4th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. ATKINSON (for Mr. W. H.
Irvine) presented a petition from certain subscribers tothe telephone exchange at Berwick,praying the House to suspend the operation of regulation 7A until the condition of the telephone service has been further considered, and the recommendations of the Postal Commission in regard to it have been placed before Parliament.
Report (No. 2) presented by Mr. McDougall, read by the Clerk, and adopted.
Telephone Construction Work - Telephones of Charitable Institutions and Ocean Life-saving Clubs - Official Post Offices.
– The honorable member for Richmond asked the PostmasterGeneral the following questions on the 3rd instant : -
Inquiries were then being made on the subject, and I have now been furnished with the following replies : -
– Will the PostmasterGeneral, in connexion with the proposed change in the system of charging for telephone services from flat to toll rates, which is to come into force on1st
September next, take into consideration the need for making special allowances to public institutions, such as hospitals ?
– Regulation 32 makes special arrangements for hospitals and charitable institutions. It reads -
-Will regulation 32 apply to the life-saving clubs on our ocean beaches, which need telephones to communicate with the relatives of disabled persons, and in the furtherance of their work generally?
– If these clubs can be regarded as coming under the head of charitable institutions, the regulation will apply to them.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and the desired information will be furnished as early as possible.
Wine, Oyster, and Fish Duties
– I wish to know from the Minister of Trade and Customs if it is a fact that recently a deputation representing viticultural interests waited on him, and asked that an endeavour might be made to arrange a reciprocal treaty with New Zealand to obtain a reduction in its duty on wine, suggesting the remission of the “duties on blue cod and oysters imported from the Dominion, and pointing out that sixty-six persons are employed in the wine exporting industry? Is the honorable gentleman aware that a large number of persons are employed, in the oyster industry, many of whom would suffer great hardship if the duty were remitted? Will he, in their interests, see that it is not remitted ?
– It is a fact that a deputation which waited on me suggested the remission of the duties on blue cod and oysters, but I assured it, and I assure the honorable member, that no reciprocal treaty will be made with my consent which would injure one section of the community to benefit another.
– Are we to understand ‘from the Minister’s reply that it is his intention to see that no injury is done to the oyster industry?
– I do not think it would be right to allow any one industry to bear the whole brunt of the change resulting from the making of a reciprocal treaty with New Zealand. I shall look into the matter very carefully, but, as I stated to the deputation, I shall not think of making any change at the expense of the oyster and fish industries.
.- I wish to make a personal explanation in regard to yesterday’s debate. During the course of the remarks which I then addressed to the Chamber, I referred to a newspaper of which the honorable member for Cook is editor, in these words -
This newspaper is proposing new methods for the collection of advertisements.
I then went on to deal with newspapers generally, and when I spoke of the need for preventing black-mail if newspapers were to be subsidized, did not intend what I said to apply to that particular newspaper. By reason of its juxtaposition, no doubt, the honorable member for Cook took that remark as applying to his newspaper. I said, later, in reply to an interjection by the honorable member -
As far as I know, his newspaper is not directly worked for blackmail.
– What does the honorable member mean by “ directly “ ?
– That is what I have-‘ risen to explain, in justice to the honorable member and his paper. When I said that his paper was devising new methods of doing its advertising business, I had in my mind the following letter written by the honorable member to a business firm in Syd- ney, the concluding paragraphs of which read as follow : -
Our policy is co-operation - “ Our “ refers to the newspaper - and this word to the men means “ do your trading with those business firms, who are helping your own official paper along in its great work.” Now, sirs, I think you will see the exceptional value of the Co-operator as an ad-“ vertising medium for your goods….. You should see to it that the name of your firm is continually in front of them and thus secure your share of their orders. My representative will call on you in the course of a day or so, and, will give you full particulars of advertising space, &c.
I do not mean to say that the honorable member himself -would be personally guilty of blackmail, but I did have in my mind the idea, and I repeat it now, that such methods of collecting advertisements are not in the interests of proper journalism.
– They are something approximating to blackmail.
.- I am sorry that our discussions in the House cannot be conducted without honorable members seeking, for party purposes, to cast personal reflections upon honorable members who differ from them. When Hansard is printed, anybody who reads the connexion in which the honorable member for Wentworth made his remarks will see that it would be difficult for me to place on them any other construction than I did at the time. All I say is that the methodsadopted by me are clean and above board, and are generally understood. A newspaper seeks to secure to those who advertise with it as much business as possible. That is what they advertise for, and all that is said in the letter from which the honorable member quoted is that any business that we can influence with the persons who advertise in the paper we shall be very glad to do. The honorable member for
Lang, when the honorable member for Wentworth was making his personal explanation, interjected that this was blackmail. I submit that he should be made to withdraw that remark; and let me tell him that I shall not allow him or any one else to say that to me. If he says it out side I will deal with him quick and lively.
– Do not threaten.
– The honorable member takes a cowardly advantage of His position in the House.
– Order ! I must ask honorable members to try to conduct themselves in a way that is creditable to the Chamber. I did not catch the remark attributed to the honorable member for Lang. Had I heard him make it I should have asked him to withdraw it. If he did make it, I now call on him to withdraw it.
– I said nothing about the honorable member for Cook in regard to blackmail. I spoke about a certain system of soliciting orders approaching blackmail. I do not know that the honorable member has solicited those orders. I desire to ask you, Mr. Speaker, to request the honorable member for Cook to withdraw the remark which he made in your hearing about personal violence.
– Business of the Day - Question No. 1.
– The honorable member for Cook has come across to me, and said, “ A dirty, skunky thing to say.” I would ask him to go to his own side of the Chamber, and not to come insulting me, unless a breach of the peace is to be provoked.
– Order. I would remind the honorable member that when I tall “ Order,” I expect him to resume his seat. The honorable member should have waited until the notice of question which I called on had been dealt with, and then I could have attended to the matter, but if the honorable member is going to attempt to take the conduct of business into his own hands, I shall have to take some other course.
– I rise to a point of order.
– Will the honorable member resume his seat?
– The honorable member is sitting in my seat. (To Mr. J. H. Catts : If you do not take your own seat, I will land you one). Mr. Speaker, here is the honorable member for Cook, who now comes behind me, and says, “ You dirty skunks,” referring to us on this side. Is he in order in making use of an expression of that kind ? If he does it again, and we are not protected, I shall be provoked into doing something that I would be sorry for afterwards.
– I have already told the honorable member that he must not attempt to take the conduct of business into his own hands. I shall give the honorable member all the justice he deserves in this instance. With reference to the incident which has just taken place, I did not hear the expression attributed to the honorable member for Cook. I understand that it was used in a way which would prevent me hearing it. I believe that certain words of a threatening nature were used by the honorable member for Cook to the honorable member for Lang, in particular, and to others. The honorable member for Cook has no right to use such expressions, and I call upon him to apologize to the honorable member concerned, and to the House.
– The honorable member for Lang made use of an expression which was aimed at me, and has not withdrawn it, and I am not going to withdraw what I said. I referred to no one but him.
– Do I understand the honorable member to refuse to withdraw his remark?
– I again appeal to the honorable member to withdraw the remark, and apologize, both to the honorable member for Lang, and to the House, for having made it. , Do I understand the honorable member still refuses to withdraw and apologize?
– The matter now takes a more serious form, because the authority of the Chair has been disregarded. As the honorable member has definitely refused to withdraw his remark and apologize, I now name him to the House for disregarding the authority of the Chair.
– In the circumstances, it is, of course, my duty to support the Chair, but, following the precedent set by two of my predecessors, I should like first to make a personal appeal to the honorable member for Cook, and to remind him and all members that the Standing Orders have been drawn up for the guidance and protection of all the members of the House. It is our duty to obey the Chair, otherwise it is impossible for the business of the House to be conducted as it ought to be. The honorable member has been called upon by Mr. Speaker, as the representative authority of this House, in regard to the conduct of business, to withdraw the words he has used, and I feel that, as the Leader of the House, I can reasonably call upon the honorable member to obey the Chair If he refuses to do so, my duty will be obvious. I do not know whether the honorable member has anything to say in regard to the matter.
– I understand, Mr. Speaker, that you desire me to apologize to the House?
– I call upon the honorable member to apologize to the honorable member to whom he used the expression, and also to apologize to the House.
– I am prepared, sir, to apologize to the House.
– The honorable member must obey my direction without any qualification.
– I cannot apologize to the honorable member.
– It now becomes my duty, Mr. Speaker, to move -
That the honorable member for Cook be suspended from the service of the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I call upon the honorable member for Cook to withdraw from the Chamber.
The honorable member for Cook having withdrawn -
.- The occurrence that has just taken place is most unfortunate, and I wish to direct your attention to the fact, Mr. Speaker, that the honorable member for Lang has not withdrawn the expression that he used. I certainly think that he ought to be called upon to withdraw it.
– When the incident took place, I called upon the honorable member for Lang to withdraw the statement, and he said deliberately that it did not refer to the honorable member for Cook. I am compelled to accept the honorable member’s statement. The honorable member said that hedid not refer to the honorable member for Cook, and he then proceeded to make some reference to the use of the word “business.” I must accept the honorable member’s statement.
– Although it is denied?
– I am not supposed to know what position the honorable member takes up.
– My remark had no personal application.
– I should like to point out to the House that a good many personalities are indulged in, many of which it is impossible for me to anticipate, and: so to prevent. Many statements of a personal character are made by way of interjection, and in other connexions, thatI cannot possibly anticipate, and in this way unpleasant incidents arise. It is not for me to dictate to the House, and I do not wish to do so, but I sincerely trust that honorable members will in future refrain from resorting to personalities.
– By way of personal explanation, may I say at once, as I said before, that the interjection I made, and which, 1 do not suppose was really audible all over the chamber, was to the effect that such a method of soliciting business savours of blackmail.
– The honorable member did not use the word “ business.”
– I ought to be the best judge of what I said. Honorable members could not possibly have heard my statement as well as I did myself.
– We did.
– I did not make any personal reference to the honorable member for Cook. I regret that the incident has occurred, and I take this opportunity of saying, voluntarily, without being calledupon to withdraw the statement, that if the honorable member for Cook feels that it was a personal reflection upon him I unhesitatingly withdraw it.
– Why was the honorable member not man enough to do so before ?
– There was no occasion to do so before, and there is none now.
– Mr. Speaker-
– Order ! Question No. 1.
– What the honorable member for Lang has said is incorrect.
– Does the honorable member wish to make a personal explanation?
– I do, sir. As a member of this House I wish to say that I distinctly heard the honorable member for Lang say, “ This-
– Order ! The honorable member is not making a personal explanation.
– I wish to prove the incorrectness of the statement made by the honorable member for Lang.
– Order ! Will the honorable member resume his seat?
– Will you allow an untruth of that kind to go by, sir?
– Order ! I call on the honorable member for Riverina to ask the question in his name.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– T - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– Will the honorable member allow this question to stand over until Tuesday next? Information has to be obtained from the Department of Home Affairs, and from Sydney.
asked the Minister of External Affairs -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are - 1 to 5. I think the information desired by the honorable member can be gathered from the tables which I append hereto. These have been obtained from the South Australian Government.
Debate resumed from 28th July (vide page 801) on motion by Mr. Atkinson -
That, in the opinion of this House, the Commonwealth should forthwith take over the inspection and effective control of produce passing from State to State.
– While I have every sympathy with the honorable member for Wilmot in his anxiety to prevent Tasmania suffering any undue injury by the limitation of the export of produce to the other States, I still think that those States are taking the right course in inspecting all produce which enters their ports. I cannot see that the Commonwealth could exercise supervision, so far as Inter- State trade is concerned, any more effectively than can the State inspectors under the present system, especially as the honorable member for Wilmot does not propose that there shall be new inspectors, but that those now employed shall do the work. I can only come to the conclusion that if the same inspectors are employed, and the same system is utilized, the same results will follow, and that, therefore, the purpose of the honorable member will not be any further advanced by a. mere change of masters. What I mainly take exception to is the suggestion made in the course of the debate that the desire to exclude Tasmanian produce from New South Wales is prompted, not so much by a dread of the introduction of diseases as by a desire to secure a monopoly of the local trade by preventing competition from outside. In my opinion, there is no justification for an attitude of that kind. There is plenty of room in New South Wales, not only for the locally-grown produce but for all that can be obtained from Tasmania, and, as a matter of fact, I believe that at the present time Sydney is one of the best markets for the produce of that State. So long as produce sent to New South Wales is free from disease, and not likely to result in injury to the community, I do not think it will be refused admission. There is no desire on the part of the inspectors of the Mother State to unnecessarily exclude this produce. It is a singular circumstance that just shortly after the introduction of this motion there were some flagrant cases of importations from Victoria into New South Wales, showing the absolute necessity for the most rigid care in the work of inspection. There was published in the newspapers an article containing several statements on both sides, some making allegations and others rebutting them, and specific instances were given. The following is an extract from that article : -
Shipped as First-class. merchants’ reply to victorian minister.
Government Certificates to be Rejected. “ Unfortunately I have to differ from Mr. Graham,” said Mr. J. M. Wright, of Prescott, Ltd. “ In fact,” he continued, “ I have found the grading so incorrect, to put it mildly, that we absolutely refuse to buy any produce from Victoria under Victorian Government grader’s certificate. This does not only refer to onions, but to potatoes, chaff, and oats also. We had a case last year where the Victorian Government grader passed oats as best milling, the standard set for that -year being, we believe, 39Alb. to the bushel. We had the oats measured here bv a prominent wheat merchant on an instrument used in measuring wheat, and the oats did not go more than 31 lb. to the bushel. We took the matter up with the chief inspector of exports in Victoria, but all the satisfaction we got was a statement that the oats were carefully graded, and that he could not go any further into the matter. In May, of this year, we lost £11 on ten tons of onions imported from Victoria at £3 per ton f.o.b. Melbourne. The market here was £4. They arrived partially rotten and were flattened out as if they had been stored for a month or so. The same month we landed ten tons of ‘ Brownell ‘ potatoes at a price of £4 per ton f.o.b Melbourne. They arrived in a rotten condition, and on this comparatively small shipment we Tost no less than £13. We had no redress, because we purchased under Victorian grader’s certificate. This would effectually do away with Mr. Graham’s charge that complaints were associated with a fall in the market here after the contracts had been made. These are only a very few of the instances that I can bring forward of the value of the certificate. It is all very well to protect the Victorian trade, but the importers here should protect themselves by refusing to purchase under such certificates, and our company for one will refuse to purchase in this way until something is done to make the certificates of value.”
It is unfair to impute selfishness to the citizens of New South Wales when theyendeavour to protect themselves from the importation of diseased or unsound produce from the other States. They should be credited with the motives with which they declare that they are actuated. It is not denied that Irish blight has appeared in a bad form in the Tasmanian potato crop. I do not know if potatoes are inspected before leaving Tasmania.
– They are.
– Every care should be taken to see that none but good produce leaves the State. I do not think that disease which could not be detected by a careful external examination would develop in produce in the course of a forty-eight hours’ journey by sea. notam I of opinion that the New South Wales inspectors would condemn, as unfit for consumption, fruit or vegetables that were wholesome. I doubt whether the remedy proposed by the honorable member for Wilmot, for a state of affairs which is regarded as unsatisfactory, will bring about the result which he anticipates, but I see no objection to the system being given a trial. It must not be forgotten, however, that the protection of the public health is the first duty of the Government of each State. While T. shall not oppose the motion, I protest against the action of the New South Wales officials in rejecting unsound produce coming from other States being stigmatized as prompted by sordid and ulterior motives to the detriment of Tasmania. The merchants, the consumers, and the producers of New South Wales do not object to the importation of clean and wholesome produce from the other States. So long as Tasmania sends to New South Wales produce which is sound and free from disease, there will be no difficulty-
.- Apparently the mover of the motion wishes to bring the inspection of produce moving from State to State under one central authority, to avoid the many inconveniences and losses which occur under divided control. I do not know how far the motion, if carried, might lead us, but something should be done in this matter. I represent “a series of fruit-growing districts in Victoria, and from time to time wellfounded complaints reach me regarding the operation of the system of inspection applied to fruit sent from this to the other States. No doubt the grievances of the Victorian growers are shared by those of Tasmania and South Australia. When a grower wishes to export fruit from Victoria to, say, New ‘South Wales, he has, first, to permit its close examination here. So that it may be properly examined, the fruit is turned out of the cases, inspected, and re-packed, at considerable cost. Having been passed as sound, and in every respect suitable for market, it is put on board ship, and, forty-eight hours later, landed on the wharf in Sydney, where it is again turned out of the cases, and inspected by a man whose instructions are different from those of the Victorian inspector, and who ‘may condemn it. Under this system growers are subjected to unnecessary expense, and are seriously harassed. The fate of the fruit depends on the verdict of the last man who examines it. He may be honestly carrying out his instructions, and there may be, only a slight difference of opinion between him and the inspector who passed the fruit forty-eight hours earlier. The fruitgrowers admit that inspection is necessary,and desirable, but say that it should not be repeated more than is needful to secure the end in view. To me it seems that if fruit is subjected to a thorough examination at the port of export, that should be sufficient, but I am not sufficiently acquainted with the subject to have made up my mind on the point. I apprehend that the Minister of Trade and Customs, if he had the matter under his jurisdiction, would determine where the inspection should be made. The motion may raise the questionof State jurisdiction, and, as things are, it may not be possible for this Parliament to legislate in ‘the matter. But something should be done to remove the serious grievances under which a very important and hard working section of the community labours. Not only is the system of inspection annoying, but it is unnecessarily costly, the fees being too high. The other day I saw a statement by a grower of the sum he had paid in. inspection fees during theyear, and it was very large in proportion to the value of his produce. Those who benefit by the inspection should pay for it. The inspection is not made wholly in the interests of the growers. They, of course, are interested in the keeping out of the State of insect and fungoid pests which might devastate their orchards, but the consumers are even more interested in the keeping out of all but sound and wholesome produce. Therefore the States should recognise that the cost of inspection should not fall wholly on the producers, but should be borne largely by the public which benefits so greatly by the exclusion of unsound fruit and vegetables. I am informed that there is a considerable margin between the sum paid in fees and the actual cost of inspection.
– I do not think that there is a large margin in the other States. The opinion of the framers of the Constitution was that these charges should be limited to the cost of administration.
– No doubt that is so.
– Are the inspection fees doubled ?
– Fees are paid for inspection at the port of export and at the port of import, these two inspections taking place within three days of each other. A grower whose fruit has been passed as sound may, after it has made a voyage of only forty-eight hours’ duration, find it thrown on his hands, and instead of getting a return from it, may not only lose the value it represents, but have to make money pay ments in addition. This position is very oppressive. The fees charged to the growers should be reduced to the lowest amount possible. Without imputing impropriety in any quarter, I think that when it is known that the remuneration provided for any set of officials does not come out of a departmental vote, but is made up by fees paid by a body of men which has no control over them, the tendency is not to be over particular in the keeping clown of expenses. If something could be done on the lines of this motion or a similar arrangement made for uniformity of practice and management, with economy in administration, we should benefit, not only the large body of producers, but also the general public. I trust that the matter will not be allowed to rest, and that if the Minister does not see his way to proceed quite in the way indicated by the motion, the points raised in the debate will receive his attention.
– I said that five weeks ago, when the motion was introduced.
– I was not here then. The present state of affairs is unbusinesslike and foolish, and the question should be dealt with in a comprehensive way, in order to protect the growers and the public, with due regard to economy.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Sinclair) adjourned.
.- I move -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to provide for taking a vote of the electors on the question of so amending the Constitution as to provide for the reconstruction of the States, the elimination of State boundaries, and the abolition of the State Governments, and the substitution therefor of a uniform system of Government throughout the Commonwealth, and the subdivision of Australia into Provinces as may hereafter be determined : And, further, to provide that each such Province shall have a Parliament consisting of one House only, having such Legislative powers as may be conferred by the Federal Parliament.
I have no desire to debate the question at this stage, as there are other motions on the notice-paper, and those responsible for them were kind enough to allow me to precede them with this motion, on a tacit understanding that I should not be unduly long. In consideration of that, and. as there is no necessity to debate the matter at this stage,
I merely move now for leave to introduce the Bill”.
– I could not see my way clear to second a motion of this kind, but I do not intend to oppose the granting of leave for the introduction of the Bill. It is the practice of all Parliaments to give that permission, and it would be wrong of us to stifle freedom of speech or liberty of thought. In readily granting the honorable member permission to bring in the Bill for the purpose that he has named, it is necessary to say that I am quite opposed to the method which the honorable member puts forward. I think it is unnecessary. We already have powers enough under the Constitutionto do all that the honorable member requires as to do. The honorable member interjects that we ought to wait for the second reading, but: it may be months before we have an opportunity of discussing the Bill at that stage, and in the meantime an impression might go abroad that, because the House gave the honorable member a unanimous consent to introduce the Bill, we all believed in abolishing the State Parliaments. There is enough discord and ill-feeling already between the Federation and the State Parliaments without our giving any colour to the idea that we want to abolish them. J make these remarks in order that the public may realize that the honorable member is unanimously given leave to bring in his Bill, not because we agree with it, but because we desire to have the utmost freedom of speech.
.- Like the honorable member for Capricornia, I am quite prepared to see a Bill of this kind introduced, but it occurs to me that the proposal to amend the Constitution in the direction indicated by the honorable member for Herbert will annihilate it. The Federal compact is a bargain between States, and any attempt to coerce the States in the way indicated would necessarily burst up the compact. That is the apprehension I should have if such a proposal were carried. Although I am entirely opposed to the honorable member’s proposal, I should like to see it in concrete form before I proceed further with my criticism.
– Of course, in this matter the Government are not in any way committed to anything by allowing the honorable member leave to introduce the Bill. That seemed so obvious to me that I hardly thought it necessary to intervene. The honorable member desires to present his views in the shape of a Bill, but I should have much preferred it if he had put them in a motion and had it discussed before bringing in the measure. A marked feature of this Parliament, so far, has been its broadmindedness on all abstract questions, especially questions of great moment, but not coming within the realm of urgent practical politics at the present time. Whenever time is available for honorable members to put forward their views on issues of great magnitude, those issues ought to be discussed here, so that we may know exactly the opinions held by honorable members and the various phases and transitions of thought in Australia. The Government, therefore, offer no opposition to the first step being taken in this matter ; but that in no way commits them to an approval of the proposal outlined by the honorable member for Herbert.
– I sympathize with much that the Prime Minister has said. It would be an improper exercise of cur power if we refused to allow the Bill to see the light of day. If an honorable member desires to put an idea before the House in the form of a concrete proposition, we should allow him to do so. Of course, it is obvious to us in the House, although others outside may misunderstand the position, that the mere granting of leave does not imply that the House in any way indorses the ideas foreshadowed in the motion, which indicates a scheme for the unification of Australia, the entire abolition of State boundaries, and the setting up of provincial councils. I presume that that may be put forward to-day simply as an ideal, but to me it seems an ideal that is not practicable in the circumstances under which we are now living.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move-
That, in view of the valuable and extensive deposits of shale in the Commonwealth, it is desirable that a product so important to industry, and which will find employment for many Australian workers, should receive encouragement in the form of , 1 bonus for the production of crude shale oil or other satisfactory form.
I hope to show that this matter is of great importance to the Commonwealth, and likely to become still more important in the near future. We have only to look around the industrial, world to-day to see that fuel oil is making rapid strides as a means of driving the machinery used in various manufactures and other undertakings. The Royal Navy itself is also largely using oil instead of coal as fuel. I understand that the Government have had this matter under consideration, and therefore I shall not go into a great number of details, but I hope that the Minister will see his way to give the question further consideration, and urge the Cabinet to give a little more assistance to the industry than is at present proposed. The oil industry may be regarded in somewhat the same light as the iron industry. In these modern days it is almost a necessity that every country should strive to found an iron industry, not only because it is so important in matters of defence, but also because it forms the basis of so many other manufactures, and creates a lot of subsidiary industries. The oil industry is rapidly rising to the same plane of importance. Seeing that oil is being used as fuel in the Navy, the industry becomes important from the stand-point of defence, and it also helps or carries along with it many subsidiary trades and manufactures. It is now becoming a necessity for every part of the Empire to try to establish the. oil industry, and if we can establish it in the Commonwealth we shall not only be providing employment for many thousands of Australian artisans, but also helping to preserve our national integrity.
– Would the honorable member confine this bonus to shale oil ?
– Not necessarily. In connexion with the mining industry machinery is used which, I am told, requires oil to drive it, and I have heard from the vendors of various kinds of implements and engines that the dairymen of Australia would use oil engines far more freely than they do if they could be assured of a good and constant supply of fuel oil at a reasonable price. As it is, no one can enter into a long contract with the Standard Oil Company for the supply of these oils, and so secure a steady supply. I have been informed that a gentleman residing in Western Australia, 400 miles inland, has been able to save something like £1,000 a year by substituting oil engines for other motive power that he formerly employed to drive his machinery. He. too. is in the unfortunate position of being unable to rely upon obtaining a constant supply of oil. The Dominion of Canada, which has set us many worthy examples, sees fit to grant a bonus, and a very substantial one, even to the oil-well industry. In New South Wales there are already two or three companies at work. One of them, I understand, has expended something like j£ 1,000, 000 in developing its properties, and is prepared to spend a good deal more if it receives from the Government anything like reasonable encouragement. We have, in Tasmania, vast shale deposits, the existence of which has been known for years; but they have not hitherto been a payable proposition, owing to the difficulties in the way of their treatment, and the great cost of refining. Now that fuel oil is coming largely into vogue, however, there seems to be a chance for their profitable development and working, and several companies have been formed, and are being floated, to treat them. Five shale companies have been formed to work deposits in the vicinity of my residence in my own electorate, and they have pegged out an area of something like 14,000 acres. One company has already started operations, and has a large and most encouraging seam to work upon. Although it -has been working for only two months, it has already fifty men on the field, and if these properties are developed to anything like the extent anticipated, we ought to have 2,000 or 3,000 men at work there. In addition to the men actually employed in the industry, many workers would, if it were properly developed, find employment in trades associated with it. In other words, perhaps 1,000 or 2,000 men would obtain employment in a field that would not be open to them if the shale industry were not encouraged. I commend this matter to the consideration of not only the Minister of Trade and Customs, but the Minister of Defence. I trust that when Admiral Henderson visits Australia the Minister of Defence will invite him to inspect a port within 7 miles of the Tasmanian deposits of which I have spoken. I refer to Devonport, and I hope that Admiral Henderson will be asked by the Minister to inspect it and the surrounding country, with a view to that port being made, if possible, a naval base. Should the shale industry in the district develop, as experts seem to think it will, Devonport will probably be the best place in Australia to supply the wants of our local navy in respect of fuel oil. As to what should be done to encourage the industry, I am afraid that I am not sufficiently expert to’ be able to lay down hard and fast lines. It seems to me, however, that a bonus should be given for the production of the oil, and that the duties on certain oils should be so adjusted as to give the necessary protection. I understand that the Government have in view a project for granting a bounty of , £10,000 per annum for five years on kerosene produced in Australia. I am not going to say anything against that proposition, but I fear that it will not do much towards founding the oil industry in the Commonwealth. Kerosene is being produced in Australia, so far, only by companies carrying 011 operations in New South Wales, and£10,000 per annum distributed over those companies would not mean a very substantial addition to their revenue. The great trade that is likely to be fostered will be done, not in kerosene, butin crude, or fuel oil. 1 recognise that the Government are, to some extent, financially embarrassed at the present time. I know that they havenot in the Treasury too much money to meet existing requirements, and that they have in view many projects which, if carried out, will not leave us with a very big surplus. But, having regard to the importance of the industry, I hope that the Government will make a gallant effort to give it something like the encouragement it deserves. The bulk of the trade, so far as the tasmanian properties are concerned, will be in fuel oil; and if the Minister could formulate a scheme for the payment of a bonus on the production of fuel oil, while, at the same time, making an adjustment of the Tariff in respect of residual oils, we should have a large oil industry in Australia, capable of being carried on profitably for many years.
– Fuel oil is residual oil.
– If the Minister would read the Customs Act strictly, and not allow oil containing a certain percentage of spirit, and also light oils, to be introduced as crude oil, he would help the industry.
– Many people say that we construe both the Customs Act and the Tariff too strictly.
– Those who are most familiar with the matter favour the view, rightly or wrongly, that the Department of Trade and Customs reads the Customs Act and the Tariff in such a way as to allow oils to come in free as “ crude” oils, when, in reality, they are not crude oils. Some of these oils, although admitted free as crude oil, are sold as lubricants, and, as such, should be dutiable under the existing Tariff at 3d. per gallon. In this way revenue is being lost to the Department, and the Tariff is not being construed as some people contend that it ought to be. If the shale industry is to receive encouragement, that fact will have to be taken into account. If the adjustment to which I have referred is made, it is possible that we shall foster, and permanently establish in Australia, an industry that will assume large proportions. There is also a special class of kerosene which shouldbe dealt with under the Tariff. I do not refer to kerosene for domestic use. I know that it would be useless to ask fox the imposition of a duty on that class of oil, and I amnot favouring such an impost. There is, however, a kerosene which does not come up to the test required in respect of oil for domestic lighting purposes, and is used in other directions. That oil will probably come into conflict with the light oils used for engines, and, therefore, a duty ought to be imposed upon it. I do not wish what I have said to be taken as indicating my final opinion on this matter, but I hope that my observations will guide the Minister along the lines that those who know what is necessary to encourage the industry would like him to follow. I ask the honorable gentleman to give this proposition the most serious consideration, for it relates to the encouragement of what is a national industry in the true sense of the term. It is almost as much a national industry as is the iron industry, and I trust that a few years hence it will be one of the most flourishing and creditable in Australia.
– In view of the definite statement of the Government that they are willing to provide a bonus of , £50,000, spreading over five years, on the finished product, this motion seems hardly necessary. However, as the question has been raised, I wish to say, as one representing a district in which there is, perhaps, the largest (shale works in the Commonwealth, that I do not approve of the proposal to give a bonus on the crude oil, and, therefore, I. heartily approve of the attitude of the Ministry in this connexion. A bonus is a form of encouragement which has to be dealt with very carefully, because it becomes a charge on the whole of the community in order that one industry may be placed on its feet. When a commodity is produced in sufficient quantities to meet the requirements of a country, protection comes in ; and that need not entail a higher price than that paid under ordinary circumstances with free ports, for the reason that cheapness of production abroad is not always reflected in the country of importation. We all know that oil is produced at a nominal price in America, but that so far from it being sold at a nominal price in Australia, a really high price is charged, which would be quite sufficient reward if it could be obtained by those who are producing, or could produce, the refined product in this country. If the company now engaged in New South Wales could get the price now paid for imported kerosene-
– Does the honorable member approve of a duty on kerosene?
– No, I do not ; but if those in the oil industry here could get the price that is now paid for the imported article, they would be well paid, and well satisfied. If, however, they attempted to put their kerosene in any quantity on the market they would be at once attacked by the American people, who can afford to cut the price to any degree, and would so cut it in order to destroy the local industry. Prices have been cut under such circumstances in Australia before, with the result of closing one kerosene manufactory.
– The duty on kerosene touches the very poorest.
– I do not desire a duty on kerosene. In my opinion,the Government should offer a bonus on kerosene until sufficient is produced tor, at least, nearly overtake local requirements.
– Why not on crude oil as well as on kerosene?
– It is not necessary in the case of crude oil, because we are producing enough for our own requirements, and, therefore, it is time for a duty. Only in such cases as I have indicated should a bonus be given; and the proper way to encourage the crude oil industry is to impose a duty. I understand that when the Tariff comes before us a proposalfor a dutywill be made, and the end desired by the honorable member for Wilmot thus attained. I trust that, when the matter is discussed, we shall go further into the question, and the desirability of the proposals of the Government will be demonstrated to honorable members.
.- I support the proposal for a bonus in preference to a duty, holding that any impost on kerosene, which seems to be fore shadowed by the honorable member for Macquarie, would fall on the poorest classes of the community. The rich have electric light and gas, and only the poorer people in the cities and in the country districts would feel the pinch of such an impost. We have already passed a bonus Bill giving substantial encouragement to the production; of other oils. For oil and materials supplied to an oil factory for the manufacture of oil from cotton seed we have givens a bonus for eight years of 10 per cent. on the market value, with a maximum of £1,000, and on oil produced from linseed” a bonus for five years of 10 per cent., with a maximum of £5,000. As a matter of fact, there have already been granted bonuses amounting to£33,000 or£35,000 on other crude oils arid materials ; and I fail to see why shale oil should not be placed on an exactly similar footing. The Minister of Trade and Customs has promised to lay on the table figures showing the amounts expended in bonuses, and we shall be very glad to have his views on the whole subject. I understood that there wouldbe no serious objection on the part of the Government if a good case were made out for a bonus on crude oil from shale, seeing that we have given bonuses on some dozen other items which do not provide the same amount of labour. The House is, I think, likely to view a bonus much more favorably than it would a duty. Personally,. I would not pledge myself to vote for a duty on oils, because I hold that, with a bonus, we know exactly what we are paying and where the money goes. The honorable member for Wilmot is quite correct when he says that in his electorate there is a large and reputedly rich deposit of shale that requires some assistance for its development. With the exception of timber, I think that every product in Australia has been given the advantage of high duties or bonuses, and in the present instance, as I say, I regard a bonus as preferable, because a duty falls on the general consumer, and would not, perhaps, give the industry the assistance it otherwise would obtain.. The Standard Oil Company is an exceedingly wealthy corporation, and if the members of it made up their minds to wipe out the industry here, no duty we could impose could prevent them, seeing that, as the honorable member for Macquarie says, they would be prepared to sell at a loss to secure the market.
– That is nonsense; we could impose a prohibitve duty.
– This House would not, I think, impose a prohibitive duty on an article of general consumption, without greater assurances than we have that it would not adversely affect the community as a whole. I hope the Ministrywill give the motion before us their very serious consideration, and place shale oil on exactly the same footing that we have placed the other natural products of Australia.
– As one largely interested in this question, I may say that there are no honorable members on this side of the House who are desirous of seeing a duty on kerosene. At the present time’ the keorsene produced in Australia would not meet more than about onethird of the demand, and it will not be able to overtake that demand for the next ten or fifteen years. To talk of a duty under such circumstances is simply suicidal. If, however, it was clearly demonstrated that the local supply could meet the local demand without increasing the price to the consumer, I should support a duty ; and it is possible that in a few years that state of affairs may be brought about. It must be remembered that kerosene is really only a by-product with the company which operates in my electorate. I have been over the works, and I find that they produce benzoline, naphtha, wax petrol, and about fourteen other oils besides kerosene.; and to say that first-class kerosene cannot be produced here is not true. My own opinion is that kerosene could be produced in Australia at the price at which it is now sold; but that would involve large expenditure on machinery for the purpose of treating and refining the commodity.
– Shale kerosene cannot compete with well kerosene in any part of the world.
– It would be able to compete, even at the present price, providing the other products from shale oil received proper encouragement under the Tariff or by some other means. We must not overlook the fact that in the case of the oil produced from wells and springs . in America, there are not the by-products I have mentioned. For instance, the oil produced by the Standard Oil Company from wells and springs is practically kerosene. This difference is somewhat to our advantage, inasmuch as, while they get only oil from their wells, we can obtain from our shale, not only oil, but also by-products of value. The imposition of a duty is practically out of the question. I accompanied the honorable member for Wilmot with a deputation to the Minister which was practically unanimous, that a bonus should be granted for the production of crude oil. For some reason which I cannot explain, the Government has decided to offer a bonus of £IO,000a year for five years for the production of kerosene and some other products, this being the first time in the history of the industry that a Ministry has displayed sympathy with it. While the amount of the proposed bounty is small,, the offering of it involves a concession of principle. The Government proposal should encourage companies to expend capital here in the production of kerosene and other products, ana should thus benefit, all engaged in the oil industry. It may assist, too, the opening up of the Tasmanian shale deposits.
– Would an adequate duty on by-products enable a company to produce kerosene oil for lighting purposes at a rate at which it would compete with imported oil? «
– The representative of the Commonwealth Oil Corporation has assured me that if the company were sufficiently protected in regard to certain products, it could produce kerosene equal tothat now sold for lighting purposes, at the price now charged. I have heard it said’ that Australian kerosene is not equal in quality to the imported article, but those interested in the production of kerosene here say that that is not so, and that, by thorough refining, an oil can be produced here equal to any imported oil.
– But this refining must add to the expense of production.
– No doubt. Some kerosene which I saw some weeks ago looked as good as any imported kerosene, but I was told that it was not equal to that imported for lighting purposes, and that to make it equal it would be necessary to subject it to two or three additional refining processes. In dew of the sympathetic attitude of the Ministry, I should like to see the motion put on one side. I believe that kerosene can be produced in Australia in sufficientquantity to meet the needs of our community.
.- I am pleased that the honorable member for Wilmot has ventilated this subject. I take it that his primary object is to encourage the production of kerosene.
– No; it is not proposed to deal with that.
– That puts another complexion on the motion. I was about to remark that the users of kerosene should be more considered than the local producers of it. Of late,, the kerosene on the market has been very bad. There are large shale and oil deposits in Australia which can be developed. I understand that even in the Federal Capital area there are shale deposits from which kerosene could be obtained. I hope, therefore, that the honorable member will not object to the amendment of his motion by the insertion of the wor’d “oil” after the word “extensive,” and the deletion of the words ‘ ‘ of shale ‘ ‘ and “ shale.” This would make it read -
That, in view of the valuable and extensive oil deposits in the Commonwealth, it is desirable that a product so important to industry, and which will find employment for many Australian workers, should receive encouragement in the form of a bonus for the production of crude oil or other satisfactory form.
– I am willing that the motion should be amended as proposed. I did not know that there were oil wells in Australia.
– A bonus is not needed for the production of an article which can be made to flow from the bowels of the earth.
– The motion, if carried as 1 propose to amend it, will be an intimation to the Government of the wishes of the House, and a guide in the preparation of legislation. It is thought that there exist in Queensland, and in other parts of Australia, huge deposits of liquid oil, the finding of which should be encouraged. 1 do not say that the production of such oil should be subsidized for all time, but capitalists should be encouraged to risk money in testing country which shows indications of oil deposits.
– It would be better to offer a reward for the discovery of oil deposits.
– A bounty on the oil produced would be a reward for discovery. I move -
That the word “ oil “ be inserted after the word “ extensive.”
.- The Government has indicated its sympathy with the proposal to encourage the greater production of oil in Australia, which, in my view, might well be assisted by the expenditure of a considerable sum of money. In Victoria, and in some of the other States, large sums have been expended in the encouragement of the mining industry, which has added considerably to the wealth of the country. According to the Year- Book, there are large deposits of oilbearing shale in New South Wales and Tasmania, and, the honorable member for Moreton tells us, in Queensland too. Thus it should be possible to open up oil wells, and to stimulate the production of oil from shale. At the present time, excluding paraffine and other products, Australia imports annually ,£1,190,000 worth of oil.
– About half of it is kerosene.
– Inasmuch as we have shale and liquid oil deposits, we should make use of our undeveloped wealth, and stimulate the production of oil, Either by the granting of a bonus, or by the imposition of duties on by-products which will not fall heavily on the consumer. I do not wish to go into details on this subject, because this is not the time to do so; I rose merely to emphasize the need for encouraging in some way what should be a very large and important industry.
– The production of oil in Australia has been engaging the attention of the Customs Department for some time past. When I was last in office I visited the largest oil works in Australia, at Newnes, in New South Wales, where a large sum of money has been expended on works for the extraction and refining of oil from shale. I am not sure that my predecessor did not go into the matter, but I know that I had hardly returned to the Department when the honorable members for Macquarie and Nepean, and others, directed my attention to the need for encouraging the oil industry, either by an amendment of the Tariff, or in some other way. The Ministry have had the matter under consideration, and have decided, in view of the importance of the industry, that it should be encouraged. Honorable members on both sides of the House have agreed that it is one of the most important that can be encouraged in Australia, and it is becoming more important, because we are using more oil for fuel to-day than has ever been used here before. Apparently, its use will go on increasing. As I said to the deputation last Tuesday, it is the intention of the Ministry to bring forward a Bounties Bill in the near future, probably after the Budget is introduced, for the purpose of encouraging the production of oil ; but they consider it advisable ‘ to give the largest share of the bounty to the refined article - kerosene - which most people in Australia use. As I told the deputation, while members of the House generally were agreed that there should be no duty on kerosene, we had a right to do something for the industry that we have in our midst, and should not allow it to struggle along and, perhaps, go under in the fight against the Standard Oil Trust of America, which is considered to be one of the most unscrupulous competitors that any organization has to meet. We are producing in Australia about 300,000 gallons of kerosene, but we imported last year 19,000,000 gallons, so that we are not making one-fiftieth of the amount that is being used in Australia. I have had occasion to go into the question of the values of various commodities imported, and find that the price of kerosene is increasing, so far as Australia is concerned. In the calendar year 1908 the wholesale import value was about 6d. per gallon; whereas last year it was over 7id. - an increase of jd. per gallon, which means a considerably enhanced price for our oil when spread over 19,000,000 gallons.
– The quality has decreased.
– I am not an authority on that question, but I am prepared to take the word of the honorable members for Moreton and Franklin regarding it. As the honorable member for Wilmot said, we have some rich beds of shale in Australia. If we are to believe all that those who are in possession of them claim, they are the richest shale beds in the worlds and yield a greater number of gallons of oil pelton that does any other shale. Personally, I am delighted to know it, and trust that when the industry does get on its feet, and can produce its millions of gallons of kerosene per annum, it will be able to compete even with the powerful competitor that I have mentioned. Not only kerosene, but a great number of other oils are produced from shale, as the honorable member for Nepean said. When I visited the scene of the industry in New South Wales, I was told- that in Germany some 200 products were made out of the shale. But in New South Wales, at that time, the richest shale, which ran to over 130 gallons of crude oil to the ton, was being exported. As a good Australian, I thought it a great pity that we should have to send that stuff away, and probably get some of it back afterwards in the shape of the finished article. I understand’ that not so much of that exporting is being done to-day, but that the shale is being kept here to be treated. It would be a mistake for the House to carry the motion either in its original or amended shape. If we are to give a bounty at all, we should give it on the finished, and not upon the crude, article.
– Some of the shales will not produce kerosene.
– I understand that some shales do not yield kerosene in as great quantity as others, but, by the process of refining, naphtha, benzine, benzoline, and motor spirit are produced. It would be better for us to give encouragement to some of those products than only to the -crude oil. We should encourage the manufacturing of the finished article here; and that is the attitude which the Ministry take up.
– That is all right if it will found an oil industry.
– As I told the deputation, I regret that we are not in the position of previous Ministries, who were free to pay out large amounts in the shape of bounties. It is a great deal more pleasant for a Minister to be able to say, “ I will give you £25,000 a year for ten years, as a bounty, on this article,” than to say, “ The most the Ministry are able to promise at present is £10,000 a year for five years,” and that is the amount the Ministry propose at present to submit to the House.
– The Ministry will get four or five million pounds out of the bank notes.
– If they do, I do not know that it will be spent in this way. There are a number of other oils, as I said, including lubricating oil, naphtha, motor spirit and residual oil, which it is quite possible can be dealt with in a revision of the Tariff. But I think that even if the House is not unanimous on the subject, at least 80 per cent, of its members would be opposed to the imposition of a duty on. kerosene, until we are able to produce it locally in such quantities that the users of it will not have to pay more. Kerosene is in a different position from other items dealt with in the Tariff, because it has to compete with other illuminants, such as gas and electricity, upon which no duty would be imposed. That is the reason why the Ministry thought it would be advisable to offer a bounty in the way I have indicated.
– Is it sufficient? It seems a small sum.
– I should have been delighted to be able to promise a great deal more, but the honorable member knows that the present Government are not in the same happy position as were previous Governments with regard to the finances.
– Much better.
– That will be for the Treasurer to say when he brings down his Budget. I believe if there was anything like a unanimous feeling in the House that the amount of bounty proposed for this industry should be increased, the Ministry would not oppose it very bitterly, so long as they could safeguard their finances. After all, I think that we are the first Ministry that have proposed anything practical to help the industry, although the question has been brought up previously.
Mr.Frazer. - The other side were in power for nine years, and did nothing.
– The matter was debated each time in connexion with the import duties, and bitterly opposed by many honorable members of the party opposite.
– But the item of kerosene is quite distinct from any. other in the Tariff. I yield to no one in this House as a Protectionist anxious to do his. best for Australian industries, but I do not think it would be right to impose an import duty on kerosene, in view of the fact that we. are not able to give the people a sufficient local supply.
– On each occasion the (proposal for a bounty was brought forward during the Tariff debates as an alternative to the duty.
– The House appears now to be favorable to the bounty, and it is the intention of the Ministry to bring down a proposal to that effect. Of course, I cannot speak as Treasurer, but I think that, if honorable members all round the House express an opinion when the measure is brought down that the amount should be increased, perhaps not this year, but in subsequent years, the suggestion will receive favorable consideration at the hands of the Ministry.
– I wish to oppose the amendment. There is a vast difference between oil produced from an oil well and oil produced from shale. To produce oil from shale requires a vast amount of capital, and the company now operating in the Macquarie electorate has spent nearly £1,000,000 already in putting down a plant to cope with the enormous deposits of shale there. It is necessary to encourage them in some way, because if they had not undertaken the task that supply would have lain dormant, perhaps for centuries, as not even the Government would have touched such a proposition. Oil can be produced from an oil well cheaper than from shale. Although the difference is not so great as is supposed, still there is sufficient difference to render it unnecessary to give a bounty for well oil, if only from the fact that it does not require so much capital to work it. The Americans can produce oil more cheaply from wells than we can from shale, but we do not get the benefit of that cheapness. The market is so controlled that they charge practically what they like, and it is immaterial to us how little it costs them to produce it. If we attempt to produce oil from shale in Australia the Americans will take advantage of their cheapness of production of well oil, and so cut the prices that we shall not be able to successfully produce oil from shale. The price which the Americans are now getting for their oil would amply repay those who are engaged in extracting it from shale in this country, and I understand that the arrangement which will be put forward in the Government proposal will be that, so long as the company do not charge more than is being charged by the Standard Oil Company, they can have the Australian market, and supply us with all the oils, including kerosene, that we require. Only in that way will it be possible to protect the Australian producers of oil from shale. I hope I have made it clear that there is every reason for drawing a distinction between oil produced from shale and oil produced from wells.
– I agree with previous speakers that it is necessary to do all we possibly can to encourage the production of refined oil, but as the motion stands, I must certainly oppose it. I do not think that we should be justified in granting a bonus on crude shale oil. The oil ought to be refined - the whole process should be completed before the bonus becomes payable. Our object in encouraging this industry is to find employment for our own people; and, in order to find that employment, it is necessary that we should bring about the production of the refined article. Far mote men would be employed in producing refined oil than would secure employment in the production of only crude oil.
– Would the honorable member refuse a bonus to a company that was producing far more crude shale oil, and employing more men, than other companies in the same industry were doing?
– I think that the oil ought to be refined before a bounty is granted in respect of it. The fact mat a company was so situated as to be able to produce more oil than another company would be no justification for granting a bonus to it. Such a company ought to be able to go a step further, and to employ still more men in refining the oil produced by it.
– Oil cannot always be profitably refined. It is better to sell it as crude oil.
– What we ought to do is to grant the bonus in such a way as to make it profitable to refine the oil. In granting a bonus in respect of any particular article, our object is to secure employment for our own people. We do not want to encourage the export of an article in a crude state, and to find employment for people in some other part of the world in treating it.
– But is there not a big market in Australia for fuel oil?
Mr. CHARLTON. That may be so, but I maintain that we should insist upon the process being completed before the bounty is payable, so that more employment may be found for our own people. Whilst I object to the motion in its original form, I take still greater exception to the amendment, because, if it were carried, the bonus would be payable on oil drawn, may be, from wells. I do not feel inclined to favour a bounty being paid to any one who happens to discover a natural oil well. Some day some one may strike in Australia an inexhaustible underground reservoir of oil, and the discoverer, if this amendment were carried, would be entitled to claim the bonus in respect of all the oil produced by him. Those who are working our shale deposits, and refining their oil, would thus be deprived of a great proportion of the bonus.
– If natural oil wells were discovered, a stop would be put to the production of shale.
– That might or might not be. Everything would depend upon contingent circumstances. It would be unnecessary to grant a bonus to any one who discovered natural oil wells capable o.t producing sufficient oil to meet the requirements of Australia. Oil wells require no bonus by way of assistance. If oil were struck in sufficient quantities to supply the requirements, or anything like the requirements, of the Commonwealth, we should soon have here, as they have in the United States, some millionaire oil kings.
– The oil produced in the honorable member’s electorate is only a byproduct.
– But there are other by-products which have to be used. I take strong exception to the amendment, and should like to give notice of a further amendment providing for the omission of the word- “ crude “ in the last line, with a view to the insertion in lieu thereof of the word”refined.” Should I be in order, Mr. Speaker, in moving such an amendment at this stage?
– There is already an amendment before the Chair, but if the honorable member gives notice of a further amendment it can be put without debate at a later stage.
– If the amendment now before the Chair be negatived, shall I then have an opportunity of moving the amendment that I have just outlined?
– Then I shall do so, for I hold that the bounty should be payable only in respect of refined shale oil.
– I am certainly opposed to the amendment movedby the honorable member for Moreton, believing that if adopted it would destroy the effect of the motion, so far as our existing shale deposits are concerned. If the amendment were carried ‘ the bonus would apply to oil wells that might be discovered at some future date. We are dealing, not with future discoveries, but with something that is actually in existence. The existence of extensive shale deposits has already been proved, and” some of them are being worked.
– And those who are working them will come in and scoop thisbounty.
– The company which I have in mind, instead of “ scooping in “ anything, has been paying out for some three or four years. It has receivedspecial treatment at the hands of the State Government, but up to the present timethere has been no scope for “ scoopingin” on its part. It has spent something: like £250,000, and has proved the existence of large deposits of shale. I dc* not know that I am here to bolster up the company, but I am certainly interested in the men - to the extent of 1,000 - employed by it. By striking out the word “ shale “ we should immediately deprive the companies engaged in working these shale deposits of the right of participating in the bonus. The shale deposits in the Wolgan Valley to which I have been referring have been proved, but the cost of opening them up has been very great. In the first place a railway line extending over 33 miles of almost inaccessible country had to be constructed.
– That company would be receiving the bonus whilst other companies were searching for oil wells.
– Not if the amendment were carried.
– The amendment only widens the scope of my motion.
– It relates to discoveries that may hereafter be made, and I am opposed to it.
– Because the honorable member desires to obtain the. bounty for the company working in his own district.
– I certainly desire that it should participate in the bonus, and I do not wish to endanger the livelihood of the men working there.
– But would the amendment endanger their livelihood?
– I think that it would materially do so. The future may very well be left to take care of itself, and I hope that the amendment will be rejected.
– I trust that the honorable member for Moreton will withdraw his amendment for the reason that any encouragement to be given to the discovery of natural oil wells needs to be forthcoming before the oil itself is actually obtained. If any one discovered a natural oil well in Australia a bonus- in respect of it would be unnecessary. The discoverers of such a well indeed could well afford to give a bonus to the Commonwealth. Several thousands of pounds have been expended in boring for oil at Roma, Queensland. Honorable members may recollect that the borers succeeded in striking a natural gas which ignited and burnt for several weeks, millions of cubic feet of. gas in that way being wasted. The fire having eventually been extinguished, the company recommenced boring operations, but the drill was dropped down the bore, and could not be recovered.
– There must be a fine lot of miners up there.
– Very sinister suggestions were made as to how the drill came to be dropped, and those sinister suggestions were multiplied when two or three sets of drills were dropped down the bore in the endeavour to recover the set originally lost. Boring ‘operations are at a standstill at Roma, and cannot be proceeded with for some time, owing to the great expense that has already been incurred. To pass a law in favour of a bonus on oil discovered in Australia would be of no service to that particular industry. If natural oil is ever discovered in Australia it will be unnecessary for ‘the Commonwealth to assist the discoverers by means nf a bounty. If the honorable member would propose that some assistance be given to prospectors - though I very much doubt whether this Parliament should interfere in a matter of that kind - there might be something in it. The Commonwealth might offer a reward for such a discovery ; but n bonus on oil produced from a natural oil well would be a very great mistake, and indeed would be a very wrong expenditure. On the other hand, I think it would be advisable to offer a bonus for the production of refined oil, and I shall support the amendment of which notice has been given by the honorable member for Hunter.
Debate (on motion bv Mr. Riley) adjourned.
– . I move -
That, in the opinion of this House, the sale of intoxicating liquors should be prohibited within the precincts of this House.
I am fortunate in that this proposal is so far removed from any party question, and so entirely one of general public interest, that every honorable member can approach it with a free and open mind, and that it will command the respect and attention of all sides. Whatever may be the personal attitude of honorable members in regard to the use of intoxicating liquors, there is, it must be admitted, a general consensus of agreement that the trade in those liquors demands the consideration of every patriot ; and there is no question that is so perplexing the minds of administrators and legislators in any part of the world. This is neither the time nor place for an exhaustive discussion, nor do I propose to discuss the whole question of the use or abuse of intoxicating liquors. But the trade in those liquors, as at present conducted, is an admitted evil.
– I rise to a point of order. The question before us is that of a bar, and not that of a trade.
– The honorable member for Brisbane is quite in order.
– I am well aware that this House has no control over the general traffic in intoxicating liquors, except in one very important particular; and it is to that particular I desire to call attention. The trade in intoxicating liquors is a national evil and a national question ; and I very much regret that the question is not dealt with by the National Parliament, so that we might get rid of the conflicting and confusing State laws.
– Order !
– Very well, Mr. Speaker. The question is one that concerns Parliament, in so far that some members take the attitude that Parliament should go only so far as public opinion will allow - in other words, be like a wheelbarrow, and only go so far as it is pushed - but circumstances arise, even in the case of a man with a barrow, when he has to turn it and drag it behind him. I am anxious that the Federal Parliament should be so in advance of public opinion that there may be no danger of public opinion dragging it.
– Has the honorable member seen anything to justify the abolition of the bar ?
– I shall deal with that in a few minutes. This reform has knocked at the door of every Parliament in the world - there is not one that has not, in some form or other, considered it. It is knocking now at the door of this House, and, although we may not be able to deal with the liquor question in a general way, we can deal with it in its particular aspect as affecting this House. Every refusal to deal with the question, or every postponement of it, simply means that the demand will come again with increasing persistency and insistent aggression. I am anxious that this Parliament should not be in any sense a wheelbarrow Parliament, and wait until it is pushed by public opinion, but that the dignity and reputation of the Parliament should be rather of the Excelsior type - onwards and upwards, leading the people towards a higher and better state of things.
– Can the honorable member show that any abuse has ever taken place in connexion with the bar?
– Wait a little while. This House has the inherent right of veto in regard to the use of intoxicating liquors within its precincts; and it is to the exercise of that right that I invite attention. I am as anxious as any honorable member who has been here since the inception of Federation that the honour and dignity of the House shall not be compromised in any degree whatever by complicity, or any appearance of complicity, in a traffic which is absolutely destructive of the very best interests of this or any other nation. This is no new question here. From Hansard of 2nd August, 1904, I find that, during the first session of the second Parliament, Mr., now Sir Thomas, Ewing, who was honorable member for Richmond, put the following question to the Treasurer -
To those questions, the Treasurer replied -
I think that shows a most satisfactory condition of affairs then.
– It is better now.
– I believe that no other Parliament in the world could have such a splendid statement made of it in regard to the use and consumption of intoxicating liquors; and I believe that the position to-day is even better. With all due respect to members of past Parliaments, I believe that the consumption of liquor by the present members is below that average. I desire also to point out that the honorable member for Wentworth, on the 27th October last year, gave notice of a motion in favour of the abolition of the sale or consumption of spirits and other intoxicating liquors within the precincts of Parliament, going even further than I propose today. That motion was referred to on several occasions, but, so far as I can ascertain, was not persevered in, and there is no record of its having been finally dealt with. Several honorable members have kindly called my attention to the fact that there is an agreement between the State Parliament of Victoria and the Federal Parliament in , regard to the rights and privileges of State members as well as of Federal members in connexion with this House. I thank those “honorable members, because I have been able to provide against that possible technicality. I have here the agreement between the State of Victoria and the Commonwealth Parliament in regard to .the use of this House, and clause 8 contains the following -
Members of the State Parliament for the time being shall concurrently with the members of the Commonwealth Parliament and under the same conditions have free and uninterrupted -access to and use of the Library, refreshmentroom, billiard-room,- and out-offices contained in or appurtenant to the buildings by and through the usual means of access thereto, and to the Gardens hereinbefore referred to, and ,shall have and be permitted to exercise and enjoy the “same rights and privileges in connexion with the same as are from time to time possessed exercised or enjoyed by members of the Commonwealth Parliament.
On the 2ISt July I wrote to Mr. Murray, the Premier of Victoria, informing him of my intention to submit this motion, and asking -
May I request the favour of your opinion as to whether you would consider the passing of that motion an interference with the privileges of State members, or contrary to the -spirit of the Agreement. !Mr. Murray has favoured me with the following reply, dated 26th July -
In reply to your letter of the 21st instant, inquiring whether your motion to prohibit the sale of intoxicating liquors within the precincts of Parliament House would be regarded as an interference with the privileges of State mem>bers, I may say that I certainly do not think any objection would be taken by members of the State Parliament to the passing of such a motion.
I think that effectively disposes of any possible objection.
– Oh, no; Mr. Murray dimply says he does not think any State member would object.
– The Premier of the :State is entitled, I think, to express a very authoritative opinion as to the interpretation of the agreement, and any possible interference with the privileges of State (members under it. It has already been very properly suggested that, as the trade done in the bar is so very small, there is little need to interfere. To my mind, however, that suggests a strong argument why the sale of intoxicating liquors should be stopped. If liquors are of so very little use to honorable members, as the consumption per head would seem to imply, and as honorable members themselves indicate, why have them there at all? To my mind, it is suggested that, under the circumstances, a tax is placed on the community in maintaining this bar at a loss, which the community has no right to bear.
– Then the principle will have to be applied to the refreshment-room, which also does not pay.
– If the honorable member is inclined to apply the principle to the refreshment-room, I respectfully suggest that he should move a motion to that effect. I am now dealing with a particular question, and urging that, as we make so little use of intoxicating liquors, we should be well content to do without them in the bar. This, however, is only a very small aspect of the question. The presence of intoxicating liquors in this House is mischievous, and, in some cases, positively dangerous. The reputation of State Parliaments in Australia, and of Parliaments in other countries as well, has severely suffered through the indulgence of honorable members in intoxicating liquors obtained at parliamentary refreshment bars. Some of the most disgraceful scenes that have ever taken place have been caused by the facilities afforded to obtain liquors, and those scenes would not have occurred but for such facilities. The Federal Parliament has enjoyed a good reputation in this respect, and most commendably maintained its honour and dignity ; and it is because I am extremely anxious that this reputation should not only be upheld, but improved, that I submit this motion this afternoon. I regret to refer to one circumstance that has come under my notice as a member of this House. There is a framed photograph in the building of members of the ‘first Parliament ; and I was grieved, indeed, to hear an honorable member, in looking at the portraits, refer to some in the words - “ He is gone - same old tale - drink did it !” I should be sorry to mention any names, but neither I nor other honorable members can shut our eyes to the fact that gentlemen who used to occupy seats here are not here now. How far the opportunities presented within these walls to obtain intoxicating liquors are responsible, I cannot say.
– The honorable member referred to had no warrant for making such a statement.
– I know that such unfortunate occurrences as were mentioned have taken place, and the mere danger of a member succumbing to temptation is sufficient justification for the removal of the bar. I should presume on the intelligence of honorable members, if I were to point out that the use of intoxicants, so far from assisting the work of the House, is a menace to the proper conduct of business. If it is merely possible that any member may be led astray and made unfit for the performance of his duties with credit to himself and dignity to this Chamber, the bar should be removed.
– T - To have it here is like having a tiger snake in one’s bedroom.
– Law should be in advance of public opinion. There is no need for legislation when public opinion is educated to the need for the adoption of a certain line of conduct. The honour and dignity of the House would be advanced by the removal of what is a danger to its members. By abolishing the bar we should gain in the estimation of the people of the country, and should set a magnificent example to the Parliaments of the States and of the world, showing that we were too jealous of the reputation of our members to allow them to be subjected to temptation which might cause their undoing. We could abolish the bar at very little cost to ourselves. It would mean only a small sacrifice on the part of the few who take intoxicating liquors, and I appeal to them to consider the welfare of their fellows, who may not be so well able as they are to resist temptation. The reputation of our members is worth considering. I hope that I have put the case so fully that the House will realize that my proposition is not the result of fanatical zeal, but is promoted by the sober desire to do what is right in the interests of honorable members, and of those who sent us here. We should do all we can to destroy an evil which is eating out the heart of the people, being destructive of their best interests. I hope that the discussion will not be prolonged beyond the time necessary to secure the determination of the question before the tea adjournment.
– I do not wish to prolong the debate, but as it might be inferred from what fell from the last speaker that some former members of this House succumbed to the effects of drink which they had obtained from the bar - though I do not think that that was his meaning - I wish to say that, although I have been a member longer that he has been, I have not heard of any former member dying from the excessive use of intoxicants supplied within the precincts. If some of our former members have succumbed to the undue use of intoxicants, it is news to the older members of this House, and I do not consider that that statement will help the honorable member and his cause, which is good enough to stand without recourse to sensational statements which, I think, cannot be substantiated.
– A member who very much desired alcoholic refreshment could get it by crossing the street, if the bar were not here.
– I intended to point that out. I favour the abolition of the bar, but I desire to remove a slur upon the reputation of the House which is altogether undeserved. I was elected to the second Parliament, and, although I have been a member continuously ever since, I have never seen a case of intoxication within the precincts. Of course, while intoxicants are obtainable upon the premises, their presence affords temptation to indulgence, and it speaks well for honorable members that they have been able to withstand it. While six years ago the record of sales at the bar was creditable to the sobriety of the House, the record to-day is still more creditable and satisfactory from the temperance standpoint. It will be within recollection that on one occasion I wished to take action similar to that which has been taken by the honorable member for Brisbane, and, if my memory serves me aright, gave notice of my intention to amend in a Supply Bill an item dealing with the refreshment-room. Sir George Turner was then Treasurer, and Mr. Speaker Holder, a total abstainer, explained to me that, because of the agreement with the Victorian Government under which we occupy these premises, itwould be impossible to give effect to the motion if it were carried, unless the Victorian Parliament concurred. Therefore, he asked me to reflect whether it was worth while to occupy timein discussing the matter. The Prime Minister of the day also strongly dissuaded me from moving the amendment I proposed, because it was desired to push on with business, and the discussion of the question would be altogether profitless and ineffective, since there was no power to do what I proposed. At the same time, I shall support this motion. There are, as a matter of fact, very few members who are not temperance advocates. If ‘ the honorable member succeeds,- he will deserve well of the community.
.- I shall oppose the motion. Although I am not a temperance man, I have never in my life been the worse for liquor. Since I have been a member of the House I have kept my eyes open, and from what I have observed. I regard the motion as a slur on honorable members. If the bar were abolished, making it impossible for members to obtain on the premises alcoholic refreshments for visitors, they would be compelled to go outside, and would then be subject to greater temptation.
– In a hotel a member’s friends could press him to drink again.
– Just so. The honorable member for Brisbane is not looking at the matter from a practical point of view. The advocacy of temperance principles is all very well, but the members of the House do not need protection, being quite able, as experience has proved, to look after themselves. To carry the motion would suggest that they are not able to resist temptation, whereas the records of the bar are very creditable to the House. Although I am an advocate of temperance, I cannot support this proposal.
– I do not think that any one can accuse me of being a “ boozer.” As for a member having pointed to a portrait group of the first Parliament, and picked out this one and that as- having died from drink, I wish to saythat it is news to me that any member of that House died from that cause. I am one of the few Labour members who, with you, Mr. Speaker, were returned to the first Parliament, and, so far as I am aware, no member of that Parliament died from drink, though some of them died from old age. It was sticking to their work here in Parliament that killed several of them, but whoever informed the honorable member that they died from the effects of drink was “ pulling his leg-.” I can safely say that during the whole time I have been in this Parliament I have never seen any one the worse for drink in this House - not intoxicated to such an extent that he had to be carried away. I have run a groggery and know very well what it is to see a drunken man. I consider that as long as a man is able to walk away he is not drunk. Many years ago I heard Mr. Lee, the then honorable member for Cowper, say that one Judge defined a drunken man as one who went to the pump to light his pipe. I have never seen any honorable member of this House in that condition. On every occasion on which the question of closing the bar upstairs has been brought forward, the majority of honorable members have seemed inclined to close it, but members of the Government have said at different times - I do not know whether the members of this Government are going to say the same - that we are under contract with the Government of Victoria to run the building all the time for State members in the same condition as when the State Parliament occupied it. I have never read the agreement with the Government of Victoria on the matter, and I had no say in it when it was made. I think they treated us very liberally in giving us a beautiful building like this to walk into, with everything in going order. I did not give a second thought to any agreement that there might be in connexion with the groggery upstairs. I can tell the honorable member for Brisbane that no man need go into the bar upstairs unless he likes.
– That is. true of every bar.
– But inducements are held out in other bars for men to “ come and have a drink.” I venture to say that no member of this House has asked the honorable member for Brisbane to come upstairs and have a drink since he has been here.
– I have been asked.
– The honorable member’s face would invite him, but the forbidding aspect of the honorable member for Brisbane with regard to grog would be quite enough to deter the boldest member from inviting him. During the ten years I have been here no member of this House has ever asked me to go upstairs and have a drink, although many have asked me up to afternoon tea, lunch, or dinner. If the bar is the worst evil in this building, shut it up by all means, and my vote will go towards shutting it up, but is it better for members to go up and have a drink at the bar when they like, or for them to bring drink into the rooms with them, have a bottle in the cupboard, and invite members to join them in a drink?
– If that is to happen, it should be in the motion also.
– I should say that no drink should be allowed within the precincts of the House.
– Could not a member bring it in inside him?
– I have no doubt the honorable member for Brisbane, and the honorable member for Barrier, will be able to devise means to tell whether a man has any grog in him or not.
– Why does the honorable member bring me in ?
– Because the honorable member is recognised as one of the “ wowsers “ of the House. I notice that none of the “wowser” deputations go to other members of the Ministry, and I am sure that the Postmaster-General can devise some means of testing a man for drink, just as means have been devised for testing the amount of water in wool. To carry this proposal to its logical conclusion, there should be no grog allowed in any of the rooms within the precincts of the House, and, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has suggested, no member should be allowed in with drink inside him.
– Why not provide in the Electoral Act that no one shall be a candidate unless he is a total abstainer?
– I recommended at one convention that no man should be a Labour candidate unless he was a teetotaller. I went as far as I dared then, but, with all his wowserdom, I have never known the Postmaster-General to go even half so far.
– What is a “ wowser”?
– The honorable member ought to know, as he is one of the biggest “wowsers” here. We can always tell these “ wowsers “ by the way they love one another. We should not reduce this matter to an absurdity. I think we are starting at the wrong end, because I have never seen the privilege abused in this House. The honorable member for Brisbane is, of course, perfectly within his rights in moving in this direction, and thinks he is doing the right thing. If he presses it to a division, I feel so far in sympathy with him that I shall vote with him. I know from experience that a man is better without drink than with it, and if it is the wish of the majority of honorable members that the bar should be closed they will find me voting with them.
Motion (by Mr. Chanter) put -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The House divided.
Majority … … 35
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Finlayson) proposed -
That the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for Thursday,8th September next.
– I have been waiting for the honorable member in charge of the substantive motion to give an explanation of this proceeding. We were here, during the time set apart for the consideration of private members’ business, dealing with a matter that had been before the House on a previous occasion. My honorable friend entered the Parliament with reforming zeal, and immediately gave notice of this motion. Yet, when there was ample time to deal with it, he arranged with an honorable member of his own party to move the adjournment of the debate.
– There was no arrangement whatever.
– Does the honorable member say that he did not arrange with the mover of the motion to move the adjournment of the debate ? The honorable member for Brisbane admitted just now that he did.
– I never had a word with the honorable member for Brisbane.
– When I called “ No “ on the question for the adjournment of the debate, I thought that I was consulting the wishes of the mover of this motion-
– I regret to have to interrupt the honorable member, but I would remind him that we have a standing order which distinctly forbids any discussion on a motion for the adjournment of a debate. The debate on the substantive motion has already been adjourned, and the question now before the House relates only to the date upon which the adjourned debate shall be resumed’. That is merely a formal matter. The late Speaker, I understand, took the course I intend to pursue,” although on one occasion he allowed a debate to takeplace on such a motion.
– I have known a debate on a motion of this kind to be allowed on several occasions.
– I draw the attention of the honorable member to one of the new standing orders adopted by the House on 24th November, 1905 -
The following motions are not open to debate, shall be moved without argument or opinion offered, and shall be forthwith put from the Chair without amendment and the vote taken : -
This standing order does not cover the motion now before us, but it certainly appears to me that, since no discussion is allowable on a motion for the adjournment of the debate on the principal motion, there ought not to be a discussion on a motion fixing the date upon which that debate shall be resumed. I am of opinion that an honorable member would not be in order in discussing the general question on the motion for fixing the date of the adjourned debate.
– Would not an honorable member be in order, Mr. Speaker, in giving reasons why the date proposed to be fixed should not be so fixed?
– I have no standing order to guide me in this matter, and do not wish to curtail the liberties of honorable members, but it appears to me, taking an ordinary common-sense view of the position, that since under the Standing Orders a motion for the adjournment of a debate cannot be discussed, I ought not to allow a debate on a motion fixing the date upon which that debate shall be resumed. I feel that in ruling thus I am creating a precedent, and if it is not the desire of honorable members that the procedure I have just outlined should be followed, I shall bow to the decision of the House. It appeals to me, however, as a common-sense procedure, and I therefore rule accordingly.
– Without desiring to reflect upon your ruling in any way, Mr. Speaker, it does seem to me that a motion relating to ordinary business of this kind should be open to discussion. Without pursuing the matter further, I wish to say that when I called “No” on the question being put for the adjournment of. the debate, I thought that I was consulting the wishes of the honorable member who had submitted the motion.
– I believe the honorable member.
– I had no idea that the honorable member had already arranged to have the debate adjourned. I do not understand why he made such an’ arrangement, for there was no reason, so far as I could see, for adjourning the debate at that stage. I wish to show how urgent this proposition is by quoting figures relating to the bar of the Parliamentary Refreshment Room.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit, Mr. Speaker, that, quite apart from the ruling which you have just given, an honorable member is not in order in discussing the main question on a motion fixing the date on which the debate on the substantive motion itself shall be resumed.
– The honorable member is not in order. He must recognise that, since the House has agreed to a motion that the debate be adjourned, it would not be right for me to allow him to reopen the main question by laying before the House figures relating to it.
Amendment (by Mr. Sinclair) proposed -
That the words “8th September” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ 25th August.”
– I wish to add to the amendment the words “and take precedence.”
– Are we to understand from your ruling, Mr. Speaker, that there can be no debate whatever on the motion or. amendment? If that be your ruling, sir, may I submit that, if taken as a precedent, it may place the House in somewhat of a difficulty. On some future occasion - not merely on a day set apart for the consideration of private members’ business - the Prime Minister or some other member of the Ministry might move to fix a certain date for the consideration of certain Government business, and if such a motion could not be debated a great wrong might be done. The date proposed might be inconvenient to honorable members, and yet they would have no opportunity of showing what their inconvenience might be. I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, with great deference, that, instead of creating this precedent now, you should take time to consider the whole matter.
Mr.W. H. Irvine. - On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, I should like to point out that under standing orders similar to our own it has been the practice in other assemblies toadopt the rule that on a motion fixing the date for the resumption of an adjourned debate, no discussion, except such as is strictly confined to the question of the expediency of adopting that date, shall be allowed. I do not like to refer to anything coming from a State House as a precedent in this matter, but I know that it has been the practice, at all events in some assemblies working under similar standing orders, for the Speaker, whilst not permitting any debate on the merits of the main question, to allow a discussion confined strictly to the question of the expediency of the date proposed. I join with the honorable member for Capricornia in suggesting to you that such a relaxation of the ruling which you gave just now might be of considerable convenience to both sides of the House.
– I had no standing order to guide me in this matter, and seeing that difficulties might arise in the near future in regard to questions of this kind, it appeared to me that in the circumstances it was my duty to endeavour, as far as possible, to protect the forms of the House. There seems to be a consensus of opinion on the part of honorable members that, whilst disallowing on this motion any debate on the general question, I should permit a discussion confined strictly to the question of the date on which the adjourned debate shall be resumed.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– It has not been the general practice, although such a debate I understand has, on one or two occasions, been allowed. In the circumstances I will permit a discussion on this motion, but it must be strictly confined to the question of the date on which the adjourned debate shall be resumed.
.- I am anxious, for many reasons, that the debate should be resumed on the 8th September, and I wish to express the pleasure it gives me to find honorable members opposite so anxious to see the main question pushed through the House. The arrangement that I made for the adjournment of the debate was with the Prime Minister himself, and at his request. I look upon the honorable gentleman as being in charge of the business of the House.
– Not private members’ business.
– I am prepared to follow the advice of my leader, believing that he ought to know the order in which business should be taken by the House. At his request, and on his advice, I agreed to an adjournment of the debate, and I think that the 8th September will eminently suit the convenience of all who are anxious to deal with the question.
– I always understood that, as a matter of courtesy, and really of right, any honorable member who had a general business motion on the paper could fix a date for its discussion, and should be consulted as to the date to which the debate should be adjourned. When the mover suggests the 8th September as being suitable for himself and those who are supporting him, I shall not say that it is discourteous to seek to alter the date, but simply urge the honorable member who has submitted the amendment to withdraw it. An honorable member in charge of a certain business motion knows the interests of that business best, and it should be left in his hands. If, by an arrangement, or as a matter of courtesy to the Prime Minister, an adjournment has been agreed to, it is rather like taking the business out of the hands of the mover and of the Prime Minister, to attempt to fix another day.
– I am rather surprised that an old parliamentarian like the honorable member for Balaclava should put such a view to the House, I am sure he knows that once a motion is submitted it becomes the property of the House, and is no longer at the discretion of the person who introduced it. I agree that under ordinary circumstances the courtesy spoken of is usually extended ; but on the other hand, if the honorable member for Brisbane expected the courtesy, he should have explained his reason for withdrawing the business at the present moment from our consideration.
– He has done that now. .
– There are obligations on both sides in all these parliamentary courtesies. The honorable member for Brisbane now tells us that he took action after consulting his leader, and at his suggestion.
– The honorable member must not discuss a personal explanation’.
– I shall not oppose the 8th September as the date for the resumption of the debate, though I candidly think that the 25th August would have presented a better chance of the motion . being’ proceeded with. It cannot possibly be taken on the 8th September, unless the business fixed for that date is waived, and that is hardly likely to be the case.
– There is no Order of the Day for 8th September, and, therefore, the motion will come on first.
– Poor fellow !
– We all know who the “ poor fellow” is in this matter - we know why this action has been taken by the Leader of the Government, and that gentleman had better hold his tongue. We were not born yesterday, and we know what is at the bottom of this matter. In compliment to the mover of the motion I shall not oppose, as I say, the fixing of the 8 th September, when I hope the motion will be proceeded with and decided once and for all.
. -I am inclined to think that it would be better to take the motion on the 8th September, but, speaking as one in sympathy with the wishes of the honorable member for Brisbane, I think it would have been advisable to consult honorable members as to a suitable date. When a motion is submitted it belongs to the House.
– What a wonderful discovery !
– Not at all; but it is a “ wonderful discovery “ to find that the Prime Minister decides these matters, and not the member in charge of the motion. I am not finding fault with the honorable member for making an arrangement with the Prime Minister, but I think others should also have been consulted. The 8th September appears to suit the general convenience, and, therefore, I do not oppose an adjournment of the debate to that date. We all know that private business is on an entirely different footing from public business.
– It is of more importance than the land tax !
– I am not allowed to discuss the merits of the question. It would have been right and proper to explain fully the reason for the adjournment of the debate, and an explanation has now been given that is satisfactory. I would suggest the withdrawal of the amendment.
– I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 17 th August (vide page 1660) on motion by Mr. Batchelor -
That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable, in order to improve and increase the supply of European and other oversea cable news to the Australian press, that Government assistance should be given in the form of a. subsidy.
That the subsidy should amount to £6,000, payable : £2,500 for 1st year. £2,000 for 2nd year. £1,500 for 3rd year.
That any association applying for such subsidy must be prepared to supply at least 6,000 cabled words per week, to be sent via Pacific, and to permit any newspaper proprietary in the Commonwealth to become a subscriber for its cable service at rates which shall not exceed a scale approved by the Government.
That the Government should, in granting such subsidy, impose such conditions as may be necessary to secure that the public shall obtain the fullest possible benefit from the subsidized’ service.
– Whenwe adjourned last night I was dealing with what appeared to be the real object underlying this proposal..
I then expressed astonishment that 110 adequate reason had been given for postponing business of the highest importance, which the Government had declared to be urgent, for the purpose of pressing a proposal which has no pressing urgency, and is not of a public character, but merely one to give a subvention out of the public Treasury to a private enterprise which presumably finds itself in some financial difficulty owing to calculations as to business being proved to be inaccurate. Where is this sort of thing going to stop ? It is no part of the business of this House to go out of its way to subsidize business concerns without the faintest semblance of a public character, and from which the public can in no way expect to derive any material benefit. But we are asked to lay aside public business, which we were sent here to transact, for the purpose of introducing a motion of this kind. Honorable members opposite may choose to go out of the Chamber, because, no doubt, they have already made up their minds, and do not desire to hear arguments why this money should not be voted. I have always set my face against public money being voted into the pockets of private individuals when the community at large can reap no substantial benefit.
– I beg to call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– I propose to refer to some of the evidence given before the Select Committee of the Senate, in order to show how little reason there is for a proposal of this kind. After all, I suppose! the Government justify their action on the ground that a certain recommendation was made by that Select Committee. I desire to call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.] The evidence I desire to quote explains one of the real reasons for this proposal. Mr. Robert McMillan, who is the editor of the Stock and Station Journal of Sydney, in reply to question 1230, said -
So we organized the Australasian Provincial Press Association, which took us all in. Then we discovered that this monopoly of the Australian press prevented the starting of daily papers in any big towns where there existed a daily paper. . . . Whatever Senator Neild may say, there is an enormous monopoly of the’ cable business, and for that reason we dropped it.
We all know that a project is on foot in Sydney to establish a Labour daily newspaper, and Ave have it on the authority of Mr. McMillan that one of the reasons for the proposed subsidy is that, under present arrangements, it is not possible to successfully start an opposition paper in any of the large cities. Not one word is said about the country press, which is merely used as a stalking-horse for the purpose of concealing from honorable members on this side, and the outside public, the real character of the proposal.
– There is not a. quorum present. [Quorum formed.]
– As showing further the real object of this proposal, let me say that, while the Minister of External Affairs was speaking, the honorable member for Calare interjected -
Yes; but the cable news has only been of one kind.
That bears out what appeared in the paragraph to which I drew attention the other clay, and supports the natural inference that the real object of the motion is not to assist the country press, but to enable certain private individuals to start a daily Labournewspaper in Sydney, and, possibly, in othermetropolitan centres. Again, the honorable member for Robertson complained that competition with the metropolitan dailies is at present impossible, saying no word about the need of assistance for the country press, which, ostensibly, is the cause of this action on the part of the Government’. All the statements made from the other side during the debate, taken in conjunction with what we know of the movement afoot to start a Labour metropolitan daily, show that the primary, if not the only, object of the motion is to provide a cheap - indeed a practically free - cable service for such a newspaper, at the general taxpayers’ expense, and thus to give it an undue advantage over newspapers whose proprietors have to obtain cable news at their own cost, without any subvention from the Commonwealth.
– Any newspaper will be able to take advantage of the subsidized service.
– So far as I followed the Minister’s speech, he produced no reliable evidence of the existence of a monopoly in regard to news from other parts of the world, nor did he satisfactorily show, except by referring to conflicting opinions, that the country press is under a disability with regard to the obtaining of cable news. I do not find in the evidence of the Select Committee of the Senate any justification for the statement that the country press needs the assistance which it is proposed to give to it. This, for instance, is the evidence of Mr. Collins, the representative of Reuter’s Telegram Company, when under examination by Senator Pearce - iS. Is there any limit as to the price at which you shall sell to the newspapers? - No, that is a matter which has been left entirely to our company to fix. . . .
You may be surprised to hear, and I wish that I had a different tale to tell, that out of 230 provincial newspapers in Victoria only 41 contribute to the press service. 160. Can a country newspaper get from you a- selection of cables; for instance, in time of war, can a newspaper say, “ We only want from you the cables referring to the war “ ? - Certainly. In such a case we should make a selection to the best of our ability.
That evidence shows that there is no great desire on the part of the proprietors of the country press, generally, to obtain average cable news, and that the proprietors of country newspapers, if they accept a cable service, are not obliged to take any news that may be sent to them, but may arrange to be supplied only with news on such subjects as may be considered of interest to their readers. Let me quote now from the evidence of Mr. Lauchlan C. Mackinnon, the representative of the two managing newspapers of the Press Association - 404. You supply to an Association in Queensland? - We supply to the Brisbane Courier, Telegraph and Daily Mail. 405. Would those papers be able to veto your supplying another paper if it were started in Brisbane ? - No. 406. They would have absolutely no say? - They have none, as is shown by the fact that we recently supplied the Daily Mail. 407. Then if another metropolitan paper were started there, it would be simply a question of the terms to be arranged ? - Exactly.
Here we have it sworn that there is nothing to prevent die Association from supplying news to any newspaper that may ask for it. As to the connexion between the Association and the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company, let me read this evidence - 418. If an independent paper started a cable service of its own, would it get from the Eastern Extension Company the same priority over their lines as your Association gets? - We get no priority. AH private messages take priority of our cable messages. If a message for another paper were handed in at 10 o’clock, and our message at one minute past 10, the former would go through to Australia first. 419. But might not priority be arranged? - I have never tried it on. I know we have none now. 420. Perhaps there has been no necessity for it so far? - W’e could not get it. The regulations of the Cable Company would prevent it.
Mr. Edward Brooke, Superintendent in Victoria for the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company, bears out the statement which I have just read. This is a portion of his evidence - 580. By Senator Pulsford. - lias the Eastern Extension Company given a monopoly to the Press Association in any shape or form? - No. 581. You would be quite ready to take press telegrams from any other association or any number of associations? - If the Committee should introduce a new association, we would canvass them at once for business….. 584. By Senator Dobson. - Has there been any increase in the volume of business since the reduction from is. to gd. per word? - The Press Association agreed to extend their service - to send a larger number of words. 585. By Senator Colonel Neild.- They did? - I understand so. I know that they have increased the number of words sent. I understand that the Pacific Cable Board made some kind of stipulation that there should be an increased service.
The Committee also examined Mr. William Thomas Reay, the general manager of the Herald and Weekly Times - 724. Would it be possible for the metropolitan newspapers of Australia which are not members of the Association to form an Association among themselves, so as to compete successfully with the existing one? - I think they could. 725. And compete successfully? - Yes; particularly if there were a further reduction in transmission rates. 726. You think, then, that the reduction of rates would assist in the formation of a new Association? - I am quite sure on that score. A reduction would be beneficial to the whole public. It would give a great advantage to newspapers generally, and through them, to the public, because the greater the distribution of news the more the public is benefited. The necessary effect of high transmission rates must be to lead newspapers to form combinations. I should certainly say that lower rates would make for the forming of other associations. . . . 731. Your general impression is that reduced rates would lead to additional cable services being formed ? - I am strongly of opinion that that would be the result. 732. Do you think that the public would benefit? - I do. The class of information now obtained might be supplemented very greatly to the advantage of the- newspapers and of the public.
That evidence contradicts the main arguments advanced in support of this motion, and still further tends to show that there is no monopoly existing at present, but rather ample opportunity for other people to come in. A reduction in the present rates would lead to the formation of other associations, which would then naturally come into competition with existing ones. But the real trouble appears to be, as the honorable member for Parramatta conclusively pointed out yesterday, not in the cable service, but in the charges made in Australia by the Postmaster-General’s Department for the transmission of messages over the land wires. These charges place the country press at a serious disadvantage as compared with the city newspapers. Mr. William Holmes Waddell, manager for the Country Press Co-operative Company Limited, gave the following evidence - 881. What is your opinion? - Supposing another Association were started to send news from England to here, the news must come from the one source, and so far as I can see, the cable news is very full at the present time, sir. In fact, I know a good deal of the news cabled is of very little interest to the ordinary country newspaper man. They only want matters of extreme public interest, such as what has transpired lately in the Imperial Parliament, the disaster in Jamaica, or any wreck.
That answer goes to show that the country newspapers are not keen on European cable news unless it refers to some event of world-wide importance, and is likely to create very general interest. The same witness gave the following evidence - 883. Do you say that if the price were reduced to them, they would not take a bigger service? - The telegraphic land rate here makes it very expensive for them to have anything like a complete service. 889. I assume you would think it a national advantage if there could be a greater circulation of news to the different parts of the Empire ? - Certainly. 892. Your Association has no charge to make or any official statement? - No; I have no official statement to make.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.4.5 p.m.
– The following further evidence given by the same witness supports the arguments that I have been using - 899. Then I understand, from your point of view, the country press is not very keenly interested in the matter of cables, as first of all a great deal of the news cabled is not of interest to their readers. 900. Secondly, the cost of the cablesper se is of less moment to the country press than the cost of transmission of the news in question over the land lines? - That is so. 901. Those are the two leading features that affect the wish for or against cable news in the country papers? - That is so.
From his official position, Mr. Waddell must necessarily have a very intimate knowledge of the requirements of the country press, of “their grievances and general grounds for complaint, if any, and yet his evidence does not bear out in any particular the reasons which have been advanced for this proposal to subsidize, out of the public coffers, a private capitalistic, profit-making enterprise - a procedure which is absolutely opposed to every principle advocated by the Labour party. The nationalization of monopolies is one of the leading planks of their platform, and yet a Labour Government, fresh from the elections, and having denounced capitalistic enterprises as injurious to the community, now come down to the House with a proposal, not to nationalize, in accordance with the principles of their platform, an enterprise which they say has become a monopoly, and so cure the evil in the way which they have advocated on the public platform and in the House, but to use public money in order to insure against loss, and add to the profits of, a newly-formed private capitalistic concern. This new organization is promoted, not for any public purpose, but in the hope of making profits and dividends for its shareholders by supplying what they think is a want in certain newspapers, whose proprietors they hope to secure as clients. They are at perfect liberty to engage in that enterprise, and if a monopoly does exist they will be rendering a service to the cause of freedom if they enter into competition with it. But it is a very different tale when those people, having embarked their money in the undertaking, calculating on getting certain lines of business from certain people; and finding that their calculations are not realized, come to the Government of the day, and ask to be insured against loss. When they undertook the enterprise they were quite prepared to take all the profits of it, and therefore it is only right that they should be prepared to stand any loss arising from it. They have no right to approach this Parliament or any other body controlling public funds, and ask that public money shall be put into their private pockets in the way proposed in this motion. Let me refer to other evidence given before the Select Committee. This is not hearsay evidence from the man in the street, or statements collected haphazard from irresponsible persons, but the deliberate sworn testimony of men intimately associated with press work, and all that relates to it. We have, for instance, the evidence of Mr. Watkin Wynne, general manager of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, that there is no general dissatisfaction with the cable service as at present given to the country press, and that, as a matter of fact, the country press are treated very generously indeed.
– The country press people do not say so.
– I have already quoted, and propose to quote still more, from the evidence of those connected with the country press to show that what the honorable member states is not in accordance with the facts as elicited during the inquiry. Mr. Watkin Wynne gave the following evidence - 1374. Are we to understand that after getting credit for all sales of cables to provincial papers, and other town papers, and the share you get from Reuter’s for selling to country papers, your quota comes to fully £’,300 a year? - Yes; over ;£ 1,300 a year…..
The fact is, we are paying more than any subscriber by a long way to the cable service. The press has been treated very generously by the cable service. I think it would have met the case better if you had known the real facts, and some very wrong impressions would be removed’. …. . . There are only seven in this combination, and I suppose there are 1,500 newspapers in Australia and New Zealand. There is nothing to stop the other 1,403 from forming several cable associations or unions, if they chose to do so. But they are being better treated.
Apparently the reason why other associations have not hitherto been formed is that the papers generally are already very well treated, so far as the cable service is concerned, and are, except in isolated cases, not dissatisfied with it. If they were only as well treated by the Postmaster-General’s Department in regard to the overland wire service, all cause of complaint would probably be entirely removed. The same witness also gave the following evidence - 1394. Mr. Shakespeare stated that the financial aspect would prevent them, unless they could get four or five metropolitan papers to join in? - I do not think it should. There are only four out of the whole twenty-five in this cable union. What is the matter with the rest? If they are not dissatisfied, why can they not form another association ? 1395. AH the original ones, I understand, belong to you? - They do not.
Here, then, is a most emphatic sworn statement by the general manager of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, which disposes effectually of the contention that there is a monopoly of the cable service. The witness says there is nothing whatever to prevent not only one, but a number of independent associations being formed, if it is thought that a better service than is given by the “existing Association can be obtained. I come now to the evidence of another wit ness, Mr. James Ryan, the proprietor of a country newspaper well known to many of the representatives of New South Wales, and a gentleman who has long been connected with journalism. Dealing with the question of the dissatisfaction of the country press, he makes the positive statement that there is no substantial grievance.
– Was not the country press bound by a contract with the existing monopoly ?
– According to the evidence of several of the witnesses whom I have quoted, no monopoly exists, and any number of persons can enter the field that may choose to do so. This is evidence which the Minister himself did not bring out in submitting the motion. Since he quoted from this report to support his case, it is only fair that some of the evidence on the other side should be placed on record, so that the public, may be enabled to form a better opinion than would, be possible if they had to rely only upon quotations made from this report by members of a party which has a political interest in the passing of this motion, rather than a suddenly-developed idea ot coming to the rescue of the country press which, so far as can be ascertained, has not made any appeal for help. Mr. James Ryan, when examined by the Select Committee, was president of the New South Wales Provincial Press Association.
– Was he not speaking in his individual capacity, when he said that there was no substantial grievance on the part of the country press of New South Wales ?
– He was speaking, so far as I can gather, from the evidence from his experience as president. He has been connected for many years with the press in the honorable member’s constituency, and, no doubt, he is well known to the honorable member.
– He is, and I think he is in favour of the subsidy.
– No doubt he is. Would not the honorable member favour a proposal to put £6,000 into his pockets, whether he needed the money or not? ff some kind friend were to say to the honorable member, “ You may not believe that you have a grievance, but I think you have, and, notwithstanding that you may be perfectly satisfied with your present position, I offer you £6,000,” would the honorable member refuse such an offer? I do not think he would. It would not be human nature for a man to refuse such an offer, and, therefore, I should not be surprised to learn that Mr. Ryan favoured the proposed subsidy. The Chairman of the Select Committee put to him the question -
Are you then in a position to say, from your general knowledge, how the Cable Association work their service on the whole?
He replied -
Speaking from hearsay, so far as I am aware, there is no substantial grievance at present by the country papers of this State. Opinions will he expressed here and there, which are purely individual, that the service might be improved, or that the cost is too high for country papers.
This witness, as President of the New South Wales Provincial Press Association, spoke with a knowledge of the conditions and requirements of the proprietors of the country newspapers. In his representative capacity he must necessarily have gathered a better knowledge of their complaints, and of the grounds upon which they were made, than any individual pressman could have done, and, in the light of all that knowledge, he said that there was no substantial grievance on the part of the country newspapers of New South Wales. Then he was asked -
What is your opinion of the cost to country papers as you know it to be charged by the Cable Association ?
He replied -
I think the majority get their cables through some agency, Reuter’s. It seems to me that the chargein the cases I am aware of is not exorbitant.
Notwithstanding all the statements to the contrary that have been advanced by the Minister of External Affairs and others of the Ministerial party, this witness, with his wide knowledge, declared that the present charges are not exorbitant. Thus we have another argument knocked from under the feet of the Minister. Let us now glance at the evidence of Mr. Alexander James Eraser, the manager of the New Zealand Press Association. In answer to a question put to him, he said - “ We supply cable news from abroad and Australia to the New Zealand press.” He was then asked - questions 1589 and 1596 -
Do you buy from the service of the Australian Press Association ? - Yes.
Have you had any complaint from your Association as to the quality of news supplied to them by the Press Association? - No. We should not continue with them if they were dissatisfied.
In his representative capacity this witness must come into contact with a larger number of newspaper proprietors than any in dividual acting in a private capacity would do.
– Did hot the country newspaper proprietors pass a resolution favoring a reduction of the cable charges, and did they not wait as a deputation upon the Government?
– I dare say they would all be prepared to support a reduction of the cable charges. And that is just the point. If we moved in that direction and the reduction of land line charges we should be on right lines. I favour a reduction and think that the remedy lies in that direction, and not in this proposal. But that will not suit the Labour party’s purpose. The Chairman of the Select Committee, addressing this witness, said -
Speaking as a public man and not as a New Zealand agent, what is your opinion as to how you are served by the present cable association ?
He replied, “ I think we are served very well.” He was then asked -
Can you indicate any improvement in the service or make any suggestion as to how it could be made better.
His reply was -
That is purely a matter of opinion. I hardly think I could offer a suggestion as to how to improve the service. Everything, no doubt, is subject to improvement; but, so far as we are concerned, we are perfectly satisfied with it. I cannot see that there is any great room for improvement on its present basis.
These are most important statements, and they were made on oath by a man who knew that they were to be used by the Select Committee with a view to arriving at the facts, and coming to a determination upon those facts. His evidence, taken in conjunction with that of other reliable witnesses, disposes of the contention that there is, inregard to the present cable service, the widespread dissatisfaction which honorable members opposite would have us believe exists throughout Australia. Mr. Fraser also had something to say as to the question of duplication. It was pointed out that of the world’s news collected from various sources only a more or less limited proportion is interesting to Australia, and that as the result of that limitation there was always a chance of duplication of news. Dealing with this question the witness said -
I do not know how many papers there are in Australia, but I have seen it reported there are 238 in New South Wales. From that 1 would assume it to be safe in estimating the country papers in Australia would number about 400. I “believe 150 of those could have a small service at a cost of about £20 a year each.
That is not a large amount for them to be asked to pay if they wish to obtain a different service. The witness was asked the further question -
Supposing a small service could be established, what is your opinion as regards duplication and unnecessary cost?
He answered -
Duplication would be absolutely certain. There is not a shadow of doubt about that.
Then it would practically be money thrown away?- Yes. The service at present is fairly comprehensive. It does not miss anything of great importance in London. If any one wished to get fresh news “we should have a lot of trivial items sent out here. In 1890, when we had two services - the Age combination and the Argus combination - the news was duplicated.
At a later stage he was asked -
Do you think the present service sends out political news selected with an entirely unbiased view ?
That is a very important point considering the underlying purpose of this motion, which has more of a political than a commercial basis. The reply to the question was -
I think so. If it were not so, there would be trouble in the syndicate at once. The shades of opinion among the members are so different. A man must have no opinion in running a service of this kind.
Here we see the safeguard which is absolutely necessary, and which is nonexistent in the proposal of the Minister, against the service being used for party political purposes. Those interested in the present service, no matter what their political views may be, must subordinate those views to the general interests of the syndicate; that is to say, they must not obtrude any particular political views to the exclusion of other political views in any of the messages. Therefore, the contention by the honorable member for Calare, by interjection, and by the declaration of one or two other honorable members, that all the news is one-sided, appears to be absolutely without any foundation in fact. I now pass to another witness, Mr. Andrew James Cornford, manager of the Sunday Times weekly newspaper, in Sydney, who gave _ evidence as follows in answer to question 17 13 -
Do you think the establishment of another service, while leading lo competition, and may result in duplication, would provide a larger assortment and better classification of news? - It would give a larger assortment, but I do not see that there would be a better classification of news. I think Australia gets pretty well all that is worth cabling. If you read the London papers you will find very little has been missed of any importance.
We heard nothing of that from the Minister when he introduced the motion. All this evidence was absolutely kept in the background; and it is only right that the public should be shown that there is another side to the question. I read this evidence so that the public may have an opportunity, through Hansard, of seeing what was submitted to the Select Committee on the other side, and of formingtheir own ideas as to the justification for the motion. It must be remembered that these reports, appendices, and evidence are not issued broadcast to the public; and probably 999,000 out of every 1,000,00a citizens did not know of even the existence of the Select Committee. This is the only means there is of disseminating knowledge and keeping the general public reasonably well informed of the proposals of the Government, and the reasons for and against them. There is other evidence I might quote, but I have no desire to. unduly prolong my speech. I think I have quoted sufficient to justify the position .1 have taken up, and sufficient to rebut the evidence read by the Minister. I have shown that there is not the slightest foundation in any public necessity for interrupting the course of business, and setting aside some of the most important matters which the Labour party were sent here to deal with, for the purpose of putting through, in feverish haste, a motion of this kind. There is something still being kept in the background which the public ought to know, and, moreover, the House is entitled to a very much fuller explanation of the reasons for the motion than has been vouchsafed by the Minister or any of his supporters. No unbiased man can come to any other conclusion than that the majority report of the Select Committee of the Senate is not based on the weight of evidence, but is really unsupported. I cannot do better than quote one or two paragraphs from the minority reports, which throw a flood of light on the question from a point of view which has not been put forward by the Minister, or by any honorable members opposite. These reports are amply sustained by the evidence I have quoted, and by much more that I have refrained from quoting, and any one who reads them can come to no other conclusions than those arrived at by Senators
Chataway and Pulsford. Senator Chataway, in his dissentient report, says -
I dissent from the deductions in the report, generally on the grounds either that they are against the weight of evidence, or that the evidence is not sufficiently complete to justify them. The Committee was appointed to report upon “ the supply, conditions of sale, and distribution which controlled the Press Cable Service.” British and Foreign news reaches Australia through a Press Association which has an office in London, is able to peruse advance sheets of leading London daily papers, has access to the telegrams from Reuter’s 261 agencies throughout the world, and also subscribes to United Kingdom Press Agencies and other sources of information. Consequently, I fail to see that the supply of cable news suitable for Australia could be increased, except at an additional cost. As to the conditions of sale it was sworn, and not contradicted, that there are nearly one thousand provincial papers in Australia and New Zealand, that an expenditure of£6,000 a year would provide a sufficient cable service, and that lack of organization has prevented the new service being established. In the face of the foregoing it seems obvious that the conditions of sale are not sufficiently onerous to bring about the natural remedy, which is quite feasible, of an independent service. It was further sworn that the land charges imposed by the Commonwealth were a greater burden on the provincial press than the fees of the Press Association, which, more often than not, were not collected. It was conceded by witnesses that the present cable service is reasonable in price and sufficient in quantity. The Press Association decided last June that the clause in theirpartnership agreement requiring the unanimous consent of the proprietors before cable news could be supplied to a new metropolitan daily should be abrogated, and the fact that the Association is waiting for the expiry of the agreement, before the new agreement legally expressing the above comes into force, does not, in my opinion, detract from the undertaking of last June.
It will be seen that, whatever clause there may have been in the original agreement to prevent the proprietors of this cable service from supplying a new metropolitan newspaper, is going to be, if it has not already been, abrogated, so that that argument of the Minister is swept away. The” clause did not apparently affect country newspapers. I do not see that either the Minister or the Government have a shred of excuse for using public money, or asking for authority to use public money, in the manner proposed. Senator Chataway ‘s report proceeds to show what should be done -
The laying or acquiring of an Atlantic cable and the erection of a State-owned land line across Canada, is on several grounds desirable, though I do not admit that it will of necessity make the position of the provincial press in Australia more satisfactory.
He concludes his report as follows -
Before accepting the recommendation to subsidize a press cable service, I advise a reduction of the land line charges on press messages within the Commonwealth, bringing them down to the New Zealand rate, which is considerably below that of the Commonwealth.
The conclusion arrived at by Senator Chataway is entirely in accordance with the weight of evidence, and he shows that the remedy is not to subsidize another private capitalistic profit-making institution at the expense of the public, but, to use his own words, to “ reduce the land line charge for press messages within the Commonwealth, bringing them down to the New Zealand land rates.” All the evidence I have quoted shows that the real trouble lies, not in the charges of the Associated Press, but in the land charges - that it is the latter which are responsible for any disability, if there is a disability, under which the country press at the present time suffers. I think there is a disability to the extent to which the country press has to pay in excess of what is paid by metropolitan newspapers for transmitting the news over the land wires. If this is a matter of facilitating public education, as claimed by honorable members opposite, and, I think, by the Minister, the Post and Telegraph Department will be able to come to the rescue in a much more effective way than that proposed in the motion. If that be the object in viewand we are all interested in education - it will be easy enough to reduce the present charges for overland wires, or even to make them absolutely free. If the argument on which honorable members opposite rely is that the public needs educating, they should support the free transmission of news to country newspapers by means of the telegraph. I would vote for that if it could be shown that all the news which’ comes to this country by cable has an educational value. But, as a matter of fact, we know that much of that news is detrimental to its readers, and benefits neither old nor young ; but, on the contrary, is distinctly mischievous. I refer to messages such as were sent all over Australia, giving details of a brutal exhibition which recently occurred in America. I wish now to refer to two or three paragraphs in the minority report of Mr., late Senator, Pulsford. He said-
I dissent from the characterand conclusions of the report for reasons containedinthefollowing statement : -
I examine the evidence under the following divisions of the subject. Is the Australian. Cable Service -
So far as the news supplied is concerned, isit garbled and inaccurate?
Has it greatly limited the number of newspapers ?
Is it supported by the Eastern Extension Cable Company?
As to the allegation that there is a monopoly, he says -
Witness after witness admitted that a new service might be established. Colonel Reay, the managing director of the Melbourne Herald, said : - “ I have already expressed the opinion that it is practicable to’ give effect to the idea. I will now go further, and say that if we sent a cable message to our agent in London, and also a message to our bankers, we should be furnished with another service in 24 hours.”
That disposes finally and absolutely of the contention that there is a monopoly, and shows that there is no excuse for making a present of public money to a private syndicate. To continue my quotation from Mr. Pulsford’s report -
Mr. Mackinnon, the manager of the Association, said the Association had no monopoly of London news, and no agreement binding any London news agency to give them exclusive service. The representatives of both the Victorian and New South Wales Country Press Associations, as well as Reuter’s, all admitted there was no monopoly. “ A sagacious arrangement,” it was called by Mr. Shakespeare, of the New South Wales Association.
Mr. Pulsford points out that
It was shown that the Australian press did not enjoy special concessions in regard to telegraph and postal rates, that in all countries it is usual to carry papers and convey telegrams
At low rates, because business at high rates is practically impossible. The Press Cable rates are not so much below the ordinary as appears by merely comparing the rates, since coding is allowed in ordinary, and not in press messages. Finally, he says -
The most marked, and probably the most useful, point brought out by the inquiry is that the cost of telegrams over Australian wires is more burdensome to the country press, and probably to the metropolitan press as well, than the sum that would be charged for the supply of oversea cables messages. Evidence in this direction was given by representatives of both the Victorian and New South Wales Associations. Reuter’s manager, Mr. Collins, said : - “ It is the heavy wiring charges which prove crushing to a country newspaper.” He further said - “ Only yesterday I was waited upon by a gentleman from the country who has a biweekly newspaper. He was anxious to publish cables, which, so far, he has not been able to do. I quoted him the ridiculous sum of ?6 per year for the right of copying them, but he could not pay it oncount of the wiring charges.”
Hecouldnot pay it because of the cost oftelegraphing over our land lines. That is where the shoe pinches, so far as the country press is concerned. Mr. Pulsford concluded his report with these words -
Because of the reasons herein given, and having heard the whole of the evidence, I feel bound to dissent from the report.
Every right-minded person who has read the recommendations of the Committee must be of opinion that they are due to bias, conscious or unconscious. Some men are so constituted that, although they may desire to approach a question in a judicial spirit, they cannot pay regard to evidence which does not bear out their particular views. The great bulk, and the most reliable portion, of the evidence tendered to the Committee, coming as it did from those who manage large concerns, and are most intimately associated with the country press, shows that there is no need for interfering with the present system.
– Has not the honorable member nearly finished?
– I have a duty to perform, and I propose to carry it out. I have never yet shirked my duty. No doubt the facts to which I am giving publicity are not palatable to honorable members opposite. They do not wish the people to hear the other side.
– Any one can read the report and evidence of the Committee.
– The public has not access to it. How many persons outside Parliament are aware of the existence of this document? All attempts to interfere with my speech will only tend to prolong it. As those who have been members of former Parliaments know, I am not to be brow-beaten, or prevented from speaking, by the employment of such tactics as have been resorted to by Ministers and their followers here today, when I think it my duty to speak.
– The honorable member has no justification for taking up the time of the House at such length.
– My justification is that the Government have no good reason for their proposal, which calls for absolute, emphatic, and unqualified condemnation as one to utilize public funds in a way in which I maintain they should not be used.
– The honorable member must not impute improper motives.
– I am expressing my opinion. I said nothing of motives.
– -The honorable member must not express his opinion in such a way as to impute improper motives.
– If that is your ruling, sir, I must comply with it, though such a decision has never been given before.
– If the honorable member imputed improper motives to other honorable members, he should be asked to withdraw unreservedly’ what he said.
– If the honorable member will say what words I used which he says imputed “ improper motives “ to other honorable members, I shall cheerfully withdraw them.
– The honorable member said that public money was to be used for improper purposes.
– Do you say, sir, that I must withdraw the statement that I do not approve of the purposes lor which money is proposed to be used, and that I do not think it proper to use public money in the way proposed ?
– That was not what the honorable member said.
– That is the meaning which I intended to convey.
– The honorable member said that we were using public money in an improper way.
– I did not say that the Government were using public money in an improper way. I said “ in a way it should not be used.”
– I -do not wish ,to wrangle with the honorable member. He used an expression which was unparliamentary, and I ask him to withdraw it. I said that he must not impute improper motives to honorable members opposite.
– I did not impute improper motives to honorable members opposite. The purpose may be wrong, as I say it is, while the motive may not be improper; but if anything that I said is thought to be unparliamentary, I withdraw it cheerfully, and without reservation. Honorable members opposite are getting to be very tender-skinned when reference is made to any proposal coming from their side of the Chamber. I have a right to protest against the use of public money to subsidize private profitmaking enterprises. The whole of my speech has been directed against that as a general principle. The only justification for using public moneys to subsidize private concerns is public utility or public benefit of some kind. I have quoted all this evidence to show that there is not the slightest shadow of justification in this instance for the expenditure of public money in this way.
– We will make the honorable member Treasurer.
– The honorable member is not game to do so, because he knows that he would not get money for these purposes from me. I have always opposed that sort of thing every time it has been brought forward in the House, unless a question of public advantage was involved.
– Unless proposed by the honorable member’s side.
– Such an interjection is neither fair nor true. Whichever side of tile House I have been on, I have always opposed using public funds for the benefit of private enterprises, unless in certain exceptional cases where the circumstances fully warranted it in the public interest. I do not admit, in the face of the evidence I have just read, that there is any monopoly, but if it does exist the Labour party should have recourse to the proposals embodied in their own platform for dealing with monopolies. If they say the existing press cable service is a monopoly, they declared to the electors that their policy in such cases was nationalization, and the proper remedy for them to propose is to nationalize the service. Instead of that they go back on their platform and throw their- principles to the winds by proposing to bring into existence another capitalistic concern to which in theory they are absolutely opposed. It is a most extraordinary and inconsistent position for them to take up, and in ordinary circumstances they would be utterly unable to justify it to their constituents. This is not the first time that we have had evidence of their inconsistency since the session began. They do not seem to be quite so cocksure about their platform and ‘principles now that they are clothed with legislative responsibility, but are all the time trying to hedge on them in a fashion which they have always alleged to be the monopoly of their opponents. The honorable member for Pararmatta rightly said, and he is borne out by the evidence and in the minority reports, that there is not a legitimate grievance in connexion with the present cable service. The real remedy for any dissatisfaction on the part of any country newspapers is to reduce the cable charges, and to take steps to complete the All-Red route, substantially reduce the terminal charges in Australia, and lower the overland wire charges throughout the Commonwealth. I had intended to conclude my speech with an amendment embodying those proposals, but I shall not take that step at present. Probably, another honorable member will do so later. The reduction of the overland wire charges can be effected by the Postmaster-General, and if the Government are really serious in this matter, and believe that the country press need some consideration they have the means at hand to give relief without asking the public to dip their hands into their pockets to subsidize a private moneymaking concern. If they assisted the country newspapers by cutting down the admittedly heavy overland charges, I believe that no. one in this House would cavil at it.
.- This matter was launched so suddenly by the Minister yesterday that one had no time to make himself fully acquainted with the facts. I have had very little time since then, owing to pressure in other directions, to give the matter the attention it deserves, but it is of so much importance that I cannot allow it to pass without notice. In the first place, I do not think that a subsidy of £6, 000 is likely to achieve the good objects set out by the Minister in his opening speech. Even if the £6,000 were spent, has the House any guarantee that the present Press Association will come in and join the Association that it is intended to form. If not, they will probably continue to receive their news in the way they are doing now, and this money will not call into existence another strong Association capable of supplying the news which honorable members have been talking about. The subsidy might, therefore, go to one or two papers only, which, of course, is not intended, and the enlightenment of the public might be no better achieved through this agency than it is at the present time. The propositions in the motion want amending in one serious particular, and I intend before I sit down to move an amendment which, I think, must commend itself to the good sense of the House, because it is quite in keeping with the system of bounties and subsidies which we have already initiated in Commonwealth legislation. I notice that the conditions are printed on a separate piece of paper, and are apparently flying about on their own. It is very hard to know how the connexion comes in between them and the Minister’s proposition. They ought to be embodied in some measure or motion that would incorporate the whole business. Condition No. 7 reads in this way : -
The Association must transmit to Australia bycable and supply to its subscribers any information on matters of Australian interest supplied to it or its agent in London by the High Commissioner, but the Association shall be entitled to charge the Commonwealth Government Press rates in respect to the matter so transmitted.
Might not that lead to something we do not intend ? The High Commissioner will have to give this information to be sent via the Pacific Cable. The .Association will receive it for nothing, and will also get the subsidy for it at this end when it comes through.
– Surely that is not correct.
– It ought not to be so, and if it is correct it is a serious state of affairs which I do not think the Minister could have intended. Surely some of the £6,000 subsidy is not going to be spent in that manner?
– I did not so understand it.
– I do not think any business man would enter into such an arrangement. It certainly shows that the proposal has been hurriedly launched, and that the House is being asked to pass it without giving it due consideration. If blemishes of that character are apparent on the most cursory inspection, what might not be found in the motion if we had time to give it proper thought? During yesterday’s debate I heard one or two rather startling statements. I have asked for information regarding them in fairly authoritative circles, and it is affirmed that the statement of the honorable member for Hume, that the present Cable Press Association prevented a paper from being started in Hobart, is without foundation in fact. The people concerned were given every chance to take advantage of the present Association’s terms, and, I believe, would not do so. I also understand that those responsible for the news that comes through, say that the honorable member for Hume was not correct in stating that it is coloured in order to represent the phase of politics required. I am told that no attempt is made to give political bias or colour to the cables at all, but that those responsible do their best to give the facts accurately. The honorable member for Darling took up something like the same ground when he said that the tone of these cables was taken from the Argus, and was therefore Conservative. If those statements be sifted I do not think any foundation in fact will be found for them. We were led to believe by some honorable members yesterday that the existing Association is not only “cooking” the cable news, but is actually boycotting outside newspapers, and seeking to deprive them of the advantages they possess. Then again, I can find no solid foundation for the statement that the Victorian metropolitan morning newspapers are sent into the country by special trains in the early morning, and are distributed in country districts before the local papers are published.
– Then the honorable member must be a Rip Van Winkle. Every one knows that that is done.
– I am not going to deny the statement, but the people responsible for these daily papers say that it is untrue. They say that they pay for early trains, and other facilities, and that the metropolitan papers arrive in country centres a considerable time after the publication of the local daily newspapers.
– What has been said is true of both New South Wales and Victoria.
– Then those who ought to know something about the matter are in conflict with the honorable member. The honorable member for Lang recently put a question to the Minister with regard to a cablegram sent by a Mr. Temperley, and although some reply was made, I do not think that the actual facts have been put very clearly before the House. There is no doubt that Mr. Temperley despatched a cablegram containing these words -
Governor-General’s Speech announced subsidy £6,000, for three years, independent cable. Expect start 1st August.
– - I have the cable message here, and the word “expected,” not xt expect,” is used. That makes all the difference.
– I do not think that it makes any material difference in the message. The idea that Mr. Temperley wished to convey to his people in London was that he believed the subsidy was to commence on 1st August, and that the Independent Cable Association would receive it. The Minister has told us that that is not the intention of the Government. He declares that this subsidy is to go to an Association which is being formed, I understand, by country newspapers. They are to receive news, via the Pacific
Cable, from the other side of the world, and a subsidy, totalling £6,000, is to be paid for the supply of that information.
– What does the honorable member wish to suggest?
– It appears to me that the true interpretation to be placed upon the cablegrams sent by Mr. lem.perley was correctly stated by the Standard of Empire, namely, that the subsidy is to be paid to a so-called independent cable service. The matter requires explanation.
– That is not what the Standard of Empire said. It declared that the subsidy was for Labour newspapers in Australia.
– I have never suggested such a thing.
– It is self-evident.
– Those who know more about this subject than I do may be satisfied that that is the case, but I do not pretend to know enough about the matter to be able to make such a suggestion. In the speech which he delivered yesterday, the Minister was careful to say nothing that would lead one to such a. conclusion. I listened to him with some pleasure, and derived from his speech a good deal of information. My only complaint is that the Government have made a mistake in bringing the question before the House in this way. They should have given us ample notice, and thus have afforded us an opportunity to study the Senate Select Committee’s report, and make ourselves au fait with the facts. I wish to move an amendment that should commend itself to the good sense -of the House. In granting bounties or subsidies for the encouragement of industries, and foi” other purposes, we have always been careful to impose conditions as to rates of wages and hours of labour, and I hope that we shall not leave any loop-hole in this case for a departure from the high standard that we have set ourselves. The rule that we have laid down in regard to wages and labour conditions generally is a very wholesome one. and it should be observed in this instance. I therefore move -
That all the words after the word “desirable,” paragraph 1, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “ that a Bill be introduced containing the provisions of the resolutions introduced by the Honorable the Minister of External Affairs for a s’ubsidy for press cable news, and the conditions circulated, in order that proper provision may be made in regard to Labour conditions in accordance with the policy previously adopted by the Federal Parliament in the granting of bounties and subsidies.”
I fail to see how the Government as a Labour Administration can object to this proposition
– What does the honorable member mean as to “ labour conditions “ ? How would he work them in ?
– That is a; matter with which the Minister himself must deal. He is in charge of this gun, and it is for him to sight it. It should be an easy matter for him to incorporate this proposal in a Bill, so that those who receive the subsidy will know beforehand that they are required to pay standard rates of wages, and observe Australian labour conditions.
– Anything to save the poor monopolists here.
– Some honorable members do not seem to want the Worker to observe fair conditions.
– Is this a joint effort?
– I have sat here for nearly two days waiting an opportunity to move my amendment, and I think that in it I have touched a very salient point. I also think that the House never dreamt of the Government proposing that an Association should obtain news from the High Commissioner’s office free of charge, and at the same time receive a substantial subsidy. I submit this amendment, believing that it is necessary that the condition’s laid down by the Federal Parliament in regard to the observance of standard labour conditions in industries encouraged under the bounty system should be observed by the Association which receives this subsidy.
.- I should not have spoken to the amendment but for the fact that honorable members opposite seem to treat with ridicule a proposal to pay fair wages and observe proper conditions in an industry proposed to be benefited by a resolution of the House.
– Will the honorable member take his tongue out of his cheek?
– I find some difficulty in proceeding owing to the extraordinary objection of honorable members opposite to treat a humanitarian proposal of this nature in a serious spirit. I cannot help feeling that we are not proposing to benefit the provincial press in Australia, or otherwise there might be serious objection to this amendment. It is well known that, in most cases, a newspaper in small coun try towns is run by a man who is a compositor, with the assistance, perhaps, of a couple of boys, and that the scissors figure largely in the editorial work of the staff. If we were dealing purely with such papersthere might be some difficulty in regulating, conditions in the way sought by the honorable member for Wilmot, but to any person who cares to analyze the schedule it must be evident that the proposal of theGovernment is not really in the interests of country newspapers. If the newspapers, reaping the indirect benefit of the subsidy were to be assessed for the value of the services rendered upon the basis of the population of the towns and districts through, which their newspapers circulate, quite a different schedule would have to be drawnup. For instance, a paper in Sydney, say the Worker, will have to pay £1 per annum for every 592 of the population of the city, and in Melbourne the payment will be £1 for every 549, while in a country town: with a population of 2,000-
– The honorable member has already discussed that matter.
– I am not going to discuss it again, but merely to point out that,, the facts being as they are, it cannot be expected that country newspapers will take advantage of the proposal ; and, consequently, the amendment now suggested” cannot apply to country newspapers, which might find it very difficult to comply with the terms.
– What has this to dowith wages?
– I cannot see why the Minister should object to apply the principles of the new Protection to the Sydney Worker.
– 1’here is no reference to newspapers at all in the motion. Thisis a Cable Association.
– The only excuse for theGovernment’s project is that the press of Australia, and, consequently, the people,, are to benefit as the result.
– Will the honorablemember confine himself to the amendment?’
– I am answering an interjection bv the Minister.
– The honorable member must not answer disorderly interjections.
– I understand that, and’ I express my regret ; but the Minister isoccasionally difficult. Under the circumstances, my friends opposite might give some reason why they treat with ridicule a- proposal which, after all, is aimed at improving Australian wages and conditions. I know that honorable members opposite speak differently in Opposition from what they do when they have the responsibilities of Government ; but, for my part, I have always been inclined to favour the broad principle that, whenever we provide Government moneys for specific industries, all the persons engaged in those industries should reap some benefit. I sincerely trust that the Minister is not making a proposal purely in the interests of Mr. Temperley, and, perhaps, Mr. Lamond, but that he is going to spread the benefits, not only to the Cable Association, but to the men employed in the Labour dailies called into existence as a result of this legislation. I voice my protest against the levity of honorable members opposite in the face of this humanitarian proposal ; and I sincerely trust that the Minister, who even now can hardly maintain a serious demeanour, will explain why it is ‘that fair wages and conditions are just in a protected factory, but not in the case of a Labour newspaper.
.- I desire to address myself to this important question. I heard the Minister deliver his speech, but he altogether failed to convince me that there is any necessity for the subsidy.
– Will the honorable member address himself to the amendment ?
– Do I understand that, not having spoken to the original motion, and there being now an amendment before the Chair, I cannot address myself to the former ?
– If I allow the honorable member to discuss the general question now, he would have a right, after the amendment has been disposed of, to again address himself to the original question. We must get rid of the amendment before we can deal with the general question.
– Then the most important part of what I have to say will have to remain unsaid for a time. I entirely agree with the contention of the honorable member for Wilmot and the honorable member for Wentworth. It has been specifically laid down that conditions shall accompany subsidies; and the principle should apply in the present instance. The newspapers are, as all other business ven lures, wholly and solely business concerns, run for the profit of the proprietors and, incidentally,, for the public good.
– There is no contract with newspapers in this proposal.
– Quite so, but-
– Will the honorable member confine himself to the amendment?
– Will you, sir, kindly ask the Minister to refrain from disorderly interjections? It is paraded through the country that industries shall only be subsidized on certain labour conditions being observed.
– What would the honorable member think a fair wage?
– There is no obligation’ on my part to enter into details. Inasmuch as the avowed object of this bonus is to benefit certain newspapers, and inasmuch as it has been specifically stated that it is in the interests of one newspaper, the Worker–
– Will the honorable member address himself to the amendment?
– It is obligatory on the part of Parliament to insist on the same conditions being observed that are imposed under similar circumstances on other industries. The amendment is certainly an important one, and the gravity of the situation must be recognised by the Minister.
– It is, fully !
– As I am not allowed to speak on the general proposition, I shall simply say that it is my intention to vote for the amendment, and see that it is pressed to a division.
– I propose to vote for the amendment for- one simple reason. The more I look at the agreement in the memorandum the more it seems to me that this is a matter that ought to be considered in Committee. I do not see how we can deal with it adequately in the present circumstances ; and the proposed amendment would, if carried, enable us to discuss it in detail. I venture to say that no such memorandum has ever before been thrown before the Chamber in connexion with a motion like this.
– Quite so; the general’ rule has been for the Government fo give a> subsidy to newspapers without saying a word to the House. A subsidy equal tothis - .£1,500 a year - was given to theStandard of Empire.
– Perhaps thehonorable member will say where and how.
– The honorable member knows all about it !
– I am quite unaware of what the honorable member is talking. In any case, I do not see why we should give this subsidy to newspapers any more than a subsidy to somebody else without attaching reasonable conditions. With every subsidy so far - subsidies in respect of tropical products, as to the success of which we were not at all certain - were stipulations as to wages and conditions. I believe that the bulk of the newspaper proprietors, if not all, pay union rates and subscribe to fair conditions ; and if they are to benefit from this subsidy I do not see why the same conditions should not be attached as are attached to every other subsidy voted by this House. It is for the Minister to say why he sets aside the new Protection in this instance only. I should like to hear the Minister on this point ; and. particularly, do I desire the question to be so introduced that its details may be thoroughly canvassed. For instance, in the schedule there is an allocation of moneys which does not seem to me to be on a fair basis. This allocation penalizes those who should be helped ; and there are other conditions which require sifting and making much fairer. For those reasons I shall vote for the amendment, to which I hope the Minister will consent; or, if not, he ought to tell us why we should depart in this instance from a wholesome rule which has been laid down, that, where people ask the Government to vote sums of money, care should be taken that those who earn the moneys by toiling in the industries, shall. have fair wages and conditions.
– There is no employment mentioned in the motion ; the cost of the cables is the cost of sending them over the lines.
– I take it that the newspapers which are going to benefit should subscribe to conditions which are required from all other industries which come to Parliament for help.
– The honorable member is a poor joker.
– I do not pretend to be joking, and I do not think the honorable member would be a success if he attempted to joke on this subject. I desire that there shall be a fair bargain made between the Government and those who are to receive the money of the taxpayers. The Government proposal, instead of being introduced by way of motion, should have been introduced by a Bill, whose details could be discussed and amended in Com mittee. The conditions that have been put before us, which we cannot alter, are full of anomalies, and will not fit the case. I appeal to Ministers to withdraw this proposal, and to submit it in a way which will enable honorable members to discuss the whole matter so as to secure fair treatment to all concerned.
.- I greatly regret that the conditions which have been placed before us, governing the proposed subsidy to a Press Cable Service Association, have not been embodied in the motion under discussion, because they are even mote in issue than the main proposal itself.
– What about the principle involved ?
– The subsidizing of private newspaper proprietors is bad in principle. The Minister of External Affairs, in introducing the motion, told us that the existing Press Cable Association is exclusive; that it would not, before a certain date, admit fresh newspapers, but that after pressure had been brought to bear upon it, it became possible for newspapers which were not original members of the Association to enter it on something like reasonable terms. I asked him if die Association had been definitely asked to state the terms upon which newspapers would be admitted now, and his reply was -
Yes; they were asked to submit terms before they waived the unanimous consent, and they refused.
– I did not say that. I said that I personally had not made any attempt to get the information, but that the Select Committee of the Senate had done so, and was unable to get a reply to its inquiry.
– The Minister said that that was before the unanimous consent was waived.
– No; only a few months ago.
– In my opinion, there is no justification for asking Parliament to vote a subsidy of £6,000 for a new Press Cable Service Association, when the existing Association is prepared to give every newspaper the full benefit of its news for a fair and reasonable rate. The proposal lias been put forward as if made in the interests of the people and of all the newspapers of the Commonwealth. If it would insure the publication of more important news at greater length, we should all be found voting with the Ministry. But the rates set out in Schedule A, to be charged by the subsidized Press Cable Service Association to its subscribers, show that the country press cannot benefit by the granting of the subsidy. The maximum annual charge in respect of newspapers in minor cities and towns is fixed at £5°- It must be remembered that if a country newspaper proprietor subscribes to the Association, the cable news which it wishes to take must, after being received _at the head office of the Association, be telegraphed to the town in which the newspaper is issued, and the £50 charged for the cable news will not cover the cost of telegraphing in Australia. As a matter of fact, the cost of the cable news would be a mere bagatelle in comparison with the cost of transmission by telegraph. Fifty pounds would be a reasonable sum for which to supply a country newspaper with cable news. But that is not what is proposed. The charge is .£50, plus the expense of telegraphic transmission. Although Ministers declare themselves opposed to monopolies, they are doing their best to create one by this subsidy of ,£2,500 for the first year, ,£2,000 for the second year, and £1,500 for the third year, to “one existing Australian Press Cable Association.” The subsidy is to be paid to an existing Association, to a combination already formed. We should be told who are the members of this Association ; whom they represent. This “existing Australian Press Cable Association “ must have a name. I ask the Minister what its name is?
– I do not know.
– It is a mystery.
– It should not be a mystery. We are entitled to know who form the Association. I again ask the Minister to whom is it proposed to grant the subsidy ?
– I assure the honorable member that I do not know.
– Will the Minister permit me to read it again?
– The honorable member will not be in order in indulging in tedious repetition.
– Then I will say that the proposal is to pay £2,500 in the first year, ,£2,000 in the second year, and £1,500 in the third year to an existing Press Cable Association, and I shall not be satisfied unless I know what Association that is. Under the first condition -
The Association must supply to its subscribers a cable service in accordance with these conditions at rates not exceeding the maximum charges set out in Schedule A.
The schedule referred to sets out the charges to be made to city and country papers. The city papers are wealthy concerns, and able to pay their own way-, sothat those charges are a very small and comparatively unimportant matter to them; but if the Minister is genuine in his desire to make the information to be cabled at the public expense available for the people and press of the’ whole of Australia, his scale will have to be materially modified. It is also set out that the cable service is -
To consist of items of news electrically transmitted from oversea to the Association in Australia, the minimum number of words to be so transmitted to be 6,000 words per week.
If we are to go in for expenditure on a cable service, it would be much better to use the money in cabling information to the Old Country about our doings in Australia than in bringing out information with which we are already well supplied. I am not an expert on newspapers, but the conditions laid down specify a minimum- service of 6,000 words per week, or 1,000 words per ‘ day, and I am informed by, gentlemen connected with the press that a-, thousand words of cabled matter, whenfully set up, will occupy about three columns of space in an ordinary newspaper. If that is the case, and I have noreason to doubt the genuineness of my information, we are asking for too much. We want quality, and not quantity. I am not entirely in agreement with the information which we receive at the present time, and it would be as well if a good deal of it did not appear. Much of the information cabled out about the Jeffries-Johnson fight it would have been very much better for the community if we had not received. If the motion is agreed to, in what way do the Government propose to safeguard the interests of the public, so far as concerns the character of the news to be received ? A big question is involved in that. Are we to set up a sort of Government censorship, and, if so, will the news, when censored, be likely or unlikely to be coloured by whatever party for the time being is in power? I am inclined to think that if the present Government commenced to censor the news sent out, it would be largely the kind of news which they desire to give, and not information embodying all shades of opinion, which the public would have a right to expect. Who is to get the information when it is supplied, assuming that the subsidy is granted ? The honorable member for Wentworth, in a very clever speech, which I have not yet heard contradicted, led us to suppose that the subsidy was being proposed wholly and solely in the interests of one particular journal. I have no data to go upon, but it has been a matter of public comment for some time that it is intended by the party sitting behind the Government to bring out anewspaper of their own.
– The Prime Minister said so.
– If the Prime Minister made that statement, then this is a most amblushing proposal. If the Labour party contemplate action in that direction, they are well able to secure all the information they require at their own, and not at the public, expense. If it were proposed to take this step in the interests of the newspapers ofAustralia as a whole, there would certainly be no proposition in the motion likely to increase the cost to country journals beyond what they pay for news under existing conditions. I am credibly informed - apart altogether from what appears in the columns of one of the Melbourne newspapers to-day - that any newspaper in Australia can receive the advantage of the news conveyed over the cables to the Press Cable Association today for£5 per annum. Yet the news which the Government say will be supplied by their subsidizing scheme is to cost every country newspaper up to a maximum of £50 per annum. The cables which are now. sent will be supplied by the Press Cable Association to newspapersin country towns for £5 per annum.
– They do not say that In fact, they are very careful what they do say.
– I am not quoting from a newspaper, but repeating information which I have received from a pressman in- terested in country journals.
– They would give it to certain papers in certain country towns at or, I believe that, if averaged over the whole of the papers of Australia, the cost would not come to £5 each.
– It is stated in this morning’s Age that -
As to the existence of a monopoly, in the ordinary sense of the word, there is not a trace of the thing or the principle in the business of the Association, which was formed fifteen years ago to preventthe useless duplication of news and the consequent expense which militated against the public getting the most copious service. The London office in which the cable service is conducted is manned with men of special skill, who have their hands upon the keyboards of intelligence of all the London papers. And not that alone; added to these is the vast network of Reuters agency, commanding some 200 foreign centres. The Association itself consists of only seven leading metropolitan papers, and these papers spend from£16,000 to £20,000 a year in the transmission of the cable intelligence from all parts of the world. So far, however, from this intelligence being used in a monopolistic manner, every one of the goo provincial journals in the Commonwealth can have the whole or any portion of the news it requires at a scale of charges proportionate to the power of the journal to pay. Daily papers like those ofBallarat, Geelong, Bendigo or Newcastle, pay up to £200 a year only for a service that sometimes costs £20,000. Smaller papers take what service they require down to a cost as low as £4 per annum.
This aspect of the case is most important. If the existing Association, which undoubtedly receives valuable public information over the cables, is prepared to admit every journal published in Australia to a share of its news-
– But it is not.
– Order ! For the last ten minutes honorable members onboth sides of the House have been continually interjecting, and it has become impossible for me to follow the honorable member. He has already read an extract which, if I had known it, I should not have allowed him to read, because it was a comment from a newspaper on a matter now before the House. I ask honorable members who have been interjecting, and particularly the Minister, to set a good example to other honorable members.
– If the existing Association is prepared to give the news to every newspaper at so small a cost, the last argument in favour of the Government’s scheme is shattered. The news is available, and if the existing Association has not been quite so pliant in the past as it. might have been, this debate will certainly have the effect of making it more amenable to reason. We are justified in supporting the Ministry to the extent of saying that if that Association is allowed to continue as at present, it should give the full advantage of its news to any newspaper that wants it, at the lowest possible cost. It appears to me, however, that the Association has come down to bedrock, and we cannot ask, on behalf of the country papers, that anything better should be offered to them. The terms I have quoted are infinitely better than the Government propose to offer under their scheme. I should like to see these conditions embodied in the motion, in order that we may know exactly what the Government intend to do. The motion as submitted suggests that the Government contemplate imposing other conditions. The fact that in the motion itself reference is made to the conditions to be proposed by the Government, whilst, at the same time, a set of conditions is laid before the House, indicates, to my mind, the possibility that the Government have in contemplation the adoption of another set. We are entitled to know what they are to be. I am somewhat averse to trusting any Government too far after what has happened in respect of the vote for naval defence purposes, and the expenditure of money on purposes other that those for which it had been ear-marked. That being so, I should like this motion to cover all that the Government intend to do. It may be said that there is a better way of carrying out cur objects, and I think that there is. The Government should have embodied their proposal in a- Bill which could have been 1 lea lt with in Committee, leaving everything plain and straightforward as to what is intended. I propose to move an amendment having reference to the utilization of the “ All-Red “ line. Part of the information conveyed to us in the report of the Select Committee appointed by the Senate is’ that the construction of a line from Canada would involve an expenditure of about ^£500,000, and that there would be a further cost of about ,£500,000 in laying the Atlantic cable. In other words, in order to complete the “All-Red” route we should require to expend £1,000,000. The charge for receiving telegrams over the “ All-Red “ route is now sd. in respect of the Atlantic portion of the service, whilst there is a terminal charge of sd. in Australia. In addition to the terminal charge of sd. per word, there is, in respect of press messages, a charge of 9d. per word, which is made up as follows - 2d. per word is paid for the Pacific Cable service, 2d. per word for the land line charge, and sd. per word for the Atlantic service. There is no gainsaying the fact that the terminal charge in proportion to the charges incidental to the cabling of messages to our coast is enormously high. If it be our desire to give the public information at a cheap rate, then, recognising that the terminal charge is inordinately high, we ought to bring it into consonance with the service rendered. I venture to say that the charge of sd. per word for the service rendered under this heading is unfair.
– It ought not to cost more to send a message from Southport to Sydney than it does to send it across the Pacific.
– Certainly not. I cannot understand why, in a progressive country like Australia, such high charges should be imposed. I move -
That the following words be added : - “and steps should be. taken to complete the ‘ AllRed ‘ route as well as to substantially reduce theterminal charges in Australia.”
.. - Perhaps I labour under a disadvantagein speaking to this motion since I happen to know something about the question with which it deals.
– That is rather rough on those who have spoken from the honorable member’s side of the House.
– No; i was speaking more particularly of the mover of the motion, whose business it should have been to make himself acquainted ‘ with the facts.
– The honorable member never heard a word that I said.
– I took care to read the report of the honorable gentleman’s speech.
– A full report has not been published.
– The House will make a serious mistake if it passes this motion. Having spent the best years of my life in connexion with the press, I do not: hesitate to say that the Government proposal will not help the country press of Australia.
– The honorable member is now addressing himself to the main question.
– 1 wish to show that if honorable members are really in earnest in their professed desire to assist the country press, they should support theamendment providing for a reduction of the terminal charges, which, with the telegraph charges, are the real obstacles in theway of a cheaper service being secured by the country press.
– Is there a terminal’ charge of sd. a word in respect of press messages ?
– The terminal and overland charges really prevent the country newspapers from embracing the offer of what is one of the best cable services in the world for the money. In doing ordinary cable work I have been struck with the fact that on the arrival of the English newspapers it is scarcely possible for a pressman to obtain from them a paragraph the cream of which has not already been transmitted to Australia through the medium of the cable service.
– The honorable member must not pursue that line of argument.
– The power to assist the country press rests with the Government, and is to be found in a reduction of the telegraph charges. For every £1 that is spent in obtaining a cable service to-day, over £10 is expended in respect of telegraphic charges. Those charges are at the root of the difficulty in the way of obtaining a cheaper and better service. It is not the cable service itself so much as it is the brains at work at each end of it, that makes the work complete. I am considerably handicapped in addressing myself to this question by the fact that I must confine my remarks to the amendment, but I should like to point to the utter absurdity of some of the suggestions that have been made. If I were not so handicapped, I should be able to show that the men who are really -behind this proposal have displayed an utter want of knowledge of the whole subject. As to the suggestion of censorship-
– The honorable member is not speaking to the amendment.
– Let us reduce the telegraphic charges, and then we shall not have, in this matter, any preference to unionists. Let us reduce them all round, and give a fair run to every newspaper. This proposal to reduce the charges will place all the newspapers of Australia upon an equal footing. The original proposal which this amendment is designed to replace would, if carried, give a distinct preference to a particular class of newspapers.
– Order ! The honorable member is now trying to evade my ruling.
– I assure you, sir, that 1 do not wish to do so. I am sorry that I am not permitted to deal with the general question, and, whilst I bow to your ruling, the fact that I must confine my remarks to the amendment hampers me considerably. I urge the House not to pass a motion that will savour more of political patronage than anything that has been done in the Australian Parliament since its inauguration.
.- The amendment opens up a very wide and important question, which I do not propose to traverse, except in a few words. It is an amendment worthy of the closest attention. It goes much further than the original proposition, since it aims at extending Imperial information to the people of Australia by securing cheap cable rates. An honorable member, such as myself, who disagrees with the too keen extension of Government activities might be a little frightened by the project of owning a cable across the Atlantic; but, after very careful consideration of the facts as submitted by the honorable member for Echuca, I have come to the conclusion that this country can adopt no alternative but that suggested by him. He has pointed out clearly that, while the cost of traversing the Pacific is only 2d. per word, the cost across the Atlantic is sd. per word. If we could regulate the companies doing business across the Atlantic I should be prepared to regulate them rather than to accept the responsibility of the ownership of a cable. But to regulate those companies is obviously outside our powers, and, consequently, I am forced to the conclusion that we should endeavour to cheapen the cost of transmitting cables across the Atlantic - the high charges being due, no doubt, to some particular combine - by owning the cable across the Pacific. If we could regulate the combine, I am satisfied that it would be cheaper and better in the public interests to do so, and so bring down the charges ; but we cannot do that, and we are forced to take the choice of one of two alternatives - either to accept the ultimatum of the cable companies, or to ourselves run a service more cheaply, agreeing to suffer whatever loss results. I cannot see why there should be such a difference between the cost of transmitting a cable across the Atlantic and across the Pacific, seeing that the distances are greater on the Pacific, and the use of the cable is less.
– One is private enterprise, and the other State-owned.
– That has nothing to do with the matter. Private enterprise ought to be regulated ; and it is because this Government cannot regulate the Atlantic companies that I am prepared to accept the responsibility of adopting a project that aims at owning a cable from Canada to England in the interests of the people of_ Australia. I am sure my honorable friends opposite would be the last to restrict the extension of Government powers, and this Government project will mean that the actual cost of cabling from London to Australia will be 6d. per word in place of 9d. Then we are faced with the problem of the land charges at this end. Why should it cost 5CI. per word to send a press telegram from the terminal port in Queensland, when it costs only 2d. a word to send across Canada? In Australia we have Government enterprise, while in Canada I am inclined to think we have leased a line in conjunction with other Governments. What this Government, in conjunction with other Governments, can do for 2d. over a distance of 3,000 miles, the Australian authority, presided over by the genius of the present PostmasterGeneral, cannot do for less than 5d., over an infinitely shorter distance. We might well consider the question of granting cheap communication to the people of Australia. I am not at liberty, under your ruling, sir, to traverse the broad principles of the amendment before the Chair, but I submit that it is infinitely preferable to institute a cable service which will give cheap cables to every would-be user, than to merely pamper one section of the community to the detriment of others. I hope that the Government will accept the broad, statesmanlike proposal of the honorable member for Echuca, which may induce the people ‘of this country, by the dissemination of more information at cheaper rates, to think Imperially. One thing which strikes an Australian like myself on visiting Canada is that that country has far more European information than we have, though it may be of equal importance to Australia to know what the rest of the world is doing. Whatever means we may adopt, legitimately and fairly, for broadening Australian knowledge of European questions, the better it will be for Australia; and I implore the Minister to accept the amendment of the honorable member for Echuca.
.- The particular amendment now before us is one of perhaps greater importance than any proposal we have had for some time, and I believe that the House is unanimously behind the sentiment therein expressed. The merits of the claim are so obvious, while the inequalities and injustice of the present charges are so palpable, so much of the remedy being in our own hands, that I hope the Minister will be able to put an end to the debate by frankly accepting it.
– - How long has the honorable member known that?
– We have had this proposal put forward from time to time, and if it is necessary to call for the correspondence on the subject with the Government of Canada, the High Commissioner, and other authorities to whom we appealed, a very substantial pile will be found. With reference to the Australian charges to which particular _ attention has been directed, my impression is that we were not free to deal with them until we disposed of the bookkeeping system. I believe, however, that we are free now, and, therefore, ‘ an opportunity has at length arisen by which we may deal. at once with the question at this end where we have control.
– With the knowledge that the honorable member has, does he assert that we are now free to do so?
– I do not assert that; but say that, with the close of the bookkeeping period, and the alteration made and making in the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States, it appears to me that this is a fitting opportunity to reconsider the question. I am inclined to believe that the causes which made _ it practically impossible for us to deal with it before are, or will be, removable, and, I think, will be and ought to be removed. I do not wish to prolong the debate; in point of fact, I rose to appeal to the Minister to shorten it, if he can, by indicating the attitude of the Government, of which, I may say, I have very little doubt, as there appears to me only one attitude possible.
– I need hardly say that the Government are in sympathy with the amendment moved by the honorable member for Echuca, particularly that part which has reference to an endeavour to make some alteration in the conditions of the land line service across Canada now in private hands, and also in the service across the Atlantic which is also in private hands. The idea of having an “ All-Red “ route is one that appeals to us, and one which we have used every possible endeavour to bring about ; and to further which, I may add, we are prepared to do a great deal more.
– We do not know anything about what has been done.
– The honorable member cannot know every detail of administration ; but if a question had been asked on the matter, information could have been supplied as to the steps being taken. The land charge of 5d. per word is, of course, a different matter, and I know there are some difficulties; though what these are I am not in a position tonight to say. One trouble is owing to the agreement between the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company and the South Australian Government - at any rate, that has been my impression all along.
– In the case of press telegrams, the land charge is only id. per word.
– But are there not other charges ?
– The cost of a press telegram from England is od. a word, and the landing charge is id. ; and it is in the case of the ordinary social or commercial telegrams at 3s. a word that a landing charge of sd. is made.
– That throws an entirely new light on the suggestion, of the honorable member for Echuca. Instead of there being an outrageous landing charge of 5d. per word on press messages, we now learn that the charge is only id., so that the reform of iniquitous conditions demanded by the honorable member is not required. I believe, however, that the charge on press messages was at one time 5d. per word, or, at any rate, a great deal more than it is now. I admit that the charge of 5d. per word is very heavy, and, on the face of it, unreasonable; but I think the reason -for it has to do particularly with South Australian interests in the long land line. The telegrams by the Pacific route would have been so much cheaper that the long land line would have fallen out of use; and I suppose that is the reason for the heavy charge. How ever, that is a matter which can be inquired into much more fully; and if the Government, bearing in mind revenue considerations, can reduce it-
– It must be remembered that in private messages on which 5d. per word is charged, code words are allowed, so that one word may really mean twenty words.
– The Government have no desire that any unfair charges should be made to the community, but, rather, that every possible effort should be made to enable the people ‘to get their press telegrams at the cheapest possible rate. So far as the terminal charge on ordinary telegrams is concerned, the Government will take it into consideration, and see if there is any possibility of lowering it at an early date. Every step will be taken to carry out the object of the honorable member’s amendment ; indeed, every step has already been taken, and it is difficult to see what more we can do.
– The land line in Canada is in the hands of the Pacific Cable Board.
– They lease it from the Canadian Pacific Railway.
– But for five years it is practically as if it had been built by ourselves.
– There has been a very fair debate on this question, and I hope honorable members are now prepared to come to a decision. I view the suggestion of the honorable member for Echuca with sympathy, but it is quite unnecessary, of course, to tack it on to the motion.
.- I have1 listened with interest to trie vain attempts of the Opposition to make out a case against the Government. The motion is merely a proposition to grant relief to persons who, to-day, are penalized by reason of conditions brought into existence through an arrangement between Ministers of the Crown in a State and a certain company. An agreement made in the past with’ the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company, of which some of those who have spoken to-night can have no knowledge, was wrong, and has acted detrimentally to the interests of the Commonwealth. *
– The honorable member is now addressing himself to the general subject.
– I am trying to show that the Government is forced to take the action under discussion in order to relieve a section of the community from disabili- ties caused by an agreement with the Eastern Extension Cable Company.
– There is an amendment before the Chair.
– It has to do with the establishment of acable service by an “ All-Red “ route.’ We have not been able to establish an “ All-Red “ cable service hitherto, because of the agreement to which I refer, the Commonwealth being tied up in a contract which, if not indissoluble, can be dissolved only at very great expense, though, ultimately, that expense will have to be met. Until we have become masters of the situation, we cannot make the reform proposed, but we can relieve a large section of the public of the disabilities under which it suffers by reason of the monopoly in the distribution of cable news.
– The honorable member is now dealing with the question generally. I ask him to confine himself to the amendment.
– I think that what I am saying is relevant to the amendment. The existence of practically a monopoly makes it impossible to have an “ All-Red “ route, but in the meantime we should give relief to those who are labouring under disadvantages. As I cannot deal with the question generally, I may announce, for the information of the House, that the subject has been closely inquired into by the Royal Commission appointed to deal with it and other matters, and that the Commission’s report will shortly be before Parliament. The Commission makes certain recommendations regarding the means best suited for the attainment of the object which the’ Government has in view, and I think that when honorable members see the report and the evidence on which it is based they will not hesitate to adopt the Government’s proposal for establishing a better, more independent, and cheaper cable service for the supply of news than we now have. Obviously, we must all be in favour of an “ All-Red “ cable service. That, with other important matters, is dealt with in the report of the Postal Commission, which will be available within a few weeks, and I hope that even the members of the Opposition will then be satisfied as to the wisdom of the action which I trust that the Government will take on that report.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.32 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 August 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1910/19100818_reps_4_56/>.