4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Accompanied by honorable members, I . waited on His Excellency the Governor-General in the Library yesterday, and presented to him the AddressinReply to His Excellency’s Speech on the opening of Parliament agreed to by this House on Friday last, to which His Excellency was pleased to make the following reply : -
It gives me great pleasure to receive your Address-in-Reply to the Speech delivered by me on the occasion of the opening of the third session of the Fourth Parliament of the Commonwealth. I thank you for your expression of loyalty to Our Most Gracious Sovereign.
I anticipate with confidence that the result of your considerations of the measures to be submitted to Parliament will prove of great benefit to the people of Australia.
Arbitration Proceedings - Postage Stamp Designs - Railway Posting fees.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral make available to honorable members a copy of the claim lodged in the Arbitration Court by the linemen and letter-carriers, together with a statement of any objections which may have been lodged by the Department?
Mr.FRAZER. - There is no objection to that being done.
– Has the honorable gentleman finally determined the design for the Commonwealth postage stamp? Does he intend to adhere to the Spartan simplicity first suggested?
– The Government has finally determined the design of the postage stamp.
– In view of the great dissatisfaction caused by the practice of the Department in charging extra for letters posted on railways as if they were late letters, will he reconsider his determination in the matter?
– The subject is now engaging my attention.
-Referring to the question asked by the honorable member for Echuca relative to late fee charges for the posting of letters on railways in Victoria, I wish to ask the Postmaster-General whether, when fulfilling his promise to consider the matter, he will take into account the fact that similar charges have always hitherto been made in the other States, and will sec that the rates are made uniform in all of the States.
– I have promised to look into the matter, and I give my word to the House that the conditions in the Postal Department shall be uniform in all the States.
– Can the Minister of Home Affairs inform the House when the maps showing the electoral redistribution of New South Wales will be ready ?
– We We expect them very shortly. The enrolment is already in.
– When is the honorable gentleman likely to give notice of a motion for the adoption of the Queensland electoral redistribution?
– S - Some time this week.
– Following upon the question asked by the honorable member for Darling Downs, I wish to ask the Minister of Home Affairs if, when he tables the documents referred to, he will place the whole of the papers in connexion with the matter upon the table?
– C - Certainly.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Home Affairs when he proposes to move that the electoral redistribution of the State of Western Australia, as recommended by the Commissioners recently appointed, shall be adopted by this House. There is already notice given of a motion with respect to the division of the State of Victoria, though I understand the division of Western Australia was the first reported upon.
-That wil will be attended to this week also.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether the Government intends to strengthen the hands of the Imperial Government by cooperating, on behalf of the Commonwealth, in protesting to the United States Government against the proposal to give perference to the shipping ofthat country in fixing the. Panama Canal rates?
– This Government, some time ago, in a communication to His Majesty’s Government, stated that Ministers desired to be associated in any protest that might be made against differential . rates. I understand that the strength of the case lies in the treaty conditions to which the two countries have subscribed.
– I understand that the New Zealand Minister of Customs has stated that he is considering the proposals of the Prime Minister in regard to the extension of reciprocal trade between this country and the Dominion. I wish to know the extent of the proposals, and what they cover.
– I am not in a position to answer the question; but I have stated frequently in this House and out of it that, personally, I see no reason for any limitation on reciprocity with New Zealand. Negotiations on the subject are now passing between the two Governments.
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs make available to honorable members the papers in connexion with the tendering for sleepers for the overland railway ?
– No; No; because they have not yet been dealt with.
– Is it the intention of the Minister of External Affairs to offer rewards for the discovery of new mineral fields in the Northern Territory? If so, when will he advertise them?
– It is our intention to offer rewards, and it will be done immediately the mining Ordinances are ready.
– It is reported that, on the opening of the Commonwealth Savings Bank yesterday, the Prime Minister deposited and was handed the first pass-book that was issued. Asked afterwards whether he had anything to say, he is reported to have remarked : “ No, nothing. I am here simply as a depositor.” It was suggested that this was the best way of showing confidence, to which his reply was: “I should think so. I may say that there is every reason for the soundest confidence in the bank.” I ask the right honorable gentleman if the report is correct; and if the depositing of £1 by him may be taken as an indication of the soundest confidence in the bank ?
– Happily, the newspaper report this time is substantially correct. Personally, I should prefer a savings bank with one milliondepositors each holding £1 than one with£1,000,000 in deposits to the credit of a few depositors. I have no doubt at all about the success of the institution, and hope that the industrious and thrifty will find it convenient to deposit there their shillings and pounds, instead of waiting to accumulate such sums as could be deposited by honorable members opposite.
– I wish toask the Prime Minister, without notice, whether he has read a report in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of a speech delivered by the honorable member for Parramatta at a
Liberal Conference in which, according to the newspaper, he said -
This year the Labour party had£12,000,000 more revenue than the preceding year, and had spent it like toffs.
I wish to ask the Prime Minister to say whether it is a fact that the Government had £12,000,000 more revenue than was received in the preceding year to spend, and whether it has been spent ?
– I did not say what has been attributed to me at all.
– I am quite unable to answer the question of the honorable member for Maribyrnong, as I presume that the quotation he has made is a misreport.
– That is so.
– I am sure that the honorable member for Parramatta could never have made use of the words “ spent it like toffs.”
– Since we last met I received a letter from the Auditor-General which I propose to lay upon the table, but in view of the importance of the matter with which it deals, I may, perhaps, be permitted, with the consent of the House, to read it.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– The letter is as follows -
Commonwealth of Australia,
Audit Office, Melbourne. 13th July, 1912.
Dear Mr. Fisher,
I think it is only proper for me to write and express my regret for the error which crept into my Annual Report for1911-12. with respect to the amount of notes in circulation on14th November,1911.
On that day I took account of the gold reserve; on the 16th November, I left Melbourne for Sydney and Brisbane; and in the meantime my Senior Examiner counted the notes and made his report, showing the circulation accurately - £9,929,013. By arrangement this was wiredto me to Brisbane, where I was at work on my draft report. I wrote a memo on my draft thus -
I did not return to Melbourne until 7th Decemberlast. In my office some one wrote a memo. showing the “ circulation “ on 14th November, 1911, as £10,076,335 (which included the Teller’s holding), and that was typed instead of my own figure. As my secretary is at present in Papua, I cannot clear the matter up. I do not, however, desire to shelter myself behind my officers, and you may use this letter as you desire, and I fully accept the responsibility.
The paragraph in my report is so buried in the mass of matter that none of us would ever have discovered the error unless studying the whole critically for any particular purpose. I am very sorry if you have suffered any inconvenience or annoyance in this connexion.
Yours most sincerely,
I think it was only fair to the AuditorGeneral and to myself that his letter should be made public as soon as possible.
– I wish to ask the PrimeMinister whether heis satisfied with the explanation of the AuditorGeneral that somebody has made a mistake. Does the right honorable gentleman think that that is a sufficiently explicit and proper explanation to give to this House?
Mr.FISHER. - The position of the Auditor-General is such that I do not feel that I should answer a question of that kind without due consideration. He has made the amends that would have been expected of him in the circumstances. My hope is that the erroneous statement referred to will not get abroad without the explanation of it.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether he will lay upon the table all the papers in connexion with the proposal for the transfer of the Victoria Barracks, Sydney, to Double Bay?
– I - I shall see that the whole of the papers are placed on the table of the Library for the perusal of honorable members.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will lay on the table of the House a return showing -
The number of appointments made by the Government in the last two years with salaries over £300 per annum?
The salary of each officer so appointed?
– In answer to thehonorable member’s questions the following return is submitted: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice-
– The answers to the hon orable member’s questions are : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
If he will inform the House of all the addresses and names of the officers of the various Departments of the Commonwealth where the citizens, of Melbourne seeking work can be registered for employment?
– It is presumed temporary employment is referred to. The following are the names and addresses : -
The Commonwealth Public Service Inspector for Victoria, Customs House, Melbourne.
The Chief Clerk, Department of External Affairs, Melbourne.
The Naval Secretary, Navy Office, Lonsdalestreet, Melbourne.
The Controller of Stores, Ordnance Stores, Victoria Barracks, Melbourne.
The Manager of the Cordite Factory, Maribyrnong.
The Manager of the Clothing Factory, South Melbourne.
The Manager of the Harness Factory, Roseneathstreet, Clifton Hill.
For work as female office cleaner - Secretary, Department of Home Affairs, Russell-street, Melbourne.
For work as artisans or labourers - Works Director for Victoria, Department of Home Affairs, 151 Collins-street, Melbourne.
For work as temporary watchman - Collector of Customs, Customs House, Flinders-street, Melbourne.
For casual employment - Deputy PostmasterGeneral, General Post Office, Melbourne.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will amend the Public Service Act so that it will permit of the large number of officers nowemployed temporarily in the Federal Land Tax Department being made permanent?
– This matter is now under consideration.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he give instructions for the issue of a small nickel coin, having a hole in the centre, similar to the coins in use on the Continent of Europe and elsewhere, the said coin to be legal tender of the same value as the large copper penny at present in use in Australia?
– The Government are in favour of nickel instead of copper coinage, and will embrace any opportunity they can to make it available.
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the published statement of considerable discontent among Government employés in Papua, the salaries paid to such are controlled by the Federal Government; and, if not, will he take steps to regulate such allowances and salaries in view of the fact that the Commonwealth has to meet an annual and increasing Papuan deficit?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is : -
The salaries paid to Government employés in Papua are fixed by the local Executive Council, subject to the approval of the Minister. They are regulated according to the value’ of work performed, and are not affected by the fact that the local revenues are insufficient to meet the expenses of the Government without aid from Commonwealth funds.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Will he place all the correspondence connected with the appointment of Mr. Chinn as Engineer on the Trans-Australian Railway, on the table of this House?
– I - I will place the papers on the table of the Library for the perusal of honorable members.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : - 1 and 2. Yes. In July, 1908, Mr. Louis Brennan approached the then Prime Minister with a view to securing assistance from the Commonwealth Government in the development of his invention of the mono-rail, and offered terms similar to those which were then operating under an agreement made between the Government of India and the inventor. 3 and 4. Yes. The opinion of experts as to the possible value of the invention and its utility to the Commonwealth have from time to time been obtained. No determination has, however, yet been arrived at.
” Warrego” - Scottish Regiments : Kilt - Cadet Competitions - Saddlery and Harness Factory - Dirigible Balloons in Warfare.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
What was the date of the arrival in Sydney of the parts of the Warrego?
– The following information is furnished as to Warrego shipments : -
First shipment. - Ship Ajax; left United Kingdom, 6th August, 1910; arrived at Sydney, 3rd October, 1910.
Second shipment. - Ship Idomeneus ; left United Kingdom, 27th August, 1910; arrived at Sydney early in November, 1910.
Third shipment. - Ship Cyclops; arrived at Sydney, nth November,1910.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Is it a fact, as reported in the press, that the Minister for Defence has decreed the abolition of the kilt in connexion with the Scottish regiments in the Australian Military Forces ; and, if so, will he ascertain whether the Minister is willing to reconsider the matter, in view of the national honorable traditions associated with the picturesque Scottish uniform?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is : -
The approved scheme of re-organization as recommended by Lord Kitchener requires that all persons liable for military training should be enrolled in the battalion raised in the locality in which they reside. The division of the Commonwealth into battalion areas provides for the higher military organization of brigades and divisions, and no provision is made for national regiments. Each existing national regiment, as a whole, has been allotted to a Territorial Battalion and Brigade Area, from which it will be augmented by annual quotas from the Senior Cadets in the same manner as other Infantry units. The cadets thus transferred will not be intermixed with existing companies, but will be kept apart as additional companies, with officers and non-commissioned officers promoted from existing national regiments.
The members of the regiments as they existed prior to 1st July will wear their distinctive uniform until their period of enlistment expires. It is obvious that any departure from one universal pattern of uniform would mean a prohibitive expenditure.
The following shows the allotment approved, viz. : -
New South Wales Scottish Rifle Regiment. - Battalion area 25th, to be known as 25th Infantry.
The St. George’s English Rifle Regiment. - Battalion area 31st, to be known as 31st Infantry.
The New South Wales Irish Rifle Regiment.Battalion area 33rd, to be known as 33rd Infantry.
Victorian Scottish Regiment. - Battalion area 52nd, to be known as 52nd Infantry.
South Australian Scottish Infantry (only two companies). - Battalion area 76th, to be known as 76th Infantry.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
What were the dates respectively -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
Mr. W. ELLIOT JOHNSON (for Mr. Ryrie) asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
Seamen’s Compensation Act : Medical Referee - Tariff Revision - Moisture in Butter - Customs Act Amendment Bill - Live Stock Importations : Reciprocity with South Africa - Quarantine.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Is it true, as stated in the Melbourne Argus (page 10) and Melbourne Age (page 7) of 25th June, that he, during a speech at Castlemaine on Saturday, 22nd ultimo, said : - “ The Government would be willing to open the Tariff when the workmen were safeguarded in the same manner as the employers.”?
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
The following table shows the average moisture contents in butters tested for export from the Commonwealth and New Zealand during the past three years : -
As the samples tested are taken from butters in which the moisture appears excessive, it may be safely said the average moisture contents of all butters exported is considerably below the figures given.
The two chief butter-producing States of the Commonwealth have both a 15 per cent, maximum moisture limit for butter sold for local consumption, this having been the law in Victoria since 1906.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon, notice -
What is the maximum percentage of moisture allowed in butter imported into Germany, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Norway, Denmark, and the United States of America?
– Regulations for the sale of butter are enforced in the countries included hereunder restricting the moisture contents as set out, but there is no indication as to whether these, standards apply to imports -
Denmark - 16 per cent. maximum (unless marked “Water Butter”).
U.S.A. - 16 per cent maximum.
Belgium - 18 per cent, maximum (unless declared).
Germany - (salted), 16 per cent, maximum. British Consul reports it is usually sold with from 8 per cent, to 14 per cent.
Germany (unsalted) - 18 per cent.
France. - The latest report - 1910 - states that no special legislation exists.
Norway. - No particulars at present available.
Switzerland. - No particulars at present available.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will he briefly state what are the chief alterations in or additions to the Customs Act that are to be embodied in the proposed Customs Act Amendment Bill referred to in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech ?
– The Amending Bill deals with certain necessary alterations of the machinery clauses of the present Act for the protection of the revenue and in respect to* prohibited imports.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
asked the’ Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are - 1 and 2. The action for the taking over of the system of quarantine was taken, not under section 69 of the Constitution, but by legislation and subsequent arrangement between the then
Minister of Trade and Customs and the State Premiers’ Conference, in August, 1909, when the following resolution was adopted : - “ That it is desirable that the Commonwealth should take over quarantine stations other than those exclusively used for animals and plants, together with all officers engaged solely in such quarantine work.”
The whole system of quarantine operating in the States on the day of proclaiming the Act - July 1st, 1909 - has been taken over from all the States.
Northern Mail Service, Queensland - Postmasters’ Quarters - Tasmanian Mails - District Engineers, New South Wales - Assistant Supervisor, Mail Branch, Sydney
asked the Postmaster-Gene ral, upon notice -
– I have no such intention at present.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
As regards 2, my information is that these inspections are not made without notice, and as they are necessary, it has been decided, as intimated to the honorable member by letter on 2nd May, to continue them.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
- (a) Melbourne-Launceston service. - The Union Steamship Company of New Zealand Ltd., and Huddart Parker and Company Proprietary Limited (joint contractors).
Melbourne-Burnie service. - The Union Steamship Company of New Zealand Limited (contractors).
30th September, 1912.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Sydney, reports as follows : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
In reference to the vacant position of Assistant Supervisor in the Mail Branch, Sydney, is it the intention of the Department to consider applicants from outside the Mail Branch, or will such position be reserved for those in the Mail Branch?
– The Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Sydney, reports that there is no existing vacancy for an assistant supervisor in the Mail Branch, Sydney.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– In reply to the right honorable member, I beg to say -
– Was there no correspondence ?
– A little.
– I asked that the correspondence should be placed upon the table.
– Very well. The appointment of the Governor of the Bank, of course, altered the situation a little.
.- On behalf of yourself, sir, as chairman of the Standing Orders Committee, I have the honour to bring up a report of the Committee recommending a Standing Order on the subject of limiting the time occupied by honorable members in making speeches in the House or in Committee.
Ordered to. be printed.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Defence Act - Regulations amended, &c. (Provisional) -
Universal Training -
Statutory Rules 1912, No. 134.
Statutory Rules 1912, No. 135.
Military Forces -
Statutory Rules 1912, No. 132.
Financial and Allowance Regulations -
Statutory Rules 1912, No. 133.
Statutory Rules 1912, No. 136.
Electoral Act - Tentative recommendation in relation to Divisions of Herbert and Kennedy, State of Queensland, by Mr. W. H. Graham, one of the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the State of Queensland into Electoral Divisions.
Federal Capital - Report of board on the competitive designs for laying out the city.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land leased to G. A. Boreham at Acton, Federal Territory.
Papua - Ordinance No. 7 of 191 1 - Ordinance Interpretation.
Statement in Auditor-General’s Report for 1911-12 re amount of Australian Notes in circulation on 14th November, 191 1.
Motions (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -
That on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday in each week, until otherwise ordered, Government business shall take precedence of all other business; and that on each Thursday until halfpast six o’clock, until otherwise ordered, General business shall take precedence of Government business.
That on Thursday in each week, until otherwise ordered, General business shall be called on in the following order, viz. : -
On one Thursday -
Orders of the Day.
On the alternate Thursday -
Orders of the Day.
Motion (by Mr. Greene) agreed to -
That the request of the Senate, contained in its message No. 1, for the resumption by the House of the consideration of the Banking Companies Reserve Liabilities Bill, be complied with, and that a message be transmitted to the Senate acquainting it therewith.
Motion (by Mr. Tudor) agreed to -
That the request of the Senate, contained in its message No. 2, for the resumption by the House of the consideration of the Navigation Bill, be complied with, and that a message be transmitted to the Senate acquainting it therewith.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Perhaps it is very fortunate that the second reading of this Bill is moved before a time limit to speeches is made, so far as Ministers are concerned. I feel sure that the honorable member for Kooyong would not have liked to be tied down to halfanhour or even to an hour when he was introducing the measure in another place. I do not think that any honorable member in the chamber could do justice to the Bill if he attempted to limit himself to less than an hour.
– Hear, hear ! That is how I feel about all my subjects.
– I have no doubt that, the honorable member does feel that way about some subjects with which he has to deal, but in view of the fact that this is the longest Bill which has ever been submitted to this Parliament - and I believe a Navigation Bill is practically the longest measure submitted to anyother Parliament where the subject has been dealt with - I think that the honorable member will recognise the difference between it and perhaps some of those which he had in his mind when he interjected. I believe that the Bill has been considerably altered from, time to time. It consists now of 424 clauses and three schedules, and, notwithstanding that fact, it is only about half the size of the Merchant Shipping Act, which it very largely follows. Between 1840 and 1894 no fewer than eighty-one Bills relating to merchant shipping were passed by the British Parliament. It was - extremely difficult at the end of that time to find out exactly what the law was unless members of the House of Commons or those interested in the Acts knew exactly what amendments had been made. We should be in precisely the same position if in this measure we attempted to make an amendment in one part without considering how it might affect a provision in another part. To remove this uncertainty as to the state of the Imperial law, in 1894 the various Acts were consolidated, and the consolidating measure was known as the Merchant Shipping Act of 1894. This contains no less than 748 sections and twenty-two schedules, and has been accepted practically as the basis of all shipping laws passed in British Colonies, and also to a great extent in foreign countries, particularly in the United States. Although the consolidation of the Imperial shipping law took place in 1894, I think that in nearly every session of the British Parliament since that time there have been amendments of the Act made, principally in 1906, immediately before the Navigation Conference was held in London.
– That had nothing to do with the Conference.
– At any rate, since that time there have been other amendments. This Bill is to be administered by the Department of Trade and Customs. In Great Britain the Merchant Shipping Acts are administered by the Board of Trade; in New Zealand by the Marine Department under the Minister of Marine ; and in Canada by the Department of Marine and Fisheries under the Minister of Marine and Fisheries. Those of us who have had the privilege of being in this Parliament since the beginning of Federation will remember the chequered history of this measure. It was originally drafted under the direction of the late Honorable Charles Cameron Kingston, who, as many of us know, ceased to be a member of the first Government in’ 1903. The work was carried out by Dr. Wollaston, who is an authority on the subject. In 1904 the Bill was read a first time in the Senate on the motion of Senator Drake, but was withdrawn in the following month. In June, 1904, a Royal .Commission was appointed to examine the Bill and report. That Commission consisted of the present Attorney-General, the Honorable Dugald Thomson, then member for North Sydney, the Honorable William Knox, then member for Kooyong, the present honorable member for Darling Downs, Senator Guthrie, Senator de Largie, Senator Macfarlane, Mr. G. B. Edwards, and Mr. Samuel Mauger. Those who have taken the trouble to read the report of the Commission will give the Commissioners every credit for the great work they were able to do. One thing will be admitted, and that is the practical unanimity of the Commissioners on the important points of the measure. With the exception of, I think, two or three recommendations, the Commission was unanimous. The minority report dealt largely with the coasting trade, and one Commissioner only, Senator Macfarlane, dissented from the other eight - on the question of rebates. In 1905 it was proposed by the Imperial Government that a. Conference should be held by representatives of the British, Australian, and New Zealand Governments; and that Conference was held in London in 1907. Australia was represented by the honorable member for Hume, who was then Minister of Trade and Customs, the present AttorneyGeneral, and Mr. Dugald Thomson, and they were accompanied by Dr. Wollaston.
– Have the recommendations of the Royal Commission been observed in the Bill?
– I shall say exactly how many recommendations of the Commission have been adopted. Instead of laying a paper on the table, I propose to read a document which has been prepared showing how each recommendation made by the Royal Commission has been dealt with.
– The Minister is aware that the Bill deals with State and Federal shipping as if the Commonwealth had complete jurisdiction.
– I shall deal with that point later on. I do not happen to be of the same profession as the honorable member, and, therefore, I speak merely as a layman. But I remind honorable members that even lawyers disagree as to the powers of the Commonwealth in regard to this and other matters. The report of the Royal Commission was presented to this Parliament in April of the same year. That Commission took evidence in every State of the Commonwealth, and examined 163 witnesses. On that evidence they made forty-four recommendations. Recommendation No. 3 was -
That the following improvements in accommodation are desirable : -
120 cubic feet of air space per man. (The Bill provides for 140 feet.)
– Does that refer to coasting shipping as well as other shipping ?
– I shall deal with that point when I come to it. The honorable member can read the report of the Royal Commission just as well as I can.
– I merely desired to suggest a short cut.
– If I am led away by interjections, I am more likely to find a long “ cut.”
– The Minister will see that if the recommendations are conditional we ought to know that now.
– I refer the honorable member to the clauses in the Bill from which he can see what is proposed.
– I know the clauses - I have studied the Bill - but I desire to know whether the Minister is treating this particular recommendation as an unconditional one.
– There is great temptation to be led away, and to show what has been done elsewhere since these recommendations were made, but I shall deal with that point later. As I say, recommendation 3, and the clauses of the Bill in which it is dealt with-
– Is the honorable member dealing with proposed amendments ?
– I think it will assist honorable members if I read a list of the recommendations of the Navigation Commission which have been adopted, and the particular clauses in which they have been incorporated in the Bill.
– I ask the question because I may have to stop honorable members from debating the details of the clauses on the second reading.
– The list is as follows-
*Recommendation 3. - That the following improvements in accommodation are desirable : -
Clauses in the Bill - 136 (1) (a). - (a) 120 cubic feet of air space per man. (The Bill provides for140 feet.) 136 (1) (b). - (b) Efficient ventilation in sleeping quarters. 136 (3). - (c) Bathrooms supplied with hot water for engineers, firemen and others on steamships. 136 (1) (c). - (d) Adequate lighting of forecastles by day and night. 117 and Sch. III. *Rec. 4. That the scale of provisions as per Appendix A be adopted.
Rec. 5. That ships show their victualling bills for each voyage (may be called for aspart of the ship’s papers, under section 119, *Customs Act 1901). (121). - *Rec. 6. That cooks be certificated. (75-76). - *Rec. 7. That seamen be entitled to receive two-thirds of the wages earned by them at any port where the ship calls for trading purposes. (44). - Rec. 8. That all seamen be engaged only through a Government officer - the Superintendent. (99). -Rec. 9. That imprisonment for desertion be abolished. (67-68). - Rec. 10. That advance notes be abolished, and allotment notes restricted to relations only. (11). - *Rec. 11. That a manning scale for officers be adopted. (41). - *Rec. 12. That a manning scale for seamen, as provided in the Bill, be adopted. (11). - *Rec. 13. That a manning scale for engineers be adopted.
Sch. II. - *Rec. 15. That the basis of a manning scale for firemen be 3½ tons of coal per day per man. (423). - *Rec. 1 6. That a committee be appointed to adjust anomalies arising under the proposed manning scales, such committee to comprise one representative from the owners, one from the crew, and a neutral Government expert.
(1). -Rec. 17. That seamen be not rated as A.B.’s unless they have had four years’ experience before the mast. (This recommendation was discussed by the Imperial Navigation Conference, and the following resolution unanimously agreed to : - “ 7. Rating. - That no seaman should be permitted to engage as A.B. on board any British ship who cannot show that he is entitled to that rating, and that the period of service qualification should be three years.”
Of this resolution the Royal Commission approved.).
*Recommendations limited to -
Ships licensed to trade on the Australian coast.
Ships continuously trading to any port in the Commonwealth, whose articles are drawn out in the Commonwealth, and whose final port of discharge of crew is in the Commonwealth.
Recommendation limited to -
All desertions in Australia from any vessels.
Desertions from Australian ships abroad.
Clauses in the Bill -
(2). -Rec.18. That seamen be not rated as O.S.’s unless they have had one year’s experience before the mast. (331). - Rec. 22. That all pilots (with the possible exception of those in the Torres Straits service) become public servants. (351). (1). -Rec.24.That pilots be liable to the extent of £100 for accidents caused through want of skill or neglect. (351) (2). - Rec. 25. That the Commonwealth be exempt from liability for accidents to vessels whilst in charge of pilots. (133). - Rec. 28. That vessels with 100 passengers on voyages of five days or over, carry a medical man. (287), (289). - Rec. 31. That the coastal trade of the Commonwealth be reserved for ships on the Australian Register, or ships conforming to Australian conditions, and licensed to trade on the Australian coast. (286, proviso). - Rec. 32. That pending the connexion of the railway systems of Western Australia and South Australia, British mail steamers carrying passengers between those Status be exempt from the proposed reservation. (287). - Rec. 33. That subsidized foreign ships be prohibited from participating in the Australian coastal trade. (211-213). - Rec. 35. That no ship be permitted to leave an Australian port unless conforming to the standard of seaworthiness suggested in the Navigation Bill. (220). - *Rec. 36. That schedules of life-saving appliances be drawn up, and the standard conformed to. (210). - *Rec. 37. That all vessels (including ferry steamers) constructed after the passing of the Navigation Bill be fitted with water-tight compartments. (223,225, 23s). - Rec. 38. That all ships be marked with a load-line as provided in the Merchant Shipping Act, an exception to be made in favour of ships belonging to countries whose load-lines are accepted by the Board of Trade. (225). - Rec. 39. That the present Imperial law *re load-lines be adopted ; but power be given to the Minister to fix as (1) the seasons of the year, (2) the nature of the voyage, (3) the nature of the cargo may demand, when the ship may not be submerged below her winter mark. [This question was among those considered by the Imperial Navigation Conference, which adopted the following resolution : - “ 17. Load-line. - That the Commonwealth adopt the provisions of the New Zealand Act regarding load-line.”
Passed by Conference; the British delegates abstaining from voting, on the ground that, as the New Zealand Act gives no power to alter the Board of Trade -mark imposed on any ship, the matter appeared one for the decision of the Commonwealth Government.
Commission approved; Senator Guthrie dissenting.] (191). - Rec. 40. That the survey of ships be intrusted to men who are experts in the matters upon which they are called to report. (135, 120, 125, 414, 241). - Rec. 41. That there be adequate inspection of accommodation, provisions, drugs, life-saving equipment, and all that pertains to seaworthiness ; and also of gear used in the loading and stowage of cargo. (12). - Rec. 42. That drivers of oil and electric launches be licensed.
Recommendations limited to -
Ships licensed to trade on the Australian coast.
Ships continuously trading to any port in the Commonwealth, whose articles are drawn out in the Commonwealth, and whose final port of discharge of crew is in the Commonwealth.
The recommendations of the Commission, which are not incorporated in the Bill, are the following -
Recommendation 19. - That a scheme of compulsory insurance for seamen is desirable.
This is considered to be outside the scope of the Navigation Bill -
Recommendation 21. - That the Sea Carriage of Goods Act remain as at present.
No action is considered necessary in regard to that recommendation -
Recommendation 26. - That the cabins occupied by persons suffering from consumption and other infectious or contagious diseases be fumigated and scientifically cleansed.
That hasbeen provided for in the Quarantine Act 1908. Consequently there is no necessity to provide for it in this Bill -
Recommendation 27. - That in cases of serious accidents or sickness aboard, ships make for most easily reached port where the necessary medical attention can be obtained. (Recommendation limited to (a) ships registered in Australia, () ships licensed to trade on (lie Australian coast, and *(c) ships continuously trading to any port in the Commonwealth, whose articles are drawn out in the Commonwealth, and whose final port of discharge of crew is in the Commonwealth.)
Provision is made in the Bill, clause 133, for carrying a medical man or person certificated for first aid. It is considered inexpedient to impose such serious liability on our own ships when others outside our jurisdiction would escape -
Recommendation 20. - That the Commonwealth take over the control of the quarantine system.
That has been provided for under the Quarantine Act -
Recommendation 30. - That all lighthouses, beacons, and buoys, except those within th, limits of ports, be taken over by the Commonwealth.
That has been provided for in the Lighthouse Act 1911 -
Recommendation 34. - That it be made illegal to give rebates of freight where such are conditional on exclusive shipping by a certain vessel or vessels.
That is considered to be outside the scope of the Navigation Bill -
Recommendation ‘ 43. - That an Australian Royal Naval Reserve be formed.
Recommendation 44. - That arrangements be made with the State Governments to provide for nautical school ships at various ports in the Commonwealth.
These were considered to be matters for special legislation or arrangement, and to be outside the scope of a Navigation Bill. After the final report of the Commission had been presented in 1907, a Bill was introduced by the honorable member for Kooyong, who was then Vice-President of the Executive Council, in the Senate. That measure, however, was not proceeded with, though the honorable member made a second-reading speech, which I have had the pleasure of reading. A year later, in 1 008. a Bill was again introduced. In his second-reading speech the honorable member said that the question had been long enough under consideration, and ought to be got out of the way. What the honorable member for Kooyong found good reason for saying in 1908 I certainly can say with better reason in 1912. I consider that we ought to pass this measure as soon as possible. The honorable member denounced the Opposition on that occasion for saying this was premature legislation. Indeed his remarks were verygood, and he will do well to keep them in mind on the present occasion. On this occasion the Bill reached the Committee stage, and the Senate dealt with it as far as clause 17. But nothing further was done until 1910, during the present Parliament, when the Minister of Defence in the Senate introduced the Bill which honorable members have now before them. Not only have we had the benefit of the evidence obtained by the Royal Commission, the recommendations of that body, and the consideration given to the subject by the Imperial Conference, but we have also had a number of communications with the Board of Trade. The Board of Trade made a great number of suggestions, and I have caused to be prepared a list showing the recommendations made - totalling, I think, forty-two - the number which have been agreed to, the number in respect of which a compromise has been effected and those in regard to which we are still in disagreement with the Board. I do not think that a dozen recommendations now remain in respect of which we are in disagreement with the Board of Trade.
– And I think that the Board of Trade has practically abandoned a goodly proportion of that number.
– Some of them have been abandoned by the Board. In dealing with a measure of this kind, which has been so long delayed, we have experience on our side, and the Board of Trade, within the last few months, unfortunately has had lessons that will make it perhaps more sympathetic towards advanced legislation of this character than it might otherwise have been. This is more of a Committee Bill than a measure to be made the subject of second-reading speeches. The majority of its provisions have been taken from existing legislation. The honorable member for Parkes raised the question as to how far our power to pass legislation of this character extended, and to that question I propose to direct a little attention. Unlike the honorable member who introduced the first Navigation Bill in the Senate, I am not a member of the legal profession, but we know that lawyers are apt to give different opinions at different times. To-day they will give a certain opinion which they will declare to be correct, and a little later on their view as to its correctness will be greatly shaken.
– That is why they make such good politicians.
– Perhaps that Is so.
– That is how they swell their incomes.
– The honorable member has spoken truly. Section 51 of the Constitution confers upon this Parliament power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to -
Trade and commerce with other countries, and among the States. while section 98 distinctly declares that -
The power of the Parliament to make laws with respect to trade and commerce extends to navigation and shipping. . . .
The High Court, however, declared in the Kalibia case, which arose under the Seamen’s Compensation Act, that if any provision embodied in an Act of this Parliament went beyond our constitutional power, then the Act was invalid.
– The decision did not go quite so far as that. It declared that if that part of the Act in which our constitutional power had been exceeded were not severable from the rest, then the whole Act would be invalid.
– Quite so. I trust that ‘ in this measure we. shall be able to insert a provision that will overcome that difficulty, so that if in any part of it we exceed our constitutional power, the remaining provisions of the Bill shall continue to operate. Nothing is gained by our spending time in passing a Bill if, because of a decision of the High Court that some of its provisions slightly exceed our constitutional power, the whole Act is to cease to have the force of law.
– In the New Zealand Navigation Act there is an express declaration that if any part of it shall be declared invalid the remainder of it shall continue to operate.
– Perhaps we shall be able to provide that, even should any part of the Bill exceed our constitutional power, the remaining provisions shall continue to operate.
– Does the honorable member think that such a provision would hold good, in view of the decision of the High Court?
– I think we should be able to do something to. provide against the difficulty. The High Court held in the Kalibia case that we had no power to control shipping trade carried on exclusively within the limits of a State. We still have power, however, to impose such conditions as to the using of the national waterways as will insure the safety of navigation ; that is to say, in regard to the rule of the road, lights, signals, and so forth.
– Has the Bill been revised in the light of that decision?
– No; but it will be possible for us to insert in the Bill a clause showing clearly what our desire is in regard to such matters. I do not think it is beyond the power of the Parliament to embody in the Bill provisions covering our full power to legislate in this regard.
– When the Seamen’s Compensation Bill was before the House a clause was drafted to expressly declare that certain parts were severable.
– In view of our experience, I think we ought to be able, in this case, to do even better than we did in connexion with the Seamen’s Compensation Act.
– Will the Minister circulate, as early as possible, the amendment which he has indicated?
– I shall be pleased to circulate, as early as possible, any amendments that I contemplate; but I have already indicated roughly what we hope to do in this regard. This Bill will apply to all Australian-registered ships, wherever they may be, subject to compliance on their part with the local law of the country in whose waters they may happen to be for the time being. Section 5 of the Constitution Act provides that the laws of the Commonwealth shall be enforced on all British ships except the King’s ships of war, whose first port of clearance and whose port of destination are in the Commonwealth. In other words, the laws of the Commonwealth are to apply, and to be enforced on all British ships making round voyages commencing and terminating in the Commonwealth. Foreign ships trading to Australia will also be subject to’ our laws while they are in Commonwealth waters. To return to the objects of the Bill, we know that the sea has largely lost its attraction for Britishers, and that British merchant ships to-day are largely manned by foreigners.
– One witness before the Commission said “ the romance has gone out of the sea.”
– That is so; and I believe that it is largely due to the fact that, yhilst the conditions of workmen on shore have improved - in regard to wages, hours of employment, accommodation, recreation,! and amusement - the lot of seafaring men is little better than it was fifty years ago. I believe that many witnesses examined by the Commission gave evidence to that effect. Happily, the lot of a sailor on an Australian coastal vessel is not as bad as that of sailors on other ships.
– Our Conciliation and Arbitration Act has made an improvement.
– To a large extent, it has; but still, in a number of cases, it will be found that the conditions are not what they ought to be. Honorable, members, whilst travelling by sea, must have found, on visiting the fo’c’sle, that the conditions were not what they expected them to be. Recently when I was travelling at sea, some of my fellow passengers were talking of the men who should be “ tipped,” and a lady ventured the remark that the sailors and firemen ought to be “ tipped “ before any one else, because their work was more disagreeable than that of other members of the crew who ‘came more directly into contact with the passengers. She was probably right in thinking that the sailors and firemen are entitled to more consideration .at the hands of the passengers than they usually receive; but, like all other people, we take more .notice of those with whom we are thrown into direct contact than we do of others.
– Because they perform direct personal services.
– I grant that that is the reason. I believe that when the conditions of seafaring men are as good as those of the workers ashore more men will follow the sea than are prepared to do so at present.
– A report of an English Commission expresses that opinion.
– Yes; and I shall show later on that, since the amendment of the Merchant Shipping. Act in 1906, there has been an increase of British sailors and a corresponding decrease in the number of foreign sailors working on British ships. I do not think there will be any lack of Britishers offering for employment at sea when the conditions are improved. The first aim of the Bill is to improve the lot of the seaman, and to secure fair treatment for him. Until January, 1907, when the amending Merchant Shipping Act of 1906 came into force, the space allotted on British ships to each seaman for this own use was 72 cubic feet, that is a space of the dimensions 6 feet by 6 feet by 2 feet, which was referred to by one of the witnesses before the Navigation Commission as the size of a grave. Under the amending Imperial! Act referred to, the space is 120 cubic feet. I was interviewed some months ago regarding a cablegram .about a proposal to further increase the area, and! pointed out that even the proposed increase would not be equal to the Commonwealth minimum area, namely, 140 cubic feet. Under the Imperial Act of to-day there is allotted to each seaman 120 cubic feet, and with 15 square feet of deck or floor space; but this is inclusive of bathrooms, messrooms, or washing places set apart for the use of the seamen. Our minimum, is 140 cubic feet, exclusive of the conveniences mentioned and 18 square feet of deck space; and, seeing how frequently the accommodation on ships is dark, damp, and badly ventilated., few of us would regard even that space as adequate for our own accommodation. In every ship registered in Australia and engaged in the coastal trade, the accommodation provided for the crew must be above the winter load-line. Speaking from memory, that is a provision, to which the Board of Trade takes objection, holding that it does not matter whether the accommodation is above or below thewinter load-line.
– The Board of Trade has not pushed its objection very strongly.
– I do not think that ‘ it has. It is provided that the seamen’s quarters shall be properly lighted and ventilated, proper lighting and ventilation being, we think, of as much, importance asadequate air space. There must be a separate messroom for the sailors, where they may take their meals in comfort, instead of, as at present, having to eat in the forecastle or on the open deck. Many of us know that the existing conditions under which the men have to eat their meals are often such as should not obtain at the present day. Bathrooms must be provided, and, in steam-ships, hot water for the firemen, greasers, and engineers. Hot water is already provided on some steam-ships, and we think that if should be provided on all, believing that, with good conditions, weshall get good men. Where hot water is not available, firemen coming heated and begrimed from the high temperature of the stokehold have to wash in cold -water, often while exposed on deck. That is not rightHospital accommodation must be provided for sick seamen. A sick sailor has as much right to proper attention as any other person, and should be treated in a hospital bunk, instead of being left in his own bunk in the forecastle. The honorable member for Parkes asked whether we intend ito compel ship-owners to provide this improved1 accommodation on vessels which were built before the Bill comes- into operation. Clause 137 provides that, except in regard to- two matters - the amount of space to be allowed, and’ the situation of the quarters above the winter load-line - the accommodation on all ships must be made to conform with the provisions of the measure, but that, in regard to- these two, if the Minister is satisfied that the accommodation already provided is not insanitary, he may allow the ship to continue to trade. Provision is made that, in. all Australian registered ships and ships engaged under running agreements in the coastal trade, wages shall “be paid to the crews at regular intervals. This, I believe-, is the practice in the Australian shipping trade at the present time. Seamen can get their wages at regular interval’s, and they are not, as is the case with seamen elsewhere, compelled to work for long intervals without getting any wages. Facilities are to be granted by the Post and Telegraph Department for the transmission of seamen’s money-orders. So that, no’ matter in what part of Australia a seaman may be,, it will Ix: possible for him to> send his money home to his family, or to have it paid into his account in a Savings Bank. I doi not know whether, it will yet be stipulated that where a seaman wishes to pay his wages into a Savings Bank the- facilities will be given to enable him to- pay them into the Commonwealth Bank or the Savings Bank of a State. Ministers have not yet considered whether there should be any alteration of the- Bill, in that regard. The seamen’s lien for wages is to be given- priority over every other claim upon ships. This is another point in connexion with which we have been in conflict with the Board of Trade. They held, in accordance with Imperial legislation, that the seaman’s lien for wages should be considered after certain other debts have been paid. In this Bill it is provided that the seaman’s claim for wages shall have priority over every other claim. Under the Merchant Shipping Act, a seaman- does not become entitled to his wages until the completion of his agreement, a term varying from six months to three years. The Royal Commission agreed that in this lay one of the causes of the decline in. the number of British seamen. In their report, the Commission made the following comment on this subject -
Although the rate of wage paid to seamen on foreign-going ships on the mercantile marine of the Commonwealth is somewhat higher than that paid on vessels of most other countries, it. is still considerably less in general than that paid to workers ashore. We are, however, not so much concerned with the rate of wage, as with the manner in which payment is- made. By practice as well as by law, the seaman is not entitled to demand his. wage until the completion of the voyage, or of the period for which he has engaged. This places him in a position of dependence, and has a most demoralizing effect upon his fortunes and character. No matter what length of time he has been on the ship, nor what he may require in the way of clothes or other necessaries, he cannot, legally demand one penny. Other workers receive their wages when earned ; the seaman, who works harder than most men, is not even, entitled to payment at reasonable intervals. Where illfed,, badly housed, and sometimes even illtreated, and to crown all unable to obtain a penny of his wages, it is hardly a matter for surprise if the sailor on such ships’ succumbs to the deteriorating influences of his environment.
The effect, too, of this practice upon the masters and owners is, in some cases,, not less deplorable than upon the seaman. Evidence was given before the Commission, in Newcastle, that one master of a vessel trading to that port made it a boast that he had not paid a man for three years. The incentive to unscrupulous masters and employers to connive at desertion, or even to induce seamen to desert, is under such circumstances considerable. It is not contended that the practice is general’, but that it is not unusual,, the volume of testimony given before your Commission at Newcastle clearly shows.
It is, therefore, recommended that in the foreigngoing trade seamen shall be entitled to receive, at the expiry of one month from the time of shipment, and thereafter at intervals of one month, at any port where the ship calls for trading purposes, two-thirds of the wages earned by them.
This recommendation is supported by the experience and practice of other nations. For instance, the laws of the United1 States and Norway provide for the payment of one-half the- wages earned ; while in Germany,, a- man may claim,, after three months, half the wagesdue to him for that period, or,, if on a timeengagement, when he returns to the port of shipment, wages earned to that date. The. evidence at the disposal of your Commissionersdoes not disclose any increase of desertions as the result of the adoption of this practice; on the contrary, they are assured that they rarely, if ever, occur.
It appears that the practice in the Australian trade is to pay wages to seamen monthly, and the evidence given shows that desertions are most unusual, and that it is no uncommon thing for men to remain in the service of the same employers for years together. With prospects of permanent employment better men are attracted, thriftier habits induced, domestic ties encouraged, and, generally speaking, the seaman compares favorably with the man on shore. In Australian-trade and limited-coasting ships, where the time agreement prevails, the alteration in the law will effect no change in the custom.
The Bill, in clause 75, makes provision in regard to the payment of wages that, in the case of foreign-going ships registered in Australia, the seaman shall be paid, at the prescribed times, his wages or prescribed portions thereof ; and that in cases of failure to make such payments, the seaman shall be entitled to two days’ pay for each day of delay. This corresponds with the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act, and of the New Zealand Act in that regard. In the case of seamen engaged on running agreements in the Australian trade, wages are to be paid monthly, not later than the second day of each month, or thereafter, within twenty-four hours after the ship first arrives at any port in Australia at which there is a bank. That is dealt with in clause 76. Section 63 of the New Zealand Shipping and Seamen Act 1908 requires that, in regard to similar agreements on the New Zealand coast, the seaman shall be paid within seven days after the first day of the month, or, as soon as possible after the arrival of the ship in any port in New Zealand where there is a bank. In making this provision, I believe we can assume that the effect will be to induce a better class of men than we have previously had to follow the seaman’s calling. We set out, in schedule 3 to the Bill, a scale of provisions of a nature and quality suited to the conditions of Australian life. Inthis connexion, the Royal Commission went to great pains to try to obtain the best possible provisioning scale in the interests of the health of all engaged in the seafaring life. A further provision is made requiring the employment in certain cases of certificated cooks. I have heard from men who have been to sea that it is a common practice, when a man has been tried and has failed at every other duty on board a ship, to make him the ship’s cook. Honorable members will agree that the proper cooking of food is a most important matter, and it should not be left to a man who has failed at every other kind of work.
– He is the man the seamen must eventually swallow.
– Yes. I think that in one of the Bab Ballads, Gilbert refers to a cook ‘ who was eventually eaten by the rest of the crew. The honorable member for Angas may be induced to recite the ballad in question when he comes to debate this Bill. We know that the best materials are sometimes spoiled by bad cooking, and we have, in view of the importance of the matter, made provision in this Bill that all British ships registered in Australia or engaged in the coastal trade, of over 500 tonsgross register, shall carry a properly certificated cook. I think that is a very proper provision. With regard to the slop-chest, it may be news to some honorable members that sailors sometimes go to sea with practically only what they stand up in. Very often the only clothes they possess are of very poor quality, as they are “ taken down “ and robbed of their last penny ashore. I have heard some of them relate how they have gone to sea possessed of only a pair of trousers and a shirt. Honorable members are probably aware that after a sailor has served a certain period on board he is able to obtain articles of clothing from the slopchest. But this practice lends itself to abuse by unscrupulous captains. While I do not say that the masters of vessels habitually overcharge seamen for goods thus obtained, I do know that extortionate chargeshave been levied in some cases. The Bill seeks to prevent this objectionable practice as far as it is possible to do so. One clause in it provides that the Minister shall have an opportunity of checking the charges made for goods supplied from the slopchest. In regard to matters of personal rights and liberties, an effort is also made in the measure to extend to seamen. the same treatment that is meted out to shore workers. We know that sometimes brutality is practised on board ship. Of course, it is imperative that discipline shall be maintained, but in this connexion some captains have grossly abused their powers. Some men who have gone to sea for the purpose of gaining experience can tell tales which do not redound to the credit of ship-masters. Indeed, certain captains - unfortunately they are sometimes Britishers - are notorious for the brutal treatment which they mete out to their crews. Clause 101 provides for the punishment of masters who thus offend. Similar protection is also accorded to the officers. I do not suggest for a moment that all seamen are angels. Nobody will claim that they are better than is the average man. In many instances their environment tends to brutalize them, so that, upon the slightest provocation, they will turn upon their superiors and inflict serious bodily injury. The Bill vests the Courts with power to rescind contracts entered into between seamen and the masters of vessels if that course be deemed advisable. I come now to the question of desertion. It is well known that some ship-owners have done their utmost to compel seamen to desert at various ports, in order that they might escape the payment of their wages. In other instances, the men have been paid off with only a part of their wages. Within the past few months there was brought under my notice the case of a man in this city who is not an ordinary sailor. He was boatswain of a vessel which was lying at one of the wharfs. He and the captain had had a disagreement, and he was advised to consult a solicitor upon the matter. He did so. and was told that the best thing he could do was to get his agreement cancelled. He replied “ All right,” and asked how much he had to pay for the advice. The answer was “ Twelve guineas.” That was more than two months’ wages. He then went to the captain and said, “ I desire to cancel my agreement.”
– The solicitor who charged that fee ought to get two month’s.
– The captain replied, “ You may sign off if you forfeit £15.” In other words, the seaman had to pay twelve guineas to a lawyer and forfeit£15 to the ship-master before he could leave the vessel. If we can prevent injustice of that sort being perpetrated, I think we should do so.
– I am afraid there must be some misunderstanding about the matter.
– There is not. If there were, I would not have made the statement. I am not sure as to the law which operates in some of the States, but I do know that, in certain countries, a sailor can be imprisoned for desertion. That penalty, however, is wiped away by this Bill. But the deserter is rendered liable to forfeit his wages, or to be mulcted in a penalty up to £20. Penalties are also provided for breaches of discipline by seamen, who, in this connexion, have been brought more into line with workers upon shore. There is one clause of the Bill which has been productive of a great deal of discussion - I refer to that which prohibits the crew of a foreign-going vessel from handling cargo or ballast in the loading or unloading of the ship. The Board of
Trade objects to that clause, and some foreign nations have also made representations in regard to it. But it merely embodies the practice which obtains in Austalia to-day in regard to the loading and unloading of oversea ships. The evidence which was taken by the Navigation Commission upon the question of crimping shows that a condition of affairs exists in certain ports in Australia to-day which is probably unparalleled in any other part of the world. In regard to the conditions which prevailed at Newcastle, the report of the Commission states -
A considerable amount of evidence was received in connexion with the supply and discharge of seamen of foreign-going ships. Some of this was so sensational that, had it not been amply corroborated, its accuracy might well have been doubted. The witnesses, it may be remarked, were not recruited from any one class, but represented, indifferently, all sections of the community. From boardinghouse-keepers, shipmasters, seamen, lawyers, merchants, doctors, and police, the same testimony was received. As it would be impossible to suppose that witnesses of so representative a character would mislead your Commissioners, they were forced to the conclusion that fresh legislation in this matter is most urgently needed.
Briefly stated, the law, as laid down in the Merchant Shipping Act, permits seamen to be supplied by a person who “ holds a licence from the Board of Trade for the purpose, or is the owner or master, or mate of the ship, or is bonâ fide the servant, and in the constant employ of the owner, or is a superintendent.” These provisions have proved quite inadequate to prevent crimping, and, in Newcastle, they may be said to have been for years past openly defied.
– Is that Newcastle in England or Australia?
– In Australia. I believe it is supposed to be one of the worst ports in the world for this practice. The report continues -
The practice seems to be to employ boardinghousekeepers and runners to supply seamen. The charge made by these persons for their services, so far as your Commissioners could learn, is £1 for every seaman supplied. This in itself, of course, constitutesa grave breach of the law, but other and more important ones are committed daily.
For instance, it was sworn by several witnesses that this £1 per head was shared with the master of the ship, vide O’Sullivan’s evidence : - “ 21289. Is this your signature, to that letter addressed to Captain McNeeley, dated 31st December, 1904 ? - Yes. “ 21290. The letter states : - ‘ Sir, - I would like you to excuse me taking the liberty of writing to you concerning your business in supplying you with men, sailor’s wages are £310s. per month, my terms, £1 per man, and I return 10s. from each £1. Hoping I will have the pleasure of doing your business, I remain, at your services, John O’Sullivan, boarding-master, Newcastle.’ Attached to that letter is this card : - “ J. ©’Sullivan and Bridges, boardingmasters. Gentlemen sailors attended to. Aucher Frere’s pianos, pills, and salts for use of boarders.’ Did you send that letter and card to the captain ? - Yes. “21291. Did he agree to your terms? - Yes. “21292. Did he take the 10s. ? - Yes. “ 21293A. How many men did you supply? -
Eight. “ 212930. Is it the usual practice in Newcastle to do this? - Everybody else does it; Andrew Wafer does it.”
I believe Mr. Wafer was one of the witnesses who gave evidence.
This cold-blooded avowal of participation in a nefarious and criminal traffic excited no surprise in the shipping community at Newcastle, where long usage had rendered those concerned familiar with that, and much more of the same kind.
It was sworn, too, that a regular traffic existed in inciting seamen to desert, and that this was carried on by boardinghouse-keepers, runners, and others, some of whom, it was alleged, did not even have a place of accommodation. Several witnesses alleged that some masters of vessels connived at such practice, partly for .the purpose of sharing what was suggestively termed “ blood-money “ (the £1 paid for the supply of seamen), and partly for the purpose of defrauding the seaman of his wages. Cases were cited in support of this statement. In one, men to Whom three years’ wages were due were compelled to accept an insignificant proportion in order to obtain their discharges. A witness gave an instance where £60 being due, £10 had to be accepted. In other cases, despairing of ever getting anything, and induced by glowing reports of local conditions put forward bv the crimps, men have left the whole of their wages in the hands of the ship.
Your Commissioners were unable to learn the ultimate destination of such moneys. Whether they went as perquisites into the pockets of the master, or found their way back to the owner, or (ais provided by the Merchant Shipping Act) reverted ito the Crown, is ‘a matter for conjecture. One thing is clear - the men to whom they were due received no share of them. It was stated that one master, of whom mention has been made, boasted that he had not paid any wages to his seamen for the past three years. During that period he had been in and out of the port of Newcastle several times, but had contrived, by an ingenious combination of ill-treatment, bad conditions, and worse food at sea, and the employment of unprincipled agents in port, to make every one of his crews desert their ships and abandon their wages, in preference to enduring such conditions any longer.
Nor does the extortion of “ blood-money “ and the forfeiture of his wages complete the exploitation of the unfortunate seaman. Very frequently, upon every article that he purchases, the vendor and the boardinghouse-keeper take their commission, ranging from 20 to 50 peT cent. In very many cases, not one penny of wages is advanced to him by t»” -“.nain for the purchase of the merest necessaries, unless he agrees to buy from a particular storekeeper or trader, who shares with the master, and sometimes with the boardinghouse-keeper also, the usurious profits of the trade. Your Commis sioners were informed that .photographers carryout their business, and even doctors and lawyers, are retained, in (he same way. In such cases, all hands are stretched instinctively towards the pockets of Ahc unfortunate seamen, and not until’ absolutely destitute is he free from this systematized robbery. When no longer worth robbing, then, by common consent, employment isspeedily found for him. Utterly penniless, he is in no position to stand on the order of his going, or to insist on such rights as the law allows. His ad.vance-note is cashed at usurious rate, and he may consider himself fortunate if he gets to sca with sufficient clothes to cover him..
To such an extent has the practice of supply ing seamen by boardinghouse-keepers superseded* the law, that, as one witness pointed out, “ none but stiffs and loafers were to be found round the shipping offices.” The effect of all thi, upon the seaman can be easily understood. *To find himself, after .months of incessant toil andi hardship, the victim of .a conspiracy betweenthe master of the ship and the crimps to robhim of his wages is not calculated to raise hisstandard of morality, or to make him regard the sea as a desirable calling. None but the most improvident, the most careless, the least ambitious, and the most worthless, or the most unfortunate, tolerate these conditions for any length of time. If in all ships the treatment was as in those we have spoken of, the British seaman of a desirable class would soon becomeextinct. As it is, there is every reason to believe that the conditions described are sufficiently prevalent to constitute a menace to the most important industry of the Empire. It is most significant that desertions from this and other causes seem more prevalent from (British tha* from -foreign ^vessels.
Even that is mot .all. I think it car* safely be said that, as a general rule,, owners have no part in the practices referred to, and but rarely have any knowledge of the treatment meted out to the crews of their ships. In some instances, however, the owner .not only connives at it, but actually directs the master to- “ work out “ his crews. Commander Caborne, CB., R.N.R., in a paper, before the Shipmasters’ Society in England, read, “ with feelings of shame,” some excerpts; from ship managers’ letters and telegramsto their captains, of which the following; are specimens : - “We wired you to say that you were. only togive the crew salt beef, no fresh provisions, and to keep them hard at work, so that they may get tired of the ship and agree to a forfeit of ^3. We cannot afford to pay them off without a forfeit of this kind, as runners ask ^5. We hope to hear you have paid off most of your crew, and got a forfeit, as you should not require many men to complete the voyages.” (Telegram). - “ Give your crew salt beef only, and keep them hard at work.
They will soon agree to a forfeit.”
The treatment of seamen under such conditions cannot even be imagined by a landsman, and the results are often deplorable.
One whose business it is to board ships on arrival in a certain English anchorage for quite other purposes, casually reported on the 31st October, 1897 -
In connexion with the voyage of the barque lately arrived from Tasmania, there has happened (chiefly in Hobart) litigation, overloading, unseaworthiness, mutiny, and desertion. The present crew is the fourth since she left England outward bound.
That is taken from a pamphlet lent by Captain Parsons, the shipping master of Melbourne, containing an address delivered by Commander Dawson, R.N. The economical captain referred to was sure to get another command soon, for he had worked out three crews without paying wages, and after a round voyage of probably eighteen months or two years, had only to pay wages from Tasmania Home. The crews “ worked out “ are, of course, duly registered as “ deserters.” Though they do not, of course, indicate the common condition of affairs, these are by no means solitary instances. To remedy this, it is provided in the Bill that no person other than the Government official appointed for the purpose, or the master or officer of the ship, shall engage or supply seamen to a ship. Although the term “crimping “ is well known, some honorable members may not be quite <-sure what it really means. As I understand it, it means the inducement of sailors to desert from a ship with the connivance of its captain, so that they will forfeit the whole of the pay due to them, and then, after they have been practically taken down for everything they have, to get them to . join another ship, the crimp who “ finds “ them being paid £1 per head, which, as shown in the evidence given before the Commission, he sometimes shares with the master. There is another practice which is known as shanghai-ing. I believe, that in London it is called pier-head jumping.
– We used to have a lot of it in Newcastle.
– Shanghai-ing is different from crimping. Some persons may think that shanghai-ing and crimping are the same thing, but they are entirely distinct. A boardinghousekeeper or a runner of the crimper agrees for -£i per head, more or less, to supply men. To shanghai the men, he generally fills them up with bad whisky or other spirit, or hocusses them, and the men are then shipped. It is alleged that an agreement has been read over to them, and that they have consented to ship to a certain place, and when they come to their senses, probably a couple of days after > they are out at sea, they find that,” instead of being shipped to go to London, they are shipped to go to Valparaiso, Bahia, or Pernambuco, or any other port which is equally out of the way when they wish to go home. Although, perhaps, under this measure we may not be able to cope with every case, still we hope to do a great deal. If we hand over the getting of men from the boardinghouse-keepers to a Government official, and make it a penal offence for the boardinghouse-keeper to engage in the business, I think that we shall have done a great deal to improve the lot of the sailors - a people who, I believe, need a greater amount of protection than do any workers, on land.
– It will become: a matter of administration.
– - I believe it is more a matter of administration than a matter of law. I wish to say that the men who are engaged in this business at Newcastle have protested against the introduction of legislation dealing with them. I have had an opportunity of reading their protest, and I am not in the least bit shaken in my determination. I trust that the illegal supply of seamen will be made an offence, that offenders will be dealt with, and the law strictly administered in the interests of a class who, I believe, need the utmost protection which the law can give them.
– It is time that poor Jack had something done for him.
– I was going to say that I trust to hear the honorable member on the subject; but I hope that we will pass the Bill quickly, because I believe that that is even more important than to hear even the honorable member at the present time. Hitherto it has been the rule to issue advance notes to seamen in deep-sea ships. Before going to sea a sailor can obtain a note for a certain proportion of his wages, which can be cashed after he has been at sea for three days, or perhaps longer. This rule has been followed for a great number of years, but the Bill prohibits the issue of advance notes, because they have been detrimental to the . interests of the men. A sailor, for instance, obtains an advance note for £2 and cashes it ashore. Knowing that the advance note can be cashed as soon as the sailor is a few days in the ship away from the port, persons keep watch to see that he. does go in her. They probably give the man less than £1 for his note, and cash it as soon as possible after the ship sails. Instead of this system being to the advantage of the sailor, it has been to the advantage of the crimp and the boardinghousekeeper.
– They get an advance of a month’s wages.
– A sailor gets an advance of a month’s wages, and the note is payable three or four days after he has gone to sea. This Bill provides for the issue of allotment notes. These will provide for the regular payments, as earned, of a stated portion of the seamen’s wages. I may mention that, although at the time this provision was proposed the Board of Trade objected to an innovation in regard to the proportion of the wages that might be allotted, and the intervals at which they might be paid, the principle was adopted in the Merchant Shipping Act of last year. Under its provisions, a sailor can sign an allotment note made payable to his wife or any relative, when the money has been earned, or the money can be paid into a Savings Bank on his behalf at regular intervals. This does away with the advance note. I believe it is an infinitely better plan, and will improve the position of the sailor.
– How does he pay his debts before he leaves ?
– That I do not know. I suppose that when the man gets home he will have quite enough to do to pay his debts. No doubt he should follow the example of my right honorable friend, and should not run into debt.
– They all get into debt to the boardi nghouse-keeper.
– They pay very little with the advance note.
– The advance note goes in ways which are fairly well known. The question of employing British subjects on British vessels was discussed at the Imperial Conference in 1907, and the following resolutions were passed : -
That no person should be employed as an officer on board any British ship registered in Australia or New Zealand, or engaged in the coasting trade of those colonies who is not -
That every possible encouragement should be given by legislation or otherwise to the employment of British seamen on British ships, provided that this resolution does not contemplate the imposition of restrictive conditions.
These resolutions were subsequently considered by the Royal Navigation Committee, who approved of them, and recommended the extension of the principle of resolution 8 to cover not only officers, but all persons who engaged on ships registered in Australia. The Bill contains some provisions on this subject. Under clause 14, for example, candidates for certificates - master’s, mate’s, or engineers - must be British subjects, and able to speak English intelligibly. Clause 23 provides that no person shall be allowed to engage as officer on any Australian vessel, or on any British ship engaged in the coasting trade, unless he is a British subject, and thoroughly conversant with the English language. Another provision of the Bill is that no seaman shallbe permitted to engage in any British ship unless he is sufficiently acquainted with English to thoroughly understand all necessary orders given to him. Practically every civilized country requires the ships flying her flag to be officered, and at least partly manned, by her subjects. France, the United States, Italy, Spain, Greece, Portugal, and Norway and Sweden, pursue this course. Great Britain alone, of all the maritime nations, permits her ships to be manned by foreigners, a proceeding which the late Judge Raikes characterized as “ no doubt cheap in time of peace, but likely to be found nasty in time of war.” The Navigation Commission considered this matter, and pointed out, in a table which is given, that the number of Britishers on ships is declining. This is one of the subjects which, as I have just pointed out, was dealt with at the Imperial Conference. Under the Merchant Shipping Acts prior to 1906, no restriction was placed on. the employment of foreign seamen in British ships. The result was that foreigners, who were usually willing to accept lower wages than their British competitors, increased in numbers in British ships, with a corresponding decrease in the number of British sailormen employed. The grave danger, from the national point of view, of this state of affairs, was at length recognised, and a Committee was appointed by the Board of Trade to inquire into the manning of British merchant ships. The Committee presented their report in 1896, and found that the allegations in regard to the supplanting of British seamen by foreign seamen were well founded. In their report, the Committee say-
We are informed that, except with regard to certificates, which must he held by masters, officers, and engineers in certain cases, and which, moreover, may be obtained by men of any nationality, there is at present practically no bar to the employment of any person of any nationality in any capacity whatsoever on board any British ship.
Having regard to the lower scale of wages and living amongst the foreigners with whom our seamen have thus been brought into competition in British ships, it is not surprising that there has been a disposition on the part of the British-born seaman to escape from such competition, and find employment ashore.
The evidence given before the Committee showed that large numbers of foreign seamen were employed who were unable to speak or understand English. Their report referred, among others, to one glaring case, that of the Inchborva, a vessel which stranded near Cape Fontana in March, 1894. In this case the master, purser, and second engineer were Welsh, the second mate and third engineer were English, the first engineer was Scotch, the first mate was Danish, the boatswain and one fireman were German, two A.B.’s and three firemen were Turkish, three A.B.’s and one fireman were Greek, the carpenter and one fireman were Italian, the donkeyman was Swiss, and the cook, steward, and cabin boy were French. The Superintendent of Mercantile Marine at Dundee reported that he “ found it impossible to communicate with them, except through an interpreter. With the exception of three, and they could not be made to understand what was said, the men had not been in an English ship before.” My opinion is that not one interpreter, but several, would be necessary in order to deal with such a mixed lot.
– Some of them would pass the examination test.
– They would be exempt from any language test under our Immigration Restriction Act. This case, I feel confident, is not an isolated one. The honorable member for Kooyong, when a member of another place, cited this same case, which may not be regarded as typical, but as one to which greater prominence has been given owing to the wreck of the vessel.
– I have heard a British shipmaster positively refuse to take on a Britisher as an able seaman.
– That is a shame. Among other things, this Manning Committee recommended that no foreigner should be permitted to engage in a British ship who did not possess sufficient knowledge of the English language to understand the necessary orders that might be given to him in the course of the perform ance of his duties. This suggestion was adopted in the Merchant Shipping Act of 1906, section 12. The effect of even such a mild departure as this has been very striking, as is shown by the following figures compiled from the Annual Statements of the Navigation and Shipping of the United Kingdom, published by the Imperial authorities -
We see, therefore, that in 1905, the year before the legislation, there were 175,000 odd Britishers, and 36,000 odd foreigners, and that there had been a fairly steady increase of the one and decrease of the other ; while in 1910 the number of Britishers was 201,000 odd, showing an increase of 26,000, with a decrease of 6,000 in the number of foreigners. These figures bring up to date the table read by the honorable member for Kooyong when dealing with this Bill in another place. The value of the change, from a national point of view, cannot be overstated. Not one of us, I suppose, would decry persons of other nationalities who follow the sea ; but, at the same time, we prefer to see Britishers employed on our ships. As has been pointed out, if the time should come when we have to call on our sailors to help to defend the country, we may find the policy of employing foreigners, though “ cheap “ in time of peace, very “nasty “ in time of war. While other Acts provide for the manning of ships and the issue of certificates for officers, this Bill is one of the first that proposes a manning scale for seamen. In order to remove any doubt as to what would constitute a proper complement of crew, a manning scale has been drawn up which prescribes, not only the number of mates, engineers, and so forth, but the number of deck hands and stoke-hold hands in the different classes of ships. This, as I have already pointed out, is strictly in accordance with the recommendation of the Royal Commission. The scales apply to all Australian registered ships, and to all British and foreign ships engaged in the coastal trade. We do not claim any particular credit for these scales, which are practically the same as those provided in the Bill introduced by the honorable member for Kooyong in another place ; in fact, I do not know of any alteration as compared with the Bill of 1908.
– I think there is a slight alteration.
– With the exception of fixing the quantity of coal per man per day, I do not think there is any alteration of moment.
– That is a very important regulating factor.
– Yes; so far as the firemen are concerned. Particular regard has been paid to the necessity of providing a sufficient number of seamen to man the boats in time of disaster. In the case of a number of steamers on the coast, the boatstations lists show that some of the lifeboats would not, at such a time, have a single seaman on board. The chance of a boat living in even a moderately rough sea without any person on board who knows how to handle an oar must be infinitely less than that of a boat in charge of qualified seamen. I shall deal later with the matter of safety appliances, and the necessity for regular boat drill. In schedule 2, a difference is made between the number of seamen to be carried on passenger boats and the number to be carried on cargo boats. This is because we realize that more seamen are required on passenger vessels to deal with the life-boats in case of disaster. In the New Zealand Shipping Act of 1908, sections 21 and 54, provision is made for the manning of ships very much on the lines of this Bill, but no such distinction is drawn. This Bill provides that the number of deck hands on passenger vessels shall depend on the gross tonnage, while on cargo vessels it will depend on the net tonnage, thus providing the greater number for the former class. No doubt the provisions of the Bill which, will be discussed at length are those relating to the coastal trade. In regard to the question of the power of the Commonwealth to legislate in regard to navigation and shipping, and incidentally to our power to control the coasting trade, we have the following opinion from Mr. Garran -
Legislative Power of the COMMONWEALTH as to Navigation and Shipping.
The Commonwealth Parliament has power, under section 51(2) of the Constitution, to make laws as to - “ Trade and commerce with other countries and among the States “ ; and by section 51 (xxxix) to make laws as to - “ Matters incidental to the execution of any power vested by this Constitution in the Parliament.”
Section g8 declares that - “ The power of the Parliament to make laws with respect to trade and commerce extends to navigation and shipping.”
In the Kalibia case, ir C.L.R. 6S9, the High Court held that section gS did not enlarge the ambit of the trade and commerce clause so as to extend it to shipping engaged in the domestic commerce of a State; and that therefore the Seamen’s Compensation Act, which was expressed to extend to such shipping, was ultra vires.
It must be taken, therefore, that over intraState shipping - as such - the Commonwealth has no general power to legislate ; but that does not mean that it has no power at all in regard to such shipping.
The Commonwealth has power to legislate as to Inter-State and external shipping, and as to matters incidental thereto.
This incidental power includes control of the highways on which such commerce is carried on. The Federal Parliament can prescribe rules for the use of those highways, to be obeyed by all ships, whether engaged in Inter-State or external commerce or not, so far as regards the safety of traffic on the highway, and its ordinary conduct. E.g., it may provide for rules of the road, lights, and signals, certificated officers and sufficient crews, seaworthiness, &c.
Some of the provisions of the Bill may appear to relate primarily not to the use of the highway, but to the protection of seamen, the comfort of passengers, &c. But it is very hard to say just how far the incidental power of the Commonwealth extends; where the regulations of the Inter-State highway ends and the immunity from Federal control begins.
Consequently, in case some provisions of the Bill, in their application to Intra-State ships, may be held, to be outside the power of Parliament, it is proposed to move an amendment to provide that where any enactment may be held to overstep the constitutional limits, it shall nevertheless be valid up to ‘these limits.
Questions have arisen as to how far the legislative power of the Commonwealth is affected by the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act.
This is discussed in mv memorandum dated 15th January, igo6, which forms Appendix E to the report of the Commonwealth Royal Commission on Navigation.
Before the Colonial Laws Validity Act 1S65, there- was much doubt as to the extent of the power of colonial legislatures to pass’ laws inconsistent with Acts of the British Parliament. That Act, however, settled the principle that a colonial law is not invalid by reason of repug- mince to a British law unless the British law is by express words or necessary intendment made applicable to the colony j and that in that case (he colonial law :is invalid only to the extent of the repugnancy, and not otherwise.
Some ;parts of the Merchant Shipping Act .are expressly made to apply to the whole of the British Dominions. Others are given a specified application beyond the United Kingdom. Others are not governed by any application clause at all. The result is that many difficulties :arise as to the extent to which the different provisions of the Act are made applicable to the Dominions. It is not thought that in the Bill as it stands there lis any repugnancy to British law which would .invalidate any of its provisions.
The Royal Commission, in dealing with the question of coasting trade, made the following remarks -
For many reasons your Commissioners regard this part of the Bill as one of the most important presented for their consideration. A very considerable amount of .evidence was received in connexion therewith, and a great diversity of opinion expressed. Your Commissioners’ attention was directed by several witnesses to the practice of foreign countries in this connexion. Those who opposed the principle pointed out that .it was contrary to the policy of Great Britain. On the other hand, very fewnations allow foreigners to participate in their coastal trade. According to a compilation of the Board of Trade, dated 17th June, 1902, the following .countries .reserve their coastal trade for native bottoms absolutely : - Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Egypt, France, Guatemala, Italy, Peru, Portugal, Russia, Spain, United States, -Uruguay, Venezuela : -whilst almost all other nations having any mercantile marine worth speaking of .open their coastal trade by treaty only.
Tt must be noted, too, that those countries which open their coastal .trade to foreign .shipping by treaty arrangement or law, in some cases are not exposed to competition of any serious Wind. The coastal -trade of Germany, Norway, and Denmark, for example, is almost entirely .carried .out on native -bottoms. Where there are few inducements to foreign competitors, the necessity for restriction does not arise.
The Bill defines “coasting trade” in the following terms -
A ship shall be deemed to engage in the casting trade if she takes on board passengers or cargo at any port in Australia, or any territory under the authority of the Commonwealth, to be carried to, and landed or delivered at, any other port in Australia or in any such territory - provided that the carrying of passengers who hold through tickets to or from a port beyond Australia, or of cargo consigned on a through bill of lading to or from a port beyond Australia, or of mails, shall :not be deemed engaging in the coasting trade.
The provisions of this Bill relating to the coasting trade are practically based upon what may be termed the national protective system of Australia. Our aim is to insure that the conditions prevailing in the coasting trade on board foreign ships :shall be the same as are applied to our own people. This policy may be -taken to be an example of the new Protection. It must be recognised by every one that if we desire to build up a mercantile marine we must protect Australian ship-owners against unfair competition from subsidized foreign ships or poorly paid crews from other countries. If there is unfair competition on the part of vessels carrying coloured crews, we have a right to protect ourselves against it. We provide, in our Conciliation and Arbitration Act, that seamen .engaged on Australian ships shall receive certain rates of wages. Firemen receive about £9 per month, and seamen It is not fair to expect ship owners who have to pay these wages to compete with ships employing coloured labour at about j£i per month per man. The -owners of these ships obtain practically the same rates for carrying passengers and cargo between Australian ports as do Australian ship-owners. Vessels have been engaged in carrying coal from Newcastle to Port Pirie, and have been working tinder foreign articles all the time. That is not fair competition. There is no intention, however, to preserve this trade for the Australian ship-owner alone, but it is intended that the men who work the ships, and who imperil their lives in so doing, shall also receive a share of the benefits in the shape of Australian rates of wages, adequate accommodation, good food, and the other advantages conferred by the Bill. Such rates are not enjoyed in foreign ships to-day, although these competing vessels engage in trade that might otherwise be done by Australian ships. This Bill affords protection to the Australian ship-owner by providing that every outside ship which engages in the coasting trade shall carry a certain crew, according to a scale laid down, shall provide the prescribed accommodation for the men, and shall pay them Australian rates of wages. We provide that subsidized foreign ships shall be shut out of the trade altogether. Competition must be on level terms. We require Australian ship-owners to provide certain accommodation for their men, to carry a certain number of men according to the tonnage of the ship, and to pay certain rates of wages. The competing foreigner must be compelled to do the same as we askour own people to do.
– Does that apply to the Peninsular and Oriental ships and to Japanese vessels?
– Yes, if they engage in the Australian coasting trade.
– The Peninsular and Oriental Company employs Lascar crews.
– Clause 286 contains a proviso to the effect that the carrying of mails shall not in itself constitute engagement in the coasting trade.
– The Peninsular and Oriental Company has changed its policy upon one line regarding the employment of coloured crews, and will probably soon change its policy regarding its other lines.
– I hope so. When this Bill was being prepared, not only the Commission, but the Conference and members of Parliament themselves, emphasized the necessity of making adequate provision for the safety of life at sea. The Bill was, at that time, and, I believe, still is, a considerable advance upon Imperial legislation. Just as it was impossible, apparently, for honorable members during the discussion of the no-confidence motion to refrain from reference to the Brisbane strike, so I think it will be found impossible to refer to the life-saving provisions of this Bill without alluding to the loss of the Titanic. Following on that appalling disaster, the German Government have invited the maritime Powers to send representatives to an International Conference to consider the question of the provision of safety appliances at sea, and it is anticipated that that Conference will be held in the near future. Judging by the cable messages that we see in the press from time to time, a number of provisions in this Bill dealing with the safety of life at sea, which at the time of their introduction were thought by some to be very extreme, will soon become law, not only in Australia, but in many other countries. This Bill, as I have said, has been on the stocks for eight years, and provisions which, on its introduction, were considered by many to be unnecessary and likely to have the effect of harassing ship-owners, will soon be embodied in the legislation of most of the leading maritime countries. One of the most important of these provisions is that relating to wireless telegraphy. When a clause was inserted in the Bill providing for the installation of wireless on certain vessels, I do not think that such a provision existed in any Act of Parliament ; but since then, the Congress of the United States of America has passed an Act compelling every passenger steam-ship trading in American waters to be fitted with wireless telegraphy apparatus. I should mention, at this stage, that an amendment will be proposed providing also that qualified operators shall be carried. In a Bill that was introduced in the House of Commons last year, there were similar provisions ; and, although that measure was not then passed into law, I understand that it will be brought forward again during the piesent year. I am informed by a high authority - a gentleman who has held a leading position in the British Navy - that at the present time the wireless apparatus on British ships of war is never left unattended. There are two, and in some cases three, trained operators on board these vessels, and when they are not directly in attendance, there is always a boy, who is learning the work, ready to detect a signal or any messages.
– The provision as to wireless in the American Act applies only to vessels’ carrying passengers.
– And I think there is a similar limitation in the British Bill.
– There is, I think, a limitation in regard, not only to that matter, but to the ports between which the vessels are trading. I have not read the clause in question, but it leaves largely to regulations the determination of what shall be necessary. Whilst I am averse to leaving to regulations what ought to be distinctly stated in the Bill itself, I think that we must recognise that wireless telegraphy is a science that is constantly expanding, and that it is extending in so many directions that it might be unwise to tie down the Government too strictly as to what should be required in this regard. We might find, as Congress has found, that it is necessary to alter the law from time to time.
– We ought to compel operators in charge of wireless installations on steamers to recognise the signals of the different systems.
– Quite so. It might be thought that it is unfair to ship-owners to compel them to have their vessels fitted with wireless, whilst at the same time we hand them over to practically a monopoly which can charge them what it pleases for its service. I trust, however, that as a Government we shall be able to do something which will lighten very considerably the burden of ship-owners in this direction. We do not desire to harass shipowners, but we do desire that the best possible precautions-shall be -taken to insure the safety of life at sea. Some exception was taken to the provision in the Bill as fust introduced that the penalty for noninstallation of wireless apparatus on vessels covered by the clause should be £50 ; but under the American Act the penalty is $5,000, or £1,000. In the British Bill a penalty of ,£1,000 is also proposed. Ship-owners, however, are steadily installing wireless telegraphy on their vessels, and I do not think that much compulsion will be required. In the case of the Titanic disaster, we have read that if it had not been that the wireless operator on the Carpathia was detained at his post ten minutes beyond his usual time the news of the disaster would not have reached that vessel, and probably not one life would have been saved. We have also learned that another vessel, the California, was within twenty miles of the Titanic at the time of the occurrence, but that owing to the fact that her wireless apparatus was run by the main engines, and that these had been stopped on account of the vessel’s proximity to ice, the Titanic’ s message was not received by her. This experience should teach us, I think, that it is necessary to provide not only that wireless telegraphy apparatus shall be installed on certain vessels, but also that it shall be used and attended by qualified operators. In the Age and Argus of 9th instant there appeared a report of the RadioTelegraphic Conference which had just concluded its sitting. That Conference recommended that wireless installations should be made compulsory on certain classes of ships ; that each installation should be supplied with an auxiliary source of supply, able to work the apparatus for at least six hours, unaffected by the stoppage of the ship’s engines : that om certain ‘ships qualified operators ,b’e continuously on duty ; and also that on other ships required to be equipped the operator shall listen for messages during the first ten minutes of every hour. As to the last-named recommendation, many experts hold, I understand, that it is utterly valueless. If we are to have a wireless installation on certain ships that installation should be effective. The apparatus should not be left for five-sixths of every hour without an operator in attendance to answer a call. I trust it will be found that we shall be able to make provisions of this kind in the Bill without entailing upon ship-owners any serious expense. The first of the recommendations made by the Radio- Telegraphic ^Conference is practically covered by a clause in the Bill as it stands, and the remaining proposals were under the consideration of this Government before the Conference met. I refer to the recommendations that there should be an auxiliary source of power and that qualified operators should be employed. Probably two-thirds of the vessels now engaged in the Inter-State trade have been, or are being, equipped with wireless.
– Every Japanese ship must be so equipped if it is undertaking a voyage that will extend over three weeks.
– I think that that is too long a period to allow, and that the regulations should provide that vessels undertaking voyages that may be made in even less time shall be so equipped. Steamers going from here to Launceston are, when in the middle of the Straits, a long distance from other trade routes.
– What is the use of wireless installations on steamers if there are to be no shore stations ?
– Vessels capable of receiving wireless messages are nearly always in port at Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne. Sydney, and Brisbane, so that the need for shore stations is not so great as some honorable members would make it appear ; but it must be borne in mind that the Government is pushing on with the installation of shore stations. A vessel equipped with wireless crossing from Melbourne to Launceston could easily communicate with the Melbourne station. I have here a list of all the vessels which carry a wireless installation, but it is unnecessary to read it. Another thing necessary for the safety of life is efficiency in the handling of boats, and to create this the Bill provides for compulsory boat drill. The evidence taken during the Titanic inquiry showed that there are many seamen who have worked on Atlantic liners for years without taking part in boat drill ; and I suppose that, although half the members of this House have travelled a good deal on Inter-State and ocean liners, not five have seen a boat lowered over a vessel’s side during the performance of boat drill. There should be boat drill, and it should be effective. Speaking from memory, it was stated before the Navigation Commission that it has taken over an hour to remove some boats from their chocks, and that other boats could not be moved at all. Not only is effectiveboat drill necessary to keep tackle in good condition, but it is required also to insure that the boats shall be manned by persons skilled in their management. It is not every person on a ship who is skilled in the management of boats. The superintendent of one of the largest lines whose vessels come to this port, told me that it is estimated that, on the average, boats lowered over a ship’s side could live in the sea only one day out of twelve; but we think that the passengers and crew should be given this one chance in twelve. It will be provided, not only that there shall be a lifebelt to each person on board, but that the lifebelts shall be 10 per cent. in excess of the number of passengers and crew.
– Is provision made for the disabling of boats by collision ?
– It is provided that there must be a sufficient number of boats to give accommodation to every person on the ship ; but I do not see that provision could well be made against the destruction of boats by a collision. It would be impossible to provide so many boats that, if those on. the starboard side were swept away, the remaining ones on the port side would carry all the passengers and crew. The Titanic inquiry showed that, on that vessel, there were not enough boats to accommodate more than two-thirds of the persons on board. I was pleased to see that, in a recently published list of ten large liners, the only two carrying enough boats to give accommodation to passengers and crewwere in the Australian service, though, of course, no particular credit can be taken by us for that.
– On some foreign steamers, there is a full provision of boats.
– I belive that the Germans are very particular in this matter. It is cruelty to provide lifebelts and not lifeboats, because it only prolongs the agony of the unfortunates who are cast into the water, and who cannot be taken into the boats. I understand that, under the present State laws certain passenger steamers trading on the coast , are permitted to carry fewer boats than will accommodate all the persons on board, because they have been built with watertight bulkheads. That was the reason why the Board of Trade allowed the Titanic to carry fewer boats than would accommodate her passengers and crew. We hope that no such disaster as befell that vessel will happenagain ; but what has takenplace may occur again, and the Titanic disaster showed that watertight bulkheads will not always save a vessel. Many years ago, also, the Quetia struck a submerged rock in Torres Strait, and ripped out her bilges, sinking immediately ; another proof of the inefficiency of bulkheads in all cases.
– Longitudinal bulkheads, like those of the Great Eastern, would be an extra safeguard.
– But probably not1 per cent. of the vessels trading to Australia have such bulkheads. Lord Charles Beresford, who is an authority, is of opinion that too much reliance should not be placed on boats, as, in British waters, at any rate, they can only be successfully launched on about one day in twelve. On this account he advocates the policy of keepingships afloat as long as possible by means of watertight compartments. In clause 210 power is taken to prescribe by regulation that steam-ships registered in Australia or engaged in the coasting trade shall be provided with transverse watertight partitions, and shall have watertight false bottoms. It has recently been announced in the House of Commons by the President of the Board of Trade that a technical Committee of experts has been appointed to examine into the internal division of vessels of all classes by bulkheads and watertight compartments. This Committee consists of a number of leading naval architects, engineers, and ship surveyors, havingspecial knowledge of the subject. The British authorities have promised to furnish us with the report of the Committee as soon as it is available. It may not be availableuntil this Bill has been passed,but the regulations to be made under this measure may be drawn to cover the proposals of the Committee. A reference is made to the appointment of the Committee in the Shipping Gazette of 24th May of this year. It was appointedsubsequently to the disaster to the Titanic, and doubtless that occurrence will induce the members of the Committee to deal with the question somewhat differently from what they might otherwise have done. Under the Merchant Shipping Act the only vessels that require to be surveyed are passenger steam-ships carrying more than twelve persons. Sailing ships and cargosteamers need not under that Act be surveyed at all. We take the view that the lives of seamen working on a cargo ship are just as important as are the lives of passengers, and in clause 196 of this Bill provision is made that all ships shall be liable to Government survey. Provision is also made for the marking of ‘load-lines. No doubt honorable members are familiar with the history of the load-line, and with the name of the man who is associated with it. They are aware that at one time vessels were sent to sea so loaded down that they COuld not be regarded as safe in any sort of rough weather. It is to be feared that vessels were sometimes sent to sea in this condition for the purpose of obtaining the insurance on ship and freight. It was in 1876 that the Plimsol 1 mark was required to be painted upon every British ship. Those of us who have read anything of the subject know the fight that had to be put up in order to secure such a reform, but to-day practically every civilized nation in the world is following the example of Great Britain in this regard. We make one provision in this respect which is novel in this class of legislation. “We provide that steam-ships carrying coal and other deadweight cargo may not be loaded beyond the winter load-line, and in the case of sailing ships, the winter North Atlantic load-line- This is one of the points on which we disagree with the Board of Trade. They hold that there is no necessity to adopt this particular safeguard. I believe that in another place the matter was argued at length, and it was considered advisable that ships carrying coal and other dead-weight cargo which, probably in going from Australia, will go round Cape Horn should not be laden below the winter North Atlantic load-line.
– It should not be forgotten that steamers by the time they reach Cape Horn from Australia will be very much lighter by reason of their consumption of coal.
– That is a matter which is regulated by vessels carrying coal compensating for coal consumption by carrying water ballast. I feel sure that no honorable member would claim without information from the captain or engineer of a vessel to know what quantity of water ballast she carried. Some carry thousands of tons of such ballast. It has been held by some competent authorities that we should not only make provision that vessels should not be loaded below a certain depth, but that they should be loaded to a certain depth. This contention is made because vessels sometimes become too light to be navigated with safety. It is claimed, therefore, that in addition to a maximum load-line we should also provide for a minimum load-line. That matter is under consideration at the present time, and though it may not be dealt with in this Bill, it may be found advisable to deal with it in the near future. There are some difficulties in the- way of providing for a minimum load-line. I take, for instance, the case of a vessel like the Loongana, with which we are all very familiar. She requires to be very light in order to come up the shallow West Channel of this port, and also to navigate the Tamar at low tide. As a consequence, she pumps out water before approaching those narrow channels. If such a vessel were compelled to be loaded down to a minimum load-line, it is quite possible that, al. low tide, she would be unable to navigate such shallow channels. Another difficulty is that it would be impossible to send a man with each steamer to see that she was kept down- to the minimum load-line.
– The relieving of ballast, to which the Minister refers, takes place practically after the vessel gets into a harbor.
– That is so, no doubt, in the case of the Loongana, but the ballast might be altered at any time ;. and I am referring now to objections which might reasonably be raised to the enforcement of a minimum load-line. Masters are not likely to take in water ballast to load vessels more than is necessary, but they will require to be able to pump out water ballast when they have to navigate shallow channels.
– While the Minister is on the question of the load-line, he might consider whether, in respect of sailing vessels, the North Atlantic load-line should not be insisted upon in all seasons of the vear.
– If the honorable member will look at clause 223, he will see that sailing vessels carrying coal and other dead-weight cargo must not be loaded at any time below the winter North Atlantic load-line. Under this Bill, the control of pilotage will be taken over from the States. We provide that the GovernorGeneral may proclaim any port in the Commonwealth as a compulsory pilotage port. No doubt, all the principal ports of Australia will be so treated, but it is quite possible that, in the case of some ports which are only entered by one or two vessels a week, or even less, such will not be proclaimed as compulsory pilotage ports. I have in mind such a place as Portland, in Victoria. At that place, the harbormaster, in addition to his ordinary duties, performs the duties of a pilot. It would be useless to appoint a pilot at such a place when his services as such might be required for only a few hours in each week, and when the work of pilotage might very well be carried on by a portmaster intrusted with other duties as well. It should not be necessary to proclaim such a port a compulsory pilotage port. The exemption certificates which are held by certain ship-masters today are only valid for a certain length of time on account of the changing conditions in our harbors. These ship-masters will be able to obtain exemption certificates under this Bill, provided that they comply with the requirements of the law. A captain who holds a pilot exemption certificate is entitled to bring his vessel to its berth. But he must submit himself to examination from time to time to prove that his eyesight is not defective. Honorable members will recognise that it is just as essential that pilots should have perfect eyesight as it is that engine-drivers should possess it. That being so, we think that what is prescribed in the case of the pilots who will be taken over by the Commonwealth should also be prescribed for captains who hold exemption certificates.
– Some doubt has been expressed as to whether the Government will allow masters to obtain those certificates.
– That is a matter which I shall be pleased to look into. The property which is owned by the licensed pilots at the various compulsory pilotage ports will be taken over by the Commonwealth at a valuation.
– And the pilots will be taken over as part of the Commonwealth Public Service?
– They will practically become a portion of the Commonwealth Public Service, instead of being, as in the case of Port Phillip, a sort of limited liability company, to which only a few can obtain admission. I believe that exceptional conditions prevail in Melbourne, and those conditions will receive careful consideration when the pilots are being taken over. Another matter which has engaged attention since this Bill was dealt with by the Senate is that of maritime conventions. The questions of collisions, and salvage, and assistance at sea have recently been dealt with by International MaritimeConventions, at which all maritime nations were represented. An agreement has been drawn up in that connexion, which has been assented to by nearly all the Powers. Great Britain has adhered to it, and the Government have requested the Imperial Government to adhere to it on behalf of the Commonwealth. The Convention has not yet been brought into operation, but it is expected that it soon will be. The British Government has already brought its legislation into line with this Convention by the passage of the Maritime Conventions Act last year. It is expected that the Commonwealth will become a party to the agreement through Great Britain.
– Has it been embodied in this Bill?
– No. It is receiving the attention of the Attorney-General, who has had most to do with the measure, seeing that he acted as Chairman of the Navigation Commission, and also as a representative of Australia at the Navigation Conference which was held in London. Power is taken in the Bill to grant exemptions to meet cases of international and treaty rights. There are two nations, I believe - Italy and Austria - with which the Commonwealth is associated by means of some very ancient treaty. Though Great Britain was asked to secure the abrogation of those treaties, no finality has yet been reached in respect of those two countries. Clause 295 of the Bill provides that foreign ships having treaty rights shall be exempted from its coasting trade provisions.
– Of course, whether treaties affect us depends on the source of our power - the Merchant Shipping Acts, or the Constitution, or both.
– That is a point which has not worried me very much. I know that the honorable member for Kooyong had the question of these treaties under consideration when he held the position of Minister of Trade and Customs. I understand that certain treaties with other countries have been terminated, but Italy and Austria have refused to terminate them.
– Has there not been a long correspondence with the Imperial Government on that question, and also in regard to a number of other issues in the Bill ?
– Yes. I dealt with, those matters while the honorable member was absent from the chamber. . I think that originally there were forty-two points which were at issue. These have now been narrowed down to about half-a-dozen. In respect to some of the points to which the Home authorities objected most strenuously, I may add that the Imperial Parliament has actually legislated upon the very lines that we proposed. The Allotment Notes Act is a case in point. The Imperial authorities objected to the Commonwealth provision for the issue of allotment notes without restriction as to proportion of the seaman’s wages or as to frequency of payments. Yet, only last year, the Imperial Parliament passed an Act providing for the very thing to which objection had previously been taken.
– But my question referred to constitutional points, rather than to practical ones.
– It is true that there was a very long correspondence with the Imperial authorities upon the question of whether we derived our power from sections 735 and 736 of the Merchant Shipping Act, or from the Constitution itself. But it is not my province to argue that question. The Attorney-General must deal with it.
– Will the correspondence be laid before Parliament?
– Yes. Copies, of it were circulated last year.
– I do not think they were circulated in this House.
– I think they were.
– The correspondence was printed, but not circulated.
– It was circulated in the Senate.
– I had it printed after the Senate had dealt with the matter, because ] desired to bring the objections of the Home authorities up-to-date.
– The last memorandum from the Board of Trade was dated 15th December, 191 1.
– There was a later one, which was dated either January or February of the present year. However, I promise honorable members that I will have the objections of the Board of Trade brought uptodate. Clause 423 of the Bill makes provision for the appointment- of a Marine Council, which will be representative of various interests. We know that the Marine Boards of the various States are composed of ship-owners, merchants, sailors, firemen, &c. In this Bill, it is proposed that the following interests shall be represented : - Ship-owners, merchants, underwriters, mates, engineers, and seamen. The function of the Council will be to advise the Minister in regard to proposed regulations and amendments of the Act, and also to specify the manning scale in respect of particular ships.
– Will all regulations come before it?
– Not necessarily. As the Council will be a competent body, representative of the various interests, they will be able to give advice as to what is necessary to be done on various matters. It is impossible for any Minister of Trade and Customs to be clear upon every point that may be raised, and these men, being conversant with every phase of the industry, will ascertain what proposals are necessary and advise the Minister accordingly. It might, for instance, be necesary to supersede some regulation relating to wireless telegraphy with another, or some part of the Act mav be found to be ineffective, and on these points their advice will be valuable. A number of amendments have been drafted, but I have foreshadowed two of the more important ones of these, the first relating to wireless telegraphy, and the second to the constitutional point as to the scope of the measure. It has been found that in some cases clauses overlap, or do not clearly express what was intended, and it is hoped that by means of amendments to be circulated these defects will be overcome. When dealing with this Bill in 1908 the honorable member for Kooyong said in another place -
The first objection with which I shall deal is one of a somewhat strange character - an objection which was urged by the Leader of the Opposition, and which has been re-echoed by several honorable senators, namely, that the Bill is prematurely before this Chamber.
Senator Lynch. Hasty legislation.
– No doubt that is the idea which is prominent in their minds. Tt is a most extraordinary objection, seeing that this measure has been more or less before Parliament, or its representative Committees, for a period of something like five years.
If that was true in 1908, it is infinitely more true to-day. The Bill was framed by the late Charles Cameron Kingston in 1903, when he was a member of the Barton Government; it was introduced by Senator Drake, and again introduced by my honorable friend opposite on two’ or three separate occasions. It has now reached this Chamber, after about eight years.
– That progress is fast compared with that of the English copyright legislation.
– That may be so, but it is exceedingly slow compared with legislation generally in Australian Parliaments. I trust that we shall be able to say during this session that a Navigation Bill equal to any in existence in the world has been passed into law by the Australian Parliament, not only making the lot of the sailor better, but tending to secure an improved type of man to follow the avocation of the sea. I hope that we shall be able by means of this measure to improve the character of the life-saving appliances on vessels, and make the conditions better, not only for seamen and owners, but for members of the general public who travel on the sea. I thank honorable members for the attention they have given me, and am very glad that the proposal for half-hour speeches, which is to be introduced by the honorable member for Franklin, has not been in operation this afternoon.
Debate (on motion by Sir Robert Best) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.16 to 7-45 p.m.
– I move -
That, in order to secure the despatch of business and the good government of the Commonwealth, the Standing Orders of this House should be immediately amended in the direction of placing a time limit on the speeches delivered by honorable members in the House and in Committee.
This is no sudden conversion on my part, because, in the first session in which I had. the honour of a seat in this House, that is in 1904, I moved -
That, in the opinion of this House, in order to facilitate the parliamentary business of the Commonwealth, provision should be made to secure - whilst preserving proper freedom of debate - the discussions of the House being confined within more reasonable limits.
This motion was supported by very nearly every honorable member: in fact, it was supported so generously that its supporters talked it out. It has just been suggested to me that that is very likely what will happen on this occasion, but I sincerely hope not. My sole desire is to facilitate ;the’ business of the House, and without attempting to reflect in the slightest degree - it would be an impertinence on my part to do so - upon those who have spoken here, I think that the time has arrived when, to secure the proper transaction of the business of the country, a motion such as I am submitting should be passed. I do not want to weary the House with a statement of what is transpiring in other Parliaments, but we know that in many Parliaments it has been found necessary to provide a means for limiting the speeches. In this House, we have provided a means; but I think it is the worst which could possibly be adopted. I was one of those who “ stone- walled “ for, I think, three days and four nights, to prevent the inclusion in our Standing Orders of what is commonly called the “ gag.” I believe that the most unfortunate way in which to limit the speeches in any Parliament is by the use of the closure: Its application causes a feeling of irritation, a feeling that those against whom it has been applied have not been fairly treated. 1 have never voted to apply the closure without a qualm of conscience; - but 1 recognise that there are times when, without such recourse, it would be impossible to transact any public business. We have found that to be so in this Parliament. We have had recommended to us to-day a new standing order, and, without wishing to reflect upon the members of the Standing Orders Committee, I think it will be generally admitted that the proposed standing order would afford practically no solution of the difficulty. It provides, for instance, that an honorable member may speak for one hour upon any subject. If the seventyfour members of the House were to speak for one hour upon a subject, the debate would last over three weeks.
– What would be the position if every member spoke for four hours ?
– In that case, a debate would extend over three months. The proposed standing order, faulty as I consider it to be in that respect, goes very much further, because it exempts from the application of the time limit the debate on the Address-in-Reply, a no-confidence motion, the Appropriation Bill, and1 the Financial Statement, where the time limit is extended to an hour and a half. Now, if. every honorable member were to avail himself of that opportunity, each debate would extend over about four weeks and’ a half. It is also provided that, on every question in Committee, an honorable member may deliver four speeches of fifteen minutes each ; so that, on each amendment to a clause, every honorable member would have the right to speak for one hour.
– That is too generous.
– i think it is very much too generous; in fact, so generous, that the proposed standing order, if adopted, would leave us in the same position as we are in now, because it empowers the House to extend the time limit whenever it thinks fit. That would mean that every honorable member who wanted an extension of his time would vote for an extension to every other honorable member, and so we should find that the extension would become practically universal, and we should be just where we are now. Take the Navigation Bill, with its 424 clauses. The proposed standing order would allow every honorable member to speak for an hour on every clause of the Bill. It will be seen, therefore, that if we are to have any protection at all, we must face the question right out. I have not embodied in my motion a time limit. i think it would be fair to allow an hour and a half to a Minister, or any honorable member submitting a , motion or moving the second reading of a Bill. i would allow equal time to the member of the opposite party who might be put up to reply to him. For instance, the Minister of Trade and Customs to-day moved the second reading of a Bill ; I would allow him an hour and a half for the purpose. The Opposition would select one of their number to reply to his speech, and I would allow that honorable member an hour and a half, too; but afterwards, i would restrict every speaker to halfanhour. It has been interjected that halfanhour is too short.
– ‘Quite enough.
– i think that it is quite enough ; but if the House, in its wisdom:, thinks that half-an-hour is too short, though I hope it will not do so, and should extend the limit to forty-five minutes, it should certainly not make the fatal error of providing for an extension of the time to any honorable member. In my opinion, a time limit should be absolutely fixed, and five minutes before the expiration of the time Mr. Speaker should ring a bell, or give notice in some other way, and let the honorable member conclude his speech within the half-hour. I believe that the speeches delivered on the recent want of confidence motion would have done credit, if I may be allowed to say so, to any Parliament in the world, but there are very few speeches, indeed, exceeding one hour, which would not have been very much improved, from the standpoint of the speakers themselves, by a judicious sub-editing. 1 think it is too much to expect the public, or honorable members, to listen to a speaker for three, or four, or five hours, and to concentrate their attention on the kernels. My proposal, if adopted, would have another very desirable effect. Quite a common practice has crept up here for four or five honorable members on either side to deliver very long speeches. Other honorable members who have taken pains and trouble to prepare very much shorter speeches - speeches which would occupy perhaps half-an-hour - find, after a certain time has elapsed, that an arrangement has been made to close the debate, and scores of these speeches are put into the waste-paper basket. I believe that a much better attendance of members would result from the adoption of such a system as I have suggested; and here, again, I hope I am casting no reflections, because I have no desire to do so. If we had short, crisp speeches of half-an- ho, 1.r, honorable members could follow them with much closer attention. The fact that there was a possibility of every honorable member having an opportunity to speak, if he so desired, for half-an-hour would create a more general interest; and from every point of view limitation would1 prove an advantage, not only to the business of the country., but to honorable members themselves. I shall set a good example on the present occasion by making my speech short; but I sincerely hope that honorable members will apply themselves to the question with a view to arriving at some definite decision at once. This motion hasbeen placed on the notice-paper with a distinct object ; and I trust that it will not be the means of causing a still further wasteof time by continuing the discussion at intervals until the end of the session, and1 then be relegated to oblivion. Of course, I know that such an arrangement would, press hardly on some honorable members. There are those amongst us on both sideswho have made special subjects their special hobby ; and it has been truly said there is no man knows every subject so well as one man may know one subject. To such honorable members it might seem a hardship to have to confine their remarks to- half-an-hour, but I am quite sure that the effect would be beneficial in every way. There is ?io question that this Parliament Is transgressing further and further in the direction of unduly long speeches, with the result of confining the debates to a few who, from their positions in the House, feel called upon to speak on practically every subject. A limitation of speeches in the way I have proposed would have the effect of crystallizing debates and creating further interest in them, and, what is most important of all, would enable the business of the country to be transacted in a businesslike way, and in a business-like time. Accompanying the limitation of speeches, I hope we shall further provide that, under no circumstances, shall the Parliament sit after midnight. Ever since I have been a member, I have been a strong supporter of the principle of conducting the business of Parliament in the daytime, as practically all other business is transacted throughout Australia and the world. When members of Parliament gave their time for nothing, there was reasonable excuse for Parliament meeting at night, so that private business should not be interfered with. But the great majority of us have to make Melbourne our home during the whole of the session, and it would be a decided improvement if we could meet every morning, say, at 10 o’clock, and conclude the day’s business, say, at 6 o’clock in the evening. At any rate, under no circumstances should Parliament be asked to continue - and this 1 have always regarded as political debauchery - to carry on, or pretend to carry on. the business of Parliament for twelve, fifteen, and twenty-four hours at a sitting. Millions and millions of money have been voted in the early hours of the morning, with, perhaps, only halfadozen members awake. Honorable members will bear me out when I say that on occasions when we have dealt with the Estimates, these benches, during an :all-night sitting, have resembled more a battlefield than a deliberative assembly. “Such a method is not in the best interests -of good government or go<5d law, and it is certainly not in the interests of the health or the temper of honorable members. If we limit speeches in the way I propose, there will, I think, be no reason to ask “honorable members to sit after n o’clock at night, and we shall nil be able to catch our -trams and trains. I hope the House will favorably receive the motion, and, further, 4hat some other honorable member will take action - or, if not, I shall be prepared to do so - to secure that, under no circumstances shall business be transacted after midnight.
– At what time does -the honorable member suggest we should start the sitting?
– I am taking it that the hour will be the same as now, namely, half-past 2 in the afternoon.
– Why not meet in the morning ?
– I am very much in favour of meeting at 10 o’clock in the morning and rising at 6 o’clock in the evening. With a time limit to speeches, and with the closure in reserve - though I think that, with a time limit, the closure would very rarely have to be used - there is no reason why the business of the country should not be done in a business-like way. I commend the motion because the proceedings in this National Parliament, for the last four or five years, have shown conclusively that if we are to cope with the enormous work in front of us, some such restriction will have to be made. We have as yet touched only the fringe of the work intrusted to us as the National Parliament.
– We have been told that there is no more to do until the Constitution is amended.
– There is so much real work for the National Parliament that the question of conserving the time at our disposal should be taken in hand, and’ provision made for carrying on the business in a practical and reasonable way. Because I believe that the only means to secure that end is some such step as I have proposed. I submit this motion to the approval of the House.
.- I have much pleasure in seconding the motion ; and I may say that, when a member of the State House of Victoria, I had to deal with similar proposals. We have to consider that this is the National Parliament, composed of men from all parts of Australia ; and, further, there is not now the same necessity for long speeches as there was in the old days. Politicians in the past had to rely pretty well on the columns of the newspapers for the reproduction of their speeches, except, perhaps, in some singular instances, when friends crowded the gallery and, could spread the gospel preached. Perhaps this motion is the thin end of the wedge which will permit honorable member’s to hand in written speeches, and thus save other members the pleasure or displeasure of listening to them.
– Are we to Americanize our methods?
– There are some things we can copy from America, but I hope that Australia will make such advances in political thought that we may be able to set an example even to America ; because we are a younger nation, and have a freer and wider Constitution than that of the United States. Not that our Constitution is perfect by any means, but I am quite sure that if it had contained amongst its provisions one establishing the referendum, with the power of initiative granted to the people, the country would have insisted on a limitation of speeches delivered in this House. No instance that could be mentioned is so striking as the recent debate on the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech. I venture to say that no honorable member who took part in that debate had any thought that a single vote would be changed by any speech that was made.
– The honorable member knows that.
– The honorable member for Parkes is well aware that if he had spoken for four hours he would not have changed a single vote.
– I am sure that I should not have changed a single vote on the honorable member’s side, but some on my own side might have voted otherwise !
-The honorable member is so good-tempered, and delivers himself so effectively, in ‘those well-polished accents with which we are familiar, that I am certain he would not have offended any honorable member on his own side. I remember taking the opportunity of asking every member who had taken part in a debate whether he had ever known a vote to be changed by a speech, and not a single one was able to reply in the affirmative. When Sir Henry Wrixon left a Ministry in Victoria and crossed over to the other side of the House on a motion of no-confidence, I asked him. whether he thought that the famous speech which he delivered on that occasion had changed a single vote. He said,. “)Dr. Maloney, I really do not think it did.” I went to that grim, stern old man who for many years controlled the destinies of the Age newspaper, and asked him whether he had ever known a political speech to change a vote, and he told me that he had nor. T have no doubt that if I asked the present Leader of the Opposition whether he had any distinct recollection of a speech changing a vote, his answer also would be in the negative. Therefore, I have much pleasure in seconding this motion. I should like to see a limitation of half-an-hour placed upon speeches, with the right of the speaker to have the period extended if the House so desired. I am very much inclined to favour the course pursued by a Parliament of workers, in which debates at particular periods are carried on with a limitation of only five minutes for each speaker, that period, being capable of extension by the wish of the congress. I trust that I may be permitted to commend this motion, as one who has had some years of parliamentary experience, and who believes that its operation would be to the benefit of our procedure. I am sure that every honorable member in this House in his heart of hearts desires to do that which is in the interests of this noble land, of which we are all glad and proud to be citizens.
.- I rise more for the purpose of endeavouring to acquire information from those honorable members who support this proposal than with the object of attempting to throw any light upon the subject myself.
I notice that the honorable member for Franklin, who is so earnest a zealot in the cause of the limitation of speeches, himself occupied some twenty minutes in giving expression to his earnest hope that the motion would be passed. But I listened in vain for any information as to what has been done in other Parliaments than ours. I am bound to say that even the honorable member for Melbourne failed on this occasion to shed light on the subject. He told us that he did not think that any speech had ever made a convert in this House. If he holds that to be so, and believes that even as an educational medium this House has ceased to have value, the logical thing would be to wipe it out altogether.
I cannot see that we are likely to do much good by simply “ gagging “ the House, for that, as I understand it. is what the proposal is intended to do. Let honorable members who are inclined off-hand to support this proposal, which has received so much earnest support from the Victorian press recently, consider what it may mean. In the first place, they profess themselves against the use of the ‘ 1 gag. 1 ‘ That is to say, when any member of this House offends against good sense and decorum, they consider that it is an act of the grossest tyranny to move that that member be no longer heard ; and the person who submits such a motion is, in their opinion, to be severely reprobated. But if under this proposed new standing order an honorable member is to be “ gagged,” we are all to be very pleased because not a single one of us is to have the responsibility for our collective action !
– Does the honorable member believe in the “gag”?
– I do sincerely believe in its use wherever it is necessary ; but I also think that wherever it is applied,, and wherever freedom of speech is interfered with,, the persons who take action should take the responsibility for their action. I do not think that we should pretend, under cover of a pious hope, that the debates in this House are going to become more brilliant and more brief as the result of the application of an all-round “ gag “ like this. I do not think that this is the right thing to do.
– There is a big difference between an hour’s latitude and the application of the “ gag.”
– I have before me a proposal made by the Standing Orders Committee. I take it that the Committee would not have sat upon this question at all unless they wished to have their proposal taken into consideration.
– The honorable member for Franklin mentioned no particular time.
– But here is a crystallized proposal which has been referred to by the honorable member for Franklin, and is, I think, indorsed by him.
– No; opposed by him.
– He says that, it is not drastic enough.
– Not drastic enough? Let us see what it means.
– The proposal of the Committee is not before us at all.
– It is the only crystallized proposal for the establishment of this new system that is before us.
– We ought to hear what the spokesman of the Committee has to say about it.
– I quite agree, but we cannot wait indefinitely for the spokesman of the Committee. We hoped that the Prime Minister would speak, in order that we might have some intimation of what his position was. In the absence of a speech from him less qualified persons like myself have to try to find out what the Standing Orders Committee mean. The proposal that they have laid before us says -
No member shall speak for more than one hour at a time in any debate in the House, except in the debate on the Address-in-Reply, or in a debate on a motion of “ No Confidence,1’ or in moving the second reading of a Bill, or in the debate on the Appropriation Bil-!, or on the Financial Statement in Committee, when a member shall be at liberty to speak for one hour and a half.
So that on any one of these questions, which, generally speaking, involve broad policy, an honorable member is to be at liberty to speak at fair length. But on questions which may be of much more serious interest to persons outside, on questions involving new legislation, an honorable member is to have no latitude. A proposal for new legislation may affect the people of Australia in the most serious way. ft may perhaps vitally involve personal and political liberty. On such serious questions affecting the vital interests of the people, and even their liberties, we are to be “ gagged “ in this House. But on such matters as the Address-in-Reply - debate on. which, the Age says, is so much waste of time - we are to have practically any latitude we like. That is the first thing, that I notice in this proposition. Again -
In Committee of the- House, no member shall speak for more than fifteen minutes at any one time, or for more than four times on any one question before the Committee.
Just think for a moment what that means? We all know how business in Committee is conducted,, particularly when the Estimates are under consideration. On such occasions, it sometimes becomes necessary for a member, in order to elicit information in regard to the public finances, to refuse, for the time being, to allow an item to pass until he has been given some explanation. Under this proposition, it would only be necessary for him to make such a request four times, and for’ the Minister to whom the- request was made to be deaf on each occasion, in order that that honorable member should be “ gagged,” and for the matter in question to remain a secret. Then we have the proviso -
Provided that this rule shall not apply in Committee to a member in charge of a Bill - which is a wise provision - or to a Minister when delivering the Financial Statement - another wise provision - or, in regard to the number of his speeches, to a Minister in charge of a Class of the Estimates in Committee of Supply.
That is all right. It seems to me to be the only sanely-drawn part of this proposal from the Standing Orders Committee. But here we come to the horns of the beast. We have seen his tail right through - here are his horns -
Any member may speak for a longer period or more frequently than is allowed by the preceding rule with the leave of an ordinary majority of the House or Committee, as the case may be.
We have to consider things as they are. If a man on the Government side of the House desired to continue his speech beyond the stipulated period-
– The honorable member must refer to honorable members, not as “ men,” but as “ honorable members.”
– I take your correction, sir; I did not intend to insult honorable members opposite by calling them men. If an honorable member on that side of the House wanted to exceed the time limit, he would get a majority of his colleagues to grant the desired permission. If, however, an honorable member on, this side of the House desired1 an extension of time-
– When he was castigating the Government, for instance.
– Exactly ; if he desired an -extension, and, for the time being, was a little unpopular, what chance would he have? The proposed standing order, which is the only crystallized proposition before us, is one-sided and dangerous-; it means the “ gag,” in a less manly form than the “ gag “ as it has been previously known, and it ought not to be adopted without the gravest consideration. Honorable members opposite must bear in mind that some day they will be on this side of the House, and that this proposed standing order, if adopted, may be used against them. I would also remind them that they were responsible for the introduction of the “ gag “ in this House. They, with others, sat up here for nearly a week - I think it was from Tuesday until Saturday at midnight - in order to secure the adoption of the “gag” standing order.
– They ought to be ashamed of themselves.
– I agree with the honorable member. I would also remind them that they were the first in this House who deserved, to have the “gag” applied to them.
– It was applied to them.
– And very properly, too. When it was applied to them, did not we hear an outcry in this House, and was there not a squeal from end to end of the Commonwealth about the iniquity of preventing honorable members of the Labour party expressing their righteous indignation ? Their own proposition was no sooner put into operation against them than there was a howl of indignation from one end of the country to the other. They are now proposing - foolishly, in my opinon - a still further inroad into the liberties of honorable members.
– No; the proposal comes from the Opposition.
– No. It comes in reality from the Government side of the House. Think of the alacrity with which this proposal has been taken up. I have heard Ministers cheering it, and it was passed by the Standing Orders Committee in a remarkably short time. I understand that a special meeting of the Committee was held yesterday in order that this virtuous proposal might be placed in print at the earliest possible moment.
I remind honorable members that the House already has, in its Standing Orders, a very simple mean’s of dealing with any honorable member who abuses the right of free speech in this House. The House can decide that he be no longer heard. If a question is being “ stone- walled,” it can decide, further, that that question shall be put forthwith. The House, therefore, is at full liberty, under the Standing Orders as they exist, to proceed expeditiously with public business. But, under those Standing Orders as they exist, the honorable members who move for the expedition of business and charge others with “ stone- walling,” or obstructive tactics, have to be responsible, as in every British country, for the charge they make. Under this proposition, however, a good case could be “ gagged “ - on vital questions affecting the liberties of the people we could be denied the freest expression of opinion in this Chamber, and every honorable member would be able to say, in such circumstances, “ I am very sorry, but this is being done under a standing order.” I hope the House will think seriously before it proceeds to embody such a proposition in the Standing Orders. I ask the Prime Minister to try to explain it. Mr. Speaker is the Chairman of the Standing Orders Committee, but on these questions he is very properly “gagged.” The Prime Minister, therefore, ought to explain the proposal of the Standing Orders Committee, and I think that he should have spoken as soon as the mover of this motion had concluded his speech. I have risen mainly with the object of eliciting information from him, and I trust that it will now be forthcoming.
– I am in sympathy with the object that is aimed at by this motion.
– Then the honorable member acknowledges his transgressions ?
– I do not acknowledge that I have transgressed, but I do acknowledge that it will never again be necessary for an honorable member to do what I had to do on the occasion to which the right honorable member refers, since there will never be another Fusion party in Australia. I realize that what has taken place in all other English-speaking com- 1munities must inevitably take place here. We shall have later to consider whether we are going to bring the transaction of business in this House within reasonable limits - whether we are going so to educate our members that they will give the essence of their thought, unaccompanied by the dressing that we have all been in the habit of adding, thereby cultivating a higher standard of public speaking than we have hitherto had. We often hear a Minister, in moving the second reading of a Bill, reading, or paraphrasing, clause after clause, instead of giving the explanation of the principles of the measure that is expected of him, I mention this to show what is a growing tendency in a House of this character. Another point is that, under the present practice, a few members on this side of the House, arid a few members of the Opposition, either because of prece’dent, or by reason pf their long association with Governments, are allowed practically to monopolize the principal part of a debate, so that the rank and file can speak only when few are inclined to listen, or when there is no encouragement to do so. This practice must, to some extent, mar the aspirations of the younger members of the House ; and, with a view of giving every honorable member an equal opportunity, I move -
That the following words be added : - “ No member shall speak for more than halfanhour at a time in any debate in the House, except in the debate on the Address-in-Reply, or in a debate on a motion of ‘ No Confidence,’ or in moving the second reading of a Bill, or on the debate on the Appropriation Bill or on the Financial Statement in Committee, when a member shall be at liberty to speak for one hour. In Committee of the House no member shall speak for more than ten minutes at any one time, or more than four times on any one question before the Committee; provided that this rule shall not apply in Committee to a member in charge of a Bill, or to a Minister when delivering the Financial Statement, or in regard to the number of his speeches, to a Minister in charge of a Class of the Estimates in Committee of Supply.”
I do not move this amendment merely because it dovetails into a recommendation of the Standing Orders Committee. In point of fact, the times are not quite those recommended by the Committee. What I have done is, with a little alteration, to adopt the practice of a Legislature very similar to ours, the Parliament of New Zealand, considering that rules which apply satisfactorily in that body will be of use to us. The honorable member for Wentworth complained that the House has no information regarding the practice of Legislatures in other countries. Let me read to him an account of the practice of the House of Representatives in the United States of America. These are extracts from Rule XIV.-
The American limitations are more stringent than those which I propose. As the proposal speaks for itself, I have only to add a word or two in reply to the remarks of the honorable member for Wentworth about the “gag.” I do not like the ” £aS “ as an instrument for shortening debate, because it can be used viciously, and without justification. I have seen it applied in this Chamber after six members had spoken on one side and another had been speaking for only a quarter of an hour on the other. That was an improper use of the “gag” to stifle reasonable debate. If we deal with this, question tonight, honorable members will know where they stand. Being aware that he will have only an hour in which to express himself, an intending speaker will he able to condense his matter, and will thus put it in a better and more presentable form than if he were permitted to be discursive. In Committee a member may speak four times to any question, and in four efforts he ought surely to be able to say what he wishes to say. I am prepared to try this change of procedure, though, no doubt, I shall find it as difficult as the Leader of the Opposition may find it to comply with the new rules of procedure. In the interests of good order, good temper, and the proper conduct of debate, and to avoid all-night sittings, which are bad for honorable members and for our legislation, I think that there should be a limitation on speeches.
– 1 second the amendment, and wish to say a few words in support of it. The honorable member for Wentworth has objected that the motion would have much the same effect as the “gag,” but, in my opinion, the proposals now before us would make the application of the “ gag “ unnecessary.
– They might make it reasonable.
– In my opinion, it would be needless. The “ gag “ has been applied in the past because a few members have occupied the whole time of the House.
– The “gag,” was applied to the honorable member for Parramatta on one occasion when he was about to unfold the defence policy of the Ministry of which he was a member.
– And to the present Prime Minister when he had not got further than “ Mr. Speaker.”
– Those occurrences were due to the fact that the time of the session had been wasted-
– The honorable member must not go into that matter.
– In my opinion, the adoption of the motion would save the time of the House and make the use of the “ gag “ unnecessary. The amendment is required because the motion does not go far enough. In applying business methods to the conduct of the country’s affairs, we should be doing what the people desire. A business man starts work at half-past 9 or 10 a.m., and with his business-sheet in front of him is able to finish by 6 p.m., and enjoy the evening with his family. Similarly with a limitation on speeches we could get through our work in the day time, and have our evenings at home in comfort, or use them to get rid of our correspondence, with which it is impossible to cope when we have to attend here day and night listening to debates. During the debate on the Address-in-Reply just concluded, the second day was occupied with one speech and part of another, and the third with three speeches. In the first four days not more than one point had . been touched, the main issue having been left alone.
– The honorable member may not refer to the Address-in-Reply.
– The abuse of our present liberty of speech which is sometimes indulged in involves a sinful waste of the country’s time, and endangers the health of members of this House. We should apply business methods in the conduct of our debates, and should arrange for each day a business-sheet which may be got through in decent time. I believe that the proposal would do away with “ stonewalling.” The honorable member for Melbourne has told us that no one is able to give an instance of a speech, long or short, that has influenced a single vote in this House.
– That is an argument for having no speeches at all.
– There is nothing in the honorable member’s interjection, because, if a speech of seven or eight hours’ duration does not influence a single vote, it is of no use at all, and it would certainly be much better that the matter contained in it should be compressed into a speech of half-an-hour. If no speech, long or short, influences a vote in this House, we had much better accept the lesser of two evils, and have short rather than long speeches. We are all familiar with the great number of measures, whether important or unimportant, that are left undecided at the close of the session, and are usually referred to as “ the slaughtered innocents.” These have been a by-word in the State and Federal Legislatures alike. Under this proposal we should be able to avoid the slaughter of so many innocents in future. It is because I think that, under the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Gwydir, the “ gag “ will be rendered unnecessary, the progress of business accelerated, and the health and strength of honorable members, as well as the interests of the country, conserved, that I hope to see the amendment carried.
– The honorable member’ for Gwydir tonight reminded me of one of those “ dreadful examples “ that the Salvation Army are in the habit of putting on their platforms to exhibit as instances of what men may come to. The officers of the Army make the misdeeds of such persons the foundation of addresses designed to show how bad a man may become and yet be reformed. The honorable member for Gwydir announced, in a very dramatic way, that in future he proposes to confine himself to half-an-hour. He is like that class of people who require to take a pledge before they can put any sort of restraint upon themselves. In this connexion I may be classed amongst the dreadful examples, but I wish to say that 1 am not yet ref ormed. I am not prepared to say, as a member of this House, that I am unable to control myself, or to use any influence with my fellow members. Looking at this proposal seriously, I do not think there is any reason for vehemence, or for any very drastic action. In my opinion, the honorable member for Wentworth was not justified in assuming that all the members of the party opposite will vote for the motion. I think that some of them will agree with me that the effect would be to reduce this Parliament to a sort of debating society. Instead of an assemblage of men who have gone through life and gained considerable experience, which we are willing to communicate to one another and to the country through Hansard, we are asked to treat ourselves as a number of youths in a debating society, who have no control over the length of their speeches or the amount of detail they should include in them. We are being asked practically to stop our mouths lest we should abuse our privileges. I cannot forget that this is the National Parliament of one of the Dominions of the Empire. I suppose that there is scarcely any Parliament in the world in which more debatable problems of State arise than those which arise in this Parliament. Some of them require very exhaustive speeches if justice is to be done to their importance. Although it may be true that at the present time honorable members on this side are unable to influence a vote on the other side, I am hopeful that the time will come when we shall see some sort of breakaway from the thraldom that now fetters honorable members opposite. I have seen very strong indications occasionally on the part of the man to come out of the Labour member and express his own opinions ; but, of course, a recollection of the consequences likely to follow has driven the man back into the Labour member, and he has voted as he has felt constrained to do.
– There is very little difference between the parties in that regard.
– I think that much greater liberty is enjoyed by honorable members on this side. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports is aware that I, for one, have exhibited some independence when financial questions were being dealt with. The honorable member for Wentworth dwelt at length on the proposed amendment of the Standing Orders. I was somewhat surprised that he should have been allowed to do so, because the Standing Orders are not now before the House. We were discussing an abstract proposition as to whether we should limit the duration of speech in this House ; and until the honorable member for Gwydir moved his amendment, we had really nothing to do with the question as to how far honorable members should be restricted in their freedom of speech. There is, it is true, on the table a proposed amendment of the Standing Orders; but we are discussing an abstract question as to whether we should curtail our powers of speech, and in the event of our deciding to do so, to what extent we should curtail them. I wish to say that there is a very great difference between the debating of questions in this House and in a debating society. Great responsibilities are sometimes thrown ‘ upon leaders of parties here to make what I might call exhaustive speeches on particular questions. I take, for instance, the question raised by the Bill which was under discussion before dinner - the question of a Merchant Shipping Act for Australia. The Minister who introduced the measure reminded us that there are something like ninety-seven Acts of Parliament in operation in Great Britain upon which it will bear. We know that it contains problems of an- international character, involving the attitude of this Parliament towards the British Empire and the laws of merchant shipping affecting other nations. There are clauses in it raising the question of the power of this Legislature to deal, with matters which, in the opinion of many eminent lawyers, are purely State questions. I venture to say that no member of the Government could expound such a Bill, and no Leader of an Opposition or prominent legal luminary on the Opposition, side could properly debate such a measure, without occupying an hour or an hour and a half, or even more-, in making his reasons clear to the House. We ought not to assume that it will always be correct to- say of this House that, no matter what arguments may be used during the debate, they will not affect the result. It is very easy to speak as if we. would do better if we had a ballot-box on the table and each honorable member merely Recorded his vote by putting apiece of paper in- it. But we must not forget that, however much we may have departed from! the original, object of Parliament, it is essentially a -House for discussion - a Chamber in which great problems are. supposed to be brought forward, and to the elucidation of which every honorable member, with, a knowledge of the world and of the wants of the different parts of the country, is presumed to contribute his quota of political wisdom for the information and edification of others. Suppose that we had before us a Bill dealing with the sugar industry, an honorable member like myself, who has not studied its details, might like the representatives of Queensland upon both sides of the Chamber to throw light upon it. It would be ludicrous if I were to. sit here and to say, “ It does not matter what knowledge you may bring, to bear upon this subject, I am already solid, and my opinion cannot be changed.” We are practically emasculating. Parliament of one of its chief functions when we declare that no honorable member shall listen to the lengthy arguments of another honorable member even if he has a special knowledge of a particular subject. It seems to me that it is impossible to differentiate. If we impose a time limit which may seem a reasonable one in regard to speeches upon a simple question such as that which we are now debating, it may prove a very unreasonable limit in regard to speeches upon a matter of the first importance. I notice that the honorable member for Gwydir occupied’ nearly twenty minutes in discussing this simple question, and then had to remind himself that he ought not to exceed a certain time limit. The position therefore resolves itself into a rule of three sum. If a simple issue like this requires so long to expound, what time is required to explain the provisions, say, of the Navigation Bill which contains some hundreds of clauses, when the Minister is called upon to move its second reading and when the Leader of the Opposition has to reply to his statement? The whole House waits for the speech of the Minister who- has to expound a measure, and also for the reply of the Leader of the Opposition. Honorable members should recollect that if we are going to lay down a hard and fast rule in the abstract we are going to bind honorable members in cases of extreme need, when great questions claim our attention. Of course, it is possible that we may not have great questions before us in the future^ because I recollect that the AttorneyGeneral, in introducing the Referenda Bill some two years ago, told us that if that measure were not affirmed by the people, there would be practically nothing more for this Parliament to do. The statement was a rhetorical absurdity, although it may have represented his view that we have already exhausted our functions under the Constitution. But I hold a very different opinion. My own impression is that there will be plenty for this Parliament to do for many years to come. Great problems will arise which will demand careful treatment.. Although it may be unfair to allow every member of the Opposition and every Ministerial supporter to speak upon any question at great length, we. cannot lay down a rule for one and exempt another from its operation. I believe that this motion has arisen out of the debate upon the AddressinReply, which lasted three weeks. I confess that I was not at all influenced by the fact that one of the leading newspapers of this State saw fit to twit honorable members with having delivered extraordinarily long speeches upon the motion which was then before, us. It stated, amongst other thing’s, that six leading speakers in the House of Commons had only occupied about five hours in debating the Home Rule Bill, whereas, here, six speakers upon the no-confidence motion submitted by the Leader of the Opposition had occupied twenty-two hours. In my opinion there is absolutely no parallel between the circumstances. If honorable members opposite were upon this side of the Chamber they would agree with me that when one is called upon to review the doings of a Government which he may regard as a vicious Government, over a period of seven months, it is impossible to deal with their acts with the same brevity and simplicity that one would deal with the Home Rule Bill. That measure has been a standing dish in the House of Commons for thirty years, and its different aspects are so well known that one might practically refer to them by the use of a single word. One could argue the Home Rule question by a sort of elocutionary shorthand, because the arguments for and against it are well known, and merely require to be marshalled. I took the trouble to look through the columns of the newspaper to which I have referred with a view to ascertaining what it did during the seven months over which our parliamentary recess extended. It is very easy for a leader writer to twit a Parliament - in the ears of perhaps 120,000 people - with having wasted the time of the country. I find that that journal during the seven months of our recess published article after article dealing with Federal affairs. Having looked through those articles, I came to this conclusion : That if they were joined together they would reach from Bourke to Collins-street, they would require a fortnight to read, and would fill as many volumes as Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. That newspaper now says, in effect, “ We have settled all the questions which are engaging the attention of Parliament. There is nothing to argue about.” For my part I shall continue to argue those questions because I do not read that journal except when I happen to be in Melbourne. This motion, I submit, ought not to be viewed from a party stand-point. It may be that because the proposed standing order is put before the House, Ministerial followers think that they are under an obligation to vote for it. But, secure as they may feel in their present position, the time will come when they, will find themselves in opposition.
– I admire the honorable member’s youthful optimism. It is very sweet, and it is very naive. But I have lived long enough to know that the most Heaven-sent Ministry eventually finds its way into Opposition. The time will undoubtedly come when the present Ministerial party will feel disposed to view this question as I view it now. I am quite sure that we shall be acting more in conformity with the dignity of this National Parliament if we practically say, “ We are masters of our affairs, we are sufficiently experienced, and we are possessed of sufficient judgment to know whether or not honorable members are abusing their privileges.” I would remind the House that our Standing Orders provide for the application of the closure, and that by this means any gross abuse of the privileges of debate may be prevented. Seeing that we have power to intervene in such circumstances, there is no need for us to descend to the level of a boys’ debating society by saying, “ We are going to impose a limit upon our own speeches, because we do not know how to conduct ourselves in debate.” There is a great difference in another respect between this Parliament and the House of Commons. I recollect a conversation which I had with Mr. Cooper, the editor of the Scotsman, which is the Times of Scotland. He had sat in the gallery of the House of Commons for twenty years, and in referring to the speeches of several great statesmen like Mr. Goschen and Sir William Vernon Harcourt, he said, “ Don’t imagine for a moment that the reports which you read in the leading London newspapers truly represent the speeches which those men made. Their speeches were broken up, there were repetitions and redundancies in them beyond expression, but the men employed in reporting the proceedings of the House of Commons turned them into literature and presented them to the public in a finished form which the speakers would scarcely recognise.” How are we reported? I know the papers are busy nowadays. There is so much sport that there is not much time for public affairs, and we find a man sometimes fully reported in one passage of his speech, while the rest of it is cut out, destroying every particle of proportion and perspective in it. If men were employed who would put our speeches before the public with something like a sense of proportion and perspective, giving one, at all. events, how very shortly, the credit of having brought certain points forward. I should say the shorter the speeches the better. Every one who has visited England and attended the House of Commons knows that some of the leaders are now reducing their speeches to writing.
– Because secretaries prepare their speeches.
– Very likely; but the honorable member does not mean to impute by that that the secretary is more clever than the speaker? I am told that even Mr. Asquith, Mr. Churchill, and Mr. Lloyd-George frequently read a large part of their speeches. If one could do that, it is quite possible that one might reduce a very long speech to what I call Liebig form, and put it before the House in much more succinct terms; but nothing of that sort is allowed here. Sometimes so little attention is paid to a speech in this House, and there are so many interruptions, which always astonish visitors to this country, that one has to go over one’s arguments again and again. Take as an instance the speech delivered from this bench the other night by the honorable member for Mernda. Without any disrespect to him, I may say that the whole of that speech, which occupied about four hours, could have been condensed into an hour and a half, but - and this involves the Ministerial benchesthere were so many interruptions, and so many questions which he was goodnatured enough to answer, that it extended to three times that length. How is it proposed to provide for such a set of circumstances? Supposing a speaker on this side who makes a fighting speech has to undergo a fusilade of questions and interruptions, is that all to be counted in his twenty minutes or halfanhour ? That leads to an absurdity, and, therefore, I think we should be very unwise if we allowed ourselves to be led into a voluntary curtailment of our speeches. It would be far better for the House to take a moral from the desire that has been expressed to do this, and to see, from time to time, if we cannot allow each other to make speeches without more interruptions or questions than are really necessary. If it has that result, the debate may do good ; but I hope the House will remember that it owes a great deal to itself as a branch of the National Parliament. It ought to preserve its dignity, and plainly tell the people and the newspapers : “ We know how to conduct our own debates, and although we may from time to time make very long speeches on big questions, at the same time we reserve to ourselves the right to control our own affairs.”
.- What the honorable member for Parkes has said I might almost indorse without adding anything more, because I think the motion has been rather hastily tabled, although I know it expresses what has been the private opinion of the honorable member for Franklin for some time past. He, at any rate, is entitled to table it, because I think he has not sinned against the rule which he now wishes to establish. When he speaks he speaks to the point, and with comparative brevity. We are now in the twelfth year of our existence as a Federal Parliament, and during that time we have done exceedingly good work. Honorable members have only to look at the first three sessions of the Parliament to find that Bills of wonderful comprehensiveness, dealing with the establishment of new Departments in practically an untouched field, were passed with a fair amount of celerity. Any waste of time that some members may perhaps have put to the account of the Parliament was in connexion with the Tariff, which took about eleven months to pass, but that was the first big issue presented to us, and there may be reasons why the Opposition were entitled to deal, for a duration of time not altogether in proportion to the matter, with some of the points raised by it. If, however, honorable members look at our work during the first eleven years, they will find that we have not done so badly on the whole, notwithstanding the occasional excessive duration of some speeches. We passed last year twenty-nine Acts - better work than the House of Commons - and did so in a session which, I think, commenced in the first week of September and ended in the first or second week of December. Twenty-nine Acts of Parliament are not bad work.
– It may be considered very bad work.
– We always assume that Legislatures do good work. If I wished to refer to another aspect of the question, I might say that some people would think that the longer ‘we delayed our work the better for the country, but I do not quite agree with that view. I am not one that would decry the work of any Parliament of Australia, and I say honestly that we have done good work. We have passed under comparatively new conditions 340 Acts, which is not a bad output. If anything is required, it is a retardation of the pace. In an article in connexion with English constitutional government, I find that it is .stated -
Proposals are introduced which are not wanted by the country (which wants chiefly a rest from legislative meddling), and are often worse than merely not wanted. It is a mercy that the House of Commons has no more time, or the mountain of fantastic legislation would assume even more monstrous proportions.
But what is the evil in connexion with the House of Commons ? It is one the growth of which we may induce here if we are not cautious - the too great control of legislative affairs by the Executive. What honorable members will do by this beginning is to put a limit upon the power of private members. It is pointed out by Professor Morgan and others, writing on some constitutional aspects of modern times, that the Parliament at Home is no longer in a true sense a legislative machine. The power of the private member has practically gone. The Estimates are almost kicked through. After a period of perhaps a few days of laxity, the discussion closes. Professor Morgan, who is the chief constitutional lecturer in the London University, and, I think, from what I have read of him, perhaps one of the leading constitutional authorities in the British Empire, sums up some references to this matter by stating that the limitation upon the power of private members has practically established an unchecked control by the Executive. He adds -
But, unfortunately, the rights of the subject, and, paradoxical as it may sound, the rights of the Commons, have had to be sacrificed to the exigencies of this internecine warfare, and both have been handed over in an increasing degree to the uncovenanted mercies of the Executive, which has either assumed or been granted judicial and legislative functions of a character so far-reaching as to justify us in calling them an unprecedented introduction of administrative law into this country.
We ought to be cautious, lest, by putting limitations upon what are at present the liberties of private members - and which a self-denying ordinance could bring within the limits of fair use, and exclude abuse - we introduce what appears to have become the curse of other countries. I have reason to know that this is a matter that is being considered at the present time by some leading constitutional writers. As regards the fact that no opinions are changed by second-reading speeches, honorable members must bear in mind that the principles which divide parties are generally embodied in second-reading discussions, and people do not abandon their parties under the stress of what ap- pears to be the mote cogent reason from the opposite side of the House. When, however, the House goes into Committee, votes are continually affected by reasoning, and that preserves the healthy balance, which has been established in all British Constitutions, between what ought to be the comparative stratification of opinions as regards parties which is marked on the second reading, and that interchange of opinions as regards methods, or that co-operation in perfecting the details of a measure, under what I may call the greater cogency of arguments, which marks the Committee stage. I ask honorable members not to decry what we have done; not to say, because there is occasionally an abuse of the freedom of speech by some honorable members speaking for three or four hours, that there is not, in general, some addition to the matter. It reminds me of the remark of the Vicar of Wakefield, that the ladies continued the conversation, but not the argument. I would not make that remark of the ladies. One always gives way in their discussions, especially at the domestic teatable, where peace should be preserved. I am sure that if we totted up the number of speeches which have exceeded fair limits, we should find that, on the whole, there has not been such an abuse, of the rights of debate as should lead to the imposition of a stringent rule like that which is proposed. It is rather a pity that, without any further evidence than the mere tabling of a motion, and, of course, the fair reasons given, by the mover, we should suddenly be jumped upon with a standing order which has never been discussed, and which we have not sufficient ground to say would be an effective means of carrying out the general motion.
– It is not so bad as you did to us in the last Parliament. Then you “ gagged “ a man before he got up.
– We have all. improved since then, and there has been no ‘ ‘ gagging.” Even the drafting of this proposed method of carrying out the motion, if it should be adopted, displays haste. On every occasion in Committee on which the rule is applied an honorable member is to be allowed to ask that he be further heard, and then a division will take place.
– This is not before the House.
– I know that it is. not; but it is a method of carrying out the motion which is before the House, and, of course, it is largely adopted by trie honorable member’s amendment. I hope that the considerations brought to bear so clearly by the honorable member for Parkes will have some influence with honorable members, and lead them- to think a little more over the matter, and to remember that we have to uphold traditions which, on the whole, commend themselves to the people of the Commonwealth, before they suddenly reverse a rule which, on the whole, has not been the occasion of much abuse.
.- My experience in the State Parliament, and also in this Parliament, leads me to the conclusion that it is necessary to put some limitation upon speeches. At the same time, I do not want to trespass more than is reasonable upon the rights of honorable members, because I realize that, in some cases, perhaps, it may be necessary for an honorable member to occupy more than one hour in dealing with an important measure. Take, for instance, the Navigation Bill. I do not think that the Minister of Trade and Customs could have moved its second reading in less than an hour. But while I hold that view, I think that a good deal of unnecessary time is taken up in our discussions. It has been stated that not much exception can be taken to the time which was occupied in the recent debate. Well, a period of twenty-two hours was occupied by five speeches. If we had had a rule allowing an hour and’ a half for a speech, we could have had about fourteen speakers in that time, with an hour to spare. I think that any honorable member should be able to express his views on a question in an hour and a half. In these days it should be the duty of honorable members to condense their speeches as much as possible. I am not one of those who agree with the statement that conviction has never been carried to a member’s mind by debate here, because, to my knowledge, it has been. Both in the State Parliament and here, on different clauses in Committee, I have been convinced that I held a wrong view, and I have changed it accordingly. Was it a long speech which’ convinced me that I was wrong? No, it was a short speech, clearly pointing out the effect of a particular clause; and as a result of that concise explanation, I changed my opinion. When we have to listen to a very lengthy speech, in which a good deal of elaboration takes place, conviction is not very often carried to me, or any other honorable member.
The speaker clouds the issue - he is not able to make his meaning clear to other members because of the padding which he employs - instead of coming straight to the point and expressing himself briefly. That is the opinion I hold. I do not intend to support this motion with the view of curtailing the rights of honorable members. I desire to give honorable members a fair opportunity tq express their views on any question. My remarks do not apply to one party more than to another, because both parties are equally guilty. When a party is on the other side, it takes as much time as possible simply because it is in Opposition. That remark applies to both Parliaments in which I have sat. With a time limit, honorable members would make better speeches, being compelled to speak more to the point ; their speeches would be more acceptable to those who read Hansard, and certainly they would be read more frequently than they are at present, because people will not read very lengthy addresses. If an honorable member makes a speech of a reasonable length, the probability is that more persons will read the report. The House is only asked by this motion to express an opinion on the question of limiting the speeches. There is nothing definite beyond that. That brings us to the amendment itself. I have never voted for the application of the “gag” in my life, because I believe in every ‘ honorable member having the fullest latitude. I do not think it can be described as “ gagging “ if we state definitely in the Standing Orders the time in which an honorable member is permitted to express his views. With such a rule in operation, an honorable member could prepare his matter and make his views known within the prescribed time. I find that the amendment reduces the time limits which are recommended by the Standing Orders Committee, namely, in the House the hour and a half limit to an hour, and the hour limit to half-an-hour, and in Committee, the fifteen minutes limit to ten minutes. I think .it would be better to allow an hour and a half for a speech on the second reading of a Bill, so that there shall be plenty of time to discuss important questions. The honorable member for Parkes has just stated that, perhaps, on a most important measure, it might be necessary for an honorable member to take an hour and a half. That, I think, is sufficient, and very often it would be the means of preventing us from sitting up all night. Had such a standing order been in exist ence last week, there would have been no necessity to sit all Thursday night in order to come to a division on the following day. We could have had fourteen speeches delivered in the time which was occupied by five honorable members. If we could have more speakers in a debate, that would be another advantage; every honorable member would have an opportunity to express his views, and his constituents would, consequently, know what stand he took on a particular proposal. I do not know whether, in the event of the present amendment being defeated, any member of the Standing Orders Committee intends to submit a further amendment ; but if the part providing for an extension of the time limit were eliminated, I would be prepared to support the proposal drafted by the Committee, rather than the amendment before the House, because I believe that then an ample opportunity would be given to every honorable member to express his views, and it would be in the interest of the progress of business.
– I am rather surprised that the Prime Minister has not intervened in this debate.
– For what purpose?
– To express the view of the Government, which has the sole responsibility for the conduct of the business of the House, and in whose Government time the motion is being considered. It appears to me that the Government ought to express their mind very clearly on the question.
– Surely not on an amendment of the Standing Orders?
– Why not?
– Because the Standing Orders are clearly a matter for the House, apart from any party.
– It is really marvellous how the honorable member for Flinders has been cheered lately by honorable members opposite for every remark he makes ; it is touching this marvellous affection which the honorable members behind the Government have conceived for the honorable member.
– The honorable member must confine himself to the question.
– The Government itself is responsible for the proposed new Standing Orders of this House.
– Surely not?
– The Government have a majority and determine the methods, procedure and business, including standing orders. ThePrime Minister would have done much better to intervene in this debate rather than to furnish one of his supporters, as he has done, with all the material necessary to intervene.
– As I have not done.
– The Prime Minister knows a thing or two about the matter, and so do I.
– Ask the honorable member for Gwydir.
– The honorable member for Gwydir has obtained a good deal of information from somewhere or other, as both the Prime Minister and I know. For instance, the honorable member for Gwydir has quoted two precedents ; and he proposes an amendment which is really the New Zealand provision, with the difference that in New Zealand there is not the other form of closure that we have here. There is nothing that the new proposal will do for us that we cannot do under the form of closure already in our Standing Orders. I venture to say that if either the recommendation of the Standing Orders Committee - of which body I have the honour to be a member - or the more limited proposal of the honorable member for Gwydir finds a place in the Standing Orders, this Parliament will possess the most stringent set of closure rules of any Parliament in the wide world. Honorable members seem to imagine that we are beginning de novo, but I know differently through bitter experience; we already possess a most effective form of closure. Why is this milder form desired? Simply because the Government have not the courage to enforce the provisions which they themselves insisted should be placed in the Standing Orders.
– I have often wished the Government to enforce the closure, but they would not.
– I know. Whenever there is any set “stone- wall,” or any obstruction, is the time to apply the closure; that is why it was instituted.
– The honorable member knew how to handle the closure, all right.
– I believe the honorable member would like to see it used by the Government.
– So far as the merits of the proposal go, I have not very much objection to it, as providing a set of working rules for the regulation of debate, but there is a point that has not yet been touched on; the whole case has not been put to the House. The case has been presented only from the stand-point of getting business through, irrespective of the quality of the business, and irrespective of the effect of that business, using the terms of the motion, on the destinies of this country. That is a point we are overlooking. It is as much the business of an Opposition in the Parliament House to prevent legislation that they deem to be detrimental to the country as it is the business of the Government to try to pass legislation. Therefore, [ say there should be a reserve opportunity or power somewhere on the part of the Opposition to prevent legislation which they believe does not receive the support of the country.
– The honorable member believes in the “ gag “ ?
– The Government have not the pluck to use the “ gag.”
– The Government, of which the honorable member was a member, h.id the pluck.
– Yes ; and we should do it again if we had the chance.
– Why should a Labour man speak at all ?
– Supposing the proposed amendment were carried, and we were in Committee, the little interlude or conversation that is taking place now would occupy five of the allotted ten minutes. A very interesting point is whether the ten minutes is to include interludes of the kind, for, if so, it means that an honorable member may not speak at all in Committee, but will have to stand and wait while a little Parliament within the Parliament discusses matters to its heart’s content. However, in New Zealand, from which this amendment is borrowed, there are no further closure provisions.
– We shall not require the closure if this amendment be carried.
– But the honorable member does not propose his amendment as an alternative.
– The amendment will be a cure for the evil.
– Then, is it proposed to eliminate the closure from the Standing Orders?
– Possibly, later on.
– If that be so, I can understand the position; but the proposed amendment, in addition to the closure, would give us the most stringent and severe code of Standing Orders for the limitation of debate to be found anywhere ; nowhere else are both forms in use.
– There will be no necessity for the closure if this amendment be carried.
– If it is proposed to remove the closure provisions there is something for us to consider. The United States Congress is another example quoted by the honorable member for Gwydir. There, as everybody knows, a man is curtailed in time in relation to the remarks he addresses to the Chamber, but, having reached the limit, he may hand in his entire written speech, and get it recorded in Hansard without any further words, except to state his intention.
– I do not think that is quite correct.
– The honorable member will find that it is quite correct; a member of the United States Congress, particularly in the House of Representatives, may hand in his whole written speech without saying so much as half-a-dozen words ; the closure, therefore, means nothing. These are the two instances quoted tonight by the honorable member for Gwydir in support of his proposal ; but, as I have shown, the cases are not parallel. If the honorable member makes this proposal in substitution for the form of “ gag “ we have already, I shall be more inclined to consider the recommendation of the Standing Orders Committee. I repeat that the members of the Opposition are here to prevent legislation which is detrimental to the country, and has not received the indorsement of the people. Need I remind honorable members of what is taking place in New South Wales, where the whole course of legislation is being determined by the defection of a man within the Parliament, away from his constituents, and alleged to be outraging those constituents in every action of his?
– He belongs to the freedom party, does he not?
– Does he? His freedom has been taken from him.
– He was a member of the honorable member’s party. He left it to get his freedom.
– He was. I was talking the other day to some of the residents of his district who supported him last time. Honorable members opposite should hear their opinion of him now. That is an illustration of the accidents of politics which take place when members are away from their constituents. What ought to be done in a case like that? I do not hesitate to say that Mr. Wade is justified in using every form of the House to prevent the Government putting its legislation through under circumstances such as those. But, under a rule like this, he could not do so. He would be bound helplessly, while the Government did everything they liked, with one man behind the backs of his constituents and away from the country helping them in a course of action which, without his help, they could not follow. That seems to me to ‘bring us right up to the duty of this Parliament in the negative direction of preventing injury to the country, as well as with regard to the positive form of our duty in the enactment of certain proposals which are introduced by the Government from time to time. The despatch of business mentioned in this motion by the honorable member for Franklin may, or may not, mean securing the best interests of the country, and its good government. All depends on the kind of business which is being despatched. If business is being despatched by sheer political manipulation, the very nature of which does not accord with promises made by members of Parliament on the hustings, that kind of “despatch of business “ outrages the very purpose of Parliament, and outrages the very basis of the representation of the country ; and no forms ought to be left unused to prevent business of that kind from going through. It is because this proposal leaves no reserve of any kind that I propose to vote against it. It is not so much the provisions of this proposal of the Standing Orders Committee standing by themselves to which I object. I think that one hour and a-half is quite long enough for any honorable member to speak. A little condensation, so as to bring speeches within those limits, would help, and not hinder, their effect. But it is absurd to propose that in Committee a member should have only four times fifteen minutes. It would be very much better to have two periods in Committee each longer than that proposed. There is another anomaly applying both to the proposal of the Standing Orders Committee and to that of the honorable member for Franklin. It is proposed that a member in charge of a Bill may speak as long as he likes in Committee, but may only speak for an hour and a-half in the House. That seems to me altogether wrong. There would be nothing to prevent an honorable member in charge of a Bill occupying ten hours in Committee if he liked, but he would be able to speak only an hour and a half on what is, perhaps, the most important stage of a Bill. Surely that is an oversight which should be rectified when we come to deal with the details of this proposal. We ought to consider it, not merely from the point of view of getting measures -through this House apart from whether they are beneficial or otherwise. My own opinion is that the number of our Acts is not necessarily an indication of their quality or their usefulness to the country. Quite the contrary may be the case. This House ought to be something more than a mere sausage machine, grinding out measures at the rate of so many per hour or per night or per week. We are here first and foremost for the ventilation of grievances, for the granting of supplies, and for the discussion of things which relate to the interests of the country, quite apart from legislation ; and those functions are quite as much the duty of Parliament as putting measures through from time to time. We discuss this matter from the wrong point of view when we discuss it from the aspect of putting through a certain number of measures every session, and then thinking that our duty to the country is done. For the reasons that I have given, and also because there is no reserve power at the back of this proposal which would enable us, under any circumstances whatever, to take that course which ought to be the right of a free man in a free Parliament, I am against a proposal of the kind.
.- The burden of the speech of the honorable member for Parramatta is that the legislation passed by this House ought to be determined according to brute strength, and not according to the intellect of honorable members. He states that it is the business of the Opposition to prevent legislation being carried.
– I did not.
– The honorable member said it was the business of the Opposition to prevent legislation that they thought objectionable being carried. It is not sufficient for them to state their reasons, but they should be able to speak for four or five hours each. Let us have allnight sittings time after time, not that the Opposition can urge additional reasons, but that whichever side has the greatest amount of brute strength at its command may prevail ! The honorable member used the illustration of the New South Wales Parliament in support of his argument, which bore out the construction that I have placed upon his speech.
I have no desire to speak at length, but I certainly cannot vote for the amendment of the honorable member for Gwydir. I am in agreement with the general principle, but I think that the original proposal of the Standing Orders Committee is much to be preferred to the amendment. It is because the Standing Orders Committee’s proposal is not properly before the House that I propose to move a further amendment. I am not, however, in agreement with the second paragraph of the Committee’s suggestion. I do not think that, under any circumstances, the House should be able to extend the time of one member and to refuse permission to another. I desire to move -
That the amendment be amended by leaving out all the words after “ No,” with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words’: - “ member shall speak for more than one hour at a time in any debate in the House, except in the debate of the Address-in-Reply, or in a debate on a motion of ‘ No confidence,’ or in moving the second reading of a Bill, or on the debate on the Appropriation Bill, or on the Financial Statement in Committee, when a member shall be at liberty to speak for one hour and a half. In Committee of the House, no member shall speak for more than fifteen minutes at any one time, or more than four times on any one question before the Committee : Provided that this rule shall not apply in Committee to a member in charge of a Bill, or to a Minister when delivering the Financial Statement, or, in regard to the number of his speeches, to a Minister in charge of a Class of the Estimates in Committee of Supply.”
This is the original proposal of the Standing Orders Committee, minus the last paragraph, which I think is very objectionable, indeed. I set out to draft an amendment, providing in the usual way that the word so-and-so be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof certain other words, but 1 think my proposal will be clearer to the House if put in the form just read by me.
– The honorable member would probably best attain the object he has in view by moving that the words “ half an “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “one.” Subsequently he could move further amendments to give complete effect to his proposal.
– I am trying, Mr. Speaker, to avoid putting my amendment of the amendment in the way you have suggested. If it is in order I certainly prefer to move it in the way I have already indicated.
– If the honorable member desires to do that he must vote for the rejection of the amendment, and if it be rejected he will then be able to submit his proposal for a further amendment.
– Very well, sir, I shall give notice of my intention to move the further amendment that I have outlined, and shall avail myself of the opportunity to vote against the amendment moved by the honorable member for Gwydir.
– I am sorry that an interjection that I made while the honorable member for Parramatta was speaking should have caused him even a passing annoyance. What I intended to convey to him was, that whilst I entirely agreed with him that the House had a right to look to the Government of the day to lead in the conduct of business, I always understood that when an amendment of the Standing Orders was under consideration the House had the privilege of dealing with that amendment without expecting a lead from any one. That is all I intended to convey, and I thought it a very ordinary and simple thing to do so by way of interjection. Having made this explanation, let me say that I have listened to this debate, and especially to the speeches made by the honorable member for Parkes and the honorable member for Angas, with a great deal of pleasure, and that they modified, to some extent, the opinions I had already formed with regard to this proposal. If I thought that, as the honorable member for Parkes put it, the effect of any limitation of speech would be to impair either the efficiency or the dignity of this House, or to fetter it in dealing with any of the matters of immense importance with which it will have to deal, I should not be prepared to support such a limitation. But it is because I am inclined to think that under a properly-worded standing order, not too stringent, but possessing some element of elasticity, the efficiency of this House would be increased that I am disposed to favour the principle embodied in the proposal submitted by the honorable member for Franklin. It is quite clear, however, that the House cannot deal satisfactorily, with this subject at the present moment. It would indeed be very foolish for the House to attempt on this short notice, and after an extremely brief consideration of the subject by the Joint Standing Orders Committee, to deal now with such a weighty matter. . I would suggest that the general principle involved in the motion moved by the honorable member for Franklin, which merely asserts the desirableness of amending the Standing Orders in the direction indicated, might be supported with an addendum that it be an instruction to the Standing Orders Committee to consider the matter, and to report thereon to the House. The Standing Orders Committee have made something in the nature of a report which, although it has been” printed, is not formally before us. As to that point, I agree with some of the criticism that has already been directed towards it by the honorable member for Parramatta and others. I should like, however, to see the matter taken into very careful consideration by the Standing Orders Committee. It might be possible to avoid what is an obvious and inherent defect in every standing order of this kind. I refer to its inelasticity - to the application of the same rule to all kind of debates, whether it be a debate on such a measure as that dealt with to-night by the Minister of Trade and Customs, or a debate upon the smallest Bill that could be brought before the House. I do not think that it is impossible for the Standing Orders Committee, after it has had time to consider the matter, to introduce into the proposed standing order an elasticity which is very desirable. I suggest not a discrimination between members - because anything of the kind is impossible - but rather a discrimination between subjects. It might be possible for the Standing Orders Committee or some other authority representing both sides of the House to frame a standing order under which it would be possible either at the beginning of a session or in relation to any Bill, before it was actually introduced, to determine what limitation should be placed on the speeches relating to it. Something of the kind is worthy of consideration.
– As a matter of fact, the whole proposal has been hurriedly made.
– Very hurriedly. I merely throw this out as a suggestion. I do not think it would be impossible to give effect to it.
– What the honorable member proposes is really the “ guillotine “ system in force in the House of Commons.
– That is not so. In the discussion of this proposal a good deal has been said about the “gag,” but the two things seem to me to have no connexion. The “ gag “ or the closure is a weapon of the very harshest nature. In a Chamber like the House of Commons, where an enormous quantity of business has to be transacted, the closure has been found to be absolutely essential ; but in a House where the closure was adopted it should be possible to have placed on speeches some time limit which, instead of being inconsistent with the closure, would really render it reasonable. It often happens that the Prime Minister or some other Minister in charge of the House has to inform honor able members that it is reasonable that a particular debate should close at the end of the second or third sitting from that time. Such a proposal might be very unreasonable if the intervening time were largely occupied by a comparatively small number of members making long speeches ; but it might be reasonable if, during the intervening period, a large number of members had an opportunity to speak. I cannot help thinking that it would be for the benefit of all of us if some standing order could be framed which would bring not an undue but a reasonable amount of pressure upon us to condense our speeches. Such a standing order would be for the good of Parliament. There would be on the part of honorable members a more continuous interest in the debate if we had a more rapid succession of speakers and a greater condensation of speeches. I desire now to refer to part of the proposed standing order, which is not formally before us, and my remarks will apply also to the two amendments that have been outlined. I refer to that part of the proposed standing order which reads -
In Committee of the House, no member shall speak for more than fifteen minutes at any one time, or more than four times on any one question before the Committee.
I am afraid that the Standing Orders Committee will find it impracticable to make any distinction between speeches in Committee and speeches in the House. There are sections and clauses of measures which are as important as many Bills taken as a whole.
– Very often a clause contains the principles of the whole Bill.
– Yes. I am afraid that any attempt to limit the number of times that an honorable member may speak in Committee,- or to limit the length of a speech in Committee other than as speeches in the House are limited, will create difficulty j and if the amendments which have been proposed are not carried, I intend to move the addition of the following words to the motion -
That it be an instruction to the Committee of Standing Orders to consider the matter and report thereupon to the House.
However much honorable members may desire a rule for the limitation of speeches, the only effectual way of doing what is required is to get the Standing Orders Committee to fully consider the matter, and frame a standing order after due consideration.
– That has been done.
– I think that the members of the Committee will admit that they have not had as much time as they would like to consider every aspect of this question, which is one of the most difficult upon which to draft a standing order. It would be to the interest even of those most anxious for the limitation of speeches to allow the Committee more time to consider the matter.
– The speech of the honorable member for Flinders indicates the difficulties which confront a deliberative assembly in attempting to improve its methods of conducting debate. The Standing Orders Committee had not a great amount of time for the consideration of the question submitted to it, but it was duly convened by Mr. Speaker, and had under its consideration the procedure of the New Zealand House of Assembly, and the statement of the Speaker of that body, that for a period of eight years the rule had worked satisfactorily. Its members thought that a rule which had worked satisfactorily in the Dominion was one which might very well be tried here, and I do not think that it is too much to ask the House to try the experiment, especially as twice as much time is allowed in the proposal now under discussion as is given to New Zealand members. I should be the last to ask a representative to curtail his remarks if he thought that he had something of importance to say, and I should be the last to admit that any speech could be made in this .Chamber without influencing members or the public outside. The proposals now before us will not unduly curtail the rights of members. ,Dur- ing debates on the adoption of the AddressinReply, on motions of want of confidence, the Appropriation Bill, or the Financial Statement, they will be given an hour in which to express their views, the New Zealand limitation being twice as stringent.
– Would not the honorable gentleman like more time to consider the form which the standing order shall take?
– The right time for dealing with a matter of this kind is when all members feel that something should be done. It seems to me that the form which has been proposed is satisfactory. In- Committee a member may speak for fifteen minutes, and four times to every question, which I take to mean the question “ That the clause do now pass,” and any and every amendment. This would give power to any body of men in Opposition to tie up the Government, if they so desired.
– Then what is the use of it?
– It has this value, that it would enable every representative to address himself to the Committee on any question on which he desired to speak.
– Is it the Prime Minister’s desire, not to curtail the length of debates, but to distribute the time occupied in discussion?
– That is an important advantage to be gained from the proposed standing order. What takes place in the House of Commons when, as suggested by the honorable member for Flinders, the Government puts a time limit on the debate of any question ? Only members or prominent supporters of the Government, and prominent members of the Opposition, have an opportunity to address themselves to the question.
– I did not suggest that a time limit should be placed on debates. What I said was that the closure is considered necessary in other Parliaments, such as that of Great Britain, and the adoption of a time limit on speeches would make it less oppressive.
– What is the difference between a time limit on debate imposed by the Government and a time limit on speeches ?
– I did not advocate the adoption of a time limit for debate.. What I said was that if the duration of a debate were limited, a time limit on speeches in addition would make the closure less oppressive.
– In my opinion, a time limit on speeches would lead to conciseness, which is desirable, and something in which we all at heart believe. Of course, it is more easy to speak at length, but it would be of great advantage to our deliberations if speeches were shorter. I think that in an hour and a half a member should be able to express his views on any question under discussion.
– Why does the Prime Minister think it desirable to permit a power of discrimination as between member and member ?
– The honorable member seizes upon one little point, and reminds me that it is proposed that in Committee a Minister in charge of a measure or of Estimates is not to be bound by the same rules as other members. I think there are good and sufficient reasons for such a proposal.
– That is not the point. Power is given to the majority to permit any member to extend his speech.
– In the Queensland Parliament a time limit is imposed upon speeches, and I have heard no serious complaint about it. By courtesy of Mr. Speaker I am able to quote standing order 107 of the Standing Orders of the Queensland Legislative Assembly, dealing) with the time limit imposed upon speeches. It reads as follows - t No member shrill speak for more than forty minutes at a time in any debate in the House, except in the debate on the Address-in-Reply, or on a direct motion of want of confidence, when a member shall be at liberty to speak for one hour :
Provided that this rule shall not apply to a member moving the second reading of a Bill, or to the Leader of the Government or to the Leader of the Opposition, or any member deputed by them, respectively, to speak first in reply to such motion, who shall each be at liberty to speak for one hour and a half :
Provided, further, that by the consent of a majority of the House, to be determined without debate, a member may be further heard for a period not exceeding thirty minutes.
In Committee of the House, except as hereinafter provided, no member other than the member in charge of a Bill or motion, or Minister in charge of an Estimate, shall speak more than three times on any one question, nor more than fifteen minutes on the first occasion, and five minutes on tho second and third occasions :
Provided that a member may prolong his first or second speech, but not so as to exceed the full time permitted for speaking on any one question :
Provided, further, that a member so prolonging his speech shall not be permitted to speak again on the same question.
This shall not apply to a Minister delivering a financial statement, or to any member debating the same ; members debating a financial statement may speak for one hour, but not more than once. A reply, however, shall be allowed to the Minister who has delivered such statement, such reply not to exceed half-an-hour.
That is concise, and on similar lines to the proposal laid on the table by the Standing Orders Committee. The honorable member for Parramatta has complained that this is a matter which the Prime Minister or the Government should have taken in hand, but he must be aware that the honorable member for Franklin brought on a motion dealing with the subject.
– Only with the right honorable gentleman’s consent.
– That is a most unfortunate interjection for the honorable member, because the honorable member for Franklin placed a similar motion on the businesspaper in previous Parliaments without my knowledge or consent. But circumstances arose which made it advisable, in the opinion of the Government, that we should afford the honorable member time to debate what we regard as a matter of public importance.
– That is what I said.
– If the Government had felt it absolutely necessary to alter the Standing Orders, they could, with the power of the party behind them, have pressed through this House exactly what they wanted. I believe that this is a much better method of dealing with a non-party question in a deliberative assembly. It is strange that the honorable member for Parramatta should make it a charge against the Government that, because they did not exercise all the powers of their majority in dealing with this matter, they have ‘failed in their duty.
– I did not suggest anything of the kind.
– It would be an outrage on parliamentary procedure if we were to exercise our powers in such a manner for the sake of a party advantage. We seek no party advantage in the proposed amendment of the Standing Orders. We. have only one thing in our minds, and that is that, by adopting this standing order, we shall be able to afford honorable members in Opposition ample opportunity to defend their political existence, and the interests of the country, against any Government, and, at the same time, afford honorable members on both sides every opportunity to express their political views on any subject before the House. That is the view I take of the matter, and I do not begrudge a little time for the discussion of the question. I do not think, however, it would be wise to delay the settlement of the matter by returning the proposal to the Standing Orders Committee for further consideration, as the honorable member for Flinders suggests. If the debate does not close this evening, we ought to be able to-morrow to come to a decision upon this important question, which will be of advantage not only to this, but to all future Parliaments of the Commonwealth.
.- At this hour I shall make no attempt to reconcile the adoption of any limitation upon speeches with the true principle and spirit of Parliament, but merely remind the Prime Minister that, almost ever since my first association with Parliament, I have felt that, unfortunately, the imposition of some conditions of this kind was necessary. Consequently, when the Standing Orders Committee was hastily summoned, I attended to-day, though, unfortunately, less than three-quarters of an hour of my own time and rather less than an hour of the time of other members of the Committee was available for considering either the proposition on its merits or the form of its expression. My first point is that, in its present form, the proposal is unsatisfactory. It is clumsy, and, in one important particular, to which allusion has already been made by a prior speaker, sadly defective. There is, first, a limitation of an hour upon the speeches of members, except in five instances, in which the time is to be extended to an hour and a half. Then the proposed standing order proceeds -
In Committee of the House, no member shall speak for more than fifteen minutes at any one time, or more than four times on any one question before the Committee : Provided that this rule shall not apply in Committee to a member in charge of aBill, or to a Minister when delivering a financial statement, or, in regard to the number of his speeches, to a Minister in charge of a Class of the Estimates in Committee of Supply.
Now the effect of the proposed landing order is to leave absolutely no limit at all upon a Minister in charge of a Bill in
Committee. He may speak, not four, but forty, times, and not fifteen, but fifty, minutes each time.
– It has worked well in New Zealand.
– Such a standing order as this is utterly inconsistent.
– The Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives says that it has worked well.
– The right honorable gentleman must have misunderstood me.
– Does the honorable gentleman think that the Minister would “ stonewall “ his own Bill, or his Estimates?
-I do not, but feel a personal responsibility as one of those who took part in considering this proposition. I admit frankly that during the hurried and strenuous three-quarters of an hour within which the merits of the whole question had to be debated, as well as the form ofthe standing order settled, I did not perceive this anomaly which is obviously unintentional, and ought to be remedied.
– A private member may have charge of a Bill.
– Of course.
– Is it not necessary for a Minister or a member in charge of a Bill, to speak more than once if he is to answer inquiries ?
– That might be done, but if every other member of the House is to be limited in some way as to the length of his speech, and the number of times he may speak, surely a member who may be in charge of a Bill ought not to be turned loose with permission to speak as often and as long as he pleases.
– I think it would be found impossible for the Chairman of Committees to remember the honorable members who had spoken three or four times.
– I have discharged my duty in calling attention to what I believe to be an oversight and a serious omission. In addition to what I have said, the rule is not to apply to a Minister when delivering a Financial Statement in Committee. But that seems already provided for by a previous part of the standing order. The short time at our disposal prevented us from fully elucidating this question, and endeavouring to repair the error.
– Did the honorable member agree to that at the Committee meeting?
– I have already said that I did not like it, but felt that some such provision was necessary. This was the best that could be obtained at the time, and I took it with all its imperfections on its head. Honorable members will observe that, while the Minister making the Financial Statement in Committee is to be allowed to speak for one and a half hours, he is to be exempt from the rules that he shall not speak for more than fifteen minutes at any one time, or more than four times upon any one question.
– I do not see any inconsistency there.
– There is no need for the first provision, because the honorable member is at liberty to speak for one and a half hours.
– What does> the honorable member suggest?
– I suggest that ‘we should take at least till to-morrow to draft a standing order which will include no ambiguities. Personally, this seems a most inappropriate way of dealing with standing orders, although it is a very proper way to deal with the motion submitted by the honorable member for Franklin. However, a useful purpose has been served by this discussion of the question. But surely it would be wise for us to reconsider exactly what we mean, and then express our meaning.
– Would the honorable member retain the last paragraph?
– My experience is that, with the consent of the House, Mr. Speaker has permitted an extension of time to honorable members without any provision of this kind.
– That has been done upon motions for adjournment.
– And upon other motions, occasionally. If the proposed standing order is to be carried, I should prefer that the question should be settled.
Then I take another stride, in which, perhaps, some honorable members may not feel disposed to follow. Whilst supporting this proposal, it seems to me that there are measures which lie beyond its scope, and which ought not to be subject to its control. During the present session, we shall have two such measures before us. One is the Navigation Bill, a measure of such complexity that, in respect to particular clauses, I defy the ablest member of this House to complete a fair statement of the case within the period that it is proposed to allot to him in Committee. That measure will be “ caviare to the general.” Most honorable members will be interested only in its humanitarian aspects, and in connexion with those aspects we shall all require our full allowance of time to express our views. But it will be hopeless to touch upon the legal and constitutional questions involved, with the limitations which would be imposed under the proposed standing order. If we wish that Bill to run the gantlet of criticism, so as to stand the tests which . will afterwards be applied to it, and to prove efficient, we ought to welcome gladly the criticisms of those honorable members who are concerned with its legal and constitutional aspects. I take it that this Bill, which has already been debated twice in another place, comes to us with a large heritage of knowledge, and with a great many difficulties cleared away. We have also been informed that, as the result of communications with the Imperial Government, many other difficulties have been removed. Hence, I see no obstacle to that Bill being dealt with in the time that will be at our disposal this session. Nevertheless, it is one measure in a thousand. Probably never before have we had such a complicated measure before us.
– And it cannot be read by itself.
– As I am very properly reminded by the honorable member for Flinders, it cannot be read by itself. It involves a consideration of the whole of the merchant shipping law. It seems, therefore, that such a Bill must be exempt from the provision that severely limits all criticism in Committee.
There is another measure which we shall only be able to deal with in the most imperfect and perfunctory fashion if the proposed standing order is to be made applicable to it. I refer to the Bill relating to the subjects of the next referenda - to the new forms which the questions to be submitted to the electors will take, and to the new manner of their submission. Does anybody contend that, under the stringent conditions of the proposed new standing order, we shall be capable of dealing with that extremely comprehensive measure, ‘embracing from half-a-dozen to a dozen subjects of vast practical importance to this country, and involving innumerable technical questions? The Prime Minister must recognise that there should be a power of exemption from this standing order in regard to particular Bills, or particular portions of Bills, and, upon reflection, he will see that the Referenda Bill cannot be debated, even in the most’ superficial fashion, under the terms of the proposed new standing order. I regret to have occupied the time of the House so long, but the issues are important. It appears to me that the proposed standing order if slightly amended may be applied experimentally to the great bulk of the legislation of this session with, which we have to deal. But there are the two important exceptions mentioned, which require to be closely examined, apart from any limitations such as it is sought to impose upon the speeches of honorable members by the new standing order.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Spence) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister representing the Minister of Defence a matter of some importance. At the present time, there is considerable turmoil in every State of the Commonwealth, owing to the strict administration of the provisions of section 13s of our Defence Act under which prosecutions are being initiated. I think that considerable discretion requires to be exercised in this matter. Poor parents are being haled before the Courts and mulcted in fines amounting to £5, and sometimes in other expenses. According to a telegram, twentyseven cadets have been brought before the Courts in Sydney to-day for non-attendance at drills, and the fines imposed upon them total £156. The chances are that that money will come out of the pockets of poor people. In Melbourne, seventy summonses have been issued, and every day fines of £5 are being imposed upon parents because of the failure of their sons to attend the statutory number of drills. I believe the boys are then detained, and have to make up the number of drills.
– Is that in addition to the fine.
– Yes ; the fines are imposed, and then there is detention for them to make the drills up. I and other honorable members have had to make a number of complaints in this regard. In the initiatory stages of the scheme it behoves the Minister to be exceptionally careful how the Act is administered. I think it is being administered with too great rigour. Another expense to which parents are being put is that of the railway fares of the boys attending drill. Many boys have to travel miles, and I am very sorry to note that some of our State Governments are so mean that they will not allow them to travel free over the railways.
– That is not meanness.
– I contend that it is.; If the State Governments were in thorough sympathy with the defence scheme, they, would say at once that the railways were available.
– You are taking away everything you can from them.
– The honorable member says so because he is an out-and-out State Righter. For my part, I trust the day is not far distant when the powers of the State Governments will be considerably curtailed. A lad was brought to me to-day who has already served a considerable number of drills with the militia, but is now summoned for not attending the required number of drills under the cadet rules. I hope this instance will also be considered by the defence authorities, and that they will be lenient, and show considerable discretion, especially in connexion with prosecutions of this kind.
.- I wish to indorse the statements of the honorable member for Maribyrnong. If an opportunity is given to me to vote on the question, I shall certainly not support the extraction of fines from the parents of these boys when, in addition, the Defence Department detain the lads, and compel them to make up their drills. If the detention is effective, and the drills are made up, the purpose of the Defence Act is accomplished. To go further and inflict a fine which falls, not upon the boys, but upon the parents, savours of vindictiveness. If I have an opportunity I shall certainly do my utmost to show my disapproval of the administration of the law in that respect.
Where boys have to travel distances to attend drill, it is the duty of the Government to provide them with railway fares.
– It is your Government, you know.
– Is the right honorable member for Swan agreeable to the expenditure?
– Men like the honorable member for Swan, whose property is being defended, might well be called upon to provide the fares by paying the necessary taxation. The action of the Government of Victoria, in refusing free transit for the cadets over the railways to attend drill, is an exhibition of anti-national feeling that reflects no credit on them, and ought to be resented by the community at large. At the same time, if no arrangement can be come to with the State Governments to provide the boys with free railway transit, it is the duty of the Federal Government to provide the fares.
.- The Minister representing the Minister of Defence in this House, towards the close of last session, asked honorable members not to press inquiries into the matter of recovering penalties in connexion with the establishment of the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow, on the ground that it was not in the public interest to divulge information pending the conclusion of negotiations with the contractor. I understand that that position is now past, and that the Government have foregone penalties amounting in all to about . £56,000, for the nonfulfilment of the contract with punctuality, on the ground that the contractor counterclaimed an enormous sum for expenses to which he was put through the Defence Department having varied his contract. The time has come for a full exposition to be made of the matter, and for taking the public into the confidence of the Department. There has been mismanagement of a very grave nature somewhere, and I suggest that the Minister of Defence should now lay all the papers in connexion with the matter on the table of the House. This is a most urgent matter, in which the public are largely interested, and we ought to be taken at last into the full confidence of the Department.
– I shall be glad to know if any distinction is made between the lads who deliberately stay away from drill and those who are really prevented from attending by circumstances over which they have no control, and are quite willing to make up the drills afterwards? I shall not aid or abet any real breaches of discipline. The Minister has a very hard row to hoe in instituting this system of compulsory training, and he should receive a great deal of sympathy from the public in the battle he has to fight. The system is new, and, no doubt, irksome at the beginning, but that must be so no matter what Minister is in charge. The result, however, is very hard in cases such as that of a lad who, in order to conduct a certain business where his presence was absolutely needed, was compelled to neglect his drills. He is quite willing to make them up; he was not kept away to avoid the training, and yet he is threatened with police court proceedings. I should like the Minister to make some statement, if possible, at this stage as to whether boys who are willing to make up the drills are treated exactly the same as those who deliberately refuse to attend.
.- I wish to support the views put forward by other honorable members. When we take into consideration the fact that the compulsory system is almost in its infancy, and that there are many drawbacks in connexion with its initiation, it seems hardly fair to prosecute in all cases for absence from drill. If the Minister will take the trouble to look into my district, he will find that in almost every part of the mining field proper facilities are not given to the lads to drill. They have been asked to go to the end of the 5-mile limit, and, consequently, have not been able to attend. In addition, they work in the afternoon shift, and had they gone to drill at night the mine would have been laid idle in some cases.
– Is that night drill?
– Yes. The afternoon shift would have to absent themselves from the mine to get to drill. There have been many ; difficulties to contend with. Seeing that the system is in its infancy, and that we all wish that it should progress, I think it would be far better for the Minister to say that, having taken everything into consideration as far as drills are concerned, no prosecution shall take place in respect of this period; but the boys must understand that, for the future - it will be no sign of weakness to take this step, but an indication of his desire to meet the position which confronts them- they must attend the drills, other- wise they can expect to be prosecuted, it would be a fair thing to do. It would give satisfaction to the parents and also to the lads. It is very unfair to ask parents, when no facilities are given to their boys to get to drill, to pay a fine of £5 because of their absence. I hope that the Minister will take these matters into his serious consideration, and try, as far as possible, to meet the position.
– This is indeed a very serious matter to many of the lads living in the country. To -ask a boy, after he has finished his day’s work, to walk 5 miles, sometimes over an exceedingly bad road, and then to walk 5 miles to his home, is little short of brutality.
– Pay the train fare.
-] am speaking of districts in which there are no trains. Honorable members whose districts are served by trains seem to think that the train fare is the only trouble, but that is perhaps the least trouble. The greatest “trouble is experience in the bush districts where the lads have to work hard all day perhaps on a farm, .or other out-door occupation, or in a mine, where the work is -quite arduous enough, and perhaps has to be carried on till late at night. A request -that these boys shall walk 5 miles to drill, go through the training; and then walk 5 miles to their homes, is a matter that deserves the very serious consideration of the House. I would draw a very wide distinction between a boy who, though he is provided with every facility neglects or refuses to train, and simply rebels against it, and the cases which other honorable members have mentioned, and typical cases which I know occur . in very many parts of Australia.
.- I have, just had placed in my hands, by the favour of the Treasurer, the letter subemitted to the House earlier in the evening -from the Auditor-General in reference to The unfortunate mistake which was made in mis report, and to which I called attention. 1 may say, in justice to that gentleman, -that - he called upon me to-day and submitted ali the documents connected with -the case. He satisfied me thoroughly that a mistake had been made for which he personally was not responsible. A mistake was made, in some way which, at present, .is not explainable, but which, byand”by, I have no doubt will be explained. I (believe that, in this matter, the Auditor-
General is not personally to blame, except so far as he must of course be held responsible for anything which comes from his Department. I think it is only right and fair that it should be known that he has shown me documents which clear up the matter, so far as he is individually concerned.
– Do you withdraw your charge about the gold and the copper?
– I withdraw nothing. That had no reference whatever to this matter.
– Yes, it had.
– I hope that honorable members will not take any objection to the remark that the provisions of the Defence Act relating to cadets received the unanimous . support of both branches of the Legislature in two successive Parliaments, and must necessarily have been well understood by them.
– I am afraid that a great number of ‘ honorable members ‘ did not understand what they were passing.
– We” never anticipated this rigour. ‘
– Honorable members cannot reasonably expect that the Minister of Defence will discriminate in the administration of the Act. They must expect that he will administer the Act as he finds it on the statute-book, and that he will not administer it in such a way that more leniency will be shown to some cadets than to others. In so far as the cadets who come before the Courts are concerned, the discrimination is in the hands of the different magistrates- who, in some cases, have discriminated. They have fined cadets because of the circumstances surrounding their neglect to. comply ‘with the provisions of the Act, in the sum of ,£5, and ordered that they shall make up the time lost. In other cases, the magistrates have .relieved the cadets of the payment of a fine, and merely stated that the. time lost shall be made up in the prescribed way. Honorable members will see thai, in that respect, the discrimination lies altogether in the hands of the Civil Court, and not in the hands of the Minister of Defence. If there are features attached to its .exercise which appear somewhat harsh at the present moment, I am satisfied that nothing will be left undone by the Minister to remove those harsh features, that is if the power lies in his hands so far as administration or regulations are concerned. But honorable members will, I think, agree that in administering an Act of interest to 90,000 cadets, it may be unwise if, after 85,000 or more of them have complied cheerfully with its provisions, a few recalcitrants should be able to put their case with such prominence before members of the House, that perhaps undue leniency may be displayed towards them.
– Not one of them has approached me.
-So far as the question of walking 5 miles, or a number of miles, to and from training is concerned, the Minister has that matter under consideration. I do not know what the outcome will be.
– So far as I am concerned, the Minister has already altered the distance, but only after an experience of it for four or five months.
– The Minister has the question of distances under consideration still, because it has been pointed out to him in one or two cases that severe hardship has fallen upon a few boys. No doubt, as soon as he comes to a conclusion he will submit it to members of Parliament. The remarks made by honorable members this evening will be brought prominently under his notice, and I sincerely hope that if there are any anomalies that can be removed, they will be removed, because I am confident that my colleague desires to administer the Act with the utmost possible leniency, combined with effectiveness.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.34 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 July 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19120716_reps_4_64/>.