4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to know from the Honorary Minister if the Minister of
Defence is aware that the members of the Militia Garrison Artillery are much concerned by the proposal to make the encampment last seventeen days, as this will materially interfere with their employment. Will the Minister consider the advisability pf reducing the period to a reasonable time?
– I shall submit the matter to the Minister.
– Has the Honorary Minister read the letter which appears in this morning’s press, signed, “A. S.Moore, Mr Alexander-road, Moonee Ponds,” in which the writer complains of the treatment of his son, who wishes to drill at the drilling place nearest to his residence, but has been attached to a company which drills a mile and a half away? Although he has made repeated requests to various officers, and has been referred from one to another, he has received no satisfaction. I ask the Minister whether, where good and sufficient reasons are given, the Area Officers will be instructed to allow cadets to drill at the drilling places nearest to their residences ?
– I cannot make a general statement, but I have forwarded a copy of the letter to the Minister of Defence for his consideration, with a view to the lad’s transfer.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
What provision has been made for a rise range in the Heathcote district?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
It is proposed to re-construct the Heathcote rifle range, but as there is no trace of a tenure of the land ever having been secured, application has been made to the Premier of Victoria for a twenty-one years’ lease, under section 73 of Land Act 2332 of 191 1, of the area required.
When this has been granted the work of reconstructing the range will be proceeded with.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiry is being made, and the desired information will be furnished as early as possible.
Artesian Boring. - Sleepers
– In continuation of my reply to the question asked by the right honorable member for Swan yesterday, when not very full information was available, I wish to say that I have asked the Engineer-in-Chief for Commonwealth Railways to at once advise me with respect to the results of the bores which have been put down by the Western Australian Government on or near the line of railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta, and I have decided to ask the Premier of Western Australia to furnish me with the opinion of his Government Geologist on the probability of the existence of artesian or subartesian water in the vicinity of the railway, and the plant, equipment, and staff necessary to carry out further explorations.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
With reference to his reply on the 13th instant as regards sleepers for the TransAustralian Railway -
What is the price per sleeper to be paid at Kalgoorlie and at Port Augusta respectively for the 1,500,000 sleepers to be supplied by the Western Australian Government?
What is the kind of timber to be supplied?
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
As the privilege of voting by post has been abolished, and consequently it is now necessary, in order to exercise the franchise, for an elector to go to a polling place, will he take steps to provide that all places used as polling places in the last elections for the Legislative Assembly of the States Parliaments are gazetted as polling places for the next Federal Elections?
– The fullest inquiries are being made with a view to the provision of ample polling facilities. When the State authorities appoint a polling place the fact is reported, and consideration is given to the appointment of a Commonwealth polling place, if necessary or desirable, to meet the convenience of the public.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Vida Goldstein, President of the Women’s Political Association of Victoria, having reference to the treatment of suffragettes in British prisons. Has he read the following extract from said letter : - “ Listen to the process of forcible feeding. The victim is put in a chair her body tied to it, her arms and legs held down by wardresses, the head is held back, the throat is held, the tube is forced down, and the food poured into the oesophagus. I give the experiences of one of the prisoners, which are typical. Miss Betty Giveen was released from Birmingham because her throat was so swollen that the doctor could not get the tube down. For two days she had severe attacks of functional paralysis in ber face, throat, lungs, arms and hands immediately after the feeding. One morning the doctor attempted three times to put the tube down her throat, but it was impossible as the throat was so sore and swollen. Such is the torture being inflicted daily on English women in English prisons ; but in Ireland the suffragettes are recognised as political offenders, and are given the full rights accorded to male political prisoners.”?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Debate resumed from 31st July (vide page 1520), on motion by Mr. Tudor -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- It is, perhaps, in accordance with the fitness of things that I should follow the honorable member for Parkes in this debate, because while, according to his own statement, he is, as it were, a very big vessel,
I, on the other hand, may be compared to a ship’s boat. He claims a long association with shipping and an intimate knowledge of it, having been general manager of a large shipping company, while I, for my part, have had that connexion with the industry which arises from personal contact with sailors, firemen, engineers, and others of the rank and file of the mercantile marine, here and in the Old World. The honorable member for Parkes, while professing himself desirous of considering the interests of those whom the Navigation Bill specially studies, is fearful that its provisions for the redress of the grievances of the seamen, engineers, and others, will result in coddling, and that that will create an evil greater than it is desired to remove. But what we are asking for, so far as the seamen are concerned, is merely better wages, better lighting, better accommodation, and better conditions generally, so that those who go to sea may live a more normal life, and enjoy conditions approaching more closely to those of the workers on land. This, in the mind of the honorable gentleman, is coddling. He told us that in trying to increase the comfort of the seamen, we are playing fast and loose with the laws of political economy, and that that will operate boomerang fashion, by injuring those we wish to help. He spoke as if the laws of political economy have been definitely ascertained, and are immutable ; as if there was no possibility of contradicting the statements which had been laid down as laws. By the laws of which school of political economists does he abide? By those of Adam Smith, Ricardo, and their like? By those of Jevons and Cliff Leslie? By those of the historical school, or by those of the more advanced Socialistic school ?
– And if by those of the Socialistic school, by which class of that school ?
– By which of the Socialistic schools? I accept the correction. The honorable member for Parkes assumes that there is a definite and assured basis of thought upon which to work in dealing with this great problem, and that the moment we get away from it evil must result. But there is no so-called law of political economy that cannot be questioned, whether it be a law relating to rent, interest, profit, prices, or the Tariff. No one can say what is really the truth, and what great governing principles are the protective basis of society, what rules we,, as a Parliament, or society as a whole, should follow in attempting to redresssocial and economic wrongs. By interjection I asked the honorable member, whoseemed to feel that some reform is necessary, although fearing that we were going, too far and too’ fast, what was the point of limitation. His reply was that hewould wait until I had expressed myselfon the subject, and would listen with interest to what I had to say upon it. My point of limitation will be reached whenthe conditions of seamen in regard to wagesand comfort have placed them on a level with the average mechanic or worker in our great cities. From the beginning the condition of the seamen has been a deplorableone. I view with much hope this attempt to place them in a better position, and shall vote for every clause that will tend to improve to the utmost the condition of the men of our mercantile marine. The honorablegentleman says that the tendency of this House has been more or less to chance the passing of provisions as to the constitutionality of which there has been some doubt, and to trust to their getting through the High Court. I admit that there is just a possibility that certain provisions in this Bill may be declared by the High Court tobe ultra vires. The legal authorities of the House who have addressed themselves to this motion have recognised that in dealing with the question of navigation we must have regard to the provisions of the British. Merchant Shipping Act, and to the limitation of our powers in respect of Intra-state trade. It is only by passing the Bill in its most complete form, however, that we shall learn precisely what our powers are; and it will be for the High Court to determine to what extent one part of the Bill is severable from another. The honorable member for Parkes. expressed the fear that if certain requirements were insisted upon, a great burden would be thrown upon shipowners. One of the matters to which he specially referred in this connexion was the provision as to the number of boats carried being in proportion to the number of the passengers and crew. He feels that that provision is not desirable, and be strongly opposes it. I have here a quotation from the public press regarding the recommendations made by Lord Mersey, the Commissioner appointed to inquire into the Titanic disaster. He recommended -
That an international conference should be held regarding safety precautions; that each vessel should have longitudinal and vertical bulkheads; also watertight bulkheads on each side of the ship; watertight decks above the waterline; and that searchlights should be carried.
The Commissioner further recommends that lifeboats and rafts should be provided according to the number of persons carried, and not according to the tonnage of the vessel ; more frequent boat, fire and watertight door drills; a police system on all ships to secure obedience ; and that the wireless apparatus should be in use on ships night and day.
I have also before me an article by the Secretary of the United States Navy, which appeared in the North American Review for June last, in which we have the following statement : -
First and foremost, then, laws should be at once enacted prescribing that no passenger steamer shall carry more persons on board, crew and passengers, than can be accommodated in the boats and on the life-rafts provided in the vessel’s equipment.
The Congress of the United States unquestionably has the pow.er to enact such laws as applying to vessels flying the American (lag, and the further power to enact laws refusing clearance from any American port to any foreign vessel not complying with such laws. Federal inspection of all vessels would be necessary to see that the laws are enforced.
Every member of the crew and every passenger embarking in an ocean-going vessel should be assigned to a certain boat or raft, and should be informed of his assignment; each passage ticket should designate the boat to which the holder is assigned, and there should be, in each state-room, a diagram of the ship showing the location of the boat, the deck from which loaded, and the route by which it could be reached.
On the following page the writer continues -
The watertight subdivisions of the United States naval vessels of recent construction are such that no ordinary accident can seriously endanger them; while at sea all doors and other openings in watertight bulkheads are kept closed except such as must be open for the service of the ship ; all these can be closed in a few seconds when the danger signal is given.
I put these statements by the Secretary of the United States Navy and the British Commissioner appointed to inquire into the Titanic disaster in juxtaposition to the contention raised by the honorable member for Parkes, who is evidently very much afraid that some ofthe requirements of this Bill will operate against the profits of the shipowners. I am not concerned about the question of profits. The honorable member has said that to institute these reforms will merely be to place an additional burden upon the public. The security of life, however, is the first essential; and if fair provision is not being made for life and property at sea, then the general community are getting their present service too cheaply, and in their interests we should . see that such requirements are insisted upon as will give greater security. The honorable member for East Sydney by interjection said, “ This Bill may prove unconstitutional.” I have already touched upon that phase of the question. I know that there is a difference of opinion amongst the lawyers in the House-
– But unless we pass the Bill we shall not know whether any part of it is unconstitutional or not.
– That is the attitude I take up; and I hope we shall pass it with as little amendment as possible. There is very little in it that will not be beneficial, not only to the seamen, but to the community at large. The honorable member for Kooyong raised a point quite in harmony with the view taken by the honorable member for Parkes. Towards the close of his speech he said -
While we are all anxious to improve the lot of the seaman generally, we cannot ignore the fact that others have rights and vested interests which must to some extent be protected.
The question is, to what extent must they be protected? The honorable member was much more liberal in his treatment of this measure than was the honorable member for Parkes; but this statement shows that even in his mind there has arisen the fear that by granting these concessions to seamen we may affect the vested interests of the shipping trade, and that ship-owners will not receive the profits they have hitherto secured. I am particularly pleased with that part of the Bill which deals with our coasting trade. In seeking to conserve to ourselves, as far as possible, our coastal trade, we are doing that which will help in a most material manner to build up an Australian mercantile marine. There is a great tendency to-day for tramp vessels, manned by seamen at very low rates of pay, and working under the most objectionable conditions, to come along our coast and to take freights from one port to another at cut-throat rates. They menace in the most pronounced way the interests of the Australian mercantile marine. I therefore view with much pleasure the attempt made in this Bill to prevent the continuance of that sort of thing - to establish conditions relating to our coastal trade that will be favorable to the men, and to make all vessels desiring to trade on this coast work under those conditions, instead of indulging in that cut-throat policy which has been in vogue, not only on the Australian coast, hut wherever these tramp vessels have been free to go. In this respect, we are doing only what most trading countries have already done. Such countries, in most instances, have conserved to themselves their own coastal trade, and in this respect we are doing great good to the whole community. A feature of this Bill which appeals to me is the provision that itmakes for surveys. I have here scraps taken from plates and frames of vessels while undergoing a yearly survey, and I invite honorable members to examine them. Reform in this respect is most desirable. At one time, in New South Wales, bi-annual surveys were made. Under this Bill, it is proposed that an annual survey shall be made of every vessel not more than five years old, and that all other vessels shall be surveyed every six months. I know from experience that a bi-annual survey is most desirable. I have worked in dockyards, and have seen what has been done. Mr. Samuel Smith, a member of the New South Wales Parliament, did most beneficial service in connexion with the navigation laws of that State by seeing for himself the conditions under which vessels went to sea, and these scraps of metal taken from the frames and plates of vessels undergoing survey, between 1910 and the present time, should illustrate the necessity for careful surveys being made. Amongst these samples will be found pieces of plate, almost eaten away with rust, that were taken from ships’ bottoms. The slightest touch with a hammer would have dislocated the whole plate. Then, again, honorable members will find amongst these samples portions of frames so eaten with rust as not to be a quarter of an inch thick. These should illustrate the fact that a survey only once in twelve months, in the case of vessels over five years old, is not desirable from the stand-point of the public well-being.
– Were these samples taken from ships in active service?
– Yes, from vessels undergoing surveys in Sydney.
– Some of them are not an eighth of an inch thick.
– Quite so.
– It was said in the State Parliament some years ago that some of the plates on certain vessels were no thicker than a jam tin.
– Evidence was given practically to that effect before the Commission. It was shown that, more particularly in the case of vessels that have to cross sandy bars, such as those on the New South Wales coast, the wear and tear on a ship’s bottom was equal to an eighth of an inch in six months. In most cases the plates on such vessels have to be made as light as possible. Very often they are only three-eights of an inch thick, so that in twelve months a quarter of an inch of plate would be worn away, and a vessel would be travelling with plates three-sixteenths of an inch thick on its bottom. We shall be doing good service to the community by requiring a six months survey, and I hope that no attempt will be made by honorable members to so amend the Bill as to provide for annual instead of biannual surveys. I fully agree, also, with the proposals of the Bill to provide for the employment of three classes of surveyors - a shipwright’s surveyor, a hull surveyor, and an engineering surveyor. I have felt for some time that the surveyor appointed under existing circumstances is not always the most competent to carry out survey work. Generally, he is a man who has served as a ship’s captain or a first mate, and who, having retired from the sea, has obtained employment as a surveyor, and has gone, at times, ineffectively to work in connexion with surveys. So far as the examination of a ship’s hull is concerned, no one is better fitted than is a boilermaker to do the work. Having had to deal practically with boiler plates, he knows very well whether a plate is safe or not. I have seen huge lumps of cement dumped into a plate, with the object of giving it some solidity, before the shipping surveyor came along. Later on, the surveyor, who had practically no knowledge of the sound of a solid iron plate, would tap the defective plate, and believe that he was hitting a solid piece of metal instead of a piece of cement. I have known these things to be done But if you have a boiler-maker with a competent knowledge of what a steel or iron plate is, backed up with that further technical knowledge which will be developed by his examination before he gets his certificate, you will have an efficient surveyor for the hull of a vessel. The same thing again certainly applies to machinery. I, therefore, welcome the change embodied in the Bill in connexion with the surveying of vessels. So far as concerns the question of the benefits to the seamen themselves, I fail to see that any member of the House can take legitimate or reasonable exception to what we purpose doing. Any man who has been in the forecastle knows the vile and unhealthy conditions under which the men generally exist. There is certainly room for reform there. The stench of a forecastle, as a rule, is appalling. I have been in them time and again, and have always been glad and eager to get out. We are giving the seamen 140 cubic feet of air each; but, after all, what does that amount to? A space 6 feet by 3 feet by 8 feet contains 144 cubic feet, which is a little over what we have allowed; and it cannot be held that that space is too much. Further, there is a great lack of lighting, and there is need for reform in that direction ; while there is certainly no accommodation or means whereby the men can keep themselves in fairly healthy condition by washing. The conditions in that regard are simply disgraceful and disgusting; and I think that every man, especially a medical man, who has looked into the question admits that reform is most essential. Still, we have, the outcry that ship-owners have spent large sums of money to bring their vessels reasonably up to date, and we are asked if we mean to compel them to spend more on further improving them. I say, decidedly. If these men must perform these services for the community ; if shipping is a necessity, and trade and commerce are essential to the progress of a country - as we know they are - the men who are doing the work should have decent conditions in which to do it, and those they have not to-day. So far as regards crimping, reform is again most desirable, and I hope the Minister will stick to his proposals. I have heard repeatedly from shipping companies and their officers of the desirableness of the companies themselves engaging the men on the vessels, or at their offices. I contend that that would be most undesirable, inasmuch as hitherto the companies have been prepared to take men under any conditions and supplied by any one. If we permit what they suggest to be done, we shall simply have a repetition of the evils of the past, as I have seen them myself in Newcastle; and even in Sydney.
– I believe Newcastle is the worst port in the world for that.
– It is very bad, at all events. I hope the Minister will stand by the proposition that the men shall be engaged and sign on only at the shipping office. If the honorable gentleman fails to insist on that, the evil of crimping will not be abolished, but will continue as in the past in a most vile and objectionable way.
– The British Board of Trade is very strict on that point.
– So far as the British Board of Trade is concerned, I compliment the Administration on the fact that they have turned down a great number of its suggestions. A close examination of them has shown me that in nearly every case where the Board of Trade has offered suggestions it has . been concerned more with its own interests and the interests of British shipping than with the interests of shipping on the Australian coast. I am glad that those who drafted this Bill have had the courage to turn down the majority of those suggestions, and stand by the recommendations of our Royal Commission. In the matter of advance notes again, a desirable reform beneficial to the men is being made. I have seen advance notes issued in Sydney. I have been in company with men who had the notes, and have seen them pass to dealers in Sussex, Kent, and Erskine streets, by whom they were discounted at the rate of about 50 per cent. I know for a positive fact that this discount has been afterwards shared between the dealers and the captains of the vessels. If the Minister eliminates this sort of thing, he will be doing an excellent work, and performing a great service to the men, and, on the top of that, there is the question of the man getting his month’s pay. Pay him two-thirds of his money and he will want no advance notes. He will have his money in his pocket, and can spend it as he likes. It is possible that he may spend it in drink ; but, at any rate, he will have what is legitimately his own, and there will be no possibility of any one taking advantage of his necessities to sponge upon or rob him. In this regard, therefore, we have another reform which I very much welcome. Another matter on which I shall touch is the Australian trade as relating to Papua. Representations have been made by the inhabitants of the Possession that the application of the Act in its present farm to Papua will be a great menace to them. They say that if the foreign vessels calling there are not allowed to trade to their ports unless they carry white crews, or pay a black crew white men’s wages, which they will not do, the result will be that , the vessels will not call there, and that they will be injured, because those vessels bring from the East large quantities of rice, which is the staple food of the employes on the island. I admit that there is something in the contention, but I have reason to believe that the quantity of stuff carried by these companies from the East to Papua is such as .would pay them, even if they carried white crews. Papua is practically on their line of route between Singapore and other Eastern ports, and any of the Australian ports from Brisbane down to Sydney, and I think that, even with a white crew, they could call at Papuan ports and supply the Papuan people with their requirements. Even if it be not so, is there not such a thing as subsidizing a white company to do the work? At present there is one Australian company trading to the East, and calling at the ports of Papua; but it uses coloured crews on its vessels. I believe it would be ready, if subsidized to the extent, say, of the difference between the cost of a coloured and a white crew, to give Papua a service that would meet the situation adequately if the other shipping companies refused to call. I hope that, if it is found by the Government that there is a likelihood of the foreign companies refusing to continue the Papuan trade, they will take into consideration the advisableness of giving a subsidy to the local shipping company. I do not want it to be too much. I do not wish to create a monopoly ; but if such a situation arises, a subsidy such as I have mentioned might well be offered with benefit to the purpose we have in view in connexion with our navigation laws, and that is to make the whole of our mercantile marine white, so far is it is possible. To attain that end, I think we should make some little sacrifices. I hope and trust that when this Bill goes into Committee, I shall be able from time to time to help to make it, if possible, more effective. If any honorable member finds difficulties in the way, or sees opportunity for additional reform, or, perhaps, finds some provision too stringent, I trust that I shall be able to add my little word and thought here and there to make the Bill as effective as I hope it will be. I look forward to the passage of this measure with a great deal of hope. I believe it is one of the best that has ever come before this Parliament. It has been pending long enough. Let us get it through this session, and I believe it will be a credit, not only to the Labour party, but to the whole House, and a benefit to the community..
.- It is very satisfactory that we are at last considering such an important measure as is now before the House, after having waited for it so long. I believe that it is something that the country requires very much indeed. It may be said that in some respects it leads the way, and perhaps takes us further than has yet been attempted. I think the Bill as a whole represents a very praiseworthy attempt, not only to bring the shipping legislation of Australia up to datein all respects, but to a certain extent to create precedents that other nations may very well follow. The measure is of considerable significance in more ways than one. It indicates that Australian shipping has at last reached a position of considerable importance, and that its future is to be watched with a good deal of interest and care by this Legislature, to whom the subject is intrusted. I remember when Australian shipping was by no means in the satisfactory position that it occupies at the present day. Somewhat over twenty years ago I made my first trip across the Bight to Western Australia, and the circumstances of that trip will, I think, never fade from my memory so long as I live. I had then a first inkling of the fact that while the Australian States may have legislated in regard to shipping, the carrying out of the law was by no means equal to what I well believe were the good intentions of the legislators. I saw then for the first time in my life how the law can be practically flouted and ignored, and that experience has created in my mind a certain critical attitude towards matters of navigation and shipping that has caused me to take more interest inthis measure than I might possibly otherwise have done. We crossed the Bight in an old tub of a ship which may or may not have been up to date at some period of itshistory, but certainly was very much below even average conditions at that time. It was fitted up for not more than 100 passengers at any rate, and there were on board some 500 or 600 men. I paid for that trip more than is paid now for a firstclass passage to Fremantle, and when I got aboard and was shown my berth, I was somewhat surprised. I and a companionwere taken down to the ‘tween deck, the whole length and breadth of which had been boarded off with planks on end intospaces of about 6 feet by 2 feet.
– Was it below the water line ?
– I do not remember. In all probability it would not be so with a ship of that size. The boards were roughly nailed together, reminding one of so many hog pens, which may be seen in stock markets in various parts of the world. These were our bunks, and we had to step very gingerly over the ends of the planks to reach a particular pen. When, as not infrequently happened, some of the men had been enjoying themselves at the bar, and were rather late in finding their pens, their steps were liable to disturb :Somewhat roughly the repose df any unfortunate person who happened to have retired a little earlier.
– What was the name of the ship?
– I do not wish to give the name of the ship, because things have improved very much since those days.
– She is still running?
– I do not think so, and I believe that it was more, perhaps, a matter of necessity than choice that this particular ship was employed on the voyage. However, we got safely to the journey’s end, though not without one or two somewhat exciting adventures. I remember that we were a good many days in the Bight, battened down most of the time, and it was, indeed, a treat when we were allowed to emerge into the fresh air. Since those days very remarkable strides have been made in connexion with Australian shipping. We now see, travelling all round our coasts, vessels that compare favorably with any to be found in other parts of the world. When we remember that this development has been almost entirely carried out by means of the profits made in this trade, with, in very few cases, the addition of extra outside capital, it must be confessed that the ship-owners have had such a run of prosperity generally as I think is not easy to “be found elsewhere. The carriage of both goods and passengers has been growing, especially between Western Australia and the eastern ‘States, in a most remarkable way; and the prosperity of the ship-owners and merchants in the eastern States is to a very large degree due to the development which has taken place in the western State during the last twenty years. I am rather proud, of the fact that such is the case ; and I believe that even such development as we !have seen is only a faint indication of the future that lies before the Australian ship ping trade. We are fully justified in bringing such measures as this forward in anticipation that the trade will be of such a character as to enable it to hold, in many respects, the foremost position in the history of shipping throughout the world. We are undoubtedly going a long way in certain directions in providing for, not only the comfort, but even the luxury of’ men employed on ships; and I, for one, have no hesitation whatever in committing myself to the support of legislation of the kind. I have seen, time and again, the almost barbarous conditions under which seamen have had to live; and I heartily welcome this measure as a step in the right direction, which will not only tend to the betterment of the men, but will give us, undoubtedly, a more efficient service, both for the ship-owners and for those who trade with them. There is one feature of Australian maritime trade of which I am very pleased to remind the House. It is the fact that, on the whole, our shipping has been carried on with remarkably few calamities. During all the years of the bustling trade between the eastern States and Western Australia there have been only one or two comparatively insignificant accidents, attended with slight loss of life. It is true that, in one or two other quarters,’ we have had lamentable disasters; but, on the whole, Australian shipping has been remarkably free from the wholesale trouble that we see occasionally in other parts of the world. It may be that the nature of the seas around our coasts does not tend to wholesale disaster; at any rate, on the greater part of our shores, the waters, though not unfrequently stormy, do not appear to have that hurricane character which, time and again, elsewhere bring’ disaster on a dozen or more vessels at a time. I take it, therefore, that we must regard Australian shipping generally, in these times at least, as of a character that gives a fair amount of assurance that the best is being done for the safety of the shipping’ and the passengers, and in the interests of the ship-owners themselves. While I readily concede so much, I feel it my duty to emphasize some features in connexion with the shipwrecks of late years on the Australian coast. There was the wreck of the *Yongala, on or about the 23rd March, 1911, between Mackay and Townsville ; and the wreck of the Koom’bana, on the 20th March, 1912, between Point Hedland and
Broome, on the Western Australian coast. There is a remarkable similarity between these two disasters. The vessels were wrecked almost in the same parallel of latitude, namely, the twentieth ; they went down under circumstances that have not been ascertained with any degree of precision; and, worst feature of all, every soul on board was lost. This takes me a little farther back to the disaster of the Waratah, which was lost between Durban and Capetown on 28th July, 1909. Although not in the same latitude, still, there are certain circumstances connected with that wreck which identify it with the other two I have mentioned. The Waratah went down in a severe gale, though it has not been precisely ascertained what fate overtook her ; and, again, all hands were lost. There have been Courts of Inquiry in connexion with each of these wrecks ; and I have gone j through the voluminous report connected with the Waratah, and the much shorter reports connected with the Yongala and the Koombana. I must confess that each and all of these reports is somewhat unsatisfactory ; that in connexion with the Waratah being perhaps the least unsatisfactory of the three. As to the Yongala and the Koombana, any one “reading the reports must come to the conclusion that the inquiries were unsatisfactory, not so much on account of the evidence produced, as on account of the evidence that was kept back, or, at least, did not reach the Court. In such inquiries, the Court is constituted by no means of experts, at least in Australia; and a mass of evidence is brought forward, generally in the interests of the shipping companies, to show that the owners are entirely blameless in regard to a wreck. I do not for one moment insinuate that ship-owners in these days would deliberately take risks that may ultimately lead to the loss of their vessels with crew and passengers; no such position, I think, could be taken up by the severest critic of shipping conditions at the present time. Nevertheless, to any one who goes through the reports I have mentioned, there must appear a suspicion that a good deal of the evidence is of a more or less restrained character. For instance, those employed by the shipping companies are hardly likely to say anything that would be more or less unpleasant to their employers ; and there are officials, not directly connected with the shipping companies, but frequently brought into contact with them, who may have a more or less human hesitation in saying exactly what they know.
We know that in connexion with English shipping, the Board of Trade is supreme. The ghastly wreck of the Titanic, which has appalled the whole of the civilized world, has brought out some very strong criticism indeed of the shipping authorities of the United Kingdom. In the Review of Reviews for June of the present year there are some statements of an almost sensational character regarding the inefficiency of the Board of Trade in carrying out the duties imposed on it. The article is headed “ The Board of Trade in the Dock - Mend it Or End it - a Patriotic Duty.” I do not propose to read the whole of the article, but merely one or two short extracts, in order to show the attitude of the writer - an attitude which, by the way, has been adopted by several other writers with more or less emphasis since the disaster to the Titanic. This is the first quotation -
No wonder Mr. Douglas Hall said in the Board of Trade debate, “ We who have hitherto led the legislation and the regulations of the world in all shipping matters are in the humiliating position of having the finger of scorn, pointed at us by every other nation on account of our obsolete rules and regulations.
Then, again -
Nor is this idle talk when we see what is thecomposition of the Merchant Shipping Advisory Committee, that mainstay and protection of the President of the Board of Trade. There are eight ship-owners, two underwriters, two shipbuilders, two shipmasters, two engineer officers, and two men representing the seamen’s and firemen’s union. The two additional members co-opted by the Government were a shipbuilder and a representative of ship-owners. The committee thus represents ship-owners’ interests, or people who are in the business to make money out of the conveyance of passengers and cargo. There is no representation of passengers or public. Is it a wonder that the House of Commonsis known amongst the officers of our merchant service as “ The Ship-owners’ smoke-room “ ? But the most damning thing about this Shipowners’ Council of Ten is that its sittings are in secret, and reports of its proceedings are not made public. Such a state of things tends to> reassure the travelling public that their safety will never be allowed to interfere with the interests of ship-owners.
Is there any ray of hope for the passenger?- Apparently none, since behind the shipownersthere are the insurance brokers, and it must never be_ forgotten that the day of the unsinkable ship means the end of marine insurance.
We do not wonder, after all this, that the inspection of vessels is a mere farce in nine cases out of ten. We should be surprised were it otherwise.
While I do not indorse those strong statements, I think that, even after they have been discounted considerably, enough remains to show that the Board of Trade, , which is supposed to look after shipping interests generally throughout the United Kingdom, has fallen behind the times, and now represents ship-owners’ interests, rather than those of the public. There are Boards of inquiry in Australia about which much the same thing might be said. If you read the reports of investigations, you get very little evidence except of a kind exculpating the ship-owners. I have seen enough to suggest to me that even the work of the officials, who are paid to look after the welfare of passengers and the interests of shippers, is often done perfunctorily. The vessel on which I made my first trip across theBight was inspected before leaving port by a State official, who, I am sure, “ winked the other eye,” to use an expression of the man in the street, at a great deal that he saw aboard the ship. Had he done his duty, the ship would not have been allowed to leave port carrying so many passengers, with such primitive and defective accommodation, and with only two or three boats available for the saving of several hundreds of persons should disaster be met with.
After a careful and impartial reading of the reports on the Australian shipping disasters already referred to, I confess to a feeling of dissatisfaction that the examination was not more exhaustive, and that evidence was not called that it was suggested was available, to throw morelight on the cases. The report of the Committee of Inquiry into the wreck of the Waratah is very illuminating. It shows that, even in these days, vessels can be built that are not seaworthy; that, apparently, even the most skilled draughtsmen and designers may make mistakes ; and that there is a tendency on the part of shipowners to ask ship-builders for vessels which will afford the maximum accommodation for cargo and passengers, even at some sacrifice of stability and seaworthiness. The summing up of the Committee in the Waratah case contained this passage -
The letters addressed by the owners to the builders after the return of the ship from the first voyage show that representations had been made to the former by Captain Ilbery as to the stability of the ship.
Any one reading the evidence in the Waratah inquiry must come to the conclusion that the vessel was what is known as a “tender” ship. She was “tender” to a certain extent because of a fault which has become too frequent ; that is, she had too much top hamper. She had several decks towering above her main structure; and, although it has been contended that these superstructures do not endanger stability, I think that I shall be able to prove that they must have that effect. It was stated, in the case of the Warata/t, that the vessel capsized. It is hard to imagine such a catastrophe with such a huge vessel, because we associate capsizing with skiffs, rowing-boats, and the like, not with great steamers, staunchly built, and supposed to be practically unsinkable in the heaviest gale when they have plenty of seaway. The Yongala and the Koombana had undoubtedly the same “ tenderness “ as the Waratah, though, of course, that was denied during the inquiries. I travelled on the Yongala some years ago, and know that the opinion then expressed on the vessel, even by her officers, was that she was undoubtedly a “ tender “ ship. At the inquiry, the evidence of officers was to the contrary, but it is not an unknown thing for ships’ officers and others connected with vessels to express privately concerning them opinions which they hesitate to make public during an inquiry. The popular idea, and the opinion of some of her crew, as I know, was that the Yongala was a “ tender “ ship. As to the Koombana, any one who saw her lying off the wharf at Fremantle must have been struck by her towering superstructure, which seemed out of all proportion to the submerged hull. I do not wish to repeat common gossip, but I have it on the best authority that the captain of the steamer stated to one of his friends that the vessel, although a splendid one in many ways, was undoubtedly tender. He added an expression which I shall not repeat, but which, if true, as I believe it to be, justifies the statement that the ship was not as seaworthy as she was declared to be as the result of the inquiry into her disappearance. In attempting to account for the loss of the Yongala and the Koombana, efforts were made to show that they had not capsized, but that the Yongala had struck a rock, and that the Koombana had gone aground on one of the islands in the locality in which she was supposed to have been lost. But there is this singular fact, that very little wreckage was discovered in either case, which is to be accounted for by the supposition that the vessels did not break up, but went down practically intact, carrying everything with them.
– Might not the condition of the water-ballast tanks tend to make a vessel tender?
– I shall deal with that presently.
– There was some wreckage from the yongala.
– Very little. It was suggested that as some of this had come from the lower hold, the steamer must have broken up. Had she broken up, there would have been more wreckage. It is regarded as a strong probability that when a steamer capsizes, an explosion takes place, which blows a hole in her side or bottom, and this would enable a small” part of her cargo to escape. At all events, this explosion was observed in the case of the Waratah, which, in the opinion of the Court of Inquiry, capsized. I have said that inquiries into Australian wrecks -have been very unsatisfactory, and in the case of the Koombana this was very obvious. The Court seemed to me to go out of its way to make it appear that the disaster was of a kind that could not have been obviated. It certainly went out of its way to ask leading questions in the direction of proving that the ship was excellent and seaworthy in all respects, and that her capacity for fighting a gale could not have been improved upon. With regard to the loss of both the Koombana and the Yongala, however, there is one feature that must cause a certain amount of uneasiness in the mind of any one who considers all the circumstances. Both ships had undoubtedly on certain portions of their voyages, and during more or less lengthy periods, carried iron ballast in their holds. What was the meaning of that if it was not that the ships were “ tender “ and had to carry special ballast to give them stability and safety? It has been suggested with regard, I think, to the Yongala that this ballast was carried in order to make her thoroughly seaworthy while travelling eastward across the Bight from Western Australia. As most honorable members probably know, ships travel as a rule heavily laden from the eastern States to Western Australia, and come back very light. Hence the necessity, perhaps, for some precautions in the way of giving a ship greater stability. As a rule, however, that is accomplished by the introduction of water into her tanks, and the fact that iron ballast had also to be carried in the case of the Yongala goes, I think, to indicate that she was more “tender” than is usually the case, and that extra precautions had consequently to be taken. As I have already said, I travelled once on the Yongala, and decided never to do so again. On that occasion I had one or two casual conversations with some of her officers, and they all went to confirm my suspicion that while she was a speedy ship some of the factors of safety had been sacrificed to the desire to secure speed and to obtain the maximum accommodation for passengers. The Koombana, again, while not perhaps built for speed in the way in which the Yongala was, was undoubtedly designed to meet the special conditions of the northwest trade. In the first place, she was built not too deeply, in order that she might get over the bars in certain rivers; while to provide for a large passenger trade, she had erected over her main deck superstructures which, gave her that towering and unstable appearance that excited the suspicion even of people who had very little acquaintance with the sea. It was a matter of common remark in Western Australia that the Koombana was top heavy, and I believe if the inquiry had been of a thorough character, and if those who knew all the facts had been free to speak their minds without fear of the consequences, we should have had overwhelming evidence that such was the case. While I speak thus strongly regarding the loss of these vessels, I do not for one moment seek to impute to their owners any improper desire or conduct. I’ feel sure that while they asked for the maximum of earning power in connexion with these ships they desired ‘also to secure stability and safety. I am quite satisfied that the shipping companies had not the least suspicion that in the building of these ships possible elements of stability were neglected, with the result that disaster ultimately overtook them. I am quite justified in suggesting, however, that even the designers of ships may make mistakes.
– They deliberately make experiments, within certain limits.
– Yes ; and while these experiments are no doubt made carefully and rigorously, they are, of course, liable to error. 1
– The question of stability can be precisely determined by them.
– They are able to determine with mathematical accuracy the question of stability.
– And yet they differ hopelessly as between engineer and engineer in their criticisms.
– Precisely; and very often certain features - apart from all the mechanical appliances and the scientific calculations that are used in connexion with the stability of shipping - seem to have been overlooked. People acquainted with shipping will tell honorable members, as they have told me, that in the seventies and the eighties a type of vessel that has since been entirely discontinued was favoured and largely built. I refer to the long, narrow, deep type of vessel. A very large proportion of such ships met with disaster, and as the result of further inquiries the stability and seaworthiness of the type were so seriously questioned that the construction of vessels of this class ha§ been almost entirely discontinued. During late years we have had another modification, and a modification which ought to be challenged by experts in a way that does not seem yet to have been done. I refer to the construction of one deck on top of another which, with their array of cabins, undoubtedly give a weight that will lower the metacentre of a ship in some cases almost to the point of gravity, if, indeed, it does not lower it below that point. I have no desire to use scientific terms in discussing the matter of stability, but I may say briefly that there is a method of ascertaining a ship’s stability which, I think, is adopted in the case of all vessels built in British shipyards. The centre of gravity having been ascertained, what is known as the metacentre is calculated, and when these two points are -known the stability of a ship can be stated to an exact degree. This, however, is always determined under strictly neutral conditions, and I con-, tend that in the possibilities of wind action on a ‘ ship with a towering superstructure we have a factor that does not seem to “ be taken into consideration with the question of stability. The Waratah, for instance, carried above her main deck a spar deck, a promenade deck, and a boat deck. She thus had three superstructures, and with regard to all of them the position was further endangered by the fact that they did not run clear from one side of the vessel to the other. The passage of wind was blocked by structures running along the keel - structures in the nature of cabins to provide accommodation for passengers and officers. I do not remember exactly the nature of the superstructure in the case of either the Yongala or the Koombana, but in this respect both were of the same type as the Waratah. While seamen have been industriously coached into the belief that , the increasing height of a vessel above the water-line does not endanger her stability, there is nevertheless a factor in this increasing height, which, even the veriest tyro can see, does interfere seriously with it. We have only to consider for a moment the leverage exerted by any weight placed at some height above the centre of gravity of any object to understand that anything of such a character raised above the centre of gravity, in a ship must, tend to endanger her stability. During; the preliminary inquiry into the wreck of the Koombana, an official before the Court was asked -
There is a popular fallacy that a ship havingher top hamper -
The reference was to the Koombana’ s top hamper - is unsafe.
That was a peculiar way of putting the question - it was put by way of assertion - and the answer was, “It is a question of the proper distribution of cargo.” The proper distribution of cargo has much to do with the stability of a vessel. But over and above the distribution of cargo, and the quantity of cargo carried underneath the centre of gravity, we must not forget that anything weighty carried over the centre of gravity must necessarily interfere, with that stability.
– It will neutralize it.
– It will neutralize the effect of the weight beneath the centre of gravity. Hence the reason for the rigid rules and regulations regarding the quantity of deck cargo to be carried on almost any vessel. The quantity is strictly regulated, and in some cases deck cargo is prohibited because it is universally recognised that it seriously interferes with a ship’s stability. There is no doubt that, other things being equal, a ship having a high freeboard is safer than one with a low freeboard. A high freeboard, however, is entirely different from a high superstructure. When we speak of the freeboard of a ship we have in mind that portion of the main structure which runs clear out of the water to the main deck. Considering this freeboard, there is nothing to catch the wind. As a matter of fact, when such a vessel heels over, the wind will slide along the side, and the further she heels the less force and effect the wind will have on her, always assuming that she has no superstructure. When we come to consider the superstructure added above the main deck, we have the whole crux of the question.
– Is not that counterbalanced bv depth of hold?
– To a certain extent it is ; but in a. ship with a given depth of hold, carrying a given cargo, whatever weight is placed above the centre of gravity will by that amount neutralize the weight carried below, and the point in connexion with this matter of stability is always to keep what is known as the metacentre well above the centre of gravity. In the case of the Waratah, one scientific passenger who was on board the vessel on the trip previous to the one on which she went down, seriously questioned her stability, because, from his observation, he concluded that her metacentre practically coincided with her centre of gravity, and that she was neutral, as he called it; that is, that it would take a mere matter of a ton or two, either of windpressure or of cargo, to carry her over from port to starboard, or vice versa, and give her a permanent list on either side. I am told that whilst the Waratah was coaling at Albany the men had to shift their tram line some ten times, or perhaps more, while she was taking in 150 tons of coal. The ship stood so much on her neutral centre that her trim was affected by the few tons of coal that were alternately put on one side or the other. A ship of that kind, standing as she did so tenderly, must have been in a position to be affected very strongly by wind-pressure, apart altogether from the question as to whether she was carrying any cargo or coal above her centre of gravity. In the case of the Waratah, it was shown that she had taken in a large amount of coal, and that her bunkers ran up into one of her superstructures, and that consequently, if she was full up to the top of those coal shoots, she was carrying a weight, which must seriously have endangered her stability. Apart from that altogether, I contend that there is a feature in connexion with the wreck of these ships that has. not yet been considered, and that probably accounts for the loss of one and all of them. That feature is the wind-pressure on these superstructures. It must be remembered that the Yongala and the Koonoona went down in hurricanes or cyclones, in which the wind blows at the rate of 90 miles an hour or even more, and has a pressure of 40 lbs. to the square foot. The pressure of such a wind on the clean hull of a vessel would be very little when she happened to be thrown over by the force of the waves, but when you remember that,’ perhaps, she had two or more decks built exactly on the principle of the box-kite - in other words, built so as to give the wind its greatest pushing force - you begin to realize that if she were caught broadside on by a hurricane blowing 90 miles an hour, the force of the wind on her superstructure must have been something enormous. I put to one of the ablest professional men in connexion with Australian shipping, this question - “ Do you think that a ship like the Koombana, with her superstructure, if caught broadside on by the cyclone, was likely to stand up under the effect of it, remembering always that the wind-pressure would be 40 lbs. to the square foot ? “ He thought for a little, and then said deliberately, “ Assuming that the vessel was broadside on to a heavy sea, and that the wind was blowing into her superstructure with the force that you indicate, the probability is that she capsized.” I have seen nothing in this measure to indicate that consideration is being given, so far as regards the stability of ships, to the question of wind pressure on a towering superstructure, and I feel satisfied, as the result of my inquiries, that here is precisely the feature that was responsible for the three disasters I have indicated.
– If the ballast tanks were empty, the condition would be made still worse.
– There were other features that no doubt contributed to the disasters. Whilst provision is being made to secure stability for a ship under neutral conditions in the arrangement of water tanks and so on, no consideration appears to have been given so far to the matter of wind pressure on superstructures, and that is the question which I am anxious to emphasize to the House at the present juncture. It is to be regretted that in this Bill we have practically only two clauses dealing with the stability and seaworthiness of ships. The measure seems to have been devoted almost entirely to matters affecting the relations between ship-owners and seamen. The interests of passengers are dealt with only in a very perfunctory fashion, and even such portions of the Bill as do relate to the safety of the ship and passengers are, to my mind, very ineffective, and do not state definitely what is desired as the minimum of safety. For instance, clause 211 provides -
A ship shall not be deemed seaworthy under this Act unless -
she is in a fit state as to condition of hull and equipment, boilers and machinery, stowage of ballast or cargo, number and qualifications of crew, including officers, and in every other respect, to encounter the ordinary perils of the voyage then entered upon ; and
she is not overloaded.
This leaves to any official the important consideration as to whether the ship is in a fit state or not. He has no criterion to guide him as to what he shall do to ascertain whether she is fit. He is undoubtedly given to understand that hull and equipment, boilers and machinery, and stowage of ballast and cargo, must all be regarded ; but the provision requiring the ship to be in a fit state is so indefinite that it is practically of little use. An official intrusted with the supervision of ships may regard a certain vessel as in a fit state, when, as a matter of fact, she is very far from being so. It is our duty, if possible, to lay down some definite lines as to what shall constitute safety and seaworthiness, over and above anything that we have in this Bill. I wish to read, in conclusion, a portion of the finding of the Court of Inquiry into the loss of the Waratah, and this passage is undoubtedly of very grave significance to us in relation to the disasters to which I have referred -
The Court does not desire to travel outside the scope of its functions as a tribunal inquiring into a specific casualty, but in view of the great prominence which the question of stability has assumed at this inquiry, feels it not out of place to suggest whether it may not be possible, with the help of a committee of experts appointed for that purpose, to arrive at some conclusions concerning the minimum stability requirements of different types of vessel consistent with safety at sea. A careful investigation by such a committee, including, as it would necessarily do, examination of stability curves of many vessels in all trades, might show the feasibility of recommending minimum curves for different types of vessel for general adoption.
There is the full justification for everything I have said here this morning. The Court was constituted of some of the ablest men that the British Empire can provide to deal with matters affecting shipping. While they regretted the absence of much information that they thought should have been available, and put it on record that the inquiry was more or less unsatisfactory in certain respects, they have also stated their conviction that there is great necessity for some further work to insure the stability and safety of vessels at sea. In regard to three wrecks, I have shown a remarkable chain of coincidence, which goes far to justify me in asserting’ that there was something radically wrong. I have indicated enough to justify the Government making inquiries into the effects of wind pressure, particularly of hurricanes, on the broadside of vessels with such superstructures as those which went down. If inquiry be made, and the necessary calculations are instituted as to the necessary wind pressure, it will be found that . a grave element of danger has been neglected. I have no doubt that it was this cause that led to the three wrecks; and, though I do not desire to pose as an alarmist, we have vessels travelling along our coast many of which have to run at certain seasons into the most violent winds that prevail on any part of the globe. The possible effects of the pressure of wind on these towering superstructures should be investigated, and the Government should take such steps as may be necessary to provide a limit of safety in connexion with all vessels carrying passengers above the main deck.
– The House is very much indebted to the honorable member for Perth for his most informative speech. The honorable member has pointed out a number of defects in our marine architecture - defects which have a tendency to increase, rather than to diminish, owing to the growing demands on the accommodation of ships. The information imparted by the honorable member will] I have no doubt, be fully appreciated by the Minister of Trade and Customs, and be noted, with a view to perfecting, as far as possible, the provisions of the measure before us. The Bill, though mainly a Committee Bill, contains certain principles which it is well should be discussed at this stage. On the whole, it is a measure which will generally command the support of honorable members on both sides of the House. The constitutional points involved I shall leave to the constitutional lawyers in this Chamber ; but there are other features of the Bill, and some that seem to have been overlooked, that require discussion with a view to the improvement of the provisions. For instance, it seems to me that the steamship companies on our coast may with impunity absolutely disregard the rights of passengers. Recently, with a number of other honorable members, I had occasion to travel up the coast on a locally-owned vessel ; and all of us had noted that when this and other vessels first entered on the trade of Australia, the passenger accommodation was made a great feature in the newspaper descriptions at the time.
– What vessel does the honorable member refer to?
– If I have to mention the name, I may say that it was the Wyandra, though there are one or two others that I may have to refer to, and my remarks are applicable to quite a considerable number of others. As I was saying, a feature is made in the newspapers of the great attention that is paid to the comfort and convenience of passengers, who are led to believe that there is a certain amount of deck space, and so forth, always at their disposal. When passengers go on board, however, it not infrequently happens that a great deal of the promenade deck space in all classes is largely occupied with cargo. On the Wyandra, for example, portions of the saloon promenade deck were filled with cases of fruit right up to the awning, and it was impossible to pass from there to the afterpart of the ship without clambering over cargo. There were motor cars, motor boats, buggies, and all sorts of cargo hampering the intervening space. In the fore part of the ship, the whole of the space, with the exception of a small portion of the hatch, was occupied with huge pieces of machinery, girders, windmills, and so forth ; and the passengers had practically no promenade space at all, except half of the forehatch. This state of affairs ought not to be permitted to continue. It seems to me that there is an utter disregard of the comfort and convenience of passengers, to say nothing of the serious danger involved in case of accident. Cargo should not be allowed to be carried on deck at all. Every ton of cargo so carried affects the stability of a ship not designed to carry deck cargo.
Difficult as it must be, even for those accustomed to the sea, to climb over intervening obstacles in a gale of wind, when a ship may be in danger, we can imagine what must be the difficulties of in- t experienced people, perhaps suffering from mal-de-mer, and the further difficulties in handling boats or life-saving gear under such conditions. I found that, although there were life belts in some cabins, there were none in others; there were no life belts in the cabin I occupied, and I drew the steward’s attention to the fact. I do not know what is the system adopted for the official inspection of these passenger vessels ; but the duty appears to me to be carried out in a very perfunctory fashion. One case came under my personal observation, where a ship was supposed to undergo a periodical survey for the renewal of her certificate. I happened to meet the inspecting officer as he was going off to inspect the ship, and in a little more than halfanhour afterwards I met him again, and found that the vessel was supposed to have been inspected in the meantime, although the officer had to go out into the stream. It is true that this was a comparatively new ship, and well found ; but it is quite obvious that nothing like even a most cursory examination of all parts could possibly have been accomplished in the time. This is the way, however, I am afraid, a great deal of the inspection work is carried on. On our trip along the coast we had occasion to travel in the Warrego, a vessel, I believe, subsidized to carry the mails from Brisbane to ports ‘ in the Gulf of Carpentaria as far as Burketown. I do not know why such a vessel is allowed to go to sea. It is really a disgrace that any ship in the condition of this ship should be allowed to carry passengers or anybody else. The Warrego is a dirty old tub, which was, I believe, fished from the bottom of the Brisbane River, after lying there for some time, and still smells of slime and ooze. Her fittings are absolutely rotten in parts; indeed, I have bits of her in my pocket at this moment. Pieces like these can be picked off the vessel as one meanders round the deck. The ironwork in parts was rusted right through and perforated with rust-eaten holes. This vessel was built over thirty years ago.
– The Edina was’ built sixty years ago. She took soldiers out to the
Crimea war; but I understand that she is quite seaworthy still.
Mr.W. ELLIOT JOHNSON.- I am not prepared to say that the Warrego is not seaworthy. The Comptroller of Customs was on board, and he got quite nervous when he saw me picking off pieces of the ship with my finger and thumb. As an old nautical man I cannot help taking notice of thesei things. When I step aboard a ship, the first thing I look to is the equipment of the boats, and the arrangements for swinging them out rapidly in case of accident.
– I like the word “rapidly.”
– The result of my observation often makes me feel that it will be a good thing to have a fine trip and no trouble. I found the iron covering of the Warrego’s engine-room riddled with rust-eaten holes. Two or three seas dropping on that iron-work would flood the engine-room Yet the vessel has to pass through regions in which, during parts of the year, hurricanes prevail, and - I understand - is subsidized by this Government for the carriage of mails. She trades from Brisbane to Cooktown, Thursday Island, and the Gulf ports, as far as Burketown.
– Right round the Speaker’s electorate.
Mr.W. ELLIOT JOHNSON. - Yes. I strongly advise you, Mr. Speaker, not to travel in the Warrego during the hurricane months. I do not think that the vessel is good enough to risk so valuable a life in. Accommodation that was supposed to be exclusively for passengers was occupied with cargo of all descriptions, and in the well between the break of the saloon deck and the forecastle head were large steel girders, windmill machinery, and the like ; also bar iron, angle iron, timber, and cases of kerosene piled high above the ship’s rail. As a vessel discharges at intermediate ports she becomes lighter, and her lightness is increased by the coal consumption. Thus the deck hamper tends more and more to affect her stability. Things are all right while the sea is smooth, and in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred nothing happens ; but finally disaster comes, and the community is shocked by a catastrophe that could have been averted with ordinary precautions. The loss of the Koombana, the Yongala, and other frightful disasters on our coast call for imperative legislative action to insure a more reasonable regard for safety of life at sea. The Warrego was crowded with passengers, and I got a berth only through the courtesy of the pilot, who allowed me to share his cabin, giving me the upper bunk. The iron sheeting of the deck above me was riddled with holes, stuffed with putty, and painted over. You could push your thumb through some of them. I called the attention of other members of the House to these things. Passengers for Gulf ports are afraid to complain, lest they may have no steamer service at all. Surely - especially in a sparselypopulated country like Australia - human lives are of more importance than the profits to be made from the transport of cargo. The Government should see that all vessels subsidized for the conveyance of mails are in all respects properly found. I saw no life-belts at all on the Warrego. I was very glad when we got to Thursday Island, and thankful that I had not to travel back in her.
– Was there any boat drill?
– None at all while I was on her. On board some vessels the boats have been painted in position so often that they and the chocks and the paint have formed a solid mass. It would take a heavy maul or charge of dynamite to dislodge the boats from the chocks, and the davits have rusted in the ship’srails, and in their sockets. I produce part of the superstructure of the Warrego. All the plates covering the steam pipes round the winches are riddled with holes, and you can pick off flakes of iron as you could pick up shavings. The slightest pressure will bring away a piece of this portion of the ship’s fittings.
– What about the Merrie England and the John Douglas ?
– The hull plates of the Warrego may be in good condition ; it is to be hoped that they are. I should have liked to make an examination pf the plates under the boilers. I travelled on the Albion from Hobart to Melbourne by West Coast ports, and was informed that when she was in dry dock the instruction was given that the chipping hammers were not to be used too hard for fear of making holes in her, and that, on a previous occasion holes were made that were stopped with white lead and covered over with red-lead paint. On her return trip to Hobart she disappeared, and has never since been heard of. No one knows what became of her. She probably met bad weather, sprang a leak, and went to the bottom with all hands.
– It was lucky for us that the honorable member travelled on the trip before*
– What a lot of pleasure honorable members opposite would have missed had I returned to Hobart by her. There are vessels sailing out of the port of Melbourne to-day which ought to have been broken up long ago. Much newer vessels have been broken up as unseaworthy. I sometimes see alongside the wharf in the Yarra the Meeinderry, on which I have travelled on the West Coast of Tasmania in fear and trembling.
– I have crossed in the Wareatea.
– She is a comparatively new boat, and a palace compared with the Meeinderry, which, years ago, was carrying blue metal from Kiama to Sydney, until she was regarded as too old even for that work. A lot of vessels running out of Melbourne to-day ought to be put on the scrap-heap. When they are found to be no longer good enough for the New South Wales coast, they are thought good enough for service on the Victorian coast. I do not know why the Victorians accept them.
– Their high Tariff has made them used to goods of that character.
– In the little basin at the foot of Spencer-street, there are sometimes to be seen wooden schooners, scows, and ketches, chiefly used for carrying wood, on which I would not like to travel as far as Williamstown. On some of them, the woodwork, the masts, and the gear are rotten, and it is marvellous that they hang together.
– The honorable member is a pleasant critic.
– A ship is always an object of interest to me. Although shore men may pass them by unnoticed, I am always interested in nautical matters, and I invariably take notice of the build of a ship, its gear, and everything appertaining to it. I hope that when we go into Committee the Minister will bear some of these points in mind with a view of determining whether we cannot make some provision against such vessels going to sea to the imminent danger of those who have to work on or travel by them. We have in this Bill a provision relating to the installation of wireless telegraphy on certain ships. Wireless is a very necessary equipment for vesesls on our coast, but to make it effective it is essential that there should be at least one certificated officer and one assistant on board.
– I said in moving the second reading of the Bill that we proposed to make a certain amendment - that wireless was as yet in a developmental stage, and that perhaps it would be better to leave a number of matters to be dealt with by regulation.
– But no vessel should be allowed to get her clearance unless she has on board at least one certified operator and one assistant.
– I think I made a statement to that effect in my speech.
– The provision relating to medical officers is a very good one. All coasting vessels travelling long distances and carrying large numbers of passengers should certainly be provided with medical officers, for one never knows when emergencies will arise at sea calling for medical and surgical assistance. That provision, however, should relate perhaps only to vessels carrying passengers, and having a continuous run of upwards of 600 miles, since vessels having a run of less than 600 miles are usually in and out of, port at very short intervals. Whilst we desire to provide for passengers and crews in all respects, we do not wish to impose needless expense 01* ship-owners, and if a medical officer is not necessary - and I do not think he would be in the case of a vessel making a run of less than 600 miles - we should not insist on him being carried. I desire now to refer to the question of the load-line, and to the remarks made by the honorable member for Kooyong concerning that matter. I am not quite in agreement with my honorable friend in this respect, and I wish to point out that most of the authorities he quoted in support of the “position he took up, are men who, I have been given to understand by another nauticalgentleman, have not been at sea -for the last twenty or thirty years.
– Still -they are men whose authority was accepted by the Navigation Commission. I was largely guided, of course, by the Commission.
– Still I think it would be more satisfactory if we could get the more up-to-date knowledge of modern shipmasters who are sailing in oversea ships with coal and other dead-weight cargo. Such men, I think, would be found generally to favour the adoption of the winter North Atlantic loadline in all seasons so far as foreign loading in Australia is concerned, and the winter load-line for sailing vessels on the coast loaded with dead-weight cargo. Vessels loaded here in the summer with coal or deadweight cargo - and many shipmasters regard coal as dead-weight cargo - bound for the North Atlantic Ocean meet with the boisterous weather of the winter season in that region, and consequently it is a time of danger for them. The position is not so bad in the case of steamers, because they are constantly drawing on their coal supply, and thus gradually lightening their load. Sailing vessels are differently situated, however, and I would ask the Minister to consider the desirableness of insisting upon the observance of the winter North Atlantic load-line in the case of vessels loading for voyages around Cape Horn for foreign ports to reach which they have to meet the winter gales of the North Atlantic Ocean. As to the question where the mark should ordinarily be placed, I think that we ought to adhere to the principle observed in placing the Plimsoll mark. The Plimsoll mark is now calculated on a certain number of tables, which have been most carefully compiled. A desire was shown on the part of a member of another place to provide in the Bill for an alteration of the present load-line. He desired that the place of the Plimsoll mark should be measured from the underneath side of the deck, instead of from the original deck level.
– Is there not a uniform system among all the leading maritime nations?
– Yes, but there has been an effort to have a departure made in this Bill. I desire to guard against anything of the kind. The tendency of modern ship construction is towards danger, not from overloading, but from insufficient loading, or too much top hamper. In the case of most of our passenger steam- ships, the danger to my mind seems to be that they are often not deep enough in the water.
– How could that be avoided ?
– By proper loading or ballasting, and discouraging the building of tiers of decks and cabins high above the main deck.
– The honorable member thinks that there should be a minimum as well as a maximum?
– Yes, I do not think that we should make any alteration in regard to the present method of determining the position of the Plimsoll mark. In the case of a vessel that is subsequently sheathed with wood, the deckline is apparently altered, but, as a matter of fact, it is not, because the sheathing does not affect her tonnage in the slightest degree. It does not equip her to carry a ton of cargo more than she carried before. It is only an extra precaution to prolong her life.
– Is this not a matter for experts?
– It was seriously proposed by an honorable senator that an alteration should be made in this regard.
– He was not successful?
– No; but he is still trying, and I hope that he will not be successful, because, whilst I appreciate the motive underlying his action, I think that he was mistaken, and that if his suggestion were carried out, we should add another to the already sufficiently large number of dangers with which sea-going people have to contend. The tendency now is not towards overloading so much as it is towards underloading. That point has been emphasized by the honorable member for Perth
– It can apply only to InterState steamers. Oversea vessels are generally well loaded.
– But, even in that case, the loading is not always on right lines. While in Belfast last year,. I had a conversation with the chief designer in Messrs. Harland and Wolf’s yards on this very subject. He admitted that there was an ever increasing danger, in connexion with our modern passenger steam-ship architecture, to further and further reduce the stability that used to mark the build of the older lines of steamers. He said, “ When steam-ship owners want us to build a passenger ship for them, the conditions on which they insist are plenty of passenger space, speed, and light draught. To get speed you must increase the length of a vessel and decrease her beam, and for every increase in length and decrease in beam there is a natural decrease in stability. The greater the speed required, the greater the length, and the narrower the beam in proportion. Then, again, increased passenger accommodation cannot be obtained below, but must be above, the water line, deck cabins being mostly in demand, and consequently superstructures have to be provided.” The superstructures are all right under normal conditions, and would be all right even under some abnormal conditions, provided certain other conditions were fulfilled, but the neglect of any of those conditions upsets all calculations.
Sitting suspended from1 to 2.15 p.m.
– With regard to the load-line, the general tendency now is for steam-ships to move about under-loaded rather than overloaded. The daily coal consumption and water consumption on a steamer has the effect of daily lightening her draught and increasing her freeboard above the water-line. Consequently, we have to guard against danger of topheaviness - a danger that is being constantly increased by the tendency to build higher and higher superstructures above the actual deck-line. All these superstructures are an added source of danger to ships in heavy weather, especially with a beam wind and a beam sea. The deck awnings and deck houses, being rigidly built, offer a powerful resistance to the wind, the wind pressure acting as a lever to force the ship over to a greater angle than would otherwise be the case ; and when the loading is lighter the tendency of the pressure to turn the ship over becomes correspondingly greater. There is no doubt that this has led to the loss of a number of vessels, not only on the Australian coast, but elsewhere. Another danger is added by means of the system of watertight compartments, which were originally designed as a means of carrying water ballast, and as affording additional security in case the vessel struck a submerged obstacle. The cellular space was thought to be a great advance, and it was believed that if the vessel struck a rock or ran aground only the outer skin would be injured. The space is divided into watertight compartments running in many cases only transversely across the ship, with no longitudinal sections, and, when the tanks are not quite full, the water will rush from one side to the other as the ship rolls, and so affect her stability. I think it is desirable to have at least one longitudinal dividing section, and preferably more. I had some experience of sea life in my younger days. I qualified for second officer, and served my time at sea, but I was mostly in sailing ships. My first voyage was in a little barque, of only about 350 tons net register, round Cape Horn. We had, I think, scarcely more than 3 feet of freeboard, and were hove to for a couple of months in the dead of winter off Cape Horn, where, I think, the seas are very much higher than in any other part of the world. She happened, however, to be a well-built, flush deck ship, and well loaded. In my time the chief officer was the man who was held responsible for the proper loading of the ship. He knew where every package of cargo was stowed, but, unfortunately, that is not done at the present time in the loading of our steamers. An officer of the ship - and this should be the chief officer - should be responsible for her proper loading. Under our present system of loading by stevedores, no officer has any control over the loading of the cargo; and no officer can tell where or how it is stowed. We ought to provide in the Bill that a responsible officer of the ship shall supervise and direct the loading, and be responsible for the proper performance of the work. It should not be left to shore people, some of whom perhaps have never been to sea in their lives, and whose main concern is simply to get the cargo from the wharf into the ship when and how they can. I have seen some of the lightest cargo stowed in the lower holds, and the heaviest stowed near, and often above, the water-line. This is dangerous stowage. In certain circumstances, the water ballast tanks constitute an added danger to the tendency of a ship to turn turtle. There was a little steamer, called the Pearl, which turned turtle the other day on the coast of New South Wales. The account from Grafton states that Mr. George Marks, of the Department of Agriculture of New South Wales, was a passenger on board. His story was to the effect that several times prior to the actual disaster the vessel gave a dangerous list. In consequence of this he at one period felt inclined to leave her. In addition to iron, timber, and cream cans the steamer also carried a galvanized-iron tank on the awning. When Mr. Marks finally felt the boat going over he jumped into the river. The vessel floated for some time keel uppermost, and the propeller kept turning, causing the hull to forge ahead some distance after the propeller stopped. That was in the case of only a small vessel ; but what is true of a small vessel is true in a corresponding degree of vessels of larger size. The tendency to put cargo on deck and have empty holds, and sometimes to have empty ballast tanks as well, constitutes a source of very great danger to the lives of crew and passengers alike. Take the case of the Clan Ranald, which was lost somewhere in Spencer’s Gulf, South Australia. I was struck with the following letter, which appeared in the press at the time, from a seafaring man -
I venture to say that the decision of the Marine Board of Adelaide is another illustration of the necessity of establishing in all the States a more up-to-date tribunal to deal with shipping matters. I have followed the evidence as published in your daily journal, and was astonished to observe how the most important feature of the case was passed over with only a question from the President as to the water ballast tanks, to which the chief officer replied that they were pumped out on arrival at the wharf, and no orders were given by the captain to refill them.
Is this a similar case to the steamer that left San” Francisco many years ago, overloaded with wheat down to the Plimsoll mark, with empty tanks, and in consequence capsized on the bar beyond the Heads? All acquainted with shipping matters know that a steamer loaded with wheat, if her ballast tanks were full, could not carry anything like the weight and be seaworthy, according to the Board of Trade regulations, and therefore the master and owners chance it, trusting the coal will be consumed in a few days, and thus allow one tank to be filled, and so on, as may be necessary.
The diver who examined the wreck says there was no damage to the bottom of the ship, or the hull, yet one witness stated he placed no confidence in a diver’s evidence, because he knew of a case where his ship had lost rivets. That is a brilliant conclusion.
I have no doubt, and many very experienced shipmasters agree, that the ship was overloaded ; that is, her tanks were empty, and when she met a lumpy sea she rolled over on her side, and the evidence all point’s in that direction. The ship should not have been allowed to proceed to sea in the condition she was.
In some cases, when a ship has her ballast tanks full and her hold empty, the practice is resorted to, as the cargo is put into her, of pumping the ballast tanks out until she is loaded down to the Plimsoll mark, with the consequence that she has a sort of balloon of air underneath her. Her empty ballast tanks become an air space, and in bad weather, if she rolls more than usual, the tendency of this balloon underneath all the time is to come up -on top and to force the superstructure of the ship underneath. Consequently, if she gives more than a usually heavy roll in a beam sea, there is a very strong probability that she will go just beyond the margin of safety, and that the next roll will carry her right over. That is what evidently happened in the case of the Clan Ranald] and may happen to many of the ships travelling round our coast. Something ought to be done to meet the case of ships which leave port apparently perfectly safe, and passed by the port authorities, when they are not really in a fit condition to go to sea. When the Clan Ranald was alongside the wharf she was apparently in proper sea trim, as far as the Plimsoll mark indicated; but, of course, it was not known that her ballast tanks were empty, so that her apparent draught was not her actual draught, and her centre of gravity had really been raised considerably higher than appeared to be the case. The question of ships flying light must also be considered, but no provision is made to meet such cases.
– There are more ships lost through want of ballast than through overloading.
– I think the honorable member is quite right.
– You can hardly get over that difficulty. They can fill up their tanks before leaving, and pump them out again directly they get outside.
– I believe that is done sometimes by the engineers without the knowledge of the captain, and it is a very dangerous practice. I remember a new ship which came out from the Old Country. She was beautifully fitted up with all the latest appliances; but I borrowed a fishing-line from a man on the wharf, went up on her boat deck, and lowered the line with a plumb-bob at the end to the water’s edge. I found that the height from the boat deck to the water’s edge wasover 60 feet, but she was drawing only 15 feet of water forward and 17 J feet aft.
– That is extraordinary.
– It is not extraordinary. Only last week-end, when I was over here, a ship left Melbourne in exactly the same way, after bringing out some immigrants. I do not know her actual height above the water, but it was tremendous, and she was only drawing 16 feet forward and 18 feet aft. She had then to go to Sydney, having discharged some 1,000 tons or more of cargo here. She went away from Melbourne with a great portion of her propeller out of water. I have seen vessels go out to sea with only the boss of the propeller submerged. Of course, it is all right so long as the weather is fine; but it is very difficult to keep. steerage on when there is so much of the propeller above the water, there being a constant tendency for the vessel to drift and to refuse to answer the helm. In the event of a blow arising, there is always danger of drifting on to a lee shore. If possible, we ought to provide that no vessel shall be allowed to leave any port in Australia with her propeller only partly submerged. It does not matter, of course, how much of the vessel’s nose is out of the water, because it is the propeller which commands and keeps the way on the ship. There is room for a great deal of improvement in the housing of the boats and in the drilling and handling of men, and boat accommodation generally. A shipmaster in this port, with whom I have frequently conversed on this subject, has suggested that it would be much better if the boats, instead of all being hung on the top deck along the side, on davits, with manilla falls, which are very apt to become entangled in the hands of inexperienced men, were arranged transversely on the decks at convenient places. We know that these boats, when there is occasion to- use them, are manned by stewards and stokers, with, perhaps, only one sailorman in charge.
– The deck hands are not sailors.
– It is quite true that on steamers nowadays labourers, and not sailors, are required; and this makes it all the more necessary that the handling of the boats should be of the simplest character. This ship’s captain suggests that if the boats were arranged transversely, space could be economized, and thus a larger number of boats carried, with more effective supervision and ease in handling. The idea is that there should be an iron rod with an eye passing through the thwarts at a distance of about 3 feet from the stem and stern posts, and a bridle wire line attached, worked with a single wire fall by a derrick or crane in the same way that cargo is hoisted in or out of a ship now. Each boat in turn could by means of travelling chocks be speedily inturn brought under the derrick and lowered over the side. There would be only the wire-rope to attach, and by that means the boats could be loaded on the deck, swung clear, and lowered with a much greater degree of safety than under the present conditions. There would be the further advantage that the boats -need not be all stowed on the top deck, but could be placed on lower decks nearer the water. I should like to hand to the Minister a newspaper illustration of another device which, to some extent, adopts the same idea. In a large measure of this kind, there are many points worthy of consideration; but I realize that this is practically a Committee Bill. Had there been time, I should have liked to allude to the complaint made by the residents of Papua and Thursday Island about the hardships they are likely to suffer if the provisions of this measure are made to apply to them. I hope I have not unnecessarily taken up time in alluding to some questions worthy of the attention of the Minister.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Archibald) adjourned to a later hour of the day.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate with the message that it had agreed to the amendments of the House of Representatives except the insertion of the proposed new paragraph d 10.
That the Senate’s message be considered forthwith.
Clause 8 (Amendment of section 135).
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - Omit paragraphs d and e and insert . . . ” (10.) Any pecuniary penalty imposed on a person liable to be trained under the provisions of paragraphs (a) and (*) of section one hundred and twenty-five of this Act for an offence against the provisions of this section shall be deemed to be a debt due to the Commonwealth, and may, in addition ‘ to any other means of recovery, be recovered in any Civil Court of competent jurisdiction.”
Senate’s Message. - Amendment made, except as to paragraph d Io
– The Senate have practically agreed to the amendments we made, with one exception. The Senate objects to the provision that any penalty imposed shall be deemed to be a debt due to the Commonwealth, and may, in addition to other means, be recovered in any civil Court of competent jurisdiction. Such a provision means, of course, that it would be possible, for a debt to be recovered by the ordinary process of garnisheeing a lad’s wages; and, as the Senate have objected to this being done, I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
– I should be glad if the Honorary Minister would explain the position. The object of the clause as it left this House was to enable a fine to be made a civil debt due to the Crown. The penalty could still be recovered at any time against any property the offender might subsequently acquire. If we accept the amendment of the Senate, will there be any practical method left by which payment can be enforced?
– Not against the lad.
– Or against anybody else ?
– Then the Bill will simply impose a penalty which there will probably be no means of enforcing.
– The lad could be committed again to the charge of a prescribed authority.
– Of course, we do not wish to treat these lads as we should adult offenders ; but I think we ought to know the exact position. If a lad has property of his own, will it be distrained on ?
– We could not distrain on the property of a minor, although we might have garnisheed his wages.
– I take it that the first object is that the lad shall fulfil his duty, and assist in supplying efficiently-trained men?
– Our idea is that the duty should be fulfilled.
– And the penalty clause is only desired to be kept in reserve?
– But what is the value of a penalty if there is no practical method of recovering it?
– I am pleased that the Senate has made this amendment, because by doing so it has given effect to a desire expressed by several of us yesterday, though it leaves the position rather farcical. In my opinion, we should provide that no monetary penalty shall be imposed in any case. It is impossible to distrain on a lad who is under the age of twenty-one, because in the eyes of the law he has no goods, and the Senate has determined that his wages shall not be garnisheed. Therefore, if a fine is imposed a lad can say, “ I shall not pay,” and no power can make him pay. This prevents the imposition of a double penalty. It has been argued that the element of compulsion has been removed, but that is not so, because a boy may be committed to the charge of an officer until his training has been done, and if on reaching the age of twenty-three years he is not considered efficient, he may be required to train for another year.
– I suggest that the further consideration of this matter be left over until next week. We have provided for compulsory military training, and to enforce attendance at drills created a mode of punishing defaulters which I have always regarded as most unfair. We made the parents responsible for the fines imposed on their boys, although they might not be to blame. This provision might operate very harshly in the case of a hard-working father who had only a few shillings to spare. Now the Senate have made such amendments that a boy who is fined may walk out of Court flatly declining to pay, and the fine cannot be recovered. I hope that the civil authority will be abrogated altogether, but it is not fair to expect us on five minutes’ consideration to determine just what should be done. The proposal before us seems to strike at the foundation of compulsory training. If we are to have compulsory training, the determination of the means of compulsion is a very important matter.
.- Section 125 of the Act provides that -
All male inhabitants of Australia (excepting those who are exempted by this Act), who have resided therein for six months, and. are British subjects shall be liable to be trained, as prescribed, as follows : -
From twelve years to fourteen years of age in the junior Cadets; and
From fourteen to eighteen years of age in the Senior Cadets.
The heading of that part, of the Act to which this section belongs is “ universal obligation in respect of naval or military training,” the marginal note is “ persons who are liable to be trained.” Provision has been made for the enforcement of this enactment in the following terms -
Any pecuniary penalty imposed on a person liable to be trained under the provisions of paragraphs a andb of section one hundred and twenty-five of this Act for an offence against the provisions of this section shall be deemed to be a debt due to the Commonwealth, and may, in addition to any other means of recovery, be recovered in any Civil Court of competent jurisdiction.
If those words be struck out, the chief, and, possibly, the only sanction for section 125 will be destroyed, and no means remain for the enforcement of the duties it imposes. We have provided for a system of compulsory universal training, to commence in boyhood, but those to whom it is to apply are to be left free to disregard the law. Surely this is too important a matter to deal with off-hand. The interests of the country in this vital obligation would be best served’ by adjourning the discussion.
– How will fines be recovered if the amendment be made?
– They will create a debt due to the Crown, recoverable after the boys have reached the age of twenty-one years.
– An adjournment until next week might enable Ministers to propose an alternative means for making the Act effective. Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, the Honorary Minister ‘could give us an explanation of what is intended without closing the debate.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the Honorary Minister have leave to make an explanation?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– We are desirous of sending the Bill back to the Senate today, because that body may adjourn over next week. Under the law as it stands, the minimum fine is ^5, and notwithstanding the requests that have been made to them, one or two magistrates are imposing fines. We have no desire to inflict on the cadets any punishment of a pecuniary or other nature, nor do we desire to act harshly towards them. It was thought in the Senate that a provision which permits the wages of lads who are at work being attached is a discrimination against working lads, which is not fair.
– What will be the ultimate sanction?
– It is not intended by the Government that any pecuniary penalty shall be recovered, even if nominally imposed.
– Is there any means of recovering fines, except from lads who are working for wages?
– No; because minors cannot be destrained upon, and it is questionable whether we could recover from the parents of lads who are fined. If a lad is called up a second time, he will be committed to a prescribed authority, and be made to do extra drill, which is likely to be a greater deterrent than fining would be.
I would remind the House of the remark made by the honorable member for Bendigo that the principle of the Act is new to Australia, and that it might be well, perhaps, not to attempt to administer it with the utmost rigour until its provisions become more generally known. I am confident that it will then be more generally acceptable to the people; but at present it is certainly meeting with objections that may be fanned into something of a stronger nature, and as this particular clause might be administered in a harsh way, I ask honorable members to permit it to go.
.- The Minister is justified in making the best case he can in the circumstances, but I fear he is laying himself and those associated with him open to more serious difficulties than they have yet foreseen. Take away this sanction, make it possible for boys between twelve and fourteen and from fourteen to eighteen years of age to snap their fingers when required to commence their drill, and the Department will be placed in a position of the most extreme difficulty.
– We preserve the law by making them drill.
– But you cannot enforce it. If there is any objection to this particular method of enforcing it, another can be substituted. If this provision goes as now proposed the whole power of enforcement will be lost until some other Act shall have been passed. Meantime, whenever there is resistance, reasonable or unreasonable, to the Act - whether it arise from the personal will of the boys or from honest and conscientious parental objections to the system - the Department will be faced with refusals to obey the law. Such refusals would have an injurious effect upon those who were otherwise inclined to obey. Surely it is a mistake for the Government to allow itself to be left, or for us to allow it, without protest, to be left in this condition of helplessness on a fundamental matter.
– What would the honorable member suggest?
– I would retain this provision for the time being; decline to agree to the Senate’s amendment, inviting the Government, if they desire to make any other provision in this regard, to bring down some proposal that will retain the authority of the Department, while at the same time giving the boys any politic consideration advisable.
We should not now let go the reins. If we did, it might be hard to pick them up again. The law would be enforced with greater difficulty, and might have to be enforced by the infliction of severer penalties. If we now stand by this provision to which the Senate objects, honorable members generally will cordially join in assisting the Minister to make any substituted amendment that is considered desirable. This is not a proposal to take out a provision that has been inserted by mistake. We are dealing with one of the essential features of the Act. If we agree to its abolition at the most delicate stage - at the first enlistment of boys - the Department will be inviting numerous refusals. The crisis created will certainly be fomented by those opposed to universal training, and may attain serious dimensions. At all events, we shall run that risk. Would the Government, if they were wise, care to create that risk? I am certain that they would not.
I have just learned that the Senate will be sitting next week, so that we are not under the compulsion at first believed. In view of this information, I presume that the Minister will ask the House to disagree with the Senate’s amendment, and so give that body a further opportunity to consider whether it should press its objection to this provision. There is not the least colour of party interest in this matter. To have let go the reins even for three or four weeks would have been very serious ; but since this question can now be dealt with by Tuesday or Wednesday next - and it will be dealt with by us in a sympathetic spirit - we need only decline to agree to the amendment made. In that way we shall give the Senate an opportunity of altering its original proposal if it desires to do so, or bringing forward a substitute. I hope that the Minister in charge will see his way to agree to the proposal that we should for the time being disagree with this amendment on the assurance that any more mature proposition that the Senate sends down - any mature proposal that will retain to the Minister his proper control and authority to diminish the penalties wherever it is thought reasonable to do so - will meet with the most favorable consideration.
– Recovery from a minor is always doubtful, and the point is that, while some boys will be working, others will not.
– That is what will happen if the Senate’s amendment be agreed to. Our proposal is that all cadets shall be kept on the same footing, and dealt with in the most considerate manner that the Senate sees fit to suggest. Will the Minister accept my suggestion?
– Is the Minister bound to go on with his motion?
Mr.DEAKIN. - I have no other arguments likely to appeal to the Minister. If this were left to his own judgment, I am sure that it would be unnecessary to appeal at all. We are placed in a most unfortunate position. I shall feel bound to register a vote on this question, since I have distinctly intimated that any substituted proposal to attain the same object in an effective way, without the imposition of undue penalties, and without any undue exercise of the proper authority of the Minister of Defence, would be welcomed by the Opposition. This will not be made, as far as we are concerned, a party question. I shall feel obliged most reluctantly to take the action I have just indicated, in order that we may clear ourselves of responsibility for the consequences sure to accrue from an insistence upon this course. There is really nothing to excuse the attitude of the Minister now that we know that the Senate is to meet next week. We simply ask that the matter be adjourned until next week, in order that an opportunity may be given to revise the amendment. We shall then be prepared to support any reasonable proposal that may be made. I enter an absolute protest against any cutting away of the one provision in the Act that enables the Government to deal directly with the two junior classes of cadets at a time when they are most susceptible to outside influences, and most tempted to resist what they regard as an irksome training. If this amendment be persisted with the Government will be left in the humiliating position of having to introduce another Bill to restore in some form the sanction which is essential to the whole structure - one of its foundation practices, if not its foundation principle.
– I differ from the view just enunciated by the honorable member for Ballarat. If 1 understand the position rightly, we shall have the power to make the lads do their drill.
– That is very questionable.
– If that is so, the Minister should advise us accordingly. I understand that the Court will still have power to hand over to the instructional officer any boy who has failed to attend drill, and to require him to make good the time lost. The only thing proposed to be eliminated is the power to collect monetary penalties. Not only will boys still have to do the required drill, but, if they are found to be inefficient at Ihe end of the prescribed period, they may be ordered to serve for another twelve months.
– I am afraid that that will not be practically enforceable.
– If the position is as I have stated, I cannot see the grave danger which the Leader of the Opposition suggests. If we have the power to make the boys do their drill-
– If we take this away we shall have no practical power.
– Shall we have power to hand them over to the instructional officer?
– I think that power will remain ; but how can it be exercised in respect of hundreds of boys?
– The same question might be asked in respect of the imposition of penalties. If we had no power either to make the boys attend drill or to fine them if they refused to do so, the position would be very serious.
– It is a serious matter.
– As long as we have the power to make boys attend drill, I do not see that we need worry over the imposition of fines. The fines, after all, are a penalty on the parents, and not on the lads themselves. Even if a boy’s wages are garnisheed, the penalty hits back at his parents. All that we need do is to see that the Act is effective in providing that the boys shall attend drill.
– I regret that the Minister cannot accede to the very reasonable request of the Leader of the Opposition that we should have a few days to consider this matter, more especially as the change made does not seem to have been part of the policy of the Government after a full consideration of the amendments necessary.
– The Minister of Defence opposed this in another place.
– I was not aware of that. The House almost unanimously agreed to the adoption of the system of universal training, and in doing so set an example to the rest of the Empire which has been welcomed by the most thoughtful people in every part of the British Dominions. I do not say, because I do not know, that the imposition of penalties is a good way of enforcing the system. There may be much to be said against it, but it happens to be the primary method adopted to enforce obedience. There must necessarily be considerable opposition to compulsory training by a considerable section who find it inconvenient ; but, in order that the system may be carried through, the law must be as perfect as possible, and the Government administering the law must administer it with some degree of firmness. I have not had an opportunity to go into the matter, but I am inclined to think that the imposition of a pecuniary penalty is perhaps not the best way of enforcing the system. The opposition to the whole system of compulsory training, however, is centred round the question of penalties. That being so, would it not be wise for the Government to refrain for some time from making this change in the Act. If they make it, I am afraid it will lead to an increase in the opposition to the principle. I am thinking more of the moral than of any other effect. The attack on the system has been levelled at the imposition of monetary penalties, and if the Government and the House immediately give way, how are we to be able to carry through a system which requires in any circumstances firm administration to insure its success? The mere fact that the attack has been made on these penalties is a very strong reason against our immediately yielding to it, at all events until we find some substitute. The difficulty may be met by a sympathetic administration of the Act. I feel sure the Minister in charge of the Bill and his officers can devise some way whereby, without immediately yielding to this demand, the hardship of imposing these penalties upon boys who are unable to pay them themselves may be avoided. I fail to understand why the Minister cannot give the House, on a subject on which the House is practically unanimous, and on which we are trying to work together, an opportunity of considering, even for a few days, whether it is wise at this stage to give effect to this alteration, which was put in against the wish of the Ministry in another place at the last moment.
– I strongly support the proposal for an adjournment of this matter. I quite understand the reason why the Government, in the first instance, were prepared to accept this amendment, although they opposed it previously, both here and in another place. There was a belief that the Senate was going to adjourn for three or four weeks, and they were anxious to get this measure passed, so that the present prosecutions with heavy penalties should not continue. I can understand them for that reason hastily proposing to accept the amendment, rather than postpone the consideration of the whole Bill; but now. that we are informed that the Senate will sit next week, the reason for urgency has passed. We are also dealing with an amendment which we have not seen in print, and for these reasons the further consideration of the matter should be postponed, at all events until Tuesday.
.- I join in the suggestion of the honorable member for Gippsland, and would remind the Minister in charge of the Bill of the very firm and reasonable attitude he took up last evening in reference to a proposal to abolish altogether the liability to all the penalties. He pointed out, in strong terms that could hardly be improved upon, that whilst it might not be desirable to systematically enforce penalties cumulatively with an order for service, because in many cases the order for sendee might be complied with, it was possible that in certain special cases of insubordination and recalcitrancy some of the lads might defy the authorities, however firm they were, and refuse to serve, and that it was only the pressure of some form of penalty, however mild, that would induce eventual compliance with the requirements of the law. If there is no reserve power to enforce the law, these young men will know it, and may refuse to serve. In that case, the Act and the system would become absolutely paralyzed, and such a state of affairs would bring more discredit upon the authors and administrators of the Act than would the liability to the occasional imposition of penalties. The Act belongs “to the Parliament and to the people. No party has any preferential claim to credit or honour or responsibility for it. We are all responsible for it, and if it breaks down, see the tremendous responsibility that will rest upon us all. There may be a choice of alternatives - whether we will allow the occasional liability to the enforcement of the law at the hands of the Bench, or have only one means of enforcing the system, namely, by detention in barracks. It is possible that, if detention were enforced strictly or frequently, it might lead to an outcry that we were imprisoning the boys, and that cry might be just as difficult to combat as is the present outcry about the exercise of the reserve power vested in the Bench. We ought not to allow this magnificent scheme of national defence to collapse for want of some means of “ sanction.” There must be a means of enforcing every law. If boys were systematically kept from their homes and parents in custody in order to enforce compliance with the compulsory training law, it might lead to more disastrous results than even the occasional liability to a fine. See what an obligation it might impose upon the military authorities If, in endeavouring to maintain discipline, they had to detain boys for a considerable time. They would have to provide for their maintenance and comfort in custody, and this would impose considerable financial burdens on the Commonwealth. These difficulties would be more troublesome to deal with than an occasional outcry such as we have had recently. I dread the denouement of failure and disaster which would overtake this scheme unless there was some reserve power, to be brought into operation, of course, only in extreme cases. Under the law, as the Commonwealth have proposed to amend it,” the magistrates would be very careful and discreet in using that power. They would advise the boys to return to duty with all the authority of the bench. It would not be a mere sham suggestion. They would know that they had this authority, to be exercised only in emergency, and it would greatly help the administration of the law, and strengthen the hands of the Government. I hope the amendment will not be carried in a moment of panic, but that the Government will take it into consideration before they allow the House to be led away by a cry which may be hereafter regretted.
Mr. FENTON (Maribyrnong) [3.23J - I am not so apprehensive in respect of this matter as are some members both on this and on the other side of the House. When I was a boy the severest penalty that could be imposed on me was to keep me in after school hours to write out a certain number of lines, and I do not think there is much difference between the Australian youth then and now. There is already considerable irritation in every one of the States, and the question is whether we can in some way mollify it. I believe the elimination of the fine will go a long way to make the defence scheme better than it has been before. It may be thought a peculiar suggestion, but I think we could give this proposal three months’ trial, and note how it operates. If we found that it did not work well, we could tackle the question again before the close of this session.
– You might do that practically by administration. I do not think you could do it by change of legislation.
– Why not?
– Because, in the meantime,, you give these people the idea that you are giving way to them.
– The imposition of these fines has changed the views of many who were strongly in favour of the defence scheme.
– They are ardent supporters of the scheme so long as it affects other men’s boys.
– No. I have known fathers of large families who were strongly in favour of the scheme. If a father has to go to Court because his lad has not attended the requisite number of drills, there is not only the liability to a fine, but he has to lose a day’s work, which is a very serious matter. One man in my constituency was summoned to appear because his lad had not put in the requisite number of drills, and he informed me by letter, and personally, that he was the father of eleven children, two or three of whom came under the compulsory system. He said, “ I am ardently in favour of it, and realize the benefits that accrue to my lads from the drill, but if I have to lose time to appear at the Court it takes me several weeks to make up the leeway.” That is a very serious matter to a man who is living, in a sense, from hand to mouth, with eleven little mouths to fill. If the father knows that the penalty will fall on the lad. and not on him, it will be a different matter. At any rate, let us give the new proposal a trial, and if we find in two or three months that it is not working very well we can, perhaps, resort to more drastic means. Under this amendment there is still power where a boy does not put in the required number of drills to bring him before the magistrate, who can not only order him to make up the arrears, but can even im pose an extra number of drills. If the money penalty is still left in, how are you going to enforce it on a boy who will not put in his drill ? If we endeavour to apply the law with the utmost rigor by imposing fines, as well as compelling the lads to make up the arrears of drill, we shall place ourselves in a more peculiar position than if we excise the monetary penalty from the Act.
.- We have come to a very critical position in regard to the whole scheme of defence that this Parliament proposes to carry into effect. I do not think the House has yet had a fair opportunity of becoming seized of the true significance of the proposed amendment. We have been told that it is an injustice and a hardship that a fine imposed on boys for non-attendance at drill should ultimately fall on the parents. Surely the father of a boy, who is eligible for drill, owes some duty and responsibility to the State, and he ought to exercise proper parental influence. If a parent fails to do this, it is no more than fair that the penalty should recoil on him. I cannot for one moment agree with the argument of the honorable member for Maribyrnong that a parent has no responsibility, and that it would be a hardship to fine him; if parental responsibilities attach in the ordinary affairs of life, they ought to attach in the matter of defence; and, unless a parent can show that a boy is entirely beyond his control, he ought to be responsible. I do not desire the fine to be of the drastic nature indicated ; but, at the same time, a lax parent ought not to grumble if the fine ultimately falls on him. I trust we shall have a fuller opportunity to consider this very important point.
.- I regard the amendment of the Senate asmost serious, seeing that, if we accept it, no penalty can be enforced against boys who do not do their training. It is said that a boy may be committed to barracksor some other place and compelled to complete the drills ; but, while that may be all very well in the metropolitan areas, it is not practicable in country districts, where an offender may be 200 miles away from barracks or any other suitable place. We know that it is specially provided that a boy cannot be committed to gaol ; and I am afraid that the whole system of compulsory training will break down if no penaltycan be imposed. Every member of this House, irrespective of party or politics, desires the scheme to be a success. I do not quite know what the position will be if we refuse to accept this amendment, but I feel very strongly that we ought to refuse. I am afraid that many lads will be only too ready to take advantage of this amendment; and that it will be impossible to “ bring them up to the scratch.” Our great desire is to see a great citizen army to defend our hearths and homes; and there will be endless confusion if this proposal of the Senate be carried into effect.
– How can the penalty be recovered if we do not accept the amendment?
– There is only the one way - through the Civil Courts.
– But the lads are under twenty-one, and have no property.
– Then the penalty will fall on the parents.
– No; it cannot.
– Do I understand that it is impossible to recover any penalty? Is it desirable that there should be no means of enforcing the penalty in the case of lads in the country districts, hundreds of miles away from centres of population?
– Is it desirable to retain a provision that is ineffective?
– Is it ineffective?
– There is legal opinion to that effect.
– Opinions differ on the point. I presume that, before the Government submitted this provision, they took the opinion of the Attorney-General ; and, if his opinion was that the provision was good, why is it now said that it will be ineffective ?
– In any case, we should have more light before coming to a decision.
– It is not a question that should be hurriedly decided, considering its important bearing on the whole scheme of compulsory training. Honorable members should have an opportunity to consult their legal brethren on both sides of the House. I admit that I have only just now entered the chamber, and I had no idea such an amendment had been proposed by the Senate. A layman cannot at once grasp the significance of such an amendment; and I fancy that even our legal friends have some difficulty in the matter.
– Would the honorable member suggest that the parents be fined?
– I do not make that suggestion ; but I think it would be wiser to leave the clause as it stands.
– Are parents not often responsible for the lads not attending drill ?
– Parents should, in a measure, be responsible, because to a considerable extent it rests with the parents whether the scheme is a success or not.
– Some parents refuse to let the lads go to drill.
– On the other hand, the great majority of parents take a strong patriotic view, and rejoice that there is such a scheme. If there are parents who are unpatriotic enough to take a different view, I see no great hardship in making them in part responsible. It would be a grave error of judgment to accept the amendment. Honorable members opposite cannot define what the position will be if this change is made.
– The position will be that the magistrate will order a boy to complete his drills.
– But, as I said before, what is to be done in the country districts ? Is a boy to be brought hundreds of miles and put into the barracks in Sydney? They are hundreds of miles from places convenient for detention.
– They are exempt from drill.
– Not always. Where could you detain boys in my district between Cooma and Goulburn unless in the gaols, and we do not wish to put boys into gaol. This arrangement would cause serious inconvenience to the Department, because it would be necessary to send hundreds of non-commissioned officers throughout the country to force drills on unwilling lads. We require more time to consider this important amendment. The Honorary Minister himself cannot say what the position will be if we agree to the Senate’s proposal.
– A number of prosecutions are pending.
– Prosecutions have been pending for a long time, but the instruction has been issued that they shall be postponed indefinitely, and that in all cases where boys undertake to do their drills, fines shall not be inflicted.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Maloney) adjourned.
Mr. KING O’MALLEY laid upon the table the following paper: -
Public Service Act. - Department of Home Affairs - Promotion of H. J. Rowlands as 4th Class Clerk, Clerical Division, Accounts Branch.
Suffragettes in British Prisons.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to refer very briefly - because I know that honorable members have to leave to catch their trains - to a reply made by the Prime Minister this morning to a question asked by me as to the desirability of making representation to the Imperial Government that this Parliament views with disfavour the brutal treatment meted out to political prisoners in English prisons. The subject was brought under my notice by a letter from Miss Vida Goldstein, the President of the Women’s Association of Victoria, and I have no doubt that copies of her letter were sent to every other honorable member. Honorable members must have read the descriptions of the torture to which women have been subjected, because they have been making a noise in the Old Country, and, in some instances, have gone so far as to nominally assault the Prime Minister. Honorable members may not be aware of the stupendous movement in the Old Country, in which millions of women are taking part, to obtain a franchise such as is enjoyed by the women of Australia. But a deaf ear has been turned to their appeals, and they cannot get the franchise. The more ardent spirits amongst them have broken the law.
– And windows, too.
– In breaking windows, they have broken the law. We on this side know that oppression never smothered a movement. In the early days of the Labour movement members of unions were subjected to considerable indignity, and though I do not know of any member of this House who has been imprisoned because he was a unionist, the prisons of Australia have held many men who were sent to gaol because they were unionists. We remember the indignities to which the Salvation Army was subjected in its early days. It was pelted and insulted by hoodlums of the type that are now insulting the suffragettes.
– I myself have been struck on the head with an egg.
– My honorable friend would have objected had he been seized, bound to a chair, and an attempt made to forcibly feed him. The Salvation Army, in its early days was insulted, and its members sent to prison for preaching the gospel in the streets, but to-day it can go anywhere in Australia, and probably in the world, without meeting with the insults and indignities formerly heaped upon it. Within a few years men in England who are responsible for the treatment now being meted out to the suffragettes will be ashamed of themselves. We ought to remember the time when it was the proud boast of Britishers that the British Islands were the asylum for all political fugitives from other countries, even those who had incurred the death penalty in their own country were welcomed. What a change has come over the scene. Some one said this morning that we should mind our own business.
– This is our business?
– This Parliament ventured to express its opinion regarding the action of the Russians in the Doggerbank incident. It protested against the employment of Chinese on the Rand, and against the form of the Coronation Oath, and passed resolutions in favour of Home Rule for Ireland. I appeal to men like the Leader of the Opposition, who can grow so eloquent on the subject of Empire, and our pride in belonging to an Empire on which the sun never sets, whether he does not consider that we in this Parliament, who, it is said, are now shouldering the responsibilities of Empire, should not make a protest against the inhuman treatment which is being meted out in Great Britain to the political prisoners who are in favour of the franchise to women. Why do they not treat these ardent ladies who get into trouble with the law more considerately? The ladies have instituted what they call a hunger strike. When put into prison, they will not eat. Why are they not treated with kindness? There is a way out df the difficulty. If it were my unhappy duty to deal with ladies who had broken the law, if a lady said to me that she would not eat-
– What would the honorable member do?
– I should do what a lady friend of mine did whose husband was undergoing a fast of eight days. The husband had also persuaded his mother-in-law to fast, and the wife, fearing that she might fall ill, after she had fasted for four days, suggested to her that, as they had received as a present some excellent flounder, she should cook them. The mother cooked the fish, but that ended her fast. If the prison authorities of the Old Country placed a nice bowl of soup before these ladies, after they had fasted for a day or two, I do not think they would be able to withstand the temptation.
– This is Adam and Eve again.
– I can well imagine the Leader of the Opposition rising in his early days to propose the toast of the ladies, and reciting Scott’s lines -
O Woman ! in our hours of ease,
Uncertain, coy, and hard to please,
And variable as the shade
By the light quivering aspen made;
When pain and anguish wring the brow,
A ministering angel thou !
There is not a man in the House of Commons who would not feel a glow of pride when he heard that verse recited, but the Imperial authorities, forgetting themselves, are prepared to order these unfortunate ladies to be forcibly fed and subjected to a brutal method of treatment.
– Divide the House on the question.
– I cannot do so on this motion, but I dare say that my gallant friend, and other men like him, would assist me in bringing before the House a motion expressing the opinion that the Imperial authorities should alter their method of dealing with these unfortunate women.
.- I really think that my honorable friend has gone, perhaps, a little beyond the limit by suggesting the very strong and trenchant course to which he has just given voice. I cannot help thinking thdt he rejoices in every opportunity that presents itself to inconvenience the authorities in the country from which the people of Australia have had the honour to spring. I have found him, when the Persians were in difficulties, pointing in this House to iniquitous practices of the Mother Country in Persia.
– The honorable member will have an Empire, and I want him to take some of its responsibilities.
– That is the trouble. The honorable member said, in another place, that his hope was that this Empire of ours would some day resolve itself into a series of independent republics. I think that I am quoting him correctly.
– I said a series of republics in alliance for defence purposes, and I am still of that opinion.
– I do not remember the “ alliance “ part of the statement, but I clearly remember the honorable member’s reference to “ a series of independent republics.” His attitude, whilst it may afford amusement to a certain extent, is, in my humble judgment, a dangerous one. In the first place, we have to remember that this young country of ours has one great danger in front of it - not the danger that we shall ever suffer from a sufficient lack of humour to be able to appreciate the honorable member, or the danger of self-confidence, but a danger to the racial purity of the Australian people. Racial purity can be secured only by racial unity. Of what value then is it that we should be constantly and ineffectively and impotently carping at another section of our own race instead of endeavouring to sympathize with, and to understand, our mutual difficulties.
– What ! Sympathize with brutality !
– I do not hold a brief for the suffragettes, or for the British Government, but I do desire that this National Parliament shall not make itself ridiculous by entering into controversies, such as that now raging in England, without understanding the facts. Only the other day, in Dublin, a couple of these innocent ladies who object to be fed, entered a theatre crowded with their own flesh and blood, and endeavoured to set fire to it, as a protest against the refusal of the Government to give women the franchise. Women who go to that extraordinary length are not deserving of much sympathy, either from the British Government or from this Parliament. These are by no means working women. They are drawn mostly from the upper classes of the Mother Country, and are mainly seeking for the vote, not for the whole of the women of England, but for one particular section. When we remember these things, I take it that the House will be careful about expressing an opinion on a matter of domestic politics in the Mother Country.
– They are not all of the upper class.
– The vast majority of them are.
– The vast majority want “ one woman one vote.”
– They do not.
– If the honorable member’s statement were correct, he would be supporting them.
– The honorable member knows that there is no justification for that assertion. All that we know is that the honorable member has shown himself in a number of instances to be the ready friend of every country but his own.
– Rubbish 1
– If he is the ready friend of his own country, he will seek to understand the difficulties of the country from which we have sprung, and upon the strength of which, and upon mutual cooperation between which and ourselves, depends the integrity and safety of the land that we have the honour to represent. Every member of this House would deplore anything in the nature of injustice, in whatever country it may happen to be perpetrated ; but I do not think that men of our own flesh and blood in the House of Commons will treat any section of the womanhood of the United Kindom with anything but leniency and toleration. In my judgment, when women start setting fire to theatres and endangering human life, it is about time that some serious steps were taken to put down that type of insurrection. I hope that this is the last occasion upon which the honorable member for Capricornia will seek to use the difficulties of the Mother Country in order to foster and advance his general policy of splitting up the Empire into a series of independent republics.
– I should not have risen but for the reference made by the honorable member for Capricornia to an interjection that I made while he was asking a question concerning this matter earlier in the day. I hold that we shall be acting wisely if we leave our English brothers to manage their own affairs. If the House of Commons had passed a resolution protesting against” the Federal land tax, what would my honorable friend have said? He would have said, with that “stiff upper lip” characteristic of Australians, “ Let our English brothers mind their own business.”
– I do not think so.
– The honorable member who interjects would have been the very first to protest.
– The honorable member is wrong.
– There may be exceptions, but, as a general rule, in view of the fact that we are far more advanced than our British brothers are in the matter of reforms, I think it is a good thing for this Parliament to let them alone. I took great care when in England last summer to have absolutely nothing to do with the franchise movement there. If it was a movement to enfranchise the whole of the womanhood of England, I should be thoroughly in favour of it; but it is not of that character at all. It is a movement for the extension of the franchise only to certain educated women; and Mr. Lloyd George is opposed to it for that reason. He fears that the reform movement in England may be sacrificed for twenty or thirty years through a partial extension of the suffrage in that direction. I am a Londoner, and was associated with the early reform movement to get the franchise for men. We never smashed windows or burnt theatres, or used stones. If those responsible of late years for what has occurred had been only the ordinary poorer women of England, there would not have been half the consideration shown to them that has been shown to these educated women who have created disturbances. I yield to no one in claiming the right of the franchise for the women of England, and every other place; but it must be for the whole of the women, and not for a section.
.- I was astonished to hear the honorable member for Hindmarsh say that when they were trying to secure manhood suffrage Englishmen did not break windows, or do anything out of the common. Let him go back to the time of the first great Reform Bill, when over 100 lives were lost, three castles were burnt down, five gaols were broken open and their inmates set free, mud was thrown in the face of the King in the London streets, and Manchester was preparing to march on London. This was done by men in the effort to get votes, which they have not got at the present moment. The franchise of the Home land is a degraded franchise; and I told a Committee in the House of Commons that they could not call themselves other than barbarians until they gave every man and woman a vote. If Englishmen had the pluck of Frenchmen, they would long ago have had the right to vote on account of manhood, and not only on account of property. I was robbed of my citizenship between the ages of twenty-five and thirty by the infamous laws that dominate England even to-day. The secretary of the Lords and the Commons Committee informed me that it was hopeless for him to stand for Parliament, because he would have to spend £1,500 or £2,000, and that if elected he would not dare to speak unless permitted by his party. People talk about our caucus system, but it is not to be compared with the party system in Great Britain. The flag of England does not float over real citizenship except in Australia. In Colombo no man has a vote, even by right of property. In Aden it is the same. In Malta, which is a British possession, not a single man has a vote. In Gibraltar no votes are allowed; and even in the mighty Empire of India neither the honorable member nor I would be allowed to have a vote. If a man earns his living by manual labour, the ship is under a penalty to see that he leaves the shores of India.
– Has any nation other than England ever given its enemies votes, as the British did iri South Africa?
– I admit that that was a great action; but I will answer that France gives her citizens in India the right of voting for representatives in the Senate and House of Deputies in Paris which England does not do as regards her representative institutions. I do not suppose any honorable member in this House ever saw a person forcibly fed. If he did, he would strongly resent any law that allowed it to be done. It means pasing a large instrument right down the throat, One member of the House of Commons said that when the instrument was down his throat he could talk the whole of the time, with his medical man.If any member of this House can do that, and enjoy the operation, as that member said he did, I will forfeit £5 to any hospital he likes to name. The honorable member for Wentworth comes here with his Oxford drawl and Whitechapel crawl-
– The honorable member must withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw the Whitechapel crawl. He comes here ina very superior way, and tries to make a joke of the most serious matters. Perhaps he has not had the best experience in his own family relationships, because no man who had a great regard for his own mother would hold up to contempt the words that came from the heart of the honorable member for Capricornia. I pity the honorable member for Wentworth, and hope that every other Australian native will have more regard for his mother or sister.
– Order! The honorable member is now saying what he should not say.
– I have used almost a similar argument before other Speakers, and do not remember being asked to withdraw it.
Will you tell me what I have to withdraw ?
– The honorable member is using against another honorable member, language which he knows, as well as I do, that he should not use. If he has used it on other occasions, I have not heard it.
– I think you are in error, Mr. Speaker. I shall say what I desired to say, and then if you think I should withdraw.it, I shall do so. What I said was that I hoped that there was no Australian native but would have greater regard for his woman-kind, his mother or his sister.
– The honorable member must see that that is a reflection on another honorable member.
– Then I withdraw it. I shall be glad to support the step that has been suggested, because, in my opinion, the franchise of England will be worthy of only a barbarous nation until every man and woman has the right to vote.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.16 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 August 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19120816_reps_4_65/>.