4th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I desire, sir, to ask you a question, if you will permit me. My recollection is that, last night, the Senate carried a motion, which was moved by me, in connexion with an amendment of the Service and Execution of Process Act. I notice that both the newspapers report that the motion was withdrawn. I ask you, sir, whether the Journals record that it was carried or withdrawn.
– We are not responsible for what the daily press chooses to report. The Journals of the Senate, which supply the only reliable information, will show that the motion moved by Senator Chataway was carried on the voices.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
Thatthe Senate at its rising adjourn until Wednesday, 4th October.
– An adjournment for a fortnight will be of very little use to those senators who come from Western Australia.
SenatorMillen. - Do you want a longer adjournment?
– If an adjournment is to be of any use at all it should be for at least three weeks, which would allow the senators from Western Australia to go there and return, but in a fortnight it is quite impossible to make a visit. I have been conferring with my honorable colleagues, and they are of the opinion that an adjournment for three weeks should be proposed.
– Would you not like to pass the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Bill before you go?
– If the Bill were before the Senate, or there were any other business to be done, we would not be asked to adjourn to-day. It is simply because there is no business ready that this proposition is made. As a rule, measures have to be introduced in another place, and, consequently, at the beginning of a session we have not as many measures before the Senate as we should like to have. I would urge upon the Government the advisability of proposing an adjournment for three weeks, which would suit equally well the requirements of those who are favorable to a fortnight’s adjournment.
– I am more than astonished at a motion of this kind being moved by the leader of the Senate thus early in the session. It is the most extraordinary proposal I have ever heard put forward in this or any other legislative assembly. After a recess of nine months, and after sitting for a fortnight, we are asked to adjourn for a fortnight because there is no business to be done. That seems to me to be the most extraordinary position in which a legislative body could place itself, especially if it consented, without a protest, to an adjournment. Of course, we know that all Governments are prone to love recesses because there is less bother and trouble when Parliament is not in session.
– Surely you except a Labour Government.
– I find that human nature is pretty well the same amongst all parties. What I want to emphasize is that, after a recess of nine months, apparently there is no business to engage the attention of the Senate for another fortnight. That can be the only possible reason why a motion of this kind is proposed thus early in the session. The GovernorGeneral’s Speech outlines a very considerable programme. I notice that it enumerates several measures which may be initiated in the Senate. If that is the case, then we have a right to complain if the Government will not provide us with the necessary work to occupy our time. What will be the position if this sort of thing is allowed to continue? The opinion will be formed by the public, and will be amply justified, that the Senate is entirely unnecessary. If that be so, then honorable senators are only committing political suicide. I do not know whether the Senate is unnecessary or not, and I am not going to debate that subject. My opinion is that some better system should be adopted whereby all the work could be done in one Chamber.
– Abolish the other House, then.
– At any rate, while the Senate is in existence, I emphatically object to its members being kept in Melbourne cooling their heels all the time instead of doing the work of the country, which they are paid to do. It does not matter whether it is a Labour Ministry or another Ministry, a Ministry which will not provide proper work for Parliament to do, especially after a long recess such as we have had, is worthy of condemnation in that particular regard. The Navigation Bill has been before the Senate for about seven years, and it is still on the business-paper.
– It is going off to-day.
– It will not go off the business-paper to-day if I know anything about the matter. The honorable senator is aware that there are postponed clauses to be considered which are exceedingly contentious. No doubt he would be very pleased if he could sneak them through without discussion, but I can assure him that as long as I am here they will not pass without debate. I am here to see a fair deal to every part of Australia, and no favours or concessions given to any one part above another. The’ Navigation Bill has been before the Senate for seven years, and it is not passed yet.
– Why do you not allow it to pass?
– The honorable senator wants us, in order that Ministers may have a further holiday, to do our work in a slovenly fashion.
– As you have had the Bill before you for seven years, how many more years do you need before you will pass it?
– I do not want any more years to pass it, but I desire an opportunity to consider it. I am anxious to see the measure passed, but in a form in which it will be not only acceptable to the people, but thoroughly equitable and justifiable. If it is proposed to rush the Bill through simply for the sake of getting a holiday, as the Minister indicates by his interjection, that is not what we are here for, nor is it a proper way in which to treat legislation. I wonder why with an immense programme of legislation outlined in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, a large portion of which could be initiated in the Senate, no measure is ready to engage our attention. We have only a few short months at our disposal before the usual time for closing the session will arrive.
– We will not necessarily close the session at the end of the year.
– I generally find that my honorable friend, in common with most other honorable senators, wants to close the session at the earliest possible period.
– I deny that statement.
– I accept the denial.
-I have always maintained that the session should not be closed until the work is completed.
– Honorable senators have their portmanteaux packed two days before the proposed date of prorogation, and they look with anger at any one who dares to rise to discuss any measure, for fear that he may delay their departure by an hour.
– I shall come back at the beginning of next year if that is necessary.
– I am opposed to legislation being rushed through in that way. The proper method is for the Government to keep us fully occupied. For that reason, as well as on general principles, I object to the Senate being asked to adjourn at this early period of the session.
– Although I bow, of course, with resignation to the desire of the Government, I certainly think that the proper remedy is to have in the Senate two Ministers with portfolios. We should then have a better opportunity of showing that the Senate is not merely a replica of a Legislative Council. This is the first Ministry, which has had three representatives in the: Senate, and for that concession we thank them. At the same time, I think that at. least two of them ought to have portfolios. If nobody else can have a portfolio, let the Attorney-General be in the Senate, as he does not have to deal so much with money matters as have his colleagues.
– I do not wish to repeat the sentiments uttered by Senator Givens, but I do want to indorse them. I think it is up to myself and others to protest against the Senate being reduced to an absolute farce. If we cannot do any good work; why not adjourn sine die? The argument that the Senate should be abolished does not meet with my approbation. I would rather see the House of Representatives abolished. I think that the Government is in danger of making it appear to the country that the Senate is of no use by failing to submit to it now some of the measures which will in all probability be rushed at the latter end of the session. .If, however, there is no business to be done we may as well adjourn, but a better system might easily be arranged. I understood at the beginning of the “session that an arrangement would be made by which the work would be divided better, and that some measures which did not exceed our powers in regard to finance would be introduced here.
– The constitutional limitations are not the real difficulty in the way.
– Then there should be no other real difficulty, except that which has been mentioned about Ministers not caring to intrust their measures to proxy delegates, so to speak. I must protest against the lack of arrangement by which as soon as ever we have started to work we are asked to adjourn.
– I think that the criticism which has been launched against the proposed adjournment is unfair, in a sense. I have always objected to any adjournment of the Senate. I realize that some system should be devised to prevent the necessity for adjourning. I would remind honorable senators that three of the principal Ministers were absent from their Departments for a considerable time, being engaged in London in transacting business on behalf of the people of Australia. Since their return they have not had a sufficient oppportunity to prepare Bills for the Chamber.
– Surely they did not wait until they returned from London to prepare Bills?
– My honorable friend should know better than to ask that question. If he were a Minister he would have to be here to prepare measures.
– The Attorney-General was here all the time.
– And he prepares the Bills.
– He had a great deal of work thrust upon him whilst his colleagues were absent in England, with the result that he is now lying upon a bed of sickness where he will probably remain for some time. If we have no business with which to proceed it seems to me that we ought to adjourn for a longer period than a fortnight.
– Go on the spree for the fortnight.
– I am not talking about sprees at all. I view this question wholly from the stand-point of whether the proposed adjournment is necessary.
– Is there work for us to do?
– If there is no business for us to transact, obviously we must adjourn. But will any business be forthcoming at the expiration of a fortnight? If not, the Government might reasonably extend the proposed adjournment to another week in order that representatives from distant States may be afforded an opportunity of visiting their constituencies. I regret the necessity for any adjournment, but, under the circumstances, I recognise that such a course of action is unavoidable. I appeal to the Government to amend the motion by making the adjournment cover three weeks.
.– I entirely agree with the remarks of Senator Givens. At this period of the year the weather is admirably suited to travelling, and after having enjoyed such a long recess surely the Government have some business for us to transact. Ministers did not consult me in regard to this motion. I am opposed to it, and I am also opposed to the attitude which has been taken up by Senator de Largie. I would not like to inflict an injustice upon any State, but the representatives of Western Australia only arrived in Melbourne a week or two ago, so that on this occasion they have a very poor excuse to put forward. To suggest that the Senate is an unnecessary branch of the Legislature, even by way of fun, is entirely out of place. Perish the thought. We must have State rights recognised and protected. I enter my protest against the unpreparedness of the Government to proceed with the work of the Commonwealth.
– Unfortunately some honorable senators from other States appear to think that all the representatives of Victoria reside in Melbourne, and are desirous of obstructing them whenever they wish to have a holiday. I have never known any Victorian senator who resides within a reasonable distance of this city to prevent Senator Needham from taking a holiday just when he chooses to do so. Therefore, in discussing a motion of this character, it would be just as well to drop that ghost. I recollect that some time ago there was an agitation in favour of an additional Minister being appointed to this Chamber. With the advent of the present Government, the Senate gained an additional Cabinet representative, and it was then thought that the day was dawning when this branch of the Legislature would become a real working Chamber. But apparently that hope is to be disappointed. Before we are asked to adjourn we should have had at least one Bill submitted by each member of the Government in the Senate. If they are not going to take an active part in the work of the Ministry, we shall be no better off than we were previously. I have no sympathy with those honorable senators from other States who wish to hurry back to their homes. We have spent a sufficiently long period in our homes during the past nine months, and it is about time that we got to work, and that the Government provided us with some business. I intend to vote against all attempts to adjourn the Senate this year.
– If this motion be defeated, the result will be largely owing to the lack of discretion displayed on the part of the Government. Personally I have an entirely open mind on the question. I have my family in Melbourne, and it does not matter to me whether the Senate adjourns for a week, two weeks, or three weeks. But I would prefer that we should proceed with business. If, however, that business is not forthcoming, it is absurd for us to continue sitting, and to make a pretence of doing something. I cannot understand the action of the Vice-President of the Executive Council in merely moving the motion without assigning any reason for it.
– Does not the business paper supply the reason ?
– Certainly not. As has already been pointed out, a large number of measures are outlined in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. If the VicePresident of the Executive Council can show that there are reasons why we should adjourn for a fortnight, I am sure that the Senate will meet him in a fair spirit. I am satisfied that Ministers have no desire to belittle the importance of this branch of the Legislature. There may be reasons which render it impossible for the Government to proceed with business, and if so, we should be told that frankly, and we should then be in a better position to record our votes upon the motion which is under consideration.
– One would think from some of the speeches which have been delivered this morning that at no time was it contemplated that the Senate should be adjourned. To my mind that is a much overdrawn picture. We have only thirty-six members in this Chamber as against seventy-five in another place, and is it to be seriously contended that we ought to sit here day after day merely for the purpose of filling in time, and of making the people believe that we are doing some work? The practice which we have hitherto followed is to meet for the purpose of transacting business while there is business to be done. But at the present time we know that there is no business to be transacted. The incident that we have had an eight months’ recess has been stressed unduly by some honorable members. In referring to that circumstance they forgot to mention that last year we passed through six or seven of the most strenuous months in the history of this Parliament. We sat upon four clays a week, and for about twelve hours each day. I daresay that those months were the most strenuous in the history of the Commonwealth Parliament, and at the close of the session we were entitled to a long recess in order to recuperate. To me it does not matter whether we adjourn now or at a later period. But if we have not work with which to proceed, it is idle to remain here to indulge in loquacity. I intend to support the motion, but I regret that the representatives from distant States are not to be afforded an opportunity of returning to their homes during the proposed adjournment. That adjournment will only extend over eighteen days, and if I am lucky enough to catch a steamer immediately, twelve days will be occupied in journeying to and from the State which I represent. I would suggest to the VicePresident of the Executive Council the wisdom of amending the motion so as to permit ‘of an adjournment for three weeks. I recognise that honorable senators from Queensland occupy a similar position to my own.
– It takes some of us longer to reach our homes than it does the honorable senator.
– We are living in a state of isolation all the time, and it is unfair to the representatives of Western Australia to adjourn only for a fortnight, and to make us hang round Melbourne killing time. The Senate cannot continue to sit merely for the purpose of keeping time with the other Chamber. It is a physical impossibility to do so, and no sane person would ever dream of such a thing. Seeing that the Senate is only half as strong numerically as the other branch of the Legislature, the suggestion that we should do so is a reflection upon our intelligence. It may be said that this adjournment is proposed too early in the session, but it is not more than a week or two earlier than the usual time for proposing such an adjournment. We have no work to do now, and is it not as well that we should adjourn, so that when we come back we may have a lengthy programme of business before us which will occupy our attention till the close of the session ? If the period of the proposed adjournment is not extended, honorable senators from the Western State will be prevented from going to their homes, while we know that representatives of this and the neighbouring States can reach their homes within twenty-four hours. The Government might consider whether it would not be desirable to postpone the motion for another week, and then propose an adjournment over a more lengthy period.
– It is not my intention to stand forward in any way as an apologist for the Government. That is not my function at any time, and I do not intend to do it now. The condition of the business-paper discloses the reason which has induced the Government to bring forward this motion. They are not prepared to submit business for transaction in this Chamber at the present time. In the circumstances, what is the sensible thing for us to do? Should we come here next Wednesday and adjourn immediately, after spending a more or less fruitless half- hour in questioning Ministers? Is that a purpose for which we should be called together ? I regret, as every other honorable senator must do, that Ministers have not seen fit to apportion the work of the session more evenly between the two Houses.
– If we always consent to a motion for adjournment, we shall be continually asked to do so.
– I am not prepared to bite my nose off to spite my face. I do not propose to penalize myself and my fellow senators by compelling them to come here for nothing. Our trouble arises, as has been pointed out by previous speakers, because it is, perhaps, not unnatural that a Minister should desire to father his own Bills. The result is that, as we have only one portfolioed Minister in the Senate, we are handicapped by the fact that many measures are introduced in another place which under the Constitution might be introduced here. That is a state of affairs which began with the Federation, and has continued until to-day. It will continue until the dominant party in the Senate takes up a firmer attitude on the matter than it has so far been disposed to do. I should be delighted if Ministers would recognise the necessity of more evenly apportioning the work of both branches of the Legislature. It would lighten our labours, and tend to a more careful consideration of legislative proposals. Under the existing system they are brought to. us in a heap towards the close of a session, when frequently under the pressure of time we are compelled to pass them with insufficient consideration. After all, we have to accept this motion, or remain here next week to mark time. What is the practical thing for sensible men to do ? There is only one answer to that question, and I therefore intend to support the motion.
. -I regret very much that I was not in a position to notify honorable senatorsprivately of the action I have taken this morning. I submitted the motion at this stage rather than just prior to the usual motionfor the adjournment of the sitting, because, under the sessional orders, I thought that this was the proper time to submit it. The reasonwhy an adjournment is necessary has been explained already by Senator Lynch. Our numbers are so few that we can do the work in about half thetime occupied by another place. I . remind honorable senators of the rapid way in which yesterday we got through so many of the remaining clauses of the NavigationBill, which, according to Senator Givens, it has taken us seven years to consider. That will show the expedition that can be exercised by members of the Senate. I do not know whether that was due to the fact that Senator Givens was not present, but the honorable senator has expressed his intention to obstruct the measure in the future. That expression from the honorable senator was, I think, hardly fair. He should have been here yesterday to carry on his obstruction, and then it is quite evident we could not have proposed an adjournment to-day.
– When did I say I would obstruct the measure?
– The honorable senator hinted that there are certain postponed clauses which he will take care are not passed in a hurry.
– I did not say that I would obstruct the measure. The honorable senator is grossly unfair in the matter.
– I think I am dealing fairly with what the honorable senator said.
– Then I rise to a point of order. I did not say anything of the kind, and I object to the honorable senator continuing to say that I would obstruct the measure.
– Withdraw the words.
– I do not know that there is anything for me to withdraw.
– Senator Givens takes exception to the statement made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council as not being correct, and the honorable senator should withdraw it.
– I did not quite catch the statement.
– For the benefit of the honorable senator I may be allowed to explain. He accused me of saying that I was going to obstruct the Navigation Bill. I did not say anything of the kind, and I object to words being put into my mouth that I never used.
– I am quite willing to withdraw anything, but I would ask Senator Givens whether he did not say that he would see that the Bill did not go through to-day ? .
– I said that I would see that it did not go through without proper discussion.
– I will withdraw any insinuation that the honorable senator would be guilty of obstruction. I am sure, from my knowledge of him in the past, that he would never attempt to do anything of the kind. If honorable senators will look at the Governor-General’s Speech, they will find that the most important measures mentioned there could not, under the Constitution, be introduced in the Senate. The most important is that for the establishment of a Commonwealth Bank. Honorable senators could not expect that that measure would be introduced here. The next is the proposed Bill to authorize the construction of the transcontinental railway to Western Australia. That could not be introduced here. The Electoral Bill might be introduced in the Senate, but, as honorable senators are aware, members of both Houses desire some time to consult the Home Affairs Department with respect to the provisions of that measure. It is not quite ready yet, but as soon as it is it will be introduced.
– In the Senate?
– I hope so. With my colleagues in the Senate, I shall do all I possibly can to get it introduced here. It has been said that the adjournment proposed is too short, and that if we are to have any adjournment it should be of sufficient length to enable members of the Senate to go to the most distant parts of Australia. I hope it will be recollected that at the beginning of the month we made provision for only one month’s Supply.
– Hear, hear; and the Senate is to be brought back when the Government wants more money.
– It will be necessary at the beginning of next month to get further Supply.
– And we shall not have time to discuss it.
– It will be the 4th October before the Bill reaches the Senate, and after that the honorable senator will have as much time as he pleases to discuss it. Of what use is it for honorable senators to be continually discussing the items of temporary Supply Bills, when they know that after the Budget Papers are laid on the table they will have an ample opportunity to discuss everything connected with the finances of the Commonwealth? I agree entirely with the Leader of the Opposition that it is not our duty merely to make play. We know we have done our work expeditiously. We have passed the AddressinReply, whilst the debate on the motion for its adoption is still being continued in another place. No matter how the business of Parliament is distributed between the two Houses, with seventy-five loquacious individuals in another place, if we sit as long as it does we must often be wasting time to no purpose. Honorable senators should recollect that while either House continues to sit, the expense is continuous, and if we adjourn there will be something saved.
– Very little.
-Yes, we can save something on paper, ink, electric light, and other things. If honorable senators will view calmly, and without prejudice, the programme set before them for this session, they will see that this is the proper time for a reasonable adjournment. We should do our marking of time now, and some marking of time will always be necessary while we have the same work to do as another place, where there is double our numbers. I hope that this motion will be carried, and that honorable senators will come back on the 4th October prepared to pass the Bills which will be laid before the Senate. I anticipate that, even if no measures come up from another place, such Bills as can be introduced here will be at hand, and that we shall be fully supplied with work.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … …11
Question so resolvedin the affirmative.
– I beg to lay on the table-
Papers laid before the Imperial Conference relating to naval and military defence.
I propose to ask the permission of the President to hang upon the wall a large map, snowing the outlines of the statement contained in the paper.
Speech by Senator St. Ledger.
– I desire, as a matter of privilege, to refer to an incident that happened yesterday in connexion with which the credit of this Senate is seriously involved.
– Is it the pleasure of the Senate that the honorable senator have leave to move a motion ?
– I do not desire to submit a specific motion ; all that I want to do is to draw public attention to a statement made by an honorable senator when he happened to be amongst some of his political friends outside. The statement is reported in this morning’s Age. It consists of a speech by Senator St. Ledger, on the occasion of a welcome tendered to a member of another place.
– If an honorable senator rises on a question of privilege, he must commence by reading a motion to the Senate.
– I shall conclude with a motion. The grounds for moving in this matter at all are that Senator St. Ledger yesterday took occasion to reflect seriously upon the credit of the Senate, and, inferentially, upon every member of it except himself.
– Order ! I wish to point out that when a question of privilege is raised, the senator who does so must, according to our practice, read his motion before he proceeds with his speech.
– I propose to move -
That certain remarks made by Senator St. Ledger, reported in the Age newspaper of 15th September, are a grave breach of the privileges of this Senate.
As I have said, the occasion to which I allude was a public function, for the purpose of welcoming back to Australia a member of another Chamber. On this occasion Senator St. Ledger referred to this body, of which he is a member. The words attributed to him are as follow -
Senator St. Ledger said that it had been intended that the Senate should be composed of some of the ripest intellects in the country. But what did they find ? On one of the benches they found . 1 collection of schoolboys or youths who should be at school.
Strange to say, Senator St. Ledger’s exordium rang off at that point. Instead of giving thegathering the benefit of one of his long-winded utterances, he stopped short with casting a reflection upon members of the Senate.
– It was a serious reflection upon the people of Australia.
– Quite so ; I am coming to that point. I am not particularly concerned about what is said of me personally, but I am concerned about any reflection that is cast upon those who have had the honour to be elected to the Senate. I do not know whether Senator St. Ledger classifies me as a schoolboy, but I will venture to tell him that, while his knowledge of Australia is possibly confined to the curb-stones of Queen-street, Brisbane, I crossed his State long before he had been outside that city.
– I rise to order. I wish to know whether, on a motion of privilege, an honorable senator can enter into a criticism of another honorable senator regarding the action of the electors? Senator Lynch has been discussing a statement made by a senator in relation to the action of the electors. We have nothing to do with that. I submit that a question of privilege can only be raised when the privileges of the Senate have been actually interfered with.
– I understood that Senator Lynch was giving reasons why he brought this matter forward, and regarded Senator St. Ledger’s speech as a breach of privilege.
– I think there are ample grounds for my action. If we are to tolerate an honorable senator going about casting reflections upon the Senate, we cannot very well complain at the action of those outside who may follow in the same path and do the same sort of thing. If we are not jealous of the honour and importance of the Senate - we who are members of it - it is little to be wondered at if other persons are not particular about our honour. When we find one of our members - one of the thirty-six who have been sent here to represent the people - casting a serious reflection upon the Chamber, I say that there is distinct warrant for entering a protest, and taking some specific action which will be a warning to any person who may be inclined to do likewise in the future. What has Senator St. Ledger done? He has gone out of his way to libel as “ schoolboys “ senators who have been sent here by the deliberate choice of the people of Australia. At the same time he has labelled himself as one of “ the ripest intellects in the country,” whereas, as a matter of fact, he has been the standing joke of the Senate since he has been a member of it. He is one of those political accidents who occasionally find their way into Parliament.
– Order ! The honorable senator must withdraw that statement. It is a reflection upon an honorable senator to say that he is “ the standing joke of the Senate.”
– I withdraw those words j but I hope I may be permitted ‘to bear testimony to the fact that, time after time, Senator St. Ledger has provided humour for. and evoked merriment in, trie Senate by the way he has spoken. While withdrawing the words, I indicate what must be the inmost feelings even of those on the ‘honorable senator’s own side. Since Senator St. Ledger has taken it upon himself to hold this Chamber up to public ridicule or odium, I think that we should be lacking in our duty if we did not take the opportunity of put. ting him in his place and repudiating everything that he said yesterday. I do not want to refer to the way in which he got here, nor to the various means by which he tried to get here. He marched under every political banner which has ever been unfurled in this island continent, in order to get here and elsewhere. When he cast a reflection on a majority of the members of the Senate, he in turn cast a reflection on the matured opinions of every man and woman who voted on the 13th April last.
– I want to know, sir, whether under a motion of privilege one honorable senator is entitled to make an attack on another honorable senator, or to traverse his previous political history, because if that is permitted the debate will have a very wide range.
– I asked Senator Lynch to withdraw a statement, which I thought was out of order, and Senator Millen now asks me whether Senator Lynch is in order in stating that another honorable senator used his best endeavours to become a member of this Chamber.
– He added something else, sir.
– Senator Lynch was proceeding to deal with the previous political history of Senator St. Ledger, and I merely asked, for the guidance of the Senate, whether he was in order, because if so, it indicates the range over which the debate may proceed.
– I think that Senator Lynch will be out of order in traversing the previous history of an honorable senator, because that does not come within the breach of privilege which is alleged to have been committed.
Senator St. Ledger.^1 have no objection to an examination of my political history, but it is a matter of order.
– I would not cast any imputation on the Leader of the Opposition were it not that I was endeavouring to follow the lead of the bright intellect which has come amongst us. He told an audience - he did not happen to be amongst his petticoat friends on that occasion - that we have here “ a collection of schoolboys or youths who should be at school.” I was simply following the example of - this unapproachable intellect which has arrived amongst us - and the radiance of his smile is, of course, enough to make us wither within ourselves at our own insignificance - in tracing how he got here, just as he was equally entitled to trace how we got here. However, we will let that phase of the question pass. All I am concerned about now is the entering of an emphatic protest against the action of the honorable senator in referring to the Senate as he did.
– S Suppose that you do pass a censure upon me, what result can it have ?
– I am not concerned particularly about myself. What I am concerned about is that the opinion of the honorable senator should be weighed and should not be given equal credence, and perhaps, as much importance as if it had been uttered by a person whose words were worth listening to-
– Is not that a reflection on me?
– It is because the honorable senator happens by accident to be a member of the Senate that I want to point out that in future we shall not tolerate any one who happens to get here merely by a fluke - by a freak in the judgment of the people - throwing such statements broadcast throughout the Commonwealth, at the risk of having them taken at their true value if they had been uttered by a person who had regard for the truth of the statements he makes. I hope that every honorable senator will recognise the necessity of dealing with this glaring instance of breach of privilege. If they do, it will serve as a warning to those who may in future be tempted to foul their own nest in the way in which Senator St. Ledger has done.
– Why not conclude the motion with a proposal to put me in a dungeon or some place like that? That would finish the farce.
– The honorable senator’s statement is a serious and unwarranted slur on the deliberate judgment of those electors throughout the Commonwealth who recorded their votes on the 13th April last, and therefore I have much pleasure in submitting my motion -
That the remarks of Senator St. Ledger, on the occasion of a welcome to Mr. Fairbairn, M.P., as reported in the Age of lo-day, in which he referred to the members of the Senate as a “ collection of schoolboys, or youths who ought to be at school,” are a grave breach of privilege. without further comment, and in a shape in which, I hope, every honorable senator will cordially support it.
– In seconding the motion I wish to say that I view this matter differently from Senator Lynch. I take the view that we may, at least, be congratulated upon having the first very clear and definite statement which we have ever known to fall from the lips of Senator St. Ledger. It is really the very first occasion on which I have been able - of course, I may be somewhat dull - to understand thoroughly what he means, and to that extent I view the position somewhat differently from Senator Lynch.
– You are glad to understand Senator St. Ledger at last?
– Yes ; I recognise that when Senator St. Ledger goes out to the public with all the poverty of intellect displayed by him here, he must have something to say. Having no politics, he has endeavoured to insult, I think, some of the younger members of the Senate. There are no particularly young men here. There are none whom I think young.
– It is not a crime to be young, anyhow.
– No; and I was about to remark that if it is criminal to be young, we, who saw the advent of Senator St. Ledger, well remember that very soon after he entered the chamber he made a decided struggle to create a young appearance on his face. How miserably he may have failed in his attempt to do so I am not prepared to say.
– He only wanted to look dignified when he shaved off his, “mou.”
– The probability is that it is a dignity of which he is not often proud when he looks in the mirror in the morning. However, that is by the way. The honorable senator who left the chamber for the purpose of holding it up to ridicule and to the derision of those to whom he was offering a few disjointed remarks, ought to be, at least, a little more careful than he was on that occasion.
– His remarks are crammed so closely that they could not be disjointed.
– That may be so. I think that honorable senators ought to show some respect, and I think that they would if they had a correct conception of the position which they occupy, in referring to a youthful man. If a man looks youthful it does not necessarily follow that he is of rusty intellect. I have seen trees which had grown for years without bearing fruit at all. They were as barren of fruit as a stone is of hair. The same thing may apply in human nature. It is quite possible that a youthful man, or a man in middle age, may be considerably riper in intellect than even the honorable senator.
– Look at the case of William Pitt, who became Prime Minister of England at twenty-one.
– I was going to refer to the fact that English history records the case of a man whose youthfulness did not by any means deter him from appearing as one of the brightest political stars - one of the statesmen - of his age. Therefore the younger men in the Senate today are, in my opinion, a very great commendation of the intellect of the people of Australia,, and their credit and ability to choose representatives not because they have grown old and ripe, as. Senator St. Ledger remarked.
– He wants a collection of old fossils.
– I am quite satisfied that he did not mean exactly what he said.
– Order. I have to report that His Excellency the GovernorGeneral has appointed a quarter to twelve o’clock as the time for receiving the AddressinReply passed by the Senate. I shall resume the chair at twelve o’clock.
Sitting suspended from 11.42 a.m. to noon.
– I have to acquaint the Senate that this day I, accompanied by honorable senators, waited upon the Governor- General, and presented to him the address of the Senate in reply to His Excellency’s Speech at the opening of Parliament, agreed to on 14th September, and received the following reply : -
Mr. President and Gentlemenof the Senate, ;
It affords me much pleasure to receive your Address-in-Reply to the Speech which I had the honour to deliver in opening the Second Session of the Fourth Parliament of the Commonwealth.
I thank you for the assurance of your loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign King George.
I trust that your consideration of the measures submitted to you will contribute to the welfare of the people of Australia.
Speech by Senator St. Ledger.
Debate resumed -
– I have no desire to prolong this debate. No doubt the honorable senator who so far forgot himself on the occasion to which reference has been made did so because of the impression which had been left on his mind by reading an extract from Hints to Speakers, in which the following sentence appears : -
Use your lungs or the audience may expect you to use your brains.
– I would suggest to Senator Lynch that, having ventilated this matter, he should withdraw the motion. Personally, I feel that the best way to give an emphatic contradiction to the statements alleged to have been made by an honorable senator is to entirely disregard them. I think we can rely upon the good sense of the people of Australia to form a fairly accurate opinion of this Senate. They will not accept as their view either the opinion of a member of the Government or that of a member of the Opposition. They will judge us by our acts, and it seems to me that, by taking any cognizance of them, we are giving too great prominence to the remarks to which our attention has been directed.
– I would like to add my appeal to that of the Minister of Defence in regard to this matter. The Senate will not, in any way, add to its credit by even pausing to discuss such a motion.
– It is a mere triviality.
– It is a mere triviality, and the time of the Senate ought not to be taken up in debating the criticism of anybody. What privilege has been violated? Does the Senate take up the position that it is beyond criticism? To me it is perfectly plain that, as members of this Chamber, we shall not improve our position if we show ourselves restive under the criticism of anybody. I trust that the advice of the Minister of Defence will be adopted.
– I join with others in asking Senator Lynch to withdraw the motion. Enough has been said to prevent Senator St. Ledger, or any other honorable senator, from making a similar mistake in the future. I only wish to suggest forgetfulness in this matter. We all know that sometimes there is a kind of giddiness in our heads. I experience it myself occasionally, but not through strong drink. In all sincerity I ask Senator Lynch, especially in view of the fact that he is a member of the Labour party, who possess a majority in this Parliament, to be merciful, and to withdraw the motion.
– Out of deference to the views which have been expressed by honorable senators, I have reluctantly decided to withdraw the motion. At the same time, I think that when attacks of this character are made upon us, if we do not repel them, we cannot expect anybody else to repel them for us. I only moved the motion because I felt that the remarks of Senator St. Ledger were liable to be interpreted in distant parts of the Commonwealth as those of one who is in a position to form an impartial judgment. It was with a view to correct any such erroneous impression that I submitted the motion. I am quite aware that some attacks of this kind may be best met with contemptuous silence; but there is another way in which they may be treated, namely, by setting the public mind right by taking stern action here. 1 withdraw the motion-
– With the permission of the Senate.
– If honorable senators do not give me that permission, I shall cheerfully let the motion go to a division. I regard the remarks of Senator St. Ledger as a deliberate attempt to cast a slur on one section of this Chamber, which constitutes an overwhelming majority of it. When a person wishes to involve the credit of the institution to which he belongs, I say that he takes up a dishonorable stand. I hope that the references which have been made here will serve as a warning to any person who in future may seek to assail the honour of the Senate. I ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Senator Pearce laid upon the table the following paper -
Navigation Bill : Copy of additional correspondence which has passed between the Imperial and the Commonwealth Governments (dated 24th April, 1911).
Ordered to be printed.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
Will the Government take into consideration, at an early date, the advisableness of introducing and passing an Act to enable the Commonwealth to engage in the business of refining and distribution of sugar, with a view to submitting such Act to the High Court, to test its constitutionality in accordance with the terms of the Judiciary Act 1910?
– As notice of this question was only given yesterday, I would ask the honorable senator to repeat it on the next day of sitting. I have brought the matter under the attention of the Prime Minister.
Motion (by Senator Henderson) agreed to-
That the report from the Printing Committee: presented to the Senate on the 14th September,. 1911, be adopted.
Clause 408 agreed to. .
Clause 409 -
The Minister, or any person authorized by him, may -
go on board any ship at any time and inspect the hull, boilers and machinery, equipments, life-saving appliances, boats, compasses, signals, or any article on board or connected with the ship ;
enter and inspect any premises ;
summon persons before him and require them to answer questions;
require and enforce the production of documents by any person ;
muster the crew and passengers of any ship.
No person summoned to appear before the
Minister, or any person authorized as above, shall, without just excuse, fail to attend or to answer questions, or to produce any document he is lawfully required to produce. Penalty : Twenty-five pounds.
– I would suggest to the Minister of Defence that in this clause we ought to make it clear that these very wide powers are to be exercised only as required by the Act. I admit that the powers enumerated are necessary ; but we have to recollect that they are exceedingly wide powers, which the Minister ought to exercise only for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of the Act. Consequently, I suggest that we ought to insert in the clause some words to make it clear that these great powers are given only for a specific purpose. Under clause 408, it is provided that any person authorized by the Minister may search any vessel in any port whenever he believes the search to be necessary “ for the clue performance of his duty under this Act.” Why should not the same restriction be placed on the Minister in this clause? That is all I am suggesting.
– It is advisable that we should not tie ourselves down in the administration of the law without very good reason. Is there any danger that the Minister will interfere with the rights and liberties of any person? I do not think there is. The officers will only take action under this clause on the order of the Minister. I can give the honorable senator a case which occurred only a few years ago, in which, for a certain purpose which I can only mention confidentially, it was necessary to enter a certain ship.
– It must have been for the purpose of carrying out some law.
– No; it was not for the purpose of carrying out any law. The persons who wished to go on board the ship had no right to do so, and it was found necessary to get officers of the Customs Department to go on to the ship. Entrance to the ship was necessary in this case, not for Customs purposes, but for quite another purpose. Why should we tie the Minister up?
– Why does the honorable senator do so in clause 408 ?
– That is a different matter. I ask the Committee not to limit the power of the Minister under this clause, unless Senator Millen can show that it threatens the liberty, property, or life of any person.
– Under paragraph c the Minister may summon persons before him, and require them to answer questions.
– In the carrying out of the navigation law, that may be absolutely necessary, and the Department should have the power. I do not think that any reason has been given for limiting the power here proposed, and I ask the Committee to pass the clause as it stands.
– The statement just made by the Minister confirms me in the belief I entertain that it is necessary to put in this clause the limitation I suggested. The honorable senator has said that the Navigation Department does not desire to be tied up in any way. I think that is quite probable. I have never known a Department or an official that desired to be tied up. They all prefer to be autocratic.
– Suppose the Minister has evidence that a breach of an Act has been committed ; if he could not enter a ship before he established his case, he might not be able to do so.
– That would be an entry for the due performance of the duty of the Minister under the Act, but honorable senators will see that under this clause the Minister, quite apart from any navigation proceedings, may summon a person before him, and administer an oath to him on some matter quite outside the navigation law. The Minister has himself mentioned a case in which a Department stretched the law to such an extent as to make use of an officer of another Department to do something it was not authorized to do.
– It was absolutely necessary in the public interests.
– It is for Parliament to decide who shall be given the power to administer an oath. It should not be left to the Navigation Department. Under this clause the Minister could summon any one he met in the street to attend at his office, and there administer an oath to him on a subject that had nothing whatever to do with the navigation laws. I do not think the Minister can show that there is any necessity for such a power as that. As a matter of fact, I think the omission of the words “ for the due performance of his duty under this Act “ from this clause is a mere drafting omission, because they are to be found in the immediately preceding clause and in other clauses.
– Supposeit is necessary to go on board a ship for the purpose of enforcing some other Act ?
– Then action should be taken under that Act, and not under the Navigation Act. I put another case to Senator Rae. Does he think that any official or any Minister should have the right to administer an oath for any purpose not set out in an Act of Parliament? Here we are giving the Minister the right to inspect any premises, and administer an oath to any person in connexion with a matter which has nothing whatever to do with navigation. I believe in giving the Minister the fullest possible powers to carry out the provisions of a measure of this kind, but we should not give him power to enter premises or summon persons before him and administer oaths on matters which have nothing to do with navigation.
– The honorable senator was not so anxious to object to the clause giving the right to hunt a man away from the vicinity of a ship, though his presence there might have nothing to do with navigation.
– I should say that the protection of a ship is a matter which has a good deal to do with navigation. As Senator Rae is inclined to be so careful about the interests of the individual in that case, it is strange that he cannot see anything unfair in this clause, which gives the Minister power to administer an oath to any person upon a matter which has nothing to do with navigation.
– The honorable senator knows that all laws are bad.
– One almost despairs of discussing things in this Chamber when the most serious statements are turned aside as a joke. I am submitting, in all seriousness, what I regard as a serious proposition. Under this clause, the Minister - and this may mean the officials of the Navigation Department - may hale up any private citizen and administer an oath to him on some matter that is not set out in the Bill. I am prepared to give the Minister every power necessary to carry out the provisions of the Navigation Bill, but I decline to give him a blank cheque. For all I know, the Minister, in calling up some one to administer an oath to him under this clause, might wish to find out something about land settlement, about sanitation - which ought to be dealt with by the health authorities - or his personal relations with any member of the community. Surely honorable senators will not contend that such a power as that is desirable.
– The Committee might, in this matter, be guided by the Merchant Shipping Act. It has stood the test of experience for many years by the greatest maritime people of the world. Under that Act this power is given even to inspectors.
– But the purpose of the inspection is set out.
– Under subsection e of section 729 of the Merchant Shipping Act an inspector may administer oaths, or may, in lieu of requiring or administering oaths, require every person examined by him to make and subscribe a declaration of the truth of the statements made by him in his examination.
SenatorMillen. - That is not the whole section.
– It is the particular sub-section applicable to this clause. We have, therefore, a well-established precedent for the power that is asked for here.
– Does the honorable senator accept the Merchant Shipping Act in every case?
– I do not; but when we find a similar provision in that Act we may rest assured that there are good reasons for it. As a member of the Navigation Commission, I may say that I never heard this clause challenged by any of the witnesses who came before the Commission. There might be some objection to the clause if it were proposed to give this power to a mere petty officer of the Navigation Department, but it is a very different thing to intrust it to the Minister. He must be given very wide powers, because we never know when a new case may crop up.
– I do not object to his being given all the powers he requires for the purposes of this Bill, but the honorable senator wishes to give him power to do something quite outside the Bill.
– I have already pointed out to Senator Millen that a similar power is provided for in the Merchant Shipping Act, and if we follow that precedent, we shall not go very far wrong.
– The powers proposed under this clause are very drastic, and the reasons why it should be carefully considered have been well stated by Senator Millen. However, apart from Hie navigation law, it is necessary that the Minister should have drastic powers. I direct attention to the fact that during the Civil War in America, a vessel called at Port Phillip. The authorities had some information concerning that vessel, but it got outside Port. Phillip again after some partial fitting here, and afterwards took part in the Civil War, and led to the British Government being cast in damages under the Alabama Claims. One of the powers here proposed is to call upon persons to produce documents, and if that power could have been exercised in the case of the Shenandoah, the vessel that called in here, it would have been possible to discover where that vessel was going. I suggest that as a possible reason why in the Merchant Shipping Act such a provision occurs, and why it may be necessary for us to take drastic powers, so that all ships shall be subject to the Minister in this respect. An emergency such as I have indicated might occur again, and the Commonwealth might have to pay damages. That may be why the Minister seeks to have these powers. If so, there is some justification for them, because, notwithstanding the Declaration of London, we have to be careful that, in case of war, or preparations for war, vessels shall not use our ports to the detriment of allies or neutrals.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 410 to 415 agreed to.
Clause 416 (Returns as to earnings of ships).
– Does this clause appear in the Merchant Shipping Act? Sub-clause _ 2 gives power to the Minister to compel shipowners to disclose to him their aggregate earnings on account of all ships registered in Australia. The clause also deals to some extent with freight earnings. I believe that a similar clause was contained in the Bill as introduced to the House of Commons, and was supported by Mr. Lloyd-George, but that it was rejected Yet the marginal note seems to refer us to the Merchant Shipping Act.
– No; to the Merchant Shipping Bill.
– About 95 Per cent, tonnage of ships engaged in the Australian trade are not registered in Australia.
– This clause would not apply to ships not registered in Australia.
– Consequently the clause would not apply to 95 per cent, of the shipping engaged in our trade. Yet it is proposed to require shipowners whose vessels are registered in Australia to disclose their earnings. To that extent we are giving a certain privilege to foreign ship-owners. I should like tha Minister to explain why he considers it necessary to retain this clause when the House of Commons rejected a similar one.
– ,It is quite correct that a clause somewhat similar to this was contained in the Merchant Shipping Bill as introduced to the House of Commons. It is also correct that that clause was defeated. But there is this material difference between, this clause and that. The clause in the House of Commons Bill read as follows : -
With the object of enabling the Board of Trade to ascertain, as far as practicable, the gross earnings of British shipping, and the extent to which they affect the relations between the imports )to :and the exports if rom thc( United Kingdom the managing owner of every ship registered in the United Kingdom shall in each year make a return at such time, in such manner, and in such form, and containing such particulars as may be directed by the Board of Trade with respect to the voyages and gross earnings of the ship, and the expenses incurred in working the ship during the preceding year, and it shall be the duty of the Board of Trade to furnish the requisite form to the managing owner of the ship in each year.
Under this clause, the only obligation is to give a return showing the gross earnings. The House of Commons Bill provided for a disclosure of profits, because the shipowner had to give a return of expenses. Here the ship-owner is not called upon to give a return of expenses, but only of gross earnings. I have no doubt that it was the provision as to disclosure of profits which led to the rejection of the clause in the Merchant Shipping Bill. For statistical purposes, and for keeping a proper check on navigation, these returns will be of very great value. At the same time, the giving of the information cannot be said to injure the ship-owners, because no disclosure of profits is entailed.
– -Is there any other industry concerning .which similar information is required to be given?
– Speaking from memory, I do not recall an instance. It will he observed that care is taken that the information given is not to go to any one but the Minister, who, by watching the fluctuations of gross earnings, will be able to know how the navigation law is working. He will, for instance, be able to judge of the effect of the coastal clauses, and as to whether they lead to an increase of gross earnings or otherwise. Seeing that the clause does not involve a disclosure of profits, and is not, therefore, on all fours with the clause rejected by the House of Commons ; that it safeguards the disclosure of the information, and also that it is restricted to ships registered in Australia, I trust that the Committee will adhere to it.
– I have no doubt that it would be very useful to obtain from any industry such information as might be necessary to guide Parliament in shaping- laws for the conduct of that industry. But it is somewhat anomalous that we should single out a particular industry, and call upon owners of vessels registered in Australia to make returns, whilst we do not similarly call upon the proprietors of other industries. Provided that we made a similar demand upon others, I should be in favour of the proposal. I do not know whether it would be harassing for ship-owners to give the information required; but, if so, the effect would probably be to cause them to transfer their registration from Australia to New Zealand.
– They will simply have to pick out one line of figures from their balance-sheets.
– I know that manufacturers are very sensitive about disclosing information concerning their business. Whether that sensitiveness arises from a genuine or an imaginary fear of injury is beside the point. That they are fearful is obvious. The Minister has already pointed out that there is no difficulty in transferring from the Australian to the New Zealand register. The mere fact of being on the Australian register confers no privilege ; whilst this clause imposes upon owners whose vessels are on the Australian register an obligation which will not apply to vessels on the New Zealand register. I am sure that is not the desire of the Minister or of the Department. The desire must be to encourage local registration. I submit for consideration whether it is not desirable to wait until we are dealing with an amendment of the Census and Statistics Act before calling upon ship-owners to disclose the information specified.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 417 agreed to.
Clause 418 - (1.) The Minister shall appoint a Marine Council which shall include representatives of the following interests, namely : ship-owners, merchants, underwriters, certificated navigating officers, certificated engineer officers, and seamen.
– ] ask Senator Pearce whether it is not desirable in this clause to fix the numerical strength of the Marine Council, because otherwise there might come a time when, possibly under political pressure, the Minister might be asked to make further appointments, or to limit the number of members. I think it is desirable to prescribe the number in the clause itself, but if it should be passed in its present form the Minister could, if he liked, appoint 500 representatives. That, I think, is hardly intended or desired.
– I cannot take the responsibility of suggesting a number.
– Say “ not exceeding twelve.”
– I am not prepared to say whether ten members will be sufficient, nor do I think that any one is prepared to make that statement. What we have to consider is the interests which are to be represented there, and how they are to be represented. I have not given to that question the study which is necessary to enable me to say whether the Marine Council ought to consist pf ten or twenty members The only way in which Parliament can keep any control, so far as I can see at present, is to leave this matter to be dealt with by regulation, which, when tabled, could be dissented from if necessary.
– 1 notice that in the clause six different classes are mentioned. If the number of members of the Marine Council is to be fixed, why not use the words “ not exceeding twelve ‘ ‘ r
– Are you prepared to say off-hand that the underwriters, for instance, should have the same representation as the owners?
– No ; but I think that the Committee might fix a maximum number.
– How do you know that twelve members will give each interest that representation to which it is entitled?
– It is a good apostolic number, and therefore I suggest that the words “not exceeding twelve” should be inserted.
– I suggest to the Minister that as six separate interests are to be represented on the Marine Council, it might not be a bad idea to insert the words “ and the general public.” Will he indicate whether he does not think that there is some force in my suggestion about conserving the rights of the general public?
– I do not think it is necessary to insert the words “and the general public” because the Minister will represent their interests. The whole purpose of the Marine Council is to advise the Minister, and he will really be the representative of the public.
– The Minister may want advice from the rest of the public as much as from the representatives of these particular interests.
– How can one man speak for the public? The people can always voice their complaints and opinions through Parliament. Some man might believe that ships should carry, for instance, fans, or some apparatus of that kind, while another man might hold that in vessels trading round Tasmania, or in a cooler climate, that was unnecessary.
– Or one man might think that a ship should have a bar, and another might not.
– Yes. We cannot get one man in that way to express the collective opinion of the public, and in order to meet that difficulty, I move -
That after the word “ Council,” line 1, the words “ of such number as may be prescribed,” T>e inserted.
If that amendment be agreed to, the regulation fixing the number of members will have to be laid before each House of the Parliament, and thus any honorable senator who thought that a larger number than was necessary had been appointed would have the right to object.
– I quite recognise and appreciate the difficulty which the Minister has stated. But my object was not to secure absolute parliamentary control of the constitution of the Council, but to prevent, possibly at a very critical time, the exercise of any political, or commercial, or other pressure -on the Minister to interfere with, or colour its composition. If a set number were prescribed in the Act, the Minister could not alter that number no matter what pressure might be brought to bear upon him, or what influences might be at work. But I recognise my honorable friend’s difficulty. I think that until the Act has been brought into operation, it will be impossible for any one to determine what the strength of the Marine Council should be, and therefore I regard the Minister’s amendment as probably the best solution of the difficulty at this juncture.
– I have not risen to object to the amendment, nor am I satisfied that the curt dismissal of my suggestion by any means settles the question, though it may do so so far as the Committee is concerned. Neither the attempt at humour on the part of Senator Millen, nor the explanation of (he Minister satisfies me. When Senator Pearce stated that the Minister is to be the representative of the public interest-
– The Council may include representatives of the public.
– The clause does not say so.
– It does not say that the Council shall not. It practically says that the Council shall include representatives of certain interests It does not say that it shall be exclusively representative of such interests.
– Suppose we merely provided, in the clause that there should be a Marine Council, without mentioning how it should be constituted, all those various interests might be represented. On the reasoning of my honorable friend opposite, there is no necessity to mention whose interests shall be represented ; he cannot get away from that.
– There is really no reason, except to indicate that those interests shall be represented.
– Exactly. There is nothing in the clause to prevent the appointment of a Judge as the chairman of the Council.
– Just so. Nor is there anything to prevent the appointment of any ecclesiastic to say prayers. If these particular interests were deemed to be of sufficient importance to be specifically represented, the inference to be drawn is that they, and they alone, would be represented, and that, probably, will be the case. I admit that the Minister will desire to conserve the interests of the public, but he will only be nominally able to do that. His very varied duties, sometimes his very arduous duties, will prevent him from doing any special work in regard to a Council of this kind. Therefore, I fail to see how the public interests will be represented. As regards the ridicule cast upon my suggestion that some persons might be in favour of having a bar on a ship, and others might not, that one person might want the provision of fans, and perhaps another might want the provision of refrigerators, it must be recollected that there have been numerous instances where persons have been specially appointed to represent the public interest.
– I instanced the bar as showing a difference of opinion.
– Let me take a case which is well known to my honorable friend, and that is the Western Lands Commission in New South Wales. There were three men appointed to the Commission, two, avowedly as departmental officers, who were acquainted with land administration or surveying, and the other to specially represent the general interests of the public. While that may not be the best instance that could be cited, it will serve my purpose. There are numerous other cases where a Government has appointed some persons to represent the interests of the general public, and has exercised a wise discretion in making a choice.
– I think that the amendment will meet the difficulty, because, in my opinion, the clause provides for the representation of too many interests on the Council. If these interests are to be represented by different persons, it will be an unworkable and very costly Council. If, however, the amendment be made, the regulation providing for the composition of the Council will be tabled, and we shall be afforded the opportunity to discuss the appointments made by the Minister. I repeat that, in my opinion, too many interests have been chosen to be represented, and it should not be forgotten that they all represent sections of the general public.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 419 agreed to.
Postponed clause 48 - (1.) An agreement may be made for a voyage, or, if the voyages of the ship average less than six months in duration, may be made to extend over two or more voyages, and agreements so made to extend over two or more voyages are in this Act referred to as “ running agreements.” (2.) A running agreement shall not extend beyond six months from the date thereof :
Provided that every such agreement shall, in any case, remain in force until the ship reaches a port of destination, and the crew shall be considered engaged when the agreement is first signed, and discharged when the employment ends.
– When this clause was last under consideration, Senator Guthrie contended that it would be competent for the master of a vessel to engage men, say in Melbourne, to serve in the north-western Australian trade, the port of discharge being Melbourne. He pointed out that if the ship were employed in that trade for more than six months, the men could not claim their discharge until the master saw fit to bring them back to Melbourne. We promised to consider the point, and as the result of our consideration, it is thought that there is some force in his contention. Therefore I move -
That the following words be added to the clause : -
Provided further that when a ship the crew of which have been engaged under a running agreement which has been in force more than six months reaches a port other than a port of destination, and the ship is not then on her way back to theport of discharge mentioned in the agreement, the crew shall be entitled to claim their discharge, and the master or owner shall be liable to provide them with a passage to the port of discharge or to such other port as is mutually agreed to with the approval of the superintendent.
This amendment will, I think, meet the hardship which Senator Guthrie thought might otherwise arise under the clause. At the same time, it will impose no hardship on an employer, because if he takes a man on a voyage of that character, he will have done so with his eyes open, knowing that if called upon he will have to pay the passages of men claiming a discharge to the port of discharge.
– I think that the insertion of the words proposed by the Minister of Defence will meet the requirements of the case. I know how the difficulty to which reference has been made, operated in Western Australia some time ago. In that case the crew of a vessel were engaged in Adelaide by the Adelaide Steamship Company, and taken to Western Australia. Practically the whole of their work lay between Albany, Esperance, and Eucla. Its members were engaged on a regular run between those ports. They very seldom were afforded an opportunity to return to their home port, and to be paid off there. To meet such cases a clause of this kind is absolutely necessary.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 1.3 to 2.30 p.m.
Postponed clause 65 (No discharge necessary on immediate re-engagements).
.- This clause does away with the necessity for a discharge being given and produced where a seaman, immediately on the expiration of one agreement, re-engages on the same ship. The clause is taken from the New South Wales Act of 1898, which followed the New South Wales’ Act of 1864, but has not, so far as I am aware, been adopted elsewhere. Senator Guthrie’s objection to it was couched in the following terms -
Supposing a man has been employed, say, for two years, on four agreements of six months each. In the ordinary course, apart from this section, he might have received four good discharges. Then, perhaps, a change takes place in the command of a ship. The seaman may fall foul of the new master, and at the expiration of his next six months may determine not to seek re-engagement. The new master may give him a bad discharge, which would, under this section, be the only discharge the seaman could produce for this whole two and a half years’ service. Apart from this section, he would have four good discharges to set off against the one bad one.
That seems to be a sound argument.
– The fact that the seaman had been eighteen months in the one employ would, to an impartial mind, speak for itself.
– It might do so. If we strike out the clause a seaman will be able to obtain his discharge at the end of his term. That will meet the objection raised by Senator Guthrie. At the end of each term of service he will receive his discharge, irrespective of whether it be a good or a bad one. I ask the Committee to negative the clause.
Postponed clause 283 -
A ship shall be deemed to engage in the coasting trade if she takes on board passengersor cargo at any port in Australia, or any territory under the authority of the Commonwealth, to be carried to, and landed or delivered at, any other port in Australia or in any such territory :
Provided that the carrying of passengers who hold through tickets to or from a port beyond Australia, or of cargo consigned on a through bill of lading to or from a port beyond Australia, or of mails, shall not be deemed engaging in the coasting trade :
Provided further that the Governor-General may by order declare that the carrying of passengers between specified ports in Australia, by
British ships, shallnot be deemed engaging in the coasting trade.
– Apparently, under this clause, the law is not to apply generally to Australia. A ship is to be deemed to engage in the coastal trade if she takes on board passengers, or cargo, at any port in Australia. Certain important exemptions are, however, made, and I particularly object to the last exemption. Honorable senators will recollect that, in the Bill, in the form in which it was originally presented to the Senate, provision was made in the same direction, but in entirely different words. The change which has been effected in the wording of this clause will achieve the original object-
– It widens the scope of the clause.
– It will achieve the same object without any specific mention being made of that object. Now it is just as well that honorable senators should understand the position. In the Bill, as it was originally introduced, a specific exemption was made in favour of oversea steamers in the matter of carrying passengers to and from Western Australia and the eastern States. That exemption was inserted because Western Australia was isolated from the other portions of the Commonwealth, and because the coastal service was not regarded as being too satisfactory. Consequently it was recognised that residents of that State should be allowed the opportunity of travelling in the oversea vessels calling there. But I would point out that there are several other parts of Australia which are just as isolated from the remainder of the Commonwealth as is Western Australia. In this Bill we declare that Labour principles must be applied to our navigation, as well as to our other laws. We maintain that those principles are eminently fair and equitable. Consequently I hold that they should apply to every part of the Commonwealth. No portion of it should be exempted from their operation. My own opinion is that the coastal service, between here and Western Australia, is a fairly good one. The facilities offered by that service for the carriage of passengers and cargo are fairly satisfactory, although I do not attempt to defend the extortionate rates which are charged for those facilities. But the people can get no concession from the oversea vesselsinthe matter of fares and freights. Those vessels will not charge less than the coastal steamers. Now, as a matter of fact, the only two lines of steamers which will be affected by this clause are those of the Peninsular and Oriental and the Orient Companies. If we retain the last exemption in the clause we shall place the vessels belonging to the Peninsular and Oriental Company, which carry black labour, in just as good a position as that occupied by the steamers of the Orient Company, which have to comply with our laws in the matter of the labour conditions. Our coastal vessels have to pay fair wages and provide proper conditions to those whom they employ, from the captain down to the sculleryman.
– There is no intention on the part of the Orient Company to carry passengers for less than our coastal vessels charge.
– I have already admitted that. We have laid down special conditions for our own shipping, and it is not fair to do that if we allow steamers which are not subject to any such conditions to come in and take the trade from them. Under this clause the latter would be able to get the cream of the passenger traffic all round Australia.
– And with a black crew on board, too.
– Exactly. There is nothing in this Bill to prevent the Peninsular and Oriental Company from reducing its fares and freights between Australian ports below those charged by our coastal vessels. It is unjust that, a person engaged in a particular trade, should be subjected to certain conditions, whilst another person, who is employed in the same trade, should not.
– If it be fair, then the whole clause is wrong.
– Of course it is. There is only one reason for the inclusion of this exemption. That reason was frankly on the face of the Bill in the form in which it was originally introduced. But since then it- has been covered up. There are certain portions of Queensland and the Northern Territory which are far more isolated than Is the greater portion of Western Australia. It was suggested, in connexion with the original Bill, that the last exemption in this clause should apply only until the transcontinental railway was built. That circumstance is conclusive proof that it was primarily intended to benefit the residents of the southern part of Western Australia. I hold that we should not depart from the principles of equity for the purpose of benefiting anybody. If those principles are to be set aside, let us wipe this Bill out altogether. It will not be worth a straw to the seamen and others engaged in the coastal trade of Australia if we allow oversea British ships to engage in the passenger trade between Western Australia and the eastern States under this exemption from its provisions. I move -
That the following words be omitted from the clause : - “ Provided further that the GovernorGeneral may by order declare that the carrying of passengers between specified ports in Australia, by British ships, shall not be deemed engaging in the coasting trade.”
– This provision is meant to give a discretionary power to the Governor-General in Council to exempt a specified class of boats - that is to say, British ships - in regard to a specified part of the trade. Senator Givens was quite inaccurate in saying that the provision will apply to the whole of the coastal trade. If he will read the clause he will see that the provision applies merely to the passenger trade, and cargo is specifically excluded from it.
– I said so in my remarks.
– I suppose that most of us have a King Charles’ head, which we like to drag in on every occasion, and his objection to Western Australia is King Charles’ head with Senator Givens. Anything that is likely to confer “an advantage upon Western Australia is taboo with the honorable senator immediately.
– I want the same laws to apply to Western Australia as apply to every other State.
– If the honorable senator has not concluded his remarks, I shall sit down and allow him to continue. There are other parts of Australia, including some portions of the State from which Senator Givens comes, which may w.ell benefit from this provision, and which require it quite as much as does Western Australia.
– They have not asked for it.
– First of all, as regards the competition for passengers, the area within which the provision would apply is limited, and it cannot be disputed that the mail boats passenger charges to and from Western Australia are at least 25 per cent, higher than the charges made by Australian-owned ships. The Australianowned ships therefore cannot complain of any competition in the matter. Freights do not come into the question, because no cargo is involved in the proposal. Let us look at the position of the Northern Territory. Senator Millen says that there are no British ships trading there. That is so, but is it not possible that if under this provision the exemption is allowed in the case of British ships, whilst foreignowned ships are excluded from the benefit of it, it may operate as an inducement to British ships to trade with the Northern Territory ?
– One British company - the Eastern and Australian Steamship Company Limited - is trading there now.
– We are all agreed that it is desirable that the Northern Territory, in the development of which the Commonwealth is at present specially interested, should be given all the facilities of communication with which we can supply it. The shipping companies will no doubt regard this provision from a commercial point of view. No shipping company will go to the Northern Territory unless it can make a profit by doing so. We have never disguised the fact that the provisions of this Bill will increase the working cost of the shipping around Australia. If we say to ship-owners, “ We shall exclude you from trade with the Northern Territory or the northern ports of Queensland unless you comply with all the provisions of this Bill,” they will reply that in that case it will not pay them to go there, and they will not go there. The consequence will be, not that we shall have Australianowned ships engaged in the trade with those parts of the Commonwealth, but that there will be no ships trading there at all. Steamers that are now giving ports in those parts of the Commonwealth some service, though a poor service, will pass them by. I ask honorable senators if they think that that would be desirable? The time no doubt will come when these ports will have developed, and Australianowned ships will go there. When such a lime arrives we may be sure that the Government will withdraw this exemption, and the trade will be reserved to Australianowned ships. Until such time as there is a sufficient passenger trade with those remote ports to justify Australian-owned ships in taking up the trade, we must, in order to promote their development, give the proposed exemption to ships that do not comply with our coasting trade conditions, but call at those ports for the convenience of passengers. I am as anxious as Senator Givens can be to secure the whole of the Australian coasting trade for Australianowned ships, but we should in such a matter exercise a little common sense, and endeavour to accomplish our purpose without inflicting hardship on people in isolated portions of the Commonwealth. Coming back to the position of Western Australia, I remind the Committee that, with the exception of the Northern Territory and the northern portions of Queensland, that State is in a very different position from, other States of the Commonwealth. There is railway communication between the other States with the exception of Tasmania, but that State is in very close proximity to Victoria. Undoubtedly the Australian-owned ships now trading between the other States and Western Australia are a good type of vessel, but they give Western Australia only a weekly service. In these days of rapid communication and business pressure it is desirable to afford the fullest facilities to persons travelling between Western Australia and other States for the transaction of business. It is true, as Senator Givens has said, that the British ships can comply with all our conditions, but it will not pay them to do so in order to secure the limited amount of passenger traffic between Western Australia and the eastern States. We must face the fact that the local steam-ship companies are not complaining, nor have they any reason to do so, of the competition of these British ships for the passenger traffic. They acknowledge that the Western Australian trade is the most profitable trade around the Australian coast. They are building their steam-ships practically out of the profits derived from that trade. I am not prepared to say that the Government will grant an exemption under this clause in the case of all the places to which I have referred, but I can mention another part of the Commonwealth in respect to which a case of some sort might be made out for an application for the exemption.
– Some sort of a case.
– A good case can be made out for the application of the provision, but a case of some sort might be made out for the application of the pro vision to the trade with Tasmania. There is a very considerable tourist traffic between the mainland and Tasmania, and during the apple season the British ships to which Senator Givens referred trade between Sydney and Hobart, and a considerable portion of the tourist traffic is carried by those boats. There is at the present time no local line of steamers doing the same trip. We have not heard any complaints from local steam-ship owners that the carrying of passengers between the mainland and Tasmania in these boats constitutes a serious grievance with them, while I venture to say that it has been the means of the introduction of a large sum of money into that State which would not Otherwise have found its way there. By Striking out this provision for exemption we shall not be doing anything to benefit Australian-owned ships. We shall not put a penny into the pockets of their owners. We shall be merely limiting the facilities Which people at present enjoy. I trust that, the Committee will not accept the amendment, but will leave this discretionary power with the Governor-General in Council. I have said that if at any time it is shown that trade with remote ports has so far developed that all necessary facilities of communication can be afforded by locally-owned shipping, any Government of which I may be a member may be trusted to see that those facilities shall be availed of.
– I quite agree with the Minister in his rather pathetic admission that “ some sort of a case “ might be made out for this proposal.
– Can the honorable senator not get over that habit of cracking jokes every time he rises to speak?
– I do not know that there is any other way in which to deal with such a speech as Kas just been delivered by the Minister of Defence. I never heard a more plausible speech, and it really answers itself. Take the last statement the honorable senator made, that any Government of which he was _ a member would, whenever the trade with any port by Australian-owned ships was sufficiently developed to satisfy local needs, see that this exemption was withdrawn. Let us apply that to the State of Western Australia. Is not the trade of that State developed sufficiently, and yet that is the very State which it is intended shall be given the benefit of the proposed exemption? We have well established coastal lines now running between Fremantle and the eastern States, yet it is proposed that this exemption shall apply to the Western Australian trade. Let us examine the Minister’s argument a little further. He instanced the Northern Territory, and pointed out that this provision was necessary for the development of that Territory. Am I to understand that we can only hope to develop the Northern Territory by cheap black labour, because that is the effect of the honorable senator’s argument? I am sure the honorable senator cannot mean that, yet his statement simply means that in order to develop the Northern Territory it is necessary to permit certain ships which, for the purpose of my argument, will be worked with black labour, to be exempt from the conditions which are applied to Australian-owned ships. If that be a sound argument to apply to shipping, it may be applied to the construction of a railway.
– I never used such an argument, and the honorable senator knows it.
– The Minister referred to the Northern Territory. He said that no British ships are going there, and that if the effect of the operation of this provision was to bar foreign-owned vessels it might induce British ships to take up the trade with the Territory.
– Seeing that this applies only to British ships, foreign ships are barred.
– The Minister said that, by giving British-owned ships the benefit of this exemption, they would be permitted to take advantage of this trade. Let me put the matter in another way. The Minister contended that this exemption would be useful to enable the Northern Territory to be developed. What does that mean ? It is proposed to give an exemption to trade to the ports of the Northern Territory, to vessels like those of the Peninsular and Oriental Company, which carry black labour. If it is necessary to give an exemption to blacklabourcarrying vessels in order that they may take the produce away from the Northern Territory, it should be equally necessary to permit black labour to produce the commodities taken by the black-labour steamers. And if it is necessary to do this, why limit the exemption to passengers ? It is far more important to the Northern Territory just now to secure means of getting produce away than to get improved passenger accommodation.
– Because there is practically no passenger traffic there at all.
– Is that why this provision is inserted ? Let honorable senators who supportthis clause try and cover up the point as they will, it is merely an attempt to destroy what the Labour party especially regard as a principle in order that a few Western Australian travellers may have a little additional comfort.
– A few?
– Yes, a few.
– A larger percentage of Western Australians travel by sea than of the people of any other State of the Commonwealth.
– Still there are only a few, comparatively speaking. The sole effect of this provision is not to givethe Western Australian people the means of reaching the eastern States, because they have that already, but to afford facilities for a certain number of people to “ blackleg “ upon an established principle, to use a familiar and well-understood term. The object is, in other words, that a few Western Australian persons may travel with additional comfort. That is putting the matter in the plainest possible language.
– To travel in boats in which they have to dress for dinner.
– Probably that may be one of the attractions to those who support the proposals. I should like to apply to this Western Australian traffic the same argument that the Minister applied to the traffic of the Northern Territory. The Minister’s argument was that if you could by law shut out foreign vessels from the Northern Territory, you would thereby encourage British vessels to go there. Apply that argument to the Western Australian traffic as it exists to-day. If you could shut out British-owned vessels from the Western Australian trade, sooner or later that trade would get into the hands of the coastal boats, and so do a great deal to bring about that weekly service which is the desire of the Minister. I am not saying whether there should not be some exemption, but if you are going to lay down a law, you should apply it all round, and not permit the Minister to pick out certain ports to meet the convenience of a certain section of the public who use a certain line.
– The last argument used by Senator Millen will be appreciated by those who best understand the question at issue. When talking of the coasting trade, honorable senators must bear in mind that there are very few coastal trips in any country in the world to be compared with that between Western Australia and the eastern States. The distance by sea from Adelaide to Fremantle is 2,000 miles. Fancy that being dubbed a coastal trip ! It is really an oceanjourney. Because of the great distance which has to be travelled, and because of the large number of people living in Western Australia who travel to the eastern States - largely, I suppose, because so many of them have left the eastern States and settled in the West, and, consequently, have many attractions and friends over here - itis desired to make a special exemption in their interest. According to the argument that has been used here to-day, however, those people are to have their best means of reaching the eastern States cut away at one fell swoop. The length of the journey, and the roughness of the water to be traversed, form strong reasons for this exemption. Personally, I prefer to stand by the finding of the Royal Commission, which, although there was only one Western Australian upon it, recommended that there should be an exemption in favour of Western Australia.
– Was the honorable senator himself the one Western Australian on the Commission?
– Yes ; I was one amongst eight members. Three of the members represented New South Wales, namely, Mr. Dugald Thomson, Mr. G. B. Edwards, and the present Attorney General. The following is the finding of the Royal Commission on this point -
That pending the connexion of the railway systems of Western Australia and South Australia British mail steamers carrying passengers between those States be exempt from the proposed reservation.
– Was that a unanimous finding ?
– I cannot remember. Senator Guthrie, the champion of the seamen, who pays greater attention to shipping than any other member of the Senate, signed that recommendation. We all know Senator Guthrie’s opinions on such matters. No man guards so jealously the rights of Australian shipping and Australian seamen as he does. Yet he was a party to this recommendation .
– I happen to know that Senator Guthrie, although he may have signed the report, does- not agree with this particular recommendation.
– I am rathe: surprised to hear that. It is not his usual practice to sign a document containing anything with which he does not agree. Whatever Senator Givens may know privately, Senator Guthrie signed the report. Here is his name appended to it.
– Was it unanimous? Senator Guthrie may have dissented from that provision.
– I can assure the Committee that he did not. I am positive that he signed it. Knowing the man as we do, we can safely follow his lead in this regard.
– I am perfectly certain that Senator Guthrie, if he were here, would vote for the deletion of this provision. Indeed, if he had been here, he would have, moved for its deletion.
– I know that, if Senator Guthrie were here, he would vote for it.
– That does not affect the merits of the case.
– But when we have a direct contradiction, I think it right to take the opportunity of saying that .Senator Givens has utterly misrepresented Senator Guthrie.
– We shall probably have first-hand authority on the point before the end of the session.
– It is just as well to give such a statement an emphatic denial. The names of the signatories to the report of the Commission are Mr. Hughes, Mr. Groom, Senator Guthrie, Mr. S. Mauger, and myself. The other members of the Commission dissented. As to the present form ot the clause, I may say at once that I am not in love with iti. I should prefer to see the clause as it stood in the first Bill. That would confine the exemption to a specific case, and we should know exactly how it was going to act. I believe that the recommendation that, as soon as the railway systems are connected, this exemption should cease to operate, is a wise one; and as a Bill for that purpose is about to be introduced, I do not believe that the clause, as far as Western Australia is concerned, will need to be put into operation at all. But if that railway connexion is not to be made, and we are robbed of the present travelling facilities, we shall have inflicted on the travelling public of Western Australia a serious wrong, that State being left even more isolated than it was before Federation. The people of Western Australia surely did not join the Federation to be placed at a disadvantage, and that really would be the effect of precluding them from travelling by the mail boats. I know sufficient of the Western Australian people to be confident that they would prefer to travel by the Australian vessels if other things were equal. But people who are not good sailors naturally prefer to travel in as much comfort as possible. To give honorable senators some idea of what the journey to Western Australia really is, I may mention that the last time I went over there I travelled on one of the mail boats between Adelaide and Fremantle; and, although I am a fairly good sailor, and am very seldom knocked out by bad weather, nevertheless I was not able to go on deck during the whole six days of the journey, nor was there a passenger on board who could go on deck.
– I had to stay in bed for three days.
– It is quite common for persons to join a boat at Adelaide and not to be seen on deck again until she has passed the heads at Fremantle. That is the invariable rule with bad sailors. It must be admitted that, between bad sailors and good sailors, there is a large number of persons who, when they get an opportunity to travel in a good vessel, can make the trip with less discomfort. Not only would Senator Givens rob these persons of that advantage, but he would rob all persons of the advantage of having a second vessel in which to go to that State once a week. That is, I submit, a restriction which my honorable friends should not ask the people of any State to endure. If the people who travel from the eastern ports to Fremantle were as few in number as those who travel to the northern parts of Queensland and Western Australia, we might be justified in not considering the interests of a few. In this case, however, there is a big traffic. It will be generally admitted, I think, that the travelling public should not be treated in the way proposed by Senator Givens. I am pleased that those who have spoken against the provision have not ventured to state that there is any unfair competition. The representatives of the shipping companies, when they were examined by the Royal Commission, did not suggest that they were subject to unfair competition by the deep-sea boats, for the simple reason that the latter charge higher rates.
– Have we any guarantee that that arrangement will continue?
– We have the guarantee that that has always been the practice, and that, I think, should be ‘sufficient. I know that the mail boats are not likely to cut the rates.
– May I draw your attention to the fact that the recommendation which Senator Guthrie signed covered, not merely passengers, but also cargo. So that, if you are pinning your faith to him, you ought to go the whole hog.
– “ The greater includes the less,” and this provision is less than what he asked for.
– I shall read the paragraph, so that the Committee may see that Senator Millen has made a mistake.
– Read also the paragraph immediately preceding it.
– The paragraphs read -
– And the proposed reservation referred to the coastal trade?
– No; the honorable senator is mistaken. As a matter of fact, the deep-sea boats do not carry any freight between the east and the west. Consequently, to give those boats any such advantage as the honorable senator has referred to, would be to give them something which they have not asked for. That is the trade which is reserved for the Australian coastal vessels, and that, by the way, was shown by the representatives of the deep-sea boats to be much more profitable than the carriage of passengers. The rates for freight between the east and tl,r west are enormous ; in fact, as much as the rates between Australia and the Old Country. It is a profitable traffic indeed, and is reserved for the Australian coastal vessels.
It is only the passenger traffic which the exemption extends to.
– Is that by arrangement with “the companies ?
– I would not like to say that there is an arrangement with the companies; I do not think that there is. I understand that the steamers, when they get to Fremantle, wish to hurry eastward, and get the mails delivered at Adelaide as quickly as possible; and then before they leave the eastern States their cargo space is fixed up in such a way that they do not want to be taking in and discharging small quantities of freight between ports.
– Senator Guthrie advised me never to travel with the mail boats, but to patronize the coastal boats.
– Did the honorable senator take his advice?
– Yes; and I had to stay in bed for three days.
– I hope that honorable senators will recognise that there is nothing unfair in this proposal, except that it is carried to a greater extent than was proposed by the Royal Commission.
– I rise to say a few words in support of what the Minister said. The Eastern and Australian Steamship Company is a British company, whose steamers call at Port Darwin and other ports as they come down from the East.
– How are the boats manned ?
– I have nothing to do with that matter at present, lt is a British company. Again, the boats of the British India Company also call at Thursday Island and other ports as they come down the coast. Do I understand that there is any objection to the boats of these two British companies carrying cargo as well as passengers? Port Darwin will be placed at a great disadvantage if these boats are not to be at liberty to carry both.
– This exemption will apply only to passengers.
– My object in rising was to mention that two British companies are doing business in the northern waters of the Commonwealth.
Senator ST. LEDGER (Queensland)
Ls-23l- - I wish t0 Set some information from the Minister on a point before I give a vote. I believe that the British
India Company has a contract with the Queensland Government for bringing out emigrants, and that it trades between the Old Country and Brisbane, via Torres Strait, discharging emigrants at various ports. As the clause stands, would the company be allowed, if it wished to do so, to take passengers from port to port along the Queensland coast?
– Yes; it would be eligible for an exemption.
– It is an important steam-ship company, which is helping, to some extent, to open up Northern Queensland ; and it seems to me that it will be right to allow an exemption, because it will facilitate passenger traffic along the coast of Queensland. If that be so, I am inclined, at present, to support the Government.
– The Minister of Defence prefaced his remarks by stating that, to me, Western Australia was something like King Charles’ head, and that I was always ready to oppose anything which was for the benefit of that State - in fact, that I had a “ down “ on it. It is a curious thing that if any honorable senator has the audacity to argue that the same law should apply to every part of Australia - to Western Australia, as well as to the State which he represents - he must, therefore, be accused of having a “ down” on Western Australia. I did not ask that it should be subjected to any law to which I was not perfectly willing that the State I represent should not also be subjected. I fail to see, therefore, that the Minister had any justification for a remark of that kind. I am prepared to do the same justice to Western Australia or South Australia or Tasmania as to the State I represent, or the State in which Parliament is sitting. What do the Minister’s remarks amount to, after all has been said and done? and they were emphasized by the view put forward by Senator de Largie. They all come back to this original proposition, that the proviso has been inserted for the one purpose of allowing two lines of mail steamers to carry passengers between Fremantle and the eastern ports.
– We do not deny that.
– The honorable senator was emphatic in stating that we should not deprive the people of Western Australia of the facilities which they possessed prior to Federation. Let us examine that contention for a moment. The facility which they had in this direction before Federation was to travel from Fremantle to the eastern ports, or vice versa, in two lines of mail steamers manned exclusively by coloured labour, as against travelling in the coastal boats manned by white labour.
– The majority of the Orient liners were manned by white labour.
– I travelled once in an Orient liner, and I had the displeasure, if I may call it so, of seeing four troops of Lascars lined up on Sunday morning for the inspection of the captain.
– May I point out that if the argument that we should not deprive the people of Western Australia of the facilities which they enjoyed before Federation is sound, it ought to be extended to cargo as well as to passengers.
– That follows as a natural conclusion. However, the question of cargo does not arise now. If the contention of the Minister and Senator de Largie be true, that we should not deprive the people of Western Australia of this particular advantage which they had prior to Federation, our White Australia policy must go by the board, because the advantage which they then, had was that they could travel with equal facility in black labour vessels as they could in white labour vessels. .
– Why did you not travel by a white labour boat ?
– Because I did not have the pleasure of making the arrangements for the trip ; otherwise, I would have done so.
– You could have made the arrangement.
– Where I was brought up it was not considered good manners for a guest to question the arrangements which his host had made.
– Like most persons, you wanted to travel with the greatest comfort. .
– Let us examine this proposal a little closely, to see whether my contention that the verbiage of the subclause is a mere subterfuge is not correct. We are asked to believe, especially by the Minister, that this provision is required for the Northern Territory and the northern portion of Queensland, just as much as it is required for Western Australia. I want to point out that it will not apply in the case of the Northern Territory and North Queensland, ‘because it is a fact, which is known to honorable senators generally, that there are no British-owned vessels trading there continually and carrying passengers regularly. The only line of vessels which are unquestionably owned by a British, company are the boats of the British India Steamship Company, which travel down the coast of Queensland. These vessels are almost exclusively manned by coloured labour. Is it suggested that we should place our own shipping under a disadvantage in order to provide facilities to people to travel by ships which are manned almost exclusively by that class of labour? This question of fair and unfair competition has been very much stressed by the Minister of Defence and by Senator de Largie. The latter stated that there was no question of unfair competition at issue. But I hold that we have no right even to allow opportunities for that unfair competition to exist. We have no guarantee that the mail steamers will not reduce their passenger fares between Australian ports below those charged by our coastal steamers.
– The honorable senator wants to put the people of Western Australia in the control of a trust.
– The Minister of Defence declared emphatically that the Government had not attempted to disguise the fact from themselves that the passing of this Bill would have the effect of largely increasing the expenditure at present incurred by Australian shipping companies. I quite believe that, on account of the better wages which they will be required to pay, and the improved conditions which they will have to provide, that the cost of running their vessels will be increased. They are not engaged in the business for the benefit of their health; and in order to recoup themselves for the additional outlay they will probably have to increase their passenger fares. Have we any guarantee that the mail steamers will raise their passenger rates accordingly? If they do not, may not that circumstance in itself attract to them practically the whole of the passenger traffic between Fremantle and the eastern States?
– Where will the people come in if we drive them into the hands of a monopoly?
– Is Senator de Largie prepared to advocate a return to black labour conditions in order to get out of that combine? We all know that it is proposed to build a line of railway to Western Australia, and consequently I do not see that the residents of that State would be placed under any disadvantage if they had no alternative but to travel by our coastal boats. In the northern half of Queensland, there are just as many people as are to be found in Western Australia, and they travel to the southern portions of the Commonwealth in just as large numbers as the people of Western Australia journey to the eastern States. Every vessel travelling to the north of Queensland is filled with passengers. In the winter months, when the weather here is unpleasant, a great number of tourists visit that portion of the Commonwealth.
– On our way to New Guinea recently, we saw the Wyreema, and she was practically empty.
– Probably that was because she was tied up at the wharf, and had discharged her passengers. My own experience is that at that season of the year it is almost impossible to get a berth on board the vessels travelling to Queensland. The northern portion of that State has not asked for an exemption of this kind. Tt is distinctly unfair to impose one set of conditions on our own people who are engaged in our own trade, whilst permitting outsiders, who are engaged in the same trade, to be free of all restrictions.
– We do not do that.
– It is proposed to give the Governor-General power to do that, so far as the passenger traffic is concerned.
– That is not what the honorable senator said.
– The Minister of Defence knows perfectly well that I was referring to the passenger trade. We ought not to impose on our own people worse conditions than we impose on everybody else. If the oversea steamers wish to engage in our coastal trade, they should be at perfect liberty to do so, provided that they conform to the general conditions which we lay down for the conduct of that trade. Unless we are prepared to adhere to that equitable . principle, we shall be open to the accusation of having penalized our own people who are engaged in our own shipping trade for the benefit of the foreigner.
– Upon this matter, I am very much in agreement with Senator Givens. It seems to me that if, under this clause, we allow the Government to declare what particular British ships may be exempted, we shall be giving them a dangerous power. We all know that the vessels of Burns, Philp and Company, which are British-owned, do a very large trade with the Philippines. I understand that the Minister of Defence, in reply to a question, has stated that those ships will be eligible for exemption.
– That is so.
– It seems to me that we are asked to arm the Government with power to exempt a certain line of ships trading along one part of the coast of Australia, and to ignore the vessels trading along another part. I think that we ought to lay down a hard-and-fast rule by refusing to allow the Government to exempt any ships. For that reason, I am inclined to support the amendment of Senator Givens.
Clause agreed to.
Postponed clause 292 -
The Governor-General may, if he thinks fit, by proclamation, exempt ships registered in or sailing under the flag of any foreign country from the provisions of this Part of this Act requiring such ships to be licensed before they engage in the coasting trade, if he is satisfied -
that by the law of that country British ships may engage in the coasting trade of that country without a licence and as freely as ships registered in or sailing under the flag of that country ; and
that the effect of the exemption will not be to give to ships of that country privileges or advantages in excess of those given to British ships.
– I move -
That the following proviso be added to the clause : -
Provided that no such exemption shall take effect with respect to any ship which is or has within twelve months been receiving a subsidy or bonus from any Government other than the Government of the Commonwealth or a State.
We know that that proviso will exclude a large number of vessels for the reason that they are bounty or subsidy fed.
– Is there any definition in the Bill of “bounty” or “ subsidy “?
– No; but the terms are well understood, I think.
– I ask the Minister to consider what the effect of this proposed exemption will be. Clause 284 authorizes the licensing of foreign-owned vessels about to engage in the coastal trade, and the conditions of the licence provide that, amongst other things, the seamen shall be paid wages in accordance with Part VI. of the Act. I wish the Minister to say whether, in exempting these foreign-owned vessels as here proposed from the necessity of obtaining a licence, that will have the effect of exempting them also from compliance with the conditions stipulated by the licence. What will be the position of the vessel relieved from the necessity of obtaining a licence? Will it also be relieved from the obligation of conforming to the conditions of this part of the Act?
– The honorable senator has raised a legal question, and I do not, of course, give my own opinion in reply to it. I am advised that the proclamation would be a general proclamation exempting the vessel, and would not bring it under the conditions laid down for a licensed ship. My recollection of the matter is that this clause is necessary in connexion with the most favoured nation clauses in a number of existing treaties. By these treaties, the British Government undertake to give equal rights to countries that reciprocate. There are very few of these treaties now in existence that bind the Dominions, but there are some ; and at the recent Conference we brought forward the question, and secured an undertaking from the British Government that they would enter into negotiations with the countries with which such treaties still exist, and endeavour to secure for the Dominions the same rights as they have now, so that we may not be brought under their provisions unless we so desire.
– The right of independent action.
– Just so. But, until these treaties are denounced, we, as a part of the British Empire, are bound by them. This particular clause was introduced, therefore, in order to enable usto deal with the ships of countries with which such treaties had been made.
– It is more the effect of the clause that I question.
– I think the effect of the clause will be as Senator Millen indicated, and that a foreign vessel that is not required to be licensed will not be subject to the conditions which apply to licensed ships.
– The Minister has made a statement in a rather tentative way ; and while I recognise that the clause must go in, I suggest that it is worth the honorable senator’s while, before the Bill is finally passed, to have the matter further examined.
– This is the first time the question has been raised.
– The Minister will see at once that it is rather a serious thing lhat we should lay down a general principle that vessels engaged in the coastal trade shall conform to certain conditions, and then to find that in respect of foreignregistered vessels we may be placed in the position of having to exempt them from obtaining a licence, or conforming to the conditions under which we sanction engagement in the coastal trade.
– I promise, before the Bill is passed, to have inquiries made on the point.
– We have passed an exemption which is applicable to the passenger trade only, and to British ships ; but if this clause be passed, it will involve an exemption in respect of cargo as well as passengers, and in favour of foreign-owned vessels.
Senator CHATAWAY (Queensland) f3-54]- - By interjection, I asked the Minister whether he proposed to define in this Bill the words “bounty, “ 01 “subsidy.” I now ask the honorable senator to take that matter into consideration, and inquire whether it would not be worth while, in order to make the Bill clear, to insert a definition of those words. I remind the Minister that in September, 1906, when the Brussels Convention was agreed to by the Powers, there was great difficulty in defining the words “bounty” and “subsidy,” and the terms were discussed by legal authorities all over the world. In the interest of the Bill itself, will the Minister have the matter looked into ?
– - I shall do so.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Postponed clause 347 (Liability for neglect of pilots).
– - This clause must be considered with clause 348, which we propose to amend so as to read -
The owner or master of a ship shall not be exempt from liability for any loss or damage occasioned by the fault or want of capacity of * pilot by reason of the fact that the employment of the pilot is compulsory.
That will absolutely reverse the effect of the clause as it at present stands. Of course, it will not alter the liability of the pilot up to £100. This clause has been considered by a departmental Committee of the Board of Trade, and the report of the Committee has just reached the Trade and Customs Department. I shall read a few extracts from it to show the way in which they deal with the matter. At page 75 of the report, they say -
A most important effect of compulsory pilotage, and one that has the most far-reaching consequences, is that resulting from section 633 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1894, which enacts that an owner or master of a ship shall not be answerable to any person for any loss or damage occasioned by the fault or the incapacity of any qualified pilot when the employment of a pilot is compulsory by law. It is also provided by section 74 of the Harbors, Docks, and Piers Clauses Act- 1847 (IO Viet., c. 27), which is incorporated in many local Acts, that the owner of a ship which damages the harbor, docks, piers, quays, or works, shall be answerable to the “ undertakers “ for the’ damage done by such ship, or by any person employed about her. This section enlarges the common law liability of the shipowner, as its effect is to make him liable for the acts of a wrongdoer, whether the latter is or is not his servant, except in the one case where thewrongdoer is a compulsory pilot, for the section goes on to say “ provided always that nothing herein contained shall extend to impose any liability for any such damage upon the owner of any vessel, whether such vessel shall at the time when such damage is caused be in charge of n duly licensed pilot whom such owner or master is bound by law to employ and put his vessel in charge of.” It is difficult to exaggerate the hardships inflicted by these sections on innocent persons whose property nas received damage from a vessel in charge of a compulsory pilot. Evidence to this effect has been given before us by ship, wharf, and barge owners, which confirms the evidence given at previous inquiries; and, in fact, the hardship and injustice inflicted by this law to persons whose property is damaged is so universally admitted as to make it. quite unnecessary to multiply evidence on this point.
After dealing with the matter in a somewhat comprehensive way, they say -
We cannot help thinking that the state of the law as it at present affects the master is extremely unsatisfactory.’
They are dealing there with the fact of the ship being practically in charge of the pilot, although the master is still on board. Dealing with the question as it affects the pilots, they say -
It has been brought to our notice that it frequently happens that when the owner of a ship or a wharf which has been damaged .by the faulty navigation of a ship is unable to recover from the owner of that ship, he seeks to recover what he can from the pilot. Our attention has been called to -cases where the pilots have in consequence been made bankrupt.
Then they go on to show how the law enables pilots to meet these cases by giving a bond to the amount of his liability, and they say -
If the pilot is negligent his licence can always be dealt with by his pilotage authorities, and it is, in our opinion, wrong in principle that pilots should have in addition to the responsibility of their danger a financial ruin just because the profession which they follow entails the handling of property of great value.
– Is no mention made of damage to passengers or seamen ?
– Not in this section. To continue the quotation -
The fact that owners of property should have been driven to look to pilots for damage done to a ship or wharf emphasizes the unsatisfactory state of affairs produced by the present state of the law.
We recommend that at all ports the pilotage authorities should have power to make by-laws requiring the pilots to give a bond, and that when such a bond is, given the liability of the pilot shall be limited to that amount, together with the amount of pilotage payable in respect of the vessel. A by-law of this nature should not be made unless it is desired by a majority of the pilots at the port.
Senate adjourned at 4.2 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 September 1911, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1911/19110915_senate_4_60/>.