4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister where application forms for the maternity allowance will be available when they are ready ?
– They will be available over as wide an area as possible. They are not yet ready, although the Act has been proclaimed, and payments under it will be made for all births occurring from yesterday onwards. The probability is that it will not be possible to make any payments before 1st November, but rights to the allowance accruing from yesterday, will be acknowledged as soon as the money is available.
Adjournment of Debate : Personal Explanations.
– I wish to ask you a question, Mr. Speaker. I desire to know whether the fact that the Prime Minister yesterdaywas permitted to move the adjournment of the debate upon the formal motion for going into Committee of Supply for the discussion of grievances, after having given reasons for doing so, made the motion out of order, and necessitates the bringing forward again of the grievance motion. The standing order says -
The following motions are not open to debate, shall be moved without argument or opinion offered, shall be forthwith put from the Chair without amendment, and the vote taken. . . .
As the records show, the Prime Minister gave his reasons for moving the adjournment of the grievance debate, but, notwithstanding, the question was put to the House and carried. Apparently, the procedure was wholly out of order. I ask whether, under the circumstances, we can get back to the grievance motion ?
– The Standing Orders require that dissent from my ruling shall be taken at once, but that was not done. When occasion arises, I shall deal with the matter. The Prime Minister moved the adjournment of the debate referred to, and then make some remarks.
– No, he made a statement before moving the adjournment.
– As a misunderstanding seems to have arisen in connexion with the grievance debate yesterday, I wish to make a personal explanation about the matter. It seems to be thought that I entered into an arrangement for a certain course to be taken, my remark that I would not be long, being interpreted to mean that I was making an arrangement binding others. I did not intend, and had no right, to make any such arrangement, the deputy-leader of the Opposition being within the precincts of the House, and I am sorry that a misunderstanding arose. I am sure that the Minister of Trade and Customs was under the impression that an arrangement was made, but I say now that that was quite a misunderstanding.
– I was the senior Minister in the chamber when the grievance motion was called on. As honorable members had for two days been discussing grievances upon a Supply Bill, an honorable member on this side at once moved the adjournment of the debate. The ex-Treasurer, the right honorable member for Swan, then said that if the grievance discussion were permitted to go on it would not continue for more than halfanhour - at least that was the impression which I and some of the members of his own side received from his remarks. I therefore asked the honorable member who moved the adjournment of the debate, to withdraw his motion, which he did on the distinct understanding that the grievance debate would not continue after one o’clock, and I informed the Prime Minister of the understanding arrived at as the result of what has been said by the right honorable member for Swan.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the report of the High Commissioner, dated 31st March, in which the latter says that, unless some rapid increase in the means of transit occurs, a serious and, perhaps, disastrous check to Australian immigration may take place? I direct his attention particularly to the following paragraph in the report -
It does seem a thousand pities now that such an unusual demand for passages to Australia has arisen that we should find ourselves in danger of a contrary movement setting in. . . .
I am bound, after the most careful and earnest consideration, to state that I am convinced some assurance, given by those in authority, that emigration to Australia will be encouraged and assisted for a period of at least four or five years is needed by the shipping companies before they will build the number of passenger steamers necessary.
Is the Prime Minister prepared to act on the recommendation of the High Commissioner, and subsidize shipping companies, so that the stream of emigration to Australia may not receive the serious check which the High Commissioner fears?
– The state of things revealed by the report shows the advantage of having in power a Government which enables it to exist. We already subsidize a line of steamers, and it is a pity -that private enterprise cannot cater for those who desire to come here.
– Is not the subsidy referred to that paid to the Orient Steam Navigation Company for the conveyance of mails? Seeing that the State Governments have been expending money for the conveyance of nominated and assisted immigrants, and the High Commissioner thinks it necessary that an assurance be given that immigration will be assisted and encouraged for four or five years to come, will the right honorable gentleman bring the matter before the Governments of the States, so that there may be some arrangement between them and him by which such assurance can be given, and a continuous flow of immigration made certain?
– I shall ask the Minister of External Affairs to bring the matter before the Governments of the States. Subsidy, subsidy, subsidy, is apparently to be the policy.
– Has the Attorney-General read in this morning’s Age the statement in a letter signed “Antifake” referring to the contention of the Attorney-General that there are six companies laws, and not one of them satisfactory -
Power is given to the Commonwealth Parliament, under section 51 of the Constitution Act, to make a uniform Company Act.
I ask if this ia so?
– The report of my remarks, so far as it goes, is correct. This Parliament has no power to pass a Companies Act controlling the behaviour and the proceedings of companies formed within the Commonwealth. That was distinctly laid down in the Huddart Parker case. My contention is unchallengeable.
– Was not the decision of the High Court to this effect : That our power to legislate in regard to company law is limited, that we cannot frame a uniform company law, but that we have the same power to control companies that we have to control persons?
– I should, like to quote from a speech I made in this Chamber on the introduction of the Constitution Alteration Bill on 18th October, 1910, in which I said -
My object just now is to show the extent to which our power over corporations is impaired, and how little power we have to deal with corporations. In the Huddart-Parker case, reported in the Commonwealth Law Reports, Vol. VIII., page 330, the decision, so far as corporations are concerned, was that the power does not extend to enable the Commonwealth to control the conduct of corporations in respect of internal trade. The dicta of the Court indicate that the power does not extend to the creation of corporations, but only to corporations already formed; that it extends to the status and capacity of such corporations, but not to their behaviour, the ambiguity on this point being resolved in favour of the narrower construction in view of the implied reservation to the States of internal trade. The “case leaves the extent of the power in great doubt, but it appears clear that it does not enable the Commonwealth to pass a comprehensive Companies Act providing for the creation, control, and dissolution of companies.
The Chief Justice, in delivering the judgment of the majority of the Court, after quoting a number of American cases and inquiring whether the power to make laws with respect to foreign corporations and trading and financial corporations extended to the control of such corporations when lawfully engaged in domestic trade within a State, went on to say -
It follows that the power does not extend to trade and commerce within a State, and consequently, that the power to legislate as to internal trade and commerce is reserved to the State by the operation of section 107 to the exclusion of the Commonwealth, and this as fully and effectively as if section 51 (>) had contained negative words prohibiting the exercise of such power. … In other words, I think that paragraph 20 empowers the Commonwealth _ to prohibit a trading or financial corporation formed within the Commonwealth from ^entering into any field of operation, but does not empower the Commonwealth to control the opera- tions of a corporation which lawfully enters upon a field of opertaion, the control of which is exclusively reserved to the States.
These words are perfectly clear. They are free from ambiguity. There is not the shadow of a doubt that we cannot pass a general company law. As to my honable and learned friend’s statement that the decision means that we have the same power over companies as over persons, so far as I know that is not so. To the extent that our powers go, we have power over persons ; wherever we have power over their status we have power over their behaviour. In regard to companies, we have power over their status in some respects, but no power at all over their behaviour, and since it is with the behaviour of companies that the public is chiefly concerned, we really have no power over companies, and therefore no power to make a general company law.
– I wish to ask the AttorneyGeneral a question in order to prevent any misapprehension. Did not the Huddart Parker case decide that our attempt to exercise, under the Australian Industries Preservation Act of 1906, greater jurisdiction over companies than over persons was not founded upon any constitutional power? In other words, did it not decide that we could do in respect of companies exactly what we could do under our power in respect of persons ? Does the AttorneyGeneral say that we have not the same power to control the operations of companies in relation to Inter- State trade and commerce that we have to control the operations of persons?
– I do not propose to enter into a fruitless discussion upon matters that are not, and cannot be, before the Parliament. I’ shall, however, give one answer to the honorable member’s question. Where our power is clear, as it is, for instance, in respect of defence, there is no limit, inside that sphere, to its scope over persons or anything else. We may, therefore, legislate in respect not only to status, but also to behaviour. In short, our power is plenary. But our power, under section 51, stops very far short of this. Paragraph xx provides that the Parliament shall, subject to the Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to -
Foreign corporations and trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth.
I hold that what it means is that we have no power to make laws with respect to foreign corporations and trading or financial corporations within the limits of the Commonwealth, except so far as to prohibit them from entering into any field of operations. Over their behaviour, once they have entered into it, we have no control at all.
– Oh !
– I am quoting from the judgment of the Court.
– We have no exceptional power of controlling their behaviour.
– I care not whether the power is exceptional or ordinary. It is sufficient that we have not the power. We are not discussing metaphysics, but plain matters of fact and questions of law., The law rests upon a basis, not of metaphysics, but of facts, and, in view of the judgment of the High Court in the Huddart Parker case, it is clear that we have not the power to make a general company law.
High Commissioner’s Report - Inspection of Immigrants - Northern Territory Mining Ordinance
– I desire to ask the Minister for External Affairs when the High Commissioner’s report, dated 31st March last, will be made available to honorable members.
– I understand that it is available. I asked that it should be distributed yesterday amongst honorable members, and those who have not yet obtained a copy may now secure one.
– I desire to ask the Minister for External Affairs whether any arrangement is made for the medical inspection of immigrants when they are on board ship ready to sail, or if the only inspection made takes place previous to their embarkation?
– So far as passengers embarking for Australia are concerned, the Federal Government have no medical inspection oversea ; the only medical inspection we have takes place when they arrive here.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs inform the House when the mining Ordinance in respect of the Northern Territory will be ready ?
– I cannot say at present. I shall be glad to supply the honorable member with the information later on.
Robberies from Letter Pillars - Wireless Stations, North Queensland, and Victor Harbor, South Australia - Marconi Company’s Dispute - Accumulated Leave.
– I desire to draw the attention of the Postmaster-General to a paragraph in this morning’s issue of the Age with respect to robberies from postal letterboxes. Will he ask the officers of the Central Office to rack their mechanical brains in some way with a view of stopping the perpetration of these robberies from pillar-boxes placed in lonely districts? If they have not sufficient brains to enable them to invent something to put a stop to these robberies, will they use the methods that were adopted in England thirty years ago?
– From time immemorial it has been found difficult, in any circumstances, to put a stop to thieving. If my honorable friend will give me any suggestions for improving the letter-boxes, I shall be pleased to consider them.
– In view of the fact that what is known as the hurricane season on the north-east coast of Australia occurs during the first three months of the year-, will the Postmaster-General expedite the provision of wireless telegraph stations in North Queensland, so that risks to shipping in the future may be minimized to the greatest possible extent?
– Yes ; I may say that so far as stations on the Queensland coast are concerned, the Brisbane station is working most satisfactorily. The constructing engineer, with apparatus, is now on his way to Papua, and it is hoped that at the end of November, at the very latest, we shall be able to communicate by wireless between Brisbane and Port Moresby. The construction of the Townsville station has also reached a stage that leads us to anticipate that it will be working by 30th November next.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral inform the House what is the position in regard to the Marconi Company’s dispute with the Department? Has a decision yet been arrived at, and, if so, what is the nature of that decision?
– The dispute between the Department and the Marconi Company is now before the High Court. The position is that a decision was given by Mr. Justice Higgins, refusing to the Marconi Company the right to make an inspection of the apparatus at the Melbourne station.
– Except under conditions.
– No; an inspection under certain conditions was offered the company, but they would not accept them. Judgment was given by Mr. Justice Higgins against the Marconi Company, and from that decision they are appealing to the High Court. I believe that the decision of the Court will be given in a few days.
asked the PostmasterGeneral,upon notice -
When will a start be made with the erection of a wireless station at Victor Harbor, South Australia ?
– It is not intended to erect a radio-telegraph station at Victor Harbor during this financial year.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Electoral Rolls - Federal Capital
– I wish to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether, in view of the facts which have been published, showing that there are enrolled on the Federal Electoral Rolls in two States considerably more electors than there are adult residents in those States, he will take immediate steps to ascertain whether the figures of the Chief Electoral Officer or those of the Government Statistician, Mr. Knibbs, are correct?
– The Electoral Officer thinks that he is right, whilst the Government Statistician believes that his figures are correct. The matter is now under investigation.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether a decision has yet been arrived at in connexion with the naming of the Federal Capital, and, if so, whether he will give the House an opportunity to discuss the name determined upon?
– The matter is one that will have to be looked into. The name that I prefer is “ Shakespeare.”
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether he has noticed a statement made by the Attorney-General of New South Wales that he and some member of the Commonwealth Government have entered into an arrangement in regard to the use of Government House, Sydney, by the Governor-General, and whether he will inform the House what has been done in the matter?
– I made a brief reference yesterday, to Mr. Holman’s statement. I prefer not to discuss the matter, but the facts may be briefly mentioned. The Government of New South Wales informed us that they desired the use of Government House, Sydney, for State purposes. Subsequently, we represented to them the desirableness of continuing its use as a residence for the Governor-General during Lord Denman’s term of office. The State Government then proposed to allow us the use of Government House itself with portion of the grounds, and to use the remaining area for public purposes. The Commonwealth Government were agreeable to the adoption of that course, and were prepared to pay for the maintenance and upkeep of the grounds that were left for the use of the Governor-General. The
State Government, however, demanded payment at the rate of 3½ per cent. on the capital value of the land and building occupied by the Governor-General. We felt that we could not accept that proposal. It was tantamount to paying rent to a landlord by way of interest on his property, and usually where rent is paid the landlord has to provide for maintenance. We had proposed to keep the grounds in fair condition, and the house in repair, and we thought that that was the extreme limit to which we could go. I deplore the whole business. I have taken more pains, and shown more courtesy and consideration in this than I have ever done in connexion with any other matter, and I have done so simply because the question involved another with whom we are all associated, and who cannot speak for himself.
– What is the estimated amount on which the 3½ per cent, was required after the excision of the grounds to which the Governor-General and the Government, I presume, agreed?
– I could not say accurately, but it will run into a few thousand - between . £3,000 and £4,000 annually.
– After the ground has been taken away?
– I think so, but I will get the facts. What was asked was 3½ per cent. on the actual value, but if the amount involved were only £1 the principle would be the same.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
It was notified that Government House and grounds were wanted for State purposes, and would not be available as a residence for the
Governor-General in Sydney after a certain date.
After negotiations, the house and portion of the grounds were offered for residential purposes, on payment of 3i per cent, interest on the value of the property.
All the people of the Commonwealth contribute equally towards the allowance of the GovernorGeneral. Sydney not being the Seat of Government, its citizens and the State of New South Wales could not be granted preferential treatment at the expense of citizens in other parts of the Commonwealth.
Payment for services rendered is a sound principle, but that does not include privilege to any.
The Government viewed with favour His Excellency residing for part of his time at Government House, Sydney, and did all they could reasonably do to continue that policy.
Full information regarding this matter is contained in the papers recently laid on the table of this House.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and will be supplied later in the day. (See page 4216.)
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 10th October, vide page 4154) : -
Clause 286 (as amended) -
The Governor-General may by order declare that the carrying of passengers between speci fied ports in Australia by British ships, shall not be deemed engaging in the coasting trade.
Upon which Sir John Forrest had moved -
That the following words be added to theclause : - “ 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 Stateshall not be deemed engaging in the coasting trade.”
– I urge on the Committee the necessity for maintaining the clause as it stands. Rightly or wrongly, we are carrying out the established policy of Australia, namely,, the maintenance afloat of the same standard; of comfort that we have decided shall be maintained ashore. I have no complaint to make of the tone of the discussion of this measure by honorable members opposite, but I impress upon them that, just as in the Mother Country there are somequestions, like that of foreign policy, above party considerations, there are questions here which should be similarly regarded.. The standard of comfort of living in Australia should be discussed quite apart f rom any party leanings, so that successive Governments, and all contracting parties, may understand what is the settled policy of the country.
– I think both sides have been trying to secure a very reasonable standard.
– There is no necessity for any party conflict on questions of the kind. The honorable member for -Swan has urged that the conveyance of passengers by the mail steamers on the Australian coast is a great convenience to the people of Western Australia and the other States, and that any prohibition would do a great injury to the people of the State he represents. That, however, is not, in my opinion, a fear for which we should have any regard; we should realize that unless this clause be accepted great injury would be done to the shipping interests of Australia - that it will mean sacrificing the Shipowners Federation of this country for the shipping combines of the Old World. If honorable members opposite are prepared to do that, I am not.
– Does the honorable member not think that such a statement is. susceptible of a little proof?
– Undoubtedly; my -desire is to bring the debate to close quarters. It may be a matter for amusement to honorable members opposite; but the standard of living in Australia is a serious matter for us on this side. In what I am going to say I am speaking on the -authority of one of the leading members -of the Shipowners Federation; and, while I shall not mention his name publicly, I -am quite prepared to give it privately to any honorable member opposite who desires it. Although on questions affecting labour and capital I have differed from this gentleman, I have always found him ^perfectly truthful and upright; and I should be almost prepared to take his word before that of any other man in Australia. We all know of the great rush of passengers there is from March to June in order to reach London in time for “ the season.” There is a whole army of Australians who live mainly on cutting coupons and signing receipts, and who are deeply “interested in travelling round Europe. I do not say that all the travellers are of “that class, but it is the latter, and not the hard-working people, who are making the most noise over this question. The Shipowners Federation have striven with some marked success to place at the disposal of the public a type of steamer that is quite sufficient for all the requirements of the ordinary person who is not educated up to the standard of the English “ Johnny.” When the rush on the mail boats is over they are patronised by people who wish to travel luxuriously, to the detriment of the Inter-State steamers ; and I am informed that in the future there will be a tendency to lay up the latter. The Australian vessels are not built for cargo, but for cargo and passengers, and unless they can get a full complement of both, the companies, which are not benevolent societies, will have o put them out of commission. The tendency of certain people is to use the mail boats when they can, and thus there > are not full passenger lists for the first class ships built by the Ship-owners Federation. The local ship-owners are doing the best they can to give every comfort and convenience, according to modern standards, to Australian travellers. If a good case is made out the Government can : grant an exemption from the coastingtrade provisions, and there is no doubt that whatever Government is in office when the Bill becomes an Act, will have to use great tact and judgment in administering it. I urge honorable members to understand clearly that we are simply studying the interests of our own shipping trade. The argument I used last night has never been refuted. The Australian Ship-owners Federation is not the only shipping combine in the world. The owners are all in combines and shipping rings so far as oversea shipping is concerned, but they cut the trade out to suit themselves. If they can do that as capitalistic combines, surely we in the Parliament, of Australia can cut the trade out to suit Australia, and will not be doing any injustice in doing so? There is no prohibition against oversea vessels. They can come into the trade if they like by getting a permit, and they ought to be in a position to do so. It ought to pay them better than it would pay the Australian Ship-owners Federation,, because, according to the arguments of the right honorable member for Swan and other members of the Opposition, their passenger rates are higher than those on the InterState vessels. That fact must mean more profit to the two companies in question, which ought in the very nature of things to be able to bear the burden of higher wages better than their competitors, the Ship-owners’ Federation of Australia. There is, therefore, no excuse for the attitude of those two shipping companies, and the Opposition are simply bolstering up their interests. We have heard a good deal about loyalty to England over this matter; but there are two kinds of loyalty. In one way loyalty is very much like grief. We have all witnessed exhibitions of grief of such a noisy character that they are a nuisance to everybody. On the other hand, with some human beings there is an absence of outward manifestations of grief, although the square-set jaw shows that they are affected ten times more intensely than are those who make a great noise. The same applies to loyalty. We hear a good deal about loyalty from members on the other side, but let me tell them that they have not secured a monopoly of loyalty to the Mother Country. They exhibit a species of loyalty which consists of drumbeating and flag-waving, and noise-making, and humbug generally. They are quite welcome to any amount of that kind of thing, but there is quite as much real loyalty on this as on the other side of the House, although we do not parade it. We are prepared to respect our English brothers, and cherish the English connexion. We are as proud of speaking the tongue of Shakespeare and Milton as is any honorable member opposite, and if the Old Country were in trouble, we should be prepared to spend every shilling, and offer every life to uphold her integrity. But we can do all that without making a parade of it. Perhaps I have a right to speak on this matter as one who represented this Parliament at the Coronation. I would give place to nobody in loyalty to the Crown and respect for the wearer of the Crown as an English gentleman. I would urge those noisy loyalists in the Opposition ranks, when recognising the Queen of England as the first lady in the realm, to make themselves acquainted with the manner in which she dresses herself and her children. If then they, and those connected with them, imitated her in that regard, they might be doing something of practical value on this side of the world. After all, this is not a question of loyalty to the Mother Country, so much as a question of loyalty to the ship-owners’ combines of the Mother Country. I refuse to go out of my way to display a great amount of loyalty to them, merely in order to enable them to secure plunder in Australian waters. I consider that the right honorable member for Swan is doing everything he can to benefit the Peninsular and Oriental Company and the Orient Company to the detriment of the Shipowners’ Federation of Australia. That is the plain issue, and the right honorable member cannot burke it. Members of the Opposition speak of the producers of Australia with their tongues in their cheeks. Their purpose is simply to throw dust in the eyes of the Australian people. I have always understood that our wheat, wool, and apples did not go in the mail boats alone, but are also carried by the Ocean Steam-ship Company and other companies. After all, what is the Inter-State trade to the producer? When there happens to be a scarcity in some States of chaff and products of that character the produce becomes the subject of Inter-State trade ; but that is a mere bagatelle in comparison with the great oversea trade with, which the Bill does not interfere at all. There is, therefore, nothing in that argument. The producer does not suffer, and honorable members opposite know that he does not; but, of course, if they can get the people to believe that the producing interests of Australia are suffering, the game is satisfactory from a party point of view. I think, however, that we should get a little above party in discussing questions of this character. The right honorable member for’ Swan referred last night to myself and others as defenders of the shipping combine of Australia. I have nothing to dowith that combine, and am totally opposed to allowing any combine to operate injuriously to the public interest. If we secure the necessary powers for this Parliament, the Ship-owners Federation and other combines will have to toe the mark, so far as I am concerned. The right honorable member for Swan quoted last night from *Fair Play to show that the ship-owners of Australia had made plenty of money, and sohad the shipping companies of Great Britain. I do not think the ship-owners of Australia have made more money during thegood times than have the squatting and other interests. There has been a good time all round, and the ship-owner has possibly done as well as his neighbours, but certainly no better. I could not help remarking the fact that the right honorable member quoted from Fair Play to show that the profit of the Ocean Steam-ship Company was 30 per cent. I should think that was rather above the mark.
– Only one company earned 30 per cent., and I think that the proper name is the Oceanic Steam.ship Company. It is an American company whose boats, I believe, .do not come here.
– I am inclined to think that the proper name is the Ocean Steam-ship Company, which is generally known here as Alfred Holt’s Blue Funnel Line. The remarkable fact is that that line pay higher wages than do any of their competitiors, and, in addition, give a bonus to all their servants from the captain on the bridge to the trimmer in the stokehole. Their ships are better found, and in every way superior to those of all their competitors in the Old Country, proving that it is possible for a company to give good conditions to their employes, without compulsion, and at the same time to make money. Every one who has dealings with> the Blue Funnel line either as an employe or as a traveller can give them a good name.
– Holt’s Company are trading on our north-west coast.
– Under this Bil? they will have a perfect right to continue to do so, and no one will object to them.
– They employ coloured labour on the north-west coast.
– I urge honorable members to get away from their prejudices on this matter, because the main issue is : Are we going to allow our standard to be maintained? If we are, we must extend to the Ship-owners Federation of Australia an amount of protection that will enable them to keep up the standard that the Commonwealth requires. There is no necessity to drag the British Government into this matter, because, after all, our policy is very simple. It is to enact a law that is in the best interests of Australia. Our controversy with the British Government on the subject need not be carried on in any way offensively^ and I am certain that if Australia is firm and frank in the matter those who are in the counsels of the Mother Country will recognise before long that what the oversea Dominions are demanding for themselves is, after all, only fair and reasonable.
.- I am certain that if honorable members on the Ministerial side of the House had to come by sea from their constituencies to this city they would be supporting us, especially if they had had a few trips across the Australian Bight on a boat which was only partially loaded - and the coasters usually have to return from the west with very little cargo. I can assure those honorable members who come to this House in a nice sleeping car that it is a different proposition to spend five or six days on the water. They should therefore have at least a little consideration for others, and it is only asked for until the railway is completed. When the people of Western Australia joined the Federation they little thought that they would have worse facilities for getting to the Eastern States, and this clause would certainly give them worse facilities than they ever had before. We ask the Committee to allow the old. system to remain in vogue until the railway, which has been unanimously agreed to by the House, has been completed. Surely that is not too much to ask, in fairness to the people in the West. There never was a time in the history of this country when there was more need for a quick and good service between the western and eastern States than there is at present. The population of Western Australia has grown enormously, and the business of the State has increased in every direction. Big pub- flic works are under consideration, and there is a large and constant traffic of pub lic officials, business men, and others to and fro between the eastern and western States, The increase in the travelling public is so great, compared with the position of things at the beginning of Federation, that an increase, and not a decrease, of facilities should be talked of. Had not Australia been prospering of recent years, the railway would not have been provided for. Another point I wish to make is that the proposals of the Government place the people of Australia in a worse position than visitors. Those who come to Australia from other parts of the world have the right to break their journey at any port. Arriving by a mail steamer at Fremantle, they can stop off there, go on by another mail steamer to Adelaide, and thus travel by various mail boats from port to port right round to Sydney or Brisbane. Passengers going to Great Britain from Australia would have the same privilege, but we who live here, and have to travel about the coast for business or pleasure, are to be debarred from the opportunity of using the mail boats. This will be a serious matter for many people, and will often create great inconvenience. It will also interfere with a good deal of travelling for pleasure which would not take place if the mail boats were not available. Many Western Australians obtain much pleasure and profit by taking the mail steamers from Fremantle round to Sydney, coming back in the apple season by way of Hobart. On the mail boats this is a luxurious trip, the travelling being under the most comfortable conditions. Why should our people be deprived of this opportunity for getting pleasure and health? The local steamers do not make any trip that compares with that which I have referred to. I have been asked by the Premier of Western Australia, and by the Mayors of Perth, Fremantle, Albany, and other influential and important towns, to support the amendment, which only asks that things may remain as. they are until the Western Australian railway has been finished. It is an aggressive act towards Western Australia to propose to take from her people facilities for travel which they need and enjoy. To deprive them of the travelling conveniences which they could make use of freely before Federation would be a very unfederal thing. Instead of assisting the east to shake hands with the west, and cementing the union, the Government aim at something tending to separation. It must not be forgotten, too, that our oversea mails are carried under contract, made on the assumption that the right to convey passengers from port to port which was then, and is now, possessed by the mail companies, would continue. If that right is taken away from them, they will surely have a claim to compensation. The outgoing steamers which trade between Great Britain and Australia are often crowded with Indian passengers as far as Colombo, but from that port to the final port of destination there is generally plenty of room. The knowledge that on. the Australian coast a certain number of passengers could be picked up to fill the empty cabins must have weighed with the companies in fixing their claims to subsidies.
– The honorable member does not believe in preference to unionists; why give the mail steamers preference?
– That is a silly interjection. What preference is it proposed to give to them ? They charge higher rates for their second saloon than the coastal vessels charge for their first saloon. The honorable member forgets that the oversea companies which carry our mails have not the same chance as the local companies of making the Australian public pay for any additional expense to which our laws put them. When we increase the wages of the seamen on the vessels of the Australian registered companies, and require those companies to provide more accommodation, and thus increase their working expenses, they make the Australian public repay the increased cost to which they are put. We are not under any compliment to assist them, because the public pays them for what we require them to do. All their charges fall on the Australian public, because the whole of their trade is done in Australia. The mail steamers are not in the same position. All they could do would be to increase the mail subsidy, and they would have the right to claim more for the carriage of mails if we took from them their right to carry passengers on the coast. But the point which I wish most to make is that we have no right to deprive Western Australia of the travelling facilities which she enjoyed before Federation and is enjoying now. It is rather a
Cruel thing to propose anything of the kind. It is not only the people on the coast who are affected; there are all those in the interior. It is all very well for members who can jump into a train any night of the week, and travel quickly to their homes in comfort, to jeer at our re* quest, but I ask them to consider the position of those in the interior who, perhaps after occupying some days, or even a week, in getting to the coast, find that although there is a vessel in port going where they wish to go, they may not travel by her because she is a mail steamer, but must wait about for perhaps a week longer to- travel” by a smaller and slower vessel belonging, to an Australian company. All we ask. is that the present arrangement shall beallowed to continue until the railway to Western Australia has been built. I hope that honorable members who talk of voting, against the” amendment will reconsider the matter, and support it.
.- I agree with a good deal of what was said by the honorable member for Hindmarsh about the need for protecting our local shipping. Those who have been in the habit of travelling up and down the coast for years past must be proud of the steamers now in the coastal trade, when they remember the cockleshells that they have replaced. Once we had to use the Governor Blackall, the Balclutha, and other small steamers, perhaps not exceeding 300 tons, but now we have large, first-class steamers. We have imposed on the local shipping companies the obligation of paying good wages and providing good accommodation, thus increasing their working, expenses and handicapping them in competition with the oversea companies. But while we must, therefore, protect them, and see that they are not put to a disadvantage, we must not reduce in any way the facilities for travelling on the coast and oversea, nor interfere .with our oversea commerce. At the present time, the farmer has to pay is. 3d. a bushel to have his wheat .conveyed from Melbourne to London, which is more than 25 per cent, of what he receives for it, and, in the immediate future, he is likely to have to pay more, rather than less, because freights are rising. Shipping people say that this is because they have to pay more for their ships; but, in any case, there is this increase in view, which is a serious thing for our producers. They cannot pass on any extra charges that are put on them.
– The Bill will not affect the oversea shipping companies in the cargotrade. It is only the mail steamers that take passengers on the coast.
– It is to the mail steamers that I wish to extend consideration.
We should remember, not only the position -of people in Western Australia and in the eastern States who have occasion to travel there, but also the position of the people in the Northern Territory and in Papua.
– And on the northern coast of Queensland and Western Australia.
– Yes ; we should remember, too, the big tourist traffic that the apple boats going to Hobart in the summer season are building up, which is doing so much for the health of our community, and is so good for commerce. The honorable member for Hindmarsh said that he thought it was the functions which take place in the Old Country about the middle of the year that cause the big rush to Europe in March and April. He must have enjoyed his stay at Home last year much more than I did. The people of the Old Country entertained us magnificently, but anything more dreary than having to turn up at some function at half-past 10 at night, and to stay in a crush until 2 o’clock in the morning, leaving more dead than alive, I cannot imagine. It seems to me that no one would travel half-way round the world for that kind of thing. I would sooner be out with a billy of tea any day. The real” reason why people rush to England in March and April is to enjoy the summer there. For an Australian needing a good rest there is nothing better than a trip to the Old World, but people naturally desire to travel during the most favorable part of the year. They desire to secure the best weather in the Old Country instead of arriving there to suffer the fogs of winter. This, therefore, is responsible for the rush. In dealing with this matter we must be careful that our own shipping is not placed at a disadvantage. Our Inter- State steamers have been, greatly improved of recent years, and our desire is that still further improvements shall take place. At the same time, we are anxious that the shipping of the Commonwealth shall be carried on with reasonable and proper competition. We have no desire that our shipping companies shall be placed at a disadvantage, but we do desire to see proper competition so that shippers of fruit from Tasmania and our producers generally may be able to secure freights at the lowest possible rates. Shall we achieve that object by shutting out the oversea mail steamers from the coasting trade ? I think hot. If we allowed them to participate in that trade without restriction we should make it very difficult for our own shipping companies to carry on - or, at all events, to expand - but we should be able to devise a scheme to overcome the trouble. The mail steam-ship companies have hitherto been very considerate to local shipping. They seem to have recognised that Australian shipping engaged in the coasting trade requires some consideration, and they have always charged higher fares than have been charged on the Inter- State boats. The cost per mile of travelling from Melbourne to Fremantle on a mail steamer is 1.23d. first class and -97d. second class. On the other hand, the cost per mile travelling first class on an Inter-State steamer is i-9d. and second class .82d. It will thus be seen that the passage rates on the mail steamers are considerably in advance of those charged on the Inter- State vessels. Then, again, we desire, I am sure, that our producers shall have the best shipping, facilities that it is possible to afford them, and since local shipping companies have to pay increased wages and observe better conditions than are provided for in the case of others, could we not insert in this measure a clause requiring the oversea mail steamers on which these high wages and improved conditions have not to be observed, to charge higher fares and freights than are levied by local companies? Such a scheme would, I think, enable us to secure the twofold object of protecting our own shipping whilst at the same time allowing shippers ample facilities. It would be very much in the nature of Tariff protection.
– The mail steamers do not carry cargo from port to port.
– Then it would simply be a question of requiring them to charge higher rates in respect of passengers.
– What about the tramp steamers engaging in the coasting trade?
– We could exclude the tramp steamers from such an arrangement. What we are anxious to retain are the facilities offered by the mail steamers for travelling to and from Western Australia as well as the facilities offered by certain vicarious steamers from the east for travelling between Papua and Australia. At the present time Messrs. Burns, Philp and Company have a six-weekly service between the mainland and Papua, and they hope soon to put on another steamer so as to make the service a more frequent one.
We must have some regard for the trade of Papua, which would undoubtedly be greatly disturbed if the oversea steamers now calling there ‘were precluded from doing so. That being so, we could protect local shipping by requiring these vessels, as well as the oversea mail steamers, to charge higher rates than are demanded by the local companies for the carriage of passengers. We should thus protect our own shipping, while at the same time we should not curtail facilities for oversea trade and commerce. The suggestion I have made is worthy of the consideration of the Minister. The United States of America attempted the class of legislation for which this clause provides with rather disastrous results, and if we follow in its wake we may seriously curtail our shipping facilities, which, after all, are almost the life blood of the community.
– How has the United States legislation been disastrous?
– It was enacted with the idea of building up a great local shipping industry.
– Has it not had that effect?
– No; there is hardly an oversea steamer which is registered in the United States. Australia is a great producing country ; she depends largely on her exports, and if we shut down all the facilities now offering to the exporter, we shall increase the burden upon the man on the land:, and do him a great injustice.
– We are not doing that.
– That matter undoubtedly requires to be very carefully considered, and I think that the suggestion I have made would tend to meet the difficulty.
– I do not intend to discuss this matter at great length, because it has been debated exhaustively on several occasions in this Parliament. On each occasion, I am very pleased to say, the small modicum of special treatment which the representatives of Western Australia have demanded has been always conceded. I am hopeful that the modest amendment submitted by the right honorable member for Swan will have equally favorable consideration. If it does not, the people of Western Australia will draw a conclusion that will not be favorable to the supporters of the present Go vernment at the next general election. There can be no doubt that the electors of. Western Australia regard this question aa one of vital importance, and the granting of the request which we make will be viewed by them as indicating a willingness, on the part of the Federal Parliament, to recognise the special conditions of that State - its isolation and the necessity foi affording it the best possible means of communication with the rest of the Commonwealth. If the facilities afforded by the mail steamers are withdrawn without anything more than a mere pretence at a principle which, after all, is not involved, then I feel sure that a considerable amount of resentment at ihe action of the Government and its supporters will be felt and expressed in Western Australia. I have yet to learn that any of the Australian shipping companies have made the demand embodied in this measure for the total exclusion of the oversea mail steamers from our passenger trade. I do not think that iri a single instance the request has emanated from the Australian shipping interests. I, therefore, express my surprise that the present Government has seen fit to bring down a proposal to abrogate the consideration that has been extended to Western Australia by all previous Commonwealth Administrations. It is well known that the Inter-State shipping companies are remarkably prosperous. It is well known that they have developed, from the Western Australian trade, a degree of wealth which could hardly have been excelled in the same time in any other part of the world. From very small beginnings some twenty yearsago, these Inter- State companies have reached their present prosperous dimensions. They have not had to turn back since they started with the first development of the Western Australian goldfields, and the little passenger trade that has been carried by the mail steamers to Western Australian ports is so insignificant that I do not think that the InterState shipping companies are in the least concerned about it. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports last night gave us some figures showing the increase that has taken place in the passenger trade of the oversea mail steamers between certain Australian ports. There is no doubt that there has been some increase, but the honorable member forgot to tell us of the increase that has also taken place in the passenger trade of the Inter- State steamers.
– And in that of the railways.
– Undoubtedly. Of recent years we have enjoyed in Australia a measure of prosperity that has developed a very great degree of travelling, and not only the railways, but all the shipping companies, have participated in this prosperity by carrying a largely-increased number of passengers. The percentage of passengers carried by the mail steamers is insignificant compared with the passenger traffic of the Inter-State boats. After all, only a certain few, who must of necessity travel by these mail steamers from Western Australia, take advantage of them. The bulk of the passenger traffic is carried by Inter-State boats, and will continue to be as long as the fares of the two services bear the proportion that has existed up to the present time. The people who travel by the mail steamers* are usually those to whom time is of primary consideration. Travelling between Melbourne and Fremantle by the mail steamers, as compared with the Inter-State boats, means a saving of a couple of days, and, accordingly, we find that it is largely the commercial man and the representatives of commercial firms who use the mail steamers, because of the saving of time thus effected. I have used the mail boats myself for the same reason. The Inter-State boats spend, perhaps, a couple of days at Adelaide, half a day at Albany, and then go round to Fremantle, whereas the mail steamers do not call at Albany and spend only a few hours at Adelaide. Another important consideration is that the mail boats travel with almost as much regularity as a mail train, while the Inter-State boats, which carry carge to be taken on and discharged at the various ports, are not able to keep a time-table with’ anything like the same accuracy. Consequently, those to whom time is a valuable consideration, and who do not desire to be detained unexpectedly for a day or two in any port, choose to travel by the mail steamers. These facts are, I think, generally recognised by the Inter-State snipping companies, and, therefore, they make no bones about the little passenger trade carried by the mail boats. I sincerely hope that the Committee will not, without good grounds, do away with the privilege, or right, as I regard it, of the people of Western Australia to the maximum amount of communication with the eastern States by sea. As soon, of course, as the railway is constructed, I admit that the particular conditions on which we base this claim disappear. I should now like to quote an authority, which ought, I think, to have some weight with honorable members opposite. This is not a matter which has interested only the nonLabour section of the Western Australian representation in this Parliament. Up to the present, all the Labour members from Western Australia have taken up the attitude that I now occupy; and I am very much surprised to find a representative of that State, such as Senator Pearce, giving his consent to a measure of this kind in view of his own utterances in past years. I shall quote from a speech of Senator Pearce, some of the reasons which he gave, and which still hold good, for the continuance of this privilege to Western Australia. Speaking on 14th April, 1904, on a Navigation Bill that was then before the Senate, he said -
- Roughly, we may say that the desired end in a Navigation Bill is that it should provide for the following conditions : - The protection of Australian shipping against unfair competition; the registration of vessels engaged in the coasting trade; the efficient manning of vessels; proper life-saving equipment ; the regulation of hours and conditions of work; proper accommodation for passengers and seamen.
Senator Playford. ; All confined to coasting vessels ?
Senator PEARCE. All confined to vessels engaged in our coasting trade.
Senator Dawson. ; Why have any exemptions?
Senator PEARCE. There are some reasons, which I will mention presently, why we should have exemptions.
I do not desire to quote the whole of the speech, but only one or two of the salient points dealing with the original contention of Senator Pearce that there should be certain exemptions. Later he said -
I laid down the .condition at the outset that we should protect Australian shipping from outside competition, and dealing with the exemptions of mail steamers trading between South Australia and Western Australia I contend that’ I can support that exemption consitsently with my claim for the protection of Australian shipping from unfair competition.
I wish to give some of the reasons why Western Australia claims that this special exemption should be made. The great bulk of our population came over to Western Australia when the mail steamers did not call at Fremantle. The considerate, local steamship companies -
He was then speaking sarcastically in those times charged ?y for a single steerage fare from Adelaide to Fremantle. Since the advent of the mail steamers, which have given to Western Australia an alternative line - although they charge higher fares - the local companies are making 10 per cent, profit on a fare of £2 for a steerage passenger.
We may easily calculate what profits the shipping companies were making a few years before, on a £1 charge for the same service.
– That speech was made in 1904.
– Does the honorable member say that the same conditions do not prevail now as then ?
– - Of course they do not.
– It would be very difficult to show that there are not the same conditions now. There is still the same sea between Western Australia and the eastern States, and exactly the same two services by the mail steamers and the InterState boats, and we are still waiting, although a little more hopefully than before, for the construction of the transcontinental line: Senator Pearce went on to say -
When honorable senators recollect that fact they will cease to wonder at the strong feeling which exists in Western Australia against going back to the old condition of affairs.
Later he said -
I have shown that it is not necessary to compel the mail steamers, trading between Western Australia and the Eastern States, to come under this Bill in order to safeguard Australian shipping from unfair competition. I have been asked why it is necessary to bring the mail steamers under the Bill in reference to the rest of Australia; and my reply is, that in the other parts of Australia there is the alternative of railway communication.
That is exactly the point on which we base our claim for the continuance of the conditions that Western Australia has enjoyed up to the present time. In conclusion, Senator Pearce said -
The Senate might seriously inquire whether any good result will follow from the bringing of ocean-going ships within the scope of the Bill. If the honorable senators do not agree that they should not be included, I hope that they will at least insist that Western Australia shall be given the concession proposed.
These are the words of a member of the present Government, who are now seeking by this measure to withdraw from the Western Australian people a consideration they have hitherto enjoyed.
– Senator Pearce seems to have changed his opinion since he came into office.
– I do not think that Senator Pearce has changed his opinion, though he has somewhat changed his position ; his opinoin must still be the same, in view of the fact that the conditions are the same.
– Is there not a better class of locally-owned ships on this service now?
– There is no question whatever about that; the shipping companies of Australia have rapidly improved the service, and this is largely due to the development of the Western Australian trade. Still, there are conditions regarding the passenger traffic between Western Australia and the Eastern States which I contend justify us in demanding that the mail steamers shall not be cut out of that trade - conditions which I have already tried to indicate. The honorable member for Fremantle submitted a consideration which has a good deal of weight with .those who have been unfortunate enough to undergo the experience. The Inter-State boats travelling eastward are generally empty, and if any honorable members opposite have had to travel, as I have done, across the Bight in stormy weather, in a bouncing boat with only a few tons of water ballast to prevent if capsizing, I feel sure they would not willingly repeat the experience. Although I am a pretty good sailor I must say such conditions make me very uncomfortable, and, witnessing the misery of many others, I have felt very strongly indeed that we have a right to demand that the maximum amount of comfort shall be at the disposal of Western Australian Inter- State travellers. I hope that the Committee will carefully consider the question before it rejects the amendment of the honorable member for Swan. It is, as I have said, a very modest proposal ; it asks nothing more than that which this Parliament has always conceded to Western Australia up to the present time. In view of the fact that the transcontinental railway will be in active operation within some period of years, and I hope not a great many, we on this side think that the privilege now enjoyed by Western Australia should not be rudely disturbed till then.
– I desire to say a few words in support of the amendment and generally in support of the appeal which has been made by the honorable members for Swan, Fremantle, and Perth, as representing the views and interests of the Western Australian people. One can hardly listen to the earnest and reasonable arguments submitted by those three honorable members without being deeply impressed, and, in fact, moved by the appeal on behalf of their State. As already intimated the appeal is not by any means extravagant; on the contrary, it is extremely moderate, and ought to find a sympathetic response from honorable members who are friendly disposed towards Western Australia and Western Austalian interests. It is impossible to regard the distance and isolation of the Western Australian people from the seat of Government without recognising the fact that that State has special grounds for the appeal that is now being made. Those special grounds have been recognised ever since the establishment of the Commonwealth, and every effort ought to be made to reconcile the people of Western Australia to the Federal Union. They ought not to be allowed to feel themselves, so to speak, outside the sphere of influence, cut off from all special means of communication which other parts of the Continent enjoy. Perth is even more distant from the Commonwealth seat of Government than is Wellington in New Zealand. No one can contemplate that wild waste of 1,000 miles of sea which divides the seat of government of the Commonwealth from the seat of government of the Western State, without being impressed with the urgent necessity of making as many concessisons as possible in favour of maintaining those lines of communication which have been in existence so long. Certainly, we ought not, as a federation, to reduce facilities for communication between western and eastern Australia. We ought at least to maintain, and, if possible, increase them. This amendment does not propose to increase any existing facilities; it merely proposes to sustain them.
– It proposes to give preference.
– Let me remind the honorable member for Denison, who seems to be very hostile to the amendment, that it contains three limitations which ought to remove any ground for aggressive criticism. The first limitation is that the privilege should be confined to mail steamers only ; the second restricts it to the carrying of passengers ; and the third limits it to the time preceding the construction of the Trans- Australian railway. These limita tions certainly ought to free the proposal from the objections urged by the honorable member for Hindmarsh.
– After the construction of that line, it would apply to other places that were isolated.
– Although the privilege might be taken away from Western Australia after the construction of the transcontinental railway, it would still remain in operation in favour of Tasmania, and perhaps Darwin.
– It would not apply to Darwin, because that is not a capital city.
– It is intended to apply principally to Tasmania and Western Australia, and, .therefore, Tasmanian members ought to be disposed to consider the amendment favorably.
– I am a protectionist ; that is why I support the Bill.
– The amendment embodies a proposition so limited that it will not interfere in any way with the substantial protection of the Inter- State shipping trade. The honorable member for Hindmarsh went to the root of the objections to the amendment, when he said it was believed that it would sacrifice Australian shipping interests. I fail to see how it will sacrifice them. It is not intended to alter the practice that has obtained for years. It does not take away anything from the Australian shipping interests. It merely aims at maintaining temporarily the privilege of participating in the .coasting trade hitherto enjoyed by the oversea companies, and it is only intended to allow them to exercise the privilege sub modo, or, in the case of Western Australia, until the construction of the transcontinental railway. Another objection submitted by the honorable member for Hindmarsh was that the amendment might interfere with the standard of living contemplated by the Act. The mere retention by the oversea .companies or Tight to participate in the Inter- State trade will not interfere with the standard of living, or wages imposed by law on Australian shipping. The provisions of the Bill, as they stand, do not amount to an absolute prohibition. The Bill .does not say to the oversea ships, “You shall not be allowed to participate in the coasting trade.” It says, “ You shall not be allowed to participate unless you comply with certain conditions in regard to wages and accomodation.”
– Hear, hear ! That is why I support the Bill. Every Protectionist should support it on that account.
– But supposing the oversea shipping companies decided to comply with the conditions, they might come in and share, not only in the passenger, but also in the cargo trade. The competition then resulting would be more injurious to the Australian shipping trade than the participation for a limited time contemplated by the amendment. Therefore from the Protectionist stand-point this limited concession is not calculated to injure Australian shipping so much as it would be injured if the oversea ships did comply with the conditions imposed.
– What is the objection to their coming in if they are on the same basis as our own people? Surely you do not object to competition?
– But if the Government wanted to keep them out altogether, they ought to have prohibited them altogether. If that is their intention, why not say so straight-out, and not suggest impossible conditions?
– We do not want to prohibit them altogether. We say to them, “If you want to come in you must observe Australian conditions.”
– If that be so, why do the Government reserve to themselves power to declare by order that the carrying of passengers between specified ports in Australia by British ships shall not be deemed to be engaging in the coasting trade? There is in the Bill itself, as framed by the Labour Government, a recognition of the necessity of reserving some power to the Government of the Commonwealth to allow oversea ships to participate in the carrying of passengers along the coast. I drew attention on the second reading to the anomaly of that power. Why should such a power be reserved to the Executive? If it be right to reserve to the Executive power to make an exception, it would be far better to make the exception within the four comers of the Bill. Parliament should define the specific cases in which the carrying of passengers shall not be deemed engaging in the coasting trade. The Bill places too much power in the hands of the Executive. The discretion may be exercised in a manner prejudicial to individual cases. The question ought to be dealt with by legislation, and not by administration. We should know definitely in what cases and under what conditions the oversea ships may be allowed to carry passengers between Australian ports. Why should Parliament abrogate its right to determine that question ?
– The Government seek to usurp the rights of Parliament in this respect.
– Undoubtedly. It would be better for the Government in their own interests to be relieved of that invidious power and responsibility. If they intend to exercise it, we should at least be given some indication of the conditions and circumstances under which it will be done. The amendment of the honorable member for Swan amounts to a declaration that within certain limits oversea mail ships shall be allowed to carry passengers without being deemed to be participating in the coasting trade. It would be best from the Government stand-point, as well as the stand-point of the interests of Western Australia, to put that provision in the Act itself. What benefit will it be to the Australian shipping interests to impose upon oversea ships the necessity of having air space for men’s quarters greatly in excess of that required by the Board of Trade? It will impose a very heavy burden oil the oversea ships, which may amount to a prohibition of their participation in the coasting trade, and will not substantially benefit Australian shipping interests. Another condition involved is the paying of higher wages than those specified on the ship’s articles, and a third is the position of the space for crews, that many of the recently-built steamers are not fitted to provide. Let me point out the hardships imposed by making those conditions retrospective. Are they to apply all round to Australian ships already constructed and engaged in the trade? Are all those ships which are not able to comply with them right off to be prohibited from engaging in the coasting trade, or are exceptions to be made in their favour? If Australian ships engaged in the coasting trade are to be excepted from the accommodation conditions, is it not reasonable to contend that the oversea mail ships which comply with the Board of Trade conditions should also be excepted?
– One Minister can give them a permit, and another Minister can annul it.
– Under the permit system contemplated by the Bill we may have an uncertainty of decision and practice amounting in many cases to a suspicion of favoritism and discrimination, which ought not to exist in a great system of commerce such as that of the coasting trade of Australia. The House certainly should have some assurance as to the extent to which exemptions are to be made. We should know also whether the demands in the direction of space and accommodation are to apply all round. Are there to be exceptions in the case of Australian ships and none in the case of the ocean liners? With all due regard to the interests of Australian shippers, shipping companies, and sailors, I submit that the mail steamers which are under contract, one line with the Commonwealth and the other with the British Government, for the conveyance of our mails, are entitled to what I may call the “most favoured treatment.” In treaties and conventions made with foreign countries, there are often clauses providing that the contracting parties shall allow each other “ the most favoured nation” treatment, and I think that the mail steamers, which are under contract with the British Government or with this Government, should be given similar treatment. We should not be too exacting in regard to them. We should not impose conditions not demanded by reason and fair play.
– Should not we demand from them the conditions that we demand from the Australian shipping companies?
– They confer a great benefit on us by conveying our mails overseas, and we should not interfere with them during the currency of their contracts, nor impose onerous conditions, increasing their obligations and difficulties.
– Does the honorable member think that they are in business for the good of their health?
– Are the Australian shipping companies in business for the good of their health?
– It cannot be denied that Australia benefits considerably by the enterprise of the shipping companies that send vessels here from overseas. The Orient Steam-ship Company and the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company have established a magnificent system of communication between Australia and other parts of the world, without which we should be at a great disadvantage. We should encourage them to spend their capital in maintaining and improving this communication and not assume an aggressive or hostile attitude towards them, refusing to make small and temporary concessions. All that the amendment asks for in regard to Western Australia is a concession pending the construction of the transcontinental line. The concession asked for by Tasmania in regard to the tourist traffic during the apple season would be permanent, but the granting of it would not interfere with the Australian shipping companies.
– It would be a great boon to Tasmania.
– The people of Tasmania are naturally interested in the retention of their tourist business. Thousands travel yearly by the big oversea steamers during the apple season, and it is for the Government to show that anything would be gained by preventing them from doing so. Were it not permitted to travel on those steamers, the tourist traffic to Tasmania would be greatly reduced, in all probability, because many persons who now travel would cease from doing so.
– There was much less travelling before the big boats began to go to Hobart, and there will, of course, be a falling off in the traffic should they cease to carry passengers.
– The probability is that if the opportunity for making the trip by the big boats were taken away, many persons who now go from the mainland to Tasmania for their holidays would cease to do so, spending their holiday time somewhere else. As I have pointed out, there are three limitations in the amendment : the concession asked for is limited to passenger traffic, excluding goods; it is limited to the big mail liners, and, in the case of Western Australia, it is limited to the time antecedent to the construction of the transcontinental railway. I presume that the. proviso enabling the Governor-General to declare that the carrying of passengers between specified ports shall not be deemed to be engaged in the coasting trade was inserted in the Bill to meet the difficulty which has been referred to in the debate as certain to arise should all coastal passenger traffic by mail steamers be prohibited. If that be so, why not accept the amendment ? By accepting it, the Government would relieve itself of responsibility for an Executive act in making exceptions. I hope that Ministers will favorably consider the strong appeal which has been made on behalf of Tasmania, and the even stronger claim for sympathetic consideration that has been advanced on behalf of Western Australia.
– I do not take exception to the length of this discussion, although I hope that we shall be able to finish to-day the part of the Bill which we have before us. I realize that members of the Opposition have assisted us in the consideration of this measure, but it is not our intention to accept the amendment. The honorable member for Bendigo asks us whether it would not be better to accept it than to act on the proviso that the GovernorGeneral may declare that the carrying of passengers between specified ports in Australia by British ships shall not be deemed to be engaging in the coasting trade. He says that that proviso takes power from Parliament and hands it over to the Government of the day, but every Government must act in conformity with the desires of Parliament or leave office. No doubt occasions will arise when this permit will have to be granted, but it is not contemplated for a moment that it shall be made permanent.
– The concession asked for in the amendment would not be permanent.
– It would be in the case of Tasmania.
– It is not much to give us.
– The honorable member considers that the steamers which trade with Tasmania are not up to date, and that there is such a rush in the tourist season that they are not able to carry all the passengers, so that the assistance of the oversea steamers is necessary. It seems strange that while the ordinary steamers from Sydney cannot carry the tourist traffic to Hobart, they are quite able to convey it back again; because the mail steamers do not return from Hobart to Sydney.
– Many of the tourists go on from Hobart to Melbourne by the mail steamers.
– I admit that there are many who make the round trip.
– I gather from what the Minister says that it is intended to give temporary relief to some ports. He might well have said that it is intended to grant an exemption so far as Western Australian ports are concerned until the completion of the transcontinental railway. Although he has not said so, I think that theposition of Western
Australia accounts for the insertion of the proviso to which he referred. The Committee generally accepts the coastal provisions of the measure as a whole, indorsing, the principle that if vessels from overseas desire to compete in Australian waters with Australian vessels, they must submit to the same conditions. The amendment does not ask the Committee to depart from that principle. What the honorable member for Swan says is that a sympathetic attitude should be adopted towards Western. Australia because of its peculiar conditions ; and it has been very properly claimed in regard to other parts of the continent that they, too, are entitled to consideration for the same reason. The Bill of 1907 contained this provision -
If the Governor-General is satisfied that any British ship not registered in Australia trades or intends to trade between places on the west, north-west, and north coast of Australia, between Fremantle and Cape York, and that it is. desirable in the interests of those places, or any one of them, for the ship so to trade, he may, by order, exempt the ship from all or any of the provisions of this Fart of this Act, either unconditionally or subject to such conditions as. he thinks fit to impose, for any period not exceeding three years.
Therefore, so far back as 1907, it was contemplated that some relief would have tobe given to the northern parts of Australia. While we must give substantial justice to our shipping, we cannot ignore the claims of outlying districts to proper means of communication. The Australian steamers that trade to Western Australia are, it is true, almost all that could be desired.
– Some of them.
– And the tendency is to improve them, and to put better steamers into the trade.
– The profits of the Australian shipping companies warrant thedoing of that.
– The growing trade of Australia Bemands that they should do that. Whilst allowing that, we must admit that we ought to give thepeople of Western Australia facilities for travelling by other boats running at differenttimes. The residents of that State may have urgent calls to visit the eastern States of the Commonwealth; family sickness or urgent business may necessitate quick transit,and it seems rather harsh to say that ifthere is a mail steamer leaving port on a day when no Inter- State steamer is timed to depart they shall not have an opportunity to travelby it.
– The honorable member is suggesting loopholes, and we do not know where they will stop.
– We know exactly how far this proposal goes. Let me remind the honorable member of a recommendation made by the Royal Commission on the Navigation Bill, which inquired very carefully into this question. Some of the members of that Commission had the advantage of travelling to the west by an Inter- State steamer and of returning by a mail boat, and the majority report, signed by the present Attorney-General, Senators Guthrie and de Largie, Mr. Mauger, and myself, contained this recommendation -
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.
– Even those who signed the minority report, I think, favoured the proposal.
– They said that there should be still further exemptions. As a matter of fact, as the Bill of 1907 shows, the problem of extending exemptions in the case of the northern ports of Western Australia and Queensland, as well as the Northern Territory, came before the Government of the day, and we took a favorable view of the policy of allowing limited exemptions.
– What is to be done in the case of Port Darwin, to which no Australian boats trade?
– That is a very serious matter. Acting on the report of the Navigation Commission to which I have just referred, the Deakin Government introduced the following provision in the Bill of 1907-
Provided further 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 bv any British ship ordinarily carrying mails to or from the Commonwealth shall not be deemed engaging in the coasting trade.
I would remind the honorable member for Hindmarsh that the general tenor of the recommendations made by the Commission was that everything possible was done to improve the conditions of Australian seamen, and to encourage the Australian marine. I think that in this respect we went further than had ever been travelled before in the field of Australian politics. So far as the improvement of the conditions of our seamen are concerned, we went far ahead of the Imperial law, and the Imperial authorities in the Act of 1906 adopted some of the recommendations made by us. Notwithstanding that strong desire on our part to improve Australian conditions, we felt that, having regard to Western Australia’s peculiar situation, we ought, if possible, to extend her sympathetic treatment. We felt that on the evidence submitted to us by the people of Western Australia, they were entitled to consideration, and I think we ought to listen to the strong and earnest plea that has been made by the right honorable member for Swan and other representatives of that State. We ought to support this amendment. Western Australia is entitled to as much consideration in this respect as we can give her. Until the trans- Australian railway is completed, she must remain as isolated as if she were an island in the Indian Ocean. We ought to try to make it possible for the people of Western Australia to realize that she is really part and parcel of the Commonwealth. Surely we can be sympathetic in our treatment, especially when we are not asked by this amendment to sacrifice any principle that has been adopted by this Parliament. The proposed exemption cannof injure the Australian shipping companies in any way. The business of the Australian shipping companies has been increasing by leaps and bounds, and we hope that they will continue to prosper.
– Will this encourage them?
– The Bill will undoubtedly encourage them, because it imposes conditions with respect to all that substantial trade between Australian ports, save in the case of the mail steamers travelling between the eastern States and Western Australia. There is a suggestion that this special treatment should also be extended to Tasmania, but at present I am speaking only of the position of Western Australia. As a matter offact, the granting of the claim made by Western Australia will expose our Inter-State shipping companies to the competition of the mail steamers in the carrying of passengers between Adelaide and Perth for only three or four years. All other vessels will be debarred from entering that area of competition unless they conform to Australian conditions. I certainly support those conditions, and hope that the time will come when Australia will have its oversea, as well as its Inter-State, shipping. The only way in which we can ever hope to induce Australians to go to sea is by enforcing such conditions as will make sea life attractive to them. By granting the request of the representatives of Western Australia in this regard, we shall not violate any of the fundamental principles of the Bill. Whilst sympathizing with those fundamental principles to which we all subscribe, we say that we should extend to the people of Western Australia such sympathy and encouragement as will enable that State to participate to the full in the advantages and prosperity of the Australian Union.
.- It seems to me that we can extend some consideration to Western Australia in this regard, and also some consideration to our oft-vaunted ambition for a wider union of the Australasian people. We hear a great deal from the Prime Minister, when he is posing under the limelight as a statesman, about the necessity of bringing New Zealand and the Commonwealth more closely together; but here we have a Bill which, by one stroke of the pen, so to speak, will drive the people of the two Dominions further apart than they have ever been. We are also driving the people of Western Australia further away from the Federal Union than they were before the Union took place. Why did the people of Western Australia come within the Federation? Was it not because they recognised that we had a common end in view, and that we ought to try to draw closer together in defence of that common end? Now that we have been brought closely together, the Government are doing that which we declared it would be necessary not to do. Is it not a fact that under this Bill we are giving Western Australia a worse communication with the eastern parts of the Commonwealth than she had before she entered the Union? Is it not a fact that when she entered the Federation her people had open to them every steam-ship line trading round the Australian coast to enable them to meet’ their cousins in the east? The Government, however, are now proposing to take from them that privilege. We have not yet given them railway communication with the east, and the Government are proposing to prevent them using any other, service than that of the Shipping Ring, which they have always loudly denounced on the public platform, and have occasionally helped in the High Court. I ask honorable members to remember that this will be only another link in the chain of circumstance which they are forging against themselves.
– We can look after ourselves.
– We are not a bit downhearted.
– The honorable member never is. His heart is the most effective part of him. This peculiar anxiety on the part of the Government and their supporters to swell the already great profits of the Shipping Ring, and not really to prevent unfair competition - because as has already been shown, competition does not exist in respect of equal passenger freights - is truly surprising.
– The competition is as between coloured labour and our own.
– It has nothing to do with coloured labour. The point is that the Shipping Ring” says that it is very unfair that oversea shipping companies should carry passengers between Australian ports, at very much higher rates than they charge. It is a scandalous thing, they say, that the oversea companies . should be so considerate to them, and give such good service that the travelling public of Australia, in order to travel on their steamers, are prepared to pay a great deal more than they would have to pay to travel by one of the vessels of the Shipping Ring. Behind the ring most conveniently stands the whole cohort of my honorable friends opposite, who say, “ We shall see that all competition, with this beneficent institution is done away with.”
– And as soon as it is done they will want to cancel it again.
– That is the platform part of the business.
– They will feed up the tiger and then get out the gun.
– But I do not think the gun has ever been loaded. The ShippingRing is a beneficent institution, accordingto honorable members opposite; but the public will want to know why they are denied the right of travelling by oversea steamers.
– To which ring does the honorable member refer? There are two shipping rings.
– It is the ring within our own jurisdiction and control that we are not going to touch ! I understand that when the Labour party take the platform and talk about the Shipping Ring they are talking of a Shipping Ring in Iceland or Lapland or somewhere else, and not of the Shipping Ring in Australia ! They are referring to some outside ring that has no vote or influence in Australia !
– We have seen its influence all right.
– I am afraid that honorable members opposite have. Why otherwise are they supporting the Shipping Ring? Why is it that the honorable member who, as a representative of Tasmania, is directly interested in this question, will not stand up for the interests of Hobart and the travelling public of Tasmania generally ?
Sitting suspended from1 to 2.30 p.m.
– When we adjourned for luncheon I was dealing with the question from the aspect of the quite unnecessary and ill-advised sop which it is proposed to give the Australian Shipping Ring at the expense of the Australian travelling public.
– At the expense of the British shipping companies.
– No; at the expense of the Australian travelling public. Persons who now will pay £3 or £4 more to make a coastal journey on a British mail steamer will, if this clause passes, have no choice; and this struggling octopus, the Australian Shipping Ring, will get all the extra profits.
– The honorable member is really good !
– He is picking up the language.
– This wretched, struggling, famished, and emaciated octopus will get a little more profit out of the travelling public than it has been able to get hitherto. Really it is not a question of competition; it is purely a question of whether or not the public shall be allowed to pay a little extra for the privilege of travelling on the best boats.
I really wonder sometimes whether my friends opposite can persuade themselves of the consistency of their attitude in regard to trusts and combines generally. There are two great Australian Combines - tobacco and shipping.
– And sugar.
– The sugar industry is not a combine at all, but one large company with a few small competitors. Our friends opposite stampeded about the country denouncing trusts and combines, and appealing for greater powers to deal with them, and yet they have all the powers that are necessary in order to deal with the Shipping Combine. But the way the Government propose to deal with it is to give it, at the expense of the public, something which it does not require, and for which the public will have to pay. Is there not some extraordinary inconsistency here? Or does it simply mean that honorable members opposite are sincere in their general attitude, but that the Tobacco Trust and the Shipping Combine are on sacred ground ?
After all, this proposal is a very serious interference with the rights of Australian citizens. It will prevent a man travelling round the coast with his family in a mail steamer, if he so desires. It often happens that, when a wife and family are going from Australia on a trip, the husband will accompany them round the coast as far as Adelaide or Fremantle; but the moment this Bill becomes law that will become impossible.
– The husband could go as far as Colombo.
– But if he is not a rich man that is out of the question. Just at present it would appear that honorable members opposite are concerned to help very rich men like the members of the Shipping Ring. Of course, a rich man could go as far as Colombo, or, indeed, the whole trip ; but what if he be a man just realizing his ambition to give his wife and Family a trip to the Old World ?
– He is not likely to be a poor man if he can give them a trip like that.
– Everything is comparative. I can remember when the leader of the Government said that no man was worth more than £500 a year; and yet he is now getting four times that amount.
– Does the honorable member say that the Prime Minister made thaf statement ?
– I think he made that statement in the Queensland Parliament.
– Mr. Watson, the late Leader of the Labour party, made that statement, I think, in the New South Wales Parliament.
– And I think it was made by the Prime Minister in the Queensland Parliament.
– Is it fair to make a statement when there is no proof of it?
– I make the statement in the full belief that it is true.
– Mr. Watson said in the New South Wales Parliament that no man was worth more than £300 a year.
– Such a salary would not satisfy Mr. Watson now. I mention these facts merely to show that one’s views of what constitutes a fair thing vary enormously. I submit that some exception ought to be made in the case of persons travelling in the mail boats with relatives under such circumstances as I have indicated. I should also like to see an exception made in the interests of persons who are travelling solely for health or pleasure. The “ apple trips,” for instance, are of great importance to Tasmania, especially to Hobart, and they mean a certain amount of revenue to the Victorian railways. Many persons use these trips who otherwise would not go to Tasmania, and some of them return by rail from Melbourne to Sydney.
– The honorable member knows nothing about it; those people wait for the following boat a fortnight later.
– I do not suggest that the people come from Tasmania to Melbourne by rail ! All the people who take part in these trips spend money both in Tasmania and in Melbourne, and their expenditure means a great deal in a small place like Hobart. If the present facilities were not afforded, these people, as I say,, would not travel at all.
– If we crush out the local steam-ships, what will happen?
– The honorable member, I suppose, means that poor famished octopus, the Shipping Ring?
– The honorable member has not said anything yet about the “ dear old Motherland. “ and the Shipping Ring there.
– I have no wish to speakof the “ dear old Motherland “ in that sneering way. We ought to remember that if it were not for the same “ dear old Motherland “ we should not be holding our place here.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the apple ships will not go to Hobart unless this amendment is carried ?
– Nobody has suggested that ; the ships will always go there, but they will not be allowed to carry a single passenger.
– That remains to be seen.
– If the honorable member means anything, and we will presume that he does mean something, it is that the Government are going to exempt this particular trade - to exempt by regulation what they will not exempt by Statute.
– I hope they will.
– I hope they will in some way or other. But where there are large monetary interests involved, it is better that such matters should be settled by Act of Parliament than provided for by regulation. Nothing I say has reference to the present Government ; but there is always the possibility, if we get into the habit of dealing with these matters by the mere mandate of one man, of the financial interests exercising a pressure which is certainly against the public interests, should it ever be brought into the sphere of administrative work.
– That is not the practice in Australia, thank God !
– And I say “Thank God,” too; but we must recognise that one of the reasons, though not the only one, why that is not the practice is that we have always been very careful to keep clear of individual judgment in questions of this kind affecting large interests.
– Preference to unionists was given by regulation.
– But this is preference to the” fat man.”
– The honorable member wishes to make him “ fatter.”
– Then the Minister admits that the preference is given to the “ fat “ man.
– I admit nothing.
– As to the interjection of the honorable member for Denison, the only occasions on which there has been any trouble of the kind has been when a Minister has been administering some wide powers of discretion such as are suggested. Would the land scandals of New South Wales have been possible if everything had been provided for in the Land Act, and nothing left to the discretion of the Minister ?
– There was no Labour party in New South Wales then.
– I thought the Labour party were that gentleman’s wannest supporters. I know, at any rate, that they kept him and his Government in power for many years. Honorable members will see, therefore, the necessity of putting everything in the Statute, where we are dealing with large financial interests, and placing as little as possible within the discretion and under the sole dictation of a Minister. I can give an instance that happened in this very Parliament. I can remember when we passed an item in the Tariff putting a duty of 25 per cent, on supercalendered paper. The Sydney Bulletin approached the Minister, and the Minister deemed that super-calendered paper to be newspaper and admitted it free, although it was specially mentioned in the Tariff, and the revenue was robbed to that extent. We are asked to allow the Minister to say what trade shipping companies shall be allowed to do along the Australian coast, and for how long they shall be permitted to do it. Is it fair to place any Minister in that position? Is it not better to place the whole thing in the Statute and let us know what we are doing? Let us keep clear of the mere suggestion that such things are possible. If a Minister, in the exercise of his duty, feels that he must grant an exemption, why should we make it possible for anybody to think, or even hint, that he has been moved by some powerful interest? If the honorable member for Denison wants the apple trade to be exempt, I claim his vote for a straight-out honest exemption in the Bill itself. If that is not what he ‘wants, let him say so, and let the people of Hobart understand that their member thinks that the large tourist traffic, that has done so much for Hobart in the past, and will do a great deal more for it in the future if given a reasonable chance of growing, is of little importance.
– That old drum will be no good to beat at election time.
– I ask for the honorable member’s vote, and he begins to wail about election time ! If the honorable member is straightforward in handling legislation, I claim his vote for the amendment in the interests, not only of the Australian travelling public, but of the city of Hobart, which has so much to gain from an increased tourist traffic.
– We can look after our own interests without subsidizing black labour.
– It is subsidizing black labour for a man to pay more than he would have to pay on an Inter-State ship, in order to travel on a Peninsular and Oriental liner, but when the leader of the whole party goes to South Africa and employs black labour for the private profit of a number of honorable gentleman in this Parliament, it is a very noble and useful avocation for a Labour leader ! If the Government do not want to “ subsidize black labour,” let them specifically exempt ships travelling round the coast of Australia and employing only white labour. Will honorable members opposite allow the Orient Company to carry passengers on the apple trip and to Western Australia?
– What is the great attraction ;n these mail boats?
– They are better run. The English passenger ships are, as a rule,, not so crowded as the local steamers.
– That is nonsense j they are more crowded in the season.
– Which lasts for only a few months in the year. One cannot travel by them on the coastal routes in the season.
– - I have done so.
– Then the honorable member has “ subsidized black labour”?
– Oh, yes 1
– The honorable member realizes the absurdity of the position taken up by the Government.
– The honorable member for Wentworth is the last person to whom one would go for facts.
– The honorable member for Herbert actually has a straight-out proposal on the notice-paper to subsidize black labour in the .Papuan shipping trade. I appeal to the Committee to support the amendment of the right honorable member for Swan on the ground of justice to Western Australia,, a State which thought it would get improved means of communication with the east when it entered the Union, but which, under the Bill, will be denied even the means of communication’ that now exist.
.- This is a proposition that cai ls for the exercise of “ sweet reasonableness “ on the part of the Legislature. There is .a danger, in attempting to do what some of my honorable friends desire to do, of going a little too far, so that the balance of disadvantage may be rather against the people of this country. When the Australian States united there was a general impression that union- would be for the advancement of the people generally, and make for the extension, rather than the removal or denial, of facilities. That, at any rate, was the feeling we had in the West when we responded to the invitation of the other States to join the Federation. It appears now that, in addition to the natural disabilities which the people of the western State have to contend with, they are to be denied the privilege of travelling by the best and readiest means from one side of the Commonwealth to the other. I may recall a not uncommon case, so that my honorable friends may understand the position. The incident to which I refer may be repeated at any time if we restrict facilities for travelling. A gold-field’s resident received a telegram that his wife, then in one of the eastern States, lay dangerously ill. He left the gold-fields in time to catch the Inter-State steamer advertised to leave Fremantle on the Saturday; but, to meet the convenience of the shippers of cargo, or for some other reason, the company declined to send their ship out of the harbour on that day, and he was left kicking his heels in Fremantle, until the Monday or Tuesday.
Is this Committee going to put in the Bill a provision which will prevent a man in Western Australia, who may have urgent family or business reasons for travelling to this side, from catching a steamer for a week? Is he to wait in Fremantle and see an ocean-going liner go out, and be denied the opportunity of returning to his wife and family, or to his business? If we had the alternative of a railway, such as the other States have, a clause of this kind would be defensible ; but, in the circumstances, seeing that we are absolutely dependent on the ocean for means of access to the eastern States, it would be an >insupportable hardship if it were made “law and strictly enforced.
I believe the Minister of Trade and Customs intends to give the Governor-General power under the Act to make exemptions of certain ports. Let me point out to him and the Government, that that is a much more dangerous provision from his point of view than would be the excision of the word passenger “ from the clause. What I propose is that the word “ passenger “ be omitted, and that only steamers carrying cargo should come under the section relat ing to the coasting trade. A general power of exemption vested in the Government of the day may be all right while the present Government are in power, but it is quite possible that if another Government came into office, a good many exemptions would be made that my honorable friends on this side would condemn very strongly. It is safer to put in the Statute what we mean to do, than to leave it to any future Government to exempt any and all ports. That consideration is worthy of being thought over.
I suppose we cannot expect the representatives of the cities and thickly settled portions of the east to feel all the disabilities that the people of pioneering communities undergo, but the prosperity of the cities and settled communities generally depends a good deal upon the de- velopment of the at present unsettled portions of Australia. I therefore appeal to honorable members who represent large city and suburban constituencies, to have a little consideration for the pioneering population in the out-of-the-way places of Australia. These have many things to contend with, about which others in the more settled portions know little, and this Parliament should be the last to withdraw or restrict any of the privileges of travel which they now enjoy. Honorable members who support the clause appear to forget that, although by excluding oversea shipping companies from the coasting trade we shall penalize them, we shall penalize our own people still more. Those who live in the outlying districts of Western Australia, and wish to travel from the north-west coast to Fremantle, and thence to the eastern States, will be sorely aggrieved by the operation of the measure as it stands.
Why should we prevent the mail steamers from carrying passengers? Are the Australian shipping companies bo hard pressed by the competition of the oversea companies that they need this protection? On the contrary, will any one say that they are not in the most prosperous condition? The other day shares in Huddart Parker and Company were offered to the public, and were subscribed for several times over. That indicates that the company is doing remarkably well, and other local shipping companies are doing still better. Their profits enable them to pay the ample wages that Australian seamen demand, and the carrying of passengers by the mail steamers will not in any way prevent them from continuing to pay these wages, or from providing the conditions which we have prescribed for the advantage of the seamen. If it were not so, I should not support the amendment. As it is, I fail to see why a man desiring to travel to the eastern States should have to dawdle around a seaport waiting for an Inter-State steamer when a mail steamer was on the point of departure.
– The conditions on the northern coast of Queensland are similar to those of Western Australia.
– Yes, but I am confining my remarks to the conditions of that part of Australia with which I am most familiar. I suggest that if the Government cannot accept the amendment, it should consent to strike out the word “ passenger,” so that the exclusion from the coasting trade may apply only to the carrying of cargo. While in this matter we are not so much bound to consider the interests and convenience of those who travel merely for pleasure, for whom the honorable member for Wentworth spoke, we should study the requirements and needs of those who travel from business or domestic necessity. Disabilities should not be imposed on them needlessly. Instead of limiting the facilities for travelling between ,the eastern and western ports of Australia, we should do all we can to improve and increase them.
– The arguments used against the proposals of the Government and in favour of the amendment ignore fundamental principles embodied in the Bill aid in the fiscal policy of the country. The question we have to answer is, shall the Australian coasting trade be conserved to our own people, and built up? It may be said that it does not need building up, and does not deserve protection, the acts of the local shipping companies being such that they ought to be repressed rather than encouraged. Statements have been made in support of those views. The honorable member for Franklin complained that it is impossible for Tasmanian exporters of fruit to use any steamers but those of the Inter-State Steam-ship Owners Association, whose charges are excessive. The High Court, after a lengthy and exhaustive inquiry, declared that it is not a fact that there are no other steamers available, but personally I am inclined to think that what the honorable member for
Franklin said is true. I have been surprised during the debate to see certain honorable members blow hot and cold. While they usually adopt, a certain attitude towards the fiscal problem now presented, in this instance they take quite another one. I decline to believe that the Shipping Combine, per se, is worse than any other, and, as it is the settled policy of the country to encourage native industries, the shipping industry ought not to be singled out and penalized for the specious and unsatisfactory reasons put forward.
The right honorable member for Swan contrived to introduce into this purely fiscal and economic discussion some totally irrelevant references to patriotism and Imperialism, alleging curiously enough, that those who voted against the amendment would thereby declare themselves to be disloyal. It is sufficient, by way of answer, to point out that the right honorable member asks for a concession for the vessels of the Nord Deutscher Lloyd, the Messageries Maritimes, and every other foreign company doing business on our coasts. The vessels of nations whose very existence is a menace to Great Britain, and who, while we speak, may be perfecting plans for bringing about her downfall, would, under the proposal of this patriotic and Imperialistic gentleman, obtain privileges assisting them to destroy the shipping of Australia. A more miserable attempt to drag a sacred principle into the mire I never heard of.
The principle of the Bill, which is supported by the party to which I belong, is that the coasting trade of Australia should be kept for Australians. As the Royal Commission on Navigation declared some years ago, this is a principle which has been adopted by many foreign countries - Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Egypt, France, Guatemala, Italy, Peru, Portugal, Russia, Spain, the United States, Uruguay, and Venezuela are mentioned. I have here the American law relating to domestic commerce. By it the vessels of foreign nations are prohibited in set terms from engaging in the coasting trade of the United States, and it has been held that a vessel voyaging from a port on the east coast of the United States right round Cape Horn to a port on the west coast, thus circumnavigating nearly a fifth of the inhabitable surface of the globe, is engaged in the coasting trade. That trade is confined to vessels registered and licensed by the United States, and flying the flag of that country.
– Has American shipping increased rapidly?
– American foreign shipping has diminished almost to a negligible quantity, but American coasting shipping is in a satisfactory state. I challenge honorable members to show why the policy of protection should be applied to our other industries and not to the shipping industry. It cannot be said in regard to the protection of some of these industries that the convenience of the public has been studied. I should like to hear the honorable member for Parramatta on the subject. He would say that it has not been consulted in any instance.
– Does the honorable member say that he did not consult the interests of the country when voting for tariff proposals?
– I consulted the interests of the country in every tariff vote that I gave, my votes illustrating the admirable discrimination which I trust will always characterize them. I voted for the proposals which were proper, and against those which were improper. It is not proposed under this Bill to follow the example of America, and to discriminate between shipping and shipping. It is not proposed to give to local shipping, as the fiscal policy of this country does to other local industries, any advantage over foreign shipping. All shipping is to be placed on the same level. There is a sensible and very real distinction to be drawn between the two proposals. In the one case we had the right honorable member for Swan, whose patriotism was so visible last evening, and whose inconsistency was not less so, cheerfully voting, when the Tariff was before us, to penalise Great Britain to the extent of 20, 25, and in some cases 30 per cent., and giving her the puny advantage of 5 per cent, over Germany and other countries. If that is Imperialism - if that is the way to help Great Britain - God forbid that she should have many helpers of the kind. What we are proposing to do is not to assist her in that way, but to place her ship-owners in the same position that Australian ship-owners occupy. As long as her ships observe the same conditions they will enjoy the same privileges as are extended to Australian ships.
– They are entitled to that, and no more.
– Exactly. We have jurisdiction over the Australian ship-owner. We can, subject to the Constitution, compel him to pay what wages, we please, and to observe what conditions we choose to impose. 1
– What about the convenience of the people scattered throughout Australia?
– I shall come to that point. Subject to the Constitution, we may impose upon the local ship-owner what onerous conditions we please. We may say to him, “ You must employ on your vessels so many men, and pay such-and-such a rate of wages.” When that rate of wages runs from five times down to twice as much as the rates paid on British and foreign ships, the competition of those ships must be unfair. The Anti-Trust Act was aimed at unfair competition; but I am not going to say one word about the local combine. I believe that it is very well able to look after itself, and that, having regard to recent events, it has a great deal for which to be thankful. Whilst I say this, I am not blind to the fact that the shipping industry is the most important in Australia. I do not even except the wool industry.
– The local shipowners do not complain.
– They have too much sense to complain to the right honorable member, but they complain to me. It is proposed to place the local ship-owner in exactly the same position as the other man. I come now to the point referred to by the right honorable member for Swan. First of all, I wish to say straight out that I quite agree with the principle which he, supported by the honorable member for Coolgardie, enunciated - that the convenience of the people in this wide-flung continent of ours ought to be regarded, and that we must pay regard to it. The question is, how, bearing in mind the principle of which I have spoken - the preservation and encouragement of our native shipping - this can best be done. The right honorable member proposes to secure it by means of the following addition 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 of another State, shall not be deemed engaging in the coasting trade.
First of all I doubt whether that provision is. constitutional. The right honorable member may refer the matter to the honorable member for Angas. But I say again that I doubt very much whether the amendment is constitutional, although in the present state of the law and the decisions under it, I am bound to say that I am just as likely to be wrong as is the honorable member for Angas. 1 doubt whether the amendment is constitutional. I say no more than that, and I do not think that any man could.
The practical object at which we are all aiming is the perfect convenience of the public. The right honorable member proposes in his amendment to set forth in so many words the limits of the exemption. Whatever might be desired in the way of exemption could not go outside his proviso. The objections to his amendment are obvious. First, it goes too far, and second, it does not go far enough. It is suggested by the honorable member for Coolgardie that the word “ passengers “ should be omitted, so that the carriage of cargo would alone constitute engaging in the coasting trade. I do not think that is fair. Vessels in order to pay must cater for both passenger and cargo traffic. How are you to build up a fleet of steamers that can compare with the ocean-going steamers in the convenience and comfort they offer the public, if you are not able to compete for the most remunerative side of the trade on fair terms? You cannot expect people to invest money in an unprofitable enterprise, and honorable members may be reminded that the basis of this enterprise, after .all, is that of pounds, shillings and pence. It is not contended by the Opposition that this clause will prohibit oversea steamers from carrying passengers and cargo. It is merely suggested that it will make it unprofitable for them to do so.
– Is there any Inter-State company paying less than 12 J per cent.?
– I understand that the oversea companies are doing very well.
– The Orient Company has not paid a dividend in its history.
– I have been engaged for some time in an effort to prove to the satisfaction of the highest tribunal in this country that the position is as the honorable member says, but I have lamentably failed. I feel a little disheartened in the matter, and his voice seems like an echo from the grave. So far as I am concerned, I do not think there is anything in it. If there is a Shipping Combine here, there is certainly a combine elsewhere, and it is a very powerful one. The British Shipping Ring is the most powerful combine in the world. We had an example of its power some little time ago. Ships cannot be obtained, even now, to bring immigrants to this country, except upon the terms that the ring like to dictate. We hope to have power to legislate in regard to local combines. We can do nothing at all in regard to foreign combines. The inference seems obvious. To exclude the carrying of passengers from this provision, and to make the carrying of cargo only the condition that will bring vessels under the coasting-trade provisions of the Bill, would not be fair to the local shipping companies. They ought to be allowed to carry both passengers and cargo. Some of their vessels are a magnificent tribute to their enterprise. I know that there is a prejudice in the minds of some people against everything local, and that their professions and practices in regard to the protection of local industries and everything that is Australian differ very vitally. I think the convenience of the people ought to be consulted. Their convenience ought to be the first consideration. But it is proposed by the Government, in this Bill, to consult the convenience of every person in the country by giving the GovernorGeneral power, by order, to exempt from this provision vessels plying between specified ports. In so doing, power is taken to deal with each particular case on its merits. I submit that that is an elastic provision, capable of almost indefinite expansion and application. It will cover all those cases which the right honorable member has put forward, and all those indicated to-day, as well as during the discussion of other amendments. Anything more than that ought not to be agreed to by the Committee. We propose to confine the coasting trade to Australian shipping, or to shipping that complies withthe conditions to which Australian shipping, has to conform. We propose to place Australian shipping, British shipping, and foreign shipping on the same level. This is the fundamental and equitable principle underlying our proposition. Further, we propose to give the GovernorGeneral power to exempt vessels plying between specified ports from these provisions where the occasion seems to justify it. I do not deny that there are many occasions when it ought to be done, but to specify them would be unwise anr) inadvisable. It is impossible to cover all, and it might be thought that . to specify some would be to exclude others. I hope the amendment will not pass.
– As we are all anxious to proceed to a division before the train hour arrives, I propose to make only a few remarks regarding the drafting of the amendment submitted by the right honorable member for Swan. I regard it as being, on several grounds, much better than the proviso in clause 286. I do not think that we ought to vest this power in the Executive, and leave them open to be importuned by bodies outside. I very much doubt whether the Government can issue this proclamation. As the Attorney-General has raised the question of the constitutionality of the amendment, I may point out that section 99 of the Constitution provides that the Commonwealth shall not, by any law or regulation of trade or commerce - and we are proposing to base this Bill on the commerce power - give preference to one State or any part thereof over another State or any part thereof. As a matter of fact, this power in the American Constitution refers to preference to one port over another, as did the first draft in the case of our own Constitution, but the intention is the same. The construction is that we cannot, by any law of commerce, give preference to one port over another, and, if that be so, a proclamation in reference to ports of different States, or even to ports in a State, will be open to challenge, and, perhaps, successfully. The amendment of the honorable member for Swan is framed in general terms, arid, though I do not say that it is not open to some extent to the objection I urge against the proclamation, it comes nearer to fulfilling the conditions laid down by the High Court in the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s case some years ago. I would sooner rely, as a matter of law, on the amendment of the honorable member for Swan than on the proposal of the AttorneyGeneral, which, I think, is open to challenge on the ground of differentiation. May not the whole of this part of the Bill be open to challenge? Section 92 of the Constitution says that, after the passing of uniform duties, trade and commerce between the States shall be absolutely free. In an American case many years ago, it was held that this meant trade free from artificial or political obstacles ; and it may be that, if we, by our laws, restrict the intercourse by restricting transit, the whole of those coastal clauses may be open to challenge. However, I do not offer more than a suggestion on the point. On both sides there is a legitimate desire to protect our local industries. I do not use the word “protect” in the fiscal sense, but in the sense of protecting the higher conditions of social life which are our common aim, however different our methods may be. That being so, it may be that, in preventing unfair competition, we may give larger profits to the capitalists, but in doing so we are enabling the “ wage fund “ - if I may use a cant term - to be enlarged. If this be a matter of substance, why have we not statistics before us to show the true position? We have no figures showing the volume ot cargo affected; and the amendment of the honorable member for Swan does not appear to touch the question of cargo.
– There is very little cargo carried by the mail steamers.
– Would the Minister say that it is the passenger traffic that gives the larger volume of profit to the InterState boat? I confess that I cannot find out whether that be so or not ; but, according to Sir Malcolm McEacharn’s figures, the largest profits are from cargo. When I was discussing whether our navigation powers extend to the fixing of wages, there was an expression of opinion from honorable members opposite that they did not, but, at the same time, we are fixing wages by this Bill. If we can do that successfully by law, it practically means that we may impose the conditions of the Arbitration Court upon Intra- State vessels. Any vessel trading in a gulf of South Australia, crossing from Port Adelaide, will have to be managed by men and officers paid, by virtue of this Bill, the wages prescribed by the Arbitration Court.
– It is quite certain that we can insist on a manning scale.
– Yes, but whether we can regulate wages may be a matter of doubt. If we can, we are giving a very large concession, because it practically means, applying the conditions to every vessel plying. With that tremendous concession, why should we object to allow ocean steamers, whose conditions are prescribed by the great-venture voyage, and not by the local voyage, to carry passengers ? The concession proposed is a temporary one, and people will resent this legislation if it be found that they are not permitted to board an ocean steamer at Fremantle at any price.
– I do not think that any one has a right to assume that that will be done under this clause.
– Then, would it not be better to say so in the Bill.
– I do not think so; even the honorable member for Swan proposes that this amendment shall operate only until the railway is provided.
– We know that many of the schedules of the Bill have been framed in conjunction with various bodies outside; indeed, the manning and engineers’ scale was very largely suggested in this way. If a time should come when there is an increasing passenger traffic, the first thing will be pressure from, it may be, a capitalistic body; and why should we throw on the Executive such temptations to go askew? As to the question of subsidies generally, the chief authority is the Subsidies Commission of 1902, and, though that Commission did recommend some limitation of the coastal trade, they never recommended that it should be on compliance with local conditions. What they said was that the occasion had come when the question of the qualified reservation of the British Imperial coasting trade should be considered by the Government, with a view to reserving the British and Colonial coastwise trade, and the Imperial coastal trade within the British Empire to British and Colonial ships, and to vessels of those nations which threw open their coast trade to British ships. There was no talk about local conditions ; all that was asked for was reciprocity. I should be sorry to depend our case on what occurs in America, the policy of which, I think, no country in the world approves. As to the necessity of this class of protection, I am pleased to find that the supremacy of the British shipping does’ not depend on such things; it can weather the gale of commercial storms without resorting to protection of any sort. This Commission, which was, as a whole,, in favour of some limitation, says -
The general tenor of that is that we ought not to be too pessimistic - that subsidies are really not wanted to maintain what we hope will long continue - the maritime supremacy of the United Kingdom.
.- On general principles we should hesitate to limit transit between the States, particularly in regard to individuals. The AttorneyGeneral has said that the question is whether we should do anything or nothing in regard to conserving our coastal trade to Australian shipping companies; but I should say that the question is. rather - whether we should do more than is necessary. I am in accord with those who desire to conserve the cargo trade for Australian boats, and, of course, as far as possible, the passenger trade; but it seems to me that with a coastline such as ours, we should give every facility for personal transit between the States I can imagine some of my honorable friends being left on the Fremantle pier for a day or two because they were not permitted to travel by -i mail boat. This is the sort of legislation which brings us into disrepute. It seems to me that the amendment is a very reasonable one, simply proposing that, until all the States are connected by railway, Australians shall have facilities to travel on the mail steamers. These liners do not travel every day, but it does occur that the individual may wish to travel on those steamers. I am told that the Attorney-General is providing for permits to be granted to certain companies, and that these may be given to the very companies covered by the amendment. If that be so, there could be no harm in accepting the amendment, and we, as a House of Parliament, would then know what we were doing, and not be condemning our fellow citizens to great inconvenience, simply in order to carry a principle to an absurdity. If it were vital to the interests of the shipping companies that all should travel by them, I might understand the attitude adopted; but it seems to me that we are doing ourselves great inconvenience and injustice. I intend to support the amendment. The exemption, ‘so far as Western Australia is concerned, was once recommended by my honorable friend himself, amongst others.
– - * agree with the honorable member who has just resumed his seat. He has brought to bear upon this question that common sense which has been sadly lacking in this debate, and which would have assisted this measure to be more popular than it otherwise can be if it is pushed through with all these restrictive provisions in it. I have listened to the AttorneyGeneral many a time with greater pleasure than to-day. He does not talk the new language well yet. It is a new role for him to begin to play, when he has to talk of the necessity for protecting our industries. He has not learned the language well, but he is getting on, and will do better by-and-by. He is trying to side track this question altogether when he attempts to ma”ke it a fiscal matter. It is no such thing, as he himself proceeded to demonstrate in his very next sentence. He said, “ All we propose to do here is to put them all on the same footing.” Is that fiscal protection?
– I should think it was the very essence of Free Trade.
– Then let us vote together 1
– One may forgive my honorable friend these lilting speeches and halting steps when he is breaking altogether new ground. He does it so clumsily that I advise him to choose some better platform to try it on than the Navigation Bill. The same argument was attempted by the honorable member for Hindmarsh last night.
If the Government are going to make it a fiscal question, if they are going to put protection to our shipping on the sea on the same footing as protection to our goods on land, they ought not to forget what has been a fundamental principle in all our Protectionist schedules up to date - preference to the goods of the Empire. That is part, of our settled policy of Protection. Where does it come in here? If we include it here, I shall be perfectly satisfied with the application of the fiscal principle to our shipping.
– But the amendment includes the Germans and French.
– I shall be quite content if the Government will grant preference in this matter to Great Britain.
– We do; we say that the Governor-General may give preference to British ships.
– That is the proposal here, but it is not what is in the Tariff schedule.
– This is worth a great deal more; it is not 5 per cent., but everything, and none but British ships can get it.
– The honorable member goes back on himself. First, he says he is going to treat these ships as he treats our own, and then, in his pettifogging way of thinking on this fiscal question, owing to the mysterious changes that have come about, he calls it Protection. He says that absolute Free Trade is Protection.
– The changes are not only over here.
– No doubt we are all in it to some extent. The Attorney-General just now, in a wonderfully self-revealing sentence let the whole cat out of the bag. He showed us how hollow were all their protestations against the shipping combines and other trust-like institutions. He said that these coastal shipping combines had not been to the Opposition at all. He said, “ They do not go to the right honorable member, they come to me.” He has been fighting the trusts in the Law Courts for some weeks past, anathematizing them in every possible way, declaring that they must be dealt with, and thinking hard every moment of his life how best to deal with them; but it seems that they come to him on the quiet and pour all their complaints into his ear. I congratulate him on his confidential relationships with the trusts, which he affects to be so anxious to destroy. It is really most touching, and I am glad to have this official statement from this . powerful member of the Government that when the trusts outside have any difficulties they pour them into his ear and not into ours.
– Because they know I cannot hear them !
– The honorable member cannot get out of it in that way, because I have one deaf ear and they have never come to that.
– They might go to the wrong ear.
– The honorable member began his speech by saying that we did not know where we were. I am sure I do not since hearing the honorable member. I am beginning to wonder what the new economics are, and what the propaganda is to be in the near future. Ful.minations come from the honorable gentleman on the platform against these predatory trusts that are raising prices and eating up the substance of the people. At the same time, he is making every effort to tighten the cordon round them, to protect them from outsiders, to build up their monopoly, and make it more complete and perfect than ever. I do not understand these ethics, and do not profess to know how the Labour party reconcile their varying attitudes.
– The High Court and the honorable member are in accord in saying that there are no trusts !
– I never said so. For the future I shall say that I do not know, and the Attorney-General does, because of his more intimate relations with them.
– I thought there was a trust, and prosecuted it. The High Court told me there was no trust, and I am very sorry. What I am sorry for the honorable member will learn later on.
– The honorable member says we are emphasizing in this legislation the principle of confining our coasting trade to our own ships. He says they do this in America. The destroyer of the trusts takes us off to America, the home of the trusts, and tells us how they build up their trusts there. He wants to do the same thing in Australia. I decline to go to America to learn how they do these things, because America has sheltered and cultivated these combinations until to-day they are bringing serious damage to the great Republic over the sea.
– Hear, hear !
– Then why does the honorable member point us to America as an example to follow?
– Because it is a fact.
– It is a fact that we should avoid. I am pointing out what the effect of the fact is over there, and refuse to take the American example as worthy of imitation.
– We have followed America in its fiscal policy.
– We have not gone quite so high, and I hope we shall not.
– Is the honorable member not in favour of amending the Tariff?
– I do not know where I am, now that the honorable member has been stealing our clothes. He has run off with the Tariff Board now. After ridiculing it as he did a year or two ago in this House, and declaring that no body of the kind could deal with that question, he says now that it is just the thing, and the only thing.
The honorable member said the Government propose to treat all shipping alike. How can he guarantee that all will be treated alike, even after he has done his best by legislation? Can he, for instance, stop the Japanese boat coming here, paying our rates here, and taking those rates off again on the high seas, and so making the round trip just as it does now? How can he stop that sort of thing?
– We cannot stop it, but the same principle was in the Bill brought in by the honorable member’s Government.
– Did it pass?
– No; the honorable member never passed anything.
– I do not care what was in that Bill, but I should like to remind the honorable member that the very amendment now before the Committee was recommended by him over his own signature a year or two ago.
– That, is not so. Here is the report of the Navigation Commission. Find that in it.
– I have just been shown it, and it has been quoted twice.
– Between Fremantle and Adelaide only.
– That is the principle embodied in the proposal now before the Committee, and under it is the honorable member’s signature:
– I say that that is unconstitutional.
– Is that why the honorable member put his signature to it after considering the matter for six or seven years? What we have to determine is whether Western Australia shall be deliberately cut off from the rest of the continent to a greater extent than she is by the reduction of the facilities for travelling to and between the western and eastern States. This is not merely a question of principle ; mere neighbourly concern should prompt us to make such prudential arrangements as will remove as much as possible the difficulties under which those living in the west now labour.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Assent to the following Bills reported : -
Naval Agreement Bill.
Pine Creek to Katherine River Railway Survey Bill.
Maternity Allowance Bill.
-This morning the honorable member for Maribyrnong asked what is the number of permanent and temporary officers in the employment of the Common wealth. The information is now available, and is as follows : -
In addition to the return of temporary employés, as above, there is a larger number of officers employed under exemption.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
The business for next week will be the Navigation Bill, which we hope to complete before the end of the week. For the information of honorable members, and of the public generally, I wish to make it known that the Maternity Allowance Act was proclaimed yesterday, and that the allowance will be paid to applicants in all cases where they are entitled to the allowance under the Act, in connexion with births on that day’ and thereafter. It has been impossible to get the machinery for paying the grants ready, but accrued rights will be recognised, and payments made on the 1st November next. The necessary forms and all information will be available at the public offices as soon as possible. While the delay in paying may inconvenience some a little, we thought it best to bring the measure into operation as soon as we could. We look to the future to prove the benefits of this measure, which was passed by a larger majority than most people expected.
– At what public offices will the forms be available?
– My wish is to make them available, if possible, at all postoffices, but payment will be made from a lesser number. I may be allowed to add that, in my opinion, the more we have to pay, the better it will be for Australia.
– In order to make the matter perfectly clear, I should be glad if the Prime Minister would say whether the position is that the maternity allowance may be claimed in respect of the birth of any child taking place after midnight on Wednesday last.
– That is so; provided that the claimant is otherwise entitled, under the law, to the allowance.
.- Certain good people in Australia have recently been advancing the theory that the millennium is approaching, while others have been asserting that this is a playedout belief. I am coming to the conclusion that there is a good deal of evidence in support of it, more especially in view of that brought forward by my friend the Argus. The Argus told us last week that the sensation of the week was the fact that the Leader of the Opposition had given the Maternity Allowance Bill his blessing, on the motion for the third reading, whereas he had previously given it his curse. We now find members of the Opposition so anxious that the Bill shall be brought into operation at once, that they are asking where they can obtain forms. The Argus of 25th ultimo wrote-
Mr. Fisher contends that the Maternity Allowance will not reduce the independence of the people. In this assumption he flies in the face of - history. How can self-reliance and independence of spirit - virtues which lie at the root of all national greatness - be inspired by a policy which scatters half-a-million without any proved necessity, on the plea of relieving distress which does not exist.
The Argus of this morning, however, complains of the delay in the payment of this allowance. In an article under the heading of “ Maternity Bonus,” it asserts -
Mothers who are entitled to the bonus will, therefore, have to wait till 1st November before being allowed to claim it, which is a very bad beginning.
I congratulate the Prime Minister on the converts he has made, and hope that he will facilitate in every way possible the payment of this kindly allowance.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.13 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 October 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19121011_reps_4_67/>.