserable peculations. I believe that if employes were treated fairly and well by their employers, we should ‘ hear little or nothing of petty peculation. At any rate, because of a little peculation which is alleged to go on in a very limited circle, are we to alter our post and telegraph system in order to leave the Department open, perhaps, to be defrauded in some way ? If any employers are being defrauded, it is their business to adopt methods to safeguard their interests, instead of trying to saddle the Commonwealth with a liability, in order that they may be protected against fraud.
– The discussion on this proposed new section has been apparently confined c to the merits and demerits of a particular machine, which undoubtedly the Department has been trying. This is simply a provision to alter the law so that the Department, if it thinks fit, can use a stamping machine, or allow persons to do so. Senator Givens had a great deal to say about the peculation of stamps. I admit that that has been one of the arguments used, but I think that a far more important argument in favour of the Bill is the fact that whatever mechanical device can be found to reduce the amount of labour and quicken the pace at which the stamping of letters can be done, should be utilized. I think that the Department should not be faced as it is now with an Act which says that, no matter what machine is- in existence which will do the work effectively, it must have adhesive stamps. Not only will the use of an automatic stamping machine quicken the work when it has to be done on a considerable scale, but it will .also largely reduce the amount of stamping which has to be done in the Department. I do not think that the general question as to whether a particular machine is good or safe, or reliable, need be discussed. ‘The Department is simply asking that if it is satisfied that any machine will do the work required, it shall have the right to use that machine, or to allow persons to use it. If this power is granted it will be for the Department to thoroughly examine and test this particular machine. The evidence which was sub mitted here last session made me very chary about giving my assent to its adoption. If 1 thought now that the day this Bill was passed the machine would be used by the Department without better evidence as to its superiority being obtained, I believe that I should vote against its third reading. It was introduced by the late Government, and its Postmaster-General assured me that the machine was being tested very thoroughly. We have had a similar assurance from the present Government. If there are other’ machines of this kind in existence they will naturally be tested by the Department. It is not proposed to give to a particular make of machine a monopoly of the business. If better machines are invented, the Department will be free to use them. As the only question which arises in connexion with this provision is whether we should allow the Department, if satisfied with any form of recording machine, to use it, I shall vote for it.
– The important question is whether the adoption of this machine will be mutually advantageous. There will be an advantage if the machine results in a saving to the Department j and if, on the other hand, it enables the clients of the Post and Telegraph Department to transact their business more readily, and to prevent peculation in stamps, I do not see why we should not suit their convenience in that way. But I am not satisfied with the documents that have been supplied to us. The letter from Sir Joseph Ward is not addressed to any one connected with the Commonwealth Government, but to the Secretary of the Automatic Stamp Machine Company. It is true that the letter states that the reports received from the chief postmasters of the districts in which the. machine has been used are favorable, and show’ that the machine is regarded as a great convenience.
– The original of that letter has been in possession of the postal authorities.
– We are supplied with two other memoranda a year old, they being dated July. 1908. Is there not some more recent information? I observe that the memorandum from the Department of External Affairs says that on the whole the machine is thoroughly satisfactory. There is also a letter from the Secretary to the General Post Office, Wellington, in which he says that the Automatic Stamping
Machine Company gives a guarantee to the New Zealand Government. Is such a guarantee to be given to the Commonwealth Government ?
– That is of considerable importance, inasmuch as it shows that the proprietors have faith in their machine. I take it that the Department considers that the ten devices suggested are sufficient to protect the Government against fraud.
– We cannot say that the ten are sufficient.
– Exactly. My own opinion is that, if a man is determined to “ get at” any one, he will do so by some means or other. I- have had a little experience in regard to a water meter which was supposed ‘to be -perfectly reliable. But a Chinaman found a way to tamper with it. I imagine, however, that frauds would soon be discovered. I observe that the Government have power to revoke a licence at any time they think fit.
– Even under the present system it is possible for people who want to commit frauds to clean stamps after they have been cancelled, and use them over again.
– I am afraid- that, if a man is determined to commit a fraud, there is always a way of doing it, no matter how perfect the preventive mechanism may be. I should like, however, to be supplied with some later information from New Zealand as to the tests that have been made there, and as to whether the machine is entirely satisfactory.
– - Not a single argument has been used against the adoption of the machine in question that would not apply with equal force to a cash register. But would any one desire that the cash register should be thrown out of use because of the possibility of fraud? As a matter of fact, the cash register is coming into more general use every day. The reason is that, while it may be possible for an expert burglar to manipulate- the machine, the expert burglar is not the person who works it. Nor is the expert mechanic the person who will use the stamping machine in a large house of business. Probably there is nothing that human ingenuity can make which human ingenuity cannot defeat. But these machines will not be operated by experts who know how to defeat them. They will probably be operated by junior clerks. As to the possibility of fraud, I may also point out there that our present system is not free from it. Any philatelist will tell you in two minutes how stamps can be manipulated. The fact that such frauds are not often found out justifies me in saying that a good deal of fraud takes place. I hardly know of a mechanical device that would not be thrown out of use if such an argument were to prevail. There is a mechanical device used in connexion with the issue of railway tickets, and it is supposed to operate as a check on the number sold. I have no doubt that it is possible to cheat by that method. But that is no argument for not using it. This machine is no exception to the general rule. All that I can say for it is that it offers greater safeguards against’ fraud than are provided under the existing system. I am not representing that it is perfect, or that it would operate as a complete check against fraud; but I do say that the opportunities for fraud are less under it than under the present system. Senator Vardon has referred to the dates of the reports which have been issued. He has expressed the wish that later information should be supplied. I took the same view when Senator Pearce first introduced this Bill, and it was because I expressed it then that the later report of the 12th June was obtained* though necessarily it is very brief.
– Why did not the Commonwealth Government write directly to New Zealand, instead of leaving it for the secretary to the company to do so ?
– That might have been done, and I have, no doubt that if Senator Pearce, who had charge of the measure last session, had thought of it, he would have caused an official letter to be sent to New Zealand. I regret that that was not done. But still, we have a considerable amount of information on the subject. The New Zealand officials have subjected the machine to severe tests, .and they have no doubt about the wisdom of adopting it. Senator Givens has referred to the fact that only a limited number ‘of the machines have been used in New Zealand. As a matter of fact, however, the New Zealand Department has sanctioned the1 issue of 200 machines at each of the four large centres of the Dominion.
– How manyhave been actually used?
– I can refer to forty testimonials from Wellington alone. Of course, if the machine will be of no convenience to any firm, this Bill will become waste paper, and no damage will be done.
– I suppose that this is really a dodge for doing away with the payment of commission on the sale of stamps ?
– I do not like to express an opinion on “ dodges “ ; but it is a fact that the Bill will, to a large extent, do away with the payment of commission on the sale of stamps; and it will also save the cost of printing stamps. I may 1101nt out one direction in which the adoption of the machine will be a convenience to a. public Department. At the present time, when a person sends a telegram, he pays his money, a stamp is handed to him over the counter, and he affixes’ the stamp to the paper. If this machine were adopted, instead of that process being gone through, the sender of the telegram would hand in his money with the telegram, which would be forthwith stamped by the stamping machine. In that direction the adoption of the machine would be of great advantage to the general public.
– Will the machine give change?
– No; in that particular it is unlike my honorable friend 1 It is a mistake to suppose that the machine will be of convenience only to large firms. I shall suggest to my colleague, the PostmasterGeneral, after this Bill is passed, that the machine be first installed at the larger post-offices, in order that the postal officials themselves may make themselves familiar with it. A splendid opportunity will thus be afforded for close official supervision. A question has been asked as to whether the Commonwealth Government will have a guarantee. Such is the case. In New Zealand the’ Government have accepted a guarantee from the company protecting them against fraud. There are one or two other methods in which guarantees could be given. There might be a substantial deposit with the Government, or there might be a bank guarantee. It hardly requires argument that if this Bill is passed the officials who are intrusted with business in connexion with it will see that all precautions are taken. The regulations have to be tabled in the Senate, and if any blunder is committed in the matter of the guarantee, or otherwise, every honorable senator will have an opportunity of introducing a motion. For these reasons, I ask the Committee not to hesitate to pass the Bill. The machine has been subjected to thorough official criticism, and such experts as we have are satisfied with it. We consider that the Government are amply safeguarded, and that the machine will tend to the convenience of the public.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [5.39]. - The Vice-President of the Executive Council has referred to the fact that probably large numbers of stamps which have , been cancelled are cleaned and re-used. That remark attracted my attention, because, a few years ago, I made a similar observation in the Senate. I forget who was Postmaster-General at the time, or what Ministry was in power - or, rather, in existence. But I brought before the Senate substantial information, to the effect that cancelled stamps, to the face value of thousands of pounds, were sent from Australia to be doctored, and came back again ready to be used as perfectly good stamps. I made that statement here and called for action, and I was told that I was speaking on a matter I knew nothing about. I was given no encouragement to go further. The statement made by the Minister this afternoon goes to prove that what I said in this chamber years ago was substantially correct.
– Why send them to Germany ?
– Because I suppose they could be more easily handled there, as the Germans are a scientific nation. As for the methods adopted for obliterating stamps on envelopes, I can only say that they are a disgrace to the Department. If this Bill will afford any relief in that regard, well, thank God for it ! One continually gets letters that are barred across on the upper half to such an extent as frequently to cover the name of the addressee.
– That is because the stamps are obliterated by a machine.
– Then it is a machine the use of which ought to be abolished. Really, the eccentricities of the Post and Telegraph Department are so extraordinary that I feel justified in mentioning one of the latest which has come under my notice. In districts in which, for over a quarter of a century at least, letters have been delivered to persons at their own houses, a notice has been issued, over the signature of the
Deputy Postmaster-General, to the effect that, if people do not provide letter-boxes for the reception of their correspondence, their letters will not be delivered, and they must apply for them at the local post-office. I have written to the Postmaster-General, to ask whether this notification has been issued with his knowledge or consent. I have suggested that it is a freak, and that really a process of letter delivery which has been continued for fifty, sixty, or seventy years should not be departed from, except under a regulation issued through the Governor-General in Council. I admit that this matter has no direct bearing upon the Bill, but I have ventured to mention it as evidence of the eccentricities that are afflicting the Department. Instead of endeavouring to make it an efficient public convenience, they appear to be chasing after all sorts of fads and nostrums, and I shrewdly suspect that this Bill deals with one of them. If, as the Minister declares, this recording machine has been in use in New Zealand for thelast four vears and no one has been shot before breakfast for using it, it may do no harm to give it a trial here. I hope that, if we carry this Bill, it will not be regarded as a premonitory symptom of the view we shall take of a voting machine which will secure the return of the fellow who is cleverest in manipulating appliances of the kind. I agree with the Minister’s statement that, as a rule, these machines would be worked by innocentboys, who would not possess sufficient mechanical skill to. enable them to tamper with the apparatus, but surely the honorable senator has overlooked the fact that one who desired to manipulate one of these machines would give it, not to an innocent boy, fresh from school-;– but to the cleverest mechanic he could find. The boy would not be able to doctor the machine, but the mechanic might. I do not think we can derive very much comfort from the suggestion that innocent youths will operate these machines. I suppose that we should give the machine a trial, and I shall support the Bill.
– I have looked up the report of the New Zealand Post and Telegraph Department, dated 22nd June, 1908, and I find in it a reference to these automatic postage-recording machines. No opinion is expressed for or against them, but apparently they have given a certain amount of satisfaction to the Department, as the closing paragraph of the report states -
The Automatic Stamping Company has been given permission to install machines in any number up to 200 at Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin.
It is a pity that more detailed information in regard to this innovation is not given in the report. If the use of these machines were to be confined to large public offices, telegraph offices, and so forth, there would not be so much objection to the measure as the Department would be able to discover whether it was possible to defraud the revenue by means of them. But I again insist that, if fraud is to be detected, the Department must exercise a continual check upon the correspondence of the people in whose places of business these machines are installed. That must involve considerable additional expenditure by the Department. For instance, a large commercial firm may send a bundle of trade circulars weighing one hundredweight to the postoffice to be distributed. These are stamped with a machine.
– At the post-office.
– Under the Bill it is proposed that they may be stamped on the business premisesof the firm issuing them. After being stamped they would be brought to the post office, and deposited there. If put into the post office one by one, each would have to be checked by the Department if fraud was to be detected. Under regulation, it might be provided that such circulars should be handed over in bulk to postal officials before being finally posted. There would not, in such a case, be so much difficulty in checking the postage upon them. I recognise that opposition to the Bill is futile. A majority of honorable senators seem to be in favour of it. I am always prepared to welcome progress if it can be made without very much risk, and therefore I am not much concerned whether the Bill passes or not.
Proposed new section agreed to.
Proposed new section 65B agreed to.
Proposed new section 65c - (1.) ThePostmaster-General may grant to any person a permit to issue recording machines of approved patterns and may at any time revoke any permit so granted. (2.) An application for a permit under this sec tion must be made in writing. (3.) Before a permit is granted the applicant must give securitv bv bond to the satisfaction of the Postmaster-General -
– The crux of the whole question is raised by this proposed section. We have to decide whether the power to extend the use of these machines is to be given to the company, or whether the Government are to take full responsibility in connexion with their use. There is great difference of opinion on this phase of the question in New Zealand. They are not satisfied there toallow a private firm to run these machines, whilst all responsibility in connexion with them is thrown upon the Government. In a letter dated 14th July, 1908, from the Secretary to the General Post Office, Wellington, to the Secretary Postmaster-General’s Department, I find this paragraph at the close -
Although no difficulty has yet arisen from the sale to users of the machines, I am of opinion that sales should not be permitted, but that the machines should be leased by the company to users; or, what would probably be a more satisfactory arrangement, the machine should be vested in the Postmaster-General, a rental being paid direct by the users to the company.
Under the proposed new section, the PostmasterGeneral would have the right to issue permits to one or a dozen companies to lease these machines to persons desiring to use them, or, indeed, to sell them right out.
– Where is that stated?
– The proposed section provides that the Postmaster-General may grant a permit to issue recording machines.
– An issue in that sense would not be a sale.
– It might be. There is nothing in the proposed section to say that these machines must be leased. The experience gained in New Zealand goes to show that it would be more satisfactory to vest them in the Postmaster-General.
– No one would buy a machine if the Postmaster-General had the right at any time to revoke its use.
– We do not know what the development in connexion with the use of these machines is going to be. We have had experience of the use of cash registers which are purchased outright by people who take the full responsibility of installing them in their places of business. What I have stated seems to me to be the greatest objection to the use of this machine. If it is to be used at all, it should be entirely under the control of the Government.
– It all depends upon its cost.
– If the introduction of the machine is going to result in a considerable saving and convenience to the Government, and if it will confer similar benefits upon those who use it, surely it cannot be urged that its cost ought to be allowed to stand in the way, because the continual savings effected, and the number of machines sent out, would be sure to reimburse the Government for their outlay.
– It is a question of whether the Government will offer the patentee a sufficient sum for the machine.
– I maintain that the whole thing should be under the control of the Government, and ought not to be subject to interference by any company.
– It is under the control of the Government.
– Only so far as the use of dies is concerned. In view of the experience of New Zealand, surely it is time we considered whether it is not desirable that the Government should take over this machine as a monopoly. There is nothing in the Bill to prevent a firm from purchasing one of these machines from a company. The Government would then be prepared to license it, so long as it was of a pattern approved by them.
– And so long as the person using it was of a pattern approved by the Government.
– Of course. I suppose that under any circumstances they will takeinto consideration the character of the persons who desire to use these machines. This Bill is merely introduced for the purpose of enabling certain persons to gettheir machine upon the market. In the absence of such a measure, they cannot place it there.
– Because, under the Post and Telegraph Act, they are prohibited from doing so.
– But the dies will remain the property of the PostmasterGeneral.
– I admit that.
– Under this Bill, what could the patentee do apart from Government supervision ?
– Nothing whatever. That is the very reason why the Government should take the whole matter into their own hands. Here is a man who is prepared to place his inventive faculties at their disposal provided that they recognise his ability in some way.
– If the Government purchased the Australian rights of this machine, and if a little time later a better machine were invented, would it not be very difficult to induce the Government to drop this machine and to adopt the improved one?
– That is the very reason why a private company should not foe granted this power.
– What power does this Bill give to one company?
– It gives a PostmasterGeneral power to say to any company, “ We recognise that you have invented a machine which is useful to large users of stamps, and to the Post and Telegraph Department, and, therefore, we give you a permit to use it throughout Australia.” That sort of thing has been tried in connexion with the Melbourne tramways.
– This Bill does not give a company the right to do anything.
– It certainly does, until another company comes along and says, “ We have invented a better machine.”
– The Melbourne Tramways Company was granted a monopoly.
– I admit that. I repeat that it is better that the Government should have entire control of these machines. During this debate we have heard a good deal about the possibility of fraud being practised against the Post and Telegraph Department. The Vice-President of the Executive Council said that the very fact that persons are not being constantly brought before the Courts for forging postage stamps is proof that forgery is going on.
– The honorable senator should recollect how easily it can be practised.
– I have never been able to obtain information in reference to stamp frauds beyond the fact that stamps have been taken off deeds deposited years ago in country offices, cleaned, and again used. I do not think that the postal authorities themselves have any evidence regarding the forgery of stamps.
– I do not think they have.
– Is that evidence that fraud is being practised throughout the Commonwealth? It seems to me that the Government are fairly well protected by the use of adhesive stamps. Personally, I do not like the clause under consideration at. all. The power to issue permits to a company suggests to me the propriety of the Government taking over these machines as a monopoly. Certainly they could work them to much better advantage than can any private company.
Proposed new section agreed to.
Proposed new sections 65D to 65I agreed to.
Proposed new section 65J -
Any person who -
wilfully obstructs any officer in the execution of any power under this part of this Act; or
tampers with any recording machine; or
without authority breaks any seal placed by an officer on any part of a recording machine or on any lock used to fasten any part thereof ; or
without authority interferes with the mechanism of any recording machine ; shall be liable on summary conviction to a penalty not exceedingFifty pounds.
– I do not think that the penalty provided is sufficiently severe. It may be only 5s., or it may be £5.
– Even the maximum penalty would be no deterrent in the case of a wealthy man.
– Any of the offences enumerated is tantamount to theft, and we do not usually punish theft by a fine. Sometimes a fine is imposed; but in nearly every instance the alternative is a term of imprisonment. I think that it is desirable to substitute a penalty of £100, in lieu of £50, and to provide an alternative in the form of imprisonment.
– That would mean that the wealthy man would always get off with a fine, while the poor man would be sent to gaol.
– No doubt my proposal is open to that objection; I move -
That the word “Fifty,” line15, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “One hundred,” and also that after the word “pounds” the words “or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding twelve months “ be inserted.
. -I scarcely think that the amendment submitted by Senator Stewart will meet either the requirements of the case or the idea which he has in mind. If it were adopted, the clause would then provide that any person guilty of any of the offences enumerated therein, should be liable, on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a period not exceeding twelve months. That penalty can scarcely be prescribed in connexion with a summary conviction. I entirely sympathize with the object which the honorable senator has in view, because we must all recognise that the man who tampers with a recording machine can do so only for the purpose of committing a fraud. In these circumstances, I see no reason why there should not be a provision that in the event of his offence being sufficiently serious he should pay the penalty of ordinary offenders of that class. Senator Stewart, of course, does not want an amendment which will not accomplish his object, or which will compel a person to go to gaol without enjoying the right of trial by jury. If he will consent to withdraw his amendment and allow the proposed new section to pass as it is, I will ask the Chairman to report progress and get it recommitted to-morrow, with an amendment which I will havedrafted.
– To take out the provision for summary conviction ?
– Yes ; two penalties are provided here.
– Surely the common law already provides a penalty ? These are merely extra penalties for tampering with the machines.
– It is quite clear that special penalties have to be fixed by the Bill for the offences mentioned in this provision. If Senator Stewart will withdraw his amendment, to-morrow I will submit an amendment that, I think, will meet the object which he has in view, and with which I am entirely in sympathy.
– On that understanding, sir, I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
– I hope that the Minister who has promised to reconsider this provision will not forget that it provides a punishment for any person who is convicted of tampering with a machine. It covers the case of a person who tampers or meddles with a machine without any fraudulent intention. If a man tampers with a machine with the object of defrauding the revenue by interfering with the registration, under the ordinary law of the country he can be punished by way of imprisonment or fine. This provision seems to me to provide an extra penalty for minor offences in connexion with tampering or meddling with a machine. I think that it requires much more consideration than the Minister thought when he promised to have an amendment drafted to meet the object of Senator Stewart.
– It seems to me that Senator Stewart wants to impose a very heavy penalty, not on a person who tampers with a machine, but on a person who wilfully obstructs an officer in the execution of any power granted in this part of the measure. Imprisonment is, I think, a somewhat serious penalty to impose.
– The alternative penalty will remain.
– So it may, but the proposed new section will allow the Court, if it thinks fit, to send the man to prison, and that is a very serious penalty.
– Itis a very serious offence, too.
– A cantankerous officer might not find it difficult to prove that a man had wilfully obstructed him in the execution of a power. We need to be careful before we enable any officer to try to deprive a man of his liberty.
– The Court will have to decide.
– I admit that. As regards tampering with a machine, I recognise that too high a penalty cannot be fixed, but there might be a serious difference of opinion as to whether a man wilfully obstructed an officer in the performance of his duty. It is a very serious matter to empower a Court to send a man to prison for six or twelve months. In the matter of the penalty, some difference should be made between the case of a man tampering with a machine and the case of a man wilfully obstructing an officer in the execution of his duty.
– A man who will tamper with a machine will also wilfully obstruct an officer.
– Not necessarily. A man may tamper with a machine when there is no officer to interfere with him. I recognise that it may be necessary to vest considerable power in an officer; but it should be surrounded with all possible safeguards. If, under this provision, an officer declared that he had been wilfully obstructed in the execution of his duty, and the person accused said that he had no such intention, there would be a chance of the latter being sent to prison.
– But the officer would have to prove the offence.
– I admit that the offence would have to be proved, but sympathy is, I think, always on the side of the officer, and’ perhaps rightly so too. As regards interfering with a machine or attempting to commit fraud, I am quite agreeable that very severe penalties should be fixed. Nor do I want to see an officer interfered with in the execution of his duty. If a man interferes with an officer, let him be fined in the sum of £50 ; but it is a serious thing to send any man to prison for an offence of that kind. I shall be pleased if, upon reconsideration, the Minister can make a little discrimination between the offences set out in this proposed new section. I believe that it could be done without injuring any person or impairing the efficiency of the Bill. Before the amendment of Senator Stewart is withdrawn, I should like to know what he thinks about my suggestion.
– I have already stated that if the Committee will allow progress to be reported, I shall have an amendment drafted by to-morrow which, I think, will meet the wishes of honorable senators as disclosed in their remarks.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sitting suspended from 6.20 to 7.45 p.m.
[7.45]. - I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is a Bill for an Act to amend the Australian Industries Preservation Acts of 1906 and 1907. It will be remembered that the parent Act, which is the basis of what is known as our anti-trust legislation, and which was passed in the year 1906, was followed by an amending Act, passed in the year 1907, providing some additional effective machinery. The present Bill has for its object the amendment of those Acts, in order to make our legislation still more effective. Honorable senators will be aware that it has been the duty of the Attorney-General’s Department and of the Department of Trade and Customs to make many investigations into what are variously known throughout the Commonwealth as combines, trusts, vends, or monopolies; and the result of the investigations made has shown that it is necessary that in some respects the machinery should be more direct and simple.
– In this Bill is it proposed to legislate against ‘‘fusions”?
– There are legitimate combinations, some of which are not detrimental to the public interest; and the fusion to which my honorable friend refers is one of those which are beneficial. The Bill practically deals with two matters. First of all, it formally strikes out of our legislation the sections which were declared by the High Court to be ultra vires ; and it makes various consequential amendments in the law so far as those sections are concerned. It substitutes two new clauses which have for their object the further repression of monopolies. It will be remembered that several provisions of the original Act were challenged by an action which was instituted by Messrs. Huddart, Parker, and Co. against Moorehead, a Customs officer, who was the informant, testing the constitutionality of those Acts. Amongst other things, it was held by the majority of the High Court - that is to say, by the Chief Justice and by Justices Barton. O’Connor, find Higgins - that the Australian Industries Preservation Act, in respect of sections 5 and 8, was ultra vires. By the first of those sections the Commonwealth Parliament enacted that . any foreign corporation or trading or financial corporation, which, either as principal or agent, entered into any contract or continued in any combination with intent to restrain trade within the Commonwealth or to injure by means of unfair competition any Australian industry, should be guilty of an offence. It was held by the High Court that that enactment was ultra vires. Mr. Justice Higgins, who was one of the majority on the Bench, said that the principle, nature and character of the enactments contained in sections 5 and 8 of the Act did not constitute them a law with respect to corporations within the meaning of section 51, paragraph 20 of the” Constitution; and he held that the sections were not within the legislative power of this Parliament. It will be remembered that section 51 of the Constitution gives the Parliament power to make laws “for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth” with respect to “trade and commerce with other countries and among the States” and by paragraph 20 Parliament has the same power with respect to “foreign corporations and trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth.” The sections to which I have directed attention sought to regulate the trade of corporations within a State. We thought that we bad that power under paragraph 20 of sub-section 51 of the Constitution. But the High Court held that we had no such power, but that we had power only to legislate, in regard to trade and commerce with other countries and amongst the States so far as corporations were concerned. One portion of this Bill provides, therefore, for the elimination of those two sections from the principal legislation on this subject, and makes consequential alterations. The other important matter dealt with in the Bill has regard to rebates. In this connexion, I wish to draw attention to the provisions of the present law which have been found difficult and cumbrous to carry out, having regard to the intention of the original Acts of 1906 and 1907. Section 4 of the Act, 1906, provides that -
Any person who, either as principal or as agent, makes or enters into any contract -
So that the first thing that had to be proved was one which it was sometimes difficult to prove, namely, that there was a’ contract. That contract had to be in relation to trade and commerce with other countries. Paragraph a of the section I can pass over, and I come to paragraph b - with intent to destroy or injure -
So that the second thing to be proved was the intention to destroy or injure an Australian industry. Next - by means of unfair competition -
That had to be proved. Then it had to be proved that the preservation of that particular industry - is advantageous to the Commonwealth -
In section 6 of the Act of 1906 certain things are presumed, So far as unfair competition is concerned. That is to say - the competition is to be deemed to be unfair unless the contrary is proved, in several cases. The only one, however, I need refer to for the present purpose is that mentioned in paragraph d -
If the defendant with respect to any goods or services which are the subject of the competition, gives, offers, or promises to any person any rebate, refund, discount, or reward upon condition that that person deals, or in consideration of that person having dealt, with the defendant to the exclusion of other persons dealing in similar goods or services.
I desire honorable senators to realize the five or six important facts or elements which have, under that provision, to be proved, before we can sheet home the offence that is here legislated against. We seek, by means of the present Bill, to simplify the law in that respect, and to make it an offence if any person, in respect of his dealings, gives or offers or promises to any other person a rebate, discount, etc., upon condition, whether expressed or implied, of exclusive dealing. That is the tenor and effect of the principal Act and of clause 5 of the present Bill.
– This Bill limits the application to certain classes of goods.
– It is very comprehensive. It embraces “ goods or services.”
– Which are the subject of competition.
– Oh, yes; but my honorable friend will know that the word “ services “ is a very comprehensive term. It is only fair that honorable senators should realize that it includes all transportation, whether by shipping, railways, or otherwise.
– Suppose there is no competition ; then a combine can give as much rebate as it likes.
-But there are other portions of the Bill which deal with monopolies.
– Not much rebate would be given if there were no competition.
– I should think not.
– The Colonial Sugar Refining Company gives rebates.
– When we talk of a “service” being subject to competition, the term embraces nearly everything ; at all events, it leaves out only a very small percentage. The word “services,” as I have pointed out, is in itself very extensive, and I do not think that any term: could be more comprehensive than the word “goods.” Clause ~)b of the proposed new provision deals with improper refusals to sell or supply goods to any person at the ordinary ruling price.
– Would that provision apply to the Cable combine?
– I shall not attempt to deal with any particular combine at present. It is thought that by this simple process we shall be able to get at the nefarious practices that have been complained of. So far, we have had great difficulty in this direction. The people who indulge in these practices are skilled, by reason of their great experience, in evading the various features of the law, which consequently has, from time to time, to be made the subject of amending legislation for the purpose of meeting the practices which are resorted to. If, under present circumstances, a company or person has been carrying on the practice of giving rebates, they may not have gone so far as to enter into any contract, but there may be a certain verbal understanding. The greatest difficulty has been experienced in this respect. If, however, there is in existence a verbal understanding, this Bill provides for that verbal understanding to be proved. If, for instance, a customer goes to a seller and asks for a rebate, and the seller puts to him the question - “ Have you dealt with any one else ; are you prepared to make a declaration that you have dealt with no one else?” - under those circumstances an offence under this measure has been committed ; and, that offence being proved, the offender would be liable to the penalty here provided for. Again, where goods are sold at a recognised price to certain individuals, and certain other individuals go to the seller and are refused at the ordinary selling price, an offence is committed.
– Does that apply to brewers and public houses?
– I hardly think that the Bill would be applicable in such cases. It will be seen, however, that a simplification of the law is provided for by this measure.
– It means restraint of trade.
– Of course it applies to anything which is detrimental to the public good and which is within the reach of the law.
– It may be detrimental to the private individual.
– The words used are - “ With intent to restrain trade or commerce to the detriment of the public.” Legislation on these lines is not unfamiliar to us. Our law is practically founded upon the Sherman Act and the Elkins Act of the United States. From time to time it has been found necessary to amend those Acts in various directions.
– They are not of very much use yet.
– I admit that they have not been as successful as we could desire, but there have been prosecutions, with good results, under the Elkins Act.
– But oil can run through !
– I think that I saw a record of a fine of something like ,£350,000. There was also a fine amounting to £5,000,000, which was not paid, but I believe that the £350^000 was paid. At all events, legislation of this kind exercises a controlling influence. The Elkins Act of the United States was recently amended. The original Act was passed in 1903. The amending Act made some comprehensive changes. Amongst other things, it provided that anything done by a corporation, which if done bv an individual would be an offence, should be a misdemeanour. Any wilful failure to publish tariffs is also a misdemeanour under the Act. It further provides that for any person or corporation to offer, grant, give, or to solicit, or accept, or receive any rebate, concession, or discrimination in respect to the transportation of any property in Inter-State or foreign commerce is a misdemeanour, for which the offender is liable to a fine of $1,000 ; and a subsequent provision restores the punishment of imprisonment, which had previously been abolished in regard to this particular offence. I must, at the outset, admit that we are dealing with a subject of grave difficulty when we attempt to control trusts; but as they are in their infancy in the Commonwealth, I contend that it is our duty by legislation to exercise as strong and powerful a controlling influence as we can over them. Nothing has been found more effective for the building up of trusts than the rebate system. We are directing our attention to that system. We know that it was by means of it that the gigantic Standard Oil Company managed to establish itself. It is at the root of the various monopolies that have become established, not only in Amenca, but in the Old Country. We are endeavouring, so to speak, to nip in the bud this system of rebates which has been found so useful in the building up of trusts and combines elsewhere. I admit that if we fail to control these trusts by legislation, prompted from time to time by experience, there will be much strength in the contention that the last effective resort will be nationalization. I do not contend that that is the proper remedy to apply.
– That would only make things ten limes worse.
– That may be so in the honorable senator’s opinion, but, without expressing any definite view on the subject, I say that there is much in the contention of those who favour nationalization of the business of monopolies and trusts.
– Because twenty trusts are bad, the honorable senator would make one big trust of the lot ?
– I do not say so at all. I have said on many occasions that there are good as well as bad trusts. We propose to try to control those that are bacl. The point I am directing attention to is the duty of this Parliament to, as far as possible, enact most rigid legislation with a view to the effective control of trusts.
– Before the Minister sits down, I suppose he will make some reference to the sections pf the Australian Industries Preservation Act which the High Court has declared to be ultra vires.
– The honorable senator should have been present. I have referred to those sections. I quoted the judgment of the High Court showing that they were ultra vires.
– The Minister onlystated the fact that the High Court had declared them ultra vires.
– That is all.
– Surely the Minister will make some explanation as to what the Government propose shall be done in consequence of the judgment of the High Court? The Bill merely proposes the repeal of the sections in question.
– That is so.
– And the Minister must know that it is unnecessary to repeal them if they are ultra vires.
– I have said so.
– And the Government intend to stop at that?
– Undoubtedly. Our jurisdiction has been defined by the High Court. The Government are complying with the terms of the judgment of the High Court in the legislation now introduced.
– Has the Minister fallen back upon the definition of ‘ ‘ person “ in the Interpretation Act?
– The word is defined in the Interpretation Act, and corporations engaged in Inter-State trade and oversea trade will be affected in the same way as persons. Section 4 of the Act refers to “Any person who either as principal or agent,” and so on. “ Person “ there includes “ corporation.”
– - Then the Minister is now relying on the definition of the word “ person “ to fill the vacuum created by the elimination of ‘ ‘ corporation ‘ ‘ by the High Court ?
– Of course corporations are only excluded so far as sections 5 and 8 are concerned. The only reason why the word “corporation” was used in sections 5 and 8, where they are specially dealt with, was because it was thought that by the terms of paragraph xx. of section 51 of the Constitution we were enabled to deal with the regulation of internal trade so far as corporations only were concerned. I desire to bring under the attention of honorable senators the very important report of the Royal Commission on Shipping Rings or Conferences recently issued by the British Government. It will be my duty to make some extended reference to it. But before I do so, I wish to make some explanation of a paragraph which appears at page 7 of the report -
In 1906, the Legislature of the Commonwealth passed an Act entitled the “ Australian Industries Preservation Act,” containing provi- sions which might affect the operations of shipowners muting use of the rebate system. But, as is stated in the Board of Trade memorandum, the Government of the Commonwealth, on representations being made by the Colonial Office, undertook that in administering the Act, so far as shipping rings were concerned, they would bear in mind that a Royal Commission, including colonial representatives, had been appointed by the Imperial Government to inquire into the whole question.
For their information, I direct the attention of honorable senators to what actually took place. On the 24th October, 1906, a cablegram was received from the British Government to this effect -
Has Australian Industries Preservation Bill become law? If so, Board of Trade hope that in administering Part II., which may apparently be held to include operations of Shipping Conferences, your Ministers will bear in mind question is about to be considered by Royal Commission on which Australia and other Colonies will be represented.
The reply sent by the then Prime Minister, Mr. Deakin, was -
Australian Industries Preservation Bill assented to 24th September, 1906, became law that date. In administration, matter referred to will be borne in mind.
I mention that because, otherwise, honorable senators might be somewhat puzzled to understand the quotation which I read from the report of the Royal Commission. It is, I submit, our duty in dealing with this matter to give the fullest and fairest consideration to the Royal Commission’s report. It is a very important report. I have had an opportunity only to go through it hastily, but I think I shall be in a position to give honorable senators some information with regard to it.
– Were there not two reports? Are there not a majority and a minority report?
– Yes ; I shall deal with that.
– Can the Minister give the personnel of the Royal Commission ?
– The Commission was constituted of some nineteen persons. There is a majority report presented and signed by eleven of those persons, and a minority report signed by five, while three took no part in connexion with the reports. I propose to give, first, the names of those comprising the eleven who signed the majority report, and I should like to say that, for the information I supply concerning the members of the Royal Commission, I consulted Who’s Who. Dealing first with those who signed the majority report they comprised - The President the Right Honorable Arthur Cohen, P.C., 1905, K.C., M.A. He is a Judge of the Cinque Parts, and has been on several Commissions. James Celand, Baron Inverclyde, principal director of the shipping firm of G. and J. Burns Limited ; a director of Cunard’s steamship company, and of Clyde Steamship Owners Association. Charles Napier Lawrence, Deputy Chairman London and North- Western Railway ; Chairman of London Board of North British Mercantile Insurance Company. Sir Hugh Bell, ironmaster and colliery owner, managing director of Bell Brothers Limited, and director of Dorman, Long, and Company. Sir William Thomas Lewis, a large employer of labour in connexion with collieries and manufactories in South Wales. He is connected with engineering institutions, and has served on several Commissions. Sir Alfred Edmund Bateman, who has been a member of numerous Commissions. E. C. K. Gonner, Professor of Economic Science in the University of Liverpool. Frederick Maddison, who signed the report subject to certain reservations. William Mitchell, director of Wm. Fison and Company, spinners and manufacturers, and Vice-President of the Associated Chambers Of Commerce of the United Kingdom. M.r. Owen Costy Phillips. Oswald Sanderson, director of Earles Shipbuilding and Engineering Company Limited, Hull; director of the Hull Steamshipping and Ice Company Limited ; Chairman of Wilsons and North Eastern Railway Shipping Company, Hull ; and director of the United Shipping Company, Hull. The members of the Commission who signed the minority report were - Sir David Miller Barbour, who_ has been a member of numerous Commissions. Sir John Macdonell, Master of the Supreme Court. Robert Henry Muirhead Collins, representing Australia. Captain Collins represented Australia because Lord Jersey, who was asked to do so, could not spare the time. Henry Birchenough, director of British South Africa Company and Imperial and Continental Gas Association. He has at various times been a member of many Boards and Committees ; and John Barry, Esq. The Royal Commission’ was directed to inquire into the operations of shipping rings or conferences, the latter being the more euphonious term by which rings .are designated in the Old Country. They were to go more especially into the system of deferred rebates and to report whether such operations have caused or were likely to cause injury to British or Colonial trade, and if so what remedial action if any should be taken by. legislation or otherwise. That is shortly the scope of the Commission’s inquiries. The appointment of the Commission was the outcome of representations made on the part of South Africa by the High Commissioner. Honorable senators are aware that South Africa is dependent for its necessaries and supplies largely upon these shipping rings or conferences, the two great industries of the country being agriculture and mining. In the case of one it is necessary that they should find an output for their surplus products, and in the case of the other, they must secure transport for mining machinery and equipment. Unfortunately for South Africa the various lines of ships trading to South African ports were controlled or dominated by the London shipping conferences.
– They were all under the control of Sir Donald Currie.
– Practically they were dominated by Sir Donald Currie. They had been subjected to the most despotic and arbitrary treatment, as I shall show honorable senators presently. Their treatment, indeed, had caused such an outcry that representations were made to the British Government to appoint this Commission. Now, in dealing with a report of this character it is important that we should have some little idea of the procedure which was followed in the conduct of the Commission. So far as I can gather, they did not examine witnesses upon oath. In fact, they say that what they did was to invite complaints from merchants and other shippers, to listen to any grievances which might be brought forward by other outside shippers, and, having tabulated these, to afford the shipping conferences an opportunity of replying to the complaints so made. Those who signed the majority report seem to have largely discounted a suggestion which was made to the effect that a large number of merchants and others were afraid to come forward and give evidence, because of the influence wielded by the conferences. This matter is dealt with very succinctly upon page 97 of the minority report, which says : -
Not a few merchants are interested in the shipping rings, either directly as principals or indirectly as being their agents. Many merchants would be unwilling to oppose them.
Mr. Spens, who gave evidence on behalf of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, said, in his memorandum of evidence (paragraph 9) - “ . . Unquestionably there is difficulty in getting shippers to allow cases of their own to be quoted with names and particulars. This difficulty in itself illustrates how completely the shipping rings have succeeded in destroying fair bargaining between themselves and shippers. It is the completeness of the domination of the lines over those they deal with, and the dangers shippers therefore run if they put themselves in a position of active antagonism, which naturally make shippers most unwilling to come forward and give particular instances of the hardships they are experiencing.” Mr. Wright, who gave evidence on behalf of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, said - “ During the past few years the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce has received constant complaints from merchants and manufacturers with reference to the manner in which their trade was being affected by the operation of shipping rings. In most cases it has been impossible to obtain details, even on the promise of the strictest privacy, and this reserve on the part of traders can only be put down to the fear that the communication of details might conceivably lead to their being traced by shipowners and penalized in consequence.”
Mr. Spens also gave the following instance, both of the power of the rings and of the unwillingness of shippers to place themselves in opposition to them. “ Unquestionably, at the time of the Thompson-Houston opposition, I was informed by quite a respectable firm that they shipped by the Thompson-Houston line, and found that their South African agents and correspondents declined to take their goods, not only because they were threatened with being charged double the freight ; and, further, in order to get back they had not only to express their penitence, but to send a sum of money to a charity.”
In regard to this matter, the following remark is made in the report of the majority : - “A suggestion was put forward by Mr. Spens and Mr. Wright that important evidence of arbitrary abuse of their power by the Shipping Conferences was withheld from us owing to fear on the part of shippers that the giving of such evidence would lead to acts of retaliation by the shipowners concerned. This, however, we cannot believe.”
We can only say that the unwillingness of some shippers to appear in opposition to the rings seems to us to be beyond question. That this unwillingness is due to a fear whether reasonable or not of possible consequence is an inference as to the legitimacy of which each person can form his own opinion.
The remarks which we have just made illustrate one of the difficulties under which the Commission has conducted its inquiry. The members of the shipping rings have the same interests, and their organization is complete. On the other hand, the merchants, the persons more immediately affected by the action of the rings, are divided in their interests ; they may live far apart ; they can only combine with difficulty, and they are, at least in some cases, unwilling to appear in opposition to the rings. The producers and consumers, who are really the persons specially interested in the matter, are only affected indirectly, and have even less power of combination. The inevitable result is to give the shipping rings an advantage in procuring and adducing evidence over those who are opposed to them.
Some witnesses who appeared before the Commission or sub-Commission only consented to give their evidence, or part of it, in camera.
– Is that the whole of the minority report?
– No. That document contains about 120 pages. I think it is well that honorable members should bear this fact in mind, in order that they may understand the manner in which the Commission was conducted, and also that they may realize that its investigations were not of so complete a character as might otherwise appear. I intend presently to deal very briefly with the majority and minority reports of the Commission. But before doing so I ask honorable senators to view this matter for a moment through British spectacles. If they do they will recognise that the system of conferences and rebates has been in force for a period of something like thirty years. It was first instituted in connexion with the Calcutta trade merely as a conference system. But difficulties were found by reason of certain contracts, which had been entered into by the larger shippers, so that two years later the system of rebates came into operation. It soon became the recognised system so far as shipping was concerned, and it has continued to be so regarded for the past twenty-five or twenty-eight years. The result has been that millions of pounds have been invested in the shipping industry, and it is alleged largely on the faith of what had become a recognised system. In dealing with the vast vested interests which have been so established, one can readily understand that the majority, especially, would stand aghast at any suggestion in favour of a drastic altertion. It is true that those who signed the majority report of this Commission could not but admit that these conferences obtained in respect of most of the outward trade from Great Britain. They had to recognise that monopolies had been established in that connexion, and that those monopolies had been guilty of the most arbitrary conduct. They also had to recognise that the system of granting rebates was essential to the carrying on of the transport trade along these various routes. But whilst that system obtains in regard to a large percentage of the shipping trade of the Mother Country, it does not obtain in respect of the homeward trade, the North Atlantic trade, and the coastal trade of Great Britain. It is important to bear that fact in mind. Outside of that particular trade, however, it is the recognised system of trading. Although the most definite evidence was given from time to time of the despotic conduct of these monopolies, and of the evils flowing from the system, neither the majority nor the minority reports of the Commission recommend that the system should be drastically put down. The majority suggested that it might be dealt with in this way ; that the shippers might combine, and, having combined, they would be in a position to deal with the shipping conferences. But that course is obviously open to the objection that, while the shipping companies are large bodies, and can be readily associated, the shippers themselves are spread over various ports. Consequently that suggestion must be limited so far as its application is concerned. The majority also suggested that some supervision might be exercised by the Board of Trade. They pointed out that where agreements were entered into between conferences and shippers, those agreements might be filed, that a system might be initiated under which the tariff rates might be filed and published, and that the power of inquiry should be vested in the Board of Trade, which might see its way to report to Parliament. Shortly put, that is the way in which the majority recommended that this acknowledged evil - this desperate monopoly - should be dealt with. Then the minority, in reporting, did not hesitate to denounce in the most scathing terms these combinations and trusts, together with the system of conferences and rebates. At the same time its members could not see their way to make any drastic suggestions for remedying the evil.
– Did they discuss or refer to American legislation upon the subject?
– Only one member of the Commission, Sir David Barbour, recommended, in the strongest language, that the principles embodied in the Sherman and Elkins laws should be resorted to.
– Did no one else assign reasons why those laws should not be resorted to?
– I cannot say what was stated in evidence, but I know that the subject was under the consideration of the Commission. The minority quite approve of the idea of shippers forming a combination, in order to make terms with the conferences, but they add that it is desirable that there should be some system of conciliation in this regard, and suggest that, no doubt, some business arrangement of a mutually satisfactory character would ultimately take place. They also suggest greater supervision by the Board of Trade and a wider scope for the purposes of inquiry. Honorable senators will see that although all the evils which we could possibly lay before Parliament are acknowledged to be incidental to this system and these trusts, yet these are the only suggestions for their remedy made in the report. The conditions of the Mother Country, where this system has obtained for a vast number of years, are very different from the conditions of Australia. In the Mother Country it has become a recognised system, and it is suggested that vast sums have been invested on the faith of its existence. In Australia the system of conference, accompanied by the system of rebate, is practically in its infancy. It is applied to one or two outward lines, from the United Kingdom to Australia, but, apart from that, it is only applicable to our coastal or domestic trade. The principle which was involved in the original legislation, and the principle which is sought to be carried out in this Bill would, I have no hesitation in saying, apply to the domestic ring or conference which exists,’ so far as Inter-State trade and oversea commerce are concerned. This report bristles with evidence of despotism and arbitrary conduct, on the part of this trust; it shows the natural development of this system, and nothing could be more conclusive than that our duty clearly is to nip the evil in the bud. If it is an evil, then we should drastically put it down at the outset, as far as we possibly can. The contrast between the conditions of the Mother Country and the conditions of Australia makes it imperative that we should take the more drastic course.
– What will the Go- vernment do with foreigners who come and cut freights?
– When the Navigation Bill is passed, they can only engage in our coastal trade on our own terms. On page 72 of this report, some of the complaints of arbitrary acts by the
South African Conference are referred to. Of course, it will only be possible for me to quote a few extracts. I ask honorable senators to listen to this quotation from page 72 - ^ By a letter of the 23rd May, 1907, to theChairman of the South African Merchants’ Committee, Sir Donald Currie announced certain proposed new rates of freight. But the same letter also announced a reduction of the amount of the rebate from ten to five per cent. When the effect of the reduction of the rebate is taken into account, the net result is that while the rates on classes 2, 3, 4, and 5 to Durban and Delagoa Bay, and on classes 3, 4, and 5 to East London were reduced, the rates on all classes to Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, and on classes 1 and 2 to East London were increased. That is to say that, although the merchants and Governments of South Africa have been for many years past asking for a percentage reduction of the tariff rates, the alterations which have been’ made actually increase the rates to certain of the ports.
The report continues -
Further, it may be noticed as an instance of the autocratic spirit of the South African Conference, that Sir Donald Currie, in announcing the intention of the Conference to make the above reduction in the rebate percentage, stated (with reference to a resolution passed in South Africa in favour of the abolition of the system of deferred rebates) that he was glad the shipowners had been able to go half-way in meeting this proposal.
That is, I think, a magnificent piece of humour. Sir Donald Currie was prepared to alter the rates. He reduced them as regards one port, increased them as regards another port, and, as they had suggested the abolition of the rebates, he said, “ I will meet you half-way by reducing the rebates from 10 per cent, to 5 per cent.” This action caused alarm to the various Governments in South Africa. They called a Conference at Bloemfontein to take steps to counteract the effect of the change. According to the report -
This Conference passed a resolution to the effect that “ the railway rates at present shall remain undisturbed, but rebates shall be granted in respect of the various ports affected, in such a manner as to maintain the, status quo which existed prior to the 1st July, 1907,” an arrangement which, as explained by Mr. Mosenthal and other witnesses, involved much trouble to men of business. No doubt the Conference lines were within their legal rights in acting as they did.
In other words, as State was put against State, and as all the railway freights were upset by reason of the alteration of the rates, the various Governments in South Africa were obliged to meet, and ultimately to resort to the same process, for the purpose of counteracting the action of the shipping combines.
– Exactly as the Government of Victoria do in order to get the Murray River trade - they quote less rates than do the other States.
– No matter where it is done, it is wrong. The report continues -
No doubt the Conference lines were within their legal rights in acting as they did. But this procedure on their part disturbing a longstanding arrangement of great importance, not unnaturally appeared to be highly arbitrary. As SirH. F. Wilson, commenting upon it, said, “We may come to make elaborate arrangements - as we have on various occasions - here with regard to Tailway rates, and the Conference lines, by a stroke of the pen, may upset such arrangement and produce complete chaos.
Later, the report says -
The actions of the Conference in these matters seem to us to show that the members of the Conference, or the dominant members of it, have not only been alive to, or anxious to meet, the wishes of the South African communities, but that for the purpose of preserving their monopoly and resisting change, they have not abstained from playing off the interests of one colony against those of another.
We have dealt only with arbitrary actions by the South African Conference, because it was with regard to that Conference that the most serious complaints were made ; but complaints of a somewhat similar kind have been made with regard to certain other Conferences, especially the West African, and it is obvious that in view of the power which the system gives to ship-owners, and of the fact that owing to that power, the lines in Conference are judges in their own cause, there may always be from time to time arbitrary actions of which shippers may have reasonable ground for complaint. This will be particularly the case in Conferences which are dominated by oneline.
– Is there any reference made to Australian trade?
– Yes, particularly in regard to the freights in the outward trade from the United Kingdom to Australia. I believe that there is a Conference.
– Which is all done by brokers.
– There is, I think, another reference, where they state that there was a combination of shippers in Australia, but point out that it was a combination of some thirty shippers, and that by reason of the combination they were able to get some valuable concessions made to them. That, I submit, is a very small affair indeed compared with the gigantic matters which are dealt with in this Bill.
– Is there anything which shows a prejudice against Australian interests by these people?
– Unfortunately, I have only two copies of this somewhat voluminous report, and it does not include the minutes of proceedings or the notes of evidence. If honorable senators feel interested, there are various portions of the report to which I would be only too glad to draw their attention, but I do not desire to unduly trespass upon their patience.
– Re-print the report.
– I do not think it is necessary to do that.
– If matters are as bad as the Minister states, the people of Australia ought to have a chance of reading the report.
– I will now draw the attention of honorable senators to other features of the report. The advantages of the conference and the rebate system are dealt with at length by the majority at page 38 and onward. At page 99, the minority dealt with these advantages in a succinct way, and perhaps I may be permitted to read this quotation-
The advocates of the system of shipping rings and deferred rebates appear to hold that it is positively advantageous to the community as compared with the system of unrestricted competition. As stated in the majority report, the chief advantages which they claim for it are the following : -
Improvements in service by -
the institution and maintenance of regular sailings and stable rates of freight.
the provision of steamers of high-class and speed.
Economy in cost of service.
More economic distribution of cost of service.
The maintenance of equal rates from the United Kingdom and the Continent.
Uniform rates of freight to all shippers, large or small.
No carriage on ship’saccount.
We may note the fact that none of these advantages - the chief of which, or analgous advantages to which, are claimed by the advocates of all monopolies - are given under any contract which can be enforced by law; that all of them mav be withheld without the shippers affected receiving, or being entitled to, any redress; and that the report of the majority which lays stress upon their existence does not propose that the ship-owners shall be placed under any legal obligation to continue them. The Conferences are free to withdraw any or all of such advantages.
Referring to these advantages, the majority say, on page 50 -
Our opinion on the whole matter may be summarized as follows : -
The advantages conferred by Shipping Conferences are substantially dependent upon the system of deferred rebates, or some system equally effective as a “tie” upon the shippers and equally uniform in its application.
If the rebate system were abolished, shipowners would endeavour to secure the custom of shippers by making contracts with them covering long periods.
The contract system would in large general trades lead to the making of preferential contracts with large at the expense of small shippers.
The conclusions and recommendations of the majority start at page 75. After summarizing the matter, they say, on page 77 -
We found, in short, that the system existed in practically all trades where the nature of the trade and the character of the shipments require an organized service, where there is at the same time actual or probable competition of other ships, and where there are no special circumstances securing the provision of such a service independently of cargo requirements.
Then, dealing with the nature, the conditions, and the results of the Conference system, they say -
In the first place, we pointed out in Part 3 that a combination, formed and safeguarded by such a tic as the deferred rebate, necessarily created a certain kind of monopoly, but that, owing to the form of the Conference and the nature of competition in sea transport, this monopoly was under present conditions subject to certain important limitations. The chief of the limitations are as follows : -
Outside a Conference there is always present a quantity of shipping ready to take advantage of any opportunity which may offer of entry into the particular trade.
The connexion between the lines in a Conference is not sufficiently close to eliminate competition in facilities as well as in rates.
Continued or very serious abuse of monopoly power mightlead to common action among the shippers, and consequently to effective measures of retaliation.
We nevertheless came to the conclusion that a Shipping Conference, making use of the system of deferred rebates, did possess, so far as the shipper of general merchandise is concerned, a limited monopoly, and that this monopoly was dependent upon the continuous hold secured over the shipper by means of a tie, taking at present the form of the deferred rebate, and upon the fact that a Conference includes all, or practically all, the existing means of transportation by regular lines.
I have already pointed out that the supervision of the Board of Trade is advised.
On page 90, they conclude their recommendation by saying -
We desire also, to observe that in the opinions which we have expressed in regard to the system of Shipping Conferences and deferred rebates, and in the recommendations which we have made for its improvement and control, we have had regard to the system as it exists at the present day, and to its probable developments. It is possible that at some future time the system may assume a different character, and that in the shipping trade, as in other industries, there may be trusts or combinations calling for statutory regulation of a more drastic kind than that here proposed. We have refrained from dealing with this subject, because it appeared to us to involve speculations of too doubtful and uncertain a character to form the basis of useful discussion or practical recommendations.
The minority report starts on page 95 ; and on page 96, dealing with the object of conferences, and the deferred rebate system, they say -
Under that system a number of Shipping Companies combine to secure a monopoly of a proportion of the shipping trade. They effect their object by undercutting their competitors (if any) in freights until they have driven them away, and, further, by agreeing among themselves to charge the same rates of freight and to return a fixed percentage of all freight, after a certain lapse of time, to all “ loyal “ shippers, i.e., those shippers who have not shipped any goods by steamers not belonging to the ring. Matters are so arranged that the shipping companies always have a portion of the returnable freight in hand. Consequently, the shipper can never free himself from the ring, even if he can find a steamer not belonging to the ring which is willing to carry his goods, except by submitting to a sacrifice. Unless a very large shipper, he cannot charter an entire vessel. He cannot, as a rule, afford to lose his rebates; and so in this way he is permanently tied to the ring.Even if the rate of freight has been changed while the deferred rebate is in hand, the Conferences claim to retain it if their customer ships by an outside steamer.
Their conclusion, on page114, is as follows -
Summing up the chief conclusions at which we have arrived : -
The Conference system with the deferred rebate - the natural evolution of a highly organized trade dealing with customers for the most part scattered or disorganized - has created on almost all the chief Ocean routes a monopoly, the limitations upon which are in many cases illusory, and which generally tend to decline ;
The system was introduced in the first instance with the object of raising rates or preventing their fall and diminishing competition ;
It has been successful in raising or keeping up rates ;
The public have, as a rule, to pay higher rates of freight than they would pay in an open market ;
The system has been injurious to “tramps,” the strongest element in the British mercantile marine, and it leads as to them to waste and to higher rates of freight ;
The system tends to waste in various other directions, owing to the manner in which the rings are constituted ;
There is no satisfactory evidence that the saving in cost, if there be any, under the system of shipping rings, exceeds the waste which is due to that system;
The system tends to inflate the amount of tonnage, and consequently the amount of capital invested upon which interest has to be paid ;
It has diminished or tends to diminish the ports of sailing;
It gives a country such as the United States, in which the system is illegal, an advantage as compared with the United Kingdom ;
It has caused in the case of South Africa diversion of British trade;
There is no evidence that it has appreciably increased regularity of sailing or greatly improved the quality of steamers; but it has tended to bring about equality and stability of rates.
There is, however, a reservation by Sir David Barbour, who hits out somewhat vigorously. He signed the minority report, but also wrote -
I have signed the above report because I agree generally in the arguments brought forward in it, and in the conclusions drawn from them. At the same time, while I fully recognise the evils that might be caused by hasty and ill-considered action in a matter which is of national importance, I am unable to see that any practicable system of check would remove the evils to which the system of shipping rings, as at present constituted, gives rise. Apart from the fact that no system of check would affect some of these evils, such as the injury to that important section of British shipping which is composed of tramp steamers, I do not think that the gigantic system of monopolies established by the shipping rings could safely be recognised by the Legislature unless at the same time there were provided some means of check by an independent authority over rates of freight, and if any such provision were made there is little doubt that the ship-owners would prefer to abandon the whole system rather than have the rates which they are to charge to the public dictated to them by an outside authority.
If deferred rebates were made illegal, the shipping rings would probably cease to exist, and the system of monopolies would disappear, but I am told that satisfactory legislation to this end would be difficult. A more drastic, and probably more effective and simpler remedy would be legislation on the lines of the Sherman Act of the United States of America prohibiting combinations or associations of the nature of the shipping rings which had for their object the establishment of a monopoly in restraint of trade. I see no reason why such legislation must necessarily be of a general character. It would be sufficient for present purposes to limit it to shipping rings.
Of course, there is very much more that is important in the document from which I am quoting, but I have sought broadly to give the effect. I have referred to some of the leading features, and cannot help coming to the conclusion that the effect of the report is rather to encourage us. in having regard to Australian conditions in the action which we are taking, in firmly and rigidly endeavouring to put down this system of conferences and rebates in relation to our growing Australian trade.
– Does the honorable senator intend to give us any specimens of the local animal? Hitherto his illustrations have been foreign.
– We have the definite recommendations of the Commonwealth Navigation Commission. It reported on the subject of rebates, amongst other things. The majority report is signed by Mr. W. M. Hughes, Mr. L. E. Groom, Senator Guthrie, Senator de Largie, and Mr. S. Mauger.
– Subject to a dissent on my own part.
– Yes. It is also fair to say that there was a minority report signed by Mr. G. B. Edwards, Mr. Wm. Knox, Senator Macfarlane, and Mr. Dugald Thomson. I wish to point out the honest fact that these gentlemen did not include anything in their minority report in regard to rebates. Although they did not sign the majority report which dealt with rebates, they have not signed any dissent from that report so far as the rebate system is concerned. Senator Macfarlane, however, signed a report of his own in regard to that subject. It is headed, “ Freight rebates,” and reads -
The recommendation in the report of the majority of your Commissioners that it be made illegal for any owner, master, or agent of any vessel to give rebate of freight or other advantage to any shipper or consignee of goods if the condition be exclusive shipment by a certain vessel or vessels, is not warranted by the evidence tendered on behalf of some principal shipping and produce firms. The witness, Mr. Glassford, urged the great advantages arising from, steadiness of rates of freight, and reliability of general business operations; this, and the additional evidence of Mr. Grayson and others, does not allow me to recommend such an extreme step as the majority propose.
The majority of the Commonwealth Commission dealt with the subject of relates on page 42 of their report. I will read only two paragraphs. The first is as follows -
Upon the point that the limitation of the coastal trade to vessels complying with Australian conditions would result in a monopoly) a considerable amount of evidence was received. It was freely stated that a combine does already exist, by which the rates for passengers and cargo carried by the companies in the Steam-ship Owners Federation are regulated. Its extent may be gauged by the fact that out of about I88,000 tons engaged in the Interstate traffic less than 10,000 are outside the ring. It will appear that the combine has been in operation for some time, and complaints of a very strong and emphatic character were received as to its methods.
The minority conclude their recommendation in this section of their report, as follows -
As your Commissioners consider that the rebate system is open to grave abuses, and calculated to seriously prejudice the commercial and industrial interests of the Commonwealth, they recommend the introduction of legislation at an early date, making it illegal for the owners, master, or agent of any vessel to give rebates or other advantages to any shipper or consignee of goods, if the condition of such rebates or advantages is that there shall be exclusive shipment by a certain vessel or vessels.
I submit that this recommendation of the Commonwealth Commission is a sound and valuable one, so far as concerns Australian trade. The British Commission recognised that these monopolies have proved, from sorry experience, to be despotic and arbitrary in their terms. They are formed for the purpose of crushing competition, or making it completely feeble. On the other hand, they establish rates according to their own sweet will. These rates are usually on the highest scale, and they are not designed on philanthropic lines, but for the purpose of creating substantial profits. The unfortunate shipper cannot help himself. He is roped in, bound, and tied down. There is no. escape from his position. He cannot ship by any other vessel : or, if he ventures to do so, if he patronizes any free ship, it is at the risk of losing the payments which have been accumulating. Evidence was given before our own Commission that the Conference at times held something like ^60,000 on account “of rebates. That money is held at the disposal of the shipping companies. There is no power of legal resort for the purpose of recovering the money. I do not suggest that anything dishonorable has. up to the present occurred in regard to failure to comply with the under-
Senator Sir. Robert Best. standing established. , Perhaps the companies have complied- with the granting of these rebates on the understandings entered into. But they do so simply as a matter of honour. The shipper has no legal rights in the matter. I submit, then, having regard to the evidence contained in the reports of the British Commission, and to the very conclusive recommendations made by our own Commission, that it is our duty to perfect our laws so far as we can, and to provide a direct and simple process for the purpose of putting an end to this system of rebates in the Australian trade.
– Will the Minister say whether he anticipates that this amending Bill will affect other than shipping industries ?
– It will affect any industry in which the rebate system is in operation.
– Will it affect insurance companies, banking and other commercial companies, and will it affect the “Caucus”?
– It dealswith our Inter- State and oversea trade, and the particular class of monopoly sought to be assailed by it is that which is supported by the operation of the rebate system in the Inter-State and oversea trade in a competition in goods arid services.
– Is it an octopus, taking in all the commercial ramifications of Australia?
– It dealswith monopolies where competition in goods and services is carried on..
-Colonel Cameron. - Could the Bill be used to interfere where, for instance, one man in Victoria is offered some commodity at the fixed trade price by a trader in New South Wales, whilst another man, in Victoria, can buy the same commodity, and receive what is called a trade discount ?
– Such business operations would not be affected’ by the Bill at all.
-Colonel Cameron. - It seems to me that they might be dealt with under this Bill.
– No, the concession must be shown to have beengiven on condition of exclusive dealing before it could come under this measure. > :: . ? l TT]
-Colonel Cameron. - It seems to me that a trader might be brought into Court in order that inquiry might be made as to whether he was trading in that way.
– My honorable friend will see that what is prohibited under this Bill is the granting of a rebate on the condition that the customer deals exclusively with the trader offering the rebate, and with no one else. It is by the operation of that system that monopolies are established. It was, for instance, the great factor in the establishment of the Standard Oil Company.
– Would a rebate, based on the purchase of a certain quantity of goods, be permitted under the Bill?
– The Bill does not propose to interfere with the ordinary usages of trade in granting discounts to individuals where no condition is attached as to exclusive dealing.
Debate (on motion by Senator McGregor) adjourned.
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This measure, which, I believe, has been distributed, is intended to provide compensation for seamen killed or injured in the course of their occupation. In dealing with the matter, I shall necessarily have to refer more particularly to Compensation Acts which are applicable, or relevant, to workers upon land ; for the simple reason that, with few exceptions, Acts of this class have not hitherto been made applicable to seamen.
– They have in the different States. Victoria is the only State in which the matter has not been dealt with.
– If the States have made ample provision, this Bill will not be necessary.
– Some of the States have made provision within their own boundaries.
– With limitations, and there is a limitation not merely as to the area of operation, but also as to the occupation of the injured person. Senator Guthrie will agree that so far as the existing law, State or otherwise, provides for compensation for seamen, it is not such a law as can be regarded as satisfactory. I hope by means of this Bill to introduce a. law which will remove many of the difficulties under which our seamen labour, and which will at any rate have the great advantage of introducing along the coast line of Australia, and throughout Australian registered ships, a uniform law which I believe to be founded both on humanitarian considerations and economic principles. Until within a few years past, legislation of this class advanced very slowly, very timidly, and I think inefficiently., It is comparatively only a few years ago since a complete change was brought about in the view taken as to the principle on which Bills providing for compensation for injuries should be founded. Great Britain, as recently as 1906, extended her Workmen’s Compensation Act to seamen. Certain continental countries had preceded Great Britain in this desirable legislation. France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Holland, and Denmark, had all made some provision for seamen ; the most complete being made by Germany, whilst Holland and Denmark confined the benefits of their legislation to those engaged in the local fishing trade. Up to the year mentioned, Great Britain made no provision for her seamen except in the Merchant Shipping Act. Although she had attempted to deal with workmen on land under a Workmen’s Compensation Act, her law in that respect up to the year 1897 might almost have been said to be a snare and a delusion. Prior to the passage of the Workmen’s Compensation Act of 1897, the conception of justice as represented by the law prevailing in England was that the risk incidental to an occupation should be borne by the workmen ; the employer being held liable only for risks consequent upon his own personal negligence. Although in practice the workman was truly bound to carry the risk of his position, and in theory the employer had to carry the risk of his own negligence, it was found more often than not - owing to the difficulty of giving effect to the law and of furnishing proof - that the employer was able to escape the obligation and the responsibility which a true reading of the law threw upon him.
– Owing to the doctrine of common employment.
- Senator Turley has just anticipated me. The common law made the employer liable for injury to his workmen only where the injury was consequent upon the personal negligence of the employer. That meant that where the injury to one workman had been caused by the negligence of another, although that other might be in the position of a superintendent or overseer, as the agent qf the employer, and the man injured might be bound to obey his orders, the employer was able to avoid the liability which, under this Bill, it is now sought clearly to attach to him. The doctrine of common employment referred to by Senator Turley was really a doctrine that a workman engaging himself with an employer was supposed to understand and assume the risks incidental to his occupation, and, further, to know the efficiency and steadiness of his fellow employes. It assumed that, knowing the risks of his occupation, and knowing, or being supposed to know, the steadiness and efficiency of his fellow workmen, he contracted to carry the risks. There was still another pitfall in the way of the injured workman seeking to recover compensation. It was created by what was known as the doctrine of contributory negligence. I can briefly dismiss the effect’ of that doctrine by saying that, if it could be shown that an accident to a workman was due to the extent of ninety-nine per cent, to the negligence of his employer, and to the extent of only one per cent, to the negligence of the workman himself, the workman was nonsuited every time.
– How does the honorable senator account for that?
– That was due to the law as it then stood. It occurred under the common law doctrine laid down and developed by succeeding judgments.
– As interpreted by the Privy Council.
– It had been established as the result of judgment after judgment in common law cases.
– Not in the lower courts.
– I am making these historical references in order to show how recently it is that Legislatures have arrived at the present conception of what constitutes an equitable adjustment of obligation as between the workman and the employer.
– The influence of “Labour.
– I do not wish to take from my honorable friend the satisfaction which I know he derived from his interjection. But may I say, without desiring to offend the honorable senator, that nothing is more charming in its arrogance than the assumption of our honorable friends opposite that all good things commence and end with them. One other difficulty which confronted the- workman was that, if there happened to be any defect in machinery or building, as the result of which an accident happened to him, although the defect might have been in violation of some existing law, and although the employer might know of it, still, if it could be shown that the workman also knew of it, he lost his claim to compensation. A writer in a recent issue of the Atlantic Monthly, referring to this aspect of the case, says -
Even if there is gross default on the part of the employer, if certain precautions have been neglected by him, if stringent provisions of the law have been flagrantly violated, still, if the workman knew these acts of omission or violations of the law, he is presumed to have waived any remedy.
That being the case, it will easily be understood that the law, as it existed, did not offer much substantial satisfaction to injured workman. A comparatively recent judgment in a case of this kind, by Lord Brampton, summarizes the position as it existed up to the time at which the judgment was delivered. I propose to quote it as showing the opinion of this eminent lawyer as to what the law really meant, so far as the workman was concerned, up to the time of the delivery of the judgment in 1902. Speaking of the position existing prior to the passage of the Workmen’s Compensation Act, his Lordship said -
In the first place, there was no available process known to the law by which such redress could be recovered, except by action at law, or by proceeding under the Employers’ Liability Acts; but no such action or proceeding could be successful unless the workman was in a condition to prove, by legal evidence, that his injury was due to actionable negligence or other misconduct or default of the person from whom he sought to recover, or some other person or persons for whose negligence he was responsible. Compensation without proof of such negligence was unheard of, and such proof was often hard to discover. Moreover, it was often extremely difficult, even when the facts were ascertained, to determine who was the person liable to be sued in the action, and to avoid such difficulties many persons were often made defendants in actions who were under no legal liability. Added to these obstacles, the law itself was for the most part too uncertain, too dilatory, and far too expensive ‘for an ordinary workman to embark in. Having regard to this unsatisfactory state of things, it was, as I have gathered from a study of the Act, felt by the Legislature that it would be but just and right to confer upon a large class of workmen, whose necessities compelled them to seek employment in certain specified dangerous occupations, in the course of which accidents, not always possible to be guarded against are of frequent occurrence, some partly casual, others no doubt attributable to negligence or default of fellow workmen, whom it would be idle to sue, or others whose identity could not be established, a right to claim compensation to a moderate and limited amount in respect of the loss of such wages as they were incapacitated from earning in consequence of accidental injury, upon mere proof of the accident and its resulting loss, irrespective of its cause. Another object was to impose the obligation of providing such statutory compensation upon those to whom good sense would naturally point as the fittest persons to’ bear it, and to define for the convenience of injured workmen seeking compensation the persons from whom they are entitled to claim it. And, further, to provide a simple proceeding entailing comparatively trifling expense by which such compensation might, if necessary, be enforced. To carry out these very laudable objects the Act of 1897 was passed.
That was the statement made after the passing of the Act of 1897, and before the Imperial Parliament had amended it by the Act of 1906. As that judgment shows, the scope of previous Acts was limited to certain specified trades which were called “dangerous.” But the later Imperial Act was extended to practically all trades in Great Britain, including that of seamen. It also made other very important amendments, the effect of which was to render it more definite and speedy in its operation.
– That Act also applies to domestic servants and farm labourers.
– The difference between the Act of 1906 and that of 1897 is that the latter applied only to persons engaged in specified trades, whereas the former applies to all workmen, except those engaged in a few trades, which are specified. Senator Guthrie has said that most of the States have laws of this kind in operation. That is so, but I am unable to derive from that statement the satisfaction which appears to animate my honorable friend. I have looked through the various State Acts, and I find that Queensland was the first to bring forward a measure, which, so far as I am able tojudge, approximates to the British Act. I admit that New Zealand has legislated much on the same lines.
– In the Employers’ Liability Act.
– No; all the States have an Act of that kind in operation. But I am speaking of the Workmen’s Compensation Act, which is quite distinct in its underlying principle from the Employers’ Liability Act. So far as New South Wales is concerned, I regret to say that there legislation of this character is extremely defective. In that State, it is true, seamen are covered by the Employers’ Liability Act, but the Act applies only to seamen working in port orwithin a limited distance thereof. To that extent its usefulness is very limited, and I am not aware that any great advantage has been taken of it.Following upon the Act passed in Great Britain in 1897 a Commission was appointed for the purpose of inquiring into its working, also to ascertain how far it might be advisable to extend its operation, and especially whether its operation ought to be extended to seamen. I have turned to that Commission, as one would naturally do who wishes to make himself familiar with the last word upon the subject to date. I find that the Commission finally reduced the subject matters of its inquiry to a series of questions, some of which I should like to read. The first question which the Commission set itself to answer reads -
Have these Acts in their operation been unduly productive of litigation? If so, to what causes can this result be attributed, and how far can the evil be mitigated?
The answer which the Commission returned to that question reads-
On the whole, we come to the conclusion that the amount of actual litigation produced by the Workmen’s Compensation Acts of 1897 and 1900 has been very small when compared with the great number of cases settled by agreement without recourse whatever to legal aid, or to proceedings in Court.
The next question which the Commission asked themselves was -
Have they imposed, or are they likely to impose, any undue burden on the employer?
Their answer to that question reads -
Summing up the whole of the evidence with regard to the operations of Mutual Insurance Companies which have been formed or adapted to protect employers of particular industries against the risks imposed on them, by the Workmen’s Compensation Acts, we think the general inferences to be drawn are -
Permanent cases, and that the Act of 1897 has not been sufficiently long in operation to permit of any really trustworthy estimate being formed of the limits which this increase will ultimately reach.
Another question which they asked themselves was -
Has their operation on the whole been beneficial to the workman ?
Their answer was -
Turning now to the question whether the Compensation Acts of 1897 and 1900 have conferred substantial benefits on those classes of workmen who are in a position to take advantage of them, we think that the general answer must be decidedly in the affirmative. Previous to the coming into operation of these Acts it is no exaggeration to say that the whole burden of the loss occasioned by industrial accidents fell upon the workmen, subject to the numerous exceptions where the burden was alleviated by the generosity of the employer, either by help afforded immediately to the injured workman, or by contribution to sick or accident funds. … It seems right and necessary to make by law systematic provision for relief from the consequences of industrial accidents. In this way alone can some degree of uniformity be obtained, and workers in the industries within the law of compensation and those dependent on them, have reasonable security for obtaining substantial relief from the consequences of industrial accident, and that, in the great majority of cases, without litigation, delay, or expense.
One other question which the Commission submitted to themselves - and I am sure the answer which they gave to it will be received with a great deal of approval by all sections of the Senate - reads -
Under what conditions have the Acts operated most beneficially ?
The reply was -
The formation of new associations of employers belonging to particular industries, to deal with cases arising under the Act or the adaptation of associations previously existing for that purpose, has already been referred to at considerable length. A natural consequence has been that it has become a general practice for all claims for compensation on behalf of any member of a trades union to be dealt with by the secretary to the union. The trades union official enters into communication with the secretary or other official of the Employers’ Association. As has already been seen in dealing with the question of litigation, the result is that in the great majority of cases there is no dispute either as to liability or amount; in some cases where there is some dispute at first the questions are settled between the officials; in a comparatively small number the assistance of a solicitor is called in, and the case is settled after some correspondence, and, of course, at some cost. In a very small minority it becomes necessary to have recourse to the County Court, and of this last class again, a small number raise questions of difficulty which are carried to the Court of Appeal, and in some cases, in English (not Scotch) cases, to the House of Lords.
The evidence leaves on our minds the impression that it is where the organization of the associations, both of employers and workmen, is most complete that there is the least amount of litigation and the greatest satisfaction with the settlements reached.
Far greater difficulties appear to arise where there is no trade organization. The workman who has no organization to resort to for advice and assistance in such matters is comparatively helpless, or has to call in legal assistance. Costs are at once incurred, and the dangers above pointed out attending litigation are much more likely to occur.
I have selected from the findings of the Commission what appear to me to be the four most pertinent questions which they submitted to themselves, and which they answered. From those questions and answers, and from their exhaustive inquiry, it is possible to form only one impression, namely, that so far as the workman is concerned, these Acts have not produced litigation, that their operation has been distinctly beneficial to him, and particularly so where he has been able to operate through his organization. That is just what we might have been led to expect from our experience in Australia.
– Eighteen years ago, the Vice-President of the Executive Council fought as hard as possible for freedom of contract.
– I do wish that the honorable senator would interject what is accurate. He cannot point to any action of mine in which I ever endeavoured to hamper a union. It seems to me a peculiar thing that when I am dealing with a Bill which Senator Turley, and other senators, opposite, will receive with cordiality, he cannot refrain from making an interjection which is not accurate, and which bristles with party feeling.
– The interjection was not intended to apply to the VicePresident of the Executive Council.
– At any rate, the honorable senator interjected whilst I was speaking. To my mind, this Bill opens up a vista of very important legislation, of which I regard it merely as a steppingstone. I was pointing out when I was interrupted that there were three questions which the Commission answered distinctly in favour of this Bill. The fourth question dealt with the extent of -the financial responsibility which will be thrown upon the shipping industry. It will be noticed that the reply given to it was to the effect that so far that burden has not been great, but that there was a tendency for it to grow. That must be obvious to all, because when a scheme is introduced, there will naturally be during the first year of its operation only a limited number who will obtain compensation under it. But each vear that number will grow until a stage is reached at which the beneficiaries who pass away will equal in number those who are coming under its provisions. That stage has not yet been reached in Great Britain, but it is being reached in New Zealand. There the amount of “ new business,” if I may use an insurance term, balances the expiring business.
– Cannot an employer by insuring make his obligation very light indeed ?
– I shall deal with that matter at a later stage, when I present information regarding the rates at which this liability can be covered with various companies. As the result of the investigation of the Commission, to which I nave referred, the Imperial authorities brought forward a Bill which extended the scope of the Workmen’s Compensation Act to all trades in Great Britain, and also to seamen. One of the best known writers on the subject thus referred to the Act’ as -
A revolution in the branch of law which concerns the legal relationship between employer and workman in the occupations to which the Act applied, for it established a liability in the master to pay compensation to an injured workman, or to the dependants of one who had been killed, although there had been no wrongful act or omission on the master’s part or on the part of any one employed by lum. Liability is imposed, upon the employer who is blameless, equally with him who has been guilty of negligence. The workman is not called upon to prove negligence as a condition precedent to success, and he loses his right to compensation by nothing short of his own “ serious and wilful misconduct.”
I have quoted that extract because it accurately summarizes the main principle of this Bill. Following upon the report of that Commission and the passage of a Bill, the matter was dealt with by our own Navigation Commission. I do not propose to quote the finding of the Commission, but merely to state that it expressed some surprise that seamen had hitherto been shut out of the scope of Acts, the benefits of which had for some time been enjoyed by land workers. The Imperial Navigation Conference similarly dealt with the matter, and passed this resolution -
That the adoption of uniform legislation is desirable, with a view to extend the benefits of the Workmen’s Compensation Acts to Seamen, as has been already done in the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
It will be seen that the matter has been gradually working up to the point at which it now stands, of being ready for discussion here. I ask the indulgence of honorable senators while I describe the more important provisions of the Bill. Clause 2 contains this provision -
This Act shall commence on a day to be fixed by proclamation.
Obviously that is a convenient provision to have in a Bill of this kind. The object, of course, will not be to delay the bringing of the Act into operation, but as there will be some regulations to be prepared, and other matters to be attended to, it is certainly desirable that the measure should contain a provision for expediting, or, if necessary, slightly delaying the time when it shall become active law. As regards clause 3, which deals with definitions, I propose only to refer to the meaning of the term “ dependants. ‘ ‘ I specially invite the attention of the Senate to the definition, because in the majority of cases the dependants will be the claimants for compensation. The definition reads in this way - “ Dependants” means such of the members of the seaman’s family as were wholly or in part dependent upon the earnings of the seaman at the time of his death, or who would, but for the incapacity due to the accident, have been so dependent.
It also includes the parents, grandparents, children, dependants, and even extends, as I think it ought to do, and as I hope the Senate will think too, to children which have had the misfortune to be illegitimately born. Clause 4 relates to the class of ships whose seamen are entitled to the protection or benefits of the Act. The seamen who will be covered by the Act are those employed -
I break off there, in order to refer io subclause 2, which dennes coasting trade i<.r the purposes of the Act. It reads as follows : -
A ship shall be deemed to be engaged in the coasting trade, within the meaning of this section, if she takes on board passengers “or cargo at any port in a State, or in Territory under the authority of the Commonwealth, to be carried to and landed or delivered at any port in the same State or Territory, or in another State or Territory.
There is a slight difference between the definition of coasting trade in this clause a’nd that which is contained in the Navigation Bill. It will be seen at once that the former includes not merely those vessels which go from one State to another State, but also those vessels which ply between two ports in the same State. Clause 5 excludes from the operation of the Act a seaman whose earnings exceed £5 per week, and a seaman sharing the profits or earnings of a fishing vessel. With regard to the second class of exemptions, it will be obvious, I think, to honorable senators that where men go out as mates in a venture, it would be hardly fair or reasonable that any one of them should be called upon to stand the loss consequent upon an injury to one. They all go out as partners in the concern, and, of course, have to share a joint responsibility.
– Suppose that they are not the owners of the vessel?
– If they do not own the vessel, and go out as partners in the profits of a venture, they cannot be called workmen in the ordinary sense of the term?
– They are temporary partners.
– No; men who go out on a whaling voyage are not partners.
– This clause will not shut out a whaler who is getting wages plus a share in the profits of the voyage. He will still be an employe. I am referring entirely to a group of fishermen who simply join together for the purpose of a fishing voyage. It may be undertaken in a rented vessel, or in a vessel belonging to one of them; but they all go out as members of a co-operative concern for the purposes of the trip. The reason for exempting a seaman whose earnings exceed £5 per week may not be quite so obvious as the reason for exempting the other class. It is known that any one remunerated st that rate can obtain far higher benefits under a separate policy than he could do if grouped with a number of seamen obtaining less wages. In other words, under this Bill, if a man is killed, £400 is the limit of compensation. It is not desirable, or, perhaps, practicable, to include in an aver-i age policy covering a group of men one whose salary ranges from ^5 upwards.
– A man who receives £5 per week or over does not come under the Bill ; he is supposed to assure his own life.
– Yes, and He can do it much more economically than he could if he regarded himself as one of the crew, and was averaged out with them. Wilh a wage of £5 a week, he might have to pay ^14 or £15 a year to obtain a policy under this Bill, which would represent only ^400 if he were killed.
– He is to get no benefit under the Bill.
– No, he is shut out. The scale of compensation is set out in the first schedule to the Bill. As the hour is getting late, I do not propose to do more than to state that in case of death the compensation payable is to be at the rate of the wages earned during the three years preceding the date of the injury causing the death, or the sum of .£200, whichever is the larger, but not in any case to exceed ,£400. Practically the limit of ,£400 runs through all the clauses dealing with compensation. In the case of personal injuries, the1 compensation payable under the schedule may amount to 50 per cent, of the wages earned during the preceding three years. In that case also there is a limit of ^400, but in lieu of paying a weekly sum provision is made for the payment of a lump sum. It is desirable for honorable senators to note that where an agreement is arrived at for that purpose, it is to be done under official supervision. As a safeguard to the seaman himself it is provided that the agreement he makes for receiving a lump sum shall not be recognised unless it has been officially approved. There is a proceeding provided for by which almost judicial authority is required before the agreement can be given effect to.
– In Great Britain the maximum is .£300. Can the Minister state what it is in Queensland and Western Australia ?
– With the exception of New Zealand, the Australasian States have adopted a maximum of £400, while in Great Britain the maximum is £300.
– It is not high enough in comparison with the wages paid in Great Britain.
– It is thirty-three per cent, higher. However, honorable senators will see at once that these matters of compensation are mere details. At the same time it is always necessary to bear in mind that, however beneficial we may make a measure to one set, we must be careful to see that no undue burden is thrown upon another set. Clause 6 provides that an employer shall not be liable for any compensation unless the disablement renders the injured seaman incapable for one week, and the compensation is not to be recoverable independently of this Act. That is a necessary provision, because there are three or four Acts under which such a claim could be made.
– It is provided in the first schedule that-
If the incapacity lasts less than two weeks no compensation shall be payable in respect of the first week.
Suppose that it should last for a week and a-half?
– The provision is that, if the incapacity lasts less than two weeks, no compensation will be payable in respect to the first week. Another provision says that compensation shall not be recoverable under this Act, and also under any other Act. There are several Acts under which a workman can proceed for compensation. For instance, he can proceed at common law, under the Employers’ Liability Act, under various State Acts, and in certain cases, I think, even under the Merchant Shipping Act. But this Bill contains a stipulation, founded upon common sense and equity I think, that if a man proceeds under any other Act and obtains compensation, he shall be barred from applying under this Act, and, of course, vice versa.*
– He can have his choice.
– Yes, but he cannot hope to get compensation under two or more Acts. I wish to call attention to another provision. In this Bill the object has been to shut out as far as possible that sometimes useful but frequently maligned fraternity to which my honorable and learned friend belongs, and to substitute a simple inexpensive form of procedure. At the same time it was necessary to keep as a controlling authority those upon whose integrity and judgment ample reliance can be placed. Therefore, provision has been made in certain circumstances for arbitration to be resorted to. I do not propose to refer to the circumstances, but merely to invite honorable senators to note that an effort is made here to introduce the principle of arbitration under Court supervision. Clause 7 sets out the time within which notice of claim must be given, and the following clause - a very important’ one - forbids any seaman or employer from contracting out unless the ComptrollerGeneral is satisfied that the benefits offered by the employer’s scheme, which may be, of course, an insurance scheme, limited to his own workmen or firm, are greater than, or as great as, those offered by the Act. Where these schemes involve the payment by the workmen of any premium, the benefits conferred by this measure will still be received by the workmen, plus the benefits for which they have paid. Clause 10 makes provision for the case of the insolvency of the employer. It is provided that where an employer becomes insolvent, if he has previously insured his workmen the rights attaching to the policy of insurance pass to the workmen ; and in the event of the liability of the insurance companies being less than the liability of the employer to the seamen, the seamen may prove for the balance in the bankruptcy or liquidation.
– Suppose that the bankruptcy law of a State clashes, with that provision?
– I submit to my honorable friend, as a lawyer, the question whether, in that case, this measure would not over-ride the State law. I think he will agree with me that it should.
– I hope that it would.
– I have now hurriedly run through what appear to me to be the main principles of the Bill. “ I have not ventured to _ deal with all of the clauses, but I think that I have covered the principal ones. The real underlying principle of the Bill is that the shipping industry shall make some provision for its killed and maimed workers without any regard to the causes leading up to the fatality or injury. It has been well said by a writer to whom I have previously referred, that the industry must replace a ruined engine, and therefore there is no reason why it should not replace the ruined engineer- and from the same source. With regard to this occupation I find from data collected that of the accidents happening half are regarded as incidental to the business.: three- tenths of them are due to the faults of workmen, though not necessarily of the workmen injured ; and most of the remainder are due to the faults of the employer. I am reminded by the presence of my honorable friend, Senator Dobson, of a claim which may not unreasonably be put forward on behalf of compulsory insurance. I have not a word to say against the principle of compulsory insurance. In fact, I present this Bill as representing compulsory insurance, the compulsion being placed upon the employers to pay the premiums.
– To be deducted from the workmen’s wages.
– My honorable friend will see on reflection that that cannot be. Let him ask Senator Guthrie whether he thinks there will be any deduction from the wages of the workmen.
– I do not think that the shipping companies will be able to take the amount from the workmen.
– I have had to suffer a reduction from my wages under a similar law.
– That was in the ancient days.
– Turning now to the question of the possible obligations thrown upon the industry, I have had the greatest difficulty in ascertaining the rates of insurance for seamen. That difficulty is due largely to the fact that Compensation Acts applying to seamen are quite new. They have been in operation in Great Britain only since 1906, and in Queensland for about the same period. The result is that the insurance companies have not had a sufficiently long experience to be able to give me quotations of rates at which they would be prepared to write business. But proceeding with what I admit at once to be a rather indefinite inquiry, I have ascertained these particulars. The Accident Insurance Company of London, in giving evidence before the Commission to which I have referred, stated that the rates ran from as low as 2s. per ^100 of wages to 25s. There was no indication as to the particular industries to which those rates applied. The General Accident Insurance Company, Perth Office, Great Britain, quoted 3s. 6d. for operatives in the woollen industry up to 60s. for stevedores. The
Association of Offices quoted 16s. 8d. for builders working under 50 feet anc? 47s. 8d. for stevedores. I turn to New Zealand, and I find in the last issued pamphlet dealing with the State InsuranceOffice, these two paragraphs -
In such a business the rates charged must necessarily be of an experimental nature for a considerable time, but so far they have proved’ to be on the average equal to the strain imposed upon them.
That relates to workmen’s insurance. The pamphlet goes on to say -
The premiums are assessed on the wages, and’ vary from 3s. and 4s. per ^100 of wages for the lightest occupations to 20s. per cent, for building trades, 45s. per cent, for coal mines,, and 85s. per cent, for bush-felling.
I have consulted the head of one of the largest accident insurance offices in Melbourne; and whilst that gentleman told me the difficulty actuaries have in giving any definite figures until they have something in the nature. of a volume of business to goupon, still he told me when asked to name a safe figure that, in his opinion, 35s. per cent, would be ample.
– That is pretty heavy, I think.
– Bearing in mind the figures I have read as applying to other industries, that rate appears to be high; but we have to remember that insuranceoffices, in exploiting new regions, wouldnecessarily have to keep on the safe side until they found from experience that they could reduce their rates. I have not the slightest doubt that if private insurancecompanies could write business of this description for 35s. per cent., it would not be very long before the owners, by means of their association, would, be able to do their own insurance at lower rates than they would have to pay to private companies, which necessarily expect to makesome profit. Applying those figures to the shipping industry, arid endeavouring to ascertain the extent to which this measurewould entail added obligations upon it, I have been confronted with a similar difficulty in ascertaining the number of persons employed, the wages they receive, and’ the capital value of the industry itself. My figures must, therefore, be accepted as estimates. I find, working in that way, that the number of seamen, as given by one authority, is as high as 15,000. But I consider that that estimate is altogether toohigh.
– Does it include the employes on foreign ships entering Australian ports?
– No; these figures are supposed to relate to Australian ships trading on the Australian coast, and Australian” ships trading between Australian ports and other countries. I always think that it is better to look squarely at any difficulties that present themselves, rather than try to dodge round them. So far as 1 can see, although one authority puts the figure as high as 15,000, the best authorities lead one to believe that 10,000 represents about the number of Australian seamen who would be affected by this Bill. When I endeavour to ascertain the wages which they receive, I am again compelled to make a’n estimate. I lune assumed for the purpose of my calculation that £100 - taking the average all round - would be the wage paid to each of these 10,000 seamen per annum. Some of them receive more ; a good many of them employed on sailing vessels, and the younger hands on steamers, would receive less. But, taking £100 per annum as a fair average, it will be seen that, on that basis, the payment made to j 0,000 seamen per annum in wages amounts to £1, 000,000. Taking 35s. per cent, as the premium, there would be paid to the insurance companies, for insuring these men under this measure, £17,500 per annum. That represents .17 per cent, upon a capital of £10,000,000; which is the amount given by the Statistician as the capital invested in the shipping industry of Australia. I want to make plain what 17 per cent, means. It means a seventeen one-hundredth part; that is less than onefifth - about one-sixth of £1, or 3s. 4d. for every £100 of capital invested in the shipping industry. I have taken liberal figures for the express purpose of showing that the obligation thrown upon the shipping industry would not be a very serious or onerous obligation in the event of this Bill becoming law. As a matter of fact, I think it would be less than the amount I have stated. But, so far as I can see. the figures I have given represent the maximum.
– I do not think that the shipping industry would dissent from the honorable senator’s figures.
– I may say at once that I have not consulted those concerned in the industry. I believe the Bill to be justifiable in itself,, and founded upon a sound principle. At the same time, I consider that there is an obligation upon every one of us to see what the effect is going to be so far as we can, humanly speaking, do so. But whilst the companies will increase their obligation and incur liabilities to the extent I have stated, I may point out that already some of our shipping firms, including one or two of our biggest companies, are assured. They are members of an association which has its head-quarters at Liverpool. They pay on a tonnage rate to that association, which relieves them of every claim for compensation or damages which may be sustained against them. So that these companies would not have to incur any additional expenditure by reason of the passage of this Bill. But, whether they do or not, I should like to say that I do not think that we could select a more opportune time for the passing of a Bill of this character than the present. So far as I know, the shipping industry is flourishing. It cannot be contended that any little additional impost of this kind will affect seriously the present or the future of the industry. It is as well able to sustain this obligation as any industry in Australia. For that reason, and also because I believe this to be a just and humane law; because I believe that it will bring some measure of relief to the widow stricken with grief at the news of the injury or death of a bread1- win ner ; and because I believe it to be a sound, just, and economic measure, I confidently submit it to the Senate in the belief that it will be speedily passed into law.
– Does the honorable senator include the maintenance of the seamen in his estimate of £100 per annum as the average wage?
– Yes, that estimate would cover maintenance. I feel sure that the Senate will be thoroughly sympathetic in its attitude towards the Bill. In that belief, I cordially invite honorable senators to join with me in making the measure as perfect as we can possibly make it. It mav not be possible to accept all the amendments which are proposed ; but, so far as I am concerned, I have but one object in introducing the Bill, and that is to make it as complete and perfect, and as smoothly working, a piece of legislation as it can be made for the carrying out of the objects which it embodies.
Debate (on motion by Senator McGregor) adjourned.
Misrepresentation of Labour Party - Proofs of Ministers’ Speeches - Old-age Pensions.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– In common with other honorable senators on this side, I took no part in the recent debate on the Government policy. We had no desire to do so, but the charge has been made publicly in the newspapers, and in speeches delivered by supporters of the Government, that members of the Labour party desired to hang up the business of the country. Senator Millen, referring to a statement made by Senator McGregor, said that there had been eleven speakers on the Government side in the debate, and eight speakers on the Opposition side ; that the Government supporters had occupied only five hours as against eleven hours occupied by the eight speakers on the Opposition side; and that a total of sixteen hours had been occupied in the debate.
– I did not mention the number of hours.
– The honorable senator will pardon me. He did mention the number of hours, although it is not recorded in Hansard. It was recorded in the press.
– I did not mention the number of hours.
– The honorable senator will pardon me. I leave it to every member of the Senate. The honorable senator mentioned the number of hours occupied, and he said that we occupied two hours to one occupied by speakers on the other side.
– I said that.
– The honorable senator also mentioned the total number of hours occupied in the debate.
– I did not.
– The honorable senator is reported to have done so.
– I point out to the honorable senator that he must accept Senator Millen’s denial.
– Very well. I have gone very carefully into the matter, and I find that the facts are these : Eleven honorable senators on the Government side -
– Whom does the honorable senator include in the eleven ?
– Honorable senators who do not sit on the Opposition side.
– Does the honorable senator include Senator Symon amongst Government supporters?
– Does Senator Millen repudiate Senator Symon?
– It is for the Government to deal with Senators Symon and Clemons. If there is a third party in the Senate, why should Senator Millen hold the Opposition responsible for the time occupied in debate by the members of that party? Senator Symon occupied four hours and three minutes, and Senator Clemons one hour and thirty minutes. The fact that eleven honorable senators sitting on the other side, who owe no allegiance to the party on this side, who have never belonged to this party, and never will, who have never yet voted with party, and never will-
– That is very unkind, seeing that they voted with honorable senators opposite on the Supply Bill.
– We need not trouble about their votes. Eleven honorable senators on the other side occupied in the debate referred to 10 hours and 33 minutes, whilst the eight honorable senators who spoke from the. Opposition side occupied 5 hours and 27 minutes - a total of 16 hours. If the time occupied by Senators Symon and Clemons be deducted from the time occupied by the whole of the speakers on the other side, it will be found that nine honorable senators on the other side occupied as much time as did eight honorable senators who spoke from this side.
– According .to the honorable senator, they spoke for five hours.
– The honorable senator might give us the twenty-seven minutes in. If there is a third party in the Senate, the Government must not hold the Opposition responsible for what the members of that party do, and they must not, because of what may be done by the members of that party, publicly announce throughout Australia that the Opposition are obstructing the business of the country. I believe the figures I have given are correct, though, of course, every man is liable to make a mistake, and my object in submitting them was to correct the public misrepresentation of honorable senators on this side.
– In view of the importance of the two Bills introduced tc-day, I would ask Ministers to let honorable senators have the Hansard proofs of their second-reading speeches to-morrow morning.
– The Hansard debates are under the control of the President, and not of Ministers. If it is the desire of the Senate that the Hansard report of the second-reading speeches of Ministers should be circulated amongst honorable senators, that will, of course, be seen to.
– Then I address my request to you, sir.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Vice-President of the Executive Council to a statement which appears in the Melbourne Herald of this evening, under the heading, “Federal Pensions.” Amongst other things, it is stated that 1,057 applications have been . made in Western Australia for old-age pensions. This, in comparison with the number of applications received in the other States, is a low number, but the further statement is made in the Herald that, of the 1,057 applications, only eighteen have been granted.
– Does it say when the applications were lodged?
– No. I quote the last few sentences : -
In Tasmania,2 ,000 have been received and 600 granted, and in Western Australia1,057 have Deen received, and only 18 granted. The total number of cases dealt with throughout the Commonwealth was 47,996. Up to the present 41,676 pensions have been granted.
– There must besome mistake in those figures.
– So it seems to me, and I wish to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council if he will be good enough to find out whether the statements published in this report are absolutely correct, and, if not, whether he will supply honorable senators with a correct statement as to the number of applications for old-age pensions, the number granted, and, if possible, the reasons why there is such a discrepancy between the number of applications and the number granted.
– If Senator Henderson will be good enough to leave the paragraph from whichhe has quoted with me, I shall endeavour to obtain for him and for the Senate as much information on the subject as I can by the time we meet to-morrow.
– Before submitting the motion for the adjournment of the Senate, I desire to say, with regard to the request made by Senator Pulsford, that it will not be possible to have corrected proofs of the second-reading speeches of Ministers issued to honorable senators in the morning. It will be possible to supply only rough proofs of those speeches. Ministers have expressed their willingness that honorable senators should be supplied with those proofs, and already instructions have been given to have them sent to honorable senators.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.12 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 21 July 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1909/19090721_senate_3_50/>.