9th Parliament · 2nd Session
The Deputy President (Senator Newland) took the chair at 11 o’clock, and read prayers.
The following paperswere presented : -
New Guinea - Ordinance No. 29 of 1924 - Sheriff.
Railways Act- By-law No. 29.
Delivery of Letters onunmagada mized Roads - Post Office, Ballingup - Linemen’s Quarters, Fitzroy, Kimberly.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the . Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
-The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to amend the Papua Act 1905-1920.
Motion (by Senator Wilson) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be recommittedfor the reconsideration of clause 4.
This clause limits the period of the payment of the bounty on the export of sweet wines to two years, but it is vitally im portant to wine-makers and growers that it should be prolonged. I am sure that, on further consideration, the Senate will recognize the necessity for this.
– We are agreeable to recommit the clause.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In committee (Recommittal) :
Clause 4 -
The bounty . . . shall be payable . . . on or after the first day of September, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-four, and on or before the thirty-first day of August, one thousand nine hundred and twenty-six.
.- I move-
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the following amendment, viz., l eave out “ six,” insert “ seven.”
If this is done it will have the effect of extending the period of the payment of the bounty by one year. There is no need to repeat the arguments advanced yesterday, but I’ ask honorable senators not to lose sight of the fact that the winegrowers and makers actually pay their own bounty out of. the amount of excise duty they contribute to the consolidated revenue.
– I said yesterday that I supposed I would find myself taking up on this bill that attitude which would most embarrass the Government. Ministers are now willing to accept from Senator Benny a suggestion which yesterday they declined to accept when it was put forward by Senator Hoare.
– Who has said that we are prepared to accept Senator Benny’s suggestion ?
– I thought that when Ministers agreed to the recommittal it was an indication that they were prepared to accept Senator Benny’s proposal.
– Our consent to the recommittal of the clause didnot commit us to anything.
– I was anticipating ministers acceptance of the proposal, and was about to ask why they did not accept it yesterday when it was put forward by Senator Hoare. Of course, if Ministers now say that they are prepared to fight the matter to the last ditch, it quite upsets what I was about to say. I was about to ask them if their attitude towards the proposal had been altered because of the fact that it had been submitted from their own side.
– Senator Gardiner is making it difficult to get. the proposal accepted.
– I am doing so purposely. I said yesterday that my attitude would be to embarrass the Government.
– But in doing so the honorable senator is also embarrassing the supporters of the proposal.
– As I have no wish to do that, I shall resume my seat.
.- I thought that Senator Wilson who, as a South Australian, must be entirely in sympathy with a proposal to extend the period for the payment of the bounty, would be willing to accept it. For my own part, I regard the proposed extension as altogether inadequate, but as it will improve the bill to some extent I must support it. I hope that the minister will not oppose it, and if he does so, 1 appeal to honorable senators to support Senator Benny in his effort to make the bill more useful than it would be if not amended.
– Yesterday when Senator Benny moved to have the word “ twenty-six “ struck out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ twenty -nine,” Senator Hoare intimated that he would move to have the word “ twenty-seven “ inserted, but the committee was not given the opportunity to deal with his proposal. The bill, when submitted to another place, provided for the payment of the bounty for three years, but an amendment reduced the period to two years. I think a good case has been made out for extending the period beyond two years. The necessity for maturing wine before it can be exported is an important factor that must be taken into account. If Senator Hoare’s proposal had been accepted yesterday there would have been no need for this recommittal. Unfortunately, the forces of its supporters were not too well organized. Senator O’Loghlin and Senator Benny, being so long accustomed to oppose one another, did not work too well together. This little experience may be a lesson to them. However, in view of the whole of the circumstances, and because it is evidently the wish of the
Senate, the Government, as Senator Gardiner’s long experience as a politician has just enabled him to forecast, are prepared to request the House of Representatives to make the period of the payment of the bounty three years.
– When I was speaking previously Senator Wilson practically upset my argument by implying that the Government were not willing to accept Senator Benny’s proposal. The honorable senator is evidently not aware of the procedure that prevented the committee from coming to a decision upon this point yesterday. The procedure yesterday was that an. amendment was moved to leave out a certain word with a view to insert another word. Senator Hoare indicated that if that word had been left out he intended to move to insert the word “ twenty-seven.”
– Only if the amendment to leave out the word “twentynine “ was defeated.
– That is not correct. Senator Hoare’s statement was a definite one, foreshadowing his intention to move an amendment to insert the word “twenty-seven,” but the Government and their supporters prevented Senator Hoare from moving his amendment by retaining “ twenty-six “ in the bill. In these circumstances, Senator Hoare could not move his amendment. As the Minister (Senator Wilson) is not fully conversant with the correct procedure, it is unfair of him to say that although Senator Hoare did indicate that he intended to move an amendment, he did not actually do so. He could not move his amendment because the committee refused to create a blank to enable him to do so.
– Senator Hoare missed his opportunity.
– That is not fair. Senator Hoare and I both endeavoured to provide an opportunity.
– There was no call for a division, although the Chairman twice put the question to the committee.
– There was a call for the re-consideration of the clause, which amounts to practically the same thing, and on that we voted. As the Minister is satisfied, I do not think there is any occasion for me to debate the matter further, particularly as this powerful combination, consisting of Senator Benny and Senator O’Loghlin, now realize that Senator Hoare’s proposition was right.
Request agreed to.
Clause agreed to, subject to a request.
Bill reported with a request; report adopted.
. -I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this measure is to obtain parliamentary approval of an agreement which is set out in the schedule to the bill, and which modifies the original agreement made between the Commonwealth’ and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited on the 28th March 1922. The original agreement provides that the company shall have a capital of £1,000,000, of which the Commonwealth should contribute £500,001. Under that agreement, Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited undertook to erect stations in Australia capable of communicating with Great Britain, and also to erect and operate reciprocal stations in Great Britain and Canada. After the agreement was entered into, difficultiesarose between the Marconi Company, which had contracted to erect these stations, and the British Government. Considerable delay occurred in consequence of the British Government deciding not to permit the erection of any privately-owned high-power stations in Great Britain. In the meantime, certain developments occurred in connexion with wireless telegraphy, and what is known as the beam system became a practical possibility. In the amended agreement, which is set out in the schedule to the bill, it is proposed to erect a beam station instead of a high-power station which was provided for in the original agreement. The beam system has two distinct features, one of which is that by focussing the rays in one direction by means of a reflector, a short wave length of 100 metres can be operated. I understand that the high-power station which we proposed to erect in Australia was to have a wave length of 2,000 metres. Another feature is that, in addition to rendering it possible to communicate with Great Britain, Canada, and other countries, it will be practicable under the new system, by simply throwing the reflector out of action, to convert the proposed beam station into a broadcasting station, but, of course, communication will not be able tobe carried on over such a long distance as with the high-power station. In the new agreement, which is dated the 20th August, it is provided that it shall have no force or effect, and shall not be binding upon either party, unless and until it is approved of by the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. Under the agreement, a beam station will be provided with a traffic capacity of at least 21,600 words per day each way for 300 days in the year, at an estimated capital cost not exceeding £120,000. A high-power station was to have cost £480,000, so the proposed beam station will not, at the most, cost more than one-fourth of that amount. It is also provided that a guarantee is to be given, of such a nature and of such an amount as are approved by the Commonwealth representatives on the board, for the erection of the main trunk station, and for its capability to provide the’ service stipulated. The agreement also contains a provision to relieve the company of its undertakings to provide a high-power station in Australia, and reciprocal high-power stations in Great Britain and Canada. It is also agreed that the rates to be charged shall not be more than one-half of those set out in the original agreement. Those rates are -
Full rate messages, 2s. per word.
Deferred messages,1s. per word.
Week-end messages, 6d. (minimum, 10s. per message ) .
Government messages,1s. per word.
Press messages, 3d. per word.
Deferred press messages, 3d. per word.
Under the new agreement only one-half of those rates are to be charged. It is also provided in the original agreement as follows : -
During the period of construction and reorganization, or for a period of three years from the date of this agreement, whichever is the lesser, the Commonwealth shall pay to the company monthly all amounts expended in carrying on the existing Commonwealth radio stations, and the company shall pay to the
Commonwealth monthly all sums received as revenue from the working of those stations.
In . the amended agreement, it is provided that the period mentioned in the paragraph of the original agreement - which I have just quoted - shall be increased from three to four years. If Parliament approves the agreement, it is anticipated that the proposed beam station will be in operation within nine months, and in view of the urgent necessity of establishing effective wireless telegraphic communications between Australia, Great Britain, and other countries, I trust the Senate willpass the bill without unnecessary delay.
– Is Great Britain investing any money in this venture?
– Not in Australia; but the British Government intend to erect a beam station in Great Britain.
– Is there any doubt concerning the merits of the system?
– I do not think there is. The company has to give a guarantee.
– What are the terms of the guarantee?
– They are embodied in the agreement, clause 3 of which provides that the station must be capable of transmitting 21,600 words per day each way for 300 days a year.
– What does the company put up in the form of a guarantee?
– It is provided that the guarantee is to be of such a nature and of such an amount as is approved by the Commonwealth representatives on the board of directors for the erection of a main trunk station, and for its capability to provide the service stipulated.
– Has the amount of the guarantee been considered by the Government? What, in the opinion of the Government, should the guarantee be?
– It must, I presume, be a substantial amount, and one sufficient to secure the Commonwealth in connexion with the erection of the stations.
– Will it be sufficient to cover the Commonwealth’s expenditure in the matter?
– It has to be sufficient to satisfy the Government representatives on the board of directors of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited.
– I thought the Minister said it was to be sufficient- to cover the expenditure incurred by the Commonwealth.
– I said that I presumed that that would be the case.
– Will that be so?
– I cannot give an undertaking to that effect.
– It means signing a blank cheque.
– It is not likely that the company, which will have an equal amount invested in the venture, will incur heavy expenditure, unless there is likely to be an adequate return for the outlay. Investigations are now being made concerning the station to be erected.
– What will the investigations be?
– As to whether it will be necessary to invest more capital.
– I have stated the limit to which the Government will go. It is expected that it will not cost within £30,000 or £40,000 of that amount.
Debate (on motion by Senator Gardiner) adjourned.
Bill presented and (on motion by Sena tor Pearce) read a first time.
In committee. Consideration resumed from 3rd September (vide page 3884) :
Clause 7 -
A bill of lading issued in accordance with paragraph 3 of Article III. of the Rules shall for all purposes be deemed to be a valid bill of lading with the like effect, and capable of negotiation in all respects and with the like consequences, as if it were a shipped bill of lading.
– This matter was deferred in order to give the Government an opportunity to further consider the position in view of the objections that were raised by various honorable senators who saw what they considered to be dangers in the clause as printed.
– Those dangers are imaginary.
– Honorable senators evidently were able to make out such a good case that the Government decided to delay further consideration of the clause until it had had an opportunity to consult with its legal advisers to see if its effect would be as stated by Senator Greene and others. Has any inquiry been made in regard to the arguments put forward by Senator DrakeBrockman, Senator Greene and others, and has the Minister any further information to give the Senate regarding this clause?
– This clause, was adjourned in order that we could give it very careful consideration. Sir Robert Garran, the Solicitor-General, has gone into the matter. Summed up, the position is that if we have received for shipment bills of lading, and ordinary bills of lading, it rests entirely with the banks whether they will accept them. The Government takes the view that in legislation of this kind we must legislate for the whole of the community, and not for individual banks. For the information of honorable senators, I shall read a cable which was sent to England in regard to this matter.
Sen Carriage of Goods Bill being passed by Commonwealth Parliament practically identical with English act. Do banks Great Britain consider this legislation will supersede decision in Diamond Alkali case and render valid received for shipment Bs/L, and do they propose (to) accept them in the future; also do Associated Australasian Banks in London consider that banks in Australia may, after act passes, accept received for shipment Bs/L under London credits except where specifically stilted that shipped Bs/L required. Our solicitors here advise that acceptance of received for shipment form would involve risk of losing remedy against party establishing credit, and regard it as unsatisfactory. From what date does English act take effect. Please reply in time for bank meeting, Friday.
The reply received was -
Replying to your telegram of 26th August, we are advised that English bill will not alter legal status of received for shipment bills of lading. Leading English banks are advised that they cannot safely accept received for shipment bills of lading without customers’ specific instructions, and generally require shipped Bs/L. Associated banks here have no intention of departing from present custom of insisting upon shipped Bs/L from Australia. Application of English act subject to OrderinCouncil, which lias not yet been made. Proposed date for act to come into force, 1st January next, but uncertain.
– That means that so far as this clause applies to overseas bills of lading it is worth nothing.
– It certainly rests with the banks to say whether they will lend the money or not. The provisions of the clause may prove of benefit to a large section of the community, but there is no obligation on the part of the banks to accept received-for-shipment bills of lading. They may take the stand that they must have the shipped bill of lading, and in that case they would not lend the money. This telegram states, inter aiia, “ Leading English banks are advised that they cannot safely accept receivedforshipment bills of lading without customers’ specific instructions.”
– The customer takes all the risk.
– The banks certainly have the right of veto.
– Since we had this clause before us ‘the other day I have made certain inquiries as to its effect, and the answers that I have received absolutely confirm the views I then expressed. In the Sydney Morning Herald recently it was stated that in shipping and consigning circles received for shipment bills of lad-, ing would be considered a convenience, provided that the ship was named, and a reasonable time limit imposed. It is not necessary to include details of that nature in the clause, as the banks or other people concerned will be careful to see that their interests are protected in that direction. I put the position to the general manager of one -of the leading wool exporting houses in this country, and he said that in cases where the ship was destined to leave in a fortnight or three weeks, it would be a matter cf great convenience to them and to their clients if they could get a received for shipment bill of lading for the wool to be consigned in a certain time by a certain ship. I asked if he considered that there would be any difficulty in negotiating the document, and he replied, “ Certainly not. It would be a great convenience.” I can conceive of circumstances in which a received for shipment bill of lading would be a better document than an ordinary bill of lading. Suppose, that a Peninsular and Oriental boat - one of the fastest . vessels travelling between Australia and Great Britain - were timed to leave in. three weeks, and that a client desired to ship wool by it. If he obtained a received for shipment bill of lading he would be in a better position than if he possessed an ordinary bill of lading for the goods to be shipped by a tramp steamer leaving immediately, but which would take about eight weeks cn the journey. It is purely a matter of convenience. The manager of the firm to which I have referred stated that it would be a great convenience at times to tho shipping community to have received for shipment bills of lading, and he thought that for that reason the clause might well be left in the bill.
– What is the chief advantage claimed for a received for shipment bill of lading over an ordinary bill of lading?
– It enables advances to be made more quickly. Of course, the security must be behind it.
– What happens if the banks do not accept it ?
– lt is certainly open to the banks to accept or refuse it. 1 consulted the chairman of directors of one of the leading banks in Australia, and he said that, given a reputable firm, the name of the steamer, and a reasonable time limit, he saw no objection to the document being negotiated. He said that at times such documents might not be negotiated, but that in favorable circumstances there would, in his opinion, be no difficulty in that direction. As the provision might be a convenience to a number of people, I recommend the Government to stand by the clause.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 8 to 10 agreed to.
– I desire to refer to a matter which 1^ mentioned when the bill was in the second-reading stage, namely, the Iia- bility of the shipowner. An attempt to amend the bill in the direction of increasing his responsibilities and liabilities was made, but the Senate, in its wisdom, decided that, so far as a seaworthy ship was concerned, the shipowner should not be responsible in any way. Clause 2, paragraph a, of article iv., which deals with rights and immunities, states -
Neither the carrier nor the ship shall be responsible for loss or damage arising or resulting from -
act, neglect or default of the master mariner, pilot, or the servants of the carrier in the navigation or in the management of the ship.
Certain other matters, such as the act. of God, the act of war, and quarantine restrictions, are also specified, most of which are fairly reasonable. If neither the carrier nor the ship is to be responsible for loss or damage arising from any’ act, neglect, or default, of the master, mariner, pilot, or the servants of the carrier, for what are they to be liable? Apparently they are to be responsible for nothing. Reasonable provision should be made to see that the ship-owners have some responsibility placed on them for the care of the goods entrusted to them. Nobody desires to hold them liable for a mere error of judgment, but they must be made responsible for neglect or default. Numerous cases have come under our notice where ship-owners have been actually negligent. I move -
That paragraph a of clause 2, Article IV., be left out.
– This point, has been debated twice already. Let mc remind the honorable senator that we are now dealing with the sea carriage of goods, and that the safeguards he is anxious about are provided under the Navigation Act. “ That fact has already been emphasized by Senators Elliott and DrakeBrockman. The Sea Carriage of Goods Act and the Navigation Act are entirely different measures.
– Do they conflict?
– No. I was in doubt upon this point just as the honorable senator is until I consulted the. Crown Solicitor.
– I should like an assurance from the Minister that no additional clauses will be allowed in the new bill of lading form, for there are various saving clauses in the present forms that tend to contract the ship out of all liability. In regard to the point taken by Senator O’Loghlin I have always understood that, whatever conditions are put into the bill of lading, the ships are responsible as common carriers.
– Irrespective of th«* opinions of legal gentlemen, for which T always have the utmost respect, it seems to me that the schedule as it stands will lessen the responsibilities of ship-owners as common carriers. If I send a load of wheat by a ship, and the vessel is deliberately run on the rocks, why should we say that no act of negligence on the part of the carrier shall entitle me to compensation ?
– To do what the honorable senator desires would mean incorporating section by section the whole of the Navigation Act.
– With all respect to the legal authorities, honorable senators must realize their own responsibilities. It appears to me that under one clause of this bill the sea carriage of goods in an unseaworthy vessel will be permitted, and it is now proposed to remove responsibility from the carrier for his own neglect. How a Minister can be satisfied with the legal opinion given on that point I fail to understand. Let us; be guided by our own common sense. The law should be so plain that it cannot be misunderstood. The bill should clearly lay down that for any act of negligence the carrier is responsible. If, as a common carrier, I undertook to deliver a valuable cargo of wine, and through my running amok the bottles were smashed, I should be responsible to the owner. The same argument applies to the carriage of goods at sea.
– The ship-owner has to contend with the perils of the sea.
– But this article of the schedule deals with neglect or default, apart from the perils of the sea. Why should not the ship-owner be held liable for losses of goods through the neglect or default of his servants ? In our legislation, dealing with transactions on land, this responsibility is definitely upon an employer for acts of negligence by his employees. Although “ high legal authority “ may express the view that the provision is quite right, commonsense suggests that there should be an amendment to make ship-owners responsible for the neglect or default of their servants. It would appear that the draughtsman, forgetful that some progress has been made during last century, when ship-owners made the law to suit themselves, has been content to lift the provisions of old English acts for the purpose of applying them to present day conditions. To-day we live in a country where ship-owners obey the law, justas every one else does, and have no more say in the making of the law than other citizens of the Commonwealth. This is an opportunity to amend the law so that the ship-owner shall not escape his responsibility. The manner in which we slavishly follow old ideas was brought home to me when I was apprenticed to a trade. The indentures which were signed on my behalf bound me to obey the lawful commands of my master day and night, and to be respectful to all the members of his family. I did not know until I was old enough to take an interest in such matters that the indenture signed for me in 1882 was practically ah exact copy of indentures that had been in force in Britain for centuries. An apprentice in those days was virtually the slave of his master, and only became a free man when he had served his apprenticeship. The draughtsmanship of this bill is suggestive of that line of thought. We should amend it. Suppose, for example, that a bundle of silk worth a considerable sum of moneywas thrown overboard by one of the seamen. Under this legislation, the ship-owner would nob be held responsible.
– In practice, he is.
– Then why not make the law and practice go side by side, and in this bill provide that the shipowner shall be responsible for all such damage ?
– Because this bill has nothing to do with navigation or the management of a ship.
– It relates to the sea carriage of goods, and it provides - I cannot emphasize the point too forcibly - that the ship-owner should be held responsible for any act, neglect, or default, of his servants.
– That is provided for in the Navigation Act.
– Surely the “ navigation “ or “ management “ of a ship covers the effective control of goods on board. Therefore, if goods are damaged or thrown overboard, the shipowners should be held liable.
– If goods are lost in transit the ship-owners are required to pay for short deliveries.
– Senator Gardiner overlooks the fact that this bill provides in clause 10 -
Nothing in this act shall affect the .operation of Division 10 of Part 4 of the Navigation Act 1912-20, or the operation of any other act for the time being in force, limiting the liability of the owners of sea-going vessels.
That clause means that the Navigation Act is not repealed, amended, or in any way interfered with by this bill. If incompetence be proved on the part of the officers or any member of a ship’s company, or if there is any breach of duty, there is ample provision in the Navigation Act to bring offenders to book and punish them. Under that act we have a department with officers whose duty it is to see that no ships leave our ports in an unseaworthy condition. Our navigation law, as Senator Gardiner himself has admitted, is the most up to date in the world, safeguarding the safety of the officers, crew, passengers, and cargo. Certificates have to be issued showing that the engines and machinery of a ship are in good condition. All that the honorable senator is contending for is already provided in our navigation law. This bill, I repeat, has nothing to do with the Navigation Act. It. deals merely with the relations between the shipper and the receiver of goods that are carried by sea. Surely the honorable senator realizes that the seaworthiness of a ship is a question as between the owner and the Government representing the community. ‘ ,
– Why is the matter dealt with in this bill?
– Because if it were not, it might be held as a contract, and in the event of the seaworthiness of a ship being questioned the shipper or ‘ the receiver of goods might be held liable. It is obvious that he is not. It might as well be argued that a consignee or consignor of goods on our railways should be held responsible for the condition of the rolling-stock or permanent way. It would be just as logical, for example, to contend that, if I shipped a ton of flour to Senator Gardiner on the railways, and if, owing to defects of the rolling-stock or through faulty management of the railway system the consignment was lost or damaged, Senator Gardiner should hold me responsible. Yet that is what he is suggesting should be done in connexion with the sea carriage of goods.
– Adopting the Minister’s line of argument, would he say that, if a consignment of flour sent to me on the railways was damaged or lost owing to the condition of rollingstock or through bad management, I would have no claim against the carriers of the goods?
– The honorable senator might have a claim against the carriers, but certainly not against me, if I were the consignor. The seaworthiness of a ship is entirely a responsibility under the Navigation Act. Does not the honorable senator see that if he achieved his purpose, and struck out these provisions, no shipper would receive goods, because whilst a shipping company might make every provision for the safety of a ship, if, through carelessness of its officers or for any other reason the ship ‘ was lost with the goods, every consignee would have an action against the company ?
– This subparagraph says that they have not.
– That is so. It is inserted so that in such circumstances the consignee shall have no right of action against a shipping company. If, in these circumstances, a shipping company were held liable, carriers of goods from Australia would certainly be obliged to insure themselves against a risk which is not borne by carriers in any other part of the world. We are now suffering sufficiently from high shipping freights, but if the’ amendment were carried I am afraid that, if in the matter of freights we may be said to be beaten with whips to-day, we would be beaten with scorpions in the future. The rate of insurance to cover this additional risk would so increase freights as to make them prohibitive. Therefore, if Senator Gardiner’s object were achieved, all possibility of securing reasonable rates of freight would be destroyed. When the honorable senator claims that the retention of these words in article iv. is an inducement to shipowners to employ unseaworthy vessels for the carriage of goods, he is practically imputing that there is no navigation act in existence preventing ship-owners from sending vessels to sea in an unseaworthy condition, or that there is no navigation department in control of such matters.. If the honorable senator is notcontent to rely upon the adequate provision in this regard made in our navigation laws, and thinks that a similar provision should be inserted in a bill dealing with the sea carriage of goods, I am afraid he will also be obliged to insert in that bill all the provisions of the Navigation Act. If Senator Gardiner is correct in saying that the omission from the Sea Carriage of Goods Hill of any prohibition against employing unseaworthy ships for the carriage of goods should be remedied in the way he suggests, he might just as easily argue that the sea carrier of goods should be prevented by this bill from loading his vessel above the load line, which he is already prevented from doing by a provision in the Navigation Act. It is quite unnecessary to repeat in this bill what is already provided for in the Navigation Act. The fact that the sub-paragraph of article iv. to which the honorable senator takes exception has been the law for many years does not necessarily make it wrong. I have heard Senator Gardiner boast that he is sufficiently conservative to adhere to old conditions, which he thinks good, until he is shown something better. The provision to which he is now taking exception has stood the test of time and experience. The British mercantile marine stands supreme to-day, because the conditions of British shipping in regard to crews and the carriage of goods are better than those which obtain in any other mercantile marine. Shippers know that on British ships they have a better chance than they have on ships of other nations of having their contracts observed, and of getting decent treatment. That confidence is based upon laws which have been operating for many years, and which this bill now proposes to continue. We should be very careful before we listen to any proposal to set aside laws which have stood the test of the experience of centuries. Senator Gardiner in his criticism has entirely overlooked the fact that all that he claims should be done is already done under the navigation laws.
– The speeches of Ministers have amply convinced me of the need for striking out sub-paragraph a of paragraph 2 of article iv. Neither Minister has attempted to say that the carrier should not be held responsible for neglect or default on the part of his servants, and neither Minister has done more than say that, as the Navigation Act makes ample provision in certain regards, it is not necessary to make similar provision in this bill. That being the case, what harm would be done by omitting this subparagraph, and relying entirely on the Navigation Act?
– It is certainly covered by another act, but the points raised by honorable senators do not apply to contracts for the carriage of goods on ships.
– I cannot understand why this sub-paragraph appears in the bill. The Minister has not made the position clear. He said that if the amendment is agreed to the bill will be destroyed, and awful consequences will follow. He has said the same on other occasions, but despite his warnings the Senate has proceeded to amend bills, and its amendments have been accepted by the Government in another place. We are tired of hearing the Minister cry “Wolf!” so often. I should imagine that the carrier of goods would be amply safeguarded by all the other subparagraphs of paragraph 2 of article iv., but we think he should not be relieved of responsibility for the neglect or default of his officers in the navigation or management of a ship. Senator Wilson has told us that the legal advisers of the Government have assured him the words to which we object have not the significance which they seem to have to laymen, but most of us are laymen, and we are legislating for laymen. It behoves us, therefore, to insert in our legislation common-sense provisions which the man in the street can understand. Neither Minister has told the Senate what will happen if this sub-paragraph is omitted from the schedule.
– It is perfectly obvious that the whole bill will be lost.
– That is also a statement we have heard before. We are simply asking that something should be struck out which Ministers assure us is amply provided for in other legislation.
– I have tried to explain that this bill deals with the sea carriage of goods, and that the honorable senator is discussing something which is provided for in the Navigation Act.
– I am not in a position at the present moment to deal with anything but a proposal for the sea carriage of goods, and I am trying to provide that the sea carrier of goods shall be held liable for the negligence of his employees in the carriage of those goods. The Minister has not yet told me what will happen if this paragraph is omitted. Does he endorse the statement of his “ legal adviser,” Senator DrakeBrockman? Has he read the provision?
– Yes, and what is more, he understands it.
– Neither Minister has justified a provision which enables ship-owners to escape their liability for damage to goods, the result of faulty navigation.
– Senator Pearce made an admirable reply to the points raised last night on clause 5, in reference to the seaworthiness of ships, but that matter was settled by the Government winning the division which was taken. We are now dealing with an entirely different subject. Senator O’Loghlin wants the carrier of goods to be held responsible for loss or damage arising or resulting from -
Senator Pearce asks who would carry goods from Australia if this safeguard were not given to the shipper, but plenty of safeguards are retained in article iv., such as -
Surely a man’s goods are to be protected against negligence, or default on the part of the employees of a ship-owner in the navigation of a ship. I venture to say that if the highest legal advisers were consulted they would agree that paragraph a could be omitted without hampering the measure, and that as a matter of fact its omission would strengthen the bill. I can understand a Minister adhering to advice given to him by his legal advisers, but those legal advisers do not carry the responsibility borne by members of Parliament. Although we may be influenced by their judgment on matters of law, I do not think we ought to be absolutely guided by them in framing legislation. At any rate, 1 do not think any legal authority would say that the carriers of goods should not be held responsible for the default or negligence of any one on a ship. I do not believe that even Senator Drake-Brockman would hold that if injury is done to goods by the employees on a vessel the owner of the vessel should be exempted from liability for the damage. The purport of the amendment is to leave out paragraph a, which relieves the carrier of goods of any liability if the goods are damaged owing to the act, neglect, or default of those engaged on the ship. The amendment does not affect the question of the unseaworthiness of ships. Why should we exempt those responsible for the sea carriage of goods when the Railways Commissioners are liable for acts of negligence on the part of railway servants? The Minister (Senator Pearce) drew a parallel between carriage of goods by rail and by sea. I do not intend to pose as one possessing expert knowledge on the responsibilities of Railways Commissioners in this connexion, but if I am not under a misapprehension a consignor of goods by rail who pays the freight and complies with the regulations is guaranteed against loss due to the neglect of railway servants. Why cannot the same principle be applied in this instance? Why should not a carrier of goods by sea beas liable for safe carriage as one who carries goods by rail or any other means. As legal advice can sometimes be obtained in the Senate without paying for it I ask Senator Drake-Brockman to confirm my opinion that a common carrier is liable for the damage done by his employee. Am I not correct?
– I believe so.
– That being the case, why should not similar conditions apply to the carrier of goods by sea ?
– They do. He has a common law liability.
– If the amendment is carried, paragraph a of clause 2, article iv. will be left out, and if goods are damaged owing to any act, neglect, or default of any employee, the ship will be held responsible..
– The provision objected to gives the British and Australian shipping companies the same protection as is given to foreign shipping companies. This provision has always been insisted upon.
– Foreign shipping companies cannot be held responsible under our acts, but I think we should set an example to other countries in our legislation.
– This is the nearest we can get to it under our law. The matter has been discussed at various conferences in an endeavourto arrive at a uniform system. The various governments concerned are prepared to accept this proposal.
– I recognize that it is undesirable to place the ship-owners operating under our laws at a disadvantage in competing with foreigners; but will our shipping companies be at a serious disadvantage if we provide that those carrying goods by sea shall be responsible for the acts of their employees? If a seaman, for instance, wilfully threw goods overboard the carrier would be exempt from any liability. That is, of course, an extreme case.
– That is not the point at issue in article iv.
– Clause 2 of article iv. reads -
Neither the carrier nor the ship shall be responsible for loss or damage arising or resulting from -
act, neglect, or default of the master, mariner, pilot, or the servants of the carrier in the navigation or in the management of the ship.
Senator O’Loghlin proposes to leave out paragraph a. As Senator Thompson believes that this paragraph applies only to the navigation of a vessel, will he support an amendment to leave out the words “ in the management of the ship “ ?
– If the honorable senator will resume his seat, I shall briefly give my views on the matter.
– If Senator Gardiner is not speaking with his tongue in his cheek, he must be labouring under a misapprehension. But for this provision if a ship with a full cargo for 200 consignees was piled upon the rocks through an error of the master, the navigation of the ship would be involved, and the 200 consignees could claim on the ship for damage or total loss of goods. A vessel when berthing might bump the wharf, which might come under the term “ management of the ship,” and in consequence certain: fragile goods be damaged, in which case there would also be a claim against the ship. This paragraph has been inserted to prevent claims being made in such circumstances, and without it the shipping companies would have no security, and would not be prepared to carry on.
Question - That the paragraph proposed to be left out be so left out (Senator O’Loghlin’s amendment) - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
Schedule and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Wilson) read a first time.
– In moving-
That the Senate do now adjourn,
I desire to inform honorable senators that when we resume next week the first business to be dealt with will be the second reading of the Papua Bill. That will bo followed by the second reading of the Tariff Board Bill, and I ask honorable senators to come prepared to continue the discussion of that measure. Its provisions are already well known, and nothing fresh will be disclosed in the second reading speech. After that bill has been dealt with, it is proposed to take the Wireless Agreement Bill. I make this intimation so that honorable senators who are interested in these measures may make the necessary preparations.
– Yesterday I asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General some questions relating to the proposed alterations to the post office at West Wyalong. During the last week-end a party of honorable senators and honorable members from another place visited that district, and, at the request of the local Chamber of Commerce, eight or ten members of the party inspected the post office, in order to see what ground there was for the very serious complaints that had been made regarding it. We inspected the whole of the building, and the alterations which the Postal Department proposes to make were pointed out. At present, the building is like a dungeon. Every postmaster who has gone to West Wy along in good health, has left with his health broken down. The present postmaster feels keenly the conditions under which he is forced to live, and the people of West Wy along, knowing the position, have taken the matter up, and have made strong representations to the Postal Department. Some time ago a block of land adjoining the post office, and on the corner of the street, was offered to the department for about £300, but the offer was rejected. Subsequently, a twostoried brick building was erected on the site. On the other side of the post office there is another two-storied brick building. The post office is, therefore, jammed in between these two higher buildings, and is thus in a sort of flue, through which the wind whistles, while, because of the high walls on either side, little or no light enters the postmaster’s residence. The. conditions are deplorable, as honorable senators who inspected the building will agree. I suggest to the Minister that he should again refer this matter to his officers to consider the advisability of purchasing the two-storied brick building on the corner. It has a frontage of only 20 feet to the street, and the building could be adapted for postal purposes. The district of West Wyalong is a prosperous and growing one, and it will not be long before additional post office accommodation will be required. The Postal Department should see that its officers are housed in buildings which at least are healthy, and in which they can do their work under conditions which conform to Australian ideas of hygiene. This may be a minor matter compared with many of those with which this Senate has to deal, but it is an important one to the district concerned, and should also be viewed in that light by the Postal Department and members of the Federal Parliament. The present building is a danger to the health of the occupants. For the expenditure of a few hundred pounds, the block alongside could be purchased, and the building now erected thereon utilized for post office purposes. In that case, portion of the land could be sold, and the amount received could be set off against the cost of the corner block. If that were done, the Commonwealth Government would have the premier position in West Wyalong, and the post office could be made a credit to the department. Having seen the position for myself, I can assure the Minister that I have no intention of letting this matter drop. Seeing that it affects the health of the occupants of the building, I shall spare no effort to make the post office do its duty in this. case.
– I take this opportunity to draw attention to the steady increase in the number of foreigners coming to Australia. The Government is at present negotiating with a shipping firm with a view to having additional steamers running between Australia and Great Britain . Unfortunately, many of the vessels which now come to Australia, are manned by foreigners. That is because coloured labour is cheap. Before the Government proceeds further with any negotiations, it should insist that the company shall employ white men - Britishers or Australians - on its vessels. Of the 19 oversea vessels which arrived in Sydney during one week recently, 10, or more than 50 per cent., were manned by coloured crews. Only five had British crews. Vessels belonging to the Clan, the Peninsular and Oriental, and the Ellerman and Bucknall lines, carry only coloured crews, most of whom are Indians. The French mail steamers are manned mostly by Cingalese and negroes. The HollandAustralia liners were, until recently, manned by European crews; but the Dutch steamer, Aagtekirk, arrived from Rotterdam with a Malay crew, who are content with a payment of 10s. a week for their services. I hope that others who stand for a White Australia will join in the protest I have made, otherwise members of the British race will be excluded from the vessels carrying passengers and cargo to and from Australia.
– In reply to a question asked by Senator Duncan yesterday, I informed him that it was proposed to spend approximately £3,000 on the West Wyalong post office. Honorable senators will recognize that the expenditure of that sum would make a material difference to the post office in that town.
– It will be money wasted if the corner block is not purchased.
– In view of the representations made this morning by the honorable senator, I shall have further inquiry made.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 12.55 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 September 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1924/19240905_senate_9_108/>.