4th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator PEARCE laid upon the tableElectoral Act 1902to1911. ; Redistribution Scheme, New South Wales : Further Report and Maps (z) furnished by the Commonwealth Electoral Boundaries Commission.
– Is it the intention of the Minister to give notice of a motion for the early consideration of the report ?
– The ordinary procedure will be followed in this case, as in all others.
– Your ordinary procedure is to block things you do not like.
Senator VARDON called the attention of the Minister representing the Treasurer to the following paragraph appearing in the South Australian Advertiser : -
THE MATERNITY BONUS.
Sydney, November 24. - During the hearing of a case in the Children’s Court at West Maitland on Saturday, in which an application was made by a girl for preliminary maternity expenses, the solicitor who appeared for the defendant asked that the Commonwealth maternity bonus should be taken into consideration when the amount was being fixed. The solicitor who appeared for the girl admitted that it ought to be taken into consideration, but thought it rather hard that the general taxpayer should have to contribute in a matter in which he was not concerned. In fixing the amount, Mr. C. H. Gale, police magistrate, took into consideration the fact that the girl would receive the maternity bonus. and asked, upon notice -
In view of this decision, will the Government seek to amend the Maternity Act so as to prevent seducers and other blackguards from benefiting under the operations of the Act?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is -
Apparently the Constitution does not permit any amendment of the Maternity* Allowance Act which would control the decisions of magistrates in cases such as those brought under notice.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Has he been informed of instances of medical men attending maternity cases refusing to sign the form necessary for claiming the maternity allowance unless paid a special fee of xos. od. for so doing ?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are-
The suggestion will be considered.
Mining Inspector : Pastoral Leases
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
Was the recent appointment of Mr. T. G. Oliver as Mining Inspector and Assistant Government Geologist for the Northern Territory made as the result of a call for applications for appointment to such position?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is -
Yes. The advertisement appeared in the Com. mpmoealth Gazette of 10th August, 1912. Thirtyfive applications were received.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are -
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answers tothe honorable senator’s questions are -
Motion (by Senator Chataway) agreed to -
That a return be tabled showing the name* and occupations of all persons appointed since April, iqio, to the Public Service, the salaries above £300 a year, the allowances or other emoluments, together with the offices and positions to which such persons were appointed.
That the previous positions and emoluments of such appointees be as far as possible disclosed.
Motion(by Senator Keating) agreed to -
That there be laid upon the table of the Senate copies of all tenders, correspondence, and papers relating to the recent call for tenders for a mail service between Melbourne and Tasmania.
Motion (by Senator Sayers) agreed to -
That a return be tabled showing -
The number of Koyal Commissions appointed since April, 1910.
The names of the several Commissioners.
The hours each Commissioner attended sittings.
The allowance paid to each Commissioner.
The fees or salary, at per day, paid toeach Commissioner.
Motion (by Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir Albert Gould) agreed to -
That a return be laid on the table of the Senate showing -
The number and nature of factories es tablished by the Commonwealth since April, 1 9 10.
The number of employes engaged therein.
The first cost of such factories and the lands on which they stand, including all plant and appliances.
The annual charge for interest and depreciation on and of capital.
The value of the output of each factory during the year ending 30th June, 1912, and the cost of same.
The estimated saving (if any) made as compared with the purchase of similar goods from private manufacturers-
In Committee (Consideration of the House of Representatives’ message resumed from 27th November, vide page 5986).
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - After clause 397 insert new clause 397A.
– This amendment, which introduces a new clause, is another of the alterations made to bring the Bill into line with the provisions of the International Convention in relation to collisions and salvage. It is taken from the Imperial Maritime Conventions Act of 1911.
I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [2.41]. - I should like the Minister to state whether the proposed new clause is exactly the same as the provision in 1 and 2 George V. chapter 57 ?
– Yes; it is taken from the Imperial Maritime Conventions Act of 1911.
– And it is exactly the same provision ?
– I am informed that it is exactly the same.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 412 -
This Act shall apply to any unregistered British ship which ought to have been registered under this or any Imperial Act, as if the ship had been registered in Australia.
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - Omit “ this or.”
– The words proposed to be omitted are meaningless. Ships will not be registered under this mea sure at all, but under the Merchant Shipping Act. In the original draft, provision was made for the registration of vessels, but that was subsequently found to be unnecessary and was abandoned. The words proposed to be omitted now were evidently overlooked when this alteration was made. I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Motion agreed to.
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - After clause 415 insert the following new clause : - “415A. - (1.) No official performing any duty under this Act shall be taken to sea without his consent.
Penalty : One hundred pounds. (2.) The owner or master of any ship in which any official is taken to sea illegally shall, in addition to any penalty for an offence against this section, be liable to pay all expenses incidental to the official’s return to duty.”
– This clause is being inserted in lieu of clause 216, which has been omitted. The reason of the transfer from Part IV. to Part XI., “ Miscellaneous,” is merely to give the clause a general, in lieu of a restricted, application. I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 416 -
Where under this Act any ship is to be detained or may be detained, all officers of Customs shall refuse to grant outward clearance to that ship or to grant her any transire or any document in the nature thereof.
House of Representatives’ Amendments. - After “ detained “ insert “ or where the requirements of this Act with regard to the ship or her officers, crew, or equipment have not been complied with “ : omit “ shall “, insert “ may “.
– Clause 213 contains a provision for the detention of ships found to be unseaworthy, but there is a number of other requirements which must be met, and although, in regard to such, the Merchant Shipping Act and the New Zealand Act specifically provide for detention in case of default, no similar provision was made in this Bill. The first amendment will give this necessary power. These remarks will also apply to the second amendment, which is consequential on the first one. I move -
That the amendments be agreed to.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 419 -
The seal of the Minister for the purposes of this Act shall be a seal having the Royal Arms in the centre, and the words “ Minister for Trade and Customs, Commonwealth of Australia,” in a circle surrounding the Royal Arms.
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - Omit the “ Royal Arms in the centre, and’ ‘ ; and omit “ Royal insert “ Commonwealth Coat of “.
– These two amendments substitute the Commonwealth Coat of Arms granted to us by Royal Charter fop the Royal Coat of Arms, as provided, in the first Bill. I move -
That the amendments be agreed to.
– I point out that in the clause there is a reference to the Minister of Trade and Customs, whilst the proper designation of the Minister in this connexion is Minister of Trade, Customs, and Navigation. Why should not the term used be “ Minister of Navigation? “
– Because we have no Minister of Navigation under the Constitution yet.
– We had, and as this is a measure which will be administered by the Navigation Department solely, the term “ Minister of Navigation “ would be an even more appropriate term to use.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 421 - (1.) The owner of every ship registered in Australia (not being a fishing boat) shall in each year make a return to the Minister at the prescribed time showing the aggregate gross earnings during the preceding year of all ships so registered of which he is owner, in the prescribed form.
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - After “Australia” insert “or engage in the coasting trade.”
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
The clause as it stood provided that returns of gross earnings should be furnished for every ship registered in Australia, but if there is a line of ships trading on the coast with Melbourne or Sydney for their headquarters, but registered in Great Britain or New Zealand, they would require to furnish no returns, and this would to a large extent impair the usefulness of the information supplied by Australian owners. It would also be unfair for them that they should be asked to disclose information that their rivals were not asked for.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [2.48].- It was originally determined by the Senate that returns should be furnished of the earnings of ships registered in Australia, but it is now proposed to provide that every ship engaged in the coasting trade, whether she be registered in Australia or not, shall furnish these returns. This is placing a direct embargo upon ships engaging in our coasting trade. There are many vessels that do a little trade on our coast as well as in other parts of the world, and it is. not clear whether under the clause as amended by the House of Representatives the owners would not be obliged to furnish returns of the gross earnings of those ships for each year, and not merely their earnings while engaged in our coasting trade. Surely that could not have been the intention of the Government?
– Why not ask for a return of the gross earnings of every company registered in Australia?
– Why should we not ask for returns of the gross earnings of ordinary companies registered in Australia as well as in the case of shipping companies owning vessels registered in Australia? I have spoken several times on the question of the registration of ships in Australia. It has always seemed to me desirable that we should induce as many ship-owners as possible to register their vessels here, but a ship registered here should not be placed at a disadvantage as compared with ships registered elsewhere. The Minister is attempting to overcome that difficulty which arose in. connexion with the clause as it left the Senate by making a provision that all vessels engaged in our coasting trade, whether registered here or not, should furnish these returns. We compel ships engaged in our coasting trade, though they may not be registered here, to comply with Australian conditions as to wages, accommodation, and so on, and it is here proposed to put an additional burden upon them. If we do not desire companies whose vessels are not registered in Australia to engage in our coasting trade we might just as well say so at once as impose conditions which will prevent them doing so. I am entirely opposed to a provision of this character. If we license ships to engage in our coasting trade, and they comply with Australian conditions, that should be considered sufficient. It is too much in addition to ask that they shall supply returns of their gross earnings. To do so is to attempt to exercise an autocratic power which honorable senators should not consent to for a moment. The only reason I have heard in support of a provision requiring such returns is that they would’ be useful for statistical purposes. But what does it matter to the Commonwealth whether a shipping company is making a profit of 10 or 20 per cent. ? It is proposed to ask for a return of gross earnings during each year, but not for a statement as to what it has cost to secure those earnings; and, in the circumstances, I ask what good such information would be to anybody.
– Thereturns will show the amount of shipping trade on our coast.
– We can discover that in quite other ways, because we get returns of every passenger, and all goods carried between one port and another in Australia. Why we should ask for returns for the gross earnings of each ship engaged in our coasting trade I confess I am at a loss to understand.
– There is some force in the contention of Senator Gould that in the case of vessels not registered in Australia we require to know only what are the earnings during the time they are engaged in our coasting trade. I should like to meet that contention, and I propose to do so by withdrawing my motion and submitting a motion in the following terms: -
That the amendments be agreed to, and that the clause be consequentially amended by inserting after the word “ year “ the word “ earned in the coasting trade.”
If this be agreed to, sub-clause 1 of the clause will then read -
The owner of every ship registered in Australia, or engaged in the coasting trade (not being a fishing boat), shall in each year make a return to the Minister at the prescribed time showing the aggregate gross earnings during the. preceding year earned in the coasting trade of all ships so registered or engaged in the coasting trade of which he is the owner in the prescribed form.
The amendment I suggest in the clause is clearlyconsequential upon the amendment of the House of Representatives, which introduces another class of ships in connexion with this provision, and the consequential amendment I move has reference to those ships.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the amendment be agreed to, and the following consequential amendment be made in clause 421 of the Bill; viz., after “year” insert “ earned in the coastal trade.”
– I do not think that the Minister’s proposal meets the case. Under the House of Representatives’ amendment, ships registered in Australia would be required to furnish a return of gross earnings for the whole year; but if the consequential amendment submitted by the Minister be agreed to, they will not be required to furnish returns of their gross earnings for the whole year, but only of earnings made in the coasting trade.
– We require only to know the trade these vessels do on our coast.
– I understand what the Minister wants to do, but I do not think the amendment he has proposed will give effect to it. I have something, however, to say on the clause as a whole. I dissent from the view of Senator Gould, and do not think that this provision will impose any hardship. As legislation is more and more based on statistical information, I am of opinion that the clause does not go far enough. 1 think it most advisable that returns of this kind should be made. Senator Gould has stressed the point that as long as we insist that the conditions laid down in the Bill are observed, that is the end of our business, and that it is an unnecessary interference to go further and require these returns to be furnished. But will not the returns furnish very valuable information on which amending legislation might be based.
-Read sub-clause 2.
– That sub-clause merely provides that the information shall be confidential. But percentages can be deduced from it which can be used for statistical purposes, and may be valuable. No such obligation is involved in furnishing the information as would prevent persons from engaging in a profitable trade. It appears to me that the difficulty which the amendment upon the amendment would meet would probably have been disposed of by the prescribed form. Probably the prescribed form would require only such information to be furnished as ship-owners would have no objection to giving.
– I should like to know from the Minister whether a ship registered in Australia that trades outside Australia will be compelled to disclose her earnings for that part of her trade which is not
Australian? If so, how will she be compelled?
– It may be a condition of the licence.
– I appreciate the weight of that reply. I am aware of the power which the Government can exercise, provided that these clauses are absolutely constitutional. I think, however, that there is some doubt on that point. Suppose a ship registered in New Zealand engages in the Australian coasting trade, returns to New Zealand, and does not come back to Australia any more.
– She will have to make a return before departing from Australia.
– I quite understand that the Minister might, before a ship left Australia, compel the master to furnish a return. It amounts to this, then : that every ship engaged in the coasting trade will have to disclose particulars concerning its gross earnings. The Minister is scarcely likely to require the regular coasting-trade ships to furnish the information before the end of the year.
– Why not?
– If he does, the administration will be difficult. I think that in some cases it will be. possible to evade the provisions of the Bill. That this kind of thing is inquisitorial goes without saying. The purpose for which it is instituted is also understood. I would venture to make the moral reflection that when legislation of this character is passed, which is strictly inquisitorial, the odds are ninetynine to one that the information obtained will be absolutely false and misleading.
– A further perusal of the clause in the light of the amendment which I propose to make reveals a possibility that other amendments will have to be prepared. In order to have time to consider them, I propose to ask for a postponement of the amendment under consideration.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [3.10].- The clause is very much limited in regard to what shall be done with the information obtained. It simply provides that the Minister shall not publish or disclose in any way any return made, or any summary other than figures showing percentage variations from year to year. I regard the whole provision as very inquisitorial, and do not think that it is desirable that the information should be given. The Government would have just as much right to inquire what my professional earnings were. Of course, such an inquiry might be made for taxation purposes, but I do not think that it should be made for statistical purposes. The provision is both inquisitorial and unjust.
Amendment postponed. Further amendment in clause 421 postponed.
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - After clause 422 insert the following new clause : - . “ 422A. The Governor-General may by order declare that, subject to such conditions, limitations, and restrictions as are expressed in the order the provisions of this Act or such of them as are mentioned in the order shall not apply to_ fishing boats, pleasure yachts, missionary ships, or other vessels not carrying passengers or goods for hire.”
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
A great number of requirements under this Bill are quite . inappropriate to vessels not engaged in trade, such as fishing boats, motor boats, pleasure yachts, and the like. The amendment gives power to exempt these craft from all or any of the provisions of the Bill, and brings the Bill in that respect into agreement with the Merchant Shipping Acts and the New Zealand and Canadian Acts.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 423 -
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - Omit “ merchants.”
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
The Marine Council to be appointed under clause 423 is to include representatives of the various classes whose interests are directly affected by the provisions of the Bill. It is difficult to understand how “merchants” were ever included among these. Probably, however, it was based to some extent on the practice in some States of permitting elected representatives of importers and exporters to have seats on the local Marine Boards. The Marine Council will, however, be a very different body to a Marine Board. It will have no executive power whatever, but will be purely an advisory body. The administration of the Act will be with the Department of Trade and Customs, under the responsible Minister. It will in no way prejudice the interests of merchants to exclude them from the Council, and the omission of the word “merchants” is being proposed accordingly.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 424 -
The Governor-General may make regulations,
Mouse of Representatives’ Amendment. - After paragraph (c) insert the following new paragraph : - “(ca) matters affecting the stability of ships.”
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Events of the past few years, and particularly the disappearance of three fine vessels, with all hands - the Waratah, the Yongala, and the Koombana-have given cause for an uncomfortable suspicion that modern ship-building - with its tendency to provide on upper decks for as much passenger accommodation as possible, thereby entailing a great increase in top hamper - is to some extent sacrificing safety. There is no doubt that unless some of the modern passenger liners are carefully stowed, so as to provide a substantial margin of stability in ordinary weather, they are likely to be overturned by any beamwind of hurricane force that they may encounter. No navigation laws, in the British Dominions, at all events, have undertaken to compel the stowage of cargo with a due regard to the scientific principles governing stability. It is considered, however, that the time is now ripe for the enforcement of such a requirement. In view of the highly technical nature of the subject, it could not well be dealt with in detail by Statute. We, therefore, propose to give power to deal with it by regulation. This will permit, not only of adjustment from time to time in conformity with alterations in ship design, &c, but also of some discrimination in regard to particular voyages and seasons of the year, e.g., voyages in tropical waters during the hurricane season of the year.
– I am not sure whether it is desirable that I should call attention to such an obvious breach of the Standing Orders as Senator Pearce has been committing. The Temporary Chairman will, I am sure, not take it as offensive if I suggest to him that the
Minister has been repeatedly breaking the standing order which prevents an honorable senator from reading a speech. Senator Pearce has been reading his speech.
– I did not see the honorable senator reading.
– No; had you seen him, it would not have been necessary to direct attention to it. These are interesting little essays, and, no doubt, instructive, but it would be more in accordance with the practice and actual text of our Standing Orders if he didnot read these short speeches in Committee.
– I am not! going to admit that I have read what has been said, and the honorable senator can get any satisfaction that he likes out of this little episode. I am sure of this : That the honorable senators who have listened to the various explanations that. I have given will admit that they have been for the purpose of explaining; to the Committee the real effect of these amendments. I do not profess - nor doI think any other honorable senator will be daring enough to profess his personal qualification - that I am able to judge by myself the numerous amendments which have been made, all dealing with technical subjects, with which I am unacquainted, and upon which I have to rely upon expert advice. If the honorable senator can get any satisfaction out of the fact that I am. reading these explanations, he may do so.
– I did not intend to put it that way.
– Though the standing order is there, I think it desirable that the Committee should have the fullest information possible on each amendment. That is the question, and not any technical breach of the standing order. And I do say that” if it had not been that I have been able to use the information which has been supplied to me, information which is not of my own finding, the Committee would have been in a far worse position. I submit to you, Mr. Chairman, that surely the Standing Orders are there for the purpose of facilitating business, and it must facilitate business to place the Committee in possession of information which I freely admit they would not have got from me otherwise than by reading, because I did not: possess it?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Do I understand that the honorable senator wishes to raise this question as a point of order?
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [3.18].- I am glad that the Minister has taken the trouble to get information from persons who are qualified to place the matter authoritatively and clearly before the Chamber. I do not propose to object to this amendment affecting the stability of ships, but I am of opinion that it may branch out into a very wide power that we are giving to the Governor-General in Council in dealing with this question. Difficulties may arise in connexion with the administration of it from the fact that we do not construct or build the majority of these ships here, and when ships are built or constructed in the Old Country, or any of the great ports of the world, there is no doubt that full opportunities are taken advantage of to see that the ships are made stable and fit for the trade that they are expected to be engaged in. This also brings us to another question. So much of the stability of the ships depends on the way in which they are loaded, and the cargo is distributed, that I do not see how far this provision is going to assist the Government in dealing effectively with the matter unless with regard to seeing that the ships are properly loaded, and that the cargo is safely stowed, before they leave our ports. But I do recognise that the time has arrived when strong powers should be placed in the hands of the Government for the time being to insure the safety of passengers and goods on ships. I am prepared to accept this amendment, because while it gives very great powers, it will be of great assistance in easing the minds of the people.
– I am not going to object to this clause being put in, but the Minister, I think, took rather a wide view of the matter of the stability of ships._ If you are going to take that into consideration, we had better revise the whole of our freeboard proposals, because the stability of a ship on a particularly dangerous trip depends, I think, as much as anything else upon the depths to which it is loaded; so that under the heading of stability the question of the loading of a ship down to her original marks - the Plimsoll - could not be interfered with under the Bill. Of course, the whole question of stability arises in the building of ships. As the Minister has mentioned, there have been cases brought before our notice of late where, though no decision had ever been come to that the ships were not stable, there were strong doubts as to their stability.
– Was not that practically the verdict in the case of the Waratah ?
– No; because there was practically no evidence. The evidence had gone ; and that is the case with nearly all our shipwrecks. There is nobody left to tell the tale. I have seen lately some contracts that have been entered into in respect of new ships for Australia, and in making these contracts what is practically perfection has, I think, been reached regarding stability, because the tests made before the ship-owners will take the ships over from the builders are such as to afford a guarantee that the ships will live in any weather. To give an illustration, I have here an extract taken from a contract for ships that are being built in Great Britain for the Australian coast, showing -
That the curves of stability shall prove the stability of the ship under the five following different conditions : -
When the ship is entirely empty, and with boilers empty.
When the ship is equipped and ballast tanks full but without cargo or bunker coal.
When the ship is equipped, bunkers full, and ballast tanks empty.
When the ship is equipped and boilers full but with no coal or water on board.
When the ship is equipped and laden with a homogenous cargo,’ but with ballast tanks empty.
– Were these tests made with a full cargo?
– Yes, and a homogeneous cargo at that.
– The honorable senator has stated the conditions under which the tests are applied; can he state what the tests are?
– The tests are made under this condition : that metacentre is the point above which the centre of gravity cannot be raised compatibly with stable equilibrium. Then follow the five tests that I have read. All these tests are made to find what list the ship will take under all these conditions. The whole point of the matter is this : Say a ship is top-heavy; it gets into rough weather and lists, and when the ship gets over the centre of gravity there is no help for her. She is gone. Tests are .so made to insure that under all conditions the ship will keep upright
– Unless you can raise a storm, the test would not be perfect. There must be some mechanical means to provide a test of stability.
– If the tests are carried out on a sea as smooth as a pond, then they are useless.
– There is a work in the Library which describes a test with a thousand models, that was made in Dumbarton. The tests were made in a large tank, and the work gives the whole of the conditions and results of such tests. Of course, if a ship gets into a cyclone, typhoon, or hurricane, anything may happen. We do not propose in the regulations to say that an inspector shall travel with each ship, and that a hurricane or a cyclone shall be got up for the purpose of an inspection. The inspector can only say that, according to known laws, the ship is stable. I think the Government have done well in not putting any particular lines in the Bill which will have to be strictly adhered to. By regulation, our inspectors will be able to find the best means of assuring the seaworthiness of a ship. I do not think that we can interfere with the loading, except in regard to the distribution of the cargo.
– All these tests presuppose proper loading?
– Every one of them. But we have said that the ship shall load to her Plimsoll mark, and the only thing that she cannot do is to submerge the mark. Regarding the distribution of cargo, we may say’, if a ship is carrying ores, sulphites, and so on, that it is a heavy cargo, and that it must be distributed so as to be as little strain on the ship as possible. But we cannot say that she shall not load down to her Plimsol] mark under any regulations that we like to make. I think, therefore, that we can let this amendment go, though the matter will require safe-guarding in the future.
Motion agreed to.
Schedule 1 ((1) Scale of Deck Officers; (2) Scale of Engine-room Officers and Greasers).
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - Omit the schedule and insert new schedule.
– There is very little material difference between the old. and the new schedule. The scales have been rearranged for the sake of clearness, and, incidentally, one or two anomalies and omissions have been rectified. The only real difference in the scale of deck officers - as set out in scale 1, as printed - is that river and bay ships running under 20 miles are not to be required to carry a mate. I propose, however, to move an amendment on this to the effect that all river and bay ships certificated to carry 500 or more persons shall carry a mate, irrespective of the distance run. In scale 2, engine-room officers and greasers, several minor alterations have been made. In the old scale, for instance, there was no provision whatever for River Murray boats, whose run extends over hundreds of miles. Then, again, it was not clear whether the boats classified under the heading, “ Running under 100 miles,” were river and bay, or limited coast-trade vessels. There was further no provision in regard to limited coast-trade ships with engines over 85 nominal horse-power. The formulae for the calculation of nominal horse-power of engines were also badly expressed. These defects have all been remedied in the new scale. Apart from these more or less formal matters, it was clear that the scale did not substantially comply with the spirit of the proviso to clause 12, in that the second and third coast engineers were not afforded under it any reasonable facility to qualify for the higher rating of second-class engineer. An essential qualification for a certificate in this latter grade is that the applicant shall have served as engineer on watch on engines ot not less than 66 nominal horsepower. The only provision in the scale fur a second-class coast engineer to take charge was in the case of limited coasttrade ships having engines under 55 nominal horse-power. Thus the lower grade men were effectually blocked from advancement to higher grades. The matter was the subject of strong protests from the lower grade men. The Minister for Trade and Customs and the AttorneyGeneral gave considerable personal attention to the matter, and arranged a conference of representatives of the Engineers Associations concerned. The matter- was very fully discussed, and the result is embodied in the new scales for river and bay and limited coast-trade ships. A man can now, on completing the necessary service, and passing the prescribed examinations, work his way in time from the stokehold to the top of his profession. At the same time, there will be no lowering in the qualifications required of applicants for the higher-grade certificates. These are fixed by the Board of Trade, and the certificates are good throughout .the British Dominions. Still the way is provided for men of ability and application to fight their way up, whereas in the original schedule such was not the case. No alteration has been made in the scales for the Australian-trade and foreign-going steam-ships. There is, however, a further amendment that I now move on the amendment made by the House of Representatives, viz. -
That the amendment be amended by inserting in part (t.) of Schedule I., paragraph (iii.), after “departure” the words “or certificated to cammore than 500 passengers”.
This provision, it may be explained, is designed more particularly to provide for a mate in the larger ferries running in Sydney Harbor. Thirty-four of these are certificated to carry over 500 passengers, one - the Bellubera - can carry no less than 1,494 persons, and another - the Burra-Bra - 1,439. Ten, in all, are certified for 1,000 and over. A number of new vessels of the larger size are now building. The greatest danger to which these boats are exposed - and it is a very grave one - is that of collision, with the panic so often’ incidental to such occasions. The masters of these ferries are invariably themselves at the wheel, and cannot, under any circumstances leave the wheel-house. Unless we provide for a mate in these boats there will, in the event of collision, be no officer whatever on deck, and in the absence of some one in authority, who could take charge and direct the passengers as to the behaviour necessary for their own safety, the crowd would almost inevitably get out of hand, with probably terrible and unnecessary loss of life. This is the principal reason for the addition now proposed to the scale suggested by the House of Representatives. Apart, however, from the question of collision, it appears very necessary that, in these larger ferries, there should be some responsible officer on deck, available to relieve the master of some of the responsibility cast upon him, and, in the case of the master meeting with some accident, or being suddenly overcome with illness, qualified to temporarily take charge of the boat. It may be pointed out that in the scale, as it left the Senate, provision was made for a mate in every river and bay ship over 50 , tons net register. The present proposal is not nearly so drastic as that. The average tonnage of the thirty-four Sydney ferries affected is 141 tons net. There are only eleven of them under 100 tons net, the smallest being the Lady Denman, of 65 tons net, certificated to carry 542 passengers. The provision for river and bay ships, when amended as now proposed, will read - “ Over 50 tons, running more than 20 miles from place of departure, or certificated to carry more than 500 passengers “… a first or only mate.
Motion agreed to.
– I move -
That the amendment be further amended by inserting after the words “rotary engines” the following note : - “(e) Third class engineer’s or third class marine engine-driver’s certificate issued by any State shall be considered equivalent to second class coast engineer’s certificate in the manning of ships under this schedule.”
River and bay steam-ships under 85 n.h.p., and between 85 and under 100 n.h.p., are required to carry a third class coast engineer, which is a new thing altogether. Under the State Acts we have third class engineers, except in Victoria where they are called third class marine engine-drivers.
– Are not these men provided for in the Bill?
– Yes, in clause 12.
– Their future is provided for in clause 12, but I wish to deal with the present manning of these boats. I ask the Committee to say that the certificates of these men shall be considered at least equivalent to second class coast engineers’ certificates. At the present time an examination for third class engineers is held in each State. It has been said that, by-and-by, the Minister proposes to classify the men according to the examinations which 1 they have already passed. But no such power is given to the Minister in the Bill. I believe that, under this schedule, the men will only be graded as third class coast engineers. I want to make sure that their certificates will be recognised at their true value. To prove that there is absolutely no difference in the examinations I may mention that the certificates of third class engineers are freely recognised to-day in every State. A South
Australian certificate is recognised in Victoria, while a Victorian certificate is recognised in New South Wales showing that each State considers that a certificate issued in the others is equivalent to its own certificate.
– I understand that the Victorian certificate is a little higher.
– So far as the examination is concerned, it is. But as regards the manning, in Victoria a man can take a steam-ship to a greater horse-power than a man can do in New South Wales. The qualifications of these men vary very little indeed, but different States have permitted the men to take steam-ships to a greater horse-power than is allowed elsewhere. In South Australia a third” class engineer can take a steamer up to 50 nominal horse-power in either of the Gulfs - for instance, he can take a ship up to that horse-power from Adelaide to Port Augusta. In Victoria, third class engineers are restricted inthe distance which they can go, but the horse-power exceeds that which is prescribed in South Australia. They can only take steamers in the bay up to 100 nominal horse-power. In Sydney there is a still larger area with a steamer of 50 nominal horse-power. Under this manning scale the nearest certificate to that which a third class engineer holds today is the second class coast trade certificate. We should not do an injustice to these men by taking away any rights which they now have. It has already been provided in the Bill that they shall maintain their existing rights, but that is overridden by this schedule, which makes no provision for what the men shall be. In my opinion, the easiest solution of the difficulty will be to allow the men to exchange the certificates they hold for second class coast engineers’ certificates under this Bill.
– I suggest to the honorable senator that he should propose the insertion of his amendment as a footnote (e) to the schedule with a corresponding letter in the column dealing with third-class engineers.
– I accept that suggestion, and submit my amendment in that form.
Motion amended accordingly.
– I wish to raise a point of order. I have grave doubts as to whether. Senator Guthrie’s amendment is in order. I refer you, sir, to clause 21 of the Bill, which reads -
That is the clause which deals with the value of these certificates. The object of the schedule is merely to provide a scale allotting certificated engineers to different classes of ships in accordance with the value of their certificates. The honorable senator is seeking to accomplish not an alteration in the proposed allocation of engineers to different classes of ships, but in the value to be attached to certain certificates issued under State Acts.
– Which are being wiped out.
– That has nothing to do with the point of order, thoughI am prepared to deal with that matter should it come up for consideration. The schedule certainly does not deal with the value of certificates, but clause 21 does, and that clause deals with the very class of certificates to which Senator Guthrie’s amendment refers. I cannot see how an amendment dealing with the recognition of State certificates, which is already dealt with in clause 21, can be considered relevant to the schedule before the Committee and which does not deal with the question of the value of certificates in any way whatever.
– Under clause 21, it is provided that uncancelled and unexpired certificates issued under State Acts shall retain their value, and if it is intended to give the holders of such certificates any rights at all, there should be something in this schedule to indicate what their position on board a ship shall be.
– There is provision made for every class of engineers.
– There is no provision for a third-class engineer or a marine engine-driver.
– Yes; clause 21 says they are to receive an equivalent certificate under the Bill.
– That is so, but we then go on to say that it shall be compulsory to man ships under the scale set out in this schedule, and I want to know what will be the position of the holders of such certificates under this schedule. Clause 2t does not deal with that question at all.
– Let the honorable senator read sub-clause 3.
– The sub-clause provides that -
The holder of any such certificate may, subject to any prescribed restrictions and limitations surrender it for a certificate for a similar or corresponding grade under this Act.
– And all the grades are provided for in the schedule.
– Suppose the holder of one of these certificates will not subject himself to prescribed limitations and restrictions, what class of ship will he be able to work upon ? I am asking merely for an explanatory note to be attached to the schedule to indicate that these certificates shall be considered equivalent to those held by officers of some class included in the schedule. It should not be forgotten that when this Bill becomes law the State Governments will cease to issue these certificates, and only a certain number of persons have, in this connexion, to be provided for. The House of Representatives have omitted the schedule attached to the Bill as it left the Senate, and have sent us an entirely new schedule, which 1 contend is open to amendment by the Senate, and I wish to have it amended in such a way as to protect the holders of these State certificates to which I have referred.
– There are certain notes attached to the schedule, which, so far as I know, have not been challenged on the ground that they are not in order. I refer honorable senators to note c, which reads -
If running over 400 miles, one engineer additional (not necessarily certificated).
If notes prescribing such qualifications may be attached to the schedule, I do not see how it can be considered out of order to attach a note setting out the value of any particular certificates. If it is competent to attach a note to the schedule for the information of persons who without such assistance would be unable to calculate nominal horse-power, I do not see why it should not be competent for the Committee to insert such a note, by way of explanation, as Senator Guthrie suggests, to make more clear the intention of the schedule.
– It is more than an explanation.
– The Minister contends that it is legislation?
– Yes, and that if conflicts with what we have already done in clause 21.
– If clause 21 provides that persons holding certificates issued under State Acts may exchange them for certificates of equal value issued by the Commonwealth, why should we not make provision for the recognition of such certificates in this schedule?
– Because the schedule does not deal with the matter, and clause 21 does.
– If it is held that Senator Guthrie’s amendment is not explanatory,my argument falls to the ground ; but if the amendment would not alter the law, and merely explains what may be done under the schedule, I do not see why the amendment should not be attached as a note to the schedule.
– I think’ that, as Senator Pearce has pointed out, the proposed amendment should be considered as a substantive part of the Bill. It is not merely explanatory. It- may, or may not, be well to provide that the holder of a certificate issued under the State Acts may exchange it for a certificate of equal value issued under this Bill; but I believe the contention of the Minister is perfectly sound when he says that that cannot be brought about by an explanatory note to the schedule, and should be done by an affirmative enactment.
– Before a rul-ing is -given on the point of order, I should like to say that it seems to me that what Senator Guthrie is endeavouring to do is to correct an omission. Clause 12 of the Bill makes provision for first class marine engine-drivers and second class marine engine-drivers, and clause 21 provides for an exchange of certificates issued under. State Acts for certificates of equal value issued under this Bill. I understand that holders of third class engineers’ certificates in the other States are classified in Victoria as marine engine-drivers. No provision seems to be made in the schedule for marine engine-drivers.
– No; because, under the conditions of clauses 12 and 21, they will be given equivalent certificates.
– I wish to be quite clear on that point. It seems to me that unless a note is inserted in the schedule these men will be excluded from employment altogether.
– I consider that the desire of Senator Guthrie to include an explanatory note is quite in consonance with what we already have in the schedule in regard to second class engineers. It will be seen that the schedule provides for second and third class engineers and greasers, and that there is an explanatory note in regard to them. I contend that Senator Guthrie is quite in order.
– I quite understand what Senator Guthrie’s idea is. He wants to preserve the rights of a certain number of men. As far as I can see, those rights ought to have been preserved under clause 21 of the Bill. If the honorable senator’s object can be carried out in the way he proposes, I shall be glad to help him ; but I am doubtful whether it can be done.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I have looked into this matter carefully, and have come to the conclusion that, whilst the amendment of Senator Guthrie is relevant to the subject-matter of the schedule, and while I should not dream of ruling it out on the ground of irrelevancy, nevertheless, it must be ruled out of order under the objection taken by the Minister of Defence, which is, I think, fatal. The Minister’s objection is that the amendment is contrary to what has already been provided in clause 21 of the Bill. That clause provides that certain certificates shall be valid only for the purposes and to the extent to which they have been valid under the provisions in the State Acts under which they were issued. The clause also provides that the holder of such a certificate may surrender it for a certificate of a corresponding grade under this Bill. Standing order 197 says -
No new clause or amendment shall be at any time proposed which is substantially the same as one already negatived by the Committee or which is inconsistent with one that has been already agreed to by the Committee, unless a recommittal of the Bill shall have intervened.
The amendment submitted by Senator Guthrie is evidently not only inconsistent with, but contrary to, something which has been agreed to in another part of the Bill. It proposes to give a higher value to certain certificates than the Bill as it stands assigns to them. I am therefore compelled to rule it out of order.
– Clause 12 of the Bill provides for marine engine-drivers. Clause 21 provides that certificates shall be given to marine engine-drivers of equal value to those which they already hold. As I understand it, the difficulty, from the point of view of certain men in the State of Victoria possessing marine engine-driver’s certificates, is as to whether they are to be classed as second class engineers. Although the Bill provides for the issue of certificates of the same value as those already held, the men interested are not clear as to what the new certificates will be. It would be satisfactory if we could obtain an assurance from the Minister that it is the intention that the third class marine engine-drivers’ certificates of Victoria will be freely exchanged for second class Commonwealth engineer’s certificates. The men will be satisfied with that. I understand that, in some States, to obtain a second class engineer’s certificate, it is necessary to have had shop experience. In Victoria, a marine engineer need not necessarily have had shop experience. On previous occasions, we had promises from Ministers that the certificates of these Victorian engineers would be respected. I should like the point to be made quite clear, so that the men concerned may be satisfied that their occupation is not to be taken away from them. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will be able to give us an assurance that every Victorian marine engine-driver will be able to acquire a Commonwealth certificate.
– I can readily give the assurance asked for by Senator Russell. The matter has been gone into thoroughly, and the position will be as follows: - The term “marine enginedriver” under this Bill will not have the same significance as the term had under the Victorian Act. A marine engine-driver under the Bill will be the driver of a motor engine. A marine engine-driver under the Victorian Act was really an engineer as judged by the standards . of this Bill. The value of the certificates held by the men referred to will be looked into. If a man is driving an engine of 100 nominal horse-power he will get a coastal certificate under this Bill. Whether it will be a second or third class certificate will depend on the value of his present certificate. The intention is to give him a certificate of equivalent value.
– Without further examination?
– That is so. If an engineer is in possession of a certificate under a State Act which enables him to drive an engine of 100 nominal horsepower, he will, without examination, obtain an equivalent certificate under this Bill to enable him to drive a 100 nominal horse-power engine.
– I understand that he would not be allowed to drive unless he exchanged his certificate.
– The fact that he has a certificate will be sufficient in itself. He will go on driving, and will get his equivalent certificate.
– Clause 21 does not say that.
– But that is what is going to be done. The men themselves have no doubt about it. The certificates of second class engineers require shop experience. But that does not affect the marine engine-driver at all.
– I understand that in some States a marine engine-driver, even if he only drives an engine of 100 horse-power, has to have shop experience.
– That may be so. I am dealing particularly with the position of men in the State of Victoria, and I say that if a man is in possession of a certificate which enables him to drive an engine of 100 nominal horse-power he will be entitled to be regarded as qualified for an equivalent certificate under the Commonwealth.
Amendment of Schedule I., as amended, agreed to.
Schedule II. (Scale of crew).
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - Omit the schedule and insert new schedule.
– The difference between the old and the new Schedule No. II. is not great. Apart from a few verbal alterations, the following are the only changes made : - (a) River and bay steam-ships were exempted from the original schedule, but river and bay sailing vessels were not. This was very evidently an oversight, and has been remedied by the note at the head of the new schedule, “ This schedule does not apply to river andbay ships.” (b) The scale for firemen and trimmers has been restricted in its application to vessels fired with coal. The number of firemen to be carried by vessels burning oil fuel, for instance, will be determined by the Minister after advice from the Marine Council. (Clause 41, also 3rd paragraph of Schedule II.). (c) In the scales for seamen (steamships), provision is first of all made that owners, instead of carrying one or more boys, as was required by the original scale, may carry an equal number of apprentices instead. That is the only difference in steam-ships up to 2,000 tons. In regard to steam-ships of over 2,000 tons, however, a new provision is inserted. For every 1,000 tons over that size an additional boy or apprentice must be carried, with a maximum, in the case of passenger steam-ships, of six, and of cargo steam-ships and steam-ships carrying not more than ten passengers, of four boys or apprentices altogether. The maintenance of an adequate supply of seamen to man our mercantile marine, and also our Navy, is considered to be of great national importance; and in view of the rapid disappearance of the sailing-ship from the British merchant service, it becomes absolutely imperative to provide for the training of boys in the steam-ships themselves. The only other alteration is to cut out vessels under 15 tons from the scale for sailing-ships. This is in conformity with a number of amendments already agreed to, whereby these small craft have been exempted from various formalities and requirements prescribed in the Bill. Before, however, asking the Senate to adopt the amended schedule, I have an amendment that I desire to move upon it, as follows : -
That the amendment be amended by inserting after the paragraph “Greasers”, the following new paragraph : - “Cooks. “ Steam-ships carrying 25 or more persons, including passengers and crew.
Not less than one (1) certificated cook and one (1) assistant cook for each galley in use.”
This amendment gives nothing more than simple justice to a hard- worked class, viz., the cooks in cargo and collier steam-ships, and in the ship’s galley in passenger steamships. Where only one cook is employed in these cases, then the necessities of his calling require him to commence work somewhere about a quarter to 6 in the morning, in order to prepare breakast for the crew, and remain on, with but short intervals of rest, until 8 o’clock at night. The seamen in our coasting ships are now entitled, under an a ward of the Arbitration Court, to an eight hours’ day. So we have the anomaly of one set of men working eight hours, and another man in the same ship working fourteen hours. In some of the better class passenger ships, it may be explained, there are two galleys in use - one for the saloon passengers, and another, called the ship’s galley, ‘for the crew. There are always several cooks in the saloon galley, but in some cases only one man is employed in the ship’s galley to cook for the whole of the -three watches of the crew. Any one who has ever looked into a .ship’s galley, and has seen the cook crowded up within a few square feet, against a hot stove, must admit that under such conditions an eight hours’ day is quite long enough, and I trust that the Senate will agree to the amendment, which I now move.
Motion agreed to.
Amendment of Schedule II., as amended, agreed to.
Amendment of Schedule III., agreed to with a typographical amendment.
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. . . .
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - Omit “ ship reaches a port of destination “, lines 10 and 11, insert “ship’s arrival at a port of destination and the discharge of cargo consequent on that arrival “.
– When this amendment was postponed I promised that inquiry would be made in regard to the necessity of the proposed new provision that the running agreements should remain in force until the completion of the discharge of cargo consequent upon the ship’s arrival at her port of destination. I find, as regards coasting steam-ships, that while a number of owners - including some members of the Federation - include in their agreements a clause to that effect, the majority of them do not. I find also that even where it is included in the agreement, as a general practice the clause is rarely, if ever, acted upon. As a general rule these coasting boats sign on the new crew at the same time as the old crew is signed off, so that they are never really left without men. I am prepared, therefore, to exempt Australian-trade and limited-coast trade ships from this particular provision. But in regard to foreigngoing ships, the case is different. These vessel are not m and out of port like the coasters, but may possibly be a week or’ fortnight, or even more, before they are in a position to take on a new crew for the next voyage. In many cases, the master may not wish to keep the crew, on until the cargo is out; and in such cases the men would, of course, get their discharges immediately on arrival. But where circumstances make it desirable that the crew should remain on board till the cargo is out, and the ship cleaned down, then the crew should certainly remain. There need be no fear that in foreign-going ships the crew might be put on to work cargo, as clause 43 makes specific provision in that regard. The men would be there simply to do seamen’s work, and their wages would, of course, continue so long as they were kept on. I would, therefore, ask leave to amend the proposal by inserting after the word “ and “ in the amendment as printed the words “ in the case of foreign-going ships.” The proviso to clause 48 would then read - “ Provided that every such agreement shall, in any case, remain in force until the ship’s arrival at a port of destination, and, in the case of foreign-going ships, the discharge of cargo consequent upon such arrival, and the crew shall be considered engaged when the agreement is first signed, and discharged when the employment ends.”
This is the furthest that I am prepared to go in the matter. I also promised, in regard to the same clause, that consideration would be given to the advisability of embodying the provision of the Arbitration Court’s award in regard to ships laid up elsewhere than at the home port. . The clause of the award reads - “If the ship be laid up in any port other than his home port any seaman shall be discharged on 24 hours’ notice. But in that case the seaman shall be provided by the employer with a free passage to his home port with wages up to the time at which in due course he should arrive thereat “.
This provision is already fully covered, and more than covered, by clause 87 of the Bill. This reads - “ 87. - (1.) If a seaman is discharged, otherwise than in accordance with the terms of his agreement, without fault on his part justifying that discharge, and without his consent, he shall be entitled to receive from the master or owner, in addition to any wages he has earned, coinpensation not being less than one month’s wages, and may recover that compensation as if it were wages duly earned. (2.) If the seaman is so discharged elsewhere than at theport of discharge mentioned in the agreement, the master or owner shall provide him with a passage to that port or such other port as is mutually agreed to with the approval of the superintendent.”
This gives the seaman, in cases where the ship is laid up anywhere else than in the home port, an extra months wages, at least, as compensation, together with a passage back to the home port. It would be very rarely that it would take a month for a seaman on a running agreement to get back to the home port from any port in Australia at which it is at all likely that a ship would be laid up. Even, however, if this were not the case, the Standing Orders would not permit of the insertion of the provision in clause 48, as such an amendment would not be relevant to the question, which is confined to the amendment made by the House of Representatives. I move -
That the amendment be amended by inserting after the word “ and “ the words “ in the case of foreign-going ships”.
Motion agreed to.
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
Postponed clause 191 (Surveyors).
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - Omit the clause, and insert the following new clause : - “ 191. - (1.) The Minister may appoint persons to be surveyors. (2.) Persons appointed to be surveyors shall be skilled in regard to -
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
On a recent occasion the view was somewhat generally expressed that it was undesirable to leave this matter of a surveyor’s qualifications to be dealt with by regulation, but that such should be specifically set out in the Bill itself. Now this is a matter of very considerable difficulty, and has never yet been attempted in any other navigation laws. I can, perhaps, best convince our friends of this difficulty by an examination of clause 191 as it left the Senate, and which, it is contended, is superior to the present proposal. Class I. is to consist of shipwright surveyors. Just in passing, it may be pointed out that the term “shipwright surveyor” is now almost obsolete. As 1 pointed out on a previous occasion, the Merchant Shipping Act of 1894 - section 724 - provided for the appointment of “shipwright surveyors” and engineer surveyors. But owing to the great changes in ship-building, it was found necessary, in 1906, to abolish the position of shipwright surveyor and to substitute for it the position of ship surveyor. The reason of this is that wooden ships and wooden ship-building are things of the past. During last year, there were built in the sixtynine ship-building ports of the United Kingdom, just 259 wooden vessels, aggregating 9,500 tons, or an average of 37 tons each. Not a single one of these could be dignified by the name of a ship. The great majority were fishing vessels, and a number of them were small ketches and barges. The largest were two sailing vessels of just 100 tons each, built at Chester. Now, I should like to make it clear at this point that the Government does not contemplate for one moment doing away at once, and entirely, with the position of shipwright surveyor. It is recognised that for a time he will be necessary, in the principal ports at least; but wooden hulls are even now practically a thing of the past, and, generally speaking, woodwork on ships is a diminishing quantity ; and, therefore, the Government do most strongly urge that the Administration should not be bound for all time to appoint shipwright surveyors, when there remains perhaps, little more than deckwork for their inspection. They contend that work such as this could then well be intrusted to ship surveyors, as is now done in Great Britain and other leading countries. Now, let us examine into the qualifications that are prescribed in the clause for shipwright surveyors. They read as follows : -
Class I. shall consist of men who are qualified to determine the general fitness of a ship, her deck, hull (where the hull is constructed of wood), rigging, stowage of cargo, fitness for the voyage, general equipment, and other prescribed matters in relation to the ship.
Now, what is meant by the term “ the general fitness of a ship” - especially when considered apart from the general fitness of her deck, hull, and rigging, which things are separately mentioned - I am unable to discover; but, reading the words in their ordinary sense, the term would cover everything about the ship from A to Z, and would embrace engines, boiler, machinery, and, in fact, everything appertaining to the working of a vessel. A shipwright surveyor must be qualified to determine all this ! The same might be said of the term “fitness for the voyage. “ This is indefinite to a degree. If honorable senators will turn to clause 211, they will find there a definition of “ seaworthiness.” The clause reads - “ A ship shall not be deemed to be seaworthy under this Act unless -
Now, “ fitness for the voyage “ and “ seaworthiness “ are synonymous terms, and clause 191, as it stands, lay’s the responsiblity of determining the seaworthiness of a ship upon this one man, the shipwright surveyor. But, according to Senator McDougall, a hard-and-fast line should be drawn between the two classes of surveyors ; no man should be permitted to survey both boilers and engines. He contends, also, that no one but a. boilermaker is competent to survey a boiler or an iron hull, and that an engineer is not qualified to do so. Now I have had careful inquiry made into this matter, and have obtained the best independent expert advice obtainable, and the whole weight of that opinion is totally opposed to his contentions. The unanimous opinion is that, in the first place, a boilermaker is not the best qualified person to determine the condition of a boiler, and its fitness for service, nor is. he the best man to survey an iron or steel hull. Nowhere in the world, so far as can be ascertained, is any one but an engineer ever appointed to carry out this work. The scientific and technical knowledge necessary for the work quite precludes any such man as a boilermaker or a ship-plater being intrusted with the duties. Senator McDougall, in his advocacy of the original clause, both last year and a few days ago, spoke as if repairs were the only matters to be dealt with ; but it must be remembered that a surveyor must be competent to deal, not only with old, but also with new boilers and hulls; not only with standard types, but also with modifications and new types. He must be qualified to calculate the strains and stresses to which they will be subjected in use, and to say whether the quality and sizes of the materials used, and the methods of construction are proper and sufficient to withstand those strains and stresses, and to provide a sufficient margin of safety. These are matters calling not only for practical experience, but also for considerable scientific knowledge; and I have no hesitation in saying that no boilermaker in Australia is qualified to do the work. But even on the score of practical experience, the engineer is better qualified to examine and test a boiler than even a boilermaker. He knows, from years of practical experience in charge of boilers at sea, just where the wear and tear is most severe, and just where defects first develop, and how they are to be detected. Yet, Senator McDougall gave us to understand that when a surveyor is required to survey a boiler or a hull, he always engages “ a boilermaker or an iron shipbuilder to do the testing for him,” and “to point out the defects.” If this were true, it would simply mean that the surveyor was a sham, and was drawing pay for work he was incompetent to perform. But I am informed that the general practice is that the surveyor goes around with a boilermaker in attendance. The surveyor does the inspecting, and when he detects a fault, or suspects that a plate is thin, he directs the boilermaker to cut out a plate with his chisel, or to drill a hole, so that the thickness of the metal may be gauged, or, say, to cut out certain rivets. Of course, if the boilermaker is an experienced man, he may himself detect faults and draw attention to them; but it is not part of his work to do so. The surveyor is the man who determines what is to be done; the boilermaker merely carries out the manual work allotted to him. Senator McDougall last year gave two instances of faulty surveys by engineer surveyors. In one case the surveyor “ forgot to look at the doors of the boilers. They were in a bad state, and the ship had not been to sea an hour before the packing of the defective doors blew out, and an unfortunate man was boiled to death in. the stokehole.” Honorable senators will notice that the surveyor “ forgot “ to examine the doors. In regard to another case, Senator McDougall said, “ I saw a man done to death in the furnace of a boiler through the bursting of a tube in a donkey boiler that had not been surveyed for twelve or eighteen months.” I would draw the attention of honorable senators to the statement that this boiler “had not been surveyed for twelve or eighteen months.”
– I did not say that at all. I said that she was laid up for a six-months’ survey.
– I am quoting the honorable senator’s statement as it appeared at page 1030 in Hansard for 1911; the other quotation was taken from that page, too. He led us to believe that if a. practical boilermaker had been the surveyor these things would not have happened. But both these instances, I contend, go to show one thing only, namely, neglect of duty; and it would not have mattered a button whether the surveyor had been an engineer or a boilermaker, if he did not carry out his proper duties the accidents would have occurred just the same. The questions of capacity, qualifications, or practical knowledge have nothing to do with these cases at all. They are simply instances of inefficient administration’ and neglect of duty, nothing more and nothing less, and have absolutely no bearing whatever on the matter of the qualifications to be required of the particular surveyors who examine boilers and hulls. I wish to draw the attention of the Committee particularly to this point, and I am sorry that there are so few honorable senators present. I think it would be well, sir, seeing that they will flock in later and vote, to have a quorum. [Quorum formed. * l should like honorable senators to give me the benefit of a hearing, because the Government regard the question of the Smvey as a very serious matter. I wish them to know, before voting, the reasons why we ask them to reverse the action of the Senate, and agree to the amendment of the other House. I have completed a considerable portion of what I propose to say on the question, and I shall now point out the position in which we shall be placed if we do not adopt the amendment. At present, certificates issued by a Government surveyor of any State for a ship are accepted, not only in the other States, but by the other British Dominions, and by foreign countries. That is simply because it is recognised that the qualifications of the surveyors are the same as those required in these other parts, and consequently a ship surveyed here can go to New Zealand, or Canada, or *via the Suez Canal and Marseilles to London, without any further survey. But if we alter the status of our surveyors by appointing, not engineers, but boilermakers or ship platers, to issue certificates for boilers and hulls, then there is a. grave danger that our certificates will no longer be recognised, and that our shipowners will be subjected to grave inconveniences in ports outside Australia. The
Government have no desire but to obtain the very best men who can be obtained. No Government, and no Minister, would dare to appoint an incompetent man to any of these positions, thereby making it possible for a ship to go to sea in an unseaworthy state, to the danger of life and property. With regard to the question of regulating appointments to these positions by examination, I would point out that such is a most unusual suggestion. Hundreds of appointments of highly responsible officials have been made under the various Acts passed by this Parliament, but I cannot recollect a single instance of any such suggestion having been made before. These surveyors will be highly qualified experts. Who would be their examiners? The vacancies will, in the usual way, be publicly advertised in the Gazette, and the appointments will be made from among the applicants by the Public Service Commissioner, after consultation with the permanent head of the Department administering the Act. No other Legislature in the whole of the British Dominions has attempted to define the qualifications of surveyors in the manner suggested. There is no more reason for it than there is for defining by Statute the qualifications of every other responsible public officer of the Commonwealth, which honorable senators will admit would be a preposterous proposal. I ask the Committee, therefore, to agree to the amendment made by the House of Representatives. I think every honorable senator will admit that this is an impracticable proposal. I have only to point out, further, that we desire our certificates of survey to have effect, not only in the Commonwealth, but throughout the world. There have been cases where a. Colonial Legislature has made an alteration in the law and standard required, and where, as a. consequence, under the Merchant Shipping Act, only a limited recognition has been given, to certificates issued under such legislation. In this case an attempt is being made to put handcuffs on the Minister which will have the effect of tying him up to one class of people, and that class not the most competent to express an opinion on this subject. Surveyors who have qualified in the past, and who have been doing good work, have, in addition to the possession of mechanical knowledge, had the experience of the working of engines on board ship. A boilermaker who may pass an examination and secure a position as a surveyor under the proposal which has been made may never have been to sea in his life. What knowledge can he possess of the strain and stress to which a boiler may be put when under steam at sea during a gale ? The man who has had that experience, who has had charge of boilers under such conditions, and has been responsible for their safety, and, in many cases, for their repair, is best qualified to pass judgment upon marine . boilers.
– Who repairs the boilers ?
– The boilermaker does ; but that does not give him any knowledge as to the causes which give rise to the necessity for the repairs. I point out particularly that the Government proposal does not shut out the boilermaker. It includes him and every one who would have been included under the clause as it left the Senate. If those persons are best qualified for these positions, they will continue to be eligible for appointment to them under the amendment of the House of Representatives. That amendment, if agreed to by the Senate, will give the Government a wider scope than they were given under the clause as it previously passed the Senate. It will not tie them down to a mere technical examination, which might not, and probably would not, reveal the most suitable men for the position. We desire that our certificates of survey shall be equal to any issued in any other part of the world. We should not insert a provision which may lead other countries to refuse to recognise our certificates of survey.
– When this amendment was previously under consideration, the Minister admitted that the arguments used against it satisfied him that it was necessary to make some alteration. I think it is fair that he should now give the Committee some reasons for not proposing to do so. He has read a number of reasons from a typewritten document, and 1 think I know where it came from, as well as any one else. It is only fair that I should be given an opportunity to reply to the statements made, because my name has been mentioned, and my statements freely commented upon in a way which I car. prove is not correct. I intend to divide the Committee on this question. We appointed a Navigation Commission, of which the present Attorney-General was Chairman. The members of that Commission took evidence submitted to than in various parts of the Commonwealth, and recommended that, owing to the advance in machinery and ship-building, there should be three classes of surveyors appointed. I contend that the Government should accept the advice of the Commission rather than that of outside persons, who are interested in this particular question. I could read through every line of the Minister’s statement that it was prepared by those who fancy that they are going to lose their billets. The Minister has told us that a boilermaker is incapable of judging the strain and stress put upon boilers at sea; but I say that there is no man more capable of judging this than the boilermaker. I do not wish the Government to appoint as a surveyor a boilermaker who has had merely practical experience. There are hundreds of men now in the trade who have had the advantage of study at technical colleges and similar institutions, and they can calculate the strain put upon boilers as well as any engineer. The engineers have, in the past, had the run of this work, and have given the boilermakers no show, because conditions have beenimposed with which boilermakers could not comply. I do not object to the appointment of engineers to these positions if they are practical men, and know something of the technicalities of the business. The nonsense talked by the Minister of the necessity for experience of the strain and stress upon boilers at sea during storms should not be taken any notice of. I adhere to my determination to vote against the amendment; but I should prefer that the matter should be again postponed, so that I might be given an opportunity to reply to the strictures read by the Minister from another source.
– I prefer the clause as it left the Senate to the amendment of the House of Representatives. Clause 191, as it left the Senate, reads -
The regulation shall provide for not less than three classes of surveyors, as follows : -
Class I. - Shipwright surveyors.
Class II. - Boiler and iron hull surveyors.
Class III. - Engineers’ surveyors.
The House of Representatives proposes the omission of that clause and the insertion of a clause reading -
Persons appointed to be surveyors shall be skilled in regard to -
I venture to say that the man who makes a boiler is the man best qualified to say what strain that boiler will stand.
– I repeat my statement that the man who makes a boiler is the man best qualified to say what strain that boiler will stand.
– The honorable senator might as well argue that a bricklayer’s labourer knows more about architecture than does an architect.
– There is no desire to deprive men skilled in the various departments referred to in the amendment of the right to be appointed as surveyors. There is a great deal of difference between metal and wood, and a boilermaker has a knowledge not only of boilers, but of hulls, decks, bulkheads, and tanks. I recognise with the Minister that a shipwright is the man who supervises the building of a vessel. I have had some experience of shipbuilding, and I know that before the frame, which is the ribs of a vessel, can leave what is known as the board, the shipwright has to give it his imprimatur. But because a man is a shipwright, it does not necessarily follow that as a surveyor he would be able to judge whether a boiler, a hull, a deck, or a bulkhead was in perfect order. The Minister has told us that a boilermaker would not understand the strain put upon a boiler at sea, and that was rather a strange statement for the honorable senator to make. Under the clause as it passed the Senate, we should have the advantage of surveys by men skilled in the different departments of shipbuilding. I intend to adhere to that provision, because I regard the amendment, not as an improvement upon the Bill, but as introducing into it an element of danger.
– Senator McDougall has said that the information I gave the Committee was supplied by men who are trying to save their billets. ‘ I do not wish the men who have supplied me with this information to rest under any such imputation. I am able to inform honorable senators that one of the gentlemen who have advised the Government in this matter is Professor Payne, who is professor of engineering at the Melbourne University. I have the names of four other gentlemen who supplied information before me, and I shall have no objection to show them to Senator McDougall, or any other member of the Committee who desires to see them, on condition that they are not brought into the debate, because the gentlemen referred to do not desire that their names shall be published. I have before me a case where a certificate of survey granted by the Legislature of Bengal has been practically debarred from certain trade. It is provided in section 284 of the Merchant Shipping Act that -
Where the Legislature of any British Possession provides for the survey of, and grant of certificates for passenger steamers, and the Board of Trade report to Her Majesty the Queen that they are satisfied that the certificates are to a like effect, and are granted after a like survey, and in such manner as to be equally efficient with the certificates granted for the same purpose in the United Kingdom under this Act, Her Majesty in Council may -
Declare that the certificates granted in the said British Possession shall be of the same force as if granted under this Act.
Then we have a proclamation issued under that. It is as follows -
Whereas by the Merchant Shipping Act 1876, it is enacted that, when the Legislature of any British possession provides for the survey of and grant of certificates for passenger steamers, and the Board of Trade report to Her Majesty that they are satisfied that the certificates are to the like effect, and are granted after a like survey, and in such manner as to be equally efficient with the certificates granted for the same purpose in the United Kingdom under the Acts relating to Merchant Shipping, it shall be lawful for Her Majesty by Order in Council -
To declare that the said certificates shall be of the same force as if they had been granted under the said Acts; and
To declare that all or any of the provisions of the said Acts which relate to certificates granted for passenger steamers under those Acts shall either without modification or such modification as to Her Majesty may seem necessary, apply to the certificates referred to in the Order; and
To impose such conditions and to make such regulations with respect to the said certificates, and to the use, delivery, and cancellation thereof, as to Her Majesty may seem fit, and to impose penalties not exceeding fifty pounds for the breach of such conditions and regulations.
And whereas the Legislature of the British Possession of Bengal has provided for the survey of and grant of certificates for passenger steamers ;
And whereas the Board of Trade have reported to Her Majesty that they were satisfied that such certificates are to the like effect, and are granted after a like survey, and in such Manner as to be equally efficient with the certificates granted for the same purpose in the United Kingdom under the Acts relating to Merchant shipping;
Now therefore, Her Majesty, in virtue of the powers vested in her by the said recited Act, by and with the advice of Her Privy Council, us pleased to direct -
Then, in .paragraph 4, the proclamation ^provides for a limitation as follows -
This measure has yet to pass the scrutiny of the Board of Trade, and in regard to this vital question of survey we ought to do nothing that will place us before the world as having provided for a survey which will not be an equivalent of surveys made elsewhere.
Senator RAE (New South Wales) £5.6]. - I quite agree with the Minister that anything that would diminish the value of our surveys as compared with the survey recognised by other countries would be a detriment. But it is most amazing to me, after the lengthy debate which took “ place on this clause when it was last before the Committee, to find the Minister indulging in such special pleading as we have had on the question at issue. If there is a vital difference between the clause as proposed to be amended by the House of Representatives, and the clause as it originally left the Senate, certainly the Minister has not shown that that difference is going to be detrimental to ships, under our navigation legislation.
– I did, but’ the honorable senator was not present.
– I only went out of the chamber for a few minutes. The Minister has repeated statements made during the former discussions on the clause. I put it to honorable senators whether there is anything in the clause, as it left the Senate, which would tie the hands of any Minister in choosing the proper talent for the survey of ships. I venture to say that every possible class of talent should be engaged to secure the perfect survey of any ship. My difficulty in regard to the amendment of the House of Representatives is that it leaves the matter .so bald, vague, and inconclusive, as well as so ambiguous, that there is no saying what is provided for. The Minister, when the matter was last before the Senate, was asked by me to explain the ambiguities in the clause. But he failed to do so. Unless the English language has been altered considerably of late, the language of the clause, as amended, would imply that any person chosen for this work must be skilled in two out of the three specific qualities mentioned. He must be skilled in regard to wooden hulls, and in regard’ to metal hulls and boilers, or in regard to machinery. It is admitted that the language is ambiguous. The very fact that different persons reading it come to different conclusions about it, is sufficient to show that. Let us consider the objections raised by the Minister to Senator McDougall’s contentions. He states that a boiler-maker may know nothing about the strain or stress to which a boiler may be subjected under abnormal conditions at sea. Senator Needham says that a boiler-maker is the very man who should know these things. Allowing that such differences of opinion may exist, I say that the clause as it left the Senate does not confine the Minister to having to take the opinion of an incompetent boiler-maker, who may know nothing of strain or stress. The Minister may take the opinion of a person who is skilled not merely mechanically, but who has mechanical knowledge plus the knowledge obtained by theoretical study. We are making an absolutely retrogressive step in relation to the original clause. The Minister has referred to tying the hands of the Government in regard to appointments. Their hands will be tied in no other way than by compelling them to get the best skilled advice in every possible circumstance that may arise. This amendment, however, leaves the matter vague. It says that there are certain things that must be done. Take the question of examinations. The Minister has laid great stress upon the inadequacy of a mere technical examination. There is no one who is more ready than I am to admit that in any walk of life mere examination by rote upon theoretical knowledge may be wholly insufficient, and is not to be compared with practical knowledge. But the examination was to be in accordance with the regulations; and those regulations could prescribe not merely technical and theoretical knowledge, but any degree of knowledge concerning any sort of conditions that were considered necessary. They could prescribe that the person chosen should have not merely 4 knowledge of boilermaking in a mechanical sense, but also a knowledge of the stress and strain to which boilers are subjected at sea. The Minister tried to show by his argument that the examination would be a merely theoretical and technical one. In arguing that way, I cannot help thinking that the Minister had not even read the amendment, and did not know what it contained. The amendment distinctly states that the examination is to be of a practical nature. I contend that, while mere technical or theoretical knowledge may in any walk of life turn out to be practically useless, nevertheless, if you can find any one with practical knowledge plus theoretical and technical knowledge, he is a better man for any specific position than one who has neither the one nor the other kind of knowledge.
– An ounce of practice is better than a ton of theory.
– That is one of those beautiful homely old proverbs which often pass unchallenged. But if you say that mere book knowledge is of no value, you go to the other extreme. The best man, I contend, is the man who, in addition to practical knowledge, has also acquired information from books, which, after all, contain the crystallized experience of persons who are able to write. It is just as foolish to base an argument entirely on the one kind of knowledge as on the other. The best man is he who has practical and theoretical knowledge combined.
– This amendment does not bar him.
– But it does not provide for him. It is a loose, slipshod, useless provision as compared with the clause as it left the Senate. The clause originally provided that certain things must be done. The clause as amended does not. It leaves the matter undetermined and undefined to the Minister by regulations to determine what sort of man, what kind of skill, what degree of qualification, shall be required for the position; whereas under our provision all the matters are specified, not in such a narrow way as to tie down the Minister, but in such an exact way as to insure that they must do the things as a minimum, but can do as much more as they like. I think it is a piece of mere mulish obstinacy for the Minister to throw the work of the Senate on one side and accept this slipshod and rotten amendment which is foisted upon us by the will of some one in the other House. No justification has been advanced by the Minister in support of his motion. I am ashamed: of the whole business.
– I am inclined to agree with Senator Rae in this matter. I have listened from time to time to what the Minister has said in regard to his reasons for withdrawing the clause, and I also listened to some extent to his explanation. The impression I had when the clause was under consideration here was that it left a good deal to discretion. I think it was quite sufficient for the purpose. The reasons given for the amendment of the other House are certainly strong, but I shall not say that they are convincing. The clause effected the purpose which theMinister desired, but the experts have decided! the other way.
– And they sent the Waratah down.
– The Minister’s duty in this matter is a delicate one. The weight of the experts’ opinion is evidently against the Senate, and the Minister has reconsidered the position ; but I intend to adhere to the clause as it left the Senate.
– The Minister was good enough to refer to one or two cases which I mentioned both last year and this year, and he tried to explain them away. I did! not quite catch the explanation which he read. I tried to follow him as well as I could, but I was not able to do so. I ask him now if he has ever thought of the evidence given by Mr. Clarkson before the Navigation Committee ? It was to the effect that the Wendouree was surveyed by one of the so-called menwho understand the strain on different thicknesses of plate. He clearly proved that this man - a surveyor employed by the Government - was not able to ascertain the strain being placed on certain parts of the vessel. He also proved beyond a doubt that she was allowed* to carry just twice as much steam power to the square inch as she should have done according to the Board of Trade, and the thickness of her plates. This vessel was surveyed previous to the accident by one of the very men whom the Minister desires to make this Bill apply to - he was not a practical man - and was given a certificate, although in an unseaworthy condition. I recommend the Minister always to go to two places when he seeks advice, and not to that which suits himself, or the arguments that have been used by the Government. He should try to find out the position from men like Mr. Clarkson.
– What is the date of that inquiry?
– The inquiry was held in 1896. The date does not matter, because the evidence is here to be read. Mr. Clarkson practically proved in his evidence that the accident which occurred on the W endouree was due to want of practical knowledge by the surveyor.
– How does that affect this amendment? It only shows that he was an incompetent surveyor.
– Under this amendment the Government can appoint that man again.
– No !
– We want a provision under which the Government cannot appoint a man of that kind. If this “ practical “ man had had practical experience, and knew how to calculate the strain on plates the Wendouree would not have been allowed to go to sea. Mr. Clarkson said in his evidence -
With her full cargo in a heavy sea I should say the limit of safety has been very nearly reached, if not quite, taken in conjunction to the rusting of the frames and stringers, and the shell-plating, and the diagonal plates under the boilers.
– Would you regard Captain Clarkson as an expert on the question? He is not a boilermaker, but an engineer.
– My point is that an engineer has proved that the boilermaker is the best man to employ.
– Does he say that ?
– No. He showed why the vessel was not surveyed by a practical man.
– By whom?
– By an engineer - one of your two surveyors.
– Read that part where he says that the vessel was surveyed by an engineer.
– It is too long to read. I shall do as the Minister did. Any honorable senator who desires to read the evidence is welcome to see the report.
– Will you let me have a look at it?
– Certainly. Senator Rae has put the position in a prac- tical way. He has shown that we desire to make it impossible for the Minister to do wrong. I can calculate the strain on a boiler as well as the professor at the university can do, and, what is more, I can build a ship, and a boiler, too, which he cannot do. As a member of the Navigation Commission, the Attorney- General recommended the provision which appears in the Bill, and in their report the Commission gave their reasons for their recommendation. I do not desire to say much more on this subject. I know that, if I had had the courage to divide the Committee on the previous occasion, and not take the word of the Minister, I should have carried my proposal. He asked us to give him an adjournment, which we did, and to-day he came here with a typewritten document embodying the opinions of other persons, and, of course, we have no chance to answer his arguments. This gives him an unfair advantage. I hope that, on public grounds, the Committee will adhere to the clause. The Minister has not used a solid argument in favour of the amendment. He has quoted me many times as having made certain statements, but he has misconstrued them altogether.
Question - That the amendment be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Postponed amendment, omitting clause 192, agreed to.
Postponed clause 421 - (1.) The owner of every ship registered in Australia (not being a fishing boat) shall in each year make a return to the Minister at the prescribed time showing the aggregate gross earnings during the preceding year of all ships so registered of which he is owner, in the prescribed form. . . .
House of Representatives’ Amendment.- After “ Australia “ insert “ or engaged in the coasting trade.”
Upon which Senator Pearce had moved -
That the amendment of the House of Representatives be agreed to, and the following consequential amendment be made in clause 421 of the Bill, viz., in line9, after “year”, to insert “ earned in the coastal trade.”
– I ask leave to withdraw my motion with a view to submit the following one -
That consequential on amendments made by the House of Representatives a proviso be inserted to follow sub-clause 1 of clause 421 as follows : -
I shall not move the amendment at this juncture, but ask leave to withdraw my motion to agree to the amendment of the other House. I shall make this consequential upon the acceptance of the amendment to insert after “ registered “ the words “ or engaged in the coasting trade.” “ Provided that the returns required to be furnished in regard to ships not registered in Australia shall relate only to the earnings of those ships whilst engaged in the coasting trade.”
I ask for a direction, sir, as to the matter of procedure. I take it that if I withdraw my motion I shall have to wait until these two amendments have been agreed to, and then move this proposal as consequential upon that agreement.
– If it is a consequential amendment.
– Of course.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
– I understand that the Minister is now asking the Committee to agree to this amendment, but intends later to submit a consequential amendment. I direct his attention, and yours also, sir, to the fact that that is hardly proper. It may be technically right, but I submit that it is not quite fair to the Committee to proceed in that way. Suppose, for instance, that we agree to the amendment of the other House, and then decline to take the proviso just suggested; or suppose that the other House should fail to agree to that. We shall have already agreed to their amendment. What the Minister wants us to do is, I take it, to agree to their amendment conditionally. Therefore, the two proposals, I submit, must be embodied in one motion.
– I asked the Chairman whether he would give me a direction. I think that the form of the motion should be that the amendment be agreed to, and that a consequential amendment be made by inserting the words I read.
– Conditionally upon that being accepted.
– That is not the term used. I move -
That the amendment of the House of Representatives be agreed to, and the following consequential amendment be made in clause 421 of the Bill, viz., after sub-clause (1.) to insert the following proviso : - “ Provided that the returns required to be furnished in regard to ships not registered in Australia shall relate only to the earnings of those ships whilst engaged in the coasting trade.”
– I should like to know what will be the value of this information when it is obtained. We are told that it is to be considered confidential. If people engaged in the shipping business are to be called upon to divulge these particulars as to their earnings, why should not people engaged in every other business be called upon to do the same thing. I object to the provision, because I consider that ship-owners are, under it, called upon to give information which they ought not to be called upon to give. It is said to be confidential, but yet it is to be made use of in some way. I do not consider this to be fair dealing at all.
– Though it is intended that the information supplied by ship-owners under this clause shall be regarded as confidential, we know that a resolution of either House of this Parliament could secure the publicity of that information. The marginal note to the clause refers us to a section of the Merchant. Shipping Act, but I find that, although such a section appeared in the Merchant Shipping Act of 1906, it has since disappeared from the Act. I have tried, without success, to discover the reasons why it has been omitted. It may be that the Imperial Parliament considered that such a provision should not apply exclusively to the shipping trade. Senator Vardon has properly said that if we may ask persons engaged in the shipping trade to disclose their gross earnings, there is no reason why we should not try to discover the earnings of persons engaged in every other kind of business. If it is intended to provide that any one carrying on business in Australia shall disclose his earnings, let us say so straight away, and embody that as a general principle in a special Act. Some honorable senators on this side are anxious that the Navigation Bill shall go through, if possible, as a Christmas present to the ship-owners and seamen of Australia, but we are confronted here with the introduction of an important principle, and if we let the head get in by means of this clause, we may soon find that the whole body will get through. We know that it is the policy of the Government and their supporters to make inquisitorial investigation into the business affairs of people engaged in every industry.
– If there was a doubt on the subject this clause makes it clear.
– The Government are tempting the Opposition to oppose this proposal, and it would be far more frank of them to agree, in view of legislation anticipated, to abandon this principle in connexion with this Bill. We know that it is intended that it shall be given full effect in a more comprehensive way, and why, therefore, should it be included here? We should, I think, have some explanation of the reason why a similar provision has been dropped out of the Merchant Shipping Act.
– If that be so, the marginal note to the clause is not honest.
– It is so. Such a provision appeared in the Merchant Shipping Act of 1906, but it does not appear in the Act to-day.
– We are not responsible for what may be left in Imperial legislation or what may be left out of Imperial legislation.
– We are entitled to know what the Government are after in this matter. The Minister was, no doubt, very pleased to be able to inform me that this provision is taken from the Merchant Shipping Act, because I do not hesitate to confess that, especially in connexion with matters of this kind, I have a very great respect for Imperial legislation. But this is not Imperial legislation. The Minister is clearly very well informed in this matter by his official advisers, and he should be able to explain why this provision has been omitted from the Merchant Shipping Act. On the broad principle I fail to see why we should make these inquisitorial inquiries as to the gross earnings of ship-owners. I have always been opposed to unnecessary and dangerous intrusion into the realms of private enterprise. I object to the Government asking me how much I earn. If people engaged in one industry are obliged to answer these inquiries, people engaged in all other industries should be under a similar obligation. The proposal is made specially in this Bill, and it is a reasonable assumption that it is made for a special purpose. Is it suggested that the shipping companies have been victimizing the public? Speaking generally, I do not suppose that an exact return would be made under this clause. Who makes an honest return for the purposes of the income tax? Let those who do so lift their hats, that we may know who they are. I do not suppose that a shipping company would make a straightforward, honest return of its gross earnings.
– Why has the honorable senator such a “ set “ on Australian shipping companies?
– It is generally assumed that I am the champion of monopolies and’ combines. One great newspaper, published not 1,000 miles from here, scarcely mentions my name, except with the suggestion that I am a hireling of monopolistic institutions. Senator de Largie has now made the discovery, and I congratulate him upon it, that I am not an altogether biased and hopelessly prejudiced champion even of the Shipping Combine. I again ask that the Minister shall explain why it is proposed that this special inquiry should be made in the case of shipping companies, and why a similar provision has been omitted from the Merchant Shipping Act.
– I think the Minister should give reasons why this information is being sought from persons engaged in this particular industry. We are passing a Bill to regulate the shipping industry. We make provision for the proper equipment and safety of ships, the accommodation of passengers and crew, the number of men required to man a ship, and the way in which they shall be fed. If persons carrying on the shipping industry on our coast comply with all these conditions, will they not have done all that we have any right to ask them to do ? Why should we impose upon them an obligation which is not imposed upon persons conducting any other industry? If I build a factory I have to comply with the Building Act, the Health Act, the Factories Act, and the conditions laid down by Wages Boards with regard to the wages of all the persons I employ. If I have done all that, why should the Government say to me, “What is the amount of your turnover?” What has that to do with them ? If I have complied with the conditions laid down for the carrying on of my industry, that should be sufficient. It seems to me to be the same in regard to the shipping industry. We lay down conditions under which shipping shall be conducted. What object is there in asking for information concerning the gross earnings of the shipping companies?
– What possible objection can there be to giving the information, which is desired for statistical purposes only ?
– We are told that the information is to be confidential, and is not to be revealed for any purpose. Why is this particular industry picked out, and what is the use of saying that the information shall be considered confidential, if it is going to be revealed in some way or other ?
– It is going to be revealed in the aggregate only.
– Why, then, call it confidential information? A burden is being laid on the shipping industry which is not laid on any other. Why should we not impose a similar condition in regard to manufacturing and market-gardening?
– I understand that the reason why the Government want this provision in the Bill is that it is considered that we should have some means of obtaining information so as to be able to know, without disclosing the particulars to the public, whether any particular group of ships is driving other ships out of the Australian trade.
– Now we are getting to the secret.
– There is no secret about that. It is for the purpose of- safeguarding Australian shipping. The Government will be able, without publishing or disclosing returns, to get information which will enable them to take steps, if necessary, to see that protection is extended to Australian shipping, even in other directions than it is extended under this Bill.
– The statement of the Minister certainly calls for more than passing notice. We now have it from what he has said that the information to be obtained under this clause is required to enable the Government, if they think fit, to determine whether, foi instance, a combine is at work in the shipping trade. That is to say, information is to be obtained under a navigation law, which is to be used for entirely different purposes. The Minister says that this information might enable the Government to do certain things. But if honorable senators look at the clause itself they will see that, under it, the Minister is not to be at liberty to disclose the information, even to his colleagues in the Government. The clause provides that the Minister shall not disclose in any way any returns made under the clause. Now, however, we have the Minister saying that, in spite of that prohibition against disclosure, the information is te be disclosed, and that, in fact, the clause is inserted for the express purpose of enabling information to be disclosed to the Cabinet.
– The Minister is only a part of the Cabinet. ^
– But the Cabinet is not dealt with in the clause. If Senator Guthrie looks at the interpretation- clause of the Bill, he will see what is meant by “the Minister.” The prohibition here is against the Minister disclosing the information. Apart from that, the Minister himself, if an honorable man, would refuse to place even before his colleagues in the Cabinet information which an Act of Parliament says that he ought to retain as confidential and private to himself. I come back to the simple question why it is that with regard to the shipping industry a condition is imposed that does not apply to any other industry in Australia. There is but one reason. It is for a specific purpose. There is another law dealing with obtaining information for statistical purposes. If information from ship-owners were required’ for that purpose, there is ample power toget it. But what is the information wanted for here? I venture to say that the clause would not have been in the Bill at all if attention had been directed to it when the measure went through the Senate originally. It slipped through ; and, having got into the Bill, it has been retained ; and the Minister feels it to be his bounden duty to stand up and defend it, knowing that he has a subservient majority behind him. I do not think that the clause would be defended, even by the Minister, if it were not for the fact that we are not now dealing with the original Bill, but with the amendments of another place. If we now decline to accept the amendment of another place, the Minister may think that a difficulty may arise. But what is the serious obstacle in the way? If we decline to accept the amendment, our message will go back to another place. It will be for them either to accept the clause as we originally sent it down, or stand by their amendment, and send it back. In that event, there would be a conference between the two Houses, as a result of which die clause would be struck out altogether. Nobody wants it. The Minister merely defends it because it is there. No sound reason has been given for its retention. All the information required can be obtained under the Census and Statistics Act. There is no reason why the shipping industry should be placed in a different position from any other industry in this respect.
– It appears to me that we are making rather a farce of this business. First of all, the Government have added to the clause the words “engaging in the coasting trade.” Then we have the extraordinary expression “ not being a fishing boat.” I have looked through the definition clause; but I have not yet been able to discover a definition of “ a fishing boat.” Does this mean that the Minister is to be in a position to lay down a rule according to which certain boats will be regarded as fishing boats? There are certain vessels trading between Thursday Island and Cooktown, which do a certain amount of fishing, and also carry a certain amount of passenger traffic and cargo. I should like to know whether those boats are to be classified as fishing boats, and whether they are to make special returns to the Government as to their coasting trade ? Those who have lived in the north know that there are small cutters working about from port to port. They do a certain amount of fishing, but they also carry cargo and passengers. The clause in its present form gives power to an official to say that such a vessel is a coasting trade boat. Whilst I cannot hope to make Ministers alter their minds as long as they have a subservient majority at the back of them, I do hope that later on an effort will be made to clear up this point.
Senator ST. LEDGER (Queensland) 6.g]. - I understood that the information supplied under this clause was to be treated as a sort of secret declaration. But a careful examination of the clause suggests that there is to be nothing secret about it. The proviso provides that nothing in the clause shall prevent the Minister from having a return prepared to assist him in making periodical estimates as to whether the imports and exports of the Commonwealth are affected by the net earnings of shipping. Was that suggested by a philosopher, a navigator, an economist, or a humorist? Evidently under that provision, the Minister can, to use a common expression, “blow the whole gaff.” He can use information supplied by shipping companies, however important it may be to them’ to have it kept secret, in order to ascertain to what extent imports and exports are affected by the net earnings of the company. I really do not understand what the clause means. How can any industry in Australia be assisted by legislation through the knowledge conveyed to the Minister as to the extent to which imports and exports are affected by the net earnings of shipping companies? I cannot even imagine of what use it will be, though the Minister and some of his supporters have sometimes credited me with a lively imagination. We have shelled the Minister out of one position. He now admits that there is no secrecy about this matter. The .information is going to be disclosed. Notwithstanding that in one proviso it appears that the information is to be kept secret there need be no secrecy about it. There is nothing in the clause to prevent the Minister from coming to some conclusion upon the information, or to prevent the Government from forming its policy accordingly. I do not remember whether a similar provision appeared in the Imperial Merchant Shipping Bill. I am afraid the clause is an interpolation. Nor do I know whether there was a similar provision in the original Navigation Bill.
– The Minister says that there was.
– I will .take his word if he gives me such an assurance. It is the British and foreign shipping that is going to take away nineteen-twentieths of our exports, and that will bring in nineteentwentieths of our imports, and, probably, it will be 100 per cent. This thing is not going to benefit coastal shipping much, and there is a suspicion on all sides that it will turn out, as in the United States of America and in Canada, to be for the benefit of foreign shipping. They have never yet been able to build up a strong mercantile marine.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … to
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - After “ registered “ insert “ or engaged in the coasting trade.
– I move, as a consequential amendment -
That the amendment be amended by leaving out the words “ in the coasting trade.”
These words are merely redundant.
– The Minister wants to send down to the other House a sample of accurate drafting. Might I suggest that the clause ought to read “as so engaged “? The clause now reads “ so registered or engaged in the coasting trade.” The Minister proposes to take out the words “in the coasting trade.”
– I ask leave to withdraw my motion. After all, the words are a mere redundancy.
– I consent to that with great reluctance.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 6.26 to 8 -p.m.
Debate (on motion by Senator St. Ledger) further adjourned.
Debate resumed from 24th October (vide page 4624), on motion by Senator St. Ledger -
That, in the opinion of the Senate, it is desirable that a Royal Commission be appointed to inquire into the best ways and means of consolidating and converting the State debts.
– I am sorry that I cannot agree with what Senator St. Ledger pro poses. It would seem that he, ir? common with others, thinks that the only way to get over a difficulty is by the appointment of a Royal Commission. That appears to be the only panacea whichwould appeal to his mind for the purpose of overcoming what, after all, is a very simple problem - one which has engagedthe minds of the people of the Common, wealth for quite a long time, and which it has been recognised is not by any means insoluble. We have had a number of Conferences on the question of the settlement of the State debts. If we recall its first appearance amongst prominent topics of conversation and discussion, it takes us back to a time before the six Colonies became a compact body. It may be remembered by those who took part in the public discussions that the consolidation of the State debts was one, if not the chief, reason put forward for the six Colonies tO’ federate. It was pointed out by theleaders of the movement that a materialadvantage would accrue to the people of the Commonwealth, apart altogether from, the interests of Administrations, if the question were tackled in earnest and made the subject of common treatment and coordinate effort so far as the money lenders in the distance were concerned. I remember that one of the chief inducements held out to the people of Western Australia to accept the terms of the Constitution was that the debts of the six Colonies could be treated as one whole, and in a way which would mean that the people of the several States would enjoy for all time a very substantial advantage over the single experience of six Administrations. It is rather a sad commentary upon the efforts which have been made to materialize the benefits which were then promised to find that, after twelve years of ceaseless talk, and meaningless endeavour, nothing has been done. When we recall that greater undertakings have been accomplished at one stroke; when we. remember that the more important instrumentalities of Government such as the Defence, Postal, and Customs Departments, and the remaining services which were not transferred at the time of Federation, but were to be the subject of transfer afterwards, were taken over stronger at one stroke by a mere submission to the electors of the Commonwealth that such would be done, I regret that I cannot find myself in company with Senator St. Ledger in trying to get a Commission appointed to solve this problem which was so easily solved on the occasions I have referred to. The Postal Department came over to the Federation without a Royal Commission ; the Customs Department came over likewise without any undue or scrutinizing effort on the part of the federating peoples that it should be done, and as regards the Defence Department, work which was in its incipient stages also came over to the Federation without the aid of a Royal Commission. I regret to think that after this waste of energy he should make what, after all, is a vain and futile attempt to accomplish an object which was accomplished so readily when Federation was established, and when these large transferred Departments became part and parcel of the Federation. I have been told that a Royal Commission may be of some service. It is quite true that a Royal Commission may be of some service, so long as the sphere of action is prescribed. But on a subject of this character, which has been canvassed so much during the last fifteen years, I am puzzled to understand that there could be one fresh aspect yet to be discovered at the instance of a Royal Commission. The consolidation of the State debts was, as I said, one of the main motives which were in the minds of the people when they decided to federate. They looked forward to a time when the smaller and more insignificant credit of the six federating States would be supplanted by the greater and more substantial credit of the Commonwealth as a whole. And there were very good grounds for supposing that that would be clone. If honorable senators are disposed not to rely on their own domestic experience, they need only look to Canada for _ an example, and find that it has been recognised there from the outset that the credit of any component part has been very inferior to the public credit and the good name of the Dominion as represented by the superior relative values of the securities in the public market. And when we look farther afield, we find that in the United States the values of the public securities of the several States were far inferior to the value of the securities which at present have standing behind them the credit and the wealth and the good name of the people of the Federation. With such experiences in the minds of the people of Australia in preFederation days, it is quite, reasonable to suppose that they naturally could look forward to a substantial benefit accruing from becoming federated ; that the taxpayers would be relieved of a considerable portion of the burden which they were obliged to bear under six sets of Administrations. But. as I have said, it is a sad commentary upon the present-day realization of those benefits to find that we have had twelve years of futile effort, in which nothing has been accomplished. As I remarked just now, if those who are not content with their own domestic experience in Australia only choose to look at the relative difference which has existed for a long time between the credit of the smaller authorities within the sphere of a State, they will feel perfectly satisfied that the people .were on solid ground in expecting a great benefit to accrue from Federation. I need only refer Senator St. Ledger to what has happened in Queensland. I suppose that the credit of Brisbane stands much higher than the credit of any other local authority in the State. The honorable senator will admit, I presume, that there can be no comparison as regards the terms which could be secured by Queensland and Brisbane if they entered the money market together. If the State asked to-morrow for a. loan of ;£ 1,000, 000 at 3.. 3 h> or 4 Per cent., it would have, if the loan were not underwritten, quite a number of persons rushing the security of the State in preference to the less substantial credit which the authority within Brisbane could supply or was possible. Senator St. Ledger proposes that a Royal Commission should be appointed to inquire into the best method of dealing with the State debts question. I claim that the Commonwealth Parliament has at least as intense an interest in the well-being of the citizens of the Commonwealth as any of the State Parliaments can possibly have. Some persons would have us believe that the State Parliaments have a keener and more intense interest in the welfare of the citizens of the States than has the Commonwealth Parliament. I think I should be right in saying that Senator St;. Ledger holds that view.
– I hold that view very strongly.
– I am glad to have that candid admission from the honorable senator. Open confession is good for the soul, and with all his faults the honorable senator has a. soul, and a fair sized one, too. I am glad to have his admission that, in his opinion, the Parliaments representing the six geographical divisions of the Commonwealth have a keener and more conscientious interest in the well-being and material prosperity of the people than has the Commonwealth Parliament.
– I should not say a. greater interest, but I will say that they have an equal interest.
– The honorable senator possibly objects to the use of the word “conscientious,” but he permits the use of the word “ intense,” and I particularly desire to define- my position in this matter. I may do so by saying that it is a flat contradiction of that assumed by Senator St. Ledger. This Parliament has a basis to which no State Parliament can lay claim. In my opinion it has an infinitely greater interest in the wellbeing of the men and women of Australia than has any State Parliament. The members of this Parliament, -and especially of the Senate, are representative of the manhood and womanhood of Australia. With one voice the people of the different States have sent us here, and even to Senator St. Ledger they have said, “ Go forth, and do your best in our interests.” With that charter alone we can claim to have a more intense and conscientious interest in the well-being of the citizens of the Commonwealth than can any State Parliament. Senator St. Ledger would not be here had not the men and women of Queensland, in some deluded moments, decided that he should be here, but he might have become a member of the Upper House in Queensland by the favour of a political party. I think there is good reason in the circumstances for saying that this Parliament is more keenly interested in the public welfare than is any State Parliament.
– If that be so, why has this Parliament not done something practical in the matter of the State debts?
– Up to the 30th June last the States between them had something like ^260,000,000 of debts, and their debts amount to a good deal more to-day. The Commonwealth up to date has not incurred a debt to the extent of one brass farthing, but it has undertaken great works which the State Parliaments m the past would have hesitated to think about, much less to perform. I do not wish to deal further with that aspect of the question than to direct attention to the fact that the State Parliaments, which are supposed to be particularly interested in the question of the State debts, and their management to the best advantage, have so far displayed no inclination to get rid of them. That is a strange anomaly. The first thing the average man desires to jettison is his debt. The only thing he finds awkward is a debt which he cannot discharge.
– He does not trouble if he has assets behind his debt.
– Why are the obligations of the States called debts if they have assets to meet them?
– I asked the same question in my speech.
– The honorable senator has told us that the debts of the States have a real existence, and honorable senators who support him tell us that the States have assets with which to meet their debts. If that be so, why do they not discharge those debts?
– So they could if they pleased. If they chose to sell their railways, they could pay off the whole of their debts.
– If the States to-day have assets sufficient to meet their debts, why do they not realize upon them?
– To whom would they sell their assets?
– No ordinary person continues in debt if he has assets with which he can pay off his debt, and if it is of advantage to him to get rid of his debt. But we find that the States, instead of realizing upon their assets and reducing the percentage of indebtedness per head of their population, are joyously increasing that percentage. There is only one conclusion to be drawn from that, and it is that the people of the Commonwealth, under the divided authorities of the past, thought it wise to contract debts, for which they Decamp responsible, and to-day find that it is to their advantage not to liquidate those debts. If they have any money to spare they find that they can turn it to better account than to use it for the purpose of paying off their debts. They manifest no very great desire to get rid of their debts, and they have shown no inclination to permit the Commonwealth Parliament to intervene and assist them in the matter. On the contrary, whenever occasion has offered they have thrown all sorts of obstacles in the way of the Commonwealth Parliament coming to their assistance and helping to solve this big* question. At the last Conference of State Premiers, held in Melbourne, the representatives of the States addressed themselves to the highly impracticable and novel proposition embodied in the Daylight Saving Bill. They wasted further time in discussing the regulation of footwear; but these representatives of the State Governments assembled in solemn conclave in Melbourne directed no attention to the question of the payment of the State debts, which means so much to the taxpayers and workers of Australia. Now we have Senator St. Ledger asking fora Royal Commission to inquire into, and report upon, the best means of dealing with the matter, whilst the State authorities, who are charged with the task of discharging the debts, do not move hand or foot to solve the question which Senator St. Ledger would have us believe is one of urgent and pressing importance.
– The Constitution has left that to us. as the honorable senator should know.
– That is so; but it has remained for the party now occupying the Ministerial bench to take the first step forward for the solution of the problem. When an appeal was made to the people, they sent the present Government into power with an overwhelming majority in both Houses, and, at the same time, approved of an amendment of the Constitution giving this Parliament the power to take over all the State debts in existence up to that date.
-What was the policy on the subject disclosed in the last Governor-General’s Speech ?
– The present Government have not been forgetful of the importance of this question, nor have they overlooked more important ‘and pressing problems.
– They have not for gotten that the States must give their consent in this matter.
– That is the very point to which I am directing attention. I have said that the State authorities, up to the present, have not shown themselves willing to come to terms with the Commonwealth; and until they do so, it is idle and useless to appoint the Royal Commission that Senator St. Ledger is asking for.
– No; we have absolute power, under the Constitution, to consolidate and convert the State debts if we choose to exercise it.
– The initiative rests with the States.
– No; that is not ire the Constitution.
– I can understand: that Senator St. Ledger is befogged in connexion with this question and really does not know where he is. He looks for light and leading to the Premier of Victoria. He quotes Mr. Watt as having said that there are no debts in Victoria. Senator St. Ledger went further, and said that the Premier of this State’s remark might be applied to the whole of Australia. I hope I may be pardoned for describing it as a more honest attitude to admit frankly that there are debts in Australia, which are a heavy burden upon the people. Many of the loans have not been spent as borrowed money should be spent. The action of the party to which the honorable senator belongs in this respect has certainly led to the depreciation of the credit of the separate States in the eyes of investors abroad. Most of us can recall instances where money has been borrowed for reproductive purposes and spent on objects that could not be so described. Borrowed money has been spent on all sorts of fantastic schemes. It has been spent for promoting immigration.
– Is that fantastic ?
– Where is the reproductive character of money spent on immigration ? We must consider the position of the money-lender. The prospectuses placed before him by the State Treasurers when they borrowed declared that the money was to be spent on reproductive works. In the ordinary acceptation of the term that would mean that it was to be spent on works that would pay interest, as well as contribute to a sinking fund to liquidate the amount within a reasonable time. But how, by any stretch of imagination, can Senator St. Ledger argue that the spending of money on immigration is devoting it to a reproductive work?
– The people who come here constitute the best asset we can have
– I am satisfied that if investors in London had known that their money would be spent on schemes which were not reproductive in character, many of the loans would not have been floated at all. In some States borrowed money was spent in granting State aid to religion, and paying the stipends of salaried preachers.
– How long ago was that?
– Within the currency of the borrowing period in Australia. Borrowed money has been spent on ammunition which was long ago blown into the air. Borrowed money has also been spent on education, on roads and bridges, and on other works that have long since decayed, and were never reproductive
– Does the honorable senator mean that borrowed money was spent on buildings for educational purposes?
– Yes. Appropriations of loan money, for such purposes have been as frequent in the Budget Statements of State Treasurers prior to the advent of the Labour party as any items I know of. Loan money has even been spent on the burial of the dead. That has happened in Western Australia under the Government of the party to which the honorable senator belongs. What kind of a reproductive work is that? Money was spent by the same party in the West in giving prizes for an egg-laying competition.
– Surely that was reproductive ?
– These are liabilities of which the Federal Parliament is now asked to assume control. These are some of the methods of high finance that were followed by my honorable friend’s party until the people’ woke up and hurled them from power in some of the States, as they did also in a most emphatic manner in the Commonwealth. These loans were secured on the express understanding between the money-lender and the borrower that they should be devoted to reproductive services. I challenge Senator St. Ledger, with all his -reasoning force, to bring the works that I have enumerated within the four corners of that term. The honorable senator set up the extraordinary claim that every contribution to the solution of this question had been made bv the Liberal party, and the Liberal party alone. Those were his words. I do not need to go further for a contradiction of the claim than to direct attention to the fact that his party was in power in the Commonwealth for ten years, and yet this problem remained unsolved. The position of the matter now is the same as it was when the people entered into Federation in the full belief that one of the results would be that the State debts would be consolidated. Nothing, however, was done by the honorable senator’s party, and he now wants a Royal Commission to inquire into it.
– Our party secured the alteration of the 87th section of the Constitution, and that went half-way towards a solution of the problem.
– The people of the Commonwealth, whilst consenting to that alteration of the Constitution, turned the honorable senator!s party out of office, and placed on the Treasury bench those who are now going to deal with this question after they have dealt with more pressing problems to which they have been addressing themselves. Senator St. Ledger also said that it would be of no benefit to the Commonwealth or to the States that we should go into the money market as one borrower. I should have thought that the veriest tyro in finance would know that one of the aims that has been steadily kept in view in Australia was that all the borrowing required by the States and the Commonwealth should be done through the Federal authority. That was one of the reasons why we entered Federation. It was desired that all the borrowing of money required for the development of the country should be effected under the direction of one authority on behalf of the people. Yet here “we have Senator St. Ledger decrying the proposal for having one borrower in the market. He stands in open contradiction to the experience of every person who knows anything about the matter. Sir John Forrest, when dealing with the question in Brisbane, in 1907, declared that to have one borrower in the market would secure the best terms being made for the people.
– Would the honorable senator consent to give Sir John Forrest’s terms to the States?
– When Sir George Turner was endeavouring to solve this great problem, he insisted at a Conference of State Premiers that there should be only one borrower in the future, whether in the London market or in Australia. In no circumstances, in his opinion, should there be any clashing as far as concerns going upon the money market. Yet here we have this new authority, Senator St. Ledger, declaring that no benefit at all would ensue from having one borrower. I can only say that Sir John Forrest and Sir George Turner emphatically disagree with the honorable senator. Any one who has given even the most superficial consideration to the subject agrees that to secure the best results for the people of Australia there should be but one authority to approach the money market at any one time. Sir George Turner’s strong point, for which he contended in season and otherwise, was that there should be only one borrower on the market wherever that market was, that it was disastrous for the people of Australia to have two or more borrowers in the foreign market. If an additional authority is wanted, let us see what Mr. Coghlan has to say on the matter. Senator St. Ledger quoted Mr. Coghlan, and this is what he said regarding the appearance of more than one Australian borrower on the market at the same time. He refers to the matter in his work Australia and New Zealand in 1903-4, and these are the remarks, which I propose to place side by side with the declared intention of Senator St. Ledger -
The placing of loans on the London market, especially if it be for a large amount, generally results in an all-round fall in the price of Australian stocks and subsequent issues to other States, are placed at a disadvantage.
This is a most significant quotation from Mr. Coghlan’s work- -
Subsequent issues of other States are placed at a disadvantage if the market is approached before it has recovered its tone. In fact, the States have in this respect all the evils of disintegration and all the liabilities of Federation without any of the advantages which Federation would give.
There we. have, with all due respect to Senator St. Ledger, a flat contradiction by Mr. Coghlan, the present Agent-General for New South Wales in London, a man of great experience, who is listened to with the utmost respect, especially when he speaks on financial matters. He shows the effect that will be produced by two borrowers dealing in the London money market at one time, and even Senator St. Ledger himself will remember in the history of his own State - I can remember it in my State - that the one standing excuse given for the failure or partial failure of a loan in London when Queensland approached the market, was that South Australia, or Victoria, or some other State, had just placed a loan on the market. If Senator St. Ledger only recalls his experience as a citizen of Queensland, he will remember that being said over and over again; and now he states, in the words I have quoted, that it is no benefit to have one borrower on the market. That is what we are aiming at - at consolidating the borrowing for all the States when opportunity arises, so that the taxpayers, who are the people who eventuallywill have to pay the bill, will get money at the lowest possible rates, and on the best terms; and that can only be done by having one borrower, one recognised authority, in the personnel of the Commonwealth Government. So much for Senator St. Ledger’s contention. He is at variance with Mr. Coghlan, Sir John Forrest, Sir George Turner, in fact, with every person of note who has stood up and has been accepted as an authority upon the solution of this problem. We find Senator St. Ledger standing out against the world, and refusing to agree to what the authorities on the matter advise. For my part, I am humbly content to cast my lot on the side of experience rather than on the side of any financial neophyte of the type of Senator St. Ledger. Senator St. Ledger referred to one qualification that should stand out and mark the treatment of loan funds by the Commonwealth above everything else, and that is that the matter of the payment to wipe out the principal should be rigidly attended to. Now that comes with rather an ill-grace from Senator St. Ledger when we find that in the State of Queensland there has been no provision made at all for a sinking fund.
– Are you quite sure of that?
– Well, I will quote you the only authority that I have. It is a statement taken from the latest issue of the Commonwealth Year-Book, that for 191 1, on this very question of the provision that has been made for the redemption of the indebtedness of the various States by way of sinking fund.
– The surplus of our revenues must go automatically for the extinction of the State debts. I think that is the provision.
SenatorLYNCH.- Where is the sinking fund kept then?
– Where is the surplus ?
– There is no surplus to begin with. He is trying, like the Israelites under Pharoah, to make bricks without straw. In Queensland, there is no surplus, and consequently no sinking fund.
– There is in South Australia.
– Yes, I have the information here. The sinking fund, according to Knibbs, is, in the case of New South Wales, £504,000 ; in the case of Victoria, 017,000; in the case of Queenslandwhere Senator St. Ledger comes from - we find nothing at all, for there is not a copper in the sinking fund of Queensland to wipe out its large indebtedness. In the case of South Australia there is ^616,000; in the State of Western Australia - the State I come from, and the best of the lot - there is ^2,888,000; Tasmania has got ;£i 14,000. So that we find Senator St. Ledger in this curious position : He is saying that one thing that must be insisted upon is that provision shall be made for the payment of the principal when the State debts are taken over, and yet he comes from a State that has not made provision to the extent of a copper for a sinking fund. I can only say, if anything has got to be urged of that nature, it would come with a better grace from those senators who represent States that have accumulated sinking funds. Certainly it does not come with good grace from the senator who comes from a State where there is not a penny, not a cent, to wipe out the debt by way of sinking fund.
– Not one cent?
– Not one cent according to this.
– I know it is not much.
– On the general question we are naturally faced with what will follow after the State debts are taken over. I confess that if no improvement is to be effected - if we are to find ourselves in the same position after having gone through the ordeal of taking over those State debts - it is worth considering whether we should start the undertaking at all. If we are going to take over the huge sum of indebtedness of the six Federated States and find ourselves later on in the position of seven borrowers, either on the Australian or the London market, with no coordination of effort,’ no unanimity among us, no common system, then I say, in all seriousness, I am not prepared to advise the consolidation of these debts ; I am not prepared to do so, unless we can depend upon a change for the better taking place in the future. In regard to that, I am reminded of what took place in the past, when the States were still untrammelled in their borrowing operations, and I would direct attention particularly to the time when the States had no Commonwealth to contend with. The States, at certain periods of their history, used this power of borrowing money to an extent that brought about a great amount of ruin, misery, and degradation of our people. If the control of borrowing would stop the repetition of the disasters that followed the early nineties, of which some of us are yet so keenly aware, . I would say that we should so arrange matters as to prevent the States doing what they did then. The policy of carrying out public works was very popular in those times, and politicians, before the advent of the Labour party, used to rival one another in the extravagant expenditure of loan moneys, with the result that a reckoning day came, and the six Federating States, in 1902 and 1903, could not raise a penny, according to the best authority, if they went on to the London market. We know that, as a result of this untrammelled policy of spending borrowed money, the several States entered into a carnival of extravagance that has not been equalled either before or since. Ifr has been computed by the most conservative authorities that not less than 100,000- people were idle in the eastern States in the early nineties as- a direct result of extravagance of expenditure of borrowed! money by the States, and nothing else. They encouraged private employers also toborrow. They laid out money in the building of works that would not pay for axle grease for the appliances that were used.
– Some of the railways that were constructed had to be taken-, up.
– They had to be takenup, it is true ; and it is quite plain to thosewho have come through that trying timethat, but for the developments that took place in Western Australia, the eastern States, would have had to export many thousandsof their population. We may fairly assume^ that what has happened in the past may happen in the future; and while theStates claim that they should have a freehand in the future in the unlimited borrowing of foreign money, I say advisedly that’ the Commonwealth should step in and see that there is no extravagance such as wasknown in the early nineties, which produced so much misery, poverty, despair,, and exasperation among the people in every rank and calling of life. All this was thedirect result of over borrowing and over spending by the State Legislatures ; and whowere in power? Why, the very party that claims Senator St. Ledger as a member. The Labour party were not thought of, except in a few States. In some of the States- they were not born, except in New South Wales ; but the Governments went the pace in the matter of borrowing, with the result that at length came the inevitable burst that comes after extravagance, and had it not been, as I have said, that Western Australia developed at that particular time, and absorbed the thousands of idle hands who were running the streets, we would have had to include men and women in our exports from Australia. I do not want to see that happen again. I want power to be taken by this Parliament to prevent a recurrence of those things which brought about such dire and disastrous effects.
– What about your railway now in Western Australia?
– That railway is going to be built. The honorable senator ought to be ashamed when he reflects that that railway is to be built without any appeal to the money market. This is what Mr. Coghlan had to say on the policy of the States, and it is a statement which I hope will not be forgotten by those who will have the settling of this vexed question -
This condition of dependence on external capital for the development of the country has on more than one occasion proved a great danger to Australasia, but never to the same extent as during the crisis of 1892-3. The withdrawal of confidence -
We were always assured that confidence would never be withdrawn until the Labour party got into power. In the early nineties, when Mr. Coghlan was observing the extravagance of the State Governments, the Labour party were not in power in any State -
The withdrawal of confidence on the part of the British investor at that time caused widespread confusion in almost every department of industry with intense financial unrest, from which some of the States have not yet recovered.
Writing ten years after the disaster, Mr. Coghlan admitted that the loan policy of the several Governments had not failed to produce those results, even ten years after they were so unwise. I need only point to the necessity of being warned by past experience, and taking every possible precaution against a repetition of the events which culminated in the disaster of the early nineties. We can only do that by seeing that the authority which will be accountable to the whole of the electors of the Commonwealth will take into early consideration the wisdom of checking the extravagant tendencies of the State, in the same way as it would do in its own case. I do not want to leave the Federal Parliament, which will always be under the control of the electors of the Commonwealth, free to have an untrammelled hand in the borrowing of money. But I would urge the members of the Federal Parliament to keep steadily in mind the foolishness of the party which produced the disaster in the early nineties. When we have this question solved, which I hope will be very soon, there will be an authority instituted which will keep in mind the necessary relation which the money sought to be borrowed will have to the value of the work, and see that money is not borrowed for work which will have no prospect of providing sinking fund and interest. I hope that some check or form of audit will be imposed upon even the Federal Parliament itself before it can launch a loan which will not provide sinking fund and interest.
– You will want a . new amendment of the Constitution then.
– We have already got an amendment of the Constitution.
– No; and I do not think that you will get it.
– I do not think that I need take up the time of honorable senators in drawing attention to the relative values of the State stocks. We have been repeatedly told that if the Labour party are in power, the credit of Australia will not be so good as it might be’ under another Administration. But when we glance at the values of the securities of the States, which have varying shades of political belief at present supreme in them, we find that, after all, that is only a bogy, and a bogy of a very despicable kind. According to the last issue of the Commonwealth Y ear-Booh, the values of the stocks of one State in the market to-day show Ti,J appreciable difference as compared with the value of the stocks of another State. The values of New South Wales stocks are fust about the same as the values of Victorian stocks, and the values of the latter are no different from the values of Western Australian stocks if the dates of maturity are taken into consideration. The suggestion which has been so repeatedly kept before the people, that they would need to vote in a particular direction if they desired to get cheap money for public works, is not borne out by the figures given in this official handbook. Nor is the suggestion borne out that politics may affect the prices of securities. I see no reason for the appointment of a Royal Commission, because the facts which it is intended to discover are already available to every one who can read. We know the indebtedness of the States and the rates of interest. We have also the experience of other countries to guide us, and nothing remains but for the six Federated States to come to a common understanding that there shall be only one borrowing authority in Australia for the purpose of making the best bargain in the interests of the people. If they insist upon following the foolish course laid down by Senator St. Ledger in having seven borrowers in the market at the same time - and I cannot believe that he uttered that statement in his saner moments - it will be better not to touch the question at all. If his advice is to be taken, and we are to have seven borrowers in the market, I say, “ Do not touch this question at all “ ; but if the more experienced advice be taken of consolidating our efforts in the matter of getting future loans and converting those loans which are at present on the market, we cannot do better than get the States to agree that all the borrowing shall be done through the Commonwealth, and through no other source. If an understanding of that kind is not arrived at, the proposal shall not have my vote or support; but if such an understanding is arrived at, with the Commonwealth consenting, it shall have my vote and support, in the belief that the credit of Australia will, as the result, be materially improved.
– At this late stage of the session, it is, to my mind, a very substantial concession to private senators to be able to put their business lucidly before the Senate. I acknowledge the great financial genius which collectively is exhibited on the other side of the Chamber. I acknowledge, also, the concrete expressions of that great ability from such an authority as Senator St. Ledger. He, no doubt, took no end of pains to get up his. case effectively ; but I must say that, taking it by and large, he made a miserable botch of the whole business. His expressions of opinion with respect to the position of the Commonwealth in relation to the States, and his references to the Old Country and any consolidation of the State debts that might take place there, were beside the question. He dilated on the great work which was doneby an able Treasurer in Great Britain with respect to consolidation there, but he must admit that there was no national debt of Ireland, or Scotland, or Wales, or Cornwall to be considered. It was one debt, one borrower, one consolidation by one Treasurer, and one set of circumstances.
– That is obvious ; we all know that.
– If that is the case, there was nothing in the point which was endeavoured to be made by the financial genius of the other side. In Australia, there are six States, with six debts, and all of them eager to stick to their debts.
– Some of them are eager to increase their debts.
SenatorMcGREGOR. - They are not even willing to set apart sinking funds for the redemption of their debts, but they are prepared to go on in the same old style that has been so admirably sketched by Senator Lynch. To my knowledge, money has been borrowed by the States for the purchase of war materiel. Guns purchased with borrowed money have been set out on a sandhill till the sand covered them, and when the guns could not be found, more money was borrowed to purchase more war materiel.
– Tasmania borrowed £3,000,000 for roads and bridges.
-“ Roads and bridges “ is a very interesting subject to the parochial section of the Senate.
– Is it any worse to* borrow money to make roads and bridges than to borrow money to buy land on which to build post-offices?
– Land investment is good in any country, and I feel sure that the honorable senator would be the very first to take up a land speculation if he saw something profitable in front of him. If he could see the prospect of getting a fair rate of interest, he would jump at the very allotments to which he has referred.
– I should not denounce borrowing at the same time.
– I am not denouncing borrowing - and before I am finished the honorable senator will understand that - but I deprecate indiscriminate borrowing. I do not believe in borrowing money for the construction of roads and bridges. I have seen bridges which were built with borrowed money and swept away by the first flood that came along, and then more money was borrowed to build new bridges. Every honorable senator with any knowledge of the history of Australia knows that that is a fact with respect to the borrowings of the States. I ask Senator Millen, or his great financial authority, Senator St. Ledger, if there is any available asset in a bridge which has been washed . away by a flood ? Is there any tangible asset in connexion with that? We know that honorable senators opposite have been prepared all along to carry on the same old game. Senator St. Ledger has on every occasion alluded to the possibility of the Commonwealth Government going in for a borrowing policy.
– They must do so.
– I hope we shall do so when it is necessary, but I hope also that when a proposal to borrow is made it will be for a work of development which will give a sufficient return to justify the borrowing of money for its construction.
– The Tasmanian Government has borrowed in order to pay interest.
– The State Governments have borrowed for almost every purpose under the sun. They have borrowed to pay interest, to purchase ammunition, and, as Senator Lynch has shown, the State Government of Queensland borrowed over ^2,000,000 for the purpose of bringing immigrants to the State. Whilst they were spending ^2,000,000 of borrowed money and ^1,000,000 from revenue for that purpose the population of. Queensland instead of increasing was diminishing. The immigrants were going to Queensland, and immediately afterwards leaving the State and coming to Melbourne to find work. I met some of them here twenty-six or twenty-seven years ago. Men and women who were brought to Queensland with borrowed money left the State almost immediately after they arrived there,, and went to other States to earn their living. But the people of Australia are becoming alive to what was done in the past, and to the position in which the present Commonwealth Government and their supporters would like to place them. I need have very little to say on the motion because Senator Lynch has adequately replied to everything that has been said in its support, but I must speak of the foolishness of appointing a Royal Commission to inquire into something that has been referred to at almost every Premiers’ Conference that has been held during the last ten years.
– Will the honorable senator explain the reference to the subject in the Governor-General’s SpeechWhat did the Government mean by that?
– There were a great many references in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, and the reference to the consolidation of the State debts by the Commonwealth is a matter that is receiving the earnest consideration of the Government. Honorable senators opposite may laugh, but while they are laughing at a joke which has no existence they are declaring throughout the length and breadth of Australia that the Commonwealth Government are indulging in inordinate extravagance, and are collecting and spending money almost without limit. With the exception of the progressive land tax which has proved up to the present very beneficial to the people of Australia no taxation has been imposed in the Commonwealth that was not imposed by honorable senators opposite, and the Governments they have supported. Are they not responsible for the Tariff? Whether it he good or bad is it not their Tariff from which we are collecting the greater portion of our revenue.
– Who is responsible for the Tariff?
– The LiberalFusionnondescript Government; the Government that had no principle, but that of clinging to office as long as they possibly could.
- Sir William Lyne said that he would never have got the Tariff through but for the assistance given him by the Labour party
– I have mem.tioned the Government that was responsible for the existence of the Tariff.
– The present Government have had two and a half years in which to alter it if they did not like it.
– In connexion with revenue production, Tariff incidence, and matters of that kind, the present Government are guided by principles. When they can give effect to those principles Tariff reform will receive fair and liberal consideration. When honorable senators opposite were supporting the Fusion Government they had no principle, and never had any, but to stick to the Treasury benches as long as they could. They stuck there in the shape of a Liberal Government, supported by the Labour party, a Conservative Government, supported by a Liberal party, and a Fusion, or confusion, Government, supported by all the nondescripts in the Commonwealth Parliament, but their principles never in all the time got so much above water as to be recognisable by anybody.
– Let the honorable senator tell us something about his Government.
– I intend to do so. I ask Senator St. Ledger not to be in such a hurry. The party opposite were ten years in power concealing their principles, and they never attempted to interfere with the State debts.
– They were not ten years in power ; the honorable senator should be more accurate.
– I do not pretend to be definite to the extent of five minutes or so, but they were long enough in power to do something if they had had the backbone, but they never had. All they can do now is to accuse the present Government of great extravagance. I am going to tell honorable senators opposite, and the citizens of Australia, what the present Government have done in connexion with the financial prosperity of the country.
– What have they done with regard to the State debts?
– The debts are there, and as Senator Lynch has said we have the extraordinary paradox that the States wish to stick to them. They do not wish to give them up. They will not make any reasonable terms with the Commonwealth for their transfer. They think it a matter of far more importance that they should owe £1, 000,000.. or £2,000,000, than that they should make an honorable arrangement with the Commonwealth to have one borrower for Australia.
– What has the honorable senator’s Government done to help the matter forward in the last three years?
– I am going to tell the honorable senator. We have had many declarations as to the extravagance of the Labour party and the Commonwealth Government. I have a little statement here which has some bearing upon the question. We were asked the other day what amount of money there was in the Trust Fund? We are told that the Government are spending every penny they receive, and have not sixpence to jingle on a tombstone should an emergency arise. He are told that we are living right up to our income. Honorable senators recoiled that not long ago we passed a Bill to appropriate over £3,000,000 for oldage pensions.
– The Government passed the Bill, but they hadnot the £3,000,000 to appropriate.
– But we shall have the £3,000,000 to appropriate.
– I hope the honorable senator will connect his remarks with the motion.
– I am coming to the motion. I may be leisurely, but I can assure you, sir, that in a very few minutes I shall arrive at the motion. A question was asked the other day with respect to the amount of money in the Trust Fund? That fund represents savings, moneys appropriated from the earnings of prosperous times in the past to meet expenditure required in the future. According to a return I have, I find that, apart altogether from the Trust Account in connexion with the note issue - and all this has a bearing upon the future relationship of the Commonwealth to the national indebtedness of the States - there was, on the 30th September, in the hands of the Treasurer no less than £3.493,416. All this money it should be remembered is carefully and safely invested. That amount is nearly as much as the Opposition were prepared to borrow for fleet construction, and it will be available in the future.
– Are there not liabilities and commitments to balance that amount ?
– Yes, but they are still very far off.
– Is defence expenditure in the far future?
– I ask honorable senators opposite not to interrupt me, because, if they do, I shall be unable to connect my remarks with the motion. In connexion with the very matter for which the Opposition were prepared to borrow money, namely, the construction of the Fleet Unit there is in the Trust Fund in charge of the Treasurer, and available for expenditure when required, a sum of £1,096,277, and in the hands of the High Commissioner a further sum of £378,980. All this is money set apart out of the revenue of the country.
– I very reluctantly, because I have no desire to curtail debate, ask you, sir, whether the honorable senator’s remarks are within the compass of the motion before the Senate? If they are, they open up, to me, at all events, a very attractive opportunity to discuss the whole matter of the Trust Fund.
– I have already asked the honorable senator whether he intends to connect his remarks with the motion before the Senate which has reference to the consolidation and conversion of State debts.
– I am coming to the motion as rapidly as the Opposition will allow me. The possession of these funds render it unnecessary for the Commonwealth to borrow, and consequently places us in a better position to deal with the question of the State debts. There is at the present time, therefore, a sum of £1,475,257 in the Trust Fund available for fleet construction. I am now coming to the question of the consolidation and repayment of the debts of the States when taken over by the Commonwealth. Honorable senators will remember that when the Prime Minister and Treasurer advocated the establishment of a national paper currency in Australia he stated that the profits derived from it would be available for the purpose of redeeming the debts, not only of the Commonwealth, but of the different States. Has not that something to do with the consolidation and redemption of the debts in the future? At the present time, the different States are indebted to the Commonwealth to the extent of over £6,000,000. That money is bringing in interest to the amount of over £200,000 per annum.. It is evident that the amount of the debts to be taken over by the Commonwealth in the future will be less by the amount which the States have borrowed, not abroad, but from the Commonwealth Government. The Commonwealth has been generous to the States. It has saved them enormous sums of money in connexion with the raising of loans. It has saved them charges and interest. Every saving in that direction makes it more possible to effect a liquidation of the debts of the States in the future. It is surely unnecessary for honorable senators opposite to rise in their wrath and make declarations against the Commonwealth Government, seeing that they have done so much in their own humble way for the different States. Our opponents tell us that we are using the savings of the people for Commonwealth purposes. In New South Wales they say that we want to take the people’s savings and lend them to Queensland. In Queensland they say that we want to lend them to Western Australia. In Western Australia they say that we want to lend them to South Australia. As a matter of fact, we want to get control of financial conditions to such an extent that in the future we shall be able to do something definite, not only in connexion with the consolidation of the debts of the States, but with their reduction. I am sure that what I have said will show honorable senators that it is absolutely unnecessary for Senator St. Ledger’s motion to be carried. The Government are fully alive to the situation, and are doing all they possibly can to bring about such a condition of affairs that the transfer of the State debts would be made easy, and their liquidation in the future possible.
Debate (on motion by Senator Needham) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 26th September (vide page 3503), on motion by Senator Story -
That in the opinion of the Senate, and in furtherance of the Northern Territory Acceptance Act 1910, the Oodnadatta railway should be extended northward to the Macdonnell Ranges at the earliest possible date.
– I must congratulate Senator Story upon the admirable manner in which he brought this matter before the Senate. I can assure him that the Government are prepared to do everything they possibly can to carry out the agreement that has been entered into with South Australia with reference to the transfer of the Northern Territory. I have already dealt at some length with what has been done in connexion with the construction of the railway from Port Darwin to the Kathe rine River. I honestly admit that the sooner the Commonwealth is in a position to construct the line from Oodnadatta to the Macdonnell Ranges the better we shall be pleased. But it must be recollected1 that we have enormous works in hand at the present time; and although we are earnestly anxious that the Northern Territory shall be developed as expeditiously as possible, still there are limitations even to the means of such a vast institution as the Commonwealth of Australia. The Government are at present endeavouring to obtain information with respect to the character of the country, and the investigations that have already been made. We understand that South Australia has made surveys of the Territory between Oodnadatta and the Macdonnell Ranges. We are endeavouring to obtain those surveys. If they are found to be efficient and sufficient, the further expenditure of money in that direction will be unnecessary. But if the preliminary, and even the permanent, surveys that have been made by the South Australian Government are not found to be all that is necessary in connexion with the proper investigation required for the construction of a line from Oodnadatta northward, the Government will take steps to see that a proper survey is made.
– Are the Government in favour of the direct route?
– The policy of the Government, as far as I can understand, is to carry out honestly and earnestly the contract that has been entered into with the South Australian Government; and I can see nothing for it but the adoption of the direct route, which must be the best route. The agreement with South Australia provides that the line shall run from north to south.
– Not to the Queensland border.
– I do not think that the honorable senator has ever heard any responsible person connected with the Government, or even in Parliament, seriously suggest anything in that direction.
– They may hear it now.
– From whom?
– From me, as a senator from Queensland. If the VicePresident of the Executive Council puts the matter in that way, he will have a fight forthwith.
– We are never afraid of anything that Senator St. Ledger can do. He is very voluble, but quite harmless. It is unnecessary for him to begin to threaten the Government.
– The Minister was provoking it.
– The Government have always been honest in this direction, and I hope our honesty will receive its due reward from the people in the near future. I am aware of the great possibilities of development in the Mac donnell Ranges. I know what scope there is. I fully appreciate the opportunities presented. It would be a foolish Government indeed that would attempt to do anything to divert the railway into country that would not have the same developmental possibilities as a line in the direction of the Macdonnell Ranges would have. I again congratulate Senator Story, and hope that in the near future something will be done to show the bona fides of the Government in the direction of the development of the Northern Territory.
– I should not have intervened had it not been for the provocative remarks of the Vice-President of the Executive Council.
– The honorable senator has already spoken on this motion.
– Perhaps that is why the remarks were made.
– I am sorry that I cannot sympathize with Senator Story, or with the VicePresident of the Executive Council, in their desire to construct this railway across a portion of the Australian continent which, so far as we know, is more or less desert. I know that South Australia drove a very hard bargain when she handed over the Northern Territory, and, like an historic person in a celebrated play written by a man named Shakspeare who has long been dead, the South Australian Government now insists upon its pound Of flesh. I trust there will be no particular hurry in throwing away the money of the citizens of the Commonwealth in a wildcat railway such as this.
– You are sure this has a geographical basis, this opposition?
– Geographical ! The honorable senator probably measures me with his own bushel, or his own yardstick. That is the only measure he has got. The honorable gentleman can never rise to the national level. I am looking at the matter purely from a national point of view. I was not thinking of my own State at all. I was not thinking of any particular State. I was thinking of the poor overburdened taxpayer who will be called upon to stump up when this railway is built, as I suppose it will be some day, because, no matter what Government is in power, it will be continually prodded from behind by the Government, the people, and the representatives of South Australia. Now, my honest opinion with regard to the matter is this : that the people of South Australia not only drove a very hard bargain with the Commonwealth about the Northern Territory, but that they have displayed an intensely selfish disposition, a disposition which is not at all creditable to themselves, or likely to be profitable to the Commonwealth. They know just as well as we do that the building of this railway will involve the Commonwealth in a huge sum of money which will not return a single farthing during the next quarter of a century, and which will be a continual burden, as I have pointed out, on the shoulders of the unfortunate taxpayers of this continent.
– And South Australia.
– The honorable senator is a South Australian. What he says is tainted by the selfishness of that State, which, unfortunately, sent him here. I repeat we have here an example of selfishness, of an attempt to get the better of the Commonwealth, which is not at all creditable, either to the people or the Government of South Australia. I am sorry to have to say this. It would not be proper on my part to reflect upon an Act that has been passed by the Parliament of the Commonwealth; but I regret that the Parliament of this Commonwealth was ever led to make such a - in my opinion, at any rate - stupid agreement.
– That does not justify going back on it.
– It justifies, surely, delay. I do not say we ought to go back upon it, though if I could get a majority of the Federal Parliament to. go back upon it to-morrow I would gladly do so, and think I was rendering the people of the Commonwealth an inestimable service in bringing that about. Now, why is this railway to be constructed? I had the good or bad fortune to be carted up to Oodnadatta on one occasion through a desert of drifting sand. I do not know what idea possessed the people of South Australia that they built a railway up to that Godforsaken part of the Commonwealth.
– You nearly missed the bus.
– Yes ; and the South Australian Government and people missed the ‘bus when they built that railway, and the Commonwealth will miss the bus if it is in any particular hurry to extend it. The whole district between Port Augusta and Oodnadatta is what we have often read of as “a howling desert.” I never quite understood the term “howling desert “ until I went up there with the wind howling like a dingo all the time when we were travelling along, and the sand rising in clouds. As a matter of fact, the sun was obscured by the sand for most of the way. Next morning I walked round the township of Oodnadatta, and a more desolate habitation “or residence for human beings I never looked at. We went up to an Afghans’ camp, and had a look at goods which had been unloaded the night before from the train in which we arrived at Oodnadatta. These goods had only lain one night upon the ground, and they were sanded up, almost hidden from sight by the sand which had drifted upon them and covered them. That is the kind of country which Oodnadatta is. Why, it would take 100 square miles of it to feed a flock of goats. I never saw such povertystricken land in all my experience in Australia. No one can deny that the country between Port Augusta and Oodnadatta is very bad; but we are told that when you pass Oodnadatta there is splendid country. The promised land always lies ahead ! It always lies on the other side of the desert. It is like the mirage, it is continually in evidence somewhere in the dim, far distance, but when we get there we find it is nothing but what we used to call in Scotland a kind of Will-o-the-wisp. Now, we do not know what kind of country there is beyond Oodnadatta. The presumption is that it is of the same character as between Port Augusta and that place.
– Why do you not read the accounts of the people who have been there and know the country?
– Because the gentleman is interested in getting this railway pushed on,. The South Australian Government is pushing it on. The people of South Australia are in the same position, and why? They do not care two straws whether this railway pays the Commonwealth or not. What they want is that Adelaide shall be the highway, or the principal town on the highway, which they one day hope to see constructed between Port Adelaide and the northern portion of this continent.
– That is not so; they want to stop the present loss on the line already constructed.
– That is all very fine. The present loss upon the line is the least part of their concern. They imagine that some day there will be a large traffic between Port Darwin and Adelaide. I suppose they expect that Port Darwin will be the first port of call from Great Britain and Europe, and that there will be an immense passenger traffic down from the heart of the continent, and that, consequently, Adelaide will benefit very largely when that takes place.
– It would save a week in the carrying of the mails.
– Very good. I could tell the honorable senator how the mails could be carried very much more quickly, and through very much better country, in which it would be possible to settle people, not in a desert such as this undoubtedly is, all the assertions of the honorable gentleman to the contrary notwithstanding. Now, I say that, in this matter, we ought to be guided by a purely business principle. We ought to do what we always advocate. We ought to build railways only where it is likely that they will pay. That is number one. Number two is this : that we ought not to waste our energies developing, or attempting to develop, the undevelopable, while we have millions of acres of fertile country as good as anything that could be found on the face of the earth. We go on begging and praying for the time when railways will be built through them so that people may be enabled to settle on them. As I have pointed out on more than one occasion, the Commonwealth is already getting into deep financial waters, and if wild-cat schemes such as this undoubtedly is are gone on with, and millions of money are engulfed in them, what will be the result? Why, we want all the money we can get to develop those portions of the Australian continent which are worth developing, and there are many of them, without wasting our energies and our resources, and burdening the people of the Commonwealth with wild-cat schemes such as this undoubtedly is. f have not heard a single argument except the one that the Commonwealth is bound to carry out this work by its agreement. I suppose that it made the agreement very foolishly, and, probably, no matter what the consequences are, it will have to carry it out ; but I suggest that the fulfilment of the contract should be delayed for as long a period as possible - for half a century if possible - and that meanwhile the energies of the Commonwealth should be directed to other portions of the Territory over which it has control. We hear a great deal about the Northern Territory and how this railway must be built to aid in the development of the Northern Territory, but the people who talk in that fashion ignore the experience of Australia. Has any railway been built through the heart of the Australian continent? Has the coastal portion of Australia which is now settled been developed by a railway of that kind ? Let honorable senators look at a railway map of Queensland, for instance, and they will find that the railways, instead of going right through the heart of Queensland, begin at the ports of Queensland. They begin at the coast and go right into the interior. No doubt some day we shall have a line running right through the continent and tapping each of these coastal railways, but that time, is not yet. The best portion of our country is on the coast, where the rainfall is - at least, the part that is most capable of carrying a large, or a comparatively large, population is upon the coast, where the rainfall is ample, and where access to market is more or less available. I think the same policy should be carried out in connexion with the Northern Territory, a policy which has succeeded very well indeed in developing the other States. Take New South Wales, take South Australia even, take Western Australia and Queensland, take Victoria; every one of the States has been developed upon those lines.
– There is no analogy between the railways of the States and that of the Northern Territory. There is an agreement to build that railway.
– I admit there is such an agreement. Probably some day the agreement ought to be carried out, but it will be extremely foolish if this Parliament, with its slender resources at this particular time, engages in any such enterprise. My honest opinion is that the money spent in building this railway will be absolutely wasted. The railway will lie there, a burden upon the people of the Commonwealth, for probably a quarter or half a century. The interest on the cost of construction will have to be paid all the time. The traffic on the line will not pay, as the saying is, for grease for the axle wheels ; I do not know where it is to come from. In any case, I quite recognise the position of the Government. It is pushed by some of its supporters who come from South Australia; it is also pushed by its opponents ; and there is a general push all round. I want the Senate to look at this proposal from a purely business point of view. Will it pay the people of the Commonwealth to construct the line ? In the first place, we shall have to borrow the money. I do not know how much the line will cost, but it will cost, I believe, anything from £5,000,000 to £10,000,000. Suppose that it will cost £7,000,000, and probably that estimate is well within the mark, because the cost of labour is rising. We know that rails and all iron material are now in the hands of the great Steel Trust, and that the Commonwealth will have to pay right through the nose,- not only for everything it buys, but for all the labour, &c, employed in the construction of the line.
– And, in any event, we must borrow.
– I do not see how otherwise the money is to be found for this great and foolish enterprise, as I regard it. Suppose that the line will cost £7,000,000 to build and equip. At 4 per cent, that means that we shall have to pay £280,000 a year in interest, not to mention a sinking fund, or between £300,000 and £400,000 a year in interest and sinking fund. Then the upkeep of the line will probably amount to the balance of £500,000. There is a charge within sight of £500,000 a year on the people of the Commonwealth during the next twenty-five or fifty years. I may be altogether wrong, but that is the position as I see it at present. I ask honorable senators whether it will be wise on the part of the Commonwealth to embark now in an enterprise of this character ? Are we so flush of money that we can afford to throw £500,000 a year into a drifting desert, so to speak? Is our credit so good that we can borrow millions and millions for the purpose of simply engulfing these huge sums in the desert which lies between Oodnadatta and certain portions of the Northern Territory?
– Why, Kalgoorlie was a desert.
– The country at Oodnadatta is .not to be compared at all with the country at Kalgoorlie. I saw no drifting sand at Kalgoorlie; I saw plenty of fodder for horses there; but I saw nothing of the kind at Oodnadatta. The number of horses at Oodnadatta is very small. I saw about half-a-dozen, and probably there is one animal to 50 or 60 square miles. In any case, as I have tried to point out, this is one of the most foolish schemes in which the Commonwealth can possibly en gage. We want money for the development of the Northern Territory in another direction, and we shall do an exceedingly foolish thing if we push on the building of this line, as Senator Story, the Vice-President of the Executive Council, and a number of other honorable senators apparently think we ought to do. I know perfectly well that anything I can say will not stop this disastrous venture. Unfortunately it appears that there is a majority of senators here who at least allege that we are bound to do a particular thing, and therefore ought to do it. ‘ I admit that we are bound, but there is no cause for hurry. No time was stated in the bond. It might be one year, or ten years, or thirty years, or fifty y’eaTS.
– Or 1,000 years.
– Or 1,000 years, as the honorable senator says. I think that the project ought to be delayed. Instead of there being a case for haste, there is a case for deliberation.
– What about procrastination? There is something about that in the copybooks
– If the honorable senator were, not pushed from behind in his own State, he would not be quite so anxious to do this thing, as apparently he is. Again I entreat honorable senators not to listen to the voice of the charmer. The money spent upon this enterprise will be absolutely wasted so far as the present and the next generation of Australian people are concerned. I think that this railway can very well wait until we have at least double the population that we have now. I hope that the Senate will not assist the Government in’ any way in pushing the matter along.
Debate- (on motion by Senator Sayers) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 10. 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 November 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1912/19121128_senate_4_68/>.