4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at10. 30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. I am reported in this morning’s Age to have replied angrily when speaking yesterday to an interjection by the honorable member for Maribyrnong, to the effect that I was “ a disappointed officeseeker throwing dirt.” I did not reply to that interjection, because I did not hear it. Honorable members opposite were taking so much interest in my remarks at the time, that I was hardly able to hear my own voice,so that it was perhaps excusable for the reporter to misrepresent the occurrence. I replied to an offensive epithet used towards me by the honorable member for Maribyrnong. This is not the first time that I have suffered from such interjections from him. I believe that he occasionally teaches Christian ethics.
– The honorable member is now going beyond a personal explanation.
– Since I am not allowed to refer to the honorable member, I shall deal directly with his statement that I am “a disappointed office-seeker throwing dirt.” As all the old members -of the Labour party know, there is not a scintilla of justification for that statement, and I challenge them, including the Prime Minister, to say whether at any time during my connexion with the party, I approached anyof them, either directly or in directly, to seek office. Ileft the Labour party for various reasons, the first being that I was totally opposed to the developing policy of unification which that party has apparently adopted.
– The honorable member is now going beyond a personal explanation.
– I think that I am still within my limits. My second reason was that the Labour movement was-
– The honorable member is now discussing something which is beyond a personal explanation.
– Move the adjournment.
– I do not wish to move the adjournment. An aspersionhas been cast upon me, and I wish to remove it. I have been told that I am a disappointed office-seeker, and I wish to give reasons proving that I am not.
– This is grievance day. The honorable member can deal with the matter on the formal motion to go into Committee of Supply.
– I wish, as a personal explanation, in rebuttal of the charge of the honorable member for Maribyrnong, to give my reasons for leaving the Labour movement. If I cannot give these reasons under cover of a personal explanation, I must take some other course.
Mr. Thomas laid upon the table the following paper : -
Ordered to be printed.
– I ask the Minister of Home Affairs if steps are being taken to prepare the plans for the public buildings needed at the Federal Capital ?
– The report on the designs for the laying out of the city will be ready within a few days, and we shall then be in a position to prepare plans for the public buildings.
– I ask if the Minister will arrange for the laying of the foundation stone of the Commonwealth Parliament House in connexion with the ceremony which he proposes for an early date to mark the establishment of the Federal Capital?
– No one is more anxious than I am to take part in that ceremony.
– Will the Minister do what I ask?
– In to-day’s Age there is an article comparing the Sydney and Melbourne telephone exchanges, and containing this paragraph -
Mr. Bright, Acting Secretary of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, after paying a tribute to the work of the local girls yesterday, said they considered it preposterous for Mr. Frazer to act as he had done.
– That is a nice statement for a public servant to make.
– I do not believe that he made it, and I wish therefore to give him a chance to deny it.
– I have read the paragraph, but when I saw it I felt sure that. Mr. Bright had not made any such statement. I did not communicate with him on the subject, because I am not Postmaster-General, but as Mr. Bright knew that I was acting for the PostmasterGeneral here, he rang me up, and told me that the paragraph was false in every respect, and that he had made no such statement. I am sure that what he says is correct, because when PostmasterGeneral I found him to be not only a. most capable and competent officer, but: always extremely loyal to the head of the Department.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Herbert asked about the wireless station at Thursday Island, and I promised to reply to his question to-day. I am now furnished with the following information -
There has been a delay in obtaining possession of the selected site, owing to the price asked, £275per acre, being considered excessive, but the matter has now been arranged, and the erection of buildings and putting up of technical equipment are being pushed forward by the Home Affairs Department and Postal Department respectively. It will probably be the end of the year before the work will be completed. I have instructed that the utmost expedition be used.
– It is stated in this morning’s Argus that the Minister of Home Affairs has a report upon an experiment with the powellizing process for preventing the ravages of white ants. If so, will he lay it on the table?
– I wish to ask you, sir, whether it is possible to have some of the windows of this House opened so that we may have some ventilation, because already the atmosphere is quite oppressive ?
– I do not think it is possible, unless honorable members desire the Chamber to be filled with dust, to open the windows this morning.
– Why not open the doors?
– The doors may be opened. I am informed - I do not know whether correctly or not - that we have had a number of scientists dealing with the ventilation of the Chamber. They have aid down a scheme for its ventilation, and when we start to do what we think is best we destroy their method. In the circumstances it is very difficult for me to know how to act. However, if honorable members think that the opening of the doors will give ventilation, I am quite prepared to see that they are opened.
– Might I suggest, sir, that if you were to call in a first-class colliery manager he would instruct you how to ventilate the Chamber.
– Has the Minister of External Affairs been able to arrive at any settlement of the dispute between the men and the Administrator in the Northern Territory? Does he intend to take any definite stand in the matter by upholding the men or the Administrator?
– I have heard nothing from the Territory officially for days past.
– On- a point of order, sir, I desire to obtain from you a definite statement as to which standing order provides that Government business in the shape of notices of motion takes precedence of the question, under standing order 241, “That Mr. Speaker do now leave” the Chair.” This is the first time that I have ever known Government business to be interposed in front of the “grievance” motion. Is a new rule or practice being inaugurated, or what is it, sir?
– Under standing order 119 this question does not arise very often, but honorable members will not lose the opportunity to discuss grievances, because notices of motion can only be considered for two hours when the orders of the day have to be called.
– Still, sir, that will be two hours taken out of “grievance” day.
– May I suggest that the honorable member might take the two hours at the end of the day. Under the circumstances honorable members will not be deprived in any way of their rights under standing order 241.
– That is all right.
– Can the Minister of Home Affairs state when the electoral redistribution scheme for New South Wales is likely to be laid before the House?
– This morning I received from New South Wales a telegram stating that it will be over at the end of next week.
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Motion (by Mr. King O’Malley) proposed -
That the House of Representatives approves of the fresh distribution of the State of Queensland into Electoral Divisions as proposed by Messrs. W. J. Gall, A. A. Spowers, and W. H. Graham, the Commissioners for the purpose of distributing the said State into Divisions, in their report dated the 22nd day of August, 1912, and laid before this House on the 27th day of August, 1912; and that the names of the Divisions indicated on the map referred to in the Report be adopted with the exception that the name “Landsborough “ be altered to read “Lilley.”
.- I regret very much that the duty should again devolve upon me to protest against the proposal of the Minister. I have several reasons for taking this course. I am not intimately concerned, because, as I dare say the honorable member for Capricornia will mention later, even according to this proposal I shall have a majority of over 3,000 votes, that is on the figures for the last election. I am voicing the attitude adopted by 4,300s members of the Amalgamated Workers Association who have protested against the division. A great many of these people are in the hinterland of Cairns, and do not desire to be severed from what has beer* their political centre, and is now their commercial centre, and with which they have direct communication by railway. They are in the existing Herbert electorate, and possibly 3,500 of them are in the portionwhich it is now proposed to sever from that electorate. The last report of the Commissioners is practically a flouting of Parliament. They say “ there were no objections made except by Mr. Bamford.” The fact that the objections which were ther made were sustained by a majority of the House should have been sufficient to indicate what the opinion of the House was. The Commissioners have entirely lost sight of the fact that the majority of the House voted with me and sustained my objections. And yet they have sent in what is practically the same re-distribution as the one rejected by this House. The first report of the Commissioners was unanimous so far as the Herbert electorate was concerned, but Mr. Graham, who sent in a minority report, said that he was not entirely in favour of the first distribution, but that, having signed it, he would be loyal to his colleagues on the Commission and abide by it. When he sent in his minority report he made no reference to Herbert or Kennedy, the two divisions to which he had agreed previously. Thereby he confirmed his opinion that, although not so satisfactory as he would have desired, the arrangement . was sufficiently so to have his indorsement. But when he sent in his minority report, what alteration did he suggest? Although he declared that he was not satisfied with the division first made, his only suggestion was that the southern boundary of the then proposed Herbert electorate should be shifted about 30 miles further south. This would include on a generous estimate 200 additional electors. I really believe that from 100 to 150 would comprise the whole of the electors who would be in the additional portion that he desired to add to the original proposition. Now what is intended by “ community of interest”? Parliament did not indicate whether it should be community of interest from an agricultural, commercial, or political point of view. I consider that community of commercial interest and means of communication should be equal at any rate to the agricultural community of interest which Mr. Graham himself indicates is not everything, because he said in his minority report, referring to community of interest so far as the sugar industry was concerned, that it would be impossible to get all the sugar districts into one electorate, and that therefore that was a matter which might be ignored to a great extent. Mr. Graham now, however, stultifies himself by adopting a redistribution entirely different from what he himself proposed. So far as commercial interests are concerned, the whole hinterland of Cairns is identified with Cairns. It does all its business with or through Cairns, and has direct means of communication with it. There is a main line of railway running from Cairns to Chillagoe, 139 miles, and several branch railways running from it. The first junction is at Biboohra, 41 miles from Cairns, where a branch line runs off to Mount Molloy. The next branch comes in at Mareeba, 46 miles from Cairns. There is another at Tolga, 64 miles from Cairns, where what is called the Tolga- Johnstone River railway runs along the crest of the tableland and opens up a new agricultural area. Another branch railway goes off at Boonmoo to Stannary Hills and Irvinebank, both mining centres. At Lappa Junction there is another branch line running to Mount Garnet. At Alma-Den, 121 miles from Cairns, there is another branch running to Charleston, also a mining centre, and finally there is a line from Chillagoe to Mungana. All these are feeders to the main line, and give direct communication with Cairns, and the towns on them have their business relations with Cairns. Almost the whole of this hinterland is, under the proposed division, politically severed from
Cairns. The most remarkable thing done by the Commissioners is this: Mareeba, 46 miles from Cairns, Atherton, 68 miles from Cairns, and Herberton, 80 miles from Cairns, are all on the one line of railway, and all in the State electorate of Eacham. But by some extraordinary mental process the Commissioners have put Mareeba and Herberton in the electorate of Kennedy, while they have allowed Atherton, which is between the two, and on the same line of railway, to remain in the electorate of Herbert. The whole thing is absurd. The Commissioners have been charged with incompetency, and I say that the charge is well sustained in this regard. They have ignored means of communication altogether. They have flouted the desire and intention of Parliament, because they have taken no notice of the objection raised here by myself, and sustained by a vote subsequently taken.
– Parliament did not tell them what they were to do.
– I suggested what should be done. The Act does not require that when an objection is raised^ it shall be put in writing. But that ought to be the case. An objection should be signed by the person making it. In this instance the objections were verbal, and were made by the sugar-growers of Cairns and Proserpine. The mayor of Mackay told me that he was in Brisbane on other business when he received a telegram asking him to raise an objection to the redistribution. The result of his interview with the Commissioners was successful. If the Commissioners had done their duty they would, at least, have kept a diary in which, all these various objections would have been entered, with the names of the persons who made them. The mayor of Mackay is not himself a sugar-grower, and is only indirectly interested as a business man of Mackay.
– He is an elector.
– He did not make the objection on the ground that he was an elector, but to suit the wishes of the sugar-growers. The Australian Sugargrowers Association are at the back of this movement, and behind them is the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, which has always cherished the hope of being able to win back again that little bit of black-labour country which was wrested from them at the first Federal election. They think that their hopes are now approaching fruition, but’ I trust that they will be again disappointed. I certainly shall do my best to1 frustrate their wishes in that regard.
– That is rather a selfish wish, is it not?
– This is not such an important matter to me personally as the honorable member may suppose, judging from the figures of the last election, and from those of the referendum, upon which my party had a majority in the Herbert electorate on both questions. But whilst the position is not so serious for me as might appear, I am, as I have already said, voicing the opinions of my supporters. These men have every right to be heard. They say, “ We have put this man in Parliament to represent us, and why should he not do everything in his power to enable us to retain him to represent us?”
– Has the honorable member any evidence that they are objecting ?
– The executive of the Australian Workers Association in Townsville do not object.
– The whole matter savors very strongly, indeed, of gerrymandering, and on that ground I think that I am perfectly justified in protesting against what is proposed.
– I was prohibited from using that word.
– Then I will withdraw the word gerrymandering, and say that the whole transaction has an unsavory, not to say fishy, odor. The honorable member for Capricornia has interjected that the executive of the Australian Workers Association in Townsville - which is the centre of the movement in NorthQueensland - have raised no objection. I am not going to give away any secrets.
– I am asking the honorablemember for documentary evidence that these men object.
– I have no telegrams here, but I ask the House to accept my word that they do object. I am sure that the House will. I realize the position fully, and am prepared to take the responsibility. I know that if the House were to object to the proposal now before us it might possibly lead to Queensland losing her tenth seat in this House. I also agree that if this scheme were again rejected the Commissioners would resign. Indeed, if they did not resign, they ought to. That would necessitate the appoint ment of a fresh Commission. A new distribution would have to be made. The Act is not quite clear as to whether, after a distribution made by new Commissioners, the plan of distribution has to be exhibited for another thirty days. I think it would have to be.
– It ought to be exhibited, as a matter of policy.
– I quite agree with that view. That would consume a great deal of time, I admit. Possibly there would not be time to bring the new distribution before this Parliament. Even if it were accepted by this House, it would have to be indorsed by another place. There certainly would be a danger of Queensland losing her tenth member. Probably the blame for that would be taken off my shoulders and put on the shoulders of the Government, because when the former scheme was rejected by this House the press said that the whole business had been “readied up.” and was “a political dodge.” The inference was, the rejection of the scheme was “ readied up “ in Caucus. I give my word that the matter was never mentioned in Caucus. Nevertheless, if the new scheme were rejected, the same inference would be conveyed to the public. It would be said that the rejection was connived at by the Government, and upon them the blame would rest. The argument would be used against every Ministerial supporter in Queensland. I have taken this point into careful consideration. I realize the responsibility which would devolve upon me if the new scheme were rejected. On those grounds I now appeal to the House to allow me to withdraw my amendment.
– The honorable member has not formally moved his amendment.
– I should like to move it formally, in order that I may register my protest; and I shall afterwards ask leave to withdraw it. Accordingly, I move -
That all the words after “ That “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ this House disapproves of the latest redistribution of the electorates made by the Queensland Commissioners, and refers it back to the Commissioners with a recommendation that community of commercial interests and means of communication be given greater consideration, than has hitherto been shown, and further expresses the opinion that the redistribution first made and exhibited is, so far, the most satisfactory.”
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I am glad that the honorable member for Herbert has seen fit to withdraw his amendment. I do not know whether his action means that the motion is going to tie carried unanimously. We have had no lead from the Minister.
– I have said that except where incompetence or other fault by Commissioners is shown, Ministers will support the schemes of redistribution prepared by them.
– It is very pleasing to hear of this resolution of independence on the part of the Prime Minister and his colleagues.
– Enlarge upon it; that is all that is left to the honorable member.
– Order !
– These interjections, Mr. Speaker, containing insinuations of an extraordinary character, invite reply. I am glad that we have obtained from the Prime Minister, by interjection, what we did not get from the Minister who submitted this motion. We did not know what attitude would be taken up by the Ministry.
– Did the honorable member think that the Minister moved the motion by way of a joke?
– When “the first scheme was before us a few weeks ago, the whole of the Labour party, with the exception of the members of the Ministry, voted against it.
– They would have done the same thing again.
– I am glad that they do not intend to do so, and I congratulate the honorable member on his action. If, as I understand, the scheme is going to be unanimously accepted, I shall do no more than say that I think that on the whole the distribution is a fair one, and that the Commissioners have tried to do their duty in connexion with the task imposed upon them.
– Mr. Speaker-
– I thought that the Prime Minister was going to let the motion go.
– The honorable member desires me to let it go without discussion, notwithstanding his insinuations regarding the position of my colleagues and myself. A scheme for the redistribution of electorates is one of the most important and delicate matters that could be put before a Parliament, since it is a matter that personally affects every one of us. When the previous redistribution scheme was before the House, I did not speak to the motion for its adoption. Unfortunately, a vote was taken whilst I was away from the House, although my absence was of less than an hour’s duration. I made a public statement, however, that the policy of the Ministry was that there was no- “ thing in the redistribution scheme that demanded that Parliament should take serious exception to it. I said that we might differ on the question of .whether or not it was the best scheme that could be framed, but that that might occur in connexion with any redistribution of seats. Assuming the bona fides of the Commissioners - and these gentlemen were appointed by us - the Ministry, I said, intended to support their scheme. The honorable member for Herbert to-day has urged another reason why this particular scheme should be adopted. He has pointed out that if it were returned to the Commissioners, it is to be assumed that they would resign, inasmuch as they would regard such an action on_ the part of the Parliament as an imputation on their bona fides. The honorable member for Darling Downs says that this determination on our part is a new-born one. I do not know that it is. I would remind him of the action of a previous Government of which he and the right honorable member for Swan were members, in respect to the redistribution of Federal electorates in Western Australia - an action going to the very verge of corruption. The honorable member for Illa”warra, who was Minister of Home Affairs in that Government, submitted, in appreciative terms, a motion to approve of the redistribution of electorates in Western Australia, but the whole of his colleagues in the Ministry voted against it. That is a spectacle the like of which I hope we shall never see again in this chamber. -*
– The Prime Minister is quite wrong; I was with the Minister of Home Affairs on that occasion.
– My recollection is that only one Minister voted for the scheme.
– Only one, and that was the honorable member for Illawarra.
– I accept, however, the statement made by the honorable member for Darling Downs that he was with the Minister of Home Affairs on that occasion. A matter of this kind is one of the most delicate that Parliament has to face. I am not sure that the present method of providing for the redistribution of electorates is the best that could be adopted, but that is a matter that will have to be considered when we are not on the eve of a general election.
– Instead of any credit being due to the Prime Minister and his colleagues for their action in regard to this matter, I think that they are deserving of a considerable amount of adverse criticism. There are some matters which are necessarily made Ministerial questions, while there are others which are left open, and concerning which every member of a Ministry and his party may please himself. The course followed by the Government when the first scheme was before us would have led one to suppose that they were incompetent, or desired to do some mischief. The action of a previous Ministry to which the right honorable member has referred seems to me to have been far more consistent than was that of the Labour party a few weeks ago, when Ministers voted in favour of the first redistribution scheme for Queensland, whilst all their supporters voted against it. If the Government felt bound to vote to uphold the Commissioners’ scheme, they should have brought to bear on their supporters legitimate influence to induce them also to vote for it. Ministers do not seem to have any opinion about this question. They voted solidly for the first scheme, and they are going to vote solidly for this. What sort of lead are they giving to the House by this “Jim Crow” process? They vote this way, that way, and any way. They have even taken the trouble to deprive themselves of the opportunity to obtain the only advice they could have in a matter of this kind, and that is the advice of the head of the Electoral Department. The Chief Electoral Officer is an independent man without leanings in any direction. He has certain statutory powers, and should be the adviser of the Government. In a matter of this kind it is not expected of a Government that they should have personal knowledge. The Prime Minister, as the representative of Queensland, may have some personal knowledge of the electoral divisions of that State, but lie is not likely to have a personal knowledge of the electoral divisions of all the States.
Ministers are not expected to be personally familiar with everything that comes before them, but they have competent officers to advise them. By appointing the Chief Electoral Officer a Commissioner for Victoria, however, this Government has made it impossible for him to advise them. The chief officer of the Department is the proper officer to advise the Minister and the Government in a matter of this sort. He may be regarded as always competent and impartial, and yet in this matter he is not called upon for advice. As the Government have not brought any influence to bear on their supporters to carry the proposed distribution, I do not see how they can take any particular credit to themselves. We often hear the Minister of Home Affairs say that he is not “ a rubber stamp.” I hope that he is not. We do not want our Ministers to be rubber stamps, but in this case it seems that Ministers are content to be so described because they are proposing only to register the edicts of others. In the circumstances, the less we hear about their taking credit to themselves the better. I should like to ask honorable members how long this arrangement - I was going to call it a farce - is to be permitted to continue. We have had an exhibition of weakness that is painful. Instead of acting independently and using their influence with their supporters, or giving them a free hand to do as they please, the Government appear to act as so many automata.
– The honorable member wishes to make it a party question.
– I think it has been treated as a party question. It was so treated when a division took place upon it on the last occasion. With the exception of the rubber stamps - I beg Ministers’ pardon - honorable members opposite appeared to work in concert, and. to deal with the matter entirely from party considerations. There is urgent need for an alteration of the system at present adopted. Honorable members are aware that I have contended for a long time that it is unsatisfactory, unworkable, and cannot result in an impartial arrangement being arrived at. There is under the existing system no reason why a proposed distribution should not be sent back to the Commissioners a dozen times. The honorable member for Herbert has told us that, but for considerations which have had a stronger influence with him, he would be disposed to ask that this scheme should be again sent back to the Commissioners. What has taken place shows clearly that the existing system has broken down, and that some other arrangement is necessary. No doubt, our intention in the matter was good. We intended, by the appointment of .Commissioners for the distribution of the States into electorates, to put this very important work, which is the foundation of our parliamentary system, into the hands of independent and capable persons, free from all political influence. We intended to avoid the evils of political wire-pulling and gerrymandering, but I ask the Prime Minister now to say whether our desire has been attained. Probably, honorable members on both sides are equally anxious to do the best they can for the parties to which they belong, but it must be admitted that our attempt to separate this matter from all political influence has entirely failed. So long as there are separate parties in this House, so long shall we find honorable members joining to shield a member of their party from the danger of losing his seat. They will not be satisfied until an arrangement has been arrived at which they consider favorable to the interests of the party to which they belong. All our experience of the existing system has proved it to be unsatisfactory. It is just as well that we should be open in this matter. When an honorable member’s seat is in jeopardy, from what he considers a bad arrangement of the boundaries of his electorate, he feels bound to secure as much influence as he can to have the arrangement altered. That is quite reasonable, from his own point of view, and my only objection in the matter is that he should claim to be acting on public grounds. Unquestionably, the system leads in the direction of political corruption, as the Prime Minister has said. The present Attorney-General, when dealing with this matter in 1903, said that it would be a lamentable thing if politicians were allowed to divide the States into electorates to suit themselves. No doubt it would, but I ask whether this lamentable thing has not already occurred ? I do not desire to blame any party or individual in particular in the matter, but I ask honorable members to say whether, on previous occasions, political support has not been secured to bring about what the Attorney-General described as “a lamentable thing?” Then there is the honorable member for Gwydir. I wish he were present, be-
Si> John Forrest. cause I desire to point out his inconsistencyHe took up a very high-minded attitude in ‘regard to this matter. He was, in fact, heroic. On the 23rd November, 1909, he said -
Has it come to this - that in the National Parliament a question of the boundaries of electorates is to be determined by the political necessities of an individual ?
We have all heard the honorable member orating in that style. I wish he were present, because I desire to tell him that it has come to this. Only a few weeks ago the honorable member himself voted to provide for the political necessities of an individual. Then we have the Prime Minister’s statement in 1909 -
I wish to say, in the plainest possible language, that a Government that lends itself to that kind of thing is unfit to occupy its position, because “an attempt to manipulate electorates and to take the work of electoral distribution out of the hands of the responsible officers appointed for the purpose is about the nearest approach to political corruption.
Does he not think that the action of the Government in having no opinion upon this matter will encourage a condition of things which, to use his own words, constitutes “about the nearest approach to political corruption.” Certainly it does not tend towards the attainment of his high ideal. It is useless to find fault with the system unless we are willing to alter it. I do urge upon the Government that the head of the Electoral Department should not be a departmental officer in the ordinary acceptation of the term. His powers should be conferred by Statute, and he should be directly responsible to this Parliament in the same way that the Public Service Commissioner is. He should be free from all political influence. I do not think that the Electoral Commissioners should be appointed by the Government. One of them is not now appointed by law. The Surveyor-General of the respective States is ex officio a member of the Commission. We ought to provide that persons holding certain offices in a State shall be named in the Statute, shall constitute the Commissioners, and shall be presided over by a high official - either some senior police magistrate or a County Court Judge. I want to see them removed entirely from political influence, and I wish their decisions to be final. If that course were adopted, possibly it would, at all events, place our electoral system above all party influences.
– What harm is there in the House referring a redistribution scheme back to the Commissioners for review ?
– There is a good deal of harm, because ft then gets into the vortex of party feeling. We are actuated by all sorts of motives in personal and party matters. If we appoint an independent tribunal of competent persons we ought to abide by its decision. The Government have given their case away by saying that they will support any redistribution scheme, even if it has to be referred back to the Commissioners a dozen times.
– The honorable member knows that we are taking the proper stand as a Government - a stand which he himself did not take when he was a member of a previous Ministry.
– I disapproved of this procedure just as much when I was a Minister as I do now. I do not think that Parliament is an impartial tribunal, which is fit to consider this matter. The sooner a properly-constituted tribunal is established in each State to deal with the re-arrangement of electoral boundaries - a tribunal whose decisions will be final - the better will it be for all concerned. The existing system, if it be allowed to continue, will only bring discredit upon us. It would be much more satisfactory to every honorable member to know that the determination of the boundaries of his electorate was in the hands of three or four competent and impartial persons, whose decision would be absolutely final. Of course, it would be necessary for them to exhibit a plan of their redistribution scheme, say for a month before it became operative, so that everybody might be afforded an opportunity of pointing out directions in which it might be improved.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. When the Prime Minister was speaking I stated, by way of interjection, that when the electoral boundaries of Western Australian divisions were under review I voted with the honorable member for Illawarra. I have since found that in the division-list I was paired with the “ Noes “ on that occasion, and not with the “ Ayes.” My colleagues, however, will bear me out that my attitude towards that question betokened my intention to stand by the honorable member for Illawarra.
– I did not know that.
– I did not know until a few minutes ago that I had been paired with the “ Noes.”
– I should not have risen, but for the remarks of the right honorable member for Swan, who appears to think that the practice of returning to the Commissioners appointed to frame the boundaries of the electoral divisions in the different States, in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, the scheme on which, they have agreed, is a dangerous and a bad one. I cannot see that it works out in that way. I agree with those who say that Parliament should not fix the boundaries of electoral divisions; such an arrangement is unthinkable, because, in any Legislature, it would lead to chaos. The constitution of the Commissions appointed for the different States is unobjectionable. One member is the Surveyor-General of the State, who ought always to have a good knowledge of its physical features, having travelled about it so much in connexion with his ordinary work, and another is an officer of the Electoral Department. Possibly, it would not be a bad thing to appoint also a senior magistrate. But there is nothing shocking, degrading, infamous, or corrupt in the action of Parliament when, having reviewed a proposed redistribution, it says, in effect, to the Commissioners, “ Gentlemen, we do not think ourselves capable of properly arranging the boundaries of the electoral divisions of this State, but we are of opinion that, in carrying out this work, you have committed an error, of judgment in a certain direction,” giving the reasons for that view. The honorable member for Swan seemed to regard it as a terrible thing that a majority of those supporting this Government deserted it in regard to the last redistribution scheme. He forgets that Ministerial supporters are not bound to follow the Government on all occasions. I should have thought very little of Ministers had they not stood by the recommendations of their Commissioners, but there is nothing corrupt in independent members refusing to indorse those recommendations.
– The vote was. a party one.
– How could it have been a party one? The right honorable member says that the Labour party deserted the Government in the matter. We are generally credited by honorable members opposite with being bound hand and foot by the Caucus, and yet, in the instance referred to, the Government and the Opposition voted together, with the supporters of the Governnent against them. When Parliament declines to accept the recommendations of a Commission, it does better to give a reason for its action than to throw back the report on the Commissioners without giving any reason. I do not blame the Commissioners in the case referred to. The law gives certain directions to guide them in the performance of their duties; they are instructed to give consideration to probable changes in the arrangement of the population of a State, and cannot be blamed for doing so. But to empower Commissioners to take into consideration possible fluctuations of population in various districts must always give rise to the conflict of opinion. If any three members in this House, the least affected by party bias, were asked to say how, in their opinion, population would vary in half-a-dozen districts within a short time, their replies would probably differ materially. On such questions there must always be great differences of opinion. Therefore, the last thing we should do is to impute dishonesty to the Commissioners. What is necessary, I think, is to amend the law, so that the Commissioners may be required to have regard only to the location of population on some fixed date. That might produce anomalies occasionally, but over a period of years it would work fairly enough, and would prevent discussion such as we have had, arising out of differences of opinion. The Commissioners should fix the boundaries of electoral divisions according to the location of population on a given date. If that were the law, I do not think that these reports would be referred back to the Commissioners. In the case that has been mentioned, I would have preferred to support the Government, but such strong reasons were given for referring back the report that I had no option but to vote against it. Unless the law is altered, similar occurrences in connexion with redistribution reports will not be infrequent, but they give no ground either for strong remarks about the Commissioners or for the imputation of corrupt motives to members. If they should still be of the same opinion it would be our duty to bow to it. This matter must be fixed up by persons who are independent of Parliament. Honorable members on the other side seem to be very anxious to create a sort of judicial position for the Chief Electoral Officer, and, indeed, for officers of that character. I am not favorable to the creation of wonderful judicial positions. On the contrary, I am utterly opposed to them. The great danger which the Commonwealth will have to face in the future is the creation of a bureaucracy which will govern us. That is a question for the honorable member for Swan and his friends to seriously consider. At the swing of the political pendulum, which must take place at some time or other, they will be faced with the same position as confronts the present Government. I hold the view that a Government really has very little power and influence. The public, however, think that the Commonwealth Government, like other Governments in Australia, possess a tremendous power, but the power is really with the bureaucracy. When honorable members talk about the permanent officers being head and shoulders above Ministers, and free from influence, it is mere rubbish. There is a good deal more patronage with the bureaucracy than there is with the Government, as any one with his eyes open can see. When you have strong men as Ministers, the Government will not be ruled by the bureaucracy. There are some Ministers who never do anything but sign their names as their officers advise, but there are other Ministers who, when a document is submitted, ask what it means, and an explanation has to be given. Perhaps, if he is not satisfied with the explanation, he turns down the document and asks for another report. When you get Ministers of that character you have a strong Administration. I appeal to the House not to be deluded by the humbug which is talked about the wonderful public servants. I warn honorable members that if they continue to make idols of these officers it will be dangerous to the best interests of the Commonwealth.
– I should not have risen to speak but for the remarks of the honorable members for Darling Downs and Swan. At the end of the last Parliament we witnessed the scene of the then Minister of Home Affairs being forsaken by his colleagues with regard to his motion to accept the distribution of seats in Western Australia. Yet, the honorable member for Swan had the effrontery to get up here this morning and condemn the present Government, not for doing what the late Government did, but for sticking together and supporting this proposal.
– How did they treat the honorable member for Illawarra?
– Only that he was the Minister who submitted the motion, I think the honorable member for Illawarra would have forsaken the redistribution scheme for Western Australia. But it was a bit audacious for his colleagues to oppose its adoption.
– Your people are like rubber stamps. You viewed it as a party matter.
– How could it be a party matter when the Ministry stuck to their guns?
– Why did you not stand by the Government?
– That shows our independence.
– No, it shows that you all went off together.
– We are not sent here to support men, but to support principles, and to use our intelligence in supporting those principles. That is the difference between our party and the Opposition.
– You were very unanimous.
– When the right honorable gentleman was speaking about the redistribution scheme for Western Australia he said that this matter should not be left to the determination of one man, but that three Commissioners should be appointed for the purpose. I thought the same as he did then, because while it was hard enough to influence one man, it would be. very hard indeed to influence three men. That is how it struck me.
– I meant that we would get a better judgment.
– Bad and all as this is, “out of evil cometh good.” Directly the Labour party got into power, the Government accepted the recommendation of the right honorable member for Swan, and brought down a Bill providing for the appointment of three Commissioners to redistribute the States. But the right hon.ora b le gentleman was not satisfied even with that. He is pleading that the destinies of this great continent should be left in the hands of eighteen men. We are directly responsible to the people for our actions and votes in this House, but the right honorable gentleman wishes to put these eighteen men on a pedestal above public criticism, and to allow the destinies of the Commonwealth to be ladled out to the people, and to the members of the House. The idea is preposterous in the extreme. The honorable member for Hindmarsh has dealt very trenchantly with the position of public servants running the whole show. He observed, quite rightly and justly, that a Minister who goes through the whole of his work tends to make the Government strong. Repeatedly when I have been visiting Ministers in their offices, the departmental heads have come along with a bundle of papers, and said, “ This is soandso,” and “that is so-and-so.” Ministers did not even cast a glance at what they were asked to sign, but they merely attached their names to the papers. In many instances they might have been signing their death-warrants, without knowing it. The heads of Departments say that a Minister who wants to know the wherefore of things is too meddlesome ; because he goes into details too much, and wants too much explanation. That is not the kind of Minister whom they wish to see at the head of affairs. Yet the right honorable member for Swan is quite willing to hand us over body and soul - and the country, too - to the gentlemen who are running the public service. Yesterday, we had an exhibition of what some honorable members would like to see done with the Electoral Department. If there is one Department more than another in which honorable members should take a deep interest, it is the Electoral Department. Because we know very well what gerrymandering has been done in the past in the States.
– Let us avoid it in the future.
– Yes, we cannot have our’ electoral law too pure. The honorable member for Wimmera is quite willing to create a judicial position for the Chief Electoral Officer, who is to be amenable to no Department, and only to the Parliament it- « self.
– That is in the administration of the law.
– That puts me in mind of a verdict of the High Court. “ The Act is valid, but you cannot ask questions.” We must have the Chief Electoral Officer amenable to the head of the Department, and make that head answerable for any mistakes which he may commit.
– Would you apply that argument to the Public Service Commissioner ?
– There you are dealing with a number of men whom you want to keep free from political control, and that is a different matter altogether. The honorable member and I are vitally interested in the administration of the Electoral Department.
– You want the elections carried out free from political influence.
– Yes, and so far as I know that has been done.
– The Public Service Commissioner is not under a Minister. He has statutory powers.
– He is under a Department, anyhow.
– Put the other man in as gooda position as that.
– Everything which is done through the Public Service Commissioner has to go through the Prime Minister’s Department.
– That is all right, but the Prime Minister cannot direct him.
– The Prime Minister does not attempt to direct the Commissioner.
– But the Minister of Home Affairs can direct this officer.
– The Prime Minister is the stop-gap between the Public Service Commissioner and Parliament. The Commissioner cannot appeal to Parliament except in one instance, and that is when he disagrees.
– Why not make the Chief Electoral Officer as independent as the Commissioner?
– There is no analogy between the positions.
– One is much more important than the other.
– If we are to have elections pure, and the electors free and unfettered in determining whom to vote for - which every one of us wishes to see - then if we leave it to Parliament we can ventilate grievances on the floor of the House, and any man who does any gerrymandering will pay the penalty sooner or later. I am not personally interested in the Queensland redistribution, because, whatever was done to my constituency I could not be gerrymandered out of it. One thing in particular induced me to vote to send- the previous redistribution back to the Commissioners. Three Commissioners had been appointed, and exactly what the right honorable member for Swan predicted in his speech three years ago happened.He said that there would be a division of opinion amongst the three men, and a report as to why they were not unanimous, and that then honorable members on both sides of the House could decide who was right and who was wrong. In this case, there were two Commissioners for the redistribution as it stood, and one against it, and he sent in a minority report. On analyzing the two reports, I thought there was something in what the gentleman who signed the minority report had to say, and that the best thing to do was to send it back, so that we might secure, if possible, a unanimous report. It will be remembered that the right honorable member for ‘Swan said that he would like to see a unanimous report on the redistribution of electorates for each State. That is just what happened in this instance. We sent the report back to the Commissioners, and to-day we have a unanimous report from them. The House should now accept it just as the Commissioners have sent it in.
.- The present method of distributing the electorates is not the best. I have come to the conclusion that it would’ be better for the House itself to decide these matters. The Government of the day ought to come down with a plan of redistribution, and take the responsibility for it. If they went in for any gerrymandering they would have to defend their action before the country. Is not that a superior system to the present one, under which the Commissioners are appointed by the Government
– On whose recommendation?
– By the GovernorGeneral on the recommendation of the Government.
– Other strings are pulled.
– That may be so.I know the honorable member is inclined to agree with my view, and I am only combating the view put forward by Ministers that it would not be a good thing.
– I have not put forward any view, but I do not think it would be a good thing.
– At any rate, the present system does not appear to be satisfactory. We have had on one occasion a Government in office appointing Commissioners, and when the Commissioners brought forward their plan the only man on the Ministerial side who could be found to accept it was the then Minister of Home Affairs - a member of the Government to which the right honorable member for Swan also belonged. The right honorable member said that the present Government could not claim any credit for supporting the plans put forward by the Queensland Commissioners, although they unitedly come into the House and say, “We will support the scheme.” What, then, should we say about a Ministry that put one of their number up to support the Commissioners, while all the rest voted against them?
– That was an electoral scandal in Western Australia.
– How are we to compel a Government to accept the Commissioners’ report? Evidently a Government can commit a scandal when the Commissioners bring in their scheme - a bigger scandal apparently than they would dare to commit if they had to bring down the plans themselves. The right honorable member for Swan described the members of the present Government as “ rubber stamps.” It occurs to me that they are at any rate not political balloons half-filled with electioneering gas and blown to all points of the compass by various winds raised by certain political organizations such as the Conservative body known as the Women’s National Association. If we are to continue the present system we ought to alter the section which provides that the Commissioners shall exhibit the plans for thirty days and receive objections. What happens is that the Commissioners send us the plan of a proposed redistribution. Those of us who accept the plan go on our way, believing that everything is right, but somebody else sends in an objection, and the Commissioners prepare a fresh plan. We who have had the plan submitted to us can then offer no objection except on the floor of the House, and then we have to reject the whole scheme. If the Commissioners are to receive objections from outside there ought to be some method enabling members of this House to offer their opinions to the Commissioners. The Act should provide that before the Commissioners finally send in their scheme those in this House who want to offer objections should be able to do so. I believe that would tend to greater harmony and satisfaction.
I come now to my friend the honorable member for Herbert, to whose remarks I think T ought to say something in reply.
He made some remarks about me in a humorous way, but his humour cannot be expressed in print. He said that he would not disclose secrets, but had no doubt that I would enlighten the House. I also have secrets, and do not propose to enlighten the House concerning them, except to say that as far as I know the Australian Workers’ Association in the Herbert district has not, as a body, objected to this new distribution. They do not as a body ask that Bowen and Herbert shall be included in somebody else’s electorate. I am aware that one section of the workers in the Herbert electorate do object, but I think that, generally speaking, the members of the Australian Workers’ Association are prepared to leave the matter to this Parliament.
– They left it to me.
– If they left it to the honorable member, he might have taken the trouble which he compelled me to take when he said that I should have to be prepared to meet his amendment. He would then have discovered that in this new electorate of Herbert, assuming that the Labour vote would be the same in 1913 as it wasin 1910, he himself will poll in the various divisions the following majorities -
There would be an adverse poll in only one division, namely, Douglas, where the Liberal majority will be forty-six. Thus the honorable member will have a majority of 3,214 in all the divisions of Herbert except one, or, deducting the forty-six in Douglas, a net majority of 3,168.
– Not enough.
– The honorable member said during his speech that we all like to enhance our majorities. But we cannot all have bush constituencies. We cannot all have constituencies in which the majority of the electors hold advanced Democratic views. We cannot all have pocket boroughs; and that apparently is what the honorablr member wants. The scheme leavesthe honorable member with a fair majority, and he ought to be satisfied. There must be some finality in this matter, and, although the honorable member for Herbert has struck his flag, so to speak, I prefer to place a few reasons before this House, and also in this manner before another place, as to why the present scheme came to be prepared. The Act directs the Commissioners to have regard to community and diversity of interests, physical boundaries, and other conditions. As far as I can see they have carried out their work well.
– How have they treated the honorable member for Capricornia?
– 1 may have lost a few votes, but, nevertheless, the next election ought to be an easy matter. I have a probable majority of over 2,500 on the last figures. I was prepared to bake whatever the Commissioners recommended, and I am of opinion that they have done their work well. I certainly do not think that they merit the castigation which the honorable member for Herbert gave them. Certainly they are competent. The Act requires that one of the Commissioners shall be either the SurveyorGeneral of the State concerned or an officer with “similar qualifications.” That means that one of the officers appointed must have a considerable knowledge of the State and of electoral boundaries. He must be an officer capable of making surveys. If honorable members look at the latter portion of the Commissioners’ report they will see pages of description which could only have been plotted out by a surveyor. Consider what might take place if we returned this scheme to the Commissioners. The Commissioners must resent the remarks made by the honorable member for Herbert unless some one in the House rises in their defence. There are not likely, however, to be many speeches on this question. The honorable member for Herbert has said that the Commissioners are incompetent, and if the scheme is sent back to them again, they must resign. There could be no other course open to them as honorable men. They prepared one scheme which the House returned to them, and they have since prepared that now before us, concerning which they are unanimous. That being so, if it were returned to them, they, as honorable men, would say to the Government, ‘ ‘ We have done our best ; we can do no more. You must appoint fresh Commissioners.”
We should have reached practically the end of the month before their resignations had been accepted. New Commissioners would then have to be appointed. They would have to go over the whole ground again, and when they had drawn up a plan that plan would haveto be exhibited for thirty days. That would carry us practically to the end of December. I am not prepared to take the responsibility for such an action as lightly as does the honorable member for Herbert, who says that he is quite prepared that Queensland shall not have an additional member.
– The next election would be absolutely illegal if provision were not made for the additional member.
– Queensland ought not to have an additional member; Victoria should not have lost one.
– The redistribution scheme for Victoria has been adopted, and under it Victoria loses a member. Queensland is entitled to additional representation to that extent.
– Not necessarily.
– At all events, Queensland is to have an additional member. If Victoria is to lose one member, some otherState must have an additional representative.
– Not necessarily. Under the Constitution we need not have more than seventy-two members of this House.
– Queensland at present is represented in this House by nine members, and I very much doubt whether new Commissioners, if appointed, would be able to draw up a scheme providing for a representation of ten members within the time that would be at their disposal. Consequently, if the next general elections took place on the basis of only nine members for Queensland, it is quite possible that we should be called upon to have a fresh election.
– Any elector of Queensland, under the Bill of Rights, could, in such circumstances I think, upset the whole election.
– I am quite prepared to accept’ that view. Victoria has lost a member, and Queensland ought to have an additional representative. The representatives of Queensland should take care that she is not deprived of the additional representation to which she is entitled. I have no desire to enter upon a lengthy advertisement of the State which I represent, but it is undoubtedly a very large State, an important part of the Commonwealth, possessing immense resources, and is entitled to the strongest possible representation in this House. Are the representatives of Queensland going to commit political suicide, so to speak, by bringing about a situation which would result in the State being deprived of the additional representation in this House to which she is entitled. I think the honorable member for Herbert will find it necessary to explain that part of his speech when he goes up to Queensland.
– I can explain it.
– No doubt the honorable member will be able to do so. As I understand that other business has now to be brought on, I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Labour Party : Mr. Fowler : Mr. Fenton - Ministers without Portfolios - Governor-General’s Residence in Sydney.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
– I should like to move that the debate be now adjourned.
– I understand that the honorable member desires to move that the Order of the Day be postponed?
– Yes. I move -
That the Order of the Day be postponed.
Question put, and a division called for.
– It will only take until lunch time to dispose of grievances.
– Let us dispose of the redistribution scheme first of all.
– I beg leave to withdraw my motion.
– There seems to be a misunderstanding. I shall put the question again. The question is, “ That the debate be adjourned.”
.- At an earlier period of the day I endeavoured, as a personal explanation, to defend myself against certain aspersions which I regarded as being unjustly placed upon me. That opportunity was not afforded me, because, I presume, I was exceeding the Standing Orders. I take advantage of this occasion to complete what I had to leave unsaid.
I want to begin by pointing out that there can be no greater strain put upon any public man than that which is occasioned by his leaving the party with which he has been associated for a number ofyears. I believe that my leaving the Labour party was as great a wrench as I ever experienced in my life. The fact that I had to leave, even politically, many of my intimate friends was, I can assure the House, no very light experience. It was one which nothing but an overwhelming sense of responsibility would have caused me to un. dergo. As a result of that step I have, been subjected, by many persons in one particular quarter, to an amount of abuse, insult, and downright misrepresentation, which I anticipated in some degree, but the full extent of which I had failed altogether to comprehend. This kind of thing has become so customary that I suppose I have got used to it, but now and again I feel somewhat inclined to resent it, as I do to-day. It is not altogether an unusual thing for a politician to change his views. It is an equally common thing for electors to change their views regarding politicians, and when such words as “ rat “ and “renegade” are hurled at those who have had the courage of their opinions to make a change, it ought to be remembered by those who use such words that they may be casting a wholesale insult upon thousands of electors who, at the next election, will do what I did two years ago. It is noticeable that even in this Chamber there are others beside myself who have crossed the floor. I do not intend to refer to them in any personal fashion, but it has struck me as somewhat singular that in the case of those gentlemen, who no doubt changed their party for thoroughly good and conscientious reasons, not one of them has been subjected to anything in the nature of insult or misrepresentation from this side of the House. It has remained for one or two honorable members on the other side to single me out for this particular distinction. I am glad to be able to say that, so far as members generally on the other side are concerned, I have had nothing but courtesy from them. The insults and misrepresentation have come almost entirely from one or two. I take that as an indication that many of my old friends on the benches opposite are still my friends, and are quite ready to give me the credit which I am willing to extend to those who have joined them of late. The honorable member for Maribyrnong - and I am very sorry to have to single him out in this matter - has distinguished himself ever since he came into the House by losing ‘ no possible opportunity to throw insults, of the kind I have indicated, across the gangway. The honorable member, I 0 believe, sometimes teaches Christian ethics from the pulpit on Sundays, and counterbalances that by some very remarkable displays of bad manners in this House during the week. The time has come for me to resent that kind of thing. I have already indicated the main reasons why I left the Labour movement, but for the benefit of the honorable member for Maribyrnong in particular, I again repeat the reasons that caused me to leave it. The first, as I have already mentioned to-day, is that I found in the Labour movement a growing favour for the policy of unification. That is a policy to which I am entirely and absolutely opposed. I regretted to find myself in such keen antagonism to many of my old friends in that matter. That policy is one with which I am absolutely out of sympathy. I felt that I could not remain any longer associated with the Labour party when they had practically pledged themselves to a policy to which I was totally opposed. The second reason is that the Labour movement appears to be growing more and more into the nature of an organized hypocrisy. That is largely due to the fact that in these days of Labour-prosperity politicians of the type of the honorable member for Maribyrnong, who have, been unsuccessful in other quarters, and under other flags, have adopted the Labour cause as a means of getting into Parliament. I wish finally tq say that so far as my inner information of Federal Labour politics is concerned, I have kept a rigorous restraint upon myself. I considered that it was neither fair nor proper that I should use my knowledge regarding the Labour movement against the party I was once associated with. I have, therefore, been very careful indeed in that respect. But I want to say to some of my honorable friends opposite that if I am further subjected to these insults and misrepresentations, I shall throw some light into the dark and noisome corners of the Labour movement, and that will not be too good for the political welfare of my slanderers.
. -The honorable member for Perth seems to have selected me as a special target for the remarks he has made this morning. I think that honorable members will recollect that almost the first words I said in this House were couched in terms similar to those which I intend to use now. I said that doubtless during the period that I occupied a seat in this House there would be moments in which heated expressions would be used which might not be exactly in order. I know that I have a temper which is likely to be displayed on occasions. But I think it will be said to the credit of persons who are afflicted with hasty tempers that, whilst on occasions they may be heated in their expressions, they usually possess generous hearts, and are always prepared to make amends for their shortcomings. I think it will be within the recollection of honorable members that whenever I have offended I have attempted to atone for it. Opposition members will bear out that statement. On the other hand, my honorable friends opposite have been equally magnanimous in expressing their regret whenever they have offended. I trust that whenever we make mistakes, whether -we be exponents of Christian ethics or not, we shall endeavour to make amends for them. The honorable member for Perth has accused me of having sailed under different political flags. He seems to be in possession of information which I certainly do not possess. Never have I sought the suffrages of the. electors under any other title than that of an extreme Radical. I have always advocated those measures which I consider will conduce to the welfare of the great mass of the people. I have always been proud of my association with the Trades and Labour Council of Melbourne, and whenever I have gone amongst farmers I have not hesitated to tell them of that association. Some time ago a number of us thought it would be wise if the Labour party joined forces with the more Radical members of the Liberal party so that they might sail under the same flag. Negotiations were carried on with that end in view, but the time ultimately arrived when the more pronounced members of the Liberal party associated themselves with the Conservatives of this Parliament. The one feeling then wasthat it was .time for Labour members to say good-bye to them once and for all. Anything which I have said, and which the honorable member for Perthmay consider offensive, I am prepared to withdraw. I have no personal grievance with the honorable member. Any differences between us are differences of a political character. But if I did leave one political party to join another, I left it to join what I regard as the National party, whereas the honorable member left the true Radical Labour party - the’ National party - to join the Fusion party.
– The reactionary party.
– Yes. The honorable member has given only one reason why he left the Labour party, namely, that it was trending in the direction of unification. So far as I am aware, there is only one member of that party who has advocated unification - I refer to the honorable member for Herbert.
– And he has dropped it.
– I do not say that. I “believe that he has more grounds for his belief to-day than he ever had. Events are in progress which, while they will not bring about unification, will secure the endowment of this Parliament with larger legislative powers. For the honorable member for Perth to urge as a reason why he left the Labour party, the trend of that party towards unification, is to urge a reason which never existed. He has hinted that if further references are made to his position he will retaliate by making revelations which will not be to the credit of the Labour party. I challenge him to make, either on the floor of this House or on the public platform, a statement of what he says he is holding back. I am certain that the policy of that party and the character of its individual members will stand the closest scrutiny to which he can subject them.
– He spoke of organized hypocrisy.
– Yes. The honorable member said that certain statements have been made across the gangway to him. But I have had epithets thrown at me by the honorable member, and I would be more than human if I did not retaliate.
– The honorable member has never had epithets thrown at him across the gangway by me.
– The honorable member adopted that course only yesterday.
– I was defending myself from the honorable member’s insults. It has become a regular habit with him. to throw insults at me.
– It is useless for the honorable member for Maribyrnong to pose as a Christian if he is always taunting the honorable member for Perth.
– So far as Christian principles are concerned, the honorable member for Wentworth will find in me quite as good an exponent of them as he will in the honorable member for Perth. For having left the Labour party, the honorable member for Perth stands selfaccused, inasmuch as the reason which he has assigned for his action constitutes the lamest possible excuse - an excuse which will certainly not be accepted either by honorable members or bv the public outside. “
– There is one matter which I desire to bring before the House, because I regard it as of very great importance. lt is not mixed up with any political party, nor is it aimed at any individual. I refer to the practice which has grown up in this Parliament of appointing Honorary Ministers - that is Ministers who are without portfolios. I make no excuse for bringing this matter forward now, because I have had it in my mind for some time past. My remarks are not aimed at any one, either, here or in another place, nor have they any party significance, but it has always been my view that the Constitution makes no provision for Ministers, except such as have portfolios. The sections bearing upon the question are 62, 64, and 65, which are as follow : -
There shall be a Federal Executive Council > to advise the Governor-General in the government of the Commonwealth, and the members of the Council shall be chosen and summoned by the Governor-General and sworn as Executive Councillors, and shall hold office during his pleasure ….
The Governor-General may appoint officers to administer such Departments of State of the Commonwealth as the Governor-General in Council may establish.
Such officers shall hold office during the pleasure of the Governor-General. They shall be members of the Federal Executive Council, and shall be Queen’s Ministers of State for the Commonwealth.
After- the first general election no Minister of State shall hold office for a longer period than three months unless he is or becomes a senator or a member of the House of Representatives
Until the Parliament otherwise provides, the Ministers of State shall not exceed seven in number, and shall hold such offices as the Parliament prescribes, or, in the absence of provision, as the Governor-General directs.
The Constitution also provides that, until Parliament otherwise provides, the sum appropriated for the salary of Ministers shall not exceed ^12,000 a year. To increase the number of Ministers, or their emolument, no alteration of the Constitution is needed, but there must be an Act of Parliament. Without legislation, there is no power to appoint or provide for more than seven Ministers of State.
– This is rather a late discovery. Why did the right honorable member tolerate Honorary Ministers in Governments of which he was a member ?
– I am expressing now a view that I have always held, and to which I have frequently given expression in the past, and this is, I think, an opportune time for again bringing the question forward. At present there are two Honorary Ministers in the Senate and one in this House. If my reading of the Constitution is correct, they occupy an unsatisfactory position, because there is no proper Constitutional recognition of their status. It is convenient to have Honorary Ministers, and I see no reason why we should not give them a position satisfactory to themselves and to the Parliament. Honorary Ministers have no executive power, and are not, unless specially summoned, advisers of the Crown. All who have been made members of the Executive Council continue to be councillors after the resignation of office, although they are not summoned to advise when out of office. The Constitution created seven Ministers only, and under it no more can be appointed “ until Parliament otherwise provides.” If it were in the power of Ministers to appoint Honorary Ministers, there would be no restriction on that power, and they could as well appoint thirty as appoint three, or, indeed, make their whole party Honorary Ministers. Seeing that the present Ministry, as well as their supporters, are bound to obey the decisions of the caucus, I wonder that they have not made the whole party members of the Executive and advisers of the Crown, because that is what they are, in effect, though not in name. Parliament should decide how many Ministers there should be; it should not be for Ministers themselves to decide the matter. There may be precedent in some of the States for the present condition of things, but there is no precedent in the Old Country, where all the Ministers hold offices and receive pay. If necessary, Parliament should increase the number of Ministers and their emoluments, but this should not be attempted in any other way. A Ministry should be strong, its Ministers should be equal in status, and all should be paid.
– What does the right honorable gentleman suggest?
– That the position should be determined by an Act of Parliament. When Premier of Western Australia, I should have liked to appoint one or two Honorary Ministers, but I was advised that 1 had no right to_.do so ; that the member so appointed would have no power and could receive no pay.
– All British Ministers do not hold portfolios.
– They all have some office, if only a titular one. I am in favour of increasing the number of Ministers by making such Honorary Ministers as may now be necessary Ministers of State, and at the same time fixing the number of Ministers, so that no more can be appointed without an alteration of the law. It should not be within the power of any Ministry to say how many Ministers there should be. I am of opinion that the present arrangement was not contemplated by the Constitution, is unsatisfactory, and dangerous, encouraging the creation of placemen.
– There seems to be a misapprehension in regard to the business to be taken this afternoon. I ask the Minister now in charge whether the bringing on of the grievance discussion before luncheon will prevent honorable members from dealing with grievances later in the day. Cannot the Minister make a statement on the subject?
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
.- I desire to draw attention to a matter which I think is worthy of consideration. It has to do with the subject on which we had . a discussion the day before yesterday.
– This is contrary to an arrangement that has been made with the Opposition.
– The right honorable member for Swan and the honorable member for Franklin agreed that the grievance discussion should not extend beyond halfanhour.
– The honorable member for Franklin has no power to make an arrangement so far as this side of the House is concerned.
– The right honorable member for Swan was representing the Opposition at the time, and he said that if half- an-hour were allowed, no more grievances would be discussed to-day - that was the distinct understanding.
– What I said was that I would not take long.
– The honorable member said that the discussion would not occupy more than half -an-hour.
– I did not say that.
– I know nothing at all about any arrangements.
– Ask the honorable member for Franklin if my word is doubted.
– Personally, I have no knowledge of any arrangement, and I am merely exercising my right now to ventilate what I consider a grievance.
– I was asked if I would agree to the arrangement made, and I agreed.
– If the right honorable member for Swan made any arrangement with the Prime Minister I am prepared to sit down.
– The right honorable member for Swan made an arrangement with me ; I was the Minister in charge at the time.
– I desire to refer to the position of this Government and the State Government of New South Wales in regard to the occupancy of Government House, Sydney, by the Governor-General. Earlier I asked the Prime Minister whether it was a fact that, when Lord Denman was appointed, an arrangement was made by which both Government House, Melbourne, and Government House, Sydney, were available for his occupation, and the right honorable gentleman replied that I was quite correct in that assumption.
– This is an old matter.
– It is new matter opened up by a statement by Mr. Holman, reported in the Argus of to-day. The Prime Minister said, in reply to a question by me -
It is correct that when Lord Denman accepted the high office that he holds it was understood that both Government House, Melbourne, and Government House, Sydney, would be available as residences for him and Lady Denman. The position was put before the State Government when the controversy arose respecting Government House, Sydney, and was repeatedly urged as a reason that should weigh with them, but without avail.
If the. Prime Minister will turn to the statement of Mr. Holman, as reported in the Argus to-day, he will find that the circumstance had a great deal of weight with the State Government of New South Wales, so much so that it caused that Government to reverse the whole of their policy which had been submitted to the State House, and, in the words of Mr. Holman, had been the subject of fierce discussion. Mr. Holman, as reported in to-day’s Argus, says -
I notice that the Prime Minister is reported as saying that the fact that an arrangement was made that Lord Denman was to have the use of Government House, Sydney, had been repeatedly brought before the State Government as a circumstance that might weigh with them, but without avail. I do not know whether Mr. Fisher is accurately reported, but if he is, he has been betrayed into an extraordinary inaccuracy - an inaccuracy of unusual gravity in the circumstances. The facts are that the policy of the State Government of terminating the occupation by the GovernorGeneral of this house was announced very many months ago, without protest from the Federal Government, and was maintained by the State Government for many months, in the face of such local and other protests as were organized against it. When, however, Mr. Fisher communicated with us through Mr. Thomas,, that he regarded himself as bound under an ‘arrangement to Lord Denman - this communication being made for the first time some two or three months ago - the State Government after consideration absolutely departed from their announced policy, agreed to tura their backs upon all that had been done and said, and offered to Mr. Fisher ample opportunity of redeeming his pledge to Lord Denman - if he had made a pledge - on terms singularly liberal, and at the expense of entirely reversing the policy of the State Government, which had been publicly announced and had been the subject of fierce Parliamentary debate. For some reason best known to himself, Mr. Fisher was unable to accept the offer then made. Apparently his position was that, because he had made a certain promise to Lord Denman the State Government should perform that promise at its own expense. I do not know whether Mr. Fisher deliberately puts the Commonwealth in this mendicant attitude as a portion of his general policy. That is for him to explain. But when he says that the fact of this arrangement between himself and Lord Denman was not regarded bv us as ‘ a circumstance which might weigh with us,’ he is entirely in error. It did weigh with us, to the extent of making us reverse our whole policy on the question of the use to which we proposed to put Government House and grounds.
It will be seen that there is direct conflict between the Prime Minister and Mr. Holman. The latter gentleman has taken a leading part in the discussion on behalf of the State Government of New South Wales ever since it came under his charge during the absence of Mr. McGowen last year. The Minister of External Affairs went to Sydney and placed the position before the State Government, and the ‘Prime Minister contends that the representations then made had no effect whatever on the State-
Government. That is distinctly contradicted by Mr. Holman, who says that the representations then made were given the gravest consideration, with the effect that the policy of the State Government was reversed. The, result was to give the Prime Minister an opportunity to redeem the pledge which the State Government were led to believe had been entered into with Lord Denman.
– It is all a matter of rent.
– There is nothing about rent in this discussion. What the Prime Minister assured Lord Denman was that, when he came here and chose to live in Sydney, Government House would be at his disposal. Mr. Holman absolutely contradicts the Prime Minister, and this matter, though of importance to New South Wales, is still of far greater importance to the Commonwealth generally. The other night I expressed the opinion that the State Government were very shortsighted in the attitude they were taking up; but the fact remains that we have the Prime Minister and the Federal Government, after entering into an arrangement, refusing to use every endeavour to see that that arrangement is carried out. The Prime Minister is well deserving of the sneer by Mr. Holman to the effect that it is apparently part of the general policy of the Government to place the Commonwealth of Australia in a mendicant position. Why should the National Parliament, of which the honorable member for Maribyrnong speaks so highly, be placed in a mendicant position as regards any State Government ?
– Nobody has so placed the Commonwealth.
- Mr. Holman contends that the Prime Minister has done so. I bring this matter forward in order that the Prime Minister may have an opportunity to explain, because I do not wish to see the right honorable gentleman placed in the position indicated by the State Minister.
– The honorable member condemns the Prime Minister before giving him a chance to explain !
– I will say-
– Say it all now.
– I shall say all I possibly can. I have been perfectly open, and I contend that it was the duty of the Prime Minister to use every possible endeavour to carry out the arrangement made during the term of office of Lord Denman, whatever may be done in regard to future Governors-General. The Prime Minister the other day endeavoured to evade the position by saying that if the Federal Government paid rent for Government House, Sydney, they would be compelled to find a residence for the Governor-General in each of the other States, and pay rent there also. That may be perfectly true; but that position has not yet arisen. We are now faced with an arrangement made, and with the fact that, through the action of the Prime Minister, the residence in Sydney, hitherto occupied by him, is not now available for the Governor- General.
– Terrible calamity !
– I think it is a calamity, and I think we are deserving of the remarks which are being made in London, because it is contemptible on the part of the Australian Government not to see that the arrangement is carried out. It means only a paltry £3,500 a year during the term of office of the present Governor- General ; and seeing that money is flowing into the Treasury, I think the action of the Government merits the censure of the House.
– It is a case of saying,. “ They can afford to pay, and we will make them pay - we will make oui guest pay!”
– This off-hand demeanour of the Prime Minister will not da It is not a case of making the guest pay, but of seeing that an arrangement is honorably and faithfully carried out; and the failure to carry it out must excite the contempt of all who consider the matter. Although I believe that New South Wales has claims as the parent State, I do not deal with the matter from anything like the parochial point of view adopted in some quarters. I prefer to take the Commonwealth stand-point, and regard this as a national question, and we know that honorable members opposite are very fond of talking about national aims, but of doing very little regarding them. If the Government do not fulfil these national obligations, it is for Parliament to do so. We have a statement from Mr. Holman, representing the New South Wales Government, in direct antagonism to the position put before the House by the Prime Minister. I hope that the Prime Minister will be able to explain the matter so far as he and his Government are concerned. From my point of view, nothing can get over the fact that this arrangement has been broken. Whatever may be done in connexion with future Governors-General, a breach of faith has been committed by the Commonwealth Government so far as the present Governor-General is concerned, and I regard it as disgraceful that an arrangement entered into by the Commonwealth should not be fulfilled.
– In order that arrangements shall not be broken. I move -
That the debate be now adjourned.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority … … 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Report (No. 3) presented by Sir John
Quick (No. 2, as previously presented on 4th October, vide page 3887, but with the following resolution excised -
That all reports, papers, &c., be referred to the Printing Committee before being printed, excepting those which have been authorized by either the Senate or House of Representatives to be printed).
Report read by the Clerk Assistant.
Motion (by Sir John Quick) proposed -
That the report as amended by the Printing Committee be adopted.
– Will the resolution of the Printing Committee still prevent Ministers having reports set up from time to time until they have been submitted to the Committee for consideration?
– The Committe have withdrawn that portion of the report altogether.
– On the whole, that is a very proper thing for them to have done. The House cannot be too careful about remitting to any Committee questions that only a responsible Government should determine. The question of having reports set up and circulated is of the greatest possible importance to the proper transaction of the business of the country, and to hamper the Government in this regard would often lead to serious delay in carrying through matters of policy. I am glad that the old order of things is to be reverted to, in which the House reserves to itself, and the Government reserves to itself, the right to print any document which either deems of sufficient importance to the people.
– The intention of the resolution was never, as the Prime Minister and the House thought, to prevent the Government printing any report. It is just as well that the House should understand the position, which is, that the Printing Committee have absolutely no authority over the printing of these reports. They can be printed wholesale, and then forwarded to the Committee, who have formally to recommendthat they beprinted - that is, after they have been printed and circulated. So far as the printing of the House is concerned, the Printing Committee is practically a farce. If reports are to be printed and then sent on to them for their formal recommendation, the Committee might just as well not exist.
.- The statement of the honorable member for Franklin is rather serious, coming as it does from one of the most useful members of the Printing Committee. The position seems to be that the Government take a latitude, which personally I think it is necessary that a Government should have if there is to be a reasonable despatch in public business, and the Printing Committee say that if the Government take that latitude their existence is practically a farce. We might reasonably at this stage obtain from members of the Committee some suggestion that would enable the Government with despatch to do the printing necessary in the interests of public business, and at the same time give the Printing Committee something of a responsible character to do. We cannot continue a state of affairs under which the Government, in order to do what is a necessary thing, must turn the Printing Committee into a farce. It would be better to abolish the Committee and place the whole matter under the control of the Government. I am not sure that that would riot be a wise thing to do at this juncture. I think that on this motion we might consider whether we should not wipe out the Printing Committee altogether. We have on that Committee a number of useful gentlemen, and it seems to me that their activities ought not to be turned into a farce. We have the honorable member for Herbert, the honorable member for Oxley, the honorable member for Bass, the honorable member for Wannon, the honorable member for Franklin - who, I think, agrees with me that a definite step must be taken to put the position of the Printing Committee beyond reproach - the honorable member for Bendigo, and also the honorable member for Gwydir, who will probably make the matter quite clear, although I cannot expect him to indorse a proposal to abolish himself.
– Why not sit down and give him a chance to do so?
– If I thought he would avail himself of the opportunity I should cheerfully do SO: but nowadays when the House can be gagged upon even -more important questions than this, my trouble is that if I do sit down some zealous believer in free speech amongst my honorable friends opposite may move that the debate be adjourned. I should like some honorable member opposite to explain how the Printing Committee may continue to do useful work, and not merely occupy an ornamental position. It is time that we thought of what we were doing when one member of the Printing Committee can say fearlessly that if a certain practice, which a majority of the House believes is necessary for the transaction of public business, be persisted in, the Committee’s labours will be turned into a farce. We ought to do something, if possible, to meet that serious state of affairs.
– I suggest that the Printing Committee print the Opposition platform.
– What I am more concerned with than the Opposition platform
– Will the honorable member confine himself to the matter before the Chair?
– I am always apt to be in trouble when questions of this kind are suddenly sprung upon the House. I have no desire to debate policies, because I should be obviously out of order in doing so. If I had any desire in that direction f should rather consider the things which people dare not put on their platform, than what they do put there. I have not the exact terms of the motion to which I desire to move an amendment, and I cannot find it on the business-paper.
– It is a pity we cannot find the honorable member.
– He is all there.
– I appeal, Mr. Speaker, to you for protection.
– The honorable member has appealed for protection against interjections, and I hope that honorable members will accede to his request that he shall not be interrupted.
– I should like to move that the debate be adjourned until tomorrow, in order that we may learn the exact wording of the motion. I should very much like to test the question whether the Printing Committee is to continue to exist. The position of the Committee must be farcical if the honorable member for Franklin, a member of it, says it is, and in order that we may discuss it in calmer moments, after memories of the gag of a few minutes ago have passed away, I move -
That the debate be adjourned.
– The question is that the report be adopted. For the question say “Aye,” against the question say “ No.” I think the “ ayes “ have it.
– I moved, Mr. Speaker, that the debate be adjourned.
– The honorable member had already spoken, and, therefore, could not submit that motion.
– On a question of privilege, Mr. Speaker, I desire to point out that I concluded my remarks with a definite motion. I claim my right as a member of this House to have that motion put.
– The only motion for the adjournment of the debate that I could put would be one moved by an honorable. member who had not spoken. The honorable member had already spoken, and he then resumed his seat.
– I distinctly heard the honorable member move that the debate be adjourned.
– I am quite aware that he did so, but he was not in order in moving that the debate be adjourned, since he had already spoken. I rose and put the question that the report be adopted.
– Then I beg to move, sir, “ that the debate be adjourned.”
– The main question has already been decided.
Debate resumed (vide page 4109), on motion by Mr. King 0’ Malley.
That the House of Representatives approves of the fresh distribution of the State of Queensland into Electoral Divisions as proposed by Messrs. W. J. Gall, A. A. Spowers, and W. H. Graham, the Commissioners for the purpose of distributing the said State into Divisions, in their report dated the 22nd day of August, 1912, and laid before this House on the 27th day of August, 1912 ; and that the names of the Divisions indicated on the map referred to in the report be adopted with the exception that the name “Landsborough” be altered to read “ Lilley.”
– I have not much to add to the remarks that I have already made concerning this question. I sincerely hope that the motion moved by the Minister for the adoption of the report of the Commissioners will be carried unanimously as an indication to another place of our views upon the question. The matter is of serious concern to Queensland, inasmuch as, if the scheme be not accepted, that State in all probability will not secure the additional representative to which it is entitled. In some parts of Queensland the people have already accepted this redistribution, and are calling for nominations of candidates for the new electorate of Lilley. That is an additional reason why this scheme should be adopted, so that the electoral arrangements being made by the various political parties in the State may not be upset. I mentioned this morning that the Commissioners appeared to have acted impartially, and I advanced as a reason for that opinion the fact that, whilst the honorable member for Oxley’s majority had been reduced by a couple of thousand, the majority of the honorable member for Maranoa had also been reduced to the same extent. I did not mean to suggest that the Commissioners were endeavouring to arrange their scheme in a political sense. I mentioned the fact only to show that apparently there had been no attempt on the. part of the Commissioners to give any particular party in the Commonwealth an advantage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives approves of the fresh distribution of the State of Western Australia into Electoral Divisions as proposed by Messrs. A. Green, H. F. Johnston, and A. W. Piesse, the Commissioners for the purpose of distributing the said State into Divisions, in their report dated the 28th day of August, 1912, and laid before this House on the 18th clay of September, 1912, and that the Divisions referred to in the report and indicated on the map .15 A, B, C, D, and E, be named as follows : -
– Was this scheme prepared by the original Commissioners?
– No. One of them left for Europe, and his place was filled by Mr. Green.
– Who was that?
– The Public Service Inspector of Western Australia.
.- When this question was being discussed on a previous occasion I expressed my complete confidence in the gentlemen who had been intrusted with the duty of making the distribution, and said that I was anxious to give them the fullest support. As an earnest of my desire not to interfere with their work, I said that if they were called upon to deal again with the question I should take up the same attitude - that I should not object to any scheme brought in by them, whether it suited me personally or did not do so. I very much object to this Parliament making itself the arbiter of matters of this sort, because I do not think that it is qualified to do so. It has not a sufficient knowledge of the various local interests, especially in the case of distant States, to enable it to act in that capacity. In making this statement I have no desire to reflect in the slightest degree upon any one. I confess that I have not such a knowledge of the local interests of .Queenshind or of other distant States as would induce me to offer an opinion as against the views of those who have been appointed for this special purpose. I take it that they are specially qualified to discharge the duty, and have given their best attention to it. I rise, not to question the scheme in the slightest degree, but to draw the attention of the Government to what is perhaps a flaw in the procedure adopted It seems to me that the Government have acted illegally, though, of course, not intentionally. My view is that the Commission to which the proposed distribution was referred was not properly constituted, -and that, therefore, the recommendation now under discussion is not in order. The Act provides that the Governor-General may appoint three persons in a State to be Commissioners, one of whom shall be the SurveyorGeneral of the State. The duties of the Commissioners are also defined. They are to make a redistribution, exhibit for thirty days maps showing the proposed alterations of boundaries, consider all complaints or suggestions which may be sent to them regarding these proposed alterations, and, finally, report to the Minister. The report, having been received by the Minister, is submitted to Parliament, and it is provided that, if either House passes a resolution disapproving of it, the Minister may direct the Commissioners to propose a fresh distribution. Thereupon they are required to reconsider the matter, and make a fresh distribution, in connexion with which it is not necessary to again exhibit for thirty days maps showing the proposed alterations of boundaries. But, in this instance, when the report was referred to the. Commissioners, Mr. Stenberg, the Chairman, had gone to Europe. Thereupon the following notices, dated 19th August, were published in the Government Gazette of the 24th August last -
His Excellency the Governor-General in Council has been pleased to approve of the commission, dated the 15th day of November, 1911, issued to Ernst Gottfried Stenberg, Harry Frederick Johnston, and Augustus William Piesse, for the purpose of distributing the State of Western Australia into electoral divisions for the election of members of the House of Representatives being withdrawn as from 6th August, 1912, in so far as it relates to the said Ernst Gottfried Stenberg, who is absent from the Commonwealth.
His Excellency the Governor-General in Council has been pleased to approve of the appointment, during the pleasure of the Governor-General, of Amaziah Green, Commonwealth Public Service Inspector for the
State of Western Australia, as a commissioner (to act in conjunction with Commissioners Harry Frederick Johnston and Augustus William Piesse), for the purpose of distributing the State of Western Australia into electoral divisions for the election of members of the House of Representatives in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1902-11 ; the said Amaziah Green to act as chairman of the Commission in place of Ernst Gottfried Stenberg, who is absent from the Commonwealth.
The question arises - Did this action create a new Commission? If so, I take it that the maps showing the proposed alterations of boundaries should have been exhibited for thirty days, because a new Commission would have to commence de novo. If it is claimed that a new Commission was not created, I ask if it is legal to alter the personnel of a Commission after a proposed distribution has been before Parliament and referred for further consideration? I take it that the proposed distribution must be referred to the same Commissioners.
– If what was done is illegal, the elections ought to be held without changing the present boundaries of the divisions.
– I am not discussing this matter because of any result that may flow from the adoption of the proposed redistribution. Fiat justitita This is not a question of expediency or advisability, but of legality. If a new Commission was appointed, it should have begun de novo, and exhibited its proposed alterations for thirty clays. Apparently, it was held not to be a new Commission, because there was no exhibition of maps. The redistribution originally proposed was put before Parliament, approved by a majority in the House of Representatives, and rejected by the Senate. On sending it back, was the Government justified in replacing the Chairman of the Commission, who had left Australia, by another officer?
– Who would be likely to raise the question ?
– Any one might do so. Mr. Stenberg ought not to have been allowed to go away until the proposed redistribution had been approved.
– He had gone before I knew that he was going.
– He ought not to have gone, but the Minister is hardly to be blamed if he did not know that he was going. I think that if a case were before a Court composed of three Judges, and before it was disposed of one of them died, or found it impossible to continue the hearing, and another Judge was appointed to take up his work, the proceedings would be begun de novo. Virtually this matter was sub judice, but the three Commissioners who dealt with it on the second occasion are not those who dealt with it on the first occasion. The change in the personnel of the Commission has made a considerable difference. The proposed redistribution now before us differs from that first proposed, not only in respect to the boundaries of the division of Coolgardie, but also in respect to the boundaries of the other divisions, which were not adversely criticised. I hope . that the Minister acted under legal advice. If he did not, lie was blamable. Certainly the easiest way out of the difficulty would have been 10 commence de novo in accordance with the provisions of the Act. I hope that in future the Minister will not allow a Commissioner to leave the country until the scheme which he was appointed to draw up has been adopted by Parliament. In this case I think that there is a doubt as to whether the law has. been observed, and whether the proposed redistribution is properly before us.
.- There is another phase of this matter which deserves attention; it concerns, not the interests of any party, but the rights and privileges of the House. The original redistribution was approve’d by a majority, though only a slight one, in this House, but rejected by the Senate, the Act providing that if either House of the Parliament passes a resolution disapproving of any proposed ‘distribution, or negativing :i motion for its approval, the Minister may direct the Commissioners to propose a fresh distribution. If the Senate uses the power there conferred on it to frustrate the wishes of this House, it creates a dangerous position. We might unanimously approve of a proposed distribution, which the Senate might reject, and it could persist in its hostility in a manner which would seriously interfere with our rights and with the conduct of the elections to this chamber. The Government ought to consider whether the power of interference by another place in the redistribution of seats for the House of Representatives should be allowed. As this is a matter which concerns the House of Representatives only, we ought to have the sole right to either approve or disapprove.
.- The arguments of the last speaker, while they may have been relevant to the Act on which he commented, were certainly quite irrelevant to the motion before the Chair. He contends that this House ought to be the sole judge of its electoral arrangements, but, as an Act of Parliament passed years ago gives the Senate the right of intervention, his contention is belated and irrelevant.
– That is a matter for the Speaker.
– It is a matter for me also.
– I do not think it is.
– I still retain my opinion, in spite of the eminent authority of the right honorable member. If irrelevant arguments are adduced in the House it is the right of any member, in the interests of the people, to protest against the waste of time. I might be equally severe - in fact, more severe - in regard to the arguments used by the right honorable member himself. He wasted half-a-hour over a point which a bush lawyer would treat with the utmost contempt.
– The honorable member is never here; at any rate, very seldom.
– There is always a good reason for my absence, which is more than can be said for the right honorable member, who occasionally hies to London to guzzle with the potentates of the Colonial Office. While the right honorable member has been doing that I have repeatedly done for him the business of his constituents.
– I do not thank the honorable member for it.
– Of course not. “ Ingratitude is the badge of all your tribe.”
– Timeo Danaos et dona fuentes
– I distrust the right honorable member’s Latin just as much as I do his law. He contended that, if one of the Commissioners went away, the Commission created by the Government would be a new Commission. He might as well contend that, if one of the five High Court Judges happened to be absent from a case, and a Judge were appointed temporarily, there would be a new Court of Justice. The right honorable member argued that, as there were three Commissioners, three must constitute a quorum, and the Commission would have to be unanimous in any report it sent to the House.
As a matter of fact, it is not more than two or three weeks ago that this House considered a report of a majority of the Queensland Commission; or, rather, considered a report of two of the Commissioners, because the report of the third, who differed, was not considered at all. I question the honorable gentleman’s capacity to interpret the electoral law ; if he has been inspired by lawyers in the House, who hold similar views, they should have the pluck to get up and express their own opinions. Let them show, if they can, that the Commissioners have departed from the procedure laid down in the Act. In the last Act we passed it was expressly provided that it was unnecessary to exhibit the maps for a month previously, and that provision the Commission followed. Two of the members whose report we are now considering, were on the first Commission ; and, therefore, their report is substantially the report which was contemplated under the provision regarding the publication of the maps. I have nothing to say about the new scheme .except that, though an improvement on the original adjustment, it is by no means perfect. At the same time, it must be admitted that it is well nigh impossible to so divide the State as to give complete effect to community of interest and other statutory requirements. I know that to refer the report back would involve a great deal of delay and doubt, and, perhaps, perpetrate an inequitable distribution of the electoral population. But it should have been possible to choose a name more appropriate than “ Dampier.” I do not know how the Government came to select that name, seeing that there are others connected with the pioneering stages of, W stern Australia that are worthy of preservation.
– Why not call it “ Forrest”?
– -I have not the slightest objection to .that, but T may mention the name of Governor Stirling, one of the earliest, if not the first, Governor. At the same time I would have much preferred a native name. We have taken, the country from the natives, and might at least perpetuate their names of places. Their language is euphonious, and its English equivalent generally has a poetic signification.
– Why was the name changed ?
– Because Coolgardie has been entirely eliminated from the new electorate, and it would have .been a solecism to retain the name. This, I very much regret, as the member of the district, because it is a pity that an historic name should vanish from the electoral records of the House. In my judgment, the Commissioners have done their work fairly well. At any rate, the boundaries are more symmetrical, some effort has been made to preserve community of interest, and there has been no absurd attempt, as in the previous case, to anticipate the movements of population in the- distant future.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message):
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for the purposes of Financial Assistance to the State of Tasmania.
– 4°]– When may we expect to see the Bill ?
– This motion . is in order to get the Bill on to the notice-paper.
– It seems a pity to take up the time of the House in considering messages that are never going to lead to anything, and I am somewhat puzzled as to when this Bill will come on for consideration. I admit that business is largely a matter of form here, but I should like to know what -chance there is of this Bill going through this session.
– Half-a-million is to go to Tasmania.
– This year?
– Yes ; credit is as good as money
– I am afraid the Tasmanians will not consider credit as good as money. I suppose that the right honorable gentleman means that the Tasmanians can operate on the credit in the same way as it is suggested that an expectant mother can operate on the £5 bonus.
– The maternity grant is coming into operation to-day.
– I hope ‘ the financing part will not come into operation to-day. The Prime Minister, I think, made an error of judgment when he suggested that a woman in the crisis of her life is fit to go round financing an advance on the £s bonus.I understand the Prime Minister to say that the grant is actually to be given to Tasmania this year ; and I ask him whether that will not upset our whole balance-sheet. Will the amount appear in the Appropriation Bill ?
– The amount to be paid this year.
– That is the . £500,000 the Prime Minister has mentioned?
– It means , £500,000 over a number of years.
– I should like to see the Bill.
– I cannot see the Bill myself until this motion is passed.
– Does the Prime Minister say he has not seen the Bill ? I suppose we shall have to be content with this way of doing Government business ; it is the people’s money, and it is not for the Government to be over methodical.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Fisher and Mr. Hughes do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented, and (on motion by Mr.
Fisher) read a first time.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 4th October, vide page 3908) :
Clause 286 -
A ship shall be deemed to engage in the coasting trade if she takes on board passengersor cargoatany port in Australia, or any Territory under the authority of the Commonwealth, to be carried to, and landed or delivered at, any other port in Australia or in any such Territory.
Provided that the carrying of passenger’s who hold through tickets to or from a port beyond Australia, or of cargo consigned on a through bill of lading to or from a port beyond Australia, or of mails, shall not be deemed engaging in the coasting trade :
Provided further that the Governor-General may by order declare that the carrying of passengers between specified ports in Australia by British ships, shall not be deemed engaging in the coasting trade.
Upon which Mr. Tudor had moved -
That all the words down to and inclusive of “ Provided further that “ be left out.
– - The division dealing with the coasting trade is certainly one of the most important in the Bill, but before proceeding to deal with its merits, I should like to discuss the question of what the coasting trade actually means. I understand from the
Attorney-General that the intention of the Government is that the coasting trade shall not include any trade being carried on between Australia and Papua ; that he considers’ that that intention is carried out by the provisions of the Bill, and that any vessels engaged in the trade between Australia and Papua will not be liable to the coasting-trade provisions. It is proposed by the Government to insert the following definition of the coasting trade -
A ship shall be deemed to be engaged in the coasting trade, within the meaning of this Act, if she takes on board passengers or cargo at any port in a State, or a Territory which is part of the Commonwealth, to be carried to, and landed or delivered at. any other port in the same State or Territory or in any other State or other such -Territory :
Provided that a ship shall not be deemed to be engaged in the coasting trade by reason of the fact that she carries -
passengers who hold through tickets to or from a port beyond Australia and the Territories under theauthority of the Commonwealth; or
mails between any ports in Australia or in any of those Territories.
According to paragraph1 a it is also proposed that the Act shall not apply to certain ships unless they are . . . “in the territorial waters of any Territory which is part of the Commonwealth.” The contention of the Government is that Papua is not part and parcel of the Commonwealth. I would suggest to the AttorneyGeneral that this might be made a little more clear than appears from the definitions to which I have referred. The question arises as to what forms part of the Commonwealth. The covering sections of the Constitution lay it down that - “ The Commonwealth “ shall mean the Commonwealth of Australia as established under this Act. “The States” shall mean such of the Colonies of New South Wales, New Zealand, Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia, and South Australia, including the Northern Territory of South Australia, as for the time being are parts of the Commonwealth, and such colonies or territories as may be admitted into or established by the Commonwealth as States. f(
Section 122 of the Constitution provides - The Parliament may make laws for the government of any territory surrendered by any State to and accepted by the Commonwealth, or of any territory placed by the Queen under the authority of and accepted by the Commonwealth, or otherwise acquired by the Commonwealth, and may allow the representation of such territory in either Houses of the Parliamentto the extent and on the terms which it thinks fit.
It seems, therefore, that the Constitution contemplates that any territory which forms portion pf Australia, or which has been accepted from the Crown by the Commonwealth, shall form part and parcel of the Commonwealth. I therefore urge that the Commonwealth means the Commonwealth of Australia as established under the Constitution Act, and that if the government of a Territory is undertaken, as we have undertaken the government and control of Papua, it thereupon becomes part of the Commonwealth as established under the Constitution. At least, the matter is not quite clear, and if the Government intend that the Papuan trade shall not be included in the Australian coasting trade, they might well provide it more specifically and definitely. I am glad to say, speaking broadly and generally, that I am largely in accord with the coasting trade provisions of the measure. We are following the example of other great nations in endeavouring to establish a great mercantile service, and are justified in laying down as a fundamental principle that Australia is reasonably entitled to its coasting trade, and that the earnings of that trade should be secured, if possible, by ships registered and owned in Australia. That is the design and object of these provisions. We have an excellent and substantial shipping industry - one of the greatest industries in Australia - but there is room for almost indefinite expansion, which we may reasonably hope to assure by passing these provisions relating to the coasting trade. There are a number of countries which reserve their home coasting trade to their own ships. These include Russia, France, Spain, Portugal, Brazil, the United States of America, and a number of smaller nations. The United States of America further reserves to its own ships the trade between the United States and the Phillipines and other Possessions. Canada reserves its coasting trade to British ships and to the ships of the following countries - Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Austria-Hungary, Denmark, Belgium, and the Argentine Republic - because those countries open their coasting trade to British ships in consequence of certain trade treaties. The Navigation Commission of 1907 dealt very fully with the question of the coasting trade, and amongst other things recommended that all foreign ships receiving subsidies should be prohibited from participating in it. Very substantial subsidies are already paid to a number of shipping companies by their own national Governments. It is also realized that the wages paid, and industrial conditions generally, in the Australian shipping industry are much superior to those in the oversea trade. The Commission discovered that subsidies were paid by foreign nations as follows : -
Messageries Maritimes - 8s. 3d. per mile on. every trip, in addition’ to subsidy on shipbuilding.
Nord-Deutscher Lloyd - £115,000 for Australian service.
Japanese Government in 1901 - £53,660 for Australian service.
The competition which our local companies have to meet is therefore of an unequal character, and it is impossible for them to give the present splendid wages and conditions if oversea vessels paying smaller wages and giving inferior conditions, areallowed to compete with them on an equal footing. In those circumstances, our coasting trade cannot be founded on the open door principle. On a previous occasion, I took the opportunity pf dealing fully with the various factors which justify us in giving the benefit of the home trade to our own shipping industry. A petition was presented to another place, signed for the Federated Seamen’s and Firemen’s Union of Australasia by Arthur Cooper, general secretary; for the Sydney district of the Australasian Institute of Marine Engineersby Walter Peck, secretary ; and for the Merchant Service Guild of Australasia by W. G. Lawrence, general secretary, in favour of the provisions in theBill, with certain suggested alterations, with the design and object of preserving our coastal trade to Australian shipping. They say, amongst other things, that -
I dealt very fully with most of these matters on a former occasion, but I think that the case for the coastal trade is concisely and fairly summarized in the points I have read from the document circulated by this maritime organization. The important point is that, by reason of the higher wages paid and better conditions prevailing in the Australian vessels, the competition of the oversea trade is most unequal. The combination known as the Australian Steam-ship Owners Federation may reasonably be regarded as the backbone of the Inter-State trade, and I have obtained some actual illustrations, which, I am sure, will enable the Committee to realize the very substantial difference existing between the conditions of our own coastal shipping and those of the oversea trade, with which they have to compete. The Australian Steamship Owners Federation alone represents 133 vessels with a gross tonnage of 287,199 tons, and the masters, officers, engineers, and crew engaged on them number 5,030. If the manning scales for which this Bill provides be adopted, as no doubt they will be, the increased cost to this one combination will be, in the case of engineers, £6,762; greasers, £11,680; firemen and trimmers, £18,460; and A.B’s., O.S., and boys, £8,512. In other words, if the manning scales for which the Bill provides are adopted, the increased cost in the case of the Australian Steam-ship Owners Federation alone means a total of £45,414. The Australian Steam-ship Owners Federation pays to crews, in respect of wages and overtime, £562,500 per annum; for stores and provisions for its vessels, £417,000 per annum ; and for docking and repairing vessels, £352,000 per annum. These figures ought to convince honorable members of the very substantial character of the industry which we are now endeavouring to encourage and extend.
– Has the honorable member a statement of the profits?
– I have not. My anxiety and the anxiety of the Committee, in accordance with our fiscal policy, must be to encourage our own industries. This is one of the greatest of our industries, and it is capable of indefinite expansion. It has been urged, with very considerable force, that the encouragement proposed to be given under this Bill to Australian shipping may mean the creation of a combine or monopoly. Let me say, in reply, that I am prepared to run. that risk, having regard to the fact that I believe it is the determination of this House, and, I hope, of the country, that the National Parliament shall have complete control of monopolies, so that it will be competent for us to say that no restraint of trade or detriment to the public shall be tolerated. Our first anxiety, however, should be to establish the industry. If, at any time, there should become associated with it anything in the nature of a monopoly, it will then be our equally important duty to see that that monopoly is fully controlled, so that the public at least shall not suffer. But let us have the industry. That is the point. In support of the proposal to encourage this industry, I urge that we have to recognise the unequal competition to which it is subjected. It is very necessary that we should realize the actual facts. The Adelaide Steam-ship Company recently purchased the steam-ship Yankalilla for the Australian Inter-State trade, and I have here a statement showing wages actually paid on a similar vessel engaged in the oversea trade, as compared with the wages that would be paid on that vessel in the Australian Inter- State trade. It shows that in the case of the oversea vessel the wages in respect of the master, officers, and crew would be £1,948 16s., per annum, as against £4>392 in the case of the vessel engaged in the Inter- State trade, or a difference of £2,443 4s- Per annum in favour of the vessel paying the oversea rates. These figures, are convincing as to the unequal character of the competition to which our Australian shipping is subjected under present conditions. I have yet. another illustration. We find that wages paid on the White Star liner Medic in respect of deck hands, the engine-room, and the stewards, are £203 per month, as against £329 10s. which would be paid on a similar vessel engaged in the Australiantiade. In the engine-room department the wages paid on the oversea vessel are £270 10s. per month, as against £477, whilst the stewards are paid £212 5s. per month as against £309 in the case of a vessel of like size trading on the Australian coast and. paying Australian wages, or a total of £685 15s., as against £1,115 10s. This is equal to a difference of £5,157 per annum. To drive home my point let me put before honorable members a comparative statement showing wages paid on the Inter-State steamer Karoola, and the mail steamer Orontes. It will be seen that I am selecting the highest type of vessels for the purposes of my comparison.
– The Orontes is not now the highest type.
– It is, at all events, one of the highest. For the purposes of this comparison it is assumed that the Orontes has the same number of men as the Karoola, but, as an actual fact, being an oversea passenger steamer, she carries more. The wages paid per month in the case of the Karoola are £1,020 10s., whereas on the Orontes, in the circumstances I have stated, they would amount toonly £6601s. 8d. That means that the Karoola must pay £4,325 per annum more than does the Orontes if the same number of men are carried. This statement refers to only one particular vessel. I propose now to refer to the wages paid on the Baralong, of the Bucknall line, which has a nominal horse-power of 450 tons, and is a vessel of 4,191 tons gross, and 2,661 tons net. The articles for the white crew of this vessel were taken out in London on 2nd February last, for a period not exceeding two years, and the articles for the black crew were taken out in Bombay on 30th May, 191 1, for a period of twelve months. This vessel has been trading on our coast. She lifted at Bunbury, Western Australia, 800 tons of sleepers for Port Adelaide, and 800 for Port Lincoln. The monthly wages paid on this oversea vessel is as follows : - Deck department, £65 7 s. 4d; engine department, £81 9s. 4d. ; stewards’ department, £1510s., or a total of £162 6s. 8d. per month, as against wages paid on the Cycle, a vessel of 3,987 tons gross, trading on our coast, of £131 pei month, in respect of the deck department, £174 per month, in respect of the engine department, and £28 per month in the stewards’ department, or a total of £333- In other words, the wages paid on the Cycle amount to £3,996 per annum., as against £1,948 paid on the Baralong, or a difference of £2,048 per annum in favour of the oversea steamer. Honorable members will see that it is quite impossible for our cargo steamers to carry on in the face of such competition. Let us take yet another oversea vessel, the Anglo-Bolivian, a tramp of 5,503 tons, and compare the wages paid on her with those paid on the Cycle, to which I have just referred. I have here a statement showing that the oversea tramp pays in wages £2,646 per annum, as against £3,996 per annum paid by the Cycle, or a difference of £1,350 in favour of the oversea vessel. The difference is so much in favour of the oversea vessels that it is quite impossible for our own steamers tocompete with them. I would remind honorable members in this connexion of the thoughtful and careful investigation made by the Royal Commission, whose inquiries are responsible for the coastal provisions of this Bill. A good deal has been said as to the effect of this policy of restriction, and various arguments have been urged against the Bill. They have been summarized thus -
As to the first, your Commissioners have already pointed out that the only real and effective safeguard for our Empire, industrially as well as nationally, is the existence of a numerous and efficiently manned mercantile marine - that we shall be best doing our part in this great work by providing the facilities for the establishment and the maintenance of a_ marine sufficient to transport our products in time of peace, and to assist in guarding our shores ih time of war.
That is a fair answer to the objections which have been urged. It is proposed that certain exemptions shall be made so far as the coastal trade is concerned, by reason of the non-completion of the Western Australian railway. I am aware that provisions to that end were in the measure which I introduced on three occasions in the Senate, and the circumstances of Western Australia cannot be ignored; but the want of railway communication between the western and eastern States will soon cease. Should Parliament deem it wise to make a concession in regard to certain mail steamers, it will do so only on the ground of expediency.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I do not think that the provisions of the Bill relating to coasting trade should be confined to Australia ; they should be extended to Papua. Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Company, an Australian registered company, which has done good work in providing communication with, and opening up, Papua, has now to compete for the trade of the Territory with a Dutch line, whose steamers call at Port Moresby, and with a German line.
– That company gets a subsidy for providing better conditions for its seamen.
– The foreign lines to which I refer are also subsidized by their respective Governments.
– Would it not be better to discuss this matter when it is directly before the Committee?
– I understand that this is a general discussion. My desire is to secure the protection of an Australian company, which will have to pay the rates of wages, and provide the accommodation required of companies registered in Australia, from the competition in Australian waters - because Papua is a Territory of the Commonwealth - of foreign companies which are not so handicapped.
– Then we should insist on the company putting on better boats.
– That can be done in another way.
– If the coasting trade provisions of the Bill are applied to Papua, the shipping whose operations are confined to the Papuan coast will be affected.
– I do not desire the application of these provisions to what may be called the intra-territorial shipping of Papua - that is, to the vessels which voyage along the Papuan coast without crossing to the mainland ; my desire is to apply it to the vessels which trade between the mainland and Papua. We should give Australian registered companies a fair deal.
– I hope that the Minister will supplement what has been said by the honorable member for Kooyong, as to the competition of oversea vessels with Australian vessels in the coasting trade, by giving us figures showing the amount of trade done by the oversea vessels compared with the trade of Australian vessels. In 1903, the late Sir Malcolm McEacharn, speaking on the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, stated that the cargo carried by oversea steamers in 1903 was 100,000 tons, and that carried by all vessels 2,250,000 or 2,300,000 tons, and he estimated that the Australian ship-owning companies would have received £125,000 more in freights had it not been for the competition of oversea vessels. According to his figures the competition did not amount to very much, but there should be more recent information available. We should be told what the competition of oversea vessels amounts to, and of the trade done by those vessels, how much is done by British, and how much by foreign vessels. The competition of oversea vessels with local vessels takes place chiefly between the ports of the eastern States and those of Western Australia, and it is not enough to convince one of its importance to merely compare the rates of wages paid on local vessels with those paid on oversea vessels. I understand, too, that the Minister proposes to move an amendment which will prevent foreign vessels which are subsidized in aid of navigation from engaging in our coasting trade - that practically any subsidy which is not given for services rendered, such as the carriage of mails, will disqualify vessels not British from engaging in our coasting trade. It is to be proposed that a vessel shall not engage in the coasting trade which is receiving, or under an arrangement is to receive, or in the preceding twelve months has received, directly or indirectly, a subsidy or bonus from any Government other than the Government of some part of the British Dominions.
– Is not that a wise provison ?
– I should like to know how many foreign vessels are employed in our coasting trade, and what the facts are regarding their competition? We have had no information on this point from the Minister, which is not fair, in view of the magnitude ot the interests involved. Of the shipping entering foreign ports, 37 per cent, is British. What a field for retaliation that opens up. Do we know the conditions on which these subsidies are granted, or which particular lines are to be shut out? The report of the Subsidies Commission in England contains much information on this point, and I should like to know whether the Minister, or the officers of his Department, have read it for the purposes of these amendments. German, French, and Japanese shipping, and the shipping of many other countries I need not mention, would be excluded absolutely from our local coasting trade. Sir Robert Best told us that Germany pays a direct subsidy of £115,000 to the North German Lloyd Company ; there are also indirect subsidies, in the way of duty-free materials, food stuffs, differential rates on the railways, and so forth. Then France pays subsidies; and both countries grant some aid for the employment of men who are part of the naval reserves. These two countries would certainly be excluded by the terms of the amendment, and so would Japan, which grants, not only a postal subsidy, but a construction subsidy, and some direct navigation subsidy. Is it desirable to shut these vessels out ? If their competition resulted in lowering wages, or interfering with Australian conditions, I should say that it is desirable; but we have not had that information which the Government ought to be in a position to supply as to the full effect of this proposed legislation. We must remember that we are differentiating between foreign vessels and British vessels, while there are British subsidies, of the class objected to, being granted to the latter. For instance, there is not only the subsidy to the mail steamers for services rendered, but Admiralty subsidies which, in 1902, amounted to £78,000 a year. If the granting of subsidies is to determine the vessels to be excluded from our coastal trade, then British vessels must also be excluded equally with foreign vessels. The Minister ought to give the Committee an up-to-date statement, such as was supplied by Sir Malcolm McEacharn and . the daily press in 1902-3, as to the actual volume of trade affected by the competition of oversea vessels. If that competition is only small, and substantially does not touch cargo at all, we ought to know the facts. There have been complaints from producers that they cannot get cargo carried to the West. I have had several complaints from my own district that chaff could not be sent there last year, and the producers blamed a shipping ring, and a chaff ring in Western Australia.
– Chaff rings could not be affected by the Navigation Bill.
– But it was said, though I doubted the surmise, that there was some association between the shipping and the chaff ring. At any rate, for the last six or seven years there have been complaints that the shipping facilities for produce to the West are not as great as they ought to be ; ‘ and if that be so, we ought to be cautious in discouraging the only competitors who can keep the local shipping trade up to the point of efficiency. We ought to have some definite information on the point, because the position is a very serious one for the producers. There is no connexion with the West by rail, and Victoria and South Australia do, or, at any rate, did some few years ago, the great bulk of the trade with the West. If facilities for the carriage of cargo are denied, the consumers ought to have something to say. Then we ought to bear in mind the effect, a year hence, of the opening of the Panama Canal. From T/u Times of the 6th September, this year, the last to hand, I learn that when that canal is opened British vessels, in their communications with Australia, will be still more handicapped than they are under this Bill. Yokohama will be brought 1,805 miles nearer to New York than Liverpool, Sydney will be brought 2,382 miles nearer to New York than to Liverpool, and Wellington will be brought 2,759 miles nearer. After a very exhaustive examination of the position, The Times says that, from the British Imperial stand-point, this tremendous shrinkage of space between the Australasian Dominions and the great American Republic is significant and important. We must be very careful in our navigation laws that we do not impose any additional handicap on British shipping, if their competition, does not affect our local conditions, which, from the point of view of capital, as well as from the point of view of labour, we like to see on as high a standard as. possible. There is another consideration I should like to lay before the Committee. The Archibald Currie line is, I believe, the only one of importance on the Australian register that does a large external trade. In one vessel, this line took 600 horses to India, and this necessitates the employment of a great number of men, who cannot be employed if they have to be paid white wages. These vessels do no local coasting trade, though their competitors do, and those competitors are foreign vessels not on the Australian register. Some of those competitors are subsidize’d, and I understand that the Royal Dutch Packet Company are now building some new ships to carry on the same trade as that carried on by the Archibald Currie line. At present the Dutch Packet Company trade to Java and some of the other nearer Eastern, ports, while they do some coastal trade with Cairns, Port Darwin, Port Moresby, and other places. It will be seen that the one Australian line which can be regarded as covering more than our local sea is largely affected by the competition of vessels that are not similarly affected by our navigation laws. This trade in horses, as I say, requires the employment of a large number of men ; and, under the Indian rule of two to one, the company is able to carry two lascars in the place of one able seaman. In addition to horses, this company carries a large amount of general produce, including cornsacks, woolsacks, sugar from Java, and rice from Burmah, of which 30,000 tons were carried last year. At present I understand the company cannot arrange contracts for the carriage of rice, because they do not know what the effect of this Navigation Bill may be. Honorable members should remember that we are applying to this company conditions that foreign companies are not affected by - foreign companies, such as the Royal Dutch Packet Company, which are guaranteed against loss. In the case of the company just mentioned, the guarantee on two vessels is at present £12,000; and it is very hard on an Australian company to be suddenly faced by this class of competition.
– The company will take their vessels off the Australian regis ter.
– They will be obliged to do so; and, if they must go to England to register, it will be a fact of which we ought not to be proud.
– The American navigation laws have driven American ships under the British flag.
– Over £100,000,000 has been spent in connexion with the canal - more, if we take into consideration previous futile efforts - in order to restore the American shipping industry, which was destroyed by similar provisions. Clause 11, which deals with certificated officers, and clause 23, which provides that every officer on any Australian ship, or engaged in the coasting trade, shall be a British subject and thoroughly conversant with the English language, are the clauses which will affect the competition to which I have referred. That clause, perhaps, does not touch these ships, because I understand that their officers are all British. Under clause 41, being ships registered in Australia, they will have to comply with the manning scale of the Bill. That will mean a large increase in the crews. Clause 117 will affect them as regards provisioning; clause 134, as regards clothing; clause 135, as regards accommodation; clause 210, as regards bulkheads and double bottoms; and clause 342, as regards exemption from pilotage. If the Minister can find a way to exempt these vessels from some of those clauses-
– Where would you draw the line?
– I could not say on the spur of the moment. I do not see how we can frame a general clause providing that any vessel registered in Australia, and engaging only in external trade, shall be exempt from the provisions of the Bill. The effect wouldbe to leave them in their present position with which no doubt they are perfectly satisfied. Many of them are under local awards.
– I do not think they are, if engaged in external trade.
– If you have an award applicable to the coasting trade, you must indirectly affect the others on the Australian register. You. undoubtedly, apply to other vessels the scale prescribed by the Arbitration Court through unionism,, which, I believe, has a very wholesome effect. I should be glad if the Government can find a way to exempt from some of the most onerous clauses of the Bill such vessels, being purely Australian, as are engaged in a class of commerce very helpful to Australia, and which have not up to the present engaged in the purely coasting trade.
– The question that the honorable and learned member has brought up is very important, but full of difficulties. If we are going to say that, in some circumstances, ships plying from one port to another may be exempt, the question naturally arises : What are they to be exempt from ?
– 1 think that would be unconstitutional ; in fact, I think the provision that we are dealing with at present is unconstitutional.
– The question is whether they should be exempt only from the provisions of this part of the Bill, or from the Bill generally, except so far as it relates to foreign-going ships. It appears to be suggested by the honorable and learned gentleman that we should treat certain ships, on the one hand, as if they were engaged in the deep-sea trade, and, on the other hand, as if they were engaged in the coasting trade, but not subject them to the manning scale, or make them liable to the determination of any Wages Board or Arbitration Court.
– These vessels donot compete in the coasting trade at all. What I said does not touch this part of the Bill very much.
– Clauses 41 and 289. lay down certain conditions as to manning and wages, and other clauses stipulate that certain accommodation shall be provided. The honorable and learned gentleman’s suggestion would involve us in a sea of difficulties.
– These companies do not ask for any exemption from the coasting trade provisions; it is only from the provisions that affect them as Australianregistered ships in relation to external commerce.
– I do not know what they ask. Resolution 9 of the Imperial Navigation Conference is as follows: -
That the vessels to which the conditions imposed by the law of Australia or New Zealand are applicable should be la) vessels registered in the Colony, while trading there, and (i) vessels wherever registered, while trading on the coast of the Colony. That, for the purpose of this resolution, a vessel shall be deemed to trade if she takes on board cargo or passengers at any port in the Colony to be carried to and landed or delivered at any port in the Colony. while Resolution 23 is -
That it be a recommendation to the Australian and New Zealand Governments that if conditions are imposed by local law on vessels incidentally engaging in the coasting-trade in course of an oversea voyage, care should be taken that these conditions should not be such as to differentiate to their disadvantage as compared with Colonial registered vessels.
That leaves us exactly where we were. I think it would be as well to allow us to look into the matter, ascertain exactly what conditions a vessel would have to observe, and then set them forth in schedule form, so that the Committee may see exactly where it stands. The desire of the Government is, subject to the preservation of the coasting trade for Australian shipping, to impose no hardships or inconveniences upon shipping in general. At the same time, we deprecate unfair competition, and do not propose to allow any vessel to leave any port in Australia, engaged in the coasting trade, whether exempt or not, unless she is fit in every way for the trade in which she is engaged, and efficiently manned, and unless the conditions under which her seamen work are reasonably the same as those under which the coasting trade in general is carried on. I suggest that this clause should stand as it is now, with the understanding that we shall look into it and tabulate the conditions to which the various vessels would be liable.
– I am glad the Attorney-General has promised to look into the matter. The ships referred to by the honorable member for
Angas do not engage in the coasting trade at all. They are simply an Australianowned line of boats engaged in the foreign trade.
– Why are they on the Australian register?
– It is an Australian company trading to outside ports, and, I understand, doing no coasting trade at all. If we compel that company’s bosits to comply with the conditions of the Bill, the only effect will be to make it remove them from the Australian register.
– What harm will that do?
– I do not think it is the policy of the Australian Parliament to compel our own ships to register in a foreign port. If they are not competing in the coasting trade, there can be no objection to the course suggested. The matter is worthy of consideration, because we know that in America to-day there are millions of pounds invested in ships which are registered abroad and flying foreign flags. That is not a desirable state of affairs, and every American writer of note has deprecated it. If we can avoid it here, without conflicting with the opinions of the Government and the majority of the House, and keep our own ships under the Australian flag, we ought to do so, so long as it can be done without violating the principles of the Bill. The whole question can be dealt with from two aspects. There is first the international aspect. As the Attorney-General pointed out, the Bill deals with the international subject of commerce, and there is no subject on which nations are so jealous, or which has caused so much friction in the world’s history. There is, secondly, the question of affecting the commerce of the States. I should like to draw the attention of the Minister to the effect which this clause will have on the States themselves. Tasmania, being an island State, depends wholly on shipping for its trade and for the carriage of passengers and cargo, not only from abroad, but to and from the remaining States of the Commonwealth. I am thoroughly convinced that the passing of this clause wilt hit Tasmania, particularly Hobart and the surrounding agricultural districts, a very heavy blow. I would remind honorable members that in our oversea mail contract, which doss not expire until 1920, there is a provision that from February to May inclusive the mail steamers shall call at
Hobart, if sufficient trade inducement offers. The contract includes the following proviso -
Provided also that if in any year the directors shall prove to the satisfaction of the PostmasterGeneral that calls at Hobart during that year are, or would be, unprofitable, the PostmasterGeneral may direct that the whole or any of such calls for that year may be omitted.
These mail steamers now carry a very considerable number of passengers between Sydney and Hobart.
– Give us something definite; tell us how many passengers they carry.
– I have no record of the number, but it is certainly very considerable, and the earnings from this passenger trade are part of the inducement warranting these vessels calling at Hobart. If they are deprived of the opportunity to make those earnings, the owners may either withdraw these vessels altogether, or else make good the loss out of the freights which they charge as between Hobart and London.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that the mail steamers would not continue to call at Hobart to secure the consignments of fruit that are shipped from that port every year?
– They may or they may not do so. It depends on the quantity of freight offered.
– The honorable member suggests that they call there for fun, and not to secure trade?
– They call there to secure trade, and in accordance with the terms of the mail contract. If we struck a bad season, and the fruit did not mature early in the year, the company would be able to represent to the Postmaster-General that it would not pay them to send their vessels to Hobart during a certain part of the year, and under the terms of the contract the Postmaster-General could release them from their obligation in that regard. I have made inquiries into the matter, and the company tell me that their earnings from the passenger trade constitute part of the inducement which warrants their vessels calling at Hobart.
– What about the vessels of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company?
– They go there nnder charter.
– But they carry passengers.
– The mail steamers now carry passengers to a greater extent than do the vessels chartered specially to call at Hobart, but they are not undercutting the local trade. The argument in favour of shutting out this competition is that we compel the companies engaged in the coasting trade to pay certain rates of wages, and that it is not fair to expose them to the competition of vessels on which lower rates of wages prevail, and which can consequently undersell them. As a matter of fact, the mail steam-ship companies charge £3 15s. for a single ticket between Sydney and Hobart, whereas the local companies charge about £2 10s., so that it cannot be said that the oversea steamers are undercutting them.
– Why are the mail steamers able to secure that higher rate?
– Because the InterState steamers now in the trade cannot provide for the passenger traffic during a certain period of the year. The steamers trading between Hobart and Sydney have not sufficient accommodation to provide for all who wish to go direct from Sydney to Hobart. I am informed that some saloon passengers, at certain periods of the year, dine in the saloon, but have to sleep wherever they can secure accommodation - certainly not in the saloon berths.
– To what boats is the honorable member referring?
– To the vessels of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation and Orient Steam-ship Companies. There is a large and growing direct passenger trade between Sydney and Hobart. At one time, most visitors from Sydney and Brisbane came down to Melbourne, where they took steamer for Launceston, and travelled thence by rail to Hobart. But the direct passenger trade between Sydney and Hobart is steadily growing, and the accommodation provided by the local vessels is not sufficient to meet it. During the last two or three years, they have been largely overcrowded during the height of the tourist season, notwithstanding that the mail steamers were also carrying passengers to Hobart.
– Are not the vessels of the Union Steam-ship Company and of Huddart Parker and Company Limited good boats?
– They are, of their kind, but they are comparatively small, and they trade only once a week. This clause will aim a blow at the tourist traffic of Tasmania.
– If the accommodation provided by the Inter-State steamers is not sufficient to take all the passengers from the mainland to Tasmania, how do those who travel by the mail steamers get back?
– During December, January, and February, there is a rush to Tasmania, but the back traffic is only light.
– If the local boats have to take back all their own passengers, how can they take back as well those who have travelled to Tasmania by the mail steamers ?
– Passengers can return via Launceston by the Loongana, which is practically a ferry-boat, since she makes three trips a week between that port and Melbourne. There is not the accommodation necessary to provide for the direct’ traffic between Sydney and Hobart, and the result of the passing of this clause will be to put a stop to many people travelling between these points. Surely that is not desirable. Another serious point worthy of consideration is that it has been impressed upon us that there is in Australia a Shipping Combine.
– That combine has been declared by the highest authority in Australia to be a perfectly good and laudable thing.
– I am here to say that it is not. Let me point out what a heavy toll is now being paid by the people to the local Shipping Combine. Freights on the Australian coast are disgracefully high. Take, for instance, the freight on fruit between Hobart and Sydney, and on to Brisbane.
– Take the freight charged on the oversea steamers.
– I am going to show that the freights between Tasmania and the mainland are enormously heavier than are the freights between Tasmania and England.
– The honorable member is making mere assertions.
– If the honorable member will cease his rude interruptions, I will give him the actual figures. At the present time, 7½d. per case is charged for the carriage of apples from Hobart to Sydney. Twenty-four bushel cases go to the ton; so that the freight is between 14s. and 15s. per ton for a two days’ run. Then, again, the freight on apples between Hobart and Brisbane - and if the honorable member for Denison has any doubt on the matter let me refer him to the honorable member for Brisbane, who corroborated, not two hours ago, the figures that I have obtained - is is. 8d. per case, or 40s. a ton, for a four days’ run. As against that, the same fruit is carried in refrigerating chambers from Hobart to England for about 3s. to 3s. 3d. per case. Twenty-four bushel cases of apples measure a ton, and the freight at 3s. per case comes to £3 12s. a ton, which is not twice as much for a forty days’ voyage as is charged as freight from Hobart to Brisbane, a four days’ voyage.
– Twenty cases go to a ton.
– That is in Queensland, where the old case measurement is adopted. In Tasmania, we use the new case measurement, and are charged on it for fruit exported to the mainland ports and to Europe.
– What is the charge by Australian vessels which are not in the combine ?
– We have riot discovered any.
– The Chief Justice of the High Court says that there is plenty of shipping out of the combine, and that the contention which the honorable member for Franklin is advancing is absurd.
– Even so, I shall continue to advance it, for I know that I am stating facts. The freights ruling on the Australian coast are exceedingly high.
– And the companies are pretty “ cheeky.”
– As “cheeky” as you like. It is not possible to send fruit direct from Hobart to Brisbane; it must be sent to Sydney by one line of steamers, and there transhipped for conveyance to Brisbane by vessels of another line, there being an understanding between the companies that one will not trespass in the waters of another. Fruit sent to England is carried in refrigerated chambers, and every precaution is taken to insure its being landed in good condition, but fruit sent to
Brisbane is carried as deck cargo, and has to take its chances of weather and rough handling.
– Then vote for the referendum.
– We shall have an opportunity presently to discuss the referendum proposals of the Government. I believe that the honorable member, and others, are now using them as an excuse for refusing to face the difficulties with which we are now confronted. The Bill hands Tasmania, body and soul, over to the Australian Shipping Combine, whose freights and charges are much heavier than those of the shipping companies trading overseas. For instance, I am informed that about is a box is charged for the transport of butter from Byron Bay to Sydney, a twenty hours’ run, and the same box will be carried from Sydney to London, a forty days’ run, for from 2s. to 2s. 4d. Tasmania is in a different position from the mainland States, which are connected by railway, and between whose ports there is a larger fleet of vessels engaged in conveying passengers and cargo. This Government has just renewed a postal contract with the combine for a period of two years. I shall have something more to say about that when the papers are available. I refer to it now merely to show how the Ministry is bolstering up the combine.
– Yet the honorable member voted against the referendum.
– The referendum is to the honorable member what King Charles’ head was to Mr. Dick; he cannot discuss any subject without introducing it. He knows that every word I have said about the shipping combine is true, and he is just as opposed as I am to the renewal of the Tasmanian mail contract.
– Not as much as I should be if we were able to build and run our own ships.
– Is the honorable member in favour of the renewal of that contract?
– Yes, under the present circumstances.
– Then the honorable member’s view of it differs from mine. It is not possible to travel between Tasmania and the mainland except by the steamers of the combine, and by the oversea steamers, and it is proposed to prevent the oversea steamers from carrying passengers between the mainland and Tas mania. Although they are not undercutting the Australian companies, charging higher passenger rates, and although the passenger traffic during the summer months is so great that the local steamers cannot carry it, it is proposed to prevent people from travelling between Tasmania and the mainland except by the local boats. Can the Minister show that there has ever been any undue competition in the Tasmanian passenger traffic between the oversea companies and the Australian companies, or that the former have ever tried to undercut the latter?
– Does the honorable member say that the oversea steamers are to be prohibited from carrying passengers be- ‘ tween Australia and the mainland?
– It is intended to prevent them from doing so under their present conditions. I shall take another opportunity to deal with the international phase of this matter. I ask the Committee not to take away from Tasmania the opportunity to benefit by what little competition there is. I should like to see that competition much keener, with a view to compelling the local boats to make reasonable charges. At present, their charges are unreasonable and unjust. But, in effect, the Bill says to the local companies, “ So long as you observe certain conditions, you may combine and makeyour charges what you like.” This is a serious thing for the orchardists of Tasmania, who send from 600,000 to 750,000 cases of apples to Sydney and northern ports every year. The honorable member for Brisbane will admit that the charges on this freight are oppressive, being too great in their ratio to the value of the goods. Honorable members should consider the matter very seriously before determining to prevent Tasmania from using what opportunities she has to break down existing monopolies.
.- The honorable member for Franklin made an exceptionally strong plea for allowing the Peninsular and Oriental, Orient, and other oversea companies to carry passengers between Sydney and Hobart, but the Committee should see that, conditions being fair and reasonable, all the patronage possible should be given to our railways, and to the shipping companies registered in Australia. Only an infinitesimal part of the tourist traffic to Tasmania is carried by the mail steamers, which make a few trips there during the fruit season to obtain cargo for conveyance to the Old Country.
Speaking from a Federal stand-point, I think we ought to do all we possibly can to encourage people to travel from, say, Sydney to Melbourne by rail, from Melbourne to Launceston by boat, and from Launceston to Hobart by train, when they desire to visit “ beautiful Hobart,” as I have done with much enjoyment.
Mr.W.elliot Johnson. - What about those people who prefei to travel by water ?
– They will always have the opportunity.
– But look at the difference in the cost!
– I admit that the element of cost comes in, but my experience is that people, whether tourists or not, prefer to do as little sea -travel ling as possible. The Peninsular and Oriental and Orient boats would still be able to go to Hobart in connexion with the fruit trade. In this connexion I should advise those engaged in fruit-growing to do what the butter producers of Victoria and other States had to do some years ago, when they combined and practically demanded from the great shipping companies a fair deal in the matter of the carrying of produce.
-We had to use an outside company as a lever.
– We used all kinds of levers, but the result is that butter is now carried at half the cost that it was eight or nine years ago.
– It is carried much more cheaply in the mail boats than it is carried on the Australian coast.
– I admit that that is correct, and there is only one way of dealing with the local shipping ring. I should advise the honorable member for Franklin to try to organize the fruit-growers of Tasmania.
– I have been trying to do so for ten years.
– If they do combine they will find themselves much better treated than they have been in the past.
– They are combining now.
– I believe in organization, for it is only by presenting a solid front - and even then it is very difficult - that reasonable terms can be exacted. Some of these companies and combines are so strong that even a combination of producers cannot break them down. There is no doubt that, in Australia, there is a shipping ring which is powerful enough, not only to charge exorbitant rates on pro duce carried from port to port, but, as I interjected a little while ago, to be exceptionally “ cheeky “ at the same time. Very often ‘a manufacturer who wishes to send goods, say, from Melbourne to Sydney or Brisbane finds them left upon the wharf.
– That is not an uncommon occurrence.
– And the shipping companies are exceedingly curt, merely intimating that there is no room, and that the shippers must take their chance. Mr. McPherson, a leading manufacturer and importer, at a Conference of Chambers of Commerce in Sydney, spoke of the high charges made, by what he frankly called, the shipping ring, and said -
Matters such as these were of great importance to the Australian manufacturer, and required looking into by some such body as an Inter-State Commission, for their industries might be permanently injured by the operations of the shipping “ ring,” as British industry, to his certain knowledge, was, and had been, adversely affected by the London shipping “ ring.” While he was an individualist of a pronounced type, he thought Australia had done wisely in. holding in her hands the railways, and if there was a proposal to spend£5,000,000 or £10,000,000 in providing water carriage for a better, quicker, and cheaper method of exchange by water of the products and manufactures of these States, he would support it.
– That is the only solution of the question.
– I do not say that it is not, but, at present, we can do nothing in that direction. What I have read was not uttered by what is sometimes called an agitator on the Yarra-bank, but by a merchant, importer, and manufacturer, in a large way of business, of a pronounced individualistic type. He not only asserts, but is prepared to prove from actual experience, that there is in Australia a Shipping Ring, and he, a pronounced individualist, would support the expenditure of millions of money in order to provide ships to carry goods, and produce from one port to another. I attach little importance to the statement of the honorable member for Franklin that the exclusion of the mail boats would interfere with the tourist traffic to Tasmania, but he went on to say, what we all know to be a fact, that there is an Australian Shipping Ring. We should, as far as possible, protect those local shipping companies that pay their seamen and other workers fair wages and give them good conditions. They should always have our first consideration; and I must stick to the terms of the Bill, hoping that a little later on we shall give relief to our fruitgrowers and others, by dealing with the shipping companies as they ought to be dealt with by the National Parliament.
– Australia is a great producing country, and we have to consider the producers. We are absolutely dependent on British and foreign ships to carry our produce from Australia to European countries; and the more obstacles we place in the way of those vessels the greater difficulty we shall have in competing with the rest of the world. I am quite with the Government in regard to protecting our own coastal ships; but the British-owned ships do not in any way interfere with our coastal trade, except in the matter of passengers. There is no doubt that people like to travel in the largest ships possible, which they find the most comfortable, and which, I believe, are the safer. Unlike the honorable member for Maribyrnong, I would much sooner pay my own passage to travel by boat than I would travel free on the railways as a member of Parliament; and whenever I have time, I always do travel by sea, simply because a long train journey upsets me for a day or two. Our wheat, fruit, and wool have to be carried oversea; and if we hamper British trade it will mean that our producers will have to pay. It is a frequent occurrence for persons in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne to travel to Adelaide to meet relatives arriving there by mail boat from abroad; and will anybody tell me that it would be a fair thing, for instance, to prevent a husband, who had met an ailing wife or children at Adelaide, from travelling with them on the steamer? If we pass this clause, no man will be able to meet any member of his family at Adelaide and accompany them on the mail boat to Melbourne.
– If the mail boat employed white labour, he could.
– The mail boats would have to comply with all the coastal trade conditions laid down in the Bill. That seems a poor way of treating people in a country like Australia. Our population is limited, and we are not rich enough to run our own mail steamers. It is a common thing for people to do what is called the “apple trip” when the mail boats are running to Hobart in the season. This is a most popular voyage at Easter time ; and when I have done it, as I have on several occasions, I have always found the vessels crowded. There are people in poor circumstances, perhaps, who cannot afford to travel from Sydney to Melbourne by rail; and why should they not have a holiday at reasonable rates on a fine steamer? We seem to be getting so selfish that it is to be a case of everything for ourselves and nothing for anybody else.
– Australia must be our first consideration.
– But surely Australians are not going to be so selfish, mean,’ and self-seeking, that they will allow nobody else in the world but themselves to live? We are Britishers, I take it, first of all - part of the Empire - and we ought to meet British ships as we should like England to meet ours. We all ought to be pleased at the increased wages and better accommodation afforded for our sailors. But that ought not to affect our dealings with other countries. Let them make their own laws, but let us allow our people a little freedom when they want to move about. We can afford to be a little generous. We have a big country, and, if properly managed, a rich country, and we should not adopt petty-minded ways of dealing with other people. I believe that the majority of the Australian people are much broader minded than are some of us in this House. I see no objection to dealing with the intercoastal carrying trade, but surely we can allow people to travel by these boats, because every extra shilling taken from them means an increase in the freights on the carriage of our goods oversea?
– - 1 agree with the honorable member for Balaclava that it is necessary to consider seriously every aspect of the question before we commit ourselves to a course of action which may possibly prejudice some people in the Commonwealth who live in other States, and depend to a large, extent for their business, and for a number of industries which are interwoven with that business, upon the large tourist traffic brought by the big oversea steamers travelling between some of the Australian capitals and elsewhere. It is the duty of honorable members representing constituencies which are affected by that traffic, and whose interests will be injuriously affected by undue interference with it, to consider this , phase of the question very seriously. There can be no question that the accommodation provided on these large steamers is infinitely superior to that provided on the small locally-owned ships. The ships themselves are kept in a much cleaner state, and the general conditions are in every way better. If we are going to make a restriction of this kind, so as practically to give a monopoly to our locally-owned steamers, we should certainly stipulate that cargo space, refrigerating arrangements, and passenger accommodation shall, at least, approximate to that which is provided on the vessels whose trade is being interfered with. Under present conditions there is no doubt that the accommodation provided on the Orient, Peninsular and Oriental, and other liners is incomparably better than that provided on the locallyowned boats which usually do these trips. We had evidence, when the Pearling Industry Commission was travelling, of a disinclination on the part of members of this Parliament to go on a locally-owned steamer when another and superior vessel was available. I have referred on more than one occasion to the Warrego, in which we travelled to Thursday Island. Our experiences on her were such as to give us a deep-rooted disinclination to return by her. All but two of the Commission were members of the Labour party, but every one welcomed the opportunity to return by the Japanese mail steamer, the Yawata Maru, because she was in every way better found, better built, stronger, more seaworthy, and cleaner, the discipline on board was better, and the food was better.
– Is that the boat on which there was a case of small-pox ?
– Yes; but the best-built boats in the world are liable to that sort of thing. Passengers from the East bring the infection from ashore. If small-pox had broken out on the Warrego, I do not think a member of the ship’s company, or a single passenger, would have escaped infection. The honorable member for Herbert, the honorable member for Melbourne, and the honorable member for Coolgardie will support what I say. I do not blame any one for wanting to travel in the best boat that he can. If we are going to establish a practical monopoly in the hands of a local shipping combine, which undoubtedly exists, and which some honorable members on the other side have said is a good thing, we should at least insist that obsolete ships which may have been considered good thirty or forty years ago shall not be used in the Australian trade to-day. So far as the carriage of fruit is concerned, on the Wyandra, the boat on which we travelled from Sydney northwards as far as Cairns, there were cases of apples, the fruit being nicely wrapped in tissue paper, piled up as high as the awning on the decks set apart for saloon and other passengers. They were exposed to heavy rains and sea spray, which washed all the paper off the apples, and :<s we got further north they were exposed to the increasing heat. It is not fair to producers that their goods should be treated in that way, yet that is the sort of thing that happens under present arrangements. They have to be transhipped at Sydney, after coming from Hobart, consigned to northern ports. Their goods are ruined before they get to their destination. We should insist on proper conditions on locally-owned vessels, in relation to the carriage and stowage of cargo, accommodation for passengers, and the rights of passengers to that accommodation. There seems to be no attempt at present to interfere in any way with the sweet will of the owners of those vessels in these matters. The rights of passengers are infringed, the rights of shippers of goods are ignored, and both passengers and customers are treated in a spirit of anything but fair consideration. While I have even’ sympathy with the proposal to encourage Australian ships to secure the Australian trade without detriment to the equal interests of others, especially British ships, whose interests ought to be just as dear to us as our own, at the same time, if we are going to exclude the competition of the better ships which come from oversea, and prevent our people from using them, either as carriers of goods or for travelling purposes, we ought to insist, if not that equal accommodation should be provided on the locally-owned ships, at least that there should be a distinct advance in the character of their present accommodation.
– There is no doubt something in the point raised by the honorable member for Lang, and that it would be advisable before the Bill finally passes to take power to exercise some sort of supervision of the kind that he indicates. I am rather inclined to think that such power is already given in the measure. The main issue, however, is whether we are in favour of the fundamental principle of the clause - the retention of the carrying trade of Ait- tralia by Australian vessels. The honorable member for Angas brought forward the case of the shipping line of Archibald Currie and Company. I do not think they have very much to complain of. They are trading to the East, and I believe that most, if not all, of their vessels carry coloured crews. They are simply picking up cargo and passengers for the East in various Australian ports, and returning with passengers and cargo from the East for Australia. That cannot be called interfering with the Australian trade, and as they do not trade between ports in Australia, I do not know why they register their ships in Australia at all, although I think I could make a very good guess at the reason. There is nothing to prevent them from registering in Calcutta and Bombay, and I think their ships ought to be registered there, because they carry coloured crews, and are more Eastern than Australian in character. I should think their reason for registering in Australia was this : The shipping interests are entitled to representation, on the various Marine Boards of Australia, according to the tonnage registered in each port. 1 have a pretty good idea that vessels are registered in different ports in Australia, simply to secure to the shipping interests voting power on the Marine Boards, and, if it were not for that, some of them would not be registered where they are. I do not say that that is the case with the firm’ in question, but they have a reason for registering in Australia, and I do not think it has anything to do with this measure at all. Even if the AttorneyGeneral makes an alteration in the Bill, I do not believe it will affect their registering. There is a great deal of humbug talked about the Tasmanian apple trade. The mail boats call at Hobart, not because of the passenger trade they get, but because of the apple trade. The patriotism of Tasmanians is such that if any company would carry their fruit for a farthing a ton less than do the mail steam-ship companies, they would throw them over to-morrow. My experience is that shipping companies are always ready and anxious to send their vessels wherever a cargo can be secured. If sufficient inducement offered for sending to Tasmanian ports, Inter-State steamers of the class now trading between the East and Western Australia, we may be sure that, despite any provisions which might be inserted in this Bill, such vessels would call there. We cannot interfere in ques tions of trade. We have heard a great deal of the injustice that will be inflicted on British shipping companies as the result of the passing of this Bill. As a matter- of fact, under this Bill we are doing only what the shipping companies or combines of the world themselves do. Surely what shipping combines do by means of arrangements in connexion with the carrying trade of the world, we, as a Parliament, are entitled to do for the protection of our Australian trade and the building up of an Australian maritime fleet as a recruiting ground for our Navy. There are a dozen arguments in favour of the clause, and only one or two against it. Why do certain shipping companies carry only cargo while others cater only for the passenger trade? The answer is that it is because of trade arrangement; and the answer to this cry on the part of outside ship-owners is that they are making similar arrangements in their own interests in connexion with the trade of the world. Those who travel to South Africa and elsewhere can see the significance of these arrangements. One sees vessels flying a certain flag doing only one class of trade, and the vessels of another company engaging only in another class of trade. Some carry only cargo; others carry only passengers. These ship-owners do not like to be interfered with, but we must interfere with them so far as it is necessary to do so for our self -protection. I invite honorable members of the Opposition to explain the iniquity of cutting up the trade of the world, as many shipping companies do. We hear a great deal of the Australian Shipping Combine, but I am not opposed to a combine or trade arrangement provided that its effect is not to rob the public. It is true that we have no power to deal with combines; but it is easy to put forward this bogy, of a combine in order to frighten the people. We are not going to allow such a bogy, however, to deter us in our efforts to build up an Australian maritime fleet, in connexion with which the highest standard of wages and conditions of labour must be observed. We must recognise that it is utterly impossible for us to have Protection on shore and Free Trade afloat. The honorable member for Angas deplored the lack of statistics bearing on this question, and I think that we should all like to have more.
– We want to see whether it is worth while placing these restrictions on British ships. I do not believe that it is.
– I do not object tr the honorable member asking for more statistics regarding this matter. Had he lived in a shipping port, as I have done for many years, he would know that the trade of these oversea mail steamers is practically confined to the carriage of passengers. The freights on a mail steamer are higher than are those in respect of the ordinary lines of steam-ships, and for that reason the mail steamers do not get anything like the cargo of the ordinary lines of steamers. Reference has been made to the grievances of Tasmania in this connexion. I do not think that there is anything in the cry. If there is anything at all in the argument advanced by the honorable member for Franklin, it is that, for the sake of picking up a few apples in Tasmania, and to enable a few rich people to run over there, we ought to break down the whole system that we are trying to build up. The Commonwealth Parliament cannot afford to provide such a luxury. This cry in regard to Tasmania is another bogy. I do not think that the Bill will detrimentally affect Tasmanian trade. It seems to me that there is a lot of electioneering in the outcry, and that it will be retailed in Tasmania.
– There is no electioneering about it so far as I am concerned.
– I was not refering to the honorable member. The Australian Ship-owners Federation are only too glad to send a vessel where cargo can be picked up or trade developed. Government railways, in certain parts of Australia, have run a good many vessels but of the carrying trade. Steamers have stuck to the coastal trade in some cases, until they have been forced out of it by railway competition. That is not a very nice thing for a Government Department to do, but it has been done, although seacarriage is always cheaper than rail carriage.
– The Victorian State railways have done that with the Warrnambool and Port Fairy trade.
– And the Railways Commissioners of South Australia drove off the whole of the shipping running along the coast from Adelaide to the Victorian border. I ask honorable members to realize that the Australian ship-owners are business men; and that they will keep their boats running when they are practically get ting only change for a shilling out of the traffic, because they realize that it is sometimes necessary to incur an initial loss until settlers and others realize that they are providing a service which can be depended upon. They know that they will then be fully recouped. I appeal to honorable members to vote for the clause as it stands. 1 am not going to deny that there are arguments which can be urged against it, but we have to take a broad view of the question. We must not attach too much importance to the grievances of shipping companies and combines. They cut up the trade of the world to suit themselves without any regard for the public, and surely we have a perfect right to see that the trade of Australia is carried on under conditions that will enable our present standard to be maintained, and will lead to the coastal trade of the Commonwealth serving as a recruiting ground for our Navy.
– This clause raises the Question of competition in the local coasting trade, and it requires a great deal of consideration. It is true that by this Bill we are imposing upon our coastal shipping certain additional charges and expenses, and it is urged that for that reason we should protect’ our local shipping against oversea competition.
– From cheap labour.
-That raises at once the question whether that cheap labour concerns the people of Australia so long as it does not mean interference with labour conditions here.
– But it does.
– I should like to be told in what way it does. If I could be shown that our local shipping would suffer in any way from the maintenance of the present condition of affairs I should be quick to review my opinion with regard to the whole question. But what are the facts? There is no serious competition going on. It is quite true that a certain number of passengers are carried between ports by oversea vessels, but they are carried at higher rates. How, therefore, can the competition be unfair?
– We require an investigation to ascertain whether they are carried at higher rates.
– I am simply taking the facts as alleged. How can the competition be unfair to our local shipping when shipping oversea charge higher rates?
– Why should not the oversea shipping companies pay a fair wage ?
– I should like to see them pay a fair wage and observe good conditions.
– The condition under which the men live on board these oversea ships is abominable.
– But, unfortunately, we are unable to control the conditions of the world. We are able only to control our own, and we are doing that under this Bill. We are providing for a scale of wages and conditions which I hope will be equal to anything of the kind in the world. But what have we to do with the shipping of the world outside our own? All that we are entitled to consider is whether, in consequence of the payment of better wages in the coasting trade, our local ship-owners are at a disadvantage. I wish to know - and the cutting of freights is the test - whether they are at a disadvantage as compared with outside competitors. The ultimate point of the whole argument expresses itself in the rates and freights charged. As to freightage there is no trouble, for it is only during the fruit season that the mail steamers carry freightage of any kind. For the rest of the year the competition relates only to passenger trade between our ports, and the InterState passenger trade of the oversea mail steamers is I believe only a small modicum of the whole. I believe that there is a little competition, but nothing to hurt our Inter-State shipping companies. I speak of the facts as I am able to glean them. If there are any other facts of which I am not cognizant I should like to be made aware of them for I have a perfectly open mind. Where high rates are charged by our competitors there can be nothing to seriously injure our Inter-State shipping trade. If the competition is not unfair, and if the rates charged by our competitors are not cutting rates, but higher rates, as is alleged, ought we to try to gather all the trade into a monopoly here?
The doctrine is often preached by honorable members opposite that monopoly begins where competition ends. In this case they propose to end all competition - to make it impossible for competition to take place.
– We propose to put an end to monopoly next year, if the honorable member and his party will allow us to do so.
– That is another matter; meantime, why build up monopoly if you wish to destroy it?
– Because there is unfair competition.
– It can only be unfair if the rates charged by the oversea vessels are lower than those charged by the local vessels; but, according to the figures supplied to me, this is not the case, as the following table will show -
– The oversea vessels charge proportionately lower rates on the Australian coast than they do for the trip to Colombo, for which they charge 2.3d. per mile.
– I am informed that the first class passenger rate to Colombo is only 1.4a. per mile. Tomy mind, we should nol give a monopoly to the local shipping unless there is no other alternative. In view of the high rates charged, the competition of the mail steamers with the local steamers is not serious, and, in spite of it, Australian shipping has steadily gained ground of late years. We have been told that there is an Australian Shipping Combine, which, according to the Attorney-General, is a good thing, because the combination has caused the increase of wages and the improvement of the conditions of Australian seamen. I have nothing to say against a combination which produces such results, so long as the producer and consumer are also considered; but why should we say to the companies that are doing so well, “ We intend to give you what little Australian trade still remains to outsiders, and by building a wall round you, will protect you from all competition” ? I am not in favour of building a wall to shut out the shipping from other parts of the Empire, to which we owe something, put it on what grounds you like. Our shipping can enter the other ports of the Empire without hindrance, the laws of Great Britain, and of our sister Dependencies, creating no disabilities for us. For more than a hundred years Great
Britain, at her own cost, has protected our shipping, in our own waters and on the high seas, and has thus enabled us to build up a civilization which we hope may be the envy and wonder of the world.
– That is another matter.
– That fact is of peculiar significance in this connexion.
– A tribute of £9,000,000 a year is not bad payment for what has been done for us; that is the amount of interest that we pay to Great Britain.
– On money we have borrowed.
– Yes. Had we borrowed from other countries we should have had to pay more dearly for the accommodation. The Argentine pays about 5 per cent. on its loans, whereas we pay only between 3 and 4 per cent. I do not think that we should shut out oversea vessels because of the small amount of passenger trade that they do on our coasts.
– They can continue to do that trade if they comply with the conditions to which Australian shipping is subjected.
– My point is that their competition does not injure the Australian ships, because they carry passengers at higher rates than are charged by the local companies. Besides, I do not know that we have any obligation now to try to control the social conditions of other countries. Our own problems should be quite enough for us at present. We are better off than the overcrowded countries of the Old World, whose economic conditions are not so good as ours, and we are free to conduct what experiments we please within our own borders. The Australian shipping companies have been very prosperous of late years. Why, then, should we give them a monopoly ? It must not be forgotten that there are the interests of others of our own people besides those connected with shipping to consider. I refer to the producers and manufacturers, who provide freights for the shipping.
– The producers will be no better off in any case.
– Political economy has taught me that they must be better off where there is reasonable competition than where a monopoly exists. They have disabilities enough already ; disabilities unknown in many other parts of the world. It has been argued that Ger many, America, and other foreign countries keep their coastal trade to their own shipping.
– That is why they have such good navies.
– The American Navy is a good one; but I do not know that it is the best in the world; there are others which equal it in efficiency and capacity. The point I was about to make is that those countries are so situated that they can obtain all the shipping they need without trouble; whereas it has been difficult for us to get the shipping that we require. How can you expect, cheap fares and freights oversea if they are shut out from picking up any little trade on the coast under a monopoly?
– We do not get cheap freights now.
– Despite the competition of oversea vessels, the local shipping combination is sufficiently powerful to control Australian freights.
– The oversea vessels carry practically no cargo between coastal ports, and the oversea fruit trade is controlled chiefly by one firm.
– Is that a good thing?
– If it is wrong that one individual should control the fruit trade, is it not wrong that a shipping combine should also control it?
– It will continue to doso, in any case.
– Its position will be strengthened if we give it a monopoly. Honorable members wish to make the Australian Shipping Ring stronger.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
.- This is one of the most important clauses in the Bill. Before Federation, it was found, in the different States, impossible to make shipping laws applying to the whole of the continent, and one of the claims by the advocates of union was that it would secure the coastal trade to Australians. Some honorable members seem hardly to haverisen to the occasion from a national point of view ; but my endeavour will be in thiscase as in others to avoid any suggestion of provincialism. It would appear that State Righters fear that, by means of this Navigation Bill, we are to be deprived of cheap trips in vessels manned by coloured crews. If there is any- thing of which we, as a National Parliament, should be proud, it is that we have taken part in the endeavour to create an Australian Fleet ; and a thoroughly efficient mercantile marine is one of the most useful auxiliaries in the defence of the country. We should endeavour to make the conditions of seafaring life so satisfactory as to attract young Australians. The average Britisher does not now take to the sea on account of the small pay and the humiliating conditions of the work; and, therefore, it is that we find that the British shipping, of which we hear so much, is virtually carried on by means of coloured and foreign races. If we can, by means of legislation of this kind, make a seafaring life congenial to our people, we ought certainly to do so. We have been told1 that there is a shipping monopoly. If that be true, I would rather have a monopoly in the hands of our own people, than a monopoly in the hands of outsiders.
– If there is competition, there can be no monopoly.
– Honorable members opposite seem to rely altogether on the law of supply and demand, and on that law of cheapness, which has acted so prejudicially to our own race. Under that law of cheapness, people of the same political notions as honorable members opposite have worked women in coal mines in the Old Country, and oppressed1 people in the factories ; and it certainly is not the sort of law that we are going to lay down here. If we are to have a proper Australian mercantile marine, the shipping on our coast must have some sort of protection, and there can only be fair competition when all the vessels trading here are compelled to observe the same wages and conditions. Any legislation that will serve to keep the coastal trade of Australia in the hands of our own people, will have my strongest support, whether that legislation leads to monopoly of not. We know how men at is. a month have been brought out here on British ships, and have traded on our coasts in the big liners ; and that sort of thing ought to be stopped. I am not here to cast any reflection on the great shipping companies which send vessels here from other parts of the world. They conduct their business as they think fit; but, if they desire to trade here, they must observe Australian conditions. What is the good of a White Australia policy if our coastal trade is in the hands of Asiatic and other cheap labour ? If it is said that the ships on our coast will not be able to observe the wages and conditions laid down, then they will have to be subsidized, or the industry will have to be nationalized. The latter course is not proposed in the Bill ; but I think the day is not far distant when all means of transport - ocean, river, and land - will have to be nationalized in the interests of the people. We must not depart from the principle that the coastal trade of Australia shall be in the hands of Australian shipping companies, or those who are prepared to conduct their business according to the Australian standard. There are honorable members who worry about a few cases of apples that are carried by the great steamers at certain periods of the year, and about certain other details; but all these considerations should be swept aside in a National Parliament when legislation of this kind is under consideration. Every encouragement should be given to those in the business to supply better ships and better services, as no doubt they will if the opportunity be afforded. I hope the Committee will support the Government in the endeavour to. keep the coastal trade of Australia in the hands of our own people. If the large ocean liners will not improve their conditions of employment, they must lose the trade, because I cannot see how we can have any open-door policy in this connexion.
– When I was speaking on this question before, the honorable member for Denison, by interjection, asked me if the Yamata Maru, the boat on which the members of the Pearling Commission returned from Thursday Island, was the one on which the case of small-pox occurred. The honorable member implied by his question that the disease originated on the steamer, but that was not the case. The passenger had contracted the disease in China or Japan before she boarded the vessel.
– How long did it take the boat to come from China to Townsville?
– Not. very long, but the patient sickened before she reached Thursday Island. What would have happened if she had transferred from the Japanese steamer to the local steamer at Thursday Island, and then developed small-pox? In the case of the Japanese vessel, no sooner was the nature of the disease suspected than the lady was isolated. That could not be done on the ]oral boat, on which there was no place to isolate her. Every possible precaution that human forethought and skill could devise to prevent the spread of contagion was immediately taken on the Japanese boat. This could not have been done on the Warrego, because i’t does not carry a medical man, or (he medicines, and various other things necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases. The very strong probability is that had the passenger transhipped <o the Warrego, at Thursday Island, the whole of the members of that vessel’s company would have been infected, possibly some of them fatally. The smell on board the Warrego, too, was simply abominable, because she had been lying at the bottom of the Brisbane River for a long time before they fished her up again, and put her in commission as a passenger and mail steamer, subsidized by the Commonwealth Government. The stench of the ooze and river mud still pervaded her, and could not be got rid of. That, in itself was quite sufficient to breed disease. We ought to take into consideration the fact that the trade of Thursday Island, Darwin, Western Australia, and Papua will probably be very adversely affected by the Bill as it stands, and might consider also whether it would not be of advantage to pay a bonus to make up for any loss which I he enforcement of the conditions now proposed would entail upon local shipowning people. In this connexion, I wish to bring before the Committee a written statement made to me by a constituent, Mr. Werner, who is interested in the Papuan trade. He says -
This” Bill will seriously affect myself and many other Sydney business friends who have interests in Papua. When Mr. Thomas was in Sydney last week, I interviewed him for the purpose of arranging for him to receive a deputation, but he was not able to spare the time to receive us, and requested me to put our views before him in writing, which I have now done as per the enclosed copy of letter. This clearly sets out how the Bill will affect Papua, and outside the question of our individual interests, there is not the slightest doubt the Bill, if passed as proposed, will do incalculable injury to Papua. Our Papuan friends, unfortunately, have no one to represent them and ventilate their opinions in the House, and look to us in Australia to do what we can to help them.
When we were at Thursday Island, a deputation of residents and the local municipal council waited on us. and made out what appeared to be a very strong, case with regard to the injury that would be done to them and to Papua by the operation of the measure. They desired that some steps should be taken to modify the provisions of this clause so that their trade would not be adversely affected. I have here a copy of the letter referred to by Mr. Werner, as sent to the Minister of External Affairs, and propose to read a few extracts from it. The writer says -
According to the proposed Act, its provisions will apply to Papua as well as Australia. The conditions of the two countries, however, are vastly different, and what may be of great benefit to Australia may be of great detriment to Papua. This was recognised in the Proclamation which brought Papua under the control of the Commonwealth Parliament, inasmuch as it was therein stated that no Aus-, tralian Acts of Parliament shall apply to Papua, unless it is specially mentioned in such Act. That is a point that some of our legal friends might look into -
This fairly indicates that the opinion of the Imperial Government was that it would only be in special cases that Federal laws should come into operation in Papua, and, therefore, up to the present time very little Commonwealth legislation (except as regards Post and Telegraph control) applies to that State. The Papuan Civil Law is separate and distinct to Australian. The Papuan Customs Tariff is also altogether different, and is framed to suit a country like Papua that is only in the very earliest stages of settlement. Furthermore, Papua is not directly represented either in the Commonwealth Parliament, or in any Australian State Parliament. The natural resources of the country are only just beginning to be developed, there are absolutely no manufactures of any kind, and, therefore, any_ Australian legislation which is absolutely certain to hinder the progress of the country should not be made to apply to it.
According to the proposed Act no boats carrying coloured crews shall trade between ports within the Territory or under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth, and as three out of four companies calling at Papuan ports carry coloured crews, this Act would result in putting back the Territory into the same position as it was in five years ago, when there were in existence very few of the commercial enterprises that are to-day opening up the country. Five years ago, the whole of the Papuan coast-line was served by one steamer belonging to Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Coy. - which made about eight trips in the year. To-day, there are, in addition to that steamer, two lines calling^ at Port Moresby each month, viz., Burns, Philp, and Co.’s Singapore steamers, and the Royal Packet S. N. Co.’s steamers, as well as the North German Lloyd Co.’s steamer calling at Samarai once every two months. These companies give the State a good service and keep settlers and the trading community in fairly good and regular communication with the outside world. But these three lines carry coloured crews, and if the proposed Navigation Bill_ is made to apply to Papua, they must, of necessity, cease to call at Papuan ports. The volume of business to be done would never warrant their substituting white crews for black and incurring the extra expense which such a change would mean. This will leave the country with only one service, viz., Burns, Philp, and Co.’s steamer, the s.s. Matunga, which makes the round trip, Sydney to Papuan ports, once every six weeks. For this particular service Burns, Philp, and Co. receive a subsidy from the Commonwealth Government of, we believe, Three thousand pounds (£3,000) per annum, which places that company in a position to effectively block any chance of any other Australian company starting in opposition. Without a similar subsidy no other company would pay, as owing to the fact that the importations into Papua are more than three times the amount of exports, it will be readily seen that although an additional boat might secure good freight on the trip from Australia to Papua, it would, owing to the small volume of exports, only have a third of the freight on the return trip. But besides owning the only steamer which would go to Papua -
And this is an important point for us to consider -
Burns, Philp, and Co. are established as merchants, or have agencies in all the different ports of call throughout the Territory, and, therefore, they are in direct competition with the whole of the rest of the commercial community. Every merchant and trading company would therefore have to import their merchandise by a steamer owned by an opposition merchant, and it needs no effort to understand how such a’ state of affairs would place Papua entirely at the mercy of Burns, Philp, and Co.
They complain that the withdrawal of the present boats, whose existence promotes healthy competition, would throw them into the lap of a company that is an absolute monopoly, and that could thus charge what freights they liked, call or not call, as they pleased, and carry, or refuse to carry, merchandise, as they chose. The letter goes on to say -
If Burns, Philp, and Co. were not merchants the situation would be vastly different, but under present conditions the Commonwealth Parliament, if they do not exempt Papua from the operations of the proposed Bill, will be giving a monopoly of the whole of the trade of the country to one company, and also will be subsidizing the monopoly as well, a monopoly compared with which the American Trusts would be feeble concerns. We are quite certain that this would not be in keeping with the present tendency of political thought in Australia.
I do not want honorable members to think I indorse every opinion that is expressed beret There is a possibility that some of these statements are exaggerations. Even allowing for such a possibility, there is a large substratum of truth underlying the position taken up by these people.
– Under their mail contract the company have to conform to certain conditions.
– I do not think it governs freights.
– It governs freights.
– I cannot keep in mind all the conditions of the mail contract, so that I am unable to say from memory whether or not that is so. The letter continues -
Furthermore, it would mean that whereas now all the Eastern goods, such as rice, &c, which are imported into Papua in large quantities would have to be brought to Australian ports and shipped back to Papua, whereas, now they can be landed direct from the Eastern ports on the run down to Australia, and supplied to the natives, whose staple food is rice, at a very low price.
The White Australia policy is one in which every patriotic Australian heartily agrees, but to force white labour conditions on to the shipping trade of Papua in the present state of its development would be as reasonable as to make the awards of the Wages Boards and Arbitration Courts of Australia to apply to the Papuan natives who work on the plantations or about the stores, or do the menial work in the homes of the settlers.
The writer proceeds to make another important point, and we have to consider how this clause would affect the particular aspect of the maritime trade of Papua to which he refers -
Then there is another manner in which the proposed legislation would seriously affect the development of Papua. Most of the merchants and trading companies in all the South Sea Islands run small schooners and cutters along the coast and to the adjacent islands for trading purposes. These boats, for the most part, are in charge of natives, or one white man assisted by native boys. The conditions of trade would never warrant these boats being manned in any other way, but if the proposed legislation comes into force in Papua, these boats will certainly have to cease trading.
It is for the above reasons that the whole of the white settlers in Papua (except, of course, those interested in Burns, Philp, and Co.), recognise that the proposed legislation will be a serious set-back to the development of the country. Unfortunately, as already stated, Papuan residents are entirely without representation - in Australian politics, and have no means whatever of bringing their views or interests before the people of Australia, except by means of the press.
He proceeds to point out that a petition has been prepared for presentation to Parliament, which every white settler is at liberty to sign, although I have no recollection of such a petition having yet been presented to the House. He states -
A petition has been got up by the white residents of Papua, and will be presented at the proper time. It has been signed, we can confidently assure you, by every white person in the Territory at liberty to sign. Surely the Federal Government, representing the Democracy of Australia, will never foist on an unwilling people, who have no voice in the management of their affairs, legislation which they are unanimously of opinion will do them incalculable harm, and give them into the hands of a monopoly. It would be much better at any rate, to suspend applying the Act to Papua for, say, 15 or 20 years, or such time as Papua has reached a state of development which would warrant other Australian shipping companies joining in the trade, without the aid of a subsidy.
In considering the Defence of Australia, the development of Papua should also be taken seriously into consideration.
– Why do they not go in for shipping of their own ?
– I do not think those who are developing Papua have sufficient means to embark upon the enterprise of building and running steamers in competition, for example, with those of Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Company. They are, for the most part, men of small means, who are living in the tropics under very trying conditions, with the object of developing a country whose development will certainly be an additional safeguard to Australia against possible risk of invasion. That point of view is a very important one, and ought not to be lost sight of by us. The writer goes on to say -
Like Thursday Island, Papua is an outpost of Australia. If any attack is ever made by an enemy upon Australia, it will come from the north. Therefore, every facility that can be given to Papua to develop as rapidly as possible should be allowed it, and no restrictions of any kind should be placed upon the country to retard its progress.
These statements have been put forward by persons interested in the development and trade of Papua to establish a case for the Territory. I should be neglecting my duty if, having these facts in my possession, and being requested by a constituent who is interested in Papuan trade to lay them before the Committee, I failed to do so. We all desire to bring about the best conditions possible for Australian shipping, Australian seamen, and those whose business takes them to sea in other than a professional capacity; but I think that we desire to bring about those better conditions with as little injury as possible to the interests of other people. Unless we are prepared to put up with a less advantageous service than we have as the result of existing competition - unless we are prepared to allow our shipping, in the absence of healthy rivalry, to be of the obsolete type, and are content to travel in inferior ships, we must consider yet another alternative. If the trade is not sufficient to warrant the shipping companies putting on vessels of an up-to-date charac ter for the carriage of both passengers and cargo, we shall have seriously to consider whether some financial assistance might not be given by the Parliament in the interests of developing our shipping in conformity with the White Australia policy, in which we all firmly believe. Another alternative which might well be considered is whether we may not admit the principle of exempting this portion of the trade from the operation of the clause for a limited period. We could see how it acted, and would still have power to remove the exemption at any time, so as to give full force to the Bill. Such an exemption would not affect the principle of the Bill, and it would certainly do something to guard against those injustices which at first seem to be inseparable from the operation of the clause as it stands.
– The preservation of the Australian seaboard service for Australian shipping is all-important. The honorable member for Parramatta expressed the opinion that we owed much to the Mother Country, and should consider her in this connexion. We often hear that statement trotted out, and I agree that we do owe a great deal to the Mother Land; but there is another side to the question which I think it necessary to put before the Committee.
– The people of the Old Country expect us to look after ourselves.
– Exactly. It seems to me that it is absurd to try to make the phrase “ British shipping service “ synonymous with “the Mother Country.”
– Ships coming here under the British flag might be owned in the United States.
– Quite so. The owners of many vessels coming here to secure trade care little for the Mother Country. They have carried, and no doubt in the future will carry, munitions of war to be (used against the British Forces. When there is’ any question of pounds, shillings and pence at stake, they do not consider the Mother Country. All that we say to these ship-owners is, “ When you are trading on the Australian seaboard you shall conform to Australian shipping conditions.” I do not think we are asking too much, and oversea ship-owners, if they have any sense of fair dealing, will admit that we are not. Our proposal may lower their dividends; but if they wish to participate in our trade, let them come to Australia, and work under Australian cona tions. We shall ‘ then welcome them. A great deal has been said about the shipping trade of Papua and the Northern Territory. It has also been asserted that the people on the north-west coast, of Western Australia ought to have facilities to participate in the shipping of foreign nations as well as British shipping companies who work their vessels with black men, or underpaid white crews. We are spending hundreds and thousands of pounds upon the development of the Northern Territory. Are we seeking to develop it for the sake of foreign shipping companies, or is it our desire to develop it for its own intrinsic value, and for the shipping of Australia? We should be foolish if we did not look forward to the time when an increase in the trade of the Northern ‘Territory will mean also an increase in pur shipping trade The honorable member for Lang said that we should be treating Papua harshly if we passed this clause.
– I did hot.
I simply read a statement on the subject.
– The statement of a constituent. Have we not spent already a very large sum on Papua ? On this year’s Estimates alone provision is made for an expenditure of £53,000 on the development of that Territory. Are we to develop it in the interests of a Dutch mail company whose vessels are manned with black labour and come into competition with the shipping of Australia? The wages paid in the shipping trade of Australia are two or three times as high as those paid on some foreign vessels, .and it is only just that we should preserve the Australian trade for those who conform to our conditions.
– The honorable member must not attribute to myself the opinions I have read. I simply quoted the opinions of others.
– I accept the honorable member’s explanation. We are told that the competition of oversea vessels with local vessels amounts to so little that it is not worth considering. . The gentleman who wrote to the honorable member for Lang stated that if the Dutch vessels ceased to call at Papua the rice which they bring would be taken first to Australia to be transhipped there, and would therefore cost more to the Papuans. Rice, he says, is a staple food with them. But this rice is grown in the Dutch East Indies, and Dutch vessels will continue to take it to Papua, as they are doing now, not from motives of philanthropy, but because there is a good market for it there. We have had to fight Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Company, before, and shall do it again ; we do not hold a brief for them ; but, under their mail contracts, they are bound to give the same rights to all traders. They cannot charge more than is arranged for, and must, moreover, maintain certain regular services. Possibly it would be better if a second Australian company were trading to Pap’ua, though probably, if there were two companies, an arrangement would soon be made between them, and the people of Papua would be no better off. As the honorable member for Hindmarsh has told us, the shipping business of the world is governed by such arrangements. Incidentally I regret that the white population of Papua does not enjoy proper representation. There are difficulties in the way of providing for that, but those difficulties ought to be surmounted. We must keep Australian ship - ping white, and insist on t the maintenance of a high standard of living, even if, in consequence, we have to subsidize more steam-ship lines.
– Or even if we have to. run steamers ourselves.
– Yes. The fact that the population of certain places is under a disadvantage because services are not. frequent enough does not overweigh the necessity of keeping Australian shipping white, and maintaining a proper standard of living. In contradiction of what has been said to the effect that the oversea ships do not compete with the local shipping, let me mention a recent case. The Government of South Australia wished to have 1,600 loads of sleepers brought from Bunbury. There were many Australian vessels which could have carried that timber, but the contract was given to the Baralong, of the- Bucknall line, which carries a black crew.
– Who let the contract?
– I do not know ; but, presumably, the present South Australian Government, since the Baralong, according to her articles, arrived at Fremantle on the 1 6th, and at Bunbury on 26th April. Her articles were returned on the ist May, and she arrived at Port Lincoln on the 7th. Her articles were deposited in Adelaide on the 12th, and returned on the 18th. She arrived in Sydney on the 22nd, and in Melbourne on the 31st. Of the 1,600 loads of sleepers which she took from Bunbury, 800 were for Port Adelaide, and another 800 for Port Lincoln. Let me compare the cost of running the Baralong, which is a steamer of 4,191 tons, with the cost of running the
Australian steamer Cycle, of 3,987 tons. The comparison is best shown by the following table -
Let me deal now with the competition for passengers. I do not wish to belittle the Australian vessels, because I have travelled on them, and their accommodation is as good as I expect; but, undoubtedly, the mail steamers cater specially for first saloon passengers, and charge them more than is charged by the local vessels ; but it is with the second saloon accommodation that they compete most.
– The second saloon rates on the mail boats are higher than the second saloon rates on the local boats.
– There is very little difference between them. Before 1905, the second saloon rate on the mail steamers from Fremantle to Melbourne was £9, and it is now £7 10s; whereas the first saloon rate on vessels like the Kyarra, Kanowna, Riverina, and Karoola, is £& 8s. The local first saloon rate was £&, and the second saloon mail steamer rate £7 ; but on the local shipping companies putting up their rate 8s., the mail companies increased their rate by 10s. There is a good deal of snobbery attached to travelling first saloon on the part of -many people.
– I guarantee that if the honorable member were going to Western Australia he would not travel second class.
– Not one member of the Labour party travels there other than first saloon.
– I should think not, when the Government pays.
– Why should not Labour members travel first saloon?
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports says that it is snobbery to do so.
– I said that it was snobbery on the part of a great many. I admit that I can put up with as much comfort as can the honorable member for Swan. From Fremantle to Adelaide, the first saloon rate on the mail boats is £7 10s, or 1.3d. per mile; from Fre- mantle to Melbourne, £9 10s., or i.2d. per mile; and from Fremantle to Sydney, £12, or i.r/d. per mile; but from Fremantle to Colombo, where there is not the competition of the Australian vessels, the rate is 2. 2d. per mile. If it were not for the competition of the Australian vessels, the mail vessels would charge much more on the Australian coast. The number of passengers carried by the mail vessels is increasing every year, as the following table will show -
While these people trade in Australia they should conform to Australian conditions.
– The honorable member does not believe in freedom or liberty.
– I am not a Free Trader; and the honorable member forgets that when he was the Kruger of Western Australia the outlanders of the eastern States had no liberty at all. It is evident that this trade is not small, but is an immensely growing trade. We, in this Parliament, are legislating for the benefit of the people of Australia, and, while we have not much power as yet - though we hope to have more in the future - we have up to the present been able to impose certain conditions on the shipping companies. That work we are endeavouring to continue by means of this Bill. Is it too much for the local shipping companies to remind us that, while we have compelled them to comply with certain stringent conditions, we allow them to be undercut by shipping companies who pay 100 per cent, less wages? As to the remarks of the honorable member for Parramatta, I ask him to say whether it is not a fact that British companies do many things that are to the disadvantage of the British people, to whom he says we owe so much.
– 1 must say that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has put his case with great fairness. I do not know where he obtains his figures, but I take them as being correct; and then I ask, what do they prove? Put in the most favorable light they simply prove that fair competitive rates are being charged at the present time. The only variations in the rates are those which usually obtain when there is absolutely fair competition; and I ask again where , does the undercutting come in? The honorable member’s figures prove incontestably that Australian shipping is not being unduly or unfairly prejudiced by the oversea shipping, and we ought to be thankful to the honorable member for quoting the figures. I ask him, however, what guarantee can he offer to the producers of Australia that, when he has drawn this ring round our local shipping, those within it will not charge higher freights than they do now? Does he know of any monopoly in the world which, when it gets the entire trade of a country into its hands, does not put up the price?
– We have a method to stop that.
– And I know that that method has been available for three years.
– We have not the necessary power to use it.
– Then, until that power is obtained, would it not be wise for you to preserve this equalizing competition to prevent the monopoly getting any bigger?
– I think not, at any rate.
– The honorable member’s proposal is, as it has been for so many years - feed the monopoly, and then take it over.
– They are friends of yours, and not friends of ours. Mr. JOSEPH COOK.- No man on this side, so far as I know, has given a vote in favour of monopolies.
– They have opposed all legislation against monopolies.
– If so, let the Postmaster-General point out when they have done so. This is a proposal to create a monopoly of the first water, destroying every tittle of competition ; and this means that all other shipping must go away from our coast.
– It must conform to our conditions.
– The honorable member has in his mind only the wages paid, and the profits of the employer, whereas I have in my mind the producers as well. I know what the producer has to pay in the shape of freight now, and the closer the monopoly is made the less chance will he have to get fair terms.
– If the people of Australia give this Parliament the power we shall soon stop that.
– The whole question is argued from the point of view of the men who own the boats and the men who work in them ; but there is a third person, the producer and the con sumer, who has a right to consideration, and whose , very life depends on his ability to get his produce oversea.
– This Bill does not affect the carriage of oversea produce.
– The honorable member is stating what is not correct. The fruit-growers and producers generally are keenly interested in this matter. We are not discussing the rights of the men employed, for these are guaranteed already by our Courts of law. Those conditions I desire to be as good as they can be made, and the moment it can be shown that any serious disability applies to the owners of boats here in consequence of unfair competition, I shall be the very first to consider their position. Undoubtedly the owner is entitled to protection in his occupation just as much as any other man is through the Tariff. But all the figures and conditions show that Australian shipowners are suffering no great disability.
– The honorable member is getting on the fence I
– That is an observation that has no point so far as I am concerned. I am now expressing my own view, which is not the view of my party over here ; and the honorable member could not say such a thing of himself.
– The’ honorable member for Parramatta can accommodate himself anywhere.
– I know no handier man, when it comes to a matter of accommodation and adjustment, than the Honorary Minister. I am, as I say, taking a course of my own ; and that is what can be said by no honorable member opposite; certainly not the Minister who interrupts. I am prepared to consider the position of our ship-owners; and, when I do so, I find that they are doing extremely well, and have been for some years, thanks to the arrangements made, as in the Vend case, and as in the case of nearly every other combination. The moment that this monopoly is created honorable members opposite will go on the platform and denounce it.
– Quite right !
– And yet this monopoly is to be made stronger - is to be fed until it is fatter.
– The High Court says there is no monopoly in shipping.
– I know, that honorable members opposite take everything the High Court says as gospel 1 It cannot be proved that our local ship-owners are suffering any disabilities. The moment that can be proved there will be a case ; but, while they are multiplying their dividends-
– Some of them ought to do better by their workers.
– I believe I am as good a friend of the workers as the honorable member is.
– And I expect the honorable member for Parramatta has done more work.
– No; I think the appearance of the honorable member opposite shows that he has had a little exercise.
– When the wharf labourers asked for more wages the shipping companies said they could not afford to pay.
– That has not been the case in recent times, thanks to the various kinds of machinery that have been provided for the adjustment of these matters.
– The honorable member for Bass is one of the biggest applegrowers in Tasmania.
– I know that the honorable member is one of the big capitalists of the country, and there are a number amongst honorable members opposite. He sits there taunting me as if I were a great landed monopolist like himself.
– What about lemons?
– There is not much money in lemons just now. One of the great problems is to get the fruit to oversea markets, and I do not see how a ring fence around our shipping is going to help us to solve it. The more boats we can attract here the better for our producers. We have too few of them at present, and our great object should be to get more competition for the carrying of our trade oversea. That will not be secured by the restrictions now proposed round our coast. I would risk doing even that, if it could be proved that our ship-owners were suffering any serious disability which did not enable them to make fair profits and pay fair dividends, while paying such wages, and giving such conditions to labour as our own Courts determined. There can be no question in this discussion of the working man’s side of it. That is guaranteed already in the terms of the Bill, and by the other machinery set up by this Parliament. It is, therefore, a question of whether we should make a monopoly for the shipping of Australia, as against any other that may come along. I am reminded that it has a monopoly now. It is not quite complete at present. This is a proposal to complete it; and, when it is completed, I do not know how we are going to fare. My friends opposite, who are “ girding “ against monopolies on every platform, are now, by their deliberate act, making a monopoly complete and perfect of its kind, so far as our Inter-State shipping is concerned. That is the aspect of this matter that appeals to me, and I hope it will receive the fullest consideration that this Chamber can give it before we commit ourselves to a step which seems likely to be fraught with trouble in the near future.
– I hope the Committee will not agree to the Dutch Packet Company and the Nord Deutscher Lloyd Company coming into competition with Australian shipping, with regard to the Papuan trade. When on a visit to Papua, I found that the majority of the people who are complaining most keep large stores at Samarai, Yule Island, and Port Moresby, in competition with Burns, Philp, and Company. The Papuan ought not to be denied the right to do his own shipping work in his own country ; but it is not fair to impose Australian conditions on one company, and then allow the planters and storekeepers in the various ports of Papua to have the benefit of cheap Chinese and Javanese labour on the boats of the Dutch Packet and Nord Deutscher Lloyd Companies. If we insist upon certain wages being paid, it is only fair that we should protect the company which is already receiving a subsidy from the Commonwealth. If those people who have stores there care to do so, they can buy ships and run them to Papua in just the same way as Burns, Philp, and Company do. All that is ‘ necessary in regard to Papua is the plan that Burns, Philp, and Company follow. They do their work in Papua by white labour, as they do in Australian ports. They have white crews and white firemen; but when they get to Port Moresby, the first port of call, they take on a crew of native Papuans, and do the round trip with them to Samarai and back. The people who are crying out for the other steam-ship lines have exactly the same privileges. Many of them are now running small cutters, with a white man in charge, and native Papuans as boat boys. These natives are very able men on board.
– What do those people pay them?
– They pay them at the rate of£6 a year and their rations.
– Do they think they can spare it ?
– If the native Papuan does two years’ work at £6 a year, he can, in many instances, retire for the rest of his natural life, as his needs are simple. It is not the policy of this party to interfere with the native doing his own shipping work in his own country, but we have no right to allow boats employing Chinese and Javanese labour to come into competition with people who, we insist, shall pay full Australian rates of wages.
– Is £6 a year an Australian rate of wages?
– The honorable member for South Sydney informs me that it is nearly as much as is paid in Tasmania. If exemptions are once granted, they will have a very mischievous effect. If we exempt Papua, we have just as much right to exempt the Northern Territory and the north-west coast of Western Australia. The Government ought not to give way one iota on this point, but should insist on Australian conditions being observed. We hear an outcry about rice ; but this Bill will not make a difference of one bag of rice to Papua.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I move -
That the following proviso be added to the clause : - “ Provided that the carrying by any ship, ordinarily carrying mails to or from the Commonwealth, of passengers to or from ports in a State the capital city of which is not connected by railway with the capital city of another State shall not be deemed engaging in the coasting trade.”
The object of the proposed addition is to make provision for the isolated parts of the Australian continent, which have no means of communication, except by sea. I have been afraid for some time past that the proposed legislation in this Bill would make the isolation of several places, and especially of Western Australia, far greater than it is at present. From the first time that the Navigation Bill was introduced into this Parliament, the State I represent has hitherto had the assistance and sympathy of the Government of the day in regard to any proposal which might have the effect of preventing persons travelling to and fro by. sea, until such time as other means of communication were provided. In regard to the present Bill, I have tried to obtain, on behalf of Western Australia, the same consideration that I have hitherto received from previous Governments; but I have had, as yet, no intimation as “to the action the Government propose to take in regard to my amendment. I gather, however, from a letter addressed to the Premier of Western Australia, which reached me only to-day, that the Government do not propose to accept the amendment I have suggested; but that the only consideration they intend to give is the power already in the Bill, by which Executive authority can be given, from time to time, in certain conditions and special cases, for the exemption of British ships from the coasting trade provisions. On 15th August last I wrote to the Prime Minister in the following terms: -
In the Navigation Bill introduced by the Government of the day on 12th September, 1907, it was provided that, “ Until the railways of the State of Western Australia are connected with the railways of the State of South Australia, the carrying of passengers between a port in Western Australia and any other port in Australia by any British ship ordinarily carrying mails to or from the Commonwealth shall not be deemed engaging in the coasting trade.” After 1907 it was thought that the clause was not constitutional owing to its differentiating character, and solely for this reason it was left out of the Bills of 17th September, 1908, and the 12th and 24 th August, 1910, and is left out in the present Bill now before the House of Representatives. Believing that the principal objection to the clause in the Bill of 12th September, 1907, was the danger of its being ruled to be unconstitutional, I have, with the assistance of Mr. Glynn, submitted an amendment to clause 286, herewith enclosed, which is, I believe, within the Constitution, and is general in its scope. I may point out that this course is followed in the Sugar Bounty Act, which, although applicable to the whole Commonwealth, in practice only applies to two States. I hope the Government will help in this matter. Both Western Australia and Tasmania are isolated States - far away with but few opportunities for communication with the rest of the Commonwealth, and both reason and necessity require that until railway communication is established with Perth, as many opportunities of transit of every kind by sea should be available, and should be assisted and encouraged. To place any obstacle whatever in the way of means of transit by sea now existing would be unjust to the great western State, and must retard its advancement. This is so apparent that I need not say more, but most earnestly commend this amendment, which cannot but be of temporary application, to the favorable consideration of your Government.
To that letter I received nothing more than an acknowledgment, so that, although I had made a good many attempts to ascertain the decision of the Government in the matter, I did not learn of it until to-day. In 1904 a Royal Commission on the Navigation Bill was appointed, and the President of that Commission was the present Attorney-General. The Commission arrived at a unanimous recommendation concerning this matter, and the facts then were the same as they are now. There has been no alteration in the situation, except that we are now assured that the isolation of Western Australia will not continue very much longer. The Commission, which had a greater opportunity than perhaps any of us have had to investigate the matter, unanimously recommended -
That, pending the connexion of the railway systems of Western Australia and South Australia, British mail steamers carrying passengers between those States be exempt from the proposed reservation.
As I have said, the reasons which influenced the Commission in arriving at that unanimous decision still hold good to-day. We cannot look into the future, but I say without any hesitation that any curtailment of the means of transit on the immense coast-line of Australia, which is dependent altogether on transport by sea, would be wholly unnecessary and unjustifiable. It would mean in very many cases absolute prohibition. If we impose conditions that cannot be complied with by the oversea shipping companies we might as well prohibit them altogether from participating in our coasting trade. In these comparatively early days in the history of Australia we seem to be just as ready to place restrictions upon the means of transit owned by British people as to impose them upon the means of transit belonging to other nations. This Bill makes no exemption in favour of British ships. British and foreign shipping are treated alike. I do not wish to dwell upon this point, since it has been referred to on many occasions in this House, but we always have been, and are likely to be for many a day to come, under a great obligation to our kinsmen in the Old Country. Surely when we are legislating in this direction we ought to remember the benefits they have conferred upon us; we ought to remember that our independence, our system of free government, our very existence as a people, depend on the strong arm of the Motherland. The very country in which we live was given to us by the Old Land, and when we are legislating in this way we ought not to be unmindful of the benefits we have thus derived and of our obligations to the Mother Country.
– Too thin !
– No doubt it is for a man who professes to have no regard for the Old Country. British ships carry the trade of the Old Country.
– For profit.
– I have no patience with the honorable member. Was he born in the Old Country, or is he a native? If he is a native his ‘father no doubt came here from the Old Land, and he should remember the land that gave his father birth. He ought not to interject in a way that brings discredit upon himself, and, indeed, upon the whole Committee.
– British ships with Asiatic crews on board !
– But carrying British commerce.
– And run for profit.
– Let the honorable member live in another country, and see how he will fare there. Even the Asiatics to whom reference has been made are British subjects.
– We are not very proud of their part of the Empire.
– I do not suppose they are very proud of the honorable member. In addition to being unmindful of our kinsmen and the great Empire to which we belong, we are unmindful, it seems to me, of our own people. All have to be sacrificed, because of some idea on the part of honorable members opposite, that the Australian shipping companies and those engaged upon their ships merit greater consideration than they are receiving. We have in Australia a population of 4,500,000, and a large number of that population is resident on that part of the coast which has no means of communication except by sea. We speak of a coastline some 12,000 miles in extent, and threefourths of that coast-line is without railway communication. Those who reside along that three-fourths of our coast-line have no means of communication except by sea, and even that service is very infrequent. We are deliberately asked under this clause to say to them that their means of transit, infrequent as it is, shall be still further restricted. Is there any suggestion of progress or enterprise in this proposal? When the people to whom I have just referred come to realize what this provision really means they must conclude that those who supported it were little Australians. They will consider that its supporters could not have had any idea of the development of this vast territory, and of the necessity for giving it every possible chance. Instead of developing enterprise honorable members opposite desire to restrict it. This clause places restrictions, not only upon means of transit by sea, but on every kind of enterprise and energy.
– Why did not the right honorable member say that when he asked us to vote for the trans-Australian railway ?
– I do not know that I have ever expressed an opinion to the contrary, nor do I quite understand the appropriateness of the honorable member’s interjection. It seems to me that Australian ship-owners and those employed on their vessels are to have first consideration, and that the producers and pioneers of Australia - those who are trying to build up the country - are to receive only secondary consideration.
– Who is the better pioneer, the farmer or the seaman?
– Undoubtedly the farmer is.
– The farmer would not be here but for the seaman.
– We need the farmer to raise the produce for the seaman to carry away. Does the honorable member suggest that this country is going to be developed only by seamen? Are not the producers - those who carve out homes for themselves in the wilderness, and subjugate it, to be considered?
– At any rate, it was British seamen who brought the people here.
– And badly paid they, were.
– We have been listening to these narrow views on the part of honorable members opposite for the last ten years. They are all in favour of coercion and restriction, but these restrictions and disabilities must react upon ourselves. If we impose upon oversea steamers the restrictions for which this clause provides, they will have to increase their freights and other charges. Every shilling, that we take out of the pockets of the oversea shipping companies in one direction will have to be made good in another, and the people will have to pay. Everything comes back to the producer on the land. Surely we do not wish to prohibit or impose any further restrictions on travelling by sea. We need improved travelling facilities, and every ocean roadway should be open to the person who wishes to travel .by it. My own State spent at least £2,500,000 on harbor works at Fremantle and Albany, in order that these very mail steamers should be able to call there to deliver and to take away our mails, to carry our passengers in comfort, and to carry some of our produce to the Old Country. Our desire was to place that State on the high road between the eastern States and the Old Country. I was responsible for the introduction of the measure which created the Fremantle Harbor, but had any one told me at the time that within a few years, although the mail steamers would still be calling at Fremantle, the people of Western Australia would be prevented from travelling by them to and from the eastern States, I would not have believed it. Is this one of the great advantages which Western Australia has received from Federation? The people of that State are entirely dependent upon sea transit for their communication with the eastern States, but if the Bill passes as the Government desire to frame it, it will be of no advantage to the people of Western Australia to have the mail steamers calling at their ports so far as passenger communication with the eastern States is concerned. I do not desire that the local steam-ship companies shall have to suffer by the competition of cargo tramps ; my only wish is that passengers may be permitted to travel without let or hindrance by sea where there is no means of communication by railway. This view is supported by various representative bodies in Western Australia - Chambers of Commerce, municipal councils, and the like - and it has received similar support in Tasmania.
– The right to travel is not taken away.
– The mail steamers will not be- allowed to carry passengers between ports until they have obtained a permit from the Government. That permit will not be theirs as a matter of right, and may not be granted. It will not be granted unless the Government of the day feels in the humour to grant it. This may suit a representative of the great city of Hobart, but it is not according to my view of what is right. I do not think that this Government should ask Parliament for the power to prevent the public from travelling from one port of Australia to another by sea by whatever vessels may be available, when there is no means of travelling by land. My proposal does not go as far as I would like to go. It asks for as little as’ possible. I have made as small a request as I can, in the hope that it may obtain consideration. The AttorneyGeneral laughs, he cares little for the isolation of the people of Western Australia. What guarantee is there that permits will be granted to the mail steamer companies? I do not know what the people of Hobart will. think of the action of the honorable member for Denison in supporting a provision preventing the people of Tasmania from using whatever means of sea travelling may be available to them, nor how he will justify his action in voting against the proposal to assist them.
– It will not assist them. The honorable member has not shown that it will.
– The people of isolated States like Western Australia and Tasmania should be permitted to use any means of transit that may be safe. It is not to their interest that restrictions should be placed on their opportunities for travelling.
– I am not going to grasp at a shadow.
– Perhaps the electors of Denison will let the honorable member know what they think of his action. Tasmania, like Western Australia, seems to have sent some representatives here who are prepared to vote against the interests of their constituents.
– The honorable member has a supporter in the honorable member for Fremantle.
– Three of the representatives of Western Australia are members of the Liberal party, and are in favour of my proposal. The rejection of my proposal will cause great inconvenience to the people of Western Australia, as well as great loss to the pioneers of settlement who are scattered round our immense coastline. Is it desirable that we shall have to travel in ships like the Warrego, as it has been described to us by honorable members opposite?
– Are not the Orient steamers good ships?
– Western Australian passengers may not be allowed to travel by the Orient steamers, or by the Peninsular and Oriental steamers, because they may not get a permit or exemption from the Government.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member is entitled to make a second speech.
– What justification is there for compelling people to travel in vessels like the Warrego when much more comfort able and speedy vessels are available? Honorable members ‘ opposite who travelled by the Warrego up to Queensland coast, would not return by her ; they preferred to face the dangers of smallpox on a Japanese, steamer. If my proposal were carried, passengers would be allowed to travel on the mail steamers from Sydney to Hobart. This would provide for the large tourist traffic of the summer months. They would also be able to travel by any steamer to Port Moresby, the capital of Papua, and to Port Darwin, until the railway has been taken there. They could travel, too, from Melbourne to Hobart by the New Zealand steamers, or any other vessels making the voyage, and from any port of Australia to Fremantle, until the Western Australian railway is completed.
– Could they travel between Melbourne and Sydney ?
– My amendment does not cover that; because there is railway communication between those two capitals. In 1911, 46,941 passengers travelled between Western Australia and the eastern States ; 32,965 by the local steamers, and 13,976 by the mail steamers. The mail steamers do not carry cargo between Australian ports, and I am not desirous that the cargo business of the Inter- State steamers should be interfered with. My wish is that Australian companies shall have every consideration. But I am totally opposed to preventing the travelling public going to or coming from isolated parts of the continent from using any vessels that may be available. From Rockhampton northward, on the east coast, the scattered population, which is to be found as far as Cape York, and round the Gulf of Carpenpentaria to Port Darwin, has to depend for its means of travelling to a large extent on the vessels which go from Australia to Java, Singapore, the Phillipines, China, and Japan. I cannot understand why it should be proposed to deprive them of the benefits which they now derive from these lines of communication. Then, on the Western Australian coast, from Geraldton round to the Cambridge Gulf, and to Port Darwin, people are similarly dependent on steamers. Their opportunities for travelling are not so good as are possessed on the east coast, but they have the benefit of the steam-ship lines doing business with Singapore and other places beyond Australia. This it is proposed to take from them. I cannot understand why obstacles and difficulties should be placed in the way of people who are really the pioneers of settlement on this vast coastline, because such a policy must retard the progress of the country, and, on the part of Parliament, is atrocious and wicked. The first class fare on the mail steamers between Melbourne and Fremantle is £9 ios. single, and the second class fare is £710s. ; while on the coastal steamers the fares are £8 8s. and £6 6s. respectively, showing a difference of £1 1s. 9d. first class, and £1 3s. 9d. second class. It seems to me that people are prepared to pay the higher rate, not only because they desire the most comfort, but because they have to take advantage of the opportunities for travelling as they present themselves. It is asked why British shipping companies cannot conform to the conditions laid down by the Bill ; and, while that may be a reasonable question, I think it would be difficult, if not impossible, for them to comply. But supposing those shipping companies did conform to the conditions, in what way would that help the mercantile marine of Australia? Supposing they said, “The conditions are very irksome, but we shall obey the law.” How would that be of any assistance to those who own the ships, or the seamen who work on them?
– It is a question of fair competition.
– Would it help the Australian ship-owners?
– I would say it would have a tendency to do so - to treat all men alike is a basic principle of good law.
– My opinion is that, if the British shipping companies did conform to the conditions, it would not satisfy the ship-owners of Australia, or the sailors, nor would it satisfy honorable members opposite. The desire is to get rid altogether of the competition in the way of carrying passengers. No consideration whatever seems to be given to the inconvenience to the general public, so long as something is done for the seamen and workers whom honorable members opposite would like us to believe are their particular care.
– That is not a fair statement of the case. I assure the right honorable gentleman that that is not so.
– It may not be so in the case of the Attorney- General, but does he speak for every one?
– No; but I speak for the Government in this matter.
– Who is injured by the existing state of affairs ? We cannot in a moment have everything we desire; and it is neither politic nor reasonable to try to make conditions now for this sparsely-settled country that may be applicable only 100 years later. I know from my own knowledge that local shipowners are in a very much better position now that they were a few years ago. The honorable member for Hindmarsh knows that a shipping company of Adelaide, in common with local ship-owners generally, has done very well during the last ten or fifteen 3’ears.
– The ship-owners say that they have not.
– We can judge for ourselves.
-They have not done better than those engaged in any other industry.
– The conditions of the seamen and other persons engaged on the boats are very much better than they used to be.
– Why should they not be?
– I am merely stating a fact; and I do not believe that if every one were confined to intercolonial ships the conditions would be any better for those who are employed. After all, the numbers of men engaged on the intercolonial ships are not very great. I am informed that masters, mates, sailors, firemen, and stewards are not more than 10,000 to 12,000; and if those men have good conditions under their arbitration awards, I do not see why the tens of thousands of producers should be unnecessarily inconvenienced.
– Why should the local ship-owners have to compete against people who do not conform to Australian conditions ?
– As the figures show, the competition is not of very large extent, and I have not heard any intercolonial ship-owner in recent, years’ say that the coastal passenger trade should be exclusively confined to the local shipping. They know that such an idea is so unreasonable and unpopular that they hesitate to express it; but leave it to this Govern-‘ ment to make the proposal for them. We were told the other day that some of the British shipping companies were paying 50 and 60 per cent., and that the Peninsular and Oriental Company have paid 50 per cent, in dividends. From what I can find out, I do not think that that is a correct statement, and such allegations ought not to be made without data, and allowed to find their way into Hansard. I am informed, in a published statement, that the average dividend paid by representative steam-ship companies last year was 6.06 per cent., the dividends varying from nothing to 9 per cent. It is true that one company, the Oceanic, paid as much as 30 per cent., which raised the average, but, eliminating that company, the average is reduced to 5.7 per cent. The balance-sheets of the intercolonial steamship companies show that the dividends have varied from 8 per cent, to 1 5 per cent, during the last year; so that they do not seem to be doing very badly.
– What is the authority for the statement in regard to foreign vessels?
– An article in Fair Play, of December last. Shipowners and crews are all looked after by legislation.
– They look after themselves.
– We all require assistance, and these men have the benefit of the services of the representatives of the people here. The ship-owners, 1 think, are all friends of mine, but I must say that they nearly all live in big houses - and I think “they ought to. 1 regret to think that honorable members opposite delight in curtailing and hampering freedom and independence. It used to be thought at one time by some that the Labour party believed in the rights of individuals, freedom, liberty, independence of character, the desire to do right, and to excel, emulation, and ambition ; but it has long since been made clear by their actions that they do not aim at one of them. Their’ policy is all ‘ in the direction of restriction and coercion, and we shall have no liberty or freedom left if this goes on. I do not believe it will go on much longer. I think the people will rise up in their wrath and destroy it. Then there seems to be a disregard; of all others but themselves. They are always thinking of themselves, and the class which they think sends them to this House. They seem to think that all those who do not vote for them’ deserve no consideration. If a man does not vote for me, I always think that he may do so next time. I do not fasten on to him to destroy him because he has not voted for me, nor do I join in passing laws to restrict his freedom and independence, and make his life a burden to him. Another thing I regret is that honorable members opposite seem to have no regard for the Old Country.’ I know that the honorable member for Maranoa is a man who has fought the battles of his country, but if he sticks to the Labour party much longer he will not feel that he is a Britisher at all. All the time, while we are placing restrictions upon shipping; and sneering at and insulting other nations who are not of’ the same colour as ourselves, we are talking about getting newmarkets for our produce. They do not care whether a’ man is black, yellow, red, or any other colour, so long as they can find in him a market for our produce; they are all for exploiting him. There is, however, a give and take in all these, things. I should think . that, if the opinions which honorable members opposite hold in regard to foreign nations were considered by those nations to be the feeling of the whole community of Australia, we should be the best hated people in the whole world. They are seeking markets from other countries, but doing their best to incur the hatred and contempt of the people with whom they desire to trade. I can only express the hope that, at any rate, some honorable members opposite will see that it is unwise at this time, and in this fashion, to place any restriction in regard to travelling on the people who live along several thousand miles of our coastline, and have no means of travelling except by sea. Their opportunities of travelling are very few now. What will they think of this National Parliament, as some honorable members are so f ond -of calling it, which, instead of giving them more comfort, greater facilities for travelling, and more opportunities for carrying on their business, is doing its best to curtail the few opportunities they already have? That policy is suicidal. It will ricochet upon themselves. While they will do great injury to large communities of people, perhaps these extreme proposals, which are not based upon justice or common sense, may have the effect of hastening the day when the people of Australia will refuse any longer to live under them, and in that way they may do some good.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
We propose to proceed with the Navigation Bill until it is passed.
– Does the Prime Minister mean that the Government will not go on with any other business in between?
– No, except anything which is exceptionally urgent.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.22 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 October 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19121010_reps_4_67/>.