3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Postmaster-General whether, in view of the supreme importance of the thriving mining town of Linda, on the west coast of Tasmania, and the great inconvenience caused by the want of proper postal facilities, he will establish, without delay, a post, telegraph, and money -order office instead ofthe existing telephone service?
– Without delay the merits of the case will be inquired into.
Order of Business - Tariff - New Protection
– I ask the Prime Minister to state what are the Government’s proposals with reference to the sittings of the House other than the ordinary sittings?
– Ministers, of course, desire to meet the convenience of the House subject to the condition being generally recognised that whatever is to be done before the Christmas adjournment must be done within two or three weeks. If the consideration of the Tariff is concluded within that time, so that it becomes ready for transmission to the Senate, that body has arranged to meet in January and enter upon its consideration at once. If we have so finished, it will not be necessary for this House to meet before the end of February, perhaps on the first day in March or thereabouts.
– The 1st April would be a good day.
– If, on the other hand, we are not able to complete the consideration of the Tariff before rising for the Christmas holidays, it will be necessary for us to meet early in January in order to complete its consideration in time for a later meeting of the Senate.
– That is a. lever.
– Why not sit right on until it is finished ?. Do not fool with the thing, but finish it.
– Those are the two choices which are open to us.
– Let us finish the Tariff before we leave.
– Ministers trust that the House will not feel any undue strain placed upon its members, having regard to the circumstances, if they are asked to sit On unusual (Jays and for unusual hours in in order that we may finish before Christmas and rise until the end of February.
– I should like the Prime Minister to supplement his statement by informing the House whether the object in taking this unusual course with regard to public business is for the sole purpose of dealing with the Tariff?
– So far as I know, there remains no other new question of importance that we can attempt to deal with before the rising of the House. We shall have to devote our whole time to the consideration of the Tariff - the whole time for which the House at present sit.’* - and if that is not sufficient even more time. But I think that, in urging the utmost expedition, we are acting in the public interest, as well as in that of the House.
– Will the honorable gentleman state on which days he proposes to ask the House to sit?
– That depends upon the progress made.
– Why not sit every day?
– At present we cannot make any arrangements.
– Is it proposed to sit to-morrow?
– Ministers prefer to commence at once - to sit to-night and to-morrow, and to meet again on Monday morning with a view to terminating this part of the session as soon as possible. We shall do ‘that if a sufficient number of honorable members can remain ; but if not, we must begin next week, and then continue to sit until we finish the Tariff. .
– The Prime Minister has stated that no new business except the Tariff will be brought on.
– No new business of importance.
– I ask the honorable gentleman whether it will not be advisable, before the Christmas adjournment, to bring in the measure dealing with the new protection. It is important that that matter should be settled at the earliest possible moment. The manufacturers have been allowed fourteen days in which to send in their claims, and the Government will have ample time in which to make certain recommendations to Parliament, because, in my opinion, the law should be amended at the earliest possible moment.
– We certainly will be prepared to make a clear statement on the subject before the House rises whether we lay the Bill on the table or not. It cannot settle some of the chief questions at issue. The body of the Bill is not the great difficulty, but the schedule, which it is difficult to adjust until the Tariff has been dealt with.
– With regard to the sittings of the House, the position is by no means clear even now. I ask the Prime Minister to say whether the Government intend to sit to-night and to-morrow ?
– I thought that was plain when I said that if a sufficient number of honorable members agreed to enable the business of the House to be carried on, we proposed to sit to-night, to-morrow, and on Monday. If that be impossible, we propose to ask the House to consent to meet on Monday next and then to sit continuously.
– But when are we to know ?
– It is merely with a view to consulting the convenience of honorable members that I am stating this optional course. We desire to sit continutinuously from this moment.
At a later stage,
– At an earlier hour a promise was made that the House would be advised as to what the Government proposed to do in regard to the Saturday and Monday sittings. I desire now to explain that it is our intention that the House shall sit this afternoon and evening, but that it is doubtful whether we shall be able to secure a quorum tomorrow. If we can, we shall certainly go on with business, and the House, on rising, will adjourn until Monday next at 10.30 a.m.
– Are we to come here to-morrow on the mere off chance of the House meeting ?
– No ; definite information on the point will be given tonight. We find that some honorable members object to our meeting to-morrow; but we shall certainly do so if we can secure a quorum.
– I desire to know whether the Prime Minister can give the House any idea as to when the differential treatment of the French and the English merchants of New Caledonia can be put an end to? I have already pointed out to the honorable gentleman that whilst the French merchants are sending their merchandise by the French steamers to New Caledonia without any restriction, the English merchants are being required at the Customs House to make declarations and go through other formalities, so as to give the French merchants an important advantage over them. I understand that what I suggest may be done without any contravention of the agreement which exists between the two countries.
– I am happy to say that since the honorable member first mentioned this question, or, at any rate, since it was last alluded to, I have seen a copy of the despatch forwarded by the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Sir Edward Grey, to the French Government, and am glad to have the opportunity of expressing publicly our sense of the ability and persistency with which our case has been put before the Ministers of France by him. A manofwar is about to leave for Fiji in order to convey the High Commissioner for the Western Pacific . to the New Hebrides, where, in about a month, the Convention will be proclaimed. It is anticipated that by that time the French authorities will be able to give effect to the recommendation which has been so often pressed upon them to remove the differentiation to which the honorable and learned member has alluded.
– I desire to ask the Prime. Minister a further question with regard to the serious obstruction which is put in the way of Australian merchants in dealing with New Caledonia as compared with the facilities offered to French merchants. Pending the conclusion of the Anglo-French diplomatic arrangements, will the Prime Minister consult with the Minister of Trade and Customs and remove the necessity which is thrown upon the Australian merchants, but not upon French merchants, of giving assurances as to the ultimate destination of all goods which they send to New Caledonia ? The completion of the diplomatic arrangements may take several months, but in the meantime the Australian merchants are handicapped in every shipment which they make to New Caledonia, while the French merchants, simply send their goods by the French mail, their manifests being never looked at.
– I have already admitted the obstruction, and have on a number of occasions protested most strongly against the unfair burdens of the merchants of Sydney. The assurances we have received lead us to expect, not that it will be a matter for three or four months waiting, but that probablv by this time the French authorities are imposing similar restrictions.
– Will the Prime Minister in the meantime put the Sydney merchants on a level with the French merchants, and allow them to ship goods without these restrictions?
– That cannot be done, because the lever which we are using in this matter in order to urge the French to expedition is the verv fact that we are suffering this injustice. Remove the injustice, and we shall have the old bad state of affairs, in which arms and liquors were landed by both sets of traders without any restriction in the New Hebrides.
– And meanwhile the French merchants are getting a mercantile advantage.
– At present thev are.
– I desire to direct the attention of the Minister of Trade and Customs to the following recommendation of the Tariff Commission -
We recommend that the Government Printer be authorized to make arrangements for the sale, at reasonable rates, of copies of theMinutes of Evidence throughout the Commonwealth, and to inform him that during my recent visit to Western Australia I received numerous inquiries as to where the reports and minutes of evidence could be obtained.
I have received from various parts of Australia, numerous letters asking for copies of reports, and information as to where minutes of evidence could be obtained. I ask the Minister, if he can see his way, to give effect to the recommendation of the Tariff Commission and cause copies of the minutes of evidence and also the reports to be placed in each Customs House, at the same time giving public notice that such documents can be obtained there by any person.
– I shall be very glad to comply with the request of the honorable member, and to see that the documents are made available to the public. I understood that they were already available.
– They were not even made available to honorable members until I took action.
– I might inform the House that anticipating a considerable demand for these documents at the time when they were first ordered to be printed, I gave instructions for the printing of an unusually large number of copies. I believe that a very large supply is in hand. The officers of the House have just informed me that no considerable number of applications has, so far, been made by honorable members for the papers, and further that there has been no very considerable number of applications for them from persons outside. If honorable members wish to obtain copies of the papers, I hope they will communicate with the officers of the House. If persons outside desire to obtain copies they can follow the usual course, and send in their applications to the Government Printing Office, where a supply is available.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs if, in view of his promise already given to send copies of the Tariff Commission’s reports and evidence to the various Customs Houses, he will also send copies to public institutions, such as the mechanics’ institutes or post-offices, in various towns which have no Customs House?
– Any mechanics’ institute or post-office, or other public institution that applies for copies, I shall be very glad to supply, but we cannot send the reports broadcast over the country. Copies will not be sent out unless they are asked for.
– Will the Minister of Trade and Customs allow any rebates on the bundles of Tariff Commission’s reports and evidence, or will he have a bargain sale to get rid of the surplus stock of them?
– I promise to take the matter into consideration.
– Seeing that the Minister of Defence is in a bit of a quandary in connexion with the selection of a site for a small-arms factory, and cannot discover a suitable site either in New South Wales or Victoria, I am in a position to recommend him a site in Queensland.
– On the Darling Downs.
– Yes, Toowoomba, on the Darling Downs, is a centrally situated place, at a distance of 100 miles from the coast, and I have no doubt a very good site for a small-arms factory could be obtained there. In my opinion, however, a better site might be selected in the town and district of Ipswich, nearer Brisbane than is Toowoomba. It is within 20 miles of the coast, and connected with it by rail.
– Is the honorable member asking a question?
– Yes. I wish to ask whether the Minister will consider the advisability of making inquiries as to the suitableness of Ipswich or Toowoomba as a site for the proposed small-arms factory?
– The honorable member is not quite correct in crediting me with the statement that a. good site cannot be found in Victoria or in New South Wales. Any little difficulty that may arise will be due to the fact that there are many very suitable sites and many good advocates of them. It is likely that, in the immediate future a statement will be made with regard to the site selected for the small-arms factory, but the honorable member for Maranoa will understand, as will other honorable members, that, for reasons which business men will fully appreciate, even if I knew exactly where the site of the proposed factory is to be I should not be asked to disclose the information.
– I wish to know whether the Government are doing anything in the matter?
– I can inform the honorable member’ that we shall reach finality in the matter in the immediate future, and I am sure that honorable members will then admit that we have acted wisely in not saying too much on the subject at the present time. I should like to acknowledge my indebtedness in the matter to the honorable member for Maranoa, whose enthusiasm on the subject has been of much help to me.
– I wish to ask the Treasurer a question without notice. I see by one of the morning newspapers that the honorable gentleman has it in contemplation to consult the constitutional advisers of the Crown as to whether he should adopt a suggestion made by the honorable member for Flinders the other day. I wish to ask whether, if he finds that the authorities are favorable to the course suggested, since it involves so complete an alteration in the financial relations between the States and the Commonwealth, he will give honorable members an assurance that he will take no action in the matter before consulting the House.
– I think that Parliament could make the proposed change only by passing a law on the subject.
– In reply to the honorable member for Parramatta, I wish to say that the matter to which he refers was under the consideration of the Government two months ago. It was referred to by the honorable member for Flinders the other night in connexion with section 94 of the Constitution. It is the interpretation of the section that I wish to have decided as far as that can be done. The honorable member must not think that the question involved has not been engaging the attention of the Government. That has been the position almost since the termination of the five years period.
– I am not concerned with that phase of the question.
– I have consulted theCrown Law officers with the object of obtaining the best advice I could get before any action is taken. Everything depends upon the legal aspect of the question, but unless the Constitution requires it to be done, it is not necessary to deplete the Treasury at the end of every month.
– Only the Parliament can appropriate themoney.
– Quite so. The system in the past has been to pay over at the end of everv month every penny in the hands of the Treasurer, and to lea.ve the Treasury practicallv without funds, no matter what the demands upon iteven for the current week - may be.
– The honorable gentleman is debating the question.
– I have no wish to do so at this stage. I think we should not pay over every penny, but under section 94 of the Constitution Parliament must deal with the matter. If it be shown that it can be done, what is suggested is that money should be paid into a trust fund to meet any engagements entered into at certain periods. The particular payment to which reference was made when the matter was dealt with before was a payment in connexion with bounties.
– My question had no reference to the final appropriation of the money, but to the deduction of a certain amount from the revenue paid to the States Governments month by month. That is a matter of so much consequence to the States that I should like the Treasurer to assure honorable members that he will not, in any case, begin the system suggested without consulting the House.
– I thought I had made it quite clear that we cannot do anything under the 94th section without consulting the House. Parliament must direct what is to be done.
– That is as to the appropriation, but I did not specially refer to the appropriation.
– But what I say applies also to the placing of money in a trust fund. I cannot allow the Treasury to be depleted in the way in which it now is, because that entails very great inconvenience ; but I cannot appropriate in any wav without the permission of the House.
– Will the Treasurer deduct the money without first coming to the House for permission ?
– I do not propose to make any deduction. The only question involved is one of adjustment on a certain day.
Timber Duties : Rebate on Exported Fruit and Butter Cases.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether any complaints or representations have been made to him that the timber duties have increased the price of fruit cases? If so, will he make inquiries into such complaints or representations, with a view to granting a drawback upon the export of fruit cases ?
– The matter is receiving consideration. Representations have been made, and it is said that a clear line can be drawn between fruit cases and butter boxes, because, while it is difficult at times to get in Australia suitable timber for butter boxes, it is contended that there is very little difficulty in obtaining it for fruit cases. That is the question which is engaging our attention. Both matters will be dealt with together.
– I hope that nothing will be done with regard to rebates on exported fruit cases until the timber duties have been dealt with. At least three-fourths of the timber used for fruit cases is locally grown, and is superior to the imported timber.
– The matter has already been partly dealt with in relation to the question of rebates. As the honorable member knows, many of these matters are dealt with by regulation. I shall be very glad to hear and give every consideration to any representations which the honorable member desires to make. We are looking very closely now into the question of timber from Tasmania.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether, if he is prepared to allow rebate on exported fruit cases, he will take into consideration the question of allowing a rebate on lead, seeing that the lead exported from the Broken Hill mines may be increased in price, by reason of the timber used in the mines being now more expensive through the operation of the timber duties ?
– I shall be very glad to give every consideration to the honorable member’s views if he will put them in writing.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs a question in connexion with a matter which is of considerable importance to butter producers. The honorable gentleman will remember that when the House decided to impose a duty on timber a promise was given that there would be a rebate on the timber used in. butter boxes. Representations have been made to me by those controlling a number of butter factories that it is found impracticable to obtain the rebate, inasmuch as they cannot get the certificate of the importers of timber used in the manufacture of butter boxes that duty has beenpaid on it, and they have to pay the increased price for the timber whether duty has been paid on it or not. I direct the attention of the Minister to the matter. I do not expect him to make any statement as to the policy of the Department in dealing with it, but I ask whether the matter has been brought under his notice?
– The whole matter to which the honorable member has referred is now engaging our attention. A difficulty arose in connexion with the method at first adopted, because a quantity of timber that has not paid duty is used in the manufacture of butter boxes. The whole question of rebates on butter boxes and fruit cases was brought under the notice of the Department some time back, and we are endeavouring to arrive at a satisfactory solution of the difficulty. I hope shortly to be able to do so, and I shall then inform honorable members as to the course proposed to be adopted.
– I remind the Minister that an increasedprice is charged for’ the boxes by reason of the duty, whether duty has been paid on the timber used in their manufacture or not.
– I am afraid we cannot help the duty being passed on in thatway,butweshalldowhat is possible to see that the rebates get into the right hands.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether, in arranging the business of the House after the Christmas adjournment, he will consider the advisability of including the question of the adoption of a proper set of Standing Orders ?
– If before the session closes we have time to fill up the consideration of the subject suggested by the honorable member would be a very excellent means of employing it.
Hog Bay and Kingston
– Has the PostmasterGeneral received the reports which he promised to obtain regarding telephone communication for Hog Bay, Kangaroo Island, and Kingston, in the South-East of South Australia?
– I shall find out all about the matter.
Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– When I was in Sydney I heard the complaints of these men, and took steps to remove a number of the evils that have undoubtedly grown up in connexion with their employment: Inquiries are being made and relief will be afforded as quickly as possible.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
With reference to questions relating to prohibitions recently issued by the New_ Zealand postal authorities against the transmission of postal matter to and from persons or firms trading in the Commonwealth, and the reply that a firm named in this prohibited list had been similarly prohibited in the Commonwealth, but that such prohibition had been removed upon the principal of the firm in question giving a written undertaking that trie provisions of the Post and Telegraph Act 1901 would not again be infringed - is he satisfied that this undertaking is being faithfully observed, and can he say what is the difference between the postal matter of this firm now being passed through the Commonwealth and its postal matter recently prohibited by the New Zealand authorities in the public interests?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
I am not in possession of any information that would1 indicate that the firm in question is not carrying out its undertaking, nor am I in a position to say what is the difference between the postal matter of such firm now being passed through the Commonwealth, and that recently prohibited by the Postmaster-General of New Zealand.
Debate resumed from 21st November (vide page 6401) on’ motion by Mr.” Mauger -
That the House of Representatives approves the agreement made and entered into the 15th day of November, 1907, between His Majesty’s Postmaster-General in and for the Commonwealth of Australia of the first part, Orient Steam Navigation Company Limited of the second part, and the Law Guarantee and Trust Society Limited of the third part for the carriage of mails and services to be performed as therein provided, a copy of which agreement has been laid upon the table of the House.
Upon which Mr. Thomas had moved by way of amendment -
That all the words after the word “Representatives “ be omitted from the motion with a view to the insertion in place thereof of the words “is of opinion that, in the best interests of the Commonwealth, the Government should purchase and control a fleet of mail steamers capable of maintaining a fortnightly mail service between Australia and’ Great Britain.”
– I do not intend to take many minutes this morning in dealing with this question, although some proposals of importance in connexion with the contract are contained in the amendments which have already been foreshadowed by honorable members, and .deserve serious consideration. We have heard on this occasion no presentment of the case for the Government by the Postmaster-General. He relied upon the statement of important particulars furnished a week ago by the Prime Minister, but he might, with advantage’ to this discussion, have presented to the House some of the salient features of the contract, and made some kind of comparison between the proposed and the present condition of affairs. In the absence of a statement of that kind, which I hope that we may yet obtain from the Minister during the debate, I have to address myself to the matter, although such an. explanation would have saved the time of the House by materially shortening the discussion. However, the Postmaster-General abdicated his functions for the nonce, but there stepped into the breach last night the Australian Henniker Heaton, who furnished us with an admirable discourse on the advantages of nationalizing the mail-boats. I do not intend to deal with his criticism at any length. I shall expect to hear reference made to it in detail by the honorable member for North Sydney, to whom the honorable member for Barrier especially addressed his criticism. There are, however, one or two references which I must make to the honorable member’s speech. In the first place, I should like to congratulate the members of the Corner Party upon their increasing frankness and candour with regard to their objects and their general aims. ‘ It is something to be thankful for that we have left behind the old days of Watsonian dialectics, and have emerged into ‘the region of candour and frankness, such as found expression, in the speech of the honorable > member for Wide Bay. Some honorable members in the Corner now make no secret of their intentions and objects. Thev say straight out that they believe in Socialism - complete Socialism. They believe in the nationalization of all the means of production, distribution, and exchange. They make no secret of that.
– Has the honorable member for Wide Bay said that? I do not suppose that he requires words to be put into his mouth by the honorable member.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay was much more explicit on Tuesday than we have ever been able to get the honorable member who interjects to be in this House.
– I think that that is hardly a fair reply to the question.
– What question?
– The question as to whether the honorable member for Wide Bay said what the honorable member attributed to him.
– He said that he was glad to hear the serious objection of the honorable member for Flinders, but that he was not afraid of the question - that of nationalization.
– “ And so say all of us” !
– He said-
Whether it be popular or not, it would be cowardly for the man who believes that nationalization is a proper principle not to express his views in this House. We have too long shrunk from maintaining propositions which we clearly believe in - far too long.
– Hear, hear.
– The honorable member says “ Hear, hear “ to that.
– Yes, but that is not what the honorable member attributed to the honorable member for Wide Bay.
– It struck me that the statement which I quoted was rather a serious criticism upon the honorable member’s tactics.
– That does not justify the statement made by the honorable member a few moments ago.
– I do not wish to go into particulars. If I did, I should simply quote the honorable member’s manifesto issued before the last election, which I have by me, and which puts the matter very clearly.
– Oh yes, but that does not justify the honorable member’s remark to which I have just called attention.
– There is, at all events, not the slightest difficulty in proving what I have said with regard to the honorable member for Barrier. He will not deny it. I therefore say again that this frankness on the part of the honorable members in the Corner is to be welcomed. I presume that it is to be regarded as the precursor of what they call an onward movement - a new departure in the direction of the nationalization of industries. We were treated last night to a1 proposal which apparently stood by itself. But it cannot be considered by itself, I venture to submit. The honorable member for Barrier told us of some criticism to which he had been subjected in a railway carriage on the part of a gentleman of large commercial experience, who said that the nationalization of certain functions might be a very proper thing, but that that was only a piecemeal way of getting to the complete nationalization of all commerce, trade, and industry. I submit that that was a fair criticism to make upon any of these proposals, and I will show why. Honorable members in the comer profess to be Fabian Socialists. They profess to desire to proceed one step at a time towards the completion of their aims. I venture to say, however, that they misrepresent the Fabian idea altogether in the various proposals which they make regarding their aims and objects. They do not seek to accomplish one step at a time. They seek to accomplish many steps at the same time. While they attack this question of nationalization in detail they commence their attack in a very complete and effective way. In this House on two consecutive nights we have been discussing -the question of the nationalization of the iron mines and the iron production of the Commonwealth ; and the nationalization of steam-ships. A night or two before, the honorable member for Cook suggested that we might very well nationalize the coal supplies of the Commonwealth. Again my honorable friend, the member for Kalgoorlie, suggested that we might very well nationalize the tobacco production of the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Herbert suggests that we might very well do the same with the production of sugar. And so on all round.
– He did not say “ the production of sugar,” but “ the refining of sugar.”
– I think so.
– That is very different. There is a monopoly in existence in reference to refining.
– I do not think that the honorable member for Herbert would make that distinction, if he were here. So that we get honorable members attacking industries that are being carried on under our present system from every point of the compass. They do not, therefore, propose to deal with one subject at a time, but with every aspect of our industrial life, attacking it from every quarter in a piecemeal way. It reminds me of a question which was once put to a little boy in school. He was asked how many two and two made. Instead of replying “ Four” in the orthodox way, he said that two and two made “ Twenty-two.” He meant that if you put the figures two and two side by side they represent twentytwo, not four.
– He was quite right, wasn’t he?
– Precisely ; and it is equally correct to say that when we put these socialistic propositions side by side they do not amount to the Fabian two and two - steps at a time - but they mean the whole twenty-two of Socialism.
– They mean the nationalization of monopolies. That is the . policy upon which we went to the country.
– Monopolies? I want the honorable member to tell us how it is possible to have monopolization on the sea.
– The honorable member is forgetting his latter-day economics if he does not see that that is possible. There can easily be a monopoly there.
– I say that no ring under heaven can monopolize the ocean waves.
– They have done it in Australia for ten years past.
– I do not think so.
– In connexion with the Inter-State coastal trade.
– It would be possibly only to a very limited extent. The ocean is always open, and it is at any time possible to break down such a ring by the investment of capital in opposition to it. Therefore there is no possibility of shutting up any of our water-ways beyond the pale of possible commercial competition. There cannot be a monopoly on the ocean.
– It is not commercial competition to which we object, but combination for exploitation purposes.
– Does not the honorable member believe in combination ?
– I am against combination for exploitation purposes.
– A very convenient phrase, Mr. Speaker ; I have no objection to it ; I am just as strongly opposed to combines for exploitation purposes as the honorable member is. I am not, however, in favour of escaping from a private exploitation into a Government exploitation, from a private monopoly into a Government monopoly, which, I believe, would be more binding and give us a more inefficient and unproductive service, than that which we now receive. We are not to consider by itself the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Barrier; it must be considered as part and parcel of the very complete proposals which the Labour Party make - in many quarters and at many times, it is true, but none the less effectively. I listened last night, with the greatest possible interest, to the speech delivered by the honorable member for Barrier, who” is always interesting, even when he is not convincing. Last night he was far from convincing, except in those parts of his speech in which he sailed away into the sentimental atmosphere, and nearly induced me to say “ Almost thou persuadest me to be a Socialist.” When we proceed to consider the details of his proposal, and apply to them the process of cool reason, we have to hark back from the sentimental arena to the region of facts, and come face to face once more with that ugly thing called human nature, which obtrudes itself into all our schemes and makes for us the complexities and problems with which we have to deal. I am not going into details, for I think it is too late in the session to treat this amendment with great seriousness. I very much doubt whether the honorable member submitted it with any serious purpose in view, but he could not permit the occasion to pass without making the speech that he did. I make no complaint. It would have been strange, indeed, had he allowed the opportunity to pass without making one more stroke in pursuit of the objective which he has so long had in view, and has pursued so persistently and consistently. I could not help being struck by one or two of his illustrations, and also by the illustrations furnished on the previous day by the leader of the party to which he belongs. The honorable member, for instance, has told us that the hard-headed commercial men of England besought the Government of Great Britain to nationalize the telegraphs. What analogy is there between telegraphs and steam-ships? We do not periodically call for tenders for telegraph services; we do not ask people to compete for the telegraphic services of the Commonwealth. No country thinks of taking such a step, and one has only to view the -suggestion from that stand-point to recognise, that there is no analogy.
– If we owned a line of mail steamers, we should not. call for tenders for this service.
– No; but whereas the ocean is wide, and we could obtain forty or a hundred lines of steamers to ply between Australia and England, we could not get one hundred railways compering over a similar stretch of country.
– That is a mere theory; the facts are against the honorable member.
– I think the facts are against the honorable member’s interjection. I cannot conceive of any one building three or four trunk lines of railway where there is now only one main trunk piercing the country. Besides, no railway could be built unless a concession had first been made for the purpose by the Government. Clearly, therefore, a telegraph service, in its very nature, is monopolistic, and should be controlled by the Government. But that is not the position- in regard to a steam-ship service. We have an abundance of steam-ship communications with various parts of the world. The Government proposal now before us is the result of inviting tenders from competing firms’ and companies’ for the cheapest, best and most efficient line of communication that it is possible for the competition of the world to provide. The honorable member for Barrier went on to inquire why the former contract had not been fulfilled. Surely he knew.
– But we ought to have had an official statement on the subject from the Postmaster-General.
– The honorable member would not expect the Ministry to make a very pronounced and official statement with regard to the matter.
– What would have been gained by my making a useless statement?
– Then, ‘ according to the honorable member, a Ministerial explanation of an important contract involving an annual expenditure of £170,000 would be a useless statement? I congratulate- him upon his view of public affairs. If these matters are in their very nature useless, then what is the position of the Minister who has to deal with them? I should think that the Minister holds office for the very purpose of making these matters clear to the public of Australia. I propose to tell the honorable member for Barrier why the Laing contract came to nothing. The honorable member asked why it did not succeed. In. the first place, there was no capital - no genuine company - behind it. All the evidence shows that an option was given by a responsible Government to a private syndicate in order that it might be exploited in the money markets of the world.
– All that was behind it was a “ Croker.”
– There was too much “Croker” and broker, and too little genuine capital associated with the contract. It did not succeed because if was never a genuine proposal for the carriage of our mails.
– The honorable member knows all this, and yet he wished me to tell him about it !
– I do not know that I desire the honorable member to tell me anything unless he chooses to do so. I was very much interested last evening in the proposals of the honorable member for making a socialistic line of mail steamers pay. It was interesting to hear him describe how he would make the undertaking remunerative if he were manager of a Commonwealth line of steamers.
– Would he make honorable members pav ?
– No; but he would make the Government pay, irrespective of whether they liked it or not. In the first place he proposed to commandeer all the freights of the States Governments.
– f did not use the word “commandeer.” I said that we should have first call upon State freights.
– There is a little distinction between the two things, but the idea at the back of both is the same. The honorable member said that the States would make their servants travel by this Hae of steamers.
– Just as they make them travel upon our railways.
– The honorable member also declared that, behind this enterprise, there would be a sentiment, which would operate commercially towards the profitable working of the line. May I suggest that he had better leave questions of sentiment out of the consideration of his project, if he is to succeed.
– What about preferential trade?
– There is little place for sentiment in , the running of a line of steam-ships. As I understood the honorable member’s reference to the sentimental aspect of this question, he meant to convey the idea that sentiment in this connexion would lead to favorable economic results. May I point out to him that in connexion with the question of preferential trade, sentiment is only to be found in the desire of various parts of the Empire to make sacrifices for the purpose of building up that Empire. Thus they would pay for their sentiment in hard cash if need be, certainly in self-sacrifice in relation to the whole of our life. But the honorable member says that sentiment would lead to commercially profitable business in connexion with a socialistic line of steam-ships. I take leave to doubt his statement in every way. He also spoke of the compulsion which was put upon private individuals, and which prevented them from giving him the evidence that he sought during the investigations of the Shipping Service Commission, of which he was Chairman. I wonder if the great outside world is the only place where this fear exists, where this dread of publicity obtains, and where persons are afraid to give evidence upon matters of which they have an intimate knowledge, because of the consequences which may ensue? Is not that a difficulty with which we are constantly faced in connexion with our own Public Service? Why nobody complains of it more than do my honorable friends in the Labour corner. They are constantly waging a waT in favour of more and more privileges of a civil character (being ‘extended to State employes.
– Not privileges, but a recognition of rights.
– They mean the same thing.
– Not always.
– Honorable members of the Labour Party are constantly urging that civil servants should have the right to make their complaints and wishes known in a public way if they so desire. But that is the very thing of which the honorable member for Barrier complains in connexion with the outside world.
– But the customers -of a combine are not its servants. The customers of our railways are at liberty to criticise.
– That is not the analogy. The officers of our own Public Service may not publicly criticise that service, which is the point that has been raised by the honorable member for Barrier in connexion with the difficulty of securing outside evidence.
– I do not think that the honorable member is quite fair. Still, it does not matter.
– I hope that I am not doing the honorable member an injustice.
– Not wittingly.
– The honorable member put the case as to the dreadful results of capitalism in . his own way. He stated that the present system prevented persons from being free agents - that they were not allowed to tender evidence which they would have tendered but for the fear of the consequences. Precisely a similar condition of affairs prevails to-day in the Public Service of the Commonwealth. The complaint is constantly being made that sweating continues in our public Departments because our public servants are not permitted to make their wishes known in the public way they would like. What is the reason that my honorable friends of the Labour corner voice their complaints ? The public servants of the Commonwealth are absolutely forbidden by Statute to make their complaints known to anybody except through an official channel. In that respect they are worse off than are outside persons.
– They are not worse off than are the servants of a combine.
– In that particular respect they are no better off.
– They have an Appeal Board, and public recognition of their rights.
– They have all these things within their own service. They are forbidden to go outside the service and to come to this Parliament for redress of their grievances. Therefore, this fear of consequences is not peculiar to outside capitalists, but relates equally to our Public Service. Last night the honorable member for Barrier impliedly told the House that to make his scheme a success we should have to apply the same compulsion in regard to a man’s freedom, and in regard to the freighting of ships in general, that is applied by outside companies. In other words, he rested his whole case upon a system of compulsion which, in my judgment, would grow into an intolerable tyranny. That is one of my strongest objections to the theory which honorable members opposite are constantly enunciating. I can see no escape from a grinding tyranny when this project had worked itself out through all the ramifications of our commercial life. Then the honorable member gave one more instance of . the failure of private enterprise. He alluded to the rotten jam which was sent to South Africa during the Boer War, to the “ cronk “ horses upon which men rode to their deaths, and to the generally defective condition of the supplies to the army. May I remind him that everything in the shape of supplies is supposed to pass the most rigid inspection of Government officials?
– If private ienterprise sent out such defective supplies, notwithstanding Government inspection, what would it have done in the absence of such inspection ?
– Does not the honorable member see that the same inadequate Government inspection which permitted private capitalists to do that sort of thing would not prevent them from doing it within their own particular sphere?
– That is a reflection on Government officials.
– It is no reflection; it is a general admission of the limitation of the capabilities of human beings, in relation to the ordinary work of life in any sphere.
– It is a general statement of incompetence on the part of Government officials.
– So far as the war is concerned, it is a reflection on
Government inspection. If further proof be required, let honorable members read of the scandals which arose in the Old Country in regard to the general conduct of the war.
– That was because of private enterprise.
– The honorable member cannot say that, because we are face to face with Government Departments, which completely broke down in the exercise of their very first function. The whole history of the war shows what is possible in the way of inefficiency, incapacity, and muddle by a Government Department. I am not urging that, because of these facts, we should surrender the control of them to the private capitalist.
– To be logical that should follow.
– Not at all. At present I am endeavouring to show that Government Departments can match in incompetency and ineffectiveness the organizations of private enterprise; to that extent only, do I wish to push the argument. In a word, I contend that in nationalization projects, we have the same human nature and the same liability to incompetency and error as are found associated with private enterprise. The competition of the world insures more attention, in the case of private enterprise, than we should find if all the industries of the world were under the agencies and control of Governments.
– The facts are against the honorable member.
– I do not agree with the honorable member as to that. I am. glad the honorable member used the South African war as an illustration, because it enables me to point to a gross case of incompetency and inefficiency under Government control. I do not propose to deal with the honorable member’s remarks as to the mail route - that I leave to the honorable member for North Sydney, who was specially addressed last night on this point.
– Does the honorable member think that it is wise to bind ourselves up to 1920.
– My general view of the contract is that, on the whole, it is a good arrangement for Australia. Of course, it means a large increase in cost, but Iremind honorable members that there is also an increase in cost on the other side. We are to have a much better service at a higher price; and what this better service means in cost to the other side, is, I think, very easily ascertainable. I understand that an ordinary mail boat, such as those in use to-day, costs, roughly speaking, about £150,000 to build.
– More than that, surely !
– I am speaking of the boats which are now doing service; and I am assured that, for the most part, their average cost is £150,000.
– Is that all?
– I except, of course, one or two of the newest boats.
– If the honorable member is correct, then our little scheme for a line of Commonwealth boats will pay handsomely !
– Not at all. I understand that the boats which are to be built under the new contract, will cost about £350,000 each.
– We estimated the cost of a mail boat at £375,000, and we were told that the estimate was too low.
– That is neither here nor there; I am taking the cost at £350,000.
– We accept vour figure.
-I desire to show, by a rough illustration, what the contract will mean to the contractors ; because it is only fair to look at both sides when a proposal of this kind, involving so large an expenditure, is before us. If we place the average cost of the boats at £350,000, it means that the contractors will be involved in an extra expenditure of over £1,500,000; and, that being so, the contract will mean an annual expenditure of at least £150,000 for interest and sinking fund alone.
– The honorable member is ignoring the fact that anv shipping company, in order to retain its ordinary trade, must build new boats. The boats in use are out of date, some of them being over twentyyears old.
– That may be, but I venture to say that if there were no Government contract in view, nothing like the expenditure that will be necessary now would be contemplated.
– A shipping company must either build new boats or drop out of the trade.
– At any rate, our mails are at present carried by boats built at the cost I have indicated, whereas, in future, they will be carried in vessels involving a much larger expenditure. We shall obtain a much quicker service, some fifty-eight hours shorter, than the present one.
– The time saved under the new service will be forty-six hours one wav, and fifty-eight hours the other.
– It will be seen, therefore, that we are to receive a great concession in the matter of speed. I understand that the new service is intended to exactly alternate . with the service of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, so that, in the future, we may rely on regularity, without any of those great gaps which now cause so much business inconvenience. There are one or two other matters in connexion with the contract which require some comment. Paragraph 6 of the Articles of Agreement states -
If before or during the sixth year of the fixed period of ten years mentioned in clause 30 hereof any competing line of mail ships shall then provide an improved and accelerated service viâ the Suez Canal from Europe to Australia the contractors shall if so required by the Postmaster-General at any time after the fifth year provide a service equal to such improved and accelerated service.
What is meant by a competing line of mail ships? There is no competing line.
– Any line doing the jour ney more quickly.
– Are the White Star, Blue Anchor, and Federal-Houlder Shire lines competing lines of mail ships?
– No; but the Peninsular and Oriental Company is.
– There is no competing line of mail ships.
– The Peninsular and Oriental Company is an alternative, not a competing, line.
– It is competing as to time.
– The verbiage is very vague.
– We might say “any other line of mail ships between Australia and Europe.”
– Yes; or we could make the paragraph clear by omitting the words “ competing” and “mail.” It should be as wide as possible in its application. If any line of steam-ships makes the journey more quickly, the subsidized steamers should be brought up to its standard of speed. One of the advantages of mail services - though it is not generally recognised - is the fact that the mail boats set the pace for all other steamers trading here. If there were not subsidized mail boats, compelled to run to time, all the shipping services of Australia would gradually become a little slower than they are to-day. In our isolation and remoteness from the commercial centres of the world, .it is of the utmost importance that our communications should be as speedy as possible. I regard no money as being ill-spent which causes the journey between Australia and England to be quicker, better, and safer. Therefore, I congratulate the Government upon the great advantages which the contract will secure in these respects. There is great difference of opinion as to the meaning of the provision relating to the calling of the steamers at Hobart.
– This is the first contract in which there has been such a provision.
– That doss not matter. The provision in this contract means only that steamers may call at Hobart if they choose.
– Since we are making a new departure, it is all the more important that the matter should be carefully considered. I understand that it has hitherto been the practice for the steamers of this line to call at Hobart five times a year.
– They can go now six times a year, if it pays them ; they can do that apart from the contract.
– The contract provides that they must go six times a year to Hobart, unless they can show that there is no cargo there for them.
– Unless they say that it would be unprofitable to do so.
– They must go six times a year unless they convince the Postmaster-General that to call at Hobart would be unprofitable.
– The PostmasterGeneral may be easily convinced.
– I am not so concerned about that. One of the best features of the paragraph is that it gives the Government some discretion in the matter, and the power of veto. But I take exception to the vagueness of the language used. I wish’ to know what the meaning of the word “unprofitable” is. Does it mean unprofitable absolutely, or less profitable.
– It means the failure of the fruit crop, and the impossibility of getting cargo.
– That meaning cannot be read into the provision.
– That may be an explanation of the intention, but it is not a binding interpretation. The company might be able to nearly fill its vessels at the mainland ports, so as to have such a’ small amount of available space left that it would cost more to go to Hobart than the freights to be got there would be worth. Or they might be able to fill up wholly at the mainland ports, in which case the sending of a full ship to Hobart, where no freight could be taken, would be distinctly unprofitable. How would the PostmasterGeneral act in either of those cases? The provision seems to be as vague as possible. The contract takes away an advantage which the people of Tasmania now possess, in being able to bargain with this steamship company. Since we deprive them of that privilege, we should make it clear that we are not subjecting them to any disability. Tasmania, like every other State, should be a little better off by the acceptance of this contract.
– It is all a question of payment
– The matter becomes serious when, by the use of vague terms, there is a possibility of Hobart being left in the lurch. We might eliminate the provision.
– If that is done the contract will be destroyed, because they will not give us anything more.
– I cannot believe that the company would surrender the contract because of this one provision.
– Let them go, and we will do the work ourselves.
– I do not wish to do that ; but I desire to bring about what is fair. To my mind a difficulty would be got over by inserting after the word “ un-. profitable” the words “ by reason of insufficient cargo,” or some similar definition. The contract also provides that there should be no differentiation of any kind with respect to freights in various parts of Australia. There is a differentiation today which I think is reasonable. Why should not a port which provides special facilities get lower rates than a less convenient port? It may be that the steamers would make more profit from a low freight from one ,port than from a high freight from another. So long as each port gets fair rates, in view of all the local circumstances, the broad claims of justice will be met. I do not see why ‘we should begin by socialising the geographical advantages of the ports of Australia, as the contract undoubtedly does. I should like to know from the Postmaster-General why this clause has been inserted. There are other matters about which I desired to speak, but I do not wish to weary the House. These defects in verbiage notwithstanding, the contract is, in my judgment, an advantageous one for the Commonwealth as a whole, and I hope that there may be no mishap to prevent its fulfilment. I believe the result to our trade and commerce and to the whole business community of the Commonwealth will be well worth the expenditure.
.- I do not propose to discuss at length either the motion, or the amendment which was submitted last night in a very able speech by the honorable member for Barrier. The deputy leader of the Opposition has said more than once this morning that he begrudges no reasonable payment of public money to a steam-ship company to provide for an accelerated mail service between Australia and the great centres of the world. I agree with that as a general proposition, but would point out that there is a limit beyond which we ought not to be asked to go in subsidizing private companies. That limit, to my mind, has been reached in this case. I was somewhat surprised by the interjection of the PostmasterGeneral that the slightest amendment of the terms of the contract would put an end to it.
– 3 did not mean to suggest that a minor amendment would have that effect. What I desired to impress upon honorable members was that, as far as we can see, we have secured all the privileges and advantages that could be obtained for the expenditure that we propose.
– The party which is in the hands of the other to an agreement is always assured that a limit has been reached to the concessions that can be given under it. But if no amendment can be made in this contract why has it been submitted to Parliament?
– The Government take a stand upon it.
– Does the right honorable member urge that the Government should not be prepared to accept from Parliament even a suggestion as to a direction in which the proposed contract might be improved? Such a proposition would be ridiculous. If the Government bring before the House a contract for its consideration, they should not take a stand upon it.
– Their position in regard to a contract of this kind is very - much the same as is their position in regard to the Estimates. They know that they have a majority, and can carry it.
– Of course; but an agreement of this kind, if signed by the Executive, would at once become a binding contract, irrespective of whether or not it had been brought before Parliament.
– The contract contains a special proviso that it shall be submitted to the Parliament.
– And therefore a proviso for its review by Parliament.
– I think that proviso was inserted in order that both the parties to the agreement should have an opportunity to learn exactly where they stood. When the Prime Minister was explaining the provisions of the contract I inquired whether it was possible to amend it, and he replied that it was undesirable that it should be amended, although, as the representatives of the company were in Australia, he did not think that, if an improvement could be suggested, an amendment would be impossible. To my mind the weakest feature of the contract is to be found in the provision regarding the calling of the mail steamers at Hobart. I agree with the honorable member for Parramatta that the clause in question is very loosely worded. It may mean anything or nothing.
– It makes the position of Tasmania worse than it was.
– But Tasmania has never been recognised in previous contracts.
– That is not a sufficient defence to the charge that the Government have failed to make proper arrangement for Hobart being a port of call for these steamers.
– I did not urge that it was. .
– I desire nothing to be passed by this Parliament merely as a compliment to any State. We are not here ‘ to do anything of the kind. Any legislation that we pass must be in accordance with a general policy, and intended not as a compliment, but to do justice to a State. If it be true, as the PostmasterGeneral has said, that sub-clause 8 of clause 9 was inserted to safeguard the company in the event of the failure of the fruit crop in Tasmania, then I can only say that it has been very loosely drafted. lt is altogether too vague. It provides that -
In each and every year during the continuance of this agreement the contractors shall cause at least six of the mail ships to proceed to and call at Hobart, in Tasmania, during the months of February to May inclusive. Provided always that if in any year the contractors shall grove to the satisfaction of the Postmaster-General that calls at Hobart during that year are or would be unprofitable the Postmaster-General may direct that the whole or any of such calls for that year may be omitted.
The strength of the company’s position under that provision is that if it were able to prove that, by reason of insufficient cargoes being available, calls at Hobart would be unprofitable, the PostmasterGeneral, as a straightforward, honest man, would feel constrained to direct that such calls need not be made. I do not think that it is advisable for the sake of a few hundred pounds to make such a concession. Another objection to the clause is that it leaves too much to administration. I think in a closely-drawn contract such as this it would be better to prescribe the number of calls to be made than to leave the position so uncertain as it is. I am prepared, and always have been, to vote that Tasmania should enjoy the same service as is granted to the remaining States of Australia. I know of no other just way of dealing with the matter. It will be said, no doubt, that this contract does something for Queensland which was not done before. My contention always has been that it is wrong to omit any of the States from the provisions of such a contract as this. I know that a number of members of the Opposition resisted the provision in the last mail contract that Brisbane should be made a port of call.
– The honorable member at all events spoke strongly against it.
– And I intend to-day to say something about the matter.
– I hold that we cannot logically refuse to allow Queensland or Tasmania to participate in the advantages of a contract under which the service is to consist of something more than the carriage of mails. I have no desire to reflect on the representatives of any State, but I am satisfied that no mail contract would be ratified by this House if under it the mail steamers could make Adelaide the terminal point. Obviously, the vessels of this service would call at Melbourne and Sydney, since those are the two greatest shipping centres in the Commonwealth.
– We could not prevent their calling at any other port.
– The honorable member will admit that this is something more than a mail contract.
– I admit that there is a difference between this and the old one.
– But even the previous contract provided for something more than a mail service. I do not wish to labour that phase of the question, but may say, in passing, that I am pleased that the contract provides for Brisbane and Hobart being ports of call; Queensland naturally felt hurt when she learned that, under the last contract, Brisbane was ignored. The Government is now taking up an untenable position in asking Queensland to continue to pay to the Orient Steam Navigation Company, until the new agreement comes into operation, two years hence, the subsidy required for making Brisbane a port of call. I hold that, having decided that the old position was an anomaly, Queensland should not be called upon to make such a payment. We should proceed at once to carry out the new policy. As regards the amendment, I admit at once that, having regard to the present state of the House, we have no hope of carrying it.
– The Labour Party, had they really meant business, could have carried it in the Senate.
– If the honorable member thinks that we do not mean business, he misunderstands our position.
– If the Labour Party meant business, it could have carried such an amendment in another place.
– It would be useless to carry such an amendment in the Senate unless we knew that we could also carry it in this House. Unless we could convince the dominant financial House of the wisdom of the amendment we could not hope to have effect given to it; but it would be entirely wrong to say that we were afraid to raise the question in another place. In more than one excellent speech, the honorable member for Barrier has put the question before honorable members far more effectively than I could hope to do. As he has said, his scheme may not be realized for some years,but I am satisfied that it will ultimately be adopted by the Federal Parliament.
– If we accept this tender, it will be useless for the Labour Party to endeavour, for another twelve years, to endeavour to carry such a proposal.
– We have no option. I hope that the honorable member for Dalley will support the amendment. On the last occasion on which such a proposition was submitted, the Labour Party practically stood alone, the honorable ‘member for Riverina alone joining with them in support of it. In that way we have been the politicalpioneers in this movement. It would be a bad thing for a democratic country to be without political pioneers. It would be a bad thing for any country to be without men who will argue in Parliament in favour of an unpopular project, with a view ultimately to educating public opinion up to a proper standard.I am inclined to think that the . Orient Steam Navigation Company have made an excellent bargain in the present instance. I think that the subsidy which is to be paid to them is a very high one indeed. Whenever the patriotic cry has been raised, I have almost invariably found that there was attached to it a subsidy of some kind. It is a question of subsidy, subsidy, subsidy. Whilst I admit all that has been said regarding the advantage which Australia will receive by reason of the ships flying the Australian flag, of their observance of Australian conditions by the employment of white seamen, and by the payment of Australian rates of wages, I think that a compliment has been paid by the Government to the company in the shape of hard cash. I think that the company have obtained a quid pro quo for everything which they have given. I do not wish my remarks in this connexion to be misunderstood. I entertain no feeling against the Orient Steam Navigation Company. I think that they have rendered good service to Australia as a carrying company, and I wish them every success. I would rather see that company successful in this undertakingthan any other company that I know of. But I do not think for a moment that the speed of the new vessels stipulated for in the contract is an exceptionally high one, when we take into consideration the duration of the contract. If there be a fault in the agreement, it is that it will extend over twelve years, because although the new contract itself covers only ten years, there is an interval of two years before its commencement, which has to be bridged.
– Does not the contract contain a proviso which permits of improvements being introduced during its tenure ?
– But that provision is very vague. When the honorable member has had some experience of these matters he will learn that such vague provisions are simply inserted in the contract for spectacular effect. If the Orient Steam Navigation Company find that it is to their advantage to increase the speed of the vessels, and the Postmaster-General desires it, they will increase it But if they find good reason to ‘dawdle along there will be no difficulty in the way of them doing so. That is my opinion of the drafting of the contract in that respect. Need I remind honorable members that only twenty-seven years have elapsed since the late Sir William Pearce, who was one of the foremost naval architects of his time, predicted that early in this century ships 800 feet in length would be traversing the Atlantic from port to port in less than five days. His statement was received with ridicule. But, nevertheless, we know that to-day ships are plying the Atlantic from port to port in well under five days, although they are not 800 feet in length.
– They are.
– The Lusitania is 796 feet long.
– But some steamers belonging to the White Star Line are well over 800 feet in length.
– Less than thirty years ago the statement made by the eminent naval architect to whom I have alluded was a source of merriment. Whilst I admit that it will probably be found impossible to double the rate of speed of vessels during the next thirty years, I should not like to say that an invention will not be introduced which will enable ships to attain a considerably accelerated speed.
– We shall have air-ships by then.
– At the present time there are many eminent scientists endeavouring to obtain the fullest power out of the combustion of coal. Under existing, conditions we secure only a modicum of that power. Should they succeed in getting from coal four or five times the heating power at present obtained from it, they might easily double the speed of vessels without seriously adding to the cost of running them. What an enormous advantage that would be to a country like Australia, isolated as it is from the great bodies of people who wish to have intercourse with us, and to exchange goods with us. If such a state of things were brought about, we should occupy a very happy position, and the Government would undoubtedly appeal to the company to which we were paying a subsidy to bring their ships up to date. Of course, we all hope that the same rate of progress which has characterized mechanical science in the past will continue. If it does, we shall have reason to congratulate ourselves. I think that the Government, having decided to include the whole of the Commonwealth in this new mail contract, should also see that no State is asked to pay a special subsidy to the mail steamers for calling at its chief port. Concerning the practicability of the Commonwealth successfully conducting a line of steamers of its own for the purpose of carrying produce and passengers between Australia and other parts of the world,I have no doubt whatever. I wish to set aside at once the mistaken idea which is entertained outside - an idea which has been propagated by honorable members opposite - that the Labour Party seek to introduce a white ocean policy. All that we have ever claimed is that if we pay a subsidy to any line of ships, we have a right to prescribe the class of labour which should be employed upon them. If these vessels want our money, they may have it subject to that condition; but if they do not want it, they may carry out their own conditions. That is a very different matter from having a white ocean policy.
– The members of the Labour Party travel by vessels which employ coloured labour.
– Why should not we do so? Does the right honorable member suggest that I should not associate with a coloured man because I do not desire to have him in my home?
SirJohn Forrest. - My point is that we send our goods by vessels which employ coloured labour.
– I treat a coloured man just as I would treat any other. In this connexion I am reminded of a celebrated individual in America who in the north during the excitement of rebellion lifted his hat to a coloured man, and was upbraided for so doing. His reply was that he would not be outdone in courtesy by any man.
– We send our goods by steamers carrying black labour, and yet the party to which the honorable member belongs draws the line at the carriage of mails by such vessels.
– The honorable member seems exceedingly dense.
– That is bluster. I am not more dense than is the honorable member.
– I will withdraw the word “dense,” and say that the honorable member does not exhibit his usual aptitude in grasping my statement. What I said was that the Labour Party had never claimed that we should have a white ocean policy. All that we claim is that if we pay. a subsidy to a certain line of steamers, we have a right to say under what conditions it shall be paid.
– A man who sends freight by any vessel pays a subsidy.
– The members of the party which I have the honour to lead have two things to guard against. We are the political pioneers in these matters, and we are subjected to more . misrepresentation than, is any other party. Moreover, it is misrepresentation of a kind that we cannot catch up to. It is just as well, therefore, that our position should be clearly stated, so that every honest man who wishes to do justice to a political opponent will know exactly what it is. We say that white labour should be employed only under certain conditions.
– We pay poundage charges to vessels upon which coloured labour’ is.employed.
– Under the Postal Union Convention we have no power to do anything else. Are we not a party to that Convention? It is astonishing to me that the honorable member for Swan, who has been a Minister of the Crown, should not know the facts. The civilized nations of the world have, agreed to certain combined action in order to accelerate the transmission of mails ; and that is quite apart from the payment of any subsidy. But the honorable member for Swan does not seem able to comprehend these simple matters this morning.
– The truth is that the honorable member for Wide Bay is “on a bad wicket.”
– I am afraid that it is labour in vain to endeavour to enlighten the honorable member.
SirJohn Forrest. - The honorable member and his party change their ground so often that we do not know where they are.
– I accept that challenge, and nsk the honorable member to show when or where we have changed our ground on a question of principle. Our policy, part of which is embodied in the amendment of the honorable member for Barrier, is published to the world - we have nothing to conceal. There is every opportunity for successful attack if we change our principles. The fact is that we are criticised and opposed, not because we change our principles, but because we are convincing the people as to the truth of our principles.
– I find it almost impossible to follow the honorable member, owing to the numerous conversations which are being carried on, and to the frequent interjections. I must ask honorable members to observe the ordinary rules of debate.
– In my opinion, many great advantages would follow from the establishment of a Commonwealth line of mail steamers. The proposed mail contract, excellent as it is in the way of providing cool storage, and for the calling of the mail steamers at all the principal ports from Fremantle to Brisbane, will not accomplish all that could be accomplished by a Commonwealth line of steamers. If it be our object, by means of a mail subsidy, to assist the primary producers, then the contract goes too far, or does not go far enough. It is not sufficient that the steamers should call at the principal ports. One might imagine that the larger centres of population would be well able to look after themselves in this connexion, and that our attention and assistance would be devoted to smaller centres which are more difficult of access. That assistance is withheld, not because the claims are not just, but because the political influence exercised by such places is not equal to moving Parliament. Under a Commonwealth line of steamers there might be subsidiary lines to convey produce from small ports to the large ports.
– Is not that done now?
– That may- be, but producers at the smaller ports have in the past been seriously penalized. Under such a scheme as I have indicated, the cost to the producers would be reduced, and the protection of the produce would be assured. The small producers would be able to consign their goods practically from their farm. The Commonwealth has control of the Customs and the Post Office; and there are officials of hoth Departments in every port and every little village. It would be possible to post up at everypostoffice each day, or, at least, each week, the ruling prices of goods in the various parts of the world, and the consignments could be sent on with the aid of the Government officials, thus saving the high commission charges which are at present made.
– What an army of public servants would be required.
– That is an old cry. If a public servant is doing more efficiently work usually done by private individuals, what harm is there?
– There is a big “if.”
– In every reform there Is a big “if.” We have heard the honorable member for Flinders say that rates on State-owned railways are 20 per cent. cheaper than they are on privately-owned lines ; and if we extend the principle we shall greatlv help those people whohave to make their living on the land. We know how producers are overcharged by commission agents, and how very often it is uncertain whether there will be any return. If Government officials do not carry out their duties properly, complaint is made in this House immediately, and injustice can be remedied. A Commonwealth line of steamers is not only possible, but would be profitable and beneficial, more especially to those who toil on the land. I have often expressed these ideals both in this House and outside.
– Why do not the Government officials do that work now ? There is nothing to prevent them.
– Government officials are doing that work in a lesser degree, and I am glad to say they are doing it very well - better than in any other country in the world. The railways in Australia are safer and better in every respect than privatelyowned railways elsewhere; and we ought to be proud of the fact, which only bears out my contention that State control is better than private control. I hope the time is not far distant when the Commonwealth will undertake to furnish everybody in the community with information regarding trade and commerce, and will do everything possible to assist in the transportation of produce, with a view to reducing the present commission charges.
– I intend to be as brief as possible, because at this stage of the session we cannot discuss any question so lengthily as we would at another time. My principal reason for rising is to reply to some remarks made by the honorable member for Barrier last night when he submitted his amendment. I cannot complain of the honorable member’s criticism of myself; in fact, I think he gave me undue credit. I can only say that if there was any merit in the speech in which I replied to the honorable member on a previous occasion, it was due to the strength of his own address, on the good tone of which I can also congratulate him. I shall not press the line of compliment further, or we may deteriorate into a mutual admiration society. If I understood the honorable member aright - I may perhaps have been mistaken, because my attention was distracted a little at the time - his later speech, while it had all the ability of his previous speech to which I have referred, was certainly not so desirable in its tone. I understood the honorable member to say that capitalism has been guilty of every crime in the Decalogue - that it is heartless, treacherous, deceitful, and so forth. Perhaps the honorable member was quoting somebody else ; but I understood him to say that Chambers of Commerce would sell Jesus Christ for thirty pieces of silver.
– I said that Chambers of Commerce would crucify Christ for thirty pieces of silver,
– The honorable member for Wide Bay objects to the criticism that has been directed to the members of his party, whom he described as misrepresented pioneers. He objects to the criticism directed against them as Socialists - to the charge that they are in favour of laxity of the marriage tie, against religion, and in favour of depriving parents of the custody of their own children. To that criticism the honorable member objects, and he rightly objects so long as these ideas are nor advocated by his party. But is it right for them, although objecting to the criticism of opponents as dishonorable and unfair who refer to the views of some Socialists as the opinions of all, to overlook all that is good that is associated with capitalism, and picking out instances of evil, to declare that these exceptional cases apply to all Chambers of Commerce and to capitalism. Those associated with Chambers of Commerce and capitalists have as much right to object to criticism such as we have heard as have the Socialists in this House to object to being criticised because of views held by other Socialists which they do not themselves accept. The criticism of which I am complaining is cheap and easy, but it. is unworthy of any honorable member. There are evils connected with capitalism, and there are undesirable persons connected with Chambers of Commerce; but if those persons are no tetter, they are no worse than the people with whom the honorable member associates, and whom he represents.
– That is fair.
– It is not right to use particular instances as if they were of general application. Coming to the amendment, I shall not occupy rauch time in dealing with the financial question which it raises, because the honorable member for Barrier did not deal with it at length. He was right in saying that when I criticised his proposals on a former occasion there was a great difference between my results and those at which he had arrived. He has acknowledged, however, that I did not take the extreme figures put forward by steamship owners. The Orient Company claimed that on each round trip the extra expense of running the larger boats is£10,000. I took only half of that amount, but I showed a considerable loss where the honorable member for Barrier showed a profit. The Commission of which he was chairman obtained from Mr. Coghlan a price for steamers of the class which they recommended - £375,000 each. But I pointed out that that is what one of those vessels would cost delivered from the builder’s hands, and that there would still be the furnishings to pay for. The providing of linen, cutlery, plate, bedding, and other furnishings for a big steamer costs probably , £25,000. Therefore, I put the cost of each vessel at £400,000, and the rate at which the Commonwealth could borrow at 3½ per cent., instead of at 3 per cent., which was the estimate of the honorable member. I also argued that nine boats would be required to provide a regular service. I do not mean that it would be absolutely necessary for the Government to own nine vessels ; but provision would have to be made for the occasional chartering of a ninth to prevent interruption to the service from break-downs, or docking for large repairs. As a matter Of fact, there are nine vessels now in the Australian sailing lists of the Orient and Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Companies. However, in one of my . calculations I allowed for eight boats only, and, accepting theestimate of cost furnished by Mr. Coghlan - £375,000 - showed that there would be a loss of £336.000. Of course, there must be differences of opinion as to the correctness of that result. I cannot claim infallibility, any more than the honorable member can. But as he has not pone into the matter again to substantiate his estimates, I shall not do so. He asks how is it, if such a loss would be incurred, that a private company, which must make profits, is willing to enter into the proposed contract, and to provide vessels similar to those suggested for the Commonwealth fleet. My first answer to the honorable member is that I am not concerned whether the Orient Steam Navigation Company loses money or not, but that it is my duty to see that the Commonwealth does not lose money. In the second place, the circumstances now are different from what they were when the calculation was made. The cost of metal has declined considerably, so that the cost of building steamers is probably lower than it was. Then freights have been increased. Under this contract the butter freight will be £1: 3s. 6d. per ton higher than it was, and other freights have risen because the extreme cutting of freights to and from the East has practically ceased. Then passage rates have increased by 10 per cent.
– And the subsidy has increased.
– The proposed subsidy is , £20,000 more than was calculated for by the honorable member for Barrier. He put it at £150,000, making Brisbane a port of call; but it is to be £170,000. Therefore, my estimate may have beensubstanially correct, and yet under present conditions the company may be able to make a profit.
– Might not a Commonwealth service also be able to make a profit now?
– A Commonwealth service would have a better chance of making ends meet now than existed previously ; but a Government line of steamers which had to compete with other lines would not be likely to do nearly as well as a line privately owned and managed by experienced directors. I could give my reason for that statement, but, as time is pressing, I shall not do so. I admit that when a franchise or a practical monopoly is concerned, the question must always arise, is it better to give it to private persons or to allow the Government to exercise it? But in this case there is no monopoly. As the honorable member for Parramatta has pointed out, the sea is not like the earth, on which you put down two lines of rails or under which you place a line of pipes. It provides facilities for any amount of competition.
– Is there not something in the argument that a subsidized mail company is removed from ordinary competition ?
– It must, in the first instance, compete with other companies to obtain the subsidy, and after it is subsidized, it must compete with other lines for passengers and freight.
– How many companies were in a position to tender for this contract?
– Besides the mail companies, some of the biggest shipping companies in the world run steamers to Australia, and they were in a position to tender. So, too, were other British companies.
– The fact that they did not tender shows that they were not in a position to do so
-The fact that other tenders were above that of the Orient Company, and that some lines did not tender at all, only shows that those concerned did not think it worth while to make a greater effort to obtain the contract.
– Competition can never be keener than it is now. The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company savs that its Australian traffic is not profitable, and the Orient Company does not pay.
– There is good evidence that the Orient Company has not paid in the past. It has paid those who have handled the business, but it has not returned interest on capital. In this case there is no monopoly. Of course, anything may by combination be made a monopoly ; but we can deal with shipping combinations more easily than with any others, and from time to time, when we on this side have spoken of monopolies, the members of the Labour Party have replied, “We can deal with monopolies.”
– We do not say that.
– Had the honorable member been here more frequently, he would have heard that statement from members of his party. If there were such a strong combination, working against Australia so that its interests were likely to be injured, I should not stand in the way of a Commonwealth mail service. But no such danger exists. We are being asked to enter upon a new and untried experiment, which is not likely to prove successful. I admit that Government institutions have proved more or less successful ; but their success has depended upon commercial management.
– Besides, they have been monopolies.
– Yes ; and it has been possible to conceal large losses in the general accounts of the Government. What instance of success can be pointed to where a Government concern has had to compete against private concerns?
– The State clothing factory of New South Wales.
– That is a small concern, and inquiry has shown that at one time, at all events, it was not a success. Reference has been made to the Fitzroy Dock; that again was condemned by an inquiry.
– The inquiry upheld it.
– It condemned the management and the results.
– Take the State clothing factory of Great Britain.
– It is not competitive.
– In its results it undoubtedly is.
– When the State takes its own manufactures and shuts out others competition ceases. I . fail to see in competitive Government management anything that would justify us in entering upon such an experiment. I desire now to point out how far it is proposed to carry the principle of nationalization. Some honorable members of the Labour Party will not admit that they are committed to complete nationalization, but in this Parliament we have already had proposals for the nationalization of the iron industry, the mail steam-ship service, the tobacco industry, the sugar industry, and the coal-mining industry. The programme of the States Labour Party also includes a proposal for the nationalization of land. That surely is a wide movement.
– It is a very fair programme.
– It is.
– One section of the honorable member’s party is in favour of the nationalization of rents.
– It can be claimed that Government institutions having at their head men who are prepared to manage them on commercial lines have been more or less successful. I admit that in one or two cases such institutions have been eminently successful, but what would happen if for instance the State-owned railways were managed, not by men appointed by the State to control them, but by the votes of the men within the Department.
– Who advocates that?
– If the honorable member ran a private enterprise on such lines we know what would happen.
– What would happen if the Railway Department of a State were managed by the votes of its employés?
– No one believes in that.
-When more than half of the industries of a State are made Government monopolies the votes of those employed in them will control the management.
– Not all the votes within each industry.
– That is immaterial. The ex-leader of the Labour Party has put before us a beautiful scheme. He has said that the Labour Party do not believe in the principle of “share and share alike”; that such a system would shatter society and would be really impossible. I accept that statement, but is the honorable member prepared to say that when all pur industries become Government monopolies, and are consequently .; managed by the votes of those engaged in them, the employes will be satisfied with varying rates of wages - that one man will be content to work for a wage of £2 a week whilst another is receiving £3,000 a year?
– Does the honorable member mean to say-
– The honorable member for West Sydney, if he pleases, may speak presently. I ask him not to interrupt the honorable member who is addressing the Chair.
– The statement has been made that in Government monopolies men would be paid according to the services they . rendered. I fully recognise the clearheadedness of the honorable member for South Sydney, but how could he hope to resist a demand for an equal division of wages in nationalized industries when over 50 per cent. or the whole of the voters of Australia were employed in them? The larger number of those employés would be receiving comparatively small remuneration, and their votes would be cast every time in the direction of reducing the salaries of the higher paid officers, and approaching an equal division.
– What prevents equal division at the present time? Could we not, to-morrow, pass a law, if we liked, providing for an equal division?
– No; that could not be done in connexion with private enterprise. Industries would have to be nationalized.
– What ! does the honorable member for West Sydney say-
– Order ! Not only are interjections again becoming too frequent, but remarks are being made across the chamber. I ask the House not to force me to use those powers with which I am vested, and which I recognise should be used only in extreme cases. It would be unpleasant to have to resort to them, but I shall certainlv do so if honorable members will not place some restraint upon themselves.
– An equal division could be secured only by nationalization. It could not be brought about in connexion with independent individualistic enterprises. I shall not. however, deal further with that phase of the question. Coming to the contract itself, I think that the Postmaster-General should have given the House . a fuller explanation than he did of the proceedings which have taken place in connexion with the mail contract since we were last asked to deal with the matter.
– I could have spoken for two hours, but having regard to the importance of saving time, and knowing that nothing would be gained by making a lengthy explanation, I refrained from doing so.
– The honorable member might have given the House a satisfactory explanation without speaking for two hours. He could have condensed his remarks, as I am endeavouring to do. Parliament should have had from the Minister some explanation of the failure of the Laing contract, which was spoken of so highly by the Prime Minister, who had such great expectations of it. I do not think that that failure hasbeen sufficiently explained. It was not without warning that the Government took the course that they did. They were told that they ought to insist upon a more substantial security. As it was they allowed certain persons to obtain a concession to be “hawked” through the money markets of Great Britain. To the evident astonishment of the Frime Minister, who had alluded to the strength of the contracting parties, I said when the contract was before us that the firm he mentioned was really not behind it. I pointed out that it was merely a proposal to deposit £25,000 in order to obtain a certain option, and that there was even no certainty of our securing that £25,000 in the event of the contract not being fulfilled. We have had from the Government no explanation of the cause of the failure, or of the reasons why the Government have not enforced the bond.
– I think Croker “cooked” them.
– The Government were told that the contract merely represented an attempt on the part of certain persons to secure a concession in the hope of floating a company; that if it could be floated the contract would be fulfilled, but that otherwise it would not. I ventured to say then that while I thought that the contract would be a good one if it were fulfilled, I did not think that it would be. The Government should have taken greater precautions than thev did to prevent the Commonwealth being placed in the unfortunate position of having the option which it gave “hawked” through the money markets of Great Britain.
Sitting, suspended from 1.3 to 2.15 p.m.
– With the permission of the honorable member for North Sydney I should like to move the adjournment of the debate for a few minutes in order that we may receive messages from the Senate in relation to two Bills which have been returned from that Chamber.
– I have no objection. ,
Debate (on motion by Mr. Deakin) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
Mr. SPEAKER announced the receipt of the following message from the Senate -
The Senate returns to the House of Representatives the Bill for “An Act to provide for the payment of bounties on the production of certain goods,” and acquaints the House of Representatives that the Senate does not insist upon its amendment No.9, disagreed to by the House of Representatives. The Senate agrees to the amendment of the House of Representatives upon its amendment No. 11, and to consequential amendment in amendment No. 2. The Senate insists upon its amendment No. 7, disagreed to by the House of Representatives, as shown in the annexed schedule, and requests the reconsideration of the Bill in respect to that amendment and to amendments Nos. 2 and 12, in which the Senate has made consequential amendments, as shown in the annexed schedule.
J. Gould, President.
The Senate, Melbourne, 22nd November, 1907.
That the message be taken into consideration forthwith.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the House does not insist upon disagreeing with the Senate’s amendment, omitting from the first schedule the item “ copra,” and agrees with the consequential amendments made in other clauses.
.- In view of the statement which he made last evening, does not the Attorney-General think that we are justified in making still another attempt to induce the Senate to agree to our proposal in regard to copra?
– Does the honorable member know what were the numbers upon the division which took place in the other Chamber ?
– No. Does the honorable member know ?
– Yes. There was rather a large majority against our proposal.
– That fact ought not to be sufficient to induce the Government to abandon the industry which only last night they claimed would be of immense value to the Commonwealth.
– Did the honorable member vote for the proposal ?
– That is another question. The Government certainly attached great importance to their proposal to extend a bounty to the production of copra. Simply because another place, upon the eve of a prolonged adjournment, has seen fit to take up a different attitude, we are not warranted in abandoning our position.
– Is it not better to agree to the amendment of the Senate than to sacrifice the Bill ?
– I do not agree with the honorable member. I have always maintained that the consideration of this measure might, with advantage, have been postponed until our future financial relations with the States had been determined.
– Iwould point out to the honorable member that the only matter at present open to discussion is whether or not we shall insist upon disagreeing with the amendment made by the Senate.
– I am aware that I was transgressing the rules of debate. The Government ought to say that they will have the schedule, which was approved by this House, or that they will not have the Bill at all.
– Oh !
– The Treasurer signifies his disapproval of my statement, but, in respect of another measure, I have heard him say that . the Government will have their way, or it will be sacrificed. That attitude, however, seems to be adopted only when he is sure that he has the requisite numbers. I am in favour of insisting upon the proposal which was agreed to by this House.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority … … 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed(vide page 6439).
– It is rather dangerous to give any honorable member such an interval as has been provided on this occasion, because so many new ideas come into his head, that he may be tempted to waste the valuable time of Parliament. However, there is only one point to which I desire to call attention, to which I would not otherwise have referred. An interjection, which was made before the adjournment for luncheon, seemed to show that possibly I had not made clear enough one position I am maintaining ; and I shall refer to that in a few words before dealing with the contract itself . I stated that when the industries of the community became one vast Commonwealth industry, the Government of the industry will be from within. When I previously asked honorable members in the Labour corner, whether the railways could be managed by a vote of those employed on the railways, I was told by those honorable members that they would not dream of anything of the sort. I then went on to show that, if thepolicy of universal nationalization were carried out, or even if the majority of the industries of the community were nationalized, then the management would be by the votes of those within the vast State industry, and the position would be reached which honorable members in the Labour corner admitted is impossible.
– We did not admit that at all.
– The State industries are controlled by the votes of the people now.
– That is the interjection to which I refer. But the majority of the people of to-day are not Socialists - they are not for nationalization of all the industries, or any large portion of them. They have declared themselves, at every election so far, by large majorities, in favour of private enterprise and individual effort and reward.
– Might I say that we have never contended that the State’s industries could be controlled by the votes of the people; we propose to delegate to a properly constituted! tribunal, the duty of dealing with the wages and conditions of the workmen.
– I am aware of that, but I point out that the people of the Commonwealth, so far as their decision has been made known, have declared against nationalization.
– They have never been asked to declare for it.
– They have not declared for it, whether they have been asked to do so or not.
– The people have not declared against extensions of nationalization.
– They have been asked- to declare for approaching universal nationalization step by step.
– Nothing of the sort.
– At any rate, so far as they have indicated, -whether they have been asked or not - so far as they have made their wishes and desires known - the people are against any large nationalization of the industries of Australia. . The present national industries or departments are managed not from within, but from without - they are managed by the bulk- of the- people of . Australia, who are not employed in them, and who appoint, not political managers, but commercial managers-managers for the commercial and trading concerns, such as the railways or the Post Office. It will be a different matter altogether when all industries become one vast Commonwealth department, and when the management must be entirely from within. Under such circumstances, the position taken up by the honorable member for South Sydney, that, however many industries are nationalized, we shall still continue to pay according to the work done, absolutely breaks down. When all industries are one vast Commonwealth department, men will not be elected to Parliament unless they agree to remove, gradually at any rate, the differences between high salaries and low salaries, and in the end, in my opinion nationalization must be communism.
– The honorable member takes rather a low view of human nature.
– I am taking a very natural view of human nature.
– Surely a public conscience will have arisen in the meantime to prevent a result like that suggested by the honorable member.
– There is no occasion for any conscience. It is very hard to convince men that they are not worth as .much as other men to whom superior appointments and superior pay are given.
– Do I understand the honorable member to mean that a messenger in the telegraph office will be paid the same salary as is the head of the Department?
– I am not saying that at all - I am not individualizing cases ; but I’ do say the tendency will be to bring the remuneration as nearly as possible to one level, and eventually to one level.
– If the honorable member is right, surely that tendency should be shown now?
– I have already explained that the nationalization of industries to any large degree is not supported by the people of Australia, who are in favour of individualism, and of individual effort being rewarded according to merit. At present the management of the nationalized industries is from the outside.
– And always will be.
– How can it’ always be so if everybody is brought within and employed in one vast State Department ?
– The people will not be all in one Department.
– The people will all be in one great Department, though not in one branch; and the condition of affairs will be very different from what it is to-day.
– The State Departments might be managed by deputy.
– Quite so; but who would be appointed as managers if they did not promise to do what was desired by those within the Department? If it is impossible to properly manage our railways by the votes of those within the Department, so it will be impossible to effectively manage the industries of the Commonwealth by the votes of those within if they are made one great national institution.
– - The honorable member assumes that the people “is an ass.”
– I do not assume anything of the sort. I only assume that what has taken place in other places, amongst intelligent peoples, will take place in our own case - that the drift will be from nationalization of industries on the basis of reward according to assumed merit to nationalization on the basis of communism/.
– The honorable member questions the ability of the people to govern themselves.
– Under such circumstances as I sketched the people would govern themselves; and that would be the result. However, I cannot expect honorable members in the Labour corner to agree with me, and I think I shall now turn my attention to the contract itself. I merely desired to explain what I do not seem to have made clear previously. I do not. propose to deal at any length with the contract; the honorable member for Parramatta and others have already devoted some time to it. As to the amount of the subsidy, I admit that it is a considerable increase on any we have recently paid. The only justification for the payment of this amount is that we have asked for certain services and demanded certain conditions, and that, after presenting an opportunity to the world to tender, “no lower or as low a tender has been received. Consequently, if the- conditions are of importance, as’ most honorable members seem to think they are, we have adopted the only method to test at what rate the shipping companies are prepared to provide the service. This being the lowest tender, I am willing to accept it, though, as I say, it represents a very considerable increase on what we previously paid to the same company, and what the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company are supposed to be receiving, though not for exactly the same service, or under the same conditions. There are one or two matters in connexion with the contract which deserve some consideration. First, there is the looseness of the provision regarding the calling of the boats at Hobart. There is the other peculiarity, that, during the negotiations for this contract, the Minister of Agriculture for one of the States was in consultation. Perhaps the Minister of Trade and Customs can inform me whether there was any consultation with the representatives of any of the other States.
– I think not; but the interests for which the Minister referred to was working, were interests pertaining to alltheStates.
– I think it is desirable, when there is consultation with one State, that there should be consultation with all.
– There was no consultation ; there were certain representations urged, by the State Minister in the interests of producers and exporters.
– He was not called in.
– But he was admitted to consultation.
– He was allowed to make certain representations. It depends on what the honorable member means by “consultation.”
– He was in consultation ; and he may have assisted very materially in the framing of the contract. In dealing with a subject like the conveyance of produce, and especially the conveyance of perishable produce, if there is consultation with one State representative there should be consultation with the representatives of the others. There are one or two. things in the proposed contract which might, perhaps, have been different had there been such consultation; - for instance, the vagueness of the provision relating to the calling of the mail steamers, at Hobart, and the provision against . differentiation of . freights, which I think, will operate unjustly to one of more ports. I am opposed to unreasonable and improper differentiation; but the shippers from a port which vessels can enter and leave cheaply, and at the wharfs of which they can discharge and load cheaply, or which has other natural advantages, ought not to be made to pay for the higher charges incurred or for the fewer advantages in other ports. Rates of freight, if there is to be equality, should be ins proportion to the cost to which vesselsare put in connexion with the ports to which they trade.
– At the present time the freight to Fremantle is higher than that to Sydney.
– I do not say that that is right. But where a shipping company has to make a larger outlay or has less advantage in respect to one port than in respect to another, it is not just to insist that there shall be no differentiation of freights.
– Does not the honorable member think that the freight to Fremantle should be less instead of more ?
– I agree that in this contract it should not be more. I do not allude to this matter merely because it concerns Sydney - honorable members will admit that I have always endeavoured to be fair to all the States. I have a copy of the freight rates of the GermanAustralian line, which I propose to quote, because this is the only list that I have beenable to get in print, though similar differences to those I am about to disclose exist in the freights of other lines. The freight from Europe to Fremantle is 47s. 6d., to Port Adelaide 42s. 6d., to the Semaphore 40s., to Melbourne 42s. 6d., and to Sydney 40s. There is no apparent reason why Fremantle should pay so high a freight. The Sydney freight is low because of the Iowness of the port dues there, and because of certain freight facilities.
– There is no local disability at Fremantle to justify the chargingof high freights to that port.
– Where there are no local charges or advantages making one port less costly to a company than . another, there should not be differentiation in freights. But where local charges or circumstances make some port particularly costly, it is not fair that that port should get an advantage by being treated on the same terms as all other ports.
– If an advantage is to be given, it should be given to. the nearest port.
– I admit that Fremantle has that advantage over other Australian ports, that it is nearer to Europe, and that that fact is not considered in the fixing of the freights; but possibly the fact that shipments to other ports are larger may enable the companies to charge less to those ports. There is the proviso that lighterage shall not be taken into account in connexion with the provision that there shall be no differentiation in freights, and I think that port charges, too, should be excepted. Where port and other charges are very heavy, shippers from other ports should not, under a system of non-differentiation, be made to pay for them. I think that an amendment should be moved dealing with this matter. Explanations will also be needed as to the effect of the provisions relating to passage freights from port to port in Australian waters, and as to the period for which vessels may remain in the various ports. Brisbane is to be considered the port from which the voyage to England will commence. I have no objection to the steamers visiting Brisbane, though, had this been merely a mail contract, I should have objected to any stipulation requiring them to visit other ports than Adelaide and Brindisi. But as this is not a mail contract, I have no objection to urge against the provision which makes Brisbane a port of call. Seeing, however, that Brisbane is taken as the starting point of each voyage, and that it is provided that after a voyage has commenced there shall be no delay, steamers may be prevented from remaining in Sydney as they have done hitherto, which, in my opinion, is not a desirable provision, unless it can be shown that it is necessary to enforce it in the interests of the other ports.
– The honorable member says that this is more than a mail contract.
– Then we are entering on dangerous ground.
– We are entering into all sorts of difficulties in providing for more than the carriage of mails, though I am not going to object to the course which is now being taken. Still, when other mail contracts come under consideration, the point will probably be made that terms similar to those insisted on in this must be inserted, and that the vessels performing the service must call at every port in Australia right round to Fremantle.
– This is more than the halfway house to nationalization.
– I do not say that. There are dangers in regard to the fixing of freights.
– Merely a maximum is fixed.
– Yes ; but there will be an attempt to make the maximum a minimum. At the present time we have the extraordinary spectacle of negotiations with a view to getting steamship companies to raise the butter freights by 2d. per box, with the object of throwing “ all the business into the hands of one great combination. Yet we hear complaints about, combination. In some directions too much has been attempted by the contract. It may be well enough to arrange for the shipment of goods by vessels of a certain size, and affording certain cool storage accommodation, and to require that the journey shall be performed at certain rates of speed, and that preference shallnot be given to any State. But when it is attempted to fix maximum freights, and to get other companies to come in so that those freights may be observed generally, and other conditions are introduced, you get on dangerous ground, and may find it troublesome to insist on the complete observance of the terms of the contract. Although the subsidy provided for is higher than has previously been paid, conditions have been insisted on which make a higher subsidy necessary. I prefer’ the contract to a State service, which would force us to experiment on lines in regard to which we have had no experience, and to undertake an enterprise which I think we could not manage as effectively as a private concern could be managed. One of the great reasons given for establishing a Commonwealth service is that it would give greater opportunities for encouraging immigration; but while we have been talking, the Orient Steam Navigation Company has done a great deal more for immigration than has been done by all the Governments of Australia.
– Would it not be better to have immigrants brought round by the. Cape? That is a cheaper route than the Canal route.
– Seeing that certain steamers must come through the Canal in any case, I do not know that it is any more expensive to bring immigrants that way than round the Cape.
– The inference to be drawn from the honorable member’s remarks is that the motive of the Orient Steam Navigation Company in promoting immigration has been the welfare of Australia.
– Of course, what they have done has been done for their own advantage, and one reason why I favour individualistic enterprise is that the motive of personal interest induces greater effort. The Orient Steam Navigation Company has not made a great deal of profit from its Australian trade ; but, of course, the object of its existence is to make profits. I would not give a great deal for the chances of profit in the present undertaking. That is the look-out of those engaged in it. Difficulties will arise because the contract has been made too minute in its particulars ; but I am willing to accept it as the best the Government can do, reserving anything else I have to say until we come to discuss the clauses in detail.
.- This seems a very good contract for the Orient Steam Navigation Company. I think it rather unwise for us to bind ourselves for practically twelve years - because although this contract is for ten years only, it and an interim contract engage the Commonwealth until the beginning of 1920. _It contains^ provisions fixing’ maximum rates of freight for the carriage of butter and other commodities. But no one knows what the scientific achievements of the next five or six or ten years will be. New methods may be invented for the conveyance of perishable produce which will make quite unreasonable rates which to-day seem reasonable.
– The rates for’ the carriage of fruit have been reduced by onehalf during the last fifteen years.
– Yes. Therefore I am disinclined to bind the people of Australia to pay certain rates of freight for a period of twelve years. I see no reason why, in making a postal contract, we should not arrange for the carriage of produce at reasonable rates; but it should be empah-sized that many of those who cry out against Socialism, and pose as antiSocialists of the purest type, are desirous of securing assistance from the Government to get cheap freights for butter, fruit, meat, and other products of Australia.
– At the cost of the whole community !
– Quite so. This contract appeals to me in a large measure as a bonus on the export of butter. From a postal stand-point there is no need whatever to subsidize the Orient Steam Navigation Company^ to do more than to deliver the mails from England at Adelaide, and to take delivery, at the same port, of the Australian mails for England.
– They do not carry the mails beyond Adelaide.
– They carry postal parcels beyond that port. It would conduce to a better’ understanding if the Postal Department made a contract providing only for the conveyance of mails, whilst the Department charged with the overlooking of exports simultaneously entered into a contract for the carriage of exportable products. We should then know exactly where we stood. The people would be able to appreciate what proportion of this very large expenditure was to be debited to a purely mail service and what proportion of it represented the encouragement of exports.
– We should have separate accounts.
– I think so. I have absolutely no objection to the encouragement of exports under favorable conditions, but I think that we ought to be able to point to the exact cost of, or the degree of encouragement that is given to, the export of any particular commodity. The Postal Department should not be asked to bear the loss represented by the proportion of subsidy paid for the carriage of perishable produce. I trust that, even at this stage, an attempt will be made by the Postmaster-General in the interests df his own Department to discover what payment ought to be made in respect of the postal services rendered by the company, and what proportion of the subsidy should be debited to the Department charged with the work of overseeing the export of butter and other perishable products.
– The Department ought not to have to pay more than £60,000 per annum for the postal services.
– That is one aspect of the matter to which attention should be devoted. The honorable member for Parramatta, in discussing the terms of this contract, said that, although it involved an increased expenditure - and as a matter of fact, after making all allowances, it involves nearly double what we had to pay a little while ago for a similar service - we should remember that the. contract entailed a large increase of expenditure on the part of the Orient Steam Navigation Company. He should recollect that the company was faced with two alternatives ; it had either to go out of the Australian trade or to build new steamers to keep in line with the other companies running high-class vessels in the trade.
– I meant that to apply in both ways. This contract takes from the company certain privileges which it has enjoyed. The stipulations as to freight and other matters will diminish its earnings.
– It is evident that it would be most unfair to debit the Commonwealth, as I understood the honorable member to suggest, with the whole of the expenditure, which the Orient Steam Navigation Company proposes to incur in connexion with the construction of new steamers. In any case such an expenditure would have been necessitated by the requirements of the trade and by the keenness of competition, so far as equipment and! accommodation are concerned. lt seems to me, therefore, that this expenditure on the part of the company would have been inevitable, even if a new contract had not been entered into. The representatives of the company have practically admitted that the majority of their vessels are behind the times.
– They have admitted that if all their vessels were up to the standard of the Orontes, they would be able to make the line pay.
– They have a number of steamers that are reasonably good, but most of the vessels of their fleet are as the lives of mail steam-ships go, comparatively old, and their accommodation is not nearly equal to that provided by other lines. On these grounds, I do not think that the contract represents the best that could be done for the Commonwealth, even assuming that we must rely on private enterprise to provide the service. Coming to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Barrier, I may sa> at once that I was one of those who a little time ago voted against a similar amendment. I did so upon grounds which at the time seemed to me to-be absolutely adequate. We had then been offered a contract that was much cheaper than is the present one, and promised at least all the facilities provided for in this agreement.
– On paper, it was a far better contract.
– Very much better. As to the suggestion of the Opposition that the Laing contract never had any substantial backing, we ought to remember that as soon as the names of the firms concerned in that contract were announced, honorable members of that party absolutely withdrew their opposition to the contract.
– That is absolutely incorrect.
– It is absolutely correct.
– It is not; the honorable member has no right to make such 3/ statement
– I should like the honorable member to point to one statement in Hansard showing that the Opposition protested against the contract after the announcement that Vickars, Son, and Maxim, Sir James Laing and Company, and others were parties to it.
– I said that those firms were not behind it. In reply to the Prime Minister, I stated that all that was behind the contract was the bond °f .£25,000.
– We had an assurance that those firms would carry the proposalthrough.
– And on that assurance, the contract appeared to be a very favorable one. Whether the Government took adequate steps to insure that they would be penalized for failure to carry out the contract, is another matter ; but, on the face of it, the agreement was a very fair one. We have also to remember that a combination of shipping companies engaged in the carriage of perishable products had not at that time been brought about. Those shipping companies had not combined in order to force the producers of Australia to come to their terms, so that the circumstances were very different from those that have since arisen. To-day, we find that the Orient Steam Navigation Company, notwithstanding the philanthropy that has been so freely attributed to it, has shown itself willing to join in a combination to fleece the exporters of Australia - a combination to exact from them unfair freights for the carriage of perishable products.
– Is not that the privilege of private enterprise?
– That is a point with which I intend to deal later on. The Orient Steam Navigation Company, which has so many friends in this Chamber, and has had passed upon it so many encomiums in respect of the good services that it has rendered to Australia, has shown itself willing to cast aside any consideration for the producers, the farmers and others concerned in the- export of perishable products from this continent. It has demonstrated, during the last few months, its willingness to join in a combine to fleece exporters of another ,£50,000 per year in respect of freights.
– But was it unfair for such an arrangement to be made?
– If we are looking for excuses for such a proceeding, it is easy to find them.
– The representatives of the company said that before that arrangement was made the business was unprofitable.
– It is very difficult for us to estimate what would pay them ; but a significant fact is that another set of shipping people were willing to carry our butter at a very much reduced freight. The Five Lines Combine, to which the Orient Steam Navigation Company belonged, decided to penalize the butter producers of Australia to the extent of is. 8d. per box, unless they were given the carriage of the whole of their exportable produce. All these considerations demonstrate that the Australian producers are at the mercy of a ring, or combination, or monopoly, so far as perishable products are concerned. One cannot help being amused at the attitude assumed by the honorable member for Parramatta- in this regard. He told us this morning that his strongest objection to the extension of State enterprise was that it would subject our people to compulsion and tyranny. I do not know whether it is’ because he has been, overwhelmed by the talk upon the Tariff, and is consequently unable to judge things with his accustomed clearness, but he seems to be absolutely blind to the compulsion and tyranny that has been exercised by private syndicates and companies.
– I can assure the honorable member that I am not blind to it.
– Then why was the honorable member, when he alluded to the compulsion and tyranny which follow the extension of State’ enterprise in this direction, absolutely silent upon the compulsion and tyranny under which our producers suffer to-day by reason of the exactions of the shipping ring’ both around the Australian coast and oversea?
– What I did say was that I feared we should escape from the troubles that we had, only to experience greater troubles.
– The honorable member may have intended to say that, but I certainly did not hear him say it. I heard no denunciation from him of the compulsion and tyranny with which our producers are confronted to-day. Under private enterprise, which the honorable member is pledged to uphold, they are subjected to compulsion and tyranny, and yet we hear no protest from the honorable member’s side of the House.
– The argument of the honorable member for Barrier was that outside persons were under duress and compulsion, and I merely attempted to show that similar conditions operated in -our State Departments as well.
– The imposition of a penalty of is. 8d. per box upon butter exporters who did not ship all their butter by the five-line combination wak an attempt to exercise compulsion and tyranny. Further, the honorable member should know that it is impossible for a shipper who desires to send goods around the coast of Australia to escape from the compulsion and tyranny of the local shipping ring even if lower freights are offered to him. He is bound hand and foot to the shipping combination. If another exponent of private enterprise were to say to him, “ I will give you a reduction of 50 per cent, in the freight which obtains to-day,” he could not take advantage of the offer,simply because of the system of rebates, which places every merchant in the hands of the shipping ring. The honorable member for Parramatta has said that there are a multitude of steam-ships, and that consequently there can be no monopoly of the ocean. How childlike the honorable member must be if he really believes that.
– Childlike and bland. The honorable member is very strong.
– The honorable member must be childlike if he believes that’ no monopoly of the ocean is possible. Theoretically, the ocean is open to all who care to sail upon it, but, in reality, if a new line of steamers start operations, andis prepared to charge less freights than those charged by the shipping ring, all the resources of the ring are invoked for the purpose of freezing it out. Such tactics have been successful, notably in the case of the Aberdeen line. For a considerable time that line admitted that they dared not take cargo to Brisbane from the Old Country, although their ships were under contract with the Queensland Government to load butter at that port. Notwithstanding this, however, they had to discharge any cargo intended for Brisbane at Sydney, and take their vessels on to Brisbane empty. It will thus be seen that the honorable member is entirely mistaken when he affirms that there can be no monopoly of the ocean.
– The Australian shipping ring is one of the strongest combinations in the world.
– If is one of the strongest combinations in the world, and not merelyin a narrow and local sense. The ring of shipping people who deal with Australian freights is to-day at once both the wonder and the envy of persons engaged in shipping in other parts of the world. In the Shipping Journal persons who deal in freights elsewhere have marvelled that the oversea Australian shipping ring has been able for so many years to maintain such a close corporation, and to keep freights at such a very high level. This is a matter of common knowledge amongst those who are engaged in shipping. In view of the evidence given bv Walker Brothers, of Maryborough, regarding the treatment meted out to them when they attempted to send freights around the Australian coast, I say that to pretend that there is no monopoly of the ocean possibleis to fly in the face of accepted facts-facts which should be recognised bylegislators, as well as by the people generally.
– What I meant to say was that there could be no permanent monopoly of the ocean. I am quite aware that these temporary troubles are experienced all over the world. But the honorable member seems to assume that, when once a monopoly, has been set up, it will, continue for all time, whereas the experience of the world proves the contrary.
– Unfortunately, we are not here for all time, andI am afraid that the shipping monopoly, having lasted for twenty years, is likely to endure throughout our lives unless action be taken to check it. The question, which faces us is whether we are going to relieve our selves, or whether we are to depend upon posterity to extricate itself from the difficult position in which it will be placed. The honorable member for Parramatta stated that he could not consider the amendment of the honorable member for Wide Bay by itself - that he had to look beyond it to the consequences which were involved. He then proceeded to argue that we should not establish a mail line for fear that it might commit us to a whole series of experiments in the nationalization of industries. Well, it seems to me that the House and the country ought to be quite capable of judging each proposal on its merits. Whether any particular proposition is right or wrong can surely be demonstrated, or ought, at any rate, to admit of decisive argument one way or the other. But I must dissent altogether from the general proposition that because the country is prepared to take a certain step in the direction of nationalization we are, therefore, committed to go to any degree suggested.
– But the honorable member for Parramatta gave a list of nationalization proposals.
– Just so, and each particular proposal would have to rest on its own merits. It would have to be determined whether it was justified or not by the circumstances. But I do not remember that the honorable member for Wide Bay, the leader of the Labour Party, expressed any sentiments such as those attributed to him by the honorable member for Parramatta.
– I read from Hansard what he said.
– I heard what he said, but I do not remember him saying that he was in favour of all-round nationalization.
– Very few Socialists are.
– Ishould say that very few would be.
– I quoted what the honorable member for Wide Bay said.
– But I donot think that it was fair to attribute to him sentiments which may have been uttered by the honorable member for Barrier. One occupies a responsible position, and the other is a private member of his party, who is free to hold any view . he likes apart from those embodied . in the platformof the party.
-i see. Qne member of the party may hold different views from another.
– Oh, quite. The party is pledged to the nationalization of monopolies, but any individual member of the party may propose to go further than the nationalization of monopolies if he so desires, and if he believes that it is a proper thing to do; just as the honorable member for Parramatta, though he is pledged to the programme ofhis leader, is not precluded from going beyond that programme in any direction he thinks fit. He is entitled to have his own opinion as to the desirableness of taking action in any given direction, so long as he agrees with his leader and with the rest of his party upon the programme which they have formulated.
– We have absolute freedom outside our programme.
– Quite so, but I never heard the honorable member for Wide Bay express any opinion involving nationalization beyond that embodied in the party’s programme. Being in a responsible position, he would not be entitled to do so except he prefaced his remarks by saying that he was merely expressing his own view. But to the nationalization of monopolies there is no doubt that the Labour Party are bound in the most emphatic fashion. We believe, Mr. Speaker, that the existence of these industrial monopolies is inimical to the interests of the general community, and that it is only by their nationalization - by their being governed and controlled and worked on behalf of the community generally - that you can relieve the people from the incubus that at present sits upon them. That is the view which I hold. But beyond that-
– There is no mention of monopolies in the passage which I read from the speech of the honorable member for Wide Bay.
– The honorable member, so far as my memory goes, did not indicate that he meant anything beyond monopolies. He said that the party was not a fraid of nationalization ; but to pretend to believe that that meant the nationalization of everything is a deliberate twisting of words - nothing more nor less. The remark was made in reply to an inquiry from the other side - “ If we nationalize in this particular instance, where are we going to stop?” and other silly questions of that sort. It might as well be said that we should starve ourselves because of the danger of one or two over-eating.
– If it is good in one instance it is good in all.
-The honorable member’s argument is that we should not eat at all because one or two suffer from indigestion.
– We do not expect consistency from honorable members opposite, but really, to be consistent, they ought to be prepared to sell our railways at once-
– So we are.
– And to set rid of the Government tramways. I am glad to hear the honorable member for Moreton say that thev want to sell the Government railways. I did not know that the honorable member for Parkes had a supporter on the Opposition side. As the only logical and consistent anti-Socialist in Parliament, I have always entertained a certain degree of admiration for him ; and to find at this late hour that he has support from the honorable member for Moreton - who the other day was invoking all the forces of Socialism on behalf of the butter producers - is rather amusing. The honorable member has evinced in another direction - the Tariff - that his views on protection are of a geographical character. Similarly we find in regard to his anti- Socialism that he is apparently bounded by the limits of his . own electorate. Whatever his electors desire should be done even if it means Socialism.
– We have to adapt ourselves to circumstances.
– That is a form of selfishness of which the honorable member is a very efficient exponent Iwill admit. He is here to look after electorate No.1, and all the others can go hang so far as public affairs are concerned.
– TheTreasurer was agreeable to selling the railways and tramways of New South Wales at one time.
– If that be so, it was, I suppose, in the Treasurer’s very callow days. I have not observed anv indication of an obsession of that kind in him lately. Evidently he has gained wisdom with years.
– Does the honorable member agree with his leader’s statement that he has “too long shrunk” from expressing certain opinions?
– I do not know that that justifies the honorable member’s statements.
– It was rough on. the honorable member.
– I am quite prepared to accept any criticism thatthe honorable member for Parramatta, or the honorable member for Wide Bay may pass upon me. I do not profess to be perfect any more than is any other member of the community. But I should “like to see any quotation which bears out the statement that the honorable member for Wide Bay, a couple of nights ago expressed approval of the general nationalization of the means of production^ distribution, and exchange. Those words were used by the honorable member for Parramatta, but I have no recollection of any such thing being said.
– I explained that- I was referring to both the honorable member for Wide Bay and the honorable member for Barrier; and so far as the honorable, member for Wide Bay was concerned, I quoted Ilansard to show what I attributed to him.
– I am in favour of the whole business myself.
– The honorable member for North Sydney said that the country had declared against universal nationalization its a principle. I contend that no such proposition was placed before the country except by three gentlemen in New South Wales who stood for the Senate on the platform of international Socialism.
– Pathos and Bathos !
– Those were the only people, so far as I am aware, who put before the electors a programme of universal nationalization.
– Not at all. .
– I have not heard of any one else.
– Ask the honorable member for Barrier what he put before the electors of Broken Hill.
– I have not heard of his putting anything like universal nationalization before them.
– Has not the honorable member?
– No; I have not. I read the reports of the speeches of the honorable member for Barrier, but I did not see tiny statement of that character. I remind the honorable member for North Sydney that no proposal for universal nationalization was put before the people by a responsible party, and that, therefore, they were not asked to express an opinion upon that question. But the proposal, that we should refrain from any socialistic experiments, which was embodied iri the platform - if it can be so described - of his leader, met with complete defeat at their hands. The honorable member ought to remember*, as it is less than twelve months since it occurred, that the whole reason for the existence of his party, as expressed by its leader, was that they were going to combat Socialism, to prevent insidious extensions of governmental functions, and that, after a pathetic appeal .to the electors, they were defeated by an overwhelming majority. We are in this position : that the people have declared against anti-Socialism, and have not been asked to declare for complete Socialism. Therefore we have had no answer from them on the latter head, either one way or the other. I hold that by their defeat of the party Jed by the honorable member for East Sydney, the people have indicated that they have no objection to reasonable extensions of governmental functions.
– The honorable member forgets that they sent in more holders of the opposite view.
– On that question the electors returned a minority of antiSocialists to this House and to the Senate.
– No. The Government declared against nationalization.
– If I remember aright the speech of the honorable member for Ballarat, the Government declared that they would hold themselves free to take any steps towards a reasonable extension of governmental functions, and would nationalize wherever it was necessary, and that after all is a common-sense view. But the members of the Opposition Party, through their leader, declared that they were going to strike Socialism out of the political arena. So far as they are concerned, Socialism seems to have escaped scotching, and on that subject they are in a. minority here, as well as in another place. If I interpret aright the attitude of the people it is that we should continue on the lines hitherto adopted in Australia so far as principles are concerned, that if the nationalization of a particular industry or function is justified by the circumstances, it should be done at once.
– It depends upon what is called nationalization.
– Quite so. Occasionally the honorable member indicates that he is against Socialism.
– I do not believe in collectivism.
– The honorable gentleman says that he does not agree with those who want to share and share alike.
– I do not believe in the beacon light of the honorable member.
– Like the honorable gentleman, I do not agree with those who want to share and share alike, nor do the members of the Labour Party believe in that doctrine.
– They believe in collectivism.
– The honorable gentleman does not believe in the principle of share and share alike, nor do I, although I have a lot less to lose by thatprocess than he has. At the same time, he has proved himself to be quite as good a Socialist in some respects as has any member of the Labour Party. When he was in power in Western Australia, he carried out Government schemes of all kinds by means of day labour, and without the intervention of the middleman, but he does not call that Socialism.
– The same thing, if done by the Labour Party, would no doubt be denounced by him as Socialism.
– Not at all.
– There is really only one remedy, and that is to make him leader of the Labour Party.
– As Shakespeare says-
That in the captain’s but a cholerick word,
Which in the soldier is flat blasphemy.
I believe that the people are quite agreeable to all reasonable and common-sense extensions of governmental functions which may be proved to be desirable. It has been said that the Labour Party’s proposals involve an equality of remuneration all round, irrespective of the degree of service which mav be performed. I do not think that we need bother about that during our generation or the next.
– If remuneration is not equal there will soon be rich and poor again.
– I have no doubt that there will be rich and poor for a very considerable period after we have passed away. However ideal it may be to secure an equal reward for services rendered, I do not think that we have by any means approached that stage. The most that we can expect to do in the present developmentof society is, I think, to cut off excrescences wherever they appear, and to relieve the people fromthe incubus of monopolies, rings, arid combines such as we find, on every side to-day.
– We are all agreed there.
– But the honorable member has not yet arrived at the stage, though I dare say he is approaching it, when he recognises that there are no means of successfully combating rings and monopolies, and that the nationalization of the industries is the only remedy. When we remove the incentive to rob the people robbery will cease. Because the State has no incentive to rob the people, it will give them a reasonably efficient service. But once the private individual has got to a certain stage he has always alluringly before him the prospect of removing alf competitors from his path, and without restriction being able to exact any terms he likes from those who must buy his goods.
– Yes, but he is nor the only man in the world.
– So far as the ordinary consumer is concerned, he is too oftenthe only man in the world.
– “ Rob “ is too hard a term for the honorable member to use.
– I do not think that any other term can be applied to the exactions of some of the rings that now exist. Take, for instance, the coal ring which the mine-owners have arranged with the shipping companies engaged in our coastal trade. In regard to coal, Western Australia is now under the thumb of the Shipping Combine.
– We have some collieries.
– I am aware of that; but the price of coal in Western Australia: generally is governed by the amount at which Newcastle coal can be landed there, and the Newcastle coal is supplied only to a shipping ring, who can charge what price they like for it to the consumers in Western Australia, as well as in South Australia and Victoria.
– And the honorable member’s partv proposes, by means of the Navigation Bill, to give the Shipping Combine more facilities than they have now. That will make them a closer Combine than they are at present.
– We are not proposing to do that.I would give them less facilities. Personally; I have no objection to the mine-owners getting a fair price for theircoal at Newcastle;but when they insure that only three or fourcompanies shall be able to get coal there at any price they are combining to rob the consumers.
– The honorable member does not think that I have any sympathy with that sort of thing, surely?
– The right honorable gentleman is typical of a great number of other honorable members. He disclaims sympathy with tactics of that sort, and one must at once give him credit for being honest in his statement.
– Just as the honorable member disclaims any relation to the extreme Socialists.
– Just so. But surely there is a happy mean in these cases.
– We must try to control them first.
– For the right honorable gentleman merely to state that he has no sympathy with that practice does not advance matters one iota. The evil effect upon the consumer still continues. If the right honorable gentleman can prove that successful efforts can be made in the interests of the consumers to control these monopolies, he will have achieved a very great deal. But I contend that nothing short of nationalization of the shipping .vill allow the people of certain States to get their coal at reasonable prices.
– Would the honorable member have every ship trading on the coast to belong to the State?
– I would have a sufficient number at least to regulate freights, and to insure that people would get coal carried to them at a reasonable cost. I do not say that it will be necessary to resume and control all the shipping, but at least enough to govern the rates of freight ought to be owned and controlled by the Government, in order to insure that the people get a fair deal at the hands of those shipping the coal. I am afraid that this debate has gone considerably beyond the mere question of a mail contract; but I thinkthat the Commonwealth will run no material risk in establishing a line of mail steamers between Australia and the C*ld Country. That line would not be. able bv any means to convey all the perishable produce sent abroad, but bv means of it the Government would be able to exercise a restraining influence upon freights charged upon produce generally. That is the most that such a line could expect to do. While the Government line charged a reasonable freight, there would be much less likelihood of private companies being able successfully to combine in order to exact unfair freights from the exporters. Even if some direct loss were shown, the indirect benefits accruing from reductions of freights ought to be more than sufficient to compensate the people of Australia for the venture upon which we ask them to enter.
-I wish to explain that, when I referred in my speech to the statement of the honorable member for Wide Bay, I quoted his own words - and I said then that that was the extent of my allegations concerning him - as follow -
Whether it be popular or not, it would be cowardly for the man who believes that nationalization is a proper principle not to express his views in this House. We have too long shrunk from maintaining propositions which we clearly believe in - far too long.
That is all that I said with regard to the honorable member for Wide Bay.
– The honorable member may have relied on that quotation, but he said more than that.
– Not at the time. I went on to say that my remarks had reference to the honorable member for Barrier, who moved the amendment. There could be no doubt as to that honorable member’s position, I said, in view of his platform utterances at the recent elections. Nor can there be any such doubt, for the honorable member himself will not deny that upon the platform he did say that he was an out-and-out Socialist in every way.
– That does not bind the party.
– I never said that it did.
Mr. KNOX (Kooyong) [3.46I.- Instead of being confined to the consideration of this contract, the debate, in view of the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Barrier, has been allowed to drift into a general consideration of outside questions. That, on the whole, is regrettable, because we have before us a specific business proposal, which deserves practical consideration from honorable members on its own merits. When the Prime Minister announced the terms of the contract to the House, I tendered to him my congratulations for having made an arrangement which will put an end to much of the hesitation, doubt, and derangement of business that has existed for so long. I can say now, on behalf of many mercantile men in the community, that there is great satisfaction that the Government have ‘ concluded this contract. I share the view expressed by a previous speaker that it ‘would be an advantage to ascertain what proportion of the total sum of ,£170,000 is applicable purely to the services of the Postal Department, and what to the extra freight conditions introduced. The Minister might promise to obtain the information for the benefit of honorable members. In view of the desire to have the contract settled, it would be wise at this stage to avoid any amendments on the floor of the House, seeing that the whole of the details have been the subject of serious consideration by all the parties to the contract, in consultation with their solicitors, and that it would be imprudent to dislocate any one portion of it. But for that consideration I should have asked the House to accept an amendment to provide that, consequential upon the agreement being adopted, an accelerated service for the interim period should be required. On public grounds, I do not think that it would have been asking very much from the contractors or from the Government to consent to that provision, inasmuch as it is admitted that two of the steamers are quite competent to shorten the time at present occupied in the transit of the mails. I do not see any substantial reason why there should not be some improvement in the service every fortnight during the interim period. I know that many honorable members share that view, but it is not desirable to delay the conclusion of this contract. I am disposed to believe that a proposal to the end I have indicated would receive a large support. There ought, at least, to be an undertaking that the steamers will arrive at Largs Bay in sufficient time every Monday to allow the mails to be conveyed by the overland express on that day. These are practical suggestions which I do not think ask too much, even if the contract has been substantially approved. I hope it is part of the understanding that we shall have the advantage of the rapid service via Brindisi, in view of the fact that the mail service has been’ practically arranged for the next twelve years. The two points I have raised I commend to the earnest consideration of the Minister, because they represent practical necessities, for which some provision should be made in the contract. Special significance has been given to the. fact that the mail steamers will fly the Australian flag. I hope that the Australian flag will always receive due recognition ; but I point out. that when the vessels, in coming through the Suez
Canal, mix with the vessels of all nations of the world, an impression may be conveyed that Australia is a separated entity in the Empire. The British Union Jack is quite sufficient for me, and I think it ought to be sufficient on the mail steamers. If those steamers were conveying exclusively our own people or our own produce, or if they were owned by Australia, then there might be something in the claim that the Australian flag should appear at the masthead. But these conditions do not prevail, and at Colombo, where fresh passengers and new mails are taken on board, the flying of the Australian flag may convey an erroneous impression. While I have no desire to say anything that might be construed into disrespect for the Australian flag, I think that this is one of the clauses which might have been left out of the contract. We are informed, it is true, that the flying of the Australian flag is at the instance of the contractors ; but, nevertheless, I regard this condition in the agreement as somewhat unnecessary.
– The Australian flag has the Union Jack in the corner
– That is so; but, at the. same time, I do not think that it is worth while making the flying of the Australian flag a stipulation in the contract. I very much regret that the whole question of Socialism should have been introduced into this debate, though, perhaps, the discussion of the contract from that point of view was inevitable. I find from the Shipping World Year-Book for last year that the number of vessels entered from British possessions and foreign countries to the United Kingdom was 66,840, carrying 55,623,974 tons, and that the number of vessels cleared to British possessions and foreign countries from the United Kingdom was 65,880, carrying 56,416,700 tons. The imports into Great Britain from British possessions and foreign countries were valued at .£565,019,917, and the exports at £407,596,527. In the case of Australia there are 703 vessels which go to and from Great Britain, carrying 1,830,000 tons. This mail contract, large as it may bulk in our eyes, is unimportant when we consider the great volume of trade of the Motherland. On the question of Socialism, the honorable member for Bar,rier last night made use of an expression which I regard as absolutely unworthy of him, or the party he represents. The honorable member made the statement that the Chambers of Commerce would sell Jesus Christ for thirty pieces of silver. When challenged this morning, the honorable member was given an opportunity to explain that statement away, and as he did not do so, I am justified in believing that it was not made inadvertently in the heat of debate, but as the result of deliberate thought and consideration. I characterize the statement as an outrageous slander. Regarded as the outcome of the honorable member’s personal ignorance, the statement will perhaps have a degree of importance attached to it which it would not deserve, but the honorable member was speaking as an exponent of the views of the party to which he belongs. We are told that we should not generalize from isolated instances as to the attitude of the Labour Party on any question, but the particular utterance to which I refer, if it does not disclose ignorance of the facts on the part of the honorable member who was guilty of it, discloses the most venemous spirit which it would be possible for any man to attribute to a great party like the Labour Party. The particular class of persons to whom the honorable member referred represent the large interests of those to whom the members of the Labour Party are opposed as faithfully as Labour members can claim to represent the interests of any other class in the community. The utterance to which I take exception comes with the. worst possible grace from an honorable member who not infrequently ascends the pulpit to urge the precept of his Redeemer that there should be peace and good will in this world.
– This is too thin altogether.
– It is more like the kind of utterance we should expect to come from the crowd who cried, “Give us Barabbas,” At that historic referendum - which by the way is a principle which the honorable member for Barrier strongly supports - the popular voice did not find expression as the result of experience and thoughtful consideration on the part of those who said “Give us Barabbas.” We have to consider the spirit which lies behind the honorable member’s statement that theChambers of Commerce would sell Jesus Christ for thirty pieces of silver.
– I said “ a Christ.”
– The only possible excuse would be that it was out of his ignorance that the honorable member had spoken. I ask whether honorable members in the Labour corner imagine for a moment that, they are the only exemplars of all that is good and righteous. It has been my fortune to come in contact with members of the party to which the honorable member belongs who have been men of depraved habits and tastes, and actuated by extreme selfishness. I have known workers who, when they became possessed of means, proved themselves to be the hardest of taskmasters. Should we be justified because of the character and conduct of such men in condemning the whole of the aspirations of the Labour Party? There are members of that party in this House whose honesty of purpose I have not hesitated to acknowledge.
– I rise to a point of order. I ask whether the honorable member is discussing the mail contract?
– The honorable member is quite in order. He is replying to a statement made by the honorable member for Barrier.
– If I am out of order, much of the previous debate on the motion has not been in order. I recognise the ability of the honorable member for Barrier. The great industry he has displayed in familiarizing himself with the details of this matter, and in obtaining a grasp of the subject, has earned the respect of honorable members generally. The honorable member will probably regard it as a distinction when I say that he was the first who, on the floor of this House, claimed that the members of the Labour Party were Socialists. In answer to myself, the honorable member made the admission in the first Parliament during the consideration of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. He can claim to have made the first public admission in this House that honorable members in the Labour corner are Socialists.
– If that is so, I am very proud of it.
– What is the honorable member’s definition of Socialism?
– My feeling is that honorable members in the Labour corner who are advocating Socialism are floundering along from one session to another, groping their way in a vain effort to discover what Socialism really means, and fearful of giving public expression to their real views, on the subject.
– We have put them in our platform.
– Honorable members have modified their platform when they have found public opinion against them. Do they accept the programme of the Social Democratic Federation?
– No, we follow our own programme.
– I believe ‘ there is no extreme of Socialism to which the honorable member for Barrier is not prepared to go, except that which might lead to the depletion of the contents of his own pockets. One of the planks of the socialistic platform is the abolition of monarchy.
– -Terrible !
– I say it would be terrible, though we may attach no greater importance to the monarch as a monarch than that arising from the fact that he represents the apex of our constitutional system.
– Whilst the honorable’ member was in order in criticising the statements made by the honorable member for Barrier, he will not be in order in indulging in a general disquisition on Socialism.
– I intend to connect my remarks with the statement which the honorable member made.
– If I were to permit the honorable member to follow his present line of argument, I should have to allow other honorable members also to discuss the general question of Socialism instead of the mail contract which is immediately before us.
– On a point of order, sir, I should like to know whether the honorable member will not be in order in discussing the question of Socialism as affecting the amendment moved by the honorable member for Barrier?
– The amendment simply provides that the Government should acquire and control a line of mail steamers.
– Does not that involve the question of Socialism?
– I am not here to define what is and what is not Socialism.
– If the debate had not been allowed to drift towards the question of Socialism, there would “Have been no occasion for me to refer to the matter, since I think that the amendment is a counter business proposition. I should not have touched upon- the question of Socialism but for the remarks made by the honorable member for Barrier, remarks which I am sure he will, upon reflection, regret. I should have been wanting in my duty had I not, on behalf of the Federated Chambers of Commerce, of which I have been President for three years, resented the suggestion that he made. No body of men is . perfect, but it is wrong to suggest that the Chambers of Commerce have any disrespect for religion and are devoid of honorable and charitable instincts. Many of their members have thrown themselves into the work of endeavouring to improve the industrial conditions of Australia. It is a misfortune that the words to which I have referred should have fallen from the lips of an honorable member of this House, speaking either on behalf of his party or as an individual member of it. The incident is all the more regrettable since I am certain that the honorable member himself desires’ to lead an exemplary life, and I conclude that his remarks were due either to absolute unblushing ignorance, or to venom and a feeling of antagonism .towards these bodies, the display of which’ on the part of any honorable member is most regrettable. Honorable members of the Labour Party arrogate to themselves the right to act as sole custodians of the interests of the workers. In that respect, they do an injustice to honorable members sitting, not only on this side of the House, but_ behind the Government, whose desire is that the interests of all classes shall be considered. My own life has been spent in an effort to assist my fellow man, and in a direction altogether different from that which the honorable member for Barrier, inwords that should not appear on the records of the House, has indicated. I deeply regret that the honorable member should have been guilty of such an exhibition of venom and irreverence.
.- I cannot join with the honorable member for Kooyong in congratulating the Government on what he described as “ the highly successful arrangement” made by them for the carriage of our oversea mails. On the contrary, I think that we ought to condole with the Government in that they have been unable to conclude a more satisfactory contract. How can it be said that we should congratulate the- Government on having entered into a contract for the car,riage of our mails at an. increase of- £92,000 per annum on .the subsidy . granted under a former agreement? So far as the carriage of mails is concerned, the only additional advantage that we shall secure by this increased payment will be a saving of two days in the time occupied on the voyage. In no other respect is the contract superior, from a mail point of view, to the old one. I admit that it has some possible advantages in respect of the carriage of perishable products; but viewed solely as a mail contract it offers no advantages as compared with that which will shortly expire. I have risen chiefly for the purpose of explaining why I intend to vote for the amendment, although on a previous occasion I voted against a similar proposition. The contract which was then before us appeared to be very much more advantageous to the Commonwealth than does the proposed contract.
– In what way was it more advantageous to the Commonwealth?
– It involved the payment of a subsidy of .£50,000 less than does the new contract. It provided for an accelerated speed, and for the employment of larger ships than those which will be used under the new contract.
– -“Under the old contract vessels of 12,000 tons were to be employed, whereas under the new one they are to be of 11,000 tons.
– There is not a great deal of difference so far as the tonnage’ is concerned. But the honorable member will recollect that five of the steamers to be employed under the proposed contract are named in the agreement, and that they fall very far short of 11,000 tons. The principal advantage that would have been conferred by the old contract was that it involved the payment of a subsidy of ,£50,000 less than does the new agreement. Surely that is an item which is worthy of our consideration. Upon the last occasion I hesitated a great deal before I decided to vote against the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Barrier. But it did seem to me that if the mail steamers were under Commonwealth control we should not have reaped any more advantages for a considerable time that we should have enjoyed if the old contract had been carried out. Further, I thought that it would be soon enough to consider the .question .of nationalizing the steamers when that contract had nearly expired.. Since then events have transpired which have induced me to change my mind. One of the factors which have influenced me is the enormous expansion which has taken place in the formation of trusts all over the world, and particularly in so far as the ring which controls the oversea trade of Australia is concerned. To-day we know that there is a world-wide shipping combination in existence, and that the only means of preventing the producer from being victimized is competition by a Government which cannot be drawn into the combination. To-day practically all commercial concerns are being run. by trusts and combines. The period when anybody was free to embark upon any enterprise if he chose to do so has gone by. It is our duty, as representatives of the people, to see that the producers are not victimized as the result of any arrangements into which we may enter. I am aware that there is a provision in the new contract under which we have power to cancel the agreement if the Orient Steam Navigation Company bring themselves within the scope of the Australian Industries Preservation Act. They are not likely to do that.
– They have only to dodge it within the 3 miles’ limit.
– That is not a very difficult matter. The whole contract is hedged round with such an enormous number of conditions that it would be far better for us to undertake the responsibility of running a Commonwealth line of mail steamers. The Government have laid down so many conditions - conditions relating to the time occupied by the vessels on the voyage, the freight rates to be charged, the temperature at which produce shall be carried, the amount of insulated space that shall be provided, and the labour which shall be employed - that they practically control the service, except that the agreement is powerless to prevent the Orient Steam Navigation Company from entering into a combination to increase freights. Seeing that all these conditions are imposed, it seems to me that the time has arrived when we should undertake the carriage of our own mails, especially in view of the fact that we are being called upon to pay such an enormous subsidy as compared with the old subsidy. I wish also to voice my objection to this new contract, on the ground that it is something more than a mail contract. We have no right to deplete the’ Commonwealth revenue to the extent of scores of thousands of pounds in order to assist the revenues of the States. If any expenditure is incurred in concluding arrangements for the carriage of perishable products, that expenditure should be borne by the States. Certainly it should not come out of the Common- wealth revenue. We are constantly piling up Commonwealth expenditure by performing work for the States for which we get no credit whatever. As a matter of fact, we get nothing but attacks from them, notwithstanding that we are constantly performing at the expense of the postal revenue some service which the States themselves previously performed. I do not propose to enter into a debate upon the general question of Socialism which has been raised. The discussion on that subject has been an exceedingly interesting one from some points of view.
– We ought to set a session apart for its discussion.
– Neither a session nor a Parliament would suffice -for a full discussion of the question of Socialism versus anti-Socialism, which has been going on ever since the first man began to wear clothes. . I understand that under the new contract the mails will be landed in Adelaide on a Saturday.
– Probably they will be landed there on Saturday, but it will depend entirely upon the time table.
– I saw it stated in a newspaper that the time for arrival at Adelaide would be Saturday morning. The time is not mentioned in the contract, so far as I know. But if any such arrangement is made, it will be most unfair to South Australia.
– Does the honorable member think there is any necessity for the vessels to call at Adelaide at all?
– I have seen the Treasurer in a number of moods, but the role of joker does not suit him. The reason for calling at Adelaide is to enable the mails from Sydney and Melbourne to be despatched as early as possible. _
– Under this contract the vessels will have to call at Adelaide for another twelve yeaTS.
– At the end of that time there may be great improvements in the service.
– The mails might be brought down the east coast, and, in that event, Adelaide would receive them after Melbourne.
– I think it is a pity that we have not a service from Vancouver for the carriage of English mails.
– I am addressing my remarks to a serious member of the Government, the Postmaster-General, who is not in the habit of treating questions frivolously. I put it to him that he should avoid making the time of arrival Saturday morning or mid-day, because that would mean additional cost to the Department in connexion with an extra delivery in South Australia. I assume that if the mails arrive on Saturday morning they will not be kept lying at the post-office until Monday. That would be ridiculous.
– We should save the cost of a mail train from ‘Adelaide if the ships came straight on to Melbourne, and there would be hardly any loss of time.
– It .is of no use to take any notice of insane ideas of that kind. I intend to vote with the honorable member for Barrier. I am not quite clear as to the meaning of some of the other amendments, and shall reserve my right to support them, or otherwise, as they come before the House.
.- Most of the criticism has turned upon the amendment of the honorable member for Barrier. But we may take it for granted that his scheme of nationalization will not commend itself to a majority of honorable members. Therefore, I do not propose to waste much time in considering it. I may, however, point out that, although the honorable member occupied a considerable amount of time in discussing the amendment, it is quite evident, from speeches made by members of his party, that they recognise that there is no prospect of carrying it.
– If the honorable member had continued in the course which he followed in his early political days, he would have been with us.
– The honorable member is mistaken. I have always’ been opposed to Socialism, and this is a Socialistic proposal. It is part of a general scheme of Socialism, in which the honorable member for Barrier believes. In support of that statement, I will quote a few sentences from a leaflet which he distributed amongst his electors only recently. I am quoting this to show that the honorable member’s nationalization proposal in this particular is only a step in the direction of nationalizing all the means of production, distribution, and exchange.
– But, whilst the honorable member says “Quite right,” other members of his party have been at great pains to disclaim any connexion with a general scheme of nationalization. Now what does the honorable member for Barrier say? He says -
It is the common holding of land and the means of production and exchange, and the holding of them for the equal benefit of all.
Further on he says -
You have to destroy the present competitive system -
That is the purpose of the scheme of nationalization. It is to destroy the present system of competition -
You have to destroy the present competitive system to erect on the ruins a system founded on justice and equity. You must vote for Socialism against anti-Socialism or anything else. Socialism is your gospel, your science, your remedy. You need it. And in your time.
– Who made that statement ?
– The honorable member for Barrier made’ that declaration of the principles of his party, and its late leader has explained that their purpose is to reach their ultimate goal step by step - to take only one step at a time. This is one of the first steps which they propose to take in that direction. We have a direct connexion between this amendment in regard to the mail contract and the general socialising scheme of the Labour Party as embodied in their platform and as expounded by the honorable member for Barrier in an electioneering pamphlet. I do not propose to take up more ‘ time in discussing the matter, nor do I intend to follow the honorable member into all the highways and byways of the more or less intricate and chimerical question of Socialism. I am perfectly satisfied that the time has not arrived’ when the good sense of this country will consent to any disruption of the fundamental bases of society in that direction, so that we should not take the amendment too seriously.
– If the amendment were not Socialistic, would the’ honorable member support it?
– Of course I would not,- because it does not commend itself to me on the ground of common sense. I am sure that if it were adopted we should not be able to carry it out to a satisfactory conclusion. ‘ The speech delivered by the honorable member for Barrier last night has been addressed to the House on” three
– No, it is £95,000 more.
– I said more than double - £20,000 more than double. We are asked ‘ to pav nearly £^95,000 more for what is practically the same service, with the exception that the mails will be delivered in fifty-eight hours’ less time. That seems to me to be an excessive amount to pay for that acceleration of speed in the matter of delivery, especially as the company would have to run faster boats irrespective of a mail contract-. What we have to consider” is, how much of the proposed subsidy is to be paid for a mail service, and how much for a commercial service.” The House had a . right to expect the , PostmasterGeneral to furnish some information . on that point. He has not offered any information, but has simply thrown the contract on the table, and practically said, “ There is the contract, take it or leave it,” forcing honorable members to delve into its provisions, in order to ascertain the advantages or the disadvantages as the case may be.
– That was a very good idea, as it commits him to nothing.
– The PostmasterGeneral has followed the bad example set by the Treasurer of withholding information which the House is entitled to receive. It is a most cavalier way of treating the House. I cannot understand why it calmly submits to treatment which practically amounts to an insult. It is tantamount to saying, “ You are merely the Opposition, and you are not entitled to any consideration, not even to ordinary courtesy. We fling this contract in your face, and tell you to take it or leave it, as you like. We do not care what you do, because we have the numbers.”
– How does the honorable member make out that when honorable members on this side intend to vote against its ratification ?
– The honorable member is ‘following the very bad example of the Treasurer, when he fails to offer to honorable members the common courtesy of an explanation of the matters which he wants them to consider. This large increase from £75,000 to £170,000 in the course of three or four years is not justified by a mere acceleration of fifty-eight hours in speed in the transmission of the mails. So that we must conclude that a very large proportion of that increase is due to the commercial side of the contract, which I hold the House has no business to enter into. I am very sorry indeed to find that it is not a mail contract wholly, but is partly a mail contract, and partly a commercial contract. If this system of interfering with and trying to control commercial enterprises, and intervening between producers and -consumers in this way is to continue, where is it going to end? If it is right that we should go into this kind of business in connexion with a mail contract, where are we going to draw the line? It has a very strong resemblance to a drift in the direction of Socialism, if it is not Socialism itself.
– Where is evolution going to end?
– I do pot call it evolution. I am certain that it is retrogression.. We are fast departing from those sound principles of economic government which at one time prevailed in one, if not in all, of the States, and resorting to experiments, which may land us in great difficulties. The amount that we are asked to pay for the contract is very high, but has been justified bv those who have supported the motion on the ground that the company is going to build new vessels, which will involve a large outlay. But the Orient Steam Navigation Company, which every one will acknowledge is a very fine one, if it is going to keep abreast of the times, and successfully face competition, must, irrespective of any subsidy,, replace its vessels as they become obsolete with up-to-date steamers. If it does not, it will lose its cargo and passenger traffic. Therefore, there is not much weight in the argument that the subsidy should be increased because the character of the vessels is to lie improved. It practically means we are to pay for building vessels in which we have no proprietary interests or rights. Consequently the arguments for the increased subsidy are narrowed down to two points - the delivery of the mails in fiftyeight hours less time than formerly, and certain arrangements for the carriage of produce for the special benefit of one or two primary industries. We are entitled to know how much we shall really be paying for the mail service, and how much for the cargo service. The giving of assistance by the Government to the primary producers in the way of getting their produce to market, and developing the export trade, is a sort of bounty. Some may think that it is perfectly legitimate, but to me it savours in its basic elements a good deal of the policy of protection. The whole of the amount of the contract should not be charged against the Postal Department. The portion relating to the carriage of cargo should be debited to the general revenue account. It will, in my opinion, be necessary to amend clause 6. The proposed term of the contract is much too long. Even ten years would be too long, but this proposal really means that we cannot make any rearrangement within twelve years. Although provision is made for the company to accelerate the service if any other company provides a better, service, that only relates to any competing service, via the Suez Canal. In agreeing to clause 6 as it stands, the Government have overlooked two very important factors. One is the possibility of a trans-Asiatic railway, which will connect by boat with Port Darwin, whence the mails might be brought by rail to the various capitals. That may be accomplished at any time after a period of five years has elapsed, and would effect an immense saving of time in the delivery of mails from Europe to Australia. If we bind ourselves for the term proposed to the Orient Steam Navigation Company, ve may find, after five or six years, that we have to pay £170,000 a year for a slower service than could be got by one or more alternative means. The other point which seems to have been overlooked is the tink that will be saved in transit between Europe and Australia., once the Panama Canal is opened. Before ten years have passed, that direct route will probably become the main highway of commerce between Europe and the east coast of Australia, and with the increase in the speed of ocean-going steamers, we may by then have vessels making the trip from London to Sydney in four or five days less than the time proposed in the contract. Yet we should lose the benefit of that acceleration of speed in the delivery of our mails unless this clause is amended. Those two contingencies are both within the bounds of probability, and I am surprised that no thought should have been given to them.
– When does the honorable member expect that the- Panama Canal will be opened ?
– It is anticipated that the Panama Canal will be. completed and opened for traffic within the next six years.
– Yes; if everything goes on favorably.
– No; five years is the time estimated, and I am allowing for possible delay.
– Does the honorable member think that we could induce contractors to build vessels under such a short-term contract?
– I have just pointed out that any shipping company, in order to keep their commercial and passenger trade, must build, new ships of increased speed. The shipping companies do not go to the extra expense on our account; but because, if they did not do so, they would lose their trade. We have to consider how much of the subsidy should be debited to the mail service, and how much to the trading or commercial interests. I do not wish to see the Postal Department loaded with the whole expense.
– That is a matter of finance.
– But it is a matter we have to consider.
– Exactly the contrary argument was used by the present Opposition when the last contract was under consideration.
– I can only say that I did not use that argument.
– How does the honorable member suggest that the mails should be carried, if not under contract?
– I do not object to the mails being carried by contract; I am only saying that the portion of the subsidy relating to commerce should be debited to general revenue. I propose to submit an amendment, if the Government do not do so, to the effect that the period contemplated in paragraph 6 be seven years instead of six, and that the stipulations in regard to the Suez Canal be struck out. I thought at first of suggesting that in paragraph 6, after the words “ Suez Canal,” the words “or via the Panama Canal,, in the event of its being open for traffic within that period,” should be inserted.
– How could we put such a stipulation in the contract? We do not know what the charges or the conditions may be in regard to the Panama Canal.
-The PostmasterGeneral has misapprehended me altogether. I am not saying that the mail vessels should come by the Panama Canal, but pointing out that the stipulation in the agreement refers only to the Suez Canal, and that we ought to make provision for any other route which mail ships may take.
– There may be airships.
– Airships are problematical ; I am referring to practical matters.
– Does the honorable member seriously propose that we should upset this contract?
– I do not see why my amendments should upset the contract.
– I am sure the amendments would have that effect.
– Are we to tie ourselves to a contract for ten years when, at the end of five or six years, we may find ordinary passenger vessels outstripping the subsidized” steamers?
– The honorable member ought to vote for the amendment of the honorable member for Barrier.
– That is the only alternative.
– Not so; the object I have in view can be attained by the amendments which I have indicated. Why should we limit the competition to the Suez Canal ? I propose to move it in due course.
– We cannot accept that amendment.
– An expenditure of £1,750,000 is involved, and we must not lightly sanction an expenditure of the kind, and,, at the same time, bind ourselves for ten years without making reasonable provision for getting the quickest service during that period. Should the Panama Canal be opened within that time, we may have vessels arriving here from England in four days less time than will the subsidized vessels.
– The distance is greater by the Panama Canal.
– The distance is less; it is a direct route, and the delays would not be so great as by the Suez Canal.
– The Panama Canal ‘ will not be finished for ten or twelve years.
– As I have already said, it is anticipated that the Panama Canal will be completed in five years; inany case, if the Panama Canal is not completed, the amendment will not be operative.
– I feel that I should say a few words on this matter. I regret that we are obliged to discuss a question of so much importance to the people in every part of Australia with the limited amount of information supplied by the Government. The contract, if ratified in its present form, would have an important effect in advancing or retarding the interests of those engaged in many industries throughout the Commonwealth. We had a brief speech on the contract from the Prime Minister, who admitted that he had been unable to devote as much time to the consideration of the question as he would have liked. The Postmaster-General threw the contract on the table without offering any opinion at all in regard to many of the important provisions it contains. In my judgment, there can be only two explanations of the honorable gentleman’s action. Either he was prepared to treat honorable members in a fashion which amounted almost to an insult to the House, or he was not competent to give the information which might reasonably have been expected from him.
– The honorable member is responsible for what is occurring.
– I admit that I have a certain responsibility, and I am not at all anxious that it should continue. The Minister should have been prepared with all the information which might reasonably have been expected from him in submitting to the House a matter of so much importance.
– The Minister does not care.
– I admit that the honorable gentleman does not seem to care about anything. He appears to shine only at gatherings where he apologizes for two great men - the Prime Minister and Mr. Judkins.
– He need not mind the honorable member, because he has got the handcuffs on him.
– There are no handcuffs on me. I have never approached the consideration of any question in this House with handcuffs on. I have no hesitation in saying that the manner in which the PostmasterGeneral submitted this proposal was insulting to’ the House. It displayed either incompetence to give the information required, or a deliberate intention to insult honorable members who are endeavouring to do their best for the country in this Chamber. The experience we have had of the members of the present Government, in - eluding the distinguished predecessor of tha present Postmaster-General, in the launching of postal contracts, has been anything but satisfactory. The postal contracts which, in one form or another, have engaged the attention of this Parliament during the last two years justify us in saying that those who have been responsible for them might .well be termed a band of muddlers. I have no hesitation in saying that if honorable members faced their responsibilities, the Government would have been compelled to accept greater responsibilities than they were called upon to accept for failing to recover the £[25,000 due to the Commonwealth under the last contract.
– They should have been “ biffed “ out.
– I think they should. Having made such a muddle as they did in connexion with a great public contract they should not have been continued in a position in which it would be possible for them to get into a greater muddle.
– The honorable member was very kind to the Government, at that time.
– I was too generous to my honorable friend, and in the future such generosity is likely to come to an end. The Postmaster-General was asked by the honorable member for Coolgardie what the people of the Commonwealth would be likely to realize from this contract. The extent to which the people who will make use of this service and who contribute to the revenue of Australia will benefit is a matter on which the PostmasterGeneral should have been able to enlighten the House. The honorable gentleman said nothing on the subject, and we may conclude that if he knew anything about it the information he would have had to disclose was so unsatisfactory that he thought it was just as well he should not take the House into his confidence. We are not justified in ratifying the proposed contract in its present form. Many years ago, when the population and trade of Australia were not what they are at the present time, the people of this country were paying a subsidy well under £100,000. The trade of Australia has increased very considerably during recent years, but we find that boats used in the service for which a very much lower subsidy was paid are still to be engaged although we are to be called upon to pay a subsidy considerably in excess of that previously paid. This appears to be a development entirely in the wrong direction. As the importance and trade of a country increases it is reasonable to expect that it will be able to secure a mail service at a reduced rate of subsidy. But this rule does not seem to apply so far as the Orient Steam Navigation Company is concerned. In the first place, we paid an annual subsidy of about £80,000. Then, after a fiasco, to which the Government contributed, we entered into an agreement under which a subsidy of £120,000 per annum was paid, whilst we have now before us an agreement providing for an apnual subsidy of £170,000, although it is true that under it Brisbane is made a port of call.
– It is too strong.
– I think that it is. We find in this contract many remarkable features to which the Postmaster-General might well have directed his attention, and concerning which he ought to have enlightened the House. In the absence of any such explanation we have to do the best we can with the information supplied by the Prime Minister. He appears to be the only member of the team capable of supplying honorable members with accurate information. Apart from those of the Prime Minister, the Ministerial statements made from time to time in this Chamber are on the verge of being valueless. We ought seriously to consider whether the Commonwealth should do more in this connexion than undertake a responsibility for the carriage of our oversea mails. I admit that the question of whether we should not do something to improve trade relations between Australia and the Mother Country is open to argument; but I feel that £170,000 per annum is too great a subsidy to pay to the Orient Steam Navigation Company for the services which it can render to the Commonwealth. Some time ago we were advised by the permanent head of the Postal Department that under the poundage system our oversea mails could be carried at a cost of about £40,000 per annum. Shipping companies engaged in the Australian trade have no option in the matter; if we desire it, they must be prepared to carry our mails on the poundage system, and I am sure that by resorting to that system we could effect a saving of £130,000 per annum without subjecting the community to any serious inconvenience. For a time a company might endeavour, under such an arrangement, to inconvenience the public. The Orient Steam Navigation Company itself has given us an illustration of what might be done in that direction. On one occasion one of the vessels of its fleet cleared out of a Mediterranean port, leaving our English mails on the wharf, and thus causing a delay of a week in their delivery. That was a fine exhibition of a generous spirit ! The contention of the company was that it was merely compelled to take French mails from the port in question, and was not obliged to carry English mails that had been conveyed overland to that point. That was its flimsy pretext for subjecting the public of Australia to the inconvenience of a week’s delay in the delivery of the English mail. Such an action on the part of the company is held to recommend them to the generous consideration of the Commonwealth Parliament ! It might be impossible to stipulate that vessels carrying our mails on the poundage system should leave certain ports at a fixed date, and reach the port of destination within a given time ; but does any one imagine that in the event of the Orient Steam, Navigation Company failing to run its vessels according to a time-table and to advertise months ahead the dates on which they would leave our ports and arrive at their destination, it would be able to secure the patronage necessary to enable it to continue in the Australian trade? I, for one, do not think that it would. The experiment of having our mails carried under the poundage system might well be tried; and I feel sure that we should thus be able to effect a saving of £130,000 per annum without causing any serious inconvenience to the community. Under such an arrangement, we should be able to avail ourselves of the services of the German and French mail boats. I should just as soon see Australian mails carried on a French or German steamer as on one of the vessels of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, although I candidly admit that I should infinitely prefer to see them carried on Australianowned steamers. We have been told that under this agreement the vessels of the Orient Steam Navigation Company will fly the Australian flag. This patriotic Government, which is doing so much to instil in the hearts of Australians a love of their own land, is prepared to pay £170,000 per annum to secure, among other privileges, the right to fly the Australian flag over a British ship, whilst at the same time, it causes the King’s head to appear. on Australian stamps. We have in this instance a fine example of the consistency of the Government.
– Is not the honorable member aware that boodle is the demonstrator of patriotism?
– Boodle seems to have caused, in some quarters, a great demonstration of enthusiasm in regard to this contract. And, after all, we may be forced to enter into it. It seems possible to secure in this House combinations of parties that are prepared to agree to almost anything. But it is a serious matter for this Parliament to take upon itself the responsibility of tying down three succeeding Parliaments to a mail contract. Under this agreement, the Orient Steam Navigation Company will have absolute control of our mail’ service until 1920. Can honorable members regard with any satisfaction the proposal under this agreement to fix freights in respect of certain perishable products for twelve years, when they recollect that within the last twelve years there have been such extraordinary changes in the matter of these charges ? We are asked to take upon ourselves a responsibility that, in my opinion, we ought not to assume, particularly in view of the statement made by the honorable member for Barrier last night. He said that the present “freight for- the carriage of butter to the Old Country is £3 10s. a ton.
– For the last two years it has been ,£3 10s. a ton, and under the contract it is to be £4 13s. 6d.
– The companies have said that ^£3 10s. does not pay.
– They would advance many arguments to induce the Government to agree to another £[10,000 per .annum in the way of subsidy.- Of course, the representatives of the Orient Steam Navigation Company have done all they could to secure the best terms for themselves, though I am not suggesting that everything has not been done honorably. It would appear, however, that they possess too much business knowledge, and proved too much for the business capacity of the members of the Government. No member of the Ministry has thought it worth while to reply to the statement of the honorable member for Barrier. I do not know whether the Government are aware how far they stand committed in this matter. Although for the last two years the butter freight has been £[3 10s. a ton, when the Orient Steam Navigation Company said, “ We cannot make it pay at that,” the Government at once replied, “ We will allow you to charge ,£4 13s. 6d. for the next twelve years.”
– At the same time increasing the subsidy.
– The butter producers of Australia are not likely to be very enthusiastic in their commendation of this contract, and although the Government are prepared to put them in such an unfortunate position, I do not think that the House will agree to it. The possibilities of freight reductions between now and 1920 are so great that we are not justified in entering into an agreement of this kind. Had Ministers considered the House entitled to information, they might have mentioned this matter when dealing with the contract. Their success in fixing outward rates of freight for butter and fruit has been of such a nature that producers of other commodities may thank their lucky stars that freights have not been fixed for them. But perhaps the PostmasterGeneral, if he survives the debate, will tell us in his reply why only butter and fruit were dealt with. In paragraph 7 of the agreement it is laid down that -
No differentiation of any kind whatsoever is between any ports of call within the Cornmonwealth shall under normal conditions be made by the contractors in respect of freight (exclusive of lighterage and other similar sneci.il charges if any) from’ the loading port in the United Kingdom that is to say no such differentiation shall be made by the contractors unless at the time being there is in operation a freight war which shall not have been entered upon with the consent of the contractors.
– The use of the words “ under normal conditions “ will enable a coach-and-six to be driven through that provision.
– Yes. Even the Minister could drive a coach through it. Were the Attorney-General here, I should ask him what the provision means. It might mean anything. But the latter part of it does not seem to be particularly advantageous to those who have been overcharged in the past. As the honorable member for North Sydney pointed out, although Fremantle is over 2,000 miles nearer to Europe than most of the eastern ports, the freight to it from Europe is 47s. 6d. a ton, whereas the freight to Melbourne is only 42s. 66., and to Sydney 40s. To the best of my recollection a Western Australian Royal Commission, presided over by the late Mr. Diamond, M.L.A., reported that in nearly every instance freights were higher to Fremantle than to other places. But surely the port nearest to Europe should not be charged 7s. 6d. a ton more than is charged to other ports.
– Fremantle is the third port in Australia.
– Why should we differentiate ?
– If there is to be any differentiation, the port nearest to Europe should pay lower freights than are charged to other ports. Fremantle is in no sense a dangerous port, because, in the course of conversation, the Admiral of the Australian Fleet told me that, although the Powerful draws more water than any of the mail boats, he is able to take her into Fremantle harbor, and swing her round with the greatest ease and safety.
If we are going to have this matter “ squared up,” I think that the PostmasterGeneral - but perhaps I had better appeal to the Prime Minister, because, evidently the Postmaster-General has had very little to do with the contract-
– That is not fair.
– The honorable member has been insulting all day - he cannot help it.
– I cannot be half as insulting as the Postmaster-General was to the House when he threw the contract upon the table without taking the trouble to explain its provisions.
– Was I personal to the honorable member?
– I am dealing with the Postmaster-General and not with Mr. Mauger.
– The honorable member is the rudest and crudest member in the House.
– I am dealing with the Postmaster-General, and my language is justifiable.
– The honorable member should behave himself like a gentleman.
– I will not take instruction from the Postmaster-General in regard to manners. If his habits are those of a gentleman, I do not wish to be a gentleman.
– The honorable member ought to be ashamed of himself.
– I have evidently exposed the conduct of the Minister to some purpose.
– The honorable member lias insulted every Minister who has sat here. He may learn better sense some day.
– I do not look to the Postmaster-General either for commonsense or for lessons in behaviour. I complain that in the past Fremantle has been unduly penalized by the Orient Steam Navigation Company in regard to importations. As a matter of fact, it has been cheaper to consign some goods to Sydney and tranship them to Fremantle than it has been to consign them direct to that port.
– The freight to Fremantle is 30 per cent, higher than that charged to any other port, with the exception of Townsville.
– Seeing that the Prime Minister had a hand in its drafting, we might have expected that the terms of this contract would have been much more clearly drawn. Concerning the proposal to include Brisbane as a port of call of the mail steamers, I see no reason why the chief ports of Australia should not be treated with equal consideration. But I have the greatest doubt as to whether this Parliament should assume responsibility for entering into a general contract of that description. I do not think that the Commonwealth ought to be saddled with an expenditure of ,£20,000 annually on account of Brisbane being made a port 01 call. Further, if that port is to be included in the itinerary of mail steamers, there is equal justification for including Hobart. The representatives of Tasmania have strong ground for complaint concerning the way in which their State has been treated in connexion with this contract. If special consideration is to be extended to various ports upon a semi-commercial basis, I think that Hobart might reasonably have expected that during the busy season it would have been mandatory, instead of optional, that the mail steamers should call there. If any of the Tasmanian representatives move in that direction, I shall be found supporting them. I come now to the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Barrier. Seeing that we are asked to authorize the payment of £[1,700,000 for the carriage of our mails during the next decade, we should be wise if we undertook the service on our own account. The arguments which have already been advanced in favour of the nationalization of public utilities, such as railways and post and telegraphs, do not require any elaboration at my hands. I trust that the amendment of the honorable member for Barrier will be carried. Even if it be defeated, I am entirely opposed to the new contract covering a period ‘ of ten years, because the advance which is likely to be made in methods of transportation, and in scientific discovery, may render the present ships almost obsolete before the expiration of that term. Further, should Australia become a great exporting country, it will probably be found that the present freight charges are excessive.’ Consequently, : if we do not agree to nationalize the service, we ought at least to considerably reduce the period over which the contract shall extend. Personally, I think that the substitution of the poundage rate for the payment of a subsidy would commend itself to the people of Australia.
.- Like other honorable members, I have been somewhat curious to learn why the PostmasterGeneral submitted the proposal for the ratification of this contract without explaining its provisions. Is it because the PostmasterGeneral is not quite satisfied with the contract, but, out of loyalty to his colleagues in the Cabinet, does not desire to say so? Has he, for that reason, thought it wise to leave the responsibility of recommending it to the House to the eloquent Prime Minister, who is the only member of the Government who has said a word about it? According to the logic of the honorable member for Echuca, although a man may be silent, and although his face may be solemn, there may be wicked thoughts behind; and we should really like to know what the Postmaster-General is thinking. He might tell us whether he is enthusiastically in favour of the contract, or whether he recognises some of its defects. He ought not to resent criticism, because, after a measure has been submitted and debated, it is a fair thing to expect the Minister in charge of it to reply. That practice tends to shorten debate. I can, however, quite understand the Postmaster-General being unable to work up an enthusiasm for this contract. He has to administer a Department which has nothing to do with cool storage, and all that sort of thing, although he has to find the money for it; and if there is a deficiency at the end of the year the blame will be thrown upon him.. Now, what does this contract do? It appears to me that if any one is to be congratulated, it is the Orient Steam Navigation .Company, who have made an exceedingly good bargain for themselves. They have not had the luck to do exceedingly well in recent years. They have done very good work for Australia in the past, and deserve credit for it. But, regarding this contract from a business point of view, I have been looking for some justification for the extra large sum which is to be paid to the Company. I recollect distinctly that when a jump was made from ,£80,000 to ,£120,000 in the subsidy to the Company, honorable members were practically unanimous in condemning the increase. It was generally felt that we were being asked to pay too much for our whistle. But, on this occasion, the members of the Opposition seem to. be Government supporters, and have not a word to say in denunciation of the enormous jump from ,£120,000 to £170,000. There is one- satisfactory feature about it, namely, that if we do ratify this contract for ten years it will save us from having to pay an increased amount five years hence. The representatives of the Orient Steam Navigation Company seem to have struck the Government at the right time. Ministers have recently been in the mood for paying bounties. They have been proposing, for example, to throw away £[200,000 or £[300,000. The Orient Steam Navigation Company came along, and saw that this was a favorable chance for making a bargain. They found the Government ready to meet them, and they have secured a contract under which the payment is largely in the nature of a bounty. But what are we to get for it? We are to have increased speed. The commercial people who do business with the Old World will be benefited in that respect. But that is a business which the Government, according to their own declared policy, do not wish to increase. The policy of the Government is to encourage the local production of goods for our own requirements. Of course, the general public will share in the increased facilities, but, nevertheless, they are mainly for the benefit of the commercial classes, who will get their letters two days quicker than thev used to do. ‘ When the last mail contract was under consideration, an estimate was made that a subsidy of £[120,000 meant paying for the carriage of our letters over .£2,200 per ton. That is an interesting fact, although we have to recollect that we do not pay for the mere bulk and weight of our mails, but for regularity and speed. But it is well known that, owing to the perfecting of ships’ machinery, improvements in models, and so on. it is now possible to obtain a higher speed without a greatly increased expenditure. Therefore, when it is urged that an increased subsidy is required on account of the increased speed of the vessels, I think that the argument is misleading, because there is no increased cost to the Company to the extent of the increase in the subsidy. Then we have a guarantee with regard to cool storage. Well, cool storage would be provided on the Company’s ships if we did not increase the subsidy. A company nowadays would not build ships for the purpose of carrying cargo to Australia without providing cool storage accommodation. The Government make a great point of having fixed freight rates. But it seems to me that that is by no means an advantage when the facts are analyzed. Hitherto the Orient Steam Navigation Company has taken a hand in a combine of five lines, which made an arrangement regarding freight rates. I am not condemning such arrangements, if ‘they are fair. I only condemn them when they are injurious. It is a curious situation that the representatives of the Commonwealth, in acting with the representatives of one State in making arrangements for the freight that is to be paid on these vessels, should have actually brought up the price. They have helped to do what the Combine has been aiming at - that is, to arrive at an understanding as to a uniform freight. Whether the freight fixed is too high or too low is best known to those who have gone into that point. But it appears to me that the rate has been rather increased, and that it is a mistake to fix freight rates for nearly thirteen years ahead.
– That is the worst feature of the contract.
– It is not to be supposed that the science of ship-building will stand still during thirteen years. Consider the number of vessels of the Dreadnought type which are being built in the Old World. Notwithstanding their immense weight of steel, their speed has been enormously increased. The fact is that, owing to improvements in ship-building, speed can be increased without such a greatly augmented cost as was formerly entailed. Probably long before the twelfth year of the period is completed such improvements will have been made as will enable other lines to cut under the freights fixed in this contract. There is nothing particularly binding upon those who have come to the arrangement, except a sort of mutual understanding or promise. Competition may come in from outside. But when it does come in and takes from the Orient Steam Navigation Company a portion of its income, the contract provides for an increase ih-the amount of the subsidy. We also find in the document other provisions which, at first sight, seem to be all right. For instance, there is a provision to the effect that the company shall be debarred from joining in any combine. If it can be proved to the satisfaction of the High Court that they have become a party to a combine, the Postmaster-General is empowered to cancel the contract. The point I want to make is that it would be impossible to satisfy ‘the High Court that that which has been generally termed »> the Old World the Shipping Conference is a combine. 1 was a member of the Shipping Service Commission, and those who are interested in the producing industries will derive considerable information from the evidence we took regarding the arrangement in the Old Country, which is generally spoken of as a ring or. combine. In the High Court, however, a question has to be dealt with on legal principles, and, according to evidence”, and that which is generally known’ to the community is not accepted by the Judges without clear proof. The representatives of the shipping companies who have had experience of the alleged ring deny that it is a combine. They describe it as a very simple thing indeed - as a mere understanding”’ amongst the shippers. Thev say that it is not composed of shipowners, but of merchants and others, and is ;i nice friendly arrangement by which to settle the freightage to Australia. The Combine controls the ships. It can lay up a vessel just as it likes, fix the freights, or decide how much freight a ship shall take, but I doubt whether it would be possible to get the necessary evidence to- satisfy the High Court that it is a combine. If that evidence cannot be procured, the provision in the agreement counts for practically nothing. Unless things have been materially altered since the Shipping Service Commission took evidence, I doubt whether the Orient Steam Navigation Company will be able to secure goods in the Old Country to bring out here, unless it belongs to that particular ring. It will be very difficult indeed to prove that it is a ring, although it carries out the very work which a ring does, and we have to suffer accordingly. We shall have no voice in determining the rates ‘of freight for the carriage of our imports. It will also have to te proved that any understanding which has been arrived at affecting exports is illegal before the contract ran be cancelled. The Government have actually teen helping to make a combine. Thev ave appealing to a certain firm which has been entering into competition here, and cutting down the freights for the carriage of perishable products. The Government have been aiding them to raise those freights a little more. That is the most extraordinary position which a Government could take up. Then, as a kind of sop - of course, to please the Labour Party - thev say that the contractors are going to cease to discriminate between unionists and non-unionists. That is no sacrifice on the part of the Company, because it is generally admitted by the shipping companies that the Seamen’s Union provides the best sailors. In making that promise, the contractors are not making any concession. To their credit they have always manned their ships with white men. The experience of shipping companies has demonstrated that it is not cheaper to employ lascars. Again, consider that wonderful sacrifice which the contractors have made in undertaking to fly the Australian flag. A. representative of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce, in the person of the honorable member for Kooyong, is not pleased even with that concession. That is the only little fault which he can find with the contract. I think it is rather a good idea to let persons on the high seas and in the Old World know that there is such a place as Australia. In the contract the Government have stipulated the freight for the carriage of only two products. Suppose that the rate is very reasonable, perhaps only sufficient to. cover the bare cost. Is that a very great concession, having regard to all the other items in respect of which the contractors are left free to fix the freights? Seeing that the Government have been helping to bring all the competitors into a little ring, will it not be easy for the contractors to arrange what freights thev please in respect of products other than butter and fruit? It seems to me that the Government have reached a sort of half-way stage between the old individualist method and the Socialist method. They had to choose between yielding to the steam-ship company or accepting the proposal of the honorable member for Barrier. The better plan, I think, would have been for the Commonwealth to establish a line of its own ships, which, I contend, could be done without resorting to borrowing. But the Government have been trying to please everybody, and it seems to me that they are not likely to please any one.. The contract contains another peculiarity which I think has not been sufficiently emphasized. Not only is it to run for the term of ten years, but we are required to put up for a couple of years with the existing steamers, which are so much behind the age. Practically a period of eight years will elapse before a full service is provided. It will only be provided during the last four years of the contract. Again, take the increased size and better description of boats which the contractors undertake to have constructed. Those very boats, when constructed, may be out of date as compared with modern ships. Although we shall have to pay the enormous subsidy of j£i 70,000 per’ annum - how much that represents per ton of letters I do not know - still we shall not get the type of ship which is described in the contract, except during the last four .ears of its currency. That really adds to the amount of the subsidy, and certainly it shows how unreasonable it is. The clause in regard to Tasmania might just as well have been left out of the contract. Because it can only be taken as an expression of opinion. This document is supposed to be an agreement drawn up in legal terms, but I think that an average layman -will readily perceive that certain of its conditions are not mandatory. They are only a sort of promise, and are put in apparently for rhetorical effect. They are quite foreign to a legal document or binding agreement. Apparently the only penalty provided is that either side can break the contract. There may be some good in that, although, apparently, the Commonwealth is fairly tied up. Should the Commonwealth pass legislation that presses heavily upon the shipping company, the company can give notice to terminate the agreement. It might be possible to end the arrangement in that way. The clause that deals with the calling at Tasmania, boiled down, simply means that the boats are to call there if it pays them. If the Tasmanians are to expect the mail boats to call there and give them the advantage that accrues from prompt delivery, they will have to guarantee sufficient cargo; but the Commonwealth has no guarantee, in the interests of Tasmania, that the boats will call at Hobart at all. It seems unfair to stipulate that the boats are to call at the principal port of all the States except the smallest one, which should have the first consideration for the very reason that it is small. The bigger States can very well look after themselves, because they are, financially, in a better position than are States like Tasmania and Queensland. The principal industry of Tasmania is fruit-growing, although, probably, there will be a development of the butter trade in that State. It should not be left optional for the boats to go to Hobart. Of course, it is provided that the company has to satisfy the Minister that it would not be profitable for them to do so. If the company find that it pays them to go to Hobart, they will go, but if they find that they can make a greater profit by going somewhere else for freight, will any Minister compel them to go to Tasmania, and suffer the loss that would be involved thereby? The whole contract shows that the shipping company has very much the best of the deal. This and previous experiences in fixing up the mail service indicate that private enterprise has got a grip of the Commonwealth. If anything was calculated to make converts to the views of the Labour Party, it would be the experience of the Commonwealth Government in arranging mail contracts. On the last occasion we’ put forward proposals that were dismissed in a light and airy fashion, because a syndicate made an offer which the Government, and a majority of the House, regarded as bond fide, although it turned out to Le rather in the nature of a confidence trick. But the syndicate’s estimate of the cost of vessels bore out the correctness of the report of the Shipping Commission, of which the honorable member for Barrier was Chairman. The experience of this contract is still more strongly in favour of the views that we put forward. The Government, in their timidity about taking a bold step and launching out in a mail and cargo service of their own, allowed themselves to be placed at the mercy of the shipping companies, who hold them in the hollow of their hand. I do not object to the provision for improved speed, although it mainly benefits one class of the community, nor do I take exception to the principle of regulating freights, which is an interference with’ private enterprise that the antiSocialists in this House seem ready to swallow without making a wry face. On the whole, the contract compares unfavorably with the proposals made by the honorable member for Barrier, which have not had a proper discussion here yet. We have been accused of wandering into speculative projects. It reminds me very much of the theologian of the days of Galileo. When the astronomer said that he could see through his telescope the moons of Jupiter, the theologian declared that it was utterly impossible. He refused to look through the telescope, and when asked to explain how it was that others could see the moons, he declared that there were spots in the glass. He was then asked to explain why the same spots did not appear when the telescope was turned on to Venus or Mars, but he still asserted that it was impossible that there should be moons. The attitude of certain honorable members is exactly similar. They turn their mental eye on to something that no one has put forward, and in a light and airy fashion they say that it is impracticable. That is what the honorable member for Flinders, like the old theologian, did, and merely because certain proposals differed from his ideas of things. That is not a fair or honest attitude to adopt towards any proposal put forward seriously with the weight of evidence and argument behind it. Some honorable members, from whom I expected very much better things, have wandered away into a condemnation of something that no one has proposed, and that may never happen. They have avoided looking at the practical proposal that has been made as an alternative to the adoption of a contract which some of them have so severely criticised. They have alarmed themselves by putting a label on the proposal. We call it nothing but a sensible business proposition, and, if it is .so, it surely ought to be examined on its merits. They see the word “ Socialism “ on the glass of their telescope, and that frightens them. It excites them more than the proverbial red rag does a bull, although Australian bulls are not frightened by red rags. Australian representatives in the Australian Parliament, however, are frightened by the bogy, Socialism. The honorable member for Kooyong was terribly worried and excited to-day, but even he, with his vast experience and knowledge, had to admit that he does not know what Socialism really is. How, then, can honorable members be anti-something which they cannot define? On a previous occasion when our proposal was put forward, some honorable members raised the objection that there would be difficulties in managing a State-owned line. It is noticeable that no objection seems to have been raised to the proposal of the honorable member for Barrier on its merits, nor has it been contended that it would not be possible to obtain some one to successfully manage a Commonwealth line of steamers. The representative of the Orient Steam Navigation Company would, I think, be a good man to superintend such an enterprise, if one may judge from the way in which he has managed the Government ; and doubtless, if an adequate salary were offered, we could obtain his services. I was surprised that the honorable member for North Sydney should suggest that if we nationalized all industries, a workman would not be satis- fied to receive only £2 per week, while the manager was receiving £1,000 a year.
– I was not then speaking about the management of a steamship company.
– No, but the honorable member used an argument of that kind against the Socialistic proposals, of which the amendment of the honorable member for Barrier is said to be one.
– I used that as an argument against complete nationalization.
– In any case, I was surprised that the honorable member should wander into the regions of speculation in regard to universal nationalization. I shall not follow the honorable member, who drew pictures, which, so far as I know, very few members of the Labour Party have any idea will be realized. But even if his speculations were to be translated into fact, I altogether differ with him as to the probable results. The honorable member contended that if the whole of the people were State employes, they would demand unworkable” conditions ; but my experience of the working classes is that it is exceedingly difficult to induce them to make even demands that are admittedly reasonable. The shareholders in the great co-operative societies of the United Kingdom represent about one- fourth, of the population of the Old Country. Many industries are entirely controlled by cooperative shareholders ; and yet we there observe all the differences in wages which are to be found under private enterprise. There is no endeavour to reduce all salaries and wages to one level, but, as elsewhere, the remuneration of the manager is vastly different from that of other employes.
– Those cooperative associations are managed from the outside.
– No, they are managed by the shareholders.
– But not by employes only.
– The associations are managed entirely by the shareholders, who are not outsiders.
– But all the shareholders are not the employes of the associations.
– I could mention several co-operative associations in the Old Coun- try in which the workmen are all shareholders, and yet there are none of the results which the honorable member seems to fear. Much that has been said by anti-Socialists, in the course of the present discussion, is to be attributed to the fact that the proposal of the honorable member for Barrier is not open to hostile criticism. The trend in every country, especially in the older countries of the world, is in the direction of collective ownership of public utilities such as railways, telegraphs, gasworks, and tramways; and, at the present time, about two-thirds of the trams in Great Britain are owned by municipalities. There is a strong feeling, not only in England, but also in America, in favour of the nationalization of the railways ; and most of us know the great dangers connected with the privately -owned railways in the United States, not only to employes but to the travelling public. In the United States, with an immense population, the average fare on the privately-owned tramways is S cents per mile, whereas in the United Kingdom, where most of the trams are owned by public bodies, the fare is less than half. Then, in point of safety, speed, and administration, the railways and tramways of the United Kingdom are far ahead of those of the United States; and the Australian railways on all points are admitted to be much superior to those in any part of the world. As showing the advantages to the public of Stateowned railways, compared with privatelyowned railways, I may say that in Tasmania, on the privately-owned line from Burnie to Zeehan, a distance of 88 miles, the fare is 22s. second class, as compared with 8s. 9d. for a single second-class ticket on the State-owned railway from Burnie to Little Hampton, a distance of 88f miles. On the privately-owned line from Strahan to Queenstown, a distance of 28 miles, the fare is 7s. 6d. second class, as compared with 3s, charged tor the same distance on the State-owned railway from Zeehan to Strahan. In New South Wales, on the privately-owned railway from Moama to Deniliquin, a distance of 45 miles, a second-class ticket costs 9s., whereas for a similar distance on the State-owned railway, only 5s. is charged. We must also remember that when selectors and farmers are suffering from drought, the Railways Commissioners of the various States may step in and materially assist by carrying starving stock and fodder at low rates, whereas we know that, under such circumstances the owners of private railways do not give concessions.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7-45 p.m.
– The honorable member for Barrier evidently anticipated the line of argument that would be adopted by those opposed to his amendment when he said that they would not object so much to his proposal as to what might follow it, if it were acted upon. I have said that that is not a fair way to deal with the matter. To label a proposal with the name of some principle one does not approve, and then to urge as a justification for opposing the proposal the name that one has himself applied to it, is a peculiar way in which to reason, if it can be called reasoning at all. We have heard during this discussion, as we always do in the discussion of proposals of the kind, that we must take human nature into account. Whilst the general characteristics of human nature may remain practically unchanged, it is always altering and changing in some respects. The party with which I am associated believe that if we remove the temptation to do 511 deeds they are less likely to be done. It is no argument against any proposal to say that it does not represent absolute perfection. If we had reached perfection the world would be at a stand-still. Advance and development is possible only where there is room for improvement. How is any one to judge that a business is well or ill managed if he looks at it from one point of view ? I cannot avoid saying that the line of reasoning adopted by the critics- of proposals of this kind is not calculated to inspire confidence in their judgment. Those who pretend to criticise a proposal by setting up and knocking down something else never come to close quarters with the real question under discussion. The remarks of the honorable member for Parramatta appeared to me to be a little contradictory. In discussing the difference between private monopolies and what the honorable member termed Government monopolies, in his fear that something terrible might happen under a Government monopoly, the honorable gentleman expressed a preference for private monopolies. Apparently he has less fear that evils would arise under private monopolies. The same idea appears to have been in the mind of the honorable member for North Sydney, when he referred to what might happen should all industries become nationalized, and the people engaged in them become State employes. There is nothing in the honorable member’s contention, because we, find that under State management various sections are still looking after their own interests, and that will continue to be the case until human nature, by new environment, has become so altered as to bring about a better state of affairs. The honorable member for Parramatta feared that a State monopoly would give rise to tyranny or the loss of freedom - and I understood the honorable member to refer to the freedom of the individual ; but surely the honorable member must agree that if such results, arising from private monopolies, can be checked by the power of the State, in the enactment of legislation to bring about new conditions, It Is not likely that the community as a whole, under a system of State monopolies, would put up with such evils. There is a great lack of faith in the possibility of the improvement, not only of our social conditions, but of the character and nature of tEe Individual units who, together, make up society. The honorable member for North Sydney should be able to recognise that long before we shall have reached the stage when all industries will become nationalized immense changes will have taken place. I believe that *he conditions of society will have beirne so changed, as the result of the use which mankind will make of the advantages conferred by applied science, that it is not too much to say that every one will enjoy the equivalent of an income of £[1,000 a year at the present time.
– I should like to ask the honorable member if he proposes to connect his observations with the proposal before the House ? I have been listening to him for some time in the hope that he would do so.
– I am endeavouring to reply briefly to arguments which have already been used, and which I have, therefore, assumed to be relevant to the question.
– Not se much to arguments as to a mere incidental expression.
– The honorable member will see that if a prompt contradiction is not given to some statements that are made it might be assumed that it. is because honorable members approve of them. The proposed mail contract, if carried, -would continue in operation for ten or twelve years, and I- have been trying te* show that, as a result of the changes which are continually going on in the world, there is no reason for the fear that the evils towhich reference has been made would arise under what would be entirely new conditions. I have already said that to enter upon speculative arguments is not a fair way in which to discuss the proposal at all.
– The honorable member believes that after many thousands of years we have struck the road to the Millennium at last.
– It is only the honorable member for Parramatta who talks about the Millennium. He has repeated many times that we must reckon with human nature, and I say that that is exactly where we start from.
– I point out that in elaborating an irrelevant argument the honorable member is not dealing with the question before the Chair.
– I shall not pursue that line of reasoning. I wished to reply to some statements made by the honorable member for Parramatta in discussing the amendment moved by the honorable member for Barrier. Perhaps I might be allowed to refer to one other statement which the honorable member has made about the danger that the inspection under Government management would not be efficient, and I need only remind honorable members in answer to that that the highest prices are obtained for butter which has been inspected by Government officials. The honorable member for Parramatta made some observations with respect to the introduction of sentiment into business. That is a very important element which we are introducing into business. By recent legislation we have decided to introduce a great deaf of sentiment into business. We are introducing the sentiment of justice, and it is upon that basis that we put forward such a proposal as that now before the House. It has in it more ethics than some imagine. We believe that to leave to private enterprise services of this kind is to open the door to injustice and various evils. I do not mean to suggest that that is the result of all private business ; but the fact that we have been called upon to take action with a view to the abolition of sweating is evidence that private enterprise must be restricted. We are led by humanitarian considerations to the conclusion that such action is necessary.
– I suppose that there is no injustice taking place in the Post and Telegraph Department?
– No one suggests that everything is what it ought to be ; but the fact that there are numberless applicants for admission to the Public Service should be some indication of whether or not those already in the service are doing fairly well.
– If we had a Labour Government we should soon set right matters in the Public Service.
– Yes. My argument was directed chiefly against the spirit of pure commercialism which is responsible for so many wrongs. We are introducing humanitarian considerations into our legislation, and I disagree entirely with those who say that there should be no sentiment in business. The public ought to be protected against persons whose selfishness and greed would lead them to take advantage of others on the ground that they were acting merely in accordance with commercial principles. I think that the proposed contract is a big mistake, and I am afraid that if more business acumen were not displayed in national enterprises than has been shown on behalf of the Commonwealth in the negotiations for this mail service, there would be some ground for the contention of our anti-socialistic friends. With a Stateowned line of mail steamers we should be free from the dangers that now beset us, and I feel confident that before the expiration of this contract we shall have a Federal Parliament that is prepared to view these matters from the same stand-point as does the honorable member for Barrier, whose amendment I intend to support. I am not prepared to be a party to the granting of such a large subsidy to a private company, however worthy it may be. I can find no justification for the payment of so large a sum, a considerable part of which will be an absolute gift to the company. I shall vote for the amendment, which may yet be carried.
.- I am sorry to take up the time of the House, because I know that we have a great deal to do before the Christmas vacation ; but, as one of the representatives of Western Australia, which is much interested in regular mail communication between Australia and the Old World, I feel coristrained to offer a few observations. I have listened with attention, and with some regret, to the remarks that have been made concerning the unbusiness-like attitude taken up by the Government with reference to the Laing contract. When a member of the Government, I had not, at the outset, much to do with the negotiations, but we were buoyed up with assurances that it would be carried out. A good deal of the delay that occurred was due to the fact that we were loth to cancel the contract while the Prime Minister and the present Treasurer were in England, and while there was still some reason to hope that the requisite capital would be forthcoming. It is easy to find fault, but had we cancelled the contract without giving the contractors every opportunity to carry it out, we should have been very much blamed. We did not cancel it until all hope of its being seccessfully carried out was at an end. I regret, too, that the question of Socialism should have been allowed to obtrude so largely into this discussion. The contract has been placed before us, and it is for us to say whether or not we approve of it. The Government have given it careful consideration, and have submitted it to us for confirmation. They have taken the responsibility of signing it, subject to its ratification by Parliament, and since it is a signed and completed document it would be voided by being amended. If it were amended, it would be open to the Orient Steam Navigation Company to withdraw from the arrangement. If any new provisions are necessary, the only thing to do will be to make an additional agreement, apart altogether from this agreement.
– The contract is not complete.
– It is complete so far as the Government are concerned, and any amendment of it would void it.
– Then, what is the good of referring it to the House?
– Many proposals that may not be amended are submitted, in order to validate them. The Government submit to the House important proposals in connexion with the Estimates, and if they are not carried, their course is clear, as it is in this case. I have no objection, on socialistic grounds, to the State ownership of mail steamers. I do not think that the ownership of mail steamers could be said to be any more socialistic than is the State ownership of railways. The railways are trading concerns; the Railway Commissioners are common carriers. There is a great difference, however, between a fleet of steamers trading beyond the limits of Australia to other parts of the world, and railways which, lying wholly within our borders, are completely within the control of our Governments. The railways, telegraphs, telephones, and other public services which I need not mention, are, in Australia, State-owned monopolies, shielded by law from competition. Prior to Federation the telegraph and telephone services were, in most of the States, carried on at a loss, though they are approaching the paying point now, while some of the State railways were also run at a loss. But businesses of private concerns must be made to pay, because those who direct them have no taxpayers to fall back upon to provide for losses. They know that, if they cannot make profits, their business must . go to the wall. I believe competition to be, in the main, a good thing. It is enterprise and competition that has made the British Empire what it is. We have progressed, not because our people have done as little as they could, but because each has tried to do his best. A monopoly guarded from competition can charge what it likes. In Australia we may fix what rates we please for the transmission of a telegraph message or the carriage of goods by rail. But a Commonwealth line of mail steamers trading to England and other countries would have to face the competition of other lines. My objection to the proposal of the honorable member for Barrier is, not that it is socialistic, but that it is opposed to public policy. It would not, in my opinion, pay to run a Commonwealth line of steamers in competition with private lines. It is not the business of the Government to send out vessels to trade here, there, and everywhere throughout the world; such undertakings should, I think, be left to private enterprise. The proposed Commonwealth fleet, if brought into existence, would - at any rate, once it got beyond Australian waters - have to compete with other lines for passenger and goods traffic. But perhaps - and I do not think that this is too far-fetched to be mentioned - it is intended by the Labour Party, so soon as the line of State-owned steamers is established, to ask this Parliament to forbid the importation or exportation of goods in vessels other than those owned by the Government of Australia.
– Does the honorable member say that the existing Government monopolies are abused?
– I amin favour of State-owned railways, telegraphs, and telephones, but it is quite possible that if they were privately owned they might be run more economically. It is only in Australia that there are so many monopolistic enterprises protected by law from competition.
– Is our telephone and telegraph system dearer than those of other countries?
– Yes; though for long distances it is very cheap.
– It is cheaper.
– Our telephone system is the worst managed in the world.
– I do not know that it is the worst ; it is certainly capable of improvement, in Melbourne at any rate.
– The London telephone systems are worse.
– I commend to the attention of the Attorney-General, or of any one else who cares to consider constitutional questions, an inquiry as to the powers of the Commonwealth’ to embark in a shipping trading business beyond Australia with other parts of the world.
– Have we not the right to provide for the carriage of our mails?
– A fleet of steamers would never be built merely for the carriage of mails. It would be necessary to provide for passenger and goods traffic as well. In my opinion, the construction and management of a fleet of mail steamers engaged* in ,the carrying trade with other countries beyond Australia was never intended to be within our constitutional powers.
– The honorable member has not considered the matter.
– I have given some consideration to it, though I have not considered it as much as it requires to be considered.
– I think that. If the honorable member had considered it thoroughly, he would not have come to the conclusions which he has expressed.
– I venture to think that when the matter is carefully looked into it will be found that it presents more difficulties than he is aware of. I am opposed to the proposal of the honorable member for Barrier, not because it is socialistic, but because, as I have said already, it is, in my opinion, opposed to public policy and unconstitutional. I wish now to refer to some remarks on the subject of the employment of coloured labour on mail steamers, made by a member of the Labour Party. While he was speaking I made several interjections which I should like to explain, though it is not necessary for me to explain my general views in regard to the employment of coloured labour, because I have made them known in this House, and have not changed the opinions to which I have given utterance. I shall not go over the ground again, as the honorable member for Barrier has done. He has given us three long speeches in explanation of his proposal, but, as he cannot find new arguments each time, every speech is to a large extent alike. No doubt if he had an opportunity next week he would make a fourth speech almost exactly like those we have already heard. There is no reason why we should not insist upon any condition we please in regard to the class of labour to be employed on the vessels which carry our mails. I prefer, and always shall prefer, men of our own colour to the darker races of theworld; but I contend, as I have contended before, that honorable members who would exclude coloured labour from all employment at sea are not consistent, because, when they travel, they travel on vessels manned by coloured crews.
– The honorable member should speak for himself.
– I do speak for . myself. Probably the honorable member has never been away from Australia.
– Yes, I have.
– I do not know why the honorable member so constantly interjects. He should wait until he gets more experience, and should have respect for the older members of the House. It is impossible to travel to the eastern parts of Asia in vessels which do not carry coloured crews. When we send our merchandise to Japan, China, India, and other places, to which we are glad to have an opportunity to export it, we send it in ships carrying coloured crews. Our mails - when they are not carried in the contractor’s vessels - are forwarded under poundage rates by steamers which employ coloured seamen. Yet, when we enter into a mail contract we draw the line by declaring - very much to our disadvantage - that the contractor’s vessels shall not carry coloured crews. I do not think it is logical - and I scarcely think it is honest - that we should take credit to our selves for providing that our steamers shall employ only white men, when we enter into a contract for the carriage of our mails, whilst at the same time we send our merchandise and a portion of our mails Home and about the world under different conditions.
– The employment of white labour costs very little extra.
– I am aware that that statement was made by the manager of the Orient Steam Navigation Company. I am, however, inclined to think that the employment of white men on ships must cost the contractors more than would the employment of coloured crews. I am glad to notice that under the new contract Western Australia has been fairly treated. That State will not get any more advantages than it previously enjoyed, but it will get as many. Fremantle will be a port of call for the mail steamers, and that is all that Western Australia hasa right to expect. Some exception has been taken to the insertion in the contract of a provision prescribing the maximum rates to be charged for freight. In my opinion that is a reasonable provision. It does not provide that the rates specified shall be the ruling rates. If there be keen competition, as the years go by - as it is surmised there will be - those charges will have to be reduced. There is nothing new about a provision of this kind. Irecollect that in the Western Australian mail contracts for the carriage of mails from Cambridge Gulf to Eucla, a clause is always inserted, specifying the maximum passage money to be charged, and the rates for the carriage of stock, timber, and other produce. That provision works extremely well, and still obtains in the current coastal contracts made recently by the Federal Government. To my mind, the Government are to be congratulated upon having safeguarded the interests of the producers by stipulating that though the rates specified in the contract may be reduced, they cannot be increased. Personally. I would insert some such provision in all mail contracts for the purpose of preventing extra charges being imposed upon our producers in time of temporary stress or difficulty.
– In all private railway Acts, the maximum charges are specified.
– Yes. They usually provide that the companies shall not charge more than the Government rates. There is just one omission to which I should like to direct attention. The contract makes no provision for space being reserved for the carriage of fruit and butter from Western Australia. But I do not think that in practice any difficulty will be experienced in this connexion. The’ Orient Steam Navigation Company consists of keen business-men, who will recognise that it is to their interests to work in with the producers of all the States. If their agents inform them that there is so much produce awaiting shipment in the chief port of any State - irrespective of whether it be Hobart, Fremantle, or other port - thev will in fairness reserve sufficient space for it. The spirit of the contract undoubtedly is that a reasonable quantity of space shall be reserved to the port at which the steamers will call in each State. I am very glad to observe that under the contract the freights from the Old Country to all parts of the Commonwealth under normal conditions will be identical. That has not been the case in the past. Some time ago I asked the Postmaster-General a question in regard to the matter, and he promised . to make a note of my complaint. He has done so, with the result that under the new contract the freight charges from England to all ports in Australia will be identical. At present 10s. per ton more freight is charged for cargo to Fremantle than to Sydney. Seeing that Fremantle is as well equipped - if not better - as any port in Australia for the despatch of business, there is no reason whatever why that should be- so. I found to my great pleasure - I will not say to my surprise - in looking up the figures, that Fremantle is now the third trading port in Australia. It stands next after Sydney and Melbourne. That fact alone shows that Fremantle is no longer a small place. Seeing that it possesses all the latest appliances, including electric cranes, and has an abundance of sheds, there is no reason why freight to Fremantle should be greater than it is to other ports thousands of miles further on. I ask the Postmaster-General whether he cannot do something at once to remove this injustice. I ask him whether something cannot be done at once to remove the anomaly whereby ios. more per ton is paid for freight to Fremantle than to Sydney - 2,000 miles further on. I have a word to say about the term of the contract. It is no doubt a big order to make a contract of this kind extending over the next twelve years. But we must remember that the contract has not been run after by num- bers of tenderers. After the Government had advertised all over the world, only three tenders were received, and that of the Orient Steam Navigation Company wasconsidered the best of the three. So that the Government is not in the same position, as it would be if the contract was eagerly sought after. It will, I think, be a source of great comfort and satisfaction! to the trading community and- the producers of Australia to know that for the next twelve years they have a certain means of getting their produce to the Old Country at reasonable rates. With regard to the question of freights I see no reasons why they should not be lowered during the term of the contract. There is no reason why there” should ‘not be any amount of competition. In that event we may expect that the freight will be considerably reduced. There is another matter which I wish to bring under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral. I trust that he will give the gravest consideration to the days and times of call at the different ports. At the present time the Peninsular and Oriental” Steam Navigation Company’s mail steamers; call at Fremantle on Mondays and Tuesdays. Those days are, as a rule, very convenient days for the arrival of mailsfrom the East and from Europe. But, unfortunately, in Western Australia, as; in some other States of Australia, when an event which is connected with a publicholiday falls oh any other day of the week, the holiday is celebrated on Monday. Alf the shops are shut, and it is difficult to1 get .men to do work when other people are holiday-making. The greatest trouble often arises through this cause. I know that it is not an easy difficulty to get over but by consulting the local authorities connected with shipping companies it may be possible for the Postmaster-General to make an arrangement whereby the vesselswill not arrive at Fremantle on Monday. It is not only Western Australia that is> concerned, but the difficulty affects the other States also. I am quite sure that my honorable friend will give the matter attention. As to the contract price, when we: recollect that the last contract :was for- £120,000 a year and that £[26,000 more was paid by Brisbane - making £[146,000- altogether - it will be seen that this con-, tract only involves an additional sum of- £[24,000 per annum. When we recollect also that instead of having 6,000-ton ships; we are to have a fleet of magnificent large “ vessels of 11,000 tons each, with a very. much quicker service, it will, I think, be conceded that we are getting value for our money. A service shortened by fifty-eight hours necessarily means increased cost to the contractors. Taking all these considerations into account, I think that we may be fairly well satisfied. I, at any rate, approve of the contract, and shall do my best to secure its acceptance by this House.
– The question of the ratification of this mail contract has been discussed by many honorable members. I have listened attentively to their speeches, but I must confess that I am greatly disappointed with the Opposition and their auxiliary corner. I had hoped to hear something interesting about the financial side of this proposition from honorable members opposite. The Government are asking for an enormous sum to be paid by the taxpayers of Australia. What it means is that we are going to provide the Orient Steam Navigation Company with money to build their fleet and keep them going for ten years, at the end of which time our position will be infinitely worse than it is now. To me the prospect is sorrowful. Before I proceed to discuss the financial aspect of the proposition, I wish to say that, personally, I was delighted with the way in which the Postmaster-General laid the contract before us. Instead of taking up an hour or two of our time explaining it, he made a simple little business statement, laid the contract upon the table, and said, “ Now, have a go at it.” That is a splendid way of doing business. It would be much better for all of us if we limited the length of speeches in this House to ten or fifteen minutes. Now, if this question had been dealt with by the great financial authorities on the Opposition side of the Chamber, I, as a labour man, should not have had anything to say about it. But I am bound, to recognise that the Labour members are the only real financial men in this House. There is no doubt in my mind that the members of the Opposition and of the Opposition corner possess little knowledge of finance. I originally came into this House having great faith in them. But what do I see when a proposition involving important financial considerations is laid before us? Here is a contract involving the expenditure of £170,000 a year. It is to operate for ten years. Can any one realize what may happen in ten years? Why, Napoleon’s period of great glory did not last much longer than that time.
– Didn’t it ! The honorable member had better read history.
– I have done so. Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo on the 1 8th day of June, 1815.
– Where was he ten years before ?
– Only a few months before he was a prisoner on the Island of Elba, and ten years before he was fighting for his life. Ten years is a very long period for which to enter into an engagement of this kind. In ten years the whole world may be launched into “ chaos and old night.” In ten years every member of this House may have passed into Heaven.
– If they have any luck !
– Yet honorable members are prepared to rush into a contract of this nature for so long a term. We are practically voting away £2,064,000 - because money doubles itself at 3 per cent. interest, paid every six months, in less than twenty-four years, and it doubles itself at 3½ per cent. in less than twentyone years. I am going to discuss this matter on the basis of 3½ per cent., because it is nonsense to talk about a lower rate of interest than that at present. Some time ago the honorable member for Barrier brought before the House a splendid report, as the result of the inquiry by the Shipping Service Commission. I avail myself of this opportunity to congratulate the honorable member, of whom I think the House ought to be proud. He is a consistent, straightforward, out-and-out advancer; but I am sorry that he is a free-trader. He brought before the House a proposition to nationalize, not all the steam-ship lines in the world, but a steam-ship line. He proposed that the Commonwealth should own a line of steam-ships. He is a Britisher who was born in England, and believes in the British Empire. It is because he has faith in the British Empire that he wishes to lay the foundation of its Federation under its own flag. But, alas ! honorable members sitting on the Opposition benches and in the Opposition corner, have not yet risen out of their swaddling-clothes to understand the greatness of the British Empire. The honorable member for Barrier based his estimates on a loan obtained at 3 per cent., and involving an interest charge of£90,000 ayear. But I go one better than that.With a sum of £3,000,000 we could provide a fleet of eight steamers, and the annual interest charge at 3J per cent, would come to £105,000. The Government propose to pay the Orient Steam Navigation Company an annual subsidy of £[170,000 for a mail service. It will be seen that if we had our own fleet, and were paying an interest charge of £105,000, there would be, as compared with the cost of this contract, a sum of £65,000 a year for us to play with. If we established a sinking fund on a 2 per cent, basis, the annual contribution would be £60,000, and in ten years, at 3J per cent., it would amount to £[735,000, and we would be running our own steam-ships. I am here to-night to show the Government that they are making a bad bargain - one which, if made by a boy of ten or fifteen years of age, would result in his being sent to an asylum to be treated for softening of the brain. I have not a word to say about the Government, because they cannot help what they are doing. I want it to be distinctly understood that I am an out-and-out supporter of theirs. It is a good thing for a Government to be criticised, because it is only by criticism that we can effect any reforms. If we do not call the attention of a man to his mistakes, he never can reform. Reformation of the Ministry is what we want. I wish them to get out of their fossilized ideas of going to the combines. At the end of ten years, 1 repeat, we would have £[735,000 in our sinking fund. Although we would be paying £[105,000 a year as interest on the loan, still, we would be saving £5.000 a year out of the balance of £65,000. Money invested at 2 per cent, to-day, if payable half-yearly, will double itself in thirty-four and a-half years. At the end of that period, with a sinking fund on a 2 per cent, basis, we would have extin guished our debt to the money lender. Out of the revenue from the steam-ships, we would be able to provide a repair fund, a renewal fund, a re-insurance fund, and a replacement fund. The line would be improved just as our other property is improved. At the end of thirty-five years the fleet would have been paid for, and paid for with, money which otherwise we would have been contributing to a steam-ship company to be used in building a line for itself. Is it any wonder that the people of Australia owe £’243,000,000 when that kind of financing has been going on ? Is it any wonder that we are running into debt year after year, and do not know where we stand ? Under such a financial system we never will know where we stand. Of course, my honorable friends on the other side have heard supporters of the Government apologizing, and stating that the Orient Steam Navigation Company say, “ Take it or leave it.”
– They should not approach this House like that.
– My honorable friend is a thinking man, and so he is looking into this question very carefully. I only wish I could get this bogy of Socialism out of the minds of my honorable friends opposite. Well, sir, do I remember how they used to frighten me when I was a child. My grandmother - who, by the way, was a Scotch woman - used to say, “ Send him out to Botany Bay.” I was afraid of Botany Bay, and as soon as I landed in Sydney I went to see what sort of a place it was that had scared me for years. I found that it was all right. The word Socialism frightens a number of honorable members. I ask them to get the bogy of Socialism out of their minds, and to look at this proposal just as a number of cold business men sitting round a table would do. When the great Beef Trusts of America were not in combination, a man could put his fat cattle on the trucks in the Western States, weigh them, and wire to Chicago, “’ Sell for me thirty thousand pounds of beef,” and the next day he would receive a wire, “ Sold on the hoof; five cents.” He could take his wire to his banker and get an advance with which to carry on his business, because he knew exactly what he would receive for his cattle, less the leakage going to Chicago, 1,000 or 1,500 miles away. As soon as ever the Fowlers and those men entered into a great combination that was all stopped, and a man had to send his cattle to Chicago. The buyer for one trust or other would go round, and say, “ They will not suit me.” My object in using this illustration is to show how the Government have been hoodwinked. At 3 o’clock in the afternoon, when the farmer saw that night was coming on, he realized that the trust owned the stockyards, the feed, and the water, and doublebanked him for pay. Then he would say to them : “ For goodness sake, what will you give me?” They would not deal, and next day he would have to accept any price. Wherever a combination or trust exists, the country is cursed, and the producers are at its mercy. The same thing happened in the State of California. When the farmers went down to meet the railway people, the representative of the combination, with a cigar in his mouth, said : “ You are meeting combination. This is what we will carry your wheat for; take it or leave it.” And the farmers had to take it. The same thing happened in the case of the CanadianPacific a few years ago in Manitoba. That line was transporting all the wheat from Manitoba to the seaboard. The farmers joined together and built a road from Manitoba to the United States line, and then there was a riot there, because they met another combination. Surely these things ought to weigh with honorable members. They are not representing the people conscientiously and justly if they fail in this House to exercise their intelligence for the benefit of the electors. What do the vast multitude of the people know about this matter? They selected honorable members because they believed that they were the best men to represent them, and that they would fight for their rights. I ask honorable members : Are you fighting for the rights of the producers of Australia when you allow this company to say, “ Our price is £[170,000; take ‘it or leave it?” The company say that they have never been able to pay a dividend, and that they cannot float a loan.
– We sell the stamps for the letters which they carry.
– The total revenue we get from that source is £[60,000 a year, and in return we propose to give the company £170,000 a year. Is this business in Australia? I am afraid I have come to the wrong country.
– It is easy for the honorable member to go back.
– Nay ; the scriptures enjoin us to go forth into the world, and preach the gospel to the heathen, and this state of things is heathenism. I am going to stay here and convert the honorable member, if possible. In the United States, we had a number of lines of steamships running to Louisiana, Texas, and other States. There were fifty or sixty different lines, but they are all in one ring now, under Morse, and President Roosevelt has ordered the United States Attorney-General to enter an action against the trust. Millions of pounds of the people’s money are going to the lawyers to try to burst up these rings. When we have such an opportunity, and it is proposed to lend .the financial power and credit of the Commonwealth to a private corporation to float a loan, I ask, “Why don’t we do it ourselves?” Let the Labour Party withdraw the name of Socialism, call it something else, but do it. I’ will surrender the name “ Socialism if another name will suit honorable members opposite. We might call it “The Water Lily Rockbound,”- after my church. Let us enter into this contract, say for two years, for the carriage of the mails, and in the meantime start to build our own line. If that is regarded as socialistic, will honorable members help me if I move that we should buy a controlling interest in the Orient Steam Navigation Company ? Honorable members are fond of that company, and seem to feel that they are under a deep obligation to them, yet I found I had to pay just as much to them as to any other company when I wanted to travel.
– We might buy a controlling interest in the company, as Disraeli did in the case of the Suez Canal.
– About thirty years ago, Disraeli “bought a controlling interest in the Suez Canal, and those shares are now paying dividends of 28 per cent, to Great Britain. If it was good, enough for Disraeli to take that action, .honorable members should not be afraid to buy a controlling interest in this company with which they are all so much in love. I want to see Australia have a fleet. As soon as we have our own steam-ships, Canada, South Africa, India, and England will probably follow suit. The Union Jack will float over all those ships, and we shall have a practical Imperial Federation. Do honorable members opposite believe in the British Empire? Have they no faith in it? I was sorry to hear the right honorable member for Swan talk about wanting coloured men to man our ships.
– The right honorable member for Swan did not say that.
– He regretted that we could not employ coloured labour if we desired to.
– I wish to be fair. The name of the right honorable member for Swan will live in Australian history. He was a great explorer, and is a great man. He is a Britisher, who believes in the Empire. That is the kind of man I like. I .am going to say what I like here about the Empire, but when any outsider attacks it I shall be on the inside to fight the rooster outside. We want reforms from within, and not from without. I do not believe in panic scares, but a certain great nation in Europe has just voted j£i 7, 500,000 for additions to its navy. I do not know what that is for, unless it is to look after one specific nation. If that is so; does any honorable member believe that blackfellows manning British ships will lick the white Europeans that will man the ships of that great nation when the crash comes?
– The nation that the honorable member refers to does not allow coloured aliens on its ships.
– That is quite true. I mention no names, because it is best for us not to name nations, or talk war with them. If there is a war, we can never fight the white men of Europe with the coloured men of India.
– Admiral “Field, in the House of Commons, said that it was impossible.
– That is what I say. Recently, when there was talk about the United States not being allowed to do certain things, a fleet of sixteen battle-ships was ordered to Manila. Our trouble, if any, will come from the East, and, at the present time, the United States is shouldering our burden for us. But we cannot expect the help of the United States, or of any other nation, unless we are prepared to help ourselves ; and to do this there must be means of training white sailors in our merchant service. The northern States of America were full of sailors when the war broke out, because their flag was flying on merchant ships all the world over; but in the south, there were no sailors, because there, dependence was placed on slavery. I am sorry to think that in .many countries patriotism is based on “ boodle,” and public sentiment and opinion can be created and guided by means of money. Boodle is the demonstrator of aristocratic patriotism. I admit that if we create a Commonwealth fleet of mail ships, a great battle will have to be fought for trade; but there is no need to depend on politicians to conduct business of this kind. We are at liberty to engage the best business talent in the country, just in the same way as, if we were to establish the postal banking system that I advocate, we should engage the_ services of those who are experienced in bank ing. Australia ought to be the leader of the Mother Country and of Canada, but, as a matter of. fact, we are behind the latter place, as honorable members may gather from the facts in connexion with preferential trade. If we adopt the amendment of the honorable member for Barrier, we shall, at the end of ten years, have in our sinking fund £735,000 ; and we shall be the owners of better ships than are now engaged in the service. If honorable members will not go that far, let us buy half of the interest in the new mail steamers, and thus have half socialism and half individualism. I have to thank the honorable member for Franklin for calling my attention to an injustice which is inflicted upon Tasmania under this contract. The fruit-growers of Franklin and elsewhere in Tasmania have had to fight hard enough to keep their homes together, and it would be a serious matter for them if the mail ships should have it in their power to decline to call at Hobart. There might be a pliant Postmaster-General at the head of affairs, though I know that the present Minister is imbued with the spirit of justice and righteousness. If there were in control of the Department a PostmasterGeneral inclined to meet the views of the shipping company in this connexion, the fruit-growers of Tasmania would be absolutely ruined. My contention is that, within the four corners of this contract, it should be stipulated that the mail steamers shall call at Tasmania six times a year, whether they may be specially wanted there or not. There is the finest harbor in the world at Hobart, and the second finest is at Burnie. It will not do to leave this matter in the- discretion of these gigantic corporations, who have no souls to be damned or bodies to be punished. The trouble is that the Government do not seem to have yet recognised the importance of Tasmania. That State entered Federation without making any special condition, although, as we know, the honorable member for Swan insisted on special terms for Western Australia. The fact is that at the Federal Convention the antiquated representatives of Tasmania were asleep. and, as the other delegates had been taught to respect old age, thev were allowed to sleep on. I can remember well as a boy, when the Great Eastern came to America from England, and people declared that she represented a piece of folly, and that vessels of her class would never be able to reach New
York without lightening their cargo. But the Great Eastern was only an infant compared with the Lusitania. What I am afraid of is that within the ten years during which this contract is to run-
– Twelve years.
– Surely not? I was afraid to read the contract carefully, lest my conscience should turn against the Ministry. My feeling just now is that I should keep the members of the present Government in power until they die by effluxion of time. I do not wish to believe that they have been guilty of making such a bad bargain that I should be obliged to turn against them. I ask the Minister to say now whether he will have what I have suggested inserted in the contract?
– We should strike the proviso out.
– If we strike out the proviso, this soulless corporation will say, “Our boats will not go to Tasmania unless you give us £4,000 or £10,000,” and we shall never see them unless we make some special arrangement of that kind.
– We could leave the clause in and strike out the proviso.
– If the honorable member means that we should insist upon these boats going to Hobart, I am with him ; but I want to have everything in black and white when I deal with a corporation, and I want to sleep on the contract for a week before I sign it, lest there should be some means by which the corporation could escape their obligations. I seriously object to the differential rates that are known as “ rebates.” If one Melbourne merchant is in a position to make more advantageous terms with the steamship companies than are granted to his competitors, he will destroy his rivals in trade as Rockefeller has done in the United States. One merchant might say, “ I shall ship my goods by your steamers, but if I do I shall expect a 30 per cent. rebate.” and the company might say, “ Very well ; we agree, and at the end of the year we will give you a rebate of 30 per cent. on the freight charged on your goods.”
– That kind of thing is done now.
– That is so; and it means that every small shipper must go to the wall. This practice of granting rebates has destroyed hundreds of business men in the United States, and by this means, within the last sixteen years, one huge corporation in that country has succeeded in plundering the people of £200,000,000, which has been paid out in dividends to the shareholders. There should be inserted in this contract provision for a heavy penalty against the granting of rebates. If honorable members say that those who feel injured might appeal to the Courts, that would involve the briefing and refreshing of barristers, the fight would be continued for years, and the citizens of Australia would lose whichever way the case went. I say that the responsibility to fight the steam-ship companies should not rest with the merchants, but with the Government.
– Everything we require should be contained within the four corners of the contract.
– That is what I say. I should insist upon this shipping corporation keeping out of rings so far as the trade of Australia is concerned. A good point was raised by an honorable member here to-day. Ships are leaving Australia now every week for England, and for £40,000 a year we could get our mails carried under the poundage system. Forty thousand pounds a year for ten years, with interest at 3½ per cent., would be about £485,000. If we take £485,000 from £2,064,000, we have £1,579,000, which this Commonwealth could save by adopting the poundage system, and with which we could start to build our own steamships, and so to push on the federation of the British Empire. I want to do something for the Empire. I desire that years after we are dead and buried people shall be able to say, “ The Federal Parliament of Australia, at such and such atime, established the British Empire Steam-ship Company. They established a. line of steamers owned by the Commonwealth, and now State-owned vessels are to be found in every part of the Empire, carrying marines and training men.” Every man on board of these vessels would be both a soldier and sailor, and would be trained to shoot, to love the flag and the nation, and to fight for the nation. The talk we hear about individual liberty and personal liberty is ridiculous. When I lived among the Yaki Indians, in Mexico, I found they had individual liberty. They did as they liked. They stood on their heads naked if they pleased, and they danced the war dance on Sunday ; but in civilized countries there is no such thing as individual liberty. Let three or four honorable members stand at the corner of a street here, and the constable will tell them to move on. The liberty of the individual must be silenced as the liberty of the community advances.
– Even the PostmasterGeneral is not at liberty to make this contract.
– That is so; and we ought to bear with the PostmasterGeneral. It is bad policy for men to come in here and denounce individuals. The policy and arguments of honorable members opposite may be bad, but they are not themselves bad. Let me ask honorable members to put the question of Socialism aside, and work for the nation. We should remember that we are not legislating for ourselves. I will be out of this in a few years, and most other honorable members will follow me, and I desire that the rising generation should be able to say, “ You put down the land-marks, and we are proud to follow on the lines you laid down. . Joe Cook, Wilks, and McWilliams did this. It was good enough for them, and it is good enough for us to go on and improve upon them.”
.- We have listened to practically the same debate for three nights running. We are dealing tonight with a. motion for the ratification of a mail contract. I mention the fact lest there should be some misunderstanding on the subiect. Last night we dealt with the Manufactures Encouragement Bill, in connexion with which the question of nationalization was raised, and the same arguments were used in discussing that question then. We are told that we have either to accept or reject the contract ; that we cannot amend it.
– Then what is the object of discussing it?
– Honorable members may take the responsibility of rejecting it.
– Apparently if we dis approve of any part of the contract, that is the only course open to us. No honorable member has yet expressed entire approval of the agreement. Some honorable members are dissatisfied with the terms, others with the extent of the subsidy, and others again with the direction of the contract.
– It contains forty-nine clauses, and objection has been taken to only two short ones.
– Many of the clauses are comparatively unimportant. In his own grotesque style the honorable member for Darwin has presented a good many sound arguments to the House. I have always been opposed to subsidies and subventions. Under this contract the people of Australia are called upon to pay a large sum of money in order to provide - so far as the carriage of mails is concerned - for an accelerated service for the sole benefit of the mercantile community. To the average man a delay of two days in the delivery of a letter from thedear Old Mother Land is a matter of no importance ; but those who call themselves antiSocialists are asking the people to pay a subsidy to provide an accelerated mail service for one distinct class. We find, also, that this contract provides, not merely for the carriage of mails, but for the cheap and speedy transit of the products of certain classes to the old world. It is both a mail and a commercial contract.
– But does the contract provide for the cheap carriage of perishable products?
– If it does not the honorable member will be able to vote against it. If anti- Socialists are prepared to vote a large subsidy to a company to secure special freights for the carriage of perishable produce - for the benefit of primary producers - then they are not far removed from the Labour Party, who ask us to go a step further and nationalize this shipping service. I am absolutely opposed to its. nationalization.
– Would not the honorable member meet us half way ?
– No. IfI had my way I should abolish the subsidy altogether, because I think that it is an improper impost upon thousands of the people of Australia who have no interest in this contract. At the end of ten years we shall have paid £1,700,000 by way of subsidy under this agreement, and shall have nothing to show for it. And yet we are told that this is a good bargain. I do not think that it is. When the Reid-McLean Administration signed a contract for a mail service at a subsidy of £120,000 per annum they were severely criticised, and yet some honorable members declare that a contract which provides for an increased subsidy of £170,000 per annum is an excellent one. I admit that the Orient Steam Navigation Company has had a hard struggle in the Australian trade. This has been due to the fact that, unlike the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, it has not had an auxiliary trade. The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company has an Eastern trade, its Australian trade being merely an auxiliary service, whilst the German line of mail steamers, which receive a national subsidy, has not only an Australian, but also a Western trade. Whether we give them a subsidy or not, they must, if they are to remain in . the Australian trade, have new boats. Vessels like the Orontes pay well; but a steamer like the Ophir, which came into prominence some years ago on being chartered to bring the Duke of York to Australia, pays only when it is being used for yachting cruises on the ‘Mediterranean and elsewhere. It burns too much coal, and has too little cargo space to be able to compete successfully with vessels of large carrying capacity. It must be admitted that the Orient Steam Navigation Company have always laid themselves out more than the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company to cater for the Australian passenger and goods traffic, though the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company are not quite so conservative nor so swagger as they were some years ago. I give credit to the Orient Steam Navigation Company for what they have done for the Australian trade, and would rather they than any other got this contract. They have paid only four or five dividends; but, on the other hand, it must be remembered that their managerial and office expenses are very heavy. They have also had great losses, and suffer for lack of an auxiliary and feeding service. This is, however, an excellent bargain for them. / They are to get £1.70,000 a year for ten years,, to do what they would have been compelled by competition to do in any case - to shorten the journey from England by fifty-eight hours. But the public is being asked to pay too much for this gain. That would be admitted bv any body of persons outside the mercantile community. The people at large will not be in favour of paying £170,000 a year merely to get their letters from England fifty-eight hours earlier. The days of subsidies have nearly gone. A few years ago in England a strong effort was made to abolish subsidies; but they were revived because Germany was subsidizing German vessels, not to obtain mail services, but to assist in building up a navy, to encourage colonization, and to force her trade upon the outer world. The last mail contract has, after months of haggling, fallen through. The sum of £25,000 for which security was given has not yet been recovered.
– We shall get it.
– I should like to know that it was safe in the Treasury. The honorable gentleman thought that he had made his position safe, but, although no one would call him a fool, or say that he could not see through a sharp deal, apparently those with whom he negotiated were too shrewd for him. Another objection I have to the proposed contract is that it is for too long a period. The right honorable member for Swan said that things would hardly get into working order before we should be thinking of renewing the contract, though afterwards he admitted that the term was a little too long. I do not know why we should not seek to amend this clause of the contract. Surely the Orient Steam Navigation Company are not in such a strong position that they can say that they will not consent to alter a mere draft agreement.
– This is a signed contract.
– It has been signed merely subject to the approval of Parliament, and I do not see why Ministers should not accept amendments in it. It Parliament amended it, they could draw up a fresh agreement, and say, ;t Are you prepared to accept the will of Parliament, or will you forego the contract altogether”? No one can foretell the changes which the next twelve years may bring. The increased use of turbines, the substitution of oil for coal as a fuel, and other improvements are all tending to increase speed and to reduce cost, while the inventive genius of the world is directed towards discovering still further improvements. Another reason why I say that the term of the proposed contract is too long, is that we have no right to bind the public for twelve years. We do not know that before the end of that time there will not be a strong desire for the nationalization of. this service.
– The people would vote for it now, if there were a referendum.
– If my electors gave me any mandate, it was against nationalization, not only of the iron, but also of the shipping industry. All who stood as anti- Socialists must oppose nationalization in any form. I admit that the proposed experiment offers more probability of success than .others that could be undertaken, because the possibilities of profit and loss are clearly ascertainable. If we once commence an enterprise of this kind, we shall have to continue it. But, apart altogether from my objection to nationalization, I am opposed to the proposal of the honorable member for Barrier on the ground that we have already too many public servants in Australia. I can remember when the foremost radicals of the Labour Party in New South Wales used to speak of the civil servants as parasites, as men in easy billets, who do little for the money they draw. I do not wish to add another Department to the Commonwealth Public Service. I do not want to make Australia a gigantic civil service. It is believed that five-sixths of the public service now vote for labour candidates, which mav be the reason why the Labour Party defends the service so stoutly.
– We want to raise the standard of wages.
– I admit that our public servants, generally speaking, do their work well; but I do not think that we should create more. Those who are in favour of spending £’170,000 a year to get a quicker mail service for the mercantile community, and to obtain lower freights and better conditions for the shippers of primary produce, are sailing perilously near to nationalization. By supporting a proposal of this kind, they are supporting a proposal for extending the sphere of governmental activity. While they are desirous of spending the people’s money in the interest of the mercantile and commercial classes, the Labour Party have a right to ask that the interests of the masses shall also be considered. Coming now to the labour question, I have always been an advocate for the employment of white labour. I have differed from my leader upon that subject. I am absolutely in accord with that portion of the agreement which renders the employment of white labour upon our mail steamers compulsory. My reason is that Australia has vet to build up her mercantile marine and her naval forces, and she cannot accomplish these things unless she provides employment for her own seamen. To-day Great Britain experiences considerable difficulty in manning her vessels with people of our own race. I have heard it said that the coloured alien makes a better fireman than does the white man. Speaking with some knowledge of the subject, I say that he does not. But the truth is that the Iascar is more amenable to discipline. If one were to ask an engineer on board our mail steamers what class of firemen he preferred, his answer would always be in favour of the white man twenty-four hours after the vessel had left port. For the first twenty-four hours the white man is disposed to be rather restive, but after that he settles down to his work and is in reality equal to three coloured men. Take the case of Britain’s warships by way of illustration.. Are they manned by coloured firemen? The stokehold of H.M.S. Powerful is, I venture to say, from seven to eight degrees hotter than are the stoke-holds in our mail steamers. Yet none save white men are employed there. It is merely a question of the payment of a standard wage. One of the redeeming features of the Orient Steam Navigation Company has been that up till very recently they voluntarily manned their vessels with white labour. When the Labour Party ir» this House submitted their proposal in. favour of the nationalization of our mail service they knew very well that it would not be carried. Had they desired to carry it, why did they not submit it in the Senate, where they have a majority? The Government would then have had either to accept or reject it. To those who talk so much about Socialism and Christianity, I would commend the statement of a German writer-
– Germany again !
– Nearly all authoritative authors upon Socialism are Germans. The writer whom I have in mind declared that the great distinction between Christianity and Socialism was that the former means- “ Mine is thine,” whilst the latter means “ Thine is mine.”
– He knew a great deal about Socialism.
– Undoubtedly he did. There are honorable members of this House who were as well versed in the subject of Socialism twenty years ago as is the honorable member to-day. I shall move -
That the following words be added to themotion, “ Subject to the inclusion in the Agreement of a clause providing that whenever practicable the mail steamers shall be docked inAustralia.”
Now the words “ whenever practicable ‘r do not imply that we have first to inquire whether we have the necessary docking ac- commodation. There is no doubt that we have. There are two docks to my knowledge which can accommodate the largest ships trading with Australia. They will accommodate H.M.S. Powerful, which draws more water going over the sill than do the mail steamers. The Postmaster-General is nominally responsible, though the contract was laid before the House by the Prime Minister. The honorable gentleman himself said nothing on its behalf. But if we insert conditions for the benefit of the commercial community, it is only fair that Australia should have the benefit of some of the docking. I do not ask that the vessels shall be docked here during their periodical overhauling. What I mean is simply that whenever practicable they shall be docked in Australia.
– The company could not do it as a regular thing. There would not be time.
– The vessels spend the same period in port at this end as they do in London. The ex-Postmaster-General would not insert a provision as to docking in the last contract, but he secured a verbal undertaking from the contractors. Cannot the present Postmaster-General do that?
– The company will do their best, but they will not include a provision in the contract.
– I simply mean that the ships should be docked here whenever practicable. My desire is that Australia shall have its share of the docking. Those who are protectionists and believe in the employment of our own labour should support me in this respect, because I can assure them that there are thousands of people who would every year make something out of the docking of the vessels here. The honorable member for Lang has moved a very useful amendment, which I shall support. He asks that the term of the contract shall be reduced to seven years. That should be quite enough. Surely the company do not require a guarantee of ten years before they will undertake the contract.
– They do.
– It is not to be supposed that the Orient Steam Navigation Company intend to go out of the Australian trade. Thev intend to fight for business as hard as thev can. The mere fact of reducing the term from ten to seven years will not vitiate the agreement. But we shall be able to make fresh arrangements both as to freights and fares if we provide for the shorter term. I do not think that the Australian public will receive an adequate recompense for the .£1,700,000 which they will pay to this company in the ten years. At the end of the period we shall have nothing to show for our money. I quite agree with the honorable member for Barrier in that respect, though I am not Prepared to vote for nationalization, which would mean creating another branch of the Public Service. But if the Labour Party increase in power, they may desire to submit a scheme for a national steam-ship service before the end of ten years. Why should they be clewed for so long a period ?
– We can buy the ships at any time.
– Yes; at a price.
– Of course; we could not get them without a price.
– I mean that we can buy them at the company’s own price.
– The price will be fixed by arbitration.
– I was not aware of that, which is a fair condition. I again ask honorable members to support me in regard to the docking conditions, which might be made the subject of a supplementary agreement.
– We will try to get all we can for the honorable member.
– Why not embody the condition in an agreement?
– We cannot do that; the honorable member must know that this contract has only been arrived at after enormous struggle and toil.
– Well, there is not a Bill which Parliament considers that is not the result of enormous struggle and toil. But do we trouble about that? We simply slash Bills to pieces if we do not like them.
– The company will not drop it ; they have too good a thing on.
– The House has either to accept this agreement or reject it.
– Very well, then, if the Minister talks like that, let us reject it.
– Does the honorable member say that he would vote for rejecting this contract?
– Yes, if we cannot get it in the form that we desire; and then throw out the Government for agreeing to it.
– The honorable member and his party are not strong enough to do that.
– I begin to think that the Postmaster -General and the Minister of Trade and Customs are the champion bluffers of Australia. I used to think that our Christian friend, the PostmasterGeneral, was too sincere to be a bluffer, but I have changed my opinion after his attempt to make us believe that the Orient Steam Navigation Company would throw up a good thing for the small detail which I am asking for. Now, the Labour Party either mean business or they do not. Are they serious in regard to their amendment?
– Nationalization means, of course, throwing out the whole contract.
– Does the Minister say that we cannot alter a word of it?
– I say that the House has either to accept it or reject it. If the House votes for nationalization it means rejection.
– Surely the Minister does not mean to say that a little amendment providing for the docking of ships would cause the Orient Steam Navigation Company to surrender their contract? It is absurd.
– Such, an amendment would vitiate the contract, because we should have to go all over the ground again. Then we should have to wait until the Senate met, send home to London, and make an entirely fresh arrangement.
– We are not children. The Postmaster-General is not talking to a Sunday School now.
– Unfortunately, I know that perfectly well.
– I wish he would recognise it, and not talk so childishly about this matter. The representatives of the Orient Steam Navigation Company signed this agreement on the distinct understanding that it was subject to the approval of Parliament. It is not a live document until it has been approved bv Parliament. How can we vitiate something which is not alive? I think I now understand why the PostmasterGeneral has neither attempted to explain this agreement nor to defend it. Had he done so, he would have made a. ten times more miserable job of it than he has done bv his interjections. I now understand why the Honorable Samuel Mauger merely lent his name to this document, whilst the Prime Minister did all the work, and he is well advised by the Cabinet.
– It is a fair division of labour.
– It is so far as the PostmasterGeneral is concerned. I am not at all surprised at the Cabinet saying to him, “ Drop the contract on the table; do not attempt to say a word about it.” I ask honorable members are they so childish as to believe that the mere carrying of any amendment, except that of the honorable member for Barrier, is going to vitiate the contract? I hope that my amendment will be carried.
– - I” a deliberative and statutebuilding assembly like this we can hardly expect arguments to have any effect. If they had any effect our proposal to establish a national mail service would have been carried bv this time. I feel very disappointed, Because I had hopes that the age of reason would come in my time. In putting off the acceptance of our proposal for twelve years the Commonwealth will lose a golden opportunity of building and owning a mail fleet. Like all Heavenbom politicians, I had an idea as well as other honorable members. I believed - although I may be called Utopian for holding the opinion - that Ave had a splendid opportunity of not only owning a mail fleet, but also combining in that fleet part of our defence from the sea stand-point.
– Let us run the steamers as torpedo boats.
– The honorable member may run a wheelbarrow for a torpedo boat for all I care. I am endeavouring to express what I consider common-sense. In view of the fact that the nations of Europe have been subsidizing their mail boats to act as auxiliary fleets, is it out of the way to imagine that Australia could build and own a fleet of mail steamers which could when required act as cruisers? What could be better for us, so far distant as we are from the Old World, than to own mail steam-ships able to act as cruisers or menofwar, and to defend themselves when carrying the commerce of Australia ? There is nothing far-fetched in that idea. It can be grasped, I suppose, by even the most dense member either here or elsewhere. We are asked to sanction an annual expenditure of £”170,000, and I believe that £120,000 of that sum would be lost. For what purpose ? To carry the mails a little more quickly, and to give a little Socialism to those who say that they do not want it, namely, the commercial men. That is what it really means. The commercial men who are represented in the Opposition corner, on the Opposition benches, and also, I believe, on the Government benches, and who have always decried any proposal with, a socialistic tendency, will under this very contract get as large a slice of Socialism as they can hope to get in one bite.
– It does not make them sick, either.
– It would take a lot of that kind of Socialism to make the commercial men of Australia sick. We have heard a great deal here concerning our sea-going, defence, and the building of cruisers. We are told that we are wasting time in that regard, and that if we attempt to do anything different from what is done by the Mother Country, we shall be doing something wrong. Perhaps if we built a fleet of ships for both mail and commercial purposes, the commercial men might say, “ We will not give you any assistance.” I suppose that those who had butter, meat, and wool to send Home would not employ Governmentowned ships, because they do not believe in Socialism when it operates against their class.
– But they would have to pay just the same.
– Yes. Seeing that the State is engaged in the carriage of goods throughout Australia by land, what great stretch of imagination is it to suppose that it could operate in that direction on water, in spite of all the opposition which might be offered to its boats? There is one point on which the honorable member for Barrier and I will always differ. During his address, he expressed the opinion that the mail ships of the Commonwealth must be built in the Old Country, as there was no possible chance of getting them built in Australia. Some honorable members remarked that the boats could be built here at a price, and the price seemed to bar their local construction. Suppose that it did cost Australia £100,000 more per boat to have the fleet built here? We shall have to start building our boats at some time or other. Could a start in that direction be made at a better time than when the Commonwealth Government, in making this contract, and bringing into existence a fleet in respect of which the people of Australia will pay an annual subsidy of £170,000 for ten years? I could have no objection to honorable members on the other side, like the honorable member for North Sydney and the honorable member for Parramatta, opposing the local construction of mailboats. But whenI see protectionists who at other times say that we can do this and that in Australia joining sides with those whosay that we cannot at any time build ships, I am deeply disappointed. If we do not make a start we never will build any ships. It was on that point that I differed from the honorable member for Barrier.
– I hold that at present it is impossible.
– To the mechanics of Australia nothing is impossible. They can do anything which can be done in any other part of the world.
– Move an amendment.
– The honorable member is again at his wheel-barrow torpedo boat. I suppose that if there were some fishing boats to be constructed here he might be more interested. I believe that I am striking a note. We could despatch our mails on the poundage system by various steamerstrading to our ports, and if we are not ready now to enter upon the construction of a Federal fleet, perhaps in two or three years we might be prepared to take that step. Is there an honorable member who does not believe that during the next ten years the commercial world, and the sea-going boats may be revolutionized? Here we are asked to commit the Commonwealth to a contract service for a period of ten years, and to forego an opportunity, which may not recur fora period of fifty years, of bringing into existence a fleet which would be beneficial not only to the commercial classes, but also to the men who are looking for work whereby they may earn a living. I do not wish to discuss this matter at all exhaustively, but I had hoped that before the expiration of twelve years Australia would cease to be dependent upon a private corporation for the carriage of its mails. We have been told by the Government that we must either accept the contract or leave it alone. I shall vote against their motion. Those who wish to see any amendments made in the contract will, of course, do just as they like. I believe that in voting for its ratification honorable members will be foregoing an opportunity which Australia will not have until the expiration of twelve years. I shall not be one of those who will vote to throw away a glorious opportunity to benefit the people of Australia, especially the workers.
– This is the third occasion on which the
House has, since I became a member of it, been called upon to ratify a mail contract. . If there has been anything which was likely to convert honorable members to the amendment of the honorable member for Barrier it has been the blundering and muddling in connexion with those three contracts. The first contract submitted to the House in my time was made by Mr. Sydney Smith, as PostmasterGeneral, on behalf of the Commonwealth Government. I was one of the few members supporting the then Government who opposed its ratification, believing that it was not a satisfactory one. How- ever, it was approved. Then we had what is known as the “ Croker contract,” which, in my opinion, should not have been submitted to the House, because it was a bit of syndicate-mongering from start to finish. We all remember the eulogistic terms in which it was recommended for our approval. How is the present contract submitted? Honorable members are told by the Government, “ Here is the contract. You can discuss its provisions, but ifyou alter a word in them it will be withdrawn.”
– Let them withdraw it! Who cares ?
– I agree with the honorable member. That is not the way in which a contract of this kind should have been presented to the representatives of the States for their approval.
– One would think that the syndicate was greater than Parliament.
– According to the Government, this Parliament, representing the whole of the people of Australia, is to go down on its knees to a company because the company may say, “ If you do not take the contract which we now offer we will withdraw it, and you cannot get a contract anywhere else.” That is mere empty bluff. Let any one analyze the figures, and see whether or not the contract is one that the company will withdraw from. We are to pay the company £170,000 a year for ten years. They are to build five new boats, at an estimated cost of £300,000 each. That means that the Commonwealth will absolutely buy those boats, and present them to the company, giving them a substantial sum in addition to assist to run the boats. The five new boats will cost £1,500,000, interest upon which, at 5 per cent., is £75,000 per annum. Consequently we are giving the company £95,000 per year after making them a present of their boats. That is the contract in which we are told that the Commonwealth is making such a splendid deal that if a word of it is altered it will be rejected, and we shall have to go down on our knees to the company. If the contract is not altered, I shall be one to assist to the utmost of my ability to give the company an opportunity of saying what they will do if we refuse to accept it.
– It is a triumph for Mr. Mauger !
– That is what the Senate said.
– We are not here to discuss what the Senate said or did. It is hardly necessary to deal with that aspect of the case any longer, because the figures speak for themselves. We are asked to tie the hands of the Commonwealth, by the interim contract and the new contract, for twelve years, although it has been pointed out very forcibly that, within that period, the whole of the commercial relations of Australia with the rest of the world may be entirely revolutionized. Even if that happens there will be no possibility of our getting out of the payment of this large sum, and the rates which we fix now are to be quite unalterable. The contract is not a good one ; it is altogether in favour of the company; it is an exceedingly bad one, from a financial stand-point, for the people of Australia, and I protest once more against such a proposal being thrown on the table without a word of explanation, while this House, representing the people of Australia, is told that it must not alter a comma lest the company drop the contract. One very important point, which it was the bounden duty of the Postmaster-General to explain to the House, has not been touched upon yet. We are fixing in this contract for the first time maximum rates for the mail company to charge for the carriage of produce, and we are also preventing any differential charges being made as between the different States.
– Does the honorable member think that there should be differential charges?
– I do not say so. I am referring to the conditions in the contract. Who is to allot the space among the States? Who is to prevent any man or company in one State from contracting for the whole of the space, to the detriment of the other States?
– Who prevents that now ?
– Do I understand the Postmaster-General to say that there is to be no regulation in this regard, and that we are to fix the maximum charges and leave it to any speculator to contract for the whole space, thus putting the producers of Australia at his mercy? Is no provision made for a. fair distribution of the space, so that the producer, in whose interest these conditions are inserted, and not the middleman, may get the benefit? If there is no such provision, the House should be doubly careful before ratifying the agreement. A very serious responsibility will rest upon the Postmaster-General in this regard. There is only one fair way in which the contract can be carried out. For instance, provision is made for the carriage of butter. If New South Wales exports half the butter from Australia, half the space, and no more, should be allotted to her. If Victoria exports one-third, she should have one-third of the space, and no more. Other States should have their fair share reserved for them, and speculators in the larger centres should be prevented from mopping up the space and blackmailing the producers elsewhere before they can touch it.
– Does the honorable member contend that we should rent all the space and take the risk of filling it?
– If we compel the company to provide a certain amount of space and fix the charges in the interests of the producers, the Postmaster-General should see that each contributing State receives fair play. - The Government have now interfered in these matters. I do not say that they should rent the space and distribute it. But unless they see that each contributing, State gets fair play, the State which has the first port of call will have the others at its mercy.
– Has that ever happened ?
– We have never had conditions such as these before. Hitherto, there has been fair open competition between the States, who have bargained privately for their own space, and secured it.
– They can do that now.
– That interjection shows that the Government have not given the subject the slightest consideration. The States cannot do it now, because the Go vernment have fixed in the agreement the maximum charges which can be made, and there will be no possibility of competition. I give the Government credit for the maximum charges which they have fixed, and which are distinctly favorable so far as fruit is concerned.
– Are they not favorable ii» the case of butter?
– The advantage is not nearly so great in the case of butter. There are companies now carrying butter from Australia at a lower rate than is fixed in the agreement, so that the advantage as regards butter is not appreciable.
– Al] the butter experts say the contrary.
– The Prime Minister distinctly said quite the reverse of what the Minister of Trade and Customs now says. We have been told that one company is carrying at is. 10d. a box, and that arrangements are being made whereby this company shall raise the charge to 2s. So far as the carriage of fruit in the mail boats, is concerned, there is a distinct reduction in price. We have been paying to the mail boats, under private contract, up to 3s. 3d. per case for apples; and now the maximum charge is fixed at 2s. 7d., which, of course, is a distinct advantage to the fruit-grower.
– What is the honorable member objecting to?
– A proviso has been inserted in the contract which will deprive the Tasmanian producers of the whole of the advantages they have hitherto enjoyed. In clause 9, paragraph 8, it is provided that at least six of the mail boats shall cai! each year at Hobart during the apple season, but there is the following proviso: -
Provided always that if in any year the contractors shall prove, to the satisfaction of thePostmasterGeneral, that calls at Hobart during that year are or would be unprofitable the Postmaster-General may direct that the whole or any of such calls for that year may be omitted-
– That is at the option of the Government. This is the first time that the mail boats have been bound to call at Hobart; and, apparently, the honorable member is trying to prevent that part of the contract from being carried out.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs is trying to draw me off the track. The proviso is an absolute sham, because it will really place the fruitgrowers at a disadvantage.
– Does not the honorable member think that the six ‘Tasmanian senators are as much interested in Tasmania as he is?
– If the honorable member for Maranoa were acquainted with the facts, he would know that one of the “Tasmanian senators proposed that this proviso should be omitted, but, unfortunately, the other Tasmanian senators had already spoken and could not second- the amendment.
– Whatever the senators did, the honorable member has his duty to perform.
– Precisely ; 1 am trying to do what is right; and what the Senate may or may not have done does not influence me. In this matter Ministers have acted in absolute ignorance of a trade which they are attempting to regulate. For the last seventeen years the mail steamers have been chartered by the fruitgrowers themselves.
– And the fruitgrowers in Tasmania have taken all the space, and left none for other producers.
– That is not so. What I desire is that the PostmasterGeneral shall so act that the producers of no one State shall receive more than their fair share.
– That cannot be done unless we take the whole of the space.
– Yes it can. The contract, in this connexion, is vague in the extreme, and shows a lack of knowledge of the business.
– The Prime Minister invited the States to co-operate, and they all declined.
– Of course they did, because this is a matter which can be better managed by the States than by the Federal Government ; and the terms of the contract proves that to be the case. For the last seventeen years the calls by mail boats at Hobart have averaged eleven per annum.
– That means eleven calls between the two lines of steamers, whereas now there will be twelve calls
– Of course, if the fruit-growers choose, they could charter the boats to call all the year round. Surely Ministers are not going to take credit for the fact that calls have been made at Hobart by mail boats chartered by the fruit growers at their own expense? I desire to show the danger of this proviso. Occasions might arise when it would be easy for the shipping company to show that it would be unprofitable to call at Hobart. There is one maximum scale of charges for all ports; and the boats which are compelled to call at Adelaide and Melbourne may dispose of all their available space at those ports, and then, of course, there would be no inducement to go to Hobart - in other words, it would be unprofitable to go.
– Would that not be the case if there was no contract at all?
– If there was no contract, the fruit-growers could charter the steamers as they have done in the past, without any Government interference; and they are quite prepared to do so. The terms of the contract show, I am sorry to say, that the Treasurer has failed to grasp the situation. The contract makes it impossible for the Tasmanian producers to charter the boats, because a maximum charge of 60s. has been fixed, and, of course, no vessel can be chartered at over that rate. We cannot suppose that a mail boat, which could fill up at Melbourne, Adelaide, and Sydney would steam 400 or 500 miles in order to pick up cargo at the same rate. The fruitgrowers of Tasmania have hitherto been able to obtain the mail boats, because, having the larger quantity to ship, they were able to outbid the producers of other States.
– Now the honorable member has let the cat out of the bag !
– This contract opens the door to secret commissions, as an inducement for the mail boats to call at Hobart.
– Is not the honorable member’s’ argument in favour of a differential rate for Tasmania ?
– Somebody would have to make it worth the while of the agent to decide that it would be profitable for the boats to visit Hobart. I object to Tasmania being placed in this position when the boats are to call ar the ports of the other States free.
– Not at Fremantle.
– Fremantle is notplaced in the same position as Hobart. It is not necessary under this contract to show that it would be profitable for the boats to go to Fremantle before they are obliged to call at that port. Tasmania, under the contract, will pay £[6,800 towards the subsidy, and if the boats are to call at Hobart only six times we shall be paying more per trip than any other State in the Commonwealth.
– But Tasmania will get her mails all the year round.
– That applies to the other States also. We are willing to make the contribution for which we are asked under this contract if we have a guarantee that the boats will call at Hobart. The honorable member for Darwin illustrated the difficulty under which our exporters would labour. Suppose one of these boats is due at Hobart on 27th February. The people who have fruit to export must bring it to the wharf at Hobart, and I remind honorable members that it would be absolutely worthless for anything but export to England. It would be picked at an early stage to ripen on the voyage. It would not be in a marketable condition for sale in Tasmania or in Australia, and if it is not shipped to London it might just as well be thrown into the sea. If the proviso to which I take exception were allowed to remain, there would be no certainty that the fruit brought to the wharf at Hobart would be shipped for London. Contracts for the carriage of fruit have to be made twelve months in advance. We make our contracts in Tasmania in November for shipment in the following year. Under these conditions those who have fruit to export would have to bring it to the wharf at Hobart without knowing until, perhaps, the very last moment, whether the mail-ship would call for it or not. I ask honorable members to see that justice is done to Tasmania in this matter. We do not want the boats to call all the year round, because we have not trade for them, but we have been getting them to call at our own expense for the last seventeen years. If the Government were passing a mail contract pure and simple for the carriage of mails between England and Adelaide, the first port at which the advantage of railway communication could be availed of, we should be content ; but the Government are proposing something more than a mail contract. They are proposing that we should give a very large subsidy, not merely for the carriage of mails, but also in order to subsidize the export trade in perishable products - for that is what this contract means - and that being so, I ask that in the name of common justice all the States should be put on the same footing.
– Tasmania will be on a better footing than Victoria and South Australia, because the boats will go direct from Sydney to Hobart.
– Tasmania will not be on a better footing than the States referred to so long as we are left to the mercy of any one who may ring into this contract something that is not there. No business men would- sign a contract containing the proviso to which I take exception. In making a contract, the terms of the service for which we are paying should be definitely stated, and we should, in this contract, provide for a definite service to the principal ports of all the States in Australia. Last year I fought to the best of my ability to prevent the continuance of what I believed to be an injustice to Queensland. That State was at the time called upon to bear her proportion of the subsidy without getting the benefit of the service. I am glad to see that under this contract justice is to be done to Queensland, and I ask that Tasmania should be placed in the same position.
– Does the honorable member desire that we should assist him to strike out the proviso to which he has referred ?
– The honorable member does not wish the boats to go to Tasmania at all.
– I hope the Minister of Trade and Customs will not attempt to mislead the honorable member for Maranoa. In answer to the honorable member’s question, I say that I wish to retain the clause, and to strike out the proviso. In the clause it is provided that the boats shall go six times a year to Hobart, whilst the proviso says that if the company can show that it would not be profitable for the boats to call at Hobart, the Postmaster-General shall be at liberty to relieve them of the obligation to call. I say that the proviso would place Tasmania . in a worse position than she is in now, because until the last minute our exporters would not know whether a boat was going to call in at Hobart or not, and whether the perishable produce brought to the wharf could be got away.
– If the fruit were on the Hobart wharf that would be a good reason why the boats should call there.
– The whole of their space might have been applied for by the exporters of fruit from Victoria and South Australia, and in that case the company could claim that it would not be profitable for the boat to call at Hobart.
– But they would visit Tasmania before they called at Melbourne or Adelaide.
– The honorable gentleman overlooks the fact that it is a question of whether the space on the boats is taken up or not. These boats will not call at a port to find out whether they could get cargo. Under existing conditions we apply for the space we require for the shipment of fruit twelve months in advance of shipment. We have had eleven boats calling at Hobart annually during the last seventeen years at our own expense, but this contract by providing for maximum charges would prevent our shippers from arranging a private charter.
– Would prevent them from quoting differential rates.
– And from securing a monopoly.
– The honorable member wants all the space.
– No, the honorable member is telling a deliberate untruth.
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw that statement.
– i withdraw it, but I am very glad i got it in.
– Order 1 The honorable member must withdraw the statement unreservedly.
– I withdraw it unreservedly.
– Can the honorable member not see that the whole year’s trade must be unprofitable, and not one trip only?
– I answer the honorable member by saying that our fruit season does not last for more than three months. If the fruit is not handled within that time we can get no market for it in London. It has been said that we want the whole of the space. “We do not. We are prepared to take our share, but let me tell honorable members that last year, whilst the whole of the rest of Australia shipped 160,000 cases of fruit, Tasmania alone shipped 540,000 cases.
– Where the trade is the ships will go.
– They win if there is fair competition. I wish the Minister to remember that the space provided by these mail boats is not sufficient to carry more than one-fourth or one-fifth of our yearly export of fruit.
– Then there is not the faintest danger that anything injurious to Tasmania will happen ?
– How can the honorable member say that? He has overlooked the fact that competition under this contract will be closed.
– The honorable member wants a differential rate for Tasmania.
– I want no differential rate.
– What does the honorable member want?
– I desire that the contract shall provide that the boats shall call at Hobart six times a year, and that it shall be out of the power of any one to interfere with that arrangement. I shall move -
That the proviso to clause 8 be omitted from the contract.
.- Looking carefully through this contract, I find that Fremantle has been mentioned in it in a casual kind of way, although it has been pointed out to-night that it is the third port in Australia.
– In what sense?
– From the point of view of the value of its imports and exports. Western Australia has produced gold of the value of nearly .£80,000,000 in addition to other minerals, and yet the Ministry who are supposed to represent the Commonwealth, in drawing up this contract, have practically forgotten it. Several important clauses contain no reference to it, whilst in others it is only casually, mentioned.
– What does the honorable member mean by- “casually” mentioned?
– I maintain that Western Australia should receive the same consideration as is extended to other States. For the last five years, Western Australia has sent to the eastern States .£1,000 per day in money orders, and yet she has been forgotten.
– What is the honorable member’s point?
– That Fremantle has scarcely been treated as an Australian port ; it is put in the same category as Colombo.
– But the vessels of this service must call at Fremantle.
-No. Under this agreement, on the completion of the Panama Canal, the route may be altered. I have signed hundreds of contracts and have been a party to big arbitrations, and have no hesitation in saying that this is one of the most loosely-worded agreements that I have ever read. In connexion with arbitration proceedings, I have known meanings to be read into clauses that at the time that the contracts in which they were embodied were signed, were believed to mean practically nothing. In clause 3 of this contract, we have the provision that -
On each inward and outward voyage respectively - each of such mail ships shall - proceed to call at and start from the following intermediate ports or places, namely, Colombo and Fremantle.
As I have said, Colombo and Fremantle are placed in the same category. The Government seem to have forgotten that Fremantle is the port for the larger half of Australia.
– What provision would the honorable member have inserted in the clause from which he has quoted?
– I should have applied common-sense to the drafting of the agreement. I have never seen a more looselydrawn contract. The provisions of one clause are contradicted by another, and heaven only knows how this agreement will be construed if one of the parties to it has ever to fight to the bitter end. In sub-clause 5 of clause 4 it is provided that the contractors - shall commence each outward voyage (that is to the United Kingdom) of the said mail ship from Brisbane, calling at Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide.
Both Fremantle and Hobart are not mentioned. Then again, sub-clause 7 of clause 4 provides that -
Each of the mail ships on each call at Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane, in pursuance of this agreement, shall remain in each of such ports for such periods as may be reasonably necessary to discharge cargo and to receive cargo, including butter and fruit.
I think I am fairly entitled to ask why no reference is made in that provision to Hobart or Fremantle. A very large quan tity of fruit is annually shipped from Hobart and Fremantle, and within the next twelve years, more fruit will be exported from Fremantle than from any Tasmanian port.
– Some apple-growers in Western Australia last year produced from 10,000 to 14,000 cases each. During the last month, thousands of frozen lambs have been shipped from Fremantle, and yet the contract does not require space to be set apart for the carriage of frozen meat or fruit from that port.
– These mail steamers are generally fully loaded before they reach Fremantle. The honorable member should move an amendment.
– Five years hence, the construction of the Panama Canal will have been completed, and the route may then be changed.
– No; it will not be completed within the next five years.
– I think that it will be. Coming to the amendment, I may say at once that I am not in favour of nationalizing this service.
– Would the honorable member meet us half way and let us have a partly State-owned, and partly individualistic service.
– I would not. It would be a mistake to try to run a Commonwealth line of mail steamers. Government railways have no competition to face, and wear and tear and deterioration are not so serious matters with them as with a steamship line. Besides, if a vessel bumps into anything, she is probably lost altogether.
– As a business man, would the honorable member let his vessels go uninsured?
– The honorable member for Darwin did not mention insurance. The honorable member for Wide Bay, in speaking on the amendment of the honorable member for Barrier, said many nasty things against private enterprise; but I claim that private enterprise has made the British nation. The ships that carry the commerce of the world and the warships of the world - even some of those of Germany - have been built by private enterprise in Great Britain.
– There are very big Government dock-yards in Great Britain.
– Yes; but the British Government gets its warships built by private enterprise, and I am proud to be a Britisher. Britishers know more about shipbuilding and shipping than any other nation in the world, and if it were wise for the Government to have fleets of merchantmen as well as fleets of war vessels, the British Government would have such fleets. Honorable members talk a lot of “ highfalutin” about Socialism ; but they forget that if we had an Australian merchant fleet we should require an Australian squadron to protect it from insult. No foreigner dare insult merchantmen flying the Union Jack.
– What worse insult could there be than the action of the Russians in firing on a fishing fleet?
– I had no sympathy with the Russians in what they did then. It is very easy for honorable members who have never been in business to criticise commercial enterprises. It is easy for men who have never done anything in the world to say what they would do if they had the handling of other men’s business.
– I would take on any business proposition in competition with the honorable member, and, for all his cleverness, get the shirt off his back.
– I ask the honorable member for Darwin not to interrupt.
– Are the members of the Labour Party constantly to be insulted by being told that they know nothing? Honorable members will turn this into a fighting shop if they make such remarks.
– When a man finds a gold reef he soon ceases to be a Socialist.
– - I have a bigger mine than any that the honorable member possesses, and it pays me, too. I own it myself.
– The honorable member in his speech used so many figures that I could not put them all down. A countryman of his once impressed it upon me that figures could not lie, “ but,” he added, “ look out when liars take to figuring.”
– What figures of mine does the honorable member challenge ?
– The honorable member told us how many boats he could build for a certain amount of money,, what sinking fund he would establish, and how long it would take him to repay the outlay ; but he failed to fell us where he would get the money in the first instance. If £4,000,000 were to be wrung from the people in extra taxation they would be so impoverished that they will have no need for a mail fleet.
– I said £[3,000,000, and I spoke about borrowing the money in England.
– The honorable member got quite wild at the thought of the British people running an Australian mail service, and yet he proposed to go to Great Britain to borrow money to enable us to run boats of our own.
– I could borrow ir, America or France.
– America wants all her money just now.
– It seems to me rather strong to propose to borrow money to enter into competition with the person from whom you borrow.
– All that the money lenders would trouble about would be their interest.
– We are sending money Home now.
– We shall have to send a lot more Home during the next ten years.
– There is no more solvent country in the world than Australia.
– The honorable member’s interjection suggests that I am saying that the country is not solvent. But all my speeches, both in this chamber and outside, prove that I hold the opposite view. What we owe is nothing compared with our assets. In conclusion, I wish to impress upon the Government the desirableness of seeing that Fremantle is better treated than it will be under the terms of this contract. Since the agreement was made public, I have received many wires from that centre, expressing dissatisfaction with the treatment which has been accorded it. I cannot support the amendment of the honorable member for Barrier, and, therefore, I shall be compelled to vote for the motion.
– Why not move an amendment?
– Because I recognise that we must either accept the contract or reject it. I am certain that in the near future large quantities of fruit will be exported from Western Australia, and the mail steamers should be required to provide space for it when asked to do so.
.- I had intended to offer some remarks bearing principally upon observations made by other honorable members. But at this hour of the night I shall confine myself to asking the Postmaster-General to explain the particular clause to which the honorable member for Fremantle has alluded. I entirely agree with him that in this contract provision is made for the abrogation of whatever advantage it may confer upon Western Australia.
– To which clause does the honorable member refer?
– I am alluding to subclause 7 of clause 4, which reads -
Each of the mail-ships on each call at Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane, in pursuance of this agreement, shall remain in each of such ports for such periods as may be reasonably necessary to discharge cargo and to receive cargo, including butter and fruit.
– That provision was inserted because the minimum number of hours that the steamers must remain at Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane is not specified in the contract. The other clause is intended as an intimation that the vessels must stay at Fremantle to discharge and take in cargo - that might not occupy more than two hours, but it is specified that the boats shall stay for not less than six hours.
– If, in respect of Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane, it is necessary to stipulate that the mail steamers shall remain in port for such time as may be reasonably necessary to discharge and receive cargo, why is not a similar condition imposed in the case of Fremantle? The truth is that under the proposed contract, if the steamers are full of cargo, and their owners do not wish them to remain in the Western Australian port for a longer time than is stipulated, they will be at liberty to depart, and to leave produce lying on the wharf. That is the danger which I foresee,. The stipulation that these vessels shall call at Fremantle for cargo is absolutely useless unless some provision be made for reserving to that State its proportion of space.
– There will be an equal disability in the case of every port unless the space is regulated.
– That is why I am anxious to see some provision inserted in regard to the receipt of cargo.
– We cannot make provision for what the honorable member desires unless we agree to take the whole of the space provided on the vessels.
– In the face of all the minutiæ which is contained in the agree ment, I fail to see why an agreement cannot be drawn up which will insure that no State shall be left out in the cold.
– We tried to do that, but found that the proposal was absolutely impossible unless we agreed to take the whole of the space.
– If the States would only agree to each take a portion of the space provided, the contractors would be very glad for us to take it off their hands altogether.
– It seems to me that we require to take only a very short step to nationalize the service. Some honorable members have objected to the statement that Western Australia had been penalized under the old freight rates. I hold in my hand a document issued by a large firm of shipping agents in London, from which I desire to make one or two quotations. From it I gather that the freight from the Old Country upon 30 lbs., or 1½ cubic feet, to Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, or Sydney is 6s. 6d., whilst to Fremantle and Townsville - which two places are bracketed together - the charge is 9s.
– That state of things cannot obtain under the new contract.
– If it can, I confess that I have not much faith that the Orient Steam Navigation Company will do other than what will pay it best. I may also mention that the charge for 100 lbs., or 5 cubic feet, of cargo from London to Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, or Sydney is 12s., whereas the charge to Fremantle is 1 6s. It seems to me that Western Australia might fairly claim a little more consideration than will be extended to her by the proposal to charge equal freights to all Australian ports. I need scarcely point out that the distance between Fremantle and Brisbane represents a fifth of the entire journey from London, notwithstanding which the freight to Brisbane is to equal that charged to Western Australia. In other words, Western Australia is to be penalized for the advantage of those States which are furthest removed from the European market.
– Surely the honorable member does not object to all the States being placed upon an equal footing?
– It seems to me that, whilst the welfare of Brisbane and of other ports has been carefully studied in this contract, that of Western Australia has been overlooked. I shall vote for the amendmentof the honorable member for Barrier.
.- I should like to add my congratulations to those already offered the honorable member for Barrier for the fine speech which he delivered in submitting his amendment. But although I listened with pleasure and admiration to his address, I know that he does not expect me to support his proposal to nationalize our mail service. I do not think that that matter is within the range of practical politics, and therefore, the honorable member will not wonder at my not supporting his amendment. Regarding the contract generally, I think that it is one upon which the Government can fairly be congratulated. Considering the history of mail contracts, I do not see how it could be expected that they could secure better terms for a subsidy of £170,000. It is true that that is a large increase upon what wepreviously paid, but it must be remembered that we are to have a greatly accelerated speed.
– Is it worth the extra money ?
– I do not know, but certainly the shipping companies regard increased speed as an important element in the cost of running their steamers. When a ship is steaming at her top speed, the last two or three knots add considerably to the consumption of coal. Consequently, if we insist upon increasing the speed of the mail ships we must expect to have to pay a higher price. Another consideration is that the vessels are compelled to run with great regularity, and they are to employ white labour only. All those points must be considered when forming an opinion upon the contract price. Bearing all these factors in mind, I am of opinion that the Government have made a good bargain, and that the amount of the subsidy is not out of the way. The contract is for ten years. That certainly seems a long time in these days of scientific improvement. But really, I do not see how the Government could have done better in that respect. The Orient Steam Navigation Company could not be expected to enter into a contract of this nature, involving large expenditure on new vessels, for a shorter period. Their interests need to be safeguarded as well as those of the Commonwealth. There is, however, a pro viso whereby the Postmaster- General can, as improvements are made, insist upon their adoption. We could not expect a more elastic provision in a contract such as this. In that respect, also, I think the Government have done as well as could be expected. There is one consideration affecting the State which I have the honour to represent and in regard to which the contract has not been framed as I think it ought to have been. I refer to the clause which compels six mail boats to call at Hobart during February to May inclusive. The clause proceeds -
Provided always that if in any year the contractors shall prove, to the satisfaction of the Postmaster-General, that calls at Hobart during that year are or would be unprofitable, the Postmaster-General may direct that the whole or any such calls for that year may be omitted.
In the first place, I suppose that the onus of proving that a call at Hobart would be unprofitable would lie with the company. The Postmaster-General has discretionary power as to granting the exemption. But suppose that the ships fill up with cargo at Brisbane or Sydney, and that, nevertheless, the Postmaster-General says “ You must go to Hobart.” If they have no space for a fair amount of produce, I do not see that that would be of any benefit to the fruitgrowers of southern Tasmania. What we want to insure is that there shall be reasonable space available when the ships get to Hobart ; because there is always a fair quantity of apples and other produce on the wharfs awaiting shipment at that time of the year.
– Would it not save a lot of money to bring the Tasmanian produce over to Melbourne in small boats and then tranship ?
-The fruit-growers do not look at it in that light. The cost of transhipment would be too great. The rehandling of fruits would necessarily add to the cost materially. I do not for a moment suppose that when the contract was entered into either of the parties contemplated any trouble arising under the clause in question. But the possibility of such a thing happening has to be guarded against, for fear the contract should ever come into a Law Court and be interpreted strictly. Such a clause might put Tasmania in a worse position than she is in to-day. It appears to me that if the whole clause were left out, and Tasmania were left to charter boats as she has been doing, it would be better for the State, be- cause then no risks would be run. If the clause were deleted possibly . the Orient Steam Navigation Company, seeing that Tasmanian growers would, have to pay their own charter fees, might bc prepared ito reduce the subsidy.
– How is the shipping of fruit from Tasmania regulated?
– As far as I know, circulars are issued to the growers about the quantity of fruit which they are likely to send and the space which’ they are likely to require.
– By commission agents?
– I am not sure by whom it is done, but that is the principle. -The maximum price to be charged by the Orient Steam Navigation Company is 60s. for 40 cubic feet ‘of space. In the past, the Tasmanian growers have paid 70s. for that amount of space. Therefore, if the clause, were struck out, the contract would require to be revised in order to place Tasmania in the same position as she was in before. The honorable member for Franklin is an* authority on the fruit trade, and he has moved to delete the proviso, thus insuring that the mail-boats shall call at Hobart six times in the year. Seeing that Brisbane is made a port of call, as I think it should be, it would be only fair that Hobart should also be made a port of call .to the limited extent mentioned here. I shall support the amendment of the honorable member for Franklin.
. During the debate many remarks have been made which have not been’ relevant to the question of the mail contract,’ and reflections have been cast upon the PostmasterGeneral for not-explaining its provisions to the House. In view of the very full and clear explanation which - was made last week by the Prime Minister, I think that the Postmaster-General saved a considerable amount of time in submitting, the motion as he did, and I commend him for his conduct.’ Reference has been made by the honorable member for Franklin and others to the mail-boats calling at Hobart. That, I think, is one of the wisest provisions in the contract. It is quite clear that if it could be proved to the satisfaction of the Postmaster-General that in any year it would be unprofitable for mail-Steamers to call at Hobart they would not be compelled to do so. I ask any one who is acquainted with the fruit industry in Tasmania, what would be the good of the steamers going to Hobart when-, there was a failure in the fruit crop ? Of course we all hope that there will not be a failure in the fruit crop, but it has occurred on several occasions and it may occur again. In a case of that kind it should be left to the Postmaster-General -to say whether the steamers shall call at the port or not.
– -That is protecting the company against ourselves. I think that we ought to protect ourselves against the company first.
– It is protecting both ourselves and the .company, because it would be of no use to the people of Tasmania for the boats to go to Hobart unless they had fruit or something else to export. Remarks have also been made about the filling up of the steamers, at the various ports. Any company which trades with Australia wishes to please the whole of the people. At the various ports they have their agents, who know fairly well what cargo is likely to be received- at certain places. In the event of the States not having agreed to take the space the agents must act as best they can to regulate the trade for the steamers.
– There will be other articles of export besides apples.
– If the Commonwealth or. the States do not guarantee the space we shall have to trust to the agents and the owners of the steamers to do the best they can for the whole community. I have no doubt that they will always act impartially, and that if it is profitable for the steamers to go to Hobart as it has been in the past, they will continue to go there. I ani very glad to .see that a freight has been determined for their particular trade, and that in the future it will not be left to a commission agent or any special individual to make arrangements for the sending of fruit or anything else from Tasmania. In the past it has been left to private persons to engage space; and for every case of fruit which .they sent away they received a commission of 3d., which, of course, had to come out of the pockets of the growers. If the contract is carried out satisfactorily and the agents arrange for the steamers to call ‘ at Hobart, and for the space required, the - growers will not only be relieved of that commission but also effect a considerable saving in freight.- In my opinion the Government have done well in securing that benefit to Tasmania. I . would have liked to see in the contract a provision to the effect that when .our fruit industry on the Tamar is sufficiently developed the mail-boats shall call at Tamar Heads and pick up the fruit there, instead of its being sent by train to Hobart. Last year we despatched our first shipment of fruit from the Tamar, and the whole of the land on its banks has been turned into orchards- I hope that before the expiration of “ the contract we shall have the mail steamers calling at the Tamar Heads to pick up our fruit. The only thing I regret about the contract is that it is made for such a long term. In a period of ten years things may change, but we shall bc bound by the contract. The Government was in a difficulty when it received the tenders, and the tender from the Orient Steam Navigation Company was the lowest one. While we ara left at the mercy of a combine or a ring the present unsatisfactory state of things will continue to exist. Apparently the cost of the mail service is going; up, and if that is to continue we shall regret that we did not make the current contract at ,£120,000 a year for a period of ten or twelve years. Unless the motion is carried we shall be at the mercy of a combine, and have to pay whatever they may charge. I have other notes, but, as the hour is so late, I shall conclude with congratulating the Government upon the first benefit, which they have secured for Tasmania, so far as the calling of the mail steamers is concerned.
– It may not prove so.
– If the fruit is available, the Postmaster-General can always insist upon the’ steamers going there, and if he fails in his duty it will be for Parliament to deal with him as it may think fit.
Mr. CARR (Macquarie) (11.23].- In the first place, I lay down the principle that alf means of communication and transit should belong to the people. I consider that, representing as the means of communication and transit do the commercial arteries of the nation, when- we allow them to get into private hands we practically allow private hands to get on the jugular vein of the nation, and on’ that account I shall vote for the amendment of the honorable member for Barrier. A monopoly of means of communication or transit on land we deny, and I contend that the avenues -of trade on water are just as important in the “development of a nation. This monopoly is the next worst to the monopoly of natural opportunity, which is the earth. Of course, we cannot debate the question . of land monopoly at the present time, but this being the next greatest evil from which we as a civilised- people suffer, I certainly urge upon honorable’ members the advisability of placing it under . the control of the Government, that is the people. The arguments which have been adduced against the proposal do not influence me, and I suppose it is hardly necessary for me to say why they do not, because my reasons- would not appeal to the Opposition. Though I think there is some logic on the opposite side, yet when honorable members say that to make this a Commonwealth concern would be to give absolute control of Government affairs to those within the concern,, and that it would be a dangerous experiment, they are absolutely on the wrong track. We have enacted that all men and. women are mentally equal. I admit that that is a mere assumption, but for the want of something better we have assumed it, and, as we have conceded political equality, as soon as- the people have their eyes opened a little more, they will insist - and the power to do so already exists - upon controlling these things, despite . honorable members on the Opposition benches. Those members naturally stand up for their vested interests and their individual rights, nor do I blame them. It is perfectly natural and logical that they should do so, but it is illogical for them to contend that when the people speak, as they do through us, the people are asking for the extension of a dangerous principle. The Labour Party is one of the tangible results of that principle, and we as a party in this chamber are the outward and visible sign of that political equality which will enable the people more and more to control these things for themselves. The people will take out of the hands of private enterprise first, and foremost those that rank amongst the most vital of all concerns, including the means of transit and communication. We know the devious methods that are . resorted to by private enterprise in order to exploit, the people. That, again, is perfectly natural, and if the people are foolish enough to give opportunities for this to be done, it will be done so long as the people are too blind to see that they have the right and the power to take over these things for themselves and still govern them by deputy. We must always have government by deputy, but as the community grows more enlightened there will be a higher intelligence reflected in the seats of government. Is there any provision in the contract to check the pernicious system of rebates? I can find none.
– A rebate would be a differential rate.
– There is a special law against it.
Mr.CARR. - The rebate system is one of the most effective means by which private enterprise exploits the people. In America rebates are used to throttle trade, or only to permit it to exist so far as it is necessary to the manufacture of the dollars of private enterprise.
– Does the PostmasterGeneral mean that rebates from England can also be prevented?
– We cannot control that.
– I quite realize that we shall not have the full power necessary to prevent those questionable practices, so long as over-sea traffic is in private hands, or untilwe bringit under Government control, tobe supervised. By duly appointed officers, subject to public criticism, and guided by thepublic sense of right and wrong. That public sense is always keen. Those who question the right or ability of the people tomore directly rule themselves question the whole system of creation itself. Man is deficient nowadays, not so much because of any innate lack in himself of a higher conception of life, as because of a want of opportunity to achieve his aspirations. Otherwise, there would be no progress; and there has been progress, so far as we have adopted enlightened legislation, and given to the people a more direct control of affairs than ever existed in bygone days. That policy must be pushed forward, and I am here to push it forward. Assuming that the intendment of the honorable member for Barrier is not agreed to, the contract, so Far as it can be made a machine to regulate the traffic, is, in my opinion, effective, but it does not go so far as I want it to go, because the mail service will be practically under private control. This is as satisfac tory an arrangement as we are likely to get under those conditions. There has been a good deal said about the danger we run in shutting ourselves out from the advantages that must accrue from improvements in means of locomotion, but clause 6 appears to provide for that. It gives the Postmaster-General the right at any time after the fifth year to call, upon the company to provide a more accelerated service, if more accelerated services have become the order of the day. That is a fairly safe provision, and to a great extent answers many of the objections that have been raised. We have also the right to alter the route from viâ Suez, if that is at any time deemed necessary. I presume that means that we shall be able to take advantage of the Panama Canal, if it is thought advisable to do so, when the canal is opened for traffic. Those are the main objections that have been raised to the contract, with the exception of the question of calls at Hobart. Here, again, we are faced with the consideration that, unless we take the service over entirely, we shall not be able to compel the boats to call at any port when they are already full. We must assume that those interested in a business concern will take freight when they are in a position to do so, but if their holds are full it will be of no use for the boats to call. The people of Tasmania may find themselves in that position. If that does happen, it will be one. of the inevitable results of handing this business over to private enterprise. If it was in the hands of the Government, itmight be possible to hold certain boats in reserve, or to divert boats from certain lines to take up traffic thatwas urgent at the time. Otherwise, I fail to see how Hobart is to get any more . consideration than is offered under this contract, unless the Government go a step further, as indicated by the Minister of Trade and Customs, in the direction of controlling the refrigerated space. The Government would have to undertake to fill the space if the shipping company were compelled to accommodate the Hobart trade.
– Notwithstanding the remarks of honorable members, I do not propose, evennow, to make anything like a long speech. I should like, as I could have done, to say a great deal about the many phasesof this most interesting, far-reaching, and important question. I could have said much about the rates, the history of mail contracts, the difference between this and other contracts, and what we lost by the concessions we made on the last contract. But at this stage of the session I feel impelled to say but little. I am sure honorable members will acquit me of any intention to slight the House, and will give me credit for doing the best that is possible in the circumstances. I have already said that this contract has been fully explained by the Prime Minister; fully, fairly, and favorably discussed by almost every newspaper in the Commonwealth ; and, after debate in another place, adopted almost unanimously. Therefore, every honorable member must beseized of its meaning. I further said that I was quite prepared to answer any questions to the best of my ability. Could anything more have been done, in view of the fact that we are so pressed for time ? I have no fault to find with the manner or matter of the speech of the honorable member for Barrier in moving his amendment, which is, of course, the real question we have to test to-night.
– I have another amendment.
– I hope the House will not accept any amendments. The Prime Minister, the officers of the Department, my colleagues, and myself have done our very best in. the interests of Australia. If honorable members knew as much as we know, but are not privileged to tell,they would not attempt to amend the contract on the lines suggested. It is provided that there shall be no differentiation as between States, and that provision penalizes no one. All we say is that, whatever advantages New South Wales, for instance, may secure in consequence of the facilities which she enjoys, no extra charge shall be made at any of the other ports. New South Wales, in this matter, is not penalized in any way.
– Excuse me; New South Walesis penalized.
– The honorable member is wrong.
– New South Wales is deliberately deprived of her natural advantages.
– Nothing of the kind; all we say is that, whatever natural advan tages Sydney may enjoy as a port, no extra charge must be made in any of the other States.
– And quite right, too!
– Quite right, too.
– It is right for Melbourne.
– Does the honorable member object to Melbourne reaping some advantage from the contract, if New South Wales is thereby in no way injured? The Government have been, and are, most anxious to secure the very best advantages for Australia. As to the amendment of the honorable member for Franklin, do honorable members imagine for one moment that any Postmaster-General would dare to give authority for these boats not to call at Hobart unless for marvellously strong reasons?
– I do not think so.
– I am sure honorable members do not think so. The clause referred to was inserted in the interests of Hobart, and marks a decided step forward for Tasmania, to which State there can be no danger, unless through a crop failure. I do not think that any one would contend for amoment that the mail ships should call at Hobart merely for the sake of calling. I could say a great deal more, but I am going to trust to the good sense of the House to accept the assurance that everything has been done by the Prime Minister and his colleagues to secure the best possible conditions. If this contract is varied, our work will have to be done over again, and we might not be able to get terms so advantageous as those which are now offered, and are submitted to the House for its approval.
– Will the putting of the amendment of the. honorable member for Barrier preclude the moving of any further amendments ?
– I point out that all the amendments moved hitherto have been by way of the addition of words, and each will be put in turn.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the question (Mr. Thomas’ amendment) - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment (by Mr. Frazer) negatived -
That the following words be added to the motion : - “ Subjectto a provision being inserted in the mail contract that the freights for importations shall be the same to all Australian ports at which the mail boats touch.”
Amendment (by Mr. Johnson) proposed -
That the following words be added to the motion : - “ Subject to the term of the contract being reduced from ten to seven years, with the right of extension for a further period of three years on the same terms.”
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That the. following words be added to the motion : - “ Subject to the inclusion in the
In submitting this amendment-
– The honorable member has already spoken.
– You are under a misapprehension, sir. I refrained from speaking to the amendment..
– But the Minister has replied.
– I rise to a point of order. I desire to say, sir, that I had a chat to-day with Mr. Speaker in regard to. this very question, and was informed by him that after my amendment had been disposed oT,- any further amendment would be open to discussion.
– After the mover of the original motion had replied?
– I admit that that point was not raised; but I am sure that those who were desirous of dealing with” some of the arguments raised during this debate would have objected to the Postmaster^ General replying when he did had they thought that his reply would close the debate. Mr. Speaker told me that I could not move a further amendment, but that it would be competent for me to speak to a further amendment moved by any other honorable member. I submit that this amendment may be discussed.
– On the point of order, I dare say, sir, that technically your ruling is right; but I am under the impression that Mr. Speaker has always allowed the fullest latitude in the discussion of such a matter as this. He has treated a contract of this kind as being in the nature of a schedule to a Bill, and therefore alterable in any part. I submit that on an occasion like this that procedure should be followed. I and several others find that we are not in a position under your ruling to submit several amendments that have occurred to us during this exhaustive debate, and I know of no honorable member on this side of the House who could submit them on our behalf. The trouble is that under cover of a motion this contract has been submitted in the House instead of in Committee. It is not an ordinary motion, but one having attached to it an exhaustive schedule, and
– I would suggest, sir, that standing order 264, which provides that the reply of the mover to the original question closes the debate, refers to the original question, and to any amendment which is proposed. As you are aware, sir, an amendment must be disposed of before another amendment on the main question can be submitted. If standing order 264 were to apply as suggested by you, it would be impossible for any further amendment to be moved. As a matter of fact, the only amendment which has actually been moved, properly stated and put, ‘is that proposed by the honorable member for Barrier.
– Notice has been given of other amendments.
– Notice has been given of them, but thev have not been moved. I would point out, sir, that under your ruling it would be impossible for a second amendment to be moved to any motion if the mover of the original motion had replied prior to the first amendment being tested.
– In this instance the questions raised by the amendments and the main issue have been so interwoven that it would be almost impossible to separate in any speech the arguments directed to an amendment from those directed to the main question. Standing order 264, which has been cited by the honorable member’ for Laanecoorie, directs that in all cases the reply of the mover of the original question closes the debate. The Postmaster-General has replied to the main question, and the debate is therefore closed. But the practice has grown up - I do not say that it is a right or that it is a wrong one - when honorable members have intimated that they intend to move certain amendments, of taking those amendments in rotation, after the mover has replied. That is the course I am following. I cannot, however, allow the main discussion to be re-opened.
– The ruling puts me in a false position, because I purposely refrained from speaking on the main question.
– Do I understand that, if the honorable member for Grey had moved his amendment first, and it had been discussed, my amendment would have had to be put without debate?
– The amendment of the honorable member for Grey could not have been moved first.
– It seems to me that the position is an awkward one. The honorable member for Grey purposely refrained from speaking on the main question in order to speak on his amendment.
– The honorable member for Grey would have been quite in order in moving and speaking to his amendment before the PostmasterGeneral replied. On the first day that this Parliament met, I, following a practice that is sometimes allowed in the Queensland Assembly, rose to speak after the then leader of the House, now Mr. Justice Barton, had replied ; but it was ruled by Mr. Speaker that I could not do so, and the ruling has held good ever since.
– Is the honorable member for Grey prevented from speaking because the Postmaster-General has replied, or because his amendment is so interwoven with the main question?
– Because the Postmaster-General has replied.
– I do not dispute the strict legality of your ruling, sir; but, in view of the exceptional nature of these proceedings, which could not have been contemplated when the Standing Order was framed, I suggest that it would be a gracious thing to consult the wishes of honorable members who desire to move amendments, and to state shortly their reasons for doing so.
– I cannot take it upon myself to do that ; but I think I shall be meeting the wishes of the House if I put the question that the honorable member for Grey be heard.
– That is not fair.
– I think it would be better to adhere to the ruling. I have an amendment, too.
– I shall adhere to my ruling; but the course which I am now taking is the customary one. If it is the pleasure of the House, I shall allow the honorable member for Grey to proceed, but not otherwise.
Colonel Foxton. - I submit that, although as a matter of convenience, with a view to curtailing debate, it may be customary, when several amendments have been moved on the original question, to regard speeches as applying to both amendments and the main question, there can be only one question before the House at a time. When the Postmaster-General was replying, the only question before the House was the amendment of the honorable member for Barrier.
– I replied to arguments advanced with regard to all the other amendments.
– If the honorable member for Brisbane questions my ruling, he should move that it be dissented from.
Colonel Foxton. - I thought that I was raising a point which has not been considered. I was submitting that the PostmasterGeneral replied, not to the original motion, but to the amendment of the honorable member for Barrier, which was strictly the question before the Chair.
– Does the honorable member intend to move that my ruling be dissented from?
Colonel Foxton. - If you rule, sir, that the Postmaster-General has replied to anything more than the question which was immediately before the House, I am disposed to do so.
– I rule that the Postmaster-General having replied, the debate upon the motion has been closed.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added (Mr. Poynton’s amendment) - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Mr. Wilks) put -
That the following words be added to the motion : - “ Subject to the inclusion in the Agreement of a clause providing that, whenever practicable, the mail steamers shall be docked in Australia.”
The House divided.
Majority … 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Mr. McWilliams)put -
That the following words be added to the motion : - “ Subject to the proviso in clause 8 being omitted from the contract.”
The House divided.
Majority … …2
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment(by Mr. Edwards) proposed -
That the following words be added to the motion - “And further, that arrangements should be made that Queensland be relieved during the currency of the interim contract of the payment of the extra subsidy now paid by that Stateto the Orient Steam Navigation Company.”
Question - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 21
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the House of Representatives approves the agreement made and entered into the 15th day of November, 1907, between His Majesty’s
Postmaster-General in and for the Commonwealth of Australia of the first part, Orient Steam Navigation Company Limited of the second part, and the Law Guarantee and Trust Society Limited of the third part for the carriage of mails and services to be performed as therein provided, a copy of which agreement has been laid upon the table of the House.
– I desire, by leave, to move -
That until otherwise ordered this House do meet at half-past 10 o’clock a.m. on Monday in each week in addition to the present sitting days.
– Is the question of the mail contract concluded? You have not put it from the chair, sir. The last division did not conclude the matter so far as I am concerned.
– That matter has been disposed of. Has the Treasurer permission to move this motion without notice?
– I object.
– Then I move -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until this day at11 o’clock a.m.
Had there been no objection to the motion regarding sitting on Mondays I should not have moved for a sitting to-day at all, as it is now very late and honorable members are tired.
– Can a motion of that description be moved without notice, seeing that it alters a sessional order regarding the days of sitting?
– The Standing Orders provide for the moving of motions of this description.
– I understand from what the Treasurer said that this motion is moved in order to test the feeling of the House.
– We are placed in a peculiar position. According to his statement, the Treasurer is now trying to force us to sit again to-day, not because the House has frustrated his wishes in any way, but simply because one honorable member objected to. leave being given him to move a motion without notice.
– I was going to take the sense of the House.
– Will the Treasurer take the sense of the House as to whether we should meet again for two hours to-day?
– The Treasurer’s proposal is fair if we intend to try to complete certain work before we rise for Christmas. The criticism of the honorable member for Parkes was notquite warranted, because if we do not meet later to-day it is obvious that we shall lose the Monday sitting also. If the honorable member for Hunter will withdraw his objection, we can avoid meeting again to-day, and meet on Monday.
– I understand that the Treasurer, if he could have made arrangements for the Monday sitting, did not intend to ask the House to meet again to-day.
– I was going to take the sense of the House as to whether they desired to sit to-day.
– I understand that the Treasurer proposed to sit to-day, in order to fix a meeting for Monday:
– If we do meet today, I propose that we shall do business.
– We are here to do business, and as we have been kept from our homes, I suggest that the honorable member for Hunter withdraw his objection, and that we sit’ both to-day and on Monday.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer whether, before any moneys arepaid on account of the extension of the mail service to Brisbane, the House will be given an opportunity to express an opinion on the subject.
.I desire to explain why I took the action I did in regard to the proposed extra sittings. I consider that we, as a House, have been very scurvily treated by the Treasurer. I heard the remarks which you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, made the other day, and I concur in every word you said. The way in which the Tariff has been dealt with is a disgrace to the country. Item after item of no consequence has been dealt with, while important items have been left over until the fagend of the year, in the hope of getting them through in the rush. I am prepared to sit every day if necessary; but I must enter my protest against the manner in which business has been conducted.
.- The threatened coal strike in New South Wales caused a reduction in the number of mail steamers running between Tasmania and the mainland. There has been only one mail from Tasmania since last Wednesday, and there will not be another delivered until Monday. I desire to know, now that the strike is over, when the ordinary service will be resumed.
.- The Treasurer has always been known as a sturdy advocate of the workers; and I desire to know what he proposes to do in the case of the dockers. The honorable gentleman has had a conversation with the manager of the company.
– That was private.
– Then I shall do no more than ask the honorable gentleman to devise some means of getting over the difficulty.
– In reply to the honorable member for Bass, I may say that instructions will be given for the ordinary mail time-table between the mainland and Tasmania to be resumed at once.
– In reply to the honorable member for Grey in regard to the cost of the extension of the mail service to Brisbane, I have to say that that is a matter for the Prime Minister, but I think I can safely assure him that no definite arrangement will be made, and no money paid, without the concurrence of the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 1.6 a.m. (Saturday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 November 1907, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1907/19071122_reps_3_41/>.